HC Deb 19 July 1972 vol 841 cc717-60


Mr. Speed

I beg to move Amendment No. 1075, in page 255, line 20, leave out paragraph 3 and insert: — '3. Proviso (a) to section 7(1) shall cease to have effect'. A subsequent Amendment in relation to repeals, relating to Schedule 30, Amendment No. 1084, will remove reference to Section 3(2) of the Public Health Act, 1936. The new paragraph 3 repeals a provision in the 1936 Act which enables Ministers to authorise local authorities to exercise functions concurrently with joint boards. Consequently this drafting Amendment is needed.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Arthur Jones (Northants, South)

I beg to move Amendment No. 493, in page 255, line 27, leave out from 'a' to 'and' in line 33 and insert: 'metropolitan county by the county council, in Greater London by the Greater London Council, and in a non-metropolitan county by the district council'. I hope that it will be convenient to deal also with the other Amendments in this group, namely:

No. 879, in page 255, line 27, leave out from 'a' to 'and' in line 33 and insert: 'metropolitan county by the county council or district council, in Greater London by the Greater London Council, and in a non-metropolitan county by the district council'.

No. 494, in page 255, line 39, leave out 'or'.

No. 495, in page 255, line 40, after 'council', insert 'or the district council'.

No. 496, in page 255, line 41, leave out 'or'.

No. 497, in page 255, line 42, after 'Council', insert 'or the district council'.

No. 498, in page 255, line 45, leave out second 'and'.

No. 499, in page 256, line 1, after second 'Council', insert 'or the district council'.

No. 500, in page 256, line 1, leave out 'or'.

No. 501, in page 256, line 1, after second 'Council', insert 'or the district council'.

No. 502, in page 256, line 5, after 'authority', insert: 'other than a district council in a non-metropolitan county'.

No. 503, in page 256, line 16, after 'authority', insert: 'other than a district council in a non-metropolitan county'.

No. 504, in page 256, line 25, after 'authority', insert: 'other than a district council in a non-metropolitan county'.

No. 505, in page 256, line 31, after 'authority', insert: 'other than a district council in a non-metropolitan county'.

No. 506, in page 261, line 39, after 'England', insert 'in a metropolitan county'.

No. 507, in page 261, line 40, after 'county', insert: 'in a non-metropolitan county the council of a district'.

No. 508, in page 261, line 40, after first 'and', insert 'in Greater London'.

The purpose of this group of Amendments is to enable the new district councils in England, other than those in metropolitan areas, to exercise functions of refuse disposal in conjunction with the powers which it is proposed to grant to them in respect of refuse collection.

The Government intend that in non-county districts the functions shall be divided. The new district councils are to be responsible for refuse collection, but not for its disposal. There appears to be a dichotomy in these arrangements. The places to which refuse will be taken will lie in most cases in the area of the district council which is collecting it. It therefore appears to be misguided to take this function out of the hands of the district councils which have the responsibility for this work at present.

I have examined carefully the statements made upstairs in Committee by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development, and he appeared to stress the fact that we are moving to a state of affairs in which there is a greater sophistication and elaboration in techniques of refuse disposal. However, I am not sure that this advance is likely to be put into practice generally for many years.

Most authorities dump refuse and this in most cases is bound to be a satisfactory and cheap method. I see that my right hon. Friend the Minister does not agree with that statement, but I think he will agree that it is the most widespread method of refuse disposal, and is one way of restoring and reclaiming land which has been subject to mineral abstraction. The method if properly handled is satisfactory. It can be badly handled, and perhaps that is why my right hon. Friend appears to disagree with me on this point.

To talk in terms of using incinerator techniques in rural parts of the country is to ignore current practices of sewage disposal in those areas which I believe will continue for a long time. There may be a different approach to refuse disposal in built-up urban areas where one has high densities. However, there are not always adequate dumping grounds for refuse and we need to search for better and improved methods of disposal.

Many of the proposed district councils have already gone in for improved disposal techniques. Details have been given in the report of the Working Party on Refuse Disposal, published in 1971. A number of authorities were said to have instituted incineration and pulverisation methods of refuse disposal. A more up-to-date example is the construction of an incinerator in the Blaby rural district to deal with refuse from a number of authorities in the area, including part of the Leicester County Borough. Even in a situation where proved disposal methods are used, it is not right to assume that the responsibilities are placed in the hands of county authorities.

The size of district councils will make it economic to run these improved techniques of disposal and the enlarged new districts will be capable of operating the new methods efficiently and satisfactorily in addition to the controlled tips which my right hon. Friend criticises but which I am confident will be operating for many years to come. At the same time I agree that we muse insist upon high standards of management.

I ask the Government to have further thoughts on this and to recognise the practical difficulties which I believe will ensue from these proposals. In many cases we shall find that the disposal units and the refuse collection areas will lie within the districts which are collecting the refuse, and yet they will be operated by the county councils. I cannot think that this is a satisfactory method of integrating these two services. I am convinced that if it is left to the districts they will get together where joint schemes are advisable and necessary and that this whole problem of disposal can be dealt with on the basis of district councils operating with one another rather than on the broad concept of the county council having these powers.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

I wish to oppose the Amendments dealing with refuse disposal. The large incinerator at Blaby to which my hon. Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) referred lies in my constituency. I have been to see it. It is a very expensive project which, even with the new enlarged district councils, I should have thought was well beyond the capacity of one district council to provide.

My hon. Friend will remember that in its 1971 Report the Departmental Working Party on Refuse Disposal recommended that the disposal of refuse should remain in the hands of the local county authorities. I share that view. Everyone today is greatly concerned with environmental problems, and I believe that the only way that refuse can be acceptably disposed of in the years ahead is by means of incineration or some scientific method of disposal carried out on a large scale by a county authority with the resources necessary for the task

My hon. Friend said that he thought that this matter should be in the hands of district councils. In some parts of the country I agree that it may be rather stupid to contemplate incineration on a large scale or other scientific methods of disposal. In those circumstances I urge and possibly the county councils could use the powers which they are authorised toutilise in the Bill, namely, to delegate this function to the district councils where it is thought appropriate.

Mr. George Wallace (Norwich, North)

I support the Amendment which provides that the larger district councils should retain the right to dispose of refuse. It seems logical to me that a large local authority with an efficient system of collection and disposal should remain undisturbed.

About 24 years ago, I introduced a Motion on the subject of controlled tipping. There is a considerable amount of waste land which could be recovered by this means and bear useful crops of grass within two or three years. There is a controlled tip by the Harford Cattle Market at Norwich. Many progressive local authorities have adopted controlled tipping methods and are reclaiming considerable areas of land. This is of environmental value just as much as incineration in some areas. Therefore I believe that the large district councils which have efficient systems of collection and disposal should be allowed to carry on. After all, some county councils have not a clue about proper methods of refuse disposal.

Mr. David Stoddart (Swindon)

I support the Amendment. It is quite absurd to separate the functions of collecting and disposing of refuse. There may be a conflict of policy between the two authorities. Bearing in mind the size of the new district councils, I believe that it is right for them both to collect and to dispose of refuse. Most of the refuse will come from the urban areas. Therefore in general, since the urban areas will be controlled by the district councils, it is right for the district councils to be responsible for refuse disposal.

This is an important matter. On many occasions jokes are made about it. But it is a serious problem, and it becomes more serious every year. It is important that the local authorities which have most experience in and know-how about refuse disposal should continue to have this function.

We have heard about controlled tipping and about incineration. We have not heard much about reclamation. With our resources being used up to a fantastic degree and with refuse disposal becoming more and more difficult because of the materials being used, reclamation and recycling will be a much more important function in the future than it has been in the past.

I say again that the people who will be responsible for running the district councils will have had a great deal more experience than those who will be running the county councils of both refuse collection and disposal. Rather than upset what has been a very good and efficient service until now, I hope that the House will see reason and accept the Amendment.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

I support the Amendment. I am intensely interested in the environment. I believe that the district councils have a close interest in this problem since the tips or other means of disposal will be in their areas. In Lancaster controlled tipping has provided some useful reclaimed land which is suitable for housing and factory sites.

