HL Deb 26 July 1983 vol 443 cc1432-44

3.24 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 1 [Expenditure powers of local authorities]:

Lord Harris of Greenwich moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 17, at end insert— ("() The power conferred on a local authority by this section shall not apply to expenditure associated with the publication of a free-distribution newspaper.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move this amendment, and it may be for the convenience of the House if, with Amendment No. 1, we take also Amendment No. 2:

Amendment No. 2: Page 2, line 17, at end insert— ("()The power conferred on a local authority by this section shall not apply to expenditure associated with the publication of a newspaper.") I make that suggestion because, clearly, the two amendments cover precisely the same ground. I do not begin my speech in any spirit of feeling it necessary to express an apology for the fact that we are returning to this matter once again, having last debated it on Thursday. Given the fact that we have been allowed only nine days to discuss all stages of the Bill, this was perhaps inevitable.

As no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, will be reminding us in a few moments, the Bill has limited objectives; that is entirely true. It amends Section 137 of the Local Government Act 1972 to enable local authorities to make grants and loans and to give guarantees in respect of land acquisition and building work. As the House will know, Section 137 enables the local authority to spend up to a 2p rate on projects which it believes will be of benefit to its entire community, or a section of its community.

Section 137 has been with us for a very long time, in one form or another. Certainly I can remember as chairman of a local authority finance committee using the section, or a similar power, in the past. It has I think been a considerable benefit to local authorities generally and—to give only one example—to many voluntary organisations, which as a result have been able to obtain financial assistance for some very worthwhile projects. I think that all of us, wherever we may sit in this House, are firm supporters of this provision.

However, as we heard last week, the sums involved are very considerable. The Greater London Council—to take the largest authority in the country—can raise up to £38 million a year as a result of this provision, and some of the larger London boroughs can raise over £1 million.

Having said that one is a firm supporter of Section 137, it is also true to say that in recent years there has been increasing concern—and I am sure that this has been shared by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin—about the use, or the misuse, of the section by some local authorities in this country. This has been a fairly recent development, certainly within the last five or six years—not further back than that.

I do not propose to discuss today the situation regarding the Greater London Council and Mr. Livingstone's behaviour and his use of this particular power. In any event, the Greater London Council is by no means the worst offender in this respect. Sometimes the objective of the minority of local authorities which misuse the power has appeared to be to reward their political friends and to punish their enemies. That seems to be—and I think that this view will be shared on all sides of the House—a wholly objectionable use of the powers of local authorities.

That brings me to the issues identified in the amendments which my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock and myself have tabled today. As we pointed out last week, what I have described is precisely what is planned in the London Borough of Islington. The power under the Bill, or the Act, as it will then be, will be used by the London Borough of Islington to reward one's friends and to punish one's enemies. As we pointed out last week—I dealt with this matter at some length, and I certainly have no intention of repeating it today; it was reported at column 1259 of the Official Report—the London Borough of Islington has been advised by its borough solicitor that once the Bill is passed, it will be able to make substantial sums of money available to an organisation called the Islington News Co-operative. This co-operative intends to produce a weekly give-away newspaper in the borough. The councillors have been told by their borough solicitor that, unless the Bill is passed, they will not be able to subsidise the co-operative and thus it will not be possible to produce the newspaper.

I should like for a moment to discuss what the project is going to cost. I draw on the views of Mr. E. W. Dear, director of finance for the London Borough of Islington, in a paper submitted to the council on 21st July this year. This is an indication of what will be done in one London borough: acquisition of premises, that is, for the Islington News Cooperative, £75,000, the money to be provided by the borough council; refurbishment of premises, a further £17,000, the money, again, to be found by the ratepayers; rent grant for two years, a further £17,000; and equipment grant, a further £20,000. Then there is to he a loan for working capital, which is to come from the Greater London Council. Then there will be a bank loan, £4,000 of which will be guaranteed by the London Borough of Islington. There will also be a £20,000 bank overdraft, all of which will be guaranteed by the London Borough of Islington. To put the figures at their most modest, what is involved here is expenditure of public money of about £200,000. How much, one might ask, are the local co-operators going to provide? The answer is £8,500 out of £200,000 for this newspaper. Mr. Dear, the director of finance says: The summary above shows that there is a very high proportion of public funds being invested in the project". He goes on to warn the councillors that there is at least a risk that the enterprise could fail, placing public funds at risk.

That is the scale of what is involved, I repeat, in one London borough. While, in many respects, it is true to describe the Bill as a technical Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, did last week, it is also clearly a technical Bill that has substantial implications for local rateborne expenditure.

