HL Deb 17 July 1978 vol 395 cc27-46

3.46 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, with the leave of the House I will now repeat a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary about the reports of the Edmund-Davies Committee, which has been reviewing police pay and negotiating machinery. The two reports are being presented to Parliament today.

The Statement is as follows:

"I should like to place on record the gratitude of the Government to Lord Edmund-Davies and his colleagues for these two penetrating and thorough reports.

"The Committee draws attention to the unique position of the police in our society which, in its view, justifies the maintenance of the prohibition of the right to strike. The Committee also concludes that the work of the police has got steadily more difficult and demanding over the last 20 years. Against the background of increasing crime, the Committee is concerned about the serious manpower deficiencies in the Police Service.

"The Committee recommends substantial increases in the pay of all ranks of the Police Service—with a view not only to making Police Service a more attractive career for potential recruits but, even more important, to making the pay of experienced officers sufficiently attractive to stem wastage. Thus, the Committee recommends an increase of 29.7 per cent. for a police constable in his first year of service and 45.5 per cent. for a constable with 15 or more years service. For the average constable, the recommended basic pay will rise to over £5,000 a year, some £1,500 more than now.

"The Committee recommends national rates of pay for all police officers, with special allowances for London and Northern Ireland. To meet the exceptional manpower difficulties in London, a new allowance of £650 a year is recommended for the Metropolitan and City of London police, in addition to the existing London weighting of £319 a year. In view of the special difficulties which service in the Royal Ulster Constabulary entails for officers and their families, an increased allowance of £500 a year is recommended.

"The Committee also makes recommendations for up-dating police pay in the future.

"As the House knows, the Government are committed to implementing the Committee's recommendations on pay, subject only to phasing. The Committee recommends that the proposed new scales should be implemented on 1st September 1978, but recognises that the Government, for wider reasons, may decide to phase them. The Government have decided that the increases shall be implemented in two equal instalments; on 1st September 1978 and 1st September 1979. The instalment due on 1st September 1979 will be up-dated in accordance with the Committee's recommendations. Pensions will, however, be calculated as if the recommended rates had been paid in full from 1st September 1978.

"The new London allowance will be phased in two equal parts, like the main award. In the case of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, £365 will be paid from 1st April 1978; the balance of this allowance will be payable from 1st April 1979.

"The Government will now consult the representatives of the police authorities and the Police Service with a view to making regulations giving effect to the pay award.

"In its report on negotiating machinery, the Committee stresses the importance of setting up new machinery as soon as possible. The Government will now seek the comments of the local authority associations and police representative bodies on these recommendations.

"The Committee's findings and the new scales of pay mark a fresh era in the history of the Police Service. Recruitment should be stimulated, wastage cut back, and the Police Service enabled to counter more effectively threats to law and order."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, we on this side of the House would join in the thanks that the noble Lord has expressed to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, and to the Members of his two Committees. In particular we too welcome the emphasis that they have put in their report on the unique position of the police, together with the Judiciary and the Armed Forces, in our society, and their endorsement, after careful consideration, of the fact that the police should not have a right to strike. Those basic assumptions, together with the requirement to recruit and to retain the police force at full strength and to retain the senior members of it are fundamental to the figures that they have recommended. Following these implications, therefore, they have worked on the basis that implementation should be all in one go on 1st September this year.

We on this side of the House disagree with the Government on phasing this award. We think it would be an unjustifiable risk to our citizens, to their safety on the streets and in their homes, and we should tell the House and the noble Lord that a Conservative Government after the Election—as we have consistently said over the last year on many occasions—shall implement this report in full without delay.

As the Government are not proposing to do that, there is one supplementary question that I should like to ask the noble Lord; that is, that although he has dealt with the consequences of phasing in most of the respects mentioned in the report, could he tell us whether he is going to fulfil the recommendation in paragraph 207 about the chief officers of police, or are they too going to be phased? My Lords, we on this side welcome the report, but we cannot welcome the Government's decision upon it.


