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Orders Of The Day

Volume 654: debated on Monday 19 February 1962

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Consolidated Fund Bill

Considered in Committee; reported, without Amendment; read the Third time and passed.

London Government

3.48 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs
(Dr. Charles Hill)

I beg to move,

That this House takes note of the proposals of Her Majesty's Government for the reorganisation of local government in Greater London (Command Paper No. 1562).
Today's debate will, I think, for various reasons be welcomed on both sides of the House. It will provide an opportunity to explain more fully the Government's approach to the problems of London's local government and to hear constructive suggestions on the many matters still to be settled.

May I begin by reminding the House of the context in which the proposals have come forward? In 1957, the Government announced a comprehensive review of local government throughout England and Wales. There was widespread acceptance at that time that a comprehensive review was necessary, overdue and, indeed, urgent. For the rest of the country, as the House knows, the scope and machinery of review were embodied in the Local Government Act, 1958. The operations of the Local Government Commissions set up under that Act are now in full swing.

For Greater London, bearing in mind its unique complexity, its urgency and the delays and difficulties of tackling it by the same machinery as for the rest of the country, a Royal Commission was appointed under the chairmanship of Sir Edwin Herbert. It reported in 1960 and the Government announced their broad acceptance of its conclusions in 1961. I want to reaffirm our indebtedness to Sir Edwin Herbert and his colleagues for their patient and exhaustive work.

Their Report is a model—cogent, clear, and highly valuable as a basis for action. Indeed, it is a valuable source book for the future on the essential problems of our whole local government system. It is significant that the Royal Commission was unanimous, unlike the previous Royal Commission on London Government which reported in 1923.

I now turn very briefly to recapitulate how in the nineteenth century we got our present structure in Greater London, and the areas. The year 1855 saw the first attempt at anything like a local government system for London as such in the Metropolitan Board of Works, which was concerned with sanitation and with highways. Its area was a stretch of territory which, although described as "the Metropolis", had been merely customarily defined in this way for rather haphazard reasons more relevant to bills of mortality than to live local government. Much of the area was, in fact, open country.

The formation of county government over the country generally in 1888 saw this same area, a slightly odd area, made up from bits of the geographical counties of Middlesex, Surrey and Kent, formed into the administrative County of London. I say "slightly odd". Indeed, a distinguished alderman of the London County Council has gone further by saying, of the way in which the present County of London was defined:
"… to delimit a capital city by Act of Parliament on a basis of death registers and main drainage is surely one of the oddest that can ever have been evolved."
The County Boroughs of Croydon and West Ham were created at the same time, with East Ham following much later, in 1915.

Then, in 1899, we got the formation within this interestingly devised County of London of the 28 metropolitan boroughs, and, a year later the transfer to Kent of Penge—and nothing since Penge. That is how we got what we got, and we still have it after more than sixty years—over sixty years—of massive, momentous change. We may well doubt whether it was a very adequate local government area or structure for the capital then. We could hardly expect it to be adequate now.

If the hon. Member can restrain his enthusiasm, I will come to that later.

Take population. Let me make it clear that in referring to Greater London I am speaking of the area referred to as the "review area" by the Royal Commission and in the White Paper and not in the sense of its being necessarily the final area. There is room for some adjustment here and there in the boundary and we are quite open to realistic suggestions on this. The population in the County of London when it was first formed was 4 million and in the rest of Greater London 1 million. Today, there are few more than three million in the county but 5 million in the rest of Greater London, so that there are 8 million in the capital, but fewer than half of those in the administrative County of London.

As for building; the original so-called Metropolis included large stretches of open country. So did the early County of London. Outside the county boundary the land was built up only in relatively few places. Today, the continuous built-up area extends over the whole of what is now described as Greater London. Social habits? I have no need to remind the House of what has happened—a vast increase in cars, an increase so great over an area so large and so fully populated that at times it is in danger of defeating itself. I do not need to spell it all out. London and its problems have grown in every way.

The Metropolis in the sense of the old bills of mortality area, in the sense of the County of London as first taken by the founding fathers of the L.C.C., is no longer a meaningful area in any real, modern sense. The only meaningful area now for the capital taken as a whole is Greater London. Local government functions have undergone an equally massive transformation in their range, complexity and scale. Yet we still have the same old structure still based on the old haphazard, outgrown areas.

That is why we determined five years ago—and that is why it is now five years more urgent that we should get to the next stage—to do what needed to be done to establish fresh areas, a fresh structure, related not to the conditions of the last century, but to the pressing need of today and, no less important, the probable needs of tomorrow.

I want to say just a word on the present structure. Greater London is now governed by a complex patchwork of more than 100 local authorities, quite apart from joint boards and other special bodies for particular services. There are nine major authorities, that is county councils and county borough councils, the City of London, 28 metropolitan boroughs, 40 municipal boroughs and 23 urban districts, exhibiting three distinct systems of government.

In those parts of Greater London outside the L.C.C. area, the powers, execpt in the three county boroughs, are divided between the county and the borough and district councils in the same way as in the counties of England and Wales generally. Inside the County of London, the powers are split differently. The L.C.C. holds far more of the strings of powers. The boroughs within its area, despite the considerable size of many of them, exercise fewer powers than almost any other kind of authority, however small, in the Greater London area.

It is worth describing the present powers of the metropolitan boroughs. They have no personal health and welfare services in their own right; no education functions; a limited, delegated power of planning control—and that acquired only in 1960; housing and highways powers shared with the L.C.C.; and even parks and open spaces powers shared with the L.C.C. What remains? There remain only libraries, local sewers—subject, in practice, to certain L.C.C. rights of control—refuse collection, street cleaning, baths, wash-houses, cemeteries and crematoria.

That is the list of present functions of the metropolitan boroughs. If the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) is winding up for the Opposition, and can give a different and accurate list, the House will be glad to hear it.

Let us look beyond the Metropolitan boroughs, at the big municipal areas and urban districts which, although now forming part of Greater London, are controlled for their major services by county councils to whom Greater London is not of prime concern. It is not only that this haphazard and antiquated system of divided areas of responsibility is irrelevant to the needs and problems of modern local government services in modern urban circumstances, particularly in a great capital city; it is not only frustrating to the existing authorities; more than that—they cannot do their job effectively.

I mean no criticism of the existing councils, whether of counties, boroughs or urban districts. They and their officers have striven well, considering the difficulties within which they have had to work. We owe it to these men and women in local government—members and staff alike; those who serve now and those who follow them—to give them a better deal in terms of an intelligent and intelligible system, and so enable them the better to give a better deal to the people they serve, in terms of effective and convenient local government.

If we do not—if we defer and run away from action because in this field all action is difficult and troublesome and full of risks—we risk the end of real local government in the area, and reach a situation in which the central Government have to take an ever increasing part. The strains are there already. The Ilford and the Ealing Bills were but indications of the widespread friction and frustrations which everyone in this House who is acquainted with local government in the area knows only too well.

The Royal Commission's Report adds fresh warning, and the Commission was certainly not anxious to look for trouble where none existed. It said:
"Where things are working well our inclination is to leave them alone. We do not believe that London's problems can be solved merely by improving the machinery of government. Our inclination is to recommend changes only where they appear to be essential. In spite of these predilections the facts we have found to exist and the inferences we feel bound to draw from them drive us to the conclusion that, judged by the twin tests of administrative efficiency and the health of representative government, the present structure of local government in the Review Area is inadequate and needs overhaul."
This was a blunt diagnosis, by an independent panel of referees, and it confirms the views which have long been held by many who have studied this problem.

What of the remedy? The Commission based its approach on two main principles, which the Government fully accept. The first is that Greater London is, as a fact, one great city, with a recognisable civic unity and shape, and must, therefore, be treated as an entity for those local government purposes to which that fact is relevant. The second is that the existing boroughs and urban districts within Greater London should be regrouped to form units of such size and resources as are necessary to enable their councils to carry the full responsibility, within their areas, for all the other local government functions.

Let me quote the Royal Commission on the first of these principles. It says:
"We have formed the view, based partly on our own travels in the Review Area, partly on evidence brought before us, and partly on special studies, that there is an entity which is so closely knit, so interdependent, so deeply influenced by the central area and so largely built up, that it truly makes up the London of today."
It follows inescapably that, for the appropriate local government purposes, what is London should be treated as a single entity. In other works it should have a directly elected authority—for if it is an entity in itself it deserves its own electoral personality. And with executive powers. For if, in relation to the appropriate services, it is a single and complete area, there must be a single and complete responsibility.

The White Paper sets out the Greater London services. The House will recall them. There is the preparation of an overall development plan; the planning and construction of main roads; traffic control; overspill housing; the ambulance and fire services; and refuse disposal. I do not need to go over the reasons for this choice of services; the House will know them. Indeed, the choice almost dictates itself.

This means that the new boroughs will be the primary housing authorities. They will also have complete responsibility for personal and environmental health services, welfare and child care. I believe that it is a considerable advance to bring these related services into the same hands. Outside a central area, which I shall mention later, they will be the education authorities. They will also have important powers in connection with planning control, highways and other matters, though the extent of these will need in some cases to be considered further.

That is the way we propose to meet the need for accepting the unity of London as a whole, and, at the same time, for strengthening the boroughs for the administration of local services. There is much scope for discussion and adjustment of details—the precise delimitation of boundaries and the precise delineation of functions—but not, in the Government's view, of the main framework. This structure and this pattern—in the Government's view—flow logically and naturally from the two principles—indeed, the facts—established by the Commission, which I mentioned earlier. If we challenge the pattern we challenge these principles.

Let us look at the challenges. There is the challenge of inertia and fear. It underlines much of the criticism which the Commission's Report and the White Paper have aroused. I freely recognise that much of it is very natural and understandable. It is not surprising that local authorities who will lose their present entities are perturbed. The knowledge that any material proposals for reorganisation must inevitably have this effect has already delayed badly needed action in many parts of the country for years. But we cannot let that remain as a stumbling block for ever. Clearly, too, however great the need for the changes proposed I do not deny that there will be considerable practical difficulties whilst they are being put into effect. One would not wish to give rise to these difficulties if changes were not really necessary.

I come back to the Commission's own point. If things are working well, they should be left alone, but, if they are not, they should be changed. And the change should be a genuine one, based on the two principles—a unified London for some overall services, and stronger boroughs within it for the more local services. We shall turn our attention to some particular functions later today and tomorrow. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Education will deal tomorrow with education questions, and I shall say little on that subject today.

Much has been said of the difficulties, and I merely want to say that, difficult though the stage of transition will be, I hardly think that it will be claimed that local government is so poor in men and women of skill, devotion and farsightedness that they cannot surmount and survive these difficulties of change.

Then there are the difficulties created for Essex, Kent and Surrey, with the loss of large slices of rateable value and the severance of complex administrative and functional organisations. Of course, it will not be easy for the counties concerned, and we are willing to consider carefully any evidence which may be put forward of really exceptional difficulties, calling for exceptional solutions.

But let us remember that, on present figures, even if all the four counties of Essex, Kent, Surrey and Hertfordshire were reduced as the Royal Commission suggested they would all still be in the first ten counties of England as regards rateable value, and within the first fifteen from the point of view of population.

I will say a word now about the challenge embodied in the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris). At least, it is comprehensive. It stems from anxiety about the most important thing of all in this business of local government—the interests of the inhabitants. That is what we must cater for. Not the special interests of particular groups of people in the local government world who, naturally enough, speak with such enthusiasm, if not passion, for the bit of the system that they happen to have been working in that they are in danger of losing sight of the whole. Nor, indeed, of the people who want to tailor local government to fit what they conceive to be the overriding need of the one particular service in which they are interested.

There may be the individual place where some of the inhabitants feel that they will contribute more than they gain by being administered for overall services along with the rest of the capital city of which they form part. Where such a place, for example, is near the edge of the capital city, there may be a temptation to argue that they are not really part of the capital city at all. That can be argued on its merits, as a matter of fact, but if one is really part of the capital it is, at the very least, short-sighted to seek to evade a share of the responsibilities of its proper overall administration.

It is asserted by some, including the signatories to the Opposition Amendment, that the White Paper provides
"no adequate answer to the problems of planning and transport.,"
I would have thought that an overall planning authority for the capital as a whole, with day-to-day control of development within that plan resting with the new boroughs, was a marked advance on the present situation.

I know that some people want an executive regional planning body for many times the area of Greater London. It is an interesting idea, though not a new one, and I should be happy to discuss it in a debate on regional planning, but today we are not on one particular function; we are not on a theory of regionalism; we are discussing specific proposals for local government, that is, the whole local government system and its structure in Greater London.

I turn now to say a word about traffic and roads. Here again, we have proposed that main roads and traffic control should be substantially the responsibility of the Greater London authority. I wait to hear why this should be thought wrong, or whether, again, we should deem greater London to be a much bigger place than it seems on the face of it, to suit a theory for the administration of one or two particular local government functions.

Then again, I notice in the Opposition Amendment the words:
"… believing that wiser and more effective plans for Greater London government are available …"
I shall be interested to hear more about these wiser and more effective plans. I think that I am right in saying that apart from one scheme, to which I shall come in a moment, no sizeable body of opinion has put forward any constructive plan alternative to the Commission's and the Government's proposals since they came out.

An alternative plan, on which I should, in any event, like to comment, is that put forward by the four counties of Surrey, London, Middlesex and Essex. I note that the Kent County Council is not quite of the same view, and that the Hertfordshire County Council is not. It can be traced back to the oral evidence given to the Royal Commission by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black), in his then capacity as Chairman of the Surrey County Council. He referred at the time, in terms of approval, to the idea of a joint advisory planning committee—purely advisory. Even this suggestion was an advance on the position taken up in the written evidence by the county councils. Their line had been that almost nothing needed to be done to alter or improve existing arrangements in Greater London. To them, everything in the capital was capital.

The plan that they now put forward—stemming from that advisory committee idea of my hon. Friend—is something elaborated after the Royal Commission's Report was published. The county councils attached themselves in this plan to the two main propositions of the Commission's Report, that certain functions needed to be considered Greater London-wise, and that more functions should be given to the boroughs or districts within Greater London. It is fair to say that they did not go very far in specifying the extent to which boroughs and districts could get more powers. There was to be some conferment, some delegation, and perhaps some amalgamation, too.

Now for the things that needed doing for Greater London as a whole. There was no need, the counties said, to set up a single new directly elected authority in place of all the existing major authorities. Let us have, they argued, a joint planning board. And not just for Greater London—establish it for an area going beyond the green belt, possibly including the whole of Surrey and Hertfordshire, and parts of Bedfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

The members would be appointed by the major authorities and by groups of boroughs and districts. They would concern themselves with planning, main roads and traffic, overspill, and refuse disposal. They would draw up, and periodically review, a master plan dealing with the broad issues—employment policy, land availability, population targets, location of industry, communications, green belts, and standards for such matters as open spaces. Their master plan would be approved by the Minister and have binding force, and the planning authorities within the area, while preparing their plans, would have to keep within it; and similarly with main roads, traffic control, and so on.

There is one outstanding characteristic of the plan. It leaves the existing major authorities as they are. There is no harm in that if what ought to be done can be done without harming them. But this plan does not deal with London; not with the built-up area which the Royal Commission regarded as London, or anything like it. It goes enormously wider. Of course, London's influence stretches much wider than its built-up area, but that does not mean that good London government is best served by basing it on that wider sphere of influence.

The Royal Commission, in dealing with this point, said:
"We accept the view that the problems of Greater London are inextricably concerned with the problems of south-east England as a whole, but it is a non sequitur to argue from that that no attempt should be made on the part of local government to organise planning, housing, transport and some other services within the Review Area as a whole. To do so would not solve all the problems of southeast England; but to treat the Review Area as one entity, so that its problems can be assessed and dealt with as a whole, would (we believe) be an important administrative step towards the arrangements which are necessary for dealing with south-east England."
Indeed, let us think of what would happen in practice if there were a joint planning board, as the county councils suggest, over an area of that size. It would necessarily deal in generalities. The detailed application of these generalities would have to be worked out, in their separate development plans, by the six county councils and the three county boroughs. They would all have an eye on the master plan, but they would all have different view points from which to peer, as it were, through the metropolitan fringe with one eye, with the other squinting back at their outer areas. In fact, the joint planning board idea starts by ignoring the basic fact that London is a single capital city, which for a number of important purposes must be treated as a separate entity.

A second major weakness in the scheme is that it adds another tier to an already complex structure, without giving it real power to solve the complex problems. The White Paper refers to the suggested board as "largely advisory" and the Government have been accused, by using this term, of misrepresenting what the county councils have proposed. Let me quote from the county council memorandum to my predecessor about this body:
"Though it should not be an executive body, it must be more than a mere consultative body. It must, indeed, be a planning and co-ordinating body."
It also stated:
"It should not be an executive body."
How can a board make any real impact on London's most urgent problems if it has no executive powers, no ability to carry out works and get things done? Take roads, for example. It could plan roads, but others must build them. "Ah", say the county councils, "the pressure and incentives which the Minister of Transport can use would see that the main road pattern was achieved …" In fact, they are saying, "Let us stay as we are at all costs, and if, as a result, we do not do the job properly, the Minister will keep us up to scratch". It is not reasonable local government.

Now a word about the boroughs in the proposals of the Government—

Whatever the position and whatever establishment may deal with planning for roads, at the end of it the Minister of Transport has the power of veto or approval. Surely the Minister is not saying that his right hon. Friend has not the power to veto or approve.

I am not saying anything of the sort. I am saying that a scheme which relies on action by the Minister of Transport in relation to a task which the body should itself do reveals an essential weakness.

The Minister has dealt exhaustively with the weaknesses of the proposals from the county councils. To enable hon. Members to make a fair comparison, will the right hon. Gentleman say something about the functions of the Greater London Council and how it would work?

Earlier in my speech I referred to the list of functions allocated to the Greater London Council. Since it was at that point that she intervened, I imagine that the hon. Lady is referring to the Greater London Council's part in planning. Taking the present position in Greater London before we examine the alternative, we find that there are nine development plans—from the six county councils and the three county boroughs. If we take the proposal of the White Paper, the Greater London Council will prepare a development plan and review it periodically.

I shall go on to deal with its associated functions, but the Council would be able, with the consent of the borough concerned or of the Minister, to carry out big schemes of comprehensive development. The boroughs would exercise powers of planning control which would be given to them by Statute and not just by delegation schemes. The main exception to this is that the Greater London Council and not the boroughs might well retain control over planning applications in Central London. That is one of the issues which is still being considered.

As I have said, the detailed application of the plan put forward by the four county councils would be an exceedingly difficult matter.

May I pass swiftly—I am trying not to detain the House too long—to the two departures from the recommendations of the Royal Commission as described in the White Paper. One relates to education. The House will recall that the Royal Commission recommended that education should be shared with the Greater London authority and that the boroughs should broadly have a population range of 100,000 to 250,000. As I have said, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education will deal with education more fully. I mention it now only because we propose that the boroughs should be the education authorities throughout all Greater London, save for a central area, and that they be rather larger and fewer than the Royal Commission suggested.

The case for larger boroughs rests not only on grounds of education. Bearing in mind the other services which they will be providing, the boroughs will be rather akin to county boroughs. Today, one normally expects a county borough to have a population of at least 100,000, although some of the most effective ones are much bigger. Within an area like London the bigger area would seem right. We think that a figure more like 200,000 is the minimum at which to aim. I await the final comments of the local authorities on the possible borough boundaries suggested in the circular from my Department which was issued just before Christmas. There will be discussions on the grouping, indeed group discussions.

I have proposed to local authorities that a small number of serving town clerks from outside the London area should conduct these discussions on my behalf. I am consulting the London authorities and their associations on the terms of reference. There is, of course, room for disagreement over these groupings. The big difficulty is that we cannot look at any one group in isolation. We have to consider the whole general pattern. But we should be quite willing to consider alternative groupings which are viable and desirable in themselves, and whose creation would not make insuperable problems for other groupings.

Do I understand that the Government are still willing to consider the possibility of education over the wider area, and not just the 2 million to which the Minister has referred?

The position is, setting aside the population and size, that for part of the area the boroughs will be the education authorities. For part of the area, the so-called central area, there will be an ad hoc education authority. In so far as we have put down a figure of 2 million, there is room for discussion about what is the right size for the population of that area. There is room for discussion about the method of its appointment. There is no room for discussion on the main principle that the boroughs, except in a central area, shall be the education authorities. In short, the size of the area and the population of the area are open to discussion, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education will be dealing fully with this problem.

May I put it this way? If there is an attempt to make out a case for the central authority being the education authority, the Minister would dismiss it before even hearing the arguments. I refer to the whole wider area.

I am not sure that I understand the hon. Gentleman. The boroughs are to be the education authorities, except in a central area, for which a size of population has been suggested, but on which no final decisions have yet been made. Does that answer the hon. Gentleman?

Then perhaps he will try it on my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education.

With respect, may I try it on the Minister of Housing and Local Government? He is opening this debate and is supposed to know all the answers. I put to the right hon. Gentleman that he is proposing, for what he calls inner London, with a population figure of about 2 million, that the boroughs in the area will be the education authorities; will have education authority control.—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] What I am asking is this. Is the Minister throwing away the idea of the possibility of the greater authority being the whole education authority for the whole area?

Yes. I said plainly to the House that the original proposal of the Royal Commission, that education should be a function of the Greater London Council, has been rejected. Indeed, I specifically put it forward as one of the points on which we differ from the Royal Commission.

Can the Minister explain to the House how it comes about that in a proposal for the modernisation of London local government, both the Royal Commission and the Government intend to preserve intact the archaic powers and privileges of the City of London?

I have a reference to make to the City of London—a brief reference—to which I shall come if he will allow me to do so.

The right hon. Gentleman told us that the Government will be thinking again on representations made to them about the size and population of the boroughs. Does this mean that he is not committed to a minimum of 200,000, or approximately that figure, particularly with regard to educational functions?

It means that in relation to the boroughs we are not committed to the outlines which appear in the draft map which we sent out. Our position is that for such boroughs, bearing in mind the functions which they are to acquire, the population should not be less than 200,000. That is the position which we have stated and that is where we stand. What I said earlier was: provided any grouping can produce boroughs of sufficient size and resources, and the new borough makes sufficient sense in terms of centres of shopping and transport and so on, we should be glad to consider a rewritten map, provided that any change does not produce insuperable problems for the adjacent areas.

Supposing there were two adjoining boroughs each of 100,000, and each was able to prove that it had adequate resources at 100,000, is the Minister's mind open on the possibility of a figure of 100,000?

Will the Minister give his reasons for rejecting the size of boroughs proposed by the Royal Commission? The Royal Commission made a carefully-reasoned statement. The Minister says that the larger borough seems right. Will he give his reasons?

I will give one. One must take into account the increased educational function which is proposed for the boroughs and which was not proposed by the Royal Commission.

I want to say a word about loss of identity in amalgamations, because, obviously, this is an important issue in the minds of many people. I ought to remind the House, nevertheless, that the change of local government boundaries does not necessarily submerge local names. There are many local names in London — Blackheath, Bayswater, Catford, Highgate, Holloway, Hoxton, Kennington and Kew, for example—which have no existence in terms of local government boundaries, but which are still retained and still used.

I was asked to say a few words about the City. I want to quote some words of the Report of the Royal Commission:
"Logic has its limits, and the City lies outside them."
We propose to accept the Royal Commission's recommendation on that point.

It is not proposed that in the strict sense Greater London should be a county. It will be something apart, as the capital City, and its existence will make no difference to the ancient county pattern in the area for purposes other than local government administration, although some special arrangements may need to be made as regards justice, sheriffs and Lord Lieutenants. As for its council, it is proposed that the Greater London Council should be directly elected. The Commission so recommended and the Government endorse that view. As for the electoral divisions, I shall be glad to hear hon. Member's views.

There are many other matters for consultation, one of which must be the interests of local government staff. There will still be some 8 million people to serve, so that there should be, by and large, no less need for their services, but, of course, there will clearly be some transitional and individual problems, some of which will be formidable. Local authorities as employers are not responsible to me, but we must devise arrangements—and there are some precedents for them—to safeguard not only the administration of the services, but also the interests of the officers employed in them. We shall consult both employers and employed.

We have already been in consultation on compensation arrangements for cases in which there is actual loss of job or pay, whether in London or in other parts of the country now being reviewed under the Act of 1958. I should tell the House that I have just informed local authorities and staff associations of my intention to make substantial improvements to the compensation scale settled for similar purposes in the immediate post-war period.

May I come back, in conclusion, to the main issues arising on the Motion. The White Paper sets out the Government intention to press forward with a reorganisation of London government founded on two basic features established by the Royal Commission. The first is the unity of the built-up area of Greater London and the need to set up for it, for the relevant purposes, a directly elected council with executive powers. The plan of the county councils cannot, in the Government's view, be regarded as an adequate or practical alternative.

The second feature is that the boroughs shall be the primary units of local government, regrouped so as each to have an adequate minimum population, not so unwieldy as to become impersonal but big enough to tackle the job.

The intended functions of the Greater London council and the boroughs and the central area for education are those indicated in the White Paper.

There are a number of matters still remaining to be settled. They must be settled in consultation. I must mention some of them. For example, precisely how should the boroughs be grouped? Exactly what constitutes the area of Greater London? What should be the precise boundaries and arrangements for the central education area? How should certain functions, like planning and housing, be shared? How should the financial arrangements be sorted out?

