HL Deb 29 April 1985 vol 463 cc9-52

2.58 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Elton)

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

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Elton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause:

("Commitee of Inquiry.

.—(1) Not later than one month after the passing of this Act there shall be established a committee of inquiry ("the Committee") which shall inquire into and report on the best means for securing the future provision of services undertaken by the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils before 1st April 1986.

(2) The Committee shall make its report no later than 1st February 1986.

(3) Schedule (Independent Committee of Inquiry) shall have effect with respect to the membership and powers of the Committee.")

The noble Baroness said: I move this amendment which stands in my name and the names of the noble Lords, Lord Evans of Claughton and Lord Kissin, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. If the Committee agree, with Amendment No. 1 I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 24 and 141, which are consequential.

Amendment No. 24: Before Schedule 1, insert the following new schedule:

("Independent Committee of Inquiry

1. In preparing its report the Committee of Inquiry ("the Committee") established by section (Committee of Inquiry) of this Act shall consider such matters as it thinks appropriate.

2. The Secretary of State shall assist the Committee by making available to it such information and documents as the Committee considers relevant to the preparation of its report.

3. The Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils shall assist the Committee by making available to it such information and documents as the Committee considers relevant to the preparation of its reports.

4. The Committee shall consist of members appointed by the Secretary of State, in such a manner that—

  1. (a) the Committee consists of such number of members as the Secretary of State thinks fit;
  2. (b) the members of the Committee are suitably qualified to undertake the inquiry mentioned in section (Committee of Inquiry) above by virtue of experience of, or capacity in.local government or related or relevant fields;
  3. (c) the members of the Committee include persons representative of bodies representative of local authorities in England;
  4. (d) no member of the Committee is —
    1. (i) a member of Parliament:
    2. (ii) a Crown servant;
    3. (iii) a member or employee of any body to which functions, property, rights or liabilities will be transferred by or under this Act;
    4. (iv) a member or employee of the Greater London Council or a metropolitan county council;
    5. (v) a member of the staff commission.")

Amendment No. 141: Clause 98, Page 71, line 33, at end insert — ("(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1) above, an Order under this section may include provisions to implement recommendations of the report of the Committee of inquiry referred to in section (Committee of Inquiry) of this Act, and no Order shall be made under this subsection unless a draft of it has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.")

Two weeks ago the House approved the Second Reading of this Bill. The amendment seeks in no way to challenge that decision or to delay the timetable for abolition set out in the Bill. The amendment calls for an independent inquiry to report on the best means of securing the future provision of those services currently undertaken by the GLC and the metropolitan counties. I appreciate that this is an unusual request at this time. It is very strange and unique to ask for an inquiry during the passage of a Bill, but this is a very strange and very unique Bill, as I hope the noble Earl will take into account. Therefore, one must find a way of trying to improve on what at the moment is a completely chaotic situation.

The Government have not held an inquiry and, without going into the details of the various commissions and inquiries, it has certainly never been known in recent times for a major reorganisation of this sort to take place without an inquiry or a Royal Commission preceding it. That has not happened. What has happened is that informed opinion, be it professional, academic, political, from local government, or even from industry and commerce, has been critical of the proposals and has informed the Government of the doubts and criticisms but has so far made no headway at all.

Under the amendment there would be no delay. The Secretary of State would be able to choose to act, or not to act, on the findings. Parliament would also have a chance to vote, before abolition became effective, on any order which the Secretary of State may decide to lay before it. A complete lack of consensus has arisen during the Bill. Although there is always a certain amount of conflict and disagreement on any legislation, particularly this sort of legislation which is changing the structure of local government, I do not think I have ever known a situation quite like this—and I am not referring to my own direct experience but to my reading and a knowledge of the history of local and central Government. Inquiries in the past did not in any way support the type of proposals contained in the Bill; in fact, they were highly critical of them. The Marshall Inquiry, the Herbert Commission and the Redcliffe-Maud Royal Commission all overwhelmingly opposed what is being done. The independent reports were critical not only because of their concern for the way the functions were to be carried out but also because of the higher cost and, as they saw it, the lower effectiveness and lower cost-efficiency—and that is an aspect for which the Government are always saying they have a great regard.

Moreover, the Bill does not meet the Government's objectives. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House was kind enough in winding up at Second Reading, at col. 582, to remind us of those objectives. He said: 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 to the districts'.

A noble Lord

Hear, hear!

Baroness Birk

Yes, the noble Lord may say "Hear, hear", but that is not what is happening. Something entirely different is being done. The functions are not going to the boroughs and the districts. The boroughs and the districts will be handling much less of the expenditure of the services with which the metropolitan counties and the GLC are concerned than will the joint boards, joint committees and other quangos. In fact, 31 per cent. of expenditure of the GLC will go directly to the boroughs and 18 per cent. directly to the districts. Therefore, it will not be simpler and the services will not be closer to the voter, though that was the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, when he opened the debate at Second Reading. Local democracy and accountability will be far less and not greater. That has been pointed out by numerous newspapers and various people who have commented on this.

The Bill is also quite upside down; it is the wrong way round. It is like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. When an investigation is undertaken and a decision arrived at on legislation concerning the structure of local government it is normal to establish which functions are necessary, how best the services can be provided and what structure can ensure that, and to establish in what way services can be improved on what has happened in the past. But the Government have not done that. They have decided to change the structure first without analysing whether the functions were necessary, whether they could be improved, or whether some of them were needed at all.

Having started on that, the Government then decided that they were stuck with looking at the functions and receiving the comments from another place, from outside organisations and now, as the Bill goes through this House, from your Lordships. Having started on abolition, they then set up some inquiries into matters fundamental to local government. There is an internal inquirv on finance which is under the aegis of the Department of the Environment, and there is the inquiry headed by Lord Widdicombe on accountability. But that, again, is the wrong way round. If the Government really want to benefit from these inquiries, they should, wait until they have the results; but they are not doing so.

One might ask: what can an inquiry in this short timescale achieve? I felt that it was important we should draft this amendment in such a way that it could not be accused of being a wrecking amendment. It is not a delaying amendment. It is a very practical and pragmatic amendment. There is no need for noble Lords to laugh about that. Nothing else has been put up in its place that is going to make any sense at all. If the noble Lord can come forward with something which would do this job even better and produce a better Bill, I am sure that we would listen with great attention and he would receive support if he came forward with a solution; but he knows that he cannot.

There is a short timetable, but there is nothing to stop the Secretary of State from setting up the inquiry before the Bill is passed, if he wants to do so. First, there is a great deal of evidence already available taken from other inquiries and so a great deal does not have to be initiated. Secondly, it would be a means of damage limitation. It would stop the amount of damage which will result from the Bill if it continues in its present extraordinary and somersaulting style. It would be able to prescribe a proper timetable for what happens after 1st April 1986, and it would result in a greater certainty, which would facilitate the changeover.

It would also establish what will happen to services. For example, on the one hand, there are the voluntary organisations, about which there is a great deal of concern. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House referred to them in winding up the debate. Things have not been settled in anything like a satisfactory way so far as they are concerned. Another example—and there are many—is the question of waste disposal.

The Government in their White Paper Streamlining the Cities have concentrated on a thread that has run all through the arguments for the Bill. They say that they are streamlining. The result is entirely the opposite. Every concession that they have been forced to make, even though it has been unsatisfactory, has cut down the streamlining. Even the unsatisfactory way in which they are now proposing to deal with the voluntary organisations means setting up various additional types of organisation, all of which makes the changes more costly, longer delayed and less efficient.

The arts funding, which is to be transferred to the equivalent of quangos, is suffering the same sort of fate and great fears have been expressed. The funds are now to be channelled through the Arts Council; so the borough influence has once again been eroded. Historic buildings are another example. There was a great deal of uncertainty, concern and great pressure from the many organisations involved. It has now been announced that the main functions will be transferred to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission rather than to the boroughs. The boroughs do not come into many of the matters that arise.

Then there is the Inner London Education Authority. The only substantial concession made by the Government in the White Paper consultation was to announce that ILEA will not be abolished with the GLC but that it will be a strategic elected authority. I am pleased that the Government did that, but it is curious, as it is entirely contrary to what they are doing on everything else. ILEA has twice as many staff as the GLC and a high expenditure in comparison; so it is a peculiar juxtapositioning. It is yet another example of the way the proposals have not been thought out. It is a hand-to-mouth way of doing things and can hardly be described as good or even passable legislation.

ILEA again is in an extraordinary position. Although it is to have a different status from the GLC and the other bodies, it can still within five years be abolished by the Secretary of State, and so there is a double jeopardy. There are two forms of change. There is the change now and then the threat hanging over its head of reorganisation or abolition after 1986. That is another illustration of why it is necessary for us in this Chamber to do something, however minor, to make a Bill which many of us on this side of the Committee consider unnecessary and wrong in any case a bit better. But if it is to be passed, it must be improved.

3.15 p.m.

After all, I do not think that there is a difference of opinion. We on these Benches certainly do not think that the GLC or even the metropolitan counties are perfect. As in almost any organisation, it would be possible to cut costs and make them more efficient. But the Government do not have to throw all the babies out with all the bath water, which is exactly what the Bill is doing.

I immediately agree that the inquiry which we are proposing is limited, but it could still have an impact. It could look at the administrative, financial and managerial aspects of the change. On Second Reading the vast majority of speakers in this House, even those who supported the abolition proposals, had caveats. They agreed; but they were concerned about this or that. It may have been archives, voluntary organisations, waste disposal and a whole list of other functions. Those have not yet been worked out. Instead of jumping from one thing to another, it would be very much better for everyone to know that at the end of the day an independent inquiry would be sorting out the practical problems associated with the Bill. That would also have the advantages that have been pointed out and cover matters mentioned in other amendments.

In the Commons the Bill was guillotined at Clause 16 and so it is just not true that it has had a thorough going over in another place. Let me give one example—and I have a list of the hours and minutes spent on various important aspects of the Bill. For example, only one-and-a-half hours were spent discussing the creation of joint boards. Is it really right that we should let a Bill go through largely unamended and on which in the elected Chamber only one-and-a -half hours were spent on such an important aspect? That provision would remove from an elected authority the power to carry out certain functions and give it to a completely indirectly elected body.

This legislation will not only affect the consumers of the services or the staff of the GLC and the metropolitan counties who are uncertain about their fate at the moment. Indeed, I understand that some of the better ones are resigning, since they do not know what will happen. I believe that it will also mean an increase in costs, a decrease in efficiency and a loss for the people of this country of the services which up to now they have received. I beg to move.

Lord Evans of Claughton

I have always said —

Lord Elton

The noble Lord is in doubt as to whether to give way. So am I. I was proposing to speak next. If he feels—

Lord Evans of Claughton

The noble Lord may go ahead.

Lord Elton

I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I think I take no advantage from this because he will be able to dismember what I have left on the table after I have sat down, though perhaps with less facility than the noises made by his friends and supporters would suggest.

It is, I suppose, understandable that the noble Baroness should have used this amendment as an opportunity to deploy the distaste which she feels for a great many of the matters within the Bill. I think that is a natural temptation. It falls, moreover, within the scope of the amendment, and so I do not take her to task for it. She proposes an inquiry which she hopes, I do not doubt, would take the same view of those matters as she does and would be able to deploy the same arguments with the added force of independence immediately before abolition. I do not propose—

Baroness Birk

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister so early on, but I think it would be a pity if we started off on the wrong foot. It would have been unfair of me not to have made it clear that I did not like the Bill, but I think that I also made it clear to the point of tedium that I was discussing a very narrow amendment and a limited inquiry in order to improve the Bill. That is what the amendment is about. It is no good the Minister trying to widen it.

Lord Elton

Whatever else the noble Baroness has said, it has not been tedious, particularly the last remark she made. The noble Baroness, speaking for the official Labour Party, has invited your Lordships to amend this Bill so that the Secretary of State shall appoint a committee of inquiry to report to him before the Bill becomes law. The committee would be required to consider almost exactly the same matters that the other place considered in Committee on the Bill, and those matters are almost exactly the ones that your Lordships will be considering for a great many days to come, both in Committee and on Report, and, if I know the noble Baroness, at Third Reading as well. All those discussions will be before the Bill is on the statute book and will be capable therefore of altering the appearance of the Bill and its effect.

