§ 2.46 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself again into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 46 [Accommodation and welfare of disabled and old persons, etc.]:
LORD WALSTON moved, after subsection (3), to insert:
(4) As respects the area of the inner London boroughs and the City, the Greater London Council shall be the local authority for the purposes of section 21(1)(b) of the National Assistance Act, 1948, so far as that section places a duty on a local authority to provide temporary accommodation for persons who are in urgent need thereof, being need arising in such circumstances as the authority may in any particular case determine (other than in circumstances which could not reasonably have been foreseen).
§ The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Taylor, who is out 570 of the country, I beg to move this Amendment. It deals with the situation of the homeless in London. This evening, when this House rises (and I do not know when it will be) there will be a score of so of noble Lords who will return to their homes; if not to their main places of residence, at least to some welcoming room, flat or house, to some bed which is there own, with a feeling of security and assurance. I think that it would be worth while for all noble Lords who do that to-night, to realise that every week there is approximately a similar number of people arriving in London, or already in London, who do not have any home, even in the most modest sense of the word, to go to; and that if it were not for the present activities of the L.C.C., these people would spend the night literally on the streets. These are the people we are dealing with in this Amendment.
§ Why should there be homeless people in London at the present time? There are various reasons, but the main reasons are twofold. First of all, there are those, who, for one reason or another, have been turned out of their present homes—probably because of non-payment of rent. It is worth mentioning here that the repeal of the Rent Restrictions Act is in some considerable way responsible for the increased number of people who are in this situation to-day. So we are finding that there are a growing number of families who to-day are being turned out of their present homes and who, but for the L.C.C., would have nowhere to go.
§ The second group of people (and I am referring, because the Amendment refers, solely to families—men, women and children, and not to individual young people—unmarried people, bachelors and the rest) are, to a large extent, those who have come to London either to join their husbands who are already here, or with their husbands, lured by the prospect of employment. And do not let us forget that in many parts of this country there is such unemployment that people are being forced out of their normal homes, the places where they live at present, in order that they may come here, as the modern Dick Whittingtons, to find their fortunes. There are many of these people coming daily and weekly. There are probably rather more cases of the husbands, or 571 heads of the family, coming first, leaving their wives and children behind, who often are followed by their wives and children, possibly, and I hope more often, simply because they do not want to be parted for so long, but sometimes, one must admit, because the wife does not like the idea of the husband being free in London, not knowing what he will be up to in the great City, and also because the wife left behind in the North-east, or wherever it may be, with her children to look after, simply cannot manage separated from her husband in that way. Those are the two main categories of families who come to London at the present time and arrive here with no home whatever to which to go.
§ Hitherto, the L.C.C. have coped with these human and, as I think your Lordships will agree, extremely sad cases. They have dealt with them adequately. I do not think they would claim that they have dealt with them in any way luxuriously, or even in the way that the L.C.C. would like to deal with them. But they have two particular homes to which they can take them, Newington Lodge and Morning Lane. They take the families there when they are brought in, perhaps by the police from Euston or Waterloo Stations, or from the streets where they have been roaming, and they hold them there either until permanent accommodation can be found for them, if it can be found rapidly, or, what is more likely, for a short while and then transfer them to a second group of short-term furnished flats which they can occupy, where they do their own housekeeping, but where they do not have the security of a lease. They are kept there sometimes for two years—though that is exceptionally long—but certainly until such time as the L.C.C., as the housing authority, can find them permanent accommodation of their own. That is, surely, a service of inestimable value in any civilised city.
§ The Bill, as it is at present drafted, will do away with that service. Instead, it will transfer the responsibility for this work to the new borough councils. But consider for a moment how these borough councils can carry out this function. The total number, as I have said, is perhaps in the neighbourhood of 40 or 50 a week. It is not a large number, but it is 40 or 50 families, mothers, fathers and their 572 children, who are affected by this. But spreading 50 a week among the eleven (I think it is) new London borough councils means, on an average, if evenly distributed, only a matter of four, five or perhaps even three cases a week for each of the boroughs.
§ But undoubtedly they will not be equally spread. There will be certain boroughs, possibly those where the main line stations are, such as St. Pancras and Paddington, that will probably have considerably more than a good many others. Those where the Rent Act has had its greatest effect, and more people are turned out, will have a larger proportion. But if those with the largest proportion will not have sufficient to enable them economically to run anything to replace Morning Lane or Newington Lodge, which at the present time are holding on a turning-over basis something in the neighbourhood of 900 people, they simply will not have the through-put to make such establishments worth while, and they will not have the through-put to give the experienced officers who have to deal with these matters a full-time and worthwhile job. So it is manifestly impossible for this type of service to be broken down borough by borough.
§ It is arguable (possibly the noble Lord will argue this; I do not know) that if this is so, it is then up to the boroughs themselves to get together and form joint committees to deal with these matters. But, even if two or three boroughs get together, they still will not have a sufficient number. Although they may do so over a period of a whole year, their day-to-day, night-to-night and week-to-week numbers will not justify this type of service; and they will, I believe, find it difficult to get a sufficient number of experienced officers—and this is rather a specialised job that they have to do—to cope with this particular type of problem.
§ Maybe a problem has special difficulties of its own; maybe the people concerned are from overseas; maybe they are people from the far north and Scotland, or people who are notoriously difficult tenants. Often they are not the easiest round of tenants. Some of them are people who have fallen on hard luck. But others do present problems, and you do need specialised people experienced in this sort of thing to deal with them. It will not be possible, even if these boroughs group 573 together in their twos and threes, for them to find people of this type of experience, or, if they find them, to give them enough work to do throughout the whole year to warrant freezing that experience in this one particular job. It does need, as I say, a specialised knowledge and experience. So I do not see that the argument that the boroughs will be free to form themselves into groups is in any way an answer to this problem which I am outlining to the Committee.
§ It is possible that he noble Lord will say, "Well, then, let us go further, or let the boroughs go further, if there is not a sufficiently wide area in which to keep this sort of service going, by amalgamating their boroughs together. Let the whole of the inner London boroughs form themselves together into one authority." That is, I grant, a possible solution to the problem. But does the problem need that form of solution? After all, the problem is being created by this particular clause in the Bill, and if the clause were amended as suggested here there would be no problem whatever. It seems a somewhat roundabout way to set about it, deliberately to create a problem by drafting the clause as it now stands, and then to say, "Well, having created this problem, the way round it is to allow or enable or even encourage the boroughs to go back exactly to the present position as it is to-day". That, surely, cannot be called sensible, good, wise or simple legislation.
§ We have given considerable thought to this matter. I cannot see how, in the first place, there can be any justification for this gratuitous and unnecessary splitting up of the present system, which not only works extremely well but, in its small and quiet way, does an extremely valuable service—and not only splitting it up, but producing instead something which is incapable, by reason of its structure, of fulfilling the functions which we insist must be fulfilled. I am paying the noble Lord the compliment of believing that he will not for a moment suggest that this is a function which need not be fulfilled at all, and which we can do without.
§ Let me once more emphasise that this is not a matter simply of "homeless" figures who pass backwards and forwards through the dark and damp vaults of Paddington Station, or along the streets of some suburb or part of London lined with tenement houses, 574 from which they have been turned out under the Rent Acts. It is not simply that. We are dealing with the men and women, and their children, who will grow up to be the citizens of this town of London. Unless they are looked after in their hours and days of distress, unless we give immediate temporary shelter and, in the shortest possible time, a proper home in which they can live, how can we ever expect them or ask them to grow up as the good citizens that we want them to be, and they want to be?
§ I and many others more experienced in this subject than I am have given it a great deal of thought. We cannot see how this essential service can be carried out if it is to be divided among the boroughs. We cannot for one moment see why the whole of the Greater London plan is in any way jeopardised or weakened by allowing the present system to continue in the slightly modified scheme that is necessary for the inner London boroughs. There is no question here of undermining the new concept, or anything of that sort. For all that, I will not ask your Lordships now to make up your minds—any more than I have completely made up my mind—to support this Amendment, come what may. I hope sincerely that the noble Lord, Lord Newton, had not made up his mind when he came into this Chamber. I hope that he may be able to say that, having listened to other noble Lords also, he will accept this Amendment, or at least the principle, subject to reconsideration.
§ Even if he does not do that, I am still not asking your Lordships to make up your minds to support this Amendment at this stage, any more than I am irrevocably committed to it. We must listen to what the noble Lord has to say. If he rejects it—and I sincerely hope he will not—and if he is able to convince any of us (and I am just as open to conviction, I hope, as any noble Lord in this matter) that there are other ways of carrying out this service as efficiently, well and humanely without accepting this Amendment, then I shall be happy to withdraw it. Until that happens, all I ask your Lordships to do is to hold an open mind on this matter. I ask you to think about it yourselves, and above all in human terms; and, 575 secondly, to think of it in administrative terms of efficiency and how it can best be done. I hope that you will listen to the arguments, and then decide whether you think the clause in its present form will best and most efficiently fulfil these human functions, or whether you think the Amendment will lead to a more humane and efficient manner of working them out. I beg to move.
Page 65, line 21, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Walston.)
§ 3.5 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I should like to congratulate very warmly my noble friend Lord Walston on the ability with which he has expounded the purpose of this Amendment. He has done so with that degree of detail which is necessary in moving an Amendment of this sort, and at the same time he has manifested an attitude of great reasonableness and a willingness to think again if the Minister should prove a case to the effect that this is wrong. My noble friend was quite right when he said that this is a depressing and complex problem in London, as it is probably in some other of our great cities. But it is an exceedingly difficult problem, whatever may be the cause of it. Some of it was materially accentuated by the operation of the legislation affecting security of tenure and rents which the Government brought in. That in itself was the cause of a fair amount of the trouble in this case.
Apart from that, there are always possible movements of families and, indeed, individuals into London in a case of emergency. Undoubtedly a number of people feel that if they are in trouble and have nowhere to lodge or to live, possibly the safest place to come is to London or to some other great city where there is more likelihood of employment and, possibly, of residence. I remember the old Night Office which the London County Council inherited from the Metropolitan Asylums Board. It was on the Embankment, near Charing Cross Bridge. The problem there was the nature of the individual—men mostly, but there were some women, who went to another place. Some of them were "bad hats". Some of them had had bad luck and had become "bad hats" 576 and some of them had bad luck and were still respectable citizens. We gave them accommodation for the night. The problem then was whether to give them a little work to do in the morning so as to contribute towards their keep. If you were too strict about that it might get in the way of their obtaining employment. On the other hand, if you were too soft, then this accommodation might become a regular nightly free lodging house, which would be taken advantage of, and that would not be desirable. But it was a good service, and the police and other people, finding a homeless man, could direct him where to go, and he was sure of accommodation.
In more recent years, we had the problem of homeless families, partly brought about by the Rent Acts and other legislation which affected people's liability to be turned out of their premises. That legislation of Mr. Brooke undoubtedly created a fair amount of this problem. There were other families who came in because some misfortune had happened to them, and the London County Council were faced with a terrific problem and a nasty dilemma. The Council were criticised by some Conservative newspapers and politicians in London on the ground that they did not solve this problem in five minutes, which clearly they could not do. But they did their best; and one of the dilemmas was that it was urged upon them that they should let these folks have houses or flats which were unoccupied at the moment. But the dilemma about that was that the people who had been on the waiting list for years would feel that they had been dealt with unjustly if other folks came in and were put at the head of the queue instead of their holding their expected place. So that was a difficult problem. Then the various people went round these establishments where the homeless are housed temporarily and found fault, in some cases justifiably, but probably with great exaggeration; and the L.C.C. had to face all this kind of trouble.
In these family cases, the proportion of what you might call down-and-outs and possibly "bad hats" in recent years was not as great as it had been in the case of individuals who went to the old Night Office on the Embankment and, later, to Camberwell. In fact, it was remarked 577 (and I do not think that this was a subject of controversy) that a considerable number of these families were decent, respectable people who had lost their own accommodation partly by ejection under Mr. Brooke's rent legislation, which had, as I say, considerable responsibility for it, and some for other reasons. The Council did their best and have gone to some trouble to invent expedients whereby these families could be found accommodation without unduly upsetting the priorities in the housing queue.
Here is a big and complex problem. There is no certainty to which borough these folks belong—none whatever. Indeed, quite a number of them may have no borough locus in London at all. They might just have come in without any locus or any residential qualification in any way. That is another argument for not making this a borough function. The other point is that the distribution of the homeless people is nothing like equal as between the boroughs: it varies enormously between borough and borough. Again, therefore, it cannot conveniently be a borough service. Repeatedly we are having this argument about how far the boroughs can do things on their own, and how far some functions—by no means all—if they are shown to be delicate and difficult for the boroughs to administer, should be given to the Greater London Council. Obviously this Council will have greater resources, and an administration which is much more mobile as between the various districts and boroughs of Greater London. For this reason, also, it is best that that service should go to the Greater London Council.
Up to now, unfortunately, whatever the merits, and whatever the administrative problems which we have patiently pointed out, the Government have made a distinct bias in favour of putting any service under the boroughs, because that is in accordance with their line of splitting London up and of giving as little as possible to the Greater London Council. I suggest that none of us ought to be eaten up by bias on this matter as between the Greater London Council and the boroughs. This is a problem for the best scheme of administration, and that is the spirit in which the Committee ought to face it. I do not believe that this problem can be solved on a borough basis. The distribution of the people 578 concerned is utterly unequal, in fact dramatically unequal; and the problem is far better dealt with by one large authority, at any rate an authority covering the existing County of London—and possibly beyond that—because they will be in a better position, through their administrative resources and, I hope, a big pool of housing or temporary accommodation reserves, to deal with it than the boroughs can possibly hope to be. Therefore, I join with my noble friend Lord Walston in asking the Government to give this Amendment objective and impartial consideration.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I should like to support my noble friends, and have no doubt that other noble Lords from this side of the House—and, I hope, from other parts of the House also, will join in this plea to the Minister, Lord Newton. My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth referred to his own past experience in this field. Mine does not go back so far, or range so wide, but, I too have been concerned with the homeless, including some who have been in prison. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Newton, has read the full and excellent Report which was presented to the General Purposes Committee of the London County Council last July. Has the noble Lord seen that Report?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I hope that the noble Lord will have time to study it before Report stage, because feel that it is very difficult to discuss the homeless without, at any rate, a glance—and, indeed, more than a glance—at one of the most important documents about the position of the homeless which has been brought out for many years. But if the noble Lord has not had an opportunity of seeing it, or if his advisers have not seen fit to bring this Report before him, perhaps he will not mind if I quote one or two extracts which may help the discussion, because it was certainly a very great analysis of the whole problem last year.
Could I ask the noble Earl where we can get this interesting Report at the moment?—because I am sure that many of us would like to study it?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am sure that I could obtain copies through the L.C.C.; but, equally, if I may say so, I am sure that noble Lord could obtain a copy himself. It is not that I have some special access which enables me to obtain a privileged document, but I am sure the L.C.C. would be pleased to let the noble Lord, or any other noble Lord, have a copy. But if he wishes me to take that little bit of trouble I shall gladly do it for him. But here is the document. It is very long and I shall not read it all to the House this afternoon. I shall confine myself to the more important parts, in view of the fact that the Minister has not been informed about it yet. Certainly I am surprised that the, officials who are advising the Minister, and who are helping him to take part in what is bound to be a very difficult debate about the London homeless, have not even called his attention to the existence of this document. That seems to me, I am bound to say, very remiss.
It is difficult to know how many homeless there are at any one time in London, as is pointed out in this Report. The L.C.C., of course, are aware of the numbers who come to their own Welfare or Housing Departments, but many other homeless are looked after by all sorts of voluntary bodies, including the Churches, which do such excellent work, and, in our small way, the New Bridge Society, with which I am connected and which deals with ex-prisoners. We, of course, have to cope with a good many homeless there. Nowadays, I suppose, the most active people among the voluntary bodies are the Voluntary Hostels Conference, and I feel that they could help us a great dear. I hope that the noble Lord has been in touch with that body; but I do not think he has heard of them. I can only say that the Government have come down inadequately prepared for this ordeal, as it is bound to be for them if they are proposing something which is very absurd, especially if their officials have not told them about the relevant bodies or the relevant documents or, really, about anything at all so far. I do not want to single out the noble Lord, but he is the only one at the moment I can refer to, because he is dealing with this Amendment. However, we have always the Report stage if the Government want this point left over till then.
580 Here is this very great problem of the London homeless, and I realise that it is a large one which goes wider in its implications than the Amendment before us. It may be that this House has been somewhat remiss in not having given more attention to homelessness. We have discussed it in various ways, at odd times, but I am not sure that, as an issue, it has ever come fully under our review. I am not trying to go too wide this afternoon. If the noble Lord will look at this Report when it comes into his hands, he will see that there has been considerable discussion rather on the lines of the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, as to whether the homeless are what might be called feckless ne'er-do-wells or ordinary decent Londoners. The research conducted for the purposes of this Report by expert research people led them to the conclusion that there was more truth in the latter. There are a certain number of those who might be called feckless ne'er-do-wells, but on the whole the majority could be described as ordinary decent Londoners.
If I may interrupt the noble Earl, I think one of the things he must be well aware of is that a large number of these families come from the Irish Free State, and I wonder whether he would like to comment on that.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Of course, it is not called the Irish Free State. Otherwise, I accept the noble Viscount's remark as accurate.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
They may come from Ireland; a number do. I hope the noble Viscount will speak more often; we on this side have been rather sad to think that noble Lords opposite have been reluctant to back up their leaders. To do the noble Viscount credit, he has spoken for this Bill, and I hope he will explain the relevance of his remarks. Unless he is sticking out his tongue personally at me, I am not alive to the significance of this profound observation. It is perfectly true—a good many come from Ireland; a good many come from all over the place. The noble Viscount will no doubt explain the relevance of this. In so far 581 as it has any relevance, the noble Viscount's observation applies in favour of the Amendment, because you cannot say they are related to any particular borough. At any rate, when they first arrive they are not related to any particular borough.
I do not want to keep interrupting, but the noble Earl made the point that most of these families were ordinary decent Londoners. I merely wanted to say that a great many (I think the number may be given in this Report) in point of fact come from Ireland, both North and South.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I think there is a lot of truth in that, but at the time when they come here in so far as this analysis is concerned they have become ordinary decent Londoners. I live in London. I came from Ireland. I would describe myself as an ordinary decent Londoner, so I do not see that there is any necessary conflict between those two conceptions. I hope the noble Viscount will not be slow to interrupt. We have not had enough interruptions. At times we thought we were arguing against a team of mutes. I hope the noble Viscount will keep it up, even if he cannot think of anything better than anti-Irish cracks.
As I was saying, there is this distinction between what are called feckless ne'er-do-wells and ordinary decent Londoners. But, of course, a great many Londoners come from somewhere else, as explained by my noble friends Lord Walston and Lord Morrison of Lambeth. That is part of the problem. They did not all start in London.
If you ask why they are homeless, there are various reasons which are set out here. The main reasons, according to this analysis (I am talking of these homeless people generally) are domestic friction; new to London—that would include some of the ordinary decent Irishmen referred to earlier; the landlord required the accommodation; rent arrears; house sold. Those are five important reasons which lead to homelessness. But the conclusion reached last year was that, by and large, the biggest cause is shortage of housing in London. That is not due to any particular error of anybody. There is this great development. Whatever is 582 done about London Government, they reckon the problem of housing in London is going to become more rather than less acute in the years ahead. So we must not expect that this factor, this problem of shortage of housing in London, will operate less forcefully.
We have these homeless, and we have this analysis, and the question is what we propose to do about them. The noble Lord, who has been an active councillor, has no doubt visited some of these homes for which he has been responsible. He knows Newington Lodge, as I do. It is not a very glamorous spot. I think I was mistaken for a delinquent when I went there. At any rate, they were doing their duty as best they could. But there is the problem, certainly, which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, of providing accommodation in a place like that which has to cope with all sorts of people, many of whom are very difficult and some of whom, of course, do not want any permanent residence. How are we going to deal with these people? As already explained, a great majority have no real tie with any particular London borough. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Newton, will reply to this point. Will he concede what has been said by all speakers from this side, that the great majority of homeless, whether we are thinking of vagrants, or destitutes, or families thrown out by a landlord for no good reason, have no real tie with any particular London borough? I am not asking for an immediate answer, but I hope he will cope with that argument when he replies.
If it is so, the idea of making the homeless a borough responsibility becomes slightly artificial, and we would say distinctly absurd. Even in trying to take the sense of the philosophy behind this Bill, which we find it difficult to appreciate, and thinking of a borough as an entity—building up a strong community life in looking after those in distress within its boundaries—it is very hard to think of the London homeless comprising any kind of borough responsibility in that sense. I hope the noble Lord will deal with this point thoroughly. Does he accept that many of them have no connection at all with London, and a great many with no particular borough? That is what you might call the sociological side of it. When we come to ask, 583 how does he propose to deal with this, I hope he will tell us. I hope he will not confine himself to saying that the Bill involves breaking up the L.C.C. and handing things of these sort to the boroughs, so to the boroughs they must go. I hope he will tell us how it will actually work.
I am informed by a friend in the L.C.C. that, owing to the housing operations of the L.C.C., they are keeping the numbers in check at the moment, but simply by very active efforts and through the existence of a reception centre in which I think there are now about 70 families. I wonder whether the noble Lord will explain how it is proposed in future to keep the numbers down as people flow in and the housing situation remains difficult, as it will for a long time. Do they intend to set up a kind of joint or communal centre as between the various boroughs, or is it intended—I am bound to press this question, because without an answer to this we have no idea what is in the Government's mind—that each borough will have its own little packet of homeless and deal with them in its own way, or collaborate in some central body; and if so, how is it to take effect? Those are questions which, no doubt, the noble Lord will wish to deal with. I must ask him, respectfully but firmly, to tell us how he proposes to cope with the homeless under the Bill.
I would mention another danger placed before me by those closest to the problem. They fear—it may well be right—that different boroughs are likely to pursue different policies about admissions to temporary accommodation, some more strict and others more lenient; and certainly in the history of the boroughs that has been true. If that happens, when families were turned out by the strict borough they would then try to work their way into some institution provided by the lenient borough. Then the lenient borough would decide that they ought to be strict to avoid being imposed upon. So we shall have families moving around from borough to borough as the rules are tightened. Finally, they would have to be split up and taken into care, to the great detriment of the welfare of homeless families.
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Newton, will not dismiss that as some sort of fantasy—that is what is feared by 584 those who give at any rate part of their lives to these special difficulties—and I hope that he will tell us whether he thinks there is anything in that danger. But, more broadly, I hope he will agree that, if ever there was a problem as a central problem, a problem of the London area as a whole, this is it. You could not get a problem which had less connection with the boroughs. Therefore, before asking us to accept the Bill in its present form, I hope that he will explain how on earth it is proposed to deal with this matter on a borough basis. We believe it is impossible to carry it out on that basis in any humane way.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I think that this is perhaps one of the biggest human problems we have to deal with in local government. Sometimes I disagree with even some of my noble friends, because I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, who interjected just now during the speech of my noble friend Lord Longford. From my experience, it is undoubtedly true that the vast majority of the families who find themselves in these conditions have themselves contributed to those conditions. But, after all, assuming that to be true, there are still a wife and some children concerned and, whatever is the position—whether they come from Scotland, thinking that the streets of London are paved with gold, or whether in fact they come from either the North or South of Ireland—the fact is that the children suffer most in these circumstances. Perhaps the husband and wife can justify to themselves, or excuse themselves for, the conditions under which they are living, but the children just cannot. That is the problem.
This is where I feel that the London County Council have been doing a first-class job, and why I think there must be a large authority to deal with it. A wide range of people are covered. Some, as has already been said, are victims of circumstances over which they have had no control; they are really first-class citizens and, but for the grace of God, any one of us might be in exactly the same position. To handle that job, to cope with the person who has been shifting from town to town and place to place, sometimes without any thought of the hardship which is inflicted on his family, is a quite specialised matter. 585 When I have seen the folk who handle these families on behalf of the L.C.C., I have sometimes wondered why they ever went into that type of business. To do the job must be the result of dedication. It is a job in which often they see some satisfaction, but more often than not they must ask themselves, if they feel like most human beings, "What the devil are we doing here, and what can we do about it?"
This basis of rehabilitation with re-housing is perhaps the biggest factor in it. If you are going to deal in a really effective manner with these strata of families which come into this set of circumstances, then you cannot bundle them all into one sort of accommodation. There must be some body, or some group of people, who are in close contact over a wide area, who can distribute the people into the types of accommodation most suited to them, and, equally, be able in certain circumstances to do a great deal of rehabilitation work.
There is one main point upon which I rose to speak this afternoon. I apologise to your Lordships that I was not able to be here last week, and therefore if this point has been made I hope your Lordships will forgive me because I have not read the OFFICIAL REPORT. There was a suggestion made both by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, as to the question of ad hoc authorities. I think that the worst feature in local government is the ad hoc authority, because no responsibility is really centralised by anybody. Whether or not a person attends and takes part in the administration is a haphazard affair, and I do not think it is democratic in the real sense of the word; there is no real democratic control, and the matter is really passed entirely into the hands of the officials. That, therefore, is why I am against bringing together groups of authorities for a specific purpose, such as dealing with the homeless. It is necessary sometimes, on the matter of setting up an ad hoc water authority or something like that; but even when it comes to that, it is not a satisfactory method of dealing with the matter. The only correct and possible way to good administration and, not only that, but the only way of getting the best service to the people who need the service, is a centralised authority, a centralised control 586 and a policy which is, from the officials' point of view, easy to administer.
