HL Deb 10 June 1985 vol 464 cc1074-121

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Clause 9 [Highways and road traffic functions]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 23: Page 6, line 16, leave out from ("traffic") to the end of line 21.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps it would be convenient for the House if we deal also with Amendment No. 23A.

Amendment No. 23A: Page 6, line 17, leave out from first ("to") to end of line 21 and insert ("give effect to the transfer of functions relating to those matters—

  1. (a) from the Greater London Council—
    1. (i) in part to the London residuary body; and
    2. (ii) in part to the London borough councils and the common council; and
  2. (b) from the metropolitan county councils—
    1. (i) in part to the metropolitan county strategic transportation authorities; and
    2. (ii) in part to the metropolitan district councils.").

These amendments seek only to tidy up the wording of Clause 9 to make it more compatible with Clauses 7 and 8, which transfer strategic highway functions for London to the London residuary body and, for the metropolitan counties, to the metropolitan county passenger transport authorities. In this respect these amendments pave the way for the amendments to the schedules consequential on Clauses 7 and 8. I trust that all quarters of the House will recognise this and accordingly offer their support.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me for intervening, but I understood that he would be dealing with Amendments Nos. 23B and 23C at the same time. I merely wish to get the record straight.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I am sorry, but my list of grouped amendments does not appear to be the same. From my list it would seem that there are two separate groups: Amendments Nos. 23 and 23A and Amendments Nos. 23B and 23C.

Lord Elton

My Lords, if the noble Lord wishes to treat the amendments in that way, I am sure that my noble friend will be able to cope with it. I merely wanted to get the record straight so that we know what is being spoken about, and my noble friend can reply accordingly.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, as I said, I have been given the amendments in these two groupings and I have prepared accordingly.

The subject of the consequentiality in general and its relevance in particular to amendments which have been tabled in my name, and which follow immediately, is of great concern to this side of the House. The amendments affected relate to transport supplementary grant—Amendments Nos. 23B and 23C (so they are involved, though I had prepared for a slightly different way of presenting them); to trunking—Amendment No. 25; designation of roads in London—Amendment No. 27; traffic guidance—Amendment No. 28; and urban traffic control—Amendment No. 29.

Noble Lords will recall that at Committee stage there was considerable confusion about the situation after amendments leading to the addition of Clauses 7 and 8 to the Bill had been carried. At that time, in somewhat inconsistent 'fashion and based on Government advice, amendments relating to trunking, designation, traffic guidance and urban traffic control consequently fell and were not taken. Your Lordships were, therefore, denied a prime opportunity to remove unnecessary powers of the Secretary of State from the Bill.

I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, on 22nd May, seeking clarification. I received a response only late last Thursday. I do not blame him for that. It was extremely complicated and the advice of parliamentary experts would be necessary to disentangle the difficulties into which we got ourselves that night. But it was only on Thursday that I received a reply. It was specific that the provisions on trunking, designation and traffic guidance were not technically compatible with Clauses 7 and 8, and it was not accepted that they could simply be deleted.

According to his letter the noble Lord now believes that the best way forward is for the House to consider those provisions together with any other amendments to Schedules 4 and 5 which your Lordships would wish to debate at this stage. In view of the late response I have not had a further opportunity to discuss the issues with the Government. However, from this side of the House the considered view is that the amendments which we are now debating and which cover the tidying up of Clause 9—Amendments Nos. 23A, 23B and 23C on transport supplementary grants and Amendment No. 29 on urban traffic control—would correct, in the noble Lord's own words, provisions which are technically incompatible with Clauses 7 and 8 and which can be removed from the Bill. I would not therefore expect them to be opposed when they are moved.

Although the specific provisions on trunking, designation and traffic guidance are not, in the strictest sense, technically incompatible with Clauses 7 and 8, a strong case can be made for incompatibility in practice. All these provisions in the Bill were clearly meant to supply the strategic dimension of road traffic planning which the Government have always recognised as being essential. Since the London residuary body and the metropolitan county passenger transport authorities will under Clauses 7 and 8 now provide those strategic functions, I contend—and I think that your Lordships would have difficulty in disagreeing—that in all practical senses the provisions are redundant and can be removed from the Bill.

It is well known that the responsibility for such a tidying up operation normally lies with the Government, who are, after all, in charge of the Bill, especially when they have announced that they will not reverse the decisions that we made in Committee. It is a constitutional duty which, as I tried to explain earlier, the Government have to accept—and the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, intervened to make a particular point on that; this is the only Bill with which we are dealing, irrespective of whether it may be changed in another place or even at a later stage in this House. For those reasons I hope that the Government will feel that it is possible to accept the amendments. I beg to move.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Hayter)

My Lords, I have to point out that if Amendment No. 23 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 23A.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, for his explanation of Amendments Nos. 23, 23A, 23B and 23C. I was not quite clear as to their purpose.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, has not actually dealt with Nos. 23B and 23C, as I understand it.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the noble Lord talked about Amendments Nos. 23B and 23C.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I referred to the fact that they would be coming up as amendments which were necessary, but they were not chosen in the selection to be grouped with Amendments Nos. 23 and 23A, and I considered it quite out of order that I should go ahead and take them at the same time. As I said, I had planned to speak specifically to Amendments Nos. 23B and 23C, and I believe that other noble Lords particularly wish to speak to them.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, in that case I shall confine my remarks to Amendments Nos. 23 and 23A. I was still not quite clear as to their purpose. They leave the substance of Clause 9 and allow Schedules 4 and 5 to remain in the Bill. What they remove is the declaration of the principal purpose of the clause and also the references to the transfers of function intended by the Government. The noble Lord has explained why he feels that the words to be removed are now no longer appropriate and what he now intends should be the position, particularly regarding payment of transport supplementary grant provided for in Clause 9(3).

I should say that I do not particularly feel strongly about these amendments one way or the other. We earlier explained that we would wait a little before coming forward with proposals to resolve the complications now attaching to this part of the Bill. If the noble Lord wants to move Amendment No. 23 or Amendment No. 23A, I shall not advise your Lordships to oppose him. I should, however, draw to your Lordships' attention the slightly curious circumstance that Amendment No. 24, standing in the name, among others, of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, would entirely remove Clause 9 from the Bill. In view of your Lordships' rejection of Amendment No. 2 earlier, I think that the noble Lord will wish to help your Lordships in speaking again by indicating whether it is also intended to move Amendments Nos. 24, 26 and 33. If it is, I am not quite clear as to the purpose of Amendments Nos. 23 and 23A. Perhaps he can help us.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I think that we must take the amendments in series. If it is not the wish of the House that Clause 9 be left out, I should obviously like it to be amended. Even if the amendments that I have brought forward were carried, I cannot see why Amendment No. 24 to leave out Clause 9 cannot still be moved. We are in a belt and braces situation: if we cannot have one, we want the other. The amendments that I am moving are perfectly reasonable, I suggest. If they are accepted, my noble friend Lady Birk can make her own decision as to whether she wishes Clause 9 to be omitted, as can the noble Lords, Lord Kilmarnock, Lord Bancroft and Lord Seebohm. No matter what amendments are made to Clause 9, that will not prejudice in any way their decision on whether they want Clause 9 to be left out. If the Government decide that they do not want to accept the amendment that Clause 9 is left out, we should rather have it with my amendments than without.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am not sure whether my speaking is in breach of the conventions of your Lordships' House, and your Lordships must ask me to sit down if your wish. I am not certain whether the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, noticed that the Chair reminded him that he cannot have both Amendments Nos. 23 and 23A. Amendment No. 23A seeks to remove part of the Bill which Amendment No. 23 will have already removed. It is not for me to make the choice.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, it is actually Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove. Lord Kilmarnock normally sits behind me.

Lord Elton

My Lords, we are still getting confused. I am so sorry; I should have said, Lord Carmichael. I strayed from every possible convention. I just wanted to help the noble Lord by pointing out that if in his first amendment he leaves out two-and-a-half lines, he cannot also leave out the same half line at the end of that in his next amendment. He has made the choice.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I agree that there is a great difficulty. The choice that I make is that I would want Amendment No. 23A accepted. As I tried to explain earlier, whatever happens to the clause, it is always possible in a subsequent amendment to omit the entire clause, should that be the wish of my noble friends on this side of the House.

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, I am going to call Amendment No. 23. Is that moved?

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

Yes, my Lords, I have moved it.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, perhaps this may assist the noble Lord. I think if the noble Lord has a choice he may prefer Amendment No. 23A, in which case presumably the noble Lord would withdraw Amendment No. 23.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, perhaps I may speak to the noble Lord on the Woolsack. I have had advice on this highly technical point. It appears that in order to have the substance of my two amendments debated it would be wise for me to beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 23 but to move Amendment No. 23A.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 23A:

[Printed earlier: col. 1074.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 23B: Page 6, line 27, leave out from second ("the") to ("and") in line 29 and insert ("metropolitan county strategic transportation authorities and London residuary authority.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps it would be convenient if, with this amendment, Amendment No. 23B, we spoke to Amendment No. 23C. Amendment No. 23C: Page 6, line 33, leave out ("metropolitan") to end of line 37 and insert ("county strategic transportation authorities and London Residuary Body;"). In the preparation for abolition, the latest draft circular on transport supplementary grant issued by the Department of Transport calls for the London boroughs and metropolitan districts to place bids for transport supplementary grants, since they would assume main road responsibility from the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils respectively.

The rules for the receipt of TSG were also changed so that only capital schemes for roads of more than local significance were eligible. The Committee of this House deemed that the strategic highway and traffic functions, and consequently the main road response-bilities of the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils, should go to the London residuary body and passenger transport authorities respectively.

Therefore, subsequently, the responsibility for transport supplementary grant should go to these bodies, since the boroughs would be concerned only with roads of local importance. These amendments therefore simply transfer the responsibility for applying for transport supplementary grants from the existing local authorities with main road response-bilities to the new bodies agreed by this House in Committee.

Clause 9, as it stands, is technically incomplete. Therefore, I beg that the amendment be accepted. After that explanation, I hope it will be accepted without question.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, once again, I recognise the noble Lord's point in trying to tidy up Clause 8. He has spoken about the need to permit the residuary body to receive transport supplementary grant in London, since that body would be responsible for a large network of roads. Again, I do not feel strongly about this matter and I shall be content to accept Amendments Nos. 23B and 23C without commitment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 23C.

[Printed above.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Highways.]:

Lord Tordoff moved Amendment No. 25: Page 109, line 19, leave out sub-paragraph (2).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we got two-thirds of the way through this debate on Committee stage. Two very powerful speeches were made by the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe of Richmond, and the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick. Before your Lordships had the pleasure of my intervention, if I may so describe it, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, intervened to point out that the amendment, as it was phrased at that time, was really incompatible with the position we had reached at that stage of the Bill. I think we were all in a state of some confusion at that time and no one will ever know whether or not that was correct.

Nevertheless, I have sought to deal with this point in a slightly different way. I am pleased to see that the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, is against the amendment and I trust that the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe, will take the opportunity of supporting it on this occasion, even though it comes at the problem in a slightly different way.

The problem is exactly the same as was suggested by those two noble Lords at Committee stage. It is that the Bill, as it was originally drafted in Schedule 4, seeks to remove the constraints of the 1980 Act from the Secretary of State if he is to go about the trunking of, basically, the South Circular Road. Like the two noble Lords who have spoken before, I spent a considerable amount of time living in the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. I think that is why I was asked to put my name to this amendment in the first place and I am very happy to have done so.

I do not think I need to rehearse again all the arguments that were put forward at that time. However, there is no doubt that the danger of passing this in a small part of a schedule tucked away at the back of a Bill like this is that it takes away a protection from a very large number of people in the area of South London that could be affected by the South Circular Road. We know that there is supposed to be something called that, but, as somebody said at an earlier stage, it really is a collection of back streets that happen to fit together in no very coherent way.

Apart from representations that I have had on the Bill which will be before your Lordships' House tomorrow for Second Reading, I do not believe that I have had so many representations since I have been in your Lordships' House as I have had on this subject. Clearly, people in South London are worried. They are worried not only about the thought of a south circular road being driven through that area but also about the blight arising from all the planning problems in relation to which people need genuine protection against a bureaucratic intervention to force a road. At some stage, that road may well be necessary to relieve traffic congestion from inner London. However, one needs to have the greatest possible protection for people against, as it were, someone taking a pair of dividers and drawing a semicircle round the south of London. That is what people are afraid of. The protection they have is in the 1980 Act, which provides that proper planning inquiries can be set up.

I know that there is a feeling that planning inquiries can be too costly and can go on for too long and at the end of the day nobody is very satisfied with them. However, in a case like this, any application which is made and objected to is likely to be very small in comparison with the need to relieve traffic in that area. I am really asking your Lordships to think back to the excellent speeches that were made at the Committee stage by the two noble Lords who got their words in in asking your Lordships to support this amendment tonight.

