§ 3.4 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order), on the Motion for Second Reading moved yesterday by the Lord Chancellor.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD HASTINGS)
My Lords, we are considering a long and comprehensive Bill, and the debate in your Lordships' House yesterday covered a lot of ground. I will do my best to deal in rather more detail with the main subjects which were touched upon yesterday and which, in the nature of things, my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack was unable to develop at any great length in his opening speech. Perhaps it would be convenient, however, if I explained at this juncture that the original intention was that my noble friend Lord Jellicoe should reply and develop the points, dealing particularly with the new London boroughs' functions and the services attaching to them. But in view of the indisposition of my noble friend, I shall have to deal with those subjects as well as with the general planning, transport and housing matters. Therefore, if your Lordships feel that my speech is extra long, you may perhaps console yourselves with the thought that we shall be saving time later on in the debate, since the noble Earl would in any event have been dealing with these subjects.
I should like to address my opening remarks to those provisions in the Bill which concern the Greater London Council, and perhaps it would be convenient if I commenced with a word or so about that body. I should like to stress one aspect of the Council's position under the Bill, which stems directly from the conception of the new system of local government in Greater London as it was first outlined by the Royal Commission. The Greater London Council is not designed to be a superior or upper-tier authority with suzerainty over the borough councils. The conception of upper-tier and lower-tier authorities has been carefully avoided in drafting the Bill, although I noted yesterday evening that the noble Lord, Lord Latham, did not think so. The Greater London Council and the London boroughs will operate side by side, neither in essence superior to the 1215 other. The essential element in the Government's approach to the Greater London Council, however, is that it should be the authority for those functions and services which need the widest area for their planning and administration.
My noble friend on the Woolsack mentioned yesterday overall planning, main roads, traffic control and certain aspects of housing, especially overspill. To these matters I would add main drainage and refuse disposal, the fire and ambulance services, and an intelligence department to keep under review problems connected with Greater London as a whole. These are strategic functions, and I think—or I hope—that we can all agree that the nature of these services, taken together with the size of London's population, implies the need for a type of authority which is different from others throughout the country.
Let me deal first with town and country planning, which, par excellence, calls out for the widest treatment where Greater London is concerned. The Greater London Council themselves are, as we know, required by provisions in Part III of the Bill to prepare an overall plan, to be called the Greater London development plan. This will deal with matters of general policy and provide the framework against which the detailed plans will be worked out. My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, asked that the Council should deal with the right things. They will be dealing with the pattern of communications, the balance of land use, the policy in regard to industry and other forms of employment. I think that these are certainly the right things.
This will be a master plan and it will have full statutory significance. To break down the detailed work of planning, street by street and block by block, the borough councils will prepare local development plans after the Greater London development plan has been approved by the Minister of Housing and Local Government. The local plans will have to be submitted to the Minister through the Greater London Council, who will be able to pick up, and put back if necessary, anything which goes against the approved Greater London plan.
Your Lordships will readily see that, in their responsibilities for development plans, the Greater London Council will 1216 be very different from a joint board with advisory, consultative or co-ordinating functions. They will be a body with very wide and real powers. But, at the same time, the borough councils and the Common Council, nearer the ground, will be responsible for the detailed planning of their areas. In this respect the Bill differs from the Report of the Royal Commission, who recommended that the Greater London Council should be responsible for all development plan work. But clearly it is an advantage to spread detailed work of this kind in order to get it done in a reasonable time.
A plan like that for London County alone is simply enormous. It has recently been under review, and the County Council and their officials are to be congratulated on the smoothness with which the work has, in fact, been done. But it is a heavy burden, and the individual, who has a right to object to what goes into plans, may feel that his case has been lost in the mass. This burden and this sense of frustration would be much increased if the development plans and their reviews were done for, and by, only one authority over the whole Greater London area.
There is also another advantage in making the boroughs responsible for most of the redevelopment work. It is, after all, the borough council who will be in a position to see what changes of local character need to be made. On the other hand, it has been argued that the centre of London is so important and of such general interest that its development plan should be the responsibility of the Greater London Council, to the exclusion of all other local authorities, but the Greater London Council will in fact have both adequate and flexible enough powers in drawing up their overall plan and also in dealing with planning applications of major importance wherever they occur in Greater London.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, may I just ask the noble Lord, on that point, whether he is saying that central London, which I take it means inner London, will be treated differently from the rest of Greater London? I do not see that in the Bill, but is it intended?
§ LORD HASTINGS
No, I was not saying that at all. I was just saying that it had been argued by some people that 1217 it should be treated differently. But these powers which the Greater London Council will have will be adequate and flexible; and they will be able to deal with planning applications of major importance not merely in central London but elsewhere, too, if necessary. I was going on to remind the House that my noble friends Lord Conesford and Lord Colville of Culross expressed some anxiety about this matter yesterday, and were doubtful as to how (or, indeed, whether) the division of general planning powers as set out in the Bill would work out in practice. I hope that I may be able to allay their fears, particularly in regard to Clause 24, subsections (4) and (6).
The Royal Commission recommended that the day-to-day work of dealing with planning applications should be given to the borough councils, and the Bill provides for that. My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross had something to say about this, and evidently approved, because he pointed out that the mass of planning applications already being dealt 'with by the London County Council would be so multiplied that the Greater London Council would not be able to deal with them—and I am sure that that is so. But, just as with development plans some matters are of local importance only while others will be the concern of Greater London as a whole, so the Bill recognises that there will be planning applications with which the Greater London Council should deal. The Bill enables the Minister of Housing and Local Government to prescribe classes of development, and areas, for which applications should be dealt with by the Greater London Council. This follows a recommendation of the Commission, when they mentioned tall buildings which could alter the skyline, large office development and development on historic sites as likely candidates for this treatment; and no doubt my right honourable friend will bear this in mind.
Your Lordships will observe that a special clause is devoted to historic buildings, and I should like to add a word about these and about the London Survey. Under the general law, special notice must be given to the local planning authority of any proposal to demolish or seriously to alter a building which has been listed as of special historic or architectural interest. 1218 The London borough councils will in the future be the authorities to whom this notice must be given. Accordingly, preservation will in the first instance be the responsibility of the boroughs. They will have the power to take enforcement action in the event of failure to give notice of proposed works. They will have the power to make preservation orders and the power to make a compulsory purchase order if this is necessary in order to preserve a building from neglect after a preservation order has been made.
The Greater London Councl have, however, been given substantially concurrent powers in this field. They will receive notices of proposed work to listed buildings, and they will have powers similar to those of the boroughs in relation to enforcement, preservation orders and acquisition. My right honourable friend also has it in mind to provide, by regulations to be made under Clause 24, that the Greater London Council should be able to comment on planning applications submitted to the boroughs in respect of listed buildings and, if necessary, to direct the borough council on how any particular application should be dealt with. These arrangements will ensure that the very considerable body of experience and expert knowledge built up by the county councils, and particularly by the historic buildings section of the L.C.C., will remain available.
The historic buildings section, which I am sure will be kept together by the Greater London Council, has built up a unique body of scholarly and practical knowledge, derived from their investigations and recording for the London Survey, from their work of maintaining historic buildings under the care of the L.C.C. and in advising on planning work which involves listed buildings. These functions will be transferred to the Greater London Council, and your Lordships will have noted that paragraph 19 of Schedule 2 to the Bill specifically gives the Greater London Council the power to continue the London Survey and to give advice about the preservation of buildings.
The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, were both concerned with subsections (4) and (6) of Clause 24. They 1219 were anxious to ensure that there should be the clearest statement of the functions to be exercised respectively by the Greater London Council and the boroughs in relation to development control and planning applications. My Lords, I entirely agree. This is a most important matter. I have just indicated some of the topics which might appropriately be reserved to the Greater London Council. It is not by any means an exhaustive list, but we should be careful to avoid the temptation of prescribing in the Bill, item by item, what we think ought to be allocated to each of the two separate authorities. In the Government's view, there could easily be produced an over-rigid system which would preclude consultation with the new authorities. My right honourable friend, in consultation with the local authorities, will give the most careful consideration to the framing of regulations that fall to be made under Clause 24, and I can assure the House that every effort will be made to make certain that the public are spared unnecessary delays and inconvenience, and that a clear and workmanlike system will be achieved.
Your Lordships would not wish me to leave the vital topic of planning without touching on the problems of redevelopment. These range from those of the small scheme, which moves a few nonconforming industries or clears up some obsolete development, to the very large scheme, which has traffic repercussions over a wide area and may run over borough boundaries and involve large sums of money. For the first type of scheme, where the problems are essentially local, the borough councils will be the appropriate authorities: for the bigger scheme, the Greater London Council should be able to step in. This is provided for in the Bill, though it may not immediately catch the eye. Clause 29 gives the borough councils and the Greater London Council the Planning Act powers to buy land, and attracts to both sets of authorities the Planning Act powers of redevelopment.
The division of functions—from the preparation of the development plan, through the day-to-day work with planning applications, to redevelopment—should give the authorities on both levels an ample measure of responsibility and plenty of work to justify and require 1220 the appointment of well-qualified staff. The Greater London Council will certainly need a good team for the work it will have to do in all three fields of activity; and the borough councils also will need fully competent staff. The apportionment of responsibilities should mean that we have avoided the danger that at either level too little work of the right kind would be at hand to attract the best people, either in the council chamber or on the planning committees, or at official level; or, conversely—and especially is this true of the Greater London Council—that there would be too much detail which would clog the machinery, make the constructive approach difficult and generally lead to the needs of broad planning being lost to sight. There should be ample scope for the strong team at the centre, ranging over the problems of the whole area; and for good teams of good county borough planning office standard at borough level. At the same time the needs of the citizen have been kept in mind throughout, so that the workings of the planning machinery, which affect him at so many points, will be as accessible as it is possible to make them consistently with the needs of planning in the Metropolitan area as a whole.
Let me now touch on another set of functions which require the widest review over Greater London as a whole—the construction and maintenance of main roads and the management of traffic. Part II of the Bill deals with traffic and highways. In both these vital fields of local government it is intended that overall control should be given to the Greater London Council. This will mean that for the first time in London government one authority will be responsible for traffic management, and for the main through routes. At the same time, it will, as planning authority, be charged, in particular, with giving guidance as to the future road system of Greater London. I entirely accept the contention of my noble friend Lord Conesford that traffic is not a subject that can be divorced from planning. It is for this reason that a Director of Traffic has been made a statutory appointment. We wish to make quite certain that the importance of road and traffic planning will be recognised, and that it will, in fact, be fully integrated into the planning system. It is only by the concentration of these 1221 powers in the hands of one authority that the enormous road and traffic problems together with the planning problems can properly be tackled.
So far as highways are concerned, the Bill proposes that the present multiplicity of authorities and functions should be replaced by a simple and logical division. Except for the trunk roads the Greater London Council will be responsible for the main through routes—the metropolitan roads—and the borough councils will be responsible for all other roads. The Bill selects initially nearly 550 miles of metropolitan roads but there is plenty of room for adjustment later. For the moment we propose no change in the trunk road system in the Greater London area, but no final decision has been taken on these and my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport intends to review the position of these roads and discuss with the Greater London Council what the final pattern should be.
The Greater London Council will be taking over powers of traffic regulations which have been exercised by a Minister of the Crown ever since the London Traffic Act, 1924.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting? Could be tell us when he is going to reach the human race, the people who live in London and Greater London? And could be read this speech slightly more slowly so that we could follow it better?
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I apologise for reading too fast. I explained to your Lordships that I was going to have to deal with all the subjects with which my noble friend Lord Jellicoe would otherwise have been dealing in a separate speech. But I am sure the noble Lord would agree that planning and the highway system are not to be ignored and have to be dealt with. I was reading slightly fast only because I was afraid my speech would be too long, but I will slow down from now on.
In handing over these powers to the Greater London Council the Bill gives guidance in Clause 9(2) on the purpose for which the Greater London Council should use its powers, not simply to keep traffic moving, but also to have regard 1222 to the interests of pedestrians, of safety, of reasonable access to premises and of getting adequate parking space provided. The Greater London Council is under a duty to promote these interests so far as practicable. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, can rest assured that that means it should have regard to other non-traffic interests such as trade, public transport, amenity and the convenience of the inhabitants of London; in short, that London should remain a pleasant place to live in. It will be for the Council to weigh all aspects of the public interest and act accordingly. These are great responsibilities which are to be transferred to the Greater London Council.
Traffic in London presents many difficult and urgent problems. To help give the Council the best chance of meeting this challenge, the Bill gives the Greater London Council the full range of the Minister's present powers in London which are wider than those of local authorities outside London. Because the powers to be handed over are so wide, because the matter of coping with the traffic problem in a great city such as London is so vast, the Government feel it right in the last resort that the Greater London Council should be subject to some control by a Minister answerable to Parliament.
Some criticism has been made of these proposals, notably by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. But I wonder what would be the reaction of Parliament if something were to go badly wrong with the road and traffic planning of Greater London or if, for instance, the inhabitants of a particular borough or the users of historic Central London were to be inconvenienced and then the Minister were to come to Parliament and say he was sorry but he had no powers to put things right. These powers of the Minister are intended only as reserve powers, and a Government Amendment moved in another place in Committee has made it clear that the powers to give directions may be exercised only after consultation with the Greater London Council. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, has complained of the precise words used, but these were the words accepted in another place in answer to the criticism that the Minister's powers were excessive.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, when my noble friend says these words were accepted in another place, it should be remembered that they were subjected to devastating comment by members of all Parties in another place. They were accepted as better than nothing, under the guillotine; but surely it is going a little far to say that these words (which I suggested might be clearer if set to music) were accepted in any real sense.
§ LORD HASTINGS
Perhaps the noble Lord will be happier if I were to say that they came to this House from another place in that form, as a result of an Amendment.
If I may now turn to housing—where the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lam-both, will feel happier; for this is a subject which affects people more intimately—the arrangements proposed for housing are new and have been devised to meet the practical problems in Greater London. In doing so we have tried to ensure that the balance is fairly preserved between the Greater London Council and the London boroughs. On the one hand, some people are understandably anxious that too much power should not be given to the Greater London Council in case it dominates the housing scene. Others feel that the advantages of size and strength which lie with the L.C.C. are being dissipated and nothing comparable is being substituted.
Let me try to put the matter into perspective and explain the Bill's proposals in more detail. The first important point is that the new set-up is emphatically not merely the extension of the present L.C.C. system to cover the whole of Greater London. Within the County of London, the L.C.C. and the metropolitan boroughs operate the housing powers concurrently, except that the L.C.C. alone can build outside the county. Metropolitan boroughs cannot even build outside their own areas except in special circumstances; and in practice this hardly ever happens. The conception underlying the Greater London Council's powers is quite different. Their powers will be very far from concurrent; in essence they will be supplementary to the boroughs' powers. The new boroughs, with an average population of 250,000, will be very large housing authorities and it would be incongruous to suggest that authorities of this size are not capable 1224 of dealing with the whole range of housing work on their own, as far as is physically possible. The Bill recognises this.
The London boroughs are, so far as possible, being treated as if they were county boroughs. The only limitations on their powers are that they are not normally to be allowed to build outside Greater London. They will be the primary housing authorities. They will be responsible for clearing the slums, for making improvement grants, for dealing with multi-occupation and other matters. They are being given the best set of powers available, including a new power not available in general housing legislation which will enable them, if they have not been able to find land in another borough to build houses themselves, to enter into arrangements with another London borough whereby the latter will, on terms, undertake the housing of families for whom the parent borough can find no room. All this is proof that the Government are sincere in their view, which the Royal Commission stressed, that the London boroughs should be the primary housing authorities and should be equipped with powers to go as far as they can in solving their own problems.
But none of this changes the physical circumstances affecting housing in Greater London. The major housing task is the redistribution of the population of the congested inner areas. Many of the congested boroughs cannot solve the whole of their housing problem within their own area. This means that from their slum clearance and redevelopment operations, and from their waiting lists, there will be a surplus of families who will have to be housed elsewhere. Some of this will be dealt with by overspill schemes. The Greater London Council will be solely responsible for this. The reason is that overspill schemes will now have to be at such a distance from London that population and employment must move together.