What does it all add up to? The need for a drastic reorganisation of the government of London stares us in the face, for at present there is no government of London as such—not of London as it is today. Will anybody say that the planning of this great city, its development and redevelopment, its living and working conditions, the movements of its traffic, are at present competently and confidently managed? They cannot be, for there is no manager.

Will anybody dare to suggest that this patchwork of local authorities provides a tolerable local government system for one of the greatest cities in the world—for the capital of a country where local government has been more powerful and more prized than perhaps in any other land?

On what we now decide, the future of local government in this great city depends.

4.38 p.m.

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:

"considers that the proposals in the White Paper (Command Paper No. 1562) provide no adequate answer to the problems of planning and transport, would wreck the humane and efficient performance of several local government functions, notably education, housing and the children's service, in central London and elsewhere, and offer no solution to the difficulties created for the counties of Essex, Kent and Surrey; and, believing that wiser and more effective plans for Greater London government are available, calls on Her Majesty's Government to revise their policy".
The Amendment summarises our case against these proposals, and that case can be stated as follows. The modified version of the Royal Commission's plan which the Government have put before us takes as its chief concern the problem of planning, transport and traffic. It was with those problems in mind that they made their first major recommendation for a Greater London Council. We say that the local government structure which they have offered for this planning and traffic purpose is at once too cramped and too feeble to fulfil the purpose for which it was designed. Yet into this structure, unsatisfactory as it is for what was supposed to be its first purpose, there are to be ruthlessly jammed the other local government services, some of them of great human import, and upon them the effect of that structure is likely to be ruinous.

Throughout the Royal Commission's Report, the White Paper and the Minister's speech there is a very grave disregard of the human services of housing, education and children's services. It is remarkable that the Minister's speech, which was not brief, included nothing at all about how these human services would work under the proposed set-up. That is not surprising because behind the Minister's speech lay the Report of the Royal Commission, which displayed, as we now come to realise, a very grave ignorance of how some of these human services worked, or the kind of task they had to do.

We say, next, that the proposals not only disregard these human services, but they disregard the difficulties created for the surrounding counties which are severed by this new plan. Further, all these errors are put before us at a time when there are sounder principles to be discovered, as I shall show, on which a real solution of this problem might be founded. We are not urging the Minister, to use his own phrase, to run away from action. We are urging him, in the first instance, to look before he leaps, and this is what he and so many of his advisers on this matter have failed to do.

I regret that it was necessary to move the Amendment, but it was made clear before the debate began that we were not really being asked to take note of the proposals but to take note of the fact that the Government had made up their mind, whatever might be said in the debate, on all the major issues. In the light of that it would be wrong for us to allow this debate to go by without making clear our opinion and the opinion of many others on the major proposals.

Let us take, first, the great concerns of planning, transport and traffic. It is quite natural that anyone approaching the government of greater London should focus his attention first on that problem. It is, undoubtedly, the one group of topics where the present local government structure is least satisfactory and where changes are most necessary. That, I think, is not in dispute.

What is the problem that has to be solved? We have the review area, with its 8½ million people, its population thinning in the centre, growing slightly at the edges, and with a much greater growth of population outside the review area. Our problem is where is this increasing population to be housed, where is it to find employment, and how is it to be provided with schools, with recreation, and with all the other needs of human life which local government has to supply?

Perhaps, most alarming of all, how is it to be enabled to travel, with the number of motor cars increasing daily, from home to work and to recreation? Those are the problems that we have to solve. What we are offered for the solution of this problem is a Council for Greater London that will embrace the review area, and the review area only, and not the fermenting outer region where the real causes of the problem are to be found.

The Minister gave us no reason why that should be so, except to say that that was what the Royal Commission thought and that the Royal Commission said that this area was an entity, neither more nor less. An ipse dixit of that kind will not answer the serious considerations that there are here. The Council for Greater London was to have some housing powers, powers of planning traffic and transport and an intelligence service. Why do we say that these proposals fail? They fail, I think, for four reasons at least.

First, because the area within which Council for Greater London will function is too cramped. If we take the figures that the Royal Commission itself supply, we find that in the coming years—and the Minister said that we must look to the future—the main growth of the population and the main new developments will lie outside the review area.

Further, that if the problem of housing the people inside the review area is to be solved, it must be by action taken outside the review area. Anyone who has studied London's housing problems knows that. Are we to go on with the process whereby more and more employment is concentrated inside the review area, sometimes well into the middle of it, and dwellings tend to be outside, to the ceaseless increase of the commuter-travel across the green belt. We cannot solve that problem unless the authority devised to solve it has jurisdiction across the green belt. What happens outside the green belt determines whether we can solve the problems of the people living within it.

Does the hon. Gentleman not rather defeat his argument by overlooking or, at any rate, not mentioning, the proposal in the White Paper with regard to the overspill powers of the Greater London Council?

The point which the hon. Member has mentioned is within my cognisance and I shall have something to say about it.

I am saying that at the moment the body concerned with major planning and traffic decisions ought to be extended beyond the green belt and not limited to this inner area. It fails then, first, because its area is too cramped, and, next, because its powers are clipped.

The right hon. Gentleman did not mention that, although this authority is supposed to be a planning authority, not only will decisions on planning applications be made by the smaller authorities within its area, but that if those authorities make decisions on planning applications which, in the view of the Council for Greater London, conflict with its plan, the lower authorities are to be the judge whether they conflict with its plan or not. That will make it impossible for the Council for Greater London to have any security that the plan it makes will be carried out. The extent to which it will be carried out will be at the decision of the 34 smaller authorities within its area.

Thirdly, its appeal to the electorate—the Minister was anxious that it should be directly elected—is to be somewhat shadowy. The Royal Commission wanted it to be directly elected and to be also an education authority. That proposal is universally abandoned as being unworkable. If we take that away, what is left? Some housing powers, very little housing powers within its own area, but overspill housing powers. The extent to which it can exercise these powers depends on the consent that it can get from authorities outside its own jurisdiction. It would not be acting with power then, but by consent.

The Council will have some housing powers, but it will have no education powers and it will have none of the human services, none of those services which give warmth, life and vigour to a local government election. I believe that we shall find that direct election of a body with these powers will be about as inspiring to the electorate as direct election of the Metropolitan Water Board. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is going to suggest that.

Further, it fails because if it is to work at all with this idea of a planning metropolitan authority its decisions on transport have to be reinforced by Government action, and the Royal Commission pointed out very clearly that we could do what we liked with local government structure, but we would never solve the travelling and traffic problem unless there could be greater certainty of what funds would be forthcoming over a period of years for the authorities of areas to spend on railways and roads.

The Commission was quite emphatic on that. It said:
"In their evidence the Ministry of Transport indulged in a good many criticisms of the structure of local authority machinery as it relates to highways."
Indulging in criticism of other people is a characteristic of the present Minister of Transport.

The Royal Commission also said:
"It seemed to us that it was a great blemish upon the Ministry's evidence that they failed to draw attention to what has been the greatest obstacle in producing an adequate road system."
This obstacle was the lack of certainty from year to year whether the money would be forthcoming to build the roads which the councils planned or to improve the railway system to keep pace with the immense increase in traffic across the green belt.

The Royal Commission urges that something of this kind should be done if its plan is to work. The White Paper says nothing. The Minister is silent. For the four reasons I have mentioned—too cramped in area, clipped in powers, shadowy in its appeal to the electorate, and unreinforced by the decisions on transport policy by the Government which the Royal Commission thought were essential—I believe this body fails in its traffic and planning purposes.

What can be deduced from that by way of principles of reconstruction? The Minister was elephantinely merry over alternatives proposed to the Royal Commission. It is not my function to give him a plan as detailed as the Royal Commission's, but I think that I can manage to be a little less sketchy than the White Paper. I shall give him the principles on which I believe the right answers can be found.

First, to get the planning and traffic aspects right, a wider area must be taken, probably something like the area of the Abercrombie Greater London Plan. Secondly, in this area there must be some authority with power to make major decisions concerning the location of housing and industry, the main structure of highways, and a solution of the traffic problem. I think that this may prove to be the answer to planning generally. We are all beginning to realise, with regard to planning, that regional grouping of the county areas will be necessary if we are to get planning right. If a major planning authority is desired, it is no good having one like this review area, which is almost entirely urban. In such an authority the urban and the rural areas must be combined.

If we do get anywhere near to the regional solution for planning, it is also quite clear, if we value local government at all, that the regional authority ought not to take on a great many other services as well. Therefore, it ought to be something like the joint planning board which was proposed to the Minister by the five counties. I remind the Minister again that the statement in the White Paper that they proposed an advisory body is untrue. They made that quite clear.

No, that is not the crucial question. The crucial question is this, and the Minister must try to answer it: is it a body which has power to make decisions to which the counties will have to conform? An advisory body clearly would not have such powers. What the five counties propose—I agree with them in this—is a body which would have power to make decisions to which the counties must conform. It is untrue to call a body with those powers a merely advisory body.

There is an alternative to the five counties' proposal, in which I think my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) is interested. Instead of something created from the local authorities there ought to be, because of the special needs of the capital, an organ of the central Government to deal with this problem. If the Minister does not like the joint planning board, he should study this alternative.

The arguments for and against both proposals can be weighed up, but it certainly does not lie in the Government's mouth to say that they are horrified at the idea of central Government interference in metropolitan matters. The Royal Commission plan suggests that the Minister shall have power to say, as and when he pleases, to the Greater London Council, "This is a central planning area in which I, the Minister, have certain powers". He can say where such areas are to be and how wide his powers are to be in them. Therefore, it does not lie in the mouth of the Government to say that, a solution which calls on the central Government might not be the right answer.

Have we observed that the present Minister of Transport is coy about taking a hand in solving metropolitan problems? This happens now when we have a Minister of Transport of a "shy and retiring disposition". What might happen if some day we had a Minister of Transport who was bouncy and cocky and fond of the limelight?

The essential principles are these: first, a wider area; secondly, within that area an authority—I have suggested two ways, and more could be suggested, of how it can be constructed—with power to make the major decisions. The third principle, which the Minister so sadly neglected, is that it must be reinforced by changes in Government policy about the finances of road and rail. The Government are merely playing with the problem if they think that they can solve it by altering local government boundaries alone. That is why I say, on planning and traffic, that the structure is cramped and too feeble for this job.

Take now the human services—housing, education, and the children's service. I want to say something about them. I think that it is universally agreed that these services could not be run by the Greater London Council by a uniform administration over the whole area. The Royal Commission rejects that. The Government reject it. Very few of the witnesses before the Royal Commission suggested that it could be done that way. Therefore, this question must be answered: within the whole area, what is the right size of authority which ought to carry out services like housing, education, and the children's services?

Let us look at housing first. Housing is normally a borough and district responsibility. The London County Council is unique among county councils in having concurrent housing powers. The reason for this is obvious enough. When there are great masses of people living close together, with a high density of population, what is done in one borough area is bound to have repercussions in another and the problems cannot be solved properly unless some body has powers over a larger area than the boroughs. That is why the L.C.C. has concurrent housing powers.

Common sense should suggest that there is a case for giving similar powers to the County of Middlesex, which is by now similarly urbanised. That is not what the Royal Commission or the Government propose to do. They propose to take housing and hand it over to each one of the thirty-four boroughs, with the exception of overspill housing and with the exception of a certain amount of housing to be done inside the area, but that could be done only with the consent of the borough in whose area it was done or, failing that, with the consent of the Minister. Building within the review area by the Greater London Council was regarded as a minor and, on the whole, exceptional part of the whole process of housing.

Why does this fail? To begin with, it fails for one very simple reason. There is a good deal of clearance and development work still to be done inside the review area. It is a simple enough principle that if clearance and development work is done in one borough some of the displaced people will inevitably have to be rehoused in other boroughs. The boroughs, even the Minister's boroughs, are not large enough to avoid that conclusion. I remind hon. Members of the Warwick Crescent scheme and the Kensal new town scheme. Two-thirds of the people displaced by these schemes had to be rehoused in an area which would have been outside the borough which, under the Minister's proposals, they would have been living in. In many such schemes it would be necessary constantly to call on this elaborate machinery of negotiation to get the work done.

The same applies to road schemes. The Cromwell Road scheme could not have been proceeded with if it had not been for the housing powers exercised over a county-wide area by the London Council Council. The people displaced could not have been rehoused in the borough from which they were displaced.

The same is true of educational building. It may be said that this is covered by the arrangements for special permission by the borough concerned for the central authority to build in its area. But that, of course, is not the problem at all. Why will the central authority want to build in borough A? Because it has carried out a scheme in borough B. It is borough B which is benefiting directly, but it is borough A of whom the local authority must ask permission to do anything for borough B. That is not a very happy arrangement if one wants the thing done.

The same applies if a local authority does educational building. That also inevitably displaces people who cannot always be rehoused inside their own borough, even "borough" under the Minister's definiton. In the next twelve years there will probably be about 100,000 families affected, so the House will see that this building on a county-wide basis is not going to be an exceptional or minor part but a major and very important part. Yet the Greater London Council will not be able to move on that without seeking the consent of every borough in which it is going to do any building work at all.

It is not a sensible proposal and the Minister seems quite unaware of the difficulties involved and quite unaware, too, of what is going to happen to the architects' departments of the London and Middlesex County Councils. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman heard the editor of the Architectural Review giving a talk on the Third Programme a little time ago. It would have done him good to have listened. The number of things which the right hon. Gentleman has not heard about London mounts every minute. The editor told us that the London County Council architect's department had been responsible for some of the most successful and imaginative building of houses and flats, building them so as to meet human needs and to avoid monotony. There had been pioneering in the skilful use of materials. It was to be particularly praised for the encouragement given to young architects.

This was echoed at the meeting of the Architectural Association. I listened at that meeting and heard more praise of the London County Council than I had ever heard before, except when I read the Minister of Education's definition to the Royal Commission about the London County Council's education service. That architectural service is going to bits. What is the Greater London Council to be left with? It will be left with a certain amount of villa and cottage building, fire stations and such building as may arise from the work in refuse disposal.

The hon. Gentleman is quite right about what he heard on the Third Programme, but ought he not, when speaking about the architects, to include the words of the Royal Institute of British Architects when it said that, in broad principle, it wholeheartedly welcomed the proposals for reform?

I beg the right hon. Gentleman to read a little further than the first sentence. He will then find—

The right hon. Gentleman had better study the whole document. If he will study the document he will see that what the architects want is to have the whole service transferred to the Council for Greater London. The Ministry does not approve of that, the Council does not approve of that and I do not advocate it myself. I think that the architects reached a point where they needed political knowledge which was not available to them. The point I am making is that nobody who knows the problem suggests that this service should go entirely to the Council for Greater London, but the arrangements whereby it is broken down to the smallness of boroughs is an unworkable one.—[An HON. MEMBER: "What does the hon. Gentleman suggest?"]—I am going to build up the same case with regard to another service and then the hon. Member will see not merely what I suggest but what follows from it.

Has the hon. Gentleman seen the architectural beauty of the ambulance station on Battersea Rise? It is something of which the architects should be very proud indeed. It has been labelled in Battersea as a mammoth urinal.

If the hon. Gentleman really thinks that that is an appreciation of the work of a service that is world famed, he draws attention only to his own ignorance.

Let us now take another service, the children's service, the most appealing and intimate of all the human services. This, of course, is not the service of maternity and child welfare but of children in the care of local authorities. The Minister said nothing at all about it and the White Paper says precious little about it. Here again, as in housing, we find that the borough unit proposed is too small. I shall show why. Some of the considerations that apply to this service apply also to health and welfare, though not so markedly, and the transfer of power in the health or welfare service to the boroughs is something practicable and to be welcomed. But it is significant that the children's service is just tossed to the boroughs along with the other services in a single paragraph in the White Paper. This is a service for which hardly any of the smaller authorities asked when they gave evidence before the Royal Commission. It is not surprising that they did not ask. They know its difficulties, they know the appalling outcry that there would be if it were mishandled and they know the importance of having a larger authority than these boroughs to deal with it.

Why is that so? Primarily because there are many different categories of children who have to be brought into care. There are those who are seriously maladjusted and who, however loving and wise their parents may be, are still proving difficult. There are the children who have the misfortune to have foolish, careless or cruel parents. There are families where neither the child nor the parent is at fault but where, perhaps, some temporary misfortune has fallen on the family making it impossible, for a limited period, for the parent to look after the child. There are also those cases where the behaviour of the child or the parent has made it necessary for the courts to take action in order for the child to be put into care. There is a wide range of different types of children.

The Royal Commission failed to understand this at all. It told us—if we believe it—that at any given date 80 per cent. of the children in care are there only for a short stay. In actual fact, it is only 10 per cent. at any given date who are there only for a short stay. Nearly 90 per cent. are far more obstinate and difficult problems, and the children are there for months or years.

The Royal Commission also told us that only a small proportion of the children in care are there as a result of decisions by the courts. In fact, the proportion is about one-quarter or one-third. The Royal Commission failed to understand the seriousness or the complexity of this problem, and the White Paper did not correct it. This was one of the many things on which the Minister was silent.

To deal with these many different categories of children a local authority must have a varied team of officers with a fairly wide range of qualifications. It must also be able to make a number of different types of provisions—for example, to have homes or boarding out arrangements of different kinds. Since, mercifully, the proportion of these unhappy children to the whole population is small, a small authority will not have many of them. The number which it may have requiring a particular type of provision may be very small indeed, so small, in fact, that the authority either has to say that it cannot be bothered to make precise provision for these children to meet their needs or it has to make provision on a scale which it knows will always be under-used and thus itself be subject to criticism for waste of money and resources. Therefore, to avoid that we need an authority of considerable size.

How big should the authority be? The Curtis Committee said that it ought to be an authority with about 500 children in care. That is certainly a substantially bigger number than in the boroughs proposed by the Minister. Can the right hon. Gentleman suggest that any of them which will have 500 children in care? If he does not know I could tell him. As it happens, there are a few such boroughs, but they are the authorities with the least financial resources.

The Royal Commission on Mental Health reckoned that one needed an authority with a population of about 400,000 to make adequate provision for the mentally sub-normal and mentally disordered. The Government are supposed to be very keen on the development of treatment for mental health, but there is no consideration of this aspect. The Minister did not mention whether the authorities he proposes would be able to deal with the children, the old, the physically or the mentally handicapped. There have been great improvements in the methods of treating children, the old and the handicapped since 1948—since the National Assistance Act and the Children's Act—and that improvement has largely taken the form of getting the children and the handicapped out of the older buildings of work-house type into smaller buildings where more precise attention can be given to their real needs.

Take an example—one authority was able to close down a large, depressing old people's home; it had to be replaced by fifteen smaller homes to accommodate the people. Will a borough of the size proposed be able to find the sites to carry out an operation of that kind? What amazes one is the wantoness of all this, because it is nowhere suggested in the Royal Commission's Report that the health, welfare or children's services are badly run. The Report points to only one defect; that there is not sufficient coordination between these services so that sometimes the same family was visited by various officials of these services although only one problem was involved. The Report stated that what it called a "team" was required but that, in order to get that team, one would need authorities of up to 200,000.

The Minister now proposes to make that figure his minimum. The one advantage that the Royal Commission thought could be reaped in the children's health and welfare services was one which could be reaped if one had authorities with less than 200,000. The Minister has chosen a figure that throws that advantage away without even giving the advantages about which the Curtis Committee was interested and which the experience of counties has proved—namely, authorities large enough to make provision for the proper operation of these services.

Does the hon. Gentleman's arguments mean, taking, for example, county boroughs, that no county borough under, say, 250,000 is competent to take charge of the children's services?

Paragraph 19 of the White Paper will give the right hon. Gentleman the answer. It is perfectly true that in the case of a provincial city of about 250,000 with, beyond that, open country, one would be able to build that up to a 500,000 authority only by stretching it on the map and thus making it geographically difficult to operate. The drawbacks would cancel out any advantages elsewhere and I agree that, in those circumstances, one must be content with 250,000. But in the Metropolitan area one can design authorities with more than 500,000 population, without making them too large on the map. The advantage of the larger population can be realised, and should be realised.

Some people have expressed the fear that if the services are handed over to the boroughs in this way it will impose a great rate burden on them. Of course, if the services are carried out adequately that will happen, but my fear is precisely the opposite; that having looked at the rate burden they will decide that they cannot run the services and keep them at the same standard. Thus, for the children's services, we shall go back to the era beyond the Curtis Committee and, for the welfare services and the care of the old, we shall go back in the direction of the workhouse.

There follows from this another principle of reconstruction. I depicted what I thought were the right principles of reconstruction for the planning and traffic problem—the larger area with the authoritative body for planning and traffic—but one must, nevertheless, ask how is it to be subdivided having these human services in mind? The whole area is too big and the proposed boroughs, for the reasons I have shown, are too small. One is, therefore-, looking for an area something like the present county size as was recommended to the Royal Commission by one of the groups giving evidence from the London School of Economics. This has been recommended again recently in another pamphlet coming from that source. That probably answers the question which the Minister raised a moment ago when he asked what size I would recommend.

Thus I believe that for these services—for the children's services and for education—something like the size of a county as we know it in the metropolitan area is probably the best size for the Government's purpose. While one must think in terms of such a size of authority for education, for the health and welfare services the case is not so strong. There is a much stronger case for transferring at least some of the functions to the boroughs. The Minister was very eager that this should be done, for he talked of the limited powers of the metropolitan borough councils. But why are they so limited?

In 1955 a scheme for transferring their powers in the field of health and welfare services was agreed between the L.C.C. and the metropolitan boroughs The only reason that scheme was not put into effect was that the Government ordered that it should not be implemented pending the report of the Royal Commission. Now the Minister weeps tears over the small powers of the metropolitan boroughs.

I do not propose to say much about the education services because we shall debate that subject at greater length tomorrow, but I believe that the considerations I have advanced for suggesting that a size of authority something like a county is about right for the children's services and applies also to education. I need not say anything about the Royal Commission's proposal on education. The White Paper buries them more kindly than they deserve.

As I understand the hon. Gentlman's argument he is specifically recommending the abolition of the excepted areas in Middlesex. Would he further express his views on this?

I have just turned my remarks towards education and have been speaking on this subject for a very short while. The major concern in this field is what is to happen in education in the central area? The Royal Commission's proposals, we all agreed, were unworkable. The Government then produces this central area, of about 2 million, and we have not yet had an answer to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) as to whether the Government preclude the idea of extending that 2 million to embrace the whole of the present L.C.C. area. If they do not then we are bound to ask questions concerning the L.C.C. education service.

The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education, in his evidence to the Commission, thinks highly of this service. I never dreamed how highly he thought about it. Therefore, if the Government are proposing an area of 2 million—and to hack off three-eighths of the L.C.C. area—we are entitled to ask why. What advantage do they suppose to gain by that hacking off? There is no suggestion of an answer to this question in either the Minister's speech or the White Paper. And it is not only a question of why, but where? Which bits are to be hacked off?

When that is done the Government will be left in the review area with an outside piece in which the Boroughs are the education authorities. The system of delegation was severely criticised by the Royal Commission for Middlesex. I do not have sufficient knowledge of Middlesex to know how far those criticisms were justified, but I think that outside the centre of London delegation is probably the right answer. It does not lie in the Government's mouth to say that it does not, because it is their general recipe throughout the country.

If there are difficulties in Middlesex, I should have thought that it would have been the aim of the local authorities there and the Ministry to see whether they could not sort them out. The example of other counties shows that delegation may be made to work elsewhere, and it would have been better to have seen whether it could be made to work in Middlesex.

What will be the position outside the central area, where the borough is the sole education authority? The Metropolitan boroughs, by the way, are not asking for this power. There are some boroughs that have some agreement with some of the Royal Commission's proposals. My own borough agreed with some of the Commission's proposals, and was very enthusiastic about the London County Council's conduct of education. It wanted a unified system of education throughout the whole of the review area. I disagree with my borough there, as, I think, most people do.

But what metropolitan borough now in the London County Council area is asking for education powers? What would be its position if it got them? Its teachers could not have the same opportunities for promotion. It would not have the wide and varied courses and services for teachers which the London County Council provides—the education library and the design and pictorial service, for example.

What about the parents and teachers? When children reach secondary age, probably at least a quarter of them—and, in some parts, up to two-fifths of them—seek their secondary education in what, under the Minister's plan, would be outside their borough. The proportion among those seeking a grammar-school course is even higher.

When we come to the more varied provision required for further education a rather depressing picture is presented to the citizen of London in an area on the fringe of the London County Council area if he finds that he can only use the very wide provisions for further education by means of some negotiations between the central education authority and the boroughs. I know that we shall be told, "Oh, well, mutual arrangements can be made." That means that we shall first cut up the London County Council education area and then invite the authorities diligently to write letters in order to sew it together again. What is the purpose of all this? We have never heard what the purpose is.

Inside the central education area, if we have lopped off the outer parts of London, we shall leave an inside area with a high proportion of old buildings. That will be nobody's fault—it has been inevitable national policy to build new schools where the growth of population required them—but this scheme will leave central London with a high proportion of old buildings; though some of them will be up to date because they will bear the initials S.B.L.—School Board for London.

The Royal Commission asked six questions about education, and answered them as follows: Is the capacity of the schools good, and is their siting good? Yes. Is there an adequate variety of educational provision? Yes. Is there freedom of movement between one part of the area and another? Absolute freedom. Does the service attract good teachers? Yes. Is there interference with professional freedom? No. Do the administrative arrangements interfere with the quality of the education service? No.

