I beg to move, in page 2, line 9, to leave out "in the case of an outer London borough".
The ellect of this Amendment can be stated simply. The Clause, is it stands at present, provides in subsection (2) that the Minister shall bring the proposed new London borough into existence by means of what is called an incorporation order. Although they are all to be brought into existence by an incorporation order, a distinction is made between inner London and outer London boroughs, inner London boroughs being those covering areas now covered by the London County Council, and outer London boroughs being all the rest.
The Bill provides that in the case of an outer London borough, and only in such a case, the incorporation order shall make provision for a charter for this new outer London borough which charter
may include with any necessary modifications all or any of the provisions of the charter or any letters patent granted to any existing
borough the whole or part of which falls within the London borough's area.
That is to say, as the Bill now stands—and this is a proposition with which hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will disagree—if a new borough of Wembley and Willesden were to be created, that would be an outer London borough, and the incorporation order would make provision for a charter which may incorporate any of the provisions of any charter, and so forth, which Wembley or Willesden now enjoy. But with regard to an inner London borough—a borough covering an area now in the London County Council—there is to be no such charter.
The purpose of my Amendment is to remove that discrimination, to make certain that the incorporation orders of all the boroughs shall make provision for a charter. It is easy enough to see why the discrimination is in the Bill. It is because inner London boroughs are composed of what are now metropolitan boroughs which have no chanter, which are mere creatures of statute, whereas outer London boroughs, some—indeed, I think all—have a charter or some comparable instrument.
But although this is a distinction in their past, is it right, when it is proposed to create a totally new form of London government, to draw from the very beginning a distinction at least in dignity and possibly in powers as well between two groups of boroughs which are supposed to be in all other respects on an equal footing?
It is not a legitimate objection to my Amendment to say that if the Minister in the incorporation order for an inner London borough makes a charter he cannot incorporate An that charter the provisions of any existing charter because there is not such an existing charter for an inner London borough. As the Bill now stands he is not obliged to do that. The only thing he is obliged to do is to provide a charter. He may, when providing a charter, include in it provisions of existing charters. But that is not obligatory, provided the charter is obligatory for outer London boroughs. Including in the charter, with modifications, the provisions of existing charters is something that he may do.
We can, therefore, properly say that it would be reasonable and practicable to amend the Bill so that he has got to provide a charter for every borough, and where it is a borough composed of metropolitan boroughs which have no existing charter he neither can nor need include in the new charter provisions of existing ones. He has got to make a charter from the start.
There is nothing impracticable in the proposal, but the Government may ask, "Is it necessary? Metropolitan boroughs have apparently managed without charters during the sixty years of their existence. Now that they are to be amalgamated and made into proposed boroughs of the new Greater London, surely they can equally well get along without charters."
To counter that argument we have to consider, first, the question of dignity and, second, the question of powers. Even if it were a matter of dignity alone, there would be a case for equipping all the boroughs of the new Greater London with the same dignity and status. It is impossible to say that this dignity is such an empty thing that the inner London boroughs ought not to want it, because, if it is as empty as that, why is it preserved in the Bill for the outer London boroughs? I do not think it desirable that dignity should be disregarded in these circumstances.
All these new boroughs are being set up, and the very working of the Bill will depend upon a great deal of cooperation, not only co-operation between one inner London borough and another and between one outer London borough and another but co-operation between inner and outer. One should not create an arrangement from the start by which it is presumed that one set of them, the outer London boroughs, have some slight advantage in dignity or prestige over the inner London boroughs.
This might prove quite a vexing question in a great many matters. If the Bill is to work at all, there will have to be frequent conferences between different boroughs. Such questions as, for instance, which borough is to convene a conference will arise. If there are meetings of representatives, what will be the order of precedence? One reason why, in diplomatic affairs, there is careful observance of rules of protocol is that, if there are not clear rules of precedence and protocol when conferences are held, it is easy to give offence.
Presumably, the London boroughs will, for their own convenience, have to devise some such rules of precedence and protocol, not with too much fuss but with as much as is necessary. If there are to be such arrangements under the Bill as it now stands, the outer London boroughs will be able to say from the start that they must be regarded as in some sense senior or more dignified than the inner London boroughs because they have charters and the others have not. I suggest that this is not an inconsiderable argument.
There is also the question—perhaps more difficult to answer—as to whether it will make any difference to the powers of the boroughs that some will have a charter and some will not. Here I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), who has drawn my attention to what I regard as a significant passage in this connection in a judgment of Mr. Justice Bennett given in a case which went on from October till December, 1942, the case of the Attorney-General v. Leicester Corporation.
The point at issue in that case was whether the Leicester Corporation had power to do certain things, complaint having been made about its having done them. The relevant passage in Mr. Justice Bennett's judgment is as follows:
that is, Leicester Corporation—
were constituted by royal charter, and it is well settled law that, generally speaking, such a corporation can do anything that an ordinary individual may do".
That appears to be the situation as regards anything coming into existence by charter. A mere creature of statute, on the other hand, as a metropolitan borough is or as the inner London boroughs will be, according to the Bill as it now stands, can do only such things as the statute specifically permits it to do.
Very often, in local government, this does not matter much because, even if a local authority which owes its existence to a charter has, by virtue of that fact, power to do a good many things, it often just has not the money to do them. It has enough money to perform its statutory duties, but that is all. However, a situation might arise in which a borough had an exceptional source of funds. It might have revenues from property it owned, it might have benefactions, it might have funds other than those which come to a local authority in the ordinary way.
If such an authority is incorporated by charter, it can use its funds to do anything which an individual may lawfully do, but if it be a borough which owes its existence merely to statute, not being incorporated by charter, then it can do only those things which the statute expressly permits it to do. It seems to me, therefore, that, at first sight, and to a layman's judgment, a difference is being made between the outer and the inner London boroughs not only in dignity, but in powers, also. I can see no real justification for it, and it was for that reason that I moved the Amendment.
This is, I suggest, an Amendment which the Minister can concede without great difficulty. AH that is required of the Government, if they agree to it, is that they shall go to the little extra trouble of providing charters for the proposed 12 inner London boroughs as well as for the 20 outer London boroughs for which charters have to be provided anyhow. This, compared with the whole labour of reorganising London government, is not all that much.
As the Minister knows, we are now beginning the Committee discussion of a Bill on which there is no general agreement in the House. It is not our intention on this side to delay the passage of the Bill frivolously or vexatiously, but we are fully entitled to say that the Government cannot expect us to help its passage. We regard it as a Bill of which very grave criticisms can be made. Even if it is discussed, as we hope to discuss it, seriously and without frivolity, it is bound to take a long time.
In view of this, the Minister will, no doubt, be anxious to get as much good will as he can, or, at least, not by inconsiderate behaviour to turn the natural opposition which we feel to the Bill into a rancorous hatred of anything which may be proposed during the Committee stage. If that is what the Minister wants to do—and, if he is wise, it will be what he wants—he can take the opportunity at once of showing that he is ready to accept Amendments to the Bill.
Compared with the great issues which will come later, this is not a major question, but it is, I trust the Committee will agree, a matter worth some discussion. It has the further advantage that it gives the Minister the opportunity to show himself as conciliatory in regard to such parts of the Bill at least on which conciliation is at all possible.
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has raised an interesting point and, no doubt, my right hon. Friend will deal with the Amendment in detail in a few minutes.
As regards the reported case on which the hon. Gentleman relied, a passage from which he read, I submit that the whole gist of the decision, if I recollect aright, lies in the words "royal charter". The Minister will not create a royal borough. He will be creating a borough by charter under either the Municipal Corporations Act or succeeding Acts. If I recollect aright, the distinction relates to a royal charter, in other words, a common law charter which gives certain powers, whereas a charter issued under a statute, which is what the Minister would issue, would create a corporation which would be in no different position from that of any other borough or statutory creature.
I put two points in support of the Amendment. Later, when we come to the Schedule dealing with repeals, we shall, I understand, subject to anything we may learn—there is much to learn about some pants of the Bill and there are many questions to be asked—be wiping out, in effect, the London Government Acts.
If we do 'that and go into many aspects of the law to bring the present L.C.C. area into line with the provisions of the Local Government Act, 1933, where they differ from these provisions, we will remove what is to a certain extent an anomaly but something which has grown over a long period in the way that the L.C.C. and the metropolitan boroughs were created, I cannot see why we should maintain it in respect of the 12 new metropolitan boroughs because of a whole range of occurrences which happened in the past.
We are getting rid of many reasons which caused that situation to exist. We should put the L.C.C. area boroughs in the same situation as boroughs which will exist in future in the geographical counties of Essex, Middlesex, Surrey and Kent. We should put them on the same basis as boroughs in the rest of the country.
This Bill will mean the perpetuation of a system whereby boroughs situated in the heart of the Metropolis are in a different position from boroughs anywhere else. We shall see in years to come some of the existing small boroughs in other parts of the country demoted to parish councils with a mayor, but they will still have a charter. In the past, I have said that the powers of metropolitan borough councils are more akin to parish councils than to a non-county borough outside London. Huge metropolitan boroughs with populations of over 200,000 will not be allowed to have a charter. Some people have deep feelings on this matter. Some of the existing boroughs, with a population of 2,000, with a charter will be rural boroughs in future and will have the powers of parish councils, but will keep their charter, yet 200,000 people in the centre of London will be denied a charter. This is a denigrating aspect of local government in the Central London area.
I understand that one of the main reasons for the Bill, which, obviously, will occupy us for many weeks, is what is alleged to be a lack of interest in local government, not only in the Greater London area but all over the country. We are told that something will have to be done to liven it up, to stimulate more interest in it and, although I do not entirely agree with this, to try to persuade better people to stand for election to local authorities. If this is so, surely we should do everything we can to reorganise and reform local government in order to give local authorities the highest possible status. I cannot understand why we should perpetuate a system of having some second-class boroughs in central London compared with boroughs in the geographical counties of Essex, Kent, Middlesex and Surrey.
I hope that the Minister will accept this Amendment and will realise that the new metropolitan boroughs should all have the same status even if they do not all have exactly the same powers.
I am in a difficulty here. I have been delving as deeply as I could into this very tangled field, and I intended to try to meet the Amendment by a direct acceptance of it on behalf of the Government because I recognise that the question of dignity is important. But, unfortunately, I have to tell the Committee that, with the best will in the world, it is beyond my power to advise it to accept the Amendment.
Let me explain the problem. As the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) clearly said, there is this distinction. The metropolitan boroughs, which are the elements composing the inner London boroughs, are the creatures of statute and owe their origin to an incorporation order under statute, whereas each of the outer London boroughs contains at least one unit of local government which has been the recipient of a charter from the Sovereign. It is not for a Minister to ignore that one particular group contains an element which had a charter nor to intrude on the prerogative by laying down in a Bill that a charter should be given when no charter has been given before.
If it were that problem alone, I should not be in difficulty. It would be possible for me to say, "This is not for the Government, nor for the House, but there should be no difficulty, in due course, in a petition being made by an inner London borough when created". The problem is that the prerogative is not used to reproduce provisions that have already been set out, as they have been for the inner London boroughs in the incorporation orders originally setting up the metropolitan borough councils. Obviously, the charters which matter so much to those who hold them would not be considered so important if they were merely rubber stamps reproducing automatically provisions that had been passed, in the case of the metropolitan borough councils, by statute at the end of the last century.
This is a real difficulty, and I can comfort the Committee only by saying that there is certainly no distinction in dignity intended either by the Bill or by the Government between inner and outer London boroughs. I hope that, having explained the genuine difficulty, the Committee will not emphasise a distinction that is not intended.
I am advised that there is absolutely no difference in powers between the inner London boroughs and the outer London boroughs as proposed by the Bill. The hon. Member for Fulham gave a quotation. He is not, I think, a practising lawyer. I was trained in Roman law many years ago, but I am not a practising lawyer and I must lean on the advice given me that there is no difference in substance in the powers of the inner London boroughs.
I hope that the Committee will accept that, with the best will in the world, I cannot advise it to accept the Amendment. It is open to any citizen of Her Majesty or to any group of citizens constituted, as they will be, in inner London boroughs to petition for some mark of favour. It is not for me to go further than to say that or to offer any prospect. I hope that hon. Members will recognise that there is a real difficulty which cannot be overcome. The heart of the difficulty is that the prerogative is not used to reproduce provisions that have already been made.
I am wondering how it is possible to justify rejecting the idea behind the Amendment, because there is no doubt that a borough which has a charter has come into existence by a very different process from the metropolitan boroughs, which were once described to me by Lord Morrison of Lambeth, before he was ennobled, as being little better than glorified parish councils.
The obtaining of a charter is a process which, outside London, has been the ambition of most thriving and growing local authorities, and the incorporation of the inhabitants after an inquiry by the Privy Council is undoubtedly a recognition of sound local government in the area which receives the charter. I took part in all the preliminaries for the obtaining of a charter for the Borough of Epsom and Ewell, which has the great distinction of being the only borough to be torn in two parts by the Bill.
To obtain the charter, we had to present a petition from the inhabitants and from the then urban district council An inquiry was held by the Privy Council, not by the Minister of Health. In the end, having proved that we had the resources of men and money that would enable local government to be adequately conducted under a charter and having proved that we had taken certain steps with regard to the maintenance of the amenities of the area and for building up adequate public services, the inspector sent down by the Privy Council recommended to 'the Crown that the charter should be granted. There were then negotiations between the Privy Council and the representatives of the borough as to the exact form that the charter should take.
There is no doubt that that gives to local government in an area a standing that is not to be obtained merely by calling the place a borough. It is an incorporation of the inhabitants. The peculiar thing is that the incorporation is of the mayor, aldermen and burgesses. It is not incorporation of the town council. It is the incorporation of the inhabitants and gives them a recognition of sound government in the past and conveys the belief of the Privy Council that that will be carried on under the new status that the inhabitants are to receive.
It is important to recognise that it is not the town council, but 'the inhabitants, who are incorporated—the mayor, aldermen and burgesses. Apparently, the only job of the councillors under the charter is to elect the aldermen. It is an interesting survival of the way in which great cities have been administered during the ages down to the Municipal Corporations Act, 1835. I hope that the Minister will be able to find a way in which this peculiar and valuable status can be conferred on these great new boroughs with a quarter of a million people that he is bringing into existence by the Bill.
I wonder whether a statement could be included in the Bill that it shall be the duty of the new Council, when it comes into existence, to apply to the Privy Council for a charter, to permit the continuation of the process which, undoubtedly, can be followed now. I suppose there is no reason why the Borough of Paddington should not apply to be made a borough under the ordinary process that I have described. I hope that the Minister will not give up and leave us with the anomaly of having the inner part of London unincorporated with the outer fringe incorporated.
The right hon. Gentleman speaks with such authority that when he makes a mistake I must correct him at once. The inner London boroughs will be full boroughs in the sense that all their inhabitants will be incorporated. They will be incorporated under the incorporation order. They will not be, as the metropolitan borough councils were, purely incorporated as to their councils.
I still hope that they will be incorporated through the Privy Council, which is the essential part of incorporation in the rest of the country. It is securing the recognition by the Privy Council and, through the Privy Council's recommendation, by the Crown of the status and standard of the government that has been carried on in that area.
From his experience as a Privy Councillor, can my right hon. Friend say whether, in considering such an application, the Privy Council would give weight to the support that the Minister of a Department might give to an application? When the Minister seems favourably disposed, I wonder whether his support would weigh with the Privy Council.
From my experience, what happens is that the various Government Departments are consulted. If they object on the ground that in their view a district has not been well governed, they can appear at the inquiry into incorporation and can state their views.
I am certain that both sides of the House of Commons are anxious that in the new local government of Greater London we shall have the advantage of as high a status, in the eyes of all the people who are competent to express an opinion of the bodies to be created, as we can get. I hope that the Minister will not despair of finding a way in which, on the recommendation of the Privy Council, a charter may be submitted to the Crown and of ensuring that these boroughs are encouraged to present such a petition.
I do not consider that the Minister's arguments hold water. My view is that it is quite possible to give effect to the wishes of the Committee in this matter and that the difficulties suggested by the Minister are not real.
It is true that historically, some of the boroughs outside London have had charters and that the boroughs inside London are metropolitan boroughs created by Act of Parliament. In the Bill, we are proposing to create an entirely new set of boroughs. For example, as the Minister has said, it is not the case that all the new boroughs have a charter with respect to the new areas. The Minister's words were that all the outer boroughs contain some unit to which a charter was given.
Those units, however, are being destroyed. Therefore, the validity of the charter to one of those units is being destroyed because the unit itself is ceasing to exist and a new area of local government is coming into existence to which any existing charter ceases to have application. Therefore, the idea that there is some sanctity in a charter given in the past to an area of local government which will now cease to exist as an independent area must be completely wrong.
The second fallacy is this. The Minister has referred to the prerogative. Either Parliament, through the Minister, can make provision for inner boroughs as well as outer boroughs having a Charter, or it cannot. Having heard the Minister's speech, I am not clear what the position is. I should have agreed with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that hitherto, the granting of a charter was an act of the Privy Council and not something that was done by Parliament.
I entirely agree. Therefore, I ask myself what is the meaning of the words in the Bill that the Minister shall make provision for a charter for a borough. That is entirely novel. Surely, this is the first time that Parliament has been asked to enact that a Minister shall make provision for a charter for a borough.
Does that mean that in future the discretion of the Crown, on the advice of the Privy Council, depends on the whim of the Minister, whether he will or not ask for the provision of a charter for a borough? It may mean that. If it does mean that, then it is equally possible for the Minister to make such provision in the case of an inner London borough as for an outer London borough. Therefore, it is complete nonsense for the Minister to say that what he proposes to do for outer London boroughs he cannot do for inner London boroughs because he is prevented by the royal prerogative. But even if it were necessary to refer to the prerogative it would not be the first occasion on which Ministers had advised Her Majesty to renounce the prerogative in order that a sensible and proper provision might be made in an Act of Parliament.
It does not seem to me that the Minister has really given any thought to this matter at all. It is quite obvious, as my hon. Friend argued so cogently, and as, I think, the Minister concedes that it is abundantly desirable that in these new provisions we are making about the greater London area there should be an absolute equality of status, of power, of dignity, and of everything else, between all the various units which are going to be incorporated in the London Government area.
For us to start out on the footing that there is some discrimination between the inner London boroughs and the outer London boroughs will create an invidious atmosphere from the start, and that would be regretted—certainly by the inner London boroughs and, I think, by the outer London boroughs as well—and would lead to all kinds of difficulties for fruitful co-operation.
Let me finish. The Minister had plenty of time to think about it. After all, if he has not thought about it, it is our duty to help him to think about it.
I am arguing that there are not the difficulties he appears to think there are, and that he has not given enough thought to the appropriate machinery to give effect to what my hon. Friend is proposing and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields is supporting and which he himself concedes is desirable. This is another illustration of the failure of the Government to think things out before they bring in Bills.
I am anxious to get this right. It seems to me a comic idea that even in regard to the outer London boroughs the Minister should ask Parliament to give him power to make provision by a charter for the boroughs. What is to happen under the First Schedule with regard to a new unit which incorporates three existing chartered boroughs? Are all those charters to be torn up? Will the Minister ask the Privy Council to make one new charter? If he can do that, why cannot he do it for the new joint borough of Islington and Finsbury or any of the other new inner boroughs?
Take the borough of my right hon. Friend. What sense does it really make in my right hon. Friend's case to say, with such natural pride, that the Borough of Epsom and Ewell has a charter, a very deserved charter, if this borough is to be cut up? What is the use of the charter? Will it be preserved for half the borough which remains? If Parliament can cut up a chartered borough into two, does each separate part have a separate charter afterwards?
If, under the Schedule, we have another local government unit which incorporates a chartered borough with an urban district, and if the borough prides itself on having and, no doubt, fought bard to get, its charter, is that chartered borough now to share the advantages of that charter with an unchartered pant of the area? That may be a very sensible thing to do. It is not an obviously sensible thing to do, but if it is something which the Minister can do with regard to provisions in areas in outer London he can equally do it in regard to the inner boroughs.