My Lords, we on these Benches would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for reading out the Statement. We are also very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies and his colleagues. I must add here that I have a vested interest as I have a son who is a policeman in the Metropolitan Police and I particularly welcome the report.

There is one small point I should like to raise; that is, that a young constable will get only 29.7 per cent. while a constable with 15 years' service will get 45.5 per cent. May I ask the noble Lord whether he would consider giving a constable who has six or seven years' duty, and is married with two children, an interim rise somewhere between the 19.7 per cent. and the 45.5 per cent., otherwise I have a feeling he may still wish to leave? Could the noble Lord also give any details as to how, in the future, police pay will be negotiated so that this situation may never again be allowed to arise? Could he further say what would be the global sum if the increases were implemented now and not in phases? As your Lordships know, the only way to deter criminals in this country is to catch them, and if the Edmund-Davies Report is adopted it will certainly increase recruits and stop wastage.


My Lords, taking up the point that the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, just made, certainly I very much hope that it will both stimulate recruitment and deal with the wastage problem which has been a serious one for many years. Paradoxically, the wastage of experienced officers was more serious in the last year of the Conservative Government than last year, which demonstrates that this problem is of longstanding.

Certainly we hope very much that this problem will not arise again and I think on the basis of the Statement which I have repeated today the framework for police pay negotiations in the future will be a great deal more satisfactory than it has been in the past. I think that that will deal with the problem. When we come to discuss the general effect of some of these increases, it may be of interest to the House and I am sure it will be of interest to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross—who asked one or two questions to which I will come in a moment—to indicate what the effect of the first phase of pay increases will be in London, which is after all where the most serious problem is with which we are now faced. An officer of less than one year's service will receive, apart from his basic pay, somewhere in the region of £1,000 or so of overtime a year, a very substantial tax-free rent allowance of over £1,000 a year, a London allowance and London weighting. That will amount to over £6,000 a year which will be payable as from 1st September this year.

That, I am afraid, brings one to the question raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross—who I realise is acting on instructions which he has no doubt received from his honourable friends in another place—which was, I regret to say, a totally irresponsible statement to make. The fact of the matter is that there is great national interest in this general question of police pay. This is a major reform of the pay of the Police Service. It is not in our national interest to talk them down in any way whatever. We should join together in recognising that these are major improvements in the pay of the Police Service and do everything we can on both sides of the House to stimulate recruitment.


My Lords, in view of my noble friend's statement that a constable in his early years will get £6,000 a year, can he tell us whether there is any upper age limit on new recruits joining the force?


My Lords, I am sure that the Commissioner of Police would welcome the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, to the ranks of the Metropolitan Police were it not for the slight age problem which does arise so far as police recruitment in London is concerned. I have given an illustration today of police pay in London and of what an officer of less than one year's service would get; namely, a total, including overtime, rent allowances, and all the other allowances of over £6,000 a year. That will rise for an officer of 15 years' experience to over £8,000 a year.


My Lords, while refuting the noble Lord's accusations of irresponsibility which I do entirely on my own behalf as well as on behalf of those on these Benches, could he nevertheless answer my question about chief officers which in his indignation he forgot?


My Lords, the noble Viscount is absolutely right. My indignation was such that I did forget it. They will be subject to exactly the same phasing arrangements as others.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that on both sides of the House in reality we welcome this Statement and, whatever they may be earning, if young men feel that that is a good salary to get, the police force is always open to them? As I say about mining: if anybody thinks a collier is getting a good wage, let him go down the pit and cut coal. I hope that we will not make a political issue about the pay of the British police. We on this side of the House—as I believe does the entire House—welcome this report. I hope that it will be implemented and will result in good recruitment to the British police force.


My Lords, surely we ought to be quite clear on this matter: neither my noble friend nor anybody else has in any way criticised the proposals. It is only the phasing that is being criticised and I must say that the noble Lord left us absolutely mystified by his curious outburst.


