§ 5.0 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE (LORD BELSTEAD)
My Lords. I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. The Bill deals with two distinct topics. Clauses 1 and 2 and both the Schedules are concerned with the powers of the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Wales relating to educational trusts. Clauses 3 and 4 refer to student awards.
645 The provisions dealing with educational trusts are new; the two clauses dealing with awards reproduce almost word for word clauses in a Bill which was passed by this House in 1970, and these provisions are concerned with powers which were first conferred upon the Secretary of State for Education and Science by the Education Act 1962.
However, the Department's powers for dealing with educational trusts are of much greater antiquity. The Department inherited these powers from the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry in its turn inherited them from the Board of Education, upon which they were conferred when the Board was brought into existence right back in 1900. But the powers themselves are even older than that, for they were first created by the Statutes which were enacted in the middle of the 19th century which revolutionised the administration of charitable trusts and in particular of trusts for education. Before the statutory system of education was brought into being by the Elementary Education Act 1870 the provision of education in this country was, it is fair to say, almost entirely in the hands of people who were in law trustees administering charitable trusts. In the context of this Bill perhaps it is sufficient to mention only the endowed school—the majority of which were founded by gifts of money to provide teaching in grammar—Latin and so on—and those schools, most of which we know as voluntary primary schools, provided by the religious denominations in the second half of the last century.
The Statutes passed in the 19th century to which I have referred did two things. They provided for the establishment of Charity Commissioners, on whom were conferred the powers of the old Chancery Court over all charitable trusts, whether educational or not; and in the Endowed Schools Acts they created a system for the reorganisation of the endowed schools, establishing for that purpose Commissioners with powers even wider than those of the Charity Commissioners who were subject to the Committee of Council on Education, which is the historical predecessor of the Department of Education and Science. To complete this background, mention should be made of the provision in the Elementary Education Act 1870 which enabled the managers of schools which we now know as volun- 646 tary to comply with the statutory requirements governing the provision of education, notwithstanding anything in trust deeds or schemes which might regulate their endowments.
When the Board of Education was created in 1900 all the powers to which I have referred were transferred to it. It acquired from the Charity Commissioners their powers under the Charitable Trusts Acts in so far as they applied to trusts for education; it acquired from the Commissioners the powers conferred by the Endowed Schols Acts to frame schemes for the endowed schools and from the Committee of Council on Education power to approve these schemes; and it acquired a power to modify the trust deeds of denominational schools within the statutory system so far as this was necessary to enable the managers of those schools to comply with the law's statutory requirements. Basically, the powers of the old Board remain the same to-day. The Board and then the Minister and now the Secretary of State exercises the charity powers in accordance with the principles of the law of charity; the powers to modify the trusts of the endowed schools and the voluntary schools also fall to my right honourable friend for final decision.
When the present Government took office in 1970 there was a comprehensive review of Departmental responsibilities and this included the powers exercised under the Charities Act by the two Secretaries of State, and as a result of it the Government concluded that those powers, being essentially judicial in both origin and character, really are not appropriate to the role of a central Government Minister. The reasoning behind this conclusion was that, as for the principle of the matter, decisions to be taken under the Charities Act are judicial, not policy, decisions, and indeed at the moment two-thirds of charitable trusts are subject to the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners. There is also the practical aspect of the matter. When the law of charitable trusts was last reviewed by the Nathan Committee, which was appointed in 1950, I admit that it reported:…the educational endowments which would be effected…are so essentially a part of a single system of national education that their removal from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education would create chaos.The Nathan Committee reported in 1952 and its recommendations formed the 647 basis of the Charities Act 1960. However, we now have the benefit of some twelve years' experience of the operation of that Act and I submit that we can now see that in practice the administration of the Department's charity jurisdiction is virtually self-contained, and we believe that it can be transferred intact from the Department of Education and Science to the Charity Commissioners without undue inconvenience. The officials concerned will take their experience and expertise with them. There will of course need to be consultation and exchanges of information, and this will continue, but we see no reason why that process should not continue as smoothly in the future as it has done in the past.
The termination of the Department's jurisdiction under the Charities Act is the first and main purpose of the whole of the first part of this small Bill. In addition, during the review of the Department's responsibilities we concluded that the powers conferred by the Endowed Schools Acts were no longer required and that in consequence those Acts could safely be repealed. The powers under them are very rarely invoked and trusts of endowed schools can be modified either through Section 86 of the Education Act 1944 or through the Charities Act 1960. The termination of the powers under the Charities Act make it desirable to extend very slightly the powers exercised by the two Secretaries of State under the Education Act 1944, but my right honourable friend and the Secretary of State for Wales maintain their powers under the Education Acts even though the powers under the Charities Act are being transferred. We thought it necessary to extend very slightly the powers exercised by the two Secretaries of State under the 1944 Act to modify the trust deeds of voluntary schools and other educational institutions so as to enable their managers and governors to comply with the requirements of the law of the land. These three changes are made by subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 1 of the Bill. Clause 1(1)(a) terminates the charity jurisdiction; Clause 1(1)(b) brings to an end the powers exercised under the Endowed Schools Acts; and Clause 1(2) deals with the powers conferred by the Education Act to modify the trust deeds of schools within the statutory system of education.
648 Clause 2 deals with a slightly different aspect of the same subject. Many of your Lordships will be familiar with schools provided by the denominations in the 19th century which are now in the process of being replaced by new schools or being transferred to new premises so that their endowments, and in particular their premises, become available for other purposes. Section 86 of the Education Act 1944 has made provision for the last 25 years to enable the diocesan authority concerned to apply those endowments for the purposes of other voluntary schools within the area of the same diocese. Section 86 did this by applying the Endowed Schools Acts to these endowments. Those Acts have two distinct features; the powers they confer are very wide—much wider indeed than is necessary for this limited purpose—and the procedure they prescribe is both elaborate and very time consuming.
Clause 2 replaces the wide general powers of the Endowed Schools Acts with narrow specific powers in the terms within which in practice those wider powers have been exercised. Clause 2 streamlines the procedure so as to make it more efficient and more expeditious, but I assure your Lordships that it does not derogate from the rights of those affected to know what is proposed and to make legal representations about any proposal which they might wish to challenge in the courts.
My Lords, may I finally draw the attention of the House to Clauses 3 and 4? Clause 3 is an enabling one which gives the Secretary of State power to supplement grants to certain students holding awards from local education authorities by paying them dependants' allowances in respect of any hardship which would be suffered by someone supporting a wife, or a husband, or a child. At present, these students may receive these allowances from their local education authorities, or they may receive allowances from the Supplementary Benefits Commission. This clause does not extend the present provision—it centralises it; and it will ensure the application of more uniform standards and conditions.
Nearly all students attending first degree and equivalent courses, or courses of training as a teacher, receive a mandatory award from their local education 649 authority. These awards comprise fees, maintenance grants and supplementary allowances; for example, for extra attendance at college or on a vacation course. Included among these supplementary allowances are allowances for the dependants of a student. However, the qualification for mandatory dependants' allowances is given only if a man is married before his course begins and he is either over 25 or has supported himself for three years. If he is not over 25—or if she is not over 21 in the case of a married woman—or if he has not supported himself, in the case of a man, for three years, or has married after September 1 of the year in which his course begins, he is not entitled as of right to an allowance for his family.
The object of these rules is to ensure that the awards system provides no financial incentive to students to marry while they are undertaking courses with assistance from public funds, but cases are bound to occur where a student and his dependants will suffer hardship if he did not qualify for a dependants' allowance. I think it needs little imagination to see that such cases need by no means stem from irresponsibility. If I may give just one example, a man under 25, starting his course, may well have married and started a family during a period of employment, which did not happen to extend to the full three-year period, before he started his course. In 1965, therefore, it was agreed, and the agreement was with all-Party support, to amend the Awards Regulations in order to give discretion to local education authorities to pay allowances for the spouse and children of an award holder, where the normal qualifications for a mandatory dependants' allowance had not been fulfilled, provided that the authority considered that hardship would otherwise result. Once again, some limitations were imposed, and they were quite strict limitations, but there was a final safety net because some time previously the then National Assistance Board agreed, as a temporary measure, to consider requests for assistance for all categories of students who were not otherwise eligible for allowances for their dependants.
We feel that these arrangements ought to be replaced by a scheme which will ensure consistent treatment for everyone. 650 The Supplementary Benefits Commission wish to withdraw from what was originally intended to be only a temporary expedient because benefit is normally given by the Supplementary Benefits Commission only to people—I think I am right in saying—who are registered for employment. Local education authorities are anxious to relinquish their powers because the interpretation of hardship inevitably varies from one authority to another and the authorities themselves readily acknowledge that this leads to different treatment between one area and another.
Thus, Clause 3 of the Bill will enable the Secretary of State to establish a scheme designed to ensure that hardship is relieved on the basis of common standards. The scheme will be administered on behalf of the Secretary of State by the Department of Health and Social Security. In due course regulations will be laid before Parliament giving details of the scheme. The regulations will specify the conditions under which allowances will be paid and will enable social security officials to assess applications and the Department of Health and Social Security to make payments; the allowance will as now be discretionary; it will be in order to relieve hardship, and will be designed so that it does not exceed those paid to a fully entitled student.
§ LORD MAYBRAY-KING
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to ask whether he proposes to include allowances for the children of unmarried students'?
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, looks at the bottom of page 5 of the Bill, in Clause 3(5) he will see the words:In this section references to a person's child include that person's stepchild or illegitimate child and a child adopted by that person…The answer to the noble Lord's question, therefore, is: Yes, it does include that for children. It does not include the e partner in a situation where two people are living together and they are not married.
