HL Deb 15 September 1972 vol 335 cc646-707

1.0 p.m.


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

Moved, That the House do again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Aberdare.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 47. [Proposals for changes in local government areas in England]:

VISCOUNT RIDLEY moved Amendment No. 88Y: Page 30, leave out lines 20 to 25.

The noble Lord said: Until this morning I had always thought that horseracing was a somewhat simple business and that it was one of the easier ways of losing money. I am sorry that it now appears that I was wrong. I trust that this Amendment to the Local Government Bill will prove a great deal simpler than the Bill to which we have just given a Second Reading. In Part IV of this Bill we are talking about a Local Government Boundary Commission—and I emphasise, "Boundary". It seems to me that subsection (1)(d) of Clause 47 goes far beyond boundaries. No one could object to continuous and continuing review of boundaries by a standing Boundary Commission; indeed it is a very wise and far-sighted thing to have in these days of rapid changes and shifts of population. What I think is exceptionally wrong is paragraph (d), which goes far beyond boundaries and allows the Commission to recommend to the Secretary of State the conversion of a metropolitan into a non-metropolitan county, or vice versa, or of a metropolitan into a non-metropolitan district, or, again, vice versa.

I submit that this is not a matter for a Boundary Commission, which should be wholly and exclusively concerned with boundaries because any change of status in these various counties or districts will, in effect, be seeking to reallocate functions, possibly very important functions such as education, social services and libraries. I do not believe that reallocation of functions, however desirable it may in due course become, is a matter that should be left to the discretion of a Boundary Commission or the Secretary of State. I mean, of course, no disrespect to either of these important people, but I think it is something which ought to be, at the very least, a matter for Parliament, involving as it does a very far-reaching change in the system of local government which we are building in this Bill. The other paragraphs (a) to (c) and (e) to (i) in this clause are wholly and properly related to boundaries. There is no objection whatever to them; but paragraph (d) may intrude gravely into matters to which Parliament has devoted a great deal of time and will devote a great deal more time in the next few days. I believe, too, that this clause further introduces an uncertainty which could be fundamentally wrong.

There is another Amendment in my name and the names of my noble friends, No. 99A, which is an alternative method of doing what I seek to achieve. May I leave it to the sense of the Committee whether or not we should take either Amendment or take them together? I hope that by taking them together in this way I am saving a little of your Lordships' time. I would only say that 90A provides an equally easy method of doing what I am hoping to do and makes it quite clear that before such a drastic change is made in the status of any part of the new local government structure it shall be approved by an Affirmative Resolution of both Houses. It may well become necessary to change these different types of councils in the light of experience. All I am saying is that Parliament should be actively involved and is entitled to have a positive say in the matter.

Furthermore, I think there could be nothing more unsettling or distressing or disturbing to any of the new councils, which we wish to see start on a good footing, than for them to know that any of their constituent councils, or indeed any of their closer neighbours, was agitating continuously through the Boundary Commission to try to change their status, and thus to upset the whole of the applecart. And it would be especially disturbing if they knew that such a change might be made without full democratic discussion in Parliament. I submit that we are talking here about the distinction between the Affirmative and Negative Resolution procedure. I can claim no expert knowledge of either of these procedures, but I understand they are themselves the subject of discussion on a possible reform of that system. I am quite certain that the Affirmative Resolution is the procedure which we should have in this case. I do not find, either, any reassurance in the words of the Minister in another place, who said on Report stage: Both the local authorities and their citizens will have an opportunity to put their case before the Boundary Commission. Even if this were so—and I do not see it written anywhere—I do not think it is in any way a proper substitute for proper and thorough Parliamentary debate.

I have little doubt that the Minister is going to answer that this device of using the Boundary Commission for a purpose for which I do not believe it was ever intended to be used will obviate the danger of making alterations to the future structure much too cumbersome, and that he will further tell us that there is no better way of making these alternations should they become necessary. I do not believe that that would be a good answer or a good reason for by-passing the essential safeguards of democracy through Parliament. Therefore I beg to move this Amendment.

1.8 p.m.


This gambling atmosphere that we have been enjoying this morning has a very powerful influence on one, and I should like to start by laying very long odds that my noble friend Lord Aberdare will feel himself bound to pay great attention to the Amendments which have been so lucidly explained by my noble friend Lord Ridley. He has spoken on two alternative Amendments that he has put down. As my noble friend has said, alterations in boundaries are one thing, alterations in functions are quite another and generally much more important. I personally should have thought that questions involving alterations of functions really are not an appropriate subject for recommendations by the Boundary Commission. I agree with him on that. Alterations involving changes between metropolitan counties and non-metropolitan counties and vice versa should surely emanate from direct recommendations to Parliament by the Government and thereafter be the subject of specific legislation. Therefore I personally prefer the first of the two Amendments in the name of my noble friend.

But if my noble friend Lord Aberdare advances very strong reasons why, contrary to what I would have thought, the Boundary Commission should have the responsibility of recommending changes in functions, then the second provision for subsequent action should take the form of positive Orders in Parliament rather than the merely negative procedure. Those of us who have had first hand experience of these two methods in another place will know that the negative procedure very seldom in fact—though in theory it can, depending on Prayers—result in adequate deliberation on the question at issue. Prayers are apt to get pushed into odd holes and corners of the programme, and in the case of alterations which may involve the functions of important local authorities I think that if the recommendation is to be made by Order it should unquestionably be by the positive procedure rather than the negative. If my noble friend Lord Aberdare says that it is undesirable that there should be two different procedures, one positive and one negative, I should have thought that there were plenty of precedents for that, and I cannot quite see why that should be a disadvantage when the alterations in boundaries and functions are so different.

We all want to ensure as much certainty and stability as we can in the new local government structure. I am quite sure that it is right to provide for changes of these kinds in boundaries and functions when it is apparent that they have become desirable. But I am equally sure that those provisions should not be such as to facilitate, or permit, such changes to be made in functions light-heartedly or without the most careful Parliamentary consideration. I hope that my noble friend will be sympathetic to one or other of the alternative Amendments that have been so lucidly proposed by my noble friend Lord Ridley.

1.11 p.m.


I am bound to say that I cannot agree with the noble Viscount's first Amendment. It would seem to me to be an attempt to fix pretty well for all time the pattern now being set up by this Bill, despite the fact that changes in population, changes in industry, changes in areas are taking place all the time. When one area loses industry and population another gains it, and when this happens surely there should be some provision which would enable accommodation to be made for those changes.

What I dislike about the noble Viscount's first Amendment is that it would seem to me to bring about a situation in which only by a new Act of Parliament could you make a change which might, in the circumstances of the time, be very desirable. We all know the difficulty in introducing Bills into the two Houses and fitting them into the timetable, and so on. I appreciate what the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, was saying, that this matter concerning changes in functions and so on is one which creates very great difficulty, and ought not to be entered into lightly. I do not agree with him that the Boundary Commission should not be empowered to look at these things. After all, this is the sort of function that I would expect a Boundary Commission to be looking at: what changes have taken place in the area; what industries have come into it; what population has come into it, and what population has gone out of it. Without making too much of this, I am very much opposed to the first Amendment, but I am in entire agreement with the second Amendment. I believe that what would be proposed by the Boundary Commission for the alteration of an area to produce a metropolitan county with metropolitan districts and so on is so important that it ought to be examined by Parliament. I believe that the second proposal is one that would ensure that examination in the best possible way; namely, by the Affirmative Resolution rather than the Negative Resolution procedure.


I am very grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I go a very long way with him in what he is saying, but it seemed to me that he was drawing a picture of the necessity for another major local government Bill. I think that he and I well know that there are many cases of minor amending Bills that are brought forward from time to time to amend a major Act. It was that kind of provision I had in mind. Having said that, I do not want to draw too sharp a distinction between the kind of amending Bills, that I visualise might be brought forward from time to time, and the positive order procedure. It is the negative order procedure that, I think he will agree with me, is not adequate for this purpose.


There is really very little between us. The noble Viscount agrees with the affirmative procedure and I agree with it; the only difference is that I think that time for even small Acts has to be found in a timetable. Having sat in on some of these committees when I happened to be a Member of the Government, as the noble Viscount has done, I have seen Ministers pushing or urging the appropriate Committee to fit in a Bill, and we both know the difficulties. So often the Bills are put back until the next Session, then the next Session, and so on. However, a statutory order requiring the Affirmative Resolution of the House can be dealt with in a reasonable time; time can be found for it in the other place because of the arrangement which enables it to be taken up to a certain time after normal business. So I feel that we ought not to pass this first Amendment; but when we come to the second Amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord. Ridley, I hope that the Committee will agree to it.

1.15 p.m.


In common with a number of your Lordships I have received strong appeals to support this Amendment, and equally strong appeals from other quarters to oppose it, so we all have to make up our own minds. I find myself in a great deal of sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Champion, about this. It seems to me that there may be a case 'arising from time to time for the conversion of a non-metropolitan area into a metropolitan area, and that the Local Government Boundary Commission is the obvious body to take the first step there. It seems to me that it would be anomalous for the Secretary of State to have to set up a separate inquiry when the Boundary Commission was in existence. I would see nothing improper in the Boundary Commission making a proposal to the Secretary of State; I would see something improper if the Secretary of State automatically rubber-stamped that proposal. He ought very carefully to consider such a question to see whether he is in agreement with their recommendation or not.

I have a special reason for arguing this way, because I believe that history has shown that one of the flaws in the Local Government Act 1958, for which Act I was responsible, was that that Act did not give sufficient scope for the then Local Government Commission to make recommendations of a somewhat heterodox character, if I may put it that way. I do not think there was anything wrong with it at the time, because I doubt whether public or Parliamentary opinion would have approved a widening of its terms. However, as I say, history has shown that that Commission's terms of reference were drawn rather too tightly, and it would be a mistake if we did the same again today.

As regards the second Amendment, I think that we should accept that Amendment for this reason: it is primarily a House of Commons matter. In your Lordships' House there is plenty of time to debate affirmative instruments and negative instruments. Indeed, from my !experience as Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on the subject of delegated legislation I am inclined to say that perhaps your Lordships' House should be more vigilant and active in debating negative instruments. Whereas in this House Prayers are very rare, in another place they are very common and there is difficulty in finding time for them. I therefore think that that second Amendment does not make any great difference so far as your Lordship's House is concerned, but it might make a considerable difference so far as the other place is concerned. The only way we can ask the other House to reconsider the matter is to amend the Bill in this respect today; then that Amendment will go back to the other place, and it is for that other place, which is more concerned in this than your Lordships' House, to decide which way this should go. Therefore, I oppose the first Amendment but support the second Amendment.

1.19 p.m.


I wish to oppose both of these Amendments. It has been said that this kind of change might be made light-heartedly. There are no grounds for that whatever. What does the Bill provide? Clause 47 provides the kind of changes, about nine of them, that can be recommended by the Commission to the Secretary of State. But so far as this change is concerned—the conversion from non-metropolitan to metropolitan—Clause 48 specifies in particular that it shall be made in not less than ten years or more than 15. So a change of this kind can be made only in ten to 15 years' time. Clearly, after ten years there could be changes even if the intentions of the Government in regard to planning are carried out, especially in South Hampshire where they have given approval to developments which between now and 1981 will give rise to a substantial increase in population.