My Lords, I see nothing curious about it. It was made quite clear by the Home Secretary last year that there was likely to be phasing of this award. It was made quite clear when the Home Secretary met the police representative bodies, and therefore the apparent astonishment that there is going to be some phasing takes a number of us by surprise. Presumably it has something to do with various other developments which are preying on the minds of noble Lords opposite. It appears to me that in the whole general question of law and order there should be a common national interest and approach. Here we are to have wage increases to all ranks of the Police Service on a scale which we have not seen for very many years, and it seems to me that it might sometimes be in the national interest to say so.


My Lords, does the Minister agree that Lord Edmund-Davies's Committee has given figures which it thinks, to be fair to the police, and having taken all considerations of relativity and the rest of it into account, ought to apply from 1st September next, not from 1st September 12 months hence? That is what the Committee says, as I understand it.


My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, will study the report at greater length after our present exchanges, as I am sure he will, he will see that the Committee recommended that. He will also see that the Committee said that it recognised that for wider purposes the Government might have to have some degree of phasing. It was made quite clear by the Home Secretary when he met the police representative bodies last year that the Government reserved their position on this. The noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, has a distinguished record regarding his general attitude to pay restraint, and I am sure he will rcognise the very substantial move we have made in very difficult conditions in regard to this particular award, involving massive increases in the pay of all ranks of the Police Service. I believe that that is something which all of us should recognise and welcome.


My Lords, we may have to debate this matter in due course and I do not want to press it too far now, but there are two points I must put to the noble Lord. One reason why the Committee has to recognise such very large increases now is that under the administration of this Government—and this was certainly not the case under the last Government—the pay of the police has been allowed to drop, relatively, to a position far lower than it ought to be, as the Committee makes clear. That is not the fault of anyone except the present Government. The fact remains that the Committee says that, in order to put the police in a fair position, pay ought to go up to the levels it recommends as from 1st September next. The Government cannot escape that recommendation.


My Lords, if the noble Lord is asking for a debate on this matter I shall pass on his request to my noble friend the Chief Whip. I, and indeed the whole of the Government, would very much welcome a debate on this question, and I hope that the Opposition will discuss this through the usual channnels. With regard to the noble Lord's second point, certainly a large number of difficulties have arisen during the last few years as a result of the serious problem of inflation in this country. The noble Lord is quite right on that. However, as I pointed out a few moments ago, one of the most serious difficulties has been in the wastage of experienced officers, and the fact is that the wastage of experienced officers was more serious when the noble Lord was Home Secretary than it was last year.


My Lords, bearing in mind what my noble friend Lord Carr of Hadley has just said, we fully welcome the recommendations regarding the police. The fact that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, became angry with my noble friend on the Front Bench and called him "irresponsible" makes me a little sad when I recall that when the matter of police pay arose at Question Time a year ago and I asked whether we could not pay the police a little more rather than be bumped on the head on the way home, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said that I had made a very irresponsible suggestion. Now he has used the same word again.


My Lords, I shall study with interest what the noble Lord said last year. The position is that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary met the police representative bodies last year. Taking account of the very substantial pay increase which the police received in 1975 before Phase 1 was implemented, a special arrangement was made at that time to exclude the police from the entire effects of Phase 1. There was involved in the region of just under 30 per cent. in 1975. What I no doubt said to the noble Lord on that occasion, and what I wish to repeat today, is that we face a very serious problem in this country. The question of whether we manage to maintain some control over incomes is absolutely essential to the future of this country because without control we should undoubtedly get an even higher rate of inflation. Therefore, one must look at special cases extremely carefully. The noble Lord smiles, but if there is special exception after special exception, they can create a very dangerous situation on inflationary pressures. I believe that what we have done in this particular case has been absolutely right. There was a general public recognition that the police had to have their case looked at, and the Edmund-Davies Committee has come forward with very substantial increases. As I have pointed out, young men who join the Metropolitan Police will from 1st September this year receive over £6,000 a year, taking account of all overtime and accompanying allowances. That does not appear to me to be a trivial sum, and I should be surprised if it appeared to the noble Lord to be trivial.


