HL Deb 13 June 1985 vol 464 cc1360-410

3.31 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.—(Lord Elton,)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Lord Mottistone moved Amendment No. 59A: Before Clause 16, insert the following new clause,

("Trading standards etc.

.Schedule (Trading standards and related functions) to this Act shall have effect, as from the abolition date, for vesting functions relating to trading standards and certain related matters in the fire and civil defence authorities established by Part VI of this Act.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, unfortunately on this very day the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, is out of the country and it was agreed that I should move this amendment on behalf of both of us. In moving Amendment No. 59A, I hope that the House will agree that I should speak also to Amendment Nos. 59B, 61A, 63A, 67A to 67D and 74A to 74C. Amendment No. 59B: Page 13, line 28, leave out subsection (2). Amendment No. 61A: Before Schedule 7, insert the following new schedule



1. In section 201(2)(a) of the Local Government Act 1972 for the words "county and London borough, the council of that county or borough" there shall be substituted the words "non-metropolitan county and London borough, the council of that county or borough and for each metropolitan county the fire, trading standards and civil defence authority established under Part IV of the Local Government Act 1985".

2. In section 71(a) of the Food Act 1984 for the words "county and London borough, the council of that county or borough" there shall be substituted the words "non-metropolitan county and London borough, the council of that county or borough and for each metropolitan county the fire, trading standards and civil defence authority established under Part IV of the Local Government Act 1985".

3. In section 67(1) of the Agriculture Act 1970 for the words "of the council of a county or London borough and of the Common Council of the City of London" there shall be substituted the words "of the Common Council of the City of London, in a non-metropolitan county and London borough, the council of that county or borough, and in each metropolitan county, the fire, trading standards and civil defence authority established under Part IV of the Local Government Act 1985"."). Amendment No. 63A: Schedule 7, page 134, line 26, leave out paragraph 15. Amendment No. 67A: Clause 26, page 19, line 37, after ("Fire") insert (", Trading Standards"). Amendment No. 67B: Page 19, line 40, after ("fire") insert (", trading standards"). Amendment No. 67C: Page 19, line 41, after ("fire") insert (", trading standards"). Amendment No. 67D: Page 20, line 2, after ("fire") insert (", trading standards"). Amendment No. 74A: Schedule 10, page 145, line 2, after ("Fire") insert ("and Trading Standards"). Amendment No. 74B: Page 146, line 15, after second ("fire") insert (", trading standards"). Amendment No. 74C: Page 146, line 17, after ("fire") insert ("and trading standards"). I understand the usual channels are in agreement with that grouping.

In Committee, in the debate on Amendment No. 74K moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn introduced Amendment No. 75 and others. Those were a fallback position so far as trading standards were concerned and unfortunately appeared within the Bill ahead of the main amendments. We were grateful to the Government for accepting the fall-back amendments and undertaking to make further amendments to tidy them up which appear later in the Marshalled List. Unfortunately the fall-back amendments do not go far enough. Furthermore, at the Committee stage the main amendments, because of a technicality, were not debated at all. Apart from the need for these main amendments, I suggest that it is only right that they should receive proper debate in your Lordships' House before we dispense with the Bill. Accordingly I introduce them now.

I come now to describe the purpose of these amendments. The first point is that trading standards need to be co-ordinated at as high a level as practicable in local government to ensure consistency of interpretation of the regulations. There are a whole lot of regulations established under various Acts of Parliament, several of them under the Consumer Safety Act which I had the privilege of moving in your Lordships' House following its introduction in another place by a Conservative Back-Bencher at the time of a Labour Government. I mention that to show that this is in no way a party issue.

This problem is one that faced us when we had similar legislation in relation to Scotland some three or four years ago. I, and indeed my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, were among those who sought to put trading standards at the appropriately high level. The reason for that is this. When regulations have to be interpreted, if there is a wealth of authorities at the lower level there is a risk that one trading standards officer will interpret them in a particular way and another in another way. Not only is that unfair at the level of retailing as between one retailer and another; one may be prevented from having something in his shop and another will not. It is also very difficult for large companies which have factories in one part of the country and whose goods are sold all over the country. They therefore require to have a stability which can be achieved only by having interpretation at a high level.

It was suggested, I think in Committee, that that might be put at Government level. But that is too high because the interpretations still have to be co-ordinated. It is a neat matter of judgment to make them sufficiently local so that they can be co-ordinated by a body of people who look over an area of a million or two, or perhaps slightly less in certain places, but not in the whole country because the day-to-day administration and confirmation of decisions has to come at a local level.

That understanding of the need to have this interpretation at the appropriate level is thoroughly supported by a whole range of organisations. With your Lordships' permission, I shall read them out to show how widely this is felt. The first is the Confederation of British Industry. It is perhaps of interest that throughout the passage of this Bill this is the one provision on which the CBI has made a firm point. It has otherwise agreed with what the Government have proposed and supported the Bill in its other respects. Other bodies are the National Consumer Council, the Retail Consortium, the Consumers' Association, the Institute of Trading Standards Administration—I include that institute, but of course they are the professionals, and as was once said somewhere else, "They would, wouldn't they?"—the Anti-Counterfeiting Group of 60 British Companies—and anti-counterfeiting is a particular problem in this area—the Advertising Standards Authority, the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux, the British Standards Institution and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. Those are the ones about which I know, though I suspect there may be others.

What we are proposing is that trading standards in the metropolitan counties should be included among the authorities established under Clause 26 for fire and civil defence. Your Lordships may think it strange to bracket trading standards with fire and civil defence, and I must confess that when this proposal as a way of solving the problem was put to me I thought it surprising.

However, apart from hearing arguments, one matter which convinced me that it was not unreasonable or surprising is the fact that all the shire counties, some 47 of them, have a similar arrangement. That is, they have the same committee looking after civil defence, fire and trading standards. They have had that for some time. It works very well and it is voluntary; they do not have to have their committees organised that way, so there is nothing to force them to do it. They have found that it works well. In fact there is a conformity of the kinds of matters that have to be looked at. If one considers the matter, trading standards are looking after the welfare of the consumer in relation to goods sold to him; the fire service is looking after his welfare with regard to his house being burnt down; and civil defence, which it is hoped will never have to be invoked, looks after him in the event of a major disaster in peace or war. Thus there is a practicality about it which I should have thought has sufficient backing in the actions of the shire counties to make it reasonable.

Perhaps I may also say that in agreeing to the amendments of my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, providing reserve power to effect just that kind of co-ordination, the Government seem to have accepted the case for the level of co-ordination of trading standards that are being proposed.

Your Lordships may wonder why we need to press on if that is the case. However, as the Bill stands at the moment, it could and probably would be the case that the existing teams of trading standards administration at metropolitan county level would be broken up. Then, perhaps some years later, or even months later, the Government may say, "Yes, you are right: we need to invoke the powers", the powers that are the subject of the amendments originally moved by my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn. But by that time the damage would have been done and these teams would have been broken up.

Thus I feel that we need firmer arrangements, as provided by the amendments, in order to make quite certain that trading standards are dealt with as effectively as possible in the interestes of the manufacturers, the retailers and the consumers. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, after that admirably clear introduction, I should perhaps say a word of further explanation by drawing attention to the fact that the second amendment to which my noble friend Lord Mottistone spoke, Amendment No. 59B, is, as it happens, not only consequential on his amendment No. 59A, it is also a paving amendment for the Government amendment, Amendment No. 63AA, to which I shall be referring again in a moment. Amendment No. 63AA: Schedule 7, page 134, line 48, at end insert— ("(5) Each joint committee established by virtue of subparagraph (4) above shall before the abolition date co-ordinate the making by the councils represented on the committee of preparations for the transfer of the functions which by virtue of subparagraphs (1) to (3) above will be exercisable by those councils from that date. (6) If after the abolition date it appears to the Secretary of State to be necessary or expedient to do so he may, after consultation with the councils of the districts in a metropolitan county, by order establish a single authority for the county to discharge from a date specified in the order the functions conferred on the councils by virtue of this paragraph. (7) An order under this paragraph may contain such supplementary and transitional provisions as the Secretary of State thinks necessary or expedient, including provisions for the transfer of property, staff, rights and liabilities and provisions amending any enactment or any instrument made under any enactment"). Therefore, the fact that my name and that of my noble friend appear on an identical amendment does not necessarily give the full extent of the positions that we respectively occupy.

My noble friend's amendments would transfer responsibility for trading standards and related functions to the metropolitan county fire and civil defence authorities. They would thus create combined joint authorities for fire, trading standards and civil defence in those counties. I had hoped that in Committee I had persuaded my noble friend not to pursue these amendments. When trading standards were debated in Committee, I thought I had persuaded your Lordships that it was right that they should be devolved to the district councils. I need scarcely repeat yet again that maximum devolution of as many as possible of the functions which the metroplitan county councils currently perform is central to abolition policy.

It is argued that it is appropriate to transfer responsibility for those functions to the fire and civil defence authorities because so many shire counties have chosen to organise their committee structure around the public protection committees, and in some cases to provide common administrative support arrangements for the two services. I do not dispute that. Such arrangements are undoubtedly important. But they do not go to the heart of the function. As I understand it, there is only a very small core of related fire and trading standards functions. I am aware of that small core because for a time I was responsible in the Home Office for the fire service and I am now carrying out this reciprocal responsibility for the legislation at this Box in this debate in another department which is responsible for the trading standards inspectorate.

There is a far greater relationship between trading standards and environmental health functions. For instance, some 15 per cent. of the workload of a typical trading standards department relates to food authority functions, where that relationship is closest. I am not therefore convinced by the supposed close links between fire and trading standards as a sufficient reason for departing from our declared policy. Those links are to do with the provision of common support services. The districts are equally well equipped to provide such support services themselves.

I referred a moment ago to the close links between the trading standards and environmental health functions. I should remind your Lordships, as I did in Committee, that our proposals to devolve trading standards and related functions to the districts is strongly supported by the Institution of Environmental Health Officers. This clear view from an institution whose members work within the district councils, including the metropolitan districts, further convinced me that the devolution of trading standards functions to those districts is indeed viable and the right solution.

It has been suggested that the service will be more expensive and less effective if it is administered by the districts. I think my noble friend will forgive me for sweeping up now an argument deployed in Committee, although I am not sure that r heard him repeat it today. However, it may linger in your Lordships' minds. I acknowledge that the costs of providing the service are higher in London, where it is administered by the boroughs, than in the metropolitan counties. However, compare the levels of activity. In 1983–84, the last year for which we have figures, there were some 18,000 prosecutions and cautions in London. All the metropolitan counties, together with their much higher combined population, produced only 2,000 more. That must surely account for at least some of the extra cost and does not seem to me to reflect at all badly on the diligence of the service under the lower level of administration, or make me feel that it is unlikely to be properly conducted under similar arrangements elsewhere.

I recognise that in an earlier debate in Committee stage, noble Lords have referred to commendable specific initiatives by individual metropolitan county councils. However, as they have not been referred to again, I shall not repeat my reference to that.

My noble friend has said that he wants to secure uniformity of interpretation and enforcement by placing it at a higher than local level. In the course of advancing that argument, which rests on the need to have as few authorities as possible, he referred to the fact that the present arrangements involve no fewer than 47 shire counties. I have not yet heard it argued that there is an unacceptable variation in enforcement and interpretation as a result of that multiplicity, though my noble friend will have an opportunity to put me right when he replies to the debate.

We have always recognised the need for some co-ordination, especially of enforcement. That is why the Bill provides for joint committees of the districts in each metropolitan county, whose role it will be to co-ordinate enforcement and the use of specialist staff and equipment employed on enforcement work. Those committees were enough to persuade the Association of British Chambers of Commerce to support our proposals. I remind your Lordships of what they said about the proposals in a commentary on the Bill circulated during its passage in another place. They said: The main concern of industry and commerce relating to trading standards was the possibility that district councils would operate varying standards of advice and enforcement and that centralised units such as exist in West Yorkshire might be disbanded when control was passed to districts". This is the important part: It seems to the association that Clause 15(4) of Schedule 8"— and that of course is now Schedule 7— which establishes a statutory joint committee allays that fear and should be supported. Since then, thanks to my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, we have strengthened the role of the joint committees of which the Association of British Chambers of Commerce approved. That was the effect of the amendments moved by my noble friend that I accepted in Committee. As a result, the joint committees will now be established by 1st September 1985. They will have a statutory duty to co-ordinate the districts' preparations for the transfer of trading standards functions to those districts on abolition day, and they will have a stronger and more clearly defined duty to co-ordinate enforcement functions after abolition as well. Most significantly, there will also be a reserve power for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, by order, to establish joint authorities for trading standards and related functions in any metropolitan county if it appears to him necessary and expedient so to do.

The precise form of the reserve power and the details of the joint committees' role before abolition day are the subject of a later amendment in my name. It may nonetheless help the House if I explain briefly how we expect that those arrangements would work. It is clearly important that your Lordships should be satisfied, as I am, that they will work effectively. The joint committees will have to be established by 1st September this year. The districts will therefore need to decide before then on the joint committees' constitution and membership and on the date and place of their first meeting. The districts will, of course, he free—I believe that this is something on which my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn places some store—to involve the metropolitan county councils in those joint committees before abolition if they so wish. Whatever arrangements the districts wish to make for those committees, I hope that they will begin to make them now so that they can begin work in earnest on 1st September.

