HL Deb 18 July 1973 vol 344 cc1249-346

7.53 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 52 [Schemes]:

LORD POLWARTH moved Amendment No. 76: Page 27, line 39, after ("elections") insert ("or other voting arrangements").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is consequential to one accepted by the Government on Committee stage in another place to Clause 52(7). It was proposed at that time by the Opposition that the provision whereby a district or islands authority receiving a petition for the setting-up of a community council should be required to hold elections for the purpose within six weeks be amended to read "elections or other voting arrangements", to cover the case where some other way of choosing the council might be thought appropriate. As an example, there is the possibility in a remote area of some form of postal ballot. As a consequence of that Amendment made in another place, this Amendment is required. I beg to move.

LORD TAYLOR OF GRYFE moved Amendment No. 77: Page 28, line 24, leave out ("30") and insert ("20").

The noble Lord said: It has been represented to me by several rural communities that the number of 30 ought to be reduced to 20. I think there is some substance in this suggestion, and from my own experience of setting up what must be the equivalent of a community council, a local amenities association, I recognise that in the initial stages a very small number of active and concerned people can be the basis of a healthy community council. It is not always evident at the beginning that a community council can be useful, but once a few people are convinced and once it is organised and has attained some interest locally, it can be set up. For these reasons I suggest that the number of 30 be reduced to 20.


I should like to support this Amendment. Living as I do in a rural area where it would not be easy to get 30 people to start a community council, I would suggest that the figure of 20 proposed by the noble Lord is a more realistic one. It does not apply in the urban areas where one has any number of people, but in large parts of Scotland, where I hope the community councils will be a valuable and effective form of assistance to the local council, it would be a pity to put in a figure which might be difficult to achieve and which would prevent the starting of the council. So I give my support to the noble Lord's Amendment.


In another place this subject was discussed quite exhaustively. To show the variety of opinion, I may say that one Amendment that was moved suggested reducing the number from 30 to 10 and another suggested increasing it from 30 to 100; so we have a wide range of views as to what is the appropriate number. The final view was that a minimum of 30 should be required to sign a petition. That would be the right number, so it should be allowed to stand. On the other hand, I appreciate that in the rural areas there may well be problems. One has to consider whether reducing the figure from 30 might make it possible for the formation in an urban district of a group that was not truly representative. I am quite open to persuasion on this matter. We have heard from only two of your Lordships, but if it is your Lordships' wish that the number should be reduced to 20, I do not think the Government would object. But if anyone else would care to comment, we should be glad to hear them.


Coming from a totally urban area but where one does not have to go too far out of town before one is in a rural situation I can well envisage the circumstances my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe indicated could arise. For instance, the number of people who have been added to the new district of Dundee from a very large part of the surrounding area will be widely dispersed. If one person is trying to organise this sort of thing and going round to find out who is in favour of it, it would be a troublesome business to get 30 signatures. As the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, has said, in the more densely populated areas the difficulty will probably be to keep the number who want to sign it down to the figure. So I do not think the Government would be giving anything away over the greater part of Scotland if they did reduce the figure. It is perhaps in some of these sparsely populated areas that the community councils might serve the most useful purpose. I think the Minister would be well advised to accept the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe.


As there appears to be no contrary view, I shall be happy to accept the noble Lord's Amendment.

8.2 p.m.

LORD TAYLOR OF GRYFE moved Amendment No. 78:

Page 28, line 28, at end insert: ("(8) Where a community council has been established it will be the duty of the Local Authority to advise the council in advance of any schemes or developments which may affect the environment in the area covered by the community council so that they may be given an opportunity of comment and advice.")

The noble Lord said: I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, for accepting Amendment No. 77 and I can only hope that he will be equally accommodating on the Amendment which I now move. This Amendment suggests that the community council be advised by the local authority in advance of any schemes or developments which may affect the environment in the area covered by the community council so that they may be given an opportunity of comment and advice. In an earlier discussions on this Bill reported in yesterday's Hansard, the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, stressed the importance of community councils in giving advice to local authorities. We must establish that these community councils are important to the whole set up.

I perhaps disagree a little with the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, regarding the value of community councils. I think that particularly in the rural areas they will be very important because it is in this area that people see the reality of local government. District councils and regional councils may be fairly remote from them but community councils are part of their daily lives, and to make them meaningful it is important that schemes affecting the environment of these communities should at least be discussed by the community councils and that they be given the opportunity of advising on such schemes to indicate the local reaction.

This is very much in line with the Skeffington Report which laid great emphasis on the importance of the local community advice and involvement in planning decisions. I should think that the local community councils will have something to say in this field and I would regard it as enhancing the value of the community councils if they were so involved. My own experience in this field is in relation to local amenity councils under the civic trust where we reached an understanding with the local "county" councils that we would be advised in advance of matters affecting the environment in our village, and the local planning officer sought such advice and welcomed such advice although he did not always accept it. At least it gave the local community an opportunity of saying what they thought about certain desirable or undesirable developments in the area, and I would regard this as a useful addition to the legislation now before us.


I should like strongly to support the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, on this Amendment. I think it is essential to the success of community councils to make them feel that they are doing a real job and this is one of the spheres where I feel they really could do a useful job of work and that their advice would be appreciated by the higher authorities—if I may describe them in that way. I hope that the Government will accept this Amendment, I feel fairly confident that even if this is not written into the Bill it will probably happen, but I think it will be better if it is written into the Bill.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing our attention to what I think will be a very valuable function of community councils, but I am bound to doubt whether giving them a statutory right is the right approach. We are most anxious to give community councils the maximum freedom. I accept that at the present moment they are an unknown animal and we do not want to saddle them, at this stage at any rate, with statutory rights and statutory duties, and I think to single out this one for statutory treatment would, frankly, be a mistake. It would raise a number of difficulties, some of which are apparent from the wording of the noble Lord's Amendment, which says: … any schemes or developments which may affect the environment in the area covered by the community council …". How would one describe exactly what issues?—because an enormous number of things can affect the environment if you take it literally. How far would the interests of the community need to be affected before consultation was required, and to what extent would consultation mean any action following the consultation? I think it would be better here to rely on common sense in relations between the district or regional councils and the community councils in this respect rather than saddle them with statutory rights—such a right of consultation which I am bound to say I do not think that even any statutory local authority enjoys in such a broadly worded and absolute form. For a body such as a community council this right would not sit happily with its voluntary status. Let us leave this to the good sense of local authorities in their dealings with the community councils in due course. It has been shown from experience in the Scottish Office that these requirements to consult with respect to legislation, to provide information in advance, sometimes make the body concerned as determined as possible to observe it to the minimum legal extent rather than to do it generously or wholeheartedly. While I entirely agree about the important function of the community councils, I would submit to your Lordships that the right way is not to saddle them with a statutory right.


I should like to support my noble friend Lord Polwarth. I have stressed the importance of community councils since the first debate in your Lordships' House on the Wheatley Report and I am quite certain that they will work far more effectively if they are not restricted by statutory rights and statutory duties. Their object, in my view, has always been that they should be a completely detached form of organisation which will receive information from the local people and be able to pass that on without any real statutory duties at all. I strongly disapprove of the idea expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that they should be used by the district councils in any way at all.


That was not what I intended to speak about. I did not say that it was my idea that they should be used in that way; I was pointing out that as the Bill stood they could be used in that way, and I have no doubt that they might be. I did not express myself as necessarily being in favour of it, but for that matter I am not saying that I am against it either.

I would advise my noble friend not to press his Amendment. I thought the noble Lord was going to finish up in the way that Ministers in every Government so often do, by saying, "As soon as you start to particularise you put the general in danger". As we have established by Clause 51 that community councils are going to be the most uninhibited bodies in local government, I would be very much averse to any form of particularisation which might place this wide general power in danger. I therefore hone that my noble friend will accept that there is nothing in the Bill as it stands which will prevent the community council getting this information, and it would not really rest on the district council telling them of anything that happened. After all, if it is something which is likely to worry them, some or other of the members of the community council will get to hear in ample time for something to be done about it. So let him not, in wishing to help the community councils, take away from the possibility that they can be even more powerful than he thought, and therefore as useful as he thinks they are going to be.


I am not sure I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. I think the trouble may well be that community councils may not get to hear of developments taking place in their area, particularly when they are being carried out by people like the Gas Board or the Electricity Authority. I think there are defects in this particular provision and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, will not press it. But a provision such as this would I think be very useful in the Bill. If there is not going to be such a provision, I would hope that my noble friend will assure us that his Department will send a circular to district councils and regional councils to the effect that where community councils exist they should be kept very closely informed of development and planning applications in their area. I should be happy if my noble friend gave us that assurance. I think, however, that some such provision as this would be a great help to community councils in their work.


In the light of the discussion which has taken place, I would not wish to press this to a Division, but would strongly support the suggestion of the noble Duke that some guidance ought to be given on the rights and responsibilities of community councils. I speak with some experience of a community council, so far as it is constituted as an amenity association, and it is not always the case that we are advised of substantial developments in our area. While this has now been regularised, sometimes there is reluctance on the part of the county council to advise local communities on important developments in their area. This has unfortunate consequences. It may set in motion ad hoc bodies which may be unrepresentative and sometimes irresponsible. I think it would be far better if these matters were channelled through com- munity councils. This would provide a reasonable forum for discussion and thus avoid these complications. But in view of the sympathy shown by the general view of the Government, I would not propose to press the Amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.


I am quite sure that, by whatever manner, these things will be called to the attention of those concerned with the setting up of these councils. Schemes have to be submitted to the Secretary of State, and I am quite certain this aspect will not be overlooked.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 52, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 53 to 55 agreed to.

8.15 p.m.

THE EARL OF BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 79: After Clause 55 insert the following new clause—

Community Council Officers

(".—(1) Every district or island council shall appoint a clerk and such other officers as they think necessary, for the efficient discharge of the functions of any community council established under this part of this Act and may pay to the clerk and such other officers appointed under this section such reasonable salaries as they think fit.

(2) The clerk and every other officer appointed under this section shall hold office during the pleasure of the district or island council.

(3) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to affect the provisions of any enactment or statutory order requiring the appointment of any officer for the purposes of that enactment or order.").

The noble Earl said: I will try to be as brief as I can, but this is something about which I feel rather strongly. I have attempted, unfortunately, to do two things here. One is to provide a sub-district office and the other is to provide the district council with some official who could attend to its ordinary running. I do not know whether any of your Lordships has been a member of clubs and societies and organisations, but so often the one and only paid member is the secretary. That is why I feel that this matter is important. I should like to go into a little further detail. I feel that, in future there will be just as great a need, if not a greater need, for the retention of the official known at present as the district clerk of a county council as there has ever been in the past, particularly when one realises that burgh councils disappear. If a community council does not have some official of that council to call the meetings, issue the minutes and deal with the correspondence, I cannot see that community council ever getting off the ground.

Your Lordships may not be familiar with the actual duties of a district clerk. Less than 10 per cent. of the work is taken up by the district councillors actually meeting. I therefore include a list of the duties of the Dunbar District Clerk, which I think serves as a typical example. In regard to the regional functions he calls the meetings of the education areas sub-committee and writes the minutes. He attends to irregular attendance and the procedure for dealing with school truancy; school lets; the assessment and recommendations under the school meals scheme; the assessment and recommendations for clothing and footwear in necessitous cases; the appointment of janitors, school cleaners; the payment of ancillary wages. On the area youth panel, he deals with applications for grants to youth organisations. With regard to the youth employment service, he keeps the employers vacancy register; he places people in employment; issues the National Insurance card and deals wtih the claims for unemployment benefit and social security payments; and he also makes up the returns to the careers officer. In the divisional health sub-committee, besides calling the meetings he deals with the assessment, administration, engagement, calculation and payment of wages of that marvellous organisation, the home-help scheme. He also acts as registrar of births, deaths and marriages, and does everything in that field.

I feel that there is a tremendous need for somebody to be available to do these duties. It is perhaps worth mentioning that his staff consists of only two girls in the office. But what concerns me most is the difficulty of dealing with school truancy, which is becoming an increasing problem; of the vital service under the home-help scheme and of necessitous cases being dealt with promptly. I cannot see people requiring that sort of help travelling maybe 50 miles to the new district council office, or possibly 100 miles to the new regional council office, to get attention. Perhaps I should emphasise that in future there will be no town clerk or burgh chamber-lain. So far as I know, every district clerk is expecting his office to wind up with the reorganisation of local government. Who is going to take his place? Will there be such an organisation? Can something be produced in the Bill to satisfy what I consider an urgent requirement? I beg to move.


I should like to support my noble friend Lord Balfour in this matter. I think it is terribly important, if at all possible, to make a success of these community councils. The community councils are going to be of varying composition and operating in varying fields of activity. Some are going to be extremely active and some are not going to be so active. It is impossible to lay down exactly what should be the help that should be afforded them to get on with whatever their jobs and circumstances require. It is essential that they should be provided with some form of permanent staff to keep them going.

I am equally certain that the staff of the new district councils will normally be far too fully occupied to be able to attend to the community councils. I am not at all certain that it is desirable, in many cases, that an official from the district council should be seconded, as it were, for spare time work with the community council. That may well work in certain cases, but there is no doubt that in some of the community councils which are going to be extremely active there is going to be a job for a full-time person. In so far as the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Balfour makes this possible, I fully support it, and I hope that this will be the feeling of the Committee.


I am strongly in favour of the community councils having someone to work for them, but I do not think that any community council should deal with some of the things mentioned by the noble Earl. In my county, social services deal with meals and looking after old people, and the Education Committee deals with the truancy problem. What is being suggested that this person, or the community council, should do should be done by the statutory committee whose duty it is to look after education, social work, and all the other matters. I can visualise some things for the community council to do which are not the statutory duty of another committee. The community councils must have someone, and I hope that they will have a part-time secretary. But I deplore the suggestion that they should do the jobs that have been done, and should be done by the statutory committees.


I have sympathy with the noble Earl in what he is desiring to achieve by this Amendment, but I think that my noble friend Lady Elliot has produced the answer. This is not a matter for a statutory obligatory appointment of an official who would be in the pay, and at the pleasure, of the district council or islands council. They would have the complete whip hand over the actions of the community council, for whom we desire the maximum freedom.

The noble Earl referred to various functions which are not functions for a community council. They are laid down by Statute, and they are local authority functions. I do not think that the district councils need be remote. They have complete freedom to set up their own management structure and local offices, and I am quite sure that they will very often replace these previous district council offices with branch offices of the district council, where they can offer these services close to the people. It might very well be a good thing that the local community council office should share premises or be in an adjoining building, and the district council may make personnel and other services available to the community council. I submit that we will achieve the results much more effectively by leaving it to intelligent, voluntary arrangements of this kind.


May I say one word more. Many things, such as school truancy, have been dealt with at a very local level, and I am not satisfied with the work that the reporters are doing. They are wonderful and dedicated people, but I feel that very often the kind of social works organisation going on at the moment in the case of school truancy is so slow in getting anything moving that often the child has left school by the time that anything has happened. This is the sort of thing I want to nip in the bud. I felt that some local authority official of some kind was needed to deal with the long list that I read out, and that is what I wanted to happen. Provided that does happen, I am quite happy to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 56 [Arrangements for discharge of functions by local authorities]:

8.25 p.m.

LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 80:

Page 30, line 28, at end insert— (" ( ) A local authority may delegate to a committee or sub-committee any of their functions other than those which by this Act or any other enactment must be exercised only by the authority, and in case of such delegation subsection (4) of this section shall not apply.")

The noble Lord said: I think that this is a rather important Amendment, but I can be brief about it. It is really a probing Amendment more than anything else. I raised this point on Second Reading. The noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, was not able to deal with it in his reply, but he was good enough to write to me on a number of matters and this was one of them. If he will allow me, I will read what he said on this matter: I can confirm, as I indicated in my winding-up speech, that arrangements for the discharge of local authority functions under Clause 56 do cover the particular circumstances of delegation of powers to which you referred. I am not certain that that is in fact right. Delegation of powers with local authorities can take two forms. There may be a particular subject and they may decide that the matter requires consideration. They may remit it, with powers, to a committee to take a decision on; that decision will be final, and that is a delegation of a particular item.

What I have in mind in connection with the delegation of powers is something very much wider than that, and something that is very widely practised by local authorities. They have a scheme of delegation under which, when a committee have taken a decision on a matter, it is final. Until the local authority reconsider their standing orders in due course—and that takes place normally once a year—the scheme of delegation cannot be altered. This happens very often, and I can give an example of the sort of thing that is in mind. On planning, for instance, in the Dundee Town Council—and I think it is typical of what is done in many local authorities—all decisions are delegated to the planning committees unless there is a division. If there is a division, but only then, does the matter then come to the full town council for decision

But in other committees, a wide range of ordinary business of the committee is delegated to them with full powers. When the minutes come up before the full meeting of the authority for consideration, items which are so delegated are marked with an asterisk, and there can be no debate on that in the council. This is generally accepted as being a means of cutting out needless delay in the carrying out of council decisions. I may say that the scheme of delegation in Dundee goes back to the time when Sir Garnet Wilson was Lord Provost towards the end of the war and in the years after the war. That was when it reached the form in which it substantially exists to-day, and it has worked admirably well.

