§ Amendment proposed:In page 2, line 44, to leave out"1964"and insert"1967".—[Mr. M. Stewart.]
§ Question again proposed,That"1964"stand part of the Clause.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
I wish, first, to apologise for the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) who had the Floor when we adjourned this debate last night. I regret to say that he is unwell and unable to attend. I am sure that we all are sorry that he is not with us.
We have tabled this Amendment in no party political sense. I hope, therefore, that the Minister, when he replies, will treat this matter seriously. As the Clause stands, the time factor following the passing of the Bill will be very close. It lays down that there shall be elections in May, 1964. To insist on elections so early will cause tremendous hardship not to the electors—let us ignore them for the moment—but to those employed by the local authorities.
Thousands of people working in local government today have given many years of their lives to the service. I do not want to be emotional. I merely point out that most of us, whether or not we have served on local authorities, are the first to recognise the honesty and sincerity of those employed in our town halls. This Bill will affect almost every member of town hall staffs.
When the boroughs merge under the Bill, very important questions will have to be answered. Who will occupy the senior posts? What will happen to those who now hold such posts, but will not do so in the future? What redundancy will there be? What will happen to the younger people who had better promo- 302 tion prospects? All these and many other questions are bothering the people in our town halls. I have met many of these people as chairman of a political party in London. They have approached me in no party sense, but because of their alarm at the time factor laid down by the Government.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said yesterday, we put down the year 1967 as a formality in order to get the Amendment accepted by the Table. We would be prepared to accept 1966 or even 1965, for both would be more appropriate than 1964, which will not give enough time. The Bill cannot reach the Statute Book until the summer, and even so the Minister will have done extremely well in getting it through both Houses of Parliament by then. That will leave only a few months for these arrangements to be made.
The right hon. Gentleman may say that negotiations can begin now, but I say that we cannot expect the staffs to talk about this matter when the Bill is not yet law and when, indeed, the whole of our political scene is in doubt. I speak once more as a party politician when I say that it would be fair to claim that if the Government were to go to the country in the next two or three months they would be decisively defeated. At the moment, they are even scared to have a by-election.
These staffs take into account the political future and one cannot ask them until the Bill becomes law, and the position is clear, to discuss these questions about their future. For that reason alone there is justification for the Amendment. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will deal with the position of the staffs. These are people who, irrespective of the party in power in the town hall, give wonderful service. They are part and parcel of our Civil Service and, therefore, part of the great strength of our democracy.
My constituency is a good example. One political party has ruled there for over thirty years, but if we were defeated at the next election our successors in taking over would find all the books in perfect order. [Laughter.]It is a matter for pride in democracy that that is so, and that the staffs of our town halls, and the Civil Service, ensure that whatever 303 the rows on policy among the political parties the day-to-day affairs of the country are kept running. We cannot just dismiss them.
This involves not only the staffs of borough councils, but also those at the county halls. The Government are to break up the children's service and the mental health services—all the great human services which are staffed at county hall level. What is to happen to these people? What are their rights to be? What sort of work are they to do, and where? All these questions have to be answered. It all has to be decided in a matter of months and then there is to be an election, by which time the new staffs are supposed to have taken over. The right hon. Gentleman must give more serious consideration to the date he proposes.
Yesterday showed that no one on this side of the Committee is prepared to talk merely for the sake of talking. We put down a considerable number of Amendments on this important Clause and no doubt we shall have a lengthy discussion on the Clause later. On this issue, I beg the right hon. Gentleman to take account not only of the nights of the electors, which we stressed yesterday, but also the rights of the staffs who are worried about the future being brought about by the Bill.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)
I wish to raise one or two matters from a rather different point of view. I have seen, and have been connected with, the problems of local government which have been related to centralisation rather than to decentralisation. I am sure that the Minister will agree that the problems of decentralisation are infinitely greater than those of centralisation.
The new council will be concerned with decentralisation. It is proposed that its election should take place in 1964 and that the embryo body should take over in 1965, the intention being that in the intervening period the new body will familiarise itself with its responsibilities by discussion and cooperation with existing councils. That is a difficult enough job in all conscience. The object is that there should be some sort of understanding prior to the appointed day.
304 The decentralisation will be mainly connected with services which it would be extremely difficult to decentralise. Major functions are to be decentralised from county and county borough councils to the new borough councils. How is this decentralisation to work with the major functions operated by the county councils? The procedure has little regard to the problems which are involved.
All that is an argument against the date of 1964 and that date will not achieve what the Minister has in mind. However, I am not arguing that 1967 will achieve the objective. The Government are in a mess and there is only one way in which this decentralisation can be effectively carried out. I do not advocate it, but I offer it to the Government merely as a possible solution of the problem which has nothing to do with any particular date.
My suggestion is that all the services of the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council and those parts of Surrey, Essex and Kent which are concerned should be transferred to the Greater London Council as existing services, so that the whole arrangement is taken over by the new council which would have some statutory responsibility for decentralisation in due course. That date would certainly not be 1964 or 1965, although it might well begin by 1967. That decentralisation would have to be done by stages and by entities. As one who does not want the decentralisation of these services at all, I offer that as a possible solution.
I think that the Minister will agree that the problems of decentralisation are greater than those of centralisation with which we had to deal when the duties of the old boards of guardians were transferred to the county councils and when in 1948 responsibility for hospital and health services was transferred to the Government. That was an infinitely easier process than the other way round It is always easier to collect things together than to fragment them, because of the difficulty of maintaining the entity of a service as a going concern. I am sure that the Minister will appreciate that it is not a question of a date for the election of a particular council, but a question of considering the whole problem.
§ The Chairman
Order. I have no wish to interrupt the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter), but every time he says that it is not a question of the date I feel that I should remind the Committee that what we are considering is whether to leave out 1964 and insert 1967.
§ Mr. Pargiter
I appreciate that, Sir William. I am a party to an Amendment which proposes the date of 1967, but there is no particular merit in that date. The year 1964 is impossible for all sorts of reasons, but 1967 is equally impossible.
As has been said, it is possible that the present Government will not be in office by 1964. There is a good deal to be said for not fixing a date when a General Election is bound to intervene between that date and the appointed day, especially having regard to the widespread opposition to the Bill in the Greater London area, opposition which cuts across party lines.
It would be infinitely better to postpone the date to something beyond the next General Election. If the Government win the election and get a mandate to go on with the Bill, then good luck to them. We would have to accept that, in conjunction with the rest of the country, the public of London agreed that the Bill should go ahead. But the date of the election of the new councils should be far beyond the date of the next General Election and the subsequent take-over should be something later than that.
In the interim, the Government ought seriously to consider how decentralisation can be effected. Consultations between the existing boroughs and the embryo boroughs will not solve the problem and will have little to do with the taking over of the major services with which the councils will be concerned.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North West)
I find myself in an extraordinary dilemma on this Amendment, because, as is common knowledge, both personally and on behalf of the town which I am privileged to represent, I do not like the Bill at all.
It is only natural that I should support the Amendment if it is pressed to a Division, because at least it puts off 306 the evil day for another three years— although I would like to put it off altogether. I am in some difficulty, because, although listening to the reasons for the Amendment, one has felt that the party opposite would like to assume that if there were a General Election intervening, it would win it, so that the whole Bill would be automatically cancelled. I wonder whether the Labour Party will win the next General Election.
My other difficulty is that one cannot fail to recognise, especially if one is used to employing large numbers of staff, that there is considerable uncertainty among loyal local government officials, for whom very proper appreciation has already been expressed. That causes me some worry and difficulty. I know of cases where local government officials have looked for appointments well outside the Greater London area in the belief that there is more certainty for the future outside the Greater London area than inside. That feeling has gone so far that it has caused some concern in London local government which may be losing good potential officials.
It is not an easy problem. The year 1964 is too early for the tremendous task of this vast rearrangement and I favour extending the date, although I fully appreciate the reasons for the three-year period which were advanced last night. It is a difficult one. From the point of view of not wishing to see the Bill become operative my right course would seem to be to support the Amendment. On the other hand the difficulty then arises that that course possibly means extending the period of uncertainty for officials in the local government service in the Greater London area who are themselves already facing difficulty; because, very understandably, the Labour Party is making clear that if they win the next General Election, which, obviously, will come within a year or two, they will not proceed with these proposals.
On the other hand if, as we all assume, the Conservative Party remains in power it would, of course, carry on with the proposals as put before Parliament. These officials are deeply and sincerely worried. Many of us are receiving a great many letters from them. I have had a large number from my own constituents serving either on the London County Council or as local officials elsewhere in the Greater 307 London area. I should like to make that clear to the Minister and I am glad to have an opportunity of expressing their concern here today. They just do not know whether they are coming or going. They cannot plan their future properly.
Those of us who are opposed to the Bill are in a way adding to the problems of these people, since we are lengthening the period of uncertainty and it is very difficult for them in planning ahead. Basically, that is the reason why many of them are seeking employment well outside the Greater London area, in other parts of the country, where the opportunity presents itself. I should be most grateful if when the Minister replies he could make some very special comments on this particular problem which I am now putting to him, namely, the uncertainty, because whether it arises out of the Amendment to alter the operative date from 1964 to 1967 or generally on what the future may hold for these people, it is a very real worry.
I have here at least 20 letters from my own constituents on this point. They are very worried, and in fairness to them and out of the respect held by Members of the House for the local government service I feel that the Minister should do his utmost to give them some reassurance, a feeling that they are not to be put into difficulties because of this tremendous reorganisation of local government which Her Majesty's Government are contemplating for the Greater London area.
§ Mr. Michael Cliffe
(Shoreditch and Finsbury): I find it difficult to understand why there is all this urgency about 1964, particularly in view of the statements that have been made from time to time by Ministers and hon. Members, as when we have discussed local government officers and services and everyone has said how wonderful they are. That has been said even about the London County Council. The Government themselves have praised it from time to time despite the fact that they now want to eliminate it from the scene in London.
I can only assume from the inclusion of the date 1964 for the amalgamations and change-over that the whole of London's administration has completely collapsed and that the public services 308 are possibly the worst to be found anywhere in the country or, indeed, in the world. Yet the opposite is the case. Not only those coming from the provinces but people from all over the world have envied and admired the tremendous services conducted here in London by the London County Council and local authorities alike.
Yet mostly the Government are not the least bit impressed either by what has been said by hon. Members on this side of the Committee, by their own back benchers, or by professional organisations, on what this really means. We are now speaking largely of the effect on the officers, people connected with local government service; but what about Mr. Citizen himself? He, too, must be particularly concerned, especially when he has to use these services which are in operation either for himself or for his family.
I should like to raise one or two points on the theme that was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) when he made a special plea for the officers. I had the opportunity of discussing this only an hour before coming to the House today. Despite all the assurances and the fact that compensation will be paid, these things are not what these officers are seeking. They came into the service, many of them, when they were comparatively young men and women. Having now reached the age of 50 or 52 they still feel a sense of ambition and hope one day to be chiefs of their departments. Now it seems that many of them are likely to be given a pension or some other job with a status not similar to that which they now have and certainly not with the same opportunities that they have had under the existing arrangements.
On the question of the problems in which local authorities are to be involved, since the machinery operating in all the boroughs in London is similar, with the same number of committees, committee clerks, and so on, it is fairly obvious that as a result of these amalgamations the number of people occupying different positions within the administration itself will be considerably more than is required. So what it really means, in effect, is that people 309 who have worked very hard and conscientiously in the hope of being promoted may have their financial position safeguarded by being given some other job within the service, but their prospects of getting any promotion at all is remote. This is their fear. It is quite real and I can quite understand why they are particularly concerned about it.
I believe that the whole of this debate, like most other things in this House, is merely an academic exercise in which all of us express a point of view. I do not think that the merits of the case leave Her Majesty's Government in any way impressed. They will do as they like, regardless, but I want them to appreciate one thing in connection with what they are proposing to do. The position of officers and staffs employed in town halls is one thing, but the question of taking over a machine which it has taken something like seventy or eighty years to build up and develop is another. Do we imagine we can suddenly decide to take the whole of that machinery and give it a completely new form without creating the slightest difficulty?
In some cases it is proposed to amalgamate as many as three boroughs. What would that mean to them? Each will have had its own housing and rent policies and various ways of dealing with administration and even its own committees. Whilst committees may be referred to by the same name they do not all necessarily carry out the same functions. These are some of the basic problems facing us. Does anybody really think it logical to imagine that we can effect these amalgamations and expect this machinery to run effectively? I know that we count largely on the loyalty of the staff to make the machinery tick over, but why should they be put in this situation merely because the Government think that they should do this for some reason or other which I personally find it difficult to appreciate? I believe that in the beginning the Government were motivated by a political desire, believing that we would suffer politically. But now I come to the conclusion that whatever manoeuvres they may adopt, the ultimate result will still be that they will not be the Government after the next General Election.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)
I cannot quite agree with the hon. Member, with 310 respect, that this is merely an academic argument. The point upon which we are touching is one of extreme importance affecting loyal staffs throughout London and we have carefully to balance the desirability of doing something fairly quickly or doing something over a protracted period, the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris). I believe that all hon. Members who represent London constituencies have had genuine letters from staffs who arc worried about their future.
As was said by the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Gliffe), it is not so much the amount of money but the type of job that they will get in future. I put it to my right hon. Friend that the one danger that we are now in is that an element of talent will be drained out of the service simply because of that uncertainty.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will use this Clause as an opportunity to give a further assurance to the staffs, first, that it will not be a long time before a decision is reached—it is essential that they should not be held in suspense— and, secondly, that their financial futures and careers will be guaranteed in some way by him.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I agree with everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe) said, except the observation which, incidentally, the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Glyn) noticed. I do not think that this is a mere academic exercise; it is a matter of great constitutional importance. This is one of the most important Amendments that we shall consider on the Bill. It will decide the date on which the first elections under the Bill will take place. I endorse everything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and I ask the Minister carefully to consider the constitutional implications.
Under the Bill, the first elections for these new boroughs will take place in 1964—only fifteen months from now. If the Amendment is carried in its present form the elections will be postponed until 1967. I am not concerned with the date. Like my hon. Friend, I should be equally happy if the date were 1955 311 or 1956. My point is that the Bill ought not to begin to operate until there has been a General Election and the electorate has had an opportunity of saying whether or not it wants the Government to continue in office and the Bill to become law.
Everybody knows that the present Tory Government are completely discredited. They have lost the confidence of the country, and they are in complete disarray. As every by-election and every Gallup poll shows, the country now has no confidence in them. It is almost inevitable that they will be defeated at the next General Election, which may come this year and must, at the latest, come by the middle of next year.
The Government have no mandate for the Bill. They do not have the support of any section of the electorate for it. The Bill has been decried and criticised by hon. Members opposite as well as hon. Members on this side of the Committee, and by practically all the local authorities whose reorganisation is proposed. The Measure involves a revolutionary change in areas of local government which affect 8 million people. Disinterested sections of the community, including teachers, doctors and architects, have condemned it. The Minister may still think that it is a good Bill, but that does not constitute a reason for resisting the Amendment. The Amendment is based upon the constitutional principle that a Measure of this transcendental importance, affecting the social services of about 8 million people and the lives of about a quarter of that community, should not begin to operate until it has been shown by a General Election that the electorate considers it to be a good Bill.
Not only is there no mandate for the Bill; the Government have not even the warrant of the support of the Royal Commission, because they have departed in many respects from the Royal Commission's recommendations and, since then, people outside politics who are interested in the social services have condemned the Bill's unsatisfactory features. They have said that it disrupts and disorganises well-established organs of social administration in the Greater London area.
312 Let the Minister continue with the consideration of the Bill in detail in Committee, but let him also observe the elementary constitutional decencies. Do not let him drive the Bill through with indecent haste. Let him have the courage to say that it shall come into operation after the next General Election, and the courage to think that the Tories will win it. If they do, they will be able to implement the Bill, but if they do not the Government which is elected at the next General Election will have the opportunity and the right to say what they want done. That position could easily be achieved if the Minister would accept the spirit of the Amendment and agree that the operative date should be 1967. I do not accept the need for a triennial rhythm in this respect; 1966 is just as good as 1967 to me.
As for the local government staffs, the Minister should appreciate that any uncertainty that has been occasioned to them will not be increased if he accepts the Amendment, because part of that uncertainty is induced by the fact that we do not know when the next General Election is to take place. It may well take place this year. This discredited Government cannot go on much longer. In any event, the General Election may well take place in sufficient time to enable the electorate to decide what it wants done by returning a better Government. Until the uncertainty about the date of the election is removed, the uneasiness of members of local government staffs must continue. The Minister would therefore be well advised to agree in principle that the Bill should not take effect until after the next General Election.
We know and regret the difficulties which many members of the staffs on the London County Council and other county councils and metropolitan borough councils have already been faced with but it is idle to pretend that that uncertainly will in any way be increased by the acceptance of the Amendment. On the contrary, uncertainty will be reduced, because the staffs will at any rate know that there is a chance of more sensible arrangements being made. In the interests of constitutional decency, I urge the Minister to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I am not going to prophesy the result of the next General Election. I have fought too many elections ever to want to prophesy until the returning officer starts to read the return. I have my hopes about it. They are pretty high at the moment, but I leave that fact out of account in considering this matter, because we are here dealing with the question of the way in which, whether it be in 1964 or 1967, the present structure will be dismantled and the new structure put up in its place after the Bill becomes law.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) that decentralisation is a more difficult operation than centralisation. I have taken parts in two small efforts at decentralisation, in the breaking up of two very large and powerful rural districts into two groups of urban districts. That was a very small operation compared to what the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to carry out under the Bill.
In order to carry through such a scheme one requires a considerable amount of time and a great deal of consultation. I cannot find the extent to which at any stage regarding the present proposals there has been consultations between the Minister and the authorities concerned. Most of the authorities with whom I have been in contact complain that there has not been much consultation. The Minister is unlikely to get this Bill on the Statute Book until just before the Summer Recess, and I should not like to comment on how far the Guillotine will have to be used to get it through at that time because it might put wicked ideas into the mind of the right hon. Gentleman.
Between the end of July and May of 1964 is a very short time, particularly when, for all practical purposes, we can take out the months of August and September. I hope the Minister will feel that he can arrange for the period to be lengthened. I do not say to 1967 of necessity, although I am speaking in support of an Amendment designed to effect that. If the right hon. Gentleman can give the authorities an indication to that effect, it will be helpful. After all, we must face the fact that in all these difficulties of local government reorganisation there is also the difficulty that 314 we do not know exactly the constitution of the new authority or the area it will cover.
Anyone who has tried to carry through schemes of review in connection with county districts will know that consultations are necessary and sometimes one may wonder why a certain person is worried about his chances of being a member of the new council. After consulting his friends one finds that this person is perhaps the chairman of the public convenience sub-committee of the general purposes committee of the existing council and is not quite sure what his place will be in the resurrection. The right hon. Gentleman will find that that kind of difficulty will crop up continually.
If he combines Croydon, Coulsdon and Purley—I do not know what name will be given to the area in the near future—and if the old Croydon Council constitutes the major part of the new body, I wonder how many chairmen of committees of the old Coulsdon and Purley authorities will get a position of great trust and distinction on the enlarged Croydon Council. I should imagine the number will be pretty small, and all these things must be taken into account. We have to deal with human frailties as well as human strengths and sometimes people are more conscious of their frailties than of the possession of any strength.
I assume that the Minister will get his Bill because the Chief Patronage Secretary is present to see to it that he does. If the Minister says he wants the Bill by 27th July, he will get it, and all the protests of hon. Members opposite, as we saw yesterday, will not prevail against the final pressure that will come. So the Minister will get his Bill. When the right hon. Gentleman has got it he will have the trouble of applying its provisions to 8 million people and to thousands of local government servants all of whom will have their particular personal difficulties. It is far easier to deal with such problems if there is a reasonable length of time.
I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman wants all the new local authorities to start with public opinion supporting them and with no left-overs from previous discussions and arrangements, and I urge him to give a greater 315 amount of time than is at present arranged. In some of my wanderings I have heard the date 11th April mentioned, by which time I understand that the right hon. Gentleman hopes to receive some intimation from some authorities about how they are getting on with their schemes for reorganisation. I am quite sure that many people will not make up their minds that they can help until they can obtain an assurance that they will be dealing with something practicable.
As one who has had to deal with this matter elsewhere on a smaller scale, I know that it is easier to amalgamate three police forces than, for example, to persuade the Hampshire Constabulary to hand over the Bournemouth Constabulary to Bournemouth. All these things do take time. People must be given an opportunity to air their views and the people who will have to carry through the scheme must be given a chance to assess what they will have to do. I cannot think that the Minister will lose anything by postponing this date for a year or two. I am quite certain that the chances of getting a new scheme started in an atmosphere of goodwill among councillors and officials would be infinitely improved if the right hon. Gentleman would indicate that he would give sympathetic consideration to the gist of this Amendment.
