HL Deb 20 May 1985 vol 464 cc84-153

House again in Committee.

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 136ZBA: [Printed earlier: col. 8.]

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. However, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in the previous debate referred at some length to transitional funding. We had a long debate in which many points were raised, and I should like to clear in my mind one or two matters before deciding what course to take as regards this amendment.

I understood from the noble Lord that the Government were prepared to double their offer for transitional funding to £40 million over four years. I take it that that would mean that £15 million would be available in the first year, £10 million in each of the second and third years, and £5 million in the last of the four years. Perhaps the noble Lord will kindly confirm that that is so.

Lord Elton

To save time, I am happy to confirm that now.

Lord Kilmarnock

I am most grateful to the noble Lord. As regards general expenditure under Clause 47, I understood the noble Lord to say that no limitation would be put on this by the Secretary of State under subsection (5) in the first year after abolition. If I am correct in my understanding, I should like to go on to ask the noble Lord whether that applies to one year only and what is to happen in subsequent years?

I also understood the noble Lord to say that in setting grant-related expenditure assessments and targets the Secretary of State would take into account the level of funding to voluntary organisations. Does that mean the current level of funding in the first year? Again, what about subsequent years?

As regards transitional finance, I do not think that the noble Lord's offer or series of offers quite met the second part of my Amendment No. 136ZBA on the question of disregarding these monies for grant penalty. If that is so, it is still my submission that this will introduce a very serious distortion into the scheme, for the reasons that I explained in my earlier remarks. However, in order to get the position clear I should like to suggest to the noble Lord that what might well happen is that an authority might have to pay back to the Government in penalty £2 for every extra £1 which it spends on these projects. If my understanding is correct, that would mean that it would end up by paying 75 per cent. of the cost of a project under the transitional finance scheme when it is in theory supposed to pay only 25 per cent. Will the noble Lord tell me whether I am correct about that? If so, will he tell the Committee whether he thinks that the Government might do something about that at the next stage of the Bill? In other words, might the Government themselves bring forward an amendment at Report to take care of that point?

I should like to make two final inquiries. Is it the Government's understanding of their own scheme that transitional funding will apply to county-wide bodies as well as to local projects? If that is so, it again raises the question as to whether the proposed transitional funding, even at the higher amount, is in fact adequate.

The last question that I should like to ask the noble Lord is this. His announcement of the trust fund was widely welcomed in the Committee. Our complaint was that it did not address the problem that we were trying to address in the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hayter. I should like to ask about the metropolitan counties. If the Government are to set up a trust fund for London, which, incidentally, already has some trust funds of this nature, why should the metropolitan counties be left out in the cold, or why have the Government decided to discriminate against the metropolitan counties and in favour only of London? I should be most grateful if the noble Lord would answer those few queries before I decide what to do with the amendment. In the meantime, I formally beg to move.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

Before the noble Lord the Minister answers those queries, I should like to follow up what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock. As the noble Lord, Lord Elton, knows, I am very concerned about the metropolitan counties. The whole of the debate during the course of this afternoon has concentrated on London. The noble Lord the Minister has put forward the figures of £15,000, £10,000 and £5,000—

Lord Elton

I think that the noble Baroness means millions.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

Yes, I am extremely sorry; I mean millions. Is the noble Lord able to give the breakdown as to the amounts which will go to the GLC areas and to the metropolitan counties? I think that previously there was a difference between the figures. Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to tell us the difference tonight, so that those of us in the metropolitan counties will be able to see how badly we do.

I should like the noble Lord to take into consideration what has just been said. There is grave concern about the voluntary bodies in the metropolitan authorities. Perhaps they cannot make their voice so easily heard in this assembly because most noble Lords are from the shire counties or live in the London area. There are very few noble Lords who live in the metropolitan counties. Indeed, I think that they can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and I include myself as one of them. Therefore, it is very difficult for them to have many spokesmen. Nevertheless, they are doing a great deal for the voluntary bodies. I can speak with some knowledge of the West Midlands, which only this last year spent £2¼ million—which is a substantial amount—on the voluntary bodies.

Nobody has said anything this afternoon about the neighbourhood schemes which are operating mainly in the metropolitan counties—and here I speak particularly of the West Midlands—and which have the support of what the Minister would call "private funds". I give as an example the Cadbury family, a family who not only give very generously of their money; the directors, in the old Cadbury tradition, also participate in some very small pioneering activities. They concentrate in the main on what they call "neighbourhood fostering". They start off groups and give them initial funding which continues for about three years. The West Midlands counties have concentrated on neighbourhood funding. The neighbourhood funding has, in the main, been spent on ethnic minorities—on Indian ladies, on the provision of language lessons and matters of that nature. It has concentrated on all the various ethnic minorities. It has helped considerably with the integration of our coloured friends in the West Midlands. That is a matter which has to be considered quite seriously if we want harmony between all the various races.

Therefore, to follow up what the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, has said, I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will be able to give some encouragement to the metropolitan counties; perhaps as much as he has given to London this afternoon.

Viscount Buckmaster

We are now considering transitional funding for borough-based groups. Perhaps I may give two examples of London boroughs which will suffer quite considerably. The first is the London Borough of Wandsworth, which currently provides £1.7 million worth of grant aid to voluntary organisations. The GLC funding to the Wandsworth organisations is approximately £1.5 million for the year 1984–85. Therefore, the London Borough of Wandsworth would have to find and allocate double its present expenditure to sustain the current level of voluntary activity. Wandsworth, while not rate capped, is in a penalty position on its 1984–85 expenditure level.

Perhaps I may give just one example of a voluntary organisation which is at risk in the London Borough of Wandsworth. It is the Balham Family Centre, which provides a range of important services for children and young people, including a créche, a latch-key scheme for children, which was referred to by earlier speakers on another amendment, playgroups for the under-fives, and so on. The centre also offers advice on pregnancy and motherhood.

8 p.m.

Lord Elton

If the noble Viscount will give way, perhaps I may ask him whether the Balham Family Centre is directed to benefit the residents of Wandsworth or the residents of a wider area? I ask that question because if it is directed to benefit the residents of Wandsworth, they will still be funded as they now are by Wandsworth Borough Council. If it is for a wider area, it of course falls into the new arrangements.

Viscount Buckmaster

I thank the noble Lord for making that point. I cannot state specifically which of the two applies, but I know that the centre does good work and receives a grant of £54,000 from the GLC.

Perhaps I may next refer to the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, which now provides about £650,000 of grant aid to voluntary organisations in the borough, and a GLC funding provides a further £1,375,000. So the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham would need to increase its grant-aid programme by some 200 per cent. to stay at that level of voluntary service.

Perhaps I may give your Lordships just one example of a voluntary organisation in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham which would be at risk. It is a voluntary organisation very dear to my heart, called SPEAK. This is a new venture which provides language classes in a play environment for ethnic minorities, under-fives and their mothers. Between 25 and 30 different nationalities are enrolled during an average year, which is quite impressive. The aim of the scheme is to help the under-fives in particular to cope with the English language and its problems in time for beginning school. The GLC funding for this scheme during the current year amounts to £18,000.

Baroness Faithfull

I shall speak only briefly; my name is attached to this amendment. Perhaps I may ask my noble friend the Minister two questions. I ask with diffidence because I do not really know the situation with regard to the metropolitan counties very well. I feel extremely sorry for them in that we have talked so much about London and we have not really addressed ourselves to their problems. I have been asked two points. First, is the Minister satisfied that on geographical grounds it is going to be easy for the different districts to co-operate with one another, because in certain of the metropolitan counties there are very great distances between the various districts? Secondly, where do those voluntary organisations which deal with the arts and theatre fall? Do they fall in this sector, or are they dealt with elsewhere? A number of people in the metropolitan counties have written to me in regard to where voluntary organisations have been set up for a theatre or concert hall. They are very worried because they get their money from the metropolitan counties and they are sure that they will not get it from the districts come the time.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, is right in his arithmetic, The amount of money available in the first year will be £15 million as the Government's proportion of the total of £20 million. In the second year it will be £10 million, as it will in the third year, and it will be £5 million in the final year. The noble Lord asked me what was the exact detail of the undertaking I gave on the limit which the Secretary of State would impose. I can give an assurance today that he will set the limits for 1986–87 in the light of authorities' budget plans for the collective schemes, and that we will not seek to constrain these budgets below the level of the equivalent expenditure by the abolition authorities this year. Those are the exact terms. I cannot of course look beyond the year after next; nor, indeed, could anybody else.

The noble Lord asked me, I believe, about the effects of the undertakings we have given in respect of the amount of money which the Secretary of State allowed to be expended through GRE and/or rate capping. Again, I am not sure whether the noble Lord wants me merely to repeat what I have said. That I can of course do in due course. We will adjust the GRE and if they continue, reduce the targets in order to see that expenditure by the local authorities of these sums of money does not militate against them.

I think the noble Lord probably went further than that and asked about the provisions in these amendments on the disregard. I shall try to sum up in a word as a layman and if the noble Lord is not satisfied, I shall then read out my brief. As I understand it, a disregard is something which is used by the Secretary of State very sparingly on the request of a local authority when they feel that they have been required to spend money above target for inescapable reasons. The inference from that is that the target was set without that particular expenditure in mind, is it not? I have already said that the targets will be set with this expenditure in mind. That is what I have just repeated to the noble Lord. He is asking not only that the target be jacked up to allow for this expenditure, but then if local authorities exceed that expenditure, as far as the excess matches the expenditure which is approved it should nonetheless be disregarded. I hope I have made it clear that that is a blatant piece of double counting, and I do not think it is what the noble Lord wanted. However, I hope that if it was, I have explained to him why we cannot give it to him.

The noble Lord, the noble Baroness and my noble friend Lady Faithfull all put in a kindly word for the metropolitan counties which have tended to have their case—their corner of the battlefield, so to speak—obscured by the smoke generated at what I suppose we here regard as the centre. They have not escaped the attention or concern of the Government and I repeat now what perhaps I did not say with sufficient emphasis at the time: that although the trust fund we propose is for London, the provision in the Bill will allow for trust funds for any or all of the metropolitan counties. The reason we have not leapt forward with a scheme immediately is that whereas in London there is an accumulation of resources which in part the GLC has made and in part has inherited from its predecessors, which amounts to a considerable amount of capital value, the metropolitan county councils have not been in existence for so long and we cannot therefore be confident that the same resources are available.

However, the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, has helpfully pointed out that there is a strong tradition of private sector funding in the metropolitan districts—some, if not all—and it is to exactly that that any such scheme would be addressed. Therefore, I am hopeful that schemes can also be generated there.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, went on to ask about two other matters. One was the breakdown of transitional aid between the areas. I know that this is something which interests the noble Earl, Lord Perth, as well. The way in which the transitional aid will be allocated will at the centre be to make an apportionment between the areas in response to the bids which the areas make through their Clause 47 bodies.

It may be, and it may not be, that the bids exceed what is available. It would then be a question for the Secretary of State whether in fact all the bids are equally reasonable and they should all get the same proportion of the amounts they have bid if the total exceeds the total available, or whether some of them have perhaps sought to take unfair advantage from the scheme. It is difficult for me to say more than that at the moment. The point I am anxious to make is that the allocation of those funds, once they are received by either the metropolitan Clause 47 bodies or the Greater London Clause 47 bodies, will be for them. The Secretary of State will have a minimal role, except if it is necessary to allocate less than the whole amount as asked by one of the authorities.

The noble Baroness went on to refer to an interesting scheme which at one stage she called "neighbourhood fostering" and at another stage "neighbourhood funding". I am not too familiar with the detail of it, but if it is called "neighbourhood", it almost certainly implies that it will be for funding by the local authority because neighbourhoods typically are within the boundaries of a local authority.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

Will the noble Lord give way? It will be, with the exception of two of the districts, between the metropolitan counties. There are two districts where I suppose you would say that there are no ethnic minorities.

Lord Elton

I got two different messages from that. The first said that there were two areas which were trans-borough. The other was that there were two areas where there were no ethnic minorities. If I am right on both counts, the two which go across the borders of neighbouring boroughs will fall to the Clause 47 arrangement. I think that is what the noble Baroness asked.

My noble friend takes advantage of my lack of geography in that I am not certain which of the metropolitan district councils are thought to be too far away from the other metropolitan district councils for them not to be able to co-operate. The only reassurance I can give her at the moment is that I have not yet heard that there is any geographical difficulty involved. But the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, seems to think that the noble Baroness behind her has some means of illuminating this point, and so I shall sit down.

Baroness Lockwood

I heard someone whisper "West Yorkshire", which of course is the largest geographical county area of the six. I must confess to the noble Baroness that this problem has not been drawn to my attention, though the extremities of some of the districts to the extremities of other districts is a considerable distance.

Lord Ennals

May I just ask one question for clarity? In respect of the nine London boroughs which are rate capped and the 11 which are in grant penalty, does the explanation mean that the level on which they will be either capped or in penalty will be adjusted according to the contribution that they make under the clause?

8.15 p.m.

Lord Elton

I speak subject to advice and correction. As I understand it, there is a distinct difference between penalty and rate cap. Grant penalty relates to the amount of expenditure acceptable under the existing system, and the claw-back begins when you are into penalty. I think that that is the jargon.

I said that targets will be adjusted, and that relates to penalty. But as I understand it, rate capping is for a different order of error, if I may so put it without offending the noble Lord opposite, and the whole expenditure has become excessive. In that case although the target may be breached and the breach may not count against the authority in its expenditure, as I understand it—and, as I say, I await instant and vituperative correction—if the rate cap, if that level, is breached, what I have said has no bearing.

Lord Kilmarnock

We are in a complicated area. The noble Lord, who has come only recently to it, has shown his usual rapid mastery of his subject. I think that he accused me, or my amendment—I do not think he accused me personally—of double counting.

Lord Elton

Will the noble Lord forgive me? I now have a little more to say. I am told in the most courteous tones, I may say, and not vituperatively at all, that expenditure limits for rate capping will be adjusted. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, will be glad to hear that. The other point is that the transitional grants are directed principally to helping individual local authorities fund the local groups.

I said that we should be looking to the groups to make the initial bid, but the initial bids will be brought together from the local authorities. That justifies the mishearing that I experienced, and my noble friend told me that I was wrong. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, quite properly said, "The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has shown his usual lack of mastery of the subject". He said "rapid", and I am most grateful to him, but I am afraid he would have been right if he had not.

Lord Kilmarnock

On this question of double counting it is my impression that you can have your grant-giving capacity jacked up in the way that the noble Lord has suggested, but still be fined under penalty. I should like to ask the noble Lord to look at that and tell me whether or not my interpretation is correct. I am not asking him to do it now.

Lord Elton

The fact that you are virtuous about this sort of grant and profligate about others does not protect you from any penalty for misbehaviour for other reasons. The GREs and targets and, I now understand, the rate capping assessment will be adjusted so that the expenditure which I have encouraged local authorities to make with the backing of Government money will not bring them into that sort of penalty. It obviously does not protect them from being brought into penalty for other sorts of over expenditure.

Lord Kilmarnock

We must look at this exchange and some of the exchanges in the earlier debate. As this is, or would be, Government induced expenditure—in other words, there is a Government carrot in it—why should this type of expenditure be different from the urban aid where so much urban aid spending is disregarded for penalty purposes? I do not see the difference.

We are not going to clear this up now, and I am asking only for genuine enlightenment. The best thing to do is to go away and read the debate. If I find that I am not satisfied with what I read, I and my noble friends will come back to this point at the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 47 [Grants to voluntary organisations]:

Lord Hunt moved Amendment No. 135ZC: Page 29, line 2, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: In rising to move this amendment, I am thankful that the indications of this amendment are more simple and not as complex as those of my noble friend. I am sure I was persuaded to take on this amendment because it is so utterly simple in its proposition. I am, as all your Lordships present are, conscious of the different ambience that obtains in this thinly-populated Committee at the moment, the calm and quiet in contrast to the marathon debate we had before the break for supper.

I wanted to be quite certain with the noble Earl, Lord Perth, that the amendment I am about to explain would not conflict with the amendment he spoke to, although it will be moved formally after Clause 47. He has given me total reassurance that I can go ahead. The final introductory comment is to assure your Lordships, who I hope will not leave the Chamber, that I do not intend to press this amendment to a Division at this late hour. I am anxious to hear from the Minister what he thinks about it. If, as I confidently hope, he will agree to accept it, there will be no problem. If he does not, he will explain his reasons, which will provide me with the necessary material to demolish his arguments on Report.

It will be quite obvious to the Commitee that this amendment was drafted as a fallback from the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hayter. I have no hesitation in saying that it is a second best; but, in saying that, it is not my intention to describe it as unimportant. On the contrary, it is very important indeed. It would greatly improve Clause 47 as drafted. I would go on to say that something has to be done about that clause because, if left unamended, its consequences for the voluntary organisations are likely to be serious. I take the word "may" in this context as a variety of possibility ranging from "probably" to "possibly" and not as permissive. Even more important, we have heard much about voluntary organisations, but we have not heard quite so much about the range of their current services in the GLC and the metropolitan counties. Surely that is the most important thing.

Having heard the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, stress the amount of time we have spent and thought we have given to the GLC, it is really in the context of the metropolitan districts that I address this amendment. Something has to be done to ensure that the joint schemes envisaged by this clause, which will deal with country-wide and trans-district or borough boundary services, are set up and made to function. We heard the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London earlier this evening in a powerful and persuasive speech draw attention to some scheme in his diocese. He used the phrase, "the component parts of that scheme are made to get together". I immediately say that I see nothing wrong in that.

As it stands, the clause fails to ensure this essential first step. It merely enables the London boroughs and the metropolitan districts to make joint schemes and it begs the question whether they will do so, let alone whether the requisite majority will be found to set up the joint schemes. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, at an earlier stage this evening was reassuring in relation to the county-wide operations of the voluntary organisations in Greater London when he spoke about them as being in being, in embryo and kicking—an interesting and not entirely mutually contradictory set of analogies. I think he was referring to London. If I am right in my assumption, he had in mind the fact that Richmond has agreed to be designated. I am advised that this is by no means the case in the metropolitan districts. It is on that blithe assumption that they will set up schemes that the clause proceeds to lay down a number of mandatory requirements governing operation of the scheme in question.

