HC Deb 04 December 1984 vol 69 cc281-95

Queen's Recommendation having been signified—

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Local Government Bill, it is expedient to authorize—

  1. (a) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenses of any Minister under that Act; and
  2. (b) any increase attributable to that Act in the sums payable out of such moneys under any other Act.—[Mr. Durant.]

10.57 pm
Mr. Tony Blair (Sedgefield)

We now examine the Government's claim, in the financial memorandum, that abolition of the GLC and the six metropolitan counties will save substantial sums of money. It is that aspect, as much as any other, that undermines not just the Government's case for the Bill but their good faith in putting it.

If it were merely the case that the Government's claim of savings from abolition were wrong, the charge against the Government would be one of incompetence. As it is, that claim is not merely wrong but one that no reasonable or objective person could think established. So the charge against the Government is not one of incompetence but of deception.

Anyone charting the Government's course over the Bill would form the inescapable impression that the Government decided first on abolition and second on the reasons for it. Let us consider the manifesto upon which the Government place so much reliance for their mandate. Under the banner headline, Local Government: saving ratepayers' money", it was said that the metropolitan councils and the Greater London council had been shown to be a wasteful and unnecessary tier of government.

The pretence that the principal object of the legislation was to curb waste was reiterated continuously. On 15 December 1983 the Secretary of State said in a radio broadcast: If we have not saved very substantial sums of money after a transitional period we will have failed. Contrast that with the parliamentary answer of 29 November 1984, sent out as a press release from the Department of the Environment, from the Minister of State. Now we are told that "savings were not the Government's primary objective in introducing this reform." What had happened during this period? During those months, the metropolitan councils and the GLC had produced detailed and incontrovertible proof that the alleged savings were manifestly a sham and could not stand up to serious analysis. The Government have consigned the savings issue to a secondary role, not through any change of mind but in the knowledge that to hold to their original explanation of the reasons for abolition would cause embarrassment even to their abnormally insensitive Ministers.

The metropolitan councils instructed Coopers and Lybrand — accountants of national and international standing—to undertake an independent investigation and analysis into the Government's claims of substantial savings. The company's report, since updated, was the product of five months' intensive work based on its research. It concluded: the Government's claims for substantial savings are not supported by our analysis; indeed we conclude that there are unlikely to be any net savings as a result of the structural changes … and there could be significant extra costs. The GLC has produced an estimate of loss arising from abolition amounting over five years to £225 million. That sum has been broken down into its component parts. The detailed workings are available to the Government. Moreover, the GLC's director general—director of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy—has endorsed the figures with the sole caveat that they are probably too conservative an estimate of loss.

Against that information, the Government have produced precisely nothing — no detailed figures, no breakdown, no analysis, not even a whisper of anything more substantial than assertion. Against the hardheaded and uncontradicted detail of the metropolitan counties and the GLC, the Government have put nothing more persuasive before us than the credibility of the Secretary of State and the Minister for Local Government. In case the Secretary of State is in any doubt, his credibility over abolition has moved in direct and inverse proportion to his utterances. In the short time available to him, the Minister for Local Government has proved himself a compatible deputy.

A significant indication of the Government's credibility is the breach of an undertaking given to the House that a full statement of the Government's estimates would be made. The most we have is the parliamentary answer of 29 November. As a fulfilment of that undertaking, it is abject; but it is all we have. Its figures are repeated in the financial memorandum. They fall under three heads—none are identified in any detail. The first is a claim for rationalisation savings of £100 million, an amount which seems to have been chosen because it is a round figure. That £100 million turns out to be a saving resulting from axing 7,100 jobs. Only this Government could claim as a virtue for a piece of legislation the fact that it puts 7,100 people on the dole.

Nowhere is the £100 million broken down. It is not even allocated between the GLC and the metropolitan county councils, except on a half-and-half basis. The figure has been comprehensively rubbished by the Coopers and Lybrand report. Coopers and Lybrand estimates that with a high level of co-operation, the cost of the abolition of the six metropolitan counties ranges from a possible maximum saving of £4 million a year—not £100 million —to a loss of £9.5 million a year. With a limited level of co-operation, the loss will range from £36 million a year to £61 million a year. To put the figures in perspective, given an annual operating cost of £1.6 billion, the maximum saving is, at best, 0.25 per cent. and, at worst, the loss is 3.75 per cent. No contradiction of any substance of Coopers and Lybrand's findings has been made by the Government. That is despite those findings having been available since February 1984 and despite an invitation made in express terms by Coopers and Lybrand to the Government to participate in the making of that report which was refused. For its part the GLC has estimated its cost with no refutation.