Another point for consideration is that the more work that can be given to the district councils, the more lively the members they will attract and the more efficient the officers who will want to go to them.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

I support the Amendment. In doing so, I am inevitably pressing the point of view of my constituency experience, but I am in the happy position of knowing I have the support of my Front Bench.

The hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) made a sound environmental point, but the Amendment can also be justified on grounds of efficiency. Certainly that is true of my area.

In March this year Blackburn concluded the building of an up-to-date modern incinerator, at a most of over £750,000, which is capable of servicing the whole of the new district within which the county borough will be comprised. This has been part of its municipal pride and activity. Yet this proud county borough will find that even its incinerator is to be taken away under the provisions in the Bill. We shall have the ludicrous situation of a duplication of functions with Blackburn, a former county borough capable of running all aspects of its affairs, being told that it is good enough to pick up the refuse but not to dispose of it.

8.30 p.m.

I am delighted that there is support from both sides of the House on this matter. If the Government reject the Amendment they will destroy the last vestiges of pride and hope in the district councils they are creating.

In reply, the Under-Secretary may say, "But Blackburn is an exception. It happens to be a former county borough." As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are four county boroughs in the area which is to be turned into a county council with the former county borough reduced to district council status. If he says that Blackburn is exceptional and should not be taken as an example for other areas, he is proving the case we put to him on Monday that this exceptional area ought to be recognised as such and given metropolitan area status. However, the hon. Gentleman turned us down on that.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Quite right.

Mrs. Castle

The hon. Lady says "Quite right." Though she and I may disagree on that point, we agree that if the Government are to destroy a self-reliant, totally comprehensive local authority and to give it district council status, they must give it something to be a council for. Otherwise, why bother? Why not just create a unitary authority at county council level? What is left to an area which has a long municipal tradition of self-reliance which, if they are not careful, the Government are about to destroy?

The Amendment is modest. It does not strike at the roots of the Government's philosophy on local government reorganisation. The Government are dividing what was a unified function of refuse collection and disposal and carving it up, handing the demeaning end of the enterprise to the district councils. I urge the Government to listen carefully to the arguments that have been put forward from both sides of the House and to give something back to the district councils before it is too late.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)

I support the Amendment for a particular reason. I represent a constituency which will be a second-tier district, if the Boundary Commission follows its plans through, which many other authorities will think ideal for the dumping of rubbish. My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. William Price) has told me that when he complained about the Warwickshire County Council tipping refuse in Rugby, the county council apparently said, "We shall have to look to Nuneaton again."

I am not keen that Nuneaton should be used as a rubbish dump for Warwickshire. Many people think that an area which has many quarries and quite a few old holes from which stones, coal, and other materials have been extracted, is an ideal dumping ground not only for cyanide, which is the subject of a later Amendment, but for other materials.

I support the Amendment because we should have unification of the collection, the disposal and, above all, the reclamation of land. We cannot separate these three functions.

Other local authorities and the National Coal Board have used my constituency for the dumping of refuse material. There have been some protests in my constituency about the dumping of loads of material by other authorities and boards in connection with reclamation schemes. A constituency and a second-tier district like my own has great need to be concerned about the kind of disposal which has taken place in the past, and the kind of tipping over which it does not have sufficiently adequate powers. I am thinking of the kind of thing which we have at Bedworth and other parts of my constituency. It is my contention that the urban district council, which is soon to become part of the second-tier district, does not have sufficient powers to control this kind of tipping.

The Under-Secretary of State knows, because he represents the constituency next door to mine, that the people in the north of Warwickshire are a different bunch from the squirearchy in the south of Warwickshire. When one tells the local squirearchy in the south of Warwickshire that there are coal mines in the north of Warwickshire, they think that the coal mines and mining areas are ideal for the dumping of their rubbish. However, the Under-Secretary of State knows very well, as he often sails through my constituency, or floats through, or whatever he does nowadays, that the second-tier district councillors on the new Nuneaton, Bedworth and Atherstone District Council, or whatever it will be, have a far better detailed knowledge of the local conditions in the north of Warwickshire than the county council. That is why the town clerk of Nuneaton, Mr. Eccles, and the clerk of the Bedworth Urban District Council, Mr. Walters, have sent me telegrams this week urging me to support Amendments on refuse disposal.

Surprisingly, one even gets complaints about the seagulls which emerge from the tips which Coventry Corporation has in my constituency. I have had some complaints from the National Farmers' Union about the behaviour of the seagulls which come from Coventry Corporation's tip in my constituency. I hope that the district council will have the power to control the seagulls that visit the tips.

The councillors who represent an area at the grass roots level where all the rubbish has to be tipped or may be tipped, or may have been tipped in the past, have a far better knowledge of the conditions, and should have the kind of controls which are desirable. I find it difficult to support the idea, especially when the Under-Secretary of State has knowledge of North Warwickshire, that the Nuneaton district council will be fit only to pick up the dustbins and not to empty them. That is why it is with a great deal of pleasure, particularly thinking of the seagulls in north Warwickshire, that I support the Amendment.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

We should like to send the seagulls from Folkstone to Coventry, but it is too far away. I shall listen with interest to what my hon. Friend the Under-secretary of State says in opposing the Amendment, because it seems to make common sense. When we had 1,500 local authorities, there was a big argument about the disposal of refuse. In my constituency, after several years of negotiations, the two boroughs and one urban district council decided to build their own incinerator. Unfortunately, that has not yet gone ahead because of the Bill.

One of the most difficult problems in dealing with house and industrial refuse is the collection and the next most difficult is the disposal. We should not fool ourselves that under the new arrangement there will not be a good deal of feeling between the new district councils and the county councils. I believe that in life the great thing is to have an organisation in which Charlie cannot blame Bill. The danger is that a local authority may find good reason for not collecting refuse because the county council cannot dispose of it.

If we are to give the district councils the status that we want them to have we should lean over backwards to see what responsibilities we can give them. The more responsibilities we can give them, the better the councillors and the better staff they will get. This is a simple problem. The job of collection must be given to the district councils because of the detail involved, so surely it is logical to take the process further and let those who collect the refuse also dispose of it.

Equally, we must appreciate the possible parish pump politics which will be involved when it comes to finding refuse dumps and disposal points, or even sites for incinerators. If this is left to the county councils, there will be a great deal more opposition from each of the local authorities, each trying to make sure that everyone else's rubbish is not disposed of in its area. On the other hand, if disposal is also the responsibility of the district councils, they will have to find a place for disposal—and rubbish can be disposed of by new and modern tipping to advantage. The more we can have straight-line management and a straight line of responsibility, the better it is.

Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport):

It is pathetic that great county boroughs such as Blackburn and Plymouth have to come here and plead to be allowed to dispose of their refuse. I support the Amendment because it would give the district councils another point of action and would mean also that the people on the spot would be supervising the disposal, which is a very important aspect.

In Plymouth we have a lot of infilling. We used to have patients taken up to the Royal Naval Hospital by boat, but this is not necessary now and we are making great use of the waterway by infilling. We shall have excellent playing fields there instead. Infilling is also being done in the Royal Navy's inlets in the dock area. This, too, provides extra playing fields for the Royal Navy and more car parking facilities. We want to continue this important work and it would be unfortunate if it were stopped.

Again, supposing the district council, having collected the refuse, finds that there is a strike at the disposal dump? What does it do with the rubbish? This is not an exaggerated question. We should know what would happen in some circumstances. For all these considerations and because I think it important to leave the local districts some work to do, I support the Amendment.

Mr. Ted Lead bitter (The Hartlepools)

The Minister must on this occasion answer as a spokesman of the Government and not of the Department and explain to us why non-metropolitan districts in England are treated differently from non-metropolitan districts in Wales. This is a serious anomaly. There are to be no metropolitan counties in Wales. Under these proposals, every county in the Principality is to be a non-metropolitan county, yet they will have the functions which the metropolitan districts in England will have. If the Minister does not face this question, he will be treating it with contempt and, with his record on the Bill, I am sure that he would not like to have that charge laid against him. He should explain why a non-metropolitan district in England cannot have the kind of function which is being allowed to non-metropolitan districts in Wales.

8.45 p.m.