The difficulty with Clause 56 is that it does not give delegation with powers. It says that they may be discharged by a committee. That can be delegation, but where it ceases to be delegation with powers is in subsection (4): Any arrangement made by a local authority or committee … for the discharge of any functions … shall not prevent the authority or committee by whom the arrangement is made from exercising those functions. This simply means that nobody can act. There is no delegation in fact, because no committee can act on a decision that it arrives at because it would always be open for the meeting of the full authority to say, "We are going to decide this ourselves", so that delegation with powers would disappear. That is why my attempt at dealing with this was to say that where there was delegation with powers then subsection (4), giving the authority the right to take the matter back would not apply.

It will not surprise me in the least if the wording of my Amendment does not accomplish in proper draftsman's language what I want to do. I should be quite content to withdraw this Amendment if the Minister could assure me that he would look at this point, so that it is made clear beyond a shadow of doubt that a local authority may delegate a matter with powers, and a committee will know that those powers can safely be exercised and will not be withdrawn, or a decision overturned, at a subsequent meeting, except in the circumstances which I have indicated can be put into a scheme of delegation; for example, if a planning committee were divided and it was felt that a matter ought not to rest with them, because there should be a further opportunity of looking at it in the full authority. But if they were unanimous, that would be the end of the matter. That sort of case is not confined to a planning committee. A scheme of delegation might operate only where a committee were unanimous that the powers that were delegated would be operative. If the Minister will undertake to look at this point, and make the powers of delegation under Clause 56 wider than they appear to be, then I shall be content. I beg to move.


I do not think that the position is as restrictive as it seems to the noble Lord. As I understand it, this question of delegation can continue to be regulated, as I believe it is at present, by standing orders, and if standing orders say that a function is delegated without recall then it is so delegated until the standing orders are changed. The doubt may be over the use of the word "functions" rather than specific decisions, as it were. An authority can delegate with powers of decision under standing orders, and that remains the case until the standing orders are changed; and then, of course, they can take back the powers. This is a matter for the authority's own decision and regulation and it is not affected by Clause 56(4), which will not operate against an authority's standing orders.


I should be happy with that if the Minister could tell me in what circumstances Clause 56(4) does operate.


Presumably, it would not prevent a local authority from taking back the delegated authority under the procedure laid down when it delegated the authority.


It would not prevent their taking back the delegated power under the procedure laid down. If a local authority have a scheme under standing orders to delegate certain matters to a committee—and I agree that that is how it should be done—can the Minister assure me that the legal effect of Clause 56(4) would be overridden by the powers of the standing orders? If he can do that, I shall be perfectly content. I have never been committed to an arrangement, in any body of this kind, for more than a year at a time. Every year after the election the authorities will probably review the standing orders and they could change. But what I want to make certain about is that if a decision is taken and it appears to be a delegated one in pursuance of the decision which an authority has taken under the standing orders, a member will not be able to get up in Committee and say, "Notwithstanding the scheme of delegation in standing orders, according to Section 56(4) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 I have the right to raise this matter because it can be taken back". Will the Minister assure me that that will not be possible within a proper scheme of delegation?


Yes, it will not be possible without action being taken regarding the standing orders.


I am grateful to the Minister. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD POLWARTH moved Amendment No. 81: Page 32, line 11, leave insert (" 1973").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 111, 172 and 201 are consequential on this Amendment. These Amendments are consequential on the passing of the Education (Work Experience) Act 1973, which received the Royal Assent on May 23 this year. That Act becomes part of the body of Education Acts which may be cited together. It is therefore necessary that we amend the description of these Acts from "1939 to 1971" to "1939 to 1973". At the same time, the opportunity is taken to make a minor drafting Amendment in Clause 233(2), where two Education Acts are at present specified. It seems preferable to cover them all by employing this formal embracing citation of the Acts from one year to the other. I beg to move.

Clause 56, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 57 to 63 agreed to.

Clause 63 [Appointment, etc. of staff]:

THE EARL OF BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 83: Page 36, line 7, leave out paragraph (e).

The noble Earl said: Clause 64 is a curious clause because of the choice of the specified officers that a local authority must appoint. It is also curious to find the variations in the terms and conditions of their appointment in the Schedules to this Bill. For example, a local authority must appoint a qualified weights and measures inspector, but there is no mention of either the appointment or the terms and conditions of the very important official known as the sanitary inspector or the environmental health officer because Section 79 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947 is being repealed. Hence my new clause.


I wonder whether I may interrupt the noble Lord. I think the Amendment called was No. 83, was it not?


Yes, Amendment No. 83 to Clause 64 by the Earl of Balfour.


I thought I was speaking to that.


I also thought the noble Earl was speaking to that.


With great respect, I think that the noble Earl is speaking to the subsequent Amendment in his name.


Amendments Nos. 83 and 84 go together. We are now on No. 83, to leave out paragraph (e).


It has nothing to do with environmental health.


I am giving my reasons why I want to leave out paragraph (e). I do not think I have made a mistake. A director of social work can neither be appointed nor be dismissed except with the sanction of the Secretary of State, under Section 3 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968. Under Section 36 of that Act, social work reporters are at present appointed or dismissed under the same conditions as their director, but it will be noted that under Schedule 26 to this Bill these conditions are being repealed. Hence the reason for my Amendment to leave out paragraph (e). If it is the intention of the Government to specify that a local authority must employ reporters, why have the Government decided not to specify the appointment of any of the officials in the Local Government (Scotland) Act—Section 76, clerk; Section 77, treasurer; Section 78, collector; Section 79, medical officer of health and sanitary inspector; and Section 80, road surveyor. At the same time, I should like to point out that although directors of education must be appointed under Section 86 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962, under Schedule 11 to this Bill they … shall hold office on such reasonable terms and conditions, including conditions as to remuneration, as the authority appointing him think fit. The special conditions mentioned in the rest of that subsection cease to have effect. Yet teachers at the authority schools will continue to have these special conditions of employment. I therefore ask: is this alteration in the best interests of either the officials or the authority concerned? I beg to move.


I think there is a small degree of confusion here. The noble Earl's Amendment relates to the office of reporter under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968. We have specified here a number of offices which it will be obligatory to continue. In general, our policy is to give the maximum freedom to local authorities, and not to oblige them to maintain more than the minimum necessary offices designated by their titles. We will leave it to their discretion how they designate the people to carry out the jobs. But this particular one is in a rather peculiar position, and I shall confine my remarks to this because this is the substance of the Amendment.

The office of reporter was introduced as a carefully independent part of what is really quasi-judicial machinery. The reporter's duties as the permanent official servicing children's panels include very important powers like deciding which children referred to him by the police, social work departments or individuals as having committed offences or as having been in difficulties seem to require compulsory care. The decision as to who come before a children's hearing is the reporter's alone, and it is most important that his independence is manifest. The only way of ensuring this is to provide that a reporter has specifically to be appointed, and that his functions cannot be absorbed, for example, within those of the clerk to the authority, the director of social work or any other official. That is the purpose of requiring the maintenance of the office of reporter, which the noble Earl's Amendment would remove from the Bill.


I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 64 agreed to.

8.44 p.m.

THE EARL OF BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 84: After Clause 64 insert the following new clause—

Environmental Health Officer

".—(1) Every district and island council shall appoint an officer who shall be called the environmental health officer of the district or island authority and shall regulate the duties of the environmental health officer and pay him such reasonable salary as the council may determine.

(2) Except with the sanction of the Secretary of State no person shall be appointed environmental health officer of an authority unless he possesses such qualifications as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State.

(3) The environmental health officer of an authority shall not hold any other appointment or engage in private practice or employment without the written consent of the council.

(4) The environmental health officer shall hold office during the pleasure of the council, so however that he shall not be removed from office except by either a resolution of the council passed by more than two thirds of the members of the council present at a meeting of the council the notice of which specifies the consideration of the removal from office of the environmental health officer as an item of business or by or with the sanction of the Secretary of State."

The noble Earl said: I have already spoken to this Amendment. It is either necessary or it is not necessary, but I feel that the environmental health officer is in very special circumstances. The environmental health officer could be placed in a difficult position, and I feel that he should be in some way covered by Statute. I beg to move.


I think this is a fairly clear, straightforward difference of view as to whether or not it is necessary to have an official designated by his particular title. The environmental health officer is, of course, our old friend the sanitary inspector under his newly-chosen designation. He is a very important person, but I do not think he enjoys such a special responsibility or position as to require that he must statutorily be designated as the environmental health officer by every authority. I think that here, as with these other appointments, unless there is something specific (like the reporter, who was mentioned in the last Amendment), we should leave it to the good sense of the authorities concerned how they designate these officials. They will have to employ people with these skills to deal with the functions with which they are charged, and there will be many opportunities for the people with these present designations for employment with the new authorities. They will indeed have even better opportunities, I submit, than they have at present in their careers. Accordingly, in the interests of leaving the maximum freedom to authorities about the designation of their officials, I would ask your Lordships to resist this Amendment.


I think the Minister is right in this case. I doubt very much whether any local authorities which have needed sanitary inspectors in the past are going to refrain from appointing them just because it is not laid down. I agree with the Minister that these are very important officials of local authorities. In fact, I would go further and say that they are even as important as their new title would indicate.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 65 to 69 agreed to.

Clause 70 [Acquisition of land by agreement]:

On Question, Whether Clause 70 shall stand part of the Bill?


I have a query on Clause 70. This clause states the way in which local authorities can acquire land, and I presume that under the usual arrangements "land" includes anything which may be on it—buildings, and so on. In the past it has been a great thorn in the flesh of authorities that they can acquire land only after a value has been placed on it by the district valuer. This means that in many cases they have had to wait sometimes two years before they can do so. I do not see anything in Clause 70—though I would not guarantee that it does not appear somewhere else in the Bill—requiring that a local authority will acquire land only after the district valuer has valued. I do not think it is in the clause, but would the Minister say whether or not these restrictions still apply, or whether this is part of the giving of greater powers to local authorities?


The noble Lord has caught me out on this one, without notice.


I would be quite happy if we left it at that, and perhaps the noble Lord could be a little out of order in giving us the information later on.


If the noble Lord will allow me that opportunity, I will gladly accept it.

Clause 70 agreed to.

Clauses 71 to 75 agreed to.

Clause 76 [Special provisions as to land acquired for public recreation from heir of entail]:

8.48 p.m.

THE EARL OF BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 87: Page 40, line 42, leave out ("quarter of a mile") and insert ("100 metres").

The noble Earl said: I took legal advice on this Amendment, and I was told that the heirs of entail enactments were 19th century Acts which applied to property which was entailed before 1914. The quarter of a mile was in connection with what was regarded as a reasonable distance from the point of view of privacy. At that time people really felt that a quarter of a mile was the minimum distance. I well remember one case of relations of mine who acquired a house that had five huge monkey-puzzle trees planted close round about it, and a Virginia creeper and ivy which had been trained to grow up the walls. Nowadays, with the open-planning type of house, I feel that the distance of 100 metres in substitution would be quite far enough away, and a much more practicable thing—and we are trying to make things more practical by the provisions of this Bill. I beg to move.


The noble Earl is taking us back into some rather obscure legislation. He is right in saying that no entails have been created under Statute in Scotland since 1914. Nevertheless, I do not think it would be right that your Lordships should tamper with what is really a basic part of the law of entail. This is something which I think we may well want to review as a whole in the appropriate way at the appropriate time. The noble Earl would in fact, by his Amendment, reduce the radius of inalienable land from one quarter of a mile to 100 metres. Apart from going metric, he would be reducing the radius to approximately a quarter and the area to one-sixteenth. The number of occasions, if any, when this will arise is minimal. I would suggest that anything to do with this should be left to the review of the whole of the law of entailment.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 76 agreed to.

Clauses 77 to 80 agreed to.

Clause 81 [Contracts of local authorities]:

On Question, Whether Clause 81 shall stand part of the Bill?


I do not think I shall catch the Minister this time. I ought not to. The clause starts by saying: A local authority may make standing orders with respect to the making of contracts by them or on their behalf. It goes on to say that they shall make standing orders with respect to the making by them … of contracts for the supply of goods or materials or for the execution of works". I take it that what the first part means is that a local authority might be making a contract for some sort of service other than that dealt with in the second paragraph (for the supply of goods and materials or for the execution of works); for instance, contracts with architects, surveyors, lawyers and so on. Is it the intention that where contracts do not fall within subsection (2) the authority may still make standing orders, but where it falls within subsection (2) they are under an obligation to make standing orders and they are covered by the following provisions? Am I reading it correctly?


That is certainly how it appears to me. The first is a general permissive power, the second is more detailed and specific with relation to entering into specific contracts and works and that they must have standing orders with respect to specific kinds of contracts for the supply of goods or materials or the execution of works. They may have more general ones overall.

Clause 81 agreed to.

Clause 82 agreed to.

Clause 83 [Power of local authorities 'to incur expenditure for certain purposes not otherwise authorised]:

LORD POLWARTH moved Amendment No. 88: Page 44, line 17, leave out ("a Lord Provost").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment and Amendment No. 89 go together. They are being proposed following an undertaking given by Ministers in another place at Report stage to consider further classes of persons sponsoring appeals which might be assisted by a local authority under the powers of the clause. At the moment subsection (3) provides that a local authority may contribute under it to appeals sponsored by a Lord Provost, a chairman of a regional, islands or district council, a lord-lieutenant or a body of which any of these persons is a member". I am not quite sure how a lord-lieutenant can be a member of a body of persons, but it is apparently all-embracing. The term "Lord Provost" as provided in Clause 3 will continue to attach to the chairmen of the city districts of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, but the Government made it clear that while they did not intend to extend the title by Statute to other office holders there was nothing to prevent its use elsewhere; for example, by a district council or a community council. There could also be the possibility in some areas that local councillors might wish to provide for the title to continue to be borne by someone other than the chairman of the district council.

To avoid confusion, we feel that the words "Lord Provost" should be deleted from the clause. In the case of cities the position will be covered by reference to "a chairman of a district council", which is what the Lord Provost will be in the cities. It was also agreed to accept a suggestion originally put forward in another place that local authorities should also have power if they wish to contribute to appeals sponsored by community councils, and the reference to the chairman of a community council has been inserted in this Amendment.


I agree with the Minister that these words should be taken out in view of the reference to a chairman of a district council, but my agreement arises from a different reason. The way in which the noble Lord expressed this view multiplies my fears that the Government are prepared to contemplate with equanimity the possibility of Scotland being littered with Lord Provosts.


I beg to move Amendment No. 89.

Amendment moved— Page 44, line 18, after ("council") insert ("a chairman of a community council").(Lord Polwarth.)

Clause 83, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 84 [Powers of local authorities with respect to emergencies or disasters]:

On Question, Whether Clause 84 shall stand part of the Bill?


I wonder whether the Minister can tell me what this power covers. Would it cover, for instance, the conditions that arose in Glasgow some years ago when with exceptional storms a tremendous amount of damage was done and for a long time there was doubt as to the power the local authority had to carry out repair work and subsequently to recover the cost from the owners of the property? That was how it was eventually done, but after long and needless delay was incurred. I think that largely the legal advisers to the Corporation of Glasgow did not think they could do this. This clause would make it clear in circumstances of that kind that the local authorities have the power to get on with the job right away. Is that the position?


That is what is envisaged: that it should cover emergency and disaster involving danger to life or property—some physical event but not a continuing eventuality or state of affairs.

Clause 84 agreed to.

Clause 85 agreed to.

Clause 86 [Insurance by local authorities against accidents to members]:

On Question, Whether Clause 86 shall stand part of the Bill?


The question is raised by NALGO as to whether this clause is sufficient in requiring insurance by local authorities against accidents to the members and whether it ought not to be extended also to ther officers or employees. The opinion I expressed (but I am not certain I am right) is that it would not be necessary in their case because it will be provided in the ordinary course of events. Part of the conditions of service is that these people are protected against the consequences of accidents. That is not the position in relation to members, where it can be done only by insurance and special arrangements. Am I right in my opinion?


The position, as I understand it, of the officers is the normal employer-employee relationship. As such, the industrial accidents provisions in National Insurance legislation should adequately take care of the officers. There is nothing to prevent special arrangements for special officers, so far as I know, under the Bill.


If an authority wanted to make up an employee's wages for a period, as is done by any good employer; if they wanted to make up the industrial benefits to his normal wage or to insure against that contingency, presumably they are free to do so without any specific power being laid down in the Bill?


Without being absolutely certain on that, from what I have heard of the arrangements I should have thought this to be a normal employer-employee situation in which the employer would have power to make any reasonable arrangement regarding the insurance of his employee.


As the noble Lord is not absolutely certain, may I ask whether if the position is different he would be good enough to write and let me know? If I do not hear from him I shall know that the position is satisfactory.

Clause 86 agreed to.

Clauses 87 to 90 agreed to.

Clause 91 [Social, cultural and recreative activities]:

9.0 p.m.

THE DUKE OF ATHOLL moved Amendment No. 90A: Page 48, line 19, leave out ("an adequate") and insert ("a reasonable").

