HC Deb 13 December 1984 vol 69 cc1238-311

5.1 pm

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

I beg to move amendment No. 13, in page 1, line 10, leave out from 'Council' to end of line 11.

The Chairman

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 15, in page 1, line 11, at end insert `except the Greater Manchester County Council.'.

Mr. Hughes

The effect of the amendment would be to delete the metropolitan counties from the provisions of the Bill, with the result that, for the time being, only the Government's proposal to abolish the Greater London council would remain. That proposal succeeded in gaining a tenuous level of support from the Committee early this morning, but it may of course be subject to further consideration later.

This part of our debate will be solely about the metropolitan counties. I hope that it will provide an opportunity for the Committee to talk about six counties which, because their future is dealt with in the same piece of legislation as the future of the GLC, appear to be playing second fiddle to London. Clearly, that impression is misleading. Proper consideration should be given to those areas, too.

We should not underrate the importance of the amendment and of the parts of the Bill that relate to the metropolitan counties—especially clause 1. We should remember that the population of six metropolitan counties amounts to 24 per cent. of the population of England, or 11.2 million people. The West Midlands has a population of just over 2.5 million people. Greater Manchester is very nearly the same size. West Yorkshire has a population of 2 million, Merseyside a population of 1.5 million and South Yorkshire 1.3 million. Tyne and Wear is the smallest of the counties, with a population of 1.1 million. The metropolitan counties cover substantial areas of industrial and metropolitan England, and the future of each of those counties should be considered as comprehensively as possible.

Our main objection to the inclusion of the six counties is that, if they are treated in the manner proposed, it will not be possible to consider their individual and differing circumstances, sizes, areas and needs with the necessary attention. The effect of considering them all together will be to impose on all of them a structure devised by the present Government. Our first proposition is that such treatment is in any event inappropriate, because the six counties are substantially different. Arguments about levels of services in Greater Manchester, and whether or not they should be retained at district or higher than district level. may not apply equally to Tyne and Wear, for example.

It is interesting that we are now considering only metropolitan government. We are considering only the six MCCs, but four non-metropolitan councils—Hampshire, Kent, Essex and Lancashire—have larger populations than Tyne and Wear.

When considering the future of government outside London, there is a strong argument for looking at the whole matter entirely afresh. That was the proposition that resulted in the setting up of the Royal Commission—the Redcliffe-Maud commission—which took three years to debate the matter and form its conclusions. It took the commission three years to decide what should be the next step in the reorganisation of what was generally agreed to be a muddled system of local government that had grown up over the previous 100 years.

We are considering not just the creations of an Act passed some 12 years ago, but the government of the premier cities of England, apart from London. We are considering the future of Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bradford, Manchester, Coventry and Wakefield. Many places such as those deserve to have individual and proper consideration, because of their different and varying circumstances.

If it is necessary to add one further point to make clear how substantially the six counties differ from each other, one has to consider not just the population, but the fact that the sizes of the counties and the numbers of districts included in them vary widely. Greater Manchester covers 10 districts — by far the largest number—with Manchester in the centre and a radial structure of districts. There are seven districts in the West Midlands, and Merseyside, West Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear each includes five districts. The smallest metropolitan county in terms of the numbers of second tier authorities within it is South Yorkshire, with four districts. If we consider Greater Manchester and the neighbouring county of South Yorkshire in the same way, we shall not accord proper respect to their different sizes and make-up on local government terms.

On every objective argument, it would be proper for there to be separate considerations for each of the areas. At the same time—the point has already been made—it might be appropriate to give separate consideration to the other counties in England. There may well be an argument for reconsidering the provision and level of services in the shire counties at the same time as we consider the counties set up in 1972.

Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's line of argument. His amendment would not abolish any of the metropolitan counties, but it would allow the abolition of the GLC. Many alliance Members have expressed the opposite view. They are in favour of the abolition of the MCCs and the retention of the GLC. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) will vote on his strange and curious amendment?

Mr. Hughes

I am glad that the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) has raised that point. He has given us an opportunity to clarify our position and the position of the Labour party in relation to these proposals. There were attempts yesterday to remove the GLC from the provisions of the Bill. An amendment to that effect was proposed by my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself. Interestingly, our proposal to remove the GLC from the Bill was not supported by the Labour party.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes

Labour Members abstained on the fundamental point about which they have been arguing so vociferously for months. It is telling that, at the time of trial last May on the Local Government (Interim Provisions) Act 1984 and last night on the abolition Bill, they were found lacking. I only hope that the Labour party's friends in county hall in London will be satisfied with the abstention of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) on the amendment which would have allowed the GLC to continue.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes

I shall in a moment.

We have never said that the GLC does not need reform. That has been the Labour party's view. However, it did not stand by that last night.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Patrick Jenkin)


Mr. Hughes

I shall give way soon.

Mr. Tony Banks


Mr. Hughes

I see that Labour Members want to rescue themselves.

Mr. Corbyn

These are devastating attacks.

Mr. Hughes

They are self-inflicted. The Labour party scored another own goal last night by not voting for what it has campaigned for so expensively during the past several years.

Mr. Tony Banks


Mr. Hughes

I shall give way shortly.

When the Conservative Government established the metropolitan councils, their proposals were opposed by the Labour party and the Liberal party. We opposed them because we believed that there should be proper regional government, not a half-way house. That was also the Labour party's argument. We have maintained that view. We did not want and are not keen on the metropolitan counties. The question is whether it is better for the lime being to keep the metropolitan counties, with all their faults, until we can get what we want—a system of regional government—or whether we should abolish the metropolitan counties and have what my right hon. and hon. Friends and I believe to be a much worse arrangement. My hon. Friends the Members for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) and for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) have always made it clear that they do not like the metropolitan counties. We have to judge whether preserving the metropolitan counties is better than what the Government propose. With the exception of my hon. Friends the Members for Rochdale and for Mossley Hill, the parliamentary Liberal party believes that it is better to keep the metropolitan counties until the system can be improved.

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)


Mr. Hughes

I shall give way in a moment.

We believe that the metropolitan counties should remain until we have a proper examination of local government functions and can establish an improved structure. We have held that view ever since the original proposals were made 14 years ago, unlike the Labour party which has changed its views.

Mr. Straw


The Chairman

Order. Has the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) concluded his speech, or is he giving way?

Mr. Hughes

I am giving way.

5.15 pm
Mr. Straw

In case you failed to notice it, Mr. Walker, that was merely a parenthetical interjection in anticipation of the question that I am about to ask the hon. Gentleman. He has made it clear that the alliance's stance on abolition of the metropolitan counties and the GLC is as confused and inconsistent as its stance on, for example, trade union legislation. There are as many alliance views as there are alliance Members. Perhaps I might put the hon. Gentleman out of his misery. He has done sterling stuff in trying to plait sawdust. We refused to vote for the alliance amendment last year—[HON. MEMBERS: "Last night."' It just seems like last year, as I am sure that the Secretary of State agrees—because it was ill drafted, ill thought out and reflected the confusion of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey. Amendment No. 13 will save the metropolitan counties and abolish the GLC. The Liberal party amendment last night proposed the reverse. Our stance is clear. We want to save the GLC and the metropolitan counties. That is why we shall vote against clause stand part.

Mr. Hughes

I note, as no doubt do others, that the Labour party must justify its abstention. Matters are taken in sequence. Today we are debating whether to retain the met counties, all of which are Labour-controlled, yet the Labour party intends to abstain again. That is a most amazingly inconsistent and unprincipled attitude.

Mr. Allan Roberts

The Liberal party amendment which we considered last night would have abolished the met counties but not the GLC, and it was defeated. The sequence that the hon. Gentleman has described now means that we are discussing another alliance amendment which proposes the abolition of the GLC but not of the met counties. The sequence does not continue, however, with a third alliance amendment which will save the GLC, as such an amendment has already been defeated. On that basis, will the hon. Gentleman not press the amendment to a Division?

Mr. Hughes

If the hon. Member for Bootle, who has been here somewhat longer than I, does not yet understand the procedures of this place, I am disappointed. He knows that we debate issues in sequence. Last night we debated whether the GLC should continue, and the Labour party decided to abstain. Another amendment, which proposed saving the GLC, was defeated by only 23 votes. Ours would have been defeated by a similar margin if the Labour party had voted for it. The idea of keeping the GLC has therefore been lost, so we move on. If amendment No. 13 is successful, the met counties will be taken out of the Bill and only the battle about abolition of the GLC will continue.

Mr. Tony Banks

When the Secretary of State came to the Dispatch box for the third time last night, he claimed that the Labour party's abstention was a vote against the GLC. His argument was almost as intriguing as watching the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) disappearing up his own Division Lobby trying to explain what happened. My colleagues in county hall had decided that the Labour party at county hall did not want to be split from the met counties, as the Liberal party tried to do. The campaign has always been united. That is why we abstained on a typically splitting Liberal party amendment.

Mr. Hughes

There are many factual inaccuracies in what the hon. Gentleman has said. Two campaigns are being run—one by the met counties and another by the GLC. If he does not believe that, he should examine some of the documents that I have with me which set out the case for the met counties. They clearly come from a separate office in London. Apart from that sort of inaccuracy, the hon. Gentleman may choose not to support amendments moved by parties other than his own. However, that is an unprincipled stand, based purely on politics rather than on the issue. If he and his colleagues choose to make that decision, that is their affair and they must accept the political responsibility.

Mr. Harry Cowans (Tyne Bridge)

While the hon. Gentleman is lecturing the Committee on how our procedures work, he might reflect on the fact that by separating the two issues there was a distinct possibility of one being carried while the other was defeated. That would have destroyed the case he is now making. In order to avoid that possibility, the Labour party has chosen to link the two issues. Therefore, instead of lecturing us, the hon. Gentleman should perhaps learn.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans), who is considerably more experienced in parliamentary procedure than I, does not seem to realise that there has always been an opportunity to do better on one of the proposals than on the other, simply because the GLC case is stronger than the case for the metropolitan counties. For evidence of that, one only needs to look at the Labour party's manifesto and, subsequently, at the answers given and speeches made by the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), who refused to say that the Labour party would reinstate the metropolitan counties. If that is not clear, I am not surprised that Labour Members remain confused.

The Liberal party belief, which is historically, chronologically and factually true, is that the case for the retention of the GLC is stronger than the case for retaining the metropolitan counties, but that does not mean that the Government's proposals for the replacement of either are acceptable.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

The hon. Gentleman feels that the case for the retention of the GLC is stronger than the case for the retention of the met counties. Does he recall his comment on Second Reading, when he told me that he felt that Liberal councillors in the metropolitan areas should resist the abolition of those county councils with all the power at their disposal, which frankly is not a great deal? In view of the comments that he has just made, will not the morale of those Liberal councillors be weakened?

Mr. Hughes

I have no difficulty about that. Indeed, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that Liberal councillors in the met counties, all of whom I visited and spoke to during the summer and subsequently, are much more united and clear about this issue than any group of Labour councillors in any of the metropolitan counties. The Labour district councils would be quite happy to get their hands on the powers of the metropolitan authorities, and they have said so until recently, whereas their friends in the metropolitan counties in large measure want to hold on to their powers. I do not detract from what I said on Second Reading. The view of the 250 or more Liberal councillors in the metropolitan counties is that they should not assist the Government in passing bad legislation and that only when and if the Bill becomes law should they be obliged to follow it. That they will do, but not until then.

Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in Greater Manchester there is a fairly substantial library of Liberal pledges? Only two years ago the Liberals there were petitioning to abolish the GLC, but they are now defending the GLC. I assure the hon. Gentleman that by Friday there will be an addition to that library, because Hansard will show that the hon. Gentleman has sold those people right down the river.

Mr. Hughes

As the hon. Gentleman well knows, we shall not be happy until in each region of England there is proper regional government, with the powers that Whitehall should have devolved to those regions and with the powers that are at present in the hands of the quangos, such as the water and health authorities, also devolved to such democratic regional authorities. We have never departed from our view that where power can be exercised more locally it should be done so at every available opportunity. There has never been any alteration to that view. Indeed, last night the Secretary of State was kind enough to say that on this issue the Liberal party has been principled and consistent throughout this century. Although other hon. Members may wish to disagree, we are happy to bring that consistency to the attention of the Committee. We shall continue to argue for proper regional and democratic local government until we achieve it, and that may be sooner than many hon. Members think.

Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich)

As we are discussing election pledges, will my hon. Friend consider the Labour party's 1983 election commitment to introduce unitary authorities? How is it possible to have unitary authorities in the metropolitan areas while retaining metropolitan districts and counties?

Mr. Hughes

I shall reaffirm that point and then proceed because I am sure, Mr. Walker, that you would wish me to conclude—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Apparently, the unanimous view of the rest of the Committee is that I should continue. However, I shall not do so, because I respect the desire of the Chair to allow the debate to proceed.

The more one exposed the changing values and principles of the Labour party, the more interesting this debate would become. Since the interim provisions legislation was introduced in the last Session of Parliament, the Labour party's policy has been ambiguous about what would happen, except to say that it hopes to introduce unitary local government throughout England. If that does not mean merging the county and district councils, I do not know what it means. If I do not know what it means, no one else will be able to interpret the ambiguity in that manifesto document. The Labour party is still using that ambiguity, because it has not sorted out its policy on local government. It is simply on the defensive, and it will continue to be for a considerable time to come.

Mr. Allan Roberts

1 have always been a keen supporter of regional government. The hon. Gentleman has said that on his trips around the country he met many Liberals. Did he find that the Liberal party on Merseyside is campaigning for abolition while the Liberal party in Greater Manchester is campaigning against it? Is that what he means by unity?

Mr. Hughes

I began by saying that if the metropolitan counties could be taken out of the Bill, we could argue on o the merits for the form and structure of local government appropriate in each of the areas presently governed by the metropolitan county councils. It was clear that part of that argument was that there would be different solutions in different areas simply because the counties are of a different size and shape and have different characteristics and histories. I accept that in some of those areas there is a necessity for county-wide services.

I shall give one practical example. In a county such as Greater Manchester, as the hon. Member for Bootle pointed out, there has been considerable support for attention at higher than district level to many of the services—transport, waste disposal and technical services. Clearly it would be seen to be a disadvantage if they were split up between the joint boards, quangos and other Government concoctions. There should be a simple, clearly intelligible, local government regional structure.

5.30 pm

The hon. Member for Bootle knows that the same arguments may not apply to the Wirral, which is a district council in Merseyside, as to Sefton, which is the authority in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, because it is on the edge of Merseyside. Some authorities have expressed a wish to run their own police, fire, and transport services, as many of them did previously. Many of them ran their own police forces and bus services—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Liverpool. West Derby (Mr. Wareing) says that boundaries have changed. He is right. The districts, boroughs and county boroughs ran their own services, and many of them wish to do so again.

I now press on to the other substantive reason why the Government's proposal to replace the county authorities with an amalgamation of different bodies is unacceptable to us and, I hope, to the Committee. Implicit in the proposals is an enormous degree of intervention by central Government, which is unparalleled in areas of local government activity. The proposals present a prospect for change, not only this year but again in a few years' time. There is an opt-out procedure. That will allow, in West Yorkshire, for example, a county-wide joint board to be set up to run the police force, from which a district may later opt out. It would be cheaper and better, if a district wished to opt out, for it to do so at the beginning. When there are joint boards, appointed bodies and residual bodies it will not be clear who is running which service.

People will not be able to vote, either often or in some cases at all, for those who will run the local services. Democracy is about the population understanding who run their services and being able to vote for them. It is not about having an indirect and unsatisfactory form of accountability, such as that of joint boards which do not work well, or about having a set of appointees over whom the electors have no control.

There is no evidence that the Government's requirement that districts should co-operate with each other will be met. Over the years many of the districts have not co-operated with each other. That has often been the recipe for duplication, waste and bad local services. That is why it would be better to take out the proposal as it stands, which is to abolish the metropolitan counties, as it were, by summary trial by the Government on the basis of a last-minute election pledge. No independent analysis has been commissioned in the proper way, and there is overwhelming evidence from chartered accountants, such as Coopers and Lybrand, other management consultants, bodies and people concerned, that the proposals will not work and will lead to the entire system having to be reorganised in a few years' time.

Our amendment seeks to prevent the Committee from following that road to chaos and to allow us to reconsider the metropolitan counties and their government in a way that will result in a better, not a worse, service for people in those areas.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) started on a good point, but, sadly, proceeded to destroy it. Had he argued that at this stage we should probe the Government's intentions to see whether they are prepared to be sympathetic to the view that we should treat each of the different English regions separately, it would have been useful. It would have put down a marker on a subject which we want to develop in Committee.

The hon. Gentleman developed the point effectively by pointing out the considerable differences in size and geography between the metropolitan counties. However, he then more or less said, "The Liberal party's policy is to impose regional government on all regions in the same way." That defeats his argument. It would have been better if he had suggested that he was probing the Government's intentions to find out whether they would give each area the option of a different form of local government. Some hon. Members will wish to return to that point in Committee. It is illogical to insist that all areas should be treated in the same way.

The hon. Gentleman also made the mistake of assuming that people are greatly interested in the minutiae of the tactics of the Liberal party. It is important that we show united opposition to the abolition of the GLC and the six metropolitan councils by maximising our votes. It would have been logical to ensure, therefore, that we get a maximum number of votes on clause stand part.

I wish to draw attention to the strong opposition in Greater Manchester especially to the abolition of the Greater Manchester authority, but also to that of the other metropolitan counties, and to make it clear to the Government that they must consider the specific local traditions of the six metropolitan counties. I hope that my hon. Friends will develop the argument equally well for the other five authorities. We have an opportunity to deploy their case.

I make no apology for concentrating on Greater Manchester. My constituency lies in its area, and I was brought up and have lived there for a long time. I am worried that, although many Tories were prepared last night to support the Greater London council, fewer are prepared to support the other six counties, especially Greater Manchester council. We must, however, bear in mind that there are fewer Conservative Members who represent the Greater Manchester area.

The Minister should consider the traditional approach of the people of Manchester. Although the great demonstration at Peterloo took place in the centre of Manchester, the surrounding towns, most of which are now included within Greater Manchester, sent substantial numbers of people to it. Since then, Manchester has been the natural focus for most of those towns. That was demonstrated when the old royal exchange functioned as the cotton exchange. People came from Oldham, Rochdale, Bolton and Stockport regularly and consistently to trade.

The old royal exchange is an attractive reminder of the history and unity of the region, although it is now used as the arts centre. Every time I go there to enjoy a play, it reminds me of the time when I was a small child and was allowed to peek into the exchange when it was the centre of the cotton trade.

The area has a fine railway and communications network and there has been much development of municipal enterprise. The geography of the area reinforces that. There is a semi-circle of hills and a set of rivers which flow towards the centre of Manchester. The entire area has achieved considerable unity as a result of the way in which the Government have attacked it by destroying jobs and failing to meet its needs.

There are problems of dereliction throughout the 10 authorities within Greater Manchester. Unemployment varies considerably from one ward to another, but there is a general dearth of jobs and a general lack of Government effort to create jobs throughout the area. There are many problems with infrastructure, and many houses must be replaced. All these problems are common to the area, and all the authorities have a common desire to solve them.

In 1900 the Conservative Government organised a referendum on local government boundary changes in Greater Manchester. Parts of my constituency opted to come within Stockport. It is odd that, at the turn of the century, a Conservative Government believed it sufficiently worthwhile to consult the people of Greater Manchester, yet this Government have rejected any possibility of a referendum to consider their proposals. We know why they are unwilling to consult the people about their proposals. If they did so, the people of Greater Manchester would reject them decisively. It is worth remembering that the Conservative party was decisively defeated in the elections to the Greater Manchester council, and at the general election, when the Conservative party produced a manifesto calling for the abolition of Greater Manchester council, few Conservative Members were returned in that area.

On all those counts, and including opinion poll results, the proposal to abolish Greater Manchester council has been rejected decisively by the people of that area. It is ridiculous for the Government to insist on imposing on those people a form of government which they do not wish.

How will the Secretary of State ensure that Greater Manchester has a voice to express the views of the entire conurbation, which until now have been expressed effectively by the council? How will he deal with strategic planning for the area? My constituents are worried about the way in which the shopping patterns of Greater Manchester are changing. Many people may feel nostalgia for the corner shop, but many others—the elderly, the handicapped and those who must have weekly tick—depend upon it completely. The most disadvantaged in the community are now the only users of the corner shop, yet they must pay the highest prices, whereas those who are fortunate enough to have cars can use large supermarkets. It has been extremely difficult for Greater Manchester council to maintain a policy for shopping because of the continual pressure from supermarket chains to establish out-of-town shopping centres. The latter are fine for those who have cars, but they destroy corner shops and the traditional shopping centres such as those of Manchester, Stockport, Tameside, Oldham and Bolton.

Someone must rationalise the overall shopping pattern in Greater Manchester, otherwise we shall return to rivalry among districts. Traditional shopping areas will be destroyed by the creation of out-of-town supermarkets and the reduction of competition in those areas. With traditional shopping centres people have the choice of a series of shops, whereas in almost all the out-of-town shopping centres large chain stores operate what are almost monopolies.

I should he grateful if the Minister would explain how the legislation will provide a better shopping pattern for Greater Manchester, as I see nothing in the Bill that deals with that.

