§ 2.35 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be again in 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 AILWYN in the Chair.]
§ LORD LATHAM moved, after Clause 2, to insert the following new clause
§ Interim payments
§ ".The Minister may make grants to the Greater London Council pending receipt of revenues receivable by them."
§ The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 15 for the insertion of the new clause as printed on the Marshalled List. The purpose of this Amendment is to repair what appears to us to be a serious omission in the Bill as regards the expenditure of the Greater London Council. I think one must admit that this is a slovenly Bill. Already, on the first clause, it has been found necessary for the Government to put down no fewer than six Amendments. If we go on like this London government will become, as it were, a vast litter of debris of discarded proposals. If one glances through the Bill, one will find Amendment after Amendment on matters which should have been dealt with before the Bill was presented to Parliament.
§ There is a good deal in the Bill, especially in Schedules 1 and 2, with regard to the constitution of the Greater London Council and of the London boroughs; but so far as I can see, there is no provision to make available money 974 for settling out-of-pockets and expenses which will be incurred inescapably prior to the election of the Greater London Council. For instance, it will be the function of the Greater London Council to arrange for the registration of voters, to arrange for the expenses of the returning officer and of the staff which the returning officer will need. There will be the liability for printing. All these expenses will have to be incurred by somebody, and some authority must enter into the contract in respect of them.
§ It is true that under Clause 67 the London boroughs are required to make what is described as an appropriate contribution to the expenses or the funds of the Greater London Council; but that requirement is only after the Council has been elected. Already, as I have said, considerable expense will have been incurred prior to the election of the Greater London Council, and in respect of that no provision at all is made. That strikes me as being an evidence of muddle and mess on the part of those responsible. It reflects the indecent hurry with which this Bill and the project is being pushed through Parliament.
§ It is also provided in Clause 67 that the appropriate contribution—that strikes me as a rather unusual use of the word "appropriate"; one does not imagine, in any case, that the contribution would be inappropriate—is estimated to be the product of a penny rate. But, as I have said, this is as soon as may be after the first election. Who pays? Who accepts the responsibility? Who incurs the responsibility? Who enters into the contracts prior to the election? I think it is important that we should know that. It is quite clear that this is a gap in the Bill which ought not to exist and which must be filled. It is to that purpose that I move the Amendment as on the Marshalled List. I beg to move.
After Clause 2, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Latham.)
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD HASTINGS)
The Government feel that this Amendment is in fact unnecessary, because we have made provision that the Greater London Council shall have funds until the ordinary arrangements for 975 precepting take effect as from April 1, 1965. The noble Lord who moved this Amendment referred to Clause 67, which deals with the initial expenses of the new authorities. This clause was added in another place during the process of the Bill. It requires the rating authorities in Greater London to pay the Greater London Council the produce of a penny rateas soon as may be after the election of the councillors of the Greater London Council.The Minister is authorised by that clause to make regulations governing the arrangements for the payment of this sum and so will be able to ensure that there is a steady flow of revenue to the Greater London Council throughout the period. The Greater London Council's expenses in the year before it assumes all its powers are likely to be small, consisting for the most part of salaries for their nucleus of staff, travelling and subsistence allowances for their members and staff and payment for the accommodation which they occupy. In case, however, a penny rate is inadequate to cover this expense—and in Greater London a penny rate will produce over £2½ million—Clause 67 also enables the Greater London Council to borrow for the purpose of meeting any expenditure incurred by them before April 1, 1965. In fact the expenses will be quite small. The current cost to the existing ratepayers cannot exceed a penny rate, and it has to be borne in mind that the expenses incurred by the Greater London Council will to some extent be offset by a reduction in the expenses incurred by the existing authorities if, as seems certain, many of the staff of the Greater London Council will be drawn from those existing authorities. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will consider that this answer meets his point and that he will see his way to withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD LINDGREN
The reply the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, has given us is obviously one that has been prepared for him by his Department, and it is one without knowledge of how local government operates. First of all, it is true that rates are payable on demand, but I would venture a guess, without being in any way disrespectful, that there are very few of your Lordships who pay your rates on demand. Most people leave it until the last minute, until they get a notice from 976 the local authority that unless they are paid a summons will be issued and they will have to pay, in addition to the rate, the cost of the summons. This means that for three months a local authority has to operate, paying its costs of postage, printing, wages, salaries and the rest, without any income whatever.
That is why we in local government have an overdraft from the bank, which has to be paid for by the ratepayer, to try to create a working balance in order that between the re-issue of the rate demand and the receipt of the rates we can meet the cost of wages, printing and all the rest of it, which has to go on during the three months before the rates start coming in. It is true that here arrangements are made with the London boroughs or councils within the area that they should pay over to the authority the product of a penny rate, but the authority themselves will not get the product of the penny rate until towards the end of the three months—in exactly the same way as applies to the normal urban and rural districts within the county. The county is not a precepting authority. Rates are demanded by the rural, urban and borough councils within the county. Therefore, the county issues the precept on the minor authorities and has to wait until it comes in—again about three months. This is exactly what happens here.
What is now going to happen? Lord Hastings said, quite rightly, that they have to meet the cost of accommodation printing, stationery, the costs of election, salaries and all the rest of it. They will not get their money from the boroughs for at least three months. What happens? Banks are very accommodating, and they are quite prepared, with a body like a local authority which has behind it the security of the ratepayers and the rate poundage, to give them credit; but although the banks are prepared to provide the facility of a loan they are not prepared to do it for the public good. They do it, in fact, in order to charge interest to the local authority for the loan. Therefore what is going to happen here is that, in addition to carrying out the work, the local ratepayers will be saddled not only with the cost of the work but also with the bank loan charges which are imposed pending the receipt of the money.
977 Those of us in local government do not like paying out money for nothing, even to banks. That is why we try to create a working balance so that we can have the money to draw on until the receipt of our normal income. The district auditor watches our working balance to make sure that it does not get too low and that we do not charge the ratepayers more than we ought to. But in this instance, unless there is a working balance created for the Greater London Council the ratepayers of the area will have to pay the loan charges on the facilities granted by the bank, pending receipt of money either from the Treasury or from the constituent local authorities. I have looked very closely at the Bill, and, whilst there are facilities for the boroughs and the other authorities to pay into the Greater London Council, I cannot see that there is to be any prepayment to the Greater London Council that will give them what I would call a working balance, so that they can carry on meeting their day-to-day costs pending receipt of their normal income.
I suggest, with the greatest sincerity, that the Government, with the Treasury behind them—the people who have created this hotch-potch of local government services—ought to carry the cost, or at least the cost of the provision of the initial revenue, the working balance, so as to enable the authority to carry on. Otherwise the ratepayers of this area are going to have to pay the bank charges on the loans given to the local authority. I agree that there will be no trouble whatever in securing that loan, because the guarantee they have behind them is more than sufficient. Nevertheless, I do not see why the Government should create a situation in which this new authority starts off by waiting for its revenue for three months at least, and is not in the first instance given the working balance with which it can carry on.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I must say that I was rather surprised that the Government were not in a position to make a statement this afternoon, in view of the decisive defeat of the Conservative Party in the local government election results over the last week, particularly in the results of those elec- 978 tions within the London area. I am indeed surprised that the Government see fit to continue. However, they propose to do so.
If I understand the noble Lord aright, he is now saying that the very people who are being dealt with in this manner must provide out of their own income the resources for the new set-up that is being created by Her Majesty's Government: that the existing boroughs in London shall pay to the Greater London Council, during the period in which it is being formed, a penny rate. That is one thing that you are asking of the authorities that are to disappear, very much against their wishes. Where they have a mandate to continue, you are requiring them to make this contribution to the authority that is removing them. There is another point; by this provision you are taking away from the people within that area the penny rate that would have been used for the betterment of their local area. I should have thought it would be much fairer to the people concerned that the Government should accept our Amendment and provide the working capital (shall we so call it) for the authority, and not take it out of the income which is perphaps already well committed to expenditure within that area. I do not see why a local authority should go to a bank to get a loan.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I know it is quite normal procedure, but in this particular case it is the Government who are creating this authority. I should have thought, then, that it was quite right that the Government, having created this, should see that the working capital was available to carry them forward for the eighteen months until they get their regular income. I think it is pretty cool on the part of Her Majesty's Government to make this suggestion, that we should take out of income money that is very much needed by these local authorities to maintain their present services, merely to provide the capital account—because that is what it is going to be—of the Greater London Council. I hope that the Government will reconsider their position. Surely it is not much. The noble Lord referred to £2½ million, perhaps, and said that that is not a very large sum of Government money, particularly in view of
979 the way the present Government spend it and waste it. If the Government believe that this is the right system, £2½ million is not too much to ask them to put in to finance, to capitalise, this new authority. I do hope that the Government will reconsider the point.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am surprised how easily the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is surprised. So far as the Amendment and the proposal made are concerned, I would just say to the noble Lord, Lord Lord Lindgren, that I do not really see why there should be this three months' delay. A penny rate is all that is being asked for. The noble Lord talked about working capital, but I cannot believe that all the boroughs are so "broke" that they cannot pay anything until they get their rates every six months. The second and major point is this: why should the Government carry the cost? Either the taxpayer is going to pay for this initial capital—as noble Lords call it—or the ratepayers will do so, and we do not think it is fair to put this reorganisation on the taxpayer. We are setting up a better and more efficient form of local government for Greater London, and it is perfectly fair that the ratepayers should meet that very small cost at the outset.
§ LORD LINDGREN
This is most unsatisfactory. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, obviously does not know what happens when in fact you get a running clown in local government. The various authorities within the local government area have not been able to create large balances since the publication of this Bill, knowing that the Government, with the majority they have behind them, are going to get the Bill through. It is equally true, I admit, that so far as the individual authorities themselves are concerned, they have not been prepared to work up big balances which, when it comes to the amalgamations, they are going to hand over to some other authority who is going to have the benefit of their prudent financial arrangements. Therefore these boroughs must themselves carry on their normal services during the twelve months in which this happens, pending the amalgamation, pending the take-over and the absorption of the added problems.
The simple point is that, although rates are payable on demand, they are in fact levied half-yearly, and no local 980 authority starts to "chase" its ratepayers until the end of the first three months. I only repeat again that there are very few ratepayers indeed who line up in a queue on the day they receive their rate demand to pay it over to the local authority. They wait until the end of the three months, which they know they have, before they pay it. Somebody will have to pay the costs incurred until the £2½ million is paid to the authority by the boroughs. That will not be for at least three months, and probably even more.
The noble Lord asks: why should the taxpayer pay it? After all, it is the Government itself which has created this problem; it is not the local ratepayer. I admit—and I admitted quite freely when I spoke earlier—that banks will be falling over themselves to grant the facility of a day-to-day loan for three months to a new authority. They will do it, because they know that at the end of the three months there will be £2½ million coming in by which they can recoup themselves; and there are very few banks which get such good guarantees in regard to loans, which they are asked to make. But the banks will demand a charge; and (unless this new authority is to be given some special facilities) they charge ½ per cent. above the bank rate. I admit that, if the Government made a grant, it would in fact have to be an interest-free loan and if they did that—
§ LORD JESSEL
The noble Lord said all this before. He is repeating himself verbatim. Is it really quite fair on the Committee to say again what he said before? Before the noble Lord rises might I ask him one question?
§ LORD JESSEL
Why Order? What evidence has the noble Lord for saying that most people do not pay their rates for three months? What is his experience? I question it.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I have been a member of the St. Pancras Borough Council, the Welwyn Garden City Urban District Council and the Hertfordshire 981 County Council. If there are noble Lords opposite who have a better local government record than I have, let them say so. And if there is a noble Lord opposite who pays his rates on demand, let him get up and say so.
§ BARONESS HORSBRUGH
Might I ask the noble Lord whether he pays his rates on demand, or waits for three months?
§ LORD LINDGREN
I should not like to say that I always pay them on demand. I may now be an aristocrat, but I am a little impoverished. Therefore payment has to wait until there is an opportunity. But let us be quite honest. There are noble Lords opposite who have been engaged in local government; the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, has been and still is, I believe. But it is not normal for a local authority to start receiving its income until towards the end of the three months. Commercial undertakings do not pay
§ until the end of three months, and very often commercial undertakings are the biggest ratepayers within an area. Really, what we are asking here is that the Government should issue an interest-free loan to the local authority. The Government should carry the cost of the interest, and not the ratepayers. That is the pure and simple issue. I have risen again—and this is the answer to the intervention we had just now—only because it is fairly obvious that the noble Lord handling the Bill on behalf of the Government does not really know how local authority finance is carried on. Local authorities will not have the money. They will either have to get it from the Government or they will have to get it from the banks. We do not want them to have to get it from the banks and to have to pay interest on it. That is the simple issue.
§ On Question, Whether the Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 57.981
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Lindgren, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Listowel, E.||Stonham, L. [Teller.]|
|Champion, L.||Longford, E.||Summerskill, B.|
|Crook, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Uvedale of North End, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Walston, L.|
|Henderson, L.||St. Davids, V.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Shepherd, L.||Wise, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Gosford, E.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Albemarle, E.||Grantchester, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Grenfell, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Amulree, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Mills, V.|
|Atholl, D.||Hastings, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Boston, L.||Hawke, L.||Monsell, V.|
|Buchan, E.||Horsbrugh, B.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Carrington, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Newton, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Howe, E.||Ogmore, L.|
|Denham, L.||Ilford, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Devonshire, D.||Jellicoe, E.||Rea, L.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Jessel, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Effingham, E.||Kilbracken, L.||Salter, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Killearn, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Lothian, M.||Sandwich, E.|
|Forster of Harraby, L.||MacAndrew, L.||Somers, L.|
|Furness, V.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.||Soulbury, V.|
|Goddard, L.||Mansfield, E.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Margesson, V.||Swinton, E.|
|Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly|
§ Clause 3:
§ Local government areas in and around Greater London
§ 3.—(1) As from 1st April, 1965—
- (a) no part of Greater London shall form part of any administrative county, county district or parish;
- (b) the following administrative areas and their councils (and, in the case of a borough, the municipal corporation thereof) shall cease to exist, that is to say, the counties of London and Middlesex, the metropolitan boroughs, and any existing county borough, county district or parish the area of which falls wholly within Greater London;
- (c) the urban district of Potters Bar shall become part of the county of Hertfordshire;
- (d) the urban districts of Staines and Sunbury-on-Thames shall become part of the county of Surrey.