There are, however, other reasons for concern. No one on the local authority in Islington is seriously pretending that this give-away newspaper, publicly financed, is other than a newspaper created to support the present majority on Islington Council. I have seen the names of the people who are members of the co-operative. All of them are well-known supporters of the present majority party in Islington. It goes without saying that a provision of this sort would be equally, or just as, objectionable if any other political party was concerned. What is wrong is that public money should be used for what are clearly political purposes.

If anyone has doubts about the accuracy of my statement, they have only to examine a publication that I must admit I do not read regularly, the Socialist Worker, that came out on 15th January this year. It contains an interview with the present deputy leader of Islington Council, a lady called Mrs. Val Veness. It is a long and quite interesting interview in the course of which Mrs. Veness makes her views clear. She said that the Government of the kind that she wanted has got to take on the people who obstruct it, arresting them if necessary—arm the workers if necessary".

Our judicial colleagues will be glad to know that at least the judges, in her view, would be elected. That is the personal political commitment of Mrs. Veness, who went on to comment in the interview on the Islington News Co-operative. In talking about the need for the council to be able, perfectly reasonably, in many respects, to put over its case, she stated: There's no counter-propaganda to the media whatsoever".

She makes clear that the journal in Islington is to be a competitor of the local newspaper, the Islington Gazette. So far as she is concerned, she sees it as a vehicle for partisan propaganda on behalf of the party of which she is a leading member.

I have again, as I did last Thursday, mentioned the Islington Gazette. It is only right, for the benefit of those colleagues who were not here on the last occasion, to point out that there has been a longstanding dispute between Islington Council and the local newspaper. For 14 months there was a boycott of the newspaper. The council's officers were instructed not to speak to its representatives. There was an advertising boycott, and various other punitive steps were taken by the council against this newspaper. I am glad to say, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, pointed out last Thursday, that there is some indication that, at its meeting this week, the council will cease its boycott on news that has been condemned both by the Press Council and by the local government ombudsman. But it is also clear that there is to be a continued advertising boycott directed against the newspaper by the Islington local authority.

I think that the House is now in possession of all the facts of the matter. What is involved is, first, that the present Bill—there is no difference of principle between myself and the Minister or anyone else on what is a perfectly reasonable measure—will undoubtedly do a number of useful things. But it will also make it possible for local authorities to advance these very substantial sums of public money. It is also clear, in my view, that these will be used for partisan political purposes.

Secondly, it will create an opportunity for the local authority in Islington to take action, which it might, later this week, should the Bill go on the statute book in the next 24 hours that could be followed by other local authorities of similar disposition. These authorities would be able to use their power and the substantial financial resources at their disposal to take on local newspapers which they find objectionable for one reason or another. I do not believe that it is right to give them the opportunity of doing so. Accordingly, my noble friend and I have put down amendments which seek to exclude payments of this kind from the Bill and so ensure that local authorities cannot undertake this type of conduct.

I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, will say, as he did last week, wholly sincerely, that the Government are very concerned about many aspects of the conduct of a minority of local authorities. It is certainly a minority that we are talking about. What worries us is that this minority will be given the opportunity for further misuse of their considerable powers. I beg to move.

3.38 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, knows that I am very sympathetic to what he has been saying about this matter and towards his motivation in putting down these amendments about which in due course he will have to decide what to do. These amendments take us back to the substance of the debate during the Committee stage last week. What the noble Lord describes is indeed an appalling attitude by an authority whose antics are bringing local government into ever-growing disrepute. I, for one, resent that very much. I know that there are many within local government, on all sides, who feel the same.

I emphasised last week and have to repeat that this Bill is of very limited nature and relates only to an extension of local authority powers to use Section 137 of the Local Government Act 1972 to finance land acquisition and building work. That is what this is about. The noble Lord, through his amendment last week, and now, wishes to qualify this extension. I explained then at length why this limited technical Bill was not the place to seek to deal with these general abuses that are taking place in the use of Section 137.

As for the Islington Borough Council proposals with regard to the Islington News Co-operative, I have since last week discussed this matter personally with the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock. Indeed, they drew my attention to a document giving the views of the Islington borough solicitor that a grant by the council could not be made to the co-operative towards the cost of acquisition or the cost of work until the Bill became law. Indeed, the noble Lord was kind enough to give me a copy.