As the Ministry pointed out in their evidence to the Royal Commission, experience has already shown that only a large authority like the L.C.C. covering a wider area than any borough can handle this effectively. A fortiori, the Greater London Council should be even more effective. But many families who need to be rehoused are still tied to Greater London because of their work. 1225 The boroughs will be enabled to play the fullest possible part in dealing with this part of the problem themselves. But this may not be enough. The Greater London Council have therefore been given power to build homes inside Greater London as well as outside. The Royal Commission and the Government, however, recognising that this would represent an intrusion into the domain of the London borough as the primary housing authority, proposed the system of consents which has been incorporated into the Bill. The Greater London Council may build houses in a London borough only with the consent of the borough or, if that is withheld, with the consent of the Minister. In coming to a decision, the Minister will, in effect, be holding the balance between the needs of the borough and the needs of Greater London, and the Bill specifically charges him with this duty. So much for the distribution of powers and responsibilities for housing under the new system.
Now I come to this matter which really exclusively concerns the new London boroughs, and which the noble Lord opposite referred to as the personal and human services. I think he will find that they are given a fair share of my speech, although I have already been on my feet for some time. I beg your Lordships' pardon: I am afraid that I have not yet reached that point, although I am nearly there.
Local government services depend partly on the quality of the elected members and partly on the calibre of the permanent officials, and your Lordships are rightly concerned to ensure that experience and expertise, particularly where it resides in a team, should not be lost. Fears have been expressed in many places about the future of the L.C.C. architects' department, lest it should be broken up. I see no reason why it should. If we take a sober look at the range of the Council's work, we can say with confidence that it provides as substantial and varied a basis as that on which the present architects' department has been built. The Greater London Council will have functions exercisable throughout Greater London, and will be responsible for overspill not only for the L.C.C. area, but for the whole of the Metropolis. It will have planning functions covering the whole area and powers to carry out comprehensive redevelop- 1226 ment. It will be responsible for all the building work needed in connection with the Greater London Council's functions, including school building in inner London, subject to the review of the educational arrangements there.
Clause 21(5) provides that for an interim period the Greater London Council should have all the housing powers of the L.C.C., the intention being that they should take over and complete the L.C.C. forward housing programme as it stands at March, 1965. Therefore, in total, the Greater London Council will have the opportunities and responsibilities which should enable them to inherit and improve upon the reputation of the L.C.C. in this respect. Under the orders which the Bill will make necessary the existing staff of the L.C.C.'s architects' department will almost inevitably be transferred to the Greater London Council. But it will be for the Greater London Council to arrange their own organisation and appoint their own chief officers. Speaking of chief officers, your Lordships may recall that in another place a Government Amendment actually removed a provision originally appearing in the Bill which would have required the Council to appoint a surveyor. Nevertheless, in my right honourable friend's view (this is a controversial matter, I know) it would be desirable to have a further and comprehensive look at the whole question of chief officers for the Greater London Council before the Bill finally completes its passage through Parliament.
Before turning to the new London boroughs and the personal services for which they will be responsible, perhaps I may turn aside for a moment to comment briefly on the position of the counties which are described, I think rather unattractively, as truncated. The Government are not oblivious of the fact that reorganisation within Greater London will have financial consequences for those counties. But let there be no doubt that the counties will remain strong and viable units of local government. Indeed, the three counties most affected—namely, Essex, Kent and Surrey—will still be among the most populous in the country. Nevertheless, the Government believe it right—and have so provided in Clause 68 of the Bill—that these counties should be given some assistance to help them meet the 1227 extra rate burden that may fall upon their ratepayers. Your Lordships will already know that the Government have felt themselves able to go some way to meet critics who considered that the assistance should be more generous. My right honourable friend has also undertaken, without commitment, to look at figures produced by the Surrey County Council.
No doubt some of your Lordships may wish to examine these provisions in the Bill at a later stage in our proceedings, but I should like to take this present opportunity to set out some general arguments that have influenced the Government. First, as I have said, the Government believe it right that assistance should be available. It is generally accepted that the assistance should be for a reasonable, limited period; but there are differences of view as to whether or not there should be some starting point before which the assistance should not be payable. Local government reorganisation carried through in the interests of the citizen continually causes alterations in the rate burden, and in the Government's view it is only when an increase exceeds a certain level that it is right for assistance to be given. Similarly, since the reorganisation is being carried through for the benefit of the citizens of the reorganised area it is reasonable that the citizens of that area, in this case within the truncated counties and inside Greater London, should shoulder the burden or provide the assistance, as the case may be. It is certainly not for the taxpayer to foot the Bill, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth; after all, the resources of the combined areas remain the same. But it is for the Government to keep a fair balance between one group of ratepayers and another, and this is what Clause 68 sets out to do.
I now come to the London boroughs and the personal services. We heard some very moving speeches yesterday, particularly from the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, and my noble friend Lord Grenfell, as well as from Lord Taylor and others, on the very complicated matter of children's services and mental health services, and my speech deals at considerable length with these two subjects. I think that everybody who heard those speeches yesterday will have 1228 been very much moved, and certainly will treat the subject with the greatest seriousness and sincerity, and a feeling of sympathy; because there is no doubt that we wish to make absolutely certain that these services will work in the way in which it is intended they should work; that is, for the benefit of the people who receive the services.
The Government's case for a children's service organised on a borough basis does not rest on the record of the L.C.C. (or of the other affected authorities), but on the belief that, given that local government in Greater London is to be reorganised, the proper place for the children's service—along with the other personal services—is with the boroughs. The main criticisms made are that the service as at present organised works well and should not be disturbed, and that the pactical difficulties of reorganization are enormous. My Lords, the Government have never sought to minimise the transitional problems, but they do not agree that they are so great that they must be the deciding factor for the future of the children's service in London.
Transition, particularly in the London County Council area, will not be easy, because the London County Council's children's accommodation is unevenly distributed, much of it being outside the area it serves, and a substantial proportion of it is concentrated in five very large homes. But the geographical distribution of the accommodation should not affect the inner boroughs adversely, and the main problem will arise in the sharing of large children's homes. The sharing of specialist establishments such as remand homes and reception centres, should not be such a problem, but there is no reason why adequate sharing arrangements should not be devised to serve until such time as the boroughs have made alternative arrangements. The Government believe that the boroughs will aim to accelerate the run-down of the large homes and their replacement by small family group homes; the boroughs will be anxious to achieve as soon as possible self-sufficiency in the basic forms of children's accommodation. In the outer boroughs the accommodation is in smaller units and more evenly distributed. Consultations which have taken place at officer 1229 level between the Home Office, the local authorities in the outer area and the local authority associations have led to the conclusion that it should be possible for each of these new boroughs to be allocated enough property within or near to its own area to make it self-sufficient, or nearly self-sufficient, in the basic forms of accommodation.
The principles on which the transfer of responsibility for individual children in care on the appointed day will take place have yet to be discussed formally with the local authorities and their associations, but informal soundings have already been taken among certain of the authorities and all are agreed that the interests of the children should be paramount, and that no child shall be uprooted from his environment for the sake of administrative tidiness. In a children's authority the Government do not believe that great size is necessarily an advantage. Nobody setting out to construct an ideal child care authority would think in terms of an organisation as large as the London County Council. On March 31, 1962, the London County Council had 9,232 children in care—more than the counties of Essex, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex had put together. The disadvantages of great size can be mitigated to some extent by decentralisation, and in recent years the London County Council have done their best to decentralise to three district committees and nine area children's officers. But decentralisation at best produces artificially the benefits which smaller units possess naturally, and it cannot remove all the disadvantages of excessive size.
Of the 12 Inner London boroughs, it is likely that 3 will have just over 1,100 children in care and the remainder from 400 to 1,000. A case load of this order provides a task large enough to engage the energy and enthusiasm of elected members and staff, but the organisation remains small enough for the children's committee to keep closely in touch with the staff and their work, and to bring local knowledge to bear on the problems of the service. Similarly, the child care staff of the new boroughs will be closer to the centre of local administration and more conscious of the whole picture of child care and of other services. At the same time, those senior child care staff at the borough headquarters will be more concerned with field work and individual 1230 children, and less absorbed in managerial and organisational responsibilities. Over the area as a whole, there should be an opportunity for increased contact between child care staff and elected representatives.
The specialist establishments of the London County Council include two remand homes, four reception centres and three establishments specially for disturbed or difficult children. There is also room for some specialisation in size and type within their family group homes and their large establishments. But remand homes outside London are commonly provided by one authority for the use under special user agreements of others. Reception centres also take children from other areas. There is therefore no reason why similar arrangements should not be made in respect of all the London County Council's specialised institutions, including those for difficult children. The London County Council also place handicapped or disturbed children in special homes run by voluntary organisations. The new boroughs will be able to continue to use these places. In a nutshell, the principal arguments in favour of giving the child care service to the boroughs rather than to the Greater London Council arise from the importance of associating the child care services with the services concerned with health, welfare and housing. The Government believe that effective understanding and co-operation will be easier to achieve if these services and the children's service belong to one authority, and, if possible, live under one roof, than if the children's service is severed from the others.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question? Would he be able to point to any body of opinion concerned with the care of these children which favours this fragmentation of the service?
§ LORD HASTINGS
We really do not agree that it is fragmentation. We believe that we are reorganising it on a larger basis.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Would the noble Lord point to any body of opinion which favours this reorganisation on the lines he suggested?
§ LORD HASTINGS
Consultations have been going on between the Home Office and local authorities, and I mentioned some cases where that has happened and where they are in agreement on certain subjects.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am not able to point to any specific organisation, because I am not representing the Home Office.
The Royal Commission's recommendation that the personal health and welfare services should be administered by the same authority, together with the closely linked children's and environmental health services, had wide support from individual local authorities. If the noble Earl had waited for one more paragraph he would have had his answer.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Is it not rather surprising that the noble Lord did not know what was coming next in his speech?
§ LORD HASTINGS
I was held up inadvertently by the noble Earl. From the point of view of individual citizens who are concerned with the needs of their whole family—and this is the point of view which matters most—the various health and welfare services should be easy to understand, should seem to come from one source and, so far as possible, should be associated with a single field worker. Yet a great variety of types of service may be needed, and their interrelations may be most complex.
The only way to satisfy this apparently conflicting demand for a simple yet many-sided service, is through a domiciliary team of health and welfare workers, acting with the local general practitioners, and able to draw on more specialised advice and facilities as necessary. Because the basic health and welfare services are directly and personally concerned with the family and the individual, the Government believe that in Greater London they can best be run by the new London boroughs. Authorities of that size, ranging from 166,000 to 1232 341,000, will have resources to organise and administer efficient and economical services without being too remote from their population as a whole. Nevertheless, as your Lordships are aware, there are certain aspects of these services for which few local authorities in London or elsewhere are large enough to be entirely self-sufficient, and which they therefore need to provide in co-operation with neighbouring authorities.
In addition, in the London area the distribution of, for example, old people's homes and training centres for the mentally sub-normal is such that there will probably be an undue concentration in the areas of some of the new London boroughs and insufficient provision in others, as the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, mentioned yesterday. Because of this, sharing of the use of these services by more than one borough will be necessary—in some cases for only a transitional period while the new boroughs establish their own services, and in the case of the more highly specialised services on a permanent basis, as is common throughout the country. As local health authorities under the National Health Service Act, and as local authorities under the National Assistance Act, the new boroughs will have the necessary powers to make use of one another's services. Clause 5(3) of the Bill provides supplementary sharing powers, if they are needed, and orders embodying the necessary arrangements can be made by the Minister of Health under Clause 81 of the Bill.
To give the administration of the mental health services to a different local authority from that administering the rest of the personal health services would be to create an artificial, unworkable and potentially disastrous division between physical and mental health, and to throw away the advantages of integrated health service. It is only in recent years, and especially since the passing of the Mental Health Act, 1959, that services for mentally disordered children and adults living in the community have started to be regarded as an integral part of the community health service as a whole. It would be putting the clock back to separate them again.
The question of the training of staff of training centres for the mentally subnormal goes much wider than the reorganisation of London government. 1233 When the Report of the Committee which was appointed, under Dr. Scott's chairmanship, to advise on the training of these staff was published last year, my right honourable friend the Minister of Health sought the views of other interested bodies, for example, the local authority associations, the Royal Medico-Psychological Association and the National Association for Mental Health, both on the Report and on the covering advice of the Central Health Services Council. The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, in particular will be pleased to learn that final replies have now been received from all of the bodies consulted, and that my right honourable friend is reconsidering the Report in the light of these replies with a view to making an announcement as soon as possible.
It is true that at present a full range of mental health services does not exist in each of the new London borough areas, nor indeed in London as a whole, nor in most other parts of the country. This situation reflects the fact that the community mental health services throughout the country are still at a very early stage of development. They need to be developed in London, as elsewhere. Future development will not, however, necessarily need to proceed to the point at which there is at least one of every possible type of unit in the area of each London borough.
The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, also sought information on the Government's plans for financing the services to the mentally subnormal and mentally ill. Estimates of relative expenditure on mental health and other local authority services are already taken into account in fixing the amounts of the general grants distributed to local authorities. In determining the amounts for the years 1963–65 it was recognised that the local authority health and welfare services are expanding, and the rapid expansion taking place in the mental health service was especially noted. Expenditure on mental health is expected to increase from about £6 million in 1961–62 to about £11 million in 1964–65. Under the Bill the same services will be provided by local health authorities, and the same expansion in mental health services is expected, only the authorities' areas will be different. They will continue to be financed from the rates with substantial assistance from the general grant.
1234 There have been suggestions that the London boroughs would have to administer these specialised services without the help of those who have over the years acquired experience in running them—a fear I think in the mind of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. But this ignores the fact that staff will normally be transferred with the services in which they work; the possibility of several boroughs sharing the services, in an advisory capacity, of senior medical staff with special experience of mental health; the desirability of joint staffing arrangements for hospital services; and the fact that county councillors and committee members with experience of particular services will, no doubt, be among the elected or co-opted members of the committees responsible for the services in the future.
There can be no doubt that in the long term smaller administrative areas for welfare purposes than the present counties will make possible a more "personal" service for the handicapped and the aged. The Government's intention is that ownership and management of local authority centres and residential homes for the mentally disordered, the blind and other handicapped persons will be transferred to the London boroughs in which the premises are situated. Where an establishment serves an area wider than the borough in which it is situated, arrangements can easily be made, as is the practice elsewhere in the country, for the facilities to continue to be available for the residents of other authorities.
My Lords, I should like to end with a word about the future administration of the education service in Greater London, but, as my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor referred to this at considerable length when he moved the Second Reading yesterday, I do not propose to deal with the subject at very great length. More money is spent on education, and rightly, than on any other single local government service, and no one will challenge the supreme importance of this subject. But it is a local government function and cannot be considered in a vacuum, or divided from other services provided by local authorities in the context of the large reorganisation of London government. The problem is not, therefore, to establish a set of authorities based solely on the needs of this one service, but it is to examine how the needs 1235 of education can best be administered with the needs of other services provided by local authorities to the benefit of the community.
The essential question in any structure involving a single overall authority of a network of boroughs is by which authority, or combination of authorities, education will be administered and there are strong arguments against dividing responsibility for education between the overall authorities and the boroughs. These were cogently set out in the Royal Commission's criticisms of too large an administration, as it now works in Middlesex. On the other hand, the Greater London Council with a population of 8 million, is too large to be an education authority, and the Royal Commission's own recommendation of dividing this service between the Greater London Council and the boroughs seems to the Government to be open to the same objections as the arrangements in Middlesex which the Commission had themselves criticised. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor dealt with this yesterday. In the circumstances, therefore, as your Lordships know, the Government came to the conclusion that the London boroughs should be substantially larger and would then be perfectly capable of administering the education service; but that special arrangements were needed for inner London.
In dealing with education, I should like to reply to the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh. I know that my right honourable friend the Minister of Education will consider very carefully all that the noble Earl said yesterday about voluntary schools. Perhaps also your Lordships would be interested to know—if you do not already know—that the Bill provides special safeguard to protect their interests in Clause 31(2), which applies to subsections (3) to (5) of Section 11 of the Education Act, 1944, including a provision for consultation with such schools by the local education authorities. I am sure also that the remarks made by the noble Earl and by my noble friend Lord Auckland about freedom of movement over the outer boundaries of Greater London will receive the most careful attention.