The joint committees will be responsible between then and abolition day for co-ordinating the districts' preparations for the takeover of functions on abolition day. Noble Lords have stressed the importance of retaining the specialist knowledge and expertise of the metropolitan county councils and in particular of keeping the county analysts' laboratory teams intact. This is precisely the sort of issue that the districts will no doubt wish to discuss in the joint committees. If they wish to retain the existing facilities but are not able to make firm arrangements in time, the districts will be able to call upon the appropriate residuary body to take over the running of these facilities on their behalf for an interim period. They will not even have to go to the residuary bodies for this. The residuary bodies will go to them. Your Lordships will by now have seen Amendment No. 81C, which I said that I would table, and have tabled, in response to the concern of the Select Committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook. Amendment No. 81C: Schedule 12, page 150, line 8, at end insert—

("Provision of services

7A.—(1) A residuary body may by agreement with any relevant successor authority, and on such terms as to payment or otherwise as the parties consider appropriate, provide that authority with professional or technical services.

(2) Each residuary body shall before the abolition date ascertain from each relevant successor authority whether it is likely to wish to enter into an agreement with that body under this paragraph, being an agreement the performance of which by that body would make it desirable for any particular staff or property of the Greater London Council or a metropolitan county council to be transferred to that body; and if any such authority indicates that it is likely to wish to enter into such an agreement the residuary body shall make a report to that effect to the Secretary of State with a view to his making appropriate orders under sections 51 and 99 of this Act.

(3) In this paragraph "relevant sucessor authority", in relation to a residuary body, means a successor authority exercising functions in the area for which that body is established and "successor authority" means a London borough council, the Common Council, a metropolitan district council, a new authority and any other body to which functions or property of the Greater London Council or a metropolitan county council are transferred by or under this Act or any other enactment.").

This amendment charges the residuary bodies with a duty to seek the views of every district on whether they wish them to become involved. If they only believe that they will, then, as I shall explain when we get to the amendment, the residuary bodies must act to do so. I am confident that the role for the joint committees during the preparatory period, which is the initiative of my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn and for which he is to be commended, will ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements. If there is a hitch, the new duty of the residuary body will mean that it is there to overcome it.

On abolition day, the joint committees will become responsible for co-ordinating the enforcement functions of the districts and the use of the specialist staff and facilities employed on enforcement work. These are bodies at the level that my noble friend wants them to be. They are at the level of the counties. So there is no difference between us there. Again, my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has been responsible, by his amendment in Committee, for a significant strengthening of that role.

Noble Lords have pointed to the break-up of the voluntary borough consortia established in London in 1965. It has been argued at an earlier stage that the joint committees would disintegrate in the same way. I do not accept that comparison because it is not a comparison of like with like. The joint committees have a statutory basis: the consortia were entirely voluntary. The joint committees will not only have a statutory basis; they will also have statutory functions. The consortia, of course, had neither under any Act of Parliament at all. I do not therefore believe that the experience of the London consortia is relevant to our debate.

This is a little like a game of cricket, with one important difference. The joint committee is the batsman. It takes delivery of the problem. I expect it to hit it for six. If it fails, behind it is the residuary body, keeping wicket. It has rather longer to tackle the problem. I would expect it to be successful. If it is not, out on the boundary, at long stop, is the reserve power. Not even the widest ball can get past him. It is a safe arrangement: so safe that my analogy breaks down as there is no wicket to fall.

I return from the Bill as improved by my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn and as I hope it will be further improved by Government amendments to what my noble friend Lord Mottistone and the noble but absent Lord Ezra propose as an alternative. And it is an alternative. It is not something that can be added to the Bill as it stands. Indeed, Amendment No. 59B, that has my noble friend's name on it as well as mine, deletes the long stop reserve power; and Amendment No. 63A removes the batsman in the shape of the joint committee, and, incidentally, the part of the Bill to which we would otherwise be attaching our amendment in support of my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn and in fulfilment of my undertaking to him. I should no longer be able to help him, and the provision that I had undertaken to keep in the Bill would no longer be there. I am obliged and glad to keep faith with my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, and I shall do so with pleasure if I can. But if his noble friend behind him strikes that provision out of the Bill I am no longer under an obligation, and I cannot accept an obligation to my second noble friend in the rear rank but one to accept what he now offers, which I find inconsistent with the general aim of the Bill, disappointing to district councils, unnecessary and therefore undesirable.

In view of the fact that what we have in the Bill—I hope that I have explained this clearly—as we propose that it should reach the statute book is at the same level as my noble friend proposes, is a single committee with the specific task that he wants discharged at the level that he wants it discharged; since there are not one, two but three methods of arriving at it satisfactorily in the end; and since we have seen it working with a higher level of prosecution and warning in London at that level than is at present achieved by all the metropolitan county councils put together, I hope that he will think a little before he pursues the amendment, because I could not ask your Lordships to accept it.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that although long stops, I think I am right in saying, do not normally feature among the fielders on a cricket field nowadays, in the days when they did, in order to save runs, they operated rather closer to the wicket than the boundary?

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, listening to the noble Lord the Minister, I felt that we should be at Headingley, where England would be sure to win because not only is he going to bowl the balls but he is also going to hit them and obviously act also as umpire. What he said, to be truthful, has not bowled this maiden over! What he has said falls short of what the metropolitan counties have been doing in the field of trading standards.

As the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, said, this is not a party issue. The protection of consumers never has been a party issue. The noble Baroness, Lady Burton, who is not at present in her seat but who speaks so strongly on behalf of consumer interests, speaks as a consumer without any political implications. I cannot therefore see, despite what the noble Lord says, that the joint committees will really carry out a job of work. In my view, the joint committees, will have no control over the operational policy of the service, which will still be subject to all the different priorities and political complexions of many district councils. I spoke on the last occasion about a quite famous district in the West Midlands called Solihull, which has said that it will consider trading standards as a necessary evil that it does not want to play with.

4 p.m.

Therefore, when we talk about a joint committee we must consider the political complexions of the many district councils. By restricting the committee's role to that of co-ordination the Minister has, in my view taken no account of the experience of trading standards in the London boroughs. Indeed, the noble Lord quoted the London boroughs and he must look seriously at what the London boroughs have been doing. The noble Lord quoted some figures which I was unable to note because of the rapidity with which he gave them. I do not intend to be rude to the noble Lord, because obviously he was trying to tell us as much as he could in a short space of time. It may be that because more prosecutions are brought in the London area, there are more sharks or more cowboys in the London area, than there are in the metropolitan counties, in the same way as if we look at the number of convictions, we always find a much higher proportion in London as opposed to the rest of the country. Therefore, I am not so sure that I accept the figures which the noble Lord gave us.

However, what is happening is that those areas of the country which really need the protection of trading standards have once again been denied them. We want to see trading standards kept as an entity within the authority which deals with public protection. One sympathises with the way in which the Minister has gone forward. Indeed, I must say that when we first spoke about residuary bodies I was under the impression that the Minister did not want anything to come under the residuary bodies apart from certain matters, such as pensions and financial implications and therefore he levelled the criticism against this side of the House that we were setting up these residuary bodies so that ultimately we had mini-metropolitan counties, but it seems that perhaps the Minister now thinks a little differently about the matter.

The important aspect of trading standards is that the service should be kept as an identifiable unit and of a viable size so that it meets the needs, as the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, said, of the trader, the consumer and the manufacturer. Consumer problems are only one aspect of trading standards. Trading standards, as Lord Mottistone said, are also of great importance to the manufacturer. Therefore, we need to look at the service as a regional service unaffected by inter-district rivalries over resources. We should ensure that there are sufficient funds to meet the needs of the trader, the manufacturer and the consumer alike.

The Government are constantly bringing in new legislation—not only their own legislation but also legislation which comes from the EEC regarding consumer protection. It is important that the laws of the country are enforced if they are not being obeyed. Therefore, I support the point of view which the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, expressed regarding the shire counties. The opinion, which the noble Lord the Minister expressed regarding the shire counties seemed strange. He said that there was no need to set up a similar type of system. If the Government were thinking about cost-effectiveness and efficiency, surely it must be right that there be one service, one body in operation. When the civil servants want to hold discussions, surely it is more sensible, more cost-effective and more efficient if they deal with only one group of people? If you are dealing with the shire counties in regard to these fire and civil defence services, surely it is logical that the rest of the country should be under the same type of umbrella instead of having a different service. For that reason I did not accept what the Minister said. It is important for the Government themselves, when they ask local authorities to be efficient, to look at effectiveness and efficiency.

I shall not weary the House with the names of people who have written in saying how important it is to have a joint body. The Minister himself quoted two examples, and of course he quoted two that were suitable to him. However, he completely ignored the half-a-dozen to which the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, referred. Therefore, on that score the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, wins in the game of cricket. I think that he wins by four to two, but I am never sure about cricket scores. Obviously if we take into account the number of supporters, he made more runs than the noble Lord the Minister.

I want to make quite sure that the House really understands what trading standards are all about, because it is important. It is not only a question, as some noble Lords think, of looking at a bottle of milk with a fly in it; it is not only a question of looking at perhaps the bandage that appears in a loaf of bread, as one noble Lord mentioned to me yesterday over lunch. That might be a task more suited to the environmental health officers. As the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, said, the trading standards officers are really a protection for industry. Indeed, I cannot see him here, but one of your Lordships is well aware of the lock trade—a very eminent industrial concern. That noble Lord knows about the lock trade in the Black Country which is part of the West Midlands. He knows how that trade has suffered severely from cheap foreign imports. Such imports have almost crippled the lock trade in the Black Country which was the prime manufacturer of locks and safes. Therefore, it is important to remember that this type of service is not only a protection for the consumer or the man in the street.

Another noble Lord who is not present today is involved in the production of jeans. Levi Jeans suffered dramatically and they had to take up, through the trading standards officers, severe prosecutions. In fact, one of the importers who was copying Levi Jeans was sent to prison for nine months. Trading standards are all about finding out the fakes, as the Government recognise in their legislation, and taking people to court so that the law is enforced. I could go on to deal with video tapes and so on. It is important that the Government fully recognise what it is all about. I am sure that that is not what they are concerned about in the London area. In cross-border areas different districts operate on their own little cabbage patch. Trading standards are a much wider field than that.

In conclusion, I think that the joint authority should retain these three services which provide protection to the trader, the manufacturer and the general public. What is important is that the service should be provided at the same level as it is now. I am afraid from what the Minister has said that the service will become less efficient and perhaps of lesser consequence. If that happens what the Minister is really saying is that the fair trading legislation which he brings in is perhaps not as important as it ought to be, which is a reflection on the Government's legislation.

I see no opportunity of the districts getting together, as the noble Lord suggests. I feel sure that the Minister has no idea of the real opposition to district councils working together. He should understand how district councils work. One would think that they go hand in hand, glove in glove, and are playing patball instead of the kind of ferocious cricket that he was talking about.

We ought to keep this in its entirety as it is now with the fire standards, and then if the noble Lord feels in five years' time that it is much more important, then obviously we should welcome it if he has a complete trading standards department standing on its own two feet without the fire service. I support the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, and my noble friend Lord Mottistone that trading standards are not a party issue, but the principle of devolution lies at the heart of this Bill, and this has engendered a certain measure of political controversy. There are many ways in which this problem of trading standards to which my noble friend Lord Mottistone referred—high standards, uniform implementation, and so on and so forth—may be resolved.

However, Amendment No. 59A, which was moved by my noble friend Lord Mottistone, is open to objection on various grounds. First, there are other means of dealing with the problem. There are those proposed in the Bill as explained with great cogency by my noble friend Lord Elton. Secondly, the means proposed by Amendment No. 59A conflict with the principle of devolution. Thirdly, there is, generally speaking, a minimal connection with the fuctions of fire and civil defence authorities so far as trading standards are concerned, save a small core of activities which of course includes such matters as petrol stations.

But the Government on Second Reading—I shall be corrected if I am wrong about this—while holding firm to the principle of devolution accepted a substantial change of position. My noble friend agreed to create a special reserve power in the Minister in the absence of any agreement as to how these functions should be exercised. The establishment of joint committees, and the reserve power to establish joint authorities, are surely wholly sufficient. The only appropriate approach to trading standards in the context of this Bill is to make districts responsible and to ensure, by resort to reserve powers where appropriate, that adequate inter-district arrangements are made to maintain continuity of enforcement.

If one goes back to the amendment, the setting up or transfer of these functions to the fire and civil defence authority means a transfer to an authority established under Clause 27 of the Bill as a permanent authority under Part IV. True, such permanency is recognised in the police, fire, and civil defence, and under the Bill as it now stands, transport functions. But it is contrary to the spirit of the Bill to load up these joint authorities, which constitute a tier of government, with functions which are properly devolved to the boroughs.

4.15 p.m.

My noble friend Lord Elton has stated today, if I have it right, that the devolution of trading standards to the districts is strongly supported by the Institution of Environmental Health Officers.

A noble Lord

They would, would they not?

Lord Campbell of Alloway

That is the second source for, "They would say so, wouldn't they?" I am not sure that that is the correct objective approach to the problem to which your Lordships are invited to address yourselves. This, on any showing, is the thin end of the wedge sought to be driven into the process and principle of devolution of power to the boroughs. Under this set of amendments—Amendment 59A and the others to which my noble friend spoke—one is dealing with trading standards and putting them to the joint authorities. Under Amendments Nos. 60, 63 and 63A the same thing is proposed for the safety of sports grounds. Under Amendments Nos. 61 and 62 the licensing of public entertainments, theatres, cinemas and so forth is dealt with.

The proposal, and we have to face it during the course of today's debate, is that all these functions are to be transferred to a joint authority which is to discharge a hotch-potch of ill-assorted activities which will have no logical or natural connection whatsoever, other than a common concern with aspects of welfare, to which my noble friend Lord Mottistone referred. But with the greatest respect, that is a connection which is far too tenuous and insubstantial to warrant this conjoint, mammoth administration.

My noble friend Lord Elton referred, in antithesis, to food and health. Where does welfare begin, and where does it end? It is a wholly unsatisfactory basis upon which to seek to draw the nexus for joining disparate functions under one command or one administration.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

My Lords, it may be appropriate if I intervene at this stage. I have the privilege of deputising for the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, who, as the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has explained, is abroad and unable to be here today. The second privilege falling to me is that I follow, and strongly support, the brilliant way in which the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, moved and supported these amendments in his opening speech.

