§ 3.8 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD DRUMALBYN)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a. —(Lord Drumalbyn.)
§ LORD DIAMOND
My Lords, it might be convenient if I said at this stage, in answer to a request which I have received from the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, that there is one particular Amendment which will provide an opportunity for us to raise many of the issues which arise on the Bill. It may therefore be convenient if, on that particular Amendment, we have a quite wide-ranging debate. In that event, noble Lords on this side of the House (I am referring to Members of my Party, though I think the same is true of the Liberal Party) will not seek to delay your Lordships either on the Third Reading or on the subsequent Motion, That the Bill do now pass.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.
§ Clause 95 [Default by local authority]:
§ LORD AVEBURY moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 106, line 18, at end insert—
("( ) A Housing Commissioner appointed under subsection (7) above shall, not less than once in each year from the date of his appointment, make a report to the Secretary of State as to the discharge of any functions conferred on him in accordance with the provisions of this section, and the Secretary of State shall forthwith lay a copy of any such report before each House of Parliament.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am providing an opportunity for the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, to say what further consideration he has been able to give to the matter dealt with in the Amendment. The noble Lord said at the end of our deliberations on Report that he would consult with his right honourable friend to see what he thought about the matter and, in the light of any new circumstances, would give his further comments at this stage. In his previous remarks the noble Lord had said that in exercising their housing functions, local authorities would not be required to make statutory reports either to the Secretary 770 of State or to Parliament, so that he could see no prima facie reason why the Housing Commissioner should be in a different situation.
§ I have given deep thought to the noble Lord's argument and I put it to him that the situation is quite different from the normal exercise of functions by a housing authority. We have here an extremely unusual and, we hope, highly exceptional set of circumstances in which a council has refused to exercise the housing responsibilities laid on it under the Bill, whereupon the housing commissioner has been put in to do the job. With great respect to the noble Lord, I cannot really see that the lack of any similar obligation on the local authority to report to the Secretary of State means that we should not consider favourably an Amendment along these lines. As the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, said, we want to get on with the proceedings of the Bill quickly, so I will not develop this argument in greater detail. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will have had an opportunity to consider all the aspects and I hope that this afternoon he will give a favourable response. I beg to move.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for moving the Amendment. We have had an opportunity of considering this matter further, but I am afraid that we still cannot accept the Amendment. We think that the desire of the Amendment, which is obviously to make the activities of the Housing Commissioner subject to the scrutiny of Parliament, is already achieved. Since the Secretary of State appoints the Commissioner, he can therefore be questioned in Parliament at any time about the Commissioner's activities. In this way the Secretary of State can respond much more quickly to requests for information and explanations about what the Commissioner is doing than under the procedure envisaged in the Amendment. Indeed, the insistence on a formalised procedure for annual reports might in practice make it more difficult for Parliament to obtain information about the Commissioner's day-to-day activities. What is more, representations could be made to the Secretary of State by any member of the public or by a defaulting authority, and again at any time.
771 There is a point which I wish to add and which I hope will give the noble Lord some comfort. The Government have already announced that they propose to introduce legislation next Session to provide for commissioners for local administration who will investigate complaints, not only by tenants, against any maladministration on the part of a local authority. As the Housing Commissioner will be exercising certain functions of a local authority, there is a case for considering whether his actions should be subject to investigation by one of the proposed commissioners for local administration, and I assure the noble Lord that this possibility will be considered.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for that assurance. It will be extremely valuable to have it on the Record that the Housing Commissioner's activities will be subject to the attentions of the local "ombudsman"—if I can use that shorthand term. I had thought of raising this on previous occasions but thought that it would be outside the scope of the Bill. The noble Lord has done a valuable service to the House in taking this opportunity of putting the matter on record and saying that the Government are favourably considering it. I wish he had been able to go further and assure the House that in the forthcoming legislation on a local equivalent to the Parliamentary Commissioner the Housing Commissioner who is stepping into the shoes—and he has put it on a previous occasion—of the housing authority would certainly be treated in precisely the same way.