Finally, Clause 4 removes, for certain categories of courses, the power that local education authorities at present have under Section 2(1) of the 1962 Education Act to make awards to students attending postgraduate courses. Regulations will 651 be made by the Secretary of State designating courses for which local education authorities will no longer be able to make awards. May I in a few sentences give the explanation? Prior to 1969, responsibility for postgraduate awards was divided between education authorities on the one hand and central Government on the other, and this certainly led to confusion. So in 1969, in agreement with the local authority associations, arrangements were made for central Government agencies to take over sole responsibility for awards in defined areas for postgraduate study previously made by local education authorities under their discretionary powers, as well as by central Government agencies. While local education authorities since 1969 have not been expected to make awards in those fields of study which fall within the general area of responsibility of one or other of central Government agencies, their power to make postgraduate awards has never in fact been removed. The local authorities feel that this puts them in an artificial position and they would very much prefer the removal of this power; and that is what Clause 4 is intended to do.
My Lords, although the two halves of this small Bill deal with two entirely unrelated subjects, educational charities and student awards, none the less I believe that they have this in common: both areas of the Bill seek to improve administration in the interests both of the administrators and of those whose interests are affected, and as this is the main objective of the whole Bill I hope that the House will agree to give it a Second Reading. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Belstead.)
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for introducing the Bill in his usual charming and explicit way. I found the history extraordinarily interesting, and I see that the Department is learning. I remember a certain Bill which was known as the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, and I was looking at the notes for my speech (which I retained) and I notice that I was told then, just as the noble Lord has told us now, that it was merely to centralise certain things and that it made no major changes. I learned the 652 hard way that a Bill which has an innocent sound can resound not only in your Lordships' House but all around the country. So I am very happy that the noble Lord has not had the difficult task that I had when I introduced the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. I will also not use the name which the Opposition used of my little Bill: they called it a "ragbag" of a Bill. I will say that I am delighted to note that the Bill covers two subjects.
In this House we always use the opportunity of any Bill, or indeed anything, to bring in matters which, while appearing to be directly connected, are not wholly so. I should like to use the opportunity to pay some tribute to the voluntary schools. In a period when sometimes denominational schools are under criticism I should like to say that they still play a very remarkable and very important part in our educational structure. As a Catholic, I will not choose one of the schools of which I am chairman of governors. I select an Anglican school where I had the privilege of presenting prizes a little while ago. I liked the description in the notes for parents on the school. It said that it was a voluntary aided school, of which there were three to be found in this particular London borough. The note added:This school is a Church of England foundation and its attitudes and teaching are based on the traditional values of the Christian faith and what we still like to think are traditional British principles. It makes no apology for this, and in an age when so much seems to be declining into disorder the school is determined to make a stand for those qualities which it still believes must endure.I do not think anybody could quarrel with those aims and objects of the school. I found at the school itself that there was a very remarkable feeling and attitude displayed, by both staff and pupils alike.
My Lords, if we look at the Bill, we see that the first two clauses are, as the noble Lord explained, completely non-controversial. Indeed, the transfer of the educational charities from the Department of Education to the Charity Commissioners is in many respects an improvement, because it is always better to deal with one master rather than with several, whether it be in charitable matters or anything else. So far as Clause 1(2) is concerned, the Secretary of 653 State, as we know, already has powers of modification under several other measures, and I presume that the current proposals have been devised in consultation with the various educational bodies concerned. The noble Lord did not say so, but I am assuming that consultation has taken place. Coming to Clause 2, I notice that in subsection (3) mention is made of "any teacher's dwelling-house"—and again I am asking for clarification. As the clause appears to operate only after the school connected therewith has been discontinued, I should like to know whether the sitting teacher tenants will be able to acquire their houses more easily or whether any difficulty will be put in their way.
Then we come to Clause 3, which removes responsibility for hardship allowances from the L.E.A. and places it where it should have been in the first place, with the central Government. I applaud this—indeed, I applauded the previous Bill which was presented to your Lordships' House. I think there may be a fine line drawn between illegitimate children and people who are living together, but I am not sufficiently competent to work it out. I wonder whether this provision is perhaps a sop to those of your Lordships who do not like the word "cohabit". At any rate, we shall no doubt discover during the course of the Bill's progress what is the general feeling on this matter. I have no criticism to offer.
Clause 4 clarifies an ad hoc situation in which, with few exceptions, postgraduate courses are financed by the central Government. I should like to know how this will affect teachers taking B.Ed. courses. Is their situation likely to be worsened? As we have heard, this is a straightforward Bill, and I wish it a fair passage through your Lordships' House.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for his able exposition of this short, largely routine but nevertheless, in its language, slightly obscure Bill. I suppose I had better declare an interest and say that at the moment I have an application up to the Department of Education and Science for the foundation of an educational trust 654 which I hope will not be unduly delayed by the change of powers.
The moving of educational charities across to the Charity Commissioners is obviously one of benefit for administrative convenience; such simplification is always welcome. I think it is the more welcome because there are still many of us, including a number in your Lordships' House, who feel that the whole of the charities law is due for some revision, that the definition of charities is due for some revision, particularly with regard to such bodies as the Humanist Trust, and it may be easier to deal with this if the whole matter is dealt with by one body than, as it was, split up by two. I see that this whole change is happening rather more quickly than was forecast in the Charity Commissioners' Annual Report for 1971, and I wonder if the Minister can say whether this Bill in fact covers all the charitable trusts in the Department. For instance, the Charity Commissioners, in their report, say that they are not expecting the administration of libraries and museums charitable trusts to be transferred in the immediate future. Are these included in this Bill?
There is one minor point which arises from the repeal of the Endowed Schools Act. Obviously, it is basically a good step to remove from the Statute Book what is now largely obsolete legislation. But there is a provision in one of the Acts allowing school chapels to be exempted from parochial control; and I should like to know whether this Bill repeals that particular provision or whether provision for this is made in any other piece of legislation. I have not given notice to the noble Lord of this particular question, but I understand that it has been raised by some authorities at Church House, and therefore he can probably tell me the answer. If this has been overlooked, I think there is a considerable case for our doing something about it at Committee stage.
I now skip to Clause 4, though I shall return to Clause 3 in a moment. Here again it seems to me an administrative advantage to regularise the present position regarding postgraduate awards. I only hope that it is not going to be used as a weapon for regulating the postgraduate numbers in a way that has been foreshadowed by the leaks in The Times Higher Educational Supplement of the 655 Secretary of State's intentions in the near future. Also I think that considerable care needs to be taken that, when there is only one body dealing with grant giving, and not a multiplicity of centres, bureaucracy and bias are avoided. Therefore, there should be considerable circulation of the people who serve on the appropriate grant-giving committees, so that there is a real wide range of views and certain establishments do not get into ill-favour for inadequate reasons. I also hope that the Department will take advantage of this opportunity to remind local education authorities that they still have responsibility for a large number of important courses, particularly those outlined in List B of Appendix 1 of Circular UF 45/01. These are not necessarily unimportant, and local education authorities need occasionally to be reminded of the fact that they still have these powers.
Going back to Clause 3, we again very much welcome the regularising of the position with regard to supplementary grants, which was very largely put forward, as the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, said, in the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill of 1970, which fell by the wayside. I personally still regret the inability to allow for an occasional case, which may be a really hard case, and include a cohabiting partner.
I wonder whether, before the Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, could possibly satisfy me and other noble Lords on the kind of hard case that was so ably described by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, when he was Lord Chancellor, in a speech on the previous Bill on April 28, 1970, reported at col. 969 of the OFFICIAL REPORT. I am not asking the noble Lord to reply now. I am well aware that I have not given him sufficient notice I also think that this is a matter at which we probably need to look at leisure, and on which it might be right to put down a probing Amendment at Committee stage. In any case, I do not feel that we should cause genuine hardship to someone, or deny them a university place, merely because they do not happen to follow the particular mores which we ourselves, and I certainly as a Christian, follow. I think that this is the only thing of regret that I find about the Bill as such. We are of course still waiting 656 for the Department of Education and Science to produce something really worthwhile for us, other than cutting down school meals, school milk, and other things. The whole mountain of the Department seems to have given birth at this time to a tiny little mouse, but at least it is a friendly and useful little mouse and we give it a warm welcome.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD PLATT
My Lords, I rise quite briefly to make only two points. The first is a request for enlightenment or clarification. I find it difficult to understand what is meant in the Explanatory Memorandum by:… enable the denomination concerned to participate more effectively in the statutory system of public education.I am sorry, but I fail to understand in what way they would do that. I became a little suspicious when I read the rubric to Clause 2 at the top of page 3, where it says:Special powers as to certain trusts for religious education.I became perhaps a little more suspicious when I actually read Clause 2(4), which seems to me positively to encourage the continuance of strictly denominational education at a time when a very large section of the population—and I say this with great respect for the noble Baroness who has spoken in this debate—if not perhaps the majority, including many devoted Christians, would seek to discontinue this kind of teaching on the grounds that it tends to inculcate fixed attitudes in young children. We surely have only to see the lessons of Northern Ireland to take this quite seriously at the present time.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, I wonder whether I might interrupt the noble Lord. Would he not agree that we describe ourselves as a Christian democracy? What kind of principles would he like instilled in children?
§ LORD PLATT
My Lords, I should like the Christian principles to be instilled into children, but not denominational teaching, which I think is something different.