In a sense, it is consequential on having passed the amendment at Committee stage. The schedule which your Lordships see before you really hangs on the basis that the Secretary of State will take powers to do all these things for transport in Greater London. Now that that has been put to a different body, it would surely be wrong for the Secretary of State to take overriding powers. In a sense, I go back to what I said before in terms of the constitutional position: that we have to accept the Bill as it now is, whatever the Government and their supporters may feel about it and whatever may be their intention at a later stage of the Bill. We have to deal with the Bill as it is.

Thus, I ask your Lordships to support the amendment on two counts: first, because I believe it would be improper in a Bill of this kind to remove safeguards which exist in an Act which is already on the statute book, and, secondly, because I think that in a sense this is consequential upon the decisions which your Lordships made at the earlier stage of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Ardwick

My Lords, I am as surprised as my noble ally that we find ourselves discussing the new arbitrary trunking powers once again. When the Minister told us in Committee that an amendment on trunking was addressed to a provision that was no longer there, I thought that he was absolutely right and that we were pursuing what, in my Marxist youth, we used to call a negation of a negation. However, the amendment with which I was associated was withdrawn, and we are back again. I trust that this time we can certainly get rid of these rather unacceptable powers.

What are trunk roads? I go back to the Trunk Roads Act 1936. This describes them as, the principal roads in Great Britain which constitute the national system of routes for through traffic". The two key words are "national" and "through". Once a road has become a trunk road, those considerations are paramount. It is those words that provide the terms of reference to the managing authority; that is, the Department of Transport. And it is those words, "national" and "through", that provide the context within which the inspector at an inquiry must consider the evidence submitted to him.

The concept of trunk roads was to formalise the links between towns and cities and to provide adequate routes to the extremities of Great Britain. We instinctively think of them as the motorways—the M.1, the M.2, the M.3 and the M.4 radiating outwards; the M.62 crossing the Pennines; or the road that has been built along the west coast of Scotland to Mallaig. We think of them as bypassing cities rather than crossing them.

The Department of Transport is very well equipped to build and maintain this national infrastructure (if I may use that horrid word) allowing vehicles of all kinds to make speedy journeys from one part of the country to another. In London, the principal contribution for many years has been the building of the M.25. When it is complete, it will enable vehicles to bypass built-up London when making journeys from any part of the South to the Midlands and any part of the North. If fully exploited, it will also enable vehicles to choose the proper entry point to London so as to avoid journeys of unnecessary length through London. It will also provide an outer orbital route for distributors within London. The most determined effort, I am sure that all of us hope, must be made to exploit the M.25 to the full. Yet it is precisely this that the new powers could threaten.

The Secretary of State, if I understand him rightly, wants the power to trunk any metropolitan road overnight. Presumably, he wants to use the metropolitan roads to cut through London to form part of a national network, or the national network. It may escape him that fast and unimpeded roads traversing London will inevitably reduce the number of vehicles that would otherwise use the facilities of the M.25 and go round the outside of London. Indeed, vehicles that thread their way through the outskirts of London now would be attracted into London by the streamlined roads that the Secretary of State may well create in London's inner suburbs.

The nub of the argument around this amendment is that people who live and work and do business near the roads that the Secretary of State wishes to annex should be allowed a voice in all this. The Secretary of State already has the power to trunk roads under the Highways Act 1980. But before he can do so, he is obliged, first, to publish his intentions to the local press and local councils. Then he has to leave at least six weeks for consideration. After that, he has to hold an impartial public inquiry if there are objections. If this amendment is carried, he will still have those powers but the residents and the business people will retain the safeguards that they now enjoy. The Bill seeks to remove those safeguards and gives the Secretary of State untrammelled power to trunk the roads that he chooses.

8.45 p.m.

The roads in which the Department of Transport is interested are different, very different, from one another. Some are the terminations of radial roads that are already trunked. When roads were first trunked, they stopped at the old London County Council boundary. Only when the formation of the GLC widened the area of London did trunk roads gratuitously enter the metropolis. Now the department appears to want to take these radial roads right to the inner hub. Is it not proper that the intention should be properly set out, a broad idea given of traffic levels and an inquiry held if there are people who do not want their end of the road transformed in this way?

There is another London road—the road with which I am principally concerned—which is of quite a different nature, where the intention to trunk without a public inquiry has caused most concern among ordinary people. That is the South Circular Road. This is a string of suburban streets held together by signposts. Householders and traders do not see it as a national road. Each in their area sees it as his own high street or her local road through a residential neighbourhood. It is a road that they cross freely to shop, to worship, to go to the library or to take their children to school. They certainly do not see it primarily as a through road for vehicles of all weights and sizes to cross through their neighbourhood on business that has nothing to do with the place. The Richmond-upon-Thames Borough Council, in a letter sent to many noble Lords, emphasises this: The South Circular Road", it insists, is a local highway rather than a national or regional one and it would be right that local considerations should be given substan-tially more weight in taking any decision to make it a trunk road. It would be right that these local considerations should be dealt with at a local public inquiry and that until an independent inspector's recommendations based on the findings of an inquiry have been considered, the `trunking' proposals should not proceed. This view is held by other boroughs affected by these proposals". That is what this amendment is about.

It is worth commenting that this letter and others sent to noble Lords by the Richmond Borough Council results from a unanimous decision of a council that is normally sharply divided. Indeed, unity on this subject prevails throughout the route of the South Circular Road through Richmond. Not only the borough council but the Conservative Member of Parliament have been actively engaged in seeking to preserve the existing basic rights of the citizen to have a voice before almost irreversible decisions are made to sacrifice the environment to an external purpose. Noble Lords will have noted that we are supported, have been supported and will be supported again tonight by the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe of Richmond, who was Conservative MP for Richmond for almost 25 years.

The Department of Transport is the problem. It has its views—right views—of what the national road system should be, but then it has a view of what part London roads should play in it. However much Ministers might seek to camouflage the trunking intentions as inoffensive changes of nomenclature, the department itself is quite frank. It says that the Government: is carrying out a programme of improvements to the existing trunk roads in London and is considering priorities for the new roads for which it intends to accept responsibility. These improvements should encourage more of the longer distance traffic to use these roads". That is what we fear.

Ministers have insisted that if major improvements are planned after a road has been trunked the public would then have a right to a public inquiry. However, such an inquiry would inevitably take place with the function and nature of the road already having been determined. The inquiry would then have to consider how best the road can serve its declared purpose as part of the national network and how it can be engineered to carry the full weight of the longer distance and other traffic that is to thrown at it.

It is because the two inquiries—one, should it be trunked?; and the other, how can it best work as a trunk road?—are so utterly different in purpose that the Highways Act only five years ago provided for two separate inquiries. We want to keep it that way, and that is the object of the amendment.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I oppose Amendment No. 25 to remove the power of the Secretary of State to transfer certain GLC roads to himself on abolition. Amendments Nos. 27 to 29, to remove the powers of the Secretary of State to designate London roads, to issue guidance on traffic movements and to take over responsibility for urban traffic control schemes, reflect different aspects of the same problem—the traffic problem of London. Can there be any doubt that if M. Hulot were alive today that problem would provide yet another inspiration for a further film?

The opposition to the Bill as it stands is based, as I hope to show, on a series of misconceptions. There are not errors of bureaucracy here. There is no question of the absence of a planning inquiry. There is certainly no impropriety involved. Far from being an unacceptable proposal, this is indeed an entirely reasonable proposal and wholly requisite.

Paragraph 53(2) of Part III of the Schedule enables the Secretary of State at abolition to transfer these roads to himself. I understand that the situation is that the intention of the Government is to take some 65 miles of the 900 miles of GLC roads, which are not called trunk roads but which either serve or ought to serve as trunk roads, to himself and to designate such roads as trunk roads if so advised. The remaining 835 miles will be devolved to the boroughs in which they are located.

The form of the statutory power is enabling—"may"—and it is discretionary. It is requisite as a reform, a reform which is long overdue, to provide the incentive, the initiative and the sense of purpose sorely needed to cope with the traffic problems of London. Indeed, it would be a sad day if this amendment were to be carried because a great opportunity for essential forward planning would be lost. It is wholly right that it should be found among the supplementary provisions of Part III of Schedule 4 dealing with provisions as to bridges which carry highways, and so forth.

One assumes—and here I seek the guidance of the House—that Amendment No. 26, which follows and which leaves out Schedule 4 in which this amendment lies, is the obverse of Amendment No. 10, which hangs on Amendment No. 2 which has been lost on a Division, and that therefore Amendment No. 26 to leave out Schedule 4 will not be moved.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, with great respect to the noble Lord, as I understand it, at the moment we are dealing solely with Amendment No. 25, according to the Marshalled List which has been circulated.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Yes, my Lords. The noble Lord did not follow me, and I am not surprised. Amendment No. 25 relates to Schedule 4 to the Bill. There is no other amendment affecting Schedule 4 to the Bill apart from Amendment No. 26, which proposes to leave it out. If Amendment No. 26 to leave out Schedule 4 is the obverse of Amendment No. 10—which indeed, by inspection, it is—and if Amendment No. 10 hangs on Amendment No. 2 which has been lost (which it does and which it has) then where, with respect, are we getting to?

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, we are not talking about that at all at the moment. We are talking about Amendment No. 25. Oddly enough, Amendment No. 26 comes next.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his assistance. The oddity does not strike me as so strange. However, perhaps we can leave this to the form in which the Motion is moved at some subsequent stage. I did not raise the matter as a triviality. It seems to me that this could affect the form of voting at a subsequent stage when we come to it.

I have dealt with the question of no other amendment affecting Schedule 4, and we can leave that as it stands. However, it is not understood how it can be suggested that there would be no planning inquiry, or indeed any effective inquiry, if either the ownership or the quality of the road were to be changed. As a matter of law, the transfer of ownership of these roads will not affect the requirement for consultation and public inquiry if proposals are subsequently put forward for improving or upgrading the roads in any substantial way.

Under the provisions of Part XI of the Highways Act 1980, where land has to be acquired in order to widen a road there are statutory procedures involving a public inquiry. Similar procedural requirements set out in Schedule 1 to the Act apply to changes affecting junctions with other classified roads. Any proposals to widen or significantly to upgrade, for example, the South Circular Road, which I think has been mentioned, would entail works of this nature. These procedural requirements apply to proposals by any highway authority, be it the Secretary of State, the GLC or a London borough council. It is simply not understood how the rights of those concerned to be consulted and publicly to air their views on any proposals would be adversely affected by the proposals under the Bill.

I have dealt with this matter at some length on purpose in order to deal with the case put against me and to argue that it is based, as I have stated, upon a series of misconceptions. The justification for the Bill as it stands in these particulars is not based upon the importance of London: it is no belated harbinger of the cuckoo voice of London as if it were some city state like Venice under the Doges. The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, do not see themselves as latter-day Doges, nor indeed do Her Majesty's Government. There is no constitutional problem here, and no conflict of any fundamental principle of the Bill. For this is a derogation from the principle of devolution of executive functions to single tier local administration which was recognised at the inception and recognised as justifiable on pragmatic grounds, as one hopes that any noble Lord who habitually travels the roads in London might be inclined to agree.

If one looks at the map—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick—all trunk roads as such end and become metropolitan roads as they come within the territorial ambit of the GLC. The abolition of the GLC affords an excellent opportunity to bring the present unsatisfactory situation under some form of orderly control and to plan for a better traffic flow system in London for the future.

9 p.m.

Lord Fanshawe of Richmond

My Lords, I should like to support Lord Tordoffs amendment, which was so ably supported by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick. I want to avoid boring your Lordships by repeating the speech I made at the Committee stage earlier. I was puzzled by the remarks of my noble friend who has just sat down. Perhaps he sees himself as a latter-day Doge. All I should like him to do is to get into a Venetian barge and take himself up the River Thames, get off at Kew Bridge and start to go through the South Circular Road where it winds across South London.

He would find himself sitting in a major traffic jam as he leaves Kew Green. He would then find himself on the Lower Mortlake Road, where he would be lucky to move about two miles in possibly half an hour. He would find on either side of him acres of cemeteries—deaths not due to motor crashes on the South Circular Road because it is difficult to have an accident on the South Circular Road as the traffic moves so slowly. When he arrives at Chalker's Corner where this large area of gravestones finishes he would probably sit for another 20 minutes waiting to cross in order to get in to Clifford Avenue, and on to the Upper Richmond Road, where he would continue to wind his way through the lanes of South London which are called the South Circular Road.

This road is a nonsense. The noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, has expressed it much better than I can. At the Committee stage I expressed my views as to the state of the South Circular Road where it winds through South London. This is not a matter which can be debated by Back-Benchers on either side of the other place or indeed noble Lords in this place as it is accepted entirely by successive Ministers—Ministers in Labour Governments and in Conservative Governments—that the South Circular Road is a nonsense and that something should be done about it.

