HL Deb 18 September 1972 vol 335 cc727-864

3.21 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 A berdare.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 99 [Admission of public and press to local authority meetings]

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 92E: Page 69, line 41, leave out from the beginning to ("to") in line 42 and insert ("For the purpose of securing the admission, so far as practicable, of the public (including the press)").

The noble Lord said: We now come to Clause 99 dealing with the admission of the public and the Press to meetings of councils and committees. I understand that noble Lords with an interest in this subject will probably want to speak on Amendment No. 92G, but I suggest that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I dealt first with the first two Amendments entirely on their technical grounds leaving for discussion the wider merits of the case to a debate on Amendment No. 92G.

Amendment No. 92E is little more than a drafting and technical one to make a correction and allow for the fact that in another place an Amendment, their Amendment No. 778, was moved and discussed on Report but was inadvertently not put. I do not think I need say any more than that.


I was not quite sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Sand-ford, in fact explained the words "so far as practicable". What is the real significance of those words; what do they mean? Was the noble Lord thinking in terms of the space in the public gallery for the public and that sort of thing? What has he in mind in asking for the inclusion of the words "so far as practicable"?


I think this probably is one of the issues, among many others, which will come up on the substantive business of the problem created—or alleged to be created—by the intention of the Government that all committees of councils should be open to the public. That is the broad policy decision, but I think this issue will come up later. The clause as at present drafted does not even express the intention of the Government because of the inadvertence on Report in another place.


When we come to the other Amendment the noble Lord will tell us exactly what these words mean?




I thank the noble Lord.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 92F: Page 70, line 6, leave out from ("apply") to ("any") in line 7 and insert ("to any committee constituted under an enactment specified in paragraphs (c) to (h) of section 100(9) below and to").

The noble Lord said: This is another technical Amendment, the sole purpose of which is to determine the precise way in which to refer to all committees of local authorities. As noble Lords will see it does so by reference to Clause 100, subsection (9).

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

3.27 p.m.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 92G: Page 70, line 10, leave out subsections (3) and (4).

The noble Lord said: I should like to remind the Committee that it is the Government's view and firm policy that open government, which is as desirable for local government as it is for Parliamentary central Government, means that all committees of all local authorities should be open to the public. That is the broad intention. Council meetings are already open to the public, but it is not the view of the Government that subcommittees should be open to the public. The clause as drafted does, however, make provision for a committee whose business it is thought is of a kind from the discussion of which the public should normally be excluded to move a resolution which would have the effect of excluding the public for the whole of a period of twelve months. The Opposition argued strongly in another place that this would really negative and nullify the whole purpose of the Government policy which I have just enunciated about committees generally being open to the public all the time. On reflection, my right honourable friend has been persuaded by this argument to remove the words under which this resolution could be taken; that is to say, subsections (3) and (4).

The effect of that is that it will be necessary, if it is thought right and necessary to exclude the public from the meeting of any one particular committee, to move accordingly at the beginning of such a meeting on the first item of the business of such a committee. I think that two arguments will be mounted against this view and I should like to deploy counter-arguments to them. I think it will be argued that if all committees are always open to the public that part of their business from the discussion of which the public and the Press should be properly excluded will tend to be discussed in Party caucus meetings or subcommittees. It may be necessary and perfectly right that such matters should be discussed in sub-committees, and the Government are fully aware that some such items which are always of a nature from which the public should be excluded will be discussed in sub-committees. But the Government agree that it would be quite wrong and undesirable for matters of that kind to be discussed in sub-committee solely because that was the only way of having them discussed out of the earshot of the Press and the public. So there is provision for committees to be closed to the public and the Press by resolution at the beginning of each sitting of such a committee.

Then there is the second argument that if this is done the Press and the public will be extremely irritated to have notice of such a meeting of the committee and arrive at the appointed place at the appointed time and then to find that the first item of business is the moving and acceptance of a motion that the public and the Press should be excluded. Of course, if this were to be the case, if this was inevitable, the irritation and the inconvenience caused would be quite intolerable.

But I would put it to the Committee that where it is anticipated that it will be necessary to exclude the Press and the public either from part of the discussion or from the whole of the discussion this point can be readily dealt with by including a statement to that effect at the heading of the notice of the meeting of the committee. In that way the irritation and inconvenience, which of course we want to avoid, can in fact be avoided. I hope that, with that reaffirmation of the Government's view that it would be right, generally speaking, for all committees of all councils to be open to the public and to the Press in all normal cases, and that explanation of how the two objections to this could be met, the Committee will feel able to agree to this Amendment. I beg to move.


I have listened most attentively to what the Minister had to say in regard to the admission of the general public and the Press—that everything ought to be done at the beginning by means of a motion as to whether people should be admitted to a committee meeting. Would it not be far better to leave the power vested within the council itself whereby it could continue the procedure that at some time during the course of the committee's deliberations a resolution could be moved that the council should resolve itself into committee? In the first place, the noble Lord said that the Press and the general public would be informed as early as possible that certain matters would be debated at a particular committee, and therefore there would be advance notice. If we have to have local government, as we have to have Parliamentary government, the local government position should involve councils having certain powers which are similar to those in another place, where a Member may stand up and say, "I spy strangers"—and immediately "strangers" are required to leave. It would be far better if the matter could be dealt with on the principle that the council was able to resolve itself into a committee during the course of its deliberations.


The noble Lord I think will be aware that on this particular Amendment the County Councils Association, the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Rural Districts' Association and the Urban Districts' Association hold the same view. It is a miracle that all these bodies should be unanimous. They hold a view which I can put quite simply. None of us who is interested in local government would wish to keep the public out of a meeting if it were possible to do otherise, but there are many matters—personal matters, financial matters—in which it is good for local government that the public should not be present. That is so when, for instance, the salaries of an official are discussed; when the character of a person is discussed; when a proposal to acquire new land is discussed. In a number of cases it is right that the public should be excluded.

The Amendment of the noble Lord seems to the bodies that I mentioned—and seemed to me until I heard him speak further on this—to be the most cumbersome way of tackling this problem. Under his Amendment, what will happen will be that at the beginning of any meeting the committee may decide to go into committee, which will exclude the public, and the public who have turned up expecting an open committee meeting would find themselves excluded. The view of the four associations I mentioned is that they do not like this Amendment, and they do not like the original Clause 99. At any rate, I would ask the noble Lord, unless he has good reason for doing so, not to press his Amendment.

3.35 p.m.


I should like to support very strongly the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King. I realise I must choose my words very carefully because on Friday my noble friend Lord Ridley and I were accused of being punch drunk with power. I know that when my noble friend rises to speak the Front Bench may well be filled with alarm about what he is going to say if he is going to chastise them, but on the few occasions when I have intervened I have noticed no sign of the Front Bench cowering in abject terror. I should like to say, as the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, has said, that there is no dispute among us whatever about the Government's wish and intention to inform the public so far as ever possible in local government. One of the ways is clearly by the admission of the public and Press on all suitable and useful occasions. There is no disagreement about that. There must be no unnecessary secrecy about local government, nor even the appearance of any unnecessary secrecy. As the noble Lord says, it is one of those occasions where all the local government bodies, and I think the Greater London Council, find themselves feeling the same kind of anxiety as to whether at this stage the Government have this matter quite right.

The point is that there are of course many ways of involving the public, and many ways of passing out information to them as to the policies and plans of the local authority concerned. It may be that attendance at committee meetings is not the most important of those ways—sometimes it may be; sometimes not. Just chance attendance at committee meetings does not in itself necessarily exclude a very accurate picture of the policies that are developing. If one attended all the committee meetings no doubt such a picture would be obtained. So far as the actual suggestions are concerned, I think the local government bodies are not much enamoured with the clause. It may well be that some changes are required from the provisions of the Act of 1960. But I think the general feeling is that such changes as are made from the present—and the present position does not work too badly, although no doubt it could be improved in some ways—should be discussed carefully and in detail with those members of local authorities who are going to have the responsibility of carrying out these duties.

The clause itself was put down rather late. I think the first thing the local bodies knew about the clause was in the spring. But the Amendment, which seems to represent quite a sudden change in the Government's views from the arguments they had adduced previously in discussion with local authorities, has come even later. The Government quoted subsection (3), which is now to be removed under this Amendment, as one of the provisions from which the local bodies could take comfort. Now it is rather suddenly removed. There will be no dispute, again, that there are occasions when and circumstances in which it is not useful or effective for the public to be admitted to meetings. Obvious cases would be those dealt with by an establishment committee. Under the present Act I think the position is that in the case of education committees the public are admitted mandatorily, as they are to all committees composed of the whole of the council. There are now one or two doubts about admission to committees because committees of these local bodies vary very much in their size and function and purposes. It may well be that what is useful for one will not be useful for another. I should have preferred—and I think other noble Lords may feel this, too—that one of the reasons for this Local Government Bill was to give maximum responsibility to individual councillors to decide what is appropriate in their particular case. I should have hoped that they would be given a good deal of discretion, as they have at present in this matter.

There are cases, as my noble friend has said, where a committee will want to receive advice confidentially from their officers. My noble friend may say that that is more likely to occur in special commissions than in committees; but I think it does occur in committees and it is not difficult to imagine the difficulty with which an officer is faced in a committee when the public and the Press are present and when the advice that he will want to give may conflict with the advice that his chairman is giving. We know the skill and the tact with which our officers deal with a situation like that and I think they will be very happy indeed if, almost as a matter of course, the public are admitted to committees. There is also the matter upon which my noble friend has touched, that if it is overdone the result may be that many important discussions will be deliberately kept out of committee and will take place elsewhere, in Party committees and in little ad hoc informal groups. They will be meetings at which those present will not have the advice of their official advisers.

Then there is the point which has already been referred to, of the rather cumbersome and irritating effects that may follow (and they can be mitigated, I suppose) from the decision being taken at the beginning of each meeting. The provision that the decisions could be taken and applied for a year may or may not be right, but I think it would be wise to see whether we can find some way of making the procedure less cumbersome and perhaps less irritating than having it as item No. 1 on the agenda, even if the committee, as my noble friend has said, advertises in advance that a decision will be taken. One thing upon which I am not quite clear and about which I should like to ask my noble friend is whether this decision to exclude the public is one that will be taken always by the committee itself and not by the council in advance. I think the council would not be in a position to do so because they would not know what the agenda was going to be.

Further, the officials of the local government organisations have pointed out the practical matter that in most cases the facilities are just not available to enable the public to come in to the majority of committee meetings. Of course special arrangements can be made. Noble Lords may say that it cannot hold up the provisions of the Bill because the accommodation is not there, but in cases where quite large numbers of the public suddenly turn up awkward situations will be created. I think many of us feel that changes may well be required in the present situation. It is highly desirable that we should make the best possible arrangements to involve the public to the greatest possible extent in these committees, but it should be done in ways which are likely to prove most effective and useful; and in order to make sure that it is right more detailed consideration and consultation is required than has yet taken place, because in regard to the last Amendments, I think one can say that the consultation which has taken place is nil.

During discussions with the local government bodies on this Bill and these reforms the Minister on occasions has said, "Yes, indeed, this may well need doing and we shall want to consult and talk about it, but it is not necessary to put it into this Bill." It has even been foreshadowed that a Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is coming over the horizon. Could it be that that would be the place for the precise arrangements to be made in this matter? It would have the advantage, anyway, of making possible fuller consultation than has yet taken place on the precise nature of the provisions which are likely in practice to prove best.


I am very concerned indeed about this Amendment. My noble friend Lord Sandford drew your Lordships' attention to the fact that the public and the Press having turned up to a committee and then being told that they were not being admitted would be—I think his words were—"extremely irritated". I quite agree. Some councillors are curious cattle. I have been one myself, so I can say what I like. They could debate for half an hour or more whether or not to hold the meeting in committee, and all the time the members of the public will be listening to them, only to be told that they will have to go away. My noble friend went on to say that the difficulty might be overcome by a sentence being issued with the agenda to this effect: "It is anticipated that this committee will be taken in public". What happens? That question still has to be debated. Some of the Press and some of the public may take a chance and turn up and then find that they have been lucky because the vote goes against the matter being taken in committee; their unfortunate colleagues, who have not turned up because they thought it was not worth their while coming, will have missed the boat—or vice versa. I am a member of the public but I am not a member of the Press. and frankly I would rather be told at the beginning of the council year that I cannot attend a certain committee for twelve months than have to go through the process of turning up and then being sent away again after half an hour or more.

There is one suggestion that I should like to make to my noble friend. This situation arose in the council on which I used to sit. Now and again there would be raised a matter which obviously had to be taken in committee, and that item was adjourned to the end of the meeting. There is no reason why this should not be done. I know that some noble Lords will say that it means that some people will have to leave before the end of the meeting, but that cannot be helped. Anybody who is sufficiently interested will stay. I beg my noble friend to have second thoughts on this matter because I very much dislike this Amendment as it stands.

3.48 p.m.


I shall detain your Lordships for but a few moments, first, to declare an interest. Not in a Royal Commission, to which reference has sometimes been made, but in a committee on management in local government which the right honourable gentleman who is now the Secretary of State for Health and Social Security appointed in 1964 on management in local government, of which I had the privilege to be chairman and on which we had representatives from all the associations, we spent three years in considering how better local authorities could do their business. One of the main aspects to which we gave attention was how we could suggest ways of establishing what all of us agreed was really needed and was unsatisfactory at the moment in local government, namely, a closer and more continuous rapport between those who represent the public in councils large and small, and the public themselves.

We had unanimous recommendations to make, with which of course I will not tire your Lordships this afternoon, but I mention that fact because we felt that there was no single slogan which could be adopted and which would solve this problem. We felt it needed local authorities to give serious, deliberate, continuous thought to ways in which they could get all the media of communication on their side; could take a chance and give confidential information to editors and reporters whom they could trust, knowing that sometimes they might be let down; having Press conferences and in other ways introducing things like question-time into council meetings; issuing things like White Papers on matters of some importance—innovations of various kinds learned in many cases from Parliament itself, all on the understanding that the job of a local authority was in one respect fundamentally different from that of Parliament: in local government we are not only doing on a small scale what Parliament is doing on a large scale, but we are administering and taking executive action—we are, as has been rightly said, discussing issues between trusted officials and those who will take responsibility for the decisions which must be taken, and in these activities confidentiality is of the essence of good government. This must be reconciled with the much more open government which everyone associated with local government agrees must be increased.

Our broad conclusion was that local authorities must work this out for themselves and that it was not possible to suggest that Parliament by any legislative means could prescribe either for local authorities in general or for particular types of local authority. Thus, although the Amendment would be an improvement to the Bill as drafted, I cannot help thinking that it would be preferable for the matter to be given further thought and as the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, said, perhaps defer the issue and not try to get anything on this subject into the Bill at this stage. This would give the new local government system, in which we all have faith and which this Bill will introduce, a chance to settle down—and that includes the people who will be elected after April, 1973. They might, once they have settled down and, after 1974, are operating as we hope the will, come up with some ideas that are even better than your Lordships or those in another place are able to adduce in a debate like this. I therefore plead with the Government not to rush their fences over this matter.

Although I would vote for the Amendment if it were taken to a Division—because, as I say, it would represent an improvement—the fact that it is necessary to introduce it into the Bill at this late stage suggests that this is something which could be done better after consultation not only with the local authorities but with the media of communication. We have the advantage on the Committee on management to which I referred of the assistance of an expert journalist from the Financial Times. Many people are willing to give advice and perhaps the Government have consulted some of them. further thought, however, should be given to this whole issue.


May I ask the noble Lord to say what action local authorities have taken since the publication of the Report on management to which he referred? Have they shown any indication of being prepared to tackle the matter along the lines he recommended?


They have, though I will not specify them. There has been a most encouraging experimentation, both with local radio, which is one of the most convenient new methods of bringing local government matters before a much wider public, and through the confidential use of Press conferences and the institution, under new Standing Orders, of Question Time and the White Paper technique.


When I was chairman of my county council my chief difficulty was getting the Press to come to our meetings and to report them in what I considered to be proper form. I am sure, however, that our meetings were much more dull than they are to-day. Certainly the present system is working well, and we have appointed a public relations officer. I cannot see any difficulty over what we are debating and we have certain confidential discussions. What surprises many of us is why suddenly, without any consultation with the associations, this new salvo has been discharged. I do riot think my noble friend can say that this clause has had unanimous commendation. In view of that, and in view of the appeal made by my noble friend Lord Amory, that this matter should be reconsidered and discussed with the associations, I hope that the Government wilt think again because this is causing a lot of unnecessary heart rending.


I wish to utter a few comments in opposition to the Amendment and I will do so briefly because a number of other noble Lords wish to speak on the subject. I think I can claim to have a good record for trying to get the Press admitted to committee and other meetings of local authorities. The subject of the admission of the Press is sometimes contested by members of the Party opposite, but that is not at issue this afternoon.

There are two important matters arising out of this discussion. The first is the need to bear in mind that throughout our debates on this Bill we have been promised greater freedom for local authorities. It now seems that in the middle of our debate we are threatened with having that freedom to decide important matters controlled by legislation which is drafted in unnecessary detail. I therefore oppose the Amendment. The second is the need to remember that every monthly committee meeting will provide a permanent long-standing opportunity for those who do not like the Press being present at meetings to raise the matter and filibuster for an hour, with the result that the whole of local government could be made unworkable. We have talked about people being turned out of local authority meetings. I hope that we shall soon see television becoming involved in local government. Will this provision mean that once the television authorities have assembled all their equipment, including lights and cameras, at a committee meeting they may be told to pack up and take it all away? This seems to be nonsense, and I trust that the Amendment will be withdrawn and the whole matter reconsidered.

3.57 p.m.


We have had a succession of thoughtful and wise speeches from different parts of the Committee, and the Government are bound to have noted that the support either for the Amendment or for the clause has been less than lukewarm. I wish to add the strongest possible plea to the Government to withdraw not only the Amendment but the clause, with the view to having a thorough discussion in an atmosphere of good will with the local authorities and all others concerned, in order to produce for the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which we have been promised for next Session an agreed plan which will carry with it the maximum of good will when it becomes law.

It seems certain that if we pass this clause, amended or unamended, various results will inevitably follow. A local authority will be able to get round all the provisions in this clause, amended or unamended, by setting up a proliferation of sub-committees. That would not be good for local government. "Open government" is a fine phrase, but my chief concern is to see that this Bill produces good local government. A proliferation of sub-committees would not be to the advantage of anybody.

Secondly, we can be absolutely certain that this provision will result in more and more decisions being taken at private Party caucus meetings and not in Committee or Council. That will not serve either good or open government. Thirdly, chief officers will be placed in an impossible position if the power to exclude the public and Press is used sparingly. We have great numbers of admirable chief officers in local government. It is most embarrassing for a chief officer in public to be asked his opinion or his advice on a matter when in fact that opinion will be contrary to the view which he knows is held by the majority Party on the Council. In Committee, in private, there is no difficulty about that, and it can constantly happen, because all of the proceedings of the Committee are private and cannot be disclosed afterwards.

Fourthly—and I do not think that this point has been mentioned so far by any of your Lordships who have spoken—it is going to extend blight. It is necessary for only one back-bench member of a committee sitting in public to suggest that the line of a certain road should go a different way for blight immediately to fail on all the property along that alternative route. All of us who have had concern with blight problems either in local or in central Government know what a curse it is. I do not see how one can have a free discussion of alternative sites or alternative routes in public without causing blight to fall more extensively, and we ought to try to avoid that at all costs.

The Government have the one course which would effect a real solution to this problem, and that is not to try to force through any legislation on this controversial matter of public committee meetings in this Bill, but to take the opportunity of the next few months for carrying through discussions ab initio with the local authority associations and other interested persons and bodies, thereby seeking to bring forward an agreed clause in next year's Bill.

4.2 p.m.


I hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, comes to reply he will answer the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, on the very point of the sub-committee being able to exclude the public and the Press from its meetings. As I understand the opening words of Clause 99, it is clear that a "sub-committee" would also be a "committee" of a local authority, and I should have thought that it would not be possible for local authorities to get around this point merely by going into sub-committee, but upon this subject clearly we must expect the guidance of the noble Lord. Lord Sandford. I must admit that I have always had some doubts about the working of the 1960 Act. It always seemed to me that there was a little getting round that by local authorities who perhaps read into that Act something which would enable them to go into committee or sub-committee and thereby exclude the Press and the public from those meetings. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, will answer this point when he comes to reply.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, in opening this discussion told us that the exclusion of subsections (3) and (4) have come about as a result of the pressure by the Opposition in the other place. This is definitely a pressure that has been exerted by the Labour Party in the interests of open government. I believe that it is essential that we should have this. If we are going to create a greater interest in local affairs, if we are going to have what the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, called a "rapport" between local authorities and their public, the public have to know what is going on. There is only one way by which they can know what is going on and that is either by attendance themselves at meetings of the council, meetings of the committees and meetings of subcommittees, or through the Press.

I personally, and I am sure my Party does, strongly support the Government in what it is doing in the Amendments that are now before us. We know that the blanket which has worked in the past, whereby at the beginning of a twelvemonth period a council has decided that X committee should for the forthcoming twelve months exclude from its meetings the Press and the public. The result often is—and I have seen it happen—that matters are discussed and dealt with in those committees and that subsequently when the minutes of those committees come up for adoption by the council meeting itself. a motion is moved by a councillor that the minutes be adopted, it is seconded, and there is seldom any discussion about it. You have the dullest possible meeting. It is no wonder that the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, said that minutes at council meetings can be extremely dull. They can. I have been a member of the council and have sat in on them. I have known what was behind the minutes which were being proposed for adoption, hut nobody sitting in the public gallery could have known or had any idea what they were all about.

I believe that if you are going to have a rapport between the public and the council you have to let the public know what is going on. I admit the difficulties. I admit that there are occasions when one would feel, "I am not quite sure I should like those people in here when we are discussing this". But we ought to be able to discuss publicly most matters that are at present discussed in subcommittees, and so on, when the public and the Press have been excluded.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, upon the advice which he said it would be necessary to give. Section 1(4) of the Act of 1960 sets out the type of notice that must be given when meetings of the council are being held and also the method to be adopted to ensure that members know what the agenda of the meeting will be. It would seem to me that there would be no difficulty at all in adding to the advice that has to be given under the 1960 Act a statement setting out that, "It may well be that at this point in this agenda it will be necessary to exclude the public." I cannot see anything wrong with that; it is the sort of thing that can be done.

Turning to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, about putting off the decision, I would say that if we put off this decision for the next 10 years the discussion will be precisely the same at the end of it. There will always be those people who will say, "Let us conduct most of our affairs in secret." On the other hand, sonic people would say, "Admit the Press and be damned!". I should think that the point we have now reached is that we ought to tackle this matter in the Bill which is now before us. This is a local government matter. This Bill deals with the reorganisation and the reform of local government, and I am sure that now is the time and this is the place to resolve any controversy that has been raging around this matter.

Finally, I come back to the question I asked on the first Amendment. I still do not know quite what the words "as far as practicable" mean. I asked whether they meant the exclusion from sub-committees and so on because of lack of space. If not, what does it mean? I hope that we shall have no subterfuges: nothing done by councils' going into small rooms to prevent the public from coming in. I believe that if we are going to exclude the public the reason for doing so should be made clear to the public and to the Press. By these means we ought to be able to ensure not only open government but government which is interesting to the people who are in fact governed by it.


I wonder whether the noble Lord would let me interrupt him before he resumes his seat. I began when he was halfway down. It struck me that he was a little defeatist when he said, "If we postpone discussion the position will be exactly the same". I thought "defeatist" because I think the noble Lord will agree that as a result of careful and detailed consultation with the local bodies a wide measure of agreement has been obtained in many cases, and I should hope, as did the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, that as a result of discussions there may well be complete agreement as to what should be done.


The noble Viscount, Lord Amory, always puts a sensible point of view. The only thing I would say is that I disagree with it on this occasion.

4.10 p.m.


I wonder whether I may give your Lordships a few specific examples of the sort of problem that creeps in when deciding if the Press and public should or should not be admitted to local council meetings. There are three basic points here: one is anything to do with land purchase; the second is anything to do with contracts, and the third is anything to do with personnel. I will briefly give your Lordships examples of these three things. Take what may sound an innocent committee so far as anything private goes, education finance. In education finance you might have a discussion as to which of four people should be employed as the local school cleaner; or as to what negotiations have been made on a contract to build a new school, possibly as to which of four contractors, having tendered almost exactly the same price, should be finally given the contract; which contractor shall supply the school meals, or even down to the tiniest detail, the meat for the local school. These are all matters which may arise, and although we do not wish unnecessarily to keep out either Press or public, I think it is in the interests of all concerned if on matters of that kind they are excluded.