§ 3.10 p.m.
LORD CHAMPION moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "1st April, 1965" and to insert:
a date after 1st April, 1966, to be appointed by the Minister ".
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is on an entirely different point from that of Amendments Nos. 11 and 14 which we have already discussed. Amendments 11 and 14 dealt with the dates of elections. This Amendment, although it is related to some extent to a later Amendment (No. 19) on the Order Paper, is different. This Amendment deals with the transition period caused by the cessation of the London County Council and Middlesex and by the dismembering of certain county councils whose areas will now be outside the area of the Greater London Authority. Amendment 19, which we shall discuss later, deals with the transfer of functions within the Greater London area and therefore I do not propose to discuss both these Amendments together.
§ This is the first mention in the Bill of the date upon which the transition period is to end following the election of the councils in 1964. We all recognise that this will be a period of reorganisation, unprecedented in its magnitude. It will be a period of less than twelve months for a task which the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack said was bound to produce considerable upheaval. I regarded that as a massive understatement of what will have to take place between the elections in 1964 and the handing over of functions in 1965. 984 Almost before the new councillors have begun to find their way about the council buildings which they will occupy, they are going to be faced with what are truly formidable problems. These are problems that would tax the ingenuity of very long-experienced councillors.
§ As I understand it, this clause provides, in the first place, for the tearing away of those parts of the administrative counties of Essex, Kent and Surrey which are to form part of the Greater London Council area. This, in itself, will involve an administrative change in those deprived counties of considerable difficulty and complexity. They are going to be dismembered; they are going to lose a large part of their population, and certainly a very large part of their rateable value on which they have relied in the past for their services. Surrey will lose some 43 per cent. of its rateable value and 40 per cent. of its population. Essex and Kent also will suffer much the same sort of thing; although to a slightly lesser degree. Nevertheless, it is going to involve great problems for those two counties.
I thought that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, epitomised the difficulties that are going to face these dismembered councils when he said, on Second Reading [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 248 (No. 72), col. 1261]:
We shall be eviscerated. Our rates will go up; our educational system will go endways, and our traffic will go endways. It will no longer be a county and poorer people will be paying higher rates—we reckon on an increase of anything from 11d. to as high as 1s. 7d. in the pound, which is a lot of money to put en to a poor area.
With the increasing burden of rates, I can well understand the noble Earl's outburst on behalf of the humble people in the County of Surrey. I can imagine that the Councils representing Essex and Kent may very well have said precisely the same sort of thing about the difficulties they will have to face after this Bill becomes an Act, and during this period of transition between 1964 and 1965. The problem facing these counties that are to be dismembered will be to adjust their services to the much smaller area and to their comparative poverty. The staffs have been built up on the basis of large, populous and rich areas. The management of their staffs will be facing contraction, and everyone knows that in the
handling of staff it is much more difficult to face contraction than expansion. Indeed, we spent the whole of one day last week discussing the problem of contraction of staff as it affects the railways. Everyone felt sympathy with the railways and with the staff who will be affected. This problem of contraction will face these three counties that I have mentioned.
§ We shall find for example, that one man, pretty near the top perhaps, together with the whole of his staff, will have to be pared down to fit the new income and the task that they will have to perform. Some other man, perhaps, and the whole of his staff, will have to be transferred to one of the new London boroughs that will come into being under this Bill and will be taking over part of the service which up to now the counties have been doing. I can visualise that pretty well endless negotiations will be required between these counties and the new boroughs over this task of staff transference and the rest. This is going to be a big job and a job that cannot be handled quickly. Those of us who have ever engaged in negotiations between one local government area and another recognise something of the difficulty which is going to be faced, and is bound to be faced, by these counties which have been cut down to the extent that they are going to be cut as a result of this Bill.
§ Whole staffs of schools, and all the ancillary services which have been built up around the schools, will have to be transferred from Surrey, Essex and Kent to some new London boroughs. This, in itself, is going to be a very great job. Educational areas which have long since been evolved and have been working satisfactorily up to now will be fragmented and divided by the counties under the newly-created London borough councils education committees. School medical officers of counties will suddenly find that half their areas have slipped away. Of course, they cannot be divided into two; they will have to be fitted into what remains of the county or be transferred to the borough councils. That might be a tragedy for the medical officers of health. Perhaps it is. But I think it will be an even greater tragedy for those school children who, up to now, have been part of the services and have been 986 handled in a satisfactory way. It will be a tragedy even greater for the children than for the school medical officers, but of course the school medical officers are part of the staff that will have to enter into our considerations in these arrangements. Arrangements for voluntary schools—
May I interrupt the noble Lord and ask him this question? Does he consider that, as a result of the general and whole reorganisation of local government, the total staff engaged is going to be less or greater than at present?
§ LORD CHAMPION
I was not talking here about vesting the whole staff. I was talking about the counties contracting and the problem of transfer, with the consequent disorganisation. I am sure that the noble Lord will recognise that there will be great disorganisation as a result of the fragmentation which will take place under this Bill.
The question of areas for voluntary schools appears to me to present a particularly difficult problem. I understand that provision has been made by the county councils of Surrey, Kent and Essex to locate these schools in relation to the catchment areas within the existing counties. Clearly new boundaries will cut through the catchment areas which have been devised by these counties, and negotiations will have to be entered into with the new borough councils, the religious bodies involved and the local school managers. Noble Lords who have gone through some of the difficulties of negotiation with religious bodies on voluntary schools will recognise that this is not something that can be settled in a few months; lengthy negotiations will have to take place. And what applies to the catchment areas for voluntary schools also applies to further education. The deprived counties (if I may so call them) have sited their technical colleges, grammar schools and secondary modern schools with a view to a free flow of pupils throughout all the stages of the educational system. Some of those schools and colleges will be just outside the new areas, others just inside, and the arrangements to be made to ensure that this free flow continues will have to be negotiated and that, too, will take a long time.
I have mentioned some of the problems which will face the deprived counties and 987 the new borough councils. One could go on citing difficulties to be faced over the whole range of their functions. These difficulties are much too great to be overcome in the transitional period allowed for in the Bill. Those with an elementary knowledge of local government and its problems will know, that they are incapable of negotiation and solution within the transitional period of one year.
The second part of this clause deals with the death of the county metropolitan boroughs, districts and parishes within the Greater London area. I have come to study London local government with a fresh mind. When I first became a member of an urban district council, I studied local government. I used as a textbook a book which had at the end two chapters devoted to London government. I did not open one of them, because they did not apply to the area in which I lived and I thought I could neglect them. But I can claim that I have read most of the words spoken on this Bill in another place and all of them spoken in this House. I have yet to find a single convincing argument in any of the words that have been used in favour of the abolition of the London County Council and of the Middlesex County Council.
Both are well tried units of local administration. Both have been shown to have a very high quality of staff. Both have been working under an elected leadership of expert quality. Under this clause, they are to disappear, to be replaced by an untried system and largely by people who will themselves be untried in local government, if the Government get their way, because, if some of my noble friends are right, the purpose of this Bill is to get a bunch of new councillors on the council who will be mainly Tories, who in any case will be untried. That is the point I am mainly making here. We shall have this hunch of inexperienced councillors coming in to face this difficult task of the transitional period, and the time granted by this Bill of less than one year from the date of their election is quite inadequate for the task which is to face them.
The last point I would make in connection with this Amendment is that I 988 am well aware that the staffs of the L.C.C. and M.C.C. will have begun by 1964 to make their preparations and to prepare their memoranda on the difficulties to be faced and what will be necessary in order to accomplish this transfer without too much upset. But we must not expect too much from those staffs, because they all have to continue, throughout the whole period up to April 1, 1965, to do their normal day-to-day tasks. They cannot all be taken off their jobs in order to consider how they are going to carry out this transfer of functions. Obviously, there are limits to their capacity for additional, work which the Government are trying to place upon them. Heads of departments in this field have already said publicly that this timetable will cause grave risks of a breakdown in London's local government services. This was said by experienced men who really know what will be involved in the transfer of functions to these new bodies. I am not going to discuss in detail the transfer of functions between the L.C.C. and boroughs inside the Greater London area. That will come on Amendment No. 19. I hope that I have said enough to convince the Committee that the timetable proposed in this Bill for ending the London and Middlesex County Councils and for the transfer of functions of counties outside London is much too short, and I hope that this Amendment will be accepted by the Committee. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 18, leave out ("1st April, 1965") and insert the said new words.—(Lord Champion.)
§ LORD STONHAM
I beg to support the Amendment so convincingly moved by my noble friend Lord Champion. I honestly believe that no noble Lord who has any experience whatsoever of any form of local government administration, using that term in its widest sense, can possibly believe that the, in many ways, unprecedented transfer of functions envisaged can be properly got through in a period of twelve months from April, 1964. I want to deal with only one aspect of the very broad canvas covered by my noble friend, because certain other aspects can be developed in detail on later Amendments. I have in mind the vast question of the mental health service, 989 on which I hope to be able to speak on Amendment No. 18.
The one particular point I want to deal with now is the question of staff redundancies. The noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, asked my noble friend whether in his view there would be more people wanted or less; and my noble friend, quite rightly, refused to forecast. But this we can say: the Government anticipate that there may be, and in fact probably will be, a number of people who will be redundant. In fact there are compensation provisions in the Bill. Therefore, we must anticipate that some experienced officers, perhaps with 25 years' experience, really at the peak of their knowledge and experience, are going to lose their jobs when they have still ten or fifteen years to give to local government service. I think that is a serious matter and a serious argument against the Bill. But what is important is that it is a very potent argument in favour of an extra year, because within an additional year there is going to be considerable opportunity, from natural causes, of losing a number of people.
I am chairman of a group of hospitals in London, and for several years now there has been what I regard as a wise movement to amalgamate adjacent hospital groups. While this is a good thing and highly desirable in every way, it means that senior officers become redundant, because there are fewer jobs. The Minister of Health has accepted all the representations of Regional Boards in this matter, so that these amalgamations have been arranged in such a way that, so far, no redundancies have been created, or if they have, the officers have been found jobs of equal status, with equal or increased salary within the hospital service. This is an important matter, and supremely important to the men concerned, who are people whose interests we should consider. It has been possible to do this only because it is an operation conducted over a period of two or three years; and, indeed, the amalgamation of groups has been so timed in many cases as to fit in with the known retirement of the senior officers, and sometimes with the retirement of a chairman of a particular group. But it could not possibly be arranged in a period of twelve months.
990 My noble friend was quite right in saying that this great local government service in London, Middlesex, Surrey, Kent and Essex, will suffer. I said just now that this was a unique proposal, and it is because of its size and scope, and also because of this utterly indecent haste. I would ask your Lordships to look at this one point. Those local government officers about whom I have been speaking cannot possibly begin to negotiate new terms of service until the new Councils are elected in April, 1964: in other words, they have not yet employers with whom to negotiate. I challenge the noble Lord who is to reply to say whether he can quote any kind of parallel in local government where by Statute you insist on making arrangements which will affect local government officers and their very jobs—and they receive only two-thirds of their rate of salary as compensation if they lose their jobs—and insist that the Bill shall go on the Statute Book and become law within twelve months from the first day, when the officers concerned can begin to negotiate with their prospective employers. I know of no such case.
I think it is really disgraceful when these men and women, who have given great service to their country as a whole, in the field of local government, who have been quite devoted, through no fault of their own are going to be jettisoned and their local authorities annihilated—even a great county authority like Middlesex—and they will have only twelve months, at the outside, to negotiate to see whether they are going to have jobs, with whom they are to work, who is to be the chief officer of a particular new borough, who will be deputy aid so on, right down the scale. Throughout that time they have to continue governing London, Kent and Middlesex, and also with negotiating, not only for their own jobs, but in preparation for the take-over of these vast services. These met unquestionably are worried, will be worried and have a right to be worried. I am sure that, as has been their tradition, they want to, and will, do their utmost to carry out the wishes of Parliament but it is utterly impossible and completely unfair to put on their shoulders a task of this kind. Therefore, I would urge the Government to take serious notice of this important Amendment, and if they insist on putting 991 the Bill on the Statute Book, at least to see that it has a chance to be properly carried out without doing untold damage to local government and the officers who serve it.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
The noble Lord, Lord Champion, in moving this Amendment said that he did not wish to discuss Amendment No. 19. But that deals with the transfer functions, and this deals with the disappearance of the counties and county boroughs, and the two things happen on the same date; and, in fact, the two speeches to which we have listened have dealt extensively with the transfer of functions. However that may be, I should like to reply quite briefly. I do not wish to appear discourteous or in any way curt to noble Lords, but in fact these arguments were made in connection with the Amendments that we took last week. I did point out at that time that the period of transition, which the noble Lord, Lord Champion, in particular, has referred to as running from the elections of 1964 until the transfers in 1965, is not limited to that period of eleven months. It is starting as from now. So there is a period of two years. I explained how joint committees are already being set up between the boroughs to discuss this aspect, and that they are making good progress. Under Clause 83 there is authority for setting up further committees, and that process is being gone into now, with encouraging results. So I urge noble Lords not to get the idea that nothing happens until the elections of 1964; because that is not right.
§ LORD LATHAM
Would the noble Lord tell the Committee by whose authority these various joint committees referred to now are set up?
§ LORD HASTINGS
As noble Lords know perfectly well, the Minister sent a circular to the local authorities pointing out the difficulties and suggesting that they might wish to set up joint committees; and that they are doing, because they are sensible people.
§ LORD LATHAM
The noble Lord must understand that the Minister cannot spend the money of local authorities without proper authority.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
May I ask one question? Can the noble Lord tell the House on what other occasion has legislation been anticipated in this way?