The great query is, what can one do about it? One method would be to remove the South Circular Road and to make a motorway across South London. Thank goodness this idea has now been dropped, and I hope will never be resuscitated. Another way is to try to encourage traffic to go elsewhere. The GLC for many years signally failed to do this. That is why I, in contrast to the noble Lords, Lord Ardwick and Lord Tordoff, am totally opposed to a regional authority, and voted against it.

I am not in favour of a regional authority. What I should like to see is the local borough councils taking on responsibilities for these roads, because the local borough councils understand the problem, understand how to deal with it, and will reflect the view of local people living there. At the same time they have an understanding of the wider responsibility regarding the movement of traffic through London as a whole.

I hope that this amendment will be agreed to tonight by my noble friend the Minister. What are we asking for? We are asking for a public inquiry. The Minister will still have the power to order roads to be trunked but only after publication, time for consideration, and a public inquiry in case of objections. That is all we are asking for. It is something we put forward at Committee stage, and for reasons which have been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, we were overtaken by events and because of the confusion due to procedure were unable to discuss the matter in any detail. Tonight we have that chance.

I plead with my noble friend the Minister to look carefully at this proposal that before any of these roads should be trunked by the Minister there should be a public inquiry if it is required by the people living locally and by the local authority. If no public inquiry is demanded, the Minister can trunk the road. If an inquiry is requested, then it will take place and it will be felt by the people living along roads such as the South Circular that their views have been taken into account.

In a democratic society it is important that people should feel at all times that their views are listened to. They may not always be accepted. Maybe it is seldom that the Government act upon them, but it is nice occasionally for those people voting for Government to feel that their views are taken into account. This is what this short and important amendment does. I should like to support it.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I too am glad to support this amendment. Had I known before last Friday, by which time it was too late, that this amendment was featuring on the list of amendments, my name would have joined those of the noble Lords, Lord Tordoff and Lord Ardwick, on the Marshalled List.

I have no personal interest to declare, but certain members of my family have the dubious privilege of living on the notorious Earl's Court one-way system, under which roads which not so long ago were still relatively quiet residential streets have been transformed into what can only be described as juggernaut motorways. Along these de facto motorways hurtle container lorries and articulated lorries at the excessive speeds which one-way systems seem invariably to encourage.

When one says that they are a danger to life and limb, that is unfortunately not just empty rhetoric. All too often one reads in the local press of pedestrians, and sometimes cyclists, being killed and injured at some point along this route by heavy goods vehicles, frequently because the height of the cab is such that the driver genuinely cannot see the pedestrian in question, particularly if the pedestrian is of below average height. In other words, it is not just the tranquillity and well-being of those who live adjacent to these routes which is at stake, but the well-being and safety of those who are just visiting friends or simply shopping, in particular elderly or disabled people who are not quite as nimble as the rest of us in jumping out of the way of cars and lorries.

The heavy goods vehicle lobby is a very powerful and extremely well-funded lobby. It always has considerable success in bending the ear of Governments, particularly Conservative Governments. Even as things stand, the Department of Transport has refused to impose a night-time ban on heavy lorries, as the GLC requested, on roads in London which it already controlled. Unless this amendment is agreed to, therefore, I feel that the individual, the ordinary private citizen, the ordinary family, will be metaphorically flattened and in some cases, I fear, literally flattened under the juggernaut.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I should like to oppose this amendment. When I heard the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe, say that it was not really asking very much; it was only asking for an inquiry, I felt I must say that that is not strictly correct. It is asking for deletion from this Bill of the power of the Secretary of State to create a trunk road out of what is now a metropolitan road. So it is a bit more than as outlined by the noble Lord.

I did not hear all the introduction of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, I am sorry about that, but I was a little late in coming in. I heard all this discussion at the Committee stage. I thought then and I think again now that it is very much a case of special pleading and is directly related to the South Circular Road. I am sorry that it should be so. I have every sympathy with people who live on that road; anyone living on a major road has a problem. I shall not go into it, but there are ways to help, such as soundproofing, which is paid for if someone lives within a certain distance. But the South Circular should be trunked. For years and years, as the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe, said, everyone has realised that something has to be done about the South Circular.

I was fascinated to hear the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, because his speech turned the London traffic situation totally upside down. For example, he told us that if the roads of London became fast and unimpeded they would become quite a hazard because traffic would be rushing at such a speed. That was the message that I received. Also it would prevent people receiving the maximum value from the use of the M.25. Nothing could be further from the truth. In his speech the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe, told us that one could sit there for 20 minutes in a stationary car.

We are far removed from the point where the traffic would be rushing along these roads at the speeds being envisaged. That is a scare that can be discounted. But the special pleading for people living on the South Circular is the same as comes from people everywhere when something new is suggested. Consider, for example, when a new fire station is suggested. Everyone wants a fire station. They all want the engine available within 30 seconds, or whatever it is, to save life. But no one wants it in their street. There is always some reason why it should be in the next street.

Lord Ardwick

My Lords, the noble Baroness should forget the fire station. That is dealing with a small group of people objecting to an important social amenity. Here we are talking about an enormously long road that affects the whole of South London. We think it is unsuitable for trunking.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I heard the speech of the noble Lord tonight. I heard it on the previous occasion. I am well aware of the South Circular Road. My own constituency is on the North Circular Road, which is trunked and which I thought was a good thing. It has been greatly improved ever since. If the South Circular had been trunked years ago, we might be better off today. I have every sympathy with people who have problems. To speak particularly about those roads, in the case of the North Circular, plans have been brought forward for the improvement of every intersection. Great things can be done in terms of flyovers, underpasses and so on. There are many ways in which roads can be improved to the benefit of the local people, not to their detriment. But the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, is wrong in thinking that my example of the fire station is irrelevant. I could also mention—and I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Faithful would agree—that everyone wants a proposed home for mentally handicapped children but not where he or she lives. They all want it in the next street. Whatever is suggested as an improvement for everyone else people are delighted to have but not if it affects their own front doorstep. That is exactly the case with the special pleading about the South Circular Road. A number of people have written to me about how concerned and worried they are about the trunking of the South Circular. I have written back to say that they are totally misinformed and that the road will be beneficial rather than a disadvantage.

I remember clearly from my time as a vice-chairman of planning for North London that we found that people would prefer their homes to be moved rather than have the house left in the middle of a traffic island. They would rather receive adequate compensation and he moved to somewhere more pleasant if that was the only way the scheme could be carried out. But the London traffic situation is desperate. I think that the description of all these fast roads flowing into the centre was quite alarmist, and I do not think we shall ever see it. But people in this Chamber should realise that London is losing its population, its enterprise, its business, its rate base—all because the M.25 gives good transport, but all out of London. There is no longer any reason for a lot of business to come into London at all. Unless we think in terms of providing at least a reasonable amount of roads in London we shall just fade away as a capital city. Therefore, I think we should have every consideration we can for the people who are personally and particularly affected.

I agree that there should be inquiries and consultations as to how people should have a particular improvement carried out. It may be a long, slow process, but I think it is right that the power for the initial trunking of the road remain in the Bill. I personally believe that it is to the benefit of a far greater number of people that heavy traffic is kept on a smaller number of major roads rather than being allowed to infiltrate through all the small residential streets which are much less suited for heavy traffic. The point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe, that this road is totally unsuitable at the present time, but if that road was upgraded it would be a help to people in adjoining streets. We cannot accept this amendment which is a case of special pleading for the South Circular. I think it would be better trunked. I should like to see the power remain in the Bill.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Vaux of Harrowden

My Lords, I also happen to live in Richmond. Therefore, I know a little about the roads around that area, and I must support this amendment. All the reasons as to why it should be supported have already been put by my noble friend Lord Fanshawe and the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, and the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, so I shall not repeat them. I think it is absolutely essential in a democratic society that we should have a proper inquiry. One more thing which is absolutely essential is that nothing should be done to the South Circular Road until the M.25 has been finished for at least two years. Heavy traffic will probably go round there, and there will be no need for a trunk road south of London at all.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I think there is a little misunderstanding about this. It is undoubtedly the case that there has been great agitation in Richmond. I myself, like my noble friend Lord Fanshawe, have had a good deal of correspondence, but I think that most of my correspondents—like, if I may say so, my noble friend—have misunderstood the effect of the provisions of the Bill. They seem to feel that trunking necessarily involves large-scale improvements in the road; that is to say, improvements from the point of view of the motorist, and perhaps deterioration from the point of view of local residents. Hence it is suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, that before a road, the South Circular or any other, is trunked, there should be a public inquiry.

It seems to me that this is quite unfounded. What is involved in the words in the Bill is a transfer of ownership of the road, not necessarily of its character. Indeed, if your Lordships will refer to the 1980 Act your Lordships will see that, after a road has been trunked, if there were to be any of the substantial improvements in that road which are feared by my noble friend Lord Fanshawe then there would have to be a public inquiry. For example, if additional land is to be taken to widen the road—it may well be that that would be a sensible thing to do—then there would have to be a public inquiry. Equally, if improved junctions with other roads are made there would have to be a public inquiry. Therefore, the anxieties of those who want a public inquiry before the general character of the road is changed are quite uncalled for. What is involved in the Bill is simply a transfer of ownership; a perfectly natural and proper transfer following, on the departure of the GLC.

These are mostly roads which, when you pass out of the GLC area, are already trunk roads; and it is the logical, practical thing to make these roads into trunk roads when the GLC goes. I hope that those of your Lordships who have received these disturbing letters from obviously disturbed people will feel able to reassure them in the light of this debate.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I find it most difficult to believe that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, to whom I have listened over many years and for whose understanding of parliamentary and Government procedure I have great respect, really believes that what he has just said is true. Perhaps there is a misconception. The whole point made by my noble friend Lord Ardwick, with others, was that the moment the road is changed by diktat by the Secretary of State, no matter which Secretary of State is involved—and Labour Secretaries of State have also been know to be dictatorial—the inspector at the inquiry is then discussing the changes required on a trunk road and not on a principal road. Therefore there is a reduction in his scope for making decisions.

I live 400 miles from the South Circular Road. I have driven along it once or twice and I know a little about it, but I would not consider myself to be in any way an authority. I am aware that one certainly needs better roads around the South and I know there has been a real blockage in this particular part of London. However, I would say to the noble Baroness. Lady Gardner of Parkes, that of course the people concerned with the South Circular Road and Richmond are putting forward special pleading, but it is very special pleading because they are the only ones who are going to be denied their rights to make representations against the trunking of a road at the very beginning.

I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, with whom I have had a very friendly and productive association in connection with other Bills, perhaps smaller than this one, that I have a great respect for him and for the way he is able to read a Bill so well. However, I really believe that he has missed the point as well. The point is that the people of south London prefer bureaucracy to the diktat of any Minister. They want the bureaucracy of going through all the stages of an inquiry and needing to prove why they should have a trunk road, rather than having a fait accompli through the decision of the Minister. So on this occasion I believe that the noble Lord has got things slightly upside down. Bureaucracy is preferable to a decision that pre-empts the decision of any inspector—

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. I was dealing with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, when he said that there was this fear of bureaucracy. I was demolishing, or trying to demolish, that fear and I think the noble Lord misunderstood me.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I am extremely sorry if I did, but I hope the noble Lord will also take my point that people prefer the right to express themselves against official decisions of what can be to all of us, whatever our position in life, a very powerful and anonymous bureaucracy when we come up against it.

It is important that since the 1971 Town and Country Planning Act was passed there has been no case of a road being trunked without publication, consideration and inquiry into the reasons for the trunking. Public involvement has become more widespread following that Act, quite rightly. Having been a very junior Minister for a period, I know it is a nuisance, but you have to listen to the public even though you may think that you know best—and just occasionally evidence from the public sways the inspector or the department to the extent that they have to accept a certain point of view. The public have become more aware of the right to object, and I think it would be a bad thing if we were now to turn the clock back.

The prime role of trunk roads is to carry large volumes of long-distance traffic, and that is the point from which the inspector starts. He does not start by saying, "This is a small country road; should we expand it?" He says, "This is a major road; is it doing its job?" I believe there is a very big qualitative difference involved. As I have said, I am far removed from the South Circular Road, but as a matter of principle and in view of the fact that it would be the one exception (which is why special pleading is required) I hope the House will accept this amendment. It would only delay the Secretary of State's powers. He would still almost certainly get his trunk road, but I think the people of south London and of Richmond would at least get the satisfaction of being able to express their opinion. I would certainly support this amendment.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, this amendment raises an issue which has been widely discussed and personally I welcome this opportunity for a further debate, since it is also an issue which has been widely misunderstood. I should like to take the House in some detail through the background of this provision so as to set aside doubts and to explain why we believe this power should be retained.