The inquiry over this well-trodden ground is to occupy the people appointed to carry it out until the 1st February next year. They must then report. The report would go to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, who would consider it. When he had considered it, he would be empowered by the noble Baroness's amendment to return to the matters exhaustively considered by both Houses of Parliament and to draw up statutory instruments changing those matters which could both decide the detail of what Parliament had left general and the way in which Parliament had already disposed of these matters, and ask Parliament to agree to them. It is not merely the circularity of this procedure that I find odd; I find both the proposal and the grounds on which it is made odd in a number of ways.

The first oddity is this. The noble Baroness accuses us of legislation without public inquiry. She does so, I repeat, as the official spokesman of the Labour Party. But it was the Labour Party that was in government in the early part of 1979 and which then published a White Paper called Organic Change. That White Paper put forward firm proposals for reorganising local government; but there was no committee of inquiry set up before her party came to these conclusions and made that commitment. Your Lordships will say, "Well, the inquiry is the thing; it doesn't matter when you have it, provided you have it before it is too late, and they haven't mentioned it in the White Paper but they would have had it all the same".

I accept that they are not too fussy about timing, and you could not leave things much later than it is proposed to leave them in this amendment. It does not even start until the Act is on the statute book, but that does not affect the oddity of the case at all. The Organic Change and the Labour Party's plans were put into cold storage by the election in 1979 and your Lordships who have political affinities then moved to opposite sides of the House, although it is perfectly true that the Liberal Party remained firmly upon its ample seat and they were joined in a lateral move by a good number of socialists.

Our next glimpse of the process of the Labour Party evolving this policy was given to us shortly before the next general election campaign when the right honourable Member for Manchester (Gorton) said, "We shall set up no more inquiries; we shall legislate and we shall legislate so that these reforms will be in force during the lifetime of the next Parliament". No mention of time for an inquiry there.

There is another example of circularity because the reforms he was promising to bring in without further inquiry, which his party now tells us is essential, were designed, in his own words, to create unitary district authorities which shall be responsible for all the functions in their area that they can sensibly undertake. That is exactly what we are now doing and exactly what he and his friends are expending such large amounts of political energy in trying to prevent.

I shall not dwell on this, we all have the right to change our mind, as the noble Baroness will no doubt shortly remind me. But let us accept that the noble Lords opposite have suddenly been struck with a revelation and now believe, mistakenly but genuinely, that an inquiry really is necessary after all. Again, I look for a precedent: how long should it take? The precedents appear to be the Herbert Commission and the commission presided over by my late noble friend Lord Redcliffe-Maud. The first was set up in 1957; it did not report until 1960. The second met for the first time in 1966 and did not report until 1970. Roughly three years therefore seems to be par for the course for this sort of work.

How long do the amendments give the committee for its work?—from August to February. Worse is to follow: every single recommendation they will make will have to be implemented between 1st February and 1st April. How often have we heard noble Lords and Baronesses opposite saying, "We will never get the Bill implemented in the eight months that we have allowed"? They will not be able to use that argument again because they are now proposing only eight weeks. The phrase that the noble Baroness aptly used was, "at the end of the day". It would not be eight weeks just for the changes recommended by the committee because the committee can touch on anything it wishes and none of the other arrangements could therefore be made until the committee had tabled its report. That I find particularly odd; after all, the Opposition obviously have given careful thought to timing; they have an amendment down on the Marshalled List to delay implementation by a year.

But the extraordinary thing is that change is not proposed in this amendment. The idea of delay to make this very odd proposal possible has been considered, it seems, and rejected. The result of this is that the proposal now before your Lordships is not only absurd, it is a recipe for total chaos and absolute breakdown. It is, in a word, a "wrecking" amendment designed to overturn the principle enshrined in this Bill which has been endorsed by your Lordships by a very substantial majority.

Lord Mishcon

The noble Lord the Minister is most courteous, but why does he assume in the course of a very lucid but, as far as I can see, bad argument so far that the committee of inquiry will find so much in this Bill that is wrong?

Lord Elton

I was simply going on the speech with which his noble friend introduced the amendment because that it is clearly her hope. I should not wish to disappoint her at this early stage of the argument. We have here a Bill that rests upon mature reflection of grounds so thoroughly covered by inquiries that even the Opposition's official spokesman on the environment said that no further inquiry was needed before his party did almost exactly what we now propose to do. The proposal was published in our manifesto. Even with a timetable Motion—and I come now to a point which the noble Baroness treated with some care—this Bill was discussed in a longer Committee stage than they have had in another place for at least the past 15 years. The Committee should know that it was debated for twice as long as the London Government Bill which brought in the GLC in 1963.

It is not the function of inquiries to intervene in legislation in the way here proposed. For the party opposite to complain at one moment that the Secretary of State has too many order-making powers and then to give him this battery of additional order-making opportunities makes a mockery of the logic with which the party opposite seeks to oppose this Bill. That must be the consideration on which your Lordships decide how to vote at the end of this debate. There are many issues which the noble Baroness has raised and which run off temptingly to be followed, not as red herrings—because they do not run!—but like hares which I disdain to hunt.

We shall be discussing, for instance, the proportion of the money now expended by the upper tier authorities that will be expended by the lower tier authorities. The noble Baroness has arrived at her remarkable percentages by treating anything which is spent collectively by the councils in the lower tier as though it were somehow outside local government, which it will not be. But we shall bandy words about that in the future. She can shake her head against me then if she wishes.

At the moment, all I ask is that your Lordships see this amendment in its true colours. It is put before your Lordships as an appropriate and emotive wrecking amendment to get the Opposition off to a flying start in opposing the Bill. It would make it impossible to implement the Act (as it will be) as it should be implemented. The inquiry will come too late to change the substance of the Act in any case. The Act itself will have been debated in detail for a record number of hours for legislation of this sort.

I ask the Committee to dismiss this amendment, so that we can get on with our proper job of seeing what improvements can be made to the Bill before it hits the statute book, rather than asking some appointed committee to wring its hands over lost opportunities when it is too late.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Evans of Claughton

I shall not seek to demolish the argument of the noble Lord the Minister. I shall merely seek, I hope, to obfuscate some of the more outrageous things that he has said. Whatever else I regard this amendment as—and I certainly do not regard it as the greatest result of human enterprise and thought—I do not think it is a wrecking amendment. It is seeking, within the timetable of this Bill, to produce an opportunity for inquiries to be made in an objective way about the clauses in the Bill which we find objectionable, yet not to prevent the Bill becoming law on the appointed day. Thus, I do not think it is a wrecking amendment. The criticisms the noble Lord makes may be perfectly valid, but I do not think it is valid to say that it is a wrecking amendment.

As I said in the Second Reading debate, we on these Benches are not opposed to reform of local government. We do not think that the system under which we have been living since 1973, and in the case of London for longer than that, has been the most perfect form of local government to be devised. We certainly do not think that. The Committee will recall that the 1972 Act called for a review of its own legislation within a 10- to 15-year period after the coming into operation of that Act. It really can be argued that this is in furtherance of that commitment contained in that Act.

Frankly, as I think has been said, however much I try to look at it and however fairminded and objective I try to be—and as the Committee knows, we on these Benches are always objective and fair-minded—what is being done by the Government in this legislation is a great leap in the dark. There has been no means by which to light the path to this legislation.

The noble Lord the Minister mentioned organic change. I remember the Labour Party's proposals to change the status of such great cities as Bristol, Leicester and so on. I cannot help feeling that legislation would hardly have followed the White Paper there. I am quite sure there would have been detailed examination and discussion. I should have thought that there was very broad all-party agreement that cities such as Bristol, Leicester, Nottingham and so on should have greater powers. Therefore, I do not think that that is a very serious comparison.

If we leave out the Liberal legislation of the 1900s and come rather more recently to various Conservative and Labour legislation for Greater London and the metropolitan areas, what always strikes me is this. The Herbert Commission itself proposed two tiers for London, which was legislated on. The inquiry chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Marshall of Leeds, confirmed the need for a strengthened strategic authority for Greater London. The Redcliffe-Maud proposals, which the noble Lord the Minister mentioned, recommended a thorough re view for the rest of the country. That took over three years to carry out, as the noble Lord said, and concluded that planning, transport and major development services should be in the hands of one authority in urban areas, which should be big enough to encompass where people live, where they work, where they shop and where they find their recreation. I should have thought that that still largely applies in metropolitan areas. One might say that it applies even more now because of the serious problems of the inner urban areas in this country.

The Government White Paper, received. I think it is fair to say, an almost totally hostile response. Perhaps the noble Lord the Minister will challenge the fact that these studies were independent, but I believe that the organisations, such as the Institute of Local Government, P.A. Management, and Coopers and Lybrand, were objective in their studies. All those studies condemned the proposals. I ask the noble Lord the Minister to bear very much in mind that despite those reports from those various bodies, the Government themselves recognise the regional needs of various parts of the country outside the local government network. For instance, in Merseyside we have a Merseyside Task Force set up by this Government; we have a Merseyside Development Corporation, and so on. Yet, in spite of the recognition of regional needs accepted by the Government in these various bodies, this Bill seeks quite literally to disfranchise 11½ million electors without any serious attempt to justify the actions or to consider present public opinion.

I make no apology for mentioning Merseyside. I am sure that the right reverend Prelate will talk much more effectively about it than I. A MORI poll recently indicated that in Merseyside 73 per cent. of the people polled believed in the need for a single county authority and 62 per cent. disapproved of the Government's proposals.

It might be interesting to know about a similar poll—not the same one—in which people were asked whether the proposal to reorganise local government influenced them in their voting at the last General Election. Fewer than 1 per cent. said that they were influenced by local government reforms proposed in the Conservative manifesto. So much for manifestos. Indeed, the right honourable lady the Prime Minister has herself poured quite considerable scorn on the obsessive view of the importance of the manifesto.

I agree that if they wish, the Government can, and no doubt will, ride roughshod over the latest public opinion, quite apart from public opinion at the time of the General Election; public opinion as exposed by opinion polls very recently. They can ride roughshod over public opinion. However, if they intend to do that, surely they should be willing to provide some justification by being prepared to accept an objective, independent inquiry of some kind. Sometimes I think that the only reason they oppose this and other similar amendments is that they know only too well what the result of such an inquiry would be.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

The inquiry proposed by this amendment—

Noble Lords


Lord Kissin

I have put my name to the noble Baroness's amendment because I want to express my disquiet at the way the Government have chosen to proceed in this matter. The inquiry should, in nomal circumstances, have preceded the Bill, but it is too late to alter this course. However, I am speaking in support of the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, because I hope that the Government will reconsider some kind of procedure so that Parliament can exercise its function. It can exercise its function only if it is clear what are the Government's plans for future action and how clearly they are defined. Therefore, an assurance from the Government that some kind of inquiry will be promoted immediately after the Bill would relieve many anxieties.

I share the view of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, that this is not a wrecking amendment in any shape or form. There are many parts of this Bill which I and many Members of the Committee welcome. However, the issue is one which I am sure attracts everybody's attention. We have been bombarded with correspondence from politically diverse sources. What clearly emerges from all the letters that I have received is that only an infinitesimal percentage is supporting the abolition of the metropolitan councils without qualification or reservations.

This shows to what extent the public has been confused by the changes that this Bill is proposing to bring about, It shows also to what extent much more detailed clarification is required in certain material aspects of these changes before the inhabitants of London and the greater metropolitan areas will be satisfied that their requirements, and their specific situations, will receive a sensitive reaction from the authorities that in future will look after them.

It is clear from the Government's statement that no final decision has been taken as to what kind of strategic plan will be implemented. I am supporting the case for an inquiry because it deals with the reorganisation and the reconstruction of a complex business operation which is carried out at the moment by the metropolitan councils and other bodies. Many noble Lords have far greater experience than I of conducting large businesses and industries. I wonder how many of them would set about large-scale organisational change without a much clearer and much more defined view of the planning and budgetary implications of their decisions. I believe that very few people in commerce and industry would wind up departments and subsidiary companies, and their organic structures, without establishing beforehand the profitability and the rationality of their actions, and the consequences for employment problems, and the availability of alternatives, plus an evaluation of the financial and organisational effectiveness of their plans.