One might well ask: why on earth this disruption? The Royal Commission offers an answer. It says, in effect, that we must give the boroughs something to do—a disastrous and perverse approach to local government. The services do not exist in order to give the councillors something to do; the authorities exist in order to perform the services. As the Minister said, we must look at the citizens, not at particular groups which are interested in getting functions for themselves. It is said that we must restore the health of local government, which is withering away. The Centre for Urban Studies, in its evidence to the Commission, pointed out that that was quite untrue about local government in the metropolitan area. We should all like to see more interest taken in local government throughout the country, but the case that it is withering away in the London area in particular cannot be sustained.

That case cannot be sustained, except in one part of the whole review area. It is a borough, if I may so call it, where aldermen are elected for life; where the councillors seem to be so addicted to their job that they, too—in fact, if not in law—are elected for life; where there can be wards with more councillors than electors; where one can find one ward that manages to send an alderman to the council without having any electors at all; and where most people could not become candidates for the council without the consent of those already sitting on the council. Where is it? I will give the Minister one guess. It is the City of London—the one part of the review area about which neither the Royal Commission, nor the White Paper, nor the Minister proposes to do anything at all. I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman must have given way to what he described as fear and inertia when he faced that problem.

My last point concerns the very serious effects there will be on the counties, other than London and Middlesex which are to be swallowed up completely. Quite simply, one-third of Kent's population is brought in, one-half of the population of Essex, and five-eighths of the population of Surrey. In every case, the area brought in is much less. That means that what is left outside will be far more thinly populated, and we all know how that adds to the cost of running certain services. Yet, in every case, the amount of rateable value brought in is greater than the amount of population brought in, so the bits left out will not only have services that are more costly to run but will have less resources with which to run them. It is not surprising that Surrey reckons it will need a 1s. 7d. rate increase.

We have to consider here not only the direct financial calculations, but the damage done to the services. When the provision for grammar-school education, say, or for children's homes, or for foster-parents is so arranged over the county is cut up like this, it means that one part will have far more provision than it needs, and the other part will be desperately short. That will happen in service after service in each of these counties.

All that upheaval, I quite agree, could, and ought to be, borne if the final result at the end of the day justified it. Nobody would put up these difficulties as obstacles to any scheme, but they would be tolerable only on two conditions. The first would be that the Government should show some consideration for them, instead of this contemptuous passage in the White Paper that they will think about it but do not really like the idea of helping the counties in special difficulties. The other condition would be that the result would, at the end of the day, be worth the sacrifice. Well—is it?

I have tried to survey, I hope at not too great length, and, as I do not think the Minister did survey the thing that really matters in local government—the services, and their quality. There is not a single service that justifies what is to be done to metropolitan government. On traffic and planning, the Government are not bold enough; on the human services they are very often ignorant, and of the effect on the severed counties they are careless.

What degree of support does this scheme command? On 29th November, the Minister told me that the counties are about evenly divided; I do not think that that was true then, and it certainly is not true now. Let the Minister look at The Times of Saturday. All the county councils concerned have expressed their hostility to the scheme, and a decided majority of the smaller authorities in the whole of the review area are opposed to it.

It is not only the locally-elected people who are opposed to it, but the people who really know these services, and work them. The Minister will not get to agree with the final plan he puts forward either the architects, the fire fighters, teachers, almoners, social workers—or anybody who knows those services. They may all, perhaps, have different reasons for their objections, but they will all feel that their services will suffer. The Minister, because of the weight of evidence, and because he must be aware of his responsibility for seeing that these services are well run, should look at the whole idea again.

5.30 p.m.

Like many other hon. Members, I entered this House following an apprenticeship in local government, in my case with the Croydon Borough Council and the Surrey County Council. Therefore, I have always been keenly interested in local government matters, particularly in regard to Croydon, which I consider I know well.

As the Minister himself said this afternoon, Croydon is unfortunately materially affected by these proposals, and I therefore hope that the House will forgive me if in my remarks I stress Croydon's position. I should explain that the strong views which I hold are also shared by over 90 per cent. of the Croydon Borough Council, which, after all, is the democratically elected body representative of Croydon's residents. I also expect that the views I express are shared by the majority of Croydonians, who have a very strong loyalty to their own town. In fairness to my two Ministerial colleagues, who, with myself, represent Croydon in this House, I wish to place on record that they support the principles of the Government proposals, in contrast to myself, who opposes these proposals.

Having studied the original Report of the Royal Commission, I regrettably concluded that I was against these proposals in principle, and I will explain why later. Those taking a real interest and an active part in the successful running of Croydon have always felt that our town, by size, by status and by good administration, which has been very well spoken of over the years, could look forward to city status. With many others in Croydon, I felt that it had a rightful claim to it. Unfortunately, this claim was rejected. Therefore, one can understand the feelings of myself and many others when we read in paragraph 751 of the Royal Commission's Report:
"The loss of county borough status by Croydon, East and West Ham is an inescapable consequence of the fact that they are embedded in what is now the built-up area of Greater London."
For the good of Greater London government as a whole, I have always realised that there is a need for certain changes, but in my submission these could mainly be effected by means of co-ordination; namely, certain functions that may not be required for the whole of Greater London could best be achieved by something simpler, certainly less costly, than all the upheaval which must be the outcome of this White Paper.

Apart from disagreeing with the Royal Commission's proposal, I was appalled at the original suggestion that the Greater London Council should take over education. I endeavoured to make my views known as strongly as I could to the Ministers concerned, to my colleagues in the House and in Croydon itself, and with others I have played my own small part in battling for the removal of education from these proposals as far as they affect Croydon. The White Paper has shown that at least that battle was won.

The second point which I have often emphasised is that I considered that in the original proposals, education represented about 90 per cent. of the net expenditure on the services which the Royal Commission proposed should be transferred to the Greater London Council. The remaining services to be transferred represent only about 10 per cent. of the net expenditure. Therefore, I want to ask the Minister what is the possible justification for this colossus which he intends to set up? One gathers that its area is six times the present L.C.C. area, with a population of about 8 million. For instance, how can the transfer of the fire brigade to the Greater London Council improve the service, which is already very highly standardised and working most effectively under a mutual assistance scheme? Surely, it is a mistake to use the proposed Greater London Council for an essentially operational service? I have been reliably advised by councillors in Croydon that the Royal Commission did not request any evidence, certainly not from Croydon, in regard to the fire service, and the Commission's proposals and the Government's White Paper are certainly not critical of the present fire service administration. The local fire stations have to be maintained, so what possible improvement can be expected on transferring the fire service to the Greater London Council?

I now want to say a word about the ambulance service. This is a personal service, surely, needing very much the local touch and local management for efficiency. Quite honestly, I consider that the proposal to transfer this service to the Greater London Council is a quite unnecessary interference, and I think that these proposals have been included only to give the proposed Greater London Council something to do.

Having taken education out of the proposals, I appreciate that the Government may decide to find some other major services or any other services—we have not yet been told about them—to pass on to the Greater London Council, and, if this be true, it would emphasise my view that the Government are merely attempting to justify the Greater London proposals, which would be quite appalling.

Croydon considers that a joint board for the Greater London area could be established and could be an effective executive—and I stress executive—body. It could include representatives of the present nine local planning authorities, that is, the six county councils and three county boroughs, and one of its duties could be the preparation of a master development plan for the whole area, principal roads, major traffic problems, the green belt, outline zoning and regional or major planning, but with local planning authorities preparing their own development plans.

It could also deal with research and planning, and the co-ordination of other functions, such as major roads, the provision and sharing of sites for refuse disposal and the reception and treatment of sewage. But local traffic matters, such as roundabouts, traffic signals, parking meters, traffic signs, should not be the concern of such a joint board. Housing should remain a borough function, and the county councils should be given the concurrent housing powers of the present L.C.C.

The Government say that the Royal Commission is right in the view that unless answers to the present problems were found within the framework of local government—my right hon. Friend the Minister said this again today—the central Government would gradually supersede the local authorities. This is the Government's reply to those, like myself, who say that the present proposals are not local government. I cannot concede the Government's argument. The White Paper proposals are not local government, but a co-ordinating body or a joint body would be and would also be the answer to the problem.

Since I have been concerned in local government, and also as a Member of Parliament, I have attempted to express concern on the subject of local government finance. I cannot foresee the time when rates go down. They will always go up at an alarming rate of increase. Therefore, I have always supported all moves to ease the ratepayer's burden and particularly that of the owner-occupier. I played my small part in the abolition of industrial derating and I have supported all major developments in Croydon, believing that this in turn would ease the rate burden. Now, however, we see again very shortly a further substantial rate increase in Croydon. With this worry very much in mind, surely it is right for me to ask the Government what are the financial implications of these proposals. I do not believe that anybody has yet endeavoured to work them out. I trust that I am sufficient of a businessman at least to know that they can only add to the rating expenses, sometimes very considerably.

We are told that the Greater London Council will raise its finance by precepting on the boroughs, but there is no intended direct representation for the boroughs on the proposed Greater London Council. At present, the local authorities meet other vast expenditure with virtually no control whatever, as the result of policy dictated by Parliament. I would almost go to the stage of saying, why not scrap rates altogether? Let the Treasury raise the finance through general taxation, because from the viewpoint of the ordinary person rate demands are becoming farcical. They are certainly a considerable irritant to all ratepayers. Virtually, they are simply another form of taxation and in the main there is no rhyme or reason behind their build-up.

If the Greater London Council is forced on us, why should members be directly elected? What is the prospect of a substantial and representative vote at an election of members to what will be a body which is very remote indeed? It could result in members with little or no local government experience serving on the new authority. For example, a member elected on behalf of Croydon might know absolutely nothing about the town. Surely, local government needs local representation.

Why cannot the Greater London Council comprise members nominated by the boroughs—at least, people who are experienced in local government? To say that to be effective, remembering the powers and responsibilities that it will carry, the Greater London Council should be a directly-elected body is no answer to the question. I still believe that it could be an executive body if the members were nominated. What is better than appointing people nominated by the boroughs to secure their good will and effective co-ordination, since the boroughs themselves will be expected to be agents for the Greater London Council in many matters?

The House will, I am sure, understand why Croydon feels so strongly. Only a short time ago, we celebrated 1,000 years' history as a separate community. We are now threatened with the loss of our separate identity in spite of the White Paper, which states that:
"These proposals will not affect any existing cultural, social, sporting or other associations or loyalties which may be based on traditional counties."
We are to lose our county borough status. This in itself is farcical, for the population of Croydon is a quarter of a million and we are to be replaced with a non-county borough of 360,000 people. For seventy years, Croydon has had the benefit of the most complete and unifying local government system yet devised—that is, the county borough system, which is more efficiently managed if left alone rather than enlarged. I consider that the Government's proposals will create loss of authority and of efficiency.

The statement that all Croydon's citizens are Londoners cannot possibly be justified. We are Croydonians and we are proud of it. We challenge paragraph 17 of the White Paper, which suggests that the built-up areas outside the County of London are more part of Greater London than of the Home Counties. Croydon is not part of London's physical shape and state to the extent that it should be submerged in a system of local government designed essentially for London in preference to the known advantage of the integrated county borough system.

If the Government are determined to steamroller these proposals through, why not call the new boroughs London county boroughs? Certainly, they will have greater responsibilities than the present provincial non-county boroughs and, therefore, higher status, too. In addition, they will be much larger.

I also foresee arguments about the grouping and the names of the future authorities. Much confusion will flow from all this. If the new authorities, elected in the autumn of 1964, have no effective take-over until April, 1965, uncertainty must apply to their staffs. What action will be contemplated to discourage staff from leaving parts of the Greater London area and to prevent the disintegration of the existing local government units? We cannot expect staff to last until 1964 in the hope of securing appointment to one of the new authorities.

From the point of view of population, finance, accessibility to the public, convenience of administration, public service and efficiency, and also even the diversity of territory, Croydon provides an ideal local government unit. As an all-purpose county borough, it does not seek any extension of its present boundaries. It has good relationships with its neighbours. It works well with the Surrey County Council, which also, understandably, is strongly opposed to the White Paper. In the opinion of those in Croydon who understand local government, the town could be more efficiently administered as an effective and convenient local government unit if allowed to continue as it is now and not enlarged by grouping with other authorities.

The Government's proposals would, in effect, create a junior parliament, which would be out of touch with the detailed requirements of the areas, both in fact and by representation. If the Government intend to proceed with these proposals come what may, I strongly suggest to my right hon. Friend the Minister that Croydon be permitted to retain its county borough status. In support of this I refer to paragraph 18 of the White Paper, which states that the Government
"will give consideration to such related matters as the arrangements for the administration of justice "
when the best administrative structure for local government has been settled.

Unless special provisions are made, under these proposals Croydon not only loses its county borough status which it has enjoyed for over seventy years but also loses both its separate court of quarter sessions and its commission of the peace, and Croydon's recorder would go, and also Croydon magistrates and Croydon's magistrates' court. The argument inherent in the Government's proposals, that because no Metropolitan borough has ever enjoyed either of these privileges Croydon with its separate history and development must lose both, seems completely untenable.

Special provisions could still be made to allow Croydon to retain its present status and dignity, just as the City of London. The loss of Croydon's county borough status is not just merely a matter of sentiment. If we were grouped with our neighbours we should become the largest borough in the Greater London area, bigger than all the county boroughs in England except Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Bristol, but we should immediately lose our affinity with the other county boroughs and our constitution would be equal to that of the some 250 non-county boroughs outside London whose populations range from 2,000 upwards.

Because of these strong and, I consider, justified views, because I believe that the Government have indicated again this afternoon that they are not considering departing for one single moment from the principles of the White Paper and that the door is virtually slammed, I shall strongly oppose these proposals. I put down an Amendment to this Motion, an Amendment completely rejecting these proposals, but it has not been called. However, I shall certainly take whatever opportunity presents itself to vote against these proposals, and if a Bill is eventually presented to us on the lines of the White Paper I shall also have no alternative but to vote against the Bill as well.

In conclusion, I would add one note of warning to many other hon. Members in the House. I believe that if this regional government is introduced in Greater London it may subsequently be introduced in large areas of population elsewhere. If so, the distress and disturbance which many of us in Croydon are feeling today will be experienced in other towns, directly affecting the Members of Parliament concerned.

5.53 p.m.

I listened to the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) with a great deal more interest, support and approval than I did to the Minister. The Minister based his case and his White Paper on the findings of the Royal Commission on Local Government in Great London, but the actual words which the Royal Commission used in recommending the changes were very mild. What the Commission said, as set out in paragraph 2 of the White Paper, was that the present structure of local government in the review area was inadequate and needed overhaul, but that does not of necessity imply a complete revolution, which the Royal Commission then proceeded to put forward and which the Minister has now very largely endorsed.

One can have review and overhaul while retaining many of the existing features of local government in Greater London and, in particular, one can have some voluntary amalgamations of services, groupings and co-ordinating at the top, as already suggested by hon. Members in the debate. That would be much more in keeping with the very satisfactory evolution of local government as we have seen it in the past.

It is quite clear, looking at the maps and the suggestions now made, that what has dominated the groupings suggested by the Minister has been—what he himself and all speakers, I think in support of the Government have referred to—the development of the motor car. The groupings follow the motorways, and the motor car seems to have dominated the thinking of the Government on the reorganisation of local government in Greater London.

Important though transport is—and I think everybody recognises the need for some overall direction of transport for the area as a whole—I would remind the Minister that the people who most use the services of local authorities, the people who are in the areas of those local authorities all day and every day, are, first, the children, who use the schools and clinics, the libraries, the parks and open spaces; secondly, the mothers, particularly those with young families, who use all the local facilities of the boroughs, including shopping facilities, without going outside those local areas very much at all, as do their husbands and the older members of the families going to work; and thirdly, the elderly people, who also use the local facilities to a very much greater extent than many other people. Very few of these people, very few of the elderly, very few of the wives and mothers, and certainly none of the children, have motor cars. It is for them essential that there should be administering the services which they must use, a unit of local government which is really local and accessible, and to which they can make representations without very great difficulty.

In Wood Green we have been preparing an analysis of all the people who call at the town hall during the course of a week, and it is a very long list, varying all the way from people who bring to the public health department articles of food found to be contaminated, to those who go to the housing department with queries, to school leavers who go to consult the education officer, and so on—an enormous list of people. For all those people, it is essential that there should be local government which is really local.

I should like to say just one word at this stage about the question of planning. I thought the Minister skipped over, both in the White Paper and in what he said today, exactly how planning of the Greater London area is going to work out. I would remind him that the need for some kind of Greater London planning has already been accepted. During the past year or so, there have been regular meetings of the planning officers of the various county councils of the Greater London area with the Minister's chief planning officer to discuss and to consider the problems of the area as a whole. It would be comparatively easy, one would have thought, for that kind of machinery to be developed, so that there could be some member representation as well as officer representation, which would mean that existing county planning committees and departments could continue with, coordination of the matters which concern them as a group. That would seem to be very much to be preferred to the complete scrapping of the present London County Council and Middlesex County Council Planning Committees.

I can speak with firsthand experience only of Middlesex County Council. I have served on the county planning committee, on the area planning committee—because it has been divided into areas—and on the local district planning committee. What has happened in Middlesex has been of the very greatest importance and effectiveness in county planning. One had the intimate day-today knowledge of planning in the district councils with the check of the wider knowledge of the county council. It seems to me disastrous to propose that all that should be scrapped, because, however the Greater London Council functions with regard to planning, it is bound to be many years before it can hope to replace the knowledge and accumulated experience of, for example, the Middlesex County Planning Department.

It will also mean that in the transitional period there will be a gap in planning which may be very serious because the few years which we face when the changes are taking place are the vital years when the planning of London matters most of all. Already during the last year Middlesex County Council has lost thirty of its 100 planning staff and has been able to replace only half of them. That thirty includes its chief planning officer, who is renowned throughout the country for his knowledge and experience of planning problems. For years, there will be this very serious situation in planning.

I should like the Minister to tell us exactly how this new planning scheme will work out for the boroughs. I believe that the boroughs which welcome the greater powers which the Minister proposes to confer on them are under an illusion. If they think that they will get very much greater planning powers than they have, they are mistaken. If I am wrong, I hope that the Minister will say so. It seems to me that the control from the top by the Greater London Council will be such that the boroughs will deal only with run-of-the-mill planning applications.

What applications of any significance do not impinge on the matters with which the Minister has decided to deal himself or with which the Greater London Council will deal?

What will happen to the very important question of the decentralisation of the relocation of industry? In the County of Middlesex, that problem was beginning to be tackled in a vigorous way with a system of grants. Will each borough have to tackle it in the same way on its own, or will this be a function of the Greater London Council?

This is an immense problem, but the Minister said nothing about it. I hoped that he would deal at length with some of these great difficulties, because, as I see it, the whole case for the revolutionary changes which he proposes and which the Royal Commission suggested turns on the question of planning. I believe that if the Royal Commission had been satisfied about the question of planning it would not have gone as far as it did. I therefore think that the Minister should say something more about how this matter will work out.

I suppose that every hon. Member who wishes to speak today and every hon. Member concerned with the Greater London problem has a direct interest in the grouping of boroughs. I did not feel satisfied about the Minister's reply concerning his acceptance of the much higher population figure being the minimum figure that a borough should have. The Association of Municipal Corporations made a very good case for boroughs of less than 100,000 people being efficient and effective units of local government. The Minister has gone beyond what the Royal Commission suggested here. It is not sufficient to say that he did that because of the education proposals which he is making, because education is perhaps the most controversial of all the subjects covered by this review of London local government. There is to be a special debate on it tomorrow, and it may well be that the arguments against the Minister's suggestion will be so conclusive that he will have to think again about the matter. If he does, he will be left with these large groupings of local authorities without any real reason why they should be as large as he suggests.

In group 33 there are the authorities of Southgate, Hornsey, Wood Green, East Barnet, Friern Barnet and half of Enfield, a borough cut completely in half by the Minister's proposals. I foresee a very long period before anything like cohesion is achieved between those six authorities, lumped together irrespective of their local interests and of communications. The communications by public transport from certain parts of the area to another are very bad. The area is a strip ten miles long. It will be difficult for people to get from one end of it to the other. In the adjacent group, group 34, the area is a strip thirteen miles long, although here the transport communications are a little better.

The Minister must justify groupings of this kind more effectively than he has done. He has said nothing about the financial implications of these groupings. The boroughs who accept these grouping may find themselves disillusioned when they come to understand the financial implications. What they are considering at the moment is the rateable value of an area as a whole, but no one knows what the Minister has in mind about this. No one knows what he has in mind about how re-rating will work out.

I ask the Minister to consider for a moment the Borough of Wood Green, not because I want to be partisan, but because I wish to show him what a small authority can do. In Wood Green we have a new town hall, the only one in Middlesex in which the county and district council services are linked together so that if people in Wood Green want a local government service they have only to go to the town hall to get it. It can easily be reached by foot and by public transport.

People go to the town hall regularly and frequently. They know all the local officers very well and the officers know them. The town clerk, borough treasurer and borough engineer give voluntary service on a host of local organisations. Some people may think that this is irrelevant, but it is very important in building up a local community. The town clerk gives legal advice and the borough treasurer acts as honorary treasurer of bodies like the old people's welfare committee, the local district charity, horticultural society, and so on. Councillors are all within easy reach of the town hall. They know the people intimately. The borough not only carries out all the normal functions of a local authority but is coping with a comprehensive redevelopment scheme for a worn-out area and for the central area.

We rarely do anything in the borough without getting into contact with the people affected by the proposal. We do not even put up an electricity substation without obtaining the views of the people who live near to the proposed site about where it would best be sited. When it comes to slum clearance and redevelopment, we have all the people affected at the town hall, explain what we propose to do and get their views on it and perhaps modify our proposal to conform with what they want. Council tenants are represented in groups on a tenants' advisory committee which meets with the housing committee and the councillors to discuss the problem of the council estates.

I mention all these things because they make for a live and vigorous local community. If the town hall were shut and sold to some commercial body, and if the centre of the borough were moved several miles to a place where transport connections are difficult, the local community feeling which has been built up will be destroyed.

I am sure that what applies to Wood Green applies to almost every other local authority represented by hon. Members in the Chamber today. One cannot just knock it all down and spend years and years trying to create a fresh pattern without destroying something which is absolutely vital. I warn the Minister that if he goes too far what he may well do is to smash local government completely in much the same way as happened in France when precise geographical areas were drawn up, which killed local government. Local government is for people and is run for people and administered by people, and one cannot just ride roughshod over all the local traditions and community interests.

On the question of grouping—it is not my function to say anything in detail about it—I would point out to the Minister that the Royal Commission made the point that one of the difficulties about Middlesex was that the lines of communication all go north and south into and out of London and that very few go east and west, but in group 33 there is a very good case, which I think the Royal Commission partly recognised, for saying that if one is to carry out any regrouping, it should be done horizontally on the east-west communications, which are much better than those on the longitudinal path which the Minister has taken.

If one is to regroup local authorities, it is logical to group them on the round table principle so that they are a neat unit rather than a great long strip with no natural centre. It is also logical to see that they are balanced in regard to local employment and those who go into central London to work, and between industrial and residential occupation of the area. None of these things has been observed in group 33. I urge the Minister—he will have many representations from the local authorities about this—to consider the point again and come nearer to the horizontal grouping instead of the grouping which he has suggested.

The Minister said—he threw it out as a challenge to them—that it was surely not beyond local authorities to cope with a problem of this magnitude. I would remind him that not only, as hon. Members have pointed out, will many of the local government staffs have drifted out of local government during the change-over period and so will not be there to help cope with the problem, but many councillors will be affected. It is unquestionable that the Greater London Council will be almost a full-time job for those who serve on it. It will certainly be very difficult for young people who have to work all day to attend meetings of that Council, which almost inevitably will meet in the daytime. That will be a great handicap in recruiting the kind of people to the local government service that we want. In many of the smaller boroughs at the moment those who serve find it easy to get to the town hall after their work for an evening meeting. Because of that, they are able to find time for local government.

The reorganisation will have to be undertaken by bodies denuded of many of their officers and by councillors who find it extremely difficult to give the necessary time. They will have to put in a lot more time and work. The Minister is expecting a great deal in asking them to carry out the reorganisation. I should have thought that he would have done very much more in his Department instead of leaving so much to local authorities.

The net result of it all will be as follows. The Minister does not like two-tiered government, and so he is scrapping the top tier, the county councils, and reorganising the bottom tier into county boroughs of a type which he says will have much greater functions. I have yet to be convinced that their functions will be very much greater than they are now. In the case certainly of the personal health and welfare services, the Middlesex County Council was prepared to delegate to the boroughs, and some of the other county councils had discussed schemes of that kind. But the Minister will be replacing the existing two-tiered government, which he wants to scrap, with another two-tiered government—a two-tiered government of much larger boroughs with very little community of interest and which do not conform to the existing centres of the services provided by the county council.

I do not know whether the Minister has considered that point. The services of the Middlesex County Council in the various areas do not conform at all to his newly-grouped authorities. There is a whole range of education and welfare services, such as technical colleges, childrens homes, special schools and all that type of provision, which has been provided for the county as a whole. It is anybody's guess who will administer these special schools and services.

But the Minister will be left with these bigger groupings which will take years and years to become effective local government units. His top tier will be the Greater London Council, which will be very much more remote than the county councils have ever been because of its size, and it will be difficult for people to serve on it because of the time it will take, and it will be very difficult for it to function because of the enormous problem which it will cover.