Let me start with the question of why we propose to make a modest extension of the Secretary of State's existing and substantial highway responsibilities in London. In successive consultation papers and statements we have set out exactly which roads we had it in mind to transfer to the Secretary of State. These 65 miles, together with the existing 145 miles of roads in London for which he is already responsible, form a coherent network of the most important routes for distributing traffic within London and for providing connections to the national network of trunk roads and motorways. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that this is a one-off power and can be used only on abolition day.

These roads are vital to the commercial and social vitality of the capital and of a much wider area beyond. We have held the view from the beginning that, with the disappearance of the GLC, it was appropriate for these roads to pass to the Secretary of State. This reflects their importance not only to London, but also to the country.

These roads are not intended to serve traffic making journeys right through London. That is why we are building the M.25, a major piece of national infrastructure, as the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, mentioned, so as to provide a quick and convenient route around London and to keep out of the capital traffic that has no business there. But the M.25 is not a panacea for all London's traffic problems and the capital city needs major distributive routes within it and connecting it to the national network of motorways and trunk roads.

Clause 7 provides that metropolitan roads should be transferred to the residuary body to the extent and in the manner provided by order. It does not require all metropolitan roads to be so transferred. We believe that the importance of these roads still makes it right that these 65 miles should pass to the Secretary of State. We do not accept that the residuary body, with its limited lifespan, is a satisfactory alternative, as it would leave in doubt the long-term future of many roads.

The kernel of the opposition to this power has been the fear fostered by the GLC and groups funded by it that trunking these roads is synonymous with a return to the grandiose plans of the 'sixties for motorway boxes and ringroad systems. That is pure scaremongering and a travesty of the truth. Ministers in another place have repeatedly given categorical assurances that they have no intentions of returning to the discredited solutions of yesteryear. Instead, they are seeking solutions provided by a balance of public transport, sophisticated traffic management and minor road improvements. They believe that is the right way to tackle the undeniable problems along a route such as the south circular. This approach will improve conditions for local people without damaging the environment; in fact, it will make it better.

In certain very exceptional circumstances a new stretch of road might be feasible, such as where railway lines can provide a suitable route and spare land, without prejudice to the continuation of railway service. A case such as this that is currently being re-examined is the West London relief road. The GLC has refused to bring this scheme forward, despite the widespread benefits it could bring. Not only might the Earls Court area be relieved of heavy traffic flows—and that was a point that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, raised—but so also might the south circular in Kew, Putney and Richmond.

What we must remember is that these 65 miles, plus the existing 145 miles of trunk roads in London, are the main traffic routes in the capital. That is a fact of life. It will not change just because ownership of the roads changes. But conditions on some of the roads are so bad and have been for so long that something needs to be done to relieve them to make the surrounding areas more attractive places for people to live and work in.

I believe that that is an honourable objective. It is one that Londoners should welcome. It is an objective that the GLC has singularly failed to achieve, as my noble friends Lady Gardner of Parkes and Lord Fanshawe of Richmond mentioned. Working out what needs to be done and carrying it out will be a major task extending over many years. It will require continuity of ownership and purpose. It is not one that could reasonably be given to an appointed body with a limited life span. It is, I submit, a task more appropriate to the Secretary of State.

9.30 p.m.

As a first step, the Secretary of State for Transport has initiated four assessment studies, and I should like to be more clear about their status. They are studies; they are not plans or definite proposals. The first stage seeks to identify the problems along four major traffic corridors where the environment is suffering severely from years of GLC neglect. The public are being actively encouraged to make their views and their ideas known. The reports from this stage will be published. This will allow all interested groups and members of the public to contribute to the review of solutions which we see taking place next year. It must be right for us to seek to tackle London's problems in this positive way. The problems will not go away of their own accord. Easing traffic congestion will help to cut pollution and noise and reduce rat-running, while saving time and costs for industry and commerce.

One point that I cannot emphasise too highly is that people's expectations of public consultation and their rights to an inquiry into road improvements will not be altered or affected one whit by this proposed power. "The provision itself only enables ownership of certain roads to be transferred to the Secretary of State, but it will not put him in any different position from the GLC. The normal provisions of the 1980 highways Act would apply in holding public inquiries for any orders that he might propose.

That leads us to the obvious and most-repeated question—and it is one which my noble friend Lord Fanshawe mentioned again tonight—why not use the powers in the 1980 Act to take responsibility for those roads? There are two strands to the answer. The first is that we believe, as I explained earlier, that it is appropriate for the Secretary of State for Transport to be the successor authority to the GLC. He is already responsible for most of London's key routes and these 65 miles will form a coherent and complete network with them. That will also make the Secretary of State responsible for maintaining the roads. The annual maintenance cost of these heavily used 65 miles runs into several million pounds.

Secondly, if we had to use the Highways Act powers it would mean that the roads were not transferred to the appropriate successor highway authority at abolition. Instead, it would prolong the period of uncertainty about the future responsibility for these roads. Our proposals are designed to ensure that there is certainty in the transfer of functions and property next April. The way in which we are doing it is precedented by previous major transfers of responsibility for major roads. Our main aim in this provision has been to secure a clear and appropriate transfer of GLC functions. I have also explained our intentions towards the 65 miles of roads in question.

Change in ownership makes no difference to the road if the decision is to improve or upgrade it. That requires a public inquiry whether the borough, the GLC or the Secretary of State makes the proposal. If the proposal is very contentious, and if the borough or the GLC bears responsibility for the planning decision, it will then be referred to the Secretary of State. If it is the Secretary of State's responsibility, he must decide in the light of an independent inspector's report. It is in the final event the same man facing the same decision on the same road. Protection of public rights is the same as before. What this Bill gives is certainty of ownership and responsibility. We must face up to the problems of London's major routes and make proper provision for the future of these roads. I believe that we would be failing in our responsibilities otherwise. The Government's proposals are the right way forward and I therefore ask your Lordships to reject this amendment.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I am alarmed at the confidence that the Government show in the face of so much questioning. The Government may be right that it is appropriate for the Secretary of State to take control, but it is not for the Government to say so in a clause tucked away in a schedule to the Bill. They may be right that the 65 miles are necessary to make a coherent network with the other roads in London; it may be that the GLC has failed; it may even be that the environment will be improved and it may be that at the end of the day the position will be altered no whit, as the noble Lord the Minister said. But the fact is that this part of the schedule is not, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said, merely a change of ownership; it is a change in the democratic rights, in the statutory rights, of the people of this area. It is a move away from the safeguards which are contained in the 1980 Act. It is the first stage down the road, if I dare say so, to the increase in traffic on that road. If it were not, why would the Government want to do it?

There is this first stage of the requirement under the 1980 Act of a public inquiry into whether or not the road should be trunked in the first place, whatever happens to it thereafter. Once it has been trunked it is perfectly easy to allow a much larger volume of long-distance traffic to run along that road. No; it may very well be that at the end of the day there is a balance of rights. These conflicts of needs and of rights of people are never easy things to resolve, but that is why in this country we have built up a system of checks and balances.

If this were in Moscow, someone would take a pair of compasses, draw a ring around the middle and put a road there regardless of who was in the way, but that is not the way we work in this country. We have a sophisticated system. It may be an absolute bore to Governments and to local government to have to go through that system, but they should not try to short-circuit that system by slipping into the Bill a provision such as Schedule 4, Part III, paragraph 53(2). That is all we are talking about; the rights of people, as the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, said, to have the same consideration in these matters as everybody else in the rest of the country. On those grounds, I press the amendment.

9.37 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 25) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 63; Not-Contents, 98.

Airedale, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Ardwick, L. [Teller.] Kissin, L.
Aylestone, L. Lawrence, L.
Barnett, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Birk, B. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. McNair, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Mar, C.
Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Mayhew, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Meston, L.
David, B. Molloy, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Molson, L.
Diamond, L. Monson, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Mulley, L.
Elystan-Morgan, L. Nicol, B.
Faithfull, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Falkland, V. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Foot, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Gallacher, L. Rochester, L.
Gladwyn, L. Rodney, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Seear, B.
Hacking, L. Simon, V.
Hampton, L. Stedman, B.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Hooson, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Strabolgi, L.
John-Mackie, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Tordoff, L. [Teller.] Whaddon, L.
Tweeddale, M. Wilson of Langside, L.
Vaux of Harrowden, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Walston, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Kaberry of Adel, L.
Allerton, L. Kimball, L.
Beloff, L. Kinnaird, L.
Belstead, L. Kitchener, E.
Bessborough, E. Lauderdale, E.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Layton, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Long, V. [Teller.]
Brougham and Vaux, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Caithness, E. [Teller.] Lyell, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. McAlpine of West Green, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. McFadzean, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Macleod of Borve, B.
Carnock, L. Margadale, L.
Cathcart, E. Marley, L.
Clitheroe, L. Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.
Coleraine, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Mersey, V.
Colwyn, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Cottesloe, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Cox, B. Morris, L.
Craigavon, V. Mottistone, L.
Craigmyle, L. Munster, E.
Crathorne, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Croft, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Davidson, V. Peel, E.
De La Warr, E. Pender, L.
Denham, L. Rankeillour, L.
Digby, L. Reay, L.
Donegall, M. Redesdale, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Renton, L.
Eccles, V. Renwick, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Ridley, V.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Elton, L. Sandford, L.
Foley L. Selkirk, E.
Forester, L. Sherfield, L.
Fortescue, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Strathcarron, L.
Gibson-Watt, L. Swinfen, L.
Glanusk, L. Swinton, E.
Glenarthur, L. Trenchard, V.
Gray of Contin, L. Trumpington, B.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Vickers, B.
Halsbury, E. Ward of Witley, V.
Hanson, L. Whitelaw, V.
Harvington, L. Windlesham, L.
Henley, L. Young, B.
Hives, L. Young of Graffham, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Hornsby-Smith, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendment No. 26 not moved.]

9.46 p.m.

Schedule 5 [Road traffic]:

[Amendments Nos. 27, 28 and 29 not moved.]

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 30: Page 125, line 1, leave out from ("(5)") to ("or") in line 6 and insert ("Any expenses reasonably incurred by the Secretary of State in exercising the functions transferred by an order under this paragraph may be recovered by him from the local authorities from which the functions were transferred in such proportions as may be agreed between the local authorities").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a minor technical amendment. The purpose is to clarify my right honourable friend's power to recover from borough and district councils the expenses arising from any use of his reserve power to take over responsibility for urban traffic control systems covering more than one borough or district.

We have already said that the Government do not intend to reach a final view on the new amendments passed against their advice in Committee until we have seen the overall outcome of your Lordships' consideration of the Bill. This provision is needed in case the Secretary of State has to exercise his reserve powers under paragraph 10 of Schedule 5 to secure and operate any of the UTC systems. It was not altogether clear under the clause as drafted whether all the expenditure incurred by my right honourable friend in these circumstances would have to be apportioned between the councils concerned. The amendment substitutes new wording to put this beyond doubt, and I commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I should like to reinforce the point I made much earlier in our discussions tonight. The reserve powers given to the Secretary of State for taking over control of traffic control systems are totally unnecessary as a consequence of the acceptance of Clause 7. I believe that the amendment is therefore totally superfluous. It should not be accepted. I believe that the only reason the Minister is moving it is that there is an anticipation of a decision that may be taken in another place. However, I imagine that the Minister may want to look at it again. If not, although I oppose the amendment I shall not divide the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 31: Page 125, line 30, at end insert—

("Transitional provisions concerning certain orders under the 1984 Act

11A.—(1) After the passing of this Act a metropolitan county council or the Greater London Council shall obtain the consent of the Secretary of State before making any order to which this paragraph applies if an objection to the council's proposal to make the order has been duly made by a successor authority (whether before or after the passing of this Act) and has not been withdrawn; and for the purposes of this provision an objection is not duly made unless it is made in accordance with regulations made or having effect as if made under paragraph 21 or, as the case may be, 23 of Schedule 9 to the 1984 Act.

(2) The orders to which this paragraph applies are—

  1. (a) in the case of a metropolitan county council those made under or by virtue of section 1, 9, 19, 32, 35, 37, 38, 45, 46, 49(2) or (4), 53, 83(2) or 84 of the 1984 Act; and
  2. (b) in the case of the Greater London Council, those made under or by virtue of section 6, 9, 35, 38, 46, 49(2) or (4), 50, 83(2) or 84 of that Act.

(3) In this paragraph "successor authority" means—

  1. (a) in relation to the Greater London Council, the council of a London borough to which the order in question relates; and
  2. (b) in relation to a metropolitan county council, the council of a metropolitan district to which the order relates.

(4) In relation to any order to which Part VI of Schedule 9 to the 1984 Act (validity of orders) applies the requirements of this paragraph shall be included amongst the requirements which are the relevant requirements for the purposes of that Part.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is no more than a sensible transitional measure to ensure that boroughs and districts do not have traffic or parking schemes that they do not want imposed upon them in the last months of the GLC and the metropolitan county councils' existence.

