§ 3.5 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Elton)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time.
The only thing that dulls the enthusiasm with which I do so is that it is not I but another who should be doing it. It is just three weeks since my noble friend Lord Avon was told by his doctors that he must retire from the Department of the Environment, and your Lordships will miss, as will Her Majesty's Government, not only his experience of this subject, but also his skill in handling legislation. Your Lordships will, I am sure, join me in wishing him a very speedy return to full health and, indeed, to this House and its business.
From now until July a principal part of that business will be with the Bill to which I now ask your Lordships to turn your attention. It is a Bill to which this Government are committed by an undertaking given in the manifesto upon which they were elected in 1983. We arrived at that commitment not overnight, not as a short-term political calculation, but as the result of careful consideration of 10 years' experience of the work of the metropolitan county councils and nearly 20 years of the GLC.
The powers and duties of those seven authorities have one origin, and one origin only—Parliament. It was from Parliament that they got their power to raise money and from Parliament that they got their power to spend it. It is to your Lordships' House of Parliament that I come, as my right honourable friend came recently to another place, to have those powers and duties recalled and redistributed.
It is the function of local government to provide to the people of this country, at a local level, the services to which Parliament decrees that they are entitled. Those services cost a great deal of money. Some of it is raised from their householders and businesses by means of rates; much of it is provided by taxpayers in the form of rate support and other grants. All of it is spent for the sake of the people who live in those areas, and it is very much in their interest that it should be spent to the best possible effect. They deserve, and are entitled to, the full value of every penny in every pound, and the ratepayer and taxpayer expect no less.
That money is spent and those services are delivered by local government bodies elected at two levels. In each of the six metropolitan counties the lower level is made up of a number of district councils with one metropolitan county council above it. In London the lower tier consists of the London boroughs and the upper of the GLC. It was this distribution of responsibilities that we looked at. Under it the metropolitan county councils account for only 28 per cent. of local government expenditure in their areas. In 441 London the responsibilities of the GLC have dwindled to a mere 11 per cent. of the total. It does not, after all, run the police; it does not run passenger transport; it does not run the libraries. This is not the old LCC which some of your Lordships remember well; this is a very different creature. It does not run social services, it does not run education; and even in housing it has become very much the junior partner of the boroughs.
I shall in a moment describe the general arrangements which we propose for transferring the remaining functions of the upper tier authorities, and we shall no doubt come to the detail in Committee. But the first thing to notice is, I think, the question of scale. The average metropolitan county council has a population of over 1,800,000. The population of Greater London is over 6¾ million. The reduction of the electoral scale from the grandiose to the comprehensible is important.
You can, I believe, count individuals in thousands, but when you get to millions, do what you will they become statistics. Your Lordships may therefore see important benefits from what we propose simply in that significant change of scale. Democracy is strongest where the voter is closest to the seat of power. The electors of London and of the counties will have a say. Their voice will be stronger in 1986 than it has been for many years.
Looking at the distribution of responsibilities also led us to the conclusion that the ratepayers, the taxpayers and the citizens concerned were all getting less than the value they deserved from the money the upper-tier authorities do spend under the existing arrangements. Rationalisation could result in significant savings and better value for money. The services provided to the inhabitants of Tyne and Wear, of West Yorkshire, of Merseyside, of Greater Manchester, of South Yorkshire, of the West Midlands, and of Greater London could be provided at least as well—and in some respects better—without the assistance of the upper-tier authorities, bearing in mind the time that it takes to secure it.
The main jobs which each metropolitan county council now does are to look after highways and traffic management, the fire service, the police, passenger transport, structure planning and waste disposal. In London, as I have just reminded your Lordships, the GLC does a great deal less, though it does give significant support to voluntary bodies of various sorts. The purpose of the Bill is to dispense with those authorities and to reallocate their work.
I turn now to the provisions of the Bill and I ask your Lordships to note that there is, within them, scope for accommodating a good deal of what your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology says about scientific and support services in its recent interim report. This can be done without undermining the principle of devolving functions to the lower-tier authorities. Part I of the Bill consists of a single clause. It provides for the abolition of the six metropolitan county councils and the Greater London Council on 1st April 1986. That date is termed the abolition date.
Part II provides, in 15 clauses, for the transfer of the functions of the upper-tier authorities mainly to the lower-tier authorities. These are the existing district 442 councils in the metropolitan counties and the existing borough councils in London. Clause 2 provides that the transfer shall happen on the abolition date. Clauses 3 and 4, together with Schedule 1, set up a simplified planning system based on the individual district and borough councils, with the Secretary of State providing overall strategic guidance. It will be simpler, more efficient and less expensive than what we now have.
In view of the complexity of planning issues in London we provide, in the schedule, for a London planning commission. It will have no executive powers. Its function will be simply to advise the Secretary of State. Clause 5 and Schedule 2 transfer to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, virtually intact, the GLC's responsibilities for listed buildings, conservation areas and ancient monuments. Clause 6 and Schedule 3 provide for the transfer of functions relating to the national parks and the countryside from upper-tier to lower-tier authorities.
Clause 7 and Schedules 4 and 5 transfer almost all the highways and road traffic functions of the upper-tier to the lower-tier authorities. Your Lordships may care to note that in London the boroughs are already responsible for seven times as much road mileage as the GLC. Noble Lords opposite will be quick to point out that the Secretary of State will assume some additional responsibilities in this sphere, but these will be restricted to a few of the most important strategic routes and to reserve powers relating to traffic on those routes. The Secretary of State will also assist the boroughs with strategic guidance on traffic management. The new arrangements will protect the interests of the wider area and will remove a source of overlap and confusion.
Clauses 8 and 9, with Schedule 6, deal with waste regulation and disposal. The powers will go to the boroughs and districts which are of course already responsible for refuse collection. The intention is that they will act together where necessary. I am glad to say that considerable progress has been made in devising new arrangements. But effective and continuous operation of waste disposal facilities is always essential. My right honourable friend therefore intends to retain a reserve power. This will enable him to introduce statutory joint arrangements if voluntary cooperation is not adequate to achieve this.
Your Lordships will accept that in the time within which custom permits me to complete this survey of the Bill I can do no more than refer in passing to many provisions. That does not mean that they are not important, and we shall of course return to them at Committee. The remainder of Part II of the Bill, together with Schedules 7 and 8, provides for the transfer of the majority of the other functions of the upper-tier authorities. These include their support role for the judicial services, land drainage, trading standards, licensing and archives. I shall only add that the probation service in each area will continue to be run by the probation committee for that area. However, Clause 14 provides for payment for that service to be fairly apportioned between the relevant lower-tier authorities. It also requires each probation committee to co-opt members from each of the contributing authorities.
443 Part III of the Bill, together with Schedule 9, provides for a new, directly-elected inner London education authority to take over from the existing ILEA. This change is generally welcomed. It is a development of our original proposals made in response to the comments we have received on them. Part IV of the Bill and Schedules 10, 11 and 12 provide for the establishment and membership of new joint authorities. In London there will be only one such body. It will be responsible for fire and civil defence. In the other areas the services to be run by separate joint authorities will be fire, police and passenger transport.
Clause 28 and Schedule 10 provide that these authorities shall be made up of elected members of the district or borough councils. Magistrates will continue to be appointed to the new police authorities as they are now. The elected members are appointed by their councils, answerable to their councils, and accountable, through them, to their electors. These are not quangos. In a sense a member of one of these joint authorities is even more readily answerable than is a Member of another place. A Member of Parliament can survive even deselection until the next general election, but under Clause 30 the elected council which appoints one of its members to a joint authority can terminate his appointment whenever it likes and replace him forthwith with someone else. To suggest that their functions are in some way being traded away from the oversight of the districts and boroughs is therefore simply to ignore the drafting of the Bill.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, there is a long queue to speak. I believe that the noble Lord's name is included in it. If so he can speak then, and if not then I have great sympathy; but your Lordships will want me to get on. Some lower-tier authorities do, nonetheless, have ambitions to run some of these services on their own. We have made it clear that we do not absolutely shut the door on this, and should it appear appropriate at some later date there is provision for it in Clause 41.
Part V of the Bill covers a number of detailed matters where special arrangements are justified. It deals first with the Museum of London. Here responsibility is at present shared between the Government, the City of London and the GLC. Clause 42 provides for the Government to take on the GLC's role in this respect. Clause 43 provides for the transfer to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission of the three London Historic House Museums: Kenwood House, Marble Hill and Ranger's House. The Horniman and Geffrye Museums, which are already managed and maintained by the ILEA, will go to the new ILEA under Clause 44. Major museums owned by the metropolitan county councils are dealt with in Clause 45. That clause provides for the establishment of new trustee bodies on a similar basis to the existing National Trustee Museums. We have already announced our intention to establish such a body to look after the Merseyside County Museum and the Walker Art Gallery and its outstations, including the Lady Lever Gallery.
444 We have also announced arrangements for additional central funding for the Manchester Museum, the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Greater Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, and for the Arts Council to look after the needs of major performing bodies and to take on the South Bank complex as provided for under Clause 46. In this part of the Bill we come also to the question of grants for voluntary organisations. This is a matter of close interest to many of your Lordships, as it was indeed to Members in another place. Our proposals have already changed in response to that concern. The primary responsibility for funding voluntary bodies must rest with the individual council but we intend to give some transitional help. We originally offered grant at 75 per cent. on projects totalling up to £5 million for four years. We have now increased the grant-eligible ceiling from £5 million to £10 million for each of the four years. The whole of it will rate for 75 per cent. grant in the first year and at diminishing rates thereafter. In addition, Clause 47 provides a new power for boroughs and districts to agree upon, and share the costs of, grants to voluntary bodies covering areas wider than a single authority. In London, the preparations for such a scheme operating through the borough of Richmond are already well under way.
We have learned much from earlier reorganisations and incorporated it in the Bill. But earlier reorganisations made big authorities out of small ones. This one is moving in the opposite direction and creates different problems, particularly for the staff of the existing authorities. Part VI of the Bill provides for the transfer, en bloc, of some staff engaged usually in operational functions that will be continued by a single successor in each area. It provides also for such other staff as they require to be recruited by the successor authorities; and it further provides for both categories of staff to have continuity of employment so as to preserve their pension and other rights. One result of the removal of duplication that we shall achieve will, however, be that the services of a number of staff will not be required or will attract a reduced reward. We provide for compensation in both cases and I refer your Lordships in particular to the paper which we sent in November last year to all authorities and staff associations concerned. That paper also provides categoric assurace that all pension rights for all staff will be fully safeguarded.
It is on behalf of the staff of local authorities as well as of their ratepayers and electors that I make this plea. There has been much opposition to this Bill. It has been under incessant and even intemperate political attack. Your Lordships will doubtless wish to improve it, but once you have given it a Second Reading it must be clear to all that the upper-tier authorities will be abolished. Those bodies—and there are several—that refuse even to talk about the arrangements to be made, those authorities—and there are some—that threaten with the sack any of their officials who even talk about the arrangements for this, do great damage not only to their own electors but also to their employees. It is no part of our intention to leave staff in doubt as to their future for a moment longer than is necessary, and I beg their employers—and indeed I urge their trade union representatives—to enter now into dialogue about the work that lies ahead so that we can now begin to define 445 the new jobs that will be available. They really must not risk making these deserving people the casualties of a political rearguard action.
I return to Part VII of the Bill. Together with Schedule 13 this provides for small residuary bodies appointed for each area by the Secretary of State to wind up the affairs of the abolished authorities. In particular, they will take over the management of the external debt of these authorities and of their pension funds and any general legal liabilities. They will recover their costs through charging for these items. It will also be they that are responsible for paying compensation to staff made redundant at abolition and for disposing of surplus property. They will be required to complete the job within no more than five years. They will therefore have to find long-term homes for those items, such as debt management and pensions, that will continue beyond that time.
The financial provisions of Part VIII are generally straightforward; they bring the new authorities within the local government finance system and make parallel provisions for the residuary body. I draw your Lordships' attention only to Clause 66. This gives effect to the Government's proposal to control for the first three years the precepts of the new authorities. This is paralleled by the manpower provisions in Clause 83. Those people who regard this as a terrible example of an increase of the power of central Government must, I think, have forgotten the huge expansion of bureaucracy and expense that marked the 1972 reorganisation. We wish to reverse that; and no one, not even the Opposition, would forgive us if we simply left history to repeat itself. I hope your Lordships will also note that this purely temporary power will become extinct after only three years.
The transitional provisions in Clauses 78 to 80 enable the rate support grant arrangements in 1986–87 to reflect the new responsibilities that existing authorities will have. They also allow for the fact that there will be a discontinuity in many of the calculations that are normally made. Clause 81 deals with the special position of the boroughs in London which receive no block grant because of their high rateable values. It extends the existing equalisation scheme to ensure that those resources are not lost to London. Part IX of the Bill and the remaining schedules cover miscellaneous matters concerned with the effecting of the transition, including provisions for the transfer of property. This part of the Bill also includes some new controls over the Greater London Council and metropolitan county councils to add to those which were included in the paving Act. We regret having to impose those controls, but faced with threats of extraordinarily irresponsible expenditure by the abolition authorities we had no alternative. This is public money.
Those are the main provisions of the Bill. Your Lordships will note that it has one purpose only—to transfer the powers and duties of the upper-tier authorities; not to terminate them; not to add to them; not to subtract from them but simply to transfer them to where they can be handled more efficiently. Certainly the question of what a council can do and 446 what it cannot do with public money is a fascinating subject and ripe for debate; but it is not the subject of this Bill or of this debate. Your Lordships should not be surprised, therefore, if there is no mention in it of a particular function, whether it is dear to your heart or anathema to you. The Bill is not a catalogue of local government projects. It is a blueprint for the transfer to the lower-tier authorities, individually or collectively, of those functions of the upper-tier authorities which they do not already themselves have the power to discharge. There they can be carried on more effectively and less expensively in the future. That can bring great benefit to all concerned.
Certainly there is opposition to this idea and to this Bill. Of course there is opposition to it. It would be strange if there were not. Not less than £10 million has been spent securing opposition to it in London alone. The GLC has paid more than the entire annual budget of Durham City Council on a media campaign directed specifically against this Bill. I suggest that it would not say much for the advertising tycoons and the PR men if after all these months of effort and money there was no significant opposition to the Bill. But it has been a misleading campaign. The citizens of London have been propagandised at their own expense. Whether that was a wise or proper way to spend public money which could have been spent in other ways is a question. But it is another question; it is not the concern of this Bill. This Bill, I repeat, is about the structure of local government. It is not about the use elected parties choose to make of that structure. It will result in savings. There will be costs in the first year. Thereafter, savings will come to some £100 million a year from rationalisation alone. This does not include anything that can be saved by the successor authorities changing their policy. Every penny I have counted arises from delivering the same services but doing so at less expense. If the successors to the GLC choose not to spend £10 million on publicity that is a different, an additional, an extra saving and Londoners should be an extra £10 million better off as a result. But that is for them: it is not for us.
For us today is the Motion to give the Bill a Second Reading. There is a reasoned amendment to that Motion, as I am sure your Lordships are aware, and I am sure it will ably be moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. But it has not been moved yet and I have not therefore spoken to it. My noble friend Lord Whitelaw will know how to deal with that later tonight and he will do so at the end of this debate.
I shall tell your Lordships just this: this Bill rests four square upon long experience of a system that is inefficient and keeps important decisions at a distance from the people. It rests four square upon an election pledge in a programme approved by the British electorate. It will save money. It will give electors a closer interest in local government affairs. It deserves your support and it deserves it without the reservations that the noble Baroness wishes to hang around our necks tonight. I now ask for that support and I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Elton.)447
§ 3.32 p.m.
Baroness Birk rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion that the Bill be now read a second time, at end to insert:
but this House regrets the failure to provide a local and democratic framework for the strategic services essential to the capital city and the metropolitan areas".
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the amendment standing in my name, I should like to say that my noble friends and I join together in wishing the noble Earl, Lord Avon, a speedy recovery and to say how very much we miss his presence in this House. In doing that, may I welcome the Minister to the Elysian fields of environment and commiserate sincerely with him at being plunged straight into this Bill?
The amendment reads:
but this House regrets the failure to provide a local and democratic framework for the strategic services essential to the capital city and the metropolitan areas".
We are faced with many great problems in our country today, particularly in the urban areas. In the context of 4 million unemployed, a crumbling infrastructure, inner city decay, this Bill is an irrelevance, a waste of time, a waste of money and a waste of energy. It is a gesture conceived in political pique, born without the parentage of an inquiry. It may be emotionally satisfying to the Prime Minister, but impetuosity on this scale does not make for good government. This long, hastily-cobbled Bill illustrates the Government making legislation on the hoof, springing wild ideas and desperately hoping they will work. Forgive me, my Lords; I think I have caught Mrs. Thatcher's cold.
§ We are not arguing that the status quo is perfect. Of course there is room for improvement in the GLC and the metropolitan counties. What we are arguing is that the Government are proposing the total abolition of these councils without providing, in the words of the amendment, any democratic or strategic framework for these areas. The amendment reminds this House that the major reorganisation of local government should satisfy three fundamental criteria: first, any change should not lead to less democratic local government; secondly, it should not—I repeat "should not"—increase the centralisation of power; thirdly, it certainly should not damage local services that people are now receiving from their authorities. Additionally, of course, it should not increase costs to the ratepayer.
§ Let us consider these criteria for a moment. Are the proposals democratic? No. The Government claim that the Bill transfers functions to the boroughs and districts and so makes local government more direct. But this is not true. This Bill abolishes seven elected authorities and transfers the bulk of their spending not to the elected boroughs and districts but to a host of appointed bodies. Therefore the Minister is, I am afraid, not correct when he says that it is just a transfer. It is not a transfer: it is something quite different. Indeed, only between one-third and one-fifth of the spending of the abolished authorities will pass to the boroughs and to the districts. In fact, the bulk of the activities of the GLC and the metropolitan counties will go to 19 appointed joint boards for passenger transport, police, fire and civil emergencies, seven residuary bodies—a curious title—appointed by the Secretary of State, a host of joint committees, dozens of quangos and non-elected bodies and the remainder 448 to the Secretary of State himself. So far, we have counted 55 non-elected bodies and the quangometer is still rising.
§ Is this streamlining as described in the 1983 White Paper issued by the Government, Streamlining the Cities? Is this the sense in which the Government are streamlining? Ministers tell us, as the Minister has just done, that the new joint boards will be more democratic because they are composed of elected district and borough councillors. In fact they bear a striking resemblance to the interim councils which we saw in the paving Bill which made way for this abolition Bill and which this House saw off very sharply and smartly. Indirect election is no substitute for direct election, and no pretence will make it so. The joint board delegates cannot be sacked by the voters. It is an indirect way of getting rid of them, as the Minister well knows. Therefore there is not much accountability here.
This judgment has academic support as well. The Institute of Local Government Studies at Birmingham University researched over 60 examples of similar local authority joint arrangements. This body has an extremely good and sound reputation in this field. It concluded:
joint boards and joint committees have been widely viewed as in conflict with the principles of local democracy … it seems inconceivable to us that the new arrangments will produce a system which is more comprehensible and accessible to individual citizens.
Comprehensible? This is not. This Bill—look at the size of it—is certainly not very comprehensible. Accessible? Will the proposals bring local government closer to the people? When over 100 powers of intervention and control are given to the man in Whitehall, the answer must be, no. The ministerial powers in this Bill are staggering. On 3rd December last year The Times called the Bill a,
recipe for private government and the abuse of power".
The Secretary of State's tremendous powers of day-to-day intervention will include taking over the traffic lights in Sunderland, if he wishes, controlling the level of joint funding to voluntary organisations, determining major planning policies in the seven areas and taking direct control of budgets and the funding of the new police, fire and transport joint boards. From now on Whitehall, not County Hall, will control the services.
§ Not only does the Bill enable the Secretary of State to plunge into traditional local government waters (I imagine with his head firmly in the sand) but he can reorganise major services without the inconvenience of having to go through another piece of legislation. For example, he can set up numerous new waste disposal authorities, the contribution of which is yet unknown. The Secretary of State for Education can put a coach and horses through Inner London's education by abolishing the Inner London Education Committee. Under another clause described as "reorganisation of functions"—is that not really what this Bill is supposed to be about?—a bevy of Ministers can break up and create new arrangements for police, fire and passenger transport.
Let us take just one example. Can Ministers guarantee that the police service in the metropolitan areas will operate as effectively after abolition? This
concern is well-founded. The noble Leader of the House, Viscount Whitelaw, is reported as saying on 18th January this year in an interview:
I think it is going to be a difficult problem getting the police authorities right after the metropolitan counties are over … I always thought that was one of the difficulties of doing this; it is, and I don't think you'd find any one in the Home Office who doesn't accept that".
I think that he was right, that he was speaking the truth as he saw it.
Can it be right for Government to drag into the centre decisions hitherto taken by locally elected members? Is the centre organised and manned, at both ministerial and official levels, to undertake these extra tasks? And will Ministers be accountable for day-to-day decisions on the Floors of the two Houses? I do not know how far any of this has been thought out. The phrase,
The Secretary of State may by order provide",
or words similar, appears 123 times in this Bill. The Minister has just told us that this represents a sort of reserve power; but that is not so. Perhaps it qualifies for the Guinness Book of Records; I do not know. But the Bill is the most authoritarian measure yet from a Government who have constantly reduced local freedom and independence through a whole string of legislation, of which I speak from very close experience, having dealt with it from this side of the House.
§ Then, my Lords, will the Bill damage the services? Can it be seriously argued that services will be other than damaged by the creation of this mish-mash of divided responsibilities? Every recent major reorganisation of local Government has been preceded by an inquiry, and every previous inquiry has supported the need for a strategic level. The Redcliffe-Maud Royal Commission recognised that "the planning problems of big urban concentrations" have to be dealt with on a county scale. The Herbert Royal Commission, which preceded the creation of the GLC, recognised that many functions simply could not be carried out by individual boroughs.
§ So what has changed? Roads and transport still need to be planned and developed across these wider areas and an over-view is still needed to ensure that planning decisions in one borough or district do not adversely affect another. The Minister talked about reducing the scale of operations. While I would go along in many respects with the idea that in many areas small is beautiful, it certainly is not so, and cannot be so, when you are trying to provide for large numbers of people services which can be properly provided only on a large scale. A great many voluntary organisations, to which the Minister quite rightly drew the attention of the House, still require the support of a responsive local government system which can assess their needs across the whole area. I doubt whether there is a single noble Lord who has not been apprised of their extreme anxiety, ranging from' advice services such as the citizens advice bureaux to the thousands of specialised agencies. These are run by a whole multitude of organisations, including the Churches, and deal with every kind of disability and deprivation we can think of.450
§ The Government say that they now have the answer, and the Minister briefly spelt it out. He mentioned the transitional help; but everyone, particularly the voluntary organisations themselves, condemn the scheme as inadequate and unworkable—and that is their opinion since the new clause was put in at the eleventh hour in the other place. The boroughs and districts simply do not have the resources, and, sometimes, alas, not even the will, to ensure that the work of the voluntary sector continues.
§ Now I come to the arts. In spite of some feverish financial patching, whole areas of our cultural life will suffer and some valuable and loved activities will simply disappear. I cannot go into any more detail about that at this moment but, as a trustee of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, I am very well aware of how difficult or impossible it will be for them to continue once West Yorkshire council goes. Ugly question-marks hang over services which are intrinsic parts of our quality of life; for example, the whole future of urban and rural conservation, the green belt, and parks such as Hampstead Heath which cross local authority boundaries. The unglamorous but highly technological waste disposal service requires an efficient country-wide system to deal with refuse collection in one district, storage in another, incineration in a third and disposal in a fourth. I hear today that the Government are appointing a Minister for waste. I hope that whoever is appointed will immediately realise that he or she will not be able to do the job unless it is carried out on this broad basis and is not broken up all over again.
§ Members of both Houses of Parliament and of local authorities do not have a monopoly of deep unhappiness about this legislation. The Minister referred to intemperate political action; but thousands of organisations—reputable organisations, I am sure he will agree, and not intemperate at all—have told the Government of their anxiety. They include the British Road Federation, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, the National Association of Waste Disposal Contractors, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, the National Farmers' Union, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the Royal Historical Society, to mention just a few.
§ Further, a level of expertise has been built up in the county authorities and the GLC which will disappear. Teams dealing with scientific services, archives, land reclamation, urban traffic control systems, conservation and a whole range of specialist work will, I fear, not survive. In a world where sophisticated technology and expertise are constantly growing the Bill represents a luddite and retrograde stance. In a report published last Friday—a report to which the Minister referred—the prestigious House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology calls for major amendments to the Bill. I shall be intrigued to see whether the Government come forward with some of these amendments. The Select Committee concludes, in Paragraph 77, that the administration of local government in Greater London and the metropolitan counties depends for its effectiveness on preserving the integrity of many of the specialist 451 services built up by the GLC and the county counties which have responded positively to the challenges of scientific and technical development.
Finally, the report says:
The existing services should be improved, not by being dismembered, but by being encouraged to progress. Centres of excellence are slow to develop but easy to destroy".
That is something which the Government should take to heart. This mass of evidence demonstrates the simple and logical proposition that all these services should be run at a strategic level. Every ad hoc compromise which the Government produce—and they have produced a few in the passage of the Bill through the other place—implicitly recognises this and underlines the essential need for single, country-wide authorities to control those services which must be run on a scale covering the whole of a modern urban area. But the Government do not really do anything about it.
§ I now come to the question of London. Are we really going to accept that London will be the only capital city in Western Europe without its distinctive voice and functions? Reducing London to a wretched residuary body is like swapping the language of Shakespeare for the jargon of a Government regulation. Where is the sense of history? Where is the sense of national pride? As for saving money, to which the Minister drew attention, the independent study by Coopers and Lybrand has knocked that one on the head. Indeed, the real cost is likely to increase, not diminish; it will not even stay the same. Perhaps this is why the Government are now saying that savings are not central to their case.
§ The overwhelming Government majority in the House of Commons means that this Bill remains substantially unchanged—unchanged despite the opposition throughout its passage by many Members on the Government Benches, unchanged despite the almost unanimous rejection of the proposals by professional and other bodies. The latest opinion poll taken nation wide and published by the Sunday Times on 7th April shows that only 29 per cent. supported abolition. Polls within Greater London and the metropolitan areas have shown even lower levels of support.
§ When the Minister talks about the money spent on propaganda opposing the Bill I really must put it to him that if the Government—and we do live in a free democracy and a free society—decide that they are going to go ahead with legislation of this sort, surely it is not incomprehensible that the people who are going to suffer and be at the rough end of this should take steps to explain their opposition and what it is all about.
§ Baroness Birk
I think the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, said something about public money. The amount of public money that is being wasted in trying to put through this wretched piece of legislation is absolutely outrageous. The Government are meddling with a structure of local government while bucking the major policy issues. There will almost undoubtedly be another major upheaval within the next decade, possibly sooner. But can our structure of local 452 government withstand two upheavals within so short a time? The Government have got themselves in a twist. A few lines in the Conservative election manifesto, thrown straight into the legislation whirlpool, do not enable the Government to grasp the ramifications, with their devastating effect on the lives of 8 million people. If, as the Minister said, this was after careful consideration, I fear it makes the Government's case worse and not better.
This Bill requires surgery, not just cosmetic surgery—it needs more than a face-lift—but radical surgery. As the parliamentary revising body, it is our duty to apply it. The implications of the Bill go far wider than local government; they touch the very foundations of our democratic society. We have a job to do, as expressed in the very reasonable amendment I have moved. If we fail, the price for millions of people in this country will be too great to contemplate. I beg to move.
Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the Bill be now read a second time, at end to insert:
but this House regrets the failure to provide a local and democratic framework for the strategic services essential to the capital city and the metropolitan areas".—(Baroness Birk.)
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)
My Lords, the original Question was that this Bill be now read a second time; since when an amendment has been proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, to add the words on the Order Paper. The Question I now have to propose is that the said amendment be agreed to.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Lord Evans of Claughton
My Lords, I start by saying that my noble friends and I share the deep concern that has been expressed about the health of the noble Earl, Lord Avon, and we hope that he will soon be restored to your Lordships' House in an active capacity.
I read somewhere that the noble Lord the Minister was receiving intensive training in the mysteries of the environment and local government, and I must say he has proved a very apt pupil if his opening speech is any indication; though I suspect the real test will come at the Committee stage of the Bill, which I think many of us look forward to with a certain amount of trepidation and gloom. If I may say so, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, made an excellent speech. She has stolen nearly all my good quotations, so your Lordships will be pleased to hear that my speech can now be truncated.
There has been, and will be, a lot of talk about manifesto commitments. I must say that the Conservative manifesto commitment is a curious one which, in spite of what the noble Lord the Minister said, seemed to me to bear all the signs of being inserted in haste. They talk of the abolition of the metropolitan councils; they do not say anything about the abolition of metropolitan counties. Presumably we shall have—in some mysterious semi-life, floating about like phantoms—Lord-Lieutenants of counties which have no councils after this Bill goes through, if it does, in its present form. I think I ought to say—because if I do not say it I am sure I shall be asked 453 to explain—that the manifesto commitment of the joint Alliance parties was very clear. We proposed the abolition of one of the existing tiers of local government. I think it is important to underline this. We said this will be done by stages against the background of our proposals for the development of regional government. It will inevitably involve the eventual abolition of the metropolitan counties and the Greater London Council.
We are not blindly opposed to reform; we are not blindly in opposition to this Bill. Rather we oppose the way in which the legislation has been prepared without any in-depth inquiry or research into the admittedly inadequate conflicts of two-tier local government—introduced, if I may say so, by a Conservative Government. For many years I was a councillor in a county borough, an all-purpose authority, which I suppose is the nearest thing to perfection that legislators have produced for local government. It was a Conservative Government who dismantled that splendid system. I remember fighting a number of elections to county councils, opposing the creation and continued existence of county councils, and being greeted with the usual derision and protest from both my Conservative and Labour opponents. So I must say that it is nice to see that Conservative Party members have had a road to Damascus type of conversion at some point in their careers.
In the Alliance we believe that local government requires a genuine reform of its structure, of its financing, and the relationship between member and officer. Particularly in these days of councils, especially Left-wing councils, taking a different view of their responsibilities it is very important that there should be a new definition of the relationship between member and officer. What is so frustrating about this legislation is that it will defer for some years a real and radical reform of local government because of this Government's obsession with waging war on the admittedly indefensible activities of many leaders of metropolitan counties. I wonder whether this legislation would ever have come before your Lordships' House at all if by some miracle the metropolitan counties were Conservative-controlled and the GLC were still under Conservative control.
It seems to me a great pity that this massive piece of irrelevant legislation should be undertaken merely to deal a political blow at one's political opponents when there are in local government some very real problems which this Bill does not touch. How much more useful it would have been if all the effort being expended on this legislation had been devoted—as my party has suggested—to an in-depth inquiry into the functioning of local government based on the creation of an elected regional tier of local government to take over some of the functions not alone of local government but also of central Government—those functions of local government which are best exercised on a regional basis—and the creation below this of a single tier of all-other-purpose authorities with as much responsibility as possible being delegated to parish and community councils. We in the Alliance truly believe that the best place to make decisions is as near the elector as possible. This is the way to do it and not, I suggest, in the rather disingenuous way the noble Lord the Minister has suggested. However, we recognise 454 that a thoroughgoing reform of the kind we would propose—in the same way as the Government are proposing a thoroughgoing reform—could only be done in stages and only after prolonged public debate and a thorough exploration and examination of all the implications of such a reform.
Our first criticism, then, is that legislation is irrelevant to the real problems of local government and has been undertaken with undue haste and without the inquiries to which I referred. It is obvious that further institutional reform, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has said, will be inevitable within a very few years. This is perhaps one of the reasons that the Bill gives Ministers unprecedented powers to intervene in local government, in at least 59 different ways. Furthermore, it gives Ministers 64 opportunities to introduce statutory instruments, and as if this were not sufficient, it gives the Secretary of State all-embracing powers to amend the existing primary legislation—a backstop by means of Clause 93 of the Bill.
My second objection is that the Government are introducing a heavily centralist and undemocratic system. They claim that the Bill will abolish two-tier government in London and the metropolitan areas and resolve the confusion that we admit still exists for the ordinary elector who does not really know which authority is responsible for which services. In the old days before 1973, people in doubt could always take up their problems with the town clerk or the mayor because their body, their all-purpose authority, dealt with all local government problems virtually from the cradle to the grave. Now, one needs some kind of detailed guide to settle whether you go to county hall for the resolution of your problem or to the district council headquarters.
Therefore, as I say, there is need for reform; but I believe that this legislation will make worse the duplication and conflict. It will increase the bureaucracy because the Bill proposes to transfer the functions of each one of six elected metropolitan county councils to over a dozen different authorities, agencies and unelected joint boards. I was going to give quite a long quotation from what had been said by the Institute of Local Government but the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has already done that. However, I would underline that many academic interests and leading experts in the field all feel very strongly indeed that more confusion and more uncertainty will be created for the ordinary elector.
The control of the bulk of expenditure—I believe this to be the case—will be removed from democratic control to the joint boards mentioned by the noble Lord the Minister; and this is particularly serious, I submit, in the case of London where not only are the major services, as the noble Lord has already said, out of the hands of democratic control, such as fire, transport and the police, but also the Government have now taken control even more firmly of the London boroughs' finances by introducing a second London rate equalisation scheme. When the Secretary of State takes over the distribution of finance between the boroughs from the GLC, there will be two equalisation examinations, as it were, for the London boroughs in the future. This seems to me to be creating unnecessary extra bureaucracy and further confusion.
455 My third objection is that the Bill will have a totally destabilising effect on local government in England. Major cities outside the metropolitan areas are already smarting under their humiliation, as they see it, as shire districts brought into existence by the 1972–73 legislation. They wield practically no important responsibilities. Proud and historic cities such as Bristol, Nottingham, Leicester and others are at present little better than pre-reorganisation urban district councils as regards their powers. Yet eight shire districts with these minimal powers have over 200,000 population, while seven of the metropolitan districts which are to be given increased powers under this Bill have under 200,000 population. They already wield far greater powers than do these non-metropolitan district councils, and their powers will be even further extended under this Bill. I believe that many of your Lordships who live outside the great conurbations might like to ponder that this legislation will pave the way, in my opinion, to the eventual abolition of shire counties and the handing over of their powers to joint boards, agencies and shire districts. I suspect that many of these historic shire counties will not be feeling very happy about this prospect.
This destabilisation is nowhere more serious than in Greater London, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has said, will become the only western European capital city without its own overall strategic planning authority. I would have said that London is the ideal candidate, if nowhere else, for reform of regional government. It would be so much better if London were allowed to manage all the services which this Bill and previous legislation have taken away from them rather than that they should be run from central Government by central Government agencies.
Merseyside—I speak here with a little more first-hand knowledge—now has, much to my amazement I confess, a regional feel about it. I was surprised by the amount of genuine support and even affection—if one can talk of affection in terms of bodies such as county councils—that our county now receives. Surely the Government should not ignore the fact—I hope they will not ignore it—that only 10 per cent. of the responses to their own White Paper supported the proposals, and that opinion polls have consistently supported the retention of sub-regional or county organisations. It is for this reason that I intend, for my own part, although I cannot speak for my party, to support the proposal which I understand will come up during the Committee stage for the introduction of referendums before the Bill is implemented.
We have very many detailed objections and reservations to this unnecessary and, in our belief, time-wasting Bill. The fragmentation of major land use and transport functions and the break-up of county trading standards are instances. There is also the financing of arts organisations. For example, the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra will be kept financially viable by the new legislation; but what happens to the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall? These are the kinds of problems that we are going to have to examine very carefully at the Committee stage. As the noble Baroness mentioned in quoting paragraph 77 of the Select Committee's interim report, the specialist 456 services set up by the county councils and the GLC must be preserved. I am the first to concede that the interim report does not say that the county councils and the GLC must be preserved. What it does say very clearly is that those specialist services which are run by those organisations must not be allowed to disappear. I do hope again that the noble Lord the Minister and the Government will be able to give us assurances that if this legislation goes through, then those kinds of specialist services, so much praised in the interim report, will remain in the same state and with the same support and the same opportunities for doing the vast amount of good that they have been doing.
Finally, I would summarise by saying that we in the Alliance recognise that the two-tier system is imperfect and that it should be reformed, as should much else in local government, including local government finance. But that should be done only after the most thoroughgoing examination and public debate. I believe that would demonstrate that our proposals for forms of local government—a one lower-tier local government body assisted by parish councils—would be the most acceptable, the most efficient, the most democratic and de-centralising form of local government. We shall be doing our best during the passage of this Bill through this House to introduce some of those reforms into this legislation.
§ 4.9 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark
My Lords, when the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester spoke last June in the debate on the Local Government (Interim Provisions) Bill, he commented on the remarkable degree of concern among church leaders over some of the proposals contained in the White Paper Streamlining the Cities. Despite many letters and many meetings since then, this concern remains and is now focused around parts of the Bill before us today. In London—and, as Bishop of Southwark, I must concentrate on London—it has been expressed by almost every Church of England and Roman Catholic bishop (and there are about 20 of us) as well as by almost all the Free Church leaders who together try to serve the Greater London area. Some of the concern has also been focused through the churches group on the London Council for Voluntary Organisations. But I give these overall figures to guard against the suggestion that a few of us have been in some way misled by propaganda from across the river, or that we are taking a particularly party line. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester also told your Lordships that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London hoped to speak in this debate today. Unfortunately, he was ill before Christmas and is still in the final stages of convalescence and on holiday; he has asked me to say how very sorry he is that he cannot be here. I believe that what I now have to say will be in broad accord with his views.
My colleague sitting on my left, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool hopes to speak later in this debate about the six metropolitan counties. As a former Bishop of Newcastle, I regret the putting together of the Greater London Council and the metropolitan counties in one Bill. While there is an obvious overlap on some issues, London is the capital city of the United Kingdom with particular and severe 457 social problems of its own, and I fear that it is inevitable that attention in this debate will focus on London to the exclusion of that thorough consideration which ought to be given to the counties, themselves markedly different in a number of ways, as I think will emerge later in this debate. I fear that this will be seen as one more example of how the north of England is being subordinated to London and the south-east.
May I say first that I fully recognise that this Government came to power with a commitment to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan counties on the grounds that they were an unnecessary tier of local government and extravagant. I also recognise that wealth creation is high on the list of their priorities; public spending is therefore to be contained and constrained and attitudes changed. The task of someone speaking from these Benches, as I understand it, is not simply to espouse the Kindness that Kills—to quote the title of a recent book which is critical of some church statements—but to express a view about the likely consequences of any particular measure from whatever party political source it may come. We try to do this in the light of the Gospel on behalf of church members, and on behalf of those who are, in the modern phrase, disadvantaged and deprived. Let me add that we do not claim a monopoly of such concern, but we should be failing in our responsibilities as Members of your Lordships' House if we did not try.
In eight years here, I have never received even one-tenth of the letters, church council resolutions or personal comments which have come to me on this issue. Nearly all of them express great unease at the haste with which the Bill seems to have been put together, with no inquiry or commission first. They express fears about the possible consequences for much voluntary work in the community. They are the views of a cross-section of people and parishes in south London—and I mean a cross-section right across the whole of south London. If there is a majority in favour of these proposals as they stand, I have to report that it is a remarkably silent one.
There are two principal issues on which I want to focus. First, what are the likely consequences of eliminating entirely any elected body to represent London as a whole, even one whose powers could be much more restricted than those of the present Greater London Council? The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and the noble Lord, Lord Evans, have already referred to this, especially as it relates to central and important issues like the loss of expertise, co-ordinated policies, etc., and the loss of a voice for London as a whole. The Horniman Museum in south London has on it a plaque which includes these words:given to the London County Council as representing the people of London".It is the ILEA now, with its own uncertain future, which will have to take on that role. Who will represent the people of London in future?
The experience of the two Anglican dioceses of London and Southwark and of the Roman Catholic dioceses of Westminster and Southwark is that we need both devolution to "areas", usually equivalent to several London boroughs, to give more accountability and sense of belonging, so that we understand fully 458 some of the thrust behind this Bill, and also to continue with a strong diocesan structure for long-term policy and a real sharing of resources between the advantaged and the disadvantaged parts of each diocese.
What will happen if the boroughs do not or will not co-operate over essential services, or if wealthier boroughs opt out? It would seem, if I have understood it correctly, that yet more power will have to pass to the Minister and central Government in default, in addition to the considerable battery of new powers to be acquired by statute. And what happens when there is a change of Government, and these additional powers are suddenly wielded by someone with a very different view of the balance between central and local government from that to which we have slowly worked in this country?
The drift of this Bill seems to offend in some ways against a long Christian tradition of struggle against too much power at the centre, whether it be in the state or in the church. A very early example can be found in the Putney debates which took place within what is now the Southwark diocese in the 17th century, when this struggle was at its fiercest, at which the right of every man to representation was vigorously asserted on religious grounds. This tradition has long been influential in much Conservative thinking, as well as in Liberal and Christian Socialist conviction. Is it now under threat? Or may I ask the more practical question: could the London Boroughs Association be given a more substantial statutory position if a specifically elected body cannot command enough support for the amendment that is before us today?
The second issue is the need for continuity and stability for voluntary organisations, especially those which are trying to serve London-wide needs. The word "voluntary" does not mean intermittent. It takes years to get some projects off the ground and then to sustain with enough funding what are usually a few paid workers who may, in turn, enable many more actual volunteers. It is work to which we are well used in the churches, where money is also needed to support our own paid ministries.
Even with highly committed members and a familiar and accepted need, it is often hard enough to raise what we need year in and year out. How much more difficult for less well-known pieces of work, especially if they cater for those in society who do not attract so much understanding or goodwill. I mean, for instance, the single homeless—who are an enormous problem in London, because the capital acts as the focus for the whole country in this regard—alcoholics, the mentally disturbed, ex-prisoners and unemployed young people, as well as the bigger and very important groups of ethnic minorities, single-parent families, and so on. In my own diocese, we have one borough with the highest concentration of single parent families anywhere in the country.
