HL Deb 20 June 1985 vol 465 cc393-429

5.2 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Clause 51 [Power to transfer staff]:

Lord Dean of Beswick had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 81AAA:

Page 35, line I0, leave out subsection (1) and insert— (".—(1) The Secretary of State shall—

  1. (a) by order designate for transfer to an appropriate successor authority all persons who immediately before the abolition date are in the service of the Greater London Council or a metropolitan county council (in this section referred to as the "employing council") not having taken the option of voluntary early retirement or redundancy and who are under a contract of employment which would have continued but for the abolition of that council and who are wholly or mainly engaged in discharging any function which by virtue of any provision made by or under this Act will become a function of a successor authority including a residuary body; and
  2. (b) by regulation ensure that proper arrangements exist for consultation with the employing councils, the successor authorities and the employees of those bodies and in the case of both individual and collective disputes, that appropriate appeal procedures exist.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have to inform your Lordships that I am not proposing to move this amendment at this stage on the same grounds precisely as those that the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, gave for not moving his amendment. There was a good deal of criticism of that which I believe was totally uncalled for. On behalf of my noble friends and myself I should like to pay the warmest tribute to the noble Lord. His knowledge of the subject and the diligence with which he has gone about collating information on behalf of the staff is as well known as his total integrity.

For those reasons I do not propose to move my amendment at this time. Our Front Bench was asked whether we would give our view of what was happening by, I think it was, a former Member of the other place like myself, the noble Lord, Lord Maude. Let me just say this. The Minister in replying to an amendment moved by a Government Back-Bencher whose name was not down to the amendment made a very comprehensive statement indeed.

Lord Denham


Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I am not moving anything. I was asked to give reasons, and I am giving the reasons why I am not going to move certain amendments. I am adopting the same procedure as the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. It was challenged as to whether it was out of order to do that and to come back to the amendment on Third Reading. I have to tell noble Lords that I sought the advice of the Clerks and was told that it was perfectly in order. If there was a variation or something which was not delivered at the Report stage, it was possible to come back to it on Third Reading.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House may I say that I think that the noble Lord ought either to move or not move the amendment? Otherwise the House does not have a Question in front of it.

Lord Dean of Beswick

Not moved, my Lords.

[Amendment No. 81AAA not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 81AAB to 81AAD had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 81AB not moved.]

Clause 52 [Compensation for loss of office or diminution of emoluments]:

Lord Rochester moved Amendment No. 81AC:

[Printed earlier: col. 379.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I said at an earlier stage in response to a question from the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, that I was not proposing to move that amendment, and the House will recall that. However, since then the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, in response to the earlier amendment moved in the event by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, led me to feel that he might have something positive to say in terms of a statement on compensation for staff by the residuary body. In those circumstances I should like to give him the opportunity to make such a statement in the hope that it will bring satisfaction not so much to me or to other Members of your Lordships' House but to the staff concerned.

May I therefore briefly move the amendment? It seeks to commit the Secretary of State to the drafting of new regulations applicable to all staff and providing a higher level of compensation for those made redundant than do the current regulations. The amendment is a modification of one, as the noble Earl will recall, tabled by my noble friends Lord Winstanley and Lord Evans at Committee stage.

The amendment is so framed as to try to take into account the points that were made by the noble Earl in Committee. We hope therefore that it is in a form that the Government might be prepared to accept. I appreciate from what the noble Earl has already said this afternoon that the normal practice is for issues of this kind to be agreed at national level rather than that there should be several independent local schemes operating round the country. He may have another word to say about that shortly.

The Government also indicated at the Committee stage through the noble Earl that they would wish to see as far as is reasonably possible equality of treatment among the staffs of all the authorities concerned. In my belief the central issue is that compensation terms should be improved substantially and that the new scheme which we hope might be drafted should come into effect as soon as possible; hence the suggested time limit of two months included in this amendment.

I do not think that there is any need for me to say more in order to elicit what I hope may be a positive response from the noble Earl. I therefore beg to move.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I support the first part of the amendment calling on the Secretary of State to make the relevant order quickly. In fact, I hope that my noble friend, when he comes to reply, might indicate that such a regulation will be made in even less than two months to make sure that the uncertainties around this whole point, as mentioned by many noble Lords, are reduced to a minimum. Although seeing the sense of what the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, says about the need for equality of compensation, I find it difficult, on reading the amendment, to equate that with "benefits significantly greater". If benefits are significantly greater they are surely less equal. I do not quite understand that. The noble Lord can perhaps explain exactly what this means when he concludes the discussion on this amendment—unless, of course, my noble friend, when he speaks, explains it. Or, perhaps, another noble Lord may explain it. To that extent, I support the first part but cannot support the amendment as a whole, because I do not believe that the latter part really makes sense.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, has done the House a service by moving this amendment. I, for one, am grateful to him. This is a matter of great public interest, great public importance, and considerable public concern. I am speaking about compensation entitlement—the words in the noble Lord's amendment—in this particular context. Most people in the employ of the relevant authorities will have jobs with the successor authorities. For those who do not have compensation, under Clause 49, a staff commission will be set up. This is to be independent. My understanding of the idea—I am open to correction—is that there will be block group transfers of operational staff upon the existing terms and conditions, and that those recruited to a new job will be entitled to what is called detriment compensation. That is one aspect of the noble Lord's amendment.

There are also proposals, I understand, for diminution of emolument compensation. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, accepts that. I am grateful. That comes under Clause 58(3) on redundancy for those who do not secure jobs. Also under Clause 58(3)—it is a little complicated—there is compensation envisaged for early retirement. The whole question of compensation, in addition to any financial entitlement now recognised by law, is of great importance and warrants the consideration of your Lordships' House on the following issues. These all arise in context with the amendment. Firstly, there is the eligibility for compensation; secondly, the method of determining that eligibility; and, thirdly, the amount of compensation, whether according to scale under some regulation which is inevitably arbitrary, or by some arbitral award ex axquo et bono, and if by such arbitral award, by which tribunal. Should one consider, for example, conferring final arbitral jurisdiction in the industrial tribunal? I do not know, but these matters warrant consideration.

For these reasons it is important, as I say, that the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, has been good enough to move the amendment. It is equally important that any of your Lordships who has ideas on this vital question should express them. It is of even greater importance that my noble friend the Minister should let the House know what he has in mind on the matter. I do not say "anything" because I am sure that he always has something well in mind.

5.15 p.m.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, on deciding to leave Tammany Hall. It is, if I may say so, an extremely—

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, the noble Earl should get on with his speech!

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, it is, if I may say so, a far from salubrious environment for the noble Lord, I should like to get that on the record. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Dean, in his previous remarks, did not take the same decision. I remember the fine show of indignation that the noble Lord, Lord Dean, put on, at about midnight on Tuesday, when he said that, the whole of this Bill is about people. This particular part of the Bill is about the people who service people". [Official Report, 18/6/85; col. 255.] The noble Lord was extremely cross that he was not able to speak to the Motion on Tuesday evening.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, it was 10 past 11!

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, the noble Lord has had every opportunity—

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, it was 10 past 11!

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, if, from a sitting position, the noble Lord is complaining that he was not able to speak to the amendment at 10 past 11the other night, why on earth can he not speak to it at a quarter past 5 tonight?

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I was not given the chance to explain why. I was beginning to say that the Minister has made a very extensive Statement today. I left this Chamber to discuss with people representing those involved with the Bill and the amendment what it meant. They said that it did not mean anything; it has not changed anything. I shall not know until I can look at it in the cold light of dawn, read it and see what has actually been said.

I have to say this to the Minister, too. The phoney show that he is putting on is amazing. This is about people. If it had been written into the Bill that the people involved in the change in local government were to be given the same treatment as people have been given in the past when such exercises have been carried out by Government decision, there would not have been any need for an amendment on the Marshalled List at all.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I hope that the House will find that explanation more convincing than I do. The fact is that on a previous series of amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Dean, had every chance of speaking to but which he refused to speak to, I went into great detail on precisely the issues that he is now raising in an intervention—employment transfers, protection and consultations with unions and other groups of workers on how best to protect their interests as individuals in a reorganisation of local government that affects them. I believe that I did that with some clarity. I hope that the noble Lord, when he comes to read it tomorrow, will not rest on his criticism that I had nothing new, detailed or important to say.

I shall start to deal with this amendment, if I may, by taking up a suggestion that our proposals could be unfair to staff or that we could be considered insensitive to their representations or to representations being made on their behalf. We are, as I said in response to a previous amendment, fully aware of the anxieties and uncertainties that any change, however desirable we believe it to be, may bring to individuals affected by it. It is in no sense true that we have an uncaring or inflexible stance in respect of staff or that such a stance is embodied in Clause 52. We have never concealed our view that the new arrangements will need fewer posts, and therefore that some reduction may necessitate involuntary redundancies.

But it is not part of our approach, and it has never been part of our approach, to create unnecessary redundancies. Indeed, Clause 54 is designed precisely to keep the number of redundancies to the minimum possible. It is, however, the actions and the decisions of the successor authorities on recruitment which will determine crucially how many redundancies occur and how many Greater London Council and metropolitan county council staff suffer detriment in the transition.

We have always intended—and I am glad to have this opportunity to make this very clear again—to provide fair compensation to any staff who suffer involuntary redundancy. It has been suggested that Clause 52 has precisely the opposite effect in that it discriminates against the staff of some authorities. As I explained at some length at the Committee stage in your Lordships' House, I believe that that is to misinterpret both the effects of this clause and the background against which we felt it necessary to make this particular provision.

Clause 52 does not specify what the compensation terms should be. Those terms will be set in regulations under Section 24 of the Superannuation Act 1972, and, we would prefer, after consultation with the unions and employers involved. We issued proposals—and I emphasise very strongly that these were only proposals, matters to talk over or negotiate about—on redundancy terms as long ago as last November and we shall issue proposals on compensation for loss or diminution of emoluments shortly. With few exceptions—notably the courageous and sensible Federation of Management and Professional Officers Unions and the West Midlands County NALGO Branch—the unions have not taken up our repeated invitations.