Take housing management. You might have a discussion as to which block of 1919 houses you are going to improve this year and which next year. If that information is made public, you are bound to have the most awful squawk from the person who lives in a house that has been left out of this year's contract. Those are the kinds of problems that come up. Take another case, house letting. However carefully one works out a points system or something like that, they are so often matters that need to be discussed in committee, taking advice from the local member as to who should finally be given the one free house that happens to be coming up on the day in the right area. Even a committee such as general purposes might possibly be discussing arrangements in connection with the salaries of the chief officials, or even whether the local school janitor should or should not receive one and a half hours pay on Sunday to stoke up the boilers. Personnel problems can extend even to a discussion as to whether wee Johnny X should or should not be given special education.

On many occasions I have spoken in a council meeting and asked the Press not to report it, and they have been magnificent over this. I have usually made a point afterwards of trying to explain to the Press why we did not want it reported. In many cases I would be quite happy for the Press to be there, but not necessarily the general public, because I do not think you can ask them to keep something confidential; it is much more difficult. Having said that, I am afraid that there are not many occasions, speaking as a councillor, when we could say that the Press and public are welcome. In planning discussions nine times out of ten they would be welcome; even on the roads committee, except when discussing contracts, the Press are welcome. But now and again in any meeting it will be necessary to take some item in confidence, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has so rightly said, to an outsider a full meeting of a county council can be the dullest listening in the world. Bearing this in mind, I only hope that when my noble friend Lord Sandford comes to reply he will take into account that any question which involves the purchase of land, any ques- tion connected with contracts or any question to do with personnel should be taken into consideration in allowing the general public or the Press to be present at meetings. That leaves a pretty narrow range of subjects which can be open to the public. I do not want to limit this too much, but I am scared of bringing in legislation that leaves loopholes on the one hand and ties up all sort of things on the other hand, and I would rather that it were left out altogether.

4.16 p.m.


It seems to me that a number of speakers who have taken part in the debate this afternoon are much too scared and have far too many fears. I do not think the fears will materialise if the Government stand firm. We are engaged in an operation not merely to revivify local government; we are engaged in an operation surely to try to secure greater interest on the part of the people who pay for local government. I have served, as other Members have, for a great many years at different levels, and I must say that from time to time I am struck by the fact that occasionally officers think it is their council. On other occasions members think it is their council. I have even heard members suggesting that the public should not be admitted to meetings of the council because they had not behaved very nicely outside. The councils, surely, are not merely for the people; they are the councils of the people, and the people have a right to know what is done on their behalf. It is all very well drawing attention to matters of purchase of land. I do not think the really important issues have been raised by those who have objected to the admission of the public to committee meetings. There is the whole range of social services, and they are terribly important. The public have a right to know what is being said when policies are being discussed and being shaped. That is the time at which the public, if they have any views, ought to make their views known; that is, before they are finalised and presented to council.

My noble friend Lord Champion was making the point that many county council meetings are dull, and inevitably to anybody in the public gallery, even if they are possessed of a copy of the agenda before the meeting, most of the business will be absolutely unintelligible, because there is no background information, there is no concept of the atmosphere in which a decision was shaped and taken. I appreciate that the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, made reference to the possibility of employing a public relations officer, Press officer, publicity officer, call him what you may. I remember the days when council meetings were reported with a great deal more interest than they are since the appointment of publicity officers, and a great many people think that publicity officers and Press officers put out statements to suit those who are in control of the authority and that they are in fact presenting statements that do not completely review the situation. I appreciate the tremendous amount of work that is clone by public relations officers and Press officers, but I do not believe that they are any substitute at all for letting the man in the street, the elector, the man who pays the rates, know what is being said in committee on his behalf.

Let us take the point that the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, made about housing. Tenants in council houses are not told half enough about what is done at meetings of the housing committee. I am not at all sure, in the kind of case he mentioned, that it ought not to be made public so that those who are being spoken of, unknown to them and with no chance to defend themselves, should not be aware of what is being said. I fully take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, but we are dealing with local government reorganisation now, and if we avoid this issue to-day we have no promise, and I think nobody could give us a promise, as to when the matter will be dealt with again.

I sincerely hope that the Government will remain firm here. On the education committee on which I serve, we always go into committee at the end of the meeting to deal with just the kind of point that the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, made; but the public know that we are going into committee because we are going to discuss somebody's salary, or the price of land, or discuss contracts. If it can be done in the case of an education committee, it can be done in the case of the other committees. I fully agree that with some it will be a little more difficult, but this is a matter of common sense obtaining; it is a matter of taking the public into the confidence of the local authority, and thereby securing greater co-operation, greater interest and better local government.


I had not intended to intervene in this debate because of the wealth of talent preceding me, but in view of the direction in which the debate has gone through the last few speakers, it might be as well if I ventured to voice my anxieties about the clause in question, and the Amendment in particular. I am sure that everybody here is agreed that the Press and public should be admitted to certainly all county council or any other local government meetings, and probably to all committee meetings except where certain matters are being discussed. The proper regulation of a local authority when it wants to exclude the Press and the public is contained in the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960, and I do not suppose that anybody would want to go back on that Act. The Amendment we are discussing seeks to allow a local authority, where it is properly advised and acting within the ambience of the 1960 Act, to exclude the Press and the public for a period of 12 months. This is nothing to do with the desirability or otherwise of the public and Press attending meetings; it is nothing to do with the arbitrary exercise of power by local officials who do not wish their deliberations to come under the searchlight of public inquiry; it is an Amendment which was suggested by the Government on Report in another place for the better regulation and organisation of meetings of a very few committees, some of which, like in the Greater London Council, never meet in public at all. An example of such a committee might be the Staff Appeals Committee, which is simply and solely concerned with regulating the conduct of the employees of the Greater London Council and what is to happen to them on appeal.

When my noble friend initiated this debate I should have liked him to say what has happened to persuade the Government, as it were, to go through 180 degrees from the time of Report in the other place when it was agreed not to make such a body as that I have adumbrated go through this performance every time it meets, a highly irritating and time-consuming exercise, and the position we have reached now where, if this Amendment is passed, the committee will have to do just that. Would it be too much to ask the Government to think again in this particular case? They have already thought a first time—that is to say, when the new Clause 35 was added at the very last meeting of Standing Committee D; they thought a second time at about one o'clock in the morning when the matter was debated on Report in another place, and now we are being asked to think about it for the third time. In my submission, it would not be too much for the Government to draw back again at this stage and perhaps produce a rather more satisfactory provision on Report. Alternatively, it could be argued that there might be an opportunity in the next Session to bring forward legislation which, instead of making it impossible for a local authority to exclude the Press or the public for a period of 12 months, would let them do it in certain cases when certain subjects are debated in certain committees: in other words, pick the committee, or pick the subject, rather than as is done in this Bill.

4.27 p.m.


I will not confess to feelings of abject terror, but when all the local authority associations without exception combine together one is bound to move rather warily, and one is all the more grateful for the support of the official Opposition. But I am also reassured in dealing with this Amendment by the fact that the debate has indicated a broad and firm consensus of opinion that local government must be made more open, and nobody has taken general exception to the view of the Government that that means that all committees or councils should, as a general rule, be open to the public at all times. That is the purpose of the clause as it will be amended. That is to say, it applies the original Act of 1960 to the committees of councils as well as to the councils themselves. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, I would confirm that it does not apply to subcommittees.


It does not?


It does not. I think that it has been helpful to be reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, that we are concerned not just with opening more local government committees to the public but with the whole realm of relations between councils and their electorates, and that there are many other and perhaps better ways of improving these than by concentrating attention solely in this field. If I may say so, my noble friend Lord Gage did us a useful service by reminding us that in many committees it is perhaps still a question of persuading the Press to come to the meetings that are open to them, so we do not want to feel that this business of opening committees to the Press and the public is the only field with which we need concern ourselves.

I understand and appreciate the anxieties of those people whose duty, perhaps primary duty, it is to see to the orderly and convenient conduct of business in local government. This business of admitting the public and the Press can only be an additional hazard to them in the conduct of business in a convenient and orderly way. But that has to be achieved, and open government is far more important than just orderly and convenient government. The debate has concentrated upon the difficulties that the intentions of the Government, when implemented, will produce in particular cases when certain committees are dealing with particular matters, and the difficulties of the procedure of giving effect to the intention that, as a general rule, all committees should be open at all times to the public.

I should be the first to admit that the Amendment which I have proposed does not by any means solve all these problems; they remain to be dealt with in one way or another, though I am heartened by the fact that we now have the experience of quite a considerable number of councils who, in fact, open their committees to the public and do not find that the difficulties which have been put forward to-day are insuperable. But certainly there are difficulties and they have all been mentioned. I think I anticipated most of the main ones that would be mentioned. But I would agree with the noble Lord. Lord RedcliffeMaud, that even if the Amendment to this clause leaves the difficulties still unresolved, the Amendment is an improvement on the situation as it now stands. I believe it is an improvement that, as a general rule, committees should be open to the public on all occasions when a decision is not taken to exclude them. It is also an improvement on the position where it is possible to nullify the whole intention behind the Government's policy by passing a blanket resolution to exclude the public which will be operative in a committee for a whole year.

I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that this is the moment to make this improvement. As he said, the arguments that we have heard to-day will be rehearsed again in a year in more or less the same form, if legislative time is found to introduce this matter then. This is a matter where we must make such improvement as we can, and make it now. But I would entirely agree with my noble friends Lord Amory and Lord Brooke of Cumnor that, having made the improvement which I believe the Amendment that I have moved will make, it should then be possible for us to give further thought and to make further improvements; and that I will certainly undertake to do. It may well be possible to amend the clause further to deal with the difficulties that have been mentioned. On the other hand, it may be that the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, is perfectly right and that it would not be sensible, after all things have been considered, to make provision by Statute for the kind of detailed arrangements which different kinds of local authorities will have to adopt on different occasions in all their different circumstances for the exclusion of the public and the Press at certain times and in certain committees. It may well be, after we have looked into this matter, that we shall find and shall agree with the local authority associations that in the last analysis this cannot be provided for by Statute.

But if the Committee agrees that this Amendment is an improvement, but not the last word, I hope it will accept it now on the firm undertaking that we shall look at it again. I give that assurance mindful of the fact that the local authority associations are already at work on a code of practice in this field for the guidance of their members. We shall not be starting from scratch, we shall not be working in a vacuum and we shall have the benefit of all their consultations and of the advice which they have to give to us. As I said, I think that this Amendment is an improvement on the present position as the Bill is drafted. I hope, therefore, that I can persuade the Committee to agree with it and can also persuade my noble friends and other noble Lords who have objected to it that it is an improvement. In the meantime, I certainly give the firmest undertaking that we shall look at the matter to see whether it can be improved further in one way or another, by statutory or other means, before we get to the next stage.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 99, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 100 [Arrangements for discharge of functions by local authorities]

4.35 p.m.

THE EARL OF CRANBROOK moved Amendment No. 93:

Page 70, line 45, at end insert— ("; or (c) by two or more local authorities jointly.")

The noble Earl said: During our discussion of Part IX, we shall hear a great deal about the distribution of functions between counties and districts. Much of the discussion will hinge on the size and resources of the authorities concerned, but basically we shall try so to arrange those functions as to provide the best service for the people which those authorities serve. Primarily, that must depend on the size, the rateable value and the population of the body providing the service, because only a large authority can provide, for instance, the technical staff necessary for the entire range of roadworks, and only a fairly large authority can afford to pay the salaries of all those people involved. What I am saying is that, by and large, most services have to cover a fairly wide area and they must be carried out by the larger bodies; that is, by the counties. But I want to qualify that statement because it is important that the other authorities, who are responsible for carrying out services over a smaller area, should be closely in contact with the work done by the larger ones.

For that reason I welcome the provision in this clause for agency arrangements, although I realise that many of us who have experience of excepted districts and the like in the past are a little nervous of them. I believe it is right that we should try to arrange that most services are planned over a wide area, so that uniform provision is made and so that people concerned with the services planned over a narrower area are involved in the day-to-day administration of the whole. For that reason I welcome this provision, and my noble friend Lord Davidson and I have put down an Amendment to Clause 134 which we think will make agency arrangements work more smoothly and more economically. There will be cases where a district will be too small by itself, or will have a population which is too small, for the county to enter into agency arrangements with it yet where if two districts are joined together for a particular service agency arrangements would work well, harmoniously and to the advantage of the people for whom a service is provided. That is a fairly simple matter. Instead of making agency arrangements with one authority, agency arrangements are made with two or more jointly. That is what this Amendment provides for, and I hope that the Government will accept it and that your Lordships will agree to it. I beg to move.


I hasten to say that we certainly accept the intentions of my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, and we envisage that what he has in mind will often prove to be the proper way, the right way and the best way for certain functions to be discharged. The point I would make is that the procedure which he desires does not require his Amendment for it to be adopted. This can be done already under the Bill. Furthermore, I would say that if it were to be adopted under the clause as amended by my noble friend's group of Amendments, an ambiguity would be introduced as to the precise nature of the agency arrangement, the pattern under which it was being exercised, which ambiguity is avoided if the Bill is left as it is.

The main difference between the two ways in which what we both desire is achieved is this. Under the Bill as drafted, and under the arrangements as we see them being undertaken, it will be for the authority that has the statutory responsibility for a particular function to work out each agency arrangement with each agent, so that the authority statutorily responsible will know precisely, and be responsible precisely for the nature of, the arrangement. It will also be responsible for requiring (if that is what is desired) that the two agents, if there be more than one, should co-operate with each other in a particular way; and it will be the responsibility of the main agent, the primary authority, to decide on the manner of the joint working, instead of just telling two authorities that they are to discharge such-and-such a function as agents together, and leaving it to them to sort out how they should co-operate. I think the Committee will agree that the Government's way of achieving this, by the Bill as it stands, does all that the noble Earl is seeking to do, with the further advantage that the responsibility for working out and prescribing just precisely how it is to be done, and how the two agents are to co-operate in the discharge of these functions, is left to the primary authority, which is where the responsibility should. in my view, be left.


I must confess that I find the noble Lord's argument a little difficult to follow. What in fact he is saying is that a county council, for example, under Clause 100(1)(b), can say to District Council X, "We wish you to carry out certain functions on the lines which we are about to arrange with District Council Y", and that they can say to District Council Y, "We wish you to carry out those functions on the lines which we are arranging with Council X". I think that is what the noble Lord is in fact saying. That seems to me a little cumbersome. I do not find it ambiguous to say "two or more"; and while, obviously, this is not the sort of thing on which we would wish to divide the Committee, I hope that perhaps the noble Lord will think about it between now and Report stage, to see whether, on second thoughts, he does not think that my method is a little more tidy, less ambiguous and rather better. If he will give me that assurance, I shall very happily withdraw my Amendment.


I did not reveal, but perhaps I had better now, as I am being accused of not having given this matter sufficient thought, that the noble Earl and I have had an extensive correspondence on this topic as well. But he did not really give me credit for saying as much as I in fact said. I was trying to be brief; but the point I was making was that not only would the main authority have the job of telling its agent how it was to discharge such-and-such a function on an agency basis, but it would also have to prescribe, under the Government's arrangements, how those two authorities were to co-operate together in discharging the functions which they would be jointly discharging as agents for the primary authority. This is an important point which is secured by the Bill as drafted at the moment, and which would not be secured under the noble Earl's Amendment. Certainly I give an undertaking to continue our correspondence and our discussion, so that any opportunity to improve matters still further will not be lost. But I hope the noble Earl will not feel that he has to press his Amendment now.


Before the noble Earl withdraws his Amendment, may I draw attention to what I think would be one important flaw if the Amendment as drafted were carried? It says "two or more local authorities". It does not say "two or more adjoining local authorities"; so you get the possibility of one large authority in between two others carrying out the functions and the two on either side of it wishing to join to carry out the functions. Obviously that would create far too many difficulties and would probably not be agreed to; but it would be possible to seek to make such an arrangement if the words "two or more local authorities" were included.


Do not let us indulge in splitting too many hairs. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


There are a number of consequential Amendments which I will not move.


I beg to move Amendment No. 94A. It is a drafting Amendment to deal only with singular and plural. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 71, line 13, leave out ("arrangement") and insert ("arrangements").—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This Amendment, No. 96A, is the same as No. 94A. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 71, line 18, leave out ("arrangement") and insert ("arrangements").—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is the same as Amendments Nos. 94A and 96A. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 71, line 21, leave out ("arrangement is made") and insert ("arrangements are made").—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is a drafting Amendment, but for the moment I cannot locate anything more about it. I am sure it is only a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 72, line 28, leave out paragraph (c) and insert ("(c) sections 2 and 3 of the Police Act 1964 (police committees).").—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 98D:

Page 73, line 6, at end insert: ("(10A) It is hereby declared that this section authorises the Greater London Council to arrange for the discharge of any of their functions by the Inner London Education Authority or any education committee established by that Authority under Part II of Schedule 1 to the Education Act 1944.").

The noble Lord said: This is a relatively minor Amendment to secure the statunts quo under which it is possible for the Inner London Education Authority, which is really a committee of the G.L.C., to discharge functions other than educational functions. For instance, they administer the Geffrye and Horniman Museums. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 100, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 101 to 106 agreed to.

Clause 107 [Power to confer functions of parish or community councils on district councils]:

4.50 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 107 shall stand part of the Bill?


In proposing that Clause 107 should not stand part of the Bill, I think it might be helpful if your Lordships would turn to page 53 of the latest Marshalled List and look at Amendment 125CC while I am speaking, because the deletion of this clause is linked with that Amendment. I am referring to Amendment No. 125CC on page 53 of the latest Marshalled List. On reflection, Her Majesty's Government have come to the view—we are dealing with burial powers—that an express provision in terms set out in Amendment No. 125CC (which is to Clause 207) is a better way of doing what is needed in this field than by means of Clause 107, which makes it possible to confer the powers of parish councils on other burial authorities. Therefore I shall be moving Amendment 125CC to Clause 207 later on and that will enable us to dispense altogether with Clause 107 and in due course with Section 10 of the Parish Councils Act. I shall be moving a further Amendment to Schedule 30 to bring that about as well. I beg to move.


Could the noble Lord explain this matter a little more? Will there be no powers other than burial powers referred to under Clause 107 that may be transferred from one tier of authority to another? It seems rather odd.


There are other powers, but in practice for many years these are the only powers for which the power to confer parish council powers on district councils has been used. In the circumstances we thought it would be more straightforward to make the express provision included in Amendment 125CC. There are other powers but it was only to get burial powers where they were wanted that the old legislation (which Clause 107 translates into this Bill) was needed.


Might it not be wiser to leave Clause 107 as it is and make specific reference to burials later? Might not circumstances arise which made this necessary? Is it really wise to take away general powers and substitute particular powers? I am all for preserving burial powers if required, although I myself believe in cremation; but is it wise to remove a general power which may at some time in the future be desirable?


May I hope the Government will not yield to this persuasion. When I read Clause 107 I had not the faintest idea that it had anything to do with burials or cremations. I was delighted to see it go because I thought that this was a way in which the parish and the community, in which I have great confidence, might at some future date under a less enlightened Secretary of State lose some of their powers to these new districts—which we all wish well but which, after all, are new inventions. Although we are told that the reason why this general power is to disappear is because it can be put in a specific burial form later, I should be sorry to see a general power given to any Secretary of State in the future to confer on to a district council any of the functions of a parish council.


I shall certainly look at the matter again in the light of what the noble Baroness has said. I am glad to have had my argument reinforced by additional arguments from the Chairman of the Royal Commission; but I take the point the noble Baroness is making. The main reason for this proposal is to get a more straightforward and simple way of enabling all the authorities to assist bodies which are providing and running burial grounds and cemeteries.


While I appreciate the point put forward by the noble Lord so far as burial grounds and cemeteries are concerned, I share wholeheartedly the view expressed by Lord Redcliffe-Maud. I think it is a good thing that Clause 107 is to disappear; because the new position of a local authority working under the Parish Councils Act of 1957 is going to be rather circumscribed as it is already. I should rather see no power given at all in the Bill to take away any of these powers from the parish councils under a general provision such as is proposed in Clause 107. I would rather that eventually more powers should be given to parish councils than those defined under the Parish Councils Act 1957; because to use that particular Act now in its new functions is a complete breakaway from the past. One hopes that it will be only through these parish or community councils that the old borough powers can function. Therefore I think it wise to take out an omnibus clause like this. This would prevent any district council from coming along and exercising authority to reduce the power of the parish councils.

Clause 107 disagreed to.

Clause 108 agreed to.

4.57 p.m.

LORD ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 98E: After Clause 108 insert the following new clause:

Transitional arrangements for discharge of functions

—(1) Where it appears to a district council that the county council should be required to make arrangements for the discharge by the former of any of the latter's functions as respects a period beginning with 1st April 1974, but the latter are unwilling to enter into the arrangements or the two councils are unable to agree on the terms of the arrangements, the district council may apply to the appropriate Minister for a direction under subsection (3) below. (2) Where it appears to a county council that a district council should be required to make arrangements for the discharge by the former of any of the latter's functions as respects a period beginning with 1st April 1974, but the latter are unwilling to enter into the arrangements or the two councils are unable to agree on the terms of the arrangements, the county council may apply to the appropriate Minister for a direction under subsection (3) below. (3) On an application under subsection (1) or (2) above the appropriate Minister—

  1. (a) may, if he considers it desirable for the efficient discharge of the relevant functions, or of other functions of either or both of the councils concerned, direct the county council and the district council concerned to enter into any arrangements for the discharge by one of them of specified functions of the other; and
  2. (b) whether or not he gives a direction under paragraph (a) above, may direct that any such arrangements shall contain terms on lines laid down by him.
(4) A direction under subsection (3) above shall not be given after 31st March 1974 and shall, subject to subsection (5) below, remain in force for a period specified in the direction ending before 1st April 1979, but the expiry of any such direction shall not of itself end the arrangements to which it relates. (5) While a direction under subsection (3) above is in force, the parties to the arrangements to which it relates may by agreement vary or end the arrangements or in default of agreement either of them may apply to the appropriate Minister for a direction to vary or end the arrangements, and the appropriate Minister may, if he considers it desirable for the efficient discharge of the relevant functions, or of other functions of either or both of the councils concerned, direct the parties to vary the arrangements on lines laid down by him or to end the arrangements.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the inclusion of the new clause printed on the Marshalled List. I suggest that with it we should discuss the Amendments to Clause 251 (Amendments Nos. 131A and 131B) and the two consequential Amendments to Clause 256 (Amendments Nos. 131D and 131E). There are two sets of Amendments to the proposed new clause. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Champion, would like to discuss them at the same time or whether he would prefer me to move the new clause and that he should then move his Amendments.


I have no option. The noble Lord is bound to move his Amendment. I should then be called upon straightaway to move my Amendment to the Amendment which will be cleared out of the way before returning to the main clause.


The new clause which I am proposing should be included in the Bill is essentially a piece of transitional machinery. There are various ways in which local authorities may cooperate with each other so as to permit services to be provided in the best possible manner. They may set up joint committees; or one local authority may supply goods or materials or professional services to another authority under the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970; or one local authority may lend its staff to another under Clause 111 of the Bill. Among the very flexible arrangements permitted under Clause 100, which we have just been discussing, is the so-called "agency" arrangement under which one authority may make arrangements for the discharge of any of its functions by another authority.

There are obviously a great deal of circumstances in which it would be convenient and economical to make use of this agency arrangement, either on a particular occasion, such as the carrying out of building work, or on a continuing basis. But if one authority is to act as a continuing agent for another, then the arrangement will have repercussions for the staffing requirements and managerial structure of both the principal and agent authorities, and this raises problems of special importance in the transitional reorganisation period. In some cases the staff with local experience will be the employees of the district councils. In other cases—this may work in the opposite direction—specialised professional teams may be employed at county level. I will not attempt a precise or comprehensive catalogue of the circumstances in which one authority may act as agent for another, but the point which emerges very clearly is that where agency arrangements are to operate from April 1, 1974, it is of the utmost importance that these arrangements should be finalised as soon as possible so that each authority can make its plans and, in particular, that officers of the authority will know by whom they are to be employed after the reorganisation.

This new clause owes its origin to the discussion of this problem in another place when my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment indicated how he proposed that local authorities should be helped to reach early finality of agency arrangements before 1974. The Government—and that includes all the interested Departments, not just the Department of the Environment and the Welsh Office—will consult the local authority associations in order to draw up guidance on the circumstances in which agency arrangements might be appropriate. This guidance would cover not only which services might be suitable for agency arrangements, but also the extent to which particular functions might be exercised by an agent authority on behalf of the principal.

The Department of the Environment has already put proposals to the local authority associations for the timetable and mechanics of these consultations. Provisionally the aim is to issue a general circular on the operation of agency arrangements by about February of next year. We hope that this will provide a useful framework within which the joint committees of existing authorities can discuss possibilities, and within which the new authorities can reach a quick final agreement as soon as possible after they have been elected. But we have to guard against the possibility that in some instances voluntary agreements will not be reached and, much as we hope that such cases will be few and far between, this new clause provides machinery under which an authority can apply to the appropriate Minister concerned with a particular function for a direction. Such a direction could settle not only whether an agency arrangement should be entered into at all, but also, if necessary, the terms and extent of such an arrangement.

