HL Deb 18 June 1985 vol 465 cc142-207

3.17 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.

Clause 48 [Grants to voluntary organisations]:

Baroness Faithfull moved Amendment No 80B: Page 30, line 12, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with the permission of your Lordships' House and my noble friend the Minister I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 80B and 80C. I should say that Amendments Nos. 80E, 80F and 80G are consequential. Amendment No. 80C: Page 30, line 12, leave out ("or a") and insert ("and for each"). Amendment No. 80E: Page 31, line 3, leave our from ("made") to end of subsection (6). Amendment No. 80F: Page 31, line 8, at end insert ("save that in the event of no council consenting to be designated within three months of a scheme being made under this section the Secretary of State shall himself carry out all the functions of the designated council under the scheme until one of the constituent councils consents to become the designated council."). Amendment No. 80G: Page 31, leave out lines 11 to 15.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London makes his apologies, as does the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who moved a similar amendment at Committee stage. We are grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester for speaking in this debate.

The purpose behind Amendments Nos. 808 and 80C is to ensure that, after abolition, schemes shall be made to deal with the needs of specialised groups which are best met by voluntary organisations which serve more than one borough or district council and are therefore county-wide. These county-wide schemes are to be made both in the metropolitan areas, of which there are six, covering 37 districts, and in London, covering 32 boroughs.

Clause 48, as it stands in the Bill, leaves the districts or boroughs to choose whether or not they want a scheme. In short, it is permissive. Amendment 80B replaces "may" with "shall" and 80C replaces "or a" with "and for each". If the two amendments were accepted, Clause 48(1) would read: A scheme for the making of grants to eligible voluntary organisations shall be made for Greater London and for each metropolitan county by the constituent authorities. As I understand it, the district authorities in the metropolitan areas and each borough in London will assess from their own departments—for instance, housing, social services or education—what are the needs of the people in their areas which are countywide. Such needs include, for example, advice on drug addiction and alcoholism and, importantly, training schemes for volunteers.

The constituent districts and bouough authorities will, with the voluntary organisations concerned, consult together. The voluntary organisations will, through the lead authority, apply to the constituent body of district and borough councils for a grant to carry out the scheme. It is to be expected that the constituent bodies will endorse the county-wide work of existing valuable organisations, such as the citizens' advice bureaux.

Throughout the passage of this Bill there has tended to be more concentration on the abolition of the GLC and less on the abolition of the metropolitan counties. In consideration of the voluntary organisations the London-wide position is different from that of the metropolitan counties. Already a lead authority, Richmond, has been appointed in London. Money has been doubled for local schemes and a trust fund for London to receive contributions from the Secretary of State has been set up. But this is no comfort to the metropolitan areas for county-wide schemes.

Let us look at the differences between London and the metropolitan areas. In London for some time there has been a statutory structure for co-operation through the London Boroughs Association and the Association of London Boroughs. The position in the metropolitan areas is different. There has been no tradition and certainly no structure for co-operation. In London the boroughs are more or less of equal size. In the metropolitan areas there are what may be called the whales, such as Liverpool, Sheffield, Bradford, Birmingham, Newcastle and Leeds, the minnows being the small districts. The smaller districts look on the big cities with some distrust. There is what has been called tunnel vision; that is, each district considering its own needs and not the county-wide needs which are served by the county voluntary organisations. Their perspectives and priorities are in many cases not attuned to county-wide schemes which were carried out by the metropolitan counties.

When I was investigating charities, which in the end led to the Charities Act in your Lordships' House, I visited the North on several occasions and was deeply impressed by the loyalty of local communities and the deep feeling for their own small areas, their towns. I found, however, that they did not have a sense of deep responsibility for the areas outside those in which they lived.

There are political differences. In Merseyside there are said to be two militant districts, two Right-wing districts and one middle-of-the-road district. But even different districts of the same political persuasion can differ radically over support for voluntary organisations. I am informed that Manchester and Salford, both Labour authorities, are like chalk and cheese, the former being supportive of voluntary organisations and the latter preferring to municipalise its services. I am told that Trafford and the Wirral, both Conservative authorities, vary in their views on the work of voluntary organisations.

With all these difficulties it is not outside the bounds of possibility that some districts will not agree to make the necessary arrangements—that is, the formulation of a scheme whereby voluntary organisations can apply for grants—and that would affect organisations which are new or old which are county-wide.

The mandatory duty is to formulate schemes which will encourage the district authorities to consider their mutual needs. Furthermore, and most important, it will provide voluntary organisations with a basis for discussion with the consultative body on the subjects of both grants and needs. At an earlier stage of this Bill in your Lordships' House my noble friend the Minister spoke about cricket. If a scheme is not formulated, there will be somebody bowling but there will be no bat and no wickets at the other end to receive and therefore the voluntary organisations will have nothing to take forward and apply for.

In this connection it must be appreciated that most metropolitan districts are on rate support grant penalty and are not looking for any further financial responsibility. The Government are offering no financial incentives to county-wide voluntary work. The amendment provides that if no district consents to be designated as a lead authority within three months of a scheme being made, the Secretary of State will perform the functions of a designated district until a lead authority comes forward, thus preventing the collapse of voluntary services for want of an operable grant scheme.

This amendment is within the spirit and intention of the Bill. It is consistent with the oft-repeated assurance of Her Majesty's Government that there is no intention that worthwhile voluntary services should suffer as a result of abolition. Furthermore, as was stated by the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, the work of the voluntary organisations, with their many volunteers, is both cost effective and an enrichment of our society. I beg to move.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I feel that the noble Baroness has spoken to these amendments in such a persuasive way and has created such a consensus climate that it will be almost impossible for the Minister to resist these amendments on voluntary organisations and other subsequent amendments to Clause 48. The absence of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who originated this proposal in Committee, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London is sad. I should also like to apologise for the absence from these Benches of the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft, who very much wished to be here and to be associated with what the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has said. He has given me a brief note of some of the matters he proposed to raise.

At the outset I should like to record that in his view this set of amendments is simply a safety net in case ill-chance or human perversity prevents or frustrates the execution of the Government's own intention. I shall revert to that later. If the noble Lord had been here, he would have continued in rather more passionate terms to beg the Minister and the Government to reflect on these proposals, because they would give some measure of reassurance both to those who are the receivers and those who are the givers of voluntary effort at a time of disarray and dismay among the voluntary sector. So, merely for the removal of doubt, the acceptance of these amendments would do a disproportionate amount of good.

3.30 p.m.

For those reasons alone, I very much hope that the noble Lord the Minister is in a giving vein today, because I regard this series of amendments as the crucial set of amendments to Clause 48 for the voluntary organisations; that is to say, to make it a duty for the London boroughs and the Common Council and for the district councils in the metropolitan counties to make schemes, to make grants, on a London-wide and a county-wide basis.

The imposition of this duty will improve the prospects—and I will not say anything more than that—of the survival of the county-wide voluntary organisations. It will not ensure it because there will still be a possibility, although I very much hope not, that such schemes would lead to a nil result when there is not a two-thirds majority of the constituent councils in London and—as I very much hope will be the case after I have moved a separate amendment (No. 80CB)—a three-fifths majority of the constituent councils in a metropolitan county. It is entirely at the discretion of the councillors once a scheme has been made what, if anything, they wish to spend; whether or not they choose to support county-wide services, and, if so, to what extent, subject only to any limits which may be set by the Secretary of State under subsection (5).

This proposal should be welcome to the Government because it follows, as the noble Baroness has said, the lead borough principle to which the Government attach so much importance. Again, as she said, these amendments provide—and I should like to use this expression—a reserve or default power where the Secretary,' of State may perform the functions of a designated borough or district until such time as a lead borough or district comes forward.

There is nothing new about this; there is nothing novel. Default powers are commonplace in local government legislation, and in this case the default power is crucial. Without it, I fear, schemes under Clause 48 may not be made at all or may be made far too late, in which case county-wide voluntary work would meantime collapse or diminish sadly, due to lack of funding. So it is the duty plus the default power which provides for the certainty—not merely the possibility or the probability but the certainty—of schemes under Clause 48 which county-wide and London-wide voluntary services can at least apply to for support.

I do not call that asking for very much. So far I have not distinguished between Greater London and the metropolitan counties partly because I believe that this clause and these amendments should apply across the board to them all. Here I should like to quote Sir George Young's own words in Standing Committee in another place on 26th February, when he said: It will clearly be important to establish a grants unit which can take a view across the area and provide advice on which councils collectively can base their assessment of need and priorities", especially, I should add, in such vulnerable cases as the single homeless, the alcoholics, the drug addicts or mentally-ill people to which some local authorities—and I name no names—may accord relatively low priorities. The same may also be true of ethnic minority interests or child-care provision.

These amendments do no more than secure the purposes which have been so clearly set out by Sir George Young as long ago as February of this year. I do not think that I shall go into detail (because the noble Baroness did so in introducing this amendment) as to why this is more necessary for the metropolitan counties than for the Greater London area. I think that that was very cogently said. Perhaps the main reason is that for so long there has been a tradition of London-wide voluntary service in London, it is a comparatively recent event in the metropolitan counties and there is an important discrepancy of size between the great districts such as Manchester, Newcastle and so on and the smaller districts in the metropolitan counties; and that does not apply in London.

What we have to do is to ensure that the £14 million (and it is no less than that) that is already funded in the metropolitan counties for the county-wide voluntary services is continued, is not disrupted or in any way interfered with.

I should like the Government to agree to -lese amendments. There is absolutely no party interest in this. There is cross-party support, and I think that the noble Baroness did her very best to demonstrate this by the way in which she moved this series of amendments. I think that various things have been given to the relief of voluntary bodies and we ought to pay due thanks to the Minister, especially for the transitional finance which has been doubled. That is really most welcome. I do not wish to say anything other than how welcome it is, but I should stress that it is intended exclusively for local and not for countywide projects. That is important. Then I think that the metropolitan counties have no trust such as, for instance, that proposed for London. There appears to be no similar development for the metropolitan counties. If there is to be such a development, then I should like to hear from the Minister.

I conclude by saying that these amendments are necessary for all councils but especially for the metropolitan counties. Perhaps this is not the place to mention it, but the Minister has an amendment, No. 81. I do not know whether he proposes to mention this now. I would welcome that and would be grateful for small mercies. But there will be very small proceeds, I believe, from the county properties when they are sold off, especially in the metropolitan areas. Perhaps the Minister would enlighten us as to what sums will be at the disposal of the metropolitan areas when land is sold, and so on. They do not seem to me to be big enough to solve these problems of the voluntary bodies. Meantime, I very strongly support the amendments which have been moved so ably by the noble Baroness.

Lord Renton

My Lords, to me it is unthinkable that the Government or any Member of your Lordships' House would be opposed to the spirit of these amendments, but I must say that I think that they cannot be accepted in quite their present form. I am worried about the result from the drafting point of view of accepting them, and especially Amendments Nos. 80B and 80C. The point which arises, if I can express it as briefly and simply as possible (although I do not claim to be able to do so, but I shall try), is this. If these amendments are made, then all or any eligible voluntary organisations could claim that they were entitled to be included in a scheme.

If that were to be the result, it would be an absurd result—and I should hope to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, in thinking that it is an absurd result—because it would then be claimed that nearly all of the 200 bodies mentioned in that extraordinary press statement several months ago would be entitled to be included in one of these schemes. I say that because the definition of "eligible voluntary organisation" in subsection (10) of Clause 48 is a very wide one indeed.

The noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, very properly referred to the need for those making the schemes to have a discretion as to which eligible voluntary organisations were to be included in each scheme: Indeed, if they did not have a discretion, and if all, or nearly all, of the 200 bodies mentioned in this extraordinary piece of publicity by the GLC were to be included, I would fear that the more genuine and generally supported bodies like MENCAP and GLAD (if I may dare to mention two in which my wife and myself are interested) would suffer a dilution of funds because of the inclusion of so many other eligible voluntary schemes which could be technically included and which those arguing for their inclusion might sometimes successfully argue had to be included. I cannot believe that that would be a result which any of your Lordships would expect or wish.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness for the excellent way in which she moved this series of amendments. As has been said by the noble Lord, there are no party politics in this whatsoever. I am quite convinced that all of us in this House, on whichever side we sit, because of our involvement with voluntary organisations wish to see the same thing. The Minister himself has said that. We all want to see a scheme.

I entirely accept what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has said. I have made my own criticisms of the GLC's advertisement, which was intensely misleading. We also want to ensure that what the Minister has written in the Bill is in fact carried out. I should like to say to the Minister that at present there is a very considerable degree of concern by the voluntary organisations. I am thinking of the National Council For Voluntary Organisations, representing so many of precisely the sort of organisations to which the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has been referring. It would be an intolerable situation if a very small number of authorities in the metropolitan area—and in some cases it would require only one or two—acted in a sense on "bloody minded" political principles, or lack of principles. The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, referred to examples which showed the way in which people can behave in different political parties. We have to ensure that there is a scheme. There may be aspects of the wording which could be improved. At Committee stage the noble Lord said that he assumed there would be schemes. I am not seeking to quote him exactly, but the gist was that he could not imagine a situation in which the authorities would not all agree. Very properly the noble Baroness pointed out the sort of ludicrous circumstances in which there might not be adequate agreement or in which there might not be a lead authority prepared to fulfil its role.

3.45 p.m.

I think that is why we are here: to ensure that what has been put before us is carried through. I do not like this legislation, but that is not the issue. We are concerned to ensure that essential voluntary organisations are able to fulfil their task under the scheme that has been outlined by the Government.

As has been said, this is a fall-back position. If London boroughs and metropolitan districts come along and say, "Yes, we are all in favour of this", and if there are lead authorities, all is well. It is a fall-back position in case all does not go well. If all does not go well then the people who suffer are the reputable voluntary organizations—Citizens Advice Bureaux and others looking after particular groups—for whom we all have a very great deal of concern.

If the Minister has an argument such as was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, suggesting that there is some drafting error about this, then I have little doubt that those who have put their names to this amendment—and I should have liked to put my name if there had been enough room—would be glad if amendments to correct the drafting were put forward at the next stage. With respect, I think that the task of your Lordships' House is to ensure that there is a scheme, that voluntary organisations do not suffer, and that they can feel at the end of our debates that we have put their interests in proper perspective and have enabled them to do the jobs that they can often do so much better than the statutory authority.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, I can well understand the voluntary organisations being apprehensive, with all the propaganda that has been thrown about, about the awful things that will happen to them if this Bill goes through. I can understand their being apprehensive and worried. But this amendment, and particularly the speech of the noble Baroness, reflected once again that they have no confidence that the smaller district authorities—particularly outside London—are capable of voluntarily and willingly getting together and working out a scheme. My noble friend Lady Faithfull obviously feels that from the words she used and the examples she gave when she made her trip north. I have lived in the Midlands the whole of my life, and I do not accept that. I am convinced that whatever political differences there may be in various parts, in the interests of their areas, the smaller district authorities are capable of getting together and will do so. In the past, before we had the metropolitan counties or the Greater London Council they got together on many things. I do not believe, therefore, that my noble friend the Minister ought to undermine the general confidence in the whole of the Bill by this one section giving the impression that it has to be mandatory; that the confidence in their doing what is right is so weak that it has to be written down in the form of a statute. I believe it would undermine the whole spirit of acceptance of this Bill as a whole, and not only with the voluntary bodies that we are talking about in this particular amendment. I believe that we must be consistent if we want this Bill, when it becomes a statute, to become effective and helpful to the whole of the country.

I do not know about London, but the noble Baroness seemed to indicate, as did the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, that they did not think the problem arising from their doubt existed in London, but that it existed outside London. I do not think we ought to send a message—as this would—giving the impression that we do not think the district authorities are capable of getting together. In any case, it is rather a nonsense because even if these vital differences of view in the various districts exist to the point that my noble friend Lady Faithfull said, they would be able to slow it up and injure and spoil it whether or not it was mandatory if the feeling was as deep as that. But I do not believe that the feeling will be anything like that because their concern will be to look after the best interests of their area.

Then we come to what I have said so often. I truly believe and am certain that the voluntary principle behind this Bill of the districts getting together will work. I am quite certain that if any "separateness" existed before the county boroughs were appointed they have had their lesson and they can now see that it is vital to get together voluntarily. I am certain that they will. If my confidence is not properly based, and if the fears expressed by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, prove to be true when this becomes a statute, then in this Bill the Minister has the power to use his influence to guide them on this point. I think it is a very wise Bill from that point of view.

We have confidence that it will work, but if for reasons which I suppose may arise, it does not—one cannot rule this out—there is the power of the Minister to see that it does. I suggest to my noble friend that if he accepted this group of amendments, he would, in terms of the main purpose behind this Bill, for the first time introduce his doubts as to whether they can voluntarily get together. That would weaken the whole structure for the future. Therefore I hope he will resist the amendments, but of course I accept the genuineness of the views expressed from the other side. I have greater faith than they have in the districts outside London. I believe that my faith is the kind that the Bill depends upon and we ought not to weaken it at this stage.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, during the Committee stage my noble friend Lord Hunt moved an earlier version of this amendment and he has asked me to say how much he regrets not being able to be here this afternoon. On the earlier occasion he made out a very powerful case and the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in his reply concentrated on the problem of trying to combine a mandatory scheme with a voluntary lead borough arrangement. So long as a lead borough or district could be designated only with its consent, there was no way of ensuring an effective scheme, and if no lead borough was willing to be designated, one could do nothing about it. That problem, it seems to me, has now been dealt with in the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, by providing that if no lead borough comes forward to be designated, the Secretary of State shall himself perform the functions of a lead district until such a time as a borough is encouraged to come forward. Therefore the mandatory "shall" in the amendment can be made to apply.

As regards the objection of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, there is nothing in this amendment which places an obligation on the constituent councils regarding any special scheme or grant or any amount of money. All those decisions remain entirely and democratically in their hands. It seems to me that having up to now concentrated on the technical defects in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and on some technical doubts which have been cast on it, we must strive to address the real problems confronting the voluntary bodies in these areas.