We have heard how little some of us are alleged to know about the operation and the calibre of districts and district councillors in relation to voluntary organisations. But surely we must accept that the voluntary organisations that have close and daily contacts with local government have first hand experience of working with local government. They are deeply sceptical as to whether any district council will, of its own accord, by mutual consent and even with the requisite majority, avail itself of the option open to it to take this essential first step. At any rate it is alleged, averred and feared that the councils will be in no great hurry to do so.

The reasons the National Council of Voluntary Organisations have put forward have been mentioned before. I shall rehearse them extremely briefly because so much has been said in between. They point out that there is no tradition for such trans-district boundary and county-wide operation in the metropolitan county areas in furthering schemes to address the needs and problems which lie possibly equally or in varying degrees in each of the districts. Unlike Richmond, no single district may be identified or acknowledged as the lead borough to be designated as receiving and distributing grants from a consortium of boroughs and districts.

Assuming that the problem can be solved (I am glad to make an act of faith and assume that it will be by mutual consent), there is likely to be a pause while the district to be designated agrees to take on the job; there must be some reluctance to take on the extra work and responsibility. If it agrees it is likely that it will avail itself of the opportunity open to it to do so for the minimum period allowed for in this clause. But, more important, differing political allegiances and policies between districts will make the co-operation difficult. The same consideration will bear upon differing perceptions by the district councils of the work of the voluntary organisations in general and their various causes, areas of interest and activity and provision in particular, despite or because of the existence of county-wide problems and needs which beset or face them all.

Here I come to the point of the amendment. All this adds up to a difficult, delicate and time-consuming task. Voluntary bodies will be faced—with great respect I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Elton—with lobbying all the many boroughs and councils to persuade them to fund their diverse causes. The designated council has no mandate in this clause to make such judgments county-wide. That means further delay and it is the essence of the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Ennals and myself that time is the crucial element in the Government's proposals in the clause.

Apart from the time likely to be needed to set up such schemes, the minimum time they are required to run is too short. Your Lordships may say that is another matter, but it is relevant to my amendment, in that it adds to the degree and the depth of uncertainty and insecurity in which voluntary organisations already find themselves and will continue to find themselves to the detriment of their work and even of their survival.

What are their doubts and insecurities? Their doubts are whether they are to be funded, for which particular causes, interests, activities and services they will receive money, and how much and when local authority funds will be made available. This is not in any way to treat the splendid dedicated work they do. The least they deserve is the certainty that all—I repeat "all"—schemes envisaged in the clause will be set up without peradventure and without delay. Thus there is the need to make the setting up requirement mandatory and not optional, by changing the permissive word "may" to the obligatory verb "shall" in line 2. I finish by saying that the Government surely have an obligation to honour the undertaking given by Sir George Young in Standing Committee G on 26th February, when he said: It will clearly be important to establish a grants unit". I would say that this clause does not establish such a unit. It leaves to the local council the decision as to whether or not to do so. That is simply not good enough. I beg to move.

8.30 p.m.

The Earl of Perth

Before the noble Lord the Minister replies, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked a question of me. It was whether his amendment in any way conflicts with the amendment that I propose to move later. My answer to that is, no; far from it. As I read it, it ensures that there will be these schemes. If these schemes are not only from the Greater London Council but also from the metropolitan bodies then the sort of body that I am talking of will be all the more necessary.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt—and it is a pleasure to engage in exchanges with him again after the brief interval that we have had after so recently talking about parole and kindred subjects—voiced a general anxiety which I hope he will find has been somewhat allayed when he reads (as I hope he will later this week) what I said in a rather extensive speech early in the debate, before the Division and before dinner. I do not think that I ought to delay proceedings by repeating the assurances that I then gave, but they are relevant to his concern.

He says that if Clause 47 is not amended it will be a very serious matter for the voluntary sector, and he directed our attention not only to Greater London but also to the metropolitan county councils' areas. I think that I should ask the noble Lord to look particularly at what I said about Richmond. He referred to it. He will find in those two paragraphs (as I think it is) a really rather considerable amount of detail about what has already been done; so that there is no question that what we propose can be done. It is already being done.

The noble Lord is anxious that it shall be done and he is afraid that it will not. That brings me to the substance of his amendment. I agree entirely with the noble Earl, Lord Perth, that it is compatible with the noble Earl's. It brings me to a certain difficulty which I have, because Clause 47 sets up a voluntary co-operative scheme and that is what we debated at great length before dinner. The noble Lord seeks simply to make it compulsory. I then ask myself what would happen, first of all, if nobody wanted to play. We see in Clause 47, as amended (if he would amend it) in subsection (1), that a scheme for the making of grants to eligible voluntary organisations shall be made for Greater London and for each of the metropolitan counties by the constituent councils. Then it proceeds to name them. Then it goes on to say that any such scheme shall provide—the scheme has become mandatory, we must remember; it is not something that may happen—for the grants to be made by one of the constituent councils.

Who is to blame if this does not happen? How is the noble Lord going to enforce this mandatory provision? It does not bind on any individual one of the constituent authorities; it merely says that one of them shall be appointed as the lead authority. That made me look more closely at the mandatory nature of this; and the noble Lord has clearly addressed himself to the problem of what happens if a minority of the constituent bodies want to play.

It appears that, as the amendment is drafted—I do not know if this is or is not an accidental result; and the noble Lord will be thinking of that between now and Report, no doubt—the effect appears to be that if only two of the district councils in a metropolitan county decided that they would have a scheme, that scheme would be mandatory upon all of them. This says something very confusing about what happens on the occasion when they start voting for schemes under the mandatory scheme.

I do not believe that that is what the noble Lord wants, but he is in the difficulty, if he wishes to graft the mandatory approach on to the voluntary model, of finding how to get over the discontinuity between the two concepts. I am not quite clear how in his heart he proposes that it should be done. I think that what he is saying is that we must bring the horse to the water and we must make it drink. But you cannot do that. You can bring it to the water or you can have some other animal, if you see what I mean. The Secretary of State can make a scheme such as the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, was proposing where he can point the finger and say, "This shall be done".

What you cannot do is to get the authorities to get together and say, "You must by law choose one of you to operate voluntarily for the others". I do not for a moment think that I have satisfied the noble Lord about the strength of my position. I hope I have revealed to him some of the difficulties of his own which he may like to think about further.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I was glad to hear the noble Lord say that he was not going to press this amendment tonight, because I think that in the course of his introduction of the amendment he has revealed not only a weakness in the scheme as it might be amended, if that amendment was accepted, but also in the noble Lord the Minister's argument as well. Suppose a majority of authorities decided to accept this voluntary scheme and under Clause 7 (towards the bottom of page 29) in the absence of agreement between all the councils, the majority accept that it is binding on them and some councils are therefore left out of the scheme. I wonder whether the Government have thought through how that will affect the fixing of the upper expenditure limit of that council—and my language unfortunately does not stretch to England in this case—the amount up to which the council may spend, the amount of the taxpayers' support of that authority and the amount at which it is rate capped. Those things have to be fixed at a given moment in the cycle of budgeting and the decision about the scheme might happen at a different moment in the cycle of budgeting. So that I think there is a hole in the argument, unless the noble Lord can fill it now. Perhaps that is something that could be looked at before the next stage.

Baroness Seear

The hole is not only in the argument; it is in the total scheme. The noble Minister's reply since the dinner break is, in both content and tone, in sharp contrast to the speech that he made before the dinner break. We were being assured that this was going to work; that we could trust and leave it to the boroughs who would get together to do this funding; that we had nothing to worry about and that boroughs do collaborate. Now we are told that it may well be that only one or two boroughs will get together. What is going to happen to the assurance that this money will be forthcoming for the voluntary bodies through the working together of the boroughs?

Lord Ennals

My concern is exactly the same as that expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. It is all very well for the noble Lord the Minister to point out that any such scheme "shall" provide; but there may not be a scheme at all. I had rather expected that the noble Lord the Minister would accept these two amendments. Obviously the two are dealing with different things, and I should like to say a word or two about each one of them. There is no point in having a scheme mandatory if there is not a scheme at all. It is possible that if the word "may" remains there, rather than "shall", there simply will not be, either in London or in the metropolitan areas, any scheme at all.

As the noble Baroness has just said, all the assurances that were given that there will be schemes which will help voluntary organisations fall to the ground. I would much rather the Minister would say that he will take it away and see whether there is not an absolute conflict between one "may" and the next "shall", because the "shall" could be meaningless unless the first one is "shall" as well.

Secondly, in the case of the metropolitan counties in the second amendment, if it is simply "or a" metropolitan county we have been repeatedly saying that in the earlier debate we were perhaps concentrating too much on London and not enough on the metropolitan authorities. Surely we want to see schemes that apply to the metropolitan authorities as well as to London. I would have thought that the wise thing for the Minister to do would be nor simply to defend what I honestly believe to be indefensible but for him to say that in view of the concern, which he must have sensed by now, he will take it away and consider it carefully and come back with something that will not be so conflicting at the Report stage.

Lord Renton

Following what was said by my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour, I wonder whether my noble friend Lord Elton would be so good, when he is replying to this short debate, to make clear the difference between the provisions of subsection (3), which refers to the need to have a majority of at least two-thirds of the constituent councils before any expenditure is approved, and subsection (7). That subsection says, A scheme may, in the absence of agreement between all the constituent councils, be made by a majority of those councils". It would seem that under subsection (7) it need only be a simple majority: in other words, 51 per cent. I think this is a disparity which does need to be explained.

Lord Kilmarnock

As my name is also on this amendment, I just want to say that my understanding of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is that it simply wants the mechanism to be in place. Once it is there, obviously some schemes will jump the hurdle, whether it is 51 per cent. or 66 per cent., or whatever may be decided by the Committee. Therefore the suggestion made by the noble Lord, for example, that two districts out of four in South Yorkshire would be able to "bounce" their brethren into a scheme is not in fact the intention behind the amendment.

Lord Elton

I am obliged to the noble Lord and I can tell your Lordships that the Government have thought this scheme through, that it will work and that the doubts which the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, has sought to cast upon it will run off it, as water will off a well-oiled duck's back, I hope.

The to-ing and fro-ing between the Box was at my request, to discover whether, in subsection (7), I was right in thinking that the word "them" in line 41 referred to all the constituent councils or only to the majority referred to in line 40. It refers to all; so your Lordships have had your attention helpfully drawn to subsection (7) by my noble friend. That subsection provides that if a simple majority of the constituent councils in any of these areas decide that they want to have a scheme, there will be a scheme and it will be binding on the minority. The qualifying majority of two-thirds only comes in when it is a question of fixing the amount of money because this is a voluntary scheme and it is thought that it is necessary, as I said earlier, to depoliticise it and to avoid having a large number of the members being reluctant in their co-operation. It is a co-operative and voluntary effort.

I think that really does dispose of the difficulty which the noble Lord has raised because I do not see—and I should be interested to know whether he does—the remotest possibility of any of the metropolitan county areas deciding, in the name of the majority of the constituent councils, that they do not want to have a scheme to cover the whole of the county. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, may be about to say that there is such a metropolitan county. I think that is casting a really dreadful slur upon it because the metropolitan district councils are very good-hearted bodies with very adequate administrative arrangements who are very concerned about the under-privileged in their areas—the noble Lord can contradict me if they are not concerned, but I think that they are—

8.45 p.m.

Lord Ennals

I was not going to say that at all: I was just saying to my noble friend that every word the Minister says shows that we have now landed ourselves with a dog's breakfast. That is what I was saying.

Lord Elton

I do not think that the noble Lord is entirely wrong in his interpretation, but I was wrong in my imagination of what he was saying. The fact is that I really cannot believe that there is one metropolitan county which has a majority of its districts which will not get together. I doubt very much whether they will be resisted in fact by a minority. So I can reassure the noble Lord; and as to my noble friend Lady Carnegy, the rate capping and all the arithmetic applies to all the members once the majority have determined that it is uniform. So that disposes of that. I think that the noble Lord will find himself happier when he returns to this matter on Report than he is now.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

Before the noble Lord sits down, he has mentioned Richmond on several occasions. If one looks at the metropolitan counties, there is a very serious difference between London and the metropolitan counties. If one looks at Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham, they are large cities in their own right and the constituent districts around them in many cases are quite small districts: 20,000 going up to perhaps 30,000 or 40,000, as against more than a million in the case of Birmingham.

Therefore a difficulty is arising and it has been brought to my attention: which of them starts off the trigger mechanism? Whichever does that will be the district which is landed with the scheme. There is going to be a difficulty if all the districts have the same vote. One with a higher rateable value than another will obviously feel they are carrying the can for the other districts in the area. This is quite a serious point, bearing in mind that there are some very large local authorities in the metropolitan districts with very small local authorities. One can see in the future perhaps that the larger authorities might be saying, "We are doing a lot more things than we originally intended" if they start off the trigger mechanism. But no doubt the noble Lord is aware of the point and is taking it fully into consideration.

Lord Elton

I would make only two responses to that. The first is that the equalisation system of the block grant system will continue to apply. The other is that the apportionment of the cost of the scheme will be on a population basis, so although the votes may not be equal, the expenditure will be.

Lord Hunt

We have had a very useful exchange on the amendment that I moved and I do not propose to prolong the discussion. Listening to the various contributions that have been made, I feel that I may have failed to make my main point clear. I shall make it again extremely briefly, in one sentence. The main point of my concern was not so much whether the schemes would be set up under the permissive "may", but just how long it would take in a very delicate, difficult and time-consuming operation, particularly in the context of the metropolitan districts, to get these schemes set up to the point where the voluntary organisations will not have to hold their vital operations, trans-district boundaries county-wide, in suspense and themselves in a state of great anxiety.

That is the main point so far as I am concerned in proposing that the districts and boroughs should be required to get themselves together in the first instance without any peradventure, so that they can tackle as soon as possible a matter of great urgency in terms of the time-scale set by this whole Bill. I shall of course read very carefully what I heard the noble Lord say earlier in the afternoon. I hope that he will take into account what has been said in favour of this amendment. In withdrawing it now I shall seriously consider bringing it up again on Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 135ZD not moved.]

[Amendment No. 135A not moved.]

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 135AZA: Page 29, line 16, at end insert—("and ( ) for grants under this section to be determined by a committee comprising elected members of the constituent councils.")

The noble Lord said: Very briefly this amendment is designed to do something about the scenario which I endeavoured to sketch in my speech in the earlier debate this evening on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, when I drew attention to the nightmare which will face charities, voluntary bodies, having to lobby successfully—in the case of London—22 out of 33 London boroughs in order to get this scheme accepted; or seven out of 10, for example, in the case of Greater Mancheser. I have the equivalent number of districts and the relevant majorities that will be required here for the other metropolitan counties.

This, surely, would be a most undesirable situation. As I mentioned in my speech on that earlier amendment, I have been assured by the director of one of the larger lobbying organisations that he sees this simply as a charter for lobbyists. The object of the amendment is to make sure that the applications can be made through one door. I think the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in the earlier debate mentioned the concept of the "one-door" applications. But as far as I can see that is not provided for in the clause. Therefore, it is the intention of this amendment to make that absolutely clear; and to make it quite clear that any voluntary body striving to get assistance under this scheme would be able to go to a committee comprising elected members of the constituent councils who could then consider it rather than having to knock on 22 doors in the case of London, and a considerable number of doors in the case of the metropolitan counties. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

I think I can give the noble Lord the assurance he wants. Indeed, I rather think I have done so already in describing how the Richmond scheme is working. Basically, the amendment appears to address itself to the fear that the councillors, having set up the scheme, will not wish to run it. But as it will be their ratepayers' money that is being spent, I think that the fear is not likely to manifest itself and that the Bill as drafted makes it quite clear that it will in fact be a committee of exactly the people the noble Lord wants who will be running the scheme under Clause 47 as in fact is now happening under the Richmond scheme.

Lord Kilmarnock

I shall read carefully what the noble Lord says, to see whether it embodies the assurances I hoped for, and I may come back to this at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Buckmaster moved Amendment No. 135AA. Page 29, line 19, leave out ("at least two-thirds") and substitute ("more than half')

The noble Viscount said: This is an amendment of some importance. Its purpose, as your Lordships will see, is to ensure that the collective funding mechanism is triggered off by a simple majority rather than the two-thirds majority of boroughs in the GLC and districts in the metropolitan counties.

Clause 47 of the Bill states: The constituent councils shall be required to contribute to any expenditure of the designated council which has been incurred with the approval of at least two-thirds of the constituent councils… Voluntary organisations—and I am speaking here of a good many—are of the opinion that this requirement for a two-thirds majority approval before a grant is made is a prescription for paralysis. In London the joint borough scheme, which is similar in nature to that proposed in this Bill, has had all sorts of difficulties in reaching a consensus, and in the metropolitan counties I understand—although I have not been there—that there are no such joint district schemes.

The problem of reaching the two-thirds majority seems to stem from four fundamental problems. First, there are the financial constraints on the boroughs and districts. In the metropolitan counties the majority of the 36 districts are being rate-capped or face penalties which put them under considerable pressure to keep their expenditure down to very strict limits. In London, I understand that 9 of the London boroughs are being rate-capped. Therefore, the proposition that two-thirds of the districts would agree to additional funding of countrywide voluntary organisations seems highly unlikely. The second consideration is a political one—political constraints. If we take the case of the metropolitan councils again, district councils are of course accountable to their own electors, and the interests of neighbouring boroughs which may be of a different political hue will be of little concern to them.

The third point is in my view perhaps the most important of all. I touched on this very briefly when I was speaking to the earlier amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hayter. Voluntary organisations are well aware that even in districts of similar political complexion there are widely differing ranges of performance and understanding of the work of the voluntary sector and their commitment to financial support.

If one turns to the GLC area, for example—I mentioned this earlier on in the context of the ethnic minorities—there are only one-third who are considered to be really caring boroughs. There is the very interesting case, for example, of the London Borough of Ealing, which has no less than 25 per cent.—a quarter—of its population made up of ethnic minorities; and that is one of the uncaring boroughs. How can one imagine that boroughs like that would help to make up the two-thirds total?

There is a fourth consideration. This was touched on very briefly by the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, when he moved his amendment. The fourth consideration is that the arithmetical problems of reaching a two-thirds majority are, as your Lordships can see, enormous. In London, for example, it would require 22 out of 33; seven out of 10 in Greater Manchester; three out of four in South Yorkshire; four out of five in West Yorkshire; five out of seven in the West Midlands; and four out of five in Tyne and Wear. I think that poses a real difficulty.