The noble Duke said: The terms of this subsection occur in several places in the Bill and in most of the other places I think that they are perfectly suitable. But I am worried in connection with this clause which deals with the provision of recreational and social facilities. It is almost impossible to produce adequate facilities for social, cultural or recreational activities at times of peak demand. However many golf courses there may be, probably on Sunday mornings there will not be an adequate number. I should have thought it was unreasonable to expect any regional authority to produce this number of facilities. I am worried also that on some occasions various recreational activities will conflict. Thus you may have a pond which is used for water ski-ing and for fishing, which two sports cannot take place at the same time. Is the regional council to be expected to produce adequate facilities for both sports? It is the word "adequate" that worries me.

If there were a demand for ski jumping in some towns (I might add that every Scandinavian town of any size has its own ski-jump and I do not think the day will be far off when every town has one, with sports getting more and more international) would the regional council be expected, at great expense, to produce a ski-jump and supply adequately the demand for that particular recreational facility? I imagine they would be expected to produce bigger and better State bingo halls if the demand for accommodation for bingo was not satisfied by the existing halls. I feel that in this subsection it would be better if the word "reasonable" was used rather than the word "adequate". I am not prepared to go to the stake over this; I am not even prepared to divide the Committee on it. But I feel that here the use of the word "adequate" goes perhaps too far, and that "reasonable" might be a more appropriate word.


I think we would all agree that both these words, "adequate" and "reasonable", are capable of a pretty broad interpretation and at first sight there is a lot to be said for the noble Duke's suggestion. If there were ever to be any question of challenging a council on whether they had fulfilled their duties under the clause I think the real criterion would be whether they had tried to do their best in the circumstances. I should think it very unlikely, but if the matter ever became one of a legal definition, I should think it would be easier to enforce it over the term "adequate" than over the term "reasonable". I am sure that the interpretation of adequacy will be dealt with in a sensible manner.


If my noble friend is satisfied that this is not going to cause difficulty, who am I to complain? I am still not entirely convinced, but I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD TAYLOR OF GRYFE moved Amendment No. 91: Page 48, line 21, at end insert ("and shall report to the Secretary of State annually on the steps taken particularly in relation to the provision of parks and recreation facilities.").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment follows representations made to me by the Institute of Parks and Recreation Administration, a body for which I have the highest regard. They are a little concerned about some of the facilities not being adequate. I think the balance between district and region is clearly and sensibly defined in the Bill. There will be parks and recreation facilities which are essentially district, but more and more the provision of country parks will have a regional impact and responsibility. The park administrators and the recreation administrators were a little apprehensive about the wording in Clause 91 which says: A local authority may do or arrange … and it gives a list of the facilities which they may provide. I confess that it would be wrong to make these facilities compulsory and to insist on the maintenance of a band, orchestra or theatrical company. At the same time, it is felt by people who are concerned with outdoor activities that something stronger might be expressed in relation to parks and recreation.

I think that we are all deeply concerned about the mounting cost of vandalism in areas where school leavers who have been accustomed to enjoying some organised recreational facilities and some order in their school life, suddenly find themselves in a new world, a new environment of factory life, where facilities for recreation are inadequate. I think there is a duty to provide adequate recreation, even as an insurance against the increasing menace of vandalism. We make compulsory certain services by local authorities. I admit that there are difficulties about making this facility compulsory, but I think that for many local authorities the budget for local parks is more and more being taken up by the provision of a little landscaping here and there on new housing estates; and there is little money left for the additional responsibility of providing adequate recreation facilities.

We are living in a period in which vandalism is the result of frustration felt by people who can find no outlet for their creative energy. I hope that the Minister will be able to say something which might encourage those of us who are concerned over this matter, and that in particular the Institute may be encouraged to feel that their particular and important social responsibility is not being lost sight of in the new legislation. I beg to move.


I think it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak now rather than on the Amendment that I have put down to Clause 138, Amendment No. 135A, which is on much the same point, and if I say straight away that I was never enamoured of my Amendment and much prefer that of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe. I am afraid I have not his skill in thinking of Amendments. I feel that this is a very good compromise between the two evils: first, forcing local authorities to spend their money in some particular way, which is something, like the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, I would tend to deplore; and secondly, that in times of financial stress the first thing that is always cut out is expenditure on things like parks and recreation areas. I feel that expenditure on outdoor places where people can go and enjoy themselves is well worth while in the fight against vandalism. I therefore hope that the Government can give us some encouragement by saying that they adopt the spirit of this Amendment, if not the actual words.

The Institute of Park and Recreation Administration are slightly worried by the somewhat dual responsibility that this Bill lays on the regional councils and the district councils for the administration of parks. They realise that regional parks, like Culzean, ought to be a regional function, and that smaller parks in the heart of Glasgow ought to be a district function, but they feel that there may be some falling between the stools. I should like my noble friend to confirm that the Government will keep an eye on this.


I can confirm that it is the Government's intention to give every encouragement to the provision of this kind of facilities. It is encouraging to read that, regional councils shall have a duty in consultation with district councils … This is a definite provision to ensure that there is an adequate provision of facilities for the inhabitants in their regions for social, cultural and recreational activities I think these activities will all benefit from the fact of having a stronger regional structure, with greater resources, and better able to plan the proper distribution and allocation of these facilities, instead of possibly every very small community striving to have every facility and ending up not having a good enough one anywhere. I think the regional set-up will enable us to make a much better provision than in the past, and that is certainly our intention.

On the actual substance of the Amendment, which suggests that they shall report to the Secretary of State annually on the steps taken, with great respect I do not think this is the right answer. We do not want to increase the number of statutory annual reports that have to be made. Everybody then bustles around and says, "What are we going to put in the annual report?", and they think up all sorts of odds and ends to fill it out. Under Clause 199 of the Bill the Secretary of State is given power to require any local authority, joint committee or joint board to submit such returns and give him such information as he may require. So I think the Secretary of State can keep a good eye on this. He has the power to do so, and we certainly intend to give every encouragement to this end.


I should like to thank the noble Lord for that assurance and for the encouragement he has given. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 91 agreed to.

Clauses 92 and 93 agreed to.

Clause 94 [Capital expenses]:

9.13 p.m.

LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 91A: Page 50, line 18, after second ("works") insert ("or to such amount")

The noble Lord said: The two Amendments that I have put down to Clause 94 look the same, but they are not. They cover different aspects, and I speak only to Amendment No. 91A. On Second Reading, I pointed out that one considerable source of anxiety to local authorities is the fact that every item of capital expenditure is controlled, and they have to go to the Secretary of State for consent, no matter how small it may be. I appreciate that it is part of the functions of central Government to control the use of the resources of the country and that one of the ways in which this is done is by tight control of capital expenditure. I do not wish materially to depart from that. However, I suggested on Second Reading that it might be appropriate, in the spirit of giving more powers to the new local authorities than are available to the existing ones, that the Government might consider the possibility of either an aggregate amount for local authority expenditure, not exceeding some small sum—I would not care to put a figure on it—which might in fact be generally approved by the Secretary of State without requiring the submission to him of details. I looked at the clause as it stood and it seemed to me that it might be possible to regard paragraph (1)(a): subject to such conditions as may be specified …". as enabling the Secretary of State to say that any scheme which does not cost more than £x is given approval in this way. Regarding paragraph (1)(b)— in relation to such project, or to such programme of works, or to such class of works … I do not know, for instance, whether it might be said that schemes costing not more than £x could be regarded as a "class of works".

If, therefore, the wording of the clause as it stands would enable the Secretary of State to give a general authority of this kind, then I should be content. All I would seek to do—and the Amendment which I have put down is only if it is thought necessary—would be to lay down such an amount so that the Secretary of State could say that any scheme costing not more than such an amount could be gone ahead with, and there would be general authority for him to do that. But I am taking it generally really as a permissive power, so that the Secretary of State "may" do this, and, whichever way it was done, the Secretary of State would not be under any obligation—because in times of stringency he might want to pull the reins tight, but at other times he might be able to give a general dispensation of this kind. Would the Minister be good enough to say whether the clause as it stands would enable the Secretary of State to regard a scheme of this kind as coming within the powers which the clause gives?


It is doubtful whether the clause as it now stands would allow the kind of permission that the noble Lord seeks. On consideration, we think it is desirable that there should be such a power, and therefore I am happy to accept the Amendment, though, like the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, I should not care to put a figure on it.


I am grateful to the Minister.

LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 91B: Page 50, line 23, leave out ("or are to be met from a reserve fund").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment, although it refers to the same clause, is quite a different thing. I am rather unhappy about the way the clause is worded, because subsection (2) says: In this section 'capital expenses' means any expenses which are to be charged to a capital or borrowing account, …". No one could dissent from that: a charge is obviously a capital expense. It continues: … or are to be met from a reserve fund, or are to be met otherwise than out of current revenue. Presumably if they are not to be met out of current revenue they are to be met by using borrowed money, and presumably again it is a capital expense.

What I am not happy about is the inclusion of the words: or are to be met from a reserve fund,". I could understand the position if what is intended is that what is obviously a capital project which could otherwise be met by borrowing money was in fact going to be met from a reserve fund; but as I read this clause it says that any expense which is being met from a reserve fund shall be regarded as a capital expense. There may be many things which are met from a reserve fund. The most obvious occasion is if there is a deficit on the current year's accounts and therefore the local authority take money out of a reserve fund to meet it. But on a strict reading of this clause they would be debarred from doing so, because as soon as they take money out of the reserve fund it becomes a capital expense, and they can do it only with the consent of the Secretary of State. I am quite certain that that is not what is meant.

If I am told that, notwithstanding that being an intelligent reading of the provision, this is what the lawyers would make it out to be and that it is confined to preventing the use of reserve funds on proper capital expenditure, then I should be content. But if I cannot be assured of that, the least I am prepared to do is to invite the Minister to look at this clause again and ensure that it does only what it is intended to do: that is, prevent a reserve fund from being used for capital expenditure that otherwise would have been controlled by the Secretary of State.

9.20 p.m.


I think I can clarify the intention here for the noble Lord. As he has appreciated, the basic object of Clause 94 is to ensure the control of the use of resources through the control of capital expenses, instead of through the control of borrowing. Reserve funds are in general derived from revenue contributions. But if they are built up they can be used to fund quite large capital projects—which of course means a take up of resources. It is exactly this take up of resources that it is intended to control. Moreover, paragraph 60 of Schedule 9 removes the 2½p limitation on aggregate contributions by local authorities to capital funds in any year. In view of these two considerations, it is not unreasonable to include expenses met from reserve funds in the definition of capital expenses. The noble Lord will have noticed that the end of that sentence says "or are to be met otherwise than out of current revenue". So there is the distinction there between what is to be met out of current revenue, and what is to be charged to capital and the like. There will need to be some flexibility in operating Clause 94, and local authorities will normally be free to spend within the limits of their agreed capital budgets. Where capital expenses are being incurred, or reserve funds are being employed simply to acquire existing assets rather than to create new assets, it should be possible to make some relaxation of control, and again there is no creation of new assets.

I hope I have made the position clear. There was some reference to this in correspondence that passed between my noble friend and the noble Lord. I hope that I have made the purpose of these particular words clear. Plainly, if funds are merely to be paid out of the reserve fund to meet what is normally funded out of current revenue, whether it is a deficit or anything else, this does not come within the meaning of capital expenses. That is clear from the subsection. What we are talking about here is the spending of money for the creation of new assets. It is on this point that we seek to exercise control.


I am sorry, but I am not satisfied. I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has met the point I am raising. I am in complete agreement with the object he stated and which was in Lord Polwarth's letter to me. I would not wish to be a party to giving an unlimited freedom on capital expenditure if people were free to use reserve funds. Some local authorities could have large reserve funds—Edinburgh at one time had enormous reserve funds; we do not know how enormous because the figure was never revealed. We all know there was a lot of money involved.

But it is a fact that in Clause 94(2) capital expenses are being defined. The definition includes the spending of any money from the reserve fund as being considered a capital expenditure. It is much more common to use reserve funds for items which are not of a capital nature at all; yet as I read this, as soon as you take money out of a reserve fund it becomes a capital expenditure. That is what I am seeking to prevent. I want the Minister to make it perfectly clear that reserve funds will not be used for expenditure of a capital nature without the consent of the Secretary of State. To that I have no objection. What I am objecting to is the way in which capital expenditure is being defined. I would be content to withdraw this Amendment; it may well be that there is an answer to it, but I have not received it so far and it is a little late to press the matter too much. I should be happy to withdraw the Amendment if the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, would look into the matter and write to me to assure me of the adequacy of this provision, or if it is not adequate to say what is to be done about it.


I shall be happy to look at the point. It is a question of the definition of capital expenses for the purposes of this clause. I shall look at it very carefully to see that the intention is adequately expressed in these words.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 94, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 95 and 96 agreed to.

Clause 97 [Establishment of Commission for Local Authority Accounts in Scotland]:

9.26 p.m.

LORD POLWARTH moved Amendment No. 92: Page 52, line 5, after ("Commission") insert ("with such associations of local authorities as appear to him to be concerned and with such other organisations or persons as he may think appropriate").

The noble Lord said: We come now to the clauses of the Bill dealing with the provisions for audit and particularly the establishment of a Commission for Local Authority Accounts in Scotland. Since this is an innovation, before moving the first of these Amendments, I think I must say a little about this new set-up because I know that certain of your Lordships are interested in this. At present, the audit of local authority accounts is carried out by what the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947 calls " fit persons " appointed by the Secretary of State. These " fit persons " are, in fact (I am delighted to hear it) practising accountants holding a recognised professional qualification—and I am sure that it will please my noble friend Lord Strathclyde behind me to know that he and I are presumably both qualified to be called "fit persons". The work of carrying out something like 500 audits is spread fairly thinly over a large number of firms, and the system has long been felt to suffer from two main drawbacks.

In the first place, it does not encourage specialisation in public accounting matters, which are indeed very specialised, or the provision of adequate central guidance on, for example, new legislation, and it involves the Secretary of State to an unnecessary extent in administrative matters such as appointments, fee fixing and dealing with reports on irregularities, many of them of a fairly mundane kind. The provisions of these clauses are intended to remedy these defects. They have been discussed with, and I understand welcomed generally by, the profession as represented by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, the Local Government Auditors' Association (representing those accountants holding audit appointments) and the local authority associations.

We propose to appoint a Commission for Local Authority Accounts, which we hope will be seen to represent the joint interests of local authorities and of the public—those who spend money on local services and those who provide it. The Commission will take over nearly all the Secretary of State's present functions in securing the audit of local authority accounts and the consideration of audit reports. They will be supported by a chief official, the Controller of Audit, and other staff. They may arrange for auditing to be done either by their own staff or by accountants in public practice as at present. The Controller of Audit will co-ordinate and guide the work of the auditors and will be responsible for reporting to the Commission on matters arising from the accounts.

The Commission are to consider all reports made to them and will be empowered to hold hearings and make recommendations. They will have no executive powers to recover illegal payments, losses or deficiencies. Any recommendation they make at all for recovery from a councillor or official will have no effect unless it is confirmed by an administrative order of the Secretary of State, and this gives the opportunity for anybody affected by such recommendation to make his own representations before any order is made. Apart from the final discretion thus vested in him, we do not intend that the Secretary of State should be involved, as he now is, in determining issues of fact and law which may arise on an auditor's report.

Coming now to this Amendment, it is the essence of the new arrangements that the Commission should be independent. However, we thought it right to include a long-stop provision—this is well precedented—against the unlikely possibility of the Commission adopting a course of action which is clearly not in the public interest. In another place representations were made that we should add words to this clause to make it clear that the power of general direction resting with the Secretary of State should only be exercised with regard to the Commission after consultation with those having an interest in the work of the Commission. Such consultation would normally take place, of course, but the Amendment removes all doubt by making it a statutory requirement. I beg to move.


It was during the debate on Second Reading that I expressed an interest in this new Commission, and then my noble friend was good enough to say that if I cared to raise the matter at a later stage he would try to explain it further. I want to express my most sincere thanks to my noble friend for the explanation he has given, so fully and so clearly. I thank him most sincerely for it. He has relieved any doubt that I had in my mind and I am grateful to him.


I beg to move Amendment No. 93.

Amendment moved— Page 52, line 5, leave out ("them") and insert ("the Commission").—(Lord Polwarth.)

Clause 97, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 8 agreed to.

Clauses 98 to 101 agreed to.

Clause 102 [Reports to Commission by Controller of Audit]:

LORD POLWARTH moved Amendment No. 94:

Page 54, line 33, at end insert— (" (2) Without prejudice to subsection (1) above, the Controller of Audit may make a report to the Commission on any matters arising out of or in connection with the accounts of a local authority in order that those matters may be considered by the local authority concerned or brought to the attention of the public, and shall send a copy of any report so made to any local authority which is named in that report.")

The noble Lord said: As I explained earlier, the Controller of Audit will make reports to the Commission on various matters and formal reports will only be made on issues of importance which cannot be disposed of easily by consultation with the officials of the local authority concerned. There will be two kinds of report—general reports and special reports. We envisage that special reports will be like those which are at present called interim reports of an auditor, which will draw attention as quickly as possible to cases where, in the opinion of the Controller of Audit, any item of account is contrary to the law or there have been other irregularities of the kind with which we are all familiar and which are dealt with by interim reports at present.