My Lords, it has taken a long time to deal with both the central and local services of the proposed Greater London 1236 Council and the new London boroughs, but it has been necessary, I feel, to do so, and the purpose of my remarks has been to demonstrate that the new constitution for Greater London, so ably described and expounded by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, will produce sensible, humane and workmanlike services to the greater benefit of all of London's citizens. In local government, as in central government, the basic criterion is the welfare of the citizen. It is the Government's belief that this Bill gives the right powers to the right authorities, who will have an unprecedented opportunity for public service which, I am sure, they will take up with the enthusiasm and skill that have been the characteristics of local government in this country.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I hope that there are still some noble Lords who have not finally made up their minds about this great question and, from their point of view and from the point of view of all of us, it surely has been an astonishing debate. There have been so far, if my arithmetic is correct, 14 speeches. We have been at the receiving end of two comprehensive Departmental briefs. One has been retailed to us with charm and complacency by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. I welcomed the crack at me, based though it was on inadequate research, seeing that he was, so to speak, the man we know with esteem and that he was still alive while he was speaking. But I am very sorry to hear that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who is valued so much in this House, will not be able to speak tonight, although I am glad the Lord Chancellor will have another chance beyond the one which perhaps eluded him yesterday of enhancing his growing reputation in your Lordships' House. I heard someone say that that was a "dirty crack", but it is clean if one compares it with the background to this Bill. Our whole standards are in danger of sinking and I hope that I shall not sink with them.
We have also received a full speech from the noble Lord, Lord Hastings. I feel that I should congratulate him on something; therefore, I congratulate him on the admirable equipoise which he maintained throughout a trying experience. I could see that he was as anxious as we were to bring the whole thing to an end. He knew from the beginning what 1237 we all suspected: that it was going to be a long ordeal for everyone, and so it proved. I remember what I think was the noble Lord's maiden speech in the House, a very good speech certainly, on Spain.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
At any rate a very good speech early in the day by the noble Lord on Spain, and I remember saying to myself, "There is a man who can make a first-class speech when he makes his own speech and cares about what he is saying." Here he is, relatively mature in Parliament now, to quote the words of the Gospel, when he is compelled to "stretch out his hands and be girded by another, who carries him where he must go and not of his own will." I prefer the noble Lord when he speaks for himself. I am sure he is as capable as any of his colleagues and I hope it will not be long before he makes independent speeches for the general pleasure.
There have been twelve other speeches. It would be difficult to discover in any of them, with one possible exception (I am glad the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, has been able to join us), an attempt at any argument in favour of the Bill. I am not referring to Ministers, who, after all, could hardly do anything else, but to the other twelve untied speakers. I challenge anybody to produce any argument submitted in favour of this Bill with the possible exception of that of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross—a doubtful exception, but with that possible exception I challenge anybody to point to any argument submitted in favour of the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, in the eyes of us all and in the eyes of the British public is "Mr. London" and always will be. If there is one other he would wish to be associated with him it is the noble Lord, Lord Latham. And they both made tremendous and moving speeches yesterday. My thoughts went back. I wondered if one of them was going to quote the words W. B. Yeats used about George Moore, who had been a friend and was at that time an enemy and had been writing about Yeats in a way Yeats did not like. 1238 This is what Yeats wrote:And all my memories have become a post some passing dog defiles.That was not exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said, but I think the message was the same, and justified. That is without any personal reference to anyone who has gone in for this defilement; it is just a generalised observation.
We had three very incisive speeches from the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, the noble Lord, Lord Crook, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, from these Benches. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and the noble Lord, Lord Reith, raised technical points of difficulty from what might be called a neutral position, and the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, expressed anxieties from the point of view, which I certainly share, of the voluntary schools. There was no argument in support to be found in those speeches.
There were four staunch Conservatives who spoke, the noble Lords, Lord Conesford, Lord Grenfell and Lord Auckland, and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, it is true, congratulated the Government on having the courage to embark on a great measure of local government reform which in the nature of things, he said, could not be popular because great local government reforms never are popular. So when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor tells us this is popular, at any rate in informed quarters, I think he should pay attention, or at any rate listen, to what the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, says about the unpopularity of this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, rightly described himself as a specialist in the sphere of road policy and town and country planning, and I am going to leave the deeper aspects of that to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who is an unrivalled authority. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, said on these subjects, where he is a great expert, that the Bill showed a fundamentally wrong approach in dealing with road traffic and highways, and he criticised town planning. He said as regards both traffic and planning [col. 1161]:… the intentions of Her Majesty's Government may be good, but I am convinced hitherto they have failed in the Bill that is now before us".1239 That is not very enthusiastic support from the Government's main town planning colleague.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl for one moment? I think if he does quote that part he might also quote the part where I said I was convinced that by Amendment in this House the defects to which I called attention could be remedied.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
That remains to be seen, but the fact is that the noble Lord used very sharp language about this Bill, and if that is the best support they can obtain I think the Government are in a bad way, as indeed they are.
The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, made a poignant speech. I hope the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, when he replies, setting aside, if he will, or belittling as he very likely will, speeches by politicians like myself, will reply to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. I quite agree that the noble Lord is a politician, but I was meaning in this particular matter that the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, was hardly speaking as a politician but as a father. He made a speech the last words of which must be quoted referring to the subnormal. He said [col. 1181]:I cannot believe that, with all good intentions—and, indeed, there are good intentions—their future"—that is, of the subnormal"—under the Greater London boroughs will be what they deserve or desire.That was a very severe criticism from a staunch Conservative and someone who knows this subject at very close hand.
The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, spoke sharply about the damage done to Surrey. He announced he would support the Second Reading, for reasons not disclosed—I take it from loyalty; at any rate he would support the Second Reading for these unidentified reasons, but he threatened to be critical about Surrey, about which he knew and felt greatly. Only one gallant Lord leapt to the aid of the Lord Chancellor, though once again he refrained from giving any reasons for supporting the Bill. He mentioned an earlier speech of his own, to be fair. He soon got into difficulties as those present will remember—I am refer- 1240 ring to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross—when he was challenged by the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. He delivered himself of the cryptic utterance, which I think he hardly would have coined if he had time to reflect [col. 1192]:I do not think that Sir Edwin Herbert would describe himself as a conservative. I know him very well and I am sure he would be particularly careful to avoid that.I am not quite sure what the implication is. It is a very odd one, and I must leave noble Lords to sort that out. I cannot regard it as a crime by the noble Viscount to be a Conservative.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, it seems that the Opposition do so regard it, and that is what I was trying to deal with.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Something worse than a crime—a gross blunder. At any rate, that was what the noble Viscount said: that Sir Edwin Herbert, for some reason best known to himself, would be particularly careful to avoid being called a Conservative. The only people who usually avoid giving themselves that label are people who are Conservative and do not want to be thought so. The noble Lord finished his speech heroically and then fled from the House before the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, could return or the noble Lord, Lord Latham, could reply, so I do not know that as an ally he was there when it really mattered. But, at any rate, he did his bit, which was more than anybody else did.
We were told yesterday by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, that there was general approval among local authorities and informed people concerned with local government for this Bill. That, of course, is an outrageous statement which it is quite impossible to take seriously, but if it were true it would be very surprising that none of this general approval came into this House. It was impossible to discover anybody to present any argument in favour of this Bill in twelve speeches. That enhances our view that it is a very bad Bill indeed.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I really cannot let the noble Earl get away with this. I specifically refrained from making an immensely long speech yesterday and repeating all the points I made in the White Paper debate 1241 in March last year. All those points were implicit in what I said, and I hope on that occasion I put forward a great deal in favour of this Bill.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Well, the noble Viscount was doing his best. The truth is, as I mentioned just now, that he referred us back to an earlier speech; but in a debate on the Second Reading of the London Government Bill he was taking the line, "I have said what I have said, and noble Lords must look up my earlier speech". The noble Viscount pouts, but I do not feel that a pout is an effective answer.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl for yielding: I know him well enough to know that he does not wish to misrepresent anybody. When a great Bill comes to this House and there are a number of people who wish to speak upon it, it is by general agreement usual, since this House will, of course, adopt the view of another place and give it a Second Reading, to concentrate on those points on which we think the Bill needs amendment. I can assure the noble Earl that the most loyal supporters of the Government think it is a good thing to give notice to Her Majesty's Government of the points on which they are going to seek to amend a Bill. I was careful to say that I joined with the Royal Institute of British Architects in thinking that the reform of London government was overdue, and I congratulated Her Majesty's Government on reforming it.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I think that noble Lords are a little embarrassed to-day when they find that they did not do all that they might have done or said yesterday. I am simply in the recollection of the House in pointing out that there were twelve speeches, including a number of Conservative speeches; and, for reasons which to them may have been good, nobody came forward to praise the present argument in support of the Ministers. I must leave that to them. I repeat that nobody came forward to praise the present argument in support of the Ministers.
I wanted to speak mainly about education. I do not, of course, mind being interrupted, but there are a number of noble Lords who I know want to speak. I would agree with what was said—not said very warmly; but it was said—by 1242 the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, about the importance of education. I forget whether he quoted it (I do not think he did), but it was certainly the view of the Royal Commission that education is "the most important of all local government functions". The noble Lord will, I am sure, agree with that.
Education, financially speaking, is responsible, in the case of the L.C.C. for example, for half the total expenditure. I remember that I said last November that if the proposals for a revolution in London government are to make sense they must make sense in relation to education; if they make nonsense in relation to education, one can regard them as fairly worthless. No one, so far as I know, has had a good word to say to-day. I cannot remember, in any of these recent debates, anybody saying a good word for the educational proposals of the Royal Commission. I do not think the Lord Chancellor said anything good for them yesterday, and I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, managed a good word for them to-day. They are now sunk without trace—a fact that has served to discredit the general findings of the Royal Commission in no small degree.
The existing proposals were explained to us clearly, as one would expect, by the Lord Chancellor. They have no respectable ancestry. Proposals of this sort were not put before the Royal Commission by the Ministry of Education or any responsible body. The evidence of the Ministry of Education (and if I were not already in danger of having spoken too long I should quote it) must be considered most favourable to the achievements of the L.C.C. and other authorities in this area. And one is left with the strong impression—I cannot demonstrate this, but I ask anybody who differs to read the evidence, oral and written—that the Minister of Education would have favoured no change in the arrangement of the educational services in the Inner London area. At any rate, there is no serious criticism. The educational proposals now are not even based on—or they may be in some theoretical sense based on, but at any rate they are nowhere the same as—the original proposals of the Government as set out in the White Paper.
Noble Lords may or may not recall that the Government were driven away 1243 from these proposals of the White Paper by the most violent protests from teachers and parents; and at any rate, the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, when he talks about informed opinion, must I think agree—because he is fair-minded, though, rightly, tough in debate—that the teachers and parents of the large administrative County of London have shown themselves violently opposed to the educational proposals of the Government. Why did the teachers and parents show such a strong hostility to the proposals? There were various reasons, but the simplest and most obvious reason—the general reason—was that the teachers and parents had for many years enjoyed great benefits from the London education service as now organised. Even the Royal Commission could scarce forbear to praise that service, though they produced some rather "phoney" and hypothetical criticisms. But on the whole, the Royal Commission praised the service; and, as I say, the Ministry of Education paid cordial tribute to the London education service—a service which is famous throughout the world. Its characteristics may be said to be continuity, unity and variety, combined with highly developed arrangements for consultation with the teachers. Whatever the conclusions, these are facts beyond argument.
I am sure that many noble Lords, though perhaps not quite all, will be aware that the London education service is unique, in that so far as the schools are concerned, the service has been administered as a unity virtually unchanged since 1870; that is, since the beginning of State-maintained education. There is no distinction of treatment for teachers, parents and pupils in all this wide area. The service has been built up regardless of borough boundaries, and (this is a vital point) large numbers of pupils cross these boundaries to go to the secondary schools of their parents' choice. It was this grave anxiety about the threat to their freedom of choice which most moved the parents. But the teachers were also deeply concerned about the damage that would result to their profession.
Why was all this done? The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, did not quite say that education had to play second fiddle to other services; but he did imply, I think—he will correct me if I am wrong 1244 —that what is now being proposed for education is not necessarily best from a purely educational point of view.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot let the noble Earl get away with that. I implied that it was an integral part of the personal services, and therefore should be handled by the local boroughs. I did not imply that it was going to be second best.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
If the noble Lord reads his words carefully tomorrow he will see that what I have just said is a fair construction. But if he did not mean that I am glad to hear that he has withdrawn it. But the noble Lord did, in fact, say what was not altogether unreasonable, that when dealing with education you must not deal with education alone. He said that you must take it in conjunction with other services and do what is best for the services as a whole. That is what I was referring to. What would seem to have occurred is that the Royal Commission and following them, the Government, reached the conclusion that the administrative arrangements had to be withdrawn, not for educational reasons at all but for reasons of planning and traffic. That is what seems to be the case. No one has suggested that this extraordinary revolution had to be brought about for educational reasons. The argument is that you have got to do it for these other reasons; that, somehow or other education has got to fit in. And education has greatly suffered.
What about the new proposals? They have been explained twice already in this House in the last 24 hours, and I will not therefore go into them in any sort of detail. I am already in danger of going on too long: I must confine my remarks to the L.C.C. area, but we can come to the other area another day. The London County Council cover 3¼ million people and their services are justly renowned. This education service is to be spared under the new proposals. The service itself is to continue for the time being, but it is to be placed under a committee of the Greater London Council. This committee, the composition of which has been explained in the House, will be in fact—although it will be called a committee of the Greater London Council—an independent body. That seems to be admitted 1245 by the Government. It will be a single-purpose authority, and most of the members will be chosen for the general purposes of local government and not for education.
What are we to make of this extraordinary contraption, this single-purpose educational authority? I challenge anybody to suggest that the Government have arrived at this decision on educational grounds. They have arrived at it because they think they have got to fit education in. Nevertheless—and I say this quite candidly—this is a better scheme than the last one, and much better than that suggested by the Royal Commission. Even so, it is a much worse scheme than we should have if the educational arrangements had been left alone.
I must not go into detailed support of that statement, but there is one very important argument in favour of a multipurpose authority, like the ordinary council or borough, as compared with a single-purpose authority of this kind. This comes out glaringly if one goes into detail in regard to the London area. Since the war a great deal of the progress made in the London area, particularly in regard to educational planning, has been much assisted by the fact that the L.C.C. have been a housing authority as well as an education authority. This is a point of first importance if one examines the matter in detail. A single educational authority would have the greatest difficulty in planning as effectively as the London County Council have done in recent years. There are other grave disadvantages. We may have a good deal to say about the school health service when we come to Committee, but I must move on.
The Government themselves cannot claim that this new educational set-up carries any great confidence, even in their own breasts. They have said, in effect, that they do not know whether or not it will work. They have said, "We must watch this for a few years and then take a fresh look at the whole thing". That is not an unfair representation of their attitude. They say that they have no idea whether after 1970 the boroughs are to be given education, or whether this existing plan is to continue, or whether some quite different plan is to be brought into force. 1246 So, after all those discussions, they come forward without any idea at all as to what, even in their own view, is to be the permanent arrangement for education in London. I need hardly point out that this is bound to make long-term planning extremely difficult, coupled with the fact I have just mentioned, that this is to be a single-purpose instead of a multi-purpose authority.
My Lords, I must close. The real truth about this Bill was set out starkly and undeniably by my noble friends Lord Morrison of Lambeth and Lord Latham yesterday. As chairman of a representative committee concerned with fighting this Bill, I was approached at a certain function a little while ago and asked by a journalist if I had said that the Bill was a Tory ramp. I replied that that sentiment, which might or might not be justified, was hardly proper at a non-Party gathering. A leading Conservative at my elbow, who, if I may say so with respect, has had more experience of local government than all the Front Bench opposite and the Royal Commission put together, replied for me. When he heard me asked whether it was a Tory ramp, he said: "That's just what it is, anyway." That is the view of a leading Conservative, very well known in local government circles and much respected everywhere.