I was disappointed in the speech of the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Elton. As my noble friend Lord Rochester has pointed out, he got his positions on the cricket field rather mixed up. With all his experience, I should have thought that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, would realise that to call in analogies whenever making a speech on an important matter of this kind always leads to disaster, as it has done on this occasion. If he had been referring to a rugger match where a brilliant forward was intercepted by a Welsh fullback, I might have been able to have some sympathy with an analogy of that kind; but let me say at once that that analogy is hopeless for the purposes of the case I am presenting.

We are dealing this afternoon with important matters relating not only to the health of the community but to the safety and welfare and also the fair trading rights of the community. Similar arrangements to those proposed by the Government, at present in this Bill for the metropolitan districts, have not worked in London.

I support that proposition by a quotation from the CBI which reads: This experience (of Trading Standards in London) leads us to believe that devolving this service to the districts will not achieve the consistency we need and will increase costs". Perhaps I may briefly outline the tremendous responsibilities which devolve upon the officers in the areas on this matter. They are dealing with questions relating to the Food and Drugs Act, the Weights and Measures Act and the Trade Descriptions Act. The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, also indicated certain instances where the Trade Descriptions Act was invoked in various areas for the assistance of industry. There is the Agriculture Act, the Consumer Credit Act, the Consumer Safety Act, the Unfair Contract Terms Act, the Sale of Goods Act, the Supply of Goods and Services Act. These are terribly important matters in the sense of the community with which they are dealing. It is impossible that we should ask for all the separate boroughs and shires to deal with these matters.

The European dimension has not been raised so far. The harmonisation of EC law, particularly the introduction of the concept of average weight and its implications upon manufacturing, trade and industry, has required a specialist expertise which is only viable in the large local authorities and could not be operated if dispersed to a large number of separate boroughs.

We then come to the main point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway. I cannot refer to him as my noble and learned friend in this place. His argument was that this amendment is in conflict with the basic principles of this Bill in regard to devolution. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, that argument is wholly wrong because he has misunderstood the position in the Bill before your Lordships. The Bill has in it the amendments put forward in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, and accepted by the Committee. Therefore as a result of those amendments, which must be considered as being in the Bill few the present debate, the Government have conceded the case for a countrywide service by accepting the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, for a reserve power. Therefore these trading standard matters can be added to the Bill without in any way raising any constitutional issues.

It seems to us that it is appropriate to include trading standards with the fire and civil defence which are already well together in public protection committees in all 47 English and Welsh shire counties. Perhaps I may presume to emphasise that these arrangements have worked very well even in Welsh shires. If they work well in Welsh shires, that is a great tribute to that organisation. The Government have also conceded that the fire authority joint board can be shared by other services by accepting the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for the fire and civil defence authority. So there is no question of any constitutional crisis arising in relation to these amendments.

The Government's report entitled, Burdens on Business, published in March 1985, calls for what is referred to in the report as the one-stop shop inquiry point for business: that is, to obtain comprehensive legislative service. As there are so many Acts involved this is the occasion where we should adopt the amendment so that this comprehensive legislative service can be given.

The other argument put forward by the Minister and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, was that there were other ways of dealing with the problem. In brief, the suggestion made by the noble Lord is that there are the residuary bodies and all these important matters can be dealt with on the subsequent clauses dealing with residuary bodies. The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, dealt with this. It is totally unrealistic to think that there can be a co-operative spirit arising with all the boroughs and shires to achieve a unanimous or a reasonably joint view on these important matters. For those reasons I strongly support the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. On behalf of these Benches, perhaps I may say that unless the noble Lord the Minister is to speak again and can move us further on this matter we shall find it imperative to take the opinion of the House on this matter.

Lord Denning

My Lords, in my experience it is just as well to listen to both sides of the argument before coming to a decision. When I first listened to the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Mottistone I thought it was a good idea. These trading authorities deal with weights and measures, with the purity of substances and so on. They cover a wide field. Surely they should be brought together, not in little district councils but, as suggested here, with the fire and defence authorities. Having heard the arguments from the other side, which one ought always to do, I came round completely in favour of what my noble friend Lord Elton said.

These trading standards do not sit comfortably with fire and civil defence. They should be co-ordinated. They have specialist experts dealing with them and should not be put in great bodies. The specialist activities should be co-ordinated over an area so that they do not vary from one to the other with their prosecutions. As a result of the arguments and the proposals put forward by my noble friend Lord Elton for the joint committee, I think that is the preferable solution. Therefore after hearing the arguments I would not support the amendment. I agree with the Government.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, I am sure he will always listen to the evidence before coming to any conclusion, but does he really dismiss the arguments put forward based on the experience of 47 English and Welsh shire counties who have found that trading standards, fire and civil defence already work well together? That is a fundamental piece of evidence which the noble and learned Lord has forgotten.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, over mans years I have formed the view that if one had any doubt on a matter one should follow the judgments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning. I found that I could think consistently with that past practice this afternoon.

This matter goes a bit further than trading standards. If your Lordships have followed, as I have tried to follow, the fairly lengthy proceedings on this Bill, one will see that there has been a steady attempt from various quarters in your Lordships' House to contest the basic principle of the Bill, which is to confer wherever possible relevant powers and authority on the boroughs.

First of all, we had amendments to set up a separate authority; then we had amendments to confer all sorts of extraordinary functions on the residuary authority. Now we have—and when one looks at the Marshalled List, one sees it is not only trading standards but many other things—a proposal to confer them on the fire and civil defence authority. I think that this is where a real difference of opinion is held honestly and sincerely in your Lordships' House. There is a real conflict between those who, like me, believe that everything possible should be devolved to the boroughs and that we should trust the boroughs to discharge their functions correctly and efficiently, and those who take the other view, that anything which seems of importance to them should be conferred on a higher authority.

I am a little sorry that my noble friend Lord Mottistone has not seen his way to accepting the compromise at which your Lordships' House arrived in Committee on the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn. It seems to me that the action of the Government in accepting that amendment really should have prevented any serious apprehensions about any possibility of decline, under the provisions of the Bill, in this important service. I am very sorry that that compromise, which I thought had settled the matter at that stage for good, apparently has not been so accepted.

I must take up the rather extraordinary point of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, when he said that acceptance of Lord Drumalbyn's amendment and the provision now in the Bill really amounted to acceptance of this amendment, too. There is all the difference in the world between saying, "We believe that this is a function which can properly be devolved to the boroughs, but, in deference to the apprehensions of those who have doubts, we will give the Secretary of State a reserve power so that if we are wrong and they are right and if it so proves in the event, the matter can be immediately corrected"—that is what has happened—and saying that you will not even attempt to devolve it to the boroughs but you will immediately from the beginning impose it on a higher authority. I really do not see, therefore, that the action of the government in seeking to meet apprehensions by this compromise involves, or could appear to involve, any acceptance of the principle of this amendment. Indeed, to my mind, it suggests the contrary.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene, but, with great respect to him, I am sure that he has somewhat misunderstood my argument. My argument was directed to the proposition of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, when he said once again that in effect this amendment was raising a constitutional issue. It does not raise a constitutional issue because we must deal with the Bill as it now stands with Lord Drumalbyn's amendment; and we are adding to the Bill as amended by Lord Drumalbyn. Therefore, the constitutional issue does not arise.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, as the noble Lord will I think immediately recognise, I was not seeking to deal with the constitutional issue. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway can speak for himself on that and few people could do so better. I was dealing with what I understood to have been the argument of the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches, that because we had conceded Lord Drumalbyn's amendment, therefore it inevitably followed that we must accept this. That was the impression the noble Lord's argument left on my mind. If that were not so, then I am very happy indeed to acquit him of what I think he himself now accepts would have been a very erroneous and irrational line of argument.

I have only one final point. I understand—and, for the reasons I have indicated, understand only too well—the reasons for seeking to confer these powers on the fire and civil defence authority. I wonder if your Lordships have thought this thing through. Fire and civil defence are a coherent whole. They cover a very important set of functions closely related to each other, to the defence of the citizen against the dangers of fire and the dangers of explosions and the dangers of enemy action or of civil disturbance. Once you start adding to such a body what are basically very different functions—functions of great economic importance and of great importance to the consumer; I grant all that—you change its character. You make it not a specialised but a generalised body with the necessary staffing at the top, the necessary heads of departments and heads of divisions at the top—and you are a long way, particularly if you add the other things in the amendments on the Marshalled List today, towards reconstruction of the GLC or of the AMA. Whether that be the purpose of this it would be almost indelicate of me to speculate. I can only invite your Lordships' attention to the results.

Therefore, I suggest to my noble friend Lord Mottistone and to your, Lordships that the right thing to do is to go ahead as the Bill now stands, to trust that the boroughs—who are going to have many other very important functions—are going to prove themselves capable of discharging this function as they discharge very effectively their functions in respect of environmental health which is a very closely related subject; and to go forward on that basis with the confidence that, if for any particular reason this proves to be unsatisfactory, there are already in the Bill the reserve powers which would enable my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to intervene and put things right. I suggest to your Lordships that, at this stage of the Bill, that really is the sensible way to proceed.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he was compiling evidence in the same way as was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning; I appreciate that. But does he completely refute the evidence which is in the London boroughs? His noble friend on the Front Bench will tell him quite emphatically that the co-ordination of the London boroughs is a nonsense. They tried it. I think it is true to say that the fact that now there is not one co-ordinating body of the London boroughs is surely evidence which is completely disregarded.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I think that my noble friend on the Front Bench is about to do just that.

Lord Elton

My Lords, what my noble friend will get emphatically from his noble friend on the Front Bench is the statement that this is not Committee stage and that he should not indulge in returning to the matter yet again. I shall be speaking later, but, with the greatest respect, I do not think that I would encourage my noble friend to enter into that ping-pong match at this stage.

Lord Sainsbury

My Lords, I rise to support these amendments. But I shall not detain your Lordships for very long. I have a personal rule that the older you get the shorter your speeches should be. In my opinion, the case for these amendments has been so well made that repetition for repetition's sake is not worthwhile. As I made clear when I spoke on this subject at Committee stage, I believe that enforcement of trading standards—and I speak as a semi-retired, or perhaps I would be better described as a fully-retired old retailer—is of extreme importance to a large section of the population.

The case for the establishment of a single authority has been fully made. As has already been pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, and others, fire, trading standards and civil defence work well together in the existing public protection committees of the shire counties. If these amendments go to a Division, I hope that, as this is not a political matter, Members of all parties will support them.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, I, too, should like to add a few words. Rather like the noble Lord who has just spoken, I think I can say that I do not speak at length, either. I am interested to see that this particular amendment—I am sure this has been explained, but I was not in the House earlier—seems to be in the name of Lord Elton, so perhaps we have some hope that on this occasion the Government are with us rather than against us. I am sure this will be explained as a misprint, which is rather unfortunate.

I should also like to interject on behalf of the retailers. One can hardly say that they speak with one political voice, but they have emphasised—and those of us who have worked in consumer affairs know it—the great importance of uniformity when you have enforcement provisions of this kind. It is most dangerous to assume that boroughs or district councils or separate authorities will have uniformity of performance or of enforcement. Therefore, this is another voice added to the necessity to see that we have genuine uniformity. One can only gain this by having one authority which is controlling these affairs. I should like to support this amendment.

Lord Elton

My Lords, on a rough calculation the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, spoke for about a minute and a half, and I have eight-fifths of that length of time, which gives me about two minutes to speak, if we use his formula of weight for age.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal—who suffered remarkably little from the absence of the three star witnesses to whom she referred—gave a very brisk and convincing, and I think reasonably accurate, description of the trading standards service. It was inaccurate to my knowledge in only one substantive fact in its generality. She appears to have overlooked the fact that what we are transferring from the metropolitan county councils is for them a statutory duty which the Bill will, however it emerges, transfer to the district councils or elsewhere. This is not a Bill to change functions. It is not a new legislative vehicle: it is a vehicle to change the discharge of existing functions. Therefore, the trading standards function will still by law have to be discharged by whomsoever the duty rests upon. That is the first point about which to be clear.

The noble Baroness may perhaps inadvertently have planted in your Lordships' minds the idea that the Government were somehow leaving all this to chance; that there were wicked districts in the West Midlands, whose names happily escape me, which had decided that this was an unnecessary evil which would not be done in future. That is a seed which should not germinate because in fact it will have to be done.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, with the leave of the House, would the noble Lord tell us how the London boroughs escape from performing these functions?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I shall return to the legislative aspect of that in a moment. At this stage I shall only remind the noble Baroness of what I said. She has in fact planted an interesting question in my mind. I can tell your Lordships this exactly. She is not saying the boroughs do not do it: she is saying they do not do it in concert, I take it. She is not saying that any particular London borough does not conduct a trading standards service—

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, they do not work together.

Lord Elton

My Lords, no, they do not work together because the consortia are not statutory bodies, as the amendments would have them. They are therefore not discharging a statutory function. The statutory function rests with the boroughs in this case. But I shall get elucidation on that, to be entirely happy in my own mind.

Perhaps I may continue by saying that as a result of the Bill the statutory duties will not be able to lapse. I described the system in terms of cricket. I am sorry that cricket has moved on since the days when I became an oarsman, with the arrival not only of bodyline bowling and bumpers but also of moving closer to the wicket the position of longstop, which was the only place on the field where I ever felt remotely safe. I am sorry if my analogy broke down in that respect. I merely revealed my personal ineptness; I have not revealed any weakness in the argument, as the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, would suggest. The noble Lord added to an impressive list of legislation which the trading standards officers would be required to interpret. It was a list which the noble Baroness had already effectively begun. This merely illustrates that the job is not only important but difficult, and that is not in question.

4.45 p.m.

