HL Deb 20 May 1970 vol 310 cc1119-41

5.34 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD STRANG in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Local authority to establish social services committee]:

On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?


In view of the pressure on Parliamentary time, we on this side shall not move any of the Amendments which we would have moved had time permitted. But I hope the Committee will agree that it would be right and convenient to say a word or two here and there on this important Bill, so as not to indicate, by saying nothing, that we under-value it. I have indicated to the Chairman and to the Minister of State a number of clauses on which we wish to say a few words, and the first is Clause 2, in connection with the establishment of social work committees in each of the local authorities set out in Clause 1.

The object of my intervention on this clause is to ask the noble Baroness whether she is able to confirm that the mandatory obligations, which are set out, as it were, baldly in this clause, are required merely for setting up the new unified service, and that they are not generally intended to continue indefinitely, and certainly not beyond the reform of local government, when that comes and in whatever form it comes. That is the only object of my intervention on this clause, and I should be grateful for the observations of the noble Baroness.


May I first of all, at the outset of the Committee stage, thank the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and other Peers for the way they have agreed to facilitate the progress of this very important Bill though the House, in order that it may receive the Royal Assent in the life of this Parliament. The Government are very grateful for their help and co-operation.

The point which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has raised was touched on in our Second Reading debate, and I know that it also concerned the noble Lord, Lord Ilford. It has been, and still is, the view of the Government that the integration of the range of personal social services in local government, which are at present divided between children's welfare and certain aspects of the local authority health committee, requires a statutory framework now. This does not necessarily mean that a statutory requirement will always be needed, if it can be shown at some time in the future that integration, the object of this Bill, is firmly established.

I said on Second Reading, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, that I could not put a time limit on this possibility. It is a matter that was considered by the Seebohm Committee and was mentioned in their Report. I can only say that this Government, and any other Government, would clearly wish to look at developments and to consider whether the requirements of this Bill were being met, and would make decisions in the light of the way in which the services were working. But whether, and when, such a review would be undertaken, and whether any modifications would result from it, are matters which it is difficult to judge at this moment and I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, will expect me to try to do so.


May I try once more to draw the noble Baroness a little further? I agree with her that it is impossible to set a calendar time limit to the operation of these mandatory obligations, but can she not say that it would be most unlikely that they would need to continue beyond the reform of local government, because it seems to me that the Government's proposals for local Government reform would be totally inconsistent with the continuation of this kind of legislation?


The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, can draw me to this point: that the timing of future amending legislation which would be designed to modify these requirements might or might not coincide with local government reform when it is brought forward. But I would say this—and it might perhaps bring the noble Lord some comfort. It would obviously be natural, when legislation on the reform of local government is brought forward, that the Government at that time should look at the statutory provisions regarding the internal organisation of local authorities and not only those which affect the particular services we are now considering under this Bill.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Business of social services committee]:

On Question, Whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill?


If the Committee is agreeable to this procedure, I should now like to turn to two matters on Clause 3 to which I should like to give an airing. This clause is to do with the business of the social service committee. Several of us have said, and a large number of bodies outside your Lordships' House have said, that we deplore the absence of any coherent expression of the committee's overall duties. This clause relies, instead, on a whole catalogue in Schedule 1 of the existing functions which are transferred to it. All I really want to do is to put on record the fact that if such a clause as is in the Social Work (Scotland) Act is right for Scotland—and it seems to be—we are quite unconvinced by the argument so far brought forward in support of the case that it is not appropriate for England or Wales. In our view, such a clause is certainly needed as yeast to leaven this rather stodgy lump of dough, to provide not so much any new functions but scope for new approaches, new ways of undertaking the work—preventive work, experiments and greater participation by the citizens concerned. We cannot let this Bill go through without recording our regret that it has not been possible to do for England and Wales something which was so obviously necessary when we were dealing with Scotland.