That is the force of the argument that we are trying to put forward, and unless we can have a more satisfactory and a more convincing answer from the Minister about his willingness to accept the Amendment I shall share the view of my hon. Friend that we shall not make much progress with the Bill.
I will try to help the Committee once again. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), in his intervention, did not seem to recognise one of the difficulties here, namely, that the prerogative is not, I understand, used to give a charter where a working charter has already been given, as was done in 1899. That is the difficulty. That is why it is not just a simple case of saying that the inner London boroughs will be able, as Epsom and Ewell was able, to make petition with the same sort of prospect of consideration by the Privy Council and then advice to the Sovereign. On the other hand the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) does not recognise that the wording of subsection (2, b) gives the Minister—the Government—through Parliament the power to give a charter to a borough only because it already, in part of it, has a charter.
Of course, when it comes to the incorporation order, part of it will be done and, explicitly, as a charter in 'the new outer London borough, since the issue between an unchartered and a chartered borough is whether there is a Charter or not. It is also an issue as to what is contained in the charter, but the principle we are discussing is not what is or is not contained in the charter but whether there is a charter or not. I still repeat that that is our real difficulty.
With respect, I have tried to study the possibilities. I will try to study them again. If it will be any satisfaction to the Committee I will undertake to do my very best during the time that lies ahead to look into 'this as deeply as I can, but it must be understood that I cannot give any hope or prospect ultimately since this is a very complicated and difficult subject, and we must all be very careful not to intrude upon the prerogative. What is at issue here is not only whether a borough has a charter or not but the fact that the charter comes from the Crown on advice of the Privy Council. I remain willing, if the Committee wishes, to undertake to study it again, if my undertaking is interpreted in the context of 'the words I have used.
A slight improvement and I thank the Minister for it; but he has been in two moods this afternoon, I think, so far. His original speech was helpful so far as it went, and was obviously intended to be sympathetic in tone, but some of us were rather puzzled to see him vigorously indicating dissent, as HANSARD puts it, when the suggestion was made from this side of the Committee that when the Privy Council is considering how the Sovereign should be advised on the granting of a charter there would presumably be consultation with the responsible Minister, that is, with himself. Surely that must be so?
The Minister misses my point. How can the Privy Council advise intelligently unless it knows, by consulting the responsible Minister, whether local government has been efficiently administered in that area? How? The right hon. Gentleman said that that was one of the conditions, did he not? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Somebody did. He did not indicate dissent at that point, and I think that it must be so. It is only common sense.
A charter would not be given to some absolutely squalid little borough which had been maladministering its affairs for centuries. There must be some investigation. How does the Privy Council investigate except through the Minister and his Department? It cannot merely send for the local town clerk and ask him, "Is yours an efficient local government? "He will not answer, "It is not—and it is very corrupt."
I hope that the Minister will take this matter seriously because it is clear, if one reads the subsection with care, that he is, in effect, abolishing royal charters altogether in so far as they apply to any part of the area in question. He is turning royal charters into ministerial charters. There is no doubt about it. That is what those words mean. Indeed, the word "charter" in this subsection is not even prefixed by "royal", as one might expect it to be if the argument which he has been using is a sound one.
We have all sorts of charters—including industrial charters and housewives charters. The word "charter" does not of itself mean "royal charter". No doubt the word has been left out of this subsection because he is turning these royal charters into ministerial charters. So I cannot see why he should not go a little further and, instead of leaving it to the burgesses to petition the Crown for their charters, himself take the initiative and tender advice to Her Majesty—'Which is the right of the Government of the day to do on almost any matter—and thus redress this slight anomaly.
In the Seventh Schedule to the 1958 Act, special provision was made for a borough included in a rural area to carry out the functions which it had under its charter. If it were necessary to include such special provision then, what is the difficulty now concerning these proposed new boroughs? If this Amendment is not accepted, the position of these new London boroughs will be as it would have been in those oases without the special provision of the 1958 Act.
It was decided in 1958, to give the boroughs then involved this special provision because the Government wanted to offer something to their inhabitants to salve their wounds at being put into other districts. In this case the concensus in the Committee is that we do not want distinctions. The case has been well argued for there not being any and I cannot see that the Minister's case is valid. This is a quite unnecessary provision. The simplest way would be to leave these words out of the subsection.
The 1958 Act makes exactly the same distinction in its treatment, on the one hand, of boroughs which are merged with other boroughs—being boroughs they have charters and will therefore continue to have them—and, on the other hand, of urban districts made into county boroughs where the urban district, not having had a charter but having been incorporated, may not receive a charter. There is exactly the same distinction, therefore, in the 1958 Act as there is here.
I repeat my undertaking. I will do my best to see whether there is any way through this problem, and will report back to the Committee. I have honestly tried to warn the Committee that my undertaking must be made cautiously and have made it clear that I cannot be very hopeful of being able to find a way through. But I hope that the Amendment will be withdrawn in the light of what I have said.
I have listened with great interest to the Minister and I am sure that he is trying to be helpful and has treated the Committee with great candour. The trouble is that his candour has disclosed some of the weakness of his position. As I understand it, his argument has been that he could not put into the Bill a provision that he should provide inner London boroughs with charters because, he says—and I hope I paraphrase correctly—it is not for him to destroy existing charters nor to create new ones where none existed. For that reason, apparently, he could not put charters for the new inner London boroughs into the Bill. But in the Bill he takes power to create new charter rights.
As has been pointed out, here is the phenomenon of a Minister being expressly empowered by a Bill to provide charters for new boroughs. It is true that such charters would be on the ruins of old charters and boroughs, but they really would be new charters. He is creating new charters for outer London boroughs, however. Thus he cannot really say that it is not in his power or that it is not appropriate for him to create charters. He is doing it. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say that when the Bill was through possibly the inhabitants of the new inner London boroughs could petition for charters.
The hon. Gentleman has missed out one step. I think he would agree that I said that since the inner London boroughs will contain no unit that ever had a charter since they were incorporated and since charters did not act as rubber stamps and merely reproduce what had been done before, it was not possible, I am advised, for them to be given charters.
I said that it would be open to any body of citizens to petition for a mark of favour or distinction. I did not say that it was open to them with any hope to petition for a charter in these cases.
What is to prevent this Committee from providing that they should have the right to do so, if that is the only way they can have equality with outer London boroughs?
I think it is clear what the Minister has said. They can petition for some mark of favour but it would be hopeless for them to petition for a charter. That is very important. It means that unless we make some alteration in the Bill they will have no hope of obtaining charters either now or at any other time. I cannot quite understand the nature of the undertaking the Minister has given to the House. Is he undertaking that he will try to see if there is any way in which these boroughs can get chanters?
He is undertaking that. But he was demonstrating with great emphasis just now that it was quite impossible for them to get charters. Which actually is the case? I think that his solution of some special mark of favour other than a charter is really a non-starter. That, if anything, will rub in the difference between these boroughs and other boroughs. We are thus left with the position that it is the Minister's view that charters cannot be granted merely to rubber stamp something in cases where the work of a charter has already been done by some other means. I question whether that is the position which arises under the Bill.
It is true that the work of providing, say, Fulham and Hammersmith as separate boroughs with the power to govern themselves has already been done by Statute; but the Bill creates a new entity, a new borough, combining Fulham and Hammersmitlh, just as it creates a new borough combining Bethnal Green and those areas which go with it. Sometimes it creates new boroughs which cut existing boroughs into pieces.
The work of providing the new boroughs with a form of government has not been done. The work of providing the present metropolitan boroughs with a form of government has been done. The work of providing the new London boroughs with a form of government will not have been done until the Bill is passed, and the Bill can provide for them, as it provides for the outer London boroughs, that it should be done by charter.
Therefore, I do not accept that the Minister is correct when he says that they could not get a charter because the work has already been done by other means. However, if he is correct—and he seems to be very definite about it—it is out of the question for them to be able to get a charter. His undertaking amounts to saying that he will try his very best to do something which he has demonstrated to us as being impossible. I do not think that he will believe that we are cantankerous when we say that that is not satisfactory.
As the Amendment has taken more time and trouble than I had hoped, may I suggest a way out? It is that we accept that the Minister is to try, difficult as it will be—and he thinks it more difficult than we do and he thinks it impossible; but to try is praiseworthy—to find a way out. Let him accept the Amendment Which will put on him a statutory duty to do something which we think ought to be done and which we think can be done, but which he thinks cannot be done.
then came back on Report and said, "Since I have been saddled with it as a statutory obligation, I have had to search fox ways and means of doing it, but even in an Act of Parliament it is impossible", we should not grumble nor take too long to accept an Amendment to take it out again. He loses nothing by giving us that advance pledge and it would be an encouragement to those hon. Members who want to prevent the inner London boroughs from starting Life with a slur and indignity on them as compared with their fellows.
We all share the same objective. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has taken an ingenious initiative and I will try to respond similarly. Whether he and his hon. Friends decide to withdraw or to press the Amendment, I undertake that I shall do my very best to find a way round the difficulty. However, in this uncertain and delicate matter I cannot advise the Committee to accept the Amendment. I hope that it will be withdrawn, but, withdrawn or not, I shall seek to the best of my ability to find a way round the difficulties, which we all acknowledge.
In the Local Government Act, 1958, similar problems were anticipated. There are three lines in Section 45 which read:
The enabling provisions of this Part of this Act shall be deemed to be in addition to, and not in derogation of, the powers exercisable by Her Majesty by virtue of Her royal prerogative.
I should have thought that we could have included something about the royal prerogative and say that it was in addition to it and not in derogation of it.
|Division No. 24.]||AYES||[5.34 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Braine, Bernard|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Bidgood, John C.||Brewis, John|
|Allason, James||Biffen John||Bromley -Davenport, Lt. Col. Sir Walter|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Biggs-Davison, John||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)|
|Balniel, Lord||Bishop, F. P.||Bryan, Paul|
|Barber, Anthony||Bossom, Hon. Clive||Buck Antony|
|Barter John||Bourne-Arton, A.||Bullard, Denys|
|Batsford, Brian||Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Burden, F. A.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Box, Donald||Butcher, Sir Herbert|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos & Fhm)||Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Holland Philip||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hollingworth, John||Partridge, E.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Holt, Arthur||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hooson, H. E.||Peel, John|
|Chataway, Christopher||Hopkins, Alan||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Chichester-Clarke, R.||Hornby, R. P.||Pilkington, Sir Richard|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt- Hon. Dame P.||Pitman, Sir James|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence(Portsmth, W.)||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Pott, Percivall|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hughes-Young, Michael||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John|
|Cordeaux Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pym, Francis|
|Cordle, John||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Corfield, F. V.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Ramsden, James|
|Costain, A. P.||James, David||Rawlinson, Sir Peter|
|Coulson, Michael||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Renton, Rt. Hon. David|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Crawley, Aldan||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Crosthwaite-Evre, col. sir Oliver||Joseph. Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Roots, William|
|Cunningham, Knox||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Curran, Charles||Kershaw, Anthony||Russell, Ronald|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kimball, Marcus||St. Clair, M.|
|Dance James||Kirk, Peter||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kitson, Timothy||Sharpies, Richard|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lagden, Godfrey||Shaw, M.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Lambton, Viscount||Shepherd, William|
|Doughty, Charles||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Drayson, C. B.||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Smith Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|du Cann, Edward||Leavey, J. A.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Duncan, Sir James||Leburn, Gilmour||Speir, Rupert|
|Eden, John||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Elliot, Capt Walter (Carshalton)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Elliott, R.W. (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Lilley, F. J. P.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Stodart, J. A.|
|Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Litchfield, Capt. John||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Lloyd Rt.Hn. Geofrrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Fell, Anthony||Longbottom, Charles||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Finlay, Graeme||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Loveys, Walter H.||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lubbock, Eric||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Foster, John||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Teeling, Sir William|
|Fraser, Rt.Hn. Hugh (Stafford&Stone)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Temple, John M.|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Mac Arthur, Ian||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Gammans, Lady||McLaren, Martin||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)|
|Gardner, Edward||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute&N. Ayrs)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Ian (Enfield, W.)||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Godber, J. B.||McMaster, Stanley R.||Turner, Colin|
|Goodhart, Philip||Macpherson, Rt.Hn. Niall (Dumfries)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Goodhew, Victor||Maddan Martin||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Maginnis, John E||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Gough, Frederick||Markham Major Sir Frank||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Green, Alan||Marshall, Douglas||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Marten, Neil||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Walder, David|
|Gurden, Harold||Mawby, Ray||Walker, Peter|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wall, Patrick|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mills, Stratton||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Montgomery, Fergus||Webster, David|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Morgan, William||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hastings, Stephen||Morrison, John||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Hay, John||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Wise, A. R.|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Hendry, Forbes||Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Hiley, Joseph||Nugent, Rt. Hon. sir Richard||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Woollam, John|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Hocking, Philip N.||Page, John (Harrow, West)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. J. E. B. Hill and Mr. Rees.|
|Abse, Leo||Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.|
|Ainsley, William||Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Bence, Cyril|
|Albu Austen||Bacon, Miss Allot||Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E)||Beaney, Alan||Benson, Sir George|
|Blackburn, F.||Hilton, A. V.||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Blyton, William||Holman, Percy||Peart, Frederick|
|Boardman, H.||Houghton, Douglas||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Leics, S.W.)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Boyden James||Hoy, James H.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Probert, Arthur|
|Bradley, Tom||Hughes Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hunter, A. E.||Rankin, John|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Hynd, H. (Accrlington)||Reynolds, C. W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Rhodes, H.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Callaghan, James||Janner, Sir Barnett||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Carmichael, Nell||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Jeger George||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Chapman, Donald||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Ross, William|
|Cliffe, Michael||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Collick, Percy||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Short, Edward|
|Crosland, Anthony||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Silverman, Julian (Aston)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Kelley, Richard||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Darling, George||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||King, Dr. Horace||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lawson, George||Small, William|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Ledger, Ron||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Deer, George||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Snow, Julian|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Dempsey, James||Upton, Marcus||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Diamond, John||Loughlin, Charles||Steele, Thomas|
|Dodds, Norman||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Driberg, Tom||McCann, John||Stonehouse, John|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||MacColl, James||Stones, William|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||McInnes, James||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McKay John (Wallsend)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||McLeavy, Frank||Swain, Thomas|
|Evans, Albert||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Fitch, Alan||Mallalleu, E. L. (Brigg)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Manuel, Archie||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Mapp, Charles||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mason, Roy||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Thornton, Ernest|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mellish, R. J.||Tomney, Frank|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mendelson, J. J.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|George,Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn)||Millan, Bruce||Warbey, William|
|Ginsburg, David||Milne, Edward||Weitzman David|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mctchison, G. R.||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Gourlay, Harry||Moody, A. s.||Whitlock, William|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Moyle, Arthur||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Grey, Charles||Neal, Harold||Willey, Frederick|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Oram, A. E.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Oswald, Thomas||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Gunter, Ray||Owen, Will||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Padley, W. E.||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Paget, R. T.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hannan, William||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Woof, Robert|
|Harper, Joseph||Pargiter, G. A.||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Healey, Denis||Parker, John||Zelliacus K.|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Parkin, B. T.|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Pavitt, Laurence||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Redhead and Dr. Broughton,|
Yes, Sir Samuel. The purpose of the Amendment, which I hope will commend itself both to the Committee and the Government, is a fairly simple one. It is to a degree quite important, because it goes to the heart of representative local government. When the Government were advancing reasons for the Bill and for the change in the structure of the Greater London area, one of the things that they said they wanted to do—and this was also implicit in the recommendation of the Royal Commission—was to make local government more vigorous and interesting, and to attract people of the highest quality to the service of the local authorities.
I thought that both the Royal Commission and the Government were a little back-handed to the existing councillors who do all the work, but giving full merit to the positive side of the Government's argument, as the Bill is now drafted they are doing a disservice to the representative character of government as we have known it in the London area. If my Amendment were accepted, it would remove the limitation of 60 councillors which the Government have thought fit to incorporate in the Clause.
I suppose that that number has been chosen because of its metropolitan borough association. I do not know. If that is the reason, it is rather a silly one. Perhaps we can be given the reason why the Government think that this is an appropriate number. In seeking to remove the limitation, neither I nor my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) is saying that some councils with smaller populations will necessarily require 60 councillors. All that we are seeking to do is to ensure that in some of these new and much larger London boroughs there will not be what seems to us an inflexible and artificial limit.
The new boroughs are to be much larger than the metropolitan boroughs, and they are to have much bigger populations. They will also have new functions. Indeed, some populations of the new Greater London boroughs will exceed 300,000, which is a large figure. By limiting the number of councillors to 60 for these much larger boroughs, the Government are at one blow taking away a considerable number of representatives from the people living in the Greater London area. This is a great disservice to local government.
Both in local and in national affairs we are living in an age of increasingly complex social machinery. Citizens often feel lost, and they need help. In the past we have always been able to tell them, in matters affecting local as well as national government, "If you have a problem of this kind go to see your local councillor". The fact is that the Bill as it is now drafted will make it much more difficult for people to do that very thing. It is sometimes now difficult for electors to contact their local councillor. If the number of electors which a local councillor is to represent becomes much larger and the distance which electors have to go to contact him becomes greater, the difficulty will be increased in a way which we think unnecessary and wrong.
What is the effect of the Government's proposals as compared with the present situation in the Greater London area? According to Circular 43/62 which the Ministry sent to us—may I say how much I appreciated the document which the Minister has sent to all members of the Standing Committee; I feel that while we were possibly taking part in the "funeral" ceremony of London government the Government have tried to do what they could for the convenience of the "mourners". Looking at that circular, one sees that the population of the new unit with which we are dealing in this Bill is 7,999,416. At this stage I might comment that to talk of a population of nearly 8 million is in itself somewhat curious when we are discussing local government. But that is, in fact, the figure.
Excluding county councillors in both the comparisons I want to make—because I wish them to be exact—at present in this area there are 2,995 councillors—that is, borough councillors, urban district councillors and councillors of that category. On the average they represent 2,670 electors. This is a fairly small number. It means that a borough or a district councillor has an opportunity to get to know a great number of his electors and the electors have the opportunity and ought more easily to get to know their councillor. As the Bill is drawn, and with the artificial limit imposed by the Government, the number of borough and district councillors will be reduced from 2,995 to 1,920, a reduction of over 1,000 in the elected representatives in the Greater London area. As I said, this goes to the very heart of representative local government, and I shall require substantial reasons to be advanced for agreeing to this reduction in the number of public representatives in that area as is proposed in the provisions of this Bill.
A reduction from 2,995 councillors to 1,920 means that the representative electorate is increased to 4,170. That is not an unduly high figure, but it is certainly not as convenient a number as 2,670, the average electorate which a borough or a district councillor now represents. This, it seems to me, must worsen the relationship between councillor and elector. It widens the gap, and I think that unfortunate. I see no reason for it. This Amendment, while giving discretion to the Minister by allowing him flexibility, will, in respect of many of the large boroughs, provide for a number of councillors in excess of 60 where it is felt that the size of the population and the functions to be performed would justify a greater number.
I have dealt with the democratic theory of the matter, which I consider of importance. We require more people rather than fewer to represent the common man in this age of complexity. But there is a second reason which is of practical importance in connection with the outer London boroughs which, under the terms of the Bill, will become full education authorities with responsibility for the day-to-day management of schools and institutions of technical education and for many other matters.
I have been a member of an education committee. I do not know how many other hon. Members have had that responsibility. It is a pretty heavy responsibility if taken seriously, as I am sure the representatives of all boroughs would wish to take it. Some of the new Greater London boroughs will have more than 40 schools in their areas, which in itself means considerable work. The boroughs will have to deal with the day-to-day matters connected with those schools, with staffing problems and, in relation to Middlesex and London, with entirety new responsibilities.
The boroughs which become education authorities straight away could advance a strong practical case for having more people to do the work. This would fit in very well with paragraph 518 of the Royal Commission's Report, which states:
Among those who are interested in local government at all there is in general a very strong interest in education. It is clear to us that a large number of councillors would like to serve on education committees and would like to regard the schools and the education service generally as one of their chief interests.