Sometimes I am frightened by the right hon. Gentleman because all of a sudden he announces something as a principle. I hope that 1964 is not a principle. Yesterday we were told that the size of the council is a principle. I have served on councils of varying sizes and I know that in the end efficiency depends upon the spirit in which things are worked. I notice that the Patronage Secretary keeps looking at the right hon. Gentleman and visiting the Chamber to see how he is getting on, and so I concede that the Minister will get his Bill. When the new authorities are created we all want to see that the atmosphere is not one in which people feel that they have been rushed and hurried but rather that they have had ample time for consideration.
I recall, in respect of one reorganisation scheme, that a young woman teacher said to me,"I have been tossed for". I asked,"Whatever do you mean?"and she said,"Well, I know 316 that neither of the head teachers wanted me. I was the last member of the staff to get an appointment under the new arrangements and the two head teachers tossed for me. I do not know who won, but I know that I lost". People get a feeling of being shoved about because there is not time to deal with them on their merits. I urge the Minister to ensure that sufficient time is allowed for all these delicate personal issues to be dealt with in a worthy manner so that everyone may feel assured that the best has been done to find an appropriate place for them in the new organisation, whether they be councillors or officials.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)
I have listened to what must have been over a dozen speeches on this subject. I think I have grasped the general arguments sufficiently to be able to comment on them to the Committee. First, I wish to say how sorry I am that the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) is not well. Last night he was developing, as usual, an argument which covered a wide front in a very interesting way.
Secondly, I am not going to address my answers to the particular period of delay. If it were 1965, 1966 or 1967, it would to some extent meet the point which hon. Members have been making. The speeches have covered four main reasons for asking the Government to accept some delay of one, two or three years before the first elections of the London boroughs.
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), in a closely argued—but, as I shall seek to show, very narrowly argued—speech said that we have no mandate. This was repeated strongly by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher). A number of other hon. Members have suggested that there would not be time to work out details if we had the elections only fifteen months from now. The third line of argument was that there would be great damage done to services. This was the argument of the hon. Member for Paddington, North in particular. A number of hon. Members have expressed fears about possible hardship caused to local government officers. Those are the four main themes to which I have to reply.
317 On the question of mandate, hon. Members who have advanced this argument have, I think, all recognised that this is a doctrine which cannot be pushed too far, because in no single election can any one theme—unless it be a cosmic theme such as that of war and peace—dominate the argument. But we should all remember that the reform of Greater London government is not a novel subject. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite, when they were on this side of the House, faced the problem. It was just after the war that the Boundary Commission was appointed. It is true that the Commission's remit excluded the L.C.C. area, but it included all the areas of Greater London outside the County of London.
It is true that in 1949 the Boundary Commission was dissolved, but it was not dissolved because any member of the Socialist Government thought there was no problem in the Metropolis. All hon. and right hon. Members recognise —I do not think there is any dispute on this—that there are certain problems. They do not accept that they are as urgent as we think they are, but no one denies that there are problems. It cannot possibly be maintained that this is a new subject thrust on the electorate.
After the Boundary Commission was dissolved, this House had to address itself to Bills, first for Ilford, on two occasions, and then for Ealing, to be given county borough status. On all three occasions the answer was, no, we cannot accept piecemeal reform in the Greater London area; any such changes must await a general reform. That occurred in 1949, in 1951 and in 1952.
After my right hon. Friends came to power there were discussions about local government reform over the whole country with the local authority associations. Those discussions went on for some time and, as a result of them, the Local Government Act, 1958, was put on the Statute Book. That Act brought in a comprehensive review of local government areas, and in many cases of functions. It reached the Statute Book in 1958. Therefore, for the hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) to say, as he did, that at the 1959 election there was no breath or hint of local government reform is going a bit far, particularly since in 1958—I believe, 318 to be precise, in the very last days of 1957—my right hon. Friends then in power set up the Royal Commission to review local government in Greater London. So, in 1959, if it has to be shown that the electorate had to address their minds to a particular subject, there was an Act on the Statute Book about local government reform in general, and the Royal Commission had been appointed to advise the Government on the form of local government in Greater London. I cannot possibly accept that this is a new subject.
The hon. Member for Fulham then developed an argument to the effect that local government reform in London has not been treated in the same way as in the provinces and that the citizen had not had the same opportunity of objecting and making his views known. He said he recognised that the citizen could present his views to the Royal Commission, but that that is not the same. Of course it is not the same. The Government have never thought it possible to deal with the comprehensive local government review of an area comprising 8 million people in precisely the same way as it is possible to look at an area with a population of from 100,000 to 1½ million people. It is difficult enough for the Commission's views to be debated sufficiently in some of the great conurbations, but it would have been absolutely impossible and impracticable to discuss the radical reorganisation of local government in the Metropolitan area on any such basis.
That is why the Royal Commission was set up, to receive evidence from anyone who wished to present it and to advise—I say this quite straightforwardly—as to the basis of this Bill. Of course, in many details, some large details, this Bill departs from that advice, but if anyone had to summarise in one pair of propositions what the Royal Commission's recommendations were, they would say that the strategic services can be sensibly decided only over the whole metropolitan area and should be passed to the Greater London authority and all the other services should be passed to the boroughs. There is any amount of dispute about details, and large details, concerning them, but those 319 are the two propositions which form the backbone of this Bill.
On the proposition that the electorate have not had this project in mind and that London government reform has not been handled in the same way as local government reform in the provinces, I cannot accept the arguments of the hon. Member for Fulham.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)
The Minister has dealt a little cursorily with the argument about mandate. I agree with him that it cannot be pushed too far, but would he not agree that if in a General Election the constituencies most affected by this Bill were to swing perceptibly against the Government, or for the Government, that would be an indication of something?
§ Sir K. Joseph
That is an interesting thought. I do agree with the right hon. Gentleman, the very wise right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who was chary and eschewed prophecies about elections. I remember the same sort of prophecies about the last election and the election before that being made from the benches opposite. I am going to meet the point made by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg). I remember that it was said that the Rent Act would lose my right hon. Friends the last election, but in fact in many of the urban areas my right hon. Friends gained seats and did not lose them. It was known to all London constituencies that the Government were serious about local government reform. They had put an Act upon the Statute Book and had set up a Royal Commission. It was known that if the Conservative Party were returned to power it would continue with the policies of which it had given some evidence.
I shall now deal with the development of the argument of the hon. Member for Fulham. The hon. Gentleman said that not only was there no mandate but that the public had shown its active distaste for the principles behind this Measure. I concede that there has been and is a lot of public feeling about the Bill. I do not deny that for a moment. However, I am sure the hon. Gentleman would concede that much of that public feeling rests on premises that are just not true. I am not suggesting any mischievous representations. I am saying 320 that people tend to imagine that much more interference with their daily lives or with their pockets will be involved, and they are naturally frightened of such things.
I think that in some cases these fears have been played upon. There has been an active campaign representing the Government as about to destroy without replacing. This has obviously left fears in people's minds. I readily admit that we have not succeeded in removing all these fears. I hope that during the constructive debates on the Bill where there are defects we shall put them right.
On public opinion the case is certainly not proven, because public opinion naturally is not deeply informed on this subject. One cannot rely upon interpreting individual elections or by-elections. This very week we have had an academic study from that admirable group at the London School of Economics and Political Science, to whom we are all indebted for their work on the subjects of this Bill, labelled,"Greater London Paper No. 8, A Metropolis Votes". I find that in general this paper confirms that it is very dangerous to interpret a particular by-election as representing a deep understanding of any particular issue, let alone a strong vote in favour or against any particular project.
I therefore question all the premises of the hon. Gentleman's argument. He went so far in claiming that public opinion is very strongly against the Bill that I must answer him at greater length. Anybody reading his speech would assume that the Bill had no friends. The Committee is well aware that many of the national papers have approved the project in its outline. I am not for a moment suggesting that there are not legitimate misgivings about a number of details, even about some very substantial elements of the Bill, but the general principle that there needs to be reform of this sort seems to be very widely accepted, certainly in most of the national papers.
The hon. Member then said that the elite were all against it. He had to deal with a momentary intervention from his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), who questioned whether the elite are the only people who count.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I hope that the Minister will not misrepresent me. He will have noticed that the key phrase in that passage of my speech was that I took the view that in a well-ordered society all of us would be members of the elite for some purposes and ordinary people for others. I hold that view very strongly. I do not use the word"elite"in the sense of a group of people completely separate from the rest of the population. I believe that on any particular subject there are obviously people who have studied that subject and know it better than most of us do. The significant point I was making was that on every main subject with which the Bill deals the people with special knowledge are opposed to the Bill.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I was seeking a light moment with the hon. Gentleman. I thought his speech was a very good one, but I am sure the whole Committee enjoyed the sudden snort of indignation from his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South at that moment. I take the views of the elite very seriously indeed when they are expert on a subject. A large number of people, particularly groups of expert people, have misgivings about particular parts of the Bill. This I well understand, and the Government will most seriously try to improve the Bill where their case is made.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)
When this matter was orginally discussed in the House the Minister's predecessor recognised that the elite, as we now call them, of Croydon had every justification for contending that Croydon, for instance, coming within the Greater London Area had nothing whatsoever to gain from the Bill. Does what my right hon. Friend now says mean that when the suggestion comes up that Croydon should be omitted altogether he will give serious consideration to the elite of Croydon?
§ Sir K. Joseph
"Elite"is being used in a very subjective way here. I was talking of the experts on one particular subject as the elite. We will leave the particularist arguments until later. They will no doubt come. Obviously the Committee must take very seriously these reports of strong criticism from such people as doctors and architects. I could 322 quote groups of professionals who are in principle in favour of the Bill. I do not want to do that, because I want to take all the criticisms extremely seriously. I do not think that any of the criticisms that have been made strike at the main principles of the Bill, though I hesitate to use the word"principles"after the way the right hon. Member for South Shields has savaged me. What they strike at in many oases is the distribution of particular functions. There will be opportunities to discuss that. I do not think that we should drop the whole Measure because individual professional groups have strong criticisms on particular parts.
The hon. Member for Fullham came two weeks ago to the gathering of architects which I was lucky enough to meet. I think he will agree that seldom has the R.I.B.A. hall been so full. It was very impressive that architects turned out in such numbers to show their interest in all that is involved in the Bill. There was a great deal of very vigorous criticism. The R.I.B.A. began by saying that in general it approved the main purpose of the Bill. It was only worried that the Greater London Coun-oil did not have enough power in some things and that planning was not arranged rightly. This was all very acceptable criticism which we shall discuss in detail, but it does not begin to support the thesis that we should drop the Bill as a whole. Many hon. Gentlemen seem to take the view that we should drop the Bill because there is some opposition to it. If that attitude were adopted how should we ever get any reform? This country is a conservative country, I am glad to say, and any reform and change is bound to arouse a great deal of opposition. Do right hon. and hon. Members opposite believe that they are going to create the Utopia they want to create without conducting some reforms and changes? Here we are embarking on what is an old project to improve local government in London and we find the most backward-looking, retrograde, ossified resistance at every turn. I find it very hard to accept that hon. Members opposite are thinking of the welfare of the citizen.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) developed the next line of argument. He said that there is a great deal to be 323 done. Indeed I agree that there is a formidable amount to be done. But that is an argument against ever making any change at all. The Amendment is to the effect that the elections of the Greater London boroughs should be deferred and be held not 15 months hence but a year, two years, or three years later. We are not now discussing the transfer of functions to the new authorities. We are discussing the setting up of the new authorities. Before that there have to be the wardings and the incorporation orders. The timetable is tight, but it can be done. I assure my hon. and learned Friend that on grounds of practicability the Government are absolutely satisfied that this date can be met.
I come now to the very strong feeling of some hon. Members that there is a real danger of damage to services. What they are questioning is whether the functions should be transferred as early as April, 1965. Sir Samuel, I hope that you will allow me to say that what is implied in the Amendment is that the transfer of the functions, too, would be delayed as well as the elections. That follows. I can only say that, after examining this as deeply as I can— obviously this has been very much in the Government's mind in all the preparatory stages— I have absolutely no fear that there will be any damage to services.
We are discussing the things that matter above all others, the treatment of individual citizens and their families, whether it be in their homes, at town halls, in hospitals, in clinics, in mental health establishments, in schools—as I might put it, in the whole front line of the social services. In fact, the front line of the social services in the Greater London area will be manned after the change by just the same people in general as it is manned by before the change. What will be at issue in many cases is the question of who mans the headquarters—who mans the lines of communication, as it were. The front line, the midwives, teachers and the people like them, will be on the job in the same way as before, unless they desire to change meanwhile.
I thought that the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter), to whom I always listen with great interest when he speaks 324 about local government, made a strong point when he said that we are embarked on an operation involving decentralisation and that it was a harder operation than that of centralisation. I would far rather be conducting an operation in which more jobs and opportunities will be available than an operation whereby fewer jobs and fewer opportunities would be there. If one were centralising there would be need for fewer officers and senior people, the Committee would be saying, "What about all the talent which will be wasted?" and hon. Members would be complaining about the insecurity of jobs. Although there will now be quite strong competition for many of the senior jobs, there will be more opportunities because of this operation of decentralisation than there were before. The hon. Member for Southall was right when he expressed worry that his anxieties would not be met by deferring the date.
I have so far dealt honestly with the arguments which have been put forward, and I come now to why I think the hon. Member for Fulham, in his strong speech, can be convicted of taking a narrow view of the problem before us. As in all things, there is another side to the case. We have here a project for the reform of metropolitan government. It has been on the stocks not just since 1957, when the Royal Commission was appointed, not just since the war, but for most of the century. It has been actively on the stocks since Ilford and Ealing put forward their post-war applications for county borough status. And while hon. Members opposite may not accept that it was on the stocks during the time of the Socialist Government, I think that any fair-minded person would admit that even at that time a great deal of consideration was being given to the matter.
Thus we are considering a project which has been on the stocks for some years. The Government have now geared themselves to this operation. It is an operation which needs a great deal of vigour and strength and while it involves the interruption of some careers and expectations, does any one think that the Government would embark on this lightly? Nevertheless, it is suggested that it is in the interests of the staff, the citizens and local government to introduce all the uncertainties of further delay. I cannot believe that that is a well argued case.
325 I now pick up the fourth argument which has been adduced, namely, that we are embarking on something which is bound to bring hardship to local government officers. I join in the tributes which have been paid to the staff of local government and I enthusiastically endorse the remarks of the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) on this subject. It is indeed a triumph that this country can boast of the integrity of its local government staff, whatever party is in power.
I sincerely hope and believe that this measure will not lead to hardship for local government staff. The Committee will have seen the circular which was issued on 8th January last and which was devoted entirely to this problem. I do not for a moment underestimate the transitional problems. These are inseparable from any major effort of reform and while hon. Members opposite may be assuring the country that they fear having to face these transitional problems, they must accept that their job is to try to improve the transitional position.
We must, of course, take very seriously the letters which come in. But exactly who will be disturbed? I hope that they will not misunderstand me when I say that it will certainly not be the regimental soldiers of the local government services who will be disturbed. It will not be the infantry in the front line. The teachers will go on, as will the other people in the front line. The people affected will be the chief and senior officers and some of the people in the county halls in particular. This represents a serious problem but it does not represent the huge proportion of the total staff involved. Meanwhile, we must remember that we are not dealing with local government employees generally.
I do not think that it would be in their interests if we delayed the whole operation of the Bill. After all, uncertainty would remain because, as hon. Members opposite are saying, if the Tories win the next election, then so be it. If it were delayed, would that be so attractive to senior officers who are now beginning to realise that this is going ahead and who are beginning to think about what is best for their local authorities and themselves? Would they welcome it? I believe that it would do great damage to 326 them and that it would damage local government to introduce a period of uncertainty at a time when Londoners are screaming for more housing and amenities.
We realise that this operation of reform makes all the progress we want on the housing and planning front more difficult for a couple of years. But we are doing this because we believe that it will improve things after that period. Hon. Members opposite are saying that we should have a period of delay and uncertainty with less than optimum efficiency and vigour for three, four or even five years. I cannot believe that it is right to drop the intensity of the effort which has gone into this and to leave the project still hanging over all those concerned.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clap-ham (Dr. Alan Glyn) fears the loss of talent. As I have said, the Bill gives increased opportunities for local authority officers and, at the expense of some uncertainty, provides more opportunity and a larger variety of jobs for local government officers at the end of the road.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
My right hon. Friend did not quite understand my interpretation. I said that I thought it was important that we should get on with it so that the period of waiting was not prolonged. I realise, too, that there will be greater opportunities.
§ Sir K. Joseph
What does all this add up to? We are told that the Bill will not work. We are told that every leader of opinion is against it. We are told that it is widely unpopular. Yet, at the same time, hon. Members opposite charge us with doing it for political advantage. What do they really think of us? How can they imagine that what they have described as the opinion of people outside towards the Bill and the Bill itself can be of any political advantage to us? Surely hon. Members opposite should begin to realise that we are doing this because we believe it to be right and that we are supported by most of the organs of responsible opinion in this country, including the Daily Herald.Let them drop this attitude of irresponsible accusation.
On every ground, therefore, I strongly advise the Committee to reject the Amendment. I do not believe that on any of the four grounds put forward the 327 Amendment is justified in any way. However, I recognise that the transitional arrangements, which present us with great difficulties, are bound to be difficult in any worth-while reform. In response to the speeches which have been made, I hope that the Amendment will be withdrawn and that, if not, the Committee will reject it.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
Does my right hon. Friend have an open mind about the exact date in view of the tightness of the whole operation?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I hope that when I come to look at HANSARD tomorrow I shall find no such reference. I was saying that the Amendment must imply a later date for the transfer of functions. It was only that to which I was referring. If the Amendment were carried it would imply a later date for that transfer.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
The Minister has treated the Committee most handsomely in that very full and carefully argued reply. It would be abusing his kindness were I to waste time by making any long traverse of what he has said, but he said one or two things of such importance that I think I am justified in very briefly commenting on them.
I take first what may seem a minor point but which is a very illuminating one. The right hon. Gentleman was arguing that it would not be what he called the "infantry soldier" ho would suffer in matters of staff; that it would not be so much the person directly rendering the service—the teacher, the midwife, for instance, who would go on doing their work—but that the problems would arise in what he called the "lines of communication", the administrative staff and the chief officers.
Such a remark is alarming because to me it indicates that there are a number of aspects of how London is governed that the Minister does not understand. Let us take a service that I know best, which is the London education service. The career of a teacher in that service is not necessarily bounded by the particular school in which he is now teaching. It is important to him that he is a member of a large county-wide service with many aspects, because it is by no means infrequent for someone who begins his 328 academic career as a teacher in a London school later to become the head of a great evening institute, an institution of such variety as none of the boroughs the Minister is creating would be able to produce. Or he might go on to the inspectorate of the L.C.C. education service.
There is not this division between the front-line infantry soldiers and the people in the more senior positions that the Minister imagines there is, and to offer people, as this Bill might offer them when it has been in operation less than five years, a job merely in the service of a borough of perhaps 250,000 people is not the same, either for the teacher or for the administrative officer, as the offer of service in the most famous local education authority in the world. I think that with that remark the Minister showed that he has not really grasped what working for the London County Council really involves, and why so many of its employees are worried about this Bill.
Next, there is the point about mandate. It is quite true that before the last General Election there was talk of London local government, but the vital point is this. The Minister told us quite expressly that one of the main principles of this Bill is to make the borough the primary instrument of government in London; to give the large strategic service to the central authority and all the rest to the boroughs. That is one of the main principles we are arguing, and it is that controversial principle that has never been put to Londoners at an election. It is to that principle that, as far as there is any reasonable way of judging their opinion, we can properly conclude that Londoners are opposed, because that principle applied to London means taking the county services in education, child welfare, health, welfare of all kinds— now highly integrated and very efficient services—and breaking them up on a borough basis.
I am sure that the Minister knows quite well that if Londoners had ever been clearly told at the last General Election that the return of a Conservative Government would mean the breakup of these county services their reaction would have been an extremely unfriendly one as, indeed, it was at the last borough 329 elections in London. It is not a question of whether there was talk at the last election of London local government reform in general, but whether the vital princple of this Bill has ever been pronounced on by Londoners.
The right hon. Gentleman says that we on this side have given the impression that the Bill has no friends. It is not we who have given that impression but the impressive silence of hon. Members opposite through most of our debates on the Bill that given that impression. Let the Minister look back to the Second Reading debate and count the number of his hon. Friends who made speeches enthusiastically in support of the Bill; he will not need the fingers of more than one hand. The same is true of the debate we had last February on the White Paper. He will find, occasionally, a few brief sentences of perfunctory approval before his hon. Friends poured out their main objections to the Bill as it affected their own constituencies. If the Bill has friends they are not in this House in any considerable numbers.
The only group of people the Minister was able to quote were the proprietors of certain newspapers, and I say with respect that the enthusiasm of people in the Press for this Bill is usually in inverse proportion to their knowledge of what it actually contains. Moreover, in some cases the Minister was trying to quote in support organs of the Press that have gone no further than to say that there ought to be some major changes in London government, which is a quite different proposition.