5.45 pm
Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington)

Although I understand how strongly my hon. Friend feels about Greater Manchester and the way in which it has served him and his constituents in the past, does he agree that his analysis could apply equally to Tyne and Wear council and to the other metropolitan authorities?

Mr. Bennett

I accept that, and I hope that my hon. Friends will develop those arguments. I am referring to Manchester because I understand its circumstances. I am not pleading a special case for Manchester, but simply putting it forward as an illustration of the general case.

Will the Secretary of State consider the overall transport pattern for Greater Manchester? The area will have a new transport body, but transport is not simply a matter of moving people from one point to another. We must ensure that the transport policy is co-ordinated with the shopping policy and with the development of industry. We hope that the rapid transport system will be introduced in Manchester, but we must ensure that the transport routes take people from where they live to where they work and to places where they can shop. The Bill does not tell us how the Government will achieve integration of the transport strategy and all the other policies.

Greater Manchester council has been extremely effective in generating jobs, and its efforts would have been greatly enhanced by some support from the Government. We heard the Secretary of State's announcement about intermediate status. This is an extremely divisive policy, in that it has included parts of Greater Manchester with the highest unemployment, but has excluded the land on which jobs could be created for those who live in areas of high unemployment. Above all, we do not want increased competition among the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester, with each bidding to attract firms that will bring jobs to their areas rather than trying to impose an overall strategy to ensure that jobs are created where they are most needed. It would be better if the Government left Greater Manchester council as it is so that it can continue its co-ordinating role in the creation of new jobs.

Most people believe that a large urban area such as Greater Manchester has little countryside, but the council has regenerated the river valleys as lungs for the community. I developed that point on Second Reading, so I shall not say much about it now. I hope that the Minister will give us a categorical assurance that under the new proposals we can maintain and expand the leisure use of the river valleys in Greater Manchester. At present, the council employs about six people to look after footpaths. I do not know how one could divide six people between 10 authorities and retain an effective service. It seems to me that it is virtually impossible to make economies.

I could argue the case that the police and the fire service should remain under local democratic control, but that point has already been covered. Instead, I shall deal with a matter which has not received sufficient attention—consumer protection. I believe that Greater Manchester has been extremely effective in dealing with consumer protection. For example, one officer in Greater Manchester has the expertise to deal with the carcases of animals which die as a result of anthrax. I am not sure whether a system could be established to deal with such diseases throughout Greater Manchester.

An attractive feature of the Greater Manchester conurbation is its open markets. The vast majority of the traders in the open markets set very high standards for the goods that they sell. However, a small minority of traders do not conform to the trading standards. One of the attractions of the Greater Manchester consumer protection service is that it provides an opportunity to catch up with the small number of unscrupulous traders who move from one market to another. If those duties are handed back to the districts, it will be very difficult for them to chase after a market trader who is at Denton on one day of the week, at Hyde the next day and at Oldham the following week. It would be far more efficient if trading standards could be dealt with by one authority which would be able to test a sample for safety and examine whether it conformed to trading standards. If necessary, it could enforce its decision throughout the district.

The Government's argument is that Greater Manchester and the other metropolitan counties do not have sufficient work to do. I could give the Secretary of State a very long list of services—in particular the health services—which an authority like Greater Manchester could co-ordinate and for which it would be accountable to local people.

I have, I hope, made the point that the Government ought to look separately at each district. When they are able to put forward proposals which are relevant to the problems of each district, they can begin to think about evolution and something better. The metropolitan counties ought not to be abolished. We need a structure which takes into account the local needs of each of the six districts. The Government should take the Bill away and not inflict it upon the electorate of the six metropolitan counties.

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)

I have listened to the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) that the metropolitan county councils should not be abolished. His argument is that a further period of investigation is needed. The hon. Member believes that there should possibly be a Royal Commission to carry out an in-depth investigation into the advantages or disadvantages of abolishing the metropolitan county councils. The hon. Member couples that argument with the view that progress towards a regional authority is the way forward.

There may be merit in re-examining the case for direct democratic involvement on a regional scale in water authorities and health services. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman's argument that the metropolitan county councils, together with the Greater London council, should not be abolished is valid. We argued at length about the proposals contained in the Redcliffe-Maud report. At that time I resided in the royal county borough of Solihull. My opinion then is, I am sure, the opinion which is held today in Solihull—that having struggled for many years to become an independent, self-governing local authority the prospect of a second-tier authority acting like a great grey blanket over it is not viewed with enthusiasm. On the contrary, they look forward to more, not less authority.

I need hardly add that the view of neighbouring Birmingham is exactly the same—but more so. Birmingham is the second city of this country. Over scores of years it has developed into the powerhouse of the nation and has taken on major local government roles in the conduct of its affairs. For many years the city fathers of the council were able to govern the city with a degree of independence which they relished and cherished. Every citizen of Birmingham looked to Birmingham for the maintenance of local amenities. There was no question of looking anywhere else. The citizens of Birmingham looked to the town hall from which emanated every local by-law and regulation. When one voted for a councillor, one voted for a person, of whichever political party, who had complete power. He did not carry out half a job. That is what we now elect councillors to do. There is a conflict in terms of local government interest. When a road development scheme is announced local people do not know who is responsible for it. Some people believe that they should approach their district council member. Others believe that they should approach their county council member.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

It is the Secretary of State who is responsible for major road schemes.

Mr. King

Indeed. When local people object to a road scheme, they have to go to their elected members, but they do not know to which elected member they should go. There are at least three elected members, including their Member of Parliament, whom they might approach. I do not believe that that is a very good form of democratic control.

Mr. Allan Roberts

To which elected member will the hon. Member's constituents go when they have points to raise about the services provided by the quangos which are to be created by the Bill? And to which elected member will the hon. Member's constituents go when they want to ask a question about their water authority?

Mr. King

I am grateful to the hon. Member for mentioning that matter. I acknowledge that there are difficulties over local water authorities. The answer to the other point is very simple: local people can go to their elected members in the normal way.

I come to the point about the abolition of the metropolitan counties being a last-minute addition to the Conservative party manifesto. Many local authorities, including Birmingham, said that they ought to be abolished a decade or so ago—almost the day after the metropolitan counties came into being. The late Sir Frank Griffin, a notable city leader, said at countless numbers of Conservative party conferences and local authority meetings that the new system of local government was suspect and had been found wanting and that the city of Birmingham must get back the authority which it had lost. To our great regret, we were unable, despite a great deal of pressure, to have such a commitment included in the Conservative party's general election manifesto. However, since then we have been fortunate enough to obtain its inclusion. It was not a last-minute addition to the Conservative party manifesto. Anybody who has taken the time to study the discussions at Conservative party conferences and the innumerable pamphlets issued by the Conservative party would realise that our intention to abolish the metropolitan counties was a major commitment. Local government reform in the early 1970s never got it right. It was a very poor alternative. The present form of local government leads to more delay instead of more control.

Decision-making over planning, roads and other matters always seems to result in conflict between the county council and district authorities. For example, the West Midlands county council is responsible for gritting major trunk roads, but the district authorities are responsible for the side roads. There has been a failure to compromise, which has led to extra costs.

6 pm

Even the Labour party, certainly in the west midlands, did not want the metropolitan counties. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) said that he would not raise a single digit to save the west midlands authority. I suspect that many of his hon. Friends, certainly from Birmingham, are probably ready to follow his example.

The arrangements in the Bill for district authorities to regain powers may leave something to be desired, but the Bill is only a first step. If district authorities feel that they could take on extra powers within a year or so, they will be free to ask the Government for those powers.

Mr. George Park (Coventry, North-East)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that similar statements were made by the Minister for Local Government about Coventry city council and that the Minister has had to apologise and withdraw his statements because they were erroneous?

Mr. King

I assume that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the fact that Coventry wants the West Midlands county council to remain in existence.

Mr. Park

The hon. Gentleman should not make any assumptions; he should study his brief.

Mr. King

Much reference has been made to the proposed joint boards being quangos. In fact, they will be made up of elected members of constituent authorities. There is a precedent for that, because, even before the setting up of the met counties, the passenger transport authorities were established. They seem to work well and there seems to be no danger in going back to a similar system.

If a member of the public has a complaint about the West Midlands passenger transport authority when it is controlled by a joint board, he will go to his local councillor who will make representations to the constituent authority's representative on the board. There will be no major change in the operation of the system. There will be the same accountability.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

If a person wishes to approach his councillor, he can usually find out who he is from the local library. The councillor will be directly accountable to his constituent through the ballot box. However, if the councillor representing the district council on the joint board comes from a ward that is several miles away, there will be little relationship between him and a constituent in another ward. The councillor will have no reason to care whether that voter supports him or opposes him on an issue.

Mr. King

I note what the hon. Gentleman says, but if there is the correct dialogue running between a community and its elected members there should be no difficulty in ensuring that all points of view are put across in the running of organisations that will be controlled by joint boards.

Mr. Cowans

How will we operate the system with residuary bodies?

Mr. King

Did the hon. Gentleman say "residuary bodies"?

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

The hon. Gentleman should read the Bill before he comes here.

Mr. King

I have read the Bill carefully. I am explaining how the joint boards will operate.

There are clear indications that the passenger transport undertakings will be subject to a further review. A Bill to be introduced soon will reorganise those undertakings, many of which are run on a countrywide basis. They may be returned to more local control and we may have smaller undertakings. That would be a satisfactory arrangement.

Mr. Fatchett

The hon. Gentleman spoke with some feeling about the water authorities and the difficulties involved in making representations to them. Clause 54 provides that each of the residuary bodies shall consist of not less than five and not more than ten members appointed by the Secretary of State". That reminds me a little of a water authority. If the hon. Gentleman had looked at clause 54, would he not have some hesitation about approving of residuary bodies?

Mr. King

The abolition of the met counties will involve a substantial period of change and the arrangements for handing back responsibilities to district authorities are not as satisfactory as I should like. I hope that eventually the district authorities will be given a lot more control.

Mr. Fatchett

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Tony Lloyd

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. King

No. Other hon. Members wish to speak. I have already given way several times.

Responsibility for the police, consumer protection and waste disposal has been the subject of joint community agreement in the past and there is no reason why that should not happen again. However, local authorities will be able to make representations to the Government if they wish to take over responsibility for the police and perhaps for the fire service.

The new arrangements will present an opportunity of which Birmingham city council would like to take advantage. The seven authorities that will take over the responsibilities of the met county will work with the west midlands county police and generally disapprove of the existing police set-up because it is big and unwieldy, stretching, as it does, from Wolverhampton to Coventry.

In theory, it would be possible for all seven authorities to make representations to be given individual police forces, but such an arrangement would not be practical. The chief constable has already worked out a satisfactory arrangement that might be concluded quickly. Birmingham city council would take responsibility for its local police, Coventry and Solihull would go back into the Warwickshire county police area and the rest of the black country area would form a separate police authority. There would be much more local control over the police force. That is what the Bill is all about. We shall not get that arrangement straightaway, but we look forward to having such a scheme implemented in due course.

Mr. Boyes

That is not in the Bill.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

The Government have taken delivery of the case that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) is making and it will no doubt come forward in due course. Provision is made in the Bill, subject to the conditions that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has repeated on many occasions. It would be open to the local authorities concerned to put forward such a redistribution proposal to the Government, and we would be bound to consider it. When the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) says that it is not in the Bill, he is wrong.

Mr. King

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I recall that yesterday my right hon. Friend made that point when he was challenged about failing to discuss the Bill in its preparatory stages. The city of Birmingham and some of the constituent authorities in the west midlands made representations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State asking whether this could be considered at the same time as abolition. Such was my right hon. Friend's willingness to consult and discuss that the concession was put into the Bill for which we are extremely grateful.

The ironic thing about the city of Birmingham is that we are not abolishing a Labour authority so that control can pass to a city authority under Conservative control. Instead, we shall be abolishing a Labour-controlled metropolitan county to give great authority to a Labour-controlled city council. Notwithstanding the perils that that might mean for those of us who live in the area, we prefer to pass authority back to one elected authority, because then we shall know who to hold to account for future legislation, costs and development in the area. In the history of Birmingham, the creation of the West Midlands county council cannot be looked on with a great deal of enthusiasm. About a year ago, the citizens of the area, over 1 million of whom reside in Birmingham, were enthusiastically in favour of abolition of the county council. Since then, a campaign, set up by the county councils in legion with the GLC, has been pouring out disinformation, at great cost to the local ratepayer. It has been saying that the Government are seeking to run local authorities from Whitehall, and that the city of Birmingham will have existing powers taken from it rather than having powers returned to it. A basic reading of the proposals shows that this is blatantly untrue. Local democracy will be better served by the implementation of the Bill.

Mr. Boyes

I have asked the Secretary of State about 50 times what his view on this matter is, and he has never given me a straightforward answer. Therefore, it is interesting to note that when I just whispered to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), the Secretary of State heard what I said, and jumped up to reply. I was trying to say to my hon. Friend that what is not in the Bill is that the functions that will be handed over to quangos should be given back to local authorities. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) seems to be arguing as though local authorities will take over the functions of the quangos, but if the Government have their way these powers will be with quangos until the Labour party gets back into power in the next two or three years and destroys the quangos.

Mr. King

The hon. Gentleman has not been listening to what I have been saying. Let us take the example of passenger transport authorities. It may be that the Bill does not categorically say that control of them will be handed back to the local authorities, but there will soon be a Bill which will give local authorities the right to run their own transport authorities if they want to—the decision will be theirs. I cannot imagine anything more democratic than giving local authorities the right to run local transport if they so wish. They may not want to, but the choice is theirs. The hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) must not run away with the idea that the Bill is the be-all and end-all. It has to be looked at in conjunction with other pending legislation, which will continue to give more democratic control back to the local authorities if they wish it.

There is no doubt that the people of the city of Birmingham, Solihull and, I suspect, the people of Coventry, who are brave and courageous, as their history has shown, have litle in common with the people of Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Walsall, whatever the geography of or the borders of the counties say. They will welcome the return to their town halls of as much local authority control over their affairs as possible. They look forward over the years to having more authority passed over to them through our policy of decentralisation. To ask, as this amendment does, for yet further investigations and delay before this process can be put into practice is a betrayal of our citizens.

6.15 pm
Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

The remarks of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) about giving the control of transport back to local authorities are extraordinary for a Member who spent much of the last Session of Parliament voting to take control of the Greater London transport system away from the GLC and to give it to a Government-appointed body. That is an extraordinary inconsistency, but this is a debate for those who wish to be inconsistent, as it started with a muddled amendment moved by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). The Opposition intend to abstain on this amendment because we are opposed to the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan county councils and we can express that easily by voting against the abolition of all those authorities in the course of the debates on clause 1.

When it was pointed out to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey that this is a muddled amendment, he took some of my hon. Friends to task by trying to give them a lecture on procedure, so I shall reciprocate. I have spent three mornings sitting in the Committee on the New Towns and Urban Development Corporations Bill. It was a Committee to which the hon. Gentleman had been appointed, as he has an urban development corporation on the edge of his constituency. It is a pity that, during the three Committee sittings, he was not able to get to the Committee room. Three reasons why he could not get there have been suggested. One is that he cannot get a taxi, but I do not know whether there is any truth in that suggestion. The second is that the cards telling hon. Members to go on the Committee have no street names on them. They say, "House of Commons, Room No. 11", and not "Parliament Street" or "Parliament Square", so perhaps he has not been able to find his way. The third is that, as there were two hon. Members with the name of Hughes on the Committee, he was a little confused.

I point out to the hon. Gentleman, as he gave us a lesson in procedure, that this is not the end of the Committee stage. After this there will be a Committee stage upstairs. When the hon. Gentleman gets the card appointing him to be a member of that Committee, will he please go along and help in the preservation of the GLC, for which he was arguing yesterday? Last night, he was arguing against the abolition of the GLC, and he moved amendments to that effect. However, the effect of the amendment that he has moved today is to allow the abolition of the GLC and the preservation of the metropolitan counties. I quote what he said last night from a photocopy of Hansard, as that part of it has not been printed. He said: The amendment would delete the GLC from the list of councils that the Government propose to abolish. The effect of all the amendments would be to ensure the continuance of directly-elected government for London across London. We seek to do no less than to take the heart out of the Bill."—[Official Report, 12 December 1984; Vol. 69, c. 1153.]

Last night, the burden of the hon. Gentleman's remarks was that he intended to save the GLC. Today, the burden of his amendment is that he is in favour of the abolition of the GLC but of the preservation of the metropolitan counties. His arguments remind me of the sweet counters at Woolworths called "pick and choose". One can pick what one likes, chew it and if one does not like it spit it out again. It is not that the hon. Gentleman is deliberately confused. He wants a range of options that will be suitable for the alliance of the Liberal party and the SDP. This will enable its members to take their choice, and will please all people. It will allow for those who argue that instead of abolition there should be a form of evolution. It will allow for dissent by the hon. Members for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) and for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) who are in favour of the abolition of the metropolitan counties, and it will enable the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey to make out a different case. Despite the fact that before the general election his party was arguing for the abolition of the GLC, to be replaced by a regional authority, last night he was putting the opposite case.

Will the abolition of the metropolitan counties bring about a form of unitary government in the metropolitan areas? That seemed to be the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Northfield. He seemed to think that there would be a return to some form of unitary local government in his part of the country, but of course no such thing will happen. The effect of the Bill will not be to have a single tier of functions, performed by one authority. The effect of abolishing the metropolitan counties will be to have one set of functions carried out by a directly elected district authority and another set of functions that runs across the areas of the metropolitan counties.

There will be two-tier government, but it will not be two-tier democratic government as between the two sets of functions — [Interruption.] The Secretary of State mutters. I know that he has told the House before that the joint boards will be composed of elected members of the district authorities. I know that that is his argument. He apparently argues that there is a sort of secondary democracy, in that the representatives will be chosen by the district councils. But that is not in the Bill.

Those representatives will not be chosen in the sense that they will be elected by the district councils. Clause 22 says that they will be appointed by the district councils. There is a great difference there. I am against secondary democracy, but regardless of that there is a great difference between people being elected from among district councillors and people being appointed by them.

There may be parts of the country in which the task of making the appointment to the joint board, the other tier, will be left in the hands of a leader of a political party. That would not be unknown. In some cases that duty may even be delegated to the chief whip. He might be the chief whip of the Labour or Tory party, or—although it is a bit far-fetched—of the Liberal party. But there might be times when the appointment— I stress "appointment" — was made by the chief whip.

Even if the person is elected, there is such a thing as a consolation election. Anyone who has been a member of a Labour or Tory group will know that the important positions are filled by members of the district council. They choose who will be chairman of this and that, and then a few consolation prizes have to be handed out. In some circumstances, the consolation prizes may be given to those who fail to obtain positions on their own district councils.

There is also the removal technique. In order to get rid of, for example, the chairman of the housing committee, one makes sure that he is appointed to the second-tier authority not because he is particularly good at running refuse disposal or the fire brigade, but because that will remove him from competition for jobs at the district council level. There are many other options, but the point is that clause 22 deals with appointments and not elections. There can be no doubt that when second-tier authorities are appointed in this way they bear comparison with an arranged marriage. One gets someone whom one did not choose for oneself and who is chosen for one. In Hamlet's words, that is not a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd".

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that certainly among the Asian community many arranged marriages turn out to be highly successful and very happy? Perhaps that will be the case in this instance.

Mr. Fraser

I hope that the hon. Gentleman tells that to the Home Secretary, who prevents parties to arranged marriages from coming into the country. Let the hon. Gentleman make that point elsewhere.

The sort of arranged appointment that does not involve the electorate is to be opposed. We oppose it by being against all abolition in clause 1. That is why we shall not pick and choose as the Liberals do, and why we shall abstain on this amendment, just as we abstained last night on the GLC amendment, which was utterly contradictory.

Mr. Hind

The amendment will raise many eyebrows. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said that the Liberal party was not keen, and never had been keen, on the metropolitan counties. Thus, we must ask ourselves why, in those circumstances, this amendment has been introduced.

Let us have recourse to the manifesto that was put forward in 1983 by the alliance party. The manifesto spoke ahout local government and said that the party planned to revitalise local government, restoring its independence and its accountability to the local electorate by … simplifying the structure of local government to make it more effective by abolishing one of the existing tiers of Government. This will be done by stages against the background of our proposals for the development of regional government. It would inevitably involve the eventual abolition of the MCCs and the GLC (not ILEA) and would also allow for the restoration of powers to some of the former county boroughs. That is just what the Bill does. The alliance seems to have done a complete about face. Consequently, we wonder whether it might not have pushed the amendment if it did not think that there were votes to be had in clinging on to some of those dinosaurs of local government.

The Liberals arid the SDP cannot agree between themselves. In The Social Democrat of 28 January 1983 the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) said: The present two-tier system of local government is costly, wasteful and bureaucratic. Social Democrats should he campaigning for a simplification of local government bringing the control of key services closer to the people. That means moving towards a single tier structure which everyone can understand. Then comes the most important statement: The first step should be the scrapping of the GLC and the metropolitan counties. I shall be interested to see which Lobby the hon. Member for Woolwich goes into tonight.