We have already said that the Government do not intend to reach a final view on the amendments passed against our advice in Committee until we have seen the overall outcome of your Lordships' consideration of the Bill. However, this provision is not affected by the new Clauses 7 and 8, which envisage substantial traffic management responsibilities devolving to boroughs and districts. They would make boroughs responsible for such matters on 7,000 out of London's 8,000 miles of road for which at present they are the highways authorities. In the metropolitan counties districts would become, under Clause 8, traffic management authorities for all but the principal roads. This transitional provision is aimed at safeguarding their interests as successor authorities.

This provision will operate from Royal Assent. In other words, it will come into effect only when the position about the transfer of powers is certain and beyond doubt. At that stage it would be nonsense if the GLC and MCCs were to be able to decide to go ahead with traffic or parking schemes to which the successor authorities were opposed. It would simply be a waste of public money to allow one authority to introduce a scheme that another would be likely to reverse a few months later. That would not only inconvenience the borough or district concerned and involve it in unnecessary cost; it would also risk creating confusion and uncertainty for the public—for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. As soon as they had started getting used to one scheme it could be changed. Traffic and parking schemes have an immediate impact on people's lives, and they may quite rightly object if we were to allow the GLC and MCCs in their dying months to proceed with schemes if they were not likely to remain in force for any length of time.

We have only to remember the notorious case of Talgarth Road or the GLC's proposals for bus lanes along Whitehall, Victoria Street and St. Margaret Street to realise that controversy about GLC schemes is not unknown; and those well-known cases are by no means the only examples of the GLC and the boroughs strongly disagreeing about proposals.

We believe that this is a sensible measure to minimise disruption for the public and to avoid waste of public money. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 32: Page 125, line 44, leave out ("this Part of").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment. Its purpose is to put beyond doubt the validity of consultations to be held with London boroughs between Royal Assent and abolition date prior to the making of new statutory procedure regulations for London. These govern the making of traffic and parking orders. New regulations need to be in force in London at abolition date referring to London boroughs rather than the GLC. If they are not in force, boroughs will not be able to operate the traffic and parking powers being devolved to them. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 33 not moved.]

Clause 10 [Joint waste disposal authorities]:

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 34: Page 7, line 24, at end insert ("and Part II of the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act 1969.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to transfer the functions conferred by Part II of the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act 1969, as amended by Schedule 30 to the Local Government Act 1972, to a single authority for each metropolitan county area. No specific provision has been made in the Bill. The functions relate to disused tips of mine and quarry refuse and are concerned with the prevention of public danger arising from the instability of tips which are not active tips or are closed tips associated with operating mines and quarries.

Circular 40/69 issued by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in June 1969 states at paragraph 4: The Minister of Power's Advisory Committee on Tip Safety has emphasised the need for regular inspection of disused tips which could endanger the public if they moved. It is recommended that local authorities maintain a list of tips and lagoons which would in their view constitute a danger to members of the public if they failed and arrange for them to be inspected from time to time for evidence of instability. The frequency of such checks should be governed by the possible consequences of failure and by the history and condition of the tip". In the light of certain tragic events we must all realise the imperative necessity constantly to monitor situations which might not appear to merit consideration but which if left unchecked could cause a major disaster.

In West Yorkshire the function was assigned to the mining and mineral engineering section. Inspections were undertaken in two phases. The first phase was concerned with identifying all the tips that came within the scope of the Act. In order to complete this initial phase within a reasonable period of time, a helicopter was used for tip location and identification purposes. Some 2,100 tips had been inspected by August 1977. Ninety-seven were categorised as suspect, requiring thorough investigation and regular inspection because of possible danger to the public if they failed.

The tips have been classified into three categories. First there are tips where the risk to the public would be immediately serious in the event of the tip moving. Those are tips adjacent to schools, terraces of houses, or roads carrying heavy traffic, tips where groups of people adjacent to the foot of the tip are at risk. Of course we are all well aware of the Aberfan disaster in that context. Secondly, there are tips where the risk to the public would not necessarily be immediately serious if the tip moved; that is, for example, if tip refuse slid onto roads and footpaths where traffic is relatively light and pedestrian movement small. Thirdly, there are tips where the risk to the public is relatively small.

Incidentally, this working relationship between the mining and mineral engineering section and the engineering laboratory in West Yorkshire illustrates once more the important benefits that flow from the close-knit association of centres of scientific and technical expertise that have been built up over the years since the last local government reorganisation in 1974 in relation to the metropolitan county councils. That was a point ably made by the highly expert Select Committee on Science and Technolgy of your Lordships' House and underlined by the fact that in 1974 the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act of 1969 was amended to secure the transfer of these functions from the then county boroughs to the new metropolitan counties rather than to their successor authorities, the metropolitan districts. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

My Lords, the amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, has moved would make the joint authorities for waste regulation and disposal, for which the Bill currently provides, responsible under Part II of the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act 1969 for ensuring that disused mines and quarry tips do not become unstable and constitute a danger to the public. I had expected to say that I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, for moving this amendment, since it was tabled in his name. I am sure I detect his expert hand and experience in it because of course the spoils of mining were something with which he was closely concerned at a critical time. I am grateful to him and to the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, for drawing to our attention an important oversight in this Bill.

Currently, the responsibility for this function rests with the metropolitan county councils in their areas. Unfortunately, the Bill, as drafted, does not make any provision for this function to be transferred to anybody on abolition. As the noble Lord has clearly explained, his amendment would transfer it to the joint authorities for waste regulation and disposal. If, in the final event, such authorities are established, it would not in our view be appropriate to transfer this function to them. The 1969 Act is concerned not with general refuse but with spoils from a mine or quarry. Responsibility for ensuring the safety of such tips is already a borough function in London.

I am convinced that it is right that it should become a district function of the metropolitan counties. I have therefore already tabled an amendment to the Bill. I must apologise for the fact that it will not be in print until tomorrow. It is an amendment to Schedule 7. If the noble Lords opposite feel that that is an appropriate speed at which to progress, we shall be able to discuss it on Thursday of this week. If they take other courses, of course we may be denied that opportunity until Monday of next week, but I hope that that will not happen.

That amendment will achieve the transfer. As I say, I hope that we shall be able to debate it along with other amendments to the schedule on the next day of the Report stage. I am honestly grateful to the noble Lord and his coadjutors for bringing this important gap to our notice. I hope the noble Lord will wait until then.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am grateful. The noble Minister is quite right. It was because of the complete absence of a provision as to who in future would accept or have placed upon them this very serious responsibility that this way of disposing of the matter was conceived. However, the Minister is quite right. When we see the amendment it may well be that those outside the House will feel that it is satisfactory. In view of that, I shall not spoil matters before Thursday. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11 [Land drainage and flood prevention functions]:

10 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 35: Page 7, line 35, after ("order") insert ("made before and").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment to put beyond doubt that, notwithstanding the fact that Part II of the Bill, which contains Clause 11, only comes into effect on the abolition date, the order-making power in Clause 11(2) of the Bill to transfer the GLC's land drainage functions will be capable Of being used at any time after Royal Assent. Indeed, that is essential if the arrangements for transferring the GLC's functions under Schedule 5 to the Land Drainage Act 1976 to the Thames Water Authority are to be in place when the council ceases to exist, as it assuredly will. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 12 [Petty sessions areas, magistrates' courts committees etc.]:

Lord Elwyn-Jones moved Amendment No. 36: Page 8, line 3, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert— ("to transfer the functions of the Greater London Council under that Act in respect of the commission areas known as outer London areas to the London Residuary Body.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, with this amendment we can also take Amendments Nos. 37 to 42.

Amendment No. 37: Page 8, line 12, leave out subsection (2).

Amendment No. 38: Page 8, leave out lines 24 and 25 and insert ("London Residuary Body".").

Amendment No. 39: Page 8, line 26, leave out subsections (4) to (9).

Amendment No. 40: Page 9, line 42, leave out ("or metropolitan district,").

Amendment No. 41: Page 9, line 43, leave out (", metropolitan district or outer London borough") and insert ("the London Residuary Body").

Amendment No. 42: Page 10, line 1, leave out subsection (11).

The amendment is very important because it deals with the impact of the Bill on the magistrates' courts. The magistrates' courts in this country deal with over nine-tenths of the criminal cases that come before the courts. The standards achieved by the unpaid lay magistracy, of which we have distinguished representatives in your Lordships' House—I see one not far from me now—are very high. The achievement of those standards is due in part to the effective arrangements that now exist for the courts' efficient running and funding.

If the provisions of Clause 12 are implemented, the consequences will be the fragmentation and break-up of those present arrangements at greater public cost and with no noticeable gain. Our case on these amendments is that the provisions of the Bill, if implemented, could have a profound and seriously adverse affect on the administration of justice in the outer London area. At present, the magistrates' courts in the 24 outer London boroughs are run by a magistrates' court committee in each of the four commission areas of Middlesex, north-east London, south-east London and south-west London.

The GLC, as the present paying authority, has to provide the courthouse accommodation and has to meet the costs of running the service. It has also to be consulted by the four magistrates' courts committees on most expenditure proposals. Those committees, over the years, have come to depend heavily on the various GLC departments for support services: architectural, legal, computing, supplies, superannuation and other matters. All of that is due to be shipwrecked by the provisions of Clause 12.

The GLC, now the single paying authority for all outer London, will be replaced by 20 separate smaller paying authorities, namely, the outer London boroughs. The four area-based magistrates' courts committees of Middlesex, north-east, south-east and south-west London will be replaced by 20 borough-based committees. The disbanding of the four area magistrates' committees would have serious consequences. As the chairman of the Middlesex branch of the Magistrates' Association, Mr. Payne, wrote in a letter to the Lord Chancellor on 3rd December 1984: The service provided by these Committees, particularly in so far as training is concerned (which indeed covers the training of court Staff as well as the Magistrates), has developed over the years to a degree well beyond the basic requirements which have been prescribed. In Middlesex the area-wide service enables a close liaison between the magistrates allocated to the eight Petty Sessional Divisions in the Commission Area and an opportunity for interchange of ideas leading to greater consistency in sentencing". He adds: Termination of this function must lead to fragmentation of training and be seriously detrimental to the administration of justice". Those are serious fears which are expressed, and fears which we must face and seek to deal with by the amendments.

So far as the public expenditure aspect of the matter is concerned, 20 committees must clearly cost more to service than four. Twenty paying authorities must in total require more staff than one paying authority. Inevitably there will be a fragmentation of administrations which, because they will be acting independently of each other, must inevitably duplicate each other's efforts. The supporting bureaucracy must increase instead of diminish. Added burdens will in turn be placed upon the Home Office which, heaven knows, has already too much to do.

The Secretary of State, after abolition, will have to consult 20 paying authorities instead of one and 20 borough-based magistrates' courts committees instead of four area committees. Therefore, far from increasing administrative efficiency, what is proposed will diminish it. Far from saving expenditure—an altar upon which so much of value to the community is to be sacrificed by this Bill—these proposals will cost more to the public purse. They will complicate and add to the supporting bureaucracy, not streamline it nor diminish it.

The Government's fragmentary proposals will harm the practical running of the magistrates' courts service in the outer London area which, of course, has to cope with a great deal of crime and a very heavy workload. For example, the GLC is currently implementing a comprehensive, centrally managed computerisation programme for all 25 courthouses in outer London at an overall cost of about £2 million. The GLC has appointed a project manager who has been able to negotiate an advantageous contract with a commercial computing firm and to provide an advisory back-up service to the magistrates' courts committees. Such London-wide projects can be implemented only after 1st April 1986 when it is proposed that the Act should take effect on a piecemeal and more expensive basis.

Again the GLC has always used its position as paying authority to encourage a uniform approach and common standards and practices between the four outer London commission areas, particularly so far as staffing matters are concerned. I ask: how will this be safeguarded after abolition?

As I have indicated, the overall result will be a more costly and less effective method of administration of the judicial system. After abolition there will be eight separate new magistrates' courts committees and eight new paying authorities. The continuing need to pool certain resources—for example, as the letter from the chairman indicated in regard to the training of magistrates and also relief staff, and bulk purchasing—in the absence of one unifying body will create and expand bureaucracy.

We submit that all of the advantages of the present system could be best safeguarded by the retention of the four area-based magistrates' courts committees and the retention of a single paying authority. The transfer of the GLC's functions to the residuary body would permit this to happen. It would ensure that the uniformity of approach and the economies of scale which apply in outer London could be continued. This is especially important when one considers the close links which currently exist between the magistrates' courts and the probation service. If the Bill is passed, those links will inevitably be loosened.

The clerks to the four area magistrates' courts committees, for instance, are also joint executive secretaries to the corresponding four area-based probation committees, and their secretariat staffs work jointly for both magistrates' courts and the probation service. This is a convenient, economical and administratively effective way of undertaking secretarial support for both services. At present most of the GLC's central office staff also double up on both magistrates' courts and probation service work.