Likewise, the Government admit a transitional cost of £40 million on a one-off basis. Again, no detail is given. Coopers and Lybrand, acting for the metropolitan counties, has estimated a loss of between £50 million and £240 million. The GLC estimates a loss of £65 million. Once more, there has been no rebuttal of those figures.

Finally, the written answer of 30 November goes on to deal with a curious matter called policy savings. If anything gives the lie to the Government's lack of good faith it is that. They say that certain early policy savings are bound to be secured. They continue: Much will depend on decisions yet to be taken by those authorities."—[Official Report, 30 November 1984; Vol. 68, c. 613.] Actually, nothing will depend on the decisions taken by those authorities. That is why the Government are so confident about savings. Those new authorities in their early life will have their precept set by the Secretary of State, their manpower controlled by the Secretary of State, and, in addition, under clause 80, an effective power will be vested in the Secretary of State by regulation to manage their affairs.

If those authorities were truly democratic, the Secretary of State's confidence would be simple wishful thinking. As it is, it is based on nothing more accountable than the length of his foot. On top of that, the policy savings do not in any sense stem from abolition. They will not be the consequence of abolition but of Government controls of local expenditure. On analysis, the policy savings turn out to be no more than a chilling euphemism for Government by ministerial decree. That is where the matter stands.

I repeat that no reasonable or objective person could believe that the Government have made out a case that the savings in the financial memorandum will be achieved. The debate preceeding this debunked utterly the notion that the Bill is put forward to make local government more efficient or accountable. The only other justification is cost. That, too, on examination turns out to be false.

The truth is that the Bill is incomprehensible except in the context of political vengeance by a Government who equate democracy, not with the right of people to vote but with their own divine right to rule.

The Government are seen without credit, without honour, without support of any more principled nature than that produced by the patronage of the Prime Minister and the power of the Whips. It is a tragedy for democracy that the Prime Minister has been able to find enough Ministers to put forward the Bill whose ambition has smothered their integrity.

The Prime Minister quoted Kipling recently in a speech on democracy. There are other words of Kipling that are rather more appropriate to the occasion before us. They are these: For undemocratic reasons and for motives not of State, They arrive at their conclusions—largely inarticulate. Being void of self-expression they confide their views to none; But sometimes in a smoking room, one learns why things were done. In the 18 months since this thing was conceived we have not yet learned the true reason why it was done. In all the Government's puff and propaganda that has surrounded the Bill we have not learned why it was done. In the debates over two days in this Chamber we have not learned it either. Some time, perhaps, we shall hear the Government confess why this thing was done. But, frankly, knowing the Government, I doubt it.

11.10 pm
Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

I declare an interest as a serving member of the West Midlands county council. My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) is the youngest Labour Member, and I am the second youngest.

This is a political measure that has nothing to do with saving money or jobs or protecting services. It is designed to kill off seven Labour authorities with which the Government have had a political argument. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield and others have said, the Secretary of State for the Environment talked at the outset about saving money. He said that the metropolitan councils and the GLC are wasteful and unnecessary. Apparently the rules of the House do not allow me to say that that is untrue in a sharper fashion than to suggest that if there is any justice in the Secretary of State's world, his nose would be about 3 ft long.

It is not true that the metropolitan councils are wasteful. Even the claim that they might be wasteful, which the right hon. Gentleman has made, must sit uneasy on a Government and Cabinet who in the past two or three days have spent hundreds of millions of pounds in advertising, in meeting the expenses of the banks and others and in depriving 50 million others of being shareholders in British Telecom.

The Government talk about £120 million being saved by the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan councils and it might be difficult for some outside the Chamber to come to grips with that sum. If £120 million were spent in a large city on bricks and mortar, it would provide a large new general hospital and half a dozen schools. There would be enough small change left over for 1,000 new council houses. Even if the Government's claim of a saving of £120 million has any validity, it is strange that in the past nine months the same Government have spent £4,500 million trying to defeat the miners. That sum could provide 40 cities with a new general hospital each, schools and council houses.