I want to stress that such an appeal to the Minister should be made only as a last resource. It is very much better that authorities should reach voluntary agreements between themselves, and the object of the consultations and the subsequent guidance will be to assist them to do so. I also want to stress again that this is only transitional machinery. It is essentially a device to promote an efficient changeover to the new system; it is not a permanent feature. In the long run, agency arrangements will be a matter for voluntary agreement between authorities. On the other hand, the arrangements which operate when the new authorities take over their full functions in 1974 should be designed to continue for certainly a few years, so that the new authorities and their officers can settle down without the prospect of further change being just around the corner. In voluntary arrangement between authorities I would expect this point to be covered by agreement. But where a Ministerial direction is sought, the new clause provides that, unless the authorities themselves agree, an agency arrangement cannot be altered for five years except of course by a fresh direction.

The final point I wish to make is that the appeals machinery applies only in those fields where agency arrangements can be made under the provisions in Clause 100. Some services are outside agency arrangements, as the Committee will know and therefore outside the appeals machinery, too. The most important, obviously, of these are education and the personal social services. So far as concerns the other Amendments which I suggested we should discuss with this one, the Amendments to Clause 251 are designed to include these transitional arrangements among the matters specifically referred to as a question to be considered by the joint committee of the existing authorities as part of their preparation for the change-over to the new system. I beg to move.


Amendment proposed, after Clause 108 insert the proposed new clause as printed. I shall now call the first of the Amendments to the proposed new clause: Amendment 98G in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Champion.


On a point of order. There have been some changes in the order of these Amendments. In the earlier Marshalled List an Amendment in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, and myself was first and has now been demoted to third place. I am not accusing the noble Lord, Lord Champion, of any "old soldier" tactics—far from it! But the fact remains that if his Amendment is carried, our Amendment falls; at least I think it does. I was wondering whether, in the circumstances, as I want to say something quite different from what the noble Lord, Lord Champion, says, we could have a general discussion on the point. I want to be able to put my case before a decision is taken on Lord Champion's Amendment.

5.7 p.m.


I can assure the Committee that, although I am an old soldier, I have employed no such tactics as the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, suggested. I put down my Amendments to the new clause, but where they appear in the List is decided by someone else. Although my persuasive powers are extraordinary, I cannot imagine that my Amendment will be adopted at this stage and consequently cut out Lord Gage's Amendment. If we go on to discuss the Amendment which has been called it will be dealt with and accepted—or, as I suspect, not accepted. I think the point that I propose to make in connection with my Amendment ought to be made, but I should be reluctant to do anything that would exclude the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, from moving his Amendment, which certainly was put on the Order Paper before mine. I cannot see that any difficulty will be caused but if it is we will try to help the noble Viscount to put the matter right on Report. I cannot promise any more than that.

I want to move one Amendment and to speak to three Amendments. By some error two separate Amendments appear under No. 98G. They should be 98G and 98H, and my Amendment shown as 98H follows. This does not affect what I have to say about the Amendments. I wish it had been found possible to allocate by appropriate clauses in the Bill all the functions of local authorities. But I am bound to recognise that, because of the wide variation in the circumstances of local authorities, it is desirable to have such a clause as Clause 100, the so-called agency clause, which permits arrangements to be entered into for one local authority to discharge the statutory functions of another on an agency basis.

I am firmly of opinion that to ensure the complete success of such an arrangement it should be entered into freely and with the utmost good will. But the Government say that because such arrangements may have many important consequences, including those relating to staffing and the management structure of new authorities, they propose to set up in this new clause a right of appeal to the Secretary of State during the transitional period in the event of a disagreement occurring between the authorities as to which should undertake a certain function. The Secretary of State is empowered in the new clause we are now discussing to give a direction.

That, I think, is the gist of the new clause. I dislike it for the reasons that the very presence of a source of appeal will lessen the chances of agreement between the authorities. It brings the Minister into a matter which is clearly one for the authorities concerned. It adds, in my opinion, a great strain, by its restricted timetable, on the new authorities who at this time will be heavily engaged in all the work necessary between the date of their election and the date when this Bill comes into operation. It seems to me that this very clause is a sort of piling of Pelion on Ossa; it is towering up and will be pressing down on the authorities as a result.

I am sure there is little need for me to elaborate on that aspect, but I think we are bound to pay some attention to what the County Councils Association say in this connection. They say: Local government reorganisation is being carried within a severely restricted timetable and the new clause will undoubtedly cause additional difficulties for the future authorities in settling their management structures in the limited time available before 1st April, 1974, if during the previous month there are to be references to the appropriate Minister to arbitrate not only on whether agency arrangements should be made for a particular function but also on the terms of such agency. There are a number of districts in each county, and these districts and their counties have differing populations and geographical characteristics, so that there could be as many as fourteen appeals to the Minister in one county. The task that they have to undertake during the period about which we are talking is an extremely heavy one, and I wonder how they are going to cope with it all. Certainly the addition of this dictat, "Agree on agency, or else", is something that I do not like. I do not like the clause, and if we decided to vote on it, I should vote against the clause. But that does not prevent me from trying to make it a more reasonable clause by the addition of the Amendments that I am now proposing, for I am fairly sure that the Government will ensure the inclusion of the clause in the Bill.

The Association of Municipal Corporations, the Association of Rural District Councils and the Association of Urban District Councils, looking at this clause from their point of view, say that in all probability there will be an unwillingness on the part of the new county councils to enter into appropriate arrangements with the new district councils in respect of a number of functions which the district councils could very well undertake on an agency basis. They further say that the right of appeal to the Secretary of State which this clause proposes to introduce is strictly limited in regard to the period of its availability and in the length of time during which the arrangements made initially are to remain in operation.

Experience of delegation in the past has led to the fear that once the five-year period has expired many new county councils are likely to take back into their own control the administration of services which have become subject to the clause. It will of course be seen by the Committee that under subsection (4) a direction shall remain in force for a period specified in the direction ending before April 1, 1979, so that the maximum duration of an order commencing on March 31, 1974, will have five or less years to run. There should therefore, they argue—and I am talking here about the local authority associations—be a continuing right of appeal, since the mere existence of such a right is likely to facilitate sensible arrangements between the authorities concerned and will not leave the one at the mercy of the arbitrary decision of the other.

But I am not asking for that by these Amendments. What I am proposing is that the right of appeal should extend at least for a reasonable time after the coming into operation of any area adjustments made following the first review of the districts by the Local Boundary Commission. There is no doubt but that the boundaries of many districts in the draft proposals of the Local Government Boundary Commission (Designate) for England are wholly arbitrary and call for thorough-going revision as soon as possible, particularly in relation to those larger towns whose boundaries were left unchanged in the draft proposals. Such revision is likely considerably to increase the ability of the districts centred on these towns to undertake an even wider range of responsibilities. This should not be left to the good pleasure of the county council concerned, but a right of appeal should continue to be available to ensure that wise arrangements are made. And the Government's stated intention of having local decisions taken as locally as possible is in fact achieved.

I think that by these two Amendments, if a new district is created as a result of a review of the initial set-up for any area, that new district ought to have the same right of appeal as those authorities which are created as a result of the first implementation of the Reports of the Boundary Commission and of the county councils and district councils in Wales that are created by this Bill. This would seem to me to be only fair to the new districts, or indeed to any new county council. The third Amendment is intended to ensure that the end of the period set out in the direction given by the Secretary of State does not automatically end the agency arrangement. The period of the direction will end, but in most cases the arrangement ought to continue as a result of a mutual recognition of its advantage: and I sincerely hope that that will happen.

I am bound to admit that this must have sounded a little complicated, but it is a matter to which a lot of thought has been given by the associations that I have mentioned. It is, I think, a sensible arrangement if we are to have the new clause after Clause 108. But I repeat what I said at the outset, that if there were a Division I should vote against the clause. However, I think it can be and would be improved by the Amendment that I am now proposing. I beg to move.

5.19 p.m.


I think it is usual to have a general discussion and then the Amendments are taken seriatim later. The object of my Amendment, which is really quite different from that of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, can I think be illustrated by reference to an entirely different problem which at times is discussed by your Lordships, that of marriage and divorce. Here the law can do much, but it cannot compel two people to live together. On the other hand, it can make it easy for them not to get on with each other. I believe that one of the commonest criticisms of easy divorce is that it gives people ideas, and they begin to look round to see whether there is any good reason why they should not, at the slightest provocation, use the facilities so thoughtfully provided by the State. Something rather like that situation exists in local government. This is an agency matter, and if you get somebody to do something for you it usually invites a certain measure of confidence and trust. The Minister can direct one authority to get on with another or to act as agent for another, but he cannot conjure up this spirit of confidence and trust which is so necessary.

On the other hand, he could almost encourage disagreement by saying to the districts, "If the county are trying to make you do something you do not want to do, or trying to prevent your doing something you want to do, let me know and I will see what I can do about it" To my mind, that would be easing a "divorce". I do not suppose for a moment that the Minister wants to encourage disagreement, but unless he is going to lay down in advance what kind of application he will consider reasonable and what not—which I should have thought was a very difficult task, though I was interested to hear my noble friend Lord Aberdare say that a circular was going out on this matter—should have thought that if this continued we should be prepared for a number of applications in which any applicant would always think his particular case was eminently reasonable.

It is for this reason that a number of my colleagues on the County Councils Association would like to see this clause eliminated. I am wondering why it should suddenly be introduced at this very late stage in the Bill's progress. To be realistic, I do not suppose that the Government, having introduced this clause, will be prepared to withdraw it, but I wonder whether they will perhaps look more favourably on a compromise designed to prevent this new process from going on up to the last possible minute of the transitional period. I do not know whether it is generally realised in Whitehall what a vast amount of administrative work is being engendered by this Bill. The amount, of course, varies from county to county, but in my own county, where we have amalgamated three county boroughs, the work is pretty formidable. If at the last moment the joint committees find that much of their work has been nullified or altered by some Ministerial direction I think the situation would be quite intolerable, and almost absurd. This is an entirely different proposal from that put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, but I feel that to try to make people work together and to work together until the last possible moment is unrealistic. I beg to move.


The Question before the Committee is that Amendment 98G be agreed to, and we are having a general discussion on that Question.


May I take it that that would not prevent references to my noble friend's original proposal for the new clause?


Yes. I do not think it would be possible otherwise.


It is rather difficult to separate these things. I do not propose to follow my noble friend Lord Gage in his thoughts on divorce because as an eligible young bachelor I have not yet thought about that in depth: I believe in taking my fences when I come to them. So may I say to start with—because I always like to say when I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord—that I agreed unequivocally when Lord Champion said that his own powers of persuasion were limitless. I find that they are almost limitless, but in this case not quite to the point of persuading me to be in favour of the actual Amendments that he has proposed.

I should like to begin by referring to my noble friend's new clause. I am sure that this new clause is designed to be helpful. My worry about it is that I believe that in practice its effects are not going to be of the kind that my noble friend hopes; indeed I think they may well prove counter-productive. I realise that this is not perhaps a matter of fundamental importance because it is a transitional provision, and because it is a transitional provision I am bound to say that I would feel less opposed to the clause if the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Gage were accepted, though I realise that that would not please Lord Champion, because he feels that the time is too short. However, I should like to exonerate the Secretary of State absolutely from any desire to add one more power to himself with one more right of interference with local government by taking on this responsibility for arbitration here. I am quite sure that that would not be his desire because I know his views and his policies. The whole theme of the Bill is to limit the need for interference from the centre, but in fact it provides just one more case where the Secretary of State may interfere.

As I said to start with, I believe that the general provisions of Clause 100 are completely acceptable. There are occasions when these agency arrangements will be distinctly useful, but I believe that such arrangements require good will and spontaneous co-operation on both sides. Particularly when there is a shortish period involved like this for the two bodies agreeing voluntarily together, the right of appeal is likely, I think, to destroy the hopes of some negotiations which otherwise might come about and the sort of atmosphere of an appeal is really inappropriate to the kinds of arrangements we are envisaging here. There is very little time, anyhow, left between now and April, 1974. So I would only say that I am sure that the Secretary of State's intentions are excellent, but I would ask my noble friend to think again as to whether the actual results following from this will be in the direction that he, and indeed all of us, would want—because I fear that they may, even in a small way, be positively unhelpful.

As regards the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, as I understand it this will in fact make these arrangements rather less transitional than they would be under the noble Lord's clause. I may have got that wrong and if so I should like to have it explained to me. However, it seems to me that this right of appeal under his Amendment is going to be carried forward into the future rather longer; so although I do not at all like the new clause, for the reason I have mentioned—that I fear it may not in fact be helpful to the kind of arrangements we should all like to see—at this stage I rather feel that the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, might be less helpful still.


I wonder whether I may correct the noble Viscount on one point? I do not want to stretch out the arrangements which would exist between the election of these councils and the coming into operation of the Bill itself—that is the first transitional period. What I tried to indicate was that I thought eventually we should have new authorities created as a result of the work of the Boundary Commission; and I should have thought that when those new authorities come into being they should have a short time within which to endeavour to enter into an agency arrangement and, if they failed, to have the right of appeal to the Secretary of State, because under Clause 108 the whole right of appeal will end on April 1, 1974. I would only stretch it to those districts created as a result eventually of the work of the Boundary Commission. I hope I have made that clear.


The noble Lord has made it quite clear. It is not a general prolongation but, as it were, a new spasm. I quite understand.


I should like to speak to Amendment No. 98F, and support my noble friend Lord Gage. Before I do so, I should like to say that we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Champion. He said that he had made the matter complicated; I thought that he was making a complicated situation less complicated. I was delighted and interested to hear what he said, although I cannot agree with everything that he said. The new clause—and here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Champion—greatly lessens the chances of agreement between the new councils. It has already caused considerable concern to those of us who are involved in the active detail of planning and take-over by the new councils in 1974. Many tentative agreements have been held up, and all sorts of manoeuvring for power and position is unfortunately going on at this minute. Therefore this clause, which has introduced a new uncertainty and, I would go so far as to say, a dangerous weakness into the position, is leaving much too much to be decided at the last minute, and that is why I do not like it.

The Amendment which my noble friend and I put down is proposed to limit this period of uncertainty so far as possible. It is a compromise. I said in the Second Reading debate that I should like to see the final date for the submission of the dispute brought forward to August 1, 1973; but that is probably asking much too much as the new district councils will not be elected until June, 1973, and therefore the date suggested of November 30 is a compromise on a compromise. This would immeasurably lessen the period of uncertainty which hangs over everybody, and I should have thought gave all councils concerned time between their elections in April and June to decide whether or not they wished to appeal to the Secretary of State, and it gives the Secretary of State ample time to make his decision known. Every month will count in this tremendous battle which we are facing. It is a tremen- dour problem which faces all authorities, and it would therefore be a great help if the Government could agree to bring forward the date.

I would add in passing that the excellent Bain Report, which I am sure your Lordships have read from cover to cover—an admirable document full of interesting facts and helpful suggestions for the future of local government—says quite clearly that in preparing for the takeover in the next two years those councils which have gone ahead with planning their new structures and establishments will immeasurably reap the benefit of their foresight. There is no possibility, while this sword of Damocles of agency agreements is hanging over the heads of some councils of getting far enough ahead with these things. That is why, with this hanging over us, with such a short time ahead to do all sorts of enormously complicated planning, we hope the Committee will allow what my noble friend Lord Aberdare referred to as a quick, final agreement to be achieved as soon as possible in cases of dispute, and avoid another four months of uncertainty. I beg to support Amendment No. 98F.


This is a most interesting proposal by the Government. I cannot help feeling that it reveals a great deal that was not quite clear to the Royal Commission but was horribly nearly clear; namely, if you have your two tiers, and you are not clear that there is a real job and a clearly divided job for both of them, you get into terrible difficulties. At the moment I must say that I am inclined to use the word, "ghastly" about this arrangement. Let me quickly withdraw the word, "ghastly", not because it is unparliamentary but because I do not want to use it. This is making the best of a second-best job.

I should like to ask the Government whether I am right in pinning my hope on subsection (3) of Amendment No. 98E. In line 3 there is reference to the word "may" which is repeated in paragraph (b). Subsection (3) says: On an application … the appropriate Minister may … direct the county council … and … may direct that any such arrangements shall contain … I am sure that I am right, and I am very much encouraged by what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said, that this was really intended and it was hoped to be only the last resort. The Government believe as we all try to believe that these districts and new counties are going to get on swimmingly from the start, and even before the start. This is the great hope for the whole reform of local government. But there is this horrible feeling that just here and there there may be a little friction and therefore there is this need to reassure. I cannot help feeling that it is the districts who are thought to be in need of reassurance, and this provision for arbitration is inserted.

The Secretary of State does not need to settle and he can say, "A curse on both your houses; go away, settle for yourselves. I am not going to give a direction either to the county or the district". I do not like the words in the beginning of subsection (1): Where it appears to a district council that the county council should be required to make arrangements for the discharge by the former of any of the latter's functions … It says that it should be required to make arrangements for getting someone else to do what Parliament has said are its functions. The same terrible formula is repeated in subsecction (2). This is why I believe that this is the give-away of a horrible skeleton that we saw lurking in a possible cupboard long ago.

I ask your Lordships to forgive me for being rather more frank than I sometimes allow myself to be. I find myself in great difficulty when considering the logic of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, who says that it is an awful clause because it will be a terrible temptation to districts and counties not to get on and come to terms, but to get a settlement. If they have the chance of going to arbitration it is only logical that a new district that is re-delineated by the Boundary Commission—and the noble Lord is right that the Boundary Commission would have to re-delineate a lot of districts which have been dealt with in rather a hurry—should get on with something that is there. There is no logic in saying that it has to finish by a particular date.

I hope your Lordships will not encourage this terrible process and all this friction-making to continue a day longer than is necessary. On the whole, I resist the logic of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, and will vote against him, if we have to vote. Your Lordships will say, "Why not vote for the noble Viscount, Lord Gage? He shortens the period" I am tempted to do that. Let us get it over; you have to settle by November 30, 1973, if you are going to the Secretary of State, and after that you have to settle for yourself. On the other hand, I am afraid that this would rush things and make it still less likely that the authorities would bother to get together. They would refer to the Secretary of State before November 30—


I said November 30, but if December 31 would make it more acceptable I should agree. I only want to stop a last minute rush which I can see developing.


On the whole I would advise the Committee not to accept either of these Amendments, and to settle for the original Government proposal with all its imperfections. I think, having got ourselves into this jam, probably the best way to do it is to limit it strictly to a period and not let the rot go on a moment longer than it need. We should pray that the Secretary of State says, both in the circular and in the way he deals with the first application that comes and in what his officials say to the people when they come humming round the hive," Go away; you must settle these things for yourselves, because no direction I can give is likely to work in the interests of the people concerned. This is something you must work out for yourselves."


May I confirm that the word, "may" means may, and that the Secretary of State does not have to make a direction?

5.41 p.m.


May I put a question to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare? Before doing that, may I say that this clause is not acceptable to any of the four associations: the C.C.A., the A.M.C., the Urban District Councils Association and the Rural District Councils Association. The noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, said on a previous Amendment that a miracle had been performed by obtaining complete unity on the question of allowing the Press to attend committee meetings. That unity also applies concerning this clause.

The question I want to put to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, is this. Let us take two of the functions—I do not want to discuss them at length because they will come up on a later Amendment—for which county councils will be responsible; namely, refuse disposal and libraries. I am sure that some district councils will have this purpose in mind because some of the newly created district councils under this Bill will be deprived of many of their functional powers. I am thinking of one city in my neighbourhood which has a population of more than 300,000. Up to the present moment it has been the equivalent of a county council, an all-purpose authority operating all the local government services, but will now become a district council. It will lose its library facilities and will lose the function of disposing of refuse.

The point I want to put particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, is this. Suppose a district council makes an application to the county council for the function of administering either the library service or the refuse disposal service. While it is laid down in the Bill that it will be the prerogative and privilege of the county councils to administer those two services, one can well expect that the county councils would not relieve themselves of either the power or opportunity of executing the library and refuse disposal services and there would immediately be disagreement, and possibly conflict. I should like the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, to say whether, if an application is made for either or both of those functions which will belong to the county council, it will be possible for the district councils and the county councils to enter into an arrangement to operate the functions either of the library service or of the refuse disposal services.


I think the speech to which I have listened with most interest in this debate (for we now appear to be debating whether this clause should be added to the Bill) was that by the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud. He put his finger right on the point, which is that once we adopt a two-tier system we get into this problem of the division of functions under the Bill not being universally applicable. We faced this difficulty in the much smaller and more intimate con- text related to the Principality of Wales. There we have provided in the Welsh setting for certain decisions to be taken from time to time by the Secretary of State—libraries were a case in point—because we thought that there could just conceivably be occasions when it might be desirable for a district council to carry out functions which would normally be the function of the county authority.

Quite frankly, when one thinks of the situation in the infinitely larger part of the United Kingdom, England, with the multiplicity of local conditions on which the Secretary of State would have to be advised, the mind boggles. If these decisions have to be taken in such a short time or on even a briefer period as was suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, I do not like to think of the way in which any such decisions may be reached, because they are very difficult decisions to roach. As a rule one needs most intimate knowledge before one can know the truth of the matter as to whether in those particular circumstances the county or district will provide the better service to the public.

If one provides this arbitration system, I should have thought that almost any district worth its salt would as a matter of honour refer an appeal to the Secretary of State if the county council did not accede forthwith. What one has heard said, at any rate about the attitude of the majority of county councils, does not give one a great deal of confidence that they will be very forthcoming about cooperating with the districts. It seems that we shall have an intolerable situation during this period.

I hope that the Government will think again. If there could be voluntary agreements of course no one would be worried. If the two parties concerned, using their good sense, would say, "In our particular circumstances it would be really more sensible for the district to do this or that", that would be all right. No one would bother about it and it could be done under Clause 100 as it stands. That would be fine. But if there is real, basic disagreement, the matter has to be sorted out by the Minister or Ministers during this very brief time. As noble Lords have already indicated, various authorities will hardly be able to meet the time-table anyway. Some, do not let us forget, are also concerning themselves about proposals for the reorganisation of the Health Service and water resources and this subject is not the only one they have to think about.

I must say that it seems that the proposed new clause is not necessarily the last world in wisdom. If it were adopted, as my noble friend Lord Champion said, it is only plain justice that a new district ought to have the same rights within the appropriate period; but that—with great respect to my noble friend—is a relatively minor point within the context of the whole principle as to whether the Minister in this very short period should act as arbiter. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, that the word "may" means what it says; in other words, that the Minister may not exercise his power of arbitration if he does not want to do so. But in what circumstances will he exercise it if almost every district in the country comes to the Ministry, as they will? Can the noble Lord define a little more clearly the sort of circumstances in which the Secretary of State would be prepared to use this power?


Would the noble Baroness, Lady White, agree that by that time a lot of damage will have been done, because the chances of a really friendly agreement will have been frustrated by the time the party concerned has made the appeal?


Yes; the noble Viscount almost took the words out of my mouth because I was about to say that this is what causes the deepest apprehension. At a period when adjustments are going to be difficult enough in any case, it seems to me that the proposal in this new clause will arouse the greatest acrimony, rather than allow people to try to get on as best they can and make the most sensible arrangements. I do not want to sound frivolous, but if I were to put down an Amendment to this clause I think I would suggest that no Minister would arbitrate before April 1, 1979. In other words, give people time to see how they get on and, if things have not worked out, then give them an appeal to the Minister. I confess I have not thought this through, and I am not suggesting that I would necessarily put down an Amendment in that sense, but it seems to me that it would have certain advantages over the proposal in this new clause because the situation that is likely to arise will not be in the best interests of local government. I would beg the Minister to think again about this matter.

5.52 p.m.


I can foresee great difficulties, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, pointed out. I hope to speak later on Schedule 14, to which he was referring, regarding refuse collection. At the present moment, as the Bill comes to our House, we find that the other place put the whole of refuse collection and disposal in the hands of second-tier authorities. But if the Government have their way they will reverse that decision, and I can see great difficulty. Authorities probably will want to go to arbitration because many of these second-tier authorities already have large plants. I shall not go into that point now because I wish to do so later. But I said on Second Reading that I thought Parliament ought to lay down very clearly the functions of both tiers so that there should not be rows. If a function of a second-tier authority is to collect refuse, while the first-tier authority disposes of it, I think there will be rows and they will have to go to the Minister. That would be very unfortunate; but when we reach that point we can discuss it further.