In conclusion, I would say that the many voluntary organisations concerned believe that collective funding schemes in the seven areas have a much better chance of working and fulfilling the Government's intention of safeguarding country-wide voluntary endeavour if the two-thirds majority is reduced to a simple majority. I beg to move.

9 p.m.

Lord Seebohm

The difficulty for me lies in the tremendous difference that there always is between London and the metropolitan counties. Most of the metropolitan counties have an overwhelming majority in one district, which makes it very difficult to see how this will apply if Manchester wants to do it and the other boroughs do not, though it has an overwhelming majority not only in numbers but also in problems.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

The Council for Voluntary Organisations was kind enough to explain its point of view to me as well as to the noble Viscount and I talked about it with its representative. From my own experience, and also after conversations with representatives of the London Boroughs Association, I feel strongly that while the anxiety of the voluntary organisations is extremely understandable in this respect, this solution will not solve the problem; in fact, it will be counter-productive.

The noble Viscount has said that a 66 per cent. majority as a requirement is a prescription for paralysis. In saying that I do not think he has considered that in local government people behave differently according to what are their responsibilities under an Act and what are the responsibilities of other councils, particularly if those councils are in a sense in competition with them, even if they are in agreement politically.

Voluntary organisations, as a number of noble Lords said earlier today, want, above all, stability of funding. They need continuity. They need a degree of certainty. The grant award process needs to be above the vagaries of political chance. There needs to be the smallest possible risk if the political balance between councils in an area changes. There needs to be the maximum inducement to people to award grants across the political spectrum.

What would be the effect of a 50 per cent. plus one vote? If, as at present in London, the balance is even, decisions could swing on a given occasion because somebody was not there, because some council for some reason had been leaned upon, or for some other reason. If one party controls the decision-making in an area, and then there is an election and the control changes, there could be enormous swings because there would have been a very politicised decision in the first place on a straight vote. The whole policy could change.

I do not have to remind your Lordships' Committee that in the GLC, over the four years since control changed, the spending went up from £8 million to £51 million and one does not know whether, if control had changed again, it might have swung back, though perhaps not so far. I am not commenting on whether that would be a good or a bad thing, but it is what happens in a politicised grant awarding group. This is no way to proceed. Also, importantly, looking at the figures of how it would work out, a 50 per cent. plus one majority would work out very undemocratically. It would be unfair to the electorate of the larger councils. Again in London—I am sorry to use the London example, but these are the people I spoke to—if the 50 per cent. plus one was made up of the counties which are smaller in population and which could make a 50 per cent. plus one majority, they would be paying only 41 per cent. of the cost of the decision that had been taken and the 49 per cent. of people whose representatives disagreed would be bearing 59 per cent. of the cost. This is difficult to imagine, but it is borne out by the figures. Even at the Government's 66 per cent., the smaller counties making up 66 per cent. of the population would be paying only half the bill. From the electorate's viewpoint this is taxation without representation.

I hope it is in order for me to progress into discussion of the amendment standing in my name, which is proposing that it should be 75 per cent. It seems to me that, far from 50 per cent. being a good idea, 75 per cent. would bring about what I am trying to describe very much better, because it would to a large extent depoliticise the whole operation. It would mean that for decisions to be taken there would have to be a degree of cross-party support and any council opposing an award to a certain organisation or trying to bring down the total amount would have to stand up and be counted across the whole area, because there would not be the safety in numbers of the political group meeting, the whipped vote and that kind of thing. They would have to explain why they are doing it, and any of your Lordships who have taken part in this sort of operation will understand what I mean. In this way there would be no sudden swing if there was a change of power in one council at a by-election and even a change of power, unless it was a very big one, in all the councils.

In London a 75 per cent. majority has been required over the last 15 years of collective funding. It may seem to your Lordships that the funding has not been satisfactory, but this is the way it has been done and, in the view of the borough councils, it has worked. As my noble friend Lord Renton said earlier, under the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1970 the boroughs promoted a scheme which meant that they would decide on collective grants, they would request the GLC to pay and they would recoup the money in proportion in their case to the rateable value, not to the population, and this would be done only if 75 per cent. agreed. That worked. Since some of the councils have pulled out of the association—it has had to be a voluntary scheme because the Act did not allow for it any more—they have continued with the 75 per cent. It has proved possible to get 75 per cent. in London. Although the total being dispersed was much smaller because the requirement was smaller and the GLC was there, I submit that attitudes would change when—known to the electors—the responsibility to do this was on the boroughs.

I suggest that it would be much wiser for the noble Viscount not to pursue this amendment. I hope that he will consider what I have said and what the Minister has to say when he explains this aspect—probably much more clearly than I have done. In the words of the representatives of the London Boroughs Association, I believe that the 50 per cent. plus one provision would be a disaster.

Baroness Birk

I had not intended to take part in this particular debate, but I found myself becoming more and more transfixed as I listened to the contributions. I have thought for a long while that there was a great deal wrong with this Bill. Even if I had not thought so, hearing the kind of discussion which is now taking place in this Committee really makes one wonder what we are letting ourselves, and the boroughs and districts, in for.

Why does the Baroness not go the whole hog? Why not wait until there is a 100 per cent. majority? Why not depoliticise the boroughs and districts so that political parties can be done away with altogether? It really is mind-boggling.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I should like to take up the last point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. I believe that my noble friend Lady Carnegy has brought forward this amendment as a reaction to what she considers to be the extreme proposal for a 50 per cent. majority. I oppose the figure of 50 per cent. but I think that my noble friend's figure of 75 per cent. is probably an automatic reaction. I think that the Government are for once probably right with a figure of two-thirds.

I say this because at County Hall at the moment the balance is 48 seats to 44, which is not a very big difference between the majority party and the combined minority parties; yet there is no democracy there whatsoever. In fact, all sorts of things have been voted through to give false numbers on committees and everything else. I therefore believe that a figure of two-thirds would introduce a degree of moderation—which at County Hall might perhaps have meant that we would never have needed to face this Bill.

To go one stage further, it is important to spell out eventually, if not tonight, exactly how this decision-making process for grants will work. I asked Sir George Young, when I had an opportunity to do so on a recent occasion, whether the figure of 50 per cent. (or 75 per cent. or whatever percentage it might be) would be in respect of those present at a meeting. He replied, "No, it would be one of those councils". In that case, I should like to know how the votes of the councils will be obtained and whether they will be obliged to vote.

As I understand the present situation, a great many Labour boroughs are boycotting many meetings. If there is a figure of 75 per cent. the point might be reached where no decision could ever be taken because either party was boycotting the meetings—and 25 per cent. might be enough to make the whole process invalid and non-operable. It is important that we should have an exact procedure, whatever the majority may be—and I believe that with the two-thirds suggested, the Government have fixed the proportion about right. It is important that some procedure is developed.

Lord Ennals

I am very disturbed by the way in which this debate is now proceeding. I shall immediately take up a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes. I find it disturbing that she should be telling us of what was said by the Minister in a private meeting as a means of explaining to this Committee how the Bill is to work. If a statement is to be made, it should be made by Ministers before this Committee and not in some private meeting. Whether Sir George explained the matter in exactly the way that the noble Baroness recounted, I just do not know. I do not know either whether the noble Lord the Minister will explain this point in exactly the same way as Sir George did in that private meeting. But I do not consider that we can conduct our business in this way.

My second point is that I find it quite frightening the way in which the atmosphere in this debate has changed since the end of the Division on the first amendment. Before the Division, the Minister was coming along with all his goodies and everything was done to reassure the Committee that the voluntary organisations were going to get what they wanted. We were told that there was to be an extra £10 million here and an extra £20 million there, and there was going to be this and that provision made. All of this was to convince us that voluntary organisations were not going to suffer as a result of the Bill. The amendment was suitably defeated. Naturally I regretted that Now that the amendment has been defeated, I find that there is a very different atmosphere prevailing from the noble Lord and some of his noble friends. It seems to me that the obstacles which are now in the way of voluntary organisations in getting the assistance we all know they need are being emphasised to the Committee. Every attempt to make sure—as I am sure the Minister would like to make sure—that voluntary organisations do receive assistance seems to be turned down. Everything seems to be stacked against the voluntary organisations.

We had a debate on the previous amendment a bout "may" and "shall". There may not be a scheme, as a result of the decision taken by the Minister. Now we are on to: what is "democracy"? Is democracy two-thirds? Is it 75 per cent., 80 per cent. or 100 per cent., as my noble friend asked? As far as I am concerned, democracy is a majority. That is how this House operates. We are not asked to vote according to a particular percentage. A majority of one is enough. If it had to be two-thirds, I do not know who would have won on the last amendment.

9.15 p.m.

I feel that we are stacking the obstacles against the voluntary organisations just too much. The aim is: "Provided we can get enough we will stop having a scheme to help the voluntary organisations". In her amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady Carnet of Lour, is saying that it is not enough to have one-third against a grant; that it must be just a quarter to stop it going through. I believe that too much power is being used, which can only work against the interests of the voluntary organisations. If I was the representative of a voluntary organisation listening to the debate now, since dinner, I would think that noble Lords were not anxious to help voluntary organisations and were putting obstacles in the way of effective schemes. I believe that this is an amendment, so ably moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, on which the Committee should divide.

Lord Elton

Before giving his advice the noble Lord should wait to hear what the Minister has to say.

Lord Renton

I have been very surprised, if I may say so, by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, and also that of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. I cannot believe that either of them would have made those speeches if they had known of the situation of the London Boroughs Association, acting under statutory powers, between 1971 and 1983. Under the statute which has been quoted by my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour, and quoted by me earlier when interrupting the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, it was provided that grants made under a scheme agreed by the London boroughs within the London Boroughs Association required the approval of 75 per cent. of those voting.

That scheme worked well and without challenge until two years ago when the Greater London Council changed the whole scene. We know the way in which the GLC changed it. The noble Lord, speaking on the first amendment today, was candid enough to refer to the extraordinary situation whereby charities were mentioned which were not even threatened by the Bill. There are 200 charities listed in this remarkable document, all presumably voted funds by a committee of the GLC on a simple majority. The nature of the recipients is interesting. I shall read out some of them. They include: Capital Jobmate; Actionspace Limited (community theatre); London Region CND—but nothing about civil defence; the Lesbian Line (counselling service); the London Gay Teenage Group; I have always understood that under our law one is not allowed to be a homosexual until one is aged 18; the London and Kent Amateur Gymnastic Association; and so it goes on. I restrain myself from reading out 20 or 30 other names of remarkable groups which might not get full acceptance for grant purposes if we had a proper majority required among those having to vote.

The Government have put 66 per cent. in the Bill. The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, wants 61 per cent.—

Noble Lords

Fifty-one per cent.

Lord Renton

I thank your Lordships; 51 per cent. My noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour has the backing of experience—the experience of the London Boroughs Association until the situation was, if I may use the expression, somewhat mauled about. For 11 years it was a perfectly satisfactory operation. I speak from some knowledge. I know it is vicarious, but my wife has been for some years president of the London Association for the Disabled, which relies mainly on voluntary contributions for its support. It used to be able to get what it needed from the London Boroughs Association until, effectively, a lot of them went out. I am not saying which boroughs they were; I leave that to the imagination of noble Lords. The others formed themselves as best they could into a voluntary association. The Greater London Council stepped in, found a situation which was right for its beneficence, and since then they have been dependent upon a somewhat uncertain contribution from the GLC. There was experience, good experience, of the operation of the 75 per cent. rule by the London Boroughs Association.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

On that point, perhaps I may ask my noble friend to clarify it again. I understood him to say, "75 per cent. of those voting." I think that that is emphasising the very point I made earlier. There is quite a significant difference whether it is of those present and voting or whether it is of the boroughs. Could he confirm that he said "of those voting"?

Lord Renton

I did say "of those voting" and I understand that to be the position, but I am open to correction. But if one has two representatives, or whatever number it may be, from each of the London boroughs who are required to attend a meeting to decide these important matters probably not more than once, or at the most twice, a year, one would very much hope that those who are nominated or elected to attend would turn up. Therefore, quite frankly, and with respect to my noble friend, for whom I have enormous regard, I do not think that it makes very much difference whether it is 75 per cent. of those eligible to vote or 75 per cent. of those voting. Personally, I do not attach much importance to that as a difference.

In conclusion, if we want to make sure that the people's money, the ratepayers' money, is spent in a way which commands support and on causes which command general support, then we can make sure of that by using the experience of the past in the London Boroughs Association to say that it must be 75 per cent. But if we have it as 50 per cent. we could merely get a repetition in certain political circumstances of the kind of nonsense which has prevailed under the GLC.

I have only one last comment, and it is this. It is tempting to say, "Well, the Government say 66 per cent. The amendment proposed by the noble Viscount says 51 per cent. My noble friend says 75 per cent. Perhaps, therefore, the Government have got it about right". Personally, I do not take that view, and I would seriously ask my noble friend Lord Elton when he replies tonight to say that he has an open mind about this and that he will be prepared to consider it between now and Report stage.

Baroness Lockwood

Most of the discussion so far seems to have concentrated on the experience of the London boroughs. I would remind the Committee that we are talking about the whole of the country and not just about the experience of the London boroughs and the GLC. If we take my own metropolitan county of West Yorkshire, the argument of the noble Baronesses opposite about 75 per cent. or 66 per cent. is academic because in West Yorkshire we are talking about four of the districts out of five. We would have to have agreement between the four districts all the time in order to get anything through.

If one begins to look at this in terms of how democracy operates, one might have three districts which overwhelmingly supported a proposition and two which were balanced on a knife edge and might vote against a proposition. Therefore there would not be any representative democracy in a decision of that kind. Thus I suggest that the discussion which is going on at the moment is an academic discussion about democracy. The principle upon which most of us in local government have operated in the past has been based on a majority rule. I should suggest that the amendment by the noble Viscount calls for support on those grounds.

Lord Kilmarnock

Following on from what the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, has said, I should say this. She referred to West Yorkshire. It so happens that, even with the two-thirds majority written into the Bill at the moment, as one has to round up districts and not round them down, (one cannot take half a district), it is already the case that in Greater Manchester one would require seven districts out of 10; in Merseyside, four out of five; in South Yorkshire, three out of four; in Tyne and Wear, four out of five; in West Midlands, five out of seven and, as the noble Baroness mentioned, in West Yorkshire, four out of five. That is because of the rounding upwards principle, which would have to apply. If the system proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, were adopted, it would arise in only two: Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.

I think that what we on these Benches are saying is that these hurdles are already extremely high. I do not think that this issue is something upon which we should divide the Committee. However, we suggest to the Government that they should go away and think about this matter again.

Lord Mottistone

The noble Lords opposite, starting with the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, seemed to pay no attention at all to the argument which impressed me greatly. That was the argument of my noble friend Lady Carnegy about stability. It is no good having funds provided if they are going to be turned over the next time the council changes. Stability is surely very important. However, not one of the noble Lords or noble Baronesses opposite gave any credibility at all to that. I think that they are mistaken to ignore it.

Lord Kilmarnock

Before the noble Lord sits down, does he not agree that the ultimate stability would be to have no funding at all?

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

Following on from what the noble Lord who has just sat down has said, perhaps I may say this. If one looks at the West Midlands, one sees that for a two-thirds majority they need five out of seven; for three-quarters, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, they need six out of seven. If noble Lords know anything about the politics in the West Midlands, they will know that when Birmingham switches round from one party to another the stability goes immediately, even on the three-quarters basis.

Lord Elton

I think it is probably time that I tried to put in my forecast. The noble Baroness the Leader of the Liberal Party came in briefly to say that the tone and content of everything that I said had changed since dinner, and the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, has endorsed that. For the benefit of any noble Lords who are in doubt I should say that I have been forewarned the bottle since last November, and so there is no influence of dinner on this.

The second matter is that I therefore wonder why there should be this constant drawing of attention to the fact that the Government's position appears to noble Lords opposite to have changed. I must tell them that it has not. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, spoke as though we had removed the guarantee for a further £20 million worth of grant. We have not. The noble Lord spoke as though we had removed the protection of that from the operation of the expenditure controls that I spoke of. We have not. What the noble Lord is saying is that we gave a great deal in the first debate and it is still on the table, but he wants to see more.

I quite see that it suits noble Lords opposite to paint this party as the enemy of the "voluntaries" and their party as the friend. In fact, that is not the case because what we are doing is looking at the interests of both the receivers and the givers of grant-in-aid to voluntary bodies. There will not be a workable system unless that is done.

I can tell the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, that we are not holding an academic debate about democracy. We are talking about who decides how other people's money shall be spent. The purpose of Clause 47 is to provide for the transfer of money from the districts and boroughs to voluntary bodies benefiting more than one of them. Half the equation is made up of the councils and the other half of the voluntary bodies.

We have looked at the voluntary bodies all the way through to dinner and we are now looking at the councils. My noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour said something extremely pertinent which the noble Lord opposite I think completely misunderstood. The fact is that if you put the boroughs of London in order of magnitude starting with that having the smallest population and have the first 17 of them comprising the majority, that is 51 per cent. of the votes, they would comprise only 41 per cent. of the population. Therefore, you would have 41 per cent. of the population telling 59 per cent. of the population how to spend their money. That does not sound to me like the pure mathematics of democracy. It sounds to me like a problem that noble Lords on the Liberal Benches entirely understand.

Lord Kilmarnock

In fact, an amendment was tabled by Liberal Members in another place which would have taken care of this. It specified 51 per cent. of the population, that is, of the totality of the population. Perhaps the noble Lord will accept that at a later stage.

Lord Elton

I am extremely interested to hear that. I did not know it. The noble Lord has homed in on the problem that appears to have escaped the notice of the official Opposition Front Bench. It is that we see a great danger in setting up a voluntary scheme in which 59 per cent. of the people can find that they are a majority and that they are being told to do something that they do not want to do. It seems to me that this is the first reason for having more than a straight majority for this purpose.

The second reason has already been adduced, and I shall not spend long on it. If you have a straight majority for decisions of this sort, the policy can go through a sort of switchback. It is difficult to arrive at the right majority. The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, has pointed out that the criteria differ from one county to another. But there are conventions in statute that are binding in Parliament. We have to treat—we have had this issue before—the whole of a class of bodies in the same way. We have to strike as a mean what is the nearest to being suitable to all.

My noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour suggests that we have struck it too low. Noble Lords opposite have suggested with enthusiasm that we have struck it too high. That seems to me, although perhaps not to my noble friend Lord Renton, to be the beginnings of a suggestion that we have it about right. For the reasons that I have given, I ask your Lordships to agree.

9.32 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 135AA) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 52; Not-Contents, 114.

Airedale, L. Jeger, B.
Attlee, E. Kaldor, L.
Barnett, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Birk, B. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Birkett, L. Lockwood, B.
Brockway, L. McCarthy, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Buckmaster, V. [Teller] McNair, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Monkswell, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Morris of Kenwood, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Mountevans, L.
David, B. Nicol, B.
Dean of Beswick, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Denington, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Eldon, E. Rea, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Rochester, L.
Ennals, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Ewart-Bigss, B. Seear, B.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Seebohm, L.
Graham of Edmonton. L. [Teller] Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Tordoff, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Walston, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. White, B.
Howie of Troon, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Hunt, L. Winstanley, L.
Irving of Dartford, L.
Abercorn, D. Alexander of Tunis, E.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Allerton, L.
Auckland, L. Ingrow, L.
Barber, L. Jessel, L.
Bathurst, E. Kaberry of Adel, L.
Bauer, L. Kemsley, V.
Beloff, L. King of Wartnaby, L.
Belstead, L. Layton, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Loch, L.
Bridgeman, V. Long, V. [Teller]
Brougham and Vaux, L. Lothian, M.
Burton, L. Lyell, L.
Caithness, E. McAlpine of West Green, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. McFadzean, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Mar, C.
Carnock, L. Marchwood, V.
Cathcart, E. Margadale, L.
Chelwood, L. Murley, L.
Coleraine, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Colville of Culross, V. Mersey, V.
Cork and Orrery, E. Middleton, L.
Cox, B. Mottistone, L.
Craigavon, V. Norwich, Bp.
Craigmyle, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Craigton, L. Perth, L.
Davidson, V. Plummer of St Marylebone, L.
Denham, L. [Teller] Rankeillour, L.
Denman, L. Renton, L.
Donegall, M. Renwick, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Romney, E.
Eden of Winton, L. Rugby, L.
Elton, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Faithfull, B. Sandford, L.
Fortescue, E. Savile, L.
Gainford, L. Sharples, B.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Geddes, L. Southborough, L.
Gibson-Watt, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Gisborough, L. Swinfen, L.
Glanusk, L, Teviot, L.
Glenarthur, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Gowrie, E. Thurlow, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Torphichen, L.
Halsbury, E. Trumpington, B.
Hanson, L. Ullswater, V.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Harvey of Tasburgh, L. Vickers, B.
Hatherton, L. Vivian, L.
Henley, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Hives, L. Whitelaw, V.
Holderness, L. Wynford, L.
Hood, V. Yarborough, L.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Young, B.
Howe, E. Young of Graffham, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9.41 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour moved Amendment No. 135AAZA: Page 29, line 19, leave out ("two thirds") and insert ("three quarters").

The noble Baroness said: I have spoken to the amendment and now move it. I shall not press it to a vote at this stage, but I should like to ask the Minister whether he will think again about this. I believe the discussion has revealed that the whole issue has not, until we began to talk about it this evening, been very thoroughly thought through. In writing to London Peers, the leader of the Croydon authority said that the London boroughs would accept the 66 per cent. although they regretted it. They would have preferred 75 per cent. Although the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, reckoned that we had taken off into the realms of fantasy, a person as experienced as she knows that there are occasions when there is a more than 50 per cent. majority in local government where for very particular purposes one wants to be quite sure that there is a reasonable ongoing consensus about something; and it is a reasonable thing for the Government to consider this. If the Minister felt he could agree to look at it, I should be extremely grateful. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

I am in a slight difficulty because I have deployed already arguments against both my noble friend's amendment and that of noble Lords opposite. My noble friend is using the opportunity, having spoken to it, to move it formally, which I can tell noble Lords opposite is perfectly all right. I take this opportunity to say that of course I shall read her speech in the earlier debate with very close attention hut I must not give her the impression that I am in some way suggesting that her amendment would be acceptable at a later stage, for the reasons which I have already adduced. I will not repeat them now. I mean no discourtesy to my noble friend, but she can read them at leisure tomorrow. I will of course take careful note, as I always do, of what she has said.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I thank the Minister for that answer. I, of course, will read what he said in his long contribution earlier in the debate.

Lord Elton

I have just recalled that I did not in the last debate answer one question that I was asked. It will soon be out of order to do so but we are on the same subject still. The Bill, if one reads it carefully, refers in Clause 47 to a majority of the councils. It is not a majority of those present. It is a majority of the votes available.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I accept what the noble Lord says. I shall read with interest what he said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 135AAA, 135AAB, 135AB not moved.]

9.45 p.m.

Lord Mottistone moved Amendment No. 135B. [Printed 13/5/85; col. 935.]

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment at an earlier stage, on No. 103A. My noble friend Lord Gowrie, at col. 936, invited me to speak again at this stage of the Bill; and I should be happy to do that on this amendment. The point at issue is the problem that youth clubs have of making sure that they get continuity of support. The particular youth clubs I have mentioned several times before to your Lordships are currently given grants by the ILEA, which is why the matter was raised in that part of the Bill.

Since then it has become clear from a letter I have had from my noble friend, which I shall not read to your Lordships, that the ILEA has produced documents which have put great fright in the minds of those organisations they support, which is quite unwarranted. I thank my noble friend the Minister for his letter, and shall pass it on as being good advice not to be deceived by the ILEA on this particular point.

I wish to speak to this amendment because youth services, which includes youth clubs, seem by convention to be supported, if at all from local government, by the education authorities, and in the case of London this is the ILEA. May I be assured by my noble friend whether, on the one hand, a scheme under Clause 47 such as we are debating at the moment would apply? The purpose of my amendment is to show that I understand that there is this education support but would hope that perhaps a scheme might be able to supplement, or even replace, an education authority grant if that was appropriate.

My other question for my noble friend concerns the splendid trust for London that he announced earlier this evening. Would the grants that would be made from that trust be open to youth services even though their main funding base might be an education authority? I beg to move.

Lord Elton

Your Lordships will recall, because I have said it too often already, that Clause 47 deals only with voluntary organisations which serve an area of more than one borough or district. The purely, local groups will be able to look to their individual councils for support. Clause 47 sets up arrangements which will replace the strategic role of the GLC or the MCCs in looking at voluntary services operating over a large number of borough or district councils.

I think it is likely that many of the youth clubs which my noble friend has in mind—but of course not all—will be purely local and therefore fall to the local authority. My noble friend asks in terms whether a scheme under Clause 47 would be able to supplement or replace an ILEA grant. The answer to that is, yes; and that is what he wanted to know. I would anticipate that the grants from the trust would be open to the youth services, as to others.

Lord Mottistone

I am grateful to my noble friend. I should say that the particular youth clubs to which I was referring fall into three separate London boroughs and would be eligible under Clause 47. I am grateful for his reply, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 47 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 136 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 136ZA had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

The Earl of Perth moved Amendment No. 136ZB: [Printed 20/5/85; co1.8.]

The noble Earl said: The amendment standing in my name rejoices in the letters "ZB" after its number. Before I give my reasons for it I should like to clear up a misapprehension when the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, rather cavalierly dismissed my amendment on the grounds that it gave a blank cheque for spending. She cannot have read the amendment, because it does no such thing. It works entirely within the ambit of Clause 47 and the amount of money that may be available either from local authorities or, more important, from the Government's generous help which was announced this evening.

I am convinced that when the schemes come up there will be more demands on the Government for money that can be provided. I feel sure of that. The problem is that, if that is so, who will decide the apportionment, and how will it be decided? It is this which my amendment attempts to deal with. I should have thought that the Government would welcome the amendment as drafted because it overcomes the problem of their having to make political decisions. My proposal is that a totally independent body should be faced with that responsibility, a body which is not political in any way.

I shall not repeat the sort of composition that I think is appropriate, but I stress that whichever party forms the Government—it may not always be the present party which forms the Government—it has to come to these decisions. Whatever the Government, surely it is good that a decision should be taken by an independent body. I earlier used the analogy of the Arts Council.

Before the question of a Division goes any further I should like to stress what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich said. He said that he was afraid that over the last months there had been a tendency for your Lordships to go beyond your function as a revising Chamber. That is probably correct, but the amendment I propose does not go against the Government. It is a revision, but it is wholly within the ambit of the Government's proposals. It accepts Clause 47 and it is the better for the fact that the Government have themselves announced generous further aid for the schemes which may come forward.

I repeat that my anxiety is: who is to decide how that aid is to be divided among the competition of the many schemes which will be before it? At this moment I stop there. I beg to move.

Lord Beloff

I find this amendment very difficult because I still feel, having heard the noble Earl twice, that I am not completely sure what it is he has in mind. As I understand it—and I may be wrong—the proposal in the Bill is for an organisation of boroughs or metropolitan districts which will come together and allocate money to the support of the voluntary organisations. I understand further—and this has been enlarged upon by the Minister today—that, because there may be a gap between the setting up of such an organisation and its ability fully to fund the needs of these organisations, the Government will make certain interim additions to the funds at their disposal.

What I am not clear about is whether the noble Earl proposes that the organisation of the boroughs, in respect of the money which the boroughs themselves raise, should spend it through an independent body or whether the independent body would deal only with the extra money, the bonus, if you like, which the Government are conferring on the scheme. If it is the former, then it is a major change in the proposed arrangements. As the noble Earl said earlier today, it would be the equivalent of setting up for voluntary charitable organisations an equivalent of the Arts Council.

But if it is only for the additional sums which the Government are to give over an interim period then it seems to me that it must enormously complicate the task of distribution because you will have one body which distributes the funds raised by the boroughs and a different body distributing the bonus. I should have thought that this would be awkward both for those who have to distribute and for the recipients. To use a phrase which has been used more than once today, there would be two doors on which to knock. I hope that before we finally decide about the noble Earl's amendment he can clear up my doubts on this score.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Before the noble Earl stands up, I have a question to ask him, too, so he may find it convenient to answer my noble friend Lord Beloff's question and mine. I was going to ask him the meaning of his first subsection, which uses the words: by order appoint a Council to oversee the schemes made under section 47. I am not familiar with the use of the word "oversee" in this sense in a statute. What I should like to know is this. Does he mean that they should oversee in the colloquial sense: that is to say, that they should notice and comment upon but that the responsibility should still lie with the local councils in the scheme under Clause 47; or does he mean that they would have power to overrule the local councils in the distribution of the money which they themselves had raised from their ratepayers?

The Earl of Perth

I am grateful to both the noble Lords, Lord Beloff and Lord Boyd-Carpenter, for raising these questions. Let me say to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, that if he will look at subsection (2) of my amendment, it is totally clear that what I am talking about is only the, sums made available by the Secretary of State for voluntary organisations under such schemes". It says so in that subsection, and I should like to make it totally clear (as I am sure it ought to be clear if anybody reads this) that all that I am talking about is the money which the Government are using for topping up the scheme.

I would repeat to Lord Beloff and others that I think that for the Government to have to make that decision is a difficult one. I should have thought that they would welcome the opportunity to leave it to somebody who is well equipped to do this in a non-political way and to ensure that it is fairly handled. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, asked me the meaning of "oversee". I find this a difficult question to answer, and I thought of using the word "monitor". However, I am clear that what I mean is this: the local authorities will put up their schemes. Then it will be for the new body, the council, to look at those schemes and decide whether or not it will support them with the money that is available from the Government grant. So it does not, in a sense, decide on the merit of the schemes: it does decide on whether the schemes are worthy of the support of the council which I am proposing. I hope that is sufficient answer.

10 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Just for the sake of complete clarity, then it does not mean that the council would have the power to overrule the local authorities in respect of the money that they themselves raise for these schemes from their own ratepayers?

The Earl of Perth

That is right.

Lord Elton

I wonder whether I may reply, because we have discussed this amendment already at an earlier stage and I do not think we ought to stand too long on it. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, is concerned about the transitional stages of the scheme. He has proposed a system that is in itself transitional, and it is to supervise the distribution of transitional grant. Transitional grant will be given under the 1969 Act on social needs, the urban programme power, to projects currently getting their grant from the GLC and the MCC's. There will be a bidding round; the DoE will make allocations based on the local authority bids; and the point at which the noble Earl would like his amendment to bite is the point when the allocation is made between the different areas.

I can tell him that in fact it will be made broadly proportional to the amount of the grants that each will be taking from the GLC or MCC now. It seems to me that is a satisfactory answer to the question, because his concern is about the transition from what the GLC and the MCCs are now doing to what is done in the future; and surely the grounds for this must be what is done now, rather than take some external opinion. It is on that basis that we intend the allocation to be made.

The Earl of Perth

I am afraid I am not entirely happy with that answer because, as I see the problem, it is that there will be more demands on Government than there are funds available. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, as I understand it, said, "In certain sections it will be done proportionately". Frankly, I do not think that is a good idea. Some of the things may be good, and some of the things may be bad. I should have thought it would be far better to have an independent body making a decision.

If the noble Lord can say that he will think about this further, for the reasons that I have given, fine; then we could look at it again at Report stage. But if he cannot give me any comfort, then I must confess I am in great difficulty. The difficulty is this: in the earlier amendments various noble Lords voted against the Hayter amendment because they wanted to see my amendment go through. That was the advice that I gave them. If I can get no sort of comfort that it will be looked at again, then I am breaking faith with those who helped the Government to win that amendment by not pressing mine. Therefore I would ask the noble Lord not to say, "It will be proportionate", because that seems to me to be not the right method of handling it. Surely the right method is to decide on its merit. I propose, rather than the Government having to decide on the merit of it, that they pass the decision to a body which is in every way impartial and nonpolitical.

Lord Elton

I am always for deciding cases on their merits, and the merits of this one must surely be—indebted as I am to any who voted in the Government Lobby on the last Division—whether or not what we propose carries out the function which noble Lords wish it to do. And what noble Lords want is that the step, if it is a step down between the GLCMCC funding and the new funding—if there is a step in whatever direction—should be smoothed. The only reference point for that is what is happening now. It cannot be a subjective decision. I much regret that I cannot help the noble Earl, much as I should like to, by saying that this is a scheme which we could bring in at a later stage.

Lord Renton

I think the noble Earl, Lord Perth, might understand the position of a great many of us in the Committee if I were to mention that this clause, whatever its merits, is not consistent with Clause 47, which we have already passed.

The Earl of Perth

I do not understand that.

Lord Renton

Clause 47 has already provided machinery for the decisions to be taken as to the grants to voluntary bodies, and the way in which the decisions are to be taken, and the way in which the grants are to be made. To that extent, it not only overlaps with the arrangements proposed by the noble Earl but, I suggest, conflicts with them.

On Question, amendment negatived.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness White)

We now have Amendment No. 136ZBB, which is a manuscript amendment to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, in place, I understand, of Amendment No. 136ZE. The manuscript amendment has been available in the Printed Paper Office. I understand that if no noble Lord objects, it is now open to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, to move his amendment.

Lord Elton

May I just ask the noble Lord whether, in moving it, he will confirm that it is word for word the same as Amendment No. 136ZE? If it is not, I wonder whether we may have a little time to read it, because I have not yet seen the alternative.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

May I ask the noble Lord, if he is going to move it, whether he will first read it, so that those of us who have not had the advantage of seeing the manuscript amendment can know what we are debating?

Lord Bruce of Donington moved manuscript Amendment No. 136ZBB: After Clause 47, insert the following new clause:

"Economic Development Authorities.

(1) On the abolition date there shall be established for Greater London and each of the metropolitan areas a body corporate which shall be known as the London Economic Development Authority, or by the name of the county with the words "Economic Development Authority" as the case may be, to which the Secretary of State shall transfer the functions to which this section applies.

(2) Each authority shall consist of members of the constituent councils appointed by them to be members of the Authority.

(3) The constituent councils in relation to a metropolitan economic development authority shall be the councils for the metropolitan districts comprised in the county, and for the London Economic Development Authority shall be the councils of the London boroughs.

(4) The functions of the Economic Development Authority in each area shall be—

  1. (a) the funding of any body corporate whose objects include the assistance, promotion and encouragement of existing and new industrial or commercial enterprises in Greater London and the metropolitan areas by way of grants, loans, guarantees or other financial assistance;
  2. 119
  3. (b) the provision of research and information necessary to the development of programmes appropriate for the economic, industrial and employment development of the areas concerned:
  4. (c) the provision of training projects, or funding of such projects by any body corporate, appropriate to the employment needs of the areas concerned.

(5) An order under this section may contain such supplementary and transitional provisions as the Secretary of State thinks necessary or expedient, including provisions for the transfer of property, staff, rights and liabilities and provisions amending any enactment or any instrument made under any enactment."

The noble Lord said: I must apologise to the Committee for the error that took place in the tabling of Amendment No. 136ZE. It was originally drafted at a time when I thought that the machinery of the London residuary body would be more amenable to the Government than the other means that had been proposed. But in the course of the Committee stage I apprehended that the London residuary body was no longer in such great favour and I redrafted the amendment which I propose to read to your Lordships and which alters the provision to make the effective body a joint board. I apologise for the error.

The amendment I now propose reads as follows: After Clause 47, insert the following new clause:

"(1) On the abolition date there shall be established for Greater London and each of the metropolitan areas a body corporate which shall be known as the London Economic Development Authority, or by the name of the county with the words "Economic Development Authority" as the case may be, to which the Secretary of State shall transfer the functions to which this section applies.

(2) Each authority shall consist of members of the constituent councils appointed by them to be members of the Authority.

(3) The constituent councils in relation to a metropolitan economic development authority shall be the councils for the metropolitan districts comprised in the county, and for the London Economic Development Authority shall be the councils of the London boroughs.

(4) The functions of the Economic Development Authority in each area shall be—

  1. (a) the funding of any body corporate whose objects include the assistance, promotion and encouragement of existing and new industrial or commercial enterprises in Greater London and the metropolitan areas by way of grants, loans, guarantees or other financial assistance;
  2. (b) the provision of research and information necessary to the development of programmes appropriate for the economic, industrial and employment development of the areas concerned;
  3. (c) the provision of training projects, or funding of such projects by any body corporate, appropriate to the employment needs of the areas concerned.