Such an increase in population should be looked at, and it should be looked at, first of all, by the Boundary Commission itself. Parliament is not in a position to take the first look, and somebody else must take the first look. The Bill provides that the Commission shall take the first look and, having taken that look, shall then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State must accept that recommendation and he then has to put a Statutory Instrument before Parliament. Surely this is not a light-hearted procedure. I think that that was a misuse of words and was overstating the case for the Amendment. The first Amendment would make this kind of change impossible, except by completely new legislation. I suggest that that is unreasonable. I really feel that the County Councils Association are getting a bit drunk with power. They have the Bill almost exactly as they would have written it themselves—


That is not the case. They could have written a much better Bill.


They could have written a much better Bill from their point of view; for example, they would have included one of these Amendments. But the first Amendment would make it impossible to get change without new legislation, even though there has been a change of circumstances. That is unreasonable. The second Amendment is an attempt to make it more difficult to get change through the House of Commons. I object to this on two grounds: first, because I think it is unreasonable to make the possibility of change more difficult; and, secondly, because, as was hinted by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, this is a matter for the House of Commons and is not a matter for this House. There is ample opportunity for discussing these Instruments in this House. If there is to be a change from Negative to Affirmative Resolution, it should be made by the other place and not by this House.


Three noble Lords have spoken from the other side. They have given general approval to the underlying idea of these two Amendments and, if I sense the situation aright, there is a tendency for them to favour the second Amendment rather than the first. I rise merely for the purpose of indicating to your Lordships that these two Amendments are not a piece of Tory trickery. It has been made clear to us that the Bill is destined to settle local government boundaries and functions for some time ahead. What we really want is stability. In the present state of the Bill we shall get uncertainty; we shall get agitations springing up in one part of the country after another, with the object of converting a metropolitan county into a non-metropolitan county or the other way about, which will create severe difficulties both for members of local authorities, particularly county councils, and for the officers of those organisations. I feel that if such a huge change as the conversion from metropolitan into non-metropolitan, or vice versa, is to be made, it should have Parliamentary authority. I appreciate the point made by my noble friend Lord Champion, that to have to introduce a Bill on all these occasions would perhaps be taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. But this is a very important nut, all the same, and I should be prepared to support the second Amendment very seriously indeed.

The proposal in the Bill is to permit not only the changing of boundaries but the changing of functions as well. The authorities set up under the Bill, whether they be metropolitan or non-metropolitan, will have staffed themselves to meet the tasks that have been put upon them and will have set up those establishments, institutions and services which are necessary to carry out the tasks put upon them. If they are to be left in a state of uncertainty, I have a feeling that many of the essential tasks which they should undertake will not be undertaken at all or will be undertaken in only a half-hearted way. So I appeal to your Lordships to remove this cloud of uncertainty which will be hanging over a large number of authorities and, if it is easier to accept the second Amendment than the first, then I would agree.


I agree that it would be convenient to consider in this one debate the Amendments to Clauses 47 and 51. There are many noble Lords who have a record of distinguished and long service in local government, but I do not think anyone would disagree with me if I said that the three in whose name this Amendment has been put down are absolutely in the front rank of that distinguished band. Therefore, although I would not say that the C.C.A. are drunk with power or are tricksters, I would say that the surprising effect of this Amendment is almost to wreck—


If I may correct my noble friend, I think it was the Tories who were tricksters and not the C.C.A.


Yes, that is quite correct. The Tories are tricksters and the C.C.A. are drunk with power. I am almost on the brink of saying that those three noble Lords are wreckers—although that is of course too strong a word—because the first Amendment to delete paragraph (d) of subsection (1) of Clause 47 leaves an absolutely yawning gap in the provisions for making appropriate adjustments to local government as time goes by. Of course the matter which it covers is special, inasmuch as it affects powers as well as boundaries, but it is not so special as to be necessary to take the whole matter out of the purview of the Boundary Commission. If we were to accept the first Amendment as it stands the Boundary Commission would have no jurisdiction. It is not clear who would have any powers at all to conduct any sort of review or consultation or to put forward proposals. There would be no powers under which inquiries could be conducted, and nothing to say who was to be consulted and what sort of procedure was to be followed. None of this would apply. So to that extent this Amendment comes very near to wrecking not just this clause but this entire Part of the Bill. But I noticed that noble Lords are not particularly pressing their first Amendment and, although they have not described it as a probing Amendment, I will, if I may, treat it in that way.

The question underlying it is: are these matters so special as to require special treatment and special procedure? If noble Lords will look not at Clause 48, as the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, suggested, but at Clause 47(3), they will see that we regard these matters as special to the extent that we preclude any review of the status of metropolitan and other counties for the next ten years, because it is important that there should be stability and continuity in this field. So to that extent there is nothing between us. But that is not to say that the whole matter should be taken out of the hands of the Boundary Commission, and that all the procedures which are appropriate and valuable for every other kind of change would not be useful in this case.

Is it, perhaps, that they feel that this change, of all changes, is more important than any other? If so, I would doubt it. It is an important change, but is it really more important than the change we were discussing yesterday, of splitting a county into three? I would not have thought so from the kind of debate we had yesterday. I should have thought that was an extremely important matter. Is it more important than the creation of a new county? Judging from our debates on Avon and Humberside, I would not have thought so. Is it more important than the welding together of two county boroughs? Is it more important than the adjustment of the boundary between two counties? Again, from our debate on Hants and Dorset I would not have thought so. So I cannot agree; although it is important, it is not more important than any other kind of local government change.

Certainly it will always be important, because it is substantial. Perhaps it will not always be controversial. But, in any case, I would have thought that this kind of change, par excellence, deserved to be treated with all the procedures laid down; and I cannot agree with my noble friend Lord Ridley that this is a matter which, if it is left as it is, would be just left to the discretion of either the Secretary of State or the Boundary Commission. If my noble friend will look (as perhaps he has not, because he indicated that he could not see what reassurances there were about public discussion, and so on) at Clauses 60 and 61, he will see that they are full of references to consultation, publicity, reviews, proposals, counter proposals, inquiries, et cetera, et cetera. If Clause 47(1)(d) is left as it is, these changes will in the first case be subjected to the whole of that procedure, and I am sure the whole Committee would agree that that should be so.

Now if the Committee are persuaded by what I am saying that the first Amendment should not be accepted if it is pressed, then we turn to the next question, which is what form of provision there should be for Parliamentary debate. I think the Government have made it quite clear in Clause 51(4) that they see the necessity, not to restrict in any way but rather to increase the scope for Parliamentary debate of changes of the kind mentioned in Clause 47 in a larger number of cases than hitherto. For example, changes just affecting districts will, under this provision, be subject to debate in Parliament, whereas previously they had not been; so we are agreed about that. The point I would make to your Lordships is as to the flexibility of the Negative Resolution procedure, which enables Parliament itself to decide whether in any particular case it is in fact necessary to have a debate; rather than, under the Affirmative Resolution procedure, to have the position where whether Parliament thinks the matter is important enough or controversial enough to have a debate is prescribed in advance by Statute.

I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that the experience of this House is that the Negative Resolution procedure suits us well. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, will remember that the last debate (I think it was) in this House on an Order which was subject to the Negative Resolution procedure was on the Derby Order, and that was held in this House on a Prayer by the noble Lord, Lord Champion. On that occasion we had a full-scale debate, in which 14 noble Lords took part. This is an example of what can, and does, happen in this House without any trouble under the Negative Resolution procedure. The House decides whether the matter is important enough and controversial enough for a debate to take place, and a debate takes place at the choice of the House. On the other hand, I agree with my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor that the situation is different in the Commons. But I would submit that it is not really for us to decide what another place requires in these matters.

So may I suggest to the Committee that the first Amendment, if pressed—I hope it will not be—should be rejected for the reasons that I have given, and that I should take the matter raised by the second Amendment away between this stage and the next and discuss it with my right honourable friend, bearing very much in mind the fact that, whatever may be the case in our House—and my own opinion is that, on the whole, the flexibility of the Negative Resolution procedure is the best for us—in view of the fact that it may be different in the Commons, it would perhaps be best to have an Amendment at Report stage, as my noble friend Lord Brooke suggests. But, on the undertaking that I will consider the matter with my right honourable friend, I hope that at this stage my noble friend Lord Ridley will not feel it necessary to press either Amendment for the time being.


I must confess complete ignorance of Tory trickery in this, and I am not drunk with power or with anything else because I have not had any lunch; but I would with pleasure withdraw Amendment No. 88Y, and on the Minister's assurance that Amendment No. 90A will be considered and brought back to us on Report I shall not move that now, with the permission of my noble supporters, which I believe I have. I therefore beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 88Y.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 47 agreed to.

Clause 48 [Duty and power to review local government areas in England]:

1.47 p.m.

LORD STOW HILL had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 90: Page 32, line 42, at end insert— ("Provided that no proposal shall be made under this subsection for any reduction in the area of the Inner Temple or the Middle Temple except upon the representation of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple or, as the case may be, of the Middle Temple.")

The noble and learned Lord said: Your Lordships may have noticed that this Amendment asks that special provision should be made for the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple. I have received advice from the House authorities that if your Lordships were to pass this Amendment the result might be that there would be a prima facie case that the Bill becomes a hybrid Bill. If that were to be the result, a number of manifest inconveniences would be occasioned, and it seemed to me that the right course in those circumstances was not to involve your Lordships and those responsible for the Bill in that risk. In those circumstances, the procedure that I would propose to adopt if it commends itself to your Lordships' approval is this. I would not move Amendment No. 90, but when the Question is put, Whether Clause 48 shall stand part of the Bill, I would seek to deploy the arguments which I would have advanced in support of Amendment No. 90, and couple those arguments with a request to Ministers to be so very kind as to indicate that they would, between now and Report stage, consider those arguments in the hope that they might be able, if they thought they were meritorious and commended themselves to your Lordships, find a way, in the first place, of avoiding the risk of the Bill being rendered a hybrid Bill and, in the second place, of meeting the wishes of the two Inns, either wholly or to such extent as seemed practical and appropriate in the circumstances. If that is a procedure which commends itself to your Lordships' Committee, I will not move Amendment No. 90 upon the understanding that your Lordships will bear with me if I deploy the arguments that I would have advanced in support of it when the Question, That Clause 48 stand part of the Bill, is put.

On Question, Whether Clause 48 shall stand part of the Bill?


Amendment No. 90, as your Lordships will see, provides that no proposal shall be made by the Commission under the provisions of Clause 48 to reduce the area either of the Inner Temple or of the Middle Temple except upon the representation of either or both of those Inns. I should perhaps, at the outset, declare a personal, though not a financial, interest. For nearly half a century I have been a member of the Inner Temple, and for over a quarter of a century a Bencher of my Inn. So I bring to this debate a predilection in their favour which I hope your Lordships will think is not unnatural. I shall, however, undertake to your Lordships to do my best to endeavour to approach this question in a purely objective manner.

Legislation, so far in this country, has always accepted it as reasonable and appropriate to make special provision for the two Inns. I shall not seek to trace that legislation in any detail, but perhaps I may pick it up with the Local Government Act 1963.


The London Government Act.


I am grateful to the noble Viscount. I pick it up with the London Government Act 1963, because I would respectfully submit that if it was appropriate at that stage to make special provision for those two Inns of Court, the circumstances have not changed in the direction of making that special provision now inappropriate. Therefore, I start in my submission with a presumption in my favour that matters might be left, broadly speaking, as they were left by the 1963 Act unless it can be shown that in the intervening period something new has eventuated which makes a change desirable.