The need is there. It is at its most acute in central London and it cannot just be left to the inner city boroughs to cope with as best they can. This was the repeated burden of a recent meeting organised by the churches. We do need reassurance that there will be proper and adequate transitional funding, at the very least; that the need for good and long-term policies will be met and that there is sufficient recognition of the 459 widespread and sometimes growing needs of many groups in a capital city of this kind.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Sir George Young, said in another place:The only full assurance which can be given for the future funding of local groups has to come from the local authorities themselves. If one believes in devolving decisions to local government, that must be right".Of course; but with respect it is not the main point at issue. The Bill proposes after all not to devolve responsibility from the Government to local authorities but to transfer responsibility from one form of local government to another, and further requires that the boroughs then voluntarily achieve a two-thirds majority, at least when they are dealing with collective funding—and all this against a background of rate capping, tension and actual division already between inner city boroughs and the rest. Do your Lordships know that there is in fact not just the London Boroughs Association but also the Association of London Boroughs, and that they are two different groups?
Surely there is an overwhelming case for adequate transitional funding which will be sufficient to give continuity to the existing work while it is hoped the new arrangements settle down. Already the sum offered by the Government for collective funding has been increased and has now, I understand, been withdrawn for reconsideration. Can the Minister give some firm assurances that the very great anxieties of the voluntary organisations are going to be met more fully? The situation is so bad that already some have had to issue provisional redundancy notices to their staff, who are often loyal, committed and experienced people whom we can ill afford to lose, quite apart from the people who may be left without the services they provide.
It is said, and I know that it will be said again today, that since the boroughs will not have to pay a GLC precept in future, they will of course have money to spare for such purposes as these. But will they increase their own rates sufficiently to do this if the need is not very clearly perceived, and the pressure on local councillors is to concentrate on their own boroughs and their needs? How will voluntary organisations, out of their slender resources, lobby different boroughs—perhaps many different boroughs—to create a two-thirds majority? I ask these questions—and there are others that I could ask—because the history of inter-borough cooperation in London in the past is, honestly, not very encouraging.
I have read the debates in another place and much else besides. The phrase which came to me as a summary of so many statements made about the Bill's provisions for the voluntary sector so far was, "Don't worry; it will be all right on the night". But will it, my Lords? This is legislation affecting millions of people. I believe that we need some clearer, mandatory arrangements to ensure that work to serve the needy not only goes on as part of a London-wide strategy but can be increased where necessary, and that the burden is shared by all Londoners who after all use the many and varied facilities of this great city in lots of ways and 460 who I am sure want to see it made a just and fair place for all its citizens.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I am afraid that some of the things I may wish to say will not necessarily appeal to the right reverend Prelate who has just resumed his seat, but I think he will agree that confession and penitence are a good thing—indeed, I believe that even the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham will accept that—and I must therefore begin with a confession.
I was a member of the Cabinet of my noble friend Lord Stockton at the time of the 1963 legislation, and I therefore bear a share of responsibility for the setting up of the body which this Bill proposes to abolish. I thought it only right to say that to your Lordships. The curious thing is that for a time it worked, but it worked basically for one reason. Very soon after it was set up it was led by my noble friend Lord Plummer, who is a man of such astonishing ability that he could make any machine, administrative or otherwise, work, and this he did. But, having said that, I must confess that I fully agree that the experiment, which we started with high hopes in the Act of 1963, has been a failure and, in my view at least, the Government are right to abolish it.
I am consoled also by the fact that I shall not be alone in the confessional box. I shall be, as I understand it, accompanied by Mr. Councillor Livingstone, because, when that distinguished figure in local government life gave evidence to the Marshall Inquiry in 1979, he said:I very much regret that Mr. Cutler has not been the really ruthless Tory that he likes to project and come forward with the biggest axe of all and axed the whole appalling show".Those are the words of Mr. Livingstone. This indeed is precisely what this Bill seeks to do, and so I shall not be alone in the confessional box—we have both been wrong in our time.
I should like to say only one thing more to the right reverend Prelate, whose speech I admired enormously—indeed, almost as much as I admire the work he does in the poverty-stricken conditions of his great diocese. The right reverend Prelate seemed to take it for granted that the social consciences of the successor authorities would not be as acute as those motivating the GLC in the relief of poverty and hardship. I do not know what authority the right reverend Prelate has for that, it seems to me, somewhat unchristian assumption.
These London boroughs are manned by people of public spirit at least equal to the GLC—perhaps in some cases by people of even more public spirit. They will have at their disposal exactly the same resources. The rateable capacity of Greater London will be at their disposal. I think it is quite wrong to assume that they will be less generous to deserving and proper causes than the GLC has been. It may well be that their bounty will be distributed differently; it may even be that it will be distributed better; but to assume that hardship and injury will be caused because of this transfer of power seems, if the right reverend Prelate will allow me to say so, to be wholly unjustified. I would add only this. The right reverend Prelate said that it was Christian doctrine that you should not 461 centralise power: that power should be dispersed. Of course that is precisely what this Bill seeks to do. It seeks to disperse power. The main purpose and effect of the Bill is to disperse power from the Greater London Council to the boroughs, and I should have thought, therefore, that it fully meets the right reverend Prelate's criterion of a Christian view.
Perhaps I may turn now to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, who made one remarkable observation which I shall cherish for many years. She said that the reorganisation of local government should not increase the cost to the ratepayer. That is a very remarkable observation from a member of the party opposite, and it is also a very remarkable revelation of the approach of the noble Baroness to the whole issue. She said that voluntary organisations condemn the Bill. Of course they do. If you had been receiving substantial sums from a particular organisation, you would be naturally apprehensive—you would be strangely insensitive if you were not—when you saw that that body was facing abolition. As I have said to the right reverend Prelate, the successor boroughs will have the same resources at their disposal. Although it may be a different line of approach, and although there will no doubt be problems, nonetheless the same resources will be there. I have sufficient experience of some of the London boroughs to know that they will be at least as public-spirited and at least as concerned with the relief of hardship as have been their predecessors at County Hall.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, if I may intervene, I have tried very hard not to interrupt the noble Lord because I am aware of time—but he cannot get away with what he has just said. The London boroughs will not have the same amount of money to give to voluntary organisations as those organisations have been receiving from the GLC. I shall be very happy to give the noble Lord a copy of a non-political statement which has been produced by the London Association of Voluntary Services which points out the difficulty. Because they will have no stated income, they will have to depend on boroughs which—as the right reverend Prelate quite rightly pointed out—are in difficulties themselves because of their own limited resources. They will not be able to spare the sums required. That is so. I am sorry, but it is a fact.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I am afraid that the noble Baroness has got it wrong, on the basis of the anonymous document to which she referred. The income of both the GLC and of the London boroughs comes from two sources; from Government grant and from the ratepayers. The ratepayers will remain exactly the same except that they will have been relieved of the cost of maintaining the GLC. Therefore, they will actually have more funds available.
What is worrying some of those worthy bodies—and I take the point—is that having subsisted largely on the GLC, with whose officers they have good contacts, they will now find themselves having to contact a number of local authorities, and that will be more difficult for them in the short term. But it is very wrong indeed to alarm those worthy bodies—which are 462 manned almost exclusively by people who are doing good, self-sacrificing work—with the entirely false warning that the resources available for relief will be less under the new system than they have been under the old. One adds to that the fact that the rate equalisation system will remain—and so there is no argument to be founded on the position of the poorer boroughs, which otherwise might have arisen—and also that the Government themselves are providing transitional funding to get over the very difficulties to which the noble Baroness has referred. Therefore I do say that it is quite wrong to seek to alarm the people doing good work with statements of that kind.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
I am sorry, my Lords, but I have given way once and there are many people yet to speak. I come now to the amendment—and I believe it would be a misstatement to call it a reasoned amendment—which the noble Baroness has put on the Order Paper. The amendment is inherently self-contradictory. It makes mention of,a local and democratic framework for the strategic servicesWhat does that mean? First, is the GLC local? I have again the authority of Mr. Livingstone, speaking before the Marshall Committee, when he said,I do not conceive of the GLC as local in any sense".Is it strategic? Those of us who know London and who have worked in London for years know that every day there come into London hundreds of thousands of people from the whole of the South-East; from Newbury, Brighton, Chelmsford, Buckinghamshire, Surrey and Kent. They pour into London every day. They contribute much to the wealth creation that takes place in London and they pay a great many of London's rates. If you are going to have a strategic view of London and the problems of a capital city and of its area, then you have to go far wider than the present GLC area. Indeed, you would have to go for some kind of regional set-up covering the whole of the South-East.
I would be against that because, in a small island such as ours, with its unitary system of government, a regional tier of government seems to me to be unnecessary. But it is very misleading to suggest that the GLC is either local (and I have quoted its present leader as indicating that he does not think it is) or in a position, even if it were better led than it has been, to have a strategic view.
The strategic view leads to the great cry, which both the noble Baroness and the right reverend Prelate touched upon, in favour of "a voice for London". What exactly does that mean? What would it mean in practice? The noble Baroness knows, and no doubt the right reverend Prelate knows, that Greater London is politically somewhat closely balanced at the moment between the Conservative Party and the hard Left of the Labour Party—quite closely balanced. What unified voice is to emerge from that situation? I can only say that, under the present dispensation, if it did arise it would be a cracked voice with a distinctly Slavonic accent.
The truth of the matter is that there is very little for the present GLC to do. It has lost transport and it has substantially lost housing. It has very few major 463 functions except the fire service and civil defence—and it has a staff of some 20,000 people to perform them. Is there any justification for maintaining the GLC?
We come to the other idea which has been floated; of a new body with restricted powers. If one set up a new body, elected and with the crucial power of precepting on the boroughs, one would find it impossible to restrain that body within the limitations which one originally wished to lay down. Indeed, if its functions were very limited, no man of spirit would wish to serve on it. The whole effort of any person having any political view serving on a body of that kind would be to widen its scope. The argument here is rather like that made about the illegitimate baby; that it will only be a little one. It would be a very illegitimate baby indeed, and I very much hope that the concept of a compromise, in having a small body which would grow and grow, will be firmly rejected by your Lordships.
We have heard a good deal of those who oppose this Bill and it is only fair to try to restore the balance. A few days ago I received a letter from Councillor Freeman, who leads, as your Lordships probably know, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea—one of the largest local authorities in the United Kingdom. He says this:It can be said, so far as this borough is concerned, that under both Conservative and Labour administrations at County Hall, the GLC has been a nuisance rather than a benefit. It has always been perceived … as an entirely unnecessary tier of government, which has served only to obstruct and impede us, who are of course so much nearer to the local electors".There really does seem to be no need for two complete layers of local government in London; two separate bodies of officials corresponding energetically with each other. And of course there is a danger—a very real danger—in that situation that the top tier which can get all the popularity (and we have heard about some of that popularity this afternoon) from spending the ratepayers' money, will seek to do that on an ever-expanding scale, because it does not directly have to face the ratepayers with the demands on their rates. It simply precepts the boroughs, and it is the boroughs who have to carry the can and have to carry the unpopularity of the total rate demand. Therefore, in a city such as London, the two-tier system does have a tendency, under any administration, towards extravagance of that kind, to the detriment of the ratepayer.
I have spoken almost entirely, as did the right reverend Prelate, about London. This Bill of course covers all the other metropolitan counties. To restore the balance, as the right reverend Prelate sought to do, I shall quote from a letter that I have had from the North West Industrial Council about its metropolitan area:We believe that local government in the north west is irresponsible, extravagant and injurious to industry being conducted in some cases by officials who are insincere and by elected members of all parties, both of which groups are only interested in 'empire building'.As you are aware they are spending huge sums of money without training or experience".One of the noble Lords opposite quoted opinion polls. I have always been more interested in electoral polls. Your Lordships have been reminded that the abolition of the GLC was in the Conservative Party 464 Manifesto at the general election, but you may not be immediately aware of the fact that with that item in the manifesto more Conservative Members were returned to the House of Commons from London than there have been for the past 50 years. That is the kind of poll which seems to me to inspire confidence rather than taking a specimen, however sincerely, of a couple of thousand people.
For all the expensively orchestrated tumult, and for all the efforts made with the tremendous publicity machinery at the cost of ratepayers to defend it, I think that most people see at least a doubt as to whether a two-tiered system is required. As a Conservative, I understand better than perhaps some noble Lords opposite that change always seems disagreeable. One can understand the apprehensions of people who have worked under one system finding that system being changed. But we have had full experience now of the working of this system and of its complexity, its extravagance and its expensiveness. Indeed, we have a vivid illustration of that if your Lordships will look at the 17th Schedule to the Bill where there are no fewer than 21 pages of repeals of legislation which follow from the decision to introduce this Bill. We are simplifying and making more economical the administration of this great city. That seems to me a very proper course to follow for a Government with full electoral authority behind them.
This is not a question of detail. This is a major part of the policy of the Government. I submit that after two years of discussion the time has come when, in the words of Marshal Foch, "Il faut en finir"—it is necessary to bring this matter to a head.
Perhaps I may finally leave your Lordships with one thought in your minds which may be of help. When the GLC has been abolished and that great building across the river is vacant, can one think of a better home for the European Parliament? I would suggest that we make an offer which would bring that Parliament to a permanent home.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
My Lords, it is the Secretary of State for the Environment, Mr. Patrick Jenkin, who is recorded as saying in 1983:I believe the burden of proof is upon the man who advocates changes and if he does not satisfy that burden of proof, then change should not be made".I listened to the Minister speaking this afternoon. He hoped a lot and he wished a lot, but he did not produce any hard facts or figures to support the Government's abolition plans. The noble Lord who has just sat down did even less than the Minister to support them. In the absence of any evidence what the Government are saying is pure speculation.
Unlike the Government, the metropolitan counties rest their case on a totally independent appraisal of the abolition proposals. My noble friend Lady Birk has already mentioned Coopers and Lybrand. In its first report on the Government proposals for change as presented in the White Paper it said that they were overstated and hence misleading. When I said "misleading" I saw a smile on the face of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. In its final report published last year Coopers and Lybrand looked into 465 costs. It said that there were unlikely to be arty savings. In fact, it was envisaged that additional costs would arise from abolition, perhaps as much as £60 million per year. As other noble Lords who have spoken have said, there is a long list of people and organisations who condemn the Government's proposals. It appears that the Government are offering no rational justification for them.
Like the noble Lord from the Liberal Benches (who has now left the Chamber), I am convinced that party political motivation is the answer. We have heard a lot about the Government manifesto, how the proposal was put in and how there has been two years' consideration. A past Prime Minister in another place has said that it was casually dropped in about two days before the manifesto was drawn up.
Be that as it may, let us consider this if we are talking about manifestos. In the metropolitan county areas 3.694,000 plus a few hundred more people voted for the Conservative manifesto; 5,796,000 plus a few hundred voted against, in other words, 39 per cent. voted for the Tories and 61 per cent. voted against them. It is obvious that those areas did not vote for abolition, whatever the noble Lord says.
I wish to try to bring home to the Minister and the civil servants who advise him the realities of life outside Whitehall, and perhaps I may also bring home the realities of life to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. I should imagine that one of the most frustrating tasks over recent months that the metropolitan county officers have had is to give a constant stream of advice to the department and to Ministers about the implications of the Bill and to see that advice completely ignored.
I am well aware of the staff working in the metropolitan counties and particularly those in the West Midlands. I take grave exception to it being said that those people are incompetent and to their work being decried. If anyone visits the metropolitan counties, as I think did the Science and Technology Committee of this House, he will find that most—in fact I would say all—of the officers impress by their enthusiasm, knowledge and enterprise which spreads over to the elected councillors. One must admire the pragmatic decisions and other steps that they have taken in the very short period of 10 years. For the first two years of the metropolitan counties there were grave misgivings among the local authorities which had been joined together. It took two or three years for them to overcome that. But anybody who visits the metropolitan counties now must be impressed by what has happened over a very short space of time. I repeat that I take grave exception to the staff being decried as they have been this afternoon.
The metropolitan areas of England have large populations, concentrated into tightly knit and closely interlinked urban communities. In terms of living, work, shopping and leisure these communities operate as interrelated units. They are also all areas of flux, endeavouring to change from what was the home of the Industrial Revolution to match the skills of their workforce to modern manufacturing and technological change. They are all areas of great diversity.
466 I shall not speak today about the GLC, though go along with what my noble friend Baroness Birk and others have said regarding the London voice. I want to speak on behalf of an area north of Watford; I shall concentrate on the West Midlands. The West Midlands has a population of 2.6 million. It is perhaps one of the largest of the metropolitan counties. It covers Birmingham, Coventry, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell and, which is most likely more well known to noble Lords on the other side of the Chamber, the borough of Solihull. In better days the East Midlands was known as the workshop of Great Britain. However, today, unfortunately, unemployment stands at 19.6 per cent. The Government themselves have recognised the social, environmental and employment difficulties of the area and have therefore granted the county assisted area status. I should like to ask the Minister whether abolition of the metropolitan county councils will mean that assisted area status goes. That status was given to the county; it was not given to independent districts. It is rather important to the future of the area to see that if abolition takes place, that money will still be forthcoming.
What does this Bill offer to the people of the West Midlands? The Government claim that this measure will streamline the cities. I shall tell your Lordships that the people in the West Midlands think that it will steamroller the West Midlands. They believe that because it will mean the loss of their county council which was elected to do something about the plight of the county, to fight back against the loss of jobs and to offer the prospect of a better future in a better environment. Five of the seven districts of the West Midlands have inner city problems of great magnitude.
I did not expect to hear the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, address this Chamber on the merits of the metropolitan counties or the GLC. However, I must remind him of the fact that some noble Lords opposite were very vociferous in advocating the establishment of the metropolitan counties just 13 years ago. Are those people who were so vociferous now changing their minds after a short experiment? Do they know why they are changing their minds? It was the Government's policy. As I said, there were vociferous words coming from the Government Benches in support of it. I think this afternoon we have to ask why those people who were supporting that policy 13 years ago are now changing their minds. No facts have been given to them by the Government.
I shall not dwell upon the achievements of the West Midlands county. I shall not talk about economic development, waste disposal, consumer services, planning and transport because those are topics that can be debated in Committee and, if necessary, voted upon. However, the Minister talks about transferring the services. We have "transferring the services" from the Minister and "dispersing the services" from the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. The essence of local government is local accountability. The councillors who will be appointed to the joint boards will be nominated by the district councils and so they will have to be mandated, delegated or whatever. Therefore, in that sense they will not be independent. They will not be directly accountable through the ballot box when they are sitting on the joint boards.
467 Then there is to be the residual body—a lovely body to be on. How does one reside? The residual bodies will not be elected; they will be appointed by the Government. I am very pleased to see the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, in the Chamber this afternoon. I can remember him answering me when he was on the Front Bench when we were debating the Water Bill. He said that the boards were to be comprised of businessmen with verve and activity, and it was all going to be cost-effective. We heard those stirring words from the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin.
What has happened? The water boards are appointed boards. What has happened with these appointed boards, with these cost-effective arrangements that we were going to have? The boards might be cost-effective, but because they were appointed by the Government they cannot be as cost-effective as they wanted to be or as cost-effective as the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, thought they might be. Why is that? It is because the Government dictate the rules. Those are not my words; they are the words of an explanation that I received only recently. So if we are to have appointed boards, they will be completely dictated to by this Government.
I know the Prime Minister sets great store on Victorian values. However, if abolition takes place, local government will return to the Victorian era when it was described as,A chaos of areas, a chaos of franchises, a chaos of rates".However, no doubt if we have to revert to Victorian circumstances, we shall have to put up with all those kinds of hardships.
The Government this afternoon have not proved that in the short term there will be savings, The long-term benefits are highly debatable. Exactly how significant the loss of effectiveness will be shown to be cannot be forecast; only time will tell. Perhaps we are in for another experiment—as the previous Act of Parliament was described this afternoon.
In conclusion, I want to say this. In another place the Bill was guillotined after only 16 clauses and eight schedules were discussed out of a total of 98 clauses and 17 schedules. A major constitutional change was not even well thought out. It did not even go through the normal processes of consultation and was not even properly discussed in the House of Commons. We have a major constitutional change in this Bill and this House has to tackle those clauses. Therefore, your Lordships have a very serious responsibility and face a very formidable task. That task will be to ensure that democratic responsibility is continued.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Baroness Stedman
My Lords, the Government's proposals in this Bill to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan counties have not been properly thought through; neither have their consequences been realised. I believe that they will very seriously damage local government in London and in the metropolitan counties. What is vital when there are any changes like this is that the new arrangement shall endure. There is so much opposition to the proposals in this Bill that it is highly likely that any future Government will feel they have to undertake even further reorganisation.
468 I wish the Government would accept that there is a real need and a desire for less centralisation. The more that functions are centralised or run by quangos and joint boards the less likely it is that decisions will be taken in the knowledge of local needs and desires. As my noble friend Lord Evans of Claughton has said, we on these Benches have always argued that decisions which affect people should be taken at the lowest possible elected level. Local democracy can thrive only when local communities are able to shape their environment according to their own wishes and their own priorities.
However strong the Government may feel the arguments for a form of creeping centralisation, as in the Bill, there is a continuing need for a strategic framework to co-ordinate the needs of the wider area, especially in the large conurbations, in the metropolitan counties and in the GLC. A fragmented structure of local government cannot tackle properly the problems of these areas and come up with an efficient solution. It is my belief that this can only be tackled by one strategic authority with the power to precept and to implement a co-ordinated strategy for the benefit of the whole area. Any reorganisation proposed must allow those affected to make their adjustments at minimal cost. Any major restructuring of the sort proposed in this Bill will impose very high costs. It will impose direct costs, losses of efficiency, delays in important programmes, lost development opportunities, loss of highly skilled teams—and in the immediate post-reorganisation period.
I hope therefore that even at this late stage the Government may be prepared to think again and to accept that there is a group of basic core functions—inter-related and interdependent—that an authority, preferably an elected authority, for the whole of the urban area, should be carrying out. I am talking about functions such as development strategy and structure planning, housing and the ability to allow mobility of housing across borough boundaries, and dealing with unfitness and disrepair in many of our inner cities. There is a need for an upper-tier authority with a range of resources and skills found in the metropolitan counties, as we have seen on our visits with your Lordships' Select Committee, to implement an integrated development strategy for the whole area.
These infrastructural agencies involve public and private effort. They need to be co-ordinated on a basis wider than a single borough or district. Waste disposal and recycling, land reclamation and mineral working planning all need an over-view, a comprehensive approach. The same goes for the scientific services including the county analysts and their laboratory services. They really should be retained together as units. And what about the highway construction and traffic control units built up so painstakingly over the past 10 years? The Government have shown little or no concern about consumer interests because they have not accepted that the scientific services involved are an essential part of the infrastructure.
Any changes that are made must work at both strategic and local levels. It is impossible to make changes if there is any doubt about their viability. What we need is a new sharing out of power to reduce Whitehall involvement in local government. We need 469 to look at the functions of local government and to decide at which level they shall be best administered. We need to sort out local government finance. All these things we have been asking this Government to do since 1979. They have turned a deaf ear to all our pleas. They have been so sure that they know it all, and that those who work in and for local government are only there to be dictated to by central Government. The proposed abolitions have not been based on a careful analysis or on firm evidence. I believe these to be two prerequisites for a better alternative.
Local government needs a coherent framework but one that is sound, effective and viable. The Coopers and Lybrand report shows that a single strategic authority is the most efficient and the most cost-effective way to do this. I hope that the House will resist most strongly the moves to give Ministers and civil servants greater powers to intervene in local government. What local government needs above all is a period of stability and freedom from central Government interference. Changes in local government cannot and must not be made abruptly. Any changes made must be such that they will stand the test of time. There is a need to probe and to consider all the issues in depth before any irreversible action is taken and local government as we have known it is gone forever.
This House should not need reminding that local authorities are the only elected authorities in this country apart from Parliament itself. The conditions covering such institutions should not be changed either lightly or frequently. In this place we have a special responsibility to protect the elected instruments of government. Institutions of government can be destroyed easily but they are not so easily rebuilt or restored. Will the Government be creating new jobs? Will they invest in local industry as the metropolitan counties have done? What will the Government he doing about inner city regeneration? Will public transport and communications be as good under the Government's proposals? Will the Government provide the extra funds to the Countryside Commission to continue to provide country parks and to help with urban land reclamation when the "mets" cease to exist? If not, much of that environmental work will be threatened.
Do the Government really care about preserving the green belt and our existing large open spaces like Hampstead Heath? Will the Government be willing to invest as much to provide for regional development of the arts and recreation? Is there really going to be a reduced rates bill when the joint boards, the joint committees and the residuary bodies are all competing for the pounds in the ratepayers' pocket? Is bureaucracy really going to be reduced? And, at the end of the day, is this Bill going to do anything at all for local democracy? There are to be quangos—Government appointed—as residuary bodies. There will be instant rate capping of the joint boards and of ILEA, and the Government will prescribe the administration and manpower levels of the new authorities.
That is not local government. Nor is it possible to carry out all these changes smoothly and reasonably 470 within the timescale allowed. I still believe that there should be some form of elected assembly for the strategic services at county level. The Government's major claim for their abolition proposals has been to save ratepayers' money. Has there been a full financial study of these proposals? If so, will we be given that information as the Bill progresses through the House? Every major service at present undertaken by the GLC and the metropolitan counties will still have to be carried out by a number of boroughs, by joint boards and joint committees under central government control or by residuary bodies. So far, the Government have given no breakdown of the costs or of the savings. There has been talk of saving £100 million and about 8,000 jobs. How, and by what means? In another place the Government have admitted that there are unlikely to be savings on passenger transport, police, fire services and waste disposal. Coopers and Lybrand estimates an extra annual cost of over £60 million in the metropolitan counties alone. What is the truth? Will we be told what it is?
The 1972 Act gave a reasonable time for transition with the old and the new authorities working in tandem. They had something like 20 months. Even then, they were working against the clock to ensure a smooth handover and a continuation of services. This reorganisation will be very much worse. Eight months are not long enough. If the Government are determined to force this Bill through as it stands then I hope that we may at least persuade them to postpone the date of implementation until 1987 and let the job be done smoothly and in a proper fashion.
I have spent 29 years in local government in a shire county, where we endured and survived two major reorganisations in 1965 and 1974. I know that it takes time to weld a team together. Old loyalties die hard and they often take a very long time to die. New loyalties take even longer to develop. In 1974, the metropolitan counties suffered quite a traumatic change. Great and proud county boroughs—successful all-purpose authorities—were swallowed up by the "mets", and the inevitable resentment and frustration did not vanish overnight.
After 10 years I believe that the metropolitan counties have established a reasonable unity within and among their boroughs, but the passing of this Bill will throw everything back into the melting pot again, and that is bad for local government—for its officers and staff—and, above all, for the electors of those areas.
During my period on the county council from 1947 until 1965 I also served on a joint education board comprising members of Peterborough City Council, the Soke of Peterborough County Council, and co-opted members. It was a good board and it did a lot to improve education in the area. But even with 24 city and county councillors among its membership no one could call it democratic because it was answerable to no one. We precepted on both authorities, and if questions were asked by non-members of the two authorities they received the same type of answer as we get in this House on nationalised industries:That is a matter for the joint education board".That was what I feared and what I still fear about the various types of joint bodies proposed in this 471 Bill—that basically they would be answerable to no one and there would be little democratic control. I know that in another place the Government tabled a late amendment to the Bill which has made some improvement, but I am still not completely satisfied that there will be democratic control of those bodies. I believe in democratic decisions being taken at the lowest possible level of government. This Bill extols and extends centralisation—government from Whitehall, by Whitehall and even, perhaps, for Whitehall. That is no way to ensure good local government—but that is the direction in which this Bill is taking us.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Lord Bellwin
My Lords, it is not by mere chance that I make my debut today from the Back Benches in your Lordships' House, though after some thousands of forays at the Dispatch Box I suppose it hardly qualifies as a maiden speech. Let me say at once that from the very short time that I have experienced being a Back Bencher, I think we might give serious consideration to reorganisation of the facilities for Back Benchers, because it is very difficult to know where to put one's papers and other items! I wanted my return to the fray, so to speak, to be on a subject about which I feel strongly and on which I have, if I may respectfully say so, some in-depth knowledge.
I have always been totally consistent on abolition. I was firmly ensconced in local government at the time the metropolitan county authorities were established and I am on record as having said all along that these authorities were and are just unnecessary. I said so from day one, and nothing which these authorities have since done has caused me to change my opinion one bit. Indeed, quite the contrary—they have confirmed all the worst fears that I and all the other district leaders at that time had, and in that I also include the Labour leaders. One day they will say in public what they continue to say, and have all along said, in private: that they cannot wait for the day to come. Heaven forbid that they should say so openly; I believe that we all know what that would mean for any aspirations that they may have for further political careers.
In this debate I do not intend to dwell on the inanities of the spending by the GLC under Livingstone. Such wanton abuse of power is offensive to most ordinary sensible people; especially is it an affront to Londoners who pay rates. Perhaps the worst aspect of it all is the odium and the ridicule which these people have brought on the good name of local government as such. One only has to talk, as I have done, to local government leaders and elected members all over the country—and I include many Labour leaders—to appreciate the contempt in which these extremists are held by all in local government. The damage that they have done is very grave indeed in local government terms.
The only bright side of it is that the more the country sees of this nonsense—whether it be in London, on Merseyside or wherever—the greater the perceivable waste, the irresponsibility, the profligacy, the more certain it is that the appalling message of 472 what left-wing extremist government means will be rejected by the people when it comes to national elections.
Having said that, let me go on to stress that, quite simply, my support for the Government's case on abolition is based on the factual recognition of the limitations of what these authorities actually do; perhaps a better way of putting it might be what they do not do! Because the stark reality is that the metropolitan counties carry out only some 26 per cent.—about one-quarter—of all the service functions in their areas and, as my noble friend the Minister rightly reminded us, the GLC carries out only 11 per cent. Virtually 90 per cent. of all the services in London are carried out now—at this time—by the boroughs and other bodies, and that is before any abolition or any reorganisation. Surely that puts the whole abolition issue, it puts the GLC, as it is today, in its real perspective. That is what it is all about. It is all about the devolution of roughly 10 per cent. of London's services.
The noble Baroness, Lady Birk—with whom it is a delight to cross swords, albeit that I am not in so distinguished a position as she is—is an astute politician and she steered clear of this very fundamental point of the redeployment of about 10 per cent. of all London's services. So much for the "Working for London" slogan. One might reasonably ask, "Working doing what?" What a huge multimillion pound confidence trick their whole anti-abolition campaign has been.
The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, said—and I unhesitatingly endorse her remark—that there are many good, first-class officers working in these authorities to be abolished. There are also some excellent councillors on all sides. They have done much to try to make their authorities work well, and in many cases they have been quite successful. I too, come from north of Watford—even further north than the noble Baroness. I come from Leeds. I would claim that, of all the metropolitan counties—and the leader, is in your Lordships' House today but that is not why I make this remark—Leeds has been the most successful and has worked well. I am sure that there will be a few parochial differences as regards that!
I understand that it is hard for these people to contemplate the dismantling and the disbanding of these structures. I am confident that many of them will find places in the post-abolition structure. However, that does not alter the fundamental overall objection which is that the services they provide, in the main, can and should be carried out within the existing metropolitan districts and London boroughs, where the basic bureaucracy and organisation is already long-established. I think that I may fairly claim to know something of local government business. I just do not accept that basic services will be adversely affected when these councils are abolished.
A key question might be how much better now, how much more cost efficient are those services than they were before the metropolitan county authorities came into being. I accept entirely that there are now some very good cross-authority specialist groups and situations. Their status in the new set-up does indeed merit the most detailed consideration. But by definition the metropolitan districts, like the London 473 boroughs, are large authorities equipped now, as they have always been, to provide the services which were taken away from them in the 1973–74 reorganisation. I have not forgotten, and I contend, that despite the large additional bureaucracy the bulk of these services are not better now than they were, although the whole thing certainly costs millions more. I do not share the fears of those who are concerned about the continuing support for the voluntary sector. No Government have ever done more than this Conservative Government to support that sector, not only by the money they give but by the extent to which they encourage it, especially in the inner cities and in the urban areas which I know so well.
The reality is that after abolition the London boroughs and metropolitan districts—and here I take up the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, touched upon as well, but I say differently—will have at least the same level of resources from grants as are at present available to both tiers of authorities combined. There is also to be—and this is a point that the right reverend Prelate touched upon—transitional funding by the Government to help boroughs and districts taking over across boundary projects.
In the absence for the moment of the right reverend Prelate I should like to say that I am sorry that right reverend Prelates rarely give credit for what is done in these areas. I wish they would complain at least occasionally about the sinful waste—and I use that term deliberately—of money spent by some of the London boroughs in particular. I am not going to enumerate a long list of them but their lunacy is horrifying. And this is not small money. As the man on television, Max Bygraves, says, "This is big money". We are talking of millions and millions. You can talk of it as being a little in percentage terms, but I am one of those old-fashioned chaps who believes that a million pounds is a million pounds. When I see a million pounds spent on some facilities for the gay community I wonder what could have been done with that million pounds for people who protest they have no money to spend on housing and social services for their people. That is what it is really about.
By all means let there be discussions with the NCVO and other sound charitable and voluntary bodies, especially about the anxieties, which I understand, and the problems of cross-boundary organisations. But like my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter I. too, have confidence in the elected members who will be taking over. In my view not a single voluntary organisation which is doing good work need be any worse off after abolition; indeed, quite the opposite. Need I remind the sceptics that henceforth the answerability to the electorate, to the people, the accountability, will be at genuinely local level.
The savings aspects of abolition give me no trouble at all. The much-vaunted Coopers and Lybrand report was full of caveats and suppositions, and other equally respected financial analysts came up with their versions and different figures and different levels of savings. I am satisfied that removing a whole tier of bureaucracy in such large organisations will afford the opportunity for great savings. From my own knowledge and experience of working in it, I have not 474 the slightest doubt. What they make of it will of course vary from area to area, but that the scope will be there is unarguable.
Joint boards are not—as the noble Lord, Lord Evans, said they were—quangos. They are not unelected bodies. They are, and will be, made up of only elected councillors from the local areas. When I look at the proposal for there to be just one joint board in London—that is for the fire service and civil defence—and a maximum of three such boards in each of the metropolitan county areas, I have no anxieties about the prospects of the lower-tier elected members operating them. With the common interest of these few broader than local services, once abolition is a fact in law and all the political manoeuvring stops, you will see how they will get down to it.
As for the criticism of abolition and what is to follow leading to government control from the centre, I believe that that really is a travesty. I must be considering a different Bill from that which some noble Lords opposite who have spoken are considering. There will indeed be an overall control, as we have heard, of the budgets of the joint boards for the first three years of their lives, and thereafter they will be on their own. Those of us who remember the extravagances of the structures which were set up in the 1973–74 reorganisation will more than welcome that. But the very essence of abolition is decentralisation. It is about removing a whole middle tier of government. Despite what the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said, it is about devolving powers and functions to local people.
In the case of London, in spending terms some 70 per cent. of such services as still remain with the GLC—and there are not so many of those, as I pointed out a few moments ago—go to the boroughs; 20 per cent. goes to the fire and civil defence authority, to be run, I say again, by borough elected members, and most of the rest goes to existing spending bodies such as the Thames Water Authority—
§ Lord Bellwin
My Lords, with respect, this is one occasion when, with the limited time available, I know that the noble Baroness will excuse me.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, may I move that this House do now adjourn if the noble Lord will not allow me to intervene? The Government set a bad example by refusing to reply to a proper question by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond. If your Lordships cannot quiz a particular noble Lord when he is speaking it makes a nonsense of the debate. Will the noble Viscount comment? He is the Leader of the House and he is the guardian of our rights.
§ Lord Bellwin
My Lords, I am happy to respond to a comment if your Lordships are equally happy at the extra time it involves.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, I really tried not to intervene because of the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, has given, but he has now twice mentioned me in connection with this Bill and I must say something. He said that I had not said that most of 475 the activities really go to the boroughs. What I said—and I said it carefully because it was accurate—was that it was the bulk of the spending that was going to these other joint boards, committees, and so on. You can have a thousand activities which can add up to far less than about a dozen areas of expenditure.
§ Lord Bellwin
My Lords, if the noble Baroness had been patient and allowed me one more sentence I would have come to the very point. If she will refer to Hansard tomorrow she will see that I began by saying that some 70 per cent. of such services as still remain—and this is in spending terms—go to the boroughs; 20 per cent. go to the fire and civil defence authority to be run by borough elected members, and most of the rest goes to existing established bodies, like the Thames Water Authority, the Arts Council, the Sports Council and the Historic Buildings Commission. Just about the only two items which go to the Government are 65 miles of roads which are being trunked—and that is 1 per cent. of all London roads—and the appointees to the board of the Museum of London. Surely this illustrates all too clearly how absurd is this whole talk about the Bill leading to the diminution of local democracy.
A final major point to which I want to refer briefly in the limited time available is the call for another elected body. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter covered it extremely well. I respect the views of those I know are involved and who pressed so hard for this. It all depends on how far one believes that the few across-borough and district services cannot be dealt with adequately by the present lower-tier authorities. I believe that when the chips are down they can, and will, do it very well. The problem with any new such body is that it may well set out with modest aspirations and parameters, but if it has too few functions it will be unnecessary and if it has too many, or enough to make it viable, then it becomes GLC and metropolitan counties Mark II. I am sure we shall be responding to this again when we come to it in later stages of the Bill. I believe that, although there may be some short-term situation benefits, in the long term it would be an awful mistake.
Of course there is need for careful thought as to the precise role of the residual bodies and of course the very recent paper by the Select Committee on Science and Technology must be studied carefully. It is also a pity that for reasons of political obstruction the trade unions have not allowed the officers and staff working within the metropolitan authorities to come forward. Their views have been stifled. I have always said that they must then not later complain if they do not like what Government do.
I come to the end of my speech and I say the bottom line is that when the heat of the battle dies down and the talking, the lobbying and the campaigning is done, when Parliament decides and the Bill becomes an Act, the local government services in the metropolitan areas of the country will be returned to local people. People will again know that it is to their own local councils they can look to answer for the standards of quality and the cost effectiveness of the services. I hope that such of my noble friends who may still have anxieties about specific aspects of the proposals will 476 nevertheless keep them in perspective and in the context of the overall abolition objectives with which, I know, they are in agreement. I trust that the very politically-worded amendment will be soundly defeated today, and I repeat my own welcome and unhesitating support for the Bill.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Denington
My Lords, in the past before any changes in the local government structure have been considered and put forward a committee or commission of inquiry has always been set up. It has heard evidence. It has gone into the details of what might be changed and what could be improved, and it has put forward proposals. The Government have received proposals and considered them. They brought a Bill before another place and there has been long deliberation there and in this House; and in the end legislation has been forthcoming. Of course, not everyone has been satisfied with what has been produced—that is only natural; but at least there has been full discussion and full consideration and the democratic processes have been properly followed.
In the case of the measure before us these proper democratic processes have not been followed. This Bill arises from a purely party political edict, put forward at the last minute in the last Tory Party manifesto. It does not arise from a deep feeling in the Government and a recognition of the need to look at local government afresh; and very many of us in this House, I believe, think it is time now to take a long, cool look at where we stand in local government and to make adjustments and revisions.
This Bill is a purely political Bill and it comes forward, as I hope to indicate to your Lordships, after a long period of time from internal pressures in the Tory Party. That really is its origin. We have a position now where the councils concerned have been condemned to death without trial. Justice has not been done. There is, therefore, no moral basis whatsoever for this Bill.
I feel certain that there is a very good case for the continuance of the metropolitan authorities, but my experience is entirely in London and therefore I speak from my knowledge of that area. I was for 31 years a member of the LCC and the GLC, and for nine years a member of a metropolitan borough council. This Bill really derives—and I must go back to that time—from the setting up of the LCC in 1898. When the Tories found to their dismay and horror that they had not gained political control, that control had gone to the progressives, they were exeedingly worried. They always think that the only good that can ever come to the community is from a Tory political council. Many of us find, especially today, that that is not true at all.
To limit the powers of that terrible progressive LCC that had just been set up the Tories got to work and within two years, in 1900, the London borough councils were created by the Tories. Therefore this conflict, to which they now refer so very much, which they are trying to cure in the Bill before us today, was thus inbuilt into the set-up way back in 1900. I am interested in reading local government history, and if we read the local government history of London, we will find that from 1900 right through to the GLC, 477 more at certain periods than at others, there have been cries for abolition, for the abolition of the LCC. There was even a proposal that the old Spring Gardens County Hall should be turned into a hotel. I have heard a similar proposal about the place across the water while the discussion on this Bill has been going on. History repeats itself.
I have been very closely concerned with housing matters over a long period of years, with the LCC and through into the GLC, and I was also concerned for a period of time with transport matters; but the housing experience is very relevant to the Bill that we have in front of us. In the time of the LCC there was of course the friction that was inbuilt into the system, but when the GLC was set up we had a new situation. Your Lordships will remember that the GLC was set up to be a strategic authority, and one of its main strategic duties was to use the resources of Greater London to try to solve the very intense and terrible housing problems of inner London.
There are actually two Londons within the GLC area. There is inner London, which is the old and by and large very intensely built up historic areas of inner London. Outer London is quite different. Outer London, the outer boroughs, are much more modern in construction. The composition of their people is different, the social attitudes of their people are different. The density is lower and they have lovely, leafy areas in which to live. The GLC was set up to be a strategic authority and it took its duties very seriously. I was at that time the chairman of the Housing Committee. I took those duties very seriously and so I decided to go to the outer boroughs. I went to all the boroughs to find out their problems and to plead—and I did plead—for them to help London as a whole, to help the inner London area and its problems. I met a sorry response mainly, almost entirely, from the Tory boroughs. They did not want to know. They did not want to listen. They did not want inner Londoners brought into their areas. They feared having Inner London's social problems, which are intense, brought to their doorsteps. They turned away and would not help. It was a very sad time.
They also started up the old cries of "Abolish the GLC. Leave us free". It was exactly the same as the letter read by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, from the Tory chairman of Kensington and Chelsea, saying "Hooray for abolition. This is what we have been wanting for years. Get rid of the GLC". That is also what the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, said about the lower authorities in the metropolitan counties. "Hooray, hooray. Get rid of the GLC" has been a Tory cry from the lower authorities since 1900.