(5) An order under this section may contain such supplementary and transitional provisions as the Secretary of State thinks necessary or expedient, including provisions for the transfer of property, staff, rights and liabilities and provisions amending any enactment or any instrument made under any enactment."

This amendment endeavours to deal with the future of those organisations within the GLC and the metropolitan counties which have been actively concerned in the promotion of business and commercial enterprises within their respective areas in Greater London or in the metropolitan county areas. Normally the activities have taken two or perhaps more forms. Some of the authorities have had in-house arrangements for suitable training for small business enterprises involving the employment of many skilled professional people in making their services available to those who wish to start up businesses and, in many cases, to those whose businesses are, or have been, on the brink of failure.

Also, all of the authorities concerned have formed, and have put their efforts behind, various enterprise bodies including the Greater London Enterprise Board, in Merseyside the Merseyside Enterprise Board, in West Yorkshire the West Yorkshire Enterprise Board, in the West Midlands the West Midlands Enterprise Board, in Tyne and Wear the Tyne and Wear Business Development Fund Company Limited and in Greater Manchester the Greater Manchester Development Corporation. All of these have been either limited companies or companies limited by guarantee. They have their own separate legal entity and there is nothing contained within the Bill, as your Lordships would expect, that seeks to abolish them. But their future is of some considerable importance. These enterprises that are not concerned with trading, which I hope will be enlarged upon by the noble Countess. Lady Mar, are engaged in promoting investment in various enterprises either selected by them or brought to them.

10.15 p.m.

It is necessary to state that these enterprise organisations are not peopled, as it were, by politicians but are manned by staffs who are extremely skilled professionally: who have skills in the accountancy profession, in production engineering, and in a whole range of other spheres. Nobody so far has ever sought to take anything away from the qualities of those people.

In the event, they have been singularly successful. We find from the nearest estimate that it is possible to obtain—and time does not permit me, at this stage, to go into further detail although I shall be very happy to do so and to produce the documentation—that their work has resulted in the creation of, or the saving of, more than 50,000 new jobs in the GLC and metropolitan county areas.

We are living in times of very heavy unemployment. Without wearying your Lordships with the figures, unemployment is worst precisely in the metropolitan county areas—although even in London (particularly the inner city area) unemployment is running at some 16.5 per cent.

We are either serious about creating new jobs—genuine jobs, if I may borrow the Government's phrase describing this activity—or we are not. It seems to me that the Bill ought to contain some provision to deal with these various bodies. The Bill is silent on this point, and so far as I can see, there has been very little in the way of Government observations on their futures other than an off-the-cuff observation (which I cannot take very seriously) by one Minister in another place, that they will be allowed to wither away on the bough. I cannot believe that this was meant as a serious observation.

The purpose of moving this amendment is to obtain from the Government a statement as to what their intentions are in this respect. Your Lordships will appreciate (particularly those noble Lords who have experience of business and commerce) that when an investment is made in a new concern—and particularly when it is made at the instance of and after investigation by professionals such as investment analysts, accountants, production engineers marketing experts, and all the rest—then the investment or loan support required to move these new enterprises, or to save enterprises, from the state in which they were found can only be accomplished over a period of years.

The normal procedure—and each of the enterprise organisations to which I am referring insists upon it—is for the businesses to provide details of the appropriate cash flows, their forecast of sales or activities as the case may be, their fixed and floating expenditure over the years, the progressive development of their expenses, and so on.

Very often, investment is made on the basis of continuing support. At a later stage if necessary, when the time is more propitious, I can give details to show that in some cases any withdrawal of the facilities already promised and negotiated would mean the failure of the organisation concerned. I could go into considerable detail about the activities of each of the organisations to which I am referring, but time will not permit. Indeed, the purpose of moving this amendment is to find out what are the Government's intentions.

However, I make one point very clear; and that is the economics of the matter. I hope that what I have said will encourage the Government to take what I conceive to be steps that any reasonable businessman, economist or banker would take in the particular circumstances. Your Lordships will recall that in the course of a debate in this House on 21st January last, when we were discussing regional development, the Government underlined the contents of their own White Paper published in October 1983 which put the cost of regional aid at about £35,000 per job. Some amendments were made, by regulation, that went through the House on that occasion and which tied regional aid to one of two alternatives. In labour intensive proposals the limit was going to be £5,000 per job and in the case of capital intensive proposals it would be, in certain circumstances, £10,000 per job. Let us consider the position if there is a saving of jobs to the tune of some 50,000—a figure for which at a later stage I can give a reasonably accurate build up, supported by the appropriate authentications. Then, on the basis of findings arrived at by your Lordships' Select Committee which considered the cost of unemployment to the Exchequer, and which came out with a figure, including lost taxation, of £5,000 per job per annum in the case of a single unemployed person, it will be readily perceived that if, in fact, 50,000 jobs have been either created or saved, the Exchequer has benefited, in one way or another, to the tune of £250 million per annum.

Many noble Lords may think, and indeed the Government may think, that that is not chicken feed. I would not myself think it was chicken feed. What emerges from the figures is that in the case of, for example, the Greater London Enterprise Board, where 2,352 jobs have been saved, the cost is between £3,000 and £3,500 per job. In the case of Merseyside, where 482 jobs were created or saved, the cost was only £519 per job. In the case of the West Midlands, where 3,000 jobs were created or saved, the figure was £2,666 per job. In West Yorkshire, where 4,100 jobs were created or saved, it works out at £560 per job.

There is no need for us to cavil at the precise extent of the figures, though I am prepared, at a suitable stage, to document them; the fact is that they are very significantly below the figures determined for regional aid. They are significantly below the cost to the Exchequer of having a person unemployed, whether through receipt of unemployment benefit or loss of taxation.

Those are the considerations I lay before the noble Lord. Whatever figures may materialise according to different assumptions, I am satisfied—and I have had experience in this field of the reconstruction of companies, the starting up of new businesses, the preparation of feasibility studies, and the like—that they form a good proposition. As I said, if necessary I am prepared to prove it at a later stage. It may well be—I hope so—that I am knocking at an open door. It appears to me to be a matter of commonsense that the aid which has been given to these enterprises by the GLC and by the metropolitan counties, as appropriate, has been a very good business investment indeed. It has been good for the Exchequer and indeed has been well regarded by local chambers of commerce up and down the country in the areas of the councils affected.

I could give the Committee specific quotations from bodies which noble Lords would think to be extremely responsible, many of which have a favourable disposition even at this time towards the broad general policies of Her Majesty's Government; but I shall not weary the Committee at this time of night. I sincerely hope, therefore, that in reply the noble Lord will be able to give for the first time some firm indication as to exactly what are the intentions of Her Majesty's Government towards these bodies. I beg to move.

The Countess of Mar

I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Bruce. My interest in industrial and commercial training is not a transitory one. Nine years ago, when there were fewer than 2 million unemployed, the subject of my maiden speech was industrial training. I propose to confine myself to the training aspects of this amendment. That was in the days when specialist training considered necessary by employers was provided by them in the form of apprenticeships, sandwich, block and day release courses and in-house training.

Finances are now so stringent that employers seem to expect prospective employees to be highly trained at the expense of central or local government. I know that most of us accept that unemployment and its accompanying social problems have now reached unacceptable proportions. We know too the importance of adequate training in skills which are required by modern industry and commerce. Her Majesty's Government have done a good deal towards the provision of training schemes, particularly for young people, but there is no reason why such provision should be considered to be the sole prerogative of Government.

I wonder how many of your Lordships have been sufficiently interested in the outcome of this debate to see for yourselves the achievements of, for example, the Greater London Training Board. I must admit that before I did so I was more than a little sceptical about the role of a local authority in training for jobs. I had not expected to find the degree of enthusiasm, commitment and desire for quality with which I was confronted. Many of the 70 or so projects have been started as a result of local demand. Those most in need of training have gone to the board with their own ideas, and if the board has considered them viable it has offered assistance. The schemes do not compete with those provided by Government but rather complement them. The numerous debates we have had in your Lordships' House on unemployment and training have highlighted the disadvantages suffered by the mentally and physically handicapped, ethnic minorities and women, and especially those who fall within these groups who have a poor educational background.

The Greater London Training Board has tended to concentrate its resources on these people. In the three years since its inception, 5,000 adults and young people have received, and 220 instructors have provided, training in skills as diverse as gardening and advanced computer technology. It has the support of organisations such as the London Chamber of Commerce, the Industry and Employers' Group Training Association, the City and Guilds of London, the British Youth Council and many others. Cross-borough drinks—it sounds as though I have been drinking. I am sorry; I am very tired. Cross-borough links with dozens of employers have been fostered. Its work has also become the focus of widespread international interest, most recently from professional instructors in West Germany, Greece, Sweden, Nigeria, Australia, the Philippines, Austria, Tanzania and the Sudan.

A fine example of the work done by the board is the Tower Hamlets Advanced Technology Training Project. This is an organisation whose objects are to advance the education and training of young people and adults in the manufacture, use, operation, repair and maintenance of computers, microprocessors and other electronic and mechanical equipment, and to teach them the role and effect of the new and advanced technology in society.

10.30 p.m.

At any one time it has 35 trainees whose only qualifications are that they must be over the age of 25 and unemployed. It is funded jointly by the Greater London Training Board, the European Social Fund and the Tower Hamlets Inner Areas Training programme. There I have seen men and women—a high proportion of women—of British, Indian, Chinese and West Indian origin, aged between 25 and 50. There were five severely disabled people in wheelchairs. I was most impressed by the skill and patience of the instructors, who also come from a wide variety of social and ethnic backgrounds. All these people had been considered unsuitable for Government training schemes for a number of reasons. They have been given the opportunity to become productive, independent citizens with nationally recognised qualifications, where they had once been written off. This is only one example.

The board's Women's Motor Mechanics Apprenticeship Programme at the Oval has successfully placed 87 per cent. of white, 89 per cent. of Afro-Caribbean and 100 per cent. of Asian students who have completed their courses. This success is one of a long list of similar achievements and must be attributed to the quality and suitability of the training and the capacity of the board to respond quickly to needs of different industries and localities, and of course the availability of funds for the training schemes.

The provision of training and jobs is not an obligation put upon the GLC by statute, but the work of the training board is recognised to be of value in many circles. There is no provision in the Bill for the work to be continued. I am well aware that the boroughs are as concerned as the GLC about unemployment, and that they will do their utmost to alleviate and overcome its accompanying problems. However, their ability to cope with the needs of the unemployed will be limited by their ability to raise rates (the poorest boroughs are those which contain the most needy), the demands upon their resources for other equally important services, and their boundaries.

If we do not accept the necessity of separate economic development authorities for London and the metropolitan counties, more than 10,000 training places will be lost; many teams of skilled and dedicated training staff will be disbanded; public investment in resources, equipment and premises will be wasted, and several million pounds of investment by the European Social Fund will no longer be available. Most important of these will be the inability of the boroughs to provide training and jobs for those who fall outside the Government's training schemes. I ask the Committee to support this amendment.

Lord Elton

It seems that we all want all the best things that are done now to go on being done in the future. Therefore, I do not need to respond to all the credits which the noble Lord and the noble Baroness have passed out to their particular favourite body. What I need to tell the Committee is that it will be possible for this work to go on.

The amendment seeks to enable it to go on by creating what was, when I sat down this afternoon, a residuary body and is now a joint authority. If the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, finds any lucanae in what I have to say, it will be attributable in part to the fact of this sudden and unexpected change. It would, in particular, provide these authorities with a power to set up and fund enterprise boards and training boards similar to those currently controlled by the GLC and most of the metropolitan counties, and it would allow them to undertake research to provide a framework for a county-wide programme of economic development.

The Committee knows my views generally, and those of the Government, on joint authorities. I shall not go down that particular course and I am sure the noble Lord does not want me to do so. However, I can tell him that without these authorities the borough and district councils are quite capable of taking over full responsibility for local economic development. The Committee has already heard what I have had to say about the resources that will be available to them, and boroughs and districts can spend the resources released by abolition on such activities if they wish.

The districts and boroughs already have a wide range of powers to pursue economic development. They include the powers under Section 137 of the Local Government Act 1972 which they can use to provide the sort of assistance to which the amendment specifically refers. Many of the boroughs and districts are spending well below their limit and can therefore increase this expenditure. If your Lordships look at Clause 47(11), you will see that the collective funding for the voluntary sector under the clause will not constrain the use of Section 137 and will create some additional headroom under Section 137 for local economic initiatives.

Apart from Section 137, boroughs and districts have other powers available to them. A large part of local authorities' existing economic programmes involve the provision of serviced industrial sites and factory workshops. These are usually provided under powers contained in the Local Government (Land) Act 1963. Districts designated under the urban programme are also able to use the powers in the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978. These will not be affected by the Bill.

The amendment envisages that the joint authorities would pursue a more strategic development role both through the hoards they would set up and through the proposed research and intelligence gathering activities. But using the resources and powers I have described this is something that districts will be perfectly able to do themselves either by taking over control of the enterprise boards currently operated by the GLC and the metropolitan county councils, or by entering into joint voluntary working arrangements with each other to establish similar bodies.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, spoke admiringly of the enterprise bodies and assured us that they are held in the highest of esteem. They already exist, of course, as, for example, in the Greater London Enterprise Board and the West Midlands Enterprise Board. They are private companies limited by guarantee. As such, their existence will not be affected by the Government's proposals to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan councils. The boards are controlled at present by their parent authorities under the terms and conditions of their articles of association. But there is nothing to stop those being amended to allow the successor authorities to have powers to nominate members and directors to the boards and to make financial contributions just as the metropolitan authorities do now. In fact, in a number of instances, I gather that they have already done so. The districts in the West Midlands and the districts in West Yorkshire have agreed to continue support to these enterprise boards. So arrangements are already in hand; and if, as the noble Lord tells us, these bodies are held in high esteem, they will continue.

Where the training boards are in-house departments of the councils to be abolished, as in the case of the Greater London Training Board, their operations will cease. But the district or borough will have power and the extra resources to take over those schemes and to set up new ones. Some of the training boards are independent companies, as in Merseyside. This can continue with the support of the districts, as I have said.

There is more that I could read out, but the point I wish to make is a simple one. The resources and the powers are available to the districts to continue this work. The work is widely recognised. It varies in quality. The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, drew attention to the variations in quality. These variations will be reflected in variations of enthusiasm among the successor bodies as to whether or not to continue the work. But where the work is without doubt constructive and useful, there is the power, and I do not doubt that there will be the will, for it to continue.

Lord Bruce of Donington

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his reply. Since the Government office was aware, at the latest, by 10 a.m. today of the existence and text of the manuscript amendment I am at a loss to understand why it took until the afternoon to reach the noble Lord.

Lord Elton

I can tell the noble Lord that I have a great deal of work to do at the moment, most of it arising from his colleagues on the Benches opposite. It is normal to decide what one is going to do on the Marshalled List several days ahead, particularly when the change that the noble Lord adduced as his reason for tabling a manuscript amendment had been made perfectly clear last week.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Perhaps my noble friend will allow me to intervene on that point. Apart from it being a problem for the Minister, is it not also a problem for noble Lords who are trying to follow this Bill if a long and important amendment of this nature is suddenly put down by way of a manuscript amendment? No doubt it is in order, but it is surely a highly inconvenient practice and somewhat unfair to your Lordships.

Lord Bruce of Donington

Yes, I have already apologised to your Lordships about this matter and, if necessary, I shall repeat it. Unlike some, I am always prepared to admit when I make a mistake, and once again I am very sorry for it.

I am very glad that the noble Lord has replied. Unfortunately, he has not met the points that I wanted him to cover. He pointed out—and this is undoubtedly true—that a number of district and borough authorities have underspent their 2p rate yield under Section 137 of the Local Government Act. There are many others, particularly in the more distressed areas, which are already up to the hilt of their 2p rate expenditure on matters of this kind.

I had rather hoped that the noble Lord would repeat the indication that was given by his right honourable friend in another place on 5th October last, when he certainly paid a rather more fulsome tribute to the work of these enterprise boards than the rather grudging remarks that fell from the lips of the noble Lord. The noble Lord's right honourable friend said: Of course as the White Paper made clear, there might be a case for increasing the 2p limit to Section 137 expenditure if present funds prove inadequate, and we will be prepared to consider doing so if circumstances warrant such action". The noble Lord did not confirm that indication and so I think that I am entitled to ask him whether, since that time, there has been a change of mind.

Moreover, I also draw the noble Lord's attention to the rather more complimentary remarks that fell from the lips of his noble friend Lord Bellwin when we were considering the interim provisions Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, said: We are not in the business of halting such useful work as can be, and frequently is, carried out by, for example, the Greater London Enterprise Board and the enterprise boards set up in some of the other metropolitan counties. We accept that enterprise boards can help to forge a vital partnership between the public and private sectors". I must say that I expected the noble Lord to respond in rather more positive and dynamic terms than to announce that the districts had the power to undertake these functions, that in some cases they had the funds, and that really all that was required was the will. The noble Lord rather understates the position. However, I am grateful to him for his reply. I am sure he appreciates that this is a matter to which we shall return at a later stage.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

I should like to ask whether, as regards Section 137. we are to be led to understand that the money which will go to economic development in the future will be part of the millions that were given this afternoon as voluntary body money. Will the same money be used for both purposes? Under the present plans a local authority in a non-metropolitan area will have access to a 4p rate yield under Section 137: 2p of its own resources and 2p from the county council. That will be 4p in the shire county areas that the districts can have. Does this not mean that the metropolitan authorities are back again with just 2p?—those being in very deprived areas where I believe the noble Lord the Minister himself has said that the work done by the enterprise boards and the economic development committees have really made an impact upon job regeneration. If what I said about the county councils and the districts which are in their county is correct, is it not unfair that they should have the benefit of 4p and does not this create a two-tier of local government finance? If I am wrong I shall be glad to hear the opinion of the noble Lord.

The other point I should like to raise is that mention of thousands of pounds has been bandied around in debates. I checked up with the Coventry local authority when someone said that the authority had millions of pounds in their area under Section 137. I have had authentic information from them. The true figure for Coventry is approximately £800,000; so I think it is important that when figures are bandied about by the Government they are really checked upon by the local authorities when their names are used.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Lockwood

May I add one further question to those posed by my noble friend? What will happen to those schemes which have been partly funded by the European social fund and partly funded by the metropolitan counties? Will the successor bodies take over the responsibility for continuing those schemes?

