HC Deb 24 October 1972 vol 843 cc1115-21

Lords Amendment: No. 183, in page 94, line 11, at end insert new Clause D: D. Two or more local authorities may make arrangements for defraying any expenditure incurred by one of them in exercising any functions exercisable by both or all of them.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This new Clause enables local authorities to make arrangements among them- selves for defraying expenditure on concurrent functions. The Association of Municipal Corporations is particularly concerned to avoid a situation in which a district is doubly charged for a service, such as swimming pools, if the district provides them within its area but they are also provided by the county elsewhere within the county boundary.

Ideally the association would like a rigid statutory formula which would permit the district to get abatement of the county precept if the district exercised a concurrent function. Such a proposition would, as the AMC recognises, run counter to the philosophy of the reorganisation, that we are creating competent and responsible bodies which can be relied on generally to make their own arrangements with each other. Thus the new Clause conforms with the same principle for which I was arguing in the last debate.

The new Clause goes as far as possible to meet the AMC's concern. It makes clear that local authorities may make arrangements between themselves about the cost of carrying out a concurrent function but it does not dictate the nature of the arrangements in any way. In the case of concurrent functions, it will be up to each authority to decide how to exercise its power. We cannot say that if a district provides a swimming pool it should be let off a certain proportion of the rates or county precept for swimming pools applied elsewhere in the county. It would confuse local government too much if we tried to dictate from the centre. If local authorities choose to make a voluntary arrangement among themselves by contribution, that will be splendid. In this Clause we merely enable local authorities to make arrangements among themselves for defraying expenditure on concurrent functions.

Mr. Denis Howell

Again the House is faced with the absurdity of the Government's proposals for two-tier government. A division of responsibility has been put into the Bill in a most illogical manner which will have the most ridiculous repercussions for ratepayers. The Minister has very fairly set out the position, but there is a fear among many district councils and the AMC and others that in the case of a number of services, particularly museums, parks, recreational facilities, off-street parking and even industrial development, ratepayers in some districts will be asked to pay twice for the service. That is the concern which I express.

The Government have recognised the dilemma which their Bill has produced by supporting Lords Amendment No. 183. Unfortunately they have not made it mandatory. It is permissive; the word "may" appears in it. I wish to illustrate the situation which may well arise. If a district council provides, under the new local government set-up, a sports centre for its citizens, it will pay for it with the appropriate help from the rate support grant. If subsequently the county council says "We want another sports center", perhaps a regional sports centre at the other end of the county, it will be able to precept on the district council even though the citizens living in the district council will not use the centre, which in Devon, for example, may be 50 or 80 miles away. It is clearly a monstrous proposal that the ratepayers should pay twice, once for what they provide themselves and subsequently in respect of the provision made by the county council.

Mr. Page

Is not that exactly the present position? There is no power in the Secretary of State to direct that there shall be an allowance on the county precept because the district provides something of that sort.

Mr. Howell

I do not think it has ever arisen, certainly not in the six years during which I was Minister for sport, for the simple reason that we were not then building regional centres, but now we are. Certainly we did not build many swimming pools, I regret to say. We built more than had been built before, but capital for local authority projects was very limited by the capital budget.

This has now become a real problem. Whether or not the Minister was right

in saying that this is the present position, we are now looking at the question of local government de novo. We are trying to get it right. If the situation was wrong previously, this is the moment to put it right.

If this happens in the range of services which I have mentioned, what fair machinery will be created to put it right? If we do not put it right, there will be a sense of grievance among many ratepayers that they are paying twice. Clearly their grievance must be met.

The Minister has gone part of the way to meet the grievance by saying that local authorities may make arrangements. In other words, he is hoping that two local authorities concerned will be reasonable people and will reach a reasonable agreement. However, time and again as we have gone through the Bill we have observed the division of responsibility between a county authority and a district authority, and the Minister has had to write into the Bill provision for the settlement of disputes, because he knows perfectly well that often neighbouring local authorities can adopt the most unreasonable attitudes towards each other. There is no such machinery in this new Clause, and that is what gives rise to great concern on these benches. It is particularly of concern to the Association of Municipal Corporations.

We should like the Minister to say that he will make arrangements which will be much more definitive in this matter and see that in no circumstances, where he is dealing with concurrent functions and expenditure, should the ratepayers be imposed upon twice for one set of services. I hope that he can meet us on this. If he cannot I must advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to register in the Division Lobby their dismay at that prospect.

Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 149, Noes 131.