Some of us have said that, however laudable this sentiment may be and however much councillors may want to do this sort of work, it is hardly a justification for upsetting the structure of local government in the Greater London area. I have developed that argument before now and there is no need for me to do so again on this occasion. But the Royal Commission has said that if it is desired to create an interest in local government councillors should be allowed to serve on education committees.
There are arguments against it. But having accepted the findings of the Royal Commission and argued that education ought to be the resposibility of the boroughs, why should the number of councillors be limited in the case of authorities which will straight away become education authorities? All hon. Members with practical experience know that this is a service which requires a large number of active members not only to sit on the committees but to do other work outside in the schools and other institutions. I hope that the Minister will consider the principle of having a convenient number of people to represent the citizens. I should have thought that was something which was very close to the heart of a Conservative. We often hear the cry from hon. Members opposite that the local people should decide, that 'the man in the town should make the decision and not Whitehall. So why on earth should the Government cut down by over 1,000 the number of councillors in the Greater London area?
If the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) were accepted, it would give some flexibility. But I should like the matter left to the Minister, on the strict understanding that in the case of the large boroughs with a population of more than 300,000 the number of 60 should be removed, so that additional councillors could be elected to really represent the common man and take a proper part in the discharge of the new education function.
I appreciate that the idea behind this Amendment is the same as the idea which was in my mind when I tabled the Amendment in my name which appears on the Notice Paper. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) told us that under this provision the average electorate represented by the councillors of the boroughs in Greater London would number 4,170. He might have added that some councillors will be representing a larger number than that.
Anyone who has served on a local authority will agree that one of the most important tasks of a councillor is to maintain a day-to-day contact with the people in his ward. If a councillor does his job conscientiously, he will spend his spare evenings visiting his electors and explaining to them the reasons behind council policy. In return he will hear their views on the matter, which should be of concern to a local authority. I think that the larger the local authority and the smaller the number of councillors serving on it, the more difficult will this task become.
The Amendment in my name is designed to mitigate some of the ensuing remoteness of local government from the ordinary man-in-the-street. At the same time we did not feel that it was wise to establish vast and unwieldy councils by unduly increasing the number of councillors who serve on those bodies. This increase from 60 to 70 is therefore a compromise between having a very large number of councillors who might find it difficult to get enough work to do and having so few that they are not able to perform the tasks which are such an essential part of the councils' work.
Incidentally, this increase from 60 to 70 would mean that if we subsequently decided not to have aldermen on the local authorities—and I hope I am not transgressing the rules of order by referring to this—we should still have the same numbers serving on a local authority as before, because a later Clause provides that there should be one alderman to six councillors. That is another reason why I chose this figure. I think my Amendment provides a useful compromise between two extremes, and as such I hope that it will be accepted.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will feel able to accept the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington), which I prefer to the more rigid Amendment in the same sense in the name of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock).
The difficulty in limiting to such a figure as sixty the number of councillors in an amalgamated borough is particularly acute where a fairly small borough such as Chelsea is to be amalgamated with a much larger one such as Kensington. I shall explain to my right hon. Friend and the Committee the effect in this particular case of which I have details. Under the proposed arrangements, in the amalgamated borough of Chelsea and Kensington we shall have a population of around 216,000. Under the Bill this greatly enlarged borough will be represented by a council of 60 councillors and ten aldermen.
As things are at present, Chelsea Borough Council, which serves a population of around 50,000, is represented by 36 councillors and six aldermen, 42 members of the council in all. According to my calculations, after the amalgamation with Kensington the Chelsea representatives on the enlarged borough council will amount to only 14 councillors and one alderman. They will be serving the same population as the present borough council of 42. This will put very considerably enlarged responsibilities on them under the Bill.
I am well aware that in most councils the more responsible work and decisions are handled by a fairly limited number of dedicated persons, chairmen and so on. Nevertheless, one of the criticisms of London County Council as it is at the moment has been its remoteness of control. I cannot help feeling that a very much geographically enlarged borough such as Chelsea and Kensington and a population more than four times that of Chelsea to be served by a council so far as Chelsea representatives are concerned of no more than about one-third of the present number of representatives will tend to lead to a certain remoteness of control as things stand under the Bill.
This, perhaps, will be rather specially the case in an awkwardly situated new borough with many long transverse lines of communication. I hope that my right hon. Friend understands the problem as it will affect a particular case such as this. Personally, I would support the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington. I hope the Minister will be able to take that into account and at least leave himself some discretion in the appointment of the number of representatives in these boroughs.
I am not convinced that it is necessary to lay down the numbers precisely in the Bill. We all want to avoid the disadvantages of a very unwieldy body, but at the moment it seems too small. I hope that without tying himself to any number at the moment my right hon. Friend will leave himself discretion to judge each authority on its needs and circumstances.
I support everything that has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Captain Litchfield). My proposed new borough will have approximately the same population as his and will be confronted with the same difficulty as Chelsea when Chelsea is joined with Kensington and when my borough comprises Stepney, Poplar and Bethnal Green.
I want to get clear why this proposal has been put into the Bill. Is there a special motive in stating that the maximum number of councillors should be 60? Does that mean that those with the greatest population will have 60 and those with a smaller population will have less than 60? The hon. and gallant Member seemed to have the impression that because the population of Kensington and Chelsea will amount to 215,000 there will be 60 councillors. I hope he was right, because if Kensington and Chelsea as a combined borough is to have 60 councillors there will be no justification in not providing 60 councillors for the new London Borough of Stepney, Poplar and Bethnal Green.
I rather suspect, however, that this is in the Bill in order that the Minister may himself decide on a smaller number of councillors for some of the new London boroughs. If that is the case, I tell the Minister that it will be a very grave mistake. I have had a little experience in this matter. I served for nearly twenty-five years on Stepney Borough Council. I know exactly what work has to be done if the council is to conduct its business properly without leaving most of the responsibilities, and sometimes decisions, to the officials of the council. It is essential to have the largest number of suitable and competent members of the council to see that the council's business is run in the proper way.
The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) mentioned the work which councillors in the various wards have to do. My experience bears out what he said. In addition, in the East End boroughs—I make a special plea for the new borough of Stepney, Poplar and Bethnal Green—the problems are much greater than those of some of the West End boroughs. What we find in East London is that not only do the councillors go round to see the electorate but the electorate come knocking on their doors day after day and night after night. My wife is a member of Stepney Borough Council. It is a wonder that we have a knocker left. People come to see her, for example, when they have no coal or if there is a freeze-up in a block of flats—all sorts of problems which appear to be minor problems but which in fact are major problems to those people who have no means of attending to them. It is therefore essential that the number of councillors is not too low. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington that it ought to be even higher in the larger areas, but it certainly ought to be no lower even in the smaller areas.
Let us visualise what will happen with these three borough councils. Later they will have additional housing work, and other work will be passed to them which is now carried out by the L.C.C. There will be 60 councillors operating in these three boroughs, and it will be quite difficult for many of the constituents to know who their councillors are. It will be very difficult for people to get the service which a councillor desires to give to his electorate; because of the vastness of the area he will be unable to give it.
I feel that for the benefit of local government the Minister ought to accept the Amendment, which in no way injures the Bill or the purpose of the Bill but which in fact would make it a better Bill. I hope that the Minister will keep an open mind but will make certain that in the smaller, new London boroughs, in particular, there will be sufficient councilors to carry out the functions properly. If it is necessary to 'have more councillors in the larger boroughs, well and good, but let him not fall below 60.
I do not want to detain the Committee for long, but I hope that my right hon. Friend took note of what was said by the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Captain Litchfield). I was particularly impressed by the point made about the increasing functions of these authorities. We must bear in mind that many of the new boroughs will be awkward in shape. As my hon). and gallant Friend said, Chelsea and Kensington will be extremely difficult to administer.
My right hon. Friend ought to take this into consideration in two ways. First, he should provide a great degree of flexibility because of the different shapes and types of the boroughs and, as the hon. Member for Stepney pointed out, the different character of the boroughs. In the whole of the time that I have been on the Chelsea Borough Council I do not think that I have received more than a couple of telephone calls on council business, whereas in Stepney a borough councillor will probably have many calls in a week from individuals about different problems. We are thus faced with a problem which can be solved only by some degree of flexibility among the various boroughs.
I suggest that the boroughs themselves must be closely consulted, for they know roughly what their needs will be in the future, and they must take into consideration the revised functions and increased powers which they will have under the Bill. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at this matter carefully, because there is merit in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington. If he cannot accept the Amendment, perhaps he will give the Committee an assurance that he will think this problem over and let us have a decision at a later date.
The point which arises here is perhaps rather wider than that put by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington). He said that a councillor would represent about 4,000 inhabitants, but in fact the wards will consist of about 12,000 inhabitants—and that is the factor which matters. The ward will elect three councillors, so that any one of them may at any time be representing 12,000 people. We cannot divide it into three, with each councillor representing 4,000 inhabitants. In effect we shall have three councillors, each representing 12,000 people. This is far too many and far more than one could possibly hope to deal with.
Surely it is running entirely contrary to the principles which are supposed to be behind the Bill—those of making local government local. The Bill seeks to transfer from counties, which are said to be too large for some of their functions, some of the intimate services which are to go to the boroughs in order that people may be nearer their elected representatives and their services. I recognise that as a county councillor in a county council area I may be representing 20,000 electors, and the argument is that we must avoid this state of affairs, but under the present proposals one councillor will be representing 12,000 people. Moreover, he will be dealing with services which in the past have been regarded as more intimate than some administered by 'the county council. It seems to me that there is a good case to be made for the argument that a councillor ought not to represent so many people and that the structure needs to be considerably altered.
An alternative is to provide greater flexibility in the number of councillors who may be elected. If they are to be elected on the basis on which county councillors are elected, representing a ward, which is presumably what the structure will be, then a larger number must be provided 'than at present. It would not be so bad if all were elected representatives, but if we are told that ten of them are to be appointed, not owing allegiance to particular wards or sections of the population, then the position is even worse than has already been suggested.
I hope that the Minister will see the wisdom of looking at this situation again with a view to ensuring that the electorate will be properly represented which, after all, is the first function which we have to consider. Secondly, we must see that the councillor who is elected can properly do the job. If we take those two considerations into account, we cannot possibly accept the provisions proposed.
Everything which has been said this afternoon supports my view that 'this is a bad Bill. I have gained no encouragement from what has been said in the debate. The first Amendment became very complex, as we all found, and the second point, which we are discussing, confirms in my mind the view that those who are behind these proposals know very little about what they are doing. I cannot imagine for a single moment what is the idea behind the limitation in numbers of 60.
The hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) touched on the vary point which I want to make—'that the hon. Members for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffing-ton) and Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) miscalculated the position and appeared to take the total population in the greater London area and to divide it by the number of councillors, concluding that the resulting number was the population which each councillor would represent. It works out between 3,000 and 4,000. But the hon. Member for Southall is correct in saying that these councillors will represent 10,000 to 12,000 people.
In the County Borough of Croydon, sadly soon no longer to be a county borough, we already have a population of 250,000. If the Bill goes through in its present form—and I know that some of my hon. Friends are 'trying to alter it, and I shall support them where I can—the borough is to have added to it Coulsdon and Purley, and we shall then have a population of one-third of a million. We shall be the largest Greater London borough. Whatever importance that gives us compared with our present status of being a county borough, I do not know. Our councillors now represent 10,000 to 12,000 electors in their own wards, and under these proposals they will represent 16,000 people.
It is just not on. Anybody in the House of Common's with any knowledge of local government work—a large number of hon. Members have such knowledge—knows that a councillor cannot represent 16,000 people and do the job as conscientiously as he should. I sincerely hope 'that the Minister who answers this point will not rise having already had the answer set out for him and give us a completely unsatisfactory answer. If he does and this matter is pressed to a Division—I hope that it will be, particularly the first Amendment—I shall certainly support the Amendment. It is absolutely wrong from the word "go" to impose a limitation of 60.
I am certain that a place like the County Borough' of Croydon is not receiving anything like the consideration it deserves. This is another typical case where we will eventually be told by the Bill that Croydon, with Coulsdon and Purley added on, with a population of one-third of a million, will be limited to 60 councillors. What good local government idea can lie behind that thought? It is a very bad performance altogether. I sincerely hope that the Minister who is to reply, for his own sake—because 'there is not a single hon. Member here who has done anything but support the Amendment—can see 'the wisdom of this and will at least accept the first Amendment without any qualification whatsoever.
May I enlighten the hon. Gentleman on one point? I took actual electors in each case—or, rather, sometimes I took electors and sometimes population. Although I may have put it in a rather modest way, this is the fairest comparison, because sometimes now councillors are in wards of various sizes. Even taking the figure I gave of the future electorate compared with the present electorate, this is a very considerable weakening of the representation of the ordinary man.
We are as one in regard to our apposition to the Government in this. I rather gathered from the hon. Gentleman's speech, which I followed with great interest, that he virtually appeared to have taken the total population of the Greater London area of just about 8 million and divided it by the number of existing councillors. I may be entirely wrong about that. However, we have the same idea in mind.
I feed a little diffident about intervening in this debate in what seems to be a unanimous Committee. Every hon. Member who has spoken seems to be of one accord that the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) could be accepted, or alternatively that the Amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) should be given further consideration.
I want to echo the plea made by the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn). I can understand the Government's difficulty. They seek to introduce a scheme which has a certain amount of shape to it. In doing so they must inevitably incline to be rigid. It must be obvious to everybody from all the topics discussed today that no two boroughs are alike. No two boroughs are of the same size. No two boroughs have the same problems. The Minister should be grateful to the Committee for trying to get him out of the difficulty in which he has placed himself by having this rigidity in this part of Clause 1. Even if the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend were accepted, many councils might still decide that they wanted sixty. However, it would provide the opportunity for a little give and take when the conditions of a borough demanded that.
The hon. Member for Croydon, North West (Mr. F. Harris) was rather courageous in trying to probe what was behind the Government's mind. Hon. Members have been doing this for centuries, but they have never found out what is behind a Government's mind. The hon. Member has told us of the large number of electors there will be in Croydon, but there will be only 168,000 in the adjoining borough. Some of the 32 boroughs will be twice as large as others.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) spoke of the differing functions, the differing conditions, and the differing activities that go on in an area. My constituency, because it is a Middlesex area, is at the moment a housing authority. It is clear that the pinch is the relationship between the local councillor and those who elect him. I know that I do not have to convince the Minister in charge of the Bill of Willesden's housing problems. He has been only too aware of them, not only in his present post but when he was Parliamentary Secretary. With all the housing pressures of overcrowding, with all the problems which arise in an area like mine where 55 per cent. of the people are in shared accommodation—two families living under one roof—the first port of call for such people is the local councillor. If this is to be spread so that somebody in Wembley is to tackle the housing problem of somebody living in Willesden at a time, say, when the police have been called in to settle a court case between upstairs and downstairs, it will lead to many difficulties in my area. I will not weary the House by going over the whole list of items that my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney put forward. All of us who have served on local authorities know that this is the case.
I have in mind something affecting street lighting or a road. The only way in which a resident is able to bring pressure to bear is by contacting the person who knows, who is close to him, who has lived in the area for some time, and who has been elected. That is the only way to get something done in the council chamber. We have all had experience of this because from time to time we have to resist these pressures. We try to be fair. It is at the stage when the elector says "Will you please come and see this for yourself" that one starts to take the thing up, to be a little persistent, and sometimes to be a little awkward in the council chamber until action is taken.
The first person that parents want to see about what goes on in local schools is their local councillor. The restriction of sixty so that there is not the fluidity flowing from adequate representation places upon the Minister a burden which it is not right that they should bear.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington gave facts and figures. Unless there is fluidity we shall find ourselves burdened with something that is schematic, something where everybody has to fit into a bureaucratic pattern, where good local government, instead of being enhanced by the Bill, will be injured. This is not a matter of principle. We are not altering in any way the right eventually to have some kind of limitation on the number according to local circumstances. We share with the Minister the idea that we do not want a local council of about 250 people arguing like a mass meeting. We understand why there should be certain limitations. Unless the Minister accepts an arrangement whereby the localities themselves can have that kind of government which suits them best and not something which is dreamed up in Whitehall, I hope that my hon. Friends will press this matter to a Division.
I support the Amendment, at least to the extent of asking my right hon. Friend to give himself more flexibility to fix the number in the way my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Captain Litchfield) suggested and not limit himself to the rigid number of 60. There are two reasons additional to those which have been already mentioned.
First, not only is the total number of councillors being reduced. The total number of aldermen is also being reduced. That will make a considerable difference to boroughs in Middlesex—perhaps more so than to those in the London area—because, for example, in Wembley there are at present 12 aldermen; in other words, one to every three councillors. Under the new regime, however, the ratio will be one to every six and instead of having 12 to itself Wembley will have—if the proposed amalgamation with Willesden goes through, and I shall have something to say against that later—four instead of 12, and so another reduction is made.
There is an additional reason. The fact that there is a difference in the populations of these boroughs has already been mentioned. This is very true. The largest seems to be the Borough of Lambeth, plus a section of Wandsworth, with a total population of 341,000. The smallest seems to be the Kingston-upon-Thames group with a total population of 166,000. Thus, one is more than twice the size of the other.
I wonder what my right hon. Friend's intentions are about the minimum number of councillors? Has he in mind any sort of proportion, because if 341,000 people are to have 60 councillors it would seem that 166,000 will have only about 30 councillors? I can think of boroughs in the London area, like Stoke Newing-ton, which at present have 30 councillors. Stoke Newington has a population of only 52,000 people. Are we to jump from a borough with 52,000 people and 30 councillors to a borough with 166,000 also with only 30 councillors?
I hope that the Minister will arrange these matters in some form of proportion and I urge him to bear in mind the differences in size, of more than two to one in some cases. He should relieve himself of the rigid limit of 60 and allow it to go up to, say, 80, or whatever may be thought fit.
Four hon. Members opposite have spoken on this topic and each one of them has been in favour of the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington). Each of them has spoken with great knowledge of local government and it would seem, therefore, that a case for the Government to accept the Amendment has been fully established.
This is indeed an odd Government. They have introduced a Bill which has caused great affront to local government throughout the review area. At a time when they propose to introduce more services at local level they propose to cut down by more than 1,000 the number of councillors who must do this work. This is a monstrous attitude of mind, especially since the people doing this work offer their services voluntarily and do their jobs to the best of their ability.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary explain how, when the Government propose to place more work on local authorities, the committee system will work with fewer councillors? At present, local authorities are divided into a number of committees—public health, housing, and so on—and with the extra work being placed upon them they will have even more committees; for child welfare, the mentally handicapped and especially for dealing with the elderly. Is all this additional work to be thrown on to fewer councillors?
My hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) was right when he said that we will not be sure just what the numbers should be. The Bill merely mentions the figure of 60, but does not contain a minimum figure. My constituency is small and has 42 councillors. Under the new set up is that figure to be reduced to 10? It is monstrous to treat people in this way, whatever their party allegiances. It is monstrous for the Government to say that a certain figure is all that a certain borough is worthy of.
If, with an average sized borough, the figure of 60 is to apply, then Bermond-sey, with its population and size, would get only 10 on a pro rata basis. The Minister has no right to write such an obligation into the Bill. He must agree that this is a matter for consultation. "We will not decide to put this figure into legislation, but we will take it on its merits and discuss the matter with the people who are to do the work", the right hon. Gentleman should say.
As has been said, if the Bill is to be a success there will need to be a great deal more co-operation, especially from those who are to run the local authorities. I remind the Minister that he will be giving to local authorities services which many of them have never asked for and, frankly, many of them think they are not equipped to handle—and I am thinking especially of tasks involving mental health and the handicapped.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) that one cannot say that a councillor represents 4,000 to 5,000 members of the electorate but, rather, that he represents a ward of, say, 10,000 to 12,000 people. More demands will be made of him under the Bill. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary not to give us a Civil Service brief when he replies, one containing a list of figures, but that he will concede the point, say that the Government will consult with the local authorities and that he accepts the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington.