The only constant factor when the right hon. Gentleman has knocked everything down and built it up again with an exactly similar two-tier system will be the Minister himself, and he will have enormous power because he will be the one remaining constant factor in the complete chaos which can very easily emerge from the revolutionary scheme which he has put forward. I believe that he will have very great power with regard to planning and some of the other functions and that the local authorities, including the Greater London Council, will have very much less than they expect. That is as I see it.

I hope the Minister will think again. I hope he will realise that the opposition which has already been expressed today, and which I am sure will continue to be expressed, is not just special pleading on behalf of certain authorities. It comes from the people who live or work in London or have special knowledge of the human need in London, and that can very easily be overlooked by members of a Royal Commission and members of a Government Department who come by car through an area and see it as one enormous motorway problem and not as a problem of the best kind of government for the men, women and children who live, and have to live, in Greater London.

6.18 p.m.

No one, I am sure, would wish to speak in this debate without owning to a deep sense of responsibility. There are many of us, particularly in the counties affected by the scheme, who find ourselves in a position of considerable difficulty.

In my own case, representing an area of Surrey which is not to be included in the scheme, I find myself having to consider and to try to reconcile three quite different and, to some extent, conflicting points of view. There is, first, the national aspect of particular reference to Parliament's very special responsibility for the future of London. Secondly, there is the point of view of Surrey as it now stands, one of the great counties. Thirdly, there is the point of view of the future of those parts which will constitute the new Surrey if and when the truncation takes place.

I say at once that, after very careful consideration and many discussions, I have arrived at a clear view as to what my duty is. I am glad to find—though I have not the slightest right to speak for anyone else—that the view I have arrived at appears to be that which has been arrived at by at least the great majority of my right hon. and hon. Friends in Surrey. I know that that conclusion will be unwelcome at first, to some extent, to many people in Surrey, but when they have heard the whole story and have considered it, I hope and believe that they will agree that the view I am trying to express is the only practical view one can take in all the circumstances.

First, I deal with the national position. There can be no serious dispute with the findings of the Royal Commission that the present state of London government is unsatisfactory and, in fact, unworthy of this great City. Surrey County Council, which very strongly opposes the scheme, itself prefaces a very critical survey of the provisions of the scheme with the words. Its General Purposes Committee said, in January:
"The County Council made it clear that they warmly approve of the Commission's main objectives."
Today, the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) himself agreed that the present structure was not satisfactory. So I do not believe that anyone could disagree with my right hon. Friend when he said that drastic reorganisation was required.

That being so, we cannot possibly justify leaving London alone. Whatever views we take about this scheme—and I intend to express strong objections to it and to ask that they should be taken into account and dealt with—could not possibly justify voting in favour of the Opposition Amendment. The Motion calls upon us "to take note". That is all it does. It does not in any way prejudice anyone who wishes to criticise and oppose, and, if necessary, in due course to vote against the proposals.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making a very fair point, but we on this side of the House put it to the Minister that, if the Motion meant merely "taking note", we should not put down an Amendment. But we were assured by the Government that the main principles of the proposals have been confirmed by the Government. Therefore, the words "to take note" mean nothing.

I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I say that, when there is no alternative executive scheme available for consideration, Parliament would be abdicating its duty of looking after the future of London if we were to take the course of voting against the Motion "to take note", which has to be done before the Amendment can be considered. We should thereby be saying that no note should be taken of the Royal Commission's Report and that no consideration whatever should be given to the plan.

If an alternative plan for executive control in the manner required were before us, it might be a very different matter, but we must realise that in truth no such scheme is today available. A number of very interesting suggestions were put, in a debating sort of way, by the hon. Member for Fulham, but there is no scheme on the table from the Opposition. The only seriously worked out alternative proposal is that which was suggested under the name of the "Joint Board Scheme" by Surrey County Council, acting in conjunction with several other councils.

That scheme was, rightly, given very careful consideration, particularly by those of us who live in and feel great responsibility for the County of Surrey. But the Government have made it clear that that scheme is unacceptable to them, and that is a definite decision of policy. It would be unrealistic to challenge that today.

I must also add, however, speaking for myself, that I feel bound to agree with the view, expressed in paragraph 17 of the White Paper, that a plan on the lines of the joint board suggestion simply would not begin to meet the needs of the situation. Therefore, in my view, the national interest clearly requires that we should accept the Motion and reject the Amendment.

It must be clearly understood, however, that by doing that we do not in the least lose our freedom to criticise the details and different points of the scheme. After all, there are several quite different headings of it which require quite different consideration. We are bound to say, as representing in my case what will be the remnant of Surrey eventually—we hope that it will be more than a remnant if our views are considered—that if we are not able to obtain satisfaction on these matters we must reserve our right to speak and, if necessary, to vote against these proposals.

I fully appreciate the view which Surrey County Council has adopted. I have very great sympathy for the Council, but I cannot go anything like all the way with it. I am prepared to say at once, however—and I believe that this is the view of the great majority of my hon. Friends who represent other parts of Surrey—that the area of Surrey at present proposed to be included in the scheme is far too big. It is greatly in excess of what is either necessary or desirable, and it should be reduced to the very minimum.

There again, however, it is unrealistic—although I must admit that my very good friends do not take the same view—to talk about excluding the whole of Surrey. Take Richmond as an example. I have no right to speak about Richmond, but I have read and I understand that in Richmond people want to go into the scheme. Who are we to say that they are not to go in? Is it really suggested that people in other parts of Surrey should say to Richmond, "You want to go into this Greater London scheme, but we will not allow it "? That is not really a possible line to take.

My right hon. and learned Friend makes a very valid point about Richmond's position, but by the same reasoning does not he agree that other districts which do not want to go in should be allowed to stay out?

They can all put forward their arguments, but to say that we ought to forbid Richmond to go in on this ground seems to me to be an impossible thing to do. In other words, we cannot possibly approach these arguments on that sort of basis.

On the other hand, to suggest that our neighbours in Chertsey, on the other side of the railway—Esher, Weybridge and Chobham—are Londoners, appears to us to be quite absurd and to be tidiness for the sake of tidiness.

It does not really seem to be tidy, because we in Chertsey are just as urban as our neighbours, and, of course, a very large number of those who work in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Sir W. Robson Brown) on the other side of the railway at Brooklands come under the bridge at West Weybridge and go back to where they live in mine.

Does not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the terms of reference of the town clerks' inquiry include

"Whether any existing county district or part of a district should be added to or left out of the suggested area,"
and that if the town clerks think that it should be added, then it will be added?

I think that it is appreciated in Surrey—and it ought also to be appreciated in Whitehall—that the scheme got off on the wrong foot, at least in regard to the counties. The Royal Commission was limited to the review area, and it was assumed that it was a foregone conclusion that the boundaries would be the boundaries of the review area. I do not blame the Royal Commission for not asking to have its terms of reference extended; it had enough on its plate already, and some of us know from past experience that once we start talking about terms of reference things are apt to become very awkward.

But the unfortunate result was, first, that a wrong impression was spread about and, secondly—and much more important—that the Royal Commission did not give any consideration to the question of the financial result of carrying out the scheme. Still less could it say anything about the future of the County of Surrey, and matters were made still worse by certain things that were said. I heard one great pundit on the subject of government saying that, of course, the Royal Commission was not in the least interested in the financial or organisational effect upon the excluded areas, and that that was a completely irrelevant consideration.

In the circumstances, how can anyone be surprised at the amount of indignation and strong feeling that has grown up in Surrey ever since it woke up one morning and found that the proposal was to reduce its population from 1½ million to 1 million; to reduce the area by a quarter, and the rateable value by two-thirds? In paragraph 968 of its Report, the Royal Commission said something which upset many people very much, and I am sure that hon. Members will not be surprised when they hear what it was. The Royal Commission said:
"We have, therefore, come to the conclusion that our proposals will not reduce the Counties of Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey to a level where in absolute terms or by comparison with other counties in the country they will not be financially viable."
Many people took the view that such a statement was like telling somebody who was on the operating table, about to have his leg off, "You will be all right, Jack. You will be able to walk." That is the sort of feeling that many people in Surrey have about these proposals.

The White Paper made it worse, because it did not add anything about the effects; in fact, it hardly referred to them at all. Whereas, taking up my own metaphor, the Royal Commission at least said that this was a surgical operation of an unusual character and that special treatment might well be justified, the White Paper, with the usual caution of the place where it was printed, hastily put on the brake by saying that no one must assume that there would be any financial assistance. In those circumstances, can anyone be surprised that there has been a great deal of ill-feeling and bitterness in Surrey? I cannot agree with the tone and vehemence of some of the things that have been said and done, but the lack of public relations with which the scheme has been presented to the counties has been very unfortunate, and has been the cause of many people becoming hot under the collar without really understanding what is at issue.

That is the position of Surrey. I now turn to the position of the "remnant of Israel"—Chertsey, and other similarly excluded areas. Whatever was the position of the Royal Commission, and whatever justification it had for saying that the future of Surrey was not within its terms of reference, the Government are not bound by terms of reference. Nor is Parliament. Therefore, we are entitled to ask how Chertsey and similar areas will be dealt with, and what will be their position. They cannot be expected to buy a pig in a poke without being given some information about its weight and condition.

Many points of objection could be taken, and probably will be, but it is not suitable to take up time on matters of detail. There are two subjects of cardinal importance which cannot be left without mention. One subject is finance, and the other is education. In the truncated County of Surrey there will be a minimum direct requirement of an increased rate of 1s. 7d. in the £. But that is only the beginning of the story, because there will be capital commitments of a serious nature when buildings which are now available for use are no longer available, having been swallowed up in Greater London.

The amount of money involved in this operation may be very large. However, it should be pointed out that if the area is reduced—as we believe it can be and should be—to a very much smaller size, with the result that the remaining population may be nearer 1 million than 500,000, the financial results will be much more tolerable. That is a matter for further consideration and, I suggest, for open negotiations with an open mind and with good will on both sides. We cannot agree to give a blank cheque for increased expenditure on an unknown scale in respect of Surrey.

The question of education is one of deep concern to Surrey. It will be spoken about tomorrow by people who are much more qualified to talk about it than I am—people like my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black). There is without question a first-class system of education in Surrey. It is efficient and broad-minded, and something of which all those concerned—parents, teachers, local authorities and ratepayers—are justly proud. The Ministry of Education gave evidence before the Royal Commission, in which considerable anxiety was expressed about the effect of the scheme if it went through in the present form. There is also much evidence of probable dislocation. Further, we cannot overlook the importance of secondary education. Surrey is proud of its secondary education system, which was originally built up with the encouragement of the Government. Surrey carried on on its own lines, and has made great progress. That, too, must be the subject of further open-minded and unprejudiced consultation.

When my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education speaks tomorrow, I hope that he will be able to show us that he is deeply and personally concerned with the future of education in Surrey and elsewhere. We know his ideals in matters of education. We know what care he has taken in studying the subject, and we know his personal interest in our own local matters. We are sure that he would not wish it to be thought that he would willingly agree to anything which would result in a lowering of standards. If he can give us such an assurance, and if we can be satisfied that open-minded consultations will take place, a great deal of the present heat and ill-feeling in Surrey will quickly disappear.

But that assurance must be given, because at present there is fear and resentment, and all those other feelings that make any kind of successful negotiation impossible. I therefore make an appeal to my right hon. Friend and the Government on one side, and some of my friends in Surrey on the other. We are all very good friends together there, and we have a great loyalty for our county. If they realise, as I feel they must, that for the reasons which have been given the joint board scheme is not acceptable to the Government as a matter of policy, I appeal to them to help us to join in negotiations and discussions at every level with the Government and everyone else to see whether we can make this thing work.

6 40 p.m.

It is interesting for hon. Members on this side of the House to note the rather different emphasis of support—or I should say lack of support—for the White Paper we are discussing, particularly amongst hon. Members representing constituencies in Surrey. Indeed, the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) kept us in suspense for some minutes before we knew on which side he was coming down. In fact, I am not certain even now that I fully appreciate his position, but that is no doubt a tribute to his negotiating power with the Government on behalf of his constituency and local authority.

I admired the outspoken and direct speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris). It was a speech which everyone in the House appreciated. Quite apart from what he might do about casting his vote, we know where he and I and, I imagine, many others whom he represents stand in this matter.

I endeavoured to make it quite clear that I would vote against the Government.

It was that aspect of the hon. Gentleman's speech which gave me the most pleasure.

Without in any way wishing to be pompous or hypercritical of Ministers, it is a long time since I heard a more one-sided speech by a Minister introducing a debate on a White Paper. Obviously the Minister opening the debate must give an indication of the Government's views and finally come down to stating the line the Government propose to take and what their intentions are, but I thought that this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman gave a wholly ex parte picture of the existing set-up. He painted it in the worst possible colours. I may have misunderstood him, but he did not even correctly designate the important powers of the boroughs. He left out their functions in respect of art and entertainment, on which they can spend a 6d. rate. I did not hear him say anything about highway powers.

The right hon. Gentleman left me with the impression, particularly when he spoke with such relish about the destruction which the new proposals will wreak on the existing system, that there was more in this than the administrative need for change. He said that we must consider people; that we must not create a scheme which merely takes into account the convenience of councillors or administrators, and yet we find that the City of London, with not 300,000 or 200,000 inhabitants, but with only 4,000, most of whom go away at week-end, is not only to be left intact, but is to have the inflated powers of the new Greater London boroughs. This seems to be a strange conclusion to his statement of unexceptionable political principle. If the interests of people is the major consideration, as it ought to be, I should like some evidence from the Government that there is a widespread desire for this change. I have not heard of any monster petitions. I have not been deluged with letters or invited to attend mass meetings to decry the present set-up in Surrey or Kent, or Middlesex or London. If the Minister has given the impression that there are political factors behind these proposals to get rid of, for example, the London County Council, he has only himself to blame because of the tenor and inadequacy of his speech.

These proposals are based on the massive report of the Herbert Commission. I think we are all agreed that this must have been an extremely conscientious and hard-working body of individuals. The fact that they spent 88 days visiting the various areas is a principle which might be copied by more Royal Commissions. This takes us back to some of the great Royal Commissions of the past, like that which considered housing of the working classes in London. That Royal Commission spent a considerable amount of time actually seeing the things that it was investigating.

There are, though, one or two curious things about this Royal Commission. It is unfortunate that not one of its members had any extensive experience in local government, either inside or outside the London area, yet it put forward these great administrative changes affecting people so closely. It consisted of a lawyer—I am the last person to complain about that—two political scientists, a chartered accountant, and an industrialist, but there was no one with intimate personal knowledge of the human problems that arise, and of the relationship between councillors and the electorate. This may well have helped give the impression that the Report advocates in theory a new tidy administrative set-up, but the human factor has been left out, and I believe that this accounts for the grave mistakes which the Commission has made in its proposals for dealing with the children, the aged, and education.

One other curious point which I have not before noticed in a report of a Royal Commission is that in its first paragraph it says:
"We have also had private interviews with a few individuals who have special knowledge and experience of the problems with which we have to deal."
It would be interesting to know who they were. One of my hon. Friends suggests that the Minister was one, but I think that that is rather far-fetched. One presumes that these individuals had some influence, because the Commission says that on the whole it did not find the evidence of the local authorities "helpful". Presumably, therefore, these witnesses were of some assistance, and it would be helpful if we were enlightened as to their status and qualifications.

Leaving aside the possible political implications of the scheme, I come to the major issues. I do not think that there is much dispute that the major defect in the existing arrangements to which the Royal Commission drew attention and emphasised is the absence of any authority in the review area to undertake planning tasks as a whole. This was known before the Royal Commission reported. It was not necessary to appoint one to find that out. We in the Labour Party drew attention to this as long ago as 1954, and proposed that in the great conurbations, including London, there should be a body which had power to undertake planning tasks and power to supervise communications. This seems to us to be essential, particularly as for ten years we have had respective Ministers of Housing and Local Government who have not taken the initiative in these matters.

There was nothing to prevent the Minister in this greater London Area getting the nine planning authorities together and saying, "Our roads are getting jammed", or, "We are having difficulties about overspill and location of industry. We must act." But nothing has been done. Some criticism must be laid at the door of the Government for not having taken the initiative that they could have done. In the review area there is not an authority to take charge of planning, as there must if we are not to get into an even worse muddle.

How do the Government propose to correct this defect in the set-up for the Greater London area? They propose to create a Greater London body which will be quite inadequate for the task. What is proposed is an area composed almost continuously of the built-up part of the Home Counties. There is very little open space and almost complete similarity in the area inside the boundaries of this new Council.

All the previous experts, Royal Commissions and reports on planning for the Home Counties have stressed the need for a large area. The Abercrombie Report referred to an area of 4,000 square miles. Even in 1923—before there was anything like the present industrial pressure in the Home Counties and the Greater London area—a Royal Commission talked about an area of 3,700 miles. Although the proposed new area of 850 square miles is too big for certain of the purposes which have been mentioned, for others like planning it is far too small.

It is necessary to have such an authority large enough to cover the daily journeys of people between their homes and their places of work. Questions of transport and location of industry are among the considerations which must be taken into account, and so it is necessary to have an area which would continue probably to the coast and would take in a good deal of Sussex. Unless that is the case, the problem has not been dealt with, and exactly the same kind of criticism which is voiced by the Royal Commission about the review area now will be applied to the Home Counties in five year's time. Are we then to have another White Paper and another set of proposals? If we are to have all this vast dislocation, the first thing to do is to get the new area the right size and, from the point of view of planning and communications, the Government have got the area wrong. If that be so, most of the basis of their case for change falls to the ground.

From the point of view of the Greater London boroughs, the Government have made the opposite mistake in regard to size. As I said before, this is partly due to the attitude and experience of those forming the membership of the Royal Commission. As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), regarding children, education services and services for the aged, these proposed new boroughs are too small. My hon. Friend gave examples, and I do not wish to weary the House with more examples. But it is clear that the Government recognise the force of the argument advanced by most of the experts—including some who speak for the Minister of Education—that generally speaking, the counties are the right size with respect to education. Because of this, within a central London area covering a population of about 2 million, there is now to be a third tier superimposed for education. If this arrangement is valid in that area, why does it not apply to most of the rest of London and, indeed, to Middlesex? This is a most illogical scheme. We cannot have a three-tier organisation dealing with education where now we have only the county and the country will require far more justification and explanation for it before such an arrangement is accepted.

What about the problems which will arise in education? What about the fringe authorities? What about the people who live in Lewisham or Woolwich who go to London to work and who now go in the evening to one of the 60 or 70 institutions for further education which are run by the London County Council? More than 50 per cent. of all the secondary school children in all the London County Council schools attend a school which is not in the borough in which they live, and five out of six of the grammar school children are educated in schools which are not in the borough where they live. Why upset all this? It is admitted that something must be done about the inner London area, but this scheme is not reasonable. I hope, for the sake of the children, and the teachers—practically all the organisations representing teachers have protested about it—the Government will think again most seriously about this scheme

The same arguments may be applied in the case of children's committees. Facts were given by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham which I do not propose to repeat. In the L.C.C. area there are 113 homes for deprived children and children in need of care and protection. This number can cover every type of establishment required and all the kinds of staff available. But, 66 of the homes are outside the county borough and one is 80 miles away. How can such a problem as that be sorted out? Which borough will pay for these homes in future? Why create such a problem? Under the present system, instead of putting the cost on one borough which may have a large number of children or seven or eight homes in it, the cost is spread over the whole of the boroughs in London; it is an excellent scheme, without harming one area financially. To smash it up for the reasons which have been given—very "phoney" reasons—by the Royal Commission is, I believe, shameful and scandalous. Almost precisely the same argument can be used in connection with the homes for old people.

I wish to say a word about borough grouping. I do not want to go into details now because I think it much too early at this stage to do so. But I warn the Minister that if he proposes to obtain advice from town clerks outside London about what shall happen to the boundaries of the areas administered by town clerks in London, the right hon. Gentleman will create a great deal of extra trouble for himself, and rightly so. Some of the town clerks outside London may at some time be candidates for advancement within the Greater London of the future, and their interference will be resented. I do not know who is responsible for this "brain child", but I hope that the idea will be dropped.

We cannot pass from this matter without expressing grave concern about what is to happen to the truncated counties of Kent, Essex and Surrey. Kent is to lose 30 per cent. of its population and 35 per cent. of its rateable value. Essex will lose 54 per cent. of its population and 58 per cent. of its rateable value and Surrey—about which many hon. Members wish to speak—will lose 60 per cent. of its population and 66 per cent. of its rateable value.

It seems to me that the financial problems which will result from this and about which we have no guidance or information from the Government, will be formidable. Unless there is to be a radical deterioration in the services, or a large subvention from the central Government—something which I should have thought hon. Gentlemen opposite would not have wanted—I cannot see how the administration in Surrey can be maintained at anything like the existing level. It is impossible to take away a great area and a large proportion of the population, and imagine that things will go on in just the same way as before. And all this is to effect a change in government which it is very doubtful will work even in the inner London area, let alone on the outside.

I notice that in page 18 of its interesting memorandum the Surrey County Council's General Purposes Committee draws attention to the difficulty of the transitional period which:
"would be complicated by the existence of running contracts. … Waiting lists for houses would have to be adjusted, case papers of social service cases sorted, classified and transferred, and in matters requiring registration, such as local land charges and the licensing of motor vehicles, there would be great likelihood of confusion until the records, involving hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of entries, could be split and transferred to the new authorities."
On top of that we have the difficulties of the staff. Every hon. Member has received a memoranda from the staffs of the counties who are worried. I should be prepared to face all this—I think that it must be faced by the country—if we were really going to deal with the major defects which were revealed by the Royal Commission with regard to planning and communication. But this proposal will not solve the problems. It is illogical, unwieldy and impracticable. I do not think that we have any right to play ducks and drakes with the lives of people, council officials, parents and teachers in London by a scheme which, if it is ever adopted, will not meet the major defects which have been outlined. I hope that in this respect, as in many others, the country may be saved by a General Election.

6.59 p.m.

I am grateful to be called this early in the debate. I intend to be brief, but I am afraid that one minute will not be enough. I shall require at least two-and-a-half. Therefore—it is in order that I may keep my speech short—perhaps I may be forgiven for not taking up the points mentioned by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington).

To save time, I wish to point out, in conjunction with my colleague the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell), that my hon. Friend has agreed that I should speak on behalf of Wembley, and that he is very much in sympathy with the views I hope to advance. I should like to congratulate the members of the Royal Commission who have worked so hard and speedily with a real understanding of the problems with which they were confronted. If the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council are definitely to disappear, may I also add my tribute to the work which those Councils have done—

It being Seven o'clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 7 (Time for taking Private Business), further Proceeding stood postponed.

London County Council (General Powers) Bill (By Order)

Read a Second time and committed.

7.1 p.m.

I beg to move,

That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to leave out Clause 25.
I apologise to the London County Council for delaying the passage of its Bill and also to hon. Members for taking some of their time from a most important debate to deal with a matter which is of some concern and interest to Stepney. I hope that hon. Members will agree with me, after hearing what I have to say, that it is just as well that this question should be ventilated, not only in an endeavour to see that the right thing is done, but also to provide information about some of the things which take place in London.

Section 25 of the London County Council (General Powers) Bill deals with the allocation of licences for street trading. I believe that it is not the London County Council that is really pressing for this Clause, but, mainly, the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee. Representatives of the Stepney Borough Council, the London County Council and the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee and I met on Tuesday to try to come to some reasonable understanding on the Clause.

There are more annual trading licences issued each year in Stepney than in any other borough in the whole of London. There are approximately 1,250 street trading licences issued in Stepney annually, which is much more than in Hackney, and three or four times the number issued in most of the other boroughs represented on the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee.

The allocation of street trading licences was put into the hands of the borough councils in London by the London County Council (General Powers) Act, 1927. There has always been some difficulty about the proper way of granting licences to applicants for pitches in street markets and in 1947 the London County Council introduced an amendment to the allocation of street trading licences but did not deal with the major problem with which Stepney is concerned and, no doubt, other boroughs in London. Apart from having in Stepney the largest number of street traders, it has also the well-known Petticoat Lane, and, of course, there is a large number of applicants for pitches in that street on Sunday mornings.

The way in which Stepney Borough Council and, I think, all the other metropolitan borough councils with markets in their areas operated after the passing of the 1927 Act, was to allow applicants for street trading licences to send in their names and addresses and the name of the street in which they wanted to trade. Those names and addresses were collated and eventually placed before a meeting of the market committees of the borough councils.

That system went on until the war. There was, however, a provision in the London County Council (General Powers) Act for an aggrieved applicant to appeal to a magistrates' court against the decision of a borough council in the granting of an application to another person, and the magistrates had power under the Act to grant a licence to the aggrieved person over and above the local authority.

The experience of the Stepney Borough Council—I know something about this, because I was on the local authority myself from 1934 until 1959—was that it was gradually becoming extremely difficult, under the system of choosing from a list of people, for the council to satisfy the applicant or even the magistrates.

After a large number of appeals had been allowed by the local magistrates against the decisions of the borough council on the granting of licences, the borough council felt that it might be better if it set up sub-committees of the market committee, which is called panels, to interview the applicants in the various parts of the borough. That began after the war, but even this system broke down because, again, appeals were made to the magistrates against the decisions of the council, and again, on many occasions, the magistrates allowed the appeals.