Therefore, I support this Amendment in order that we may have this centralised authority dealing with what is a specialised and a most humane problem. It is a problem arising, as I mentioned and quite willingly admitted in the early stages of my speech, from a group of people who have brought some of their troubles on themselves; but equally, if we admit that, the children who are associated with them are not the ones who ought to be made to suffer because of those conditions.
§ LORD STONHAM
This Amendment is not only in the interests of good administration; we submit it to the Government in the interests of getting the job done at all. Unless this Amendment, or something like it, is accepted, I do not think that any single one of the twelve new boroughs is going to be able to cater for, and look after, the homeless at all. When it was suggested that a number of these people had brought the trouble on themselves, I heard from the other side of the Committee some approving calls of, "Hear, hear!" I think that is quite irrelevant. I imagine that no one is going to suggest that, because some of these people have contributed to their condition, we should invite them to sleep on the Embankment, or underneath the arches, or on the park benches. Certainly the Government are not going to say that.
The only issue between us (if there is an issue between us; and I hope that there is not) is that the Government feel and declare that the boroughs and the Court of Common Council must and can be responsible for this task, whereas we say that it wants a larger organisation. So any noble Lord who, even by implication, approves the suggestion that some of these people may have contributed to their condition and therefore they should be jettisoned and we should not have any regard for their needs, will not get any satisfaction from the Government over this.
I think that the Government are seriously underestimating the size of this problem and the numbers of people who have to be cared for. Obviously, they have not read the report of the London County Council; so it is a fair assumption on my part that they have underestimated the problem. I would point. 587 first of all, to the fact that no voluntary organisation—and, fortunately, there are some voluntary organisations trying to do their bit in this way—can act on a borough basis. The Salvation Army, I suppose, make one of the largest—in fact the largest—contributions in London in regard to the care of the homeless in this way. They do not operate on a borough basis or anything like it. Anyone who has had the unhappy task of trying to suggest at short notice to some homeless person where he can go for the night, will realise that it just is not possible to think in terms of boroughs. I will tell the noble Lord, Lord Newton, if he is to reply, exactly why. The problem has been accentuated because we got rid of the old workhouses. I was among those who gloried in that fact; but at least there was accommodation in London—not on a borough basis, of course. They were run by the London County Council in exactly the same way for thousands of people on a casual basis.
On Wednesday the noble Lord, Lord Newton, is to honour one of my hospitals with his presence when he will distribute the prizes to the nurses during the centenary week of that hospital. It has just completed a hundred years of history; it started as a workhouse, and continued as a workhouse until twenty years ago. The hall in which Lord Newton will present the prizes is a bright, cheery, well-lit, pleasant place, but structurally it is exactly the same as it was when it was the dining hall or refectory (call it what you will) for no fewer than 600 men and women at one time. He will find it incredible that 600 people could possibly have sat in that place at one time, but I can show him a photograph with the date "1914" and the sardonic legend "Merry Christmas!" at one end; and, of course, the workhouse master in the middle who looked fully able to deny any of them their Christmas pudding if they breathed a word. It is the same place. As recently as 1938 this was still the case, as it was the case all over London.
My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth spoke about the Night Centre near Charing Cross Bridge. That was one of many. They were all under the London County Council, and, except for voluntary organisations, there would have been no such provision. I hope 588 that the noble Lord who is to reply will take cognisance of the fact that, in the aggregate, that added up to accommodation for many thousands of people. To-day there is not in proportion, perhaps, so much poverty as there was twenty years ago, but in the aggregate there are as many, or perhaps more, suffering, and certainly more homeless, people in the aggregate than there were then. The need is no less. Therefore, the point which the noble Lord must answer is the one put to him by my noble friend Lord Longford. It is this. Since we no longer have the pre-war accommodation and apart from that provided by voluntary organisations, the only accommodation of this kind we have in London to-day is that provided by the London County Council. Since it is provided on a regional basis—and, naturally, is not distributed equitably among the twelve boroughs that are to be formed—how do the Government propose that the boroughs shall meet this need when, quite obviously, the majority of them will have nothing at all to start with, and no bricks-and-mortar preparations ready, because they cannot even begin till 1965?
This is an important, substantial and extremely difficult human problem, and it cannot be brushed aside in the way that some very important points which we have raised during the passage of this Bill have, I am sorry to say, been brushed aside by the Government. Therefore I fully support what my noble friends have already said on this very serious and important matter, and we must have a clear and convincing answer. Otherwise, if it comes to a division, I hope that those noble Lords on the other side of the House who have not spoken but who have knowledge of this subject will support us.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I too, hope that when the noble Lord comes to answer this Amendment he will do so in very practical terms and will tell us how this duty is going to be discharged by the boroughs. By definition, a good many of the homeless have only tenuous links with any particular borough—indeed, sometimes they have fairly tenuous links with the whole London area. When a homeless family presents itself in a particular borough—let us say the borough of Finsbury and 589 Islington to be—and asks for accommodation, it is easy for that borough to say, "You are not one of ours". I can see this working out as a tragic and tremendous "passing of the buck" over very considerable geographical areas for unfortunate people who are not in a position to have continuous representatives. Will the noble Lord please tell us just how each borough is going to sort out to whom it has an obligation and whom it is entitled to pass on to a neighbouring borough?
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ LORD NEWTON
We have had quite a long debate on this Amendment, and certainly a far-reaching one. We even were regaled by some information from the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, about the enjoyable task which I am going to perform at his hospital next Wednesday. I would certainly endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said about the manner in which the noble Lord, Lord Walston, moved his Amendment. Lord Morrison of Lambeth said that Lord Walston had been most reasonable in moving it, and I agree. I can accept Lord Walston's invitation and say that I am not going to suggest to your Lordships' House that the provision of temporary accommodation, either in inner London or in Greater London, is a service which we can do without. On the other hand, what I cannot do, I am afraid, is to tell your Lordships that I have been convinced by the arguments advanced for dividing responsibility for the provision of temporary accommodation.
May I invite your Lordships to come back to the Amendment on the Marshalled List which was moved by Lord Walston? What it does is to divide responsibility for providing temporary accommodation according to whether the need is foreseeable or unforeseeable. Furthermore, this division of responsibility is to apply only in inner London and not in outer London. I am afraid I cannot accept that it is realistic to take a different line between inner and outer London on matters of this kind; nor do I think that it is realistic to try to divide responsibility for providing temporary accommodation according to whether or not the need is foreseeable.
The needs of persons provided with temporary accommodation under Section 590 21(1)(b) of the National Assistance Act—which is the section with which this Amendment is concerned—fall, I would suggest, into three main groups. Indeed, this is something which the Government have recently described and explained in the Command Paper, Health and Welfare, which my right honourable friend the Minister of Health recently presented to Parliament and which describes plans for the development of local authority health and welfare services over the next ten years. These three groups are, first, those who are faced with a sudden emergency, such as fire or flood; and for them under this section of the Act local authorities may open temporary rest centres until other and better arrangements can be made. Secondly, there is the category or group about which we have heard quite a lot this afternoon, the inadequate or problem families who lose their accommodation because they fail to pay their rent, or because their living standards are very low. What these families need, first of all, is rehabilitation, and then they need housing—permanent housing, probably.
The third group is those who have to leave their houses—for example, on receiving notice from their landlords—before they have been able to find other accommodation within their means. But these are not problem families; they are families who need housing, and this group of people is, of course, most prevalent in London and in some of the other big cities. The Government are quite certain that it is essential that one authority should be responsible for dealing with all these groups, so that the precise needs of each family can be determined and the appropriate services provided for them.
This is a field where the personal health and welfare services, together with the ordinary housing services and often child-care services, should work together in the closest possible co-operation. Some of your Lordships will remember that this was a cardinal point made by the Royal Commission in their Report, and it is certainly a point accepted by the Government. The sort of services which will be needed for the rehabilitation of the inadequate families—the second group which I mentioned—are the help of social workers under health and welfare powers, of specially trained home helps under health powers, and, of course, intermediate housing, as it is 591 called, under housing powers. In areas other than that of the London County Council difficulties have arisen—for example, in Middlesex—because the welfare authority, the county council, is responsible for temporary accommodation and the district authorities are responsible for housing; and there have been many complaints about lack of co-operation between the authorities involved. I would seriously suggest to the Committee that it would be a retrograde step to split these responsibilities in future between the borough councils and the Greater London Council.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Can the noble Lord say what were the grounds for the lack of co-operation? Was it that the smaller authority were wishing to use the housing available there for their own waiting list?
§ LORD NEWTON
That is the reason. They did not work in well together. I was saying that I think it would be a retrograde step to split the responsibilities in future, and it is difficult to see how the proposed revision would work in practice. The fact that a need has arisen in an unforeseen way or a foreseen way, is surely not a sound method of dividing administrative responsibility, especially as the Greater London Council itself, as I understand the Amendment, would be responsible for determining the types of need which were unforeseen. Surely, when people need temporary accommodation the need has to be met, and no practical purpose is served by dividing responsibility for providing it. The Greater London Council of course will have housing powers of its own, as your Lordships know, but it will not be the primary authority. Its functions in this respect will be supplementary to those of the borough council.
Responsibility for taking the initiative in rehousing persons in temporary accommodation should, therefore, remain with the primary housing authority, which is the borough council, in the first instance. But if the borough council has difficulty 592 in providing the amount of housing required—and some of your Lordships think that this may well happen—that should be regarded as part of the general housing problem, and for this, if necessary, they can seek supplementary help from the Greater London Council. I hope that that will set at rest the fears of many of your Lordships that if a borough finds itself not in a position to cope with a particular problem there is nothing it can do about it except to try to get its neighbours to help. In the last resort it can appeal to the Greater London Council. What I have been trying to argue is this: that it is unrealistic to try to divide responsibility as the Amendment proposes; that it is in the best interests to keep all these services together, as the Royal Commission recommended. Therefore I am afraid that I am unable to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I would not hide from the Committee our very great disappointment in the reply that we have had. I grant that the Minister has spoken with his own degree of sincerity, but I am afraid that the case he has made will not satisfy us. May I ask the Minister whether he has any detail as to what is the, cost of the present L.C.C. service of providing temporary accommodation for the homeless? Has he any information, because the Committee should have that information? I can provide a rough figure, but I should not wish to use it if the noble Lord could give us a detailed figure.
May I interrupt the noble Lord for one minute? I do not believe it would be relevant if we got it, because in this valuable Report which has just been put into my hands paragraph 189 says that the Welfare Department has not the properly organised staff equipped to deal with what is the main housing problem.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
At any rate, the figure which I was given, and which I will give without quoting it as firm, as the cost of providing the present service 593 to the temporary homeless in London, is in the region of £500,000 a year. I believe that is about the figure. It has been recognised right through this debate, that the burden of this service will not be shared right through Greater London; that the burden will fall upon perhaps four or five boroughs closely associated with the main railway terminals. I think that is correct. Therefore you are going to put this entire burden on a relatively few boroughs, the ratepayers of which will have to find the finances in order that the service shall be provided.
This is not just a problem of the borough; this is a problem of Greater London. In fact, one can say that it is a problem of the whole country, since most of these homeless come at the beginning from outside London. They come to London for their employment. It may be that the Government, because of this national problem, should provide some finance. That has not been accepted in the past, and the L.C.C. has been able to do it out of its own rates. But I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Newton, will recognise that if the burden falls on a few boroughs it will be quite different from its being borne by the whole of the London area. I hope that the Government between now and the Report stage will be able to give us the figure of cost. I am sure they must have had some information before they made this policy decision that this service should be put with the boroughs.
The noble Lord referred in the course of his speech to the problem in Middlesex between the smaller borough and the bigger authority. This really stemmed—and I think the noble Lord would admit it—from the fact that the housing authority was already inundated with requests for housing. As I asked last week: was there one outer borough that did not have a waiting list of less than five years, or an inner borough of less than ten years? They would object to homeless being put upon their lists when they have their own people who have lived in the vicinity for so many years. The problem is going to be the same with these inner boroughs, which will be called upon to provide this accommodation for the homeless. How can they, out of their own limited facilities, the small number of houses that they will have available, provide new houses 594 both for the homeless that come into London and for their own people who have lived there for so many years? Surely the noble Lord, Lord Newton, would agree—I was hoping that for one moment he could get away from his Government brief and could just think on this—that it would be easier for a bigger authority, with a bigger scope, a bigger horizon, a bigger area, to cope with the task of finding these houses than it would for a borough with limited boundaries.
I come back again to the question of cost. What the noble Lord is really saying is that the cost should be borne by the inner boroughs around the railway termini; that they should bear the whole burden which has been borne in the past by the London County Council over a much wider area. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, again made play of the terms of our Amendment. Of course, we on this side of the House should have preferred to see an Amendment laying down the responsibility of the Greater London Council over all the new area, but we recognise—reluctantly, of course—that in the outer boroughs, where they have never had this duty to carry out, there has never been this co-ordinating body. But in the case of inner London that co-ordinating body exists: it exists now. What we do not wish to see is the destruction of that body. We have said before, and no doubt we shall say again and again, that you have a first-class instrument for good, and yet you are going to break it up: and all you can offer is faith and hope that the new boroughs setting out to create this new machinery will be able to provide the same adequate service that the London County Council has provided in the past. I am afraid that the Government's case this afternoon does not meet our point.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I am very disappointed that the noble Lord made no attempt to answer the question which I put to him and to explain how we can avoid the situation in which a particular family is refused accommodation by one borough on the ground that it has no settlement, in the terms of much earlier legislation, and is passed to another; and how we can avoid the situation in which unfortunate families will be passed round and round looking for accommodation.
I want to make only one point in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. He introduced a new element into this debate—the element of finance, which is extremely important. But, quite frankly, this is not a financial problem: it is a human problem which we have been talking about this afternoon. The sum of money, half a million pounds, is a large sum of money, and I have no idea what it would amount to in rate poundage to the central boroughs—I am quite unable to give a figure—but I think I should be on sure ground in saying that it would amount to quite a small figure. It is a debatable point which the noble Lord has made, but it is not one which should affect the discussion this afternoon.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Certainly I brought in a new point, and I think it is an important point; but I agree that, at the end of the day, we should make our decisions on the question of humanity. But humanity often stems from what cash is available. There is always a reluctance to find money for certain objects. It may be there are some people who say, "Yes, we should provide better accommodation than the London County Council is now able to provide". In fact, we have seen programmes on television to that effect. But not only is it a question of cash; it may also be a question of the accommodation that is available. They all play their part; and should not like to see, we having put this special burden on to the inner boroughs, those inner boroughs being unable to provide the type of service that is needed. I am quite sure that my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger deserves an answer to her particular question.
§ LORD NEWTON
Perhaps I may say a brief word in reply to the noble Baroness. The position is that under the Bill each borough will be responsible for the people who are found in its area. That is the basis on which we start. It is conceivable, I suppose, that there may be a certain amount of "buck passing", but if that is so—
§ LORD NEWTON
I am trying to reply to the noble Lady. I was saying that 596 that will not be dealt with by this Amendment. This Amendment, after all, refers only to inner London. The noble Baroness put to me a question on a point of principle, and it is fair to say that the Amendment will not deal with it. Presumably, one of the first questions a particular borough will ask a family which, because it is one of the problem families, wants accommodation, is, "Where did you come from? Where were you last living?"; and they will have to judge it on that basis.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I think the noble Lord is overlooking the fact that the mobility within the London boroughs is of quite a different order from the mobility outside, and therefore the "buck passing" is going to be a very serious problem if each borough is to be able to pass its unwanteds to a neighbouring borough. We have talked about this as "buck passing", but I would ask the Committee to think of it as people tramping about late at night, looking for somewhere to sleep. I know I used the expression first, but it is an expression which greatly underestimates the human tragedy.
§ LORD WALSTON
I share the disappointment of my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger in the reply of the noble Lord, but I must say that my disappointment went somewhat further than disappointment in his last reply to my noble friend. He admitted, almost complacently, and even with a smile, that there would be a certain amount of "buck passing". I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Newton: how would he like to be that buck, passed from local authority to local authority, on a wet night such as we had last Thursday, when we were discussing similar things in this Chamber? How would he like to walk out of this Palace of Westminster and be the buck that is passed from the Borough of Bermondsey to the Borough of St. Pancras to the Borough of Paddington and back again? That is what he is saying is going to happen. He admits it, and he must take responsibility for it if he does so.
597 Now he has given us no answer to the question that we asked, as to how this was actually going to be done as between boroughs, other than saying that there will be some "buck passing". All he has done by way of reviewing our argument is to say, in the first place, that it is only the inner London councils which are affected by this Amendment, and that the Government do not wish to have two different systems going on. That suggests that had we put down an Amendment which included the whole of the Greater London area it might have been accepted. I have not consulted with my colleagues on this matter, but I will take the responsibility of saying that if the noble Lord means and says he will in fact accept, or even consider, an Amendment extended to cover the whole of the Greater London area, I will unhesitatingly withdraw this Amendment. Will the noble Lord say that? I think not. That being so, he appears not to be—
§ LORD NEWTON
The noble Lord is perfectly at liberty to put down any Amendments he likes, and they will be most carefully considered, like all Amendments.
§ LORD WALSTON
We now have his second argument, as I understood, advising your Lordships to vote against this Amendment. It was based on the need for including (I think his words were) the foreseeable and the unforeseeable housing problems together. For some reasons which he did not explain, he said that it is good to have the foreseeable and the unforeseeable dealt with by the same authority in the same manner, and it is bad to have them dealt with separately. I think that was his argument. Would it
§ in fact be a valid argument to say that, when you light a bonfire in your garden, a foreseeable fire, and you want it to go out before you retire to bed, it should be dealt with in exactly the same way as the unforeseeable fire which sets fire to your house? That is fantastic. You need an entirely different way of dealing with the foreseeable and the unforeseeable; even though the actual fire or disease or whatever it may be are the same. It is not the decision or the problem which has to be considered; it is the manner in which it arises that conditions the way with which it is dealt. I maintain, with great emphasis, that it is the unforeseeable nature of this housing problem or the homelessness of these people which calls for a completely different line of approach from that which is the normal routine way of dealing with foreseeable problems of people who are going to be without their houses.
§ But I will not elaborate any longer. I submit that the noble Lord who has spoken on behalf of the Government has failed entirely to make out a case to convince objective listeners that the system as outlined in the Bill is going to be a workable one. All that it will result in, to use his own words, is "passing the buck" from one local authority to another. I submit that our Amendment will deal with this problem adequately and efficiently. I ask all who have listened to this debate with an open mind to follow us into the Lobby.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 178) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents 32; Not-Contents, 59.599
|Addison, V.||Henderson, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Latham, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Lawson, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Lindgren, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Listowel, E.||Summerskill, B.|
|Attlee, E.||Longford, E.||Swaythling, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Walston, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Williams, L.|
|Champion, L.||Ogmore, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Crook, L.||Rea, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Faringdon, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Atholl, D.||Brecon, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Beauchamp, E.||Cawley, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Boston, L.||Chesham, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Hawke, L.||Newton, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Ormonde, M.|
|Cromartie, E.||Howe, E.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Derwent, L.||Ilford, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Jellicoe, E.||Salter, L.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Jessel, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Long, V.||Soulbury, V.|
|Eccles, L.||Lothian, M.||Strathalmond, L.|
|Effingham, E.||MacAndrew, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Margesson, V.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Forster of Harraby, L.||Mersey, V.||Swinton, E.|
|Fraser of North Cape, L.||Mills, V.||Templemore, L.|
|Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Milverton, L.||Twining, L.|
|Grenfell, L.||Molson, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Monk Bretton, L.||Wigram, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Monsell, V.||Yarborough, E.|
|Hastings, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ LORD STONHAM moved, after Clause 46, to insert the following new clause:
§ Transport service for handicapped people
§ " .—(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in subsection (6) of the last preceding section, it shall be the duty of the Greater London Council to make provision on and after 1st April 1965 for securing that adequate means of transport are available in Greater London for the conveyance of physically handicapped persons under the provisions of section 29 of the National Assistance Act 1948; and accordingly so far as concerns the duty imposed on it by this subsection that Council shall be a local authority for the purposes of that Act.
§ (2) On 1st April 1965 there shall vest in the Greater London Council all motor vehicles which immediately before that date were held by the London County Council for the purposes of their functions under the said section 29.
§ (3) The Greater London Council shall have power to make available for reward any vehicle used in pursuance of subsection (1) of this section.
§ The noble Lord said: This new clause has three objects. The first is that transport should be available for the conveyance of physically handicapped persons; secondly, that the transport of that kind which is available to the L.C.C. shall, as at April 1, 1965, be vested in the Greater London Council, and thirdly, that such vehicles may be hired out to voluntary bodies and others—but not regarded as carrying passengers for hire or reward. In Clause 46(6) there is reference to the duty placed on every London borough, and on the Common Council, to provide "services and facilities for disabled persons," and subsection (8) says that "references to 600 facilities for disabled persons are references to facilities for employment." I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Newton, will argue that that covers transport. If he so rules, I shall be glad to hear that, because that will be one point on which we have an assurance; but it is not clear in the clause as it now stands. Certainly that will not cover the point of my Amendment or avoid the need for a new clause.
§ On a previous Amendment, it was argued by the Government that we were putting forward proposals which would cover only inner London. No such disability affects this Amendment. We propose that all vehicles used for the conveyance of physically handicapped persons owned by the L.C.C. on April 1, 1965, shall then come under the Greater London Council for its joint and collective use in providing transport for physically handicapped persons. I should think that this was one case against which the Government would find it impossible to find an argument that would convince anyone, because it is within the knowledge of every noble Lord that the number of physically handicapped people—which in the context of this new clause includes mentally handicapped people—needing conveyance will not be sufficient to justify a transport service in a single new borough.
§ The L.C.C. expect by 1965 to have a fleet, totalling 19 specially designed coaches, with hydraulic lifts, and 7 utilibuses, for the conveyance of handicapped people between their homes and the social rehabilitation centres. Drivers are provided from the Council's Education Department drivers' pool, which is large enough to cover evening and week-end working and sickness reliefs, as well as the ordinary day-time runs. If the fleet 601 of 26 vehicles were divided among the twelve boroughs, it would mean at most 2 vehicles per borough and a much higher ratio of costs, giving an inferior and much less satisfactory service. There would be many cases when the coaches would fail to arrive, thus causing severe disappointment to handicapped people and setting back their rehabilitation effort. I submit that it is impossible to say that that would not be the case.
§ Handicapped people need special transport because they have to go to special schools or to special types of employment. They are very vulnerable, and not only physically: it is difficult even for trained people to bring them to the point when they can, as it were, spiritually overcome their handicaps. When people succeed in getting them to special schools or special employment, any involuntary setbacks—for instance, by the withdrawal of facilities—are bound to be doubly harmful. I think that there is every reason for feeling that such would be the case under the Bill as it now stands, if borough councils and the Common Council each have to provide their own two vehicles and their own set-up for handling this job. That is assuming that the number of people requiring this help are fairly evenly distributed among the boroughs, and there is no evidence that that is the case—in fact, it is reasonable to assume that it is not the case. I think that noble Lords should understand just what we should be doing to these people, who clearly need help, if we withdraw or at any rate damage this service which has been set up for them.
§ Another important part of the therapy is that in going in these vehicles, handicapped people meet and talk with other people with handicaps, and are able to discuss their problems on the same level. In many cases they meet the parents and families of handicapped people. It becomes a sort of club. There is a new life, an added life for these people, which springs from the special transport that is provided for them. That is another reason why we think that the preservation of this composite London fleet of vehicles is important.
§ The object of subsections (1) and (2) of my suggested new clause is to secure that this service will continue on the same lines as it is now. I submit to the noble Lord, Lord Newton, that the ambulance service which is provided for 602 in Clause 45 (3) is a direct and fair analogy. The system which the Government already approve for the organisation of the ambulance service in Greater London should be the same administrative system as, if I can fairly so describe it, the daily ambulance service for these handicapped people. I submit, therefore, that it is unthinkable that the service should be split up between a dozen different authorities with one and a half to two vehicles each; indeed it could not physically be split up in that way. If the Government, against all reason, refuse this Amendment, then it will mean either the virtual destruction of this transport service, which means so much to these handicapped people, or its duplication, in theory, for different boroughs, and, therefore, a doubling of the number of vehicles, staff and cost.
§ Subsection (3) of the proposed new clause is of less importance, but it is not without its importance, because it will exempt the Greater London Council from the need to apply for a public service vehicle licence under Section 127 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, if it should wish to loan one or more of its vehicles to, say, a voluntary society, and to recoup from that society the cost, or part of the cost, of running the vehicle. By Section 118, subsections (4), (5) and (6) of the 1960 Act, vehicles used by a local education authority, or pursuant to section 1 of the National Health Service (Amendment) Act, 1957, or for carrying agricultural workers to and from their work, are exempted from the need to obtain a public service vehicle licence, notwithstanding that people are carried for hire or reward.
§ It is submitted in my Amendment—and I believe it will be accepted—that vehicles used for carrying physically handicapped people should be similarly exempted. This is right not only in the sense of money and of organisation, but 100 per cent. right in its application to the wellbeing and happiness of these people, whom we are all united in our desire to help and to continue to help. It is always a matter of regret to me on occasions like this that inevitably the debates are heard only by a minority of the total number of noble Lords who eventually vote on them. I feel that on this particular occasion, if every noble Lord heard the case for the Amendment, no one would vote against it. 603 I hope, at least, that this is how the noble Lord, Lord Newton, will feel, and that on behalf of the Government he will accept the Amendment. I beg to move.