I must say I thought that the word "propaganda" used by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, went slightly over the top, because there is here a real problem which is recognised on all sides of the House. Some serious problems were referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, regarding drugs, alcoholism, ethnic minorities and other difficulties which at the moment are being handled by county-wide voluntary bodies. We are left, as the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, pointed out, with the clear recognition by Sir George Young in a Standing Committee of another place when he said: It will clearly be important to establish a grants unit I think that we should set aside the technical difficulties. They are largely overcome in this version, though no doubt there could be further improvement. I hope that the Government will now address themselves to the real difficulties confronting voluntary bodies in connection with these matters.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, there is a certain irony, is there not, in that the voluntary bodies, which pride themselves on being voluntary bodies, should be thought to want, from the point of view of the local authorities, an involuntary scheme? Does not that paradox illustrate the difficulty which this amendment, however well intentioned, as it obviously is, will give rise to? The whole hope of dealing with this issue under this Bill is that the boroughs in London and the districts in the metropolitan counties will take up their responsibilities, and in particular the responsibilities in respect of the voluntary bodies which have been discharged previously by the top-tier authorities. But if they are to be compelled to do so and if a compulsory scheme is to be imposed upon them, surely anyone who has had any experience, as I have, of local authorities will know that that would get the whole thing off to a bad start. It will appear to them to be something which is being imposed on them by Parliament and not a proper challenge to them for voluntary effort.

It goes even a little further than that. If the words of my noble friend were put into the Bill, it would make it compulsory on the lower-tier authorities to have a scheme, though it is not very clear from the amendment who would be responsible for drafting it or, indeed, what it would contain. However, it would not, as I read the amendments, extract an additional penny from the subordinate authorities. There would have to be a scheme; yet a scheme without the money being provided by the authorities would be not only a waste of time, but also a sad imposition on the credulity of bodies which thought they were being helped. Therefore if we are to go along this road of compulsion—and I would suggest to your Lordships that we should not—I would say to my noble friend, "You have to go a great deal further and say that the lower-tier authorities, the boroughs and so on, are to be bound to put up substantial funds, because a scheme without those funds is simply a nullity and a waste of time."

Like all your Lordships, I recognise the excellent good faith which has been acknowledged and widely supported on all sides of the House and I share to the full the desire that worthy voluntary bodies should not suffer from the changes which this Bill will effect. However, I suggest that we are going up the wrong road. Like my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls, I hope that my noble friend the Minister will point this out when he comes to reply, as I have no doubt he shortly will.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken said that he had a great deal of experience of voluntary bodies. As someone who for 25 years has worked in various voluntary organisations, many of which were promoted in response to need, it seems to me that the noble Lord does not understand the necessity for a basic grant. You can raise funds—indeed, you have to raise them—but if you are spending your time fund raising, you are not doing the job for which the organisation was brought into being—

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. I absolutely agree with what she has just said; but does she appreciate that this amendment does not provide that basic grant?

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, we are at Report stage and so I shall continue. The noble Baroness has introduced the amendment, with which I am in full support. However, had we not had from her side of the House a Bill to abolish the metropolitan counties, I wonder whether there would have been need for an amendment of this kind. There is a certain irony about this, but I would say it is absolutely vital for there to be some security of support. That is the point. If you are acting in a voluntary body, you know you must have that baseline.

The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said that he did not know very much about London, and I think that was very clear. I speak as a Londoner with a good historical knowledge. Prior to the Greater London Council—and we must emphasise this over and over again—we had the London County Council, which was abolished by a Conservative Government, as was Middlesex County Council. They were taken over and turned into the Greater London Council. So for years the voluntary bodies have had support from a main base which was their absolute breadline; and that is essential if they are going to carry out the very remarkable work which no statutory authority ever could.

Let us face it, my Lords: government and local government follow the voluntary movements. You first establish that there is a need and then, rather belatedly, government and local government come in and take over. But they will never first establish the response to very many needs, and these will still continue. I think it very unfair to quote the rather way-out groups which have been listed, rather foolishly, I think, by a certain county. That is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the needs of the handicapped, the mentally handicapped, the homeless, the young and the elderly—so many people who, we all know, are in desperate need of help from the voluntary bodies. That is what this amendment is all about.

4 p.m.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

My Lords, I should like very briefly to support these amendments because I feel that it is essential to ensure that grant-making schemes are set up, particularly in the metropolitan counties, and a duty must be written into the Bill to ensure that those voluntary organisations whose activities are county-wide or which extend beyond the areas of any particular constituent council continue to be funded. You really could have serious problems. Greater Manchester has 50 voluntary schemes, and of these only four are confined to single districts, which means that 46 schemes will be in jeopardy if there is no grant-making scheme. It is perfectly possible, though I know the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, feels differently, that there will be no scheme if there is no duty to establish one. I hesitate to take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Renton, over his interpretation of Amendment No. 80C, but I think that in fact the words "and each" refer to the metropolitan counties. They merely ensure that each metropolitan county has the scheme and not that every—I see the noble Lord—

Lord Renton

My Lords, the noble Baroness has mentioned me. If she is kind enough to give way, may I say that she has misunderstood me or that I have not made myself plain. Certainly each metropolitan borough, each scheme-making body, will have to operate, if this is done, but owing to the lack of qualification in the expression "eligible voluntary organisations" and the wide definition of those in subsection (10), there is a very great danger that all or any eligible voluntary organisation might apply for funds to each of the scheme-making bodies and that will go far to defeat the scheme-making.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

My Lords, I think that they would not be able to apply for funds outside the area in which they were, which is defined in one of the subsections, but surely they will be entitled to apply for funds. That does not necessarily mean, as I had understood the noble Lord to say, that they would actually get the funds. The series of amendments of the noble Baroness and Amendment No. 80D, which is in my name, complement each other, but both can perfectly well stand on their own. I will say nothing more about mine now. I just wanted to support most heartily the series of amendments of the noble Baroness.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, when I first saw Amendment No. 80B, I was immediately attracted to it and thought it made sense, but the more I have gone into it the more I find that it is not very practical. At the moment Clause 48 is permissive. Under this amendment it would become compulsive.

Last night I had the opportunity to discuss this in detail with the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and a number of people from umbrella organisations of voluntary organisations—councils for voluntary organisations—and the point that emerged was that they considered that this was necessary to protect the Labour boroughs from one another, because all the areas that they were talking about, these areas of great concern, were areas which are presently districts which are Labour-controlled. They say that some are a little bit Left and others are very far Left, and they are worried that the very far Left will be opposed to the voluntary organisations.

Noble Lords


Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I am just quoting what was said to me last night in this House.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness will give way. I said in my speech that it was not only where there were differences of parties, but in fact where there were differences within a group of Labour Party authorities and within a group of Conservative parties.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, exactly so; and that is exactly what was said to me, not by the noble Baroness but by the other representatives who were there. They said that a great many of these new-style Labour district councils believe that there is no place whatsoever for voluntary organisations and that it should be done totally by the local boroughs themselves.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, what about the Conservatives?

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I think this is an understandable point of view. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, asks what are the Conservative views. Certainly I will tell your Lordships what my views were when I was a chairman of social services. My views were that you supported those voluntary organisations which were doing a good job, which were cost-effective and which were doing something better, more cheaply or with a wider involvement than you could do it yourself in your local authority social services through your own department.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, I shall be most grateful to the noble Baroness, if she is able either to find a particular type of Labour authority which took that view and was therefore obstructive in relation to the generality, or to find the case that has been referred to by the noble Baroness of a Conservative authority which was prepared to be obstructive in relation to others. It is precisely that situation towards which the amendment of the noble Baroness is directed. Surely the noble Baroness is not now suggesting that particular authorities, because they hold a way-out view, as she refers to it, should be able to obstruct a scheme on behalf of the authorities as a whole. That is the purpose of the amendment which is now before your Lordships' House.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to finish my speech, he will perhaps follow the point I am about to make. The point I am about to make is that every area that we are talking about, which is an area of concern, is outside London. I am told that we are not concerned about London, because in London there is a fair balance of authorities of all parties. I am told the concern is it the metropolitan authorities, about which I know little, but I believe that each metropolitan authority that is being abolished is Labour controlled. If it is Labour controlled, it certainly means that there is a majority of Labour authorities there. I am really paying a compliment to the Labour Party when I say that I believe they would not allow voluntary organisations to vanish. Why, therefore, is there such grave doubt about these Labour controlled areas? Why are they the areas that it is suggested that an amendment like this should protect and cover?

It may be that the noble Lords on the other side believe what was said, and that there are some labour boroughs that are violently against all voluntary organisations. I do not believe it. I believe that there is no one in this country who is totally against all voluntary organisations; indeed, there is enormous sympathy for voluntary organisations, and for that reason these schemes will be produced. It is only by a simple majority that you have to prepare such a scheme, and I believe the simple majority will exist.

Noble Lords

Not a simple majority—two-thirds.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I should like someone to clarify that point. I understood that to decide to set up a scheme at all required just a simple majority of the boroughs. To decide then to give a grant required 66 per cent. These are the two essential points, and those who are saying to me that it is rot by a simple majority have not, I believe, studied the Bill carefully. I think it is a simple majority. Is that point agreed, or would the noble Lord who is shaking his head like to come back on that point?

Lord Ennals

My Lords, I draw the attention of the noble Baroness to subsection (3) of Clause 48 which says: with the approval of at least two-thirds of the constituent councils".

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, that is the decision whether or not to give money to a particular scheme. That is not the decision whether to have a body that will consider whether or not grants should be given. Is the House clear on this point? I think it is most essential that we should be.

Noble Lords

That is right. Yes.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, returning to the original argument, it was said, for example that all this vast giving over the whole of London is so desirable and so impressive, but it should be appreciated that many London boroughs give directly themselves and they like to give directly for that part of a particular voluntary organisation which operates within their borough. The Citizens' Advice Bureau was quoted. I know very well that local boroughs give to their local Citizens' Advice Bureau. Indeed in that same advertisement that was quoted of 200 organisations all over London, right at the top of the list was Age Concern—I suppose it was top of the list because it is alphabetically high on the list—which is funded directly by almost every borough in the whole of London. Mr. Brian Rix wrote complaining that the amount of funding that they were getting was nothing compared with the funds they were raising, and yet they were listed in that list that would be at risk.

There has been a great deal of alarm created about voluntary organisations which might lose out, and I think there are two points here. I must draw attention to the remark of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips that of course the LCC had done all this in the past. It should be appreciated that the LCC covered only the former inner London area and it has certainly never covered the whole of London which is the considerably enlarged area of Greater London. The LCC also in its day was a social services authority, but the Greater London Council is not.

That leads me on to another point—that if the amendment were passed the person on whom the responsibility for all this would fall is the Secretary of State, not of the Department of Health and Social Security, who might be appropriate to a social services subject, but of the Department of the Environment. I do not consider that he is a suitable or appropriate person. Likewise, I do not think it appropriate that he would do that until a lead borough appeared. That might be forever. There is no time limit on how long it would take before a lead borough appeared.

So I think that, although the Secretary of State for the Environment has had a responsibility under urban aid for ethnic minority schemes—and I believe that that work has been carried out very well and the ethnic minorities have been helped through those schemes—those schemes will continue. There is not to be any change and the local boroughs will apply directly for those schemes.

In the time that I served on the London Boroughs Social Services Committee, we found that on an overall London basis there were only the drug treatment scheme and alcohol scheme that were widespread, rather than particularised to the boroughs, and it is true that most boroughs prefer to fund directly the operations in their own areas, rather than just have a piece of a big scheme. But of course when there is a need for something big everyone joins together and agrees to fund it on a larger scale. I do not think it is necessarily good that everything is done on a county-wide basis and, during this debate, though not in the terms of the amendment itself, we have had a lot of emphasis on creating everything on a countywide basis.

The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, said that the voluntary organisations are cost-effective and I, too, consider that they are. I think that they are cost-effective and splendid in what they do, but I do not think that this amendment is the way to deal with the matter. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, introduced a slight red herring by suggesting that child care provision should be on an overall basis, and of course child care provision has always been very much a local issue and a local social services responsibility.

But it should be appreciated that the GLC funding that has been given to schemes, particularly in the last few years, has been precepted from the boroughs at such a heavy rate that it has taken away quite a lot of money which the boroughs might otherwise have been able to give themselves. I am hoping that after this Bill goes through they will have more funds again and be able to do something.

The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, remarked on how hard it is for an organisation to believe that it is about to be helped. I have certainly seen that directly myself at County Hall, where voluntary organisations have been told that they will be getting a high priority and are likely to get the money. Then the whole assessment process has taken so long and in the end, some six months or a year later, they have been told that they will get nothing. The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, made the point that, if you think you are going to get money, you believe it is there and you base everything on that. If you are then told that the money is not there, it is very hard indeed. I have seen cases like that at the Greater London Council.

I should like to see some way of ensuring that these boroughs get together to form a scheme, but I do not think the answer is to have it fall back on the Secretary of State. I am opposed to centralising this whole social services and voluntary organisation matter, which I think will happen. It will take away the autonomous control that voluntary organisations have now over their own affairs. So I think that, although this amendment looks attractive, it is not practical. I shall not support it.

The Earl of Perth

My Lords, I have listened to the exchange very carefully and I am somewhat puzzled because, basically, one has great sympathy with the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, said that if the amendment was passed every voluntary organisation had to have some part of it. I do not find that in the amendment.

As I read Clause 48, subsection (3) is very important. If a scheme is put forward which the majority of the councils do not like, then it does not qualify and no money is needed. So it is a non sequitur to say that this makes it necessary for every scheme to get something. I do not think it does. The advantage of subsection (3) is that it makes it clear that something must be done if a majority of the constituent councils want it to go forward. So I am not worried about that.

The real question that arises is: do we trust entirely the goodwill of one and all, or do we want to insist that these various schemes at least come forward for consideration? The noble Lords, Lord Harmar-Nicholls and Lord Boyd-Carpenter, say, "Trust". I am afraid I think that the alternative is a better line; namely, that the schemes have to be put forward but they do not necessarily have to happen. For that reason, if I have understood it aright, I support this amendment.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

My Lords, may I briefly intervene and support what the noble Earl, Lord Perth, has just said? I am making a suggestion, hoping that the Minister will find it of assistance following that very interesting and helpful speech. I think it is fair to say that, in spite of their great experience in political matters at national and local level, the noble Lords, Lord Harmar-Nicholls and Lord Boyd-Carpenter, have gone much too far in their criticisms of Amendment No. 80B. I should just like for a moment to bring your Lordships' attention back to the amendment in the context of the Bill.

The amendment is to substitute the word "shall" for "may" and therefore to make Clause 48 mandatory. All that Clause 48 will be doing with the word "shall" substituted for "may", making that clause mandatory, is to impose a duty for a scheme to be drawn up. What for, my Lords? It is for the making of grants to eligible voluntary organisations. That seems to be the fundamental point. Should it be a duty to draw up a scheme instead of leaving it, as it were, in the air?

I do not think that the question of trust arises. It is not a question of trusting these boroughs and these individual parts of what was Greater London. It is not a question of doubting the Government's view about the purpose of this Bill and it is not, in any way, diminishing that view. It merely makes it a duty of somebody, and the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, asked who that somebody was. If he is making a complaint in that direction, he is against Clause 48 as it stands, but I may have misunderstood him. However, there will be a duty to have a scheme to make grants for eligible voluntary organisations.

The eligible voluntary organisations are defined in subsection (10) and the fact that there is that definition will, I am sure, help the noble Lord, Lord Renton—in the difficulty in which he finds himself—to understand that it does not follow that, if a duty is imposed to have a scheme of this kind, all those 250 people will get something out of it, and therefore the amounts of money that will be paid to those organisations in which he declared an interest will be diluted. This is because "eligible voluntary organisations" are defined as follows: means, in relation to Greater London or a metropolitan county, a voluntary organisation whose activities will directly or indirectly benefit"— what shall these organisations benefit?— either the whole of Greater London or that county or any part of it extending beyond the area of any particular constituent council". There have been exchanges across the Floor of the House, and I am not going to be drawn into any acrid atmosphere of party controversy. I am merely asking your Lordships to look at the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, says, "Make it a duty under Clause 48 for a scheme to be drawn up". For whom—for voluntary organisations which are eligible. The clause defines the eligibility of those voluntary organisations. They can decide later on what amounts of money, if any are available, should be paid to the organisations.

Therefore, I should like to support not only what the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said, but also the submissions of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. Perhaps I may express the hope that the inadequate words which I have uttered will enable the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, with all her great experience on the Greater London Council, who confessed when she first read this amendment that she was in favour of it, to swing back and support the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, who sits behind her in this House.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, before the noble Lord the Minister replies, can he answer the question about the two-thirds? I have been trying to work out what Clause 48(3) means. It says: The constituent councils shall be required to contribute to any expenditure of the designated council which has been incurred with the approval of at least two-thirds of the constituent councils". That is how I read it. It may be that I have read it incorrectly. Will the noble Lord, when he comes to reply, clarify that issue?

Lord Elton

My Lords, if anybody else wishes to speak then perhaps, during their speech, the noble Baroness will look at subsection (7).

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, does the noble Lord the Minister mean that there are two different interpretations, which will cause a difficulty?

Lord Elton

My Lords, it does not look as though there is anybody else, and so the noble Baroness will lose very little if she does not listen to my speech. But I shall now relieve her of the need to read that passage anyway. As my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes very ably explained, there are two duties and two stages. The first stage is setting up the scheme. If the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, will look at page 31, line 5, she will find subsection (7) of Clause 48, which says: A scheme may, in the absence of agreement between all the constituent councils, be made by a majority of those councils so as to be binding on all of them". That is the starting point.

It is confusing because of the legislative convention that it does not come at the beginning of the clause; but the beginning of the clause describes the scheme and the subsection the noble Baroness quoted from page 30 describes what happens when the scheme is up and running and members of the scheme are discussing what to spend their money on. If a majority of the councils in an area—a plain and straightforward majority—decide that there shall be a scheme, there will be a scheme; and, what is more, the scheme will be binding on those constituent councils of the area which are in the minority. So there is a scheme and it is up and running. They have decided, and it has the force of law.