However, in the Bill the Government intend to retain the four area-based probation committees but not the four magistrates' courts committees. They, as I have said, are to be replaced by 20 smaller borough-based committees. It makes no sense either economically or administratively to treat the two services in so different a fashion.

What is perhaps more important is that the close links which have been established between the two services in outer London would be weakened by the passage of this Bill. All of us who have served in or around, or appeared in, magistrates' courts will know how important is the role of the probation service in those proceedings. Amendment No. 36, which I move, would enable these close links to be retained.

There is another important aspect of the Government's proposals to which I draw attention. At present only half of the local judicial boundaries in outer London—namely, the petty sessional divisions—are coterminous with the 20 outer London borough boundaries. The Home Office is on record as saying, however, that for its proposals to be successful it is essential, that the boundaries of petty sessional divisions should be aligned with those of the outer London boroughs". This Bill provides for such an alignment, which is to take place apparently at a stroke on 1st April 1986, but unfortunately in half of the London boroughs there is no alignment whatsoever.

To make judicial boundaries coterminous with borough boundaries would involve a significant reorganisation, and it would be necessary in the Middlesex area to realign about half of the judicial boundaries in outer London, and heaven knows what problems that would give rise to. This is not something, on the most optimistic view, that can be realistically undertaken in the time contemplated.

Another serious difficulty is that existing courthouses for the most part are in the wrong place for what is proposed by the provisions of the Bill. The borough of Enfield, for instance, has no courthouse. Its cases go, as my noble friend says, to Tottenham courthouse, in the borough of Haringey. That is basically why there is not already a petty sessional division of Enfield—there ain't no courthouse for 'em! There is simply no courthouse to justify any such change. It is not that the GLC and the Middlesex Magistrates' Courts Committee do not want the boundaries to align: nothing would be further from the truth, but wishing something does not make it happen.

10.15 p.m.

After 1st April 1986 Enfield will still be without a purpose-built courthouse, and nothing contained in the Bill will change that. What will happen is that in the four years until 1990, when a new courthouse, which is in its early planning stages at the GLC now, is expected to open (perhaps the Minister will tell us), in all likelihood Enfield's cases will continue to go to Tottenham courthouse at Haringey, as they do now. But there will clearly be a need after abolition for Enfield and Haringey to get together to sort out how the costs of running the Tottenham courthouse are to be apportioned between them. Here, again, we have a situation fraught with difficulty.

This is not streamlining; it is the exact opposite. New accounting and administrative procedures will need to be set up; lines of communication increased; extra time, extra effort and extra bureaucracy will be involved. The efficacy of the magistrates' courts service, like so many other matters that we have seen, will be a casualty of the Government's abolition proposals. Extra resources that would be much better allocated to the magistracy will be eaten up by an ever-burgeoning bureaucracy whose sole reason for existence will be to iron out the worst of many anomalies in this Bill. Extra resources will not be used where they are most needed; namely, to reduce delay in bringing cases to court. Delays in the administration of justice in outer London will not be reduced by one day as a result of the Bill. If anything, the delays will increase with the increase in the complexity of court administration. Justice delayed has indeed properly been described as justice denied.

In our submission these proposals for the magistracy are ill-conceived and dangerous in their possible consequences, and it is not surprising that they have been so widely opposed by everyone seriously involved with the magistracy in the relevant areas. I beg to move the amendment.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, as I sat in another place for 27 years for an outer London borough of which, as it so happens, the noble and learned Lord on the Front Bench opposite was for some years Recorder, I naturally followed his argument with very special interest. The noble and learned Lord spent a good deal of time spelling out the difficulties that would result from the change in the general system, although I thought he under-rated the flexibility and the administrative capacity of the boroughs. In the case of the one I know, I think it would probably be able to absorb these responsibilities without the great increase in bureaucracy which I was somewhat amused, coming from that Bench, to hear the noble and learned Lord criticising.

The noble and learned Lord spent very much less time explaining the value of his alternative proposal. It is to transfer the responsibility for these courts to the residuary body. But that is no more than a temporary solution. The residuary body, as your Lordships know, has a prospective life of five years. Therefore, if your Lordships were to accept the amendment that the noble and learned Lord has moved the whole of this problem would again arise five years from now.

I therefore suggest to your Lordships that, even if your Lordships were impressed by the noble and learned Lord's account of the difficulties which the changes will produce, he has not, to be frank, produced the answer. To transfer these very important, and quite plainly permanent, functions to a body whose own life is as short as that is simply putting off the evil day. I therefore suggest to your Lordships that even if the noble and learned Lord is right in pointing out that there will be difficulties—and all transitions of this kind involve quite a number of difficulties, of course—he has not presented your Lordships with the answer.

I have only one other point which arises from the drafting of the Bill to which I should be grateful if my noble friend on the Front Bench would refer when he comes to reply. The words immediately preceding those which the noble and learned Lord's amendment proposes to leave out contain this rather unusual phraseology: The Justices of the Peace Act 1979 shall have effect with the following amendments the principal effect of which is". I do not think I have ever seen anything as casual as that in a statute. Either it must be that "the effect is"; or, if it is the principal effect, it means that there are other and unspecified effects. This seems a very odd bit of draftsmanship. No doubt information "till be coming to my noble friend from the usual source but I should be very grateful if he would explain to me why that particular formula is used and whether there are any other effects.

Baroness MacLeod of Borve

My Lords, I am so involved, having spent 30 years as a magistrate in one of the areas about which we are talking, that I do not quite know how to begin except to say first of all that I agree with almost all that the noble and learned Lord has said. I do not quite know how it happened, but I should also like to say that I am grateful that these amendments were not taken at Committee stage because I have since then been able to talk to a number of my magistrate colleagues in the Middlesex area in the interim period.

There are 838 magistrates in Middlesex, and the borough's population at the 1981 census was just over 2½million people. It is a vast number of people to try to persuade to keep law and order.

I hope that in my life I am thought to be practical. I like to see things worked out in practical ways: ways which are able to be worked out and implemented. Entirely and only because of the time factor, I think that the noble and learned Lord's idea of the London residuary body is a good one. At first I did not think so, for the reason that the noble Lord on our Benches has given us, that it will as we all know last only for five years. But when one is dealing with a large number of people in a very big area it is important to get it right. Although I agree with some parts of this clause as put forward by the Government, I do not agree with the main parts.

I am very concerned indeed about the payment for the funding of the training of new staff and the administration which is now carried out by the magistrates' courts committee. As the noble and learned Lord has said, there are eight petty sessional divisions in the Middlesex Branch, which will mean eight new committee centres in each borough for which of course one has to find premises by April of next year. One also has to find the staff, and I do not think that will be easy because they will all have to be trained; they need to be highly experienced people.

I disagree fundamentally with the basic principle put forward that the borough shall be the paying authority. I do not think that the local authority and the judiciary should seem to be as one. It is stipulated in the Bill that in future 100 per cent. shall be paid by the local authority for the administrative staff of the judiciary within their borough, and that the Government will pay back to them 80 per cent. That leaves 20 per cent. for each borough to find towards the amount that is chargeable for the administrative services.

One does not need to live for very long in the north of London—in Middlesex as it was—to realise that some boroughs will pay their 20 per cent. but for many of the boroughs, I regret to say, payment for the judiciary will come below that for the sewers and, indeed, below practically everything in the local authorities' lists of priorities. I cannot see several of the boroughs concerned paying willingly, and I do not think they will go out of their way to pay anything at all.

The noble and learned Lord referred to my own borough of Enfield. It has no courthouse, and so I surmise that we shall have to continue to go to the Tottenham courthouse. The local authority in Tottenham will be able to charge Enfield a rate for the use of their courthouse, quite rightly; and I can see that the rate they will charge will almost cover the 20 per cent. they will have to pay from the Tottenham borough for the running of the courthouse.

I am sorry to say that I do not like this clause at all. I would not vote against it, because the principle is that the Government want to diversify and bring things nearer to the people. With that I agree, except for the judiciary. The judiciary, to those of us who have been privileged to work with it for a great number of years, is separate; and it must be seen to be separate. I should like the whole of the funding to be state-controlled, with completely straight funding.

The training of all the magistrates would also be a problem, as the noble and learned Lord has said, because it would have to be done (unless some other system were to be thought out) by eight different petty sessional divisions. I understand that the Middlesex area has a very good record indeed for training the magistracy. It certainly has a very good name indeed now.

However, the main sticking point for me is the paying authority, because, as I have said—I will not repeat it—I do not like the idea that local people who, unless they happen to be a magistrate, have no knowledge of the workings and the problems of the Bench, can withhold money. However much the Government tell them that they have to pay their 20 per cent., they can withhold that. Therefore, for that reason the judiciary and the way that we work would, I am sure, suffer greatly. I shall listen with the greatest interest to what my noble friend the Minister says. I hope I have given him some indication of how strongly I feel.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, I should not rise to speak at all in this debate, because my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones covered the field so extremely well and thoroughly. Also, it was very interesting to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, said; but as I am also a magistrate in Middlesex, I felt I had to express the feelings of all my fellow magistrates on my Bench—Highgate, Middlesex—and other magistrates in Middlesex; and this is irrespective of their political party or other views.

The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, I think said that he thought my noble and learned friend had under-rated the flexibility of boroughs. But the system does not work like that, if I may tell him so with great respect. If you take an area like Brent, which at the moment has a tiny courthouse which it shares with Willesden, we can hardly cope with the work at the moment. It has permission to start building a new courthouse in 1986. It should be completed, it is hoped, in three years, but as the noble Lord will know, slippages often occur. So that means that three years after this Bill is passed there will be a new courthouse there.

I think the big problem, as my noble and learned friend said, is that this is one of the casualties of this Bill. I am perfectly sure that when this Bill was envisaged nobody thought at the time, "My goodness, what will happen to the magistrates' courts?" It was just something which came as a by-product of this whole abolition. What has happened is that magistrates will be put in the position of being shuffled around. In my court, we have already had a list of where people would like to go, with first and second choices, but no undertaking that they will get them. It involves very considerable distances in travel and it will be a tremendous uprooting of the whole system.

It has been argued that in the metropolitan areas the boundaries are worked out in the way that the Bill proposes, that it works and that there are not the same problems as are foreseen for outer London. But these are outside London. These are very often self-contained communities, and in a quite different sort of social and economic perspective. You cannot compare them with the sprawling suburbs of outer London, and there is no doubt that fragmentation will eliminate present economies of scale. It will be more costly. This has been worked out independently. It will prevent the maintenance of common standards, cause duplication of administration and much more bureaucracy. As my noble and learned friend pointed out, delay, which is already a tremendous problem in all our courts, again particularly in the outer London area, will be increased. If things are working, as they are, fairly well, why change them?

In 1971 the then Home Secretary, the late Reginald Maudling, acknowledged that major boundary revisions were needed in the area, but they cannot be achieved satisfactorily without the provision of improved and additional courthouse accommodation. In Middlesex, for instance, two new courthouses are needed if the divisional boundaries are to be changed satisfactorily. It seems to me at the end of the day that the magistrates all over Middlesex, and the magistrates' court committees in the other areas of outer London, are right, in this instance, to appeal. First, they have been to the Lord Chancellor. They have made their protest heard and are now hoping that in this House we will be able to bring about some change. I hope that this may well be the case, because this is one instance where this is not at all a party political matter.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, have advanced a number of reasons why the restructuring of magistrates' courts committees in outer London to make them coterminous with individual outer London boroughs is inappropriate, though under the Bill these boroughs and restructured committees will stand in precisely the same relationship to each other as do the GLC and the four outer London committees now. So I cannot share their enthusiasm for a role in this for the London residuary body, either in practical terms or as a matter of principle.

Each committee will be required to consult its borough before determining its expenditure and the boroughs will have a right of appeal to the Home Secretary. The truth is that the arrangements which we propose in outer London after abolition are identical to those which have been operating successfully in the metropolitan districts since the 1974 local government reorganisation, and there is no reason to believe—and, quite honestly, nothing that I have heard this evening has led me to believe—that those arrangements will not work equally successfully in outer London.