In Clause 48 of this Bill one is dealing with the question of boundary and other reviews. On the question of whether the proposal I make would have the effect of making the Bill a hybrid Bill, may I submit at the outset that there are considerations in a contrary sense? As the Bill stands, there are already some special provisions in its context made in favour of the two Inns. Clause 47(1), with the paragraphs under that subsection, deals with the question of the proposals for changes that we have just been discussing. If one looks at Clause 47(1)(f) one finds that that enables the Commission to propose: the abolition of a London borough and the distribution of its area among other London boroughs …. Therefore the result is that, whereas the area of a London borough can be abolished in terms of a proposal, no abolition can take place of the area of either of the Inns. So one starts off with the situation that there is already sanction in the terms of this Bill of the principle that some special provision might be made in favour of the two Inns.

I gather that the House authorities take the view that this really is what is known as a "clean slate" Bill: that one starts from scratch and therefore, although special provisions are made in favour of all sorts of bodies and authorities, that does not make it hybrid. If that is the case (and may I here express my gratitude to the House authorities for the help they have given me on this question and for the expert advice they have afforded me) if I am right in saying that no power is taken to abolish the area of either of the Inns, although power is taken to abolish the area of any London borough, one starts with the provision that it has been accepted on this "clean slate" principle that some special provision should be made in favour of the two Inns of Court, the Inner and the Middle Temple. The submission that I would build upon that is that that having been done, and if that does not make the Bill hybrid, surely this added protection that I seek to add by seeking the retention of provisions in their favour which already exist in the 1963 Act cannot have the effect of making this Bill hybrid. I leave that. I would submit that those are reasons which are relevant to this problem, and I would ask the Minister to be kind enough to consider them between now and the Report stage.

The position under the 1963 Act, part of which I want to retain, is outlined in Section 6(3). Perhaps I might cite from the relevant parts of that subsection. It reads: If joint representations are made to the Minister … by the Common Council or the council of a London borough and the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple or of the Middle Temple for the making of an alteration of the boundary between the City or that borough and the Inner Temple or the Middle Temple, as the case may be, the Minister may, with or without any inquiry, make the change. So the change can be made only if there are joint representations; no change can be made without those joint representations. It is something of that that I seek to retain in the Amendment on the Marshalled List. I seek to obtain this degree of protection.

Under Clause 48(7) of the Bill, power is given to the English Commission at any time to review the boundaries between the Inner Temple or the Middle Temple and the City or the City of Westminster for the purpose of considering whether or not to make such proposals with respect to any such boundaries as are authorised by section 47 above"— that is, the previous clause— and what proposals, if any, to make and shall, unless to do so would in their opinion impede the proper discharge of their functions, consider any request made with respect to any such boundaries by the Common Council, the Council of the City of Westminster, the Sub-Treasurer of the Inner Temple or the Under Treasurer of the Middle Temple, and in either case the Commission shall, if they think fit, formulate such proposals accordingly. I do not seek by my Amendment to interfere with the operation of that subsection except in a minimal sense. The very minimal sense is this. I ask that it should be enacted as a proviso to that general power that no proposal should be made under it for any reduction—and I emphasise the word "reduction"—in the area of either of the two Inns except upon the representation of the Inns. That is a very minimal incursion on that broad and general power. I am simply asking your Lordships to decide that the area, being clearly marked out geographically as it is and as it always has been—at least that area—should not be reduced except on the representations of the Inns themselves. In other words, I seek to retain for the Inns a slight measure of that general protection which was incorporated in Section 6 of the 1963 Act from which I cited. It is a very modest protection that I seek.

If your Lordships ask, "Why should they have any protection?" I would answer in this general way: that they are two quite unique organisations. I may cite from the Minister, Mr. Graham Page, who when speaking in another place accepted that. He said that the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple are unique. They are unique in various ways. One way is that they are given various local authority functions. Under the Extra-Parochial Places Act 1857, Section 3 and Section 6, they exercise as local authorities rating functions, sanitation, food and drugs administration; and there are others. The Minister in his speech in another place was quite explicit about that. He said that those functions "work satisfactorily". He went on to say: I do not think that anybody complains about it; at least I have never received any complaints and I think we can leave it as it is. Therefore we have, in the centre of London, the busy hubbub of London, with all its massive traffic, these two unique enclosed areas exercising, perfectly satisfactorily, these local authority functions with no suggestion that they should be changed in any way and with no complaint made about them.

Not only is that their unique character, but they also have characteristics which are far more important in their extraordinarily exceptional quality. I suppose that noble Lords will find no difficulty in agreeing with me if I say that the traditions of the two Inns extend far back over the centuries. Any member of the public who walks in the Inns is transported right away from the present age. The Inns have a beauty, a dignity and a repose all of their own. They belong in the fullest sense to ancient London. Their geographical boundaries are clearly marked out. They are surrounded entirely by the City of London, on one side, and the City of Westminster, on the other. I know that I speak to the noble Viscount who has had an extremely heavy and busy day and a heavy and busy week. That is in no sense exceptional because all his weeks are busy and I hesitate to burden him with more reflections still. But I am sure that I shall have his sympathy in my references to the Inns.

Is it conceivable that anyone would wish to take away King's Bench Walk on one side of the Inns or would wish to take away part of Middle Temple Lane; or would wish to encroach on the Northern territory of the Inns? It is inconceivable, one would respectfully submit, that anything of that sort should ever be necessary. I should have thought it was asking very little indeed to ask that, except upon the representations of the Inns themselves, that territory should be left as it is and not encroached on. That is all we ask and I submit that that is asking for very little. That is the case I would seek to make. I know we live in an iconoclastic age, and this is rather an iconoclastic Bill, though a very good one which achieves an immense measure of social reform. But surely it can leave out these two little enclaves. They are, I submit, a source of great pleasure to the public. They carry with them a long tradition of history very close to the pulse and heart of the development—social, political and legal—of this country, and surely they may be left in quiet to go on exercising their functions and contributing to the general purposes of our community as they have in the past.

It may be said that perhaps we are being a little untidy. I remember that in another place an honourable friend of mine once said, I thought very appropriately, in a debate one day when he was accused of inconsistency, that perfect logic weighed upon the human intellect like an Alp. If we are being a little intellectually untidy, surely that has the advantage of reminding us that we are human. Why cannot we be human a little bit in this cement age? That is the plea that I would make and I do not wish to elaborate it. I simply ask that the noble Viscount will be able to say that he will take into account what I have urged on behalf of the two Inns, in the hope in the first place that some way may be found of acceding to their request without making this a hybrid Bill; and in the second place that it may be done in a manner which guarantees to them that measure of security that they have always enjoyed and which our legislation has recognised that they should enjoy in the future as they have in the past. I do not beg to, move; I simply say that I conclude my submissions.

1.54 p.m.


The Inn to which I belong has never enjoyed the privileges of Lord Stow Hill's ideal, but I was a denison of the Temples for twelve years and I share his affection for the area. I am well aware of its historical importance and the anomaly that it has always created—very attractively created—in legislation. I think that the Committee must be grateful to the noble and learned Lord for the way in which he has dealt with the Amendment, because, unfathomable as are the depths of hybridisation, we are advised that notwithstanding what the noble and learned Lord has said about the special position of the Temples in the Bill as it is, this Amendment would or might have the effect of hybridising the Bill.

I am not sure that I can say very much more about what the Government could do in this respect, because it lies entirely outside the hands of the Government. It is a matter for the Officers of this House, the Examiners of the Bill, and only they can decide whether, upon the insertion of a certain Amendment, the Bill would become hybrid. I may be wrong, but I think I am correct in saying that they also decide afterwards, and so we are here in a certain peril. It is very difficult indeed to see how one can do what is proposed without running this danger. I have considered most carefully, not only while the noble and learned Lord was speaking but also before, the point that he made about the special position of the Temples anyway; but, despite that, this is still the advice that we have on the subject. I wonder, therefore, whether I may seek to persuade the noble and learned Lord and the Committee that perhaps the Temples are not being so hard done by under the Bill as it is drafted, because it may be then that the noble and learned Lord and the Committee will think that we do not in any event have to run this danger at all.

It is perfectly true that under a great deal of previous legislation and under the London Government Act 1963 the two Temples have long had special consideration given to them. The noble and learned Lord, perfectly correctly, quoted Section 6(3) of the London Government Act. On the other hand, one has to accept, I think—and the noble Lord will appreciate it—that under this Bill also the Temples are having a special and indeed I believe a unique consideration given to them. The noble and learned Lord pointed out the provision in Clause 47(1)(f) whereby every other borough in London—and, I think under subsection (1)(c) every other local authority set up under the Bill—may be abolished altogether on the recommendation of the Boundary Commission. The two authorities in the whole of England and Wales who are exempt from that provision are the two Temples. No proposal by the English Commission can propose their abolition. If it did it would be ultra vires; it cannot be done. Therefore the Temples retain their unique position in the provision made for them.

What the noble and learned Lord asks is that we should go even further and restore the situation where even the smallest amendments to their boundaries —there can be no question of their abolition—has to be based upon the request of the two Temples and cannot be suggested in the first instance by the Commission. It is here, I think, that one has to recognise the difference in philosophy between the London Government Act and this Bill. In the London Government Act the initiative for boundary and other changes was to come from the authority; there was no overall, impartial commission as there is in this Bill. If there were to be changes it was the local authorities who were to make them. The Temples had to go one stage further. Not only was it a question of dealing with suggestions by the Temples, or by their two neighbours, but there was a further protection in the fact that the boundary could be changed only with the consent of the two Temples, as the noble and learned Lord has explained. Under this Bill we have a situation where the initiative comes not from the local authorities but from the Commission, which is impartial, looking at the matter overall. All other local authorities are subject to the power of the Commission to abolish as well as to change them. The Temples, again, are one step removed from this, in that they cannot be abolished. The only proposition that can be put forward is for their boundaries to be changed. Therefore, under the two philosophies we have in each case the Temples given one extra step of protection. And so we have under this Bill. That is the basis against which I would suggest to the noble and learned Lord that the Temples have retained their charming, but proper, illogicality: they have a very substantial protection indeed.

But of course one has to look at the practical side of this matter. As the noble and learned Lord has said, and as anybody who knows the area is fully aware, it is inconceivable that King's Bench Walk should be thrown into the City of London and taken out of the Temple. But there may be an occasion when, some time in the future, a redevelopment takes place which extends a building to straddle a boundary or something of that sort. In a built-up area like the Temple, where not only is space of the greatest value, but where many of the buildings themselves are listed and are most unlikely to be touched in any circumstances, it does not seem likely that any proposals for alterations of the boundary would do more than make the most minimal change, one way or the other, in the present boundaries. Therefore one would think that the Temples have retained this specific protection under law, but also they are buttressed by the practical side of the issue, in that it is most improbable that their territory will be handed over either to Westminster or the City of London, because of the geographical facts, the way the buildings are laid out and the whole concept and atmosphere of the Temple, which imbues it with that sort of particularly lovely university cloister atmosphere which I do not think anybody would ever wish in any sense to ruin.

That is really the case for leaving Clause 48 as it is with this extra protection for the Temples. I know that what the noble and learned Lord says goes just a little bit further, but it is a breach in the philosophy of the Bill. It was not a breach in the philosophy of the 1963 Act, but it is a breach in the philosophy of this Bill that you should deprive this impartial Commission even from considering a boundary change in the case of the Temple. That is the reason why I hope that, on reflection, the noble and learned Lord will feel that the Temples have been fairly and exceptionally treated and that in practice they really do not need any further protection. I am sure that the noble Lord is not going to move that Clause 48 be left out, and he will be able to think about this subject before the Report stage of the Bill.