I make no comment on the borough solicitor's view, but I should say yet again that the purpose of the Bill is restricted and limited. Part of Islington's proposals to support the co-operative clearly includes a grant for building works. The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, said during the Committee stage in moving his amendment that the borough solicitor was in no doubt that the council would be able to make a grant to the co-operative and much else besides, as soon as Parliament had passed the Bill which we are now considering. The "much else besides" is part of the wider problem and one which I have to say again, with some reluctance, I think cannot be dealt with in this Bill because it requires a careful and comprehensive approach if the Government come to the view that action is necessary.

The borough solicitor's advice, as I read it, relates only to the present area of doubt whereby the council is prevented from making a grant for building works. The council's general discretion under Section 137 as to whether or not payments to the co-operative are in the interests of the area or all or some of their inhabitants, is not affected by the Bill.

Yet at the same time it is fair to say that it is arguable that such a grant is open to objection: the issue is not as clear cut as it might seem. My department has had a number of dealings with the council on this proposal. It was the intention originally that the editorial advisory board of the paper should contain a local representative from the local Labour Party. This has now been withdrawn—they have gone back on that point. But the issue of financial support for the cooperative is perhaps not as clear and not as black and white as it might seem. In my view it is a matter which requires the most detailed examination.

As for the amendment itself, I can only repeat what I said during the Committee discussion. There are large and complex issues here. As with so many of the cases mentioned in discussing Section 137, there are other powers which are available to councils. I am not going to go over them now, because I do not think that this is the place to do so. However, I must say again that this is still largely a technical Bill and it is not the vehicle to tackle what are becoming, I readily concede, major and controversial issues. That is not to say—and I hope that your Lordships will have no doubts about this—that the Government are not alive to these difficult questions. I shall not weary the House with repetition. I am fully cognisant of the real concern that this misuse is causing, and therefore I say that we are conscious of the problems; we are watching the situation very carefully indeed; and we are considering the need for action. Beyond that, if your Lordships will allow, I do not want to go today.

Before I sit down, and perhaps on a happier note, while we are talking about urban development grants, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and all of your Lordships to bear with me for a moment, because this is a good opportunity for me to announce, very shortly, approval in principle to a further six schemes for urban development grant representing total investment of some £14 million secured—and this is the point—by just £2 million of public expenditure. I am placing details in the Library.

This latest batch of schemes highlights the important role which urban development grant can play in bringing new life to the inner cities by taking existing buildings which have fallen into disuse and disrepair and adapting them to the changing needs and circumstances of our inner urban areas. We have approved Wakefield's £400,000 scheme to convert a disused factory into small industrial units; West Yorkshire's £1.1 million project to turn an old school building in Bradford into managed workshops; and Newcastle's £1.6 million project to provide nursery industrial units, offices, shopping and leisure facilities in a former motor showroom.

Today's approvals also include major redevelopment proposals for derelict and unused sites in Dudley where 100 small industrial units will be built in the enterprise zone at an estimated cost of £5.8 million; and in Lambeth where up to £4.6 million will be spent in developing industrial warehouse units, recreational space and road improvements at Vauxhall Gardens.

Finally, there is a particularly encouraging housing initiative in Walsall where the Abbey National Building Society will be refurbishing six run-down houses as show houses to publicise the availability of building society funds for home improvements. As a result of this project Abbey National will be making £¾ million available for these purposes in areas where in the past building societies have been reluctant to lend.

The projects announced today bring the total number of schemes so far approved for urban development grant to 99. These schemes represent some £45 million of public expenditure generating about £185 million of private investment—about £230 million new capital investment in all.

I thank your Lordships for bearing with me while I made that announcement. I hope that your Lordships will feel that it is good news. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, will accept from me my sympathy with what they are seeking to bring to light. It is a matter which will not lie on the table as long as this kind of thing goes on. But I hope that they will feel able, perhaps, to withdraw their amendment and allow the Bill to do what it has to do as quickly and as effectively as it can.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I gained the impression that, despite his normally sunny nature, my noble friend Lord Bellwin in the earlier part of his speech was less happy than he usually is. He seemed to move rather enthusiastically over to the second half of his speech when he dealt with a number of excellent measures—excellent in themselves—but, of course, wholly irrelevant to this amendment.

I am bound to say that I was disturbed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, and I felt that what he said was entitled to very serious consideration in this House. It is well known that a number of local authorities in London—notoriously the borough of Islington—are using their financial powers in a way which many of us think involves abuse and which certainly involves political partisanship at the expense of the ratepayers. With very great respect to my noble friend Lord Bellwin, it is not a complete answer to that case to say that this is a technical Bill into which it is difficult to fit this provision. I have every sympathy, from my own past experience, for my noble friend. I have often in the past been in the situation which he is in this afternoon of getting near the end of a sitting and wanting to get a Bill through without amendment because otherwise the Bill will be delayed. That is a very real fact of ministerial life. However, if my noble friend is going to rely on that, then one could, I think, ask him to go a little further.