They then meet and they say, "How much are we going to give to water sports? What do we think we ought to give as a priority to the ethnic minorities? What about anything else that they want?" They debate that. Eventually, they have to come to a decision. If the decision is not arrived at naturally by consensus, then there is a vote. That vote is decided not on a simple majority but on the weighted or at least the two-thirds majority specified in subsection (3).

I hope I have made this clear to the noble Baroness and to her noble friend on the Front Bench in front of her, because it is crucial to our understanding of how the provision works. There must be a scheme if more authorities than half want there to be a scheme. The minority will be unwilling constituents of that scheme; but being unwilling constituents of it they ought to be protected in some way from having their money filched from them compulsorily for causes of which they do not approve and spent without their approval. There is the added protection at that stage of a larger majority. We are going to debate the extent of that larger majority on a later amendment, so I shall not dilate on it now. All that is a parenthetical introduction.

Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone

My Lords, before my noble friend carries on to another point, can he explain the last part of subsection (7), which says: but a council shall not be designated by a scheme except with its consent"? Does that mean it can opt out before it starts?

Lord Elton

Not opt out, my Lords, but opt out of being the lead council. This is a very crucial point which I shall be addressing shortly if my noble friend will bear with me.

I had intended to start, and I shall now start, as it were, again, by saying that I am entirely in agreement with my noble friend Lord Renton as to the sentiments behind the amendment. The spirit of the amendment is something of which I entirely approve. I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, has so cogently said in his speech. We do all want to see the same thing, and that same thing is a healthy and well-funded voluntary sector. I hope I do not again have to establish Her Majesty's Government's credentials in this. They lie in part, I should say—I should say it to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson—in Amendment No. 81, to which he referred and to which I shall come later. I should tell him that that is the amendment which makes it possible to set up the trust for London, which is a little more than the peripheral function which he suggested it might be; but it also meets the noble Lord's concern that the opportunity should be placed in the Bill for similar trusts to be set up in the metropolitan areas.

I would now say—and this is where we have to start working through what the Bill says and what my noble friend would like it to say—that I have spent many happy hours (and some, I regret, less happy hours) in this Chamber debating the question of whether the word "may" or the word "shall" should be in a statute, and quite a number of them in the agreeable company of my noble friend behind me. I am sorry that I cannot address her and the House simultaneously; I suppose I ought to be discourteous to the minority. There is a difference between the words, and on this occasion we are all clear what it is.

Clause 48 provides an opportunity for setting up a joint co-operative scheme for the London boroughs to give grants to voluntary bodies and for the districts to do the same. By proposing in Amendment No. 80B to change the wording of the clause, my noble friend wishes to convert a possibility into a certainty. I am still with her and I am still with the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, and with everybody else in your Lordships' House. But not for long, because my noble friend's Amendment No. 80C, I should add, by an equally small piece of surgery, seeks to ensure that that certainty extends to every place affected by the Bill and is in effect consequential upon it.

Let us look at the first amendment on its own and study its effect. First, let us be quite clear that what my noble friend wants to happen is not just the formation of a co-operative group but the formation of the group as described in the rest of the clause as drafted. It will be made up, as described in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1), of the constituent councils of the area in question—boroughs in London and districts elsewhere. There is no problem in that. In subsection (2) we come to the way the co-operation is to be organised. The essential features of this are set out in paragraphs (a) and (b). In paragraph (a) we see that the actual paying of the grants is to be, by one of the constituent councils designated for that purpose by the scheme". This is the function in discharge of the decision by the two-thirds majority of which we spoke.

Under paragraph (b) we find that it is to collect the contributions of the other members of the scheme on the authority of that two-thirds majority and at a rate in proportion to their respective populations. The designated council for the scheme is what in ordinary conversation we call the lead council, and it is to the appointment of that council rather than to its work that I ask your Lordships to pay close attention. Clearly, without a lead or designated council no scheme can work. Equally clearly, there can be no question of designating a council against its will; that would not work, either.

4.30 p.m.

I come to the point which my noble friend Lord Plummer drew to your Lordships' attention. Both considerations must therefore be reflected in the Bill—and they are. Subsection (2), which arranges for the designation, makes that designation mandatory by using my noble friend's favourite word "shall" in line 18. Subsection (7) provides, in lines 7 and 8 on page 31 of the Bill, that, a council shall not be designated by a scheme except with its consent". I return to my noble friend's first proposal: to make the whole scheme mandatory, by changing the word "may" to the word "shall" at the head of the clause, in subsection (1), at line 12. The effect of this amendment is to create a duty; a duty accurately seen by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. He did not say that, as a duty on all the councils in the group, it is in conflict with the right given to each member of the group.

Amendment No. 80B would create a duty to create a scheme. Subsection (2) says that the scheme must have a lead council, and subsection (7) says that every council in the scheme has a right to refuse designation. Both subsections are, I believe your Lordships would agree in all honesty, essential to the clause for reasons not of convenience but of necessity. The effect of my noble friend's amendment is entirely unenforceable. That is something which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, would recognise as bad constitutional practice, because it makes a mockery of the law.

More cogently, perhaps, it fails also to have the effect which my noble friend is seeking. It would still leave it entirely open as to whether or not any abolition area would have a scheme. If a scheme made up only of reluctant members actually existed as a result of the amendment, there would be no duty on them to provide sufficient money or indeed any money at all for the scheme to spend. There is no reason to suppose that if the member councils were there under compulsion and against their will, they would wish to do under compulsion what they had refused to do voluntarily; but there is no compulsion in the Bill for them to contribute.

It seems to me that the legislative objections to what is proposed in my noble friend's amendment are unanswerable. It appears that my noble friend has recognised the practical weaknesses of her amendment; and here I move on to the second leg of her argument. My noble friend has recognised that her proposal may fail, because she has provided in Amendments Nos. 80F and 80H for that failure. She said so. If the scheme, whether voluntary or mandatory, were to fail, my noble friend wants simply to insert my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in the gap which it has left. That caused me to take a rather sharp intake of breath when I read it.

The practicalities of setting up all that are rather obscure because the role of the Secretary of State depends on the operation of my noble friend's first amendment and that, as we have seen, is fatally flawed. But let us assume for a moment that it is fatally flawed; where would that leave us? It would leave us with a group of councils reluctantly brought together, and none of them with the slightest intention of becoming the lead council. What must my right honourable friend then do? He must step in and collect money from the participating councils if they will contribute it, and distribute it if there is an agreed scheme.

At this point I pause to ask this question: what money from participating councils? If the councils are in the scheme against their will, only because they have to be, and if there is no duty to contribute, will they contribute at all? Charity under duress is one thing, but this is another. I believe that what my noble friend proposes would have exactly the opposite effect to what she wishes and that it would actually reduce the amount of money available for the purposes she has in mind. That is not just because the members of the scheme would be members under compulsion. It is also because what money they contributed would be going for distribution not to the officials of a neighbouring and known local authority but to officials of the Department of the Environment.

I invite your Lordships to think that through. The constituent councils would meet, perhaps quarterly or monthly, to preside over the scheme and establish a central policy. But it is surely going to be the lead council, or in this case an official of the Department of the Environment, who would have to be satisfied on detailed questions and take everyday decisions. This must be a job for local authorities to do. I sympathise with my noble friend in her dilemma, for dilemma it is. She wishes that something should be done and she wishes it to be done voluntarily; yet her wish to ensure that it happens is in contradiction to her wish that it should be voluntary. But the real point of decision, as I may have shown, is not the setting up of a scheme, but the payment into it of money.

If my noble friend wishes to be absolutely certain that the money is given, it is no use just having a scheme. One has to be certain that the money is there for the scheme to administer. Otherwise, one will have a talking shop with no effect. It is that which must be compulsory. In effect, we shall find ourselves talking not about a voluntary scheme, but about taxation. The mandatory scheme my noble friend should like to see would be useless without funds, and so would be the Secretary of State if no council volunteered to take the lead. We should then have an officer of central Government distributing what money there was, collected on the instructions of central Government. That would work, but it would be the nationalisation and bureaucratisation of something that surely must lie very close to the hearts of both democracy and the voluntary movement.

I repeat that this must be a job for the local authorities—and they can and they will do it. Look at the case of London; they have started already. Look at the case of Bradford; they want to start. Look at the vast scale of local authority involvement in every aspect of public welfare already. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, caught my mention of Bradford. I should have paused there, because he asked about this. We have received a letter from Bradford saying that they should like to be the lead authority in their area, which is good news.

Lord Ennals

Very good news, my Lords.

Lord Elton

To suggest that local authorities, involved in every aspect of public welfare as they already are, should now withdraw, that funds will dry up, and that schemes will wither on the bough is not merely to be pessimistic but is to fly in the face of all our collective experience. If a nudge is needed to get this going, your Lordships will find that we have supplied it in Amendment No. 84ZB. The preparatory committees are empowered to give such a nudge.

I do not want to speak at length to yet another amendment, but I will tell your Lordships that I have tabled Amendment No. 84ZB to Clause 94, and that Clause 94 is the part of the Bill which establishes statutory joint committees to prepare for abolition. Those committees must be established by September. If your Lordships accept my amendment, it will require the districts and boroughs to consider setting up a scheme as part of the preparations for abolition. As the Greater Manchester Council for Voluntary Service put it to me, that would mean that the district councils could not just sit back and do nothing. It would give the voluntary organisations in each metropolitan county council area a better chance of being able to lobby the councillors concerned. That is what I have been striving to achieve. I repeat that it is not for central Government to decide on whether or not a boys' club in Salford should have a new cricket net; that would be centralism gone mad.

I cannot see district councillors happily voting ratepayers' money for distribution by the man from Marsham Street. I ask my noble friend to think about that again most seriously if she really wants, as I know she does, to help the voluntary movement to prosper. That is something we, the Government, want just as much as do your Lordships and just as much as does my noble friend. We have proved that by means which I will not recapitulate. I have made my point. I am as anxious as are your Lordships to see that this works and that it works well. But I believe that, with the very best of intentions, my noble friend has actually devised a means of seeing that it will not work.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this extremely interesting debate. My noble friend Lord Renton spoke about eligible voluntary organisations, but under the Bill it is perfectly possible for those voluntary organisations which are not eligible not to receive a grant. Just because somebody applies and because they had a grant before does not mean they must have a grant in the future.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, for his support and to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who has his name to this amendment. My noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls speaks rather more from his personal faith than from facts. I do not think that he gave facts to support his faith, but perhaps that is what faith is all about. I am not quite sure. The right reverend Prelate may be able to help me on that.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, for his help. I come to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. I somehow think that we have lost something in the debate. All the time we have been concentrating on the local authorities but nobody has thought about the position of the voluntary organisations. The reason why a number of us asked for the amendment is not that money should be given. We are not concerned about the money at this stage. We are concerned to have a basis of discussion. If the local authorities do not have a scheme to present and discuss with one another, they have nothing to talk to anyone about. If there is no scheme, there is nothing for them to start on and to talk about. That is why I mentioned cricket. It is like having a bowler but no wicket the other end: there will be nothing for the voluntary organisations to negotiate on.

I feel strongly about the amendment. It is necessary for there to be a basis of discussion between the voluntary organisations and the local authorities. That is all the amendment is about. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for understanding. Perhaps I did not make it clear, and he had the wit perhaps to see beyond my lack of clarity. I am grateful to him.

My noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes said a number of extraordinary things which contradicted each other. At one stage she said that local authorities preferred to give money in their own areas. That is just what we are saying. They prefer to give money in their own areas and a number of them do not look countywide. I have written down what she said, and I think that she demolished her case with that statement.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. I come now to the Minister. The thing about him is that he is so brilliant and absolutely marvellous at the Dispatch Box that he completely reduces me to a low IQ. He scatters so much gold dust all over the place that I feel practically lost, but I come back to what he actually said. He went on to talk about money. There is no question of the Department of the Environment, or whichever other Ministry is designated if no authority takes over and becomes the lead authority, dealing with money. The amendment simply asks that there shall be a scheme.

Lord Elton

My Lords, my noble friend will correct me, but I think that her amendment says that the Secretary of State is to take on all the functions of the lead authority, and the functions of the lead authority are to take and distribute the money. It is inescapable. But it is not gold dust or anything else that I am scattering in front of my noble friend. I am explaining that her amendment will not work and will damage the voluntary organisations. It is not a political issue. We all want the same thing, but her amendment will have exactly the opposite effect to what she wants.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, as I say, I had intended this to be a way to get the local authorities to come together to make a scheme so that it could be a basis for discussion. It may be that the second part of the amendment is slightly defective, as my noble friend says. I am not quite sure whether at Report stage I am allowed to say this, but I wonder whether he would be prepared to take the amendment away and reconsider it so that we can talk about the second part at Third Reading. My worry is that the voluntary organisations will not have a basis for discussion, and it is that which is so important.

Lord Elton

My Lords, by your Lordships' leave, I am in a difficulty. My noble friend now says that her amendment is intended to do something which was not apparent from reading the Marshalled List. From reading the amendment on the Marshalled List I worked out what her intentions were in the way that I have recounted at some length to your Lordships. I saw what the effects of the amendment were. My noble friend wants a different amendment. All I can say at this stage is that I do not think that this amendment is acceptable to your Lordships because it will be so very damaging for the voluntary movement. I am always ready to listen to my noble friend between stages. If she has something further to add between now and Third Reading of course I shall listen to that. But I would not want to mislead your Lordships into thinking that I was in any way friendly to something which I see as fundamentally harmful to the objects which we are all trying to pursue.

The Earl of Perth

My Lords, on a point of clarification, when the noble Lord says "this amendment", what amendment is he talking about? Is he talking about Amendment No. 80B or Amendment No. 80H?—because we are not talking about Amendment No. 80H at the present time.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I was speaking to Amendment No. 80B, as was my noble friend, and Amendment No. 80H was being discussed with it. Amendment No. 80B by itself would leave—my Lords, I must not make all these speeches. I have said enough.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I really am in some difficulty. I do not wish to be discourteous to your Lordships' House. We have had a long and interesting debate. I have not been convinced by the alternative arguments. I admit that possibly part of the amendment may be defective, but the main issue, I think, stands. I should have liked to withdraw the amendment with a view to talking to the Minister before the next stage, but I think that he has made it clear that he is not prepared to debate or to alter anything. It is with regret and with some sorrow, but nevertheless with realism, that I ask your Lordships to decide on the amendment.

4.47 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 80B) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided; Contents, 134; Not-Contents, 150.

Airedale, L. Heycock, L.
Alport, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Amherst, E. Howie of Troon, L
Ardwick, L. Hunter of Newington, L.
Attlee, E. Ingleby, V.
Aylestone, L. Irving of Dartford, L.
Bacon, B. Jacobson, L.
Banks, L. Jacques, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Bernstein, L. Kearton, L.
Beswick, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Birk, B. Kinloss, Ly.
Blease, L. Kirkhill, L.
Blyton, L. Leatherland, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Listowel, E.
Bottomley, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B
Brockway, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Buckmaster, V. Lovell-Davis, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. McCarthy, L.
Caradon, L. McNair, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Mar, C.
Chitnis, L. Melchett, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Milford, L.
Collison, L. Milverton, L.
Cromartie, E. Mishcon, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Molson, L.
David, B. Morton of Shuna, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Nicol, B.
Dean of Beswick, L. Northfield, L.
Denington, B. Oram, L.
Diamond, L. Parry, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Peart, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Perth, E.
Ennals, L. Phillips, B.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Plant, L.
Ezra, L. Plummer of St Marylebone, L.
Faithfull, B. [Teller.]
Falkender, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Falkland, V. Porritt, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Raglan, L.
Fitt, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Foot, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Gainsborough, E. Roberthall, L.
Gallacher, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Galpern, L. Rochester, Bp.
Gladwyn, L. Rochester, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Gray, L. Sainsbury, L.
Gregson, L. Seear, B.
Grey, E. Serota, B.
Hampton, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Silkin of Dulwich, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Simon, V.
Hayter, L. Stallard, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L. [Teller.] Stamp, L.
Stewart of Fulham, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L. Whaddon, L.
Stone, L. White, B.
Strabolgi, L. Wigoder, L.
Strauss, L. Willis, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L. Wilson of Langside, L
Taylor of Mansfield, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L
Thurlow, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Todd, L.
Tordoff, L. Winstanley, L.
Wallace of Coslany, L. Wootton of Abinger, B
Walston, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Ingrow, L.
Allerton, L. Kaberry of Adel, L.
Arran, E. Kilmany, L.
Auckland, L. Kimball, L.
Barber, L. King of Wartnaby, L.
Bauer, L. Kinnaird, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Kintore, E.
Bellwin, L. Kitchener, E.
Beloff, L. Lane-Fox, B.
Belstead, L. Lauderdale, E.
Berkeley, B. Layton, L.
Bessborough, E. Liverpool, E.
Boardman, L. Long, V.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Lothian, M.
Brabazon of Tara, L. McAlpine of West Green, L.
Brookeborough, V. Macleod of Borve, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Malmesbury, E.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. Mancroft, L.
Burton, L. Margadale, L.
Caithness, E. Marley, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Coleraine, L. Melville, V.
Colwyn, L. Merrivale, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Middleton, L.
Cottesloe, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Cowley, E. Mottistone, L.
Craigavon, V. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Moyne, L.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Munster, E.
Davidson, V. Murton of Lindisfarne, L
De La Warr, E. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] O'Brien of Lothbury, L
Denning, L. Orkney, E.
Dilhorne, V. Orr-Ewing, L.
Ebbisham, L. Quinton, L.
Eccles, V. Rankeillour, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Renton, L.
Ellenborough, L. Rochdale, V.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Rodney, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Romney, E.
Elton, L. Rotherwick, L.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Rugby, L.
Fortescue, E. St. Aldwyn, E.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. St. Davids, V.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Gibson-Watt, L. Sandford, L.
Gisborough, L. Sandys, L.
Glanusk, L. Savile, L.
Glenarthur, L. Sempill, Ly.
Gowrie, E. Sharples, B.
Grafton, D. Sherfield, L.
Granville of Eye, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Southborough, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Stockton, E.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Halsbury, E. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Henley, L. Strathspey, L.
Hives, L. Sudeley, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Swansea, L.
Hood, V. Swinfen, L.
Hooper, B. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Hylton-Foster, B. Taylor of Hadfield, L.
Ilchester, E. Terrington, L.
Inglewood, L. Teviot, L.
Teynham, L. Vickers, B.
Thomas of Swynnerton, L. Vinson, L.
Thorneycroft, L. Vivian, L.
Torphichen, L. Westbury, L.
Townshend, M. Windlesham, L.
Tranmire, L. Wynford, L.
Trefgarne, L. Young, B.
Trumpington, B. Young of Graffham, L.
Tryon, L. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Vaux of Harrowden, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.56 p.m.