On the other hand, general reports will be made on the completed audits of the year and will draw attention to a wider field—to matters, for instance, of financial administration or accounting practice, which might be helpful, on which comment by the Commission would be useful to the local authorities or in the interests of the ratepayer. We are advised that the wording of Clause 102(1) may not be sufficiently specific to cover the making of such general reports, and we see this as an important feature of the new system. The object of the additional subsection which this Amendment proposes is to make this clear beyond doubt. I beg to move.

Clause 102, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 103 [Action by Commission on reports by Controller of Audit]:

9.35 p.m.

LORD POLWARTH moved Amendment No. 95:

Page 56, line 5, leave out from beginning to ("the") in line 10 and insert— (" (3) Subject to subsection (4) below, if after consideration of the matters referred to in subsection (2) above the Commission find that any item of expenditure is contrary to law, or that there has been a failure to bring into account any sum which ought to have been brought into account, or that any loss or deficiency has been incurred or caused as mentioned in section 102(2)(a) of this Act, or that a local authority have not taken steps to remedy such a matter as is referred to in section 102(2)(b) of this Act, the Commission shall send the special report together with their findings to the Secretary of State and may recommend him to make an order—

  1. (a) requiring any person whom they find responsible for incurring or authorising that expenditure, or for that failure, or for that loss or deficiency, as the case may be, to pay to the local authority concerned an amount not exceeding the amount of the said expenditure, or of the said sum, or of the said loss or deficiency; or, as the case may be,
  2. (b) directing the authority to make such rectification of their accounts as appears to the Commission to be necessary.

The noble Lord said: The Committee will be relieved to hear that I intend to speak not only to this Amendment but to Nos. 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101 and 198. I thought that would be welcome news. I am afraid that this again is a matter that requires a little explanation. As I said earlier, one of the intentions in setting up this Commission for local authority accounts is to reduce the involvement of the Secretary of State in audit matters which could well be misunderstood as a form of control by central over local government, so we propose the main responsibility for considering audit reports shall devolve on the Commission who will make recommendations to the Secretary of State. These Amendments are designed to make more clear the procedure of allocating responsibility where it is intended that it should belong. In general, the Commission shall consider and recommend, and the Secretary of State shall decide in the light of their recommendations, and of any representations made to him by persons who may be affected.

The main change affected by this group of Amendments—and I apologise for the fact that we have had to make these changes—is the transfer to the present Clause 103 of a good deal of what is now in Clause 104, so we have one clause dealing with the Commission, and one dealing with the Secretary of State. Under these provisions the Secretary of State holds hearings at which persons concerned can express their views, make objections or require a case to be stated to the Court of Session on any point of law. It is not intended that the Secretary of State should then have to go over the ground again, but it could be implied that that was so from the first part of Clause 104. The Amendment would make it clear that it is for the Commission, when they inquire into special reports, to reach conclusions on relevant matters and facts of law which the Secretary of State will not then re-open. They will recommend to him how his powers should be used. I do not think I need worry your Lordships by going into all the Amendments in detail, unless any of your Lordships would like to raise any point. I can assure the House that all the Amendments hang together in clarifying where the different responsibilities should lie.


I notice in the Amendment now moved that there is reference to 102(2)(a) and (2)(b). I presume that this is automatically changed because there has been a new 102(2) put in and it has now become a reference to 102(3)(a). Is this the sort of thing which is done automatically without any necessity?


I am most grateful to the noble Lord for drawing my attention to this. I understand the machinery will look after it.

Clause 103, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 104 [Action by Secretary of State on recommendation by Commission under s. 103(3)]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 96.

Amendment moved—

Page 57, line 1, leave out from beginning to ("acted") in line 32 and insert— (" (1) Where recommendations are made to the Secretary of State under section 103(3) of this Act the Secretary of State may make an order giving effect to any recommendation, with or without modifications, or may decline to make such an order. (2) The Secretary of State shall not make an order under subsection (1) above requiring a person to pay an amount to a local authority if the Secretary of State is satisfied that that person ").—(Lord Polwarth.)


I beg to move Amendment No. 97.

Amendment moved— Page 57, line 40, leave out ("paragraph (a) of ").—(Lord Polwarth.)


I beg to move Amendment No. 98.

Amendment moved—

Page 58, leave out lines 2 to 5 and insert ("subsection (1) above requiring a person to pay an amount to a local authority, forthwith cause a copy of that order to be sent— (a) to that person;").—(Lord Polwarth.)


I beg to move Amendment No. 99.

Amendment moved— Page 58, line 9, leave out (" paragraph (a) of ").—(Lord Polwarth.)


I beg to move Amendment No. 100.

Amendment moved— Page 58, line 20, leave out ("under paragraph (b of ") and insert ("in an order under").—(Lord Polwarth.)

Clause 104, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 105 [Regulations as to accounts]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 101.

Amendment moved— Page 59, line 2, leave out ("or of any direction given to them").—(Lord Polwarth.)

Clause 105, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 106 and 107 agreed to.

Clause 108 [Determination and levy of regional, district and general rates]:

9.39 p.m.

LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 101A: Page 60, line 31, after second ("year") insert ("not added to reserve funds").

The noble Lord said: This again is on the subject of reserve funds. When we were talking on my previous Amendments, which were also on the subject of the reserve funds, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, referred to the removal of the disability in adding to the funds. At present, this is limited to 21p in any one year. My difficulty in reading Clause 108 was that it did not seem to make provision for putting money to reserve. Page 60, line 25 reads: It shall be the duty of every local authority to determine such regional, general or district rate, as the case may be, as will provide sufficient moneys to meet such part of the total estimated expenses to be incurred by the authority during the financial year in respect of which the rate is to be levied (after taking account of any balance or estimated balance at the end of the financial year immediately preceding that year) … That is the point at which I am proposing to add the words "not added to reserve funds".

The subsection continues: as falls to be met out of moneys raised by rates, together with such additional amount as is, in the opinion of the authority, required—

  1. (a) to cover expenses previously incurred,
  2. (b) to meet contingencies,
  3. (c) to meet any expenses which may fall to be met before the moneys to be received in respect of the regional, general or district rate, as the case may be, for the financial year next following the first-mentioned year will become available."

On the face of it, there does not seem to be any authority to put money to reserve, and yet obviously if the Government have removed the limit of 2½p—the amount that could be placed to reserve in a particular year—it is intended that it should be possible to put money to reserve.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? The noble Lord is speaking to both Amendments Nos. 101A and 101B, is he?


Yes, that is so. Neither will be necessary if I can be assured under what Part of the Bill the authority have power to put money to reserve. What raised my doubts was the first part that I sought to amend, which said: … after taking account of any balance or estimated balance …". I know it has been the case with quite a number of authorities that if they have finished the year with a surplus that surplus was automatically placed into the reserve fund, subject, of course, to the present limitation of 2½p. If they wanted to put less than that of course they could do so, but they had to carry forward into the next year any surplus beyond 2½p, although it is not likely that many authorities nowadays have a surplus of more than 2½p at the end of the year.

The usual provision was that money went to reserve, and if they wanted to use any part of the reserve to diminish the rate for the following year, then when the treasurer was making his estimates or the finance chairman was making his statement to the authority in due course he intimated how much money he was prepared to take out of the reserve fund. The clause as it stands would seem to prevent the local authority from putting any balance at the end of the year straight to reserve. They have to take it automatically into the accounts for the following year. If there is elsewhere adequate provision enabling the local authority to put such sums, without limit, to reserve my point is made. I want to safeguard the right of the local authority to create reserve funds. Perhaps the noble Lord can let me know where that is provided for. I beg to move.


So far as I can understand what the noble Lord has been saying, he really has two objects in mind. As he says, he wants to safeguard the putting of funds into a reserve fund. If this is what he is seeking to do then I can tell him that no amendment of Clause 108(2) is necessary for this purpose, because local authorities are authorised by Sections 8 to 10 of the Local Government (Development and Finance) (Scotland) Act 1964 to establish and contribute to reserve funds, and Clause 107, replacing Section 211 of the Local Government Act 1947, provides for general sanction for expenses on functions under public general Acts to be met from rates.

If I may say so, I think one point where the noble Lord may perhaps not quite have appreciated the situation is that this clause is dealing with the duty of local authorities. While they have power to make contributions to a reserve fund, it would be strange to give them a duty to contribute to a reserve fund. The second point is that the noble Lord intends that the local authorities should not be inhibited from amassing revenue reserve funds out of revenue surpluses at the end of the year as a form of rate equalisation account.

I am not absolutely certain I was right in what I told him before about the use of reserve funds, or as to the transfer to revenue account from the reserve fund. The general concept is that the rating should be sufficient to meet the expenses, taking one year with another, and I think that is made pretty clear in this particular clause. If this is what the noble Lord is wanting, I am bound to say to him that Clause 108(2) is in terms very similar to those of Section 212(1) of the 1947 Act, which it replaces, particularly as regards the treatment of any balance on revenue account from the preceding year. The underlying intention of both provisions is that local authorities should as far as possible balance their accounts year by year and should not accrue either surpluses or deficits. The Government attach importance to the principle that the total rate demand for each year should be neither more nor less than is needed to meet the year's outgoings. I hope this makes the position clear, that there is power to contribute to a reserve fund, but it is not the intention that the reserve fund should as a principle be built up from revenue for use towards things that would normally be met from revenue.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for that explanation. I would say right away that I had not in fact appreciated that the second Amendment was placing a duty on the local authority to put money into reserve funds. I did not notice the words right at the beginning of subsection (2). Of course, it would be quite wrong to put an obligation on them to provide a reserve. So I will not in fact move Amendment No. 101B.

I am still not quite certain how the reserve funds are ever going to be increased if the local authority are not allowed to put a surplus to reserve at the end of a year. If the intention is, as the Minister has stated, that the local authority would normally rate for the expenditure which they intend or expect to incur, and that they should not be budgetting either for surplus or deficit, I do not see where a contribution to reserve is going to come from other than the balance that might accrue at the end of a year, unless the Government are acceptting that the local authority, in stating what they are raising money for in the ensuing year can say " and we propose to put x pounds into reserve ", and will rate for that. That would be in direct conflict with the requirement that they should be rating only for the amount necessary to balance their accounts. It is this business of saying that a surplus must automatically be carried forward to the next year which I think hits at the accumulation of reserve funds. I may be getting a bit dim as the time goes on, but I still have not understood that the Minister has given me assurance on that point.


The power to contribute to reserve funds remains. The way in which it is envisaged that these reserve funds should be used is, for example, to make provision for renewals, to make provision for anticipated acquisitions and that sort of thing.


I have no doubts about the way the reserve fund can be used; what I am asking is how they are created.


Yes, I understand that. The contributions to capital reserve funds are normally budgeted for and are a proper charge on the year's rates. Up until now there has been this limitation of 2½p. The fact that the limitation is removed does not mean that the contribution is removed. They can make the contribution, and it will be a contribution on the year's rates. What we are not intending should happen is that the funds should be amassed from rates as a rate equalisation fund. They are to be used for capital expenditure, and because they will be capital expenditure, as we saw before when dealing with a previous Amendment, they will be subject to the control of the Secretary of State in so far as they represent the creation of new resources. That is why I am saying here that the kind of use to which they will be put is renewals, or anticipated acquisitions. This is the kind of use that they can be put to.


I see now, and this makes me most unhappy. I am quite certain that the local authorities do not appreciate what is happening here. This is the abolition of reserve funds as local authorities have known them up to the present, and they are only going to be allowed to have a new type of reserve fund usable for capital purposes. In that sense the definition of capital expenses earlier makes sense. It did not make sense at the time when we were discussing it, and nothing was said that made sense of it, because it was not stated that the type of reserve fund was being changed. A principal use that local authorities have made of the reserve fund was as a rates equalisation fund. Has there been consultation with the local authority associations? Do they know that it is part of this Bill that they are not to be allowed to have rate equalisation reserves? If so, I am surprised that they have accepted this, because the type of use I have indicated has always been regarded as one of the best things that a prudent treasurer or finance convenor would wish to do. It is most undesirable that there should be needless fluctuations in rate amounts.

The City of Edinburgh is a capital example of this. Because of the reserves they had accumulated through what some people would call "prudent financing" and other people "meanness", they were able to avoid rate increases over many years, because every year they dipped into the reserve fund, until the day came when Mr. Imrie had to tell them that they had reached the bottom of the barrel and that the rates should go up in Edinburgh just as they did elsewhere. Unkind political people said that what had happened was that the Tories made certain that the reserve funds were used up before there was a Labour majority in the Edinburgh Town Council. However, I am not going to enter into that aspect of it. It is important that local authorities should know that a fundamental change is taking place in the reserve funds. I propose to withdraw this Amendment, but I will make certain that the chamberlains in Scotland, and the other finance officers, know what this is about. If they and the treasurers and finance conveners are happy about it, then I will let the matter rest there; but I shall be very surprised if they are. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 108 agreed to.

Clauses 109 to 113 agreed to.

Clause 114 [Variation of standard scheme by rating authority]:

9.55 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 114 shall stand part of the Bill?


I should like to take this opportunity of asking a question about subsection (7). There appear to be slight differences in the way in which the rent and rates rebate might be calculated, and I feel that it would be a pity if two different calculations had to be fed into the same computer in a local authority. If they were on practically the same lines the same computer could be used, but there appear to be slight differences.


I am not clear what differences the noble Lord is referring to. If he has something in mind which is fairly detailed it might be better if we discussed it together off the Floor of the House, in order to see where the differences lie.


EARL OF BALFOUR: I thank my noble friend and I shall be happy to do that.

Clause 114 agreed to.

Clause 115 agreed to.

Clause 116 [Valuation areas and authorities and appointment of assessors, etc.];

THE EARL OF BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 102:

Page 68, line 21, at end insert— (" (5A) The assessor of a region in making up the valuation roll of the region shall distinguish in the roll lands and heritages situated within the boundaries of each district of that region.")

The noble Earl said: With this Amendment, I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 105, 182A and 202A. The purpose of this Amendment is to replace paragraph 1 of Schedule 9 on page 167, which is itself an Amendment to Section 49(3) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929, which could then be repealed. I believe that my Amendment would simplify matters. I beg to move.


I am bound to say that the Amendments do not make any substantive change to the proposals already in the Bill, but it may be more convenient to have the noble Earl's drafting as it is more direct than what is already there. So the Government have no objection to this Amendment and I shall be happy to accept it.

Clause 116, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 117 agreed to.

Clause 118 [Local financial returns]:

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 103: Page 69, line 35, at end insert ("or any river purification board within the meaning of section 134 of this Act")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is consequential on the Commons' decision to retain river purification boards. I beg to move.

Clause 118, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 119 and 120 agreed to.

Clause 121 [Rates of interest in relation to certain sums due to local authorities]:

10.0 p.m.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 104: Page 71, line 31, at end insert ("section 56(3) of the Water (Scotland) Act 1946;")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment rectifies an omission by adding Section 56(3) of the Water (Scotland) Act 1946 to the list of enactments in subsection (1). I beg to move.

On Question, Whether Clause 121, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


The purpose of this clause is to substitute the rate of interest in subsection (2) for the rate of interest which is payable under these various provisions, to which the noble Lord has just added another one. Subsection (2) says: The said rate shall be one-quarter per cent. above the relevant rate determined by the Treasury in relation to loans ", et cetera. What I want to know is whether this means that they are going to be charged more money or less money? What are they being charged under the provisions which are being done away with?


I am not sure. The point is that it standardises the amount. It simplifies the administrative procedures by providing that the relevant rates of interest or maximum rates of interest are in effect determined by the Treasury Loan Commissioners when from time to time they fix the interest rates chargeable by the Public Works Loans Board instead of having them determined as and when the borrowing is done.


I think the noble Lord is trying to wear me down by answering questions I do not ask. What I want to know is: are they paying more money? I would not be happy about having a thing standardised if at the end I was paying out more money. Let me put it another way. Under Section 10(2) of the Coast Protection Act 1949, are the authorities paying more or less than a quarter per cent. above the relevant rate determined by the Treasury for 15-year loans?


I am sorry that I did not answer the question, but I did not have the answer then. The answer is that this is a question of up-dating, because the borrowing rate has not been shifted. The regulations date from 1949 and specify the rate of interest as 5½ or 5¾ per cent., depending on whether the instalments chargeable are payable over a period of more or less than five years. These regulations have not been up-dated because no coast protection work, in the first case, has been set for several years. In each case there are different rates which have been fixed at different times. But the answer is that of course current rates of borrowing would be higher than the rates which were fixed some time ago, but presumably the current rates will not remain for ever, and this introduces the desirable flexibility and keeps things in relation to the current borrowing rate.


Does this mean that authorities which are at present paying a rate of interest less than the current rate will, as from the passing of this Bill, find that they are paying money at the higher rates of interest or at the lower rates of interest, as the case may be, although I think the second one is very doubtful? Is that the position?