The Government's argument cuts no ice. Their central point of attack, of saving money by abolition, is one that they have been unable to sustain. In recent days the Government have spoken about an annual saving of £50 million. That will be achieved only by the abolition of over 7,000 jobs. Coopers and Lybrand, that renowned firm of chartered accountants which has been mentioned more than once in the past two days, has estimated that the real cost of abolition could be up to £69 million a year. There is a difference between the Secretary of State's figure and Coopers and Lybrand's of £1,000 million in a decade. The Secretary of State seems to have his sums wrong by rather a large amount. That must lead us to the conclusion that the Department of the Environment has the same accountants as the National Coal Board, who are adept at frying books and not merely cooking them. Those accountants must have given similar advice to the Secretary of State as that which has been given to the Secretary of State for Energy. They have been advised to answer no questions, to give no factual information and to confuse with generalities. That is all that we have had from the Government over the past six or seven months.

A study which the Government have often quoted was concocted in the late days of April and early days of May. It was a con. It was designed to show that money would be saved. It was conducted in seven district councils out of 36 and in only three of the six metropolitan council areas that they intend to abolish. Of the seven district councils on which the estimates were based, two had withdrawn their support within days. The study was completed in four working days and rushed out shortly before the May elections. It did the Conservative party no good in the west midlands. Indeed, it only lost it seats. That is the level of information and argument that we have had from the Government over the past few months to try to justify the House passing a Money Resolution to give the Secretary of State power and the necessary finance to implement the abolition Bill.

I spoke at length during the debates in May on the paving Bill—at least for longer than I shall be able to speak tonight. I illustrated then how the Bill will cost more money than the Secretary of State says it will save. I gave the example of consumer services in the west midlands. The director of consumer services has estimated in recent days that if the Bill is enacted, at least 50 per cent. more than the current expenditure of £2.6 million will be necessary to maintain the same level of services in the west midlands.

I note that one or two Tory Members are yawning. That is because there are differences between Tory Members and their offspring and Labour Members and theirs. Over the next three weeks we shall be walking round the same shops looking for toys to give to our kids at Christmas. One of the protections in the west midlands is a central regional service which investigates examples of shoddy toys. In the past year alone, that department has caused 22,000 visits to be made to trade establishments, resulting in the finding of 6,500 infringements of safety and other legislation. Such things as kids' toys are affected.

If the Bill is enacted and the consumer services are split up between the seven district councils in the west midlands, that same level of penetration — [Interruption.]—and investigation into safety legislation will not be possible. That may amuse Conservative Members and their kids. If they shop in Harrods perhaps they do not have to worry so much about safety. But some of the back-street shops in the west midlands and elsewhere need an efficient consumer organisation that can check up on safety legislation.

I shall turn briefly to another aspect of the county council's abolition as it will affect my constituents, and the west midlands as a whole. In the past five months we have had one example of the Government taking more central control of transport. They took over what is now called London Regional Transport. In the past five months, we have had an example of what will happen to the transport authorities in the six other metropolitan county councils after abolition and the setting up of joint boards. Only five months after the Government took direct control, London Regional Transport has a proposal to increase fares by 25 per cent. That is what will happen. According to all the studies, in the west midlands only 20 per cent. of the services will go back to the districts, and 80 per cent. will come under more central Government control or under the joint boards, which will have their targets and penalties set by the Government.

The west midlands needs a regional and strategic authority that is elected and accountable, and capable of tackling the massive social problems that arise from the unemployment and poverty in our area. One third of all families in the west midlands are on, or below, the poverty line. We have the worst long-term rates of unemployment in the country. We need a massive increase in public works, housing, rail, buses, hospitals and schools but instead, if the Government continue on their course after abolition, we shall get cuts that will not be alleviated by the minimal level of regional assistance that the Government announced last week.

In the past fortnight, I have had hundreds of contacts with constituents and members of the public in Coventry, particularly on the subject of transport. This afternoon the Secretary of State for Transport derided those who predicted dire consequences for transport after the Bill is enacted. In our passenger transport area we have a three-year plan that will culminate in 1986–87. It provides for revenue support of £42 million and for concessionary fare support for the elderly of £26 million. That growth in revenue support is at least at variance with the growth outlined in the Government's proposal to cut protected expenditure limits by 25 per cent. over the next three years. That "proposal" for joint boards of transport authorities will be not a proposal but an instruction to the boards to cut that expenditure by 25 per cent. over the next three years. That will mean reducing concessionary fare support for the elderly in the west midlands from £26 million to £9 million.