Division No. 351.] AYES [9.45 p.m.
Adley, Robert Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Bray, Ronald
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Benyon, W. Brewis, John
Atkins, Humphrey Berry, Hn. Anthony Brinton, Sir Tatton
Awdry, Daniel Biggs-Davison, John Bryan, Sir Paul
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Body, Richard Carlisle, Mark
Batsford, Brian Bossom, Sir Clive Chapman, Sydney
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Bowden, Andrew Clark, William (Surrey, E.)
Clegg, Walter Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Cooke, Robert Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Redmond, Robert
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Hunt, John Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Cormack, Patrick Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Rees, Peter (Dover)
Costain, A. P. Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Rees-Davies, W. R.
Crouch, David Kinsey, J. R. Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Crowder, F. P. Kirk, Peter Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Dean, Paul Knox, David Rost, Peter
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Lamont, Norman Russell, Sir Ronald
Dykes, Hugh Lane, David St. John Stevas, Norman
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Le Marchant, Spencer Scott, Nicholas
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) MacArthur, Ian Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Eyre, Reginald McCrindle, R. A. Sinclair, Sir George
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy McLaren, Martin Skeet, T. H. H.
Fidler, Michael McNair-Wilson, Michael Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Soref, Harold
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Maddan, Martin Speed, Keith
Fookes, Miss Janet Madel, David Spence, John
Fowler, Norman Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Sproat, Iain
Fox, Marcus Mawby, Ray Stainton, Keith
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Stanbrook, Ivor
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Meyer, Sir Anthony Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
Goodhart, Philip Miscampbell, Norman Stokes, John
Goodhew, Victor Mitchell,Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire,W) Sutcliffe, John
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Gray, Hamish Moate, Roger Tebbit, Norman
Green, Alan Monks, Mrs. Connie Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Monro, Hector Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Gurden, Harold Montgomery, Fergus Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Hall, John (Wycombe) More, Jasper Tugendhat, Christopher
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hannam, John (Exeter) Morrison, Charles Ward, Dame Irene
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Murton, Oscar Weatherill, Bernard
Hastings, Stephen Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Wiggin, Jerry
Hawkins, Paul Osborn, John Winterton, Nicholas
Hayhoe, Barney Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Heseltine, Michael Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Parkinson, Cecil
Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Percival, Ian Younger, Hn. George
Holt, Miss Mary Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hordern, Peter Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Mr. Micheal Jopling and
Hornby, Richard Quennell, Miss J. M. Mr. Tim Fortescue.
Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) McGuire, Michael
Allen, Scholefield Golding, John Mackenzie, Gregor
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Gourlay, Harry Maclennan, Robert
Ashton, Joe Grant, George (Morpeth) McNamara, J. Kevin
Atkinson, Norman Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Marks, Kenneth
Bennett, James(Glasgow, Bridgeton) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Bidwell Sydney Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Bishop, E. S. Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Millan, Bruce
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hardy, Peter Miller, Dr. M. S.
Broughton, Sir Alfred Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Milne, Edward
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Heffer, Eric S. Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Horam, John Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Huckfield, Leslie Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Carmichael, Neil Hughes, Mark (Durham) Murray, Ronald King
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Oakes, Gordon
Concannon, J. D. Hunter, Adam Oswald, Thomas
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Janner, Greville Paget, R. T.
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Palmer, Arthur
Dalyell, Tam Jeger, Mrs. Lena Parker, John (Dagenham)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) John, Brynmor Pendry, Tom
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Pentland, Norman
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kaufman, Gerald Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Kelley, Richard Prescott, John
Deakins, Eric Kerr, Russell Probert, Arthur
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Kinnock, Neil Rhodes, Geoffrey
Dempsey, James Lambie, David Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dormand, J. D. Lamborn, Harry Roberts, Rt.Hn.Goronwy(Caernarvon)
Duffy, A. E. P. Latham, Arthur Robertson, John (Paisley)
Eadie, Alex Lawson, George Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor)
Ewing, Harry Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Faulds, Andrew Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Foot, Michael Lipton, Marcus Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Ford, Ben Lomas, Kenneth Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Forrester, John Loughlin, Charles Silverman, Julius
Freeson, Reginald Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Skinner, Dennis
Gilbert, Dr. John McBride, Neil Spriggs, Leslie
Strang, Gavin Wainwright, Edwin White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Swain, Thomas Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.) Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Tinn, James Wallace, George
Torney, Tom Watkins, David TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Tuck, Raphael Weitzman, David Mr. Joseph Harper and
Varley, Eric G. Wells, William (Walsall, N.) Mr. Ernest G. Perry.

Question accordingly agreed to. [Special Entry.]

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