I must now take up the right hon. Gentleman's criticism of us that we were, as I think he said, narrow and ossified. I have not expressed, in discussions on this Bill or elsewhere, the view that major changes are not needed in London government, but the Minister knows very well that the plan in this Bill, based on the vicious principle of the destruction of the county services, is not the only proposal for major reform of London government that has been before the Government.
There was the proposal at one time put to the Government by the united entreaties of the five main counties concerned. There were modifications that 330 would have had to be made in that five-counties plan before it really could have done the job, but it had the germ of the right answer, and this Bill has not. The Minister's predecessor in office quite frankly did not understand what the five-counties plan was about. The present Minister has, if I may say so, the capacity to understand what it is about. He ought to have looked at it. He would have seen that, even if he wanted to make considerable modifications to it, there, in principle, lay the right answer.
It is therefore not true to say that we who oppose this Bill have rejected any idea of making any major changes in London government. We know that for certain purposes those changes are needed, but we do not believe that the idea need be tied up with the vicious principle that underlies the Bill of destroying the county service. The real issue in the Bill has not been before the people in any formal sense. As far as one can judge expressions of public opinion on the general principle, there is hostility both from the public at large and from those particular groups that have specialist knowledge. That is why we say that the public and the nation ought to have an opportunity of pronouncing on it before we go ahead with it.
The Minister urged, "We have been talking about London government for so long, do not let us delay it any longer", but let us take another question that has been talked of for so long. I refer to the reform of another place which, as Mr. Asquith said in 1911, brooks of no delay. It has now been quietly brooking of no delay for half a century, but would anyone say that the fact that it has been brooking no delay for half a century is a reason for saying that as soon as a plan is produced it must go through by April, 1964—
§ Sir K. Joseph
I am touched by the hon. Gentleman's solicitude about the uncertainty provoked in 800 noble Lords, but I thought that we were discussing the uncertainties provoked by all this project in 8 million Greater Londoners and several hundred thousand of their staff.
§ Mr. Stewart
The right hon. Gentleman can dispose of that at once by saying, 331 "I shall withdraw the Bill. I shall open discussions with the five counties and we shall seek a solution similar in broad principle to what they have suggested, though the Government must reserve the right to make many changes of detail in that plan". He could give the assurance that the important integrated county services would not be disrupted. That could be done without prejudice to the necessary reform of London government. It would immediately relieve many of the staff's anxieties. It would open the way to the right solution.
This is what the Minister ought to do. This is, I think, quite possibly what he would have been doing if he had been in charge from the start. But this baby has been planted on his doorstep by his predecessors and he is trying heroically to be as good an adoptive father to it as he can. We sympathise with him. It is a horrid child.
The analogy I was making with another place is this. Nobody would say that because reform of another place has been delayed for half a century the moment somebody produces a plan it must be rushed through without delay. One would rather say, "This has been delayed all this time. Let us take at least long enough about discussing the change to make sure that when it is done it is done right." We do not want to pull up London government by the roots every few years. This is why it is worth while to have a little more delay to make sure that it is done right. Why cannot the Minister realise that much wider issues are involved here than the prestige of the Government, which they have unhappily tied up with this rather deplorable Bill?
A real gesture in withdrawing the Bill and an attempt to get the right answer to the problem of London government would reflect much greater credit on the Government. If the Minister feels that merely accepting the Amendment and doing no more would prolong the uncertainties and delay, let him go for the wider solutions to the problem which I have now put before him.
§ Mr. Driberg
I would not have risen if it had not been for the rather high-faluitin peroration indulged in by the Minister at the end of his extremely able speech, in which I thought he argued the case from his point of view as well as it could be argued. But that peroration worried me a little on the Minister's behalf, because it seemed from the fervour with which he spoke as if he really believed what he was saying. This is terrible. This means that he must have been engaged subconsciously in that process which I think psychologists call rationalisation. The right hon. Gentleman has convinced himself that what he wants to believe really is true.
The right hon. Gentleman proceeded in the course of his peroration to what I can only call an extraordinarily slippery argument, implying that because the Bill is unpopular in many quarters the Government therefore must be putting it forward with the right motives, and because they honestly believe that it is the right thing to do. A thing is not necessarily right and wise because it is unpopular. Gerrymandering, which everybody knows this is, is always unpopular with some people while it is happening—
§ Sir K. Joseph
I was not arguing that it was right because it was unpopular. I was saying that this clearly showed that this was not being done in order to win political friends, as evidenced by some of the Amendments.
§ Mr. Driberg
Perhaps it is not being done to win mass approval politically, but it is being done to win power, which is a rather different thing, by a side-wind. This, of course, is what gerrymandering is for. The fact that this is unpopular does not show anything one way or another. Gerrymandering is always unpopular. It is unpopular with the people who are being deprived of the true exercise of their franchise. The advantage of it as a process, from the point of view of a party out of power in a particular situation, such as in London, is that it gains power. It secures by a wangle a transfer of power that could never have been secured by a genuine appeal to the electors.
§ Questions put, That "1964" stand part of the clause:—334
§ The Committee divided:Ayes 215, Noes 166.335
|Division No. 29.]||AYES||[5.55 p.m.|
|Allason, James||Grant-Ferris, R,||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Green, Alan||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Gresham Cooke, R.||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Balniel, Lord||Gurden, Harold||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Barber, Anthony||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Barter, John||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Partridge, E.|
|Batsford, Brian||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Percival, Ian|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Bell, Ronald||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Pott, Percivall|
|Biffen, John||Hendry, Forbes||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hiley, Joseph||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nlgel||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Holland, Philip||Pym, Francis|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hollingworth, John||Rawlinson, Sir Peter|
|Box, Donald||Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Hopkins, Alan||Rees, Hugh|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Hornby, R. P.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Braine, Bernard||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Renton, Rt. Hon. David|
|Brewis, John||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hughes-Young, Michael||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Brown Alan (Tottenham)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Roots, William|
|Bryan, Paul||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||St. Clair, M.|
|Buck, Anthony||James, David||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Burden, F. A.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Sharples, Richard|
|Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, s.)||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Shaw, M.|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Kaberry, sir Donald||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Chataway, Christopher||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Speir, Rupert|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Kimball, Marcus||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Kirk, Peter||Stodart, J. A.|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Lagden, Godfrey||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Cleaver Leonard||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Tapsell, Peter|
|Corfield, F. V.||Leavey, J. A.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Coulson, Michael||Leburn, Gilmour||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)|
|Crawley, Aidan||Lilley, F. J. P.||Teeling Sir William|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Lindsay, Sir Martin||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Cunningham, Knox||Linstead, Slr Hugh||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Litchfield, Capt. John||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Slr Henry||Lloyd, Rt.Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Longden, Gilbert||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Drayson, G. B.||Loveys, Walter H.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Duncan, Sir James||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Eden, John||McAdden, Sir Stephen||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||MacArthur, Ian||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Elliott, R.W. (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||McMaster, Stanley R.||Macleod, Rt.Hn. Iain(Enfield,W)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Wakefield, Slr Wavell|
|Fisher, Nigel||Maitland, Sir John||Walker, Peter|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Marshall, Douglas||Walker-Smlth, Rt. Hon. Slr Derek|
|Foster, John||Marten, Nell||Wall, Patrick|
|Fraser, Rt.Hn. Hugh (Stafford&Stone)||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Webster, David|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Mawby, Ray||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Gammans, Lady||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Whltelaw, William|
|Gardner, Edward||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Mills, Stratton||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Miscampbell, Norman||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Montgomery, Fergus||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Morgan, William||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Morrison, John||Woollam, John|
|Godber, J. B.||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Worsley, Marcus|
|Goodhart, Philip||Neave, Airey|
|Goodhew, Victor||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Peel and Mr. McLaren.|
|Ainsley, William||Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.|
|Albu, Austen||Barnett, Guy||Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Allan, Frank (Salford, E.)||Beaney, Alan||Benson, Sir George|
|Blackburn, F.||Holman, Percy||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Holt, Arthur||Peart, Frederick|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics. S.W.)||Hooson, H. E.||Pentland, Norman|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Houghton, Douglas||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Boyden, James||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Probert, Arthur|
|Bradley, Tom||Hunter, A. E.||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Rankin, John|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Redhead, E. C,|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Reid, William|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jeger, George||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Callaghan, James||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Rhodes, H.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Chapman, Donald||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, s.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Collick, Percy||Kelley, Richard||Ross, William|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Ledger, Ron||Russell, Ronald|
|Darling George||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Davles, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Short, Edward|
|Deer, George||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Diamond, John||Lipton, Marcus||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Dodds, Norman||Loughlin, Charles||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Doughty, Charles||Lubbock, Eric||Small, William|
|Driberg, Tom||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||McCann, John||Steele, Thomas|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||MacColl, James||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||MacDermot, Niall||Stonehouse, John|
|Evans, Albert||McInnes, James||Stones, William|
|Finch, Harold||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Fitch, Alan||Mackle, John (Enfield, East)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Fletcher, Eric||McLeavy, Frank||Swingler, Stephen|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Taverne, D.|
|Forman, J. C.||Mapp, Charles||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Marsh, Richard||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Ginsburg, David||Mayhew, Christopher Mellish R. J.||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mendelson, J. J.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Gourlay, Harry||Millan, Bruce||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Milne, Edward||Tomney, Frank|
|Grey, Charles||Mitchison, G. R.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Moody, A. S.||Warbey, William|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Morris, John||Weitzman, David|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Neal, Harold||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Gunter, Ray-||Oliver, G. H.||Willey, Frederick|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Oram, A. E.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hannan, William||Oswald, Thomas||Woof, Robert|
|Harper, Joseph||Padley, w. E.||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Paget, R. T.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Healey, Denis||Pargiter, G. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Parker, John||Mr. Lawson and Mr. Whitlock|
§ Question proposed,That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Mellish
The Minister will be the first to agree Chat this is the all-important Clause of the Bill. It is, as it were, the coffin in Which the body is placed. It is the Clause which creates the new inner and outer London boroughs. He will concede, also, that in the debate yesterday both we on this side of the Committee and hon. Members opposite showed quite clearly that there is no filibustering on the Bill and no attempt on anyone's part to talk needlessly or too long on these matters. We are most anxious that the Bill shall have fair and honest consideration. We shall, of course, divide against the Clause. Unfortunately for London it will create 12 inner London boroughs in place of the present 28.
336 It is quite monstrous that the Minister and his colleagues on the Front Bench should try to convey the impression that we in the Labour Party are not anxious to see some change in local government in London generally or in the Central London area. It just is not true. We have always accepted that there are some services now performed by the county councils which ought to be performed, and which would be performed better, by the local authorities. We concede also —here I make a personal concession— that it would be difficult in some respects to argue for some of the smaller local authorities.
What we have said is that the Boundary Commission—a body of which the Leader of the House will know quite a bit—is there anyway to ensure that certain electoral figures are maintained 337 and certain boundaries are automatically altered. The root difference between the Boundary Commission's approach in trying to get some proper sense of areas and conformity with local government realities in London and the rest of the country and the Government's approach by this Bill lies in the extremely important way in which the democratic rights of the individual are affected. Under the Boundary Commission approach, ordinary individuals, church bodies, political bodies, chambers of commerce and all the rest have a right to make suggestions and say what they think about proposals in their own area. These things matter to them. Under this Bill, on the other hand, all this is virtually denied.
The Government have said, by decree almost, that they will impose a certain plan upon metropolitan London. Whether people like it or not, there will be 12 inner London boroughs—no more and no less. Further, after discussion with some obscure town clerks, the Government have accepted their recommendation—I say frankly that that is what it seems to us in London—and this will be how the boroughs will be amalgamated. Whether A wants to go with B is of no concern to the Government. They will have to join together and become one of the new London authorities. That is what the Clause, linked with the First Schedule, does.
I do not want to make a long speech about the feeling of individual boroughs on this matter. That will come out when we discuss the Schedule. The last thing I want to do is to transgress in taking the time of the Committee. But I put it to the Minister that the way in which London is being treated is shameful. He can have no conception of how individual boroughs in London feel great pride in their own area. It is a great affront for them now to realise that they will lose what is to them their identity in being merged with others.
I am speaking not so much of the ordinary citizen as of those who play an active part in the local areas. Many London boroughs have long historical associations which mean a great deal to them. All this is to be completely lost. I ask the Committee to forgive me if I emphasise the point again by reference to my own constituency.
338 In Bermondsey there are 42 councillors doing what we think is a fair job. The Minister's predecessor went there not long ago and complimented them on what he thought was a first-class job. Now, their borough is to be merged with two others, very fine boroughs, no doubt, and their number is to be reduced from 42 to 10. It is asking a great deal of any local authority to impose that sort of change by this Bill without even consultation on numbers, and so forth. Our deep-rooted objection is to the way that it is being done.
I wish to put on record once more that we in the Labour Party frankly admit that reform of local government in and outside London is necessary, but we disagree with the way in which it is being achieved. If there is to be good will in local government—and no one knows this better than the Minister and Leader of the House—those who do the voluntary jobs—let us ignore the staff argument for the moment—must serve on local authorities because they believe in them. Parochial pride, to a large extent, has caused them to serve in the past. Whether we shall have the same pride in future is doubtful.
Take the case of many small local authorities which are doing a first-class job. Their only crime is that they are small, not that they are ineffective or inefficient. If that were the charge, this Bill would be logical. But because of their size the Government say to them, "You have no right to borough council status and therefore we propose to merge you with another authority."I doubt whether there will be the present keenness to serve when the parochial interests and historical associations are swept aside. We have heard enough about the arguments on apathy in local council elections. We know how difficult it is to find people who will voluntarily serve in their own area. Both sides of the Committee know this to be true. The Liberal Party is not represented in the Chamber at the moment. I should think that its members would find it to be true, even in Orpington.
We shall oppose this Clause because we believe that it establishes a principle, not only in metropolitan London but in the area surrounding it, which is an affront to local government. The beginning of this Bill was a determination to abolish the Labour stronghold in 339 London. The desire of the previous Minister of Housing and Local Government was to abolish what he called the Labour-dominated County Council and from that desire much of this Bill stems. There will be a merging of a number of authorities controlled by the Conservative Party. I have personal knowledge through my family associations of the education services and of a great number of welfare services of the Surrey County Council, which has been controlled by the Conservative Party for many years. It has done a first-class job. Why it should be affected in this way is beyond my comprehension.
The real test of this Bill is not size. That is not important. It is not the question of time nor of what the boundaries should be. The real test is whether the services being rendered by the county councils will be improved. We want proof of that. The Minister, in replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), said that people doing the job at county hall level will do it at borough council level. Does not he realise that there are not enough staff to do the various jobs possible at county hall level? How will these services be dispersed in and outside London with 32 authorities? This seems to us to be illogical, and that is why we want more time for consideration. I do not think that we can take a risk when it comes to the services which county councils and local authorities have been rendering in the past, but we can afford time to make sure that what we do is right. Yet this Bill is to be rushed through, and the Government hope that it will become law by the summer. The elections and all that flows from them will take place early next year. We oppose the Clause because we think it unfair and unreasonable.
I return to our argument about the mandate. The Minister played about with this. He is right to say, "You would not expect any Government to say that they cannot do anything about a certain matter because they have no mandate for it". This is one of the most fundamental changes of local government in this century, and millions of people and thousands of staff will be affected by it. 340 I say to the Minister that no Government has the right to take steps of this magnitude before the people are consulted, any more than we in the Labour Party would have the right if we came to power and attempted to introduce legislation of the magnitude of this Bill which was not in our mandate.
Although it may be late in the day, I ask the Minister to look at this matter again. I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham said. I do not believe that the Minister's heart is in this. It was the Home Secretary, when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, who was very keen about the Bill. It is his brain child. This is what he talked about in the London County Council when he led the Conservative Party. Never has there been a more frustrated politician in London. The London Municipal Society has been beaten so often in London that it has become virtually non-existent. It does not matter what the Tories do in London, they get defeated anyway. That has been proved in election after election. To a large extent, the animosity against Labour's control in London has brought about this Bill.
We think that this Clause is bad in principle. It is the main part of the Bill, and I hope very much that we shall have a number of what I regard as London local government common-sense arguments adduced from the benches opposite, and that Members who adduce them will come into the Lobby with us. We oppose the Clause, not on a party political basis, but in the best interests of local government. We ask no more than that the people should first be asked for their opinion. If the will of the people is to mean anything in this democracy it should determine what the Government do in the name of the people.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
I doubt whether I have spoken in this Chamber with a sense of more unanimous support from my constituents. The case of my own Borough of Woolwich—and I make no apology for basing most of my remarks on it— illustrates as clearly as anything can the very serious defects of the Bill and of the way in which it has been presented and imposed on my constituents.
341 Woolwich is a natural local government area. Its size, population, geography, history, communications and the balance of industry and residential area make it a natural, self-contained local government unit. As a result, my borough has the finest civic sense for which anyone could hope in local government. Not long ago a public opinion poll was taken among my constituents as to what they felt about their borough council. The result was remarkably reassuring. What is more, this is not just a party matter. Many constituents of all parties are concerned about it. The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Turner)—I am sorry he is not in his place—has had personal experience of the danger of criticising the Woolwich Borough Council, because it has the respect of Woolwich people of all political parties.
The Woolwich Borough Council as we know it is to be forcibly merged with Greenwich. Greenwich is a fine borough and we have many friendly ties with Greenwich people. We have no doubt that Greenwich and Woolwich people will do their best to make this scheme a success if it is imposed on them. Without consultation, without any wish on the part of any Woolwich person, we are now being forcibly merged with Greenwich.
Of course, we lose the London County Council, a council which has given our area some of he finest schools in the world, the comprehensive schools. It has given us Abbey Wood, a most impressive demonstration of what a big housing estate can be. The trouble with the L.C.C., as we all know on this side of the House, has not been that it has too small or too inefficient—it has been too Labour. That is the only trouble there has been with the London County Council, and my constituents do not want to see it destroyed.
Why on earth does the Minister suppose my constituents should want to support the provisions of the First Schedule? I have listened to and have read these debates. Where do I find any suggestion that Woolwich people will gain? In what part of the Bill is there something that is going to do them any good at all? Where have I received from any of my constituents any support whatever for this Bill? Not a single 342 letter, not a single word from any of my constituents of any party have I received in support of this Bill.
It is a 'remarkable phenomenon. If we study the history of mankind we see many instances of forms of government being imposed upon unwilling people, but I do not recall any instance in history where 'there has not been a single parson on whom a form of governmemt has been imposed who had anything whatever to say for 'those who were imposing the constitution. There have always been Quislings of some kind; always some supporters of Hitler or Stalin or Western colonialists, but show me in Woolwich a single supporter of the Government in imposing this form of government on my constituents. This is a new historical phenonenon upon which the Government are not to be congratulated.
This is called bringing local government closer to the people. It is a strange start to the experiment that no one should want it or support it, and that no one should have been consulted about it. It is just pure 'imposition.
I think I heard the Minister in his Second Reading speech say that it would produce a rehabilitation of the borough councils. I do not know what he meant by that. I hope he is not suggesting that he is going to rehabilitate 'the Woolwich Borough Council. I have not heard any evidence from the Government that it requires rehabilitation, and there are so many things my constituents would like the Government to do. They would like lower prices, lower taxes. They would like more houses. They would like the Government to resign. The Government cannot give them anything they want. They go out of their way to subvert and destroy a form of local government which has lasted for decades, which gives satisfaction, and which is a proper area for local government, and I do not know why 'they should expect any support from any Woolwich people.
Of course, if it were true that the old scheme were in operation, if the Government's original intention were carried out—the intention, that is, that boroughs in the inner London area should be education authorities—I suppose it could be argued that the Woolwich Borough Council with a population in the borough of 147,000 is a little small 343 for an education authority. Now they have abandoned that part of their scheme, what conceivable advantage is there in the change that the Government proposes to make in the merger of Woolwich and Greenwich?
Of course we all know why they abandoned their original scheme for education. They were forced to change their mind by the power of the opposition which arose in all parts of the inner London area. I think that the Woolwich Teachers' Association might be regarded as the spearhead of that opposition. I think that the united and vigorous opposition of parents and teachers in Woolwich undoubtedly played a part in preserving what is preserved of the original L.C.C. education system.
Why have the Government persisted with their plans for other services and not for education? Is it because the case is stronger for those other services than it is for education? I do not think so. I think the simple answer is that the teachers and the parents were capable of organising themselves effectively, and the Government find it much easier to push aside the deprived children and the blind and the mentally sick. I believe that if those people had managed to mount the same degree of opposition we should not have had some of the proposed changes.
I am not at all reassured by the new system even of education, but what I cannot understand is why the Borough of Woolwich and Greenwich should be regarded now as the correct size for some of the other services. There are certain services for which I should have thought this area was too big, such as the services for old people. For others, I should have thought it was obviously too small, such as for mental health services and things of that kind. With the best will in the world we ask ourselves the question, "Will these new boroughs do some of these jobs as well as the L.C.C. did them in the past?"