I am not unfamiliar with the point of view that the noble Lord has just expressed. This matter was discussed in some detail in another place, and it has also been the subject of considerable discussion and debate generally. The noble Lord is aware, I am sure, that the reason why the Bill does not in fact amend the functions of local authorities in the way that he suggested—by including powers which confer on them a general duty to promote social welfare—is that we have always seen this Local Authority Social Services Bill as primarily a machinery Bill. The noble Lord will, I am sure, also be aware that in the wide-ranging consultations which the Government have undertaken in the past year on the reform of local government, on the reorganisation of the health services and on the implementation of the Seebohm Report, there were very strong pressures on the Government to delay legislation on the recommendations of the Seebohm Committee to coincide with the legislation on those other matters.

The Government took the view, for reasons which we touched on at Second Reading. that there was an urgent need to legislate in this field. I believe that that was the right decision; and I am delighted that they took the decision at the time they did and submitted the Bill so that, with co-operation to-day, we shall be able to move forward to Royal Assent in the life of this Parliament. Therefore, it had primarily to be a Bill which implemented the essential recommendations of the Seebohm Committee in relation to the organisation of the local authority social services. In this sense it is different from the Social Work (Scotland) Act. But we are, of course, also legislating, as the noble Lord will be aware, for a somewhat different position from that obtaining at the time when my noble friend Lord Hughes steered the Social Work (Scotland) Bill through this House.

I hope that that explanation will satisfy the noble Lord. I am very conscious that it does not meet his particular point, but its seems to me that he is trying to have it both ways. We have just had a discussion about not making certain requirements of this Bill mandatory because there are those who in fact dislike any practice whereby central Government is appearing to dictate to local government—and that feeling I can well understand, having myself spent many years in the services of a local authority. Now, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, is saying that we must tell them that they must do more than they are already doing. I expressed the view on Second Reading that, with the passing of two major pieces of legislation since the publication of the Seebohm Report, the responsibilities and the duties of the new social services departments following the passing of this Bill will be very wide indeed—in the view of the Government, as wide as is needed at this moment of time and in the light of the resources available (and here I mean skilled manpower as well as money) to undertake the kind of work the Seebohm Committee envisaged the comprehensive social services departments would carry out. So I hope that the noble Lord, having made his point, will accept that at this moment of time it was right and proper to legislate in this way, and that the time may well come in the future when the point he has made can be looked at generally in the light of the situation at that time.


I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, and I am certainly not going to press her any further. I know how well she knows the history of the point that we are discussing, and I have a shrewd suspicion that if she was still a member of the Seebohm Committee and not a member of the Government she would have signed the recommendation that I am now supporting.

May I now turn to another matter; namely, education welfare? This is attached, as it were, to this clause because if it were carried out under a statutory function—and of course I appreciate that it is not—it would be one of the things which, unless this Bill permitted, could not be transferred subsequently to the social work committee. All I would ask the Minister of State to do is to agree, if she would, with what the Seebohm Report said, which amounted to saying, rather more generously and courteously, that here we really do have a second-class service. This is no fault of the people who serve in it and who make it up, and there are very many notable exceptions to this general criticism. But the Seebohm Committee made the criticism, and it is in the experience of many who are concerned in various ways with the social work services that this service is a good way behind. I appreciate the reasons which have been given as to why the education welfare service cannot be transferred, in the way that other services can, to the social work committee; namely, because it has no statutory basis. I accept that. Nevertheless, unless an initiative is taken—and I believe it must in the first place come from Her Majesty's Government—this service will continue to be less than satisfactory (and that is putting it mildly), and, as the new social work department grows, this one will decline; and a slowly withering away service is the last thing we want.

At the Committee stage of this Bill in another place the noble Baroness's right honourable friend, Mrs. Shirley Williams, at column 101, indicated that consultations were now in hand—I think with the Department of Education and Science, but it may be with the local authorities or with both—to expedite the process whereby this service can be put on a proper basis as soon as the legislation we are dealing with has been enacted. Can the noble Baroness say, before moving away from this clause, how those consultations are proceeding, what fruit they have borne so far, if any, and what other initiatives are contemplated or in hand in this field?