I urge the right hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment and not that moved by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) because, typically Liberal, that one writes in another figure and is a compromise—and it is the wrong figure, anyway. We consider that this should be a matter for consultation with the local authorities concerned so that they can do the job thev are equipped to perform.
I shall clash a little with the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), because since a number of figures have already been presented in the debate so far, I shall have to use some as well, despite his request to the contrary.
When the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) opened the debate he drew attention to the fact that the figure of 60 was the same as the limit laid down for the metropolitan boroughs under the London Government Act. I can assure him that it was not for this basic reason that this particular figure was selected. It was selected because experience has shown that it strikes a reasonable balance between the danger of local authorities becoming too unwieldy, on the one hand, and too remote, on the other. Of the existing 28 metropolitan boroughs, only 10 have councils of the maximum size.
A great many of the points raised were directed to the fact that the new boroughs would, in many cases—in the outer London area, at any rate—have the powers of county boroughs. It is of interest to note that the existing three county boroughs in this area all have relatively small councils. Croydon, the largest, has 48 councillors and 16 aldermen and the Committee will remember that outside London the proportion of aldermen to councillors is one to three instead of one to six. In West Ham, the figures are the same—that is, 48 and 16, making a total of 64—while East Ham has 30 and 10, making a total of 40. Thus the argument that these functions cannot be carried out without a substantially larger number of councillors does not hold water in the light of the experience of the county boroughs in the neighbourhood.
My hon. Friend has stated that Croydon has 64 elected representatives on its council. He must be aware that this is with the present population of a quarter of a million. He must also be aware that the intention is to increase that number to one-third of a million and that the population can grow even larger in the years to come. What is the point, therefore, of limiting the figure in question to only another six people?
I hope that my hon. Friend will be patient. I am coming to that point. I was trying to deal with the question of the number of councillors sufficient to man the various committees necessary for the full functions of county boroughs as we have now but to which the new London boroughs will be very similar regarding their powers. I was saying that experience shows that these figures are adequate. We have consulted the local authority associations, which agree that a statutory limit written into the Bill is desirable and that 60 is an adequate number.
But just as there is obviously danger of becoming too remote if there are too few councillors, there is equally a danger of not being able to man the requisite committees. We do not visualise that even the smaller boroughs, because of their functions, will have substantially fewer than the maximum, for the reason that they will have to man the same committees.
No, they will all have to man the same committees, but I would also point out that the largest borough, which is Lambeth with part of Wandsworth added, works out, with a total of 60 councillors, at one elected representative to 5,600 electors. This is a figure quite substantially less than occurs in many of the county boroughs in the country. It compares very favourably, for example, with Birmingham with 9,450, Liverpool with over 6,000, Manchester with nearly 6,000, Leeds with over 6,000 and Sheffield with over 6,500.
Therefore, there is plenty of experience in county boroughs to show that this is not an impossible figure to manage, and, of course, the Committee will bear in mind that it is not only a question of numbers but a question of geography. Quite clearly, a fairly high number of electors per representative can be managed in a concentrated area such as, almost by definition, we are dealing with in the Bill.
I would, therefore, urge the Committee to withdraw the Amendment, because I think it is quite clear that 60 is an adequate number. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why? "] We regard it as desirable to have uniformity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why? "] A great deal of the debate on the last Amendment was surely directed to the desire to have no distinction between either individual boroughs or classes of boroughs but, as my right hon. Friend then pointed out, his inability to get uniformity there was due to technical and constitutional problems rather than any lack of desire. We have no such obstacle here.
I do not know what authority the hon. Gentleman has for talking about uniformity. As far as we read the Bill, that is not correct and there will be in the London area local authorities with far fewer than 60 members. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that every Greater London borough will have 60 members? If not, is not that a denial of his argument about uniformity? Why cannot people be left to discuss with the Minister what is suitable for local needs?
I am sorry, but I did not mean to imply that all the local authorities would have 60 members, but that there would be a uniform maximum laid down by statute. I made the point, however, that owing to the number of committees to be manned, and so on, we do not visualise that there will be councils with substantially fewer representatives than the 60 laid down. The local authority associations take the same view.
Before my hon. Friend finally commits himself, I hope that he will think again and not drive some of his most loyal hon. Friends into opposing this part of the Bill, which otherwise they will do.
As I have already told the Committee, this is a provision both as to size and numbers of councils. The idea of having them statutorily laid down has been agreed with the local authority associations. I urge the Committee to accept the Clause as it stands. Therefore, I cannot advise the Committee to accept the Amendment.
I apologise to the Committee for my voice. I have a bad cold. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned three county boroughs which are already in existence. He quoted in aid Croydon, East Ham and West Ham and he explained that there are about 40 aldermen and councillors combined in East Ham and about 60 in West Ham. This makes 100. Therefore, in future there will be a maximum of 60 where there are now 100. But two other areas are to be added and, therefore, we shall have a larger combination of two county boroughs which will have almost half the present number of councillors and aldermen.
In my area—and I am sure that I speak also for East Ham—these aldermen and councillors are ordinary working-class men and women. There are housewives, dock workers, engineers, bricklayers, carpenters, and labourers among them. If a councillor has a job to do he might well be on night work or shift work, but if, at any given moment, Councillor Smith is not available people go to see Councillor Jones.
This is a useful system when there are two councillors to a ward. One can be a member of a housing committee and the other a member of the health committee. If someone comes round to discuss a problem the situation is made easy because one might say, "I am Councillor Smith, but I am not on the housing committee. See my colleague, Councillor Jones, who also represents the ward and is a member of the housing committee. Discuss the matter with him." The position under the Bill will be that with additional numbers from Barking Borough Council and Woolwich we shall have fewer councillors to carry out more services.
The remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) should be borne in mind. The. Minister can easily leave this matter for negotiation. He need not promise to agree to any extension. He can leave it open so that the town clerks and the boroughs when formed can argue the merits, if any, of the case for a larger number of representatives. They may not be needed in every area. It may well be that an area which already has 60 may say that that number is sufficient, but I am sure that Croydon, for example, will want the opportunity of at least saying to the Minister, "Under the Bill we cannot ask for more. Leave it open to us so that when the time comes when we want to ask for more and we can substantiate that there is a claim, you as Minister will be free to give us what we want."
We are not asking the Minister to commit himself to anything, except to say that he will allow freedom to himself and to the councillors concerned to approach him to substantiate their claim.
I appeal to my right hon. Friend to think again. Both sides of the Committee have been extraordinarily reasonable. We are trying to help my right hon. Friend. If the proposed amalgamations go through in Battersea and Wandsworth—and I hope that they will not—we shall have fewer councillors than we now have. I ask my right hon. Friend to look at this matter again and to say that there is merit in what has been said on both sides of the Committee today. I ask him to say that he welcomes the freedom which the Committee has given him to be flexible in choosing the size of representation according to the exact circumstances.
I am sure that the Committee would not press for a Division if he gave that assurance.
In view of the united representations made to the Minister from both sides of the Committee, I think that not only has the Parliamentary Secretary been unforthcoming, but, if I may say so without offence, rather perfunctory. He has not referred to the fact that under the Bill people in the Greater London area will lose 1,025 representatives.
This is a very serious loss. The hon. Gentleman made no reference to the fact that the great outer London boroughs are to become education authorities. Everybody knows that this is a very heavy commitment indeed. I must say that it is rather hard that he should use the existing county boroughs to justify the Clause as now drafted because they are working so well. The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) and others may well say, "If they are so good, why are you altering them at all?"
We have couched this Amendment in very moderate terms, giving the Minister great flexibility. I hope that if the Minister is not more forthcoming the whole Committee will vote for the Amendment. It would not destroy the purpose of the Bill, but it would give the Minister power which he is at the moment denying himself.
May I add my plea to the Minister to think again? Many hon. Members have spoken in support of the Amendment. We are not asking him to insert a figure in the Bill, but we do ask that he should have permissive powers. If they are not required, he need not use them. So much in the Bill smacks of imposition. Here is an opportunity for the Minister to say, "I will try to take the Committee with me. I will take this back and think again". If the Minister gives this undertaking, the Amendment will no doubt be withdrawn.
I am certain that every borough is affected by the provision. In Wembley, there are 48 representatives—the same number as for Willesden—and yet there are to be fewer councillors to do more work. That is the position of almost every borough that is affected. Here is an opportunity at the outset for my hon. Friend to try to be more flexible and to accommodate those hon. Members who have spoken to the Amendment.
I think that the comments made by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee carry a good deal of weight. I would normally have asked my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to make any concession that might be made, since he has stood up to the fire of hon. Members from the beginning. I am anxious to oblige the Committee and to go some way, but there is something that I must say first, which will make for disagreement between hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and myself, and, since that has to be said, I would rather make the speech myself.
There is an issue of principle here. The hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) and others have quoted with admiration—and I share that admiration—the day-by-day activities of councillors in London and, indeed, all over the country. There are hundreds and thousands of them who give help to their constituents in every way they can. These are honourable endeavours, and we owe a great tribute of praise and gratitude to such people.
But—and here is the point of possible disagreement—if the local government machine is working properly, many of the cases that go to the councillors, and with which councillors have to concern themselves, should have been dealt with by officials—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am not seeking to deny the right of councillors to do exactly what they want in this way, but there should not be as much need as it is suggested there is in some cases.
It is for councillors, above all, to decide policy and it is for councillors to see that officials carry out that policy. Whenever councillors wish to involve themselves in individual cases it is entirely up to 'them to do so, but there should not be such an overwhelming need that they have to employ their entire leisure in doing it. If they want to do so, that is fine—
I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman has never served on a borough council, particularly in the East End of London. It is easy for him to say that the councillors decide policy and that it is their job to see that the officials carry it out. Let the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that we are dealing with old people, in many cases. Many of them can hardly write a letter to the municipal offices, let alone pay fares out of their old-age pensions in order to go and visit the offices. It is essential, in the interests of such people and in the Government's interest as well, that there should be a sufficient number of well-merited people who are prepared to take up these cases. They do not take them up because they want to be a nuisance, or because they want medals. They want to give service.
There is nothing between the hon. Gentleman and myself in what he has just said, but I maintain that we must not judge the necessary size of a council by the heavy work load that some councillors—and all honour to them—think it necessary to do. It may be necessary in some areas to do it, but it should not be necessary in every area. If it is a pleasure and a job that they want to do, fine; but the officials and the organisation should be such that the work should in most cases—not in all cases, obviously—be done.
This leads me to say that any concessions that the Government might contemplate here on further consideration could not be such as to free altogether a council to have as many members as it pleases. What I am willing to offer is that we will take this away and look again at this particular number and move possibly in the direction of a larger number, but we may possibly have to come back and say, "On consideration, we do not think that this is right." What I suggest is that we will take it away and consult again with the local authority associations in the light of this debate, but I must repeat that any concession which might be made would still have a maximum to it.
Before I sit down, in the hope that that will satisfy the Committee for the moment, I would like to strengthen the argument of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary by quoting a few other local authorities which as county boroughs, already have to carry the responsibilities that the London boroughs will have to carry. Nottingham, with a population of 313,000, has a total council of 68. Coventry, with a population of just over 300,000, has a total council, including aldermen, of 64. Leicester, with a population of 273,000, has 64, and Cardiff, with 256,000, has 68.
I am including aldermen. The number in the Bill is 60 plus 10 aldermen, making 70.
I hope that the Committee will recognise that there is here some virtue in a limit to make sure that the council is such a body as can really consult among itself and not be unwieldy. That is common ground. I will gladly take this away and reconsider it, and I will consult the local authority associations again, but I must remind the Committee that any concession that is made in size will be subject to a maximum. I hope that the Amendment will be withdrawn.
First. I want to take up what I think was the very important and rather unwelcome reference which the Minister made to the individual casework of councillors and the relative duties of councillors and officials. I think that I follow the point that he was making, and there is substance in it. But let us take the very important problem of the allocation of housing vacancies. I accept fully that that ought to be done on agreed principles of policy and that it would be very improper if somebody had a better chance of getting a housing allocation simply because he had been to see a councillor and had been exceptionally persuasive.
I follow that point entirely. But what the Minister has completely neglected is this. A decision on policy can be made on how housing vacancies are to be allocated. One can decide, for example, as a number of councils do, that it is to be done on some kind of points system, making so much allowance for the length of time that somebody has been on the list, so much allowance for his present accommodation, the size of the family, health and all the rest. Once such a points system has been agreed, I fully accept that it would be highly improper for there to be personal approaches to councillors enabling people to get accommodation in defiance of the general principles of the scheme.
What the Minister does not seem to grasp is that the councillor who does a great deal of individual meeting of people is able to discover whether the policy which is laid down is sound or not. It may well be that a points system which gave so much weight to one factor and so much to another made good sense in 1950 but not good sense in 1960. How are councillors best to find out? Mrs. Jones comes to see a councillor and argues with him, asking why she has not yet got a house. The councillor may not be able, or should not be able, to reveal to her the whole detail of the points system because much of such systems sometimes has to be kept confidential, but, if he is doing his job, he will listen carefully to what she says and he will then weigh in his own mind what the situation is.
In such circumstances, the councillor will take into consideration that, according to the borough's present policy, Mrs. Jones must be told that she has a long time yet to wait. But he will ask himself whether the policy is sound—"Does the fact that somebody in the position of Mrs. Jones 'has to wait in that way suggest that there is something wrong with the points system, that it has become out of date and it ought to be amended?". He cannot reach a decision on the basis of just one interview with one complainant. The whole value of his seeing a great many of the individuals he represents is that he is able to get a picture of the working of the policy forged in the council chamber or in committee, argued out, and administered by officials.
By seeing a great many people, he is able to understand what the policy means in actual human realities. This is the importance of it, and this is why, apart from the rather special cases where they may be able to help individuals, councillors ought to be able to do that kind of work.
Policy ought not to be twisted merely to meet individual hard cases without regard to how other cases will be affected, but neither should policy be framed without a fairly extensive knowledge of individual cases. This is why I say that the work which my hon. Friends have been describing is both necessary and important, and we ought to think twice before we reduce the number of councillors to such an extent that it cannot properly be done.
For that reason, I cannot agree with the conclusions which the Minister reached. He contends that we can safely afford to reduce the number of councillors because this case work, which may be attractive or enjoyable—I think that he said that councillors may enjoy it, which struck me as a rather curious word to use—is not really necessary. For the reasons I have given, I do not accept that. In the best administrated authorities, where there are very good policies, not subject to favouritism or carelessness in administration, individual case work is still necessary if the policies are to remain good and be kept up to date.
One should look at it also from the individual's point of view. Many of us have had the experience of having to tell a constituent, "I am extremely sorry, but, in fairness to other people, you cannot have what you want now". The constituent goes away from an interview like that disappointed, but, very often, disappointment is not his only reaction. There may sometimes be something of real value to him in feeling, "I have not got What I wanted, but I am satisfied that I am not being discriminated against. I know that I have had a fair deal even if that fair deal does not give me what I should like". In a democracy, it is an important task to be able to explain to people that they are getting a fair deal even if it is not the particular deal which they would like.
I do not accept the Minister's argument that we can afford to reduce the number of councillors because these individual contacts are not necessary. That he should advance that argument shows that he has not properly considered the real nature of the councillor's work.
The other major theme of the Minister's speech was the nature of the concession he was offering. I do not want to be ungrateful. I can well appreciate that hon. Members opposite were, quite naturally, very glad to feel that a breach between them and a member of their Government was being narrowed. If I may say so, I never have very much respect for people Who enjoy disagreeing with their own party. It is something which, as a matter of conscience, a man may have to do occasionally, but it is not something which a good man ever does without regret. I want to explain to hon. Members opposite why I do not think that what the Minister offered was a concession of substance.
The Minister has said that he will look at the matter again, but he will bring back to us another fixed figure, which may be a larger one. When I say a fixed figure, I mean a maximum, of course; we are speaking of a maximum all the time. There is no question at all of a single fixed figure for every borough so that they are all the same size. If he brought back anything different, the Minister would bring back a different maximum higher than 60, and he said that he must do that because one could not have each borough deciding what size it would be.
If it was not the right hon. Gentleman, it was the Parliamentary Secretary who advanced that argument. There is no question under the Bill of any borough being able to decide by and for itself what size it would be. The Bill clearly lays down that the Minister will decide the number of councillors in each borough, whether the Amendment be carried or not.
What the Amendment deals with is this. Granted—and we fully accept it—that the Minister ultimately must decide the size, ought he to tie himself by fixing a maximum in advance? It is this point that the Minister has not conceded. The whole weight of our argument has been that, if we want to have things right and if we do not want to appear to be dictating to boroughs or imposing upon them, the Minister ought to start his job of deciding for each borough how big it shall be without any shackles on his hands.
I do not regard it as a very valuable concession to say that he will merely make his tethering chain about a foot longer. He will do the job better without any tethering chain at all. There is no danger in it. No one supposes that, if the limit is removed, boroughs will ask for, or Ministers will grant, councils of an absurd and unwieldy size. What neither the Minister nor the Parliamentary Secretary has answered is the question, "Why is a fixed maximum needed?". We have had two reasons given, but neither is a reason of substance.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that local authority associations want it.
Then it cannot be said that we shall in any way be displeasing the local authority associations if we take the fixed maximums out. My task is made a good deal easier. From what was said earlier, I thought that the associations positively wanted it. Apparently, they do not want it. The idea did not come from them. I do not think that the individual councils wanted it. There is not much in that reason which the hon. Gentleman gave.
The other argument advanced by the Parliamentary Secretary was his extraordinary argument about uniformity. He compared what we want now with what we were asking for on the earlier Amendment. I ask him to consider, as a matter of logic and common sense, the nature of the analogy he was offering the Committee. On the last Amendment, we were arguing about the dignity and status of councils. Now, we are arguing about their size. Can it logically be said that, if we want all councils to be equal in dignity and status, we ought, therefore, to want them all to be equal in size? Obviously not. The underlying point is that there should be equal respect for all councils. In the last Amendment, we tried to give them equality and status. In this Amendment, we are trying to provide for every council the opportunity of achieving a size which will enable it to do its work best. The figure will vary from one to another.
Why should we shackle ourselves by saying, "Whatever the facts, whatever the evidence and whatever the arguments put forward at the inquiry, we can never go above 60 "? No real reason has been given as to why that shackle should be on. If the Minister is convinced that he should never go above a certain figure, he can enforce that administratively. There is no reason why he should tie himself in advance before he has had the maps and all the plans for drawing up the wards of the boroughs set before him, or for imposing this drawback on himself.
It is no answer to say that all this is based on experience. The metropolitan boroughs, provincial county boroughs, and other authorities have been quoted as examples which tend to point towards a figure of this kind. But it is not much good arguing from experience when one is introducing a Bill which creates a new kind of authority. We have never had borough authorities of this size in the Metropolis before. They have a status in the local government hierarchy that is unique, only a little lower than that of county boroughs. When giving boroughs of a size unfamiliar in the Metropolis a range of functions which is not exactly paralleled in local government, surely the reasonable course is to say, "When we are taking decisions about their size and constitution, we should not tie ourselves too rigidly in advance."
I have not taken part in official consultations about how boroughs should be rearranged into wards, but, naturally, I have talked the matter over with a good many people who have experience of local government. We have looked at various boroughs and considered what would be a sensible division of them into wards if the Bill went through. I am sure that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary realise that it is a very complicated matter. Exactly where should the boundaries be? What should be the size of each ward? If another condition of the puzzle is that the total must never be more than 60, that is not a very satisfactory arrangement. It makes the task more difficult and in no way increases the chance of obtaining a better administrative result.
For these reasons, I feel that the Amendment should be supported. If it were defeated, we should regard the Amendment of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) as better than the present arrangement, since if we must try to do an important job with a ball and chain round our leg there is something to be said for making the chain a little longer or the ball a little lighter. But that is all that the hon. Member's Amendment does.