If his argument is that what the Islington Council are proposing to do with these funds is an abuse, but that this Bill is not the right machine with which do deal with it—which is what I understood his argument to be—then surely it is up to him to go a bit further and to indicate that in some early, future measure the Government will deal with this situation.

It is apparently generally well known that the Government have in mind a series of measures to deal with the abuse of local authority power and local authority control of finances both in London and elsewhere. It is common knowledge that Green Papers, White Papers and legislation on this matter are all queueing up in the pipeline.

If my noble friend were to say that in that future legislation it is at any rate probable that steps will be taken to prohibit the Islington Council in future from doing what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, says they are doing—which my noble friend did not contradict—then I should feel a good deal happier. However, simply to rest on the basis that, although what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, proposes is sensible and will restrain an abuse, this is the wrong piece of legislation to stop it, is, if he will allow me to say so, a somewhat mechanistic approach which carries awfully little conviction to me and I suspect to a number of other noble Lords. Therefore, I put it to my noble friend that either there is something to be said for his telling his departmental advisers not to worry too much about the timetable for this measure and accepting the amendment, or at least to say, "for these reasons I cannot do it in this Bill, but I will do it in another Bill before very long".

Lord Prys-Davies

My Lords, I very much welcome funds becoming available from a building society for the kind of project that the Minister has in mind. But can the noble Lord also say whether funds will also become available from the building societies to assist first-time buyers to buy old terraced cottages in the old industrial valleys—cottages with outside toilets—for which it is extremely difficult for first-time buyers to obtain a building society advance? Will facilities be available from the building societies to assist such borrowers to buy such properties?

Lord Rawlinson of Ewell

My Lords, before my noble friend replies I should like to support what was said by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. As I understand it, the Minister has seen the borough solicitor's legal advice. Presumably he himself has received legal advice. It may be that some lawyers are not always right; it may be that the advice which he has received does not coincide with that given to the borough. However, I should also like to hear a more certain statement from my noble friend that, come what may, attempts will be made to deal with what is without doubt an absolute public scandal.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will welcome the measures which the noble Lord took the opportunity of announcing. It is a pity that they should be marred by activities of the nature which my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich has revealed. I moved an amendment at Committee stage which was designed to limit the "political causes" usage of Section 137 money, and I thought at the time it could be improved upon and that with the noble Lord's help we might do it together. The noble Lord very courteously received my noble friend Lord Harris and myself, but he again made it clear that he saw no way forward in this Bill. At the same time he indicated that—and I divulge no secrets because he said it to your Lordships in the debate in Committee on 21st July at col. 1258 of Hansard: The authorities involved should not assume…that the Government do not have the will or the ability to rectify the problem". That surely means that the abuses by certain local authorities might well bring eventual retribution on the heads of many. This was a point that also exercised the noble Lord, Lord Spens. It is on these grounds that we are still unhappy with the agument that this is not the time or the place, because we fear an eventual holocaust from which all local authorities will suffer, most of them quite undeservedly.

That is why we still believe that it is well worth trying to limit the scope for abuse within the present Bill. It was, as I have already said, difficult to define "political causes", and now the amendment of my noble friend Lord Harris reduces the limitation even further by confining it to newspapers. On balance I now favour Amendment No. 2, which simply uses that word. I thought at first that free newspapers might be preferable on the ground that a broadsheet distributed free of ratepayers' expense would be likely to be of a propagandist nature; but there could also be free broadsheets for leisure activities, and indeed for other purposes. So it seems to me that the word "newspaper", tout court, would cover all eventualities.

Most newspapers, whether free or otherwise, are likely to have some political tinge—in fact they would be rather boring otherwise—and, if assisted from public funds, would be in unfair competition with other realistically priced newspapers, as is the case with the Islington Gazette. If they are put together within the local political apparatus by people who are on or closely associated with the council, and distributed at no charge by volunteers, they are not likely to add significantly to local employment, which we understand is one of the main purposes of the urban development schemes at which the Bill is directed.