Against this background Clause 52 is designed to prevent the GLC and MCCs anticipating those negotiations and the compensation regulations by setting their own terms locally. Our reasons for doing this are to protect the ratepayers from the possible consequences of irresponsible decisions by councils which know that the bills will fall due only when they themselves have been abolished and are not liable for them. Regrettably, three authorities appear to have slipped in under the wire, so to say, and some—not all—of their staff will enjoy contractual entitlements which the Bill cannot disallow.

To vary the operative date of the clause would not remove these disparities but would merely shift their incidence. Acceptance of an amendment such as Amendment 81B, to be discussed shortly, would therefore undermine the accepted procedure followed by my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for the Environment, in making his announcement on 1st March last year whereby the Government have sought to prevent anticipatory action from frustrating the intended effects of legislation. Your Lordships spent some time discussing that aspect of this clause at the Committee stage and, as I believe your Lordships recognised then in rejecting the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dean, 1st March 1984 is the only date which can be justified. I trust therefore that I have satisfactorily answered that aspect of the matter.

As I outlined, or started to outline, earlier—and I think that this is pertinent to staff anxieties—the experience of the London housing transfers, and in particular the difficulties which receiving boroughs have experienced in assimilating ex-GLC staff on protected terms into their own existing staff structures, has been one of the factors that persuaded us not to adopt the staffing arrangements which have applied to previous reorganisations.

These GLC housing staff transfers have taken place on "Crombie" terms, as provided by the 1980 regulations. The Crombie Code was drafted some 20 to 25 years ago to provide for the treatment of public service staffs affected by statutory reorganisations. The code established three principles: that the jobs of employees should be protected; that the existing pay rates of employees should be protected after moving to a new employer; and that where there are redundancies there should be very generous compensation terms comprising both lump sum payments and continuing payments. In 1980—as we confirmed in Streamlining the Cities—the Government indicated that the Crombie Code would be withdrawn. I have said that the Crombie principles and job and pay protection are not appropriate to this reorganisation, and I have shown how, in practice, we are providing measures instead which will be fair to the staff. Accordingly, the Crombie Code is outdated and is not relevant to this particular reorganisation.

There are other issues connected with detriment compensation—not with redundancy compensation—which apply to circumstances where an employee is entitled to, or has received, compensation in accordance with the provisions of the clause and is made an offer of a new job. Such an offer can, if the requisite conditions are complied with, prevent the employee from receiving a redundancy payment if he unreasonably turns down the offer. In such a case Clause 52 requires an industrial tribunal to take into account the amount of any detriment compensation, as if it formed part of the employee's remuneration in his new employment, in determining whether the terms of the new job differ from the old terms or whether the new job is suitable to the new employee.

I hope that what I have said will give some comfort to those who are suffering anxiety and that therefore the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, will think that I have been able to go some way in his direction and will not press Amendment No. 81AC.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, I am grateful for the limited support offered by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, and for what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, had to say. Perhaps I may respond to one question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. I can only say that I do not see any anomaly between the phrase: benefits significantly greater than those regulations currently applicable to local government employees and "greater equality"—not equality— of compensation entitlement between all staff affected by this section". It may be that there is just a difference of understanding between us on that point.

As regards what the Minister has just said, I do not think he will expect me to acknowledge that I have ever felt myself to be a part of Tammany Hall. However that may be, I had hoped for something rather more positive to emerge than what he had to say and I listened intently for some indication of improved terms, but that did not seem to me to emerge, though I shall of course wish to study very carefully what he said.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, for giving way. He indicated that I had disappointed him a little. I disappointed him because I am afraid that the part of my brief which might have given him joy had temporarily escaped me. Perhaps I may now quickly return to it. It will not take very long, and it may give some comfort to the noble Lord.

We accept some of the arguments underlying Amendment No. 81 AC and indeed they have been put to us forcefully by the West Midlands County NALGO Branch, who, I believe, are associated with it. We accept that the GLC and the MCC staff now find themselves facing uncertainties and difficulties which are well-nigh unique. They know that in nine months their employers will cease to exist and will not be replaced. Most employees will be transferred to successor authorities but some will not. These will have no individual guarantees of replacement jobs. For these, therefore, we are proposing compensation.

5.30 p.m.

In our November staffing paper we proposed some enhancements over current local government terms for staff in their forties. Both the FMPOU and the West Midlands NALGO have made it clear to us that the terms we have proposed fall well short of what they would wish. West Midlands NALGO have indeed put in a firm bid for the compensation regulations to provide for all staff terms akin to those provided by the Greater Manchester scheme.

The noble Lord's amendment adopts a more realistic and reasonable approach. I have, therefore, made it clear that within the grounds of prudent and responsible government, we are willing to negotiate on the redundancy terms before we set them in the special regulations. I have also said that we shall shortly issue proposals on compensation for detriment, again with a view to consultations, before incorporating them in the compensation regulations.

We have already put the New Town redundancy terms on the table. We are still willing to listen to the case for other variations from the general local government terms before we make up our minds. If the unions and employers come to the negotiating table they will not find us inflexible, but they must come soon and they must be ready to negotiate in earnest.

While welcoming its spirit, I therefore cannot recommend the House to accept the amendment if it is pressed. Despite its realistic approach it would still fetter the negotiations which I am inviting too much, and impose a time limit which, while a desirable aim, must depend on negotiations which have not yet started, and this not because the Government are dragging their feet. I hope, therefore, against the assurances I have given about our willingness to negotiate, that the noble Lord will not feel the need to press his amendment and will feel more cheerful than I left him when I concluded my previous remarks.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, because I am indeed more cheerful. I did not know that the noble Earl numbered among his accomplishments those of a conjurer. What he has now had to say is a comfort to me. I had noted the point he had made a little earlier, that proposals would be available shortly for compensation for detriment, and he has now in my view—although I shall wish to study with my noble friend precisely what he has said—said enough to cause me to feel that there is a willingness on the part of the Government to negotiate. May I associate myself with him in encouraging the unions for their part to join in such negotiations, and express the hope that, since this appears to have acceptance throughout the House, those negotiations soon result in improved terms for the staff.

From what the noble Earl has said, it seems that there is a prospect that that should happen. He has said enough at any rate to enable me to withdraw this amendment at this stage. I hope it will not be necessary to return to the matter at a later stage, but I am sure he will be the first to understand that we need to carefully consider his remarks before arriving at a final decision. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Lord Irving of Dartford had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 81B: Page 36, line 26, leave out ("2nd March 1984") and insert ("22nd November 1984").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in view of what the noble Lord the Minister said, I should like to consider what he put in his statement and perhaps come back at another stage. I do not propose to move this amendment.

[Amendment No. 81B not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 81BZA to 81BZC and 81BA not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 81BB, 81BC, 81BD and 81BE had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 55 [Information as to local government manpower]:

Lord Campbell of Alloway moved Amendment No. 81BEA: Page 39, line 18, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a short amendment, and equally I can be brief. Its purpose is totally straightforward and simple. Unlike some we have seen in this part of the Bill, its purpose is wholly self-evident from the wording. It would require the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring the boroughs and districts to give him details of their staffing levels both before and after abolition.

But, as it stands, the clause is permissive with the use of "may", which is wholly inapposite in view of the assurances that my noble friend the Minister has given to the House on more than one occasion, when he said that he intends to bring in regulations. If he intends to bring them in, why then should it not be "shall" and not "may"? There is something to be said for this because in earlier reorganisations there were considerable difficulties. It is wrong to leave this as a matter of discretion, and the proposal is that it should be mandatory to make these regulations in these circumstances. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I listened with close interest to the arguments put forward by my noble friend in support of his amendment. He played on a sympathetic chord. Clause 55 rounds off the measures we have included in the Bill to cover functions where it is appropriate for the successor authorities to recruit the staff they decide they need to meet their new or enhanced responsibilities. To that extent, it is complementary to Clause 54, which applies to the actions of authorities before the abolition day.

We have made no secret of our intention that abolition will, once the new arrangements have settled down, yield a substantial reduction in the overall number of posts in local government in those areas. But it is no part of our arrangements to cause unnecessary redundancies among the employees of the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils. That is why Clause 54 places a duty on the authorities to get on with making timely offers of jobs to GLC and MCC employees.

It also gives them a financial incentive to do so. If they plan properly and if the GLC and the MCCs co-operate in that planning process, the number of redundant staff will be much less than the reduction in the number of posts. But there must be that reduction. The noble Lord referred to the direct controls which are to be imposed on the new authorities to achieve this goal. It is right and practicable to provide for such direct arrangements on new single-purpose bodies of this kind. But it should be only a transitional measure whose value will decline as the new authorities find their feet in terms of efficient manpower control. That is why the direct controls are for a three-year period.

When one turns to the borough and district councils, it is a different matter in three ways: first, these are existing bodies with their own arrangements for manpower control; secondly, they are multipurpose bodies; and, thirdly, they employ many staff on their existing responsibilities. We can look to the borough and district councils to apply to their new staff complements the means they have in place now which aim at economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of manpower. Nonetheless, I see the force of the arguments that my noble friend has made because he said, "You are intending to do this anyway, yet you are shirking the risk, if there is a risk, of making yourself do it". If I were to shirk it it would appear that there was a risk but there is not. Therefore to reassure my noble friend I am happy to accept this amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Barnett moved Amendment No. 81 BF: After Clause 55, insert the following new clause:

("London Co-ordinating Authority

.—(1) On the abolition date there shall be established for Greater London a body corporate to be known as the London Co-ordinating Authority (in this section and Schedule (Co-ordinating functions) referred to as "the Authority").

(2) The Authority shall consist of members elected by the local government electors of Greater London in accordance with this Act and the Representation of the People Act 1983.

(3) The Authority may in respect of any financial year beginning on or after the date on which it is established issue precepts to the rating authorities in Greater London for the levying of rates to meet all liabilities falling to discharged by the Authority for which provision is not otherwise made.