May I take this opportunity also of thanking the noble Lord—I hope I am not out of order in doing so—for the letter which he has sent to me on a previous question, that is to say on the question of the representation of tenants, private landlords and of local authorities on the Advisory Committee on Rent Rebates and Rent Allowances. As we do not have an Amendment down on this subject I should like to place on record my grateful thanks to the noble Lord for considering favourably the representations which we made on 772 Report stage on this subject. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 3.12 p.m.
LORD AVEBURY moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 106, line 20, at end insert (" but no order shall be made under subsection (7) above unless a draft of the order has been laid before Parliament and approved by each House of Parliament.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, very simply this Amendment relates to the appointment of the Housing Commissioner and the restrictions on his functions which can be imposed in the Order making the appointment, by the Secretary of State. The part of the Bill which is relevant to this is Clause 95, subsection (7)(a)(ii) where in the appointment of the Housing Commissioner the Secretary of State has to specify not only which functions the Commissioner should take over under the Bill itself, which should have been discharged by the housing authority under Parts I, II, V, or VI, but also what other functions the Secretary of State thinks that he should take over as being necessary or expedient for the discharge of those functions.
§ As the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn will recall, we have had considerable discussion on this matter both on Committee and on Report stages and to whether in particular the Housing Commissioner could sell council houses. But that is only one of the examples that one might envisage. Since the Secretary of State's powers of appointment extend to the whole of the functions of the housing authority and are extremely wide, therefore, I would have thought that both Houses should have some say at the time of appointment on the restrictions that are to be imposed on the activities of the Housing Commissioner.
§ What I am saying in this Amendment is that before the Commissioner takes up his appointment, the Order which sets out his functions should be laid before both Houses of Parliament. If on that occasion it could be shown to the satisfaction of Ministers that other functions, apart from those specified in this Bill, are not necessary to the discharge of the responsibilities of the Bill, then perhaps the Government will agree to withdraw 773 that Amendment and produce something of a more limited nature because we shall be agreed on all sides of the House that we do not wish to extend the functions of this official into the activities of local authorities any further than is necessary. We all feel that there is something repugnant about replacing an elected body by a nominated official who is put in by the Secretary of State. Surely it is the duty of Parliament, if this has to be done under the wholly exceptional circumstances envisaged, to be extremely vigilant in limiting the functions of the Housing Commissioner to the absolute minimum which is necessary to enable him to carry out the functions dealt with in Parts I, II, V and VI of the Bill. Therefore, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will agree that when such a person comes to be appointed, the actual details of his responsibilities should properly be submitted to the scrutiny of both Houses of Parliament. That is what this Amendment is designed to secure. I beg to move.
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, the noble Lord wants the responsibilties that are specified as necessary or expedient for the discharge of the housing functions to be entrusted to the Housing Commissioner, to be set out in the Order and the Order to be made subject to the Affirmative Resolution, if I understand him correctly. As drafted the Bill provides that a Housing Commissioner shall be appointed by statutory instrument. This provision follows the precedents in the default powers in the Housing Act 1957. Under that Act orders transferring the functions of a defaulting authority either to a county council or to the Secretary of State are made by statutory instrument, that is, under Sections 171(5) and 173(3).
The appointment of a Housing Commissioner is an executive action by the Secretary of State. It is an action which may have to be performed quickly, for the sort of circumstances which would necessitate such a step could arise quite suddenly. Its character is not primarily legislative and it would be inappropriate to treat it as if it were subordinate legislation requiring the prior approval of Parliament. But because the appointment of a Housing Commissioner is a step designed specifically to ensure that 774 the wishes of Parliament are upheld, it is of considerable public interest and it is therefore to be done by an order which is a statutory instrument. That statutory instrument would be published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office and be available to Parliament and the public.
Although it would not be appropriate for the appointment of a Commissioner to require the prior approval of Parliament, the Secretary of State is answerable to Parliament for the appointment just as he is for any other executive act and he can be questioned in Parliament both about the appointment itself and about the activities of the Commissioner whom he appoints: also, not only the appointment but also the duties which he entrusts to the Housing Commissioner and for the functions that are necessary or expedient for the discharge of the Commissioner's tasks. Parliament, therefore, will have the opportunity to question the Secretary of State fully but it is not considered, in the light of the circumstances I have indicated, that it would be right to make it subject to an affirmative resolution, nor would it be in accordance with precedent.