I repeat that it is not simply an abstract question of democracy. The real issue is for whose benefit the strategic planning is to be carried out. As an example, it is often believed that the construction of motorways within urban areas is detrimental to the inhabitants but beneficial to those living outside who wish to drive through these areas to work. The refusal of the GLC to build roads and the criticism of the noble and distinguished Leader of the House show that this is an issue of critical importance. One could give numerous examples of the unresolved problems in this area that the Bill creates, but I am sure that there are many noble Lords better qualified to point to examples in areas with which they are acquainted. If these problems cannot be resolved by the boroughs and the shires, the Secretary of State is now to be saddled with taking the decisions. It is not clear, therefore, where the savings which the Government hope for would be achieved if problems cannot be identified and quantified before the Bill is implemented. Has the Secretary of State a surplus capacity of manpower in his department to deal with this?

Many questions will be asked. I should like to raise one that is near to me. I live on Hampstead Heath. This is a leisure centre for the benefit of all Londoners. Its future is very uncertain. It is not clear at the present time whether the local authorities are willing to take up this responsibility. If a new authority is to be created, as indicated, to deal with such problems, does the Bill give any guidance as to the cost, and what powers it will have? The Bill creates controversial situations where certain planning functions will be centralised and thus less flexible to respond to local needs, while planning will still be the responsibility of the elected shires and boroughs. This is, I fear, a recipe for disaster. It will create serious resentment. Planning decisions on behalf of London, unless more precisely defined, will lack legitimacy and democratic approval.

I feel that we have reached the stage where a considerable number of noble Lords are of the opinion that greater clarification is necessary. I feel, too, that other noble Lords are of the opinion that all is very clear and that everything will go through very smoothly. I believe that the Bill in its present form shows a lack of understanding of how cities grow and how local government and strategic planning need to be re-adapted as a consequence. The existing district boundaries were drawn up on the assumption of a two-tier structure. Boundaries that appear to be reasonable on that assumption appear much less reasonable when they become single-tier, all-purpose authorities. Thus, while the urban areas are expanding in size they will be governed by a large number of small authorities. London faces a serious and fundamental planning problem. Random examples are the de-population of some inner city areas, transport planning and the impact on employment patterns of the M.25 ring motorway. All these are problems which can be tackled only in a London-wide context.

The Royal Commission on Local Government of 1966–69, under Lord Redcliffe-Maud, recommended in its majority report a single-tier authority for all areas in England, with the exception of the West Midlands, Merseyside and the Greater Manchester areas. London was outside its terms of reference. For those areas it recommended a two-tier system (and I quote)—

3.45 p.m.

Lord Elton

If the noble Lord will permit me, I am anxious to clear my mind on his argument. It seems to me that the Bill is constructed clearly on the basis of having one-tier government, which is a principle that we have accepted. The noble Lord is arguing in favour of an inquiry. The argument that he is now adducing appears to be that the inquiry should recommend a two-tier system. If I have misunderstood, I apologise and I should like to be put right, because, clearly, that is something that could not be accomplished in eight weeks after enactment.

Lord Kissin

I am not pleading one-tier or two-tier: I am reporting what the inquiry of 1966–69 under Lord Redcliffe-Maud said. It stated: Nowhere else in England did we find the circumstances found in these three metropolitan areas. To break up these three areas among unitary authorities with populations in the range of 250,000 to 1.000,000 would hopelessly fragment responsibility for planning and transportation". Contrary to this recommendation, the Government are now proposing a two-tier system where the Royal Commission recommended a single-tier system, and single-tier all-purpose authorities for areas where the Royal Commission recommended a two-tier system. If it is a question of handing back functions to the boroughs, as the Government propose, all boundaries which were established in 1971 should be reexamined. I believe that if the Bill is to be effective, we now have the opportunity, were the Government to allow us to take it, of making a decision that in a historical perspective seems to be the best possible solution available at the present moment.

To summarise, I am not supporting the amendment in order to defend the actions or leaders of the GLC or the other metropolitan councils. My objective is to make this Committee conscious that the alternatives being chosen can be defended and their effectiveness can be proved. For this purpose, it is essential to consider the creation of an entirely non-political body, without any vested interest in the issue, that will define the priorities, specify and quantify (in view of the very contradictory reports on expenditure and savings that have been made by accountants and Government) and recommend, in the light of its findings, the immediate and long-term solutions.

This is equally important, I believe, for the Government. I believe that the Government do not want to be reproached with the accusation that this Bill is introduced because of their dislike of certain established institutions and their personal leadership. Neither, I am sure, will the Government wish to be accused of introducing these measures to give the boroughs and shires, for political reasons, a different balance of political power. I trust the Government wish this Bill to be seen to be introduced for the benefit of the population that has to live with the consequences of this concept. It is for this reason, I believe, that this amendment should be fully considered and supported.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

The inquiry proposed by this amendment, irrespective of whether or not it be preceded by a Royal Commission, would in effect defeat this Bill. Whatever has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, by the noble Lord, Lord Kissin, and by the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, that would be the effect; and that would have the effect of a wrecking amendment. It invokes the delaying powers—notwithstanding that it was said to the contrary by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk—not the revisory role to improve the Bill.

In those circumstances, to carry such an amendment as this would be contrary to the spirit of both the Salisbury and the Carrington Conventions—that resort to the delaying power should not be had to defeat a Bill which was passed in another place which reflects a manifesto commitment and which thwarts—these are the words of the Carrington Convention—the will of the electorate as expressed in another place. The facility—

Baroness Birk

I wonder if the noble Lord will give way for a moment. I am sorry, but I really cannot let him get away with saying that the amendment I moved is a wrecking amendment which would delay the Bill. It does not have to delay it at all. The arrangements would go on as the Government want them to go on while the inquiry sat. The inquiry would report; it would then be up to the Secretary of State—as the Minister pointed out, there is a problem, and I see it; but it is the only fair and right way to do it—to take action or not. It is quite wrong and totally unfair and inaccurate for the noble Lord to say, with all the magisterial authority at his command, that this is a wrecking amendment which would delay the Bill. It is not.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I have no authority whatever, magisterial or otherwise. As the noble Baroness knows, I never wilfully intended or sought to be unfair in your Lordships' House. I am saying what I believe to be right. The noble Baroness is entitled to say what she believes to be right. I have heard her repeat three or four times this afternoon what she believes to be right; and all I am saying, with the greatest respect to her, is that I remain wholly unconvinced and that I regard this as a wrecking amendment.

Furthermore, the facility to carry such an amendment, to defeat the Bill in the exercise of the delaying power, must assume a very high order of self-restraint where, as I understand it, amendments to this effect have been moved and rejected in another place and where the Government, in their second term of office, have a very substantial overall working majority in that other place. Surely it is of importance that your Lordships' House, albeit in Committee, should not be seen to overreach its powers if there be any reasonable doubt at all about it, and so slight our own status and even perhaps impose reform.

As to the merits, what useful purpose could any such inquiry serve? Before the last election, as my noble friend Lord Elton said, the Labour Party pledged itself in effect to create what we are creating: unitary district authorities responsible for all functions in their area. It cannot be that, just because the Labour Party does not have its hand on the tiller of government, there should now be an inquiry if it was not necessary before. I refuse to believe that that can be the reason.

It is of vital consequence to any administration that local government should not continue to flout or confront the policies and authority of central Government in those matters which properly lie within the province of central Government. Such is the very exercise in political confrontation which as I see it lies very close, without any authority, to the heart of this matter. The traditions of local government as I understood them have been breached, and this has led to a very substantial and unacceptable abuse of the rating system. What is this voice for London? Who yet has ever spoken for London? Assuredly one presumes it is not Mr. Livingstone. It is said that such a body could offer workable solutions, co-ordinate effective execution of functions, afford machinery for rate equalisation, and even avoid re-instatement of the GLC. But really, apart from the propaganda of political confrontation, what has this voice to say? Why just London? Who shall speak to whom? By what authority and with what authority?

London's Conservative borough leaders who affirm total support for the abolition of the GLC do not wish to see that principle weakened. I support them, and I am a Conservative. London's Conservative borough leaders who affirm total support for the abolition of the GLC do not wish to see that principle weakened by an elected forum for Greater London imposed over the structure of borough government; and even the proponents of this body accept that it will not be an executive body, that it will not have discretionary powers, that precepting powers will be under constant review by Government.

Lord Tordoff

I wonder if the noble Lord would give way. I should like to take him back, because it seems to me that in some way or other he has drifted on to Amendment No. 8. I should like to challenge him on his response to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. He repeated again that this amendment was in some way a delaying amendment, an amendment that would delay the provisions of the Bill. That cannot be correct within the terms of the amendment as it is laid down, and I should like the noble Lord to tell the Committee in what way he can point to this amendment as in any way delaying the action of the Bill. If that were the case, then his arguments about the Carrington and Salisbury conventions would have validity; but as I read it this makes no change whatsoever to the timing of the Bill or to its operation when it becomes enacted.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

For the reasons given already by my noble friend Lord Elton, this clearly is going to delay the Bill. As to—

Lord Elton

It is not going to delay the Bill. If the findings of the committee are going to be so trivial that they can be done in four fortnights before implementation, it scarcely is worth having the inquiry.

Lord Tordoff

If the inquiry came up with that conclusion, that might delay the Bill; but then presumably the Government would have the good sense to take notice of the inquiry. This amendment does not delay the Bill.

4 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

To answer the noble Lord, not only does this amendment delay the Bill but the referendum amendment delays the Bill and the delaying amendment delays the Bill. All three are designed to use the delaying power, not the revisory power, which is quite contrary to the Salisbury and Carrington conventions. I stand by my assertion. I am sorry that I interrupted the noble Lord.

Lord Diamond

I rise, not to discuss the merits of the proposal—because there are many other noble Lords who are more capable of doing that than I and who, no doubt, will want their views to be heard—but because I am very interested in the continual allegation, unfortunately asserted in the first place by a Minister on the Front Bench, that this is a wrecking amendment. It is of little help to your Lordships' Committee that such a suggestion should have been made, and it shows little respect for the careful thought that has been given to this problem by all noble Lords concerned—Front Bench and Back Benches—for a considerable period.

Therefore, if the Committee will be good enough to allow me, I want to demonstrate why, in my opinion and in the opinion of all of us on these Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, was grievously at fault and causing harm to his own party and to what we are all trying to achieve for the future good conduct of business in your Lordships' House by alleging that this is a wrecking amendment. Let us go over the points one by one to get rid of those aspects that are not relevant.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I gave way to the noble Lord. Is this in order!

Lord Diamond

I thought that the noble Lord had completed his remarks. I apologise.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I gave way because I understood that the noble Lord wished to ask a question.

Lord Diamond

I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I apologise.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

No, I had not finished my remarks; and, of course, I pay the greatest respect to the care taken by noble Lords—more so those on the Back Benches than on the Front Bench, but perhaps that is because I sit on the Back Benches.

However, before I return to this amendment, perhaps I may comment on the constitutional aspect. Surely noble Lords on all sides of the Committee would accept that the abolition of the GLC is the last logical step in a process of devolution of power that has gone on now for some 20 years. Today the GLC, in contrast to the old LCC, is responsible only for about one-tenth of services and about 11 per cent. of current expenditure on local services in London. The inevitable duplication of functions by erecting this two-tier system is wholly unacceptable and—and this leads me back to the constitutional issue—wholly contrary to the principle and spirit of the Bill. On the merits of this amendment, there is no justification for resort to the delaying power. In any event, this would conflict with the spirit of the unwritten constitution as expressed in those conventions.