This is my second objection to the noble Baroness's speech. She said that what the Minister was saying in effect was that it does not much matter. The Minister thinks it matters very much; so do Her Majesty's Government. We are determined it shall be discharged. The question between us is not whether it shall be discharged but under whose aegis it shall be discharged. I wish I could begin to approach the succinctness of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, in addressing your Lordships. His speech bears out the formula that the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, put before you at the beginning of the debate, which I shall have to study when I get home because it begins to become frightening for me as I advance. The noble Lord has said that one could put it with the fire brigade, with whom it would not obviously be particularly comfortable although, as the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, pointed out on an interruption, it works in other places. Or one could have a specialist body without the dangers which my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter described, with the purpose of looking after trading standards as its sole function.

I have explained to your Lordships, and I shall not bore the House by repeating it ad nauseam, that there are three routes by which this result can be reached. Indeed, since it is a statutory duty I should add a fourth, which is, I suppose (if I am allowed to go back to my rather threadbare analogy), that of a rather helpful man in the crowd, because if it gets past longstop then by law it passes under the Bill already to the residuary body, so that the function will continue to be discharged at the level at which my noble friend who moved the amendment to which we are all speaking wished it to be discharged. It will be discharged by a body which is not concerned with conflagrations and incendiarism but only with trading standards.

I shall not prolong my speech by trying to read what I already see to be illegible. I can summarise this very briefly indeed. Your Lordships all want trading standards to be looked after efficiently. Your Lordships recognise they are important, that they are highly technical, that they affect not only the housewife but the manufacturer, that they are important to industry, and that they should be properly done. We are all agreed about that. The only difference between us is: should we have the elaborate system which we have proposed, which enables this to be done but by voluntary co-operation in a specialist body, or should it be done by compulsion in a multidisciplinary body of the sort your Lordships have found distasteful in the past?

My function has not been to pour cold water on my noble friends' ideas. I do not think one does that to one's noble friends. All I want to leave in your Lordships' minds is that what we have in the Bill and in the amendments already on the Marshalled List will do what your Lordships want, will do it better, and will feel more comfortable for those who are anxious about these mixed media bodies.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, and before I attempt to deal with this, may I ask him two questions? The first is that it seems to me that in Amendment No. 81C, which he will move later, the residuary body requires the agreement of the districts for what I would describe as the interim survival of trading standards at the local government level at which we seek to achieve it. The first question is: is it right that the residuary body requires agreement? My second question is: am I right, in looking at paragraph 15(4) of Schedule 7, to think that this does not require the retention of the schemes established at metropolitan levels?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I followed my noble friend's first question; but I am not sure whether I understand the second one. If I may reply to the first, I gave a somewhat condensed account of Amendment No. 81C because I did not think your Lordships would want me to speak to yet another amendment. However, if I can allude to it briefly now, its effect is to require the residuary body to approach the relevant successor authorities—which in effect means all the district councils with which my noble friend is concerned—and ask whether they are likely to wish to enter into an agreement with it to take on that service temporarily because they think that they will need the service to be discharged later but have not yet got their act together, so to speak. It is an interim arrangement and a back-up to the joint committee. My noble friend, I think, wanted to ask another question and I am not sure whether I understood it correctly.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, that is quite right and I thank my noble friend for the answer that he has given. The second question was that in paragraph 15(4) of Schedule 7 there seems to be no requirement or obligation for the retention of the teams that are currently established at metropolitan county level.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships: I think I must trespass on your patience by speaking yet again, although this is Report stage. The effect of paragraph 15(4) is that there is a duty on the districts to form a joint committee. It is then for the joint committee to decide how to discharge the statutory function which they will be discharging on behalf of the constituent councils. If there is a difficulty about keeping the teams together, this brings us back to Amendment No. 81C and the debate which we shall no doubt have on what I have come to think of as "the Cranbrook group" of issues.

The residuary body is there to pick up both the teams that my noble friend has referred to and their equipment, together with the buildings in which they work: that is, staff and property. The Secretary of State has order-making powers. I fear I may get the clause references wrong, but I believe they refer to Clauses 51 and 95. The Secretary of State, as I say, has separate order-making powers for staff and property; and the residuary body, having established the need, informs the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State then makes orders under these two provisions so that the residuary body becomes the holder of an employer of the staff teams and the bodies for as long as is necessary, within reason—that is to say, until the districts have got their act together through the committee to which I have referred. I hope I have not made that sound too complicated: it is in fact quite straightforward.

The residuary body knocks on each council door and asks, "Do you want any of the following services?" One of those services will be the trading standards services that we have mentioned. "Have you got your act together? Will you be ready to take it on on the 1st April?" If the answer is, "No", they then say, "Very well then, we shall tell the Secretary of State to transfer the services to us until you need them." I hope that is clear enough for my noble friend.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, that last point is vital. I have listened with great care to all that has been said and I should like just to make a couple of remarks before I come to a conclusion. I take serious issue with my noble friend the Minister, though to a lesser extent than I do with my noble friends Lord Campbell of Alloway and Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that these amendments are contrary to the spirit of the Bill. But I do take their point that my amendment is very much spoiled by the existence of Amendments Nos. 61 and 61ZA. Amendment No. 61: Page 13, line 34 at end insert— ("( ) The Secretary of State shall by order provide for the transfer on the abolition date of all the functions exercised before that date by the Greater London Council in respect of licensing of public entertainments, private places of entertainment, theatres, cinemas, children's entertainments and tracks for betting to the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority."). Amendment No. 6IZA: Page 13, line 34, at end insert— ("( ) The Secretary of State shall by order taking effect on the abolition date make provision for the transfer to the appropriate residuary body of all records and archives held by each metropolitan county council before the abolition date including semi-current records."). If those two amendments are accepted as well as this one, they would be against the spirit of the Bill. If only those amendments were not there, I would be in a much happier position! I have made those remarks just by way of introduction—

Baroness Birk

My Lords, perhaps I could intervene and help in some measure to put the noble Lord's mind at rest. I shall not be moving Amendment No. 61.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, that is a benefit. Regarding Amendment No. 61ZA, can we kill that too? I do not think I am getting any response. The most interesting speech—and perhaps the briefest—was that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, in which he said he was totally convinced one way when I spoke earlier, and then he was convinced with others the other way when my noble friend the Minister spoke. I hope very much that I might be able to sway him back again now—because if you can sway one way you can sway the other.

The key factor here is to make sure that the existing teams of trading standards officers, their administration and their resources are not inadvertently broken up. My noble friend the Minister put the point very straightforwardly—and we will forget the cricketing analogy—that we have three stages of reserves, as it were. One is a joint committee set up under paragraph 15 of Schedule 7; the second level is Amendment No. 81C, allowing the residuary body to take things on; and finally we have the Secretary of State's reserve powers which are the subject matter of his second amendment which is to come later.

The problem is that, taking first the joint committee, I do not believe that, although there is a requirement for the committee to be set up, there is a requirement as to whom it employs. So that is a form of leak in that one. We come a step backwards and my noble friend says, "We have the residuary body; it can approach the districts and say to them: 'Would you agree to us taking on the trading standards resources (to give it a title which will cover people and things) at county level, to look after it until it can be sorted out?' ".

But of course that depends on the agreement of the districts. The districts and the boroughs at that level in London—and this has been referred to—have shown that it is very difficult to be sure of getting agreement on this from them. There are two reasons for that. One reason is that the late county, when it is wound up, may have had split political followings in different districts and so the districts may not want to work with each other and that will be a problem in any case. The other reason is that if a body (whether it is a local authority or anything else) is being offered a responsibility, that body tends to say that it wants to have it. Therefore I can see that quite possibly, particularly taking into account what has happened in London, we are going to get this second stage of the 81C solution not working.

My noble friend then said, when he was kindly replying to my question, "Then we have the Secretary of State's reserve powers". But if the first level has leaked—or has not worked—and the second level has not worked either, how can we be sure that the Secretary of State is going to spring into action fast enough before these unfortunate groups of people have been disbanded. I think there is enough doubt there for me to be convinced that this particular group of amendments—and I insist upon this—which are not contrary to the spirit of the Bill, are ones upon which it will be worth testing the view of the House.

5 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (Amendment No. 59A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 128; Not-Contents, 146.

Airedale, L. Jacques, L.
Alport, L. Jeger, B.
Amherst, E. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Ardwick, L. John-Mackie, L.
Attlee, E. Kagan, L.
Auckland, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Aylestone, L. Leatherland, L.
Banks, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Barnett, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L.
Barrington, V. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L [Teller.]
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Bernstein, L. Lockwood, B.
Beswick, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Birk, B. McNair, L.
Blease, L. Mar, C.
Boothby, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Boston of Faversham, L. Mayhew, L.
Bottomley, L. Melchett, L.
Bowden, L. Meston, L.
Briginshaw, L. Milford, L.
Brockway, L. Mishcon, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Molloy, L.
Buckmaster, V. Monkswell, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Monson, L.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Morton of Shuna, L.
Caradon, L. Mottistone, L. [Teller.]
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Mulley, L.
Chitnis, L. Nicol, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Ogmore, L.
Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Oram, L.
David, B. Peart, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Phillips, B.
Dean of Beswick, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Denington, B. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Diamond, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Ennals, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Rathcreedan, L.
Faithfull, B. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Falkender, B. Rochester, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Ross of Marnock, L.
Foot, L. Russell of Liverpool, L.
Gaitskell, B. Sainsbury, L.
Gallacher, L. Seear, B.
Galpern, L. Shackleton, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Greenway, L. Shepherd, L.
Gregson, L. Shinwell, L.
Grey, E. Silkin of Dulwich, L.
Hampton, L. Stallard, L.
Hanworth, V. Stamp, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Stedman, B.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hayter, L. Strabolgi, L.
Heycock, L. Strauss, L.
Hooson, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Tordoff, L.
Hughes, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Hunt, L. Walston, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Ilchester, E. Whaddon, L.
Ingleby, V. White, B.
Irving of Dartford, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Jacobson, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Kintore, E.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Kitchener, E.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Lane-Fox, B.
Ampthill, L. Layton, L.
Arran, E. Limerick, E.
Atholl, D. London, Bp.
Barber, L. Long, V.
Bathurst, E. Lothian, M.
Bauer, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Luke, L.
Bellwin, L. Lyell, L.
Beloff, L. McAlpine of West Green, L.
Belstead, L. McFadzean, L.
Berkeley, B. Macleod of Borve, B.
Bessborough, E. Malmesbury, E.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Mancroft, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Mansfield, E.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. Margadale, L.
Butterworth, L. Marley, L.
Caithness, E. Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Merrivale, L.
Cayzer, L. Mersey, V.
Coleraine, L. Molson, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Cottesloe, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Cowley, E. Newall, L.
Cox, B. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Craigavon, V. O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Onslow, E.
Davidson, V. Orkney, E.
De La Warr, E. Orr-Ewing, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Pender, L.
Denning, L. Penrhyn, L.
Eccles, V. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Ellenborough, L. Porritt, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Quinton, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Rankeillour, L.
Elton, L. Reilly, L.
Erne, E. Renton, L.
Erroll of Hale, L. Renwick, L.
Ferrers, E. Rodney, L.
Ferrier, L. Romney, E.
Foley, L. Rotherwick, L.
Fortescue, E. Rugby, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Gainford, L. St. Davids, V.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Gibson-Watt, L. Sandford, L.
Glenarthur, L. Selkirk, E.
Gowrie, E. Sempill, Ly.
Granville of Eye, L. Sherfield, L.
Gray, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Somers, L.
Grimthorpe, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Haig, E. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Strathcarron, L.
Sudeley, L.
Halsbury, E. Swansea, L.
Hanson, L. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Hardinge of Penshurst, L. Taylor of Hadfield, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Terrington, L.
Harris of High Cross, L. Teviot, L.
Harvey of Prestbury, L. Teynham, L.
Harvington, L. Trumpington, B.
Henley, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Hives, L. Vickers, B.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Vivian, L.
Hood, V. Ward of Witley, V.
Hooper, B. Whitelaw, V.
Hylton-Foster, B. Wise, L.
Kaberry of Adel, L. Young, B.
Kimball, L. Young of Graffham, L.
Kinnaird, L. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5.9 p.m.

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 59B: [Printed earlier: col. 1360.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with your Lordships' leave, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 63AA. [Printed earlier: col. 1363.] These amendments fulfil the undertaking which I gave to my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn in Committee to bring forward an amendment to place a duty on the joint committees between their establishment on 1st September 1985 and abolition day to co-ordinate the districts' planning for the take-over of trading standards and related functions on 1st April 1986. I also made it clear to my noble friend that I might need to bring forward on Report some slight amendment to the reserve power which I accepted for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to establish statutory joint authorities for these functions. It has proved necessary to do so, and this point too is covered in the Amendments Nos. 59B and 63AA.

I have in fact spoken to these amendments but I have in front of me some information which I shall give your Lordships for the record. I shall deal first with the co-ordinating role of the joint committees in the period before abolition. I made clear in Committee that I entirely accepted the principle that the committees should have such a role. My concern was only with the details of the drafting of my noble friend's amendment. I hope he will agree that the amendment I have now tabled achieves everything which he had sought on this point in Committee.

I know, since I took the precaution of consulting him on these amendments beforehand, that he is concerned in particular that it should, if the district councils so wish, be possible to involve the metropolitan county councils themselves in the joint committees' work in this preparatory period. I can now assure him—indeed, I think I did a moment ago—that such involvement, which is clearly very sensible, would indeed be possible. In this context, my noble friend will find if he looks at the terms of Clause 96 that it also places a duty on the MCCs and the districts and on their officers to co-operate with each other and generally to exercise their functions so as to facilitate the implementation of the Act.