The present concessionary scheme in the west midlands will not be able to continue. The results will be simple. There will either be a rise in fares or a cut in services, with a consequent loss of jobs. The existence of special services for the hospitals and the disabled will be under threat. But at the top of the list will be the most loss-making route in the whole of the west midlands. It is in Coventry and is called the Coventry Easyrider route.—[Laughter.] That is right—joke about it. Come on—laugh a bit more. Conservative Members should realise that it is a special bus that has been converted to take to town disabled people who would otherwise be locked in their houses and on their estates. It allows them to go shopping. But that route will be at the top of the hit list of a joint board whose fares subsidy has been cut by this Government.

But of course, that is what we would expect from a Secretary of State for Transport who wrote the Tory policy in 1978 and not only attacked the miners, but was the author of the disgraceful cut that involved increasing the disregard for £15 to £16 and thus reducing the amount of benefit paid to the families of those who go on strike.

A Government who would cut 50p to £1 from 200,000 single parents, from unemployed men between the ages of 60 and 65, from pensioners between the ages of 70 and 85, and from the blind, the disabled and the families of striking miners would have no compunction about cutting expenditure support from joint boards of transport authorities and seeing the end of pensioners' passes.

That will not go through as easily as the Secretary of State thinks. If the Bill and the resolution are not defeated in the House this evening or in Committee, the Bill will be frustrated in the country when the Secretary of State tries to operate it.

Ministers asked what Labour's policy was on the metropolitan county councils. I shall leave the House with the two clauses from the Labour party conference at Blackpool this year. The Labour party conference resolved to conduct a campaign in May 1985 in those areas to be deprived of a vote to bring home to the electorate the Tories' undemocratic, unjustified and bigoted policies. I shall play my part in that campaign. In five months' time, at the termination of my term of office in May 1985 with the other two county councillors from Coventry, South-East Labour party, I shall resign my seat. That Labour party, although it will not select me to fight as a county councillor in May, will fight that election in the west midlands and expose everything that the Government have tried to do.

When the Government ask what Labour's policies will be towards the metropolitan councils when it returns to office, the answer is a single sentence: the Labour party conference calls on the next Labour Government to establish that an elected tier of government controls regional services. The next Labour Government will do that. The Government's intentions and hopes will be frustrated and defeated by the working people of this country.

12.21 am
Mr. Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham)

It is always interesting to follow the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist), who seems to make a parade out of pouring vinegar on to the chip on his shoulder.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

What a silly thing to say.

Mr. Conway

It may be a silly thing to say, but that is an interesting challenge coming from a public school boy on the Opposition Benches. What the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East forgets when he is trying to champion the working class is that not everyone on the Conservative Benches shops at Harrods for Christmas. Many Conservative Members come from working class homes and benefited greatly from that background.

We do not need the shouts of Opposition public school failures to tell us what this legislation will mean to people who live in urban areas.

The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) asked at the end of his poetry, "Why was it done?" I, unfortunately, could not support the Government over the paving Bill. I thought that it was wrong to bring it in and that it was brought in at the wrong time. Before I came to the House, when I led 44 Tory metropolitan county councillors in the north of England in 1981, I warned the policy and resources committee of Tyne and Wear county council that it was facing a short future. That was not just because of the rumblings in the Conservative party about the excesses of metropolitan county councils and GLC spending but because of the rumblings from the Labour-controlled metropolitan borough councils within those areas.

Time after time, one would attend joint committees of the Labour-controlled borough councils and the county councils, and there was a constant stream of niggling. The metropolitan borough councils' campaign to do away with the metropolitan councils was in some ways effective. This is by no means one-sided action by the Conservatives. The knife in the back has been skilfully placed by Labour councillors in the metropolitan boroughs, and it is they whom the metropolitan county Labour councillors must blame for a lack of support and for their demise.

Initially, it could be argued that the metropolitan county councils had a job to do. It was a Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment who urged them to get on with their structure plans. When they were doing that, perhaps with some degree of political naivety, they did not realise the excessive amount of financial expenditure that would be involved. The metropolitan county council on which I served put its completed structure plan to the Secretary of State for the Environment for approval. It retained the 26 members of that structure plan team to give advice on regional policy. The expansion of the consumer departments was carried out, admittedly at the behest of Parliament, when a Labour Government were in power. That increased expenditure.

Another matter that forced a conflict between the metropolitan borough councils and the metropolitan county councils was economic development. I feel, having served and worked with Labour councillors on economic development committees and on the regional promotional body, that it is by no means a sour political arena. There was a great deal of concurrence in the north of England about the need to take action. At that time the Tyne and Wear county council played a valuable and leading role and has a record of which it can be proud. But it then deteriorated into a farce, because economic development was not covered in local government legislation. The county council took it upon itself, because of its resources, to lead the way. Labour councillors, jealous of what the metropolitan councils were up to, said that they were going to get their fingers in the pot, too. This went on to the point where even the parish councils were getting in on the act of economic development. It deteriorated from a noble idea to a municipal farce.

