HL Deb 31 July 1984 vol 455 cc777-8WA
Baroness Gardner of Parkes

asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they will make a statement on the Government's detailed proposals for the abolition of the Greater London Council and the Metropolitan County Councils.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin)

The Government are firmly committed to carrying through their manifesto promise to abolish an unnecessary tier of local government and to produce a major transfer of power and responsibility to the London borough and metropolitan district councils. The legislation to effect this will be introduced into Parliament early in the next Session and, subject to the will of Parliament, abolition will take effect on 1st April 1986. The Government have completed the main round of consultations on their original proposals published in the White PaperStreamlining the Cities (Cmnd. 9063) and the associated consultation documents. We have carefully considered all the views put to us, and my right honourable friends have announced a number of revisions to those original proposals.

I have today placed in the Library of the House and in the Printed Paper Office a paper setting out in detail the Government's proposals for the reallocation of functions following the abolition of the Greater London Council (GLC) and the six metropolitan county councils (MCCs). This indicates the way in which GLC and MCC functions will be dealt with in the legislation, the drafting of which is well advanced.

It will be seen that, contrary to the impression given by recent misleading advertising, almost all the functions will devolve either individually or jointly onto the local, democractically elected, councils—in London, the London borough councils, and in the metropolitan county areas, the metropolitan district councils. Abolition will therefore mean the decentralisation of powers to the local level and the end to an expensive and unnecessary two-tier system of local government in London and the metropolitan counties. This will bring savings in costs, and consequent benefits to ratepayers. It will bring benefits also to the users of local services because the councils responsible for those services will be more accessible and more responsive to their needs.

I am publishing this paper now so as to give the House, the authorities concerned and the public an early and comprehensive account of the way in which functions will be reallocated in the Bill to be introduced in the next Session. It will also enable the borough and district councils to begin considering their plans for the running of functions which will become their responsibility in a little over a year and a half. My department will be proposing meetings with those authorities in September. Further discussions will take place also with the London Boroughs Association.

I hope that the GLC and MCCs—and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities—will now reconsider their refusal to enter into detailed discussions about the new structure. I hope that they will recognise that they owe it to their staffs and their ratepayers now to engage in discussions about the details of the future arrangements and the transition to those arrangements.