I only rise to thank the noble Viscount sincerely for his careful analysis and the obvious care that he has taken over this matter. I certainly will not oppose the Motion, That Clause 48 stand part of the Bill. I am deeply indebted to the noble Viscount.


Before we finish with this fascinating argument, may I ask the noble Viscount a question which at once exposes my ignorance? What are the terrible consequences of a hybrid Bill? Perhaps this is something which he cannot explain in a few minutes, in which case I will withdraw the question.


In a very few words, it means that it is liable to go to a Select Committee on the point of hybridity. Petitions can be put down against it. The delay would be likely to be very great, and it would cause absolute mayhem in the context of this legislation.

Clause 48 agreed to.

Clause 49 to 53 agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Constitution and proceedings of the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales]:


Amendment No. 90C is consequential on Amendment No. 88KK. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 253, line 5, leave out paragraph 3.—(Lord Aberdare.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

2.5 p.m.

THE EARL OF BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 90P: Page 253, line 19, leave out ("two") and insert ("three").

The noble Earl said: I raise this point more as a question than anything else. I have always felt that a quorum should be an odd number of people, and particularly a Boundary Commission quorum because of their rather special duties. But since doing further research into the Bill, I have found that the Boundary Commission might travel long distances, going to out of the way places, and so perhaps two is all that is required at any meeting of the Commission, which, so far as I can gather now, could be on the top of a hillside. Therefore this is not a matter that I wish to press, but in the decisions of the Commission I hope that a meeting of just two will not lead to any hold up in their extremely exacting task. I beg to move.


The logic behind the number "two" was simply that for the English Commission there were seven Members, of whom three were to be a quorum, and for the Welsh Commission, as there were five members, it was thought that two should be the quorum. That is the reason for the "two". I do not think it is a tremendously important point, and if noble Lords think that three is a better quorum, then I have no objection. Otherwise, I am content to leave it as it is.


I think we are in some difficulty over this. I have great sympathy with the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, that where your decisions are taken on quite important matters of recommendation three is a much more satisfactory number. On the other hand, as the Bill stands, it is "at any meeting of the Commission", and to insist upon three for any meeting of the Commission in the circumstances which the noble Earl so vividly described might not be reasonable. I think we should perhaps leave this to the good sense of the Commission. If they are making recommendations of real substance, surely they themselves would try to have more than two of their number present. I would respectfully suggest that we should leave the matter there.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 8, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clause 55 [Review of local government areas in Wales]:

LORD ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 90D: Page 39, line 32, leave out ("the foregoing provisions of this section") and insert ("subsections (1) to (3) above").

The noble Lord said: This is a consequential Amendment made necessary by the acceptance at Report stage in another place of an Amendment which inserted subsection (4) into Clause 55. It is simply a re-wording of subsection (5) to make it clear that only subsections (1), (2) and (3) of Clause 59, and not the new subsection (4), apply to proposals made under subsection (5).I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 55, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 56 to 59 agreed to.

Clause 60 [Procedure for Reviews]:

2.10 p.m.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 90DA: Page 43, line 22, after ("consult") insert ("(i)").

The noble Lord said: I suggest that it may be for the convenience of the Committee, if agreeable to the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, to consider all three Amendments to this clause together. I make this suggestion because I believe that the noble Lord and I are at one in intending to ensure that in the process of reviewing and considering boundary changes all the proper representatives of the staff concerned should be fully consulted. Being at one in that, I do not think we shall have much difficulty in resolving the matters raised by these three Amendments.

I am not sure, but I suspect that the noble Lord put down his Amendment before he had seen those proposed by the Government, and to that extent I am grateful to him for showing the concern he has for this particular matter, which is important. I should like to suggest to the Committee—no doubt the noble Lord will want to speak to his Amendment—that his Amendment would have the effect of placing a somewhat onerous burden on the Boundary Commission. If his Amendment were accepted rather than those I am proposing, it would fall to the Boundary Commission to have to discover in any one case which particular bodies representative of staff interests were the ones which it would be appropriate for them to consult in each of the authorities concerned in any one change. As there are more than 100 bodies representative of various staff interests throughout local government this would be a particularly onerous task.

My Amendment would achieve the same objective as the noble Lord's Amendment by the very minor difference in approach which provides that whenever any review of a boundary change is going on those bodies representative of the staff concerned in them should approach the Boundary Commission and express a desire to be consulted and when that desire has been expressed it is then incumbent on the Boundary Commission under the Statute to consult all those particular bodies. I hope that the noble Lord will agree that these two Amendments by the Government achieve what he is seeking to achieve and put it in a way which is more reasonable concerning the Boundary Commission.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. I had prepared what I thought was a very persuasive speech. It seems to me an issue on which, in the light of the discussion that took place when the matter was before the other House, I might hope to secure favourable consideration from the Government on the point I was trying to achieve by way of the Amendment I tabled. I think perhaps the Committee will appreciate the reasons why I shall not now be making that speech.

May I say that when I tabled the Amendment I consulted with staff organisations. The Committee will know, I think, because I have stated it before, that I am a lifelong trade unionist and and have an association with NALGO. I should like to acknowledge the very considerable help that I have received in considering this matter. They were satisfied that my Amendment met the position, but I should tell the Committee that they are much happier with the Amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. They completely meet the situation and, in these circumstances, I do not wish to move my Amendment. May I repeat my appreciation of the statement made by the noble Lord, which to me, and I hope to the Committee as a whole, was completely satisfactory and acceptable.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 90E:

Amendment moved— Page 43, line 24, leave out ("and") and insert— ("(ii) any bodies representative of staff employed by local authorities who have asked the Commission or the council, as the case may be, to be consulted; and—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 60, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 61 to 63 agreed to.

Schedule 9 agreed to.

Clause 64 agreed to.

Schedule 10 [Initial reviews in Wales]:

LORD ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 90F: Page 257, line 2, leave out from ("the") to the end of line 4 and insert ("last of the orders which he proposes to make under paragraph 7 above with respect to the communities in that district.")

The noble Lord said: This is a consequential Amendment to paragraph 11 of Schedule 10 made necessary by an Amendment to paragraph 7 accepted on Report stage in another place. It makes clear the definition of the completion of the special community review in Wales and has the effect that the local government Boundary Commission for Wales will not start to draft the electoral arrangements for the district under paragraph 10 of Schedule 10 until the Secretary of State has made a decision on the last part of the special Community Review for that district.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 10, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 200 [Public libraries and museums (Wales)]:

THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE (LORD BELSTEAD) had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 90K: Page 156, line 26, leave out from first ("councils") to ("and") in line 27 and insert ("and district councils").

The noble Lord said:

I regret to say that the drafting of this Amendment is defective in that if it were agreed to as it stands it would leave and subject to the provisions of that section referring to nothing at all. I apologise to your Lordships' House for this. It recurs on Amendment No. 123A in respect of England. This will give your Lordships an opportunity to debate the substance of the matter as it refers to England and, if it is agreeable to the House when an Amendment is put down on Report, perhaps the House will agree to it. I apologise and ask permission not to move this Amendment.


Before I move the next Amendment, No. 90L, may I say a word about procedure? I wonder whether it would be to the convenience of the Committee if we took together the whole series of Amendments which the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and I have tabled on library appointments, in spite of the fact that some relate to the position in Wales and others to the position in England. If your Lordships will agree to this course I am sure that it will be to the convenience of the Committee. At the moment under the Bill the position in Wales is different from that which obtains in England. I wish to argue that the two should be brought into line with one another. Therefore, with permission, I should like to discuss together Amendments Nos. 90L, 123B, 123C, 125Z, 125AA, 125BB, 125F and 125G. Those are the whole of these Amendments which relate to the division of library functions in England and Wales. I hope that my suggestion will be for the convenience of your Lordships.


The noble Lord is being most helpful, I know. I was not aware in fact that he was going to do this. I will do my best to go along with the noble Lord if that is the wish of the Committee. I should like to think that I would be able to reply on the English Amendments but I am not absolutely certain about going as wide as that. However, if that is the wish of the Committee—


: With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I think we ought to discuss these Amendments on a separate footing for Wales because in the Bill the situation in Wales is different and I hope that it will remain different. I would not personally wish to argue about the English situation, though my noble friends Lord Strabolgi and Lord Champion may wish to do so. I would, however, strongly resist any suggestion, as in Amendment 90L, to alter the position in the Bill so far as Wales is concerned. I think that the positions of the two countries are somewhat different, and I should like to argue them separately, because I think that would lead to a tidier debate.

2.22 p.m.

LORD AVEBURY moved Amendment No. 90L: Page 156, line 28, leave out from ("section") to end of line 42 on page 157 and insert ("the library authority for those purposes shall be the district council").

The noble Lord said: Obviously I will bow to the wish of your Lordships, and if it is the wish of the noble Baroness, Lady White, that we should treat the situation in Wales as a separate matter, then I am happy to do so except that, as your Lordships will probably be aware, comparisons have been made in another place between the situation in Wales and that in England. The situation in Wales in fact is more favourable in the case I wish to argue. But in order to bring the two into line it will be necessary to go a little further than is stated in this clause as it stands at present.

What Clause 200 actually says is that the council of a district in Wales may apply at any time to the Secretary of State to be treated as a library authority and the Secretary of State may make such an order, subject to the conditions which are set out in Clause 200. He has to take into account the effect that such an order would have on the library service which is provided by the county council, and of course he has to consult with the county council before making any such order. If I may just contrast that for one moment with the provision in England without referring to the Amendments which are down for that subject, here you have districts excluded entirely from the provision of library functions except to the extent that they can persuade the Secretary of State that they should be allowed these powers under delegation, which is provided for in Clause 100. Of course, as the noble Lord will be aware, the argument has been that the delegation of functions by means of what is called an agency, is not at all satisfactory in that the district authority will then not have control over the money. In this respect I think the district councils in Wales have a better solution to the problem, but one that still does not go far enough.

My Amendments, as they relate to Wales, confer the library functions entirely on districts, which does not prevent a district which is not willing or capable of exercising its functions to ask the county to do this on its behalf or to ask any other district to exercise those functions on its behalf. There has been considerable disquiet in Wales because the Government have given no indication as to the extent to which they will be prepared to make orders under Clause 200, and it has been suggested that there are only two authorities in the whole of Wales which would be given those powers. I do not know whether the noble Lord is able to say any more about that this afternoon, but I think we must realise that there is disquiet in Wales that so few authorities might be given the important responsibilities of a personal nature—which is what the library functions are. If it was the intention to be very restrictive in the use of these powers to grant or make orders on the request of the district council, that would not be at all acceptable to the people of Wales. Many of them would like to see the principal responsibility laid entirely on the district councils, with the proviso, as I say, that if they do not wish to exercise them, or if they feel that the functions would be better done by the county, that again is provided for in the Bill. So I hope that so far as Wales is concerned the noble Lord will see his way to accept this series of Amendments. I beg to move.


I am sorry to have to disagree fairly vehemently with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, but I would claim to know Wales as well as he does, although I appreciate that he is very familiar with parts of the Principality. However, when we look at the situation in Wales, where under the proposals in the Bill we should have 37 districts, it does not seem to me to be appropriate that each and every one of these should be, as of right, a library authority. In general terms I would say that the library function is better performed by the county council, but in Wales we have recognised that, because of the demographic and geographical situation in the Principality, certain of the new counties are very large indeed and cover a great area. In these counties it may be felt that it is not very easy to organise library services over such a vast area.