The question of local government functions took up a great deal of time in Committee. We are here dealing with the reputations of local authorities. Many urban areas in the new districts have many years of solid achievements behind them in discharging their functions. They therefore feel a serious sense of loss in not being called upon to perform functions in which their efficiency has never been questioned. I am reminded of the seriousness of this matter when I look at the Amendments which have been chosen for discussion. I regret that no Amendment dealing with weights and measures and food and drugs has been selected. There is no division between Conservative and Labour Members about the need to review the Government's proposals in order to give back to local authorities functions which they have carried out efficiently and in which they have a long and proud record.

If the Government accept that a non-metropolitan district should be responsible for the collection of refuse, why cannot they agree that the same authority should be responsible for its disposal? Cannot they see that there is a need for a co-ordinated, overall plan with the county made on a voluntary basis to deal with this matter? Apart from the need to deal efficiently with refuse, a serious environmental problem arises which would be met if the Minister had second thoughts about his intentions.

In Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin) said: …if, in the view of the county council, the district council is not able to discharge this function, the county council can step in and deal with it So there is a vital reserve function in the Amendment. Incidentally, I do not think that either the Minister or my hon. Friend read the Amendment properly…".—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 22nd February, 1972; c. 1807.] Our Amendment in Committee was similar to the Amendment we are now considering, but it had a very sensible proviso whereby a county council would have a reserve power to deal with the problem if a district was unable to carry out its function. My right hon. Friend indicated that the Minister was lax in not reading the Amendment properly and not making provision for this reserve power while allowing the districts to perform the function which we sought to give them.

On many occasions in the past the Minister has listened to reason and had second thoughts. Regardless of some of the contentious things that have been said during the debates on the Bill, the Minister has earned a reputation for giving way to a good case. He should agree that where no criticism can be made of the processes of collection there is a good case for having a unified system of collection and disposal. That principle has been accepted for Wales, and I hope that the Minister will see sense, listen to the voices from both sides of the House, and agree to give the same right to England.

Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)

I support the views expressed by all those who have spoken so far, with the exception of one hon. Member, in support of the Amendment. I do not go as far as the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) went in suggesting that the pride and hope of districts depend upon their having this power. The new structure of local government is based on a stronger foundation than refuse and rubbish.

My name is to the Amendment, and I hope that the Government will have second thoughts and accept the proposal put forward in it. The Government have frequently said that they want the districts to be strong. Where there is an area of doubt the Government should make the presumption infavour of passing the function to the district council. I do not think that the case has been proved against the logic of keeping the powers of refuse collection and disposal together. That is the logical case, and it is up to the Government to prove that there is a strong argument against it.

The argument that is normally put forward is that the costs of modern incineration plants are too great, but I do not think that that is borne out by the evidence. The list provided to us shows that the costs of modern incineration plants range from £250,000 to £500,000. The cost of plant at Blaby is £1 million or thereabouts. But these costs are well within the abilities and powers of the new and substantial districts. They can support the costs of incineration plants, and therefore there is no case on financial grounds for preventing them from having the power to dispose of the rubbish which the Government have graciously allowed them to collect.

There is an even stronger case for saying that districts should be allowed to maintain control over land reclaim- tion and tipping within their areas. Here I agree with the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield). In an area where there are large amounts of land to be reclaimed and where there are a large number of residents who, when the warm weather is with us, as it is now, complain bitterly about the smell and unsightly aspects of these tips—and I interpose here my welcome of the strong rules which the Government have laid down in the code on tipping—local districts with knowledge of the area and subject to local pressures will be far more responsive to ensuring that the tips are properly controlled than will a relatively remote county council.

I hope that the Government will have second thoughts about this. There is nothing in the disposal of refuse that is beyond the resources of the new districts. If greater problems arise on particular matters, I do not believe that they will not be resolved by proper co-ordination and co-operation between districts and districts, and between districts and the county council. I hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment.

Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)

I hope that we can prevail upon the Minister to look at the matter from a commonsense point of view and accept the Amendment. The vast majority of those who served on local borough and urban district councils before coming to the House certainly look at it that way.

The local council on which I served gave me power to inspect its old incenerator. This was when I was a member of the Mansfield Borough Council about eight years ago. One or two of us looked at the incinerator and recommended that it be closed at once. The council accepted our recommendation, and the tale of the council trying to get another incinerator has gradually unfolded over the last eight years.

First, we were told that the Mansfield Borough Council was not large enough to have an incinerator of its own. Our delegation to the Minister was sent away to see whether it could get other local councils involved in this incinerator plan. This we did. After some protracted negotiations we managed to get some other urban district areas involved with incineration. They have all come in together. But the point is that we now have this incinerator within the area, which covers only the area of the new district council which we shall have through the new boundaries. This has come about purely voluntarily within our area. The new incinerator is built but it has not yet started to function. In this particular area we now find that after the protracted work we shall lose the incinerator, if the Minister does not accept the Amendment, to the new county council or unitary authority.

I am particularly interested in the reason why the Minister will reject this Amendment, because most of us with experience of local government, from a commonsense point of view, would accept the Amendment without hesitation.

Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)

I oppose the Amendment. I must tell the House that I am a convert, because I used to believe that it was perfectly possible for the district councils to retain this power of refuse disposal. But after further consideration of the matter I believe that in the first instance I was wrong.

The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. David Stoddart) spoke in support of the Amendment. If we consider placing the borough of Swindon in the new district which almost certainly will exist in the future—in other words, a district which consists of the present borough plus one rural district in my constituency—and consider this new district, we find that there are two alternatives which would face the district council if it were responsible for refuse disposal. That district could invest in some incineration plant or some other form of disposal plant, or it could bury its refuse somewhere within the district.

Regarding the first alternative, bearing in mind the expense involved in incineration plants, I should have thought that the ratepayers of that new district would prefer the burden to be spread over a wider population, knowing that the plant would be perfectly capable of serving a wider population, than to bear the full financial burden themselves. Regarding the second alternative, in the foreseeable future it may well be that a number of possible tip sites become available within that new district, although not very many come to mind.

It is for that reason that I believe it is right that the county should be responsible. It seems that there will be many new districts in which it will be very difficult to find suitable tips. That being so, unless there is to be appalling controversy between new districts, it seems wise that the county should take a wide view of all the refuse disposal requirements within the county area and should plan accordingly.

9.0 p.m.

Although I oppose the Amendment, my opposition is somewhat academic. Indeed, I think that the support for the Amendment is to some extent academic, because the point may have been conceded by the Government on Amendment No. 306 propounded by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir T. Brinton) early on Tuesday morning. That Amendment states: …it shall be competent for that district council to request the council of the county in which it is situate to make arrangements under this section with the district council for the discharge of all or any of those functions", meaning functions which have been previously carried out by the district council.

The debate is somewhat academic, because the new districts in accordance with the principle behind that Amendment, the acceptance of which I regretted enormously, had claimed the right to dispose of their refuse in any case, subject to the Secretary of State's agreement. In spite of this academic but not unimportant point, I strongly oppose the Amendment.

Mr. Arthur Jones

Will my hon. Friend deal with the difference between agency agreements and responsibility for the services? He has confused the two by leaving the matter where he has.

Mr. Morrison

I accept that there is a difference between agency and responsibility. Nevertheless, a proportion of the argument which has been advanced from the district point of view arises because at present the district authorities contain the greater part of the skill which is available in refuse disposal. Although there is a difference between agency and responsibility, the pride of boroughs such as Blackburn and Plymouth would be taken care of adequately by the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster.

Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

This is the second time round for me in this argument on transfer of functions. The only consistency of attitude is that on the part of the Government: they took the same view in 1962 after the Report of the Herbert Commission. Regrettably, in those days the Association of Municipal Corporations was not prepared to accept that view. To argue that district councils should have the right of disposal in the provinces but that in the Greater London area it should be the Greater London Council outstrips almost anything.

I believe now, as I believed in those days, that the London boroughs have the facilities to carry out their own disposal. Although the duty of disposal was laid upon the Greater London Council, it did not discharge that duty but asked the London boroughs to do so, because the Greater London Council did not have the facilities for disposal. Eight years later the GLC is still not entirely responsible for disposal, although it is technically responsible for disposal.