This is an area within this general field to which the Government attach great importance. The reason for there being no express reference to education welfare in the Bill in those terms is that the services which are to be administered by the social services committees are available to schools and schoolchildren without further legislation. Local Authority functions under the Childrens and Young Persons Act 1963 are assigned to the social services committee by the inclusion of this Act in Schedule 1 to the Bill, and Section 1 of that Act, as the noble Lord knows, confers wide powers to promote the welfare of children and their families. The Government feel that how far schools avail themselves of such services is not a matter for legislation but a matter for local arrangement and discussion. This is a service of great importance if we are to see continuity of care and support for families and for children as they grow up through their various ages and stages.

The Seebohm Committee attached great importance to the integration of the social work aspect of what we call the education welfare services in the new social services departments. I am afraid that at this moment I cannot add much to what my honourable friend the Minister of State at the Home Office said in the later stages of the debate in another place, but I can assure the noble Lord that the Government will promote the discussions to which he referred between the authorities concerned bearing in mind that there are certain problems.

Thinking ahead towards the reorganisation of local government, there are clearly special arrangements which will need to be made in this field as, in metropolitan areas, education will be in the top tier of local government (as set out in the Government's recent White Paper) and local authority social services departments are to be in the second tier. There are particular problems for particular areas. I can assure the Committee that the Government will proceed with these discussions. We sympathise with the objective of disengaging social work elements, which sometimes at the moment is provided by education staffs, in such a way that the members of the staff engaged on such work would become members of the community-based team, which is also responsible for the work arising from the social service functions defined in this Bill.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Joint committees and subcommittees]:

On Question, Whether Clause 4 shall stand part of the Bill?

5.53 p.m.


May I, on this clause dealing with joint committees and sub-committees, raise a further question—different from the one raised at Second Reading—about district sub-committees? The noble Baroness will agree that the basic unit of the new service as seen by the Seebohm Committee is the area team of social workers, a group of 12 professional social workers, ideally operating under one roof, serving one district with a population of between 50,000 and 100,000 people, so that there is certain to be a number of such teams in a number of such districts within each local authority area, even under the present local authorities and certainly under the new unitary authorities that are foreseen.

While making it quite plain that my own Party are not in any way committed either to the Maud Report or to the proposals in the Government White Paper on the Maud Report, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she can say anything about the use to which the Government propose to put the suggestions outlined in paragraph 52 of the White Paper dealing with district committees in the context of reformed local government, which it would seem to me, whatever other advantages or disadvantages they may have, would provide an ideal framework for the new area teams? Does she envisage any experiments on such a pattern being undertaken or encouraged when this Bill has been passed and between the time of its coming into force and further proposals being brought before Parliament for the reform of local government? It seems to me that it would be useful if the new area teams, as they come into being, could operate within the framework proposed in paragraph 52 of the White Paper, so that we could see how the system might work. It seems difficult to apply this across the board over the whole country until there has been some experiments. This would seem to be a particularly good opportunity for conducting them.


As the noble Lord said, the White Paper looked forward to a series of district committees appointed by the new unitary local authorities on which members of the proposed local councils would serve as of right. I reminded the House on Second Reading that the proposal in the second Green Paper on National Health Service reorganisation envisaged that the new area health authorities, which will parallel the new unitary local authorities, would be appointing district sub-committees to enable residents in the local community immediately concerned to participate in the running of their integrated district health services. The necessity for local participation in local government generally, and in the health and personal social services, is one which I think everyone now recognises and accepts; and I have no doubt that the social services committee constituted by this Bill will be anxious to secure as much participation as possible. They will therefore consider, among all the other measures they will be considering in the immediate period ahead, the establishment of district sub-committees. As some noble Lords are aware, there are some parts of the country where children's committees have district or area committees of the kind we contemplate. In the pre-London Government reorganisation era, the L.C.C. Children's Committee worked through three district committees which consisted partly of members of the main committee and partly of members from those districts.