My only other point has really been made by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley; that is, to express the hope—perhaps "pious hope" would be the 657 wrong wording—that the Humanist Trust would come in for reconsideration as an educational trust if these trusts are to be transferred to the Charity Commissioners. Here I speak without any interest to declare since I am not a member of the British Humanists Association or any other body, religious or irreligious.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, I wish to draw attention to a small point concerning the powers of local education authorities. In a speech on November 2 I explained to your Lordships the importance of a measure of international education designed to draw people together now that we are joining Europe. I described how the College of the Atlantic in South Wales has students chosen entirely by merit from a good many countries, and 70 per cent. of them on scholarships. The scholarships are given by Ministries of Education and other scholarship-giving authorities in many countries right across the world. In the United Kingdom they are given by the local education authorities. Unfortunately, it now appears that there is an anomaly, or at least, shall I say, an obscurity in British law, and that our local education authorities may not have the right to give a scholarship to a British student wishing to study abroad. Now that we are joining Europe I believe that this anomaly in our law prevents our local education authorities from playing their part as other authorities abroad do, however much they may wish to do so in occasional cases. I think that this is most undesirable.
I welcome this Bill, but I greatly hope that it will be possible to introduce a short Amendment at the Committee stage to clarify the position which I have mentioned, and to give our local education authorities the same rights to award scholarships as other educational authorities abroad seem to enjoy.
§ 5.36 p.m.
My Lords, I wish to raise one small point arising out of the introduction by my noble friend of this Bill. Before I do so, may I say how much I welcome the noble Baroness's eulogy of the Church of England school where she gave away the prizes. I can only say in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Platt, that there is a considerable queue to get into any Church of England school 658 in the diocese of Chichester, because the parents, rightly or wrongly, think that they get a better education and a better degree of moral principles than they do in the non-denominational schools.
My point is that I am engaged at the moment in trying to alter the objects of an educational trust. I see that the transfer of powers from the Department of Education and Science to the Charity Commissioners is going to be from a day to be appointed. My noble friend said that there were various staff going over from one to the other. I hope that the people who are in the pipeline will not, as it were, be left balancing on two legs, with the staff in one place and the power of decision in the other. I should like some assurance from my noble friend on that point.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I apologise to the Minister and the House that I did not place my name on the list of speakers. I regarded this as a routine Bill and did not expect the series of speeches which have been delivered. I wish to make just a brief comment on the part of the Bill which deals with the transfer of education charities from the Department of Education and Science to the Charity Commissioners. I regret that this opportunity was not taken of making the charity law much clearer than it is at present. It requires revision; it requires definition; and I should have hoped that this Bill might have been used, when this transference was taking place, for terms of reference for the Charity Commissioners when they are deciding what educational privileges should be given.
I want to illustrate that by what happened to the Humanist Trust, a matter which I raised earlier in a debate in this House. Unlike my noble friend Lord Platt, perhaps I should declare an interest. I am a Humanist and a member of the Humanist Association. That Trust, which was engaged solely in educational activities and was accepted for four years as an educational charity—was also accepted as such by the Inland Revenue—was suddenly and arbitrarily removed from the Register of Charities by the Department of Education and Science. When I raised this matter in the House, the Minister acknowledged that a mistake had been made by the Department.
659 I am not speaking in a spirit antagonistic to the Churches. I have a profound admiration for what the Churches are now doing, particularly on the racialist issue in Southern Africa and in this country. The stand which the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and the Free Churches have made under extraordinarily difficult conditions in Southern Rhodesia commands the admiration of even those of us who do not accept Church theology. Also, one recognises how the Churches are now expressing the Christian ethic in facing the problems of social inequality and injustice in this country. I am sorry that there are no right reverend Prelates here this afternoon. But I feel sure that, in the new spirit of toleration which there now is within the Churches, they would not claim for themselves a monopoly of educational charity or privileges which are denied to educational organisations not associated with the Churches. I very much hope that, as this duty is transferred from the Department of Education and Science to the Charity Commissioners, the Charity Commissioners will act in a fairer and more tolerant way to those who are not associated with the religious organizations.
There is just one other point that I should like to make in regard to the sale of redundant Church schools. Again, here, I want to acknowledge, as a Humanist, that many of these Church schools (I think this applies even more to Catholic Schools than to Anglican Schools) have an atmosphere of calm serenity which encourages quite a depth of culture, and I appreciate the contribution which that makes to the bringing up and education of children. But I would say to those who support denominational schools that we have now reached a stage where the segregation of children for sectarian reasons is contrary to the wellbeing of our society. My noble friend Lord Platt has referred to what is happening in Northern Ireland, where there is the appalling situation of children who have been brought up in Anglican or Catholic schools, both claiming to worship the same God, finding themselves in a sectarian conflict.
I have no doubt, despite the atmosphere which Churches can give to education, that we have now reached a stage at which it is bad for society that children 660 should be divided in their education according to sectarian associations. I would just express the hope that, while of course the Catholic and the Anglican Churches have the right of compensation for schools which are closed down—though they should remember the contribution which the State has made—they will not use the funds which are thus created to continue in our society the segregation of children according to their sectarian beliefs. They have the right, as all of us with different views have the right, to seek to create their own atmosphere and their own teachings, but surely history is now showing that that should not be done within the State educational system.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, this short Bill has given the House an opportunity to consult on not a few matters in the last hour-and-a-quarter. The first question which the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, asked me was: what consultation took place before the Bill was drafted? The proposals embodied in Clauses 1 and 2 were in the consultation letter circulated in December, 1971, to all relevant bodies—local authority associations, the denominations. et cetera—and there was no criticism from any. The noble Baroness also asked me whether a sitting tenant would be in a better or a worse position under Clauses 1 and 2. Orders under Clause 2 do not affect the rights of sitting tenants. If one looks at the Bill, one finds that the relevant paragraph in the School Sites Act 1841 is reproduced, as it has been in earlier legislation. The noble Baroness asked me a third question about teachers taking B.Ed. courses, and asked whether they would be worse off or better off. This Bill does not affect the teacher training students who are already covered, so far as dependants' allowance is concerned, by Section 3 of the 1962 Act.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, asked me about all charities, and wondered whether libraries and museums are included. I think the answer is, Yes, but before I sit down I should like to cover this point in relation to one other matter. The noble Lord also asked me specifically whether school chapels would still be exempt from parochial controls. Chapels of endowed 661 schools will, in fact, fall under the Extra-Parochial Ministry Measure 1967, which enables a Bishop to maintain their existing privileges. That is the effect of the last entry on page 10 of the Bill. I was grateful to the noble Lord for his support, albeit limited, for Clause 3. He said—I expected the noble Lord to say this, and it was perfectly fair—that it seemed a pity that there was no ability to meet particularly hard cases, and he thought he might like to probe this aspect during the Committee stage. I should like to say that a Working Party of my right honourable friend's Department and the Department of Health and Social Security is sitting at the moment, and among other matters are looking into how the Supplementary Benefits Commission might be able to deal with the sort of cases which the noble Lord had in mind.
The noble Lord, Lord Platt, drew the attention of the House to the Explanatory Memorandum and confessed himself unable fully to grasp the meaning of the words,…to enable the denomination concerned to participate more effectively in the statutory system of public education.This subject is covered in Clause 2 of the Bill. I think many noble Lords will be familiar with a situation where one has a voluntary-aided school which either closes completely or transfers. There, one has an endowment and it cannot be used for the specific purpose for which it was originally set up. It was for that reason that Clause 86 of the 1944 Education Act was drafted, which allows schemes to be made under Section 86, usually referring to several schools. My noble friend Lord Hawke will know a great deal more about this than I do, but very often a number of schools are put into what is known as a Section 86 scheme, so that the endowment can be used (these are precisely the words which are troubling the noble Lord) for the statutory system of education, but not in the school which has been closed. Section 2 of this Act streamlines, and I hope makes better, the old Clause 86 of the 1944 Act.
My Lords, I had the pleasure of hearing the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, on November 2 in the debate on the reply to the gracious Speech. The noble Lord has approached my right honourable friend's Department about the 662 question of grants for overseas objectives in education. I have given the noble Lord an undertaking that I will get in touch with him between this stage of the Bill and the Committee stage, but the noble Lord is aware, I know, that one of the things we shall have to look at is whether his suggestion will change the scope of this particular Bill. Further than that I do not think that at this moment I can go.
My noble friend Lord Hawke expressed the hope that cases which are already in the pipeline will not be kept waiting. We will certainly do our best to try to see that the noble Lord is met on this point, but it is perhaps just relevant to what my noble friend said and to what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said if I finish by saying this. The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, kindly expressed her approval of the Bill because, she said, it would be easier to deal with one authority (I think she used the word "master") than with two. I should like to make it clear that they are the functions of my right honourable friend under the Charities Act 1960 which are being transferred. The Nathan Committee, I think I am right in saying, reported that the functions of the Department of Education and Science for charities were of four main kinds. The Nathan Committee said that they are advisory, administrative, supervisory and what they called quasi-judicial. It is these functions, my Lords, which the Department has under the Charities Act 1960 and which are going to be transferred to the Charity Commissioners because, for the reasons I have submitted to the House, we believe it is right to do this. But we keep, as does my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales, our functions in relation to things which can be done only under the Education Acts, and not under the Charities Acts. I hope that in doing this we have the balance right, and I would ask your Lordships to agree now that the Bill be read a second time.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, is he not able to make any comment on the suggestion I made that the law on charities should be more clearly defined, as the terms of reference to the Charity Commissioners?