(4) In section 12(1) of the General Rate Act 1967 (supplementary provisions about precepts) after the words "a county council," there shall be inserted the words "the London Co-ordinating Authority".

(5) Part I of Schedule (Co-ordinating functions) to this Act shall have effect with respect to functions relating to executive authorities, that is, the London Waste Disposal Authority, and the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority.

(6) Part II of that Schedule shall have effect with respect to the resourcing of executive authorities and other bodies and miscellaneous functions of the Authority.

(7) Part III of that Schedule shall have effect with respect to the functions of the Authority regarding financial assistance for the purposes of economic development.

(8) Part IV of that schedule shall have effect with respect to the drawing up and periodic review of a strategic plan for London by the Authority.

(9) Part V of that schedule shall have effect with respect to residuary matters.

(10) The Secretary of State shall by order make provision for the amendment, adaptation or modification of this Act or any enactment passed before this Act as may appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary or expedient for securing the purposes of, or to be incidental to or consequential upon the establishment of the Authority under this section.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps I should start by moving the amendment, in view of what has been happening! I say to your Lordships at the outset that I accept that both another place and this House have decided that both the GLC and the metropolitan counties should be abolished. That is the decision of both Houses: I accept that. Indeed in this House as long as eight weeks ago on 29th April we debated the possibility of having another elected authority to do something like those jobs. That was not carried so your Lordships decided that they did not want anything of that kind.

However, this new clause is, as I hope to explain, a rather different proposition. It proposes a different way of administering functions that are not abolished by the Bill, because the GLC and the metropolitan counties will be abolished, but the functions will not. What I am proposing in this new clause is that there should be a co-ordinating authority which would be county-wide, which I hope to show to your Lordships would be a better way of administering the functions that the Government have left than the proposal that is in the Bill. Indeed I hope to show to your Lordships that it will be a more cost-effective way, a way of getting better value for money than that proposed in the Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, was telling us recently about his great concern about staff in the GLC and the metropolitan counties. The new clause will enable him to be tested in that because what I believe is proposed in this co-ordinating authority will serve the staff of those authorities rather better than what is now proposed under the Bill.

In the past, supported by the noble Lords, Lord Home of the Hirsel and Lord Boyd-Carpenter, the Government have argued constitutionally that as a House we should not be considering county-wide elected authorities because this alters the kernel of the Bill.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

5.45 p.m.

Lord Barnett

My Lords, I note the, "Hear, hears" from the Front Bench opposite. I leave aside whether noble Lords who are now saying, "Hear, hear" would persist in those arguments if they were sitting on these Benches. But the Government and the noble Lords who have spoken in that vein are wrong on the issue. I accept that the Government and both Houses will abolish the GLC and the metropolitan counties, but they have not abolished the functions that still have to be administered. They have proposed under the Bill that such functions should be administered in certain ways. I shall try to explain to your Lordships that this is not the most cost-effective way of administering those authorities. It is not only right that your Lordships should consider these matters constitutionally, but if we did not consider them we should not have a role to play.

I leave aside for a moment the question of whether a county-wide or GLC London-wide authority should be democratically elected. I shall return to that in a moment. The first question to ask is: should there be a London-wide authority? I know the noble Lord, Lord Diamond will be discussing the metropolitan counties. The Government have answered that question: yes, there should be, for in the Bill as it stands, they have proposed that there should be London-wide services that will be responsible to collective joint borough arrangements, a London residuary body, London fire and civil defence authority, waste disposal board and there are many other boards not touched by the Bill like the Thames Water Authority, the Arts Council, the Sports Council, the Lee Valley Authority, and many others. Indeed, even if one excludes debt charges that are paid by the GLC, in 1984–85 (from now on under the Bill) only 29.3 per cent. of those GLC authority expenditures will be administered by individual borough services and some 70.7 per cent. will be administered by London-wide authorities. In the case of the "met" counties, as the noble Lord will be showing, it is much higher still.

There is no argument about whether there should be London-wide or county-wide authorities. That is accepted and understood under the Bill and accepted by the Government. Surely it is reasonable therefore to ask whether what is being proposed to be done under the Bill is the most cost-effective way to administer those functions? Looked at objectively the answer to that question, for anyone who has considered how those functions and services will be administered, would surely not simply be, "No" because what is being created is a legislative shambles, an administrative nightmare and total chaos and confusion. Let me explain why I believe that.

Since the Bill first started on its path in another place it has been substantially amended and significant changes have been made, so little forward planning of substance has or could have taken place. Now we have coming into effect the Bill and all it proposes on 1st April 1986 when all these functions and services will be taken over. That will mean that many GLC staff will be trying to perform three jobs in the period effectively from September to next March, because nobody expects much to happen in August. In that short time they will, first, have to continue to provide the GLC services and perform its functions; secondly, they will have to work directly for single borough councils or quangos, who may have appointed them to their staff; and, thirdly, they will have to answer questions and requests for information from the 31 other boroughs, from quangos and from Ministers. That is hardly a recipe for smooth functioning of the services to be handled from 1st April next year.

On top of that, despite what has been said by the noble Earl this afternoon and by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, large numbers of staff will have to be transferred to the successor bodies—or sacked as they have admitted—and the staff commission has so far played no role in implementing the transfer and shows little sign of having conducted forward planning.

To add to that, as has been acknowledged by Ministers at the Dispatch Box this afternoon, there is bound to be grave uncertainty over the future of job security in London government and the metropolitan counties caused by the legislation. It is inevitable that a large number of key staff will leave GLC employment if the Bill is enacted, slowing down the performance of functions and making the transfer of powers even more difficult.

Those are just some of the problems. There are many others. Quangos, preparatory committees and joint authorities will not meet until September. They will have a maximum of seven months to implement the transfer of services. We are told that new office accommodation will be needed. The files, computer programs, information systems, legal records and the rest, presently with the GLC, will have to be routed to scores of different destinations.

This is hardly the way to ensure a smooth transfer of those services. On top of that, proper joint working arrangements will have to be established by the joint boards involving the creation of a consensus as to which policy should be pursued and what level of services should be given among the 32 London boroughs of different political complexions in a situation where there is no mandate or guidance from the electorate on these matters. In addition, the Secretary of State will have to make decisions and give guidance on hundreds of issues relating to the organisation of local government in a situation where his civil servants have no direct experience or qualifications to do so. I do not think that it is unfair—indeed, I think that it is putting it pretty mildly—to say that there will be chaos and confusion on 1st April next year if things are left as they now stand in the Bill.

It may be said that it still would be worthwhile because there are going to be very substantial cost savings from the introduction of this legislation and the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties. That is how it was all started: there were going to be major savings in costs. That may have been how it began but that is not how it is today. The highly respected, international firm of chartered accountants, Coopers and Lybrand, have issued a very substantial report. I do not propose to bore your Lordships with the whole of it.

They have estimated that the transitional problems of setting up and changing and abolishing these authorities could cost up to £167 million. It might well then be said, "All right. It may be worth all that because of the offsetting savings". But this highly respected firm went on to show that the estimated savings, operational savings, would be between £24 million and £39 million—£9 million of that arising from not having to serve democratic authorities any more. I have always been in favour of controlling public expenditure. But that is not the kind of reason I would have wanted to give in order to cut public expenditure. I suppose you would need much less expenditure if you were to abolish even more authorities; it is hardly a case that is being made for it.

On top of that, as is again pointed out in the report, even these minimal savings exclude the extra interest costs of £15 million which it is estimated would arise from increased borough indebtedness. So that the original argument for cost savings, if that is still to be worthwhile, no longer is seen to be the case on the most independent and highly respected advice that we can have. I must say to your Lordships that if councillors took financial decisions on this basis they would deserve to be surcharged. I cannot help feeling that it might not be a bad idea and we might get better legislation if Ministers could be surcharged. I am sorry to see that the noble Lord, Lord Young, does not fancy that surcharging idea; but it may be that we can return to it on another occasion.

I believe that the new clause enables the functions that continue under the Bill to be administered more cost-effectively and I want briefly to explain why I believe that to be so. I want to make it quite clear at the outset, because I myself have adopted this tactic on other occasions, that I do not pretend that the drafting of the new clause is perfect. Without the benefit of the parliamentary draftsman that I used to have, it may be that it is not perfect. But your Lordships will be happy to know that if you agree the principle of the new clause, there will still be time, if the Government agree with it (as I hope they will) to put it into a better-drafted condition. I hope therefore that we shall not have the argument that there are some drafting problems with it. In the interests of time I shall therefore now summarise what is in the clause and the schedules which establishes this overall co-ordinating authority.

First, and not unimportant, as I am sure your Lordships will agree, there would be a single precept instead of the three precepts under the Bill—the waste disposal, fire and the residuary body levels and more under the metroplitan counties. The co-ordinating authority absorbs the functions of the residuary body and provides support services for the joint bodies and other successor authorities. It would have powers of financial assistance for industrial development and it would produce a strategic plan covering in particular land and economic development.

That is not an unimportant matter because the GLC at the prevent time owns some 12,234 properties and pieces of land. I am told that legal documents relating to ownership occupy four miles of shelving. In all these circumstances, it must make sense to have a co-ordinating authority which will go some way to deal with the kind of problems that I have identified. Your Lordships do not have to take only my view of the matter. Perhaps I may quote another very highly respected authority, PA Management Consultants. They said in a recent report: Budget preparation for all the new separate bodies would be more complex than now and will fail to ensure the effective planning of local expenditure". We are all concerned about the effective planning and control of local expenditure, and therefore it will be generally accepted that the co-ordinating authority will be better able to deal with that than as is now proposed in the Bill. And I should make it quite clear, lest anybody should think that this is just another repeat of what was said before the Bill was introduced, that many of the other functions that the Government have proposed should be continued will continue and will be administered as the Government have proposed.