Although it is of importance that the Government should be supported by a massive rejection of this amendment if it is taken to a Division, I suggest to the Committee that it is of far greater importance that the delaying power, which this is, should be exercised with restraint. It is not a question of procedure which falls within the remit of the Table or the Procedure Committee: it is a constitutional question which lies within the exclusive competence of your Lordships' Committee, as advised through the usual channels. In this matter, of course, I defer to noble Lords on all sides of the Committee who have greater wisdom and experience than I in these matters. What I have said I have said because I believe it to be right.

Lord Somers

This amendment really seems to—

Lord Diamond

If I may—

Lord Somers

I think the noble Lord has had his say. This amendment seems to suggest a most unprecedented procedure. After all, in the past we have had many highly controversial Acts which have been passed by Parliament, but I do not recall a single instance in which a process such as this has been suggested. I believe that those who are so keen to preserve the electoral system that we have today, and who quote it whenever it is in their favour, should remember that this Bill now before us has been passed by the elected Government of this country and, therefore, I cannot see why it should be necessary or even possible to question whether it is, or even should be, the law of the land.

Lord Diamond

I regret that I cannot support the sentiments that have just been expressed and which would virtually reduce your Lordships' House to a nullity so far as this Committee stage is concerned. We all know that we have a duty to improve a Bill which has been passed by another place, and not to reject it. It is because of that that, when the Second Reading of this Bill recently came before your Lordships' House, we were all extremely careful that no word was put on the Order Paper which would have delayed the passing of this Bill by one moment. An additional view was expressed which had no impact and no legal or other kind of effect on the way in which, at the end of that day's debate, the Government could and would be able to proceed with getting this Bill on to the statute book.

It is because various allegations have been made that this is or is not a wrecking amendment that we are in a little difficulty over the use of our terms, and that is why I thought it would have been of some help, if the noble Viscount the Leader of the House had been agreeable, to invite the appropriate committee to consider where we had reached on our various conventions. If we had then received such a report and had all agreed to it, there would then have been a written statement as to where we had reached with regard to those conventions. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House thought that that proposal was a little premature, which is no great criticism, and did not wish to proceed in that way. Therefore, it falls to me to say why those of us on these Benches who take a very clear and, if I may say so, purist view about the responsibilities of your Lordships' House in relation to another place—a very responsible view indeed; more responsible than some of the statements made by Ministers of this Government—have been most anxious not in any way to ally ourselves with wrecking amendments.

The normal form of a wrecking amendment occurs on Second Reading, where we have a clear convention, so far as we on these Benches interpret it, that we do not vote against a Bill which has been passed in another place, they being the elected Chamber and we not. We do not need anyone to suggest that the justification for that is that the Bill was preceded by a statement in the party's manifesto at election time. I think that too much can be made of manifestos. In so far as we interprete the situation, it matters not to us whether it was in the manifesto or not in the manifesto. We already know that a vast majority of people are totally unaffected by what is stated in the manifesto.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Would the noble Lord give way?

Lord Diamond

In a moment, if I may just finish this part of my argument. If it is a minor point it goes with the rest, and the elector tends to vote for the leader, for the general principles, and for his understanding of the situation and not for a particular, detailed clause. Therefore, it remains our view that whether it is in the manifesto or not, we are still committed in your Lordships' House by convention—as indeed everything is by convention in your Lordships' House—not to support an amendment which would have a wrecking effect; that is to say, delay the implementation of a Bill coming from the other place if it has been passed by that elected Chamber.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I am grateful to the noble Lord. Does the noble Lord agree that it is an integral part of the Salisbury convention that it was a commitment in the manifesto? It is expressly stated.

Lord Diamond

Of course I agree. It is on record that it is there. I am saying that we have gone further than that, and more to the noble Lord's liking if he follows my argument. We have gone beyond that. This House develops its procedure by convention, and in my view it has developed by now a clear convention, acceptable on both sides of the House, that it does not vote against Bills which have received a Second Reading in another place. I say further that that convention applies whether or not that Second Reading was preceded by, and therefore to a tiny extent supported by, a previous statement in the party's manifesto.

Now we have got to that point we have to consider whether this is a wrecking amendment; whether this delays the operation of the Bill if the Government see fit to carry out their undertaking, and if the Government consider that what they are doing is right and cannot be controverted by people ascertaining the facts. Presumably the Government do so think, and therefore this amendment starts with the words: Not later than one month after the passing of this Act". I had nothing whatever to do with the drafting of this amendment. I have nevertheless nothing but admiration for an important amendment which comes No. 1 on the Marshalled List which says: Not later than one month after the passing of this Act". The words contemplate the passing of this Act and nothing else. They do not contemplate the delaying of this Act.

I was unable to follow what the noble Lord who preceded me said in a single instance with regard to the delaying of the Act. The words here are as clear as a bell: Not later than one month after the passing of this Act". Therefore, the Act is contemplated as passing in the normal way and there is nothing that we are doing to delay it.

4.15 p.m.

The amendment further goes on to say: The Committee shall make its report no later than 1st February 1986". It is a great pity that somebody of the intelligence of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, wilfully changes that into: The Committee shall make its report on 1 st February". I do not know why he continually did that and based his argument on it. It does not say that, and we all know that it does not say that. It says no later than that.

If the Committee is able to report much earlier, so much the better. If the Committee divides itself, as many committees do when there is urgency, into five, six, seven or eight sub-committees in order to examine the different aspects and collate its views very fast, it may indeed be able to report earlier. One does not know. If it reports on 1st February, on the latest date, and this poses a problem, what can the problem be? It is a problem entirely within the Government's discretion, and any problem within the Government's discretion with the present majority which the Government enjoy in the other House cannot be put forward as a wrecking amendment. The Government can do exactly as they want—some people would say "unfortunately"—in the other place, and we all know that.

The Government therefore can decide at the time whether they want to delay anything, or whether they do not want to delay anything, in the minor procedures of sorting things out consequential upon the coming into effect of this Bill. That is entirely within the Government's powers and discretion. There is nothing whatever that we can achieve, if we want to pass this amendment, which would delay in any way what the Government wish to do and are set on purpose to do. It contemplates the passing of the Act. It provides a date which is before the Act comes into effect, and there is a further amendment saying that if the Government have any real doubt as to whether they can now achieve that date, let it choose a date a year later, so letting them out of their difficulty in that way.

I apologise for delaying the Committee on a constitutional matter rather than on the substance of the amendment; but for these reasons we on these Benches must reject any suggestion, be it from the Front Bench or anywhere else, that this is a wrecking amendment. We do not regard it as such, and we think it much better that your Lordships should have regard to the substance of the argument rather than be diverted by an unsustainable claim that this is a wrecking amendment.

Lord Beloff

If we are to accept the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, that this is not a wrecking amendment, we are left with only one alternative adjective to put to the amendment; namely, that it is a frivolous amendment, an amendment which may not delay the passing of the Bill but which will delay your Lordships' Committee in coming to grips with the various important issues of substance in the Bill which we have to discuss, and may indeed occasionally have to amend.

It is frivolous for these reasons. First, it is to put the thing on its head to have an inquiry about a measure which is already in the form of a voluminous Bill in which all the matters that the inquiry would look at are specified. It may well be that noble Lords would wish them to be dealt with differently, and that can be done by amendments to the substance of the Bill. The existence of an inquiry would only be justified either if there were no Bill before your Lordships, if this were a preliminary, or if it were possible to assume—which it is not—that after the campaign (and the noble Lord, Lord Kissin, mentioned the campaign, the amount of correspondence and propaganda that we have all received) it was seriously thought that there were any issues of substance which had not been ventilated in another place, or in the press, or in public meetings, or in any other way. There is nothing new that anyone could suggest that the inquiry could come up with.

If one has listened carefully, as I have, to the speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and the noble Lords, Lord Evans of Claughton and Lord Kissin, they certainly produced criticisms of the substance of the Bill, some of which might indeed come within the purview of an ordinary amendment; but they at no point suggested anything novel. What is the point of an inquiry when we know the substance into which it is to inquire?

The second reason why I believe this to be frivolous is that one would have to assume that the Secretary of State, however impartial, however well informed, however desirous of meeting the wishes of your Lordships' House, supposing the Committee were to pass this amendment, could find a group of people who had been so cut off from the debates which have been going on in this country for the past 18 months that they would come to it uncommitted and with a fresh mind.

They certainly would not find it in the walk of life from which I come—academia—because various academics who have specialised in these subjects have taken sides for and against on most of these issues. They could hardly find it in public life where people are deeply divided over this. I suppose they might ask someone from Australia or some other distant country where little is known about our domestic affairs, but one cannot seriously suggest that the Secretary of State could, at this juncture, find people who would be universally accepted as knowledgeable and impartial on this inquiry. Therefore I say that perhaps it is not a wrecking amendment. Perhaps my noble friend went too far in calling it a wrecking amendment; but a frivolous amendment it certainly is and the sooner your Lordships dispose of it and allow us to get on with issues of substance, the better.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, describes himself as coming from academia. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, described himself as a constitutionalist. I make neither claim. I am on these Benches because I take a political whip; I am a politician. I suggest that all of us who take a political whip are, when we are here, acting as politicians. It is the duty of politicians not to indulge in constitutional debate in the abstract but to consider the issues before the Committee and the way in which they have been tackled over the past two-and-a-half years. The conclusion one might draw after considering the powers of the GLC and the metropolitan counties, and what has been proposed, is being proposed and will be proposed is to happen to those powers, is that the process of reform, as it is called, is by no means confined to debate either in another place or in this Chamber.

Before the Bill ever reached another place there were changes of mind by the Government on travel for old age pensioners. It was decided that it should be a statutory responsibility of the London boroughs to maintain that travel. There were changes of mind about the arts, where it was decided that the Arts Council should have a greater role and the borough councils a lesser role than had originally been intended. There were changes of mind about historic buildings and monuments, where it was decided that the borough councils should have a lesser role and the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission should have a greater role. There was a major change of mind about the ILEA, where it was decided that the Inner London Education Authority should be a directly-elected authority and not elected by the constituent borough councils.

I make no complaint about any of those changes. They have not taken place on either green or red Benches, but as part of a continuing process of public debate about matters of great importance to 114 million people. When I look at the Bill we have before us it is clear that the debate is by no means resolved either by the Bill or by amendments which will no doubt in due course be put forward or have been put forward in another place. There are huge gaps in the Bill. There is no reference to training or job creation or what happens to archives. There are amendments on these points but there is nothing in the Bill about them. There is no adequate reference to what happens to the green belt—I am thinking particularly of London; forgive me—or the role of the Greater London Council in its relations with the South-East England Regional Planning Authority. There is no particular reference to parks and sports provision. That is what is not in the Bill.

What is in the Bill—I believe it is mentioned 132 times—are reserve powers for the Secretary of State. What do those reserve powers mean? They mean that the Secretary of State and his civil servants will continue to be making decisions affecting the future of those who live in London and in the metropolitan counties after this Bill has reached the statute book. In other words, the debates have not concluded, the decision has not been concluded and there will be many issues both before and after the passing of this legislation which will require to be resolved. It is for that reason that I claim that the amendment which seeks an inquiry is simply bringing that process out into the open. It is giving independent people the responsibility for considering issues which will still have to be resolved; making those decisions in the open and not in the towers of Marsham Street and making the people concerned, the electorate of the GLC and the metropolitan counties, aware of what is happening. In that sense I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, that this cannot be said to be a wrecking amendment. It is an amendment to redeem the deficiencies of the thinking processes which the Government have no doubt gone through. It accepts that the Bill will, in some form, reach the statute book. It merely tries to bring the debate out into the open.

Finally, I take some wry amusement from the claim that the Bill is justified because it appeared as a manifesto commitment. I took a major part in putting into the manifesto of the London Labour Party in the 1981 Greater London Council elections a policy which became known as, "Fares Fair". It was a moderate policy of reducing London passenger fares to the 1979 level. It was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and your Lordships' House, in its judicial capacity, who said that the fact that it was a manifesto commitment was neither here nor there; and they overturned that policy (which was clearly a major part of our election campaign) on those grounds.