Lord Elton

Your Lordships have tried me. The answer to one of the questions which has been raised—I think it was the last one—is yes. The answer to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, is yes. The metropolitan districts have a 2p rate to spend, as your Lordships have suggested. The Section 137 money is supported by the transitional money but only if it is spent on bodies capable of being aided under the Local Government (Social Needs) Act. The noble Baroness looks suitably pensive about that. I think she will see what I mean when she looks at Clause 47 again tomorrow. The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, was not quite quick enough withdrawing his amendment to prevent my replying to his barbed remarks. I did not see my business here at the Box to cry out the excellent work of either the enterprise boards, where it is excellent, or the training boards, where it is excellent. My job was to reassure your Lordships that where it was excellent it could continue. That was the burden of what I said, and I said it briefly because I believe at this hour everybody wishes me to be brief.

It is perfectly true that my right honourable friend said that we would consider raising the 2p limit and we are still prepared to consider the circumstances of boroughs in difficulty but not until the Widdicombe Committee has reported on the wider question of Section 137; but the boroughs and districts have other powers not caught within the limits and therefore the reassurance that I gave earlier stands.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

Will the noble Lord write to me on the point that I raised regarding 4p that goes to the districts that are in county areas under the two-tier system? Can he explain that in a letter to me?

Lord Elton

I shall be glad to do so, and I am glad of the opportunity of the respite to consider it because I have not replied to that aspect, but I shall do so. Following the conventions of the House, a copy will be put in the Library.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 136ZC: After Clause 47 insert the following new clause:

("Report on equal opportunities for women.

. Before the abolition date the Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a report on the effects of the provisions of this Act on equal opportunities for women.)"

The noble Baroness said: At this time of night, I shall deal very briefly with this amendment. Its purpose is to draw attention to the effect that the abolition will possibly have on opportunities for women and women's work. In London the bulk of the grant funds, nearly 60 per cent., go to child care projects. I know that we hear very much more of the funny, offbeat, rather eccentric activities that sometimes take place. This is at the loss and neglect of the very worthwhile activities, very important ones, that are financed by the GLC and also the mets in their areas. One of the most important of those functions which have been undertaken by the GLC has been these child-care centres. Not only are they somewhere where children are well looked after and can develop, but they also enable the mothers to go out to work and know that the children are properly cared for.

In London, where 30 per cent. of women with children under five and more than 50 per cent. with children over five go out to work—that was in the 1981 census—a DHSS survey of three inner London boroughs in 1979 found that more than 90 per cent. of mothers wanted, or needed, day care for their three to four-year olds and more than 70 per cent. for two-year olds. Nineteen per cent. of families with children in the GLC area are single-parent households, yet on average there were only 25 full-time nursery places per thousand children who were under five in London in 1981, and extremely limited after-school and school-holiday provision.

By the end of the 1985 the GLC had grant-aided over 200 voluntary organisations, which will provide 4,200 child-care places for under-fives and over 600 jobs at an annual cost of over £5 million, and 47 of these projects provide after-school, latch-key, and school holiday care for children. The women's work has been, as it always is, a significant factor in the voluntary sector for many years, and the types of project which have been funded include in addition to those for children, pensioners' groups, information and resource centres, women's centres, health and counselling groups, welfare and legal rights advice projects, ethnic minority women's projects, transport services for women, and groups providing specialised expertise, for example, in architecture or computers.

Many of these projects should command wide support. For instance, an interesting one—and this ties up rather with what the noble Countess, Lady Mar, said on the last amendment on the provision of training projects—was in 1983–84, when the Greater London Training Board funded approximately 250 places for adult women to train for jobs such as computing and electronics, the construction trade, and motor mechanics—the sort of jobs for which otherwise there may not be opportunities for women to train. Almost all these courses have child care facilities or allowances to enable women with children to participate.

There is anxiety to know who will pick this up. It is not just the financial tab for this work, but it is also the opportunities for women to do this work and the child care centres which are important. It is not going to be reasonable or optimistic to believe or hope that the boroughs or district councils are going to be able to replace what has been done on a county-wide basis. It is for those reasons that I move this probing amendment. Obviously I am not going to press the amendment, but I should like to hear what the Minister has to say about it. I beg to move.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

Before the Minister replies on this point, I should like to draw to his attention that the Conservative group on the women's committee at County Hall has consistently opposed and voted against all those particular child care facilities that the noble Baroness has just referred to. It has been a strongly political issue. The reason is that the Conservative group believes that these matters should come under the local borough. It is the local borough social services department which rightfully funds child-care facilities, not the Greater London Council. Therefore I consider that after abolition, when the additional funds are left with the local boroughs—if it is true that boroughs such as Lambeth, Islington and Southwark have applied for such vast quantities for child care facilities—they will be keen and will surely carry them on afterwards, particularly as they will be getting this additional funding through the equalisation levy.

Baroness Birk

My I ask the noble Baroness, since she seems to be very involved in this: are the boroughs queueing up and fighting with the GLC because they, want to provide these child care centres which the GLC insists on doing? Is there that sort of situation?

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I mentioned earlier in the debate that there was this agreement, which was strongly opposed by the Conservative Party, between the Labour boroughs and the GLC whereby the statement was made, "If you wish to avoid rate capping, push it all up here to County Hall and we will fund it and you will not rise above the rate-capped level". This has always been a deliberate and clearly agreed policy between the Labour boroughs, I may add. Whenever I spoke about that myself in the women's committee I was told that I should see that the Conservative boroughs applied for something. I regularly did and they never had the same success in getting anything.

Baroness Lockwood

I should like to support this amendment. When the Sex Discrimination Act was passed 10 years ago it was preceded by a White Paper which made it quite clear that in order to eliminate sex discrimination it would be necessary for a wide range of administrative and voluntary activity to take place to assist the proposed Equal Opportunities Commission in eliminating sex discrimination and promoting equality of opportunity between the two sexes.

There is no doubt that the work of the GLC and the metropolitan counties has greatly assisted the work of the Equal Opportunities Commission. The activities of the metropolitan counties and the GLC have fallen under two broad headings. The first is that of an equal opportunity employer. All the metropolitan counties as well as the GLC claim to be equal opportunities employers monitoring the progress that has been made towards the development of equal opportunities in their staffing arrangements; and, secondly, providing training and other facilities for women in spheres outside the immediate employment of the authority. Often that has taken the form of assisting voluntary organisations to undertake certain projects.

Thirdly, the metropolitan authorities have in this sphere been responsible for putting forward projects which have received EC funding which has brought additional funds into the country for the training of women in non-traditional areas. I know in my own authority in West Yorkshire there is within the engineering department a scheme for women technician trainees which is partly funded by the EC and by the metropolitan county. Likewise, in Tyne and Wear there is a scheme for training women in non-traditional areas which is funded half by the EC and half by the metropolitan county. In response to my question in the last discussion the Minister indicated that the successor bodies would be able to take over the EC funding, but one wonders who the successor bodies will be in schemes of this kind and whether the schemes will disappear.

11 p.m.

Additionally, there is another area for which, again, my own county authority has been responsible; and that is making a substantial grant to Bradford University to establish a centre for research on women. It will be the very first research centre of this kind in the United Kingdom. There are centres in other countries but this will be the first in the United Kingdom which will be adding to the work that is done in most of the universities where they now have a women's studies course either at degree level or at post-degree level.

There is a lot of work that has been done in this whole area by the metropolitan counties and the GLC and I think it would be helpful if we could have a report presented to Parliament which would indicate whether this work was going to continue or what gaps there might be; and, if there are to be gaps, if the work cannot continue in all these spheres, whether or not some other authority could be set up to take over.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

May I for one second support this amendment by giving just one other example in which I have myself been involved and which I think absolutely supports what my noble friend has been saying? This, again, is a training and education centre for women, this time in Haringey. Its present funding is made up of only 10 per cent. from the borough of Haringey, 40 per cent. from the GLC and 50 per cent. from the EC. As my noble friend Lady Lockwood has said, it is very difficult to understand how that funding, of which the borough is giving only 10 per cent. will be brought up to 50 per cent. quickly enough to guarantee getting the EC funding from the social fund.

To prove that this could make a great difference to equal opportunities in Haringey, of 1,266 students doing technical courses at a local college only seven were women. The unemployment rate for women in Haringey is four times greater than it is for men. The Haringey Women's Training Centre provides 86 per cent. of all training places for women in the borough of Haringey. I just wanted to add that one specific example which I think without any doubt proves that the GLC in this case has contributed a great deal to equal opportunities for women in Haringey.

Lord Elton

The noble Baroness has advanced this as a probing amendment and she wishes to establish, I think, the light in which equal opportunities matters are seen and will proceed. I should start by putting the Government's credentials on the table and reminding your Lordships that we have continued to support the Equal Opportunities Commission and to build where necessary on the legislative framework of the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act. We supported the code of practice on employment produced by the EOC which came into force on 29th April. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for employment has designated training bodies under Section 47 of the Sex Discrimination Act to run special courses for women wishing to return to work or to enter non-traditional occupations. There are now over 100 designated bodies and we have supported the Women Into Science and Engineering campaign run by the EOC and the Engineering Council.

The Civil Service also sets an example as an equal opportunities employer, and in February 1984 a programme of action on equal opportunities for women was circulated to departments for implementation. I am grateful for the opportunity of that plug. I make no apology for it, in part because noble Lords opposite use similar opportunities in a similar way and because it is relevant to what we are saying. It does show that the Government's heart is in the right place on this matter.

The debate today has been centred on collective grant-giving schemes. Perhaps I may spare a moment, however, to look directly at the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood. As I understand it, boroughs and districts can already come together collectively under Section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972 for the purposes which she describes. Therefore they are not inhibited in that way of proceeding by this Bill. If they proceed within the Bill, the successor bodies for the multi-borough activities will be the Clause 47 arrangements. If they are single-borough activities, they will be the boroughs or the districts. We have covered that ground already, and I am sure the noble Baroness is familiar with it.

In a case where the contribution made by a borough or a district is relatively small and that by the upper-tier authority is relatively large, then we have the arrangements I have already described, which include a recognition in the GREs, and so on, for the change of responsibility. So there is the opportunity for the transfer of funds without pain—and it will not be with pain, because the money spent by the upper-tier authority, as I have already explained, is money they have taken from the boroughs or the districts for the purpose and will no longer be taking from the boroughs or the districts. So the choice is with the boroughs or the districts whether to go on making that expenditure. The resource will be there already in the rate set in the previous year. It will not be necessary to increase the rate in order to create the resources, because the rate was set to provide for the precept and it is simply a question of maintaining the rate at the same level and using the money direct.

So there is no difficulty, and the step I have referred to, if it occurs, is one that derives from the inclination of the funding body and not from an administrative difficulty. We have proposed the transitional arrangements, which we have today increased and which your Lordships have welcomed, in order to get over that difficulty; so I hope the difficulties will be minimal. But my noble friend Lady Gardner lifted the lid off a fascinating situation, which shows how the proportionality of these things can be skewed by political arrangements. Nonetheless, what I said earlier holds good and the resources are there if it is intended to continue this work.

What I have said on this and on an earlier amendment and what I shall say on future amendments relates to all these activities. It is open to the successor bodies to support them if they are beneficial. They do have the resources; they will have the resources; they will in fact have extra resources from Government transitional aid during the transitional period. So the acid test is whether what is going on now is something which the bodies which will in future be responsible for funding it want to go on. That is a question for each of them, but, where activities cross the boundaries of the boroughs, there will only be the one place at which it will be necessary to lobby under Clause 47.

Baroness Birk

I should like to thank the Minister for that very full reply. I was pleased to hear the way the Government's intentions were expressed so far as equal opportunities are concerned. I only wish I felt as optimistic and hopeful as the Minister evidently does about the resources and where they are going to come from. But at this time of night, I will beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 136ZD: After Clause 47, insert the following new clause ("Report on ethnic minorities. Before the abolition date the Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a report on the effects of the provisions of this Act on ethnic minority opportunities and facilities.")

The noble Baroness said: This is a similar type of amendent, though it deals with ethnic minorities. In recent years the GLC and the metropolitan counties have undertaken innovative programmes to combat racial disadvantage and encourage equal opportunities in the great conurbations. London and each of the metropolitan counties are very different from one another and have pursued programmes suited to their individual problems in an attempt to deal in the most appropriate way with very different needs in their own areas.

In the West Midlands, for example, where there are large communities of Asian and Afro-Caribbean people in the urban centre, aid programmes have concentrated on specific grants to small, often local, groups. In Greater Manchester, with its 10 districts and more distributed ethnic minority populations, aid is limited to core funding of county-wide bodies, with a particular concentration on training. In South Yorkshire a significant aid programme provides positive assistance for the county's more than 40,000 unemployed young people. In London since 1981 voluntary and community-based organisations have, through the GLC's grant-aid programme, benefited to the level of £5 million.

If the current level of funding is not maintained, a number of essential services and projects will be lost which are London-wide or county-wide. The fact that the boroughs and districts do not fund many of the ethnic minority organisations is largely due to the area-wide nature of many of these bodies which do not serve the immediate community, but have an extensive and far-reaching network of activities, and a wide variety of groups benefit from the grant-aid programme. In the same way that the Minister attempted to give some reassurance on the question of opportunities for women, I hope that he will give us assurances that an adequate and proper level of funding to match that of the GLC's and the metropolitan counties' level will continue, and that there will be proper consultation with the ethnic minority communities themselves. I beg to move.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My noble friend Lord Pitt expressed his fears this afternoon, in our first debate, at the deleterious effect which this clause could have on the provision of funds for the work of the ethnic minorities and their organisations. I want simply to emphasise that, and to add one further word.

I think that the answer to the noble Lord. Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and, indeed, to the point which was repeated by the noble Lord the Minister, as to whether the present opportunity for funding of such bodies is to be open to increase and decrease, was in fact contained in subsection (6) of the first amendment which we discussed this afternoon, Amendment No. 135ZB. The subsection states: Each authority shall annually review the social needs of the inhabitants of its area". Why do I say that? It is because, following on the speech of my noble friend, Lord Pitt, we are worried, and people in these areas are worried, that once the overall authority goes, once there is one body responsible for assisting the ethnic minorities, the separate boroughs, particularly those which do not have any substantial number of ethnic minorities within them, may very well not be prepared to contribute, as is done now, to a general fund, and that, in this way, it may very well be that the amount of funding diminishes under the new arrangements.

Beyond that, even if the funding and the equalisation fund keep up the present level of funding, the administration and application of that fund could surely be done much better by a single body; but we have dismissed that. The only alternative to that is surely to have the social information available and that is what this amendment proposes: that there should be a report on the effects of this Bill on ethnic minority opportunities and facilities. Only with that information will it be possible to bring pressure to hear for the work that we all know should be done to be accomplished.

11.15 p.m.

In conclusion, I do not think any of us would minimise the importance of this work, but, if we do, let us listen to the words of one of the most respected Members of our own House, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, who wrote in November 1981: The evidence which i have received"— reporting on the Brixton disorders— leaves no doubt in my mind that racial disadvantage is a fact of current British life. It was a significant factor in the causation of the Brixton disorders. Urgent action is needed if it is not to become an endemic, ineradicable disease threatening the very fabric of our society. He finished by recommending that there should be, a well co-ordinated and directed programme for combating the problem of racial disadvantage. The only way of getting and sustaining such a programme is to have the information there regularly, provided by the Government.

Viscount Buckmaster

I rise very briefly to support this amendment, which is on almost identical lines to the one which I did not move. I have already spoken to this earlier on, when speaking to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hayter. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships very briefly that this is a wide-ranging problem. There are something like 2½ million people of ethnic minorities in Great Britain now. There are just about 1 million in London, representing 18 per cent. of the population. Four out of six children in our ILEA schools are now from the ethnic minorities, and no less than 14.7 different languages are spoken in our London schools.

One of the problems is the very wide difference in the proportions of ethnic minorities in the different London boroughs. For example, Brent has the highest proportion of all at 33.5 per cent., Haringey has 28 per cent. Ealing has 25 per cent.—but, as I said earlier, Ealing is a non-caring borough, which creates a difficult problem—and then there are other boroughs like Barking and Bromley with only 3 or 5 per cent. So this is a difficult problem and I fully agree with all speakers that we must have a wide-ranging report to deal particularly with discrimination in the spheres of employment, housing and so on. I give this amendment my wholehearted support.

Lord Birkett

It might be worth taking just a moment to add the arts dimension to this debate. We have debated the arts so often that it would be foolish to go on at length about them, but over the last four years what the GLC has done for ethnic minority arts is something that is universally admired—at any rate, I hope so. Certainly, it has put an enormous amount of heart into a great number of ethnic minority artists, and that represents a range of arts that covers all the performance arts and most of the fine arts and crafts as well. It has put heart into those artists and apart from that—and this is often forgotten—it has given London an enormously exciting range of arts from a very exciting and talented bunch of people.

If, as I keep gloomily predicting, there will not be quite enough money to replace all the activities of the GLC and the metropolitan counties in the arts field afterwards, I can only beg the Government, and through them the Arts Council and the arts associations, to make absolutely sure that, if cuts happen, nothing too damaging happens to this section of our society, because it is one of the successes of recent years and it would be tragic to reverse it.

Lord Elton

It does not need a great deployment of debating skill or experience of social relations to convince the Government that the ethnic minorities are an important part of our communities and that the work of the commission is of great importance.

As to policy, the Government are firmly committed to good race relations. Nowhere is the implementation of policies to promote equal opportunities more important than in the field of employment. The Government have therefore given firm support to the code of practice produced by the Commission for Racial Equality. This was approved by the Secretary of State for Employment and came into force on 1st April last year.

We reviewed our own policies and procedures as employers in the report published by the Management and Personnel Office in December 1983, and we are again leading by example in arranging for the ethnic monitoring of the Civil Service to ensure that the Civil Service is, in practice, an equal opportunity employer.

Moreover, we have encouraged local authorities to adopt and implement equal opportunities and practices, with particular reference to ethnic minorities. Last year, Ministers in the Home Office and the Department of the Environment jointly chaired a well-attended conference of local authorities precisely for that purpose. In my own department's administration of Section 11 grant, we require local authorities which seek grant aid to assist them in matching their employment policy to the special needs of minority communities to consult those communities before they make their application to us for such aid. Last year, nearly £80 million in grant aid was paid out in that way.