If it is meant to be a paving Amendment for the abolition of aldermen, as I think the hon. Gentleman half suggested, some hon. Members on both sides will not regard that as a recommendation, and it will mean that we shall get back again to councils of about the maximum size that they will be under the Bill. It is not infrequent in local government for people to be first councillors, then aldermen and sometimes councillors again. This is quite frequent in the Metropolis. Aldermen have as much individual contact with the electors as councillors. I cannot feel very enthusiastic about the Amendment of the hon. Member for Orpington.
Why cannot the Minister accept my hon. Friend's Amendment? He has gone so far as to say that he will accept possibly the idea of a higher maximum, but let him cast his mind back on this debate and ask himself whether he, the Parliamentary Secretary, his hon. Friends or anyone on this side have produced a convincing reason why there should be a statutory maximum? This does not even give opportunity to deal with the growth of population. I think that I am right in saying that there is no provision in the Bill for the Minister to raise the maximum by order, which, considering the number of powers he has taken in the Bill to do things by order, is remarkable. It would at least be something if he said that he will introduce a Clause in the Bill whereby he can vary the figure of 60 by administrative order and give himself permission to go above 60.
No one has given a convincing reason why there should be a fixed maximum. I do not think I misrepresent hon. Members opposite when I say that, although they welcomed the Minister's limited assurance, they have shown in their speeches that they do not believe that a fixed maximum of any kind is necessary or desirable. It is for my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) to decide, but that is why I feel that it would be right to press the Amendment to a Division, unless the Minister says that he will do what we all want him to do.
Cannot he say that he will accept the Amendment? Would the consequences be so dreadful? Are the people who wait for him at the Ministry so formidable and so determined to reduce the number of councillors? Are they so influenced by the offensive argument of the Royal Commission that councillors are a poor lot and, therefore, the fewer of them there are the greater the chances of there being 9ome possibility of improving the quality?
Does the right hon. Gentleman stand in so much awe of all that that he cannot stand up with his authority as a Minister and say, "I have heard a debate in which every Member who has spoken except myself and the Parliamentary Secretary has argued against the fixed maximum. Neither I nor the Parliamentary Secretary has produced any convincing reason why there should be a fixed maximium. Therefore, I am prepared to accept the arguments advanced and say that, although I shall not let the number of councillors grow to silly proportions and I still have my power in the rest of the Bill to determine the size of each counciil, I will not go into this job with an unnecessary shackle tied to my limbs."
The right hon. Gentleman has the opportunity to do that. If he does it, he will earn the gratitude and admiration of hon. Members on both sides, which will stand him in good stead in later and more formidable parts of the Bill.
From the word "go" I have felt that the Bill is being imposed on us from the Department concerned. In spite of my right hon. Friend's reply, I appeal to him to take more note of the feeling of some of his hon. Friends.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary used facts which, with the greatest respect, were completely wrong. He did not seem to know his subject at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am very sorry, but these are the facts and those of us who feel deeply about local government are entitled to make these statements.
My hon. Friend took the population of one of the new Greater London boroughs similar to Croydon, with a population of 340,000. He divided it by the number of representatives which it would have, 60, and came to the figure of 5,600. But in a population of 340,000 one does not have 340,000 electors. One has a figure about 30 per cent. less. Further, my hon. Friend disregarded altogether the ward system.
Is it the Government's intention to do away with two or three representatives per ward? All this is most disturbing and it does not appear that the Government are thinking these matters out. I appeal strongly to them to understand that under their proposals the new Greater London boroughs will be entirely new features. They have not existed before. We in Croydon up to now have had 64 representatives, councillors and aldermen. Our population increases by about one-third. We are then told that we shall have 70 representatives. There is no sense in a restriction of this kind.
I am not in favour of a fixed number coming back into the Bill—for example, raising the number from 60 to 70 or from 70 to 80. Surely we should have enough confidence in local authorities to be able sensibly to decide how many representatives are needed and for the councils themselves, in discussion with the Minister, to come to that conclusion. It cannot be said that councils and represented bodies and those who give their work in this way are not in a position to be able to arrive at a sensible figure for the representation that is needed for their area. Every area is different. Some areas are much larger than others and some are much more concentrated.
I sincerely hope that the Amendment, without a limitation, will be pressed. I shall certainly vote for it, because I definitely feel that a limitation should not be brought in.
My right hon. Friend the Minister has made a remarkable concession during the debate for which his hon. Friends are extremely grateful. It would be helpful to his hon. Friends and would help them to put them out of their agony if he would accept the Amendment.
I cannot see that my right hon. Friend would give much more away by accepting the Amendment, because he would still retain ultimate power to decide whether to present a figure to the House. It would be a great help, without sacrificing anything in substance, if my right hon. Friend would accept the Amendment, which commits him to nothing.
I will try to explain to the Committee, and particularly to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Captain Litchfield), why a maximum is a matter of principle. The Government have embarked on a large-scale countrywide review of local authority boundaries and, in some cases, functions. This is not an operation that makes any Government deeply popular. It is conducted with one overriding objective: to improve the service of local government to the citizen.
Part of the underlying principle that the Government believe to be at stake here is what the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and I were discussing across the Boxes just now, namely, that above all, councils should be policy-making bodies. I agree with the hon. Member for Fulham that that implies that individual councillors should be able to make sure, by constant personal contact with electors and constituents, that (a) the policy is right or should be changed and (b) the policy is being carried out properly. Of course, I accept and welcome that councillors have a great deal of contact with electors.
The Government stand, however, for a size of council that is not so large that policy-making becomes very difficult, and yet, obviously, not so small that the committees cannot be manned properly and the councillors cannot do their job with the electorate, in the council chamber and with the council officials. That is why I stick on a statutory maximum.
It is true that my successors, or the successors of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, where he is involved, will be able administratively to control the size of councils in response to warding schemes put forward by councils when seeking incorporation orders or variations of wardings. It is, however, for us, in the Bill, to set a principle or standard to show that we aim at councils of the sort of size which I have described. That is why I ask my hon. Friends, and particularly my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea, to realise that this is nothing capricious. There is a principle at stake.
I am willing to look again at the particular figure and to move towards the sort of size that hon. Members obviously have in mind, but it will, I hope, be understood that I still stick on the principle of a maximum.
This comparatively trivial Amendment has now become the vehicle for a declaration of national policy. Let us be in no doubt about that. Many of us suspected that this was a try-out, not merely to murder the London County Council, but for a scheme to be applied throughout the country. If we are to be told as we go on to the discussion of orders elsewhere that this principle of a maximum is to be regarded as an essential part of Government policy, let us be quite certain that there will be a great deal of trouble when efforts are made to apply this principle to some of the great corporations from whom statistics have been given this afternoon.
The right hon. Gentleman is going far further than is justified. I am talking about where, in the nature of things, new local authorities are created, as is happening here. I maintain that size has this aspect of principle about it. I was introducing my remarks by saying that the Government would not have embarked upon this laborious policy of local government reform if they did not have views on which they must stand, not simply on this matter, but throughout the world of local government. In applying this policy to London government, we have to show that that means that we want a policy-making council and that its size should reflect that.
I want to see a policymaking council. I also want a policymaking Government. The speech of the Minister a few minutes ago was a declaration of policy, which he purposely and plainly linked with the wide task that he will have to undertake in the provinces when this Measure has been disposed of.
The whole of the argument in this debate, from speakers on the Government side as well as from critics on this side, was against fixing a maximum. The Minister is setting himself an impossible task to go into negotiation when the various articles of incorporation are drafted, when he will have to get down straight away to the problem of the number of wards and the number of councillors to be elected.
I hope that my hon. Friends will proceed to a Division on this matter so that we make it clear that on this issue, which the right hon. Gentleman has raised to the height of national principle and not of local convenience, we are against him on the whole of the argument that he has adduced to us.
I apologise to the Minister for not having heard the whole of his speech. I was called out by a constituent who has five children and who lives with his wife in two rooms and a kitchenette in a house in part of my constituency, and asks how long he must go on living in these dreadful conditions.
I was usurping the role of some of my constituent's local councillors. I have more time, perhaps, than they have and I was able to devote half an hour or forty minutes to the dreadful conditions in which this man and his wife and children are living. This is not a job that can be left to officials. It is not a job that a representative of the people, whether a councillor or a Member of Parliament, can delegate to somebody else. These people want us, either as Members of Parliament or as councillors.
Every hon. Member has had sufficient experience of constituents coming to say that they cannot get anything or any satisfaction from the officials. They do not want to talk to those faceless people more than they have to. They want to talk to a member of the authority.
What is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting? We have in my constituency a council composed of 36 councillors and half a dozen aldermen. When Deptford gets its shotgun marriage with Lewisham, Deptford will have 15 councillors or thereabouts, and 15 councillors are to do the work of 36 councillors and half a dozen aldermen. How are they to do it? They will have an immeasurable increase in work. They will have to have an even more active participating interest in the problems of house building in the constituency. They have to be responsible for health services in the constituency. They will have to put themselves out to an even greater degree than they do at present.
Really, the right hon. Gentleman does an injustice to councillors when he 'thinks they get any amusement or any pleasure. It is an unfortunate phrase, and I am glad the right hon. Gentleman does not want to repeat it. But that here is no particular pleasure or happiness in having to deal with the suffering and misery of people who find themselves in conditions which are bad through no fault of their own.
Now what is to happen? I understand that Lewisham Borough Council has about 45 members. Deptford has a council of about 40. This total of about 80 is to be reduced to something like 60 under the Bill, and this, says the right hon. Gentleman, is a matter of principle. As a matter of principle, may I ask what is to happen to the 200 members of the City of London Corporation? [HON. MEMBERS: "Policy makers."] Are they to have more to do? My hon. Friends say they are policy makers.
Will there be only 60 of them? I very much doubt whether this Government will go to the members of the Court of Common Council of the City of London and say, "You are to come down to 60". There will be an exemption made for the burgesses there, while in constituencies and areas such as that which I represent there are to be fewer councillors doing more work.
I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for helping me to make my speech. He always improves my speech with every intervention he makes. He has thoroughly succeeded in breaking my train of thought which I was following, but nevertheless he has added considerably to my argument.
How are the representatives of the local authority to take on more Work with fewer people to carry the burden? "Ah," says the right hon. Gentleman, "they must leave it to the officials". Why should they leave it to the officials? How are they to leave it to the officials? In most of the London boroughs most of the councillors work all day long and they devote their evenings to their civic efforts. Are they to keep the staffs waiting for them every night? Of course they will not. They will have to go round the constituency, tramping round the wards, carrying a burden which will really be too much for them.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman, if he really believes that the purpose of the Bill, and the Government's purpose, too, is to improve the lot of the citizen under local government—if this is the prime purpose of it—really to think again, and to think in terms of making local government available to the citizen more readily, and not barring him from it, as will happen in the proposed circumstances.
I do not want to delay the Committee much longer, but I am extremely concerned with the final words of the Parliamentary Secretary. He made it clear that he does not want the Bill to be altered in any way. It seems to me that of all the Amendments which we shall be facing for two days on the Floor of this Chamber, and certainly of all those which will face us in Committee upstairs, this is the one where we are actually giving something to the Government, and if the Government cannot see their way clear to taking what we offer, then it seems to me that when we get to the far more controversial issues it will be extremely difficult to get the Bill through.
I therefore ask, in view of what every hon. Member has said, that the Minister should accept the higher figure as proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) effectively exploded the idea that there is a principle attached to this Clause or to the Minister's figures. Is seems to me that 'the Minister is simply digging in his toes out of obstinacy.
I fail to understand why there is such insistence on this figure of 60, when one considers that the purpose of the Bill is, as we are told it is, that we are to have enlarged local authorities which are to take on further and more responsibility. If that is so it will be necessary to have not only the right type of people as councillors, but to have the necessary number of councillors to undertake the amount of work they will be expected to do.
Consider the proposals affecting Islington and Finsbury and their amalgamation. There are at present 66 representatives for Islington and 38 for Finsbury. I have very little knowledge of what is taking place in Islington, but I do know a good deal of what is taking place in Finsbury and I can say sincerely that the 38 members of the Council are kept very busy indeed. The housing committee has not merely one meeting a month to consider whether or not to have a slum clearance scheme. It has to consider let-
There are people with housing problems, and it is not good enough to say that as long as we have officials people can go along to the town hall and simply put their problems to them, for their answer will not be the sort of answer we feel ought to be given. It will be rather cold and calculating, such as, "You have not got a chance," and that sort of thing. There is a responsibility on the elected representatives at least to afford opportunity to the electorate to see them, in the event of their wanting to do so.
In view of the fact that it is proposed that so much more work is to be undertaken by these enlarged local authorities I honestly think that to set the figure of 60 is hardly fair to the elected representatives who will be on the new, enlarged local authorities. I do not for the life of me see what my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has said to lead anywhere to these difficulties. The local authorities have to apply to the Minister or to the Home Secretary if they want to increase their numbers. If they were to ask for a number which might be considered unreasonable, control is still in the hands of the Minister.
|Division No. 25.]||AYES||[7.41 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Braine, Bernard|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Brewis, John|
|Allason, James||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Bidgood, John C.||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)|
|Balniel, Lord||Bishop, F. P.||Buck, Antony|
|Barber, Anthony||Bourne-Arton, A.||Bullard, Denys|
|Barter, John||Box, Donald||Burden, F. A.|
|Batsford, Brian||Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Butcher, Sir Herbert|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Holland, Philip||Pitman, Sir James|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hollingworth, John||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hopkins, Alan||Pott, Percivall|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hornby, R. P.||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hughes-Young, Michael||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence(Portsmth, W.)||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pym, Francis|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Cooke, Robert||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rawlinson, Sir Peter|
|Cooper, A. E,||James, David||Redmayne, Rt, Hon. Martin|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Ronton, Rt. Hon. David|
|Corfield, F. V.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Coulson, Michael||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Roots, William|
|Craddock, Sir Berestord (Spelthorns)||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S)||Ropner, Col. sir Leonard|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||St. Clair, M.|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Curran, Charles||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Seymour, Leslie|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kitson, Timothy||Shaw, M.|
|Dance, James||Lagden, Godfrey||Shepherd, William|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Leavey, J. A.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Drayson, G.B.||Leburn, Gilmour||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|du Cann, Edward||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Duncan, Sir James||Lilley, F. J. p.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Longbottom, Charles||Stodart, J. A.|
|Loveys, Walter H.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Elliott, R.W. (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Farey-Jones, F. W,||Mac Arthur, Ian||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Fisher, Nigel||McLaren, Martin||Taylor Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Foster, John||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Teeling, Sir William|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute&N. Ayrs)||Temple, John M.|
|Gammans, Lady||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, w.)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Gardner, Edward||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||McMaster, Stanley R.||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Macpherson, Rt.Hn. Niall (Dumfries)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Mcginnis, John E.||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Markham, Major sir Frank||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Marshall, Douglas||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Cordon|
|Gough, Frederick||Marten, Neil||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||van Straubenzee W. R.|
|Green, Alan||Mawby, Ray||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Gurden, Harold||Mills, Stratton||Walder, David|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Walker, Peter|
|Morgan, William||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Morrison, John||Wall, Patrick|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Neave, Alrey||Webster, David|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Hastings, Stephen||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hay, John||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Wise, A. R.|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Page, Graham, (Crosby)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Hendry, Forbes||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Hiley, Joseph||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Partridge, E.||Woollam, John|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Peel, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Percival, Ian||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
|Hocking, Philip N.||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Mr. Rees.|
|Abee, Leo||Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.W.)||Crosland, Anthony|
|Ainsley, William||Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Cullen, Mrs. Alice|
|Albu, Austen||Boyden, James||Dalyell, Tarn|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bradley, Tom||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Brockway, A. Fenner||Deer, George|
|Beaney, Alan||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Delargy, Hugh|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Dempsey, James|
|Bence, Cyril||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Diamond, John|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Carmichael, Nell||Dodds, Norman|
|Benson, Sir George||Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Donnelly, Desmond|
|Blackburn, F.||Chapman, Donald||Driberg, Tom|
|Blyton, William||Cliffe, Michael||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John|
|Boardman, H.||Collick, Percy||Ede, Rt. Hon. C.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||King, Dr. Horace||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Lawson, George||Rhodes, H.|
|Evans, Albert||Ledger, Ron||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Fitch, Alan||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Lipton, Marcus||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Loughlin, Charles||Ross, William|
|Forman, J. C.||Lubbock, Eric||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|McCann, John||Russell, Ronald|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||MacColl, James||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||McInnes, James||Short, Edward|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Ginsburg, David||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||McLeavy, Frank||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Gourlay, Harry||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke N.)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Small, William|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Manuel, Archie||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Mapp, Charles||Snow, Julian|
|Gunter, Ray||Marsh, Richard||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mason, Roy||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mellish, R. J.||Steele, Thomas|
|Hannan, William||Millan, Bruce||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Harper, Joseph||Milne, Edward||Stonehouse John|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Mitchison, G. R.||Stones, William|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Moody, A. S.||Swain, Thomas|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Morris, John||Symonds, J. B.|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Moyle, Arthur||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Hilton, A. V.||Neal, Harold||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Holman, Percy||Oliver, G. H.||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Holt, Arthur||Oram, A. E.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Hooson, H, E.||Oswald, Thomas||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)||Padley, W. E.||Timmons, John|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Paget, R. T.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Warbey, William|
|Hunter, A. E.||Parker, John||Weitzman David|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Parkin, B. T.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Pavitt, Laurence||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Whitlock, William|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Peart, Frederick||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Pentland, Norman||Willey, Frederick|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Creech (Wakefield)||Popplewell, Ernest||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Prentice, R. E.||Willis E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, s.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Probert, Arthur||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Kelley, Richard||Rankin, John|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Redhead, E. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Ifor Davios and Mr. Grey.|
|Division No. 26.]||AYES||[7.50 p.m|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Crowder, F. P.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Curran, Charles|
|Allason, James||Buck, Antony||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bullard, Denys||Dance, James|
|Balniel, Lord||Burden, F. A.||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Barber, Anthony||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Barter, John||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.|
|Batsford, Brian||Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Doughty, Charles|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Drayson, G. B.|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Cary, Sir Robert||du Cann, Edward|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Duncan, Sir James|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Bidgood, John C.||Clarke, Brig. Terence(Portsmth, W.)||Elliott, R.W. (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Bishop, F. P.||Cleaver, Leonard||Farey-Jones, F. W.|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Cooper, A. E.||Finlay, Graeme|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Box, Donald||Corfield, F. V.||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Coulson, Michael||Foster, John|
|Braine, Bernard||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Brewis, John||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Gammans, Lady|
|Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.8irWalter||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Gardner, Edward|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Litchfield, Capt. John||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Longbottom, Charles||Ronson Brown, Sir William|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Loveys, Walter H.||Roots, William|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Goodhart, Philip||MacArthur, Ian||Seymour, Leslie|
|Cough, Frederick||McLaren, Martin||Shaw, M.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Green, Alan||Maclay, Rr. Hon. John||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Greaham Cooke, R.||Macleod, Rt, Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Gurden, Harold||McMaster, Stanley, R.||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Macpherson. Rt. Hn. Niall (Dumfries)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Maginnis, John E.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Marshall, Douglas||Stodart, J. A.|
|Hastings, Stephen||Marten, Nell||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Mawby, Ray||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Hendry, Forbes||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hiley, Joseph||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Mills, Stratton||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawa)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Teeling, Sir William|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfok)||Morgan, William||Temple, John M.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Morrison, John||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Hocking, Philip N.||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Holland, Philip||Neave, Alrey||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hollingworth, John||Nicholls, Sir Hartnar||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Hopkins, Alan||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Hornby, R. P.||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Page, Graham (Crosby)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Partridge, E.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Wakefield, Sir Waved|
|James, David||Peel, John||Walder, David|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Percival, Ian||Walker, Peter|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Pitman, Sir James||Wall, Patrick|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S)||Pitt, Dame Edith||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Pott, Percivall||Webster, David|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Williams, Dudley (Exe'er)|
|Kitson, Timothy||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Lagden, Godfrey||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Wise, A. R.|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Pym, Francis||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Leavey, J. A.||Rawlinson, Sir Peter||WooHnutt, Mark|
|Leburn, Gllmour||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Woollam, John|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ronton, Rt. Hon. David|
|Lilley, F. J. P.||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Chichester-Clark and Mr. Rees.|
|Abse, Leo||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn)|
|Ainsley, William||Crosland, Anthony||Ginsburg, David|
|Albu, Austen||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Dalyell, Tam||Gourlay, Harry|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Greenwood, Anthony|
|Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Grey, Charles|
|Beaney, Alan||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Deer, George||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)|
|Bence, Cyril||Delargy, Hugh||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Dempsey, James||Gunter, Ray|
|Benson, Sir George||Diamond, John||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Blackburn, F.||Dodds, Norman||Hamilton, William (West Fife)|
|Blyton, William||Donnelly, Desmond||Hannan, William|
|Boardman, H.||Driberg, Tom||Harper, Joseph|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. (Leics., S.W.)||Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Herbison, Miss Margaret|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Boyden, James||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hill, J. (Midlothian)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Hilton, A. V.|
|Bradley, Tom||Evans, Albert||Holman, Percy|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Fernyhough, E.||Hooson, H. E.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Fitch, Alan||Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Fletcher, Eric||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Carmichael, Nell||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Hunter, A. E.|
|Chapman, Donald||Forman, J. C.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Hynd, John (Atterclife)|
|Collick, Percy||Galpern, Sir Myer||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Neal, Harold||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Janner, Sir Burnett||Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn. Phillip (Derby, S.)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Oliver, G. H.||Small, William|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Oram, A. E.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Oswald, Thomas||Snow, Julian|
|Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Padley, W. E.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Paget, R. T.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Steele, Thomas|
|Kelley, Richard||Parker, John||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Parkin, B. T.||Stonehouse, John|
|King, Dr. Horace||Pavitt, Laurence||Stones, William|
|Lawson, George||Pearson, Arthur (Pontyprfdd)||Swain, Thomas|
|Ledger, Ron||Peart, Frederick||Symonds, J. B.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Pentland, Norman|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Popplewell, Ernest||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Prentice, R. E.||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Loughlin, Charles||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|McCann, John||Probert, Arthur||Thornton, Ernest|
|MacColl, James||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|McInnes, James||Rankin, John||Timmons, John|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Redhead, E. C.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Reynolds, C. W.||Warbey, William|
|McLeavy, Frank||Rhodes, H.||Weitzman, David|
|MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||White, Mrs. Elrene|
|Mallaliue, E. L. (Brigg)||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Whitlock, William|
|Manuel, Archie||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mapp, Charles||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)||Willey, Frederick|
|Marsh, Richard||Ross, William||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Mason, Roy||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Russell, Ronald||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E)|
|Millan, Bruce||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Milne, Edward||Short, Edward||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Moody, A. S.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Morris, John||Skeffington, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Holt and Mr. Lubbock.|
I beg to move, in page 2, line 23, to leave out from the beginning to the end of line 30 and to insert:
a group of ten or more local government electors living in the area of the proposed London borough shall have the right to make representations to the Secretary of State about the provisions of the incorporation order, and the Secretary of State if satisfied that there is a prima facie case for an alteration of the provisions of the order may cause a local inquiry to be made, and such notice given as he thinks expedient, and if satisfied that such alteration is desirable may amend the order accordingly.