We also have in Wales at present certain county authorities (perhaps I may mention Cardiganshire as an example) where we have a particularly active library authority in a county which will become, under the new provisions, a district. In these circumstances, it would seem appropriate in our Welsh conditions that the Secretary of State for Wales should have the authority in certain circumstances to approve of certain district authorities as library authorities. But if one looks at some of the Welsh counties where there will be district authorities—Glamorgan, Gwent, Clwyd, for example —I think in many of those areas it would be quite inappropriate to split up the library function between district councils. It would be far better administered on a county basis. I would therefore hope that the Secretary of State, in the exercise of his discretion, would not designate them as library authorities.

I do not think I need elaborate the point unduly. I am well aware that there are certain places, and even certain persons, who have shown very great initiative and great enthusiasm in the provision of library services. Perhaps I may refer here for a moment to my former constituency of East Flintshire. In the ancient borough of Flint we have had a very remarkable librarian—an individual who has extremely notable gifts as a librarian; someone who can make contact with the people in the locality, and who has shown great enterprise in the kinds of exhibitions, displays and so on, which have been put on at the library in that ancient borough. But I do not think that merely because one can point to one or two outstanding examples of that kind, that is sufficient reason to say that every district council in Wales should be, as of right, a library authority. Within our relatively narrow compass in Wales, where we can get to know closely and intimately what the true possibilities are in any one place, the arrangements in the Bill provide for flexibility. They provide for special conditions in certain areas, and I should have thought that we might rest content with what we have in the Bill. I could not, personally at any rate, advise noble Lords to support Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.

2.30 p.m.


The noble Baroness, Lady White, as a former Member for Wales, gave very much more clearly than I can the reasons why the provision in Clause 200 for Wales is not the same as the provision for England which the noble Lord, in the interests of getting on with the Bill, would like to have taken with this Amendment. I will not amplify what the noble Baroness has said except to say that Clause 200 is evidence of the Government's agreement with the line which the noble Baroness has taken. I must, however, go a little further in answering the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and explain why it is that we feel we ought not to accept the noble Lord's Amendment.

The obvious general reason, which has been repeated many times in another place, is the gross increase in the use of library services, which everyone welcomes. This can lead to a considerable increase in expense, and one has to be careful to draft the Bill so that it does not lead to extravagant expense by unnecessary duplication. There is the role of the library service alongside related services. The effect of the clause, except in areas where special circumstances apply, is to allocate responsibility for libraries to those who are responsible for education. This reflects the fact that schools and colleges are making increasing demands on the library services. We on this side of the Committee feel that this is a sensible and economical arrangement, and I assume from what the noble Baroness said that in general she felt that the library function should be a county function but with exceptions, that is, she would take the same view as well.

As the noble Baroness was speaking of a remarkable librarian in Flintshire I was reminded that in its turn the public library service is to benefit enormously if it is to have specialists in children's books and in technical subjects. This is easier and more likely to happen if the education service and the library service are coterminous. If I may make one point, I am not arguing that the library function must depend on the functions for education. All I seek to show is that for the general good of the library service it is desirable economically for the good of the customer, whether he or she is a recreational customer or an educational customer, that the library service and educational service should, where possible, be coterminous. We believe that the contrary also is true. If one breaks with that principle one may have extravagant duplication.

May I add two things? First, I would put to the noble Lord that it is possible that because of changes in the twelve years since the Roberts Committee, if the Roberts( Committee had reported to-day it is conceivable that the desirable population for a library authority, which they put at about 40,000, might have been different. The other point is that I know that some people feel that there should be co-operation. Valuable co-operation is going on at the moment. A very persuasive speech was made in another place by the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath, on why should not there be co-operation between smaller authorities because of the good lending services. I suggest to the Committee that co-operation takes quite a lot of effort. I think I am right in saying that if one walks into a library and wants a book which is not there one has to try to borrow it on a county basis. If one cannot find it on a county basis, one goes to the regional bureau and they make every effort to try to find it on the regional basis. If they cannot find it on the regional basis, they go to the central lending library and it is found, if possible, on that basis. It is perfectly true that the regional bureaux will be able to continue, and I believe that they are going to be computerised. I suggest that although this service should continue it is right to see that the library authorities themselves should become, if possible, stronger and to that extent we believe it means them becoming slightly bigger.

The noble Lord asked me a direct question. He said that in Wales there was unease because it was not known exactly how the operation would be implemented on the main part of Clause 200; namely, districts being treated as special cases. It is fair to say that the Government made it clear in paragraph 16 of their Consultative Document on the reform of local government in Wales, that their view was that probably there would only be a few instances in Wales where the balance of advantage will result in the granting of powers for libraries to a district council. There is the criterion in the 1964 Act that library authorities should provide a more effective service. The same type of wording is found here in Clause 200. That I am afraid must be my answer to the noble Lord to-day. I hope that the noble Lord will feel that he need not press this Amendment. I should like to think that the wishes of the noble Lord are met to some extent in the wording of Clause 200, but on the criterion that it will provide, if there are exceptions, a more effective library service.


There is not much point in my pressing the Amendment after hearing the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady White, because I shall not get any support from her colleagues. May I say, en passant, that when she said that perhaps her knowledge of Welsh conditions was greater than mine I agree entirely; but it seemed to evoke from her noble friends the feeling that I had no knowledge of Wales at all, which is not true. I have some knowledge of Wales through having been a resident in Anglesey. My mother's family came from that county. The noble Baroness will be aware that I still have great affection and love for that county and wish that its inhabitants could receive under this Bill the type of consideration which is going to enable them to have the best in local government services that we can possibly provide.

I am not convinced by the arguments of the noble Baroness, or those of the noble Lord who answered from the Government Front Bench. They seem to be under the impression that I was ask- ing for every single district to have these functions, whether it was right or wrong for them to do so. I am saying that the districts would have the sense to make up their minds for themselves, in accordance with democratic procedures, whether or not they were capable of exercising library functions. If they were not, then they would go back to the county and ask them to exercise those functions on their behalf. The noble Lord says that it has been made clear that the Secretary of State's powers are going to be exercised in only a few instances—whatever that means. There was an impression in Wales at one time that Cardiff and Swansea were going to be the only two district authorities to benefit from the powers under Clause 200. Now the noble Baroness says she thinks there is a strong case for Cardiganshire as well. The noble Lord did not reply to that.


I think Cardigan and Aberystwyth form a joint committee, and I believe it is an example of a very active one.


There is not only the joint committee. The National Library School is in Wales and the National Library itself is in Aberystwyth.


Perhaps the noble Baroness is satisfied with the decision with regard to Cardiganshire. All I am saying is that if Cardiff and Swansea were the only two districts which were given these functions there would be great disappointment in Wales. The noble Baroness pointed out how the borough of Flint in the past had been extremely well served by the librarian there, and how he introduced cultural services to the people of the borough which were equal to any that were provided elsewhere in Wales. In making this point the noble Baroness illustrated the fact that size is not a determining factor in the breadth and scope of library services at present.

If you look through the expenditure on library services from one authority to another you will find that many of those who have spent the largest amount per head of population on books are quite small authorities. Similarly, those that have expanded into other cultural fields, such as the provision of tapes and records, are not the big county authorities at all but the ones which serve a few tens of thousands of people. I wish that we could get away from the idea which was introduced by the Royal Commission, taken up with such enthusiasm by the present Government, that always bigger means better. I do not believe that in the case of the library service, which is so intensely personal, that is the case. I believe that we shall live to regret the day that we left Clause 200 unaltered. Bearing in mind that I am not going to get any support from the Labour Party on this Amendment, I merely wish to leave the Committee with my protest against Clause 200 as it stands. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 200 agreed to.

Clauses 204, 246 and 255 agreed to.

Clauses 65 to 68 agreed to.

Clause 69: [Variation and revocation of orders under Part IV]:

2.40 p.m.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 90G: Page 52, line 10, leave out from ("by") to ("may") and insert ("a county council").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 90G which is no more than a drafting Amendment. As presently drafted the words, "by the council of an existing administrative county" fail to take account of orders made by the councils of former administrative counties whose areas now form part of larger counties—as, for example, the former county of the Soke of Peterborough, which since 1965 has been part of the present administrative county of Huntingdon and Peterborough. This is because "existing" means "existing at the time of the passing of the Act". The Amendment repairs this fault by substituting "a county council", so that the words will bite on all orders regardless of when they were made.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 69, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 70 and 71 agreed to.

Clause 72 [Accretions from the sea, etc.]:

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 90H: Page 53, line 10, leave out ("1st April, 1974") and insert ("the passing of this Act").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 90H, which is another drafting Amendment. The new local government areas are defined in terms of areas as they exist at the date of the passing of the Act. The new words bring the provisions regarding the treatment of accretions from the sea into line with this, instead of applying them only to accretions occurring after April 1, 1974. My brief says: "Possibly this is overcautious: but it seems better to be sure." I dare say it is!


May we know whether somebody is going to measure the accretions the moment that the Royal Assent is given?

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 72, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 73 agreed to.

Clause 74 [Change of name of county, district or London borough]:


I beg to move Amendments 90M and 90N. These two Amendments are consequential on the brief debate which we had on dignities at Clause 3, and they pave the way to the new clauses incorporated by Amendments Nos. 125RR and 125TT, which was the point at which we said we would have our substantive debate on this matter.

Amendment moved— Page 54, line 18, after first ("a") insert ("city, borough or royal")—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 90N.

Amendment moved— Page 54, line 19, leave out ("of the borough") and insert ("or other grant or incorporation order,")—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 74, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 75 to 77 agreed to.

Clause 78 [Supplementary]:

On Question, Whether Clause 78 shall stand part of the Bill?


May I raise a brief point on Clause 78? At line 26, on page 56 I feel certain that the reference to "Section 44(1)" should in actual fact read "Section 47(1)". It is a pretty clear mistake, but I should like to raise the point before we pass this clause.


On absolutely first reading, I think the noble Earl must be right, and, if so, I will certainly see to it that the change takes place at the next stage of the Bill.

Clause 78 agreed to.

Clause 79 [Qualifications for election and holding office as member of local authority]:

VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved Amendment No. 90J: Page 56, line 38, after ("if") insert ("he is a British subject or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland and").

The noble Viscount said: This Amendment puts right what is, I am afraid, rather an unfortunate drafting mistake. It goes back into history because of course what we are trying to do is to reproduce without any change on this particular subject the provisions of the Local Government Act 1933. At the time when that Act was passed, the term "British subject" included a citizen of the Irish Republic. But then there came the British Nationality Act 1948, and because of the provisions in that particular Act drafting since has specifically dealt with citizens of the Irish Republic separately, for fairly obvious reasons. That should have been done in this Bill. Therefore, in order to restore the situation for citizens of the Irish Republic, who now have the right to be elected for a local authority if they are otherwise qualified, we ought to amend the Bill in this way.

I hope that noble Lords opposite will move the Amendment to take out "and is a British subject" in page 56, line 39, because that is part of this issue. In so doing we shall make another important change which restores the situation to what it should be. The nationality qualification should not only occur at time of election but continue, so to be qualified as a councillor a person must go on being a British national or an Irish citizen. Therefore, we need to change the position of these words to make perfectly certain that both those things occur. Those are technical matters but it is very important that we should not deprive at this stage, and by means of a mistake in the Bill, which I freely confess, Irish citizens of their right to sit; nor should we take away the requirement that the nationality provision should be a continuing one.