I am worried, too, about the staff question. After all, these are special people. They are rare people. Does it make it any easier to recruit them, and will there be a more economical use of staff under the Bill? I am bound to say that there is a serious risk of deterioration 344 in this field. As far as housing is concerned Woolwich gains nothing and may lose a lot.
I have mentioned already the achievement of the London County Council in Abbey Wood and other parts of my constituency. I am not at all satisfied about the arrangements under the new dispensation. How shall we negotiate the taking over of the financing of a big estate of that kind? Abbey Wood is a high-cost housing estate and it was made possible because the whole cost was spread over the London area. It will make for great difficulty if it is transferred to Woolwich and Greenwich.
What will be the bargaining position of Woolwich and Greenwich if these negotiations take place? How much power wild Woolwich and Greenwich have against the Greater London Council in ensuring higher terms of transfer? Indeed, this whole question of power in relation to housing is a very important one because of course the outer boroughs will have a tremendous power in the housing committee if they wish to impose their wishes on the inner London boroughs. There is a great danger that the majority on the Greater London Council, which is an outer borough authority, will predominate in its demands on housing, to the great disadvantage of the inner London boroughs, such as my own.
Of course, as my hon. and right hon. Friends have explained on more than one occasion, we are not standing on the status quo.We are not against the forms of grouping of smaller boroughs or the transfer of the greater powers, but there is no case whatever for the arbitrary merger of the Borough of Woolwich.
We are told that it will bring the town hall closer. Which town hall? The Greenwich town hall or the Woolwich town hall? This is a very pertinent point. It does not in fact have the effect of bringing the town hall closer to my constituents.
The trouble with the London County Council was that it was too popular and too successful. I claim this to be a disgraceful Bill. It has been imposed on my constituents without consultation. In none of the speeches made by the Minister has there been any suggestion 345 why this borough with its size, its compactness, its proper balance, its historical associations, its admirable centre of communication, should arbitrarily be merged with the Borough of Greenwich. This is a disgraceful Measure and it has been imposed upon Woolwich people in a disgraceful way. I hope that the Committee will reject the Clause.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. F. Harris
I do not want to bore the Committee by repeating the problems of my own area, but the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) has naturally centred attention upon his own district and one is bound to tend to do so. I must say to my right hon. Friend the Minister, in conformity with what I have said so far, that I must vote against the Clause. I ask him to be kind enough to accept my sincere and personal deep feelings in having to do so.
One does not lightly vote against one's own Government, but I ask my right hon. Friend to remember that as a young man I was brought up in the town of Croydon, which I have been privileged to represent in many aspects, for a long time on the borough council and for 15 years in the House of Commons. It has been recognised by the Minister's predecessor, and in fairness, I think, even he himself would recognise, that Croydon has literally nothing to gain from the Bill and, unfortunately, has much to lose. It has to lose, we are told, for the benefit of the rest of Greater London. That is something which it is hard for Croydonians to accept. Over the years we have lost our airport. That meant something to us. The local district of Croydon means very much to the people. My attachment to my own town is a very deep one.
Over a period of 15 years, I am the first to recognise that Conservative Governments have done a first-class job in many varying directions. Unhappily, I have come up against them on two or three occasions and to some degree I might in a minor way be called a rebel. Unfortunately, however, these things have come very much home to me and this Greater London proposal has come home very deeply indeed.
I cannot conceive that these proposals are good or that they are good for my town of Croydon. I should like to think that they were. Not only do I consider 346 them bad for the people of Croydon, but they are bound to mean, unhappily, that the people of Croydon must accept a much heavier rate bill in due course because of these proposals.
I have fought many battles in the House of Commons on that subject. Even if I thought in those terms alone, I should have to oppose the Bill in every possible way, because I do not think that the ramifications or the effect of the financial implications have ever been studied with any sincerity, otherwise we could be told much more about what we will be involved in.
What we are considering now is not the betterment of local government as far as we in Croydon, who have been so deeply attached to it, feel. We are thinking almost on a regional basis of local government, or certainly, as has been said in these debates, definitely the half-way stage. I cannot believe that this is good local government. I feel in my heart that it means that those of us who have taken a close interest in local government will find that in future it is far more detached.
I cannot believe, for instance, that a representative from Croydon on the Greater London Council can be a helpful representative at such a distance from the centre. As the hon. Member for Woolwich, East said of his district, we are being forced to accept our great friends of Coulsdon and Purley to become what is nearly the largest Greater London borough under these proposals, but certainly the second largest, of one-third of a million people, with, no doubt, an increasing population in years to come to take us to an even larger figure.
We in Croydon are very friendly with the Surrey County Council and with our Coulsdon and Purley next-door neighbours, but a great deal will be lost individually and in those towns by forcing the two districts to come together. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) will be able to confirm, our neighbouring districts get on extremely well. If the Bill goes forward, as, obviously, it will, Croydon will do its utmost to do the right thing and is capable of doing it. I should not for one moment imagine that Coulsdon and Purley would say otherwise. The real answer, however, is that we do not wish to have this forced 347 marriage. I cannot see that it is any gain to the people of Coulsdon and Purley to be forced into having their local affairs directed and centred, in effect, from the town hall in Croydon. That is not a sensible proposition.
The problems that will be caused to the staff—and I know that we are losing good potential staff because of the present situation—are disturbing. Therefore, for these reasons and many others that I could develop, I am forced to go ahead with my strong opposition to the Bill and, unfortunately, to vote against the Clause.
When the White Paper was first brought before the House, I was privileged to be called fairly early in the debate and I stated in a detailed way the feelings of the Croydon Borough Council and of those deeply concerned in local government in the Croydon area. I assure the Minister that those feelings are strongly and widely held.
It may be true that the people of the town as a whole may not at this stage know all the implications, but I should like the Minister to know that I have had tremendous support for the stand and views which I have expressed, not only in the town but, as far as possible, in the House of Commons also. The people whom we are deeply affecting are those who carry upon their shoulders the burdens of the essential part of local government work. There are always just a few people who come forward and do wonderful service for no return and little grandeur. There is plenty of hard work for the local people. It is they whom we are upsetting and for whom we are making life difficult. I ask the Minister to accept this in every sincerity.
From our great achievements of the past, we as a town had every right to believe that with our 70 years of county borough status and all that goes with it, including the celebration of the thousandth year of our existence, we could go forward and even petition the Queen to become a city. We had every right to that. Apparently, we could not be criticised in any direction. Time and time again, we felt that the possibility was being held back because of consideration of proposals for the reorganisation of London government.
348 Now, instead of getting that same sincerity of local purpose, for which we in our town have all striven, although we are so far away from London, we are being merged even further afield with Coulsdon and Purley. Coulsdon and Purley are great friends of ours, but they, too, do not want the merger. We are then, unhappily in our belief, being forced together to become part of Greater London. No one who lives in Croydon or Coulsdon and Purley can conceive that we are part of Greater London. This is not just a local argument. It is a sensible one for anyone who knows Croydon.
I must not detain the Committee any longer because I have been privileged to speak on this matter on many occasions, but I beg my right hon. Friend and the Government in general to realise that my personal opposition in this matter is very sincerely founded. It is not lightly undertaken. I am voting against the Government on this occasion because I feel very strongly about this decision. I am the first to admit that they have done many good jobs in many ways on behalf of our people. Unhappily, certain things come home to one in one's own town. I do not idly represent Croydon. I did not come to Croydon from a distant part. I am a local boy and I have always represented the town from the local point of view. I hope that the Government have come to appreciate that our feelings are very strongly held.
I speak with the support of nearly 100 per cent. of the Croydon Borough Council when I say that we do not want this and that we should like to see the Bill stopped. But if it comes about, and Coulsdon and Purley are joined to Croydon, then of course we believe that we shall put up the same good performance in local government as we have in the past. I wish it were possible even at this very late stage to stop something which I sincerely believe to be wrong—wrong both for Croydon and for local government in general.
In due course, this type of reorganisation will be a great worry to other hon. Members who represent other parts of the country. The reason they are not opposing it now is that it has not come home to them at this stage. But in due course hon. Members from the North-East and North-West will be making 349 the same complaints, and if they are sincere in representing their local districts they will find that these problems are well and truly founded. The Government are hurting a large number of people in forcing through this proposal. That is why I strongly and sincerely am opposed to this Clause.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
We have just listened to a very earnest appeal by the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris). It is dreadful that one has to argue a case while knowing perfectly well that, however good it may be, the Government will not be moved. There sit the Leader of the House and the Minister of Housing and Local Government, apparently listening to the arguments but nevertheless determined, as we know, not to accept them however just they may be.
The Bill deals with matters affecting London and the outer London areas, and it is an appalling fact which we all know perfectly well that if a vote were taken among hon. Members representing London and outer London areas it would not have the slightest chance of surviving. [HON. MEMBERS:"No."] It is absolutely apparent that that is so. The Bill survives only because the Government bring in to their support hon. Members from other parts of the country who cannot take the trouble to inquire into what the Bill means but who drift in in order to vote with the Government.
It is appalling, when one remembers that here we are supposed to be adult persons discussing what is best for the London area, that the matter should be decided in that way. There sit the Minister and the Leader of the House, and others, smiling a bit sarcastically about it all and saying in effect, "You can go on talking. It does not matter a damn to us what you say. We are going to get this Bill through".
I want to put this matter quite bluntly. The Minister, in dealing with the last Amendment, said that it was nonsense to talk about this Bill being political. Yet let us look at the position. He says, "How could we put this Bill forward for political advantage with all this opposition to it?".
That is a specious argument. Let us not try to dodge the issue. The London 350 County Council has done wonderful work for many years, having for many years had a Labour majority and as long as it did such work there was not the slightest chance of that majority being overturned. A great many of the borough councils have done extraordinarily good work under Labour majorities, and if they continued as they were there was not a slightest chance of those majorities being upset.
This should be said quite plainly. I believe that the Government have introduced the Bill for one reason alone —in the hope that in this way they will disturb the Labour representation to their own advantage. The arguments put forward by the Minister in dealing with this do not hold water for a moment.
This is a very sad day for many of us who represent London constituencies and who for many years have been associated with London boroughs. I have been associated for a long time with two boroughs, first of all with Stoke Newington and secondly with Hackney. Stoke Newington is a small borough and it has done its work extremely well. I know of no complaints that can be made against it. Its housing record is magnificent and its services have always been splendid.
Hackney is second to none with its housing record and is also a borough with a proud record of wonderful service in all departments. Neither Stoke Newington nor Hackney asked for a change. Neither of them wants a change. Both of them have historical associations of which they are proud. One can read with interest of the way in which both have developed. Many great names have been associated with them.
Now what is to happen? Stoke Newington and Hackney are to be linked up with Shoreditch. I have no words to say against Shoreditch as a borough. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe) will tell the Committee that it too has a fine record. But who asks that the three shall be put together? What opportunity was given to the members of the councils of these boroughs, or to the people of these boroughs, to put forward their own views and to say what they them-selves want? No such opportunity was given.
351 The right hon. Gentleman may say that town clerks put forward certain schemes and that certain representations could be made to them. But after all, when one is considering an immense change of this kind, is it not right and proper that the will of the boroughs involved should be taken first of all into account? This is especially so if they have functioned so very well and if there is no complaint against them about their work. Why must the Government disturb them? What guarantee have the Government that their scheme will make things any better? Is there any rhyme or reason for doing it? Why were these boroughs not consulted in detail? However amiable a companion the Borough of Shoreditch may be, why should Stoke Newington and Hackney be merged with it?
How can it be suggested that the boroughs will be better for the change? I could have understood the argument if it had been said that these boroughs had a bad record in housing or social services and that some advantage would be gained from their amalgamation; but they have a splendid record in all the services which they have provided. Why disturb them? Are they to be brought together with the idea of bringing the town hall nearer to the people? If so, which town hall? Is it with the great idea of bringing the citizens closer together? How can that be so when the smaller areas have worked so splendidly? The boroughs have never had the chance of putting forward their own views. The Government have adopted proposals made by certain town clerks and have imposed them without any sort of consultation with the people most concerned. This is the grossest interference by the Government.
It is suggested that in some way there will be some sort of benefit and I suppose that one could make a theoretical case. No doubt the Minister—I was about to say in his flamboyant style, but perhaps I had better not use that expression—will tell us that changes must be made, but what proof does he have that the changes will benefit the boroughs? There is a well-known saying, "When theory is strong, practice is weak". The history of these 352 boroughs is a story of great progress. Has the Minister any complaint about Stoke Newington or Hackney having done anything wrong? Do they not have a proud record and tradition behind them? Why are the changes being made?
I know that the Minister will tell us about the wonderful changes which he contemplates, but it is a sad day for my constituency when, in spite of the great efforts of the boroughs and their proud history and their great traditions of local government, they are to be allied in this way with another borough and turned into a larger authority far removed from many of the citizens.
Before long, a general election must take place. I hope that the Bill will not be an Act before that election comes. I hope that there will be an opportunity to destroy the Bill and that there will be a return to sanity and that this badly designed and evil scheme will be dropped.
§ Mr. Doughty
I rise to explain why I cannot support the Clause. The chief reason is that it is tied up with the First Schedule. If the alterations I require in the First Schedule had been made my actions might have been different. I have a great deal of sympathy with the Minister over the Bill, for when he was appointed, not so many months ago, it was ready and he found this curate's egg on his doorstep. Previous Ministers should have been present to answer for their conduct. However, having found it there, he should have gone further to try to reach some sort of agreement about the Bill, because if he had tried he could have done so.
A Bill to alter London government is necessary. Hon. Members opposite have criticised the Bill and have said what they would do in the unlikely event of their winning the next General Election. However, not one of them has said what he would do, or whether he believes that changes in London government are necessary, and, if so, what changes. I have always felt that if one criticises one should say in what way one could do better, but we have not heard that from hon. Members opposite.
The principle of the Bill is sound, for there are many things which call for change. If the Minister adopted a more receptive attitude to certain proposed 353 alterations to the Bill and if he listened a little more to the detailed criticisms, most of them well founded, I think he would find that the Bill received a great deal more support from quarters where, ordinarily speaking, he would be entitled, like other Ministers, to expect support. I dismiss entirely all suggestion that there is any political motive behind the Bill. The Bill will only do the party on this side of the Committee harm. It is not a popular Bill. One reason for that is that although we are dealing with details and with lines on the map we are also dealing with people, with 8 million people who have views and votes of their own.
I had the honour to present a petition from one part of my constituency, Coulsdon and Purley, which had between 22,000 and 23,000 signatures. Ordinary individuals, not from any organisation or political party, had gone out in the not very fine weather which we had in the autumn to obtain those signatures. I ask the Minister to remember that he is dealing not with Members of Parliament or officials of his Ministry but with individuals who are entitled to have their views considered and expressed. Many thousands of people are affected by the Bill whom I have the honour to represent. I shall not deal with the matter which I said before was sticking out of the Bill like a sore thumb and which has already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris)— why a portion of Surrey, Coulsdon and Purley should be included in the Bill without discussion with the inhabitants but entirely arbitrarily because somebody has put it in another district. The Minister says that there have been discussions with hon. Members, but there have not been discussions with the people.
I shall not go into the details of that now, but if my Amendment in Schedule 1, page 89, line 42, column 2, to leave out from "Croydon" to the end of line 43 is called, I shall explain fully and, I hope, convincingly why this is one of the bigger mistakes in the Bill. It is with regret that I have to say that I cannot support the Clause as it is attached to the First Schedule in its present form. If my right hon. Friend can give me a promise that he will look into the Amendments put down on 354 the First Schedule and consider them favourably on their merits I might be able to change my mind, but so long as I can get no proper undertakings of that kind I am afraid that I must go into the Lobby against the Clause, to show my disapproval of the First Schedule, and not only my disapproval but that of many thousands of people who are watching this debate and will be vitally affected by these provisions.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
I think I am right in saying that during the whole of the debate on the Amendments to Clause 1 and up to the present time those members who are here at present have attended religiously during the whole of the discussions and not one hon. Member on either side of the Committee has at any time had a good word to say for this Bill. It is true to say also that in varying degrees hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have supported the Amendments which have been moved from this side. We have listened to the Minister, and, of course, we pay him tribute for his usual courteous and charming manner. We have no complaint about the way in which he has answered, but we are definitely of the opinion that the Minister is being used by the Conservative Party to push this Measure through because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) has said, it is political gerrymandering.
§ Mr. Lewis
I will deal with that point. I recollect the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) saying that it cannot be political gerrymandering because so many Conservative councils and Conservative people are against the Bill. I understand that, of course, but what the hon. and learned Gentleman does not understand is that unfortunately for them those Conservative Members and Conservative councils have to pay a little towards the expense of murdering the London County Council and it is just hard luck for those who have to suffer in the process of trying to cut the throat of the London County Council.
The hon. and learned Gentleman misses the point. The great thing which this Government want to do is to smash the 355 Labour London County Council, and they can do that only in a way which means, unfortunately, that the hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) are among those who have to suffer. The Government are quite happy because they feel certain that they will be in a wonderful situation politically in London and be able to control London —something they have never been able to do over the last 30 years by the normal process of the ballot box. The hon. and learned Gentleman hoped that the Minister would agree to look again at this Bill. Of course the Minister will do so. He will agree to look at anything, any papers, even dirty postcards if necessary.
Believe me, the hon. and learned Member is not going to get very much by way of tangible results. If any proof of that were needed we have had it during the debate on this first Clause. The Minister has not given one inch or one thousandth of an inch. He has even turned down the Amendments which we put down and which would still have left him the hope of almost dictatorial powers. We have said that it is wrong and politically dishonest for such a Measure to be forced through the House —and no doubt it will be guillotined in Committee—when we know not only that no one wants this Measure but also that, from the point of view of ordinary people or local authorities, not one of them has really been consulted. It is true that there have been discussions, but that is not consultation.
Does the Minister think that it is consultation to go along to a council and say, "We have now decided we are going to put Coulsdon and Purley together. You can tell us whether you like it or not— and we know you do not; but after we have heard what you have said this Measure will go through. East Ham and West Ham, together with a little part of Barking and Woolwich, are to go together and we will send along two or three town clerks".
§ Mr. Lewis
Yes, "We will send one town clerk and he will discuss it over a nice cup of tea, and after you have told him you are all against it he will go back and the Minister will still push this 356 through"? I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that this Government have the power at the moment. They would not get power if they went to the country, and that is why they will not do so. The Government will get their Bill through. They will guillotine it through, but is it not a travesty of democracy? Here is a great Measure affecting 8 million people in London. None of the electorate has been consulted, and I do not think there is any one of considered opinion that is in favour of it.
I for one might agree that the Minister may have some argument in suggesting the figure of 200,000-plus as a council, but if so, surely the best plan would have been to go to councils and ask whether there was any chance of them getting together with others and making an arrangement which would be acceptable? I cannot commit my hon. Friends the Members for Barking and East Ham. I am sure that those authorities would say they wished to remain separate, for obviously that is life. But I believe I am right in saying that they would reply, "If we cannot remain separate, at least give us the right to discuss and negotiate amongst ourselves, and perhaps in the process of so doing we can come within the Minister's general scheme and offer him a suggestion within the figure of 200,000". Even if they were not happy they would perhaps find some measure of agreement that would be better for all concerned.
The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West who, if I may say so without appearing to be patronising, spoke very movingly and courageously, stated the case of one county borough in the south. I represent West Ham, one of the other two, while my hon. Friend represents East Ham. What he has said so ably applies two-fold with regard to West Ham, and this disproves every argument so far used by the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman has said that this Bill is good because it will tidy up London government, that we want to get together and to have central town hall facilities and try to conserve, to save money and get good administration. What will the right hon. Gentleman do? He will put together the two county boroughs of East Ham and West Ham. We shall have two 357 county boroughs, with the knowledge and experience they have gained of running county borough services; we shall have two town clerks and two borough engineers. There will be a duplication of county borough services.
Why, in the name of reason, does not he say, "Here are two county boroughs. Leave them alone but, if need be, add other areas to them in order to make up the requisite population, and allow them to discuss with their neighbours the best way of working this out. "Let him say to East Ham, "You have county borough knowledge and experience. Get 'together with your neighbours and come to me with an idea or a scheme that I can accept."That could have been done in the case of West Ham, and, I believe, of East Ham.
But what is the position now? I am proud of the fact that, whatever the Government do, both East Ham and West Ham will remain solidly Labour. The Government cannot change that fact, however much they try. There is a good council in East Ham, and an even better one in West Ham—because West Ham has a few more Labour councillors. But East Ham's town hall is as far east as it can be, and West Ham's town hall is as far west as it can be. I notice that the Leader of 'the House is making some Smart Alec remarks, but this is not a laughing matter; at is serious. We will have to have a centrally situated town hall, which means that we shall have to spend money on it. The Government tell us that money must not be wasted, but this will be a waste of money. We shall have a town hall which we do not want far to the east, and another far to the west. It will mean building a new town hall—a complete waste of time and money, and a duplication of local government expense.
