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Lord Carrington: My Lords, can my noble friend--for whom I have an equally profound admiration--tell me why, the commission having recommended that exactly the same proposals be accepted by Buckinghamshire and the Secretary of State having refused to allow them, he has not done the same for Berkshire?
The answer is that each county and each order is separate. We are dealing not with Buckinghamshire, in which my noble friend resides, but with Berkshire. All the elected Members of another place were keen on the order and approved it.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goff, said that strategic services cannot be provided locally. He mentioned housing, which is already a district service, and highways, where the work is carried out by district councils on an agency basis. That illustrates the confusion and misconceptions which can arise about which tier of local government deals with the service.
The point is that six unitary authorities can work well together. My noble friend Lady Flather says that they already do so. On top of that, those unitary authorities will be closer and more responsive to local people. The districts say that they can supply services at no extra costs; and it is up to them to do that. The local authorities' own submission to the commission emphasises that the different community identities and the unitary authorities ought to be able to represent those differences across the range of services.
My noble friend Lord Aldington yesterday moved a Motion which declined to support the draft order for Kent. I suggested to your Lordships that it would be quite wrong to support that Motion because it would have prevented your Lordships from agreeing to an order which another place had passed. My noble friend's amendment is far worse. Let me remind noble Lords what it says. It states that:
I sometimes wonder what has happened to the Liberal Democrats. They have been charging along the field today, and yesterday too, like a herd of heifers with the warblefly, with their tails up, having a go at anything in sight. I wonder whether they ever talk to their counterparts in another place. In another place a Liberal Democrat who is a Member of Parliament for the area is in favour of the order; yet all the Liberal Democrats who have spoken here--the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth--say that they will vote against the Motion. It makes us wonder what on earth is happening. It gives justification to what someone said the other day: if God had been a Liberal Democrat, there would have been "The Ten Suggestions".
What has happened over this issue? There is a problem. The Government set up a commission. The commission reported for unitary authorities. All five Conservative elected representatives of Berkshire in another place agreed entirely with the order. The Liberal Democrat hovered, but he was in favour of Newbury being a unitary authority. The order was put to another place; and it was agreed not only by those Members of Parliament but by another place, and was passed.
My noble friend Lord Peyton takes up the cudgels and walks along rather like Moses visiting the Red Sea, saying, "Stop the waters. We don't want this to continue". I do not believe that that is the duty of your Lordships' House. Your Lordships' House is quite right to discuss the matter; your Lordships' House is quite right to put forward views on it. But to say, another place having passed this order, that simply because we cannot amend it therefore we shall throw it out would be quite intolerable. I hope that your Lordships will not do that.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, various temptations face anyone, having moved an amendment, replying to such a debate. First, I should like to yield to one temptation and spend a moment thanking noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, whichever side they were on. However, I shall not yield to the temptation to go through every speech and applaud some and challenge others.
I wish to deal with two points. First, I congratulate my noble friend who has replied to the debate on the particular pleasure that he must have from the strong support he received from the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. When the two Front Benches representing the two principal parties get too close together, as I believe they have throughout this operation, I become a little uneasy. Perhaps that unease is shared by some of my noble friends.
Secondly, there is the constitutional issue. I do not ask my noble friend to explain anything because I am sure that he would not wish to speak again. However, I express my bewilderment. In Bill after Bill and clause after clause we impose a requirement on the Minister making an order under a certain power that the order should be subject to an affirmative resolution in both Houses of Parliament. If my noble friend's point carries weight, we ought to change the form of that requirement and say that an affirmative resolution in favour of an order is required only by the House of Commons, and noble Lords will then forego the privilege which almost every similar provision has given to them in the past. That I find difficult to understand.
From experience of others in winding up such a debate, I believe that there is a great danger of losing support, and none of gaining it, by going at length into matters which have already been debated with differing degrees of skills on both sides of the House. I commend the amendment in my name.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.