I have noted the point that the noble Lord made about experiments, and the fact that one would like to see developments of this kind in the interim period. Clearly, the pattern is bound to vary in different parts of the country. I have no doubt that the pattern will vary between rural areas and urban areas, and perhaps between some regions of the country and others. So I think that this is the way forward. We see a relationship with the Maud White Paper, and we will certainly take note of the noble Lord's point about the need for development and experiment in advance of local government reform.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [The director of social services]:

On Question, Whether Clause 6 shall stand part of the Bill?


May I raise a question on this clause which is concerned with the appointment of the director of social services in each local authority area? The Secretary of State (we can come later to the question of which one it is going to be) has taken power under this clause to veto the appointment of this director. I think there is a general understanding that the vesting in the Minister of this power of veto is a necessary measure for effecting the first appointments, and justified for that purpose; but probably fully justified only for that limited and single purpose. Certainly one would want to see the stage at which this power is vested personally in the Minister superseded as soon as possible by one under which the appointment is made subject to regulations yet to be prescribed. The first thing, I think, that we should like to hear from the noble Baroness is when such regulations are likely to come into operation to supersede the temporary and rather unsatisfactory arrangement which will, perforce, apply over the period when the first directors are appointed.

Secondly, may I again try to draw her on to confirm that the present intention of the Government is that powers such as these, together with powers such as those in Clause 2, will be considered as quite inappropriate after local government has been reformed, if such reforms are on anything like the lines proposed by the Maud Report and set out in the Government's own White Paper?


My Lords, I am not sure whether I can tell the noble Lord at this moment just when the regulations will be ready. I can only assure him that we intend, once the Bill has received the Royal Assent—and even in advance of that—to move as fast and as far towards change as we reasonably can. In the meantime, we have made considerable progress, in consultation with local authorities, and with their very willing co-operation, to the point where the interdepartmental social work group which will assist local authorities in these matters is in touch with a considerable number of them about their first appointments. I can assure the noble Lord that there will be no delay. We shall proceed with the regulations as soon as possible.

I am afraid that my answer to his second point will not be quite so satisfactory as I can only say to him, as I said to him in the general question of the statutory provision in relation to the setting up of social services committees, that the same considerations apply to the statutory conditions affecting the appointment of the director of social services. I do not think that the Government could possibly commit themselves to any specific date, nor necessarily to the implementation of general local government reform itself. I can only repeat that it will be for any Government to review and assess the progress of the services and decide in the fullness of time, whether or not this requirement needs to remain statutory.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Local authorities to exercise social services functions under guidance of Secretary of State]:

6.3 p.m.

BARONESS SEROTA moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 6, line 18, at end insert— ("The foregoing provision is without prejudice to subsection (2) of section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (which excludes arrangements made in pursuance of subsection (1) of the said section 2 and certain other arrangements from the requirement that arrangements made by a local authority under section 29 of the said Act of 1948 shall be carried into effect in accordance with a scheme made thereunder).")

The noble Baroness said: I hope it will be for the convenience of the Committee if, in moving Amendment No. 1, I speak to Amendments Nos. 6 and 11 which hang together with it. I should point out immediately that the Amendments to this Bill refer to clauses in the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill which the House has just passed, and that these references will have to be changed now that we have added certain new clauses to the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill. Amendments 1, 6 and 11 are technical. I am not sure whether the Committee would be prepared to agree them "on the nod", but if there are any questions that noble Lords would like to ask about them I shall be very happy to explain further. I beg to move.


I certainly do not want to press the noble Baroness in any detail on any of these Amendments, and I sympathise with the difficulty which she is in, with this Bill and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill going through Parliament simultaneously at the speed at which they are travelling. I accept this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 7 as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


Before we move on from this clause I should be grateful of an opportunity to say a word about the manner of the guidance which the Secretary of State will give local authorities in the exercise of these new functions, and to comment on the process of unification at central Government level which is distinguished by its absence. Instead of a single Secretary of State, which was one of the central recommendations of the Seebohm Committee's Report, we still have a multiplicity of Secretaries of State. There are varied opinions, inside and outside Government, about which Minister should be responsible for this new service, but I would judge that there is near unanimity outside about a preference for one Minister rather than a multiplicity, whoever the Minister might be.