§ LORD HASTINGS
I should think frequently; though I do not know. But it is common sense that the borough councils, when they foresee changes of this nature, should consult together. I am quite certain noble Lords will agree with that.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
It is just about as bad as the fact that the Government are doing the whole of this rotten thing without any mandate from the electorate whatsoever.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I dealt with that argument, and so did my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, on Second Reading. The two Amendments previously were defeated, and we agreed that the elections of the local borough councils, and of the Greater London Council, should take place in 1964. This Amendment, of course, was devised with the intent that the elections should take place in 1965 and the disappearance of the other authorities a year later, in 1966. We have defeated the other Amendments. The elections will take place in 1964, and therefore it is right that the delay should be only another year, until 1965, before these transfers take place. There is nothing more I can usefully say on this matter, and I ask your Lordships to reject this Amendment.
§ LORD WALSTON
I am rather amazed at what we have just heard from the noble Lord. We had a discussion last week on the general matter of democratic representation and points of that kind. Some of us expressed doubts about the limitation of the size of councils, which we felt was striking a blow against the general democratic form of local government. But here, if I understand the noble Lord aright, we have something far more serious. It is that, in order to save time, negotiations of considerable importance are already being entered into between important and valuable officials in local government and the representatives of existing councils (which will not exist after April, 1965) in order to discuss the actual form that certain important activities of those future councils will take after 1965. Surely, while it is useful to have discussions between, as it were, the permanent officials as to the form they would like to recommend to the democratically elected representatives on the council the activities the new organisation should undertake, it is entirely undemocratic, in every sense of the word, that any detailed negotiations should be entered into, and certainly that no decisions should be taken except by the actual people who have been elected by the voters of that particular district. That must be the time when the real negotiations take place.
By all means have those negotiations, if you wish, and if it can be done without any mistake in financial administration, such as we have already heard or had queried, I hope that the noble Lord is not telling us that when these new councils are finally elected they will be presented with a fait accompli and he told, "This is what has been arranged by your predecessors or the permanent officials"—because the noble Lord is getting close to telling us that. If that is not going to be the case and if, as we sincerely hope (and I hope noble Lords on the other side also sincerely hope), it is to be for the elected representatives to make those decisions, then his whole attempt to rebut the argument of my noble friend falls to the ground—because they will certainly need far more than twelve months which this Bill envisages in order to deal with those negotiations. It is only on the assumption that far more than the general outline of the actual details have been worked out, 994 prior to the elections, by people other than the elected representatives that you can justify the fact that only twelve months is allowed. I ask the noble Lord the Minister to make it quite clear what he is now telling us. Are the new councils to be presented with this fait accompli or left with their hands untied, to make whatever best arrangements they think fit? If it is the latter, as I hope it is, then I hope he will either accept the Amendment of my noble friend or at least bring forward other and more convincing arguments than he has done so far.
§ LORD WILLIAMS OF BARNBURGH
While I agree with the noble Lord when he said that it is sensible to negotiate, I do not quite agree with what I regretfully have to say sounded like an intolerant note: that my noble friend who moved this Amendment was trying to do something that was utterly contrary to common sense. He made certain submissions that were not fully answered. I do not wonder that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, evaded them, and said that he had little to say, but was relying upon what was said by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House or somebody else on Second Reading. My noble friend Lord Champion referred to the fact of the displacement or disturbance of local government areas in Surrey, Essex, Kent, Middlesex and for forth. It has been mentioned (I am sorry to have to repeat it, but I think it necessary) that Surrey will lose a goodly part of their people, their rateable value, their prestige and their status. That applies also to the officials of Surrey and the other authorities that are seriously disturbed.
To quote an example, with whom will the Clerk to the Surrey County Council, which has been reduced to a formidable extent, or those serving under him, negotiate? So far as we on this side understand it, there is nobody outside Surrey with whom those officials could negotiate, since no body seems to have any authority to negotiate and reach conclusions on either salaries, status, prestige of the officials and so forth. If, as the noble Lord seems to suggest, negotiations can be carried on involving the terms of re-employment—because it will almost amount to re-employment, once the boundaries are changed—some body must have the power to negotiate in a common-sense manner, as the noble Lord 995 put it, dealing with facts and figures which apply in the future. With whom, outside the fragmented Surrey County Council can the officials of the forthcoming Surrey County Council negotiate? Who has any authority to negotiate with them, to determine salaries and other incidental but important details? I should like to ask the noble Lord, for instance, whether the Auditor General has given authority to some body of unknown persons that, whatever expense is involved in the negotiations, it will be accepted by the Auditor when he goes to the appropriate authorities who have incurred that expense. Has someone been told from the Auditor General's department that these expenses will be accepted?
It seems to me that this is not the simple question the noble Lord tried to make out. It is, as my noble friend Lord Champion stated, very convincingly I thought, vitally important that negotiations should take place with proper authority so that any decisions reached can be implemented when the time arrives. I should like to say again that if the Opposition wanted to do nothing more than try to help the Government to save themselves, I think they are doing so with this Amendment. The Government have just had an experience in which the country said to them, "You can't do that there 'ere". If a great blunder, no matter how well-intentioned it may be, is made by limiting the time so that sensible negotiations cannot take place and reasonable conclusions reached within the time specified, then clearly the time ought to be extended. It seems to me, as one noble Lord said earlier on in our debates, that it is wiser to get the right decision than to get a hasty decision, and I think that that could not apply more than it does in this particular case.
Although I am not a Londoner, thank the Lord!—and despite my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, I prefer to Feel Yorkshire; I am Yorkshire and wish to remain Yorkshire—I should still like to see this City governed as we think it should, and could, be governed and to remain one of the monumental features of this country; but I am pretty certain that if we try to scamp decisions of this important character we shall do much more harm than good.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
I must confess I am happy neither with the first part of Clause 3 nor with the Amendment put down by noble Lords opposite. It does not seem to me to be possible to put an arbitrary date on a project of this kind involving so many authorities with so many different numbers within them. I believe, in the case of many of these authorities, that the date of April 1, 1965, may well be quite suitable, but I can speak only for the part of Surrey which has been mentioned by several noble Lords opposite. Take an area like Croydon, which has a population of over 240,000 and which is being saddled with Coulsdon and Purley which have 70,000 to 80,000, and my own area of Epsom and Ewell which will be faced with the difficulty of civic centres. Civic centres cannot be built in a matter of a few months. So I would ask my noble friend to look at this again and possibly to advance the date to October, 1965—I think 1966 is rather late—or to write into the Bill words to the effect of "or a date suitable to the authority concerned", because I belive the present date is too arbitrary for the administration to be carried through properly.
§ LORD SILKIN
I should like to associate myself with everything that has been said up to now from this side of the Committee and with what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Auckland. I am not going to repeat the arguments that have been put forward, but I cannot help feeling that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, did not give an adequate reply to the very convincing statements that have been made. It seems to me that there may be little doubt that the new local authorities will not be ready by 1965, and it is going to impose considerable hardship on the people themselves.
I am not going to speak about the troubles of the local government officers; I think they are in a position, up to a point, to look after themselves and I have no doubt they will. I am thinking of those of the population who are going to be affected, particularly the school children. A number of children are to-day attending schools in areas which are at present outside the County of London and which will become part of Greater London. Arrangements will have to be made for the children who are in those 997 schools. I imagine that the sensible arrangement will be that they continue to attend the schools which they are at present attending, but there will be financial arrangements to be made in respect of those children.
There will be other children who are about to attend secondary modern schools who would, in the normal course of events, have gone to, say, a school in Surrey or Kent but who will no longer be eligible to go to such a school and will have to go to schools within the county. Whether those schools are readily available or not I do not know, but arrangements will have to be made for them. If they are not available then some arrangement will have to be made between the two respective local authorities that the children should temporarily attend school outside the Greater London Area. All those arrangements will have to be made, and I cannot see how they can be made within the short time that is available. And why should the Government insist, whether these arrangements have been satisfactorily concluded or not, that the thing has got to come into operation on April 1, 1965, when, surely, in their own interests they ought to make some elbow room?
I have referred to education, but there are many other services to which the same thing applies; and in case they cannot make these arrangements, surely the Government could accept the Amendment and take power by order to bring the measure into operation at a later date. The noble Lord said that discussions are taking place already, I presume to surmount this kind of difficulty which is going to arise; but the people who are discussing and negotiating have no authority. I associate myself with the point that they are incurring expenditure, and so on, without authority. Let us assume that it is common sense to discuss this matter in view of impending legislation, but they have no authority because by the time that this becomes operative there will be new elections and it may well be that there will be quite different people, different councillors, different ideas and different bodies to discuss with. The bodies who are discussing at the moment will no longer be the same bodies as will have to operate any arrangements that are made. There will be different 998 bodies entirely, who may want to repudiate, at least not to accept, the arrangements which have been made—the tentative arrangements, if you like, for they cannot be more than that. In all good faith, a smaller Surrey County Council may not be prepared to accept what the existing Surrey County Council is arranging; and the same argument applies to the Greater London Authority, which does not exist.
Many of the arrangements that the noble Lord is thinking about are arrangements which have been made between the sovereign bodies, the Greater London Council, the new London boroughs and the outer London authorities. They do not exist. How can you make any kind of arrangements, say, with the borough of Wandsworth, which is going to be split up into three parts, or with Woolwich? How can you? They will not exist and they will be merged in past into three different London boroughs. It is quite impossible to make an arrangement of this sort, even a tentative one, in this interim period. I am speaking in the interests of wise administration, if nothing else, in saying that the Government should give themselves elbow room. It may not be this Government who have to implement this Act. There should be elbow room in order to permit the making of satisfactory arrangements as regards the transfer of services. I beg the Government to think again about this and not to be rigid about a pure piece of administration. It is silly to be so rigid about it and not give yourself scope in case you need more time, and to insist upon a thing which you may not be able to carry out.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I hope I am not giving the impression that we on this side underrate the difficulty; not a bit of it. We appreciate everything the noble Lord, Lord Champion, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and others have said. I made a reasoned reply to Lord Silkin's criticism on Thursday when the question of transferred functions was raised. I said we had gone into that most carefully, and we are satisfied the timetable we have set out in the Bill can be kept. Certainly I will bear in mind what the noble Lord said about elbow room, but that is all I can say in respect of that matter.
§ LORD SILKIN
May I interrupt the noble Lord? When he says he will bear it in mind, what does he mean? In what practical form will this emerge?
§ LORD HASTINGS
I do not mean that I am going to suggest the noble Lord should withdraw his Amendment and I will come back on Report stage; I am afraid not. I would obviously talk to my right honourable friend about it, but this afternoon I am going to ask the Committee to reject the Amendment. Great point was made about these ad hoc joint committees, some of which were set up before my right honourable friend sent out a circular. He commended them for doing so and suggested other boroughs might like to do the same. Boroughs are quite within their powers to do this sort of thing and spend money upon it. There is nothing secret about the circular. It refers also to the possibility that the county councils should appoint members to the ad hoc committees of the intended new borough groups. That was a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Champion. I think noble Lords have overlooked altogether the special staff commission which is being set up by my right honourable friend, being an all-staff conference in this connection. I think those are the main points brought up again. I do not underestimate the importance, but we feel these matters can be carried out, as I have explained.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I must say the longer the debate on this Amendment goes on the more disappointed I feel with the Government's answers. It is pretty shocking, when we raise in a democratic country the question of the right to take action at the expense of the Government and the local authorities, under a Statute not yet passed. The noble Lord has just said that again about the Minister himself, who set up staff conferences to deal with changes in areas not yet existing as separate statutory areas. This seems to me to be a most extraordinary affair. The whole plot—and I take the word especially from my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth—to alter completely the local government of London is now being speeded up in order to rush it through in whatever time this Government have left. That is what they intend to do. 1000 In order to try to make it slightly less difficult for the local authorities who will be concerned, you set up unlawfully, in advance, arrangements to be made, before the Parliament of this country has given final authority in the Statute.
This is a most extraordinary state of affairs. I do not remember any case of this kind in my long experience, which was in local government service as well as well over 35 years in Parliament, where so short a time would have been allowed for making such arrangements as are now being made in this enormous revolution in London government. But I do know this: that where matters are rushed from time to time there is an enormous strain upon staffs. I remember the tremendous revolution in the control and objective of our public education in 1902, under the Balfour Act. I was then starting to work on it in a county council education office, at the age of 18, and for five years we worked overtime without a single penny of overtime remuneration. It was a most harassing period. Of course things have changed since then, and employees, whether they be officials or ordinary staffs, are not going to stand for that kind of thing.
As I have listened to the careful explanation, given not only on the Second Reading but now also by my noble friend Lord Champion, of the conditions which have to be dealt with in the time allowed under this Bill, I say the time is absolutely insufficient. I am certain of that. When the noble Lord says to my noble friend Lord Silkin that he will "keep this in mind", I think of the title of the song that apparently says all that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, would get out of the Minister, and that is Thanks for the Memory. Nothing has been offered from the other side of the House to help us in our search for justice for the people and authorities of London—nothing at all.
I am bound to say that we feel reinforced in our first impressions that the real basis and purpose of this Government is a political one, and that they are trying to arrange such an alteration in the structure of the administration of London and Greater London that they will be able to destroy the continued preference of the London County Council electorate for the Party of which I am proud to be a member. That is the real 1001 objective. And they are doing this without a single mandate. The elections which have taken place in the last three days in areas which are affected by the legislation now proposed prove once more that the Government are acting against the will of those electors who go to the polls and express their opinions. That is the actual fact. We say at this time, "If you want to make very big changes in the local government, of greater London, let us have time to see it properly worked out". At present it is not provided for. This is the kind of operation that Lord Montgomery of Alamein would agree is most appropriate for something you have to do in wartime; but I can find no evidence of arty war in this matter except the war of the Government against the Party to which I belong. Apparently the refusal to make anything like decent Amendments as we go through this Bill now is an aspect of political war, to leave a trail of malice behind them.