I support the AMC view on this and abide by the views I held in 1962. I believe that the local authority can do it.

When I was responsible for getting this work done, our problem related to the number of sites oh which to dispose rubbish. We were at the mercy of speculators who have gravel pits and who held us up for ransom. When we decided to tip into the Thames, it was a question of environmental pollution caused by local government. We took it to Pitsea and dumped it in the river. The price went up and up year after year. We made seven-year contracts but at the end of the seven years there were enormous rises in costs and we were finally blackmailed into accepting them. We had no alternative. If we had not accepted the prices they were charging we would have been left with a load of rubbish and nowhere to put it.

I support the view that the boroughs and the district councils should be left to get on with it. But I hope that the proposed district councils have looked at the difficulties they may encounter. We had to face this in London and we had to resolve the problems at a great deal of expense to the ratepayers. When the transfer of London was taking place in 1963 I forecast to the then Government that it would cost us about a 10s. rate over five years for the transfer alone. That is exactly what it cost.

One of the factors in the argument is that it is intended to introduce incinerators, and hon. Members were speaking glibly about them costing £500,000 or £1,000,000.But it is a different proposition when it comes to putting a theory into practice. They may well find that after locating a suitable site for the incinerator, one which provides easy access for the heavy vehicles carrying the refuse, it will cost even more than £1,000,000.

I support the proposal but I urge those who also support it with such eagerness to ensure that the proposed district councils know exactly how much it will cost their ratepayers.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I support the Amendment. We are dealing here with a matter of cost and logic. The larger boroughs that have been carrying out these services for many years already have the equipment that is necessary for the collection and disposal of rubbish. In my constituency there is an enormous chalk pit which is being filled by the council, and when it is full, it will be used as a housing site. It will take several years to fill it. It seems absolute nonsense that a local authority the size of Gillingham which has carried out this function for many years should not now be allowed to do so.

Mr. Charles Morrison

I understand my hon. Friend's point about civic pride, but what happens when the chalk pit is full and the housing estate is built?

Mr. Burden

That will be several years ahead. If disposal is carried out at county level and rubbish is to be drawn in from all the districts and dumped in new pits, they will either have to be enormous or there will have to be many such pits.

We are talking about rubbish—but I do not think that what I am saying is rubbish. One of the essentials in the disposal of refuse is that it should be disposed of as near as possible to the point of collection, not only because it is much more economical to do so but also to minimise the risk of disease. Has my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison) thought of the size of incinerator which will be required to cope with the rubbish from the county, particularly in an area such as mine, which consists of three considerable boroughs—Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham

Where are the advantages of all this? How will it save much money? If it is carried to its logical conclusion and the local authorities are not to be allowed to carry on this function, all the equipment they now have, which must have cost a great deal of money, will no longer be used. It will be made useless.

Prompt disposal is not only desirable but necessary. What about the roads spreading out from the area in which the operations are undertaken by the council? will it be desirable to have vehicles carrying rubbish travelling often many miles and converging on the site? There may well be bottlenecks causing hold-ups and making it impossible to dispose of the rubbish as quickly as the input demands.

Therefore, I hope that my hon. Friend will give the Amendment a great deal of consideration, bearing in mind practicalities and the fact that the function has been carried on satisfactorily by the bigger boroughs that will now be formed into districts. The change will inevitably cost more because of the distances over which the refuse must be conveyed. The rubbish will in any case have to be handled just as many times as before, and therefore the transport costs will be that much higher. From the health point of view it is also better that the rubbish should be disposed of as near the point of collection as possible.

Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)

My hon. Friend says that the plant will become obsolete. Surely the county council will take it over and use it?

Mr. Burden

That is an extraordinary argument. What is now suggested is, presumably, that the county council will collect the incinerators in Gillingham, Chatham and Rochester and take them to a central point, re-establishing them there. That is an Alice in Wonderland idea, complete nonsense. Far better from every point of view to leave this whole function to the districts such as Gillingham.

Mr. Bernard Conlan (Gateshead, East)

I add my support to the voices that have advocated that district councils should remain responsible for refuse disposal. Many of the existing county boroughs are already efficiently and adequately carrying out that function. They will be enlarged by becoming part of the new district council areas. It is wrong to take away the function of refuse disposal from authorities that have been carrying it out satisfactorily.

Many county boroughs have recently invested a great deal of capital in building new incinerators for the purpose. My own county borough of Gates head has recently reached agreement with its neighbouring authorities, and they have co-operatively built a new incinerator costing many thousands of pounds which they will not now operate themselves. It is ludicrous to take the function away from those authorities which have satisfactorily carried out the work of refuse disposal and put it into the hands of the metropolitan counties and the non-metropolitan counties.

The purpose of my Amendment, No. 879, is not to be dogmatic and not to say that throughout the country the district councils should be responsible for the function. Indeed, in certain parts of the country there may be a very good reason why the metropolitan and non-metropolitan county councils should be responsible for carrying out this task. There may be, in other parts of the country, a good reason why the function should be carried out by the district councils.

My Amendment would give to the metropolitan and non-metropolitan county councils the opportunity of negotiating in certain circumstances for the district councils to carry out these functions. If the Amendment were accepted it would be found that where it was necessary and desirable for the county councils to be responsible for refuse disposal, that could be done. In other circumstances, where it was not suitable for the county councils to carry out this task, they could negotiate with the district councils to do it on their behalf. This would introduce an element of flexibility into the Bill, which could be applied throughout the country to meet the demands and circumstances in individual areas.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)

The lay public may wonder how it is that 15 hon. Ladies and hon. Gentlemen and one right hon. Lady have all spoken on the subject whether district councils or county councils should deal with the collection and disposal of refuse. The reason is perhaps more important than people outside might understand. It highlights the fundamental weakness in the Bill, the fact that since the Government have decided that there shall be two tiers of government they have to look around for powers to give to each of those tiers. I am not arguing for the unitary system because the House and the Committee have decided that that system is not the one to use. I must argue within the framework of the Bill, but it has to be pointed out that the Bill is illogical, inconsistent and is bound to give rise to the sort of anomalies about which we have heard.

After all, out of 16 speeches, 13 were wholly against the county councils having the disposal function and two were infavour, one being the speech of the convert. I always listen with great respect and admiration to the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison). He put his case with great charm and, as he has put the case both ways on this occasion, I am doubly interested in what he said. Even he had to admit that the question was largely academic. The third speech was that of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown). Here is an interesting situation. A matter of 10 years ago the Government said, "Let the county deal with disposal". Eight years have gone by in the equivalent of the district council and the London boroughs are still doing the job. That is a bit of practical expertise in which we might be interested. It takes a genius to decide that refuse, to distinguish it from Gaul, is divisible into two parts. The one major function in dealing with refuse is to collect it and the other major function is to dispose of it. And never the twain shall meet—or, at least, if they do, it is probably in some little village in Warwickshire not far from the home of the Secretary of State, if my information is correct.

Mr. Leadbitter

Rotten Row!

Mr. Silkin

Wherever it may be, but never the twain shall meet administratively; and it is an absurdity, because this is all one process. I myself am not dogmatic. If the Under-Secretary of State were to say to us, "Let it all be in the county" I might very well find myself agreeing with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devizes. This might be the thing to do. If it were all to be with the district, then I certainly would find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Northants, South. But what in fact the Minister is doing is dividing it.

I have been pondering for some time—I pondered it in Committee and I am pondering it again now—how this should have arisen. I can only assume that somewhere along the line, perhaps at one of those early morning conferences which, we are told, take place in the new, trendy, whizz-kid Department of the Environment, at nine o'clock in the morning or whenever it may be, my dear friend and opponent the Minister for Local Government said, "You know, we are running out of power, we are running out of functions". I do not know, but at that moment, I imagine, the then Under-secretary, the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) said, "Eureka!"—or whatever is the Department of the Environment's equivalent to eureka—"Why do we not divide refuse up?" I can imagine the tremendous hush with which this brilliant suggestion was greeted. In the course of time, no doubt, the news of it even reached 10 Downing Street and the Prime Minister said, "I have been wondering who could sell Concorde." And that, I imagine is the explanation for the sudden rise of the present Minister for Aerospace.