I also take some wry amusement from the rejection by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, of the idea of inquiries. We are not to have an inquiry into the whole of the Greater London Council and its future, but his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport has insisted on an inquiry on the Greater London lorry ban proposed by the GLC after its manifesto commitment and after a lengthy and extensive inquiry of its own. I appreciate that the arguments for and against inquiries on precedent can work both ways, but it certainly does not work entirely in favour of the Minister's arguments.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, on one point in her speech when she said that this was an unusual request embodied in the amendment. Indeed it is. When a measure has been preceded by a paving Bill, has itself passed the House of Commons by large majorities and has already received a Second Reading by another large majority in this House, it is, as she would agree, unusual to say at this stage that one wants an inquiry. But the noble Baroness, and, to some extent, the noble Lords, Lord Diamond and Lord Tordoff, showed extreme sensitivity to the suggestion that this was intended as a delaying measure. I will not use the pejorative phrase "wrecking", because wrecking is a subjective impression; though I harbour a suspicion that were it to wreck the Bill the noble Baroness would not go into mourning about it.

That is a delaying amendment is the proposition that I should like to contest. It is a presumption in our courts of law that the sane man—I suppose that includes the sane woman—intends the natural consequences of his acts. I would ask the noble Baroness to contemplate what would happen if her amendment were carried. I concede at once that it does not directly amend the date of 1st April 1986 as the effective date of the Bill. I accept that at once. But perhaps the noble Baroness will go with me in working out what will happen.

It is likely, as far as one can speculate, that the measure will receive Royal Assent towards the end of July, late in the summer. Under this amendment, within a month of that—that is, during the month of August—an inquiry would have to be appointed. I leave aside the point that has already been made about where one would find impartial people who had lived so long in an ivory tower that they had escaped the deluge of propaganda to which your Lordships have been subjected on this issue and could approach the matter with a fresh mind. But they would not start work—and I stress this point—until well into August, or perhaps the end of it, right into the holiday season. This amendment requires that they shall report by 1st February. All of us who have experience of public inquiries into complex and important issues such as this know that that would be an almost unprecedentedly short time. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that it is highly unlikely that they would beat the 1st February date by more than a few days.

4.30 p.m.

Two things would then happen. Either their report would include substantial proposals which, in the view of the inquiry, would improve the Bill, or it would not. But take those two alternatives. Let us suppose that it did. Would noble Lords opposite not press by every legitimate parliamentary means for the implementation of those substantial improvements in the Bill? And do they really believe that, if that were so, it would be possible to legislate an amending Bill through and put it into effect by 1st April, within a matter of eight weeks? Do they really think that? Or, alternatively, the recommendations would be trivial and unimportant, in which case have we not put some otherwise busy and, no doubt, significant people to a great deal of unnecessary work and imposed a certain additional public expenditure to no point whatever?

But obviously the noble Baroness believes—her whole speech was riddled with the contention—that this inquiry would come out with substantial proposals. In order to demonstrate that it would not therefore be her intention to delay the Bill, she will have to say on behalf of the Opposition that they would not press in any way for those recommendations to be implemented. Can she say that? Does she really think that that would be their attitude? Your Lordships know perfectly well that every parliamentary device that could be used would be used to press for further legislation and delay.

Therefore, while ingeniously the noble Baroness is not specifically seeking to amend the 1st April date—she does not come openly forward with that suggestion—yet the reality of what she is proposing, unless the whole exercise turns out, as it might well, to be a waste of time, is that very substantial delay, probably of a further year, would be involved. So I hope your Lordships will feel prepared to deal with this amendment on that basis.

Of course, noble Lords on the Bench opposite are fighting every inch of the way to delay the Bill. They want their friends across the river in County Hall to remain for another year or so in charge of the political patronage, in charge of the funds which can be used for political propaganda and which are being used, as every one of your Lordships knows, on a most lavish scale for political propaganda. They want to see that continued for a year. But, surely, it would be more open and more in accordance with debate in this Committee if the noble Baroness were to avow that and to say openly that she is fighting to try to delay this Bill. This is quite an ingenious device for doing it, but perhaps not quite ingenious enough.

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool

I would certainly not have put my name to the amendment if I had believed it to be a wrecking amendment, nor if I had believed it to be a frivolous amendment. I support the noble Baroness in calling for a committee of inquiry—and I use the words on the Marshalled List, which show that there is an agenda with strict limits to it for such an inquiry—to report on the best means for securing the future provision of services". That assumes that abolition has happened and that we are looking at how those services may best be provided.

I put my name down in this way because I believe that the Bill is something of a blunderbuss. It fires at a target and hits a great many passers-by at whom it was never meant to be aimed. There is no doubt that the elected Government of the day have to win their way. That is not in question. But the debate on the Second Reading in your Lordships' House made it clear that there is much more complexity and much more very genuine anxiety about the future provision of services than had been supposed.

For example, the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, made clear what a major exercise is needed to hand over the responsibilities of the Greater London Council. I hope that this Committee will improve the Bill and clarify and sharpen its aim in the next few days. But many matters are clarified only as we now look beyond the life of the metropolitan counties. I believe that the inquiry that we propose would make it possible for the Government to understand better some of the issues as they emerge in planning the handover. That is the very point that we want to make: that some of the ground is not well trodden, to quote the phrase that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, used. How many noble Lords knew that the issues mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, existed? Was there nothing new in what he told your Lordships? Was it all covered in the Bill? I thought not.

I turn to the issue of planning. The London Planning Commission and the voluntary planning conferences in the metropolitan counties are given neither the power nor the resources necessary to plan or to create the essential supports. Their ability to create the right conditions in which private investment will be attracted into economic regeneration will be small. I remind your Lordships of the very genuine fears expressed on all sides at Second Reading about the future of voluntary bodies. I am bound to say that I personally believe that there will need soon to be a whole new deal between the state and the voluntary movement.

The noble Baroness. Lady Faithful!, told us the truth about local government officers faced with painful cutbacks. They do provide for their own staff, and always have done, before deciding whether to give grants to voluntary bodies. A new deal between the state and the voluntary movement may be a little further into the future but the immediate needs of voluntary bodies on transition to new authorities cannot be met by the very modest block figure which the Secretary of State has promised so far.

I have spoken in another situation of comfortable Britain and the other Britain which is mostly to be found in our great cities. Many people in comfortable Britain have told me of their deep concern to understand better what life in big cities is about and to prevent the increase of divided Britain. May I say that I hope that noble Lords who do not experience the life of urban areas at first-hand will think twice before voting against this amendment or against other amendments. Especially, I think of those who seek to provide successor bodies to take the overall view in a great city, for great cities are both a collection of villages and are not a collection of villages. When it comes to information for would-be developers, for putting together a package of different resources, for getting transportation right and for the provision of effective services, great urban areas are not a collection of villages or towns. They are a common interest which reaches right across the sectional interests of boroughs or districts.

Whatever the Labour Party or the Conservative Party ever said when I was deeply a Londoner for many years, I always believed profoundly in the need for an overall authority with greater powers, and not less. The aim of this Bill needs to be much sharper than its hopeful wishes about joint boards. That is what I put my name down to hear something about through an inquiry. It is difficult to see how the proposals in the Bill would provide a more effective and less costly delivery of services.

The complex arrangements of joint boards,joint committees, voluntary joint arrangements, residuary bodies and greater Civil Service involvement in local matters will be confusing to the public and are likely to give rise to more conflict, more tension and more bureaucratic delay. With our experience (which your Lordships may not share) of Liverpool City Council, for example, and of Sefton Borough Council, this is something that we can do without. I believe that the committee of inquiry for which we ask would give a further chance to look at the realism of providing the services which have been offered by the metropolitan counties. Why has there been such reluctance for such an independent inquiry? The nearest we have come to an independent inquiry is that being carried out by the Select Committee of your Lordships' House on Science and Technology. Noble Lords pointed out at Second Reading that that Committee of the House warned of the waste of breaking up skills and proven teams.

Noble Lords will not be surprised that I come back for a moment to Merseyside. Not for the first time the debate on this Bill has drifted away into being an argument about the Greater London Council. It is not seriously questioned by anyone known to me that Merseyside is a reality in social, economic and cultural terms; no unreal SELNEC was invented to deal with Merseyside. It is worth noting that over 40 years ago a Merseyside plan was produced which covered an area extending from the Ribble estuary in the north to the Mersey at Widnes and including the whole of the Wirral peninsula, an area greater than the present county of Merseyside.

Liverpool City Council recommended a similar area to the Redcliffe-Maud Commission in 1962 as the most appropriate area of operation for a new county authority. I very much regret, if I may say so, that the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, is not able to be in his place because of the illness of his wife. I should like to suggest that our prayers and best wishes for her recovery are heard. He would have been able to speak with great authority about the overview which the city council, and then, subsequently, the county council, has been able to have. I make this point because at Second Reading noble Lords on the Government side of the House told us repeatedly that proud cities did not welcome the metropolitan counties. That may have been so in some cities; and I do not pretend metropolitan counties have always been popular. I want to suggest that some have been winning their way in a very real and genuine way.

In its evidence to the Redcliffe-Maud Commission Liverpool City Council concluded that the redeployment of Merseyside's population is of such a scale and demands such urgent solution that the responsibility for this solution and the power to achieve it must rest with one authority. It also recommended that the employment pattern on Merseyside calls for a highly integrated transport system and recommended that the police, fire, civil defence and possibly (it said) main drainage, sewage disposal and further education should be responsibilities of the proposed county council.

Looking at Merseyside as a whole, establishing and reviewing the overall direction of policies and allocation of resources to the area are necessary now more than ever. I wish that your Lordships could have spent an evening last week with a group of directors of major companies in Merseyside, a group which Archbishop Warlock and I invited last year to come together. The group was trying to look at possible new areas of development for jobs in Merseyside. At several earlier meetings of our group it became clear that the Merseyside County Council has acted as a very important catalyst, providing information and bringing together public and private sector resources. Last week the chairman of the English Tourist Board came to meet with us. We had been taking a serious look at the possible development of tourism in Merseyside. Much credit was given at that meeting to Merseyside County Council for the progress made by it in promoting tourism. There was a promise of energetic support from the English Tourist Board when—and there came repeatedly this key phrase—"you've got your act together" after abolition of the body which all present agreed had got its act together.

We need a committee of inquiry to make sure that such a co-ordinating body comes into being in each necessary area of interest with the very different and particular needs and resources of each of the metropolitan counties. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House assured me during the Second Reading debate of his readiness to listen. I readily acknowledge his readiness to listen. That was not quite what I asked him. I asked him that the Government not only listen, but also enter into the debate on its merits.

This Bill is something of a blunderbuss. I hope that the Government and their critics in this matter will be willing to sharpen their aim as particular services are looked at. I hope that the Government might see a committee of inquiry as a useful tool to help make provision for services as some of these complex issues emerge more clearly.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Howie of Troon

I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that there are many noble Lords on this side of the Committee and in other parts of the Chamber who support this amendment without being in any way interested in the powers of patronage on the other side of the river, nor necessarily supporting some of what he thought was the lavish public expenditure. I think that when the noble Lord reflects on the closing parts of his speech he will realise that he has been less than generous to many of his colleagues on this side of the Committee.

However, there was a more important part of his speech at the beginning when the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said that it was somewhat unusual for an inquiry to be requested at such a late stage in the progress of a Bill through Parliament. He was, of course, right; it is unusual. And what is more unusual is that a piece of legislation of this nature and of this constitutional importance should have come forward without a public inquiry in the first place. It is only because, unusually, there was no public inquiry at the beginning that we are now asking, unusually, for a public inquiry at the end.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Well said!

Lord Howie of Troon

I think that that is an important and crucial factor in the debate today.

There are only two other points to which I wish to refer which have been raised in the debate. One is that this amendment is a wrecking amendment and the other is that it is a frivolous one. The accusation that the amendment is a wrecking one has I think been totally demolished by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, and I endorse every word he said in demolishing it. We should really hear no more of that argument today or at any other time in the future.

I turn to the argument that it is frivolous, which was raised first by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, opposite and I think was repeated a little later by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. Both of them, I think, saw that part, at least, of the frivolity lay in the unlikelihood of the Government being able to appoint a committee who were unaware of the arguments and who had been, I think, protected from them in some way, almost as though they were a jury of some kind. But we know that that is not the reality of committees.