§ LORD DIAMOND
My Lords, I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury feels about that answer. He will, of course, say for himself, but I can say what I feel about the answer and I feel sure that the view is shared by those behind me. The noble Lord, with respect, is wrong in saying that this would be of the nature of subsidiary legislation rather than main legislation for this simple reason: the Government have not so far taken powers themselves to require local auhorities to sell local authority houses. They have urged this as a matter within the absolute discretion of local authorities. The Government have said, through the mouth of the noble Lord himself, that this Bill would empower the Secretary of State to appoint a Commissioner with such detailed powers as would enable him, for example, to sell local authority houses. In short, by this roundabout, indirect method, the Government would be giving power to a civil servant, to an official, to do something which the Government cannot yet do themselves, and which would require legislation and Parliamentary authority before they did it. Therefore, it is perfectly obvious that what is being done, although in the form 775 of subsidiary legislation, really partakes of the nature of primary or main legislation, and it is not good enough that Parliament should be sidestepped in this way. If the Government want Parliamentary authority to do something they cannot themselves do at the moment, they should come to Parliament and ask for that authority if they have belief in Parliament's confidence in the Government.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, I am very sorry to say that I do not find the noble Lord's answer at all satisfactory. We are at this stage discussing the matter in abstract, and I would appeal to noble Lords opposite to consider what is going to happen if this provision ever has to be exercised, where you are going to say to the housing committee of the local authority, "You are now superseded and we are going to transfer your functions to the extent named in the order to a person appointed by the Secretary of State and who is not answerable to any democratically elected authority." With great respect to the noble Lord, I do not think the precedent of the Housing Act 1957 which he quoted is an adequate one. That may well have been with reference to an executive action by the Secretary of State. Here we are dealing with a question of policy, a complete change of policy, which involves the reversal of democratic machinery which has existed since time
§ immemorial, practically speaking; at any rate, the housing functions of local authorities have been exercised since 1889 when the present structure of local authorities was first conceived. We are envisaging here a fundamental change which we all agree on all sides we hope it is not going to be necessary to make. So that I would have thought noble Lords on the Government side would have been equally keen as we are in Opposition to see that such a change is not effected without the prior scrutiny of Parliament. Of course Parliament is perfectly entitled to say that under the exceptional circumstances envisaged here the Secretary of State ought to appoint a Housing Commissioner, that he has no alternative but to do so. But I would have thought that unless Parliament is entirely supine it would wish to have some say at that moment over the functions to be conferred on the Housing Commissioner under this Bill. If this House and another place choose not to exert their authority over the Government, this will be one more step in the long decline of the authority of Parliament over the Executive. Therefore I intend to press this matter to a Division.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 62; Not-Contents, 89777
|Airedale, L.||Hale, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Amulree, L. [Teller.]||Hall, V.||Samuel, V.|
|Avebury, L. [Teller.]||Hoy, L.||Segal, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Hughes, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Beswick, L.||Janner, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Kennet, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Leatherland, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||Slater, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, Bs.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Soper, L.|
|Byers, L.||McLeavy, L.||Southwark, Bp.|
|Champion, L.||Maelor, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Chorley, L.||May, L.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Crook, L.||Milford, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Moyle, L.||Wade, L.|
|Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Nunburnholme, L.||Walston, L.|
|Fiske, L.||Phillips, Bs.||Watkins, L.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Platt, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Gamsworthy, L.||Popplewell, L.||White, Bs.|
|Geddes of Epsom, L.||Redcliffe-Maud, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Rusholme, L.||Wootton of Abinger, Bs.|
|Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Sainsbury, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Auckland, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Balerno, L.|
|Alport, L.||Atholl, D.||Balfour, E.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Ferrier, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Barnby, L.||Fortescue, E.||Merrivale, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Gage, V.||Milverton, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Goschen, V.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]|
|Belstead, L.||Gowrie, E.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Green way, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Blackford, L.||Gridley, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Bourne, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Oakshott, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Hailes, L.||Rockley, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Sackville, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Hankey, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Camoys, L.||Hanworth, V.||Sandford, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Hatherton, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Colgrain, L.||Hawke, L.||Savile, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Hood, V.||Somers, L.|
|Colyton, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.||Strang, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Inglewood, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Cratnorne, L.||Kemsley, V.||Suffield, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Kilmarnock, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Kinloss, Ly.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Lansdowne, M.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Derwent, L.||Leicester, E.||Vivian, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Limerick, E.||Willingdon, M.|
|Dundee, E.||Long, V.||Wolverton, L.|
|Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Loudoun, C.||Young, Bs.|
|Ferrers, E.||Mar, E.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 96 [Housing Commissioner: Supplemental provisions]:
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 108, line 2, at end insert—
(" Provided that where an officer may reasonably believe that such an order may conflict with orders given him by the local authority the Housing Commissioner shall give notice in writing of the order to the local authority and to the officer concerned.")