During the general election the hon. Member for Woolwich said: As regional government grows, one of the existing tiers of local government will be abolished; the GLC and the metropolitan counties will disappear but local communities will have statutory parish or neighbourhood councils. Those words appeared in the Estates Gazette of 21 May. It was the same theme right the way through, and it was not until after the election that the alliance turned towards saying that we should hang on to those authorities. It is arrant hypocrisy to turn round when it is politically expedient to bring forward such an amendment and say that perhaps we should all change our minds and go into the Lobby to try to keep the metropolitan county councils.

Today, the Labour party advocates support of the metropolitan county councils. It at least has the consistency on this matter to abstain. I unerstand that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) is a member of the Labour party's Front Bench team. After the election, and after this Government had clearly stated their intention to abolish the metropolitan county councils, he said: I do not intend to lift one legislative finger to stop the return of single-tier government to Birmingham. That was the view of all the City councillors and it was clearly the view of all West Midland MPs before the election. Those words come from the Sutton Coldfield News of 23 September 1983.

When concluding the recent Second Reading debate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State asked the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), the Labour party's spokesman, at least three times to say whether a Labour Government would reintroduce the metropolitan counties. The answer must be no, because the hon. Gentleman refused to answer the question. Perhaps I can refer Labour Members to their manifesto of 1983, which stated: We aim to end if we can the confusing division of services between two tiers of authority. Unitary district authorities in England and Wales could be responsible for all the functions in this area that they could sensibly undertake. The Labour party's policy was clearly to have one unitary system of local government and not to preserve the two-tier system. Perhaps the Labour party falls into the same category as the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey—if there were no votes in it, they would not oppose the Bill.

6.30 pm

In 1972, when the present system was set up, it was noticeable that the Labour party fought against the proposals. The Bill provides for a return of functions to authorities which are sufficiently large to deal with the problems of all local government matters, including strategic planning. Those who have lived in large county boroughs know that they can deal with all the major functions of local government, and should be allowed to do so. They are closer to the electorate. There are many more district councillors than county councillors. To much of the public, councils with headquarters 15 or 20 miles away are irrelevant.

I was born and bred a Lancastrian. In 1972 someone told me, "I am sorry, you are not a Lancastrian any more; you belong to the county of Greater Manchester." I am sure that that gladdened the hearts of citizens of Bury, Salford, Bolton and other such areas. Likewise, the Wirral, Birkenhead and Southport became part of Merseyside. Most of the metropolitan counties geographically identify with no one. The general public have no empathy with them. They are distant and irrelevant.

Little of the government of London is carried out by the GLC. Assuming that most of the transport functions—especially buses—are taken away from the metropolitan counties, what will be left for them? They do not have the major functions of education, social services and transport — other than a responsibility for major roads and strategic planning. The district boroughs that carry out planning functions can easily extend them to strategic planning. They are quite capable of handling structure plans, because that is what they do on a day-to-day basis. They can carry on precisely where the metropolitan counties leave off.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) referred to the boards. A district council has eight or 10 committees, so, inevitably, a councillor will serve on only two or three of them. If he receives a complaint about waste disposal, but he serves on the planning committee, he will approach a colleague on the relevant committee. Now, district councils will take up such matters with their colleagues who sit on the boards. Democracy will work in that way. The district councillors will be closer to the public. They will be more numerous, more approachable and will identify with the interests of their constituents far better than the metropolitan county councillor, who might represent 12,000 or 15,000 people spread over an often indefinable area.

I am astounded by the hypocrisy that I have heard in the debate. The Opposition are facing in every direction at the same time, in the hope that they will see someone with a different point of view with whom they can identify. The Government consulted the electorate in June 1983. Our proposals were clearly set out in the manifesto. We have been consistent in our approach — we have not faced in different directions. We are doing what we were elected to do. We are not saying one thing and doing another. Perhaps the Opposition will learn from our consistency. Perhaps that is why we are sitting here and they are sitting on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

I very much enjoyed the fully-fledged concept of parliamentary democracy outlined by the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind), especially the idea that debate is irrelevant. He therefore chose not to make a speech of any importance, and I understand why. If he believes that the only principle that matters is that of the manifesto commitment, the process in which we are engaged becomes a waste of time. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that Conservative Members who rebelled last night are lesser Conservatives who should be cast out into the everlasting wilderness?

I want to deal with the serious subject of the county of Greater Manchester. We have the opportunity to develop a case that the Secretary of State must answer. We must know the specific reasons for the proposed abolition of the Greater Manchester county council. London hon. Members have spoken as though there were a great difference between Greater Manchester and Greater London, but they are very similar. There is a whole to the Manchester region — so much so that the Government recognised that, for example, when drawing up their recent travel-to-work areas. They overrode the district boundaries and recognised that people operate in considerably larger economic, social and planning units than those provided by the district councils.

The city of Manchester occupies an unfortunate role in the Manchester conurbation. It is virtually confined to the inner city area, so that it does not have access to the resource base which depends upon the conurbation. Those who have fled from the city base to areas such as Trafford should, according to the Government, not have to accept any responsibility for the city centre, upon which their very existence depends. That has a direct repercussion on conurbation services, such as the arts and the cultural activities that depend critically upon the centre of the conurbation.

Conservative Members say that we can go back to something which, in fact, never existed. When the county of Greater Manchester was formed, the highway programme would have taken more than £2,000 million to bring into practice and 150 years to bring into being—such was the confusion among the small local authorities. I believe that hon. Members would accept the fact that the necessary functions should be performed by country-wide structures, and that is why the Secretary of State accepts the existence of joint boards.

My hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) said that we are specifically discussing the representation of the joint boards. He took some time to explain the inherent difficulties involved with secondary elections. My hon. Friend touched on, but did not develop, the issue of the balance of parties. Although clause 32 provides for representation on the joint boards of minority parties from each district, it does not give control of the membership to those minority parties. The legislation allows the controlling group — for example, in the borough of Trafford — to decide the Labour members chosen to represent the Labour group and Labour voters. The legislation effectively sabotages the effectiveness of those joint boards. It is the spirit not of democracy but of the denial of democracy and denial of access of the public to its elected representatives—those who claim to make decisions in the name of the public. It is the spirit of patronage at large.

Like most hon. Members representing Greater Manchester constituencies, I have received no correspondence in favour of the Government's proposals. No Conservative Member from a Greater Manchester constituency has taken the trouble to put the case for the GMC's abolition. The nearest we come to a Conservative Member from that area is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science—the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn)—who, I understand, comes from Eccles. That is much to his credit. Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman is not in a position to talk about the merits or demerits of the case, because his brief is to stick rigidly to the issue of ILEA.

It is significant to note the strength of feeling among voluntary bodies and other organisations that have had access to the county councils. Those bodies are exclusively condemnatory of the proposals put forward by the Secretary of State. In recognising the conurbation of Greater Manchester, it is important that we provide a structure that allows for integrated planning and services. That integration allowed the city to produce projects such as the Manchester ship canal, which was designed 100 years ago with joint efforts by the various Manchester areas. No Mancunian—I was born technically in the former borough of Stretford—would consider himself to be other than a Mancunian. No Manchester United supporter, whose ground is outside the city of Manchester in Stretford in the borough of Trafford, would think of Manchester United as other than a Manchester football team. No Mancunian, whether from Bolton, Bury, or the other parts that make up Manchester, would consider the idea of breaking up Manchester to have any sense, especially when it will mean worse, not better services.

It was instructive to hear the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) say that he was unhappy about some of the joint boards. The structure of the joint boards has been criticised by the borough of Trafford, which the Secretary of State prays in aid of his proposal. The bodies that will be set up if the Bill is unamended have been criticised. People may favour the general principle of abolition, but they do not favour what the Secretary of State will put in place of the Greater Manchester council. That is why we deserve a more realistic debate about Greater Manchester.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Those hon. Members who were present when the debate was opened were treated to a vintage example of what I might call the "Lib labyrinth". The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), when seeking to prove that the Labour party was hopelessly inconsistent, divided and confused about its attitude to the abolition of the upper-tier authorities, was interrupted repeatedly by one Labour Member after another seeking to prove that the Liberal party was every bit as confused, contradictory and divided. For those hon. Members watching and listening, it was a remarkable performance.

There are two perfectly clear facts about the amendments moved last night and this afternoon by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey. It is clear that, if last night's amendment had been carried, the GLC would have been taken out of clause 1, and thereafter in Committee the Bill would have been only about the abolition of the metropolitan county councils. The amendment moved this afternoon would have taken the metropolitan county councils out of the Bill, so that for the rest of the Committee stage the Bill would have been only about the GLC.

6.45 pm

The amendments were clear. There was nothing strange or convoluted about them. The astonishing fact is that, considering the campaign that the Labour party has been waging in every one of these seven authorities at the ratepayers' expense, it has chosen to abstain on each of the amendments in turn. I cannot read it from here, but I think that the message on the badge worn by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) says "Keep the GLC working for London". Last night, the hon. Gentleman had a chance to go into the Lobby to vote for that slogan. It might have been called the "Keep the GLC working for London" amendment. The hon. Gentleman chose to sit where he was. This afternoon, the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing), who represents a Merseyside constituency, and other hon. Members who represent constituencies in the met counties will have an opportunity to go through the Lobby in support of the amendment to take the proposal to abolish the met county councils from the Bill. They will do precisely what they did last night—they will stick where they are and not vote.

Mr. Robert M. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)


Mr. Jenkin

I shall just finish my sentence. I should be delighted to hear the hon. Gentleman's argument because I shall refer to it in a moment.

The message that is going out from this Committee is that when it comes to the crunch, to the most important clause of the Bill which we are taking on the Floor of the House and the amendments that go right to the heart of the Bill, the Labour party cannot make up its mind whether it will vote for the amendment.

Mr. Wareing


Mr. John Fraser


Mr. Jenkin

I shall give way to the hon. Member for West Derby.

Mr. Wareing

Which of the major political parties in this Chamber has voted solidly the same way on every issue and has determined its policy the same way on every issue? I suggest that it is the party to which I belong.

Mr. Jenkin

I shall be interested to see whether the hon. Gentleman votes solidly in favour of the amendment removing the Merseyside county council from the Bill.

Even more interesting is the fact that, during the speech by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey, three entirely different and inconsistent arguments were made about why the Labour party was abstaining. First, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), who is not in his place, said that the Labour party did not vote for the amendment because it was ill drafted. What absolute poppycock. The entire line was to be taken out. The meaning was crystal clear, and any parliamentary draftsman would have been proud of the amendment.

We then heard a totally different answer from the hon. Member for Newham, North-West when he intervened. He said that the Labour party did not vote because the GLC did not want to be split from the metropolitan county councils. This is purely a matter of Labour party tactics. The local government campaign committee is trying to stick together. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee know perfectly well that the arguments about the GLC and the metropolitan county councils are very different. The arguments of many metropolitan district Labour councillors differ totally from the arguments of councillors in the inner London boroughs. I acknowledge that fact.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett


Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)


Mr. Boyes

On a point of order, Mr. Dean. The Secretary of State has made what could be seen as a damaging statement about elected Labour representatives on district councils in metropolitan county areas. He should justify that.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Paul Dean)

Order. The hon. Member is on a point of argument, not a point of order.

Mr. Jenkin

We have had three arguments. The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) said that the Labour party was not voting against these crucial amendments which go to the heart of the Bill because the two amendments were contradictory. What rubbish. I think that the hon. Gentleman and I came into the House on the same day. We have been here now for 20 years. He knows that it is entirely in order for any hon. Member to table in succession a series of amendments. Each one is then voted on. The argument that the amendments might be inconsistent has never carried any weight. It is a good argument to say, "That amendment was defeated, so I shall now move this amendment."

It was an entirely legitimate tactic for the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey to have moved an amendment last night to take the GLC out of the Bill and then, when it was defeated, this afternoon to move an amendment to take out the metropolitan counties. The Labour party has sat tight on both. When it came to the crucial issue in the Bill, the Labour party did not put its votes where its mouth is and where the ratepayers' money has gone.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett


Mr. Jenkin

I am coming to the hon. Gentleman's speech. He made a good, closely argued speech. I shall be brief because I sense that the Committee wishes to reach a decision fairly soon.

We all know that the Liberal party is divided on this issue. The hon. Members for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) and for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) have made it clear that they are in favour of abolishing the metropolitan county councils. The hon. Members for Southwark and Bermondsey and for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) have made it clear that they wish to keep those authorities. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey said that there was nothing inconsistent about that. They want to keep them until they can put something better in their place, so therefore two vote to keep them and two vote to get rid of them. As an example of tortuous logic, that just about takes the biscuit.

We are aware of the view of the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham). He was asked a clear question by my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey)—whether the hon. Member for Copeland would give a pledge to restore the metropolitan counties. The hon. Member for Copeland said: Let me say absolutely unequivocally,"— we waited— as was made clear at the Labour party conference a few weeks ago, that the Labour party is committed to preserving under democratic control the achievements and strategic functions in the management of local government services. That is quite specific—".—[Official Report, 3 December 1984; Vol. 69, c. 40.] I have read those words up and down and I can make neither head nor tail of them.

Mr. Tony Banks


Mr. Jenkin

It is clear that the Labour party has consistently refused in the past few months to give any commitment to restore the metropolitan county councils.

The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) made an important and interesting speech. He made a number of points. He and the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) talked about unity of the Greater Manchester area which somehow justified this complicated and unconvincing system of two-tier government. With the benefit of experience, we believe that it is unconvincing. They said that Manchester is the focus for the towns around, and I do not doubt that. They mentioned the exchange, the arts and the railways. Are they seriously saying that those proud authorities — Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, Bolton and all the rest—are not conscious of being strong, all-purpose urban areas, many of which were previously county boroughs, which are anxious to have their powers back?

If hon. Members go round, as I have, and talk to the people in the town halls in those areas — not just members of the Conservative party—they will find that they cannot wait to get rid of the Greater Manchester council. The hon. Gentleman said that the public passionately wished to keep the Greater Manchester council. I do not know whether he is a keen reader of the Manchester Evening News. If he is, he would have seen on 1 December this year this article: A public debate on Government plans to scrap the Greater Manchester council with other metropolitan authorities was cancelled today through lack of interest. The all day event at Manchester University was to have featured leading politicians from GMC, Merseyside and the Greater London Council. Only seventeen people enrolled.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Does the Minister accept that last Friday night in Stockport town hall over 200 people turned up at a meeting organised by the Stockport council to hear hon. Members? About 90 per cent. of those people were appalled by what they heard about the Government's proposals.

Mr. Jenkin

The meeting that was organised to cover the whole subject attracted no attention. Those who are involved with local government services in those areas know, as my hon. Friends the Members for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) and for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) — the authentic voice of the west midlands —know, that those metropolitan counties have never caught on. They have never caught the public's imagination. The public do not understand the councils. They become confused by the division of functions, which are contradictory, confusing and give rise to conflict and delay.

My hon. Friend the Member for Northfield was asked, in an intervention, about the water authorities. I have news for the Committee. The Bill does not set up one authority that bears any resemblance to a water authority. There are only two new permanent boards. One is the London Planning Commission which is purely advisory and has no executive function. The other board that the Bill envisages is the trustee of the Merseyside museums. There is no other quango such as the water board. [Interruption.] I support the existence of the water boards. They are making themselves more efficient. However, I shall not listen to any view that suggests that the Bill is setting up any such authority.

A lot of nonsense has been talked about quangos and centralisation. This Bill deals with the devolution of power to the boroughs. The districts will have 100 per cent. of the service expenditure from the metropolitan county councils to run themselves or for joint expenditure and it will be under the control of elected borough councillors. That is the truth, and the argument from the Labour Benches that somehow we are creating a remote and unaccountable form of government is so much nonsense.

We have heard from the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish the argument for retention. From my hon. Friends the Members for Northfield and for Lancashire, West we have heard the argument for abolition. They spelt out the case very clearly, and there is not the slightest doubt that my hon. Friends had a considerable edge in that argument.

I urge the Committee to reject the amendment of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey. We shall watch with fascinated interest. Whether the amendment is obscure, badly drafted, contradictory or anything else, Labour Members will sit tight and abstain. It makes their position wholly incredible.

7 pm

Mr. Simon Hughes

I do not often find myself in substantial agreement with the Secretary of State, but I agree with him on one fundamental point. There is no inconsistency, no ambiguity, no lack of clarity and no complexity in the amendment. It would take out of the Bill the provision to abolish the metropolitan county councils.

The Government's proposals do not merely hand some power down to the districts; they take much power away from democratically elected bodies. That proposal is unacceptable and we shall vote against it.

If the Labour party chooses to make a decision today —as it did in the early hours of this morning on the GLC—to abstain, it will be abstaining on the simplest and most clearly stated proposal to remove the metropolitan counties from the Government's grasp in regard to abolition. The Labour party must take responsibility for that decision.

The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett), whose amendment is part of the group that we are discussing, made a speech which, in its substance, was seeking to do what he accepts we are seeking to do—to make it clear that one cannot generalise, that there should be options, and that those options should be decided within the regions by the people concerned and not imposed.

As evidence of the fact that that has always been our approach, the hon. Gentleman will, I hope, recollect that yesterday we moved and debated amendment No. 35, which will be voted upon later tonight. That amendment would provide for local public inquiries to be held in each of the seven county areas producing impartial reports to be laid before Parliament, which would allow a better form of government to be implemented in each of the areas. It would be not a matter of imposition, but of proper consultation leading to proper and well-informed decisions.

As the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) rightly said, if this is not the place where we should debate issues on the basis of good information and accurate facts, and if we are here simply to rubber-stamp manifesto promises, that is a substantial change in the constitutional role of this place. I think that almost every hon. Member would find that change unacceptable.

Mr. Hind

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that he has changed his mind fundamentally from the statement in his party's manifesto, and that during the course of the debate he has not given us one solid or good reason why he and his party should have done so?

Mr. Hughes

I shall come in a moment to the speech of the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind).

The amendment of the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish is specifically related to the Greater Manchester council. I argued—and I stand by it—that the arguments in favour of the Greater London council being retained are stronger than those for the retention of the metropolitan counties, not least because the London county council came into existence in 1889, whereas the metropolitan councils came into existence only in 1974.

The arguments for retaining a metropolitan county in Greater Manchester are stronger than those in regard to some of the other metropolitan counties. To that extent also I may find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish. Clearly, that was the view of the Redcliffe-Maud commission, which reported to a Labour Government. It said that there should be three metropolitan counties—Merseyside, West Midlands and Greater Manchester. It said that Tyneside and West Yorkshire were, for differenct reasons, not appropriately metropolitan authorities—Tyneside because it was more suitable to be a unitary authority, and West Yorkshire because it could be satisfactorily divided between its five component authorities. We share that view. The Labour Government added West Yorkshire and South Hampshire to make five proposed metropolitan authorities. The Conservative Government were then elected into office, they produced a White Paper, they proposed having six counties, and they implemented that proposal.

That was the judgment of the Conservative party. It differed from that of the Labour party, which wanted five authorities, and from the Redcliffe-Maud commission, which wanted three. We say that each must be judged on its merits and that they should not be grouped together.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) I think misunderstands the nature of our proposal. We say that in general terms there is far too much government in Whitehall and that it should be devolved to the regions. There was some sympathy in the hon. Gentleman's remarks for that view, where we are talking about properly defined local government—and there is always a difficulty of definition—that should be at the lowest possible level. It does not exclude—a quotation was made from a speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright)—parish or community councils, because they deal with very local matters and are not at the same tier of local government. There is no inconsistency in saying that central Government should be reduced and shorn of many of their inappropriate responsibilities, and that there should be regional government and unitary local government at a lower level. That is the proposal behind all the amendments to the Bill that we shall be moving.

We do not find any problems with those parts of the Bill which properly take powers away from a metropolitan county where they can properly go to a district. That is appropriate, and we have always supported that concept.

The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) made two points to which I should like to refer, although one of them is peripheral to the debate. He knows that my two colleagues and I will be regular attenders when the Bill is in Committee upstairs. We shall be supporting the continuation of the GLC, just as we sought to retain it in the early hours of this morning. At the same time, we shall be fighting for better proposals for the metropolitan counties.

There were three sittings of the Committee dealing with the New Towns and Urban Development Corporations Bill. We supported the Government on the Second Reading of that Bill, and therefore did not have a great deal of criticism of it. I apologise to any hon. Members who feel aggrieved that because of previous commitments I was not able to be present at the sittings. One of those commitments was a meeting with the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment. The appointment was made long before the date of the Committee was fixed. That was why I was not able to be present. When there is the possibility of more hon. Members from the alliance parties being on a Committee, the problem will not arise.

A proposal to get rid of the metropolitan counties and replace them by indirectly elected or non-elected authorities would lead to the fragmentation of local government. We shall fight as hard for a decent local government service for people in the metropolitan counties as we shall for those in London. Regional argument will be heard. That is why we shall move to a vote now. The Government's proposals for abolishing the metropolitan counties without proper consideration of their differences and problems should not be approved by this Committee or by the Committee upstairs.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 14, Noes 268.