I would remind noble Lords that it is within the memory of your Lordships' House that not terribly long ago a committee of inquiry was set up into the Falklands war. It can hardly be said that the members of that committee did not know anything about the Falklands war; and most of them had been involved in the policies which led up to it. I do not want to talk here about the Falklands war as something in itself. I am saying merely that it was found possible to appoint a committee to deal with that highly contentious matter even though everybody in the country knew what was thought to be all about the Falklands war. But we know that as time has gone on more and more factors have appeared which we did not know about. The right reverend Prelate who spoke a moment ago said that the same thing is true in regard to this Bill. Why should we assume that nothing new can be found about this matter just because we have spoken about it and just because the Commons has been guillotined on it? I do not think that the wrecking accusation stands and I do not think that the accusation of frivolity stands.

To turn to the last element in the frivolity argument, which was the time available for the Committee, it will again be within the recollection of the Committee that the committee on the Falklands war was asked specifically to report quickly and it managed so to do. What was perfectly possible and what was done by that committee not so terribly long ago could certainly be done by the committee proposed here. This amendment is a sound and sensible one and ought to be supported.

Lord Hunt

I rise to—

Noble Lords

Lord Bellwin.

Lord Bellwin

I do not want to make a long speech, but there is one factor which has not been referred to. Whatever else the amendment is, whether it is wrecking, frivolous or whatever, it certainly is delaying, because it has already delayed us for almost two hours in our consideration of the Bill.

The one point I want to make is that this proposal for an inquiry is nothing new at all. It was put forward to us and was almost a major plank of the Opposition's proposals when we were debating this question under the Local Government (Interim Provisions) Bill, the paving Bill, as it was then called. It was put forward, it was debated, it was voted upon at Second Reading and at various stages, and it was rejected. We have had exactly the same thing during the passage of this Bill. We had 11 hours of discussion under the reasoned amendment on Second Reading. Perhaps, as an aside, I may say this to the noble Lord, Lord Diamond. I wonder, with his great concern for the constitutional proprieties, how happy he is that we have these reasoned amendments which enable the Opposition not to vote against at Second Reading but to vote for something which at least has a major impact upon the thinking of those who then consider the Bill; but that is for another day.

Lord Diamond

The noble Lord has challenged me. Perhaps I may say that, so far as all of us on these Benches are concerned, we have not once put our names to any amendment which would seek to delay the Second Reading of any Bill passed by the other place.

Lord Bellwin

I still say that that is for another day.

For the moment I would refer your Lordships' Committee to the 11 hours of the Second Reading debate, when every opportunity was given to everyone to raise everything. Inquiries were mentioned then as they have always been mentioned. It was overwhelmingly, disastrously, dramatically rejected by your Lordships' House at that time. So here we have it yet again, albeit in another form. That is what it is. We are now being asked to vote on exactly the same thing; only now it is not as part of something else but is on its own. That is my major objection to it.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool was referring to other matters, arguably Second Reading matters. I do not want to do that. However, I must say to him with great respect—I think he knows that I have that for him—that I come from an urban background. I was brought up in such a background and as a boy saw conditions which were a darn sight worse than whatever applies today. When I see what has been done since then, not disallowing what still needs to be done—goodness knows, my job in the past two years took me in among that—I say that we have to keep this in proportion.

I maintain that whatever may be the case in Merseyside, certainly I do not accept that in West Yorkshire and in Leeds services are at all better now than they were before the reorganisation 10 years ago. I certainly acknowledge that there are some specialist groups which do some very good cross-boundary work. I hope that within the Bill we will ensure that those are not lost, indeed, that they are enhanced, that they go to the right home and are dealt with properly. I certainly am all for that. But I do not accept that basic services, the ones which are going to be returned to the boroughs, are in any way better now than they were previously; on the contrary. When on Second Reading I said that there are many Labour leaders who privately cannot wait for the day when they get these services back into the metropolitan districts I knew exactly what I had in mind, and it is only out of my concern for their future political aspirations that I do not name them. That would be the last thing that they would want me to do.

As I said, I do not want to make a long speech. I wish to say only that I believe that this question of an inquiry is a matter which has been well debated, talked through and rejected several times. To me it would mean at the very least delay. I thought that my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter made a most telling speech when he said what would be the practical effect of it. I was very convinced by that. I hope that your Lordships' Committee will also be convinced by it and will reject the amendment out of hand.

Lord Hunt

I rise to support this amendment and in doing so perhaps I may say that I had no part in the discussions leading to the framing of it, nor in the decision to put it down for discussion in this Committee. We have heard a great deal about whether it is a wrecking amendment. Perhaps I may say that had that been the intention, I would not have dreamt of coming to this Committee with the idea of supporting it; and nothing I have heard during this long to-ing and fro-ing about whether or not it is a wrecking amendment has persuaded me that it is. Nor—and I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, make the distinction—am I persuaded that the word "delay" equates with the words "wreck" or "destroy". If that is not so, we need to refer to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The purpose of this amendment does nothing to invalidate the main intention of the Bill; it seeks to improve it. That is why I am rising very briefly in support of it. We have heard most of the reasons in support of setting up a committee of inquiry to look into the provisions of services in the GLC area and the metropolitan counties. I wish to refer to the provision of services by the voluntary organisations and to a point that has not yet been raised. That is the only reason why I am speaking now. It is sometimes helpful to take a specific instance to illustrate a point. I make no apology for making a reference to an organisation, the Rainer Foundation, in which I have an interest to declare—a completely non-financial interest—simply to illustrate a point which I believe is, if not general to, shared by a great many other voluntary organisations working in London and in the metropolitan counties.

The Rainer Foundation provides services to young people mainly in the south of England and mainly in London. I shall touch on just four to make my point. We provide among many others two schemes in Lewisham, one scheme in Southwark and another scheme which spans three boroughs, Islington. Brent and Haringey. The kind of work that is being done includes accommodation for homeless young people and community based schemes for young offenders and for others who are at risk of falling foul of the law; and in connection with those we operate YTS schemes Mode 2.

5 p.m.

I now come to my main point. It would be very difficult to describe to this Committee the degree of depression, the level of anxiety and the state of pessimism among staff working in these difficult and extremely important areas. It is difficult in terms of the areas in which they are working; it is extremely important in terms of the nature of their work. The work is not of a popular kind. It is not of a kind likely to win public sympathy and practical support and draw anything like sufficient compensating funds from the private sector; and yet it has a direct bearing on public order and on the prevention of crime.

There is no confidence among the workers to whom I am referring on those four specific cases—and they are only typical of a great many others—that this Bill as drafted will ensure the necessary on-going funding adequate for the job that they are doing; funding either from the boroughs in which they are working (either by individual boroughs or a collection of boroughs) or by the Government funds which will replace those at present provided by the GLC.

It is not too much to say that this uncertainty and anxiety has adversely affected the quality of the work which the social workers have been doing in those schemes for many months past. This is bound to persist under the present terms of the Bill, at least until late autumn—when the prospects or otherwise of funding by the boroughs and their share of Government funds are made known. An inquiry such as that advocated in this amendment would at least ensure in such schemes as these (apart from giving confidence to social workers) that the soundest and fairest alternative methods of funding voluntary-based services have been thoroughly examined by an independent and expert body. It would provide a breathing space during which morale among social workers could be restored. I join with others, such as my noble friend Lord Evans, who spoke of the tendency of the Government to rough-ride over public opinion. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, called this a frivolous amendment. What can be more important than taking some account of the social workers working in these fields, and what is frivolous about taking their views into account?

Baroness White

I am sorry if I interfere with the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie; the noble Earl is not by any chance making a statement now? If he is not doing so, then I will proceed.

I have had almost 40 years' experience in this Palace of Westminster and I can truthfully say that on no previous occasion have I known of a Bill which has been the subject of such universal concern expressed by those most closely concerned with the functions relevant to the proposed legislation. Noble Lords in all parts of the Committee have received a vast amount of correspondence. We are accustomed to that but, as a rule, the quality of such correspondence is not that which has been seen on this occasion. In the past, very often, particular points of interest, pressure or emotion have arisen which meant that we received a large postbag. But even if such views are not expressed on identical postcards, we know very well that they are in effect propagating just one or two particular points of view.

This time the difference is that a vast range of persons in various areas of activity are deeply concerned, deeply puzzled and deeply apprehensive—if not actually distressed—about what is intended under the proposed legislation. I would ask noble Lords who are hesitating over this amendment whether they have encountered enthusiastic support for these proposals from any reputable professional organisation closely connected with local government functions. It is astonishing the way in which one profession after another has written to us expressing doubts, concerns, hesitation and apprehension. Those organisations have not been convinced. With great respect to noble Lords on the other side of the Committee who are opposing this amendment (and they are by no means unanimous), this situation is one which should cause us considerable concern. It causes me very great concern.

I do not profess to have specialised knowledge of all the areas about which I am now receiving correspondence. It is not easy to come to a measured judgment in areas in which one does not have expert knowledge. However, the people who have been writing are of a standing and experience which makes one regard their opinions with considerable respect.

This is indeed an unusual situation—to encounter such a wide range of concern. I would have thought that that in itself would surely have persuaded the Government that this is an occasion when further inquiry is necessary—even if they propose to get this measure through. I do not imagine that any of us dispute that this measure will reach the statute book in some shape or form. We are simply saying that the Government should do the minimum damage possible and not the maximum damage possible in implementing this legislation.

I call in aid an area with which I do have some acquaintance. It is exemplified in the report—most unusually, an interim report—of a Select Committee of our Lordships' House. It was the report so eloquently referred to on Second Reading by the chairman of the respective committee of your Lordships' House, the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook. It is the interim report of your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology, dealing with the provision of scientific and technical services as affected by the Local Government Bill we are now discussing.

I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin (who now has many preoccupations other than reading parliamentary papers), has had an opportunity of really studying the report, but it is a very serious document. I do not wish to go through the details of the report as that was done by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook; but I should like to remind the Committee of the conclusions unanimously reached by that all- party committee of your Lordships' House, in which they stated, and I quote from the final paragraph of the report: 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. … 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. 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". The committee made various detailed recommendations, with which I will not weary your Lordships, but it is perfectly clear that the committee, which went into these matters with great thoroughness and with a considerable degree of expertise at its disposal, recognised that there is virtually no chance of a satisfactory transfer of functions by the date of abolition. They also assumed that this Bill, in some shape or form, would reach the statute book.

The report argued that if arrangements had not been finalised the scientific and technical services, with staff, should be transferred initially to a residuary body. This would minimise disruption until longer-term arrangements could be made. Even this would lead to a period of inaction and loss of dynamism and the interim period should therefore be kept to a minimum.

If for no other reason, a committee of inquiry of the kind suggested by my noble friend should proceed forthwith to investigate the best way of making a thoroughly unsatisfactory situation at least better than it may otherwise be. That is the purpose of this amendment. And—mutatis mutandis—one could say the same of other areas. When it comes to strategic planning, transport, etc., no one knows how they will be handled. They are not being transferred to the boroughs.

We are all mature, intelligent people and we know what is going on. Those functions will not be transferred to the boroughs, except in part. There are considerable areas where nobody knows what really is the best way of coping with the situation if the GLC and the metropolitan counties are to be dismembered and destroyed. It is not for us to go into detail here and now, but there is a serious case to be made for the amendment which is now before the Committee. If we are to keep to the Government's proposals and timetable, then all the more reason why this amendment should be adopted and some proper, rational discussion undertaken on the methods by which this botched legislation can be improved.

The Earl of Perth

I came to this Committee stage this afternoon without any preconceived idea, one way or the other, on the amendment. However, the more I listened the more it struck me that, in a way, this amendment is something of a derogation of the powers of the House itself. What is it suggesting? It is suggesting that the House, in this Committee stage and in other stages, goes with the greatest care into all the various points raised by many of your Lordships and then assumes that the work must be done again by a committee. I find that some sort of reflection on your Lordships' House.