We are also told by the Government that the Bill must come into force as soon as possible. It has rightly been suggested that since none of the electorate concerned has had an opportunity of passing an opinion on the Bill we ought at least to put off its operation until the next General Election. That is surely not too much to ask, because we all know that an election must be held before October of next year. In all probability it will be held within the next twelve months.
358 We have made a very reasonable suggestion to the Minister. We have said to him, "By all means go ahead. Do whatever you want to. But at least make the vesting date later than the next General Election. That will provide an opportunity for the electorate to decide whether or not it is in favour of the Bill. "But the Minister turned down that suggestion, because he knows that if there is an election the Government will be defeated, in which case he will not be able to do his political gerrymandering and smash the L.C.C.
We are also told by the Government that this Measure is necessary to create areas with the necessary populations. How can the Minister say that, when within the next two or three years the present situation may be entirely changed? In the eastern part of London—and I believe that this is true of Croydon—a great deal of war damage occurred. We have many ugly scars and wounds—vast areas which are still not built upon. West Ham has the second best record for house building, but, even so, only the fringe of the problem has been touched. So, as is the case with East Ham, while West Ham is increasing its building there will automatically be an increase in population.
In answer to a Question which I put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer this week a table was published in the OFFICIAL REPORT showing that since the Government have been in power there has been an 11 per cent. drop in expenditure incurred on local authority houses by the borough councils. We must also remember that the £ has depreciated in value by 27 per cent.—although this Government were returned in order to make the £ worth something—and that the retail price index has increased from 28 per cent. to 37 per cent. That means that these local authorities would have been able to build many more houses if they had had some assistance from the Government, instead of being obstructed by them. But in spite of these figures, they are still building. The point is that before the Bill is on the Statute Book changes will already have taken place.
It would be far better to allow the matter to rest until after the General Election, so that we can see what happens. This would help hon. Members, 359 and also local authorities. Is it not possible for the Minister to say merely that something must be done in respect of London government? There has been a Royal Commission, whose recommendations have not been accepted. There has been a town clerks' report, which was not accepted, and the Government have now started to push this Bill through against great opposition. Cannot we set up a Speaker's Conference and ask the political parties to get down to the problem and, if need be, get the Herbert Committee to work out a compromise? I do not suggest that it would be completely satisfactory, but at least there would be a chance of getting some agreement.
Why should not there be discussions through the usual channels? It has been done before, in connection with the Boundary Commission's recommendations. We have had Speaker's Conferences before, and I do not see why we should not have another during the next twelve months, while the Bill is waiting to be made law. If the Government win the election—which is doubtful—they can implement the Bill, which nobody wants, or introduce another, based upon an all-party agreed solution to the problem. For those reasons I hope that we shall vote against the Motion.
No one whom I have met, whether he is for or against the Bill, feels that he has been fairly treated. The Minister has turned down the idea of setting up committees of inquiry. Why should not the members of the electorate have an opportunity to have meetings to discuss the matter? Why should not the Croydon Council, for instance, have a chance of calling all its people together and discussing the matter, and then making certain suggestions to the Minister? Equally, why should not East Ham and West Ham do so? They can then come forward with proposals which will have received some degree of support from both sides.
If the Minister did that I would feel that he was genuinely trying to bring about a reform of London and Greater London government. That is not what I feel at the moment. Because he will not do this I am convinced that this is no more than political trickery on the 360 part of the Government. That is one reason why I shall vote against the Motion.
§ Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
I am sorry that I was not present to hear the earlier part of this debate, but I listened attentively to what was said yesterday and to what has been said since I have been present this evening. I am wondering whether I am at some sort of Mad Hatter's tea party. What has the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) to lose? What has his borough to lose in all this business? It will become bigger and already West Ham has county borough status.
§ Mr. Cooper
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I will continue my speech.
West Ham has all the powers which a reasonable borough authority could expect to have in this day and age. The great trouble with the hon. Member for West Ham, North, and members of the Labour Party generally is that they are out-of-date "fuddy-duddies." They have to be dragged by the neck into the 1960s. They are averse to change of any kind. The Government are providing a new, modern and up-to-date local government service which will be local in concept and accepted as such by the people of the areas in which it operates.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
Even were the hon. Gentleman right in this general argument, which he is not, I should still say that nothing should be done by this Government to force a marriage between East Ham and West Ham, even though the result would favour West Ham, which I deny. It is wrong for a Government to tell a county borough what to do. It would be better to have general discussions and negotiations. If there were a voluntarily negotiated scheme I should accept it, because that would be democracy.
§ Mr. Cooper
The hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends, and even those of my hon. Friends who are opposed to this Clause, must go back a few years and recall the inception of this reform. The hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) lives in my constituency and has been a member 361 of the Ilford Borough Council. He will know that in about 1937 the Ilford Borough Council promoted a Bill to secure county borough status. This Bill was rejected by Parliament. Then came the war and immediately afterwards the borough council promoted a second Bill. The then Labour Government and the then Minister for Local Government, the late Mr. Aneurin Bevan, introduced the local government boundary commission to consider all these problems relating to local Government.
After some years the Commission was disbanded because in the view of Mr. Bevan its provisions did not allow for a consideration of the government of the London County Council area. The Commission was disbanded. Ilford Council's Bill was rejected by this House. Mr. Bevan promised a review of the whole of the Greater London area but this was not carried out. When the Labour Government were defeated in 1951 and a Conservative Government were elected, Ilford, Luton and Ealing promoted Bills to secure county borough status and they were rejected on the score that none of these things could be done until the problem of London itself had been considered.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
Will the hon. Member deal with the period between 1951 and 1962 and tell the Committee what the Governments in power in that period have done to improve local government in the Greater London area?
§ Mr. Cooper
The trouble is that I can say only one sentence at a time. Were I able to say two things at the same time, I would willingly do so.
Yesterday and today we have heard that this Government have no mandate for doing what they are doing and that the electors knew nothing about it.
§ Mr. Cooper
The hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear", but it is not true that the Government have no mandate. A Royal Commission on the reform of local government in London was set up in December, 1957, that is to say, about 18 months before the last General Election. The electors knew perfectly well that it had been set up to deal with the reform of local government in London. It is ridiculous for hon. Gentlemen opposite 362 site to say that the electors knew nothing whatever about what was going on.
The Royal Commission reported after the General Election and now we are told that the Government are departing from its recommendations. When have the recommendations of a Royal Commission been sacrosanct? Never in the constitutional history of this country have a Government accepted all the recommendations of a Royal Commission. The Government of the day are entitled to take those recommendations which they think proper and they have to stand or fall on their acceptance of those recommendations. So the first part of what I have to say is that there is no doubt at all that from the point of view of a mandate the Government have a perfect right and a solid mandate for bringing this Bill before Parliament.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have known for many years that plans for the reform of local government, not only in London and Greater London but throughout the whole country, were foremost in the policy of the Conservative Party, which is a forward-looking party wishing to see everything brought forward which is of interest in the days in which we live—as opposed to the reactionary Labour Party.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
The hon. Gentleman keeps referring to a mandate. In support of that he says that before the General Election a Royal Commission was set up, and that people knew that it had been set up. Is he suggesting that this constitutes a mandate, before anyone has any idea of what the Royal Commission will report, and that that is a mandate for the Government to introduce this Bill? The hon. Gentleman should try to think out this matter.
§ Mr. Cooper
The hon Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) should apply a little common sense to these matters. When a Government set up a Royal Commission I should think that prima faciethe subject of its deliberations is considered by the Government to be one requiring special attention, and that when the Commission issues its Report the Government should pay some attention to it.
If hon. Members will be good enough to look at the Conservative Party's election manifesto and the speeches made 363 by the present Prime Minister and other leading members of the Conservative Party they will find quite a lot of references to this—[HON. MEMBERS: "To what?"]—to the reform of local government. There is not the slightest doubt that the Government have a responsibility to introduce legislation which in their view is in the best interests of the country.
I believe this Bill to be a thoroughly good Bill. It will receive my 100 per cent. support throughout its passage through the House. I am quite prepared to believe, and I understand, that some, like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris), may have some special detailed interest about which they may not be pleased, but to say that this is a bad Bill is complete and utter nonsense. This is a good Bill in the best interests of local government. I do not speak from any mere theoretical knowledge of local government. Looking around the Opposition benches I believe that, with the possible exception of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), I probably have more experience of local government than any hon. Member opposite.
§ Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)
Before the hon. Member makes the assertion that he has more experience than anyone on this side of the Committee with the exception of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), he should check up and find how many of us have had far more than 17 years' experience on local authorities.
§ Mr. Cooper
I am willing to withdraw that sentence and to say that nevertheless I have had 17 years' experience on a local authority. I was leader of my council for a number of years. I think that entitles me to some view on these matters.
I say this quite frankly to the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), who is leading for the Labour Party on 364 this matter. I do not find in his speeches yesterday a single solid argument in opposition to this Bill. The arguments he put forward and arguments which have been put forward by the Labour Party are nothing more nor less than delaying tactics. They have not one constructive proposal to put forward for the reform of local government in London or Greater London—not a single constructive proposal. They are concerned with one thing only, to preserve the status of London County Council in the hope that over the years they will be able to perpetuate a Labour-controlled county council.
We are told that this Bill is political in the sense that it will break up the Labour control of London County Council. I invite hon. Members opposite to look at the Government White Paper on the break-up of the 32 different councils and to see how in fact the Labour Party will be worse off or better off as a result of these proposals. So far as I can see on the basis of the political climate today, the Labour Party will lose nothing.
§ Mr. Cooper
So what are hon. Members opposite grumbling about? They cannot on the one hand say that this is political gerrymandering on the part of the Conservative Party and on the other sayThe best laid schemes … gang aft agleyand that they will lose nothing. They cannot ride both those horses at the same time. They may ride them individually, but not at the same time.
I see the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) in his place. I have heard him making comments from time to time about these changes. It may be of interest to the Committee to know that his borough has been in contact with my borough in order to suggest some alterations in the boundary which would be for the betterment of his borough. Is that wrong? Of course it is not. It is perfectly correct that that should be done, but the hon. Member cannot get up and say that this Bill is all wrong and that the new Borough of Barking will be all wrong.
§ Mr. Driberg
The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) cannot say that I cannot get up and say something, 365 because I propose to do so. He is referring, I suppose, to the small boundary adjustments on the north side of Barking, about which I have made an Amendment to be considered at a later stage of the Bill. This is only provisional. We are totally opposed to the Bill and Barking wants to remain as it is, precisely, with the land on the west of the Roding. However, if the new joint borough comes about we have alternative constructive proposals to make. This is perfectly comprehensible to everyone except to the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Cooper
It is not incomprehensible to me at all. I am perfectly well aware of the discussions between Barking and Ilford. We are very flattered that a strongly Conservative council should find that the Labour-controlled council in Barking wishes to be bedfellows with it. Nevertheless, the fact remains that under the provisions of the Bill, Barking Borough Council is to seek revision of its boundary which would not have been possible otherwise. I believe this is right and proper.
We have heard a lot during the debates about the efficacy of London County Council. I am not one who believes that London County Council is as good as many people think it is.
§ Mr. Cooper
I cannot imagine a more impersonal council than London County Council. If we went through almost the entire total of 2½ million or 3 million electors in the London County Council area it is very doubtful if we could find 1 per cent. who could even name their county councillors. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] They just do not know them. London has grown so much, has become so vast, so complex and cosmopolitan that as an area administratively it is far too great. It has got to be broken up in the way which is suggested in this Bill.
We can all have arguments on one side or the other as to the proper size of an area for administration. Over many years I have had experience in this matter. I think that an area containing approximately ¼ million electors with approximately 60 or 70 council members is right. I shall not be dogmatic about the number of councillors, but the population is about 250,000 and that is 366 the limit for which we could expect to get really personal local government service. If we can get away from the political idea that we are trying to break up a Socialist area and replace it by a Conservative area—if we can forget that, because everyone in his heart knows that it is complete nonsense—and try to create viable units which will have all powers with the exceptional of residual things left to the Greater London Council while all the other areas have greater powers, we shall find that a quarter of a million or thereabouts is the right number of population for this sort of operation.
I say to hon. Members opposite that although West Ham and East Ham, both of which are county boroughs, would quite naturally like to continue their individual existence, which I fully understand, the fact remains that not very far from them places such as Walthamstow. Leyton—that sort of area—are all in favour of these proposals. The proposals would give them powers which previously they have not had. They would give them greater responsibility for their own affairs which previously was vested in Essex County Council and which they now wish to have for themselves.
Walthamstow for a long time wanted to be a county borough. We should divorce our minds from the narrow political concept, which I believe is bedevilling the debate and is all wrong. Once the Bill becomes law this will be the set-up for local government for many years. It is a very serious step we are taking. I believe that it is absolutely right for local government. I beg right hon. and hon. Members opposite to talk with their colleagues in boroughs, particularly on the eastern side of London and in North London, and they will find a very great deal of detailed support and special support for the Bill.
§ Mr. Driberg
The Bill is so unpopular on all sides that the Minister must be, as they say, thankful for small mercies. He may therefore be slightly grateful for the provocative and boastful tirade to which we have just listened. From other hon. Members opposite have come very moving speeches. We have listened to speeches of deep sincerity from hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Croydon, 367 North-West (Mr. F. Harris), who are forced by their consciences and their care for the communities they represent to join with us on this side of the Committee in opposing the Bill.
I noticed that the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) disagreed strongly with the Minister at one point, despite his evident desire to show what a 200 per cent. loyal supporter of the Government he is. He disagreed with the Minister in his assessment of the speech yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). The hon. Gentleman said that there was nothing in it and that it was just time-wasting, whereas the Minister was good enough to treat it seriously and as a closely argued speech, which it was, and to seek to reply to it categorically in some detail. At that point the hon. Gentleman was quite at odds with the Minister whom he was supporting.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ber-mondsey (Mr. Mellish), in opening this part of the debate, said that we were not opposing the Bill on any narrow party grounds. When my hon. Friend said that, I thought I saw the Minister looking somewhat quizzically in my direction, perhaps because of some disobliging words which I had used a few minutes before, just before the Division. None the less, I should like emphatically to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey said at that moment. It cannot have escaped the notice of the Minister that the opposition to this Bill, although certainly led by the Labour Party, is an all-party opposition. The whole of the Labour party is against it. The whole of the Liberal Party is against it, the spokesman on this occasion being the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), who is not in his place at this precise moment, but whose place is so strewn with papers that he obviously intends to return very soon—as indeed he now has—and who has a number of important Amendments down for the next stage of the Bill, the First Schedule.
In addition to the whole of the Labour Party and the Liberal Members, there are a number of individual Conservative Members, such as those who spoke yesterday and today, who have voted with us, who are putting their consciences 368 and the claims and interests of the community above narrow party interests. It is therefore both logical and fair to say that we on this side of the Committee, in respect of this Bill at any rate—and I naturally believe on many other occasions as well—are truly representative of the people of Britain, and the people of London in particular, whatever their political points of view may be. Therefore, my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey was perfectly justified in saying that we are not attacking the Bill on any narrow party basis. We are criticising it, and trying to argue our case, on merit.
I very much hope that the Minister will be making some concessions: I do not think that he has made very many so far. [Interruption.]I have been here most of the time yesterday and today, and the right hon. Gentleman has made very few, if any, so far. I hope that he is not debarred from doing so by some foolish remarks in an influential financial newspaper to the effect that he might prove to be a less "strong" Minister than his predecessor. I do not myself think that this is likely to be the case, from what little I know of the right hon. Gentleman. In any case, he would certainly not be showing himself to be a strong Minister by obstinately and adamantly refusing ever to concede any Amendment, however meritorious it might be, however harmless it might be, such as the Amendment moved yesterday to remove the restriction of 60 on the number of councillors. I was very much surprised that the Minister could not see his way to meet us on that. He will be showing himself to be a strong Minister if he does concede, where concession is plainly seen by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee to be reasonable.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) referred to the Town Clerks' Report. I made some observations about this Report on Second Reading—
§ Sir K. Joseph
The hon. Gentleman's remark is rankling. I am thinking about yesterday. I have the impression that my hon. Friend and I were so persuaded by the arguments yesterday that we did move. We offered a concession in the number. All I stuck on was that there 369 would still be a maximum. The hon. Gentleman is being less than gracious. On three Amendments the Government made a concession yesterday.
§ Mr. Driberg
I do not want to do an injustice to the right hon. Gentleman. He did not accept, for instance, the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Orpington, to increase the number to 70.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I promised the House that I would consider it sympathetically in view of what had been said and come back at a later stage, which is quite a normal form of considering arguments.
§ Mr. Driberg
Yes. It is quite a normal form of Ministerial assurance, but it does not always lead to anything concrete in the end, as the Committee knows from experience of many Bills and many Ministers. We were perfectly entitled to register our strong and emphatic hint that the Minister should consider it very sympathetically indeed by going into the Division Lobby, which we did.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
I think I am right in saying that the Minister said that he would look at it, but I think he went on to say that he was not at all optimistic and could not hold out much hope, or words to that effect.
§ Mr. Driberg
That was the earlier one on which I took up the Minister and he changed the wording. At this stage I cannot remember his exact words, but they are on record in HANSARD.
I was referring to the Town Clerks' Report. I made some observations about this Report on Second Reading. I commented on the extraordinarily misleading character of some of the statements in, for instance, paragraph 79 of the Report, referring to Barking. Because I was lucky enough to be able to say that on Second Reading I will not repeat those remarks now, though I hope that the Minister will still bear in mind what I said then, particularly in the light of what my hon. Friend said about the town clerks in his speech this evening.
The town clerk who covered our area, I gather, necessarily made a very hasty visit. I am not blaming him. He spent a very short time there. In fact, so short was the time that he spent there that he went away under the firm impression that the River Roding—or Barking Creek— 370 and the River Thames were precisely comparable waterways, which they are not. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North, referred to the various possibilities that might have been considered if mergers must take place. I would like to make the position of my constituency of Barking perfectly plain, in view of what has been said. Barking is totally opposed to the Bill. That does not mean that we are against all local government reform or any reform of London local government. It means that we believe that the scheme under discussion is ill-considered.
The secondary consideration is this. If the Bill is forced through—and we know that it is being so forced by the Government—then obviously Barking must consider various possible alternatives concerning its neighbouring boroughs. Thus Barking has, perhaps a little reluctantly, agreed that rather than merge with Dagenham, as proposed, it would rather merge with East Ham. Apart from reasons of convenience, there is the obvious reason of the high rateable value of the land west of the Roding, which is transferred under the First Schedule of the Bill. Naturally, as I indicated on Second Reading, Barking does not want to lose that bit of land.
We in Barking consider, faute de mieux,that East Ham plus Barking is preferable to Barking plus Dagenham. There may be one or two small boundary adjustments on the north side of the borough as well. I have attempted to put the position clearly because I do not want there to be any misunderstanding about what Barking really wants. I am not proposing to deploy in full my local constituency case at this stage, although some of my hon. Friends have thought fit to do so—perfectly properly, of course, since they were clearly in order. I have some Amendments down to the First Schedule about which I shall be speaking, and I would rather make my case fully when we reach that Schedule, for that would seem the most convenient way to deal with the matter.
We have, inevitably and rightly, been much concerned with both inner and outer London, and we have heard rather less in these debates about the rural districts which will be affected by the Bill. In common with other hon. Members who represent Essex constituencies, 371 I have received strong representations from the Essex County Council in a sense critical of the Bill. It is not surprising that the Essex County Council should disapprove of the Measure, because the Bill transfers an area with half the population and more than half the rateable value of the existing administrative county of Essex into the new system of London government.
In the communications we have received from that Council this moderate comment is made:The impact of these proposals on the financial resources which will remain available to the severed County will be very great.The Clerk of the Council goes on to say:It was estimated that in the circumstances of the year 1959–60 the cost to the new County of Essex (after severance) would, on the best information available, amount to an increase of rates of about 3s. in the £.The Minister will recall that on Second Reading he interrupted me to put me right on this question of rates, a matter about which he knows far more than I do. I had just said that it was estimated that if the scheme was accepted, and the land west of the Roding taken away from the borough of Barking, the local rate for the new London borough would have to be raised by about 1s. in the £. The Minister then interrupted me and said that we had to "take into account revaluation, general grant, rate deficiency grant and the new rate equalisation scheme."We had a slight tussle about that.
I have consulted further with the highly competent local people who first made this estimate for me and they, after brooding over the matter for some time, have come to the rather satisfactory conclusion that both the Minister and I are right. They say that the Minister is right in saying that one cannot predict exactly what will happen to the rates. They also say that I was right in saying that this is going to be a grievous loss to Barking or to the new joint borough. How can it be otherwise? The Minister cannot deny that.