In case it should be thought that Islington is the only case in point, there is of course already a free newspaper circulating in Lambeth very much on the lines of that which will be produced in Islington if this Bill is passed in its present form. I understand from Lambeth that that paper is being distributed under Section 142 of the Local Government Act, but that the Lambeth authorities are unhappy that they may not be properly covered by Section 142. If this Bill is passed I think that they will immediately seek to shelter their newspaper—like the Islington Co-operative's newspaper—under Section 137. On all those grounds I think that newspapers of whatever kind are particularly unsuited for Section 137 treatment.

Finally, if my arguments seem to be at all antilibertarian—the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, accused me of this in relation to a different amendment in Committee—I should like to remind your Lordships that failure to contain this particular abuse at this stage is likely to bring much more anti-libertarian legislation upon local authorities in the not so distant future. On those grounds I support the amendment.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, with leave of the House, first may I answer my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and say that perhaps what I said was irrelevant to the amendment, but it was certainly very relevant to urban development grants as a whole, which is really what we are discussing today. I am sure he would welcome the statement I made as to that.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Hear, hear!

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I should also like to commend to him the Hansard of the debate on this matter on the Committee stage, if he has not already read it, because at that time I perhaps spoke more fervently than I did today in expressing my agreement with the underlying motivations both behind this amendment and the amendments that were moved on that day by the noble Lord, Lord Spens. It is absolutely true that unless there is some relief from the kind of abuse of Section 137 that is taking place, the pressures build up and then a Government have to look to see what else is being done under Section 137. The danger to local government is that an opportunity to act in this discretionary way becomes restricted, fettered, or whatever.

That is why—and this applies to so many things that are happening in local government today—it has to be said (and I avoided saying it last week, but in view of the concern of my noble friends I should say it so that they know my feelings about it) that this minority of extreme Left-wing dominated councils is bringing much of the reputation of local government into disrepute in a way which appals most people of all political complexions in local government. If they do not stop doing this, then the challenge to Government to take action becomes unanswerable in the end. We must make sure that we do not act precipitately; that we are as patient as we can be; that we try to bring to the notice of those concerned just what they are doing to local government. Perhaps, above all, we must make sure that we can plead to the associations themselves at least to try to speak out and say something about this so that it is not always the opposition to them which has to speak out.

Having said all that, the fact is that for reasons which I explained before this particular Bill is needed quickly. It is to enable these very many good schemes to move on quickly. If we have to wait, if we have amendments and delay, it means that several months could be lost. I do not think that anybody wants that, least of all the movers of this amendment—I know, because I have spoken to them. I simply repeat to my noble friends in particular that we really are alert to what is happening. We are deeply concerned and we will not sit idly by for ever and watch it happen. But I appeal to your Lordships to let this measure go forward now as it is within this Bill and then we can look at it again to see—as we shall—where we can go from there, but on a carefully thought-through basis.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, will the noble Lord clarify one point? He will remember that we had a debate on this matter when we were discussing the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill, I think it was. Would he clarify the position of the district auditor in connection with matters of the kind complained of by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, yet again by leave of the House, the fact is that, as the noble Lord pointed out, the advice on this matter to the local authority by their solicitor is that with this Bill they would not be acting ultra vires; they would be, if you like, within their legal right to do something. That is something that concerns us, and that is why we are not pressing it. The point that the noble Lord is making, however, is that it may well work within the boundaries and yet be doing things which really are outside the conventions, if I may put it that way; outside the bounds of (dare I use the word?) morality in the context of what local government stands for, what it has always meant and what many of us hope it will go on meaning. That is what this concern is about.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, in replying briefly to this interesting debate I should first like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, for two things: first, for having received us at such short notice and for having had with my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock and myself such a helpful discussion yesterday; secondly, for having come back to the House today at some considerable personal inconvenience from a visit outside London in order to deal with the issues involved in this debate.

I do not think there is anything between the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, and myself and many others in this House, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Rawlinson, save for one thing: that is, that if this Bill is passed in its present form the one thing that we know as a matter of cold certainty is that the London Borough of Islington will within weeks be making these large sums of public money available to the Islington News Co-operative; that is quite clear. They have made their position wholly clear. I would deplore that. I would deplore it because it will be financing a party newspaper. I would deplore it because it could do grievous damage to a small weekly newspaper run by honourable men who have simply had a disagreement with the present majority party of the London Borough of Islington. I think that would be deplorable.

All I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, is that I have no doubt about his stand on this matter—he has made it clear on a number of occasions—and I regret the fact that my noble friend and I propose to divide the House. We propose to do so because (without, I hope, overstating the case or allowing any form of self-indulgence) we say that not only is there here an issue of propriety so far as public expenditure is concerned but also that a question of press freedom is involved.