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 3. Clause 96(4) reads as follows:
It shall be the duty of any officer of the authority to obey any order given to him by a Housing Commissioner for the purposes of the functions which the Commissioner is appointed to discharge, …
§ The first thing to note is that the duty is that of "any officer". It is not just the officer of the Housing Department, but any officer of the authority ". On Report I sought to put into the Bill that when an order is given to an officer it should be given in writing. I did so because I had been greatly impressed by the representations that had been made to me about what may well be the position of an officer of a local authority in the sad event of a Housing Commissioner being appointed. We must consider what would be the circumstances. They would 778 be where the elected members of that authority had said that they would not implement the provisions of this Bill. We will not go over the possible reasons for their view. I hope, as I said on Report, that this will never arise. However, if it were to arise, I think that we must assume that not only would there be a good deal of bitterness between the local authority and Her Majesty's Government, but a sense of real bitterness and deep grievance between the local authority and the Housing Commissioner who would have been appointed in order to implement the views of the Secretary of State.
§ I am myself not now concerned about the elected members of the local authority but with the officers, many of whom will have given many years of loyal service to the local authority and who would expect to continue giving loyal service. I do not think that any of us should underestimate the close and comradely feeling that exists between the local authority officers and the elected members of their authority. Unlike central Parliament, where Ministers of course can have a good understanding and great friendship with their senior officials, in the case of local authorities it is a good deal more intimate, and one's relationships will not be solely with the senior officers but with the middle rank of the service. So, with the appointment of a Housing Commissioner in this very bitter and tense atmosphere, I think it 779 would be agreed that the officers will be in a great dilemma and under a great strain as to where their first loyalties should be.
§ Clearly under Clause 96(4) of the Bill a duty is laid upon an officer to "obey any order". I have no doubt at all that an officer would obey the law. If he did not, then his whole function as a civil servant would fall away. But he will still have at the time at the back of his mind not only a sense of strain with those members of the local authority to whom he may still be responsible because he may be an officer who is outside the Housing Department, but he may well feel, in the atmosphere of bitterness and tension, that if he were to obey the order of a Housing Commissioner—and quite wrongly in my view—and give any impression of greater co-operation than perhaps is necessary, he may well be putting his future relationship as a paid employee, a paid servant, in prejudice with the local authority, which of course is his employer. Therefore, I sought at the Report stage to give a degree of protection to the local authority officer in that such orders as may be given should be in writing. That would be clear evidence that an order had been given, and would clearly specify what it was.
§ I was impressed by what the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said. Certainly it illustrated the weakness of that Amendment, because it could have been construed that all orders, even of the most minor character, would need to be put down in writing. As I explained in my initial speech to that Amendment, that had not been my intention. Therefore, I have tried in my own Amendment to meet what I believe was a valid case made by the Government against the Amendment on Report, and at the same time to give that degree of protection to a local authority servant to which I believe he is entitled if a Housing Commissioner is appointed, while recognising again, I stress, the sense of bitterness and tension that is bound to prevail.
What I propose in my Amendment is at the end of subsection (4), which requires the local authority officer to obey the order of a Housing Commissioner, to insert the following words:
Provided that where an officer may reasonably believe that such an order may conflict
with orders given him by the local authority the Housing Commissioner shall give notice in writing of the order to the local authority and to the officer concerned.