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. I know that the noble Lord feels deeply on this particular matter, but I think it is fair to say that it is outside the ambit of this particular Bill. If the noble Lord would put down an Amendment on Committee stage I will do my best to give him a satisfactory and full reply.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ GIPSY ENCAMPMENTS (DESIGNATION OF THE COUNTY BOROUGH OF STOKE-ON-TRENT) ORDER 1972
§ GIPSY ENCAMPMENTS (DESIGNATION OF THE COUNTY BOROUGH OF ST. HELENS) ORDER 1972
§ GIPSY ENCAMPMENTS (DESIGNATION OF THE COUNTY BOROUGH OF PLYMOUTH) ORDER 1972
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ LORD AVEBURY rose to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Gipsy Encampments (Designation of the County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent) Order 1972 [S.I. 1972 No. 1449], laid before the House under Standing Order No. 66 on the 4th of October, be annulled.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope it will be for the convenience of the House if we discuss these three Orders at the same time, so that we can look at some of the wider implications of the situation, not only in the three boroughs we are immediately concerned with but also in the surrounding areas and in England as a whole. Under the Caravan Sites Act, 1968, with which I happen to have some minor acquaintance, the Minister, at this moment the Secretary of State, has power to make an Order designating a local authority as one to which Section 10 of that Act applies, adequate provision having been made within the area of that authority for the gipsies residing in or resorting to the area. What Section 10 does is to create a new offence, which applies only to gipsies, of stationing a caravan within the boundaries of a highway, on any unoccupied land or on any occupied land without the permission of the occupier. That is a new 664 offence, as I say, applying only to gipsies, and it is provided that fines may be imposed on them of up to £25, plus an additional £5 a day for every day thereafter that the gipsies remain on the site to which the prosecution relates.
First, I want to remind the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, who I understand is to reply, how originally it was intended that these designation orders should be made. At the time the Bill was going through Parliament, it was clearly understood by all concerned that individual authorities would not be given the powers in Clause 10, but that designation orders would be applied simultaneously over wider areas, or even to whole regions containing many counties and county boroughs. If I may quote Circular 49/68, which was issued a month after the Royal Assent, certainly that did not make this point explicitly because there was no need to at that time, since, as the Government explained, the implementation of Part II had to be deferred, or so they considered, in order to prevent the slight additional burden which would otherwise have been placed on local authorities while public expenditure in general was being curbed and hard bargaining was going on between the Government and local authorities about the level of rate support grants. Nevertheless, the circular expressed the hope that in the meanwhile local authorities would get on with the job of providing the sites voluntarily, and it said:
The Ministers have repeatedly emphasised that gipsies should not be needlessly moved on from place to place, until sites have been provided for them. It is particularly important that local authorities should not drive gipsies out of their areas, to become the responsibility of neighbouring authorities, in the period before a countrywide network of sites is established.
My Lords, I emphasise the word "countrywide" because I shall be producing some figures to show that we are a long way short of that situation at the moment.
When, a year and half later, an order was made bringing Part II of the Act into force, the emphasis had already changed. In a new circular, Ministers said that they intended
to exercise their powers to designate areas under Section 12 in such a way as to avoid creating a patchwork of relatively small areas where it would be an offence for a gipsy to camp. Such a pattern would create a difficult position for the councils of adjoining areas and a confused one for the gipsies themselves
So far, that is fine. I shall deal with the situation in neighbouring authorities shortly, and when the Minister comes to reply I shall be most interested to hear what representations he has received from those in the neighbourhood of the councils which are receiving these designations now. But the circular went on to say this—and again I quote:
Nevertheless, it may prove justifiable in the case of county boroughs which have been under pressure and have provided 15 pitches"—
15 pitches, noble Lords will please note, because in one of the cases we are looking at this evening only 12 pitches have been provided—
to make designation orders in advance of the adjoining counties being designated".
§ This was, I think, a very important change of tune—the noble Lord can readily see that—in comparison with the original policy, but it was one which might not have mattered much if the counties had been only a few weeks or a few months behind in meeting their own obligations. For a short time there would have been, it is true, this patchwork of relatively small areas, additional burdens on the neighbouring authorities and confusion among the gipsy community itself. But I think it is intolerable to create such a situation deliberately, knowing that it is bound to last for many years to come. Because, unfortunately, the county councils have been dragging their feet, and after more than 2½ years the progress which has been made towards meeting the objective of providing accommodation for the whole of the gipsy population of England is, I must say, absolutely pathetic. Yet some of the counties, no doubt encouraged by the Secretary of State's accommodating response to the application for designation by these three boroughs, are themselves applying for designation. I quote the county of Hertfordshire as an example. I think it is yet another harmful side-effect of the Orders we are discussing that they make it harder for the Minister to resist pleas for similar treatment by other local authorities.
§ The general position in England is that we have to-day, according to my calculations, at least 4,000 gipsy families. Originally, at the time of the 1965 survey, the estimate was just over 3,000; and it was accepted by the authors of that study that there had been a substantial degree of 666 under-enumeration. Let us say that in 1965 there were 3,400 families in England. The estimate of the Department, I gather, is that the gipsy population has been increasing by 100 families a year since then, which brings us to a total of 4,100 families at the present time. That compares with a total of 2,469 pitches which the local authorities intend to provide. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, was good enough to let me have a copy of the analysis which has been made of the replies to the circular issued to all those local authorities earlier this year. Your Lordships can see the enormous discrepancy between these obligations which the local authorities say they are going to undertake—only 2,400 pitches for the gipsies—and the 4,100 gipsy families needing to occupy that accommodation. But let us look at what has actually been done.
My Lords, can the noble Lord explain one point? When he is talking about pitches, does he mean a space within some sort of common in which one particular family is allowed to pitch? Can there be 10 or 20 pitches on one common, or is he talking about a location which may include many places?
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, I can explain that. A pitch is an area within a site that will accommodate a single caravan. We are talking about the space for one gipsy family occupying one caravan. The sites may consist of something between 10 and 20 pitches, 10 and 20 families. There are larger sites, but the recommendation of the Department is that the limit should be 10 to 20 families on a single site. I hope that that is clear.
I was about to give some figures of the accommodation that has actually been made available by the local authorities, as opposed to what they said they were going to do in response to the circular issued by the noble Lord's Department earlier this year. The total for all counties, county boroughs and London boroughs is a mere 824 pitches—which means that only 1 in 5 of the gipsy population has a pitch on which he can legally station his caravan. So we are forcing four-fifths, 80 per cent., of the gipsy population to break the law all the time because we have not compelled the local authorities to shoulder their obligations and get on with the job. That is the enormous difference which 667 exists between what has been done by the local authorities and the well-authenticated need two and a half years after the Act was brought into operation. In these circumstances, I think that the Department should be saying to the local authorities quite plainly that no help will be given to any one of them in the form of designation until the rest of them "pull their fingers out". It would have a salutory effect if the Minister were to say that this evening.
It may be said that this is unfair to those local authorities which have already met their obligations; but I would point out that the county boroughs got off fairly lightly under the Act, since they had to provide space only for a maximum number of 15 caravans, irrespective of the number of gipsy families resident in their area either at the time of the Act or previously, and also irrespective of the amount of land available within their borders. Having dealt with the general position, I should like to come on to the particular argument in connection with these three boroughs. I would remark, in passing, that it is interesting to speculate how they came to be picked out for such favourable treatment. Perhaps the Minister can enlighten us on this when he comes to reply. It is possible to anticipate one of the reasons which will be given: that the Gypsy Council had agreed earlier to these particular Orders so as to give the procedure of designation a trial. If that is going to be one of the main points in the Minister's reply, as I suspect will be the case, I am saying in advance that it is a wholly spurious argument. The decision to give the Orders a trial, as I think was the phrase, was taken by a small committee and not by the Gypsy Council as a whole; and evidence is accumulating to show that it did not represent the true feelings of the gipsy community.
It is very difficult—and one must make allowances for this in considering the original attitude of the Gypsy Council—to ascertain the collective opinion of a community which is as mobile and as widespread in its dispersal throughout the country as are the gipsies. But, for example, Mr. and Mrs. Marriott, who are members of the Gypsy Council, have formally stated to the National Council for Civil Liberties that had it been pos- 668 sible to ask all the gipsies in the area concerned, they would have been solidly against these proposals. Not only are the Marriotts and colleagues of theirs on the Gypsy Council of this opinion, but so also are the National Council for Civil Liberties and the Romany Guild, which has only gipsies as its members. With great respect to the Gypsy Council, I have found in several years of dealing with them that it is unwise to depend on what they say as the only source of advice. It is no doubt convenient for the Department to have only one organisation to consult, and I should be only too pleased if the Gypsy Council were to become more fully representative—and I believe it is making efforts to do this at the moment. But in the meantime there should at least be some independent check on the advice which they originally gave.
As an illustration—and I come to the first of the boroughs I want to discuss—I want to look at the position of St. Helens. Mr. Fred Cain, a gipsy member of the executive of the National Gypsy Education Council, claims that a survey in June revealed that as many as 48 families were in the borough of St. Helens, which means that, after designation, there would be 33 needing sites somewhere else in Lancashire. This figure of 48 may perhaps relate to the total number of families who use St. Helens over a period and not at one particular time; because it sounds a large figure in relation to the number there at the moment. But Mr. Cain is not happy about designation. Neither is Mr. Tom Lee, of the Romany Guild, or Mr. Peter McGrenery, the North-Western representative of the Gypsy Council. I checked with the local authority last Thursday and there were at that time 10 families occupying 12 pitches on the site. The local authority did not think there could ever have been as many as 48 families in the area. But there are divergent estimates of the use made of this site and of the number of gipsies who may be within the boundaries of the local authority but not actually accommodated on the site itself.
Why did the Department of the Environment agree, in the particular case of St. Helens, that they should be allowed to provide only 12 pitches when the circular that I quoted earlier said that no application would be entertained unless the full number of 15 had been provided? 669 I have referred to the opinion of Mr. McGrenery, the North-Western representative of the Gypsy Council. He has carried out a survey, not only of St. Helens but of the whole area within which these boroughs are located, and the results show an enormous gap between what has been provided so far and the accommodation actually needed. I have made available to the noble Lord some figures which analyse the returns that he received in response to the circular and compare that with the results of Mr. McGrenery's survey. I will not go through all those figures but I hope that they are clear to the noble Lord.