I turn now to the reserve power. I hope my noble friend will agree that here too my amendment preserves all the essential features of the amendment which he tabled in Committee. Again, I know from discussion that he wishes to be satisfied that the amendment provides for the reserve power, if it is exercised, to have the effect of transferring all trading standards and related functions to a statutory joint authority. My department has consulted the draftsman specifically on this point. I can confirm to my noble friend that this amendment does indeed have that effect and that there is no sense in which it could be read as allowing the selective transfer of only some of the functions. I hope that that is reassuring.

Finally, I also undertook in Committee to look more closely at another of my noble friend's proposed amendments, which was to substitute the word "by" for the word "and" between headings (a) and (b) of paragraph 15(4) of the schedule. My noble friend kindly agreed not to press that amendment in Committee in order to allow me time for that further look. I now say that the text as it currently stands is clear and capable of only a single interpretation. It applies the joint committee's duty of co-ordination equally to the activities referred to in each of the two headings (a) and (b). On close and careful reflection, I am convinced that to substitute the word "by" would obscure that meaning quite considerably.

I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn for the valuable improvements which he has made by his amendments in Committee to the Bill's provisions on this important function. I hope that he will agree that these amendments usefully complete that task, and I beg to move.

Lord Drumalbyn

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for the way in which he has carried out his undertakings and I entirely endorse what he has said. I do not think that I need go into these matters in any detail. The only one I should like to refer to relates to the staff and not breaking up the teams. This is a very important aspect and was emphasised by the committee under the chairmanship of the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook. It would be very sad if the personnel, if I may use that nasty word, involved, who have done so much in the past 10 years to improve the handling of trading standards in the metropolitan areas, were to be broken up. It would be very bad indeed for the trading standards services and all they do both for export and inside this country itself. It would be very bad indeed and there would undoubtedly be, at any rate in an interim period, a decline in standards if that were done.

I believe that the machinery is there to prevent the break-up of the staff and I hope very much that my noble friend will be able to reassure me that methods will be found to prevent that from happening.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, perhaps I may thank my noble friend very much for his further reassurances on points that were still disturbing me when we dealt with the first amendment. I should like to think that these will be read with great care by all people concerned and that as nearly as possible we can achieve the ends which I think we all want. I thank him very much for them.

Lord Elton

My Lords, in reply to my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, I could refer him simply to the speech I made on the last amendment. But I can say that we recognise the importance of the teams in the services. What we cannot do is to instruct from central government that every member of every team shall remain in employment by the successor bodies. That is obviously not the role of central government and there would be great cries of totalitarianism and so on from the other side of the House if that were to be done. But all the machinery is there to retain them so long as their service is wanted, or it is thought that they may be wanted, after the 1st April next year if the arrangements are not made before.

With that assurance I hope my noble friend will be content. I am grateful to my other noble friend—we are noble friends again, I trust, after the last Division—for his kind remarks.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 60: Before Clause 16, page 13, line 34, at end insert— ("( ) In section 17(1) of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 for the definition of "local authority" there shall be substituted—"Local; authority" means—

  1. (a) in Greater London and the metropolitan counties, the Fire Authority;
  2. (b) in England outside Greater London and the metropolitan counties, or in Wales, the County Council;
  3. (c) in Scotland, the regional or islands council.".")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, there is another amendment in the name of the Minister—Amendment No. 63ZA—which, with the leave of the House, I think can appropriately be taken at the same time. I am grateful for the nod from the Minister that that is so. Amendment No. 63ZA: Schedule 7, page 130, line 6, leave out from ("In") to end of line 9 and insert ("the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 the words "where the local authority is in Greater London or a metropolitan county, the fire authority or, in any other case," shall be inserted in sections 3(3) and 4(7) and (8) after the words "police and", and those words shall also be inserted in sections 5(5), 10(4) and 11 before the words "the building authority".")

We are dealing here with the safety of sports grounds. I hope very much that we are not going to be told that the manner in which we are suggesting it might be done is either against declared policy or against the heart of the Bill. We are examining here the problem of the transfer of responsibility. We are dealing with the ability of those who the Government say not only may have it transferred to them but are able to accept it. What we are uneasy about in the manner in which the Government are proposing that this shall be done is the possibility of conflicts of interest.

When the licensing system was first operated, and arising out of an inquiry into crowd safety at sports grounds in May 1972, the noble Lord, Lord Wheatley, said: The first question is which local authority should be the licensing authority. Looking to the not too distant future, the system will have to operate under the reconstructed form of local government. In that situation the football authorities in particular were of the opinion that the licensing should go to the top tier". Time and again the Government pick and choose the authority upon which they rest their case. The last debate was a typical case in point.

I beg the Government to look very carefully at the advice they are getting and to consider the impact of ignoring it. The Government persist in loading onto the councils, the borough and the district councils, more and more functions against the background that the Bill is about devolving power from the centre to the councils. But our argument is that one needs to examine, particularly in the case of this emotive topic now, whether a local council is the proper body to have the responsibility for inspecting local sports grounds and of licensing them as being safe. Many local councils are the owners of sports grounds. One could have a situation where the local council would be the judge and jury in respect of these particular matters. I believe that some unease could be caused.

I look the Minister straight in the eye and say that the amendments now being brought forward are an improvement on the Bill as presently drafted. The gap between us—if there was ever a gap—as to how best to deal with this matter is narrowing all the time. I ask the Minister to take into account only that we want to be satisfied that he is satisfied that there will be resources available at council level, so that councils will be able to carry out their functions not only properly but also fearlessly. Local conflicts can arise. I shall certainly listen very carefully to what the Minister has to say. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, there is of course the special case of the licensing of sports grounds. It has been accepted by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister that there should be general legislation introduced in that regard. That legislation might extend to the licensing of public entertainments, and so forth. But all that calls for general legislation in another statute.

If the amendment now before the House is anything but a probing amendment, then as I have sought to show—and as even my noble friend Lord Mottistone was constrained to admit in respect of the previous amendment—the off-loading of trading standards onto joint authorities conflicts with the principle of devolution; and that, again, the off-loading of the safety of sports grounds is contrary to the spirit of devolution. This proposal is followed by that for the licensing pf public entertainments in Amendments Nos. 61 and 62.

We are returning to the situation where we will be saddling this body with amorphous functions which have no logical connection and no relationship, one to another. This amendment is open to many objections—and in particular, the practical objection so eloquently made by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter: what is the character of the body to be when one has loaded it with amorphous and unrelated functions?

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

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Graham, seeks to transfer the functions of the GLC and the MCCs in relation to the granting of safety certificates under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 to the new joint fire authorities. I am most grateful to him for raising this issue. It is an important one. Sadly, and as the noble Lord hinted, it is also a rather topical issue.

In the shadow of the tragic events at Bradford, it is certainly more important than ever that the right safety measures should be properly enforced under the 1975 Act. It is particularly important that aspects of fire safety should be fully taken into account. But as I hope I shall convince your Lordships, transferring this function to the fire authority is not the best solution. I shall describe what we believe is a better approach.

The range of hazards which arise at sports grounds go well beyond fire safety alone. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, recognises this; indeed, it was a point made also by my noble friend Lord Campbell. Crowd safety and crowd control, for example, are also very much the business of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act. The fire authority may be well equipped to deal with aspects of fire safety but it is not necessarily equipped to deal with the many other considerations which go into the granting of safety certificates.

Authorities requiring safety certificates already have to rely on expertise from a number of sources because the Act ranges so wide. At present a metropolitan county, for example, has to consult the chief police officer and the building authority, which is the district council, at the appropriate stages of its consideration of an application. I am, however, grateful to the noble Lord for his amendment because it draws to our attention the fact that the Bill as drafted does not formally require the certificating authority to consult the fire authority. To a certain extent, such a requirement could be regarded as superfluous, as the fire authorities will be made up of representatives of the authorities issuing certificates. Moreover, in the light of recent events I find it almost inconceivable that any authority would issue a safety certificate without the full involvement of fire safety experts.

It is, however, nearly always the case that memories of even the most tragic events eventually fade. The Government are therefore glad to rectify the omission of a reference to fire authorities by the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Elton. In brief, that amendment requires the successor authorities to involve the fire authority in the same way and to the same extent as the GLC and the MCCs now have to involve the lower-tier building authorities. We are concerned that it is the lower-tier authorities who are best able to exercise the function of issuing safety certificates. We have no reason to believe that they will not be fully aware of the need for consultation with the fire authority. Our amendment will however ensure that there cannot be even the slightest doubt that such consultations will take place.

I agree that this is perhaps half the cake which the noble Lord seeks. I hope it is better than nothing. We feel that this is an important aspect and I say again that I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing this particular lacuna in the existing legislation to our attention. I commend the Government's amendment to your Lordships and I hope the noble Lord will not feel it necessary to press his own.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, the noble Lord is correct. In the light of what has been said, I shall not press my amendment. I was, however, slightly irritated by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, when he said that in seeking to transfer powers to the fire authority, we were saddling them with responsibilities which were amorphous and unrelated. Our amendment can be criticised on many grounds, but it is a genuine attempt to establish that the fire authority is the appropriate body to have the function of ensuring that sports grounds are safe.

I recognise that matters other than fire safety are involved. However, we are meeting at a time when an inquiry is taking place into a recent tragedy, and without remotely trespassing onto the authority of that body we can recognise the fact that aspects which one would have considered unbelievable and impossible to disregard are in fact overlooked.

The Minister said some very wise words when he observed that one might assume many things but that one cannot, in the light of recent events, leave matters uncatered for in the statute. There are responsible people who have experience of these matters, and the Minister is right when he says that half a loaf is better than none; I would not even use that analogy. I am satisfied that the Minister believes the arrangement he proposes will substantially meet the fears and apprehensions of the general public. We are concerned as legislators, but the public want evidence of the fact that Parliament is well aware of their apprehensions.

I have no mandate from those outside this House, but perhaps they will read what has been said and offer further advice at a later stage. The Minister was honest enough to say that the Government's actions had been prompted by the initiative of this side of the House in putting down this amendment. To that extent that was a gracious and generous acknowledgement. So far as I am concerned I accept what the Minister said. What he proposes seems to meet the genuine concerns of a great many people without any party animus in it at all. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 61 not moved.]

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Lockwood moved Amendment No. 61ZA: [Printed earlier: col. 1360.]

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I think it might also be convenient to speak to Amendment No. 63AB: Amendment No. 63AB: Schedule 7, page 136, line 9, leave out paragraph 22. The purpose of these two amendments is to preserve the archive services as an entity by transferring them to the residuary bodies. The amendment refers only to the metropolitan counties and I understand that my noble friend Lady Birk will be moving a further amendment dealing with the Greater London records, about which there is also concern.

Your Lordships will recall that at Committee stage we discussed a number of amendments on this subject. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, with very great authority, spoke on the need to preserve the archive services in the interests of both the historical profession and other professional bodies in the country. I think it was accepted beyond doubt that it was important to preserve these services. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in his speech, reported in Hansard at 9th May, at cols. 827 and 828, said: There is no difference between anyone who has put down amendments on the Marshalled List and the Government as to the importance of archives or the desirability of keeping them together". In other words, the noble Lord seemed to accept the arguments which were being put forward for the preservation of the archive service on a county-wide basis. This point was also established in another place when the right honourable Kenneth Baker made a similar point.

What we are concerned with today is how we can preserve these services and prevent their fragmentation. In Committee the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said that powers exist in the Bill for the archives to be transferred intact, and that the intention was, so far as possible, for there to be a voluntary scheme; but failing a voluntary scheme the residuary bodies would be asked to take steps to provide a permanent home. That was very much welcomed by those of us who took part in that debate and I think we had hoped that the Government would make this quite clear by bringing forward a specific amendment on the subject.

Instead, we have a more general amendment because I take it that Amendment No. 81C covers the archive services. I must say to the Minister that that amendment does not seem to meet the point sufficiently well. It is not strong enough. It places a great deal of reliance on the district councils themselves recognising the importance and the advantages of working together and on their ability to work together in this whole area. Also, it does not prevent, or does not seem to prevent, the possible fragmentation of the services by one or another of the districts opting out of a joint scheme because the amendment refers to "each" of the successor authorities. It would seem therefore that if one successor authority decided that it did not want to be part of a scheme there could be a fragmentation of the service.

I suggest also that there is no guarantee that all the districts will be prepared to co-operate and participate. We must look at the evidence of the present situation in two of the metropolitan counties. In Tyne and Wear the five district councils are involved in the joint service. In West Yorkshire the five district councils are involved in the joint service. But in the remaining 26 of the 36 district councils the districts do not have their own archive service and, I understand, have left it entirely to the county. There is therefore no guarantee or no encouragement to think that they may all be prepared to co-operate in a voluntary scheme.

I know that there is a great deal of concern among the professional archivists, and in those professions which are concerned with this whole service, about a provision being specified and written into the Bill. Certainly I would say that regarding West Yorkshire there is very real concern about the problem and very real concern about the ability to preserve the very historic records which have been accumulated in West Yorkshire and which the present county council inherited from the previous West Riding—records which go back to the early 17th century.

This is very important both from the historical point of view and that of preserving current records. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us this afternoon that either he has something else in mind or that his amendment does more than it appears to do on the surface. I beg to move.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, I think it would be in the interests of the House if I now moved the manuscript amendment which, as I think was explained, was an oversight and not that it was put down late in the Public Bill Office. Amendment No. 61ZB: Page 13, line 34, at end insert— ("( ) The Secretary of State shall by order taking effect on the abolition date make provision for the transfer to the London Residuary Body of all records and archives held by the Greater London Council before the abolition date including semi-current records."). The amendment does the same as the amendment moved by my noble friend but relates to London.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Nugent of Guildford)

My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to explain that she cannot move Amendment No. 61ZB until Amendment No. 61ZA has been dealt with. However, she may speak to it at the same time.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, will the noble Baroness allow me to intervene? If she speaks to her amendment she will put me at a considerable disadvantage in supporting the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, on her amendment. I do not regard the two amendments as at all congruent. I am not in favour of the amendment which the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, proposes to move but I am very strongly in favour of the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, to which I have put down my name. I should have thought there was a case for debating them separately.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, it is in the hands of the House. The arguments are largely the same. I am not moving my amendment. I have my name down to the same amendment as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and my noble friend. I think that it would be clear if I just spoke to my amendment while at the same time supporting the amendment moved by my noble friend, unless there is any objection to that. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, can then make his position, which he has already indicated, absolutely clear.