§ There are two items to which I think the attention of the House should be drawn: First, that the order to be given in writing would only be in cases where an officer could reasonably believe that the order that he has been given would conflict with an order that may have been previously given to him by the local authority. In other words, this would not be just any order; it would only be an order where there is reason to believe that there is a conflict. The order in writing should be given not only to the officer concerned but also to the local authority who would still remain his employer; but in some cases—perhaps in most cases taking the number of officers concerned—the authority, the employer, would still be giving that officer the majority of his orders.
§ So, my Lords, I hope that the Government will think that this is a reasonable provision. It in no way raises a Party political matter; it in no way weakens the intentions of the Government or affects the appointment and operation of a Housing Commissioner. It is being put in solely in order to give a degree of protection to local authority servants who may be placed in a very difficult position should the worst happen and a Housing Commissioner be appointed. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, the noble Lord has moved this Amendment in very thoughtful terms, and obviously the kind of circumstances which he has in mind could give rise to difficulties. In most local authorities, while it is true that staff get officially linked with the elected members, the elected members, and particularly the majority of them, change from time to time. But in other authorities, where changes are exceedingly rare, I recognise that special circumstances may arise. Nevertheless, we feel that the position of the local authority officers obeying the orders of the Housing Commissioner is fully safeguarded by the provisions of Clause 96(4), which says:It shall be the duty of any officer of the authority to obey any order given to him by a Housing Commissioner for the purposes of the functions which the Commissioner is appointed to discharge, and to give to the 781 Housing Commissioner all assistance which he is reasonably able to give for those purposes.Because of that provision we do not think this Amendment is necessary.
The subsection I have mentioned is not limited to the housing department. It would relate also to an order given to an officer of the authority outside the housing department, provided that the order was still for the purposes of the functions which the Commissioner had been appointed to discharge, and it might in-include the ancillary functions we were talking about on the last Amendment. As drafted, subsection (4) puts an officer under a statutory duty to obey any order given to him by a Housing Commissioner for the purposes of his—the Commisioner's—functions, whether written or oral. This will protect officers against action by the authority for obeying such an order. If an officer felt apprehensive about obeying a verbal order he could always ask the Commissioner to put it in writing. It does not seem necessary to require the Commissioner by statute to give a copy of any written order to the authority, since the officer could always show them his copy if necessary. If an officer was so unsure about the propriety of an order he received as to ask for it to be put in writing, I imagine that he would keep it very carefully so that he could produce it if his actions were challenged later.
There is no question of officers incurring a penalty because they refuse to obey an order of a Commissioner whether verbal or written. There is no penal sanction in this clause in regard either to verbal or written orders by the Commissioner. The only penalty for officers is in Clause 97 for failing to take all reasonable steps to produce any document or information required by the Commissioner to carry out his functions. In that case the Commissioner must always give notice in writing to the authority before any offence can occur. That, my Lords, is the situation. Where there is a risk of penal action on the officer, then that is accompanied by a compulsory notice in writing to the authority before the offence can arise. But in the ordinary way I should have thought that if things came to such a pass that a Housing Commissioner had to be appointed in order that the housing department of a local authority should be properly run in 782 accordance with the law, the object should surely be to ensure that the department continued to run as smoothly as possible. It seems to me that a provision such as that in the Amendment is scarcely likely to promote that object; nor does it seem to be necessary for the protection of the officers concerned with the functions taken over by the Commissioner. The officers would be presumed to be acting on the orders of the Commissioner unless the Commissioner complained that they were failing to do so.
Possibly the drafting might be improved but, apart from that, I should not have thought that in the interests of good administration this would be a desirable Amendment, and I hope that the noble Lord could accept that point of view.