§ LORD CHAMPION
I should be very sorry if this Amendment were regarded as part of the tactics in a battle between the two Parties. I must admit that when I considered this Amendment and put it down and spoke upon it, I thought we were not dealing with a Party point at all. It does not appear to me to be a Party point. The point I have in mind is, how is it going to be possible to carry out this Bill once it reaches the Statute Book? And, clearly, this Bill is going to reach the Statute Book if this Government last long enough. That is their job, to carry through their legislation. But I do not think we are here on a Party point at all. It is one which arises from the knowledge of experts who have considered this matter, experts who are now engaged on the Civil Service side of the authorities concerned, and the elected members' point of view also. We have had both. We have heard from the civil servants, and we have heard here to-day, from both sides of the Committee, people who have had experience of guiding the civil servant—and that, after all, is the job of the Council. That is why I support my noble friends Lord Williams of Barnburgh, Lord Silkin and Lord Walston, in saying that while some little preparation might be made by the Civil Service of these authorities, finally the decision must be taken by the new councils after they have thoroughly grasped 1002 what it is all about. This period of time which ought to be granted is important.
I must admit that I was tremendously disappointed in the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Hastings. He did not seem to me to be really addressing himself to some of the problems which we have cited in this connection—and these are really important problems. He based his case mainly on the fact that there has already been set up somewhere some ad hoc committee to consider what the effects of this are going to be and to make some preparation for it. But I have felt for a long time that this Bill has been prepared and brought to this stage by people who really do not understand local government in the field, on the ground, doing the job. Indeed, I am sorry to say to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, because I like him a great deal, that I think he showed a general example of the ignorance of Ministers when he suggested that boroughs can do what they like. They just cannot; they can do only what Acts of Parliament permit them to do. I am doubtful whether any Act of Parliament passed up to now enables these preparations to be made for something which may become an Act of Parliament in the dim and distant future, although it may not be quite in the dim and distant future if the Government get their way.
The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, supported the principle of the Amendment out of his own peculiar knowledge. I suggest that if the Government cannot accept completely the words of this Amendment they might at least take part of the wording from Amendment No. 19 to ensure that they will not actually carry out this job of taking over until the councils have been consulted at all levels, and all the associations—not the staff associations but the associations of borough councils—have been consulted before a date is decided upon. In Amendment No. 19 we make provision for this. We should not mind giving to the Government these words, provided that they adapt and adopt them for the purposes suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Auckland.
In the past we have had experience of this job of reorganising local government. There was the 1929 Act, when boundaries were altered, when new bodies were created and some were abolished. A number of things happened, and they were considerable things. But the 1003 amount that had to be done under the 1929 Act was trifling in comparison with what has to be done under this Bill, and in that case two years was the period given for reorganisation. I should be more than grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, if he would say, here and now, that he will think over this matter, and give us an undertaking that the
§ 4.27 p.m.
LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH moved, in subsection (1)(b), after "say:" to insert: "the City of London,". The noble Lord said: in order that this Amendment may be understood, I had better read the words of the subsection to which it refers. Clause 3(1) says:
As from 1st April 1965—
although we have since been told by the Lord Chancellor that it is the Government's intention to establish a Lord
Government will consider the words that I have proposed for inclusion in this Bill, with some prospect of their being included. The noble Lord shakes his head. Therefore, I do not propose to withdraw the Amendment.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 30; Not-Contents, 63.1003
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Lawson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Lindgren, L||Silkin, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Listowel, E.||Sinha, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Longford, E.||Stonham, L. [Teller.]|
|Champion, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Summerskill, B.|
|Chorley, L.||Meston, L.||Walston, L.|
|Crook, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Williams, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Ogmore, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Rea, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Latham, L.||St. Davids, V.||Wise, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Margesson, V.|
|Albemarle, E.||Goddard, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Merrivale, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Gosford, E.||Mersey, V.|
|Blackford, L.||Grenfell, L.||Mills, V.|
|Bossom, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Monsell, V.|
|Boston, L.||Hastings, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Buchan, E.||Hawke, L.||Newton, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Horsbrugh, B.||Onslow, E.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Howe, E.||Remnant, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Ilford, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Denham, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Saltoun, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Jessel, L.||Sandwich, E.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Killearn, L.||Somers, L.|
|Dudley, L.||Kilmuir, E.||Soulbury, V.|
|Effingham, E.||Lothian, M.||Spens, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Luke, L.||Strathalmond, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Forster of Harraby, L.||Malmesbury, E.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Mansfield, E.||Swinton, E.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
Lieutenant for Greater London, which seems to me to involve the definition of "Greater London" as a county or an administrative county. Then come paragraphs (b), (c) and (d), which are the important parts:
(b) the following administrative areas and their councils (and, in the case of a borough, the municipal corporation thereof) shall cease to exist, that is to say, the counties of London and Middlesex, the metropolitan boroughs, and any existing county borough, county district or parish the area of which falls wholly within Greater London;
(c) the urban district of Potters Bar shall become part of the county of Hertfordshire;
(d) the urban districts of Staines and Sunbury-on-Thames shall become part of the county of Surrey.
That abolishes all the existing local government areas in Greater London—with one exception. That exception is the ancient City of London.
§ How often have we been told: "It is time the London County Council was reformed or abolished, and Middlesex as well, because they have existed for about 70 years or more? Therefore, why should the Labour Party be so stuffy, so conservative, that it wants to preserve these bodies which have existed for that period of years?" Yet the Government are here leaving intact the City of London, which has been established, not for 70 years, but since 1346.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Of course, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, says "Hear, hear!", because the City of London is Tory; because it appeals to his aristocratic instincts; because it is reactionary; because it stuffy; because there is no Labour Member on the Common Council at all. That is why the noble Lord the Earl of Sandwich says, "Hear, hear!". So he openly defends this ancient monument; and, on the other hand, joins with the Government in declaring that the London Count Council is itself a body of such great age that we ought not to defend its continued existence.
I want to know why we should think that the City of London is untouchable. I admit that if you go back far enough it has a good, even progressive, even revolutionary, past. Years ago, the City of London long defied monarchs and stood for the rights of the people—as that word was then understood, which was mostly the middle class and the aristocracy. They did that, and therefore at that time they served Parliamentary democracy with great ability. I have before now at the Mansion House congratulated the ancient City of London on its revolutionary past. Moreover, there is in another place a very fine picture showing the escape of the five Members who were threatened by absolute monarchy that they were to be arrested because they were not accepting the Royal will. What did they do? They got into a rowing boat, they were rowed into the city of London and there they were saved from the monarchical vengeance. So not all of the past of the City is bad. But it has 1006 become bad because it has been selfish; it has not shared its wealth, its privileges and its market monopolies with local authorities outside, but has selfishly kept them for the monopoly of the City of London.
I am looking at some notes for an article written by Miss Belle Harris for the Political Quarterly, one of the two editors of which is Professor William A. Robson, a champion of this dreadful Bill and one of the authors of the policy behind it. But he now says that the Government have let him down, because the area of the Greater London authority is not big enough. Given the principles on which the Bill is based, there is a lot to be said for that point of view, and also that it is giving too little power to the Greater London Council and too much power to the boroughs. That is what he says, and to that extent he criticises the Government. I do not forgive him for his original lack of seeing the light, but Professor W. A. Robson, in his pamphlet The Greater London Boroughs, describes the City as,a backward-looking body steeped in tradition and largely indifferent to the needs of the modern metropolis.That is what he says. I do not know that I am in good company, but I am in the company of one who gives general support to the Bill. Even the Bow Group, a Conservative Party group, have suggested that the pageantry of the City should relate to the whole Greater London area. They said:The City should be divorced from their historical associations. Such ceremonies would become meaningless and the prestige of the City would rapidly decline.On the Second Reading of the Bill in another place, the Minister of Housing and Local Government maintained that it was a matter of principle that 60 councillors only should comprise the councils of the new London boroughs. This gave an opportunity for the late Sir Leslie Plummer to ask the pertinent question:As a matter of principle, what has happened to the 200 members of the City of London Corporation?Perhaps the noble Lord will tell us what has happened to these 200 members of the Corporation.
The qualifications necessary to be a Member of the Common Council are that a person must become a Freeman of the City, either by patrimony, servi- 1007 tude or redemption at a cost of three to five guineas, and the applications to become a Freeman have to be passed by the Common Council. The person must be registered in the Ward for which he is standing, if he becomes a candidate, and must occupy as owner or tenant in that Ward land or premises of a rateable value of not less than £10. So that the person standing for the Common Council of the City must have a property qualification, which has been completely abolished for all other local authorities in the country. Elsewhere a residential qualification is enough, but not in the City. There is a £10 residential qualification, and the person must have a qualification in the Ward for which he stands.
Aldermen are elected. That is another touch of City democracy. They have annual elections for the Common Council, which seems to me rather much. However, as elections usually do not take place it does not matter, though they may increase as time goes on. An alderman is elected for each Ward for life, so it is democratic at one end and undemocratic at the other. But his fellow aldermen can expel him as an alderman, and this indeed has happened. The truth is that this is an ancient curiosity which has a pretty long history. In earlier times it has done some good things; for example, providing Epping Forest and a few other open spaces; a little housing outside the City of London. I do not say that the City is 100 per cent. bad, but it is an ancient monument and it ought to be subject to appropriate reform.
It may be asked: do I propose to abolish the City at once and for all time? No; we have constructive alternatives to put into the Bill, to which we shall come later on. But at this point I say that it is not right for the Government or Parliament to abolish every present local authority in Greater London—I know that some of them are going to be re-created subject to different areas, and so on—with the sole exception of the highly Conservative City of London. I do not think it is fair. I do not think it is reasonable. I say that it is more evidence of political bias on the pant of the Government. Mind you, to be fair to the City, they 1008 claim that that they are non-Party. I must say that it is easy to be non-Party when all the members are Tory.
The Bermondsey Borough Council, unfortunately, from my point of view, has a 100 per cent. Labour majority. I say "unfortunately" only on the general ground that I do not like 100 per cent. majorities, whether they are Tory or Labour. I once suggested that in 100 per cent. Labour boroughs we should give aldermen to the other side, if we really appointed fighting aldermen, but that did not go down well with my people at all. It is a wonder I was not "fired" from being Secretary of the London Labour Party. However, I do not like these 100 per cent. majorities. This is a 100 per cent. Conservative majority, but the City says, "No, we are non-Party". How easy it is to be a non-Party when there is no other Party knocking about! I believe there was once a Liberal there. That will comfort the sole Liberal Peer who sits in his place. We are glad to see him there. But I wish to goodness the Liberal Peers would vote properly.
§ LORD OGMORE
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, on this particular Amendment. I propose to vote with him, and so do my colleagues. I think that will give him some support.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Then I will not criticise the noble Lord. We are grateful for any votes. As a matter of fact, I am talking Liberal doctrines. If I remember rightly, it was a Liberal Government which appointed a Royal Commission to consider the amalgamation of the City and County of London, and they reported favourably. Unfortunately, I think that particular Liberal Government fell soon after and nothing was done about it. But that Report was right.
§ LORD OGMORE
May I remind the noble Lord that Mr. Sidney Webb, in the days when he was a Liberal, set up a purely informal committee which proposed this very suggestion that the noble Lord is now making?
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I am much obliged to the noble Lord, and I think it was a right one. I think it was right on the part of the Royal Commission appointed by the Liberal 1009 Government, and it was right on the part of Sidney Webb. It is quite right that the City's magnificence, traditions and wealth should be shared by the larger area, and they could be if this Amendment were to be accepted. This Greater London Council could have become the City Corporation, and I think that ought to have happened.
I was about to say, when the noble Lord so beneficently intervened and stopped my flight of oratory in that respect, for which I thank him, that the City, while it has its points, nevertheless ought not to remain as it is. We do not propose to leave a vacuum there. We have a later Amendment which makes a proposal (I wish we could carry it right to the whole of Greater London, or at any rate to the county; but that is difficult under this Bill) in accordance with the Government's own doctrines of making the boroughs larger while leaving alone this square mile, with its population of between 4,000 and 5,000. The others have argued that there should be bigger boroughs so that they can have larger powers; and yet they propose to give the City all the powers of a London borough.
Now in accordance with the Government's doctrine that all the boroughs ought to be larger, we are disposed to test the feeling of the Committee on making the City cover a larger area, which is quite logical and in accordance with the basic principles of this Bill, by amalgamating with the City of London the boroughs of Finsbury, Shoreditch, Stepney and Southwark. Southwark is a strong case, because Southwark was an overflow of the City. If you go to Southwark now, you will find an underground station which is called "The Borough", and it is called "The Borough", although there are 27 other boroughs in London, because its population was originally an overflow across London Bridge from the City of London: they had to call the place something, and they gave it the short name of "The Borough". It would be good for the City to live in the middle of its poorer neighbours; to share its wealth, its dignity and its tradition with its poorer and more modest neighbours. So we are going to propose that the City should be merged with Finsbury, Shoreditch, Stepney and 1010 Southwark—which shows that this is not a destructive Amendment.
But it may be that the Government will not like the idea of these Labour boroughs being merged with the City. The Government, being strictly non-Party in their approach, may have strong objections to a possible marginal risk of the City of London thereby becoming a Labour Corporation, with the possibility of a Labour Lord Mayor—although we should have to get over the Livery Companies if that were to come off, because they, for some curious reason, appear to have the major hand in the election of the Lord Mayor of London.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I think the Aldermen come into it a bit, but my noble friend knows much more about it and he may be right and I may be wrong. Perhaps he will put me right in any subsequent observations he may wish to make, which he has a right to do because he was the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury for some years, and he can tell your Lordships that Finsbury is well worthy of becoming part of the ancient City of London. But it may be that Members of the Committee opposite will come to the conclusion that they cannot really stomach a City Corporation which has a Labour majority. They are refusing by this Bill to stand for a London County Council which has a Labour majority. That is the primary purpose of the Bill: all the rest is incidental to it. Its purpose is to get rid of the London County Council, with its Labour majority. So they might say, equally—I think they would be wrong—"We really cannot stand a Labour majority on the Corporation of London". As I say, I do not agree with them.