As I said, I have my name down to the amendment moved by my noble friend, and therefore I shall not go over the points which she has made so admirably and clearly and which I support entirely.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I am in some difficulty. I wish to support the spirit of the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood. I have not yet made up my mind, not having heard the argument, whether I would support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. It would be so much easier if we could take them separately. I am only asking, of course. I am not even suggesting.

Lord Elton

My Lords, this is a matter for the House, but the more my friends behind me say that they are thinking of supporting the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, unless the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, speaks to her amendment at the same time, the more I feel I should encourage her to speak to her amendment at the same time.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, I should have thought that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, would be in a better position to make up his mind on what he thinks about my amendment if both amendments are discussed together. This is not a party political matter, in my view, but if it is the wish of the House we can discuss the amendments separately. I just thought that it would save time. I think that noble Lords can keep clearly in their minds what they are supporting and what they are not supporting.

The Greater London Record Office looks after archives generated by the authority and its predecessors and archives deposited or presented by private individuals and corporate bodies. It also cares for the semi-current records of its authorities and has responsibility, with administrative and professional staff, for establishing a policy for the preservation of departmental records. Those are of course constantly needed by staff. If the Bill is passed those records will continue to be needed by officers taking over former GLC services, and on the same limb, those taking over the metropolitan county services, who also will need to have access to older records.

Making arrangements for consulting archives, records and files will be complicated. That applies both to the metropolitan counties and to the GLC services. The archives need to be readily available to a range of officers employed by different bodies and working in separate locations. As time passes the frequency and urgency of access will diminish and it will then be necessary to make decisions about selection for long-term preservation. As is known to anybody who has had anything to do with archives, that is a specialised job in itself. If, as the Government propose, the Greater London Record Office becomes the responsibility of the Corporation of London and the metropolitan county record offices become the responsibility of district councils, while the modern records and files are put in the care of the residuary bodies, a smooth transition, it seems to me, will be quite impossible.

5.45 p.m

To avoid chaos and loss it is essential that these groups of records are treated as the unified whole which they are. Otherwise the efficient operation of the successor authority—whether it be in regard to the GLC or the metropolitan county councils—will be unfortunately placed and future research on the GLC and the metropolitan county councils will be impeded. I am quite sure that the Government wish to transmit to posterity a full and honest record. Certainly the members of staff in all the authorities feel strongly about that, as I imagine do the elected members of the authorities.

It will be difficult to organise that when at least two independent and differently funded bodies are involved, when it may be impossible to achieve consensus and co-operation about the principles to follow and when there could be disputes about apportioning the cost involved. Informed professional opinion strongly advises that those collections should be administered on unified principles, even though they may for a time be stored in physically separate buildings, and this opportunity to ensure that a proper record is preserved for posterity should not be missed.

I agree with my noble friend about the vagueness of the amendment concerning the residuary body compared with the specific amendment on archives to which the Minister referred in Committee. In Committee on 9th May 1985 (at col. 828 Hansard) regarding the archives he said: we have regarded the residuary body in this capacity as being something of a passive body. But in view of your Lordships' concern, and ours, that this shall come to a successful conclusion, we intend that it shall act as a catalyst and that the residuary body shall actively seek to promote a co-operative scheme in the area within the five years". I think that what the Minister and my noble friend were referring to was the rather passive attitude, but I think that when he used the word "catalyst" he meant something a little more vigorous.

The commitment to transfer archives to the residuary body is a reserve commitment only and relates not to London but only to the metropolitan counties. In London the transfer to the City is considered by the people now in charge of the records in London to be inadequate, since there are no safeguards on spending and it will split the record office from current files.

What I am asking for in this amendment is a direct transfer to the residuary bodies as a solution which is supported by the archivists not only in London but of the six metropolitan county authorities. I hope that my contribution has not upset either of the noble Lords opposite. I think that I have largely made the case for London. Nevertheless, I wanted to take the opportunity to support my noble friend's amendment on the metropolitan counties, and that is why I also put my name to that amendment.

Lord Beloff

My Lords—

Lord Elton

My Lords, I do not wish to add to my noble friend's frustration, but it occurred to me that he and other noble Lords may wish to pick holes in what I say. There would be no opportunity for them to do that if I spoke after they did, this being the Report stage. If I expose myself to this treatment now it means that I have an opportunity to reply and, if it is possible to do so, to satisfy my noble friend at the end of the debate when I speak again by leave of the House.

Before I had seen the manuscript amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk—which I think we can in all honesty deal with separately—I intended to point out a number of shortcomings in the proposals to which she put her name regarding the metropolitan county archives, before explaining my sympathy with the thinking underlying them. In the case of the manuscript amendment which seeks to transfer the GLC's archives to the London residuary body I can, however, express no such sympathy. The reason why the Bill as drafted makes no specific provision for the GLC's archives is that none is needed. The borough councils and the Common Council already have archive powers. Many of them already deposit their records with the GLC's Greater London Record Office by voluntary arrangement. I see no reason whatsoever why those present arrangements should not continue after abolition. The future of the GLRO itself has already been provided for.

I think the noble Baroness is probably aware of the announcement to the House by my noble friend Lord Avon on 22nd February, to the effect that agreement in principle had been reached with the City of London for the corporation to take it over and run it on behalf of London as a whole.

I do not see why the noble Baroness wishes to disturb these arrangements. The corporation has considerable experience and expertise in archive matters and offers a most appropriate permanent home for this important collection. However, I should make it clear that if the permanent arrangements for the GLRO are not finalised in time, again provision already exists in Clause 61 for the archive collection to vest automatically in the residuary body, because we are dealing with a statutory function. Thus the noble Baroness can rest assured that we have already made a full provision for all eventualities in London.

I am not sure whether the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, will be able to help me on this point. Perhaps she can take advantage of my giving way. I am not quite certain that I have understood what she means by semi-current archives. If she means material which is from time to time needed for reference in the running of an office which is responsible for a function, then that material will remain in the office responsible for that function. If she means material which is historic material but to which it is necessary to refer to rather more often than the kind of material which results in learned papers, for instance, then I think it is proper for it to be in the care of archivists. Surely that is what we are talking about when we refer to the City of London and to the GLRO, which we intend shall be transferred to the City.

I am not sure whether there is a species in between the two, of which I ought to take note. I am very anxious that we get this matter right. If the noble Baroness is able to point a finger at it and to say, "These are what I mean", I should be happy to give her the opportunity of doing so and I shall sit down.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, what I was trying to say was that, as I understand it and as the Minister has said, there are current papers and current records. He is right. Then there are those papers to which one wants to refer from time to time, which are more modern than the antiquated or ancient archives to which one refers perhaps very infrequently. I think the position is as the Minister has said. It is because the archivists themselves feel that such archives should be placed with the residuary body rather than going to the City of London, and are very concerned about that, that I have spoken to that amendment.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. She may be a little surprised, and I hope a good deal relieved, to know that the actual archives will stay exactly where they are. The GLRO will physically be where it is now. Therefore access will be no more diffcult than it is now. If it was the noble Baroness's idea that the London residuary body was to move it somewhere else, of course that would actually disturb what she is intending should be protected. Thus I hope that when she comes to read what I have said, she will find that reassuring.

I now return to the amendments for which my noble friends have expressed a sinister enthusiasm, if I may so express it. I am afraid that on a close examination they would mean a rather bleak future for archives. Your Lordships will see that they offer no permanent solution to the problems to which they address themselves. If existing collections of archives in the hands of the metropolitan county councils are transferred to the residuary bodies, and if the provision in paragraph 22 of Schedule 7, conferring archive powers on the metropolitan district councils, is deleted, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, would have it deleted, there will be no means of looking after archive services in the metropolitan county areas once the residuary bodies cease to exist in five years' time.

The Bill confers archive powers from the metropolitan county councils to the district councils. From the outset it has been our view that the districts should use archive powers in co-operation with one another to provide a satisfactory archive service for the metropolitan county as a whole. There is plenty of scope for this debate to start sounding like a re-run of the last one because all the safeguards to which I have referred, in the way of the residuary bodies, apply also to the archive service, as they do to the trading standards service.

The co-operative approach we recommend would enable existing archive collections in the hands of the metropolitan county councils to be preserved intact and to be developed. It would preserve the potential for co-operative archive services to be established where county-wide arrangements do not so far exist. Thus it is actually an instrument for improvement. That remains the policy underlying the Bill.

However, we have accepted that there are real fears among professional archivists, among people who care for archives. I shall listen most carefully to my noble friend Lord Beloff because I know he is a person well seized of their concerns and, if I may say so, with a sympathetic and informed ear with which to listen to them. They are concerned lest co-operative arrangements do not emerge as speedily or as easily as one would wish. For that reason we have suggested—and here I do join with the noble Baroness—that the residuary bodies can play a valuable part. If, therefore, a viable voluntary scheme is not going to be set up in a particular area by the date of abolition, the existing archives collection, the property in which it is housed and the staff responsible for it will be transferred to the residuary body. Indeed, as I have already made clear, since archives are property they would automatically go to the residuary bodies under Clause 61, unless transferred elsewhere under Clause 99. There is no gap for them to fall through.

The residuary body will have a duty to find a permanent home for the collection within five years. To that end it will actively seek to promote a co-operative scheme within the area. Here comes the danger of the amendment of the noble Baroness. If her group of amendments were accepted, the districts would be left without the power to look after the archives and so they would not be able to set up a voluntary scheme, even if they were persuaded by the residuary body that they did, after all, want one.

We thus propose a positive role for the residuary body to stimulate a satisfactory solution. In fact we are at one with the proposal in the amendment. As your Lordships know, we have tabled an amendment to Schedule 12 which brings out the more positive role of the residuary body to act in this way. It is to be found as Amendment No. 81 C on the Marshalled List. I wonder whether your Lordships have taken it on board, or at least whether the noble Baroness had taken it on board when she tabled her amendment. It relates to the general role of the residuary body in relation not only to archives but also to other matters. I fear that many of your Lordships will feel that unless the service in which they are particularly interested is mentioned by name on the face of the Bill, it somehow will not qualify. I should like to assure my noble friends and other noble Lords all round the House that it refers to services generally and that archives in this instance are embraced.

I should like to assure your Lordships that if and when we incorporate Amendment No. 81 C into the Bill there will be a duty on the residuary body to discover whether there is a requirement for the service, and if that requirement cannot be met by the abolition date then, as I said before in relation to trading standards, they will have a duty under the Bill, as amended, to tell the Secretary of State that that is the case. That will be with a view to his making orders to transfer the archives and the buildings and the staff to the residuary body. The only possible danger would be if none of the districts wanted an archive service.

I do not think that any of your Lordships believe that that could ever arise, because it would not be legally possible for it to arise. That is because we have taken care to ensure that the districts retain the legal duty to conduct an archive service. Thus it seems to me that my noble friend's concerns, and indeed the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, are met. However, I am now more than familiar with my inability to express matters sufficiently clearly at the first stage. That is why I have spoken at the beginning of this debate. If there remain doubts, I shall seek to reassure my noble friends. If they manage to sow a doubt in my mind, then I shall have to consider what to do about it. However, at the moment I am confident that what we have in the Bill will achieve what they want to achieve.

6 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, the noble Lord the Minister, if I may say so, does himself an injustice. When he addresses the House, he makes perfectly clear his intentions, most of them in this respect very benevolent. The reason why the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, and others put down this amendment—I do not think that we would pretend that it does not carry some questions and disadvantages—was that when we looked at the Marshalled List, where we expected to find an amendment that would translate into legislative language the very clear language that the noble Lord the Minister used at the Committee stage, we did not find it. We did not find it in two respects. I realise that the noble Lord the Minister thinks that this is a minor point. But, first, we did not find it in a direct reference to the keeping together of the archives of the metropolitan counties. It may be that archivists think only of archives as cobblers think only of leather or nowadays mainly of plastic. But the fact is that they were very worried. They will continue to be worried—and not only the archivists themselves but the historical profession that depends upon them—unless they see the word "archives" very clearly at the relevant points in the Bill as it finally leaves your Lordships' House.

It is not really comparable with major functions of government, even major minor functions of government like trading standards. It is a very specialised, limited function. Those who are concerned with it would have expected to see direct provision, as indeed in other parts of the Bill there is direct mention of archives.

The second reason, much more important, is that the amendment to which the noble Lord the Minister now directs our attention, Amendment No. 81C, does not seem to me and did not seem to the noble Baroness, or to others, to convey the intention that was expressed in the speech of the noble Lord the Minister. Although it has been referred to before, may I, for the sake of clarity, read out again from Hansard what the noble Lord the Minister said: What I want to say that is new is that hitherto we have regarded the residuary body in this capacity as being something of a passive body. But in view of your Lordships' concern, and ours, that this shall come to a successful conclusion, we intend that it shall act as a catalyst, and that"— these are the important words— the residuary body shall actively seek to promote a co-operative scheme in the area within the five years".—[Official Report, 9/5/85; col. 828.] It may be that I and others are innocents in the language of statute. But when one looks at Amendment No. 81C, it reads under Clause 7A(2): Each residuary body shall before the abolition date ascertain from each relevant successor authority whether it is likely to wish to enter into an agreement with that body under this paragraph". If that is the Minister's view of actively promoting something, I am really very surprised. Suppose that one were to ask a young man, "Have you proposed marriage?" and he said, "Yes, I sent a message to the lady in question to ask whether or not she would consider a proposition to this effect". One would not think that he was an ardent wooer. I do not think that the language of this amendment suggests the active concern of the residuary body which the noble Lord the Minister assured us at Committee stage would be there. If noble Lords disagree with me, they can of course voice this disagreement; but I must say that I find it very hard to see that. I do not think that there is a great difference or distance in substance. I am sure that the noble Lord the Minister believes that what he has done is to make residuary bodies really active in ensuring that an agreement between the districts is brought about and that he thinks that he has made adequate provision. However, if I was one of these fortunate people who got jobs for the boys, or jobs for the girls, as referred to yesterday, I would not think that I had imposed upon me a particular duty to try to make certain that these archives were preserved as a unit.