Before I put this Amendment, may I apologise and say that it is not my day. The Question now before the Committee is, That this be the eleventh Schedule.

Schedule 11 agreed to.


The Question now before the Committee is, That Amendment No. 90J be agreed to.


We noticed that there was a gap here somewhere in the Bill in relation to qualifications. That is why I put down Amendment No. 92. Clearly, I had not the slightest desire to remove the words "and is a British subject", but wished to draw attention to the fact that we had missed out something which was of considerable importance. Certainly this is not the kind of Bill where we should amend or alter the relationship of the citizens of the Irish Republic to this country. If it is done it ought to be done by other means.

I must admit, speaking personally, that I have no particular desire to see a citizen of the Irish Republic being a representative on our local government bodies. I can see no possible justification for it in the circumstances that they have declared—complete independence from this country. But I certainly will support the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, in the Amendment he is moving because I do not regard this Bill as the right vehicle to make a change which I personally think ought to be made; namely, to exclude citizens of the Irish Republic from sitting on representative bodies in this country. This is an old battle, but, as I say, this is not the occasion to fight it.


May I ask, innocentlly and naïvely, whether the term "British subject" will include a British subject who has just come from Uganda?


Yes, provided he has the other necessary qualifications. As a matter of fact, I am a British subject but I am a Canadian citizen. I do not think I am disqualified from sitting on a local authority simply on that account—nor am I disqualified from sitting in your Lordships' House, I hasten to add. If it is not Lord Royle's day, it is mine, because I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that this subject, though controversial, is not one to be dealt with under this Bill. I am enormously grateful to him for what he said about this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

2.53 p.m.

BARONESS SEROTA moved Amendment No. 91: Page 56, line 39, leave out ("twenty-one") and insert ("eighteen").

The noble Baroness said: On behalf of myself and my noble friends who have put their names to Amendment No. 91, I beg to move it. Your Lordships will be glad to hear that at this late stage in the afternoon, when I know the Committee is most anxious to make as much progress as possible with the Bill before it rises, I do not feel that there is any need to speak at great length on this straightforward and precise Amendment. Its simple, but in my view very important, objective is to enable young people, who already have the right to vote at 18, to have the further right to stand for election and undertake the responsibilities of serving their fellow citizens as members of a local authority.

I move this Amendment in the full knowledge that this question was debated on both Committee and Report stages in another place, but I feel bound to express the firm conviction, which I hope is shared not only by my noble friends but by other noble Lords in all parts of the Committee, that this Bill provides an invaluable opportunity to involve young people in the responsibilities of full citizenship by making them eligible for election as councillors at the very beginning of the new system of local government which this Bill will establish in 1974. Noble Lords will, I am sure, recall our earlier debates on the issues of principle involved in giving young people full adult status at the age of 18. The first debate that I recall on that subject took place in 1967 when we considered the recommendations of the Committee which sat under the distinguished chairmanship of Mr. Justice Latey; a Committee which was set up by my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner, on which I myself was privileged to serve. That committee, having considered inter alia the capacity of the young to order their own personal affairs, recommended that they should have full adult status in relation to their private affairs at the age of 18; and those recommendations, which were widely acceptable, were embodied by the previous Administration in the Family Law Reform Act 1968.

Then in the public field, the other place, on a free vote, overturned a recommendation of the Speaker's Conference that young people should have the right to vote at 20 and decided instead that they should have that right at 18. But that was some four years and a whole General Election ago, and I find it inconceivable that we should not use the opportunity that this Bill presents in the local government field to allow young people to stand for election and serve the community as full members of their local authority, especially when in these last years since our earlier debates we have seen the disillusionment and dangers than can arise from the irresponsibility and alienation of the younger generation from adult society.

I must confess that I speak on this subject with some personal feeling. I was elected first to a local authority in my early twenties and I well recall in that great new dawn when I took my seat on the then Hampstead Borough Council, alongside my noble friend Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, together with twelve other Labour colleagues, facing the noble Lord, Lord. Brooke of Cumnor, the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, and later the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte. Clearly, the councillors of that authority, and particularly the councillors opposite, thought the revolution had come and that the ungrateful electorate had gone completely mad. But after the initial shock had passed, I will always recall with the deepest gratitude the kindness, the generosity and the tolerance which I received from elderly aldermen, senior councillors and most particularly of course from the then town clerk, Mr. Philip Harrold, and his staff. Not only did I begin to learn and understand the complex and practical workings of democratic local government and the problems involved in providing better services for those electors whom I was representing, but I also made friendships which have clearly lasted right through the whole of my life and which overlapped into fields of public service well beyond local government.

Never was I so grateful for that experience as when I was suddenly elevated into this House, and perhaps most of all when I became a Minister concerned with services being carried out by local authorities. Those of us who have served in local government will all, I think, agree that local government is almost a way of life. It is a way of life that one actually has to live in order to know and understand the opportunities and the constraints that it offers, and in my opinion one cannot start too soon.

In my view, this Bill should open the way to young people to full participation and self-expression in the actual day-to-day workings of our free local democracy. I believe that their spirit of restless inquiry, their idealism, and above all, perhaps, their compassion, are all very much needed in the revitalised system of local government that we are trying to create through the passing of this Bill. It is wrong in principle and it could be dangerous in practice to deny them this opportunity for a form of voluntary service, if they are prepared to give their time and their energy to local government, if their Parties are prepared to select them and, of course, first and foremost if the electorate is prepared to elect them.

This House has always shown a great degree of concern and understanding for the problems and the needs of young people, and I think most Members of it would agree with the view of the Latey Committee that to deny responsibility to those who are ready and able to take it on is much more likely to make them irresponsible than to help them. Therefore I very much hope that the Committee will support this Amendment and that the Government will have second thoughts, will be prepared to act now and to agree that this Bill is an opportunity to reduce the age of eligibility for local authority membership from twenty-one to eighteen. I beg to move.


I confess that I cannot recollect regarding the arrival of the noble Baroness on the Hampstead Borough Council some 25 years ago as a revolution, but had I thought of it in those terms I should certainly have called it a very beautiful revolution.

3.3 p.m.


I am relieved by the intervention of my noble friend, which was much better than anything I could have done, in producing the mot juste which is certainly required to answer the noble Baroness. Like the noble Baroness, I remember the debate on the Inquiry chaired by Mr. Justice Latey. I seem to remember that I arrived halfway through the debate and feverishly had to try to catch up. But I hope that on this occasion the Committee will feel that we should follow the admirable precedent of the previous Administration. The noble Baroness will remember that the Family Law Reform Act—at least in the first part of it; there are other matters in the Act—dealt with a large number of the recommendations of that Committee about the age of majority. But the one thing that was left out of that particular piece of legislation was the age for voting. If I recall rightly, the reason for that was that other pieces of machinery were involved which were more apt and which ought to be used before a change in the age of voting was decided upon legislatively. The machinery was then used and the changes were made in a subsequent Bill —in 1969, if I remember rightly.

As the noble Baroness has said, this question was discussed twice in another place, and what I think one must remember is that traditionally the minimum age for standing for election for a local authority has always been the same as the minimum age for standing for election for another place and this seems to me, at any rate—and I hope the Committee will agree—to be a sensible parity and one that we ought to retain. In these circumstances it is right for me to remind the Committee that on August 2 the Speaker of another place agreed that he would preside over a Conference, the terms of reference of which he then set out—and they are recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT of that day.

The third of the items is the minimum age for election to another place. In actual fact this proposal was really the root of the whole Conference that was then set up, and one would therefore think that the decision upon it would be one of the first to be reached. And I think I am right in saying that the results of the Speaker's Conference do not necessarily all have to come out at once; I think they can be announced piece by piece as they are decided. At any rate, this is probably one of the priority items, and invitations have gone out to all Parties, and to others, to make representations to the Conference. If it were to be decided that the minimum age for election to another place should be reduced to 18, legislation would then be required for that purpose. At the same time, I should have thought that if that happened it would be inevitable that the change in the minimum age for election to local authorities would be dealt with at the same time and in the same Bill. A Bill for this purpose, if the Conference so decided, could be introduced early next Session and, I should have thought, in time for the first elections for the local authorities.

If, on the other hand, we were now to amend this Bill in the way suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, I would suggest to the Committee that we should almost certainly be prejudging the Speaker's Conference, and to do that would be to undermine the whole purpose of that Conference. As I have said, there has always been parity. Supposing we were to decide to-day that the minimum age for election to local authorities should be 18, I think it might be very difficult for all those sitting on that Conference to give another decision in connection with those seeking election to another place. I would therefore ask the noble Baroness to do as her own Government, which she embellished, did before; that is, to leave this matter over until we have had the Conference under the Speaker in another place. There will be an opportunity—indeed, there would have to be an opportunity if the age went down to 18—for it to be dealt with, in a presumably small and simple piece of legislation. In those circumstances, I hope that the noble Baroness will not wish to press this Amendment to-day, because the machinery is now in action on this very point.


Before the noble Viscount sits down may I ask him to set my mind at rest on one point? He has used one argument in support of leaving the age limit in local government elections where it is, which is that traditionally it should be the same as that for election to another place. Tradition may or may not be a good argument, but I listened with great care to the speech made by the noble Baroness and it seemed to me that there was something to be said for the lines on which she was addressing the Committee: that if 21 was to be the age for people to be elected to another place they should have an opportunity of three years' training in local government by being eligible for election to local government at the age of 18. I have quite an open mind on this matter, but I should like to hear what the noble Viscount has to say on this point.


My Lords, not having been a Member of another place, I would not be the right person to give a definitive reply on what are the necessary prerequisites to being a good Member of that House. However, I appreciate the point and I should have thought there was a good deal in it. On the other hand, one must bear in mind that there is this traditional tie, and I cannot help feeling that if a decision were made on this Bill to lower the age it would have some bearing on the decision of the Speaker's Conference. It was precisely the same reasons which, I recall, prompted the previous Administration not to deal in the Family Law Reform Act with the voting age, because they felt that it should be dealt with separately. It is exactly the same approach that I am suggesting here. I hope that my recollection is correct in this matter, but certainly it was dealt with separately in different legislation.

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, I wish at the outset to thank the noble Earl, Lord Dudley, for his welcome support and for underlining most effectively the point I was trying to make. In regard to the point which the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, was just making, my recollection is that the Family Law Reform Act inter alia incorporated the recommendations of the Latey Committee. That Committee was concerned only with the responsibilities of young people in ordering their own affairs and made it clear in their recommendations that they had given no consideration to the age at which young people should be eligible to vote. Thus, the Representation of the People Act, 1969 which followed the Family Law Reform Act was the result of a separate set of considerations and, as the noble Viscount said, took a completely separate form.


My Lords. I am glad to be corrected. I think the Latey Committee, either of their own volition or by their terms of reference, said that they had better not comment on the connection between putting one's own affairs in order and voting because the question of voting was a separate piece of machinery.


My Lords, while I do not wish to delay your Lordships over this matter, perhaps I should comment that the Committee were precluded, by their terms of reference, from considering that particular issue. I confess to being very disappointed at the reply of the noble Viscount, although I appreciate his position in this matter. If I could read his heart rather than his head I think I might find him sympathetic to the case I put forward.

