Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the advantage of an elected authority is that it comes under the influence, and is subject to the wishes, of the people of London? We are discussing an authority which is totally unconnected with the people of London. Moreover--and contrary to what the noble Earl said--there is a growing feeling in London that the city badly needs the restitution of an elected body so that the people can communicate with it and be a part of it.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, that is a most interesting intervention on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. If in fact it is the view of the party opposite to reintroduce an extra layer of government, I believe that the people of London should know about it. All I can tell the noble Lord is that, with the £1,000 million which it spent and the 20,000 staff that it had, only 11 per cent. of London's services were catered for by the GLC; the remainder was covered by the boroughs. We find that the present position is very much more satisfactory. I see that the noble Lord shakes his head, but, if his party wants to introduce another expensive layer of government, then people should be told about it. If that is the case, the party opposite should be able to tell us.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, is it not deplorable that London is one of the very few capital cities in the world without a civic head and with no civic control over its own police force?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, London is not the only place in the world in that respect; indeed, apart from anything else, the City of London has its own police force and its own system of operations. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that obviously a certain majesty is lost when one does not have a focal point. The objective of having a focal point is only achieved if it works well. We have found that the system works better as it is.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, would it be one of the tasks of this London advisory body to look at such services in London as might be more effectively dealt with on a London-wide basis? For example, in the case of transport in London there are something like 40 different bodies that have a say in that matter. Would this not be better co-ordinated centrally for London?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, makes a valid and a helpful point. That is exactly what is happening. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State is encouraging area partnerships between local authorities, business communities and the voluntary sector on such matters as the Thames, theatreland and cross-river partnerships. He is encouraging the Lambeth and Southwark Councils and Westminster Council and the City and others to operate together as regards

27 Feb 1996 : Column 1367

bridges and other matters. All those items require specialist attention. That is why it is better to consider the individual items separately with the help of business people who are interested and enthusiastic to see London propel itself ahead.

Lord Clark of Kempston: My Lords, does not my noble friend agree that, if it is the policy of the Opposition to introduce another tier of local government--that is, the old GLC--taxation must inexorably increase?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, my noble friend makes another valid point. He is absolutely right. Of course it will lead to increased taxation. That is why we want to know whether the party opposite intends to introduce an extra layer of government, but the Front Bench opposite remains remarkably silent. I can only assume from that that either it has not made up its mind or it does not want to let us know its intentions.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, is not the Minister aware that since the abolition of the GLC the Government have had to set up a whole range of bodies and co-ordinating groups to make up for some of the functions of the GLC without which London cannot function, and that the Joint London Advisory Panel is merely one of them? Does not the Minister further agree that what London badly needs to cover these issues is not a replacement for the GLC but a strategic body which is democratically elected and responsive to the wishes of the people of London?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I am not quite certain how that differs from the GLC, because that was an elected body. As I have explained on more than one occasion, it was an expensive one too. There are matters of considerable interest here and the Joint London Advisory Panel brings together the organisation London First, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the CBI, the Association of London Government, the London Planning Advisory Committee, the Corporation of London, Westminster City Council, London Voluntary Services Council and the London Training and Enterprise Councils. They have all got together because they wish to co-operate.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, as probably the only Member of your Lordships' House who served on the Standing Committee which considered the London Government Bill in another place, does the Minister remember that it was the Tory Government of Mr. Macmillan which introduced the GLC, and the Tory Minister of Housing and Local Government, the then Sir Keith Joseph, who masterminded it through that committee? Does not the noble Earl accept that, without introducing an authority which is identical to the GLC, there is a great deal to be said for the argument that some elected authority should mastermind the services which he has mentioned, which are best dealt with on a London-wide basis rather than at the level of the boroughs?

27 Feb 1996 : Column 1368

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, may well be correct as regards Mr. Macmillan setting up the organisation, but 25 years have passed and we decided, with the approval of Parliament, that there should be a change. Because London is important, there is a meeting of "London Ministers", known as the ED, EDE, EF, or whatever it is. I always hate these acronyms because they are confusing and no one ever knows what the letters stand for. Nevertheless, the meeting I have mentioned is a meeting of Ministers for London who are drawn from 10 different departments. Many local authorities and individual organisations assist those Ministers. Therefore I believe that process will work better than the alternatives which have been suggested.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, it is certainly true that the panel will review a number of questions on a London-wide basis, as the Minister has said, for example on education, transport, private finance initiatives and so on. Why in that case is the debate of this panel to be held in private and why is the Chairman of the Conservative Party, who is not a London Minister, on the panel?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, it is not a question of the meetings being held in private, as I believe the noble Lord said. It is perfectly reasonable that a body should discuss its problems and organisation in private. The panel is expected to meet three times a year and a note of the discussion will be made public within 24 hours. Ministers and the London Pride Partners will submit papers as necessary.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, does not the Minister agree that one of the major problems facing people who live in London is traffic pollution, and that the piecemeal arrangements for discussions on an area-by-area basis cannot possibly solve that problem? Would the Minister care to comment on the fact that in terms of public expenditure the Government now allocate more public money to people who are not elected by the general population but are appointed by Government? Therefore the issue is one of democracy, not public expenditure.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, it is not a question of democracy but of how one obtains the best results as economically as possible. This Government, along with everyone else, have been castigated for spending too much. I have explained that by removing the GLC there has been a considerable saving of money. I thought when the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, rose to his feet that he would tell us what the Labour Party's policy was and whether it wished to reintroduce the GLC, but he did not do so. This is a question of saving money. That is in contrast to the party opposite, which apparently wishes to give £5,000 to every person who gets married. That seems a most extraordinary expenditure.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, will the noble Earl tell us how much of the £1,000 million that he was boasting about has been saved?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, £1,000 million.

27 Feb 1996 : Column 1369

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, arising out of what the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, said, will the panel be able to consider the future of the Victoria Coach Station, which is situated in a conservation area? As a committee member of the residents' association, I can inform the Minister it has been causing us considerable anxiety. Since the demise of the GLC we have not been able to get a decision or any sense out of anyone.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I am sure that that is a matter which will be taken into account by the advisory panel. I am sure that, if the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, cares to draw it to the attention of the panel, it will be considered.

Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill

Read a third time, and passed.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page