After Clause 46, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Stonham.)
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ LORD NEWTON
I do not honestly think that on this matter there is a great deal between the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and myself. I hope to show him that the position under the Bill is not quite as he believes it to be, and I am reasonably confident that he will feel that my answer is satisfactory, although I am afraid that I cannot accept the Amendment as it is set down. Under Section 29 of the National Assistance Act local authorities have a duty to make arrangements for promoting the welfare of persons who are blind, deaf or dumb, and other persons who are substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity. The arrangements are carried into effect by schemes made under this section and approved by the Miinster.
Not all parts of the schemes are obligatory: some are permissive. Among the permissive arrangements, some authorities, including the London County Council, provide vehicles often adapted, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, indicated, to convey handicapped people to social and occupational centres. Under the Bill as it stands—that is to say, by Clause 46(6)—it will be the duty of the London borough councils and the Common Council to continue to provide this service. The new clause which the noble Lord has moved would impose on the Greater London Council a duty to make provision to secure that adequate means of transport are available in Greater London for the conveyance of physically handicapped persons. I am not sure, but I take this to mean that borough councils would not therefore be required under Clause 46(6) to continue existing arrangements. The Amendment seeks to vest in the Greater London Council only those vehicles held by the London County Council. I ought just to point out, in passing, that similar vehicles are held by other welfare authorities in the Greater London area.
I am bound to tell the Committee that the Government do not think that this 604 service, invaluable as it is for meeting the position of the physically handicapped, should be the responsibility of the Greater London Council, because we do not think it is necessary that it should be. The provision for transport for physically handicapped people needed for them to reach the centres is a necessary part of the Section 29 services, and, in our view, therefore, it should be the responsibility of the authorities whose function it is to provide the Section 29 services—that is to say, under the Bill, the new London boroughs. When these functions are transferred to them under the Bill we think that they should be transferred complete with all the existing facilities owned by the existing authorities, unless the new boroughs agree to alternative arrangements. It is open to the new authorities, by agreement under Clause 5(3) of the Bill, to arrange to provide technical services and to use and maintain vehicles on each other's behalf.
If the new boroughs, or any group of them, consider it convenient that special transport for the physically handicapped should be provided on an agency basis by the Greater London Council, and if the Greater London Council agree, arrangements can be made under Clause 5(3). Alternatively, arrangements can be made for one of the boroughs to run the service. It will also be possible, by Orders under Clause 81 of the Bill, for my right honourable friend to provide for the existing vehicles of the L.C.C., and indeed of the other existing authorities, including the Middlesex County Council, to be either split up among the individual boroughs or, if this is agreed to be preferable, to be transferred to the Greater London Council or to a single borough. So that the Greater London Council or a single borough would operate the service on an agency basis under Clause 5(3).
Therefore, the Bill as it stands provides for great flexibility. But under any agency arrangements the boroughs would hear the cost of providing the service. These are questions for discussion between the authorities concerned and my right honourable friend, and he will be willing to make orders under Clause 81 embodying whatever arrangements are agreed to be suitable. We recognise that in some cases it may be suitable that joint arrangements should be made for this specialised transport service which 605 has links with the school bus service through the common use of drivers in the London County Council area at the moment. But such arrangements will not necessarily be suitable for the whole of the Greater London area, although they might be. At any rate, I am sure it would not be right to prejudge the arrangements by any such precise provision as that which is embodied in the noble Lord's new clause. We think that there should be first consultation and agreement, starting probably with the joint committee to be set up under Clause 83. In these discussions, it will be possible to consider the vehicles at present owned by the London County Council and the other authorities, and the manner in which the new operators wish to organise their services under Section 29.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said he thought there was an exact parallel here with the ambulance service which, under the Bill, is the responsibility of the Greater London Council. I do not agree that there is a parallel, for two reasons. First, ambulances in London often have to travel considerable distances, since many of the hospitals to which patients from London have to be taken are on the periphery of London. The vehicles which will convey handicapped people to centres will not have to travel long distances, because it is clearly desirable that centres should be allocated as near as possible to the places where those who will go to them live. One wants to reduce the distance of travel as much as possible.
The second reason why I do not think there is a parallel with the ambulance service is that one of the essential facts about any ambulance service is that the demand for its services is unpredictable. Nobody can predict how many calls will be made in any one day for an ambulance. But so far as transport for the physically handicapped is concerned, the demand is absolutely predictable, because it will be known how many people will require to be transported, and plans can be made accordingly. For these reasons I do not think there is a parallel here, and I do not think the noble Lord was on a very strong point when he urged me to be consistent by following the provision for ambulances in the Bill. I hope that I have succeeded in explaining to the Committee that the arrangements in the Bill 606 for the provision of this special transport are very flexible indeed. That is why I said at the beginning of my speech that I hoped it would transpire that there was not as much between us as the noble Lord seemed to think when he was moving his new clause.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I find it difficult to follow the noble Lord's argument about the location of centres. He argued that, whereas ambulances have to travel long distances, often to the periphery of London, transport for disabled persons to go to centres will have to travel only comparatively short distances. Surely this must imply an immense and wasteful duplication of centres. The number of disabled persons is not so large that we expect complete provision for them in every borough, but if there is not, some people will have to go a considerable distance to another borough. I fail to see how it can be true that the disabled persons will go only short distances, unless we arrange for centres to be erected near their homes all over the borough, or have persons who will become disabled only when they happen to live in reasonable proximity to the centre.
§ LORD LINDGREN
One of the problems arising from the flexibility to which the noble Lord, Lord Newton, has referred is that the arrangements are so flexible that nobody undertakes them. It is true that there is a duty placed upon local authorities to provide services for handicapped people of the various types enumerated. Let us be frank about it. The standard of that service varies from county to county, and from county borough to county borough. I should like to think that the services within Hertfordshire were up to the standard of the London County Council; but they are not. That is not all the fault of the Hertfordshire County Council. Mainly it is due to the fact that the London County Council have a larger population; and since there is a greater incidence of this sort of thing that has given the London County Council the opportunity of developing specialised services and sectionalised services which a less heavily populated county such as Hertfordshire could not do.
It is perfectly obvious that if you are to have a service for handicapped persons, 607 particularly the physically handicapped, the transport of those persons to the rehabilitation centre or workshop—call it what you will—is a vital part of the service. But that is an obligatory part of the service, and often it does not exist, or exists only for those who can provide their own means of transport, or find some form of transport. Where a group of workshops are, as the noble Baroness said, distributed over various boroughs (as they will be because some of these boroughs will not have sufficient handicapped people to justify various types of workshops), the people concerned will have to go from one borough to another. If you have twelve boroughs and twelve fleets of vehicles all not fully utilised, it will be much more uneconomic than having a centralised fleet in which the use of the vehicle can be adapted to the traffic to be carried.
It is equally true, as anyone associated with handling any transport service will know, that one of the problems is not only the maintenance of the vehicles but the availability of staff. Where there is illness, and that sort of thing, the larger your service the greater the number of crews required. But it is possible to interchange crews, although it means overtime work, and bring vehicles into use to provide a service for the handicapped persons. If this is to be done by twelve individual boroughs, it will cost a great deal more. Centralised maintenance and staffing gives an opportunity of a much greater economic use of the vehicles. If I may say so, it will bring it down to a commercial basis.
Many of your Lordships are associated with commerce. If you have twelve depôts and eight require servicing, in a centralised place like London you would have a centralised depôt with a manager, workshops and crews. If that can be done on a normal commercial basis, why not do it so far as local government is concerned? We are not concerned with making a profit as we are in commerce or trade. The fact is that in local government we are concerned with providing the highest standard of service at the lowest cost to the ratepayer and taxpayer. This Amendment for the provision of centralised fleets and a centralised operation of those fleets is purely on a basis of providing a more satisfactory 608 standard of service to the persons who require transport and to do it more efficiently and at a lower cost.
§ LORD NEWTON
With respect to the noble Lord, I do not think he can have listened to what I said earlier. The whole point is that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent all the boroughs of both inner and outer London, or some of them, arranging for the G.L.C. to provide this special transport service on an emergency basis if they want to and if the G.L.C. is willing.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I have been in local government a long while and I know that petty jealousies arise in local government as much as anywhere else. Very often the provision of a service for handicapped persons depends upon the incidence of a chairman or someone having a direct association with a sufferer. In local government, unless there is a definite requirement, very often it will not he done. Jealousy as between one borough and another is often very great indeed, and to say that there is the opportunity of voluntary cooperation and for flexibility among them to give their function of providing transport over to someone else and to let them provide for it on a contract basis is a most unsatisfactory way to do it; in fact, it would not be good from the general point of view. The tendency would always be for the borough to try to shelve their responsibility. After all, we people have often carried out this type of service on an out-county basis. A county not having a really sufficient service and not wanting to carry one out will go to another county adjacent in order to get them to provide a service for them. It is not really a satisfactory way of doing things. If we are going to have it, it ought to be on a basis of legislation and not on a basis of whether or not you are going to get co-operation as new members of local authorities from an adjoining local authority.
§ LORD SALTER
I have tried to follow this discussion as carefully and impartially as I can. I quite agree that the ambulance service is not in every respect comparable to this service of vehicles, and I quite agree also with the Minister that there is the provision in this Bill as a whole which would 609 enable the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, to get, in effect, what he wants. But I am bound to say also, I fear, that I think he has made out his case that, having regard to the special character of these vehicles and their limited number, there should be some kind of central authority and responsibility; and that while there is enough flexibility legally in the Bill, one cannot quite rely upon that being properly used. I do not know whether a new clause precisely in the form proposed is the best way of meeting this problem, but I hope it will be possible in some way or other to secure that there will be a properly co-ordinated use of this limited number of specially contracted vehicles.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Salter, and if the noble Lord, Lord Newton, could say—and, indeed, when he opened his remarks he raised my hopes that he was going to say this—that he cannot accept the Amendment as set down but could meet the point at a later stage with a somewhat similar Amendment, then I should he happy to withdraw it. But I am afraid that the rest of the noble Lord's speech did not encourage me to think that that was what he had in mind.
I sometimes think, and I have thought several times in our discussions on Amendments in this Bill, that the Government have given their civil servants the job of thinking up reasons why Amendments should not be accepted. If that is so, then on this Amendment they have had their hardest task yet and have failed most dismally. The reasons put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, for breaking up this service did not convince me, and certainly did not convince anyone else. The noble Lord said, or tried to console me by saying, that under Clause 81 the Minister has power to decide that this fleet of vehicles should be split up. That is just what we do not want to happen; of course not. I will just say it again to the noble Lord: there are 19 vehicles with hydraulic lifts, and seven Utilibuses—that is, 26 vehicles for the whole of inner London; and it may well be that double the number will be needed for the whole of Greater London. I am not going to argue precisely, but let us just deal with those 26 of the twelve inner London boroughs, an average of about two for each borough. As my noble friend Lord Lindgren pointed out, 610 no further argument is necessary. We do not want the Minister to use his powers to split them up; of course not. It is going virtually to destroy the service, as the noble Lord, Lord Salter, made quite clear.
The noble Lord, Lord Newton, twice tried to reassure us that under subsection (3) of Clause 5 the boroughs can, if they wish, have this service on an agency basis, provided the Greater London Council is then willing to supply it. What absolute nonsense. I am astounded that any Minister should make a statement like that about this case, or that he should be allowed in his brief to make such an utterly nonsensical statement. It is really not right that it should be done.
§ LORD STONHAM
Because when you have a complete service, an integrated, efficient, economic service covering the whole of the present County of London, it is then absolute nonsense to suggest that you should take powers to break it up and, having once broken it up, console yourself by saying: "Ah, the new boroughs can, if they wish, go back to the Greater London Council and say, ' We should like to have it from you on an agency basis ', and the Greater London Council can then consider it and say, ' Yes, we will let you have it on an agency basis, but, you see, the borough of Shore-ditch, Finsbury and St. Pancras want it but the borough of Hackney and the others who make up the group, do not; therefore, we cannot provide it'." In the meantime, these physically-handicapped people cannot get to their classes or places of employment and they are suffering; and I say, therefore, that it is nonsense. Indeed, when you consider that it is a case of handicapped people, it is worse than nonsense, because it is jeopardising their whole happiness.
The noble Lord, Lord Newton, rejected my suggestion that this service for conveying handicapped people all over London was comparable with the ambulance service, and he made the point that ambulances travel long distances but these vehicles do not. That was answered by my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger and also by the noble Lord, Lord Salter. But let me say this about 611 the ambulance service. The London County Council administer the ambulance service centrally, but the ambulances are garaged, as it were, or operate from local depôts; they do not operate from one central depôt, and ambulances do not, as a rule, travel long distances. I had an occasion only a day or two ago to remonstrate with the registrar of one of my hospitals in Hackney for refusing to take an emergency patient on the grounds that the patient was coming from Ilford, which is not very far—only about five or six miles. I assure noble Lords that the ambulance service in that sense is just as local as this other service will be, certainly as it will be when we have these larger boroughs; and all the services for these people are not contained in one borough.
I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Newton, wholly understood the Amendment, because he asked me early in his speech whether it meant that the borough councils would not be required to carry out the duties they are required to carry out under subsection (6) of Clause 46. The only duty that this Amendment of mine, if carried, would not require them to carry out is the one with regard to transport for handicapped people. That is the only duty that this Amendment takes away from the boroughs. It does not alter any other duty at all. I should have thought the Amendment was perfectly clear on that point.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am glad we have cleared that up. Just to get up at this Box and win arguments and score points does not do any good at all. It certainly does not bring any satisfaction to me. The only thing that would bring any kind of satisfaction would be if the Minister would say that he would look at this matter again. I do not think he has answered the case. Even if every noble Lord who has heard this discussion goes into the Division Lobby, we shall probably lose the Division. I would therefore ask him once more to say that he will look at this matter again and consider the arguments, and, if he likes, come back with his own Amendment to cover the point and provide that in the Bill—not leave it to chance or possible discussion— 612 the duty is placed on the Greater London Council to provide transport as one service for handicapped people. I hope he will do that much, and if not, I hope your Lordships will come into the Division Lobby with us.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
May I intervene for a moment? I really hope the Government will not go to the extreme of looking at this Amendment again. It seems to me totally unnecessary. I have listened to the debate. The fact is that if there are going to be more councils, or whatever they are called, in Greater London, their job will be to look after the handicapped people. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, talks about pinpricking, or whatever word he used, in handling this matter, and said that all he wants is to get the right thing done. I have never heard anything so unfair as to suggest that handicapped people are going to suffer because of Clause 46. That clause lays down in subsection (6):It shall be the duty of each London borough council and of the Common Council to continue to provide for the area of the council on and after 1st April 1965 the accommodation and the services and facilities…In subsection (7) it says:It shall be the duty of each London borough council and of the Common Council within such period…to submit schemes for the exercise of the council's functions with respect to the provision for the area of the council of accommodation and of services and facilities for disabled persons…The noble Lord talks as though they are going to scrap the whole thing and to listen to him one would think he would like it centralised for the whole of England. I do not believe he wants that. I daresay there will be closer contact and the boroughs will be able to see that their needs are met.
§ LORD STONHAM
We are talking only about the one question of transportation for handicapped people, not the whole needs of handicapped people.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
I have talked about the transport of handicapped people. It is laid down in the clause from which I am reading. It is not going to be scrapped. It lays down 1965 as the date by which the service is to be organised. The whole thing is laid down clearly. It is quite unnecessary to look at it again. It might be argued that the fact that there are more councils will 613 mean that there will be closer contact with the handicapped people instead of less. It is laid down perfectly clearly that the councils can get together and decide the best way to reorganise the matter. They can amalgamate. They can go to the central County Council. There is nothing under the Bill to stop them from running a centralised service.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I am glad the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, intervened, because it illustrates that there is a misunderstanding, I think, about the fundamentals of the subject upon which we are talking. I am sorry I missed part of the debate; I had to be at a meeting. The noble Viscount is surely a little confused between the treatment of the handicapped people, including children, and the transportation of them, which it seems to me, on the face of it are two separate subjects. As to which authority should be responsible for the handicapped is arguable, but that is not what we are talking about. These people, because they are handicapped, will, in many cases, need transportation, and the real question is whether that transportation service should be provided by the larger, more comprehensive authority, namely, the Greater London Council, or by these thirty-odd boroughs. They are of substantial size, I agree, but they really will not be big enough to have an adequate transportation service for these folks, the numerical distribution of whom between the thirty-odd boroughs will vary extremely.
We keep coming back to this because the Government are so persistently either misunderstanding it or being needlessly obstinate about it. Is it not better, where you can—you cannot always, but where you can—to have a clean cut between the functions of the Greater London Council and the borough councils if it is a practicable course, because then you know where you are? In this case the Greater London Council, with the possibility of having a comprehensive service—I prefer to call it that rather than a centralised service—should have this function. After all, even on a Greater London basis I understand from my noble friend Lord Stonham there is a limited number of vehicles. If each borough had to provide its own transport 614 it would find it in many cases impossible to do so on an adequate basis. In reply to these objections, the Minister has said once more, as he has said before on other things, that the boroughs can have joint arrangements between themselves. I know they can, under the Bill. But this has been said so often that if Ministers are not careful London local government over a large part of its functions will be running on joint committees and authorities.
§ LORD NEWTON
I cannot quite remember whether the noble Lord was in his place when I was making my speech. I rather gather he was not.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
This argument has been advanced in other connections, and I naturally assumed it was advanced here, because it was natural for the Government to do so in the difficulties into which they have got. A mass of joint committees is not popular local government. It means that Alderman So-and-so is appointed to the joint committee. He is not asked to come back to the authority that appointed him and ask for approval for a given line of policy which nevertheless may be important. If that were done, more delay would be involved. On the other hand, he may be appointed on the basis that he can do what he likes without the council having the right subsequently to express its point of view on the matter. In neither case is this popular local government. It means what I used to call hole-and-corner, indirectly elected government, with which London was afflicted too much. The Minister has said that the service can be provided on an agency basis between the Greater London authority and the boroughs. This means some sort of delegated power arrangement. I dislike having to remind him of the Report of the Royal Commission, which condemned this kind of arrangement, particularly in Middlesex.
§ LORD NEWTON
I do not think the noble Lord should criticise me for something he did not hear me say.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I have been told what the noble Lord said. Perhaps he will tell me what he did say. I know he talked about the 615 agency business. It will not do any good to get cross. I sympathise with his feeling of impatience in the matter. The agency idea is there, which means delegation, which was condemned by the Royal Commission. I have seen delegation between county councils and county districts, or the other way round. That is not desirable because, again, there is no real, popular local self-government. Friction results because the paying authority must control the expenditure, and that is annoying to the authority that acts as the agent. Consequently,
§ Clause 47 [Children authorities]:
§ 5.19 p.m.
BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER moved to leave out subsections (1) and (2), and to insert:
(1) As from 1st April, 1965, the functions of local authorities under the enactments to which this section applies shall be exercised—
§ I think that that also is a bad arrangement. The Committee will notice that I have been scrupulously cool about this matter. With great respect, I think the Government ought to think again, and undertake on Report to give favourable consideration to the proposition that we have put up to the Committee.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 182A) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 30; Not-Contents, 60.615
|Addison, V.||Lawson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Lindgren, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Listowel, E.||Stonham, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Longford, E.||Summerskill, B.|
|Attlee, E.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Swaythling, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Meston, L.||Walston, L.|
|Champion, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Williams, L.|
|Crook, L.||Ogmore, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Rea, L.||Wise, L.|
|Latham, L.||Shackleton, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Ebbisham, L.||Mills, V.|
|Albemarle, E.||Effingham, E.||Milverton, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Ferrers, E.||Molson, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Monsell, V.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Blackford, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Newton, L.|
|Boston, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Ormonde, M.|
|Brecon, L.||Grenfell, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Brocket, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Salisbury, M.|
|Chesham, L.||Hanworth, V.||Sandford, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Hastings, L.||Strathalmond, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Hawke, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Craigton, L.||Howe, E.||Swinton, E.|
|Craven, E.||Ilford, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Jellicoe, E.||Teynham, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Jessel, L.||Twining, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Long, V.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Dilhorne. L. (L. Chancellor.)||Lothian, M.||Wigram, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Margesson, V.||Yarborough, E.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Greater London Council acting by means of a special committee thereof constituted as mentioned in subsection (2) of this section
§ and the Greater London Council, when acting as aforesaid as the local children authority for the said area, shall, except for the purposes of any document of title, be known as the Inner London Children Authority, and any reference in this or any other Act to a member or officer of that Authority or, in relation to that Authority, to a member or officer of a local children authority shall be construed as a reference to a member or officer of the special committee aforesaid.
§ (2) The special committee aforesaid shall consist of—
- (a) such of the Councillors of the Greater London Council as have been elected by
617 local government electors for an inner London borough or the City;
- (b) one representative of each inner London borough council appointed by that borough council from among the members thereof;
- (c) one representative of the Common Council appointed by the Common Council from among the members thereof;
§ (3) The Greater London Council shall not act by means of the special committee aforesaid for the purpose of issuing any precept or borrowing any money, but shall so act for the purpose of determining—
- (a) the amount for which the Council are to precept upon rating authorities in the Inner London Children Area in respect of expenditure of the Inner London Children Authority; and
- (b) what amount, if any, is to be borrowed by the Council in respect of such expenditure,
§ The noble Baroness said: In the absence of my noble friend Lord Taylor, I move this Amendment. The Amendment looks long and complicated, but its object is quite simple. It is to set up an Inner London Children Authority exactly parallel to the Inner London Education Authority, which is already provided for in this Bill. It is, I think, an Amendment which the Government can approach with a slightly less formal and closed mind than they have done in relation to some of the others. There are two reasons for that. First of all, the Government have had second thoughts about the education authority, and the case of the children authority is extremely closely linked to that of the education authority. Secondly, as I think the Committee now well know, the Government were originally misled on this point by the Royal Commission, who were themselves misled by incorrect information about the size and nature of the problem. In so far as the plans made by the Government were based upon the Royal Commission's Report, they were based upon a foundation of sand, because they were based 618 upon facts which have since been proved not to be true.
§ The arguments in favour of having an Inner London Children Authority fall into three clear groups. First of all, there is the size and complexity of the whole problem. Secondly, there are arguments connected with the peculiarities of London and the differences between London and other county boroughs in other parts of the country. Thirdly, and most important of all, there is the very close link between a child as a child and a child as a unit in the educational system. To look first at the size and complexity of the problem, it was, of course, on this point that the Government were misled by the inaccurate statements of the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission were under the impression that by far the greater part of the children who came into care of the London County Council, and indeed of local authorities throughout the country, were there for short periods only. The Royal Commission estimated that 80 per cent. of the children were only short-stay children in care. They also estimated that a small proportion of the children in care came through the courts.
§ The facts in London are that over 90 per cent. of the children are long-stay children and the proportion who come through the courts is very little less than one-third. This puts the problem on an entirely different footing because it means that, instead of a comparatively simple type of home into which children can go for three or four weeks while, perhaps, their mother is in hospital, a very elaborate and specialised provision has to be made for children of different ages with different problems. It means that this is a matter which requires far larger resources and a far more complex organisation. The children who come at present into the care of the London County Council are commonly there for periods which range from six months to almost the whole of the eighteen years which is the longest time that they can be in care. There are at any one time about 9,000 children of different ages and with different problems in the care of the present London County Council.
§ To give the Committee some idea of the complexity of this problem, I should like to refer to the disposal of these children 619 by two or three typical London boroughs—metropolitan boroughs as they are now. Take for instance the metropolitan borough of Lambeth. In this borough there are something approaching 800 children in the care of the council, and your Lordships may well be surprised when you hear how many establishments those 800 children are spread over. Actually they are distributed between no fewer than 130 different establishments, some of them the London County Council's own homes, some of them voluntary homes, some of them private establishments; and in addition to the 130 there are also a considerable number who are boarded out in foster homes, many of these being outside the London County Council area altogether.
§ To take one other example, the metropolitan borough of Stepney has something over 600 children in care. They are spread over 50 homes belonging to the London County Council alone as well as almost as great a number of private and voluntary establishments. So it goes on. These children cannot be put into one institution or even into a small number of institutions, and the reason for it is simple. The reason is that the children are of utterly different ages. There are foundling infants who are found sometimes in the church porch; there are unmarried mothers of 16 and 17, pregnant girls; there are children who come from families of different religious denominations; children who come through the courts, who present problems of behaviour, delinquent children, and there are children with special mental or physical needs. I say "children" all the time, but I would have the Committee remember that I am speaking about a population that ranges from infants in arms to young men and women approaching 18 years of age. This is therefore a very large problem and it is being handled by an extremely complex going concern, and I think your Lordships would agree that before such a going concern is deliberately broken up there must be very strong and compelling reasons.