In my view this is the origin of this Bill. I believe that the story of an undertaking in the manifesto being written on the back of a cigarette card arose because someone rung the Prime Minister and said, "Don't forget your promise to us. You promised to get rid of them". She said, "My goodness, yes," and it was written in there and then in a few words. That might be how it happened.
In my view this Bill is not doing what it should do. It should be taking a long, cool look, which should have been taken before and which should be embodied in the Bill, at local government and at the adjustments 478 that need to be made. Local government is an important element in the life of everybody in this nation. It ought not to be dealt with in the way it is being dealt within this Bill.
I can understand the anger and annoyance of the Prime Minister particularly and the Government generally at some of the activities of the Greater London Council. It grieves me and many of my friends just as deeply as it grieves anybody on the other side. That does not mean to say that we should take this sudden action in exasperation, as it were, and say, "Abolish it, get rid of it". Such behaviour on the part of an individual would be quite understandable, but on the part of the Government I find it inexcusable and highly irresponsible. The problem of a hitter, intense clash of social attitudes between different levels of Government is inbuilt in the democratic system and we have to learn to live with it. We talk about the art of Government. In such circumstances it is an art, but it should be practiced; it is something that has to be faced in democracy.
Abolition is the kind of action that is taken under a dictatorship—surely not in Britain. The proper procedures have not been followed in the case of this Bill. There has been no inquiry. I think we are all—I say all and mean all, on both sides of the House—in trouble over this Bill because it has not properly been considered. It will upset many organisations. Many individuals will be damaged by it. Local government will be weakened by the transfer of far too many powers to central Government, and we shall have a hotch-potch of arrangements for our capital city. It is a bad Bill. This cannot be the end of the matter. If this measure is passed, it will not be the end of the matter. It will all have to come up again for us to have that long, cool look that is needed. Abolition solves nothing. It is just a dead end, and the Government must think again.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Lord Birkett
My Lords, I rise to support most warmly the amendment put down by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, because, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, I find it reasoned, I find it reasonable and entirely intelligible. I must inform your Lordships that I work for one of the threatened authorities, the GLC. I say that not only to declare an interest, as I must properly do, but also because I hope to persuade your Lordships that from my point of view, from a desk at the very bureau of bureaucracy, I see the stuff of the amendment of the noble Baroness coming up every day. I should say that strategic needs and strategic thoughts are my daily grind and my daily task.
I am supremely unimpressed by whatever it was that Ken Livingstone said to the Marshall Committee. It seems to me to have gone by a long time ago and I thought he was wrong then. I am also supremely unimpressed by the fact that he said that the GLC was not remotely local. Living as I do inside the GLC building, "local" is a word that colours like a chameleon every hour of the day. Sometimes it is the word used when you hope that somebody else will pay for it. You say, "It is an entirely local issue", hoping that the borough will pay for it and it will not come off one's own budget. Sometimes one says, "This is 479 properly a local concern", meaning that it is something that you want to deal with, something that you want to be concerned with yourself. So this word colours so rapidly that I beg your Lordships not to be impressed by any particular construction put upon it tonight by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, by me or by anybody else.
What is clear to me is that there are strategic concerns for London. We were reassured by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, when he moved this Second Reading and more recently by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, that the authorities which will inherit the functions of the GLC in particular, and, by extension, the metropolitan councils, will be perfectly capable of exercising all the functions that we, the bigger authorities, used to exercise and that nobody will be the poorer or indeed the loser for it. I do not find it so. I do not find it reassuring and I do not believe it. I do not for a moment suppose that the two noble Lords are anything but sincere in their belief. My experience tells me, however, that it will not be thus, because what worries me about this Bill is not what is in it so much as what is not in it, what is left out.
My own area is comparatively small within the council's budget spending—a twelfth at the most, if one considers only the most current spending. On the most recent pie chart I looked at my own little slice of the GLC's pie and discovered it was under 4 per cent. So in financial terms it is not a huge area. It is, however, exciting and important. It deals with everything that might be done in leisure time. It deals with arts, sports, with all the open spaces, and with a host of smaller endeavours. Within those areas alone there are such enormous gaps in this Bill that I can understand the 123 references that the noble Baroness has gallantly counted where the Government have felt obliged to give the Secretary of State unilateral powers to cope with the situation. What alarms me about that statistic is not that I think he will abuse that power—in fact no Secretary of State who had a mind for his health and wellbeing would want to hang on to all 123 instances of that power; rather I suspect that it is there simply because the Government have not yet worked out how to play this particular game. They have not seen what is essential in detail; they have seen it only broadly and felt it necessary to fill in with those 123 instances of the Secretary of State's unilateral powers.
Let me just try, if your Lordships will bear with me for just a few minutes, to give you some instances from my own, as it were, working life and see whether your Lordships find that you are reassured about the future for all these things. To start with, sports. The only reference in this Bill that makes any real contribution at all to sport is a reference that says that the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre will be run by the Sports Council or that consideration will be given by the Sports Council to its future. One knows perfectly well that that is a sensible proposition. If anyone has to run that centre and there is not a GLC, the Sports Council are the people to do it. They do half of it already. That is all of sport.
How about the hundreds of clubs, great and small, that we—and I am sure the same is true of the metropolitan counties—support? How about the sports grounds that sometimes, particularly in the case 480 of education authorities, become—and this is one of the dread phrases of the day—surplus to requirements? Will they, in fact, still be sports grounds? Who except a strategic authority will have that strategic worry? Who will have strategic worries, for example, about the fact that indoor tennis in this country has a very slow and lamentable start? Everybody knows that we are hardly the world's leading tennis nation in international competitions. It must have something to do with the training facilities that we have. Indoor tennis is something that a strategic authority can take on board.
As I go through this list, my Lords, I recognise that these are all things which, in a way, I should have done by now. I have been with the GLC for only five years and I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for not having done all of them or for not even having tried to do some of them. But they are all things that I feel to be a responsibility of mine and which I have not yet got around to starting.
In regard to the world of the arts; we have had so many arts debates, and the noble Earl the Minister will be fed up with me for paying yet another tribute to his good sense in organising the post-abolition life of the arts better than any other part of Government. He has given the now famous assurance of the £34 million funding for the arts after abolition; £16 million for grants, £1 million for films and £17 million for the museum and historic house area. But I remain very worried that the sum will not be enough. The noble Earl himself thought that it might be £4 million short when he announced it. I am beginning to think that even those organisations that he wanted to preserve intact and not be subject to cuts, as they surely would have been in terms of the £4 million, will now be in danger. I worry about the figures, not, I may say, the intentions—and I urge your Lordships to believe in the noble Earl's intentions—and about what will actually happen.
Then among the things that we have not yet done, who, on the abolition of the GLC, will look after the whole question of crafts? Four new arches, duly scrubbed and cleaned, of the Hungerford Bridge, right next door to the Festival Hall, are due to open this summer as a crafts centre, where the life and hurly-burly of the South Bank can have an element of crafts which it has never yet had. Who will look after those? Who, in future, would invent such a notion? Not, I suggest, the local borough. Who, for example, will continue the joint Camden and GLC enterprise at the Round House where, for the first time,the building will be converted to a theatre and arts centre, for the arts of the black community which are so "busting" with talent and which hitherto have been so dismally under-funded? Who but a strategic authority will worry about that?
Who will worry about the literature programme which the Arts Council seems to have abandoned? Who, above all, will worry about the bricks and mortar of the arts? The Arts Council has just abandoned its own housing-the-arts scheme. If the GLC is abolished, who will give a moment's thought to the big question of capital funding for the arts? Within the wider areas of the open spaces, out in the green belt, who will carry on the great work that is being done at Beddington Mitcham? Who will worry 481 about what is, I think, a serious under-provision of camping and caravanning facilities, not only for our own population but also for the eager population of tourists who get a very short shrift from us, I think, on that subject? Who will worry strategically about the enormously expanding and popular pastime of angling, which is probably the most popular growth sport in this country. Who will take a strategic thought about that? Who will worry about the whole explosion of motor-cycling in its different forms and BMX? Who will worry about the safety aspects of that as a training programme London-wide or covering metropolitan county councils?
Who will invent our first theme park? This is a difficult proposal, not popular in every connection, but certainly popular with tourists. Who will worry about our entertainments in the future? Who will give us the Easter Parade in Battersea Park? Who will give us the Greater London Horse Show on Clapham Common? Who will give us Thames Day on the South Bank—the individual boroughs? I shall be suprised if they can afford it or have the will to do it. And in the parks, who will continue the two great developing parks of Burgess and Mile End? Those two parks have absorbed about £2 million a year for the past decade. Who will continue to fund them to completion, so that they do not simply remain half-finished monuments to abolition but actually become the parks which serve the east and the south of London as they were designed to do? Who, for example, will push forward the imaginative and I think badly needed concept of a London arboretum which was to be built on the north bank of the Thames, at the Thames Barrier site? There is a marvellous site of 23 acres used in connection with the construction of the Thames Barrier and now empty. What a use to put it to—an arboretum. I believe that is a brilliant and sensible notion, entirely welcomed by the people of Newham. Will they be able to afford to push it forward alone? I doubt it; and I shall bitterly regret it if that scheme does not go forward.
Your Lordships will see that if I turned over the page, I could continue with this kind of illustration all evening. But I see the time going on; I have used up more than I have allotted myself and I know that there are dozens of speakers yet to come. But I hope that your Lordships will recognise why I say I am not reassured that the layer of local authorities to which all these services are to be devolved will be capable of carrying them out. If, in the course of exercising one of his 123 functions, the Secretary of State finds a way to make more sense of the proposal than simply devolving to smaller and smaller organisations, I think that he will come back to the proposition that the noble Baroness has put forward: that there needs to be quite simply a democratic local authority to deal with strategic matters. I cannot see that that is anything but sensible and it is an amendment of entirely good-natured good will. It is for that reason that I support it.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford
My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, and hear the attractive picture which he paints of the strategic functions for which he was responsible. I do take some 482 note of the cost of them all and will have a word to say about that later. But, having had in the past some long relationship—one of some 20 years—with the GLC on strategic matters and, in particular, having had a long and happy association with the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, I recognise that the GLC has had a valuable strategic function and could have continued it. My criticism of the GLC, and, in fact, my disqualification of the GLC, would not rest on those grounds and I believe and hope that the London boroughs, with suitable guidance and prodding and support from my noble friends in Government will provide these facilities substantially and in as far as we as a nation can afford them.
Here perhaps is the moment in my speech—and I want to make a very brief speech in view of the noble Lords who are to follow me—to say that the Greater London Enterprise Board sounds fine, finding jobs for Londoners. It has cost Londoners £50 million in the last three years. It provided relatively few jobs very expensively. Who pays for it? The rates of London, as we all well know, are paid substantially by industry and commerce. Three-quarters of the rates of London fall on their shoulders, and the other quarter en the higher tier of private residences. What is happening to many small businesses in London is that the weight of the rates—the GLC demand has doubled in the last three years—has crippled some of them; these rates are driving the small man out of business, either out altogether or out of London, thus losing jobs. What is the good of that at a time when, above all, we want to see jobs created rather than destroyed?
I come back to the very attractive point the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, was making. Yes, all these things are fine, and I hope that most of them will go on, but we have to have some regard to the total costs. Otherwise we shall simply kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. That is what the present leaders in the GLC have been doing. It is a sombre moment for me to propose and support, as I am going to do, the abolition of the GLC. The LCC, and the GLC following it, have a great tradition of service, but what has been happening there in the last three years is not local government democracy. The people who have been running the GLC have been involved in political posturing as if they were rulers of an independent state in constant conflict with the Government of the day.
Here I come to the point which the noble Baroness made. Of course there is disagreement between central government and local government, but all of us who have had anything to do with either know that the total spend of local government is very great. It is one quarter—£33 billion a year—of the total public spending. Therefore, local government must cooperate with the central Government of the day, whoever is running the country, whether it is the party of the noble Lords opposite or of the noble Lords on this side. They must co-operate. There have been disagreements, there have been tensions, there have been conflicts, but at the end of the day local government bodies have said "All right, we don't like this but we will co-operate with it," and they have expected, and received, reasonable consideration from the Government of the day for the wishes and the interests of the local people. That is the way it worked.
483 It has not happened like that in the GLC nor, indeed, in the metropolitan county councils. Over the last three years there has been outright warfare. That is an impossible situation to deal with. They have tried flat out to frustrate the Government's financial policies in a way that I have never seen before and that I hope I shall never see again; and I hope, come the day when noble Lords opposite are back in power again, they will not be faced with it either. It is just not acceptable. I make the broad financial point that what we have seen going on in County Hall in the last three years has not been local government democracy of a kind that I have ever seen. The sort of expenditure that I have already mentioned, as well as the £10 million for the PR campaign which really sets everybody's teeth on edge, is quite unacceptable.
When some worthwhile project which is promoted by people other than by the GLC is proposed:—I speak now of the Docklands redevelopment—far from it being welcomed, the GLC has opposed the new corporation tooth and nail. Despite the really wonderful developments which have gone on there, with the creation of houses and jobs so that the place has been absolutely transformed in the last couple of years what are they doing now? They are opposing the project in the Royal Docks, completely derelict now, of the short take-off airport which would be the greatest generator of jobs in that neighbourhood there could possibly be. They are opposing that. That shows the unwisdom and the madness of these men who seem to have ideas of political grandeur which lead them into foreign affairs; and they even welcome the leader of the IRA without regard for the feelings of Londoners who have suffered from the bombings of the IRA. What sort of people are they? This is not local government in any sort or kind of way.
This certainly predisposes me to say that the prospect of what is going to be put in its place of devolving these powers—and 90 per cent. of the powers will go to the London boroughs—will give better local government in London far cheaper. As my noble friend has already said, after the initial years' heavy expense, the expected saving will be something of the order of £100 million. My Lords, this has my warmest support, and, as time is so precious, I will conclude my remarks with that.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Lord Rhodes
My Lords, Saddleworth, where I live, was in Yorkshire for 800 years. I shall have lived 90 of them this year, and I claim to know a little about what goes on in that part of the world.
The planners got busy to tidy us up, because we are on the Lancashire watershed side of the Pennines. They said that they were going to put us into a county called SELNEC—SELNEC being the initials of South East Lancashire North East Cheshire. Naturally, there was a lot of opposition to the change, and we had meetings galore. One of them, which I remember very well, was organised by some young people. When I got to the civic hall they said "Will you take the chair?" I agreed. Then they said "Will you get a motion negatived that is put on the table?" I said "I'll try". The motion was "That the best interests of Saddleworth would be served by going into SELNEC". Of course, that had a resounding defeat. On going 484 down the steps after the meeting was over, I saw Joe Cartwright, who used to work for me. I said, "How did tha' vote, Joe?" He said, "How dost tha' think? Agin!" He said, "I wouldn't have been so shocked or surprised if we had been going in with Oldham or Manchester, or even Lancashire, but I'll be jiggered if I want to go in with a set of initials". The meeting broke up on those terms, and Joe Cartwright's story went round Manchester like a prairie fire. His ridicule forced the powers that be to adopt my suggestion of "Greater Manchester".
We are a gregarious lot where I come from. We had a hard time in the 'twenties and the 'thirties, and adversity brings communities close together. That is what happened in my part of the world. It is interesting because across on those Benches I have seen men who were in the other place when I was there. Every now and then it is essential that we should prevent governments from making fools of themselves. When I say that I see men across on those Benches, I mean that in 1958 they reduced the county regiments. Do your Lordships remember? It was not good enough to have a Manchester Regiment—a Manchester Regiment which in World War I raised 54 battalions, of which 42 went into theatres of war throughout the world and a third of them never came back. I would not say that what is going on is as deep as that, but what I do say is that that kind of a feeling of rapport through shared experiences and sacrifices is there on this question of the local government changes. They have seen during these past 10 years fundamental changes taking place: transformations they would never have believed possible. It does not want to be forgotten that Manchester is the oldest industrial conurbation in the country, and possibly in the world. We carry the wounds and scars of decline of two great industries: cotton and coal. During these past 10 years we have been building up and there has never been a time since the war when there has been as much diversification in industry as there is at the present time.
While I have it in my mind and I can answer the Minister, and my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter as regards his comments about how the successors of the counties are going to behave, let me just say this. So far as concerns Manchester, we know the answer because we have tested it. The Greater Manchester Council of Voluntary Services wrote to all the 10 districts to ask whether they would provide their share of funding for the voluntary sector: this is what you have been talking about in a speculative way. Eight districts replied, indicating that they would not provide the money. So we know already, and we have anticipated the advice of the Minister, who said that we should be making contact with those who are going to follow after.
What a task the county councillors had to face! If any of your Lordships have been to Manchester during the past five years and seen the extent to which the Victorian sewers alone have occupied the attention and the money of the county council, you would not be voting for this Bill tonight. There are 26 acres of dereliction behind the Midland Hotel—and what has happened? Do your Lordships realise that we in the county council have a man in Brussels? We have had the initiative to send a man to Brussels to represent us, 485 and as a result we have received £40 million from the EEC—I repeat, £40 million—and it is like a drop in a bucket.
The initiative that was taken by the county council was that they formed a company to make a start on renovating and making better that inner-city derelication. The EEC subscribed £4 million of it. It is going to cost £20 million, and half the reminder has been subscribed by the county council and half by the Minister for the Environment. But, my Lords, Manchester City is a unique place. It is the hub of the whole county. 'There are services that have to be given following on what has happened in the past. Do you realise that the population of Manchester has declined from nearly three-quarters of a million to no more than 450,000? That 450,000 now has to carry the brunt of what three-quarters of a million had to carry in the old days. They cannot do it. I would tell your Lordships quite categorically that you cannot do without the county in Greater Manchester; and it will be proved in time.
That is what I have to say. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, made something like a little political speech. Of course, in town halls the Trotskyites are belittling the authorities; but so are the Tory Party in the counties. They are synonymous. In 1983, at the Tory Party Conference, the Minister made a speech: I refer to Mr. Patrick Jenkin. He said, "I am a Tory and have been brought up as a Tory." There is nothing wrong in that. It is quite respectable. He went on; "I believe that the burden of proof is upon the man who advocates change, and if he does not satisfy that burden of proof then change should not be made." But precept has not been turned into practice, and I would leave the House with this conclusion by paraphrasing the saying of Joe Cartwright: "I'll be beggared if I want to go in with a non-elected quango."
§ 6.20 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, for giving us some chapter and verse about the genuine and positive achievements of these last 10 years of the Greater Manchester Council. It is good to follow Manchester with Liverpool. We have a man in Brussels, too, and we have hopes of him. But the account of these 10 years which the noble Lord has given us is paralleled in point after point with the Merseyside County Council, an authority co-operating repeatedly with the private sector and, I may say, deeply respected by the private sector. We need to have that fresh air of the achievements of these 10 years if we are to see what we are talking about in our debate this evening.
I am very grateful to my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark for making the point about the over-view which is a biship's responsibility. He has told your Lordships about the importance which all the bishops and Church leaders in London attach to that over-view and concern for the whole of London. I hope your Lordships will acknowledge that, as bishops, we have some experience which it is pertinent to quote in questioning the need for one authority for a city region. In a diocese like Liverpool, my responsibility is for a city region, not, for historical reasons, crossing the Mersey, but for all the rest of the city region which makes up Merseyside and some 486 more areas in Wigan, West Lancs, Warrington and Widnes.
A diocese exists to help different parishes and interest groups to act as members one of another, to offer mutual support and to find a shared vision. Crucially, in an urban diocese, it is to help inner and outer areas to accept responsibility for each other. I spoke in the debate in your Lordships' House before Easter on preventing the repetition of famine in the third world. I spoke then about our acting in one world as members one of another. The phrase comes from St. Paul's picture of the body, in which the greatest honour is to be given to the weakest member. That picture of the body is very relevant to a great city. Is one weak, then all are weak. We are to be members one of another.
When I find the districts of Sefton or Wirral wanting to distance themselves from Liverpool and its needs, or from Mossley and St. Helen's and their needs, I think I can understand their motives and feelings, for in a diocese like ours we spend a lot of time trying to help those areas to act as members one of another and not as every man for himself; and without Liverpool there would be no Sefton or Wirral. It concerns me very much that in this debate about abolition the Government hear these points about the importance of an over-view made repeatedly from many sides, and about the need to strengthen the relationship of those who are stronger economically and those who are weaker economically, but they do not seem to go beyond listening to any response to the points that we make. I hope that in this debate and in Committee your Lordships' House may see Government Ministers enter with much more seriousness into the real debate on the merits of the case, and not simply on the GLC. The six metropolitan counties, I was told today, have a combined population of 11.2 million, which is considerably more than that covered by the GLC and is a quarter of the population of England.
I want to address myself particularly to the working of the proposed joint boards, the inheritors, and then to say a little about the effect on the voluntary bodies. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, took my friend the right reverend Prelate to task for, so he said, suggesting that the social consciences of successor bodies might be less strong than those of members of the GLC. I did not hear the right reverend Prelate say anything about the individual conscience of anybody. He made an important point that those who are elected to serve a particular district are less likely to feel responsible about the needs of others across the city than those who are elected to serve the whole city.
A Sefton district councillor—to my personal knowledge a very fine Christian, so I make no comment about his conscience—came to the Merseyside Churches Ecumenical Council to argue why he believed that the Merseyside County Council should be abolished. He said that he would not support the existence of a body which did not benefit Sefton's citizens in Sefton. If a district councillor with that attitude is appointed to serve on a joint board, what are the odds on his coming to serve the best interests of Merseyside as a whole, and especially its neediest parts? He was elected to serve his district. That is what his conscience tells him he must do. He is accountable for his joint board work back to his 487 district council, and I must say that I took no heart whatever from what the noble Lord the Minister said about this kind of accountability.
The experience of the Merseyside County Council over the last 10 years has been that elected county councillors indeed began by defending their own patch but have to an increasing degree come to share an overall concern for Merseyside. Non-co-operation between the districts—and we have too much evidence at the moment of that non-co-operation—spells disaster and will spoil all the good work that has been developing.
The noble Lord the Minister spoke of the Bill's resting four-square on the experience of 10 years and he saw those 10 years entirely in negative terms. Many of us read the experience of these years very differently. Merseyside County Council has developed in these years into a body where political parties actually, in 1985, reach out to each other and find an old-fashioned thing like a consensus. Their opposition to abolition is unanimous. Positively, their support for the recent Agenda for Merseyside is also unanimous. The metropolitan county council has maintained that common purpose through political change. A former Conservative leader, whom many of us loved greatly, Sir Kenneth Thompson, spoke passionately just before his death of his belief in the importance of the Merseyside County Council.
I shall not produce a great long string of achievements, but it is important for us to see what has actually been happening. We have heard of one of our highlights, the Grand National, and of how, after repeated years of crisis, it has been saved at Aintree. The Merseyside County Council was an essential catalyst between the public and private sectors. There are the Tall Ships race, the development of the maritime museum and tourism. In the field of the arts, there is the saving of the Empire Theatre. The provision of the arts in our city is second to none outside London, and there is the partnership with the private sector in the Wavertree technology park.
Looking at the West Midlands, the structure and regional planning team says that in 1974 the county council inherited 11 structure plans, each with different definitions, assumptions and policies, and replaced these with one clear strategy and set up structure plan development policies. One of the essentials to recovery for Merseyside is to provide a coherent package for economic development. I do not think it is in dispute in our part of the world that the county council has provided a very important part for such a package. NORWEDA, concerned about the whole of the North-West, has not been able to offer that package.
Merseyside is not the same as the whole of the north-west of England. During the seven years in which I was chairman of the Merseyside area manpower board of the MSC, our former north-west director of the MSC used to tell me that he had two utterly different areas to serve. I believe that there needs to be a Greater Manchester Council and that there needs to be a Merseyside County Council.
We have begun to see the effects of long-term planning. It seems to me nothing short of tragic, 488 particularly in our context of the feuding city council, for the Government to break up the body whose members have learned increasingly how to reach out to each other and how to provide that over-view. The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, which has been referred to, said:These authorities have demonstrated their ability to respond positively to the challenges of scientific and technical development. Further challenges lie ahead. The great conurbations require specialist staff and facilities to meet them. Economic, efficient and forward looking services demand excellence, integration and continuity".On all sides in our part of the world people agree that Merseyside is a social and economic reality.
I should like to say a brief word about voluntary bodies. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, asked us not to alarm them. I must tell the noble Lord that they are alarmed enough already. For the whole of the past year my friends in East and South-East London where I lived and worked for 20 years have been telling me of their acute anxieties about their future. They are living on a knife edge often, as some of our Liverpool and Merseyside bodies have had to do, giving people notice because they were so uncertain about whether grants were to be forthcoming or not.
Many boroughs in the poorest areas of London must cut back as it is. The GLC provided a way of transferring additional money from the wealthier outside boroughs to help inner boroughs. I should like to share with you, my Lords, my own deep anxieties for the voluntary movement in Liverpool and not simply about this matter in front of us.
The city council has made clear its intention to municipalise wherever it can the work of voluntary bodies which receive grants. It would not be surprising if the great tradition of voluntary bodies in Liverpool finds itself in a few years reduced to a half of its present scale of operations.
There was a MORI poll this year in Merseyside about this question. Sixty-three per cent. believed that the standards of local services would deteriorate if the county council was abolished; 73 per cent. believed in the need for a single Merseyside authority. But I have a feeling that the Government and all of us should be much more anxious about one other figure, which was that only 10 per cent. believed that the Government cared about people in the area. All of us should take that kind of response to heart.
I ask noble Ministers in this House again whether they are listening properly and responding and entering into this debate on its merits and for the welfare of all those people in the six metropolitan counties.
§ 6.33 p.m.
Viscount Colville of Culross
My Lords, I cannot follow the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, to Manchester or the right reverend Prelate to Liverpool but I can deal with one aspect of this Bill from my own experience, and again with a view to the amendment of the noble Baroness, try to look at the question of oversight or strategy. I have chosen a subject about which I happen to know a little—the noble Baroness does as well—which is town and country planning.
When the modern system was set up under the party opposite by Lord Silkin, there was a two tier system. In 489 county and in county borough there was produced a development plan which was to be positive forward planning for the geographical area concerned. It was inquired into and was eventually dealt with by Government, because only Government were able to knit together the various plans for the different areas so they made sense for the country as a whole.
In the six metropolitan counties about which we are talking the very great preponderance of the work on these development plans was done by the county boroughs. I do not believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, would say that up until 1974 Birmingham or Wolverhampton or indeed Solihull or Dudley were Victorian and chaotic in the way in which they administered their duties in that respect. On the contrary, I would suspect that they were very proud of the work that they did. What I think happened when the West Midlands county council was set up, to which the right reverend Prelate has just referred, was that the new system of structure plans had just come in. They were all at the draft stage and had not yet been interlinked because they had not yet had the overview which Government alone can give. Therefore it may very well have been that at that stage it had to be done by the county council.
That was the system in the six metropolitan counties right up until 1974. In London the situation was even more chaotic because until the Commission under Lord Tangley reported and was put into effect in 1963, planning for the Greater London area was the responsibility of the LCC, of three county boroughs somewhat haphazardly placed around the edges, of the Middlesex county and four of the home counties at the very least, and I should think a bit of Buckinghamshire as well. Of course, to make sense of all that, one had to have an overview, and that overview in those days was provided by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.
Then legislation was passed for Greater London and the GLC was set up. Even then logic did not prevail. I do not know how many of your Lordships remember that late night when on a Division we removed from the Greater London area Epsom and Ewell, I think at the request of Lord Chuter-Ede, the first charter mayor of that area. Why? My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter has said that even now the area of Greater London is not a strategic entity and cannot be looked at in isolation either from the immediate surrounding counties from which the people come into work in this area every day or, I would suggest, from a region much wider than the South East.
Then we came to look at the wider picture outside London, and the Royal Commission headed by Lord Redcliffe-Maud, which incidentally was the source of the infamous SELNEC. That was one of the three metropolitan authorities—only three were suggested in that report—which were to be set up. The rest of them were to be city regions and there was to be no West Yorkshire or South Yorkshire or Tyne and Wear. A great deal of that came into the legislation in 1972.
But one part of the Royal Commission's report was not implemented. This might interest the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, because I do not know if she remembers this. This was the strategic overview. The 490 eighth of the recommendations about planning was that the eight provincial councils rooted in local government should settle the broad economic land use and investment framework for the planning and development policies of unitary and metropolitan authorities because even with metropolitan authorities—of course, with the experience of the GLC to draw on—it was still seen that these bodies, comprehensive though they might be within their own areas, were not broad enough in their view to take that strategic overview so as to fit what was proposed with what was nationally needed.
In London I can give two examples of where this went wrong. I was personally involved in both of them. When the Greater London development plan was proposed, there were to be three major motorway ring roads turning the place more or less into a giant dartboard. This was hotly opposed by those who understood traffic and statistics, and eventually the Government took them out. What we now have, and have had now under several governments for about the past 15 years, is the concept of the M.25 taking traffic around London and no motorways carving through the inner urban areas. That is a major reversal of a strategic proposition.
To take something on a slightly smaller scale but still immensely famous in terms of heritage and value, the GLC proposed to redevelop completely the area of Covent Garden with a massive scheme including underground roads, a conference centre, huge demolition of buildings. It was a complete reorganisation of the whole place. That was thrown out in favour of conservation. I lost one and I won the other; but both decisions were taken by Government over the head of the GLC because it was thought that, strategically, what had been suggested was wrong.
That is the background against which one ought to view paragraphs 3 and 4 in the first schedule to the Bill, which are the planning provisions in this measure. This is not a matter that will be answered tonight (I understand what my noble friend will be doing in his winding up) but I believe that in order to understand this part of the legislation we need to know a little more—perhaps at a later stage—about how some of the linkage will take place between the local boroughs and district councils, as they prepare their unitary development plans, and the larger national strategic scene.
We need to know a little more about the size and function of the London Planning Commission. Outside London there will be local planning conferences and I should like to know how broad they will be in respect of both geographical area and terms of reference. I should like to know also, despite some of the unfortunate incidents which may have occurred on Merseyside, how neighbouring authorities are to be encouraged to co-operate, as they plan for the future in an area where they must obviously have a coherent policy.
I should like to know as well about the Secretary of State's strategic guidance which is to be issued to those who look ahead in the planning world. I do not believe that any of this will be impossible because we have by this time, right through England—and Wales, too—a set of structure plans which have been prepared, considered and approved so that they link up into a 491 whole. What is now needed is to amend and adapt these as time goes by. I believe that this can be done, as it always was in the days of the county boroughs, by borough and district councils—provided that there is a system of consultation and guidance from the only source that can provide this if we are not to have a provincial council, as Lord Redcliffe-Maud once suggested. That source is central government, which was chosen originally in 1948.
I believe that the system this Bill provides for this particular aspect of local government activity—and important it is—will work within the terms of a unitary council. I just hope that they will not be able to confirm too much of their own structure plans, and I know that they will be able to do this in some cases, because this can lead sometimes to unfortunate results. I hope that there will be a balance between what they can do of their own accord for their own good and for the good of their citizens, and the national need and the need to link up with nearby authorities—and with their needs and requirements as well.
There is only one other point which I should like to mention briefly. It concerns one of the specialist facilities in the London area which I believe to be of great value and which should be preserved. The Greater London Council has an Historic Buildings Department. It is a source of enormous erudition. It has archives, plans, drawings and details of buildings which are of the most enormous value. The work of looking after historic buildings in London is going to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, and I am sure they will do that work very well. But I most earnestly hope that the entire complement of both the material and expertise—because there are some very fine officers working in that department, and again I have long and bitter experience of fights against them which have not always been successful—will be transferred also to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission so that that aspect, and their expertise, may continue for the benefit of us all in the capital.
That is an example of the way in which the small, detailed and valuable services still in the hands of the GLC have been dealt with under this Bill. At least I hope that is how they have been dealt with under this Bill. Taken as a whole, and if one looks at the terms of the amendment, the way that planning will be carried out under the new procedure will be local and it will be democratic because it will be based on the districts and boroughs. There can be nothing more local or democratic than that. However, I do not believe that in them, nor in the existing larger authorities which are to go under this Bill, is to be found the ultimate source of strategic judgment that is also needed. I believe that the Bill provides for that, and it provides for it in a way that will no longer need either the metropolitan county councils or the GLC.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, from what many noble Lords have said already there is no doubt that this Bill has aroused a great deal of concern among a great number of people in this country. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark said, never 492 have Government proposals brought on more representations from groups, associations and members of the public who are concerned about the proposals this Bill contains. Equally, the Bill's controversial qualities are proved by the considerable number of noble Lords who are taking part in this debate. And in respecting the length of the list of speakers which is still ahead of us, I shall comment only briefly on two aspects of the Bill.
First, as many speakers have already said, it is impossible to ignore the whole background against which the Bill was conceived; impossible to ignore the total lack of any study preceding the major structural and organisational changes proposed. At no point were the arrangements at present in existence assessed to analyse their strengths and weaknesses, in order to reach some conclusions and make relevant recommendations.
The reason for this lack of research may have been that the Government's claim that abolition would create great financial savings was—as my noble friend Lady Birk has said—unequivocally refuted by the independent study undertaken by Coopers and Lybrand. They stated:Our overall conclusion is that the Government's claims for substantial savings are not supported by our analysts; indeed, we conclude that there are unlikely to be any net savings as a result of the structural changes proposed by the Government but that there could be significant extra costs".Furthermore, in the absence of any up-to-date study, it would be wrong to overlook the findings of the Marshall inquiry set up in September 1977 by a newly-elected Conservative administration at County Hall. Although that administration was committed in its manifesto to reducing the scope of the GLC's activities, nevertheless, in the face of the evidence given to the inquiry, the recommendations brought out in July 1978 were instead to strengthen the GLC.
On abolition, that report concluded (and I quote):It is essential to maintain an arm of metropolitan government with the purpose of furthering the legitimate claim which that interest presents. The GLC is necessary to take a lead for London".It should also be noted that one of the Members of Parliament who gave evidence to the Marshall inquiry was the present Secretary of State for the Environment. He said (and I quote):We have got to return to the concept that the GLC is a strategic authority. Its planning powers should be essentially strategic and provide a framework within which boroughs should operate the day to day planning controls. The GLC should remain responsible for London Transport, and its transport planning should be progressively integrated with its strategic land use planning".One wonders what could have changed the Minister's mind so totally in the interim.
My second point is about the effect of the abolition of the GLC on the voluntary organisations that operate in the Greater London area. Like many noble Lords who have already mentioned this issue, I believe that the importance of the role played by the voluntary sector is indisputable. It claims special and particular qualities which distinguish it from the statutory sector. Those qualities include, first, an ability to care for those who fall either through the statutory net or between the statutory bodies; secondly, an ability to respond quickly, act innovatively and behave flexibly; and, thirdly, that all-important role, to give aid and advice, and at a time of high unemployment, increased 493 homelessness and complex welfare benefit rules such advice-giving agencies are more and more crucial.
It seems quite baffling that, in spite of the acknowledged contribution that the voluntary sector makes to the people of London, the Bill lacks any realistic new strategy to accommodate those organisations; and the proposed framework and funding arrangements could make everyday planning a disjointed affair for them. Moreover, the Marshall inquiry was quite specific in its recommendations regarding the voluntary organisations. It concluded:the need for a healthy and co-ordinated voluntary sector of social services is too great for the LBA as a co-ordinator and consultative body to be left with, perhaps in the face of local opposition, and that a body like the GLC would be able both to equalise the cost of such provisions and to ensure that they are positively audited in a manner to ensure best value for money".That was the statement that was brought out by the inquiry.
The proposals regarding the voluntary organisations, as the Minister outlined, come under Clause 47 of the Bill. There is no possible doubt but that that clause has caused wide-scale alarm for different reasons among the voluntary bodies. First, they point out that in order to perform their task properly they must frequently work across borough boundaries, and in fact that is entirely necessary for their co-ordinating work. That of course will be rendered more difficult by the necessity of the two-thirds agreement. The voluntary sector needs to work within a coherent policy framework and be able to plan its work, as indeed do the statutory organisations. This is already difficult, but were the proposals under Clause 47 implemented it would become almost impossible for it to continue in the same way. The main sufferers naturally would be the people served by the sector, many of whom are already among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society.
The key concerns centre on, first, the proposed rules and structure of decision-making; and, secondly, the financial limits. On the first count, it is feared that voluntary organisations could become political footballs or pawns with little chance of a two-thirds majority agreeing priorities; and it is feared that a joint boroughs scheme, rather than an elected London-wide body, is unlikely to have the broad perspective necessary for providing a coherent policy framework. But, above all else, it is feared that the financial provision proposed is woefully inadequate.
I think that there is no better way of showing that than by giving by way of example the problems that the National Council for One Parent Families anticipates should the proposals go through. At present this national organisation receives funds from the GLC, the LBA and the metropolitan counties. However, its own interpretation of Clause 47 indicates that it could lose up to f110,000 of its income. That would arise, first, through grants for work done in individual boroughs and districts being jeopardised; secondly, funding under Section 137 of the Act might tend to be withheld from them and go more to voluntary organisations working solely within borough boundaries; and thirdly, its funding for local London work would become subject to the two-thirds majority agreement among boroughs which it could not possibly achieve, as it is at present funded by 18 494 individual boroughs, which is three to four fewer than the number needed to achieve the majority required.
It is clear that the future of this organisation which performs the increasingly important task of protecting the standard of living and social position of the growing number of families headed by a single parent is seriously threatened. That is something which should be of great concern to us.
Finally, I put forward the following three proposals, which if put into effect would, I think, allay many fears among the local organisations. The first is that an economic and social council be created with a strategic planning and social policy-making role on London-wide issues. Its functions would include the allocation of resources to the voluntary sector. The second is that more generous transitional funds from central Government be provided to support the present level of voluntary activity at borough level. The third is that the Government provide incentives to councils to accept responsibility for supporting voluntary bodies if the GLC and the MCCs are abolished. Funding from borough councils for the voluntary sector should therefore be exempt from rate support grant penalties and rate capping. That, I think, would mean that the future of the voluntary -organisations would be very much clearer.
Surely no one can question the vital role that they play in today's world in bringing assistance to those less fortunate members of the community—people who, after all, in many cases are falling through the growing holes in the safety net of our welfare state. It seems wrong to jeopardise that role by removing the structure of decision-making and the finances needed to carry that out.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ The Earl of Perth
My Lords, some noble Lords may wonder why I, a Scot, am speaking in this Second Reading debate. My first reason is that I was born in London; secondly, I have spent a great deal of my life in London; and, thirdly, and for me much the most important reason, I came down from Scotland this morning to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider after this Bill is through—if it is through—a similar reform for Scotland.
A few years ago the regional system was introduced into Scotland by a Conservative Government, I think, many of us in Scotland not liking it. The result has not been altogether bad. Indeed, the regions have on the whole behaved pretty responsibly. But there is one fatal defect. The regional organisations are too far removed from the people. That is what I understand this Bill is all about. Incidentally, the district councils do not have enough to do, so some of them get up to mischief. If only the Government will say that they will look into the problem of Scotland once more, I shall certainly support them in much of this Bill—and I stress the word "much". I suspect that that is true equally of many other Scottish Peers who may be here.
Let me look at the amendment. It regrets the Government's failure to provide a framework for strategic services. My views on the propriety of such amendments are well known. We had a similar amendment during the paving Bill, and at that time I suggested that it might be too clever by half. The noble 495 Lord, Lord Hooson, was upset about this and said that I had been unfair to him. That is the last thing I want to be. If I was, I apologise; but I do not think that I was. The noble Lord pleaded that the Companion to the Standing Orders allows such reasoned amendments. It is perfectly true that they are mentioned but it does not mean that this is a practice to be encouraged. In my opinion it remains to be a fast one, or, in cricketing terms, it is "a bumper"—and you know that if you bowl too many bumpers the umpires have to intervene. I suppose in this case the umpires must be the Cross-Benchers and they would show their disapproval in the way of going through the Lobbies.
Apparently—I am following here what the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said in the paving Bill debate—the purpose of the amendment is to put on record a particular point of view in assenting to the Bill. This, to follow it up, means that the Government have failed to provide a strategic framework. I should have thought that this was essentially a matter for Committee stage unless the real purpose behind the amendment is something more (dare I say the word) sinister: namely, that the hope is that in providing this framework they will provide the basis for a new GLC to rise phoenix-like from whatever may be set up.
We have all been bombarded with papers from all different parts of England and Wales. I have no objection to that. We have also had the great advertising campaign of the GLC. In case some of your Lordships have not seen it, there was an advertisement which said, "Seventy-four per cent. say No". Somebody had written down below, where it could be written: "The other 26 per cent. are pregnant". Well, hurrah for the Londoner! I do not object to the number of papers we receive. After all, we do not have to read them all. However, one of the group of papers which I did read was that of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. Let me say here that I well understand the anxieties not only of the churches but of many who have spoken today about what may happen to the voluntary work that is done so well at the present time—or not always so well, but sometimes.
Among those papers which were sent by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London was an appendix A. Alas, I have mislaid that paper but I remember the heading was something like: "Nearly 100 voluntary bodies supported by the GLC in Tower Hamlets". I looked down that list and again I recall one of the organisations was the Community Alliance for Police Accountability. Another one was Tower Hamlets CND. A third one was Tower Hamlets Youth CND. All these bodies are dependent on the help from GLC. There were many others in that 100. I do not want to decry some of the work that is done by some of the voluntary bodies in Tower Hamlets, but are they all really necessary? If the locals want them it is the locals who should provide the funds.
I shall be brief—one minute more. For the reasons I have already given I believe it is a mistake to support the amendment, more particularly because this proposal has been in the Government manifesto and also has passed with a large majority in another place. As I see it, this amendment can only be a political gesture rather than something which will be of real 496 concrete value. That brings me to my last point, which is this. It is at the Committee stage, the Report stage or other stages of the Bill that those who are worried about matters should really strike and strike hard, particularly, for example, on what so many of your Lordships have spoken about—help to voluntary bodies. Lastly, once again I say to the Government, "Do not forget Scotland".
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Lord Cottesloe
My Lords, this is a marathon debate and I shall be as brief as I can. I wish to develop only two aspects of the matter, one a general point and the other a particular one.
