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London

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:45 am on 1st July 1983.

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Photo of Hon. Anthony Berry Hon. Anthony Berry , Enfield, Southgate 11:45 am, 1st July 1983

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He did me a good turn a few months ago when he spoke for a whole hour. It was just what I wanted.

I should like to pay one other tribute to a former colleague, who left the Labour party, so was not entirely popular with it. Ron Brown served it well over many years and took a leading part in our London debates. I was sorry to see him go.

The right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) understandably referred to our commitment to do away with the Greater London council. I strongly support that. Some of my colleagues think that I have been in the House for many years, but it is only a few and I was not here when the Conservative Government decided to set up the GLC. The decision seemed right at the time—the right hon. Gentleman referred to the documents and so on—but that does not mean that one cannot make changes later in the light of experience. Experience has shown that the GLC is not the right way to run London's affairs. The change that we envisage is right. I am sure that many of my constituents who live in the postal area of Middlesex are glad to do so. Middlesex is a distinguished county, although in only one or two important ways now. I discovered during the election that Mike Gatting is one of my constituents. He spends a lot of time there now because Middlesex always wins its matches in two days.

Many of the responsibilities of the GLC have already been moved. Housing has largely gone to the boroughs and sewerage has gone to the Thames water authority. Ambulances have gone to the regional health authorities and there is a new plan for transport. The new system as envisaged will be very much to the benefit of London. It is right that there should be a great deal of consultation. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State made that clear in his speech and the Minister did so in the Queen's Speech debate. There will be many consultations during the coming months before the final decision is taken on how the changes should be made.

I strongly welcome the decision to set up the new transport authority. The present system is wrong. Party politics have played too big a part in what has happened. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!] Opposition Members may think that I am wrong, but the fact remains that my constituents were upset in many ways by the Fares Fair policy which Mr. Livingstone instituted. The pensioners had to pay extra rates until, fortunately, the policy was done away with, although they obtained no benefit from the reduced fares because they already had free transport. Many of my constituents living on the edge of the green belt found that the residential streets were being blocked by many commuters who parked their cars there and then took advantage of the reduced fares, yet were not even paying the increased rates. That is an example of the confusion that arose. It is right to make the change and set up a new authority—