Until this stage of the single-Minister responsible for the whole service has been reached, it will in my view be quite impossible to move towards the strong central guidance which the new service obviously needs, and more particularly so on its initiation and launching than later on. While this central issue remains unsettled, the general responsibilities of central Government and the recommendations on that; the question of a central Government inspectorate and the question of a new single advisory council to advise Ministers in this field will, I submit, hang fire. I do not want to show any disrespect or lack of appreciation for the inter-departmental group that is carrying out the functions that need to be carried out in the meantime, but I am sure the noble Baroness would not attempt to say that this group anywhere meets the recommendations which the Seebohm Committee, of which she was a distinguished member, make about the steps to be taken at central Government level.


I am not surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, speak in the terms in which he has spoken. The Bill before the Committee to-day provides only for the reorganisation of certain services at local operational level. I should like to make clear (because I think that there has been some misunderstanding about this) that the Bill is not in itself designed as an interim arrangement, but it does come into force in what the Government regard as an interim situation, when, as we all know, further changes in the organisation of the National Health Service and local government are in prospect. Therefore, as a deliberate act, we confined the Bill to the essential organisational reforms required to secure the essence of the recommendations of the Seebohm Committee.

Acknowledging that the structure of central Government was outside their terms of reference, the Committee recommended that there should be changes at central Government level corresponding to the changes proposed at local level, and the Government accept that eventually this might be suitable. But, bearing in mind that the changes at local level this Bill provides are only part of the changes in local administration being considered at the moment, the Government have decided that it would not be wise at present to make changes in Whitehall.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, finds this unsatisfactory. I can only say to him that it is an interim situation in which the Government have not prejudged what the central Government organisation should be, and have set up the interdepartmental social work group to which local authorities can apply for help and advice. I can assure the noble Lord that my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Social Services, for Home Affairs and for Wales are working together towards the developments necessary in this field, and that nothing will be done by central Government to impede in any way the progress towards the objectives which we all have in mind.

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Protection of interests, etc. of local authority staffs]:


This is a minor and technical Amendment to the provisions in Clause 9(2). I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 7, line 27, at end insert— ("( ) Regulations made by virtue of subsection (2) above may be so framed as to have effect from a date earlier than that on which they are made, so however that so much of any regulations as provides that any provision thereof is to have effect from a date earlier than that on which they are made shall not place any person (other than the person required by the regulations to pay compensation) in a worse position than he would have been in if the regulations had been so framed as to have effect only as from the date on which they are made.")—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 10 [Delegation schemes to be revoked, so far as they relate to social services functions]:

On Question, Whether Clause 10 shall stand part of the Bill?


In subsection (6) of this clause there is a reference to voluntary organisations and the manner in which the new social work department might assist and support them. I hope that this will be interpreted widely and generously, because the voluntary organisations have always had, and will continue to have, a vital and important role to play in the social services; and the establishment of this single, coherent, unified social work department in each local authority and the setting up of the area teams in each district will immensely facilitate their work. I think the Committee will agree that discussion in detail of this whole matter of voluntary organisations in the social services would not be appropriate on this Bill, and certainly not appropriate at this time. But it is a topic to which, if I may suggest it, we might venture to return in your Lordships' House at some later stage, and discuss the role of voluntary organisations and volunteers under the new setting that will be created by the passing of this Bill.


The reason why, as the noble Lord has pointed out, the Bill contains only this minor provision in respect of voluntary organisations is that existing law gives local authorities all the necessary powers. We have on a number of occasions in debates in this House been concerned with the development of voluntary organisations and the work of individual volunteers. All see a developing future for voluntary service in relation to social services, and I join with the noble Lord in welcoming an opportunity in the future to discuss this in its wider aspects.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Amendment of Health Visiting and Social Work (Training) Act 1962]:

On Question, Whether Clause 11 shall stand part of the Bill?

6.16 p.m.