They have, for example, suggested—and this will continue—that the new co-ordinating authority would not exercise (I make this quite clear) any powers in relation to development planning, voluntary grants, the South Bank, the Thames Barrier, historic buildings, sports, road maintenance, magistrates' and coroners' courts, probation, entertainment and safety licences. The joint boards would continue in London to exercise functions for fire and waste disposal, and as executive authorities they would operate independently subject to precept control and an annually-approved three-year programme. The ILEA administration would remain separate, as in the Bill, although it would be open to the bodies to work jointly if they wished.

I imagine that the Minister may well argue, "Ah, yes. But it retains an unnecessary tier of local government". But, as I explained, the Bill itself proposes to continue more than one tier, except that they are called joint boards and residuary bodies. But that is more than one tier. As Coopers and Lybrand have indicated, the way that it is proposed to do it with those joint bodies is not the most cost-effective way of doing it. Indeed, Coopers and Lybrand could only identify maximum savings, if it were continued in the way proposed in the Bill, of between 1.4 per cent. and 2.3 per cent. of the GLC's budget—and this against the costs to which I have referred!

The Government's only remaining argument, it seems to me, would be that there would be a conflict between the elected boroughs and an elected co-ordinating authority. That is the case for the clause and not a case against it; for the joint boards, if left as in the Bill, would be simple, single-function pressure groups. That is what they would be, and with priorities inevitably chosen for them by the Secretary of State. That is how they would work and we all know that that is how they would work. It must surely lead to better control over public money if the choice of financial priorities between services, within given limits, are made by a properly accountable co-ordinating authority. That is why I believe that your Lordships should support the new clause.

I have concentrated on the whole question of cost-effectiveness and value for money—and the House will not be too surprised, since I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee—because I was and am concerned to ensure that we have the best possible value for money in public expenditure. And I know the Government share that view. So I hope they will see that the new clause, as I have indicated, without offending the main principles of the Bill, would ensure continuing functions are better administered in the public interest than the way now proposed under the Bill.

I do not pretend that it would be ideal. At this stage of the Bill, there is no ideal way of proceeding. All that I am saying is that this must surely be a very much better way to proceed than the way described in the Bill. And it must also be right for members of a coordinating authority to be accountable to those paying for those services that they administer. That must surely be right, and I hope that your Lordships will accept it.

6 p.m.

When I was chairman of the Public Accounts Committee I worked closely with the Comptroller and Auditor General, a former senior Treasury official highly respected on all sides of the House, and indeed outside. Finally, I should like to quote what he said in the House of Commons Paper 313 in April of this year: The main discipline to secure value for money is intended to be the accountability of local authorities to their electors for the services they provide and for the rates they levy to balance their accounts. It seems to me that the simplest and most appropriate way to improve the value for money incentive is to continue enhancing accountability to local electors with the assistance of studies by the Audit Commission and district auditors. The Audit Commission was set up by the Government, and I strongly support it; it is an excellent body.

That adds yet a further dimension in the case for the clause. I hope wherever your Lordships sit in this House, that you will support it as being a more cost effective way of administering continuing functions than the way proposed in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Diamond

My Lords, I understand—although I do not know whether this was specifically mentioned by the noble Lord—that it is your Lordships' wish that, together with the amendment which has been so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, we should discuss the amendment standing in his name, Amendment No. 81BG. I should therefore like to speak to that amendment.

Amendment No. 81BG: After Clause 55, insert the following new clause:

("Metropolitan county co-ordinating authorities.

.—(1) On the abolition date there shall be established for each metropolitan county a body corporate to be known by the name of that county with the addition of the words "Co-ordinating Authority" (each authority so established to be referred to in this section and Schedule (Metropolitan County Co-ordinating Authorities' Functions) as "the Authority").

(2) The Authority shall consist of members elected by the local government electors of the metropolitan county in accordance with this Act and the Representation of the People Act 1983.

(3) The Authority may in respect of any financial year beginning on or after the date on which it is established issue precepts to the rating authorities in the metropolitan county for the levying of rates to meet all liabilities falling to be discharged by the Authority for which provision is not otherwise made.

(4) In section 12(1) of the General Rate Act 1967 (supplementary provisions about precepts) after the words "a county council." there shall be inserted the words "a Metropolitan County Co-ordinating Authority".

(5) Part I of Schedule (Metropolitan County Co-ordinating Authorities' Functions) to this Act shall have effect with respect to functions relating to executive authorities, that is the authorities established for each Metropolitan County under Parts II and IV of this Act (including any such authority established by the Secretary of State after the passing of this Act).

(6) Part II of that Schedule shall have effect with respect to the resourcing of executive authorities and other bodies and miscellaneous functions of the Authority.

(7) Part III of that Schedule shall have effect with respect to the functions of the Authority regarding financial and other assistance for the purposes of economic development.

(8) Part IV of that Schedule shall have effect with respect to the drawing up and periodic review of a strategic plan for each metropolitan county by the Authority.

(9) Part V of that Schedule shall have effect with respect to residuary matters.

(10) The Secretary of State shall by order make provision for the amendment, adaptation or modification of this Act or any enactment passed before this Act as may appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary or expedient for securing the purposes of or to be incidental to or consequential upon the establishment of the Authority under this section.").

A good deal of what has already been said in respect of the Greater London Council applies equally to the six metropolitan counties with which this amendment is exclusively concerned. Therefore I do not need to repeat everything. But I should like to make the case which is set out in the amendment and the proposed clause and the accompanying Schedule because I think it is of vital importance to the good conduct of the management of local government expenditure; and that is the main concern which I have.

I shall suggest to your Lordships that this amendment will remove what is the near-chaotic situation at present under the Bill. I shall explain "near-chaotic" in a moment. It will remove that near-chaotic situation and install in its place co-ordination. Where there is at the moment lax and undisciplined methods of controlling public expenditure—I repeat to the Government, lax and undisciplined methods of controlling public expenditure at this level—the discipline of compelling those who wish to spend the money to set expenditure against expenditure instead of adding expenditure to expenditure. Those who have had to concern themselves with control of expenditure—the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, and indeed there are four ex-chief secretaries in your Lordships' House at the present time, and I am sure that none of them would wish to express a different view—know that the essential way, the kernel of controlling public expenditure, is to set up a system whereby expenditure is set against expenditure, and those who wish to spend are compelled to choose their priorities rather than to look at each individual proposal on its own and to add them up.

Each proposal for expenditure made by a local authority, by one of the bodies which are concerned at present in the Bill, will be a good proposal. Looked at individually it will be a good proposal put forward by honest citizens and their advisers as to the way in which local public money can be spent on useful purposes. It will be a good proposal. You will get one good proposal, then another, and then a third, fourth, fifth and sixth; each one good in themselves. The total of them make an impossible, intolerable burden. You have therefore to find some machinery for setting one set of claims against another and deciding how far the citizen—who at the end of the day is paying for it all—would want to go in supporting the totality of this expenditure. Therefore, if he goes too far in denying himself that substantial liberty, then that important liberty which each one of us claims for himself—the right to lead one's own life by choosing the kind of expenditure one wants to incur on books, holidays, whatever it is one wants to choose for oneself—would be denied. That is so if all one's income went on 100 per cent public expenditure. The choice would then be made by others. Therefore, to protect that freedom, to control expenditure, one must provide the machinery which I have indicated.

That is precisely what this amendment provides. It sets up under the name of a co-ordinating authority a method whereby the discipline to which I have referred is installed and the body concerned has to compare demand with demand instead of adding demand to demand. The present situation, so far as the metropolitan counties are concerned, as the noble Lords will recollect, is that at the moment there are five precepting authorities; four in action, and a fifth a possibility within the power of the Secretary of State. Those precepting authorities have the power to precept in respect of six different services for each one of the metropolitan counties. In addition, they are bodies which are entitled to call for levies, to make charges and to agree voluntary splitting of expenditure. The position is that any local authority would have to wait until it had received precepts, levies, demands, charges—a minimum of six, and it could well be 10 or more—from a variety of sources before it could start to work out its own costs and therefore to collect from the ratepayer whatever was needed.

Here is a method of co-ordination which will avoid all that. As the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, made very clear earlier on in his comments, and I therefore repeat them, it is not a method of providing new strategic services of any kind. I beg your Lordships to remember that every single service which is carried on by a local authority which will succeed to the metropolitan counties' duties will have exactly as many responsibilities if these amendments are carried as if they are not. No single duty, responsibility, or right is being withdrawn from them. Not one.

I hope I have made it clear why I—and I hope that your Lordships and the Government—think that this is a far better method of controlling expenditure than the lack of method which exists in the Bill. I go further than saying it is lack of method. I say that it is a near-chaotic situation when there are so many different authorities making charges, calling for levies, demands and precepts of the number that I have indicated. Obviously if one is going to compel choice, and the art of Government is the art of making the right choice—"gouverner c'est choisir", as we have heard time and time again—one has to make a choice within a ceiling. How shall this ceiling be provided and who is the most appropriate person to provide it? We believe that the best way—echoing exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, has said in his capacity as Chairman of the PAC—of imposing a ceiling is to invite the citizens as a whole to impose it through their representatives. Therefore it follows that one must have an elected co-ordinating authority to achieve this.

I have explained why we need a co-ordinating body. I will now turn to the reasons why we need it to be locally elected by the citizenry, and not appointed. It is the citizenry who have to foot the bill and it is they who need direct access to those who are paying the money, which they do not get unless there is a directly-elected co-ordinating body of the kind I have described. It is that body which will determine the totality of expenditure involved for these various joint bodies and so on. Therefore if one is going to have a locally-elected body one will also have the machinery whereby people can use the ballot box to express their views when elections or by-elections come along.

Although the ballot box is not available every day of the week, there is an opportunity every day of the week of approaching those who are responsible for the payments, and of making representations to them. If your Lordships think that is not a very effective way of making representations, I would ask you to bear in mind what happened to the Prime Minister in Scotland, in addressing members of the Conservative Party on the subject of rating. The Prime Minister heard the response from her Scottish supporters on the matter of rates and she decided then and there, for good reasons, that the rating system in Scotland ought to be varied.