I mention this because I thought that the Minister might interrupt me again when I quoted that estimate of the rates increase. However, the Clerk goes on to say:These figures were supplied to the Royal Commission at their request and have never 372 been seriously challenged. The White Paper which the Government produced on Local Government in Greater London did not seem to be favourably inclined to give any assistance to the severed Counties notwithstanding the fact that the Royal Commission had recognised that some assistance should be given.The Clerk goes on, quite fairly, to point out:The inclusion of Clause 66 in the Bill recognises that the case of the counties which are to be severed for financial assistance has been established.….I cannot at this stage refer to Clause 66, except in passing, because we are still on Clause 1. However, I hope that some Essex hon. Members will be on the Standing Committee when Clause 66 is reached. I hope that they will then put the case for the rural areas of Essex, because the County Council says that that Clause is "effective in two vital respects", on which I cannot go into detail at this stage.
Those of us who know some of the more remote and scenically delightful parts of Essex know that in some respects it is the least spoiled of the home counties—least spoiled by development and by speculative jerry-building between the wars. This is because it always had the worst train services. With this unspoiled character goes the fact that the rural areas of Essex are rather less prosperous than the rural areas of Surrey and Hertfordshire—the stockbroker belt. Essex is still somewhat more difficult to reach, through east London or Liverpool Street, than some of these other parts.
For these and other reasons the Bill represents a particular blow to Essex. I do not have the comparative figures but I suppose that of all the severed counties Essex is the one which may suffer the most financially. For instance, it is unavoidable, whatever compensation is offered, that there will be considerable delays in modernising certain services— schools and so on—which urgently need modernising in the rural areas. There are still many rural slum schools with earth closets—far too many of them. Essex County Council has done a wonderful job of building new schools of high architectural quality but in some of the more remote villages there is still an enormous lot to be done. I do not know to what extent local government development will be crippled in these rural areas by severance from 373 what is obviously their main source of revenue—metropolitan Essex—but I hope very much that this matter will be seriously considered by the Minister, and by the Standing Committee, on which, after all, not all of us will be serving. That is one of the reasons why I venture to mention it now.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Linstead (Putney)
I want to reinforce the plea made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), but before doing so I want briefly to refer to a remark made by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg). The hon. Member indicated that there was a considerable amount of opposition to the Bill on this side of the House as well as on his own, and I think that the point needs to be made clear that, as I know it, the opposition on this side is not to the Bill, and that my right hon. Friend can count on the support of the greater number of us on this side, probably all of us. Our objections, where they exist, exist in relation to constituency points, where it As our duty to speak as strongly as we can on behalf of our constituents—
§ Mr. Driberg
Surely, if that were the case, hon. Members opposite would only take the extreme step of voting against the Government on Amendments to the First Schedule. As it is, we know that a number of hon. Members opposite voted against the Government yesterday, and that at least one has so far signified his intention of voting against the Government on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"—and this Clause I is surely the essential Clause, containing the whole principle of the Bill.
§ Sir H. Linstead
The hon. Member will find the answer to that point in the Second Reading voting figures.
I hope that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) will allow me to say that I did a little regret that in his enthusiasm to put the case for his borough, an enthusiasm that we can all understand, he found it necessary to make a suggestion in regard to my right hon. Friend that I believe ought not to be made An this Committee. He was carried away to the extent of suggesting that my right hon. Friend, having agreed that he would consider various Amendments, particularly to the First Schedule, 374 on their merits, was really speaking with his tongue in his cheek and without any real intention of giving way to any of them. It is particularly unfortunate that that type of sentiment should be expressed here, because the whole life of the House of Commons depends upon our not attributing unworthy motives to other people, and on our assuming that When Ministers say something they can be trusted really to mean what they say—
§ Mr. A. Lewis
What I said, and I repeat it, was that I thought from what happened yesterday that there was no hope of the Minister giving way on any major point. If I am wrong on that I will most certainly withdraw, but I would obviously have to ask the Minister to help me out by admitting that he is prepared to give way on any point fairly and reasonably argued. If he admits that he will give way in those circumstances, I will certainly withdraw.
§ Sir H. Linstead
I am very glad that I have provoked the hon. Member into making that correction, because that was not the impression that his original remarks, made in the enthusiasm of the moment, gave.
The point put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East is one of considerable importance to some of us on this side who want to know how to vote. During the Second Reading debate, the Parliamentary Secretary undertook that during the Committee stage any Amendments affecting individual boroughs would be considered on their merit, and that none of these cases was closed. In winding up that Second Reading debate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health said the same thing, and it would be very helpful if my right hon. Friend would help some of those behind him by saying that these Amendments to the First Schedule are still open to full and careful consideration on their merits, and that we are not compromising our position at all in relation to the First Schedule if we support him in relation to Clause I.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
I always like to follow the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) because, although we are both usually engaged in health debates, he always 375 puts his points very courteously, and I am sorry to have to differ from him about the comments made by my hon. Friends the Members for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) and for Barking (Mr. Driberg). I accept that yesterday the Minister said that he was prepared at a later stage to consider some of the points we made, but it seemed to me, too, that he was adamant on one of the crucial Amendments by which we wanted to leave him entirely free to do just as he wished about the numbers of people who would serve on the new borough councils. This gives the impression that he is adamant about the Bill as a whole.
My colleagues and I feel for the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) in his extremely difficult position. He has to say what he must say irrespective of whether or not it is in accordance with the views of his own Front Bench. Throughout this debate he has contributed, not in a destructively critical way but by seeking to put a sincere point of view, for which we respect him.
The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) will be extremely disappointed if I do not refer to his comments. He generally opens his speeches with one eye on me knowing, as I do, that we are both rather uncertain whether we are in the Ilford Borough Council chamber, where we served years ago and had similar arguments, or in this Chamber. I am surprised that the hon. Member changes so little and yet changes so profoundly. I suppose that it is just one of those contradictions.
In the old days—and, if I may say so, he himself draws a little on the old days—I never classified him as a "yes" man, yet on two occasions since I have had the privilege of membership of this House, when practically the whole of his side had been critically opposed to their own Front Bench, very often constructively critical of the Minister, the hon. Member has weighed in, as so aptly put by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking, with 200 per cent. support. Perhaps it is the change of the years so that, whereas in the old days he was not a "yes" man, he is now able, as the years settle on his shoulders, to take a more mellow view and seek to support 376 the side irrespective of merit, and that his rebellious, angry-young-man period has passed.
Where he remains the same is that he always makes a political speech the introduction to his contributions. He did not let me down on this occasion, and I am quite certain that his attack on the Labour Party and its fuddy-duddy ways was given for the benefit of the Ilford Recorderand theIlford Pictoriala little later. He used to do the same thing in the council chamber, and we usually saw the results the following week in the local Press. He spoke of the fuddy-duddy image of the Labour Party and its old-fashioned approach, and then immediately went back to 1937 and regaled the Committee with a history of the Ilford Borough Council's attempt to get county borough powers. The forward-looking gentleman opposite insisted on looking backwards.
§ Mr. Cooper
In 1937 the hon. Member was not a member of the Ilford Borough Council. I would not be too sure about it, but I think that at that time he was being weaned. The fact remains that in 1937 the Conservative-controlled Ilford Borough Council took a great forward look at London government. It was the first in the field and led the way. This Bill is the final argument for what we did years ago. Ilford has always been in the forefront of local government and always will be, in spite of anything that the hon. Member of his party may do.
§ Mr. Pavitt
As usual, the hon. Member shows his inaccurate knowledge of both my history and that of the Borough of Ilford. In 1937 I was marching and demanding arms for Spain. I do not know what the hon. Member was doing for Spain at that time.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. W. R. Williams)
I think that that is much too ancient history for this Committee to look back upon.
§ Mr. Pavitt
I will get back to the Question, but I must take up the point made by the hon. Member for Ilford, South. He failed in his forward-looking approach to point out that the forward-looking party which he represents suffered seven defeats from the Liberal Party in the last municipal election. 377 He also failed to point out that the Labour Party in his area was totally opposed to the powers which the hon. Member sought at that time, and we must be grateful that neither party granted him those powers.
It has been significant that, with the exception of the hon. Member, the people who have been most opposed to this Clause have been those hon. Members who have had most experience of local government. People who know something about the problems of local government have been those who have been most critical in debate on the Clause and on the Amendments which preceded it. We have heard a good deal about its effect on London County Council, but not quite so much about its effect on not such a large county council but one which is surely as important, certainly as important to me —that is, Middlesex County Council. Pressures exerted as a result of obvious faults in the Bill have led to changes in it covering education in the case of London County Council, but in spite of the fact that Middlesex County Council could make an equally strong claim the Bill does not provide for similar action in its case.
We debated at some length yesterday the Clause and Amendments affecting the number of councillors in a new borough. The two areas proposed in my newly constituted borough have between them 104 members. They will lose 44. When one knows the heavy work that rests on the shoulders of councillors in Conservative-controlled Wembley and Labour-controlled Willesden at present one can imagine what will be shouldered by the decreased number of councillors, namely, about 60 or, if the Minister follows up his promise of yesterday, perhaps 70.
I do not want to dwell at this stage too deeply upon the immediate effect that the Bill will have in my own area in Willesden. I have tabled an Amendment to the Schedule and I hope that it will be possible to put most of those points at that stage, but one cannot assess the effect in the area without consulting the local organisations and the locally active people. The Committee may be interested to know that of all replies received there was only one local 378 organisation which was prepared to see this part of the Bill put into operation, and of course this is the part which will cover the changes that will take place.
Among the organisations against are Brondesbury Synagogue, Harlesden Labour Club, the Soldiers' Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association, the St. John Ambulance Brigade, the National Federation of Old Age' Pensioners Association branch, the British Legion branch, and the Willesden and District Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society. I hope that the Minister will remember the last because I hope to refer to that society later. Other organisations which are opposed are the Women's Cooperative Guild and the Townswomen's Guild. These are a representative group of organisations. I have not mentioned the Labour Party organisations because the Minister can assume that they also are listed. But as far as we are concerned this is not something which a political party has taken up in isolation. We are protesting against the Bill and particularly against this Clause, which is its crux, after taking due consideration not only of what the political party may feel but of what organisations active in our community think about it.
Great concern is felt about the welfare structure. In this highly industrialised area there are welfare services of all kinds which, although under the Middlesex County Council, have their district representatives. The Middlesex County Council child welfare service, for example, has done remarkable work. We are not certain at this stage that we can accept the Clause because we are not certain whether it will be possible to continue under the Bill the kind of things we have at present.
Several hon. Members have raised the point of political pressure. I assure the Commiittee that I am not opposed to the reform of local government or of London local government in particular. It is the way of doing this that we do not like. It is the Bill that we do not like. The Government are like people Who have a bad tooth. They know that extraction is a difficult business and they want to get it over quickly because it is rather painful. This is why in this Chamber in the last two days we have had the impression that we must press 379 on regardless, because as soon as we can get past this part of the Bill the Minister will be able to sleep happily and comfortably and will be able to do the constructive things which I am sure he wants to do in slum clearance, housing and so on.
The Clause contains a terrific number of implications bearing upon people's jobs. That there will be one town clerk or one borough surveyor where there were previously two is obviously a consideration and we attempted in an Amendment yesterday to get the Minister to give us time to make adjustments. People cannot be rooted out of their jobs suddenly and it cannot be decided quickly where their talents can be used to the best effect. So we spent some time trying to persuade the Government to accept a longer period. However, unfortunately, it still remains part of the Bill that we must hurry the thing through for elections in 1964.
I accept the contention of some hon. Gentlemen opposite that the desire to get rid of the Labour-controlled London County Council is not the only motive behind the Government's proposals in bringing forward the Bill. However, with due respect, I believe that this is the spur. This is the incentive which makes them go through with it at all costs. There are other considerations which they have in mind, perfectly legitimate considerations, I think, which we can accept, but I very much doubt that, if there had been a change of government at County Hall at the last election, this Bill would still have been before the House.
§ Mr. Pavitt
The attitude of the Government has shown itself in their response to Amendments to the Clause. My hon. Friends have argued the case with moderation. At no stage during the debate yesterday was there any deliberate obstruction. I share the view expressed by some of my hon. Friends, that every point which we raised in the debate was treated courteously by the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary in their efforts to give an answer, but, nevertheless, while we appreciate the velvet glove—it is smoother, it is neat and it is tidy at times—we are still convinced that there is an inflexible will behind 380 the Government's determination to go through with this Clause and the Bill as a whole at all costs.
The Government profess that they want to make local government more real, to bring the town hall nearer to the citizen. That is the concern of all of us, not only in local government but in national Government, too. Today, we work against a general background, talking of government in the boroughs, the counties or even at national level, in which the social trend in the community is for people to be passive and apathetic, for people not to want to participate, not to want to join in, not to want to go along to vote unless they are winkled out, and for the voting percentages at local elections to be low. We want to see good local government in the London area. We hope that more people will participate, that more people will identify themselves with the community and that the community will identify itself more with them. This Clause takes us further away from that objective, and I believe that this was not the Government's intention in bringing in the Bill.
I very much doubt that the consultations which have been referred to were anything more than the passing of information. I regret that this seems to be the tendency now. In other matters, we have had the experience in the House, after the expression "consultation" has been used, of finding, after a little probing, that the consultation has meant little more than the giving of information. Good communication is more than just the communication of decisions. It implies that there shall be a two-way process by which pressure can be brought from below to affect the decisions being made. Nothing that we have heard in the debates on the Clause so far gives us any assurance that that is the kind of consultation which took place.
There will be a great deal to do after this stage, and in Standing Committee some of us will be privileged to spend our mornings on Tuesdays and Thursdays for some time in dealing with the rest of the Bill. This Clause, which is the crux of the Bill, is totally unacceptable. Because it is totally unacceptable, I hope that, in addition to my hon. Friends, those hon. Members opposite who see the Bill as being 381 hastily put together and as being inadequate for the purposes it is intended to achieve will see their way clear, at least on this part of the Bill, to come into the Lobby with us.
§ Sir K. Joseph
This Clause establishes the London boroughs as territorial areas. It provides for the incorporation of their inhabitants and for the constitution and election of their councils. It fits the London boroughs into the local government system. I fully agree with the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) that, as such, it is, as he called it, a significant Clause. It is a very important Clause because the London boroughs which it creates are the prime authorities which the Government intend for the local government of the Metropolis.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) made an extremely vigorous and, I thought, sensible speech, if I may say so, saying a lot of things which need to be said about the Bill and the Clause. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead), in a short speech, supported the general purpose of the Bill and the Clause but reserved his position about the grouping in his own constituency. He went on to ask me what hon. Friends of mine should assume in considering the Clause when they have misgivings about the Schedule. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), who has been here devotedly all the day, will be interested, I know, in what I have to say about this.
I know the deep feelings of many of my hon. Friends whose constituencies are grouped or included in a way which they do not wish; but I should have thought that all of them who support the general purpose of the Bill—and I believe that all my hon. Friends who have spoken, except my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) do support the general theme of the Bill-could happily vote for the Clause standing part while reserving fully their position on the Schedule. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney asked me what the Government's attitude was about Amendments which are down on the Notice Paper connected with the Schedule. I have a duty to speak candidly in reply to his Question.
382 Hon. Members will recognise that, when the Government present a Bill, they believe that the contents of the Bill are right. Therefore, for me to say that every Amendment will be considered on its merits is perfectly true, but it is subject to the fact that the Government have presented the Bill and believe, on such evidence as they have, that they have got the content right.
If during debate on an Amendment such evidence is produced as convinces the Government that they are wrong, of course the Government must recognise that they can improve the Bill by recommending the House to make a change. I hope that that puts the position clearly. I should not like to mislead my hon. Friends or the Committee in any way. The Government believe that, concerning the groupings, they have the contents of the Schedule right, but they will listen carefully to such evidence as is adduced to show that in any particular place it is wrong.
As for the detailed boundaries, clearly the Government are not taking anything like such a definitive position. In Clause 6, there is provision for altering boundaries in detail. Therefore, while the Government believe that they have the groupings right, (hey are not taking up necessarily such a positive position about every detail of the boundaries.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East, would, I know, press me to say how I apply that doctrine to boroughs on the periphery. There it is not a question so much of grouping as of inclusion at all An Greater London. Equally, the Government believe that they have got the boundary right. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster gave our basic principle that we are trying to include in Greater London the continuous town within the Green Belt. If my hon. and learned Friend or other hon. Members can show that we have got it wrong in a particular case, of course we are open to conviction. I repeat, however, that as the Bill is drafted, I believe that we have it right. I hope that I have answered my hon. and learned Friend.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Sir John Vaughan-Morgan (Reigate)
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) is not now present, but he made an 383 eloquent plea earlier. As I am his neighbour to the south, I should like to say that I support him in every way. I say again, as I said on Second Reading, that I have heard no detailed arguments for the inclusion of Coulsdon and Purley, but I have yet to see anything consistent in the decisions that my right hon. Friend the Minister has already made as regards the peripheral boroughs to the south.
§ Sir K. Joseph
My right hon. Friend is trying to lead me into discussion of the Schedule. I was trying to explain how it can be that whilst the Government think on the evidence which they have that the contents of the Bill are right, at the same time they will listen carefully to arguments on the merits during debates on the Schedule designed to show that it is wrong. I am treating the Committee both candidly and frankly. It would be wrong for me to say without any other qualification that, of course, we shall listen with an open mind to every argument on the Amendments. We shall listen, but we have our own views and they are expressed in the Bill.
§ Mr. A. E. Oram (East Ham, South)
Can the Minister carry his undertaking a little further? He has referred to listening to arguments in a particular case. In east London, however, there is a whole group stretching from West Ham right through to Dagenham, where we believe that a completely different grouping may be possible and about which we can put forward strong argument. Is the Minister saying that he will listen sympathetically to argument for such a change?
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. Both sides of the Committee must recognise that we cannot anticipate future Amendments in any further degree than has been done already.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I was, of course, referring, Mr. Williams, to all the Amendments on the Order Paper.
The debate was opened in his usual most attractive and persuasive manner by the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) and I shall try to answer all the main lines of criticism that have been raised. What I will not do is to deal with the particular consituency arguments that will be deployed later.
384 I was asked by the hon. Member for Bermondsey to contemplate the drastic nature of what we are doing. He said that we were replacing local government units that have in many cases ancient and, in all cases, proud histories. Indeed, I realise this; we are doing so. The most ancient of the local government units that we are replacing is, I understand, the Royal Borough of Kingston-on-Thames. Ealing is old. Croydon is ancient indeed in its history, although relatively modern in its status as a county borough. I believe that the most modern of these units—there is a wide range in vintage—is Maiden and Coombe, with Chislehurst and Sidcup, which was set up in 1930 and. of course, the metropolitan borough councils, which are creatures of statute, date from the last year of the last century.
It is true that we are replacing these units and that some of them are ancient But I should not like the Committee to say that because we are doing this we are necessarily doing anything to destroy local identities. Croydon will still trace its ancient history. There are areas and localities familiar to all which are not identified with the local government pattern and will not therefore lose their identity. Whitechapel, Highgate, Maida Vale, Putney and Dulwich—and we can add more of our own—will not disappear or change in any way.
I agree very strongly with what the hon. Member for Bermondsey said when he asserted, quite rightly, that we are not doing any of this because of the inefficiency of any local government unit. We are doing it because, with the best will, energy and ability in the world, local government units in the Greater London area do not have either enough powers or the right powers to serve the citizen in the best way we think possible.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), in a forceful constituency speech, asked what on earth I had meant on Second Reading by claiming that we were out to rehabilitate the borough councils. He spoke very rhetorically as though I had been mouthing meaningless words. Let me tell him what I meant. If he does not know it, may I say that there are many metropolitan borough councillors who think that they and their colleagues could use effectively more powers than metropolitan boroughs 385 now have. They do not have enough powers at the moment. The London County Council recognises that. There was a scheme of reform, frustrated, we are told, by the Tory Government, six years ago for transferring power from the LC.C. to the metropolitan borough councils.
At the moment, these councils have very limited powers. Are there no self-confident people in Woolwich—I am sure that the hon. Member for Woolwich, East will tell me that there are—who want their local authority to have greater powers? What the Bill does is to give to groups of boroughs much more power than they have at the moment, and I believe that there are many councillors who will publicly soon and who privately now welcome this trend.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West joined together in asking me what their boroughs had to gain by this operation. Let me try to explain. It is nonsense to imagine that in a great city like Greater London we can live to our own area alone. How many of us go round cursing the traffic jams and complaining, rightly, about planning, housing, refuse collection or some other service which we all know depends on metropolitan arrangements. Do hon. Members really think that the traffic problem in Croydon on the one hand or Woolwich on the other can be solved if traffic is not organised on a sensible metropolitan scale
If hon. Members say to the Government, "We can organise traffic, planning and all the other services about which you speak without this Measure", that is constructive and sensible criticism, but to ask me what the Bill will do for their boroughs reveals a complacency about the present position which I find amazing. The present position is not to the discredit of the boroughs or of the L.C.C. It exists because, for a number of reasons largely connected with the Government's fear of handling this very difficult problem over a number of years, there are not the right powers in any authority's hands. There is either an inadequacy or a maldistribution of powers.