The constituency of the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes), who I see is here tonight, was one of the first I visited as a member of the highways committee, believing myself to have been elected to a strategic authority concerning itself with strategic highway matters. We visited Houghton-le-Spring to view a traffic island that was causing problems outside the post office. It was a genuine problem that needed attention, but whether it needed the attention of what was supposed to be a strategic authority one very much doubts. Perhaps the downfall of the metropolitan county councils was embedded in their inception.

There were too many members of the county council ever to make it work. They were not sure what to do and they had to look for jobs to do. This does not mean that the record of the metropolitan counties must stand as a failure. I do not believe that to be the case. I am proud to have been associated with them. There were very many good, hard-working Labour councillors, as well as those of my own party who served on the metropolitan county council, where I led the Conservative group. Sadly, however, in the past year local government has brought itself into disgrace and declined because of its expenditure upon trying to save itself. It has put the cost of advertising on the rates, a matter which is not to be tackled in the Bill. I believe that it would make a considerable difference to the financial memorandum, were it to be tackled. But the metropolitan borough councils are determined to proceed along the political propaganda route that has been set out for them by the GLC and the metropolitan county councils.

I believe that it is an issue that will come back to the Floor of the House. Political propaganda on the rates should be on a very short fuse. Despite what the hon. Member for Sedgefield said in his poetic opening of this discussion, the financial memorandum will no doubt be considered in great detail. When that consideration occurs the proof of the pudding will indeed be in the eating. It will show that savings will result from the legislation.

11.29 pm
Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

I wish to state why I shall oppose the money resolution. This Bill ought to be defeated. The Secretary of State for the Environment said yesterday: The central purpose of the Bill is to provide a more local and a more accountable system of local government in London and the metropolitan counties. People in these areas will have only one local council to deal with. They will look to their local councillors to deal with complaints and queries". — [Official Report. 3 December 1984; Vol. 67, c. 35.] I have lived in the village of Maltby in south Yorkshire for nearly 30 years. Before the reorganisation of local government in 1974, the Maltby urban district council had 15 councillors from the village whom people could consult on local matters. There was also one councillor on the old West Riding council. There has always been a dualauthority system in the present south Yorkshire area. The idea of a unitary authority never arose until the election of the present Government.

Since the 1974 reorganisation, Maltby has three councillors on the Rotherham metropolitan council and one on the South Yorkshire county council. When the village had an urban district council, its population was about 14,000. Now, it is over 20,000.

As a result of the Bill, Maltby will have only three councillors. I cannot see how people in that village will have more contact with local councillors if 25 per cent. of their representation on councils is to be cut.

The Secretary of State may say that some areas have parish councils—there are some in my constituency—or town councils. But he spoke of local councillors taking decisions that would be relevant to local people, and only the South Yorkshire county council and the Rotherham metropolitan council in my constituency have any real decision-making powers. A cut in council representation in the communities that I represent will weaken the links between councillors and local people.

I received a letter yesterday from a Mr. Wilson who lives in Aston in my constituency. I should add that I have never met Mr. Wilson. He wrote: As a professional civil engineer I am used to arriving at decisions through reasoned and logical argument. I have looked high and low through the various pronouncements put out publicly by the Government to find such arguments to support the proposed Abolition. To me none are apparent that hold more than a teaspoonful of water and I presume it is merely an act of political pique pushed by a stubborn, unthinking, uncaring executive! I could not have put it better.

No public inquiry has been conducted into the disputed allegations that the Bill will save money for the ratepayers of South Yorkshire county council or anywhere else. Until that inquiry takes place — the county councils favour such an inquiry; they do not claim to be perfect—it is indeed unthinking and uncaring of the Government to push the Bill through Parliament.

11.33 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Sir George Young)

The opening speech by the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) was his maiden speech from the Opposition Dispatch Box, and I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole House when I say that the hon. Gentleman spoke with confidence and authority.

I do not agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman said and it is worth reminding him that the House gave the Bill a Second Reading by a majority of 135 — comfortably in excess of any majority that Labour Governments have achieved for their measures of social reform in the past 30 or 40 years.

Some of the hon. Gentleman's criticisms of Ministers in my Departments were aimed as much at Conservative Members who support the Bill, and I think that many of them will resent what he said.

