Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:02 pm on 1st July 1983.

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Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South 2:02 pm, 1st July 1983

It is a privilege to speak after any maiden speaker. I congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground), although he may not expect us to welcome his presence. We are grateful for the tribute that he paid to our former colleague, Russell Kerr, who made a formidable contribution to the affairs of the House, particularly in respect of nationalised industries. For many years he was chairman of the Select committee on Nationalised Industries, looking at many of our publicly owned enterprises. I am sure that many people regret that his chairmanship did not continue. We look forward to another such chairmen in the not too distant future, as we look forward to the hon. and learned Gentleman's intellectual observations, particularly because of his planning expertise, on the White Paper on the future of London government.

All Conservative Members, including the Minister, stood on these words at the election. I quote from the hard-to-find and hard-to-detect Conservative manifesto: The Metropolitan Councils and the Greater London Council have been shown to be a wasteful and unnecessary tier of Government. We shall abolish them and return most of their functions to the boroughs and districts. In London the districts did not originally have those functions anyway. The manifesto continues: Services which need to be administered over a wider area —such as police, and fire, and education in inner London—will be run by joint boards of borough or district representatives. There is a need for a wealth of intellectual support. Reference has been made today to the Herbert commission, a great tome of 500 pages that preceded the establishment of the GLC. After all, it was not the establishment of the GLC but the enlargement of the great municipal tradition of the London county council, started in 1888. As my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) reminded us, it was founded partly on the pioneer work of the London school board, which was founded in 1870. London's education has been in unity ever since.

The measure that is advocated by the Conservative party is much bigger than the establishment of the GLC. It is the destruction of a system of directly elected representatives to the service of central London since 1870 and 1888. I do not know what documentary evidence that statement in the manifesto is based on. Perhaps the Minister will tell us. What proves that the GLC has been wasteful and unnecessary? Hon. Members may have their views about any one administration, as we would. They may have views about the administration of Sir Horace Cutler or his predecessor. However, the word is "unnecessary". Unnecessary to whom? The Prime Minister? Unnecessary to the hon. Members who served with me on GLC committees, such as the hon. Members for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) and Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne)? Did they think that the GLC was unnecessary when they served on that body? If so, can they tell the House why, or why it has since become unnecessary?