There is in my view no longer any reason for maintaining the traditional parity between eligibility for local government service and service in the House of Commons. We are in fact considering two different things; local government service is part-time voluntary service which is carried out in the area where one lives in addition to all one's other responsibilities, such as earning a living, running a home and bringing up a family. Being a Member of the House of Commons is now recognised as a full-time paid job for which one may be living in one part of the country, representing another and yet spending most of the week in London. They are quite separate and T hope that when the Speaker's Conference comes to consider these issues it will not see them as equal issues because the demands of the different responsibilities are quite separate.

None of us would deny that in the sphere of local government the interests of young people come to the fore on every occasion, be it in the education. library, youth service, in recreation, leisure facilities, housing and all the other aspects of local government functions in which one finds young people having a direct interest. This is an area in which they have a very clear contribution to make and it is quite separate from the wider issues of representing a Parliamentary constituency in the House of Commons on a full-time basis.

I was sad that the noble Viscount was apparently not able to tell us what view the Government take on this issue. The fact that the Speaker's Conference is being set up does not preclude the Government from stating their views on the suitability or not of allowing young people to be eligible to stand at the age of eighteen. I have a particular worry about the noble Viscount's answer and I hope he will think carefully about this between now and Report. Although I very much welcome his tentative suggestion that it might be possible, if the Speaker's Conference were to come down on that side, to introduce legislation to enable young people to stand for election to Parliament before this Bill becomes law, my fear is that all the candidates will have been selected by the time this comes about. The first elections are due to take place in April, 1973 and we all know that the political Parties are in the process of selection at ward and local constituency levels.

I take note, however, of his plea and I will therefore not press the Amendment. However, I give notice that I will probably return to this subject on Report to test the feeling of the House and particularly to hear how the Government now view the situation in the light of the points I have made about the timing of the first elections. Accordingly, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Clerk at the Table: Amendment No. 92.


Not moved.


Yes it is moved.

VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved Amendment No. 92: Page 56, line 39, leave out ("and is a British subject.").

The noble Viscount said: On behalf of the noble Lord, I beg to move Amendment No. 92.


The only thing I can say about this Amendment is that I am delighted to have one Amendment accepted, even by the Government. It must have been an extraordinary Amendment and I am proud of it.


It was brilliant.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 79, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 80 [Disqualifications for election and holding office as member of local authority]:

LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 92GG: Page 57, line 25, leave out from ("authority") to end of line 29.

The noble Lord said: I do not suppose that this Amendment will have the easy passage that the last one did. I beg to move the Amendment, and it may be to the convenience of the Committee if at the same time I speak to Amendments Nos. 92HH and 92JJ. Clause 80 deals with disqualifications for election and the holding of office as a member of a local authority. This matter has been before the other place at Committee and Report stages. It may be helpful if I quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT of February 10. On that occasion the Minister said (col. 1492): I do not believe that, at a certain level of employment or in a certain area of employment by a local authority, if an employee stands as a member there is any serious chance of failure of integrity or lack of probity. As has been pointed out" there are many occasions when a person employed in private undertakings becomes a member, and he may be just as suspect. There is a wide area where the employee of the local authority cannot possibly be said to be suspect if he becomes a member.

On July 17, and again I quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT of the other place (cols. 213 and 214), the Minister, speaking at Report stage, said this: What I am looking for is somewhere to draw a line, at which point it would be sufficient to say, 'Yes, this person may stand and serve as a member of the authority by which he is employed, but when any matters arise on the terms and conditions of his employment he should disclose his interest, not speak, and not vote. If we can find the right division there, we may have achieved something. But I tell the House frankly that at present I have not carried the local authorities with me, and I have not, therefore, endeavoured at this stage to draft provisions to bring that into effect. He continued: I ask the House to appreciate that there are problems here, that we wish to retain the general rule, that we wish to find some reasonable line of demarcation, and we wish to take the local authority associations with us in thinking out the right provisions. My own feeling about it is that we are being extremely hypocritical if we exclude all employees of the local authority and do not exclude others who have perhaps a greater interest—I make no reference to topical cases, but they immediately come to mind—in the affairs of the council and may well be influenced more greatly than employees of the authority would be. I ask the House to leave it to us for a further period and not to delay the Bill by asking for a further 20 clauses in it. I apologise to the Committee for the length of those quotations, but I thought they would be helpful and would make clear that there is a general concern, not limited to one side, that the clause as it stands bears over-hard on a substantial body of persons who, unless an Amendment is made, will be disqualified from standing for election.

What my Amendments seek to do is to draw a line below which the disqualifications, which may be quite proper for persons at a high or fairly high level, will not apply. I am suggesting that this line be drawn very simply: those whose appointments are made or confirmed by the local authority, or by one of its committees or sub-committees, will still be disqualified, but all other employees whose appointments rest with an officer or with joint committees of more than one authority should be able to seek election to the authority. It would appear that under existing law it had to be a committee of the local authority that appointed a person before disqualification became effective and that some, at least, of the joint boards or joint committees on which the local authority had a representative did not carry a disqualification for its employees.

In particular, it was argued that where the joint board was a separate precepting authority, as for instance water boards, there was no disqualification. Many people who were employed in this way have become councillors and have given excellent service to local government. Under the wording of Clause 80 as it stands they now become disqualified. There may also be joint committees of boards on which both district and county are represented, and therefore all employees would be disqualified from both authorities. It is true that the 1933 Act has become outdated and there is need for clearer wording, but the present wording of this clause considerably worsens the position. It refers to joint boards and joint committees, but there is also some doubt as to whether this is tied to joint boards or committees of local authorities and whether it can mean any joint board on which a local authority is represented. I should like the Minister when replying to indicate if he can whether it is intended to include area health committees, hospital boards and water boards—boards of that description.

There is a very considerable body of persons involved in this matter. I would not like to hazard a guess. The figures were a matter of some dispute in the other place, but. I think it is fair to say that at the present time something like a minimum of 2½ million people are affected. In the view of many people the number may grow, and grow very considerably. On the other hand, I recognise that the Minister, when he was speaking, indicated that as a result of the development that may take place there would be reductions. But I hope the Committee will accept, and I hope the Government themselves will show, that they recognise not only that the problem is one of importance to those involved but that a very large number of people are concerned. and in the interests of local government as well as in the interests of the persons themselves concerned there is need for amendment of this clause as it stands.

May I say at this stage that I recognise that my Amendments as now before the Committee may be imperfect, but I should be happy indeed to accept the position where the Government themselves made clear their continuing sympathy and their willingness to deal with the matter at a later stage in the progress of the Bill. I beg to move.


I trust that the Government will not accept this Amendment as drafted. I intend to be very brief. So far as I can see, the purpose of this Amendment is to drive a wedge between an authority and its committees or sub-committees. This is wholly wrong. The authority consists of the committees to which it delegates its work. It is not those committees which appoint officers to its employment, it is the authority itself. For instance, teachers are in fact employed by the county or county borough council and not by the education committee of that council. I hope, therefore, that the Government will resist this Amendment.


I should like to say a few words further on this Amendment. Not only at the present moment, to the best of my knowledge, is an official or any person employed by a local authority excluded from becoming a county councillor or councillor on the authority, but also no councillor can seek employment of that council even if he resigns from being a councillor. I think this is the state of the law at the present moment. I do think this is a safeguard. It is really a great disadvantage to have persons on a committee who, because of a vested interest, have to leave it. If I may quote an example, one might be discussing housing, and I think it is to the local authority's disadvantage if a member of the committee is in the employment of a contractor who may have an interest in the prospect of building housing. This kind of thing does happen.

I personally—and I have no axes to grind here at all—feel that the wording of the Bill is right, and this Amendment is something that we should not permit. When we had much smaller authorities it was not uncommon for a person to be employed by, say, a borough and also to be a representative on the county council. That was a case where, let us face it, the two positions really had no connection because the borough was an authority entirely on its own and the county council was an authority entirely on its own. But that situation was never really approved of by other councillors, and it was something that was certainly not encouraged. Although I do not like things always to be laid down in law, I feel that the Government are right in this clause not to permit people who could have a vested interest in any way becoming possibly an official of a council as well as an elected representative on that council. I do not think that this would be in the interests of democracy.

3.26 p.m.


I certainly accept from the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, that this is something which affects a great many people. The fact that it affects a great many people is demonstrated by the seriousness with which the Minister for Local Government took the subject both on Committee and on Report. At the same time, as my noble friends Lord Ridley and Lord Balfour have pointed out, the rule is of long standing. I think it is fair to say that it is grounded in the need to prevent any clash of interest between an individual's wider public duty as an elected member and his personal interest as an employee or (and this is where it is sometimes so unfair) even the appearance of a clash.

There is one point which we have not mentioned which I think is worth mentioning: it is I think part of the generally accepted doctrine which applies in Parliament, and the Civil Service too, that there really ought to be a clear distinction, if possible, between the elected member—and to-day most of us who are elected members at local level or national level are generally representing a political Party—and the official who gives advice and implements the decisions of elected members no matter what Party happens to be in power. The maintenance of this general principle was set out yet again in paragraph 49 of the White Paper. It is perfectly true that the teaching profession, and other education employees, for instance, are permitted to be co-opted on to education and library committees for the reason which was given by my noble friend Lord Ridley.

I think that the matters which were raised, and Amendments moved, in another place, and the matters arising out of to-day's debate, really have been more or less these: although local government employees are disqualified from sitting on their own employing council, they are not prevented from sitting on any other authority for which they are qualified. Nearly all local government employees are, therefore, under this Bill offered at least some avenue of membership either at county or district level. I suggest to the Committee that the Government's present proposals in fact increase the possibility of local government service on what it might otherwise have been, and indeed for some people on what the situation is to-day. My noble friend Lord Balfour mentioned county boroughs, and gave the example of a man who, perhaps because he is living in the county, can serve on the county council; but to-day, if you happen to be living and serving in a county borough, you have no opportunity at all for local government service.

I would suggest that there is no easy or acceptable way of drawing a line. I should like to try to be more helpful on this point to the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, but I cannot sec an easy way of drawing a line. Some people have suggested that you might exclude chief officers, or others in influential positions, while permitting other employees to stand as candidates.

It would be difficult, too, to differentiate further between the different professions. I think it is true to say that a relaxation of the rules about disqualification, while naturally being supported by staff organisations, is equally at the moment being opposed by the local authorities. The noble Lord was so good as to quote the words of my right honourable friend in another place, and it is clear that at the moment the local authority associations are still of the same mind.

Before I finish, may I refer specifically to one of the noble Lord's Amendments? The noble Lord, quite fairly, has said that what he is trying to do is to draw a reasonable line. What worries me in looking at the Amendments is that the first Amendment, for instance, could create a number of additional anomalies. The deletion of the words referred to in the Amendment would result in an officer's being disqualified if he was appointed by a local authority direct, but not apparently if he was appointed by a committee, a sub-committee or, say, the establishment officer of an authority. Employees of joint boards and joint com- mittees would, I think, under the Amendment be completely free from any form of disqualification, though they are certainly local government employees. Clause 100 of the Bill, to which the Committee has not yet come, includes additional powers permitting functions to be delegated by an authority to its committees, sub-committees or officers. In practice, most appointments are made by senior officers who engage junior staff within the overall complementing and staffing decisions of an authority. Also, I ought to point out that it really was not the intention that one of the practical by-products of the wider powers under that clause to delegate to officers should be a drastic alteration of the practical application of the rules relating to disqualification.