I would also ask your Lordships to bear in mind what happened when the Secretary of State for Education took the view that parents ought to be contributing more towards their children's university fees. Those parents expressed their views in clear terms through their representatives to the Government, and the Government decided that a new view should be taken about the matter and that the fees ought not to be raised in the way that had been suggested. I am not saying whether that is right or wrong but I am saying that one must have directly-elected representatives in order to be able to express a view on where priorities lie. Therefore it is an elected body that we ask for, and for the reasons that I have given.

There is nothing new or revolutionary about this; it is an established principle of the control of expenditure. No less a body than the Associated British Chambers of Commerce made its view known, supporting this method, as long ago as 12 months or more. The machinery provided in the amendment is that the co-ordinating body would receive every year from the joint bodies which wished to raise these funds a three-year budget, and would each year, having set claim against claim and having consulted the joint body, set a figure for one precept—not six, eight or ten, but one. That is something of which the local authority in question would be aware.

6.15 p.m.

The amendments contain other provisions, and I want to make clear to your Lordships that there is nothing new in the sense of creating new functions. There is already a provision in the Bill for the residuary bodies to take over the residuary functions. It is suggested in the proposed new clause that those functions should be merged in this co-ordinating authority which I have been describing. Therefore we would not be creating one new authority; we would be removing one, creating another and transferring the functions from the former to the latter. The residuary functions, of course, require a precept, and that is provided for in the Bill. This is another case where a single precept would avoid confusion.

It is also proposed that this body would have the power to prepare an overall economic plan. That is nothing new; it is what is done at present but is not provided for in the Bill. If the Bill does not provide for it there is merely a lack of provision. This proposed clause merely suggests, without having anything new in it, that what has been the practice but which is not provided for in the Bill should now be provided. My Lords, if you want to spend money wisely you must also have regard to the raising of money; and one function of local authorities is the raising of money in various ways. They have need, in particular with regard to the EC, to apply for their grants in an overall way. The EC cannot readily deal with a multiplicity of individual, small authorities. It is far easier for them to deal with a body representing a metropolitan authority as a whole. Therefore it is right that this co-ordinating body should have that function. It is also right that it should have the function, as expressed in the proposed new clause, of providing specialist and professional services to the joint boards; otherwise each body, if it needed them, would have to provide such services for itself. That would be much more costly than having these professional services provided centrally within the ex-metropolitan authorities, provided centrally by this co-ordinating body.

In short, that is what is proposed in these amendments to which I am speaking and which I shall move at a later stage. And if at a later stage the point is put forward that this is in any way contravening the proprieties of your Lordships' House—which, with respect, would be a lot of nonsense—or if the point were to be made that it is in any sense going against either the Long Title of the Bill or the manifesto of the Conservative Party at the last general election, I should be very happy to deal with those objections at that stage. I shall not weary your Lordships on that at the present moment because I do not believe that you would wish to press such objections.

In short, what is proposed is a financial coordinating authority able to do the thins I have referred to and able to impose a financial discipline which your Lordships, and the other place in particular, insist upon in our national affairs. I hope the Government will deal sympathetically with these proposals, which can be nothing but helpful or right.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, if I were inclined to be controversial—which I never am—I think I would open up on the basis that if we were in another place and acting under certain rules we could be accused of tedious repetition, because these arguments, if one looks at them, are precisely the arguments we have had on every major amendment that we have discussed. It is another way of trying to replace the GLC and the MCC with something almost the same, but marginally different.

The noble Lord, Lord Diamond, made it perfectly clear that he wants a separate elected body which in certain important functions would take precedence over the decisions of the boroughs and the districts. That is completely against the whole spirit of the Bill and if either of these amendments that have been suggested to us so far is accepted, it would be going against the decision at which we arrived on Second Reading. The whole aim of that was to remove this central power in order that the people who are really democratically elected in the smaller areas of the district would sit in the driver's seat, and these amendments cut right across that. It is a slight, minor modification which, at the end of the day, would bring us back to the very thing that we have said should go. We have a mandate to support us and a Bill which has gone through all its stages in another place, where the Members are the elected representatives of the people, to support it. I think that at this stage of the Bill it would be absolutely wrong to contemplate accepting an amendment such as this which would cut across the main principle.

I agree completely with the noble Lord, Lord Diamond. I believe that the ultimate sanction against bad control or bad government, be it local or otherwise, is the power of the voters. But I believe that the power of the voter at the level of the district and the borough council is more effective and keeps more control of the situation than it does at the level of bodies which cover this much bigger area, where one cannot hope to understand all the ramifications of the details of the smaller authorities.

What bothers me is that these two amendments have been presented to us by two of the most experienced and effective parliamentarians I have come up against in 34 years in Parliament. The noble Lord. Lord Barnett, has held high office. Of course he knows what he is talking about when he talks about money. The same goes for the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, who has held similar office. They are very effective and their very stature makes it difficult for people who have held only minor office, compared with their major ones, to contradict them.

There is one area where I have perhaps a slight superiority when it comes to the question of elections and what is true democracy. I have fought 18 elections; I have won some and lost some. I have the experience gained before the war and after the war, and have seen the whole of this develop, and I am convinced that, if it is control through the ballot box that you want, an organisation of the size of the GLC or the metropolitan county boroughs is nothing like as effective as a similar body that is made up of people who have been elected to the smaller authorities and who have the intimate contact with the voters and with the problems that surround that individual area.

Of course, these amendments are perfectly all right. There is nothing wrong with the suggestion as a possible alternative. I am not saying that they are in any way out of order. They have certain attractions if you think that it is only the big groups who know how to run a show. But my experience, in local government in particular and also in business, is that, if you want effective control over the people who are spending the public's money, you are more likely to get it if the people who sit in the driver's seat are those who come very near the point of contact from which the money is coming. These amendments take us further away from that.

I am a little surprised—perhaps I missed it because I was three minutes late in coming into the Chamber when the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, was making his submission—that no reference has been made to the amendment of my noble friend, Amendment No. 8 I CBA, which we will be dealing with later. When I read the Marshalled List and remember the debates that we have had in Committee, it seems to me that my noble friend is honouring the undertaking that he gave to face up to this very problem. If Amendment No. 81CBA is looked at it will be seen that it means that during the overlap period the residuary body can be called upon by the boroughs and the local coúncils to do the very thing that these two amendments require. But instead of the final control being in the hands of a newly elected overall London group or metropolitan county group, it would be in the hands of the people who were first of all elected to represent the people. I beg my noble friends not to produce this conflict.

My experience, which I think is worth repeating, is that, when there is one elected group having to be in conflict with another elected group, to have, this second bigger group elected gives them the feeling that they have a mandate. I found that as a Member of the European Parliament and perhaps I may say, that without any pomposity. I find that I am the Only person in the United Kingdom who sat at the head of a local authority, was 25 years in the Commons, 12 years in your Lordships' House and five years an elected member of the European Parliament. So I have experience of quite a number of elected organisations upon which to form a view. I am told that at the moment no one else in the United Kingdom has had that particular experience, if you can call it that.

I found in Europe that there were elected members of the European Parliament saying, "We have our mandate and we represent the people", who were in conflict with the Members of the Westminster Parliament, who also felt they had their mandate. This conflict between the two does not lend itself to good government at the end of the day. I strongly urge that, if under this Bill we give the ultimate power so far as the electors are concerned to the smaller authorities, then we do not cause any sort of conflict or confrontation by putting the important matter of spending money on to the bigger authorities. It is a conflict that runs contrary to the thrust of the Bill; it is contrary to our Second Reading decision; it is contrary to what the other place has sent to us, and it is contrary to what we put in our manifesto. I believe we ought to stand firm on this, and I hope my noble friend will feel that he can support the point of view which I am expressing.

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool

My Lords, I support the amendments which propose elected co-ordinating authorities for London and the metropolitan counties, because they seem to me to pull together very effectively the amendments which have been passed in your Lordships' House at Committee stage. Noble Lords from all sides of the House expressed genuine anxieties about the inability of joint boards to co- operate and serve the best interests of the whole of a county area in a great city.

The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, spoke as though no amendments had been carried in your Lordships' House. I am bound to say that I have found the lack of response from the Government to reasoned arguments very disappointing indeed. The noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, kindly responded to what I said at the Second Reading by promising to listen very carefully to what was said. I gladly acknowledge his readiness to listen, but that was not quite the point that I have tried to make. In fact I have looked up Hansard to see just what I did say to which he made that response. Here it is. I said: It concerns me very much that … the Government hear these points about the importance of an over-view made repeatedly from many sides, … but they do not seem to go beyond listening to any response to the points that we make." [Official Report, 15/4/85; col. 486.] I went on to say that I hoped Government Ministers would, enter with much more seriousness into the real debate on the merits of the case". I say that again today. Frankly, I find it difficult to understand why the Government do not reach out to meet us on these amendments. Their case is against wasteful, erratic government stepping over the lines of what is appropriate to local government. This proposal for elected co-ordinating bodies in contained within strictly limited tasks and powers. It restores direct democratic accountability.

6.30 p.m.

In these debates it has been very important for the distinct case for the metropolitan counties to be heard as well as that of London. In particular, no one has disputed the point that we have put about the reality, certainly of the county of Merseyside. With us, the county council has won general acclaim on all sides for its achievements during these 10 years and I concentrate for two minutes more on two areas: economic development and the securing of funds from the European Community.

I talk frequently with employers about stimulating economic development in Merseyside. They acknowledge the valuable role that the county plays as a catalyst and innovator between the private sector, the community and public resources. Without a central body to act as a point of contact for potential developers, the problems and delays incurred in dealing with five district councils would be a major disincentive to industry and commerce.