§ I turn now to consider the peculiarities of London. I know the argument is constantly used that if we suggest that the proposed London boroughs will not discharge their responsibilities to the children competently, that in some way casts a 620 slur upon the other county boroughs who are doing this very thing. There are, I think, some very real differences. First of all, the provincial boroughs have built up their services over a considerable period. They were not presented, as the new boroughs under this Bill will be presented, with a perfectly workable and, on the whole, highly satisfactory going machine and then expected to scrap it and quickly build up something from the beginning instead. They had to start from the beginning, with nothing to destroy, and they have gradually built up, in many parts of the country, admirable services. They differ, of course, partly because they tend to be much more mixed in their social and economic composition. One of the characteristics of London boroughs is that some of them will be fairly well off on the whole, with fairly high rateable value and a well-to-do population. Others will be much poorer. In a county borough outside London in a place like Liverpool or Brighton one gets a very much mixed population within the actual boundaries of the borough. That is one difference.
§ The other difference is one of which your Lordships have constantly been reminded when we have been discussing this problem, and that is the very much greater mobility of the population between the inner London boroughs. The boundaries, in the eyes of the population, are really artificial boundaries which may run down the middle of the street, the houses on each side of which are inhabited by the same type of person and indeed by a population which constantly moves backwards and forwards from one borough to another. It may well be true that many of the counties and county boroughs outside London do this job magnificently, and still be true that the Inner London boroughs are not well adapted for it, and that it would be foolish to break up the present services. It is true, is it not, that many small states do their work excellently, with judgment and economic and financial prudence? But that is not used as an argument for breaking up the United Kingdom into a number of small provinces, and I think the parallel holds. It is also true, as your Lordships have been reminded before, that, because of this inequality in the rateable value and the social problem of the different 621 boroughs, even when they are amalgamated, as the Bill proposes, there will be great differences between their need for child accommodation and the accomodation which they have.
§ Let us take one or two examples. Let us take the proposed new Borough of Hampstead, Holborn and St. Pancras. On the present showing there would be perhaps some 600 children in the care of the local authority in that new borough, and there will be accommodation for a very small proportion—less than 100; and nearly all of that accommodation is in the form of nurseries. What the new borough is to do if it finds itself landed with children of school age, with adolescents and the older child population, is not immediately apparent. Elaborate negotiations will, of course, have to be made with other neighbouring boroughs, all of which will take time and present the usual difficulties. Think again of Fulham and Hammersmith. They have some 500 or so children in care. Where are they to be put? All the authority have is a remand home, and children who are not delinquent cannot be put into a remand home. So Fulham and Hammersmith, too, will have to make arrangements with their neighbours, or they will have to set to work to build and staff their own accommodation from the beginning.
§ Consider the problems that will arise from this fluidity of a certain part of the London population. I would emphasise to the Committee that it is this fluid population whose children are most likely to come into care. That, I think, was admitted when this Bill was in Standing Committee in another place, when the Minister rather picturesquely remarked that, even with one authority, children are dropped in different areas of the child care committee. The Minister admitted that it is easier when there is one commanding officer at the top, but she did not think the job would be very much more difficult when it was broken into thirteen parts. It was, however, admitted that this is a problem which is typical of London. It is in London that children particularly are dropped in different areas of the child care authority. I know that we shall be told that when the service has been broken up it can be put together again. We have been told that in relation to almost every service which we have thought ought not to be 622 broken. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. In this case, he did not fall accidentally. He was pushed over the wall by the noble Lords opposite. And when Humpty Dumpty has a great fall, it is a common experience that all the King's horses and all the King's men, and even Her Majesty's Government, will find it extraordinarily difficult to put him together again. That is the basic problem.
§ Meanwhile, we shall have these contrasts and conflicts. There may be families who have two or three children in care, and because the family have moved from one area to another the various children will be in the care of different local authorities. There is no guarantee that those authorities will draw up the same scale for the contribution which the parents are to pay, and it will be very puzzling to the parent to find that he has to pay 12s. a week for one child, 8s. a week for another, and 13s. a week for yet another, when the children are very close in age, and all eat much the same amount and in his experience cost very much the same amount to keep. Exactly the same thing will happen to foster parents. There may be foster parents who are living on opposite sides of the street through which a boundary runs, and, unless there are agreed scales for payments to foster parents, the parent who takes in a child on one side of the street will be better rewarded than the parents who takes in a child on the other side.
§ Perhaps even more serious than these financial problems are the problems that may arise when children from the same family are in the care of different authorities, who may not even know that they are from the same family. When the London County Council take children from the same family they go to great pains, if it is at all possible, to put the brothers and sisters into the same home. It may well happen that if one child has been taken into care some months or a year ago by one borough and another child later by another borough, it will be quite some time before it is discovered that they are members of the same family. If that happens, there will have to be elaborate inter-state negotiations for one child to be exchanged so that they can be together.
§ Already, occasionally, when we have a unified central London area and 623 children appear in court, there are arguments between local authorities, between the London County Council and the neighbouring authorities outside, as to who is to be responsible if the child is to be put in the care of the authority. Those arguments will be multiplied by thirteen if we have this break-up of the children service into these thirteen different inner London boroughs. The differences in rateable values will have the result that some boroughs will, in a sense, have too much money with which to make proper provision, and some will have too little. The case of those who have too little is pretty obvious, but some will be in luck because they have too much in the way of funds. They will be the boroughs where there is little demand, where there are comparatively few children in care, so that it is not worth while making special provision.
§ I should like your Lordships to turn your attention for a moment to a letter written to The Times by a chairman of the London County Council Children Committee, when these proposals first burst upon the world. I will not trouble your Lordships by reading the whole letter, but it gives an example which, in my experience, is not at all fanciful. It is an example of a child who is one of a family of five; and as a result of the parents' moving and the child's getting himself into trouble, the end of the story is that this family will have five children in four different homes. They will be assessed for payments by three different authorities and will be on the move again. They will also be visited by social workers from each of the authorities into whose care their children are put.
§ Before I leave this problem of the complexity of the new arrangements, I would remind your Lordships that there is a serious transitional problem. I know that one cannot mortgage the future purely for a temporary problem, but in the case of children one must give special weight to a transitional problem because to a child a transition may be the whole of its childhood experience. The problem is this. At present, when a child in London is put into care of the local authority, the L.C.C. take very great pains, although the child may pass from the nursery stage, to the primary 624 school stage, to the secondary school stage, and so on, to see that the same welfare officer should, so far as is humanly possible, be in charge of that child. That is because the staff of welfare officers is unified over the whole L.C.C. area, and although children may be widely dispersed geographically in homes for this and that age group, the same officer can be deputed to keep contact with the child throughout. To a child, with perhaps no adequate parents, this matter is of the greatest importance, and I earnestly hope that your Lordships will not dismiss this as simply a temporary transitional problem.
§ We have been told, and rightly, by the Minister in another place that this is a local human and interlocking service, and that it calls for smaller units with a specialised knowledge of the local people. All through, that has been the argument: that the boroughs would be able to give a more intimate and specialised attention to the individual needs of children. I think the argument in this context is fallacious. It might hold if the service was going to be broken up into really small units, where there could be some kind of personal contact between the borough authorities and the children. When all is said and done, these boroughs are going to be cosy little units with about 200,000 to 250,000 population and possibly boundaries of 12 miles in length. There will not be local, specialised, personal contact. You are still to have units which are too large for that, and yet too small for the specialised services which we have at present. After all, if the boroughs are so deeply interested in the children, as we hope they are, in this Amendment we are proposing an authority on which the boroughs will be represented. The authority itself consists of the representatives of the Greater London Council who sit with the inner London boroughs, plus the nominees of the inner London boroughs, so that there will be an association of the boroughs, if that is desired, on the children's services.
§ Let us think of the importance of children's education. I hope the Committee realise that, unless this Amendment is accepted, this inner London area will be the only area in the country in which the education authority and the children authority are separated. Everywhere 625 else the children authority and the education authority are identical. It is extraordinarily difficult to see how you can divide the child as a child, from the child as a schoolboy or a schoolgirl. I would hesitate to describe the Government as having the wisdom of Solomon, but the Government on this occasion do appear to be modelling themselves upon Solomon's advice, that the child should be cleft in twain. His educational needs are given to one authority; his personal needs, his needs at periods of distress and difficulty, are given to another.
§ In reply to noble Lords on this side on an earlier Amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Newton, admirably expressed the objections to this division. He was discussion the division between a welfare authority and a housing authority, and how unsatisfactorily it has worked out in Middlesex. All those arguments apply with far greater force to dividing the child's education from his needs in other contexts. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, said that it was unrealistic to divide the services, and that it was not in the best interests of the persons served. That is abundantly true in this case. Indeed, I find it extraordinarily difficult to see how this is, going to work in practice. I imagine to myself a child—and it is typical of many that I have seen—who is not a very good school attender and is in trouble with the education authority for his poor school attendance. The school welfare officer no doubt visits the home, and the child may be brought to court. Perhaps, also, the child is found at the school medical inspection to need some medical or dental treatment. The care committee officer on behalf of the education authority follows that up, though I must confess that I still find it very difficult to understand the integration of the school medical service with the education service as projected in this Bill.
§ Then, again, if the first clause of the Children and Young Persons Bill which is now before another place becomes law, the local authority will have power to help families, where there seems some prospect that a child may come into care; to help them with advice and to help them in certain cases financially, also. I suppose that there again another authority will come in, if there is a risk of this 626 child getting into trouble or getting into care, to advise and help the family. Finally, the child will come into care. Some breakdown occurs, and the child will come into the care of the borough. But how long will it take the borough to make itself acquainted with all that has been done before by the education authority, in relation to school attendance, about the choice of school, the difficulties at the particular school which may have had some part in the breakdown? How long will it take them to find out about the recommendations from the school medical inspection? Any of your Lordships who know the amount of grit that gets into the wheels of inter-local authority negotiations will, I think, envisage that this is going to be an extraordinarily cumbersome process.
§ What is going to happen in the juvenile courts? In the juvenile courts in the inner London area at the moment, there are present in every court two representatives of the London County Council, and those two representatives represent all local authority services which may need to be called in aid of that child. If there is a change of school they are competent to arrange that with County Hall. If there is need for the child to go into care it is they who advise what the placement will be, where the child will actually be sent. These two representatives between them are normally able to cope with the business of each of these busy London juvenile courts. One dreads to think of the delays and the complications that will result when, instead of two, there will have to be, even if every inner London borough has only one representative, thirteen representatives of the inner London boroughs plus a representative of the Education Authority.
§ I know it will be said that the reason the children services must go to the boroughs is that they cannot be separated from the other health and welfare services; that they belong there as a whole. I have a good deal of sympathy with that argument, and indeed if we had our way they would not have been so separated. All of them would have been left in the hands of the larger authority. But if there is to be a separation, I am quite sure that the separation has been made at the wrong place. What, after all, are the other 627 health and welfare services with which the boroughs will be concerned? A great many of them do not concern children at all. The fact that the boroughs are the authority concerned with the aged has not very much to do with children. The fact that they are concerned with the disabled will affect a small number of children. The fact that they are concerned with the provision of home-helps and matters of that kind may make the children's lives a little easier, but they are not matters of primary importance to children. It would, indeed, be advantageous if the maternity and infant welfare services were closely linked with the child care services under the same authority. But surely, if we cannot have that, the one service that affects all children is the service of education. And, surely, the arguments are stronger for uniting the education service and the child care service, than for uniting any other two services with which children are concerned, or with which some children are concerned.
§ When the Bill was in Committee in another place the Minister reminded the Committee that the Bill was not a Bill about children. She said that it was a Bill about good government. It certainly is a Bill about government. But these particular clauses are clauses about children, as well as about government; and government is not good government if it is bad for children. That is an elementary principle. It may well be that Governments were not made for children, but children were most emphatically not made for Governments; and they were not made to be sacrificed to Governments, which will be the effect if this Amendment is not accepted. I beg to move.
Page 66, line 32, leave out from beginning to end of line 4 on page 67 and insert the said new subsections.—(Baroness Wootton of Abinger.)
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD ILFORD
The noble Baroness has moved her Amendment, as your Lordships would expect her to do, in a very careful and closely reasoned speech, to which I am sure you have listened with particular interest. In the first part of her speech, the noble Baroness seemed to me to be struggling with the main difficulties 628 in the case which she has put. This service is being carried out all over the country with complete success by authorities of substantially the same size and character as the London boroughs will be. The noble Baroness was at pains to try to draw a distinction between the conditions which exist in London and the conditions which exist in the great conurbations in the Provinces.
She rested her case for the Amendment upon three main considerations: the size and complexity of London, the peculiarities of London population and, her final point, the importance of what she called the link with the education service. I am bound to say that on the two first considerations which the noble Baroness developed I was unable to see that she was able to point to any real distinction between the conditions which exist in London and the conditions which exist in great conurbations like Staffordshire or East Lancashire. It seems to me that the conditions are very much the same.
I should like to make one comment on her third consideration, the link with education. There the noble Baroness is taxing my memory, because this is a point which had not occurred to me until I heard the noble Baroness develop it. I recollect that, when the Children Act was passed in 1944, there were many local authorities who considered that a separate service for children was not desirable and that the children service could and ought to be conducted by the education authority. Here the noble Lord, Lord Latham, will correct me, if I am wrong. My recollection is that that was a view which was widely held at the time on the London County Council and many of the services afterwards administered by the children's department were in fact administered by the education department of the L.C.C. Dame Myra Curtiss was insistent that there should be no link between the children's service and the education service, and, if my recollection is right—it is a long time ago—she insisted that they should be entirely separate.
The question which your Lordships really have to determine on this Amendment is that question which your Lordships had to determine earlier in the afternoon on the Amendment which dealt with homeless families and to some extent, on 629 the Amendment which dealt with ambulance services. The questions which your Lordships have to ask yourselves is this: is it really the case that this service is better administered by an authority of the altogether abnormal size of the L.C.C., or is it a service which can be administered more efficiently by authorities approximating to the size of the proposed London boroughs?
This is a matter upon which your Lordships will make your own individual determinations. Some noble Lords will be guided by the experience they have had of the administration of these services, and some noble Lords may even be affected by the arguments which will be advanced for and against the Amendment, but I think that one can get some assistance from an examination of the statistics of the children's service. One must not press an examination of statistics too far when one is dealing with human welfare service of this nature, but at the same time I think that some examination of the statistics may give us an indication of whether the service is one for an authority of an altogether abnormal size, like the L.C.C., or for an authority of the more modest dimensions of a borough.
It is generally agreed that the child deprived of normal home life can best be given the life which the parents should have been able to give it, if it is boarded out and not accommodated in an institution. Care in an institution is really a second best. However good and well managed an institution may be, the care of an institution is inferior to the care which a child gets in its own home or in a foster home. I have no wish to reflect in any way upon the children's service administered by the L.C.C. I saw something of the Council's children's service when I was a member of the Council. I watched it grow from its beginning and I know the care and the thoughtful approach which was bestowed upon this new service both by members of the Council and by the Council's staff. If I now draw attention to what seems to me to be some of the difficulties of that service, I want to make it abundantly plain that I attribute the defects to the abnormal size of the authority.
I would suggest that the first test might be this: how far has the Council succeeded in boarding out children in 630 care? In the L.C.C. area, the number of children boarded out, according to the figures which I have in my possession, which are not very up-to-date but I dare say they are good enough—no doubt the noble Earl will have something more up-to-date when he comes to speak—is 31 per cent. In the county boroughs as a whole, the average number of children in care boarded out is 56 per cent. London has 69 per cent. of children in care accommodated in homes, nurseries and hostels, including a large number of voluntary hostels. The average number of children in care maintained in institutions in county boroughs as a whole is 44 per cent.
The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, said, in the Second Reading debate that boarding out in London is more difficult than it is in the Provinces. But is it more difficult than in Manchester, for example, where 53 per cent. of children in care are boarded out? Is it more difficult than in Liverpool, where 54 per cent. of children in care are boarded out? If one comes nearer home, is it more difficult than in Croydon, where conditions approximate to the conditions in London—indeed, Croydon is to become part of London—and where 67 per cent. of children in care are boarded out? Or in West Ham, where conditions for boarding out no doubt are difficult but where 37 per cent. of children have been boarded out by the West Ham Council? When it comes to the smaller boroughs, the percentage of boarding out is even greater. In the little borough of Tynemouth, which is an industrial borough, although of course the conditions are not the same as in London, no less than 75 per cent. of the children in care have been boarded out. I cannot find a single county borough with so low a percentage as 31 per cent.
I turn now for a moment to the cost of the service. I agree that when one is dealing with an intimate and personal welfare service of this nature, cost may not be the primary consideration; but, at the same time, every welfare service must, I think, have regard to the question of cost, because if that question is ignored, sooner or later a certain resentment in public feeling is aroused by the service, which is not good either for those who take advantage of the service or for those who have to administer 631 it. I think it is worth looking for a moment at the cost of the service in different parts of the country.
The average cost of all children in care in the London County Council was 155s. 2d. per week. The average in county boroughs as a whole was 114s. 1d. The average in counties was 111s.—and I disregard that because, of course, the conditions in counties for this purpose are altogether different from the conditions in towns. The average cost in Birmingham was 149s. 3d., in Manchester, 120s. 5d., and in Liverpool, 130s. In Croydon (here we come back to London) the cost was 102s. 7d., and in West Ham, 139s.
I would submit to your Lordships that these statistics indicate that an authority of approximately the size of the new London borough can administer this service with a substantial measure of success, and, indeed, at a lower cost than appears to be possible in London.
I do not intend to dwell upon the reasons why that may be so, but I am sure that there is one administrative reason for it, and it is that the population of these smaller areas is nearer, not necessarily to the councillors, but to the source of responsible authority. The children's officer in these London boroughs will be much nearer the children whose welfare he has to administer than is the children's officer at County Hall. In an authority of the size of the London County Council a divisional authority is necessary, a divisional stratum of administration has to be introduced, and the result is that the effective administrative officer and the effective administrative body are further removed from the population which they have to administer. For all those reasons, I would hope that your Lordships would reject this Amendment and agree that the London boroughs will prove to be the most effective authorities for the administration of this important service.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, will not think that I am being offensively patronising or impertinent if I say that any intervention on his part improves these debates enormously. It is true that he delivers sentiments of most impeccable Toryism from a Cross Bench position, 632 but we have reached a stage when any intervention on the side of the Government, other than what might be regarded as tied intellect, is bound to make a big improvement, because we have so little to argue with most of the time, and the noble Lord comes along and presents a closely reasoned argument. I should like to come to one or two of his points later, but I would just submit one thought to him, to the noble Earl and to the Committee generally, which I do not think the noble Baroness introduced into her speech, though I feel she dealt with the whole thing so conclusively that one might well wonder if anything more could be usefully added.
In any event, the Amendment and the kind of proposition it represents has been strongly supported by some of the very disinterested bodies most concerned with child care: for example, a body such as the Association of Child Care Officers. I know that the other day I rather overstepped the mark by saying that teachers were 100 per cent. in favour of something, and I must be careful, because I realise that the noble Lord likes precise language. But will he allow me to say that the Association of Child Care Officers overwhelmingly represent the child care officers; or will he dismiss them as not representative, and say that he knows a child care officer or knew one some years ago who took a different view of things? I hope he will allow me to submit to him that the child care officers themselves are strongly in favour of the point of view that we on this side represent here.
§ LORD ILFORD
The noble Earl is not asking me to accept that they are 100 per cent. in favour of the proposals?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I thought we had already dealt with that. No, I am not. I was careful not to ask the noble Lord to accept that. I said that they were overwhelmingly in favour, just as I suppose you may say that the Tory Party must be overwhelmingly in favour of this Bill, although I have met Tories off patrol, so to speak, who have disliked it very much. But it is not for me to say that the Tory Party are divided in this matter. They are strongly in favour, as I know from the support that they have given to certain efforts I have made. Then there is the Residential Child Welfare Association and the Council for 633 Children's Welfare. We must suppose that these people are disinterested. Indeed, I cannot imagine any way in which they would have a kind of bias in favour of us, unless one were to be extremely cynical and say that they felt they were so certain we were going to win the next Election and they must be on the winning side. Here are the people who know most about this question who are strongly in favour of the point of view that we on this side of the Committee hold. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Strang, who at times I feel is almost the only independent juryman in the House, will pay great attention to this.
The noble Lord, Lord Ilford, said that no doubt noble Lords would come to this matter with complete freedom of outlook, basing themselves on their experience; they might go this way or they might go that way. Looking round the Committee, that seems to me to be something of an illusion. At any rate, there are a few Members of the Committee who I would hope are still open-minded, and I place before them the strong support of those who are most concerned with this subject, who are not politicians, and have no interests to serve except those of the children.
In her very powerful speech the noble Baroness, not unnaturally, laid stress on the fact that if the Government's plan goes through London will be the only authority in the country where the children's service would not share the same area as the education service. I think that must be regarded as a strong point. Do not let us assume that this is necessarily so, though it does set up a strong presumption in favour of our Amendment. I was rather sorry to find that the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, disparaged that point. Indeed, he seemed to treat it as a point that told against her, but, at any rate, was of no value to all. I hardly think the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, will treat that point so lightly. He may recall some earlier discussions in the House. We have had a number of discussions, and this one may have slipped his memory. In a speech in March last year the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe—I have given him about five minutes' notice: time enough, I hope, to get the copy of Hansard, if nothing else—said this [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 238, col. 287]: 634…I would suggest to the noble Baroness that there is advantage, indeed great advantage, in having the children's officers working in the same teams as all those other social workers who concern themselves with the different aspects of family life.The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, put in the question [col. 288]:Including education?To which the noble Earl, far removed in spirit from the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, said:Yes, I think there would be great advantage in including education…".He thought that was one of the advantages in having education outside the central area, as a responsibility of the individual borough. The noble Baroness went on:Are we to understand that education and the children's services are to be under the same control?To that Lord Jellicoe, speaking with the candour which has, among other qualities, made him so beloved in this House, said:I certainly would not go as far as that, but I agree that the educational liaison is obviously extremely important here.He drew back a little at the last moment perhaps, but he did say earlier on that one of the great advantages in having education outside the central area as a responsibility of the individual borough is the fact that the same authority would be concerned with education and the youth service.
I must ask the noble Earl, in all seriousness, to tell us how he differentiates. Does he not think that this is an important issue inside the central area? He may say—and, of course, it is open to any member of the Government to say it; although it is a very tedious sort of argument, it may be the best for them—"If you take this particular thing, it is true that it would be better done some other way. We are standing for a new form of government, and you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs. These children are not as important as all that—there are only 9,000 of them." If he does not use that argument, I wonder how he is going to differentiate between the London area and the other areas. How is he going to defend the fact that in the central area there would be one authority for education and one for the youth service?
635 I hope I have answered the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, that there is not a great deal in this. There were one or two special points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, which possibly should be answered, though there are others on this Bench who would do it more authoritatively than I would. He pointed to the fact that there is a relatively low percentage of children boarded out in London. That is a well-known point in these arguments and, sure enough he made it. These factors, as he is no doubt aware, are accounted for by special circumstances. He did not seem so anxious to labour that point and as he is very fair I assume he did not know it. He did know it, but he decided to leave it to me perhaps.
§ LORD ILFORD
The noble Earl will forgive me. What I said was that the conditions were not substantially different from the conditions in the great provincial conurbations such as East Lancashire and Staffordshire.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I do not know whether the noble Lord, before saying that, came down with any figures for any of those areas.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Has the noble Lord the figures for the children in care? The point is that the children received into care in London number twice the national average. That is a very important point. Not only that, but there is the question of illegitimacy, which is three times as high in London as elsewhere. These figures for the capital City—and I hesitate to say it—may be partly due to the influx of families from outside England, which was mentioned earlier. At any rate, the conditions in London are exceptionally difficult, and I would rather have thought that the noble Lord, if he were anxious to sway anybody who had the whole argument before him, would have taken notice of that fact. I do not suppose he has made use of a work by a certain Mr. Ruck. I do not think he would rely on Mr. Ruck's evidence. But he has written a book, and although I have not read it I have read many discussions on it, for and against. It seems that Mr. Ruck, although he 636 should know better with his past experience, does not give full attention to these factors. However, that is the situation.
If you are going to blame the London County Council, as the noble Lord does in effect, you must put all the cards on the table. It is no good saying their figures are worse, therefore they must be worse and their system must be worse. That is not an argument I would expect from the noble Lord. The truth is that it is hard, and probably impossible, to make a comparison between London and these other areas. The comparison is not accepted, for example—a little more progress and one of the Ministers will join the Cross Benches. After the lack of support from his Conservative colleagues, he may be tempted to try.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am glad to find movement and life on that side. This debate is only just getting under way, but since the noble Lord produced this argument which he thought was rather damaging to the London County Council I should like to place the real facts before him. I do not accept the view that the London County Council is backward in these matters. I do not want to speak too long, but one is allowed to speak more than once and that might be necessary.
Who are likely to be the best judges of what is best for the children? Would it be the noble Lord? Would it be I myself? Would it be the noble Earl? Would it be a Government who are trying to use this as a bed of Procrustes to squeeze the children's service, or would it be the officers whose whole life is dedicated to these children? I would be very surprised if the noble Lord, or any of us, knew half as much about it as those officers do. For that reason, I should like to support the Amendment moved so effectively by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I do not think your Lordships will expect us to apologise for having an unusually large number of speakers on this Amendment, because we regard this—and I think the Committee will agree—as one of the most important Amendments which have been 637 put down for the Committee stage of the Bill. It is important because it represents a point of view about the welfare of these handicapped children in the inner London area. There are two opposed points of view which have teen expressed during the course of the speeches. We represent one point of view, and the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, and no doubt the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, when he speaks, represent the other. I think we all agree, whether we sit on this side of the House or the other, that the reorganisation of London government proposed in this Bill should not be such as to cause any increased difficulty for the children who have to be taken into care. I am sure that proposition will be supported by all noble Lords and will be the criterion by which noble Lords will judge between our point of view and the point of view expressed by the Government.