[Amendment No. 80C not moved.]

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth) moved Amendment No. 80D:

Page 30, line 26, at end insert— ("and (c) for the constituent councils annually to review the social needs of the inhabitants of the area covered by the scheme.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a simple, modest but important amendment. It is modest because it is not trying to create a new authority or to impose a duty on boroughs and districts to establish a grant-making scheme. However, it is important because it seeks to ensure that where they do make such a scheme they take the London-wide or countywide social needs of the inhabitants into account and obtain an overall perception of the problems and establish a coherent policy of grant-making, which is something that is lacking under Clause 48 as it stands.

The voluntary organisations, among them very respectable and responsible bodies like the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the London Voluntary Service Council and the London Churches Group, all feel that it is essential that this duty to review social needs annually be written into the Bill. The Minister's announcements at Committee about funding were most welcome. However, they do nothing to remedy this fundamental weakness that there is no duty to set a policy written into the Bill. It is something that has worried the voluntary organisations from the very beginning. Thus it is not as though they were greedily making fresh demands after the Minister has made concessions.

Your Lordships are great experts on voluntary work and voluntary organisations. We have already discussed this subject at length, both during the Committee stage on the amendment of my noble friend Lord Hayter and on the previous amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. Thus I shall try not to go over too much of the same ground again. I think your Lordships will agree that the individual boroughs vary enormously and that the same is true of the districts and the metropolitan counties. They have different needs, different outlooks and a great difference in wealth. Local elected councillors inevitably see their local needs as first priority, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, has made very clear. It is quite right that they should do this because that is what they were elected to look after.

The noble Baroness, Lady Faithful], mentioned the tunnel vision effect. Experience has shown that individual boroughs find it very difficult to co-operate voluntarily and take a perspective that transcends their own particular boundaries and needs. However, we must remember that this is precisely what they have to do here. As the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, reminded us, Clause 48 (10) clearly states that we are dealing with the voluntary organisations whose activities are either London-wide, county-wide, or extend beyond one single borough or one single district.

I am going to confine myself to a few examples mainly from the field of disablement to illustrate why it is so important that the constituent councils adopt this wider perspective. I am sure that noble Lords who have put their names to this amendment will cover various other apsects. We have often discussed London Dial-a-Ride—that transport scheme for disabled people who are too disabled to use conventional public transport. Similar schemes in the metropolitan counties face an uncertain future after abolition of the MCCs. Take Tyne and Wear. The county is responsible for funding two Dial-a-Ride schemes, one for Newcastle and Gateshead which is cross-boundary, the other just for north Tyneside. If no collective scheme is established, Dial-a-Ride's future is at risk since the individual districts are unlikely to accept responsibility for funding.

Even if such a scheme does emerge, Dial-a-Ride could have a big problem in getting the two-thirds majority approval since it only covers three out of the five districts. In fact, two-thirds of five is apparently four, I am horrified to learn. Admittedly there is a later amendment that would perhaps remedy this. It is vital to preserve this scheme that has changed the lives of so many disabled people. Some of them had literally not been out of the house for years until this scheme came into being. The amendment would ensure that a county-wide approach was adopted.

The Ring-a-Ride scheme, funded by the West Midlands County Council, is reckoned to be one of the best in the country. It has received many compliments from Ministers and civil servants. Attempts to link the Birmingham scheme with the Solihull scheme may be thwarted owing to the parochial interests of the districts, to the disadvantage of disabled travellers. Indeed the future of the whole Ring-a-Ride scheme is uncertain, since the districts are not obliged to establish a grant-giving scheme under Clause 48. This amendment would ensure that if, and only if, such a scheme was set up it would have to address itself to the social needs of the whole county area.

I have one more example from a totally different field. West Yorkshire County Council has had a policy of helping cross-district matters particularly concerned with the arts, recreation and the environment. It has worked with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers to refurbish canals which go through at least two districts and into adjoining counties, a very valuable achievement. Your Lordships will, I think, agree that it would have been difficult for any one district to undertake such a wide-scale initiative on its own. "Social needs" is a deliberately broad term. It ensures flexibility—something that the Government are usually in favour of. What may constitute a social need in one area will not necessarily be seen as such in another area. This amendment does not prejudge the issue. It is for the boroughs and districts to decide what is important, what constitutes a social need and what their priorities are.

I hope very much that the Minister will be able to agree to the amendment or, if not, that he can give me an indication that he will introduce one that has the same effect, maybe by a different means, at Third Reading. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, recognises the need to establish a policy on priorities. At Committee stage on 20th of May, at col. 21 of Hansard, he said that as the Bill stands the councils operating a scheme will of course be able to set the policy under which the collective grant giving is done. There can be no doubt that there must be a clear set of policy guidelines and of priorities".

If the Minister accepts this amendment the councils will not only be able to set the policy: they will be required to do so. I hope the Minister will agree that this amendment actually enhances the Bill. As Clause 48 stands, the councils are required to act regionally. It seems only logical that they should also be required to think regionally. This amendment would ensure precisely that. I beg to move.

Lord Hayter

My Lords, I hope that I can claim a certain amount of consistency in the passage of this Bill. To that end, I have even put down my name to an amendment to be moved by the noble Lord the Minister. I have been trying, with the help of others, to improve the organisational aspects. I have done so with little success so far. But, having put my name to an amendment to be moved by the noble Lord the Minister—I think that we may have some success there—I also have some hope that he will be sympathetic about this amendment.

It may be remembered by the House that when the Committee turned its attention to voluntary organisations I stressed, or tried to stress, that nowhere in the Bill was there any provision requiring countywide or London-wide overview of need. That is what we are talking about in this amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), made the same point in the same debate. So we return to this point today, remembering two things. At least I do. One is that many of your Lordships are mixed up with charities and therefore know a lot about their workings. Secondly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), has said, we know that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, feels that there should be a clear set of policy guidelines and priorities. So this is not, not, not political.

We do not seek any alteration in setting up the constituent councils. Of course, like the Irishman who was asked to give directions to another place and who said that he would not have started from there, that could be true of us. But we are keeping quiet about it today. All that we want to ensure is that these councils, once a year, think about the needs of their new area.

I should like to illustrate the point. For 18 years I was chairman of the King Edward's Hospital Fund for London. At regular intervals, we discussed projects that had not been put to us but which we felt should be granted money. I remember a long time ago there were dreadful feeding arrangements in mental hospitals. We tackled that by redesigning the kitchens and setting up a dieticians' school. Again, when we discovered that there were few opportunities for doctors who were general practitioners to meet doctors in hospitals, we had built hospital centres. These became so obviously popular that their existence is now almost common practice in a big hospital.

Lastly, when we had, in our opinion, to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee, we looked at the worst hospitals in London. We chose 10 of them. In each, we chose one ward and "spivved" it up—refurbished, I think, is the American phrase. That had two advantages. First, the nurses who worked so belovedly in these appalling places felt that they were not forgotten; secondly, we could show people that, with a little paint, a little furniture and a little imagination, they could do the same. Indeed, the recently published annual report of the fund in talking of innovative or pilot projects, says that in addition to grants to hospitals, it also chooses, at regular intervals, where, when and how it can help the vast complex of health-related activities.

So that is the background. Why, it may be asked, do we seek to enforce this principle here in the Bill? I appeal to people who are mixed up with charities. But there is a great difference. Instead of like-minded people coming together in a field of common interest—the hallmark of so many charities—these council members come from different areas, and different backgrounds and have different charitable instincts. All that is very understandable and by no means reprehensible. It is, however, the needs of these newly defined areas which are, to use the Prime Minister's phrase, paramount. I beg your Lordships to think of this amendment not as party political but as charity practical. I have much pleasure in com mending it to you.

The Lord Bishop of Rochester

My Lords, I should like briefly to support the amendment to which I have put my name. Although only two London boroughs come within my diocese, I know something of the diversity of London and of the great inequality of problems and of wealth within different areas of Greater London. As other noble Lords have made clear, the same is also true of the six metropolitan counties. Like London, all have areas that experience high unemployment, inner city deprivation and their related social tensions.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has already suggested this afternoon, inevitably local elected councillors have as their first priority the needs of their locality. It is right that that should be so, for that is where their accountability lies. However, the work of the voluntary organisations does not always fit neatly within borough boundaries, and if the partnership of the voluntary and statutory bodies is to be maintained, as on all sides of the House we are agreed it must be, then individual boroughs will need to be helped to take a perspective which transcends their own particular boundaries and needs.

I am sure that the Minister will accept that this amendment fits in with the strategy that responsibility stays with the local tier authorities. I might even be so bold as to say that it is designed not to raise the temperature on the Privy Counsellors Bench—of which there is no danger at the moment! However, it does provide for an annual review of the social needs of an area. This should enable areas of need to be identified, grant-aid to be assessed, and the whole process to be regularly monitored and adjusted as necessary.

In considering this amendment, I hope that the Minister will take account of the complexity and the variety of the voluntary sector. As the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, indicated in the debate on the last amendment, voluntary services do not develop in a vacuum. They develop within a framework that sets out coherent policies and priorities to meet needs which are known. I do not think that it will be enough simply to respond favourably to those organisations which are able to present their cases effectively or which are able to gain the support of the necessary numbers of politically-divided boroughs. In my judgment what is important is that there should be a means of providing some way of establishing the areas of greatest need. Given the shortage of financial resources, it will be essential that the funding of the voluntary sector is backed by a coherent policy and a knowledge and understanding of the real needs of a whole area. For all these reasons I support the kind of annual review which this amendment would require.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I had intended to speak in support of this amendment, but I was called away and therefore I shall now be very brief. I support the spirit of this amendment because it is wholly consistent with a single tier administration and the principles of this Bill; it can only do good and could not conceivably do any harm. There is no great problem involved which could raise the temperature of anyone on any Bench. I am not concerned with drafting. I am concerned with the spirit of this amendment, which is clearly right. I support the amendment.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, in view of the universal support which this amendment has received, perhaps additional support is a matter of surplusage. Nevertheless I should like to speak to the amendment. To my right honourable friends and my friends on this side of the House it seems that this is a valuable proposal. Without a provision of the kind suggested—that is, an annual review of the social needs of the inhabitants of the relevant area as a whole—the councillors in the separate local authorities which are concerned could well overlook something. Without some special provision of this kind, they may not be informed about the special needs of particular areas covered by the scheme. For instance, when one considers the social problems of London, that is not surprising. London has 500,000 unemployed, 200,000 registered disabled, and 500,000 houses in serious disrepair. But it is also a magnet that draws to it a disproportionate number of people, especially the young, who come in the hope of finding a job, shelter, or some kind of support.

5.15 p.m.

These problems are widely spread over the London area in its 33 local authorities. As other speakers have said, it is an area of great diversity. Croydon and Bromley are different worlds from my old constituency—Newham—and Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Lambeth. They have a different scene and different problems. The sad fact is that a disproportionate number of the homeless and the unemployed tend to be found in the most impoverished areas, which will therefore need especial support from such a scheme as the Bill contemplates. The much vaunted south-east area of our country also has dark areas of great distress.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and others have said, not unnaturally elected councillors give first priority to what their own constituents want. For instance, they want to keep down the rates as much as possible. To say that they suffer from tunnel vision is not being offensive to them; it is part of human nature that they should react in that way. Nevertheless, the local scene could well limit their horizon if they do not look beyond it.

They are far more likely to do that, especially during a period when even well off boroughs and councils are under financial stress and control, if they are unaware of the distress just around the corner. The Government's strategy in this, as in other aspects of the provision of services, is to pass the buck to the local councillors and to shed overall Government responsibility.

As a result, at present there is considerable gloom and despondency among voluntary organisations, especially those helping the ethnic minorities, which are fearful that their work and the needs with which they endeavour to deal will be neglected. I would have identified a number of the organisations which are deeply concerned in this way, but all of us will have received communications about them. However, what is inevitable is that more services and expenditure will be needed in some areas than in others. We think that reviews of the needs of the whole area covered by these schemes will be sensible and invaluable if sensible and effective policies, of the kind which the noble Lord the Minister has commended as necessary, are to be developed to deal with the needs of the inhabitants of the area as a whole. An annual review would expose the needs. This is a modest and useful amendment and I trust that it will not be met with stonewall opposition.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I intervene very briefly with two queries. Like other noble Lords, I agree with the spirit of this amendment, but I very much wonder why it is necessary. From the very beginning of discussions on this Bill we have paid lip service, and we have hoped that local authorities will be able to carry out the work that we are now giving to them. In this amendment especially, I feel that it is difficult suddenly to say, "I don't think that they will be capable of finding out what other voluntary organisations need help".

Surely if we are asking them to look around and find out what other voluntary organisations need help, that will be at a time when the grant that they have already given to some voluntary organisations comes to an end. I should like to know from the Minister for how long he envisages—I do not know whether he can speak for the local authorities concerned—the grants being made.

Those of us who have to deal with national voluntary bodies and local bodies know that the grants vary enormously from annual to perhaps five-yearly grants. If a grant is given by a local authority for five years, then I would perhaps agree with the necessity for the amendment. But if, as I suppose, it is likely to be given annually and therefore reviewed annually, then surely the local authority members can be trusted to see that their grant is being used wisely and that their money cannot be used in a better way. The purpose of my intervention is to ask the Minister whether he can tell us for how long the grants are likely to be given.

Lord Elton

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate said that this amendment was designed to cool the Privy Council Bench, and it appears to have cooled it right down to zero. It has been successful at least in that.

When I came into this Chamber with this amendment before me my mood was somewhat like that of my noble friend Lady Macleod of Borve, in that I wondered whether it was not superfluous. One does not want to put superfluity into legislation. I was reflecting that we had always taken the view that it would be only sensible for the boroughs and districts to make decisions on grant-giving against the background of a perceived set of priorities, and we believe that that is what the councils would anyway do. It is part of good local government practice, and local government authorities provide a wide range of services. They are not required at present by the legislation under which they now operate in every case to review the need for those services. It is assumed that they will.

If the GLC is not required to take a view of London's needs each year before giving grants, why, I wondered, was it necessary for the boroughs to do so? But I have listened carefully to this debate and it begins to sway me to an opposite view. The GLC, for example, is a single authority and it is natural that its committee and departments should look at problems from the point of view of the whole of the area for which they are concerned. That will not necessarily be the case for the constituent successor authorities and it may need some sort of provision to make sure that good local authority practice continues in this way.

I am not happy with the way in which the noble Baroness has apparently, whether intentionally or not, drafted an amendment which, as I read it, means that each constituent authority will have the duty of reviewing the needs of the whole of the area. I think she will see that that is the effect. I am advised that that is so, and I do not suppose it is what she wants. The review of the area ought to be taken centrally rather than by individual boroughs and districts. I notice that she nods her head. So far we are together, I am glad to see.

I take it that what the noble Baroness wants—and it is a proper thing to want—is that in working the schemes the councils shall have regard to the needs of the whole area. The councils collectively shall be informed about, and responsive to, the social needs of the whole area. I take it that that is what she wants, and that is something in which I should be at one with her.

I do not think it can be achieved in precisely this way. I should want to take a view and consult with colleagues as to whether an annual review is the way to do it. If the noble Baroness will bear with me between now and Report—or, rather, I mean Third Reading; it is such a long Bill that we ought almost to say Second Reading because it is the second time around. If the noble Baroness will stay her hand until Third Reading, I shall see whether there is a mechanism by which we can get her concern recognised and written into the Bill.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords who have supported this amendment and those who put their names to it and also the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, who said that it can only do good and cannot conceivably do any harm. I am extremely grateful to the Minister. I agree with what he said about the collective view of the constituent councils. The noble Lord has offered me something quite considerable. On the understanding that I might come back at Third Reading if the noble Lord does not manage to get around this difficulty, I shall withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Henderson of Brompton moved Amendment No. 80CB: Page 30, line 30, after ("councils") insert ("in Greater London and three-fifths in the Metropolitan Counties").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 80CB. I am delighted to see that the so-called Privy Counsellors' Bench remains at zero occupancy. Perhaps the temperature may remain low and the Minister may give a sufficiently favourable answer for me to be able to withdraw this amendment as the noble Baroness has just withdrawn her amendment. I should say at the outset that I think this amendment is defective, in that there should be a consequential amendment in subsection (12), but I do not think that that affects the validity of my submission.

This amendment is designed to have the effect of requiring approval of at least three-fifths of the constituent councils in metropolitan counties while leaving the majority of two-thirds of constituency councils in Greater London. This is a small but singnificant amendment made necessary by the huge discrepancy in size as between Greater London and the metropolitan counties. Here I should like to quote words from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, on Monday, 19th June, at col. 1043: I accept that in London things are different from the way they are in metropolitan counties … London has more than three times as many local councils as the biggest metropolitan council, and no less than eight times as many as the smallest … I am not wholly persuaded, therefore, that we need to make the same arrangements for the metropolitan counties as those I am about to propose".

A good use of his words is to illustrate the effect of the discrepancy of size by reference to the three smallest of the metropolitan counties, or rather the three metropolitan counties with the smallest number of districts, and they are West Yorkshire, Merseyside and Tyne and Wear.

In these three, the two-thirds majority means agreement between four out of five districts. The effect is that one black ball excludes. All but one must agree. This is due to the rounding up factor. Here we have a discrepancy as between Greater London, where it is two-thirds, and the smaller of the metropolitan counties, where it is 80 per cent., or four-fifths.