This major piece of legislation has necessarily to deal with a number of local government functions that are exercised under a range of powers in many Acts

There will be savings for ratepayers resulting largely from the reduction of bureaucracy, but this is not the occasion to debate that side of the coin, because the money resolution relates only to the financial implications for moneys voted by Parliament. In practice, that mostly means grants of one kind or another paid from Votes to the local authorities involved.

The Bill gives rise to expenditure from Votes in a small number of cases. These include, first, an increased share of the expenses of the Museum of London. Clause 41 provides for the Secretary of State to meet two thirds of the expenses of the museum, instead of one third. Effectively, the Secretary of State will take over the share previously paid by the GLC. Secondly, they include the expenses of any new trustee body for metropolitan museums set up under clause 44.

Thirdly, clause 60 gives power to commute into capital payments certain, previously regular, small payments made to the expiring authorities in relation to smallholdings and certain housing functions. Fourthly, the expenses of the London planning commission to be established under schedule 1 will be met out of moneys voted by Parliament.

In some other cases there are changes in the expenses falling on Votes as a result of amendments being made to existing legislation. Generally, these involve grant becoming payable to successor authorities in place of the abolished authorities.

I shall deal with changes in block grant arrangements. First, clause 65 brings the new joint authorities and the new Inner London education authority into the block grant regime as direct recipients of block grant. Secondly, clause 11 provides for grant towards the expenses of magistrates courts committees in outer London to be paid to the borough councils, rather than to the GLC. Again, there is nothing in the Bill to change the total amount of grant.

Thirdly, under schedule 3, national parks grants will in future be paid to metropolitan district councils instead of to the county councils. Fourthly, schedule 11 provides that police grant shall be payable to the Northumbrian police authority, which is reconstituted by the Bill.

Finally, schedule 14 applies to the new joint authorities and the new Inner London education authority, the legislation which enables grants to be paid to authorities in urban areas with special social problems and to authorities with high-concentrations of immigrant population.

In all those cases, there is nothing in the Bill which will directly affect the total amount of grant being paid to local authorities. It is simply that the recipient authority will change.

The hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) intervened. I took the precaution of having two copies of my speech made, just in case he became aroused. He threatened the House with a by-election for the West Midlands county council next May. Before he does so, I urge him to recall that on 15 November there was a by-election for the county council. The Conservative candidate stood on the ticket of scrapping the county council and won with a 5 per cent. swing.

I have no doubt that the Coopers and Lybrand report, which the hon. Member for Sedgefield mentioned, was a professional job. However, the report was carried out for the metropolitan county councils. Actual savings will depend on decisions by the districts and other successor authorities, not only on the joint boards, as the hon. Gentleman implied.

Mr. Blair


Sir George Young

It was agreed that there was scope for savings if there was co-operation. There are oddities in the report's figures. No figures of savings from highways are postulated, but we expect substantial savings from removing duplication.

Mr. Blair


Sir George Young

I have tried to let a large number of hon. Members intervene in the debate by reducing to a minimum the time for the Government to speak on the money resolution. There have been only two speeches from Conservative Members.

In the explanatory and financial memorandum, we have set out our best estimates that savings from abolition will be about £100 million a year after transitional costs. They will come from rationalisation — from eliminating an entire tier of government and the accompanying duplication. That is not all. The GLC and metropolitan county councils are planning an overspend this year of £432 million. No one can believe that savings cannot be made from that enormous sum. I have to emphasise that savings will depend on how the boroughs and districts decide to discharge the responsibilities and functions devolved to them.

At the end of the day, what matters is not who can spend most on expensive propaganda campaigns or who can recruit the most expensive firm of accountants to try to forecast the future, nor on who said what, at which column of Hansard and when. Those matters may be of great importance inside the House, but they are a matter of enormous indifference outside. In the real world, two things will determine the real answer to today's debate—what happens to services and what happens to the rates. With regard to services, I am confident that most members of the public simply will not notice that the top tier authorities have disappeared. As for rates, I am confident that they will be lower than they would otherwise have been. That is the commitment that Ministers have to deliver and I am confident that we can do so.

In three years' time the rash commitments that Labour Members have made about exhuming the dinosaurs and putting them on a life support machine will be a source of grave embarrassment to them and to their party because people will have seen that those bodies were irrelevant, unnecessary and extravagant and a party that pledges to bring them back will have disastrous election results. For that reason, I hope that the House will support the money resolution.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

We still have not had an answer on one aspect of this. We understand from the Secretary of State and the Home Office that extra civil servants will be required to control the police expenditure of the new joint authorities. That is not a normal practice. Indeed, it is a most unusual practice. Is that accounted for in the money resolution?