However, again showing what a reasonable lot we are on this side, we are putting down another Amendment, out of the goodness of our heart, to amalgamate the City of London and the City of Westminster. Now, could anything be more respectable than that—the marriage of two cities? That is quite a different proposition from marrying respectable Hampstead and the former "Red Flag", St. Pancras. No; in order to keep it respectable, it is between two cities. Both have the title of City, although 1011 Westminster is not particularly entitled to it because it is nothing but a metropolitan borough; but it pleases Westminster and does not do much harm to anybody else. We propose the merger of the City and Westminster, both of them Tory—safe Tory, although a few Labour Councillors have recently got on to the Westminster City Council. Now, could anything be more respectable than that? That will give the City a bigger area. What is more, it is a natural marriage. Mind you, so is my other one perfectly natural, because geographically these boroughs surround the City. Just as Birmingham has grown, absorbing the surrounding areas, so the City has grown and should absorb the surrounding areas. Therefore, I think it is a perfectly reasonable proposition.
However, if the Committee is shocked by that proposition, then we will compromise (which is very handsome on our part) on a merger of the City of London and the City of Westminster. I do not mind whether you call it then the City of London or the City of Westminster. The City of Westminster would be a more accurate name, because the square mile is not London by a long way. But the first step is to get the City into this very long list which abolishes everything and everybody except the City. That is not playing the game; that is not fair; that is not the sign of an impartial executioner. You have to abolish all these, and execute them. You must execute the City as well until we have time to put something in its place. In view of these very reasonable arguments, I earnestly trust that the Government and Committee will see their way to accepting this Amendment, which is in accordance with, at any rate, good Liberal tradition, and some of it in accordance with ancient City tradition, as well. I think it is a reasonable thing, and I trust the Amendment will commend itself to the Committee on the understanding that we shall come later to filling up the gap which would thereby be created. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 23, after ("say") insert ("the CITY OF LONDON,").—(Lord Morrison of Lambeth.)
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
I should like to say a few words—and they will be only a 1012 few words, because I have a committee elsewhere—in support of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. I feel that for some part of the time he was talking with his tongue in his cheek but, whether he was or not, the actual sounds that were uttered by him make sense. There was one argument that he could have put forward, but did not, to support his proposition that the City of London should be combined with another borough or boroughs, and that is that the present City of London and the present City of Westminster are in fact joined as a Parliamentary constituency, and there is one Member for it.
I remember some years ago, when we were both in another place and the same proposal was put up that is now being put up with regard to joining the City of London with Finsbury, Shoreditch and these other areas, that at that time the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said much as he has said now; that there was a fairly logical case for it, but he felt it would not be fair to the present people of the City of London to join them up with Finsbury and some of these other places. I think he had in mind the particular Member of Parliament who was at that time representing Finsbury, but I may be doing him an injustice there. However that may be, the fact is that at that time, some years ago, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, did not approve the joining up of the City of London with these neighbouring boroughs, but he did approve—and it in fact came into force—the joining of the two cities, the City of London and the City of Westminster into a Parliamentary constituency; and this is what I would suggest to your Lordships. It makes sense that the two cities should be joined up. In these days it does not make sense for the City of London, with a tiny population at night of something like 10,000 residents—
§ LORD OGMORE
Then there must be fewer caretakers than when I last saw the number counted; but it is a very small population, and it really makes nonsense. As the noble Lord said, the actual electorate for the City is based on these old, rather mediaeval, City Guilds, where you have to become a Freeman, then you become a Liveryman 1013 and then you get a vote. In these days it does not coincide with the public welfare that this should be so, and it certainly gives a very odd appearance to the rest of the world. When they hear of the great City of London they tend to think, at least, of all the central part of London, if not of the surrounds. Instead of that, there is this tiny area with a completely obsolete franchise.
Now if this proposal is accepted, as it has been accepted in a Parliamentary sense—in fact, the former Member for the City of London and Westminster is here now in the Chamber—the fact is that there is no reason why a great deal of the ancient tradition and ceremonial should not continue. I myself live in the Royal Borough of Kensington; and Kensingtonians are very proud of the fact that they are in a Royal borough, and of their Mayor with his titles of distinction, and that he goes elsewhere with mace bearers and all that sort of thing.
I do not see why some of these ceremonials in the City should not still continue, but continue for the benefit of the citizens and the ratepayers of a much wider area than at present. Those who are councillors should be elected by the ratepayers in the normal way in the new City of London and Westminster, and the aldermen should then be selected by them as all other aldermen are. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has put up an extremely logical case. There is no answer whatever to it in logic, and for that reason I hope the Committee will accept the case that he has so ably put to it.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I would endorse very strongly the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and I am very glad that we have the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and his colleagues with us. I am bound to tell the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that many of us will regard his approach—I know he is riot a completely free man—to this as a test of the bona fides of the Government.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Then it is to be the noble Lord, Lord Hastings. I am glad for Lord Jellicoe's sake that he has been spared this, test, but I must inflict it upon the noble Lord in his place. There is a theoretical case for this Bill. 1014 I regard it as absolutely false, and many of us do not regard it as sincere. We do not attribute any good motivation to it. But there is a case on paper. However, if you argue that case on paper for the Bill as a whole, I would suggest that there is no ground whatever for defending the treatment given to the City of London.
I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, mentioned—but of course it was in his mind—the fact that, under this Bill, the City of London's influence is to be increased. I am, of course, talking about the City as a Corporation, and not as a place for making your living in. But, in fact, the influence is to be increased because there will be one member from each of the London boroughs, and one member from the City of London with its 4,000 or 5,000 people, on the education authority. It is being given a new and increased standing. That is a most extraordinary result of a Bill which comes forward and claims to modernise our local government. I would repeat what was implicit in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, but I will quote something further, beyond what he quoted, from the Political Quarterly, of which Professor Robson, one of the architects of this disastrous measure, or of the philosophy behind it, is joint editor. To show the Committee that there is no prejudice against the London Government Bill in the Political Quarterly, I would point out that they go so far as to make in a leading article this extraordinary statement:The Herbert Commission produced the unanimous report which is one of the great State documents of our time.They are really almost fanatical admirers of the Herbert Report. But even in this same editorial, which claims this extraordinary approval of the Herbert Report, they say:We fully endorse the criticism of the Bill in respect of the City Corporation, which has come from several quarters.Then they refer to the article that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has quoted. But even in this all-too-enthusiastic leading article in favour of the Herbert Commission there is grave criticism of the retention of the City of London a fortiori, no doubt, because of its increased influence.
It is worth taking seriously the arguments which are going to be presented 1015 and have been presented elsewhere; and as I have not yet addressed your Lordships on the Committee stage, perhaps I shall be forgiven for taking up a few minutes of your Lordships' time. The very able Minister, Sir Keith Joseph, who argued with great self-confidence elsewhere was clearly less at home with this particular topic than with any other. He was, I know, full of knowledge, as always. But he was uneasy. What was his defence? I would have said he made partly an appeal to the emotions of a particular kind, and partly attempted to laugh the whole thing off. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, whatever else he does (I cannot object if he appeals to the emotions) will not just laugh it off. The Chief Minister elsewhere admitted that the critics would point to the discrepancy between (as he mildly said) the practices of the City—and I talk of it as a Corporation—and those of a modern democracy. But what is the point of transferring them? He goes on to say that as it has a lot of money, it can pay its own way and contribute to London as well. When I read that argument I wonder how the Reform Bill of 1832 ever got through. People might well say that here the Parliamentary set-up is quite illogical; here there are wealthy people who pay the electors for their votes, and a lot of what goes on is quite indefensible, but it is as cheap as any other way of doing it and much less tiresome; so why not leave it as it is? If you read this defence—that is a slight but not total exaggeration—you will see that one part of Sir Keith Joseph's argument is that the City can afford to look after itself and therefore ought to be allowed to defy the march of the 20th century.
Then we come to what I call the emotional part of his argument. He says we cannot preserve the advantages of the office of Lord Mayor, renowned all over the world, the magic and the evocative magnetism of the title, and destroy the independence of the local authority of which he is the civic head. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, spoke very well about that and said that he would promise the support of the Liberals. I see that he has retired temporarily from the Chamber, but we have at least one Liberal with us. I hope that the noble Lord will be rescued from the Commit- 1016 tee he is attending in time for the vote. In any event, he dealt very well with that point, as did the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, explaining it would be perfectly well to retain the Lord Major in the new connection. But the interesting thing is that the Minister elsewhere clearly felt this deep emotion in connection with the office of Lord Mayor. I am not suggesting that this arises from any family, historical reasons. His family has a great tradition there. But I do not want to imply that that had anything to do with it. But he and others will tell us that this is of great emotional appeal, evoking loyalties, and it must therefore be preserved.
If I had to choose between the London County Council and the Lord Mayor I would choose the London County Council, and most democratic-minded people would do so. Yet the Party opposite and the Royal Commission, for example, set out to abolish the London County Council without uttering one word of regret. I challenge the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, to find one word of regret for the liquidation of the London County Council proposed in the Herbert Commission's Report. Can no emotion centre round perhaps the most famous authority in the world? Is that not going to be allowed to evoke any loyalty or any communal response? When it comes to the City, to the Lord Mayor and the ceremonies, we are told the City is unlike any other municipality—its wealth, antiquity, the enormous part it has played in the history of the nation; its dignity; its historical ceremonial make the City of London an institution of national importance. Is not the L.C.C. an institution of national importance? But it is disposed of without a word of regret.
If one read the Royal Commission's Report quickly and did not know the subject, one might not notice that the London County Council was being destroyed. There is one treatment for the City and quite another for the London County Council. At this point the Royal Commission, which prides itself on its logic, threw logic out of the window and said openly, "Logic has its limitations and the position of the City lies outside them." Are we to offer to the City a kind of religious allegiance outside the laws of reason altogether and outside logic? That is the kind of phantasy that discredits the Report and casts grave 1017 doubt on the bona fides of the Government seeking to carry it out. We shall hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, what his arguments are. I speak respectfully. Will he tell us why there should be one law of reason applied to the City and another law applied to everything else?
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
I hope it will not be thought wrong if a Londoner should intervene briefly in this debate. I think that I am the only Member of your Lordships' House who was born 100 yards from the Bishopsgate, as were twelve generations of my family before me. So I can claim to have: some interest in the City, although I was born in Stepney, one of the boroughs mentioned by my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth. And in another place I represented the boroughs of Shoreditch and Finsbury.
I have heard with regret some of the views which have been expressed from this side to-day because, despite my view that the Government's position with regard to the City of London is quite indefensible, I shall not fail to pay my tribute to the City of London. In its traditions, its history and its great Guilds, the City of London has a record unmatched by any city in the world. I think that it was due to the courage, the stubbornness, the pride, if you like, of its citizens that London is the only unconquered capital city in the world. Indeed, in the old days, when monarchs fell out or civil wars were raging, though the Londoners would make a bargain, both monarch and pretender knew that he had to get London on his side if he were to succeed—though perhaps that is not the most creditable part of the history of London.
I give way to none in my admiration and pride in the achievements of this great City of ours. At the same time, do not give place to anyone in my pride in the boroughs immediately adjoining the City. The Borough of Shoreditch, which is just on the other side of the Wall, was a village in the time of William the Conqueror. It is still, literally, a village. Its people are utterly different from those in the adjoining boroughs of Stepney or Finsbury. They, too, have their courage and endurance, which I have never seen matched anywhere; and I have lived among them in trying times. The Borough of Finsbury and the people in it have a great history and tradition, 1018 too. Throughout the centuries people famous in the arts, in the theatre and on the field of arms have lived in Finsbury. I do not deride the City of London, and still less its adjoining boroughs, and I do not take it kindly when noble Lords laugh at the proposal to join those boroughs with the City. If they were joined with the City, at least we should have people living in the place they represented and not merely voting because they made money there, though the place is not good enough for them to live in. I think that the only principle on which you can found local government is that votes should be cast in local government areas by the people who live there and not by absentee voters who merely pay caretakers to look after their premises.
I feel that the Government should look seriously at the Amendment which we are putting forward from this side of the Committee. Their basis is quite unanswerable. The position in the City of London is the very negation of democracy. I pay full tribute to the ability of members of the Common Council and of the Aldermen. They are to a man very worthy, able and devoted people, and they do a great deal of good. But it is completely unjustifiable that they should be there, in large measure, because of property qualification—using property in the widest sense, to include money—without any kind of democratic support at all or any kind of reason.
I have been a Freeman of the City of London for some 32 or 33 years. You pay your three guineas and you become a Freeman. Then, if you like, a year or five years later, you pay 30 guineas or 50 guineas and become a Liveryman of a City Company. I have been a Liveryman for 30-odd years, and every year I receive election literature. I have never voted in a Shrieval election, because I believe that it is completely undemocratic and I do not like having my vote canvassed in this way. But a list of candidates is prepared and people come round and ask for your vote under the "Old Pal" Act and that is how they are elected. There is nothing democratic about it. There is nothing which your Lordships could approve or support. That is why I interrupted my noble friend by saying that all the elections are undemocratic, because it is all cut-and-dried beforehand. When it comes to the appointment of the Lord Mayor, 1019 if a member has been Sheriff, in due course, after a sufficient number of years, and if it is thought that he has sufficient money to support the office, which is a very expensive business, he will become Lord Mayor. It is a position of great dignity and of great credit to this country, and all the Lord Mayors that I can remember have conferred considerable credit and dignity on the office—as, indeed, do the Lord Mayors of many other big cities who have become Lord Mayors through the democratic machinery of local government.
There is much to object to in this method of election, and unquestionably there is a strong political bias. I am not going to say which Company, but I was at the luncheon of a Company, of which I have been a member for a good many years, and I was told by the man sitting next to me that I was the senior Liveryman. "How do you know?" I asked. He replied, "Because I am the next one to you, and I am waiting for you to move up." I did not pay much attention to it, but about a year later the clerk rang me up, and asked me, "Have you any enemies on the Court?" I replied, "Not so far as I know". He said: "You should have been on the Court, but you have been blackballed twice." I said: "Let it run again." He did, with the same result. I asked: "Why is it?" The only thing he could think of was that I was well-known as a Socialist. This is an actual example. Of course, I have given strict instructions that my name should not go up again for the further two occasions. I have never attended a function of that Company since, and I certainly do not intend to do so: nor should I have thought would any other person who has any real respect for justice and democracy.