Division No. 51] [7.12 pm
Ashdown, Paddy Penhaligon, David
Beith, A. J. Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Freud, Clement Steel, Rt Hon David
Hancock, Mr. Michael Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Howells, Geraint Wainwright, R.
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Johnston, Russell Tellers for the Ayes:
Kirkwood, Archy Mr. John Cartwright and
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Mr. Michael Meadowcroft.
Adley, Robert Carlisle, John (N Luton)
Aitken, Jonathan Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)
Alexander, Richard Carttiss, Michael
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Cash, William
Alton, David Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Amess, David Chapman, Sydney
Ancram, Michael Chope, Christopher
Arnold, Tom Churchill, W. S.
Ashby, David Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Aspinwall, Jack Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Cockeram, Eric
Baldry, Tony Colvin, Michael
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Coombs, Simon
Bendall, Vivian Cope, John
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Corrie, John
Benyon, William Couchman, James
Best, Keith Cranborne, Viscount
Biffen, Rt Hon John Crouch, David
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Currie, Mrs Edwina
Blackburn, John Dorrell, Stephen
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Body, Richard Dover, Den
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Boscawen, Hon Robert Dunn, Robert
Bottomley, Peter Durant, Tony
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Emery, Sir Peter
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Evennett, David
Braine, Sir Bernard Eyre, Sir Reginald
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Fallon, Michael
Bright, Graham Farr, Sir John
Brinton, Tim Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Brooke, Hon Peter Fletcher, Alexander
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Fookes, Miss Janet
Bruinvels, Peter Forman, Nigel
Bryan, Sir Paul Forth, Eric
Buck, Sir Antony Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Budgen, Nick Fox, Marcus
Bulmer, Esmond Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Burt, Alistair Garel-Jones, Tristan
Butcher, John Glyn, Dr Alan
Butler, Hon Adam Goodlad, Alastair
Butterfill, John Gow, Ian
Grant, Sir Anthony Norris, Steven
Green way, Harry Onslow, Cranley
Grylls, Michael Oppenheim, Phillip
Hannam, John Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Hargreaves, Kenneth Osborn, Sir John
Hayes, J. Ottaway, Richard
Hayhoe, Barney Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Hayward, Robert Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Henderson, Barry Parris, Matthew
Hickmet, Richard Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Pattie, Geoffrey
Hill, James Pawsey, James
Hind, Kenneth Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Porter, Barry
Holt, Richard Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Hooson, Tom Powell, William (Corby)
Hordern, Peter Powley, John
Howard, Michael Price, Sir David
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Proctor, K. Harvey
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Raffan, Keith
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hunt, David (Wirral) Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Hunter, Andrew Renton, Tim
Irving, Charles Rhodes James, Robert
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jessel, Toby Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Roe, Mrs Marion
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rossi, Sir Hugh
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Rowe, Andrew
Key, Robert Rumbold, Mrs Angela
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Knowles, Michael Sayeed, Jonathan
Lang, Ian Scott, Nicholas
Lawrence, Ivan Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Shersby, Michael
Lightbown, David Silvester, Fred
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Sims, Roger
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Skeet, T. H. H.
Lord, Michael Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Luce, Richard Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lyell, Nicholas Soames, Hon Nicholas
McCrindle, Robert Speller, Tony
Macfarlane, Neil Spence, John
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Spencer, Derek
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Maclean, David John Squire, Robin
McQuarrie, Albert Stanbrook, Ivor
Major, John Steen, Anthony
Malins, Humfrey Stern, Michael
Malone, Gerald Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Maples, John Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Marlow, Antony Stradling Thomas, J.
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Sumberg, David
Mates, Michael Tapsell, Peter
Mather, Carol Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Maude, Hon Francis Temple-Morris, Peter
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Terlezki, Stefan
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Mellor, David Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Merchant, Piers Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Thornton, Malcolm
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Thurnham, Peter
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Tracey, Richard
Montgomery, Fergus Trotter, Neville
Moynihan, Hon C. van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Murphy, Christopher Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Neale, Gerrard Viggers, Peter
Needham, Richard Waddington, David
Nelson, Anthony Waldegrave, Hon William
Newton, Tony Walden, George
Nicholls, Patrick Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Wall, Sir Patrick Wolfson, Mark
Waller, Gary Wood, Timothy
Ward, John Woodcock, Michael
Wardle, C. (Bexhill) Yeo, Tim
Warren, Kenneth Young, Sir George (Acton)
Watson, John Younger, Rt Hon George
Watts, John
Wells, Sir John (Maidstone) Tellers for the Noes:
Whitfield, John Mr. Archie Hamilton and
Whitney, Raymond Mr. Michael Neubert.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Cowans

I beg to move amendment No. 29, in page 1, line 15, leave out '1st April 1986' and add 'such date as the Secretary of State shall by order appoint not being before 1st April 1986, such order to be laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.'.

It seems that the fighting Liberals could not muster as much support for their amendment as the Conservatives mustered against their own Bill, and proportionately that is a very good thing.

The amendment seeks to bring some sense to the Bill by deleting 1 April 1986 and making the Minister come back to the House to lay an order so that Parliament will be able to debate the matter. There are several fundamental issues underlying the amendment.

In far too much legislation powers are given to Secretaries of State who do not have to return to Parliament, so hon. Members have no opportunity to debate the matter. This Bill must be one of the worst as it gives the Secretary of State 40 or more powers to do things by order without any redress for Parliament.

I shall begin with the non-political aspect. Members of Parliament should not be persuaded to vote for a Bill which hands over the powers of the House of Commons to a Secretary of State, whoever he may be, because to do so would be to betray the people who sent us here. Every issue should be debatable. Jurisdiction should not be handed over to the Secretary of State. Unless the amendment is passed, we shall be creating exactly that situation.

This is a highly controversial Bill, even among Conservative Members, as yesterday's events showed. By a stroke of luck, the Government managed to get a majority of 23, but if they had been at all backward in certain other places they might well have lost by 23 votes. Either way, that proves how controversial the measure is. The Bill will be going into Standing Committee, but it is not only the Standing Committee that matters. When we have finished debating this nonsense, people outside in the real world will have to operate it. Therefore, it is essential that the widest possible consultation be undertaken. When that consultation has taken place, it is equally essential that the Minister should satisfy the House of Commons that that consultation was properly carried out.

When we debated the amendment calling for a Royal Commission the Government offered the farcical argument that everything had already been said and that there was no need for a Royal Commission. That flies in the face of the evidence, not just from the Opposition but from bodies such as the National Farmers Union, which I do not believe is closely associated with the Labour party. The NFU is extremely concerned.

Mr. Bermingham

Is my hon. Friend aware that many of the bodies to be abolished own considerable farming tracts and that tenants are extremely worried about the possibility of their farms being divided up between a number of authorities and the consequent danger to their livelihood?

Mr. Cowans

That is indeed one of the arguments for the amendment. So far, there has been no consultation. Unlike the Government, the NFU says: Many of the functions currently performed by the GLC and MCCs are of significance to the well being of agriculture within the metropolitan areas, and indeed in parts of the surrounding shire counties (notably strategic planning, mineral planning, land reclamation …) and to varying degrees the role of these authorities as agricultural landlords. Unlike the Government, the NFU states that its job is to look after the people concerned and that the only way to protect the interests of its members is through the democratic processes of local government. The Bill removes those processes, so a little more muscle from the NFU might have changed yesterday's vote. The Government may care to consider that.

Mr. Boyes

It is interesting to note that our views have the support of many bodies that do not generally support the Labour party. In Newcastle, Mr. John Hunter, chief executive of the Tyne and Wear chamber of commerce, stated yesterday in The Journal: We feel particularly that economic development, which the County Council has always treated sympathetically, has not really been looked at in the Bill. That is further damning evidence against the Government for bringing forward this shoddy Bill.

Mr. Cowans

I shall be coming to that. This is not a private debate. Anyone may join in. My hon. Friend may feel strongly enough about this to wish to go into the matter further later in the debate.

The Guardian also supports the need for consultation and for the Minister to come back to Parliament on this. On 23 November it said: It is impossible to read yesterday's local government bill"— if it had gone no further than that, I should certainly have agreed entirely— which abolishes the GLC and its regional counterparts —without asking one question: What on earth is the point of it all? The Opposition would agree unanimously with that. It continues: The Government claims duplication will be avoided and a whole layer of local government will be removed and not replaced. Yet nearly all of the present activities—particularly at the GLC, the most publicised case—are not being removed, but merely dispersed: to central Government, to local authorities and to a Baker's dozen of quangos. Those are not my remarks, but they are very true.

As has already been said, the National Consumer Council is also very concerned. Many words have flowed from the Secretary of State, but he has not convinced the National Consumer Council. The council states: This Council is, therefore, deeply concerned to note the fears being expressed by advice and information services in the Greater London and Metropolitan County areas over funding arrangements after the abolition of the second tier authorities in these areas. We are also perplexed"— they can join the club; we are all perplexed— because the government has indicated, on numerous occasions, that it is not its intention to damage the voluntary sector through its abolition proposals. Even the voluntary sector does not believe that. I begin to wonder whether anyone believes the Government when they talk about the Bill. All those examples point to the need for consideration by Parliament.

7.30 pm

My hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) raised an important point. This afternoon we received another grocery lesson on unemployment. The Government tell us vehemently—and I believe it — that they do not want to create unemployment. Yet here is a group of agencies that has done very well. Despite that, the Government are going to abolish the metropolitan counties with their job-creating functions.

A document prepared by Tyne and Wear points out that since the MCCs were formed in 1974 they have helped to save or create at least 46,000 jobs, built hundreds of factory units and attracted millions of pounds of investment. For their pains, the counties are to be abolished. Let there be no more crocodile tears about unemployment while the Government abolish a layer of government that has created 46,000 jobs.

There is another matter raised by Tyne and Wear which is also important to other areas. It is a matter to which little thought has been given. It has certainly not been discussed with the district councils that the Secretary of State claims are in favour of his proposals. Incidentally, it is remarkable that the Secretary of State cannot put a name to even one of those councils.

Section 137 of the Local Government Act gives power to raise a tuppeny rate and to spend it.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Giles Shaw)

And waste it.

Mr. Cowans

Waste it? I shall talk about waste in a moment. We will consider what the Government regard as waste.

The point is that £37 million a year is to be taken away from job-creating agencies. Consultation, as suggested in the amendment, is vital because no consideration has been given to the question of the district councils' money, while £37 million is to be taken away from the creation of employment.

We hear again and again that the Government are concerned about unemployment, but the Bill suggests to me that they are concerned more with creating rather than solving unemployment.

Mr. Park

On the question of consultation, is my hon. Friend aware that the first demands by the Government for staffing and financial information were issued to the county councils on 7 November, with a return date of 30 November? The Bill and the financial memorandum were published on 22:November. It is clear that the Government intended to go ahead, irrespective of what the county councils said.

Mr. Cowans

My hon. Friend strengthens the case for the amendment. The Government are trying to take a controversial Bill through the House at the speed of light without any consultation or consideration of either the services or the staff involved.

The Minister of State made a comment about waste. In Greater Manchester, 34,551 youngsters are on the dole. On Merseyside, 21,172 youngsters are on the dole. In South Yorkshire the figure is 22,199 and in Tyne and Wear, 40,000.

Mr. Boyes

And more every minute.

Mr. Cowans

Yes, indeed.

In Tyne and Wear, 20,000 jobs have been saved since 1974. That may not be many. However, when one considers how many jobs are lost every day because of the Government's policies, the removal of another job-creating function is nonsense and should be opposed.

We know that these measures are nonsense. We are trying to make the Secretary of State accountable to Parliament. We can do that only by carrying the amendment and preventing the Secretary of State from setting a date for abolition before we have looked at a single dot or comma of any of the clauses in the Bill. We want to oblige the Secretary of State to come back to the House of Commons and to lay before us an order that we can debate, so that we can at least satisfy ourselves that consultation has taken place.

There are any number of arguments that I could raise, but I know that many hon. Members wish to speak. However, I want to mention the fact that a considerable number of co-operatives in the metropolitan county council areas are funded by the county councils. There has been no consultation with those co-operatives. I have a letter from the co-operatives which draws attention to the fact that if the metropolitan counties are abolished they will have no funding at all. Another job-creating agency will be lost.

If there were no other arguments for the amendment, I could still refer to the derisory vote that the Government received last night, because they could not even convince their own colleagues that the Bill is a good thing. The Government may resist the amendment. If they do, it will be because they are frightened to bring their proposals back to the Floor of democracy in case, in the clear light of day, the 23 hon. Members who comprised their majority last night realise what is going on and change their minds.

The Opposition are not frightened of democracy. We want a debate on the Floor of the House of Commons. If the amendment is defeated, we shall conclude that the Government are frightened of democracy and increasingly frightened of their own Back Benchers, who know in their heart of hearts that the Bill is nonsense because it will destroy the Government and democracy.

Mr. Cartwright

I wish to support the amendment.

Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)

The hon. Gentleman has not been here. He has only just arrived.

Mr. Cartwright

I have been in my place for the greater part of the debate. In view of the comment made by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland), I wish to put that on the record.

I support the amendment, but for reasons slightly different from those advanced by the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans). I support it because it removes the deadline of 1 April 1986, which is one of the problems involved in the Bill in its present form. The removal of that deadline would allow some sensible planning in connection with the changes that would be necessary if the Government got their way. More time would enable the Government to deal with some of the gaps that have already been identified in the provision for effective functions after abolition.

The hon. Member for Tyne Bridge drew attention to the anxieties of the NFU. Other organisations are also worried. On 6 December the Greater London Playing Fields Association set out its anxieties in a letter to several hon. Members. The association's committee consists of representatives of all Greater London boroughs and of sport and recreation in London, so it is a broadly-based body.

In its resolution the committee expressed very serious concern at the most damaging consequences to London sport and recreation, which will be caused if the Greater London Council, in its present form, is abolished without an effective alternative structure for sports management and finance being instituted. The committee continued by urging the Secretary of State to establish a Committee of Enquiry with Terms of Reference which will allow a thorough process of consultation and examination to take place in the hope of safeguarding sport and recreation for the citizens of London.

More time is needed to tackle the problems of transition which will flow from the Bill—if it reaches the statute book. The Government have not seriously taken on board the complexities of setting up the joint boards to which they are so firmly committed. They will have to find offices for each of the joint boards and they will have to find chief officers. Staff will have to be assembled, and management systems will have to be introduced. In these days of reliance on computers, new computer systems will have to be brought in and made compatible with all of the organisations with which the joint boards will have to operate. Moreover, the joint boards, which will be composed of representatives of different local authorities, with different attitudes and political views, will have to produce a joint policy.

Under the Government's timetable, functions will stay with the abolished authorities until 31 March 1986, but the joint boards are to be set up on 1 September 1985. That implies a period of co-working. The joint boards and the soon-to-be-abolished authorities will be like a pantomine horse, and I cannot believe that there will be friendly and pleasant co-operation.

There will also be a problem of co-operation from the metropolitan districts and the London boroughs. Some have made it clear that they do not intend to co-operate. For example, the Association of London Authorities said firmly in a press statement of 22 November: We will not step in and take over from the GLC. No doubt the Minister will say that the Association of London Authorities is not entirely impartial.

There might be something in that, so I was interested to see what the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives had to say on the matter, as that is an impartial body which has the type of expertise that will be needed to set up the joint boards and make them work. It said: This timetable seems over-ambitious even if the Bill receives Royal Assent in July, 1985 and whether or not the GLC and Metropolitan County Councils continue to refuse to have dealings with any matters which may contribute to implementing the Abolition Bill. The society clearly envisages considerable difficulties. It summed up its views thus: It is highly unlikely in the light of the complicated functions which the joint boards are to be required to administer that they can be set up in such a short time to operate efficiently . That is a strong argument for more time and for the Government to move away from the magic date of 1 April 1986.

7.45 pm

Much the same problem was foreseen by P. A. Management Consultants when it examined the metropolitan counties. It compared the change which the Government are now proposing with what happened between 1972 and 1974. Its report said that there is now considerably less time than in 1972–74 to prepare for this reorganisation, and the problems inherent in fragmenting existing services are potentially greater than those involved in merging smaller units as happened in 1974 … our survey has shown that most Districts are unprepared to take on their new responsibilities. That is another sound reason for not pressing ahead with this magic date.

Mr. Park

The hon. Gentleman will know from his experience of local government that the making of a rate is not treated lightly. Would he care to comment on the fact that there will be at least seven bodies with precepting powers and that, unless there is the prior consultation and agreement of which he has spoken, it would be quite easy for a local authority to have carefully arrived at a rate, only to have it knocked sideways by the seven precepts coming in at different times?

Mr. Cartwright

That is an important point. My experience is that it is sometimes difficult to deal with one precept coming from just one authority which might be controlled by colleagues of the same political party. Having several precepts coming from several directions from joint boards which might have quite different political make-ups is a recipe for considerable difficulties for local authority treasurers and chairmen of finance committees.

I was involved to some extent in the reorganisation of London's government 20-odd years ago. I recall our having a great deal more time to make the transition. The Bill was enacted in 1963, we had the first elections for the new authorities in the spring of 1964, the old and new authorities operated side-by-side for almost a year and the new authorities took over in the spring of 1965. That was a much simpler operation, as the London county council was transferring functions straight to the GLC, which covered a much wider area and had different functions, but at least had some basis on which to receive those responsibilities. Similarly, we had several metropolitan London authorities which were able to transfer their responsibilities and functions to the London borough councils. That was much simpler than what is proposed. A whole tier of elected government is to be scrapped and its powers are to be distributed among a complex spider's web of new bodies.

Part of this case has been accepted by the Government, because they might be preparing for the eventuality that they cannot abolish all these authorities or have new bodies in place by 1 April 1986. I notice that in clause 59 they take powers under which the Secretary of State may make an order giving the residuary bodies any of the functions which were previously performed by the GLC or the metropolitan counties. That seems to be a fail-safe device. If abolition is not completely achieved and the joint boards are not entirely in place, the residuary bodies will have to take over some of those responsibilities. The great flaw in that is that the residuary bodies will not be elected, but will be appointed by the Secretary of State and will therefore be subject to his detailed direction. If there is to be any delay, it would be far better to leave the existing elected authorities in place to carry out their responsibilities until replacement arrangements are established.

This rush is a recipe for high costs, chaos and confusion. It must have an impact on the services received by ordinary people. In its detailed discussions the Committee seems sometimes to forget that we are discussing not just distribution of responsibilities and the allocation of functions but the provision of important services on which many of our constituents depend. The rush to meet the target date poses grave risks to the quality of those services. That is another reason why I support the amendment.

Mr. Fatchett

My hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans) made two strong and principled points. He said that it was wrong for the Government to fix a date before we looked at the detail of the Bill. That is manifestly correct. He also said that the House, at a later stage, should have the right to look at and approve the powers delegated to the Secretary of State. That was also right.

I wish to concentrate on a point that is peculiar to west Yorkshire and on a general point about the cost of the abolition of the metropolitan counties and the GLC. In the amendments that we discussed last night, we asked specifically for an inquiry into the cost. At that stage the Government found a sufficient number of supporters to go through the Lobby with some enthusiasm to defeat that batch of amendments.

I asked the Minister for Local Government to detail the savings, and wanted to know what proportion came from administration and what proportion arose from policy changes. I asked that because at one stage I suspect that he tried to obscure the issue. He pointed out that the metropolitan councils and the GLC were £432 million a year above target and £600 million a year above their grant-related expenditure assessments. Anyone who has taken any interest in local government finance will realise that those are not objective categories. They seem to have emerged from somewhere in the Department of the Environment and have eventually been produced in a form which only a few people can understand. However, they have no bearing on local circumstances and are of no relevance to local democracy.

Those were figures for what the Minister alleged to be the overspend in terms of the metropolitan counties and the GLC. However, he did not give the savings figure, and at this stage I wish to place on record my view that the Minister can no longer use the argument that the overspend will be the savings figure in relation to abolition—

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

Order. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the terms of the amendment, which questions whether a date should be specified in the Bill or introduced following a resolution of the House.

Mr. Fatchett

I make this point, Mr. Armstrong, because I believe that a resolution of the House is absolutely necessary. Were we to approve such a resolution, we would expect the Minister to produce accurate figures on which a judgment could be made rather than to advance the arguments that we heard last night, because those arguments obscured the issue by talking about overspend rather than potential savings.

I hope, Mr. Armstrong, that you will allow me to develop this point. I appreciate that your patience may well be tested. I would not wish to do that, because your reputation is that of a patient man and it would be wrong to push the point to any great extent. Last night the Minister said: There are substantial savings to be made from efficiencies, changes and the elimination of duplication and from the removal of a tier of unnecessary, costly and remote government".—[Official Report, 12 December 1984; Vol. 69, c. 1147.]

My point is that, even after the opportunity provided by last night's debate, the Minister did not spell out the figures. On that and on other occasions the Government have tried to accuse the metropolitan counties and the GLC of overspend and have then equated overspend with savings. Perhaps the Parliamentary Under-Secretary will take this further opportunity — which, Mr. Armstrong, you have provided by your chairmanship—to set out the details of the potential savings resulting from the abolition of the met counties and the GLC.

There is some doubt about what will happen to the functions currently performed by the West Yorkshire enterprise board. That board has been successful in its activities, it has saved jobs in both the short and the longer terms, and as a result of the section 137 2p rate it has spent about £6 million a year in the west Yorkshire economy. What will happen to that £6 million? Do the Government intend to reallocate the 2p rate to the districts? If so, the districts can perform those functions. If not, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge said earlier, we have reason to doubt the Government's sincerity about job creation and preservation. What will happen to this section 137 money? Do the Government intend to transfer it to the district councils? The Government, with eminent good sense, have just approved a scheme under which £770,000 will be provided for the small firms fund in west Yorkshire in 1985–86. Will they approve future expenditure, and how will that be made? Is it not indicative of the Government's inability to think ahead that they approve a small firms fund for 1985–86 but do not think about what will happen in 1986–87? It could be that future planning for those small firms will mean the difference between economic life and death.