I am reminded of an occasion many years ago when an uncle of mine, the late Lord Dunsany, a poet of an older generation, was compelled to listen to readings of poems by poets of a younger and more obscure school. "What do you think of it, Lord Dunsany?", he was asked at the end. "Pretty good stuff, isn't it?" "For years", replied Lord Dunsany, "people in England have been saying that poetry is rot, and now at last it is." For years people in England have been saying that politics is a dirty business, and now at last it is—or will be if this Bill goes through. I hope and believe that the Government will not achieve their aims, and I can only say that we shall strive by every constitutional means to defeat something which, in its motivation and consequences, is about as evil as anything I can remember in this country in my lifetime.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ LORD ILFORD
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just spoken complained 1247 that hitherto no argument has been forthcoming in favour of this Bill, and he delivered himself of what sounded to me like a challenge. Whether that challenge was intended for me or not, I feel inclined to adopt it. The reasons for this Bill can be very shortly stated. The whole structure of London government is out of date. It was devised to meet conditions of the nineteenth century which have now passed away, and it has become wholly inappropriate for the administration of local services at the present time.
I should like to glance for one moment at the position within the administrative County of London. Within the administrative County there are 28 metropolitan boroughs. They vary immensely in size and in resources. At one end of the scale there is the Borough of Finsbury, which has a population of 33,000—
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Why leave out the City? Why does not the noble Lord mention the City, with a population of under 5,000?
§ LORD ILFORD
If the noble Lord likes, the City with under 5,000. At the other end of the scale there is the Borough of Wandsworth, with a population of 346,000. And if Finsbury is an unfair example to take—I can see that it is very close to the City, and, for that reason, perhaps the noble Lord will regard it as unfair—I will take the borough of Bethnal Green, which has a population of 46,000. These authorities have a very limited range of functions. Indeed, where one has to deal with authorities of such varying size and resources it really is not practicable to entrust them with the major functions of administration. These boroughs collect house refuse and dispose of it; they also collect the rates; they have certain responsibilities for highways; and they run a library service, which in most parts of London is a very good service indeed. But that is the end of their functions.
What should the Royal Commission have recommended should be done in this situation? It cannot remain as it is. There is no justification for imposing upon the people of London the administrative costs of 28 metropolitan boroughs, who discharge such minor functions as those to which I have just referred. I suppose that the Royal 1248 Commission might have recommended that these metropolitan boroughs should be swept away, and that the London County Council should have been made a single all-purpose authority for the whole of the administrative County of London. I am not surprised that the Royal Commission did not entertain that idea. I do not think that anybody would have looked upon that solution as satisfactory. It would have been a denial of local administration; and the London County Council as a single all-purpose authority administering a population of 3¼ million would have been unique among the local administrations. My Lords, the only alternative was the alternative which the Royal Commission have adopted, of endeavouring to build up these boroughs within the administrative County into effective units of local government, possessed of the necessary population and resources to undertake major services with success.
May I turn for a moment to the situation outside the administrative County? There, during the last 40 years, as we all know, there has grown up a vast population, but no corresponding municipal structure to meet their requirements. I think that the situation in Greater London outside the administrative County is exemplified by the conditions of the great borough which I had the honour to represent for several years in another place. The Borough of Ilford has a population approaching 180,000—bigger than many county boroughs and, I think I am right in saying, bigger than all non-county boroughs. There is in Ilford an active and interested municipal life. But all the major services are administered from a country town 20 miles away. I should not like to be thought to reflect on the services of the Essex County Council; I have known the Essex County Council in many different capacities for a very long time. But they are still primarily in a rural county. It was surely an impossible state of affairs that all the major services in a great community like the Borough of Ilford should be administered by an authority 20 miles away, whose principal function was the administration of a rural area. Unless such a system of administration had been there, it would have been difficult to believe that it could ever have existed.
1249 While I represented Ilford in another place, I think I introduced either five or six Private Bills to give the town what it ought to have had, the status of a county borough. All those Bills were withdrawn, because each time we were assured by the Government of the day that some general scheme of reorganisation of London government was imminent, and that it would be better for the Ilford people to wait until they knew what was proposed for them. I must not detain your Lordships by endeavouring to reply further to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, but I should have thought that those features of the situation to which I have alluded, as it exists inside the administrative County and outside it, were sufficient to indicate that some major change is needed in the structure of London government; indeed, that some major change is long overdue.
My Lords, I pass from that aspect, and I should like to make some observations about the effect of these changes on particular services. Yesterday the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, spoke in a most informed and feeling speech of the effect upon the children's services. As I listened to the noble Baroness it seemed to me sometimes that she was under the impression that when the London boroughs are reorganised, as this Bill proposes, the same children would not be living in the same homes, would not be boarded out with the same parents and the same officials would not be watching over them. But that is not so. The children will remain in the places where they now are and under the same care. They will still be watched over by the same officials; but they will be officials of a smaller authority nearer to the population than the London County Council are. That might be a great advantage.
It is interesting to see how the children's service has developed in other parts of the country, where it is administered by authorities about the same size as the new authorities which the Government propose to set up in London. I think it is generally agreed that children who are deprived of a normal home life are best served by being boarded out with foster parents. I believe that it is the universal practice to-day among children's authorities to endeavour to board out the maximum possible number 1250 of children. It is interesting to see how far the county boroughs have succeeded with this. In the county boroughs of England and Wales as a whole, 56 per cent. of the children in care are boarded out. In the counties they seem to have done rather better—58 per cent. are boarded out.
Now I turn to the London County Council. In the London County Council area only 31 per cent. of the children in care have been boarded out. It does look as though the apprehensions—
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, would the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting? I do not want to upset his train of thought. But so far as London is concerned, the housing problem, and the fact that there are a greater number of persons per room, limits the possibilities of the extensive boarding out that exist in more sparsely populated and unit-housed areas, such as in Hertfordshire or the rural parts of Kent and Essex.
§ LORD ILFORD
My Lords, I think the noble Lord does not quite appreciate the point. I am not referring to sparsely populated areas: I am referring to the county boroughs. I am quite sure that the noble Lord would not contend that, from that point of view, conditions in Liverpool, in Manchester or in Birmingham were fundamentally different from conditions in London.
It is perhaps also of value to notice that in London an exceptionally large number of children are maintained in institutions managed by voluntary organisations. Something like 30 per cent. of the children maintained in institutions in London are in institutions managed by voluntary bodies. In the county boroughs, the percentage is much smaller, only 10 per cent.; while in the counties the number is almost negligible. My Lords, if so large a number of children are being maintained in institutions managed by voluntary organisations, the danger of their being affected by some change in the children's service is surely much less. I should have thought that the noble Lady might well have felt reassured by the success which has been achieved by boroughs of substantially the same size as those which it is proposed to create in London, in the management of this very vital and human service.
1251 My Lords, may I now turn for a moment to education? I am sure that the change which the Government made in their first proposals, as a result of which the education service in the administrative County of London will remain substantially as it is now for a period before a review takes place, was a very wise change. There is an essential difference between the conditions in the administrative County and the conditions which prevail outside, although it is a difference which I think sometimes passes unnoticed. Outside the administrative County, nearly all local authorities—not quite all, but nearly all—are authorities which were responsible for elementary education before 1944. They have had experience in the administration of the education service, and that, I think, is a very vital factor for success.
In the administrative County of London, none of the local authorities have ever been education authorities, and they lack that experience among their elected representatives and among their staff which I think is essential for the success of the education service. It goes a little further because since 1944 many of the authorities in Greater London which are within what is called in the Report "the review area" have been "excepted districts" under the Act of 1944. In that way they have acquired experience not only of the administration of elementary education, which they had before, but also of the administration of secondary education. Therefore, I feel that the Government were quite right in deciding that these authorities should be education authorities forthwith, but that there should be some delay, until the new authorities within the administrative County have settled down and have found their feet, before they are entrusted with the responsibility of the education service.
My Lords, I do not think that in this debate there has been any criticism of the services either of the London County Council or of the counties and municipal boroughs in the non-county area. It has been asked why, if the services give no cause for complaint, there should be any change. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, says, "It works". My Lords, that is the familiar argument of local authorities which has prevented so much from being done.
§ LORD ILFORD
It is a good British argument, but it is one the local authorities always use when they do not want to do something which they ought to do. It is quite true, I think, that no serious complaint has been made, either in the Report of the Royal Commission or elsewhere, of the local services in London. But that is not the end of the matter. One has to look at the situation from a rather different standpoint. The answer, it seems to me, is to be found in an expression which occurs very frequently in the Report of the Royal Commission They speak frequently of what they call, "the health of local government". Now, my Lords, our English constitutional and democratic system assumes that local services will be administered by an active and interested section of the population. That does not happen in London, notwithstanding the fact that the political Parties have succeeded, as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, pointed out, in getting quite a substantial portion of the electorate to go to the polls. But in London there is not that active and interested municipal life which makes for success in the administration of local services.
This is not the first attempt to reform London government. The Ullswater Commission was set up after the First World War. It came to nothing. At the end of the Second World War, the then Minister of Health set up a new Commission, of which Lord Reading was the chairman. Before the Commission had hardly commenced their task, they were swept out of existence. My Lords, it would indeed be a disaster if the forces of inertia or political rivalry should destroy these latest endeavours to bring order out of what is now chaos.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I gathered from the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down that he supports the Bill. Therefore, he joins the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, who spoke yesterday—two supporters. I am glad my noble friend Lord Longford is back, because I wish to thank him for having jerked up a few heads when he rose to speak. There were a number of gently nodding heads during the long speech that was made by the Minister. 1253 I will leave it at that, since the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, is not present; but I would say to him, if he reads my words, that he did not really do justice to his case at the speed at which it was read. I doubt whether there is any Member of your Lordships' House who could possibly be aware of the points he was making; and I should hope that he will take note of that in future, particularly when we come to the Committee stage, and that he will deliver himself in such a way that the House can appreciate his remarks.
Yesterday my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth and my noble friend Lord Latham indicated that this was an evil and malformed Bill. It was spawned in dishonour, deserted by its father and now presented to Parliament by its step-parents. It is evil because of its political conception and intention. It is quite clear, when one looks at the hasty drafting of this Bill, that there is one clear intention that my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth mentioned; that is, the destruction of the L.C.C. without taking any account of the consequences. The Bill is certainly malformed, badly drafted, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, drew to our attention yesterday, complex in its use of words.
The first point I wish to put to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack is that he himself drew our attention to the complexity of the Bill—232 pages, nineteen clauses and seventeen schedules. I am sure the noble and learned Lord will agree that this Bill was subject to the guillotine in another place. Much of it was not even considered. Government Amendments were moved and, because of the guillotine, were not discussed. Therefore this Bill comes to your Lordships' House to some extent undiscussed. I wish to know, therefore, from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, the Government's intentions in regard to a time-table. Are the Government going to rush this Bill through? I can see they would require it before they leave office; but I think we are right to say that time should be provided so that this Bill shall be adequately examined. I do not advocate that there should be any filibustering or delay—it will not arise from this side of the House—but there is much in the Bill that requires careful examination. I 1254 therefore hope that the Government will not use what could be a more savage guillotine by requiring this House to sit in Committee in this Chamber for a very long time with the responsibility falling on the shoulders of a few Members. I should hope that the Government and, if I may say so, the House, will give us protection to see that we have adequate time to consider this Bill.
The noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack raised the subject of mandate. I understand why he did so, because one of the Members for Croydon, Sir Cyril Black, raised this point in a forthright speech on the Second Reading in another place.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
The Member for Wimbledon, my Lords—a good Surrey constituency. I do not think the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack would disagree that this is a constitutional Bill. It deals with the constitution of London; it affects the position of 8½ millions of Londoners; it will affect, as the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, indicated yesterday, millions of people outside the London Area. The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, drew our attention to Surrey and to counties like Surrey—Kent and Essex—which will suffer permanent damage.
I am rather interested to know what is going to be the attitude of the noble Lords opposite in this matter. I have heard them on television. I remember the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, on television and other noble Lords in this House on debates about what this House should do; what its purpose is. It is accepted that it should be a revising Chamber. There are other noble Lords, certainly on the other side, who say that this House gives an opportunity to the country for a pause in legislation; that there should be no question of the Government's rushing business or Bills through for which they have no mandate—Bills which may be highly controversial, Bills in which the country have had no say and for which the Government had no mandate. Noble Lords opposite have said this repeatedly. Now they have the opportunity to prove that they meant by it not just legislation moved in this House by a Labour Government; but that it is a rule and a protection 1255 against all forms of Government pushing that type of legislation through.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said the Government had no mandate. He said that the question had, however, been subject to general discussion and that there had been a Royal Commission. But as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, drew to your Lordships' attention, in the case of the L.C.C. this was a major issue in the last County Council elections and the results are to be seen—an increased Labour holding in the Council. It is equally true in the case of Surrey. This was a prominent theme in the Surrey County Council elections, and there the Conservative Council that held it increased its strength and increased its poll. Therefore, in the case of London and Surrey—I cannot speak of other counties—so far as those two counties are concerned there was a clear mandate to those opposed to this legislation. If there is ever a question of any authority or mandate, it lies on those who are opposed to the Bill. Therefore I look forward to seeing what noble Lords opposite will do to live up to their conceptions and ideas of the use and power of this House in the protection of the public. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack also spoke of informed opinion. He said it was not wholly opposed to the Government.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Well, my Lords, "generally in favour"; we will not have an argument about it. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack read the quotations from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the London School of Economics, but as an advocate, of course, he produced his own case. He did not bring any evidence or any support in favour of the Government proposals from any local authority. I wonder whether his eyes are dim, his ears deaf or his memory short. I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord can remember the resolution passed by the Surrey County Council, which is a very experienced body of administrators and is one of the most dynamic of counties. Did they support the Government proposal? They utterly rejected it. They rejected 1256 every conception of the Government. I am prepared to read it, but it is clear and passed by the Surrey County Council. Does the noble and learned Lord say that these people are not informed, and does he brush aside their ideas and views and judgment? It appears the Government so intended.
I want to say one thing in regard to what I consider to be local self-government. I do not think there is any disagreement between us that one of the essentials of local government is that there shall be close contact between the councillors and the electorate, the population. We in Westminster deal in national affairs. Members of Parliament admit their difficulty in dealing with the problems of their electors. To some extent that is mitigated by what the councillors on the local authorities can do.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said that this was a progressive Bill; that it improved local government. May I draw the noble and learned Lord's attention to what is going to happen in the case of Croydon? At present in Croydon there is a population of 252,387. They are represented on the Croydon Borough Council by 48 councillors and 16 aldermen, and to this new borough is going to be brought Coulsdon and Purley, with a population of 74,738, represented by 33 councillors, making a total council of 97. The area is bigger; the population is bigger; the duties and the tasks of the authority are going to be greater. One would have imagined that the number of councillors would be increased. But no!, from 97 the number is to be reduced to 70. What is the position, therefore, of these councillors to that electorate? They are not to be paid; they are to be voluntary workers, to sit on councils, to sit on committees, to deal in the evenings with their electors count. By reducing the numbers, surely, you increase the burden upon the councillor to perform his duty, and you equally reduce the services that can be provided to the people. I ask the noble and learned Lord: how can he justify that this is an improvement of local self-government?
I could quote the case of Kingston, Surbiton, Malden and Coombe. There they have 102 councillors to-day. Brought together, they will be back to 1257 this arbitrary figure of 70—a far greater area again, and yet we have this arbitrary figure put in. I hope the House in Committee will see that this fixed figure is adjusted so that it has some relationship to the number of persons in the area.
I was grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, raised the position of the Surrey County Council. Certainly we shall need to come back to this on Clause 68. But I think the House should recall this: that what the Government are doing is affecting not only the London County Council, but also what are called these truncated counties. In the case of Surrey, it is retaining 92 per cent. of its area, and it will have 60 per cent. of its present population; and yet its rate-able value drops to 57 per cent. Whether it is right or wrong, the policy of the Surrey County Council has been in the past to put more emphasis on the built-up areas of the county which are now going under the Greater London Council. In recent years, however, there has been this change of emphasis: that there was to be more money, particularly in education, to be spent in the country districts. But they are not now to enjoy that position. They will lose this high rate-able value area, and the country districts are, therefore, to be left entirely to make up for the deficiencies in education.