I have given that example of the metropolitan counties with the smallest number of districts. Let us go to the other extreme, the metropolitan county with the largest number of districts, which I take to be Greater Manchester. There the two-thirds majority requires seven out of 10 districts. That is a 70 per cent. majority instead of two-thirds. It cannot have been the intention of this seemingly even-handed figure of two-thirds that it should in fact apply more or less directly to Greater London, where the figure is 22 out of 33 boroughs, but apply as to 70 per cent. in Greater Manchester and, worse, as to 80 per cent. in the three metropolitan counties with the smallest number of districts. Such a high majority as 80 per cent. agreement before grants are approved must be difficult to obtain where just one black ball will stop anything happening. It might stifle collective grant-giving in the metropolitan counties and so discriminate against the county-wide services provided by the voluntary organisations that we have heard so much about today. That would lead to a great loss in those counties.

5.30 p.m.

There are many reasons why such a high degree of consensus is unlikely to be obtained in some metropolitan counties, but these reasons have been rehearsed on previous amendments, notably by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, so I shall not, because time is getting on, rehearse them. I hope I have said enough to convince the House that, on a purely arithmetical basis and for fairness, these amendments are both equitable and necessary. The result would be that the majority required to approve grants to voluntary organisations in the three metropolitan counties mentioned—that is, West Yorkshire, Merseyside and Tyne and Wear—would be lowered to three-fifths instead of four-fifths and in Greater Manchester would be lowered also to three-fifths instead of seven-tenths. I suppose the simplest way of putting this is that, instead of being rounded up, the two-thirds figure would be rounded down to achieve a more equitable result.

I conclude by saying that this amendment in no way affects the spirit or purpose of the Bill, but it reflects and respects the circumstances in the metropolitan counties. I beg to move.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, briefly, I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. He explained it very carefully in some detail, so there is not much for me to say. It is purely a question of arithmetic. Because of the way it is worked out, as the noble Lord explained, the difference between the districts in the metropolitan counties and the boroughs in London means that there is an element of grave unfairness built into the system in the metropolitan counties which I cannot believe was intended by the Government. Applying the same two-thirds rule makes it impossible to make the division come out correctly because although in London we have 33 London boroughs, which makes it simpler to work out, in the metropolitan counties it is quite impossible to work it out to a fraction of two-thirds. Therefore, to ensure a grant, more councils would have to agree than boroughs would have to agree in London. Such high levels of agreement before grants are approved are not a practical proposition and could prove to be a prescription for paralysis of the collective grant-making schemes.

A high degree of consensus such as this is quite untenable. This has been gone through before when it was suggested that there should be a simple majority. That was turned down, but I submit that the proposal for three-fifths might be considered to be a fairly equitable compromise.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

My Lords, perhaps I may briefly support this sensible amendment because I was horrified to find that when discussing the Dial-a-Ride service in Tyne and Wear, which covers five districts, to learn that two-thirds of five was rounded up to four. I hope that the Minister will look as kindly on this amendment as he did on mine just now.

Lord Elton

My Lords, we discussed at some length in Committee the majority required for collective grant-giving. I remember my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour arguing persuasively for a majority of 75 per cent. and the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, putting the case for 50 per cent. The amendment before us suggests a change to 60 per cent. in the metropolitan counties only.

I should like to explain briefly to the House what my thinking about this is. First, there are questions of certainty and consistency. A slender majority is no guarantee for voluntary bodies which need local authority support. At an earlier stage my noble friend Lady Macleod of Borve asked for how long any grant would run—I regret that I neglected to enlighten her at the time—but that is entirely up to the majority decision (the two-thirds majority decision as it now is in the Bill) of the authorities making up the joint authority which will run this.

That kind of level of agreement that a scheme should run gives a certain built-in assurance that it will continue running. What is needed is a broad measure of consensus about county-wide needs and how to meet them. We discussed in Committee the effects which a violent see-saw of policy could have on local voluntary groups.

To make the change proposed would have an effect in another area which I am a little worried about because we are anxious, are we not?, to secure a bipartisan approach to voluntary activities. It has been the theme of the whole of our last three debates that this is not a political matter. I have constantly refrained from saying, "If your Lordships believe in the voluntary effort, vote with me!" because I feel that that is to give this a party political connotation. None the less, of course, your Lordships should!

If the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, were adopted, it would have an effect upon that. He referred to the metropolitan county of Merseyside. In Merseyside there is at present a requirement for four authorities to support a scheme. That would mean that in present circumstances the support was bipartisan. But at present there are three Labour-controlled constituent councils in Merseyside and the effect of the amendment would enable a decision to be taken in Merseyside—which is the example he chose—on party political lines. That is regrettable and we have seen too much of that closer to home. Therefore on balance I regret that I am not reassured that what the noble Lord proposes would be an improvement.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, is the noble Lord the Minister quite sure that those three district councils would agree among themselves? Is it not conceivable that one of them might agree with a district of another political persuasion?

Lord Elton

My Lords, the noble Lord misunderstands me. Of course at whatever level one requires a majority, it is possible for people to adhere to that decision regardless of what majority is required. Every district in Merseyside might be warmly in favour of what is proposed, but we are not concerned with that. We are concerned with how many people should not want to join a scheme before the scheme becomes a non-runner. In this discussion I am concerned to point out that, with the arithmetic that the noble Lord suggests, it would, taking Merseyside as the illustration, mean that all the Conservative authorities could be against a scheme and, none the less, would be obliged under the Bill as drafted with that amendment to fork out the money for the authorities of a different political persuasion to spend on something of which they did not approve. That is not very far-fetched because that kind of thing has been happening all round us at the moment. It is on those grounds that I ask the noble Lord to abide by what I think was the general consensus after our debate, because, though we did not discuss this piece of arithmetic, we looked at the bracket between 50 per cent. on the one hand and 75 per cent. on the other.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, may I revert to Merseyside? The noble Lord has taken this as an example. Is it not possible—and I will say no more than that—that the Conservative districts and one of the Labour districts might combine and it would be that combination? You would then have two who would be having a scheme forced on them; but they will be two Labour districts and not two Conservative districts. Surely that turns his argument on its head, does it not?

Lord Elton

My Lords, the point is that they would be having it forced upon them by a bipartisan decision, because the decision to do it would be a decision of two Conservative districts and one Labour district. That is what I am trying to preserve in Merseyside: that decisions shall not be taken as they could be under the configuration that the noble Lord suggested by authorities of one political complexion only. It is very difficult to strike exactly the right point on the scale between 100 per cent. and 50 per cent. It seems to me that I have advanced the best arguments that I can for what we have, and I honestly think that we should stay with it. Therefore with some regret, particularly at disappointing the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), in the hope that her dulcet tones added to this amendment might have the same magic effect that they had before, I cannot recommend your Lordships to accept this amendment.

Viscount Simon

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he care to comment on one factor which has no political content at all in it and I think does not affect very much which way this amendment goes? Would it not be the fact, without any of these arrangements, that because the voting is on a council basis, each with an equal vote, the smaller councils could have a majority and require something to be paid and the one large council—which I think there is in nearly all these metropolitan counties—would have to pay even though it was opposed to it?

Lord Elton

My Lords, by your Lordships' leave, all these pieces of arithmetic are different. But the noble Lord is quite right that votes are not weighted by the size of population. As to the point where the equality of votes departs from the equality of population in any one case, I am afraid that without a lot of research I could not tell him the answer.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I must confess to some disappointment because I had hoped that the noble Lord would agree to this. I think that really he has addressed himself only to the arithmetical side and has added a little political tinge to the arithmetical side in his answer. What he has not addressed himself to is my argument as to equity. It is merely an equitable application of the two-thirds rule that you should round down instead of round up. It is in fact impossible to have two-thirds exactly without a fraction; and you cannot have a fraction in a district. All that I am asking is that there should he an equitable application of this rule in the metropolitan counties as there is exactly, as it so happens, in London where the application is 22 out of 33 boroughs. That is really not asking for very much.

What I should really like the noble Lord to do, because nobody, I think, has supported this point of view today, is perhaps to think about it. I do not really want to divide the House at this hour, as I am sure that there are more pressing matters to be getting on with. Will the noble Lord consider what has been said today and see if he could not persuade his friends to a mere rounding down instead of rounding up? That is all I am asking for, and it is not an unreasonable request. Then he could come back on Third Reading with the appropriate amendment.

Lord Elton

My Lords, the noble Lord tempts me to breach the conventions of your Lordships' House and make yet another speech. If your Lordships will permit me merely an interjection, I have to say that one has to take a position and I have explained the position we have taken. The noble Lord has now asked whether there is some change of language in the Bill which would have the effect that he wants. I took the precaution of taking advice on that matter and was told that it would be exceedingly difficult to do. If the noble Lord wants to make a decision now, he should make it. I could not ask him to make it on the basis that I will come back to him with something preferable at Third Reading. I am very sorry, but I would mislead your Lordships and no doubt annoy the noble Lord much more by leaving space on the Marshalled List.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, the noble Lord the Minister is not annoying me; he is grieving me. I think that this is unreasonable. I would ask leave to withdraw at this stage because I think there must be ways of putting this matter equitably in the Bill, if not in these very words then in some other words. So with the leave of the House I should like at this stage to withdraw the amendment without prejudice to coming back at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 80E, 80F, 80G and 80H not moved.]

[Amendment No. 80J had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

5.45 p.m.

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 80K:

Page 31, line 22, at end insert— ("( ) The Secretary of State shall provide transitional support under the Local Government (Social Needs) Act 1969 for expenditure by London boroughs or metropolitan district councils under this section: and such support shall be provided annually for the four years after the abolition date up to an amount that the Secretary of State shall determine, having regard to the need to ensure continued funding of voluntary organisations at a level comparable with that which obtained before the abolition date.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it occurs to me that some of your Lordships may feel that the question of future funding of voluntary bodies as affected by this Bill is settled. Did not the Government scatter gold dust at Committee stage and should we not therefore fold our tents and go gratefully away? It is not quite as simple as that. When we had shaken the gold dust from our eyes after the Committee stage and had seen where most of it had settled, we saw that there were important areas of voluntary activity which would derive no benefit from the Government's apparent largesse.

The main reason is that the £40 million of transitional funding committed by the Government on a sliding scale—that is to say, £15 million in the first year after abolition, £10 million in the second and third years and £5 million in the fourth and final year—is intended for voluntary projects serving people in one district or one borough only. Not one penny of it, as I understand, is intended for the kind of services for people in more than one district or borough eligible for funding under Clause 48, which is exclusively concerned with London-wide and county-wide activities.

We have some authoritative statements that this is so. At Report stage in the other place on 27th March (at col. 539 of Hansard), Sir George Young said: The transitional funding is for schemes which operate within one borough but which are funded at present either by the GLC or the metropolitan councils".

I wanted to be sure that this is the way things stood, so in this House at Committee stage I sought clarification on 20th May. I am referring to col. 85 of Hansard. If I may be forgiven for quoting myself, I asked: Is the Government's understanding of their own scheme that transitional funding will apply to county-wide bodies as well as to local projects? If that is so, it again raises the question as to whether the proposed transitional funding, even at the higher amount, is in fact adequate".

The noble Lord, Lord Elton did not answer me directly; but a little later (in col. 91 on the same day, 20th May), he said, after dealing with a different matter: The other point is that the transitional grants are directed principally to helping individual local authorities fund the local groups".

So we appear to be left with the stark prospect that Clause 48 bodies, a type a of voluntary organisation written specifically into the Bill, are to receive no encouragement or assistance over the difficult years after the withdrawal of GLC and metropolitan counties support.

Consider the position of the London boroughs. I think that I am right in saying from memory that the London Boroughs Association subscribed something just under £1 million to London-wide projects in the year 1984–85. The GLC subscribed 20 times that amount. Therefore if the London boroughs were to pick up all of that GLC bill—and I am not saying that they should pick it all up; but if they were to pick it all up—they would be in for something like £600,000 each. Yet there is no incentive in the Bill to encourage them to undertake that commitment or indeed any part of that commitment.

The position of the metropolitan counties is even worse, as the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has explained already. Their difficulty has been explained in previous debates, so that I shall certainly not go into them again on this one. Some of the funding that they will lose without any reasonable prospects of replacement as matters stand is the core funding which is the magnet for other grants. For example, the Greater Manchester Youth Association received core funding in 1984–85 from the Greater Manchester Council of £153,000. This attracted £42,000 from the European Social Fund—a contribution from Europe—£82,500 from the Department of the Environment, £63,000 from the English Tourist Board; and so on. If one takes away the core, the whole thing collapses.

What are these bodies which we are talking about, or perhaps pleading for? We are not talking about cultural frills. We are talking about the citizens advice bureau, the Greater Manchester Youth Association—which is the linchpin for local youth clubs in an afflicted area—the Merseyside Education and Training Drugs Unit, which trains both statutory and voluntary agencies which are battling with the horrendous drug abuse problem of Merseyside. We are talking about Dial-a-Ride, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), and other schemes of that nature.

I do not seriously doubt the Government's acceptance of the value of these projects. Their philosophy is sympathetic to the voluntary sector. They recognise that they need the flexibility and the commitment of the voluntary sector in preserving civilised standards, particularly in the large conurbations. They have said on a number of occasions that they do not intend worthwhile voluntary bodies to suffer as a result of the Bill. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, himself referred only recently in an earlier debate to the necessity of a healthy and well-funded voluntary sector.

But if that is their intention, the Government must face the facts. The bodies and projects that I have mentioned, which toil away for little or no reward in the murkier corners of our society, and others like them, are all threatened with extinction unless the Government take more account of their plight. We are all thankful for the transitional support offered to local projects. We now need to deal with the unfinished business of support for voluntary services operating on a wider network.

On an earlier amendment the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said that a scheme without money was a waste of time. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, himself said that we did not want talking shops without teeth. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will feel able to write this amendment into Clause 48 and to come forward with some additional support which will make what the clause proposes a reality. I beg to move.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I should like to support this amendment, to which I have put my name. The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, has put the case extremely fully. There is only one point which I should like to stress. It has been accepted by the Government that there will be transitional difficulties for organisations operating within boroughs or districts. As the noble Lord said, the Government have proved this most handsomely by promising special funding to act as a bridge to help those voluntary organisations maintain a flow in their services. Therefore, how can the Government argue that voluntary organisations operating in a slightly different way, on a trans-borough or a county-wide project, should not need that bridge? It seems to me that it would be rather difficult for the Minister to explain the logic behind what appears to be a great inconsistency.

I also want to stress something else which the noble Lord said. Why should we doubt that genuine voluntary organisations want to get on with a genuine job? There has been a great deal of talk about the GLC having put up voluntary organisations to make a fuss and so on. But my experience of dealing with voluntary organisations which have shown a very genuine concern is that they have wished that concern to be passed on. For this reason I think that this is a very important amendment. I know there is concern among those voluntary organisations which operate in a trans-borough or trans-county-wide manner. I therefore hope that the Minister will be able to explain the inconsistency which there appears to be at present in the Bill.

Lord Elton

My Lords, Amendment No. 80K seeks to lay upon central Government a duty to provide sufficient taxpayers' money to ensure that voluntary groups in the abolition areas continue to get as much public cash as they did before abolition for at least four years after it. The particular voluntary organisations at which the noble Lord's amendment is directed are those covered by the provisions of Clause 48. These are defined in subsection (10) of that clause as those that directly or indirectly benefit the whole of Greater London or a metropolitan county or any part of it extending beyond the area of any particular borough or district council.

Your Lordships will, 'I am sure, appreciate that the Government have already done a great deal in the way of underpinning voluntary activity during the post-abolition period. Individual borough activities are to get aid from the taxpayer amounting to no less than £40 million in over four years. Cross-boundary activities, by which I mean those covered by this amendment, are to be made eligible for grant from the boroughs or districts acting together in concert. Clause 48 provides the mechanism for this.

The concern of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness is, I am sure, that the districts will not combine in such schemes. About the boroughs they need have no fears on this score, because they already do so. Indeed, they have got well beyond the starting point. They have, as your Lordships know, appointed a lead borough, which is Richmond, to operate the scheme. They have also received an interim report from consultants on how they can best proceed. This report has yet to be considered or approved by the group, but it makes interesting and even encouraging reading. It envisages a compact staff in four service divisions and one administrative division. I noted with particular interest that one division would have specific responsibility for ethnic minority strategies and for monitoring implementation. The report further advises that there should be an all-authority committee to consider a three-year plan to set the budget for the following year.

Watching this exercise in voluntary co-operation taking shape in London makes one realise that there is no reason whatever why the same thing should not be happening in the metropolitan counties; no reason other than the misguided belief of a few influential figures in local politics that by remaining sullenly immobile they can somehow thwart the declared will of both Houses of Parliament and stop abolition happening at all. But that is not the whole picture. As I mentioned earlier, the leader of the Conservative group on Bradford City Council recently wrote to the department saying that Bradford would wish to be the lead authority in West Yorkshire. He said that the Conservative group on Bradford Council is very keen to see continued financial support for the valued work undertaken by voluntary organisations.

The noble Lord and the noble Baroness are therefore right to be concerned, but wrong to be pessimistic. In London, as I say, the show is on the road. Their anxiety cannot be that the machinery will not emerge. It is emerging already. They are, however, free to wonder whether the cash for it to distribute will also come to hand. The considerations here apply just as much to the metropolitan counties as they do to Greater London.

Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that what we are talking about is not taxpayers' money; it is ratepayers' money. That is the case whether we are talking about London or the metropolitan counties. Ratepayers' money to the tune of £663 million is at present, for instance, taken from the London boroughs by the GLC precept. Of that £663 million, £21 million is applied by the GLC to aid for voluntary bodies of the cross-boundary sort about which we are now talking. I am told that in some of the metropolitan counties, such as Greater Manchester, most county council funding in fact already goes to county-wide projects and not to the more local ones. The noble Lord and the noble Baroness may find that reassuring also. But the principle remains the same.

The whole of that burden of precept will be removed from the boroughs and districts on 1st April next year. The effect upon their finances will be exactly the same as though they had access to new resources of the same amount. Therefore it is not unreasonable to expect them to direct that saving towards the same objects, within reason, which generated it. I say "within reason" because we all know one or two instances that seem to most people to be entirely beyond reason. But they are relatively few and have relatively little effect on the arithmetic, so I will not make a great point of that.