I hope that the Minister will answer those detailed points and take this opportunity to outline the cost savings which the Government claim will flow from the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

I apologise to the Committee for having missed the speech of the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans) and part of the speech of the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright). I also apologise if other pressing engagements mean that I shall not be present for part of the Minister's reply. I shall, however, read his comments carefully and perhaps follow up in the normal way. Given what I have just said, it would be wrong to test the patience of the Committee by making too long a contribution, and I shall therefore be as brief as possible.

There is a great attraction in the idea of not having the rigid date of 1 April 1986 for the abolition of the GLC. If hon. Members will permit me, I shall again refer to GLC matters which are of immediate concern to London Members rather than to wider issues affecting the existing authorities. Of equal attraction is the idea that an order should be laid before the House proposing a date no sooner than that fixed in the Bill. It could, of course, be later. That would give everyone, irrespective of one's view about what should succeed the GLC as the elected authority, the opportunity, at the same time as an appropriate inquiry into the functions of local government, of carrying through the process of dismantling the GLC.

I agree with the forceful arguments deployed by other hon. Members that more time is needed and that there is the danger of serious discontinuity, disruption and disorganisation if such a request is not conceded by the Government.

8 pm

An interesting study was undertaken by the Institute of Local Government Studies at the University of Birmingham, and a study by Flynn and Leach produced a short summary of the conclusions. Paragraph 4 of that report stated: Then we tackled the other major problem: would the Government's proposals actually work? Because if they won't there is no case for them. And there are grave risks in the 'wait and see, trust us' approach of the Government—there is too much at stake for that!

The institute was commissioned to produce an independent research paper which could answer the fundamental question:— Can Joint Boards, Joint Committees and other joint arrangements provide an efficient and democratic local government service? Admittedly, this was before the Government's proposals, but the fear of "The shambles of 1986", as the report describes it, still remains.

I shall highlight some areas where there will be acute difficulties and disorganisation if there is too short a time period. There is great pressure for and common sense in having a longer period for these extremely complicated processes. The processes will cause unhappiness. A lot will depend on how long the Committee stage takes—that is the parliamentary factor.

The GLC employs 22,000 people. Incidentally. that is fewer than the Inner London education authority, which is often regarded as the smaller body. What will happen about the transfer of those people and the redundancy provisions? The Bill does not answer that clearly, but causes confusion. I see a tremendous minefield and an enormous area of potential chaos in the potential legal disputes which could arise from the distribution of property, assets, land and title deeds. There are miles and miles of files about those matters and, probably, about the existing semi-residual housing functions of the GLC, at county hall. There will be tremendous problems in dealing with them in a short time. There will be only a few months to get through the awkward, ragged transitional period when the new joint unelected institutions will take over those matters.

In a number of policy areas the Government have not yet concluded what should be done. In a broadcast at lunchtime today my right hon. Friend said that he was open to ideas and suggestions. That is encouraging in one way, but it reveals the degree of confusion in the minds of Ministers. What will happen if their Lordships decide to exercise their legitimate constitutional functions —at least, Conservative Members regard them as legitimate —and take much more time than my right hon. Friend expects them to take? There are many experts on local government organisation and structure in the other place, and they will need a great deal of time to consider the matter. It would not be right for the Government on a constitutional measure, which is also a conventional local government, so-called, reform measure, to hasten the other place, let alone hon. Members in Committee.

There are many other areas of potentially deep chaos among the boroughs, the Department of the Environment and the outgoing GLC structure when the GLC's functions are dispersed and, in some cases, devolved to local boroughs, although not most of them. There would be chaos in traffic management transitional provisions and in transitional provisions for detailed planning decisions. Most important in human terms, there would be long delay and chaos in the conveyancing of private properties, especially on the cancellation date of 1 April 1986. That would be a nightmare for people who try to convey private properties in London. That is a simple example, but it would affect millions of people.

Mr. Tony Banks

In support of the hon. Gentleman's case, may I say that he may be interested to know that there are still outstanding legal cases regarding property titles from the 1963 reorganisation.

Mr. Dykes

The hon. Gentleman's knowledge about that is greater than that of many hon. Members. He may have had experience on relevant GLC committees. That is a nerve-wracking element for the officials at county hall. They are not party political. Some officials have a political axe to grind, but if they are good they keep it to themselves. Officials are not merely worried but are genuinely anxious and almost verging on panic about that on behalf of the public they are supposed to serve. No sober bureaucrat or official enjoys chaos and upheaval, especially when it cannot be intrinsically justified. If the Government do not respond to the powerful admonitions of the Committee and seek to force through the reorganisation of local government functions in a gross period of eleven months and a net period of only a few months, they will find it extremely difficult.

The financial aspect also relates directly to the need for a longer period to do the monumentally complicated task of dismantling a body which a Conservative Government set up 20 years ago. On 24 November The Times stated that Mr. Livingstone's provocations and behaviour had given rise to abolition, but stated: The government's replies are equally unconvincing because they glibly assume the cost cutting enthusiasm of all borough and district politicians to be that of the Tory loyalists of Bromley and Trafford. The sums cannot indeed be done until the 1st April 1987 when the ratepayers of the conurbations first receive their bills under the new scheme. Even that will allow no full audit. Can hon. Members imagine the chaos that would ensue? The article continues: it will take forensic accounting skill of the highest quality to trace through many Public Expenditure Survey lines the on-costs of the central government's own expanded responsibilities. Since when have Conservative Administrations been in the business of wilfully causing so much confusion about matters which are already difficult to grasp, let alone in a period of total upheaval and disruption? The article continues: The system will be more opaque. For accountability we will have to trust not the untrustworthy, but easily identifiable, Mr. Livingstone but anonymous officials. These anxieties are serious. They transcend the more superficial party political considerations and are the legitimate preoccupation of hon. Members during this political week. My hon. Friend the Minister is a serious and distinguished member of the Government. I hope that he will respond to the genuine anxieties that are being expressed here and elsewhere. More time is needed. More time would produce a much more rational solution, if only the Government would exercise more patience.

Mr. Tony Banks

Once again it falls to me to follow an excellent speech made by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes). I only wish that more Conservative Members were present in the Chamber to hear him. Anything that Labour Members say about the abolition of the GLC and metropolitan counties—

Dr. John Marek (Wrexham)

There are no Conservative Members on the Back Benches, and only three on the Treasury Bench. The Chamber is empty on the Conservative side, except for the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes).

Mr. Banks

I was giving Conservative Members on the Front Bench the distinction of being described as hon. Members of the Conservative party. Indeed, the Back Benches are empty. That is symptomatic of the way in which the proposal is being taken through the Committee. Conservative Members have become so dispirited by Ministers, and by the lack of argument advanced by the thinness of the Government's case, that they prefer to seek refuge in the Tea Room to sitting through yet another embarrassing and, perhaps for many of them, boring evening discussing the future of the GLC and metropolitan county councils.

It is a great tragedy that such important matters should be discussed with no Conservative Back-Bench Member prepared to defend the Government's proposals. Their absence is an eloquent testimony to the Government's dreadfully weak case. One hopes, even at this late hour, that sanity will prevail and that the Government will back off from what for them, I hope, will be suicide. I do not wish to prevent them from committing suicide, but I want to prevent them from inflicting the chaos that their measures will bring to local government in London and the metropolitan counties.

I say that by way of aside. I wish that the hon. Member for Harrow, East were sitting on the Government Front Bench as a main Minister at the Department of the Environment; but he knows far too much and he is far too decent to be offered the job. The Government will ask only those who are prepared to support a lousy case to sit on their Front Bench.

Amendment No. 29 has been tabled to assist the Government. Why we should want to assist this pathetic, creepish Government, I have not the faintest idea, but we should at least try to prevent them from making fundamental errors. We shall assist them by pointing out the enormous gaps in their knowledge of the functions and purposes of the GLC and metropolitan county councils. I have selected two examples that reveal the Government's ignorance.

The first is that the Government say that the GLC does very little. They say that as the ambulance service, sewage services, housing management and London Transport have been removed from the GLC, there is no need for it to continue. What they do not say is that all those services were removed by central Government. If one chops off the legs of some poor devil and then says, "You cannot walk", it is hardly surprising. Those services were removed incorrectly , but even their removal does not make a case for abolition.

I apologise in advance to you, Mr. Armstrong, and to my colleagues, but certainly not to Conservative Members, for reading something into the record. I am sick and tired of listening to incoherent, incomprehensible and ill-informed speeches from Conservative Members, when they deign to be here, about the GLC not retaining enough functions to justify its continued existence. The GLC currently provides on a London-wide basis the following services: waste disposal; fire brigade; emergency planning; minerals policy; industry and employment; provision of services for the disabled; grant aid to the voluntary sector, including women's housing, ethnic, arts, transport, community and pension organisations; housing, including new build, mobility for tenants round London, hostels for the single homeless, improvements to rundown housing estates, help for housing associations and the creation of housing improvement areas. The GLC is the largest housing authority in the country, although one would not guess that from listening to Ministers.

The GLC also provides a London-wide arts and recreation policy, including the ownership and management of the south bank complex; judicial services; the strategic planning of London; traffic management; funding of advice services and the running of the welfare benefits campaign to help the poorest people of London; policies for women and ethnic minorities to counter discrimination against them; the protection of historic buildings and monuments; archaeology; the protection of the green belt; pollution control; building control; industrial training; provision of information technology for Londoners; the collection of London-wide statistics and intelligence; conservation and recycling; metropolitan roads; roads maintenance; the provision of facilities for pedestrians and cyclists; the provision of Thames piers, ferries, tunnels and bridges; and the London Record Office. They are GLC-provided, London wide services. Who says that the GLC retains no useful functions?

8.15 pm
Mr. Bermingham

To pick just one example from my hon. Friend's comprehensive list, how could the judicial services be devolved? If they are fragmented, perhaps someone will explain to me and to many other lawyers how that will relieve the already appalling waiting lists of cases in the London area.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. If the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) follows that intervention, he will be getting away from the amendment, which deals with the date and whether we should have a resolution before the House of Commons.

Mr. Banks

My hon. Friend's intervention illustrates another gap in the Government's knowledge of the functions of the GLC, which this amendments is designed to fill by giving the Government more time to think through their proposals. My hon. Friend answered his own question. Much as I should like to be enticed down that road, I shall take your advice, Mr. Armstrong, and proceed down another.

The second area of Government ignorance relates to the services that they say will be devolved from the GLC to the boroughs. Statistics have varied, according to the Minister who has been speaking at the Dispatch Box—the quality of Ministers at the Department of the Environment varies widely — so the figure ranges between 75 per cent. and 95 per cent. No doubt before long we shall be told that the London boroughs will get 120 per cent. of the GLC's services. However, the most recently used figure was 95 per cent., which is completely wrong. The Government say that the GLC's net current expenditure for 1984–85 is £530 million. Of that, they say that £396 million—or 74 per cent. — will go to the boroughs. The Under-Secretary of State said that in reply to a written question from my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) on 3 December 1984.

The Government's first error is to underestimate the GLC's net current expenditure, which is $950 million. Ministers have no doubt excluded debt charges of £153 million — [Interruption.] I did not catch what the Minister said, but if he said that they should not be included he should bear in mind the fact that debt charges must be met from rates and block grant and, therefore, must be included in current expenditure. It would appear from my calculations that the Government have also excluded contributions to the housing revenue account of £114 million, and they have undoubtedly excluded the GLC's current revenue support to London Regional Transport of £177 million.

The Government's figure of £396 million undoubtedly includes many items of expenditure that will not go to the boroughs. Expenditure on roads will go to the Department of Transport. They have not yet decided what to do with Thamesmead. The provision for historic buildings will not go to the boroughs. The facilities of the Sports Council will go elsewhere. The expenditure for the Arts Council will not go to the boroughs—and we should not forget the expenditure on the shire counties. Those items represent about £60 million of the GLC's net current expenditure, and the Government have included them in the sum that they say will go to the boroughs. It is just not true. I know that I am taxing the patience of my colleagues with these figures, but I do so because we can use them again during the latter stages of the Committee. Unless the Government refute those figures one by one, we can only claim that they are accurate.

I have asked the Greater London council for an analysis of the 1984–85 net expenditure by the proposed successor authority. I should like to read this into the record. The Secretary of State is to receive £3.3 million of the GLC's net current expenditure. That represents 0.3 per cent. London Regional Transport is to receive £177.6 million, which is 18.7 per cent. The fire services board is to receive £143.3 million, which is 15.1 per cent. The waste disposal board will receive £65.8 million, which represents 6.9 per cent. of GLC expenditure. The Thames water authority will receive £31.8 million, which is 3.3 per cent. of GLC expenditure. The London Planning Commission will receive £1.3 million, which is 0.1 per cent. of GLC expenditure. The Thamesmead trust will receive £16 million, which is 1.7 per cent. of GLC expenditure. The Historic Buildings Commission is to receive £4.6 million, which is 0.5 per cent. of GLC expenditure. The Lea Valley regional park authority will receive £4.5 million, which is 0.5 per cent. of GLC expenditure. The residuary body will receive £174 million, which is 17.9 per cent. of GLC expenditure. The Sports Council— if, indeed, it takes over the GLC's sports grants programme-will receive £8.4 million, which is 0.9 per cent. of GLC expenditure. if it took over the whole of the GLC's arts expenditure, the Arts Council would be responsible for £11.1 million, which is 1.2 per cent. of GLC expenditure. The city of London, acting as agent for the boroughs, would receive £2.4 million, which is 0.3 per cent. of GLC expenditure. The ILEA, taking over former GLC services, would receive £1.4 million, which is 0.1 per cent. of GLC expenditure. The shire counties and shire districts together would be responsible for £4.7 million, which is 0.5 per cent. of GLC expenditure.

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. I know that the hon. Gentleman is anxious to get his remarks written into the record, but I find great difficulty in relating them to the amendment. The hon. Gentleman must come back to the amendment.

Mr. Banks

I tried to make the point at the beginning that the Government are clearly misleading the country and Parliament. The Government have great gaps in their knowledge. If they were to accept the amendment, we should be given a sufficient opportunity to consider the Government's case. We should have before us facts which will enable both Houses of Parliament to come to a proper and fit conclusion, I realise that this is tedious, particularly for the Government, because they are being given statistics which are Truthful as opposed to statistics which they have manipulated.

You will be delighted to know, Mr. Armstrong, that if I am allowed another two or three minutes, I shall conclude my contribution. The boroughs will receive £293.8 million, which is 30.9 per cent. of GLC expenditure. The successor authority, undecided, will receive £10.3 million, which is 1.1 per cent. of GLC expenditure. That makes GLC net current expenditure a grand total of £950 million. It means that the boroughs would not receive 75 per cent., or 95 per cent., or whatever other figure the Government claim of the GLC's net current expenditure. The boroughs would receive 30.9 per cent. of the GLC's net current expenditure.

If the Government were to accept the offer to submit all their figures to an independent audit, the GLC would fully co-operate in making sure that the people of this country and Members of Parliament know who really is speaking the truth. The House of Commons and the other place would then be able to make a decision based upon true facts. I have read them into the record. I shall refer to them again during later stages of our proceedings. Unless the Government refute those figures, they will stand as the case put forward by the Labour party. They show that we have nothing to hide and that the abolition of the GLC will be to the detriment of London government. It will cost London ratepayers a great deal of money, about which, as yet, they know nothing. At least I have now put the record straight.

Mr. Stuart Holland

It is probably known to everybody in the Chamber, apart from the Secretary of State, that the target date for abolition of the Greater London council and the metropolitan councils is April Fool's Day 1986. Whether the Secretary of State cares to make a fool of himself in public is his business. Whether or not he cares to make a fool of the House is our business. We need amendment No. 29, which obliges the Secretary of State to bring an order back to the House for approval, since 1 April 1986 is far too early to deal with the range of unresolved contradictions in the Government's proposal.

I appreciate that the analysis of PA Management Consultants has been cited extensively, but we have not yet had the response of the Government to the main points that it makes. On the multiplicity of joint bodies rather than a unitary authority, the Government claim that they will "co-operate closely". PA Management Consultants say that this is an unsound basis for an effective, lasting structure and that it fails in particular to take account of the current political and financial circumstances of local government. That has been well illustrated by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), who cited in detail the costs which are likely to be incurred by the abolition of the GLC.

Turning to the conflict between services, the Government claim that abolition will remove a source of conflict and tension. By contrast, PA Management Consultants claim: The existing structure provides for the resolution of the inevitable conflicts"— it is important to stress this— between different services and between different areas of the metropolitan county". That is quite apart from the uncertainty of the proposals to which I shall refer later.

A further reason for the amendment is precisely to resolve the cost issues. The Coopers and Lybrand report stresses the kinds of differences which are likely to occur from a high level of co-operation with the Government's proposals and from limited co-operation with them. We are talking about disparities of between £100 million and £150 million on the transitional costs and, on jobs and job savings, of between 1,000 and 1,500 jobs potentially at risk. Until recently the Secretary of State provided no figures, even at this stage of the Bill, other than the citing of something which was produced recently by certain London boroughs. In Committee upstairs, I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will wish to scrutinise those figures.

On the present basis, the Government appear to be thinking of a number, doubling it for Labour administrations, subtracting the number one first thought of if it is a Tory council and exiting with a self-fulfilling prophecy. These are the kinds of mathematics which not only would not convince the House, but would hardly convince any candidate who was trying for CSE mathematics. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West has already made that point in detail and substance. The House deserves a reply to these questions.

There is the further matter of the unresolved problems which will be caused for voluntary organisations. The Prime Minister has said many times in the House that she lauds and supports voluntary initiative, yet in areas which are directly relevant to a constituency such as mine and also of general relevance to other constituencies the Government have brought forward no adequate proposals —the single homeless, a problem which the House will consider tomorrow in more detail, problems such as drug abuse, alcohol misuse, ethnic minorities and their special problems, disability, advice and counselling services, the elderly, young people, women, community work, environment, special needs. We are talking of tens of millions of pounds. Because of the manner in which the Government have sought to introduce a major piece of legislation, it does not appear that the House can be assured that if the Bill is guillotined—and there is every indication that the Government will seek to guillotine it — these questions will be answered. Therefore, the amendment is essential to ensure that the House has a proper chance to express its views and to scrutinise the expenditure implications of the Bill and the wider implications for local and central democracy.

The Government choose to say that the GLC's housing responsibilities have been transferred to the local boroughs and that the GLC will shortly have no housing responsibilities whatsoever. I regard that as tragic. So do many of my constituents. It means the end of a strategic housing role for London. The example provided by the ending of the strategic housing role will be repeated in the other areas of expenditure and in other GLC functions to which my hon. Friends have referred. The abolition of the GLC's strategic housing role has slammed the door on many people in the inner city, who realise that inter-borough nominations are a farce. When they come to our advice surgeries, we cannot guarantee that they will have any chance of moving to other areas of London.

8.30 pm

As for the proposed transport quango, Lord Denning, a judge and not an economist, is able to comment on what is a profitable operation for London Transport. It is not clear that a judge, any more than any of the quangos which the Government seek to introduce by the Bill, is qualified to assess the externalities or cost benefits of a low-fares policy. If local people cannot vote for a cheap fares policy, that is a derogation of the democratic principle. It is crucial that, in seeking to render public spending accountable, the House should be able to press for the cost savings that occur when lower fares result in more use of public transport and more revenue.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans) referred to the employment implications of abolishing the role of enterprise boards, such as the West Midlands and Greater London enterprise boards. Uncertainty introduced by the Bill over the future of those boards will be critical for companies' economic prosperity. We have known for decades of the impending euthanasia of the entrepreneur. Now we are to see the execution of the employment prospects in many small firms because of the unqualified nature of the Bill. Unless the amendment is accepted, so that the matter can be seriously reviewed, there will be no chance of the future of those firms being ascertained.

The Bill is not simply seeking to amend recent legislation. The fact that it is a fundamental Bill is not illustrated only by the fact that the GLC and its forebears have been in existence for nearly a century. The underlying reality is that every Administration —Conservative, Liberal and Labour—for more than 100 years have sought to govern, in essence, by consensus and by gaining support. They have sought to gain that support by debate, discussion and argument and by motions and orders in the House.

It is striking that, in seeking to end argument and opposition from the metropolitan authorities and the GLC, the Government are spinning back the wheel, not merely past Labour Administrations and the Labour GLC, but beyond Joseph Chamberlain and the commitment to municipal government, municipal public works, municipal and civic pride and the right to local democracy, which was one of the bases of the rise and extension of popular support for the Conservative party.

Those facts will gradually be realised by the country, and they will certainly be realised if the amendment is not accepted. Without the amendment, there will be no way of avoiding the arbitrary ending of the public right (to choice and the public right both to agree and disagree with central Government. There will be an end to the mechanism of consent on which democracy itself has been based for so long.

Mr. Bermingham

I shall be brief, because I wish to save most of my comments for the next group of amendments.