Sir George Young

Under part IV, the financial effects of the Bill include precisely those considerations and subsume the manpower implications for the Government and for the local authorities concerned. The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question is in the Bill.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Will the Minister tell us, as his colleague failed to do so earlier, the exact cost of making staff redundant as the Bill proposes and how he intends to safeguard the career prospects of those refused re-employment by any of the new authorities—

It being three-quarters of an hour after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted Business).

The House divided: Ayes 333, Noes 188.

Division No. 37] [11.43 pm
Adley, Robert Carttiss, Michael
Aitken, Jonathan Cash, William
Alexander, Richard Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Amess, David Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Ancram, Michael Chapman, Sydney
Arnold, Tom Chope, Christopher
Ashby, David Churchill, W. S.
Aspinwall, Jack Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Colvin, Michael
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Conway, Derek
Baldry, Tony Coombs, Simon
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Cope, John
Batiste, Spencer Corrie, John
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Couchman, James
Beggs, Roy Cranborne, Viscount
Bellingham, Henry Crouch, David
Bendall, Vivian Currie, Mrs Edwina
Benyon, William Dickens, Geoffrey
Best, Keith Dicks, Terry
Bevan, David Gilroy Dorrell, Stephen
Biffen, Rt Hon John Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Dover, Den
Blackburn, John du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Dunn, Robert
Body, Richard Durant, Tony
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Eggar, Tim
Bottomley, Peter Emery, Sir Peter
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Evennett, David
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Eyre, Sir Reginald
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Fairbairn, Nicholas
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Farr, Sir John
Braine, Sir Bernard Favell, Anthony
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Bright, Graham Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Brinton, Tim Fletcher, Alexander
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Fookes, Miss Janet
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Forman, Nigel
Browne, John Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bruinvels, Peter Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)
Bryan, Sir Paul Forth, Eric
Buck, Sir Antony Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Budgen, Nick Franks, Cecil
Bulmer, Esmond Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Burt, Alistair Freeman, Roger
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Fry, Peter
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Gale, Roger
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Galley, Roy
Gardiner, George (Reigate) McQuarrie, Albert
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Madel, David
Garel-Jones, Tristan Maginnis, Ken
Glyn, Dr Alan Malins, Humfrey
Goodhart, Sir Philip Malone, Gerald
Goodlad, Alastair Maples, John
Gorst, John Marland, Paul
Gow, Ian Marlow, Antony
Gower, Sir Raymond Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Grant, Sir Anthony Mather, Carol
Greenway, Harry Maude, Hon Francis
Gregory, Conal Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Mellor, David
Grist, Ian Merchant, Piers
Grylls, Michael Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Hampson, Dr Keith Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Hanley, Jeremy Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Hannam, John Moate, Roger
Hargreaves, Kenneth Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Harris, David Monro, Sir Hector
Harvey, Robert Montgomery, Fergus
Haselhurst, Alan Moore, John
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Hawksley, Warren Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hayes, J. Moynihan, Hon C.
Hayhoe, Barney Mudd, David
Hayward, Robert Murphy, Christopher
Heathcoat-Amory, David Neale, Gerrard
Heddle, John Needham, Richard
Henderson, Barry Nelson, Anthony
Hickmet, Richard Neubert, Michael
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Newton, Tony
Hill, James Nicholls, Patrick
Hind, Kenneth Nicholson, J.
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Norris, Steven
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Onslow, Cranley
Holt, Richard Osborn, Sir John
Hooson, Tom Ottaway, Richard
Hordern, Peter Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Howard, Michael Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Parris, Matthew
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Pattie, Geoffrey
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Pawsey, James
Hunt, David (Wirral) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Hunter, Andrew Pollock, Alexander
Irving, Charles Porter, Barry
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Powell, William (Corby)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Jones, Robert (W Herts) Price, Sir David
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Proctor, K. Harvey
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Raffan, Keith
Key, Robert Rathbone, Tim
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Rhodes James, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Knight, Gregory (Derby N) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Knowles, Michael Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Lamont, Norman Rifkind, Malcolm
Lang, Ian Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Latham, Michael Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Lawler, Geoffrey Roe, Mrs Marion
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Rost, Peter
Lightbown, David Rowe, Andrew
Lilley, Peter Ryder, Richard
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Sackville, Hon Thomas
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lord, Michael Sayeed, Jonathan
Luce, Richard Scott, Nicholas
McCrindle, Robert Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
McCusker, Harold Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Macfarlane, Neil Shelton, William (Streatham)