§ Mr. F. Harris
My right hon. Friend has accused Croydon of being complacent 386 That is quite incorrect. With the greatest respect, Croydon has put forward its own proposals and suggestions to the Minister and to his predecessor and they did not call for this Bill.
Sir K. Jospeh
I hope that I will be understood as arguing that if anyone says that this aspect can be disregarded it reveals a satisfaction with the existing position that I find difficult to accept. I am glad that my hon. Friend has constructive ideas on these very important problems.
The hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) spoke proudly and justly of the record of the boroughs which he represents. We all relish his pride, but on other occasions in this Chamber he quite rightly denounces the physical conditions in these boroughs because they leave a very great deal to be desired.
The hon. and learned Member knows very well that it is not within the powers of these boroughs, nor of the London County Council, as at present constituted to renew the physical environment in old industrial London as it should be renewed. What we seek to do, by a combination of measures which, I hope, will be constructively criticised— because, if they can be improved, all the better—is to give powers to the local authorities—metropolitan for the strategic services, local for the local and personal services—to do the job which I know he wants done in his area.
Then the hon. Member for Bermond-sey said that, quite apart from the merits of what we were doing, he took the strongest objection to our way of doing it. Hon. Members on both sides have said that they thought we should have decided on the groupings that lie behind the Clause in a more consultative and cooperative way. He asked why we did not use existing powers. I do not reach back into history except to illustrate a point. It was his own Government that refused to use the existing powers to allow Ilford to reach county borough status in 1949 because, they said, quite rightly, that they could not use these powers in piecemeal fashion and that any such change must await the review of the whole of the government of London.
387 The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) mentioned the possibility of holding a Speaker's Conference. I apologise to him for being absent from the Chamber for a few minutes while he was speaking. Hon. Members do not quite recognise the difficulties clearly. They say that we should have adopted a different method to arrive at the groupings, of which a number of them are complaining. The hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North complained that we had not consulted the boroughs.
I have not the exact record in front of me but I know that all the boroughs were asked for their views. Some of them did not even take advantage of that invitation to put forward their own suggestions about groupings. They merely repeated their whole opposition to what the Government had in mind. That is not an attitude which justifies people complaining later that they were not consulted. They were not consulted because they refused to be consulted. That is their own look out.
§ Mr. Weitzman
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that either Stoke Newington or Hackney did not take advantage of any opportunity to make representation. I said that the arrangements in the Bill were reached notwithstanding any representations which they made.
§ Sir K. Joseph
No. I think that it is because the representations limited themselves to general objections to the principles of the Bill and to the need for this sort of reform. That seems to me to have been a waste of opportunity. The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to argue, I think, that we should have consulted the inhabitants themselves about groupings. This aspect will no doubt be developed at greater length when we reach the Schedule.
I would only say now that the task of explaining to the inhabitants of each area what is involved in this Bill would require whoever was consulting them to explain in full not only the changes themselves but what the changes were intended to do and what the problems were that the changes were intended to overcome. This House, in passing the Local Government Act, 1958, has 388 accepted that public opinion is an important factor in considering any change, but only one of the important factors. If hon. Members consult the relevant section, they will find that eight or nine factors are mentioned as having to be met in judging whether any particular local government reorganisation is to be adopted.
I have, I hope, answered, if only briefly, the points that have been made. This is a vital Clause and I ask the Committee to approve it. I am sure that all my right hon. and hon. Friends, whatever their misgivings on individual items in the Schedule, on which they will have the opportunity to develop their arguments later, can honourably support this Clause. As for right hon. and hon. Members opposite, I would have thought that there must be among them many people, particularly those with local government experience, who should welcome this opportunity to make real live local government in the London boroughs. I am speaking particularly of the metropolitan borough councils. It is no disrespect to them to say that they are short of power at the moment and that the Bill gives them— true in groups—the sort of powers which their councillors are well able to handle. I therefore hope that it will be the whole Committee which will adopt the Clause.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. R. E. Prentice (East Ham, North)
The Minister finished by challenging those of us on this side of the Committee with local government experience with the words that he thought that many of us would welcome the new opportunities which would be given to local authorities. As one with six years' local government experience and having studied all the developments of the plan and having listened to the debates and having tried to speak on the Second Reading, of course I agree that we should not be complacent about what local authorities are now doing, and, of course, I agree that we should not close our minds to reform and that we need far better standards in housing, traffic control, education and all the rest. But the onus of proof is on him to show that the structure included in the Clause will achieve those ends, and it is an onus which he has failed to discharge.
389 There are three things which matter to the citizen who considers the type of local government unit in which he Lives. The first and by far the most important is the quality of the services which he gets, and the Minister was right to stress that. The second is the cost of those services, a very important factor. The third is a sense of identity with the area in which he lives. That is something which the Government have sadly neglected in all their thoughts on this subject.
The Minister told us that there are areas in Greater London which have a sense of identity without being local government units, but if we want people to care about local government and to feel that they belong to an area of local government, it is a valuable asset for them to have a sense of identity with the area. Therefore, an important point in our consideration of the Clause is the feeling of the people about these proposals, the feelings of councillors and others able to play a part in civic life. Throughout the whole of the Greater London area the majority of such people are bitterly opposed to these proposals.
Those of us who are prepared to 'accept reforms if they are good reforms might be prepared to agree to override public opinion and the opinions of councillors if there is a very strong case to show that better services would be provided, but that is not the case. When the Minister speaks of people being fed-up with traffic delays, he knows perfectly well that if 'the Government had done more to encourage capital development expenditure on the roads, that would have been the answer to traffic delays, not monkeying about with local government in London. He knows that what is wrong with 'the housing situation and the education situation and so many other aspects of local government can be traced to the faults of the Tory Government, and not to the areas with which we are here concerned. He has not made a case for showing that these changes will improve any one of the services now provided.
I speak especially as one of the representatives of East Ham, but also as one who had six years on the Croydon Borough Council. I applaud the stand taken on the Bill by the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris). 390 I was his opponent in the 1950 and 1951 General Elections. I thought 'that he was wrong on most issues then, but I am glad that he has taken this stand. At least he among hon. Members opposite has been consistent, for too many hon. Members opposite have approved the object of the Bill in general only to say that they do not like what it does to their areas. The hon. Member far Croydon, North-West and the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) have at least token a consistent line in recognising that the objection they have to the Bill as it affects their areas has a wider application.
I also agree with what has been said by the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty). I can appreciate the point as it affects 'the residents of Coulsdon and Purley. As a resident of Croydon, I cannot see a case for Coulsdon and Purley going in. As a member of the Croydon Labour Party, which has hopes of winning control of the Croydon Council soon, I can say that we do not particularly want the stockbrokers of Purley and Coulsdon in. That is a good reason, among the others that have been mentioned.
But I want to speak primarily of East Ham. I speak with pride as a representative of the borough. It is a fairly small county borough, with a history of progressive local government that it is difficult to equal anywhere in the United Kingdom. The East Ham people are almost unanimous in their opposition to the proposals of the Bill, and especially to the new situation that will be created by the Clause. When I say "almost unanimous", I refer to the fact that there has been a small element of support for the Bill from the local Conservative Association, as far as it exists. But since it is almost defunct it does not represent many people.
The council, with a Labour majority, and an opposition formed by a body called the Ratepayers' Association, is unanimously against the Government's proposals. Practically every other representative body in the borough is against it. There is an excellent body known as the Borough Liaison Committee on which a number of local organisations come together to discuss local social and civic affairs. My point is in line 391 with that made by the hon. Member for Wimbledon. The view of this committee, representing so many different people, shows—as the hon. Member was able to show in respect of his area— that opposition to the Government's plan comes not merely from political quarters.
The East Ham Borough Liaison Committee has gone on record as being unanimously opposed to the proposed change in the status of the borough. At the meeting which passed the resolution there were present representatives of the East Ham Council of Churches, the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, the Round Table, the British Legion, the Red Cross, the W.V.S., the Townswomen's Guild, parents teachers organisations, sports organisations, social clubs, local trade unions and professional bodies, including teachers and local government officers concerned with the administration of the local services. All these people were opposed to what is put forward in the Bill, and particularly the provisions of the Clause.
It could conceivably be right to override all these people. It could conceivably be right to ignore the experience of those who work from day to day in social and civic affairs. But the onus of proof on the Government is a very great one, and it is one which has not been discharged by the Minister.
When we reach the Amendments to the Schedule I want to develop in more detail my views why East Ham should not be treated in this way. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Oram) also wishes to do so. We are proud of our borough and its record. We remind the Minister that the Royal Commission did not recommend that East Ham should be merged with anyone else. This is a plan superimposed upon the Royal Commission's proposal. It is not the plan of the Royal Commission. That body proposed to leave East Ham as it was. It is a great education authority—one of the best in the country—and has a fine record in other local government services.
Looking at the matter in its wider context, it is clear that the opposition in East Ham is typical of that throughout Greater London. Every county council 392 concerned in this change has gone on record as being opposed to the scheme. The three county boroughs have gone on record as being opposed to it. Most of the second tier authorities have gone on record as opposing it—not all, but most. This represents a powerful body of opinion.
I close by making the point that there is a constitutional outrage in the use of a Parliamentary majority to override all this local opinion. I would defend, anywhere, the sovereignty of the House— including its sovereignty over local authorities—but in exercising that sovereignty the Government of the day and the majority party should have regard to the views of local authorities in connection with a Bill of this kind.
The councillors were elected just as we were and they derive their authority from the people as we do. To override their views, bearing in mind what they do for the communities they represent and the enormous sacrifice they make in time and trouble, is something which is outrageous. It is all the more outrageous when it occurs towards the end of a Parliament and is imposed by a party which has obviously lost the confidence of the people; and when it is motivated by squalid political manoeuvres to gain control of the London County Council. This is a bad Clause and if hon. Members opposite would search their consciences, more of them would come into the Division Lobbies in support of us than have done so on previous Amendments.
§ Mr. E. Partridge (Battersea, South)
I sat through most of the debate yesterday and over and over again I heard hon. Members speak against the Bill and their argument seemed to be that everybody must be against the Bill, because otherwise they would have spoken in favour of it. I did not want to prolong the proceedings yesterday but I cannot let this debate pass without registering my protests and saying that those hon. Members who have spoken may be against the Bill but many hon. Members are entirely in favour of it, with the exception of one or two points upon which we have our own views.[Laughter.]If the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) thinks that a Bill presented to Parliament is sacrosanct and that no hon. Member 393 may hold any views about it on some piece of detail, he is an automaton and ought to go back to his constituency and confess himself as such.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
The hon. Member must excuse us for laughing. Probably it was a slip of the tongue, but he said he was entirely in favour of the Bill, with the exception of one or two things. He cannot have it both ways.
§ Mr. Partridge
Not at all. I am entirely in favour of the Bill because I consider it a good Bill. Its objects are good and the means by which it is hoped to attain those objects ace good. But there are one or two ways in which I think it could be improved.
§ Mr. Partridge
I am entirely in favour of the Bill, certainly I am. I hope that will be seen in the Division Lobbies.
It must not be thought that because some hon. Members have remained silent, as they hoped to get the business going more quickly than hitherto, they are not in favour of the Bill. It is no use the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) —I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber—saying that the Government are forcing this Bill through Parliament. They are doing nothing of the kind. They are proceeding with the stages of a Bill and will obtain the assent of Parliament which is the sovereign power in the country. It should be known by hon. Members opposite that a vast number of hon. Members on this side of the Committee wholeheartedly endorse the action which the Government are taking—[HON. MEMBERS:"Where are they?"]
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being present—394
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Partridge
That is one more method of delaying the proceedings. This is the method adopted, let it be said —although I am sorry he is not here— these are the tactics employed by one of the renegades of my party. He is one who represents what we consider to be a complacent borough. His attitude seems to be, we have been all right so far and we are still all right; to hell with the rest of them, Jack, we are all right. That is not the attitude of a great many of us. We have thought for a long time and most of us have given long service in local government.
§ Mr. Partridge
The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris). Maybe he will come into the Committee—
§ Mr. Cliffe
On a point of order, Sir William. Is it considered right and proper to attack an hon. Member in his absence?
§ Mr. Cliffe
I asked whether it is considered right and proper for an hon. Member to attack another hon. Member in his absence, and particularly a member of his own party.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Surely an hon. Member who calls his hon. Friend a renegade should give notice of that attack?
§ Mr. Partridge
I should be delighted to give him notice, but I did not realise that he had disappeared from the Committee. He said pretty solidly yesterday, and at every opportunity, that he did not like the Bill and would vote against it on every occasion. I am merely drawing attention to the fact that that does not represent the view of the majority of his party.
§ Mr. Partridge
Not a tribute to his courage; that is the last attribute I would give him. It is just obstinacy. He does not like the Bill and will vote against it whatever good there may be in the Bill in its various parts.
§ Mr. Partridge
Perhaps the hon. Member has not the courage to vent his feelings. These are my feelings and I would tell the hon. Member to his face if he came in.—[Interruption.]If the hon. Member opposite will allow me, I should like to continue my speech. I have been interrupted so often and not very politely. The attitude seems to be that anything should be adopted to delay the proceedings. In the end we shall triumph because the will of Parliament will prevail.
We are accused of all sorts of reasons for wanting to pass this Bill. One is to get rid of the London County Council. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Some hon. Members have shied away from that, but I do not. I was one who thought, and still think, that London County Council is an example of monstrous bureaucracy. One does not get the individual attention to matters which one can get in a local town hall. I am hopeful that as a result of this Bill we shall get a closer relationship between the elector and officials carrying out policy than is possible at the moment.
§ Mr. Cliffe
May I ask the hon. Member to substantiate the statement he has made in relation to the attitude of London County Council officers to their work and responsibilities and how they treat people monstrously in connection with their work?
§ Mr. Partridge
I have not said that and I refuse to have my words twisted. I was saying that it was monstrous bureaucracy, and that is not so much on the part of the officials as of the members of the council. [Interruption.]I thought that we were talking about the Bill and local government. These interjections have nothing whatever to do with that.
I am therefore glad that the Bill has been introduced, as a result of which 396 the bureaucracy will disappear and we shall have local government with people who are close to the electorate. We shall have more humanity in local government than there is under the present system. It 'is for that reason that I support the Bill. I support the Clause and I wish it and the Bill well. I shall support the Government on each and every occasion during the passage of the Bill, except where I think that an Amendment would be an improvement.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
As the Minister has spoken, I am glad of an opportunity to make some reply to what he has said, though I trust that it will not occur to the Government or, if I may say so with respect, to the Chair, that that is any reason why the debate should come to an end, because there are still several of my hon. Friends who would like to say something and the Government may, if they look hard enough, even find another friend of the Bill besides the two we have heard already from the back benches opposite.
We have improved the Clause in some measure. We have had a promise from the Government to alter the wording of it at one point in a way which might give some modest help to local authorities. We have had an undertaking from the Minister that he is not necessarily tied to the maximum of 60 councillors. We have had a further slightly more nebulous undertaking that he will look at the point we raised on the very first Amendment about charters. That is not bad going for a Clause in a highly controversial Bill. It gives the lie to what has been suggested by the hon. Members for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) and Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge) that we are simply out for delay and obstruction. I have rarely listened to a long debate in Committee of the whole House where rebukes from the Chair have been as few and as mild as they have been on this occasion. We have made good use of the time and we have effected improvements in the Clause.
I shall now explain why none the less we cannot support the Clause even as improved. The debate was opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish). I am sure that the Minister will understand that my hon. Friend's absence now implies 397 no discourtesy to himself. My hon. Friend does, as we all know, a great many pieces of public work. Unfortunately, an engagement connected with one of those pieces of work has clashed with the Committee tonight.
I want to say one other thing before adverting to the Clause in general. The Minister was much pressed by his hon. Friends about how he would view any general Amendment to the Schedule which hangs from this Clause. The answer did not give his hon. Friends as much encouragement as they had hoped it would. Indeed, it seemed to me that Amendments to the Schedule were being put by the Minister in the same position as mankind is put by those gloomy theologians who believe in predestination. They argue that it is the duty of human beings to have merits but they will probably be damned all the same. In the same way, the Amendments were going to be considered on their merits; there was no doubt about that, but in the wisdom and foreknowledge of the Government they thought that they had got the thing right as it was. Hon. Members must draw what comfort they can from that.
I come to the main principle behind the Clause. This is the boroughs Clause. This is the Clause which establishes the boroughs. The Minister made it clear earlier today that he regards this emphasis on boroughs as one of the main principles of the Bill. If one had to pick out one characteristic of the Bill and was allowed to state only one, this is possibly the characteristic one would take. Let us try to judge the Clause on that basis. Firstly, if it is so important to make Greater London government turn as a pivot around the boroughs, it is obviously important that the size and boundaries of those boroughs should be carefully considered.
To produce the boroughs he wants the Minister has had to alter existing boundaries greatly and has created— and I admit that any alteration of boundaries must create—a great deal of discontent and uproar which will make itself felt when we debate the respective Schedule. But if one is going to create that amount of uproar—and I have admitted that that is bound to happen —that is all the more reason why one should make sure that the change being made is really worth making.
398 What are some of the judgments, not partisan judgments, on the borough setup which the Bill produces? The Minister, hunting around in the middle of a sentence for some body of eminent opinion favourable to the Bill, finally landed on the "responsible newspapers". But did the right hon. Gentleman read a leading article in The Timeson this point about the boroughs? Did I just notice the hon. Member for Battersea, South mutter that The Timeswas not a responsible newspaper?
§ Mr. Stewart
The Timescan console itself with the fact that it is in company with a number of the hon. Member's hon. Friends as a recipient of his abuse The Timeswent for the Minister, in effect saying that, if one is to redraw boundaries, one should not be content with an amalgamation here and a piece off there but should look at Greater London as a whole, its roads and centres of communications, as it were, and draw the whole map entirely afresh. I am not at all sure that The Timesis right, but it is a point of view which the Minister has apparently not considered. I urge him, therefore, seriously to weigh up the position at the end of the day.
In any case, is the proposal going to make all that difference to the efficiency of government, whether or not he makes the borough boundary alterations in the Bill? Is it really worth the fuss? That is the first doubtful point to consider, but a far more serious objection to the arrangements of the boroughs is that the right hon. Gentleman has managed to produce units which, at any rate in the metropolitan area, are too large for intimacy on the one hand and are too small for the functions he is imposing on them on the other.
The hon. Member for Battersea, South said that he supported the Bill because it would 'bring the elector more in touch with the council and he urged that we should not have bureaucracy. That hon. Member criticised the L.C.C. on the ground that it was government by officials. But was he not present when the Minister explained that the reason why he wanted only 60 councillors in each borough was that he did not want the councillors bothered with administration because that was to be done by the officials?
§ Mr. Partridge
I draw a great distinction here because, in my view, the permanent officials at County Hall so often make the policy. My right hon. Friend's definition was quite plain and distinct. He wanted the councillors to make the policy and the permanent staff to carry it out. My objection is that at County Hall it is not so much the councillors who make the policy but the permanent officials.
§ Mr. Stewart
What has been one of the major attacks on the L.C.C. by Conservative hon. Members? It has been about the L.C.C.'s policy on secondary education and the development of comprehensive secondary education. Is the hon. Member for Battersea, South really suggesting that that policy was devised by officials? Do not the elected members insist on making policy in accordance with the principles in which they believe? The hon. Gentleman now comes forward with exactly the opposite criticism that they do not make policy at all. I really would beg him to try to think out what he wants to say before he begins to say it—
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Partridge
What I have said did not of necessity apply to each and every department of the London County Council—[HON. MEMBERS: "Qualifying."] I am not qualifying at all but just stating the fact, which is that I think that housing policy is made by the officials; and that, certainly in the realm of public health, in which I personally made a tilt against a permanent official less than three years ago, the policy was being made by the permanent official. I do not say as much about education. There, I think that the monstrosity of these mammoth schools first came to the minds of the Socialist members of the Council, and that I concede.
§ Mr. Stewart
The London County Council has often been criticised for not adopting the kind of rent policy in the housing department that is agreeable to hon. Members opposite. Does the hon. Member suggest that that is something the officials devised? Again, the criticism of the L.C.C. previously has been that it has always insisted that elected members should make the policy, and make it on principles with which Conservatives did not agree. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman 400 referred, as he did in debates long ago, to the mammoth schools of the L.C.C. In an earlier debate he said that London children were dragooned into those schools. Is he aware that every one of those secondary schools has nearly twice as many children wishing to get into them as they have room for? He really should inform himself on what is going on in London—
§ Mr. Partridge
I would rather defer a debate with the hon. Member on these matters to another occasion, but this should be taken in the same context as the fact that the L.C.C. is now doing its best to abolish the grammar schools and that this has a very great effect on the question of the mammoth schools. I will not interrupt again, Sir William. I will defer a debate on these points with the hon. Member, if he wishes, to a later date, but not now, because I know that you would very soon rule me out of order.