Let me ask the Government one simple question: When will they ever learn? The London county council was abolished in 1964 and we are still trying to sort out the legal problems that were caused because the then Conservative Government did not give the matter proper thought. When we transferred to the present system of local government in 1973, a number of problems arose over farmland. I shall give the Secretary of State a simple example. Farms often cross the boundaries of district councils which may be in the political control of different parties with different agricultural policies. What happens to the tenant farmer when he has two landlords with different policies? Disputes can end up at the Lands Tribunal and elsewhere.

If the Government are not prepared to learn from the mistakes made in the 1960s and 1970s and are not willing to give the proposals in the Bill time to work or to come back to the House and explain how matters have been sorted out, they are even more foolish and stupid than I thought.

The amendment gives the Secretary of State the chance to do it properly. We do not like what he is doing, but if he insists on doing it he should at least try to get it right. As I shall point out on the next set of amendments, the Government are setting a minefield of legal problems for themselves, for local government and for electors. That need not happen. All that is required is some constructive thought by the Government instead of an arrogant doctrinal insistence on pushing through the proposals as quickly as possible because they believe that they have a divine right to do that.

The amendment is sensible and attempts to prevent some of the potential damage that the Government seem set on causing.

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

One of the main criticisms of the Bill on Second Reading was that it gave too much power to Ministers to do things by order. It was implied that more detail should be written into the Bill to remove that discretion. Therefore, I am surprised to see that one of the first amendments proposed by the Opposition seeks to do exactly what they have criticised. us for doing. It will take something specific out of the Bill and give the Secretary of State power to lay an order to vary the date. I see some inconsistency in the Opposition's approach.

The hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans) said that there was a need for consultation. I agree with him, although there is nothing in the amendment about consultation. We should like there to be consultation, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will use his influence with his colleagues on the councils concerned to ensure that they start consulting and end their ridiculous boycott against the Government and the successor bodies. We could then get the details that we need and ensure that the transition is a smooth one. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the need for consultation and co-operation.

The hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) implied that there would not be enough time for the joint authorities to be established before they took over responsibilities in 1986. The new joint authorities will formally be in place from September 1985 if, as we hope, we get the consent of Parliament. They will have adequate time to prepare their budgets for 1986. There is nothing to prevent the borough and district members who make up those authorities from meeting earlier to give preliminary thought to their needs.

The executive parts of the new authorities will not be radically altered at the moment of transfer. The services will be provided over the same geographical area as at present and there should be no difficulty in ensuring the continuity of operation of those services.

The hon. Member for Woolwich, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) and other hon. Members claimed that there would be chaos. I should like to quote the chief executive of one of the district councils involved in abolition, Mr. Gordon Moore, chief executive of Bradford metropolitan district council. An article in Municipal Journal on 7 December stated: 'I have no fear there is going to be total chaos', said Mr. Moore. The one thing about the Bradford style of management was that a freedom would be given to its officers, when the chips were down, to get on and do the best they could. `The prime concern of mine is for the community I serve; they will not tolerate a mess-up on 1 April 1986, if that is the great day, and nor should they. `They are not interested in all this non-talking, non co-operation at all … I know who is going to be blamed if things go wrong; the politicians will have a very short memory about instructing their officers not to co-operate—it will be muggins and his colleagues who get their backsides kicked for not getting it organised '.

It is the Gordon Moores who will have to operate the policy. They are the chief executives of the successor bodies, and I am confident that once the Bill is on the statute book they will make the policies work.

Mr. Stuart Holland

The hon. Gentleman can hardly claim to be making an argument from one unrepresentative sample. However, if that is the view of the kind of person who may well be on the unelected authority, how are they to be made accountable? Politicians are made accountable by the vote and can have their backsides kicked, but that will not be the case with the quango substitute.

Sir George Young

I was quoting not from a councillor but from one of the chief executives of a successor body. This person makes the point that it is the senseless attitude of a number of Labour councillors in not talking that has made them the culprits, and not the Government, who are giving adequate time to get the policy through.

The hon. Member for Woolwich then made a comparison with 1963–65, and I beg to disagree with what he said. He states that this reorganisation will be more complex than that of the early 1960s, but he is wrong. In the early 1960s, we were establishing the GLC from the LCC and some of the home counties and at the same time establishing the London boroughs. We were setting up two new tiers. This reorganisation is different. We are eliminating a tier and passing the bulk of responsibilities down to existing successor bodies. This will be a more simple reorganisation than the ones to which the hon. Gentleman referred. For that reason, we do not need the same amount of time as may have been necessary in the early 1960s. I think that the hon. Member will discover when we reach clause 59 that the residuary bodies cannot be used in the way that he anticipates, as a sort of legislative long stop if by any chance it is not possible to implement in 1986. We shall deal with that point later.

In an intervention, it was implied that there would be seven precepts in the metropolitan counties. That is not the case. There will be three new precepts—police, fire and public transport. I do not see any difficulty in the districts handling these precepts as they handle the existing precepts in their rates.

The hon. Members for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) and for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) spoke at some length about costs, but I do not propose to go into great detail about costs, because you said, Mr. Armstrong, that this was not the appropriate amendment on which to talk about costs. However, I noted that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West included, as part of the responsibility of the GLC, expenditure on London transport when the GLC no longer has responsibility for London transport. If this is the sort of statistic that he proposes to use, he will come unstuck. I am grateful to him for putting on the record his perception of the costs. When we reach part VIII, which deals with the financial considerations, that will be the time for a sensible debate about the financial consequences and where responsibility for the various policies will lie.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am as acutely aware as the hon. Gentleman—perhaps even more so—that the GLC no longer has the responsibility for London transport. That responsibility was taken away from the GLC to make the Government's weak case a little better. We know the political reasons, but the Minister cannot avoid the fact that the GLC has to give about £177 million this year in support of London transport. What will happen to the £177 million? Who will be responsible for it?

Sir George Young

The debate is on what percentage of the GLC's service will devolve to the boroughs in 1986. By then the GLC will have no responsibility for London transport. It will not be paying any money towards it at all. It is a red herring for the hon. Member to produce in the context of this debate a figure that includes the costs of London transport.

The hon. Member for Leeds, Central raised a number of questions. I shall deal with the position of voluntary organisations when we reach clause 46. He asked about applications for expenditure by the existing metropolitan counties that will take place in 1985–86. If the applications are sent to the Department, we shall process them in the normal way.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West also weakened his case by referring to housing, and said that the GLC is the largest housing authority in the country. He knows that in July of next year, before abolition, most of the housing stock will pass to Tower Hamlets and that simple statistic that he is so fond of using will no longer be relevant.

The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) implied that the Government had relied on estimates by four London boroughs for their estimates of saving. I hope that he has seen the parliamentary question, asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey), which my right hon. Friend answered some two weeks ago and which gave quantifications of the Government's estimate of savings. His speech implied that he had not seen that answer.

The transfer of functions can best take place on 1 April in any year to simplify the adjustment to the rate support grant and the budgeting of the successor authorities. We have set out, firmly and clearly, that the transition should be in 1986. We made this clear in the White Paper in 1983, two and a half years before abolition is due to take place. The whole of our preparations, including the timing and introduction of this Bill, are directed towards that date, and there is no argument for delaying the change. There will be adequate time to make all the necessary arrangements.

The amendment would inject uncertainties that would be damaging to abolition. Perhaps that is why Labour Members wish the amendment to be in the Bill. It is best that the clause should set a fixed date and thus eliminate the uncertainty that would be introduced by the amendment. That is the way in which these matters have been handled in the past. Clear dates were given in both 1963 and 1972. To say that it is unprecedented is rubbish.

We have recognised, in the interests of the staff, that they need a clear view of their place in the future structure. We have taken what steps we can by setting up a staff commission and issuing a paper on all aspects of the transfer of staff. To make the date of the transfer variable would lead to damaging uncertainty. I urge the Committee to reject the amendment.

8.45 pm
Mr. Allan Roberts

I shall be watching to see how the alliance votes on this amendment, having witnessed on the last amendment that three of its members who represent cities in the metropolitan areas failed to support the alliance amendment to exclude the metropolitan areas from abolition. We are interested to see how it will muster its troops to make effective the transition from metropolitan and GLC government to this new system.

The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) apologised for having to leave before the end of the debate. He referred to the Opposition's attitude to the House of Lords and intimated that the Bill might be mutilated by the other place in the way that the interim provisions Bill was mutilated. I have heard rumours that, on the advice of the Secretary of State for Education and Science, if that happens the Prime Minister will create 1,000 new peers and abolish the House of Commons. We wait to see whether that rumour will be fulfilled.

The proposal in this amendment is to stop the abolition of the county councils and the GLC being tied to a specific date. It would be sensible, in the light of everything that has happened and is happening, and in the light of criticism from Conservative Members and everybody outside who has looked objectively at these proposals, for the Government to accept an amendment that releases the abolition proposals from being tied to a specific date, and allows all the interim arrangements and provisions to be made before abolition takes place.

As many of my hon. Friends, and the hon. Member for Harrow, East, have said, the amendment will assist the Government in their aims. 'We wish to protect the citizens of the metropolitan areas and the GLC from the chaos that will arise as a result of this legislation being rushed through while tied to the proposed date. Despite what the Minister said, we believe that our amendment will check the powers delegated to the Secretary of State. Even though we ask that the Secretary of State be allowed to come back some time after April 1986 to present an order to implement the proposals, we are not giving the power to the Secretary of State but vesting it back in both Houses of Parliament. The amendment would kill the enabling nature of the legislation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans) said, it is amazing how often the Bill delegates power to the Secretary of State. We want to ensure that the House of Commons and the other place have a say in what happens, and that is the purpose of the amendment.

The amendment also ensures that all the difficulties and doubts about the administration and handover — which we believe will result in chaos—can be dealt with. The Minister talked about co-operation and consensus. But there has not been any co-operation, and there will not be any as far as this Bill's proposals are concerned. That is the making not of the Labour-controlled authorities involved but of the Government, because there was no inquiry, investigation or adequate public debate before the proposals were announced. That prevented consensus in the first place. We are trying to rescue the Government from a situation of their own making by allowing a period of time to elapse after the passing of the Bill so that that consensus can be created through consultation and, perhaps, amendments to the proposals that might make them acceptable.

I must repeat something that I said yesterday. Ministers, and the few supporters that they have mustered on their Back Benches for this provision, keep talking as though they are abolishing two-tier local government and handing power back to the London boroughs and metropolitan districts. But they are doing nothing of the kind. They are setting up quangos and joint boards and producing arrangements, with statutory backing, that require action in co-operation across local authority boundaries. We shall have Conservative and Labour-controlled local authorities, and—heaven forbid—one where the Liberals hold the balance of power, being forced by statute to co-operate. If that is not a recipe for disaster, I do not know what is. The amendment would allow time for that to be thought out.

The Minister weeps crocodile tears about the problems of the staff working for the metropolitan counties and the GLC, but they are in favour of the amendment and have been advising us and the Tory rebels in support of this amendment. They want this leeway so that their problems can be taken care of. They are not asking for a fixed date. They want time for things to be worked out properly on their behalf, as well as on behalf of the people in their areas whom they are employed to serve.

The amendment will enable the Government to kill the accusation that savings will not come from changes in policy and cuts in services by proving—in the interim, and before the order is laid before Parliament for final abolition—that they have made savings in administration. If their case is justifiable, they will accept the amendment and demonstrate that point before they abolish the metropolitan counties and the GLC.

The amendment will allow Parliament to remain sacrosanct in the light of inadequate inquiry. It will also help to settle the anxieties of the voluntary organisations prior to abolition. Whatever the Minister may say about clause 46 and the discussions that will take place, and whatever the Secretary of State said yesterday about the voluntary sector being satisfied, the opposite is true. The Government have not satisfied the voluntary movement in the GLC and metropolitan areas that they will safeguard voluntary services after abolition.

The Government are looking to individual borough and district councils to fund directly grants to voluntary organisations. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has already been in touch with borough and district councils in the areas threatened with abolition, but only one in eight has been able to predict with any confidence that it will be able to fulfil the majority of its new responsibilities towards local voluntary organisations.

Furthermore, the Government suggest that £5 million a year for four years after 1986–87 is sufficient to ease transitional problems following abolition. Of that total, 75 per cent., or £3.75 million, will be directly funded by the Government. So far, that is the only central Government money being made available to replace the £60 million now being spent by the GLC and the metropolitan councils. The Government have said that they want borough and district councils in the metropolitan and GLC areas to take part in collective funding schemes to cope with projects that operate across several borough and district areas. Under those proposed collective arrangements, the councils would have to reach a two thirds majority before agreeing to approve funding of voluntary organisations.

If the Minister and his friends want to allay fears of voluntary organisations, they will need an interim period in which to prove that the funding will be there and in which the anxieties of many of the voluntary groups, which now fear that they will not be funded, are satisfied. If the Government vote down the amendment, they will rue the day they did. The amendment will save them from the chaos that they will otherwise create. Incidentally, I know Mr. Gordon Moore of Bradford, but he is not a chief executive of all the successor authorities and I do not think that he is qualified to say that there will not be any chaos. There will be other successor authorities in his area, and not all of them will be democratically elected. However, the Government will rue the day that they vote down this amendment, because their proposals are a recipe for chaos and disaster. They are also a recipe for Tory unpopularity throughout the metropolitan and GLC areas. It is with altruism that we commend the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 156, Noes 257.

Division No. 52] [8.57 pm
Abse, Leo Ashley, Rt Hon Jack
Alton, David Ashton, Joe
Anderson, Donald Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bagier, Gordon A. T.
Ashdown, Paddy Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Barnett, Guy Leighton, Ronald
Beith, A. J. Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Litherland, Robert
Bermingham, Gerald Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Bidwell, Sydney Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Blair, Anthony Loyden, Edward
Boyes, Roland McCartney, Hugh
Bray, Dr Jeremy McGuire, Michael
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) McNamara, Kevin
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) McTaggart, Robert
Caborn, Richard McWilliam, John
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Madden, Max
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Marek, Dr John
Carter-Jones, Lewis Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Cartwright, John Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Clay, Robert Maynard, Miss Joan
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Meacher, Michael
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Meadowcroft, Michael
Coleman, Donald Michie, William
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Mikardo, Ian
Conlan, Bernard Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Cowans, Harry Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Crowther, Stan O'Brien, William
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) O'Neill, Martin
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I) Park, George
Deakins, Eric Parry, Robert
Dewar, Donald Patchett, Terry
Dixon, Donald Pavitt, Laurie
Dobson, Frank Pendry, Tom
Dormand, Jack Penhaligon, David
Dubs, Alfred Pike, Peter
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Eastham, Ken Prescott, John
Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE) Randall, Stuart
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Redmond, M.
Fatchett, Derek Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Faulds, Andrew Richardson, Ms Jo
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Robertson, George
Fisher, Mark Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Flannery, Martin Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Rowlands, Ted
Forrester, John Ryman, John
Foster, Derek Sedgemore, Brian
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Sheerman, Barry
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Freud, Clement Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Godman, Dr Norman Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Golding, John Skinner, Dennis
Gould, Bryan Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Hancock, Mr. Michael Snape, Peter
Hardy, Peter Soley, Clive
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Spearing, Nigel
Haynes, Frank Stott, Roger
Heffer, Eric S. Straw, Jack
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Tinn, James
Home Robertson, John Torney, Tom
Howells, Geraint Wainwright, R.
Hoyle, Douglas Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Wareing, Robert
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Weetch, Ken
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Welsh, Michael
Hughes, Simon (Southward) Winnick, David
John, Brynmor Woodall, Alec
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Tellers for the Ayes:
Kirkwood, Archy Mr. James Hamilton and
Lamond, James Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe.
Adley, Robert Alison, Rt Hon Michael
Aitken, Jonathan Amess, David
Alexander, Richard Ancram, Michael
Arnold, Tom Greenway, Harry
Ashby, David Grylls, Michael
Aspinwall, Jack Gummer, John Selwyn
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Hargreaves, Kenneth
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Hayes, J.
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Hayhoe, Barney
Baldry, Tony Hayward, Robert
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Henderson, Barry
Bendall, Vivian Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Benyon, William Hickmet, Richard
Best, Keith Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Biffen, Rt Hon John Hill, James
Blackburn, John Hind, Kenneth
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Body, Richard Hooson, Tom
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Hordern, Peter
Boscawen, Hon Robert Howard, Michael
Bottomley, Peter Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hunter, Andrew
Braine, Sir Bernard Irving, Charles
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Jackson, Robert
Bright, Graham Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Brinton, Tim Jessel, Toby
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Brooke, Hon Peter Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Browne, John Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Bruinvels, Peter Key, Robert
Bryan, Sir Paul King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Buck, Sir Antony Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Budgen, Nick Knowles, Michael
Bulmer, Esmond Lang, Ian
Burt, Alistair Lawrence, Ivan
Butcher, John Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Butler, Hon Adam Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Butterfill, John Lightbown, David
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Lilley, Peter
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Carttiss, Michael Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Cash, William Lord, Michael
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Luce, Richard
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Lyell, Nicholas
Chope, Christopher McCrindle, Robert
Churchill, W. S. Macfarlane, Neil
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Maclean, David John
Cockeram, Eric McQuarrie, Albert
Colvin, Michael Major, John
Coombs, Simon Malins, Humfrey
Cope, John Malone, Gerald
Corrie, John Maples, John
Couchman, James Marlow, Antony
Cranborne, Viscount Mates, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina Mather, Carol
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Maude, Hon Francis
Dover, Den Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Dunn, Robert Mellor, David
Durant, Tony Merchant, Piers
Evennett, David Meyer, Sir Anthony
Eyre, Sir Reginald Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Fallon, Michael Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Farr, Sir John Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Fletcher, Alexander Moynihan, Hon C.
Fookes, Miss Janet Murphy, Christopher
Forman, Nigel Neale, Gerrard
Forth, Eric Needham, Richard
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Nelson, Anthony
Fox, Marcus Neubert, Michael
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Newton, Tony
Glyn, Dr Alan Nicholls, Patrick
Goodhart, Sir Philip Normanton, Tom
Goodlad, Alastair Norris, Steven
Gow, Ian Onslow, Cranley
Grant, Sir Anthony Oppenheim, Phillip
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Stern, Michael
Osborn, Sir John Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Ottaway, Richard Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Stradling Thomas, J.
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Sumberg, David
Parris, Matthew Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Temple-Morris, Peter
Patten, John (Oxford) Terlezki, Stefan
Pattie, Geoffrey Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Pawsey, James Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Porter, Barry Thome, Neil (Ilford S)
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down) Thornton, Malcolm
Powell, William (Corby) Thurnham, Peter
Powley, John Townend, John (Bridlington)
Price, Sir David Tracey, Richard
Proctor, K. Harvey Trippier, David
Raffan, Keith Trotter, Neville
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy van Straubenzee, Sir W,
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rhodes James, Robert Viggers, Peter
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Waddington, David
Rifkind, Malcolm Waldegrave, Hon William
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Walden, George
Roe, Mrs Marion Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Rossi, Sir Hugh Wall, Sir Patrick
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Ward, John
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Sayeed, Jonathan Warren, Kenneth
Scott, Nicholas Watson, John
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Watts, John
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Shelton, William (Streatham) Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wheeler, John
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Whitfield, John
Shersby, Michael Whitney, Raymond
Silvester, Fred Wolfson, Mark
Sims, Roger Wood, Timothy
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Woodcock, Michael
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Yeo, Tim
Soames, Hon Nicholas Young, Sir George (Acton)
Speller, Tony Younger, Rt Hon George
Spencer, Derek
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Tellers for the Noes:
Squire, Robin Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd and
Stanbrook, Ivor Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Steen, Anthony

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 35, in page 1, line 15 leave out '1st April 1986' and add 'such dates as the Secretary of State shall by order appoint, after he has laid before each House of Parliament reports of independent local inquiries setting out proposals and recommendations for the future administration of local government in the Greater London Council and each of the metropolitan counties, such order to be laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.'. — [Mr. Simon Hughes.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes, 156, Noes, 254.