The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, spoke of assistance. It is something more than assistance that is needed in Surrey. I think these counties are entitled to some form of compensation for the permanent damage that is being done, whether by compensation you put a special hardship on the London area or not; and perhaps, as my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth suggested, it should be by the Government themselves, because it is they who are imposing the permanent damage on these councils. They are the ones who are imposing the damage upon the people who will remain in these districts.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Yes. But you are the people responsible for policy; it is you who have decided to do this. Why should the people in the country districts of Essex and Surrey suffer because of this Government decision, which we on this side of the House, and others, 1258 believe to be for special motives? Therefore I hope that in Committee we shall come back to Clause 68 to see whether we cannot do something about the figure of 5d. If my figures are right, it should be closer to 2d. which the county should receive in the form of assistance or compensation.
My last point is perhaps the most important. As I understand it, the Government's main plank for these proposals is based upon planning and traffic; the fact that the London County Council were not in a position effectively to organise traffic in the Greater London area. This is one of the reasons why they seized upon the recommendations in the Royal Commission. I would ask your Lordships to look at Clauses 9 to 19 between now and the Committee stage, because here the Government have obviously departed from the recommendations of the Royal Commission. May I put it this way? In the Royal Commission Report, on page 203, they say, speaking of traffic:We have no doubt that all these matters should be the responsibility of the Council for Greater London, and that these powers should apply to all streets and roads whether main roads or otherwise, the Council being free to use the Boroughs as its agents …. We can see no other solution. If it is not adopted"—and I ask your Lordships to mark these words—the alternative seems to be for the central Government to assume dictatorial powers.The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, drew the attention of your Lordships yesterday to the remarkable powers that Mr. Marples has taken for himself within this Bill. One could well say that they are the Marples Declaration of Rights. Here we are, with the Government setting up a local authority that they believe will last, as I think the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said, through the century. But the Minister is not prepared to trust it. He says: "I must retain full powers in case they do not do the right thing." That, surely, is a remarkable demonstration of faith of the Government in their own policy. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, said that these powers would be used only in the last resort. But is it not a fact that the Government in another place repeatedly rejected Amendments to the effect that these powers would not be used unless the Greater London Council failed? Yet those are the words that the Minister tried to put across to us this 1259 afternoon: that these powers will be used only in the last resort—and when we try to get an Amendment to ensure that they will be used only in the last resort, it is not accepted.
Obviously the Minister has said: "I am going to be the highway authority; I am going to be the traffic authority, whatever I may do in this Bill to make the Greater London authority appear so." Maybe it is similar to the case of the Minister's Department in setting up the Office Bureau, whereby if things go right the Minister can take the credit, but if things go wrong it is not the Minister who is responsible, but the Greater London Council. That is as it would appear. I hope that during the Committee stage we shall try to look at London's traffic problem as it is and as it will be unless action is taken.
The Minister said in regard to planning that there was to be a Greater London survey. I know that the Minister has nothing to do with transport and traffic. In fact, it is a remarkable thing that we have a Transport Minister in this House—and this is one of the main planks of Government policy—yet we do not have that Minister here this afternoon, but it is left to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, to deal with in a few brief moments in a long speech. As I see it, we have to make the Greater London Council (if we are going to have it) the supreme traffic and highway authority. We should give it the powers to carry out a survey—in fact, a survey is not really necessary. The noble Lord knows that the Government, with the London County Council, are now spending £400,000 on a survey. Yet there is no question of waiting to decide how the roads will be designated to the various authorities. It is already laid down in the Bill which roads will go to which authorities.
One would have imagined that the main roads, the Class 1 roads, would all go to the Greater London Authority. But no, they are to have only 60 per cent, of them, and 40 per cent. are to go to the boroughs. As I understand it, nobody who has any knowledge of London traffic has any idea how the Government came to the selection of roads. It is a remarkable thing. Why designate the roads now, when you are 1260 carrying out this expensive survey? One can only suppose that what the Minister wishes to create is a position so that he will have all the excuses in the world to move or act and to give him full freedom. I hope that in Committee we shall try to look at traffic as a real, big problem, which it is, and shall try to see that we give to the Greater London Council all the powers that are necessary to deal with traffic, to try to effect a co-ordination within the public transport service. You cannot look at traffic just from the point of view of cars; you have to take into account public transport, the question of highways, lighting, and everything. Give them the responsibility. Certainly let the Minister have the power to make orders, but only at the last resort and at the failure of the Greater London Council. Let us give them trust. I hope that on the Committee stage we shall move a big Amendment in this matter.
I feel as though I have said too much, and my voice is beginning to feel it, too. We on this side of the House are bitterly opposed to this Bill. Our bitterness results from not only the intention of the Government in this Bill, but the fact that the Government are prepared, in order to achieve their ends, to put in jeopardy the health and the development of many people, in particular the children. I do not believe there is one noble Lord on any side of the House who in his heart of hearts really believes that the educational proposals of Her Majesty's Government meet the true needs of London people. Therefore, right through the Committee stage, without any feeling of filibustering or delay, we must look at this Bill as a question of duty. It is dealing with 8½ million people. We on this side of this House will do our duty, and I hope the other side will do theirs.
§ 5.13 p.m.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I have been in the past a Conservative Member in the minority opposition on the London County Council, and I used to argue with the noble Lord opposite and his colleagues. I was on the Surrey County Council, where we had a majority of Conservatives. I have also held office in the present Government and have always been a Conservative. But now, after a good many years, I propose to back noble Lords opposite 100 per cent. on their contentions on this Bill. I think 1261 it is a bad Bill for the many reasons which have been mentioned—those concerned with education, traffic, and a good many other matters.
I do not propose to speak for long, because so often in a long debate like this many things have already been said and said much better. But I entirely agree—I think for the first time in my life—with practically everything noble Lords opposite have said. I will certainly assist them. I am speaking now not on my own behalf, but because I have been asked by a very large number of people in Surrey to support the attack on this Bill. We shall be eviscerated. Our rates will go up; our educational system will go endways, and our traffic will go endways. It will no longer be a county, and poorer people will be paying higher rates—we reckon on an increase of anything from 11d. to as high as Is. 7d. in the pound, which is a lot of money to put on to a poor area. For those reasons, I heartily disagree with the Bill, and shall back noble Lords opposite.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I should like first of all to say how much we welcome the speech to which we have just listened from the noble Earl opposite, who used to be a colleague of mine in the old days but, usually speaking, in rather a different fashion, as a member of the London County Council. A speech such as his shows how this great problem of London government cuts right across Party loyalties, and that it is a problem which we are all doing our best to consider on its merits, from the point of view of the people of London.
I should like to address my remarks—which I hope will be mercifully short—this afternoon to one matter only: it is one that has not so far been fully discussed, though it was mentioned during the debate in another place, and also, in passing, yesterday by my noble friend Lord Taylor. It is a matter which I regard as absolutely essential to the efficiency of a Greater London Council. We have heard a good deal about the need for an efficient staff to run the services that will be given to the Greater London Council. That, of course, is essential. We have heard a great deal more about these services which are essentially the machinery which the Greater London Council 1262 will use to discharge the functions which will be allocated to it. That, of course, is also essential. But surely the human factor is far more important than anything else. It will be the elected members of the Greater London Council who will decide the policy of the new authority, and who will take the major administrative decisions. It is therefore no less essential that the new authority should be able to attract to its service men and women with the qualities required for the greatest administrative task in the country outside Whitehall.
This is a matter which, I must say, I am astonished has not been more fully discussed in the course of this debate. It surprises me that the Government wish to set up this new authority without making sure in advance that the conditions of service will be such as to secure members of all political Parties of the right calibre for this enormous task. What I should like the Government to consider (and though this should have been dealt with already, it is still not too late to do so before the new authority is set up) is the question of the remuneration of members of the Greater London Council. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, will convey this point to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, before he replies, so that he may be good enough to give me an answer to this question.
I do not believe that the right people will be found to serve on the new authority unless they are paid a modest salary. In making the case for the payment of members, I should like to refer to my own experience as a member for many years of the London County Council. I do not want to weary your Lordships with my own experience, but it goes back quite a long way. I was a member, before the war, for East Lewisham and subsequently for North Battersea. When I joined the Council, my noble friend Lord Latham was chairman of the Finance Committee—the most important committee of the Council—and my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth was our Leader. When I left the Council the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, was one of my colleagues, and the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, was also a member of the Opposition side. The memory which remains most clearly in my mind is of the enormous devotion of the staff and members of the Council 1263 to their work, the spirit of public service that went right through members and staff—indeed, I am sure that, whatever may happen as a result of this Bill, the London County Council will go down to history as one of the greatest local authorities in the history of the Western World.
But, my Lords, no authority is perfect, and it struck me from time to time—and it still strikes me—that we could have had an even better Council if it had been composed of a more representative cross-section of Londoners. By this, I mean that the average age of councillors was rather too high. I am now about average age, I suppose; I was not when I was on the Council. And the proportion of women to men was too large. The reason why there were so many retired professional and business men on the Council, and so many married women with grown-up families, was simply that these were the only people who could afford the time demanded for the work of the Council's services. I myself found that this was as full a part-time job as attendance in your Lordships' House, and took up about half a day three or four times a week; and I did not join more committees than I had to. I should be interested to hear if the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, found that about the same amount of his time was occupied by the committees of the Council. When I became vice-chairman of a committee it became, of course, a very much longer job—almost a whole-time job.
I do not think it can be argued (certainly it has not been argued up to now) that the new Greater London Council will have less work than the London County Council. It is true that some of the present functions of the London County Council will be given to the new borough councils, but the Greater London Council will have new functions, such as traffic control, which the London County Council does not have. The new Council will, of course, be administering an area much larger in size and with a population more than double that of the present London County Council area. One result of this will be that members of the Greater London Council will spend much more time travelling between their homes and county headquarters and local institutions of the councils they hope to visit than L.C.C. members do at the 1264 moment. I have no doubt that councillors will have a part-time job that will take up at least half the working week, while chairmen of committees will have almost a whole-time job.
I believe that it is proposed that there shall be 100 councillors on the Greater London Council, and fifteen main committees, varying, of course, in importance. What I am suggesting for the consideration of the Government is that councillors should be paid a part-time salary, and chairmen of committees a salary that will enable them, like Ministers in the Central Government, to give all their time to the work of their departments. I am quite certain that the present system of payment of expenses and compensation for lost earning capacity, which is extra-ordinarly difficult to assess, and for that reason very troublesome, will not bring youth, vigour and talent into the service of a Greater London Council. I hope therefore, that the Government, if they have not done so already, will study the system of remuneration for members of town councils now operating in the Scandinavian countries. I believe, for example, that the salary of a chairman of a main committee of the Stockholm City Council is comparable to the salary of a Cabinet Minister in Sweden. I am not suggesting that there should be exactly the same relationship in this country, and, of course, members of the Stockholm City Council are salaried. But this is a matter, I feel, in which we should study what other countries do, particularly the Scandinavian countries, because in this matter, as in so many other respects, they appear to me to be in advance of practice here.
It is true, of course, that if a system of payment of members were introduced for London it might well have to be extended to other urban authorities in the country comparable to London. There are not many of these authorities that approach London in wealth and population, and if this is to be legislation which would have a nation-wide effect, I do not think it would apply to a very large number of citizens. I associate myself with the objections that have been raised about this Bill, but I should like to put this particular objection. If the Government sincerely desire to reform the Government of London, they should surely at least provide conditions of service that will make it possible to recruit the best citizens of all Parties for the tasks of local 1265 government—and this is something which, so far, they have conspicuously failed to do.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I have an interest in the subject of this afternoon's debate, not only because I have lived in London for all my working life, but also because, until recently, I served as an elected member of the council in one of the boroughs concerned in this reorganisation, and I contested the last General Election as a candidate in another borough which is concerned in this reorganisation. In spite of this interest, I had not intended to speak in to-day's debate. At the start of the debate yesterday I came along anxious to learn about Hybrid Bills and other intricacies of that sort. But I am concerned to come into the debate this afternoon for one reason only: because it seems to me that a serious charge of impropriety has been made against the Government. It is a charge which, if it were established, would make it very difficult for any Back Bencher on this side of the House to support this measure. The suggestion is that the Government are reorganising the system of local government in London for reasons of Party political advantage. I intend to address myself only to this single point in the debate to-day.
It is not a new line of criticism. I am aware that it has been aired fairly consistently over the last few years. It has been aired outside Parliament, and a representative example is perhaps the speech of the Secretary of the London Labour Party, Mr. Peter Robshaw. Speaking at the Labour Party's Conference in Brighton in 1962, he moved a motion critical of the White Paper, which was described in the motion as "politically biased and ill-conceived". In his speech, as reported in the Guardian—it is a verbatim report and I think we can take it as accurate—Mr. Robshaw went on to say:Having failed for 30 years to gain control of the L.C.C. they "—meaning the Tories—have now concluded that if they cannot win it, they will wind it up".Good partisan stuff for a Party political conference. But I was surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of 1266 Lambeth, with all his tremendous experience of local government in London, take up this same point yesterday. I have mentioned to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that I intend to quote a piece out of his speech, so I have observed the usual courtesy.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I know that the noble Lord has observed the usual courtesy. My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth has been informed that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, is on his feet. I do not know whether the noble Lord is going to deal exclusively with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth—however, he is now here.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I think the words, "deal exclusively with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth" are hardly those I would have chosen. I was making the point, my Lords, that in the main, the criticism of this measure inside and outside Parliament has been that this is a measure motivated by Party politics. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, made this point quite clearly in his speech yesterday, and if I am not to misinterpret him, perhaps I could read his actual words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 248 (No. 71), col. 1146]:… the motive was political: to get rid of the insult of a Labour and Socialist majority on the great municipality of the capital city. That was the motive, and I think it is rather disgraceful.A few minutes later Lord Morrison of Lambeth said [col. 1148]:I do not object to change in principle. What I object to is change for the sake of change, and especially if it is for rather mean, gerrymandering, Party political motives.And I think the noble Lord, Lord Latham, spoke in the same way later on last night and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, associated himself with this line also in his speech.
The charge, therefore, I think we can take to be not just a rash remark of a Party militant at a Party conference; not just the sort of argument which is used by partisans active in Party politics in London; not a type of argument discouraged by the official leadership of the Party opposite. It is, on the other hand, and it seems to be accepted as such, an official, considered criticism of the Government's motives and conduct by Opposition spokesmen, and therefore 1267 it is quite clearly a point which deserves to be looked at carefully. I suggest that if opportunity for Party advantage was the Government's primary motive for initiating this reorganisation, or if it had been allowed to influence the way in which these proposals have been developed over five years, then the Government certainly would be open to criticism—criticism for failing to maintain any very high standard of integrity in the formation of policy as well as for being less than honest, and certainly less than frank, over the way in which the policy has been presented. Since I am not in the confidence of the Government on their motives, unlike perhaps some of the members of the Party opposite who speak with such certainty on the matter, I can only look at what has happened over five years.
The first point to note is that the proposals which are incorporated in the Bill to-day go back to the Royal Commission, and not to a Party committee sitting in Smith Square. The Royal Commission was set up in 1957 to examine the present system and working of local government in Greater London and to recommend whether any changes ought to be made.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, I think he must go a little further back. Before the Royal Commission reported, the London Municipal Society gave evidence; and, as he will know by now, they are the Conservative Party machine for local government elections in the County of London. They no doubt asked for the Royal Commission to be set up, but they gave evidence and the significant thing is that the Royal Commission's Report is substantially in harmony with the evidence given by the Conservative Party machine for the County of London.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
It seems to me that is a criticism of the impartiality of the members of the Commission.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
If it is, it is the criticism that the noble Lord hinted at yesterday when he described the Commission as disappointing—I am not sure if that was the word, but that was 1268 the thought—and in speaking of the political outlook of its chairman. I think it is unfortunate that members of Royal Commissions should be criticised in this way; they were a distinguished batch: an ex-president of the Law Society, the then President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Vice-Chancellor of a University, and one of the wisest and best informed university teachers of politics in the country. I am bound to say with very great respect that I find it sad that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, should choose to criticise the membership of the Commission and to throw some doubt on their impartiality.