What worries me most about this clause is the general tendency in the Bill now for backpedalling. We started off with a White Paper in an endeavour to get a fairly clear division of function as between one local authority and another. It has been whittled down and tightened up, and then we get this, the last thing of all, the Minister's arbitration in the event of dispute. What will happen? If one party is not agreeable and the Minister gives a direction against that party (or that particular authority), it means that the public will suffer in the long run. A provision is made further on that, if it is not working out, either of the authorities may go to the Minister again and say, "We don't like this arrangement. We want you to end it." They will be citing all the failures that have arisen over a period of time where the authority concerned has not perhaps quite carried out its functions as well as it might. None of this will be in the public good; nor is it going to be in the general interest of the service or the people employed in it. It seems to me that this clause requires a good deal more thinking about before we accept it.

5.55 p.m.


I am very glad that all noble Lords who have spoken have laid emphasis on the importance of arriving at freely negotiated agency arrangements wherever possible. This is certainly what we wish to see happen. This machinery has been introduced only to deal with the very exceptional cases where there is lack of agreement. I would not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pargiter, that we have been whittling away these powers. The powers remain exactly as they are. The responsibilities between the counties and the districts remain exactly as they are. If the county makes an agency arrangement, either voluntarily or eventually by a direction of the Secretary of State, then it is still responsible for its agent. The other point, which has perhaps not been duly stressed by those of your Lordships who have spoken in this short debate, is the fact that the Government are going to consult the local authority associations in order to draw up guidance on the circumstances in which agency arrangements might be appropriate. Given this consultation with the local government associations, we shall, I hope, be able to smooth out some of the difficulties.

The noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, really put his finger on the point. There are difficulties, but they will exist, we hope, only in a transitional period. This is a tremendous upheaval in local government. There are a great many authorities, for example the county boroughs, who have been used to running services with big capital investments in them; and we want to try to find some formula which will see us through this transitional period. This is the point of this particular machinery. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, asked me a specific point on refuse disposal and libraries. Of course, these could be the subject of voluntary agency arrangements, but they cannot in any way alter the statutory responsibilities for these functions which are laid down in the Bill.

We are in fact discussing Amendments Nos. 98G and 98H in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Champion. I was a little surprised that, although he did not like the clause in its present limited form, he was in fact by his Amendments seeking to extend it and have a longer period. The answer to him—and this is why I cannot accept his Amendments—is, again, that what we are providing for is a purely transitional arrangement which is limited for a period of five years. His Amendment would extend the uncertainty for a great deal longer than that. The Minister's directions under the new clause have to be given before March 31, 1974, and last a maximum of five years. The Amendments refer to the commencement of the first order of the Secretary of State under Section 51 or Section 58—these being orders made by the Secretary of State as a result of the first report of the Boundary Commissions. These reports of the Boundary Commissions have to be implemented in between 10 and 15 years after reorganisation, and, given that any direction may last a further five years, this could make this kind of machinery, which again is meant to be only transitional, last until 1994, which I do not think would be in the general interests of good local government.

I would also make the point that, although this first review of boundaries will no doubt correct many detailed boundary anomalies, we do not expect it to result in wholesale alterations of the general pattern of authorities. There are most unlikely to be many amalgamations, and we are not likely to see the same kind of widespread repercussions for staff and property which we believe justify the special arrangements of this case. It is a transitional arrangement; it is to take care of special occasions and special circumstances, and it will be the subject of further discussion with the local authority associations, as a result of which guidance will be given on these agency arrangements. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, will not move his Amendments; I cannot advise your Lordships to accept them.


I know this does not affect Wales because the Secretary of State has certain powers, but when you meet the local authorities' national representatives is it intended that a code of conduct for the local authorities should emerge? These agency agreements, frankly, will have all the implications of the old divisional executive and all the problems consequent upon that. But when you meet the local authority associations are they going to lay down specifically a code of conduct under which application shall be made?


As I said when I originally moved this Amendment, it was to draw up guidance on the circumstances in which agency arrangements might be appropriate, and this guidance would cover not only which services might be suitable for agency arrangements but also the extent to which particular functions might be exercised by an agent or authority on behalf of a principal.


The noble Lord the Minister rather twitted me because I said that this was a bad clause and I was setting about trying to amend it. I was merely trying to make a bad clause a little better. That is the function of the Opposition in this House. We get so many bad Bills from the Government and we spend so much time trying to put them right that the Minister seems to me to be throwing cold water on what happens to be the proper function of a good Opposition, which we happen to be.

It is quite clear that the Minister did not completely grasp what my Amendments are about. That must be my fault. However, I do not want to go over the matter again, but I hope that the Minister, between now and Report stage, will read what I have said. I in turn will read what the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, said about my Amendments, and indeed what the Minister himself said, and perhaps will return to these matters when we come to Report stage. In the meantime, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.2 p.m.

VISCOUNT GAGE moved Amendment No. 98F as an Amendment to Amendment No. 98E: Subsection (4), line 2, leave out ("31st March 1974") and insert ("30th November 1973").

The noble Viscount said: I do not think my noble friend dealt very specifically with the point when I asked for a shorter period. I hope that he will do so. I should also like to revert to a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady White, who said that every self-respecting district will apply for these powers. I gather that some sort of guidance will be given which will make everybody's suggestions reasonable. I do not know when such a document is going to be produced, but it will have to be produced fairly soon if we are to avoid a host of applications. I am asking quite a lot of my noble friend, but I hope he will clarify these matters. I beg to move.


I support the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, on this Amendment for the reason that there is some apprehension among members of all the authorities, and particularly the officials. They think that April. 1974, the last date mentioned in the Amendment, is too late and that the substitution of the date suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord Gage—November, 1973—would meet with the approbation and pleasure, not only of members of the council but particularly of the officials. For that reason I support this Amendment.


I deliberately did not refer to this matter because I thought the Amendment had not yet been put before the Committee, but I must say to my noble friend Lord Gage that I have great sympathy with this Amendment. In fact, I fully agree with the thought that underlies it, that decisions on agency arrangements should be made as early as possible. The only point about it is that we believe that in order to retain some flexibility it is preferable that we should set time limits by administrative means rather than by legislative, and this will most certainly be one of the matters that we shall discuss with the local authority associations when we meet them to discuss the guidance to which I referred in dealing with the last Amendment.

The timetable for the whole operation is already very tight, as my noble friend has said. The necessary stages for consideration by the new councils of their administrative arrangements and the discussion with other councils concerned must all be fitted into the period following the election of the non-metropolitan district councils in June; and while it is clear that an informal time limit for the receipt of applications will have to be set, and we certainly take the point that it is desirable that decisions should be made as soon as possible, it is not yet fully clear what time limit there should be. In fact my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffc-Maud, discussed this point about the actual date. Therefore I believe that this is a matter which we should be well advised to leave to the discussions that we are going to have with the local authority associations and to keep in mind a date which we can enforce by administrative means rather than by an Amendment to this Bill.


Before my noble friend sits down, may I ask whether this means that he is back-sliding on April 1, 1974, and that it might be after that date?


Not in the least; I am trying to help my noble friend, and my noble friend Lord Gage, by bringing the date forward. I am merely asking for a little flexibility rather than writing a definite date into the Bill.


I was glad to hear what my noble friend said, but there is one question I should like to ask about the administrative timetable and limitation to which he referred. I imagine that an administrative arrangement would not override the legislative right to appeal, and if the local authority wish to appeal between December 1, 1973 or March 31, 1974, they would have the right to do so.


Will the Minister be a little more specific? When he says that more flexibility is needed, if the date March 31, 1974, is written into the Bill how will it be possible to alter it?


The last possible date on which an appeal can be made under the Bill is March 31, 1974, and there is no intention whatever of altering that date. But in order that these very complicated arrangements can be made in plenty of time for the handover on April 1, 1974, it will obviously be of great benefit if they can be disposed of well before that date. All I am saying is that it is better to achieve this by administrative means and by setting a date by which these appeals have to be received, rather than writing a date into the Bill which might have undesirable consequences and might not give us the flexibility that we need. I must confirm to my noble friend Lord Amory that of course an administrative timetable does not have the same force as a legislative one, but at the same time in the interests of flexibility and of helping to get these agreements sensibly arrived at, it is preferable not to put a date into the Bill to which for one reason or another we might not be able to hold.


We do not get over the difficulty, because we shall have a date in the Bill. It seems to me that if, instead of the dates being stated in the Bill, it is decided after the Minister has had discussions with the local authorities that it should be enacted by order specified by the Minister, a date might then be found which is agreeable to all concerned. It seems to me to be a weakness to put a date into the Bill and then to say, "This is the date but really it does not matter". It seems to me that it would be much better if it were left until after the discussions, for the Minister then to decide a date and to place it before the House under either Affirmative or Negative Resolution procedure.


I suggested that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, appeared to be old soldiering "my Amendment, but I exonerated him. However, I am not at all sure that I am not going to be "old-soldiered" by my noble friend Lord Aberdare. He is to produce a document which will get over the fact that although the date is mentioned in the Bill, it is not the date which the Minister will look upon as the right date. So he is going to produce a document to ensure that a lot of unreasonable applications are not made. I have immense confidence in the probity of my noble friend and on that ground I will withdraw this Amendment, although I have every prospect that we shall hear some more about this issue at a later stage of the Bill. In the meantime, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment to the Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 109 [Subsidiary powers of local authorities]:

6.10 p.m.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 98J:

Page 77, line 4, at end insert: ("(4) In this section "local authority" includes the Common Council.")

The noble Lord said: I suggest that it would be convenient for the Committee to consider at the same time the following Amendments: Nos. 100G, 100DD, 1001–1, 125M, 125P, and 142 and 145 to Schedule 30. The Bill defines "local authorities" in Clause 256(1) as a county council, the Greater London Council, a district council, a London borough council or a parish or community council. Thus, the Common Council of the City of London has to be specifically referred to if it is to have specific powers or duties. The Amendments to the clauses are designed to give the Common Council duties which it would not otherwise possess and the Amendments to Schedule 30 are consequential. Noble Lords will be aware that we are now dealing with Part VII of the Bill and with the miscellaneous powers of local authorities.

The clauses in question are these: Clause 109 makes it clear that the Common Council has power to do anything which is calculated to facilitate or is conclusive or incidental to the discharge of any of its functions; Clause 134 allows the Common Council to incur expenditure for purposes not otherwise authorised—for example, contributions to charities or public appeals, and it does this within certain limits Clause 139 allows the Common Council to provide or assist in providing information relating to local government matters affecting its area, including services provided by the authority, or some other local authority, Government Departments or voluntary organisations; Clause 140 allows the Common Council to subscribe towards an association of local authorities or an association of officers or members of local authorities; Clause 214 allows the Common Council to prosecute or defend in proceedings; Clause 215 allows an officer or member of the Common Council to appear in legal proceedings. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 109, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 110 [Appointment of staff]:

LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 98A:

Page 77, line 15, at end insert— ( ) In the appointment of officers under subsection (1) above a local authority shall so far as is compatible with efficient performance of their functions ensure that preference in making senior appointments is given to officers already employed in the service of a local authority.

The noble Lord said: The subject matter of this Amendment was discussed in the other place on July 17 and it seemed desirable, following that discussion, to invite your Lordships to give the matter further consideration. The reply of the Minister on that occasion has not calmed the fears of a large number of those engaged in local government. Indeed, what the Minister said then about employing the best man for the job irrespective of his background did nothing to allay the anxieties that have been expressed. The Amendment is intended to safeguard the interests of serving officers in local government, people who are in no way to blame for the position of uncertainty and insecurity in which many of them feel themselves to be. Because they are in a position created not by them but forced upon them, they deserve the most sympathetic consideration that can be given both to their present position and to their future prospects.

The forthcoming reorganisation is bound to lead to the massive redeployment of staff. It is also bound to lead to the consideration of the reappointment of existing staffs. It appears to those most intimately concerned that there should be a ban on recruitment from outside the local government service, at least during the period of reorganisation, to safeguard the position of officers already in posts whose future careers in the service could be placed at risk if more senior posts were filled by applicants from outside local government. The Amendment is intended to establish the rule of practice that promotion to senior office will go to serving officers unless it is absolutely necessary to bring in outsiders to maintain or achieve efficiency. This is not just a matter of ensuring that so far as possible the rights of a transferred officer are not allowed to fall below the level of his pre-transfer terms and conditions of employment. It is equally important to avoid hampering his prospects of employment by the importation of fresh blood when the serving officer could already be fully trained for a vacancy.

The Amendment, it may be said, is not drafted in a way which makes it acceptable to the Government. Nevertheless, I hope that the Minister will indicate that in view of the disquiet which exists—I am advised by the National and Local Government Officers' Association that this disquiet is quite widespread; I know from personal contact with individuals in that organisation that such disquiet exists—further thought will be given to this matter by the Government between now and Report with a view to seeing whether a form of words can be found to meet the position. I appreciate that the Amendment probably goes a great deal further than the period of reorganisation. While I accept that, and while I accept that my Amendment may be defective from the drafting point of view, it is tabled to give noble Lords an opportunity to continue the dialogue on this issue. I beg to move.


I am always pleased to continue a dialogue with the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, particularly on a matter concerning the staff because we all want to do our best to see that there is a reasonable handover from one authority to another in respect of the staff. I was glad to hear the noble Lord say that he realises that the Amendment may possibly go too far. In fact, as drafted it would apply for ever, whereas he intends it to apply only to the period of reorganisation under the Bill. I think that the answer to him is that these are matters that fall right into the lap of the staff commissions, particularly in their present form of advisory committees and I can assure him that the two Commissions are already studying this very question.

The Local Government Staff Advisory Committee for England have issued two circulars. In paragraph 9 of the first one they state: One of the most important tasks for the Advisory Committee will be to advise on the procedures for the recruitment of staff by the new councils. It is absolutely essential—for principal officer posts as well as for others—that the rules governing such recruit- ment should be fully considered in advance and should in general apply throughout England. The Committee will consider, inter alia, whether any restriction should be placed on the area of recruitment for particular posts and to what extent, if any, it will be practicable to invite applications for the most senior posts in advance of the first elections so that they are available for immediate consideration by the newly elected councils. They carried this still further in their second circular of August 1, 1972, when they specifically asked all the unions and associations representing staff and employers and individual authorities for their views on the following questions: The Advisory Committee are considering whether restrictions should be placed on the areas of reruitment, i.e. by defining catchment areas' for particular posts and whether it will be practicable to invite applications for the most senior posts in advance of the elections for the new councils. Some of the questions were: Should applications for posts be limited in the first instance to candidates already employed by local authorities in a given 'catchment area'? If so, what should the 'catchment areas' be? … If the 'catchment area' does not produce an acceptable candidate should the next stage be open advertisement or should a wider but still restricted 'catchment area' be tried first? … Should there be exceptions to the answers to the above questions, e.g. in the case of chief executives? I think I can best reassure the noble Lord that the Staff Commissions are very much seized with this problem, that they are considering the whole matter of what restrictions there should be on filling new posts and whether competition should be restricted entirely to serving officers or whether it should be limited to officers serving within a restricted area. Of course, if the commissions recommend any such limitations, the Secretary of State will be able to issue formal directions under Clause 245, subsection (2) requiring authorities to implement the commissions' advice. I hope that that will reassure the noble Lord.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for what he has said. He has spoken with sympathy and clarity. He will appreciate that those with whom I have been in association are aware of what the Staff Commission has said. Perhaps I am not reading too much into what he has said if I say that I thought he seemed to be giving endorsement to the point of view the Staff Commission had expressed on this. Quite clearly the staff organisations would like this written into the Bill and if it is possible to have it so written in then I am quite certain that it would allay any disquiet or any feeling of insecurity that exists.

I have no wish to take up the time of the Committee unduly. I will study very carefully what the noble Lord has said and I will take further advice on the matter with a view possibly to coming back at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.


Before my noble friend sits down, may I mention one post that will be very difficult to fill in the new district councils which are made up from town and rural districts? The senior officer of the rural district does not know much about the running of a town and vice-versa. They also have to run perhaps four or five different councils amalgamated together and for what used to be the clerk of the council one now needs a general manager, or managing director. Whether or not you are going to get a managing director from existing staff I do not know, but I should like the Government to bear this in mind. Otherwise, I support the Amendment.


Amendment proposed: Page 77, line 15, at end insert the words on the Order Paper. The Question is that the Amendment be agreed to.


Is the noble Lord moving this Amendment?


I thought I had made it quite clear that I was withdrawing it. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Nunburnholme for intervening, but I do not think there is any need to follow what he had to say. In point of fact it has been covered by what has already been said.


Leave to withdraw the Amendment had been refused by someone continuing the debate.


May I say that while that is strictly the case, since in the Commons and in most cases where rules of debate are strict that would be the equivalent to a refusal of the House, we in this House are a little more per- missive, if I may say so. Often we are only too glad if somebody seeks leave to withdraw an Amendment.


In view of what has been said, is it your Lordships' pleasure that Amendment No. 98A be withdrawn?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.27 p.m.

LORD CHAMPION moved Amendment No.98B:

Page 77, line 27, at end insert: (" (a) medical officers of health and senior public health inspectors appointed under section 110 of the Local Government Act 1933").

The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment which I very much hope will be accepted by the Government. Under our system of local government the medical officer of health is the centre and pivot of the administrative system of safeguarding the health of the people at the local authority level. To enable him to do this he must of course inform himself of all the influences affecting, or threatening to affect, injuriously the public health of his area. For this he must have not only the qualification of a general practitioner but also a special public health qualification—at least he has up to the coming into operation of this Bill. For, under paragraph 38 subparagraphs (1) and (2) of Schedule 14 we see that the words in the Public Health Act, "medical officer of health", are to be replaced by the words"registered medical practitioner nominated by the local authority for a district". So far as I can see, there is nothing in the Bill about a special public health qualification for the man who is going to undertake this important work of safeguarding the health of a local authority area.

I am bound to say that this is a step backward, for I take it that the term "registered medical practitioner" is the sort of term applied to the G.P. and would not ensure the employment of a practitioner carrying a special qualification, the qualification of the Diploma of Public Health, which, as I understand it, medical officers of health at the present time must have. We see their names printed in the reports, and so on, always followed by their degree and the letters "D.P.H.". Even under the present system of appointment the medical officer of health requires something more than the qualifications of D.P.H., and so on; he needs the strength to stand up to local influences whose interests may well be injuriously affected by the safeguards that he demands, influences which in this imperfect world might have a powerful voice or voices in the council chamber. He must, I emphasise, in the last resort, in the interests of public health, be able to resist pressures of that or indeed of any sort upon him. The strength of his position in relation to both local interests and his council is enormously increased if he knows that he may be dismissed by the local authority only with the consent of the appropriate Minister. There lies his strength; there lies the strength of a man who has an appeal to the Minister in what may well be a very difficult local situation, in which he feels strongly that he is right and that by the things that he has proposed he is safeguarding the health of the locality for which he is responsible.

I do not think that the very fact of this appeal being there, having been there for so many years, affects in any way his first loyalty, which is to the council that employs him. And I do think it is nonsense to suggest, as I see one textbook does, that there is always a tendency for an officer whose ultimate fate may depend upon the central Government to look to the central Government for guidance in the conduct of his work. I do not believe that that causes medical officers of health to do other than responsibly face the tasks that are theirs and be prepared to make the necessary recommendations to the council that employs them. An officer of the standing of the medical officer of health or senior public health inspector would stand up to his local council only in the circumstances in which he felt so right in his judgment and decision that he dares to face the Minister on appeal. Of course, what I have said applies very largely also to the senior public health inspectors. They, too, have in the past had this safeguard. I believe that they should have it in the future. For that reason I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend and myself.

6.33 p.m.


This is an Amendment which was also moved in another place, and I have to give the noble Lord much the same answer as was given there. The basic concept of the Bill is to set up strong, responsible local authorities and in so far as possible remove restrictions from them. That is why the Bill contains various proposals for the abolition of unnecessary statutory requirements and gives, as far as possible, freedom from Ministerial control. We believe that it is desirable to leave to local authorities the maximum freedom to appoint their own staff, and the only exceptions to this general rule are con tained in Clause 110(4). I fully agree with what the noble Lord has said about the importance of the public health responsibilities of local authorities, and I am the first, certainly from my Departmental responsibilities, to know the great value of the work done by medical officers of health and public health inspectors.

But the fact is that the Bill repeals existing statutory requirements on local authorities to appoint town clerks or clerks, treasurers and surveyors. These requirements are not being repealed because the services are unimportant or do not require fully qualified staff, but simply because we do not think it necessary to lay it down that local authorities must appoint them we prefer to leave it to them: we think it unnecessary to put them under a duty to appoint a medical officer or a public health inspector, equally a town clerk or a treasurer, because local authorities are responsible and competent bodies and can be relied upon to appoint the staff they need to help them discharge their functions. The exceptions that we have made, which, as I say, are listed in Clause 110(4), are very special and are exceptional for certain very detailed reasons. Such reasons are that a Minister may share responsibility for the service in the case of chief constables and chief education officers; or it may be a national uniformed and disciplined service, like fire and police; or it may be a new service, like the social services, needing much strengthening and development; or it may be a service that is highly technical and outside the normal scope of local government, such as given by an agricultural analyst; or because the officer in question has functions in his own right, such as the public analyst. But the medical officer of health and the public health inspector do not fall into these special categories, and we believe it right to leave these matters to the discretion of the new local authorities.

If I might put just one more point in passing, of course the reorganisation of the National Health Service and the transfer of the health responsibilities, personal health services, to the new health authorities from the local authorities means that many of the functions of the medical officer of health will in future fall to the new area health authority. These will be discharged by a specialist in community medicine, about whose task a report, the Hunter Report, has recently been issued. Of course we are very anxious to see the closest possible co-operation between the county authority and the area health authority, and there is a Working Party now considering this very matter. We think it would be sensible for the future that for professional medical advice the local authority should look to the area health authority, which will comprise all the doctors and professional staff on the health side. So these are the reasons why we do not think it right to accept the noble Lord's Amendment. I hope he will not press it.


I was almost going to say "before the Minister sits down", but I do not think that is necessary. My noble friend Lord Champion has made a quite powerful case. It does seem to me that the categories of officer of whom we are now speaking are really placed in jeopardy, a jeopardy they had no reason to anticipate, and there is a very strong feeling that there ought to be some statutory protection for them. I really would like to ask the Minister most seriously to consider giving an assurance that existing medical officers of health and public health inspectors will be protected. If he is unable to reply this evening—and I certainly do not wish him to rush the answer; I should be very happy if he took his time in thinking about this—I would plead with him that this is a matter deserving of the utmost sympathy, and from the tone in which he has already spoken I have a feeling that if he would let his heart guide him his head could find a solution.

6.40 p.m.


As Chairman of that Committee on Management in local government with which I bored your Lordships earlier this afternoon, perhaps I might add one word before the Minister says anything further. It is simply this: There we did go very closely into this question of how far central control over local government was something that needed to be relaxed, and all the representatives of all the local authority associations on that Committee were unanimous that it did need relaxing. There were two respects in which we very much hoped that Parliament in due course would do its bit in that relaxation. One was in not telling local government that it must appoint this and that committee, but to leave it to the common sense of elected democratic bodies to organise themselves as they thought best, and secondly, that they would be trusted to appoint honourable, qualified officers to be the indispensable allies of the elected representatives in these bodies. This was from no kind of disrespect for the medical officers, the analysts, the weights and measures officers, the town clerks, the fire brigade officers, or anyone else, but it was from a sense that it was somehow old-fashioned and undemocratic that Parliament should specify them—and, it was also noted, specify in a thoroughly unsystematic way, because although the Minister gave an excellent account of why this heterogeneous collection were there in the Bill, there was not any great philosophical basis for linking the analysts and the surveyors, and leaving out the town clerks and treasurers. In fact, it is largely an historical anomaly.

Therefore, I very much hope that the noble Lords who rightly have sprung to the defence of the medical officers and inspectors as being excellent and indispensable people whose work may in future lie perhaps a little outside local government in the sense in which it has lain within local government in the past, may agree to withdraw the Amendment and ask the Minister to think how otherwise they can be reassured about the feeling that Parliament has that they are invaluable members of the professional class, but that Parliament really would be wrong to tell the new local authorities that they must employ them, and rather that the local authorities should be trusted to employ such people as are qualified and are needed for the work.


I am very grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Garnsworthy and Lord Redcliffe-Maud. The noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, has rather more eloquently and precisely put the point that I was trying to put. So far as the point about which the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, is concerned, I am sure that medical officers of health will find their future in the Health Service when it comes to be reorganised on the same date as local government, if your Lordships pass the requisite Bill when it arrives here. But I am also quite sure that under any National Health Service reorganisation Bill there will be a provision for a Staff Commission just as there is in this Bill, and there will be need for liaison between the two Staff Commissions on personal cases where an officer, such as a medical officer of health, is being transferred to the new Health Service.


May I ask the Minister one question? Does the word "medical" include dental services as well? I ask this in view of the deteriorating condition of children's teeth in Britain.


The medical officer of health has over-all sight of the medical problems, including dental problems, of his authority.