The general point is this. When I was for 10 years after the war a member of the London County Council (a much more modest and much more efficient body than the GLC which superseded it) the proposals for the Greater London Council were being considered. What was envisaged was perfectly logical—that, as London had grown far beyond the boundaries of the old LCC, a new body, the GLC, should be set up to carry out the functions that needed to be administered over a wider area—transport, planning and the like—and that everything else—housing, much of education, domiciliary health services and so on—should be decentralised to the boroughs, many of which are, after all, as large and populous as a provincial city.
That idea seemed to make sense. I well recollect discussing it with Mr. Enoch Powell, who was then not in Parliament but the director of the London Municipal Society and, in that capacity, closely concerned. He expressed the view that the functions left to be administered by the GLC would be so limited as hardly to justify their occupying so vast a building as County Hall on the South Bank. How wrong he was. No sooner had the GLC been brought into existence than they expanded to fill not only County Hall but also to acquire additional offices on a large scale and they have continued to grow ever since. They are the prime example—a vast and deplorable example—of the operation of Parkinson's Law, and it is quite time they were abolished.
However, in providing for their abolition we must be careful not to make the same mistake again, not to listen to the siren voices that would create a new London authority that will follow Parkinson's Law on an even larger scale. That is the general point I wish to make.
The particular point concerns the management of Hampstead Heath. Here, I suppose I should declare an interest, not indeed a financial interest but a very real interest and concern as having lived, until recently, for 40 years in Hampstead and close to the heath, and as being, even now, president of the Heath and Old Hampstead Society, the largest and most important of the amenity societies concerning themselves with Hampstead Heath.
Hampstead Heath is unique. It is more than 800 acres of rural countryside in the middle of the greatest city in Britain: meadow and woodland, lake and stream all acquired piecemeal over the last century and a half for the public use and enjoyment and for the most part given to the public to be maintained as far 497 as may be in their natural state. It provides for games and sport. It has football pitches, tennis courts, an open air bathing place and a running track. But in the main it provides a large piece of country with its wildlife, flora and fauna in great variety for the public to enjoy.
There are rare plants and there are birds. If my recollection is correct, the Heath's bird list each year records more than 80 species of which 30 or more breed—for example, the great crested grebes and all three British species of woodpecker—while many others visit the heath for a few days or a few hours on migration, such as hoopoes, waxwings and Greenland wheatears. There are also foxes. In one house I had, adjoining the South Heath, a fox—not, indeed, a hunted fox, but a hunting fox—used to come through the garden every night. I heard him in the small hours and when there was a full moon I sometimes saw his ghostly figure. A friend with a house the other side of the heath showed me a photograph he had taken in his garden of a vixen with her cubs playing on his lawn—an enchanting sight.
The heath is a great expanse of real countryside. There is nothing else like it in London. It has in recent years been admirably managed—let us give credit where credit is due—by the Greater London Council. There has inevitably been much concern over its management when the GLC is abolished. Under the Bill, as it at present stands, I understand that it is proposed that Hampstead Heath shall be administered by a consortium of the three boroughs into which it falls; Camden, Barnet and Haringey. Two of those boroughs are rate capped, and the two largest are not on speaking terms. Let me say at once that of all the various proposals put forward for the management of the heath, this is the worst. It would be quite disastrous.
Kenwood House, with its splendid art collection, is to be taken over, as we have been told, by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. That is an excellent proposal. It is essential that the management of the heath together with the grounds of Kenwood—not the gardens, but the meadows, woods and lake, forming this great and unique expanse of countryside in the middle of London—should be unitary and not fragmented. There is an organisation that could do this and do it very well. The heath is not, and cannot be, a Royal park. But the Department of the Environment manages the Royal parks admirably, among them, incidentally, Richmond Park, which is the closest analogy to Hampstead Heath in London. I should like to ask my noble friend to consider whether the heath should not be looked after by his department in the same way, the experienced staff of some 90 people, or at least the core of them, who at present manage the heath for the GLC, being taken over by his department for the purpose. If this were done, many anxieties would be set at rest. We should know that Hampstead Heath, this great tract of countryside in the middle of London, was in safe hands.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Viscount Esher
My Lords, having listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, with her long experience of London, and with whose speech I wholly agreed, I shall not talk about London but only about 498 the metropolitan councils. It is tragic, in passing, that London is to lose its government so largely through the follies of the last three or four years. They are little things really, but things which have destroyed the great reputation that the GLC inherited from the old London County Council.
I have been a planning consultant to urban authorities, large and small, since 1946. I am bound to say, on behalf of my professional colleagues, both inside and outside local authorities, that we believe that the Government are making a monumental mistake. Over the years we have built up in this country a body of planning legislation that has been a model to the world. There is no question of that. We have been continually improving and refining it as we have gained experience ever since 1947. All through those years, whenever Governments contemplated reform or new legislation, they set up Royal Commissions or advisory bodies of some sort. Never until now have they acted against the unanimous advice of the professions concerned.
This advice, in regard to the great conurbations, has consistently been that two-tier planning, strategic and local, is an absolute necessity. The notion that joint committees or boards or other bodies with no executive role could cope with these strategic problems of conurbations was discredited long ago, way back in the 1940s when the 1947 Act began to be put together and post-war thinking about planning developed. On the other hand, the Royal Commission chaired by Lord Redcliffe-Maud and the minority report by Derek Senior which are undoubtedly the best studies that we have of this subject, did not believe that we needed two-tier planning outside the conurbations. However, Mr. Heath's Government did not take this view. So now, with this Bill, we are to have a situation which no one would have believed possible 20 years ago. Great historic cities such as Bristol and Norwich have been demoted to mere districts, not considered fit for independence. York is overseen from Northallerton, Portsmouth from Winchester, and so on. Yet now Tower Hamlets and Hillingdon, Salford and Solihull are to be fully independent unitary planning authorities. Barnsley is to be its own master, Bristol is not.
It is obvious, as my noble friend Lady Stedman has said, that we are going to have to look at this again. Unless the Bill is amended, there will soon have to be fresh legislation—another frustrating and expensive redeployment of local government. Meanwhile, there is nothing more depressing than to see hard won experience and know-how thrown on the scrap heap. One of the ironies of the situation is that the metropolitan counties have been an outstanding success in the field with which I am professionally concerned; that is, strategic planning, transportation, refuse disposal and land reclamation, which go closely together, the protection of green belts (I do not mean merely their designation, but their safeguarding) and expertise on historic buildings which will certainly not exist in the boroughs and districts.
Whereas in London, it was excessive politicisation that made long-term planning and road building impossible, one side in love with motorways and the other side in love with public transport and the two sides changing power regularly every four years, the 499 metropolitan counties managed to build up the sort of consensus that supported the old LCC. So they could plan long term and they did. The old county boroughs, which were inevitably hostile at first, as well as the adjacent shire counties, have come to see the value of the new set-up. I should perhaps except Sheffield, which I do not suppose will ever be reconciled to South Yorkshire.
The new set-up is just into its stride, doing work that can be done only by a single conurbation authority. Structure plans have emerged that are just about the best strategic planning documents that we have. It has been said that because we have these plans, we do not need any longer the authorities that made them. It could equally be said that we had regional plans in the 1930s, as, indeed, we did, made by excellent consultants such as Adshead and Abercrombie but, of course, long outdated by huge growths of population, unpredictable movements of people, prosperity and decline.
If Ministers really believe that we could do without conurbation authorities, they would not now be proposing this long list of agencies and reserve powers for the Secretary of State costing, we are told, more than a scaled-down metropolitan council. All these boards, bodies and agencies would be inevitably searching for compromises between entrenched local interests, when often the right decision in planning is a hard one in which one district has to lose and another to win. To get such decisions you need statutory powers, plus the power to balance all environmental issues against each other. The professional institutions and the conservation bodies, for which I can claim to speak, are united in the view that the conurbation is a physical fact of life in this country, probably more than in any other, and that its strategic planning, transportation and conservation can be effectively handled only by a single conurbation authority with statutory powers, on the spot, and not in Marsham Street, so that the Secretary of State can do his proper job as ultimate referee.
Whether these statutory powers should reside in a planning board or in a scaled-down metropolitan authority is not a matter with which, as professionals, we are primarily concerned. Having worked for many years with Partick Abercrombie, I belong to the generation of the consensus. We never saw, nor took, planning decisions as political decisions. In the great days of London Transport, before the war, Londoners did not feel disfranchised because it was a statutory board any more than the riders on the Tyne and Wear metro feel disfranchised today. I believe that the same applies to pretty well all the activities of the metropolitan counties—essentially they are not political activities. But, equally, there is a case for representative metropolitan government, for scaled-down metroplitan counties with larger constituencies and fewer members. Councillors who can get round a board room table are less likely to make political speeches than they are in grandiose council chambers with amplifiers.
The choice between a statutory board and an elected council is a political decision, but it should not be a party political decision. Governments which use power to silence their opponents sow dragon's teeth, 500 by this or any other method. We shall have more contention at the end of this exercise than before it. Our object should not be to politicise local government still more, or to play these childish games, but to help our people to mature. I have never understood why the depoliticisation of local government must be seen as a Tory slogan. I believe that it would be in the interests of us all and I believe that it is deeply desired by the great majority of British people.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just spoken said that he did not see why the depoliticising of local government should be a Tory slogan. I know that it is a Tory slogan, but it has never been what they believed. To judge by their actions, they have always taken the view that one goes into local government in as aggressive a party political frame of mind as one can.
Although it is now little more than 20 years ago, I still very clearly remember an occasion when I was walking up the steps of the London County Hall to attend, as a visitor, the first ceremonial meeting of the newly-created Greater London Council. In that procession were a number of members of the then Conservative Government. They had a good deal on which to congratulate themselves: they had won a great political battle through both Houses; they had destroyed the London County Council; they had created a body which, they assured us, was in every way suited to solve the problems of metropolitan government in London. Yet despite that, they were all looking very glum, because the ungrateful people of London had repaid them by electing a Labour majority to the newly-created GLC. From that hour Tory intellectual trends, if I may use the term, began to move towards the abolition of the GLC. Their attitude towards the GLC was rather like that of one of Shakespeare's characters, the wicked Cardinal Beaufort, who said of a political rival:That he should die is worthy policy, but yet we want a colour for his death.The Tory Party has since been at work trying to find a colour to destroy the body which with such pains they created. Over the years, the intellectual cloak of respectability has been stitched together on the grounds, first, that the GLC does not have enough to do; secondly, that it is too remote; and, thirdly, that if you abolished it, it would save some money.
Let us look at what the GLC and, indeed, the metropolitan councils are required to do, because, Londoner that I am, I must not forget that in this Bill we are dealing with much more than London. They are responsible for fire services, the police, transport, strategic planning (the need for that was illustrated by the previous speaker), and the proper distribution of public help to the arts and voluntary bodies, a point so well made by many speakers. That is a good deal to do.
Therefore, when they got down to the problem of what happens if the metropolitan councils are abolished, they had to come up with the idea of joint boards. It was soon apparent that the idea that these functions could just be distributed to the lower tier authorities, the districts, would not work. The truth was that those functions are metropolitan functions; 501 they were not capable of being distributed among London boroughs or metropolitan districts. Therefore, if they were to abolish the metropolitan counties, they had to have the joint boards. Immediately, they knocked a large hole in the argument that government would become less remote, because a joint board is more remote from the electors than any directly elected authority.
A member—man or woman—of the GLC or of any metropolitan county is there by the direct election of the voters, and will stay there until the voters turn him out, if they wish to do so. However, it is true that the voters have put the member of a joint board on a district council first, but he becomes a member of the joint board by the working of the party caucus—by what is arranged in each district or borough which comprises the joint board. It is they who decide which of their members they shall send to this joint board and which they shall send to that one. It is not as easy for the ordinary citizen to know who is responsible for decisions taken by the fire authority, the transport authority or whatever. You have created something that is more remote, less easy to understand and less democratic.
You have also knocked a hole in the argument that you will make savings, because the joint boards will not cost nothing. Indeed, if we are to follow the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and start by giving away County Hall to the European Parliament, they must find somewhere to put the Inner London Education Authority. In other parts of the country the joint boards will have to meet somewhere. They must have staff; they will cost money. The Bill provides that they will have to precept on the main councils. There is no reason at all to suppose that this arrangement will be less expensive than the present one, where a single metropolitan council deals with a group of functions. If, instead, we have a series of joint boards each dealing with one function, there is no reason at all for supposing that that will be any cheaper. Indeed, the experience of joint boards is that they will be more expensive, more bothersome and more laborious.
On top of this, hitting the Government very unkindly and just at the wrong moment, we have had the report from the highly distinguished body of this House, the Select Committee on Science and Technology. It has told us something that I suppose we should all have realised—that in the 20th century the work of government, central or local, requires more and more science and technology. This is true whether you are thinking of the work of a public analyst or a county surveyor, of the work of waste disposal, of the problems created by mineral extraction, of traffic engineering, or of information technology.
The report brings out how a high degree of skill, technical knowledge, expertise and training are necessary to staff for work of this kind. What it goes on to say is that the metropolitan councils are doing that job extremely well, that they have produced the most admirable laboratories, excellent staff and excellent arrangements for the training of the staff of the future.
What are the Government going to do about this? If this had cropped up just before the Bill had entered another place instead of when it was just coming to this House, there would have been a fine old row in another place. Here of course we are more placid, but 502 it would be interesting to see what the Government are going to make of this. The Minister used a phrase which suggested that somehow the Bill could be adapted to meet the criticisms and suggestions of the report of the Select Committee. Well, I wonder whether it can.
If they carry out the recommendations of the Select Committee they will be saddled with three or four more boards and increasing powers for the Secretary of State in three or four more directions. I do not criticise the Select Committee for making those suggestions, because to cure the evils which they pointed out it seems to me the only way you can act. The Government have either to adopt those proposals in the Select Committee's report, which will make the Bill even more cumbrous, or they have to consent to seeing the standard of all technological work of local authorities decline. Alternatively of course what they ought to do is drop the Bill.
The Select Committee could not, with propriety, suggest that of a Bill which had already passed through another place, but it is open to the Government even at this hour to repent. But how on earth did they land themselves in a position of this kind? It is a result, I think, of trying to deal with something as complicated as the government of great cities without any proper study beforehand such as preceded every other major local government reorganisation.
Perhaps I may say a bit more about joint boards. The trouble about them is, first of all—and this is a point I have already made—that they come into existence by indirect election. Indeed, they are not quangos. As a matter of fact, if you are looking around for a parallel, they could be more accurately described as "soviets" as that word was used in the first drafts of the Russian constitution, which was based on the process of election of a board first which then elected people on to the next authority, and so on. All experience has shown that it is not at all a good way of doing things. It results in local conflicts, it is liable to be expensive, and it does not get you good administration at the end.
Secondly, they will mostly be one-purpose authorities. I do not believe that a body which is responsible for seeing that the fire brigade works well is helped in that job by having no power over the layout of roads. You can multiply those examples time and again. It is not a good thing to have a body like ILEA deprived of any other function besides education. If you have to plan the education of a great city you want to know what the plans for housing the city are, and what the population is likely to be. A one-purpose authority is never likely to be as good a body as a multi-purpose authority.
During the 19th century, as the needs of government grew, we kept clapping one ad hoc authority on top of another. After a time we took a deep breath and tidied it up and got our modern county councils. We really do not want to start on another cycle of one-purpose authorities all over again.
Next, they are authorities which will have to precept. I do not suppose that you could devise any system of local government where you would not have to use at some stage the device of precepting, but surely you want as little of it as possible. It is not attractive for 503 any local authority to have to collect the money and send round the demand notes to the citizens including demands for expenditure over which it has no control. I do not think you can avoid precepting altogether, but what you are doing here is making it almost a normal method of local government finance.
One or two comments have been made to the effect that the boroughs and districts would be relieved of the burden of having to maintain the GLC or the metropolitan counties. So they will in name, but the precepts will be coming in from all the joint boards and there is no reason at all to suppose that the total will be any less.
Another thing about the joint boards is that they are all capable of being dismembered. It is open to a borough or a district that is part of a joint board to try to get out of it. If it can persuade the Secretary of State, that can be done. We shall be told that it is not likely to happen very often, but the fact that it can happen gives the joint board from the start a feeling of insecurity. I cannot see that that is a recipe for good government.
Wherever there are likely to be any difficulties in the working of the joint board system the remedy is always the same: call in the Secretary of State. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, who pointed out that the many references to powers enjoyed by the Secretary of State were in the Bill not so much to make him an omnipotent dictator but because the Government could not think what else to do with a problem which they had left unsolved.
You will find that not only will the joint boards have the amount that they can raise in precept determined for them by the Secretary of State for the first three years but they will be subject to the special regulation about rates which afflicts a number of other authorities at the present time, and the amount of manpower they can employ will be under the control of the Secretary of State. They will not be boards in which the ordinary citizen can feel a great deal of confidence, or boards on which a zealous person, keen on local government, will be particularly anxious to serve.
My conclusion, then, is that the motive behind all this was the same motive as led to the creation of the GLC. The GLC was created because the Tories hated the London County Council. The GLC is now being destroyed because the Tories hate the present management of it. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is not here. He put it with a delightful candour. He said that the GLC was really a very bad body, but it could be made to work well provided you had a Tory in charge of it. That of course has been the general Tory view of the matter. That is where the whole thing starts. The chief instrument to bring about the Government's policy has been that of joint boards, which is so extremely unsatisfactory in every respect.
I should like to conclude by making another reference to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, where he described what I might call the minor amenity services—minor but nonetheless important—for which the GLC is at present responsible. We have no idea who is going to take them on when the GLC has gone, and there is no sign that the Government have bothered about that at all. 504 Long ago, Aristotle remarked that organised government came into existence to make life possible, and continued in existence to make life good. We should remember that, because you will not get people making city government work unless it contains more than the mere necessities of life. We have to have a fire brigade. We have to have police; but we have to have art and we have to have opportunities for exercise, for games, for enjoyment. We have to have care for those who are in need. It is those things that, so far, under the Government's proposals, are being sadly neglected and if we lack that kind of thing we shall not get among councillors or citizens that spirit of pride in and love for their city that can make government a success.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Lord Bethell
My Lords, I should first of all declare my interest in this matter. I speak, as we all do in this House, as an individual, as a citizen and indeed as a Londoner and a ratepayer; but of course I have a secondary interest in this London question since I represent in another Parliament, in another country, three London boroughs—the Boroughs of Harrow, Brent and Hillingdon.
I feel particularly close to this issue since it was one that came up, for no good or logical reason, during the days before the election to the European Parliament in June last year. Your Lordships, in your wisdom, decided to hold the Second Reading of the paving Bill three days before the European election. The result of that was that I found myself during the election campaign being asked mainly about refuse disposal and the fire brigade, and rather less about the Common Agricultural Policy or the European Social Fund. This, irritating though it was, was made even more irritating by the fact that the propaganda that clearly had gripped members of the public who were consumed by this issue at that time was paid for by me and by others out of our rates. There has been an estimate, I understand, of £9 million or £10 million of public money paid to mislead the London public and voters of the metropolitan councils.
If there is one element in common about elections to the GLC and to Europe, it is that they generate about the same amount of obfuscation, misleading information and general peddling of myths. I have heard, indeed, a certain amount of confusion that rivals some of the accusations over Europe that are thrown at my colleagues and me. It has not quite reached the point of an occasion in recent years when I was accused, through lack of pressing the Conservative cause in Europe, of causing our country to fail to win the European Song Contest; but it is very nearly the case. We have been told in propaganda and in today's debate that because the GLC will disappear next year the green belt will be built over, local services will decline, mortgages will be called in, ancient houses will be allowed to crumble, grants will be stopped, 20,000 employees of County Hall will be put on the dole queue and concessionary fares will also become a victim of the demise of the GLC. Like many of your Lordships, I have received letters to this effect, a majority of them from Hillingdon, Brent and Harrow.
I have to say that having looked into this question, not as a representative but as an individual, I have yet to be satisfied that any of these services or provisions 505 carried on up to now by the GLC will suffer as a result of the Bill now before your Lordships' House. Nor do I feel that the remnants of the GLC, the responsibilities that will remain after distribution to the boroughs, merit the kind of elected body that some people are contemplating. I believe it must be concluded that such a body would suffer from all the disadvantages of the present GLC, only more so. The application of Parkinson's Law would become quite absurd and work would be created so as to create the time available for it, and the time of extremely highly-paid officials would be used to no good effect. I therefore have to conclude, as speakers on this side have done in this debate so far, that the GLC has become a superflous tier of government and that therefore, responsible as it has been for no more than 10 per cent. or 11 per cent. of London local expenditure, it must be dissolved.
There is one element, though, which I should like my noble friend to bear in mind. Having spoken to many people in North-West London, I feel that there is a genuine area for concern. This is a purely emotional issue but then I am sure my noble friend shares the view of the Prime Minister that sentiment is extremely important in London's local affairs as in national matters. I am referring to the question of the London voice. This is something that causes genuine anxiety among Londoners—the idea that their authority or central authority, unnecessary though it may be, will be thoroughly balkanised and there will be no one—no body, however small—to speak for London. Of course it would be unsafe to compare any London authority, past or present, with the kind of municipal mayors, big city bosses, who are famous in other parts of the world. We have never had a Jacques Chirac, a Fiorello LaGuardia or a Richard Daley in London because we do not have that kind of system here. The mayor is partly a ceremonial figure and he does not wield the power of the big city man.
Nevertheless, I believe that many Londoners would like to feel that there was a No. 1 Londoner ready to carry out purely ceremonial duties—to be, as it were, the constitutional monarch of London as opposed to the president of London. I feel that, even if his duties are confined to receiving foreign visitors, opening exhibitions and starting the London Marathon, there should be a London president. I dare say that this can he arranged quite simply. The London Boroughs Association has it in its power to do a number of joint enterprises, to create bodies within itself on an informal basis or to put up ideas for legislation. I hope that the London Boroughs Association will find a means of electing or nominating a London president who will become the London voice. After all, who is the voice of London at the moment? Is it Mr. Ken Livingstone? He certainly does not speak for me, and there are many for whom Sir Horace Cutler did not speak; and even if one thinks that he has been elected by a majority the leader of the GLC can hardly be called the ruler of London, responsible as he is for only a very small part of London's expenditure and administration. A constitutional monarch of London is what we should like, so that London can be heard throughout this country and throughout the world.
With that very small reservation I concur with those who have come to the view that this is an important measure, one that will save a large amount of public 506 money; and I speak as a Westminster ratepayer who suffers from all the problems of equalisation, who pays more than his share into the public kitty, more than his share towards the maintenance of the GLC—this body which has now become redundant and unnecessary.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, may I ask whether the noble Lord has considered the Lord Lieutenant tilling that role?
§ Lord Bethell
My Lords, that is a possibility. I think it would have to be for the London Boroughs Association to bear that in mind and take a view on it.
§ 7.54 p.m.
The Earl of Cranbrook
My Lords, earlier this afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, told us that the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, was ill. I therefore stepped into his place and send him our good wishes and hopes for a speedy recovery.
The first four speakers this afternoon all referred in passing to the fourth report of your Lordships' Committee on Science and Technology, dealing with the Local Government Bill and scientific and technical services. The noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, a moment or two ago expatiated at some length on this report, but it falls to me, as chairman of the Select Committee, to introduce it to your Lordships and to spend a few minutes taking you through it. This report technically was published at 11 o'clock on Friday last, 12th April. At that time it was available only in typescript. Copies of the typescript were distributed to the Government and Ministers in this House on Tuesday, and subsequently to the Chief Whips of Parties in this House, including the Convenor of the Cross-Benches. On Friday it was distributed to the press and to all noble Lords whose names were on the speakers' list. The printed version is now available and has been available since this morning in the Printed Paper Office. When I asked a moment or two ago I found that 40 noble Lords had taken copies and I urge those of you who do not have copies of our report to take the opportunity of obtaining one and reading it.
I should also like to take this opportunity of thanking those members of the Select Committee who joined me in producing this report as expeditiously as possible. I thank our specialist advisers and particularly the Clerk of Committees for his exertions during the Recess to ensure that a printed version is before your Lordships today. Several things have been said about this report this afternoon. I am grateful that most of them have been complimentary. From some of the sillier questions that have been put to me outside this House it is probably necessary—useful at least—for me to say what this report is not. It is not a gratuitous and partisan swipe at Government policy. It is not a case of special pleading for retention of the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils. What it is, is a report of an all-party Select Committee of your Lordships' House which is following a planned and orderly programme of inquiries into appropriate scientific and technological subjects. One sub-committee since the beginning of this year has been involved in an investigation of the scientific and technological capacity of local government. In this context when I say "local 507 government" I mean the Greater London Council and the London boroughs, the metropolitan county councils, the Scottish regions, the English and Welsh shire counties and districts throughout the kingdom.
The noble Earl, Lord Perth, is no longer in his place but he might be gratified to know that next week the sub-committee will sit in Scotland. I am certain that it is the first time that the Select Committee on Science and Technology has sat in Scotland, though it may not be the first time that a Select Committee of your Lordships' House has sat there. I believe it is appropriate and I am pleased that we should so be doing. I should like to emphasise in this context paragraph 4 of the Select Committee's Report which ends with the following words:Since … the Bill has passed the House of Commons, the report starts from the assumption that it is likely to be enacted in some form. Forward thinking on its consequences should now be taking place.It is the function of this report to assist your Lordships in forward thinking. The report is therefore structured very strictly for the benefit of your Lordships and I hope you will find it convenient. It is divided into five parts. The first part is introductory and largely repeats the subjects which I have rehearsed in the past few moments. In Part II we thought it would be useful for your Lordships to have a summary of the scientific and technical services which are at present operated or supplied by the metropolitan county councils and the Greater London Council. We find that there is among the general public at large, and no doubt among some Members of your Lordships' House, an ignorance of exactly where scientific services provided by the Greater London Council and the metropolitan councils end and the way in which these functions are integrated with the responsibilities of other councils and those of central government.
In a way Part III goes over the ground which is covered in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill, but it is a highly selective selection of the effects of the proposals in the Bill on the scientific and technological capacity. The version of the Bill that we were looking at was that which emerged from Standing Committee G. There are some differences as a result of the final debate in another place. I have not discovered anywhere where this makes a material difference to our report.
Part IV is the opinion of witnesses. Unfortunately, because of the pressure of time, it is not possible for us to publish with this report the enormous quantity of papers that we have received from witnesses. We have received evidence from professional and technical associations and many similar bodies throughout the country. We have applied for evidence to all local authorities at all levels whether threatened with abolition or otherwise. They were notified of the Committee's interest in this Bill and were invited to comment inter alia. Our main application to these witnesses was for comment on other aspects of the scientific and technological strength of local authorities.
Part V is the opinion of the committee. This is sub-divided into four sections. First, we review the present strengths of the scientific and technological capacities of councils which are threatened with 508 abolition under this Bill. Secondly, we take a view over the possibilities that exist and that are foreseen in the Bill for future organisation. Thirdly, we look more immediately at the prospects for 1986, which as several of your Lordships have said draws close; and on this aspect I draw attention to paragraph 70. Finally we present our conclusions.
Those of your Lordships who have followed the debate in another place, and indeed the wider debate outside Parliament, will realise that the specific issue of the scientific and technological capacity of these councils has been largely overlooked in discussion of the Bill. I have been asked why by a number of people inside and outside the House, by newspaper reporters, and so on. I do not have any clear answer in my mind, but I believe that one of the answers is that the scientific and technological functions are not party political issues. They are fundamental to the functioning of the statutory duties of these councils, but they are not at issue between the parties. It is perhaps from this point of view an unfortunate feature of the debate that it has been extremely polarised along party lines.
I might also note that in the 1972 debates, which I have read to give myself the right background for the present situation, it was also overlooked. The only point that can be related in the 1972 debate was a single paragraph in the White Paper on the English councils and a single speech, I believe by Lord Redcliffe-Maud, referring to the benefits of scale. These were recognised at the time and it so happened that the 1972 reform set in place authorities which, in the view of your Lordships' Select Committee, have proved their capacity to develop as centres of excellence and have proved their ability to keep pace with the advances in science and technology, many of which were scarcely foreseen in 1972. So fast is the pace of innovation in these fields that it is very difficult, even for the most foresighted person, to envisage things, such as the compression of computer capacity, that can take place in a decade.
Another part answer to why this subject has been overlooked is undoubtedly the difficulties that the Government have faced in the reluctance among the affected authorities to get together with each other and with the Government to discuss the provisions, as has been required under the Local Government (Interim Provisions) Act 1984 to which my noble friend Lord Elton has already referred. I think it is overall fortunate for circumstances that our Select Committee was able to issue an interim report (in terms which I hope you will agree are neutral and non-partisan) exactly at this juncture. I would stress that it is an interim report; and our opinions are undoubtedly coloured by the fact that we believe that we shall make further recommendations for the organisation of scientific and technological capacity in local government when the final report appears.
The problems that arise in the discussion of this can, in effect, I think to some extent be solved by a semantic decision. This came up in discussions which we had with Mrs. Chalker at a session when she kindly came to give evidence to your Lordships' Select Committee. We devised this separation between the functions and facilities. This same separation is seen in the Department of the Environment guidance on waste 509 regulation and disposal which distinguishes between operational and non-operational functions. Functions can be interpreted in terms of the statutory responsibility of the bodies, and facilities can be interpreted in terms of their capacity to exercise these functions.
We have drawn attention in our main proposals to the treatment of some of these important facilities: first, the laboratories of the metropolitan county councils, that is to say, the chemical laboratories, the agricultural analyst's laboratories and the engineering laboratories. The first proposal, (1), of your Lordships' Select Committee appears in the final conclusion. If they do not already have it in the Bill under Clause 60, one option that is available is to place these scientific laboratories (the engineering and chemical laboratories) together with the computer facilities which back them up with the residuary bodies. This seems to your Lordships' Select Committee to be a useful proposal to make at this juncture. The second of our conclusions:to empower the Secretary of State by order to confer on any joint authority established by the Bill the further power to provide scientific and technical servicesmust be seen as an alternative which maybe the Government would wish to consider. The third is yet another alternative which is the creation of a separate joint authority simply for this function.
In sub-paragraph (4) we have important recommendations about the maintenance of unity of the passenger transport authority with the scientific and technical services which back it up, including the data collection and other highways functions. We also make proposals concerning waste disposal. Here we find that the Government have moved (and are moving) very much upon the lines of our thinking. The Government have recognised that the disposal of hazardous waste requires the continuation of a county-wide authority.
As I said at the beginning, none of these provisions requires perpetuation of the metropolitan county or the Greater London authority. The function can reside with any authority provided that the continuation of the facility on a county-wide basis through appropriate arrangements is ensured. The residuary body does not provide a permanent solution. It provides only the breathing space for the districts and the boroughs to gain experience of these new functions which are unfamiliar to them, and to decide, through the mechanism which the Government have envisaged in this Bill, a process for the final decision on the final placing of these scientific facilities. To leave these permanently with the residuary body would undoubtedly stifle future innovation. What your Lordships' Select Committee have looked for are possibilities for the placing of these scientific facilities that will not only give rise to the economy and efficiency that the Government seek but which will also preserve the essential amenities of metropolitan and conurbation life, and will be soundly based so that they can take advantage of future scientific and technological innovations and can continue to provide a lead into the future for the benefit of citizens of the English metropolitan county areas and Greater London.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Lord Feversham
My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, will forgive me if I do not follow him in the quite technical specific points that he has raised with regard to the scientific aspects of the Local Government Bill. I doubt very much whether there is anything that I could add, even if I wanted to do so. Of course, his contribution to the debate, as always, has been extraordinarily useful, not least at this more or less mid-point in the debate in introducing a new slant. I think that, to a certain extent, all the possible arguments that can be promoted either for or against the Government's intentions in the Local Government Bill by now have been aired. So, although I do not think that there is any topic on which it is easier to make a really long speech than the subject of local government, I do not consider that I should do that this evening. I shall confine myself to a very short speech. After all, as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, pointed out, the opportunity for more detailed discussions will come during the later stages of the passage of this Bill through the House.
Like most noble Lords speaking in this debate, I have been exhaustively lobbied by a wide range of interests. Other noble Lords have been recalling their past, but I cannot recall a more extensive lobbying in 20 years' membership of your Lordships' House. The vast majority of the lobbyists who have approached me are not, as the Government may fondly believe (in spite of speeches that have been made on that side of the House this evening) tightly knit, politically motivated, minority groups or Khmer Rouge style factions, hell-bent on the destruction of democracy as we know it. They include organisations such as the shire counties, the Confederation of British Industry and the Yorkshire and Cleveland Local Councils' Association, which is the association of the parish councils—not, one would have thought, the natural allies of either Left-wing politics or metropolitan councils. Of course, we have been approached to a certain extent, to use Mr. Bernard Levin's terminology, by those who might be described as "Vanessa's loonies".
Why have we been subjected to this holocaust of advice from every quarter, including advice from organisations which one would normally expect to be wholly supportive of the policy followed by this Tory Government? I suggest that the answer can only be that this legislation is ill conceived, inadequately thought through and ineptly presented to this House, if I may say so without intending any disrespect to those Ministers of the Government who have been given the unfortunate task of having to present this dog's dinner to us.
This kind of sorry situation is not exactly new to us, my Lords, is it? We are used to consuming our legislative diet from bowls marked "Dog". That the diet is fit eventually for human consumption by the public is to a large extent the result of the activities of this House on numerous occasions. Those who seek abolition of the House of Lords, let alone abolition of the GLC, would do well to cogitate on that reality. The work on this Bill will be done during Committee and much will depend on the attitude of the Government as to whether we can make this really horrible Bill into some kind of sense, so that its enactment will not 511 adversely affect the quality of local government in the myriad ways in which the Bill will do so as we have it now in a number of areas which the Government themselves would not wish to see suffer. The damage which this Bill can inflict on the quality of government of our people will depend to a large extent on the ability of this Government to listen to what is said in Committee in this House and to remain flexible in the face of suggestion.
Perhaps the key point here is that putting sense into this Bill is likely to cause greater central Government expenditure than is at present envisaged. That will come as no surprise to those of us who have believed all along that abolition of the metropolitan counties would cost more rather than less. That is symptomatic of local government reorganisation as a whole. Noble Lords will recall that the last great upheaval in local government was designed to cut costs, and they will have drawn their own conclusions in the light of experience.
In the interests of brevity I am not going to embark on a catalogue of potential damage manufactured by this legislation. Others have had a go in their particular fields, and no doubt others following me will also have a go. I will just select very briefly my own favourite area of concern for the arts and endorse the comments which others have made in this respect, notably the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, who, like me, is a trustee of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which will certainly suffer from what is proposed on the abolition of the counties. I would also endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, said.
What the Minister for the Arts may say—and I can take this up because I have noticed throughout the afternoon that he has been popping into the Chamber when anybody with any potential threat has got to his feet; so we have been able to have a go at him—and whatever the Government may think they are doing to counteract the effect of this Bill on the arts throughout the country, there is little doubt in the minds of all those concerned for the welfare of the arts that the provisions are inadequate which the Government are making on the abolition of the metropolitan counties with the professed intention of ensuring that the arts do not suffer.
As things stand at present, as the plan stands at present, the welfare of the cultural infrastructure in those areas covered by metropolitan counties will suffer grievously in real terms. The Arts Council also have not got as much money as they asked for to carry out their Glory of the Garden Campaign; and there is an interaction between what is happening in local government reorganisation and what is happening with the Arts Council new plan. It is likely that the strain which is put on the Arts Council because of these various activities and the strain that is put on the remaining local authorities after the abolition, and on the regional arts associations, will cause the suffering in the arts world to spread outside the metropolitan county areas into the rest of the country. That is our worry. Nothing which the Government have tried—I know they have tried, and the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, has paid lip service to that this afternoon—nothing which they have really said or done so far has convinced us.
512 I should like to make a brief point about some of the strategic arguments that have been promoted by Back-Benchers, I think in particular on the Tory side of the House, because it strikes me that most of them have been specious. The argument of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, that because strategic plans are sometimes turned down or not followed and therefore there is no real need for strategic planning, is an argument that should be viewed with the suspicion that it deserves. The arguments—also promoted by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, but I think also by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter—that the areas of metropolitan counties or, indeed, London, are not big enough for strategic planning is a valiant effort by skilled advocacy to defend a hopeless case. Of course, if you look at it carefully, you see that it is an argument which cannot be lost. The size of the area required for "strategic planning" can be continually uprated to suit one's purposes; so I think that one should look pretty cautiously at that argument as well.
That brings me to what I am going to do this evening regarding the amendment. Speaking as I do from the Cross-Benches, I can see no other logical route than to follow Her Majesty's Opposition into the Division Lobby—that is except, of course, for those for whom the excitement of the Whip is more attractive than the cooler pleasures of logic or, indeed, for my noble friend Lord Perth, who feels that it would be better to sit with his finger in the air.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone
My Lords, last year we had the cart of the paving Bill. This year we have the horse in the shape of the Local Government Bill—not a stallion capable of regenerating Greater London and with a single driver, but, sadly, a gelding with a prospect of 33 drivers who have opposing views as to the direction in which it should be steered.
Like others who have spoken, I believe this Bill to be hastily assembled, badly thought out and unlikely to meet the needs of the huge population which it will affect. I direct my arguments solely to the position in Greater London, the capital city and the largest continuous built-up area in the United Kingdom, because that is where my experience has been as a London borough councillor, as a member of the London County Council and, subsequently, for 12 years as a member of the Greater London Council, during six years of which I was its leader.
That London and the area within the Green Belt requires a single overall body has been demonstrated over the years particularly during the rapid growth of population after the Second World War. Now that the population has declined, and is still declining, the need for a single overall authority is even greater to cope with the immense problems which have been created.
Let me be quite clear, my Lords: I support the abolition of the GLC because it is in need of reform. The present administration of the GLC under the control of the "Loony Left" of the Labour Party has done immense damage to the economy of London. It has misused the powers given to it by Parliament and brought about its own destruction. I support also the devolution to the boroughs of the various responsibilities best dealt with at local level. Indeed, if 513 I may say so, I started this trend when I was leader of the GLC. I accept that the Government has a mandate for abolition but it also has a responsibility to ensure that what follows will work at least as well. I very much regret that the effect of this Bill is to destroy the London-wide authority and to hand over its strategic responsibilities to a hotch-potch of hastily assembled groups of boroughs and remote unelected residuary bodies or commissions. This is a recipe for administrative chaos and conflict.
I have absolutely no wish to oppose parts of a Bill brought here by a Government which I firmly support, but I do wish they could admit that they might conceivably be wrong in some respects, and thus allow some changes to be made. I am convinced, and so are the great majority of professional organisations concerned with London government, that the present Government proposals will create an inherently unstable structure which, regardless of the political colour of central Government, will need to be reviewed in the relatively near future. As The Times said in February of this year. "London's future Government looks a mess and, worse, an expensive mess".
For the success of its proposed reorganisation of local and regional government in London, the Bill is evidently relying on a substantial measure of voluntary co-operation and agreement or, in effect, the boroughs working things out for themselves. The Bill envisages inter-borough co-operation in a number of significant activities: planning and development, housing, public transport, land reclamation, waste disposal and voluntary grants. But experience would suggest that this is not a realistic assumption and that, unless there is a fundamental change of attitude—in other words, co-operation between them—it has no serious prospect of survival.
I could give many examples of the London boroughs' past failures to co-operate with the GLC, and indeed many of them have already been given by other speakers. However, time is short and I would just mention briefly again housing mobility, transferred housing stock, grants to voluntary bodies, St. Katharine's Dock, and Covent Garden, too, where I can confirm from my own experience that while groups of chief officers of the GLC and of the London boroughs concerned were usually able to make progress—provided of course that the local officers were under no direct direction or instruction as to non-co-operation, as sometimes they were—a very different picture emerged at the member level in the joint committees, when all too often policies, philosophies and local pleading would frustrate the officers' recommendations. I firmly believe that only by retaining an overall GLC control of decision-making at that time was it possible to reach a decision. It must also be recorded that where it was necessary to refer any matter to the Secretary of State, delays were all too often experienced, many of which were lengthy and costly.
So, in the absence of overall control by the GLC or a substitute London-wide body, where more than one authority or body is concerned with any function, service or major project, the necessity for intervention by the Department of the Environment will inevitably 514 lead to greater centralisation and more and more government control. I cannot believe that we want that.
The report from the Select Committee on Science and Technology, as we have just heard, represents in fact the first independent inquiry to he carried out into the likely effects of this Bill. This is in marked contrast to the long inquiry which took place before the passing of the London Government Bill in 1963. If other centres of excellence in the GLC had also been examined, I believe that similar recommendations for the retention of a London-wide basis would have resulted. As an example, and despite what has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, I would take strategic planning; and the same arguments could be advanced with equal force in respect of other departments of the GLC, such as waste disposal, highways and traffic, the Land Survey Division and scientific and technical services.
The Government's White Paper, Streamlining the Cities, published in October 1983, contained proposals for abolishing the GLC, the planning authority for London, and in its place proposed that each London borough should prepare a structure plan for its area and that overall strategic guidance should be provided by the Minister, advised by a London planning commission. This proposal was condemned as unsatisfactory by most respondents to the Government's consultation on the White Paper, including The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Royal Institute of British Architects and a number of other bodies such as the CBI (who are not noted for their sympathy to the planning process). They posed a number of questions, which have so far remained unanswered.
The case for strategic planning in the capital city is, I believe, incontrovertible and could be made at length, but I will not do it now. London comprises 33 separate boroughs, all of which are dependent upon each other. While some outer London boroughs may feel that they are self-contained entities, for most Londoners the administrative boundaries within the build-up area have little meaning. Very few people, for example, could say which part of Regent's Park is in the City of Westminster and which part is in Camden.
There must be some means of resolving the inevitable conflicts over major land use proposals, the distribution and care of the green belt—which, in my experience, has been nibbled away at by the boroughs—and the effects of major proposals such as the M.25. Equally, there must be some means of relating planning issues to transport decisions. London is greater than the sum of its parts and the neglect of a proper planning framework, which could result in those areas of the capital with the greatest needs being overlooked, will be damaging to the whole metropolis. Quite apart from the problem of obtaining a consensus across a number of boroughs, it is clear that planning problems in London cannot be solved by the unilateral action of individual boroughs without consideration of the needs and pressures of the capital city as a whole.