Let me take a point out of the Royal Commission's Report. This is published as an official document in a Blue Book. This is not a statement lightly made. At the beginning of the Report, in dealing with the visits made by the members of the Commission to the local authorities, having received written evidence, in 1958, in paragraph 26, at page 8, the Royal Commission said—this is pertinent and this is the first remark in the Report which deals with this particular criticism:We found in some quarters that our arrival had been preceded by a rumour that we had received certain secret instructions from Your Majesty's Government as to what recommendations we should make. The existence of this rumour sometimes put an air of restraint upon the first hour or so of our informal visits, but that was soon dissipated and on only one occasion during the public sittings did we find it necessary to refer to the matter.I emphasise the next sentence—We need hardly say that at no time have we been under the slightest pressure from a Minister of the Crown or a Government Department, and that no suggestions of any kind as to what we should recommend have been made to us beyond what appears in the published evidence.They went on to say that, for this reason, they were publishing all the evidence submitted to them by Government Departments and, of course, by the London Municipal Society. Later in the Report, in paragraphs 243 and 250, the Royal Commission said they had discounted in their deliberations any consideration of the Party political consequences which might flow from what they recommended.
The Report was published in 1960. Parliamentary debates followed; and, after a period of reflection in which the views of local authorities and others were studied—over 100 of them—the Government published the White Paper in 1269 November, 1961. Then came more Parliamentary debates; more consultations, the four provincial town clerks who held conferences on the grouping of boroughs in the summer of last year; and, finally, publication of the Bill. Throughout this five year process changes were made, a lot of changes and important changes, as the plans began to mature and develop; changes in regard to education, changes in the size of the groupings of the London boroughs. An indication of the number of smaller changes is that 1,250 Amendments, I understand, were listed to this measure in another place and over 450 in some form or another have been accepted. It cannot be said that this is a rigid, ruthless measure which is being railroaded through. It is, on the contrary, I suggest, a measure which has undergone the full ritual of traditional legislative change.
I find on looking into this that local authorities which are the principal interests concerned have had opportunities to make their views known at seven successive stages: first, written evidence to the Royal Commission; second, visits by Royal Commission members to authorities or groups of authorities; third, oral evidence to the Royal Commission—70 days of hearings in public; fourth, local authorities were asked by the Minister of Housing and Local Government for their views on the Report of the Royal Commission after that Report had been published; fifth, after publication of the White Paper, local authorities were asked for their views on that White Paper; sixth, the Town Clerks' hearings last summer, and, seventh, an opportunity to press for Amendments to the Bill, either direct through their Members of Parliament or through the local authority associations.
As I say, it seems to me that it is difficult to argue that this is a measure which has been pushed through ruthlessly. Indeed, historians of the future, I think, may reflect that while this measure has been pursuing its fairly stately process of democratic decision making, the entire episode of the Common Market has been played out within this five year period, from the initial decision to apply for entry, through the negotiations themselves, to the final breakdown: all with a minimum of direct popular participation. I do not suggest there 1270 was any alternative, but I want to make the point that reform in this instance does seem to have gone through every conceivable stage anyone could wish. To talk of lack of mandate in these circumstances seems to me to be hardly justified. The doctrine of mandate is no precise doctrine; it exists merely to protect the Electorate from being taken by surprise by an opportunist Government. Nobody can say that the Electorate were taken by surprise over five years and with these seven stages that I have already listed.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, would the noble Lord argue that part of the stately progress of the legislation is consistent with the imposition of a guillotine at the earlier stages, which made it impossible for the House of Commons to discuss it? Moreover, it has not been treated as a Hybrid Bill, which would have enabled the local authorities, represented by counsel, to be examined and to cross-examine. Are these factors stately progress?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, the noble Lord knows much more about legislation than I do or probably ever will. But I should have thought that the fact that 450 Amendments have been incorporated in the Bill—
§ LORD W1NDLESHAM
Most of them Government Amendments, maybe, but many reflecting what had already been put to the Government, and Government Amendments which took the place of other Amendments which had been withdrawn and considered. Surely 450 is a considerable number. In any event, to revert to the point, five years and these traditional stages cannot be called railroading.
Let me recapitulate. First, there is the independence of the Royal Commission second, there is the thoroughness and extended nature of the consultation with the interests affected; third, the degree of attention paid to the representations which were made. These, I would suggest, are not the marks of a Party political measure. Indeed, as I have thought about this subject overnight, it seems to me that the evidence points to the reverse—that it is the Party opposite which has a strong Party political interest in 1271 preserving the London County Council. It is quite understandable that that should be so.
It may be that the criticism which I am discussing reflects a form of transference. The Labour Party attitude to reform of local government in London would, I imagine, be to retain the London County Council and to see how local government in the Greater London area could be improved around it. This scale of values seems to have transferred itself to the study by the Opposition of Government motives. It is quite legitimate to try to preserve existing political interests; but it is not, I suggest, legitimate to claim that the Government are now primarily concerned to put paid to the Labour Party on the L.C.C.
Let me end by calling to mind a fable. It is the story of James Thurber's bear—a sociable beast who decided to give up mead because, in carousing, he constantly wrecked his household, distressed his wife and frightened his children. Reformed, the bear took to callisthenics—exercises of strength and beauty—took to them with such zest that he wrecked his household, distressed his wife and frightened his children. From this, Mr. Thurber drew the moral that you might as well fall flat on your face as lean too far over backwards. The moral for this House, I suggest, is that if a Government leave a Royal Commission Report on the shelf they are accused of timidity and giving way to Party political influences. If they implement a Royal Commission Report it seems that they are accused of obstinacy and giving way to Party political influences. The fact is, my Lords, that this Bill is a modern-minded and realistic attempt to reform a system of local government that is well out of date. To reassure the noble Earl, who, I felt, was winding up the debate half-way through this afternoon, I am whole-heartedly in favour of the Government's proposals and will support this measure.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, may I first of all congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, on having made the best Second Reading speech and the best debating speech that has been made on this Bill in this Chamber during these two days.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I am talking of the other side. After all, from a debating point of view it is his job to answer criticisms arising from this side of the House. It was a first-class job, and I look forward to hearing him when he has a really good case. It is no mean task in a Second Reading debate to tackle my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, whose experience in local government and governmental matters, as was admitted by the noble Lord, is wide. If he can handle his case as he did to-day and if it is a good case, I am certain that he will be much more effective.
There is one point that I would put to the noble Lord. He referred to the opportunities which local authorities have had to express their views. He did not go on to say—and I do not blame him for this, because it is our job to point this out—that every single local authority, and every single local authority association, expressed their view against the Government and against the Bill. No single authority was in favour. My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, in an aside, has just mentioned that the Association of Municipal Corporations were less enthusiastic in their opposition to it; but the A.M.C., having the difficult task of representing all-purpose authorities plus certain municipal boroughs, trimmed their sails. But no single local government body came out in favour.
At this stage of the debate is is difficult to say anything fundamentally fresh in regard to the Bill. Our local government system is administrative; it is not executive. It works within a framework created for it by Parliament, and with functions given to it by Parliament. Parliament makes the opportunities. Whether those opportunities are taken advantage of depends upon the administrative skill and enthusiasm of a local authority. Present local government structure largely arises from the Local Government Act, 1888, which set up the county councils, and the Local Government Act, 1894, which set up the urban districts and the rural districts. Over these seventy years, added into the machine has been the responsibility for administering increased numbers, and to an increased extent and standard, of various services.
1273 I would agree that after seventy years of administration one ought to look to see whether or not the machine is still effective. After all, it was introduced when the speed of man was dependent upon the speed of the horse. We are now in the jet or space age, and it is a fair comment that what was fundamentally safe and sound and good seventy years ago need not necessarily be good for to-day. Few of us who have been associated with local government over a number of years would not admit quite openly and frankly, would not in fact advocate, that a certain amount of reform and reorganisation of local government is necessary. But as one who has spent forty years in local government, my complaint is that this Bill does not deal with any one of the problems which face local government at the present time.
The two main factors of defect in local government, to my way of thinking, at the present time are the small administrative bodies, necessary seventy years ago when distance mattered but which are uneconomic. That is a fundamental structure. It applies particularly to small urban and rural districts and even to some small county boroughs. The unit to-day is too small for economic administration. But can the Government or any noble Lord say that the Middlesex County Council is too small, or is un-economic to administer? Can he say that the London County Council is too small, too uneconomic as a unit, to administer? Of course not.
The other point is that the structure of local government finance needs fundamental reform. It has been largely the same for seventy years. The basis of Government grant, rateable value and the product of the penny rate, with development of services and changes in social habits has meant that the financial structure, which was always a "hit and miss" affair, poses problems at the present time. Originally, because people tended to go to the type of area and house they could afford, it was a rough and ready system. To-day our rating system—and any unbiased person would agree with this—bears very unfairly on certain sections of the community and sometimes on certain areas of the country. Yet this Bill does not tackle that fundamental problem which faces local government; neither does it touch the problems of 1274 administration, the standard of service, and the rest.
I come back to the point—and I repeat it, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has said—that this Bill is a piece of political gerrymandering. After all, so far as local government is concerned, and I do not say this unkindly, the Tory Party believe in single Party local government, and will do anything to get it. Their main plank during the forty years I have been in local government has been: "No politics in local government". When that failed they became Independents; then they became Ratepayers' Candidates; then, in relation to London, there came the Municipal Reform Association. But whichever of these they chose, they were Tories, and adopted any means they could to obtain control of local government administration. They have been fairly successful in some ways, but now, because of the success of the Labour Movement in fighting local government elections, in pointing out that politics is a way of life, and in showing how the resources of the country and the local authority ought to be used, they have come more openly into the more general political field.
The function of local government is to provide as high a standard of service, within the authority given to them by Parliament, as they can, and to do so at the least cost to the State, the taxpayer and the ratepayer in the locality. I put it quite plainly that what the Lord Chancellor who sits on the Woolsack must reply to to-night—and this has not been dealt with in any part of this debate—is this. Have the Middlesex County Council and the London County Council failed in the provision of an adequate standard of social service? Have they been uneconomic in their administration? Have they been extravagant in their administration of the services which Parliament gave them authority to administer? If they have fallen down on their job, then it is Parliament's function to put another system in their place. But there is not a single Member of this House—and this applies, I think, to the other place. though I must admit I have not read all the debates there—who has challenged the effectiveness and the efficiency of the standard of service of either the Middlesex County Council or the London County Council.
1275 I see the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, sitting on the Cross Benches. He went out of his way, after being a little critical in some ways, to say at the end of his speech that there could be no criticism of the standard of service rendered by either county council. If there has been no deficiency, if the people of Middlesex, London, Surrey, Kent and Essex have been well and truly served, why the Bill? After all, as I said, the function of local government is to provide a high standard of service at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer and the ratepayer; and if they have not fallen down on that job then someone must show very good reason why that system should be changed.
Let us look at one or two services, because I think the Lord Chancellor, who is to reply to the debate, has a duty to this House to answer where these authorities have fallen down. I will pick out one or two of the main services. Education has been spoken of a great deal. Well, perhaps I ought to declare an interest: I am a product of L.C.C. elementary education. I have been proud, having been in local government for over forty years, to see the higher standard of education and the opportunities enjoyed by the youngster in London to-day as compared with those I had fifty years ago in a London elementary school. But have either the London County Council or the Middlesex County Council fallen down on their administration of the various Education Acts which they have had to administer? They have been subject to the Minister of Education, and prior to that the Board of Education; they have been hampered in what they wanted to do because of economic crises in the country and the fact that the Minister has cut their programmes from time to time. But that has not been the fault of either authority. We ought to know where the Middlesex and London County Councils have fallen down in educational administration.
Local government administrators from abroad—and this is something of which we have a right to be proud—come to this country to see how our local government system works, to study how they can improve their own systems. The County Councils of Middlesex and London are the places which are put forward as examples to visitors from abroad. 1276 The London County Council have been free in the exchanges with other local authorities on problems of administration, and methods of dealing with school building in particular, arising from their own Architect's Department and the research which is carried out within that Department. It can be said that both the county councils we are abolishing have been examples in education, administration and efficiency; and they have satisfied—and this is no mean achievement—thd residents of the areas for which they have the responsibility of administration. It is yet to be charged against them that in this respect either of them has been inefficient.
So far as the L.C.C. is concerned, it is true that certain hidebound Tory Ministers have objected to their educational experiments—the experiment in regard to the comprehensive school. But, speaking as one who suffered, or suffers now, from the fact that my education went no further than elementary school, I would say that I think the comprehensive system of education gives an opportunity to late developers which the ordinary primary, secondary modern and grammar school education does not give to quite a large mass of the children. Nevertheless, the only criticism that I have ever heard, even from the Tories, of the educational administration within London, has been that it has been bold enough to develop the comprehensive school. Here again it has been an example which has been studied by educational administrators all over the world, as well as all over this country.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? Is he not making rather a false charge? I do not think that the motive behind this Bill is any feeling that the London County Council have failed in their duties, or anything like that: it is simply a matter of change which is made necessary by growth. When the London County was first formed, no doubt there was a great deal of complaint that Middlesex, Surrey and Kent were being deprived of a great deal of their area; but nobody now considers that an important point.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, the point I am making is this. If an existing structure is giving satisfactory service—and, after all, it is the local government 1277 service which really matters; it exists to provide a service for the people of the country—why destroy it? If you are going to destroy it, then there ought to be some very excellent reason for doing so. The only excellent reason for it is the one that we mentioned, that the Tory Party have been trying to secure control of the London County Council for well over 30 years and have failed miserably every time. I am bold enough to say that if at the last election, in which the question of the future of London's government was one of the issues, the Tory Party had gained control we should have seen nothing of this Bill. Of course London has grown, but is this Bill going to provide any better standard of service for the truncated people of Surrey, of Middlesex? Nobody has shown that it will. After all, administration needs development; it is an art. It is true that many of the administrators in the new body will be the very people who have been in the old. But it will be a jumbled-up affair, with fellows going here, there and everywhere, setting up a new organisation and setting up new groups of people. The same goes for every one of the services. I feel that I am getting home to noble Lords opposite, because they must justify what they are doing.
It is exactly the same so far as housing is concerned. Reference was made to the Royal Institute of British Architects, and to their support for the Bill. But I remember reading, in one of the architectural technical journals, of their distress that what they termed the "finest municipal architectural department in the world" was going to be destroyed. I wish I could remember which architectural journal said it. Can anybody say—Middlesex is not a housing authority, I agree—that the standard of housing provided by the London County Council has not been good? Some of it was not, it is true. The Tory Party's housing developments at Barking, and out at Burnt Oak, in Middlesex, where they just built houses and forgot that people wanted a church, shops, a pub and everything else—they were just a mass of working-class houses—were a shocking example. But the general standard of slum clearance, of housing provision by the London County Council, its planning, its lay-out, its creation of real communities by development of all 1278 social services within the community, has been a glorious example of housing and planning.
They had the difficulty of housing their population within their own area. Those of us associated with local government know that one of the problems on the housing side is what is termed "out-county estate development", where the local authority into whose area you go does not want you, and where the problems arising from dual control are legion. But the standard of co-operation of the London County Council, whether it has been dealing with out-county estates, such as we had in Hertfordshire, or such as have gone out into Essex; whether it has been dealing with expanded towns out at Bletchley, Swindon or elsewhere, has been excellent. Their standard of efficiency is so high that this Government itself, which was falling down on the provision of new towns, "passed the buck" to the London County Council to build a new town for London's "overspill"—a terrible word. They have not been able to do it.
But, here again, this change must be justified. On the basis of housing and slum clearance, have the London County Council fallen down on their job? Has their standard of architecture, their co-operation with other local authorities, been such that it requires that they should be abandoned or abolished? No, my Lords, I cannot see that they have. One can go on about child care, handicapped persons and welfare of the aged—all those services which they have carried out excellently, to a standard which was not obtainable and was not provided in many other counties. I say, quite openly, that the provision for handicapped persons within London and Middlesex is far higher than we provide in Hertfordshire. Why change?
The only thing that has been said with which I agree was something said by the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, and by the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack, in reference to London and the metropolitan boroughs. It is true that, because of the structure of the L.C.C., the boroughs had less power, less authority and fewer functions than an urban district council. Yet these metropolitan boroughs, which are admittedly inexperienced, are now to have thrust upon them these new functions of child care, care of handicapped persons, care of the aged and 1279 housing, so far as London is concerned, to be dealt with by a group of officials (because you have to use the existing officials within the metropolitan boroughs) who have no skill, no experience of the general administration of these services.