I believe it was the noble Lord. Lord McIntosh of Haringey, who pointed out how in the past year or two the Government, under pressure, have considerably changed the Bill for the better. If that is right to date why should it not go on that way, because our Lordships will be trying to improve the Bill in one way or another? To suggest that after we pass the Bill we should then start all over again and legislate in eight weeks—because that is about the timetable, as your Lordships have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter—is, if not frivolous, certainly not a practical suggestion.

The only other point that has occurred to me in listening to your Lordships is that if this committee were to be set up it would be faced with an enormous amount of work. We all know of the representations that we have had. The right reverend Prelate said that we must consider, in particular, Merseyside. We must consider London and all the various metropolitan counties in that very short time and produce an answer by the beginning of February and finish the legislation by 1st April. Somehow, that date is one which I find totally appropriate. I do not think that this is an amendment which we should take seriously.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that no one in this House wants to extend the patronage of our friends on the other side of the river. What we wanted to do, and what the Government have prevented us from doing, was to ensure that they went to the electorate on Thursday of this week. That was the whole objective of our exercise last year. I can also assure the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, that there is nothing frivolous in this amendment. It is not frivolous when we are investigating what I believe—and the noble Earl who is to wind up will correct me if I am wrong—is the first time since 1832 that any of the British people have been deliberately disenfranchised. That is not frivolous.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and my noble friend Lady White have all pointed to specific issues that should be the subject of an inquiry and to which the Government have given no answer and can give no answer at this stage. Nor can they give any answer to what will happen when the several million people (I shall not put a figure on it) whom we know are to be disenfranchised lose their votes. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, said at the beginning of the Second Reading debate that democracy involves power coming as close as possible to the voters. Is that going to come through this Bill? If so, how? We are entitled to an answer; and not just a political answer but an answer as to what will happen to these powers. To what extent is this an increase in the power of the executive? To what extent, as the Government claim, is this going to save money? No one can give a specific answer. These are all matters for which an inquiry is necessary.

5.15 p.m.

The Bill contains proposals for a major constitutional change and it comes without precedent because no public inquiry has been carried out as a basis for it. That sentence should be quoted. It is not mine. It is a sentence of the right honourable Edward Heath speaking in another place on 4th December. I suggest that he speaks for one kind of Conservative and that his words should be listened to by that kind of Conservative who is in this Committee this afternoon. I suggested that in my Second Reading speech. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House thought he was very clever in turning round my history on Joseph Chamberlain and his family. If he had known anything about the spirit of that history he would have known that if Joseph Chamberlain had been alive for the last decade he would have been leading not Birmingham but the West Midlands County Council. His whole effect was to spread the democracy of local government and to spread accountability, which this Bill is taking away.

What the noble Viscount the Leader of the House did not say, and did not answer when I specifically asked him was whether the logic of this Bill is to be applied to the shire counties. He never mentioned that in his winding-up speech. I suggest that an inquiry of this kind should look at the implications contained within the Bill for the shire counties. I asked the noble Viscount, quite deliberately and specifically, when he was sitting in his place: are we to take it that the shire county elections on Thursday of this week are to be the last? If not, where is the logic of the Government's argument? Are not those shire counties, the county councils, just as subject to the logic of the Government's argument as are the metropolitan counties and the GLC? If not, we should be told where the logic goes wrong. I suggest that this can only be done by looking objectively at the whole structure of local government.

I also suggest that those who have argued that the Bill has been put through the whole process of Parliament are using a very dubious argument. We know (and I said this at Second Reading) that when the guillotine fell in the other place there were 55 hours left to discuss nearly 70 clauses. I gave the time that was taken on important clauses. Surely that is not the kind of democracy which noble Lords opposite consider to be a substitute for an independent inquiry or an examination of the proposals put forward by the Government. So the Bill comes to us, the unelected House, without the elected House having had the opportunity of a thorough examination and we are put into the position of an inquiry. But what happened two weeks ago tonight? It was not noble Lords who are sitting on these Benches here who took part in that vote. It was amusing to see during that afternoon, that even the attendants did not know some of the noble Lords who were here. I sympathised even with the clerks, who had to consult Dod's to try to match pictures with faces they had never before seen.

The majority mentioned this afternoon was not a majority of the people who have been discussing the Bill. It was a majority of those whom the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip had been able to persuade or coerce to come here to cast their votes. When? It was at a quarter to two in the morning. Why? It was because the Government Chief Whip knew that his three-line whip would not continue on the Tuesday.

Surely, had we been serious and put ourselves in the position of being an impartial, objective inquiry into the issues of the Bill, the Government would not have hesitated for a moment. When they saw the list of speakers—and they knew the list of speakers because we all knew it before the Easter Recess—they would have immediately agreed to a two-day debate. That would have been sensible, instead of forcing or coercing people. Some of my dearest colleagues on this side of the House—and I am sure that there were noble Lords on the other side of the House—risked their health to stay up until a quarter to two in the morning to cast their vote. Is that the way to conduct a serious inquiry and investigation into the Bill? I suggest that it is not.

I suggest that there is a case for an independent inquiry after the Bill has been passed to bring out the issues which the Government have not been able to answer authoritatively and to examine the repercussions of aspects that their own supporters—I have quoted Mr. Heath and I could quote others—have shown to be offensive to the concept and tradition of conservatism as they have known it. This inquiry would give the Government one further opportunity to avoid a clash with common sense as well as with democracy, and we are offering them that opportunity this evening.

The Earl of Gowrie

I sense that the Committee may wish now to come to a decision on this issue, and I shall simply try to respond to some of the specific points that have been made rather than rehearse all the arguments, which have been well put. Speaking for myself, I have found it an extraordinarily lively and interesting debate. I say that as something of a "rookie" in local government legislation.

However, I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, that I am not such a "rookie" as to make the confusion with the shire counties. One reason why the Government are seeking your Lordships' assent to this legislation is because the shire counties carry out over 80 per cent. of the services in their areas, whereas the metropolitan counties carry out only 26 per cent. and the GLC 11 per cent. That is what we mean by a wasteful and expensive tier of bureaucracy.

I also say to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, that those of us on this side of the Committee who bear the affection and admiration for my right honourable friend Mr. Heath that I do would rather seek to protect him from the embraces of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch. I think that the Opposition could perhaps choose a more subtle figure to put up if that point is to be made.

I do not propose to deal with the argument as to whether this is a wrecking amendment. Let me give the noble Baroness the benefit of the doubt. Let me act the soft policeman, so to say, to my noble friend's hard cop and suggest that it may not be a wrecking amendment. But if it is not, it certainly does not seem to be an amendment of very great substance. I thought that that point was answered admirably from slightly different perspectives by my noble friends Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Beloff, and also, of course, by the noble Earl, Lord Perth. He made the sensible point that many of the things that the inquiry might deal with could be perfectly wisely, legitimately and properly dealt with by your Lordships' House as the Bill proceeded on its way.

Let me say one quick personal thing about the whole issue of an inquiry. I am 45 years old, and I cannot remember a time during my adult life when some inquiry or other into the workings of local government and its finances has not been taking place. There was the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London which was set up in 1957 under Sir Edwin Herbert and which reported in 1960. There was the London Government Act of 1963, which created the GLC and the 32 London boroughs. There was the Royal Commission into the workings of local government under Sir John Maud, later Lord Redcliffe-Maud, which was appointed in 1966 and reported in June 1969. There was the then Conservative Government's 1971 White Paper, Local Government in England. There was that Government's Local Government Act in 1972. In addition, under the Labour Government the GLC itself set up the Marshall Inquiry under the noble Lord, Lord Marshall of Leeds, which reported in July 1978.

We have been deluged with inquiries, debate, knowledge and information. It would seem to me wholly redundant to go down that road again. The reason we are being urged to do so is simple. Those who are opposed, perfectly honourably, to our proposals and legislation believe that it will help them in their campaigns against them. That point could not have been put more clearly than it was by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter.

I was stung by one criticism. Happily, a Back-Bench Member of the party opposite came to my aid. I was stung by the noble Baroness when she said that no one was making any headway against the Government in respect of criticisms of this legislation. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, with his great experience of local government, came to my rescue. The Government have consulted widely, as I know as a principal participant on the arts sides in this respect, and they have substantially modified some of their original propositions before the legislative process.

There is the very substantial modification of the ILEA proposals. There are the suggestions that boroughs and districts will prepare single unitary development plans instead of being responsible for separate structure and local plans—and I believe that that answers in some measure the criticisms made by the noble Baroness, Lady White. Also, in my own field there is the additional central Government funding—which will of course be partially distributed through regional arts authorities—to pick up some of the arts expenditure of the GLC and the metropolitan county councils. That was a complete change of tack by the Government as a result of representations and consultations. There were the changes for the voluntary bodies. The Government will provide transitional funding of schemes to the total value of £10 million for the first four years following abolition, and the Bill provides for a scheme of joint funding by all boroughs and districts of countrywide projects. Previous to that change voluntary bodies supported by the GLC or the metropolitan county councils would in future have had to look to boroughs or districts for support.

5.30 p.m.

I, like the Committee, was moved and impressed very much, if I may say so, by the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. I hope that the changes and modifications, of which perhaps he did not take sufficient account, will answer some of the points that he made. I think it is also important to say to the right reverend Prelate that you do not have to be a city or an inner city with a metropolitan county council to have great inner city problems or to make sterling attempts to tackle them. To say that would be rather rude, I think, to the difficulties of such great cities of ours as Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow and others.

When I think of an inner city area like central Birmingham, I must say that this debate was much too interesting for me to indulge in the fantasy of composing a speech in the style of the late Joe Chamberlain on what he would have thought of the West Midlands County Council. I have been enormously impressed, when I have been in Birmingham, by how little that city, which is not held in hands politically sympathetic to my own, think of the metropolitan county council. I am sharply aware that there are no proposals that I know of by the Labour Government to put those county councils back into being, should they win an election.

The noble Baroness also said there was no consensus of this issue. One of the puzzling things of contemporary politics is that the tone of debate and altercation has become much sharper in recent years. Yet I would suggest that some of the analyses or the problems have become much closer. It seems to me that the Alliance, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party have been alike in their analysis that these structures (which were brought into being, as I fully acknowledge, by a Conservative Government) have not only been less than perfect but have actually aroused local government spokesmen of all opposition parties to declare that they would wish to see them at an end.

The noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, I think rather let the side down by saying that he was not opposed to reform: with characteristic liberal invective, he was simply opposed to doing anything about it. I welcome the noble Lord. Lord Evans, to the reformists, and I hope that he will get off the fence on this issue.

I was also concerned—I did not seek to interrupt him because he made the point very quickly and passed over it—lest any of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kissin, about Hampstead Heath should create anxiety in this Chamber or outside. The noble Lord said that Hampstead Heath's future was very uncertain, as if in some way this enormous acreage was going to be hived off or sold in some way. Whatever body ends up with formal responsibility for Hampstead Heath, what we all mind about is that it should continue to be Hampstead Heath, which is precisely what will happen. Under present arrangements, if anything sinister were to be done to it—and this applies to many areas covered by the Bill—the Secretary of State of the day could, of course, prevent it. I cannot imagine any Secretary of State of the day not doing so.

It was a particularly interesting debate, and I think that probably now is the time to take a decision on it. I believe it is not unfair of me to suggest that in this respect the Opposition—however sincere their opposition to the Bill generally—are being a little cynical and a little opportunistic. They have, through the pronouncements of their spokemen, on many occasions in recent years, and even since the general election, attacked the structure of local government as covered by the MCCs and the GLC. They have now tried to climb on a bandwagon created, I would say, very temporarily and with unscrupulous use of public money by a handful of bright Labour politicians in these areas. They will find this a very expensive mistake, as it will land them with commitments at the next election which they will regret.

I do not think the noble Baroness has one of her elegant legs to stand on in respect of this amendment, and I ask the Committee not to fall for her.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

Before the noble Earl ceases to share his random observations with us, I took particular note of his almost concluding sentence about the Opposition being cynical and opportunist. Would he say that his right honourable friend in another place, for whom he expressed so much affection, was being cynical or opportunist when he said (and I will repeat to the noble Earl the words of the right honourable gentlemen Mr. Edward Heath): The Bill contains proposals for a major constitutional change and it comes without precedent because no public inquiry has been carried out as a basis for it".