Yes. At the present time they will be paying at a higher rate because the rates have never been up-dated.


They are paying a lower rate at the present time?


They are paying a lower rate than they will be paying. They will be paying a higher rate because the present rate has not been up-dated. However, the future rate will not remain fixed as the present rate has done. We hope that in due course, as these things go, the rate will come down, and in future it will be related to the borrowing rates prevalent at the time.


It will certainly be a long time before it comes down to the rate chargeable under the Coast Protection Act 1949, which is 5½ to 5¾ per cent. Even the most optimistic occupant of the Government Front Bench cannot expect that to be happening either tomorrow or the day after. This seems to me to be a rather cunning device to get more money out of local authorities and into the Treasury. I think I will have a look at this before the next stage.


The noble Lord may have a look at it; but when we are talking about paying, it is the local authority that are being paid. It may interest him.


That is even worse. They are taking it out of the ratepayers from whom they are getting enough already.

Clause 121 agreed to.

Clause 122 agreed to.

Schedule 9 [Amendments with respect to finance]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 105.

Amendment moved— Page 167, line 37, leave out paragraph 1.—(The Earl of Balfour.)

10.7 p.m.

THE EARL OF BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 106A:

Page 168, line 33, leave out sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert—

  1. ("(a) subsection (2)(f) shall cease to have effect;
  2. (b) for subsection (3) there shall be substituted the following subsection:—

The noble Earl said: This Amendment is to provide that the demand notes for rates in Section 237 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947 are preserved and that the only part deleted is subsection (2)(f) and not the whole subsection I am grateful to my noble friend for assistance in re-drafting the second part, paragraph (3), of this Amendment. It does not change the sense of the Bill, but it makes it easier for somebody who has more than one piece of property. I beg to move.


My noble friend's Amendment leaves most of the requirements as to the content embodied in the Act. All that will be left out will he the outdated requirement of subsection (2)(f) regarding the itemisation of expenditure met from rates and grants. For that reason I am happy to accept this Amendment.

THE EARL OF BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 109: Page 174, line 23, after ("region") insert ("and the districts within that region".)

The noble Earl said: On page 174, I ask that 35 copies of the estimate be sent not only to the rating authority for that region but also to any district within that region. Hence the reason for my Amendment. I beg to move.


I am prepared to accept this proposal in principle, but I do not think my noble friend's Amendment quite achieves what he wants. If he will withdraw the Amendment I am prepared to put an Amendment down, if that is what the Committee wishes.


I am happy to withdraw the Amendment and I am grateful for my noble friend's undertaking to look at this matter, for I think it is important.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


This is a purely drafting Amendment to cover the definition in Clause 26 of the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act 1963. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 175, line 27, at end insert— ("In section 26(2) for Local Authority there shall be substituted "means a region or island council".")—(The Earl of Balfour.)


I do not think this Amendment is necessary, but I am prepared to look at it before the next stage.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 123 [Education authorities]:


This is one of a previous group of Amendments to which I spoke. I beg to move Amendment 111.

Amendment moved— Page 72, line 16, leave out ("1971") and insert (" 1973 ").—(Lord Polwarth.)

Clause 123, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 124 [Education committees]:

LORD STRATHEDEN AND CAMPBELL moved Amendment No. 112: Page 72, line 27, at end insert ("other than any function which the authority may delegate to the Committee.")

The noble Lord said: I mentioned this Amendment on Second Reading. My trouble over Clause 124 is that it makes it quite impossible for the regional council, which is the local authority, to delegate anything to the education committee. I say that because, to quote part of the clause: Every education authority shall appoint a committee, which shall be known as the education committee to which … all their functions as such authority shall stand referred. In this subsection, 'referred' means remitted to the committee for consideration and report to the authority but without power to the committee to discharge any function on behalf of the authority. Nothing can possibly be clearer than that; you cannot delegate. Clause 65 starts by being subject to any other part of this Bill, including Clause 124. Schedule 10 is quite clear. It is subject to the provisions of Clause 124 before it is possible to delegate. This is not entirely my own idea. I got in touch with the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, and in their submissions when the Bill was being drafted they stressed the importance of delegation. The director of education with whom I discussed this matter said that they had brought the matter up again with the Government but had obtained no satisfaction; and they were extremely worried about the fact that any delegation seemed to be made quite impossible. I hope that my noble friend Lord Polwarth will either accept my Amendment or, at least, have a careful look at this matter to make sure that it is possible to delegate to the education committee.


I wish to support this Amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, and I have both been chairmen of education committees in the past, and I know that it is vital that education committees should have the authority to take executive action in the way delegated to them by the county council. If they cannot do this, everything is held up and has to go back, in this case to the regional council and in other cases to the county council. It would be a great mistake if the powers under the new legislation did not include delegation as part of the authority's executive power.


I will endeavour to reassure the noble Lord and the noble Baroness that their understanding is not correct. I have some sympathy with them because, thanks to the mysteries of draftsmanship, a certain amount of pursuit from one section to another is involved in ascertaining the correct position. I will try to explain it and make it as clear as I can. Clause 24(1) obliges the educa- tion authority to appoint an education committee and to refer all educational matters to it. That means that the authority is not entitled to take a decision on any educational matter without having obtained the advice of the education committee. That is the first point.

Now we come to the word "referred" in lines 24 to 27. The use of the definition "referred" is merely to make clear what the education authority must do as a minimum by way of obtaining advice from the education committee. It does not by any means limit the role of the education committee to the minimum. When it says: … without power to the committee to discharge any function on behalf of the authority", that means in relation to this general reference to all matters for consideration.

Now, if your Lordships will look at lines 20 and 22 on that page, in subsection (1) we come to the key words which mention the possibility of an arrangement under Clause 127. That clause, in turn, refers to Schedule 10, which opens with the words: Subject to the provisions of Clause 124 … an education authority may arrange for the discharge of any of their functions by their education committee … And "discharge of functions" includes delegation. So what Clause 124 is securing is, first of all, that all educational functions are referred to the education committee for its advice; and secondly, that the general power of the authority to delegate functions to committees applies equally to education committees. Therefore I submit that there is no cause for anxiety that the powers of delegation do not exist, though I admit it requires a rather detailed perusal of the provisions to arrive at the conclusion that they do exist.


I had a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, which pleased me because all this was put down in writing for me, and after reading the letter through two or three times, and going backwards and forwards from Clause 56 to Clause 124, Clause 127 and Schedule 10, I eventually came to the conclusion that the noble Lord was not misleading me and that the power to delegate to an education committee did exist. But I must say that if any poor soul outside this House who is not a lawyer wants to try to find out what is to happen, he will have a devil of a job. I cannot understand why draftsmen have such complicated ways of doing things. To have to go into three clauses and a Schedule to find out so simple a thing as giving delegation of power seems to me to be the height of absurdity.


Before withdrawing the Amendment, I would ask my noble friend to have another look to see whether it is not possible to make this a little clearer. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.


Before the Amendment is withdrawn, could I suggest that if the noble Lord would regard this as being the equivalent of a financial matter, and do the quick, good job that he did on Clause 103 and 104 to get the matter sorted out, he would be rendering a service to humanity.


Before the noble Lord withdraws the Amendment, I can give the assurance that I will certainly bring this matter to the attention of those concerned with such mysteries.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.19 p.m.

THE EARL OF CROMARTIE moved Amendment No. 113: Page 73, line 5, after ("area") insert ("or the Highland Region").

The noble Earl said: Most of the subjects prior to the last Amendment have been financial in nature. I am now turning to something rather more holy on which I have had representations from the areas concerned; namely, that the Highland region should follow the same procedure as the Islands Authority. I have had no views to the contrary, and I should be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could consider this matter. I beg to move.


I think that probably no clause in this Bill has created greater discussion in Scotland than this one, which relates to the representation of the Churches on the education committee. It has been debated in practi- cally all the presbyteries of the Church of Scotland, and a note has been taken of it by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the Episcopal Church. The change that was made in the Bill in sub-paragraph (iii) as it was originally drafted was to give three Churches representation on the education committee: one for the Church of Rome, one for the Church of Scotland and one (not necessarily another Church) nominated as representing the Churches. A special exception was made in the case of the Highlands area because they have a number of minor Presbyterian denominations. The most notable of them are the Free Church and the Presbyterian Church, and there is a very strong pocket of the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore it was felt to be only right that in the Highland area there should be four representatives from the Churches on the education committee and the minor Presbyterian Churches would also have an opportunity of being represented.

Along the West Coast of the Highlands there are several congregations of both the Free Church and the Presbyterian Church as well as the Roman Catholics, the Episcopalians and the Church of Scotland. I think that if justice is to be done to these Churches it would be most appropriate to apply to the Highland area the right to have four representatives of the Churches on their education committee. To my mind, that is just common justice, and I should think it would be very prudent on the part of the Government to do this. In view of what has been said about declaring an interest, I have one to declare. I hope I shall not be condemned for not having declared an interest at the beginning and therefore perhaps having to leave the Chamber. My interest is this. Though I am now an Elder of the Church of Scotland, I was born in a Free Church manse.


I should like to support the noble Lord. A number of years ago I spent a holiday in Wester Ross, in Gairloch; and one Sunday when I went to look for the Church of Scotland I missed it. Then I saw an enormous building which I assumed to be the Church of Scotland—but I very speedily learned that this "Cathedral" was in fact the Free Kirk—we call them the "Wee Frees". The Church of Scotland, when I found it, was a very modest little building. It was quite obvious which was the predominant religious denomination in that part of the region. I think that at least in part of the Highlands exactly the same case can be made as can be made in the Islands area.

I am not certain, if we put this into the Bill, that it will be well received in another place, because there is a strong body of opinion there (and it is not totally unrepresented in your Lordships' House) that in fact there should be no representation at all from the Churches. The point of view has been expressed that if Ministers want to get on to local authorities they should get themselves elected as councillors. However, I do not think that is the general view, and I believe that the noble Lord is on to a good point here. Like the noble Lord, I must declare a half interest—it is not direct or indirect or pecuniary, any more than his was: I am an Elder of the Church of Scotland; I cannot claim to have been born in a Free Church manse.


Before the noble Lords sits down, he mentioned the case of Gairloch—that is a particularly interesting one. There is a large Free Church congregation and the Cathedral which he mentioned was built from the proceeds of a bazaar in Dundee.


Does that mean I have to declare an indirect pecuniary interest then?

10.25 p.m.


We are now venturning on to very delicate ground. These matters of religious representation are food and drink to us in Scotland. We must be very careful in our handling of these affairs. May I point out that the provision about Church representation on education committees in this Bill has been arrived at after very lengthy discussion in another place and after the consideration of a great volume of representations from many different branches of the Christian Church. I know how hard my right honourable friends in another place have endeavoured to meet the widest demands in this matter, and it has not been easy. As the clause now stands, it represents a balance which we believe has widespread support. It has been very difficult to reach a position of such balance. We would be somewhat chary of disturbing that at this stage. We might very well find the last stage worse than the first. I appreciate that in the Highland region there is more than one importan minority Church—if that is the phrase I should use. But this is not true only of the Highlands. I would not like to say that there is any area in Scotland where more than one minority Church might not feel entitled to put forward a special claim for consideration. One thinks certainly of the Episcopal Church in the North-East of Scotland where it is traditionally extremely strong.

I think we ought to ask ourselves carefully what we are trying to do in this provision. It is certainly not, and it could not be, our intention to try to ensure that there is present on the education committee a representative of every branch of the Church. That would be impossible. The main object of the provision is twofold: first, to ensure some place for the voice of the Church, and because we are dealing with Scotland that has to mean a place for the Church of Scotland; and secondly, to honour the long-standing agreement that Churches who had handed over denominational schools to the State would be given a say in their administration; and that means a place for the Roman Catholic Church. The decision to add a third place was taken in the face of a strong feeling in and out of Parliament that minorities should be given the opportunity of a statutory place as well. But I seriously suggest to your Lordships that, with the addition of that third obligatory place, the provision now goes far enough.

Let me emphasise that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent education authorities from appointing further Church representatives if they so desire. Most education authorities do so now of their own discretion and there is no reason to suppose that this will be different in the future. What we are discussing is the statutory duty to appoint Church representatives—the minimum number to be appointed. Furthermore, I should emphasise that if the Amendment were made and the Highland region were placed under this special obligation, it would not necessarily lead to the appointment of a representative of any particular Church. The choice of a representative would remain at the discretion of the education authority lust as much as if the Amendment had not been made.

I can assure your Lordships that nothing that I have said will be construed as suggesting that I or my colleagues in the Government have any desire to restrict the appointment of Church representatives to education committees. The education authorities will be free to do as they think proper, and that we think it right that they should be so free. Our view is, however, that we should not impose unnecessary obligations, and that the Bill goes far enough at it now stands. I should be loth to see this hard-won balance of opinion reached in another place disturbed at this stage. I would respectfully ask your Lordships not to accept the Amendment.


There is one point. On re-reading this Amendment I would ask whether the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, is right in talking about an increase to four representatives? Is it not three throughout?—because the provision is that in the islands there is no specific need to appoint a representative of the Roman Catholic Church; they have to take their chance among the two unspecified ones. So it is a requirement to have three in every case.


Yes; the noble Lord is correct.


So the effect of the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, would in fact be to put the Highlands in the position of having four representatives instead of three, whereas everywhere else it would be three. I think that on that basis I am going to withdraw my support.


In view of the very specific reply that has been given by my noble friend the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 124 agreed to.

10.31 p.m.

THE EARL OF BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 114: After Clause 124, insert the following new clause—

Education: Chairman of Education Authority

—(1) The education committee established under section 124 of this Act shall appoint from the elected members of the local authority a chairman under the same conditions as are described in Section 3 of this Act with the exception that subsection (6) of section 3 shall not apply to the chairman of the education committee.

(2) The Chairman appointed under subsection (1) of this section shall be an ex-officio member of the school and college councils established under section 125 of this Act."

The noble Earl said: Very briefly, I should like to point out to your Lordships that the chairman of the education committee has far more work to do than any other local authority official. As chairman of the regional education committee, or even island committee, he is going to be far harder worked than the convener or anybody else. That is why I ask that he also should have an expense allowance, or the local authority should be in a position to give him one. He needs to be treated as rather a special case. He is asked to contribute towards a lot of school prizes, and let us not forget that he will be responsible for the spending of somewhere between 65 per cent. and 70 per cent. of the rates. So I feel he needs to be treated rather as a special case. I beg to move.


I am bound to say that when I saw the noble Earl's Amendment on the Paper I failed to spot what now appears to me to be the principal object of the Amendment. I was going to query the need for a special authority for the education committee to appoint a chairman; the right to appoint a chairman is I think inherent in any committee or body and it is not specifically written into the Bill with regard to committees of local authorities. But the noble Earl has brought up this particular point, and the object was to refer to the conditions mentioned in Clause 3 of the Bill. The provision he has referred to is that the council may pay the chairman, enabling him to meet the expenses of his office, such allowance as the council thinks reasonable. In Clause 3, to which he has referred, the reference is to the chairman of a council and not of a committee of the council. To single out the chairman of the education committee, important though that committee is, to give him an allowance, is going against the principles which we discussed earlier with regard to allowances. I do not think we can entertain this new condition. The committee will have power to appoint a chairman; it has it automatically and it does not need to be written into the Bill.

I find it difficult to comprehend the second part of the noble Earl's Amendment. He is saying that the chairman so appointed shall be an ex-officio member of the school and college councils established under section 125 of this Act. There are two main objections to this. One is that the school and college councils are intended to be independent bodies and should not be attached too closely to the area education authorities, and this Amendment would, I think, militate against this. The second point is that we have already been told by the noble Earl that the chairman of the education committee is one of the busiest people in the authority. If in addition to that he is to be expected to attend meetings of every school or college council in his area, I do not think he would ever have time to sit down. So, with great respect, I must ask your Lordships to reject the Amendment.


I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 125 [School and college councils]:

10.35 p.m.


This Amendment and the following one, No. 116, are purely drafting. They move the provision giving a status to school and college councils from their present position in Clause 127 to form part of Clause 125, which seems to us to be the appropriate clause because it deals with school and college councils. There is no change in the effect. I beg to move Amendment No. 115. Amendment moved— Page 74, line 35, at end insert (", and, except where the context otherwise requires, references in sections 59 and 60 of this Act to a sub-committee shall include references to a school or college council.")—(Lord Polwarth.)


I wonder whether I might ask a question which has absolutely nothing to do with the Amendment we are now discussing. It was only when we were discussing Amendment No. 114 that the opportunity arose and I was all set to raise it on the Question, Whether the clause should stand part of the Bill; but as the suggested new clause did not go in the opportunity did not arise. It arose from a remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, that of course the education committee has power to elect the chairman. I thought the chairman of the education committee would be appointed by the education authority. If in fact it is being done by the committee this is a new departure. At the present time the chairman of the education committee, like the chairman of any other committee, is appointed by the town or county council concerned. They do not leave it to the education committee to decide who the chairman will be, and one of the points in Amendment No. 114 was to prevent the chairman of the education committee being one of the co-opted members; he would have to be an elected member. If that Amendment did not go in there would be nothing to stop the education committee appointing a co-opted member as the chairman. That is undoubtedly a change from the present set-up. Is that the intention?