Next, I would question the cost-effectiveness of the way money will be raised in future under this Bill. It is said that the Bill, by eliminating the GLC precept, will simplify the financial system by which money is raised 515 from the ratepayer, and also (as we have heard) make considerable savings. At the moment, the boroughs demand in their rates money for their own expenditure plus the GLC and the Metropolitan Police precepts and, in inner London, the ILEA precept: that is, three in outer London and four in inner London.
From 1st April 1985, the boroughs will demand money for their own expenditure (increased, of course, to pay for the transferred functions), plus the Metropolitan Police precept, the London Regional Transport precept, the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority precept and the London residuary body levy—plus, in inner London, the ILEA precept. That is five in outer London and six in inner London: not a great saving.
If a statutory joint body for waste disposal is created, its precept and the cost of exercising numerous ministerial powers (which we do not hear much about), plus the increased functions of other public bodies such as the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission and the Arts Council and the expenses of the newly-established London Planning Commission will all have to be met from central funds, which I suppose means the taxpayer. And on top of all this the costs of land drainage and the Thames Barrier will be added to the Thames Water Authority water rate. What a gift to the bureaucrats! How much more efficient it would be, surely, to have one London-wide body with one source of income and with tightly controlled spending powers.
Thirdly, the period laid down for the transfer of certain responsibilities is much too short, and I would particularly mention the transfer of property. The Bill sets out the general proposition that property should pass to the appropriate residuary bodies, unless it is specifically directed to pass to receiving authorities—that is, within the GLC area, the London boroughs and newly-created boards. I assume that statutory orders will he issued in due course, setting out in detail the way in which these proposals are to be implemented.
It is significant to note that in the 1964–65 reorganisation the transfer order came into operation 18 months before the appointed day. Even then it was found to be an inadequate period of time to deal with the problems of transfers, despite the continuity of local government structures. There is no known precedent for unscrambling such a complex operation as this, when an entire tier of local government is at the same time to be removed, and the tightly compressed timescale of the 1984–85 reorganisation can only exacerbate the problem. In previous reorganisations there was a bringing together of staff, whereas abolition requires fragmentation, which inevitably means that there will be a serious loss of expertise.
What then is the likelihood of effectively carrying out this reorganisation as proposed in this Bill, when in most cases functions will be transferred not to one successor authority but to many? The size of the problem is greater, I suggest, than is generally realised. One simple illustration is that there are 4½ miles of shelving holding the property deeds in the GLC's legal department. The land ownership of the GLC within the Greater London area, including the ILEA, currently stands at 41 square miles, of which the 516 education authority's share is 6 square miles. The majority of this is held in service use and managed by the appropriate department. Although the ILEA is presently virtually an autonomous body, title to the property in its charge is currently held by the GLC, and the transfer of that alone to the new elected body must be a very large and laborious task. In addition, land not held in service use—that is, waiting for disposal or yet to be used for service purposes—is held in a management portfolio which contains about 8,500 units.
Where property has been in joint occupation prior to an appointed day, the unscrambling of property rights following a reorganisation has in practice proved to be a fruitful source of conflict. Essentially, the resolution of such conflicts depends on the predecessor authorities reaching an accord, and although in the past such authorities may have changed their identity there was a continuity of staff remaining to assist in resolving problems. In the unique circumstances envisaged by this Bill, the staff of the GLC will not be available to assist, unless they have been absorbed either into a receiving authority or the residuary body.
Similar problems are also likely to arise where GLC property lies astride borough boundaries and, again, this is a huge undertaking. The total length of common boundaries between London boroughs and between the inner London boroughs and the City of London, but excluding the boundaries between the Greater London boroughs and the Home Counties, extends to nearly 500 miles, and it is inevitable that further conflicts will arise. All records of acquisitions of GLC land holdings are held on a manually operated register, which has been continuously maintained since the days of the Metropolitan Board of Works in the last century. If, on abolition, the receiving authorities wish to have unified titles with up-to-date boundaries, the task of preparing them, based on recent experience of housing transfers, will be, to say the least, monumental and will certainly take many more years to complete than has been allowed in the Bill. I therefore urge the Government to think again on the timescale of their proposals.
Last, but not least, there is the staff. I hope that my noble friend the Minister can give some words of hope and encouragement to the staff at the GLC—presuming, of course, that abolition takes place—and by "staff" I mean the dedicated local government officers, not the recently appointed political nominees. The Bill provides for offers of employment by successor authorities on an individual basis and for the Secretary of State to transfer staff, either individually or as a member of a class or description of employee. The vast majority of staff will, it seems, have to wait for an offer from a successor authority or designation by the Secretary of State. In the process, although I would expect many to find a place, their expertise will be dispersed as teams of staff are broken up, which will result in a serious loss for local government in London.
Meanwhile, there is the worry which comes from uncertainty and, inevitably, some will leave before 1st April 1986, thus making the transfer of responsibilities even more difficult in the short time provided. The 517 statement made by the Minister in the Standing Committee that,one of the Government's objectives was to keep the number of redundancies to the minimum necessary,must be welcomed. Some redundancies are, of course, inevitable in a reorganisation such as is proposed, but it is vital that as many as possible of the experienced officers should be retained. I very much hope that there will soon he a constructive attitude by the trade unions concerned so that a dialogue can be established through the good offices of the London and Metropolitan Government Staff Commission.
Nevertheless, more could be done at this stage by offering some reassurance to the staff who will not automatically transfer with a function, that for a large number of them there will be job opportunities with the successor authorities. It is surely essential to retain experienced staff to deal with such matters as the transfer of property and, also, continuing litigation. For example, teams of lawyers have been dealing with current cases on a London-wide basis for several years. To break them up will not only hinder the preparation—I can see the Chief Whip looking at me, but I am going to finish my speech even if he does not like it—and proper prosecution and defence, but if handed over to independent professional experts there will inevitably be an increase of costs. Similarly, the GLC's scientific services branch is of great practical assistance to the legal branch. Unless arrangements are made to retain this department, it is likely to leave a state of chaos where legal expertise and the back-up of witnesses and other professional services will have been dissipated.
I accept that the residuary body will clearly have a major role to play, but it must be seriously questioned whether these residuary problems can be resolved within a maximum of five years. Again, I hope that the Government will think again on the timescale of their proposals. The reorganisation now proposed is of an unprecedented nature. It is not a bringing together as in 1965, or indeed as in 1889. The Bill as it is now written will not meet the needs and expectations of Londoners, and I earnestly hope that amendments will he made so as to recognise the special position of Greater London, the capital city.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Baroness Lockwood
My Lords, it is difficult to follow the noble Lord, Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone, with his detailed experience in local government and his knowledge of the London area. So if he will forgive me, I want to move up North to West Yorkshire, but unlike the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, I want to speak from the perspective of the metropolitan county as a whole and not just from the perspective of the largest city within the county.
My interest in the Bill is threefold. As a citizen of West Yorkshire, I want to ensure, first, that efficient, adequate and appropriate services are provided; secondly, that the services are provided as economically as possible; and, thirdly, that there is continuity and a sense of historical perspective in any changes that are made. Perhaps I may develop my third point first. Whatever system of local government is evolved, it is important to have a sense of identity 518 and civic pride. In the past the three Ridings in Yorkshire, together with the all-purpose county boroughs, provided for that. The 1972–74 reorganisation to a considerable extent shattered that identity, and it took a number of years for the system to bed down and for the cities and larger tow ns to reconcile themselves to a two-tier structure. But I suggest that they have done that now, including cities such as Leeds and Bradford. But there were some attributes in that process which do not apply to the Government's present proposals.
First, it was then widely recognised that some form of reorganisation was essential. This had been debated at length both prior to and as a consequence of the report of the Royal Commission. People were prepared for change even if the size of the authorities and the ultimate boundaries decided upon led to differences of opinion, as they would still do today, because nobody is saying that the ultimate solution was found a decade ago. But there has been no such prior debate about this Bill and many people are concerned about a change so soon—only a decade later—which appears to have been thrust upon them without proper consideration of the implications.
Secondly, the pride of the cities was assuaged to some extent in the last reorganisation. Their city boundaries were extended. They still retained, as the Minister has been anxious to tell us, some of the important services through which they could express their more local identity. As for the smaller authorities which felt they had been taken over by the larger towns, they still had a stake in the familiar second-tier county authority which prevented them from feeling entirely swallowed up and submerged by their large neighbour. Today, no such alleviations exist. The district authorities will become the sole elected tier remaining. Furthermore, a sense of identity within some of the districts is singularly lacking because they are not all former cities like Leeds and Bradford.
Out of the five districts in West Yorkshire, three do not have a natural centre or in any way form a homogeneous unit. Perhaps I may take Kirklees as an example. Kirklees was made up of two previous county boroughs and several other districts as well, all of which had their own identity and civic pride and, incidentally, long-standing rivalries which still continue despite there being part of the same authority. I suggest that for such areas there is more identity with West Yorkshire both in an administrative sense and also in the sense of historical and civic continuity which is important to healthy local government. Moreover, only a part of Yorkshire will survive on the administrative map; and to many of us that is sad, too.
I have dwelt at some length on this aspect of the problem because I think it is important to remember that local government, to be good and effective, involves much more than the sum total of services provided. If I may say so, this principle is apposite too in respect of the ad hoc network of bodies envisaged in the Bill which will have no civic or corporate identity at all or any democratic control.
But I return to my first two points—the provision of adequate services at as economic a rate as is consistent with efficiency. My own preference has long been for two-tier local government. This preference has been 519 considerably strengthened by my recent experience as a member of your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology. From the committee's interim report it is abundantly clear that the nature and extent of many of the services is such that they cannot adequately or economically be provided at district level. Collectively as a Select Committee during the progress of this Bill, our concern will be to preserve as far as possible some of the units of scientific teams and services which have been built up. My own personal preference of course would have been for the status quo to continue until such time as we were again able seriously to study the best course for local government in the future.
But one of the interesting aspects of the Select Committee's report so far is the extent to which science and technology has been applied to local government services in the past 10 years and in ways which at the time of that reorganisation could not possibly have been envisaged. The overall impact of this development is twofold: first, the interrelationship of the technical services; and, secondly, the indication that if change is necessary it is towards larger rather than smaller authorities.
The committee recently visited West Yorkshire. There we were able to see, as indeed we had seen in Greater Manchester, too, the interlinking of highways with a centrally computerised urban traffic control. Both authorities have found that by investment in highly technical equipment to control and speed up the flow of traffic greater savings could be made than by more expensive investment in road construction—savings incidentally both to the authorities and to citizens alike in terms of time and money. Yet under this Bill there is no such provision for an integrated service.
We also saw the engineering directive in West Yorkshire—two separate directives, one for traffic and transportation and one for engineering. Engineering in this context including waste management and land reclamation as well as highways, bridges and numerous other construction and engineering services. The committee was most impressed by the professional competence of the teams and by the comprehensive nature of the services provided. It would be sheer folly to break up this unit and impossible to provide an equivalent service at a lower level. The costings for which we asked indicate that only by retaining the services as a single unit could an equivalent service be provided—and then some of the training and other support services would have to be excluded.
Subsequent oral evidence to the committee from the Minister of Transport left me with the impression that the implications for this kind of service of abolition of the metropolitan counties had simply not been comprehended, let alone thought through, by the Government. The interdependence between facilities and the provision of common support services runs through the whole of local government. Hence many of your Lordships will, like myself, have received representations from those involved with archives, archaeology, consumer protection, preservation of the countryside and so on, because they all depend on this interrelated support service.
520 If one adds to this the impact which the metropolitan counties have had on economic and strategic planning generally, one realises what an enormous gap there will be if they are abolished. The gap cannot be adequately filled by statutory bodies. My concern is not so much about the percentge of services which are with the metropolitan counties; it is more about the nature of those services and whether or not they can be adequately taken over by smaller units. The Government clearly recognise this problem; otherwise they would not have suggested the creation of such a hotch-potch of ad hoc bodies.
If this Bill goes through this House in its present state, it will be a sad interruption, albeit, I hope, a temporary interruption, in the long history and development of democratic local government in this country.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, I oppose the amendment and support the Bill. I believe that functions and responsibilities should be genuinely local in local government. I have found in my own constituency—and I speak as a GLC Member—that there has been very much a Big Brother element. Traffic management schemes have insisted that a pedestrian crossing is sited where the GLC think is right, even though all the old people still continue to cross where they have always crossed and where they asked for the crossing to be in the first place.
On licensing, for four years the local council and a bus load of residents and myself opposed the renewal of the licence of a late-night music and dancing establishment which was creating such anxiety to local people that they could not even walk home from the Tube station at night. Indeed, London Transport was so concerned when they found sharpened knives made out of old saws thrown down on the station that they actually closed Southgate Tube station early week after week. London Transport also appear to have opposed the licence. Despite that opposition, the licence was renewed every time.
I was first elected to the Greater London Council in 1970 and I represented an Essex seat—now a Middlesex seat. I have found that there is a great difference between central London—the old LCC area, which has cohesion—and the Greater London area. The people in my constituency in Middlesex—and those in Havering, when I represented that constituency—expressed no wish to be made part of Greater London, and have never really accepted that they are a part of it.
In the time that I have been a Member of the GLC I have seen the loss of many of its functions—the ambulance service, sewage disposal, housing, and London Transport. I think it is because the GLC has lost so many of its responsibilities that it has started looking for something to do. To my mind, there is no point in regional government dealing with Sinn Fein, apartheid or the miners' strike. Those are not issues for regional government, and yet they are taking up our time and money at County Hall now.
Recently there has been a total change in both policy and attitude and, talking about democracy, the GLC itself has become very undemocratic. The minority are 521 not consulted or considered in any way. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, mentioned the funding of the police community committee in Tower Hamlets; I cannot remember the exact title he used. I was at the meeting when that grant was given. The local member was asked whether he wanted it to be made. He answered, "No, absolutely not. It would be very divisive. We are very happy with our police relations in Tower Hamlets". Despite that, his views were disregarded and the money was granted to set up an anti-police body.
When I spoke last year on the interim provisions Bill I mentioned that I had not received a single letter from any of my constituents opposing the abolition. Since then I have received three letters, although only two of them were from constituents and the third was from someone living in another borough. But I have received hundreds of lobbying letters from every pressure group and every group that has a vested interest in the GLC. That is rather different from receiving letters from genuine constituents who really have a vote and a view.
It is common knowledge how profligate the GLC has been with ratepayers' money. We recently had the farce of whether the GLC was going to set the rate at the capped level of 36½ pence, when Mr. Livingstone, said that no way would he support it. Two days later he was asking his members to vote for it and saying that he would support it. In the end the Conservative group produced a sound budget well below the rate-capped limit and eventually a noble member of the Labour party (and I use that term in a different sense here) proposed a reasonable rate, and that was eventually agreed. That saved the London ratepayers £55 million, which the leadership of the GLC had been willing to throw away.
That brings me to the third reason why I favour abolition. I believe and hope that it will save ratepayers' money. It is important for the Government to realise that some local authorities are concerned about whether abolition really will save money. My own constituents have a genuine anxiety, as they do not want to see changes which will actually cost more. On the agenda of Westminster City Council's meeting tonight is an item dealing with the newly proposed inner London equalisation scheme. The agenda paper states:It is evident that there should be financial savings to London ratepayers following the abolition of the Greater London Council. However, it is difficult at this stage … to calculate accurately what these savings will be".If the payments total £59 million, that will be a break-even situation for Westminster City Council. But if, as the council fears, the payments total £70 million or £100 million, that will be quite different and it will cost ratepayers very much more than the present rates do. I would ask the Government to examine this point and to reassure local councils that abolition will not be more costly.
We talk about merging the fire service and Civil Defence into one body. I believe that that would be a very progressive move. In all the time that I have corked at County Hall there has been a split between the day-to-day management of the fire brigade and other activities coming under the Architect's 522 Department, which deals with the inspection of premises. This conflict has always existed and it causes great delays for persons whose premises should have been inspected and made safe.
I support many of the arguments which have been made about the London Planning Commission. It is important that it should be more than just an advisory body, as it needs an integrity of its own and should not be just an agent of the Minister. But I see no reason for an elected authority for that. The commission and the residuary body could possibly be combined. They must offer a degree of expertise and must be able to speak independently if they are to be really effective. Certain functions should be held together, as many speakers have said, but I do not see any reason why they need to be held together under one Greater London Council. The road safety branch or the scientific branch could remain intact and go to one borough, in the same way that Richmond is taking over as a lead borough in social services.
The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, mentioned a very high figure for London residents. It was quite wrong, as the population of London has shrunk very much. The Minister in his opening speech told us by how much it has shrunk. My noble friend Lord Plummer made the point that because of this shrinkage in population we needed the GLC even more than before, but I would remind him that the population has been reduced as a direct result of GLC policies. There was a clear policy to move out of London all non-conforming industry. That was done. The people went and the jobs went with them, and yet more people went with the jobs. Then, too, the obstruction in terms of not having any road planning for central London or London as a whole has definitely meant that the M.25 is a great magnet drawing people out of London. I think that that again is having a dramatic effect. So our population is shrinking.
But the voters of the GLC still vote on national rather than on local issues. In fact I do not believe that they identify with local issues at all. Years ago we did tests to ask people who their GLC member was. Hardly anyone could name a member. I think that that remains so. People know their local councillor and their Member of Parliament. Various noble Lords have asked how people will know where to go. I think that they know that they can go to those two people but they do not know their GLC member.
I attended a meeting in one of the committee rooms here on the personal social services. It was well presented and there were representatives from various metropolitan counties and from the London area. I thought that the case was very well put for funding for the voluntary services. I strongly support their adequate funding. However, the thing that disturbed me was that at the end of the meeting the representative from London said that he wanted to make it clear that they were not after the money. They wanted the power and the right to do the planning in social services terms. That is quite different from the sympathy that we all have when we are asked to help deserving voluntary organisations, and to assist them with their funding. I thought that that was quite different.
I served on the London Boroughs Association Social Services Committee. There has always been provision 523 there for grants for London-wide bodies. That was the reason why the LBA dealt with such bodies. The body had to be in more than just one borough. If the body is in just one borough, it is right that that borough should deal with it itself. But if it is a London-wide service, such as some of the drug and alcohol abuse centres, it is right that it should be on a larger basis. The LBA Social Services Committee worked well. It was clerked by the chief executive of Lambeth. I cannot see why it cannot continue to work in the same way.
The noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, remarked on the GLC's responsibility to have a proper distribution of funds to voluntary orgnisations. If that were so, perhaps we should never have begun to worry about what is happening. The word "proper" is the argumentative point.
There is much prejudice at present at County Hall. Labour boroughs have a rubber stamp put on any application for money, and applications from Conservative boroughs are rejected. I put it to the chairman of the Women's Committee that all the grants were going to Labour boroughs. The answer came back, "Well, get your Conservative boroughs to apply". I did that and they received nothing. I do not think that that is much use.
The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, discussed a London voice. Perhaps he thought that the chairman of the GLC was an appropriate person. I draw to your Lordships' attention again the unwillingness of that chairman and other members of the GLC to meet visiting heads of State. There was always a tradition of presenting an address of welcome at St. James's Palace; but whenever the Labour Party became the majority party it refused to do that. Do your Lordships think that it was typical of the feeling of the people of London on the day of the Royal wedding when that flag—was it a black flag?—was flown at County Hall? It certainly did not to me accord with the reaction and joy of the people that day.
The noble Lord, Lord Plummer, raised many good points. I think that his remark on road planning in London was very important. There is no doubt that in every area people like to move all the problems into the borough next door. That is why there has to be a strategic overall role. But I believe that the London Planning Commission can do that.
Obstruction is something that we have to worry about when we think of timing. I accept the point of the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, that it will take time to wind up the GLC, but it will take even more when obstruction is being recommended all the time. Let me say that even on the matter of providing information to the successor authorities, I attended a special committee meeting last week where the attitude taken by a member of the GLC (who is also a Member of the other place) was: "Answer nothing to Westminster. Let them take us to court". If that sort of deliberate obstruction is going to come in, it will certainly take much more time.
To sum up, I think that the structure of the present GLC must go. We do not want to see too much centralisation of services to local government. I should like to see, or at least like the Government carefully to 524 consider, a possible London planning commission—a residuary body without the right to precept but with the duty of monitoring and scrutinising what is done by the joint boards in London.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Lord McGregor of Durris
My Lords, I wish to declare an interest as president of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. I wish to talk about the possible implications of the Bill for them. The CABs are an independent, non-party-political, non-party organisation. Everything that I shall say will be couched in terms as neutral as I can make them. I shall not for that reason go into the Division Lobby if there is a Division after this Second Reading debate.
We accept as given the governmental framework which Parliament has determined. We exist to give free, confidential and impartial advice to any member of the public who walks into a bureau. Enough people walked into our bureaux last year to make 5½ million inquiries, of which some 17 per cent. related to consumer, trade and business matters, 16 per cent. to social security. 16 per cent. to housing, property and land, 12 per cent. to family matters, 11 per cent. to employment and 8 per cent. to the administration of justice. That is the range of issues with which we are concerned.
In the recent period there have been year by year increases in the amount of use—very heavy increases indeed. The inquiries are made in some 900 bureaux in England and Wales, patchily distributed throughout the country. They are manned (a very sexist and misleading term in respect of the personnel of the CABs) by thirteen-and-a-half thousand volunteer workers, strengthened by 1,500 professional and trained paid staff. In addition, there are 10,000-odd members of management committees which supervise the work of the bureaux and link them with the local community and its organisations. Thus, throughout the country the organisation has links with large numbers of the organisations administering public policy and the social services.
The complexity of these services is a byword. It is that which, for the last 50 years, has explained not merely the survival but the expansion of the organisation. The fact of the matter is that no one, however well educated, can find his way about the world of social policy without a guide. Organisations to provide information, to give advice and help are indispensable factors in modern citizenship. The organisation is almost wholly publicly funded. The national association, which provides support services for all the bureaux throughout the country, is financed by a Government grant-in-aid but the operating costs of individual bureaux are provided by local authorities. Thus, the Bill will not affect the funding of the national association; but it is revenue to meet the operating costs of bureaux throughout the country that is at risk.
I shall not attempt to disentangle the financial difficulties that arise from circumstances other than those which the present Bill may precipitate. Both those and the general financial restrictions upon local authorities create perils for voluntary bodies. In the case of the CABs, the national association has been most generously treated by the Government. More 525 than 80 per cent. of the money that it receives goes in direct grants and services to bureaux. Therefore, the situation of the central body causes no special anxiety. However, the bureaux throughout the country are in a very different position. There have been no assurances that their funding will be forthcoming. Last year 10 per cent. of the funding of the local bureaux—£1 million in all—came from the GLC and the metropolitan counties for their areas. There have been no assurances that this funding will be forthcoming from any other source. On the contrary, the district councils and the London boroughs have made it plain to the CABs, in the clearest possible terms, that they can see no way in wich they will be able to make good those losses in 1986–87. Many are warning us that because of rate limitation they will make cuts from next year onwards.
This money provides the services which cross borough and district boundaries—those services to which the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, referred. In the case of the CABs the most important service of that nature is probably the training of volunteers. There is an extensive and elaborate training system on which, as it is an organisation of volunteers, everything depends. There are also the services which some boroughs are unable to fund, or fund completely. There is also the funding which is essential to develop new methods of providing services. For example, there is the debt counselling service which has been established very recently.
The CABs, like the other voluntary bodies of which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark spoke, need reassurance about adequate and long-term funding. This is dealt with by Clause 47 of the Bill which is intended to give safeguards to the voluntary sector. I shall not pretend that several readings of this clause have persuaded me that I understand it fully. Suffice to say, first, that the clause is permissive; and, secondly, that it provides for grants to be made by one designated council on behalf of other constituent councils: that is, borough councils in London and district councils in the metropolitan counties, of which at least two-thirds must have approved the expenditure. That is an uncertain instrument, it may be thought, for the funding of the operations of bureaux even if it did not impose upon voluntary bodies the task of lobbying two-thirds of the constituent councils. It is no wonder that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark said that we need mandatory arrangements. I shall therefore put down an amendment which will seek to impose a statutory duty on councils to make to appropriate voluntary organisations such grants as are necessary to provide citizens with information, advice and assistance services.
I conclude with one practical illustration—there are many more—of what may happen without guarantees for funding in the future. Two weeks ago, the local authority of Hillingdon took a decision that has led to the closing of the CAB legal service in that borough. Much of the CABs' work has a legal content. I quote a sentence or two from the Government's response published at the end of 1983 to the report of the Royal Commission on legal services under the chairmanship 526 of the noble Lord, Lord Benson:The Government entirely agrees that the Citizens Advice Bureaux, offering a free, impartial and effective general advice service, are essential to underpin other more specialised advice agencies, including those providing legal advice. Much CAB work has a legal aspect; various arrangements have been developed to make legal expertise available within individual bureaux. The Government welcomes these developments".So the Government regard the CABs as essential to underpin other more specialised advice agencies. It is, I think, possible to generalise the consequences of further Hillingdons if the Government do nothing more than the present Clause 47 to support the CAB service.
Let us assume that if Clause 47 stands as it is, 10 per cent. more cases which would have been dealt with in bureaux will go to solicitors. What bureaux really do is to sift the problems presented by people who come for advice. They define the problems that are social problems; others that are legal problems; and in some cases, matrimonial in particular, because these form a high proportion of their work, they can and do conciliate. They are the filter by which many cases are in practice prevented from going to solicitors, while others, which are referred, are presented in a state that solicitors can deal with expeditiously and effectively. Let us assume therefore that 10 per cent. more cases have to go to solicitors because the CABs have no funds to provide the present level of legal services.
The annual report for last year of the Law Society, on the operation of the legal aid scheme, contains in Appendix 1F an analysis of the use of legal advice and assistance. This is precisely the area in which the CAB operates. Of a total of over 800,000 solicitors' bills that were settled, deducting the criminal cases, rather more than 600,000 were settled at an average fee of £45. We are assuming that there is a 10 per cent. increase. That is an increase of rather more than 60,000 cases at £45 a time, which it is easy to reckon means an additional expenditure for the civil legal aid fund of £2.75 million a year.
That is the simple quantitative cash meaning of what may happen if a voluntary body like the CAB fails to get replaced on an adequate and assured basis the revenue which it now receives from the GLC and the metropolitan counties. It is surely worth the Government's financial while to make certain that that additional charge does not fall upon the legal aid scheme.
One could apply this form of analysis to a whole range of the other problems with which not only the citizens advice bureaux but other voluntary bodies have to deal. I very much hope that Ministers will feel able to look again at Clause 47.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, in order to absolve the displeasure of the Government Chief Whip which fell on my noble friend Lord Plummer for the length of his speech, I shall speak briefly in support of the excellent recommendations made in your Lordships' House by my noble friend Lord Plummer. I should also like to refer to the speeches made by the noble Lords, Lord Birkett and Lord Feversham, by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, and by the right reverend Prelates the Bishops of Southwark and Liverpool.
527 Although I have much sympathy for the amendment, the Bill was passed by the other place, and I believe that it is the primary role of your Lordships' House to improve and revise this Bill. Secondly, there is much in the Bill which I support; but equally there is much with which I disagree. I believe that it is right that the GLC in its present form should go. The Act which brought it into being is so widely drafted that the party in power is within its legal rights to do almost anything and spend money on a wide basis. It has diminished the reputation of local government that Mr. Livingtone and his friends have stepped even outside that wide brief and have been profligate in their expenditure.
Criticism is levelled at many of us for being influenced by the great advertisements put foward by the Greater London Council. I wish to refute this, at any rate on my own behalf. I speak as a local government officer of 23 years' standing, with five years as a civil servant and four years in voluntary organisations. I deplore the profligate spending of parts of the GLC; but equally there is a great deal and much work which the GLC does which is excellent, and this has been referred to in the book mentioned by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook and by other noble Lords.
I also believe that so far as is practicable and possible work should be devolved onto the local boroughs. I suggest that this should have been done following the inquiry which Horace Cutler set up in 1977. Where surely this Bill is in need of revision is in the diffuse, diverse, fragmented, and from a human point of view unworkable, arrangements for the administration of those excellent services to which the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, referred.
I believe that there must be a London-wide authority. I agree with the Confederation of British Industry in its statement thatthe powers of such an Authority would be strictly limited by tightly drawn statute so that they can only concern themselves with the relevant services and nothing else".Furthermore, the terms of expenditure would be specific, allowing for the district auditor to take action if necessary. I do not believe that such a structure could, and would, mushroom into a Greater London Council. Indeed, it would be illegal for it to do so.
528 I believe that such a body should be elected, thus giving the people of London the opportunity to vote. After all, Her Majesty's Government have acceded to this principle in respect of the ILEA. If Her Majesty's Government cannot consider an elected London-wide body, then perhaps Her Majesty's Government can recommend an interrelated structure which absorbs the London-wide functions. I would just mention two areas. One has already been mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, and I sat on this committee, as did other noble Lords. Very little has been said about the excellent work done by the scientific and technical services, and London would suffer greatly without the superb and excellent work done in that department.
I would also draw attention, as have other noble Lords—notably the noble Lord, Lord McGregor—to the question of voluntary organisations, but I would mention it from a different point of view. Having been a local government officer and having had to do my estimates once a year, not unnaturally—and I suppose it is only human—one considers one's department first, taking into account that one has to carry out statutory duties. If you have not got either the staff or the resources to carry out those statutory duties then you are in trouble; and inevitably if there is very little money available you put it to your own department rather than giving it to the voluntary organisations in your area.
I speak with feeling for the directors of social services in this country because as a body they believe in the partnership between the voluntary and the statutory sectors. With the cutback in expenditure and resources they find themselves having to chose between their own departments, their own statutory duties, and working with the voluntary organisations. Maybe I have to say it with shame but if I am placed in that dilemma, knowing that I have statutory duties to carry out, I put the money on my own department, and this is what will happen.
Therefore, I support the noble Lord, Lord Plummer. I believe that there ought to be a London-wide body to pick up and carry on the excellent duties being performed, and disregarding those which are poorly carried out. Finally, what applies to the London area and the principles which apply to the London area I would suggest applies equally to the metropolitan counties.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
My Lor0ds, I shall follow the good example of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and be brief. I am fortunate that I am able to be brief because much of what I wanted to say has been said better by others before me. I want to pay tribute to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone. I am sure that the people of London will be grateful to him for the way in which he has expressed the need for the services of the people to be preserved. The trouble, which has been revealed to some extent by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, is that there is a great deal of pique about what has been going on in County Hall. Because of that pique there is a kind of reaction—"Let us get rid of it". That is just a sort of final act because for a century there has been this battle between those who are localisers, as I would put it, and those who are centralisers in terms of London government. However, that has always had a political overview and the funny thing about it is that it has been the Conservative Party, which theoretically is the party of the localisers, which has done all the centralising because it has always done it for political reasons.
It was the Conservative Party that introduced the London Government Act which gave us the London County Council and I think we ought to thank them for that. It was the Conservative Party which gave us the Greater London Council. They have now found themselves in a position where for political reasons they have become localisers once again, and they want to take us back to the last century; because if we pass this Bill we are going hack to the last century. We are going back to the period before the creation of the London County Council. The only difference will be that instead of parishes and district boards, we shall have borough councils; but that is all. We shall be right hack to that. Instead of the Metropolitan Board of Works we shall have a joint hoard for fire and civil defence and then we shall have a nominated board for planning and for dealing with the financial obligations which have been left as a result of the abolition of the GLC. So that is where we are. They wish to be localisers.
The trouble is that it is not possible to localise London government because it is not possible to give all the services to individual boroughs. There are hound to be residual services which need to be dealt with Londonwide. Therefore, if we are to be serious about London government, there has always to be an authority which has power over London as a whole. What the Government are proposing, despite what they tell us, is that that London authority be twofold; joint boards made up of members from the lower authorities, and nominated boards which central Government have nominated. That is what they are creating for Londonwide services. Let us face it, that is not democracy. What the people of London want is an authority which is responsible for Londonwide services, an authority which they elect and which is responsible to them.
The Greater London Council probably has defects. As a matter of fact, it has; but we should not proceed to abolish it when we cannot put anything proper in its 530 place. If we are going to abolish it then we should abolish it and put something proper in its place. What we have in this Bill does not do that. What we have in this Bill is a mish-mash of all kinds of things. We have some improved powers locally. Then we have some powers that are intermediate in that the people from those boroughs elect them and they have authority over certain subjects. Finally, there is the Secretary of State.
I have said previously in this House that there seems to be something wrong with the relationship of the Government with local government. During the past five years I cannot think of a Session that has passed without there being a Bill giving central Government power over local authorities. There must be some bug which is biting the members of Her Majesty's Government that they feel they must have a go at local authorities year after year. I should like to suggest that they find an antibiotic or a cure for that bug and start to face up to the responsibilities that they have. They have certain responsibilities. This country does not have a written constitution and because it does not central Government is really an elected dictatorship. It is an elected dictatorship which heretofore has been governed by certain conventions. It is watching those conventions and respecting them which will make it possible for this elected dictatorship to continue as it has over the years. The Government must begin to think carefully about the way in which they are treading.
Having said what I have said and having originally given a commitment to be brief, I want to touch on one other matter: that is, finance. I tried to intervene when the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, was speaking because he was misleading the House on this subject. The real issue about finance is the precept. As a result of the precept, Westminster, the City of London and Camden pay for many of the services that are available to the poorer boroughs of London. Your Lordships may well think, and it appears that the Government want people to think, that one can work out an equalisation scheme which will enable that to be conveyed over London as a whole. Frankly that is doubtful. This is where I have all manner of sympathy for those who are asking us to safeguard the future of voluntary organisations. I would frankly say that the Government had better find a way of battling to keep the precept because it is only by keeping the precept that they will be able to retain that level of funding. There is no way in which the boroughs, except for the Cities of Westminster and London, and Camden, can make contributions to voluntary organisations in the way in which they are being received now, centrally through the GLC. Therefore I ask all those concerned on this issue to face that fact. That can be solved if whatever central organisation is created also has the power to continue these donations to the voluntary authorities. It will be up to those whose concern is for the contributions to voluntary authorities to see, and, in fact, to support, the sort of structure which will enable the London precept to be preserved because it is only through that precept that the real distribution of resources between the better-off and the less-well-off areas of London really takes place.
My Lords, I think that I have spoken for long enough. There is nothing else that I specifically want to 531 say except this. When we are going through this Bill I hope that your Lordships will recognise that because of the failure of the other place to do its duty—and by that I mean to go through the Bill thoroughly—it is up to us to see that the Bill when it leaves us is a better Bill. It is up to us to see that the people not only of London—and I speak about London because I know it best—but of all the metropolitan areas are not put into a very difficult position as a result of the passage of this Bill.
§ Lord Ingrow
My Lords, I oppose the amendment and support the Second Reading not merely because it happens to be part of the Government's policy, but because I have always believed in an all-purpose, single-tier authority of local government wherever that is possible. When we ask, therefore, why abolish the second-tier authorities, we are really asking the wrong question. They should not be there to abolish. I base this not on theory but on practical experience in local government in the highly "metro" areas. I served on a non-county borough—and perhaps one of the less exalted authorities ought to have its say today—for 20 years, and for most of that time I was chairman of either the education committee or the finance committee. It came very forcibly into contact with the West Riding County Council and its education committee. The West Riding County Council in those days stretched from Cumbria to Nottingham, from Saddleworth to York.
It was a large area, very disparate in thought, but the West Riding Education Committee, which had a very high opinion of itself that was not always shared by everyone else, sought to impose its authority throughout that area. My town, through the efforts of our predecessors, was an excepted district, which was a considerable interference and obstruction to the county council. They sought control of a service which, in any reasonable way, should be as near and as personal to the people as possible. I say this without any sense of party comment at all. It did not matter whether the Conservatives or the Labour Party ran the West Riding Education Committee: the policy was the same. And, lest any Liberal might think that he is let out on this one, when the Conservatives did have control, they put a distinguished Liberal county alderman from my own town in charge of the education committee and they all took the same view.
I found it a very unsatisfactory method of trying to cram everything into the same philosophy. I was surprised therefore earlier tonight, listening to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, when he quoted with approval the example of, I think, 11 structure plans being coerced into one. Coerced into one, possibly; but I find it very unfortunate that we should so standardise everything if possible. I think it has not been good for the country as a whole.
I found the two-tier system unattractive and inefficient. In business or in the forces, when one is dealing with the higher organisations one is dealing with more responsible and superior people. They may be expected to know more about the job than you do 532 yourself and they may even be able to give you orders. Not so in local government. The authority was there in the higher authority but very few people from the boroughs would agree that the calibre of councillor was any higher at all. Far from it. Most of the boroughs used to make sure that they kept their best people at home to run the town, where the money was really spent. I found it difficult, therefore, to accept that they were the higher authority but they were certainly no better than the people who ran the districts. They had the great disadvantage of never levying a direct rate. They always had a lower percentage poll in the elections. People could never actually pin anything on to them.
The one ambition of all parties in my council was to become a county borough, to have all the powers that one could have. This was the great ambition. It was unfortunate that every time one seemed to be getting a little nearer the target the goalposts were moved and the number was raised. In fact, it was very hard to achieve that particular point. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, would agree with that: the most efficient way of running a council.
There was a partial improvement in the Act of 1974. Education, at least, came closer by coming to the metropolitan districts, and I think it is generally understood that we are greatly indebted to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister for seeing that that one did not stay with the counties. I remember the furore when the West Riding Education Committee was going to be broken up. All I can say is that it has been much better having education run in the districts in West Yorkshire. The smaller authorities went forward; the cities took a step back. Great cities such as Birmingham, some bigger than counties, which had always been accustomed to running their own affairs, had to play second fiddle to some other authority. The local council wards are smaller: there is more chance for individuals to represent the people they know.
I think I ought to say that I agree with my noble friend Lord Bellwin that perhaps in West Yorkshire we have enjoyed the best of the metropolitan county councils. It might be because we automatically expect it to happen in Yorkshire. It might also be because the council was always liable to change its political complexion, which does concentrate the mind on doing a proper job. I am sure when that council has gone the talented people who have led it on both sides will be there to stimulate the metropolitan districts in their leadership of affairs.
My Lords, like most, if not all, of you, I have been inundated with paper on this subject. A great campaign has been waged—funded entirely, so far as one can see, by ratepayers' money, not their own money—a campaign of self preservation for a particular set of organisations ossified at this point. Local authorities exist for the people. The ratepayers of this country do not exist for local authorities: and the arguments that have come forward have actually convinced me that the second tier should go.
If there had been time, one could have recited some of the things that have been said in letters to us: the extraordinary statements which are presented, 533 unproven, as facts, and one is expected to assume that they are therefore the absolutely correct interpretation. It is a quite extraordinary and, if I may say so, rather arrogant view that the whole enterprise will collapse unless it is done in exactly "this way" and to "these standards".
Costs do matter. Industry has to fight great problems today, and a great problem for industry is to be competitive. The cost of an operation matters very greatly.
§ Lord Ingrow
Good, it matters very greatly indeed, and the idea that there has to be a sort of permanent standard judged by those who are providing that standard is like offering everybody a Rolls-Royce. It might be very nice, but, when the bill comes in, most of us might settle for running a Ford. The outlook is different when you actually have to pay the bill.
I would just make two other comments on that point. I was glad that my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter dealt with the point raised by the Bishop of Southwark. The district councils are not inferior in any way, morally or otherwise, to county councils. I think perhaps that point has now been taken, but I did think, when my noble friend Baroness Faithfull said what the priorities would be if she only had a limited amount of money when preparing her estimates, that, when I was taking the decisions on financial estimates as opposed to submitting reports on them to a finance chairman, my view would always have been to do the best for the people of the town whatever the particular situation might have been. There was no question of favouring one or another.
It is never easy to run a local authority at any time. Many people have tried very hard and have given very good service. It is quite impossible if one concentrates one's mind on other tasks, such as trying to destroy the Government, which is rather a common occupation today. If I were not very resilient, I should despair. We know the problem that faces this country. I have heard tonight every vested interest, every piece of special pleading. The words trotted out are "infrastructure" and "integration" and every kind of word suggesting somewhere along the line some sort of fudge. We were asked: would the police committee be as good? I do not know about inside this Chamber, but outside it there are a very large number of people who think that certain police authorities have in recent months fallen very far short of the standard and the duties properly required of them, and anything is going to be an improvement on what some of them have done.
We have heard about infrastructure, the integration of roads and the like. It sounds splendid. It has messed up basically the Aire Valley motorway in my part of the world, and it goes down so far as to messing around arguing whether we have paying car parks or not.
534 We have listened tonight to the classic arguments for delay—"We must not do anything now"—in fact what we might call Sir Humphrey's doctrine of "unripe time". I think it is very important that we should get on with the job as quickly as possible and I hope that this Bill receives its Second Reading and passes through into law as unamended as possible.
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, in his opening remarks the noble Lord, Lord Elton, told us that this Bill came before us in response to a manifesto promise. He also told us that, when enacted, it would stand four square, not least in terms of local government being conducted more effectively and less expensively. Furthermore, he told us that it would result in savings. It would, he added, give us local government that is efficient.
I would myself dispute all these points, not in reference to the GLC, to which I shall return later, but with reference to Tyne and Wear, one of the metropolitan counties scheduled for abolition. It may surprise the noble Lord the Minister that at the end of his speech I found myself a Tory on this Bill—but before everyone goes off and counts heads again I would say very quickly an Edward Heath Tory. I found that all the arguments advanced this afternoon by the noble Lord the Minister were questioned by the right honourable Member in his speech on the Second Reading in another place on 4th December last. If I might quote him, at col. 192 of Hansard for another place he asked:What justification is there for saying that there will be better or more economical administration if we remove six metropolitan counties and appoint 18 joint boards with an unnumbered series of committees?The right honourable Member did not get an answer that night and I do not think that subsequently he would have got an answer. We have not been given an answer to that argument today.