We were told by the noble and learned Lord—and he was supported in this by my noble friend Lady Macleod—that the proposals are not welcomed by the magistrates involved. Indeed, the noble and learned Lord quoted a letter that he has received. Let me read an extract from a letter recently received by my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs from the chairman of a bench in Middlesex which says, among other things: It is right to say that, initially, the proposal chosen was not welcomed by this Bench. However, once all the options were carefully explained to the Justices it was agreed that the final choice was certainly the best of the options available and that the decision made will make for the better administration of justice in Middlesex, even if it does involve a temporary degree of personal inconvenience and disruption to staff and Justices alike. It may also be of interest to you to know that I have spoken with the senior members of staff and I am able to report that they are very strongly supportive of the Home Office decision"—

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, will the noble Lord be kind enough to say from what Bench that communication emanated and when it was communicated?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I can give the name of the person, if that is not out of order. But, certainly, it came from Hanworth Road magistrates' court and it emanated on 29th March, addressed to my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary. I can show the noble and learned Lord the letter, if it is of any help.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, I am much more concerned to know from what court or area t came. I am told that Hanworth Road is the smallest court in the area, and covers a population of 53,000. It is not exactly a typical borough authority on which to base an important argument.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, at least it is an argument which has been perfectly clearly expressed by those who wrote the letter. The noble and learned Lord quoted from other letters in regard to which I do not have the figures with me at the moment. Nevertheless, if the noble and learned Lord wishes to have the full text of the letter, I can let him have it.

My noble friend Lady Macleod, whose very wide experience I acknowledge, expressed some concern in referring to the existing sharing of costs and the evening out of lumpiness in expenditure between all the outer London boroughs through the GLC's precept. It is true that this will no longer happen when the lower tier authorities assume responsibility for the service in their areas. But it is a quite logical and natural consequence of devolution that the individual boroughs should assume responsibility for their services. Those costs have not proved prohibitive in the metropolitan districts.

The one-to-one relationship between local authority and magistrates' courts committees already exists; 80 per cent. of the costs of new courthouses, as of all other costs, will continue to be met by specific Exchequer grant. The remaining 20 per cent., to which I think my noble friend referred, is unlikely to be significant when spread as it will be, or could he, over a maximum loan period of 40 years. The net cost to the GLC of the magistrates' courts service in 1983–84 was some £2.5 million. Spread across 20 boroughs, that represents an average of £125,000 to each borough. That £125,000 is not quite as significant an amount as perhaps my noble friend feels it might be when we are talking about costs in this way.

The noble and learned Lord suggests that our arrangements will cost more. Our proposals will remove, apart from anything else, a tier of bureaucracy from the administration of the magistrates' courts service. They will enable decisions to be made by those people who have a personal knowledge of a court, its workings and its locality. We have not based our arguments for the new arrangements on the achievement of savings. On the other hand, we certainly do not envisage that costs will rise. If an element of the responsibilities of the magistrates' courts committees such as training would benefit from a broader administration, there is nothing to prevent the committees co-operating and sharing the costs, and we would be as keen as anybody to encourage such arrangements where they were appropriate.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, suggested that we retain the four existing committees and hence provide for borough co-option. While this solution would undeniably keep the immediate short-term disruption to the system to a minimum, co-option of borough councillors, while appropriate in the case of probation committees, which are responsible for a service not directly involved in the administration of justice, would, if extended to the magistrates' courts committees, give rise to real fears that the judicial process itself might become open to political pressure. I really cannot believe that the noble and learned Lord, with his experience, would want that to happen. I am convinced that the proposed restructuring arrangement represents the best way of minimising overall disturbance to the service.

With regard to the special problems of Middlesex and the general concern of my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, that the areas of the boroughs and the petty sessions areas are not aligned, the proposal that the boundaries of petty sessions areas and boroughs should be the same is not a new one. It has long been accepted as an aim towards which committees have been working. Indeed, the Middlesex area magistrates' courts committees agreed that it was their long-term aim as long ago as 1969.

The noble and learned Lord referred to the differences between what is proposed for magistrates and what is proposed for probation services. At present the administrative arrangements in outer London for both magistrates' courts and probation services are based on the same geographical area. I have to say that this is coincidental. It is not true in the metropolitan counties. The services are quite dissimilar. The probation service provides a service for the courts, and the magistrates' courts administer. Here we have a fundamental difference.

10.45 p.m.

I understand the concern that has been expressed about computerisation, but there is nothing to prevent co-operation in the use of co-ordinating officers. Each court or group of courts has its own mini computer, and there is no call for a centrally-based system. I cannot see that any particular problem arises if the system is changed in the way that is proposed.

My noble friend and the noble and learned Lord were concerned about Enfield courthouse. I have to say to my noble friend Lady Macleod that, as she correctly surmised, the new courthouse is at the planning stage at the moment. Enfield will need, in the short term, to use facilities elsewhere. My noble friend was right when she suggested Tottenham. We hope that the necessary co-operative arrangements can be made there.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, before my noble friend the Minister leaves this particular point, in view of the fact that the original courthouse was closed by the right honourable Roy Jenkins when he was Home Secretary in the Labour Government and we have not had a courthouse since, can my noble friend the Minister say whether it is envisaged that the state will pay for the new courthouse—or will it have to be paid for by the ratepayers?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, that point is one to which I shall return in a moment or two, when I have completed my remarks on a slightly simpler point. This was the question raised by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter initially concerning drafting. As I understand it, the use of the words "principal effect" at the start of Clause 12(1) takes the opportunity to correct what is referred to as a minor misdraft in the Justices of the Peace Act 1979. It has not yet, I am advised, caused any judicial problems. I can certainly let my noble friend have details if he would like me to do so.

I return to the concern expressed by my noble friend Lady Macleod concerning accommodation for committee secretaries. There is no question of needing to provide new accommodation for the eight new committees because justices' clerks will be clerks to the magistrates' courts committees by virtue of their office and will use existing court accommodation for that purpose. So there is no worry there.

Reverting to my noble friend's earlier point concerning the costs of Enfield courthouse, 80 per cent. of those costs will be found by the Home Office, leaving 20 per cent. to be met elsewhere, as is the standard procedure. The prime point is that 80 per cent. of the cost will be found by the Home Office; 20 per cent. will have to be found locally.

My noble friend was concerned also about bringing local authorities into the funding of the judiciary. There is no change in financing arrangements. At the moment the GLC pays 100 per cent. and gets 80 per cent. back from the Home Office, as I have just described. In future the boroughs will get the 80 per cent.—that is, the 80 per cent. Home Office grant. So the judiciary is local authority funded now and will be in the future. In any case, the GLC collects its precepts from borough ratepayers, and so there is very little change from the existing situation. I hope that puts my noble friend's mind at rest.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter when he says that the value of the alternative proposals set out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, has not been fully explained. Certainly there is no role whatever for the London residuary body in financing the outer London magistrates' courts committees. It is right, as I said at the start, that the responsibility should be devolved to the boroughs. That responsibility already rests, and has rested since 1974, with the districts and the metropolitan counties. With that explanation I hope that the noble and learned Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, if I am disposed to withdraw the amendment—I say this without impertinence—it will not be because of the quality of any of the arguments put forward by the noble Lord. Indeed, I find his response most disappointing and it marks a failure to deal with deep anxieties which have been responsibly aroused in regard to an important part of the administration of justice by the Government's proposals in the Bill

The noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, has had great magisterial experience and all I can say about the failure to raise this matter in Committee is that we have been under immense pressure regarding time throughout our dealings with the Bill. There was simply no time to raise it at that stage, and it is monstrous that on a matter affecting the administration of justice over a wide area I am now addressing your Lordships at ten minutes to eleven o'clock—and how many noble Lords are present? I shall not let down the reputation of the House by counting them. It is wholly deplorable, but this is not the fault of the Opposition; it is the fault of the Government.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I hope that the noble and learned Lord will not think that I was criticising him. In fact, I was thanking him for not bringing forward this matter in Committee because it gave me more time to talk to my colleagues.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, the consequence of what has happened may be that yet another opportunity will have to be taken at the final stage, Third Reading, because this is not a matter to be dealt with in almost the watches of the morning, and in a House so ill-attended. I am not complaining, since what can one expect at this time?

I very much respect the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, if only because he was the Lord High Steward of the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames when I was its Recorder. Fortunately the effluxion of time and the course of events has moved me to other quarters of judicial activity. In answer to the noble Lord's criticism of the time factor may I say that with regard to the functions of the London residuary body, it is proposed that it should deal only with financing, not with the administration itself. The clue to the efficiency of the administration will rest, above all, in the four area committees which will continue in existence. Five years provides a period of time to enable the Government and all concerned to think again about these very important matters. The concern that has been expressed comes not from one somewhat obscure source, if I may say so, but from responsible quarters and clearly calls out for further serious examination over a lengthy period of what is proposed.

To compare what has happened in the metropolitan counties with what might happen here is not, I submit, the relevant question. What we must compare in the course of our deliberations is what the Government are proposing for outer London with what happens in outer London now. My submission, on the facts which I have given and the problems the Bill will create, will show that what is proposed will do nothing but damage to the administration of justice, which is of great importance to us all.

I shall not recapitulate the arguments about added bureaucracy and administration. Twenty committees will fall to be serviced instead of the present four; there will be 20 paying bodies instead of the present one. The Home Office will have to contend with 20 paying authorities instead of the one. The function of being a paying authority is one which the residuary body is well capable of performing. It is already left with a number of important functions in the financial and administrative field, and it is happily a reasonable solution at any rate if the Bill has to go through.

As I have indicated, time passes. In the circumstances, what my noble friends and I have in mind is that I shall withdraw the amendment this night, but I undertake to return to it again at the next stage of our proceedings in this House.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 37 to 42 not moved.]

Clause 13 [Coroners]:

Lord Elwyn-Jones moved Amendment No. 43: Page 10, line 6, at beginning insert— ("( ) The provisions of this section shall take effect on the appointed day.")

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I am afraid that the proliferation of literature in this matter is something that has overwhelmed us all. Now we turn from the magistrates' courts to the coroners' courts—I shall not say, "a more cheerful subject". Here again the Government have not in anticipation contemplated the damage which the Bill will do to the administration of coroners' courts. Again the proposals will not assist in the administration of the coroners' courts or in their efficiency.

When they set out their intentions for the coroners' service in Greater London and the metropolitan counties after abolition, the Government in their White Paper Streamlining the Cities proposed that the transfer of the GLC and MCC functions to the borough and district councils should be made, pending changes in the longer term in the coroners' system as envisaged by the Brodrick Committee. What was being proposed was seen as a temporary measure only, and that was subsequently confirmed by the Government when the Home Office in a consultation letter stated: The arrangements which are proposed for the coroners' service are seen as a purely temporary measure pending much wider reorganisation of the coroners' service which it is hoped to achieve in the not too distant future".

The Brodrick Committee, which was set up to examine the coroners' system, reported in 1971. Some of its recommendations have been implemented, but the major issues have still to be legislated upon, in particular the recommendation for a national coroners' system, with accommodation being provided by the Home Office and appointments being made by the Lord Chancellor rather than a local government run and funded system.

It is clear that what is proposed in the Bill is seen as a purely temporary measure pending further substantial changes as envisaged by Brodrick. To engage in an upheaval of the administration of the coroners' service now for a very short period of change indeed in Greater London and the "met" counties when the Government's proposals are only temporary seems to us to be a foolish and expensive absurdity.

11 p.m.

It is noteworthy that the Brodrick Committee itself said that it did not think it would be in the interests of the coroners' system for it to undergo, as a whole, a series of transitional changes in step with changes in local government; but that is precisely what the Government are foolishly seeking to do. The proposals in the amendments will again disrupt the coroner service as it exists at the present time. At any rate, the amendment that I move will limit the damage and disruption to the coroner service and will enable the residuary body to continue to run the service after the abolition of the GLC in much the same cost efficient way as it is being run at the present time.

In view of the lateness of the hour, I shall not enter into detail on the complex administrative and account- ing arrangements which will be needed to see that expenditure, as is proposed, is properly shared between boroughs. There will be a two-tier system of charging and recharging costs in many instances. A coroner may have to relate to more than one borough over premises and other matters. Each coroner's jurisdiction in Greater London covers a minimum of four London boroughs and in the western district there are six boroughs within the coroner's jurisdiction.

Therefore, the proposal we make is to create in the residuary body the responsibility for funding the coroner service. In our view, this amendment will enable us to retain all that is efficient and cost effective in the present arrangements until the Government are ready and equipped to advance further proposals relating to the future of the coroner service in a properly thought-out and seriously considered way. I beg to move.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I think that the noble and learned Lord, in moving this amendment, was speaking also to Amendment No. 46. Amendment No. 46. Page 11. line 36, at end insert— ("(12) In this section "the appointed day" means such day as the Secretary of State may by order appoint for the purposes of this section. (13) Until the appointed day the enactments referred to in the provisions of this section shall have effect without the amendments set out in this section but as if the references to the Greater London Council were references to the London Residuary Body and references to a metropolitan county council were references to the residuary body for that county. (14) No order shall be made under subsection (12) above unless a draft has been laid before each House of Parliament together with a report by the Secretary of State on the future arrangements for the coroners service in Greater London or the areas of the metropolitan county councils as appropriate. (15) An order made under subsection (12) above may amend the provisions of this section and make consequential amendments in any Act passed before the appointed day so as to make such provision for the exercise of the functions which under the provisions of this section will be transferred from the Greater London Council and metropolitan county councils as the Secretary of State considers to be necessary to give effect to any determination in the report referred to in subsection (14) above.") Thus I am a little surprised that the noble and learned Lord should be proposing a further order-making power (for that is what it is) for inclusion in the Bill. One of the main criticisms of the Bill by the party of the noble and learned Lord not only in another place but also certainly here at Second Reading has been the number and extent of the order-making powers that already exist.