The information given to me is that all committees appoint their own chairman. If the noble Lord thinks that is incorrect I will certainly look into it.


I know that the advice given to the Minister is incorrect because certainly in the town councils the chairman of the education committee is appointed by the town council and not by the education committee.


That is certainly the case in the county of East Lothian as well. The chairman of a committee is appointed by the full council and not by the sub-committees, and I do not think this task should be undertaken by the sub-committees. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has taken up this point and I must ask my noble friend to investigate it.


I think I can only undertake to do so.


What is quite certain is that if this is being done it is a change, and it is one that will be resisted.

Clause 125, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 126 agreed to.

Clause 127 [Discharge of education authority functions]:

10.40 p.m.

LORD POLWARTH I beg to move Amendment No. 116.

Amendment moved— Page 75 line 22, leave out subsection (2).—(Lord Polwarth.)

Clause 127, as amended, agreed to.

10.40 p.m.

LORD POLWARTH moved Amendment No. 117: After Clause 127 insert the following new clause:

Educational endowments

"127A.—(1) Where, immediately before 16th May 1975, any educational endowment is to any extent vested in the existing local authority for an area specified in the first column of Table A below, that endowment shall on that day to that extent be transferred to and vest for the same purposes in the appropriate new local authority for the area specified in relation thereto in the second column of that Table.

Existing area New area
County Region or islands area.
County of a city
Large burgh District or islands area.
Small burgh

(2) Where, immediately before 16th May 1975, any educational endowment is to any extent to be vested, by virtue of his office, in the holder of any office connected with an existing local authority specified in the first column of Table B below, that endowment shall on that day to that extent be transferred to and vest for the same purposes in the holder of the office, specified in relation thereto in the second column of that Table, of the appropriate new local authority as determined by reference to subsection (1) above.

Existing office-holder New office-holder
Lord Provost Chairman of council.
Convener of county
Chairman of district council
Magistrate Councillor, or any other person nominated by the council.
Chairman of a member of a committee
Any specified officer The corresponding officer or (if there is no such officer) the proper officer.

(3) Where, immediately before 16th May 1975, any power with respect to an educational endowment is vested in an existing local authority, or (by virtue of his office) in the holder of an office connected with such an authority, that power shall on that day be transferred to and vest in the appropriate new local authority or (as the case may be) in the new office-holder of that authority, as ascertained by reference to subsections (1) and (2) above.

(4) Subject to the provisions of the governing instrument of an educational endowment, where, as the result of the election of a local authority occurring after 16th May 1975, it is necessary for a person to be nominated by the authority or by a committee thereof to be vested (to any extent) with the endowment, in terms of subsection (2) above, or to be vested with any power, in terms of subsection (3) above, that person shall be so nominated at the first meeting of the authority or committee held after it has been elected or appointed; and in such a case the person who (to the said extent) was last vested with the endowment or, as the case may be, who was last vested with the power, before the meeting shall continue therein until the date of the meeting.

(5) In this section, unless the context otherwise requires, expressions used in Part VI of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962 have the same meaning as in that Part, and "the appropriate new local authority" means, in relation to an existing local authority, the new authority whose area comprises the whole or the greater part of the area of the existing authority: and if, in any case, there is a dispute as to such appropriate authority, or as the person or persons corresponding to an existing office-holder or office-holders for the purposes of this section, it shall be taken to be such new local authority or, as the case may be, person or persons as the Secretary of State may direct.

(6) Nothing in this section shall affect any other power to reorganise any educational endowment or otherwise to alter the provisions of any trust.")

The noble Lord said: The object and effect of this new clause is to transfer to the appropriate regional islands or district authorities educational endowments vested in existing local authorities, and to replace by the appropriate representatives of the new authorities members or representatives of the existing local authorities who are included on the Government bodies and other educational endowments.

Because educational endowments confer specified benefits on specified persons or categories of persons and on specified places or areas, they cannot simply be included with other existing educational facilities and services in the total educational resources to be administered by the new authorities as education authorities. Although many educational endowments are in practice largely integrated with the public educational services, they confer closely defined benefits to which the prescribed beneficiaries, and only they, could if necessary lay claim by appealing to the courts. It would be quite impossible to attempt to amend each educational endowment scheme (there are about 160) and the governing instruments of each unschemed educational endowment, of which there are about 1,500 on the Register of Educational Endowments, to bring them into conformity with the new local government structure by May, 1975.

On the other hand, if no action were taken, a great many educational endowments, including the 35 area trust schemes based on existing educational authority areas and which result from the amalgamation of previous separate educational endowments, would become inoperable. The new clause has the effect of securing the continued operation of educational endowments without change in their purposes, beneficiaries or areas of benefit. This is a necessary provision, and I ask your Lordships to accept the Amendment.

Clause 128 agreed to.

Schedule 10 [Arrangements by education authorities for discharge of their functions.]

THE EARL OF BALFOUR moved Amendment No. 118: Page 178, line 50, at end insert ("or local authority officials").

The noble Earl said: Paragraph 6 of Schedule 10 at the bottom of page 178 reads: No arrangement shall be made by an education authority for the discharge otherwise than by their education committee of any function in regard to the dismissal of teachers. "Or local authority officials" are the words I should like to insert at the end. I feel that the Director of Education, and people like him, should have the same sort of protection. I beg to move.


As the noble Earl has said, there are existing provisions for dealing with the case of teachers, and they have a special provision because there is provision in the Education (Scotland) Act 1962 which deals with the position of the dismissal of teachers, and the assumption is that this is action to be taken only by the education authority or by the education committee. The powers there are extensive and considerable, but the other categories, I would submit, are different. There is at present some protection for the Director of Education in respect of dismissal. This was mentioned by the noble Earl. That is being repealed in this Bill, but with the knowledge of the Association of Directors of Education who have raised no objection to its repeal. There is no special protection for other categories—one thinks of administrative staff, janitors and so on. I do not see there is any special need in that respect. They come within the normal practices for dealing with employees in general and I do not think they need to be accorded a special position. I think we should leave it to the discretion of and proper handling by the new authorities without according to one group of staff a special position.


I raised this point because it had been brought to my attention, but with the assurance that the Association are quite happy about it, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 11 [Amendments of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962]:

10.45 p.m.

LORD BALERNO moved Amendment No. 119:

Page 180, line 7, at end insert— ("5A. After section 24 the following new section shall be inserted—

('Pupils at secondary school in final or penultimate year.

24A. Where, in consequence of the coming into force of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 or any boundary change under Part II of that Act, pupils at a secondary school have to be transferred to another secondary school such pupils who, after the appointed day will enter their final or their penultimate year, may with parental consent complete their school education at the school they attended immediately before the appointed day'.")

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to "mak sicear" that the new education authorities do not allow prejudice to overcome them, or any single one of them, and to ensure that pupils who are in their final or penultimate year at a secondary school, sitting their "O" level or "A" level exams, can, if they so wish and with their parents' consent, remain at that school to the conclusion of their education irrespective of the fact that the drawing up of the new boundaries may have put that school from the area of one education authority into that of another education authority. One would like to think that the possibility of this happening is remote, but I have myself had experience of the prejudice of an education committee in Scotland, and this, I believe, is not a single instance. The education committee, because it was so determined that children in its own area should be educated in its own area, sent some of the children of Currie, before a secondary school was built there, 12 miles to West Calder by bus every day, and sent some of the children by public transport right across Edinburgh to the burgh of Musselburgh while there were two secondary schools belonging to the Edinburgh education authority within three miles of Currie, both of which had vacancies and would have been delighted to have taken these pupils. That was a matter of sheer prejudice. The cost to the education committee of Midlothian was considerably greater in that they had to pay for the transporting of these children. They would have had the children educated in the Edinburgh school for £15 apiece, I understand, at that time. This Amendment would prevent a nonsense like that again arising. It is a precautionary Amendment, but I think it might be an important one in the lives of half a dozen young persons.


I am most grateful for the assistance of my noble friend Lord Balerno in trying to draft this rather difficult Amendment. I must stress that what I am far more concerned about than anything else here is that it is in this last year or the year previous that a child participates in the most important exams. I think to be made to change schools at that stage could be disastrous to the child's future. This is only intended as a temporary measure, but it could crop up again with any decision of the Boundary Commission. I cannot believe that there could be many children affected, and I ask my noble friend to consider the matter very carefully.


I have very great sympathy with the object of this Amendment as it has been explained by the noble Lord, but with great respect I do not think that I can recommend your Lordships to accept it. In the first place, in the form in which it has been put down—and I appreciate that some difficulty has been experienced in drafting it—I do no think it would entirely have the desired effect. It applies to all secondary school pupils in attendance at the schools concerned immediately before the appointed day and who will begin their final or penultimate year after that date. In those circumstances, it would include pupils in their first year of seconary education and it would exclude pupils who at the appointed day had already begun their penultimate or final school year.


This is the whole purpose. It is those children who are just in the final stages before they go for their examinations. Do not make them move school in almost their last year; that is the whole point.


But the Amendment would not include those who had already begun this final year or penultimate year. The wording is faulty; I do not think this is what noble Lords intended. There are other drafting imperfections with which I will not concern your Lordships. I doubt whether this is a matter on which we should lay down an absolute hard and fast rule. I submit that, in spite of the apparently stupid arrangement which the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, mentioned in a particular case, this is a matter where we should rely on the good sense of education authorities. The fact of changes occurring under this Bill does not necessarily mean that pupils will have to move from one school to another. There are perfectly good powers available under the Education (Scotland) Act 1962 (Section 24) enabling an education authority to provide education for pupils belonging to the area of another authority. At present many authorities provide education for pupils who live outside their areas, and we do not have any evidence to suggest that the new authorities will not be prepared, where appropriate, to continue existing arrangements or where necessary make new arrangements.

There may in due course have to be schemes of rearrangement, but we have no reason to think that the authorities will act unreasonably in this matter or fail to have regard to the best interests of the pupils concerned. I would suggest that in pursuance of the policy of giving to the new authorities the maximum discretion in the management of their own affairs we should trust them to act wisely and use their discretion responsibly, and I should have thought it was quite wrong to suggest that the future education authorities would be less to be relied on than the existing ones and should be subjected to this new restriction. I am sure that this is a matter on which their attention could very properly be drawn to the importance of continuity of schooling, but I submit that it is not right to write it into this Act.


I would only say that in the past there have been some education authorities who have been prejudiced in this way and who have done precisely what my noble friend says they will not do in the future. This Amendment is to prevent any authority from erring in the future, especially in this difficult period when the schools may be changed from one education authority to another. I really cannot see why the noble Lord cannot accept this Amendment, and I am very reluctant not to press it.


Let me give your Lordships one example. May I ask you to look at page 151, line 26, where it says: In the county of Midlothian—the electoral division of Heriot and Stow. At the present moment I rather think the children in secondary education go all the way to Dalkeith. Now that it is being transferred to Ettrick Forest they will in future go to Galashiels—I admit probably a little nearer. It is a dreadful thing to take a child away in the last or second last year of school, going from one direction to the other direction, when it is coming to an important examination. This is a difference of nearly 40 miles. It is a problem.

10.55 p.m.


The noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, said that he had not heard of any local authorities that have done this. Of course he has not. None of them are going to tell the Government that they are doing this sort of stupid thing. The noble Lord said that this Amendment is defective. It would be very easy to make it non-defective. If he will not go so far as that, will he undertake to draw this matter to the attention of the local authorities? It is one upon which those concerned with education feel very strongly indeed. I wonder whether he could make any suggestion, as it would be simple to change it for children in the last year or who enter immediately after the date. I cannot believe that it is going to affect more than a few people, and it is not asking very much of the Government.


Midlothian County Council have a very good record educationally, and I cannot believe that we should have an Amendment to a Bill to cover a very few people. Knowing the area very well indeed, I can say there is always great accommodation to meet the needs of the pupils in this respect. When they are moving into their last year they are always given continuity of education are always given continuity of education if it is possible for the authority to provide it. As to the conflict between Edinburgh and Midlothian, I may say that there has not been great co-operation in all the years I have known them, but I can claim that I have been living there all my life and was educated there, and we have never had any difficulty in this respect. This is not a matter for an Act of Parliament. We do not require to pass an Act of Parliament to put it right. With a little administrative intelligence the whole thing can be sorted out. I am certain that between the education authorities in Midlothian and Edinburgh it might well be undertaken without passing an Act of Parliament to make it possible.


The case I gave was one that happened between Midlothian and Edinburgh. Edinburgh, of which the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, is an eminent citizen, was certainly most cooperative; it was the then stupidity of the Midlothian education authority that caused these things to happen, and that is what I wish to guard against in the future. I agree with the noble Lord that the Midlothian education committee is now a most respectable committee. It is quite a different committee, and it is perhaps one of the better education committees in the whole of Scotland, but I was giving this case as an actual instance of what has happened. I have every reason to believe that similar things have happened in other parts in the past. All I want to do is to prevent this stupidity from happening again. This is a very simple Amendment; it is only to tide us over a short time, but it can be very important for just a few children.


What the noble Lord is saying is that the Midlothian education committee in the past might have been a little foolish in certain things but that they have now such a good committee that it cannot happen in the future, and I am willing to accept his judgment on that matter. All I am saying is that with a little administrative persuasion the whole thing can be put right. If your Lordships are going to pass an Amendment to do what the noble Lord says, we are really doing it to cover three to six people in the village of Currie. I have great respect for Currie, but I do not think that we should overdo it in importance. This matter can be sorted out administratively. All I am saying is that we do not require an Act of Parliament to do it, and I am certain that in the future, if there are pupils from Currie who have to go on to further courses to complete their "A" or "O" levels, this can be done by a little co-operation between Edinburgh and Midlothian, and we shall not require an Act of Parliament to put it right.


I was in no way pleading for Currie. In Currie we have an excellent secondary school, and when the Bill comes into force as an Act it will go into Edinburgh. There will be no trouble there at all. But there are other places where a school is moved into another education area.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, for explaining the position better than I have been able to do. I absolutely understand the feelings on this matter and have every sympathy with them, but I submit that this is not a matter for a statutory restriction on authorities, to whom we are trying to give the maximum freedom. I should be very happy to convey the thought to my colleagues that this should be dealt with by advice and guidance from us, giving the authorities the opportunity to act on their own initiative. But I could not possibly accept this Amendment in its present form, because it is defective.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.


Only the mover can withdraw an Amendment.


My noble friend has used that phrase so often that it comes to him very naturally. Can the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, give an assurance that, in the event of any cases like this coming to light, he will endeavour to draw the attention of the secretary of his right honourable friend to it and will get it put right at that level?


The noble Lord will appreciate that it would be very difficult for me to give any detailed commitment about what may happen after May, 1975.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 11 agreed to.

Clauses 129 to 131 agreed to.

Schedule 12 [Amendment of enactments relating to housing]:

LORD POLWARTH moved Amendment No. 120:

Page 183, line 22, after ("allowances") insert ("—

  1. (a) for the word "1947" there shall be substituted the word "1973";
  2. (b)")

The noble Lord said: I hope your Lordships will accept my assurance that this is purely a drafting Amendment, as is the subsequent one. I beg to move.

Schedule 12, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 13 [Amendments of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 121.

Amendment moved— Page 183, line 37, leave out ("1947") and insert ("1973")—(Lord Polwarth.)

Schedule 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 132 agreed to.

Schedule 14 [Amendment of Enactments relating to Roads]:

THE EARL OF BALFOUR had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 122: Page 196, line 13, leave out paragraph 53.

The noble Earl said: I have been approached by various sections of the Committee, and I am quite happy not to move the rest of the Amendments standing in my name on the Marshalled List, and to come back at Report stage.


The difficulty is that I shall have to call all of those Amendments.

Schedule 14 agreed to.

Clause 133 [Building]:

11.4 p.m.

THE EARL OF CROMARTIE moved Amendment No. 124: Page 77, line 1, leave out ("Highland").

The noble Earl said: I have been extremely brief in moving every other Amendment that I have produced, unlike some people this evening. I shall not be quite so brief this time, though I shall be as brief as possible. This is a vital Amendment so far as the Highland region is concerned, a fact which I hope the Minister will accept. But if he feels unable to accept this Amendment, I trust that all noble Lords who know something of the Highland region and the great changes that are taking place will support me in the Lobby. What I said on Second Reading was that the best qualified people to direct the operation of the duties of the building authority are already within the district authorities where the building will take place.

The Highland region is vast, and while my own county, to be the District, of Ross and Cromarty is the very centre of the oil and, therefore, building developments, the most recent developments are taking place to the North, North-East and North-West of Ross and Cromarty, and this means the existing county, which includes the Island of Lewis and the counties of Sutherland and Caithness. Surely it is obvious that those who are going to be the king-pins of intensive building activity should be those who are experienced and on the spot. The fact that the Minister says that these individuals will be moved to regional headquarters—that is to say, Inverness—only strengthens my case. I would suggest that this is a case of centralisation for the sake of centralisation. There is no logical reason why they should be moved to Inverness at all. I hope the Minister will not tell us that a magnificent addition to the A.9 road is to be started, together with bridges over the Moray and Cromarty Firths. Years will pass before this is completed; neither will it have very much effect on the new and probably extensive North-West oilfields South-West of Orkney. I beg to move.