May I say here, too—I do not care which service you take; child care, welfare or handicapped persons—that there is not a single professional body associated with those services which supports this Bill and the new set-up in regard to it. Even many of those associated with the London metropolitan boroughs are fearful that the general standard of service likely to be provided in the future will be lower than that which now exists. In many ways that is bound to be so; because these specialised sections of the community are not so numerous in an area of 300,000, 400,000 or 500,000 people. Spread over a wider area, one can get a greater degree of specialisation, a greater opportunity, than is possible within the smaller unit, even the new revised boroughs within London. To-day, while one does not want too much to be made of distances, the added transport arising from carrying specialised cases to other parts of the area is not great because transport facilities are so much better. All these services—and one could go on to parks, parking spaces and the rest—every one of them, are well and effectively administered so far as the residents of London are concerned. Why destroy them unless it is a question of political prestige?
There are only two services referred to by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack which the London County Council and Middlesex are alleged to have handled less efficiently than they should have done. One has been the planning of Greater London, and the other the traffic problems of Greater London. My Lords, that is not a criticism of either the London County Council or of the Middlesex County Council: that is a criticism of the Government and of the Government Departments responsible. I say that because the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Health have a function—that of guidance and co-ordination. And if the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Housing 1280 and Local Government have not been able effectively to co-ordinate, they ought to look at their own administration in order to see if there is not something lacking there.
This argument comes ill from the Tory Government responsible for destroying the Governmental regional services, which gave very good local contacts with the various local authorities within their region. My criticism of Government Departments, under the present structure forced on them by a Tory Administration, is that they are so wide, so large, that very often the Civil Service itself cannot give that personal attention to local government problems which it ought to give. I would not say that that applies so far as London and Middlesex are concerned, because it is quite obvious—and quite proper—that the larger, major authorities have an easier access to the Ministry than many of the other, smaller authorities. But when it comes to planning, the fact is that most of the planning problems that arise in London are common to all other authorities, and again arise from amendments of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, from the fact that local authorities are now in some difficulty in dealing with compensation and are not in a position to change in order to make things any better.
My Lords, I have tried to point out that it is the duty of the Government to say where the present system has fallen down in the standard of service that has been given, or in the cost of the services that have been provided. If they do not do that, then the Government must give some much better reason than has so far been provided for bringing forward this Bill. I conclude, as many others have done, by saying that to us the real reason is political prejudice—and a political prejudice which is not only destroying the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council but is hampering the development and the standard of service provided by the whole of the Home Counties, with the exception of my own county, Hertfordshire. It is upsetting Surrey, Kent and Essex. Why? I think that that is the question for the Lord Chancellor to answer when he comes to reply this evening.
§ 6.15 p.m.
My Lords, may I start by associating myself with the congratulations which the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, paid to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, on his speech, which I personally thought was excellent? My Lords, earlier in the afternoon the noble Earl, Lord Longford, had a little quiet fun by saying that up till then there had been hardly a single speech from either side of the House in favour of this Bill. He spoke a little too soon, because since then we have had speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Ilford and Lord Windlesham, supporting the Government, and I, too, am going to disappoint the noble Earl, Lord Longford, I think, by saying that, although it is not difficult to find some points, Committee points, to criticise in a Bill of this size, it would be more profitable if, at this stage, when almost everything that can be said about the Bill has been said in general terms, for a very few minutes (and I hope I shall not detain your Lordships for more than ten minutes or so) I try to make one or two constructive suggestions, as I hope they will be, which can be dealt with at the Committee stage of the Bill. If I put a point or two to the Lord Chancellor, I shall quite understand if he cannot reply at short notice, but I hope that the points I make may be of some assistance.
When the noble Lord the Lord Chancellor opened this debate yesterday he spoke at some length on the difficulties which he foresaw and which had been foreseen on both sides of the House—and the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, also spoke at length on this point. He spoke of the difficulties which were going to arise during what I think was described as the overlap period. During that period there are, of course, in certain places going to be two authorities working side by side. Great doubts were also expressed as to whether sufficient time had been given for the transfer of some of the services to the new authorities. I wonder whether it would be possible, during that period, to recruit some help from other authorities.
I would suggest that there are three places to which we might go. We might ask other local authorities all over the country to second one or two senior officials to come and help us. Of course, straight away the objection to that will 1282 be made that most of these authorities are already so hard pressed themselves that they are not likely to be able to find many people who could come and help. Nevertheless, I feel that if we made that demand we should get a certain response. After all, it would, I think, be mutually advantageous. Local government service is rather narrow, and I think the opportunity for senior officials to spend some time here might be helpful, not only to us but to their home authorities.
Another source to which I think we might apply is the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office, which, owing to circumstances, have a certain number of senior officials who might well be able to come and help us for a limited time. If the objection here is made that people who have been working in Africa are hardly likely to be very much use to local government, I would only say that I think that senior officials in the Civil Service would be well capable of applying themselves and in certain cases of doing very useful work. They might be very grateful to come and help. A third and possibly best chance of recruiting heap would be to ask senior local government officers in London who in the ordinary course of events have retired during the last year or eighteen months whether they would consider coming back for a short period to help. If we could recruit people on that sort of basis, I think it might be a very great help in getting through this awkward and difficult period.
The next point I want to make is really a Committee point, but I should like to make it now because I think there will then be the best chance of the Government's being able to meet it or consider it when we come to that stage. The constitution of the new Greater London Council is laid down to consist of a hundred councillors and, I think, sixteen aldermen. I can see no justification for having aldermen at all. I think the whole conception of aldermen is basically out of date; but tradition dies hard and it may be a few years yet before aldermen are disposed of altogether in local government. To set up a completely new body, as is now proposed, and to have aldermen, seems to me to be without any point at all.
1283 The idea of aldermen is two-fold. First, it is always considered rather useful to have people with experience and, second, that position is given to the more elderly members of some counties as a sort of "services rendered" award. I have always been sorry that I have not been an alderman myself. It saves one fighting elections. But I would suggest—and I will put down an Amendment to this effect at the Committee stage—that the whole idea of aldermen should be given up and that the sixteen places, which I think is the number proposed, should be taken up by sixteen more councillors. It might later be considered that there is a case for increasing the total number; but that is another point.
Nearly every speaker from the Socialist Benches has made the point that this is a political Bill and, indeed, they have called it gerrymandering. I would merely ask this: is it likely that a Government, who have several little local difficulties of their own on their hands at present, would bring in a Bill which is by no means popular with many of their own supporters in such Conservative strongholds as Surrey—is it likely that they would do such a thing for political advantage?
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Yes. They are such an incompetent lot that this is just the sort of thing they would do. Typical Macleod!
It seems fantastic to me. The Bill would have been a very much better Bill if the L.C.C. had co-operated with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government when the Bill was being drawn up.
Their answer to that was, "Why should we assist at our own execution?" But, my Lords, that is taking a very narrow view of the object of the Bill. The local government in London is not being got rid of; it is being changed. Certain bodies are being changed and boroughs are being increased. We are bringing in a Greater London Council; but local government as such is, we hope, going to be improved. I suppose the Opposition Front Bench has more 1284 experts on London local government than this side of the House; but we have not had a single constructive suggestion from any of them as to how this Bill might be improved. We have had plenty of criticisms. I am hopeful that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who is going to wind up for the Opposition may be able to give us some suggestions. That is what is required.
This Bill is capable of improvement. Nobody is denying that. But merely to keep on the old parrot cry that this is being done for political advantage, is really a waste of time. I hope that we shall give this Bill a Second Reading, and that we shall come to the Committee stage as soon as possible because there are a very large number of Amendments to be put down from both sides of the House. Surely the object of both sides in regard to this Bill should be to produce a new charter for London which will improve the lot of Londoners now and for many years to come.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords in making the final speech from this side of the House I find myself in some difficulty, because there is so little that I have to answer from those who are supposed to have been supporters of the Bill. Perhaps I can respond at once to the noble Viscount who has just spoken and say that in my honest opinion it is quite impossible so to amend this Bill as to make it acceptable. While we shall, of course, take part in the various stages of the Bill if it is given a Second Reading, I am bound to say that I have little hope that at the end of the day it will be fundamentally any different from what it is at the present time.
I would ask the Government: what is the urgency of this matter? Why are they implementing this particular Report of a Royal Commission when so many other Reports of Royal Commissions remain on the shelf? I have complained over and over again that the average waiting period for the implementation of a Report of a Royal Commission is something like ten to twelve years. Why is this particular one being implemented so quickly? There has been no pressure on the Government to implement this Report. I do not think the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor will contend that the Government have been under any 1285 Pressure to have this particular Royal Commission Report implemented. On the contrary, all the pressure on them even from among their own supporters has been not to have it implemented. It is certainly not desired by the majority of thinking people in Greater London.
One is really forced to certain conclusions as to why this particular Royal Commission Report is being implemented. I said that the great majority of people in the area affected are against the Report. I do not know whether that statement is going to be disputed. But if it is not disputed, why do the Government deliberately introduce a measure of local government to which the great majority of the people of the areas affected are opposed? Is it that they know best? The noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, himself asked the question. I am not sure that he is able to give a good answer. But, of course, Governments do foolish things. This is not the occasion for me to enumerate them, but I could, if pressed, give the noble Viscount quite a long list of foolish things which this Government have done recently, and which, if one were seeking for an explanation, one would find it difficult to answer. I respectfully submit that this is a case in point. This is a wholly uncalled for Bill.
It is said that it is in the interests of local government. But, surely, local government is self-government; government with the consent of the people concerned. That is the last thing you can say about this particular Bill. It is not with the consent of the people concerned.
My Lords, is the noble Lord, therefore, saying that no change is needed in the government of London?
§ LORD SILKIN
If the noble Viscount will do me the honour of sitting in his place until I have finished, he will find that I shall not shirk that particular question. But I wish to answer it in its proper place in what I have to say. I was saying that the essential of local government is that it should be self-government, Self-government is more desirable than good government. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Somers, who interrupted several times, to bear that in mind. People would rather run their own show 1286 in their own way, however unsatisfactory it may be, than be told from above how they should run it. I submit that that is a factor which the Government have not taken into account.
My noble friend Lord Longford said in his speech earlier in the day (perhaps too early) that this Bill had not received any support from any part of the House. Well, it has had support, and I shall refer to some of it in a moment. But I should like to refer to two speeches made yesterday in support of the Bill. One was made by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, who, of course, is greatly concerned with town planning and with transport. In the course of his speech he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 248 (No. 71), col. 1156]:Unless we get those provisions right"—and he meant the provisions dealing with town planning (I am glad that the noble Lord has returned, in time to hear what I am saying)—we shall not merely fail to use a great opportunity for improving London: we shall run a serious risk of making matters worse.What chance does the noble Lord think there is at this stage—and I will sit down and give him an opportunity to reply—of getting these provisions right?
§ LORD CONESFORD
I think fairly good; but it may partly depend, I suppose, on Her Majesty's Opposition.
§ LORD SILKIN
That is not a bad reply on the spur of the moment. It sounds to me, however, that if it is going to depend on Her Majesty's Opposition, the chance of getting these provisions right is not very great. It is for the Government. These provisions the noble Lord was talking about are absolutely fundamental to the Bill. As he himself said, unless they can be put right, things are going to be worse. If I were a betting man I would give him very heavy odds that they will not be put right. The noble Lord also said that the Bill shows a fundamentally wrong approach in dealing with road traffic and highways. That is pretty strong language from a supporter of the Bill.
The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, was an equally strong supporter of the Bill, but he said very much the same thing, though perhaps not in the same strong language. I gathered that the effect of what he was saying was that unless the Bill could be fundamentally 1287 altered in respect of planning (I do not think he dealt with traffic) things were not going to be improved. At any rate, he was very critical of the planning provisions of the Bill. I will pay the noble Viscount the compliment of saying that he does know something about planning; but what he knows about local government, and certainly English local government, I do not know. On the matter about which he does know something, he was pretty critical.
The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, was another supporter of the Bill. He was prepared to support it if his particular area and his particular county were excluded.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
I did not say that. What I said was that on the Committee stage I should have some criticisms to make. In a Second Reading debate, as I understand it, the comment is of a general nature.
I do not think I am misinterpreting the noble Lord. He is certainly prepared to allow this Bill to have a Second Reading, with the intention of getting his own county excluded by Amendment.
§ LORD SILKIN
Another supporter of the Bill was the noble Lord, Lord Ilford. I hope that he will not mind my saying that we are old friends and colleagues; and he was for some years a distinguished member of the London County Council. I rather gather that his support of the Bill is coloured by the fact that, as he said, he has made four or five attempts, without success, to get Ilford created into a county borough; that Ilford, with its large population, ought to be a county borough, and here, at last, was a chance of giving Ilford the powers it deserved. Well, it is a very worthy purpose, but I would hardly call that entirely justifying support for this Bill. The noble Earl, Lord 1288 Onslow, could hardly be said to have supported the Bill; I thought he was 100 per cent. against it.
Then we come to the most fervent supporter of all, the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, who made a clever debating speech—and I hope we shall hear more of him. But, in fact, he said not one single word on the merits of the Bill. He made no attempt whatever to justify this Bill. He devoted the great part of his speech to my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who is, of course, always a worthwhile target in any gathering. But it does not carry us very far. The noble Lord gave us the history of the Royal Commission, and he spoke about its Chairman. I should like to say that I have a very high admiration for the Chairman: we were both law students together, and we got to know one another extremely well. We have taken different paths, but I hope that we are still very good friends. I would not suggest that the Chairman was biased at all; it is not part of my case that the Chairman, or the Commission were biased. They may have been unduly influenced, but that is quite a different matter. But the last thing I would suggest of them is that they were biased.
I want to ask why this Government, who are virtually on their deathbed, have put forward this long, complicated and uncalled-for measure. The noble Earl, who is the very respected Chief Whip on the other side, is constantly complaining about shortage of time and pressure of Business. Surely, the Government could have found more worthwhile measures to put forward, giving adequate time for their consideration, than this particular measure. When the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has been here a little longer he will not be so distressed at the suggestion that possibly political reasons may have entered into the minds of the Government; that they may to some extent have been influenced by them. After all, we have had four or five London County Council elections since 1951, since the present Government took office. Every one of these elections has resulted in a Labour majority and in the last two elections an increasing Labour majority. Is it to be thought, taking into account the evidence of the London Municipal Society, that this fact has played no part in the minds of the Government in bring- 1289 ing forward this measure? I am not even suggesting that they have not an honest desire to improve local government; but I would not discount the fact that the increased Labour majority on the L.C.C. is a factor in their minds.
The other main ground that has been put forward is that it is in the interests of the removal of anomalies: that the present state of local government in London is an anomaly; that it is out of date; that it arises from the horse age; that it was created at the time when the boundaries of London consisted of the present London County Council area; that it has grown, and that the reform of London government is overdue. Of course this does not mean that there should be change at any price, and any kind of change. If I were to concede that there is scope for an improvement in London government—and I have always taken the view that there is—that still does not mean that this is the right way to do it. That is the contention which I am putting forward.
I believe that this Bill falls down because two conditions for the improvement of London government have not been complied with. The first is that you cannot improve local government without the broad consent of the people affected. In another place, one honourable Member said that some people may have to suffer; that it may be necessary to ask people living in Surrey (as he said in this particular case) to make certain sacrifices for the larger community of which they are a part. I will accept that. But the sacrifices have to be justified. We must make quite sure that the people who are asked to make these sacrifices (and it is significant that people are being asked to make sacrifices; that is admitted by a supporter of the Bill) will, in fact, benefit; and that is by no means certain, as I hope w show in a moment. Will the result of these sacrifices be that we shall get better government? That is the test.
I do not propose to enumerate all the various services, because noble Lords in all parts of the House have criticised the changes in respect of the particular services involved. As the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, said, unless the Bill can be altered in certain respects it may even make matters worse. The noble 1290 Lord, Lord Grenfell, said much the same thing; and, from this side of the House, we had a most devastating speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, as well as speeches from others, in respect of the child welfare services. I would put it no higher than this: that nobody has attempted to establish that the services will be improved as a result of this change. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, made a valiant and (may I say with all respect?) laboured attempt, but I do not think he went so far as to say they will be improved. I think he pointed out some of the defects of the present system, but the last thing I thought he established was that the new order would be an improvement on the old.