Here we have not, as my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) suggested, inexperienced district councils which do not know about the disposal of refuse. On the contrary, we have those councils which have been doing it for years. It is the county councils which are ignorant of it, not district councils. I yield to nobody in my admiration for the right hon. Lady's constituency and her county borough or the hon. Lady's constituency of Plymouth and her county borough, but there are even bigger boroughs. What do we make of Bristol, for example, with a population of nearly 500,000? What is to happen there is that that conurbation—because that is what it is—with those 500,000 becomes a district council under this Bill, and, of course, is then considered quite incapable of disposing of its own refuse. A new County of Avon is created and it is to be the authority which has to dispose of refuse. In case Bristol, Plymouth, Blackburn—wherever—may feel affronted, they will be allowed to go on collecting refuse. They will be, as it were, the totters of the new local government scheme.

It does not make sense. The Minister may argue that the expertise which once lay with the county boroughs of the size of Bristol, Plymouth, Blackburn, or even smaller ones which have expertise—I am sorry I omitted Gillingham, which is a very great conurbation, I agree—will play a part in the new counties; their expertise will, but not, I gather, their incinerators. That inevitably will be so. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will flog some in Europe. I do not know. But whether that be so or not, the new county authority, unless this Amendment is carried, is to be charged with half the job, with the disposal.

If the Minister says that the county authorities can always rely on the expertise of the district councils—Bristol, Gillingham and the rest—hon. Members are entitled to ask why we should not leave the expertise with those who are already doing the job. Otherwise we shall find the London situation spreading all over the country, and this would be a catastrophe. The trouble with the Bill—

Mr. Burden

The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned the size of Bristol and its expertise. The county may well ask Bristol to undertake in its incinerators refuse disposal for the whole County of Avon, which will mean great hardship for the people of Bristol.

Mr. Silkin

I am afraid that that is what will happen, in which case, are we not entitled to ask why we should not leave it as it is? What is the justification for the change? No, it is an illogical principle. If we have to have the Bill—and I accept that it is so—which will set its seal on local government for many years to come, let us at least avoid the sillier illogicalities.

The Under-Secretary of State should say straight away that he accepts the Amendment. He has seen and heard the feeling of the House from both parties. The parties, I think, are equally united on this. If he does not accept it, I hope that the hon. Member for Northants, South will press on with the Amendment. We on this side of the House will give him all the support we can.

Mr. Speed

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) for the moderate way in which he moved his Amendment. With great respect to right hon. and hon. Members, we have been arguing on the question of refuse collection and disposal as it has been up to now. One would think that recent happenings on environmental matters and pollution of the countryside had not crossed the ken of the House. I do not, as my hon. Friend suggested, accept that the present situation on dumping is satisfactory. I regard dumping as a barbaric way of disposing of refuse and the throw-away aspects of the so-called civilised society. I go further and say that I think that fairly soon we shall get to the stage when dumping and tipping are used only for the reclamation of unsightly dumps in various parts of the countryside and paper, glass, tin cans and all the rest are things of the past. If this is to happen, we must organise ourselves differently.

I imply no disrespect to the local authorities which have been coping with the problem over the years, but several things have happened. We are getting to the stage of new technologies which will enable us to deal with the problem in a more sensible way. These new technologies are extremely expensive, and that means that we shall have to consider the problem over a much wider area than hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have been prepared to argue.

The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. David Stoddart) spoke about recycling, an extremely important matter. When one considers our comparatively limited resources, it is crazy that we should be pouring away and burying in the ground many materials and elements that could be used again. But recycling is an extremely expensive process requiring sophisticated plant and sophisticated operators and management to carry it out. We therefore have to ask our selves—

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Is my hon. Friend aware that recycling processes are used very successfully in the Channel Islands, which are not by any stretch of the imagination gigantic?

Mr. Speed

I am delighted to hear it, but, unfortunately, they are not being used in many parts of the country at the moment. The Channel Islands are not a large industrial complex. The problems of industrial and domestic waste there are nothing like the problems we face in our metropolitan counties or, indeed, in most of our counties.

9.30 p.m.

In reorganising local government we must look carefully at the system to see whether we can improve it. Clause 101 has been mentioned, and I am sure that its provisions will be the answer to points raised by a number of hon. Members. The right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and others argued "We in our county borough have a great new incinerator. It is working extremely well, and we are building up expertise." I believe that even if an Amendment on this subject had not been accepted in principle by my right hon. Friend the other evening, Clause 101 would probably have dealt with the situation. If this is done on an agency basis in terms of expertise, then no doubt Blackburn and other places will carry on with refuse disposal. The final powers rest with the county as refuse disposal authority.

Mr. John Silkin

Would the hon. Gentleman explain why a new Avon will be so much better than the old Bristol?

Mr. Speed

My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) said how terrible it was that Bristol had its new incinerator and that there would be a disadvantage because Avon would use it as well. If I were a Bristol ratepayer, and knew that my plant in Bristol was being under-utilised, I should be pleased that other people elsewhere would be sharing its cost.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

Perhaps one ratepayer of Bristol may be allowed to point out that he has received no representations from the Bristol Corporation about its incinerator or anything else connected with it.

Mr. Speed

I bow to my hon. Friend's local knowledge. This is an important point. Where there are expensive pieces of plant with a large capacity, this will be financially all to the good if it can cover a wider area. This will be taken into account by county refuse disposal authorities.

Mr. Burden

Does not my hon. Friend realise that if Gillingham now has to cart its refuse 20 or 30 miles away, it will involve Gillingham in heavy capital cost in buying the extra vehicles which will be needed to transport the refuse that extra distance?

Mr. Speed

If boroughs have existing incinerators, then I find it hard to believe that the counties will close them down. If boroughs have not the plant and have problems, then clearly the county with its greater financial resources can look at the problem overall. The county may say "We shall need an incinerator in the area of the Medway towns if there is not one there at the moment."

To think that there must be one enormous plant to cover the whole county will not necessarily be borne out in practice. The county will be highway and transportation authorities as well and will have a vested interest in seeing that access to these plants is good and sensible.

The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) mentioned his area, and indeed part of mine, as being rubbish dumps for Warwickshire. The hon. Gentleman, having looked quite recently at the problem of toxic waste in his area, must appreciate that we face massive problems of disposing of these sometimes dangerous, sometimes merely unpleasant, industrial wastes and effluents. We have passed an interim piece of legislation to try to deal with the matter in the short term. Clearly, more substantial legislationwill be needed. It is important that the disposal of toxic wastes and effluents should be properly controlled. On occasion this would need sophisticated plant, and at other times it may be that pits or holes can be used if the waste is properly controlled and treated.

We are entering a new dimension in trying to deal with the dangerous wastes which emanate from industry, and this surely means that there must be a much wider examination of the problem. The county can look at the area as a whole. rather than an individual district, which must be limited in its geographical—

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that the Amendment is not specifically about toxic wastes. I am concerned about the fact that under the Bill Warwickshire County Council will be able to tip rubbish all over Nuneaton, and Nuneaton will be able to do nothing about it.

Mr. Speed

Of course, Nuneaton Borough Council can also tip rubbish all over Nuneaton, if it wishes to do so.

Listening to some right hon. and hon. Members, sometimes I have the impression that county councillors will be powerless and ineffective. That is not my view. With the new county councils and the new councillors who will be elected to them, there will not be a faceless bureaucracy suddenly stamping into an area saying, "We shall tip all our rubbish here."

We are thinking still in terms of the past. If I thought that we should continue on the basis of the tipping which has been occurring over hundreds of years, the arguments advanced by right hon. and hon. Members might be right. However, we have to get away from the uncivilised concept of dealing with the rubbish from our factories and households in the way that we have in the past.

A number of right hon. and hon. Members have argued passionately in favour of this function remaining with the districts. Others have argued differently because they believe in the unitary system of government and, on that basis, they think that the more functions that they can give the districts the nearer they will get to their concept and that of the last Administration. We have got away from that problem, and we now have a two-tier system of government. We have to make sure that the system is effective.

The hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. Leadbitter) challenged me about Wales. It is not my brief, because we are not discussing Wales as such, but perhaps I may deal with the point if I am not out of order in doing so. A number of individual district councils in Wales will be considerably bigger than counties in this country. The new districts in Cardiganshire and Montgomery- shire are serving areas which are larger and much more difficult in terms of terrain than English counties such as Bedfordshire and Tyneside.

Mr. Leadbitter

The question of size is not relevant. The capacity of a district in terms of population and rateable value to deal with these problems is more relevant. The hon. Gentleman's original argument on the question of technology and referring to districts in England falls short when it comes to Wales, and he knows it.

Mr. Speed

Wales is a separate case. Looking at the size of the counties in Wales, clearly there are special and difficult problems for the Principality. However, we are discussing the disposal of refuse in England. Wales is a separate case and, having given those two examples of districts substantially larger than existing English counties, it is clear that there is a limit in the size beyond which one cannot go for refuse disposal.

My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison) made a very important point which was echoed by a number of other hon. Members, although they did not support his point. It is that if one had an ideal situation whereby the holes in the land that one wished to reclaim by tipping were distributed evenly, that would be fine. But that is not the situation. Some areas have land which is eminently suitable for tipping for reclamation. Others have difficulty in finding even a site for an incinerator. Again, a county is in a better position to look at the geographical spread within its own area so that reclamation by tipping can be done sensibly and so that incinerators can be sited to the best effect taking account of the very important transportation points.

My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) discussed the power and viability of district councils to deal with this problem, especially in terms of the expensive and sophisticated equipment which is required.

On the Boundary Commission designate's proposals, 190 out of the 274 proposed district councils have populations of less than 100,000. In an ideal situation the population that we would try to get to serve a sophisticated incinerator or recycling plant is more than double that. Therefore, I question whether, bearing in mind the other matters I have mentioned, it would be proper for the districts to take over.

My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) shared the doubts expressed by the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin) about the division of responsibilities. We are talking about two quite separate functions. The collection of refuse from dustbins is essentially a transportation problem. The disposal of refuse will be a problem increasingly involving fairly highly skilled technologies. The carting of refuse from A to B is admirably done and needs a great deal of scheduling, and so on, but I cannot see how it can be equated with the kind of incinerators about which the right hon. Member for Blackburn was talking, or some of the new recycling plants.

Mr. Costain

Will my hon. Friend explain a simple point? If there is a hold up with the refuse lorries going to the disposal point and the borough engineer or the new district engineer gets on to the lorry drivers and they say, "We have been delayed because of hold ups", does he then ring up County Hall and start a row about who is to blame? Would not this be better under one management so that the responsibility is clear?

Mr. Speed

That is not a very good argument. We expect the districts and counties to work well together on many of these matters, as they do now. For example, what happens if a farmer takes his milk to the creamery—this arises on a point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers)—and there is a strike at one plant, but not at another? We have many situations where goods are collected and taken to a different plant where they are processed and redistributed by a different organisation or firm. In an extreme situation it would be difficult if the process plant operatives were on strike and the lorry drivers were not, or vice versa, such as between dairies and milkmen and farmers. We cannot plan the basis of the reorganisation of an important factor like this on a situation where there may be a local disagreement with the lorry drivers or an industrial dispute of some kind.

Bearing in mind that the local authority is to be represented not only by district councillors but by county councillors and that it is in their interests that this machinery should, and I am sure will, work smoothly and adequately, we cannot pay too much attention to that kind of difficulty.

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)

The hon. Gentleman is dismissing his hon. Friend's argument too lightly. This is an important point. The collection of refuse in most of our urban cities and towns often involves a highly sophisticated bonus scheme for most of the operatives. Industrial goodwill depends on them being able to collect the refuse, dispose of it rapidly at the refuse plant, and return. Difficulties between two different employing agencies could cause great distress. We need think back only to the Lambeth strike to realise the havoc that such a situation would bring about in an industrial city.

Mr. Speed

Certainly. That could happen even if the whole operation were organised by either a county council or a district council. It does not follow that all the operatives concerned would be members of the same union. I should expect that in some of the new plants they would not be members of the same union.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned metropolitan urban areas. The Amendment does not deal with metropolitan districts. If we were to have that situation there would be an argument for making the metropolitan districts the refuse disposal authorities rather than the metropolitan counties, which my hon. Friend would not accept. There are problems which can arise over this matter. For example, if there is bad weather, the refuse collection lorries will not be able to get to the refuse collection site.

9.45 p.m.

However, these problems do not invalidate the fundamental concept that we have to get both household and industrial refuse disposal on a more rational and civilised basis. In our view, the matter has to be looked at over a wide area. Tipping will have to be confined increasingly to genuine land reclamation, and the sort of fly tipping with which we have had to put up for too long will have to stop. We shall look at not only incinerators but sophisticated new recycling plants where we can make use of the waste.

These matters lead the Government to the view that this approach will need increasing expertise and resources. I say that with no disrespect to all the excellent work which has been done so far. Where there are existing authorities which have this expertise and resources, then Clause 101 and the Amendments my right hon. Friend has promised will ensure that their expertise and resources can continue to be used. We are trying to think of the future. We are trying to achieve the cleaning up of the countryside and getting rid of refuse. We must take a long view, and I ask the House to reject the Amendment.

Mr. Arthur Jones

I am sure that we all feel that we have had a useful and interesting debate on a matter of high interest. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has made the best of a poor case. He mentioned a number of times that he considers tipping to be uncivilised. That is a damning phrase. Of course, refuse collection and disposal is not an attractive subject. However, it is a matter that needs to be dealt with in realistic terms.

There is no doubt that the arrangements for the tipping of refuse can be and are abused. On the other hand, tipping is an economical way of disposal. It is a method which ensures land reclamation and it is widely practised. It is a method which will continue for many years to come. To base one's recommendations on the belief that tipping is uncivilised and that we should see the back of it as soon as we can is idealism. It is right to take that view, but it is not practical politics. That is the top and bottom of the tipping question.

Most of the Under-Secretary of State's argument turns on the question of scale. That leads him to say that the larger the scale, the better will be the arrangements. That does not stand up to examination because of the problems of the routing of disposal and the necessity, as far as possible, to get it dumped as near as possible to the area from which it has been collected. My hon. Friend talked about recycling. Some of us have seen the research that is being done on recycling, and it is at an early stage. It will be ten, twenty or thirty years before we can get any so-called sophisticated methods of recycling.

I agree that we need great improvements in the disposal of refuse, but to base administrative matters on the necessity for highly skilled technologists—the implication was that they will be available at almost every street corner to see that refuse is sensibly put away—will not stand up to the facts of the situation.

The question of scale produces difficulties of management, and my hon. Friend skated lightly over that important part of the problem. He avoided the question of experience which lies with the existing district authorities. The counties have no such experience. He pleads, as some of my other hon. Friends have done, the benefit of the agency system, but to reveal the thinking that lies behind this proposal one has only to refer to the comments in Committee by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development, when he said: I think that there would be only a few occasions in future when the county would arrange for a disposal function to be carried out by a district…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 22nd February, 1972; c. 1797.] To say that in terms of refuse disposal is to ignore a tremendous amount of the difficulties and the problems which this public service provides. The solution, if it is a question of scale, lies in the getting together of those district councils and county boroughs which have the experience.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) took up my point about Blaby Rural District Council and the fact that the incinerator lies within his constituency. He made a case for co-ordination and co-operation of the services. But there, Blaby RDC, Wigston UDC and Leicester county borough got together and saw that the best solution lay in the development of an incinerator. It cost £1½ million and it provides disposal at a very low cost per head £1.16 for Blaby, £1.19 for Wigston and £0.42 for Leicester county borough. Those figures provide the best prospectus for the effective disposal of refuse.

Mr. Farr

The joint population served by the incinerator at Wigston is almost as much as the total population of one of the new counties proposed under the Bill for England and Wales.

Mr. Jones

That point adds to my argument. The best method was for those three authorities to get together, so where lies the argument for changing the system and putting all the responsibility on the counties?