This is essentially an administrative Amendment for the efficiency of the service—because the welfare of the children depends upon the administrative arrangements that will be made. We maintain that the larger unit, the county unit, is more suitable and more efficient for the administration of a child care service in the inner London area and the Government maintain that the smaller unit, the borough unit, will be no less efficient—or, as the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, claimed, will be even more efficient—than the larger unit which administers this service at the present time. So the choice before the Committee is which of these two types of administrative units, the larger or the smaller, will give a better service to these handicapped children? And all I propose to do in my remarks is to pinpoint some of the arguments that have been used on both sides.
I do not wish to repeat the arguments to support our case which were made very fully and quite admirably by my noble friends Lady Wootton of Abinger, who proposed the Amendment, and Lord Longford, who followed, adding one argument that she did not mention which I think carries very great force, namely, the point of view of the national staff associations to which the professional workers in both the voluntary homes and the institutions provided by the local authorities for child care and, of course, the child care officers of the local authorities belong. My noble friend, no doubt 638 quite by accident, omitted to mention one of these associations, of which there are two. One is the Association of Child Care Officers, which he did mention, and the other is the Residential Child Welfare Association. Both these associations are against the administrative arrangements proposed by the Government under this Bill to give responsibility to the boroughs.
Might I interrupt the noble Lord for a second?—and I hope he will not take this as a precedent when I get up to speak. His noble friend did mention the second organisation but not the Association of Child Care Officers, which is, I think one could claim, the senior organisation in this field. I was wondering whether the noble Earl could quote their opinion on the subject.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I am not able to quote the opinion of the Association of Child Care Officers, but perhaps the noble Earl will do so, because I think it is most important that the Committee should have before it the views of all the associations to which these skilled professional workers belong. But the noble Earl will agree with me that the two associations I have mentioned are both against the arrangements proposed in this Bill, on the ground that the arrangements will adversely affect the child care service in London.
Another argument—which I think my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger used, but which is one of very considerable importance and therefore might perhaps be developed a little—is that a borough would not be able to provide the research and experiment in child care and the training courses that are required for the officers who do this work. This is a matter about which these professional bodies feel very strongly. I should like to quote a paragraph from a letter I have received from them. This is what it says:Many training courses for field and residential staffs have been started to give the high professional standard necessary for the service. It is essential that this research and training be continued to keep the service at as high a standard as at present. Is it possible that the smaller boroughs"—and this is the sentence to which I wish to draw your Lordships' attention—under the new Bill will be able to afford to maintain this research and experiment or sustain the training courses?639 That is a question which I sincerely believe the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, should answer before your Lordships can be satisfied that this transfer of authority can work satisfactorily.
Another argument to which I think we all attach the utmost importance (it was developed at considerable length by my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger, and so I shall only just mention it) is that in every local authority outside London the child care authority and the education authority run together, and this proposal to divide education from the present child care service of the London County Council, is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, very aptly put it, the wisdom of Solomon, and will surely have a tragic result. I also think that these smaller authorities are bound to find it much more difficult to get the specialists in child welfare whom they will need as their officers and to provide the variety of treatment required by children who come into care. This, again, is a point which was dealt with fully by my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger, and I will not weary your Lordships by elaborating it. I should like, however, to deal with one or two of the arguments that have been and will be used on the other side, although I wish to leave in the very competent hands of my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth the task of replying to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, when he has spoken. But there are just two arguments which have been used by the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, with which I should like to deal quite shortly.
First of all, he made the point that the child care service in the boroughs outside London is at present administered by local authorities of roughly the same size as the new London boroughs will be. But, of course, as my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger pointed out, although the Royal Commission recommended that the London boroughs should take over this service, the Commission were extremely inaccurate in a lot of their facts. Moreover, the Government themselves do not regard the Royal Commission as sacrosant because they have departed from the recommendations of the Royal Commission in setting up the Inner London Education Authority and not giving education to the boroughs. But there is this great difference—and I know 640 that the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, will agree about this—between the existing authorities outside London and the new boroughs. The existing authorities outside London are education authorities as well as child care authorities—both education and child care run together—whereas the new London boroughs will not be education authorities. It is that enormous difference, the split between education and child care, which we on this side of the House regard as really disastrous.
I know that the Government attach the greatest importance to the integration of the personal welfare service and the child care service; and we all agree that this is important. But in London what is even more important is that the home, the child care staff and the place where the child goes for treatment should all be under the same authority; that the parents, teachers and officers of the local authority should get to know each other and should be working closely together. But that will not be possible where the home is in one place, the authority in another, and the institution in yet another; and this division will certainly happen if you get the smaller boroughs dealing with child care.
I hope that the Government will reconsider this provision and do as we are suggesting, which is to make an inner London authority for child care on the same lines as the inner London authority for education. But if they will not do that, will they consider between now and Report stage instituting an inquiry into the desirable size of local government units for administration of child care in London? They have insisted on this in the case of education. They have had provision put in the Bill for an inquiry into the inner London education service to decide whether or not to leave the service with the Greater London Council or hand it over to the boroughs. Surely if there is any shadow of doubt—and there must be a shadow of doubt where there are two diametrically opposed views—there should be an inquiry of this kind, because only by getting expert opinion of this quality can we ensure that whatever the administrative unit is in the London area it is the unit calculated to serve the best interests of these handicapped children. I beg the Government to consider that proposal, 641 and I support most sincerely the Amendment of my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger.
§ LORD LATHAM
The noble Lord, Lord Ilford, in his speech in opposition to this Amendment, and also in attacking the London County Council, relied to a very large extent, as he said, upon his memory and upon the experience he had of the London County Council. I was a member of the London County Council at the time the children's services were instituted. The noble Lord was an important member of the Opposition on the London County Council. I am charging my memory as he charged his, but I do not recall that at any time he opposed the London County Council's being the authority for the children's services. Both he and his Party took the view that the London County Council educational service was the proper organ to carry out and provide these important functions.
§ LORD ILFORD
The noble Lord will forgive me if I interrupt him. At that time there was no proposal for the formation of the new London boroughs. I would suggest to the noble Lord that that has completely altered the situation. Would he also allow me to say I was very careful in my speech not to attack the London County Council or criticise the administration of the services.
§ LORD LATHAM
I should not have thought the difference between the existing metropolitan boroughs and the intended London boroughs justifies such a change of opinion over such an important matter.
§ 6.33 p.m.
I do not know whether it would be of convenience to the Committee if I intervened at this stage in our discussion. I gather that it may be. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, suggested the other day that the Ministers in charge of this Bill must have such a heavy burden lying on their consciences that possibly they were lying awake all night. I can only say to him that, like the noble Lord, Lord Newton, I have been sleeping reasonably well, consistent with the "prep." required for this Bill. But let me assure noble Lords who have spoken that nowhere have I been more anxious that we should get the Bill right than in this area which 642 we are discussing this afternoon; and nowhere is it more important that we should do so. We are dealing with a relatively new service, the children's service; and in an area as important as London we must seek to improve and not impair it. We are dealing with, I freely acknowledge, a fine service, the L.C.C. children's service, and we must be very careful before we dismantle it. We are dealing with deprived, distressed or delinquent children who are among those least able to help themselves. Naturally I feel these responsibilities deeply, and not only because, as a Minister of the Home Office, they touch me closely and personally.
With that by way of introduction, I wonder whether I could briefly detain your Lordships—I fear it may not be all that brief—while I try to explain my approach to this Amendment and this part of the Bill. We all know by this time that some of us have deep differences of opinion over this Bill. Not unnaturally, I accept its basic principles. Not unnaturally, most, if not all, noble Lords opposite reject those principles. Be that as it may, it seems to me that all of us at this point of our Committee stage, have to work within the basic framework of the Bill which we are discussing; and surely what we are now discussing is, given that framework, right or wrong, how we can best care for the less fortunate children within the Greater London area.
Broadly speaking there have seemed to me to be three possibilities open to us. We could hand over responsibility for the children, lock, stock and barrel, to the Greater London Council. Alternatively we could set up a special body, as proposed in this Amendment, to match up to the Inner London Education Authority. And, finally, there is the solution proposed by the Royal Commission, and indeed favoured by the Government, to confer this responsibility on the 32 large multi-purpose new boroughs.
I suspect that all your Lordships are agreed in rejecting the first solution. In the Greater London area there are some 14,000 children in care, and to transfer them to a large strategic authority would, in a way, be like transferring the direct responsibility for all children in care throughout the country to the Home Office—and just as un-acceptable, I should surmise. We are 643 left therefore—and here I am entirely in agreement with what the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said—with a clear choice between the solution which noble Lords opposite have just proposed to your Lordships, or some variant of it, and the solution proposed by the Government.
Noble Lords opposite have argued their case, if I may say so without appearing patronising, both cogently and very clearly. Given the establishment of the Inner London Education Authority, their case, I entirely agree, has logic, a rough logic perhaps, behind it. It is also a case which finds powerful support in what has been said, in the fact that it would preserve the existing service, a good service, intact. Again, I hope that it will not sound patronising, but I should like to pay my tribute to that service. I have seen a little of it at first hand from the top, from its very distinguished and entirely devoted chairman, to lower down the reaches; and I know a little at first hand of the devotion and hard work which is put into that service from top to bottom. We are frankly, I think, faced with a difficult choice here, and it is right that your Lordships should be brought right up against it as you have been in this Amendment. I concede that the solution embodied in this Amendment is a perfectly feasible one. I would merely make the modest claim that our solution is a better one; and I do so for three main positive reasons.
In the first place, there are the considerations of size, of which we have heard a good deal this afternoon. I hope your Lordships do not need persuading that to place some 14,000 children in the care of one great huge authority would be wrong. But there are over 9,000 children in care in the L.C.C. area at present, and that is more than the total of children in care in the counties of Essex, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and East Sussex put together. If we were starting from scratch, I am sure that no one would opt for a service as large as that. The disadvantages can to some extent, of course, be mitigated by decentralisation; but decentralisation, for example, which is practised in the London County Council area does not remove all the disadvantages of excess size. Some areas still 644 have to be settled at County Hall, and invariably some members of the children's committee and their senior officers are almost entirely preoccupied with major, impersonal issues. The lines of communication are long; and those who take the policy decisions inevitably cannot be as closely in touch with the field staff as they would be bound to be in a good smaller authority. I do not say this is inevitable, because a smaller authority has to be a good one if that is going to be the case.
I was struck by something which the noble Lord, Lord Walston, told us, I think on Thursday, when we were talking about welfare services—I am afraid I have not checked. He argued that throughout this field of the personal services we should be going for larger authorities because this was the trend in the world to-day. That argument may be valid for engineering works. It may also be valid for a large-scale agricultural enterprise. But I would claim, quite categorically, that it is quite invalid for a service as personal as this particular service which we are discussing this evening. I would not wish to be a dogmatic here. I certainly would not wish to try to state a claim for what is the ideal size for a children's service, whether in a conurbation or in an ordinary county borough. But I would suggest that, ideally, we need to strike some sort of a balance between a service too small to attract sufficient high-quality staff, and too big to be personal. Three of the new inner London boroughs will have 1,000 children in care—about the sort of number which Manchester and Liverpool have in care at the present time, as I think my noble friend Lord Ilford mentioned. I am not quite certain whether I should call him "my noble friend" in view of where he is sitting.
The other 9 of the 12 will have between 400 and 1,000. From the point of view of organisation, I would claim that a case load of that order provides a task large enough to enjoy the energy and enthusiasm of the elected members and their staff, but also small enough to enable the committee to keep in close touch with the staff and 645 to bring local knowledge to bear on the personal problems of the service. A great deal of the success of a children's service in terms of preventing children from coming into care, reuniting those in care with their families and boarding out—I would lay the same emphasis on boarding out as my noble friend did—depends on the support which the children's officer and his field staff get from the children's committee.
This is the sort of support which I would suggest that the children's committees in the new boroughs can, or should, be expected to give. I think that the child care staff of the new boroughs should be closer to the centre of local administration and more conscious of the whole picture of child care and of other services in their boroughs. At the same time, the senior child care staff at the borough headquarters will be more concerned with field work, able to give more time to field work, more concerned with boarding out, more concerned with all the other manifold problems of the child in care. They should be, at least in theory, less absorbed in managerial and organisational responsibilities. I would claim that over the area as a whole there should be opportunity for increased contact between the child care staff and the elected representatives. There I am completely at one with my noble friend Lord Ilford. So much for size.
My second main reason for preferring our proposal is—this is the point which the noble Baroness touched on at some length, quite rightly—that it would intimately associate the child care service with the services concerned with health welfare and housing. I would grant that possibly the need for that intimate association applies somewhat less when children are in long-term care than it may with the short-term cases; and I would grant that a large part of the London County Council's children's department is concerned with the care of the 74 per cent.—not 69 per cent.—of their children in care who are in residential establishments. But I think perhaps one can press this too far, and I think one can also press too far the mistake which the Royal Commission made over the figures for short-term care; and I also think that one can draw exaggerated deductions from that error.
646 Depite that error, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the turnover of short-stay cases in the L.C.C. area is at present high—several thousands a year. In that area there is certainly a need for the most intimate association between the personal services—welfare, housing and health. I would also claim that in regard to the long-stay cases, the residential cases, the personal services can be brought in and should be fully mobilised and give much help about the question of boarding out. I would finally say that as we develop our preventive work—and this is what I am coming on to in a moment: work of preventing children from coming into care—here again, whatever the percentage of short-term and long-term cases, there is this need for the closest possible co-ordination between the personal services.
That brings me to this work of prevention, which is my third positive reason for believing that our solution is best. Your Lordships will recall that right at the forefront of the Children and Young Persons Bill, which we considered in the winter, under Clause 1 a new and clear-cut responsibility is laid upon all local authorities to do what they can to nip in the bud the need for children to come into care. I am certain that we shall see a real advance in the coming years along this particular front. But preventive work of this sort is just what calls for the most intensive case work which is designed to prevent family breakdown and to restore children to their families; and this calls for the closest possible coordination between the children's department and the various services connected with the family—the health, welfare and housing departments.
I will come to education in a moment, and will try to answer the point that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, made. The three services which I have been talking about are, for example, able to draw attention to families which may be at risk of breakdown because, for example, of the ill-health of a mother overburdened with small children—health; or because of mounting debt and arrears of rent resulting from an inability to keep the family 647 together because of a failure to maintain the family budget—and there welfare comes in.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Then National Assistance comes in. Are you going to give that to the boroughs?
No. We will leave that to the noble Lord, Lord Ilford. Sometimes these services will play a major part in providing the necessary help. The Government believe that effective understanding will be easier to achieve if these services and the children's service are under the same hat, with the same local authority and, if possible, of course, under the same roof. That is my third principal reason for believing that we were right in conferring this responsibility, together with that for the other personal services, on the boroughs.
Here I would remind your Lordships that in London, above all, where 8.4 children per 1,000 come into care each year—twice the national average, as the noble Baroness has said—there is scope for this work of prevention. In dealing here parenthetically with a point which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, made, if we take his argument that some of this figure may be due to the influx of immigrants, which may well be the case, I would therefore emphasise how important one of the personal services—housing—is in this particular respect. I think all the people who have looked into the problem of the immigrant know that, so far as the family is concerned, their main worry at the start is housing.
It is not only the sort of case work which I have been describing which calls for this form of co-ordination with the personal services. There is housing, which I have just mentioned. I think that only too often poor housing is a prelude to family breakdown. Again in this context, if we are going to do away, as indeed the London County Council wish to do away, with these five great institutional establishments which house over 1,700 children, that calls not only for boarding out, necessitating the sort of co-ordinated case work which I have been talking about, but also for many more small family group homes of the sort which the London County Council have been anxious to find and, indeed, have found. I am quite certain that in this field there is a large scope for initiative 648 in co-ordination between housing and the children's services, and I am also convinced that with something as personal as this that co-ordination would be much better provided if it found a focal point in a small local authority.
It is true that we need the co-operation of the schools here. The teachers are often in a position to identify either the children or the family at risk. The noble Lord's solution admittedly has the advantage of providing for that co-operation, but if we have to make the choice, because of the pattern which has been developed in the Bill (I am not arguing whether the pattern is right or wrong; I am saying that we must accept the pattern in this context); then I think it is more important to maintain the link with health, welfare and housing than it is to maintain a direct link with education, although that link is undoubtedly important.
For these reasons I feel justified in claiming that, given the overall pattern of this Bill, it is only right and logical to entrust the London boroughs with full responsibility for these children's services. I would also claim that if we do this we shall be laying the foundations for a better service in the future. Here, I admit to some difficulty, as indeed did my colleague in another place at the Committee stage, in that I can only suggest what the future may bring; whereas noble Lords opposite are able to point, quite accurately, to the effects of this reorganisation on the existing and admittedly adequate, though not perfect, service. In view of that, I would concede that I have not made my case if either the advantages of their solution or the disadvantages of mine were overwhelming. May I therefore turn to the disadvantages which have been argued against the Government solution?
Noble Lords have argued that one reason why we should retain the London County Council's services is because of the range of specialist needs with which they are designed to cope. I think myself that there has been some exaggeration here, both of the needs and, indeed, of the problems. If we take the range of establishments which the London County Council control, we find that in fact there are only four reception homes holding 265 children, and four homes for difficult or disturbed children holding 649 some 60, which really offer specialist treatment. Now this specialist provision, about which so much mystique has been woven, is no different from that provided by other authorities up and down the country. In my view there is no reason why the new boroughs should not be able to make perfectly adequate arrangements to provide the necessary specialist facilities, at least after the transitional period. I think it is ludicrous to suggest that the problems presented by children in London are different from the problems presented by children elsewhere. I think we must be careful to keep this matter in perspective. Surely one can push too far the argument that the varying needs of individual children should be met by a wide range of establishments of different kinds. I suggest that it is often much better met by individual attention within a perfectly normal environment, and in my view the boroughs, being somewhat closer to the ground, should be better able to meet that sort of need.
The noble Baroness adduced as an example of the sort of difficulty here the Borough of Stepney, with 600 children in care and 50 different establishments. I am quite certain that those 50 different establishments are not needed from the specialist point of view. I think it is highly undesirable that children should be as widely dispersed as that. I am not saying that it is the fault of the London County Council's services: it is the fault of pressure on the whole system, perhaps. But it is certainly not a desirable thing to happen.
The noble Baroness has also mentioned the special problems of the transient family, when a child is "dropped in care" (I think the expression was) as a family moves from one London borough to another. Again, like my colleague in another place I would grant, given the very great degree of internal migration within London, that this problem can be regarded in some ways as a problem peculiar to London. I would also concede that such families are easier to deal with if their movements are within the territory of one authority. However, if the children of a family come into care at different times and in different districts, it must already be necessary, within the London County Council's own organisation, given the breakdown in the areas, to determine which area and which child care officer within that area should be responsible for 650 them. By the same token I see no reason why the boroughs, when they are established, should not be able to make the same sort of determination.
Then there is the problem of the juvenile courts. Again that is an admitted problem to which the noble Baroness drew our attention. I will proceed warily here, because I am probably swimming in a sea of juvenile magistrates at this moment; but I would suggest that this problem, too, may have been somewhat magnified. The very large part of the court officers' duties which consists of receiving, and then producing in the court, written reports could, in my view at least, be equally well discharged by an officer appointed by the borough in which the court sits. I can see no reason at all for the thirteen officers which the noble Baroness seemed to think would be necessary. Indeed, I would urge, as some experts urge, that it would often be better to attach an ordinary borough child care officer to the court than to rely, as at present, on someone who becomes something of a court specialist.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
Has the noble Earl in mind that the relevant officer is the officer for the area in which the child lives? Children, unfortunately, when they commit offences, do not confine their depredations to the borough in which they live. That is why it would be necessary to have thirteen of these officers.
Naturally I had considered that matter, as I realise that juvenile depredations can be mobile. But it seemed to me perfectly possible—and I see no reason why this system could not be made to work—for the borough officer attached to the court to act as the receiving point for reports from other boroughs; in other words, to act as the point of liaison. That seems to me a fairly simple matter of sheer mechanics.
I should like to turn—at the end of what has been much too long a speech, but this is a subject of great importance—to those aspects of our proposed reorganisation on which criticism has particularly focused. Criticism has focused on staffing arrangements and on the transitional problems. I should like to say this about staffing arrangements. I personally cannot see 651 why the arrangements for the residential staff should create any particular problem. This staff will still be needed in the homes as they are at present, and other staff, such as child care officers, may well continue working in precisely the same area as they do at present. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, referred to possible difficulties over training. It is true that this is an aspect which has worried the associations of which he spoke. Of the 200 or so potential child care officers receiving training under the Central Council, at present only 34 come from the London County Council area. That is quite a large proportion, but not an overwhelming proportion of the national average. I should like again to pay my tribute to the work which the Children's Department have done in encouraging this type of training. It has been very valuable indeed, and it is very important that it should continue. But I see no reason at all why, after an initial period, boroughs of the size we are setting up should not be able to sponsor training of that sort under this Central Council as is the present pattern.
To turn now to the main transitional problem, that of the division of premises, we have never predicted that this would be an easy matter. It is not going to be an easy matter, as I am well aware, living, as I do, fairly close to the problem. Yet here again I do not regard this as a problem that cannot be surmounted—and which could not be surmounted well. First, so far as the outer London boroughs are concerned, I know that they do not fall properly within this Amendment. Yet they are important. From the preliminary discussions we have already had with the existing authorities, it is clear that it should be possible to give the new outer London boroughs a high degree of self-sufficiency in their children's homes, and indeed their nurseries, by allocating to them the properties belonging to the existing authorities at the periphery. It is also quite clear that it should not be difficult for them to make arrangements to share remand home and reception centre places.
It is equally true that the allocation of the L.C.C.'s properties will present a far harder problem. Nevertheless, we believe that a workable scheme can be 652 produced here to serve the needs of the inner boroughs while they are laying their longer-term plans. One way of distributing the properties would be to allocate the 110 children's homes—other than the 5 very large ones of which I spoke—among the 12 inner boroughs, so that each one owns and manages some homes. It is quite immaterial, I suggest, that many of the homes will not be in the area of the boroughs which own them. That is inevitable at present, because of the very problems to which the noble Baroness drew our attention—citing Hampstead, Holborn and St. Pancras as an example. But there is no reason why a borough should not own properties outside these boundaries, just as the L.C.C. do at present. Again, it may be quite possible for the smaller nurseries to be allocated to the boroughs with the greatest needs. The use of the remaining nurseries and the 5 large homes will, of course, have to be shared.
It might be convenient for one authority to own and manage each establishment and to make a user agreement with two or three neighbouring authorities to share the accommodation. All that is perfectly possible, and I do not see why that sort of transitional problem cannot be surmounted. If it is surmounted, we may then see something growing up, given the impetus that I hope will be behind these new boroughs; that is, a tendency towards the provision of more accommodation of the smaller sort for children within their own boroughs.
So much for the homes. What about the children in them?
Of course, what we have been talking about all the time is the children in these homes and the children's interests. Here I should like to make it crystal clear that children must not be transferred from one home to another; and there is absolutely no reason why they should be. There will be no general post of either children or staff, even in this difficult transitional stage, and it certainly will be our aim to secure the highest possible degree of continuity in the allocation of child care officers to individual children.
I should like to make it quite clear that although my right honourable friend the 653 Home Secretary has clear-cut statutory obligations for the transitional period which are written into Clause 81, it is our broad aim and our hope to give statutory blessing to workable arrangements which will already have been agreed among the authorities concerned. We believe that these transitional arrangements can be worked out perfectly well; but we want to get the best possible arrangement, and I am convinced that we shall do so only if the authorities concerned actively participate in deciding how the properties of the existing children's service should be distributed, and, in particular, how the accommodation for the larger properties should be shared. My right honourable friend, with his general responsibility in this field, will be very closely concerned with the working out of the detailed arrangements. The knowledge and the experience of the Home Office in general, and the Children's Department in particular, will be at the disposal of the authorities; and I think it is fair to claim that the Children's Department are very well accustomed to working closely with the children's authorities.
We are sure that it is right to look for a process of discussion and consultation of this sort, rather than to look in the first place to the exercise of the statutory powers. I am certain that in this way we shall produce a much better arrangement for the appointed day and the period which will follow it. It is our hope that the ground will have been prepared by the time the authorities come into existence next spring. By then, detailed arrangements for the transfer of the service to the boroughs should be well advanced, and it will be for the boroughs, during the course of the following twelve months, and again with such advice as we can give them, to agree the final arrangements for the appointed day. During this period also the boroughs will be able to start thinking about their longer-term plans. I should like to make it clear again that to this aspect of the matter, to the preparation of longer-term plans in this field, my right honourable friend attaches the greatest possible importance.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, earlier on suggested that we should be right in this field, to make provision for some form of inquiry, as we had done with the 654 educational authority. Here I would say only this to his suggestion. It seems to me that we are setting up in the Inner London Education Authority a quite exceptional body for an exceptional purpose, and that was the reason why the exceptional procedure of a statutory inquiry has been written into the Bill. I do not think that there is a close parallel here. Nevertheless, I should like to say that the Home Office gave particular attention to the establishment of the new children's departments in 1948. It would certainly be our intention to pay particularly close attention to the establishment of these new children's departments within the Greater London area. It is normally our practice to have a three-yearly review of various children's departments. It would be quite possible of course to accelerate such a review, and my right honourable friend naturally has power to institute such a review at any time.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
Could I ask the noble Earl whether such a review would include within its terms of reference the possibility of transferring responsibility for the children's service to a larger unit, because the whole issue is between the larger and the smaller unit?