6 p.m.

Also, in spite of what your Lordships may have heard from noble Lords opposite, there will be net savings overall on abolition. This means that the demand on rateable resources will be reduced even if contributions to the Clause 48 scheme remain unaltered at the level set in the GLC or MCC precept. That pressure will be further reduced by the transitional aid of which I have already spoken. That aid of £15 million in the first year will be directed specifically to expenditure on the voluntary sector within the boroughs, as the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, rightly adduced, and it will in fact enable the boroughs to increase their contribution to the cross-borough or Clause 48 schemes, if they wish to do so, without any increase in the rates at all.

I hope your Lordships begin to see the direction in which I am arguing. There is £40 million pounds worth of taxpayers' money which is all ready to go to the voluntary sector over the transitional period in this way, to ensure that it does not suffer from abolition—that is taxpayers' money going in support of what would normally be ratepayers' effort.

The noble Lord's amendment seeks to ensure that this amount should be increased. I do not think that it should. Indeed, the effect could be quite different from that which the noble Lord intends, and in the end it could defeat his purposes and do not a little harm. What I fear might happen if, in effect we underwrote the expenditure on the voluntary agencies in this way, publicly and in advance, is that borough and district councils everywhere would know that for four years at least it would not matter a scrap to the voluntary bodies how little they subscribed to their activities or by how much they reduced the flow of cash from the ratepayers to their funds, because by however much it fell short of the total established before abolition it would be restored out of the taxpayers' funds.

That, indeed, is the purpose of the amendment; and if there was a taper I suggest it would be a taper in the wrong direction, for it would be by far the easiest part of any authority's budget to trim, since it would be the only part in which none of their clients would suffer. It is true that the voluntary sector would be protected for the first four years, but then would come the reckoning and it might well turn out—indeed, I fear that it would—that those boroughs and districts which had grown out of the habit of supporting the voluntary sector at a viable level would not be prepared in a single year to pick up the whole of the tab that the taxpayer had left for them. I therefore admire the sentiments of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, but I think that this is a bad and a rather dangerous way of pursuing the aims which I believe will be achieved under the Bill as drafted.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I admire the ingenuity, as always, of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in presenting his arguments. Of course I accept that the Government have already done a great deal—more than they intended to do in the first place—in the shape of transitional funding for certain projects. I accept that county-wide and London-wide bodies are eligible under Clause 48. I would make no point against the Richmond lead borough arrangement, and I am very glad to hear that it is taking shape. But I am saying—and I find it difficult to go back on it—that even successful voluntarism is going to need some help to prevent a sudden slump in perfectly good projects.

The noble Lord has himself said that the GLC have been spending £21 million. I believe I myself mentioned the less than £1 million spent in the current year by the London Boroughs Association. There is a huge gap between the two figures, and I suggest that there should be some sliding mechanism to make it possible for the boroughs gradually to assume at any rate part of what the GLC was previously contributing. The argument about the removal of the borough precepts has been made on a number of occasions in a number of debates, and it seems to me that that saving is bespoken many times over, possibly in the ratepayers' interests and possibly for other purposes.

I must confess I am disappointed that the noble Lord has not really offered anything here. It seems to me there is a case for at any rate making some concession to these county-wide bodies, even though they may be expected to benefit eventually from the precept which will no longer be paid to the GLC. I should like to look closely at what the noble Lord has said. We have not voted on this during any earlier stage of the Bill, and I cannot promise him that I shall not return to the matter on Third Reading. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 80L not moved.]

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 81: After Clause 48, insert the following new clause:

("Grants by residuary bodies.

.—(1) The Secretary of State may by order provide for the making of grants to eligible charities out of money received from the disposal of land by the residuary bodies established by Part VII of this Act.

(2) In this section "eligible charity" means, in relation to a residuary body, a body of persons or trust established for charitable purposes only, Ming purposes which are wholly or primarily for the benefit of the area for which the residuary body is established.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this new clause is designed to enable funds to be provided for endowing the new trust for London which I announced in Committee on 20th May. It is not of itself limited to London, and it would allow similar arrangements to be made in the other metropolitan areas as well if there were sufficient surplus assets arising in those areas. I should say, however, that we do not think it likely that there will be significant surplus assets arising in these areas. The authorities have been in existence for only a comparatively short time. However, it would be wrong to rule out the possibility altogether, and so the clause is drafted to allow provision to be made in the other metropolitan areas if it emerges that there is the basis for doing so.

The unallocated assets of the GLC will pass to the London Residuary Body on 1st April next year. It is from the proceeds of disposing of those assets that the endowments will be made. This clause enables the Secretary of State to make orders providing for the making of payments by the residuary body to such charitable trusts whose purpose is to benefit the area concerned. The power is deliberately drafted in these wide terms to ensure that those involved in establishing the new trust are not bound to adopt any particular predetermined arrangement.

Our proposed endowment for the new trust for London will be new money for the voluntary sector in London. In addition to this initial endowment of f 10 million coming from the GLC's surplus assets, we intend that it should be added to by corporate and other private contributions. So the funds made available to the new trust will build up over time. As we cannot at this stage determine the rate and scale at which the London Residuary Body will be able to realise the surplus assets which will be transferred to it, the clause will enable the Secretary of State to provide by order for payments to be made to the trust in the light of the proceeds arising.

This proposal was welcomed on all sides of the Chamber when I announced it in Committee. This clause will enable the Secretary of State to give effect to the intention to endow a London trust. It will also enable consideration to be given to similar arrangements in the other metropolitan areas, and I ask your Lordships to support this amendment. My Lords, I beg to move.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, I think we all remember very well the circumstances in which the Minister announced the £10 million. It managed to head off a revolt against the Government; but I must point out that if the body—that is, the body which was the subject of the amendment which was defeated after the announcement of the £10 million—had been set up, we should not have needed the amendments which have taken up a considerable time this afternoon and which have dealt with all kinds of aspects of the voluntary organisations, because those aspects would have been covered by the original amendment. However, it would be quite wrong and churlish not to appreciate that there is some money now being given to the voluntary organisations and that it will be extended to the metropolitan counties as well as to London.

There are one or two points and questions that I should like to put to the noble Lord the Minister. One which I think is rather worrying concerns the moneys which are used to endow these trusts. They arise, as I think the Minister said, from the disposal of county council assets, and therefore they have been provided by local ratepayers as well as by the taxpayers. I heard the Minister say on a previous amendment, "Ah, but this is ratepayers' money and taxpayers' money". This is also ratepayers' money and taxpayers' money; and it is clear, as the Minister has said, that the size of the trust will not be sufficient to encompass all the demands made upon the disposable revenue, and that decisions will have to be taken about the fairest way of allocating the grants.

Yet these decisions will be taken by unelected individuals. We on these Benches, certainly, do not find that a very agreeable prospect. Those individuals will probably be appointed by the residuary bodies, which are themselves creatures of the Secretary of State, and they will be using public funds; but they are not accountable to any elected body. This seems incompatible with the Government's general philosophy behind the Bill that the county council's powers should, as far as practicable, be devolved upon district councils. There is no mention of this as far as these trusts are concerned, and it is questionable whether a body which may be disbursing private as well as public funds will be taking the same view of social need as might a district council in a deprived inner urban area.

Institutional private donations—I think we are all aware of this, and it is no criticism of them—tend, though by no means exclusively, to gravitate towards causes which offer inherent opportunities for not very expensive promotional activity, and personal private donations towards causes which are popular in the donation-giving sense. The proposals to establish such funds might, I think, have received a more favourable response had the Government chosen to support them with money not primarily generated by abolition and outside the context of this Bill, so that the money generated by abolition would in fact have gone hack to those constituent councils on behalf of which the Government are always pleading and telling us how wonderful they are and how much they have to do. Those councils in fact will have lots to do, but they will not have very ample resources with which to do it. This amount of money would have been very welcome and could have been very well used by them.

The definition of the prime beneficiary of this clause, the charitable trust itself, is reasonably clear. What is less clear is the nature of the role of the trust. The amendment requires only that it be established for charitable purposes wholly or primarily for the benefit of the area for which the residuary body is established". The definition of "voluntary body" in Clause 48 of the Bill, which we went into in great detail earlier this afternoon, does not necessarily require a beneficiary under Clause 48 to be a registered charity; nor is it clear from the amendment whether the trusts are intended actually to disburse grants, and if so to whom.

The trusts appear to be charitable enigmas. They are set up, and they are themselves charities, but they have no purpose in statute. The amendment, therefore, does not necessarily achieve what it sets out to achieve. It could do more or it could do less. It seems to me that the beast that it establishes, if I may put it that way, may well need to be shackled.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Airey of Abingdon

My Lords, having been much involved in industry through my late husband, I beg to support my noble friend the Minister, particularly in the establishment of the charitable foundation, because I think this would give great encouragement to industrialists who might contemplate contributing in this way, confident therefore that the funds would be in competent hands.

I believe that it would be especially encouraging to donors if tax concessions could possibly be introduced, such as is the custom in America. I feel that industrialists would still consider support under the present tax laws if they felt that the money donated was in wise hands, but nevertheless I am sure that it would give very great encouragement if tax concessions could possibly be arranged.

The Earl of Perth

My Lords, I, too, welcome this amendment but there are one or two questions that I should like to ask the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Elton. He told us that the assets are to go to the London residuary body. He further said that if the surplus assets allow—this was in the verbatim report of 20th May—the Government might be able to increase that amount further. How do we decide what is the amount, remembering that part of this money is ratepayers' money and part of it is Government money? How is a decision taken? Does the Secretary of State say, "Oh, well, there have been enough surplus assets now"? I have heard very large figures for London—some £250 million or more. Will we get only £10 million out of it, or, if surplus assets allow, could it be £100 million? I ask that for elucidation, not in a spirit of opposition.

My second question is this. We are told that there is to be a fund of £10 million. Is it possible that some of the capital can be used or is it only to be the income? And who is to administer the fund? I think it would be very helpful if we could have answers to those questions. It appears to be a good start to an idea. It has the merit, which I have favoured at an earlier time, of itself choosing which voluntary organisation should or should not benefit, which is a good principle. At an earlier time I talked about something rather like the Arts Council in relation to charity, and in a way this has a little of that flavour. But how do you decide what are surplus assets, and who decides how that surplus is to be distributed? Is the fact that a certain proportion of it is ratepayers' money taken into account?

Lord Boardman

My Lords, I, too, should like to support the amendment. Whatever else the GLC and the metropolitan councils might have been, I do not believe they have been very efficient distributors of public money to charities. I do not refer to the quantum, because that has been substantial and much of it has, of course, gone to very good concerns, but much of that good work has been eroded by some of the rather peculiar distributions which have been made. It is possible, and I believe it is right and would prove very much better, to get a greater participation from the private sector. I believe that it would be possible for this new body, to which my noble friend has referred, to act as a catalyst in achieving this.

I would stress—I agree here with the noble Baroness, Lady Birk—that it must be as local as possible. I believe it is essential that such a body must be able to identify with the local community. I hope to see a much greater emphasis on voluntary contributions in terms of both cash and people. I think that the target which many of us set ourselves, and which I hope can be followed, is for private sector industry and commerce to devote 1 per cent. of their pre-tax profits to social and community work. I say that with a clear conscience, because the bank of which I happen to be chairman distributes each year—last year it distributed £6 million—to social and community projects, and provides 100 people seconded to help in such work. I say that not so as to aspire to any halo, since I make it clear that it is not my money, or even the bank's money, but the shareholders' money which is distributed in this way, but because I am quite confident that no shareholder would complain about that method of distribution.

One can give many examples of how this has been achieved. Even last week, there was opened in Brixton Road, Lambeth, a centre for the handicapped into which we put £½ million. We put that in, bringing together all the voluntary organisations, assisted by Lambeth Accord and Lambeth Council and with some community money. It is a project in which the principal donors were very closely associated and in which they watched and helped with the planning and the work. They will watch with fascination and, I hope, with enthusiasm how that develops.

It is an illustration of what the private sector can do and I believe that, with encouragement and with the sort of instruments to which my noble friend referred, we shall go a long way. Though not much more can be done in the private sector, I believe that by these means we can get much better value for the money that is contributed, and much greater and more personal value for the recipients of those moneys than is possible through the, inevitably, somewhat remote mechanism that is operated throughout the GLC and the metropolitan counties.

Perhaps I may follow the point on tax relief made by my noble friend Lady Airey. One of the problems, which we find in the social and community aid that we try to give, is that there are a great many bodies which I believe most of your Lordships would look upon as charities, but which are not classified as charities for tax purposes. It is a very great discouragement to companies to find that giving money, which all of us in this House would consider to be charitable, is disallowed for tax relief. I believe that we should take a further look at the far more liberal tax regime which operates in the United States of America, as a result of which the contributions from the private sector to these funds are at some 20 times the level in this country.

One further point which I should like to make is that there are a lot of causes which are genuinely charitable and which could register as charities, but which are inhibited from doing so because registering as a charity prevents them from being able to conduct any political lobbying. I am sure that most of your Lordships, having been subjected to quite a lot of that in the last few months, would probably endorse some change in that attitude. I support the amendment.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I rise very briefly to support this amendment and also, as a member of Barnado's, I support what the noble Baroness, Lady Airey, and the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, have said about tax relief. But may I ask a question which I myself could not possibly answer? Is the Minister not worried that there will be money available for London but not for the metropolitan counties, because there are very few assets there, and yet there are terrible problems of unemployment in the north and in the north-east?

Lord Elton

My Lords, if I may start at the end of that debate—and I am glad that your Lordships are, even with certain reservations in some instances, disposed to welcome this amendment—my noble friend Lady Faithfull asked about the metropolitan districts and whether I am worried about them. As I explained in introducing the amendment, we have provided for similar arrangements in the metropolitan areas should the resources become available. So we are not preventing ourselves from taking the opportunity should it later arise. But, as I said, the resources available from this source are very much more limited in the metropolitan counties than they are in Greater London—

Lord Ennals

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord can clarify the position a little. In relation to the metropolitan areas, he said that such a trust might be established as, or if, the money became available. Surely, in order to establish one that will apply to London, efforts will be made to secure that funds are available, as he said, by the sale of land and certain other things. Does he mean that the same procedure will be followed in the other places, or will there be no positive effort to raise the funds to establish the trust?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for that interruption. The intention is that the money shall in each case, if it is public money, be raised by the liquidation of surplus capital property of the abolished bodies. The difference between the metropolitan county councils and the Greater London Council is that the latter has been in existence for very much longer than the former and indeed has inherited a well-established inheritance. So the resources in London are very considerable. I could not endorse the exact figure that the noble Earl, Lord Perth, gave but it is very considerable.

That is not the case with the metropolitan authorities, which have scarcely been in existence for half-a-dozen years. So I would not encourage the noble Lord to expect the yield of the abolition there, in terms of the liquidation of public capital resources surplus to requirements, to be very large. But I would tell the noble Lord—and I do not think I have made this clear before—that it would be possible to set up a trust of this sort simply with the private funds which we hope will, in any case, be added to the public funds in Greater London. Therefore, I can reassure both him and my noble friend Lady Faithfull that we have the metropolitan county areas very much in mind.

I can also tell the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, that the residuary bodies will have no role whatever in appointing the trustees or in appointing the trust. The Bill requires the body which is to receive the money to be a charitable trust, and it will be appointed by the Secretary of State. It is intended to draw new deeds, but to have the deeds administered by the trustees of an existing charitable trust. The deeds will be limited in their extent by the terms of the amendment, which your Lordships will see determines what is an eligible charity and directs it to the benefit of the people of the abolition area in question.

Being a charity, it will attract such tax concessions as are now available to charitable institutions under existing tax law. I am not empowered to say anything further than that, but I shall, of course, convey, the interests of my noble friends to the appropriate ears, though I do not encourage them to expect a result of one sort or another. I do not think it is possible to be more guarded than that.

I think that I have replied to all the questions which your Lordships asked. The noble Baroness made some remarks about the fact that we are paying over ratepayers' and taxpayers' money. It is a fairly small proportion of the accumulated amount, as I think has been made clear by our exchanges with the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and the clause provides that the funds will go only towards a charity which is directed at the people concerned. So they are not being defrauded of anything. What is happening is that this is being directed into the voluntary sector and, as I spent some time this afternoon resisting attempts to direct money by law into the voluntary sector, to the noble Baroness's displeasure, I hope she will find a mite of pleasure in what I now ask your Lordships to agree to.

The Earl of Perth

My Lords, with the leave of the House and before the noble Lord sits down, I asked a question to which I do not think I heard the answer. It was: who decides what is the amount of the surplus assets? After all, £10 million is not a very large figure when you think of what we are talking about for Greater London.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am most obliged to the noble Earl for reminding me of that omission and I apologise for the unintended discourtesy. The decision is, under the Bill, given in the later, as in the first, instance to the Secretary of State. I must make it clear that the intention is that this should be a pump-priming exercise. I am not saying that all, the vast proportion or the majority of these surplus assets will go to the trust—very far from it. We have suggested at least £10 million in the first instance, but we wish to review this in due course when we know what is the scale of the available assets, because that is a matter of some speculation at the moment and I think one should be cautious at the outset of a scheme such as this.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 81A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 81AZA: After Clause 48, insert the following new clause:


.—(1) The Secretary of State shall by order taking effect on the abolition date vest in the London Residuary Body—

  1. (a) the rights and liabilities of the Greater London Council under orders made under section 23 of the London 191 Government Act 1963 (transfer of land held for housing purposes), including liabilities for the meeting of revenue deficits and for the carrying out of works of modernisation, rehabilitation and improvement of transferred property and works to such property arising from major technical causes and rights of that Council to nominate tenants to housing accommodation transferred under the said section 23 to the councils of the London boroughs; and
  2. (b) to the extent that the Secretary of State considers necessary and expedient, such staff, property and equipment of the Greater London Council as are employed or used in the discharge and enjoyment by the Greater London Council of those liabilities and rights.