My Lords, I should like to ask the Minister a quite incidental question. Will the new scale of pay apply to custodians in this House and in another place, as well as to the police?


No, my Lords; it applies only to members of the Police Service.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, will the noble Lord give an undertaking that when the award is phased in, allowance will also he made for any future inflation? We will give the noble Lord and his companions credit for saying that inflation is running at about 7 per cent., and so will 7 per cent. extra be given each year, allowing for phasing?


My Lords, I recognise that it is difficult to pick up detailed points during exchanges of this kind, and I am sure that when the noble Earl has an opportunity to study the Statement he will see that when the second element of the Edmund-Davies payment is made in September of next year, there will on that occasion he an additional element to take account of any increase in average earnings. Therefore, I very much look forward to having the support of the noble Earl on this matter.

The Earl of HALSBURY

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the Departmental Committee of Inquiry into the pay of nurses, over which I presided in 1974, ended by equating the pay of a ward sister with that of a station sergeant in the police force? Will the Minister undertake to draw the attention of his noble friend who represents the DHSS in this House to what is being done elsewhere?


I shall do that, my Lords, but I must reflect that what the noble Earl says tends to emphasise the point I was endeavouring to make a few minutes ago; namely, if there is to be a whole host of special cases, it could lead to this country experiencing most serious problems regarding the general level of inflation.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether the Army increases are being dealt with?


My Lords, with great respect I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to go into that. I regret that I cannot make any comment about pay increases for the Services. That matter is outside the context of this Statement.





4.8 p.m.

Debate resumed.

Viscount AMORY

My Lords, I wish to support the Amendment proposed by my noble friend Lady Young. We all have great admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside. I am not sure that I entirely agreed with my noble friend Lord Onslow when he expressed gratitude to Lord Hinton for having fully stretched him intellectually. At the age of 78½ I do not much like being stretched intellectually, and it does not take very long to stretch me. Having said that I support strongly the Amendment proposed by my noble friend Lady Young, I should like to make it clear that we understand the aim of the Committee to try to avoid the excessive use of public time in these matters. We also understand the Committee's desire not to go on producing untidy solutions, and its objective to achieve a reasonable degree of uniformity. As always, the trouble is that in searching for uniformity one can sometimes interfere with the rights of local authorities.

Personally, I agree with the aim to carry out as many changes as possible by general legislation and miscellaneous provisions. We have debated this matter before in this House. It will be interesting and welcome if the Minister can give us his views on this, and if he can say whether another miscellaneous provisions Bill is likely to be considered before long. But I agree with my noble friend Lady Young that what she described as "changing the rules in the middle of the game" can create tremendous uncertainty and confusion in the minds of local authorities: and that, I think, is what this change of procedure will mean. If an area recommended by promoters is to be extended beyond that area, how can neighbouring local authorities know where they are going to be, even though the powers which will be transferred to them are permissive rather than mandatory?

It seems to me that if this new principle were to be applied bit by bit, neighbouring local authorities may find themselves included in a Private Bill which they do not want and in which they have no interest. This seems to me thoroughly undesirable. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hinton, can give us a fuller explanation than he has so far as to why his Committee feel that this is a necessary course to pursue at this time. If a really satisfactory answer is not given, then I think my noble friend would be fully justified in taking the opinion of the House on it. I therefore beg to support the Amendment which she has so ably moved.

4.11 p.m.