If after a period of years a review were made, and we found that snags which we did not expect to see had arisen, I am sure that a policy decision as to the best way of proceeding would be clearly required. But I do not think this is at all likely to arise, for the reasons which I have been trying to indicate throughout what I regret to say has been a much too lengthy speech.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
If the noble Earl thinks it is not likely to arise in this case, why is it that the Government have been so painstakingly careful to anticipate its arising in the case of education?
I thought I had made it clear that I had anticipated, and indeed already answered, that question, by saying that the arrangements being made for the establishment of the Inner London Education Authority were quite exceptional, and that is why the exceptional treatment of that particular review has been written into the Bill.
655 Perhaps I could just add this, in conclusion. I should like to add that my right honourable friend has asked me personally to take a special interest in, and to assume is some degree a particular responsibility for, this matter. I should like to say that I have been glad that I have been asked to take this on. I am glad, because I am personally convinced that we can overcome these interim problems, although I hope, equally so that I have not sought to minimise them. I am glad, above all, because I am equally convinced that, with the co-operation of everyone concerned we can help to secure what we all want, wherever we sit in this House and whatever our views may be on this or that Amendment before your Lordships at this Committee stage. I hope that we can secure what we all want—namely, to give the less lucky children in London a better chance in life.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I am sure the noble Earl will forgive me if I say that it is a constant astonishment to me how he is able to be at once so persuasive and so unconvincing. This is indeed an almost unique gift. I must also say that there have been times in my life when I have seriously wondered if the Home Office had ever seen a live child. Still more have I had occasion to wonder if the Home Office had ever seen a live illegitimate child. I imagine that there are Government Departments, particularly that with which the noble Earl is associated, whose lives are exceptionally blameless, and that may explain why the noble Earl's reply dealt so much in generalities. He gave me the impression that he was attempting to defend in terms of generalities a decision which had already been taken, rather than to produce arguments which actually led up to the decision. He may say that this impression is completely wrong, but it was the impression that was very strongly left on my mind.
He treated us, first of all, to an academic discussion about size, and this has been dragged into this issue over and over again. The L.C.C. is said to be too large, although the noble Earl went out of his way to say how admirably they have discharged their duties in this field. This is an academic discussion about size. The noble Earl referred to a mystique, 656 and he himself, I think, introduced as much mystique into this as anybody when constantly speaking, as other noble Lords have done, about the personal nature of this service. This really is all nonsense. A service which is not personal if it serves a population of 3 million, is equally not personal when it serves a population of a quarter of a million. Nobody is personal with a population of a quarter of a million. Members of another place find it difficult to be personal to constituencies of 50,000 or so. These boroughs are large boroughs, and the service will necessarily have to be organised on a rather centralised basis, and then decentralised on a smaller scale, it is true, but in very much the same way as it is in the London County Council at present.
The noble Earl said that we must argue within the framework of the Bill. Alas! we are arguing within the framework of the Bill. I am not going to pretend for a moment that this Inner London Children Authority is the type of authority that we should have chosen outside the framework of the Bill. It is a concession to the framework of the Bill that we have drafted the Amendment in this form. Before I leave this matter of size, I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, that his use of the term "conurbation" was in this context very misleading. He spoke of the fact, as indeed it is, that conurbations in other parts of the country run these services very well. But a single inner London borough is not a conurbation. A conurbation is a very much larger area geographically, and very much more mixed socially. These differences are real.
The noble Earl then treated us to a considerable discourse about case work. Indeed, I began to think we had made a mistake in the Order Paper, and that we were back again on Clause 1 of the Children and Young Persons Bill, for his remarks seemed to be very much more relevant to that subject than to the proposal to set up the Inner London Children Authority. Indeed, I felt that his remarks at that point could be described only in the words of Gilbert and Sullivan:The flowers that bloom in the spring…Have nothing to do with the case.The noble Earl again became quite eloquent about the way in which case work services would prevent the break-up of families. We all hope that he is right. 657 There is the intimate relationship between these services of child care and health and housing, but what service is more personal than the service of education? These other services affect a small minority of families in difficult circumstances, but every child goes to school morning and afternoon every day that school is open, or ought to. It is the most personal of all services and, when a child is taken into the local authority's care, it does not cease to go to school. The problem of where it goes to school is just as important as ever, and surely needs to be discussed within the same organisation.
I suppose that the difficulty is in what one wants to do. I think that the test of the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, of a successful child care service was a very crude one. If he has seen as many failures in boarding out as I have seen, he would think again about using that as a test of the children's service. One can board out certain types of children, but there are others, particularly older ones, for whom boarding out is quite out of the question. One cannot board out pregnant girls in foster homes unless there are very special circumstances, and there are many other types of deprived and difficult children who cannot be boarded out. This is the crudest of all tests.
§ The fact that there is such a high percentage of children in care in London is evidence, I think, that London is meeting needs which the rest of the country is neglecting. The presence of a very large and mixed population is the reason why there is a comparatively low percentage of boarding out. Again, if one wants to deal with children on the cheap—fair enough!—then London does not show up very well. But, quite apart from the high cost of living in London, the figures of expenditure on London children again may be attributable to the fact that London is providing better for its children than many parts of the country.
§ The noble Earl ended up by saying that, this service having been broken up, there would be plenty of opportunity for putting it together again by consultation and discussion. An absolute torrent of consultation and discussion awaits us and during the time this torrent is flowing over us I am sure that a lot of children are going to be drowned.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ On Question: Whether the said Amendment (No. 183) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 25; Not-Contents, 66.659
|Addison, V.||Latham, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Lawson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Lindgren, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Listowel, E.||Strang, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Longford, E.||Summerskill, B.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Champion, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Wilmot of Selmeston, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Nathan, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Albemarle, E.||Derwent, L.||Hertford, M.|
|Aldington, L.||Devonshire, D.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Ilford, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Drogheda, E.||Jellicoe, E.|
|Astor, V.||Dudley, E.||Jessel, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Dundee, E.||Long, V.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Ferrers, E.||Lothian, M.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Forster of Harraby, L.||MacAndrew, L.|
|Boston, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Margesson, V.|
|Brecon, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Carrington, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Milverton, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Grenfell, L.||Molson, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Hacking, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Monsell, V.|
|Craigton, L.||Hanworth, V.||Newton, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Harcourt, V.||Ormonde, M.|
|Craven, E.||Hastings, L.||Reading, M.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Hawke, L.||Rockley, L.|
|St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]||Swinton, E.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|St. Oswald, L.||Templemore, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Soulbury, V.||Tenby, V.||Wigram, L.|
|Stuart of Findhorn, V.||Teynham, L.||Yarborough, E.|
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD DILHORNE)
I think it might be a convenient moment to move that the Committee do adjourn during pleasure until half past eight.
§ [The Sitting was suspended at twenty-nine minutes before eight o'clock and resumed at half past eight o'clock.]
§ Clause 47 agreed to.
§ Clause 48 agreed to.
§ Police Authority
§ —" (1) Not later than 1st December, 1964, the Secretary of State shall lay before each House of Parliament a Draft Order in Council which shall contain provisions for the Greater London Council to become the police authority for the Greater London area, and for—
- (a) the amalgamation of the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police;
- (b) such consequential changes in the construction of the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police as he may think necessary;
- (c) such transitional arrangements as he may think appropriate; and
- (d) such boundary adjustments of police areas as he may, after consultation with any other police authorities concerned, think appropriate.
§ (2) If each House of Parliament presents an Address to Her Majesty praying that the Order be made, then the said Order in Council may be made in the form of the draft laid before Parliament and shall take effect accordingly."
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment provides for the insertion of a new clause whereby the Secretary of State for the Home Office shall lay before Parliament a Draft Order in Council not later than December 1 next year, which shall contain provisions for the Greater London Council to become the police authority for the Greater London area 660 and for the amalgamation of the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police, and such consequential and transitional changes as the Home Secretary may then feel to be necessary. It would then be open, once the Draft Order had been laid, for each House of Parliament to present an Address to Her Majesty.
§ This, I feel, is an important but most reasonable Amendment, because it would call on the vast experience of the Home Office and of the Home Secretary in this matter; and then, when that experience had been called on and produced the necessary Draft Order, Parliament could discuss it and make a responsible decision. It seems to me that for the Greater London Council to become the police authority for the Greater London area is a logical, practical, common-sense and sound administrative step, because it would, in my submission, lead to the possibility of great improvements in all police matters affecting police work in the area. I would point out that there are some analogies to this proposal already in the Bill. For example, it is provided that the Greater London Council shall be the fire authority for the Greater London area and, as the noble Earl will be aware, there has always been a close connection between the police and the fire authority. At one time their pay and other conditions of employment marched very closely together. Then in Civil Defence the Greater London Council is to be the authority for ambulances for collection and removal of casualties, and for the dispersal of the civil population.
§ In these two matters, and, indeed, in many others already provided for in the Bill, the police are the primary agents, and it is our submission that the area of responsibility should be the same. It would have the great advantage of one control for the police dealing with one set of officials, instead of many different bodies of officials, and it would be a great help towards what I think is an objective in the Bill—to keep the Greater London area in one administrative piece.661
§ It would also have the advantage, in our submission, that it would be a very democratic thing to have a degree of control in this way by the people who have to pay. At present it is the case that one-ninth, something over 11 per cent., of all the rates which ratepayers pay to borough councils arise from precepts which have to be paid over to the Receiver of the Metropolitan Police. In this connection, "Receiver" is a very apt title since, so far as I am aware, that is the only function he performs. He receives the money, and no doubt disburses it, but the amount and the total and the manner of its disbursement is no kind of consideration to the people who have to find the money. This causes considerable annoyance, in that London rating authorities have this large precept laid on them—I am not saying that it is unnecessarily large and that the sums spent are not very necessary, or that we do not get an adequate return for it—without any kind of control of or any kind of voice in the amount; and it is quite remarkable that this applies only to London. In all other areas local authorities have a say in the matter, either through a joint standing committee or through the watch committee. But London is a special case, and in this matter the people who find the money and the local authorities who collect are, perforce, mute.
§ I should like to make it absolutely clear, and not because the noble Earl who is going to reply would have made this point but unless it should be suspected otherwise, that this proposed new clause has nothing whatever to do with the control of the day-to-day running of the police force. That would not be affected and it would remain, as now, the responsibility of the Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police. But it would mean, at least, that there would be some discussion by the elected authorities over the expenditure of the Metropolitan Police; a control which London does not at present have but all other local authorities do. Indeed, in these areas it apparently works very well. It seems to me quite wrong that the Metropolitan Police should be the only force in the whole country in which the public, the ratepayers, have no rights at all over expenditure incurred, and in this regard, in my submission, it is a negation of democracy.662
§ With regard to subsection (1) in the proposed new clause, paragraph (a) deals with the suggested amalgamation of the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police, and I make it quite clear that I am not attacking either. I am perfectly well aware that the City of London Police are a fine body of men, and Colonel Young, their Commander, is a gifted officer, but, as a separate force, it is an historical anomaly. Indeed, many Metropolitan Commissioners of Police have said precisely that, and for the best of practical reasons they have urged the merger which I am proposing in this Amendment. As long ago as 1919 General Macready, who was then the Metropolitan Commissioner, said that the City Police Force was an anachronism and that it should be merged with the Metropolitan Force.
§ Now, when we are, despite the opposition from this side of your Lordships' House, going to make this very great change in London government, is surely the time to make this other change. Indeed, it seems to me it would be in keeping wtih the views expressed by the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary in another place a few short weeks ago. I would submit that it would be helpful in the interests of catching the criminal. Only this last week there was a quite remarkable crime within the confines of the City of London when something like a quarter of a million pounds' worth of bullion was suddenly snatched in a raid. It seems to me extraordinary that this is a matter which comes within the ægis of the City Police, and no doubt there was some delay before headquarters were called in to deal with it, although it was only a few yards away from the area of the Metropolitan Police.
§ Think, then, of the control of traffic. It surely is fantastic that over this one square mile in the very heart of London the Metropolitan Police have no direct and immediate control of traffic. It might be suggested that we ought to have an overpass or an underpass under the square mile and let the City Police continue playing this ancient game, either underneath the overpass or above the underpass. I submit that would be just as sensible as allowing the present arrangement to continue. There is surely a 100 per cent. case for making the City Police a division of the Metropolitan Police. The City itself could 663 then contribute a more appropriate proportion out of its vast resources as a financial contribution to the whole.
§ Having looked at the proposition, I can see no objection to it at all other than that involved by sheer inertia and opposition to change. I have heard references to the fact that the City of London Police have great responsibilities in connection with the periodic ceremonial parades. The Metropolitan Police have great responsibilities for extremely important ceremonial parades and have discharged those responsibilities with an efficiency which I think is the admiration not only of this country but of all people throughout the world, and I do not think there is any question but that if they had to be directly responsible for the ceremonial parades in the City of London they would discharge those responsibilities adequately.
§ Indeed, there is one curious thing which continues to this very day and which one can always see in the later afternoon in the City of London, and that is the Guards marching to the Bank of England to take over their duties, which, apparently, cannot be safely entrusted to the City of London. Not that I agree with that, I hasten to assure the noble Earl; but I mention it as one of these historical anachronisms or anomalies which simply continue because we have not the determination or have not yet summoned up the determination to end them. I certainly think on this particular matter the Metropolitan Police might deal with London's imperial and international and civic responsibilities in the City of London itself perfectly well. I would submit also that the amalgamation which is suggested in this new clause must make for great improvement in the general improving, which I think we all want to see, of policing in the Greater London area.
§ Then there are the present boundary arrangements, with these odd bits of counties still left in the Metropolitan Police District which I submit could be properly hived off and returned to their county forces—all, of course, after full consultation with the authorities concerned. I used to live at Cobham, in Surrey, and it always seemed to me quite ridiculous—indeed, astonishing—that 664 Cobham, which is 26 miles by road, whatever the signposts say, from the centre of London should be in the "V" Division of the Metropolitan Police. Surely, places like Cobham and those other odd bits of these counties which have been tagged on to the metropolitan area, and which will be outside the Greater London area if this Bill becomes an Act, should be returned to their respective counties and policed, in the instance I have given, by the Surrey Constabulary.
§ I submit that this Bill provides a great opportunity to do away with all these expensive, hampering stupidities which, through sheer inertia, earn resistance to necessary change and which we have tolerated for far too long. If we are to have a Greater London, with a strong authority, let us arm it with an efficient police force under a single co-terminous control. The Amendment, as I mentioned at the beginning, calls for the Home Secretary to produce a draft Order in the full light of Home Office experience, and after consultation with all the police forces and local authorities concerned, and then to submit the fruits of their collective wisdom to Parliament. I submit that it is an opportunity that surely must not be missed, and I hope the Government will accept it. I beg to move.
After Clause 48 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Stonham.)
§ 8.47 p.m.
There is, of course, a longish history here. As your Lordships know, the Metropolitan Police Force owes its birth to Sir Robert Peel. I would remark, in passing, that Peel was a great Conservative reformer, and it is interesting to note that the Conservatives were modernising Britain 130 years ago. Perhaps I could also recall that when Sir Robert's Bill had passed through the Commons he wrote a long memorandum in May, 1829, to the Duke of Wellington which concluded with the wordsPray pass the Bill through this Session, for you cannot think what trouble it has given us.Perhaps these words are apt for another Bill in another Session. Your Lordships will recall that under Section 5 of Sit Robert Peel's Act the Commissioner has 665 power to direct and control the force under the authority of the Secretary of State; the orders and the regulations which the Commissioner makes about the general government of Metropolitan Police officers are subject to the approbation of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State, moreover, has the ultimate responsibility for the administration of the Metropolitan Police Fund, which is the Metropolitan Police budget.
This Amendment, if accepted, would thus reverse the position which has obtained for better or worse, for some 134 years. During that time I think most of us would agree—certainly the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, would—that Sir Robert's "Peelers" have grown into one of the great police forces in the world—almost universally admired and respected, and not only by young American female visitors and the London underworld. So far as I know, too, none of the 48 ex-Home Secretaries since Peel—certainly not the ex-Home Secretary opposite me now—have abused the authority conferred on them by the 1829 Act. History and tradition are of course important, but they are not paramount. I would agree with quite a lot of what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, says, that we should not oppose change just because it is change; but I am inclined to suggest to your Lordships that there is something to be said for leaving alone that which is working well, and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, himself confirmed that the Metropolitan Police force was working well.
I trust that your Lordships will reject this Amendment for reasons more fundamental than 134 years of history, than tradition or even the proven efficiency of this police force itself.
I would urge upon your Lordships that it is important that the Secretary of State's position as police authority in the Metropolis should be preserved, for the reason that this police force has many national functions, in addition to local ones, to discharge. In that respect it is very different from the fire authority which the Greater London Council will become. The Metropolitan 666 Police Force is responsible for guarding the Royal Family. It is responsible for guarding Parliament and your Lordships and the Seat of Government. If there are disturbances in London, they almost inevitably take on a national rather than a local character.
Again the Metropolitan Police Force has other special responsibilities which other police forces in this country do not have. For example, it is responsible for the work of the Special Branch and the Criminal Record Office at Scotland Yard. Therefore I believe it right, in view of its special position, that the Secretary of State's position as police authority should be preserved together with—and this is equally important—his ultimate responsibility to Parliament for matters affecting this particular police force. I hope your Lordships will agree that it would be wrong for Parliament to let control of so large a force, situated in the most vital area of the country, to slip from its fingers. That is my broad argument for resisting this Amendment.
May I now turn to the arguments which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, advanced in support of his Amendment. He has claimed, I think, that it would be much more democratic to make the Greater London Council the police authority for the Metropolis. He talked of the present position being—I think I heard his words aright—the negation of democracy. I thought, parenthetically, that was laying it on just a little too thick, because surely the answer is that there is in fact much closer control over the Metropolitan Police Force than over any other police force in this country. Because of the Secretary of State's position as police authority, he is accountable to Parliament for the Metropolitan Police, and it strikes me as being an odd suggestion that it would be more democratic to remove the police affairs of London from such direct scrutiny by Parliament. I quite agree with what the noble Lord said, that his Amendment would not affect the day-to-day running of the police force. But it would certainly affect the accountability of my right honourable friend to Parliament.
The noble Lord also claimed that the present arrangements are hard on the taxpayer since he has no say in the amount for which he is down for his police rate and, of course, he is paying for what I might term the extra-local functions of 667 this particular police force—I think the noble Lord has a point there. I think it can be argued that it is wrong that no local authority in the Greater London area has any say in the fixing of the burden to be put upon the local ratepayer in respect of his own police force.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Did I understand the noble Earl to say that the London ratepayer bears 50 per cent. of the gross expenditure whether it is of a local or a national character, in the case of the police?
No, I do not think the noble Lord understood me to say anything at all like that. I never mentioned 50 per cent.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Never mind about the 50 per cent. Is there any distinction drawn between police expenditure of a national character and police expenditure of a Metropolitan character?
As the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth—who is, I suppose, as much versed in this matter as anyone sitting in this Committee this evening—knows, there is a distinction. It is quite true that the ordinary expenditure is divided into 50–50 proportions—50 per cent. national Government, 50 per cent. ratepayer. In addition, there is a Government grant consisting at present of £500,000 in respect of the national functions discharged by the Metropolitan Police. That was raised a year ago up to this figure of £500,000, and, broadly speaking, it is designed to take account of those national functions.
To come back to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, I would grant that it can be argued that it is wrong that no local authority in the Greater London area should have a say in the fixing of the police rate. The position is that since 1949 there has been an informal arrangement under which the aptly named receiver meets the chief finance officers of the local authorities to discuss and answer questions about Metropolitan Police estimates as soon as possible after the estimates have been presented to Parliament. The Royal Commission on Police, which reported a year ago, recommended in paragraph 227 of their Report that provisions should be made for confidential consultation between the Receiver and 668 those parties before the estimates are presented to Parliament. This recommendation is still under consideration.
The problem is whether a way can be found of having real consultation at this stage without subverting my right honourable friend's responsibility to Parliament for the policy underlying the police estimates. Members representing boroughs of the Metropolitan Police district can, of course, question this policy in Parliament if they wish to do so. Having to some extent been drawn on to this point by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, I hope your Lordships will allow me to leave it in view of the fact that this matter is, as it were, at the moment sub judice.
Lord Stonham also criticised the present territorial arrangements in two respects. In the first place, not entirely to my astonishment, he suggested that the minnow of the City Police should be swallowed by the whale of the Metropolitan Police. It is certainly arguable that the City Police are something of a constitutional anomaly—I would not argue to the contrary—but we should remember that we have recently had a very distinguished Royal Commission surveying the whole field of police affairs in this country. I think their Report, recently debated in another place (and they occasionally even now get in first), has commanded universal commendation, whatever opinion people have as to their particular recommendations. I should mention that they propose no change in the special position of the City Police. Perhaps even more relevant, Professor Goodhart, in his very powerfully argued memorandum of dissent, in which he was pressing for a national police force, was also inclined to exclude the City Police from his recommendation.
I think Professor Goodhart needs quite a lot of persuading, and, if that is so, Colonel Young must have been exceedingly persuasive. I personally would suggest that the Royal Commission's assessment of this constitutional anomaly was a fair one, and that unless we are imbued with a passion for uniformity—the passion with which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, 669 is always taxing us—there is no reason for abolishing this proven and very special City Police Force.
The second territorial point which the noble Lord has argued is that the area of the Metropolitan Police force should, broadly speaking, be co-terminous with that of the new Greater London area. Here, again, I can see the attractions from the point of view of rigid mathematical uniformity. All I would say here is that my right honourable friend has looked into this matter very closely indeed. He is satisfied, after considering the circumstances of each area here, and the views put forward by the local authorities, that the operational efficiency of the police would be reduced if the Metropolitan Police boundary were withdrawn to coincide with the Greater London area. In view of the serious nature of the current crime situation in London, the Government would be strongly opposed to taking any steps which, in the view of those best qualified to judge, would have a detrimental effect upon police efficiency. I know that this idea of drawing the line co-terminously has attractions, but that is a point which might give us some cause to think.
Perhaps I might mention, since we are in Derby week, the situation obtaining at Epsom Downs, to which our thoughts may be directed in a day or two. May I remind your Lordships that three racecourses at Epsom, Sandown Park—which may have something to do with Cobham, to which the noble Lord referred—and Kempton Park would be transferred to other police areas, if the Greater London boundary were used. And Epsom, for reasons which my noble friend Lord Auckland could perhaps explain to me—but I see he is not here to do so—attracts a great number of London criminals. I would seriously submit, therefore, that there are strong positive reasons for not transferring this police force, as noble Lords would have us do. I submit that the objections—and some of them were cogent—which the noble Lord has advanced to the present situation, are not really valid on analysis.
In conclusion, may I just add two further thoughts? In the first place, I do not believe that this Amendment commands much support from informed, or indeed public, opinion. The Royal Commission on the Police very carefully 670 considered this matter and came down fairly and squarely in favour of the present position. The Royal Commission, incidentally, received evidence from the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee. In his evidence the then Chairman—I think he was the then Chairman—of the Joint Purposes Sub-Committee, Alderman G. S. Burden, said:We fully realise that there are circumstances in London which would mean that the present system broadly should be continued.So far as I know—and I think this is also evidence of the fact that the noble Lord's view does not command widespread support at the moment—this was not pressed by anyone when police forces were recently discussed, and discussed very comprehensively, in another place the other day.
My second thought is this. Matters of police reorganisation were specifically excluded, as your Lordships know, from the orbit of the Royal Commission. I do not remember noble Lords opposite objecting to that at the time. But, that being so, and a more general police force being on the way, as my right honourable friend indicated in that recent debate in another place, I would suggest that, if we wish to make changes in London in the organisation of the Metropolitan Police force, such changes would be better considered in the context of general police reorganisation. To sum up, I would suggest to your Lordships that neither in history nor in logic, nor as a result of the analysis which I have tried to make of the special functions of the Metropolitan Police, and certainly not as a result of any strong demand from informed opinion, is the case for this Amendment proved. I believe in fact that it would be a great mistake to accept it, and I ask your Lordships to support me in that belief.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
It must be remembered, of course, that we did not bring in this Bill. It was the Government who brought in this Bill and who are asking for this kind of trouble. At political conferences in London, I resisted the idea of putting the police under the L.C.C.—a proposal for which, on provincial experience, there was a theoretical case—on the ground that, the 671 Metropolitan Police ought to have a large area and there was no local authority large enough to fit in with the police area. So I came to this matter with no pre-conclusions of a dogmatic character.
The Government are bringing in this Bill on the philosophy that Whitehall should do nothing that the local authorities in London can do for themselves. That is the basic philosophy behind the Government and the Bill and the Royal Commission; but, when we get to the point, the Government find excuses, in case after case, to wriggle out of this philosophy; and when they find they cannot wriggle out of it, they try to side-step it—ineffectively. Consequently, if we are raising the matter of the police on this Bill, it is because the Government have jumped in light-heartedly and irresponsibly to make the Greater London area very nearly the area of the Metropolitan Police District. Our attitude on this matter in relation to the Bill is created by the Bill, and if things had been left as they were our attitude might have been different.