Division No. 53] [9.7 pm
Abse, Leo Bermingham, Gerald
Alton, David Bidwell, Sydney
Anderson, Donald Blair, Anthony
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Boyes, Roland
Ashdown, Paddy Bray, Dr Jeremy
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)
Ashton, Joe Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Butcher, John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Caborn, Richard
Barnett, Guy Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)
Beith, A. J. Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Carter-Jones, Lewis
Clay, Robert McCartney, Hugh
Clwyd, Mrs Ann McGuire, Michael
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Coleman, Donald McNamara, Kevin
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. McTaggart, Robert
Conlan, Bernard McWilliam, John
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Madden, Max
Cowans, Harry Marek, Dr John
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Crowther, Stan Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Cunliffe, Lawrence Maynard, Miss Joan
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Meacher, Michael
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Michie, William
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I) Mikardo, Ian
Deakins, Eric Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Dewar, Donald Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Dixon, Donald Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Dobson, Frank Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Dormand, Jack O'Brien, William
Dubs, Alfred O'Neill, Martin
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Eastham, Ken Park, George
Edwards, Bob (Wh'mpt'n SE) Parry, Robert
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Patchett, Terry
Fatchett, Derek Pavitt, Laurie
Faulds, Andrew Pendry, Tom
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Penhaligon, David
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Pike, Peter
Fisher, Mark Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Flannery, Martin Prescott, John
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Randall, Stuart
Forrester, John Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Foster, Derek Richardson, Ms Jo
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Robertson, George
Freud, Clement Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Godman, Dr Norman Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Golding, John Rowlands, Ted
Gould, Bryan Ryman, John
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Sedgemore, Brian
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Sheerman, Barry
Hancock, Mr. Michael Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hardy, Peter Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Haynes, Frank Skinner, Dennis
Heffer, Eric S. Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Snape, Peter
Home Robertson, John Soley, Clive
Howells, Geraint Spearing, Nigel
Hoyle, Douglas Stott, Roger
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Straw, Jack
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Tinn, James
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Torney, Tom
John, Brynmor Wainwright, R.
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Wareing, Robert
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Weetch, Ken
Kirkwood, Archy Welsh, Michael
Lamond, James Winnick, David
Leighton, Ronald Woodall, Alec
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Litherland, Robert
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Tellers for the Ayes:
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Mr. John Cartwright and
Loyden, Edward Mr. Michael Meadowcroft.
Adley, Robert Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)
Aitken, Jonathan Baldry, Tony
Alexander, Richard Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bendall, Vivian
Amess, David Benyon, William
Ancram, Michael Best, Keith
Ashby, David Biffen, Rt Hon John
Aspinwall, Jack Blackburn, John
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Body, Richard
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Boscawen, Hon Robert Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Bottomley, Peter Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Hunter, Andrew
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Irving, Charles
Braine, Sir Bernard Jackson, Robert
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Bright, Graham Jessel, Toby
Brinton, Tim Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Brooke, Hon Peter Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Key, Robert
Browne, John King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Bruinvels, Peter Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Bryan, Sir Paul Knowles, Michael
Buck, Sir Antony Lang, Ian
Budgen, Nick Lawrence, Ivan
Bulmer, Esmond Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Burt, Alistair Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Butcher, John Lightbown, David
Butler, Hon Adam Lilley, Peter
Butterfill, John Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Lord, Michael
Carttiss, Michael Luce, Richard
Cash, William Lyell, Nicholas
Chalker, Mrs Lynda McCrindle, Robert
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Macfarlane, Neil
Chope, Christopher MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Maclean, David John
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Major, John
Cockeram, Eric Malins, Humfrey
Colvin, Michael Malone, Gerald
Coombs, Simon Maples, John
Cope, John Mates, Michael
Corrie, John Mather, Carol
Couchman, James Maude, Hon Francis
Cranborne, Viscount Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Currie, Mrs Edwina Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Mellor, David
Dover, Den Merchant, Piers
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Meyer, Sir Anthony
Dunn, Robert Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Durant, Tony Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Evennett, David Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Eyre, Sir Reginald Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Fallon, Michael Montgomery, Fergus
Farr, Sir John Moynihan, Hon C.
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Murphy, Christopher
Fletcher, Alexander Neale, Gerrard
Fookes, Miss Janet Needham, Richard
Forman, Nigel Nelson, Anthony
Forth, Eric Newton, Tony
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Nicholls, Patrick
Fox, Marcus Normanton, Tom
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Norris, Steven
Garel-Jones, Tristan Onslow, Cranley
Glyn, Dr Alan Oppenheim, Phillip
Goodhart, Sir Philip Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Goodlad, Alastair Osborn, Sir John
Gow, Ian Ottaway, Richard
Grant, Sir Anthony Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Greenway, Harry Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Grylls, Michael Parris, Matthew
Gummer, John Selwyn Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Hargreaves, Kenneth Pattie, Geoffrey
Hayes, J. Pawsey, James
Hayhoe, Barney Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hayward, Robert Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Henderson, Barry Porter, Barry
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Hickmet, Richard Powell, William (Corby)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L Powley, John
Hill, James Price, Sir David
Hind, Kenneth Proctor, K. Harvey
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Raffan, Keith
Hooson, Tom Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hordern, Peter Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Howard, Michael Renton, Tim
Rhodes James, Robert Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Richardson, Ms Jo Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Thornton, Malcolm
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Thurnham, Peter
Roe, Mrs Marion Townend, John (Bridlington)
Rossi, Sir Hugh Tracey, Richard
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Trippier, David
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Trotter, Neville
Sayeed, Jonathan van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Scott, Nicholas Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Viggers, Peter
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Waddington, David
Shelton, William (Streatham) Waldegrave, Hon William
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Walden, George
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Shersby, Michael Wall, Sir Patrick
Silvester, Fred Ward, John
Sims, Roger Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Warren, Kenneth
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Watson, John
Soames, Hon Nicholas Watts, John
Speller, Tony Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Spencer, Derek Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Wheeler, John
Squire, Robin Whitfield, John
Stanbrook, Ivor Whitney, Raymond
Steen, Anthony Wolfson, Mark
Stern, Michael Wood, Timothy
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Woodcock, Michael
Stevens, Martin (Fulham) Yeo, Tim
Stradling Thomas, J. Young, Sir George (Acton)
Sumberg, David Younger, Rt Hon George
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Temple-Morris, Peter Tellers for the Noes:
Terlezki, Stefan Mr. Archie Hamilton and
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Mr. Michael Neubert.
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Straw

I beg to move amendment No. 36, in page 1, line 15, leave out '1986' and add '1987'.

The Second Deputy Chairman

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 38, in page 1, line 15,at end add 'or such later date as is provided for by sub-section (3) below. (3) The abolition date shall be such date as the Secretary of State may by order appoint after he has received from each authority or body established under this Act a report upon their capacity to carry out functions of the Greater London Council or of a metropolitan county council which it is proposed to transfer to them under this Act and he has published such reports.'

Mr. Straw

A few minutes ago my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) was commenting on something that I have observed—that the parade of the Tellers tells us something about the social composition of Britain. Conservative Tellers are always taller than Labour Tellers.

Mr. Tony Banks

It was the welfare milk.

Mr. Straw

My hon. Friend says that it Was due to welfare milk. There was milk for the Conservative Tellers even before welfare milk was available to Labour Tellers, because they could afford it. That sociological fact—the linking of social class to height—was confirmed by a recent report from the Department of Health and Social Security. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt) says that he is only 5 ft 5 in. That proves the point that there are some odd genetic groups, such as that to which my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West belongs. I was saying that the report published earlier this week by the Department of Health and Social Security shows the direct correlation between social class and height.

Amendment No. 36 extends by one year the abolition date referred to in the Bill. Amendment No. 38, an alternative amendment, states: The abolition date shall be such date as the Secretary of State may by order appoint after he has received from each authority or body established under this Act a report upon their capacity to carry out functions of the Greater London Council or of a metropolitan county council which it is proposed to transfer to them under this Act and he has published such reports.

You may confirm, Mr. Dean, that, although we discussed amendment No. 46 in a group yesterday, it will be voted upon after this group, so it may be for the convenience at least of my hon. Friends if I remind them of the content of amendment No. 46. It ensures that if the precepting authorities go ahead, there are direct elections to them rather than just indirect elections. As I fancy that there will be no clause stand part debate, I should like to make it clear beyond peradventure that we are opposed to the abolition of both the GLC and the metropolitan counties.

Last night the Government suffered a serious setback. They have a majority over the Labour party of 190 and over all other parties, including Irish Members, who, as far as I know, were not here to vote in great numbers, of 141. For the Government to have their majority reduced to 23 was, as my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said, a moral defeat and a major humiliation. There is no question about that. The Government have an enormous majority, with all the dangers to the future of the Conservative party that the former Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym), so sagely warned about during the election. In any other Parliament that would have been an arithmetical defeat, and the proposal would have been abandoned.

Mr. Tony Banks

Does my hon. Friend agree that the vote last night was not only a comment on this proposal, but perhaps was more a Conservative party comment on the present style of leadership of the party?

Mr. Straw

Of course my hon. Friend is right. I would not say that he was always right, but he is almost always right—99 per cent. of the time.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

And the headmistress has had Tory Members in since then

Mr. Straw

Indeed. But even in the best-run schools, such as Eton and Winchester, there were riots in the last century, and what happened then can happen again.

Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that as one Conservative Back Bencher is in the Chamber it would be decent to mention him?

Mr. Straw

I would mention him, but I am afraid to say that, not having seen him all that often, I do not know who he is. If the Secretary of State would care to tell me his name, of course I shall mention him.

Mr. John Major (Huntingdon)

He is the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Whitfield).

Mr. Straw

I should like to say to the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) that last night — I shall not embarrass the Minister by mentioning names—when a Tory Member was speaking from the Back Benches, The Times guide, Vacher and Dod were all in use on the Treasury Bench as Tory Members tried to match up the photographs to the names, without success.

Mr. Flannery

Another one has come in.

Mr. Straw

Yes, indeed, and at the Bar of the House we now see the Back Bencher of the year—the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), who fully deserves that appellation for his persistent criticism of the Government. We look forward to his and his hon. Friend's support on this amendment.

Yesterday the Government suffered a major moral and near arithmetical defeat. The Secretary of State for the Environment was interviewed on the radio this morning about that defeat. My hon. Friends should savour the following extract from the Press Association tape. Under the headline, Jenkin's open mind on London authority", it reads: Environment Secretary Patrik"— the spelling suggests that the Press Association may think that he is a Russian— Jenkin said today he would keep 'an open mind' over calls by fellow Conservatives for a new directly-elected authority for London to replace the GLC. This, however, is a bit much: But he told Tory critics of his abolition Bill that they must make a more 'coherent' case over what functions such a body would have. His remarks came after the Government scraped home last night by just 23 votes to beat off an amendment to the abolition Bill tabled by ten senior Conservative backbenchers. Speaking on BBC radio, Mr. Jenkin played down the scale of the revolt over the amendment, which called for a new London authority. He said: 'I certainly do not agree that it was a near defeat'. How much closer do we have to make it before he will admit a near defeat?

The one consistent feature of the Secretary of State's record in the past 15 years has been the way in which he sticks to his principles and convictions with great passion right up to the moment when he changes them. He was absolutely passionate in his defence of the abolition not only of the GLC and its elections but of the transfer of political power without elections until he was defeated, at which point he became equally passionate in defence of the present arrangement.

Seeing defeat about to hit him in the face once again, he has now said that despite all his passion he has "an open mind" about this. We shall take him at his word as he is a man of his word. I also take it that his open mind includes that of his right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government. Given that openness of mind, it must surely be sensible to delay implementation of the Bill at least until 1987 or, better still, as our alternative amendment proposes, until there has been the fullest possible consideration of a report from the metropolitan counties and the GLC.

Above all other motives, we are concerned for the political health of the Secretary of State and the Minister. I hope that they will listen to our counsel, advice and solicitation and accept the amendments in the spirit in which they have been put forward.

Mr. Boyes

It could be described as absurd, but I prefer to call it arrogant, for the Government to determine and print in the Bill a date for abolition of the metropolitan counties and the GLC before the Committee even sat. Even worse, the Bill has not yet been to the House of Lords. Important changes were made to the paving legislation when it reached the House of Lords and I am sure that there will be changes in this Bill. That does not give me any great pleasure, as I believe that changes should be made by this House, where Members are elected and accountable and the full flow of democracy can operate.

I am concerned not so much about the way in which the Government have treated the House of Commons as about the way in which they are treating the people who live in the metropolitan counties and in the GLC area. However, the Government's behaviour is not inconsistent. Earlier in the year there was the paving Bill. That was another example of unprecedented action by the present Government in passing a Bill to stop elections to a body before that body had been abolished. All that we are seeing is a continuation of the same attitude on the part of the Government to the people of Tyne and Wear, for example, and all the other areas concerned.

9.30 pm

A few moments ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) referred to the small majority that the Government had last night. I consider that last night was a resigning matter for some Ministers. However, if they will not go that far, they must recognise that the vote certainly did not give them a mandate to abolish Tyne and Wear county council on 1 April 1986.

I should also like to mention the haste with which the Bill is being passed through the House and with which the set date is being approached. I was elected to a district council in 1973. In 1973, because there was to be a local government reorganisation in 1974, there were two authorities running parallel—a shadow authority and the new authority. Coopers and Lyband, who have been studying this problem, have said that The problems of transition are substantial.

The problems were substantial in 1973, too. When the reorganisation finally took place, the shadow authorities had been in existence for approximately 18 months, and there had been a full year before the effective date of the reorganisation. I remember that period well. There was a great deal of confusion. There were many problems. Nevertheless, the Government believe that they can achieve a massive transformation from the elected metropolitan county councils and the GLC in not much more than six or seven months.

Furthermore, the Government have no right to carry out the abolition on the date they suggest, because they have no mandate to do so. Last night, we discussed the question of abolishing the authorities without an inquiry. In fact, there has not been—

Mr. Fatchett

There is no point in putting the case. The Minister has gone away.

Mr. Boyes

I note my hon. Friend's comments. The Government Front Bench seems to be leaving the sinking ship, as well as the Back Benchers. There does not seem to be much heart either on the Government Back Bench or on the Front Benches where the Bill is concerned. No doubt the new Minister would rather have had to deal with something more progressive.

Mr. Straw

I must explain to my hon. Friend that the Minister for Local Government was absent on my account. I asked to have a word with him at the back of the Chair.

Mr. Boyes

I understand what my hon. Friend says, but I understand that there is a big team of Ministers at the Department of the Environment. The Minister does not seem to be very well supported by his colleagues at the moment. If I was a Minister who was trying to push through a Bill such as this, I would not be sitting on the Front Bench—I would be hiding in the Tea Room.

Although there has been no official inquiry, there have been tests of whether people want abolition. First, the Government invited responses to their White Paper in a short time. It is interesting that those responses and the analysis of them have not yet been published or put in the Library for us to examine. The Government have let us know, however, that the response was approximately 10 to one against abolition. Secondly, we have the evidence of several opinion polls. They are quite independent and have not been carried out by the Labour party. I should like to remind the Government of the results. In April 1984, an opinion poll was taken in a significant constituency —that of the Prime Minister. One would imagine that if any area favours abolition, it is Finchley. However, 66 per cent. of those polled opposed abolition and only 15 per cent. favoured it. It might be argued that that result is slightly skewed so we should examine the views of those who said that they would vote Conservative. Of them, 40 per cent. opposed abolition and 35 per cent. favoured it. On that basis, the Government have no mandate to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan counties.

More recent opinion polls appeared in The Observer and The Sunday Times. I should be ashamed to be a Minister who was pushing such an unpopular measure through. It is unpopular throughout the country, not just in metropolitan county areas or in the GLC area. Indeed, the Government are using a crushing majority to push through a measure that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said was included in the Tory manifesto without much stomach from leading members of the Conservative party.

The Sunday Times MORI poll found that 46 per cent. of those polled opposed abolition and that only 30 per cent. favoured it. A Harris poll for The Observer conducted in the Enfield, Southgate constituency, where there is a by-election today, found that 47 per cent. disagreed with the proposal and that only 31 per cent. approved of it. We can ask for a delay in abolition only until the Bill has been considered in Committee upstairs and by another place.

The area covered by Tyne and Wear metropolitan county council, of which I am a representative, has one of the highest levels of unemployment in Britain. The council is one of the bastions against the Government's policies and is trying to offset the terrible economic and social problems which have been caused by the Government. It is disgraceful that it is to be abolished. Do not take my word for it. I shall conclude with some quotations of people who might not be expected to take the same view as me. The Tyne and Wear Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said: The Tyne and Wear County Councils spent £4.6 million on economic development in 1982–83. It has had a high profile and considerable success in its activities and the Chamber has been happy to work with it in this field. I have received several letters from companies in the Tyne and Wear area which are appalled at what the Government are proposing to do. I shall quote just one, which was sent by the chairman and managing director of Ronson (International) Limited. He wrote: We strongly urge the Government to reconsider their decision as it could well reverse the trend towards encouraging investment in the various development areas in England".

On any criteria, the Government have no right to abolish the county councils on the date specified in the Bill. They have an obligation to cancel that date until further and fuller consultation has been carried out. This measure does not have the support of the elected representatives in the areas affected, the people in those areas or many of the businesses in those areas. It is a disgrace and outrage that the Government are using their majority to trample on the people whom I represent.

Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Brent, South)

Is is sad that the Chamber is not as packed as it was this time last night, because the amendments we are discussing are of constituency interest. As a result of the timing of the Bill, we are left with a hotchpotch. It is one of the most bungled pieces of legislation that I have ever seen. Residuary powers affecting all our constituents are to be transferred to joint arrangements between the boroughs, and support for services is to be cut. I doubt whether the Government will be able to implement their proposals in the time limit which they have set.

Most hon. Members represent inner cities, but I hope that my hon. Friends from the metropolitan county areas will forgive me if, naturally, my remarks relate mainly to my own area. In the past, the services enjoyed by my constituents have been provided by mutual arrangement. For example, racialism runs throughout the whole of the London areas, but when Brixton and Toxteth went up in flames my area did not merely because of the initiative taken by the black community to set up a co-operative project. That was successful because the GLC gave £500,000 and the Department of the Environment £600,000. Further money was provided by Europe and the local boroughs. Such projects should be a beacon for the integration of people of different coloured skins into our communities.

We do not know whether the Government will be able to sort out such a problem within the timescale they have set. I could list 44 other organisations that have benefited from urban aid, not to mention a number of other services in which the GLC has made a tremendous input. For example, the Brent Association for the Disabled and a number of other organisations have in the last year received £800,000 from the GLC. How will the necessary bridging arrangements be made if the GLC is abolished on the date specified in the Bill? The Government's timetable will make it impossible to implement such arrangements.

The Bill is a hotchpotch. It is ill-thought-out and ill-conceived. It contains no planning or strategy, makes no economic sense and will not lead to efficiency. As a result of the date specified, the muddle which will follow will be just as bad as the muddle which preceded it.

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

My comments centre on amendment No. 38, which calls for the authorities which will take over the GLC's responsibilities to submit a report on their ability to do so. I also wish to highlight the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt).

Many of the projects in my area of south London have been developed to cope with the kind of social problems that are encountered here. We have set up advice centres for youngsters, training centres for the unemployed and drug advice centres because of the financial back-up we have received from the GLC. Only recently we debated the effects of drugs in our society, and we were told that the Government had such concern for this problem that three Government Departments would form a committee to see what Government help, along with local authority help, could be given to those areas in which drugs are now a problem.

We are entitled to told by the Minister how the services will continue to exist. The Minister has repeatedly told us that if the Bill becomes law there will be savings. No one believes that. Even allowing for possible savings, we have never been told by a Minister, who has replied to a debate or who has made a statement at a meeting about the abolition of the GLC or metropolitan authorities, that existing services will no longer exist after abolition. I have already mentioned services which exist and which are crucially important in my constituency. Many hon. Members who represent areas which will be affected by the proposals could also do so. If the Minister believes that local councils will be prepared to continue and develop such services, he is living in dreamland.

9.45 pm

Together with my hon. Friends the Members for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), I was a member of the Committee which dealt with the London Regional Transport Bill. We were given clear assurances that services such as the dial-a-ride service for disabled people would continue. It has brought great benefit to people in London. When we asked the Minister about it, he said, "Have no fear. We shall do everything in our power to see that these services continue and are extended". Yet Wandsworth council is doing everything it can to avoid a commitment to continue dial-a-ride services for the disabled.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

Local authorities have been innovative, broken into new areas of deprivation and considered the plight of black communities. Because local authorities have been able to minimise the excesses of the Government, the Government are attacking local authorities. Is not that at the heart of the Government's proposals?

Mr. Cox

Unlike the remarks from Conservative Members, what my hon. Friend says is true. It is because of the Government's policies that the services needed—I could list any number—have not been developed. Local authorities such as mine have willingly followed Government instructions and made cuts. The services continue only where authorities are prepared to stand up to those instructions and provide them. That is at the heart of the Bill. Neither the Minister nor the Secretary of State has given a commitment that on-going services will continue and be developed.

At present the Wandsworth Disablement Association has applied for money for a survey about access for disabled people, but the local authority has rejected it. If Conservative Members believe that, under the Government or with Tory-controlleed authorities, there would be no development of the services about which we have been talking this evening—the dial-a-ride service, help for the young unemployed and help for victims of drug abuse—they should hang their heads in shame. That is what Members of Parliament were elected to fight for.

Not only Members of Parliament, but many outside organisations are saying that to the Government. Many hon. Members will have received letters from organisations such as the London Cycling Campaign, the National Consumer Council and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. Those organisations are not politically affiliated, but they know that the services that they try to provide are under threat. However, they have received no assurances from the Government as to their future.

The Secretary of State says that the Government's proposals will produce savings. We do not believe that for one moment. The Minister has an obligation to discover what will be the attitude of the local authorities which take over the services presently provided by the GLC or the metropolitan county councils. If the Minister does not do that, it will prove, as my hon. Friends have said, that this is a shoddy Bill that has not been properly thought out. If not enough Conservative Members oppose it here, let us hope that enough Conservative and other peers in another place will give the Government their just deserts and reject the Bill completely. In view of all the opinion polls and the statements of Londoners and people from other metropolitan authorities, the Government should realise that they have no mandate, as many Conservative Members have told Ministers, for the destruction of services that are vital to so many communities.

Mr. Wareing

Yesterday we talked about the need for an inquiry and covered much of the ground then. However, I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the first sign of the Bill was in the Queen's Speech on 22 June 1983. If it receives Royal Assent in mid-1985, we shall have been debating the issue for two years. The matter will have been worth two years of argument. Yet, within nine months of Royal Assent, the local authorities in the metropolitan areas must be completely reorganised. The period is insufficient, especially as there has been no inquiry.