I would agree with what the Minister has said and what the noble Lord. Lord Redeliffe-Maud, has said about the appointment of these people. I would not tell anybody that they must employ a clerk or that they must employ somebody else, but I feel that if you are to appoint medical officers of health, or registered medical practitioners, or whatever they are to be called in the future, you ought to make sure that you appoint properly qualified people. However, I would leave that entirely to the councils. Their dismissal—and it is dismissal against which they have to safeguard in the present legislation—is really the only point of my concern here. The medical officers of health and senior public health inspectors will have no such safeguard as they have at present. The last thing I want to do is to batten on local authorities too many restrictions, and particularly on the people that they employ, but I feel that there is a case for safeguarding certain people against what may very well be arbitrary actions by the council itself, and this can happen. Those of us who have been engaged in local authority work know very well that that sort of situation can arise. In some cases it is fought off within the committee, but in others it may result in an appeal by the officer concerned to the Minister, who has the right to finally determine the matter.

It has been suggested that some further thought may be given to this matter. I understood that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, was a little forthcoming on this. I am sure he recognises the difficulties that are implicit in the renewal of this safeguard for these officers, and I hope that between now and the Report stage it will be possible to give some further thought to it and, I would hope, come up with some Amendment that might be acceptable to me and those who are pressing us in this matter. In the meantime, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.45 p.m.

LORD ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 9817A:

Page 77, line 37, at end insert: ("(e) the chief education officer of the Inner London Education Authority appointed by virtue of section 30(4) of the 1963 Act ")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 98FA. The statutory requirement to appoint a chief education officer under Section 88 of the Education Act 1944 is preserved by Clause 110(4)(b). The chief education officer of the I.L.E.A. is appointed under Section 30(4) of the London Government Act 1963 as well as under Section 88 of the 1944 Act. In order to preserve the requirement to appoint a chief education officer of the I.L.E.A., Section 30(4) of the 1963 Act needs to be included in Clause 110(4), and that is the purpose of this Amendment.


I really cannot understand why we should include this paragraph if we are going to exclude the officers I was talking about, merely because the 1963 Act said there ought to be such an officer. I can see that there ought to be such an officer, but this is entirely contrary to what the noble Lord was telling us, that there ought to be complete freedom for the local authority to appoint the officers they want. Immediately after the noble Lord has told me that, here we are including in this Bill an instruction to the Inner London Education Authority that in the future they shall appoint a chief education officer. The whole thing seems to me to be entirely illogical. It does not follow from point to point, as it ought to do. But I am not going to oppose it in the circumstances.


I cannot let the noble Lord get away with that, because in speaking to the last Amendment I very carefully made the point that there were certain very special exceptions in subsection (4), which included all chief education officers. All we are doing in this Amendment is to add the chief education officer of the I.L.E.A.


Perhaps when we come to Report I shall move to leave out the whole of the people who are mentioned here.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 110, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 111 to 117 agreed to.

Clause 118 [Acquisition of land by agreement by principal councils]:

On Question, Whether Clause 118 shall stand part of the Bill?


Clause 118(1) at the end says: may acquire by agreement any land, whether situated inside or outside their area In the original printing of this Bill Clause 118 was then Clause 119, and if anybody has a copy of the original Bill he will see that on page 73 there were the words: …but if the land concerned is situated outside their area the land may not be acquired for any purpose except with the consent of the Secretary of State. I should have thought that in acquiring land outside their area they should get approval from the Secretary of State. Obviously, I cannot expect a definite answer at such short notice but I should be glad if the Minister would be kind enough to look at that point between now and Report stage.


Yes, certainly. I will let the noble Earl know.

Clause 118 agreed to.

Clause 119 agreed to.

Clause 120 [Appropriation of land by principal councils]:

6.51 p.m.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 98K: Page 83, line 30, leave out from ("shall") to ("in") in line 31 and insert ("be subject to the rights of other persons ").

The noble Earl said: With this Amendment may I ask the Committee to consider Nos. 98X and 98CC? Section 163 of the Local Government Act 1933 provides that any appropriation of land is subject to any convenant or restriction affecting the use of the land, but where compensation is payable under Section 163(2) these rights can be overridden by the execution of works after the appropriation. As Clauses 120(1), 124(3) and 129(1)(a) are at present drafted, there is doubt whether local authorities would have the same power to execute works on appropriated land as they have under the 1933 Act. The Amendments will remove these doubts by substituting wording equivalent to that of the 1933 Act in Clauses 120(1) and 124(3), and by leaving out the words "appropriation or" in Clause 129(1)(a). I beg to move No. 98K.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 98L: Page 84, line 2, at end insert ("and where, by virtue of this subsection, any public trust land is appropriated under subsection (1) above, the land shall, by virtue of the appropriation, be freed from any trust arising solely by reason of its being public trust land ").

The noble Earl said: In moving this Amendment I should like your Lordships also to consider Nos. 98R, 98S, 98T, 98U, 98W, 98Y and 98BB—I feel as if I am playing bingo at this point. These are purely drafting Amendments to put beyond doubt that where public walks or pleasure grounds or public open space is appropriated or disposed of, to the very limited extent allowed under the Bill, the land is freed from any public trust so that it can be used for the purpose for which it is appropriated or disposed of. The object of the provisions for the appropriation or disposal under the Bill of not more than 250 square yards from any particular park or public open space is to enable these small areas to be used for other purposes without the need for the Secretary of State's consent or special Parliamentary procedure. This object could not be realised if the purpose for which the land was appropriated or disposed of could not be carried out because the land was still fettered by its being held in trust for the public. The Amendments remove any doubt about this by declaring that appropriation or disposal under the relevant section frees the land from any trust arising solely from its being held as public trust land (defined as land held as public walks or pleasure grounds or in accordance with Section 10 of the Open Spaces Act 1906). I beg to move Amendment No. 98L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 98M: Page 84, line 3, at the beginning insert ("Except with the consent of the Minister concerned with the function for which the land is held immediately before the date of the proposed appropriation").

The noble Earl said: Again, may I ask your Lordship; to consider with this Amendment Nos. 98N, 98P, 98V, 98Z and 98DD? The purpose of Amendment No. 98M is simply to remove duplication. It is considered inappropriate at the present time, when there is a future prospect of fresh allotments legislation, to detract from the existing allotments provisions. The necessity for Ministerial consent in relation to local Act commons should apply only where the local Act itself requires this. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 98N.

Amendment moved— Page 84, line 4, leave out from ("land") to ("in") in line 10 and insert ("which was acquired not more than ten years before that date").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 98P.

Amendment moved— Page 84, line 16, leave out from ("acquired") to the end of line 18.—(The Earl of Gowrie.)


I should like to ask the Minister how he interprets this Amendment. I gather that its purpose is to leave out paragraph (b) covering land which is held for use as allotments, other than fuel or field garden allotments. Will the Minister confirm that that is what is achieved by this Amendment? If it is, will this increase the possibility of taking away allotments from people who in many towns and country areas still protest to county councils about the appropriation of allotments which they have held for years?


There is no intention to interfere in any way with the provision of allotments. It is simply considered inappropriate at the present time, when we have a future prospect of fresh allotments legislation, to detract from the existing provisions. I think the noble Lord can rest assured on this point.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 98Q. Page 84, line 23, after first ("of") insert ("section 68 of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act 1845 and").

The noble Earl said: I ask your Lordships to consider with this Amendment No. 98AA. The purpose of this Amendment is simply to rectify existing omissions. Although Section 10 of the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965 applies to most enactments under which local authorities acquire land, there is a residue of enactments to which only Section 68 of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act 1845, which makes similar provision, is applicable. The reference to Section 68 therefore needs to be included in this clause, so that compensation is payable under either Section 10 of the 1965 Act or Section 68, whichever is applicable, in the event of a breach of restrictive covenant by the execution of works on land appropriated under the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 98R.

Amendment moved—

Page 84, line 37, at end insert: ("(7) In this section public trust land' means land held as public walks or pleasure grounds or in accordance with section 10 of the Open Spaces Act 1906 (public open spaces),")—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 120, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 121 [Disposal of land by principal councils]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 98S.

Amendment moved— Page 85, line 2, leave out from beginning to ("unless") in line 4 and insert ("public trust land").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


Amendment No. 98T was considered with Amendment No. 98L. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 85, line 13, at end add ("but where any such land is so disposed of the land shall, by virtue of the disposal, be freed from any trust arising solely by reason of its being public trust land").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 98U.

Amendment moved— Page 85, line 19, leave out from ("which") to ("but") in line 20 and insert ("is not public trust land").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


Amendment No. 98V was considered with Amendment No. 98M. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 85, line 21, leave out from ("space") to end of line 27 and insert ("within the meaning of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971; or (b) was acquired not more than ten years before the date of the proposed disposal in the exercise (directly or indirectly) of compulsory powers by a local authority (including, in respect of an acquisition before 1st April. 1974, any existing local authority) and has not subsequently been appropriated by that or any other local authority for any purpose other than that for which it was acquired.") and subsection (6) of section 120 above shall apply for the purposes of paragraph (b) above as it applies for the purposes of subsection (4)(a) of that section")—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


Amendment No. 98W was considered with Amendment No. 98L. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 85, line 37, leave out from ("and") to end of line 39 and insert ("in this section public trust land' has the meaning assigned to it by section 120(7) above").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 121, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 122 and 123 agreed to.

7.0 p.m.

Clause 124 [Appropriation of land by parish and community councils and by parish meetings]:


This Amendment, No. 98X, is also consequential on No. 98K. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 88, line 26, leave out from ("shall") to ("in") in line 27 and insert ("be subject to the rights of other persons").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This Amendment is consequential on No. 98L. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 88, line 44, at end insert ("and where, by virtue of this subsection, any public trust land is appropriated under this section, the land shall, by virtue of the appropriation, be freed from any trust arising solely by reason of its being public trust land").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This Amendment is consequential on No. 98M. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 89. line 3, leave out from ("land") to the end of line 4 and insert ("which was acquired not more than ten years before the date of the proposed appropriation in the exercise (directly or indirectly) of compulsory powers by a local authority (including, in respect of an acquisition before 1st April 1974, any existing local authority) and which has not subsequently been appropriated by that or any other local authority for any purpose other than that for which it was acquired; and subsection (6) of section 120 above shall apply for the purposes of this subsection as it applies for the purposes of subsection (4)(a) of that section").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This Amendment is consequential on No. 98Q. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 89, line 9, after first ("of") insert ("section 68 of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act 1845 and").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This Amendment, too, is consequential on Amendment No. 98L. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 89, line 12, at end insert— (" (7) In this section public trust land' has the meaning assigned to it by section 120(7) above.").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 124, as amended, agreed to.


Amendment No. 98C.

LORD HENLEY moved Amendment No. 98C: After Clause 125 insert the following new clause:

Companies for land assembly

—(1) A principal council may either alone or jointly with any other principal council or any other person form, or take or acquire shares or other secuities in, any company to be incorporated or incorporated in the United Kingdom for the purpose of assembling land for development and for purposes in connection therewith. (2) Where

  1. (a) land is comprised in
    1. (i) a comprehensive development area defined in proposals submitted to the Secretary of State under the provisions of Schedule 5 to the Town and Country Planning Act 1971; or
    2. (ii) an area indicated as an action area in the publicity to be given under subsection (1) of section 8 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 or in a structure plan made available for inspection in accordance with subsection (2) of section 8 of that Act or in any structure plan submitted to or approved by the Secretary of State under that Act; or
    3. (iii) is included in any compulsory purchase order made by a local authority and which requires the authorisation of the Secretary of State under section 112 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971; and
  2. (b) an owner of any interest in any such land has, before the confirmation of any compulsory purchase order for the acquisition of such land, agreed to dispose of such 804 interest, or to grant an option for the disposal of such interest, to a company in respect of which a principal council have exercised the powers of subsection (1) of this section,
the interest of such owner shall not be included in any compulsory purchase order by a principal council and, if the same is already included in a compulsory purchase order made by a principal council, then in respect of such interest the order shall be of no effect.

The noble Lord said: I am not sure whether I should call" House!", or whether I should ask your Lordships' permission to move only one Amendment at a time, but I hope that next time we come to a large number of such Amendments they will be moved together. In fact, the noble Lord who sits in the Chair missed one thing out, and that was to put, Whether Clause 125 shall stand part of the Bill? Perhaps he would like to put that Question now, for the sake of form.

Clause 125 agreed to.


Now it is my turn. I hope that if, at a later stage of our discussions, we have such a very large number of Amendments running consecutively, and all consequential on each other, they may be put together, as has in fact sometimes been our practice; because otherwise I can see us coming back the week after next, which I hope we shall not have to do. This new clause, the rubric of which is "Companies for land assembly ", deals with a new scheme. It is one which is already in operation but which I think will in fact be new to most of your Lordships. It is an arrangement to enable local authorities to enter into a scheme with other local authorities and with landowners to assemble land and to bring that land forward, and the capital required for development, in a logical sequence and an orderly way. The company is formed, and the members of the company assemble the land in that way. They service it with the necessary infrastructure—sewers, and so on—and they dispose of it to developers. What this means is that the land gets into the hands of a developer who will develop it immediately, and not merely put it into a land bank or hold it for speculation.

The first subsection is a general power to form an appropriate company and invest in it. The purpose of subsection (2) is to give landowners an incentive to dispose of their land to such a company, and to make land available quickly. The advantage is that it is a form of public acquisition which could be financed from the private sector. Buckinghamshire County Council have already assembled land in this way, but in fact they have done it under a local Act, which is not ideal. The Act under which they did it was not at all an unusual one. The relevant section in it exists in a number of other local Acts as well. It is in fact the Buckinghamshire County Council Act 1971, Section 6(3). This authorises the county council to take shares in any company with which agreement is entered into under the section. The section is a common form one, as I have already mentioned, which appears in a number of local Acts, and is headed, "Agreement with developers". The Leicestershire County Council, the Somerset County Council, the East Suffolk County Council, the Monmouth County Council and also the Bootle Corporation have similar provisions.

So far as Buckinghamshire is concerned, this scheme has already passed beyond the experimental stage, and there is every reason to think that it will be a success. The Amendment would provide powers for principal councils generally to embark upon this kind of scheme if they wish. It is obviously not the complete answer to the urgent problem of land assembly for development, but it will provide most useful powers for local authorities to take the initiative in providing land for development in agreement with landowners and developers where the circumstances are right. I think it has already attracted the notice of the Department of the Environment, who have in fact had a Working Party on it since November, 1971; and I think that their report, which is not yet available to the public, has been presented to the Minister. It may well be that this is not a suitable new clause for this particular Bill, and the noble Lord who answers for the Government may tell me so. Nevertheless, I hope that he will view it with favour, as I think it is a most useful idea. It is a new one; I think it has considerable force in it; and, modified for other occasions, it may well be a suitable vehicle for doing what we want—namely, for trying to assemble land and develop it quickly. I beg to move.

7.9 p.m.


May I say just a word in support of the new clause moved by the noble Lord, Lord Henley? I have been associated with the Working Party set up by the Department of the Environment, which, as the noble Lord says, has now completed its Report and has made it to the Minister. The Working Party, which consisted of local authorities, private landowners, building interests, developers, and indeed everybody who might be interested in such a scheme, has produced a Report which substantially recommends machinery of this kind as being something that is very useful in the total sphere of development. As the noble Lord, Lord Henley, says, the Working Party has based its experience on the Buckinghamshire model, which has worked out so well in developing the area around Buckingham itself; and such a scheme will succeed in some areas where a sufficient number of local landowners are willing to combine with the local authority in a joint development scheme of this kind. The idea is that this area of land having been put together into a suitable area for development, acquired under the control of this company set up by the local authorities with the relevant owners, will then proceed, having put in the infrastructure, to sell the land under suitable conditions to the developers themselves.

The great advantages of schemes of this kind are, first, that it is going to save the public purse substantially because the valuation at which the land will be put in the first place will probably be substantially below the figure at which it would be acquired in the open market once planning permission has been given; and, secondly, it will avoid what is always objectionable, littering compulsory purchase orders around in order to acquire land and to get development going. It will not work everywhere; it needs a large measure of goodwill. In addition, it needs a powerful and enterprising personality like Mr. Ralph Verney in order to get things going, as he has in Buckinghamshire. It will work in some cases and therefore I hope that my noble friend will be willing to accept the new clause as it stands, or that he will agree to take it away and put something in very much like it. I am afraid that if we miss this opportunity it may be a year or two before another opportunity arises to put it into some other legislation. I hope therefore that my noble friend will be sympathetic to it.


I only want to say that the aim behind Lord Henley's Amendment is an excellent one. I agree with every word that my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford said. This business of making land available is complicated and no possible means towards it should be overlooked. It seems to me that this is one way of encouraging a wider measure of co-operation and therefore it deserves every possible encouragement.


I should like to take this opportunity of supporting Lord Henley's Amendment because I like its spirit. I think that a new departure seems to be wanted. Perhaps it is wisest to pass over the rather violent political history that there has been over the question of land assembly. Perhaps a few words from both the Liberals and the Conservatives together on this subject might help. That is why I particularly welcome the noble Lord's Amendment. I think it could be a slow beginning towards something more sober and sensible. I hope that it will be given adequate emphasis and that it should not be felt that its operation would be so limited as to make it not a particularly important suggestion. I believe it might work more widely than might be imagined. I appreciate what my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford has said about willingness being necessary; nevertheless, I think that to some extent the vendors will in fact be more or less condemned to agree and that therefore it may function rather better on future occasions than perhaps is imagined. I do not think there is much more to say at this juncture. I could go into considerable detail about Buckinghamshire but I think that is something which is well known to Her Majesty's Government through the Working Party that has been sitting. Therefore I will not say more about that at this stage; but I should like very much to commend this or some suggestion on these lines as being something that is worth while.


May I say a word in support of Lord Henley's Amend- ment and particularly perhaps on subsection (1), the comprehensive development area. My experience of this procedure leads me to wish that the noble Lord could have moved such an Amendment some ten years ago. It would have been very valuable to the authority on which I sit. I would make two small criticisms. I wonder if this is not really a procedure better embodied in the Finance Bill which, I understand, we shall have shortly; and, secondly, I wonder whether the noble Lord realises that he is sewing the seeds of nationalising building land. He may not imagine so but this is what he is doing. With those caveats I welcome the Amendment.

7.15 p.m.


I am grateful to noble Lords—a formidable array of them on this particular Amendment—for explaining to the Committee that in the present situation general legislation does not empower local authorities to take shares in or controlling interests in companies although they are the effect of local Acts. Lord Henley gave us the instance of Buckinghamshire. The noble Lords, Lord Nugent and Lord Henley, both referred to the Working Party on local authority private enterprise partnership schemes. It is public knowledge that this was set up last year to report en the possibility of partnership between local authorities and private enterprise in assembling land and securing its development for private residential and ancillary purposes in the South-East. As Lord Nugent said, although the Report has not yet been made public, in fact it will contain some form of recommendation on enabling legislation of this sort.

It strikes me that one advantage of the noble Lord's first objective in this Amendment—because the Amendment has two objectives—is that the power he seeks would allow private enterprise to be associated with local authorities at the initial stage of assembling land for comprehensive development. It would also be of benefit to the local authorities by giving them adequate control over the timing and the quality of development, as well as scope for raising private capital and securing a share of the equity. My noble friend Lord Ridley was thinking of these things and others when he spoke in support of the Amendment. One other advantage of such a company would be to enable it to raise money from private sources on a profit-sharing basis, as against a loan at a fixed rate of interest.

Having said that, and bearing in mind the widespread support by those noble Lords who are experts in this field, I have to point out that provision on these lines raises important issues in respect of company law which arises particularly from the participation of public interests in joint enterprises with private interests. This inevitably necessitates adequate attention to the safeguarding of local government interests—in other words, the public interest. It may be that the relevant issues cannot be adequately explored, as the Committee have divined, even before the Report stage of the Bill. In all fairness, this is an issue which, as I understand it, is not covered by company law in general at the moment and there may be problems—so I am advised—which will need looking into and cannot be done in the time.

What I am putting to your Lordships is this. The Committee, and certainly I, have been most interested in listening to what has been said on this Amendment. I would put it to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, that the Government agree to consider the principle of the Amendment at the earliest possible legislative opportunity. I would ask the noble Lord to look on this as a reasonable undertaking because the most sensible course is to make the power available to the new authorities when they assume their full functions which will not be until April 1, 1974.

I would ask your Lordships to bear with me for one moment more. It seems to me hat the Amendment has a second objective. The terms of the second part of the noble Lord's Amendment would make the exercise of compulsory purchase powers by a local authority contingent on the disposal of relevant land to another body even though that other body would be one in which the authority would have an interest. The operation of such a provision, I suggest, might have unfortunate consequences. For instance, the price would not then be subject to the district valuer's valuation. I simply say this for myself. I do not know at this moment what effect this will have on public accountability in the use of public money. I was not sure whether my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton had in mind the fact that the proposed subsection could set the stage for a local authority making a C.P.O. and so effecting a sale to a joint company, either intentionally or unintentionally.


I hesitate to interrupt my noble friend, but there is one thing that I want to make clear. In the case of Buckingham the control of the company was definitely in the hands of the county council. I think that may be relevant.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for that information. Again it is a factor which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State would like to take into account in looking at the result of the debate. I must say that this was not clear to me from what the noble Lord said.

For these reasons, and still bearing in mind what my noble friend has just said, I think it fair to claim that it is not easy to forecast the exact effects of the noble Lord's Amendment; and bearing in mind my reply to the first objective of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, I hope that he may agree that it would be premature to try to press the matter to a conclusion at this stage and that he will read carefully the undertaking which I gave earlier.


Before the noble Lord, Lord Henley, replies to the debate, if he wishes to do so, I should like to say that we have listened with intense interest to the debate on this clause. The noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, mentioned what in our eyes would be a very much simpler method of dealing with all of this—the public ownership of the development land. Then we should not have to worry about company law or anything else.


I apologise for putting ideas into the head of the noble Baroness.


I can assure the noble Viscount that they have been there for a long time.


Of course I would not dream of pressing this matter to a Division. I accept wholly that it would be premature to do so. It is still in the experimental stage, though I think that in a small way in Buckinghamshire it has gone beyond that experimental stage. I think this is one reason why the Department has been so interested in it. I accept the offer of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, to look into this and to consider the principle at the earliest possible moment. I can see that it is bound up with company law, but this disturbs me a little because the whole issue of company law is something which will not be decided overnight; it is very complex. The whole of it requires very careful re-examination and one fears that a little scheme like this might come at the very end. Nevertheless, I think that the Government have shown a very close interest and I am sure that something will come out of it.

There is one small point, which the noble Lord raised, and to which I would refer the question of public accountability if the scheme does not go through the hands of the district valuer. I wonder whether that really matters. We have cases where bargains have been struck. I can think of the position in respect of Clwedog reservoir in one of the Liverpool local Acts. I can think of these local Acts, including Buckinghamshire where an agreement has been reached; where the local authority has struck a bargain with a private owner, to the great advantage of all concerned, including the public. I do not think that this upsets public accountability in any way. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, wishes to say something on that point.


Before the noble Lord, Lord Henley, asks leave to withdraw his Amendment, which I suspect that he proposes to do, may I put this point to my noble friend Lord Belstead who gave such a helpful and charming reply? There are two or three local Acts which already include powers similar to this, so that this cannot have come as a complete novelty to the Department of the Environment. They must be familiar with this and have looked at it pretty carefully before they allowed it to get into these Private Acts. So I hope that my noble friend Lord Belstead will secure some fairly quick response from the Department of the Environment. It looks to me as if the civil servant who wrote the brief on this Amendment was not one who has been dealing with the Working Party because the philosophy of approach has been slightly different. With that slight incentive to my noble friend to appreciate that we expect something to come out of this by Report stage, I join with anything that the noble Lord, Lord Henley wishes to do.


I must not mislead the Committee, and least of all my noble friend. I think that I did use the words, "at the earliest possible legislative opportunity", and I used those words advisedly. I do not think it will be possible—although everyone is open to persuasion—as I am at present advised for the Government to do anything in time for the Report stage of this Bill. As I understand the matter, one of the chief reasons is because of the effect of company law on this. If your Lordships are not satisfied with that you must say so; you must take a view now. I must not mislead you. This is the stance I have to take on this point. Although, of course, we shall look at it again very carefully, having heard the debate, at the moment that is still what I have to say.


This is the Committee stage, so that there is no limit to the number of times that I may put a point to my noble friend, so may I follow that up by asking him to deal specifically with this point? If this has unacceptable implications in company law, in terms of public accountability of the local authorities concerned, will my noble friend explain how it has been allowed to appear in at any rate three Private Acts?