I should like to support my noble friend. I think it is essential that local government should be local, particularly in the very scattered and very large, geographically, Highland region, and I feel that this Amendment would help to this end.


I think that the fears of the noble Earl about centralisation are, if I may say so, greatly exaggerated. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent devolution of functions, devolution of offices and that kind of thing, and I am quite sure that the new authorities will make use of these powers. I think there is a very important point here in relation to building control. Building control is, as we know, to be a regional function in the Highlands and in the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway Regions, where local planning is also to be dealt with at regional level, unlike the case in the other regions. While we recognise that there are connections between building control and housing, there is in fact a much closer link between building control and local planning, particularly where it concerns development control and applications for planning permission. We feel—and I think this view has been quite widely accepted—that there is advantage from the point of view of the member of the public who is making application to the local authority, as well as benefit to the local authorities themselves, in having arrangements, where applications for building warrants and planning permission are involved, to see that building control and development control are dealt with by the same authority, and that therefore there will be only one place for the applicant to go instead of more than one. I think the noble Earl's fears are exaggerated. However, in view of the late hour, I am quite prepared to take this away and consider it further, but without any definite commitment to making an alteration in the Bill.


In view of this rather unexpected concession from my noble friend the Minister, and remembering that there is another stage of this Bill, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment for the time being.


Before the noble Earl withdraws the Amendment—and I want him to withdraw it—I hope he is not under any misapprehension that he has a concession. There are not enough people to keep the Committee going if we divide, so we cannot afford to have a Division. So the noble Earl has got nothing.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 133 agreed to.

Schedule 15 agreed to.

Clause 134 [Prevention of river pollution]:

11.10 p.m.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 127: Page 78, line 25, leave out ("the councils aforesaid") and insert ("regional councils")

The noble Lord said: The Government are grateful to my noble friend Lord Balfour for putting down Amendment No. 129. This Amendment gives effect to what the noble Earl desires, which is that the expenses of the river purification board, so far as they are not defrayed out of revenue, shall be defrayed by the regions and not by the regions and the districts.


I beg to move Amendment No. 128. This is a drafting Amendment designed to correct a reference to existing local authorities in Clause 134(7).

Amendment moved— Page 78, line 43, leave out ("existing local authorities") and insert ("councils of counties and large burghs")—(Lord Drumalbyn.)

Clause 134, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 16 [Amendment of Enactments relating to River Purification]:


On behalf of my noble friend Lord Balfour, I beg to move Amendment No. 129.

Amendment moved—

Page 204, line 29, leave out paragraph 1 and insert— ("1. In section 6(1) (financial provisions) for the words 'counties and large burghs whose districts' there shall be substituted the words `regions whose areas' and for the words' administrative scheme of there shall be substituted the words 'order constituting'.")—(Lord Drumalbyn.)


I have handed in a Manuscript Amendment which comes before Amendment No. 130. This Amendment would be necessary if by any chance the Committee accepted Amendment No. 211. If the Government tell me that they are going to accept that Amendment, I should like to move this Manuscript Amendment also; but otherwise it is redundant. If the Government are not going to accept Amendment No. 211 I do not think it is a point worth pursuing at this late hour and I am prepared to leave it until Report stage. I beg to move. Manuscript Amendment moved— Page 204, leave out lines 29 to 31.—(The Duke of Atholl.)


I am afraid that we cannot accept Amendment No. 211.


In that case, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE DUKE OF ATHOLL moved Amendment No. 130: Page 204, line 35, leave out ("133") and insert ("134").

The noble Duke said: I am more hopeful that the Government will accept this Amendment. When reading through a Bill I nearly always start with the Schedules because they seem to contain the meat of the matter. In Schedule 16 one finds a reference on page 204 in line 35 to "section 133 of this Act." Clause 133 (which will be section 133 when enacted) deals with buildings and makes no mention of a board which has been established under that section. I think it must be intended that this reference should be to "section 134."


My noble friend is quite right. I am obliged to him. I accept the Amendment.


This is a drafting Amendment. I beg to move Amendment No. 133.

Amendment moved— Page 205, leave out from beginning of line 21 to ("for") in line 22.—(Lord Drumalbyn.)

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 134:

Page 205, line 27, at end insert— ("In section 29(4) (application of Act to tidal waters), the words from" subject "onwards shall cease to have effect.")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment goes with Amendment 214. Here again I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Balfour for drawing attention to a point at which the Bill can be improved. He had down an Amendment, but it was defective and we could not accept it. This Amendment repeals the modification that reference to councils of large burghs shall include a reference to purification boards, which is unnecessary.

Schedule 16, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 135 to 144 agreed to.

Clause 145 [Police]:


This Amendment goes with Amendments Nos. 137 and 138. They are all drafting Amendments, required for clarity as a consequence of some Amendments made on Report stage in another place. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 136, 137 and 138 en bloc.

Amendments moved—

Page 84, line 24, after ("or") insert ("in subsection").

Page 84, line 26, leave out ("that subsection ") and insert ("subsection (1) above").

Page 84, line 44, leave out ("section") and insert ("subsection ")—(Lord Drumalbyn.)

Clause 145, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 146 agreed to.

Clause 147 [Water]:

11.20 p.m.

LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 138A:

Page 88, line 23, at end insert— ("That part of the former County of Kincardine which lies within both the Grampian Region and the region of the East of Scotland Water Board. Tayside.")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is to make the part of the former county of Kincardine which lies within the Grampian region and the region of the East of Scotland Water Board an added area for the Tayside region. I am not seeking to import any new principle into the Bill in doing this; I am tidying it up. There were two opportunities available to the Government in this Bill to do what had been recommended to them—to continue water boards in existence. This subject was fully discussed in another place and it was decided that it would become the function of regional authorities. But because not even the ingenuity of this Government or any of their predecessors could make water run uphill, it has been necessary, for some reason which I cannot understand, to alter the boundaries for water purposes by having added areas.

The Minister in another place said that the arguments for doing it as it is in the Bill, or making this part an added area to Tayside as had been done in the other two parts of the county, were very finely balanced. That being the case, if the arguments are so finely balanced that they can go either way—and this is what was said—the way it ought to be done is to apply exactly the same principle in each of the regions concerned. Remember, Wheatley made it part of the Tayside region, and this was one of the reasons why it was part of the Tayside region, but the Government succumbed to the pressures of sentiment and so on and made South Kincardineshire part of the Grampian region, a decision with which I may say I am in agreement.

I think this is a case where there is justification for doing what people want locally, but in doing it that part of the Grampian region is going to be dependent on the Tayside region for water in bulk supply. This is a part of the world where the future industrial requirements are quite unforeseeable. Because of the impact of oil and oil-based industries, the possible demand for water for industrial purposes may grow by leaps and bounds. It is going to put the people of South Kincardineshire at great risk if they are going to be dependent on Tayside's giving them a bulk supply. Where they have direct responsibility as an added area, they must treat these people in exactly the same way as anybody else in the rest of their region. I think it would be wrong if Tayside in future were placed in the position of having to choose between withdrawing a bulk supply from somebody who was merely a customer and giving preference to the people inside their own region. These folk are entitled to be treated in exactly the same way as the rest of the people in the Tayside region. For that reason I wish to move that, as in the other parts of Scotland, this principle be adopted and that this area be an added area for Tayside.

It is only because of the lateness of the hour that I am speaking so quickly and for so short a period. This does not mean that the matter is not important; it is exceedingly important. Everybody concerned with water has pressed for this as a second best to preserving the water boards. I was not prepared to move that the water boards be preserved, because of the ample discussion elsewhere; but this principle, I think, is sufficiently important to be insisted upon. I beg to move.


Clearly, in a case like this there are strong arguments both ways; otherwise the decision would not have been changed as it has been. I agree with the noble Lord as to the importance of the matter, which is illustrated by the rapid growth of industrial development at Stonehaven, particularly development centred on Kincardineshire County industrial sites. This is a practical example of the importance of water supply and industrial promotion being in the hands of the same authority.

I shall try to be brief, too, but the argument against the added area—that is, the argument in favour of the bulk supply—is that proper co-ordination of services ancillary to strategic planning, including water supply, is essential to major planning and development, and in principle an authority should have control of all these services through their region. Any departure from this principle, except where it is not practicable to adhere to it, is contrary to one of the fundamental principles laid down by the Royal Commission. The alternative of a bulk supply is practicable. Water from Loch Lee in the Tayside region enters Kincardineshire by a single pipeline, and meters are already in position to measure the supply. This would leave the Grampion region in full control of distribution and directly accountable to its electorate. The "added area" arrangement, with provision for representatives of the Grampion region on the Tayside region for water supply functions, but obviously in a small minority, and the requisition on the Grampion region to pay for the supply, would give less control and involve unnecessary complications. I cannot believe, if supply obligations are accepted for a neighbouring territory, that fair play would not exist. Such arrangements have existed between local authorities for a considerable time, and I am sure they would be honoured.


But this is a new bulk supply agreement that would need to be entered into, and I would think that the Tayside region would be extremely foolish to enter into a bulk supply arrangement for anything but a limited period. The one thing that is quite certain is that the Grampion area is not in a position to give this water from its own resources for a very long time ahead. It is perfectly true that it is practicable to give a bulk supply, but I am trying to safeguard against the possibility of the Tayside region—whose first obligation must be to look after people in its own region—cutting off outside supply and saying, "We are very sorry, but this is your responsibility. We are not going to supply any more water under a bulk supply arrangement because we now need it ourselves. It is better that you should go short rather than that we should." I am not saying that will happen within a week or so, but obviously the Tayside region is not going to enter into anything other than a short-term commitment for bulk supply. It would be unreasonable for it to do anything else. So the Government are making a great mistake here.

The Minister said it was finely balanced and that justice could easily go one way or the other. Because this matter was considered after the Committee had been sitting for a long time, I think the reasonable thing to do is to give the other place another chance to look at it. I would suggest that the Minister should allow this to go into the Bill—it at least applies the same principle throughout Scotland—and I certainly could give an undertaking that if, on further consideration, the other place wishes to stick to its decision, I should be perfectly willing to accept that. But because this is an area I know, I believe they ought to look at the matter again. I know the feelings of the water authority, and I believe the Minister is optimistic if he thinks that they will commit themselves for a long time ahead. If these considerations are put to another place, they may yet agree that this is the right thing to do. We are not asking them to do anything in regard to something that they threw out overwhelmingly: it was just a question of fine balance. It was interesting that one of the Members of Parliament concerned put this case most strongly for the area.

I would plead with the Minister to do it this way, on the assurance that I will not make trouble if that is the way the other place wants to do it. Otherwise I am placed in an impossible position, because I would wish to divide the Committee on this question. If we do divide we are in grave danger of bringing the proceedings to an early termination—though I would not altogether regret that. However, I think that whether there are 25 people or 125 people present, it is reasonable that this matter should go back to the other place in order to be looked at again.


Before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him—he having the greatest knowledge of anyone in the Chamber—whether he knows the county boundary which runs between Kincardine and Angus, as it runs up the River Esk, and whether it is the fact that the Loch from which this water comes is half in one county and half in the other?


It might be; I could not say. What I do know is it has not been suggested that the Grampian region will be able to lay claim to half the loch.


The main question is perhaps not so much the water taken from South Kincardine, but that the Fettercairn distillery should not be removed from Kincardine.


The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has put the same sort of pressure on me as he anticipates Tayside will put upon the Grampian region. The noble Lord is not right in saying that the Tayside region might refuse to give us bulk supplies and get away with it. In such circumstances the Secretary of State may make an order requiring them to do so. I think the noble Lord's premise is wrong there, and what does he say to that?


If the result was that the Secretary of State was depriving the Tayside region of the opportunity of getting industry in, he would be in more trouble than he is at the present time.


The fact remains that the noble Lord's premise is wrong. We are in the great difficulty that if we do as the noble Lord says this will go as a recommendation of the House of Lords, as the opinion of the House of Lords. I want to make it plain that the opinion of the House of Lords has not been taken on this. Having made that plain, I will not oppose the Amendment.

THE DUKE OF ATHOLL moved Amendment No. 139:

Page 89, line 15, at end insert— ("(8A) In the exercise of their functions under the Water (Scotland) Acts 1946 to 1967 a water authority shall have power to enter into and make payments under wayleave agreements.")

The noble Duke said: The effect of this Amendment is to enable the water authority to enter land for the purposes of carrying out their functions to make payments under wayleave agreements. A water authority is given general powers under this section to provide water mains. This is the 1946 Act. But there is no requirement to enter into any wayleave agreement or to pay any rent or other payments for rights to construct a water main on the land. As is known, all other statutory undertakers, such as the electricity authority and gas board, require both to enter into wayleave agreements and pay for the right to instal electricity pylons or gas pipes over, through or under land. There seems no reason to me why the water authorities should not be put in the same position as these other statutory authorities. I beg to move.


My difficulty here is that this Bill is concerned with the re-structuring of Scottish local government. It is not the appropriate vehicle for alterations to the statutory operational powers of water undertakers. This is particularly true of matters affecting the fundamental relations between them and private interests. Discussions have been taking place with the British Waterworks Association, who represent undertakers throughout Britain. The correct procedure here is for discussions to continue and for the conclusions, with, we would hope, a substantial measure of agreement, to be submitted for consideration to the Government in connection with the first suitable legislation which may be under consideration. I agree that the gas and electricity undertakers operate differently, but the fact of the matter is that the power to lay water mains has existed since before the beginning of the century and this is a fundamental change which my noble friend is proposing. The powers of water authorities are of very long standing and they have operated reasonably well for many years.

There is nothing new, as I said, in the water authorities having the right to lay and maintain mains. Since the end of the last century water authorities in Scotland have been empowered to do so on giving reasonable notice to the owner and occupier of the land and they may from time to time inspect, repair, maintain, alter or renew or may at any time remove the main already laid. Where they exercise these powers the undertakers must from time to time pay compensation to every person interested in the land for any damage done to or any injurious affection of the land by reason of the laying of the main.


Does that include Blair Atholl?


And where there is a dispute as to the amount of compensation to be paid it has to be determined by arbitration.

Section 26 of the Water (Scotland) Act confers the present power on regional water boards and water development boards to lay mains after giving reasonable notice to the owners and occupiers of the land concerned; it also provides for payment of compensation for damage done to land or injurious affection of the land. Such compensation is payable whether the damage does or does not result from actual negligence, and in this respect the Amendment adds nothing to the clause. Compensation for damage resulting from a burst may well be payable under Section 12 of the 1946 Act which provides for compensation being paid, to any person who has sustained damage by reason of the exercise by the authority of any of their powers under that Act. But the legal position has never been actually tested in the courts. The fact is quite plain that the reason why it has never been tested in the courts is that on every occasion where a dispute has arisen it has been settled amicably and compensation must have been paid. So I really do not think my noble friend has very much to fear here.

Of course, the point about requiring a wayleave to be given is that as the tendency now is for mains to run over a wide part of Scotland, the mere refusal by one of the parties to give the way-leave would result in the matter going to court. This is something which has been avoided in the past and I think it would on the whole be undesirable to create it in this way at the present time, and certainly it would be undesirable to create it in this Bill.


I had a feeling that my noble friend might say that this particular subsection did not fit very happily into this Bill; and for that reason I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 147 agreed to.

Schedule 17 agreed to.

Clauses 148 and 149 agreed to.

Schedule 18 [Amendment of certain enactments relating to transport]:

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendments Nos. 143 to 146:

Page 215, line 40, leave out paragraph 2 and insert— ("2. In section 10 (powers of Executive), the following amendments shall be made—

  1. (a) in subsection (1)(xvi), the words, "and the consent of the Minister" shall cease to have effect;
  2. (b) for the word "county", in both places where it occurs, there shall be substituted the word "region".");

Page 216, line 70 at end insert— ("Section 11(4) shall cease to have effect.");

Page 217, line 36, at end insert ("and in the said section 16, in subsection (2), the words from "and (d)" onwards, and subsections (3), (4) and (5) shall cease to have effect. In section 18 (planning of passenger transport services in designated areas), the following amendments shall be made—

  1. (a) in subsection (1), the words "to the Minister and" shall cease to have effect;
  2. (b) in subsection (2), the words "to the Minister and" shall cease to have effect.
In section 21 (functions of traffic commissioners in designated areas), subsection (5)(a) shall cease to have effect.")

Page 219, line 10, after ("12") insert ("14").

The noble Lord said: May I suggest that we deal with Amendments Nos. 143, 144, 145 and 146 together. This is a series of Amendments designed to relax certain of the controls at present exercised by the Secretary of State over passenger transport authorities and executives. A Schedule to relax 50 controls was put in at Report stage in the House of Commons. I will willingly describe these relaxations if the Committee wishes, but it may be sufficient if I simply move.

Schedule 18, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 150 to 152 agreed to.

Clause 153 [Piers and harbours]:

11.40 p.m.