If I may just summarise their results, at the moment there are 73 pitches for gipsies in the area. An additional 131 pitches are proposed, making a total of 204. But these figures have to be qualified. Out of the existing 73 pitches, 46 are on temporary sites, leaving in the whole of the North-West area, comprising Lancashire and Greater Manchester, only 27 permanent pitches. And when they have completed everything which they have told the noble Lord they intend to undertake, there will be 204 pitches. But from this figure there have to be subtracted 45 from the 75 which are given by Lancashire, because although this is the figure they gave in response to the Department circular they have no plans for providing anything beyond the two sites at present under consideration which have been approved by the Department. So that figure of 75 is not a realistic one. We finish up, therefore, with 159 pitches in Lancashire and Greater Manchester, whereas the survey undertaken by Mr. McGrenery identifies 415 families in the area surveyed, plus an estimated 110 in the remaining area which has not yet been completed, making 525 in total; and the provision would represent only 30 per cent. of these requirements.
The survey was undertaken with the assistance of three universities and one college of education: Lancaster, Liverpool and Manchester Universities, and Charley College of Education. Of particular assistance in conducting this was Father Bill Maxwell, the Catholic Chaplain of the University of Liverpool, and Mr. Owen Fagan, who is a postgraduate student of the university. They found that there were mainly four stress areas, and I should like to mention those briefly. There is Liverpool itself, with 670 84 caravans on an area planned at Shore Street, Everton, and at Latham Street, with no water or sanitation, and over 100 children, with no provision whatsoever for education for the gipsy children and with no prospect of a permanent site for more than 25 caravans.
Manchester has a total caravan population of 49 families. There are over 100 children in these families, 17 of them on the permanent site provided—which is intended to accommodate only 15—and the remainder, 32 families, living in disgusting, cleared areas with no water or sanitation in Moss-side and Gorton. And the Manchester Corporation is adament in its intention to develop these areas and is trying to prosecute the gipsies who are living there as if it already possessed designation powers that are now being given to other authorities. The third area is Widnes where over 30 families are camping on derelict land, again with no water or sanitation and no hope of site provision from Widnes Council because they are not a county borough; and they say, as is perfectly legally correct, that the responsibility is that of the Lancashire County Council. The fourth area is Bickershaw, with over 20 families living on the edge of a slag-heap, again with no water and no sanitation and with mud 12 inches deep.
My Lords, that is the situation you have in Lancashire when the Minister is agreeing to make a designation order on St. Helens. I understand that the borough council does not intend to use the powers under Section 10, partially, until the adjacent authorities have provided facilities; but I think that your Lordships may see from the information that I have given that this provision in neighbouring authorities is going to take a very long time. If, in the meanwhile, St. Helens is not going to use those powers, what is the purpose of making the Orders now? Why not defer them until some further progress has been made in the areas that I have described? If, on the other hand, St. Helens experiences very little problem from unauthorised encampments and then only for short periods of emergency (as I am told is the case) which in any case would be exempt under Section 10(2), equally the borough does not need these additional powers which are being granted under these Orders.
671 Let me make clear, my Lords, that I am not criticising the St. Helens Borough Council, which has done a good deal more than most authorities in the North-West, and was, I think, the first in that area to provide a site. What concerns me is the danger of the precedent we are now creating. It is bound to increase the pressure on the Department to designate boroughs with far less powerful claims, and it may indeed be some other authorities that I have mentioned which have not done their whack as St. Helens has.
I turn now to Plymouth, where the circumstances are quite different. The numbers of gipsies on the site at Plymouth appears to vary widely. This is because it is the only site that is very largely used for transit purposes within a distance of some 300 miles. It is very widely used by gipsies travelling through Plymouth on the way to and from the West Country. There have been up to twenty families on the authorised site at any one time, although it is designed for only fifteen caravans. The cost of the site was only about £5,000, so, as may be readily imagined, and contrary to policy, it by no means conforms to the modern standards laid down by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 1966, and supposedly adhered to ever since.
In Circular 26/66 it was pointed out that:Local authorities are obliged by Section 24(2) of the Act"—the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960—to have regard to the model standards specified under Section 5(6) when providing caravan sites. The sites established for gipsies should not be inferior in this respect to others. Good site conditions may indeed be instrumental in raising their standards of living and behaviour.I want to ask the Minister whether he agrees with that statement. Does he think that good site conditions may be instrumental in raising the standards of living and behaviour of gipsies? If he does, why did he agree to the designation at Plymouth which does not conform with the requirements laid down by the circular? In the light of that argument I think there is no case for granting designation to Plymouth, even if there 672 were no perfectly general argument against any designation at all.
No doubt the borough would say that there is no point in having reasonable facilities when those that are provided have been wrecked by vandalism. This I believe is because they have also ignored and disregarded the advice given in Circular 49/68, that:On any site of more than a few pitches it is essential to employ a resident caretaker.Without proper supervision it is quite useless to expect any care to be taken by the gipsies, particularly when most of them are passing through and are not occupying the site as their permanent residence. Again, virtually none of the children on this site actually attends school, and although this may be partly explained by the fact that families do not stay there long enough I think that the local authorities' attitude also comes into the matter. They appear to have taken no steps whatsoever to get the children to attend school, something which ought to have been possible at least with the three or four families using the site as a permanent base. Their policy in Plymouth is to leave the gipsies severely alone, whether it be in trying to get the children to school or to get social workers there to help them with their problems. That is the whole ethos of the Plymouth Council, not to do anything whatsoever which may impinge on the lives of the gipsies.
Again, my Lords, let me look at the position in Devon and Cornwall as a whole, from the figures so kindly provided for me by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. According to the replies to the circular, 29 pitches have been provided so far, and the ultimate provision is for a total of 76. I must compare these with the number of gipsies who were present in the area at the time of the 1965 survey, because, unfortunately, I have no independent check on that such as has been provided by Mr. Peter McGrenery in connection with the North-West. In the 1965 survey there were 179 gipsy families in the whole of the counties of Devon and Cornwall and the county boroughs that belong to them. If one looks at these figures one sees that the existing provision is only 16 per cent. of the need identified in the 1965 survey and even when they have done everything that they say they are going to do, it will still be well under 50 per 673 cent. As I have said, there is serious reason to believe that the 1965 figures were an underestimate. I think it is premature, in view of those figures, to think about designating any authority in the South West.
Finally, my Lords, let me turn to Stoke-on-Trent. A very good site has been provided, from the accounts that I have seen, costing £40,000. That is a figure eight times as large as the one that I quoted for Plymouth, so one can see that there must be some considerable difference between the nature of the facilities on the two sites. There is no question but that Stoke-on-Trent have met their obligations under the Act in full. But the problem here is that Stoke has a surplus in families. There were 33 in the borough at the time of the 1965 survey, and I am told that these days it fluctuates between 30 and 40. If this surplus over and above the 20 pitches is kicked out, there are no vacancies on other official sites in the West Midlands area to which they might go. Anyway, one can see that if there had been 33 families, as there were at the time of the 1965 surplus, that would leave a surplus of 13 families who would have to go into the neighbouring authorities' areas.
Reporters from The Times asked how these new powers would be used.There is no question, we were assured,says the article,of the law being enforced rigidly from, say, one minute past midnight on January 1. Only when persuasion has failed or offenders become persistent will it be applied severely. Officials say, 'There has to be a common-sense application'.There is little doubt that persuasion will be effective when it is pointed out to a gipsy family that the risk it incurs by remaining on an authorised site is of suffering a fine of £20, plus £5 a day for as long as it remains thereafter. So we can safely assume that the surplus of 10 to 20 families will be exported to somewhere else in the West Midlands, and that those other authorities will have to try to cope somehow.
In the West Midlands (and I am going to give the totals from Lord Sandford's survey again) we have at the moment 50 pitches. The total provision intended is 216. This does not sound too bad compared with 183 families in the 1965 survey. One would say at a glance that 674 they are going to provide more than enough accommodation for all the families in the area. But I am afraid that once again the degree of under-enumeration was extremely serious. Mr. Chris. Rice has sent me some information about the boroughs of Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley, Warley, West Bromwich and Birmingham, which comprise one section of this area. He tells me that at the moment there are 150 families, and it can go up to 300 at certain periods of the year because of the nature of the activities of gipsy breadwinners. So we have somewhere between 150 and 300 families in those six boroughs, and the total provision which has been planned by those local authorities is 116. That is nothing like enough.
Again, Mrs. Elsie Fisher of the National Gypsy Education Council has estimated that in the area of the West Midlands and Staffordshire, taking the new local authority boundaries as a whole, there may be as many as 600 families. That is the figure that one ought to compare with the 216 pitches which they say they intend to provide. Unfortunately, no recent survey has been undertaken, but the Gypsy Council's view is that the situation in the West Midlands is, if anything, worse than in Lancashire. As your Lordships can see, I am not so well briefed in the West Midlands and Devon and Cornwall as I have been in the North-West, and I should like to suggest that we consider extending the kind of work that is being done by Mr. McGrenery, in conjunction with the three universities, in the Chorley College, to other areas, so that we can get an up-to-date picture of the situation, bearing in mind the inaccuracies to which I have drawn attention.
My Lords, I am coming to an end, and I am sorry to have gone on for so long. I must, however, underline one common feature of the three areas that I have discussed which I think is of serious concern; that is, the failure of the county councils to lift a finger. Lancashire has done nothing but has scaled down its intentions since the last circular from 100 to 75 pitches: and even this miserably inadequate target, as I have explained, seems likely to be reduced further. The county council has proposed only three sites to the Department, at Wardle, 675 Abram and Altham, and the Altham site has since been withdrawn, with the approval of the Minister, leaving a mere two sites containing 30 pitches. if I may say so, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, it is misleading to put down a figure of 75 pitches as the intention of the county of Lancashire when it is known perfectly well in the Department that they have no plans to go beyond 30, and that of those 30 only 15 are likely to be provided in the whole of 1973.