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Maclean, David John Shersby, Michael
Silvester, Fred Tracey, Richard
Sims, Roger Trippier, David
Skeet, T. H. H. Trotter, Neville
Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Twinn, Dr Ian
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S) Viggers, Peter
Soames, Hon Nicholas Waddington, David
Speller, Tony Waldegrave, Hon William
Spence, John Walden, George
Spencer, Derek Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)
Spicer, Jim (W Dorset) Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Squire, Robin Waller, Gary
Stanbrook, Ivor Walters, Dennis
Stanley, John Ward, John
Steen, Anthony Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Stern, Michael Warren, Kenneth
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Watson, John
Stevens, Martin (Fulham) Watts, John
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire) Wheeler, John
Stokes, John Whitfield, John
Stradling Thomas, J. Whitney, Raymond
Sumberg, David Wiggin, Jerry
Tapsell, Peter Winterton, Mrs Ann
Taylor, Rt Hon John David Winterton, Nicholas
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Wolfson, Mark
Temple-Morris, Peter Wood, Timothy
Terlezki, Stefan Woodcock, Michael
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Yeo, Tim
Thompson, Donald (Calder V) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N) Younger, Rt Hon George
Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Thornton, Malcolm Tellers for the Ayes:
Thurnham, Peter Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Townend, John (Bridlington) Mr. John Major.
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Abse, Leo Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Conlan, Bernard
Anderson, Donald Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Ashdown, Paddy Corbett, Robin
Ashton, Joe Corbyn, Jeremy
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Cowans, Harry
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Craigen, J. M.
Barnett, Guy Crowther, Stan
Barron, Kevin Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bell, Stuart Cunningham, Dr John
Benn, Tony Dalyell, Tam
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Bermingham, Gerald Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Bidwell, Sydney Deakins, Eric
Blair, Anthony Dewar, Donald
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Dobson, Frank
Boyes, Roland Dormand, Jack
Bray, Dr Jeremy Douglas, Dick
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Dubs, Alfred
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Duffy, A. E. P.
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) Eadie, Alex
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Eastham, Ken
Caborn, Richard Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Ewing, Harry
Campbell, Ian Fatchett, Derek
Campbell-Savours, Dale Faulds, Andrew
Canavan, Dennis Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Cartwright, John Fisher, Mark
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Flannery, Martin
Clarke, Thomas Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Clay, Robert Forrester, John
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Foster, Derek
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Foulkes, George
Cohen, Harry Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Coleman, Donald Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Garrett, W. E. Nellist, David
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Golding, John O'Brien, William
Gould, Bryan Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Gourlay, Harry Park, George
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Parry, Robert
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Patchett, Terry
Hardy, Peter Pavitt, Laurie
Harman, Ms Harriet Pendry, Tom
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Pike, Peter
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Prescott, John
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Radice, Giles
Heffer, Eric S. Randall, Stuart
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Redmond, M.
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Home Robertson, John Richardson, Ms Jo
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Howells, Geraint Robertson, George
Hoyle, Douglas Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Rogers, Allan
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Rooker, J. W.
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Rowlands, Ted
Hughes, Simon (Southward) Sedgemore, Brian
John, Brynmor Sheerman, Barry
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Kirkwood, Archy Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Lambie, David Short, Mrs B.(W'hampt'n NE)
Lamond, James Skinner, Dennis
Leadbitter, Ted Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Leighton, Ronald Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Snape, Peter
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Soley, Clive
Litherland, Robert Spearing, Nigel
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Stott, Roger
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Strang, Gavin
Loyden, Edward Straw, Jack
McCartney, Hugh Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
McKelvey, William Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
McNarnara, Kevin Thorne, Stan (Preston)
McTaggart, Robert Tinn, James
McWilliam, John Wallace, James
Madden, Max Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Marek, Dr John Wareing, Robert
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Weetch, Ken
Maxton, John Welsh, Michael
Maynard, Miss Joan Williams, Rt Hon A.
Meacher, Michael Winnick, David
Meadcwcroft, Michael Woodall, Alec
Michie, William Young, David (Bolton SE)
Mikardo, Ian
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Tellers for the Noes:
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Mr. Allen McKay and
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Mr. Don Dixon.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Local Government Bill, it is expedient to authorize—

  1. (a) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenses of any Minister under that Act; and
  2. (b) any increase attributable to that Act in the sums payable out of such moneys under any other Act.