The debate tonight has really focused, as did the debate we had shortly after the Queen's Speech, on the White Paper on the GLC. The Government and the media of this country are centred in Lonodn and this fact more than any other perhaps explains the focus. I feel it goes a long way towards explaining why, when we debated local government on the Motion of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, on 14th November last, the GLC by itself was mentioned no less than 69 times. "The GLC and the metropolitan counties", as a collective phrase, was mentioned 26 times. Merseyside was mentioned eight times—seven times by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton or Garston. South Yorkshire, on its own, came up six times, thanks very largely to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. West Yorkshire appeared thrice, Manchester once and the West Midlands once; but of Tyne and Wear there was not a mention. It is a very long way from here to Tyne and Wear—a good 270 miles. Tyne and Wear may be a long way away, but my family's connections with the area started in 1917, if not with the county council—because the county council did not exist in those days—when my grandfather's second and brand-new wife arrived at Tyne Commission Quay in Newcastle. Then, as now, foreigners could run into trouble with the immigration authorities. After half- 535 an-hour of hassle with a gentleman with three rings on his arm, she finally said to him "You can't do this to me, Sir. I am a British object". I cite that only to show that I am not leaping on any metropolitan bandwagon. My family have had connections up there for very many years.
I said that I believe that Tyne and Wear is a competent metropolitan county and it is worth noticing that in Streamlining the Cities, while not being commended, it was cited for raising its precept and its net expenditure rather more slowly than any other metropolitan county. In fact, in the period which the Government chose to review in the White Paper, it raised its net expenditure by 91 per cent., whereas the metropolitan county average was 111 per cent. and the GLC was a long way ahead. It is worth noting that, since the White Paper. Tyne and Wear has not raised its precept at all—scarcely, when you bear in mind that the White Paper is two-and-a-half years' old, an example of the profligacy that we have had thrown at us this evening. Yet although it has lived within its precept, has not been part of rate capping or of any of the seven or eight variations on the local government finance theme which this Government have brought before us, it has a number of triumphs of which I feel it should be proud, and which I do not necessarily feel the successor bodies as specified in the Bill could emulate.
One cannot really think of Tyne and Wear without thinking of Nissan; one cannot think of Tyne and Wear without the Metro and the integrated transport system and one cannot think of Tyne and Wear without Woolsington Airport, in the context of which I shall declare an interest—three achievements in which Tyne and Wear took the lead because the last Act, the Act which we are asked to abolish tonight, gave it powers to do so, and three achievements which I do not believe would be achievable under the mixture of successor bodies, devolved powers and central Government interference which the muddy waters of this Bill envisage.
Three bodies were involved in winning the Nissan plant for the North-East at Washington. Tyne and Wear as a county council, taking the strategic overview under powers given it by the Act, took the lead and it is worth noting that what really swayed the Nissan decision was the power of the Tyne and Wear case and the presentation made by Tyne and Wear. But Tyne and Wear is to be abolished. The Washington Development Corporation gave a very great deal of support, but it is sentenced to death, albeit under stay of execution. Sunderland District Council played a substantial part, but I doubt whether, sitting at the south east of the area under discussion, under threat of rate-capping and with an enormous number of other problems it would ever dare, though it might wish to get involved in these exercises again, to do so.
No, my Lords, we have the Nissan plant, with its 2,000 jobs up there, because of Tyne and Wear. It is worth noticing, while we are asked tonight to subscribe to the abolition of the metropolitan council, that Nissan was won for Washington in the face of the Welsh Office and the Welsh Development Corporation, and in the face of the Scottish Office and 536 the Scottish Development Corporation. It was a well-assembled act between Sandiford House, the Washington Development Corporation and Sunderland against the Welsh Office and the Home Office. Let us not forget that.
Experts come from all around the world to examine and to question all those involved in the Tyne and Wear public transport system, its working and its economics. Again, if one reverts to the Act to set up Tyne and Wear, it is right to remind your Lordships that Tyne and Wear's integrated transport system had its origin before that Act, but it is successful and is a reality only because of all-party support both at Government level and at local government level. It is there despite moratoria and despite the demands of the IMF which have sought in much the same way as the sinking of the Titanic to put some people off their course to divert Tyne and Wear County Council from its tracks.
The Government found their share of the capital costs and were in fact more than generous with their share of the capital costs, but did so, I suspect, only because Tyne and Wear County Council took the conscious decision to sacrifice road building funds and powers, which were in the original Act and which will be devolved in the Bill we are discussing tonight, in favour of building a dedicated railway, and subsequently integrated that railway with British Rail and with its various municipal bus undertakings and, indeed, the National Bus Company which has intimated to me its concern about its services in the shire counties.
Although we are discussing the metropolitan counties tonight, let us not forget the shire counties; and if we are talking about Tyne and Wear let us not forget Northumberland, and in particular the joint police authority and the transport operation. In both instances it is public knowledge that Tyne and Wear, under the powers that we are told it is wasting in pursuit of a role, as we are from time to time assured—as the Government seek to assure us and as the Bill's supporters seek to assure us—both in police operations under the joint board and in public transport, is carrying more than its share because it has the wherewithal to do so. Because it can carry more than its share it releases funds in the shire counties for the very great problems which the shire counties face and which perhaps have not hitherto been mentioned tonight.
Cynics may say that local loyalties can never allow themselves to be subsumed to regional government, but I should like to suggest that pulling together Sunderland, the Tynesides and the Tynemouths, the five district councils, the Tyne and Wear public transport system, gave regional government a spine and a justification—a justification which we can now see in terms of all identifiable trends. All identifiable trends—I speak more often on transport Bills than I do on local government Bills—would say that public transport usage is falling away and that should logically apply to Tyne and Wear, too. It should apply even more strongly to Tyne and Wear because, after all, the economy of Tyne and Wear is in terrible trouble.
Yet ridership continues to increase. It increases perhaps because the county council PTA has not put 537 fares up. But it is worth remembering that the county council has not raised its precepts and has consistently lived within the protected expenditure limit; so one cannot say that it is buying votes by selling public transport on the cheap. No; hardly profligacy. Nor, sadly, a system which I believe could survive under the fragmented successor body envisaged by the Bill.
It seems to me to be a successor body which simply creates a legal framework as do so many other successor bodies. Let us remember that there are not that many successor bodies because the Minister has taken so many reserve powers to himself. But so many of the successor bodies are simply recipes which will be bad news for the ratepayers. They will be particularly bad news for the lawyers because the lawyers will no longer have occasion to go to court in instances such as Bromley v. The GLC. Henceforth the indirectly elected representatives of the district councils sitting on the successor bodies will quite simply say Yes if there is something in it for them, and quite simply say No if there is nothing at all in it for them.
The third illustration which I should like to pray in aid—I declare an interest because I have worked quite hard on this—is Woolsington Airport where, again, Tyne and Wear has taken a lead, releasing, by its willingness to take a lead in investment and in promotional services to the airports, funds for Durham and Northumberland. It is worth noticing that the commercial success of the airport—it is commercially successful and even those in the British Airports Authority and other contacts tell me that—stems from the metropolitan counties' willingness to take a lead when the rural shires yet again find themselves squeezed under all the pressures to which the rural shires are subject, particularly Northumberland which is after all a very large county with a very thin population.
When they had problems, Tyne and Wear said (and this was no commercial deal): "Right, we will simply do a little more than our share". It is worth noting that with promotional support from the county, and building on that airport investment, one of our smaller airlines—Dan Air—is now running that ultimate commercial airline delight—a hub—on Newcastle and will soon be running daily services to western Norway and to Oslo. No national carrier is taking on the problem. It is a little matter of small-scale private enterprise and local government, at metropolitan level, working together.
I have sought, as I said, to divert this debate a little towards Tyne and Wear—a county in which I believe very strongly. I may not be a ratepayer there but I am a taxpayer and so therefore I am contributing to its central funding; I am an indirect shareholder. I believe that it has done its job well. I do not believe that it has sought roles. I do not believe that it has been profligate with either its ratepayers' money or with the money it has received from central funding.
I would be more sympathetic to this Bill if the Government had generally convinced me that we were only debating, as the Minister said, a transfer of powers. But I am convinced by Tyne and Wear's merits and am not persuaded by the Bill. It may be the Government's response to a manifesto promise but it 538 is worth noting—and here I return briefly to the subject of transport—that many of the people who voted the Government into power on this manifesto were affluent south-easterners whose share of British Rail's public service obligation grant runs to a round £250 million. We have been told on a number of occasions that metropolitan counties have been quite reckless with transport. I sought to address that argument, at least in the case of Tyne and Wear. But I would point out that protected expenditure limits for the six metropolitan counties which the Government seek to persuade us to abolish tonight amount to only £205 million.
Perhaps I divert. The real issue is not transport subsidy, although I thought that was a point worth making—and I shall have another bite at that cherry in a month's time. Tonight is really about the Government's failure to fulfil its twice-repeated manifesto promise to resolve the problems of local government finance. A manifesto promise is only a promise when it suits the Government that it so shall be. Tell them. I support the metropolitan counties and in particular Tyne and Wear. It deserves better treatment than we are asked to give it tonight.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ Lord Molson
My Lords, when the Government accepted the amendment moved in this House to the paving Bill and amended it so as to remove what I regarded as being the constitutional objections to it, I undertook to support the principle of the abolition of the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils. I had no difficulty in doing so because I recognised the force of the argument that when the Greater London Council is spending much less than 15 per cent. of the rates raised in London, and does that through precept levied by the boroughs, there is a strong case for its abolition.
At the same time I said, and I still think, that it is extremely important when the Greater London Council is abolished to pay attention to the set up that is to be put in its place. When I read the document Streamlining the Cities I feared the worse. I thought that the mixed metaphor in the title might imply muddled thinking. I am now convinced that the matter was not thought through. That is confirmed by the fact that careful reading of the speech by the Minister on 15th January shows that the Government wholly accept the general principle of maintaining a strategic plan.
In Streamlining the Cities at paragraph 1.3 it says:The reorganisations of the 1960s and early 1970s were typical of their time … It was also the heyday of a certain fashion for stategic planning, the confidence in which now appears exaggerated".We can see from the speech of Mr. Baker in Standing Committe G on 15th January that the Government fully accept the need for maintaining strategic planning in London and around it and also in the other conurbations. He said:Where the input comes into the strategic planning role—I accept that there is such a role—is important".To emphasise that he said:I shall seek to show that we have not abandoned strategic planning although we recognise that there are several weaknesses in the way … it operates".—[Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee G, 15/1/85; cols. 248 and 241.]539 I do not think that when Ministers decided to transfer the greater part of planning responsibility to the boroughs they fully realised that a necessary consequence of that would be to put greatly increased responsibility and power into the hands of the Secretary of State for the Environment. As centralisation is not part of the Tory philosophy, I think that was an unforeseen consequence of their policy.
The first indication that light was dawning came in the press notice on 14th June last when in an announcement in reply to a parliamentary Question, Mr. Jenkin said:I have produced simplified arrangements which nevertheless ensure effective strategic planning for London and the MCCs, together with detailed local planning".Already by 14th June last year strategic planning was no longer seen as,an exaggerated fashion of the 1960s and 1970s".The completeness of the Government's conversion was proved by the drafting of the Bill when it appeared. Schedule 1, paragraph 1(4)(a), is the main operative provision which ensures that strategic planning will not be abolished. It provides:the authority"—that is the planning authority—shall have regard—In the Bill we now have stated quite clearly that in future local plans must comply with national and regional policies and obey the guidance of the Secretary of State.
- (a) to any strategic guidance given by the Secretary of State to assist them in the preparation of the plan;
- (b) to current national and regional policies".
The only thing apparently that has changed is that the authority which lays down the stategic policy will in future be the Secretary of State instead of the Greater London Council and the MCCs. The fact that that has been done removes much of my anxiety about the purpose of the Bill, but leaves me in some doubt about the machinery proposed to give it effect.
The Government now propose that there shall not be unplanned competition between London boroughs or district councils. I shall quote again from Mr Baker, whose speech to the Standing Committee in the other place was most comprehensive and explained clearly the policy of the Government and the way in which they think it will be given effect. He said,It will be important for the Commission"—that is the London Planning Commission—to formulate its advice for London as a whole, taking account of the regional context".I now come to the very important matter of the green belts. The Department of the Environment ran into a storm not so very long ago when it issued two circulars which appeared to loosen the restrictions on development in the green belts. So vigorous was the protest everywhere, not least among Conservative Back-Benchers in another place, that both the circulars were withdrawn and replaced by other circulars which gave almost complete satisfaction, even to the Council for the Protection of Rural England, of which I am vice-president.
It must be remembered that the London green belt is not solely for the benefit of the London boroughs on 540 the periphery. It is intended for the benefit of all London boroughs and all their inhabitants. However, under the Bill as it is drafted at the present time it would appear that the planning responsibility to a large extent will devolve upon the London boroughs on the periphery of London who abut onto the green belt.
Up to the present time the Greater London Council has had strategic authority to make sure that the same strategy was followed throughout the whole of the green belt. I hope the Government accept that it is essential that the green belt should be administered by a single strategic authority. I am sure they mean to carry out in full the policies in the new circulars that have been issued, but I do not think that can be done unless there is some authority which exercises a general supervision over the administration of the green belt.
With that expression of faith in the Government, I leave the question of their policy and turn to the question of exactly how it is to be administered. It is the Government's policy to secure the strategic supervision of all the unitary development plans of all the 33 London boroughs and the 69 district councils in the six metropolitan county councils. That is to be done under the general supervision of the Department of the Environment. The Department of the Environment must now come face to face with the immense task of considering all these 69 local plans, each of which is to be in two parts, the first setting out the general policy and the second showing in detail how it will be given effect. Does the Department of the Environment really believe that it can itself, unaided, do this immense jigsaw puzzle?
So far as London is concerned, it will be helped by the London Planning Commisssion, though even that is purely advisory. Therefore, all the work that has been done by the planning commission will have to be done again in the Department of the Environment in order that the Secretary of State may decide whether or not to accept the advice that has been given to him. The obligations placed upon the bodies are very strict. At column 246 of the Official Report the Minister says:Their policies and proposals will need to be set within the context of a strategic review".As regards London, as I have said, the Department of the Environment will be helped by the planning commission. However that will not apply in the case of the six metropolitan county councils. Unfortunately, as I say, the Bill provides that the commission is to be only advisory and therefore the work will have to be done a second time. Mr. Baker says:For strategic planning in the metropolitan areas, our proposals are the beginning of a new and potentially more effective and speedier approach".I can quite imagine that it may be more effective if it is stricter. I cannot believe that, with this vast responsibility suddenly thrust upon a department in London, the result will be speedier.
These are the practical problems. We have come a long way from the earlier avowed purpose of the Bill to put planning in the hands of councils in closer touch with the electors. The Government have found it necessary, as a logical consequence of giving additional powers to the smaller local authorities, to retain and increase the strategic powers in the hands of 541 the central Government. Whereas, previously, the authority—it was, I quite recognise, real authority—of the Secretary of State was what you might call a matter of ultimate appeal, it will now be something in the nature of a decision of what the lawyers call first instance.
From the political point of view, I feel that this is somewhat of a departure from the philosophy of the Tory Party in trying to decentralise power as much as possible. At any rate, I recognise that it will be possible in the context of this Bill to have effective strategic planning which is, I think, the most important factor. I do not feel, however, that it will be particularly democratic.
I hope that the Government will show some flexibility at Committee stage. If we accept that general principle hut have doubts about how it is going to work in practice, I hope that they will meet us half way. I am inclined to think that the proposals made by the Conservative Opposition on the Greater London Council might afford a satisfactory solution to the problem.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Baroness Phillips
My Lords, there is a story going the rounds at the moment which is attributed to a certain Roman governor. As he lived in 65AD, I am quite safe in quoting him. He said:We trained hard but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up in teams we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet every situation by reorganising; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation".That is exactly what the Bill will create.
I am afraid that I do not dissemble. Certain Peers have pleaded with the Government to do certain things within the Bill. Tonight we are debating a simple issue. This is:An Act to abolish the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils".Anything that your Lordships wish to do within that is hardly likely to take place if you allow this Bill to go through. I have been intrigued to hear so many Conservative Peers talk about the evils of the metropolitan counties. I again remind them who were the creators of the six metropolitan councils and the Greater London Council—not a Labour Government, but a Conservative Government in 1965, when Henry Brooke was Minister of Housing.
We have had many lectures from the Conservative Party recently about democracy. We are told that the trade unions must have private ballots. Why, then, do the Government seek to take away from people living in these counties the right to vote? This is the issue that I am concerned about. All the other issues will fall into place as we debate the Bill. I speak as a Londoner, and I am very proud to be a Londoner. I live in the borough in which I was born. Not too many people who have occupied the high office that I hold of Lord Lieutenant can actually say that they were born and live in London.
This evening at County Hall I have been presenting marvellous medals for acts of bravery. Where shall we hold that kind of ceremony after abolition? When we abolish the six metropolitan counties and the Greater London Council will the Queen's representative have 542 to tout around the boroughs to find somewhere? That question has never been answered. I would not want to be the Lord Lieutenant of the London residuary board. It sounds to me rather like something from Dickens.
We must remind ourselves of the reasons for the formation of the London County Council. Let me take just one example, water. I am a great historian and have reread many accounts of and historical references to this. It is not propaganda. Before the formation of the metropolitan water boards, which at the time were linked to the LCC, the private profit-making companies had a virtual monopoly of particular areas and often they did not bother to lay on a regular supply of water. Invariably they found the cheapest source of water, which was hideously polluted, and cholera, smallpox and various other diseases swept through the capital. I do not wish to alarm your Lordships, but will we return to that kind of situation? We know that those who seek profit first are not all always concerned with the service, whereas the local authority which seeks to serve its people will always put service first.
We have heard that abolition will transfer certain functions to the boroughs. I am one who has suffered from this. What will happen? Let me take as an example just one of the funds in which I am interested, the Greater London Fund for the Disabled. How will that work when it seeks grant aid? Will it have to go to 32 boroughs, and how will the boroughs react? We all know that each borough will say that it will help the people who live in its area, with the ultimate result that the rich boroughs such as Westminster will not have much to contribute, whereas the poor boroughs such as Newham and Tower Hamlets will have a great deal on their plates. Are we to return to the Victorian concept, the Poor Law? That is really what we are considering today.
I do not like all the spending of the GLC, but nor do I particularly like all the Government's spending. I do not like the money that they spend on armaments and the millions of pounds that are being spent on certain items which are out of date in the next five minutes. But, because I am a democrat, I do not suggest that they get rid of the other place or, indeed, the Government. If we deprive the people of these areas of the right to vote, we are doing a terrible thing. These votes were gained by people. One only has to read the story of the Chartists; one only has to realise how people obtained these votes—they were not gained easily. But with one swoop of the pen we shall pass an Act which will abolish the Greater London Council and the six metropolitan counties.
There are only two reasons why anyone should enact an Act of Parliament. One is to protect the citizens; the other is to make life better for them. This Act of Parliament would do neither. I beg the Government to think again. It is all too easy to abolish—far too easy. The job of Government is to create and to build up. I put in my plea as a Londoner for my London.
§ 10.29 p.m.
§ Baroness Hornsby-Smith
My Lords, I, too, am a Londoner. I have lived in central London for 34 years and before that I lived in what is now Greater London, 543 two miles over Hammersmith Bridge. To suggest that Greater London is a cohesive whole is just not true. If you were to go to my old constituency of Chislehurst and say that they were Londoners, you would get a pretty tart answer: "We are Kentish Men!" Indeed, if you tried to say to those two wholly absorbed counties of Middlesex and Essex that they should call their cricket clubs GLCCs, I think the roof would come in.
I am sorry that she is not in her place, but I owe it to my old constituency to take issue with the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, because she rather implied that none of the outer county areas not then in Greater London aided in any way the old LCC and then the GLC. All I can say is that Chislehurst and Sidcup Urban District Council, as it then was, took in two vast LCC estates. They had Bermondsey dockers under slum clearance in Mottingham, and they had 25,000-odd in St. Paul's Cray from Lewisham, Deptford, Catford, Camberwell and South-East London. I feel I owe it to my old constituency to say, "We did not turn a deaf ear when London wanted space to house outside".
We have heard little today about the commercial rates. In four years, rates have risen 91 per cent., and, of the total rates, on average industry and commerce pay from 40 per cent. in some areas to as high as 70 per cent. in other areas, and they have no vote at all. Of the local electors only one in three pays full rates. We have therefore three groups of ratepayers—the non-voting commercial, the full paying and voting resident, and the heavily subsidised, who will naturally vote for any hand-out that is not going to cost them anything. We have seen the enormous amount of money spent on massive propaganda charged to London ratepayers. Even one newspaper full page advertisement this morning would have paid for another home help for one of the authorities.
We had the much-publicised GLC referendum, which was culled from those who only pay a fraction of the rates. In London I witnessed a pretty devious effort. I went to last year's London marathon to support sponsored runners supporting my own pet charity. As I was searching around for the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council research caravan—getting in my commercial—I was stopped a dozen times and asked to sign the GLC petition. But—and it is a big "but"—only twice did the canvassers say that it was to be signed to retain the GLC. Ten times I was asked, "Do you want the marathon to continue? Sign here". Under my very nose six enthusiastic Scandinavians signed, and were very politely asked if they would put their London address.
The exorbitant costs are driving industry and commerce out of our great cities. I live in Victoria and I am informed that the Army and Navy stores and the huge Woolworths by Victoria Station are both closing down. Trivial though it may seem, a dressmaker friend of mine said, "I shall now have to traipse all the way up to Oxford Street to buy a reel of cotton or some lining, as only the big stores can stock the enormous range of colours. We shall now have no large store in Victoria which can provide those facilities".
It is no good the GLC weeping crocodile tears over unemployment when they are driving industry and 544 commerce out by their ever-increasing precepts and the additional levy on our rates, and not least by their profligate spending on things which should not be paid for by the ratepayers. More recently their abominably political and partisan questionnaires to former contractors who served the councils well have made many companies feel that this is an unwarranted interference in the proper conduct of their business.
Then, neither the LCC not the GLC has ever been a statutory police authority. Yet we are paying for a spurious committee whose main job appears to be to harass the most overburdened police force in the whole of the country, the Met. Then there is the Women's Committee, with a budget of £11 million, one of whose efforts was to condemn as degrading to women the giving by an impresario of a buttonhole to all the ladies at the opening night of a romantic play. I wonder whether, if Mrs Wise, their chairman, is presented with a courtesy bouquet, she slings it back in the donor's face and says she feels insulted.
In contrast to that £11 million budget for London alone, the Equal Opportunities Commission has for the whole of the United Kingdom a budget this year of £3¼ million; and it does a proper and a very fine job and has performed under chairmen on both sides of this House, not least—and I see her there—the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood. If they had more money they could appoint area inspectors to fight the evil of the sweat shops, overworking and underpaying unhappy immigrant workers with virtually no health and safety regulations. I should have far more respect for the GLC Women's Committee if they were tackling the East End sweatshops, but the rapacious owners of these establishments will go on voting Labour so long as a blind eye is turned on their lawbreaking activities.
I turn to charities. I am the most avid supporter of voluntary organisations and indeed have every reason to appreciate the great work of a valid charity. In office, I was involved with the entry of two groups of immigrants and also with the East Coast and the West Coast floods, where the speed and the efficiency of voluntary organisations was quite beyond praise; but the ratepayers should not be asked to finance organisations which are far from charitable. I am informed that the Labour-controlled West Midlands on its election poured out money like confetti to such organisations. Two years later, when the authority's auditors sought to discover how the money had been spent, they found that several of the slick operators had "scarpered" with the cash and it had never been used for the purpose for which it had been granted. Further, if the West Midlands, for example, are so hard up, why did they spend £200,000 on painting CND slogans, blatant party propaganda, on the West Midlands buses? What good did that do the ratepayers and how many more social welfare staff could that have provided? The ratepayers should not be asked to finance such efforts.
I have been genuinely saddened by so many charities—though certainly not all of them—following Ken Livingstone's blatant party political campaign like children following the Pied Piper of Hamelin, and some of them which over the years I have supported have misguidedly broken the rules of their Charity Commission charter. The great boroughs, with their 545 smaller electoral areas and larger number of members, are far less remote than are the metropolitan authorities. Indeed, as an industrialist from the North-West who employs many hundreds of men complained, "It is easier for my wife's daily, who is tied up with an ethnic group, to get an interview with the appropriate committee or a senior officer than it is for me to see the senior planning officer, when all I want to do is to get on with the job and extend my works".
I refuse to believe that the great boroughs of London, Birmingham and Coventry will not be able to cope with their new responsibilities. Further, I see no reason why they should not be as compassionate, if more realistic, in dealing with charities. After all, the boroughs find the money whether it is given direct or whether it is imposed by precept. The Association of Borough Authorities is already operating a scheme for borough co-operation where charities overlap. Tory boroughs have supported it; the Labour boroughs have abstained. We have seen extraordinary party nepotism in the GLC; vast salaries paid to people chosen more for their party political affiliation than their experience; salaries and pensions increased to make redundancy payments higher and legal contracts entered into for years beyond the period when there will be a GLC. We can do without this costly tier of government, and I fully support the Government in their proposals.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Lord Wilson of Langside
My Lords, perhaps not surprisingly, I do not entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hornsby-Smith. Speaking only for myself on this matter I support without reservation or qualification the reasoned amendment in the name of the noble Baroness. Beyond that I really have very little to say. Let me accordingly seek to justify my intervention in this debate because, like a number of others who have spoken this afternoon and this evening, I come from north of Watford, and even worse I come from north of Newcastle. When one gets up there, near to the Arctic Circle, we operate a system of local government which is foreign to that of England and Wales.
Accordingly, over these weeks I, like so many of your Lordships, have been at the receiving end of many expressions of opinion from those interested in this matter. I have been inclined to say that while, generally speaking, I was sympathetic to their point of view, I did not regard myself as being a likely spokesman on their behalf. However, as I looked at the information which they put before me, as I studied what had been said on this Bill in the other place, and as I read the press both so far as it was for it and against it, I slowly came to the conclusion that in this measure the Government were guilty of a not inconsiderable piece of political folly. The longer I looked at it, the more I became convinced of that. It is true that as I came down to the House today, as many of us do, I wondered whether I was right.
I have listened to all of the debate, including the formidable advocacy of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. I remain as convinced as I was before. I do not exclude the possibility that I was mistaken today, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, was in 1962 546 or 1963, or whenever it was when he helped to create the GLC, but there it is.
My Lords, why do I say that? The noble Baroness, Lady Denington, from her considerable historical knowledge of local government, talked about the inbuilt conflict in the system. I suppose that for a long time there has been an in-built tension between local and national government. We became used to it. But although it seems to me that when I was young—or at least younger—that kind of tension was what might be described by the sociologists and others as a creative tension, today it is surely utterly destructive of good government. And this Bill will add to that. But of course I can understand that what the Government want to do is to see off Ken Livingstone and some of those people. I do not blame them for that. If I had the power, I would try to see him off. I do not blame them for doing that any more than I blame them for trying to see off Arthur Scargill. But I would hope that we would have a British Government that would do it with rather more political wisdom, political vision and political purpose than this Government have shown.
If this debate is anything to go by, it looks as if this piece of legislation suggests that this is another illustration of the kind of lack of vision, lack of imagination and lack of competence with which the people of this country are becoming increasingly concerned. Someone hoped that the Government might look at it again—what a hope!—that they might think again. I find it difficult to believe that the Government at this crucial point have taken a long, serious, hard, cold look at the history and the needs of local government in relation to national government. If they had done so, they would not have produced this monstrosity of a Bill.
§ 10.47 p.m.
§ Lord Drumalbyn
My Lords, we have covered an immense field this afternoon since this debate started. I want to confine myself to one main subject. I start by declaring an interest and, let me add, like the noble Lord, Lord McGregor, not a financial interest. In one way or another, I have been involved in consumer protection and trading standards matters for some 25 years, starting in 1960 on weights and measures at the Board of Trade. Since June 1983, I have been president of the Institute of Trading Standards Administration. That is a professional body from which local authorities recruit the officers to man their departments, commonly called consumer protection or trading standards services; and that is what I am going to talk about for a few minutes.
My right honourable friend must be aware that the members of those committees and the officers who serve them fear for the efficiency of the trading standards service as a result of the Government's proposals for the future of the service, and particularly in the six metropolitan counties which, along with the Greater London Council, are to be abolished by this Bill. I do not wish to detain your Lordships for long, partly because I shall be putting down amendments for the Committee stage when we shall have the time to discuss them in more detail and partly because, important as trading standards and consumer protection together are for the national welfare and prosperity of the nation's foreign trade, the subject 547 encompasses a relatively small area of the ambit of the Bill. My purpose is to help secure that the structural changes to local government proposed in the Bill do not result in dislocation or damage to the services provided in the sphere of trading standards and consumer protection.
I am sure your Lordships want the trading standard services in this country to continue the progress that has been achieved in the last 10 years—progress that has been phenomenal in comparison with the previous 20 years. I take as an example what the Merseyside county standards chief officer claimed in his last report, that,the economies of scale permitted by a county level of enforcement have allowed the department to respond effectively and efficiently to the changing patterns of trade on Merseyside".I would add there that the result achieved has been achieved despite a reduction of a quarter in the number of qualified trading standards officers, and despite a significant growth of the legislative responsibilities since the 1974 reorganisation for the remaining three-quarters to cope with. The fact is that the metropolitan counties are the best placed to succeed. Each of the areas of Greater Manchester, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, West Midlands and West Yorkshire—the area which is sometimes described as the industrial powerhouse of Britain—notable for the excellence of their scientific and technological services, has the resources and the knowhow to maintain an efficient, effective and economic service. Together they represent a concentration of specialisms combined with consistent standards of enforcement, particularly in relation to consumer fraud and deception and to safety legislation. These are maintained over their whole areas.
What is to happen when the six metropolitan counties are broken up into 36 districts? No doubt some will seek to combine together so as to maintain a strong enough co-ordinated base to support local industry. The omens are not propitious. Look what happened when the GLC was set up in 1965 and the then surrounding county weights and measures authorities were broken up. The Government of the day encouraged them to get together into groups. Twenty-three of the 32 London Boroughs combined to form seven consortia. What has happened to them? During the last 10 years six out of those seven consortia have been disbanded. One group only remains: Brent, Ealing and Harrow. Contrast the shire counties. All 47 of them in England and Wales have public protection committees responsible for both trading standards and the fire service combined. The chief fire officer and the chief trading standards officer report to the same protection committee in each of them. The two sections work well together and can complement each other's efforts in some respects. In particular, they can keep down their combined costs by sharing legal, financial and secretarial services.
If joint arrangements work well in the shire counties, why should they not work well in the metropolitan areas, or whatever they may be called in the future? A wide range of trade, industry and consumer organisations, not to mention the Institute of Trading Standards Administration, representing 1,500 trading 548 standards officers throughout the United Kingdom, strongly support the concept of a shared joint authority. Many of your Lordships will, I am sure, have read the CBI's parliamentary brief. I hope you will allow me to give those who have not read it the benefit of it. This is what the CBI said last month:While supporting the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties, the CBI considers that the arrangements made in the Local Government Act must be such that co-operation among the districts will be real and effective in practice. The CBI, in common with the great majority of other industry and consumer organisations, is not confident that the present wording is specific enough to ensure this".In addition to the CBI, the Consumers' Association also supports the concept of the shared authorities; so does the National Consumer Council. These are the views the National Consumer Council has given to Ministers:The National Consumer Council believes that it would be a mistake for trading standards services to be administered at a district level. This is a view we share with many organisations representing business and consumers. Our reasons are these:(i) The administration of weights and measures and trading standards law is complex and technical. It is wasteful of resources for all the expertise necessary to be duplicated in district councils when it can be concentrated".I suppose it means "multiplied".(ii) It is vitally important that trading standards law is administered in a consistent way. Breaking up the trading standards administration at district level is bound to increase the problems of consistency".That is in the application of the law.
The council goes on:We do not believe that the proposal for joint committees which the Government have made will solve this problem satisfactorily. District councils of different political complexions may well have very different priorities for the trading standards service. The Government's proposals do not provide a framework for anything more than meetings for district councils to agree to disagree".It continues:We remain convinced that industry, consumers, ratepayers and taxpayers will get the best value for money from the trading standards service if, like the Fire Service, it is organised at a joint board level".The same view is taken by the British Standards Institution, on which we rely very much indeed for our pre-eminence in trade, and by the retail consortium.
I beg the Government to explain clearly why they are at present disposed to disregard the views of these highly experienced and highly respectable organisations and to persist in giving the responsibility for enforcement of trading standards to the boroughs and districts, whether the districts are the size of Birmingham or the size of Bury. Is it in the hope of saving money? Savings are important, but savings at the expense of consistency and efficiency are a dangerous delusion; and, to say the least, the Government have not proved that their plans for the administration of trading standards will result in savings. To break up existing teams and disband centres of excellence, without first demonstrating that savings will infallibly result in increased efficiency at less cost, would surely be at variance with the Government's own economic policy.
To summarise, the Government's proposal in relation to trading standards services to give direct responsibility for the service to borough and district councils and to leave it to those authorities, in their words, "to co-operate voluntarily", has not worked in 549 London and there is no reason to suppose that it will work now in the metropolitan areas. A joint authority—trading standards, combined with the Fire Service—has worked in all 47 English and Welsh shire counties—39 English and eight Welsh; and there is no reason to suppose that it would not work in the metropolitan areas, too.
The experts in business and consumer organisations agree; and so does the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which has just submitted its most informative and very convincing report to your Lordships' House. So does the Institute of Trading Standards Administration. That is why at Committee stage I shall be moving an amendment to that effect. I hope very much that by that time further study will have convinced my noble friends on the Front Bench that enforcement at county level is the correct course—unless, of course, the noble Viscount who is to wind up our debate will tell us tonight that the Government have already decided that it is.
§ 11 p.m.
§ Viscount Ingleby
My Lords, I speak as an independent, as a Yorkshireman, and as a Londoner. I hope that what I have to say may find a response in all parts of the House. I believe in London, and I believe in Londoners. I am not a defender of the GLC, but London has had some form of directly elected government since 1888, and I should like to ask: why are the needs and the experience of a century being suddenly thrown overboard? Is London to be singled out from all the capitals of the western world in having no form of directly elected government? Is London in fact to become a second-class capital city? If this Bill passes in its present form, London will have less central power than Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds.
I believe in Londoners, too. I think that they are the salt of the earth. But are some 4 million of them to be deprived of a direct share in electing their own government for London? Is this not visiting the sins of a few upon the ordinary man in the street? This Government have—in my view very rightly—tried to extend the use of the ballot box in trade unions. Why then are they now proposing to take away this same ballot box from millions of Londoners? Is democracy to stop at this side of Westminster Bridge and not to start again till Lambeth Town Hall? Are the Government not perhaps in danger of putting the axe to the root of the tree on which their own authority is founded?
What then is the solution to this problem? The solution, I believe, is that put forward by the Conservative group on the GLC. They have argued their case most cogently in no fewer than three booklets entitled London Preserved, London after Abolition and How do we get out of this mess without appearing disloyal? They all recommend a much smaller London-wide body of some 30 elected members, which would exercise limited strategic powers, and would be based on the 10 London Euro-constituencies electing three members each. There is already a provision in the Bill for a residuary body, and to that body could be added such other strategic functions as Parliament may decide. Are the 550 Government not prepared to listen to those members of their own party who are closest to the problem?
I hope that the Government will come forward at Committee stage with amendments for a smaller, directly elected, London-wide body; but, if not, I hope and trust that this House will do its duty to maintain London as a first-class capital city, and to protect the right to vote of some 4 million Londoners.
§ 11.3 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I am a democratic Socialist. I do not divide those two terms. But if I was forced to a choice, I would put my belief in democracy first and that in socialism second, because I believe that it is the right of every person to participate in the ordering of his or her own society. I believe that this is a sense which is felt on all sides of this House. I do not believe that it is confined to this side. I believe that the Members on the other side of the House who consider themselves to be Democratic Conservatives would put their democracy before their conservatism, and the same could be said of those on the Cross-Benches and of those who are members of the Alliance.
Democracy has been built in this country by the people, by all the people, and throughout the history of that building local democracy and parliamentary democracy have gone hand in hand. In the last century the great 1832 Parliamentary Reform Bill was followed within three years by the Municipal Reform Act, which gave, though it was admittedly selective, urban self-government. The 1867 urban parliamentary vote and the 1884 agricultural parliamentary vote were quickly followed in 1888 by the Local Government Act, which set up elected county councils, and these were followed very quickly by elected urban and rural district councils. Hand in hand, local and parliamentary democracy have built our democratic institutions.
I should like to quote from my former mentor at the University of Cambridge, G. M. Trevelyan, who, in his social history, describing the conditions in which these events took place, had this to say:The legislators of 1835"—that is, those who had created the Municipal Reform Act—had shirked the problem of the Capital. Fifty years later," —that is, in the 1880s—a bewildering chaos of overlapping authorities still carried on the affairs of the five million inhabitants of the Capital in haphazard fashion. The Local Government Act of 1888 applied a remedy long overdue. It established the London County Council, which thenceforth governed London".The London County Council and the GLC, its successor, have governed London ever since, as have the great capitals of the rest of the world been governed by single, co-ordinated authorities, giving rise to the patriotism of which John Burns spoke, the patriotism of London.
My second quotation from Trevelyan is equally apposite:The towns, therefore, in the last decades of Victoria's reign were undergoing rapid improvement in sanitation, lighting, locomotion, public libraries and baths, and to some extent in housing. The example set in these matters by the Birmingham municipality under Joseph Chamberlain in the seventies, and by the London County 551 Council twenty years later, was widely followed elsewhere. And the central Government supported the efforts of the local authorities to better the life of the citizen".This Bill reverses that process of building a healthy and happy British democracy. It is based on a centralisation of power, a centralisation not even of parliamentary power but of executive power, a power which is being enforced by what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has termed "an elective dictatorship".
Nothing could show more clearly how this Bill has flouted the principles of parliamentary democracy than a glance at the times spent in the other place on the Committee stage of the Bill after the Government had introduced the guillotine. I will give just a handful of examples. On Clause 82, concerning local legislation, arrangements to succeed the Greater London Council General Powers Bill took five minutes. The Government scheme to continue research and information through boroughs took 10 minutes. Housing transfer orders, and the funding and guarantee to receiving boroughs under Clause 84, took 35 minutes. The transfer of property, etc., and the Secretary of State's power to transfer property, rights, etc., at will—for example, parks and recreation grounds—took 50 minutes. And, at the end, seven clauses—between Clauses 79 and 94—took just 40 minutes.
That is not the kind of democracy I recognise. I do not believe it is the kind of democracy this House recognises. From the speeches made this afternoon, only that speech made by the noble Lord the Minister, Lord Elton, recognised it as the kind of democracy which these Houses of Parliament were established to protect.
Democracy requires regional and local control according to the wishes of the people. I seriously suggest to the Government and to this House that, if the Government believe that they are acting according to the will of the people who will be affected by this Bill, then—as the noble Lord, Lord Evans, suggested at this beginning of this debate—the Government should hold referenda in the London area and in the six metropolitan counties, as was done when it was suggested that there might be stronger local government in Scotland and Wales. Let the people themselves decide how they want to participate in the government of their own affairs.
I believe that to follow such a course would be to continue the building of the democratic institutions which I have described which has taken place over the past one and a half centuries. I believe that this feeling is not a party feeling; Conservatives, Liberals and Labour have all contributed to the building of these democratic institutions. I mentioned Joseph Chamberlain and I hope that noble Lords opposite have not forgotten the contribution which Joseph Chamberlain made to local government, to municipal government and to the government of local communities by local communities for local communities.
I know that the noble Viscount who is to reply has an impossible task in answering all the questions which have been put to him. But I should like him to 552 address himself to one question which has been raised before, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Evans, at the beginning of this debate.
Is it not the logic of the case which the Government are putting forward in support of this Bill that not only the GLC and the six metropolitan counties should be abolished but that the shire counties also should be abolished? Is that not the logic of the Government's case?
If it is, then is the election to be held on 2nd May for the shire counties the last election for the inhabitants of those counties? We are entitled to a clear answer on this. Is it not the Government's logic, if they support this Bill, that the shire counties also should be abolished? If not, why not? If it is the case, will the Government admit that on 2nd May the inhabitants of the shire counties will have their last opportunity to elect their own representatives?
§ 11.14 p.m.
§ Lord Broadbridge
My Lords, this Local Government Bill is arguably both the most complex and controversial of this Session. The proposed abolition of the Greater London Council and the metropolitan counties has aroused enormous opposition among the public, professional and voluntary organisations, and Members of Parliament and councillors of all parties, many of them from the Government's own party. The Bill has been roundly and uniformly condemned by those people as undemocratic, unworkable and likely to lead to increased costs. As we have heard this afternoon from the Bishops' Bench in particular, there is widespread concern for the prospects of disadvantaged groups as a result of the Bill.
I believe that the Government's case is based on a political commitment and little else. Unlike previous reorganisations of local government, this one has not been founded on any reliable study of the options. The London Government Act 1963, which abolished the LCC and set up the GLC and ILEA in its place, was preceded by the Herbert Royal Commission of 1957—no less than six years before the Act. This Government are proposing to do away with the GLC in approximately a third of the time. The Local Government Act 1957, which established the metropolitan counties, was preceded by the Redcliffe-Maud Commission. Both of those commissions produced blueprints for reorganisation based on a clear set of principles which were then debated by the Cabinet, the press, the public and Parliament. But on this occasion there has been no objective blueprint for action, no definition of the need for change and, most significant of all, no debate in Parliament on the Government's White Paper proposals in Command 9063.
Unlike any previous reorganisation of local government, the Bill has not therefore been preceded by any form of public inquiry. The onus is therefore on the Government to justify their measure, and that they have significantly failed to do. The total failure to base the proposed reorganisation of London and metropolitan government on the merits of different alternative schemes has led to major political difficulties for the Government in drafting legislation, not least among their own party.
553 The proposals were undoubtedly put together in haste, based on political commitment and little else, as I said. Intellectual content is strikingly absent from what is in many other ways quite a clever Government. To produce legislation on this scale, to produce a Bill with 103 clauses which can give rise to at least 55 quangos, and to seek totally to reorganise the administration of one of the world's greatest capitals with a budget of 1 billion annually without academic investigation, Royal Commission, tribunal or Select Committee is worse than foolhardy; it is a monstrous impertinence.