I venture to mention a point which I raised in the Second Reading debate. This clause concerns the two existing Training Councils—the Council for the Training of Health Visitors and the Council for Training in Social Work. I should mention to your Lordships again that I am at the present time Chairman of these two statutory Councils. It is explained in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill that Clause 11 facilitates the development of the Council for Training in Social Work in certain ways. It is known to your Lordships, I think, and certainly to the Government, that there is a great deal of concern among those who are interested in community nursing about that side of the work of the two Councils.

Mention of this Council, and all the great thought that has been given to it and the opportunities that are to be taken under this Bill (whether your Lordships will regard it as easy to understand or not), has given a great deal of concern to people concerned with the health visiting services and, more widely, the community nursing service. There are a good many people who feel strongly that the training of community nurses requires re-thinking and that rearrangement needs to be carried out quite as importantly and quite as urgently as the arrangements for the training of social workers. They have read this Bill—whether understandably or not—to mean that the Government are much less interest in health visiting and, more widely. community nursing than they are in social work.

I understand that the Government have had, and are having, a good many discussions about this matter. But I think it would remove a great deal of alarm, and some misunderstanding about the effects of this Bill, if the Government could make some kind of statement making it clear that one important reason why development of the Council concerned with the training of health visitors is not covered by this Bill is not that the Government consider these services less important, or that training in this field is less important, but simply that the present time is not suitable for dealing with this Council in quite the same way as it is to deal with the Council for Training in Social Work.

If they could make clear that they regard the work of the Council for the Training of Health Visitors as important, and perhaps even mention (what I think they would take perhaps to be obvious, if I am right) that this Statute will not go any way to diminish the status of that Council, I think it would help a great deal. If it were possible for the Government to say something about how far they have got with their discussions in relation to interim arrangements for the training of community nurses, this would give a good deal of relief all round. I venture to mention this again, although the Minister was not able to say anything about it in the Second Reading debate, because there is a lot of trouble about recruitment and some trouble about the staff of the statutory council.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Grasmere, for giving me an opportunity of doing what I unfortunately failed to do when he made this particular point on Second Reading; namely, to give him and others the assurance that the Government attach the greatest importance to developments in the training of health visitors and community nurses, and to assure him that although this Bill preserves the separation of the Council for Training in Social Work from the Council for Training in Health Visiting, this in no way derogates from the importance that we attach to the training of health visitors. In this Bill we simply provide for the future training of social workers, bringing together the responsibilities of the Council for Training in Social Work, the Council for Training in Probation and After Care, and the Central Council for Training in Child Care.

The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Grasmere, is aware of measures we should like to take in the near future to concert our thinking in the health visitor/community nurse field while the Committee, under the chairmanship of Professor Asa Briggs, is considering the role and function of the nurse and her education and training for the future integrated Health Service. Clearly we need to make some interim arrangements for the consideration of the important matters that the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Grasmere, has touched upon. I hope that the noble Lord will accept my assurance that the Government attach great importance to the training needs of health visitors and community nurses.


May I thank the noble Baroness, the Minister, for the skill with which she has understood what I was trying to say and the great care she has given to her statement? I think the statement as she has now made it—for which I am grateful—will relieve the anxieties of a great number of people.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clauses 12 to 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 [Citation, interpretation, commencement and extent]:

On Question, Whether Clause 15 shall stand part of the Bill?


One of the first of many advantages in having this General Election is that this important and welcome Bill will reach the Statute Book several weeks earlier than expected. I hope that all concerned will use that advantage to good effect. May I ask the noble Baroness whether she would like to say anything about the time programme? I think a date was mentioned at an earlier stage, and I wonder whether there is to be any advance on that. Probably the noble Baroness will not want to be drawn on that subject, but could she confirm that the powers for flexibility in the introduction of the Bill, both as to area and to one function as compared to another, will be applied not so much as according to any general principle but as to the merits of each particular case in each particular area?