This is the kind of thing with which, in effect, we are now dealing, discussing the electorate of the City of London. This is not to denigrate the City's greatness and the greatness of the acts of the people who have represented, and who now represent, the City. But it is to condemn utterly and completely the method of selection for those offices; it is to condemn utterly and completely the fact that we intend to have this separate local government organisation based on an electorate of some 4,000 people merely for the purposes of a façade. We 1020 on this side of the Committee do not want to destroy, injure or damage that which is good and right, and serves a useful and worthy purpose for our country. But we do not want to, and will not, bolster up something which, in the method of its selection, is—yes, I will use the expression—corrupt, and something which not one single Member of your Lordships' House would support in his own person. That is why I say, as one of the few real Londoners, and perhaps, in the sense of being born within the sound of Bow Bells, the only Londoner, in your Lordships' House, who has lived and worked all his working life in the City and in the areas we are now talking about, and is proud of those areas and of the people in them, of their courage and record, past and present, that we should not shrug this off and say: "Yes, we know about it; but let it go on." We should face up this problem and, as we are having this London Government Bill, we should face up to it now and deal with it justly. And the first step towards doing that would be to accept this Amendment.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I wish to support my noble friends in the moving of this Amendment. I do not propose to cover in great detail the area of the argument, but there is an undoubted case that the City of London does not represent the democratic standing of this country. It cannot possibly do so when we consider the method of election and the requirements that are necessary to have any chance of being elected into the City Common Council. This is important, because, as is provided in the Bill, this great new democratic body that the Government are setting up, the Greater London Council, will have to work very closely with the Common Council. We in this Chamber are an anomaly: we cannot exactly call ourselves democratic. But the years have gone when a person could buy his place in your Lordships' House. I think that is recognised. If it was ever suggested that a man, by the mere fact that he possessed wealth, could enter the portals of this Chamber, I am sure that on all sides Members would rise up and say: "Let us do away with that completely. That is not a necessity in democratic Parliament." Yet in the case of the City, this is, apparently, a necessity.
1021 I want to put two questions to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings. The other evening he said that the figure of 60 councillors was the figure which the Government felt should be able to control and provide the right sort of government for a population of 250,000 and 350,000. Can the noble Lord say on what basis the Common Council require 160 members? If 160 members are required to provide adequate and suitable government for the City of London, how is it that only 60 are required for a much larger area, and obviously a much greater population?
This figure of 160 is quite important. If the Committee were to consider other clauses in the Bill dealing with traffic and highways, and particularly the one in which the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, will be interested, the development clause (I think it is Clause 25), these are all clauses dealing with the general strategic plan with which the City of London will be closely connected. All roads lead to London, and all roads in London seem to lead to the City. Therefore, if you are looking at it from the strategic point of view of the long-term planning of highways and traffic, it is important that there should be close harmony between the Greater London Council and the Common Council. But in the case of the Greater London Council, the membership is to be only 100 members. As at present proposed, it will be a rather inferior body, set up by Statute, as opposed to the 160 members of the Common Council, with all its tradition, power and wealth, which perhaps will resist the planning that the Greater London Council feels is a necessity. Therefore I think it would make the overall planning of traffic and the like infinitely easier if the City of London could be brought into the Greater London Council area on the same basis as any other of the boroughs. It should not be able to stand up and use its power to restrain, prevent or delay any broad planning that may be required merely because it affects the City.
Like my noble friends, I recognise what the City has done. The City has probably more car park spaces than has any other authority in London; it may well be able to do it. But I think it is right and fair to those who are in the City, with the contribution they are making to the Greater London area, that they should be party to it and should be able to 1022 participate in the Greater London government. Therefore, I am sure that if the City were to be brought into line with the other boroughs it would be possible to create a much more cohesive and better planned area than we shall have as the Bill now stands, with the City standing in isolation. I hope that the Government will be able to accept this revolutionary suggestion. If logic is required, logic stands on the side of the Amendment.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I must admit that I have been looking forward with mixed feelings to this Amendment, as I felt sure that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, would have his bit of fun. Indeed, he did, and we all enjoyed it. On the other hand, I recognised that there would be a strong case to be met. I will put the noble Earl, Lord Longford, at ease immediately by telling him that I do not intend just to laugh it off. Nevertheless, the noble Lord has not, I suggest, made out his case for the abolition of the City of London. He said that what was sought was not abolition but amalgamation, and he referred to the two Amendments which stand in his name on Schedule 1. He spent a considerable time discussing those two alternatives, and they were referred to at length by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. Therefore, I hope your Lordship will excuse me if I use some arguments which relate to those Amendments as well.
It is true that the City does not conform to the standards of population laid down as desirable for a London borough, though noble Lords have not made a great point of this. They have, however, objected strongly that the City, particularly the system which operates within it, is undemocratic. I think that the whole of their case is based upon that objection. That is to a certain extent true, but there are other considerations which we believe outweigh that disadvantage and to which I shall come in a moment. Returning to this question of lack of democracy in the City, it is, of course, undemocratic electorally. No one attempts to deny that. But I think the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, rather tried to attach the blame for that to the fact that it was aristocratic and Tory. That was why my noble friend Lord Sandwich 1023 (so the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said) said: "Hear, hear", though I do not think he would really sustain that, and I imagine that at that moment he had his tongue in his cheek.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, made almost a passionate speech, on the one hand defending the City and the surrounding areas where he was born and has worked most of his life, while, on the other, making some grave accusations against it. I do not think noble Lords would expect me to reply to the points which were made by the noble Lord in detail; indeed, I should say at once that I am not familiar with the details of the City. I have no connection with it, but I understand that some of the things he said were not entirely accurate, and I should like to leave it at that.
§ LORD HASTINGS
No; I am afraid that I am not in a position to discuss and argue the particular case in detail.
§ LORD STONHAM
What I said, in so far as it related to my own knowledge and experience, is 100 per cent. true. If the noble Lord is saying that what I said was inaccurate, then I must ask him to say what was inaccurate, or to withdraw, because everything I said was true within my own knowledge.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am not suggesting that anything the noble Lord said about his own personal experience was inaccurate, but that some of his more general remarks about the City were.
§ LORD STONHAM
I must ask the noble Lord to allow me to interrupt. I ask him to say that either what I said was inaccurate or that he was mistaken, and to withdraw the suggestion that I was inaccurate, because I was not. It is a matter of my personal integrity, and I would ask him to withdraw this suggestion.
THE EARL OF WOOLTON
I think I may be able to help. I have had considerable experience of the City and City Companies, of which I have been a 1024 Master. No one would deny that what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said was true within his experience—that is, the experience of one City Company. I hope that in fairness he will admit that this is a particular case on which he stands, but that he would not suggest that it was a general case and applied to all other Companies. I can assure him that my own Company has unhesitatingly elected a Socialist to its highest offices, and it is a general rule among the City Companies that they do not allow politics to interfere in the election of their Masters.
§ LORD STONHAM
I would support that wholeheartedly. I cannot, of course, say from experience that what happened to me necessarily happens in other Companies. I will, of course, endorse what the noble Earl has said; indeed, I have had the great pleasure of being a warmly welcomed guest in recent years of almost all the City Livery Companies. The point I am raising is that what I said was true within my own knowledge and experience.
§ LORD HASTINGS
In respect of this question of democracy, may I remind noble Lords opposite that it is Her Majesty's Government who are bringing more democracy and more local government, in its true sense, to the people of the metropolitan boroughs than they possessed before? That is the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, when he referred to our abolishing all other boroughs, and not the City. We are not abolishing all other boroughs; we are amalgamating them and giving them more powers; and they, of course, are elected on an entirely democratic system.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has not made out a case for the abolition of the City. If he has proved that the retention of the City as a separate borough would create impossible problems in the administration of local government services, or would prevent Greater London from being treated as a separate unit for those overall services which need the widest area of administration, that would have been a very different matter. Here I would interject to one noble Lord opposite (the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, I think) that the powers of the Greater London Council will not be affected at all by 1025 the retention of the City as a separate unit. But as the noble Lord has not made out a case that these matters become impossible, we have to consider, and Her Majesty's Government have considered very carefully, whether the abolition of the City as a separate entity would bring any advantages compared to the disadvantages which would follow as a result of its abolition.
So far as special services are concerned—and I hope that noble Lords will admit that this is a serious argument—in respect of health and welfare, Clause 5(2) permits joint arrangements between the City and any adjacent borough, thus replacing the present arrangements under the London County Council. As for finance, if this Amendment, or the others affecting the City (which we will come to in Schedule 1), were carried there would be no improvement in the amount of the precept of the Greater London Council, including that to be issued in inner London for education. Nor would any future London equalisation scheme comparable to the present one be affected. When we come to the general grant, the abolition of the City, or its inclusion in any other borough, would have the result that the grant payable to that borough would be less than it would otherwise be. That result would surely hardly commend itself to the ratepayers of the area concerned. Therefore, there do not seem to be any material advantages to be gained from abolishing the City of London, or of annexing it to any other borough.
Now I come to the disadvantages of the noble Lord's proposals. The City of London is, of course, an exception. The Royal Commission admitted that, and proposed that it should be retained: it was not Her Majesty's Government who thought of this idea in the first place. The Royal Commission said so, but Her Majesty's Government happen to agree with them, and the Opposition do not. This, of course, is where the references of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, to emotion come into play; and I may say
§ that he used a certain amount of emotion very effectively on behalf of the London County Council, and he was fully entitled to do so.
The City is unique, and it is a vital part of the history of England. Noble Lords opposite have recognised that. I cannot do better, I think, than to quote the words of my right honourable friend in another place—different words from the ones chosen by the noble Earl, Lord Longford:
Here is a living piece of history, with much benefit flowing from it, fulfilling its limited duties as well as other authorities do, doing any harm to no one, bringing benefit to many, whose virtues cannot be transferred, and whose extinction, therefore, would do no one a jot of good.
The City, of course, has at its disposal vast funds which go towards the provision and upkeep of many services of a public nature without costing the ratepayer anything at all. I do not propose to enumerate the many instances where such expenditure is of benefit to the people at large, but they are well known to most of your Lordships. The traditional and ceremonial functions of the City, often of national significance, are carried on at no cost whatsoever to either the ratepayer or the taxpayer. The City and the office of Lord Mayor hold not only a position of unique national distinction but also a position of international renown. As my right honourable friend said, in referring to the Lord Mayor:
It is not proven that the advantages of glamour, magic, renown and magnetism of the office and the history which lies behind it when used for a national purpose can be transferred to any other body.
That is the answer of Her Majesty's Government to the case that the City is to be retained as a separate unit and, therefore, I hope your Lordships will reject this Amendment.
§ On Question, Whether the Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 30; Not-Contents, 64.1027
|Addison, V.||Champion, L.||Lawson, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Crook, L.||Lindgren, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E||Douglas of Barloch, L.||Listowel, E.|
|Amulree, L.||Henderson, L.||Longford, E.|
|Archibald, L.||Hughes, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]|
|Attlee, E.||Latham, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.|
|Ogmore, L.||Sinha, L.||Williams, L.|
|Rea, L.||Stonham, L. [Teller.]||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Shepherd, L.||Summerskill, B.||Williamson, L.|
|Silkin, L.||Walston, L.||Wise, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Fortescue, E.||Merrivale, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Goddard, L.||Mills, V.|
|Atholl, D.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Milne, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Gosford, E.||Monsell, V.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Grenfell, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Blackford, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Newton, L.|
|Bossom, L.||Hastings, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Boston, L.||Hawke, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Buchan, E.||Horsbrugh, B.||Remnant, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Howe, E.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Chelmer, L.||Ilford, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Jellicoe, E.||Sandwich, E.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Jessel, L.||Somers, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Kilmuir, E.||Soulbury, V.|
|Craigton, L.||Lothian, M.||Spens, L.|
|Denham, L.||Mabane, L.||Strang, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.||Strathalmond, L.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Malmesbury, E.||Swinton, E.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Margesson, V.||Teynham, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Woolton, E.|
|Forster of Harraby, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD CROOK moved, after Clause 3 to insert the following new clause:
§ Establishment of authorities for certain functions
§ ".—(1) If the Minister is satisfied that any functions conferred on the London Borough Councils or the Common Council by virtue of this Act should be more effectively exercised in respect of an area within Greater London greater than the area of any London borough he may by order constitute an authority for the purpose of exercising those functions.
§ (2) The order constituting any such authority shall—
- (a) specify the functions to be exercised by that authority, and
- (b) specify the period during which those functions are to be exercised by that authority;
- (c) define the area in which those functions are to be exercised:
§ (3) Any authority so constituted shall—
- (a) come into existence on such day as may be appointed for that purpose by the order;
- (b) consist of one or more representatives of the councils of each London borough within or partly within the area defined in the order, or of the Common Council
1028 if the City is within or partly within that area, and (if the Minister thinks fit) councillors of the Greater London Council and other persons who have had experience of, and shown capacity in, or otherwise have special knowledge of matters relating to the functions specified in the order; and
- (c) be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal.
§ (4) Any order made under this section may contain such incidental consequential or supplemental provisions as appear to the Minister to be necessary or proper for the purposes in consequence of any of the provisions of the order including—
- (a) applying any enactment relating to the functions in question;
- (b) modifying any such enactment in its application thereto; and
- (c) excluding the application of any such enactment thereto:
§ (5) Where the Minister proposes to make an Order under this section he shall give notice thereof to the Council of every London borough which or any part of which is proposed to be included in the area to be defined by the Order and to be included in such area and also to the Greater London Council and if within twenty-eight days after such notice has been given to any such Council they give notice to the Minister that they object to the proposal and the objection is not withdrawn any Order made by the Minister shall be subject to Special Parliamentary Procedure."