In early 1983 the GLC was getting a bad press (and I emphasise "press") because between then, the manifesto commitment of mid-1983, and the end of last year, shock, horror, surprise—in two MORI polls and a Harris poll respectively hostility to abolition grew from 50 per cent. of Londoners in January 1984 to 66 per cent. in July 1984 and 74 per cent. in October 1984, absolutely simultaneously with the time at which the Government were inviting Londoners to concentrate their minds on abolition as an almost immediate reality rather than a notional future prospect. Extrapolating backwards, it is perhaps likely that a year earlier, in 1982–83, opinion against abolition was only 30 or 40 per cent., or less. No doubt a fat political pig was seen to be ready for sticking.
When the Member for Newham, South asked the Prime Minister whether she would state the date at which she became first publicly committed to the policy of abolition of the GLC, she replied, "on 18th May 1983" (as recorded in Hansardof 23rd October 1984, at column 539). The date that she gave was nine days after the announcement of the date of the General Election. It does not take a Sherlock Holmes to adduce short-term party political gain as the objective. One wonders what Ministers now really think of the idea as they lie in their baths or put on their socks in the morning.
Ministers have advanced three principal arguments in support of the Bill: the GLC and MCCs are an unnecessary tier of government; abolition will bring control of local government services closer to electors; and the abolitions will save money. At Report stage a fourth argument was introduced: that London, as a capital city, does not need a single authority since it does not have definite boundaries. This argument was not taken seriously in the other place.
To support their contention that the subjects for abolition are unnecessary tiers of government, they have said that, for example, the GLC does not have substantial functions, which is not true. Its functions include strategic planning (for example, the Greater London Development Plan), major highways, waste disposal, the fire service, emergency planning, job creation and training, arts grants, parks and recreation, grants to voluntary organisations, strategic housing, historic buildings, green belt and judicial services. Every inquiry, from the Herbert Commission in 1957 to the Marshall Inquiry in 1978, as we have already heard, has concluded that a strategic authority is essential: indeed, the latter specifically rejected the notion of abolition of the GLC, and considered that it should have more functions.
In the face of a great clamour from members of all parties in another place, who produced function after 554 function which could not adequately be performed by the boroughs alone, the Government stood on their heads at Report stage and said that, far from devolving all functions to the boroughs, strategic issues affecting London and the south-east were too large to be left to even the GLC. Enter central Government control.
The Bill is supposed to transfer functions to the borough and district councils. Not, my Lords, for 66.8 per cent. of the equivalent current total GLC budget will be passed to at least 55 quangos, non-elected bodies or to central Government. As we have already heard, The Times editorial of 3rd December last called the Bill,a recipe for private government and the abuse of powerMinisters may intervene directly in the running of services—that is to say, they could designate a major road as a trunk road without an inquiry, as is presently required—and they are given sweeping and quite breathtaking powers to reorganise services by merely making an order (for example, to abolish the ILEA). The leading accountants and management consultants, Coopers and Lybrand, found that the abolition of the six metropolitan counties would be likely to lead to increased costs of up to £69 million per annum, with the ULC finding a further cost of £32 million in London. Assuming the accountants at least to be an independent body, the Government have never answered these findings.
The manifesto statement for abolition, upon which the supposed electorial mandate relies, never said that there would be no provision in the Bill for any directly elected successor authority to the GLC. In a struggle for reason at the eleventh hour, interesting options have been put forward, such as a grand committee of London MPs—after all, they are elected—or a borough-nominated talking shop. All have been ignored, and it is presumably in this context that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has tabled her amendment for which I shall vote.
The Government have been unable to point to support from any major professional organisation. Over 2,000 organisations responded to the White Paper, Streamlining the Cities. The Government have consistently refused to publish the responses, although they have not denied that the overwhelming majority were against abolition. Of a sample of 780 obtained by the GLC, 10 were in favour, or 1.3 per cent., and 96.1 per cent. were against. Those who could not be classified accounted for the difference. These included both the temporal and spiritual, from the CBI and London Chamber of Commerce and industry to the Bishops of London and Southwark and the Archbishops of Westminster and Southwark. We earlier listened to the Bishop of Southwark.
I should like briefly to mention two or three effects which the Bill will have on transport and roads. As I have already mentioned, the Bill will remove the right of Londoners to object to a proposal to make a road a trunk road, the Government thus avoiding having to face a public inquiry at which they can be questioned about the reasons for their actions. The Government also take power to designate roads in London which they have handed over to a borough. The borough may not then carry out any measure on that road or any neighbouring road which will affect the flow of 555 traffic without Government permission. The present manual of traffic management goes out and is replaced with the Government's own guidelines—very democratic, my Lords.
Finally, there is a sinister move. The Public Bodies (Admissions to Meetings) Act 1960, orders all local authorities and their committees, sub-committees, etc., to meet in public. This is a vital right and is equally important to the press and to the public. It is the reason why reports are freely available. Abolition of the GLC means that none of the various and numerous bodies set up in its place will be a local authority within the meaning of the Bill. They can therefore meet in secret. The ILEA is an exception because it will be elected while it lasts. This exclusion from the necessity of public meeting is very important. It is at the heart of the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, which is a cry for democracy. My Lords, is it too late for a referendum? We used to think that they were only for banana republics and foreigners, like pictorial postage stamps which now rain on us in torrents. We had one for the Welsh and Scottish semi-devolutions. We had one for the Common Market. Is not dear old London worth one?
§ 11.26 p.m.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I am not going to make a speech. I have put my notes away. I am feeling tired and I should like to give my noble Leader, who is so much more adept, more time. However, before sitting down, I should like to refer to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby—has he disappeared?—who waxed eloquent, although perhaps I flatter him, on democracy in local government. The noble Lord was correct about certain things but I should like to point out that we have a saying that has now rather gone by the board: "No taxation without representation". Someone says it is American, but it applies to Britain, too. It has to be remembered that 50 per cent. of the electorate, certainly in the conurbations—the metropolitan councils and the GLC—do not pay any rates and that two-thirds probably do not pay the full rates. There you have representation without taxation. Unfortunately, however, the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has left—
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I cannot see him. He usually wears a red tie. Oh yes, now I see him! I should also like to say a word—although she is no longer present—about the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, who concluded her speech with what I thought was rather extravagant language. She described what the Government were doing as unconstitutional and said that their action—I cannot recall her exact words—would make London the most inferior of all the European capitals. She also said that the Bill was undemocratic.
The GLC has only been going for the comparatively short period of 20 years. Before that, London was the absolutely top city in Europe. The noble Baroness is, I believe, quite wrong there. She is also wrong in describing the Government's proposals as unconstitutional. Some of the metropolitan councils and the 556 GLC, I would say, are almost independent states. They are sovereign states, certainly the hard Left ones. And something will have to be done about that in the future.
I intend to sit down shortly but I do not understand how Mr. Ken Livingstone was able to spend what my noble friend the Minister said was £10 million but, I thought, was £12 million on advertising himself and the GLC as the best people to remain in power. You cannot do that at general elections. Is that not verging on corruption? I should say that it was. It is very hard on the ratepayers if they have to pay. I must keep to my word. I said that I would not make a speech, and I shall now sit down.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, having read the Bill that is before us, I had a dream the other night. I dreamed that we considered the Bill this afternoon and this evening and, having considered it, we duly threw it out—we refused it a Second Reading and we threw it back at the other Chamber. Then we did something ourselves—we brought forward our own Bill, a very simple Bill. It said that on 2nd May 1985 there shall be GLC and metropolitan county elections as well as shire county elections in this country. It is interesting to reflect that this House has the constitutional authority to do such things, but in fact we all know that it would not do them. That may be one of the reasons so many of us want to see this place abolished.
I remember a whispering campaign, a few years ago. The effect of it went something like this: that if the British people elected a Labour Government dedicated to abolishing the House of Lords, and because the House of Lords was the only thing that stopped a Labour Government abolishing elections and staying in power for ever and ever, we should not elect a Labour Government. Nothing could be further from the truth, except maybe the claims from the Government about this Bill before us tonight improving local government.
Tonight much has already been said by our colleagues here, and I have discarded quite a lot of my speech because I do not believe that we should have a great deal of repetition. However, I wish to place myself on record as supporting those of my colleagues who wish to see the retention of the GLC. Having said that, I should like to say a few words about the situation that we face in Manchester, which has, very happily, been my home for the last 13 years.
The Greater Manchester Council came into existence 10 short years ago. As an aside, if this Bill had been brought before Parliament two years after the introduction of the GMC and the other metropolitan counties, I am sure that there would be virtually no discussion on it. We should all have accepted it and said, "Yes, we shall have to do away with these bodies". We were very sceptical about the setting up of the Greater Manchester Council and I am sure that a number of colleagues were very sceptical about the setting up of the metropolitan counties in other areas.
We felt that opportunities had been missed in not taking under local democratic control a number of public services, such as gas, water, electricity and the 557 health service, to name but a few. We were also very concerned about what appeared to be the gerrymandering of the boundaries which seemed to suggest that they were geared to ensuring perpetual Conservative political control. However, you cannot keep a good party down and we are now in a situation where all the metropolitan county councils are controlled by the Labour representatives.
It is true that we had problems in the early days and this particular example is, I think, very apposite to the situation which the present Government are now in with their feelings and attitudes towards the GLC of Ken Livingstone. We were faced with a situation in Greater Manchester where the controlling Tory group at that time were spending ratepayers' money—our money as the citizens of Greater Manchester—in support of private education. They were not even an education authority. Yes, there were calls from the local people to ask the Government, "Please stop them doing this", and for reasons best known to themselves the Labour Government of the time did nothing. It was left to the local people through the ballot box to change the control of the Greater Manchester Council, and defeat through the ballot box the policies which were so objectionable to the people of Manchester. If the policies that the present Labour group on the GLC espouse are so objectionable to the people of London, let the people of London decide to throw them out of office. Let it not be the Big Brother of the Conservative Government who makes that decision.
In Manchester, having got over some of the early teething troubles—it is probably true to say that every metropolitan county council had teething troubles—the people were faced with a new type of authority, new responsibilities in some respects, and wider areas to cover. They had to develop policies. Both the Labour Party and, dare I say it, the Conservative Party in the particular areas had to develop their policies to put before the electorate. Those policies which were developed and put before the electorate were decided on merit through the ballot box as to who took control and what policies were followed through.
In Manchester we have made considerable progress. Here I should like to make the point that in every major conurbation the problems, the resources, the circumstances, the geographical areas, the types of industries involved are all different. If I can use the analogy from the grocer's shop—the greengrocer, mind you—we need Cox's orange pippins, Bramley seedlings, Granny Smith's, James Grieves and a whole host of others. What we do not need is "The Crunch". We need a different range of policies. We do not need Government imposed policies.
For example, it is a little known fact that the contents of the average dustbin which, when aggregated together, make thousands of tonnes of refuse, are different in each of the urban conurbations. There is far more plastic and paper in the dustbins of Greater London than there is in the dustbins of Manchester. It is probably a sign of the affluence of the South-East. The resources available to the various conurbations are also different. Some have more holes in the ground than others. Some have advanced incineration plant; some have pulverisers. Each authority has different resources. In Manchester we 558 have been particularly enterprising. Together with our local universities we are developing the process which turns our waste into oil. It is a good quality light crude, I am advised. We are already beyond the experimental stage and into pilot development. All this is without even the encouragement, far less the assistance, of central Government. Who knows, it may be that the Greater Manchester Council and its forethought may turn out to be the saviours of the British people when the North Sea oil reserves have been spent by a profligate central Government.
Another example of our achievements in Greater Manchester has been the development of magnificent river valley parks—parks that extend beyond and across different districts. They are endeavours that would have been impossible without the metropolitan county. With regard to the fire brigade, we are faced, as every other conurbation is faced, with new risks and with new developments that need to be tackled in the field of materials, in terms of new industries, to be fought by the fire brigade. We need more resources for the fire brigade and not the Tory policies which suggest that we need to spend less on the fire brigade.
Also in Greater Manchester, as was mentioned earlier—and I will not go into too many details—we have been tackling some of the problems of unemployment. I have been asked to wind up quickly and I say in my final remarks that the work of the Greater Manchester Council is not yet over. Please give it more time to get on with the job that is providing so many good things for the people of Manchester.
§ 11.41 p.m.
§ Lord Ellenborough
My Lords, the two noble Lords immediately before me on the list of speakers have not quite made the course, which is certainly a reminder to me to be brief, and at least I think I can be confident that I shall finish my speech today and not run on until tomorrow. It is a sobering thought, but I think it is true that if only successive Governments, and especially the present one, had not fought shy of reforming the rating system and tackling the roots of the problem in local government, we might not now be discussing this Bill into what will be the early hours of tomorrow morning. It is, of course a very time-consuming, controversial business and I fear that basically it fails to get to the heart of the problem.
The problems arising from the existence of the GLC and the metropolitan councils and the abuse of their powers by the controlling Left-wing groups are really the symptoms of the underlying fault in the existing system. The trouble is that so few people pay rates and quite a lot of them pay indirectly and are not aware that they do pay rates. Therefore, they do not feel the financial impact of the appalling waste, extravagance and behaviour of these councils. Until a more equitable system is devised, bringing a far greater number of people within the rating net, I am afraid the abuses of local government will continue.
In general, for my part—and I am sure ratepayers in London and in the metropolitan councils feel the same—I shall be heartily glad to get rid of these councils in their present form. Certainly, the Federation of London Ratepayers, which is affiliated to the National Union of Ratepayers, of which I have 559 been president for some years, wishes to be freed from the kind of GLC and the odious régime at County Hall from which ratepayers have suffered so greatly in recent years. Quite apart from all else, ratepayers are fed up and seething at the spectacle of countless millions of pounds of their money being spent on blatant propaganda and highly suspect and near lunatic causes. Nevertheless, I must say there are some aspects of the Bill as it now stands before your Lordships' House which cause worry and concern to me and, I know, to many ratepayers. The time is very short and I am speaking mainly about London. The breaking up of the basic administrative structure which backs up the various key functions which must still be performed for London as a whole is a matter of great concern. As many others have said today, I fear there could be much confusion and dislocation by the proposed setting up of various kinds of authorities, joint boards and committees whose members will be nominated by the London borough councils which will already have a very heavy municipal work-load. The other members, I understand, will be nominated by the Secretary of State, and some important powers and functions will go to the Secretary of State, who will be empowered to make, directly or indirectly, decisions affecting the lives and interests of Londoners.
I am not quite sure how much parliamentary scrutiny there may be, but ratepayers will greatly object to having no say, or very little say, if that be the case, in the decisions affecting the expenditure of millions of pounds towards which they will have to pay under the precepts imposed and levied by these bodies and authorities on the London borough councils. In that respect there would be a lack of local accountability which I cannot believe the Government would wish to see happen.
Another worry concerning ratepayers is the question of costs and savings. I shall not quote any figures because time is very short and there seems to be much doubt and confusion and conflicting claims from different firms of auditors. But every reorganisation of local government always costs more than people think. It has always cost a lot in the past. By its very nature any change from one system to another must result in additional expenditure, at least during the transitional period. Past experiences are not reassuring and I fear that it will prove very costly to create so many separate and diverse non-elected bodies of one sort or another. It is said that much of this will all be temporary, but one wonders how temporary it will prove to be in the event.
In the last analysis the results of this Bill will be judged by the ratepayer. I find it hard to believe that the London boroughs, which will be taking on new functions and responsibilities and, in addition, meeting demands for precepts from non-elected authorities and the London residuary bodies, will find it possible to avoid an adverse impact on rates. I hope I am wrong.
I am all for the abolition of the GLC and an end to County Hall with all its trappings. However, I do not think it is inconsistent to say that I am one of those who think it might be in the best interests of Londoners to have one elected slim London-wide body with strictly limited and clearly-defined powers 560 and functions, but in no way a GLC risen phoenix-like from the ashes. Yes, it would be a voice for London, as some noble Lords have advocated, but I would suggest with great respect to the Government that they ought not to under-estimate the emotional or even sentimental side of all this. It has been touched on by other speakers, but is London really to be alone among the largest, the greatest and the oldest capital cities in the Western world not to have any kind of central authority to represent it? This may not much matter to people who live in outer London, in, for instance, Bromley or Chislehurst, which consider themselves part of Kent, or Ilford, which considers itself much more part of Essex.
But I think that about three-quarters of the people in the so-called London area look upon themselves as Londoners. Who would represent London on important state and ceremonial occasions? It could hardly be the Lord Mayor, whose jurisdiction is confined only to the City. The suggestion has been that it might be the Lord Lieutenant, and I have not the slightest doubt that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, would fulfil that role admirably, but I think it is an appointment of the Crown.
Far more important would be the function of overall planning for London to co-ordinate the smooth running and diverse powers and services designated as at present under the Bill to the Secretary of State and the non-elected bodies.
The Bill will receive its Second Reading tonight and will have my support. I should have thought that after Second Reading the Government would be able to act from a position of some strength. I cannot see how in any way there would be any loss of face at this stage in setting up some kind of London-wide body, as envisaged by so many of the Conservative group on the GLC and others in the Conservative Party and outside.
Finally, there is no logic in having the education authority for part of London directly elected—incidentally, it will be an authority that will always be controlled by the Left wing—and yet having no directly-elected authority for the whole of London to look after those services which cannot be transferred to the 33 boroughs. Surely, we cannot afford to get it wrong again. The last thing we want is a situation in which the next Parliament, in which I am confident there will be a Conservative Administration, has to waste further time on legislation to set up some kind of London-wide body because of problems of muddle and confusion in the meantime. Let us get it right now.
§ 11.50 p.m.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, when I sought to put down my name for this debate, I said that I should like to speak late. I little realised how late it was going to be. And I must say that I have never known a Second Reading debate to go as long as this one or the Government, at various times, to show such bad temper. I exclude, I may say, the Leader of the House, who has been very faithful; he has been here the whole time. But the Captain of the Gentlemen at Arms was willing noble Lords and Baronesses on his side of the House—resisted, I may say, by both the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, and the noble Baroness, Lady 561 Hornsby-Smith. So, in the end, he stopped glaring at them. But it is a measure of the unsatisfactory nature of a debate when the Government spokesman literally refuses to take an interruption or answer a question.
My Lords, I would say to the noble Lord the Leader of the House that he does depend, as well he knows, on the co-operation of all sections of this House. I hope that this type of situation will not be repeated. I am sorry to sound rather pompous about it, but this is a unique occasion. I have never known a Second Reading debate to go on as late as this.
The second conclusion I would draw from this debate is that the extraordinary amount of good advice that has been given to the Government from all sides suggests that they have brought forward a very unsatisfactory Bill. Indeed, the great majority of the Cross-Benchers have been very critical, and I would urge noble Lords who may not have heard the debate first of all to read before we go on to the Committee stage the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, and another excellent speech by the noble Lord, Lord Broadbridge. I think that that is his name. I do not know him very well. And, indeed, they should read the speeches of the two right reverend Prelates. No doubt they will support the Government in this un-Conservative measure—for it is not a Conservative measure; it breaks tradition; it is radical and it is destructive. But no doubt party loyalty will take them not into my noble friend's Lobby but into the Government's Lobby tonight.
However, it is quite clear that there are the most severe criticisms of the Bill, not least because of the absence of any preliminary inquiry and the absence of any initial work. I should like to give examples of this by referring to the Select Committee on Science and Technology, of which we have already heard quite a bit and especially from the chairman, the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook. Such was the chairman's impartiality, and quite rightly, that he did not fully reflect the degree of criticism of the present proposals that came from that all-party committee. I should like in a few remarks—I do not think that I have been speaking for 12 minutes yet. I can start again! A little frivolity at this time of night does help—perhaps to draw attention to some of the statements and criticisms in the Select Committee's report. I therefore ask noble Lords to read it. It is not a long report. It is very thorough.
Among the statements are, first of all, from the Institute of Environmental Health Officers:Greater London's Scientific Services Branch is a centre of excellence which has proved its worth both nationally and internationally. It would be tragic if it were to be lost".Then the Royal Society of Chemistry states:Replacement of existing laboratories with district-based laboratories would lead to duplication … This would lead either to increased costs or to a reduced service to the public or both".The Association of Metropolitan District Engineers—and I stress "District Engineers"—say that it would be ludicrous to suggest that "Balkanisation" of county laboratory services, with every district setting up its own organisation, competing for scarce, skilled manpower and needing expensive equipment, would be economic. The British Standards Institution say: 562We are fearful lest fragmentation of the service could in fact lead us to a position where the integrity of British Standards—and hence the competitiveness of British industry—will he undermined.Practically every professional body from which we sought advice, and indeed a number of district local authorities, including Conservative ones, were highly critical of the proposals for the scientific services. The Government have clearly not given any thought to the matter. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, an implication—not a very happy thought—that he was grateful and he saw how the wishes of the Committee could be met. But what did the Committee really say? They said:How little contingency planning has gone on in any of the areas due to be affected by reorganisation to prepare for the transfer of functions. Yet the transfer is intended to take place in less than 12 months … In the circumstances of the metropolitan counties, the Committee favour the GLC model of a centralised, integrated scientific service, with multi-purpose laboratories equipped to undertake chemical and physical analysis and work required by the fire, police and waste disposal authorities".They also refer to engineering laboratory work; and they continue:In conclusion, the Committee repeat their conviction that the administration of local government in Greater London and the metropolitan counties depends for its effectiveness on preserving the integrity of many of the specialist services built up by the GLC and the county councils … The existing services should be improved, not by being dismembered, but by being encouraged to progress. Centres of excellence are slow to develop but easy to destroy.There is a real danger in this Bill, unless we adopt the sort of compromise to which the noble Lord, Lord Ellenborough, referred, that there could be some follow-on authority which would carry these responsibilities. I think it should be a democratic authority, but such are the fears of the Government of the present pretty irritating leadership of some of these authorities that they dare not even face the possibility of a vote.
What the Government are now trying to do is something which runs contrary to all previous experience, and it is obvious that certain developments of value in the conservation area will not take place. There is, for instance, a proposal—and noble Lords may be bored with the word "ecology" but it is important—and there is now a movement in the conservation and natural history field in London for action to be taken on a Greater London basis.
The noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, referred to his anxiety about what would happen to Hampstead Heath, divided between three authorities. There are voluntary bodies like the World Wildlife Fund, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, the London Wildlife Trust and others, backed by the Nature Conservancy Council and the GLC; and the GLC has made accommodation available. This is important in London. If any noble Lord has read the articles in Nature and in New Scientist, he will appreciate this. Who is going to undertake that role in the future? Will the Government hand it over to the Nature Conservancy Council but without giving them the extra cash?
I have now no idea how long I have been speaking, but I think I have another five minutes, and I speak in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who has already stood in sackcloth and ashes and apologised for his part, as a member of a previous Cabinet, in setting up the GLC. I should like to quote. 563In a most cogent chapter of its Report, Chapter 13, the Royal Commission"—that is, the Herbert Commission—considers and rejects two alternatives. First, that the central Government should fill the gap in the local administrative structure. The Commission says that this would be the death knell of responsible local self-government in Greater London.We know that there is to be increased involvement of central Government and no noble Lord on the Government Front Bench can deny this, in view of the statements which have been made.The Commission is plainly right"—in rejecting it.The second solution examined was the setting up of ad hoc authorities for various purposes. The Commission points out that many of London's problems are interlocked and need to be considered and dealt with as a whole.A third solution … is that all that is needed in the field of planning, traffic and overspill housing is the creation of some sort of joint board … The Government agree with the Royal Commission in rejecting this. No solution can be found by submitting these great tasks to delegates of local authorities responsible for part only of the area and its problems".—[Official Report, Commons, 10/12/82; col. 53]Yet Greater London is, in a very real sense, a single city.—[Col. 52]That was Sir Keith Joseph, who is a member of the present Government.
I hope that before we come on to the further stages of this Bill there will be some really careful thought. I am sure that the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will convey the feeling of many noble Lords in this House, in all parties, that the Government have embarked on a dangerous and un-Conservative course, and I hope that, even if we cannot carry the amendment—and I should like to support everything that my noble friend said in opening the debate from this side—a number of noble Lords faced by the arguments will abstain if they cannot vote for it, and that we shall be able to make satisfactory changes to this Bill in the later stages.
§ 12.1 a.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, ever since I arrived in your Lordships' House I have been wondering whether the representatives of the official Opposition were still capable of surprising me. This evening they have done it again. I find it remarkable and surprising, in view of all the circumstances, that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, should appear to feel that there has been an inadequate willingness on this side of the House to co-operate in improving this Bill. After all, this Bill has been foreshadowed ever since the General Election. It was immediately met not merely by the normal interplay of party debate, as is justifiable; by refusing the co-operation of those officers of local bodies whose co-operation would be needed for a smooth transition—every device has been thought of; propaganda has already been referred to enough—efforts were set on foot to make this Bill impossible.
In the light of that, it seems curious now that we should be in a position in which we as a non-elected House are asked to use our influence, or indeed our authority, to see that a Bill which has come from another place is amended out of all recognition, by 564 representatives of a party which is officially committed to the abolition of this House, as the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, has reminded us, and that we should have put before us a series of propositions which are wildly remote from the truth. These, in particular, refer to the problems of London.
The arguments on the other side about this Bill are, of course, contradictory. In the case of the metropolitan counties, it is personalities that are being given back to historic units of government, to our great cities, to Manchester, to Birmingham, to Liverpool—
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
My Lords, perhaps I may say, on the point that the noble Lord has just made, that, if I read the Bill correctly, there are no powers being given back to those local authorities. They are going to the statutory bodies that are being set up. They are not going back to the local authorities.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, that I think is a matter of interpretation. My impression is that many of the people who lead these cities are pleased at the thought that they will recover their identity as first-tier organs of local government.
In the case of London, we are asked to do the reverse. We are told that what is important is that London should have as a collective, as an agglomerate, a sort of independent voice. Points that arise can be argued in terms of the particular problems of London but also by means of international analogies which are totally false. It is untrue that there is any major capital city which is wholly run by a unitary elected body with no intervention of central government in any important feature, for the very simple reason that all these great cities have two problems with which any form of government introduced for them must deal.
One is that they are enormously large and that their boundaries in terms of those who work in them are different from the boundaries of those who live in them, and so forth. There is a irremediable difference and problem there to which all solutions are bound to be imperfect. Secondly, there is the fact that as capital cities have both access to the country's government and great influence on the latter, it is not possible to treat them as it is possible to treat other cities. Those who look at any of the capitals which have been mentioned or referred to will find that either they are very imperfectly governed or that they are governed with a very high degree, a necessary and inevitable degree, of central control. The question is, have we got it right?
It seems to me to be rather more important to decide whether we have got it right in this Bill than to go on about these abstract notions of "a voice for London" or a personality for London which can somehow be constructed by some successor body, as is proposed in the amendment of the noble Baroness. We have of course at the moment a voice for London. We have Mr. Livingstone, but I understand that he is canoodling with Castro in the Caribbean and not available in London to make his voice heard. But is it not much more important than the thought of a voice 565 for London to consider whether we have actually got this Bill right?
I do not defend the Bill as perfect in every respect. There is at least one prospective amendment which I shall hope to move, and there may well be one or two others which I should support, but they deal precisely with the kind of detail which, if the Opposition had accepted the principle of the Bill from the beginning, could by now have been hammered out in consultations with the affected bodies in a way which now will have to be done—I am afraid that we are going to have a great many late nights while we do it—in this House itself.
I therefore ask noble Lords to reject the amendment, which seems to me to be simply a form of denying the principle of the Bill, and to concentrate rather on our work to come which is to make a good Bill much better.
§ 12.9 a.m.
My Lords, it seems to me to be the general feeling among noble Lords who are speaking in the tail of the debate that the tail should wag briefly but effectively. I shall try to do just that. I rise to support the amendment with all the strength that I can muster. I do so in the context of the ethnic minorities and also the refugees, an area which has been covered in this debate only very briefly. I hope to table an amendment in this sense at Committee stage and so I shall now confine myself to four very brief points.
The first point is that the loss of the race equality and anti-racist work now being pursued by the GLC, and to a lesser extent by the metropolitan councils, will have a severe detrimental impact on ethnic minority communities and is likely to give rise to increased hardship and deprivation. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which has been mentioned by many of your Lordships, has stated:The abolition of the GLC will probably affect ethnic minorities more than any other group in London".Strong words indeed from a national organisation of the highest repute.
My second point concerns the implementation of Section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976. This requires local authorities,to make appropriate arrangements … to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination; and to promote equality of opportunity, and good relations, between persons of different racial groups".The problem here is that although the GLC has taken its responsibilities very seriously in this sphere, less than half the boroughs have made any appropriate arrangements, and barely one third of these boroughs show any real concern for the ethnic minorities. Is not this one of the strongest arguments one can adduce against the view that the boroughs can take over the work of the GLC?
My third point is that the proposals in Clause 47 of the Bill—which, again, have been mentioned by many of your Lordships—are totally inadequate for grant aiding ethnic minority and anti-racist projects. As your Lordships will know, before any London-wide project can be grant aided, it must receive the support of two-thirds of the boroughs. And since so few of these boroughs seem to have any real concern, what 566 hope is there of any worthwhile projects seeing daylight?
My fourth point is that one of the main roles of the GLC in the ethnic minorities sphere has been to achieve co-ordination. Through the Ethnic Minorities Unit the GLC has set up an information centre which has done a great deal of useful work in the field of advice on ethnic origin record keeping, training, etc. The unit has produced all sorts of reports on ethnic minority children, anti-racist legislation, and so on. All this splendid body of expertise in so many areas, which has been built up with such care by so many people over such a long time, will disappear if this Bill goes through.
I have spoken mainly about the GLC. Much of what I have said applies with a little mutatis mutandis to the metropolitan counties. They are also very concerned about the implications of this Bill, and many of them are working rather on the same lines as the GLC. Perhaps I should mention very briefly the equal opportunities policy of the West Midlands County Council.
I hope very much that your Lordships will support this amendment. I hope that, stemming from this amendment, it will be possible to introduce some sort of overall body which can take account of the needs of the ethnic minorities and of the refugees, both in terms of funding and in the provision of co-ordinating authority and advice.
§ 12.14 a.m.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, the merits have been fully canvassed, but perhaps I may detain your Lordships for a brief moment to take one short point. That point is that the constitutional implications may well transcend the merits of this Bill or even of this reasoned amendment. This Bill is concerned with the question of principle—the reordering of the structure of local government. The reasoned amendment, as moved, was a root and branch attack on that principle. The Bill was said to be neither acceptable, comprehensible, adequate nor workable and in need of radical reform. Notwithstanding what is understood to be precedent of relatively recent origin, I beg leave, with the greatest respect, to question whether it is either wise or within the spirit of the unwritten constitution that on a Second Reading in your Lordships' House we should divide on what is, in effect, a Motion of no confidence on a Bill which reflects a manifesto commitment and which was passed in another place.
I say with respect and with deference to those who have greater experience than myself in these matters that such a practice could well imperil and indeed confound working relationships with another place, with the trappings of confrontation. It pre-empts the Committee stage, on primary legislation it reduces any revisory role and it beggars the delaying power. The gap between putting down markers for amendments at Committee stage, however radical they may be, and dividing the House in such circumstances for such a purpose is as wide as a chasm. The reasoned amendment does not negative a Second Reading. It only mitigates but does not remove the cause for anxiety. This amendment has been drafted with consumate skill to catch every raindrop in the cloud of 567 discontent and to tempt the disenchanted to vote down the Government.
Surely the facility to carry such a vote imposes some order of its own self-discipline. Even noble Lords who are opposed to this Bill but who revere the service which your Lordships' House renders to the body politic may well feel that this is a temptation which ought to be resisted. How else may we secure survival than by the measure of restraint with which we are seen to conduct our affairs? Any institution which overreaches itself and which is seen to overreach itself slights its own independence, invites imposed reform and sows the seeds perhaps of its own extinction.
The hope is—and again I stress that I only say this with deference to those who have far greater experience than I—that the composite wisdom of your Lordships' House shall rally in the Lobby tonight to support the tradition of conventional restraint and reject this reasoned amendment.
§ 12.18 a.m.
§ Lord Irving of Dartford
My Lords, I should like in the limited time available to explain to your Lordships why the measure that we have before us is so unacceptable to so many people of every kind in every party. It has nothing to do with whether we approve of what Mr. Livingstone and his colleagues have done in London, which many of us do not, but whether the ordinary processes of consultation and determination have been carried out in respect of these major constitutional changes, whether they will enhance or damage the democratic processes, whether they will enlarge or diminish local government involvement in decision-making in any area, and whether the changes will bring about effective administration in our metropolitan areas. The Government have justified their action on two grounds: first of all, that they are fulfilling a manifesto commitment; and, secondly, that they are merely removing an unnecessary tier of local government and bringing the functions nearer to the people. I should like briefly to examine the validity of both these proposals. The idea that a manifesto commitment is sacrosanct was blown skyhigh by no less than the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor when he said:Doctrines of mandate and manifesto are wholly unconstitutional".As to the idea that the Government are merely getting rid of an unnecessary tier of local government, it is difficult to judge whether this is an unnecessary tier as, unlike all previous reorganisations of local government, there has been no independent and impartial inquiry, and the Government's reasons for not having an inquiry are, we think, suspect because in 1983 Mr. Norman Tebbit said:The GLC is typical of this new divisive form of Socialism … so we shall abolish it.It is no coincidence that all the authorities to be abolished have Labour majorities. It was of course Conservative Members in another place who asked what would be said by the Conservative Party if a Labour Government had abolished Conservative-controlled authorities in this way. Mr. Heath's response was even harsher.
568 As to preparation for the measure, in March 1984 the Minister of State for the Home Office, in answer to a Parliamentary Question referring to the possibility of a change in the structure of local government, said his right honourable friend, at that time, Mr. Heseltine,does not at present plan to take any steps to change the existing system".Yet a few weeks later—hey presto!—the manifesto published in June 1983 contained this specific pledge to abolish all the metropolitan counties, including the GLC, which was introduced, as Mr. Edward Heath has told us, nine days after the general election was called and against the wishes of the policy committee, a move which came as a shock to the Tory members of the GLC with whom no consultation had taken place.
The expedient and shallow nature of the proposals was summed up in a leader in The Times on 24th November which said:The abolition Bill can be examined in vain for any expression of a general philosophy of the role of government in society … it is a document lacking coherent principles for local administration.So this major constitutional change, depriving millions of people of votes that they have exercised for at least 20 years, and putting at risk the jobs of several thousands of people, is, according to Mr. Tebbit, to secure a political advantage. I believe that it was thought at that time that the Government could benefit from the then considerable unpopularity of Mr. Ken Livingstone and cover the embarrassment of a Government, in having put in two successive manifestoes of two successive Governments the pledge to get rid of rates. So it was replaced with a ringing commitment to get rid of a major part of our local authority system.
It is extraordinary that the Government find it difficult to see the incongruity of their attachment to, or detachment from, manifesto commitments on different occasions. But having committed themselves to this measure, they have ploughed on regardless, using the massive majority in another place to steamroller these changes through, despite clear indications that a majority of people in these areas do not wish to have these changes.
The second objection of most of those opposed to the Bill is that there has been no effective consultation. Two thousand organisations responded to the White Paper Streamlining Our Cities, and though the Government have never published these responses they cannot point to a single professional body which supports the proposals. Many, including me, have said for a long time that there is a case for looking at the structure of local government, particularly in London, and would have been happy to join in an inquiry properly conducted, but it has been presented on a take it or leave it basis.
What has been proposed could not be more controversial. To put it in perspective one only has to think of the possibility of President Reagan seeking to abolish the City of New York and the Mayor, or President Mitterrand seeking to get rid of the City Council in Paris.
It is difficult to see in any of these happenings even a glimpse of the political genius for which this country is supposed to be renowned. The tragedy is that within a decade the whole matter will have to be reopened. It 569 is not surprising that a scheme with such a genesis has few friends.
One of the attractions held out at the outset by Mr. Patrick Jenkin was that it would save £150 million in a single year. This figure has since been withdrawn. Mr. Kenneth Baker revised the figures. However, if savings were to be made, it would be contrary to the experience of all previous local government reorganisations.
If, as is expected, many GLC staff, planners, architects, secretaries, finance officers and personnel managers are to be declared redundant—and it is estimated that the figure could be as high as 7,000—there will be very large redundancy payments to he met. However, in addition, there could be extra costs from a loss in the economy of scale. The £2 billion GLC debt has been financed on very favourable terms because of County Hall's financial strength. Borough councils, not so strong, will in future be required to pay more for further borrowing. It has been estimated that this alone will cost an additional £15 million and another £5 million of extra costs could arise from the need to reorganise the central GLC computer network should it be broken up.
The highly respected City firm of Coopers and Lybrand concluded that any savings would be more than offset by the extra costs incurred in running the services that would have to be allocated to the lower tier, borough and district councils. They found that a reversion to the old system of councils getting together to co-ordinate work on major roads that cross boundaries by using the voluntary joint committee approach would almost certainly slow up decision making and add further to costs through the loss of economies of scale.
Refuse disposal costs £66 million in London. Leaving the matter to be sorted out by the councils themselves will certainly be less efficient and more costly. The size of the task can be appreciated when one realises that rubbish from the capital is at present dumped in landfill sites spread over seven counties and demands the co-ordination of a huge road, rail and river barge operation. Disputes between individual boroughs, which are likely, could both be explosive and cause chaos. The Government obviously share this view and these anxieties, because they are providing that the Minister can step in if necessary to establish an alternative arrangement of his own.
Neither the Secretary of State, Mr Patrick Jenkin, nor the Minister of State has ever replied to the report produced by Coopers and Lybrand. There remains only the saving brought about by policy savings. Here, it has been discovered, on examination, that such savings would probably lead to larger traffic jams and longer dole queues, particularly in London. The Select Committee on Science and Technology, which reported this week, has shown that there could be additional cost and damage involved in the break-up of a number of scientific and technological units of high quality and the loss of well qualified staff probably to industry. If, my Lords, you look across the river, the whole of the top level of County Hall is occupied by highly qualified scientists and technologists. Those are the people who would not seek to stay if that unit was broken up.
570 Much has been said about the GLC's hugely expanded spending in grants to voluntary bodies. But it is clear that 95 per cent. of the GLC grants go to such worthwhile bodies as MENCAP, Age Concern and the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux, of which I happen to be vice chairman. Many noble Lords know that far from being extravagant they are highly respected, cost-effective organisations which the Government have wished to encourage. Noble Lords will know of the great anxiety of these organisations about their future under the Bill as many of them work across borough boundaries. When one sees the crude arrangements requiring two-thirds support among boroughs and, in the short term, over 50 per cent., before they can call for a payment hack from the boroughs in respect of money paid in grants, I am not at all surprised that the organisations feel so concerned about their future.
Because of the end of the GLC, which has raised most of its money from the City of London and the City of Westminster and spent it right across London, it will be the poorer boroughs which will suffer most. The Government have decided to abolish the top tier of local government but not the functions. These will be taken over by a hotch-potch of seven or more non-elected bodies, quangos and central government. They will not be elected. Most experienced people believe that they will be unworkable, resulting in a clutch of residual powers in the hands of the Secretary of State, This is therefore a centralising measure. The Times leader on 3rd December 1984 said that this was:a recipe for the abuse of power".All of this will take effect on 1st April 1986. Never before have local government changes taken effect under 18 months of the date of the Royal Assent.
The short-term transition costs will be high. Although the Government will be unable to avoid paying for some of these, the ratepayers will be saddled with the rest: a rate or precept for the London boroughs, a rate to the Metropolitan Police, a rate to the Inner London Education Authority, a rate to London Regional Transport, a rate to the Fire Board, and so on. It is a pretty daunting prospect. It is little wonder that the Government have renewed their efforts to find an alternative to rates in recent months.
If there ever was a case for this House to say, "Think again", it is this, and I hope that, in addition to supporting the amendment tonight, when the Bill comes to its Committee stage the House will give support to an amendment on the lines of the amendment moved in another place by Mr. Patrick Cormack, which urged that the GLC:shall be replaced by a directly elected body representing the area presently administered by the Greater London Council, such authority to be determined after an inquiry by a Select Committee of the House of Commons into the functions and powers of the Greater London Council".That was narrowly defeated in another place and would ensure the proper consideration of the vital matter of how our capital was to be governed as well as our metropolitan areas. I believe that this is a proposition that Members from all parties and none in this House could support with a good conscience.
§ 12.32 a.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Irving, will forgive me if I do not reply to him point by point, because it might make a very long speech indeed. I do not speak as fast as he does. I shall try to be brief. For some time I have been concerned at the periodical misuse of power and the lack of incentive for efficiency in all large bureaucracies. In this respect even the boroughs and districts of large urban areas are themselves large bureaucracies. By way of a quote, the experience of a young friend of mine who was working for the housing department of a large London borough some eight or nine years ago was an eye-opener in how sloppy and how over-staffed that single department was.
All the things that local authorities do and enjoy doing really do not get a proper look because there is no criterion for efficiency, and it is a very serious problem. I do not say that this Bill will solve that, but I think that we shall have continual trouble with local authority administration in this country until that is solved.
The next point which gives me great concern—and this is nearer to the Bill—is the very distressing and quite recent and growing trend of some local authorities to develop and to try to implement policies which are in conflict with central Government, instead of, as used to be the rule and the normal practice, implementing policies which are complementary to central Government. I think that this is distressing. It is new, and it is something that we must solve. Further, I would suggest that this conflict policy which is evolving is itself accentuated by the use of—in quotation marks—the large populations of, for example, the GLC and the MCCs as a justification for challenging Government in Parliament. That I think is very sad.
With regard to the Bill itself, I am concerned, as are others (and in many cases I go with them), at the possible effects of the Bill on voluntary organisations. I am fearful that any reductions in support might unreasonably be felt by well-proven charities having to share any reductions with large numbers of new and unproven charities. For example, I could quote the Feathers Youth Clubs which were founded some 50 years ago and receive 67 per cent. of their income from ILEA. I am not sure from what I see in the Bill whether this will be able to continue. I hope that it will.
Another point of concern, on which I shall not expand because it was so ably and fully spoken to by my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, is the question of the transfer of trading standards functions to the boroughs. I argued strongly against those functions being spread to the district level in Scotland some two years ago in legislation enacting recommendations by my noble friend Lord Stodart of Leaston. I shall repeat those arguments again when the matter arises.