The history of the Metropolitan Police is interesting. The City of London Police was created before the Metropolitan Police, because before 1829 the City was the most important and populous area in London. It is interesting that the people who resisted the establishment of the City of London Police Force are the people who now will not let it go, if they can help it—namely, the aldermen, the protectors of law and order. They told the Home Secretary of the day that they could take care of their own law and order. And at the very moment they were saying that they were a very orderly lot in the City, they were stimulating riots in the City of London against the Monarch and the Government of the day. This is written in a book by an authoritative writer on historical matters, whose name I forget for the moment. When the Metropolitan Police came into existence, the City of London said that their police force must be left to them, because they had already got it. And I suppose that the Government then were as subservient to the City as they are now. The Government told them that they could keep their square mile of a police force and 672 the Government would establish the Metropolitan Police right round it.
If ever there was a case for a merger, it is between these two police forces. Making every allowance for the fact that the relations between the City Police and the Metropolitan Police are good, it is impossible, in view of the philosophy of the Government on London government, to defend a situation whereby the Government are deliberately preserving the Police Force of the City of London. The Minister of State's argument was perhaps more completely lacking in logic than almost any other speech we have had from the Front Bench opposite—and that is saying something, because we have had some lack of logic.
One of the arguments is this. Since the Metropolitan Police Force has existed since 1829, for 130-odd years, and, on the whole, has survived with credit, he says: "Do not disturb it. Leave it alone. Preserve it." But the same noble Earl and his colleagues have repeatedly said that the London County Council is, and was, a great municipality which has done first-class work for London. The trouble is that it is a bit old; it is 70 years old. The Police Force of the Metropolis is 130 years old. The Government show their complete lack of logic by urging that the London County Council is so ancient that it ought to be changed, and by coming back to-day with another argument that, because the Metropolitan Police Force has existed since the Act of 1829 was put in force, therefore, being old and having got through pretty well, it should be preserved. I wish the Government would choose which guns they prefer to fight with, and stick to them. The noble Earl who has answered my noble friend Lord Stonham is too intelligent to engage in silly stuff of this sort.
I wonder if I might interrupt the noble Lord for one moment. I thought I had made it perfectly plain that I was resisting this Amendment on grounds more fundamental than history or tradition. I made it perfectly clear that I was resisting it on functional grounds, and those are the same functional grounds on which the Royal Commission on the Police based their opposition to the transfer of the City Police to the Metropolitan Police.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
But the fact is that the noble Earl did 673 resist this partly on the ground that the Metropolitan Police had existed for over 130 years and had come through pretty well. Of course, he had other grounds for resisting it; I did not say that he had not. But it is no good his getting up and saying that he did not include that as part of his argument. He certainly did. I say that this is completely illogical, and not worthy of the noble Earl, as a very persuasive debater. He reminds me of what Lord Salisbury said about Mr. Iain Macleod; but it would not be fair to repeat that. But he will meet himself coming back one day, as he has already done this time; and it really is foolish.
The Metropolitan Police came into existence after the City Police, and were established for this large area, and what was then a still larger area. I think the argument at the time was that there was no local authority covering that ground and, therefore, they had to make a special area—special for the police—and the Government had to run it. I doubt whether at that time the primary argument was that the Government of the day had to run the police of the capital city. I speak from memory, but I do not recall that argument. It was a practical argument that there was not a local authority in existence who could run the police over the proper area, as they did in the provincial cities. So, it has gone on since.
The noble Earl said: "Well, this is a much more perfect system of democracy than local police authority." I do not agree. I agree that the Home Office is particularly careful that the local police authorities do not interfere with the police too much. But the local police authorities have some functions, including finance, which is important. Moreover, if there is local complaint about the police or the police relationships with the public, then the members of the appropriate watch committee or of the standing joint committee have easy access to the chief constable, or can raise it, within limits, I agree, in the standing joint committee or the watch committee. To that extent there is a more direct democratic approach to police authority than can possibly be the case in the situation whereby the Secretary of State is responsible. I freely admit that the Secretary of State is responsible, and is responsible to Parliament.
674 Do not think from that that the Secretary of State exercises much control—certainly not much detailed control—over the Metropolitan Police. He does not. Once the Commissioner is appointed, that is pretty well the end of it—not all of it, but pretty well the end. I remember after the police strike the late Arthur Henderson, who was a very fine man and a responsible Home Secretary, was faced by a demand in Labour quarters that the police strikers should be reinstated. I admit that was a difficult issue for him to handle. He said that as the Commissioner was responsible for discipline in the Metropolitan Police, the Secretary of State could not interfere in that matter. That was an open confession that the powers of the Secretary of State were limited. Whether he was right or not, I am not sure. I must say that personally I am not accustomed to having subordinates to whom I cannot give orders. But that was his view sincerely held, and he was a fine man.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Have you turned up again? I am always delighted to see my noble friend, particularly in certain circumstances.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
I am delighted to see the noble Lord being such a good Conservative that he does not want to interfere.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
This time I am upsetting the applecart; it is the noble Viscount opposite who is the Conservative. Therefore, it is the case that the powers of the Home Secretary as exercised—I do not say as in reality—are quite limited. If Parliament does not often consult the Home Secretary about police matters, let me admit that Parliament has not even an opportunity or a need to pursue him about the police force, which is pretty well run. But if Parliament did, I should be surprised if the Home Secretary did not wriggle out of his responsibilities somehow—especially this Home Secretary, who has the original responsibility for this Bill. At any rate, he has his work cut out to wriggle out of things in another place tonight. I do not think he would accept too much responsibility for the Metropolitan Police. Therefore this question of democracy, 675 of democratic accountability and Parliamentary accountability, is largely illusory, just as I would freely admit that to say that a watch committee or the standing joint committee exercises full and complete democratic control over their police forces would also be an exaggeration. So let not the Minister of State for the Home Office try that argument too much, because I think he would be wrong.
It is true that the ratepayers under other police forces pay 50 per cent. of the police rate, but they are the supervising responsible police authority. London pays 50 per cent. of the police rate, but we have no voice whatever in the control of the police or the supervision of the police. That is all in the hands of the Home Secretary. Although he runs it, he makes us pay half the cost of the police force which he runs. It is an arguable point—whether that is fair and right. Even now we get no clear answer whether more effective consultation will take place between Scotland Yard and the local authorities so as to examine the accounts—not to run the police, but to check whether there are extravagances and, in particular, whether the national functions of the Metropolitan Police are adequately charged to national funds. The Special Branch, I agree, is an interesting case, and has important functions. I agree that it is sometimes useful to the Government. But if I am not mistaken there are other police forces who have special branches—certainly C.I.D.s—and, therefore, I do not think that argument is conclusive.
The onus is on the Government. The ball is at their feet. They brought in this silly Bill; they prescribed this vast London area with an 8 million-odd population and called it local government. They have produced an area substantially equivalent to the Metropolitan Police district, and if they want to bring Epsom and Sandown and somewhere else somehow into the arrangement, they can find ways to do it. Have we not been told to-day by the very same noble Lord that these things are easy, that all you want is cooperation between the local authorities and they can handle these children's problems and transport problems for children? If that is true of the local authorities, what is to stop the police force of Greater London from co-operating 676 with the surrounding police forces to solve the problem of the naughty people who go to Epsom and Sandown?
So, wherever the noble Earl wanders, wherever he tries to rebut our arguments, he meets himself coming back. And I speak feelingly on the subject. I am not an enemy of the police. My father was a policeman—and a Conservative. He was very cross with me when I went Socialist. If he had only lived long enough for me to have brought him to the Secretary of State at the Home Office he would have forgiven me, I am sure, but he did not live long enough. But he nearly forgave me when I started earning a £1 a week as part-time Secretary of the London Labour Party. In a way, I have police in my blood and I am very fond of them. I get on well with them, in so far as they are not too young to remember me in my livelier days. I like the London police. There is no question of bias about it. I have got on very well with Scotland Yard.
The Government have walked into it, now they are in the process of being embarrassed by their own logic and it is for us to see that we get our own way or that the embarrassment of the Government continues.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I am quite sure the Committee would acquit the noble Earl and would render no criticism of him in the way he responded to the speech made by my noble friend Lord Stonham. He spoke of history and tradition, and I am quite sure that the noble Earl would agree that history and tradition so far as the police force is concerned do not relate to just London. The police forces of Edinburgh, Cardiff, Nottingham and Leicester, perhaps not so much in years, but certainly in quality and service, rank with London's; although, of course, London, because of its "wonderful" police and the view of Americans, and the like, has a great tradition. I think there is an undoubted case that Scotland Yard, the central section of the Metropolitan Police, should be retained on a national basis. Obviously, that is a service which should be continued and, if one were to listen to the evidence, it should be extended. There is a good deal regarding the Metropolitan Police, the ordinary "bobby" for instance, which is quite 677 beyond the province of a Home Secretary and which is no different from the type of duty which the policeman performs in Edinburgh, Cardiff, Nottingham or Leicester.
I ask the noble Earl if he would look at Clause 10. This makes the Greater London Council the traffic authority of the Greater London area. Traffic depends very much, if not entirely, upon enforcement and direction by the police. I would ask the noble Earl this: does he think that we shall get efficient traffic control with the police as a separate department under a Commissioner of Police, autocratic and independent, and with the authority, on the other hand, an elected authority, laying down what is needed?
If he would look at Clause 11, dealing with experimental traffic schemes, he would see that this is obviously a case where the police and the Greater London Council have to work hand in hand. Again, does the noble Earl believe that the Metropolitan Police, as an independent authority under the Home Office, will be able to work as it should work with this independently elected authority? Clause 12, "Powers in respect of traffic signs", provides another case where only the police can be the authority. It seems to me just on those three clauses that there is an undoubted case, for consideration at least, for seeing that the police authority should in fact be the same authority as for those under Clauses 10, 11 and 12. I think there is something here for the Government to consider. I know there is history and tradition in keeping the police force independent. But this is local government. As the noble Lord, Lord Newton, has said on so many occasions, this is not dissimilar in any way from what is taking place in other parts of the country. There we permit the police to be controlled by the local authorities, and they do it very effectively. Certainly there is never any sign, when times are difficult, that the police act any differently from the way they do in London. I beg the Government to consider this Amendment. If they refuse, I hope that my noble friend will press it to a Division.
§ LORD STONHAM
I think it was significant that in answering the case I put the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, had to go back 130 years to dig up the last Tory 678 reform. It was on that that he based his case. I do not want to go into the matter in any detail, because I do not think the noble Earl on this occasion, contrary to his usual practice, attempted to put up a case at all. He told my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth that the argument does not rest on historic and other grounds; it rests on functional grounds. But he refrained from telling us which functional grounds he meant. He said that if disturbances occur in London they are apt to assume a national character. Is it not the case that if disturbances happen in the City of London they are also apt to assume a national character on many occasions? The argument put forward by the noble Earl is absolute nonsense and he knew it when he put it forward.
There can be, out of sentiment, a case for having a Lord Mayor for the City of London, for having a Member of Parliament for the City of London, for having all sorts of things for the City of London separately, and preserving a little crystalline jujube in the whole area of London. But there is no case whatsoever for having, a separate police force, either for efficiency in police administration, the detection of crime and capture of criminals, handling of traffic or any other matters of that kind. The noble Earl said (I am paraphrasing: I am not quoting him exactly) that in view of the present crime situation the Home Secretary does not think it would be right to interfere with the present set-up. It is precisely because of the present crime situation that we ought to interfere with the present set-up and give it a chance to be to that extent more efficient.
May I interrupt the flow of the noble Lord's oratory for a second? He was quoting me a little inaccurately. I said that in view of the present crime wave it would be wrong for the Secretary of State to reject the advice of his responsible advisers on this matter.
§ LORD STONHAM
The "responsible advisers," as always, are anonymous. I did say that I was not quoting the noble Earl exactly; and I think it was a reasonable paraphrase. There was not much difference between what he said and what I said he said.
§ LORD STONHAM
I will certainly examine it. But most noble Lords who cheered did not hear it in the first place, so their cheering is misplaced. I doubt very much whether they, unlike myself, will read Hansard in the morning. I would mention what my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said, that
§ Clause 49 [Civil defence]:
§ 9.38 p.m.
LORD CHAMPION moved, in subsection (1)(a), after "casualties" to insert
or to the rescue of persons from damaged buildings and debris".
§ The noble Lord said: I understand that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we discuss Amendments 184, 185 and 186 together. These Amendments are all alternative ways of trying to improve this clause of the Bill which deals with the important subject of Civil Defence. The first Amendment, No. 184, is embodied in the second680
§ in the arguments the noble Earl has successively used he has "met himself coming back," and I believe that if our Metropolitan and City police forces were amalgamated he would find himself in grave danger of being arrested for loitering with intent.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 183A) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 54.679
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Lawson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Lindgren, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Listowel, E.||Stonham, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Longford, E.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Champion, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Summerskill, B.|
|Crook, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Walston, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Nathan, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Mersey, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Grenfell, L.||Mills, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Milverton, L.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Hanworth, V.||Molson, L.|
|Boston, L.||Harcourt, V.||Monsell, V.|
|Chesham, L.||Hastings, L.||Newton, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Hawke, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Craigton, L.||Hereford, V.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Hertford, M.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Craven, E.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Croft, L.||Ilford, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Tenby, V.|
|Derwent, L.||Lambert, V.||Terrington, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Long, V.||Teynham, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Lothian, M.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||MacAndrew, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Margesson, V.||Yarborough, E.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Amendment No. 185, so that there is no need for me to talk at any length on 184, except to say that it is very much more than a drafting Amendment and would include in the range of powers to be held concurrently by the Greater London Council and the boroughs the particular power that I mentioned in this Amendment No. 184—namely, that there should be added to the Greater London Council's powers those of rescue from war damaged buildings and debris.
§ I shall return to this point on Amendment No. 185, because this point is included in the list of things itemised under that Amendment. No. 185 is the really important Amendment in this connection, and it is right that it should be fully discussed here because this was an 681 Amendment upon which the guillotine fell in the other place and it was never adequately considered—neither, certainly, was the section dealing with Civil Defence—when the matter was going through the other place.
§ I cannot hope to deal adequately with this subject. I have not the London knowledge, and had only a very small experience of the last war in London, but I am fortified because on this side we have my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, whose knowledge as Home Secretary in that particularly trying time and the experience he gained is unrivalled in this country and perhaps in the whole world. We also have—and I hope that he, too, will support me in this matter—my noble friend Lord Lindgren, who was a Deputy Regional Commissioner and therefore charged with some of the tasks of civil defence in the last war.
§ Under the Bill as at present drafted the Greater London Council civil defence functions are strictly limited. We think it highly desirable for the purpose of co-ordinating civil defence services that the sphere in which the Greater London Council will act concurrently with the boroughs should be very much widened. Clearly, some of the necessary planning to meet the catastrophe of a nuclear attack must be local in character, but some of the plans to meet it must be made on a very much wider basis—a much wider basis than would be possible under the terms of the Bill and if the planning had to be done for many of these services on a purely borough basis.
§ If we take the Greater London Council ambulance and fire services, we see that they will be organised by the Greater London Council. They will be organised as highly mobile forces to operate over the whole of London, and some of them will work from bases established on the periphery of London. Some will be taken out from the centre, some will have to operate from those bases and some from very much nearer the centre. We think that, for obvious reasons, the rescue service should operate from the same sort of base as that from which the ambulance and fire services will have to operate. This would appear to be wholly reasonable, and it seems silly to have under the Greater London Council the fire services and ambulance services, and on a 682 borough basis the rescue services and all the planning for the work that will have to be done. It seems silly that 32 boroughs should be doing this job. Probably the noble Earl will say that they can co-operate. I would agree with that to some extent, but if they are to cooperate it would be much better if the co-operation were done under the general supervision of the Greater London Council—that they should be there, acting as a co-ordinating body and able to look, as they quite clearly could, at the problems at home.
§ The next point for consideration is how best to plan the emergency feeding service. This at present under the L.C.C. is built up on the foundation of the school meal services, where premises and the equipment they have at their disposal are taken into account. Indeed, the staff of these services receive training in emergency feeding. Under Part IV of this Bill the school meals service will be kept, so far as the inner London area is concerned, under the Inner London Education Authority. That is established. But what we feel in this connection is that it is stupid to have the war-time extension of emergency feeding becoming a responsibility of the boroughs, being taken out of the hands of this body and being placed into the hands of the boroughs, when in fact it is bound to be based upon the schools meals service and to become in war time an extension of that service.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
Would the noble Lord allow me to ask him one question? He has just said that in war time there would be an extension of a certain service. Is he contemplating conventional or nuclear war? It makes a difference.
§ LORD CHAMPION
Clearly we are contemplating nuclear war, and clearly the Government also are contemplating nuclear war.
§ LORD CHAMPION
I rather think the same sort of thing, but there it is. The Government have decided that we are bound to have this Civil Defence. The Government are asking people to volunteer for this service. Therefore we ought to try to do something to make the whole thing reasonable. But if the noble Viscount is going to interrupt, it would 683 be very much better if he got off his perch and did it, instead of sitting there shouting across the Chamber.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
No. I think it is a waste of time to discuss Civil Defence, or any other form of defence, in nuclear war. We might just as well go home.
§ LORD CHAMPION
I am glad the noble Viscount stood up. I was rather afraid he had joined the sit-down strikers. But, after all, this Bill has been introduced by the Government and so have all these Civil Defence measures. If the noble Viscount thinks the Government ought to do nothing at all about it, he ought to persuade them not to waste any more money on the service.
§ LORD CHAMPION
Despite what the noble Viscount has said, I personally think it is right that the Government should at least make some attempt to lessen the damage which will come, or might come, from nuclear warfare. Therefore, I would support the Government against the late Chief Whip of the House of Commons. Very much I would support the Government in this connection.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
Your food and your milk will be poisoned, and so will your water supply. So it does not really much matter what you do.
§ LORD CHAMPION
If the noble Viscount would continue his "sit-down strike" for a little longer, I might be able to complete my argument, and then it will be for the noble Earl to reply to his noble friend as well as to me. Indeed, I hope that when I do sit down the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, will rise in his place and deliver a broadside against his noble friend sitting on the Front Bench—
§ LORD CHAMPION
—as he is capable of doing, of course. As I said, under Part IV of the Bill as drafted the school meals service will definitely be an Inner London Education Authority responsibility. But the war-time extension 684 surely should be in very much the same sort of hands. The extension of the school meals service should clearly be under the Greater London Council, but with concurrent powers with the boroughs.
The next point that I have to mention is the care of the families. This could be to some extent based in the boroughs, and the Government have done that. But we think, with the potential size of the task in war, that there should be schemes of co-operation between boroughs with a co-ordinating body again sitting with them and helping them in their task of the preparation of plans for dealing with the families in London. There is also the fact that the school premises of the Inner London Education Authority would have to be used very extensively as rest centres.
There is, too, in this matter of Civil Defence a need for training, defence training and officer training, and for ensuring that qualified instructors are available for the preparations that have to be made. That means large-scale combined training and exercises at the major training grounds which exist in London. I understand that there are only three of these. Therefore, there would have to be some co-operation in their use. This would be much better done if we had the Greater London Council working with the boroughs. This is the sort of co-ordination that is done at present by county councils, working with boroughs, urban district councils and the rest. If, in London, the Greater London Council do not do this, then the Home Office clearly will. What we have to ask here is: is it the intention of the Government that the Home Office shall co-ordinate the work in London? We have heard a great deal about farming out and decentralisation, but I do not think it is the intention of the noble Earl and his colleagues that the Home Office should perform this work of coordination in London. We think that it would be much better done by the Greater London Council.
This Amendment is based on past experience. It is true that this may not be much to go on, if we run into a nuclear war, as the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, indicated. Nevertheless, we can learn a little from past experience, and we believe that past experience indicates that there ought to 685 be concurrent power to try to do something to lessen some of the effects of nuclear war. What I have said about Amendment No. 185 also applies to some extent to No. 186, which is more limited in character, yet would be an improvement on the Bill as at present drafted. However, we rest our case chiefly on Amendment No. 185, to which I have spoken. I beg to move.
Page 68, line 10, leave out paragraph (b) and insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Champion.)
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My noble friend Lord Champion said that because his knowledge of this subject in its general application was small he was not going to deal with the Amendment in great detail; but I think it will be agreed that he has shown considerable knowledge of it. In spite of what the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, has said—and I am rather sorry to see that he has been converted to C.N.D.—if there is a nuclear war (which God forbid!) London will catch it, and catch it badly. But there will be some people somewhere left alive, even though trapped and injured. It would be criminal if any Government did not make arrangements, knowing that there was a possibility of people surviving a major catastrophe such as a nuclear attack.
I am certain that every noble Lord in this House will support any and every Government in taking every step possible to see that such an attack will never take place. And there is no noble Lord in this House who does not hope that every penny spent by the Government and local authorities on Civil Defence will be wasted, in the sense that it will never be utilised for the purpose for which it was spent. But one must prepare; because being prepared to meet an emergency is halfway to surmounting it when it does happen. Whatever we have said about the closeness of cooperation in a smaller London borough with the people, a nuclear attack is no respecter of borough boundaries; and it does not matter whether it falls on Croydon or Barnet, the rest of London will have "had it" to a large extent.
Therefore, what has to be dealt with, particularly in an area such as London, is very large-scale planning. It is already happening, and I do not see that there 686 is any reason for secrecy. Those associated with Civil Defence know that it is happening, and I believe that the citizens of London would be happier if they knew of all the general arrangements that are made, though perhaps if a bomb did drop many of them would not be alive to get any benefit from them. But the fact is that siting and co-operation of services for miles outside London is already under way in case of an attack on London; and London cannot deal with the basis of an attack on itself on its own; nor can any London borough under the present arrangements.
It is obvious that the Home Office have made arrangements, in the event of an emergency, for a Regional Commissioner for the London area; and that Regional Commissioner will be responsible for the whole of the services—not only Civil Defence, but Governmental services and the rest, as in the last war. The whole basis of Civil Defence at the present time is training; it is to get as big a cadre of people as possible, knowledgeable, equipped and trained, so that if in fact there were an emergency that group of people, well trained and versed in the whole application of Civil Defence, could expect to take the responsible positions within the general organisation of civil defence. Should an emergency arise, every recruiting centre for Civil Defence would be flooded with recruits who had held back until that time.
Therefore, I look at this from the point of view of an effective means of training. There is not a London borough, and not a proposed London borough, that could be an effective training unit on its own. The whole training programme would have to be devised from a centre, which would have to set standards; and, of course, some of the service could be operated locally. But in a nuclear war one of the greatest problems is the devastation over a wide area and the decrease of devastation from the point of the hitting of the bomb to the extreme perimeter where there are only the problems of fall-out and the rest. In that, the rescue service is perhaps the most important service. I agree that under the present general arrangements it is largely local authorities' staffs—their building grade workers within the local authorities, who are given facilities for training, time off and everything else by the local authority—who form the backbone 687 of the rescue services. It is no good talking about the ambulance service and first aid until you can get the fellow pinned under the falling building out of the building. Rescue, therefore, is a basic service, so far as Civil Defence is concerned.
As my noble friend Lord Champion said, so far as London is concerned, there are only two or three rescue training centres, because these rescue training centres have to be over a fairly wide area, with collapsible buildings, adaptation so that you can meet the possibilities likely to arise from a bomb, of dangerous buildings, rescue from heights, rescue from being trapped under débris and the rest. Even under the present organisation, or suggested organisation, it would not be possible for all the boroughs to set up training centres, mainly because they have not the opportunity or space available for doing it. That can be done only in the existing training centres. It is equally true that a high standard of training is dependent upon the instructor. And here again the instructors, their general organisation, their training, examination and standards, which are largely set by the Home Office, cannot be dealt with on a borough basis: they must be dealt with on an area basis. At the moment, in relation to London, the Home Office has on its staff a special training officer responsible for consultations with the London County Council, the surrounding authorities and the cooperative arrangements which are made in the Home Counties and with the other corps.
Whatever may happen about other services, whether you are talking about children's services, education and the rest, you cannot deal with a nuclear attack on London on the basis of borough organisation. One does not want to repeat oneself, but let us remember that. If there is an attack, and London is hit, it is London's problem as a whole, and not a question of North or South of the river, or of any one particular borough. Therefore, there ought to be this responsibility in the Greater London area for the whole of the organisation and general co-ordination.
§ 10.3 p.m.
The impact of London government reorganisation on 688 our Civil Defence planning was not discussed in another place, or certainly at no length. It is an important matter, and I, of course, have a certain responsibility here as a Home Office Minister. Therefore, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, for the way in which he has argued this series of Amendments, and to the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren. I am also grateful to them for their permission for me, at the outset of this series of three linked Amendments, to outline, with their agreement, our general approach to this matter. It was not outlined, of course, in another place.
Before I go any further, I should like to say to my noble friend Lord Stuart of Findhorn—for whose support for this Bill in the Lobbies I am very grateful—how utterly and completely I disagree with his view on this matter, and how entirely I agree with the words which the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, used in describing his view on this particular matter. But let that pass for the time being, because the noble Lord has a Motion on the Order Paper on Civil Defence, and we shall have plenty of time then for going into the wider aspects of this.
I think there are two main matters to consider here. We have to try to devise the best peace-time arrangements possible (and here training, as the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, said, is a matter of the greatest importance) and we have also to ensure that we have devised arrangements which, should we be confronted with a nuclear war, would enable everything possible to be done to mitigate the consequences of attack. There again I must say how much I agree with the noble Lord that any Government which did not do its best to devise such arrangements would be failing in its simplest humanitarian duties towards the people of this country. Finally, we have to do our best to ensure that these two sets of arrangements—one of which we all hope will never operate—dovetail together as well as possible. That is our broad aim here.