Obviously, this situation was making it difficult for a local authority to carry out its duties in a proper way. It was decided by the Stepney Borough Council that there should be a test case to find out exactly what were the powers of the Council in regard to the allocation of street licences so that it might apply the construction of the divisional court to applications under the Act.

That appeal was heard in the Queen's Bench Division in 1960 and the court decided that the procedure which had been applied by Stepney Borough Council and, I think, by other borough councils in London, of choosing from a number if there was more than one applicant, was wrong under the Act. That being so, the Stepney Borough Council has, in dealing with applications for street trading licences, followed the ruling of the divisional court in 1960. The court said that the proper way of working the Act in relation to applications for street trading licences was that the first applicant for a pitch should get it, regardless of those who came afterwards.

The council has followed this procedure since 1960. It has been greatly relieved to know that the procedure has caused great satisfaction to applicants and also relieved members of the council from much criticism. When a committee of the council has to deal with many applicants for one pitch it is bound to upset more people than it pleases. Criticism in this respect has been more or less eradicated.

The council had hoped that this procedure would continue, but, unfortunately, it appears that some other borough councils in London think that the Act as defined by the divisional court should now be altered so that what the procedure which obtained before the judgment of the divisional court should now become law by virtue of Clause 25. What is being asked for in the Clause is that we should revert to the previous position and leave it to councils—presumably to their market committees. If there are one or more applicants for a pitch, the markets committee will decide which applicant, regardless of anything else, shall be given the licence.

Previous to the judgment of the divisional court, applicants had the opportunity of appealing to the magistrates against the refusal to grant them a licence. But Clause 25 will not even permit that. It takes away the opportunity for an aggrieved applicant to appeal to the magistrates' court. If the Clause is carried, we shall return to the old position, less the right of appeal to magistrates, and we shall again be faced with all the difficulties which confront local authorities when dealing with a large number of applications. I repeat that we in Stepney have a large number of applications, even if other boroughs do not. We want to avoid these difficulties and that is one reason why my council prefers the ruling of the divisional court to the scheme proposed in the Bill.

It can rightly be argued that the Stepney Borough Council is a member of the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee and that it had the right to make representations to the Committee when this matter was being considered. However, as we pointed out in the discussions which were held before the Bill came before the House, unfortunately our delegate on the Works Sub-Committee of the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee was very ill last year and was unable to make a verbal contribution.

All we want the London County Council and the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee to do is let things remain as they are for at least another twelve months. Let us see how the divisional court ruling works. I repeat that Stepney is the borough with the largest number of street trading licences. We are convinced that the system we advocate is the best system and that no infallible system will ever be devised. After all, somebody is dissatisfied even if the policy of first come first served is followed.

If there are 20 applicants for a pitch and the licence is granted to one, one person will be pleased and 19 will be dissatisfied. However, after thirty-five years' experience in the allocation of street trading licences, we are convinced that in the last two years the system adopted has been the most beneficial to the smooth running of the council, has been to the satisfaction of applicants, and has led to a reduction in the number of appeals.

I do not know whether anybody will argue against my proposal tonight, but there are hon. Members present who know much more about local authorities than I do. Another part of Clause 25 states that favour should be given to the dependants of holders of street licences who die. The part of the Clause dealing with this aspect is not very precise and will need much more clarification before it becomes law. However, even without this provision, since the ruling in the divisional court we in Stepney, in the 15 cases in which licensed traders have died, have been able to give the licences to relatives of the deceased in 13 cases. In the other two cases there was no application from relatives and the licences were granted to other applicants. I emphasise that all the relatives of the deceased have been satisfied under the present procedure. This provision is not necessary.

I believe that the London County Council argued that under the system of first come first served there might be a sale of licences. The Council presumably meant that a man might, knowing that he was to relinquish his licence, sell it to a friend, who could then apply and be certain of being the first. There may be something in this argument. There is "fiddling" in all sections of society, certainly on the Stock Exchange. However, even this suggested difficulty does not enable me to support Clause 25. I would far rather the council was able to carry out its duty in the way it wants to and has carried it out since the divisional court ruling. I would far rather take the chance of there being a rogue here and there than that there should be a return to the thirty-three years' distress which we had in Stepney when carrying out what was thought to be the law, but which was held by the divisional court not to be the law.

For these reasons, I ask the House to support the Motion.

7.20 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) has covered a large number of the points both for and against the Instruction. It is true that nearly all Metropolitan borough councils, the members of the Standing Joint Committee, were following the rule of exercising their discretion in the granting of street trading licences. But as a result of the Schneider decision they found that they were left with no discretion whatever but were bound to hand out licences to the first-comers.

Many of the Metropolitan borough councils disliked that decision largely because it turned them into nothing but rubber stamps. They were left with no discretion and no ability to discriminate between one application and another. Not long after that decision—in May, 1961—a Mr. Porritt, a Lewisham street trader, was killed violently and the borough council, immediately after his death, received an application for a licence to carry on trading on the late Mr. Porritt's site. The council was forced to give that licence to the first application although, within ten days of Mr. Porritt's death, Mrs. Porritt and her son made application for the licence.

The decision in the Schneider case was further reinforced by the Porritt case, because Lewisham Borough Council appealed in the Porritt case and the appeal was allowed. It then became clear that there was no claim in law on behalf of Mrs. Porritt and her son for a licence for Mr. Porritt's pitch. This seems a quite iniquitous state of affairs and means than anyone stricken with grief at the death of a husband or father, and delaying making application for the lost one's licence, will lose the opportunity of gaining that licence.

After all, news of a death spreads quickly in a close-knit community and anyone hearing of the death of a street trader can immediately apply for the licence, and thus the pitch, and cannot be denied it. The Clause seeks to set that position right. The hon. Member for Stepney has already mentioned the possibility that anyone wishing to give up his licence could trade it for a considerable amount of money merely by telling someone else of his intention and going along with the second party to the town hall, the second person being able immediately to step into the trader's pitch.

Despite his great experience of local government affairs, the hon. Member for Stepney rather slid over this point; that in law there is no protection for the grief stricken relatives, having allowed the chance to slip once, to put the matter right. Or it might be the case of a man giving up his licence in the face of opposition from his family. We wish to protect the people from injustice.

Regarding the right of appeal, if one is giving absolute discretion to a body then that discretion must be fully exercisable and not easily overthrown. The Standing Joint Committee feels that having had all the applications before it, if there should be an appeal the successful applicant and the unsuccessful one should be able to appear before a magistrate so that the original award of the licence cannot be overthrown. Although I realise that there have been difficulties in Stepney, the representatives of the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee and London County Council have discussed this matter fully with Stepney's representative, but have been unable to satisfy them.

Thus, I could not quite understand the hon. Gentleman's argument that this matter had not been fully discussed by the Standing Joint Committee. The Stepney representatives feel that they should remain rubber stamps—a relatively easy task—and, therefore, wish to overthrow the Clause. I am opposed to such action.

7.26 p.m.

While I hesitate and hate to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards), particularly in view of his long experience in local government matters and his knowledge of markets, I must support the view of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Compton Carr) and urge the House to allow Clause 25 to go through.

The hon. Member for Barons Court has dealt with the hardship that arose in the Porritt case. I have that clearly in mind because it took place in a neighbouring constituency. I also have in mind the hardship that is occasioned in Deptford where, although we do not have as many street traders as there are in Stepney, we have a considerable number of them who perform an extremely useful function in the borough, a function which is no less important than that carried out by the shopkeepers themselves.

If the suggestion of the hon. Member for Stepney were approved, an application for a site would be decided solely on a chronological basis, and I can see hardship arising in such circumstances for street traders or their dependants. In all London boroughs considerable changes are taking place. Streets are being widened, some are being abolished, others are being closed, buildings are being pulled down and sites that were in occupation are no longer so. I fear that if we acted solely on a chronological selection system there would be an opportunity for someone, simply because his name was on the list, to get a substitute site in place of a person who, perhaps as the result of a street being closed, has been displaced.

We had an example of the possibility of this happening in my constituency. It happened in Brockley when a site was abolished. This was done for good reason with which I will not weary the House. Had a chronological system been in force the men displaced would not have had their essential right to a site if there were others ahead of them on such a list. In such circumstances it is better that each and every case should be considered on its merits, having regard to the possibility of hardship, and councils should have the authority to take these things into consideration.

These street traders stand out in all weathers. Running a street stall in Deptford High Street when it is sleeting, snowing and cold is not the jolliest of occupations, yet they are there, doing their business, just as the shopkeepers are doing theirs. If a man gets pneumonia and dies, I think that his family, if they are suitable people, should have the right to carry on at the site exactly as though the man had had a shop. Therefore, in the interests of the shopper, which is important; of control being kept in the hands of the local authority—the borough council—which is equally important; and of the stall holder—who, we should not forget, is an integral part of our London retail system—I hope that my hon. Friend will not press his opposition to the Clause.

7.31 p.m.

I want to support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Compton Carr) and by the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer). My constituency may not have in it as many street traders as has Stepney, but there are a number—and most colourful, valuable, public-spirited citizens they are. I have two fears about the present arrangement, and they are shared by those street traders. The first is that if the borough council is to have no powers at all in deciding who or who shall not be a street trader, the standard of street traders will undoubtedly drop. If the borough council is to continue as a rubber stamp, it may well be that people, however undesirable, may have to be granted street licences.

Secondly, I take this point about corruption more seriously than, I think, does the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards). He said with a light, throw-away remark, that there is "fiddling" everywhere—as if to justify any "fiddling" there may be under the present arrangement for granting street licences. I am sure that he would agree that it is highly unsatisfactory that there should be allowed to persist an arrangement that undoubtedly leads to corruption.

I have been told by street traders in my constituency of instances in London where quite large sums have changed hands in recent months. A street trader who intends to give up his licence simply arranges with the man who is to buy it from him that he will walk into the town hall immediately behind him, and there is nothing that the borough council can do—

Did the hon. Gentleman's informant tell him to which borough that applied? I understand that only the Stepney Borough Council has been applying the divisional court's ruling, and that the others have carried on as before.

Not, I think, since the Schneider case, because since then it has been clear to all borough councils that they are obliged to give the licence to the first comer.

In those circumstances, I hope that the Bill will go through as it stands. The House will probably be fortified in its decision to let Clause 25 stand when it considers that it not only has the support of the London County Council, through the Joint Standing Committee, but of the Federation of Street Traders' Unions. I believe that the vast majority of street traders, as well as the authorities, want this Clause to remain in the Bill.

7.34 p.m.

The London County Council was anxious that this difference between Stepney and the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee should not be brought to the House. A great deal of work has gone on behind the scenes. Stepney has missed its opportunity to petition against this Bill; not that it needed to have done so, but I think that it was quite genuinely convinced that an arrangement could be come to, or that the matter might, perhaps, be postponed from this year until next, by which time agreement might have been reached. As we now see, agreement did not eventuate, but Stepney still has time to petition another place if, in the light of tonight's debate, it thinks that it would be worth while to do so.

I think that the consensus of opinion here is against Stepney, as it was on the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee. The L.C.C., as a good father—or, perhaps, as a good mother—in the County of London, was anxious to balance the scales of justice. We felt that there could be no better arbiter, in this instance, than this Chamber, and if the Committee to which this Bill will be referred reads tonight's debate it will no doubt make up its mind on the matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) spoke of the abolition of the right of appeal. In effect, there is no right of appeal today on this particular point. Neither the borough council nor the court has any discretion. First come, first served, is the principle that both have to uphold, as has been only too recently proved. The right of appeal that is being abolished has nothing to do with the other general grounds—the right of appeal on grounds of the character of the person, the space available, and so forth, which still remain.

My hon. Friend referred to the lack of precision in the Clause in regard to the right of the relatives to have a right to the succession of the stall in question. It is really difficult to get this, but we are advised that the phrase
"… more desirable in the interests of the public or more equitable …"
would be an instruction to the borough council to take account of the natural justice of the case. I hope that the House will not support the exclusion of the Clause.

7.39 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
(Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke)

Street traders, like so many other people, are under the special protection of the Home Office, so perhaps I might be allowed, very shortly and humbly, to give a word of advice to hon. Members on whether they should accept or reject the Motion which has been moved by the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W, Edwards).

We feel that there are two problems here—the problem of the widow, and the problem of the "fiddle". I think that they can be quickly described in those terms. Since the Schneider decision, there is a case for saying that something should be done to deal with those problems. We therefore think that the Clause should be examined and dealt with in the usual way, when the detailed evidence for its need will be displayed.

I should not like it to be thought that we think that the Clause is perfect. In particular, I should not necessarily want to be taken as supporting everything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Compton Carr) and the hon. Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet) have said on the right of appeal.

It may well be that the Committee, in its wisdom, will feel that in this vital matter, affecting the livelihood of stallholders in the way in which the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) described it to us, there should be some sort of appeal. I do not know. In one or two very small details, which it would be wrong to take up the time of the House in describing, this Clause is not in our view quite right, but, nevertheless, there is more good in it than bad.

If my advice is acceptable, I would ask the hon. Member for Stepney, in spite of the strong local feeling which he has, and in spite of the fact that Stepney seems to operate the Schneider decision with equity and justice in a way which other people, perhaps not so skilled, do not seem to be able to do, to agree that if he would withdraw his opposition, it would be in the interests of street traders, of the boroughs and of London as a whole.

7.42 p.m.

I do not think that we should underestimate the importance of the Motion which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards). I do not think that anybody suggests that we should count heads and say that more boroughs are against Stepney than are for it, because this is a matter for which Stepney has a very great responsibility, and there must be a very great burden upon it in comparison with many other boroughs, whose views on all these matters have been taken into account among people who have had the exercise of responsibility.

No doubt, my hon. Friend, with his long service on the Stepney Borough Council, has had very difficult duties to perform, and his views on this practical side of the matter must be regarded as having very great weight indeed. Therefore, I do not think that we should lightly dispose of the matter.

On the other hand, I am judging myself and what advice I should give my hon. Friend as based on free consideration. The first is that any proposal to increase the discretion of a local authority rather than to restrict it is something for which I will always have very warm approval, and, therefore, I would need to be convinced with very great care before I assented to a proposition that something should be done to make local authorities merely rubber stamps and to limit their discretion.

Secondly, I feel some sympathy with the L.C.C. about this, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet) said, that Council is only the honest broker. She spoke, perhaps as is a woman's privilege, of the L.C.C. as being a mother balancing the scales of justice, but that is not a very happy position for a mother to be in. I should prefer to call the L.C.C. the honest broker. Its job is to try to get its General Powers Bill through, and it has put at the disposal of the boroughs this facility, which they very greatly value. The Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, which is the constitutional body of the metropolitan boroughs, having given a decision that it should go forward, I think that it should be supported.

Finally, as the Joint Under-Secretary of State said, the details can be looked at in Committee, but I want to say a word about the question of appeal. I am not very happy about appeals from a local authority to a magistrate on a matter of a policy decision or an administrative decision. This is a question of somebody's livelihood, and may be there ought to be a right of appeal, but that point can be looked at in the later stages of the Bill. I hope that now my hon. Friend, having made a valuable point and having had it examined, will feel that he can withdraw the Motion.

7.44 p.m.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) will not press this matter. The situation is summed up admirably by the Town Clerk of Hackney, who says:

"The basis of the decision is that the Borough Council cannot refuse to grant a street trading licence to an applicant if there is a vacant pitch in the street applied for, and if two or more applications are received in respect of a vacant pitch, the applications must be considered in the order in which they were received, and must be granted accordingly."
I have served on a local authority for very many years, and if I, as a member of a street markets committee, or a sub-committee of the works committee, had to consider applications for street trading licences, and then had to submit to the decision of a magistrate who probably knew nothing of the local conditions at all, but who could reverse the decision of a committee composed of people living in the area, I should feel, as a member of that local authority, that the best thing would be to let the magistrates get on with granting licences for street traders. That is my view. I think that many members of local authorities have felt very strongly about this decision.

Street trading committees have to consider many factors. For instance, though a man is supposed to trade for seven days in a market, he may not turn up, or he may turn up only on the most lucrative days in the market, so the stall is vacant and the requirements of the public are not being met. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) that trading in the street is an occupation that is very onerous, and sometimes is not very remunerative. On the other hand, the local authority has to have regard to the orderly conduct of its business in its market places.

Therefore, the most competent people to decide on the relative merits of the applications and the applicants before them must be the members of a local authority. I do not think that we necessarily have to go into the antecedents and character of the person applying, but we must consider certain factors. I believe that that decision, taking away a discretion from the Metropolitan boroughs, was a retrograde step. I hope we shall not agree that magistrates should have the power to carry out the functions of a local authority, but if they want to carry them out let the local authorities drop the street trading powers and let the magistrates deal with them.

In view of the statement made by the Joint Under-Secretary of State, which has been supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), suggesting that this matter will be very seriously considered when it goes to the Committee, I have no intention of pressing it to a Division. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

London Government

Postponed Proceeding on Amendment to Question, That this House takes note of the proposals of Her Majesty's Government for the reorganisation of local government in Greater London (Command Paper No. 1562), resumed.

Question again proposed, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.

7.48 p.m.

At one minute to seven, I had made the opening gambit of my oration when we were interrupted for the L.C.C. Bill. I was in the process of asking that my congratulations should be added to those already given to the Royal Commission, whose members worked so hard and so speedily and with real understanding of the problems confronting them.

I should also like to ask that, if the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council are definitely to disappear, I might add my tribute to the work that these Councils have done so successfully over the years for the people of Greater London. Indeed, any new Greater London authority will have a useful guide and inspiration for its future work.

I was much impressed with the Royal Commission's Report, which has my full approval and support. I wish that the Minister would take some note of it. I was particularly pleased with paragraphs 695 and 696, which my right hon. Friend has already quoted, but part of which I ask leave to quote again:
"Where things are working well our inclinations is to leave them alone. We do not believe that London's problems can be solved merely by improving the machinery of government. Our inclination is to recommend changes only where they appear to be essential."
Where I part company from my right hon. Friend the Minister is when he seeks to alter the terms and thereby to perpetuate some of the very evils that the Commission was set up to change.

I have been one of those who has always sought to give additional powers to those authorities that were sufficiently efficient to administer them, but I have never accepted that the criterion should be one of size. I have always been one of those who wishes to keep local government local. Indeed, the Tory Party has preached this creed for many a long year. One hundred thousand inhabitants can be ideal for a local government unit. That is why I have criticised the size of the London County Council as being too big, too remote and too impersonal. I have always felt that the citizen should be encouraged and should respond to the need to look to his town hall for help and guidance in local authority matters.

I am prepared to admit that some authorities are not as efficient as they should be. In these cases, alteration and, perhaps, amalgamation can be defended. Where, however, a local authority has proved its efficiency and its ability to administer all local affairs and it has the resources to do this, it should not be changed arbitrarily for the administrative convenience of a central authority. Wembley is such an authority, efficient and resourceful. The name Wembley is well known throughout the sporting world. It is also well known throughout the municipal world as an efficient and well administered area whose people are well cared for by its council. It is a borough well known in musical circles and for its voluntary work with the Eventide Homes, having set up voluntarily two splendid homes for elderly people.

Wembley as a borough is built up and has a population of 126,000. My right hon. Friend the Minister suggests that Wembley should be amalgamated with the neighbouring Borough of Willesden. The Royal Commission recommended that minimum populations of 100,000 should remain as long as such boroughs have an adequate rateable value. This is stated in paragraph 19 of the White Paper. Indeed, 100,000 was the figure laid down by the Local Government Act, 1958, for boroughs seeking county borough status and the Royal Commission has confirmed this minimum figure. There is nothing in the White Paper to suggest that populations of from 100,000 to 150,000 would be insufficient to support and discharge any functions proposed to be conferred on the new boroughs.

I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Minister is not in his place, because I want to be personal. I hope that he will not consider it maliciously personal. Twelve years ago, when my right hon. Friend sought all-county borough status for his own Borough of Luton, which was smaller than Wembley, I was one of his most ardent supporters and spoke in that debate which took place in the chamber of another place. All the arguments that my right hon. Friend then adduced for the independent status of his borough apply to the case of Wembley. I have no need, therefore, to go into them in detail. My right hon. Friend must be well aware that Wembley is just as capable, and has proved so, to administer all powers that can be conferred upon her.

The Minister wishes, however, according to his plan, to see Wembley amalgamated with Willesden. He and his advisers should know that there is absolutely no identity of interest between the two boroughs. Both councils are vehemently against the proposed merger and recognise that there cannot be two such adjacent authorities with less community of interest. They both have different problems and they both have different ways of dealing with them.

All three political parties in the Wembley Council are against this proposed amalgamation. It is impossible to imagine that this proposed merger could ever be to the advantage of the ratepayers of either borough. Speaking of my own borough—Wembley—I know what years of toil, effort and public spirit have gone towards the building of this efficient and attractive borough. Is all this to go for nought and to be changed arbitrarily by the Minister and his officials, who can have no knowledge of local feeling and the human interests of the people to be affected?

I ask in all seriousness how one can sit down, take a map of London and change the boundaries of the existing boroughs without any guide or interest whatever except the rule of size. Why should size be the yardstick for these proposals? Has the Minister been converted to the policy, which he has attacked so often in the past, that the man in Whitehall knows best?

With other hon. Members, I ask my right hon. Friend to think again. In the general plan, he might find some authorities who welcome amalgamation and pooling of resources, whose people may have something in common with each other. Richmond and Twickenham may be a case in point. Where, however, there is a definite opposition, will the Minister reconsider his proposals? Will he not accept that an authority can be efficient and capable of administering all services with a population of under 200,000 and yet considerably over 100,000? I hope he will decide to let Wembley stand independent as she is.

In that connection, I ask the House to forgive my quoting just a few figures. The area of Wembley is 6,294 acres with a population of 126,000. Its rateable value is £3,067,223, which is a rate resource per head of £24 6s. 5d., or more than any other area in the County of Middlesex. It is interesting to compare those figures with existing county boroughs. For instance, Blackburn has a population of 105,000. Its rateable value is only £1,261,000 and the rate resource per head £11 19s.; or, in the case of Preston, 113,000 population, £1,453,000 rateable value, and a rate resource per head of £12 16s. And so I could go on in the case of Huddersfield, St. Helens, Edmonton, Tottenham and Walsall. I repeat, Wembley has £3,067,000 rateable value and a rate resource per head of £24 6s. 5d.

While it is recognised that it may be inescapable in some cases for smaller authorities well below the 100,000 limit to be attached to a borough, I believe that apart from this there is no justification for disturbing against their will the Wembley and Willesden boroughs. On the contrary, there are obvious and cogent reasons why they should remain undisturbed.

If the Minister is adamant, will he consider the transfer by agreement of some districts to Wembley to bring it to the required figure? If he will not contemplate surgical operations in his plan, will he look at alternative proposals for Wembley? Willesden can speak for itself. Indeed, I think it is almost large enough to stand alone as an independent borough.

Wembley has been a borough for 25 years and she was carved out of Harrow, which now stands alone with a population of 209,000. Harrow's Technical College stands on Wembley ground. Harrow School "ducker" and part of its playingfields are within the boundary of Wemlbley. Half the area of Wembley is in the postal district of Harrow, as my right hon. Friend ought to know, and Harrow's great new post office, opened last month, serves a major portion of the Borough of Wemlbley. If my right bon. Friend cannot look with favour on the idea of a return to mother Harrow, will he consider other poropsals? I understand that Northwood and Ruislip favour amalgamation with Harrow. If this is possible, perhaps some small area of Harrow may come to Wembley.

In conclusion, I do appeal to the Minister to look at this problem very carefully and sympathetically. He can have no conception of the anguish and sorrow and concern of the people of Wembley, and, I am sure, of other boroughs, at his proposals. I share their feelings, and I shall work with them and with my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell), for more favourable consideration. Much as I favour the Royal Commission's proposals I would rather see them all ignored and no change made at all than agree to the death knell of the Borough of Wembley.

8.1 p.m.

My remarks will follow somewhat closely the line of argument put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus), except, the House will not be surprised to know, that whereas he referred to Wembley I shall tend to refer to East Ham. I agree with a great deal of what he said, in particular the valuable point that efficiency in local government and viability and desirability are not to be determined solely by the criterion of size. I think that many of the weaknesses which we can see in both the Royal Commission's Report and in the proposals of the Government are due to too close an attention to a formula of size. I very much welcome the hon. and gallant Member's critical remarks in that respect.

I shall speak quite briefly, becuase I claim no expertise in local Government. I have had no direct experience of it, but I have had sufficient secondhand experience of excellent local government in East Ham and am sufficiently persuaded of the dangers to that good government in East Ham which lie in the proposals of the Government that I join with those who have been speaking today in opposition to the proposals of the White Paper.

I hope that Ministers will have noted that so far the speeches from behind them have all been quite severely critical of what the Government propose, and I anticipate that throughout the course of tomorrow's debate they will still be getting critical speeches from both sides.

I particularly welcome the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris). Unfortunately, he is not now in his place. I listened particularly closely to what he had to say, because he represents part of a county borough involved in this London plan, just as I do. There are three county boroughs involved, Croydon, East Ham, and West Ham. I want to suggest that there are special considerations in the case of these county boroughs which ought to be taken more fully into account than they appear to have been.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Wembley, North, like the Minister, quoted a very valuable sentence from the Commission's Report which is repeated in the White Paper. It bears repetition again:
"Where things are working well our inclination is to leave them alone."
Local government in East Ham is working well, and my inclination, and the inclination of the residents of East Ham and of the Corporation of East Ham, is that they should be left well alone.