I am glad to report that many boroughs and districts are already doing a great deal to help and support ethnic minority communities in their areas. All the boroughs and districts have general powers which can be applied for the benefit of ethnic minorities. There is nothing unique about the GLC and the metropolitan councils in that respect.

The Government are supporting and helping local authorities to assist ethnic minority communities. Under the urban programme, more than £30 million was given in the last financial year to more than 1,000 projects of special benefit to ethnic minority groups. Since 1981 there has been a five-fold increase in the urban programme resources being devoted to such projects.

Urban programme grants have been used to support training centres, workshops and co-operatives; language classes and summer schools; bookshops and libraries; day nurseries and pre-school groups; hostels and housing advice centres: youth clubs and community centres, and many other kinds of projects either catering particularly for ethnic minority groups or taking special account of their needs. All these different kinds of projects have been put forward by the boroughs and districts, and have been financially supported by the boroughs and districts. The GLC and metropolitan authorities have no monopoly of support for the ethnic minorities.

Grants are also available under Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966 to authorities taking on extra staff, in connection with any of their functions, to meet the special needs of ethnic minority groups. Last year nearly £80 million of grant was taken up in this way, as I said a moment ago. Before grant is paid under Section 11, local authorities are expected to consult with the local communities about the proposals that they put forward. That answers the point which one of your Lordships made a minute ago.

There are provisions in the Bill itself which will work to the benefit of ethnic minority groups. First, the new joint authorities will have a specific duty, under Section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976, to make appropriate arrangements to eliminate racial discrimination in carrying out their functions. Many ethnic minority groups are helped by local authority grants to the voluntary sector. This brings me back—and I do not want to sound like a gramophone record—to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, and others. If the proposal is good and if it is needed, and if the proposal is perceived as being good and needed, the resources are there under the mechanisms which I have described. They are supported by the additional transitional aid I have also described, and they are protected from the adverse effects on the rate control mechanisms I have described.

Your Lordships, in saying that it is admirable and necessary, are saying in fact that it is more likely to go on than if it were not. The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has focused on me suddenly as if to ask what I meant by that. What I mean by that is that the future of any of these activities depends now, as it always has done, on its excellence. It has never been the case that everything is going to go on for ever. There is always change in what is done in the voluntary sector. That will continue to be the case but the pressures will still he the same and the resources will be the same. The noble Baroness can therefore be reassured.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

Before the noble Lord sits down, may I put what he has said in context with this long list? Is he aware that collectively—that is, through the present joint funding scheme—the London boroughs' annual grant-in-aid in the work of promoting racial equality has totalled just 1 per cent. of their grants-in-aid to the whole voluntary sector?

Lord Elton

The noble Lord does not put the other half of the equation. There is the amount of money which the GLC puts into these things and which will now become available in the absence of a precept, through the local authorities.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

I am sorry, but we cannot go on like this. This is the problem. Before the GLC started making grants to the ethnic minorities they were getting none. It is no use saying that, having abolished the GLC, the grants will be available through the boroughs. If the boroughs will not do so, the grants will not be available. I had hoped that the Minister would say how the Government will make sure—perhaps they cannot make sure—or what they will do to encourage the boroughs to ensure that grants are available. But the Minister has at no stage said that. He merely says that the GLC grants will be available through the boroughs.

That does not help. I had hoped the Minister would understand the point that we are seeking to make. I spent several years as deputy chairman of the Community Relations Commission setting up the various CRCs. The boroughs varied in their attitude. Some boroughs refused to make any contribution. Other boroughs were very generous. That is the situation. What has happened in the past four years is that the GLC has taken over and, through the precept, using its power, has made grants to these organisations which have helped. The point is that now the GLC is being abolished it is feared that these grants will no longer be available. Theoretically of course it is the same money but since the experience is that the boroughs themselves will not do it—that is understandable as they do not all have large numbers of ethnic minority groups in their boroughs—this London-wide contribution which has been given so far may not be available. I am surprised that the Government are making such heavy weather of it.

All we are asking is that the Government should say how, now that the GLC will no longer exist, these grants will become available to ethnic minority groups so that the work can continue. I do not think it is so difficult for the Government to say that they will monitor the situation and will report regularly to Parliament on how it is done. I cannot understand why there is all this song and dance about something which, as I see it at any rate, is quite straightforward and simple.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

Is it not a fact that the urban aid programme has always helped the ethnic minorities quite a lot? Perhaps the Minister could tell us whether, with these additional moneys to be given, some similar system might operate so that, again, there might be a possibility for funding. It is a great encouragement to boroughs to put in funds if they feel they are going to get quite a slice of Government funds to assist them. That has been the case with the ethnic minorities in urban aid programmes in the past.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Elton

The danger of sitting—and sometimes standing—behind this Box from half-past two in the afternoon until half-past eleven at night is that one sometimes forgets who has heard what one has said. I do not wish to weary your Lordships by repeating too much of what I have said before but I think that the noble Baroness recognises that I must say something to the noble Lord, Lord Pitt.

The noble Lord assumes that the increase in ethnic minority funding that has taken place over the past four years has taken place solely as the result of the nature of the GLC and has nothing to do with the passage of time and the change of climate of general opinion. I would remind him that the GLC is elected by the electors of the boroughs, who elect the councillors of the boroughs whom he now regards with such anxiety. They are the same people electing representatives to spend their money. They are to spend their money on the same projects. The noble Lord is afraid that because they are elected to the boroughs rather than to the GLC they will not see any merit in what the GLC has been doing for the past four years and that they will turn off the tap at source. There is no psephological justification for that that I can see. I can see no logic in it at all.

I do understand the anxiety to which he refers. I have referred to this very frequently, both before and after dinner. At present the money which the GLC spends on voluntary organisations, including the ones to which the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, refers with such passion and conviction, is taken from the boroughs in precept. The boroughs get the money from their ratepayers. The ratepayers vote for the GLC just as they vote for the boroughs, so they can object to the precept just as they can object to the rate. The noble Lord is afraid that, because they can object to only one set of elected people, in some way the interests of the ethnic minorities will be reduced.

That brings me to the fears of the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster. That is why we have in Clause 47 a scheme for a simple majority to establish a collective scheme and for a qualified majority to require even the reluctant boroughs—I think he described them as the uncaring boroughs; I would not use that term myself, but I use it only as a label that he will understand because he used it—who do not wish to take part in a scheme to do so by law.

I cannot really say more to the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, but through him, to those whose interests he speaks for tonight. I would say that the Government's record on race relations in the particular aspect which I have recited is a not unimpressive one. We do regard good community relations as of the essence in the conurbations. There is already the commission to oversee and report on how these things are conducted. What I cannot do, but what the noble Lord would like me to do, is to say that the Government should say that this and this and this and this shall be done and you will pay for it whether you like to or not. That is not democracy. I do think that the fears of the noble Lord are exaggerated.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

I am saying that the Government should monitor the situation and be prepared to come to Parliament and make recommendations if the situation deteriorates. It is as simple as that.

Baroness Birk

The Minister has given a full answer but, like my noble friend Lord Pitt, I am not satisfied. He is taking so much for granted. First, he is assuming that the boroughs and districts will all carry out what is being carried out on a county-wide area basis. The fear is that even if they are willing to do it and have the resources to do it, it cannot be done properly and efficiently for the people unless it is done on a much wider area.

If this Bill is to make its ghastly progress through the Chamber, we shall have to wait and see how this works out. I should like to feel that this will work out well because then it will be better for the people concerned. However, I certainly feel that the ethnic minorities will suffer from the passage of this Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 136ZE had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 48 [Functions of staff commission.]

Lord Winstanley moved Amendment No. 136A: Page 31, line 10, at end insert— ("; and (d) to advise the Secretary of State on the introduction of a scheme to permit and encourage employees of any relevant authority to retire early from their present employment, such a scheme to include provision for enhanced pension benefits and other compensation to be funded by the appropriate residuary body.")

The noble Lord said: With Amendment No. 136A, which I beg to move, we come now to a whole series of amendments which seek to provide greater protection for staff than is now explicitly given in the Bill. This is something which I am sure many noble Lords in all parts of the Committee would wish to do. However, whether at this hour we can do justice to a matter of such importance as the protection of staff rights and interests, frankly I very much doubt. Indeed, I go on to say that if we appear to suggest that we are doing justice to this important subject at this time, we will be in grave danger of aggravating some of the anxieties and fears from which members of staff in the relevant authorities suffer.

However, I am quite sure that, even at this late hour, these amendments can serve a very useful purpose because they can be used as probing amendments, so that we can discover more clearly the Government's intentions with regard to some of these matters. Then we shall better be able to decide what further course to take at later stages of the Bill.

This particular amendment is a comparatively minor one compared with some of the other staff-related amendments which follow later. It merely seeks to add to the functions of the staff commission functions which are set out in Clause 48(2)(a)(b) and (c). We propose to add another one, in paragraph (d), which is to provide for schemes for early retirement on a satisfactory basis. I think that the provision of schemes for early retirement on satisfactory terms and conditions would be advantageous not only to the staff, who are in many cases very anxious about these matters, but also, frankly, to the Government themselves. I take the view that in the end the Government will find that it will prove cheaper to offer someone voluntary early retirement than to compel someone else to leave—and that would be the consequence of not providing adequately for early retirement.

Let me look very briefly at what I understand is the present position with regard to this matter, in the relevant authorities. If my understanding is in any way incorrect, I have no doubt that the noble Lord will correct me. My impression is that under the current regulations an employee may, by agreement with his employing authority, retire after the age of 50, drawing such superannuation benefits as he is entitled to. In such a case no cost falls on the employing authority, as the employee's benefits are paid from the superannuation fund. However, the employer has the discretion to award up to 10 years' additional service in calculating superannuation benefits. In such a case the additional cost is borne by the employer.

In practice different employers exercise their discretionary rights in different ways. Thus, similar employees in different authorities may or may not be permitted to take early retirement and may or may not be awarded a number of additional years' service for the purpose of calculating superannuation benefits. I should like to see an employee given the right to leave with the maximum added service, the additional costs being paid by the residuary body.

Let us for a moment think of the people we are considering. It seems that many of those who feel quite anxious about this early retirement question are people who can claim to have served both Labour and Conservative administrations to the very best of their abilities. Some of these members of staff in the relevant authorities have reason to feel aggrieved since, a decade ago, if they were not compulsorily transferred, they were actively encouraged to move to the county councils from the very authorities which will now take over their work. They were encouraged to move by a Conservative Government. Indeed, in the West Midlands, which has so often been referred to in the Committee this evening, there was a Conservative administration which, in the late 'seventies, offered county staff a no-redundancy agreement which led to the abandonment of a local redundancy compensation scheme.

The absence of such a scheme is one of the problems facing staff. This is only one of the many matters about which staff in the relevant authorities are anxious. It is my belief that the Government would wish, in the course of this Bill, to see the various provisions for staff harmonised throughout the different authorities. I hope that we shall find that the Government reply means that it will not be necessary to pursue these matters to the ultimate length at later stages of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord McCarthy

As the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has said, we pass now from the somewhat elevated debates that we have been having so far on the Bill about the constitutional role of the House and the political assumptions behind the Bill to consider the consequences for the staff. We shall be arguing that the Bill, in many respects, contains a number of very serious consequences for the staff which derive from the fact that for almost the first time—although not quite—the Government are departing from established principles for dealing with staff problems in matters of reorganisation that have governed these things almost since the years after the Second World War, for 37 years or so. The Government are fundamentally departing from those principles.

One of the consequences—it is behind the assumptions, I believe, of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley—is that the Government accept that this reorganisation is going to produce considerable redundancy. Indeed, in the Bill itself the Government calculate that there will be something like 7,100 redundancies as a result of the Bill. It does not tell us very much about where they will occur or about those who will be affected. But there will be widespread redundancy. What this amendment says is that in order to mitigate the consequences, one of the principles of good industrial relations that has been developed is to facilitate early retirement. It seems to me that the Government might well start off this section of the Bill by accepting the spirit behind the amendment.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Arts (The Earl of Gowrie)

I am very pleased to be able to say that I welcome the spirit and purpose of the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley. Indeed, we have gone so far ourselves as to put down an amendment to Clause 57 which provides the powers needed to set up the very kind of scheme which the noble Lord envisaged. I can assure the noble Lord that it is not necessary to place a duty on the staff commission to advise my right honourable friend to bring in a voluntary early retirement scheme. The commission has already told him of the value that it sees in such a scheme.

In the light of this advice and of the representations we have received recently from the West Midlands branch of NALGO, in what, as a result of the very unfortunate silence of that union's national representatives, we must take as the real voice of the metropolitan county council staff, we intend to put forward a scheme. That is why we have proposed the amendment to Clause 57. The Committee need have no doubt that we shall use our very best endeavours to get a scheme off the ground with the agreement of those who will have to operate it.

Against that background, I am sure that the noble Lord will understand that the immediate goals of his amendment have already been met by the action of the staff commission and the Government. Moreover, its underlying purpose will be secured if the House agrees to the powers provided for in our amendment. Perhaps, with those assurances, the noble Lord will be prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Winstanley

I am most grateful to the noble Earl for the words that he has spoken. Naturally, I shall want to study them carefully. But it seemed to me that he gave assurances which, on this matter, were wholly satisfactory. Of course I agree that there are many ways of doing the same thing. It may be the case that the Government have found a better way of making this explicit than the way I suggested. I am most grateful, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.45 p.m.

Lord McCarthy moved Amendment No. 136AA: Page 31, line 11, at end insert— (" ( ) If either generally or in relation to any successor authority the commission forms the view that the interests of the staff or any class or description of staff or individual members of stall of the Greater London Council or a metropolitan county council are not being adequately safeguarded as regards either recruitment by successor authorities or the arrangements for any transfer of staff to successor authorities, they shall recommend and the Secretary of State shall on receipt of such recommendation designate such staff or category of staff or individual members of staff under section 50 below to such successor authority as recommended by the commission.")

The noble Lord said: The aim of this amendment is to give the staff commission, which is set up under Clause 48, a positive role in safeguarding the interests of the staff in authorities which are to be abolished. What we are suggesting in the amendment is that if the staff commission—the composition of which is a matter for the Government; we do not know the details of the composition of the staff commission—are convinced that a section of the staff affected by the changes implicit in the Bill is: not being adequately safeguarded as regards either recruitment by successor authorities or the arrangements for any transfer of staff to successor authorities, they shall recommend and the Secretary of State shall on receipt of such recommendation designate such staff or category of staff or individual members of staff… to such successor authority as recommended by the commission". In other words, if in this particular area the staff commission considered that the staff concerned were not being adequately safeguarded, they could make recommendations to the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State, under the terms of this amendment, would have to carry out those recommendations.

I fully accept, and no doubt the noble Minister will say, that this is to give the staff commission responsibilities and functions which staff commissions have not had in the past. It is true that previous staff commissions have had general powers and that they have been advisory to the Secretary of State. However, previous staff commissions in previous reorganisations of this size and importance have worked within a context which was much more acceptable to the staff concerned. It is true that the staff commissions have only had general powers. However, the legislation has been accompanied by detailed statutory instruments which protected the staff; which protected the conditions of the staff; and which in effect were designed to ensure that the overwhelming majority of them were transferred to new authorities and were in post before the old authorities were abolished. In fact, they were based upon the Crombie code.

However, in this case the Government have not produced regulations of that kind. On the contrary, as we have said, the Government are suggesting that a significant number of the staff concerned will not be re-absorbed, and they have told us that only a relatively small number will be directly re-engaged, or will be directly transferred, by the Secretary of State. Moreover, they will not specify in any detail who they will be.

Therefore, it is in that context, in the absence of a detailed statutory instrument which protects the interests of the staff, that we are suggesting that the Government should consider giving their own staff commission some direct power in this respect. They would not be giving the staff commission a responsibility in a new area, in an area not envisaged by the Government because of course the Bill itself says that the staff commission should be concerned with the conditions and the safeguarding of the conditions of the staff.

However, under the Bill all that the staff commission can do is make recommendations and react to intitiatives taken by the Secretary of State. There is no guarantee whatever, in the absence of the type of regulations that existed in previous organisations, that in fact the Secretary of State will take any notice. Indeed, the whole direction of the Bill suggests that one of the Government's aims is to produce significant redundancies. In that context we believe that the amendment is justified. I beg to move.

Lord Rochester

I should like to support this amendment and in so doing it may be for the convenience, and even I suspect at this hour the relief of the Committee, if I speak also to Amendment No. 136AD, which covers much the same ground but takes the argument advanced by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, a stage further. Amendment No. 136AD: Clause 50, page 34, line 1, 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 amendment seeks to require the Secretary of State to designate for transfer to an appropriate successor authority under their existing employment conditions all staff who immediately before the date of abolition are in the service of the GLC or a metropolitan county council and who are wholly or mainly engaged in functions that are to be transferred.

One of the main purposes of the amendment is to ensure that there is equality of treatment as regards the employment conditions of all staff who are transferred to a successor authority, rather than that there are eventually two sets of people working alongside each other, one having preferential treatment over the other. The amendment does not even seek to place a limit on the number of redundancies that, despite what the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, has just said, there might eventually have to be, but rather aims to ensure that in conformity with past practice they occur only at the final stage if, following reorganisation, a successor authority needs fewer employees.

Paragraph (b) of the amendment aims to remedy other deficiencies in the arrangements now contemplated under the Bill by requiring the Secretary of State to make adequate consultative arrangements and particularly to provide individuals or groups of people who feel that they have been unreasonably or unfairly treated with an appropriate appeals procedure.

In speaking to this amendment there is one group of people about whom I am particularly concerned. In the Bill as it is now framed there is no provision to ensure that training, particularly training of young people, which has not been completed at the date of abolition is continued under a successor authority. Now I know from his record that the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, is a supporter of such training, and I should therefore like to ask him what assurances he can give us that these people in particular will have continuity of employment.

I do not for a moment suggest that the wording of this amendment cannot be improved. Indeed within it in relation to the amendment which the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy has just moved, and one he may move later, there may well be elements of duplication, even possibly inconsistency. If only for that reason, I do not propose to press it further tonight, but I hope that the noble Earl will find it possible to respond positively to these amendments in a way which will give solid grounds for hope to staff who are now deeply troubled about their future.