I was interested to note the conversion of my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison), because in Committee he made a very constructive proposal—that the districts should have the responsibility for disposal and that in the absence of an effective arrangement the county should be given some responsibility for adjudication whether the service was being adequately conducted. I felt that to be a good suggestion and a sensible compromise in the light of the Government's determination, so it

appears, to involve the counties in the question of disposal.

I am disappointed but not surprised by the reply of my hon. Friend the Under-secretary of State. His case is not made out. I am sure that we shall have increasing problems and increasing reliance on agency arrangements. I am pleased to see the support in the House for the Amendment, which would do what I think should be done—that is, leave the responsibility for disposal with the new district authorities.

Question put, That the Amendment be made: —

The House divided: Ayes 190, Noes 186.

Division No. 303.] AYES [9.55 p.m.
Abse, Leo Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Albu, Austen Forrester, John McBride, Neil
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Galpern, Sir Myer McElhone, Frank
Allen, Scholefield Garrett, W. E. McGuire, Michael
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) Mackenzie, Gregor
Ashton, Joe Grant, George (Morpeth) Mackie, John
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Griffiths, Will (Exchange) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Barnes, Michael Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Marquand, David
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Marsden, F.
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Hamling, William Marshall, Dr. Edmund
Bidwell, Sydney Hannan, Wlliam (G'gow, Maryhill) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hardy, Peter Meacher, Michael
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Harper, Joseph Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Booth, Albert Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mendelson, John
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Mikardo, Ian
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Hattersley, Roy Millan, Bruce
Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.) Heffer, Eric S. Miller, Dr. M. S.
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch a F'bury) Horam, John Milne, Edward
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
Burden, F. A. Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Moate, Roger
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Huckfield, Leslie Molloy, William
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Monks, Mrs. Connie
Cant, R. B. Hughes, Mark (Durham) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Hunter, Adam Moyle, Roland
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Janner, Greville Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Murray, Ronald King
Cohen, Stanley John, Brynmor Oakes, Gordon
Coleman, Donald Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) O'Halloran, Michael
Concannon, J. D. Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) O'Malley, Brian
Conlan, Bernard Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Paget, R. T.
Costain, A. P. Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Palmer, Arthur
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Crawshaw, Richard Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Pavitt, Laurie
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Dalyell, Tam Judd, Frank Pentland, Norman
Davidson, Arthur Kaufman, Gerald Perry, Ernest G.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Davis, Clinton (Hackney,C.) Kelley, Richard Prescott, John
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Kerr, Russell Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Deakins, Eric Kinnock, Neil Price, William (Rugby)
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Lambie, David Probert, Arthur
Dempsey, James Lamborn, Harry Rhodes, Geoffrey
Doig, Peter Lamond, James Roberts, Rt.Hn.Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Dormand, J. D. Lawson, George Roper, John
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Leadbitter, Ted Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Dunnett, Jack Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Rowlands, Ted
Eadie, Alex Leonard, Dick Short,Rt. Hn.Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Edelman, Maurice Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
English, Michael Lipton, Marcus Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Evans, Fred Lomas, Kenneth Sillars, James
Ewing, Henry Loughlin, Charles Silverman, Julius
Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Skinner, Dennis Tuck, Raphael Whitlock, William
Small, William Urwin, T. W. Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Spearing, Nigel Vickers, Dame Joan Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Spriggs, Leslie Wainwright, Edwin Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Steel, David Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Stoddart, David (Swindon) Wallace, George Winterton, Nicholas
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Watkins, David Woof, Robert
Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John Weitzman, David
Strang, Gavin Wells, William (Walsall, N.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Taverne, Dick White, James (Glasgow, Pollok) Mr. Ernest Armstrong and
Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy White, Roger (Gravesend) Mr. John Golding
Torney, Tom
Adley, Robert Grieve, Percy Page, Graham (Crosby)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Gummer, Selwyn Peel, John
Astor, John Gurden, Harold Percival, Ian
Atkins, Humphrey Hall, John (Wycombe) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Price, David (Eastleigh)
Benyon, W. Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Berry, Hn. Anthony Hannam, John (Exeter) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Biffen, John Hastings, Stephen Raison, Timothy
Biggs-Davison, John Havers, Michael Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Hiley, Joseph Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Body, Richard Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Redmond, Robert
Boscawen, Robert Holland, Philip Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bossom, Sir Clive Hordern, Peter Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Bowdon, Andrew Hornby, Richard Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Bray, Ronald Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Howell, David (Guildford) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hunt, John Rost, Peter
Bryan, Paul Iremonger, T. L. St. John-Stevas, Norman
Bullus, Sir Eric Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Carlisle, Mark Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Sharples, Sir Richard
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Jessel, Toby Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Chapman, Sydney Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Shelton, William (Clapham)
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Jopling, Michael Skeet, T. H. H.
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Smith, Dudley (W'wick & 'L'mington)
Clegg, Walter Kaberry, Sir Donald Soref, Harold
Cockeram, Eric Kilfedder, James Speed, Keith
Cooke, Robert King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Spence, John
Cooper, A. E. King, Tom (Bridgwater) Sproat, Iain
Cormack, Patrick Knox, David Stainton, Keith
Critchley, Julian Lambton, Lord Stanbrook, Ivor
Crouch, David Lane, David Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
Crowder, F. P. Langford-Holt, Sir John Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid,Maj.-Gen.James Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Stokes, John
Dean, Paul Le Marchant, Spencer Tapsell, Peter
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Longden, Sir Gilbert Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Dixon, Piers Loveridge, John Tebbit, Norman
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Luce, R. N. Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Drayson, G. B. MacArthur, Ian Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Dykes, Hugh McCrindle, R. A. Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Eden, Sir John McMaster, Stanley Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest) Tugendhat, Christopher
Elliot. Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Maddan, Martin Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Mather, Carol van Straubenzee, W. R.
Emery, Peter Mawby, Ray Waddington, David
Eyre, Reginald Meyer, Sir Anthony Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Farr, John Mills, Peter (Torrington) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Fell, Anthony Miscampbell, Norman Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Fidler, Michael Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Ward, Dame Irene
Finsberg. Geoffrey (Hampstead) Money, Ernle Weatherill, Bernard
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Monro, Hector Wiggin, Jerry
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Montgomery, Fergus Wilkinson, John
Fookes, Miss Janet Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Fowler, Norman Morrison, Charles Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Mudd, David Woodnutt, Mark
Fry, Peter Murton, Oscar Worsley, Marcus
Gibson-Watt, David Neave, Airey
Goodhew, Victor Normanton, Tom
Gower, Raymond Onslow, Cranley TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Mr. Paul Hawkins and
Gray, Hamish Osborn, John Mr. Marcus Fox.
Green, Alan Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)

Question accordingly agreed to.

It being after Ten o'clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.

Ordered, That the Local Government Bill may be proceeded with at this day's Sitting, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Kenneth Clarke.]

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.

Mr. Speaker

Amendment No. 687.

Mr. John Silkin

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not expect that the Leader of the House will make a statement, because he may be a little too busy now to do so, but I hope that the Government, having listened to the voice of the House on this occasion, will not attempt to reverse the decision of the House in another place. I should be grateful for a statement to that effect.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Peter Walker)

The Government carefully considered a number of reports on this topic, published by the previous Government, which advocated that refuse disposal should be organised on much larger areas. So I hope that perhaps, in the time available to us, both sides of the House will carefully consider the effects on environmental policies and pollution of this particular decision.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate this.

Mr. Speed

I shall not move Amendment No. 687 now, Mr. Speaker, in view of the previous vote. This part of Schedule 14 would have to be redrafted.

Mr. Speed

I beg to move Amendment No. 1076, in page 256, line 44, leave out 'or a local authority' and insert— 'a local authority or a parish or community council'. This is what I call the Clochemerle Amendment. It extends to parish and community councils the powers in Section 87(1) and (2) of the Public Health Act, 1936, to provide public conveniences in proper and convenient situations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison) moved a similar Amendment in Committee and argued that such a power is particularly important to parishes in tourist areas and in picturesque villages which attract large numbers of visitors. At that time we fully accepted the intention of my hon. Friend's Amendment. This Amendment does not differ in substance from that originally tabled. I commend it to the House.