The noble Lord the Minister also said, in dealing with the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, that, in any event, being property, these are disposed of along the lines of the Bill. They cannot just fall through the ground. That of course we accept. But archives consist not only of property, not only of pieces of paper, parchment or even nowadays tapes, but they also consist of archivists. The important worry that we, in the historical profession, have, is that while the rather lengthy procedure that I suspect would come out of the amendment of the noble Lord the Minister is in progress, these teams may break up. People may seek employment elsewhere, and so forth.

For these reasons, I hope very much that the noble Lord the Minister will come forward, or offer to come forward, at a later stage not with anything new—we are not asking him to change his views or his intentions—but with something in language that simple-minded people like professors of history can readily understand. Until he does so, I am afraid that the discontent that I have expressed will remain.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, both amendments have served a very important purpose as an aid to clarification. I spoke in favour of the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, at Committee stage. I wholly supported the spirit of it, and I support the spirit of it today. The problem is that it is a complex structure. The question, I venture to suggest, is this. Does Amendment No. 81 C match up to the assurance given by my noble friend the Minister on this matter at Committee stage? It is suggested by my noble friend Lord Beloff that it does not—on two grounds, I understand; first, because there is no mandatory obligation built into the amendment: and, secondly, because in this particular regard, records and archives are a special case and the Government have conceded it as a special case. Yet there is no reference in Amendment No. 81 C, in any particular paragraph, treating it as a special case with the mandatory qualification.

If my interpretation of Amendment No. 81C is right—and I am not much good at this, either—it seems to be that my noble friend Lord Beloff has a point and that this is a matter that my noble friend the Minister should consider and take back with the simple objective of ensuring, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, said, that the amendment contains some specific assurance. It is not clear enough, the noble Baroness said. It is not strong enough. I agree with the noble Baroness. It is perhaps something that has come about by accident. But it does not truly reflect the assurance given by my noble friend the Minister.

Therefore, I of course accept that the assurance given would be honoured. However, until my noble friend the Minister speaks it seems to me that in error Amendment No. 81 C does not really match up with what he intended to give as an assurance. Perhaps that matter could be further considered.

As regards the London amendment, to which I listened with great interest, it was not until my noble friend Lord Elton rose to explain the matter and gave the assurance that full provision was made for all eventualities in London—and I listened with great care to the reasons which he gave—that my anxieties were met. Therefore, I cannot, with respect, see the need for the amendment of the noble Baroness, and if it were pressed to a Division I would be compelled to vote against it.

However, on the metropolitan county matter, there is an area of doubt which it would be preferable for the Government to clarify, if so advised.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, when my noble friend the Minister comes to reply I wonder whether he could deal with this matter. Under his Amendment No. 81C—following what my noble friend has just said—would it not be possible to insert "shall" instead of "may"? Would not that solidify the amendment?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I have lost count of the number of debates which I have enjoyed in this House from both sides of the Floor on "may" or "shall" and, indeed, of the number of them precipitated by my noble friend Lady Faithfull. Indeed, I believe that she has another one elsewhere on the Marshalled List. My noble friend will find the word "shall" in subsection (2)—

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, but not in subsection (1).

Lord Elton

My Lords, I wonder if I may address myself to wider issues, but I shall certainly take my noble friend's point on board. I said that I thought that I might not convince my noble friends, and I said that I thought they would enjoy an opportunity to pick holes in what I had said. I was right in both respects. However, there was one hole which they did not pick in it but which they might have picked and which I must confess to now in order to put the record straight.

I understand that I referred to the metropolitan county councils, the GLC and their successor bodies having archive duties. I intended to refer to archive powers, and therefore I accept that that reduces the force of what I said about what might happen if an authority went berserk and decided that it no longer wanted an archive service. However, I still regard that as highly improbable.

I have listened with great care, interest and respect to what has been said. I remain completely convinced along with my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway that our approach to London is right and that the approach in the Bill is superfluous and, from the archive point of view, somewhat risky.

On the technicalities of the amendment which the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, has tabled, I should say as background that there is a direct reference in the Bill in paragraph 22 of Schedule 7 which gives archives to the districts. I dare say that that will be of some comfort to my noble friends. Paragraph 22 is on page 136 of the Bill. There is also Clause 61 which, while it does not mention archives, ensures that any property, including archives not transferred elsewhere, must go to the residuary body. There is no question but that archives are property and so there is a continuum of protection in the Bill on the property side.

I have to tell the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, that her amendment appears only to mention property and not staff. I pause for that point to sink in because I think that archivists are in our minds. I would not like to make a judgment between the importance of archivists and archives because either without the other is of very much reduced value. However, the fact is that the amendment is deficient in that respect. I do not say that in order to sour your Lordships to the noble Baroness's general perceptions, because I share them. What I am prepared to do, without commitment, between now and Third Reading is to see whether or not there is a way in which I can focus the language or the perceptions that the Bill evokes. I honestly believe that what we intend is in the Bill. However, I shall look at the Bill to see whether it can be made more explicit and whether any other way can be found in which to reassure my noble friends that what we have is the best that we can properly give and that it is sufficient. I cannot do more than that because in my heart I believe that we are in the right place, but we may not have properly expressed it. However, I undertake to do that between now and Third Reading if that is of help to your Lordships.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Lockwood

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Birk and to the noble Lords, Lord Beloff and Lord Campbell of Alloway, for their support. It seems from the Minister's response that we have convinced him that there is room for another look at this whole area. Therefore, I am grateful to him also for saying that he will have a look at the language to see whether it can be made more specific, perhaps to the satisfaction of Members on both sides of the House. It is a very complicated issue and I understand and appreciate some of the arguments that he put forward earlier in the debate. Therefore, with his assurance that, without commitment, he will look at the matter, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment at this stage, with a view to our having a further discussion at Third Reading when I hope that there will be mutual satisfaction all round.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 61A not moved.]

[Manuscript Amendment No. 61ZB not moved.]

Schedule 7 [Miscellaneous functions]:

[Amendment No. 62 not moved.]

The Deputy Speaker (Earl Cathcart)

My Lords, the next amendment is Amendment No. 63. In calling Amendment No. 63 I have to say that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 63ZA.

[Amendment No. 63 not moved.]

Lord Glenarthur moved Amendment No. 63ZA: [Printed earlier: col. 1386.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 60. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 63A not moved.]

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 63AA: [Printed earlier: col. 1363.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 59B. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 63AB not moved.]

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 63AC:

Page 137, line 13, at end insert— ("27. In section 11(3) of the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act 1969 after the word "county" there shall be inserted the words "metropolitan district".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment fills the gap which the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, drew to your Lordships' attention with his Amendment No. 10 on Monday. Your Lordships will remember that that amendment would have transferred responsibility for the safety of disused mine and quarry tips to the joint authorities for waste regulation and disposal. The amendment which I now propose transfers it instead to the metroplitan district councils.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, rightly stressed the crucial importance of ensuring that this vital function continues to be performed after abolititon. The noble Lord is absolutely right that the tragedy of Aberfan must never be allowed to be repeated. I take this opportunity again to apologise to the House, as I did on Monday, that because of an oversight the Bill does not make any provision for this function to be transferred on abolition.

The amendment I now put to your Lordships seeks to put right that omission. The reason we have chosen devolution to the district councils and not transfer to the joint authorities is that the 1969 Act does not deal just with normal refuse, nor even with hazardous waste, but with a quite distinct issue relating to mining and quarrying. The functions we are considering are concerned quite clearly with public safety. In London they are already the responsibility of the borough councils and they are functions which the district will be able, and competent, to undertake.

I think we should all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, and the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, for bringing this omission to our notice. It is a good example of the revising function of this House. In that spirit, I beg to move.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, may I simply say from this side of the House that we are grateful not only for what the Minister has said tonight but for the spirit in which it was recognised earlier that there was a genuine oversight. The Government have acted quickly in the spirit of the amendment.

I want again to draw the attention of the Minister to the mounting burden of responsibility on local authorities. If that is the way it is to be, that is the way it is to be. But I hope the Minister will recognise when wearing other hats at other times and looking at the finances and the resources that local authorities will need to carry out their responsibilities, that one has to be fair to councillor colleagues of the Minister and of ourselves. They may well not wish to have these responsibilities but are prepared to exercise them, and they will clearly need to have the resources to do it. The House should be grateful to the people outside who have read the Bill and recognised that something of value could be done in this way. To that extent, we are indebted to the Minister.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Ezra I endorse the words of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, in this matter, and thank the noble Lord the Minister for what he has done and the way in which he introduced this matter.

Lord Elton

My Lords, this is merely a round of "Thank yous". I have already said "Thank you" once. I take on board what the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, says. He will be aware that the district councils are fairly anxious to have significant work to do, and I do not think that they will find this particu- larly difficult. It is nonetheless important, and I am grateful to the noble Lord and his friends for putting it down.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 18 [The Inner London Education Authority]

Lord Banks moved Amendment No. 63B: Page 14, line 33, at end insert ("pending the introduction within three years of an electoral system based on proportional representation.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 63B. The Bill already provides that the Inner London Education Authority shall be an elected body. At the Committee stage a series of amendments was proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, which would have secured the election of the members of the Inner London Education Authority by proportional representation using the single transferable vote; and the way in which it was to be done was set out precisely. On a Division that was defeated by 82 votes to 49.

We on these Benches felt that because that debate had taken place late at night many people who would have liked to take part or to listen to the arguments were not able to do so, and we also felt that there were some arguments put forward against proportional representation in the discussion which required some reply. We thought that the vote indicated that the Committee did not wish to plunge into a new electoral system without a period for reflection on the best way of going about it.

We felt too that it might be that some Members of your Lordships' House preferred other forms of proportional representation such as, for example, the added member system which this House in 1978 approved for the Scottish Assembly by 155 votes to 64. Therefore we tabled this amendment calling for proportional representation for election to the Inner London Education Authority, and for this to be established within a three-year period, which would allow the particular system to be used and the details to be thought out with some period for investigation and consideration.

We have not made any specific commitment to any particular system in the amendment, though we on these Benches remain convinced that the single transferable system is the best system, and we would hope that it would be the one chosen, but we do not insist upon it in the amendment.

The reasons we think proportional representation would be valuable for ILEA were well put forward at Committee stage by the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, who has expressed to me his regret that he is unable to be with us tonight in order to support this amendment. Political parties will be represented in proportion to the votes cast for them. There will be better representation of different views within parties, a point which is often overlooked. Under the first-past-the-post system you have to accept the single candidate of your Party, wet or dry, militant or moderate.

There would be more varied representation because each party contesting the election would want to put forward a team with the widest appeal. Therefore the chances would be that more women would be elected, that the ethnic groups would be better represented, and that the religious groups would be satisfactorily represented. There would be more chance for independents. Under the first-past-the-post system, wherever party politics enters the independents tend to be forced out and usually eliminated. People have a fear that if they vote for an independent candidate their vote is wasted. Under the system of proportional representation votes would not be wasted in the sense that people allege they are under our present system.

Then there is the near certainty, if past experience is any guide, of a better turnout because people would feel that their vote was counting and that it was not hopeless for them in their particular area to vote for their particular party. Of course we would not be electing a government under this system, and the arguments—which we on these Benches do not accept, but which make an appeal to some of your Lordships—against having proportional representation where you are electing a government would not arise.

The system is not new in the United Kingdom as it is used in Northern Ireland for local government elections, Assembly elections and European elections. Thus it is combined with the first-past-the-post system, which is still used for elections to Westminster.

In the course of the discussion at Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, had two points against the earlier amendments. He said that under proportional representation there would be larger constituencies and that this would mean a smaller chance for the independent man to make his mark. It is of course true under first-past-the-post that the larger the constituency the greater the distortion. But if I were an independent and I had to choose between first-past-the-post or the single transferable vote, for example, in a larger constituency I know which one I would plump for.

The second point of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, was that proportional representation was a system for securing fairer representation of political parties. He seemed to approve of it for that purpose. But he said that we were trying to insulate education from party strife and that therefore proportional representation would be inappropriate. Whether or not the Inner London Education Authority is insulated from party strife will not depend upon the electoral system. It will depend on whether the parties decide to contest those elections. I think it is highly likely that they will.

6.30 p.m.

Whether or not we keep party politics out of it, proportional representation will have advantages. Even if party politics are kept out, it will ensure that other interests to which I have referred would be fairly represented. No doubt that is why many bodies, including the Church of England, use proportional representation for their internal elections. On the other hand, if party politics come in then the influence of proportional representation would be to make it less partisan and more co-opperative.

The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, argued in effect that if there was a case for PR anywhere there was a case for it everywhere. Why should ILEA be singled out? He was afraid that if we used it for ILEA we should have to use it throughout the whole of our system, which he does not wish. The noble Lord took a similar line on the PR amendment to the Scotland Bill in 1978, to which I have already referred. On that occasion the House decisively rejected that argument and decided that the Scottish Assembly could be an exception, just as Northern Ireland local government elections, Assembly elections and European elections could be exceptions. In every case where it has been used the object has been to see that minorities are fully represented. It would not be right that we should only be concerned about that where bombs are thrown or where independence is talked about. The all-ornothing idea is an argument which unites the ultra-radical and the ultra-conservative—the one wanting all and the other wanting nothing. Together they are able to thwart the aims of moderate reformers.