That is a very fair question, but I am afraid that I cannot answer it. It seems to the Government that to have it in a Private Act is a different matter from putting it into a Government Bill of this sort. I shall be very happy, if the noble Lord will allow me to reply again at Report stage on this matter so that I shall not slip the point. I think that for the moment I must leave the matter there, and if your Lordships think that my reply is still unsatisfactory I must leave it to you to take a view.


I think it is unsatisfactory to this extent, that this is quite a small matter but it enables local authorities if they so wish to enter into such a scheme. If they can already enter into such a scheme under legislation that exists in certain Private Acts there cannot be very much wrong with it with regard to company law. So I should be very glad of an answer on that point at Report stage. I think that it is worth persevering with this and not holding it until the whole of company law is looked at. If the noble Lord will give me an undertaking to answer on Report stage some of the questions which have emerged in this debate I am willing to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment now.


I will certainly do that. May I remind the Committee, in fairness to myself, that it was not only a matter of the point about company law? I did make some other points which I thought were relevant to do with public accountability. At the moment I am not satisfied, without further advice, that these points have been covered.


I think the answer is that the matter is still very much in its infancy. But let us not strangle the infant at birth, but rather try to make it grow as fast as we can. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 126 to 128 agreed to.

Clause 129 [Savings]:


These Amendments are consequential on those to Clause 120 which I have already mentioned on behalf of my noble friend, specifically, Amendments Nos. 98K and 98M.

I beg to move Amendment No. 98CC.

Amendment moved— Page 91, line 21, leave out ("appropriation or").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 98DD.

Amendment moved—

Page 91, line 41, at end insert— ("(g) section 28 of the Land Settlement (Facilities) Act 1919").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question Amendment agreed to.

Clause 129, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 130 to 133 agreed to.

Clause 134 [Power of local authorities to incur expenditure for certain purposes not otherwise authorised]:

7.30 p.m.

THE EARL OF CRANBROOK moved Amendment No. 99: Page 94, line 36, at beginning insert ("Except as provided in subsection (3A) below").

The noble Earl said: In moving this Amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Davidson and myself, I would ask your Lordships to consider with it Amendment No. 100 on page 9 of the Marshalled List. We have already discussed agency arrangements this afternoon under Clause 100. This Amendment is concerned with agency arrangements and not in any way with Amendment No. 99A, in the name of my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, which raises an entirely different problem; namely, the amount of money which a local authority can spend on exercising functions which otherwise might be ultra vires.

I was led to put down this Amendment by my experience as chairman of a Regional Hospital Board, which I suppose is a good example of a principal authority, and my noble friend Lord Davidson joined me in it from his equally long experience as a member of a hospital management committee, which is exactly typical of the agent. As I see it, the relationships between the principal and the agent are that the agent prepares a budget which the principal approves, and, approval having been given, the agent is left to carry on the work with no further interference, subject of course to there being no transfer between subheads.

Approval may be straightforward, but it may include adding to the budget provision for something or other which the principal authority thinks more important than the agent has thought; and it can equally include cutting out of the budget produced by the agent something which the agent thinks is more important than the principal does. In general, the agent will be more than satisfied with the first. If he is keen on his work, if the principal adds something to his budget which is likely to improve the service that he is carrying out on behalf of his principal, he will naturally welcome any increase which the principal suggests. It is the latter case, when the principal cuts out of the budget something which the agent is only too anxious to do that can lead to friction.

I can recollect that when I was chairman of a Hospital Board there were a number of hospital management committees in the area of the Board which had fairly substantial investments of their own. They had been left to hospitals by generous benefactors in the past. It happened not infrequently that when the Regional Board was unable to extract from the Minister enough money to, let us say, build a new maternity wing—and I can recollect that that was a particular incident—the hospital concerned had considerable investments and was able to come back and say: "O.K. May we do it ourselves; and will you provide the annual maintenance thereafter?" The Regional Board and the Minister were happy to accept that, and everybody was satisfied. But when an agent had no money to call upon in that way, there was always the risk of considerable friction and great disappointment.

Of course, the example that I have given of setting up a new building which was going to involve the principal in recurrent annual expenditure would normally be an exceptional case. In general, I assume that very likely the principal would not welcome it or sanction it: and your Lordships will see that under Amendment No. 100, on the next page, the whole matter is contingent upon the approval of the principal authority. I am hoping that quite a number of agency arrangements will be made, because I believe that the planning over a wide area and the day-to-day administration of the same service over a narrower one is probably the best way of running a great many of the services for which we are going to be responsible. If that is going to be done, then I believe that this sort of thing will grease the wheels and make the whole thing work much better.

I should like to stress that this is not a question of the normal halfpenny money which we are all used to, but is something quite separate and distinct: it is something that springs from agency arrangements, and only from agency arrangements, and the expenditure must be within the functions for which the authority is acting as agent. It is not an extension, as my noble friend Lord Brooke is suggesting, but is quite separate and distinct. I hope that the Government will feel that this is a useful suggestion. I am convinced from my own experience that it is an admirable one. I beg to move.


I wonder whether I might come in at this stage, first of all to thank my noble friends Lord Cranbrook and Lord Davidson for giving us an opportunity to debate this matter; also to thank my noble friend Lord Brooke and the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, for their Amendments, and to suggest to all four noble Lords that we might widen the discussion to include all four Amendments to this clause, and perhaps even Lord Brooke's Amendment 100C, a new clause to come in after Clause 144, because what I want to say will cover all these aspects. It all conies under the general power of local authorities to spend money for the benefit of their area and its inhabitants.

In this Bill we are making two improvements to this power. First, local authorities will in future use this power should they wish to contribute to the expenditure of local bodies or voluntary societies, instead of having to obtain Ministerial consent to contributions of this kind as they are required to do at present. Secondly, the Bill makes no distinction between parishes and communities, on the one hand, and other types of authority on the other. The existing powers of the 1963 Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act allow parishes to spend only one-fifth of an old pre-decimal penny under this general power. While the newly drafted clause contains a power to the Secretary of State to modify the financial limit (I will come to that in a minute) we have abandoned the approach which says that parish and community councils should automatically have a much tighter restriction applied in their case. In fact, we argue the opposite way, that they should have more latitude, because in many cases they have made a most imaginative use of this general power and have new statutory duties.

It is for that reason that we have sympathy with the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Brooke, No. 99A, that the amount prescribed in the Bill should be increased. However, we think the increase that my noble friend is proposing is a bit steep, and I should like to say straight away that if he were to substitute for 3p an increase to 2p, and to do it by means of a manuscript Amendment, that would be an Amendment that I could accept at this stage, subject to conditions and provisos which I will come to now. We think that an increase to 2p, which would amount to a tenfold increase in the power available to parishes, is a large enough step to take in the first instance.

This debate, if it is agreeable to the Committee to widen it in the way I have suggested, raises a number of matters to which we wish to give further consideration between now and the Report stage, and that raised by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook is one. The clause now includes contributions by local authorities to voluntary bodies of various kinds for carrying out activities of benefit in their area. In some instances such bodies are involved in assisting or promoting activities which are associated with the statutory functions of local authorities. These functions may be the responsibility of the contributing authority or of a local authority at a different level. I think we shall have to give careful further consideration as to whether there is any danger of such contributions in effect permitting one local authority to operate, as it were, vicariously a service which is statutorily the responsibility of some other authority. That would lead to confusion and ambiguity.

Then there is the point raised by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook. His proposal was that the local authority should be entitled, where it is acting as the agent for a principal authority, to spend some of its own money on the service which it is thus exercising. He further wished to ensure that any such expenditure would be outside the limit imposed by the general spending power. The essential argument against this proposal is that Clause 100 deliberately and clearly places the whole responsibility for a service on the principal authority, even though the function may be exercised through an agent authority. It is the principal who is responsible for policy decisions and for raising the necessary money, either by way of rate or borrowing. It would introduce a completely new element into the situation if the agent authority were also given power to borrow money or to raise the rate. With respect, I do not think this is sufficiently guarded against by the requirement that the principal authority should be required to give its consent to any such expenditure.

On the other hand, there might be a case—and this is what we shall have to consider—for permitting a limited contribution under Clause 134 so as to permit one authority, within the financial limits set by Clause 134, to give a strictly limited contribution to another authority exercising functions within the area in order to ensure that a particular local objective was achieved. On this basis, the Government would be willing to consider the extension of Clause 134 to permit a controlled contribution from one local authority to another within the financial limit. I am not committing the Government one way or another, but it is certainly a matter that we should be willing to consider in the light of the debate we are having on these two clauses.

Thirdly (and I think the Committee will agree that this is all much in the same area) we shall have to consider the operation of Clause 134 in the light of the later Amendment, Amendment No. 100C, to Clause 144, standing in the names of my noble friend Lord Brooke and the noble Lord, Lord Royle. This, as the Committee will realise, relates to the expenditure on concurrent functions. Here again, the contributions between one authority and another may be relevant to the final wording of Clause 134. I thought it would be helpful to set forward these two points: the matters about which the Government are prepared to agree at this stage and the matters about which we do not feel we can take a final view or express our final opinion to your Lordships until the next stage. I now look forward very greatly to hearing the views of other noble Lords on these points.

7.44 p.m.


I am delighted to hear from my noble friend that the Government are sympathetic to the idea contained in my Amendment for increasing what has been known in local government circles as the "free penny" This "free penny" springs from the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act of 1963, and in particular Section 6 which this Bill will repeal. The penny referred to became on decimalisation 4p, and the Bill proposes to round it up to a halfpenny. I did not think that was really enough.

One reason for my saying that is because the 1963 Act provides that a local authority cannot use Section 6 of that Act for expenditure on any purpose which it is authorised or required by some other enactment to fulfil. An effect of this Bill will be to remove from the law specific authority for local authorities to spend money on certain purposes, so that if local authorities want to continue to support those services or purposes they will have to rely on the "free penny" in future. That will put further pressure on the penny limit. I see the noble Baroness, Lady White, is in her place; and I think she and I can both think of a case in Wales which might be adversely affected if the Government were unwilling to help.

It seems to me entirely in accord with the principle of freedom for local authorities which the Government have claimed as one of the motives behind this Bill, to increase the financial discretion which local authorities should be allowed to exercise here. I put in my Amendment "3p". I confess that was a "spot" figure, and I should be hard put to it to prove that 3p was right and that 2½p, 2p, 3½p or 4p was wrong. I am very pleased indeed that the Government have in principle accepted my purpose; and when the time comes I shall act on the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Sandford and, with the leave of the Committee, move a manuscript Amendment to alter the figure of ½p to 2p.

As I am on my feet, perhaps I may speak to my new clause, which my noble friend, rather unexpectedly to me, proposed to include in this debate—that is, the new clause after Clause 144. I should like to explain why I felt it right to raise this matter. I accepted my noble friend's suggestion that consideration should be given to that proposed new clause in relation to Clause 134, because these all hang together. The principal reason why I wished to move the later new clause after Clause 144 was that it seemed to me that the existing arrangements in the Bill were not altogether satisfactory when there were two councils—a county council and a district council—authorised by the Bill to exercise concurrent powers.

Perhaps I may briefly illustrate that by an example. Suppose we have at one end of a county a place where the local authority has spent a good deal of money providing a big new sports centre. That, of course, will be for the benefit not only of the town itself but also all the neighbourhood. The expense will continue to fall on what will now be the district council. Then, from the concurrent powers emerging from this Bill, the county council, noting that one end of the county is well served and that the other end is badly served, may reasonably think fit to seek to establish a comparable sports centre at the end which has none at present.

If I read correctly the financial provisions of this Bill, they will mean that the inhabitants of the district which already has a sports centre will have to pay twice. They will have to meet their existing obligations on the sports centre which they have already provided, and which they will all be enjoying, and they will also have to contribute to the county rate for a new sports centre at the other end of the county, from which incidentally they will gain no personal benefit. This seems to me a matter which ought to be cleared up, and my Amendment is designed to empower the county council and the district council concerned to arrive at a mutually satisfactory financial arrangement tailored to the particular requirements of the case. Whether it should be done in that way or in some other, better, way which the Government can think of, I do not know; I do not greatly mind. But I hope my noble friend will accept that there is a genuine problem here, and that further thought should be given to it. Meanwhile, when we have disposed of the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, I will seek leave to move a manuscript Amendment to alter ½p to 2p.

7.50 p.m.


I know of no standing Order that prevents the Lord in the Chair from saying a word on an Amendment. At this stage I am not going to inflict the impassioned speech that I had prepared in favour of the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, but will join with him in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, in accepting 2p instead of 3p.


May I deliver the impassioned speech that the noble Lord, Lord Royle, feels unable to make? This proposal to increase the ½p to 2p is absolutely in line with the principles and aims of this Bill to give wider responsibility and greater discretion to local authorities, and I cordially support it. There is one more pragmatic reason why I support it, and that is that I fear that if inflation continues any further the subdivision of 1p will be regarded with some derision as a practical unit for matters of this kind. I cordially support the Amendment.


I do not wish in any way to diminish the general welcome which has been given to the announcement made by the noble Lord. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, that it is a little confusing to have taken the Clause 144 Amendment with this other Amendment. For example, my noble friend Lady Phillips has a manuscript Amendment to Clause 144, and we are now a little out of gear.


The fact that I suggested to the Committee that we should bring Clause 144 into the discussion does not preclude a discussion on some other aspect of it when we come to that clause.


I fully appreciate that the rights of my noble friend are fully preserved. I was suggesting that it might have been easier if we had taken the 2p as one thing and the rest of these Amendments as something slightly different. I wish to say a word of general welcome to the agreement by the Government forthwith in this Bill to increase the amount which will be available far so-called free spending. I could never understand why it was not done in the earlier stages, but we all welcome it now.

As the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, implied, we in Wales are particularly concerned about the situation in Mid-Wales where the present counties of Brecon, Radnorshire, Montgomeryshire, Merioneth and Cardiganshire have combined together to finance the Mid-Wales Development Association under the pro- visions of Section 136 of the Local Government Act 1948, as amended by the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act 1963, both of which Statutes will be eliminated by this Bill. They were doing so under the provision which allowed them, with the consent of the Minister, to contribute towards the expenditure of any body carrying on activities for the purpose of furthering the development of trade, industry or commerce within the area of the authority. Each of the authorities which I mentioned will in future become a district council only. They were very much concerned because, whereas the county of Powys will undoubtedly wish to continue the present arrangements, there may be some difficulty so far as Cardiganshire is concerned, because this will be going into the new county of Dyfed, and Merioneth will be going into the new county of Gwynedd. The rest of the counties might not feel quite so strongly about the fortunes of Mid-Wales as the present counties do. Therefore certain freedom for the districts is very important in this context.

Had the limit remained at ½p, as proposed in the Bill, the situation would have been extremely difficult because at the moment each council is paying £2,000, which does not sound very much but for a small authority is quite large. That sum is not sufficient to meet the expenses and is likely to go up. To illustrate how serious this was, Radnorshire—the poorest of them all—could raise altogether slightly under £3,000 by means of a ½p rate. If they had been allowed only the rate as it stood in the Bill, they would have had very little change once they supported the Mid-Wales Development Authority for all the other things that they might wish to do. This is particularly important in Wales because we have the Welsh church funds, which are invaluable for free spending of one kind or another; but these will go to the new counties and will no longer be at the disposition of the present counties which will become districts. I am sure the noble Lord will understand that there has been great heartburning in Mid-Wales about this matter and how relieved the authorities I have mentioned will be to know that, if they so desire, they will be in a position in the future to support the Mid-Wales Development Authority and to be able to do so within the limits proposed. I do not want to weary the Committee further but, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, knows, this is a matter of considerable importance in this area where depopulation is the greatest social problem that we face. I am very glad indeed that the people in Mid-Wales will now be able to continue their efforts.


I do not want to complain about the charming way in which the noble Lord has drawn the red herring of Lord Brooke's Amendment in front of mine and dragged it all around the Committee. The hounds on both sides have bayed happily after it for the past five minutes and have left my Amendment entirely alone. I say that without ill-feeling, but hoping to correct the noble Lord who sits on the Front Bench and make quite certain that his advisers have a further look at my Amendment. Although I accept entirely what he said, that the principal is responsible for the provision of a service, and for the provision of all the necessary finances to enable the agent to carry it out properly, there will be places where an agent in one part of a county may take the view that in his own area something is wanted which is not wanted in another. The Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, whether it is 1p, 2p, 3p or 25p, could be exceedingly dangerous if it was thought that that applied to functions which are being carried out on an agency basis. The very essence of my Amendment is that money can be spent by the agent only with the permission of the principal. That is essential in order that the agent does not involve the principal in recurrent annual expenditure without his permission.

As the noble Lord has said that he will look at the Amendment again, I will ask leave to withdraw it. But I hope that the noble Lord realises that the ½p or 3p does not affect the relationship between the principal and agent in agency arrangements. There will have to be some provision, such as I have suggested in the Amendment, for the permission of the principal having to be given before the agent can spend any money.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.0 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 99A: Page 94, line 38, leave out ("½p") and insert ("3p").


I take it that instead of moving Amendment No. 99A on the Marshalled List the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, will now move his manuscript Amendment.


I beg to move a manuscript Amendment: Page 94, line 38, leave out ("½p") and insert ("2p"). I trust that my noble friend Lord Cranbrook will acquit me of any guilt for drawing red herrings across the path. Indeed, I have found the proceedings in the last few minutes as confusing as he has, and it is extremely difficult to follow where the scent lies.

I should also like to add that I am grateful to my noble friend for drawing the attention of your Lordships to the fact that these increases will apply also to parish councils. As a parish councillor myself I particularly welcome that. Parish councils in the past have enjoyed only what is known as the "free fifth" of an old penny, whereas in future parish councils will have discretion, if this Amendment is carried, up to 2p. That will be very greatly appreciated by the National Association of Parish Councils and by all other people concerned in this important village work.


May I say briefly that what has been happening over the last few minutes may have been confusing the cleverer and more experienced members of the House, but to me it has been delightful because, apart from anything else, it has meant that a proposal that was made by that poor old management committee on local government, which you might say had nothing to do with things of this kind, and the Royal Commission, which has hardly been referred to, both felt very strongly that this one-fifth of a penny for the parish was an insult and ridiculous. One should not have to mention the word at a moment like this or in a place like this, but the word "inflation" was the one we allowed ourselves to mention when discussing this question between 1964 and 1967 and also in the Royal Commission. It seemed that what Parliament had done in 1963 in calculating this one-fifth of a penny ought to be modified.

If Parliament thought that they knew better than the parishes in 1963 they might wish either to have the same amount or, if they deliberately wanted the parish to have less, then they ought to say so. We thought that there was something to be said for no limit whatever. In many countries in the world which indulge in local government and have a tradition not quite so limited by the British version of ultra vires, it would not have occurred to anyone that we would need to have an argument about whether it was 3p, 2p, a penny, new style or old style, decimalisation and all the rest. I personally think the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has been absolutely right to move his manuscript Amendment in line with what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said would be acceptable, and I am particularly pleased that it has come to this point because, in all seriousness, I think the parishes have shown how much can be done even with the one-fifth of a penny, in stocking streams with trout and doing much more imaginative things than what they are normally thought only to be interested in—municipal lavatories and things of that kind. I believe it will be of great encouragement to all local authorities to be liberated in this way. We in the Royal Commission thought so.

Finally, I think your Lordships will be pleased to note that I do not think there is any intention to amend the rest of the clause which leaves the Secretary of State with a freedom which I suspected he had bought in exchange for keeping this miserable ½p in the Bill, and that there has been some wrangle because he cannot have accepted ½p readily. It is not for me to say how it happened, but possibly the Chancellor of the Exchequer or someone interested in finance said, "We will include in this Bill a clause that the Secretary of State can have an order and if it is not annulled it can be put up."Now we are in the splendid position of having quadrupled the ½p and allowed the Secretary of State to raise the amount. There is also a word which suggests that it could be lowered. Perhaps the Government can assure the Committee that that is not the intention of the present Government.


I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, on that ground. I am sorry if there has been any confusion in discussing so many topics all together. I am consoled by the fact that if this has confused some members of the Committee, it has at least delighted the Chairman of the Royal Commission, and I give the assurance to the Committee that the Government will redouble their efforts so that at the next stage delight will be shared all round.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 100G:

Page 95, line 14, at end insert— ("(8) In this section "local authority" includes the Common Council.").

The noble Lord said: With this Amendment it may be convenient to discuss Amendments Nos. 100H, to Clause 140, 125N, to Clause 214, 125P, to Clause 215, and 142 and 145 to Schedule 30. These are scarcely more than drafting Amendments and they are all for the benefit of the Common Council of the City of London. I beg to move No. 100G.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 134, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 135 [Powers of principal councils with respect to emergencies or disasters]:

On Question, Whether Clause 135 shall be agreed to?


On the top of page 96, under subsection (3)(b) reference is made to "the Land Drainage Act 1961 (measures against flooding)". I wonder whether reference should also be made to river authorities under the Water Resources Act 1963. River authorities are mentioned in this Bill on page 122 in Clause 172(1)(b). I ask this as a question and perhaps my noble friend the Minister will look into it some time between now and Report.


Yes, certainly.

Clause 135 agreed to.

Clause 136 agreed to.

Clause 137 [Insurance by local authorities against accidents to members]:

8.10 p.m.

LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 100B: Page 97, line 5, after ("member") insert ("or officer").

The noble Lord said: Clause 137 authorises a local authority to take out insurance against accidents to members of the authority, but makes no reference at all to officers. It seems desirable that it should be made clear beyond question that local authorities enjoy the power to cover officers as well as members. The matter was raised in the other place by way of an Amendment in similar terms to that which I now move, but it was withdrawn following an assurance by the Government spokesman, Mr. Speed. Perhaps it would be as well if I read here what he is reported, in column 296 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the other place for July 17, 1972, to have said: … power to provide allowances to authorities' members of staff, injured, or who die, in the course of their duties, have been granted by Section 7 of the Superannuation Act, 1972. Regulations under that Section will be made later this year—I cannot say exactly when, but not too far ahead—to confer powers on local authorities to pay such allowances. The means by which they do so will be a matter for them. It will be open to an authority to provide allowances through insurance if it wishes. That will meet the point the hon. Gentleman has in mind.

On the basis of that assurance, the Amendment was withdrawn.

I am unaware that any proposals about the provisions of the regulations that are to be made have been issued, but proposals for similar regulations have been issued for comment in regard to the National Health Service. I wonder whether it is reasonable, or unreasonable, to assume that the local government proposals when they come will follow similar lines. Because I should like to draw attention to the fact that the National Health Service proposals are limited in their scope. I do not want to weary the Committee by detailing the major limitations, but may I make just one or two points in that connection. Scales of benefits are related to the degree of impairment of earning capacity; there is to be a system of minimum income guarantees which would limit the allow- ance to be paid, and there are a number of quite important limitations. There is concern among those in the service of local government that they are likely to be called upon to accept similar proposals. The benefits for members of authorities are quite clearly unlimited in so far as local authorities are able to insure against accidents. It is felt that those local authorities ought to be able to cover their employees, their officers, as generously and with as little limitation as applies in the case of members.

What is proposed is no novelty. There is very good precedent for my Amendment in Section 75 of the Local Government Act 1963, which enables the Greater London Council, the Common Council and the London boroughs to pay compensation, unlimited as to amount, to officers injured in the course of their employment. And a number of other local authorities, notably I think Coventry, already operate insurance schemes for the benefit of their officers. At least officers working for authorities such as Coventry ought to have some assurance that the benefit of these schemes should be retained after reorganisation so far as they are concerned. But I am making a plea with regard to officers working for all authorities in the sense that their authorities ought to be able to insure them as fully and completely as they are able to do under Clause 137 for members. It seems to me a matter of fairly simple justice, and the acceptance of my Amendment would put the matter beyond doubt.

8.17 p.m.


We can all sympathise, and indeed share, the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, that officers be properly covered during the course of their duties. If I am less welcoming than I could be to his Amendment it is for two reasons. The first is that we feel it is unnecessary: officers are sufficiently covered; and the second is that he has really made my speech for me by quoting from my honourable friend, Mr. Speed, in his statement in another place. I do not feel I can do much more than to repeat the assurances which Mr. Speed gave and which the noble Lord repeated very clearly to us this evening. I cannot say "off the cuff" whether local government proposals in this respect will follow along the lines of the National Health Service, but that is something I could take advice upon and let the noble Lord know.


It would be churlish of me to say anything other than that I welcome the assurance that the noble Earl will let me have information as to whether the local government proposals are likely to be similar. May I say right away that if they are going to be similar they will give no satisfaction on this point. So I sincerely hope that if they follow the lines of the National Health Service proposals the Government will not be surprised if the matter is pursued on Report stage; because I want to emphasise that there is a very strong feeling that the proposals for the National Health Service are not good enough for the whole field of local government. What those in the National Health Service feel about it is one thing, and I am not speaking on their behalf this evening, but I think I can say that those for whom I speak—those in local government—will be looking for something in advance of that. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 137 agreed to.