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 18 standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Longford, my colleagues and myself. It is a rather long Amendment, based entirely on our idea of an insurance policy. Later on, 1029 in Amendment after Amendment, we shall be moving to leave with the Greater London Council many powers that are sought to be taken away from them, in our opinion quite wrongly. We think it is essential for the efficiency and economy of administration that we should have the largest possible catchment area for many of the things which remain to be done. Aiming at that provision of an efficient service, in case we are not successful in Amendments we shall be moving in the course of the next couple of weeks as this Committee goes on, this Amendment aims to provide for joint committee opportunities to allow up to six boroughs to get together; in other words, a holding action. It provides for the exercise of functions which are thrown out of the powers of the county, to let the Minister by special authority constitute these joint committees, which we do not like but which we think would help us.
§ In the course of our debates last week on the Weights and Measures Bill—I am not going to repeat speeches made on that occasion—we saw how the breaking up of services of that kind lead to large-scale expenditure and less efficiency, and we think the same kind of thing will happen to many others of the services which are now provided by the London, Middlesex and Surrey Councils when these boroughs are set up. For instance, there is the case of the powers of the children's authority. There we think that the effectiveness of the service is likely to be gravely impaired by the Bill if this kind of thing goes over entirely to the administration of local boroughs. We hope to keep this for the Greater London Council, because of the great success of this method under the operation of the L.C.C.; but if we are unable to do that, the proposal in this Amendment will be better than nothing. As we see it, under this Bill in nine cases out of ten the responsibility for one child will be taken over by an establishment run by a second borough and situated inside a third borough. We shall have the danger of considerably differing practices and different policies between the different boroughs.
§ I am not going to waste your Lordships' time by arguing which of the services might call for this kind of attempt to join together services which the Bill so far fragments. There is 1030 the personal health service, child care in nurseries, health visiting, maternity and child welfare domiciliary midwifery, home nursing, home help, mental health and tuberculosis after-care, to say nothing of vaccination and immunisation services. If I selected one to comment upon for the purpose of the argument, it would be the domiciliary midwife service as now administered by the London County Council. The London County Council already has nine divisional health centres and divisions, many fewer than the number of boroughs to whom this kind of service will be handed over under the Bill.
§ In their wisdom and their knowledge of good administration and economy, the L.C.C. has never sent these services to be controlled by these divisional health offices. There have been all sorts of reasons, of course—variation in the number of confinements in the different areas the fact that a third of the home confinements are undertaken by eleven different district nursing associations, and the existence of ten hospitals covering various parts of the area giving services for this purpose. To this is added work done in this connection in Middlesex, parts of Essex and parts of Surrey. So far as London itself is concerned, the Royal Commission Report on which this Bill is allegedly based shows the unique position of London in the economy of its administration and its efficiency, in that it says, in paragraph 66, that its estimate of the need of midwives is in fact twice the actual number of midwives employed in the L.C.C. service. If there was ever a service which cried out for co-ordination it is this one; and if we cannot get later Amendments accepted, the passage of this "insurance policy" Amendment would help us to get something rather better than the proposal to leave it to the boroughs. The same kind of thing occurs with regard to the hostels for the mentally subnormal, on which my noble friend Lord Stonham is much more expert than I am, hostels for the tubercular, the work for the healthy aged, the physically infirm, the chronic sick, the senile, the blind and the handicapped—all wanting this joint service if we can get it.
§ When in due course we reach the section of this Bill dealing with education I understand we shall see how many problems of that service have not been 1031 covered by the Bill. I am told by friends in Middlesex County Council that as regards assessment and allocation of children to grammar schools, arrangements with other authorities for admission and maintenance of children selected for grammar school courses, arrangements for boarding school education, teacher training and further education in technical colleges—none of that has been covered in the Bill. We must try to secure the best possible arrangements for the necessary integration of the functions and try to see that it is economical as well.
§ Of course, on other matters which need co-operation between the various boroughs I think we shall find as we go on with this Committee stage that there are many subjects about which the Bill is completely silent. We can find no reference to pedestrian tunnels under the Thames. If ever there was something that calls for co-operation between two boroughs, it is a tunnel that starts in one and finishes in the other. The same comment might be applied to the ferries which cross over on the water. In respect of the river, there are many functions that will require joint committees if we cannot keep them within the power of the new county authority. There are the river walls and embankments. What about the passage of heat under the Thames? I believe that the heat for some of the flats on this side of the Thames comes from Battersea Power Station on the other side of the Thames—from a completely different borough. The pipes and the cables, which again run in channels and tunnels, are not covered in the Bill. They cry out for some measure of co-ordination. There are many miles of them. Our investigation shows that seven of them lie in more than one borough.
§ In ordinary circumstances, we should have known many of the answers to the problems I have indicated, because they would have received proper discussion in another place and we should have known what the Government's reply was. Unfortunately, owing to the action of the guillotine, these Amendments and many Government Amendments that I am sure should have been moved on these matters have never yet been discussed in Parliament. There are many more powers which should go to the Greater London Council, or at least should be placed 1032 under the largest possible mode of administration. I am not inclined to delay your Lordships to give details of the Performing Animals regulations or of the licensing of employment agencies, and the like. All these are not mentioned in the Bill. Therefore I move the setting up of this joint committee.
§ If your Lordships have read the rather long terms of the Amendment you will have seen that it provides that one or more of the boroughs concerned shall have representatives on the Committee; that councillors of the Greater London Council shall also take their place on the Committee if the Minister so thinks fit when he sets it up, and that he should have the power to add persons of special knowledge to deal with particular problems that exist. Turning to subsection (4), your Lordships will see the provision for the making of the order. I do not think would be right for me to keep your Lordships by trying to elaborate on what is clearly set out in the terms of the Amendment. Subsection (5) gives an indication of the notice which the Minister will have to give before he makes the order which is proposed to be made under subsection (4). For all those reasons, I urge your Lordships to add this new clause after Clause 3 in the terms indicated in Amendment No. 18. I beg to move.
After Clause 3, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Crook.)
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
If this Committee were looking objectively at this Bill and seeking to improve it, as is our duty, I have no doubt that this is the kind of Amendment which would be accepted, either in its existing form or in some varied form. At any rate, it would be accepted in principle, because it provides a piece of machinery which everyone—the Royal Commission; Ministers, in speeches; in fact everyone who has studied the matter—agrees will be necessary. It is recognised that in the case of many services the actual borough unit will be inadequate in that in such services there will be a need to amalgamate boroughs.
The terms of the Amendment are such that the initiative comes from the Minister. He has to be satisfied that any function conferred on the London 1033 borough councils could be more effectively exercised by creating a larger unit. Therefore it rests with him. This Amendment is not mandatory on the Minister. He has merely to be satisfied that in the interests of efficiency of administration greater unity is necessary, and he is given power to create it. As I have said, the actual terms under which such unity is created may be a matter for discussion, but I am quite sure that, objectively, no one could possibly refuse the Minister these powers.
Some of my noble friends will discuss other services, but I have in mind one particular service where it is eminently necessary—the service of housing. It has been discussed by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and on a number of occasions in the last few weeks the Minister has stated that what is necessary is the co-operation of a number of local authorities, working together for the purpose of building houses in much bigger units than has been the case in the past. This is the machinery under which he can do it. While it might be said that units of 200,000 population are in themselves fairly large, I have no doubt that the Minister had in mind something even bigger, because he referred to some of the large county boroughs in the country and spoke of a number of them combining for the purpose of building more houses.
There is one other point in connection with housing—namely, that a number of people who have been on the housing list for a particular London borough—let us say, East Ham or West Ham, or one of the outer London boroughs which is excluded from the Greater London authority—will no longer be on the housing list of the particular authority because they will have been amalgamated with others, and they will have lost their opportunity. But by amalgamating a number of authorities of this kind for the purpose of housing, people who have been on the housing list would not lose their opportunity. They could remain on the housing list and, indeed, as the result of the amalgamation of the different boroughs would have a better chance of getting a house, because no doubt housing will proceed more rapidly and more efficiently.
If you take the 32 London boroughs, there are a number of units that lend themselves admirably to the purpose of 1034 co-operation. For example, if you take those that were formerly the inner London boroughs there are twelve of them; and I think five or six are North of the Thames and the others are South of the river. I think it would be possible to have two quite efficient units in that way. There are also four or five areas which at present form part of Essex: some of them county boroughs. The same thing is true of Surrey. By providing for co-operation in that way one would create for specific purposes. I have referred to housing, and possibly one could do the same with regard to planning. One could plan these areas on a somewhat larger basis than merely a borough basis, and in that way get better, more efficient and more economic administration. In view of the fact that this is not a power which is being imposed on the Minister, but is one which he can use if he thinks it would be to the public advantage, the Government would be well advised to accept this Amendment.
I hope that we are not every time going to be met with a blank refusal even to consider our Amendments, however right and reasonable they are. I can well understand that there are some Amendments which the Government cannot accept on principle. We are bound to put them forward and, as I can appreciate, at the end of the day the Government say, "On principle this would so affect the Bill that it would be contrary to our conception of what we want, and we cannot accept it". But where an Amendment is put forward which is offered purely for the purpose of improving the efficiency of administration, I think we are entitled to receive more satisfactory replies than we have been given up to now. I therefore hope that the Government will treat this Amendment rather more seriously than they have done up to now.
§ LORD STONHAM
I hope the Government will accept this Amendment which, as my noble friend has just pointed out, would in any case not be implemented unless the Minister was satisfied that it was necessary, and would not involve putting together for the carrying out of any function more than six boroughs, or parts of six boroughs. Examples have been given of various types of local authority services where we are convinced that in many cases a single borough will 1035 not be able to carry out the functions as well as they are being carried out now. I can think of no service where this is more true than in the case of local authority mental health services. Indeed, the anxieties on this score among people with knowledge of the subject is very acute indeed. I am glad to see my noble friend Lord Grenfell in his place, because I recently became chairman of the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, of which he is the honorary treasurer, and I am quite sure that he will bear out what I am going to say. I am also president of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, which is likewise extremely concerned in this matter.
The National Society has more than 20,000 members and some 270 local associations throughout the country, and it is organised on a regional basis, with full-time regional staffs. It is significant that the metropolitian region of the Society, which is particularly concerned with this Bill, at present consists of the entire local authority areas of London and Middlesex. Therefore, we are deeply concerned with the effects of this Bill. We feel that the Government have so far not taken full account of the very proper objections and strong fears which have been put forward. Quite obviously, one of the main reasons for the existence of the National Society is to try to ensure that adequate provision for the mentally handicapped is made throughout the country. This naturally includes local authority provision of training facilities fitted to the needs and abilities of mentally handicapped people, together with the domestic and welfare services necessary to enable them to take their place and play their part in the community.
We are aware that the Royal Commission took the view that personal health (including mental health), welfare and children's services should come under one authority, and that it should be the smallest practical authority; namely, the Greater London Borough. We regard it as clear that the Royal Commission made the grave error of regarding services for the mentally sub-normal as no different in character from other medico-welfare services. Therefore, they obviously failed to see that the mental medical services have implications in 1036 the field of education. The National Society therefore disagree with the Royal Commission's view on this particular point, and indeed reject it, if it means that within, say, two or three years facilities for the mentally handicapped will be transferred to new and comparatively small borough authorities, who in many cases have had no experience whatever in the administration of these services, and at least some of whom have neither the staff nor the facilities to do the work.
Compared with the mass of children who have normal education the number of mentally handicapped children is comparatively small, though we, of course, think it unhappily large. It is therefore extremely unlikely that a single borough could, or would, supply all the services which these young people need, and indeed, are at present available. It seems that the Government have not yet given any serious consideration to the problems involved in the transfer of the services from a major authority, such as the London County Council or the Middlesex County Council, to a borough with a population of a quarter of a million, or perhaps in some cases less than 200,000. Even with the best will in the world, if the existing set-up could be split up and apportioned without major harm, it is virtually certain that improvements which have already been planned would go by the board. It will be a crime against thousands of helpless children, and adults, if services and training now being given are to be impaired or lessened or, worse still, withdrawn.
I put this question to the noble Earl who is to reply. How can training in a stream (by which I mean progress from a junior training centre to a senior occupation centre or to an industrial training centre) be continued if all three centres are in different boroughs, and if the borough boundaries thereby become barriers; if there is to be this break-up without the kind of linking-together organisation which would be provided for in the Amendment? It is quite certain that single boroughs, even these larger boroughs, could not finance every type of centre needed. There must be machinery for linking them up. It does not mean that the boroughs have got to 1037 be linked up, but that in certain circumstances the Minister has the right to say that so many boroughs must be linked together for certain purposes, of which this should be one. The transfer of these services to smaller administrative units with finite boundaries implies that mentally handicapped persons must look to the borough in which they live to provide these services. But, as I said to start with, not every borough will have within its boundaries the special units which are needed. Very few of them will have all the range required. Some will have none at all.
In these circumstances, will mentally handicapped persons be permitted to use units outside the borough in which they live, with all that that implies, including the provision of transport? It will be no good saying that they can use them, unless transport is provided. In the boroughs which have none or have only part of the full range of units, these units will be competing with the other essential services for the available public money. In comparison, the other services benefit a greater proportion of the population, and it seems that the services for the mentally handicapped may be regarded as comparatively expensive. Therefore, will grants be made to enable the boroughs to provide these facilities where none or only part of them exist? Further, will grants be made available to give effect to plans for the improvement of facilities?
The whole range of services is dependent on the staffs who run them. This point crops up again and again in the various Amendments. I must emphasise that the handling of mentally handicapped young people requires highly experienced and dedicated staff. Therefore, every effort must be made to ensure that they are not lost during the transitional period and that there are no doubts about their future careers. It would help if it were known that a number of boroughs could be linked in a service like this. We ought to have assurance on this point at an early stage. The best form of assurance we could have would be the acceptance of this most reasonable Amendment. I cannot see that it involves any question of principle to which the Government can possibly object.
1038 We need the kind of service which exists already in those areas where they place great emphasis on the training needed to assist mentally handicapped people and on training for the mentally handicapped themselves. The position is that the plans which have been drawn up for improvements have been drawn up by local authorities which will disappear. What is to happen to these plans? It does not seem possible that they can be passed on to the new boroughs as they stand, because they were based on providing services over a much wider area than that for which any one borough will be responsible.