Are we really going to have a situation in which politicians can in fact spend monies of these dimensions to support their political friends in this fashion? I think that that would be wholly wrong. Though I regret that we have to do this, and while also recognising that the prospects of success are extremely limited, because these are matters of high principle we believe that it is right to divide the House, and we therefore propose to do so.

4.4 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 57; Not-Contents, 105.

Airedale, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Amherst, E. Hayter, L.
Amulree, L. Hunt, L.
Banks, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Blyton, L. Jacobson, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Kagan, L.
Byers, L. Kilmarnock, L. [Teller.]
Caccia, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Chichester, Bp. Lawrence, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L.
Cudlipp, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Diamond, L. McNair, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Mar, C.
Ezra, L. Mayhew, L.
George-Brown, L. Molson, L.
Gladwyn, L. Ogmore, L.
Granville of Eye, L. Plant, L.
Hampton, L. Porritt, L.
Hankey, L. Portsmouth, Bp.
Hanworth, V. Reilly, L.
Rochester, L. Tordoff, L.
Seear, B. Walston, L.
Somers, L. Whaddon, L.
Spens, L. Wigoder, L. [Teller.]
Stamp, L. Willis, L.
Tanlaw, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L. Winstanley, L.
Taylor of Mansfield, L. Winterbottom, L.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Ironside, L.
Allerton, L. Kemsley, V.
Alport, L. Kilmany, L.
Ampthill, L. Lauderdale, E.
Auckland, L. Long, V.
Bancroft, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Bauer, L. McFadzean, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Bellwin, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Beloff, L. Mancroft, L.
Belstead, L. Mansfield, E.
Berkeley, B. Margadale, L.
Bessborough, E. Marley, L.
Bolton, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Brentford, V. Merrivale, L.
Brookeborough, V. Milverton, L.
Caithness, E. Minto, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Morris, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Mottistone, L.
Cathcart, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Chelwood, L. Moyne, L.
Clitheroe, L. Norfolk, D.
Cockfield, L. Northchurch, B.
Craigavon, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Craigmyle, L. Orkney, E.
Cromartie, E. Pender, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Quinton, L.
Daventry, V. Rankeillour, L.
Davidson, V. Reay, L.
De Freyne, L. Renton, L.
De La Warr, E. Rochdale, V.
Denham, L. [Teller.] St. Aldwyn, E.
Donegall, M. St. Davids, V.
Dormer, L. Sandford, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Sandys, L.
Ebbisham, L. Savile, L.
Eccles, V. Sempill, Ly.
Effingham, E. Sharples, B.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Faithfull, B. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Fortescue, E. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Strathcarron, L.
Gainford, L. Sudeley, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Swansea, L.
Glanusk, L. Swinfen, L.
Glenarthur, L. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Gore-Booth, L. Terrington, L.
Gridley, L. Tranmire, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Ullswater, V.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Ingrow, L. Whitelaw, V.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

4.13 p.m.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. I should like to say very quickly a thank you to those who have taken part in the discussions on this short Bill. I am sorry it was all done at such relatively short notice, but the need was for that, as has been expressed so often. It is a good thing that we have aired this matter at some length. I hope that good results will come forth from it. If they do, it will have been worthwhile. I am grateful to those who have taken part, and I hope that your Lordships will agree that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Bellwin.)

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, I shall be brief but we on this side of the Chamber would not wish to impede the passage of the Bill through the House. We see it as an attempt by the Government to ensure that local authorities do not fall foul of the law when making grants involving land acquisitions. We see it as an attempt to help local authorities still further to assist industry, as the Government are doing with the excellent urban development grant-aided schemes. We also welcome particularly the information which the noble Lord has given about the increased aid which is being given. Speaking personally, I am grateful that the West Midlands have been included in those extended schemes.

The problems of the inner cities are very serious and have been enumerated many times in this House. Unemployment in our cities is of the greatest concern because it is in what were known as our large industrial cities that the greatest unemployment is now taking place. Therefore we hope it will be sufficient for the next step forward by local authorities. We shall have to wait to see whether it makes any impact on the unemployment figures, but it is true to say that all the local authorities concerned will be looking forward to a greater push to try to help the unemployment situations in their areas. If that impetus takes place we shall all welcome it.

The Opposition hopes that any possible cutbacks which the Government might be thinking of making in the autumn regarding local government spending will not be at the expense of this type of expenditure. We welcome the proposals in the Bill.

On Question, Bill passed.