Mr. Robert Cooke

My hon. Friend may not wish to answer this point to night, but would he consider redesigning those terrible signs which are erected in connection with the conveniences about which weare talking? I hope that he will reconsider the rather revolting signs which are scattered around the countryside in this connection.

Mr. Speed

This is essentially a matter for the local authority. In as much as we are adding to the local authorities which can do this, perhaps there will be more artists in the parishes and some local authority areas.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Speed

I beg to move Amendment No. 1090, in page 258, leave out line 26 and insert— '(a) so much of section 160 of the PublicHealth Act 1875 as incorporates the provisions of the Towns Improvement Clauses Act 1847 with respect to the naming of streets (hereafter in this Schedule referred to as "the original street-naming enactment"); (aa) section 171(4) of the said Act of 1875'.

Mr. Speaker

With this Amendment it will be convenient to consider Government Amendments Nos. 1091, 1092, 1093 and 1094.

Mr. Speed

These Amendments are designed to rationalise the provisions re- lating to street naming and house numbering as they apply to the new local authorities. There are two codes of law relating to street naming. The first, embodied in the Towns Improvement Clauses Act, 1847, as incorporated in the Public Health Act, 1875, the original street naming enactment, and in the Public Health Acts (Amendment) Act, 1907, empowers local authorities to assign names and numbers of streets, or to alter the name of any street with the consent of two-thirds in number and value of the ratepayers in the street.

The second code is in the Public Health Act, 1925, and gives similar powers to urban authorities as to the original naming of streets. It gives the initiative for changing a street name to urban authorities with the right of appeal to petty sessions by any aggrieved person.

The 1925 provisions, which are more comprehensive and appropriate for urban areas, have to be brought into force for local authority areas and, where they have not been brought into force, the older provisions apply. Therefore, a new district may invent areas to which different provisions apply. These Amendments enable a local authority at any time to choose which provisions shall apply in its area. They differ from the Bill as drafted in clarity and in that previously the choice would have been available only before 1stApril, 1965.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)

I take the strongest possible exception to the form of Amendment No. 1092. The Government have done some ghastly things, but they should not murder the English language. Line 1 of subsection (2) contains the word "disapplying". No dictionary in the Library—I have consulted all of them—contains this word. This is intolerable. Unless the Minister will give me a firm undertaking to withdraw the Amendment or alter the wording in another place, I shall have to advise my hon. Friends to vote against the Amendment.

Mr. Speed

I readily give that assurance.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 1091, in page 258, line 28, after 'sections', insert '21'.

No. 1092, in page 258, line 34, leave out from beginning to end of line 12 on page 159 and insert— '(1) Subject to sub-paragraphs (2) and (4) below, a local authority may after giving the requisite notice resolve that any of the enactments mentioned in paragraph 24 above shall apply throughout their area or shall cease to apply throughout their area (whether or not, in either case, the enactment applies only to part of their area). (2) A resolution under this paragraph applying or disapplying the original street-naming enactment, section 21 of the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1907 or section 17, 18 or 19 of the Public Health Act 1925 through out a local authority's area may be passed at any time, but any other resolution under this paragraph must be passed before 1st April 1975. (3) A resolution under this paragraph applying either of the following provisions, that is to say, section 21 of the said Act of 1907 or section 18 of the said Act of 1925, through out an area shall have effect as a resolution disapplying the other provision throughout that area and a resolution under this paragraph applying either of the following provisions, that is to say, the original street-naming enactment or section 19 of the said Act of 1925, throughout an area shall have effect as a resolution disapplying the other provision throughout that area. (4) A resolution under this paragraph applying or disapplying section 171(4) of the Public Health Act 1875 throughout an area shall not have effect unless approved by the Secretary of State'.

No. 1093, in page 259, line 14, leave out 'or (3)'.

No. 1094, in page 259, line 20, leave out from 'resolution' to 'any' in line 22 and insert— 'applying or disapplying section 171(4) of the Public Health Act 1875 throughout'.

No. 1077, in page 259, line 38. after '19', insert '75'.

No. 1078, in page 260, line 12, after '14', insert 'or 75'.—[Mr. Speed.]

Mr. Speed

I beg to move Amendment No. 1079, in page 260, line 30, leave out pararaph 33 and insert— '33. In section 16(1) of the Public Health Act 1925 the words from "in relation" to "county council or" shall cease to have effect'. This Amendment removes a duplication. Section 16 of the Public Health Act, 1925, imposes various restrictions on the exercise by local authorities of certain functions, including a requirement that the county council shall be consulted where the power to be exercised is in a road maintained by the county council. The only provision left to which Section 16 applies is Section 14 of the 1925 Act which gives powers to provide seats and drinking fountains. Section 14 is included in paragraph 28(b) of Schedule 14, so that district councils need the highway authority's—that is, the county council's—consent before exercising their powers in relation to a highway. It is unnecessary, therefore, to retain the words to be repealed, which are covered by the requirement in paragraph 28(b).

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 1002, in page 260, leave out lines 35 to 37 and insert— '34. In section 3(1) of the Parish Councils Act 1957, for the words from the beginning to the word "council", in the second place where it occurs, there shall be substituted the words "The council of a parish or community or, in the case of a parish for which there is no parish council" and for the words "in that part of the parish, as the case may be" there shall be substituted the words "community, or in any part hereof" '.—[Mr. Speed.]

Mr. Speed

I beg to move Amendment No. 1095, in page 261, line 6, at end insert— '37A.—(1) In section 38(1) of that Act for the words "the medical officer of health for any district" there shall be substituted the words "a registered medical practitioner nominated by the local authority for a district" and for the words from "the medical officer of health", in the second place where they occur, to the end there shall be substituted the words "a registered medical practitioner so nominated". (2) In section 38(2) of that Act for the words from "the medical officer" to the end there shall be substituted the words "a registered medical practitioner so nominated to enter any premises, and for the purposes of that subsection that practitioner shall, if not an officer of the local authority, be treated as one." '. Section 38(1)(1) of the Public Health Act, 1961, gives power to a justice of the peace to order a medical examination of a person who may be or may have been suffering from a notifiable disease. Section 38(2) of the same Act enables a justice of the peace to grant a medical officer of health powers of entry.

Paragraph (1) of the Amendment replaces the first reference to medical officer of health by a reference to a registered medical practitioner nominated by the local authority for a district and the later reference to "the medical medical officer of health" by a registered medical practitioner so nominated". These are consequential and definitive Amendments which have no substance.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I welcome the Amendment but it is a little more than merely definitive. It introduces further clarity into these matters which I raised in Committee. Many of us were disturbed about the interregnum which it appears there will be between the provisions in the Bill eliminating the requirement that a medical officer of health in this case shall be appointed by the local authority, and the new provisions likely to arise under the reorganisation of the Health Service.

I raised the particular point about notification of infectious diseases in Committee because there appeared to be at that stage no precise medically qualified provision of anyone to take up the rôle of the medical officer of health. We welcome the provision made here to ensure that there will be a qualified medical practitioner at least to carry out the very important rôle that the medical officer of health has discharged in the past in order to help protect the health of the community. I only regret that so far we have had no clear statement as to what the detailed proposals are to be under the National Health Service, not only for this but for other cases where in the past the medical officer of health has discharged his functions.

We do not have anything to deal with what I believe is a scandalous position of the public health inspector. I shall be glad to have from the Under-Secretary, therefore, while not wanting in any way to delay the business, an assurance that there will be a statement at an early date of the detailed arrangements to be made on the National Health Service about this and other matters for which the medical officer of health has been responsible in the past.

Mr. Speed

The hon. Member will realise that I cannot commit my colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Security in such a way at this time of night. I have noted what the hon. Member said, but this will be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I will certainly pass the hon. Member's comments to him. A great deal of work has been going on in this field and the intention is that health service re-organisation, local government reorganisation, and local government finance re-organisation will all be effective at the same time.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 253, in page 261, line 43 leave out 'said Act of' and insert 'Health Services and Public Health Act'.—[Mr. Speed.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

The next Amendment is Amendment No. 1096.

Mr. Speed

In view of the vote taken earlier it would not be appropriate at this stage to move that Amendment. I do not intend to move it.

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