Clause 15 provides in the usual form for the provisions of the Bill to be brought into force on a day or dates to be appointed by the Secretary of State. I confess that I have been so anxious to ensure that this Bill reached your Lordships' House in good time, and before a certain event, that I have not yet found the time to inquire whether that event will accelerate its implementation. What it certainly will do is give us a little more time than we had originally envisaged. The Government want to bring the Bill into force as soon and as widely as possible. As the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has reminded us, there are provisions in the clause whereby particular authorities may make out a case on efficiency grounds for avoiding a double set of changes—implementing the provisions of the Bill before the forthcoming restructuring of local government. It would be less than fair if I did not indicate to the Committee that it is the view of the Government that exceptions of the kind I have mentioned should be very few, because we are committed to the general policy of early unification of the local social services throughout the country. Only if, in the Minister's view, a special case is established will such exemption be granted.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Enactments conferring functions assigned to social services committee]:

BARONESS SEROTA moved Amendment No. 3: Page 13, line 42, leave out ("Part I")

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 3, perhaps the Committee will allow me to include Amendments Nos. 4, 5, 7 and 8, which are all technical, drafting Amendments intended to make clear that all the functions of the local authorities under the Children Act 1958 and Adoption Act 1958 are, or should be, assigned to the social services committee with the other enactments mentioned in Schedule 1 of the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 4.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 43, column 2, at end insert ("prosecution of offences").—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 5.

Amendment moved—

Page 13. line 46, leave out from beginning to end of line 48 and insert in column 2— ("Making, etc. arrangements for the adoption of children; regulation of adoption societies; care, possession and supervision of children awaiting adoption; prosecution of offences.")—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 6.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 42, at end insert— ("Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (c.)

Section 1 Obtaining information as to need for, and publishing information as to existence of, certain welfare services.
Section 2 Provision of certain welfare services.
Section 16 Provision of certain information required by Secretary of State.")

—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Minor and consequential amendments of, enactments]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 7.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 2, leave out ("Part I of").—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 8.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 3, leave out ("Parts II and IV of").—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 9.

Amendment moved—

Page 17, line 3, at end insert— ("( ) section 2(1)(f) of the Matrimonial Proceedings (Magistrates' Courts) Act 1960, section 37 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1965 and section 7(4) of the Family Law Reform Act 1969;")—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 10.

Amendment moved—

Page 18, line 26, leave out from beginning to ("section") in line 27 and insert— ("(h) section 2(1)(f) of the Matrimonial Proceedings (Magistrates' Courts) Act 1960; (i) the Children and Young Persons Act 1963 except Part II and")—(Baroness Serota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 11.

Amendment moved— Page 18, line 35, at end insert—

("The Children and Young Persons Act 1969 (c 54)

.—(1) In subsection (1)(a) of section 63 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 (which requires every local authority to make returns to the Secretary of State with respect to the performance by the authority of the functions specified in section 39(1) of the Children Act 1948) for the words from "the functions" to "committees)" there shall be substituted the words "their functions under the enactments mentioned in subsection (6) of this section".

(2) In subsection (5) of the said section 63 (which requires the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament reports with respect to certain matters, including the exercise by local authorities of the functions specified in the said section 39(1)) for the words from "the functions" to "1948" there shall be substituted the words "their functions under the enactments mentioned in subsection (6) of this section".

(3) At the end of the said section 63 there shall be added the following subsection:— (6) The enactments referred to in subsections (1) and (5) of this section are—

  1. (a) Parts III and IV of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933;
  2. (b) the Children Act 1948;
  3. (c) the Children Act 1958;
  4. (d) the Adoption Act 1958;
  5. (e) section 9 of the Mental Health Act 1959 and section 10 of that Act so far as it relates to children and young persons in respect of whom the rights and powers of a parent are vested in a local authority as mentioned in subsection (1)(a) of that section;
  6. (f) section 10 of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1960 so far as it relates to children and young persons in respect of whom the rights and powers of a parent are vested in a local authority as mentioned in subsection (1)(a) of that section;
  7. (g) section 2(1)(f) of the Matrimonial Proceedings (Magistrates' Courts) Act 1960, section 37 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1965 and section 7(4) of the Family Law Reform Act 1969;
  8. (h) the Children and Young Persons Act 1963 except Part II and section 56;
  9. (i) this Act."