THE DUKE OF ATHOLL moved Amendment No. 147A: Page 93, line 10, leave out ("regional") and insert ("district").

The noble Duke said: I have agreed with my noble friend Lord Inchyra that I should open the batting, to speak on the general application, and that he should speak on the more particular application of these Amendments. If it is to the convenience of the Committee I should like to speak to all the Amendments to Clause 153 and Schedule 19 standing in the names of my noble friend and myself.

The object of these Amendments is to place local authority harbours, and only local authority harbours—not the larger ones like Aberdeen and Dundee and Leith—under district councils and not regional councils. The history of these Amendments is that virtually identical Amendments were carried on the Committee stage in another place, supported by Members of both the Parties represented on the Committee. The Government whipped up, or whipped in (I am not quite sure which is the right word) many English and even some Welsh gentlemen to oppose these particular Amendments at the Report stage in another place.




I could not agree more. Unfortunately, they succeded in reversing the decision which had been arrived at by the Scots on the Committee stage. The Under-Secretary agreed to send a circular to the regional authorities, requesting them to devolve to the districts as much as possible of the administrative responsibility for these harbours. As the Under-Secretary has agreed to do that I cannot see why he cannot agree to them coming under the control of the district councils. Among these harbours are many of the smaller fishing harbours, like Buckie and Mac-duff, to take two examples, and also the smaller transport harbour (if that is the right term) of Perth. Very few of the bigger harbours are local authority harbours, but they feel that if they go to the regional authorities they may be neglected.

I think it is true to say that in the past they have had extremely good labour relations when being run by their present local authorities, which in very many, although not in all, cases will be much the same as the new district councils. They have been economically run; they are a source of local pride; they have very little regional trade. They are frightened that the harbour rules which are in operation for the bigger ports may be applied to them if they go into the regions, and it is of course easier to put the points if you are dissatisfied with the way your harbour is being run. Your district councillor rather than your regional councillor is much more likely to be on the spot. I feel there is every advantage in keeping these mostly small harbours in with the district authorities. I feel this most strongly, and I consider that the decision of the Scots in the other place was right and that the decision when the English and Welsh were added was entirely wrong. I am rather disappointed to see the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, here tonight; otherwise I think we are all Scots. Although I must admit that in the Wheatley Report regional control for these harbours was recommended, it appears that they did not consider the matter too deeply and did not realise how controversial it was going to be. There do not seem to have been any direct submissions on this particular matter; at any rate none were published in the evidence. I beg to move.


I should like to support the Amendment proposed by the noble Duke. I will do so as shortly as I can, and with particular reference to the harbour of Perth which he mentioned. I support the Amendment because this is an issue which is arousing quite a lot of feeling locally. I think the inhabitants of Perth are a little worried about what will happen to their Lord Provost, and if they see their harbour taken away, they will be more unhappy. We have heard about the importance of carrying local opinion in order to make this new scheme of local government work. On this particular issue local opinion in Perth will not be on your side.

I do not need to say much about the harbour except that it is a good harbour. It is rather peculiar in that it is 20-odd miles from the sea. It serves many local interests; it is efficiently run, and is certainly very much appreciated not only by the citizens of Perth, but by everybody round about. They are naturally unhappy at the prospect that the present efficient set-up will not be so good under a regional situation, where the headquarters will be further away and where their interests will not be so well understood. Not unnaturally, they are rather concerned that their peculiar local interests may be swallowed up by the bigger Tayside region.

We have heard a lot from noble Lords about the desirability of having close connections between local people and the new local government set-up. I am rather afraid that people in Perth will feel that if the harbour is taken away, then that connection is weakened. I quite understand all the arguments which no doubt we shall hear from the Front Bench, about the importance of regional coordination, planning and arranging financial priorities, and so on. I understand, too, that we cannot expect at this stage any special arrangements to be made for Perth in particular. But I would hope, if this Amendment is not accepted, that at least the Government will agree that in a place like Perth it would be very suitable for the detailed, day-to-day operation of the port to be delegated by the region to the district, so that at least the actual operation of the port will still be in local hands, and the local people will feel they have a direct interest in what goes on.


Bearing the title that I do, your Lordships will not be surprised that I rise to support the noble Duke and the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra. The case is a good one, and I would hope that the Government are able to accept it as it is, rather along the lines of compromise suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra.


I support this Amendment. I feel under an obligation to help Perth from time to time. Perth must have been considered a harbour of great importance at one time, because the railway bridge across the Tay, built nearly 100 years ago, was so designed as to permit shipping to travel up beyond the railway bridge. Much more recently the road bridge was constructed in such a way that it would not in any way impede the passage of shipping further up river. It was then not only for the benefit of Perth, of course, but I think now it is solely for the benefit of Perth. Having gone to all that expense in building the bridge, I think we might expend a little more money by including the Amendments in the Bill.

11.50 p.m.


Certainly the House will feel considerable sympathy with the point of view of Perth on this matter, but it is based, I think, on fears rather than on realities. After all, Perth is a very important inland harbour; it will really be the jewel of the harbours, so far as Tayside is concerned, under the local authority, because Dundee is not under the local authority.


Tayside region?




The noble Lord said that Perth harbour would be the jewel of the Tayside region—that must inevitably be the Dundee harbour.


The noble Lord started moulding before I finished my sentence. I was talking about the local authority harbour, and Dundee is not a local authority harbour. The main harbour that the region will have to operate will be Perth, and we can be quite certain that they will run it well, and will devolve the day-to-day management and control operations on a local basis. It may well be that they will establish a local harbour committee, which is possible under this Bill. I do not fear for Perth at all in this respect. If I may put it this way, I feel that a tremendous amount of justification would be needed to change the whole system from regional control to district control for all the other harbours in Scotland. There are over 230 local authority harbours in Scotland, and representations against the Government's proposals were received in the first instance from no more than nine authorities, and have been maintained only by Perth.


Could the noble Lord tell us how many of those 230 harbours are actually used? I believe the number is very small, and it is very unlikely that representations would be received from those authorities whose harbours are not used.


I have not that information here, but I can tell my noble friend that the matter was not really quite so controversial as he represented it as having been in the House of Commons. He is right in saying that an Amendment was carried in Committee, but it was carried, I think, on the basis of the position of two harbours—Macduff and Banff; and Macduff has now indicated that it prefers regional control. Then at the Report stage in the Commons there was no Division; the Amendment was negatived. So I am afraid that I cannot agree with my noble friend that it was the Englishmen who rallied to the support to defeat the Scots in the Commons.

The substance of this matter surely is the main argument of the recommendation of the Wheatley Commission and the arguments behind it. Where harbours are important for transport purposes, there will be considerable advantage in their operation being related to the regional transportation policy because all other transport powers are regional. Where harbours are primarily used for fisheries, regional administration will secure co-ordination. My noble friend Lord Inchyra is quite right in saying that I used the word "co-ordination" of harbour development, that it will facilitate the further rationalisation of arrangements for revenue from landing dues which the fishing industry is already moving towards.

I must also say that the views of existing local authorities which control harbours are generally in favour of the Wheatley proposals. The main objection among those authorities which opposed the proposals was the fear of local control, but there is nothing in the Bill that prevents the harbours from being managed locally. I think these are overwhelming facts, and it would be very difficult to justify the acceptance of my noble friend's Amendment simply on the basis of the one case of Perth. Even though the inhabitants of Perth would prefer at the present time to retain control of their own harbour in their own district—but not as the City of Perth—I do not believe there is any chance of an adverse result from the transfer of the harbour to the regional authority.


Can the noble Lord tell me where under Clause 153 the region could delegate the manage-merit of the harbour so that it could be locally controlled?


There is a general power to delegate. I said there was nothing to prevent its being done.


In answer to my noble friend, I think it is Clause 56 under which it is possible for control to be delegated to the district.


There is no special power in the clause, but that is the clause which gives general powers of delegation.


I know that my noble friend would not like me to divide the Committee, but I still remain unconvinced by his argument. I think these small ports are far better off controlled by the districts rather than by the regions. I do not think the coordination of regional transport really means anything. Perth is going to be at the centre of regional transport whatever happens to the harbour. The same applies to the ether harbours such as Buckie and Macduff. I would agree that if the Government were going to nationalise all harbours, which I think the Party opposite wish to do, there might have been some point in having them in regions. I am not encouraging my noble friend to do this; I think it would be a disaster. But his argument would hold more water if the major harbours, as well as the minor ones, were going to be under the control of the regions. At the moment I am prepared, reluctantly, to withdraw these Amendments, but I warn my noble friend that I shall be coming back to them on Report, if I am able to be here; and if not I shall make sure that one of my other noble friends does so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 153 agreed to.

Schedule 19 agreed to.

Clauses 154 to 161 agreed to.

Schedule 20 agreed to.

Clause 162 agreed to.

Clause 163 [Public libraries, museums and art galleries]:

12.1 a.m.

BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD moved Amendment No. 154: Page 97, line 40, leave out from ("be") to end of line 42 and insert ("a regional or islands council").

The noble Baroness said: I have an interest to declare in that I am vice-president of the Scottish Library Association, and what I am going to say to-night has the full support of that Association. In moving this Amendment, I should like to speak to the two following Amendments, which are consequential. The Library Association is very anxious that libraries should be a regional service and not a district service. This is necessary for several reasons: the increasing pace and technical development of modern society; the steadily growing demands of students and educational authorities in the fields of literature, and the ever-widening range and variety of reading and requests for information. These are all features and matters of great importance, and they mean that one must have a very extensive library service. This is possible only if a considerable amount of money is available to back the library service.

It also requires a very large collection of specialist books for science, technology, sociology, the humanities, music, drama, and all the other subjects. Readers' requests have to be met for a very large range of comprehensive and different subjects. There is a need to have computer techniques to manage libraries today, and extension and coordination of services throughout the whole of an area is very important. Mobile libraries, and a speedy exchange of books, are needed if we are to serve the public as we believe they should be served.

It is important that there should be a very strong link with the education authorities, which in the new set-up are going to be on a regional basis. Therefore every reason points to the fact that the library service should be one which belongs to, and is administered from, the regions. It does not mean that the local services will not be just as good as they have always been when the libraries were divided. Books can be, and will be, divided between many local libraries; but to be fully effective in meeting the enormous demand for different types of books and so on it would be necessary to have central buying and central distribution.

I know that it is not popular to say that in England and Wales and Northern Ireland the library services are regional, but they are. That is not of itself a reason for our doing it in Scotland, but it is a fact that it is necessary to have this service on a regional basis, otherwise it will certainly not be as effective as it should be in this world today, where knowledge is expanding, books are becoming more technical, and many more people are going to universities and wanting access to books. The University of the Air is another reason why people are asking for books on a very much larger scale. I hope the Government will realise that libraries are a vital service in the education service of the country, and I feel very strongly that the library service should be on a regional basis and not on a district basis. I beg to move.


In supporting the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, I would stress that this is a matter in which the regionalisation of local government would have a really beneficial effect. The central library could be brought together so that a large sum of money would be available to accumulate a proper and far-reaching collection of books on various subjects, instead of decentralising and having a large number of small libraries none of which could possibly afford a proper collection on any subject. The distribution of books could be easily arranged and there would be no need to centralise that aspect; it could perfectly well be decentralised and delegated down to districts. Indeed, there could even be district libraries with the books required on a small scale for local issuing. But the central library should be centralised in the region, so that it could be an all-embracing collection on every type of subject. I strongly support the noble Baroness.


May I ask one question? If this Amendment is accepted in relation to libraries, will museums and art galleries also go to the regions?


My Amendment refers to libraries. I am afraid that I do not know the situation about museums and art galleries, which would clearly come in the same category. My Amendment, which I am moving on behalf of the Scottish Library Association, affects libraries only.


If I read the Amendment aright, it also covers museums and galleries; and it would be very unfortunate if that were so. Museums and galleries are surely local and not regional.


We all know of the noble Baroness's close involvement and interest in this sphere. While she has made some very powerful pleas for a change in the set-up, these arguments were listened to very closely in preparing the Bill. The noble Earl has made a crucial point, which is applicable to the library service as well as to museums and galleries; namely, that since the library service is mainly intended to serve local needs, this is surely an example, above all others, of what should be a district council responsibility, except in the more thinly populated regions such as the Highlands, the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, where we are providing otherwise. During the deliberations on this Bill, your Lordships have shown yourselves anxious to give the districts as much responsibility as possible. The criticism has been that they do not have enough responsibility. This is a sterling opportunity for them to take on responsibility, and I cannot believe that they will not be equal to it. There is scope for them to collaborate in schemes if they wish, and if that will help in the provision of a wider range of books. I feel that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord who has supported this Amendment, are not doing the districts justice in suggesting that this responsibility should be removed to a higher level.


I am very disappointed in the noble Lord's reply. The fact is that it is not possible to have on a very small basis the type of library that is required for the modern world, the modern student and the modern reader. We need a central library on a very big scale, covering all the subjects, which will distribute through the districts. If the library service is divorced from the education service, there will be great complications. There will be a wastage in the buying of books, because there will be overlapping, or there will not be enough books in a particular region. I am afraid that I find this matter very unsatisfactory. I know that it was discussed in another place at some length, but the Scottish Library Association is deeply disappointed that the Government are not prepared to accept this. While I will not press this Amendment to a Division—I should have done if it had arisen at an earlier time—I shall certainly raise the matter again at Report stage. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 163 agreed to.

Schedule 21 agreed to.

Clauses 164 to 169 agreed to.

{Clause 170 [War memorials]:


This is entirely a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 100, line I, leave out ("shall be") and insert ("were")—(Lord Polwarth.)

Clause 170, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 171 and 172 agreed to.

Schedule 22 agreed to.

Clauses 173 to 184 agreed to.

Schedule 23 [Amendment of Enactments relating to Planning]:

LORD POLWARTH moved Amendments Nos. 166, 167 and 168:

Page 231, line 11, at end insert— ("In section 43 (unopposed revocation or modification), the following amendments shall be made—

  1. (a) in subsection (1), the words from "and (b)" onwards shall cease to have effect;
  2. (b) in subsection (3), the words from "and the notice" onwards shall cease to have effect.")

Page 231, line 36, at end insert— ("( ) in subsection (3), the words "application for" shall cease to have effect;")

Page 232, line 4, at end insert— ("In section 153(1) (compensation where planning permission revoked or modified), the words from "(other" to "State)" shall cease to have effect.")

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 166, 168, 227 and 229 are part of the process of removing what we consider unnecessary controls. They remove controls which the Secretary of State exercises at present in relation to the revocation or modification of planning permission. Where an order is not opposed and no compensation is involved, we now feel that there is no need for the Secretary of State's consent, and we therefore propose by these Amendments to remove this requirement. Amendment No. 167 is virtually identical because it removes a need to submit an application to the Secretary of State for confirmation concerning compensation. This, again, is the removal of an unnecessary control. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 166, 167 and 168.

Schedule 23, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 185 to 187 agreed to.

Clause 188 [Miscellaneous licensing, registration and related matters]:

12.15 a.m.


This Amendment and the one following are minor technical Amendments for the tidying up of provisions in the Bill. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 169 and 170.

Amendments moved—

Page 111, line 11, after last ("the") insert ("War Charities Act 1940 (registration authority for war charities) and the")

Page 111, line 33, leave out subsection (4).—

(Lord Polwarth.)

Clause 188, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 24 agreed to.

Clauses 189 to 196 agreed to.

Clause 197 [Inspection and deposit of documents]:


This Amendment No. 172, was discussed with a previous Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 115, line 25, leave out ("1971") and insert ("1973").—(Lord Polwarth.)

Clause 197 agreed to.

Clauses 198 to 208 agreed to.

Clause 209 [Removal or relaxation of controls affecting certain local authority functions]:

LORD POLWARTH moved Amendment No. 176:

Page 123, line 34, at end insert— ("(5) In this section "local authority" includes a Passenger Transport Executive.")

The noble Lord said: The Title of the Bill expressly defines one of its purposes as the amendment of Part II of the Transport Act 1968. This again is a case of giving the Secretary of State power to remove or relax controls affecting certain local authority functions by an order subject to Affirmative Resolution and we feel it right that it should cover controls affecting Passenger Transport Executives. The point may not be of great practical consequence, as most controls over Passenger Transport Executives are being withdrawn; but it seemed reasonable to make provision for the possibility. I beg to move.

Clause 209, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 25 [Relaxation of controls]:

LORD POLWARTH moved Amendment No. 177:

Page 241, line 41, at end insert— ("In section 5(3) (interpretation etc.), the words from 'and the fee' onwards shall cease to have effect.")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment and No. 202 delete the provisions setting a maximum fee for the registration of animal trainers and exhibitors under the Performing Animals Regulation Act 1925 because the authorities already have freedom to set registration fees as they wish.

LORD POLWARTH moved Amendment No. 179: Page 245, line 10, after ("(5)") insert ("paragraph (b) and").

The noble Lord said: This is another removal of what seems a superfluous power given to the Secretary of State in connection with the notice to do with the proper maintenance of waste land and the requirement to give directions regarding this. The Secretary of State's intervention is now removed.

Schedule 25, as amended, agreed to.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 180: After Schedule 25, insert the following new Schedule—

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