However, all these matters of concern do not provide an argument for seeking to preserve the GLC and the metropolitan counties. On the contrary, those bodies by their existence clearly exacerbate the lack of efficiency in administration of their local areas and the development of conflict between themselves and central Government. The problems of voluntary organisations and the trading standards functions can 572 and should be dealt with in detail at later stages of the Bill.
Arguments like those made by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch—I do not see him in his place; perhaps it is not surprising—
§ Lord Mottistone
—tend to ignore the balance of funding providing for all local authorities 50 per cent. from central Government and 25 per cent. from business rates, on which my noble friend Lady Hornsby-Smith expanded. Local government must, in the overall interests of the taxpayers, have its powers limited proportionately to its funding, whatever that great historian G. M. Trevelyan said some years ago.
The detailed problems raised by my noble friend Lord Plummer clearly need careful thought, and I suspect that the Government have given them careful thought. There is no evidence that they have not. But they do not provide sufficient grounds for not giving support to the main proposal for abolishing the GLC and the MCCs without elected replacement. The existence of those bodies clearly has been unnecessarily costly and inefficient, and the Government proposals should be given a chance to work.
I conclude with remarks which I had composed before my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway made his powerful speech. I say that I find the very existence of the amendment distasteful in view of the past conventions of this House, but if it is pressed I hope that all noble Lords will vote against it.
§ 12.39 a.m.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, the dominant mood—not the only mood but the dominant mood—to emerge from this long debate has been one of deep unease expressed on all sides of the House over this Bill for which the Government claim a mandate but which goes so much against the spirit of our constitution. What appeared glibly in a few lines of a manifesto was turned into an ill-assorted ragbag of undemocratic procedures for which not even the claim of superior efficiency can be sustained.
As regards the raindrops of discontent sprinkled by the reasoned amendment referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, I think I should say to him that that is as nothing to the storms which will be unleashed at the Committee stage. Whatever the shortcomings of the current administrations of the GLC and the metropolitan counties, these can be no excuse for the production of bad legislation, which may well turn out to be worse and far more pernicious than the ills it seeks to remedy. Many of your Lordships have criticised the lack of accountability of the various joint committees and joint boards, and the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, referred to them as "Soviets". Some of Your Lordships have cast severe doubts, which I share, on the cost effectiveness of the whole exercise, which was questioned notably by the noble Lord, Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone and by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, who support the Bill but have also voiced some worries here.
573 During the months of the Bill's gestation and its passage through another place it has found few supporters outside Parliament, even in a normally supportive press. While agreeing that the GLC did not have the right structure or the right mix of powers, the Financial Times, for example, on 20th September last year, went on to say:The Government's solution, seemingly based more in party political advantage than in the studied improvement of the Capital's administration, is unsound".On 12th September the same paper, the Financial Times, said:If the view that political malice is behind this Bill is to be discounted, the proposals have to be judged as an attempt to improve the system of devolved government by moving towards unitary multi-service authorities".But the paper then went on to point out that 80 per cent. of the expenditure in the metropolitan counties and nearly 70 per cent. in London is going to non-elected boards and quangos—or qualgos as I believe they are called in this context. It is important to distinguish between the expenditure devolved to the boroughs and the services devolved. Most of the expenditure is going up to non-elected bodies.
In the same article the Financial Times reminded us that at least in the metropolitan areas, major cities such as Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester will still have a citywide authority after the abolition but London will not, thus becoming the only capital city in Europe to be without one; and I find it hard to understand the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, about the irremediable difference between London and, for example, Paris, Madrid or any other capital city of which one can think in Europe. The Financial Times article ended:An opportunity for sensible reform has been missed but there is still a chance of improving the Bill. Whether the Commons rise to the challenge or pass the buck to the Lords will say much about the present state of constitutional debate".The other place did not rise to the challenge and the Bill has now been passed to your Lordships; and the buck stops here.
I propose—briefly, given the hour—to mention the undesirability of certain powers the Government are taking unto themselves, particularly in relation to the Inner London Education Authority; the devastating effect the Bill will certainly have on the work of voluntary bodies unless it is substantially amended; and the unproven case that substantial savings will flow from the Bill and rates be correspondingly reduced. I shall also suggest that any savings that may be made will be largely at the expense of the voluntary organisations.
First, ILEA. I think everyone was cheered when Sir Keith Joseph conceded the principle of a directly-elected, single purpose authority for inner London education. Despite the reservations of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, about single authorities it was at least an advance on the balkanisation of London's education. But when the Bill was published it was immediately apparent that this liberal-seeming gesture was so hedged about with restrictions and so riddled with central Government controls as to be almost meaningless.
In particular, Clause 21 gives the Secretary of State power, in effect, to abolish ILEA at any time after 31st March 1991 merely by an order; that is to say, without 574 coming back to Parliament with primary legislation. I am not clear whether this would empower him, also by order, to abolish the elections which he has set up, which would become pointless if the authority were to be dismembered, and perhaps the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will clear this up when he answers the debate.
I quote from the Wandsworth Association of School Parents:it is in principle wrong that the Inner London Education Authority should be abolished or changed and a different system substituted except by primary legislation. Any structural change could only be justified after a full and open-ended public inquiry promoted by specific causes for concern"—"specific causes", not just that one does not like the faces or the politics of the elected members. To continue the quotation:and with recommendations that were subjected to the fullest Parliamentary scrutiny. Anything less will not command public support for or confidence in the result".That was not written by politicians but by ordinary parents of ordinary children in the London school system. On those grounds we shall be seeking to remove Clause 21 from the Bill and, at the very least, to modify its provisions substantially by extending the review date to 1995.
While I am on the subject of Government powers I cannot let slip this opportunity of expressing our acute concern on these Benches at the range of powers taken by the Government in this Bill. My noble friend Lord Hooson—I am sorry he is unable to speak this evening—has pointed out very effectively in previous debates the increasingly wide and enabling nature of much of the primary legislation passed by this Government, accompanied by a proliferation of subordinate legislation which your Lordship's House has no power to amend or approve and which, by convention, we do not throw out. This Bill is an arch-sinner in this respect. It confers on the Secretary of State, as Sir Ian Gilmour pointed out at Report stage in another place and a number of noble Lords have mentioned here, no fewer than 123 powers—"unilateral powers" I think was the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Birkett. Sixty-four of these are exercisable by order, but of these orders a whopping 51 are by the negative procedure, only two require the affirmative procedure and the rest are either Orders in Council or require no parliamentary procedure. This Bill is a licence to print orders and must surely attract your Lordships' severest condemnation on this account.
I turn quickly to the voluntary bodies mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, and I think by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. This is not just a fringe matter. The position is fundamentally simple. It is not disputed that the GLC and the metropolitan counties between them contribute some £60 million a year to voluntary bodies performing a whole range of social and recreational activities and offering advice and crisis services. The GLC accounts for about £45 million of this, broken down into £24 million for local projects and £21 million on London-wide and other non-local projects, while the MCCs between them spend about £15 million, consisting of£5 million on local projects and £10 million on county-wide 575 projects. As regards the so-called "loony" projects, of which much was made during the passage of the Rates Bill through your Lordships' House, only one half of 1 per cent of the GLC's grants to voluntary bodies goes on projects which might be so described. At Report stage in another place, Sir George Young acknowledged this in the following terms:The Government have said that the majority of grants which the GLC gives are to worthwhile organisations which will be supported by Londoners and honourable Members of all parties representing London constituencies.Against this background of £60 million of perfectly legitimate, and some would say vital, expenditure, the Government are offering £7.5 million of transitional funding. This is a welcome increase on the £3.75 million originally on offer but is still totally inadequate for the scale of the problem. It think that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark said that it has been reconsidered, and I hope that he is right. London-wide and country-wide funding accounting for some £30 million will have to secure the agreement of two-thirds of the constituent councils of any area and is subject to a cut-off figure at the whim of the Secretary of State. Although Mr Jenkin introduced a few concessions in this new clause—now Clause 47 of the Bill—these are very minor and the prospect confronting voluntary organisations and those they serve is bleak indeed.
The Government argue that boroughs and districts are perfectly free if they choose to support whatever charities they like. But that is disingenuous in the extreme. What is the reality? The reality is that, rather than take on new responsibilities, most boroughs will be hard pressed to maintain their statutory services and to continue support for voluntary bodies already supported by them within their own boundaries. In fact, 16 boroughs are planning a decrease in their grant aid projects for voluntary organisations in 1985–86 and another six plan no growth. This reflects the pressure of rate capping in nine boroughs and grant penalties in another 11. Most metropolitan districts are in penalty, and the same applies to them.
I do not want to go into any more technicalities—
§ Lord Kilmarnock
—at this stage, my Lords. I just want your Lordships to be aware that something over £30 million of grants to voluntary bodies doing social, cultural and ethnic minority work of acknowledged value much more cheaply and effectively than could possibly be achieved by statutory services will probably dry up, with the corollary that most of this work will cease.
This refers just to London and county-wide projects. If you include the GLC and MCC contributions to local projects, this figure could be much nearer £40 million. Some may argue: "Well, that's bad luck. Times are hard and there simply isn't enough money to go round for the single homeless or for the alcoholics or for drug addicts or for the mentally ill or for ethnic minorities or for child-care schemes for working women or for any other of the schemes mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, 576 and I think also by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes. Those are luxuries that we cannot afford."
If that is the prevailing view, let us have it out in the open. And let it be clear at the same time that a large proportion of any savings that may be delivered by this Bill will come from sources such as these. They will come from the withdrawal of grant from bodies toiling away in all those areas of distress and deprivation that currently afflict our large conurbations. The Government's claim—and I quote from the Explanatory Memorandum—that,The Bill does not directly affect expenditure relating to the scale and standards of provision of specific services",simply does not stand up to examination. Consider the figures that have been hazarded or, shall I say, plucked out of the air. In the Financial Memorandum, the Government estimate a saving of the order of £100 million annually. They say that the transitional costs in the first year will be about £40 million and will then fall sharply. No good evidence that I have seen has been advanced for either of these figures. Coopers and Lybrand, in their analysis of the proposed reorganisation in the metropolitan counties, showed a maximum saving on their best projection of£5 million to £10 million per annum and a potential annual cost of £36 million to £60 million on a worse but no less likely projection.
The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, cast doubt on these figures, but the Coopers and Lybrand figures have been considered worthy of Government confidence in other contexts. They showed an annualised transitional cost over 10 years in the range of £8 million to £40 million, just for the metropolitan counties. And they also made the important point that it was,essential to distinguish between cost savings from structural change and those which might result from post-reorganisation policy decisions about the level of serviceThat is precisely my point. Savings from reorganisations which maintain existing levels of service are highly dubious; but it is obvious to anyone that you can make some savings from simply reducing services or abolishing them altogether. And my strong hunch is that the voluntary movement is the fall guy in this scene. I suspect that there will be no savings other than those achieved by driving the voluntary sector out of essential crisis support and rehabilitation services.
In this Bill, the Secretary of State prints licences for himself that no self-respecting Parliament should allow him. He suggests to us that he will make savings for which he has adduced no evidence. He deals yet a further blow at local government in Britain and takes another long step forward on the road to centralisation of power in Whitehall which has been the hallmark of this Government. It is a bad Bill and a dangerous Bill. I do not know what luck the noble Baroness will have with her amendment if she puts it to the vote at this hour of the morning, but I have no doubt that this House will do its duty when we come to the Committee stage and that noble Lords of all parties and of no party will combine to amend some at least of its many objectionable features. It will be a long and gruelling task, my Lords, but we on these Benches are ready for it.
§ 12.53 a.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, I rise to perform this task because of the illness of my noble friend Lord Underhill, and I am sure that we all wish him a very speedy recovery and return to the House. To sit in the Chamber under the television lamps virtually around the clock is a new experience. It has been a long day. We have had a very serious debate on a Bill of the utmost importance, important because it affects the lives and prospects of 18 million people and especially of the less fortunate groups in the community. The objections to the Bill have been dealt with effectively by my noble friend Lady Birk in her splendid opening speech and by many other noble Lords. The main arguments both for and against the Bill have been fully covered. I shall try to deal with some of the salient points and I shall be brief.
Given that an operation of this magnitude deserves the most careful study and scrutiny, the Secretary of State for the Environment himself has said:The time-honoured way to proceed would have been to set up an inquiry".That is what Mr. Patrick Jenkin himself said; and it was reported on the 28th October, 1983. The GLC itself, as many noble Lords have said, was set up by a Conservative Government following the report of the Herbert Commission. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, repeated that and indicated that he had supported it at the time. The reform of local government, of elected authorities—and I stress the word "elected"—has always been preceded by an inquiry, and all the evidence which has accumulated since the Government embarked on this Bill makes it abundantly clear that an inquiry was necessary. The Secretary of State said, again, that an inquiry would,put off necessary decisions and actions, and there is no case for that when the right course of action is already clear".But the truth is that it has become clear to every objective observer that the right course of action is not already clear and that further investigations are essential even at this stage in the consideration of this Bill. The debates in another place showed quite clearly that there are a large number of vital issues upon which the Government are not yet clear and this Bill has not been thought through properly.
I regret to say that this failing on the part of the Government has become one of their characteristics. The failure to make adequate preparation; the failure to consult and (as the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Liverpool said in his speech) a failure to listen to people—these are serious faults in any Government. The result is that the nation today is more divided, more uncertain and more unhappy than for decades past—and certainly more divided than when in 1979 the Prime Minister at No. 10 Downing Street quoted St. Francis of Assisi.
This Bill exemplifies the Government's disregard for the views of others and for public opinion. It is a serious matter. The people of Liverpool, of Tyne and Wear, of Manchester and of Birmingham have a right to be heard and to make their views known to the Government. This is not a criticism by the Opposition, by the Labour Party and the Alliance alone. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, in his speech showed once again how far out of touch with reality he is. The fact is that 578 public organisations throughout the land, Conservative local authorities and Conservative leaders like Mr. Edward Heath—a friend of so many of the noble Lords opposite and in whose Administration they served and who I know they still respect—and Sir Ian Gilmour have made their positions absolutely clear. The noble Lord, Lord Plummer, made what I thought was a remarkable analysis of the Bill's deficiencies; he is a leader of local government himself.
Views have been expressed by many of the most distinguished organisations in this country: the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Royal Institute of British Architects. And today we heard another remarkable speech from a former President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the noble Viscount, Lord Esher. It was a most persuasive speech. I hope that noble Lords opposite listened to it carefully and learned from it because there was a good deal in what the noble Viscount said that obviously the Government have not yet realised. These three distinguished national institutions have made joint representations to us in this House.
It has been argued that the principal reason for the Bill is to make local government more efficient. By removing one tier of obsolete local government, the Government will be able to save money and to enhance local democracy. If the Bill were to do that, it would be much more defensible than it is. These are three of the points that need to be analysed by noble Lords when they come to the end of this debate. Will the Bill, in fact, save money? Is every noble Lord opposite convinced that this Bill will save public money? Are noble Lords on the Cross-Benches convinced that this is the case? The Government have said that they can save money on planning, on highways and on central administration. They have even stated a figure of f 100 million. But there has been no evidence to support this. There has been no breakdown of the figure. I have just given the view of the Town Planning Institute, and it must be doubted whether such savings can, in fact, be achieved.
Again, Ministers have talked about savings through redundancies. Over 7,000 redundancies will be created, but has this been accurately and properly calculated? Where will the redundancies fall? There has been no evidence of this. Are noble Lords opposite really convinced in their minds that these savings can be made? When they are confronted with the reasoned amendment, will they be absolutely satisfied that these redundancies can be created? The fact is that there is no evidence whatsoever, unless the noble Viscount the Leader of the House is able to enlighten us when he speaks at the end of the debate. At this moment the position is totally unsatisfactory. It is unworthy of the Government to gain support for a Bill by making statements of this kind which cannot be supported by evidence and by facts.
We have some evidence which has been referred to by one or two noble Lords, and that is the evidence of the study conducted by the accountants, Coopers and Lybrand. They have calculated that abolition in the six metropolitan counties would lead to increased costs of £69 million per annum, and increased costs of £32 million have been estimated for the GLC. So far the 579 Government have not been able to comment on these estimates. Are they true? Are the accountants telling the truth? Is their estimate right? Again, the House will expect the noble Viscount the Leader of the House to comment on this and to give the Government's view, because it is crucial at this stage of the debate. Do these facts alone not justify an inquiry? Should not an inquiry have been held before legislation was tabled?
Then the Government talk about increased local accountability. If this claim were not so serious in its implication, it would be farcical. How can noble Lords opposite talk about it and keep a straight face? They are going to create at least 55 quangos and non-elected authorities in the seven counties. It is not increased accountability; it is increased ministerial power. If there are councillors on these bodies—and this is a point which was put in a rather sorry effort to defend the situation by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, when he spoke at the start of the debate and said that there will be certain councillors on these authorities—how absurd! Those of us who know local authorities well realise that one councillor on a quango is not the equivalent of an elected local authority. The noble Lord should know that perfectly well. In all their actions this is what the Government are working for. They are working all the time for increased ministerial power.
Again, 66.8 per cent. of the GLC's total budget will pass to the central Government or to these quangos or joint boards. Even The Times last December called this Bill,a recipe for private government and the abuse of power".Those are strong words from a newspaper which normally supports the Government.
Ministers are to be given enormous powers—powers to intervene directly in the running of services, sweeping reserve powers to reorganise services after abolition by the making of an order. The Secretary of State will have powers, for example, to abolish the Inner London Education Authority if the Government want to do so, to dissolve and re-create joint boards for police, fire and public transport services and to transfer property and functions from the GLC and the metropolitan councils to any other body.
The Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to make 64 different statutory instruments and to intervene in a further 59 ways. It was no surprise that at the Report stage in another place Sir Ian Gilmour said:We have not had a single serious argument to explain why the thoroughly Conservative idea of not giving great powers to the Secretary of State has not been followed".What has happened is that the Secretary of State has been vested with 123 new functions. Who will carry out those functions? Will the Secretary of State himself be able to do it? Noble Lords opposite know perfectly well that this is not the case. The powers will be carried out by civil servants. The purpose will be to increase the power of the Civil Service. Is that Conservative doctrine these days? If so, that also is a great change.
Then the Government justify the Bill by saying that it was promised in their election manifesto, and two or three noble Lords have also mentioned this. This does not in my view pre-empt a full inquiry—but there is 580 some doubt about the validity of the commitment, as my noble friend Lord Irving has just said in his speech. This Bill has been a rushed job from the start, and a rushed job has become a botched job. The people of this country should not have a botched job thrust upon them in this way. In some instances Bills are improved in another place. It is not the case with this Bill. Indeed, as my noble friend Lady Fisher said, the guillotine was introduced after 16 clauses and eight schedules in a Bill of 98 clauses and 17 schedules, and more detailed statistics were given by my noble friend Lord Hatch. Again, in some circumstances, objectors to a Bill can change or modify their view. This often happens. If a Bill is improved then those who have objected in the first instance come along and say, "Ah, yes, the Government have met us in so many ways. We can now support it. We do not object to it in the same way as we did at the start". But this is not the case with this Bill.
Not a single major professional organisation has indicated its support for the Bill. To this day they remain acutely critical and concerned. I understand that 2,000 organisations made representations to the Government against this Bill. The Government have refused to say how many of the 2,000 were for the Bill and how many were against it. That leads us to be suspicious that the 2,000 were against the Bill, unless the noble Viscount can enlighten us at the end of the debate.
I shall not name all the organisations because the list is too long. My noble friend referred to the Select Committee of this House—I think that we should pay particular respect to our Select Committees on Science and Technology. We heard from the chairman, the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook. The committee said:The administration of local government in Greater London and the metropolitan counties depends for its effectiveness on preserving the integrity of many of the specialist services built up by the GLC and the county councils. The existing services should be improved not by being dismembered but by being encouraged to progress".That is what our own Select Committee said, a Select Committee representing not only the parties on this side of the House but noble Lords on the other side of the House as well, all of whom gave this matter the most careful thought. I appeal to the Government to listen to the Select Committees of this House.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, in his opening remarks spoke of a misleading campaign. I say to him in relation to the professional organisations that I have mentioned and other bodies which object to this Bill that they have not been the dupes of a misleading campaign. It was an insult to suggest that they are subjected to a misleading campaign. These organisations are fully able to think for themselves. It is not that they have listened to us or the Alliance or to any other political party. The Royal Institute of British Architects, the RICS and the other organisations are able to reach their own conclusions. This is what they have done honestly and truthfully.
I return to Mr. Edward Heath. He has said that the case against the counties remains unproven. I think that was a substantial thing to say, and I am glad that I can state this evening that I fully agree with Mr. Edward Heath. We have heard other voices, predictable voices, from the other side, though not many of them, because on the whole noble Lords have been 581 very critical or partially critical of this Bill. But all the evidence drives us to agree with Mr. Heath.
The evidence drives us also to the conclusion that the Government persist with this unsupportable Bill for purely party political reasons. They do not like Mr. Livingstone. But if you disagreee with a vicar's theology, or a bishop's theology, for that matter, you do not pull down his church; you wait for a new vicar.
There is a time for reform, and I myself believe in periodic scrutiny and periodic reform. There are ways in which the current system can be improved, but this Bill is not the way to do it—without consultation, without inquiry, and without regard for public opinion.
There are so many matters in this Bill about which we know far too little. There is the question of the future of the land and farms owned by the GLC—over 1 million acres. Then there is the land owned by the metropolitan authorities, and the question of future strategic planning in London. All these matters will have to be considered carefully in Committee.
The amendment we have tabled is a reasonable one. As the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, said in an expert speech, there is ample precedent for the reasoned amendment procedure. We shall not vote against this Bill, much as we dislike it. We shall abide by the longstanding convention of this House not to vote against a Bill on Second Reading. But we ask noble Lords to express a view upon this Bill by voting for the amendment. That is the purpose of the amendment. It gives the House a status which some would deny it.
Any reasonable person who looks at the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lady Birk must agree that it is a reasonable amendment to which the kind of criticisms made against it do not apply. We ask noble Lords to consider the implications of appointing quangos, joint boards and non-elected bodies. We ask them to consider the centralisation of power which this Bill will implement; the vesting of 123 new functions in the Secretary of State.
We ask the House to consider the perils facing voluntary organisations, which do so much to help the weakest and most defenceless in our society. Scraping the bottom of his parliamentary barrel, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, alleged that the voluntary organisations are being unduly alarmed by us and by other critics of the Bill. The fact is—and I say this to the noble Lord—that the voluntary organisations are alerting us and the country to the danger of the collapse of many of them as a result of this legislation. We ask the House to consider the total—
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, the noble Lord had a very good say; now he must take it as well as give it.
I ask the House to consider the total uncertainty about costs and the real fears and doubts of many people, including those expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, in his speech. We ask the House to consider the shabby and unimaginative treatment of London, one of the world's great capital cities. Those are the issues at stake. It is now for the House to express its concern by voting for this amendment.
§ 1.14 a.m.
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, may I start by asking the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, to pass on to his noble friend Lord Underhill very best wishes for a quick recovery from this side of the House?
There are two reasons why I have felt as Leader of your Lordships' House that I should wind up this debate, impose on myself some 11 hours of sitting in this Chamber and indeed try to carry through the impossible task of replying to more than 50 speeches. First, this Bill is the major legislative action in this Session of Parliament. Secondly, it is a Bill which was plainly and specifically promised by the Conservative Party at the general election in 1983. For the avoidance of any doubt I shall repeat the relevant passage from our election manifesto:The metropolitan counties and the GLC have been shown to be a wasteful and unnecessary tier of government. We shall abolish them and return most of their functions to the boroughs and districts".I was glad to note that despite their doubts my noble friends Lord Plummer and Lady Faithfull certainly support the basic principle of abolition.
I note too that a number of noble Lords and Baronesses, including, among others, the noble Baronesses, Lady Birk, Lady Fisher and Lady Denington, say that this was a commitment impetuously carried out. The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, says that Mr. Heath said that it was impetuously carried out and was thought of only at the last minute. I yield to no one in my admiration for many of Mr. Heath's great qualities. After all, I served him as Chief Whip in another place for a very long time. But I really cannot understand why what he says when he was not there about the impetuousness of the introduction of this commitment is accepted when I cannot be believed when I was there. It seems fairly reasonable that if I was actually there and can tell noble Lords that they are wrong in what they have said and Mr. Heath is wrong, perhaps—just perhaps—somebody might believe me. I am in the Government, I was there and I actually discussed for a considerable period of time before that commitment was made in the manifesto what should be put in there and what should not. I hope that this House will do me the credit of believing me when I say that.
I fully appreciate that in putting down their amendment the Labour Opposition, in accordance with convention, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, has made perfectly clear, are not actually challenging the Second Reading of the Bill. But the amendment challenges the basic principle of the Bill, as my noble friends Lord Beloff and Lord Campbell of Alloway said. Indeed, the noble Lord and other noble Lords 583 opposite have not denied the fact that the GLC and the metropolitan authorities will be abolished by transferring their functions to the boroughs and districts.
Like many other noble Lords, and as explained by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, I too have a past so far as these issues are concerned. As a Whip in another place I sought to persuade many doubtful members of my party to support the Government of the day in setting up the GLC against the powerful and determined opposition of the Labour Party at that time. In 1972, as a member of the Cabinet, I was collectively responsible for the establishment of the metropolitan counties, again strongly opposed by the Labour Party in Parliament—so they have a past too—and by members of all parties in the great cities of Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Leeds.
Perhaps I might possibly dare to suggest to the noble Lord. Lord Hatch of Lusby, that when he refers to the Chamberlains I think he would be the first to agree that the Chamberlains' work in local government was carried out in the City of Birmingham and not in the West Midlands Metropolitan Council. He seemed to give the impression that it was carried out in the West Midlands Council and it was therefore somewhat undemocratic for it to go back to the City of Birmingham. It always pleases me when sometimes I am able to get the better of someone who is so much more clever than I am, as the noble Lord is, and I am very pleased to have been able to do it on this occasion.
Now I come on both those issues as a sinner who repenteth. Indeed, in that guise I ought to find myself very popular on the Bishops' Bench. Alas, I do not find it so. And what do I find elsewhere in this House? I find that those who most condemned the arguments of my colleagues and myself seek to prevent us from repenting—a very strange thing to do—seek to stop us from benefiting from experience in the interests of the people in these areas.
In saying that, of course I recognise the added importance of getting the framework right on this occasion. I accept at once the important part that your Lordships' House has to play in this process. I hope I have made it and will make it abundantly clear where the Government must stand on principles. However, as we discuss the details I will give the House the assurance that both I and my noble friends Lord Gowrie, Lord Elton and other noble colleagues on this Bench will pay close attention to the views of this House. Indeed, I think I am entitled to say that, in my time as Leader of this House, I have most certainly listened to this House on many different occasions. I hope I can prove that I will do so again.
I think I can say this to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, with whom I do not always agree but with whom on many occasions I have discussed some of the problems to whose solution in his own city he has made a very considerable contribution. Indeed, I think he would do me the credit of saying that I have listened to him in the past. I do not agree with some of the things that he said, but I hope I can show that I shall listen. We will listen. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, also that we will certainly listen. Indeed, I can also assure my noble friend Lord 584 Plummer and my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, who had a particular amendment which we shall consider most carefully.
In answering the various points made during the debate by noble Lords, I will seek to establish that the Government are proposing to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan counties because they have proved to be an unnecessary tier of government—as my noble friend Lord Nugent said so well, an unnecessary tier of government and a wasteful and extravagant use of the taxpayers' money. I should like to assure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside,—to whom I failed to reply on a previous occasion when I was winding up in this House (I have not forgotten), so I will certainly reply to him on this occasion—that we are not seeking to undertake this task, as he described it, to see off Mr. Livingstone—not at all. We are doing it because we believe it is in the best interests of the taxpayers and the ratepayers.
Nor can I understand the argument produced by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, and others, that there is some loss of democratic rights in all this, that people will be disfranchised. Who are these people who will be disfranchised? Where is this loss of democratic rights? They will all have the right to vote in their own boroughs. Is that not a democratic right? Indeed, in the metropolitan counties they will be in exactly the same position on voting as they were before the metropolitan counties were ever set up, so I really do not know what all this talk about loss of democratic rights means.
In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, who moved the Opposition amendment, I should just make a general point. The amendment refers not only to the GLC, which has been the main feature of many of the speeches this afternoon, but also to the metropolitan authorities. Frankly, I have never noticed much enthusiasm for the retention of the metropolitan counties from any of the parties represented on the Benches opposite, either at the general election or since. Nor can anyone be surprised, for until 1972 these authorities were dominated by the big cities, which deeply resented the imposition above them of the metropolitan counties. Nor did they show much enthusiasm for them during their existence. Therefore I doubt whether the local and democratic framework proposed in the amendment would be generally welcome in the metropolitan county areas. There is certainly no more necessity for it—and I agree here with my noble friend Lord Beloff—than there was before 1972.
I should like now to turn to some of the points of a more detailed order that were raised in the debate. As I am sure the House will understand, I shall not be able to deal with them all. If I do not deal with some of them and any noble Lords feel I should have written to them about a particular point I shall be very pleased to do so.
First, I should answer one point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. She asked me about my comments about police authorities under the new arrangements. As I certainly made those comments, I certainly stand by those comments. I should not wish to go away from them in any way. That is why I reply 585 to her at once. I believe that it will be difficult. I believe that setting up police authorities over a large area of authorities is a problem. I have never denied that for one single moment. Anyone who has been Home Secretary could not possibly deny it. But I cannot pretend that many of the police authorities set up by the metropolitan counties themselves have actually been a thing of beauty and a joy forever or, indeed, that the metropolitan counties have been very ready to get together and work closely in favour of their police forces. That has certainly not always been the case. There are difficulties now. There will be difficulties in the future. I fully accept that.
Next was the question about Hampstead Heath raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and by my noble friend Lord Cottesloe. A large number of representations have been made about the future management of Hampstead Heath. Noble Lords will be aware of the views put forward by my honourable friend Sir Geoffrey Finsberg in another place. The Government recognise the real strength of feeling on this issue and will consider the possibilities for ensuring that the heath continues to be managed as an entity.
The noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris, was generous, if I may say so, in his comments on behalf of the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux. The noble Lord said that they had been treated generously by the Government. When I hear such a splendid comment I immediately recognise it. They do not come too often. The noble Lord said that he was not at all sure what would happen to the bureaux and that he would wish to pursue the matter at Committee stage. I fully accept that.
We have heard from a great many noble Lords about the need for a review or for inquiries. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, the noble Lord, Lord Broadbridge, the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark all came forward with the idea of an inquiry. Some of those noble Lords are entitled to their view, but there are others who will be in a certain amount of difficulty. They did not know perhaps what the right honourable Member for Manchester, Gorton, in another place, said at the Labour Party conference, I understand, on 11th February 1983. He said:When discussing how to create unitary local government we shall set up no more inquiries. We shall legislate.Now then, how do noble Lords find themselves? They may have to repudiate him, or he may have to repudiate them. I leave them to sort that out. It is not for me to do so.
We come to the question of the voice for London and international comparisons. It has been alleged —the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, made much of this, as, indeed, did the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton—that London would be the only capital city that did not have a proper authority. They will be aware perhaps of the study of the Institute of Local Government covering a visit to 12 cities, Amsterdam, The Hague and the Rotterdam area, which I am 586 advised is called Rijnmond in Holland, the Ile de France which is part of Paris, and Lille in France, Stockholm and Copenhagen in Sweden and Denmark, Frankfurt in Germany, Milan in Italy, Barcelona and Madrid in Spain and Toronto in Canada. Of these, only three, Rijnmond, Stockholm and Frankfurt have directly elected authorities. Such a sweeping statement as has been made therefore needs to be qualified to some extent.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, we are talking, I think, about capital cities. Of the list of cities that the noble Viscount has read out, only three, I believe, are capitals. The other nine are surely irrelevant.
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, it is suggested that I have not said that any of them are capitals. I think that my geography is good enough for me to know that Madrid is the capital of Spain.
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, I understand that Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark; I believe so. I understand also that Ile de France is a part of Paris and that Paris is the capital of France. I understand that The Hague and Amsterdam have capital city status in Holland. I do not see how I can be totally faulted in the basic argument that I was making. If I can be, I shall be very interested to learn how.
I now turn to the metropolitan counties. Two of my noble friends—Lord Bellwin and Lord Ingrow—who have great experience of local government, have both said that they believe that the metropolitan counties, which were only responsible for about a quarter of local authority services in their areas, should be abolished, and from their experience they believe that to be right. My noble friend Lord Ingrow has considerable experience, as has my noble friend Lord Bellwin, and I take their view very strongly. I also note that my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, who has very considerable experience as regards development plans, said that he also believes that, from a development point of view, the county boroughs should be trusted. I believe that that is right.
I turn to the question of a voice for London which indeed has been discussed. I accept the great importance of it. First, as some noble Lords have said London is the capital city—and nobody denies that—but I do not believe that for that reason we need to have the GLC. It is weak, ineffective and bureaucratic. It is responsible for only about 11 per cent. of spending on local services in London. That is all to often forgotten. It has no role to play as regards the police, passenger transport, education and the social services. Although covering a much wider area than its predecessor, the LCC, the GLC is much weaker because it has a much smaller range of services. That was clearly pointed out both by my noble friend Lord Bellwin and, as far as development plans are 587 concerned, by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross. It was also stressed by my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes,
Today we have heard a great deal about the need for a body to do strategic planning for London. But what has been happening to the strategic issues in London in recent years? I refer to highways, and in particular the M.25. What role did the GLC play in that? I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Molson for his support for abolition generally, but I hope that he will consider these factors. In relation to the third London airport, again, there is no role for the GLC, but it is essential as regards strategic planning in the whole of the south-east conurbation of the London area. The development of Dockland is now going ahead despite the GLC. The fact is that most planning issues can and should be settled by the boroughs and that the really strategic issues inevitably—and I have given some examples—involve central Government. The GLC is an unnecessary third party. I believe that central Government, acting on the advice of the London Planning Commission, is the proper place in which to carry that forward.
My noble friend Lord Bethell raised the question of a ceremonial voice for London. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, will remain the Lord Lieutenant for Greater London, and that is an important answer to my noble friend. My noble friends Lord Massereene and Ferrard and Lady Hornsby-Smith pointed out the very clever advertising and PR campaign in which the GLC has sought to make out that it is indispensable. I do not believe that it is, and I believe I have shown that it is not.
I now turn to the Cranbrook Report of our own Science and Technology Committee. I accept at once what the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said: it is important that this House should pay attention to its committee. I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Cranbrook for his speech. Certainly we shall study the report in detail. We agree that valuable expertise should not and must not be lost, but we do not accept that important services will be put at risk by the Bill. However, we shall study the report and we can discuss it further in Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked about costs and savings. Again, at this hour of the night I do not think that I wish to repeat what my noble friend Lord Elton has already said. About 8,000 fewer posts will be needed as a result of the rationalisation of services. After making allowance for posts being transferred, the next reduction is 7,100, which is equivalent to £100 million per annum. If we can achieve further savings, as I believe we can, I do not think, however much they may be laughed at by some noble Lords opposite, they will be laughed at by the ratepayers and taxpayers of London.
We now turn to the considerable discussion about the voluntary bodies. Many noble Lords have spoken about these. I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, as I so greatly respect him, that I listened to what he said about the City of Manchester with great care and I understand his feelings. I do not know that I necessarily can meet them during the passage of the Bill but I could not let him go past without at least saying that to him.
588 I can assure your Lordships that we shall take carefully into account the views of the authorities setting up voluntary schemes in their areas, and this will be an important area for discussion during the Committee stage. I have endeavoured to show in answering the points in your Lordships' speeches just why the GLC and the metropolitan counties are an unnecessary tier of government and why, in the main, such limited functions as they have exercised can be performed better by the boroughs and districts.
Secondly, I have sought to answer some anxieties which have been expressed about the future of services. I recognise too that many people who work in the particular services are fearful of changes, and that such fears need to be allayed; but in the end I stand by the Government's firm conviction that the GLC and the metropolitan counties are an unnecessary tier of government, and that the interests of the people in the areas concerned will best be served by giving most of their duties to the boroughs and districts without the addition of a co-ordinating authority which would eventually remain as an extra tier of government. For these reasons I ask noble Lords to reject the amendment and strongly support the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, some time ago yesterday I moved an amendment to the Second Reading Motion. Over 50 speeches later I now rise to wind up the debate on that particular amendment. I shall resist the enticing temptation of trying to explain to the noble Viscount Leader of the House why we consider that democratic rights are lost in this Bill and also to try to clear up his concern about the metropolitan counties, which, I assure him, are extremely happy about this amendment.
The weight of expressed opinion in nearly every speech uttered in this long debate has been highly critical of various aspects of the Bill as it stands. Therefore the amendment, which is an extremely reasonable one and is genuinely intended to help the Bill along so that it becomes a better Bill during its progress in this House, is one that anybody who is concerned with the welfare not only of the Bill but of this House could safely support in the Division Lobby. Therefore, I intend to test the opinion of this House and I shall divide it.
§ 1.37 a.m.
§ On Question, whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 109: Not-Contents, 235.591
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Alport, L.||Brockway, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Brooks of Tremorfa, L.|
|Barnett, L.||Bruce of Donington, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Buckmaster, V.|
|Beswick, L.||Caradon, L.|
|Birk, L.||Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.|
|Birkett, L.||Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Collison, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Darling of Hillsborough, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||David, B. [Teller.]|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B.||Lockwood, B.|
|Denington, B.||Longford, E.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Eldon, E.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||MacLeod of Fuinary, L.|
|Elystan-Morgan, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Ennals, l.||Mishcon, L.|
|Esher, V.||Monkswell, L.|
|Evans of Claughton, L.||Morris of Grasmere, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Mountevans, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Falkender, B.||Oram, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Paget of Northampton, L.|
|Feversham, L.||Parry, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Fitt, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Prys-Davis, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Rhodes, L.|
|Gilford, L.||Rochester, Bp.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Gregson, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Grey, E.||Seear, B.|
|Hacking, L.||Serota, B.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L||Shackleton, L.|
|Henniker, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Hirshfield, l.||Sidmouth, V.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Simon, V.|
|Hughes, L.||Southwark, Bp.|
|Hunt, L.||Stallard, L.|
|Hutchinson of Lullington, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Irving of Dartford, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Strabolgi, L.|
|John-Mackie, L.||Strauss, L.|
|Kagan, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Kearton, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Kennet, L.||Tweeddale, M.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Kirkhill, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Kirkwood, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Kissin, L.||White, B.|
|Lawrence, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Liverpool, Bp.||Winstanley, L.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Burton, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Cairns, E.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Caithness, E.|
|Allerton, L.||Cameron of Lochbroom, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Campbell of Alloway, L.|
|Annaly, L.||Campbell of Croy, L.|
|Arran, E.||Carnegy of Lour, B.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Carnock, L.|
|Astor, V.||Carr of Hadley, L.|
|Audley, L.||Carrick, E.|
|Barber, L.||Cathcart, E.|
|Bathurst, E.||Cayzer, L.|
|Bauer, L.||Chelmer, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Chelwood, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||Clinton, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Coleraine, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Colville of Culross, V.|
|Bessborough, E.||Colwyn, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Cork and Orrery, E.|
|Biddulph, L.||Cox, B.|
|Birdwood, L.||Craigavon, V.|
|Boardman, L.||Craigmyle, L.|
|Bolton, L.||Craigton, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Cranbrook, E.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Crathorne, L.|
|Braye, L.||Crawford and Balcarres, E.|
|Brentford, V.||Crawshaw, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Croft, L.|
|Brocket, L.||Cross, V.|
|Brookeborough, V.||Davidson, V.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||De La Warr, E.|
|Broxbourne, L.||Denham, L. [Teller.]|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Digby, L.|
|Donegall, M.||Marley, L.|
|Dormer, L.||Marsh, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Eccles, V.||Maude of|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Middleton, L.|
|Elphinstone, L.||Molson, L.|
|Elton, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Enniskillen, E.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Erroll of Hale, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Mountgarret, V.|
|Falmouth, V.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Fanshawe of Richmond, L.||Moyola, L.|
|Ferrier, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Fisher, L.||Norfolk, D.|
|Foley, L.||Northesk, E.|
|Forbes, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Forester, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Forte, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Peel, E.|
|Freyberg, L.||Pender, L.|
|Gainsborough, E.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Perth, E.|
|Geddes, L.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Gibson-Watt, L.||Plunket, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Polwarth, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Portland, D.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Portman, V.|
|Gowrie, E.||Radnor, E.|
|Gray, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Rawlinson of Ewell, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Reay, L.|
|Grimston of Westbury, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Grimthorpe, L.||Renton, L.|
|Haig, E.||Renwick, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint||Rochdale, V.|
|Marylebone, L.||Rodney, L.|
|Halifax, E.||Rollo, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Romney, E.|
|Hanson, L.||Rootes, L.|
|Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Rotherwick, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||St. Germans, E.|
|Harvington, L.||Saltoun, Ly.|
|Henley, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Savile, L.|
|Hindlip, L.||Selborne, E.|
|Hives, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Hood, V.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Hornsby-Smith, B.||Shannon, E.|
|Howe, E.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Sherfield, L.|
|Ingrow, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Ironside, L.||Soames, L.|
|Jessel, L.||Southborough, L.|
|Kaberry of Adel, L.||Stockton, E.|
|Keith of Castleacre, L.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Kemsley, V.||Sudeley, L.|
|Keyes, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Kinnaird, L.||Taylor of Hadfield, L.|
|Kintore, E.||Teviot, L.|
|Kitchener, E.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Lane-Fox, B.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Torphichen, L.|
|Layton, L.||Townshend, M.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Loch, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Lothian, M.||Trumpington, B.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Tryon, L.|
|Luke, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Lyell, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|McAlpine of Moffat, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|McAlpine of West Green, L.||Vestey, L.|
|McFadzean, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Mackintosh of Halifax, V.||Vinson, L.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Vivian, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Marchwood, V.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Margadale, L.||Watkinson, V.|
|Westbury, L.||Young, B.|
|Whitelaw, V.||Young of Graffham, L.|
|Windlesham, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 1.51 a.m.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ House adjourned at eight minutes before two o'clock.