Clause 138 agreed to.

Clause 139 [Provision of information, etc, relating to matters affecting local governments]:

8.20 p.m.


I beg to move Amendment No. 100DD.

Amendment moved— Page 98, line 15, leave out ("subsection (1) above") and insert ("this section local authority' includes the Common Council and").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 139, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 140 [Subscriptions to local government associations]:


This was an Amendment to which I spoke when I was speaking on Clause 100G. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 98, line 26, at end insert— ("(2) In this section "local authority" includes the Common Council.")—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 140, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 141 [Power to encourage visitors and provide conference and other facilities]

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 100AA: Page 98, line 29, leave out ("otherwise") and insert ("other means in the United Kingdom").

The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment I should like to speak also to Amendments 100BB and 100CC. Unless the Committee particularly wishes me to do so I do not think that I need to go into these in great detail. Together these Amendments amount to a package of powers which will enable local authorities generally more effectively to promote tourism and to assist the various tourist boards. If necessary, I can expand on them at greater length if any noble Lord wishes me to do so. I beg to move Amendment No. 100AA.


I presume the noble Lord intends us to understand that outside the United Kingdom it would be the British Tourist Authority that would advertise. He might perhaps have made that a little clearer to the Committee.


I will certainly expand the matter a little more fully, without going to great lengths. The package as a whole gives all local authorities publicity powers in this field. It removes the financial limits on existing powers and general restrictions on advertising in the United Kingdom, but it is felt that when it comes to advertising abroad it would, on the whole, be more efficient if that were to be done through an approved agency, and as the noble Baroness rightly surmises, that is the, British Tourist Authority. There is specific power to contribute to the statutory English and Welsh Tourist Boards and to the non-statutory regional tourist boards that operate under it. The G.L.C.'s powers to attract visitors to London—although that seems hardly necessary—are to be given also to the City and to the London boroughs. Those are the main bones of this package.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 100BB.

Amendment moved— Page 98, line 30, after ("recreation") insert ("for health purposes").—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 100CC.

Amendment moved—

Page 98, line 36, at end insert— ("(2) Without prejudice to subsection (1) above, a local authority may contribute to any organisation approved by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this subsection and established for the purpose of encouraging persons to visit the United Kingdom or any part thereof. (3) The Greater London Council, a London borough council and the Common Council shall not have power under subsection (2) above to contribute to the giving in the United Kingdom of publicity whether by advertising or otherwise, to the commercial or industrial advantages of any part of Greater London. (4) The powers conferred on the Greater London Council by section 73 of the 1963 Act (publicity for amenities of Greater London) shall also be exercisable as respects their respective areas by the London borough councils and the Common Council.").—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 141, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 142 [Provision of entertainments]:

LORD BELSTEAD moved Amendment No. 100J:

Page 99, line 4, at end insert— ("(d) the development and improvement of the knowledge, understanding and practice of the arts and the crafts which serve the arts.").

The noble Lord said: Clause 142 provides the main enabling powers for local authorities to support the entertainments and the arts. The wording of the clause, however, is predominantly concerned with dance halls, concert halls, bands and orchestras, and at the moment nowhere are the arts, as such, mentioned. This Amendment makes it clear that authorities, from parish and community councils upwards, have a mandate to support regional arts associations and projects in the arts. Furthermore the Amendment extends that mandate to the support of the work of the artist craftsman as well as other kinds of artist. Regional arts associations have for long been pressing for more satisfactorily defined powers, and the object of the Amendment is specifically to mention the arts and the crafts which serve the arts. The wording closely follows Clause 3A of the Arts Council Charter and adds a reference to the crafts, which of course is the responsibility of the Crafts Advisory Committee. I beg to move.


I should like to welcome this Amendment. Speaking from memory, I think we had something of the same kind in the G.L.C. Bill. I have always wondered why the arts were not included in this clause. I think the Government are wise to include them and I welcome it particularly for the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. As he has said, this is something that the regional arts associations have been asking for and I am sure it will be greatly welcomed. It repairs a surprising omission and I wish the arts a great future under this new patronage which they will receive.


May I also say how much I welcome this as a Cross-Bencher, and may I also ask one question in order to reassure myself? I presume that here there is no limit at all on expenditure. I seem to remember that in the 1948 Act a limit was imposed on what local authorities could spend in rate poundage on the theatre and entertainments. Has that disappeared altogether or does it remain for certain purposes? I take it that this is not subject to any limit.


The noble Lord is quite correct. Section 132(3) of the 1948 Act imposed an annual limit of a 2½p rate on local authority expenditure under that section, and that now disappears under this new clause.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 142, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 143 agreed to.

Clause 144 [Expenses of principal authorities]:

BARONESS PHILLIPS rose to move a manuscript Amendment. The noble Baroness said: First I should like to apologise to the Committee for the fact that this is a Manuscript Amendment and therefore I shall appreciate the situation if the spokesman for the Government has to say that he has not had an opportunity to take account of it entirely. In fact I tabled this Amendment only about an hour ago. The Amendment relates to the fact that the English Local Government Commission—


Would the noble Baroness be kind enough to tell us what the Amendment is?


I am sorry. I am so used to having them in print.


Further to that question, am I right in thinking that the new clause has not yet been moved, and therefore not even a manuscript Amendment can be proposed to a new clause until it has been moved?


This Amendment is to the existing clause, not to the new Clause. I will put this right now. The Amendment is to Clause 144 and is as follows: Page 101, line 13, at end insert—

  • ("(c) in the case of expenses of a district council in an area without a parish or community council in exercising any powers or performing any functions which a parish or community council could have exercised or performed.")
In moving this Amendment I would remind your Lordships of the fact that the English Local Government Commission can propose the creation of a successor council in the nature of a parish council. That is in Clause 106. If a large ex-urban authority has no successor council, all the parish council functions will be carried out in that area by the district council, but the cost will be borne by the ratepayers of the whole district, not only those in the blank space but those in the areas already having parish councils. These outer ring ratepayers would therefore subsidise the inner blank spaces and we in the parish councils would actually pay twice. I remind your Lordships that the managements of a large number of, for example, small scattered properties, like playing fields, over a county area would be a grossly wasteful proceeding if it were conducted from a distant centre and therefore might better be left with the parish council; but this directly relates to the successor council which could be appointed by the district council in the nature of a parish council. I beg to move.


The noble Baroness moves admirable Amendments, one of which we have already accepted. I am afraid that at the short notice she has given and the scant attention I have been able to give to this matter, I cannot accept this one off the cuff. I should much prefer to consider her remarks in support of this Amendment and give the noble Baroness a considered answer at the next stage. I hope, therefore, that she will agree to that course.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 144 agreed to.

8.31 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 100C: After Clause 144 insert the following new clause:

Expenditure on concurrent functions

". Where both the council of a county and the council of a district within that county have authority under any enactment to provide a service or exercise a function (other than any relating to the organisation and management of the local authority and matters incidental thereto) and both act or propose to act in the exercise of that authority they shall consult together and may agree upon such arrangements as appear to them equitable for defraying the expenditure of either in regard to that service or function."

The noble Lord said: If I am right in believing that my noble friend Lord Sandford has given an undertaking further to examine the problem to which this Amendment draws attention, there is no necessity for me to move it.


I can certainly give that assurance. Indeed, the assurance which I gave went rather further. We recognise the need for an Amendment here and we have it in mind to put one down. It has been helpful to have this discussion and to hear the views of my noble friend in more detail.


I am obliged to my noble friend, and I need not move this Amendment.

Clause 145 agreed to.

Clauses 146 to 150 agreed to.

Clause 151 [Accounts to be audited by district or approved auditor]:

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 100K: Page 104, line 34, after ("authorities") insert ("and the accounts of the rate fund and superannuation fund of the City").

The noble Earl said: I suggest that it would be convenient for the Committee to consider at the same time as this Amendment the following Amendments: Nos. 100L, 100M, 100R, 100U, 125V, 143 and 131G. These Amendments provide for the application of the audit provisions of the Bill to the rate fund and superannuation fund accounts of the City of London. The City's other accounts will not be subject to audit in accordance with the provisions of the Bill. At present, only the social services and poor rate accounts are subject to district audit. All other accounts are audited under local legislation. Accounts maintained by the City of London in their capacity of local authority will for the first time be subject to the same provisions as other local authorities' accounts. The remaining accounts relate to revenues as ancient corporation. Audit legislation designed for local government services is not appropriate. However, the City have said that the audit of these accounts will be conducted in accordance with the Code of Practice. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 100L.

Amendment moved—

Page 104, line 36, at end add ("and in this Part of this Act" the accounts of the rate fund and superannuation fund of the City" means—

  1. (a) the accounts relating to the levy and collection of the poor rate and general rate made by the Common Council and to the income and expenditure which falls to be credited in aid of, or to be met out of, the poor rate or the general rate; and
  2. (b) the accounts relating to the superannuation fund established and administered in pursuance of Part II of the City of London (Various Powers) Act 1931;
and any reference in this Part of this Act to the accounts of a body shall be construed, in relation to the Common Council, as a reference to the accounts of the rate fund and superannuation fund of the City").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 100M.

Amendment moved—

Page 105, line 6, at end insert: ("(bb) the accounts of the rate fund and superannuation fund of the City shall be audited either by the district auditor or by an auditor appointed by the Common Council according as the Common Council shall determine by resolution passed before 1st January 1974.").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 100N: Page 105, line 29, leave out ("subsection (2) above or subsection (4)") and insert ("any provision of this section or of section 160").

The noble Earl said: I suggest that we also consider Amendments Nos. 100P and 1000. These are three drafting Amendments. The clause as drafted refers to cases where accounts are audited by a district or approved auditor by virtue of Clause 151(2), (3) and (4). However, accounts can also be so audited by virtue of other provisions in Clauses 151 and 160. The Amendments cover these cases. I beg to move Amendment No. 100N.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 100P:

Amendment moved— Page 105, line 43, leave out ("and") and insert ("or any provision of").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to moved Amendment No. 100Q:

Amendment moved— Page 105, line 43, leave out ("approved auditor") and insert ("auditor whose appointment is approved by the Secretary of State under that section ").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 100R:

Amendment moved— Page 106, line 4, leave out ("under subsection (2)(a)") and insert ("or of the Common Council under subsection (2)(a), subsection (2)(bb)").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 100S: Page 107, line 4, at end insert ("and for the words" beginning on 1st April next following "there were substituted the words" following that specified in that notice ".").

The noble Earl said: As noble Lords are no doubt expecting me to say, this is indeed a drafting Amendment. Where an approved auditor resigns, a resolution to replace him under Clause 151(4), as adapted by Clause 151(9), applies from the beginning of the financial year following the resolution. In certain circumstances this might leave a gap of a year. The Amendment ensures that the resolution takes effect for the financial year following that for which the retiring auditor completes the audit. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 151 shall stand part of the Bill.


Before we part with this clause I wish to raise a point in regard to Amendment No. 100M. Is it really necessary to inflict in a Bill what is to my mind the rather obnoxious habit of using double letters? Need we call the procision (bb)? Cannot we call it (c) and the turn (d) and (d) into (e)?


I agree that it should be possible to have a more elegant tabulation. I will see what can be done about it.

Clause 151, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 152 to 154 agreed to.

Clause 155 [Auditor's right of access to documents]:

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 100T: Page 108, line 24, after ("accounts") insert ("in respect of which he is the auditor").

The noble Earl said: Again, this is a drafting Amendment. It is designed to make it clear that an auditor's powers of access to documents relate only to accounts of which he is the auditor though different sections of the accounts may be audited by different auditors.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 155, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 156 and 157 agreed to.

Clause 158 [Powers of district auditor and the court]:


Amendment No. 100U is consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 112, line 35, at end insert: ("(14) In this section "local authority" includes the Common Council.")—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 158, as amended, agreed to.

8.41 p.m.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 100L: After Clause 158 insert the following new clause:

Duty of approved auditor in case of illegality, etc. in accounts

". Where the audit of accounts under this Part of this Act is conducted by an approved auditor and it appears to him that there is reasonable ground for believing—

  1. (a) that any item of account is contrary to law, or
  2. (b) that any person has failed to bring into account any sum which should have been so included, or
  3. (c) that a loss has been incurred or deficiency caused by the wilful misconduct of any person,
he shall forthwith report the matter to the Secretary of State in order that the Secretary of State may consider whether he should direct a district auditor to hold an extraordinary audit of the accounts under section 161 below."

The noble Earl said: This new clause is essentially one of the package of audit Amendments taken at Report stage in another place, but it could not go with the others because the package was not ready until after the new clause had been cleared. The purpose of the clause is to set out the duty of the approved auditor in cases where questions arise of illegality, loss due to misconduct, and failure to account. The approved auditor is to report to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State may then direct that an extraordinary audit should be held by the district auditor with special powers for dealing with questions of this sort. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 159 agreed to.

Clause 160 [Approved auditors]:

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 100W: Page 115, line 1, after ("to") insert ("all or any of").

The noble Earl said: This is a drafting Amendment. The appointment of an auditor may relate to all or any of the accounts of a body, and the Amendment corrects the wording of the clause to secure that intention. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 100X: Page 115, line 30, after ("and") insert ("for subsequent financial years and also").

The noble Earl said: Clause 160(9) as drafted at present provides that a resolution under Clause 160(8)—that is on the appointment of a new auditor in the circumstances set out in that subsection—has effect for the year in which the appointment is made and for preceding years when necessary, but does not deal with subsequent years. This would involve the body concerned in taking various formal steps if they wanted the appointment to run into future years and this of course they normally do. The Amendment avoids this. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 160, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 161 [Extraordinary audit]:

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 100Y: Page 115, line 40, after ("154") insert ("or section (Duty of approved auditor in case of illegality, etc., in accounts)").

The noble Earl said: This Amendment is consequential on the new clause which your Lordships have just accepted about the duty of an approved auditor. It makes the report of an approved auditor under that clause a ground for the Secretary of State to direct the holding of an extraordinary audit by a district auditor.I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 161, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 162 to 164 agreed to.

Clause 165 [Initial expenses of new authorities]:

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 100EE: Page 118, line 11, after ("quarter") insert ("or such other fraction as the Secretary of State may by order prescribe").

The noble Earl said: This Amendment makes two minor technical changes in Clause 165, which deals with arrangements for meeting the initial expenses incurred by the new authorities between their election in 1973 and their replacing the existing authorities in 1974. Subsections (1) and (2) of this clause provide for the payment to the new authorities by existing rating authorities—that is the county boroughs, boroughs and district councils—of an amount equal to a rate of a quarter of 1p in the pound. I beg to move.


I wondered about this question of a quarter of the product of a rate of 1p after the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Brooke of Curnnor to Clause 134, and whether this should be amended to allow for the raising of the amount to 2p. I may have got this wrong, but there is something that rather intrigued me about this very small amount being raised.


All of us on this Bench are used to the piercing scrutiny of my noble friend Lord Balfour. I do not know whether I am happy or sorry to tell him that for this once he is wrong. The Amendment I have been talking about enables the Secretary of State by order to prescribe a different fraction of a new penny rate and enables him to make the same fraction applicable to all existing rating areas. The other Amendment also states that any such order is to be subject to annulment by either House of Parliament.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is a mistake of mine. I should have moved Amendment No. 100FF with the last Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 118, line 23, at end insert— ("(2A) A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (2) above—

  1. (a) may apply to all existing rating areas or may make different provision in relation to existing rating areas of different descriptions; and
  2. (b) shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 165, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 166 [Equalisation of rates]:

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 100D: Page 118, line 41, leave out from the beginning to ("in") and insert ("with the agreement of the council of every district").

The noble Earl said: Clause 166 provides for a rate equalisation scheme to be made in a metropolitan county by the council of a metropolitan county acting jointly with the councils of the districts in the county. A number of local authorities have sought confirmation that this means that all the authorities in a metropolitan county must be in complete agreement before a scheme can be made, and some have suggested that the clause be amended to make the position absolutely clear. The Department's legal advice is that there is no doubt that the clause as it stands is quite unambiguous in this respect, but nevertheless in the light of the representations received the Government agreed to table the present Amendment. The effect of it is to provide that schemes under this clause shall be made by the council of a metropolitan county with the agreement of the council of every district in that county. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 100E: Page 119, line 2, after ("making") insert ("in the financial year immediately following that in which it is made").

The noble Earl said: May I direct your Lordships' scrutiny of Amendment No. 100E to include also Amendment No. 100F. Under Clause 166, as I have said, the rate equalisation scheme in a metropolitan county will remain in existence until all the authorities of the county agree to revoke or vary it. The effect of the Amendments would be that such a scheme would apply for one year only and could only be renewed with the agreement of all the authorities in the county. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 100F.

Amendment moved— Page 119, line 12, leave out from the beginning to ("varied") and insert ("At any time before the beginning of the financial year for which it is to have effect, a scheme under this section may be").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 166, as amended, agreed to.

8.50 p.m.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 100Z: After Clause 166 insert the following new clause:

Power of principal councils to make loans to harbour authorities.

".—(1) A principal council may make loans to a harbour authority for a harbour wholly or partly situated within the area of the council, on such terms as may be agreed between the council and the authority, for the purpose of enabling the harbour authority to do anything which they have power to do.

(2) The purposes for which a principal council may borrow under section 195 of the 1933 Act shall include the making of loans to harbour authorities under this section.

(3) In this section "harbour" and "harbour authority" have the same meanings as in the Harbours Act 1964."

The noble Earl said: This new clause gives effect to an undertaking by my honourable friend Mr. Graham Page in another place at Committee stage. Mr. Maddan withdrew a new clause with a similar purpose on an assurance that the Government were sympathetic to the principle in it and would give further consideration to it. The effect is to enable a principal council to make loans to a harbour authority wholly or partly situated within the area of the council, to enable the authority to do anything they have power to do. I beg to move.


I wonder whether there is any restriction here on the amount that may be so loaned to any harbour authority. It seems to me to be a pretty wide power to give to a principal council that it may borrow under Section 195 of the 1933 Act and then loan it to the harbour authority. Has the noble Lord anything he can tell us about that? It seems to me that there ought to be some restriction somewhere on the borrowing powers for this particular purpose.


There certainly are restrictions on the power of a local authority to invest money, but the power with which we are concerned here is simply to make loans. But, of course, a decision whether to make any such loans would be entirely one for the local authority itself.


Without limit and without restriction? Providing they can get hold of the money somehow, they can then lend it to the harbour authority? Is that it?


That, as I understand it, is the case.


I think I can say a few words that may clear up this point. Many small harbours rely for their revenue upon the harbour dues charged to any vessel using the port. Most of the smaller ports are very short of money, and this is about the only way in which they can acquire money in order to restore the harbour walls or employ the odd dredger or something like that. I would respectfully suggest that that is the main purpose behind the insertion of this clause, to allow the small harbours to borrow money. Whether or not they will be able to pay it back is another matter.


I am not one to quarrel with my noble friend Lord Balfour.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 167 agreed to.

Schedule 13 agreed to.

Clause 168 [Attendance allowance and financial loss allowance]:

8.55 p.m.

BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 101: Page 119, line 32, leave out from ("duty") to the end of line 34 and insert ("such amount as may be specified by the Secretary of State.").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name and the names of my noble friends. The purpose of this Amendment is to place squarely en the Secretary of State the responsibility of deciding the level of attendance allowances and financial loss allowances referred to in this clause. I would respectfully suggest that in discussing this Amendment your Lordships might look at Clause 173 because it says: The Secretary of State may make regulations as to the manner in which sections 168 to 171 are to be administered", and the conditions under which he should make these regulations are described in Clause 173. At the end it is also stated that: A statutory instrument containing regulations under sections 168 or 172 above or Clause 173 shall be subject to the Negative Resolution procedure.

It is plain that the Secretary of State is going to take on himself considerable responsibility in the formulation of the regulations under Clause 173, but he is not going to decide the amount which shall be allowable to members of local authorities. He will, as I understand it, merely fix a maximum above which the local authority may not decide to pay its members. We have had very strong representations about this proposal because many people feel that it is not fair that in one authority area someone may receive a certain allowance and in an adjacent area, possibly because of a different political composition of the council, a person performing precisely similar functions may receive either more or less, as the case may be, within the maximum laid down in the regulations.

I do not want to labour the point unduly, but an allowance which may seem reasonable to a person who has means may be quite unreasonable for someone to whom every penny counts, and we feel some apprehension that people who do have to make some sacrifice to serve on local government may be put at a disadvantage if they happen to be members of a local authority, the majority of whom may be in more comfortable circumstances than they are themselves and feel that it would not perhaps be proper for them to claim more from the local authority than a very nominal amount, even though this might make service on this authority very difficult for some other members.

I say this particularly because in this Bill we are going to increase very considerably the area of many local authorities. This will make it very much more difficult for some people to serve at all on the new counties, for example. If I might take an example from industrial life, where the county hall is not too far away a member may be able to work a half shift in industry. But if he is now going to have to travel quite a bit further, he will not be able to do that, and he may lose other possible bonus payments and so on which may or may not be taken fully into account in his financial loss allowance. In any case he is likely to be put to much greater effort in various directions than in the existing much smaller geographical areas which for the most part now exist.

We feel that it would be only just, as between members serving on one local authority and members serving on another, for the Secretary of State to take this responsibility on his own shoulders. He has to fix a maximum in any case, under the Bill as it now stands, and it seems to us that he ought, therefore, if he has to examine the situation so as to decide on the appropriate maximum, at the same time say that for certain duties certain amounts shall be paid. We do not feel this is something which is rightly left to local discretion. We have been very happy in certain other directions to support the Government in their liberation of local authorities from certain restrictions under which they now labour, but we do not feel that this is such a case. We feel that members of different authorities should be on exactly the same footing for comparable duties or comparable time spent away, and we hope very much that the Government will accept this or some comparable proposal.

9.0 p.m.


I quite understand and sympathise with the aim of the noble Baroness, Lady White, who has explained it to us with her usual lucidity. I see what she has in mind, and sympathise with it. On the other hand, we ought to consider the other side of the coin, as it were. We must be very careful in avoiding forcing a uniform pattern on local authorities if we are to mean what we say when we say that we want them to exercise the fullest possible measure of responsibility for their own affairs. In this case I wonder whether absolute uniformity is desirable. It is difficult to envisage everything, but there are some counties where the average time taken to attend meetings, because of the long distances that may have to be travelled, will be much more than in some other counties where the bulk of the representatives live close by. That is the kind of argument I am wondering about when considering whether we should be right to eliminate all flexibility in this matter.

I certainly sympathise with the point that the noble Baroness has made. One wants to ensure that representatives of small personal means get the allowances which they should receive for giving the same public service as those in other counties. I am not absolutely happy about the degree of uniformity that is suggested there. I think that the maximum is entirely reasonable on the other hand, if the allowances were too small, there would be a case for making a minimum too. I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend says in reply to the noble Baroness.


I think it is perfectly plain that there is indeed wide scope for the exercise of discretion by the Secretary of State under Clause 173. However, that is a different thing from the assumption which the noble Baroness made, that he intends to exercise it all that widely. My right honourable friend's intention at the moment is to do no more by Statute than to prescribe the maximum which is enjoined upon him. The noble Baroness says that there have been widespread representations that an Amendment of the kind that she has moved should be incorporated in the Bill, and I will take her word for that, but the fact is that the local authority associations have unanimously joined together in arguing strongly with us that the local authorities should have complete discretion in this particular area as to what scale of allowances should be allowed to their members, and we are faced with that. We are all agreed that the allowances should be such that good potential members are not dissuaded from serving on local councils by financial restraints or worries. This is an area where it is difficult, and would be wrong, to prescribe further than we have already done by Statute.

I should have thought that this again is a field in which, as the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, the Chairman of the Royal Commission, was saying earlier, the detailed prescriptions for the scale of allowances must be such as to reflect the very wide variations there are from one local authority to another, and that we ought rather to rely on the local authorities adjusting the precise scale in each particular case to reflect that variation. The Government at the moment are convinced that the new authorities, with the guidance of their associations—and we fully recognise that, although they could be, it would not be right to leave them entirely without guidance—will be capable of acting reasonably, taking into account all the cogent points that the noble Baroness has made, and exercising their discretion in that light in a responsible way.

I should like to confirm here, and this Amendment gives me the opportunity of doing so, that it is proposed to have further discussions with the local authority associations in due course about the guidance that they might give to their members in this respect. Therefore the local authorities will not be left totally in the dark and without any guidance or advice from either the Secretary of State or the local authority associations. However, we feel that we have gone far enough in what it would be right to prescribe by Statute. I hope, with that assurance, that the points that the noble Baroness has made have been met and that she will not feel it necessary to press her Amendment.