I hope the noble Lord does not think that because I have picked that point out I am simply trying to suggest that the drafting of the Amendment is defective. That is the last thing I am trying to do. What I am trying to suggest is the very much broader point that, by accepting these Amendments, it is possible that the Committee might be running into unforeseen anomalies. It is the Government's conclusion, therefore, that while there is scope for a further and full examination of the whole question of disqualification, none the less an important issue of policy is involved. Any alteration of the existing rules should therefore be approached with caution: and as so many other matters connected with reorganisation are before us in this Bill I am suggesting to the Committee that we should not attempt to overload the Bill still further with changes in a field which needs full consideration and which is bound to be controversial.

The noble Lord has specifically asked me whether I can give him a sympathetic reply. He has himself quoted at length the Minister's words from the Report stage in another place. The Minister for Local Government in another place also reminded the Standing Committee of the terms of paragraph 50 of the Government's White Paper of February last year, which stated: The Government would be prepared, however, to consider proposals on detailed points relating to the application of the present law. On those grounds I hope your Lordships may take the view that the Bill, which broadly proposes the maintenance of the existing position, is right at the moment.


May I ask the noble Lord a question? He did not refer to a point raised by my noble friend about the position of the new health authorities on which the local government bodies will be represented. Does this mean that anybody employed by a health authority will also be disqualified?


I apologise to the noble Lord. Employees of new regional water boards and National Health Service bodies will not be disqualified.


I am most grateful to the Minister for the great care he has taken in replying. I think the Committee will recognise that at the outset I was not concerned about whether the Amendments I have tabled were accepted. What I was more concerned with was the spirit, and it was because of the statement by the Minister at Report stage in the other place that I was encouraged to think we might be able to make a little progress. I recognise that my Amendments do not completely meet the situation. Again, I think I indicated that I was aware of that at the outset. What I was hoping was that the Minister would say that between now and Report stage the Government themselves would try to find a form of words to meet this situation. I think it is generally agreed that a considerable body of persons is involved in this matter, and we owe it to them to go as far as we can to find an answer.

It seemed to me that the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, and the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, did not appreciate that many of these people feel that an injustice is being done to them, and I thought the noble Lords were over-concerned about the dangers of admitting these people to the councils of the areas in which they serve. I think one is entitled to draw attention to a development in the field of further education which has taken place in the last year or so. Lecturers or, indeed, any members of the staff of further education establishments—schools, colleges of art and technical colleges—are entitled to serve on their board of governors. May I say, and say quite frankly, that, as one who has been a chairman of a school of art for a great many years and a member of a governing board of a technical college, I was somewhat startled when the proposals was first made that they should be allowed to serve. One wondered what the position would be with a principal as a full-time member of the board and with members of his staff serving at the same time. Local authorities are, with confidence, allowing their further education establishments to have serving on their boards of governors members of staffs, including the principal; and I doubt whether anybody in the Committee this afternoon will dare to rise to suggest that that was a retrograde step and one which ought not to have been made. I think everybody will say it was a sensible thing to do. It is working well, and it will be to the advantage of the establishments in which those people serve. Secondly, it does nothing to damage staff relationships with their principal. It seems to develop understanding and sympathy, each of the other's responsibilities; and I have seen nothing but good coming from it. It seems to me that the Government could well indicate, even at this stage, that they were prepared to look at this issue once again.

Reference has been made to the position in regard to county boroughs, and it is true that persons who have been employed by an existing county borough in whose area they have resided, and who have been completely debarred from local government service, will in future be able to stand for either county or district provided they are not their employers. This is, however, offset—and I think that perhaps enough notice has not been taken of this—by the increase in the field of disqualification through the wording of this clause. The noble Earl, Lord Balfour, and the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley—and they both have considerable experience in the field of local government—seemed to indicate that great risks would be taken if people with a vested interest served on an authority. They know, as I know, that there are many people elected to local authorities who have vested interests in matters which come up for consideration. They know, as I know, that the matter is satisfactorily dealt with by way of the member getting up and making it clear that he has a vested interest. Indeed they are aware, as I am, that from time to time persons serv- ing on local authorities ask the responsible Minister for a dispensation so that they may speak, even if they may not vote. I should have thought that there was sufficient experience in this field among men as experienced and knowledgeable as are the two noble Lords, for the Committee this afternoon to be able to indicate support for the purpose and spirit of these Amendments. I do not intend this afternoon to press the matter to a Division, but in withdrawing this Amendment and the following Amendments may I say that my noble friends and I will return to them at Report stage unless the Government can find a satisfactory solution.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.41 p.m.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 92A: Page 57, line 32, after ("election") insert ("or since his election").

The noble Earl said: This is a technical Amendment to remove a slight lacuna (which, if my Latin holds out, means "gap") in subsection 1(c) of Clause 80. The clause deals with audits, which we shall come to under Part VIII of the Bill, only in so far as the question of this qualification is pertinent to this Part of the Bill. Under the present law relating to audit, in Part X of the Local Government Act 1933 a person who is surcharged for an amount exceeding £500 is disqualified from being a member of a local authority for five years. New audit arrangements are being introduced by this Bill and disqualification may still follow where a member has been responsible for authorising unlawful expenditure or for loss as a result of wilful misconduct. The new audit arrangements do not come into operation immediately and will not apply until the financial year 1974–75. It is necessary to preserve the effectiveness of any disqualification where this results from a surcharge under the 1933 Act, so that this five years' disqualification period or any unexpired portion of it applies after the new audit arrangements come into force. Clause 80(1)(c) of the Bill is aimed at this but does not do the job completely. It prevents a person from standing as a member of a local authority if he has been surcharged for a sum exceeding £500 before the date of the elections, but it does not cover the person who has been elected to a local authority before the new audit arrangements come into force but who may still be surcharged under the 1933 Act after his election. This could possibly happen in connection with the audit of accounts for 1973–74 which will not be completed until after the elections for the new authorities which will take place in April, May and June next year. The effect of the Amendment is to plug the gap.

On Question Amendment agreed to.

Clause 80, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 81 to 88 agreed to.

Clause 89 [Filling of casual vacancies in case of councillors]:

VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved Amendment No. 92B: Page 63, line 12, at end insert (" (computed in accordance with section 237(4) below)").

The noble Viscount said: This is part of the long series of Amendments which deal with the computation of time and which depend on the new Clause 237 and Amendment 125S to which I made reference in moving Amendment No. 88HH last night. The same thing applies to the next two Amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 92C.

Amendment moved— Page 63, line 14, after ("days") insert (" (so computed)").—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 92D:

Amendment moved— Page 63, line 18, leave out subsection (2).—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 89, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 90 to 92 agreed to.

Clause 93 [Disability of members of authorities for voting on account of interest in contracts, etc.]:

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 92H: Page 67, line 23, at end insert— (" (5) The following, that is to say—

  1. (a) the receipt by the chairman, vice-chairman or deputy chairman of a principal council of an allowance to meet the expenses of his office or his right to receive, or the possibility of his receiving, such an allowance;
  2. (b) the receipt by a member of a local authority of an allowance or other payment under any provision of sections 168 to 171 below or his right to receive, or the possibility of his receiving, any such payment;
shall not be treated as a pecuniary interest for the purposes of this section.")

The noble Lord said: This is little more than a technical Amendment. Noble Lords will know that in any matter in which a councillor has a pecuniary interest he has to declare his interest and then take no further part nor vote in the matter in hand. Were it not for this Amendment, when it came to a discussion of what attendance allowances councillors were to draw there would be nobody left to speak on the matter, and for this reason it is with some confidence that I commend the Amendment to the Committee.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 93, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 94 to 98 agreed to.

Schedule 12 [Meetings and proceedings of local authorities]:

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 92J: Page 260, line 35, leave out from ("meeting") to end.

The noble Lord said: We now come to the large number of Amendments which I have already explained translate and improve in a number of respects those parts of earlier Acts which are reprinted in this Act. I explained the whole matter in the first case in reference to Amendment No. 79D which was to Schedule 3 and referred to them again in Schedule 5. I do not think there is anything further to be said now that we are on the last batch of Amendments to Schedule 12.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

3.48 p.m.


I beg to movements 92K to 92FF.

Amendments moved—

Page 261, leave out lines 11 to 15 and insert—

("2.—(1) A principal council may in every year hold, in addition to the annual meeting, such other meetings as they may determine.

(2) Those other meetings shall be held at such hour and on such days as the council may determine.")

Page 261,line 16, leave out ("A") and insert ("An extraordinary")

Page 261,line 18, leave out first ("a") and insert ("an extraordinary")

Page 261,line 22, leave out ("a") and insert ("an extraordinary")

Page 261,line 27, leave out ("a") and insert ("an extraordinary").

Page 261,line 28, leave out ("(3)") and insert—

(" 3.—(1) Meetings of a principal council shall be held at such place, either within or without their area, as they may direct.


Page 262, line 1, after ("by") insert ("or under")

Page 262, line 1, leave out line 37.

Page 263, line 1, leave out sub-paragraph (3) and insert— ("6.—(1) A parish council shall in every year hold, in addition to the annual meeting, such other meetings (not less than three) as they may determine.

(2) Those other meetings shall be held at such hour and on such days as the council may determine.")

Page 263,line 5, leave out sub-paragraph (1) and insert— (" (1) An extraordinary meeting of a parish council may be called at any time by the chairman of the council.")

Page 263,line 7, leave out ("a") and insert ("an extraordinary").

Page 263,line 10, leave out first ("a") and insert ("an extraordinary")

Page 263,line 13, leave out ("a") and insert ("an extraordinary")

Page 263,line 14, leave out ("3") and insert—

("7.—(1) Meetings of a parish council shall be held at such place, either within or without their area, as they may direct, but shall not be held in premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor unless no other suitable room is available either free of charge or at a reasonable cost.


Page 267, line 4, leave out from ("meeting") to end of line 5.

Page 267,line 12, leave out sub-paragraph (3) and insert—

("20.—(1) A community council may in every year hold, in addition to the annual meeting, such other meetings as the council may determine to hold for the transaction of their business.

(2) Any of those other meetings shall be held at such hour and on such day as the council may determine.")

Page 267,line 16, leave out sub-paragraph (1) and insert— ("(1) An extraordinary meeting of a community council may be called at any time by the chairman of the council.")

Page 267,line 18, leave out ("a") and insert ("an extraordinary").

Page 267,line 21, leave out first ("a") and insert ("an extraordinary").

Page 267,line 24, leave out ("a") and insert ("an extraordinary").

Page 267,line 25, leave out ("(3)") and insert—

("21.—(1) Meetings of the community council shall be held at such place, either within or without their area, as they may direct, but shall not be held in premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor unless no other room is available either free of charge or at a reasonable cost.—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Schedule 12, as amended, agreed to.


As we are now coming on to some Amendments that are fairly substantial, and we have set ourselves a time limit this afternoon, perhaps this would be the right time to adjourn. It may be worth while to mention that as a tentative programme for the future, if we are to complete the Committee stage of this Bill next week it looks as if we shall have to set ourselves a target to complete Part V and Parts VI, VII and VIII on Monday. This will leave us a full day on Tuesday for Part IX, which covers the functions and for which we shall probably need a full day, and Parts X, XI and XII on Friday. This is a very tentative programme, but I think we shall need to achieve it if we are to finish the Bill next week.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for having suggested that programme, and particularly for getting it into Hansard. It will be extremely helpful to people who may not be able to be present next week on certain days but could be present on other days, and so it is convenient for the Committee.


May I say that some of us will be glad of this ten minute rest so as to strengthen ourselves against the marathon programme the noble Lord has outlined to us.


I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.