This Amendment, like that in line 18, deals with another case in which the rights and opportunities of the ordinary citizen are being diminished by the Bill. In the previous Amendments we were concerned with the number of representatives; in this case we are concerned with the opportunities and rights of an ordinary citizen to have some say in the distribution of wards, and in matters which are the subject of incorporation orders.
We have to consider the Amendment against the background of disadvantage to which the citizens of the Greater London area are already subject as a result of the Bill. Earlier, the Minister referred to the fact that the Government are involved in a nation-wide review of local government areas aimed at making more effective local government for the ordinary citizen. I am encouraged by that remark in moving this Amendment, for at the outset the citizens in the Greater London area already suffer some disadvantage as a result of the Bill as compared with citizens of the rest of the country.
I do not know why, in this matter, they should be regarded as being rather second-class citizens. When a local government commission is at work outside the London review area—according to the memorandum issued by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government—it must first serve public notice of its intention to review, followed at a reasonable interval by consultations with all the local authorities in the area and with other bodies. It is important that other bodies, that is bodies other than local authorities, should have some say about the area in which they are to live. Then, having had these consultations, the commission is required to prepare draft proposals whether for changing or preserving the existing boundaries and functions. These proposals must be put to the local authorities and other bodies who have been consulted, and made available for public inspection.
Finally, the commission must confer with all interested local authorities and other bodies before its final proposals and its report on the review are formulated for submission to the Minister.
So at least two or three opportunities for consultation are open to local authorities and the ordinary citizen through political parties, civic associations or other bodies that may be considered by the local government commission as having some status and connection with the area. After the final report of the local government commission for the area has been forwarded to the Minister, he examines it, and if he alters it and sends it back to the area notices again have to be given and an opportunity afforded to those interested to make further representation in connection with the new or revised plan.
In London, the citizens have no such opportunities. What they have is the Royal Commission which produced this Report. We have had two debates in the House—a debate on the Royal Commission's White Paper and a debate on the Bill. We have had the visit of the four town clerks, but as far as I know this has been a semi-secret mission. I do not know any local body other than a council which was invited to make representations. These were largely consultations with the local authorities concerned. I have no objection to that, but in my view this operation must not be one which leaves out of account the rights and feelings of the ordinary citizen. I mention this background because it makes the Amendment all the more relevant and important.
In consultation with local authorities the Minister will now decide the matters in Part III of the Schedule—the way in which the wards are to be distributed, and so on. But in a sense the ultimate responsibility is with the Minister, and again the ordinary citizen is losing what he has hitherto had in London and what he certainly has outside London—the right to make direct representations. The Amendment seeks to give the ordi- nary citizen some opportunity to make his representations before the incorporation orders.
In London he has certain rights, both under the 1933 Act and the London Government Act of 1939. In Section 25 (3) of the 1933 Act—the fundamental Act, where a petition, other than one produced by the local council, is presented, after certain procedures the matter can be considered by the Home Secretary. In certain cases he may decide that there should be an inquiry, and he then appoints a commissioner. Apart from local authorities, ordinary people, political associations and anybody else have the right, if a reasonable case has been made out, to have an inquiry held. These provisions are incorporated in Section 25 of the London Government Act, 1939. Subsection (2), which I have incorporated in the Amendment, refers to the Secretary of State's being satisfied that there is a prima facie case for an alteration. This case can be presented not only by the council but by any citizen or group of citizens.
The kind of opportunity that has hitherto happened, and is now provided for in the future only in the Schedule and not in the Clause, is exemplified by what happened some years ago in the case of-the Borough of Camberwell. In that case the Conservative minority felt that there should be a re-warding, many years having passed since the borough was first warded. The Labour majority thought otherwise, but a group of citizens—not all councillors—sent a memorandum to the Home Secretary. He felt that there was a prima facie case. There was an inquiry and, as a result, the local council brought forward a scheme which became the ward reorganisation scheme for Camberwell. Ordinary citizens were given an opportunity to ensure the holding of an inquiry and to make representations. Some of them happened to be councillors, but others were not. They set on foot an alteration in the local government area in which they resided—an alteration which was ultimately felt to be more in keeping with contemporary conditions.
Apparently, Part III of the First Schedule gives the citizen some rights It says:
If at any time the Secretary of State is satisfied as respects any London borough,
whether on representations made to him by the council of the borough or otherwise, that there are sufficient grounds for considering an alteration
of various kinds in the wards and the number of councillors themselves, he can cause notice to be given, and in due course an inquiry can be held.
The Amendment seeks, first, to put this important right in the main part of the Bill and not merely in the Schedule. This gives it greater importance. More people are likely to know of that right than would be the case if it were to remain tucked away in the Schedule. But an even more important point about the Amendment is that it will also give citizens the right to say something before the incorporating orders are made. That is a particularly important point, which not only safeguards the future right of citizens but gives them a present right, before the orders become incorporated.
The Amendment provides that any ten citizens or local government electors should have this right. It indicates that people must have had some local status. If a more appropriate formula can be devised I shall be quite happy. But I want to establish the principle that ordinary citizens should have some say if they establish that there is a prima faciecase for change in respect of some of the matters which will in this case be the subject matter of the order.
There are only two other points which I need to make regarding this Amendment. It suggests that the Ministry responsible should be the Home Office. I do not know whether, by the terms of the Amendment, I have taken away some right which it is essential that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government should have in connection with other parts of the Clause. I realise that this may be so and I should, of course, be perfectly prepared, were an undertaking given, to withdraw this Amendment or to move a subsequent Amendment to put the matter right. But regarding these inquiries, I wish to ensure that the Home Office is responsible. That is the Department which has always done this sort of work and those involved have great experience.
I have appeared, both personally and in a professional capacity, before inquiries held by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and also by the Home Office, and on the whole I believe that those conducted by the Home Office are more satisfactory. One reason is the Home Office nearly always appoints someone from outside to conduct the inquiry which provokes a greater sense of confidence than would be the case were an officer from the Department to conduct the inquiry, however well-intentioned that officer might be. So, therefore, I wish to ensure that these inquiries should be conducted by the Home Office which has traditionally done this work and done it very well.
Were this Amendment accepted it would delete the section of Clause 1 to the effect that the expenses should be paid by the boroughs. If citizens are performing what ought to be a duty, I cannot see why the local ratepayers should be penalised. The expanses would not be very large and, as the matter overall is one which affects local government and as the Minister has said that it is the aim of the Bill to improve local government, the Government ought to be prepared to meet the moderate cost involved. Therefore, the Home Office would have to bear the expenses which would not be great.
I consider the right of the ordinary person to cause a change, and not merely a local authority, is important and should be preserved in the main part of the Bill and not be dealt with in a Schedule to the Bill. I want all the citizens to have this right because citizens in the Greater London area have not had up till now the right which has been enjoyed by citizens in the review areas.
I hesitate to add anything further to this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) has moved his Amendment so clearly and it is so obviously an Amendment which ought to be accepted that I expected the Parliamentary Secretary to say immediately that he had no answer to the arguments advanced and was prepared to accept the Amendment. I have been studying what is stated in subsection (3):
Before a London borough's incorporation order is made, the Minister or, as may be appropriate, the Secretary of State shall cause such notices to be given and such, if any, inquiries to be held with respect to the matters
to be dealt with by the order as may appear to the Minister or, as the case may be, the Secretary of State to be expedient …
I assume that, translated into ordinary English, it means that we are absolutely in the power of the Minister and that it is within the absolute discretion of the right hon. Gentleman whether he orders an inquiry of any shape or pattern to be held. No one can demand an inquiry or compel the Minister to hold one. There is no real point in making representations.
This Amendment is so obviously one which ought to be made that it ought to be accepted immediately. After all, the ordinary citizen has some rights. We have not yet reached the stage where a Minister is a complete dictator. Citizens are entitled to make representations regarding the borough in which they live and I should have thought the first thing to do would be to encourage citizens to show an interest in their borough.
I agree with my hon. and learned Friend. But is he not aware that the Government are powerless to do that because they cannot even get two or three of their supporters to remain in the Chamber to listen to this debate? There has been only one hon. Member on the back benches opposite during the whole of the debate and he remained there for only about five minutes. Now, for the first time, there are three Ministers on the Government Front Bench. If the Government cannot persuade their supporters in this House to take an interest in the Bill they cannot expect to persuade people outside to take an interest.
One recognises—as I am sure the Minister will recognise, now that he has graced the Chamber with his presence—the force of what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis). It is remarkable, when we are discussing a Bill of this importance, which is so studded with principle as we were told a few moments ago by the Minister, that only one hon. Member opposite should be present in the Chamber.
However, I return to the theme of the Amendment. I am glad to see that the Minister is present because I am sure that he will accept what I said a few minutes ago. I read the words of subsection (3) and I hope I have interpreted them reasonably. They amount to the fact that the Minister in his discretion may make an incorporation order without holding any inquiry. We are absolutely in the power of the Minister.
I was saying that it seems Obvious justice that when a change of some kind is to be made, and an incorporation order is being made to deal with extremely important powers which may well affect all the citizens in a borough, those citizens should be given an opportunity to make representations. I support this Amendment which proposes that a group of ten or more local government electors who live in the area should have the right to make representations about provisions in an order. Then it is suggested that if the Secretary of State is satisfied that there is a prima faciecase he may cause a local inquiry to be made. What possible objection can there be to that provision? I have tried to think of arguments which might be advanced against it. It may be because I am stupid, or because of my mental inability, but I cannot think of any arguments or any answer which could be made to the suggestion that citizens should be given the opportunity to make representations and, if a prima faciecase is made out, that an inquiry should be held.
My hon. Friend pointed out that even the Government themselves recognised the justice of this Amendment by having a provision inserted in the Schedule where the power is given after the order has been made. If the power is given after the order has been made, why should it not be given before the order is made? Again I do not know. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister, if he is gracious enough to answer, will give us a reply on this matter. I cannot see why an Amendment of this kind, which on the face of it merely gives certain rights which obviously should belong to the citizen, should not be accepted. I hope, in spite of the fact that as a rule the Government plead that always they are so reasonable but they never give in, they will see the light on this occasion and accept the Amendment.
I support the reasonable and useful suggestion contained in this Amendment. I hope that because the three hon. Members who have so far spoken on it are all lawyers the Committee will not have an unwarranted suspicion that lawyers have an interest in proliferating public inquiries. That would be a completely unworthy suggestion.
The true explanation of the desire to make this Amendment is to involve the ordinary citizen at a very early stage in these important changes and give him the right to make his objections heard. It is not an Amendment, the Committee will notice, which requires the setting up of a local inquiry in all cases. It is a most responsible Amendment. The Committee will see that the machinery proposed is that the electors concerned, 10 or more, shall have the right to make representations. Even if the representations are made, the mere fact of making the representations will not automatically result in an inquiry being ordered for there is the following provision that the Secretary of State must be satisfied that there is a prima facie case for an alteration of the provisions of the order before he causes a local inquiry to be made.
I am not very much wedded to the words "if satisfied", because it has been frequently held that there is no power to go behind the decision of the Secretary of State when he has power to do certain things "if satisfied", but at any rate it is better than the contents of the Clause itself as it stands. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) has pointed out, it gives no right of inquiry at all, however deserving the case. It is left entirely at the discretion of the Secretary of State, or the Minister as the case may be, whether an inquiry is to be held.
The sole criterion is whether it appears, or may appear, to the Minister or the Secretary of State to be expedient for an inquiry to be held. As I see it, there are no grounds in the Clause as it stands to compel the Minister in any circumstances to hold an inquiry. The words of the proposed Amendment do at any rate bring forward quite firmly the proposition that affected electors have the right to make representations. That seems very important. The right to make representations is one which certainly is not expressly stated as part of the machinery of the great changes that are proposed. There is a very great danger in failure to consult with the ordinary man in the street and to have his knowing and satisfied support behind these great changes.
The practice of holding public inquiries has become part of our democratic system. It is an important part. It not only gives an opportunity for the letting off of steam, but it gives an opportunity for any administrative decision which might result in grave public inconvenience to be exposed. One can think of many circumstances where the granting and assertion of this right could be of very great value indeed with regard to these great changes in local government. One of the difficulties about the operation of local government is the lack of public interest and excitement in it. It is something which it is our duty to foster. The granting, at the very outset of the introduction of these great changes, of the right to make representations and the requiring of the Ministers concerned to consider those representations, is something of value.
Only the Minister who is afraid of the weapon of a public inquiry will oppose this reasonable Amendment. I should hate to attribute such callow fears to the members of the Government Front Bench, but they may well have a great deal to hide about some of these proposals. Therefore, it seems that the public interest will be served by quite firmly stating, as this most reasonable and responsible Amendment does, that there shall be a right to make representations, there shall be a duty—if 10 or more electors make such representations—on the part of the Ministers concerned to consider those representations with care and then, if it is found that a prima facie case exists for an alteration of the provisions of the order that a local inquiry should be held.
I am not going to enter into the comparative merits of whether these inquiries are best conducted by the Home Office or the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I personally have no complaint about the conduct of either since certain recent substantial changes in procedures, and so on, were introduced, but that the costs of such inquiries should, as is suggested in the Clause as it stands, be borne by the council, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington), would be something of a hardship on local ratepayers and local authorities. I agree with him that when great democratic changes of this kind are introduced it is perfectly proper that the expenses resulting from public inquiries in the carrying out of those changes should be borne by the Exchequer.
Order. I hope that the hon. and learned Member will excuse me. It seems that it might be more appropriate to deal with the expenses side on the Amendment which is to follow. I excused the mover of the Amendment because I had not then put the Question in the form in which I had to put it. It seems quite clear now that that ought to be discussed on the next Amendment.
Thank you, Mr. Williams. I was misled by the zeal of my hon. Friend into pursuing matters which we shall enter into in greater detail when the time comes.
Although I have no confidence that Ministers opposite will be influenced by reasonableness—in that I differ from my hon. and learned Friend—nevertheless I invite their reconsideration of this matter and their acceptance of this most useful and practical suggestion.
I support the Amendment wholeheartedly. When I was Secretary of State I had on occasion brought to my notice boroughs in which wards had been fixed many years before and which had remained unaltered although the distribution of the electorate proportionally between the wards had very considerably changed as a result of the passage of time and the creation of new residential areas in a borough.
One of the difficulties in those circumstances is to get the machine to start working. Local authorities are, quite rightly, resentful if a Minister, whether he be the Secretary of State or the Minister of Housing and Local Government, makes the suggestion to them that they have not been doing justice between one group of citizens and another. I wholeheartedly support, therefore, this right of ten local government electors to get the machine started.
The curious thing is that when an urban district becomes a borough, the electors lose the right of initiative which they have enjoyed while they have been living in an urban district. There they approach the county council to ask either that the district be divided into wards or that the wards be altered, and if the county council thinks that a prima facie case has been made out, it appoints a small number of its members to hold an inquiry and to make such recommendations as they think fit to the county council. If these are accepted by the county council or are accepted with amendment by the county council, the whole process is gone through quite expeditiously and economically. I therefore welcome this application of that principle. It was one of the things which I had noted to be dealt with if in my period of office the issue had ever arisen in legislation.
It is out of date that the electors should not have the power of initiation in matters such as this. I sincerely hope that the Government will accept the part of the Amendment which we are allowed to discuss at this stage. After all, it would be some proof that the Minister, when he is faced with a thoroughly good case, can give way and will not ask us to accept the view that whoever drafted the Bill was acting under divine inspiration, for I find very little sign of that except in the Minister's mind.
There is no question of explanation. It must be order or nothing. I have ruled that the first point which the hon. Member made is not a point of order. If he has another point of order, I am prepared to listen to it.
This is another point of order. Will you explain to me, Mr. Williams, why a count cannot take place? According to the Standing Orders, after 8.30 p.m. it is permitted.
I am sorry to press this, but I have previously called counts after 8.30 p.m. when there has earlier been a Division within minutes, and Mr. Speaker and Mr. Deputy-Speaker have accepted that proposition. I took the trouble of looking up the Standing Order before rising to my feet to see whether such a proposal was in order. If I may, with great respect, Mr. Williams, refer you to the Standing Order, it makes no reference to whether there was a Division or whether Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy-Speaker was or was not aware of the numbers present in the Division. If attention is called to the fact that there are not more than 40 Members in the Chamber, surely it is in order to have a count. With great respect, there are not 40 Members present.
I am sorry to disagree with the hon. Member, but I am not responsible for what Mr. Speaker does or what Mr. Deputy-Speaker does. All I am responsible for is to rule here when I happen to be in the Chair. There is ample precedent for the Ruling which I have given. Mr. Woodhouse.
I intended no discourtesy in intervening at this point, but I thought that I might be able to help by clearing up one or two matters on which I thought there might have been a misunderstanding. If I am wrong in that assumption there is every opportunity to continue the debate.