Lord McCarthy

Now that the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, has, as it were, moved his own amendment, I would agree and we on our part would agree with everything that he has said about his amendment. They are two alternative ways of doing much the same thing.

Lord Birkett

I am exceedingly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, for taking those two at once because I was quite in two minds as to which to speak to. I should like to speak to them for a short time, however, because I control a department of the GLC which actually employs 2,000 people; and they are very worried, indeed in some cases deeply dismayed, people at this moment, for the very reason that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy mentioned, that nobody quite knows what is going to happen. It is true that the famous figure of 7,000 or 7,100 has been mentioned in connection with redundancies, but there is no indication, apart from a slightly vague feeling, that it is about half in London and half in the rest of the country, as to what these jobs are, how many are in London, how many in the various metropolitan counties, and why the redundancies will occur. It suddenly occurred to me that I can put my finger on at least one redundancy but the other 6,999 still remain a puzzle to me.

When I say that I have 2,000 staff in my department who are worried I suspect that there are a great deal more than that if you multiply that across the GLC. However, I am not an expert in the staffing matters of the GLC, though I should be surprised if the worries of my department and my 2,000 were not, by extension, to be seen not only in the rest of the GLC but in the metropolitan counties as well.

My 2,000 are an extraordinarily varied crew. I have mentioned before many of the little specialist teams that I worry for. I shall not elaborate on them again but simply remind your Lordships that I was talking about such teams as teams of dog handlers, special duties men, the entertainments branch, tree pruners, a large and distinguished body of landscape architects, sports grounds attendants and specialist sports grounds' groundsmen—a whole range of dedicated specialist people.

If the parks and the open spaces which they service—I am talking now only about this element of the work of arts and recreation—are devolved to a number of small, large and middling bodies, then the point of a centralised service will be quite lost unless all the authorities to which these services pass will, of their own free will, put them together as a central pool of resources. I wish I could believe that they would. I do not believe that they will, and a great part of those specialist services will be lost unless something is done.

That is not the end of it. A large proportion of the staff in my department—and I am sure in others—are not tiny specialist peripatetic units; they are simply people who do solid work in a solid place. I confessed to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, the other day that I was indeed the very bureaucrat that he was dreading in the speech he had made a few moments earlier. On reflection, I am not as bureaucratic as all that, because I looked at my department wondering whether I could honestly stand up in front of your Lordships and claim that it was run on an economical basis in terms of the number of service staff and the number of active staff.

I worked it out that 87 per cent. of my staff—that is just over 1,700 of them—are people who do things out on the ground. They staff the Festival Hall; they mow the lawns; they patrol the parks; they are active people. A small number on top of that, some 158, are people who service that activity—for example, the landscape architect I have spoken of. Only 110 out of the whole lot are simply there to look after the others. That is to say, they carry out the administration and manage the finance. And, after all, they must be paid and looked after.

I think it is fair to say that the administration shape is good. But here are these 2,000 people with no indication at all of what their future is to be. In many cases one feels perfectly logically that if functions are to be transferred to successor bodies—and this is not the moment to argue the case all over again, but we know that the intention of the Government is to pass the parks to those local authorities within whose boundaries they reside, presumably sorting out the famous boundary disputes matter—the logical thing to do is to suggest that in the first instance all the people who worked in those parks and had made them should go to the successor authority.

In the fullness of time they might complain that there were too many, or too few; that they did not like the designations; or that they did not like the shape of it: initially, however, you would think that the humane and sensible thing to do would be to pass them over. No doubt it will be said that that is an imposition and a slightly draconian measure, and one would much rather not make rules upon successor authorities. The passing of those rules in the first place was fairly draconian. That was itself an imposition and I should have thought that it was far from illogical to add to that imposition the imposition that the staffs of bodies being transferred should be initially transferred with them with all the pay and conditions equal. I am no expert in these matters, but I say that it is reasonable—that is to say, it is a matter of common sense—and it is humane, and these two points are uppermost in my mind. I think that is the nature of it and I look to the Government for some comfort in that direction, not for me, but so that I can pass it on to the very many worried people who are in my employ.

12 midnight

The Earl of Gowrie

It is very late, but this is an enormously important issue. I want to put on the record a serious statement of the Government which, even if the nation is not at this moment hanging on my lips, I hope that those worried and concerned people at a later stage will read what I have to say. The fact is that this exercise of abolition where posts and employment are concerned is not an exercise designed to make a large number of people redundant. It is an exercise designed over time to reduce posts which are publicly funded by local government. That I believe is right. But there is a great and sharp distinction between the reduction of posts over time and the making of individuals presently in work redundant. If may use an analogy, we are trying to move on to a four-cylinder fuel-efficient car away from an eight-cylinder fuel-guzzling car, but the transition takes a certain amount of time.

In the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill we said that there would be some 7,100 fewer posts in local government in these areas. But the number of redundancies will be far fewer than this, particularly by use of the voluntary—I emphasise that word—early redundancy scheme which we have said we shall introduce under an amendment to Clause 57 and which we had a word or two to say about during the previous amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley. As to where redundancies will occur, Ministers have said that roughly half the 7,100 reductions in posts will arise in London, the other half being spread among the six metropolitan county councils. The main areas have been identified as falling in planning and highways, where there is duplication between the two tiers. The other obvious area is in central administrative services.

Most genuinely operational staff of the kind whom the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, has in his care engaged on functions can expect to be re-employed by successor authorities, but it will be for the successors to recruit them.

I acknowledge to the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, that this reorganisation differs from its predecessors in a number of ways which necessarily affect the way in which the provision is made for staffing the new structure. In 1965 and 1974 in previous reorganisations each authority had a clear successor. Moreover, these successors were generally larger bodies, covering bigger areas, discharging more functions; in fact, with increasing rather than gradually decreasing staffing needs. This allowed for a different general approach to redistributing staff to where they were needed and for compensating those who were no longer needed. In essence, staff were grouped into the new, larger bodies by means of transfers by statute, the new employers were left to sort out a wholly new set of terms and conditions and the principal lineal successors were left to deal with the few no longer needed.

This approach which is being urged on us would not be practical in this reorganisation, but we expect that the majority of staff—firemen, non-uniformed members of the police, and ILEA teaching and other staffs, for example—will be transferred by order under Clause 50. The staff engaged on the majority of GLC or MCC functions will have to look to the borough and district councils for continued employment on those tasks. Not only are these successors more numerous and smaller than the GLC or MCCs; they already have their own staffs and their own fully-developed terms and conditions. That is why we have said that it must be for them to decide how many staff they need and to recruit them on their terms and conditions but giving, so to say, first refusal to GLC and MCC employees.

Before noble Lords say that this is not fair compared to 1965 and 1974, the Committee should remember a simple fact of contemporary life; that is that the position of employees at large, the position of employees generally, as the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, knows well, is now protected by a number of statutes passed since 1974. It is no part of this Bill to deprive employees of their rights or their liabilities under statute or under contract. We have been at great pains to mesh our provisions in with these other measures. Indeed, I would point out that much of the wording of these clauses derives from that used in employment protection legislation.

I recognise that behind the complexities of the language of Parliament and the language of statutes which I perforce have to use and which we are using here today there lie the very real interests and anxieties of individuals, the staff affected by the Bill. We do have the interests of these people very much in mind and that is why, at each stage in the development and elaboration of these proposals, we have invited unions and employers to discuss with us matters affecting the staff. That is why I so much regret and believe it to be such a pity that most of the relevant unions and employers have not responded to these invitations. Indeed, they have gone further. They have refused to talk to the staff commission, which is the subject of this very set of amendments, and have sought to penalise individuals or union branches who have decided that their interests are best served by sitting round the table to discuss these matters. I am glad to say that some have had the courage and commonsense to meet us and we have kept firmly in our minds that we should prevent undue difficulties for staff within the inevitable constraints which I have described.

The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, mentioned the important matter of training. There are of course trainees and training programmes in the GLC and the MCCs. This is very much the kind of area where we would have hoped that the unions and the borough and district councils would already have made plans together to take over these initiatives. The fact that they are not letting anyone, including their prospective employees and union members, discuss future arrangements of this kind is damaging to the interests of those very staff; and I hope that, again, when in the light of a clearer and another day these words are read, second thoughts will be given to that issue.

What I have tried to signal is very simple. This is not an exercise in making people redundant. It is an exercise in gradually reducing certain numbers of posts in local government. Modern employment legislation embraces a great deal of statutory protection for employees; and employees in the public sector are seldom—with the signal exception of Ministers—ever dismissed without generous compensation. I hope the words that I have said will give some comfort to the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, and others; and I do believe that many of the fears are displaced.

Lord McCarthy

I am amazed at the general arguments of the noble Earl. It seems to me that each one he advances contradicts the one before. He says that this is not an exercise designed to make large numbers of workers redundant. There might have been an argument for saying that one could not have accepted one or other of our amendments if indeed it could be admitted that it was an exercise designed to make large numbers of workers redundant. However, if, as the noble Earl said, it is an exercise to shrink the labour force over time, and if the number of the redundancies or the number of the run-down in the labour force, mentioned in the Bill as 7,100, is a greatly exaggerated figure and if the numbers are very small, then this emphasises our case that people could be given a general guarantee. It is only if the Government really intend to dismiss large numbers of people that either of these amendments would be dangerous to them. But if they mean what they say, then certainly there is no reason that I can see why the Government should not accept Amendment No. 136AD which is put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester.

I come to the second argument advanced by the noble Earl. He said it would not be practical to give this kind of blanket undertaking. But it is not a blanket undertaking. What does the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, say? It says that employment in effect should be offered to those 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. In other words, if there are planners, central administrative bodies, if there are personnel officers or chief executives who will be dispensed with and will not be required in the way that the Government suggest when the GLC and the other authorities are disbanded, then they will not be needed to be re-engaged and will not be discharging any function. The people who will be re-engaged and transferred in a civilised way are the people that the boroughs or the quangos in fact require. If the noble Earl is telling me that he is not desiring to make large numbers of people redundant, I say that if he looks very carefully, especially at Amendment No. 136AD, I do not see why he cannot accept it.

But the most astonishing thing he says is that we can avoid all this—I think I heard him say this—because of employment protection legislation passed since 1974. It is true that there was some extension of the unfair dismissal legislation of 1971 passed between 1974 and 1976; and almost all the effectiveness of it, and a great deal besides, has been done away with by successive statutes which the noble Earl has put forward from the other side of the Chamber. Now because of extensions of worker-rights since 1974—after the 1980, 1982 and 1984 legislation—he has the cheek to stand up and tell me that he cannot do decent, honest things because of the legislation put forward by this Government since 1974.

On Question, amendment negatived.

[Amendment No. 136AB not moved.]

Clause 48 agreed to.

Clause 49 [Remuneration of employees]:

12.15 a.m.

The Earl of Gowrie moved Amendment No. 136AC: remuneration payable in respect of service before the date on which the order is made or compensation paid or payable before that date.")

The noble Earl said: With this amendment we move into the rather difficult world of Clause 49. This clause is included in the Bill for the same purpose as Section 261 of the 1972 Act, on the wording of which this clause is closely modelled. As some of your Lordships may recall, the Royal Commission chaired by Lord Redcliffe-Maud found that during the run up to the reorganisation of local government in London in 1965 some of the expiring authorities were giving their staff late and unduly large increases in pay and gradings. No doubt they felt they were rewarding their good and faithful servants before they parted company. But such increases are doubly inequitable. They are inequitable between employees giving some undue advantage over others; and they are inequitable in requiring the post-reorganisation employers and their ratepayers to bear either the cost of continuing to pay those inflated salaries or buying out the excess. Anticipating that such increases would be granted by expiring authorities in the run up to the 1974 reorganisation, the local authority associations asked for a provision meeting the Royal Commission's concern. This Parliament did, writing Section 261 into the 1972 Act.

As my right honourable friend announced in Parliament on 1st March 1984, the Government consider it right to include in this Bill a measure based on Section 261. This is to preserve equity between employees of all metropolitan authorities including the new authorities, and it is drawn up in terms which will ensure that any late unjustified increases are not carried through into the new structure.

I am sure your Lordships will agree that these objectives are exceptional, but I am sure you will also agree that such a measure should not give rise to cases of employees having to pay back sums received in good faith only to find at a later date that the relevant increase in pay or grading has been declared to be unjustified.

Following discussion in another place we have examined the wording of the clause closely. The possibility of clawback arises before abolition only if my right honourable friend were to issue a direction which had retrospective effect. I assure your Lordships that my right honourable friend would consider doing so only in the most extreme cases. That is where the unjustified payment was so large that the recipients could not in good faith have believed it justified when they received it. I hope that in practice none of the authorities will act so irresponsibly as to necessitate such an undesirable direction from my right honourable friend.

The amendment that we propose addresses the circumstances of increases, identified after the abolition date. It will rule out the possibility of clawback without losing the essential protection that the clause is designed to give successor employers against last minute abuses by the GLC or the MCCs. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

Lord McCarthy

I have no objection to the amendment. My objection is to the clause. But that will be raised when the noble Lord, Lord Irving, moves his opposition to the clause standing part.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 49, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Irving of Dartford

I should like to express the anxiety of the unions, particularly NALGO, at this clause. It is felt that the whole of Clause 49 is unnecessary, cumbersome and draconian. It is copied largely from Section 261 of the Local Government Act 1972, as the noble Earl indicated; but in fact the machinery created by Section 261 was never invoked at all. Bearing in mind that the 1974 reorganisation of local government affected far more councils and employees than are affected by the current proposals to abolish the GLC and metropolitan county councils, it seems totally unnecessary to make the complex and onerous provisions of Clause 49 when experience shows that they are superfluous. If the whole 1974 reorganisation could be done without Section 261 of the 1972 Act being used even once, surely this current Bill does not need to contain the same provisions. In another place at Committee stage, the Minister, Mr Kenneth Baker, said that Section 261 arose from experience of the London reorganisation of 1965, but did not comment at all on the fact that Section 261 was never invoked.

Furthermore, the clause is most unsatisfactory in that it does not require the advisory body to consult employee representative organisations. It does not require the advisory body to notify affected employees or their representatives of its decisions or evidence. It does not provide any right of appeal for employees against a decision of the Secretary of State. It allows for a decision of the Secretary of State to operate retroactively, which could make an employee have to pay back to the employer some part of his salary received in the past in good faith. The noble Earl expressed a view about this and it is very difficult at this late hour to absorb the implications of everything he said. But for the reasons I have given I oppose the clause.

The Earl of Gowrie

I gave the substantive reasons for including this clause in the Bill in moving the previous Government amendment, and I am sure that the Committee would not wish me to go over that ground again at this hour. But may I remind the Committee that the clause draws very heavily on Section 261 of the 1972 Act. That, in turn, had its origins in comments made by the Royal Commission on Local Government. That commission identified the granting of late, unduly large pay increases by expiring authorities as unfair. It was unfair on the staff who were not so lucky and it was unfair on the ratepayers of the successor authority who had to pick up the bill.

Clause 49 is therefore intended to provide for a means of holding the ring between employees and between employees and ratepayers. It has been seen by some as a move to penalise staff. That is not the case. It can only be in the interests of staff as a whole that they should know that no authority anticipating its own demise is going to give irresponsible increases in pay and gradings to a favoured minority. That is what I argued on the previous amendment.

The clause expressly allows for nationally negotiated changes in pay and gradings. It is not intended in any way to interfere with the normal procedures in any authority for determining promotions, special responsibility allowances and the myriad other forms of payment made in the normal course of events. In short, we see no basis for intervening in the normal management responsibilities of the authorities in the metropolitan areas. We have, however, to take account of the findings of the Royal Commission and the views of the local authority associations in 1972. Both concurred in the opinion that irresponsible manipulation of pay and gradings can occur when authorities are facing abolition. I hope that this clause is not needed in practice—as, again, I have said—but the Government have a duty to ensure that equity is preserved. The clause provides for a fair and efficient machinery to do this and I beg to move that it stands part of the Bill.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

Anyone who remembers the transfer of housing authority staff from the Greater London Council to the local boroughs comparatively recently will recall the great embarrassment and difficulties caused by the upgrading of salaries just before the move, and the local boroughs then receiving the new staff found the position quite impossible. That has shown in practice how important this clause is.

Lord Irving of Dartford

It is very late at night and I should like the opportunity of considering the implications of what the noble Earl has said, perhaps coming back again at Report stage.

Clause 49, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 50 [Power to transfer staff]:

Lord Rochester had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 136AD: [Printed earlier: 20/5/85; col. 143.]

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. There were two points about the noble Earl's reply that I noted specially. One was where he regretted that certain unions had not joined in consultations with the Government about some of the matters involved. I had some sympathy with him on that point. Certainly I should like to use what little influence I have in the matter to encourage such consultations.

The second matter is this. If I understood the noble Earl correctly, he was saying that in the matter of recruitment of employees by boroughs, first refusal would be given to people employed by the Greater London Council and the greater metropolitan councils, as the case may be. If I have understood the Minister correctly, that represents an advance on anything I have earlier heard in respect of that particular point. If I am right in my understanding, that much is to be welcomed.

I was less happy, as was the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, about some of the other points made by the noble Earl. If I am in order in suggesting this to the Committee, I believe that the best course I can take is not formally to move this amendment now but to study what the noble Earl has said and to reserve my position, so that if after reading in Hansard all that has been said, I wish to pursue this matter, I may return with an amendment on similar lines at Report stage.

[Amendment No. 136AD not moved.]

Clause 50 agreed to.

Clause 51 [Compensation for loss of office or diminution of emoluments]:

Lord Winstanley had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 136B: Page 35, line 9, after ("1972") insert ("such regulations to be made by the Secretary of State and to provide for compensation giving benefits broadly comparable to, or greater than, those available prior to 2nd March 1984 to employees in any similar local authority affected by this Act").

The noble Lord said: I shall at this hour be as brief as I can.

Lord Denham

Before the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, continues, I may point out that we have only a little time left. If the noble Lord can be very brief, we can possibly take this amendment now, but if he cannot be brief, perhaps we should leave this amendment until the next Committee day.

Lord Winstanley

I am grateful to the noble Lord. In the light of what he has said, I believe that it would be wise to leave this amendment for now.

Lord Denham

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes past midnight.