My Lords, so far as the Government are concerned, the decisions of the Select Committee had no political implications, and I intervene merely because I think a number of your Lordships have intimated that the Government should say something with regard to the decisions of the Select Committee and the Amendment which is before your Lordships' House. We are a little concerned at the decisions of the Committee and the effect that those decisions might have on the proposals by many counties and their districts to promote joint rationalisation Bills. It must be sensible—and, we would accept, a great economy in time and money—either for a county council to promote on behalf of its districts or for the county and districts to promote a joint Bill. But if any individual council is not allowed to abandon any of its proposals after the Bill has been deposited in Parliament—and this is a point which the noble Baroness made, if my recollection is accurate—there may be a reluctance on the part of some district councils to co-operate with the county in a joint promotion.

It seems to the Government that Parliament intended that councils promoting local Bills should have the opportunity to think again whether or not they should proceed with their Bill after it has been deposited, because Section 239 of the Local Government Act 1972 provides that a local authority must pass a resolution, as soon as may be after the expiration of 14 days after the Bill has been deposited in Parliament, confirming that they want to go on with the Bill. The section goes on to say that, if they do not confirm, they should take all necessary steps to withdraw the Bill. This surely means that a council should be allowed to have second thoughts, which is what I gather happened in the case of Birmingham.

The Committee also took no account (I do not say this unkindly) of the fact that Birmingham had not passed a resolution under Standing Order 124A, which is the Standing Order of your Lordships' House which requires district councils to pass a resolution in favour of powers which are sought on their behalf in a county Bill. In the absence of such a resolution, Birmingham could not produce evidence of need, and the normal practice would have been to exclude the council from it. Finally, the Committee did not acknowledge that Birmingham had obtained the withdrawal of a petition against the public entertainment provisions by their promise to exclude themselves from their coverage. Such agreements are subject to the approval of Parliament, and it would have been normal for the Committee to respect that undertaking. I have listened to what noble Lords have said, and I accept that the Committee came to their conclusions with the very best intentions; but, for the reasons I have given, I think it would be wrong to foist powers on Birmingham that they do not want.

Reference has been made to what I said in answer to a Question in your Lordships' House on 15th February last about the Government's intention to introduce legislation on this matter. I am sure that it is not necessary for me to remind your Lordships of the demands which have been made on Parliamentary time and on your Lordships this Session. It is in fact the Government's intention to introduce such legislation, but at this stage of the Session it would be wrong of me to attempt to indicate when that would be. All I want to say is that the Government feel that it is one thing to introduce legislation, which gets the approval of both Houses of Parliament, to require local authorities to accept certain conditions—that is to say, it is one thing when the matter has been before Parliament and has been thoroughly threshed out in both Houses—but it is quite another thing (if I may use the words of the noble Baroness) to change the rules halfway through, and for a Select Committee of your Lordships' House to seek to do so. In view of that, it is obviously for your Lordships to make up your own minds on this matter, but, as I say, the Government feel that there is a great deal of substance in the Amendment proposed by the noble Baroness which is before your Lordships' House, and the Government support the Amendment.

4.18 p.m.


My Lords, it would not normally be appropriate for me, as Chairman of Committees, to intervene in a debate on the report of a Select Committee, especially a Select Committee of this sort, set up to consider a Private Bill. Certainly where the issue lay between the Promoters of the Bill and a Petitioner against it, I would never dream of intervening and trying to persuade your Lordships one way or the other; nor, indeed, I am quite sure, would the Government. But in the instance that we are discussing, I really feel that I should say something, as indeed did the Government—and I was very grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said—because the issue is not one between Promoter and Petitioner, but is, in my view, an important matter of principle affecting future Private Bills. I was glad to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Hinton, looked on it in that light, also.

Parliament has always been rightly jealous of its legislative privilege and suspicious of outside bodies seeking powers by Acts of Parliament. For centuries past the criterion in such cases has been need, and any outside body coming to Parliament to seek powers for itself has been required to prove its need. This is the fundamental principle of Private Bill procedure which it is the duty of the holder of my office to uphold. The Select Committee, by refusing to make the Amendment sought by the Promoters, are in this instance giving a district—that is, Birmingham—powers which it has not sought and for which it cannot prove a need. Nor, indeed, has it passed the necessary resolution required by our own Standing Orders—under Standing Order 124A. I do not believe that this is right.