As someone who served on a local authority at a time when there was no provision for even loss of wages or salary for attending local authority work, I certainly welcome the proposals of the Government. I am grateful to them for having put this clause into the Bill. I think that, to some extent, this at last recognises the excellent work that councillors do in this land of ours. I still have some doubts about the points that the noble Lord has made in reply to my noble friend. I see that there is a case for the local authority associations, together to some extent with the Government, to give guidance to local authorities, but under the Bill it will still be left for the local authority to fix an amount up to the maximum that the Secretary of State has power to fix.

This is something which I can see will cause difficulties for local authorities. I can well imagine that in some areas we shall have local government elections being fought on the cry, "That lot fixed the rate of allowances much too high". This could be a very popular cry at an election, even if it is a dishonest one. It is the sort of thing which naturally would attract ratepayers who feel, "Well, after all, we are paying out a lot too much. I don't see why that lot should be getting this much out of it." The result would be that elections might be fought on that cry.

There is also the fact that there may very well be variations between the county council rate and the district council rate, which could result in the quite anomalous position of two councillors serving from the same town and attending meetings in the same town getting different rates of attendance allowance. I think that would be quite wrong. The noble Viscount, Lord Amory, said that there must be some flexibility in order to meet differing circumstances. There is perhaps something in that argument, except for the fact that different circumstances, which mean that people have to travel greater distances in order to get to council meetings and so on, will be taken care of by the travelling expenses. They would meet the point which the noble Viscount put.


With great respect, would they fully cover the point of the time of absence required because a representative had to travel further? I quite see that travelling expenses could be covered, but I wonder whether the time required for attendance would be covered in the way the noble Lord suggested.


I am not sure that one can cover every eventuality and every circumstance. A county councillor living in Exeter, for example, would spend very little time on attending council meetings, whereas, judging by the debate that we had here the other day, one from Plymouth might spend quite a long time. I think they would find that the same attendance rate had been fixed for all cases. That seems to me to be the sort of thing that a local authority will do, unless the advice given by the local authority associations is different from what I think it will be. There will also be unfair comparisons made between one local authority and an adjoining one, which does not seem to me to be the sort of thing that we ought to encourage.

Another point which worries me a little—perhaps it is unfair of me to think that this could possibly happen—is the fact that in the past attempts have been made to keep the poorer section of the community off local authorities. Indeed, Parliament behaved in that way until Members of Parliament were first paid. People were kept out because they could not afford to be there. I should hate to see the possibility of some authority acting in a manner which I should regard as wholly deplorable. The Secretary of State should have the courage to say, "This is a worth while job and those who do it should receive adequate recompense for the time spent on it". In this connection, we have to remember that the time actually spent in the council chamber or at a meeting is, in fact, a very small part of the total time which councillors spend on the work of a local authority. When I was chairman of a housing committee, applicants for houses and those with housing difficulties just about wore a groove in my front doorstep, to say nothing about the carpet in my front room. That illustrates the fact that the rate ought to be generous, and we ought to ensure that the rate is fixed by the Secretary of State and will not be subject to the difficulties which I can foresee if separate local authorities are able to fix varying amounts. I hope that the Government will consider very carefully what was said by my noble friend and what little I have been able to add, and will perhaps look again at this matter in the light of these considerations, which are considerations of some importance and indeed of some justice.


If the Minister is going to say another word in reply to my noble friend, I should like him to say exactly what is the force and strength of the word "reasonable" in the penultimate line of subsection (1) of Clause 168. Who is to decide whether an amount is reasonable? Will it be the local authority itself? Presumably the Secretary of State has no power to say, "What you are now prescribing is unreasonable".

9.14 p.m.


I do not think I can enlarge very much more on what I said before. Of course, the definition of what is reasonable and what is unreasonable will vary enormously with different circumstances in different cases. That is why I think it is difficult for the Secretary of State in this particular matter to prescribe in advance, by any further exercise of the discretion conferred on him by Clause 173, as to what rate would be reasonable. I think this is the reason why it is, in the view of my right honourable friend, much better now, having gone so far in the Statute, to rely on further discussions, which I have confirmed he will be having with the Associations, as to the terms in which further guidance can be given as to what is reasonable and what is unreasonable, with something less than statutory force. I take the points that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has added to what the noble Baroness, Lady White, has already said. These will be very much in the forefront of my right honourable friend's mind and thoughts when he is in discussion with the Associations on this particular point.

I see the force of what the noble Lord, Lord Champion, is saying about a standard rate across the country, but perhaps he and his noble friend Lady White would reflect that the local authorities have the power and the discretion under the legislation which we are now enacting to prescribe, say, a half-day rate, a sessional rate, an hourly rate and any combination of those. Once the Secretary of State embarks upon any kind of prescription about the rate of the allowance, he has, I think, to embark upon this whole range of considerations; and I would have thought it was best to leave it to the authorities themselves, bearing in mind the variation that there is up and down the country. The frequency with which councils meet varies enormously, the number of committees that authorities have varies enormously, the number of committees on which individual councillors serve varies enormously from one authority to another; and the variation which pertains at the moment is going to be immensely extended in the future because the new authorities will have so much more discretion about how they manage their affairs. Therefore, I would say that this is a field in which it is best, at the end of the day, for each individual authority to be left with a fair measure of discretion; but, as I repeat, that is not to say that it will not be possible to give a great deal of useful guidance to them if the points that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Champion, have made, and other points, are borne in mind and discussed fully with the Associations and provided to the authorities in the form of less than statutory guidance from the Secretary of State and the Associations. I hope that, with that explanation of the reason why we feel in this way, and the difficulties that would in practice be encountered if the Secretary of State tried to make prescriptions right across the country in this field, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her Amendment.


I cannot for one moment pretend that I am happy about this situation. This is something about which we feel quite strongly. I should very much like to press this Amendment to a Division, but I am concerned that the noble Lord has said that consultations are proceeding, and I think that, on this side, we should like to have some further consultations ourselves with our own associates in local government. I believe that the noble Lord is exaggerating the difficulties. Subsection (2) refers to "any period of twenty-four hours". I was not very clear in fact about what "by reference to any period of twenty-four hours" meant. Surely one can have an allowance for a period shorter than 24 hours. That is what I suppose. But 24 hours, 12 hours, 6 hours or 3 hours are exactly the same throughout the kingdom; and I cannot myself see that there is this vast difference in the amount of effort which will be sustained by a councillor in Devon or Northumberland if each of them attends for 3 hours at some meeting of a committee of their local authority.

I really think that the noble Lord is exaggerating the differences, because it appears to me that such differences as there are in the lime and effort consumed can be fullly met by the way in which the scales of allowances are formulated. After all, this is done in many occupations, and I cannot myself believe that in local government it is any more difficult than in any other sphere. I really seriously ask that the noble Lord should consider, and should ask his right honourable friend to consider, this point again. It is something on which we feel quite strongly. I shall not divide the Committee to-night because, as I say, I should like to have further consultations with our friends in local government. Therefore, at the moment I propose to ask leave to withdraw this Amendment, while fully reserving our position and giving notice that we shall almost certainly return to the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.20 p.m.

THE EARL OF MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 102K: Page 120, line 13, after ("office") insert ("or is appointed").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendment No. 102K standing in my name. Perhaps it would be convenient and would certainly save the time of the Committee if I spoke also to Amendments Nos. 102L, 102M and 102N which also stand in my name. These Amendments relate to attendance allowances and financial loss allowance as they affect co-opted members of local authorities as opposed to elected councillors or aldermen. As your Lordships know, there are a number of persons who may be appointed to committees of local authorities. They tend to be experts or at least to possess wide experience in their fields. They are frequently very distinguished people and play an important role in the field of local government. One could give an example under the Education Act of 1944 which requires that every education committee or local education authority shall include persons of experience in education and persons acquainted with the educational conditions prevailing in the area for which the committee sits. Besides education committees, your Lordships will know that there are co-opted members on other committees, notably, the health committee. As far as financial allowances are concerned there is at present equality of treatment between councillors and these co-opted members. To put the matter in one sentence, my Amendment seeks to preserve that position.

So far as this clause is concerned, as it stands differentiation of treatment exists as between elected councillors, aldermen and co-opted members. To put the matter fairly shortly, under subsection (1) a councillor shall be entitled to receive an attendance allowance that is, broadly speaking, subject to tax; a co-opted member will be entitled to receive a loss allowance which will not be subject to tax; and the person who is in the best position, an alderman, can receive either but not both—and he must plump within 28 days for which he is going to select.

So far as the history of the matter is concerned, I should make it plain that these Amendments have nothing to do with travelling allowances or subsistence allowances which are dealt with in the next clause. The matter came up in another place on Standing Committee. I hope it is not altogether unfair to say of the Minister who dealt with the Amendment that his mind did not entirely run with the Amendment and he based his argument largely on the matter of tax. At any rate, the Amendment was withdrawn, no conclusion having been come to. The matter went to Report stage where at 5.15 o'clock one morning a hybrid matter was accepted which resulted in subsection (5) which deals with aldermen. Without going into details of what happened in another place on Report, the Minister then in charge undertook to consider before the morning was out what was to happen so far as co-opted members was concerned. Perhaps not altogether surprisingly, he failed to find out; but in any case he made no mention of it. So the position is as it stands now.

The point very briefly is this. I am sure that all noble Lords will agree that co-opted members play a very important part in local government. It would, in my submission, be very wrong to depart from the well-tried principle that they should be given equality of treatment with councillors for the future. On a practical note, a co-opted member might be in one of two positions. He could be a wealthy man, either by returns from investments or because he is receiving an earned income. At any rate he pays a high rate of tax, in which case the allowance such as is described in subsection (1) would be of no interest at all to him, for it attracts tax at the full rate. Equally, a co-opted member could be a retired person with little income and living on a pension, in which case the attendance allowance would be very welcome. If, as I suggest, local authorities are to encourage the best type of residents to undertake this important local work in future, it is only equitable that they should be given the same choice as an alderman.

It may be said that councillors have a higher responsibility than co-opted members because they are elected and not, as it were, appointed. That argument is somewhat specious. We are describing an allowance for serving on a committee, not an allowance for some quasi salary which is no doubt deserved but has nothing to do with the clause we are discussing. The situation is, I suppose, similar to that which appertains in respect of the £8.50 we all may enjoy as Members of your Lordships' House. But in my submission the distinguished elder statesmen (because that is what they usually are) who serve as co-opted members on these committees should be able to choose which form of allowance they want. The position therefore, if my Amendments are accepted, will be that where in subsection (5) mention is made of aldermen, in effect, it will apply to all members of a local authority who are not elected.


I rise to support my noble friend Lord Mansfield in his Amendment, which he has moved with great lucidity. The major point of substance has already been covered, but perhaps I might emphasise certain aspects on which he cast some light with regard to the proceedings in another place. Before I do so I should state clearly that I have no interest to declare in respect of this Amendment. My noble friend mentioned that at Report stage in another place this Amendment was discussed at a rather uncongenial hour in the morning. I was glad to note that the Minister, Mr. Graham Page, fully recognised the extreme difficulty of this position and remarked that it is a most unfortunate position in tax law. This whole question of allowances, and especially this particular Amendment, relates to a whole area which will require delicate handling. During the debate on an earlier Amendment I was glad to hear my noble friend Lord Sandford say that local authorities will in future have much more discretion in handling these affairs.

9.29 p.m.


We have had an Amendment moved with the clarity which we have come to expect from the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield. My experience of co-opted members dates back a long time. I was a member of a Part III education authority which existed before the Act of 1944. On that authority there were co-opted members who gave excellent service to the work of education in the same way as I did as an elected member. It seems to me quite unfair that in the circumstances which I have briefly described there should be two people sitting side by side in a committee, giving the same sort of service, but treated differently by the authority, and indeed by the Government, under the Bill, because of the fact that one happens to be an elected member and the other a co-opted member. This, I think, is wrong.

In connection with the last Amendment I ended by talking about and using the word "justice". I believe that that word applies even more to the Amendment that we now have before us. What we ought to do is to try to ensure that there is justice, as I would put it, between a co-opted member and a member who happens to be elected to an authority, provided that they are doing the same sort of work on a committee, in the meeting, or in connection with the work of the particular authority. If I spoke for a fortnight I could not put it more strongly than I feel about this at this time: that this is something that surely the Government ought to accept. It is a good Amendment. It is based upon bringing to people the same sort of treatment in the same sort of circumstances. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, would wish to do precisely that, and not to discriminate unfairly between two people sitting together and doing the same sort of work for the community of the local authority.


I should like to say a word in support of my noble friend Lord Manfield's Amendment. It will be familiar to all your Lordships that the Redcliffe-Maud Report laid great stress on the question of co-opted members and greatly castigated local authorities who had not enough co-opted members on committees.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount, but I think he is out of order in speaking from the Bishops' Bench.


This is the most terrible thing that I have ever done, and I apologise. I have no aspirations in that direction. I was saying that co-opted members have been extremely valuable to local authorities and have played a great part. As the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, said in his Report, it is essential that we should continue to use their specialist services. Once you accept that councillors should be paid an attendance allowance—as I think we all do accept—if you do not pay the co-opted members you are, as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, said, creating a sheep and goats situation, and you could have the difficult situation where the man sitting next to you was not being paid and therefore did not feel that he had the right to vote.

There is the further point that some of the co-opted members on a committee are often members in their own right of authorities, whether local district, county or some other such authority. They are going to feel that if they go to a county meeting as a co-opted member they do not get their allowances, but if they go on being appointed by another authority, as happens, they will get their allowances. So there is room for all sorts of manoeuvring in this, Finally, I would just say that a great many co-opted members are ex-chairmen of the committees on which they are co-opted. Most of these people not only attend committee meetings, but play a great part in the various social functions in which the committee rightly engages. The sort of thing that springs to mind is the small tea-party for the committee to meet teachers newly joining the education service, or something of that sort. That is a valuable thing, and people get to know each other. These co-opted members give freely of their time and have been most valuable in local government. All I hope is that the Government will leave the question of paying allowances to these co-opted members to the discretion of local authorities, using much the same arguments as my noble friend Lord Sandford used in the last Amendment, which was withdrawn.


Of course it is the wish of the Government to come to an arrangement which is fair as between co-opted members and elected councillors. But although it is perfectly valid to make the point that when two such people, one elected and one co-opted, are sitting side by side in, say, a committee or subcommittee of the council they are doing identical work, addressing their minds in the same sort of way to the same problem and each making their own valuable contribution—and many co-opted members are most distinguished, and do make and will continue to make a considerable contribution—it is not really true to say that these two people have the same range of responsibilities in local government. The co-opted member may work side by side with an elected member, and perhaps do an identical job of work in a particular meeting of the committee. But he is not representative of any particular part of the electorate. He does not have the same representative role of the whole community that each and every councillor has.

Councillors, besides the work they do in the town hall or the county hall, or on the various committees, have this further role to carry out. Certainly some co-opted members also may contribute to it, but it is not part of their statutory function. Councillors have their own particular electors to represent in a direct way, and this is a function which, with the best will in the world, even if a co-opted member wanted to discharge it, he has not the means to do, because he is not responsible; he is not a representative of any one particular ward or any particular group of electors. This is a function which the councillor has to perform and which no co-opted member can perform. Each and every councillor, as well as representing and dealing with the particular problems of individual electors in his own ward, also has the function of representing the community as a whole in a variety of ways. It is perfectly true that some co-opted members may be able to play a role here, but I would put it to the Committee that this is not a function which is directly laid upon them when they are co-opted to a committee to give the benefit of their advice and experience in a particular field.

I would also put it to the Committee that it is not general for any single co-opted member to serve on such a wide range of committees and sub-committees as a councillor does. Very few councillors have to serve on only one committee, whereas I should have thought it was the normal thing for most co-opted members to serve on only one committee, or perhaps two committees, and on the associated sub-committees. I very much doubt whether co-opted members, as a general rule, find themselves doing quite so much work and spending quite so much time up and down the corridors and in the various offices that go to comprise a town or county hall.

So I think that, although it is possible to see two people sitting beside each other in a committee and think they are doing the same particular job of work for which they ought to receive the same emoluments or remuneration, this picture which noble Lords have conjured up does not really reflect the difference in the functions between the two separate members of the council—the one who is elected as a councillor to represent particular people and the whole community and the one who is co-opted to do a job of work for the council on various committees. It is the attendance allowance which has been found to be the only practical way, or the best practical way, of providing an emolument which recognises and acknowledges the work that the elected councillor does. If in fact we had decided that the best way of doing this was to pay a salary—of course it is not; if we had decided it was right that local government should be a salaried profession and that co-opted members were needed to give their advice and contribute their experience to particular committees on particular subjects, I do not think anyone would have thought that the remuneration or emoluments or financial rewards that were provided for the co-opted members should correspond and be equated with those provided for the elected councillors. I think it is the fact that we have had to have recourse to the device of the attendance allowance—rather as we have done in your Lordships' House—that has caused this appearance of inequality and injustice. But I am certainly prepared to take this matter away again and discuss it with my right honourable friend to see whether in fact we have done all that we can to remove any injustice or unfairness that may remain.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Mansfield for having raised this topic, enabled us to discuss it and enabled me to give these assurances. I hope that the assurances and explanations that I have given, coupled with the further assurance that I will look at this matter again with my right honourable friend, will enable him not to press the Amendment.

9.46 p.m.


I am very glad to hear what my noble friend said. When he considers the matter again I hope that he will bear in mind the point that I think the noble Lord, Lord Champion, was making, with which I personally agree, that the allowance is not a form of remuneration for the responsibility of being a representative, but is made in order to permit the person concerned to carry out the work and get to the meetings. When the person is performing the work it is the same work whether he or she is a representative or a co-opted member. I am sure that point is one which my noble friend will see is considered.


I should like to give a typical example of where a person is a co-opted member. He is still elected from his own body; he could be a representative of the Kirk, a minister, a clergyman or priest, whichever denomination he belonged to. He is elected from among the other ministers or clergymen within the area to serve on the council. You also have a teacher from one of the local schools elected by his own body to serve on the council. Taking the field of education alone, it is usually divided up into a number of sub-committees as well as having a full education committee which may, I admit, not meet more than once every two months. In between you have the education finance committee which deals with school buildings, and the education schools committee which deals with the running of the school. There may be a further education committee and one or two others on which you can have a clergyman or a teacher as hardworking as almost any other member of the council. Therefore I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Sandford is taking this Amendment back to look at it again. I think if your Lordships look at the matter and investigate it you will find that some co-opted members work as hard as, if not harder than, some of the people actually elected as councillors.


May I ask one question to clear my own mind? We have a double problem here: one is a question of what in the sporting world we call "broker time"—of which I have had some experience—and the other is expenses. Am I right in thinking that this is a simple question of the broken time, payment in lieu of loss of earnings, or payment for something a person has done, and that he can still claim his full expenses for any meeting that he attends?


This question arises from the fact that we are moving away from the financial loss allowance in the case of the elected councillors, and replacing it with an attendance allowance where it is no longer necessary for the councillor to show that by attending this, that or the other council meeting or committee he has incurred a specific loss of a certain amount of money. We are moving to the attendance allowance which will attract an emolument in tax terms that is geared to the amount of time that a person has been spending on council business.


, To continue, if I may, with Lord Exeter's sporting parlance, I thought I was going to come out of my corner fighting, but in view of the sudden and most generous attitude taken by my noble friend I am happy to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 168 agreed to.

Clauses 169 to 171 agreed to.

Clause 172 [Provisions supplementary to sections 168 to 171]:

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 102HHH: Page 122, line 30, leave out ("prescribed body") and insert ("body prescribed for the purposes of those sections and").

The noble Lord said: With this Amendment it might be convenient to consider Amendment No. 102JJJ. These two Amendments explain the meaning of the two references in this clause to "prescribed bodies". A body may be prescribed for two reasons, in Clause 172 as one to which the provisions of Clauses 168 to 170—payment of general travelling and subsistence allowance—shall apply; and secondly, as one to which the performance of duties can be regarded as approved duties. These Amendments are intended to show definitely that because a body is included in one set of prescribed bodies, it cannot for that reason of prescription be excluded from the other set.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

9.47 p.m.

THE EARL OF MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 102P: Page 122, line 32, at end insert ("by one of its members or by any other person").

The noble Earl said: I hope that I shall not be considered too much out of order if I apologise to your Lordships for my rudeness in not thanking various Members of your Lordships' House who came to my aid during the discussion of my last Amendment. This Amendment is thoroughly technical and is intended to be helpful to the Government. I will explain it as clearly and quickly as I can. It concerns, as your Lordships will see, Clause 172(1) (f), the last words of which are: any prescribed body on which any such body as is mentioned in any of the foregoing paragraphs is represented. Basically, this clause lays down the bodies which are entitled to the financial allowances that we have been discussing on Clause 168. A certain difficulty has arisen over the payment of financial loss and other allowances to members of governing bodies of certain colleges and schools of further education.

The Education (No. 2) Act 1968 requires a local education authority to set up a body of governors for each of its maintained colleges of education, colleges of further and higher education and special schools. The regulations governing this payment are the Local Government Regulations (Allowances to Members of Prescribed Bodies), 1968. These Regulations confer an entitlement to financial loss and other allowances on members of such bodies on the governors of which the authority is represented. It is this word "represented" which causes certain difficulty. There is doubt as to whether the members of these bodies are entitled to the allowances in question if no member of what I might call the parent authority is represented on the board or college of further education.

I can illustrate this in a particular way in the case of the Greater London Council, which has made most of the running in this matter. The Inner London Education Authority sets up governors for each of its maintained colleges of education, and the question is, are those governors entitled to the allowances and will they be in future if there is not on the college a member of the Inner London Educ- ation Authority? In other words, how far does the word "representation" go? Taking the matter shortly (and I have no wish to be offensive), in the space of seven months two diametrically opposed views came from the Department of Local Government. This Amendment seeks to give statutory recognition to the position in future, so that a member of one of these bodies of governors may be entitled to these financial provisions in Clause 168 whether or not the parent authority is technically represented. I fully appreciate that the Amendment in this particular form may not commend itself to my noble friend. If that is so, perhaps an Amendment to the Definition clause at the end of the Bill might be inserted. In any event, I beg to move.

9.51 p.m.


The Amendment of my noble friend Lord Mansfield does not commend itself to us. That is not because there is anything really defective with it but because it is quite unnecessary. The word "represented" goes quite as far as the noble Earl wants it to go, and I shall seek to give him the assurance he is looking for on that point. We are firmly advised that "represented" must be construed to mean exactly what the noble Earl wants it to mean. Therefore, the additional words in his Amendment are not needed. It follows that as the clause stands it is entirely open to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to prescribe a body on which the statutory bodies referred to in paragraphs (a) to (e) are represented by persons who are not members of those statutory bodies. That I think is what the noble Earl wants in respect of the governing bodies of schools under the Inner London Education Authority; and it would apply elsewhere. There are references elsewhere in the Bill to representatives—Clauses 172, 245, 246 and elsewhere—where the meaning is intended to be plain and comprehensive in the sense I have just described.

If I were to accept this Amendment here for this particular reason it would be an indication that there was some difference between the sphere in which the noble Earl is interested and these other spheres in which the word appears. It is true, as he says, that in the past different views have been held about this matter. It was for that reason that an Amendment on the same lines as that of the noble Earl was moved in another place. But assurances were given of the kind I am giving now and the Amendments were afterwards withdrawn. I hope that with the assurance I am giving now the noble Earl will not feel it necessary to press his Amendment further, either.


I should make it plain that the matter has never been debated in another place, or else it would not have been necessary to debate it here and now. The only point of this Amendment was to gain advice from on high. Whether my noble friend's advice is capable of being taken as Holy Writ in the future, I know not. In any event, I suggest that perhaps word could be passed down to the various local authorities who have been experiencing difficulty in this matter. So far as I am concerned at the moment, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move Amendment No. 102JJJ.

Amendment moved— Page 123, line 3, leave out ("prescribed body") and insert ("body prescribed for the purposes of this paragraph (whether or not also prescribed for the purposes of sections 168 to 170 above)").—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 102DD:

Page 123, line 11, leave out subsection (4) and insert: ("(4) Section 93(5) above shall apply in relation to a member of any body mentioned in subsection (1) above to whom it would not otherwise apply as it applies in relation to a member of a local authority; and no other enactment or instrument shall prevent a member of any such body from taking part in the consideration or determination of any allowance or other payment under any of the provisions of sections 168 to 171 above.").

The noble Lord said: On the last day on which we were in Committee on this Bill I explained that it was necessary to have an Amendment, because otherwise no elected councillors would be free to discuss the matter, all having a pecuniary interest in the attendance allowances. This Amendment is needed in order to enable the co-opted members to join in the discussion. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 172, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 173 agreed to.


I think we have now reached the target that we set ourselves on Friday and we can adjourn, but I think perhaps I ought to repeat that if we are to finish the Committee stage of this Bill this week we have to-morrow a formidable task before us in completing the whole of Part IX of the Bill, dealing with the functions of the local authorities.


If the noble Lord would only accept our Amendments without discussion I could guarantee that we should finish in time.


I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at four minutes before ten o'clock.