Finally, I come to the connection with Europe. In 10 years, £68 million has come to Merseyside from the European Commission and the European Investment Bank. When I was still chairman of the Area Manpower Board for Merseyside of the MSC, we were involved in discussions last year about an integrated development operations study. This would bring substantial further funds. The Commission requires one authority to oversee the implementation of the policies defined in the study. I believe that such an authority needs to have responsibility for the whole of Merseyside, or the whole of a county area over a great city, and I believe that it should be an elected body.

Lord Boothby

My Lords, in rising to deliver the briefest speech that I have ever made in Parliament, and as one who has sat in Parliament for quite a long time, I want only to say that I sincerely hope that your Lordships will pass this amendment because, after studying the terms of the amendment and listening to the speeches with great care, I am convinced that if it is not passed the government of London will very soon be reduced to a disorderly shambles. I can see no other way.

The Earl of Perth

My Lords, this is the Report stage of the Bill, and I must say that in a Report stage it is unusual, to say the least, to introduce such a revolutionary proposal as we find in these amendments. I may be wrong, but my own reading of what happens is that in a Report stage one does not do something like this; rather could it be in the Committee stage or not at all. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, who said that in the event that the amendment was passed, we would probably have to change the Long Title of the Bill. I think that that is right. I may have misheard him, but if I may look at the Title of the Bill it states that—

Lord Diamond

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl. The difficulty at that end of the House—as I have been told over the past three years, but we have been unable to get it altered—is that nobody there can hear adequately what is being said from these Benches. I apologise to the noble Earl. I said precisely the opposite and I draw the noble Earl's attention to the Title of the Bill, where it states: to transfer their functions to the local authorities in their areas and, in some cases, to other bodies". It is quite within the Title of the Bill.

The Earl of Perth

My Lords, it is a matter of opinion, but I thank the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, for explaining his view. But the whole purpose of this Bill, as I understand it, is to transfer the authorities' functions to the local authorities in their areas. Again—and this is a very worrying point—the purpose of the Bill as I read it, and I remember well saying this on Second Reading, is to abolish a tier of government. This amendment does not do that. It continues a tier of government, with certain less great powers than exist now, but with other new ones which are perhaps even wider than before. Strategic planning is to be handled in that way, as is economic development. Perhaps these functions are already with the GLC and the metropolitan councils, but the powers are certainly very wide. This would be an elected tier of government when, as I understand it, the spirit of the whole of this Bill is to get rid of a tier of government.

I recall very well saying at Second Reading that the reason why I spoke, apart from the fact that I was very often in London and was born here, was that I hoped that the Government would take encouragement to do the same thing for Scotland; namely, to abolish the third tier of government there. But this amendment does nothing of the kind. It reiterates a form of government which is to be elected and which will have power of precept. I do not know what that is, if it is not a third tier of government.

So I feel that this is a very worrying amendment. It is worrying to come up at Report stage and it is worrying as a general constitutional issue, shall not get into a constitutional argument, because others may be more able to do that. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, who talked about the proprieties of your Lordships' House. So far as I am concerned, the very fact that the amendment has been allowed to be tabled is enough, but I suspect that before it was allowed it must have been something which was very long debated by those who do, or do not, accept amendments.

I say to my fellow Cross-Benchers that here we have a very real function; that is, when there is a political issue, and this is clearly a political issue—Conservatives on one side and Labour, Liberals or, perhaps, Alliance on the other—we have to judge the proprieties of what should, or should not, be allowed and it worries me very much to find at this very late stage the proposal that there should be a third tier of government elected, with powers of precept and so on. So I feel that we should not accept the amendment.

Lord Thorneycroft

My Lords, I rise simply to say that I find myself very much in agreement with the speech which has been made by the noble Earl, Lord Perth. I see the arguments. I thought that they were put with great skill by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, and I must confess that I feel a conservative—always unorthodox, perhaps—respect and affection for the right reverend Prelate. There is force in his argument. There is a case for a tier there. There is a case in a great city like Liverpool for having some overall body of that character. Quite obviously, it is the case, and it is a case that is, can be and has been, by him, powerfully argued.

It has, however, been rejected and we have to accept that it has been rejected. I do not think that democratic discussion is very usefully carried on, if we go on talking as though things have not happened which manifestly have happened. I stand here and I am far from saying that the decision was inevitably a right one. I can well understand other arguments. No one with any knowledge of public affairs in this country would utterly dismiss the case for some tier of government in that area. But once the decision has been made, surely the right thing for us is to accept that decision and to direct our minds, our energies and, if possible, our amendments to how to deal with that situation; how to make the best of a new structure for local government.

My objection is not to the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, who put his case with his usual skill, but to the fact that they are outdated. We have passed that point altogether in the Bill. Little purpose is served by going on in stage after stage arguing as though we were talking about a Second Reading. It does little credit to us and it does little credit to your Lordships' House. The purpose of your Lordships' House is to try to take situations as they develop and then try to improve upon the situation in which we find ourselves. I therefore urge your Lordships not to accept the amendment.

Lord Sandford

My Lords, I think the House will have been intrigued by the late entry into the debate on these two amendments by two former Labour Chief Secretaries. Each of them described their main motive as being that of controlling public expenditure. Each of them preached us quite considerable sermons on the importance of that. I personally would have been more convinced by what each of them had to say if, when they had the power to influence the party opposite, they had so preached those sermons that when the Labour Party gained power in the GLC we were not—we Londoners in particular—faced with the exorbitant precepts under which we have all suffered these past two or three years. A failure to control public expenditure more flagrant than the one we have all experienced under the GLC is hard to conceive of.

There are a number of other reasons why I think this amendment should be firmly rejected. Most of them have been given already so I need not spend very long on them. One reason is that in subsection (2) of each amendment we are asked to vote in favour of an elected authority. That has already been firmly rejected by this House. Secondly, we are asked to vote in favour of a multi-purpose authority. That, too, has been rejected quite firmly by the House.

I shall not go into detail but I shall dwell for a moment on subsection (8) of each of the two amendments which relates to planning, a matter in which I have a particular personal concern. What is set out in Part IV of the schedules that follow from the amendments which we are now considering is palpably incompatible with all that we have already settled about the preparation of unitary development plans by the individual boroughs. As the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said, to introduce broad brush amendments at the Report stage which would need enormous consequential amendments at the only remaining stage, is, I should have thought, a complete abuse of the procedures of the House. For all those reasons I suggest to the House that this amendment and Amendment No. 81BG should be firmly resisted.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, perhaps I may start—it is a necessary exercise—by reminding your Lordships of what are the effects of the Bill as it is now drafted, because it is these effects that the noble Lord's amendments are designed to change, and to change, as my noble friend Lord Sandford, has just said, fundamentally at a late stage in their preparation.

The Bill affects both London and the metropolitan counties. In London it abolishes the GLC and transfers most of its functions to the London borough councils. There will be two statutory joint authorities in London—one for fire and civil defence and, on your Lordships' decision in Committee, which I have not asked your Lordships to reverse on Report, one for waste disposal. They will be composed of elected borough councillors. Those councillors will be appointed by their councils to represent the interests of those councils and the electorates of those councils. There will also be one directly elected authority in the shape of ILEA, and again I have not asked your Lordships to revise your opinion of the future of that body.

These authorities will be freestanding and will decide their own policy and arrangements, subject to the precautionary power to prevent the birth of a new sprawling bureaucracy that the Secretary of State will have for their first three years only. I do not see in that the labyrinthine economic maze which the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, said would militate against the efficient control of money. As for planning, it will become a borough responsibility although the Secretary of State will issue strategic guidance.

As I told your Lordships when we debated Clause 3, I shall bring forward an amendment on Third Reading providing for a committee of London boroughs to advise the Secretary of State and the authorities on planning issues. I had the clear impression in Committee that this was something which was welcomed not only by my noble friend Lord Sandford, who is the most eminent practitioner in this field among my noble friends and who is chairman of the South-East Regional Planning Conference, but by your Lordships' Committee as a whole.

These arrangements would walk through that like a cow walking through a cucumber frame. There will be continuing liabilities for debt and pensions as well as a fairly considerable surplus of property to be dealt with after abolition. I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, in that regard. There is much work to be done before abolition. Not all of it will be done—we acknowledge that—but the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, makes two errors, if I may respectfully say so. He exaggerates the difficulty and he ignores the remedy.

He exaggerates the difficulty by, for instance, suggesting that the staff commission has been sitting on its hands. It has not; it has already sent out six circulars and put the ring fencing around the transfer posts that are vital to the protection of the interests of the people who work for the abolition authorities. If the noble Lord wants them to make faster progress, as we do, then the thing he could do which I would welcome most would be to go out and tell his friends of the same political persuasion in the trade union movement to enter now into constructive discussion.

The noble Lord ignores the remedy having convinced, I regret, the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, of the immensity of the difficulties; he ignores the remedy by failing to acknowledge the key role of the residuary bodies, boards to which, your Lordships have noted, we are already getting ready to make appointments when the Bill reaches the statute book. There are residuary bodies in each abolition area. In London, it is the London Residuary Body. That is a temporary body with an expected life span of five years—five years to complete the allocations which the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, found so impossible to resolve in six, eight or nine months.

In later amendments, in answer to your Lordships' clearly expressed concerns, I shall be proposing to strengthen and clarify the residuary bodies' roles specifically for the purpose of preserving intact concentrations of skill that cannot be catered for before the abolition date. In an amendment which again I have not asked your Lordships to reverse, your Lordships have also added to those functions responsibility for most highways and traffic functions. The rest goes to the boroughs, which will no longer have to support the GLC through precepts which this year, I ask your Lordships to note, reached the level of £663 million.

Those are the arrangements for London. For the metropolitan county councils the arrangements we propose are similar but there will also be joint authorities for police and passenger transport as well as fire and civil defence. Following what I believe to be the custom of the House, we have also left in the Bill amendments put in by your Lordships against our advice, to provide a joint authority for waste disposal and for highways functions to go to passenger transport joint authorities.