The very amiable way in which the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) moved the Amendment, and the way in which he was supported by the hon. and learned Members for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) and West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) left me feeling a little less like the boy on the burning deck than was perhaps my hon. Friend who replied to the previous Amendment.
I should like to begin by returning to the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) the compliment which he paid the Home Office, because I know very well how helpful he has been in these matters to the Home Office in the time of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) as well as more recently. I am grateful to him for providing me the opportunity, by moving the Amendment, to give a fuller explanation of the subsection to which it refers, which deals with inquiries in connection with the original issue of incorporation orders for the new boroughs. It deals with inquiries either by the Minister of Housing or by the Secretary of State, according to the subject, because both contribute to different items in the ultimate incorporation order.
The hon. Member's Amendment would have the incidental effect, which I assume he had not intended, of deleting the Minister of Housing from the subsection altogether. This is something which in any case could not be accepted, because there is a clear division of responsibilities within the context of these orders between the Minister of Housing and the Secretary of State, and they must both play their role whatever it is, in contributing to the order. Incidentally, I was going to point out, if the Chair had not done so, that the hon. Gentleman's reference to expenses touched upon the immediately following Amendment, which will be debated separately.
The incorporation orders will be made by the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Therefore, provision is made in the Bill for him to arrange for any public inquiries he may think necessary. It would still be so even under the Amendment. The Amendment would still be permissive as to whether or not an inquiry was ultimately held at the Minister's discretion. It is impossible to say in advance what questions might need to be covered by such an inquiry. Therefore, some latitude was allowed in the drafting of the subsection in the words which the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North read, particularly
as may appear … to be expedient".
A similar permissive phrase appears in the Amendment as drafted, which says that
the Secretary of State if satisfied that there is a prima facie case … may cause a local inquiry …
In principle there is no difference there in the latitude allowed.
In addition to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has a special but limited responsibility in these incorporation orders, especially for two sectors of them—first, to make the arrangements necessary to enable the first elections to the new borough councils to be held and, secondly, to draw the initial ward boundaries within the borough. This is a delicate operation Which is likely to necessitate local inquiries of which notice will be given and the Home Secretary is thus introduced into this Clause on all fours with the Minister of Housing and Local Government. They are not alternative holders of inquiries. Either of them may hold inquiries according to the nature of the questions raised, and with regard to any particular borough there may be either two inquiries, one by each, or one or none, according to the way their discretion is exercised.
It is to this provision of 'the Bill that the Amendment is directed. I am glad I was right in construing the intention of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harling-ton to be that of making perfectly sure that the citizens' rights are not overlooked. I can assure him that that is the Government's intention, too. It is true that the provision for the initial division of the boroughs is less full than for the subsequent alteration of the wards within the boroughs provided by Part III of the First Schedule. In practice, however, I want to make it clear that the procedure to be followed when the initial division takes place will be essentially the same as that to be followed for alterations under Part III of the First Schedule, and at the request of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary local authorities in the Greater London area are already engaged in the preliminary steps to make it possible to make a start on the official job when the Bill becomes law.
I should like to describe, lest there should be any misunderstanding, what this procedure is going to be. There will first be initial proposals, we hope agreed by the local authorities which the Home Secretary has already approached and which are at work on them, and these proposals will be published locally.
Yes. A period of at least one month will then be allowed for objections and representations to be made to these proposals, and they can be made by anyone. If these objections and representations show a clear prima faciecase for examination, the Home Secretary, if it is the Home Secretary, will appoint a commissioner, or if it is the Minister of Housing and Local Government he will appoint an inspector. I think that the only essential difference between the two at this point, in answer to the point made by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington, is that the Ministry of Housing has readily available to it a considerable corps of inspectors who can be appointed to fulfil these functions from its own staff, whereas the Home Office has no such body of people readily available and therefore goes outside to the legal profession, to the great advantage of the hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South, to find a commissioner experienced and qualified in these matters to hold an inquiry.
I do not in the least share the suspicions which the hon. and learned Gentleman tried to sow in my mind against the legal profession in this matter. When the inquiry is decided upon, it will be given full publicity, and when it is held the commissioner will then draw up a scheme, taking into account, so far as possible, all the points of view put to him, and he will submit the scheme to the Secretary of State. My right hon. Friend will then consider the scheme and, if satisfied with it, will hand it over to the Minister for incorporation in the order.
I think that hon. Members opposite have taken the point that I am referring to inquiries on the part of the Home Secretary. The procedure of the Minister in inquiries into functions within his responsibilities will follow exactly the same course, except that they will be conducted by an inspector and not by an outside commissioner. This, in effect, will be the same procedure as that laid down in Part III of Schedule 1 with the same safeguards, the same publicity and the same opportunity for local views to be heard. It is true that all this is permissive, but it would still be permissive under the terms of the Amendment.
The question can fairly be asked: if the procedure similar to Part III of the First Schedule is to be followed and if similar notice is to be given and inquiries to be held, why should this not be spelled out in detail in the Bill? This is a fair question, but there is a good answer to it. The subsection should be looked at as a whole and in the context of Clause 1 as a whole. It deals with one specific matter which arises only at the beginning of this whole exercise of establishing the new Greater London Council.
It is a matter which the Committee will realise must be dealt with with flexibility and speed, because if the elections are to be held on time there will not be a great deal of time available for the elaborate process that must be gone through. If the Bill were to provide in detail not only for every step that would have to be taken by the Home Office in the division of wards but also—and this would have to be done in the same detail—open every other matter that might have to be considered in preparing an incorporation order—I do not think that it needs much imagination to see, bearing in mind that there will be 32 such orders to be got out in the space of perhaps not much more than sixty days—
No. It is exactly the same for the Minister as for the Home Secretary; that representations can be made by any individual or any body, and this is the procedure that will be followed. If we attempted to go into exhaustive detail in this initial process, the result would be to add to the Bill yet one more enormous Schedule of monstrous length and one which would be a spent force immediately after the Bill had been carried into law and the first operation effected.
I would now like to touch on one aspect of considerable individual importance which is raised in the Amendment. It is that point which confers the right to make representations on any group of ten or more local electors. I have every sympathy with the principle underlying that proposal, but I would point out that the procedure set out in Part III of the First Schedule—which is similar to that under Section 25 of the 1939 Act—makes it possible for such representations to be made by anyone and does not limit it to any numerical group of the population. It contains no provision giving a specified right to a group and it places no bar upon any particular number of people making representations. In other words, it leaves it free to anyone to make representations, and it is the regular practice to take account of all representations that may be made, whether by individuals or groups. Therefore, on this point it would not make any difference whether the Amendment said that it was ten or more than ten electors. In practice, the representations of anyone whether as individuals or as groups would be taken into account.
If, on the other hand, we were to write into the Bill, as the Amendment proposes, a minimum number whose representations would have to be taken into account, that would carry at least the implication that the representations of the single individual would not be taken into account and could be ignored. This might act as discouragement to the individual from putting forward his own point of view, which under the present procedure he is perfectly free and welcome to do. These are the reasons why my right hon. Friend cannot accept the Amendment, which would have the effect of hampering both the freedom of action of Ministers and the freedom of action of ordinary citizens. I hope that, having heard the explanation, the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington can see his way to withdraw the Amendment, reassured in the knowledge that citizens' representations are safeguarded in the way he desires.
None can complain of the charming and pleasant way in which the Joint Under-Secretary of State has put his case, but he has missed the obvious. He has no right to talk about this being a democratic Bill or about the rights of people to represent their point of view. The Bill has been imposed on the citizens of London without any consultation at all with Londoners. The Government have no mandate to introduce a Bill which will completely change and to a large extent smash local government in the London area. At no time have people been consulted about their views on it.
We have had presented to us a Bill which provides that by Act of Parliament certain boroughs will now be merged. We wish as a last resort that on issues of boundaries and certain other matters in Part III of the First Schedule which will be known to them the electors shall be entitled to make representations in the way we have described in the Amendment. This is a matter on which we think citizens have democratic rights. The hon. Gentleman and many other hon. Members opposite act as if they took for granted that most people in London are dissatisfied with their local government. This is not true. Too many people have the idea that the Londoner does not care about his town or borough. But the Londoner is very parochial. He is a south-east Londoner or a north-Londoner, and so on. It means a great deal to him. The boundaries of his own ward mean a great deal to him.
The Government bring forward a Bill without consultation to bring together parts of London which have never been married before, with consequent tremendous changes in boundaries. All the boundaries will be altered and the sizes of wards vastly extended. In many parts of London, and certainly in the part which I represent, there is a tremendous local history which cannot be ignored. However difficult it may be for the Parliamentary draftsmen, and however much it will increase the size of the Bill, it is right that these matters should be written into the Bill.
The Minister knows what we want to do with the Bill and, therefore, it does not matter to us if the Bill is bigger. All we want is to get more sense into the Bill and to know exactly what are the citizen's rights. They are to have the right of appeal against the boundaries, the number of councillors in the borough and the apportionment of councillors. This ought to be done at a public inquiry and ought not to be left to the Minister to decide whether a case is made out.
The whole system of democracy is being affected under the Government. The Minister of Transport has taken powers by which he can divert traffic in any paint of London without consulting the citizens. This may appear to be out of orderßž—
Many of these rights have already been taken away, and it is proper that we as an Opposition should ensure that in all these matters the citizen shall have a chance of expressing his point of view at a public inquiry. In spite of all the assurances by the Joint Under-Secretary of State, I hope that we shall take this Amendment to a Division.
I should like to thank the Joint Under-Secretary of State for his full and courteous explanation. At any rate, we are in a better position on this Amendment than we have been on other Amendments. I understand that it would be necessary to include the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and, were The Government prepared to accept this Amendment, Chat Minister could easily be added to the Amendment.
An interesting point which has emerged from the hon. Gentleman's speech is that if anybody wishes to make representations he will have a period of one month in which to do so. I understand that such a person will have an opportunity of doing this before the order of incorporation is made. I should like to know what is the authority for that statement. I cannot find it in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman went on to say, "It is very difficult to put all this in. We have got to have 32 orders. They have got to go through the machine fairly quickly. Therefore, we cannot do it in much detail."
I am fairly innocent myself, but I felt that it was asking rather a lot to expect us to take all that on trust. I can hardly see the Secretary of State holding an inquiry if one person were to object, but if the Government were in favour of this surely it would be easy to put in the Schedule, if not in the Clause, the fact that the citizen has such a right. No citizen reading the Bill would know that he had this right. The fact is extraordinarily well concealed. Therefore, before we make any further decision, I should like to know where in -the Bill the authority is given that any one person can make representations and will have a month in which to do so, and that this will apply to the order as well as subsequently after the order is made.
It is important that we should clear our minds on exactly what Che procedure will be when the Minister brings in his incorporation order. We have been told that when that order is introduced not only will it be possible for the local authority or representative bodies to make representations to the Secretary of State regarding ward boundaries and so on, but that on incorporation it will be possible under the Bill for a representative body or local authority in a given area to put forward proposals for an inquiry and to make suggestions to the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Reiterating the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington), where in Che Bill is that fact made clear?
The authority for what I have said, for which the hon. Gentleman has asked, rests on my consultations with my colleagues in preparation for this occasion. I have explained what the procedure will be under the Bill. I have explained, also, why it is not made explicit and every particular step is not spelled out in the same detail as it is in Part III.
I repeat again, and emphasise, that everyone has the right to make representations. Of course, that is not the same thing as the right to require or demand or impose an inquiry. The holding of an inquiry rests within the discretion of the Minister concerned, but anyone, not merely 10 citizens as proposed in the Amendment, has the right to make representations.
Could not there at least be some intimation as to the content of the notices to be given? There is no intimation in the Clause as it stands that the notices shall express a right of representation. There is no clue in the Clause as to what the content of the notices will be. The Minister gives us his personal assurance, but, with very great respect, on such an important constitutional matter, I should have thought that it could be embodied as part of the Clause that there should be, at least, some indication as to the content of the notices. Could the Minister meet us on that?
As regards the Secretary of State, the procedure is clearly laid down in Part III of the First Schedule, and it is said in words that the council of a borough can put forward proposals, and so on. If the same circumstances obtain as regards the Minister of Housing and Local Government, that representations can be made to him upon incorporation, that equally should be laid down in the Schedule. It is laid down as regards the Secretary of State. Should not it also be laid down as regards the Minister of Housing and Local Government?
Can the Under-Secretary of State point to the words in the Bill on which he bases his statement that what he described to us is, in fact, the procedure under the Bill? I gather that he said that he had been present at some conversations which were held. It would be no good an aggrieved citizen going to the courts or complaining to his Member of Parliament that he was not present at the conversations but the Minister was, and then, after reference to the minutes at the time, finding that there is no statutory basis for the hon. Gentleman's remarks.
Will the hon. Gentleman say something about my suggestion regarding the notices? A notice may merely state that an incorporation order is to be made. It may give no indication to the citizen about his right of representation at all.
The hon. and learned Gentleman will understand that I could not myself give an undertaking in that sense now, but I will certainly convey his suggestion to my right hon. Friend.
The hon. Gentleman has been very courteous and patient. May I ask him to note also that, of course, citizens outside London have had two or three opportunities. Now, at least, we shall have one month after an order is published, but it is very little.
|Division No. 27.]||AYES||[9.5 p.m.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Chataway, Christopher||Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.|
|Allason, James||Chichester-Clark, R.||Farey-Jones, F. W.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Finlay, Graeme|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Fisher, Nigel|
|Balniel, Lord||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Barter, John||Cleaver, Leonard||Foster, John|
|Batsford, Brian||Cooke, Robert||Fraser, Rt.Hn. Hugh (Stafford&Stone)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Cooper, A. E.||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Gammans, Lady|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Corfield, F. V.||Gardner, Edward|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Coulson, Michael||Gibson-Watt, David|
|Bidgood, John C.||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Glover, Sir Douglas|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Crawley, Aidan||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)|
|Box, David||Crowder, F. P,||Goodhart, Philip|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Cunningham, Knox||Goodhew, Victor|
|Braine, Bernard||Curran, Charles||Cough, Frederick|
|Brewis, John||Currie, G. B. H.||Grant-Ferris, R.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Dance, James||Green, Alan|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Gresham Cooke, R.|
|Buck, Antony||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Crosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.|
|Bullard, Denys||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)|
|Burden, F. A.||Drayson, G. B.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||du Cann, Edward||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Duncan, Sir James||Harvie Anderson, Miss|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Eden, John||Hastings, Stephen|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hay, John|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Elliott, R.W.(Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Channon, H. p. G.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Hendry, Forbes||Maginnis, John E.||Seymour, Leslie|
|Hiley, Joseph||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Sharples, Richard|
|Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon Charles (Luton)||Marshall, Douglas||Shaw, M.|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Marten, Neil||Shepherd, William|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswlck)|
|Hocking, Philip N.||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Holland, Philip||Mayhew, Christopher||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Hollingworth, John||Mills, Stratton||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Hopkins, Alan||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Stodart, J. A.|
|Hornby, R. P.||Morgan, William||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Morrison, John||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Neave, Airey||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Nlcholla, Sir Harmar||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Teeling, Sir William|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Temple, John M.|
|James, David||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Panned, Norman (Kirkdale)||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Partridge, E.||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S)||Percival, tan||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Turner, Colin|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Pitman, Sir James||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Tweed8muir, Lady|
|Kitson, Timothy||Pitt, Dame Edith||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Pott, Percivall||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Leavey, J. A.||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Leburn, Gilmour||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Walder, David|
|Lilley, F. J. P.||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Walker, Peter|
|Linstead, Sir Hugh||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Litchfield, Capt. John||Pym, Francis||Wall, Patrick|
|Longbottom, Charles||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Loveys, Walter H.||Rawlinson, 8ir Peter||Webster, David|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|McLaren, Martin||Rees, Hugh||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Ridsdale, Julian||Wise, A. R.|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute&N.Ayrs.)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Robson Brown, Sir William||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Woollam, John|
|McMaster, Stanley R.||Roots, William|
|Macmillan, Rt.Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Macphelson, Rt.Hn. Niall (Dumfries)||St. Clair, M.||Mr. Peel and Mr. MacArthur.|
|Abse, Leo||Deer, George||Hilton, A. V.|
|Ainsley, William||Delargy, Hugh||Holman, Percy|
|Albu, Austen||Dempsey, James||Holt, Arthur|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Diamond, John||Hooson, H. E.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Dodds, Norman||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Donnelly, Desmond||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Barnett, Guy||Driberg, Tom||Hunter, A. E.|
|Beaney, Alan||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Ballanger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)|
|Bance, Cyril||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Blackburn, F.||Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Blyton, William||Evans, Albert||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas|
|Boardman, H.||Fernyhough, E.||Jeger, George|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Fitch, Alan||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Leics, S.W.)||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jonas, Elwyn (west Ham, S.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Forman, J. C.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Bradley, Tom||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Kelley, Richard|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Galpern, Sir Myer||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Ginsburg, David||King, Dr. Horace|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Lawson, George|
|Carmichael, Nell||Gourlay, Harry||Ledger, Ron|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Greenwood, Anthony||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Chapman, Donald||Grey, Charles||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Grimths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)|
|Collick, Percy||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Crosland, Anthony||Hamilton, William (west Fife)||Lubbock, Eric|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hannan, William||MacColl, James|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Harper, Joseph||McInnes, James|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Herbison, Miss Margaret||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)|
|Davies, Ifor (Cower)||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||McLeavy, Frank|
|MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Prentice, R. E.||Stonehouse, John|
|Macpherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Stones, William|
|Mallalleu, E. L. (Brigg)||Probert, Arthur||Swain, Thomas|
|Manuel, Archie||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Mapp, Charles||Rankin, John||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Marsh, Richard||Redhead, E. C.||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Reynolds, G. W.||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Millan, Bruce||Rhodes, H.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Milne, Edward||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Timmons, John|
|Moody, A. S.||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Tomney, Frank|
|Morris, John||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Moyle, Arthur||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)||Warbey, William|
|Neal, Harold||Ross, William||Weitzman, David|
|Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Oliver, G. H.||Russell, Ronald||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Oram, A. E.||Short, Edward||Whitlock, William|
|Oswald, Thomas||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Padley, W. E.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Pannell, Charles (Leeds, w.)||Skeffington, Arthur||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Parker, John||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Willis, E. C. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Parkin, B. T.||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Small, William||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Peart, Frederick||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Pentland, Norman||Spriggs, Leslie||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Plummer, Sir Leslie||Steele, Thomas||Mr. Charles A. Howell and|
|Popplewell, Ernest||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Mr. McCann.|
I beg to move, in page 2, line 27, to leave out from "expedient" to the end of line 30.
The Amendment concerns the cost of any inquiry that might be made when the Minister makes an incorporation order setting up one of the new London boroughs or each of them in turn. The Minister, presumably, will make a separate incorporation order for each new London borough.
The Minister of Housing and Local Government will make the order and the local authority, presumably, has to accept its terms. The local authority is not likely to be anxious to have the new order incorporating it in a different arrangement. I think that, without exception, every local authority in the Greater London area has no desire to be incorporated under this Bill.
The new London boroughs will consist of a number of local authorities brought together, and they will have the incorporation orders thrust upon them by the Minister, and they will have no say, presumably, in what the corporation orders will contain. I would have thought that the Minister would have made provision for consultation between himself and each local authority which will make up a new London borough in each case, I would have thought that he would have laid it down in the Bill or in the Schedule that consultations and agreements between the various local authorities and the Minister would take place prior to the issue of an incorporation order. But such is not to be the case.
As we read the Bill, we see that the Minister has the initiative and the existing local authorities have no initiative at all in the matter of the terms of their new incorporation. Indeed, as we read it they will not have the right to make representations to the Minister regarding the details of a new order for incorporation. From the terms of the Bill it seems that no provision is made for the local authorities which will make up a new London borough to be consulted or to confer with the Minister about the terms of the new order. Although the local authority is denied the right of representation to the Minister on the contents of the order, although the whole of the initiative is with the Minister and he lays down the wording and the figures which are to appear in the order, although the local authorities have no say in this matter at all, the Minister in this Clause is arranging that the local authority shall pay any cost which the Minister incurs in this matter.