§ LORD FISKE
My Lords, would the noble Lord give us a definite assurance that it will not be possible for the officers of a local authority to be overriden by a Housing Commissioner. It is difficult to visualise the circumstances in which the Commissioner is going to operate, but it seems to me not beyond the bounds of possibility that he could put so much work into the solicitor's department that they might have to withhold urgent work which they were doing on, say, a slum clearance programme. Is it quite clear that in those circumstances the Housing Commissioner would have to look elsewhere to get help with his legal work and could not disrupt the ordinary programme of the local authority?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, if I may have the leave of the House, I will answer that point. I should have thought that the safeguards which we have already indicated would be sufficient. In such a case a complaint would obviously arise from some quarter and come to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State would then take up the matter with the Housing Commissioner, and no doubt a sensible solution would be arrived at. These are really matters of administration and common sense.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I hope the House will have noted the first words of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, in reply to my noble friend Lord Fiske— "I should have thought". Is it really to be taken that, the Government having seen my Amendment and knowing the 783 approach that made on Report, which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, acknowledged was fair and reasonable and undertook to look at, this matter has not been considered by the Department? I believe that it must have been considered by the Department. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, gave me an undertaking that it would be looked into, yet the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, was not able to answer, should a dilemma arise in the case of the survey department, who has the priorities, whose voice carries the greatest weight. Under the Bill it is the Housing Commissioner. It is the duty of any officer of a local authority to obey the order.
I was very surprised at the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, used subsection (4) as a protective device. I see it as a direction to local authority officers: "Whatever may be the circumstances, whatever may be your loyalty, whatever may be the degree of priority that you have within the Department, whatever responsibility you may have in a different field of local authority responsibility, you have no discretion whatsoever. It is your duty under subsection (4) to obey the order of the Housing Commissioner." There is no discretion. If the noble Lord can tell me where there is discretion then I shall be happy to hear him, but I do not believe that
§ there is any discretion open to the local authority officer in this matter.
§ My Lords, I was very reasonable in my approach because I believed that the noble Lord was going to respond in like manner. I do not really believe that the noble Lord has given any real thought to this matter since the Report stage. I think that he has taken the brief and delivered it as a good, loyal Minister of the Crown. In view of the undertaking given by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, to consider this matter, I had thought to get a reception different from this to an Amendment which creates no Party political dispute. It would not make this Bill more difficult in any way to operate; it was put down solely as a reasonable safeguard for local authority officers. In the light of the noble Lord's reply to-day, and since we have in the past been voting fairly consistently in support of the tenants of local authority houses, I think it would be wrong merely to say," Well, because they are local authority officers we should not press the matter to a conclusion ". I think this would be unjust. I would ask the House to support me on this Amendment.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ On Question Whether the said Amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 65; Not-Contents, 97.785
|Airedale, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Hale, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Archibald, L.||Hall, V.||Samuel, V.|
|Ardwick, L.||Hereford, L.Bp.||Segal, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Hoy, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Hughes, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Janner, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Kennet, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Leatherland, L.||Slater, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. [Teller.]||Southwark, L. Bp.|
|Byers, L.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Champion, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Chorley, L.||McLeavy, L.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Crook, L.||Maelor, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Milford, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Moyle, L.||Wade, L.|
|Fiske, L.||Nunburnholme, L.||Walston, L.|
|Gage, V.||Ogmore, L.||Watkins, L.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Peddie, L.||White, Bs.|
|Garnsworthy, L.||Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]||Williamson, L.|
|Geddes of Epsom, L.||Platt, L.||Wootton of Abinger, Bs.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Rusholme, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Alport, L.||Ashbourne, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Atholl, D.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Amory, V.||Auckland, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Balfour, L.||Ferrers, E.||Milne, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Ferrier, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Fortescue, E.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Goschen, V.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]|
|Belhaven and Stanton, L.||Gowrie, E.|
|Belstead, L.||Greenway, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Blackford, L.||Hailes, L.||Oakshott, L.|
|Bourne, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Rankeillour, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Rhyl, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Hankey, L.||Rockley, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hanworth, V.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Hatherton, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Camoys, L.||Hawke, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Hood, V.||Sandys, L.|
|Cawley, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Coleraine, L.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.||Somers, L.|
|Colgrain, L.||Inglewood, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Kemsley, V.||Strang, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Kilmarnock, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Kinloss, Ly.||Suffield, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Lansdowne, M.||Templemore, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Leicester, E.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Limerick, E.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Long, V.||Vivian, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Loudoun, C.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Willingdon, M.|
|Dundee, E.||Macleod of Borve, Bs.||Wolverton, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Mar, E.||Young, Bs.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.