I do not believe that the noble and learned Lord's criticism in this respect is valid. I suggest that the order-making power proposed in his amendment would be inappropriate on two grounds. First, it would allow my right honourable friend by order totally to reorganise the coroner service in London and the metropolitan counties. I do not believe that it would be right to grant even my right honourable friend such wide-ranging powers to be exercised by order. That power would certainly go a very great deal wider than any order-making power the Government have proposed anywhere else in the Bill.

Secondly, the proposed order-making power extends only to London and the metropolitan counties. I do not blame the noble and learned Lord for the fact that his amendment achieves only that, because there are, of course, constraints which are produced by the scope and the long title of the Bill. I imagine that your Lordships would feel that any reorganisation in the light of Brodrick—to which the noble and learned Lord referred—should extend to the entire country and not just to the metropolitan authorities. From what the noble and learned Lord said, that was rather his theme, too. For both these reasons, I think it right that if the Government decide to put forward proposals for the reorganisation of the coroner's service in the light of Brodrick—I can only say at present that we have no immediate plans to do so—it should be on the basis of fresh primary legislation covering the whole country.

But that is not all. The amendment has something of a sting in its tail, albeit a fairly familiar sting: that is, transfer of the GLC and MCCs' responsibilities in the meantime to the appropriate residuary body. We have been here before. It is no more appropriate in our view to give the residuary bodies a role in the appointment and payment of coroners than it was to make the London residuary body the paying authority in relation to the outer London magistrates' courts committees. Our whole abolition policy hinges around maximum devolution of functions to the boroughs and districts. It is right that these functions should be devolved. It would not be appropriate to transfer them to the residuary bodies as it is currently proposed that those bodies should be constituted. To seek to change their proposed constitution would be, in effect, to reopen issues that your Lordships have already debated and to table fresh proposals that have already been rejected.

The noble and learned Lord particularly mentioned Brodrick. I do not think that I can add to what I have said before. There are no immediate plans to make an implementation in the way that I described, which would need to be country-wide. Nevertheless, the fact that such a proposal should be country-wide and not SO restrained as that proposed by the noble and learned Lord makes the case very strongly against the amendment. In the light of that, I hope that the noble and learned Lord will not press the amendment.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, I feel sure that there will be considerable public disappointment at the announcement of the Minister that there is no intention in the foreseeable future to give effect to Brodrick, which disclosed a number of grave defects in the present system. I feel sure that this will cause a good deal of alarm and despondency up and down the country among those who have responsibility for coroner's courts. Perhaps the noble Lord had better think again about that, if I may say so without discourtesy.

The indication given by the Government until now was that the arrangements in the Bill were intended to be temporary and are temporary. My submission is that the degree of fragmentation and confusion that they will cause is unjustifiable in view of the situation in which we find ourselves. However, here again, as it is now nearly 11.10 p.m., I do not propose to invite the House to form a view on this matter tonight. But we shall return to it. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 44, 45, 46 and 47 not moved.]

Lord Elwyn-Jones moved Amendment No. 48: After Clause 14, insert the following new clause:

("Probation Service in London.

.—(1) The Powers of the Criminal Courts Act 1973 shall have effect with the following amendments, the principal effect of which is to transfer for the purposes of that Act the functions of the Greater London Council in respect of probation areas in outer London to the London Residuary Body.

(2) In section 57(1) (interpretation) in the definition of "local authority" after the words "any probation area" there shall be inserted the words "other than any outer London area (within the meaning of the Administration of Justice Act 1964)" and in relation to a probation area in any outer London area (within the meaning of the said Act of 1964) the London Residuary Body".

(3) In paragraph 15(4) of Schedule 3 (expenses of probation committees to be borne by local authorities) for the words "the Greater London Council" there shall be substituted the words "the London Residuary Body".").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, here again I feel a little difficulty in embarking upon this discussion on the probation service at this hour. I wonder whether this is a wise course to follow. If it is felt by the Government that they wish to do so, so be it. However, perhaps we can have a moment's thought to consider the position. Is that possible?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, perhaps I may respond to the invitation of the noble and learned Lord. As I understand the position there has been an agreement through the usual channels to finish at the end of Amendment No. 59—that is, Clause 15. I have received no comment through the usual channels that the position is to be changed, and therefore the matter is entirely up to the noble and learned Lord himself.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, so be it. We shall continue, unsatisfactory though I am bound to say it is, but that is the position.

We now come to the important matters relating to the probation service which arise under Clause 15. I have already ventured to address the House about the problems that will arise in the magistrates' courts service in outer London as a result of abolition. I submit that many of the same problems can be expected to arise in the probation service, which in many ways is now administered and funded in similar fashion to the magistrates' courts.

Amendments Nos. 47 and 48, which I am now moving or discussing, seek to transfer the Greater London Council's and the metropolitan county councils'—

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I think that the noble and learned Lord is moving only Amendment No. 48. He did not move Amendment No. 47.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, I am so sorry. I have not quite caught up with the situation, but I shall get there quickly enough.

As I was saying when I was so helpfully interrupted, Amendment No. 48 seeks to transfer the Greater London Council's and the metropolitan county councils' paying authority functions for the probation service to the relevant residuary bodies. As with the magistrates' courts service, the probation service in the outer London boroughs is run by a probation committee in each of the four areas of Middlesex, North-East, South-East and South-West London. The GLC, as the paying authority, has to meet the cost of running the service, and, as with the magistrates, there is an 80 per cent. grant by the Home Office. The GLC, as paying authority, has to be consulted by the four probation committees on most expenditure proposals.

Over the years the probation committees have come to depend very heavily upon the various GLC departments for their support services—architectural, legal, computing, valuation, supplies, superannuation and similar matters. There is therefore a similar relationship in outer London between the magistrates' courts service and the GLC as paying authority, on the one hand, and the probation service and the GLC as paying authority, on the other. In the functioning of the arrangement this has enabled extremely close links to be developed and encouraged between the two services and has made for an efficient and administratively cost-effective way of providing both secretarial support for the four probation committees and local government support through the paying authority. The value of a close working relationship between the two services is clearly important.

11.15 p.m.

That close link is to be broken, since the Government's proposals for the probation service differ substantially from what is proposed for the magistrates' courts services. The four area-based probation committees are to be retained, unlike the four area-based magistrates' courts committees, and that will have serious effects in damaging the close working relationship between the two services, as I have said.

In place of the sole paying authority, the GLC, there will be payment by the 20 outer London boroughs. There will] be a great increase in administration, staff and everything else. The change will again increase bureaucracy and expenditure; it will save neither. The area probation committees will need to set up links with each and all of the authorities in their area. The Middlesex probation committee, for instance, will have eight boroughs to deal with. There can be only an increase in bureaucracy and many more lines of communication.

The probation committees in outer London do not welcome the Government's proposals; nevertheless they have to consider how they can best take over and carry out the work currently dealt with by the paying authority. The changes that are proposed involve additional administrative and financial staff of about 20 in the outer London probation service—all the result of abolition. Extra resources, badly needed to increase the number of professional probation officers, will be diverted to increase the bureaucracy. Similarly the burdens on the Home Office will once again increase in that it will have to make contact with 20 paying authorities instead of one. We propose one instead.

We fail to understand how what is proposed will produce a more efficient and streamlined probation service. It will have the opposite effect. Here again we are in the presence of an important service which is to be damaged as a casualty in a hurriedly prepared abolition scheme. Therefore, we resist what is proposed. The concerns that I have expressed as briefly as I can are shared by all of the professional organisations associated with the probation service. The National Association of Probation Officers supports my amendment. The Association of Chief Probation Officers, contrary to what was said in the Committee stage of the Bill in another place, remains deeply unhappy about the effect of the proposals in the service. It can see no positive benefit in them. The association's acceptance of the need to discuss with Government the arrangements which will be necessary after abolition must not be taken to imply satisfaction with the proposals. That is, indeed, not the case. Therefore we face once again, in these proposals, what is of vital importance to the community: namely, fair, efficient and informed administration of justice. For these reasons and the need to avoid dislocation of the probation service, which would follow the Government's proposals, we oppose them strongly and in their place propose the amendment which I now beg to move.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has repeated in essence many of the arguments that he advocated earlier in connection with magistrates' courts and coroners. I do not think I need detain your Lordships with a long explanation of why we cannot follow his proposals, so I am afraid I shall have to disappoint the noble and learned Lord yet again.

The amendments would make the appropriate residuary body responsible for paying the expenses of the probation committees in outer London and in the metropolitan counties. The share of the costs of the Northumbria probation committee, currently met by Tyne and Wear metropolitan county council, would after abolition be met by the Tyne and Wear residuary body. This proposal is no more appropriate than were those to make the London residuary body the paying authority, as I said before in relation to magistrates' courts, nor those to make the residuary bodies in London and the metropolitan counties responsible for appointing and paying coroners.

I can only repeat that it would not be appropriate to transfer this function to the local residuary body, as it is currently constituted. To seek to change its proposed constitution would be in effect to reopen the issues which are fundamental principles of the Bill which have already been decided, debated and discussed even a few minutes ago. The noble and learned Lord talks about costs. He alluded to transitional costs and asked: who will pay? The Government recognise that probation committees will incur transitional costs during the current financial year. We are currently consulting local authorities and the probation services about our proposals that these should be met by the successor authorities, but there is no question of Government meeting these costs by a 100 per cent. probation service grant.

One of the most telling things is the fact that the chief probation officers themselves say that what is proposed by the noble and learned Lord's amendment would not meet their needs. The noble and learned Lord has other amendments down on the subject and one can explore the details further, but I hope that he will not press this amendment.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, again for reasons of the timing of this operation, I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Elwyn-Jones had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 49: After Clause 14, insert the following new clause

("Probation Service in metropolitan counties

.—(1) The Powers of the Criminal Courts Act 1973 shall have effect with the following amendment, which gives effect to the transfer for the purposes of that Act of the functions of metropolitan county councils in respect of probation areas in 4 metropolitan counties to the appropriate residuary bodies.

(2) In paragraph 19(2) of Schedule 3 (Interpretation) for the words "county council" there shall be substituted the words "residuary body for the area of the metropolitan county".")

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 49 covers the same ground except that it relates to the metropolitan counties, not the GLC. I have made the relevant submissions with regard to the substance of the matter and I do not think I need trouble the House further by elaborating them. I propose to take the same course of not moving the amendment.

[Amendment No. 49 not moved.]

Clause 15 [The probation service]:

Lord Elwyn-Jones moved Amendment No. 50: Page 12, line 28, leave out ("populations") and insert ("rateable value").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 50 deals with a short point: namely, what the method of apportioning costs should be. The method suggested by the Government is that expenditure in the relevant authorities should be apportioned in proportion to the population. But we submit that this proposal to relate funding to population rather than to rateable value has neither logic to it nor justice in it. Many boroughs and districts have large populations but, alas! very low incomes. In those circumstances, it is the poorest boroughs that will be penalised the most heavily for the carrying out of this important service which is part of the administration of justice. For reasons of equity, justice and indeed efficiency, we reject the proposal. I beg to move.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has described how these amendments would provide for the cost of probation committees to be shared between the authorities and their areas on the basis of rateable value instead of, as the Bill currently provides, population. The noble and learned Lord has made clear his concern to ensure that there is fair distribution of costs between ratepayers. We certainly share that aim. But I must say that the proper way to achieve it is as we proposed.

The charges we are talking about are levied on the boroughs, not directly on ratepayers. In deciding to share out these costs we have to take the boroughs' block grant entitlements into account. It is a little late at night to go into block grant in any detail, but what I can say very quickly is that block grant is paid to each borough and district to compensate for the differences in their rateable resources. It is a very technical matter and I can certainly let the noble Lord have some information which even the GLC accepts, in that the methodology is correct within the terms of the block grant system. I hope with that assurance—the GLC seem to think it is all right in this instance—that the noble and learned Lord will not press his amendment.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lord, I repeat the same conclusion as I have done on the other amendments in this part of the Bill, and do not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 51 and 52 not moved.]

Lord Elwyn-Jones had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 53: Page 12, line 41, leave out from ("State") to end of line 44.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I think this group of amendments goes together. They all deal with co-option, if my memory serves me aright. Amendments Nos. 54, 55, 56, come under the same rubric; and so do Nos. 57 and 58. I do not propose to move these amendments, nor Amendment No. 59.

[Amendments Nos. 53 to 59 not moved.]

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

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

House adjourned at twenty-nine minutes past eleven o'clock.