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? At last this afternoon we hear a noble Lord speaking on behalf of the ratepayers. May I ask whether he thinks the services will be cheaper? That is what I think Londoners are interested in. I should like to ask the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, when he replies, to say whether he agrees or disagrees with the noble Lord that these services will be cheaper.
§ LORD SILKIN
I will break off from the trend of my remarks to answer that point. I had considered this question of whether it will be more economical, and I came to the conclusion (I may be wrong; the argument has never been put forward on behalf of the Government that this is a more economical form of government)—
§ LORD SILKIN
—is that it will be more expensive. I will give my reasons. One reason is that many of the services which are at present centralised and carried out on a large scale by the London County Council, and by the county councils whose area is to be split, will now be distributed over a much wider area. It seems to me much more economical to run a large service by centralisation than by splitting it up among a large number of authorities. The noble Earl is quite right to make the point, but certainly the Government have never claimed that this change is 1291 being made in the interests of economy. The most they have claimed for it is that this is a logical and right thing to do; that it is marching with the times; that it is progressive, and so on.
If one talks of some of the services, it does not even meet the argument that has been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, that you need a larger area for traffic and planning. The fact is that the true planning area is, roughly speaking, the area recommended in the Abercrombie Report, which is something like three times as large as the area of the Greater London Council. And if you want to deal with the planning of the London conurbation (and I hope the noble Lord does not mind my using that word, which has become almost a "dirty" word) you have to have a much bigger area than the area of the Greater London Council, and certain expedients will have to be adopted—and they have been suggested: joint councils, joint authorities, and so on—in order to deal with the planning of the whole area. So, we have not got it right from that point of view.
Nor have we got it right from the traffic point of view. The area of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, for instance, is again a very much bigger area than the area of the Greater London Council. I feel that this is not a solution to the problems of traffic or town planning. You have to find some other solution and you are going, to be in just as much difficulty in dealing with those two services, which are the main justification for this Bill, as we have been in up to now.
Nor have we a solution to the education service. The Government were forced to change their mind about the education service and had to retain the Inner London area for educational purposes, but all the time over the next five years the service will be under a threat of extinction, and you never get the best service out of an authority when it is under a threat that it will come to an end.
I ask the Government then, if it is not political prejudice and if it is not the pressure from those who are seeking reform, what is the reason for this? I 1292 can really only come to the conclusion that, apart from what I have said, it is the removal of anomalies, and that the tidy mind of Her Majesty's Government is such that they cannot bear the thought of having local authorities of different sizes and different areas in London. They have them all over the country, and I do not know whether it is the intention of the noble Lords, if they get the chance, to divide Great Britain into tidy areas of population of about a quarter of a million. each for the sake of the uniformity that they are trying to create in Greater London. Is that their policy? Are they going to do the same with Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, with all the great conurbations? Are they going to split them up into tidy areas of a quarter of a million people?
It is all very well to talk about tidiness and the anomaly of London government as it exists to-day, but we are the last people to talk about anomalies. We ourselves are the greatest anomaly in the Constitution of this country. How can we justify ourselves? If we begin to talk of the removal of anomalies we have not got to look very far. When we talk about the House of Lords, what is the argument? The argument is, "All very well. We agree it is anomalous, but it works." I am not going to argue on that this afternoon, and I accept for the time being that it works. We shall see whether it works when we see the progress of this Bill and whether we get a reasonable chance of discussing it, as they did not in the other place. The job of this House is to examine legislation carefully, with ample time at our disposal, and pick up the deficiencies of the other place. We shall see how it works.
However, the argument is that this anomaly works. Is not that exactly what you can say about the government of London? It works, and it has worked well. My noble friend Lord Lindgren went to great pains to show that the government of London has worked, is working, and works successfully; and many of us who have given our lives to the work of London government feel very proud of what we have achieved, and very proud to show other people the results of our handiwork. It is not surprising, 1293 therefore, that there is a good deal of feeling about the destruction of something which one has helped to create. And it has not been a Party matter. All Parties have had a hand in the creation of London government; the Progressives, the Conservatives and the Labour Party have all played a part. And the result of it all is that something has been created which works and which ought not to be tampered with lightly, and certainly not drastically altered unless you are quite certain, as you are not, that the result is going to be an improvement.
It works for London government. I say that equally the governments of Surrey, Kent, Essex and Middlesex work. So, also, do the boroughs of West Ham, East Ham and Croydon. I put them all in the same category. They work, and they have worked successfully and have created something, and it must be very galling to them that they should be swamped and that their identities should be submerged with a number of other authorities.
Therefore, I hope, perhaps vainly, that the Government will have second thoughts about this Bill and be prepared to look at it again. If I bad to give my main criticism of the Bill, it is that you are not creating local government at all, which assumes that it is government with the consent of the people. You are passing this measure against the wishes of the people concerned, and in that case I cannot hope that it will have a very successful passage.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD DILHORNE)
My Lords, I had not expected to make a second speech in the course of this debate, and I should not have done so but for the indisposition of my noble friend Lord Jellicoe. I can only hope that he will speedily recover, because I shall certainly need his assistance when we come to the Committee stage. I should like to express my gratitude to my noble friend Lord Hastings for so nobly stepping into the breach and dealing with the matters with which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, was going to deal in replying to this debate, and also for replying to many points that were raised in yesterday's debate. I must say that I regretted that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, took it upon himself to lecture my noble 1294 friend on the manner of his delivery of his speech. I do not think that was justified. I was sitting on the Woolsack, and I must say that I had not the slightest difficulty in following my noble friend's arguments.
Certain points which have been raised in the course of the debate to-day have been raised so as to give the Government due notice of them before we reach the Committee stage. I am grateful to your Lordships for having done that, and I can say that all the points raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, and many others, will be considered between now and the Committee stage; and at this late hour I trust that your Lordships will not desire me to reply in any detail to those particular points.
My noble friend Lord Strathclyde, my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross and the noble Lord, Lord Reith, drew attention to the question of auditing of the local authority accounts, and my noble friend Lord Strathclyde referred to certain correspondence which had taken place with regard to this matter. I have not seen that correspondence but I will certainly consult with my right honourable friend with regard to the question raised. At this stage I do not think that I can say any more on that point to-day. The noble Lord, Lord Crook, appeared in a rather unaccustomed role as a spokesman of informed Tory opinion in Surrey.
I rather gathered, from what was said from various quarters in the course of the debate from this side of the House that noble Lords did not particularly enjoy my references to "informed opinion". What I in fact said, in moving the Second Reading, was that people who made speeches usually regarded opinion that agreed with theirs as informed opinion; and what I also said was that it was just not true that all informed opinion was against the Bill. I did not say, as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, suggested, that all informed opinion was in support of the Bill. But I must say that I was rather astonished and surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, deride the London School of Economics as not being able to express any informed opinion. But I certainly would not suggest for one moment that all informed opinion was in support of this Bill: that would be putting it far too high.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has misquoted me about the London School of Economics. I admit that I got very near what he says I said. The noble and learned Lord says that he said only that this was a Bill which was not hotly dissented from (I think it was) by people of informed opinion. But this is what he actually said, unless the Official Reporter is wrong, which I do not find it possible to believe. He said [OFFICIAL. REPORT, Vol. 248 (No. 71), col. 1132]:But your Lordships would be misled if you allowed yourselves to be persuaded that the principles on which this Bill is based do not command general approval among local authorities and among informed people, concerned with local government.That is what he said.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not detract from that for one moment. If the noble Lord looks at column 1131, he will see that I quoted from that. But I thought he rose to interrupt me about his remarks on the London School of Economics. I am surprised that he diverted his interruption on to another subject. I was not seeking to say that all informed opinion was in support of this Bill, because informed opinion may differ just as much as uninformed opinion; and at the end of the day it is for the Government to make up its mind, and come and put before Parliament and the public proposals. And that we have done. It is no use the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, trying to suggest there was not adequate discussion of the major issues in this Bill because of the guillotine in another place. If he will look at the Record he will see most of this Bill was thoroughly considered.
May I come to what is, I think—I want to deal with it as briefly as I can—the main Oppositon attack on the Bill? It was opened by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and what seemed to me the most astonishing statement made in the course of this debate (it astonished my noble friend Lord Conesford, and it astonished me; indeed, I think it is really the saying of the week) was when the noble Lord declared that he was not a Party politician. Having heard him on a number of occasions, I must say that that is certainly not a description of himself that would be generally accepted by informed opinion. He is, I venture to assert—and I say it in no derogatory 1296 Sense—a Party politician; and the speech he made yesterday was, as I think he would be the first to admit, a very political one; though I certainly do not complain of that. His whole approach to the Bill was political. He asserted that it was inspired by "mean, gerrymandering, Party political motives". That is an easy thing to say; but it is not, of course, the fact.
The case for this Bill is that changes in the local government of London are long overdue and that change is necessary in the interests of good administration and efficiency over the Greater London area. Really, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, showed himself on this occasion to be reactionary. He thought that there might perhaps be one or two amalgamations of boroughs. He went so far as to admit that there was a case for merging Deptford with Lewisham, and he thought that there might have been more delegation of power to the metropolitan boroughs. He went on to say he thought there might be an executive board representing the county councils and county boroughs and the Ministry of Transport and representatives of the police. That would not, of course, be an elected body; and I think it is certainly more democratic that, if there is to be a body charged with overall responsibility for the Greater London area, it should be responsible to the electorate in that area and chosen by them.
But the noble Lord's approach to the whole problem of London government was, I think, revealed by that passage in his speech when he gave his reasons for not seeking the inclusion in the London County Council area, when he was leader of the London County Council, of Willesden and an area on the North East; and one reason that he gave was it would have meant a row with the local authorities. I have never known the noble Lord shrink from a row. Indeed, when he was Leader of the other place, I remember his provoking many on many occasions. The second reason was the one I found so interesting, and it was this. The inclusion, he said, of these two areas would have meant an increase of the Labour majority on the London County Council, and he did not want that. The noble Lord, who said that he was not a Party politician, said he did not want that, for too large a majority could be troublesome. But I 1297 ask your Lordships to note that he apparently did not even consider whether the inclusion of these areas in the London County Council would conduce to better administration and greater efficiency. He did not reject their inclusion on the ground that it would not do so, but solely for two reasons one of which was confessedly political. That was his approach then.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
There would have been no great advantage in bringing them in, except that it would have tidied the map up a little. I do not run to the uniformity philosophy of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. The way in which the noble and learned Lord has quoted me, in reference to my being, or not being, a Party politician is not accurate. I do not think it is there. What I said was that the head of the British Judiciary had now jumped down into Party politics and must take the consequences. That is what he has in mind. It has made him cross. I apologise to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I never like to make a high judicial authority cross. It is not fitting.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am sorry if I have given any appearance of crossness. I certainly do not think I am, and I do not feel it. If the noble Lord wants the column reference, it is column 1145, where he said:I was not a Party politician".I was saying that that was his approach then, and that he showed the same approach to this Bill. He always has been a Party politician. He looked at this Bill purely politically, and his attack was on that account.
It really is all very well for him and the noble Lord, Lord Latham, to attack my right honourable friend the present Home Secretary; but this attack involves an attack on the probity of the members of the Royal Commission, for in the main this Bill follows their recommendations. It is all very well for the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in winding up for the Opposition, to say, "We do not allege bias, only undue influence." But that really will not do, when one bears in mind that there was not a single murmur of criticism when the names of the members of this Royal Commission were announced. It is only 1298 when the result of their conclusions is seen that there is criticism.
And what criticism is it? It was criticised by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who said that the Royal Commission had on it no outstanding Labour person; and that was taken up by the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition. Is it really suggested that this would have been a more impartial Royal Commission if it had had upon it an outstanding member of the Labour Party? I really do not think that that will do. The line of attack was followed up by the noble Lord, Lord Latham, last night. I hope he will forgive me when I say that I really feel that the strength of his argument did not support the violence of his language. I know that the Party opposite want to make this out as a Bill solely directed at the London County Council; but that, as my noble friend Lord Mersey said, really will not do. It is directed to find the best solution to the problem of local government for the Greater London area; and that is what it does. As has been pointed out already in the debate, if it were a purely political Bill it Would indeed be extraordinary to draft it in such a way as to arouse the curiosity and animosity of the informed opinion of which the noble Lord, Lord Crook, and others, spoke.
Now may I come to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Longford? It was a most amusing speech, when it was not being slightly condescending. It was a speech which made no attempt at all to answer the case for the Bill deployed by me and by my noble friend Lord Hastings. All that was said about the case that we deployed was that we had spoken from departmental briefs. The noble Earl tried to ride off on that. He did not try to meet the case. Then what did he do to make his speech for the Opposition? He went round all the speeches that had been made yesterday, picked out the points of criticism made by my noble friends as advance notice of Committee points, strung them all together and recited that as the argument that the Bill would not do. That really was not a difficult manæuvre; but, equally, it was not convincing.
Then he went on to say that no one had spoken from the Back Benches in support of the Bill. Well, that was too premature. He was followed by my noble 1299 friend Lord Ilford and by my noble friend Lord Windlesham, who made a most excellent speech. I was sorry to be absent at the time—it was my misfortune. Then he was followed by my noble friend Lord Mersey. Then what did the noble Earl do? He devoted a great passage of his speech to attacking education proposals which are not in the Bill, and he said little about the education proposals in the Bill. Then, to top off his speech, he had to use as convincing evidence of the bad nature of this Bill a casual utterance by some Tory Member whom he says he met at some cocktail party or other or Party event.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the noble Lord always slightly alters the truth. He does not revolutionise it; he just adjusts it. There was no reference to a cocktail party; it was quite a different sort of function.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am sorry I made an error in saying it was a cocktail party, and I am glad it was at a different public function. But that does not quite rob me of the point I was making. The noble Earl had to rely on his casual observation in an endeavour to make out a case against the Bill; and the impression that his speech created on my mind was that he was finding it difficult to discover any convincing argument to put forward.
I want to say a word about the speeches that followed. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, made a speech which I listened to with great interest, and, if I may say so, I thought it was the best speech made from the Opposition. I hope that will not annoy noble Lords on the Front Bench. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, devoted his case—and he argued it well—to saying that we had to establish that there had been a breakdown in local government. That has never been the case for this Bill. In moving the Second Reading, I paid a tribute to the London County Council and what they had done. The case for this Bill is based on entirely different grounds: that the modern structure of local government in Greater London is outdated. Indeed, that was recognised by the Royal Commission.
I should like to remind the House of certain observations of that Committee. In paragraph 694 they said:… we have been driven to hold that administratively the present structure of 1300 government in the Review Area is inadequate to deal with many of the major problems of the Review Area as they exist today and as they are evidently going to develop.In the next paragraph they said:Where things are working well our inclination is to leave them alone.He really is not justified in saying that this is a Bill for change for change's sake. They continue in this way:We do not believe that London's problems can be solved merely by improving the machinery of government. Our inclination is to recommend changes only where they appear to be essential.Then, in the next paragraph they say:The present structure of local government in the Review Area is inadequate and needs overhaul.The Opposition seemed to be split about that. They have not disclosed whether they accept that position or not. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in winding up appeared to recognise that there was scope for a change; but the noble Lord. Lord Morrison of Lambeth, I thought, made it quite clear that he was against any change in the organisation of local government in London. But really the Opposition case against this Bill is split, for this reason: on the one hand they say that the whole object of this Bill is to destroy the London County Council; and then they turn round, as did the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and try to make out that the object is to destroy Surrey and other counties in the neighbourhood. The two really do not go together.
The truth is, of course, that this Bill is a necessary Bill. I am asked why it should be introduced now. It is five years since the Royal Commission reported, and I really do not think that there is any necessity for delaying a change in the organisation of London government.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I thought it was five years since it was set up. But there really is no reason for delaying a change which I think most people regard as necessary, at least in some degree. I do not shrink from putting forward this Bill again to the House after these two days' debate as a Bill which will be beneficial in its purposes and is progressive; and I would ask your Lordships to give it a Second Reading.
§ On Question, Whether the Bill shall be now read 2a?
§ Resolved in the affirmative: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.