I have said that I myself have no direct experience of local government, but all of us in this House have very close relations with people who are affected by the services provided by local government. We are visited regularly by people who are in particular personal difficulties. Very often, in seeking to solve their problems, we turn to the various departments of the local authority, or we turn for the advice and help of a councillor of our local authority. I have found that whenever the problem I have had to tackle has been one of housing, or education, or of one aspect or another of welfare, the local authority with which I am closely concerned has proved itself to be a healthy, efficient, viable unit of local government.

That being so, I cannot for the life of me see why these tremendous changes should have the effect they are proposed to have upon this particular local area, and others of which other hon. Members will speak or have spoken. The Ministry of Education, in its evidence to the Royal Commission, paid a tribute to the effectiveness of East Ham as an education authority. Some of my hon. Friends, the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and others, have tended, I have felt, to suggest in today's debate that an education authority in the London area needs to be a fairly big education authority. I should like to tell them that I see no evidence of that from the point of view of my own direct experience.

The point, of course, being that in London it happens to be a large education authority which has done a first-class job. I know that my hon. Friend will agree. What some of us do not understand is why it is necessary, therefore, to destroy that in order to break it up into smaller units which may not necessarily work so successfully. If it has been a success, why smash it up?

I thank my hon. Friend for that explanation. I certainly join him in defending the tremendously good work which the London County Council has done for education.

Here again, reverting to the remark of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Wembley, North, it is not a question of size. Here, we have a very effective education authority in the London County Council. From my own experience, we also have a very effective education authority in East Ham. The size is very different indeed, and yet they are both viable educational units. Certainly, I agree that where the thing is proving a success it should not be broken up.

It is true, of course, that in our case we are not to be broken up. It is true, of course, that now education is to remain with the new London borough, and we welcome that. Giving credit where it is due, we welcome the change represented by the White Paper in this respect. We are glad that the Government have abandoned the completely unpractical suggestion, as I see it, of making the proposed Greater London Council an education authority. When this proposal was put forward we, together with many other people no doubt, argued strongly against it. We have derived some satisfaction at least from the fact that the Government have decided that the new London boroughs are to be education authorities, and certainly, in our case, that is a wise change.

Together with this, there has come an unwelcome feature, namely, the reduction in the number of boroughs compared with the recommendation in the Royal Commission's Report, and an increase in their size. I am far from convinced that the proposals in the White Paper about the number of authorities, the number of new boroughs, and their populations, are wise. I hope that the Government will see the wisdom of thinking very carefully again about that part of their proposals.

Hon. Members have said that local government should be local The Minister, in introducing the debate, told us, and we agree, that the test is how it affects people. We who are engaged in public affairs, be it as Members of Parliament, as councillors, or as administrators of one kind or another, can all too easily get a wrong view. We have a different horizon when it comes to accessibility and to the question of how near people are to the administrative machine. What from Whitehall or from this Chamber may seem to be a reasonably-sized unit may be, to the victim of a housing difficulty or to the victim of a welfare defect, a most unreasonable unit.

I think that it will prove to be the case that many of the units proposed by the Government are, in that respect, quite unreasonable. Even the present boroughs can be quite remote for many people. The town ball can be something which is to them distant and inaccessible. I am sure that some of the proposed boroughs, with populations well over the 300,000 mark, will be completely impersonal and will completely fail in their real responsibility for dealing with people in human terms.

I realise—the Minister repeated it this afternoon—that the proposed boundaries are subject to discussion and negotiation and that the Government's mind is not closed on any particular boundaries. That is something which, whatever may be our views about the general proposition, is valuable.

This debate does not provide the occasion for going into the details of the suggested boundaries, but there is one point in connection with the proposed amalgamation of East and West Ham which raises a matter of more general concern than the purely local consideration. In effect, the proposed new London boroughs will be county boroughs almost entirely with regard to their powers. They will be important units of local government, with power almost equal to that of existing county boroughs. If this plan is put into effect, one of the main practical problems will be the building up of new administrative machinery capable of providing the services of, in effect, a county borough.

As I have said, we have in existence three such machines—the Croydon machine, the East Ham machine and the West Ham machine. Under the new proposals, there is no doubt that the administrative machinery of Croydon will be effectively used. But I ask the Minister: why merge the other two? Will not that be a complete waste of resources? Will not that be a waste of experience and of personnel? Would it not be much better to consider, as I believe people in our area in East London are considering, alternative propositions?

I believe that it is almost pure bureaucracy which suggests that East and West Ham should be merged. If one knows that area intimately, there is nothing logical or necessary about such a merger. There is much to be said for East Ham and Barking being merged, on the one hand, and, shall we say, West Ham and Leyton, on the other. The main argument in favour of that proposition is that the experience which is at the moment in the town halls of the two county boroughs will be carried forward to the new situation with good effect. It is most important that the Minister should consider this if and when the major plan goes through.

These are matters for debate when the Bill, if there is to be one, comes before the House. But I have been considering a number of defects from our local point of view. Other hon. Members are more competent to put forward much wider criticism. Others who are more competent in local government and London government have argued most forcefully against the proposition which the Government are presenting to the House. They see the matter in London terms and in terms of the needs of the whole area and say, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham said most forcefully, that the mind of the Government is wrong in this respect.

Those of us who are not experts inevitably have to consider the matter from the point of view of how it affects the people with whom we are concerned. The Government should note that hon. Members on both sides of the House who considered the matter from that point of view, how it would affect the people whom they know as their Member of Parliament, have said that this is wrong and that it will do harm.

When the Government are faced with so much opposition from so many different kinds of political groupings and from so many different kinds of local authorities, it seems to me, inexpert in these matters though I am, that something is obviously seriously wrong with the Government's proposals. I therefore think that they would be well advised to withdraw this White Paper and not to proceed with the reorganisation of London which they propose.

8.18 p.m.

The inertia of change is quite considerable. That is evident from the speech of the hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Oram). It has been constantly said that if a system is working satisfactorily then we should leave well alone.

I feel that as Members of this House we should not consider this matter simply as a review of past years, but should consider what the position will be ten years ahead to see whether some of these proposed alterations will be good for London and, in particular, good for the boroughs in question. I had the opportunity of listening to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus) which he called an oration and which to me sounded like Pericles' funeral oration. But I admired its symmetry and construction. However, I cannot accept that his views are right.

There is common ground between my hon. and gallant Friend and myself in this respect. Our Parliamentary divisions were changed by the Representation of the People Act, 1918, and we are both offsprings of Harrow. We are integral parts of Middlesex and have therefore worked together for many years. As a result, it is not surprising that many people from the Willesden area have migrated to Wembley. That has just been the trend over the years, but we must look at this more carefully.

The Minister indicated that if there were to be serious repercussions on other groupings it might not be possible to have the sort of groupings envisaged by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wembley, North. For example, the Government have decided that they are not going to accept the Royal Commission's recommended groupings of 100,000–250,000 population but want a minimum of 200,000.

If that is going to be the position, let us look at the map. We there see Wembley and Willesden side by side. That looks on paper to be a natural, with a co-terminus borough. To the north there are Hendon, Barnet and Finchley, which I think are agreed on their groupings. Other possibly agreed groupings are Hampstead, St. Pancras and Holborn; St. Marylebone, Padding-ton and Westminster; Kensington, and Chelsea; Hammersmith and Fulham; and virtually agreed I understand is Ealing, Southall and Acton. It would mean that Willesden, if it were not going to be associated with Wembley, would stand isolated unless we are going to take into account the idea of nibbling at several other boroughs.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wembley, North indicated that he could have certain of the territories of Harrow, and it has been put forward by the Willesden Borough Council—it will not agree with what I am saying tonight; it is only right that I should say that—that it would probably like to nibble at at least five boroughs over the border in the London area itself.

The Royal Commission gave a certain amount of guidance on this. In paragraph 929 it said:
"Where amalgamations are necessary—and we are satisfied that a substantial amount of amalgamation is required to produce boroughs of the necessary size and resources—we think it desirable to amalgamate two or more existing units as a whole rather than, except when unavoidable or to a minor degree, to divide and regroup."
It is apparent on looking at this again that the more one moves towards London, the more one goes into areas of older housing and lower rateable value. If one moves towards Wembley one moves into an area of higher rateable value and newer houses, and from an education standpoint it is possible to provide more playing fields than would be available if one went further south.

Looking over the years ahead, I feel that we might be imposing on the Willesden Borough Council, if it is to remain in isolation, insuperable burdens which it could not carry. One of the factors indicated by the Minister is that he wants to be satisfied that the greater boroughs will have the necessary resources. I can say of Wembley that it is a successful and skilfully conducted authority. One could say that the two boroughs are complementary in that one can provide the resources which the other has not. I am not referring simply to rates; it may be administrative skill and other qualities.

Looking at it from that standpoint, and bearing in mind also that if the Willesden Borough Council's recommendations were to go through—that is, to add in a piece of Hampstead, a piece of Paddington, a piece of Hammersmith and perhaps others—it would mean that one would simply be adding in more of the older properties with a very much lower rateable value. This would be imposing on it a problem which is entirely beyond its resources.

Wembley alone has a population of 125,000. If one added on Harrow, it would bring it to about 340,000, and that would be beyond the requirements that have been indicated. However, if that area were added to Willesden itself, that would make a combined area to which these broader functions could be assigned.

There is another matter which I should like to mention, and I think I can put it perfectly fairly. The Willesden education officer, Mr. F. W. Wyeth, has indicated that the immediate problems would be very considerable if Willesden were to extend South into London. However, he says that:
"'One advantage in the Wembley merger is in regard to playing fields.' This merger offered prospects of a speedier fulfilment of obtaining playing fields at Northwick Park, whereas the movement Londonwards tended to worsen the overall situation."
Looking further ahead, it seems that the advantages are the other way. Looking further ahead, it may be that many of the difficulties which are foreseen by the borough council will disappear completely.

Let us as Members of Parliament decide this not simply on the question of whether we are going to maintain the status quo in the hope that the thing will work. The Government have decided that the right size for the bigger boroughs is a minimum of 200,000 population. I should like to see Willesden left alone in the form of its present brough. If that cannot be we shall have to combine with another authority, and there is no point in nibbling at five or six other boroughs, nor would it be any better if Wembley nibbled at the boundaries of Harrow. The best answer is to combine Willesden and Wembley.

Perhaps I may leave that matter and make one or two general observations. The Royal Commission is to be congratulated on its proposals. There is one matter that we have not looked at very carefully—the question of finance. We are all standing in fear and trepidation at what may happen in 1963 and 1964 when we shall examine our new rating assessments, although we appreciate that there is a clause which will enable householders to obtain some abatement. However, I feel that a little broader view of this should be taken. Have we not reached the time when we should look at the entire rating system, and might it not be desirable to consider a form of local income tax so that the burden could be more equitably distributed in respect of local services? These are matters that should be considered if there is to be an alteration in the structure and organisation of London.

Also I feel that the Government are correct in their assessments about housing. The Greater London Council will concern itself primarily with overspill, and it will, if a local authority asks for its services, have power to build within a borough's area. That could be particularly useful. In education, too, there can be great advantages, in spite of some of the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart).

I appreciate that many other hon. Members wish to take part in this debate, and I think that what I have said adequately deals with the points which I desired to make at this stage.

8.29 p.m.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) on being the only hon. Member so far in this debate who has given general support to the Government's proposals. I cannot follow him in that. I believe, however, that the general case has been made by hon. Members in favour of a healthy form of local government in which we decide to give a particular service to the body which we think will administer it best in the interests of those who are to be served, and of dropping any doctrinaire idea as to where services ought to go.

In Dagenham, among those who give thought to and are interested in local government—I also speak for many other people in the Metropolitan part of Essex—there is very strong criticism of the Government's proposals. First, there is a feeling that the proposed Greater London Council is much too large and a definite departure from our traditional ideas of county government into regional government. If we are to have an area containing 8½ million people under one authority, then we shall be creating virtually a provincial form of government. That should not be done without careful thought. There is a feeling that we in Dagenham will have far too little influence in the Greater London Council. Dagenham will have only one representative out of 110 representatives there. At present, we have seven representatives out of the 140 on the Essex County Council.

Secondly, there is the question of the proposed greater Dagenham council. If we are to have units of a minimum of 200,000 population then this is one of the better of such proposals. I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Oram) on this matter, because I believe that the unit of Barking, Dagenham and the southern part of Hornchurch would probably be very suitable. None the less, there is strong local feeling in favour of keeping the existing local government units which are handy administrative units.

It is reasonably easy now to get candidates for the councils in units of that size, and also to get people to go to their civic centres. But if we have larger units, it will be very much more difficult to get councillors to serve, and much more difficult to get people to go to the town hall when they want matters looked into. I support the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) in the various suggestions he has made in the Press for a joint executive planning board for the whole of the Greater London area. It is not often that he and I agree on something, but I am pleased on his occasion to be able to support his views.

A point which needs to be made is that nobody is suggesting at this juncture, whatever may have been said in evidence to the Royal Commission, that such a body should be advisory. Those of us who support the proposal for such a planning board want to see it with definite powers to lay down a master plan—the main road network, targets of population, levels of employment, traffic control and such matters as that. Such proposals, when agreed, should have binding force on the various authorities in the area.

We should investigate much further the question of the Greater London Council. The body proposed by the Government would be unsatisfactory, because it would have very little authority. Most of its powers would be administrative services—refuse disposal, ambulance and fire services, for instance. Planning comes in as well, but scarcely any policy questions will be dealt with by this body. How will it be possible to get people to serve on such a council if most of its decisions are purely administrative, for these could equally be well carried out by civil servants? It will be difficult to recruit good people to stand for election to that council, given the powers suggested in the Government's proposal.

If we are to have a Greater London Council it must have more power to do an effective job. It is suggested that the control of education in part of the present area under the London County Council should be under a special school board; this would be duplicating bodies unnecessarily. If we are to have a Greater London Council, then let it at least run the education service in the present L.C.C. area. Outside the present L.C.C. area there are a considerable number of education services which should also be dealt with by the new Council. What about further education colleges? We have two technical colleges in the Metropolitan part of Essex. They are on the boundaries of present local government units, and will so remain under the new arrangements. Planning for higher technical education and further education generally should be planned for the whole Greater London area and not for separate borough units. Certainly, we should await the report of the Robbins Committee before coming to final conclusions on that point.

Then we have the specialised services—the provision of education for the blind, and for the physically and mentally handicapped, and approved schools. It is necessary to provide these services over a fairly wide area, and my opinion is that whatever is done in this field of education should be done for the whole of the Greater London area. The standard educational services should be run by the boroughs outside the present L.C.C. area.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) referred to the question of deprived children. In December, 1960, there were 154 children in care in the metropolitan area of Essex. Of those, 13 were in Barking; 32 in Dagenham; 18 in Ilford; 16 in Romford; and four in Hornchurch. It would be ridiculous to divide up that number of children and endeavour to provide separate schools and arrangements for them. For the whole County of Essex the number of such children is about 250. I understand that the Essex County Council does a very good job in organising services for this group of deprived children, and it would be ridiculous to divide them up.

Mention has already been made of the good work done by the architects' department of the London County Council. The body which was responsible for building the Festival Hall and the Roehampton flats is one to which great credit should be given, and I do not see why it should be necessary to abolish it. A Greater London Council should have housing responsibilities, on equal terms with those of boroughs, as occurs now in the area of the L.C.C. There will obviously have to be big housing development schemes in future, which will cut across borough boundaries on many occasions.

There is the question of the rebuilding of Piccadilly Circus, which, presumably, should be carried out by the Greater London Council, and the Elephant and Castle redevelopment scheme. Many such schemes will be required in future in the London area, and it would surely be wise to retain the architects' department of the L.C.C. so that it could operate side by side with the housing departments of the boroughs, as is the case at present. This arrangement works very smoothly.

I now wish to refer to one question that affects Dagenham particularly. The Government's proposals include the handing over of L.C.C. estates to local councils, but no time limit is laid down in which this operation should take place. Dagenham feels very strongly that its L.C.C. estates should be transferred to the local council at an early date. The Royal Commission suggested that this should happen. The Government suggest that these estates should pas" to the new Greater London Council and, perhaps, at a later stage, to the local councils.

I take the view that although the Greater London Council may continue housing developments, after ten years the control of a housing estate should pass to the borough in whose area it happens to be, so that it can then be filled with local people. When an estate has been running for ten years or more it is clear that there will be young people in the area who are eligible for rehousing when vacancies occur. They should not be forced to go elsewhere. The Government's statement is not precise enough on that point, and Dagenham wants more definite proposals for handing over the present L.C.C. estates to the borough councils whenever the Government's Bill goes forward.

One of the fortunate things about London is that it has three different kinds of authorities which are responsible for providing parks and open spaces. There is the Ministry of Works, with its excellent parks in Westminster, Greenwich, and elsewhere; the London County Council, with its many parks, including Battersea, Victoria Park Crystal Palace and Hainault Forest; and various other local authorities, with their many smaller parks.

The advantage of having three such different bodies is that there are three different styles of gardening and garden architecture. There are three different services to run them on different lines and, therefore, there is great variety in the type of public open space that is provided.

It would be a pity to destroy all that. I stress again that the various parks belonging to the London County Council, both inside and outside its present boundary, should belong to and be run by the Greater London Council if we are to have such a body. This could be important in respect of parks like Batter-sea, which is used by many people who come from areas outside Battersea, and Crystal Palace, which is being developed as a big sports centre and is used by a large proportion of London's population.

As I understand, the Royal Commission proposes to break up the weights and measures system in the London area. What is the point of doing this? We do not want a different system for administering weights and measures in one borough compared with another. We do not want to add to the number of officials going round carrying out inspections. The wider the area over which weights and measures are administered by one body the better, because inspectors can be sent out by the local body to different areas and there is no likelihood of anyone being bribed. The whole administration of weights and measures ought to come under the Greater London Council.

Then there is the point about amenities. One of the important things done by the London County Council in recent years has been the building of the Festival Hall and the attempts it has made to encourage and build up the arts in the area. I think that it would be an advantage to have somebody supplementing the national Government in trying to build up the arts and amenity services in the Central London area, and I think that these, too, ought to come under the Greater London Council.

One thing that surprised me very much was that the Government made no suggestions to tackle other forms of administration in the Greater London area. If we are to have a Greater London unit, why not try to make all the other Greater London forms of organisation coincide with its boundaries? What about the Metropolitan Police area? Its boundaries are similar to those proposed for the Greater London Council. Why not make them coincide? My constituency is inside the Metropolitan Police area, but the neighbouring areas of Hornchurch and Romford are outside. They could all be brought in.

Why could not the Greater London Council have some say in the administration of the police in the Metropolitan Police area? I am sure that all hon. Members who represent constituencies within the Metropolitan Police area would like to continue their right to put questions to the Home Secretary and raise points with him about the administration of the police. I hope that as a result of any reorganisation of the police this might be extended all over the country but as the police rate forms a large part of local rates the people in the area should have some say in controlling the police. I think that some joint organisation between the Greater London Council and the Home Office for the administration of the police in the area ought to be investigated and considered.

Next, I come to a minor point of administration with regard to the London postal area. Could not it also be made to coincide with the Greater London area? One of the irritations that exists in Essex is that the postal areas of Dagenham, Romford and Barking do not coincide with local government or Parliamentary constituencies. The result is that hon. Members for those areas get correspondence intended for their neighbours. Would not it be simpler to have those areas renumbered E.19, E.20, and E.21 and wipe out the local postal addresses?

Again, if we are to have an elected Greater London Council, why not let London Transport come under it? At present it covers an area a little greater than the proposed Greater London area. There would be advantages in enabling London Transport to be controlled by elected representatives of the people.

Another minor point concerns the Metropolitan Water Board. This, too, might be brought under the proposed body. It has been said that it is difficult to get representatives to serve on some of these bodies, but if they were all brought under the Greater London Council some people might be interested in serving on such a body and putting forward policies to be carried out by it.

I suggest, therefore, that if we are to have a Greater London Council, it should be given some worthwhile jobs to do. Then people might be persuaded to serve upon it in order to do something worthwhile. I would prefer, however, to keep to the ideas advanced by the hon. Member for Wimbledon. I hope that the Government will think again.

8.45 p.m.

I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker). Only once have I been to his constituency, and I can say that I am quite sure that all the people who live there, though technically they may be in Essex, are certain "Cockneys". Tonight I speak as a Member of Parliament representing a county constituency, and I am invited to note the proposals of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the reorganisation of local government in Greater London. To that Motion are attached the names of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

I am unable to reveal to the House anything of the sporting activities of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. But I can reveal that among the sporting activities of the Leader of the House is a delight in racing. There may come a day when he will slip from his office, clap his grey top hat on his head, get into his motor car and say to his driver, "Drive to London Borough, No. 23, S.W.888—I am going to watch the Derby." That may happen if the present proposals as set out by my right hon. Friends are adopted.

I appreciated what was said by my right hon. Friend the Minister about the tremendous need to tackle the problems of Greater London with urgency. All of us must have agreed in 1957, when the Royal Commission was appointed, that it would have to study the problem with great urgency. The fact that there should be a considerable degree of reorganisation was something well appreciated by hon. Members on both sides of the House and also that the "boundaries of London" in 1962 are different from the "boundaries" of 60 or 70 years ago. The Royal Commission also refers to Lord Rosebery. I wonder what Lord Rosebery would have said if he saw that The Durdens was to move to "S.W.888."

There are great responsibilities on the Government and on this House to see that there is direction and control over the spread of the urban conurbation cutting across the whole of the face of the nation. We see this spread of subtopia from the great cities in the North, but particularly from London. As I understand it, my right hon. Friends and their predecessors, as well as the predecessors of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, planned that there should be a Green Belt surrounding London and that this belt should be a "cordon sanitaire", as the Royal Commission described it, to circle and contain London. This circle was to be for the advantage of those people who live within London and also those who live outside. I think it a grave responsibility upon all Parliamentarians to ensure that there is at least some countryside within a reasonable distance of London and that there should be a circle within which London is contained.

If my right hon. Friend agrees with that, the decision about what is inside London and what is outside is bound by where lies the green belt. This would define the boundaries of London. If my right hon. Friend accepts that, may I recommend that he looks at the Local Government Commission West Midlands Special Review Area recommendations? I know that my right hon. Friend will consider this matter with the gravest of concern, for I am well aware of his appreciation of the necessity to maintain the green belt. If he follows my recommendation, he will see that referring to peripheral green belt activities the recommendations state:
"We think that in general county councils rather than county borough councils are the better guardians of the green belts and we have therefore drawn the boundaries of the new county boroughs to include as little green belt land as possible."
That, I am certain, my right hon. Friend would accept as a correct principle with regard to the green belt.

The defence of the green belt, in which all are interested inside or outside London, is best left to those authorities in the green belt and outside London rather than to those that are inside London. Therefore, it is with considerable surprise that one sees that the Royal Commission, which studied the matter with considerable care, should not have seen the essential nature of having the green belt controlled outside the Greater London area.

I must make perfectly clear that by these proposals Epsom is cut right in half, so I represent here today not only people like my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) outside the area, but also those inside it. But I am sure that the Minister, before he makes a final decision, will consider that we in Epsom are bounded by the very old and ancient Nonsuch Park, by Woodcote Park, where some hon. Members may have played golf, and the Downs. There are many right hon. and hon. Members who know Epsom Downs and who have enjoyed being able to sit in the stands or stand on Downs watching the races there. We have this wide area in an arc to the mental hospital, and 57 per cent. of Epsom is scheduled to be an unbuilt area.

We know perfectly well that if Epsom is included my right hon. Friend will say, "Not he", and, of course, I would accept that from him. But in some future time there may well be a Minister without such a kindly heart as my right hon. Friend who will say that this is a delicious unbuilt area; there are those hospitals there, but he will refer back to the Minister of Health and remember that he is pulling down the mental hospitals and making such hospitals very different. So he will think that this is just the place, and some hon. Members opposite, not from Battersea but from some parts of Central London, will agree and say, "That is where we want to go; build there, and we shall be able to use that part of the land in order to take the overflow and overspill.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that what he says about the green belt will carry the support also of many people in Essex?

The hon. and learned Gentleman will not forget that the London County Council made a considerable contribution towards the preservation of Nonsuch Park and other places in the neighbourhood that he has mentioned.

That may well be so. First, to deal with my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell, I well understand that he and others are concerned. With regard to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who is a most distinguished constituent of mine, I appreciate what the L.C.C. did, but I say to him: beware in the future of a great authority, of which Epsom and Ewell might be a part, which may well not take the view which was taken in the past but "Here is a great reservoir of land on which we want to place our overspill."

The London County Council built a great many flats housing about 12,000 people at Chislehurst slap in the middle of the green belt.

My right hon. Friend will see that this is indicative of the concern felt about this problem. Now what mandate has he to say that London spreads outwards to include Epsom? The Royal Commission said categorically that it was not a boundaries commission, so it has not been proved that these peripheral areas are part of Greater London.

The principle laid down by the Local Government Act and the 1958 Regulations is—
"in the interests of convenient and effective Government."
There is often a great conflict between "convenient" and "effective". Convenient for whom? Borough No. 23 will be a borough of about 50 square miles. That is very different from the boroughs my right hon. Friend is thinking of establishing, in London proper, which may have very large populations but will be very much smaller in area.