Although, as in London, those joint authorities will be free-standing, they will, as in London, have very clear links with the districts. The districts will appoint their members and the members will be recallable by the districts and be answerable through them to ratepayers and to electors. On this matter also the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, needs a correction. No—I mean the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. I am confused. I do not know what has gone wrong with my direction-finding mechanism, but I am sure that from the tone of the remarks to which I reply noble Lords will know from which direction they came.

Having a single-purpose authority for one service and other authorities for other purposes is not to have more than one tier of government. But having a co-ordinating authority to which other authorities are subservient and have to pay precept is more than one tier, as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, pointed out. The residuary bodies will not take their decisions in isolation. It is the borough and district members who will take the decisions. They will, for example take the important decision on the level of precept in the light of their knowledge as borough or district councillors. I refer also to the joint authorities. It is the joint authorities which are composed of councillors who can be recalled by the councils which put them there and who can be replaced by other councillors if they do not do what that council wants them to do in the division lobbies, as it were. They are answerable, therefore, to the electorate who put those councils into office. I must say, for the reassurance of my noble friends, that they will be subject, under Clause 84, to the same temporary manpower constraints as will their London counterparts.

In both London and the metropolitan counties, we expect those authorities to make the most economic and efficient arrangements that they can. In many cases this will mean servicing by one of the constituent councils. Indeed, we have amended Clause 34 to encourage this, by providing that joint authorities shall have regard to the desirability of appointing the chief executive of one of the districts as their clerk.

That in a nutshell is our policy on the main issues touched upon by these amendments. It serves as a timely reminder of why we are all here. We are all here because the GLC and the MCCs have proved throughout their existence—and increasingly in recent years—to be superfluous and therefore expensive and inefficient organs of local government. These abolition councils are corporate bodies. They are elected as London or county-wide authorities. They have the power to issue precepts upon all other elected local authorities in their areas.

Much of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, in his speech was not unfamiliar because he was addressing himself to a theme to which your Lordships have returned rather more often than some noble Lords might wish. The same is true of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. I noted one familiar theme, when reference was made to the report of Coopers and Lybrand. The noble Lord, Lord Barnett, sought to convince your Lordships that any idea of making a saving as a result of this Bill was illusary. As the noble Lord said, the consultants have been at work for the GLC, and your Lordships may have seen the result on the banners outside County Hall. The numbers shown on that banner are only a small part of the story to be found in the report the consultants sent to the GLC. I remind noble Lords of one or two other passages in the report which the noble Lord did not, I think, quote: Annual savings in operating costs could be made. We estimate them as being between £24 million and £39 million per year, depending on the level of co-operation from and between the successor authorities".

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

He said that, my Lords.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for saying it. I should like to repeat it and add that those are annual savings and that the costs to which he referred were one-off costs. The Coopers and Lybrand report went on to state: The GLC is currently in a position whereby without structural change a proportion of the operating savings could be obtained by improved internal efficiency including, for example, a reduction in overmanning". Coopers and Lybrand are saying in effect that the GLC is an inefficient organisation; that some of its failings could be put right, but that greater savings could be found if we abolish it. In those circumstances I find their figure, which runs up to about £30 million, and our figure of £50 million in respect of the GLC, remarkably close.

My faith in the Coopers and Lybrand report was shaken a little for a different reason. I was recently a Minister in the Home Office, and I was shaken when I examined the basis on which Coopers and Lybrand rested their conclusions. In paragraph 22 of their report, they revealed that they believe that the Metropolitan Police somehow fall within the Bill, and therefore, I suppose, within the remit of the GLC. If they believe that then they will believe that they have elected bodies governing all or any part of Managua—with which London has been so recently and incongruously twinned.

The need for a co-ordination of precepts was a theme in the opening speeches. The objective is to ensure that someone is taking an overall view of the burden on ratepayers in the area. But the biggest call on the ratepayers will be made not by the joint authorities individually or even collectively but by the boroughs and districts. They are the major authorities. In London the co-ordinating body would only be coordinating less than 5 per cent. of spending on local services. Let me repeat that. The great issue that has been rolled out before your Lordships is the enormous complexity of the accounting and the arrangements and the huge amounts of money that must not be allowed to run wild. If one does one's arithmetic on the arrangements proposed in this amendment, one finds that what would be restrained would be only 5 per cent. of spending on local services. In the metropolitan county councils—

Lord Diamond

My Lords, the Minister really cannot yet away with saying that. He knows full well that what is proposed for the metropolitan authorities is the control through this co-ordinating committee of more than 90 per cent. of their total expenditure.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I shall return to that point in a moment.

Noble Lords


Lord Elton

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord would wish me to return to it in a moment rather than to charge inadvisedly into the breach and perhaps skewer him by accident rather than design.

In the metropolitan counties the districts will be responsible for nearly 80 per cent. of spending. I repeat: the districts will be responsible for nearly 80 per cent. of the spending. The co-ordinating authority would therefore only be co-ordinating a relatively small proportion of the burden on the ratepayers. I believe that the figure of 90 per cent. to which the noble Lord is referring is 90 per cent. of the money that is wished upon the constituent councils from, as it were, outside, and not for functions which they themselves discharge. That is the only way I can understand the noble Lord's claim that the figure is 90 per cent. Indeed, I stand on that assumption.

It is the boroughs and districts who are therefore best placed to exercise the co-ordinating role. They are the major spenders. They will form the joint authorities, and their members will decide on the policy of the joint authorities in the light of their knowledge as borough or district councillors, which brings them into close contact with the electorate.

Of course, I defer to the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, as a Treasury Minister, but I cannot entirely agree, for the reasons I have given, with the line of argument he has chosen to follow. At bottom, we are not actually looking at that aspect. Your Lordships have said that there is a problem and my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft has pointed out what we should do about it. We ought not to be arguing now, for the third time round the course, on the scale of the problem; we ought to be considering what to do about it. What we should now be concerned about chopping and changing across this table is the proposal for removing, that problem, exaggerated and illusory though I believe a great deal of it to be.

7 p.m.

That brings me to the question of why we are here. We are here because these—

Noble Lords


Lord Elton

My Lords, if I were engaged in protracting the debate I would say that we are here because we are here because we are here, but I am not so engaged. We are here because of a decision taken by Government. The abolition councils are corporate bodies elected as London or county-wide authorities with the power to issue precepts upon all the other local authorities in their areas. We are here because the national Government decided that enough was enough. The noble Lord, Lord Diamond, suggests I should ignore the party manifesto. I am happy to do so. He said he would deal with it in an intervention if I raised it—so I shall not! The decision we took was that the ratepayers should no longer have to carry the burden of this superfluous tier of local government and that these bodies should be abolished. The decision was not to modify them, and it was not to adjust the way they operate or to limit their powers; nor was it to replace them with something else with roughly the same features. The decision was to abolish them. Parliament created them and Parliament has the undoubted power to dismiss them. To Parliament, therefore, Her Majesty's Government have come for an exercise of that power.

The Government's decision was accepted by another place which passed this Bill through every stage to Third Reading with decisive votes on this specific issue. It was endorsed by your Lordships at Second Reading; and again it was a decision to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan county councils. It was not a decision to replace them by organisations with the same essential features. Eight weeks ago, in Committee, not once as the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, suggested but on three separate occasions—twice on 30th April and again on 13th May—we returned to the issue. It was on the third occasion that, after considerable patience, senior Members of your Lordships' House who were not Members of this Government raised the objection that the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, sought, in moving his amendment, to sweep aside. The decision had been repeatedly taken.

I remind your Lordships of the essential features that we are committed to dispense with. They are that the authorities are elected for the whole of their areas as bodies corporate with a range of functions and with a power to precept on all the elected local authorities in their areas.

I now direct your Lordships' attention to Amendment No. 81BG so that you can see for yourselves the features—

Noble Lords


Lord Elton

Your Lordships may laugh, but I have the script and I might as well have the props. Your Lordships will see that in subsection (2) the new body is to be elected, and that it is to be elected for the whole of Greater London. In subsection (1) your Lordships will see that it is to be a body corporate. In subsection (3) it is to have the power to precept on all the elected borough councils in its area. Moreover, it is to have a wide range of functions. That ought to be enough to make my point and to make the points of my noble friends Lord Harmar-Nicholls and Lord Thorneycroft. But if it is not, there is more in the schedule dependent on this clause in Amendment No. 81BK.

Part I of the schedule gives the authority complete policy and financial control over the authorities set up under Clause 9. The amendment states Clause 9, but noble Lords possibly meant Clause 10 because I think they intended to refer to waste disposal and not highways. The noble Lord does not appear to mind, so I shall leave it as either. It is either the waste disposal authority or the fire brigade. That would be to revert precisely to the position we are now in. Part II gives it six of the support services now provided in the GLC. Part III empowers it to make grants, like the GLC, and Part IV gives it a planning role, like the GLC. If your Lordships feel that the body described in these amendments has a strong family resemblance to the GLC you will be right. The GLC is a huge directly-elected authority with insufficient functions to justify its existence. What is now proposed is another directly-elected authority with even fewer functions to justify its existence.

So much for London. But there are other amendments. The noble Lords' attempts to convince your Lordships that they are offering something new, something different, something which your Lordships have not seen before, have failed in London. But London is not the whole world. Perhaps there is something new, fresh and reviving to be found in the metropolitan counties. Is there a refreshing difference there—apart from the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal? Do their provincial proposals offer a better deal to the ratepayers in the districts than their London ideas offer the people who pay the rates in the boroughs? Let us look. We start with Amendment No. 81BG. What do we find? What we find, as all of us full well know, is depressingly familiar. We find, for each metropolitan county, a corporate body, elected as a county-wide authority with the power to levy precepts on every elected local authority in its area. The major features of this new clause are identical with the major features in Amendment No. 81BF. The features in the schedule dependent on this new clause are almost exactly the same. Therefore, with both pairs of amendments we are back to the first principles, as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, so rightly said; and I wonder whether, at Report, that is really where we ought to be. Noble Lords opposite have returned there repeatedly since the beginning of our proceedings in this House.