§ Mr. Stewart
If the hon. Member is to make a general and rather bitter attack in a sentence or two, as he did, on the L.C.C, he might have tried to substantiate his attack in the course of his speech, instead of delivering supporting arguments later on in the interstices of my speech—
§ Mr. Stewart
I am anxious, Sir William, not to delay the Committee. I have now given way three times, and that is enough—at least for one Member.
I was saying that the real trouble with these boroughs is that in the metropolitan area they are too large for intimacy and too small for the functions that are to be put on them. That is why the Minister had to argue in their defence that there would be less contact between the elected council and the public, and that that would have to be left more to officials. That seems to me to be an error. As I argued yesterday, personal contact between elected councils and the public is a good thing, and it is a pity that owing to the size of the areas that these councils are to govern, and the number of councillors, there is bound to be less such contact in the future.
On the other hand, these councils are to be put in charge of services which, at any rate in the metropolitan area, require to be organised on a larger basis if they 401 are to be really well organised. The Government, in effect, have had to admit that by the frequency with which they have had to insert in the Bill, and the even greater frequency with which they have had to insert in the speeches of Ministers, assertions that the boroughs will be able to manage because they will make joint arrangements with one another. Of all things in the machinery of local government, one of the most vexatious is to find that one can carry out a service properly only by making joint agreements and negotiations between independent local authorities. The fact that to carry through properly the children's services, education, health services and welfare services one has to do this over and over again suggests that the boroughs on which so much reliance is being placed are too small for the services with which they are being entrusted.
My third point about the boroughs is that we are told that the Government have got it right, that an area population of about 250,000 with a council of about 60 is about right. That was the view of the hon. Member for Ilford, South. It is odd that, if the Government are so convinced that it is right to organise metropolitan local government on that basis, there is one remarkable omission from the Clause and from the Schedule dependent upon it, and that is the City of London. I will not develop arguments about the City of London now because there is an Amendment to the Schedule on which we will do that later.
I merely remark that when we hear from the hon. Member for Ilford, South a rhetorical passage about the importance of being modern and up to date and not being tied to tradition and the past one is obliged to ask why it is that the party opposite is so wedded to modernity and to being up to date in every case except where it might threaten traditions with which it is particularly associated. That is what the omission of the City of London means in the Bill. We are all for modernity provided that it does not inconvenience the traditions which the Conservative Party holds dear.
I hope that we shall not have any more of this stuff which says that the Bill is good because it is new—as silly 402 an argument as saying a thing is good because it is old and, even sillier, because it does not apply all round and we make this obvious and ludicrous exception of preserving the one part of metropolitan government which is most absurdly out of date and most out of touch with modern needs.
Apart from the objections to the boroughs, that the boundaries are not particularly well drawn, the size not right and that there is here a marked difference between the Government's view and that of the Royal Commission, and that the City is ignored, beyond all that there is a fundamental fallacy in the way the Government have approached this matter. They have said over and over again that their approach is to make the borough the primary unit of local government. The argument I put to the Committee is that that is quite a wrong approach to the whole problem of local government.
If I might give an analogy, it would be this. Suppose one had to cook a seven-course dinner, one would not go to the kitchen and say "The medium-sized saucepan is the primary unit of cookery." Nobody acts that way. One considers first what dishes have to be prepared and, in the light of that knowledge, one asks what utensils are suitable for them. In local government we should begin by saying what services have to be rendered to the citizen and then ask ourselves which of the various possible local authorities is best fitted to render those services.
To start by saying that we like the borough best is to put the machinery above the services, which is exactly the wrong approach. I believe that a fallacy runs through the Ministry's whole approach to the problem. It is a great mistake in local government for anyone to say, "I am a borough council man" or "I am the champion of county councils" or "I believe in the rights of districts or parishes."
§ Sir K. Joseph
The hon. Gentleman is forgetting that the Government's policy is here based firmly on the Royal Commission recommendation. The Royal Commission received evidence from witnesses, university witnesses, I think, who take a great deal of trouble, and various groups recommended approaches as different, I believe, as 403 parish government, on the one hand, to virtually a grouping of counties, on the other. Both the Royal Commission and the Government, on the basis of the Royal Commission's recommendation, considered all the services which had to be supplied to the citizen and how they could best be provided in an optimum way. Therefore, the borough emerged as a solution rather than being imposed as a starting idea.
§ Mr. Stewart
I ask the Minister to look back at what he himself said earlier in the debate. He laid the whole weight of his argument on doing What he called rehabilitating the boroughs. It is there that he has gone wrong, and he is in line with a dangerous trend in local government thought which tempts men and women who serve in local government to regard the prestige of the particular council on which they serve or the presitige of the particular rank in the hierarchy, borough council or parish council, to which they belong as more important than the end product of all the hierarchy, that is, the services. I believe that, if the Government had kept their eye on the question of what are the services, and how they are best rendered, they would not have fallen into this erorr.
A further objection to boroughs of this size and structure is that the scheme does not allow for the growth of local government functions in future. I take as an example, and only one example, what has happened in the education service. To begin with, the education service was run by school boards. Then it was put into the hands partly of the counties and partly of the smaller authorities. By the 1944 Act, the counties were made the bodies with final responsibility, though they delegated certain powers, and there was a tendency to organise education on a wider basis with a wider unit.
We have found, too, that for the proper administration of some of the newer social services which have arisen as a result of modern knowledge, for instance, the services dealing with mental health and the care of people with various kinds of affliction, we need a unit a substantial size in order to render the service properly.
I believe that the trend in local government is likely to be this. In the years 404 to come, we shall, one hopes, make further discoveries about how to produce social welfare. Among the unfortunate, we shall find that afflictions now thought incurable will respond to treatment, and we shall need social agencies to make the treatment available. Among the normal and the fortunate, we shall find that we want to widen opportunities, and further social agencies in education and culture will be needed so that those opportunities can be developed.
In such a situation, where new knowledge is always flowing in, one finds that, in order to render a service properly, one needs for the organisation of the service a limited number of people of very great talent and high qualifications, people who, in a competitive world, can command high salaries. Similarly, in the development of other services—in the fire brigade, for instance—we find that to render the service really well, in a changing age, the amount of really expensive equipment required is likely to increase. Both those factors will mean that to organise the services really well one may have to expand the size of the authorities running them.
This accounts for the tendency for the powers of the county to grow. The obstacle to the growth of county powers, of course, is that in the provinces a county may often have to cover a very wide area. The one advantage in the Metropolis is that there is a large population in a limited area. One can, if one wishes, create an authority which has a large enough population to enable one to make use of modern knowledge to run services really well without having an authority which sprawls unduly over the map.
What this Bill proposes to do in effect is to put the clock back. Education which, in the light of history and experience and its modern needs, we have tended to move away from the smaller to the larger authority, is now, certainly in outer London and possibly later in inner London, to be thrust back into the hands of smaller authorities. This is the Bill which the hon. Member for Ilford, South says is modern and forward looking.
§ Mr. Cooper
The hon. Gentleman's argument is quite wrong however he looks at it, because, although he says that 405 by this Bill we are moving towards smaller authorities, the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) and the hon. Members for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) and East Ham, South, (Mr. Oram), together with a number of other authorities on the periphery of London, will move into larger and not smaller authorities.
§ Mr. Stewart
But not for the services about which I am talking, with the solitary exception of the fire service. But the whole range of social services with which my argument is chiefly concerned are pushed back by the Bill against the whole tendency of this century and against what seems wise and prudent. The more that services grow and develop the more will the limitations of the boroughs created under the Bill become apparent. I stress this point because I think that the hon. Member for Ilford, South so seriously neglected it. Since his speech was of so aggressive a character and since part of it was directed towards me, I will spare a few minutes in order to reply to it.
The hon. Gentleman began characteristically by claiming to have greater experience in local government than most of my hon. Friends, a claim which he immediately had to abandon and which was made in rashness and ignorance. He asked my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) what his borough had to lose by the Bill. I will tell the hon. Gentleman the things that some of us believe Londoners will lose by the Bill. We 'think that we shall lose a finely constructed education service, a humane and efficient child care service, an architects' department of world fame and many other great services.
When the hon. Gentleman spoke about gaining or losing, he was thinking not of the service to the citizens but of the prestige and status of the council and the councillors.
§ Mr. Stewart
If the hon. Gentleman looks through his speech he will find that that is so. He said that there was opinion in Walthamstow and various otter boroughs in favour of the Bill. I trust that he does them an injustice. He said that the reason the borough councils were in favour of the Bill was that it 406 would give them more powers. That is a totally wrong approach. It is unworthy of anyone who serves in local government to start judging a Bill by saying, "Will this give me or the council on which I serve more status?" That should be very much the second question. The first question should be," Will this cause the services to the citizens to be rendered more effectively and more humanely?"
§ Mr. Cooper indicated assent.
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman agrees with me now that there was not a vestige of realisation of Chat during the whole of his speech.
§ Mr. Cooper
The hon. Gentleman does me an injustice. The sole reason why we in Ilford over the years have applied for county borough status and have been supported in the lobbies by many Members on the Labour benches, including, I believe, on one occasion, the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), was that we thought that we could administer these services to the citizen more efficiently than was being done by a larger authority. Because I believe that that is true today, as it was true then, I support the Bill. It is a very good Bill and will advance the interests of the citizens of the areas affected.
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Member for Ilford, South is inaccurate again. If the welfare of the citizens is so much in his heart, why did it make no vestige of appearance in his earlier aggressive speech to the Committee? The whole trend of his argument then was that what matters, what is interesting and what is important is the prestige of the council. It is a vicious argument. Unfortunately, it underlies a great deal of the Bill.
§ Mr. A. Evans
On a point of order. Is it in keeping in the customs of the House of Commons for an hon. Member to make a false statement in regard to a right hon. Member and then decline to withdraw that statement?
§ Mr. Stewart
We must ask first of any plan for local government whether it will cause the services to be better rendered. The emphasis in the Clause upon boroughs obliges us to ask whether this emphasis makes it likely that the services will be better rendered. What the answer that we invariably get boils down to is that it is hoped that the services will not be worse rendered because the boroughs can come together and make joint arrangements in imitation of the arrangements now made while the counties of London and Middlesex are in existence. That is not a convincing or encouraging reply.
One service only was mentioned from the Government benches in the whole of the argument, and that was traffic. The Minister was arguing that the Clause would help to solve London's traffic problem, but that is not an argument that has much relation to the Clause. It might be more in place on Clause 2, which establishes the Greater London Council. Even there, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North pointed out, and as the Royal Commission explicitly said, it is not alterations in local government that will solve the London traffic problem but a change of view and policy by the Government in what they are prepared to spend on roads.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I was making an answer to the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Northwest (Mr. F. Harris) when they asked what their boroughs would get from the Bill as a whole. I was answering that point and I referred briefly to traffic, planning and redevelopment.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am replying to that point and reminding the Minister that the Royal Commission drew attention to the fact that it was an error to suppose that the London traffic problem could be solved merely by altering the powers and boundaries of local government.
Having said that about services, what follows is that broadly the pattern of metropolitan local government ought to 408 be some kind of regional authority for south-east England to deal with planning and the cognate services— authorities comparable to present counties to deal with the main range of the human and social services, but with considerable delegation of parts of those services to the smaller authorities, who would run those together with all those services which are not specifically put elsewhere.
I shall not develop that point further, because I have said it before in the House of Commons on two occasions. I only say it now because the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) said that at no time had I put forward a constructive alternative. The hon. and learned Member does me an injustice. If he studies the Second Reading debate and the earlier debate in February, he will see that I set out what I believed to be the right principles for metropolitan government. Obviously, however, I am not putting forward something equal in size and detail to the Bill and expounding it to the Committee. The Committee— and certainly not you, Sir Robert— would not thank me if I tried to do so. That is not the job of the Opposition. But it is not correct to say that we have not set out the main pattern of what we think the right answer should be.
I trust the Government will realise that the opposition of this side of the Committee is not merely factious but represents a very great anxiety about the future of the services. We have tried to keep our remarks moderate in tone. It has remained for an hon. Member opposite to call one of his hon. Friends a renegade lacking in courage, coming from a complacent borough. No such language, I trust, will discolour the speeches from this side of the House. We base our case simply on the objections to this Bill—a Bill that puts machinery before service and has even managed to get the machinery wrong.
§ The Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household (Mr. Michael Hughes-Young) rose in his place, and claimed to move.That the Question be now put.409
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—410
§ The Committee divided:Ayes 189, Noes 125.411
|Division No. 30.]||AYES||[9.40 p.m.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Gurden, Harold||Percival, Ian|
|Allason, James||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Harvey, Sir Arthur vere (Macclesf'd)||Pott, Percivall|
|Balniel, Lord||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Barber, Anthony||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Barter, John||Hoald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)|
|Batsford, Brian||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Hendry, Forbes||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Hiley, Joseph||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Pym, Francis|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Holland, Philip||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Hollingworth, John||Rawlinson, Sir Peter|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hopkins, Alan||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hornby, R. P.||Rees, Hugh|
|Box, Donald||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Braine, Bernard||Howard, Hon. C. R. (St. Ives)||Renton, Rt. Hon. David|
|Brewis, John||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Hughes-Young, Michael||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||James, David||Roots, William|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray A Nairn)||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Russell, Ronald|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||St. Clair, M.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Chataway, Christopher||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Sharples, Richard|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Shaw, M.|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, 8.)||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Klrk, Peter||Smith, Dudley (Br'nt'fd & Chiswick)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Spier, Rupert|
|Cordeaux, Lt. Col. J. K.||Leavey, J. A.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Coulson, Michael||Lindsay, Sir Martin||Tapsell, Peter|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Curran, Charles||Litchfield, Capt. John||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)|
|Dance, James||Loveys, Walter H.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Doughty, Charles||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Drayson, G. B.||MacArthur, Ian||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|du Cann, Edward||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Duncan, Sir James||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Tweedsmulr, Lady|
|Eden, John||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||van 8traubenzee, W. R.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||McMaster, Stanley R.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Elliott, R.W. (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Maitland, Sir John||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Marten, Nell||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Finlay, Graeme||Matthews, Gordon (Merlden)||Walder, David|
|Fisher, Nigel||Mawby, Ray||Walker, Peter|
|Fraser, Rt.Hn. Hugh (Stafford&Stone)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wall, Patrick|
|Gammans, Lady||Mills, Stratton||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Gardner, Edward||Miscampbell, Norman||Webster, David|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Morgan, William||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Glimour, Sir John (East Fife)||Morrison, John||Whitelaw, William|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Neave, Alrey||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Goodhart, Philip||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Goodhew, Victor||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Green, Alan||Partridge, E.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Peel, John||Mr. J. E. B. Hill and Mr. McLaren|
|Ainsley, William||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Driberg, Tom|
|Albu, Austen||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Ede, Rt. Hon. C.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Callaghan, James||Edwards, Walter (Stepney)|
|Barnett, Guy||Carmichael, Nell||Evans, Albert|
|Beaney, Alan||Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Finch, Harold|
|Blackburn, F.||Cliffe, Michael||Fitch, Alan|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.W.)||Collick, Percy||Fletcher, Eric|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Crosland, Anthony||Forman, J. C.|
|Boyden, James||Dalyell, Tarn||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Deer, George||Ginsburg, David|
|Brock way, A. Fenner||Dodds, Norman||Grey, Charles|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Robinson, Kenneth (St, Pancras, N.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Griffiths, w. (Exchange)||Mapp, Charles||Short, Edward|
|Gunter, Ray||Marsh, Richard||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mayhew, Christopher||Small, William|
|Harper, Joseph||Mellish, R. J.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Millan, Bruce||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Milne, Edward||Steele, Thomas|
|Hilton, A. V.||Mitchison, G. R.||Stewart Michael (Fulham)|
|Holman, Percy||Morris, John||Stonehouse, John|
|Holt, Arthur||Neal, Harold||Stones, William|
|Hooson, H. E.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Houghton, Douglas||Oliver, C. H.||Taverne, D.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oram, A. E.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Oswald, Thomas||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Padley, W. E.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Paget, R. T.||Tomney, Frank|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Pargiter, G. A.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Parker, John||Warbey, William|
|Kelley, Richard||Pavltt, Laurence||Weitzman, David|
|Lawson, George||Peart, Frederick||Whitlock, William|
|Ledger, Ron||Pentland, Norman||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Willey, Frederick|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Prentice, R. E.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Willis, E. C. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Probert, Arthur||Woof, Robert|
|Loughlin, Charles||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Lubbock, Eric||Reynolds, G. W.|
|MacColl, James||Rhodes, H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|MacDermot, Niall||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Mr. Redhead and Mr. McCann.|
§ Question put accordingly, That the Clause stand part of the Bill:—412
§ The Committee divided:Ayes 191, Noes 124.413
|Division No. 31.]||AYES||[9.50 p.m.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Fraser, Rt.Hn. Hugh (Stafford&Stone)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Allason, James||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Leavey, J. A.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Cammans, Lady||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Gardner, Edward||Lindsay, Sir Martin|
|Balniel, Lord||Gibson-Watt, David||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Barber, Anthony||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Barter, John||Glover, Sir Douglas||Longden, Gilbert|
|Baiter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Lubbock, Eric|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Goodhart, Philip||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Blggs-Davison, John||Goodhew, Victor||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Bingham, R. M.||Grant-Ferris, R.||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Bishop, F. P.||Green, Alan||MacArthur, Ian|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Gresham Cooke, R.||McLaren, Martin|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Box, Donald||Gurden, Harold||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Braine, Bernard||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Brewis, John||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E)||Maitland, Sir John|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Marten, Neil|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)|
|Campbell, Cordon (Moray & Nairn)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Mawby, Ray|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hendry, Forbes||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hiley, Joseph||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Chataway, Christopher||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Mills, Stratton|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Mlscampbell, Norman|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Holland, Philip||Morgan, William|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hollingworth, John||Morrison, John|
|Cooper, A. E.||Holt, Arthur||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hooson, H. E.||Neave, Alrey|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hopkins, Alan||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|CoulBort, Michael||Hornby, R. P.||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Curran, Charles||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Partridge, E.|
|Dance, James||Hughes-Young, Michael||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Peel, John|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Percival, Ian|
|Drayson, G. B.||James, David||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|du Cann, Edward||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Eden, John||Johnson Smlth, Geoffrey||Pott, Percivall|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Elliott, R.W. (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Kirk, Peter||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Skeet, T. H. H.||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Pym, Francis||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Speir, Rupert||Walder, David|
|Rawlinson, Sir Peter||Steward, Harold (Stockport, s.)||Walker, Peter|
|Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Summers, Sir Spencer||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Rees, Hugh||Tapsell, Peter||Wall, Patrick|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss side)||Webster, David|
|Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)||Whitelaw, William|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Robson Brown, Sir William||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Thomton-Kem8ley, Sir Colin||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Roots, William||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Worsley, Marcus|
|St. Clair, M.||Turner, Colin||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Sharpies, Richard||Tweedsmuir, Lady||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Shaw, M.||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Mr. Michael Hamilton and|
|Shepherd, William||Vane, W. M. F.||Mr. Batsford.|
|Ainsley, William||Harper, Joseph||Parker, John|
|Albu, Austen||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Peart, Frederick|
|Barnett, Guy||Hilton, A. V.||Pentland, Norman|
|Beaney, Alan||Holman, Percy||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Blackburn, F.||Houghton, Douglas||Prentice, R. E.|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.W.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Boyden, James||Hunter, A. E.||Probert, Arthur|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Janner, Sir Barnett||Reynolds, G. W,|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Rhodes, H.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Kelley, Richard||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Callaghan, James||Lawson, George||Russell, Ronald|
|Carmichael, Nell||Ledger, Ron||Short, Edward|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Cliffe, Michael||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Small, William|
|Collick, Percy||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Crosland, Anthony||Lipton, Marcus||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Dalyell, Tam||Loughlin, Charles||Steele, Thomas|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||MacColl, James||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Deer, George||MacDermot, Niall||Stonehouse, John|
|Dodds, Norman||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Stones, William|
|Doughty, Charles||Mapp, Charles||Swingler, Stephen|
|Driberg, Tom||Marsh, Richard||Taverne, D.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Mayhew, Christopher||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Mellish, R. J.||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermilne)|
|Evans, Albert||Millan, Bruce||Thornton, Ernest|
|Finch, Harold||Milne, Edward||Tomney, Frank|
|Fitch, Alan||Mitchison, G. R.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Fletcher, Eric||Morris, John||Warbey, William|
|Forman, J. C.||Neal, Harold||Weitzman, David|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Whitlock, William|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Ginsburg, David||Oliver, G. H.||Willey, Frederick|
|Grey, Charles||Oram, A. E.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Oswald, Thomas||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Padley, W. E.||Woof, Robert|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Paget, R. T.||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Gunter, Ray||Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Pargiter, G. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Redhead and Mr. McCann.|
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMANleft the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.