The noble Lord, Lord Hinton, and also the noble Lord, Lord Gordon-Walker, made the point that because the provisions are appointed-day provisions—that is, they will only come into operation in a district if and when the district council appoint a day for the purpose—they are not being forced upon Birmingham because Birmingham is not obliged to appoint a day. While that is true, I do not think that this point answers the objection that a council should not be required to take powers which it does not want and for which it does not seek to show a need. The point, in my view and with respect, is really a red herring. The fact is, first, that Birmingham does not want and has not shown a need for these powers, and, secondly, that the Bill does confer the powers on Birmingham, including the power to appoint a day for the coming into operation of the provisions.

I fully understand the case made by the Select Committee and I appreciate their objective in seeking uniformity; but the uniformity that they seek is, in my view, appropriate to public general legislation and not to a Private Act. The difficulty they faced highlights the problem of dealing with matters of national concern within the ambit of a Private Bill. Private Acts can never by their very nature achieve uniformity. In fact, I am afraid that the word "uniformity" is really a misnomer. It was never mentioned by me in introducing these Bills at Second Reading. It is the wrong word. What Section 262 of the 1972 Act really seeks is, I think, better described as consistency.

The fact is that present local authorities have inherited a hotch-potch of powers from previous authorities. The present districts in particular now have powers that formerly belonged to county boroughs, urban district councils and rural district councils. Such powers still relate to their old areas and many of them are totally out of date. Moreover, there is no central record of them and no proper arrangements for their repeal. It is to cure this hotch-potch that Section 262 sweeps away all or most of these provisions and compels the authorities, both county and district, to come to Parliament to prove their need for such of those powers as they wish to retain.

May I also repeat another important point which was made in the course of her speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I think it is important to remember that the 1972 legislation made it quite clear that county councils and district councils are equal in status. It is only their different functions that distinguishes them. Both types of authority, county and district, are fully entitled to come to Parliament and seek the renewal of the powers that they will need in future to fulfil their particular functions. However, to enable Parliament to deal with the volume of necessary legislation, district councils were urged to include their desired powers under the over-all umbrella of a county bill. It is much to their credit that they agreed to do so; but there was no suggestion that if they did they might have to accept powers that they did not seek.

Of course, I agree that we should seek a degree of uniformity in the new clauses now being proposed in county council Bills. This we will do because in future county district and councils will have uniform powers to exercise their appropriate functions over the whole of their respective areas. County powers will cover the whole county and district powers will cover the whole district. The only difference from what the Select Committee saw as the aim of conformity is that one district's powers will not necessarily be the same as those of another district. That seems to me to be one big step forward to consistency in general and it retains an important element of local democracy. Complete uniformity must, in my view, be left to general legislation.

I am afraid that I did not agree when the noble Lord, Lord Hinton, said that it was appropriate to put a stamp of uniformity on local councils by means of a Private Bill. It is because I wish to maintain the principle of proof of need that underlies Private Bill procedure that I hope that the House will accept the Amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. May I say that, if it will be convenient to the House, I will, if the House does accept this Amendment, undertake to put down the necessary Amendments to the West Midlands Bill at Third Reading in the hope that they can then be taken formally without the need for further debate.

There is just one last point. The noble Viscount, Lord Hood, rightly drew attention to the fact that the House rarely seeks to differ from recommendations made by one of its Select Committees. But there are cases where the House has taken this view. I would suggest as one precedent, the first of the county council Bills—the South Glamorgan Bill. The House took a view on policy on that Bill after an Amendment was moved by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Chapman, and the House did assert its right to say what the policy should be rather than that recommended by the Select Committee.

4.26 p.m.