The local authorities which will be required to take over the services have a right to tell the Government whether they can manage them. Clause 44 refers to museums being transferred to metropolitan districts, but there is no mention of art galleries. What will happen to the Walker art gallery in Liverpool, which is a national asset? What will happen to Croxteth hall in Croxteth country park? The Bill mentions the South Bank complex and museums and institutions in the London area but not in Liverpool.

If I were Liverpool city council, which will again be affected by the rate-capping diktat of the gauleiters of Marsham street, I would be inclined to say, as the council has already said about St. George's hall, that we cannot afford to keep open the Philharmonic hall, Croxteth hall or Speke hall. The Secretary of State must tell the people of Merseyside what will happen to those assets.

Tourism is hardly mentioned in the Bill, yet the Liverpool city council, under the Liberals and Sir Trevor Jones, gave up tourism. Jobs would have been lost at the o Lime street tourist office, Liverpool, had it not been for the economic development committee of Merseyside county council, under my chairmanship. If Liverpool is to be asked to take over the responsibility for tourism, we can forget about it. Liverpool does not have sufficient resources with which to deal with the vast housing and education problems and the social services difficulties.

Merseyside is proud of its record on tourism and economic development. It is proud of its record in creating jobs. Each year it sponsors the Merseyside river festival. It created the Tall Ships race which coincided with the international garden festival. Merseyside is proud of its ferry services. It has expanded all of its tourist services in order to allow the people of Liverpool and people from other parts of the world to enjoy the international garden festival. All that will go for a naught if the Government get their way and attempt precipitously to implement the Bill in 1986.

If the Government have any sense and want to make anything of the morass that they are creating, it must be an organised morass. To do that, they must take longer. Even if the Bill receives Royal Assent in June or July of 1985, it will be impracticable to implement it in detail by the spring of 1986. If the Government try to implement the Bill as rapidly as they say they wish to implement it, the municipal enterprise which areas like Merseyside and the west midlands have shown in the past five or six years will be set at naught. They will destroy the hopes of the people in those areas.

Mr. Bermingham

I ask the Secretary of State to look carefully at paragraph 15 of schedule 8, which deals with trading standards. It contains no provision to transfer the right to prosecute from the outgoing authority to the authority which is to take over responsibility for trading standards. It is very important that we should not get into the mess that we got into in the past when we created new authorities in place of the old ones.

I ask the Secretary of State to look also at a number of the legal functions of the county councils. I ask him to consider the problems involved in the transfer of property and in civil litigation involving local authorities, or on behalf of local authorities, which are to go out of existence. The morass that will be created will be colossal. It would not cost anything to devote a little time to this problem, and by doing that a great deal of expense, hardship and misery could be prevented. If the Bill is to be passed, it ought to be passed in as orderly and efficient a manner as possible. That will take time.

There is an old saying that politicians can decree, but that human beings have to undertake and carry out what has been decreed. It is imperative that the mistakes of 1964 and 1972 are not repeated. If they are repeated, they will create a great deal of work for lawyers. Lawyers welcome the creation of work, but that would not be in the interests of the electors. They are the people to whom the Government ultimately will be accountable. The electors of this country, the electors in the metropolitan areas, in the City of London and in the GLC will hold the Government accountable for the waste that they will cause by trying to hurry through an ill-conceived and ill-thought-out Bill.

Mr. Corbyn

I speak tonight on behalf of my constituency and also as an hon. Member who is sponsored by the National Union of Public Employees. I want to place on record the disgraceful way in which all the trade unions were treated over consultation. Before the Bill was introduced, no substantive replies were received to the letters which were sent to the Government about abolition.

The effects of abolishing an authority in one year will be devastating. Anyone who had anything to do with the creation of the metropolitan counties or the GLC knows that there are still staffing arguments going back to the pre-1964 period. There are still protected conditions for former employees of the Middlesex county council who now work for the GLC. The same sort of problems exist in the metropolitan counties.

If the Government are saying to an organisation that employs 21,000 people that it must cease to exist within the year, the effect of the loss of jobs on the economy of London—

It being Ten o'clock, THE CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress.

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

Again considered in Committee.

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Mr. Corbyn

The effect on staff of the devastation of the GLC and the metropolitan counties will be profound. There are still problems from the 1964 reorganisation and from the transfer of housing functions in 1982.

The Government's offer of a staff commission, which will not protect the interests of the staff, but will act as an agency for the Secretary of State in destroying jobs and creating more unemployment, must be strongly opposed.

The Secretary of State has the temerity to say that he is not getting co-operation from the trade unions. I ask him to think back. There has been no consultation with the trade unions, but we have had from the Secretary of State a high-handed refusal even to offer the same sums as his predecessor offered on the transfer of housing in 1982. Yet the Secretary of State complains that the trade unions are unco-operative.

The Government just managed to win a vote yesterday. Any other Government who lost so many votes in a Division would have resigned. From now on, the abolition procedures will be met with the strongest possible resistance by those employed in the metropolitan counties who are not prepared to see jobs and services destroyed.

The Government are not even prepared to say how much abolition will cost in terms of lost services, unemployment benefit, redundancy pay and other crucial matters. Yet they have the temerity to attack people who have given their working lives to the GLC and the metropolitan counties.

Some people at county hall can remember the present Secretary of State for Education and Science visiting them in 1963 and telling them that London county council employees had nothing to fear from the establishment of the GLC and that it would provide continuity of employment. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to talk to employees who have been at county hall for 40 years or more and say, "Your future is secure. You can pick up your redundancy cheque in six months' time?" That is all that the Government are prepared to offer to people who have given good service for so long to London and the metropolitan counties.

The Government may try to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan counties in six months, but I predict that they will not succeed, because of the opposition throughout London, the opposition of individual workers and trade unions in those authorities and the opposition that will be mounted in this House and in another place. From now on, it is downhill for the Government as they try to destroy democracy and so many of the things that democracy in London and the metropolitan counties has provided.

The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Kenneth Baker)

Only fleetingly have the amendments under discussion been touched on in the past three quarters of an hour, and I am not in the least surprised about that, because on two amendments the Labour party has not voted when opportunities have been provided for it to vote to keep the GLC and the metropolitan counties. On those two crucial amendments, they abstained.

We have made it clear from the outset that we intend the abolition of these authorities to take place on 1 April 1986. This was stated in the White Paper and the Bill has been introduced, as promised, early in this Session in line with the timetable that we proposed.

The hon. Members for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham), for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) and for Tooting (Mr. Cox) have argued that more time is needed to put our plans into effect, but I do not agree. The boroughs and districts are already fully functioning local authorities—this contrasts with the situation in 1963–65 and 1972–74 when all the successor bodies were new authorities created by the Bill. Thus, the bodies taking over most of the tasks of the GLC and MCCs are in place and can begin planning for the transfer from an early stage. The fact that some of them are not doing so at the moment is regrettable, but I am sure that all authorities will be able to make adequate preparations for the changeover.

The new joint authorities will be formally in place from September 1985, with adequate time to prepare their budgets for 1986. Again, there is nothing to prevent the borough and district members who make up those authorities from meeting at an earlier stage to give preliminary thought to their needs.

Labour Members are proposing amendments that would introduce unnecessary delay and increase uncertainty for the staff concerned. The GLC and the MCCs would no doubt continue their obstructionist behaviour. If they were given another year to live, we should have to submit to yet another year's advertising from Mr. Livingstone, and another £10 million or ratepayers' money being wasted. My hon. Friends would not accept that. The timetable that was set out is workable, so I ask my hon. Friends to reject these amendments.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 46, in page 1, line 15, at end add— `(3) On the abolition date there shall be established for each metropolitan county and for Greater London a body corporate to be known by the name of that county with the addition of he words "Precepting Authority" or to be known as the Greater London Precepting Authority, as the case may be. (4) The authorities established by subsection (3) above shall consist of members elected by the local government electors of the metropolitan county or Greater London, as the case may be, in accordance with this Act and the Representation of the People Act 1983. (5) The authorities established by subsection (3) above may in respect of any financial year, or part year, beginning with the abolition date issue precepts to the appropriate rating authority for the levying of rates to meet, to the extent the authority considers reasonable in all the circumstances, the expenditure of the bodies or persons or joint committees (other than directly elected bodies) to whom functions are transferred by this Act.'. — [Mr. Straw.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 157, Noes 280.

Division No. 54] [10.08 pm
Anderson, Donald Haynes, Frank
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Ashdown, Paddy Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Home Robertson, John
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Howells, Geraint
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hoyle, Douglas
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Barnett, Guy Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Janner, Hon Greville
Beith, A. J. John, Brynmor
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Bermingham, Gerald Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Bidwell, Sydney Kennedy, Charles
Blair, Anthony Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Bray, Dr Jeremy Kirkwood, Archy
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Lamond, James
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Leighton, Ronald
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Caborn, Richard Litherland, Robert
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Carter-Jones, Lewis Loyden, Edward
Cartwright, John McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Clay, Robert McGuire, Michael
Clwyd, Mrs Ann McKelvey, William
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) McNamara, Kevin
Coleman, Donald McTaggart, Robert
Conlan, Bernard McWilliam, John
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Madden, Max
Corbyn, Jeremy Marek, Dr John
Cowans, Harry Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Maynard, Miss Joan
Crowther, Stan Meacher, Michael
Cunliffe, Lawrence Michie, William
Dalyell, Tam Mikardo, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I) Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Deakins, Eric Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Dewar, Donald Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Dixon, Donald O'Brien, William
Dobson, Frank O'Neill, Martin
Dormand, Jack Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Dubs, Alfred Park, George
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Parry, Robert
Eastham, Ken Patchett, Terry
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Pavitt, Laurie
Fatchett, Derek Pendry, Tom
Faulds, Andrew Penhaligon, David
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Pike, Peter
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Fisher, Mark Prescott, John
Flannery, Martin Randall, Stuart
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Redmond, M.
Forrester, John Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Foster, Derek Richardson, Ms Jo
Foulkes, George Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Robertson, George
Freud, Clement Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Garrett, W. E. Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
George, Bruce Rowlands, Ted
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Sedgemore, Brian
Godman, Dr Norman Sheerman, Barry
Golding, John Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Skinner, Dennis
Hancock, Mr. Michael Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Hardy, Peter Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Snape, Peter
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Soley, Clive
Spearing, Nigel Welsh, Michael
Steel, Rt Hon David Williams, Rt Hon A.
Stott, Roger Winnick, David
Straw, Jack Woodall, Alec
Tinn, James Young, David (Bolton SE)
Torney, Tom
Wainwright, R. Tellers for the Ayes;
Warden, Gareth (Gower) Mr. Allen McKay and
Wareing, Robert Mr. Roland Boyes.
Weetch, Ken
Adley, Robert Cranborne, Viscount
Aitken, Jonathan Crouch, David
Alexander, Richard Currie, Mrs Edwina
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Dorrell, Stephen
Alton, David Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Dover, Den
Amess, David du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Ancram, Michael Dunn, Robert
Arnold, Tom Durant, Tony
Ashby, David Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Aspinwall, Jack Evennett, David
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Eyre, Sir Reginald
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Fallon, Michael
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Farr, Sir John
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Baldry, Tony Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fletcher, Alexander
Bendall, Vivian Fookes, Miss Janet
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Forman, Nigel
Benyon, William Forth, Eric
Best, Keith Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fox, Marcus
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Blackburn, John Glyn, Dr Alan
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Goodhart, Sir Philip
Body, Richard Goodlad, Alastair
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gow, Ian
Boscawen, Hon Robert Grant, Sir Anthony
Bottomley, Peter Greenway, Harry
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Grylls, Michael
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Gummer, John Selwyn
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hargreaves, Kenneth
Braine, Sir Bernard Hayes, J.
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hayhoe, Barney
Bright, Graham Hayward, Robert
Brinton, Tim Heathcoat-Amory, David
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Heddle, John
Brooke, Hon Peter Henderson, Barry
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Browne, John Hickmet, Richard
Bruinvels, Peter Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Bryan, Sir Paul Hill, James
Buck, Sir Antony Hind, Kenneth
Budgen, Nick Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Bulmer, Esmond Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Burt, Alistair Hooson, Tom
Butcher, John Howard, Michael
Butler, Hon Adam Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Butterfill, John Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Hunt, David (Wirral)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Hunter, Andrew
Carttiss, Michael Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Cash, William Irving, Charles
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Jessel, Toby
Chope, Christopher Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Churchill, W. S. Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Key, Robert
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Knowles, Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Lang, Ian
Cockeram, Eric Lawrence, Ivan
Colvin, Michael Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Coombs, Simon Lee, John (Pendle)
Cope, John Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Corrie, John Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Couchman, James Lightbown, David
Lilley, Peter Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lord, Michael St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Luce, Richard Sayeed, Jonathan
Lyell, Nicholas Scott, Nicholas
McCrindle, Robert Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Macfarlane, Neil Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Shelton, William (Streatham)
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Maclean, David John Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
McQuarrie, Albert Shersby, Michael
Major, John Silvester, Fred
Malins, Humfrey Sims, Roger
Malone, Gerald Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Maples, John Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Marlow, Antony Soames, Hon Nicholas
Mates, Michael Speller, Tony
Mather, Carol Spence, John
Maude, Hon Francis Spencer, Derek
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mellor, David Squire, Robin
Merchant, Piers Stanbrook, Ivor
Meyer, Sir Anthony Steen, Anthony
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Stern, Michael
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Moate, Roger Stradling Thomas, J.
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Sumberg, David
Montgomery, Fergus Tapsell, Peter
Moore, John Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Moynihan, Hon C. Temple-Morris, Peter
Murphy, Christopher Terlezki, Stefan
Neale, Gerrard Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Needham, Richard Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Nelson, Anthony Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Neubert, Michael Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Newton, Tony Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Nicholls, Patrick Thornton, Malcolm
Normanton, Tom Thumham, Peter
Norris, Steven Townend, John (Bridlington)
Onslow, Cranley Tracey, Richard
Oppenheim, Phillip Trippier, David
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Trotter, Neville
Osborn, Sir John van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Ottaway, Richard Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Viggers, Peter
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Waddington, David
Parris, Matthew Waldegrave, Hon William
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Walden, George
Patten, John (Oxford) Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Pattie, Geoffrey Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Pawsey, James Wall, Sir Patrick
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Waller, Gary
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Ward, John
Porter, Barry Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down) Warren, Kenneth
Powell, William (Corby) Watson, John
Powley, John Watts, John
Price, Sir David Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Proctor, K. Harvey Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Raffan, Keith Wheeler, John
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Whitfield, John
Rees, Rt'Hon Peter (Dover) Whitney, Raymond
Renton, Tim Wolfson, Mark
Rhodes James, Robert Wood, Timothy
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Woodcock, Michael
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Yeo, Tim
Rifkind, Malcolm Young, Sir George (Acton)
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Younger, Rt Hon George
Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Roe, Mrs Marion Tellers for the Noes:
Rossi, Sir Hugh Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Rowe, Andrew Mr. Peter Lloyd.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 277, Noes 156.

Division No. 55] [10.20 pm
Adley, Robert Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Aitken, Jonathan Fletcher, Alexander
Alexander, Richard Fookes, Miss Janet
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Forman, Nigel
Alton, David Forth, Eric
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Amess, David Fox, Marcus
Ancram, Michael Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Arnold, Tom Garel-Jones, Tristan
Ashby, David Glyn, Dr Alan
Aspinwall, Jack Goodhart, Sir Philip
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Goodlad, Alastair
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Gow, Ian
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Grant, Sir Anthony
Baldry, Tony Greenway, Harry
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Grylls, Michael
Bendall, Vivian Gummer, John Selwyn
Best, Keith Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Hargreaves, Kenneth
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Hayes, J.
Blackburn, John Hayhoe, Barney
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Hayward, Robert
Body, Richard Heathcoat-Amory, David
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Heddle, John
Boscawen, Hon Robert Henderson, Barry
Bottomley, Peter Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hickmet, Richard
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Hill, James
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hind, Kenneth
Braine, Sir Bernard Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Bright, Graham Hooson, Tom
Brinton, Tim Howard, Michael
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Brooke, Hon Peter Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Hunt, David (Wirral)
Browne, John Hunter, Andrew
Bruinvels, Peter Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Bryan, Sir Paul Irving, Charles
Buck, Sir Antony Jackson, Robert
Budgen, Nick Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Bulmer, Esmond Jessel, Toby
Burt, Alistair Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Butcher, John Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Butler, Hon Adam Key, Robert
Butterfill, John King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Knowles, Michael
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Lang, Ian
Carttiss, Michael Lawrence, Ivan
Cash, William Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Lee, John (Pendle)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Chope, Christopher Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Churchill, W. S. Lightbown, David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Lilley, Peter
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Cockeram, Eric Lord, Michael
Colvin, Michael Luce, Richard
Coombs, Simon Lyell, Nicholas
Cope, John McCrindle, Robert
Corrie, John Macfarlane, Neil
Couchman, James MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Cranborne, Viscount MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Maclean, David John
Dorrell, Stephen McQuarrie, Albert
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Major, John
Dover, Den Malins, Humfrey
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Malone, Gerald
Dunn, Robert Maples, John
Durant, Tony Marlow, Antony
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Mates, Michael
Evennett, David Mather, Carol
Eyre, Sir Reginald Maude, Hon Francis
Fallon, Michael Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Farr, Sir John Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Mellor, David
Merchant, Piers Sims, Roger
Meyer, Sir Anthony Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Speller, Tony
Moate, Roger Spence, John
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Spencer, Derek
Montgomery, Fergus Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Moore, John Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Moynihan, Hon C. Squire, Robin
Murphy, Christopher Stanbrook, Ivor
Neale, Gerrard Steen, Anthony
Needham, Richard Stern, Michael
Nelson, Anthony Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Newton, Tony Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Nicholls, Patrick Stradling Thomas, J.
Normanton, Tom Sumberg, David
Norris, Steven Tapsell, Peter
Onslow, Cranley Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Oppenheim, Phillip Temple-Morris, Peter
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Terlezki, Stefan
Osborn, Sir John Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Ottaway, Richard Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Parris, Matthew Thornton, Malcolm
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Thurnham, Peter
Patten, John (Oxford) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Pattie, Geoffrey Tracey, Richard
Pawsey, James Trippier, David
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Trotter, Neville
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Porter, Barry Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down) Viggers, Peter
Powell, William (Corby) Waddington, David
Powley, John Waldegrave, Hon William
Price, Sir David Walden, George
Proctor, K. Harvey Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Raffan, Keith Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Wall, Sir Patrick
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Waller, Gary
Renton, Tim Ward, John
Rhodes James, Robert Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Warren, Kenneth
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Watson, John
Rifkind, Malcolm Watts, John
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Roe, Mrs Marion Wheeler, John
Rossi, Sir Hugh Whitfield, John
Rowe, Andrew Whitney, Raymond
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Wolfson, Mark
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Wood, Timothy
Sayeed, Jonathan Woodcock, Michael
Scott, Nicholas Yeo, Tim
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Younger, Rt Hon George
Shelton, William (Streatham)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Tellers for the Ayes:
Shersby, Michael Mr. Tim Sainsbury and
Silvester, Fred Mr. Michael Neubert.
Anderson, Donald Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Caborn, Richard
Ashdown, Paddy Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Carter-Jones, Lewis
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cartwright, John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Clay, Robert
Barnett, Guy Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Beith, A. J. Coleman, Donald
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Conlan, Bernard
Bermingham, Gerald Cook, Robin F, (Livingston)
Bidwell, Sydney Corbyn, Jeremy
Blair, Anthony Cowans, Harry
Boyes, Roland Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Crowther, Stan
Cunliffe, Lawrence McTaggart, Robert
Dalyell, Tam Madden, Max
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Marek, Dr John
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I) Maynard, Miss Joan
Deakins, Eric Meacher, Michael
Dewar, Donald Michie, William
Dixon, Donald Mikardo, Ian
Dobson, Frank Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Dormand, Jack Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Dubs, Alfred Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Eastham, Ken Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Evans, John (St. Helens N) O'Brien, William
Fatchett, Derek O'Neill, Martin
Faulds, Andrew Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Park, George
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Parry, Robert
Fisher, Mark Patchett, Terry
Flannery, Martin Pavitt, Laurie
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Pendry, Tom
Forrester, John Penhaligon, David
Foster, Derek Pike, Peter
Foulkes, George Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Prescott, John
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Randall, Stuart
Freud, Clement Redmond, M.
Garrett, W. E. Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
George, Bruce Richardson, Ms Jo
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Godman, Dr Norman Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Golding, John Robertson, George
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Hancock, Mr. Michael Rowlands, Ted
Hardy, Peter Sedgemore, Brian
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Sheerman, Barry
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Haynes, Frank Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Skinner, Dennis
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Home Robertson, John Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Howells, Geraint Snape, Peter
Hoyle, Douglas Soley, Clive
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Spearing, Nigel
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Steel, Rt Hon David
Janner, Hon Greville Stott, Roger
John, Brynmor Straw, Jack
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Tinn, James
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Torney, Tom
Kennedy, Charles Wainwright, R.
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Kirkwood, Archy Wareing, Robert
Lamond, James Weetch, Ken
Leighton, Ronald Welsh, Michael
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Williams, Rt Hon A.
Litherland, Robert Winnick, David
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Woodall, Alec
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Young, David (Bolton SE)
Loyden, Edward
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Tellers for the Noes:
McGuire, Michael Mr. John McWilliam and
McKelvey, William Mr. Allen McKay.
McNamara, Kevin

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill (clause 1) reported without amendment; to lie upon the Table.

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