In peace time the principal Civil Defence responsibilities placed upon local authorities are, of course, to recruit, organise and to train the local divisions of the Civil Defence Corps. The Corps takes in five sections, as noble Lords opposite who are well versed in these 689 matters know; Headquarters, Warden Rescue, Ambulance and First Aid, and the Welfare Section. Outside the present County of London the basic responsibility in this field rests upon the county councils and the county borough councils. In London at present, as I understand, we have a division of these functions. The London County Council is responsible for the Rescue Section, the Ambulance and First Aid Section and the emergency feeling and care of the homless duties of the Welfare Section. The metropolitan boroughs and the City are responsible for the Headquarters section, the Wardens section and the billeting duties of the Welfare Section.
In their evidence to the Royal Commission, the Home Office took the line that the allocation of Civil Defence responsibilities should, broadly speaking, follow the division of responsibilities between local authorities for other purposes. The Royal Commission accepted that view. Clause 49 as drafted is designed to give effect to the Commission's recommendations, allocating, as it does, the Civil Defence responsibilities of local authorities in Greater London on the basis of their peace-time responsibilities. As your Lordships will see, the division is threefold. In the first place there are the functions specifically allocated to the Greater London Council. Thus, subsection (1) of Clause 49 provides for the Council to exercise Civil Defence functions relating to fire and the ambulance service and connected tasks; and that follows logically from the fact that, under two other clauses of the Bill, Nos. 45 and 48, the Greater London Council is to be the responsible fire authority and the ambulance authority for the Greater London area as a whole.
Secondly, there are the concurrent functions, a second tier of responsibility, to be exercised concurrently and shared between the Greater London Council and the boroughs. These cover planning for the dispersal of these civilian populations. There is provision here under paragraph (b) of subsection (1), for directions to be made on this by my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I am quite sure noble Lords will not wish me to go into great detail as to how they should be split, but, broadly speaking, I think the intention in this field is that we should follow the present pattern, 690 that overall co-ordination of dispersal planning should be entrusted to the Greater London Council, as, at the present time, the L.C.C. are likewise responsible for the Greater London area including the Middlesex County Council.
Thirdly, there are the peace-time functions to be discharged solely by the boroughs. Under the Bill, they will have the responsibility for the rescue and training sections of the Civil Defence Corps other than ambulances and first-aid sections. Given the pattern of Government reorganisation which we are establishing as a whole, this division seems to us to be logical. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, said that he did not think that the Greater London boroughs would be large enough to be entrusted to execute these peace-time functions, which are mainly training. I will not go into this whole argument again.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I do not mean that they are not large enough; if they were isolated boroughs they would be large enough. But when it comes to a bomb, the boundaries will be gone and the function of the operation of the services will be outside boundaries.
I was here dealing with the peace-time functions, which I should have thought they are perfectly capable of discharging, and discharging well. I agree that the operational situation, if we were faced with a war, would be a different position.
I should like, if I may, to turn now to the operational side of the coin—the side which we hope and believe will never come up but which, nevertheless, we are very wise to look at. Here I must say that the Amendments proposed run clean counter to our present operational thinking. We are here dealing with what one calls the post-attack phase. In that phase, help to the devasted parts of Greater London would operate at two levels and, to some extent, by two stages. In the first place, there would be the resources and efforts which individual communities could themselves deploy, self help. As our appreciation of the scale of likely attack mounts, we have become more and more convinced that such help must be increasingly localised and decentralised. It would, in our view, therefore be much better based upon a smaller unit like 691 the borough rather than upon the wider unit in view of the fact that mobility in the aftermath of a nuclear attack would be, I think, by any realistic calculation tremendously restricted.
Then there is the question of help from the outside. Here again, and for much the same realistic reasons, I suggest that we are wise to look at a wider area than that covered by the Greater London Council. We visualise, as the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, knows, a control system composed of five sub-regions for the Greater London area. In the Civil Defence control system they are sub-regions Nos. 51 to 55. Three of them would cover London North of the Thames and two would cover the area South of the Thames. The noble Lord was inclined to belittle the importance of the Thames and said we must plan in the operational phase for London as a whole. I think, looking at it realistically and realising what the state of the Thames bridges would be in the aftermath of a nuclear attack, it is wise to plan for regions North and South of the Thames. We must look outwards. It is clear from the studies we have undertaken that the marshalling of resources to support London sub-regions would have to take place outside the London region itself. Control would also have to be from the outside. But in our view no single regional headquarters could hope to control simultaneously and effectively the operations for rescue and so forth which would be necessary in the Greater London area. Such operations, we feel, would have to be conducted simultaneously by more than one headquarters located well outside the London area and having under their control reinforcements in the areas surrounding and perhaps a long way from London. The sub-regions, in our view, must therefore come under the control of the regional headquarters; I will not specify how many of the surrounding regions. The chain of control, therefore, is from the headquarters of surrounding regions to the five sub-regions and then from the next level of control it would be to the boroughs.
Your Lordships will therefore see that from the operational standpoint there is just no place in this linked chain of control for the Greater London Council. There is no change here, since there is 692 at present no position in this chain of control for the London County Council, and I think we should not gain anything from trying to insert, as it were artificially, the Greater London Council into this planned system of control. This does not mean that the Greater London Council would not have important Civil Defence functions. In peace-time there are the specific Civil Defence functions which I have already talked about linked to their duties as ambulance and fire authority. There is the very important rôle they will have to play in dispersion planning. And, looking beyond that, we certainly wish to consider how best we can make use of the knowledge and experience which they will progressively acquire in wide planning in communication matters, highway control and the rest of it. We shall wish to tap all that to the full in our Civil Defence planning.
However, our present thinking is that we should be wisest to plan to draw upon this expertise through introducing representatives of the Greater London Council at the appropriate headquarters in the control system rather than by trying to insert artificially, and I think wrongly, a new level of control. It is for those broad reasons that I feel I should make it clear straight away that the Amendments which noble Lords have moved run quite counter to our present thinking on this matter. I should be happy to deal with the specific Amendments later if noble Lords so desire; but I thought it best before I did so to explain, rightly or wrongly, the basis of our present approach in general to this problem.
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
The noble Earl has made quite a good case, and I am sure that my noble friends on this side will not wish to press any of the Amendments on the Marshalled List. What we are really concerned about is to see that if it is thought right that the boroughs should be brought up—shall we call them?—as independent companies for training purposes, they should all march to an equal standard, and if, unfortunately, a nuclear war occurred, their training and their understanding of signals and the like, should be such that they could work as a co-ordinated, effective body. As we are not to have the 693 Greater London authority as the co-ordinating authority for training and with responsibility to see that progress and equipment should coincide throughout the boroughs, can the noble Earl say which will be the authority? Will it be the Home Office, or will it just be left to hope that the boroughs will co-operate together?
I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his response to what I have just been saying. Let me say, in response to that, that I should like in the cold light of dawn to look carefully at the argument which noble Lords themselves have adduced in this context, because we are all concerned to make the best possible arrangements in this field. The answer to the specific question of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is that it is certainly our intention that the Home Office Civil Defence regional headquarters should exercise a co-ordinating rôle in the general field about which he was talking, under the regional director. That is certainly our intention, and I should have thought that in some matters that headquarters should stand in close to the Greater London Council.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
The noble Earl also said that in the event of a nuclear attack obviously the outer areas, the outer counties, may well have to take over the co-ordinating control. Can the noble Earl say how the training will be adopted by the counties outside the Greater London area? It seems to me that some arrangements should be made to see that the boroughs can develop with some idea of co-ordination and uniformity, because in times of tension and difficulty, training, and particularly the fact that you are co-ordinated and adopt the same sort of drill and have the same sort of equipment, could play an important part in how effective you can be.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I want to say only a little. I think what is needed in the present Civil Defence organisation and operation is—I am not saying this to be quarrelsome—a little more drive both from the Home Office and, through the Home Office, the local authorities. It is getting on, but it is rather slow. Publicity is not good enough. The national drive and the degree of 694 patriotism has fallen behind a bit, and is somewhat lacking so far. Perhaps taking the public into our confidence as a Government will do some good.
On the other point, I think my noble friend Lord Shepherd is right in suggesting to my noble friend Lord Champion, who introduced his Amendment with a very good and well-informed speech, that it would be wise not to press it to a Division. My own feeling is that when it comes to actual nuclear war—which, with everybody else, I hope very much it does not, for everybody's sake, including the enemy—the arrangements will have to be elastic. I do not believe one can lay down firm lines of functions between various local authorities months, or possibly years, in advance, if indeed, we ever reach that point. I think there must be the utmost elasticity. Believe me, even in the last war after every raid we learnt something, and something in the organisation or strategy had to be modified in Civil Defence. Broadly speaking, a good guide was that we should let the local authority which normally discharged a function continue to discharge that function in Civil Defence.
I think that is sound, but when we come to the rescue service there is no analogous function in local government. The nearest is the fire service, but the rescue service is separately organised. Consequently I think there will have to be something in the Emergency Powers Act whereby the Minister of Home Security can direct whatever he thinks is necessary in the public interest, but when it comes to the day there must be elasticity. It is impossible to plan completely in advance unless one has power for modification as it goes along. I think this has been a useful discussion, even if at the end of it my noble friend decides not to press his Amendment.
§ LORD CHAMPION
Obviously my Front Bench colleagues are very much taken by the reply of the noble Earl. In the circumstances I shall have to withdraw this Amendment. I am not wholly satisfied. My own view was that the Greater London Council ought to have powers, especially on the training matter, and because of the great difficulty that there are only three training grounds in the whole of London. It must be remem- 695 bered too, that all I was asking for in the Amendment was that the Greater London Council should have concurrent powers with the boroughs, so that in their planning there would be a certain amount of flexibility and fitting into the regional plan, which I think is a sensible one, out- 696 lined by the Minister. I will study what he said, as he was kind enough to state that he would study what we have said. In the circumstances I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 49 agreed to.697
§ Clause 50 [Explosives and petroleum-spirit]:
§ EARL JELLICOE moved, at the beginning of subsection (1), to insert: "Subject to subsection (3) of this section". The noble Earl said: Last Thursday your Lordships provisionally agreed to accept Amendment 160 on the Marshalled List. That was an Amendment designed to pave the way for this and Nos. 191, and 288, which is to be found to one of the Schedules. All these Amendments are designed to give effect to an undertaking given in another place.
§ At the present time the licensing authorities under the Petroleum Act are, in London, the County Council and, in the City of London, the Common Council; elsewhere they are county borough and county district councils. Clause 50, as it stands, would transfer this licensing function from the London County Council and the county district councils of the other counties to the councils of the London boroughs. The effect of the Amendment to Clause 50 which I am now moving would be to place this responsibility for the whole of Greater London on the Greater London Council. This is not, I think, a matter which need arouse particularly passionate or partisan feeling. This licensing function is one of those group of public control functions in which the Royal Commission suggested it should be left to the Ministers concerned to decide where the responsibility should lie as between the Greater London Council and the London boroughs.
§ The main argument in favour of vesting this responsibility in the Greater London Council is that this licensing function is a highly technical one best carried out by a highly specialised department. Over the years the L.C.C. have built up such a body of expertise in their Public Control Department, which is responsible for a number of different functions relating to public safety, and in all these matters are accustomed to working closely with the London Fire Brigade who give specialist advice of various kinds. It can be argued that the chief hazard in a petroleum installation is a fire hazard and that the 698 licensing function under the Petroleum Act and the responsibility for fire prevention are closely knit. Under the Bill the Greater London Council is to be the fire authority for Greater London. At the same time, it is fair to disclose that I recently received a strong deputation from the Common Council who urged that we should drop these Amendments and allow the City to retain this particular licensing function. They argued that the decision to make this change was wrong in principle on the ground that the licensing of premises for the storage of petroleum spirit is a function which is closely bound up with the whole administration of planning. They also suggested that they gained very considerable experience in this field in the past.
§ It is true that outside London many authorities who discharge this function are smaller than the proposed London boroughs, and I have no reason to believe that the London boroughs themselves, and the City too, could not perform this function adequately. I am also prepared to grant that there is some force in the representations from the City. Nevertheless, on their main point—that it would be wrong to divorce planning and licensing here—I do not think that their contention was in any way overwhelming. There are often matters which must be taken into account when the grant of planning permission for buildings is under consideration but which are not necessarily in the hands of the planning authorities: highway matters and fire considerations, for example. All in all, we have come to the conclusion that it would be right to vest this licensing function in the Greater London Council, as is done by the Amendments which I now move.
Page 69, line 21, at the beginning insert the said words.—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ LORD CHAMPION
As I understand the Amendment, it completely meets the point of the six Amendments we had down on this particular clause. All I need say is that I welcome the Amendment and shall not be moving the Amendments standing in our names.
§ 10.29 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
I am sorry not to be able to echo agreement with this Amendment, and I should like to state the opposition to it, which has never yet had an opportunity of being stated and which is the view of local authorities on the subject. Throughout the rest of England and Wales, including the whole of outer London, the councils of county boroughs and county districts are licensing authorities. Therefore the Amendments would have the effect of transferring to the Greater London Council functions which have been carried out for years by the constituent councils that are being amalgamated to form the much stronger and larger borough councils in the outer London area. It seems to me altogether wrong that, because of the anomalous position of the L.C.C. for the last thirty years or more, the outer London boroughs should be deprived of what their constituent parts have been doing and that the inner London boroughs should be deprived of the opportunity to take over the responsibility for this function.
If you look at what actually happened in another place, you will find that, as the noble Earl has said, the proposed Amendments stem from an undertaking given there at the Report stage on April 2 this year by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, when he accepted the principle of certain Amendments which the Opposition had put down with the object of transferring responsibility for petroleum spirit licensing to the Greater London Council. When this matter arose in another place it was disposed of with virtually no discussion at all on the subject, and the case for the boroughs has never been put, either in that place or this. In accepting the principle of the Amendments the Joint Under-Secretary said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 675, (No. 90), col 262]:There are arguments both ways, but there is no decisive consideration on balance. But as this is a highly technical function which affects only a small number of people, I think that there is something to be said for its being dealt with by a specialised department in a larger authority.It is realised that when a controversial measure of this kind is being considered there is no doubt considerable pressure 700 upon the Government, and there is a temptation for them to accept Amendments or to make concessions whenever they think it possible. But surely the making of small concessions of this kind, if persisted in, erodes the fundamental principle underlying this Bill, which is that the London borough councils are the primary authorities for local government in Greater London.
In their summary of recommendations the Royal Commission said (page 254, para. 1002 of Cmnd. 1164):The Boroughs should be the primary units of local government, and should perform all functions except those which can only be effectively performed over the wider area of Greater London.In their White Paper of November, 1961, entitled London Government: Government Proposals for Reorganisation, (Cmnd. 1562) the Government said at page 4, para. 15:The feature which attracted the greatest support was the conception of the borough as the primary unit of local government. The Government are sure that this is the right principle.This, then, is the fundamental principle on which the scheme of the Bill stands, as we have been repeatedly told. But here we find a responsibility for a function being given away to the Greater London Council, not because it is necessary for it to be administered over Greater London as a whole, but where the Minister himself put it no higher than that "there is no decisive consideration on balance ", and that—I repeat him again—" there is something to be said "for what is proposed.
For the boroughs it may be said, and it is contended, that there are weighty considerations why this function should be conferred on the borough councils in accordance with the clause as it stands in the Bill as it is now before us. Throughout England and Wales, with the exception of the L.C.C. area, petroleum spirit licensing is a function of county borough and county district councils. It is a function—
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I see that the noble Lord has a lot of reading matter to do. I do not 701 know whether he could let the Committee know how many pages there are. Most of us here are already familiar with the line a brief coming from the Association of Municipal Corporations would take. We know the arguments very well. I say this only for the sake of the noble Lord. I do not wish to see him become exhausted at this time of night.
§ LORD MILVERTON
As I have spent so many days listening to the constant repetition of arguments, I feel that that objection does not come very well from the side which makes it. As I was saying, this is a function which throughout outer London has been exercised and, so far as is known, satisfactorily exercised, by the councils of the boroughs and urban districts which are in future to be amalgamated to form the new London borough councils. It is only in the London County Council area that the anomalous position exists that the function is exercised by the L.C.C. in all districts save the City of London. These boroughs will be large authorities in terms both of population and of resources. They will have available highly qualified technical staffs and will be fully competent to perform the function. In addition to this, their offices are conveniently situated for applicants for licences and for anybody who wants to raise any questions in regard to this branch of licensing.
Furthermore, throughout the greater part of this area the borough councils will be the authorities to which applications will be made for planning permission and for necessary consents under building by-laws, subjects which are often closely associated with petroleum licensing. Here, again, the anomalous position in the L.C.C. area in regard to the London Building Acts should not be allowed to interfere with the proper allocation of this function, which is the allocation at present contained in the Bill. Therefore, I express my regret at finding the Government in such dubious company to-day and apparently getting their main support from noble Lords on the opposite Benches, who have treated us during the last week to so elaborate a series of synthetic expositions of the same arguments again and again.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.702
§ Amendment moved—
Page 69, leave out lines 25 to 34 and insert—
("(2) Subject to subsection (3) of this section, the Greater London Council shall be the local authority empowered to grant petroleum-spirit licences as respects Greater London under the Petroleum (Consolidation) Act 1928; and accordingly for section 2 (1) (a) and (b) of that Act there shall be substituted—
'(a) in Greater London, the Greater London Council '.
(3) Subsections (1) and (2) of this section shall not affect the jurisdiction exercisable in any harbour wholly or partly in Greater London by a harbour authority within the meaning of the Explosives Act 1875 or, as the case may be, the Petroleum (Consolidation) Act 1928.")—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 50, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 51 [Amendments to Shops Act 1950]:
§ 10.39 p.m.
THE EARL OF LONGFORD moved, at the beginning of the clause, to insert:
(1) The Greater London Council shall be the local authority for Greater London for the purposes of the Young Persons (Employment) Act 1938 and the Shops Act 1950.
(2) In accordance with the foregoing sub-section—
§ The noble Earl said: The purpose of this Amendment and those which follow is to ensure that the administration of the Shops Act, 1950, throughout Greater London, including the City, is transferred to the Greater London Council and not, as under Clause 4 of the Bill, to the London boroughs; and in addition, that the administration of the Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1938, which contains provisions in relating to the hours of employment of young persons in certain occupations, and is conveniently administrated with the Shops Act, is similarly transferred to the Greater London Council. The London County Council have appointed twelve inspectors under the Act, each of whom is responsible for inspecting about 5,000 shops. It certainly 703 is an advantage, in detecting infringements of the law, that when an inspector becomes too well known to the shopkeeper who is a persistent offender, other inspectors are available to take over observation of the offender's premises. If the inner London boroughs become the Shops Act authorities, each borough will have, on average, sufficient work for one inspector only, and that, as I have said, might cause complications.
§ I need not go into this matter in great detail, but there are certain clear advantages which I think have been recognised elsewhere, though they did not prevail, and which result from the larger area of administration for Greater London. The main advantages which occur to us are these. First, the removal of potential inequalities of treatment which may arise as between numerous boroughs; second, the removal of the necessity for complicated and ad hoc co-operative and administrative arrangements between boroughs; third, the retention of a specialist staff; and fourth, the removal of any differences of interpretation and of standards of enforcement which inevitably arise under the Shops Act, 1950 and which could cause resentment between shopkeepers in different boroughs.
I do not know that the fate of the world depends on carrying this Amendment, but the noble Earl will, I am sure, give it a good deal of thought, if only because his colleague in the other place, Mr. Woodhouse, said:
This is another case in which one has to take a decision on balance with no completely decisive consideration one way or the other.
And, on balance, the Government there came down against an Amendment of this sort. We feel that it would be a completely logical corollary to treating Greater London as one built-up area, and would be in the interests of economy and efficiency, that there should be a unified administration of the Shops Act under the Greater London Council. These Amendments have been put down, and we should wish to press them. They all hang together. Without more ado, I move Amendment No. 195, but at the same time place before the Committee Nos. 176 to 200.
Page 69, line 35, at beginning insert the said subsections.—(The Earl of Longford.)
The combined effect of Clause 1 (4) taken with Clause 51 of the Bill is to give effect to a recommendation of the Royal Commission, in paragraph 880 of their Report the Commission recommended that the whole of the responsibility for the Shops Act should rest in the London boroughs. Under the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, the authority would be transferred to the Greater London Council. There seem to be, as I understand it, three main reasons for the proposed Amendment—one perhaps which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, did not mention, and that is the semi-automatic tendency of noble Lords opposite to feel that anything which has been the function discharged by the London County Council should more appropriately be discharged by the Greater London Council. It is not a principle, noble Lords will not be surprised to hear, which I automatically can accept.
The noble Earl has also argued that it is desirable to have some overall responsibility here in the larger authority in order to ensure uniformity in the matter covered by these two Acts and to give more scope for a specialised and centralised staff. Those reasons seem to me to be arguable. But one of the purposes behind the Shops Act is to enable the utmost flexibility in local arrangements to be achieved locally by those most likely to know what the local people want. That is why the Shops Act authorities include county districts with populations as low as 20,000. In the face of this, it may strike your Lordships as rather odd that the L.C.C., with a population over a hundred times this size, should be a Shops Act authority at all. It seems to me, at least, to be odder still to make the Greater London Council, covering an area which would embrace over 8 million people, such an authority, where elsewhere the responsibility is quite adequately discharged, so far as I know, by local authorities with a population of not more than 20,000.
I should have thought it was that sort of consideration which led the Royal Commission to recommend that the boroughs should be the responsible authorities here. They pointed out that the boroughs should be of sufficient size to eliminate difficulties which arise through lack of uniformity in, for example, varying shop hours in Central 705 London. They also pointed out that there was a good deal to be said for having the Shops Act administered together with weights and measures and food and drugs. I think there is already a close degree of co-operation in the matters which have been delegated by the London County Council to the metropolitan boroughs, and I should have thought that a similar degree of co-ordination could easily be worked out between the London boroughs.
The point which the noble Lord made about staff has some force, but is not, I believe, of very great substance. The number of inspectors appointed by the London County Council for the purposes of enforcing the Shops Act is only about twelve. It is true that an individual London borough, like a large county borough elsewhere, will be able to employ not more than two inspectors, and perhaps they might become fairly familiar in the shops in the borough. But I do not think that is a vital consideration, and I should have thought that this disadvantage, if such it be, would be outweighed by the convenience of having all the Shops Act functions under one umbrella. I should have thought that the dispersal of the twelve existing London County Council inspectors, admirable officials though they doubtless are, and admirably well though they have doubtless discharged this function, is hardly an administrative matter of tremendous consequence.
In our view, on balance the Shops Act and its administration, even in the rather special circumstances of Greater London, are essentially a local matter to be locally administered. Like my colleague in another place, I would agree
§ that there is a balance of argument here; but in this case, unlike the previous set of Amendments which we were discussing on petrol licensing, I incline to the view that the balance comes down in favour of making this a borough responsibility. Because of that, I must, despite the fluent advocacy of the noble Lord, advise your Lordships to resist this Amendment.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I understand that these two powers, the Shops Act and the youth employment function, are now exercised by the London County Council, and the noble Earl agrees. I should have thought it was logical that the duty should go to the Greater London Council, because these London boroughs, important as they may be, are not separate towns with problems of borders and territorial limits. I think it would be administratively better to make the Greater London Council responsible. So I think we had better divide. While I am on my feet, I should like to give notice that the Amendment which comes after this is a very important one, namely, about the licensing of some doubtful institutions in Soho. I think it would be bad if that were taken at this hour of night, and, therefore, when we come back we shall want to raise the question of future Business for today. In the meantime, we propose to divide on this Amendment.
§ 10.50 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 195) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 11; Not-Contents, 49.707
|Archibald, L.||Listowel, E.||Shepherd, L. [Teller.]|
|Champion, L.||Longford, E.||Stonham, L.|
|Crook, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Walston, L.|
|Latham, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Conesford, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]|
|Ailwyn, L.||Craigton, L.||Grenfell, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Croft, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)|
|Aldington, L.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Harcourt, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Derwent, L.||Hastings, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Devonshire, D.||Hereford, V.|
|Bossom, L.||Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Hertford, M.|
|Boston, L.||Effingham, E.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Ferrers, E.||Ilford, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Jellicoe, E.|
|Colyton, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Long, V.|
|Lothian, M.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]||Teynham, L.|
|Margesson, V.||St. Oswald, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Mersey, V.||Swinton, E.||Waleran, L.|
|Mills, V.||Templemore, L.||Yarborough, E.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 51 agreed to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Although we have not made quite as much progress as I had hoped for, I think this might be a convenient moment for me to move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved, That the House do now resume.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
We are much obliged to the Lord Chancellor. I do not agree with him that we have not made reasonable progress. I think that in all the circumstances, in view of the very important matters we have been discussing, we have not done badly. Moreover, I give him this piece of unofficial off-the-record advice. If he measures up in Hansard 708 tomorrow the length of the speeches he will find there have been some pretty substantial ones from his side of the House, which must be a credit point for us.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am always grateful for the gratuitous advice the noble Lord gives me and I always place its proper value on it. All I said was that we had made less progress than I had hoped for.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to and House resumed accordingly.