The regional chairman of the National Society wrote to the Minister on these matters. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, Mr. Bernard Braine, replied. I have a copy of his reply in my hands. It is this sort of thing which gives rise to concern in these matters. Mr. Braine says this:The proposed boroughs are to be larger than the Royal Commission contemplated and will be comparable in population with a good sized county borough. It is our considered view that great advantages will flow from concentrating all the personal services, including those for the mentally sub-normal, with other related services…".The comparison with "a good sized county borough" gives an indication that the difficulty is not clearly understood. Many a good sized county borough has not got all the services for the mentally sub-normal and the mentally afflicted. They are provided on a county basis. I am not now talking of London or Middlesex; I am talking of other areas. Mr. Braine's letter also says this:I have no doubt that the authorities concerned will be able to work out, as they have successfully done elsewhere, detailed arrangements to ensure that the services available to the mentally sub-normal in London will not suffer but will continue to develop.Mr. Braine has no doubt, but I must say that I have strong doubts. He continues in this way:Clause 46 of the Bill, in fact, provides for the continuance by each London local authority, as a duty, of all the services…This is a positive requirement which should ensure that there is no break in the provision of service.Boroughs of the size we are contemplating, many of them without these facilities, could not possibly supply all these services. I will mention just one type of afflicted child—the psychotic 1039 or autistic child. It may well be that in one of these greater London boroughs there would not be more than six—perhaps six to ten—of such children. It is impossible to contemplate that a borough would provide the necessary education services for these delightful but extraordinary children who want so much understanding and so much thought and care and who, with the knowledge that we now have, can be, if that care is provided, made much more useful members of the community. This is one example. I am thinking in terms of providing for not more than 200 or 300 such children over the whole area. If I were to split up the total number of mentally handicapped persons into categories, I could mention many other examples.
I will quote one other case, not to do with children, but to do with the mentally afflicted. The noble Earl will be aware that for the last two or three years there has been a very successful practice of discharging patients from mental hospitals. It is true that they have been going back at a very great rate, but they are coming out into the community. My Society and the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, in conjunction with the London County Council and other authorities, have set up day centres where such mentally afflicted people who have been discharged from hospital can come during the day. The catchment area for these people at the moment is the Boroughs of Shoreditch, Hackney, Stoke Newington, Poplar and Bethnal Green. They cover the areas, or part of the areas, of no less than three of the projected Greater London boroughs under the Bill. They are the catchment area for a mental hospital at Longrove, Epsom. That is a typical position. The mental hospital is at Longrove, Epsom; the area from which the patients come, covering three of the Greater London boroughs, is 25 miles away. It cannot possibly be argued by the noble Earl that that situation could be covered in the Bill as it stands, unless the Minister has the power in such circumstances to suggest that a number of boroughs should get together for certain purposes.
This case is quite unanswerable. There is absolutely nothing whatever of Party in it. There is nothing whatever 1040 which affects the principle of the Bill on which the two sides are, I admit, diametrically opposed. The Amendment contains nothing of principle to affect the Bill. We are asking, merely for a sensible power to be given to the Minister so that if, when the Bill becomes an Act, he finds it necessary to use that power in certain circumstances, he can do so. I think that this case proves beyond doubt that, for the sake of the mentally affected alone, he should take that power.
It will be within the memory of the Committee that I spoke on this subject of the mentally sub-normal on Second Reading. I have studied this Amendment very carefully, but I feel that it creates an uncertainty for the future. Ministers come and Ministers go, and they have different ideas. In fact it might be argued, although I quite agree it is unlikely, that one borough might feel, "We are not interested in the mentally handicapped. For this reason we shall do nothing at all about them, and the Minister will have to take us over with up to six others." That, I think, is a slight danger.
It will be remembered that I am on record as wishing for the mentally handicapped to come under the Greater London Council. But I have thought this over very carefully, and I think we must give the boroughs a chance to get on with it. I think we hope that they will liaise together. I know personally that the London County Council and Middlesex do liaise a great deal together; and I believe that if they liaise, and get on with alt, we shall probably get a good service. But, as I say, this Amendment—and I do say this in the greatest honesty—may bring uncertainty into the whole situation. Therefore, I would not support it.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
Before the Minister answers, may I ask him whether he will answer one specific question? I rather anticipate that he will give a direct negative to this Amendment, but in doing so could he tell the Committee where he proposes to get all those people who are needed to care for the handicapped people we have heard about, the midwives, the nurses—all those categories of workers who are necessary for these services that we have heard about tonight? Would he tell me 1041 whether in any one of these services there is redundancy? In fact, I can tell him that there is not. There is a shortage of workers of every kind in every one of the services that has been discussed to-night by noble Lords. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Crook, mentioned something like ten different services, and in every one there is a shortage of workers. Therefore, in refusing this Amendment—if the Minister does; I presume he will—I should like to hear when, how and where he proposes to recruit staff.
As the noble Lord, Lord Crook, said, this new clause was put down for consideration in another place and would have been discussed but for the operation of a certain sharp instrument. I am glad that noble Lords have put it down again, since it does touch on very important matters, and because it gives me the opportunity of grappling with them and, I hope, meeting them straight away, for what I should like to say—and I put this quite frankly, although I admit the case for this Amendment has been argued very objectively—does strike right at the basis of the Bill. As I understand it, this Amendment would enable the Minister to form special ad hoc groups or committees of London boroughs for the purpose of administering one or more, or parts, of the various functions which we are conferring under the Bill on the boroughs. The groups would consist of no more than six boroughs. I am not quite clear why this maximum figure has been fixed. It is also not clear to me, although noble Lords have given us some idea, what functions would be subjected to this special treatment. It is not clear how long the groups would last. And it is also not clear how many of these ad hoc hybrids (if noble Lords would forgive me this flowery analogy in this season of flower shows) my right honourable friend would have to raise from this seed.
However, one thing is clear, and that is that this clause, if adopted, would invest my right honourable friend with very considerable discretionary powers—admittedly, subject to Parliamentary procedure. I recognise the force of the argument for this Amendment—although I contest it—but I find it is a little odd, when in other parts of the Bill the noble 1042 Lords opposite are challenging the discretionary powers which are being invested in Ministers. The arguments adduced by noble Lords in support of this Amendment have covered a very wide variety of services. I will not at this stage, save by way of illustration, try to meet all those arguments covering each particular service in detail. We shall have a lot of time later in our discussion to consider the particular services, and this of course is perfectly right. But, as I understand their argument, noble Lords have claimed that for certain services, or for certain parts of them, the new London boroughs will be too small, too cramped and too confined for first-rate administration.
§ LORD SILKIN
I just want to get this right. That may be the case in respect of some services, but it was not the case I made. The case I made was that certain services, and particularly housing, on the admission of the Minister himself, could be better operated by a combination of authorities. You would get more efficiency, cheaper housing and more rapid output.
I was going to deal with that. But, if I may deal straight away with the housing point, so far as I know the special consortia which my right honourable friend is encouraging do not involve any special powers being conferred on local authorities. It is quite possible under existing legislation. But most of those consortia are being set up, of course, in respect of local authorities a great deal smaller than the proposed new London boroughs. As for the size of these boroughs, I would merely come back to the argument (and I am repeating something which has been said before) that for the most part these personal services—housing, education, personal health, welfare and the rest of them—are administered throughout the length and breadth of this country by county boroughs. In previous debates the Government have taken the view that the London boroughs will be quite large enough for the efficient administration of those services which are to be entrusted to them. I would merely remark again that the smallest of these London boroughs will be larger than the average county borough in England or Wales, and the largest will be among the largest authorities in this country, unless we are 1043 talking of real giants such as Birmingham and Manchester.
May I say just a word about a very personal service, since it was instanced by the noble Lord, Lord Crook, in moving this Amendment, the children's service, with which I have something to do. I do not like applying a mathematical yardstick to a service as personal as this one, but I must point out that the size of the new boroughs compares very favourably in terms of the number of children in care with county boroughs elsewhere, none of whom have found it necessary to join together for the purpose of administering a children's service. What we are really dealing with here, I would claim, are the personal and human services which touch the individual citizen very closely indeed. We take the view—and, again, we have expressed it frequently—that not only will the new London boroughs be able to administer these services prefectly efficiently, but it is in fact highly desirable that they should do so. I do not think I can put the answer here better than it was put some years ago by someone who was closely concerned with those services. I quote his words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 444, col. 1604]:Where the individual is immediately concerned, where warmth and humanity of administration is the primary consideration, then the authority which is responsible should be as near to the recipient as possible.Those words were spoken by the late Mr. Aneurin Bevan in moving the Second Reading of the National Assistance Bill in 1947, and I personally do not think that these rather anonymous, amorphous and ad hoc bodies which would be set up under this Amendment would meet that criterion.
Having said that, let me concede straight away that there are certain aspects of those services for which few local authorities, in London or elsewhere, are entirely self-sufficient, and which they therefore need to provide in co-operation with neighbouring local authorities. I would also concede that in London, because of its very size, because, partly, of its social structure and because of its very structure of local administration, we may have to face special problems in organising those services. I would concede that there is a difficulty here, and I should like, if I may, to try to meet it once 1044 more at what I consider to be one of its more difficult points: again, it is the children's service.
I would grant that there is a special problem facing the new boroughs in setting up their children's services, and it is a special problem partly sui generis, because the boroughs will be the slices of a larger conurbation. I grant that this does create a very special problem, but although it creates a problem it does not alter the fact that an authority with upwards of 400 children in care should be able to create a children's department quite large enough to attract the skilled staff it needs and to provide, if it so wishes, a very wide range of residential and other establishments. To answer the point which the noble Baroness put to me—and I would answer it, if I may, in this context—I do not see why. Of course, there is a shortage here, as elsewhere, of skilled staff. It applies, as she well knows, to the children's service as to other services. But I do not see that the creation of these London boroughs will augment the need for that staff. It may well be—I am not arguing that now—that by the reduction of overheads it might decrease the number, but I do not see why it should augment them.
I would also agree that in the London area the distribution of premises for these services (and I am thinking very much of the type of service which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, mentioned) is such that there may well be an undue concentration in the areas of some of the new London boroughs and insufficient provision in others. That is because, as he pointed out, the present catchment areas for these establishments do not coincide with the areas of the new London boroughs. But having said that, I sec no reason at all to set up these special ad hoc groups. I believe that to be quite unnecessary in dealing with what is at present an admitted difficulty. It is quite unnecessary, since it will be quite possible for more than one borough to share premises and trained staff. In some cases this may be needed only for a transitional period; in other cases it may well be needed more permanently.
These sharing arrangements work well elsewhere, and I see no reason why they should not also work perfectly well in the Greater London area. I should like to point out that there is ample provision, both in the Bill and in the general Acts 1045 under which these services are provided, for this sort of co-operation between authorities. Again, if I may answer a specific point which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, put to me—I do not wish to answer all the specific points in view of the time factor, which I have in mind—he asked whether mentally handicapped children would be able to use facilities outside their boroughs. The answer to that question is, Yes.
I do not base my objections—and the noble Baroness was quite right in anticipating my objection—to this Amendment merely on the grounds that the arrangements envisaged are unnecessary. I would also claim that they are, at least in certain respects, objectionable. In the first place, I am certain that if such a joint authority were appointed it would delay the provision by the boroughs concerned of their own services for their own population and their equipment of appropriate staff. My second objection is that, while we accept that there will be many transitional problems to sort out—and my right honourable friend has never disguised this—I am convinced that there is no reason why these problems of transfer cannot be satisfactorily sorted out in time for the transfer of these services to the London boroughs by April, 1965.
§ But I would attach one condition here; that is, that there should be certainty from now on throughout this whole field. Any further uncertainty as to what the future of these arrangements may be—and I was very glad to hear what my noble friend Lord Grenfell said on this aspect—would hamper and delay the formation of the new groupings and would inevitably perpetuate the uncertainty among the staff which we all wish to avoid or do what we can to mitigate.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Crook, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked us to consider this Amendment objectively. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, claimed, I am sure quite sincerely, that it was not in any way politically motivated. I would claim in return that I have considered the arguments seriously and objectively and that there is no question of dismissing this Amendment without careful consideration as he suggested there might be. Nevertheless, having said all that, I feel that there are strong reasons, both negative and positive, for asking your Lordships to reject—and reject decisively if it is pressed—this important Amendment.
§ On Question, Whether the Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 66.1047
|Addison, V.||Hughes, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Latham, L.||Stonham, L. [Teller.]|
|Archibald, L.||Lawson, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Attlee, E.||Lindgren, L.||Walston, L.|
|Champion, L.||Longford, E.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Darwen, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Williamson, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Wise, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Craigton, L.||Ilford, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Jellicoe, E.|
|Aldington, L.||Denham, L.||Jessel, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Kilmuir, E.|
|Astor, V.||Elliot of Harwood, B.||Lothian, M.|
|Atholl, D.||Ferrers, E.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Blackford, L.||Fortescue, E.||Margesson, V.|
|Bossom, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Melchett, L.|
|Boston, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Merrivale, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Grenfell, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Buchan, E.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Mills, V.|
|Carrington, L.||Harcourt, V.||Monsell, V.|
|Chelmer, L.||Hastings, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Hawke, L.||Newton, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Hertford, M.||Onslow, E.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Horsbrugh, B.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Colyton, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Reading, M.|
|Conesford, L.||Howe, E.||Remnant, L.|
|St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]||Spens, L.||Teynham, L.|
|St. Oswald, L.||Strang, L.||Westwood, L.|
|Somers, L.||Swinton, E.||Woolton, E.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD DILHORNE)
It may be a convenient moment now for me to move that the House do now resume. As noble Lords know, we intended to go on with other Business until 8.30 and then to resume further consideration on Committee of this Bill. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the House do now resume.—(Lord Dilhorne.)
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
May I ask the noble and learned Lord a question? I thought there was going to be—I am not saying whether there should be or not—a dinner interval between 7.30 and 8.30. Is that right?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I did not mention a dinner interval. It will come from 7.30 to 8.30—I thought that had been announced—or, rather, at the conclusion of this Business until 8.30. We resume at 8.30 on the Greater London Bill.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to and House resumed accordingly.