The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (c.)

.—(1) In section 2(1) of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (which imposes a duty on local authorities to make arrangements for certain matters in exercise of their functions under section 29 of the National Assistance Act 1948) the words "under the general guidance of the Secretary of State and" shall be omitted, and after the words "the purpose)" there shall be inserted the words "and to the provisions of section 7(1) of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 (which requires local authorities in the exercise of certain functions, including functions under the said section 29, to act under the general guidance of the Secretary of State)".

(2) In section 2(2) of the said Act of 1970 (which makes provision in connection with the carrying into effect of the said arrangements) after the words "section 35(2)" there shall be inserted the words" and to the said section 7(1)".")—(Baroness Scrota.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported, with Amendments.

Then Standing Order No. 41 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution) Report received.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Baroness Scrota.)


My Lords, I shall detain your Lordships for only a very few moments. This is a Bill to which, if it had followed its normal course, I should have desired to set down Amendments, and some of the Amendments would probably have been of a controversial nature. I am not taking that course, not because my objection to some features of the Bill has in any sense abated but because I desire to send this Bill on its journey to the Statute Book. This is a good Bill, with some exceptions. It is a Bill which I think local authorities require and with which they will work.

There is only one other matter I should like to mention. In the Second Reading debate I think I made some observations concerning the Children's Service which caused the noble Baroness some pain. That is the last thing I desired to do. I think that if the noble Baroness will look again at what I said she will see that I was referring to the administrative structure against which the Children's Service has been built up. If my words were interpreted in any other way, all I desire to do now is to say that that was not my intention, and I hope the noble Baroness will accept that from me.


My Lords, now is the moment to wish this important Bill well and send it forward to the Statute Book. The effect of the Bill on its own, the unifying and the standardising of the services which it will bring about on its own, will certainly lift up the very lowest standards and raise the poorest services and set them in a better frame. But, unless fresh and further resources are also put in at the same time, the effect of the Bill may well be to bring the highest standards down and to reduce the best services to the average. Really, how can it do otherwise? Just changing the set-up and the frame-work can do no more than that. But these changes we are about to enact, combined with more resources, are certainly going to make those resources go far further and do a far better job than they could in their present deployment.

Accordingly, I congratulate those who have laboured on this piece of legislation and brought it to the launching stage: the Seebohm Committee, the Government and the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, in particular, who has served best. Quite a good deal more remains to be done yet; and who is to be responsible for ensuring that it is done has to be decided, too. Meanwhile, let us send the Bill down the slipway to the Statute Book with a cheer from both sides.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, the Government are much indebted to noble Lords for facilitating the smooth, swift and efficient passage of this important measure, especially at this stage in the life of Parliament. The prime object of this Bill is to integrate the services through which the local authorities discharge their extensive duties of social care and social support, and also to develop their preventive work. It will end a considerable period of uncertainty about the future organisation of local authority personal social services, which in the view of the Government has been threatening their efficient working.

I should like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, to-night in thanking the organisations and individuals who have been associated with bringing this Bill to the Statute Book: the local authority associations, professional organisations, and all other interested bodies who have helped the Government with advice and comments during the long period of consultation that preceded the introduction of the Bill. Having declared my own personal interest, I join with the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, once again in thanking the Seebohm Committee for their comprehensive analysis of the problems of local organisation, without which this particular measure could not have been framed. I am sure the members of that Committee will in fact be rewarded in the best possible manner when, with the cooperation of all sides of the House, their major recommendations involving legislation will pass into law just 22 months after the publication of the Report—no mean achievement.

I am also sure that we wish all local authorities well in the tasks they face under this Bill, and particularly the staff who will be concerned in the day-to-day implementation of the more effective community-based and family-oriented service which this Bill seeks to achieve. To those who will be carrying the burden of change, I think we should send our warm good wishes and support. The development of the services to their full potential will be the joint responsibility of the local authorities and their staff.

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.