Then there is the aspect of communications. Again, convenient for whom? Is the test to be the convenience of the administrators or of the people? Communications in this area do not flow laterally, and people will not easily be able to get from this borough to some headquarters at Sutton and Cheam. Is the destruction of the ancient town of Epsom "convenient"? The Royal Commission brushes aside the loyalty of people to counties. I ask my right hon. Friend to remember how wise the War Office was when it took county loyalty into consideration in amalgamating regiments. I dare say that this matter is well in the forefront of my right hon. Friend's mind, but I emphasise the importance of ancient loyalties.

If it is not convenient, is it effective? Who will serve on the Greater London authority, this regional government? From the outskirts they will find it very difficult to find persons. For the fact that it is not to be responsible for human services will not make it attractive. It may have at first sight a magnificent appearance, but it might become rather like a local government eunuch—a magnificent appearance but perhaps disappointing in performance.

How effective will it be? Perhaps it will attract people who sit for closer and tightly knit communities. But in a place like Epsom, when the divisional education officer and the divisional health and welfare officer are taken off to Sutton, with persons with only vague responsibilities being implanted in a Greater London authority, will that be very effective? I do not believe that it will suit anybody.

There remains the suspicion that these peripheral areas have been included only because they may provide a reservoir of land in future for places right in the centre of London, such as Chelsea and Kensington, which are land hungry. The declared aim of my right hon. Friend is that each authority should have a population of about 200,000. That is the figure that he insists upon. I agree that it may be suitable for the centre, but Borough No. 23 will have an acreage of 32,000, whereas Wolverhampton, which has a population of 150,000, has an acreage of 9,000.

Luton will perhaps strike a bell in my right hon. Friend's ear. The East Midlands Review Commission recommended that Luton should become a county borough, that it should become autonomous, and that it should have its own education authority. Luton, which has the good sense to return my right hon. Friend to the House, has a population of 123,000. I suppose it will be argued that Luton is outside London and is entirely different because the acreage is greater. If the Greater London area is to be extended right outside London, as it is to be to Carshalton, East Surrey, Esher and Epsom, the vastly greater acreages must be taken into account. The population of Borough No. 23 will be 300,000—that is 300,000 and an acreage of about 50 square miles.

Thus the premise seems to be that this is right for London but it is not right for the people outside London. Why? Is not outside the green belt outside London? I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the boundaries which he has, as it were, inherited from the Royal Commission need the most careful consideration. I appreciate that he has undertaken—he has said this before and he repeated it today—to look at this again with the greatest care.

Some of the suggested procedure, and I know it is tentative, is causing considerable concern. For example, there is concern at the town clerk's tribunal and the terms of reference under which these town clerks will be operating. I do not know what precedent there is for such a procedure, but I presume that they will be used to assist my right hon. Friend in the difficult task he has been given.

Section 22 of the Local Government Act, 1958, laid down certain procedures; firstly of investigation, then of draft proposals being furnished, then conferences, and lastly the final proposals. It may be said that the Royal Commission has done that, but the Royal Commission was not a boundary commission. Section 22 of that Act contains the provision whereby notice is given to the public so that they may make representations and, if they wish, object, and then there can be a local inquiry. Why is it here necessary to have the summary procedure? The terms of reference to which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) referred must concern all hon. Members and give rise to considerable anxiety to those who see that our areas are not in fact in London proper.

The terms of reference for the town clerks' inquiry declared: "… a minimum population of around 200,000 …" The letter from the Ministry refers to "the whole of the continuously decreasing area of London." Now that presumes that these parts are part of the continuously developing areas of London, and the Royal Commission presumed the same, although it was not a boundary commission.

Then there is the question of fixing the figure of 200,000, which may be perfectly and absolutely right for certain parts of London. But what about other areas where such a figure would cover perhaps fifty square miles? I invite my right hon. Friend, since he has said that this is a matter for negotiation, to look again at these terms of reference to ensure that they are not drawn too tightly and narrowly to prevent what he has in mind, which I know comprises a sensible and proper negotiation as to where the boundary of London should be.

It would be a mistake and regrettable if it was thought that some form of Star Chamber procedure were to be adopted whereby experts were brought in from other parts of the country to hear what the other experts have to say so that the whole thing did not touch upon the local people and their conveniences. Public opinion in this matter has not been artificially stimulated. I realise that some such suggestions may have come to my right hon. Friend's ears. I know that this is not so and that my right hon. Friend, on a matter as serious as this, will consider this matter very seriously, for it touches the concern, the hearts and the loyalties and, let it not be forgotten, the pockets of many persons.

In my constituency and elsewhere—in East Surrey, Carshalton and in other parts—there is deep concern. This concern is felt by local authorities and local political parties, and I had the honour for the first time in my life of receiving a letter from the Epsom Labour Party giving me support in some respect.

I have the support of the chamber of commerce, of the Local Protection Association, and of four residents' societies. I have had 150 individual supporting letters, some 40 of them arriving this morning, and a town's meeting has been arranged for about 1,400 people. I am sure that my right hon. Friend does not want to have going after him my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley) and the Epsom trainers to whom he should pay a great deal of regard, because I now speak of our local industry. Does the Minister really think that the Derby should be run in London?

I therefore express my very serious and profound concern. What steps has my right hon. Friend taken, and what steps will he take, to consult local opinion? What weight will he attach to that local opinion? Will he balance the minimum population of 200,000 against the principle of the well-knit area? If he finds that Epsom and Banstead is not a well-knit area, why not apply the principles of the Local Government Act, 1958, and have a population of 100,000, or something like that?

How can he justify this disorganisation of local life by creating borough 23 with a population of 300,000 and an area of fifty square miles? Will he visit the area? If he does, he will see for him-self that this is not the densely-built-up area of which so much has been said. Why does he have to choose my other boundary, when he already has the boundary of the green belt? I believe that he should say that only inside the green belt is London. In taking note of my right hon. Friend's proposals, I sincerely urge upon him that he should provide a proper boundary for London, and that that boundary should most certainly not include Epsom Downs.

9.7 p.m.

We have so far had about twelve speeches in this debate, and it can be fairly said that only two of them have been wholeheartedly in favour of the Government's proposals. Needless to say, one of those two was that of the Minister himself—we expected him to support the Government's proposals. The only other supporting speech was that of the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet), who quite frankly admitted that he spoke entirely for himself and not for his borough council or his neighbours. Every other speech has been critical of the Government's proposals.

The Government asks the House to "take note of", but I have never, during the fifteen years I have been a Member of this House, heard a debate in which there has been so much criticism, not only of matters of detail concerning individual constituencies but on the main principles of the proposals. I put it to the Minister quite fairly—because I do not intend to make a party political speech, but a speech which, I hope, will be accepted by him as being as sincere as the others he has heard—that the trouble with the Motion is that he had already committed his party to this idea, as was confirmed by the Leader of the House.

The right hon. Gentleman had decided that, whatever was said in this debate, he would not change his mind on the main principles. It was for that reason, and for that reason alone, that we put down our Amendment. I can assure hon. Members opposite that we had no such intention until the Leader of the House was questioned by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.

It is against that background that I say, quite frankly, that it is with regret that we note that as far we can now judge the Government have said, "Whatever may be said in the House of Commons, we have decided, first, that there will be a Greater London Council and, secondly, that there will be some form, it may be, of London school board, which will operate for a certain area inside London, and we will look at the whole question of boundaries."

Every speech from this side of the House has been directed to the wider issues, whereas hon. Members opposite have made constituency speeches. I certainly do not complain about that—it is fair enough—but it indicates the bitter feeling that exists among Conservatives about the Government's proposals.

The Minister has referred to planning and traffic. I want to put it on record at once that we on this side do not object, and never have objected, to the principle that planning and traffic should be under one central control. We believe that if traffic and planning—and planning, in particular—are to mean anything at all, they should cover an area much wider even than the Greater London area which is proposed.

We think that there is much to be said for the Abercrombie plan. I will go this far—I am not being facetious—and say that the Minister of Transport, whatever we think of him, has a lively mind, and I believe that if this Committee is to be effective, either the Minister or his representative should be the chairman of that body. The time is coming fast when, whatever we have now, whether it be Metropolitan boroughs or even county councils, there should be at the end of the day not only power over planning and power for the direction of traffic, but power given to the Minister to ensure that what is best in the interests of all should be achieved.

If we look back on the debates on traffic and planning in the past, we see that the Minister has said that when he put forward any simple scheme, so many objections were made by small people. I agree that that was so, but that was because he should have had greater powers on planning and traffic. I say to the Minister that in the planning of traffic we are 100 per cent. behind this proposed change to take away control from the county councils and put it in the hands of a body with Ministerial authority and power and operating over a wider area.

The Minister has said today, and it has been repeated in the debate, that town clerks from outside the review area could come in to act as arbitrators. I plead with the Minister not to go on with that, because I believe that it will have very serious repercussions indeed and cause a great deal of friction between town clerks themselves. I do not think that the Minister realises that under his contemplated plan, town clerks, say from Manchester, Birmingham and other large cities who might be asked to take part in the review, might be young men, and might be interested in promotion. I ask him not to do it, because they might want promotion in such a review area, and it might be embarrassing to them. I declare to him that I have had representations made to me by town clerks outside the review area urging that this should not be done.

The right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) put his finger on the problem of those who are living on the fringe of the review area when he said, that, at the end of the day, in a constituency such as he represents there would be a sort of rump left, which would hardly be catered for at all. What is to happen to these people, who are now receiving what they regard as efficient services in Surrey? The Surrey County Council is not controlled by the political party of my choice, but I have to say from my experience of local government that when people get elected to these bodies, party politics go by the board. Certainly, Surrey has a lot to be proud of. I do not think it has done as good a job as the L.C.C., but it has done a good' job, and, quite rightly, the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey was very much concerned with it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) referred to the Herbert Committee—and I hope that we shall get a reply about this—the body constituted as the Royal Commission. There is part of its Report which refers to independent witnesses. We ought to be told more about that. The main weight of the evidence to the Herbert Committee was against the very things that the Minister now proposes. We do not know what the independent witnesses said, or who they were, but it seems that a great deal of reliance has been placed on their evidence. Because we have had a Royal Commission which came to certain conclusions, that does not mean that its Report is sacrosanct.

We have had many Royal Commissions with the recommendations of which the Government of the day have disagreed. I do not want to make a party point, but I will make this simple one. Before the war we had Royal Commission after Royal Commission agreeing that State ownership of transport was inevitable, but, understandably, the party in power did not approve and did not implement the Report. It does not follow that because this Royal Commission recommended something its proposals should be accepted. I say quite frankly to the right hon. Gentleman that I hope he will not put too much weight upon it.

I beg the right hon. Gentleman to accept that the test is whether his proposals will give the citizens of this Greater London area a better service than they are getting today. If there is the slightest reasonable doubt about that, then they ought not to be implemented. It is my task to show, as I believe that there is a tremendous doubt whether the citizens, certainly in London, can hope to get under the new proposals the same services as they are getting today.

I start by saying what, in effect, the Government's proposals add up to. We shall have an area of 840 square miles, or seven times as big as the London County Council area, with about 8½ million people. We shall get some new boroughs, apart from the London boroughs which are to be merged into Greater London boroughs. The oddest things come out of the Report. Cater-ham and Warlingham, Coulsdon and Purley and the demoted County Borough of Croydon are to be lumped together and called a London borough.

Part of Chigwell, Chingford, Leyton, Walthamstow, Wanstead and Woodford are to be lumped together with a population of 355,000. Even the smallest—with the exception of the City of London, about which I shall have something to say—is to be made up of Barnes, Richmond and Twickenham and will have a tremendous acreage and a population of 181,000.

The hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) pointed out that up north, there are county boroughs with a tiny population in comparison with these figures. The Government say—

The hon. Member has been very definite. How does he reach the conclusion that these boroughs will be organised on the basis which he has outlined? It seems to me that this was a basis for consultation about how the larger boroughs might work out.

All I ask the hon. Member to do is to read the papers which I have read, which have been supplied by the Government. I have not suddenly thought up these names and figures. The hon. Member should do a bit of homework, as I have had to do.

Let us look at the Government's proposals. What is their case? Today, the Minister spent a long time on a historical survey of how London had grown. I am a Londoner born and bred, and so, also, is the right hon. Gentleman. Both of us have in common a love of London and we are proud of it. In this great big London town of ours, we have some parochial interests. I am a southeast Londoner not an east-ender. I do not come from the north of London, but from south-east London and I am proud of it. The east-ender is proud of coming from the East End. It means something. In spite of the curious way in which this London of ours has grown up, it has a heart and soul. To talk as if, somehow, all that is happening is very untidy, and must be put in order, is, to many of us, monstrous.

One of the matters which has been attacked is the smallness of some of the so-called boroughs. This is a bit odd. I come from a very small London borough. The hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) knows it well and is associated with a great deal of welfare work there, or his societies are. This small London borough is almost one of the smallest in London. As a result of its own efforts, it owns one-third of the borough. The average rate fund contribution per dwelling is the fifth lowest in London. A few weeks ago, this tiny borough was visited by the former Minister of Housing and Local Government, who is now Chief Secretary to the Treasury, when he said that the borough was doing a magnificent job and he was proud of it.

That borough, however, is small and is to be swept away. It is regarded as not being efficient, or giving a proper service to the people. I have never known a borough council so busy. It is true that it can do with the other powers which have been mentioned, such as in connection with maternity and child welfare, a service which it could do efficiently, but I know of no London borough which has asked for the powers that the Minister now proposes to give. I know of no London borough which has asked for powers connected with education. Our authority would be the first to admit that it could not do the service if given those powers. It is madness to say that a borough is to be merged in this way with people who have no community of interest and that at the end of the day it will get powers for which it has not asked. That is the oddest way to carry out local government.

A small borough such as the one I have described is poor, but it benefits from the existing situation concerning the rate equalisation grant. We have heard nothing about this, not a word about finance, from the Minister. What will be the position of those authorities which, in spite of amalgamation, will still need extra finance? What contribution will the richer boroughs make? The problem has already arisen in Surrey, parts of which subsidise the poorer parts. We have got to know, but all we get are vague generalisations.

I put it on record for some of my hon. Friends listening to this debate, and for others who, I hope, will read it, that what is now proposed by the Government for London may well happen to the other great cities. I say this to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool. If this London of ours is mutilated in this way purely on the argument of administrative tidiness—for it is no more than that, and no reason other than that has been given—then the day cannot be long delayed when Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool are dealt with—because, surely, they cannot be left untidy any more than the Metropolis, can they? Surely the same thing will have to be done to them. Therefore, our arguments today for London are the arguments of the provinces tomorrow, so this debate is their debate, just as much as it is ours.

I come to the City of London. It is so obvious that the whole issue of the City of London is monstrous. About 4,000 people are to be left, and given these powers of a Greater London borough. There was no justification by the Minister for this. I do not know who will make it. I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary is not replying to the debate tonight—that in fact the debate is to be wound up this evening from the back benches opposite. But we are dying to know why the City of London is left in this position. It is an extraordinary thing. Here is the complete opposite of everything the Minister has suggested.

If there is to be this new authority why not give it the functions of the Metropolitan Water Board? Why has it been left out? What is the purpose of that? May we know? What about the police force? If we are making a Greater London authority and we want it to work effectively, and if it is to do its job properly over the area—and the Greater London area is the Metropolitan Police area—why have the police been left outside of these arrangements? Because of pressure from the Home Secretary? He has a vested interest. Did he urge it? If he did, good luck to him, but he cannot complain about vested interests on this side of the House if he did. We should like to know. We put the simple question: why?

Let us assume that the Government get their way. They listen to the debate, they make one or two minor changes in response to, say, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), or to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Epsom, so that there emerges some sort of good old British compromise, but at the end of the day they stick to their main proposals. Let us see how they work out. Let us have clearly in view the new structure.

There will have to be redistribution of functions, new constitutions, new areas, new electoral districts, new staffs, new organisations, new policies. Over 100 local authorities will be involved. Main roads, refuse disposal—that goes from the smaller to the larger authority; health and welfare and children's services go from the larger to the smaller. Amost every service organised as a whole by one single authority will have to be divided and redistributed. It means redeployment of staff, reorganisation of records and establishments, the transfer of property, financial adjustments, and so on. The Minister proposes to tell the new authorities, against all this background of work which they will have to do, that they will have to work alongside existing authorities. Would he like to say something about that at some time? How is all that to go on? The services will have to be worked alongside existing services.

I plead with the Minister. Does he really think that this complete upheaval will give us the services needed and give them so much better? Take housing. I mentioned that my own borough owns one-third of its area. In 1939, we had a population of 125,000. Today, we have a population of only 56,000. Where have the others gone? Who rehoused them? Not Bermondsey. They have been rehoused, in the main, in other parts of London by the London County Council. Many of them were people who wanted to go outside the borough for one reason or another. So the rehousing has been done by the borough and by the County Council working alongside each other through population pressures. There has been overspill, a great overspill, between the boroughs and from London to areas outside London.

I put this to the Minister as a good Londoner. Consider a south Londoner. He wants to stay in south London. Suppose that he is slum cleared or is the victim of road planning or road widening. Suppose that 200 families have to be dealt with and that the vast majority of them want to go to another area in south London, as I would certainly want to do. We are told that in this case the Greater London authority will help. Suppose that some of my constituents want to go to live in the area next door to Bermondsey, to Deptford, and that Deptford does not want them. What happens? Who decides what? Who has the power of authority? Does not the Minister realise that the provision of housing today, with all its difficulties, is working to the benefit of those in need.

Let me say a word or two about the other services being carried out by the central authority, the London County Council. I mention one as a good example, that concerned with mental health. This should appeal to the Minister as a doctor. What services are being provided which will become the responsibility of the Greater London boroughs? On mental health alone, at this moment, as I am talking, the L.C.C. is maintaining a central system to deal with emergency calls outside office hours. Over 3,000 calls were made by doctors on that service last year in respect of mentally sick people. The L.C.C. has on that emergency call system a fully-trained staff. What happens if it is smashed up? From where will the service operate? Unless every Greater London authority runs a service, what will happen?

Let me now consider the community care for the mentally disordered and training centres and hostels for the mentally sick. In London alone there are nine training centres for mentally sick children, seven for adolescent girls and women, five for adolescent youths and men, one industrial centre for youths and men, one day centre for the mentally sick and one hospital for high-grade mentally sub-normal girls. Where will they go? Who will take charge of them unless they are split up among the Greater London authorities? Whichever way one argues the case, something which is good will be destroyed. The Government cannot do that unless they can show that what they propose will be a substantial improvement. Has any hon. Member on either side of the House had a complaint about the welfare of the mentally sick, handicapped or old-age people from anyone in London?

On what basis was the last election in May fought, an election in which there was the highest percentage poll for a number of years? It was fought on arguments concerning the mentally sick, on the care of the old, on housing, and so on. Imagine the next election for a Greater London authority and the excitement, as one hon. Member called it, which will be aroused in electing a greater central London authority covering 8½ million people. Heaven help those who are elected. There will be about a 5 per cent. poll. No one could care less what happens.

I now come to the question of local government. One cannot tell people in an area like mine, "You will have to walk six miles to the town hall". We have a job to make them walk three or four hundred yards to it. To tell them that government is to be more local yet they will have to walk six miles to get an answer to a simple question is too ludicrous for words.

I now wish to deal with education. I understand that we are to get a great speech from the Minister of Education tomorrow—at least we are expecting one. He is to explain why it is necessary to destroy the present educational services in London, why we are to have a school board for London to deal with a population of 2 million, and why the rest of the educational services in the rest of the area—Surrey, and so on—will be fragmented and given to the Greater London borough. Neither in the White Paper nor in the Royal Commission's Report was there a word about denominational schools. I have been authorised to say something on behalf of the hierarchy of the Catholic church, who are concerned about the question of denominational schools. They have asked me to say frankly and firmly to the Minister of Education that they are shocked at the proposals to fragment education.

It may interest the House to know that the records of both baptism and birth registration will show that in 1965 one child in three in the central London area is a Catholic and will require education at a Catholic school. The Minister will know that there are discussions going on between the central education authority of London and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. They are alarmed that in the middle of these discussions there come the proposals.

I am asked to say quite emphatically that they cannot believe that the good relationship which has been established with Surrey, London, Essex and Kent will continue if education is to be hived off in this way with so many other authorities. They feel that a great deal of evil must come out of this. I understand that a brief has been sent to the Minister and his Department; the right hon. Gentleman had better make inquiries about it.

One child in three by 1965 is not a bad proportion to start asking about now. At least, these people have a point of view. It is very important that we should retain that good relationship. Both the Conservative Government and the Labour Government have done their very best to maintain a happy relationship. For the future, what is to be done about this? What plans has the Minister for these people? What can he say? I tell him frankly that they are alarmed, too, at the fact that the children's services, in which they are very interested, are going to be hived off.

I end on this serious note. There are certain interests in connection with these plans which I do not think have even been considered by the Government. There has not been a single word in the White Paper or the Royal Commission's Report about the denominational schools. These problems are looming large at the moment, and I hope that tomorrow the Minister of Education will say something about them.

I believe that at the end of the day these proposals will prove to be abortive. I must say that I hope the Government will have the courage to withdraw them, saying, after they have listened to this debate and also to local authorities and county councils generally, that while there is a case to be made for the transfer of some facilities and services to some of the London boroughs, there is no case to be made out for this wholesale transfer.

I beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider this. If, at the end of the day, he blindly goes on and presents a Bill to Parliament, it will be fought not only by my hon. Friends and myself, but also by some hon. Members on his own side of the House. I also warn him that when one talks about these services, one is talking about men, women and children. I warn the Minister that there will be a fight the like of which he has never seen or heard before, because for most of us what he is now dealing with is something which we are not prepared to give up easily. He must do more than give us an early history of London. He must tell us something about the future. Unless he can do that, he will be heading for trouble the like of which he has never seen.

9.33 p.m.

As the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) has already said, this has been an interesting and, I hope, valuable debate. I think that it will not have surprised my right hon. Friend that on any view he must be wrong in some way, because the views which have been expressed on either side of the House have varied in practically every respect.

However, I—and, I am sure, many other hon. Members—welcomed my right hon. Friend's statement at the outset of the debate that he would be prepared to consider representations within the framework which he himself has laid down, and, in particular, on the subjects to which so many of the speeches have been directed—the amalgamations, the sizes of the areas and, particularly, the representations by what have been referred to as the fringe or periphey areas.

Perhaps I might add that when my right hon. Friend considers the eloquent representations by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson), who sought, it appeared to me, to wring his withers by a reference to the Derby being run in London, I hope that he will bear in mind the importance on the other side of the scale, of returning to this great capital city the right to its "City and Suburban" and even the "Great Metropolitan".

To be serious for a moment, from the debate and the representations which I have received, and which have gone to every hon. Member—I have read them all, at any rate, all that I have received; if there are any that I have not read, it is because I have not received them—two basic principles emerge. There are two principles which the Commission found. The first is that the London boroughs should be the primary units of local government in the area and should have transferred to them as many as possible of the powers and duties of local government, assuming that they have been increased, if necessary, to such a size as is viable. I prefer to put it the other way—that they should be as small as is consistent with their still being viable, not losing the capacity to carry out their duties.

When one comes to weigh up the various provisions, one finds that ideas of what is the right size must, of necessity, vary. We bear in mind the paradise which has been described by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) and realise that a borough of 250,000 apparently yields a life which he, at any rate, and his constituents have found very pleasant, although the loss of their ambulance and fire services will, in his view, affect the happiness of those dwelling in the area. That must be a matter of judgment for my right hon. Friend. I am sure that he will take it into account.

The other principle is that there must be a plan for the whole of the London area. There has been a suggestion that it might be for a larger area, and I will deal with that in a moment. But nobody has suggested that, in this day and age, one can plan for some area or areas which do not cover the London built-up area and its requirements in traffic, planning and so forth. The hon. Member for Bermondsey conceded that, but many hon. Members have not and therefore I will detain the House for a moment on some aspects of it.

We must recognise that in London today planning has fallen far behind. We are not up-to-date, and many of the speeches have borne that out. We have not got a co-ordinated system, whether it be of main roads or anything else. At present, it is the policy to remove office building from central London. Only five years ago, in one of the councils, a proposal to construct a block of offices at a terminal underground railway station was turned down with horror. Even more recently, a plan to provide a multi-storey garage at a terminal of the district railway was also turned down. Admittedly, however, this was allowed on appeal to my right hon. Friend.

The fact is that the interests of the planning authorities and of the outer suburban area are not in accordance and not in relation with the needs and ideas of the central areas. Therefore, we must have one body to prepare a development plan for the built-up area of London.

The hon. and learned Member complains that certain planning applications were turned down. He will realise, however, that, under the Government's proposed set-up, power to say "Yes" or "No" to planning applications will still reside with the boroughs and not with the Greater London Council.

I realise that perfectly well. But, at the moment, the fact is that there is no co-ordinated policy for the built-up area. Certainly, an overall plan as to whether office building is to take place on the periphery or only in the centre must be conceded to be a matter of policy and of principle.

The provision of outer area garaging facilities must be made, as I have said. It will be possible to lay down the places where those provisions are to be made in the outer area. Office building plans can also be laid down for the whole area. I take those two examples because I have already mentioned them, but there are many others.