In the West Midlands, Staffordshire also has done nothing whatsoever; not one single pitch has been provided in the last 2½ years. In the far West, Devonshire has provided a mere 8 pitches to accommodate the 73 families shown to be in that county at the time of the 1965 survey, and says that it does not intend to do any more. Cornwall has provided a mere 6 pitches for 100 families. Looking at the comparison between what county councils said they were going to do in 1970 and what they now say they are going to do, one can sec that all over the country the picture is the same. For example, in Buckinghamshire the county council has scaled down its intention from 125 to 65; in Derbyshire it has gone down from 40 to 30; in Essex it is down from 75 to 68; and in Gloucestershire from 82 it is down to 28. So we are going backwards. All the county councils are reneging on their obligations and, I must say, leaving it to the boroughs to try to cope as best they can.
I have every sympathy with St. Helen's, Stoke-on-Trent and Plymouth. I do not think that they should be called on to carry this enormous burden. I think the answer is not to designate them, but to make the county councils do the work that they are obliged to do under the terms of the Act. It brings the law into contempt if the Department take no step to enforce it. I cannot help contrasting the situation as I have described it with what happened over the Housing Finance Act. If this measure had been the Housing Finance Act, there would have been a commissioner telling Lancashire that the committee was disbanded and had lost its powers, and that the Commission was going to do its job for it. But in the case of the Caravan Sites Act, although it has been on the Statute Book 676 for 2½ years, the Department are still sending out circulars, which over a period of decades has been found to be an ineffective device.
My Lords, I am under no illusion that the Minister would have withdrawn these Orders, whatever the arguments I might have produced. But this discussion will not have been a waste of time if he will agree to do three things: first, that he will use his powers of direction to the county councils to provide accommodation for at least the number of gipsies who were present in their areas at the time of the 1965 survey; secondly, that he will agree not to bring forward any more designation orders until there has been a reasonable opportunity of examining the effects of these three—and by that I mean at least two years, so that we can have time to study the effects in other parts of those areas; and finally, that before any further request for designations are entertained he will carry out surveys covering a whole area of the type which we now have before us in the North-West, so that we may see the extent of the need throughout the whole of that area. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Gipsy Encampments (Designation of the County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent) Order 1972 [S.I. 1972 No. 1449], laid before the House under Standing Order No. 66 on 4th of October, be annulled.—(Lord Avebury.)
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, I can assure your Lordships that I shall not take up more than a quarter of the time taken by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury—because apparently he took no notice of the words of the noble Lord the Leader of the Liberal Party who said last Thursday that some Members of your Lordships' House were not paying attention to the clock. However, I do not complain about that, because I was present in another place when the noble Lord introduced the Bill which resulted in the Act of Parliament under discussion. He has a long personal record of service to the gipsy community. I want to say that I was grateful to him when, towards the end of his speech, he withdraw what might have been regarded as criticisms of St. Helens and Stoke-on-Trent, because these two authorities have done a fair 677 job of work, and indeed compare more than favourably with most others. I am not competent to talk about Plymouth, but I know the other two local authorities and they have a very good record in social legislation.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said in opening that the Gypsy Council do not always reflect the views of the gipsy community, but these three Orders, as I understand it, have been approved by the Gypsy Council. Perhaps the noble Lord, when he comes to reply, can confirm or deny that. If we are to have any comment about these three Orders to-night, may we also have some comment on the other three Orders, which I think were applied for and were objected to by the Gypsy Council since they did not find them acceptable? It may well be that since the three we have to-night have been approved, as I understand it, by the Gypsy Council, it will be difficult for the Minister to turn them down. However, it would not be a bad thing to have the reasons.
As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said in opening, some difficulties have arisen from the operation of the Act. As I understand it, under Section 12 of the Caravan Sites Act, 1968, the Minister may by order made on the application of any county council, county borough, or London borough, designate the area of that authority as an area to which Section 10 of the Act applies. A designation Order will only be made where the Minister is satisfied that the authority has provided suitable camps. In the case of county boroughs and London boroughs, the Minister may make an Order for the liability upon a county borough or London borough to provide accommodation for not more than 15 caravans. This indeed was the point raised by the noble Lord.
A point of contention as between the county councils and other boroughs is the strict limit which has apparently been laid down. I am informed that since the initial survey of gipsies in Surrey in 1965 there has been an increase of some 200 per cent. in the number of gipsy caravans, from approximately 50 in 1965 to approximately 150 at the present time. I am also advised that there are more than 15 gipsy caravans in the London boroughs of Hillingdon, Hounslow and Richmond, all of which boroughs adjoin 678 the county of Surrey. This may also be the case in regard to other London boroughs. In the circumstances, if designation orders are made by the Secretary of State in respect of these London boroughs the county council would expect, and indeed have been so asked by the Department of the Environment, to provide for an influx of caravans from those London boroughs. The problem in Surrey—and it will be repeated elsewhere—is greatly exacerbated by this provision, and the county council are of the opinion that the limitation to the provision of 15 caravans by the London boroughs adjacent to Surrey is inadequate and that they should be required to provide for the gipsies habitually or normally residing in or resorting to their areas, as in the case of other counties. This is the argument which they make.
Of course the county council accept the statement which has been made on behalf of the Government that they do not intend to make designation Orders piecemeal but wish to consider the needs of the areas in general and not just the authority requesting designations. I am bound to point out—and this reflects the opinion of many other county councils—that the Surrey County Council feel strongly that the first priority is the amendment of Section 6(2) of the 1968 Act. Only when that section has been amended, they feel, can the Government deal with the designation Orders on their merits and not against the background of an arbitrary fixed maximum of 15 caravans in any London borough or even in a county borough.
If those are the facts, I think the Minister might make this an occasion on which to make a reply because I think this is placing an imposition on certain county councils which they ought not to bear. Surely, if each borough accepts the responsibility for its own gipsy population this will not only relieve the county of its burden but the borough will be accepting something which is its own responsibility. If the figures are as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has given to-night—and I have no reason at all to doubt them—quite obviously every local authority throughout the country has to go a very long way with plans to meet the needs of the gipsy community. This, I think, has become quite apparent as a result of the figures mentioned. I hope that when the 679 Minister comes to reply he will at least be able to make some answer to the question about this limitation of 15 caravans in any one borough and about the burden that it places on county councils. Also, I would ask him for an assurance that before any designations take place he will at least give consideration to an amendment of Section 6 of the Act.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT (LORD SANDFORD)
My Lords, I think it has been a good thing to have a debate in Parliament on these first three of what will in due course be a series of such Orders, and I would certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that it is helpful to consider all three together. I think it is fitting that the Motion which has led to this debate should have been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. He was modest in expressing his own action over the Bill but I think it is true to say that it was his own legislation which he piloted through another place.
The Caravan Sites Act 1968 which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, introduced into Parliament and, as I say, piloted through, then received support from all sides; it adopts a broad policy that was pursued by the previous Government and which is still being pursued by this Government. The policy is that an appropriate number of proper gipsy encampments should be provided to take the place of the unauthorised sites which hitherto have caused so much complaint to the public and to local authorities on the one hand, and, on the other, have led to so much insecurity for, and such harassment of, the gipsies. So here we are on common ground. The solution to this problem remains exactly the solution intended by the noble Lord when he introduced the legislation; namely, the rapid provision of authorised and properly equipped sites to take the place of the unauthorised sites.
The Act places upon the local authorities a duty to provide caravan sites for gipsies. Instead of the gipsies being left to roam without any place where they can feel secure, it was recognised that provision should be made to meet the needs of this section of our population. 680 It is right that we should be concerned about it. But even if the number is, as was indicated in the original census, 3,000 or so, even if it has risen to 5,000 now, this is still a tiny problem in relation, for instance, to the rest of our housing problem, and it should be well within the capacity of the authorities to solve it, given the necessary will.
The duty under the Act was given to counties, county boroughs and London borough councils. In the case of the county boroughs and London boroughs the duty was limited to the provision of a site or sites with 15 pitches, and I come here to the point about which the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, asked. When the legislation was first introduced into Parliament it did not lay any statutory duty on county boroughs to provide sites, but this was changed in view of the fact that those were areas where many gipsy families now obtained their livelihood. The decision to limit it to a statutory duty to provide only 15 pitches was deliberately taken by Parliament as little as four years ago. It is premature to contemplate changing that. Because this limitation on the duty imposed on county boroughs was taken then, it is important to bear this in mind in considering the Orders which are now before your Lordships.
In addition to the provision which the Act made for local authorities to provide sites, provision was also made to strengthen powers of local authorities to deal with unauthorised gipsy encampments, the object of the Act being to do away with these since they cause so much nuisance and other local problems. Understandably, though, the Act did not prescribe that the new enforcement powers were to be given automatically to the local authorities that had provided the sites. That was a point that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, rightly dwelt upon. They can be given to an authority only by means of a designation order under Section 12, made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, and it is the first one of three such orders which we are now debating. A designation order cannot be made, however, unless my right honourable friend is satisfied either that adequate provision has been made by the authority concerned for the accommodation of gipsies residing in or resorting to its area, or that in all the 681 circumstances it is not necessary or expedient to make such provision.
These enforcement powers have to be considered, therefore, in the context of the provision of sites. It has been the firm policy of this Government—and on this we are at one with the view of the previous Government—that the problem is not solved, but rather aggravated, by moving gipsies on from one unauthorised site to another. In our view—and here again we are at one with noble Lord—the only effective solution is to provide sufficient authorised sites with all due dispatch, and this is what we are encouraging local authorities to do. I cannot say that I have any confidence that the issuing of directions to local authorities would be anything but counter-productive at this stage. The effect of our exhortations. circulars and discussions is that the great majority of local authorities are now endeavouring to provide sites, whereas perhaps a year or two ago some of them were under the impression that they could somehow avoid their statutory duty.