Although this is a comparatively small point and there is no great deal of money in it either for the Exchequer or the local authorities, nevertheless it seems unreasonable that the Minister should deny the local authorities which will be incorporated in a London borough the right of representation or to have any say in the wording of the order and yet at the same time expect them to pay any expenses which the Minister incurs in making the order.
We have been told by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that it will be possible for local authorities to make representations. We know that by Part III of the First Schedule the local authorities and other bodies may make representations to the Minister of State and the Home Secretary relating to questions of ward boundaries, and so on. But we were told by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary tonight that the same right to make representations to the Minister of Housing and Local Government in regard to incorporation orders would lie with the local authorities.
With respect to him, my colleagues and I can only think that he has been misinformed. His assurance that they will have such rights of representation cannot be accepted. Therefore, through this Amendment, we seek to ensure that local authorities should have a right to make representations to the Minister during the compilation of incorporation orders affecting themselves. We say also that if they are to be denied that right and are not to be asked to play a part in the formulation of their new constitutions, they should not be called upon to pay the cost.
This Amendment is very reasonable. The whole of the machinery of what is proposed in the attempted demolition of London Government is an instrument of Government policy. There has been no clamour from the local authorities concerned asking for their own dissolution. This Measure is the result of a Government decision and it is to be carried through and enforced by Government action.
Part of the machinery that is proposed, however, is a slight recognition of the possibility that local inquiries might, in certain circumstances, depending upon the will and discretion of the Minister, be held. We have already canvassed the wholly inadequate provisions of the Clause with regard to that, and our attempt to make the position more satisfactory has just failed. But it would seem to be an act of justice to the local authorities and the ratepayers that where in the occasional case the Minister or the Secretary of State does decide that a public inquiry is expedient, it is just that the expenses thereof should be borne by the Exchequer and not by the local authority.
After all, this is the pattern of inquiries into similar matters, and there seems no reason to depart from the principle that where these procedures result from deliberate Government policy the charge resulting from the carrying out of that policy should be a charge which the public at large, through the Exchequer, should bear. The proposal in the Clause adds injury and in many cases adds injury to insult.
The words the Amendment seeks to omit add insult to injury. The boroughs did not ask for the Bill. Nobody except the Government asked for it. It is a piece of impudence on the part of the Government that, having imposed this sort of thing on the boroughs, they should say that if a borough shows that there is a case for an inquiry, it will have to pay the costs of the inquiry. It is colossal impudence and the Minister should accept the Amendment.
It is amazing that the Government should make this provision about possible inquiries. It is the Government who are making a mess of London local government, and if local authorities want to clear up the mess they ought not to be called upon to pay the expenses of that clearing up. That they should be asked to do so is absolutely shocking.
The party opposite is the party which often maintains at municipal elections that it is the party which looks after the interests of ratepayers. Where is this looking after the interests of ratepayers when a charge which should obviously be borne by the Exchequer—for it is the Government who are causing all the bother—falls on local authorities? What is in the Minister's mind? Does he want to deter local authorities from going fully into these matters and so safeguarding the ratepayers? Is it a trick by the Government, or is it honest? Whether it is a trick or honest, this is one of the most unjust charges ever placed upon local authorities in any legislation. The Minister is keeping up to his reputation and is being as unjust as he can to local authorities, regardless of the fact that the Government are responsible for the situation and should therefore be responsible for the expenditure.
My hon. Friends have forcibly put the case in morals and equity for the Amendment. Here is something for which the boroughs have never asked and which in the main they do not want and over which they have no control—they do not control whether there is to be an inquiry or the extent of the inquiry—and yet, none the less, they have to pay for it. It reminds me of the custom which used to be in force—I do not know if it still is—at Eton College. It used to be the practice there, if the behaviour of any of the scholars was such that he had to be corrected with the birch rod, that the instrument was used to such effect that it was thereafter useless and the cost was therefore added to the school bill which was presented to the culprit's parents. It seems that the boroughs are being treated in exactly the same manner, without having committed any offence. I shall be interested to hear what sort of defence is made of this provision.
The Financial and Explanatory Memorandum says:
The expenses of Ministers under the Bill, e.g., in the conduct of inquiries under Part's I and II of the Bill … will also be payable out of monies voted by Parliament.
Yet the first time that we come across an example of an inquiry arising from Part I the cost is paid out of the pockets of ratepayers and not out of moneys provided by Parliament. Why is that so? Why are the terms of the Financial Memorandum not being adhered to? We may be told that the Financial Memorandum does not mean that all the inquiries under Parts I and II will be paid out of moneys voted by Parliament.
Let us have a look. What other inquiries are there under Part I? For example, under the provisions of Clause 6(3)—and I refer to this only very briefly; I believe that it is quite relevant—the Minister can in certain cases cause a local inquiry to be held. I think I am right in saying that an inquiry under Clause 6 would be paid for out of moneys voted by Parliament, as the Financial Memorandum says. I do not believe that the Clause contains an arrangement to put the cost on the ratepayers. On the other hand, if the Clause does that, what are the inquiries under Part I which are to be paid for out of moneys voted by Parliament?
It cannot be that the Financial Memorandum is telling us an untruth; there must be, therefore, some inquiries under that Part of the Bill which are paid for out of moneys voted by Parliament. Why, then, is not this"inquiry to be paid for out of moneys voted by Parliament? It may be that we shall be told that they will be in the first place but that the moneys will then be recovered from the ratepayers. If that is what is meant, it was rather sharp practice to use those words in the Financial Memorandum. We require an explanation from the Government, first, on the major point of morals—why on earth should local authorities have to pay for something which they cannot control, which they never asked for and which they do not want, and, secondly, on the secondary but still important point—what, exactly, is the meaning of the phrase I have quoted from the Financial Memorandum, and why does it not apply to these inquiries?
I hope that I shall be able to help the Committee on the Amendment. It may be helpful if I answer the point raised by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) first. The reason for the insertion of this provision referring to these expenses is that it has been taken from similar provisions of the London Government Act, 1939, where the same terms are applied and where the expenses are recoverable quite irrespective of whether the initiative comes from the Home Secretary or the borough concerned.
The same principle was also applied—using the word "principle" rather broadly—in the Local Government Act, 1958. I am sure that the Committee will appreciate that under the local government reorganisation which is going on under that Act there is likely to be a number of cases where the local people can equally say that this is not something which they have wished for, but that it has in a sense been thrust upon them.
The provisions of Section 290 of the Local Government Act, 1933, are somewhat different. The Government are quite willing to meet the hon. Member by substituting the terms and principles of that Section for these provisions.
Perhaps it would simplify matters if I read the relevant subsection. It says:
Where a department cause any such inquiry to be held, the costs incurred by them in relation to that inquiry (including such reasonable sum not exceeding five guineas a day as they may determine for the services of any officer engaged in the inquiry) shall be paid by such local authority or party to the inquiry as the department' may direct, and the department may certify the amount of the costs so incurred …
In that Section there is a discretionary power on the part of the Minister concerned. Here the power is mandatory, and the Government are willing to meet the hon. Member by agreeing, on Report or at a later stage, to incorporate the provisions of Section 290 (4) in place of these mandatory provisions.
It might also be helpful to the Committee if I reminded it that, as we see it at the moment, the inquiries that will be held will be almost exclusively under the Home Office rather than under my right hon. Friend's Department. In practice, what happens is that the Home Office exercises the provisions of Section 290 in its favour. In the case of my own Department, largely because we have our own staff of inspectors and do not therefore incur the same outside expenses, we do not normally make charges. But if the hon. Gentleman will consider withdrawing the Amendment, we will certainly take that step towards him, which I hope he will consider as a concession.
Although this gesture is a crumb of comfort and is better than nothing, surely it is still not enough. After all, an inquiry cannot be held until the Secretary of State orders it. He will not order it unless he deems it expedient to do so. We can never be in the presence of a frivolous inquiry because the Minister, or the Secretary of State, will have given prior consideration to whether there should be an inquiry at all. It would seem, to me at any rate, that, having determined that preliminary matter, to exclude all unjustifiable or frivolous inquiries, it would seem proper in the circumstances thereafter—particularly in the circumstances of the coming into existence of this machinery—that the charge should be one upon the Exchequer and not on a local authority.
Before my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) rises to beg leave to withdraw the Amendment, may I get the matter clear? If I follow the Parliamentary Secretary rightly, he is prepared to alter the Bill so that the Home Office, which would take most of these inquiries, would have a discretion whether to pay itself or make the local authority pay.
Yes, or to divide it.
If I understood the hon. Gentleman rightly, he said it would concern the Home Office more frequently than his Department—which made it easier for him to make these concessions cheerfully. He added that the Home Office, unfortunately, had a reputation of usually using its discretion in its own favour—
—but I hope that in future the Home Office will take the hint and not be inflexibly ungenerous.
This is water in a thirsty land, and it indicates that, like the unfortunate widow, we ought always to pray and not to faint and that in the end we get something.
I sympathise with what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones), but I feel that we ought to celebrate the first occasion on which we have had a clear undertaking to alter the Bill, though only in a minor respect. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will consider it right to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
I have listened to what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, and I am sure he gained a lot of satisfaction from being able to make that concession which we will accept, although it represents only a small crumb of comfort. I fear that it may have been made in order to cover up some other wickedness on the part of the Department.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 44, to leave out "1964" and to insert "1967".
This is obviously an Amendment of major importance. It reflects one's general judgment on the contents of the Bill, although I hope in developing my argument to show that I am not merely going to repeat arguments with which the Committee is familiar from earlier debates about the merits of the Bill as a whole, but to show that there are also quite compelling reasons why, even if one wanted this Bill to become law at all, this date ought to be altered.
I have chosen the date 1967 for the reason that I feel 1964 is too early and that the whole rhythm of local government in Greater London moves in three-year cycles. If I proposed 1965 or 1966 it might be objected that that could not be conveniently fitted into the present rhythm of local government elections. If, however, the Government do not feel that there is any substance in that point and are prepared to say that they think three years ahead is too much but they would be willing to consider 1966 or 1965, I would very willingly accept that.
Broadly speaking, I think 1964 is too early; the date ought at any rate to be twelve months later than that, 1965. I put in 1967 in case it might be objected that 1965 or 1966 was not a convenient year in view of the general pattern of local government elections in Greater London. I hope my Amendment will not be objected to merely because it says 1967 rather than 1966 or 1965. We would be prepared to settle for any of those dates.
One of the main reasons for wanting a postponement is that we consider that this plan ought not to come fully into operation until the electors as a whole have had an opportunity to pronounce on it at a Parliamentary General Election. Not only does this Bill affect a very large number of people—8 million, about a sixth of our whole population—but, as has been pointed out elsewhere and as we have discovered in the course of our debates today, this Bill embodies certain general principles and attitudes about local government which the Government are likely to apply in other parts of the country.
It is also introducing, by the size of the authority it creates, a new kind of government, something which is too large to be local government as we know it but too small to be regional government. If we once start doing that with the general pattern of local government in the country, it is something which concerns everyone whether they live in Greater London or not. It would be reasonable before making a change of this magnitude to give the electorate as a whole an opportunity to pronounce on it.
If, of course, the Minister is in a position to give us an undertaking that there will be a General Election before this Bill even becomes law, it will hardly be necessary for me to proceed with the Amendment, although I am not unreasonable and I do not positively demand an assurance of that kind. I prefer to deal with the matter in the normal Parliamentary way of trying to amend the Bill in such a way that it does not come into operation until the electorate as a whole has had an opportunity to pronounce upon it.
There are several reasons why I think it sound to demand that. It has often been stated, and truly stated, that there is no mandate for a Bill of this kind. Ministers and hon. Members opposite who know the London and Greater London constituencies must be perfectly well aware that if they had made it known to electors in Greater London constituencies at the last election that they proposed to do this kind of thing, the result in a number of constituencies concerned would have been very different from what it was.
We cannot argue against all the legislation a Government introduces that it has no mandate for it, because things often happen in the lifetime of a Government which cannot be foreseen. A Government which regarded itself as always tied to a mandate could not govern, but nothing happened between 1958 and now which obliged the Government to say that it is imperative to carry out a major reorganisation of Greater London government before the next General Election. Nobody could pretend that.
It is, I think, sound democratic doctrine that the Government should not proceed with major Measures for which they have no mandate unless they can show that it is necessary for the good government of the country to proceed with them with that degree of haste. That cannot be demonstrated of this Bill. The whole of these proceedings could be pushed 12 months into the future, and nobody could say that good administration would suffer as a result; but it would give an opportunity for the electorate to pronounce on them. That is one reason why we should await the judgment of the people: there has been no mandate for the Bill.
Secondly, it cannot be said that the Bill has by now the weight and moral authority of a Royal Commission behind it. It could probably be demonstrated that at some time during the 1959 election some more or less leading figure in the Conservative Party mumbled something or other about local government reform in general, and that, building on that, they appointed a Royal Commission to deal with Greater the findings of the Royal Commission. London, and that the Bill is based on But as the Minister must know, the Bill has by now departed in so many respects from the recommendations of the Royal Commission that the Government cannot claim the moral authority, if there were any, of that Commission behind it.
That is particularly true of the Clause and Schedule which we are to discuss in Committee of the whole House, and which determine the size and boundaries of the London boroughs, because the Government made a major change in the Royal Commission's recommendations about the size that the boroughs should be. The Royal Commission wanted the boroughs if possible to be round about 200,000, and not more than that. The Government proceeded on the principle that if possible they should always be more than 200,000, and many of them are much bigger than that. That is purely the Government's judgment. It has not the authority of the Royal Commission behind it. It has not a mandate of the people behind it.
Thirdly, it cannot be claimed that there is any consensus of well-informed opinion behind these proposals. Indeed, the remarkable thing about the whole Bill, and particularly about the proposals for the size and boundaries of the boroughs, is that it has not the support either of the democratic many or of the few elite in each branch with which 'the Bill deals. As we know, group after group of people with expert knowledge have pronounced against the Bill. There is a passage in the Press this morning giving the opinion of the medical profession about the proposals to break up the county health service. It is true that the memorandum suggests 'that 'this could be remedied by the use of administrative powers under Clause 46 (1). I am rather doubtful whether that is correct. I would always defer to the opinion of a group of doctors on a medical matter, but when it is a matter of what the Minister can and cannot do under a Clause in a Bill, I do not see why I should defer to the opinion of doctors more than to the opinion of anyone else. Their case against the termination of the service is serious.
It is significant that for each department of knowledge with which the Bill deals the group of people whom I call, without any disrespect, the elite—that is to say, people who have much more knowledge than the average person can possibly have of that particular service—have pronounced against it. These include doctors and architects. I had the good fortune to hear the Minister address the Royal Institution of British Architects earlier this month. What amused me was that the architects kept assuring him that they were in favour of the Bill in principle. If I had been in charge of a Bill and had been assured of support in tones as chilling as that of the meeting, I should have been alarmed. The Minister must have come away from 'the meeting feeling, "If this is support for the Bill, what will opposition be like?" Doctors, architects, magistrates, teachers, every group of people—
I hope that word will not be misunderstood, but I think it is true that on any subject one likes to mention it is important to get the views of two groups of people. When discussing health, it is important to know what the ordinary citizen thinks. It is also important to know what the doctors think. It is a mistake to make up one's mind on policy without consulting both those views. In a really healthy society, all of us would belong to the elite on one subject and be some of the common men on something else. I would never reject a Bill simply on the ground that the people with expert knowledge were opposed to it; but when a Bill is both unpopular with people in general and every group of experts dislikes it in particular it is not unreasonable to think that there might be something wrong with the Bill and it ought to be subjected to a General Election before it becomes law.
Another reason for doing that is that there is not in the Bill any procedure which gives the inhabitants of Greater London the kind of rights that are to be given in local government reorganisation to people in any other part of the country. The procedure is different there. Under the 1958 Act draft recommendations will be made by the Commission. All the parties concerned will have a chance of looking at the draft recommendations, making their own judgments on them, and presenting them to an inquiry. Only then will final recommendations be made. Then the Ministers, on the basis of that, will make orders and the House of Commons will decide what to do about the orders. At no time did Londoners have presented to them a draft of the Bill so that they could go through the formal process of making objections. It is true that they could give evidence to the Royal Commission, but when the Royal Commission was sitting no proposals had been made. That was a semi-academic inquiry. Everybody came forward and expressed his opinions about what London government ought to be like. When the Royal Commission had finished its job and made its own recommendations, those recommendations were not subject, as recommendations affecting provincial areas are, to the process of official public scrutiny and inquiry. This has not prevented Londoners of their own motion holding their meetings, expressing their opinions, and passing their judgments on what the Royal Commission and the later Government White Paper proposed. But they have never been guaranteed any proper statutory right of having the first recommendations put before them and made the subject of objection and inquiry. They have been treated worse in this respect than the people of any other part of the Kingdom.
My fifth reason for saying that this ought to be submitted to the test of a Parliamentary General Election before it comes into force is the clear and recent evidence we have of popular opposition to the Bill. I made my point earlier about the way in which one can, and should try to, collect on any major measure the opinion both of the experts and of people in general. Fortunately we have quite recent evidence as to what the opinion of people in general is about the Bill. It was only a few months after the White Paper was produced that we bad the borough council elections in London. A major issue in some of the boroughs was, "What do you think ought to be done about London education?" When those election campaigns began, the plan then was to hack the L.C.C. area completely out.
As the elections proceeded and, possibly, as reports of what was happening arrived at the Tory Central Office, the Government introduced a compromise plan which saved about two-thirds of the L.C.C. area. Even this, alas, did not serve to preserve the Tory control of Wandsworth from being destroyed at the election. The electors showed clearly enough what they thought of the proposal. So we had the still further modification of the education proposals, which now appears in the Bill.
More recently, in December, the Bill was read a second time. Just about that time there were two significant by-elections, one for the London County Council and one for the Middlesex County Council. One of those was in the Central Wandsworth Division, in London, a seat previously held by the Labour councillor with a majority of about 500. It is now held by a Labour councillor with a majority of three times that figure—and that was at a by-election in which the Bill under discussion was clearly in issue.
In the West Acton Division, in Middlesex, there was a by-election in a seat which had been held by the Conservative Party with a majority of about 300. It is now represented by a Labour councillor with a majority of over 1.000. There again was an election in which the Bill was a clear issue. The facts have shown themselves all along the line. I see the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge) shaking his head, but I do not think that he took part in the by-election in West Acton.
He will know, then, that the Conservative candidate was thrown very much further down the voting list on that occasion. I read the Labour candidate's address and I can assure hon. Members that it made the Bill a clear issue. Here are two recent county council by-elections at which this issue was before the electorate. They returned a verdict both impressive and serious and one to which the Government should pay attention.
I ask the Minister, therefore, to consider whether it is a dignified or democratic procedure to go ahead with a Bill against which there is such a weight of feeling by expert evidence? Or does he feel that if the Bill had to run the gauntlet of a General Election it would not survive? If he really feels that, he surely should not press forward with the Measure. A major change like this ought only to be made if one is reasonably satisfied that one has a solid weight of opinion behind it and that it is not likely to be speedily overthrown by a coming election. It is unwise morally and ministerially to proceed with a Bill which one feels cannot survive an elec-
We shall not lose all that much, from anyone's point of view, by postponing the operation of the Bill for twelve months. After all, a great change is involved. There can be no overwhelming reason for saying that it must take place at this juncture, rather than twelve or eighteen months later. If it ran the gauntlet of a General Election and survived the Government would then be in a strong position to say, as they cannot say now, that it is a change which Londoners desire.
To discover whether Londoners or people outside London desire the Bill the Government should be prepared—and the Measure does not have the authority of a Royal Commission behind it, has no signs of popular support and is condemned by expert opinion—to say that they will wait until, in the normal democratic process, Londoners and others have had an opportunity to pronounce upon it. They are not prepared to do that and it speaks ill for the confidence the Government have in the soundness and morality of their own Measure.