The Earl of LISTOWEL

My Lords, as a former Chairman of Committees, may I ask the House to support the principle to which the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees has referred—that is, the principle of not allowing a power to a local authority without proof of need. It may sound technical, but it is much more than that. I am sure that your Lordships will appreciate that to give a power to a local authority is to remove a liberty from the citizens of that area. Parliament, as the upholder of civil liberties, has always been extremely jealous of giving powers to local authorities without abundant proof of the need in the interest of the citizens of that area, a need to exercise that power which over rides the liberty of the individual citizen. I therefore very much hope that your Lordships will approve of the Amendment proposed by the noble Baroness. Lady Young.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, can he possibly answer this point? What civil liberty is being taken away by allowing the elected county councillors of Birmingham and not the appointed justices to license music and dancing? What civil liberty is removed by that?

The Earl of LISTOWEL

My Lords, I do not want to enter into a debate at this stage of the discussion, but I might point out to the noble Earl that whether or not the authority is elected makes no difference at all to the exercise of the power.

4.29 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I am grateful for the support that I have received from all parts of the House for my Amendment. I should particularly like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Airedale—for he and I worked closely together on the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and this seems to be running a similar course—and also the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, who speaks with great experience of local government. I was also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. As he rightly said, this is not a Party political issue and I am glad to confirm that not only is it not a Party political issue in this House but not one in local government either. It is, as I hope I indicated in my earlier remarks, a matter for the good of local government and private legislation; and that is what we are discussing.

I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, who has drawn a very useful distinction between the use of the words "consistency" and "uniformity". I think that we would all support the former and many would support the word "uniformity", but not to make the whole of private legislation the same for every single authority. This would not in itself be desirable even if it were to be obtainable. I am also very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for his inter- vention because he has had so much experience of these matters.

May I say to the other members of the Opposed Bills Committee, all of whom have spoken, that I appreciated very much the generous terms in which the noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside, introduced his remarks. He made it quite clear that his Committee conferred these powers in such a way that a local authority did not need to use them but could use them at a later stage if it so wished. This is a point which has been well answered by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare: we stick to the rules that we have always had. In private legislation an authority must prove a need, and since the City of Birmingham did not pass the resolution confirming this, it would be wrong to overrule the necessity for this resolution and to put the power into the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Gordon-Walker, raised two separate points: first about an appointed day for the implementation, which has been answered by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. Secondly, Lord Gordon-Walker said if the Amendment were rejected, Birmingham would have only permissive powers that it would not need to use. This is a variation of the point which the noble Lord, Lord Hinton, made. The fact is that it is giving Birmingham a power for which it has not asked. I very much sympathise with the point made by the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss.

I hope that in my opening remarks I made it clear that I believe the Committee has done a valuable job. It is important to have a procedure for enabling a Committee of the House to deal with four Private Bill at the same time. I hope that, despite this debate, they will use the procedure on another occasion.

I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Hood, will not feel that by my questioning this matter I am out to make difficulties for anybody. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, referred to the South Glamorgan Bill. I had intended to use that as a precedent should it have been necessary, and I opened my remarks by saying that this was an unusual procedure for me to adopt, but then it is a very unusual case. The fact is that it is a procedure which is allowable to the House. I believe it right that any noble Lord who wishes to do so should be able to use the procedure it it be for the benefit of local government.

I hope very much that the House will accept my Amendment, for the reasons that I have advanced. I do not believe it to be a criticism of what has taken place. It has been a useful debate and I believe that by adopting my Amendment we will be acting in the interests of local authorities who are promoting the Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, said I had not answered his question when I said that district councils might not co-operate in the future, and he asked: How did I know this to be the case? Perhaps I should tell the noble Earl: when they come to their agreements, they expect, if they change their mind, that the promoting authority will make the necessary amendments. If they feel that they cannot change their mind and the promoting authority cannot do so, they will not co-operate. That stands to reason. It is therefore not only in the interests of local government but in the interests of this House, which I am sure all of us wish to see upheld, that I move my Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, original Motion, as amended, agreed to.

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