(2) Subject to subsections (3) and (4) below, the Secretary of State may by order impose on the council of a London borough a duty the effect of the discharge of which is equivalent to the effect of the discharge of such of the liabilities mentioned in subsection (1) above as relate to works to housing accommodation owned by that council, and any such order shall provide for the extinction of those liabilities.

(3) No order shall be made under subsection (2) above unless the council of a London borough has so requested, and no such request shall be made before the abolition date.

(4) No order shall be made under subsection (2) above unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that the council of the London borough to which the order relates intends to complete the programme of works made by the Greater London Council in discharge of such of the liabilities of the Greater London Council mentioned in subsection (1) above as apply to housing accommodation owned by the councils of that London borough.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with this amendment we say goodbye to the voluntary services for the moment and we return to the issue of housing and the GLC. When we discussed housing in Committee on 23rd May, which if noble Lords remember was the last day before the Whitsun Recess and so it was not exactly a full House, there was a great deal of support from noble Lords on all sides for the proposal that the GLC's residual responsibilities should pass to the residuary body. Even those who were not too sure about that solution were concerned about what would happen with regard to the continued renovation of what had been the GLC housing once the GLC was abolished. Although these obligations are short-term, they nevertheless involve the GLC in the biggest housing programme in the country. It may come as a shock to those noble Lords who have heard only the Government's assertion that the GLC has no housing role at all to learn that it has; it is going to taper off, but it is still a considerably large one at the moment. The Government's proposal that this programme should be taken on by individual boroughs is not realistic.

The amendment transfers to the residuary body the GLC's liabilities flowing from the transfer of its council housing to the boroughs a few years ago. The liabilities are three-fold: to renovate the homes to modern standards; to pay financial deficits which may arise from those homes; and to run a housing mobility scheme. The amendment also provides for individual boroughs to assume responsibility for renovation work if they so wish. So there is no intention in this amendment to stop any boroughs which feel they are capable of carrying out the work doing so.

In some respects the amendment differs from the one that was discussed on the last day in Committee. It was through the comments made by the Minister on the original amendment that the new amendment is being aired this afternoon. The Minister complained in Committee that we were attempting to impose on the residuary body permanent liabilities. For that reason we have now excluded seaside and country homes, the mutual exchange bureau and the GLC's statutory improvement areas. The Minister also queried whether it was possible in law to impose on the boroughs legal obligations towards themselves if they wished to take over some of those liabilities from the residuary body. The present amendment overcomes that difficulty simply by requiring that in such circumstances the Secretary of State should place obligations on the boroughs which have the same effect as the GLC's current liabilities; in other words, the boroughs which wanted to take over these responsibilities would be enabled to do so without falling foul of the legal tangle to which the Minister referred.

Finally, I should point out that there is now an explicit provision in the amendment for the transfer of staff to the residuary body, a point which I believe was also raised. Many of the GLC's housing functions have of course already been devolved to the borough level. However, when the GLC's 200,000 homes were transferred to the boroughs between 1980 and 1983 it was central to the agreement that the council had a duty to bring these dwellings up to standard. That programme of work is to be completed by 1992. This renovation obligation was not imposed, as the Minister implied in Committee, as a penance for the GLC's poor performance as a landlord; the GLC was no better and no worse than other authorities, particularly when it had to deal with some quite aged property. It was imposed because the boroughs themselves did not want the extra burden. In effect the boroughs were given a statutory guarantee that the GLC would bring its property up to standard. It was on this condition that they accepted the transfer. Consequently the tenants had the same assurance.

The new clause seeks to maintain that assurance by passing the GLC's liabilities to the residuary body and then by allowing boroughs to take on the work. Each borough would then have a duty to bring the property up to standard. The residuary body needs to be involved because it is simply not practical for the boroughs to pick up the short-term renovation work by next April. The GLC now carries out £100 million worth of work a year, but it has taken time to build up to this level.

The boroughs would have only eight months, including the Summer and Christmas Recesses. In that short period the boroughs would have to reproduce what the GLC does now. I really think that that is asking the impossible. They would have to decide which estates to renovate. They would have to consult the tenants, design the scheme, go out to tender, let contracts and so on. They would have to build up their capacity to do the range of work achieved by the GLC. A recent scheme in Greenwich, for example, involved structural repairs, installing entry phones, replacing windows, removing asbestos, renewing lifts and providing protection against fire. Much of this work is carried out by teams with acknowledged, and in some cases unique, expertise.

The boroughs would also have to establish the linkages between various departments which now contribute to GLC schemes—involving builders, architects, structural engineers, mechanical engineers, scientific services, valuers, estate surveyors—all coordinated by a project management division. If they were forced to take this on, the result would be delay in the boroughs and disappointment to thousands of tenants who have waited years for their homes to be renovated. Housing is of course an important capital asset to be distributed to these boroughs and to let it fall into further decay is a very uneconomic as well as a very antisocial proposition.

The Minister has already gone some way towards meeting this problem. In Committee on 23rd May, in reply to a question from my noble friend Lady Denington, he said at col. 425 of the Official Report that, we have the provision that in order to come to the best arrangement it should be possible for the whole team to go to the residuary body while arrangements are made".

Later on in the same passage the noble Lord said that all this could be discussed when the residuary body was in office. Indeed, this is the thrust of his own amendment, Amendment No. 81 C, which we shall reach later this evening, or on another day, which provides for the retention of professional and technical staff. With respect, that is not good enough. But I am confining my comments to housing and the GLC because Amendment No. 81C has much wider implications into which I do not think it would be right to go today.

It is not good enough for the staff because they will have no idea whether they are to go to the residuary body or to a borough, or, indeed, whether they are to be made redundant, until the residuary body sorts itself out in the autumn or even in the new year, because these things take time, as the Minister must be aware. The chances are that some people will leave and that the specialist teams will be broken up. It is also not good enough for the boroughs because they will not know whether to start planning to take over the work and staff from 1st April. Above all, it is not good enough for the tenants. They will be the ultimate casualities because, as the uncertainty continues and heightens during the rest of the year, the prospect of their homes being renovated on schedule will gradually disappear over the horizon.

Today in another place a reply was given to Questions for Written Answer from two of my honourable friends, Mr. Chris Smith, the Member for Islington South and Finsbury, and Mr. John Fraser, the Member for Norwood. They tabled Questions asking the Secretary of State whether, in the event of the GLC being abolished, the London boroughs could assume responsibility for the GLC renovation programme without that programme being disrupted. The Answer which came from Sir George Young was that it will be primarily for the boroughs to ensure that the renovation programme continues without disruption.

It seems to me as though the Government are washing their hands of this important problem. The Government are always giving such assurances but these will not really help to do the job or provide the co-ordination that is necessary. We cannot afford to wait until the London residuary body is fully operational. We need to end the uncertainty now by placing the Minister's stated intention to keep this expertise together on a more formal basis in the Bill.

In his Answer to my honourable friends, the Minister in another place said that the Government, will be moving an amendmentx2026;to the Local Government Bill which will provide for the London residuary body to take a positive role in seeking the views of the boroughs on whether the residuary body should take on specialist teams".—[Official Report, Commons, 17/6/85; col. 20.]

What it does not say is when that positive role will be taken on. Apart from the specialist teams, how will the boroughs be able to undertake this responsibility so that no unfortunate gap is created in the renovation programme?

This proposal will not saddle the residuary body with a permanent liability. I must underline that point again. The GLC was to complete the programme by 1992. It should present no great difficulty to the residuary body to complete the work before it is wound up, and evidently it is the Government's intention that the residuary body shall be wound up.

I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks that the amendment embraces two other matters associated with housing transfer orders. One is that the cost of the revenue deficit payments now made by the GLC should not now be imposed on the boroughs. They should be met by the residuary body alongside other residual financial liabilities.

The Government's proposal to transfer the housing mobility scheme to the Secretary of State via the National Mobility Office is very unsatisfactory. The National Mobility Office is a tiny organisation with four-and-a-half staff. I am glad to say that one of them is not half a person but works part-time or is shared with some other office. It has no specific London interest or knowledge. This scheme also belongs with the residuary body. It does not make much sense if it does not go there, because the alternative is to create a much bigger organisation for London; and we do not need a national mobility office but a London mobility office.

If we must have this Bill—and unfortunately it appears that we are to have it—then we should at least make the transition to the new structures as painless as possible. The home relocation programme is a major element in the GLC's current activities and one that affects thousands and thousands of people. In the case of many boroughs it will be the major GLC responsibility which they have to undertake, if this provision remains in the Bill as drafted. As matters stand, the Government's proposal for this transition can only disrupt the programme. Under the proposed amendment, boroughs can if they so wish assume responsibility for this work. It is clearly preferable, however, that the short-term programmes are completed in the residuary body. I beg to move.

Baroness Denington

My Lords, since 1980 more than 160,000 dwellings have been transferred from the GLC to the London boroughs. Some 88,000 of them were accepted voluntarily by 21 boroughs in 1980. A further 53,000 were accepted by eight inner London boroughs under a compulsory order in 1982. An additional 19,000 dwellings were transferred in various "sweeping up" orders.

In the case of the eight inner London boroughs which accepted only compulsory transfers, these took place only after extensive negotiations on guarantees set out in Schedule 1(19) to the 1981 No. 2 order. That order placed an obligation on the GLC to improve the transferred properties to the standard set out in Section 61(3) of the Housing Act 1974 within 10 years of 1982.

6.45 p.m.

In addition, the GLC was responsible for rectifying any major defects due to construction or design found in the transferred property within that 10-year period. It will be seen that the boroughs felt that their position was safeguarded and that they would not be faced with problems which they knew to be beyond their capacity to deal with. Central Government were heavily involved throughout all the negotiations. The legal obligations cast upon the GLC were included in several short statutory instruments made by the Secretary of State and approved by Parliament. It was the Secretary of State himself who imposed the obligations, which were accepted by the GLC as applying to both the voluntary bodies and those who accepted transfers only under compulsion.

In order to define the GLC's responsibilities under the transfer order, the "compulsory" boroughs went with the GLC to arbitration. The arbitrator's judgment in July 1982 gave a reasonably precise definition of the GLC's obligations. I again point out the determination of the boroughs to ensure that their position was safeguarded.

Then came the general election in June 1983, and the manifesto statement that the Government would abolish the GLC. That was followed in October 1983 by the publication of a Government consultation paper entitled Housing in London, which indicated that the liabilties of the GLC under the transfer orders would not be taken over by the Government or by any other agency and would therefore fall. The promised safeguards were simply wiped out. That is the history of the present position. It appears to me that this Government have no moral standards. They merely hold to what pleases them and discard what displeases them. The same Conservative Party and the same Prime Minister have been in power throughout and I can see no excuse for what I would call their shameful conduct.

I do not intend to pursue in any detail the financial effects of the Government's intentions on the boroughs. Ministers have been anxious to assure us that the boroughs' financial position will not be worsened; that the same HIP allocations which the GLC had will be passed to the boroughs, and that the GLC's obligatory deficit payments will be maintained and paid to the boroughs.

I understand, however, that the boroughs are not satisfied. They are unsure that their financial position will be safeguarded. I understand that they are now asking that when the Secretary of State comes to set out the next financial allocations, he will make clear how much of the split sum allocated is in respect of a borough's usual activities and how much of it is to meet what should have been the GLC's financial obligations. I know that they have sent letters along those lines to the Secretary of State. I certainly hope that he will help the boroughs by setting out the financial provisions so that they know exactly where they are and that they have the money which they would have had had the Government not gone back on what they understood to be the arrangements.

But it is the effect on the people who live in these dwellings and on the councillors and officers, particularly in those inner London boroughs which the Government have coerced into taking this property, which most deeply concerns me. They are faced with problems of structural repair, modernisation (as my noble friend Lady Birk mentioned), and rehabilitation, involving system-built blocks and high rise flats and throwing up technical problems to which sometimes people still do not know the answer. The teams in the GLC are still feeling their way and investigating these things.

The existing problems of these inner London boroughs are such that they cannot deal adequately with the dwellings which they themselves built. The housing and other social problems are such that they really cannot at the present time take on these large extra responsibilities which the Government insist on thrusting upon them. The GLC's responsibilities must continue to be maintained and its team of experts kept together—we suggest in the residuary body—until the whole job is done; and if the life of the residuary body is deemed to be too short, as I think the Minister indicated, the Government must find some other home for them.

The tenants who were encouraged by the original pre-election proposals to believe that the wretched and often sordid conditions in which they now live would be remedied within a reasonable time-scale are now up in arms as they see their hopes wither. Their anger against the Government is intense. I doubt whether the Government are disturbed by that, since these are people who live in boroughs which never return a Conservative MP.

I gave the figures for the most disadvantaged boroughs when we discussed this matter in Committee. I must repeat some of them. How can Lambeth deal with the over 15,000 transferred properties which it is being forced to take; or Hackney with over 18,000; or Southwark with nearly 24,000? Worst of all is Tower Hamlets, which will have 30,000 dwellings compulsorily dumped on it this July. That borough is so overwhelmed with its social problems that according to the Government's own research note in 1982–83 it managed to spend only 55.5 per cent. of its total HIPs allocation and prescribed capital receipts, whereas the GLC spent 102.7 per cent. of its allocation in the same period. The repair bill in 1986 only for that borough to renovate the ex-GLC stock is estimated at well over £120 million.

Tower Hamlets is so hard pressed that it asked the GLC to come in to deal with some of the decaying areas that were crying out urgently for action because they were more than it could cope with. Your Lordships will remember that that was mentioned in the previous debate. Now it is suddenly to get an extra 30,000 dwellings. The situation is intolerable. It appears that the Government intend to drown that borough with the pressing necessity of dealing with an extra 30,000 problem dwellings. All its irate tenants will be up in arms. They will be knocking on the door of the town hall, of the councillors and at their surgeries. It will be bedlam.

I understand from Answers given in another place today that the Government are now proposing that after abolition possibly the residuary body can consult the boroughs on whether they want help from the expertise that the GLC has. That is an advance, but I do not find it satisfactory.

My noble friend Lady Birk asked a few minutes ago how long all this would take. It could take some months. Will the teams still be available? I doubt it. As soon as the Bill becomes law and people in the GLC see finally that it will be abolished, surely all the staff, and particularly the highly qualified staff, will go off to seek new jobs. They have families to maintain. They cannot hang about and wait until abolition becomes a fact and the residuary body is set up and then ask to have consultations. That is far too long. Those people just will not be there. If the residuary body can undertake consultations in a few months' time, why can the Government not start those consultations now? Why not? It is in their hands. The Government would then know, and the GLC staff and we should know, exactly where they stood and which boroughs wanted help. I cannot possibly see why that cannot be done now, and I would press for it to be done.

This amendment makes provision for those boroughs which want to take on the transferred estates to deal with them on their own, and perhaps they would welcome a little advice from the GLC experts. I think that this nation looks to this noble House to secure fair play and to preserve as far as it can standards of conduct and honour. The Government are determined, it seems to me for some nonsensical reason, to place those burdens on the boroughs, perhaps to emphasise their new enhanced status; but for some they are burdens which they simply cannot bear. What sense is there in knocking them to their knees just when they have the greatest need for new strength? To me it is misdirected madness.

In the name of those who live in these transferred dwellings and in the name of the boroughs which need help, I beg the Minister to tell us that the necessary ex-GLC staff will be made available and so avoid what could, I think, become a public scandal clue to the shameful behaviour of this Government. But should he not do so, I hope that your Lordships will give very strong support to this amendment. The boroughs, their staffs and the tenants need certainty now.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, the House has heard very full speeches by two of the proposers of the amendment, and I do not propose to add another long speech to what they have rightly spelt out as being the major problems. I want to explain briefly why I put my name to the amendment. This is a subject on which we have not yet had an answer from the Government. Unlike a lot of things which we have come to at this stage, we did not fully discuss this matter in Committee. A large number of matters came up under the amendment which was discussed then, and the details which are now before your Lordships' House are very different. I think it is quite clear that Amendment No. 81C, which the Government have tabled, is an effort to meet some of the problems involved. However, without going into detail on that well ahead of time, I think it is right to comment that it really does not seem to meet the full need of the case.

What we need is knowledge now of where the decisions will rest and where the responsibility will be. We want knowledge that, for as long as is necessary for the welfare of the people who live on these estates, they will stay in some central body which will have the resources and be able to deal with the very major problems which will arise. It is just not in any way adequate to say that in the time that is given to them the boroughs will be able to cope, or even to make up their minds as to how they are going to cope, with some of these tremendously bad housing estates. The suggestion that is made under Amendment No. 81C, that they should then serve notice of what they are going to do, it seems to me still does not give them sufficient time.

What we need now is this. Here I join with the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, in what she was saying about the pledge to the people concerned. We want to see that that pledge is fulfilled and that these housing estates, which in some cases are appalling, will be looked after and that the Government can guarantee that they will be looked after by seeing that the machinery to deal with the matter actually works. I very much look forward to hearing what the Government have to say on this point.

7 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, as always, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, makes out a very attractive case. However, on analysis, I beg leave to question whether this amendment is necessary or, indeed, notwithstanding what the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, said from her wealth of experience as chairman of housing, whether it is within the spirit of this Bill.

The many-headed hydra has as many tongues with which to speak against the process of devolution enshrined in this Bill. This time the housing rights and liabilities are to go to the central body, the London residuary body, so that this vestige of GLC second-tier administration shall be preserved. I understand the feelings of the noble Baroness, Lady Denington. One senses the attraction, the loyalty and the faith she has in regard to retaining the vestiges of the GLC administration—

Baroness Denington

My Lords, may I say that that is not my intention at all? I am sorry to know, though I am certain of it, that this Bill will receive Royal Assent and that the GLC will be abolished and its administration will no longer be there. As I tried to make clear, I am concerned with helping the boroughs, which will be submerged in difficulties, and the tenants.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I heard the noble Baroness and of course I accept the genuineness of everything that she has said about her intentions. I hope that equally she will accept that I listened with very great care to what she said and to the best of my ability sought to understand the broad sense and feelings behind it. Nonetheless, the impression with which she left me was none other than the impression which I sought to reflect.