The principle behind this Bill is that the elected multi-function London and county-wide precepting authorities shall be abolished, not replaced. That principle was proposed in another place and accepted in this House, on a vote, by a substantial majority. The vote was on a reasoned amendment that went straight to the heart of the matter and it was overturned by 230 votes to 109 votes. Nevertheless, noble Lords opposite returned to the issue in Committee on three further occasions. I have said it before, and it is worth saying again, because that is what the debate is about. There is in this House a general understanding that an issue decided, even once on a vote in Committee is to be left undisturbed. I have been in your Lordships' House for only 12 years, but during that time I have grown to respect that principle as a sensible way, in general, of getting our business done in a reasonable time. I do not preach that gospel because it suits me. On the contrary, I have refrained from returning on Report on a number of amendments which your Lordships put into the Bill in Committee.

Therefore, I ask your Lordships whether there are not two questions to be answered now and not just one. The first is, as always, what are the merits of the case? The merits of the case have changed not one whit since we first saw the case—I correct that, they have changed in their familiarity. I see no reason whatever to think that noble Lords opposite have hit on a revolutionary new reason for overthrowing the policy of Her Majesty's Government and the stated decisions of both Houses of Parliament on the essential features which, for the sake of the noble Lord the Chief Whip opposite, I shall not repeat again. The answer to the first question, therefore, is simple. It is, Not-Content.

The second question relates to the customs of your Lordships' House. They are not sacrosanct and they rest, as do all our procedures, in your Lordships' hands. The question is, and to both questions the answer will, I believe, be the same: do your Lordships wish the custom of returning on Report to matters of general principle already decided in Committee to become more common? Remember, this is not a principle new to this House at Committee. In Committee we merely endorsed, three or four times on a vote, a principle decisively adopted at Second Reading.

I should have thought that the very structure of your Lordships' procedures falls against this way of doing things. After all, Committees on public Bills are Committees of the whole House. Therefore, noble Lords opposite are, in fact, asking the same question of the same body of people for no less than the fourth time in succession. And it is the same question. However they may highlight the trimmings and the side issues, the question is about doing away with these bodies and not about replacing them with something with the same essential features which inescapably they have in their amendments. I therefore suggest that the answer to that question too must be a resounding, "Not-Content".

Lord Barnett

My Lords, if I may briefly reply to the noble Lord and others who have spoken in this debate, let me make it quite clear, as I did at the very outset of my remarks, that I am not proposing to alter or amend, or suggest to the House that it should amend, the decision taken to abolish these councils. That was not and is not my intention. But as I pointed out right at the outset, what Parliament and the Government have not done is to abolish the functions and services, and we are talking in this debate about how best they should be managed and administered.

The noble Lord said just now that there is no chaos: the chaos that the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, and I explained in some detail does not exist. Why does it not exist? Well, there has been no problem with staff. The staff commission has sent out six circulars, so it will all be all right. There will be no confusion. There will be no chaos. There is such confusion and chaos—and I understand it—that the noble Lord could not even get my name right. I perfectly understand it. He must be more bored with this Bill than anybody.

My thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, for his kind remarks in agreeing with all that I have said and that your Lordships should support the new clause. The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, the noble Earl, Lord Perth, the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and again just now the Minister had a very strange argument, it seems to me: it is too late to do something even if it is good. It is too late. We must not consider it any more because it is a late stage in the Bill. That is the most odd argument I have ever heard. What kind of an argument is that for your Lordships? I should hope that you would reject that kind of argument out of hand.

What the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, and I have tried to explain is why it would be better for the Government's own Bill for these services and functions to be administered by a co-ordinating authority. It is surely right and proper that we should discuss that, and if your Lordships think it right then that should happen.

I am happy to agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. It is marvellous to have him with me on any occasion and particularly on this one. I sympathise with the point that he was making when he said that the Leader of the House had told him that he was listening to his arguments. He is absolutely right. The Government have been listening. Knowing the noble Viscount the Leader of the House I know that he always listens very carefully. He must have a rough job in Cabinet, mind you! But I am sure that he does. As the right reverend Prelate said, he was disappointed at the fact that even though the noble Viscount had listened nothing was ever considered on its merits. As my noble friend just said, we have heard exactly the same speech again from the noble Lord the Minister—a speech with which he is as bored as everybody else—because he is not prepared to consider the issue on its merits.

I hope that your Lordships will consider that what we are talking about here is not reversing what Parliament has done before. It is considering how best the Government's own legislation, and how best the functions that have not been abolished, should be administered from here on in in terms of cost-effectivness and value for money. That is in everybody's interest. I therefore hope that your Lordships will support the new clause.

7.13 p.m.

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

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 147; Not-Contents, 164.

Airedale, L. Bernstein, L.
Alport, L. Beswick, L.
Amherst, E. Birk, B.
Ardwick, L. Birkett, L.
Attlee, E. Blease, L.
Avebury, L. Boothby, L.
Aylestone, L. Boston of Faversham, L.
Banks, L. Bottomley, L.
Barnett, L. Briggs, L.
Barrington, V. Briginshaw, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Broadbridge, L.
Brockway, L. Lockwood, B.
Bruce of Donington, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. McGregor of Durris, L.
Campbell of Eskan, L. McNair, L.
Caradon, L. Manchester, Bp.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Mayhew, L.
Chandos, V. Melchett, L.
Chitnis, L. Meston, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Mishcon, L.
Collison, L. Molloy, L.
Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Monkswell, L.
Darling of Hillsborough, L. Monson, L.
David, B. Morris of Grasmere, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Morton of Shuna, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Mountevans, L.
Denington, B. Mulley, L.
Diamond, L. Nicol, B.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Ogmore, L.
Elystan-Morgan, L. Oram, L.
Ennals, L. Peart, L.
Falkender, B. Perry of Walton, L.
Falkland, V. Phillips, B.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Fitt, L. Plant, L.
Foot, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Fulton, L.
Gaitskell, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Gallacher, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Galpern, L. Rea, L.
Gilford, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Gladwyn, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Glenconner, L. Rochester, Bp.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Rochester, L.
Gregson, L. Scanlon, L.
Grey, E. Seear, B.
Hall, V. Serota, B.
Hampton, L. Shackleton, L.
Hanworth, V. Shepherd, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Silkin of Dulwich, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Simon, V.
Head, V. Soper, L.
Hirshfield, L. Southwark, Bp.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Stallard, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Hughes, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Ingleby, V. Stone, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Strabolgi, L.
Jacobson, L. Tanlaw, L.
Jacques, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Jeger, B. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Tordoff, L.
John-Mackie, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Kagan, L. Tweeddale, M.
Kaldor, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Kilbracken, L. Walston, L.
Kilmarnock, L. [Teller.] Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Kirkhill, L. Whaddon, L.
Kirkwood, L. White, B.
Kissin, L. Wigoder, L.
Lawrence, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Leatherland, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Listowel, E. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Liverpool, Bp.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Aberconway, L. Brabazon of Tara, L.
Abinger, L. Brentford, V.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Ampthill, L. Bruce-Gardyne, L.
Arran, E. Buckinghamshire, E.
Auckland, L. Caithness, E.
Barber, L. Cameron of Lochbroom, L.
Bauer, L. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Campbell of Croy, L.
Beloff, L. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Belstead, L. Cayzer, L.
Bessborough, E. Clitheroe, L.
Boardman, L. Coleraine, L.
Boston, L. Colville of Culross, V.
Colwyn, L. Merrivale, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Mersey, V.
Cottesloe, L. Middleton, L.
Cowley, E. Milverton, L.
Cox, B. Monk Bretton, L.
Craigavon, V. Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Craigmyle, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Mottistone, L.
Davidson, V. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
De La Warr, E. Moyne, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Munster, E.
Denman, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Dilhorne, V. Napier and Etterick, L.
Donegall, M. Nathan, L.
Dudley, E. Onslow, E.
Eccles, V. Orkney, E.
Eden of Winton, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Ellenborough, L. Peel, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Pender, L.
Elphinstone, L. Perth, E.
Elton, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Faithfull, B. Plait of Writtle, B.
Ferrers, E. Poltimore, L.
Fortescue, E. Polwarth, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Portland, D.
Geddes, L. Rankeillour, L.
Gibson-Watt, L. Reigate, L.
Glenarthur, L. Reilly, L.
Gowrie, E. Renton, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Renwick, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Rodney, L.
Rollo, L.
Halsbury, E. Romney, E.
Hanson, L. Rugby, L.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L. Russell of Liverpool, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Salisbury, M.
Harris of High-Cross, L. Sandford, L.
Hayter, L. Selsdon, L.
Henley, L. Shannon, E.
Hives, L. Sherfield, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Hooper, B. Soames, L.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Somers, L.
Hunter of Newington, L. Southborough, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Kimball, L. Swansea, L.
Kinnaird, L. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Kinnoull, E. Taylor of Hadfield, L.
Kitchener, E. Terrington, L.
Lane-Fox, B. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Lauderdale, E. Thomeycroft, L.
Layton, L. Townshend, M.
Limerick, E. Tranmire, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Trefgarne, L.
Liverpool, E. Trenchard, V.
Long, V. Trumpington, B.
Lothian, M. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Vickers, B.
Lyell, L. Vivian, L.
McAlpine of Moffat, L. Ward of Witley, V.
McAlpine of West Green, L. Westbury, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Whitelaw, V.
Malmesbury, E. Wise, L.
Mancroft, L. Wynford, L.
Marchwood, V. Yarborough, E.
Margadale, L. Young, B.
Marley, L. Young of Graffham, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

7.24 p.m.

Lord Diamond had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 81BG.

[Printed earlier; col. 408.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I sense that it is the hour for dinner. The amendment is not moved.

[Amendment No. 81BG not moved.]

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I detect that it is the wish of the House that we should move on to other business. It has been agreed that we shall not return to this business until twenty five minutes past eight. I beg to move therefore that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

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