We have recently obtained from the local authorities details of the sites which they have provided or are proposing to provide. Twenty-eight new sites have been opened in the past two years, and the present position is that a total of 58 sites have now been provided. This means that the number of sites and pitches available to gipsies now on authorised sites is approaching double what it was two years ago. I acknowledge that this may not be enough.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, if you start on the basis of a small figure and double it, you still have a small figure. The point I made was that the sites that have been provided contain enough accommodation to satisfy only one in five of the number of gipsy families in the whole of England.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, I am beginning to come to this. We are not starting with a very small figure, we are starting practically from scratch. This is what makes the problem difficult for everybody, because the only impression the public have of gipsies and their encampments are these wretched, miserable, unauthorised encampments which everybody sees around. If everybody knew what a proper authorised site 682 looked like, there would not be so much difficulty. The fact of the matter is that we have doubled the provision of authorised sites in two years.
Knowing very well, as also does the noble Lord, how difficult it is to find a suitable site, knowing the problems of allaying local objections—which are all based on people's impressions of unauthorised sites—and knowing the teething troubles that are involved in getting a site going well under good management, I take this opportunity to congratulate the local authorities that have provided the sites on what they have achieved so far. But this is not all. A further 106 sites are proposed, and of these 106 sites, the local authorities hope to complete nearly half by the end of 1973. So if we can keep to that, or improve on it, we shall be doubling again within the next year. That is to say, we are providing them at twice the rate. I fully acknowledge that there are still far too many authorities who will need to provide sites that have yet to bring their first site into service. Very few county councils have yet made the full provision that will be required of them—hardly any at all.
I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT, with the permission of the House, the full details of what has been provided, which I passed to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for the purposes of this debate. While we accept that in implementing the Act much remains to be done by way of site provision, a number of local authorities have by now carried out their full statutory obligations under the Act in providing sites. Understandably, these authorities now expect the next stage envisaged under the Act to be brought into effect; namely, the making of a designation order to enable them to deal with unauthorised encampments in their own area. Nothing is gained by allowing unauthorised camping to continue if it can be avoided without undue harassment to the gipsies.
The fact that the first three orders have only now been made shows the care and deliberation with which my right honourable friend and myself have approached this question. We need to be satisfied, taking into account the problems caused by unauthorised encampments, that the strengthening of the powers of particular local authorities to deal with them in given areas is justified. And we 683 need to bear in mind that other authorities can be expected progressively to seek designation orders once they have fulfilled their duty under the Act. About a dozen applications for orders are at present before my right honourable friend. I cannot give the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, the assurances for which he asks. Our approach, and our policy towards laying these designation orders, is to take account of all the factors relating to the area itself: the views of the Gypsy Council, of the local authority that is providing the site, and the intentions of the authorities around the site. All those views have to be taken into account before we make any other designations. But the main question we ask ourselves is: Will this designation order speed up, stimulate and encourage the provision of more sites, or otherwise? If I did not hold the view that this will stimulate and encourage the provision of more sites sooner I should not be commending these orders to your Lordships.
Parliament decided in 1968 that in principle there should be no needless attempt to change the mode of life of the gipsies. Unfortunately there can be problems associated with unauthorised encampments; and I heard at first hand only a week or two ago from a deputation from a Northern city of the kind of difficulties which confront a large urban authority and its residents. Properly equipped, supervised, authorised sites are the answer, and it is reasonable for local authorities who provide them to the required extent and to the required standards to look to be given the power to deal with the problems caused by any unauthorised encampments that remain in their area.
In considering applications for designation orders we have been in close touch with the Gypsy Council throughout. This has been, first, in the context of whether the sites which have been provided have adequate facilities, and, secondly, in judging how a designation order for a particular area would be likely to affect surrounding areas. Your Lordships will appreciate that problems both for the gipsies and for the authorities could arise if a patchwork pattern of relatively small areas covered by designation orders were created. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, rightly draws attention to this difficulty; 684 we are fully conscious of it and are anxious to avoid it. Nevertheless, weighing up all the factors, we decided that designation orders should be laid for Stoke-on-Trent, Plymouth and St. Helens. The attitude of the Gypsy Council to this is as follows. In January, 1972, this year, the Gypsy Council wrote saying that they had no objections to St. Helens and Plymouth. In June, 1972, the Gypsy Council issued a Press notice indicating agreement to all three sites. The Gypsy Council had changes of mind, but again in September, at a meeting of the full Council, they reaffirmed that they had no objection to all three designations. As I say, their attitude, though important, is not decisive, but on this issue they have on those three occasions expressed their view clearly and unequivocally.
In each of the cases before us the authority has provided a site which the Gypsy Council have agreed was adequate both in size and in facilities. Stoke indeed have exceeded their statutory duty, having provided a site which will accommodate 24 caravans. The Plymouth site has 15 pitches. There is virtually no gipsy population indigenous to Plymouth, and the site, which has not been full since it was provided in April, 1972, tends to be used as a transit site. In these circumstances one can understand the difference in the standards of the facilities provided and the cost of the provision.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, it has in fact been full. At one time there were 20 caravans on the Plymouth site although it was designed to accommodate only 15. I believe that that figure can be confirmed by the local authority.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, I think the noble Lord will agree that if this is being used as a transit site, that situation can occasionally occur; but it does not alter the statutory obligation of the city. The noble Lord rightly dwelt on the circumstances surrounding these sites. I should like just to comment briefly on these and give your Lordships the information we have on them, because it is relevant. As to Stoke-on-Trent, the only adjacent authority is not the West Midlands conurbation, which certainly has its problems; it is Staffordshire County Council. The County Council proposes to provide sites of 20 pitches 685 each in Rugeley Urban District, Seisdon Rural District and Stafford Rural District. The National Council for Civil Liberties in their report seem to suggest—and I think the noble Lord rather took their line—that the situation in the West Midlands conurbation is relevant to Stoke. I am not sure that I share that view, because there are at least 20 miles between Stoke and the conurbation and bearing in mind that this provision is intended by Staffordshire.
The noble Lord rightly did not seek to do anything but commend St. Helens for the provision they have made, and I should like to join with him in that. I took the occasion to visit the site when I was in the North-West this last weekend and I confirm that it is of a high standard. It has not yet been fully occupied and it was not yesterday when I visited it. That is really the acid test. It may be that there are a number of families in the area, but if the site is meeting the requirements of the gipsies to the extent that it is not and has not yet been fully occupied, I think we can say that St. Helens have discharged their responsibility. But on the question of the North-West, the point I should like to make is this. Taking that region as a whole—and it is the one covered, to some extent at any rate, by the survey the noble Lord referred—to the census in 1965 indicated 112 gipsy families resorting to it. The provision proposed by the authorities in the North-West is 206, which is more than adequate for that number though less than adequate for the 400 that the latest survey has indicated. I find it hard to believe that both those surveys can be right, even if we allow for some increase on the figure of 112 which was arrived at in 1965. I think we must say that there is a split somewhere there and that the total provision of what is now existing and intended to be provided, 264, is not far short of what is likely to be required.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, I would mention that I shall be sending the noble Lord a complete analysis of the figures that the universities I mentioned have collected. I cannot do this yet because, as I have said, 700 square miles of the area have not yet been covered, although I gave the estimated figure of 110 families. They work out that the total is 525. The Minister may well ask why 686 there should be this enormous difference between that total and the 74 shown to be in the area in the 1965 survey. I can only say that there must have been a very serious degree of under-enumeration in that area at the time.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, it may well be. The figure must lie somewhere between the two. Because of that, I think that on some future date we may well need to have another national census. At the moment, however, I think we are at one in seeing that the need is to provide more sites with all due despatch. Certainly more sites are needed and almost every authority, certainly every county council, needs to provide more, whatever the precise provision in each particular part of the country needs to be at the end of the day.
The way in which the local authorities concerned use the powers which will become available to them as a result of these designation orders will be particularly important. The noble Lords, Lord Hoy and Lord Avebury, mentioned this point and I agree with it. Each of the authorities concerned with these orders recognise this and I am confident that there will be no precipitate or unreasonable action on their part. We are satisfied, therefore, that the right course was to make these orders. Far from signalling a period of unnecessary interference with the activity of gipsies, it is a further step in the implementation of Parliament's intentions in passing the legislation, and I myself am satisfied that it will be a stimulus and encouragement to all who still need to get on with the provision of more sites. It was because the Gypsy Council on those three earlier occasions thought so too that they indicated to us that they thought it was timely to make these designations. Indeed, not to make such orders where these are justified would surely discourage other authorities from providing enough sites quickly. As I have explained, the real solution to the problem can be found only by providing sufficient authorised sites, and we shall continue to do all we can to encourage local authorities to make proper provision with all due dispatch in their areas.