As I was saying, this time this vestige of GLC second-tier administration is proposed to be preserved in the central body, the London residuary body. However, I question whether there really is any merit in that. After all, if the housing really is as bad as the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, says it is, one wonders whether it is not the case that the sooner it is removed wholly from the clutches of the GLC, the better.

If one looks at the proposals in the Bill, one sees that the boroughs are to be the primary housing authorities. In a sense, they already are, under a process of devolution which has gone on since 1963 and which in the area of housing is not complete but is on the way to completion. The abolition of the GLC will, as I understand it, have no substantial effect upon London's housing capital resources. The GLC mortgages account will transfer, quite simply, to the London residuary body, and the terms of the mortgages will remain the same, and the old stock will be transferred to the boroughs. In this regard it is understood, though of course I am open to correction, that provisions will be made by the Government to replace the GLC role in financing revenue deficits arising on any transfer rent accounts. On this aspect, in particular, a word or two of confirmation and reassurance from my noble friend the Minister would indeed be welcome.

There is no problem with tenant mobility within London because the statutory scheme referred to in Clause 88 will replace the existing Greater London scheme. There is also to be a statutory scheme to cover the seaside and county homes. In relation to Thamesmead, the Government are committed to completion, and again I understand that they are considering setting up a trust for ownership.

This amendment is open to objection on several grounds. First, it stops dead in its tracks the process of devolution of housing responsibilities to the boroughs which has gone on and accumulated momentum since 1963. Not only does it stop dead the momentum of the process, but it also retains a rump of such functions under the control, for about five years, of a second-tier central body administration. The loading of functions on to this body is contrary to the spirit of the Bill.

Quite apart from that, even if it were not, we return to the old argument which now has been argued so often that one only just dare state it and leave it. It is that the boroughs are able, the boroughs are willing. I have received, as have all your Lordships, much information through the post. I have received information which supports the assertion that the boroughs are able, willing and anxious to discharge their functions. Indeed, they are their proper functions and assuredly they are their functions under this Bill. It is for those reasons that I oppose this amendment, and I do not wish to enter into any argument with the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, as to the moral virtues of the party to which I happen to belong.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I would—

Baroness Birk

My Lords, I do not really like doing this, but the noble Baroness arrived about halfway or three-quarters of the way through my speech when I was moving the amendment. I do not think that it is quite in order to speak on an amendment when you have not been present from the beginning. I saw her come in. I had been on my feet for some time. With great respect, I do not think that it is quite "on", or is courteous to the House.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, may I make a suggestion? I was not seeking to say anything discourteous—

Baroness Birk

My Lords, with great respect, my remarks were addressed to the noble Baroness in front of the noble Lord. The noble Lord may rest peacefully.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I would, of course, be guided by whatever decision the House reached on this. However, I have heard the noble Baroness speak many times on housing. I consider that as I am a district chairman of housing on the Greater London Council, it would be to the benefit of the House to hear my views in addition to those of the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, who certainly has had great housing experience on the GLC. I would ask the House whether or not it wishes me to speak.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, I must say that I have never heard the convention that is being suggested by the noble Baroness put seriously before. The amendment is on the Marshalled List. The meaning behind it is clear to those who understand the subject. To suggest, in either House, that one has to sit through the whole proceedings when there are so many demands on one's time is a convention that I hope never will be established. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will make her speech because of the great authority that she commands on this subject.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, it is really a matter of courtesy and taste, is it not?

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, yes, on both sides.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I thank the House for its support. I intend to speak only briefly. In particular, I should like to draw attention to one or two points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, whose speech I heard in toto. When the noble Baroness says that this great body of expertise will be lost on transfer, I presume that she includes the London Community Builders, the direct labour force at County Hall.

Baroness Denington

My Lords, as a matter of fact, I do not, because I know nothing about them. I was talking about the technical officers.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that comment. One of the supposedly greatly advantageous things about the present way of getting work done is that the present Greater London Council employs a direct labour force called London Community Builders who are both very expensive and, I believe, not very effective. All over London now, as has been said, these dwellings that were transferred some years ago are awaiting upgrading. It is also true that there has been quite selective expenditure and work done in the boroughs to which housing was transferred. There is, I believe, a little bit of playing favourites. Some boroughs have had a much better deal than others. But our concern—the concern of everyone here, I believe—is for the tenants.

The local authorities are entitled to see that finance is available to carry out the work when the GLC loses its present obligation. Listening to this debate, one would imagine that the Greater London Council was delightedly honouring all its financial obligations and carrying out this work to the benefit of tenants at a great rate. Nothing could be further from the truth. Progess is very slow and very unsatisfactory. There would be nothing to be gained by retaining this authority in the residuary body.

However, there must be some arrangements to honour and fulfil contracts that have already been let for work. I am not suggesting that some scheme that is halfway through operation should be suddenly chopped in two. That would be very unsatisfactory. There must be detailed work done to ensure that any scheme that is now in process can be completed. Then, the sooner that these things can be transferred to the boroughs, which are now the housing authorities for London, together with the necessary funding for repairs, the happier I shall be. I cannot support the amendment.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, the intention of the Government, of course, is that the functions of the abolition authority shall go to the successor authorities as soon as possible. I can reassure my noble friend about that. and I shall return to it. The clause proposed in the amendment is very similar to the one that your Lordships rejected during the Committee stage. I acknowledge the deletions that the noble Baroness has made since Whitsun, but much of the original material remains. Your Lordships will no doubt be relieved to know that, nonetheless, I do not intend to repeat all that I said in Committee. I shall assume that some of the points have registered.

However, I should like to remind your Lordships that the Bill as introduced into this House reflected the fundamental principle that the residuary body should have only a very limited role in winding up the affairs of the GLC and the MCCs and helping successor authorities to make satisfactory permanent arrangements. There is no need to give them any management role in housing. The boroughs, as it is, are already the primary housing authorities in London. They already have statutory responsibilities towards their own tenants. They are certainly well able to assume the additional responsibilities relating to the ex-GLC stock. They are also, of course, directly accountable to the electorate—all of which should be attractive to your Lordships.

As to the question of the residuary body being a temporary body, I would remind your Lordships that the intention expressed in the Bill is that the authorities should complete their schedule of work in a period of five years or less. They are, in fact, required to submit a wind-up scheme to the Secretary of State within not less than four years, under Clause 66, to achieve this. But the scheme must, of course, include proposals for continuing tasks and liabilities. They cannot simply walk off the scene and leave chaos behind them with no one to pick up the pieces. The whole purpose of the bodies is that they shall arrange for the continuation of those things, the continuation of which cannot be suitably arranged before the abolition date on 1st April next year.

Much has been made of the GLC's existing obligations to carry out works on the transferred stock. Under the Government's proposals, responsibility for managing and maintaining the stock will pass to the boroughs. It is our firm view that they will prove themselves indeed more effective in discharging these responsibilities than has been seen under the GLC. In total, the capital works programmes that the boroughs undertake to their own stock far exceed the size of the GLC's present programme. There is therefore no question but that they will be able to manage the continuing programme. Moreover, we have repeatedly given assurances that the resources that would have been available to the GLC will be available to the boroughs after abolition.

There has, however, been an important development since we discussed this in Committee. I should like to draw it to your Lordships' attention. It relates to your Lordships' proper concern that the specialist repair and improvement teams should not be disbanded as an unlooked-for result of devolution. Similar concern has been expressed by your Lordships on a number of other counts affecting professional and technical services, and I undertook to take steps to take account of it.

Your Lordships may wish to note, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, suggested your Lordships would, Amendment No. 81C to Schedule 12, which I have tabled for this purpose. I shall speak to it at the appropriate stage, but I can tell your Lordships now that its effect in the case we are now looking at will be to require the London residuary body to inquire of every London borough whether it sees a possible (not even a certain, but a possible) future need for these teams that cannot be provided for in time for abolition on 1st April, and to offer in that case to take them on, on a temporary basis, until the arrangements can be made.

The noble Baroness expressed concern that the transfer would be necessary on the face of the Bill to provide security for the staff. I think that what I have said takes care of that. I should add that transfer on the face of the Bill would ignore the position of boroughs altogether. It is, after all, the boroughs that will be responsible for renovating and modernising property. It must be they who decide what teams they need. Boroughs may even decide to take on part of a team working in their area without it ever going to the LRB at all, because the LRB is—and I hesitate to use a cricketing term again—a longstop. I gather from either the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, or the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, that that has come in a long way from the boundary since my days, but it makes it more apt as an illustration.

As I say, in any case we shall debate Amendment No. 81C when we reach it. It is particularly important not to do so now because I have already taken note of a number of views about the original amendment, No. 81C. Today I have tabled a revised version of it which I hope your Lordships will find even more acceptable than I had hoped your Lordships would find what I had originally tabled, if your Lordships can follow the construction of that sentence!

On nomination rights, which were not among the noble Baroness's holiday deletions, we have already accepted the need for the statutory framework to be maintained. We do not think that these rights should pass to the LRB, which is intended to be a transitory body tidying up after the abolition of the upper tier authority. Permanent arrangements are required, and that is why on 17th May my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State wrote to all members of the National Mobility Steering Committee inviting them to establish a working party to report on the operations and the future developments of the Greater London Mobility Scheme within what I should point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, is to be an enlarged National Mobility Office. So the half chair and half typewriter to which the noble Baroness spoke will have expanded by the time it takes on this burden.

This is an organisation which already looks after the successful National Mobility Scheme. The NMO, the National Mobility Office, answers to the National Mobility Steering Committee. That committee comprises representatives from all the associations of housing authorities throughout the United Kingdom. That means that the allocation of these rights will therefore continue broadly under local authority control. We intend that wherever possible the operation of the scheme shall proceed by consensus, and I am pleased to tell your Lordships that the Association of District Councils, the London Boroughs Association and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive have all agreed to participate.

My noble friends have already pointed out how this clause would be inconsistent with the aims of the Bill. Clause 88(1) already makes full provision for my right honourable friend to transfer to the London residuary body the rights and the liabilities which are appropriate to its temporary role in housing—for example, the right to receive payments on behalf of London as a whole and the liability to make an annual payment until 1987–88 to the London borough of Tower Hamlets for housing improvements.

However, that does not mean that anything not transferred to the residuary body will simply disappear. The GLC's stock will not go away. I must emphasise that the tenants will still be able to look to their landlords to manage and maintain their homes and, where necessary, to improve them. We have given a firm commitment that the resources that the GLC would have had to carry out this task will be given to the boroughs, and the boroughs will be there long after the residuary body has disappeared.

The noble Baroness, Lady Denington, said that there was intense anger among some housing tenants. I am not altogether surprised that there should be intense anger if they have been led to believe that matters are as the noble Baroness suggested they are. For instance, it has been suggested that the revocation of the transfer order will remove the GLC's duties to the tenants of ex-GLC stock. I do not attribute each of these claims to the noble Baroness personally, but she drew upon a well of discontent, of which I recognised the flavour, and I am drawing on it to reply.

The transfer orders only provide for rights and liabilities between the GLC and the boroughs. The duties which a local authority owes to its tenants are separate and entirely unaffected by the Bill. Tower Hamlets is not being transferred compulsorily. The transfer was agreed between the GLC and Tower Hamlets. It is not the case that they will be unable, as the noble Baroness fears, to spend the HIP, or housing improvement programme, allocation because they have now set up a comprehensive housing department, and a major priority estates initiative has been mounted by the department. As I say, the resources made available will remain the same, and the absence of the GLC will not affect the level of resources which we can make available in London.

It has been suggested that abolition will deprive tenants of a right to have their dwellings repaired by 1992. Only one of the transfer orders, which has already been referred to, contains a specific commitment to carry out repairs by 1992. In practice the GLC has adopted that date for all the transferred stock, but in any case the commitment was not to the tenants; it was to the boroughs. It would make no sense to introduce a commitment for boroughs and tenants to repair their ex-GLC stock, as it would take no account of the relative needs of the boroughs on stock compared with the ex-GLC stock. I remember telling your Lordships—and I am sure that most noble Lords know this already—that in many boroughs it is not the case that the GLC stock is worse than the borough stock; it is the other way round. It varies. Therefore we cannot have a single priority across the board.

Subsections (2) and (3) of the new clause would enable the Secretary of State to transfer these functions to individual boroughs, provided that he was satisfied that the boroughs intended to complete the GLC's programme of works to the transferred stock. These provisions do not attempt to explain how the Secretary of State should exercise this function or what criteria he should take into account in determining whether or not a borough intends to complete the GLC's programme of work. I do not think that such things can be clearly defined, as the movers of this amendment would have us believe. I am not merely saying that the drafting is defective and resisting it on that basis. I am saying that I doubt whether it could be made effective in that sense. In practical terms therefore subsections (2) and (3) are not of benefit.

The new clause does not seem to me to be the right way to proceed. It would transfer housing functions to the temporary residuary body and so prevent the borough councils from getting on with the job, which is properly theirs, of looking after their housing stock. A similar clause was rejected by your Lordships in Committee, and once again I urge your Lordships to reject this unnecessary burden on the residuary body.

Baroness Denington

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can he answer the point which I raised? If the boroughs are to be consulted about their need to have the help of existing GLC teams, why cannot the Government save a great deal of time and possibly prevent the members of those teams going in search of other jobs—because, after all, they have families to support—by writing to or having meetings with the boroughs now, and so receive an answer from individual boroughs? Some boroughs will say that they do not need any help and others will say that they do. In that way everyone will know where they stand. Why must they wait until after abolition?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for reminding me of that question and I apologise for the unintended discourtesy of not replying to it. The residuary body can be brought into existence as soon after enactment as is required, and it will then start those conversations. The process of consultation can therefore start very early. I recall your Lordships being a little restive when I said that we had started thinking about who should be chairmen and members of the residuary bodies. I hope that the noble Baroness will at least support the Government in their belief that we ought to go ahead with this as soon as possible, so that they can motor out into the field the minute it is legal to do so and not wait until 1st April, as she fears they otherwise would.

Baroness Denington

My Lords, I want the Government to motor even faster and do the consultations before abolition and before they have set up the residuary body. Do it themselves.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, it is true that this is the second time round, but I stress that the amendment is rather different this time and takes into account all the objections made by the Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, referred to all the letters he had had from boroughs which were quite willing and able to do these repairs themselves. There is nothing to stop them doing this. Our amendment does not stop the boroughs undertaking the renovations themselves.

Whatever the Minister has said does not alter the main point that this is a short-term exercise. It was undertaken two or three years ago. The undertaking was that the GLC would be responsible for the renovation of all the transferred properties. The undertaking was also, as has now been accepted, that this would all be done by 1992. In a Bill of this sort with the amount of work that is going to be put on the boroughs, and with the amount of organisation and administration that is going to go into setting up the residuary board, at least one would have thought that the Government would not have gone to all this trouble to oppose something which is so simple and just keeps this going, and makes sure that this housing stock which badly needs renovating continues to be renovated. In the circumstances, I must ask the House to divide.

7.32 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 81 AZA) shall be agreed to.

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 85; Not-Contents, 140.

Airedale, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Ardwick, L. John-Mackie, L.
Attlee, E. Kennet, L.
Aylestone, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Bacon, B. Kirkhill, L.
Barnett, L. Lawrence, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Beswick, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Birk, B. McCarthy, L.
Blease, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Bottomley, L. McNair, L.
Brockway, L. Mar, C.
Bruce of Donington, L. Melchett, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Mishcon, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Morton of Shuna, L.
Collison, L. Mountevans, L.
Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Nicol, B.
David, B. Northfield, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Oram, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Denington, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede. L. [Teller.]
Diamond, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Raglan, L.
Ennals, L. Rea, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Rochester, L.
Falkender, B. Ross of Marnock, L.
Falkland, V. Serota, B.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Simon, V.
Gallacher, L. Stallard, L.
Galpern, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Glenamara, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Strabolgi, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Gregson, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Grey, E. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hall, V. Tordoff, L.
Hampton, L. Walston, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. White, B.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Heycock, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Hooson, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Winstanley, L.
Jeger, B. Winterbottom, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Eccles, V.
Allerton, L. Eden of Winton, L.
Auckland, L. Elibank, L.
Barber, L. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Bauer, L. Elton, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Fortescue, E.
Beloff, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Belstead, L. Gainford, L.
Bessborough, E. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Gibson-Watt, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Gisborough, L.
Brookeborough, V. Glanusk, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Glenarthur, L.
Burton, L. Gowrie, E.
Caithness, E. Gray, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Gray of Contin, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Greenway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Clinton, L.
Coleraine, L. Halsbury, E.
Colwyn, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Harvington, L.
Cottesloe, L. Henley, L.
Cowley, E. Hives, L.
Cox, B Home of the Hirsel, L.
Craigavon, V. Hooper, B.
Craigmyle, L. Hornsby-Smith, B.
Crathorne, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Inglewood, L.
Davidson, V. Ingrow, L.
Killearn, L. Quinton, L.
Kilmany, L. Rankeillour, L.
Kimball, L. Renton, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Renwick, L.
Kinnaird, L. Rochdale, V.
Kinnoull, E. Rodney, L.
Kintore, E. Romney, E.
Kitchener, E. St. Aldwyn, E.
Lane-Fox, B. Salisbury, M.
Layton, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Liverpool, E. Sandford, L.
Long, V. Shannon, E.
Lothian, M. Sharples, B.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Skelmersdale, L.
McAlpine of West Green, L. Soames, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Southborough, L.
Mancroft, L. Stockton, E.
Margadale, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Marley, L. Swinfen, L.
Masham of Ilton, B. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Teviot, L.
Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Todd, L.
Melville, V. Townshend, M.
Middleton, L. Tranmire, L.
Molson, L. Trefgarne, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Trumpington, B.
Mottistone, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Vickers, B.
Moyne, L. Vinson, L.
Munster, E. Vivian, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Whitelaw, V.
Nugent of Guildford, L. Windlesham, L.
Orkney, E. Wise, L.
On-Ewing, L. Wynford, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Young, B.
Poltimore, L. Young of Graffham, L.
Portland, D. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I think it is an appropriate moment to move to other business. Before moving the usual Motion, I should say that the House will not return to this business before twenty to nine. Therefore I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

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