In the debate we had at Committee stage the noble Baroness, Lady David, said that the single transferable vote could lead and has led to a position where the candidate most people want to have as their elected representative is not elected because of the influence of second, third, fourth and even twelfth preferences. I do not see how that can possibly be. I do not believe that can happen with the single transferable vote, because the candidate most people want must, by definition, have at least 51 per cent. of the support. For example, in a five-member constituency under a single transferable vote system, one-sixth of the vote plus one is a sufficient vote to secure election. Anybody with 51 per cent. of the support would be bound to be elected.

The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, said that proportional representation increases the chance of a hung council. However, we seem to be having plenty of those under the first-past-the-post system. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, did not see why that title, "hung council", should be derogatory, although I think the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, thought that it was. He said that inevitably proportional representation would produce coalition. It is by no means inevitable, but it is more likely in light of the present division of party strengths in this country at the moment, perhaps, under proportional representation than otherwise.

Would a coalition, a coming together of people holding different points of view within the Inner London Education Authority, be a bad thing? It is often argued against proportional representation that the existing parties in this country are coalitions. So they are, but they are coalitions that are returned to power repeatedly on a minority of votes. How much better to have a coalition based on a majority of votes! That is what we would probably obtain through the use of proportional representation. Why do we go to all the trouble of having representative elections and set up all the machinery for these if the system we use grossly distorts the will of the people as expressed in their votes? It cannot be sensible. Of course, proportional representation by itself cannot ensure a good Government, but surely it is a healthier and happier situation if our representative institutions really are representative. I beg to move.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, one cannot help expressing admiration for the pertinacity with which, in and out of season, noble Lords on the Liberal Benches advocate various forms of fancy franchise. Indeed, there is the rumour that some noble Lords are running a book on the number of occasions on which noble Lords on the Liberal Benches will raise this issue, relevant or irrelevant though it may be to the Bill under discussion.

What one cannot congratulate noble Lords on the Liberal Benches on this evening are the comments on this House and its proceedings which were made by the Leader of their party in another place, Mr. Steel, in The Times on 11th June, contrary to what I understood was the convention, both here and in another place, that Members of one house do not comment adversely on the proceedings of the other. Mr. Steel, in The Times, was good enough to refer to the proceedings on this Bill—that is relevant—and to how noble Lords stood up to voice their doubts and criticisms and shamefacedly allowed themselves to be dragooned into the lobbies I find that a most offensive observation, and were Mr. Steel not so insignificant as he really is I think our resentment might have to take a practical form. I hope noble Lords opposite will feel with me on this, and perhaps will feel disposed at the end of this debate to offer some apology on behalf of their Leader, who must have been carried away by some enthusiasm or emotion.

On this amendment, the question which I asked at committee stage, and to which the noble Lord, Lord Banks, referred, remains unanswered: why pick out ILEA for this departure from our normal voting arrangements in this country? If one did so, would that not be confusing an electorate who are used to voting by the traditional methods of this country? No answer to that has so far been given.

Finally, as the noble Lord may appreciate, his amendment is completely defective. It merely says that something will happen: pending the introduction within three years of an electoral system based on proportional representation". It does not specify what variant of proportional representation would have to be introduced. It does not legislate for its introduction. It simply leaves it in the air, and, frankly, is no more than a propaganda gimmick.

Lord Renton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there are many kinds of proportional representations? Unless a statute which purports to introduce proportional representation specifies which kind it is to be, neither the authorities nor the voters would know what would happen.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I am indebted, as ever, to my noble friend for amplifying and clarifying the point that I was putting with, perhaps, a brevity open to criticism.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has raised the question again: why ILEA? I have two points that I should like to make on that. It is quite clear that proportional representation is particularly suitable for areas where there are large minorities, as there are in London, minorities which, without this system, are likely to be unrepresented. The Government plan to make smaller units, not two per parliamentary constituency (as in the Bill) but one per half parliamentary constituency at a later date. In those circumstances it is going to be extremely difficult for any ethnic minority interest—and we know that the ethnic minorities represented in the case of some London schools are as much as 40 per cent. or 50 per cent.—to get elected.

The noble Baroness, Lady David, whom I shall be supporting on another amendment shortly but with whom on this occasion I disagree, said last time that this was an impossibly complicated system for the English elector to understand. I must say that I do not think that that is an argument which improves on repetition. I find that rather insulting to the intelligence of the people of London.

It seems to me that the last time round it was the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, who made almost the best speech. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, had raised the question of the New York school board and he likened ILEA to the New York school board. What he did not tell us was that the New York school board employs what the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, called a "fancy franchise". It is not so fancy that it cannot be understood by the people of New York. I do not think that the arguments for this extremely sensible measure to depoliticise education in Inner London really improve on repetition. I think there is really no more to be said, and I await with interest the decision of my noble friend Lord Banks on whether to divide on this amendment.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I have listened with care to what the noble Lords, Lord Banks and Lord Kilmarnock, have said. I think that the main point that I want to make is that this amendment is open to the same serious objections as that relating to the use of the single transferable vote which was rejected during the Committee stage of the Bill on 9th May. No matter how much one argues that proportional representation is fairer than the simple majority system there is no escape from the fact that it enormously increases the chance of coalition government at national and local level. Whether or not I thought (as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, said) that the term "hung council" was derogatory, it is far more likely to produce weak and ineffective administration.

I also think that it is worth pointing out, as has the noble Lord, himself, that, unlike its predecessor, this amendment carefully ducks the issue of the form of proportional representation to be used. As my noble friend Lord Renton pointed out, there are various systems of proportional representation and even those who favour it often disagree about the method to be used. However, this does not mean that we have failed to consider our position in the light of the comments made by those who spoke at our earlier deliberations in favour of the use of the single transferable vote system at ILEA elections. We noted that my noble friend Lord Chelwood—and this was repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Banks, this afternoon—considered that the use of such a system would increase the turnout at ILEA elections because it already resulted in a 75 per cent. turnout of the electorate in Scandinavian countries. The noble Lord did not refer to Scandinavia but this was the drift of my noble friend Lord Chelwood's comments last time about the Scandinavian countries voting in local elections.

However, we have no information to show that such high turnouts, where they occur, are directly attributable to the use of proportional representation. Moreover I do not think that in any way in any event it can be conclusively presumed that an effect observed in a foreign country with a particular approach to elections would necessarily be at all relevant in Great Britain where we have a long tradition of first-past-the-post elections with small electoral divisions. Nor are we aware of any widespread popular demand for the use of proportional representation at local elections in this country.

It was also argued on that occasion by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, that we should single out ILEA for the use of proportional representation as an experiment. Indeed, this was referred to just now. That suggestion did not meet with approval in your Lordships' House and, since the new ILEA will be very similar to a local authority, we remain of the view that it would be wholly inappropriate for ILEA's elections to be conducted under a system of proportional representation as long as all local elections in Great Britain are conducted under the simple majority system of voting. This is especially so because with an issue such as education it is most important to ensure that the elected representatives should have close contacts with those whom they represent. But such close relationships cannot, I think, occur in the large electoral areas required by the various forms of proportional representation.

6.45 p.m.

My final point is that this amendment is still open to the same practical objection as the amendment which we discussed in Committee; namely, that if it is carried we shall have to remove the provision to combine ILEA and London borough elections, thereby increasing the cost of holding ILEA elections. Such action will be necessary to prevent the risk of confusion among the electorate which would otherwise occur at polling stations. The advantage of the present provisions is that they enable the cost of ILEA elections to be significantly reduced by eliminating the otherwise unnecessary duplication of voting facilities already provided for London borough elections. If the elections were not combined, instead of paying roughly half the total cost of the combined elections under the simple majority system, the new ILEA would have to meet the full cost of separate elections under the chosen system of proportional representation.

I have deliberately kept my remarks short to avoid rehearsing in full our objections to the use of proportional representation at local and ILEA elections. I was supported (and I could not have put it better) by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. The issues are familiar to us all. However, I would ask your Lordships particularly to bear in mind what I said this evening and what I said on 9th May about proportional representation invariably leading to coalitions and weak and ineffective administrations. That is not what any of us want for the new ILEA and it is the reason why we propose that its election should be held under the simple majority system as at all local elections in Great Britain.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask whether he really feels that in the field of education it is a better thing that there should be the discontinuity which might result from a system under which, shall we say? a Conservative Government was in power and was then succeeded by a Labour Government, or vice versa, than it would be to have a system of proportional representation?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am not entirely clear what sort of discontinuity the noble Lord expects. We have said (and I said just now again) that we did not think it was right for ILEA particularly, because of the need to keep the elected representatives closely in contact with those whom they represent, to introduce the sort of measure which the noble Lord, Lord Banks, proposes.

Lord Banks

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, referred to some article, I think by Mr. Steel, in a newspaper. I do not want to refer to that, I have not read the article in question. I think it is entirely irrelevant to the merits of the particular amendment before the House at the moment. I think it is important to consider the merits and I regretted very much that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, did not do that.

The question has been asked: why should we pick out ILEA? Here we are setting up a new, elected body. Surely you could not have a better opportunity to put into practice a system which, if you accept the arguments put forward for the merits, will benefit the London community in the way I described earlier. It is a question of whether you accept those merits. It is not a question: why do it here, or why do it there. We have an opportunity to do it in one particular place at the moment. Is it a good thing to do? The arguments that I put forward earlier suggested that it was.

We are not introducing by this amendment the precise system nor the details. We are introducing a commitment which would clearly be followed by further legislation after a time to think. Either you do not want to take the system immediately—you want to think about it—or you do not. I have gained the impression that the House would prefer to think carefully about that and I can see no harm in doing that nor any reproach against those who suggest it. I think it is important to bear in mind that the House has given a Second Reading to a Bill which says that we should have proportional representation in local government elections.

The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, returned to the question of coalition government. I think the phrase "coalition government" used in connection with the Inner London Education Authority is a little absurd. Why should it be so bad if it were possible to get agreement and to get people to work together on the Inner London Education Authority. The obvious benefits, which I shall mention very briefly, are fairer representation for parties, a fair representation of views within parties, more opportunity for women, ethnic, and religious groups to be represented, and more chance for independence. Whatever the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, says experience shows that you have a higher turnout where people feel that their vote will count and there is no fear of it being wasted.

The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, has not detected any popular demand but whenever opinion polls are held on this issue there is no doubt that people respond favourably to the suggestion that members of elected bodies should be elected in proportion to the votes cast for the different bodies of opinion that there are.

Obviously from all the opinion polls that we see, there is a majority for that. I hope that what is felt by many in the country will be felt in your Lordships' House on this particular amendment this evening. I should like to test the opinion of the House on that particular point.

6.52 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 63B) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 47; Not-Contents, 151.

Airedale, L. Howie of Troon, L.
Amherst, E. Hunt, L.
Attlee, E. Kilbracken, L.
Aylestone, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Banks, L. Lawrence, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Beswick, L. McNair, L. [Teller.]
Bowden, L. Meston, L.
Brockway, L. Molson, L.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Monson, L.
Cranbrook, E. Morris of Kenwood, L.
Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Ogmore, L.
De La Warr, E. Orr-Ewing, L.
Denington, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Diamond, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Foot, L. Rochester, L.
Grey, E. Russell of Liverpool, L.
Grimond, L. Seear, B.
Hampton, L. Shackleton, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Stedman, B.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Tordoff, L. [Teller.]
Hooson, L. Wigoder, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Abinger, L. Butterworth, L.
Ailesbury, M. Caithness, E.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Campbell of Croy, L.
Annaly, L. Cannichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Arran, E. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Atholl, D. Carnock, L.
Barber, L. Cathcart, E.
Bathurst, E. Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Bauer, L. Clitheroe, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Colville of Culross, V.
Bellwin, L. Colwyn, L.
Beloff, L. Cork and Orrery, E.
Belstead, L. Cottesloe, L.
Bessborough, E. Cowley, E.
Birk, B. Cox, B.
Boardman, L. Craigavon, V.
Boston of Faversham, L. Craigmyle, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. David, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Davidson, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Davies of Leek, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Dean of Beswick, L.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Dilhorne, V. Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.
Drumalbyn, L.
Eccles, V. Mersey, V.
Elibank, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Ellenborough, L. Morton of Shuna, L.
Elles, B. Mottistone, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Mountevans, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Munster, E.
Elton, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Faithfull, B. Nicol, B.
Gainford, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Galpern, L. Orkney, E.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Pender, L.
Geddes, L. Penrhyn, L.
Gibson-Watt, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Glenarthur, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Gowrie, E. Rankeillour, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Redesdale, L.
Gray, L. Renton, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Renwick, L.
Greenway, L. Rodney, L.
Grimthorpe, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Haig, E. Rugby, L.
Hanson, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L. St. Davids, V.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Harris of High Cross, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Henley, L. Sandford, L.
Hives, L. Scanlon, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Seebohm, L.
Hooper, B. Selkirk, E.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Sherfield, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Ironside, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Killearn, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Kimball, L. Strabolgi, L.
Kitchener, E. Sudeley, L.
Lane-Fox, B. Swansea, L.
Limerick, E. Swinfen, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
London, Bp. Teviot, L.
Long, V. Trumpington, B.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Lyell, L. Vickers, B.
McAlpine of West Green, L. Vivian, L.
McFadzean, L. Ward of Witley, V.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Whitelaw, V.
Malmesbury, E. Wise, L.
Mansfield, E. Young, B.
Margadale, L. Young of Graffham, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I think this is an appropriate moment to break and to move on to the next business. I should say that we will not recoavene on this Bill until 8 o'clock.

I therefore beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

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

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