As I said at the beginning, it is a good thing to have had this debate, and I welcome the opportunity to affirm our continuing support for the noble Lord's 687 policy as embodied in the Act which he sponsored, and to support the policy which the Party opposite also followed when they were in power. The key to its success is the faster provision by all concerned of more authorised sites with proper facilities and with more security for the gipsies on them.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I put to him two simple questions? Does he intend to deal with the figure of fifteen which has been arbitrarily fixed and, if so, what does he say about it? Secondly, would he reply to the request on behalf of a county council that the Government might look at Section 6(2) of the original Act, to see whether this can be amended? Because this particular county council, at least, feels that unless this is dealt with we cannot deal with the problem as a whole.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, I dealt with this point at the beginning, and I particularly asked the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, to take note of what I was saying.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, I am very glad to repeat it. I was explaining that the legislation, when first introduced into Parliament, did not place any statutory duty on county boroughs to provide any sites. The decision was deliberately taken by Parliament to lay a duty on the county boroughs and the London boroughs to provide fifteen. That figure was deliberately chosen by Parliament.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, I hope that what I have been saying is clear that we are looking at this matter with the greatest possible care. Since the Act was passed a joint committee of the Association of Municipal Corporations and the Gypsy Council worked out model guide lines on what facilities should be pro- 688 vided on caravan sites, and what the ideal sizes were in the light of experience, and they have confirmed that 15 is a good figure for a single site. It may well be that some authorities will go beyond their statutory duty, as indeed Stoke-on-Trent have done in providing 24. But there is no indication so far that there is any reason to return to Parliament with any second thoughts as to what the statutory duty of the county boroughs and the London boroughs should be.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to intervene for a moment? The question as to whether 15 on the one site is the right number is not the point at issue. The point at issue is this: will his right honourable friend have a look at the possible necessity of increasing the number of sites since it would appear that many more than 15 caravans are at present, and have habitually been, located in one of the boroughs?
§ LORD SANDFORD
Yes, my Lords. Of course we are constantly looking at this, but so far there is no reason to change the view that county boroughs, placed as they are, with the pressure on land should not be asked to provide more than 15 caravan pitches in their area.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord what he has to say as to the position that then ensues? A limit of 15 is accepted by the Department as being proper for a borough. But there are considerably more caravans, and they are then pushed out so that the difficulties and problems of the peripheral authorities to the borough concerned are considerably increased. As I understood him, the noble Lord has been making the point that the presence of these caravans on unauthorised sites ought not to be tolerated. May I ask him where they are to go at the present time?
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, we have very carefully selected sites for designation after consultation with the Gypsy Council, the county boroughs that have provided the sites and the surrounding authorities, where we feel that this problem will not in these cases be particularly serious, and in going through my remarks I explained why we think this is so. Stoke-on-Trent have provided a site 689 for 24 caravans, which is more than their statutory duty requires.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, according to the document which the noble Lord sent to me, the figure is 20.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, Plymouth provides adequately, for the reason that it is primarily used as a transit site; and St. Helens, as I have said, has provided a site which has proved adequate in that since it was opened it has never been full. I hope that is a satisfactory explanation.
I hope that these Orders will encourage the progress that I have been saying is
|SITE PROVISION BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES AT OCTOBER, 1972 (October, 1970 figuresshown in brackets)|
|Berkshire||2||21||2||24||4||45||Further site under consideration.|
|Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely||—||—||3||52||3||52|
|Dorset||*2||47||5||54||7||101||*One site of 25 pitches temporary.|
|Gloucestershire||3||28||—||—||3||28||Further sites under consideration.|
|Herefordshire||—||—||—||—||—||—||Possible sites being investigated.|
|Huntingdonshire and Peterborough||(—)||(—)||1||30||1||30||Possible provision of transit site also.|
|Isle of Wight||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|Kent||7||84||4||60||11||144||Proposal to increase pitches on 6 existing sites.|
§ necessary; that is to say, the provision of more properly equipped sites for the gipsies. I commend them to yourLordships as much as to the gipsies themselves and I hope the noble Lord will agree that they are now needed in thesecases and in these places if we are to press on with the implementation of his Act. For those reasons, following thisdebate, which I agree has been very useful, I hope that he will not feel it necessary to press his Motion.
§ Details of sites provided by local authorities at October, 1972, referred to by Lord Sandford are asfollows:691
|Lincolnshire (Lindsey)||*1||15||2||65||3||80||*Provided by Spilsby RDC for Summer use.|
|Norfolk||—||—||—||—||—||—||Joint site with Norwich CBC proposed. Further sites under consideration.|
|ottinghamshire||—||—||1||15||1||15||Further sites under consideration.|
|Surrey||1||51||2||58||3||109||Further sites under consideration|
|Warwickshire||—||—||1||16||1||16||Joint site with Coventry CBC.|
|Worcestershire||1||12||3||46||4||58||Further 2 sites under consideration.|
|Yorkshire (East Riding)||—||—||—||—||—||—||Possible joint site with Kingston-upon-Hull CBC.|
|Yorkshire (North Riding)||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|Yorkshire (West Riding)||—||—||5||80||5||80|
|COUNTY BOROUGH COUNCILS|
|Blackburn||—||—||*1||15||*1||15||*Already in use as temporary site.|
|Chester||*1||14||—||—||*1||14||*Temporary site. Joint site with Cheshire CC proposed. Claiming exemption under S. 6(2)(a)of Caravan Sites Act 1968.|
|Exeter||—||—||1||2||1||2||Claiming exemption under S. 6(2)(b) of 1968 Act.|
|Gloucester||—||—||—.||—||—||—||Contributing to joint site with Gloucestershire CC.|
|Kingston-upon-Hull||—.||—||—||—||—||—||Possible joint site with Yorks ER CC.|
|Newcastle on Tyne||—||—||1||10||1||10|
|Norwich||—||—||*1||16||*1||16||*Joint site with Norfolk CC.|
|York||*1||15||—||—||*1||15||*Temporary site. Exemption claimed under S. 6(2)(a) of 1968 Act.|
|Exemptions: The following county boroughs have been granted exemption on the groundsthat the number of gipsies resorting to the borough in the 5 years ending May 1, 1968 was not such as to warrantprovision being made (Section 6(2)(b) of Caravan Sites Act 1968).|
|Applications for exemption: the following county boroughs have applied for exemption ongrounds that suitable land is not available (Section 6(2)(a) of Act of 1968).|
|Bootle||*Newcastle on Tyne||Warley|
|* Site may he provided but application for exemption not withdrawn.|
|The following county boroughs have applied for exemption on grounds that the number of gipsiesresorting to the Borough in the five years ending May 1, 1968, was not such as to warrant provision being made (Section6(2)(b) of Act of 1968).|
|LONDON BOROUGH COUNCILS|
|Bromley||1||12||—||—||1||12||Proposal to increase to 15 pitches.|
|Hounslow||*1||15||—||—||*1||15||*Temporary pending permanent provision.|
|Kingston Upon Thames||—||—||1||15||1||15|
|Sutton||*1||17||—||—||*1||17||*Temporary pending permanent provision.|
|Applications for exemption: The following London Boroughs (13) have applied for exemptionon grounds that suitable land is not available (Section 6(2)(a) of the Act of 1968).|
|Ealing||Kensington and Chelsea||Wandsworth|
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, if I am permitted to make one or twopoints in conclusion, I should like to take issue with the noble Lord in resting so much of his case on the approval ofthe Gypsy Council when I had explained(and clearly he has not taken it in) that I did not consider that the Gypsy Councilwere representative of the gipsy community. I asked the noble Lord whether he would listen to some of the otherauthorities which could have been consulted by his Department, instead of always depending upon the convenience ofbeing able to consult with one body. The noble Lord has ignored the fact that the Gypsy Council have now expressed theopposite opinion.
698 They have decided that they were wrong, and I believe that is because they have now had the opportunity of ascertainingthe views of their local representatives in those three areas. They have found now that the opinions they expressedpreviously were not those of their members. It is perfectly clear what I was trying to explain in my speech, and it seemedto me that the noble Lord rather ignored that point.
Secondly, I do not think the noble Lord gave us any indication of how he is going to persuade the county councils to doany more than they have done in the last two and a half years. It is just a pious hope, and the logic of expecting 699 them to get on with their duties as a result of designation orders made in county boroughs that are in theirneighbourhood escapes me for the moment. This was the view of the local authority at St. Helens; and it was very muchthe feeling of the officials on the council to whom I spoke that it would have a psychological effect on the county ofLancashire and on the boroughs in the neighbourhood which have not done as much as St. Helens has done. As soon asthey saw that this designation order had been made they would say, "We, too, must be designated, but obviously wecannot be until we have provided our 15 pitches"—or, in the case of the county, dealt with the gipsies residing inor resorting to the area. But that will never happen.
As I explained to the noble Lord, what is intended in Lancashire is so far short of the need in that county as to beludicrous, and they will never get designation. Knowing that perfectly well, how is it expected that they should even geton and provide the 75 which they say they will ultimately build as a result of the incentive given to them by the exampleof one authority? I wish I could have this explained to me. I should like to know the logic of the noble Lord's thinking sothat I might consider it carefully to see whether it should have a bearing on my attitude towards any future designationorders.
I am extremely disappointed that the noble Lord did not accede to any of the requests I made. They were requests whichwould have involved no departure from the policy of making these Orders which, with reluctance, I have to accept. Therewould be very little purpose in my pressing the matter to a Division. The noble Lord could have given me furtherundertakings about a survey or surveys which would have brought the 1965 figures up to date, in view of the obviousinaccuracies in that study, and compared the figures given at that time with those which I have presented to the nobleLord to-day. I hope at least that when I send him the figures which have been provided by the North-Westernuniversities and Mr. Peter McGrenery he will look at them carefully and will tell me honestly whether they do not indicatethat we have been working on the wrong basic figures from the 1965 survey and 700 whether this fact should not change his view about designating particular areas without first obtaining thoroughknowledge of the situation in the whole region.
It is regrettable that the noble Lord has not felt able to assure me that there will be a moratorium in this matter until wehave had satisfactory experience of how things will operate to see whether they produce the incentive in theneighbourhood which the noble Lord has claimed they will produce. I should have felt happier if he had said that, andaccordingly would then have said that this had been a useful debate. I have to admit that we have accomplished verylittle to-night, and knowing that I should not get support in this House if I were to press the matter, I ask leave towithdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE DEPUTY-SPEAKER (LORD MAYBRAY-KING)
Does the noble Lorddesire to move the two following Motions which stand in his name?