The Earl of Gowrie

I dealt with that point at the beginning of my remarks. What I had in mind was pronouncements like that of the then official Opposition spokesman on the environment, Mr. Kaufman, when he said as late as December last year: We should not regard the existence of the GLC as sacrosanct. In my view it is an enormous bureaucracy which has a dubious role to play".

Baroness Birk

We have had a long and lively debate, as the noble Earl said. If I may, I think I shall first take up some of the remarks of "the soft policeman", as he termed himself, before I get to "the hard cop". If this amendment and the debate are not something of substance, I am surprised that we have had a Cabinet Minister wheeled in to wind up on it. We have had our very distinguished Minister of State, who took it to himself to speak immediately after me, and we have had (I do not know how to describe them) all the noble Lords—Lord Boyd-Carpenter, Lord Campbell of Alloway, Lord Beloff and now Lord Bellwin—who are all highly qualified to speak and who all come to the aid of the party at a very high level. So I do not think one can talk of this as not being of any substance.

The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, referred to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and his point about the Committee carrying out the work of any inquiry. The Committee would still carry on with discussing the Bill, moving amendments and hopefully winning some of them or getting some change of heart from the Government, even if the inquiry were set up. But an independent inquiry would not be subject to three-line whips. It would not be negating what had been decided in Committee and altering it on the way.

The noble Earl also referred again to the question: Why have an inquiry, particularly when legislation is going on? With the Herbert Commission we had a commission of inquiry and then legislation; with Redcliffe-Maud we had a commission and then legislation. Now we have the legislation without an inquiry. That is the tremendous difference. I have never pretended for one moment—and I said this right from the beginning—that I thought it was very satisfactory to have to ask for a committee of inquiry during the passage of a Bill. But there is no alternative when there has not been any inquiry before the legislation; when it is something that affects so many people, so many areas, and so many lives that we have a duty to do what we can to try and improve it, even though it means a committee of inquiry which will be sitting, not for eight weeks but for something like six months. Surely it is not beyond the powers of this Parliament and of the Government that if there are proposals put forward which the Government genuinely think would improve this Bill they should then produce them and go forward with them.

The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, was mainly taking me to task. I shall not go into that matter since my noble friend Lord Howie answered the point about it being an unusual Bill. However, the noble Lord asked me about pressing for the implementation of proposals. I should say that the boot or shoe is entirely on the other foot. This is entirely in the Government's hands. When the committee of inquiry, which I hope will be set up, is set up, the Government can get it to work very much earlier. Incidentally, there is no substance in the argument of not being able to find people who look at a matter independently. Everybody brings themselves and their own prejudices to other things they do, but when they have something in front of them to consider and terms of reference (and they will be fairly narrow) I do not think that will be a problem. That point was also dealt with.

However, if the committee then come forward with certain very specific proposals which they feel would greatly improve this legislation, it will be for the Government to decide what they will do. It does not rest with the Opposition. It is up to the Government to decide whether they want to go ahead with legislation which will not work out and has a great many faults in it. It is up to them to decide whether they will get the change through very quickly or whether they will, of their own volition, decide that they would rather present a better piece of legislation to the country (not just to the Houses of Parliament) and will therefore make up their own minds to have some delay if they think it is necessary. This is nothing at all to do with the Opposition parties; it is entirely up to the Government.

The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, talked about the Second Reading debate. He seemed to imply that we were debating an inquiry. We were not. We were not debating an inquiry; but the question of an inquiry came in. It was mentioned by nearly a dozen people during that debate. The noble Lord also talked again about services being returned to the boroughs. One of the problems of the Bill is where the services are not returned to the boroughs and where they cannot be effectively given to the boroughs because they are services which cover a very much wider area.

The noble Lord, Lord Elton, when he opened, referred to the manifesto of 1979 and made very much of the fact that there was no mention of an inquiry. As to that, and as to his reference to my right honourable friend in another place and what he said at a party conference, I must say with great respect that that is rather scraping the barrel for arguments against the amendment and in favour of the Bill.

In relation to what my right honourable friend said about an inquiry, people say things at party conferences which either do not necessarily carry the weight of their party or which they do not necessarily stick to. I shall swop the noble Lord that one for a comment that was made at a party conference by the present Secretary of State for the Environment on 10th October 1983. He said: I am a Tory and I have been brought up as a Tory. I believe 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. He has obviously changed his mind about that, has he not? There we are. Thus, these are not very good precedents to follow.

The question whether or not we should go ahead with this amendment was, if I may say so, put succinctly and well by my noble friend Lady White, who is a member of the main Select Committee on Science and Technology, although not of the subcommittee which has reported. Her arguments on the need for this were on a completely apolitical basis—

Noble Lords


Baroness Birk

Yes, they were, because she was quoting what had been said by the Sub-Committee on Science and Technology. One of the other points she made, which I should like to reinforce, is this. We are all aware of the amount of material we have received and of pressures and discontent from organisations of every kind. I shall not take up the time of the Committee by listing them, because we know them. However, I think there is something of which we should take note. It is that I am sure all of us have received and are continuing to receive more and more updated material since this Bill went through the House of Commons. It did not stop there. Thus the dissatisfaction is just the same, and in many cases is greater. Now it is being transferred to this Chamber, and we are being asked what we can do.

I would say only this in ending, before I test the feelings of the Committee on this matter. What are the Government afraid of? If the Government feel that they have this matter right and that any independent committee that is set up will reinforce it or may feel that it can make some suggestions which will help it along, then they have nothing to fear. As I have already argued, there is no question of delay in this amendment. It is entirely in the hands of the Government; it is entirely in the hands of the Secretary of State. I regret the fact that, as the Minister pointed out, it is giving him yet another power. However, as we were determined not to have an amendment which would incorporate delay or which would be in any way a wrecking amendment, this was the only way to do it.

Therefore, rather than consider that this amendment is ingenious, opportunist, cynical, devious or any of the other flattering remarks that have been made about it (and I do not think that that kind of flattery will get anyone anywhere) I should have thought the Committee would have accepted it and would not have looked behind it and tried to find all kinds of sinister motives which are not there. I can see the Chief Whip grinning at me. I always like to grin back at him. However, I mean it. It is absolutely true.

I think many Members of the Committee and many people are extremely seriously concerned, including those who are in favour of the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties but are concerned at the way in which it is being carried out by this Bill. I ask the Committee to support the only way we have at the moment of trying to come to grips with this very difficult problem.

5.47 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 137; Not-Contents, 196.

Airedale, L. Gifford, L.
Amherst, E. Gladwyn, L.
Ardwick, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Attlee, E. Gregson, L.
Aylestone, L. Grey, E.
Bacon, B. Hampton, L.
Banks, L. Hanworth, V.
Barnett, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Hatch of Lusby, L.
Bernstein, L. Hayter, L.
Beswick, L. Henniker, L.
Birk, B. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Blyton, L. Howie of Troon, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Hunt, L.
Bottomley, L. Ingleby, V.
Briginshaw, L. Irving of Dartford, L.
Broadbridge, L. Jacobson, L.
Brockway, L. Jacques, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Jeger, B.
Bruce of Donington, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Buckmaster, V. John-Mackie, L.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Kaldor, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Kearton, L.
Chitnis, L. Kennet, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Collison, L. Kissin, L.
Croham, L. Lawrence, L.
Darling of Hillsborough, L. Leatherland, L.
David, B. Listowel, E.
Davies of Leek, L. Liverpool, Bp.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Dean of Beswick, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B. Lockwood, B.
Lovell-Davies, L.
Denington, B. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Derby, Bp. McNair, L.
Diamond, L. Mais, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Mayhew, L.
Donnet of Balgay, L. Melchett, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Mishcon, L.
Ennals, L. Molloy, L.
Evans of Claughton, L. Monkswell, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Ezra, L. Nicol, B.
Falkender, B. Northfield, L.
Falkland, V. Ogmore, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Paget of Northampton, L.
Fitt, L. Phillips, B.
Foot, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Gallacher, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Galpern, L.
George-Brown, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Rea, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Reilly, L. Stone, L.
Rhodes, L. Strabolgi, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Robson of Kiddington, B. Tordoff, L. [Teller.]
Rochester, L. Wade, L.
Ross of Marnock, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Sainsbury, L. Walston, L.
Scanlon, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Seear, B. Whaddon, L.
Serota, B. White, B.
Shackleton, L. Wigoder, L.
Shinwell, L. Willis, L.
Simon, V. Wilson of Langside, L.
Soper, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Stallard, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Stedman, B.
Stewart of Fulham, L. Winterbottom, L.
Abinger, L. Fisher, L.
Ailesbury, M. Foley, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Freyberg, L.
Allerton, L. Gainford, L.
Ampthill, L. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Barber, L. Gibson-Watt, L.
Bathurst, E. Glenarthur, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Gowrie, E.
Bellwin, L. Grantchester, L.
Beloff, L. Granville of Eye, L.
Belstead, L. Gray, L.
Bessborough, E. Gray of Contin, L.
Bethell, L. Greenway, L.
Bledisloe, V. Gridley, L.
Boardman, L. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Bolton, L. Haig, E.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Braye, L. Halsbury, E.
Bridgeman, V. Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Broxbourne, L. Harvey of Tasburgh, L.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. Harvington, L.
Caccia, L. Henderson of Brompton, L.
Caithness, E. Henley, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Hertford, M.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Hives, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Home of the Hirsel, L.
Carnock, L. Hood, V.
Cayzer, L. Hornsby-Smith, B.
Chelmer, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Chelwood, L. Ironside, L.
Clinton, L. Kaberry of Adel, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Kemsley, V.
Cork and Orrery, E. Kimberley, E.
Cottesloe, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Cowley, E. Kinnoull, E.
Cox, B. Kintore, E.
Craigavon, V. Lane-Fox, B.
Cranbrook, E. Lauderdale, E.
Crathorne, L. Layton, L.
Crawshaw, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Loch, L.
Davidson, V. Long, V.
De Freyne, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
De La Warr, E. Luke, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Lyell, L.
Digby, L. McAlpine of West Green, L.
Drumalbyn, L. McFadzean, L.
Dudley, E. Macleod of Borve, B.
Dundee, E. Malmesbury, E.
Eden of Winton, L. Mar, C.
Elibank, L. Margadale, L.
Ellenborough, L. Marley, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.
Elton, L.
Enniskillen, E. Merrivale, L.
Erne, E. Mersey, V.
Faithfull, B. Middleton, L.
Ferrers, E. Minto, E.
Molson, L. St. Davids, V.
Monk Bretton, L. Salisbury, M.
Moran, L. Saltoun of Abemethy, Ly.
Mottistone, L. Sandford, L.
Mountgarret, V. Sandys, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Savile, L.
Moyne, L. Seebohm, L.
Munster, E. Selkirk, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Shannon, E.
Napier and Ettrick, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Nelson of Stafford, L. Sherfield, L.
Newall, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Norfolk, D. Somers, L.
Nugent of Guildford, L. Stamp, L.
Onslow, E. Strathcarron, L.
Orkney, E. Strathspey, L.
Orr-Ewing, L. Suffield, L.
Pender, L. Swinfen, L.
Penrhyn, L. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Perth, E. Terrington, L.
Porritt, L. Teviot, L.
Portland, D. Teynham, L.
Quinton, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Radnor, E. Thorneycroft, L.
Rankeillour, L. Torphichen, L.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L. Trefgarne, L.
Reay, L. Trenchard, V.
Redesdale, L. Trumpington, B.
Reigate, L. Tryon, L.
Remnant, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Renton, L. Vickers, B.
Renwick, L. Vinson, L.
Rochdale, V. Vivian, L.
Rodney, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Romney, E. Westbury, L.
Rotherwick, L. Whitelaw, V.
Rugby, L. Young, B.
St. Aldwyn, E. Young of Graffham, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5.57 p.m.

Viscount Long

I beg to move that the House do now resume for the Statement.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.