It is said against that that the architects' department of the London County Council will still be needed for great developments, especially in the central area. That may or may not be so. The redevelopment of Piccadilly Circus was given as an example. When one reaches a scheme of that size, however, one is dealing with a national problem, for a national capital. But whether we should retain the architectural staff for the Greater London Council to plan a development of that kind—because they will not have to build it themselves—is a matter of detail about which I do not wish to quarrel with hon. Members opposite.

There is nothing in the White Paper which precludes the Greater London Council from having an architectural staff—and I hope that it would be one of high quality—to plan major developments of the Elephant and Castle and Piccadilly Circus type. To read into the White Paper a departure from that principle, or a refusal to admit it, is quite wrong.

The other advantage that will come from having one overall authority is that having made the plan it can press for its implementation. Ring roads have been marked on London plans in ever-increasing circles for as long as I can remember; but to try to find my way through parts of south London on one of them is a task that has strained my intelligence. I realise that that perhaps calls for the obvious comment that it is not the plan that is at fault.

I hope that the hon. Member realises that it was the Ministry of Transport which refused to allow these ring roads to be developed, or even started.

In that case, the very existence of a planning authority for the whole of London will be of considerable advantage. It is just that sort of major scheme which an authority able to devote itself to planning should be able to develop far better than the existing authority. I am completely convinced that for the good of planning in London the segregation of the planning power from the housing and constructional powers which the London County Council has can do nothing but good.

What we want is a body which will be able to devote its attention to planning. Hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent London constituencies know that far too much of the energies and attention of the London County Council is devoted to the architectural attractions of its own schemes, while it largely ignores the need to help other people to plan overall for the London area.

That is exactly what terrifies the outer areas of London. They are afraid that the central London planning authority may look upon their green belt land which has not been built upon as desirable building land. What protection will they have from this octopus which will attack their open spaces?

The protection they will have is that which they have at the moment—and the only protection that they can have. Part of the green belt is statutory; the existence of the remainder depends on the assurances of successive Ministers. That situation must exist under any system. It exists now.

The hon. and learned Gentleman made certain criticisms of the London County Council and said that in its planning it thought only of itself and not of other organisations. In my constituency, the Royal Victuallers Yard, which is of historic importance, is being turned into a vast housing estate by the L.C.C. in cooperation with the Deptford Borough Council. It is taking over a task which the Deptford Council could not do.

In that case, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will support a proposal to increase the size of Deptford so that it can be effective in carrying out its own housing plans. As tine hon. Gentleman has made that point, may I say that many boroughs, particularly those in the eastern half of London, have allowed the London County Council to come in and do the job. If the boroughs were given the powers to do the work, I am sure that they could do it. The hon. Member for Bermondsey praised his borough. Of course it can build houses, and we have seen what it can do.

I am particularly anxious to correct one point made by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) when he gave as an example the fact that the London County Council had to house two-thirds of the population from the development of Kensal in the Borough of Kensington. I looked up the minutes of the meeting with the London County Council, and I found that the Kensington Borough Council could undertake to deal with its own overspill. At the moment. I understand that the London County Council has done exactly what I think is one of the faults. It has insisted on taking over part of this area of 21 acres. It is not helping Kensington with its overspill. It is the overspill from the L.C.C. area which it is choosing to put into another borough.

My point was that the carrying through of this scheme required the rehousing of about two-thirds of the people concerned outside the borough. It would not be possible to carry out that kind of scheme if building were a purely borough responsibility.

I am saying that I have looked at the minutes of the meeting, and that the hon. Gentleman is wrong. The Kensington Borough Council satisfied the London County Council that it could do the housing, and on that basis the scheme was allowed to go forward. That scheme was the subject of endless objections and obstruction by the London County Council because it did not like the Kensington Borough Council undertaking a scheme of 21 acres. The Kensington Borough Council would never have been able to undertake the scheme if it had not known that that was coming and armed itself with a card which even the London County Council could not trump.

The present scheme of planning in London and the location and division of labour is resulting in complete concentration of planning control. The capital works which could be planned and carried out, and the overall policies, are not being effectively planned, or have not been in the past, by the London County Council in its present organisation, and a division of the planning power to cover the overall area would be of the utmost benefit to London.

The only alternative plan has been put forward by the Surrey County Council. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) pointed out, it expressly approved these two main principles of the Royal Commission. It is an alternative plan designed to prevent the eastern part of Surrey being separated from the remainder of the county. I leave aside the question of what I call the fringe area. I regard that as a separate point. In fact, the solution put forward is that we are to have, I understand, a joint planning board for an area to cover the Abercrombie plan.

I should have thought that was only making worse the position for my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty). All that we are doing is extending the area to cover land which should not be developed. The green belt is not to have development in it, so one hopes that all we shall plan are roads to go across it. That suggestion, apparently, would merely add another body and that body would include people from Chelmsford, or Haslemere, or from however far it went out. It was suggested once this evening that it should go to the coast. Gentlemen would come from Dover, or wherever it may be, in order to prepare a development plan for London.

Alternatively, there is what, I think, is called the master plan. Below the master plan someone has to prepare the actual development plan for the London area. That is the essential deficiency in this alternative proposal of a joint planning board. I do not say one way or the other now, because to do so would take too long, but it may well be necessary to have a regional plan for the whole of south-east England. But if we are to have that, it must be for south-east England. It is no use fiddling about, and going out as far as Dorking and cutting out Buckinghamshire, which would not be connected with London, and so on.

The joint planning board, in those circumstances, in terms of London, simply represents a master plan which is handed down to these bodies. There are nine of them, county councils and county boroughs, who are to prepare one plan for the built-up area. Nine "cooks". Worse still, nine staffs. One "broth". Does anybody really believe that the "broth" will be anything like drinkable when we have got it?

My hon. and learned Friend has talked about the need for a master plan and no one has denied that. It has been common ground with everyone who has spoken in the debate. If the Abercrombie plan area was right at the time when the last master plan was prepared, and at a time when London had spread less widely than it has spread now, why is that area now much too large for the next master plan?

Because the Abercrombie plan did not purport to be a development plan under the present Act. The development plan is designed to deal with development in London.

I cannot help thinking that among hon. Members on this side of the House it will be realised that, to use a technicality, we need a development plan for the development part of London. We cannot have nine people trying to prepare it of whom some, apparently, would come from Haslemere, Chelmsford, or Dover. Are we to be asked to plan Dover and to say where there are to be open spaces? The position gets more foolish as one goes on. The fact is that we need a plan for the whole of London and boroughs with larger powers to implement the execution of that plan. I believe that something on the lines proposed will be of the utmost benefit to London.

I should like to say a word about the London boroughs, since my constituency lies in one of them. At the moment anyone who has studied the matter will, I am sure, agree that the powers of the London boroughs are ludicrous in relation to their rateable value or population or whatever it may be. There is no reason why a Metropolitan borough should have infinitely less power than a provincial borough half its size with half its rateable value and half its importance. Surely the test is which of the London boroughs has publicly stated, "If you give us these powers we cannot operate them, we are too incompetent to undertake them." I know of no borough which has done that.

No one has said that. What has been said is that the London boroughs are so competent and are doing the job so well that there is no reason to transfer them.

The London County Councils's criticisms were three in number in the document that it sent me. First, it said that the boroughs were too big. In fact, the difference between the White Paper proposals and the Commission's proposals is the difference between 18 and 14 and the difference in size is really negligible. I think that the Commission put it at four with 160,000 population as against seven with a population of under 200,000.

It is said that the housing powers will be exercisable only by the Greater London Council with consent. We know from the debate that that is not correct. It will be responsible for overspill powers and I have no doubt that if further powers are needed in London agreement will be readily forthcoming. But, again, if it confines itself to planning it will achieve a far more beneficial effect for London than anything done in the past. Anyone who has been in the provinces in an area within 100 miles of London—this is another point falling within the ambit of the joint planning board—knows that the one thing in common with every county planning authority is that they loathe the sight and the arrival of the L.C.C. There is an immediate "hoo-ha" against the advent of the L.C.C. I have yet to know of any authority which has not objected in the first instance.

In fact, the London County Council will achieve far more if it arranges, as has been done at Basingstoke, for the receiving authority to do the building and undertake the reception. Basingstoke is a very interesting example of the way of setting about it. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) represents a constituency where there is a picture of what happens when the London County Council dumps down a vast population which is, in many respects, completely cut off.

There are obviously a number of other points of detail, but that does not mean that they are not important. The real decision which we are asked to take is on the two main principles of one plan which will be implemented for the whole area and more personal powers for the London boroughs. Those are the main principles. I hope that the House will, at the end of the debate, accept those main principles and the principles set out in the White Paper, subject to the discussions to which my right hon. Friend has referred.

If there is one thing that is really needed more than any other, it is a decision by all of us, and all of the constituencies that we represent which are affected, to do something positive which will not leave this great capital to moulder, and to recognise that we are doing something worth while. It is not enough to sit on it. We must lead it forward, as we can if we adopt the proposals recommended by the Commission and adopted in large part by my right hon. Friend.

Debate adjourned.—[ Mr. Whitelaw.]

Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.

South Vietnam

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Mr. Whitelaw.]

9.59 p.m.

I want to take the House a long way from London tonight, because unless we can solve some of the problems which trouble other parts of the world, we shall, perhaps without knowing what is taking place, be involved in such a situation that London will not exist.

It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Whitelaw.]

10.0 p.m.

I want to raise tonight with the Government in about fifteen minutes, as far as I can concertina it into a few notes and headings, the entire question of British policy in South Vietnam. There is not the slightest doubt that the British people as a whole have no idea what is taking place there and that the British Government are either giving very little information to the House or, in some cases, are giving information which is not quite accurate. In some cases it is far from accurate. In every other country in the world the newspapers make the population aware of the type of situation now existing in South-East Asia. For example, one can pick up French or American newspapers and international magazines and read about it.

The situation is, in a way, more dangerous than Berlin. Yet, nothing much is done about it and the House of Commons gets very little opportunity of debating it in full. The British people might be committed to another Korea and British boys might have to die there because of an American policy which—I weigh my words carefully—this Government have not the courage to check. Only this weekend President Kennedy's brother, the United States Attorney-General, made a speech at Bandung University. Some years ago I mentioned another famous speech delivered at this University. Mr. Kennedy said this to the students:
"The U.S.A. will not side with Indonesia You are crazy to think America might oppose the Dutch."
I point out that the Indonesians do not want the Americans to oppose the Dutch. What the Indonesians need is justice and the possibility of the Dutch and the Indonesians co-operating—

Order. I do not understand the Ministerial responsibility for the activities of the Americans or the Dutch, or the Indonesians.

The responsibility arises because we are co-Chainman of the International Supervisory Commission which is responsible for Indo-China, I was only giving an example of the American policy in the area. I will now apply it to South Vietnam. We are not asking—nor are the Indonesians—that the Americans should interfere in South Vietnam or elswhere. We have the responsibility under the 1954 Geneva Agreement as co-Chairman to try to maintain peace in this area. The Government have a responsibility as co-chairman of the International Supervisory Commission.

What do the Government consider their responsibility is? Is it only to receive reports of the Commission? What action do the Government take upon the reports of the Commission? Since 1954 the House has been presented with eleven Reports of the Commission. In this period I have had the good fortune to visit all round this area at least three times. Each time I have been to this part of South-East Asia, from Laos right down to the arc of South-East Asia, I have found that "the position has deteriorated and within the Vietnam area nothing seems to have been done under the 1954 Agreement to try to bring about peace and understanding.

Far from bringing peace, I draw attention to the comments in the Eleventh Report of the Commission, which is now in the Vote Office, which the Foreign Office possesses and which the Minister's advisers have studied. The Report talks continuously of American intervention in South Vietnam and about the American Aircraft Carrier "Core" bringing war materials to the Saigon River, lying alongside the Rue Catinat almost opposite the Majestic Hotel. Yet the International Supervisory Commission was not given an opportunity to go in to investigate. The trouble with this Commission's Reports is that we receive them twelve months late and it often happens that the deterioration which has taken place in the interim makes it too late for the House of Commons to be made aware of the full facts.

When Sir Anthony Eden, as he then was, was in the House of Commons, he did a magnificent job of work to obtain the 1954 Geneva Agreement, and hon. Members on both sides who understood the problems appreciated the strength with which he carried out that task in an endeavour to secure world peace. In his book, he asked the Americans not to be too emotional about the position. On page 113 of his book, Full Circle, he refers to the problem of South-East Asia and Vietnam and, after speaking of the great efforts of the then Foreign Secretary to bring the people together in that area, he wrote:
"Meanwhile Mr. Robertson (U.S. Assistant Secretary of State) whose approach to these questions is so emotional as to be impervious to argument or indeed facts, was keeping up a sort of 'theme song' to the effect that there were in Indo-China some three hundred thousand men who were anxious to fight against Vietminh and were looking to us for support and encouragement. I said that if they were so anxious to fight I could not understand why they did not do so. The Americans had put in nine times more supplies of material than the Chinese and plenty must be available for their use. I had no faith in this eagerness for the Vietnamese to fight for Bao Dai."
Yes, their recognition for Bao Dai was forced through the House of Commons and some hon. Members fought hard against it. Some of us pointed out that he was another puppet in South-East Asia, and, of course, we were later proved right—but at the cost of many lives.

The British Government, as co-Chairman—as I have said—have received notes. So have the Soviet Government. They were sent from North Vietnam and, prior to the latest Note, earlier ones were received. I claim that quietly, sometimes by inspired Questions by hon. Gentlemen opposite, references to these Notes have been made in Written Answers, in passing, so that the Notes would be on the record. I have taken the trouble to read these Notes that were sent to the Soviet Government and ourselves, as co-Chairmen, and I learn that it was suggested that the Soviet Union should write a letter to North Vietnam, to General Giap, saying that the entire blame for the position in South Vietnam could be placed with them.

What is the truth about this? I have looked into masses of newspaper and magazine reports from all over the world, and I have with me the Economist, the United States News and World Report and the Scotsman. Last week, the Scotsman ran an article which stated:
"Washington. Tuesday. The Republican Party's National Committee to-day accused President Kennedy of being 'less than candid' about American military involvement in South Viet-nam."
It goes on to state that there are 4,000 United States troops in the area engaged in fighting against guerillas.

Today the United States News and World Report states:
"The U.S. is stepping up the tempo of the war against the Communists in South-East Asia. Men in battle-gear are being employed in South Vietnam in increasing numbers. Other Americans in uniform are up front in Laos, but U.S. participation so far may be only the beginning. American soldiers are being shot at and are shooting back. All the ingredients are there for another Korea. Robert P. Martin, of the staff of the U.S. News and World Report, flew into these Saigon headquarters of this embattled country and sent this dispatch. He says: 'The curtain of secrecy and restriction imposed by the U.S. Embassy makes it impossible to report fully on the extent of U.S. interference'."
There is a report in this week's Economist. I do not know what kind of head this correspondent from Saigon has, or whether he has failed to learn from the facts of life in the Far East, but on page 625 of the issue of 17th February we find:
"In South Vietnam, a country of perhaps 2,500 villages and about 1,200 hamlets, the country must be reconquered hamlet by hamlet, village by village, area by area. It cannot, at best, be done under five years, but it is possible, and a start has already been made simply because there is no social reason why the villager should prefer the Viet Cong."
The Viet Cong is more or less the liberation front that is fighting for independence.

The Minister was kind enough to send me a copy of the aide-mémoire given to the Russian authorities last Friday, and I am grateful to him. It states:
"Her Majesty's Government reject the Soviet contention that the United States military assistance to South Vietnam is aimed at turning South Vietnam into a strategic bridgehead."
What are the figures. It is almost impossible to count the military equipment there. The U.S. is taking no chances. It now has in that area between four thousand and five thousand uniformed Americans, and the number may reach 7,000 by the summer. Yet the aide-mémoire to the Soviet Union seems to say that there is none there. Whoever is giving this information to the Foreign Secretary knows that it is not true, and those of us who have seen the area know that it is not the truth and that it is misleading the British public. The Government should tell the United States of America that the British people will not have another Korea on their hands in this area.

I wrote about, and voted against, the establishment of S.E.A.T.O., and I was right. On 17th September, 1954, Walter Lippmann wrote in the New York Herald-Tribune
"Our latest treaty,"—
that was S.E.A.T.O.—
"which was signed in Manila last week is not just one more in a series of collective pacts. It marks a new venture. It is the first formal instrument in modern times which is designed to license international intervention in internal affairs."
The British Government know full well that what is taking place at the moment in South-East Asia and Saigon—and even in Laos—is intervention in those internal affairs. Will Western man never learn?

The British diplomatic service has much more knowledge of this state of affairs. It has much more knowledge in its thumb about Oriental affairs than there seems to be in the entire head of American Intelligence. There is a duty to speak up and let the British people know the truth. I believe that as soon as possible they should try to recall the Geneva Conference so that we may know fully what is taking place.

I would point out that we have heard very little of Mr. R. G. K. Thompson's mission to South Vietnam. It was to cost £116,000, but when I looked at the Supplementary Estimates I found that £30,000 had been spent in two months on the Thompson mission. What is its purpose? Is it not breaking the 1954 Geneva Agreement? It is even being said that this is an annual commitment. Does that mean that we are keeping the Thompson mission there for years and years. In the Eleventh Report, it is stated that there have been 37 contraventions of Articles 16 and 17 by South Vietnam. I have read of the transfer of three minesweepers of the U.S. Navy to South Vietnam and considerable quantities of war material from the Federation of Malaya Which have taken place, but that there was no opportunity to investigate this. I understand that there are four newly-constructed airfields there at Ban Don, Madrak, Gia Vuc and Choudron.

Britain will not tolerate another Korea. We owe it to the British people that we get ourselves clear of trying to set up any more patterns of imperialism. Western or any other kind, and I hope that this Government will do its best to allow these people to fashion out their own kind of democracy and not interfere in their internal affairs. The South Vietnam régime would not be able to keep going were it not for the military and economic aid given to it. Our boys lost their lives for Syngmam Rhee and other puppets in South-East Asia. Let no British lives be lost in this intervention here. Let the British Government speak up and stop it.

10.18 p.m.

First, I should like to agree with the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) on the gravity of the situation in South Vietnam. Of course, it is a dangerous and grave situation, and we have never tried to conceal the fact. What I do suggest is that the hon. Gentleman in his speech has concealed the real reasons why this danger has arisen.

Since the division of Vietnam into two halves by the 1954 agreement, two totally different and irreconcilable régimes have grown up in the North and the South. These two halves are mutually antagonistic, and the danger that exists is exactly what one would expect to exist when a Communist State deliberately embarks on a policy of trying to seize a non-Communist State by subversion, intimidation and force. And that is exactly what North Vietnam is trying to do. The rebellion in South Vietnam is by no means just a spontaneous, popular uprising against an unpopular Government, as the hon. Gentleman and others of his hon. Friends have tried to suggest. It is, in fact, a carefully engineered Communist takeover bid.

Over a long period, there has been a steady infiltration of trained military and political organisers from North Vietnam into the South. In the main, they come through Laos and they come by sea. An organisation known as "The National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam" has ben set up by the North in South Vietnam. Captured documents show that this has at its disposal an elaborate military and political machine whose avowed purpose is to set up a provisional Government in the South which would lead to the reunification of Vietnam under Communist domination. There is abundant evidence that the rebellion has been fomented, organised, in part supplied and wholly directed from the north. The principal weapons of this movement are terror and intimidation.

During 1961, about 2,000 village officials were assassinated by the Viet Cong, to which the hon. Member has referred as "more or less a liberation front". Others have been tortured. The terrorists raid and carry out propaganda in villages and threaten the inhabitants with brutal reprisals if they cooperate in any way with the Government. They carry off young men for training as guerillas, and they have smothered the whole countryside with a blanket of fear and murder. Is it, therefore, surprising that, in these circumstances, the South Vietnamese should have appealed to their friends for assistance?

The United States, as we all know, has responded with a substantial programme of military aid. In conse-uence, the hon. Member accuses America of responsibility for the increase in tension. In our view, United States aid is not the cause of tension, but a reaction to it. The threat to peace in Vietnam arises from the North Vietnamese campaign of terror and insurgency. It must be absolutely clear that before there can be any settlement in Vietnam, this kind of thing must be stopped.

The hon. Member apparently accuses the United States of upsetting the Geneva Agreement and said that our responsibility is, therefore, linked. I remind the hon. Member that at the time of the settlement, the United States, although not a party to the agreement, said in its unilateral declaration that it would view any renewal of aggression in violation of the agreements with grave concern and as seriously threatening international peace and security. In his letter to President Diem of 14th December, President Kennedy made it clear that if the Communist authorities in North Vietnam would stop their campaign to destroy the Republic of Vietnam, the steps that the United States was taking to assist the South Vietnamese in their defence efforts would no longer be necessary.

As regards United States military measures, the United States Government have announced that their miltary personnel in South Vietnam do not include combat forces. They are there to train and advise the South Vietnamese forces and to assist them with specialists and equipment.

If the hon. Member believes that, he will believe anything. Already, eight have lost their lives there, two of them leading Commando raids. The tenth report and the ninth and eighth reports of the International Supervisory Commission made these accusations long before this position developed.

The Tenth Report does not refer to American activity in Vietnam. I suggest that the increase in American activity has been brought about by this increase in Viet Cong activity and, therefore, it is a necessary measure. That is why a general was sent to South Vietnam by the Americans. Of course, we deplore the events which made these far-reaching measures necessary, and so just as much does the United States Government. The alternative, however, is a forcible take-over of South Vietnam by the Communists from the North and that simply is not acceptable.

The hon. Member referred to the British Advisory (Thompson) Mission. As the House was informed in October, this was established at the request of the South Vietnamese to provide advice and assistance in respect of administrative and political matters. This is not a military mission. Sometimes one hears Mr. Thompson referred to as a brigadier, but he is not, never has been and is unlikely ever to become a brigadier. All members of the mission are civilians and former members of the Malayan Civil Service. The task of Mr. Thompson, who heads the mission, is to advise the South Vietnamese Government, when asked, on all administrative matters, including those connected with internal security.

In view of the dire circumstances in which the South Vietnamese Government find themselves, it is clearly not unreasonable for us to respond in this way to their appeal for help. Moreover, I assure the hon. Member that there is no question of the existence of the mission violating any of the provisions of the Geneva settlement. As to the financial estimates which the hon. Member mentioned, they contain provision not only for the salaries of the four officers and supporting staff, but also for initial accommodation expenses, fares and an element for the training of police and security personnel.

The hon. Member has charged Her Majesty's Government with deliberately avoiding their responsibilities as co-Chairman in taking no action in respect of North Vietnamese complaints about the South Vietnamese and about alleged American violations of the settlement. This is to misunderstand the rôle of the co-Chairmen and the functions of the Commission. It is the Commission's task to investigate breaches of the agreement. The Commission may, if it wishes, report to the co-Chairmen and seek their advice. So far, it has not done this. It would be improper for the Government to prejudice any actions which the Commission might see fit to take. In any case, the co-Chairmen under the Geneva settlement are not given any specific executive rôle.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned that we receive reports. We receive reports purely in order to pass them on to the members of the Conference.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the number of complaints against the South Vietnamese contained in the reports of the Commission. We should not be misled into drawing wrong conclusions because of the number of these complaints from the North against the South. It was only in July, 1961, that the Commission decided that it was competent to deal with complaints about North Vietnamese subversion. This is the nub of the problem. We are still awaiting the Commission's report on this aspect.

Meanwhile, I would suggest, the Government have not been inactive as co-Chairman. We have already expressed our concern about the situation in Vietnam to the Soviet co-Chairman. In a Note of 3rd November we suggested to the Soviet Government that they should join with us in addressing an appeal to the North Vietnamese to call off their campaign in South Vietnam. This appeal went unanswered.

On 10th January, the Soviet Embassy delivered an aide-mémoire at the Foreign Office. It merely repeated Soviet accusations against the United States for their alleged intervention in South Vietnam. The Government replied to this aide-mémoire on 16th February. Copies of this exchange of Notes have been placed in the Library of the House, and, as the hon. Gentleman said, I sent him a copy. I should like to thank the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in giving me notice in advance of some of the points that he would be making.

We have repeated our appeal for restraint, and it is our hope that those countries or persons who have any influence with the North Vietnamese should warn them of the dangers of the situation and persuade them to desist from their present aggressive policy.

What of the future? The hon. Gentleman, as I understand it, suggests that we should recall the Geneva Powers and that a further international conference should be held, presumably to establish a united and neutral Vietnam, This is at present totally unrealistic. The situation is not like that in Laos. As I said, the two States of Vietnam, born out of the Geneva settlement, have different and irreconcilable régimes. By rights they should have been reunited through free and fair elections, but it is clear that conditions for this do not exist. The North Vietnamese people would certainly not be able to express their will freely.

I am not, of course, suggesting that there could never be a negotiated settlement for Vietnam. We are always prepared to take up any peaceful means of solving a dispute. I think our activities over Laos show that. But, I repeat, terrorism must be stopped before there can be any chance of arriving at an equitable settlement of the problems of this unhappy and divided country.

What we want to see in South Vietnam is the restoration of peaceful conditions as quickly as possible. Communist attempts to reunite the country by force are intolerable, and we believe that the Government and people of South Vietnam should receive all reasonable support in their efforts to defeat such attempts.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-nine minutes past Ten o'clock.