|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, my noble friend Lady Faithfull and the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, asked about the future of care in the community and particularly about the view of the local health authorities. The chief executive of Tees Health has stated that the establishment of four unitary district authorities is not a barrier to effective collaboration and looks forward to developing, with the districts, creative and imaginative opportunities for better health and social care.
Before the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft, decides whether to seek to divide the House on his amendment, I hope that he will have regard to the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. Indeed, both noble Baronesses who spoke from the Opposition Front Benches have
The purpose of the local government review, which has been frequently stated by the Government, is to secure for each area a structure of local government which is accountable, which reflects the identity and confidence of local people and which provides services efficiently and cost-effectively to the community. The Government are confident that the structure which the commission proposed for Cleveland will achieve that. Therefore, I commend the order to the House.
Lord Bancroft: My Lords, I echo the noble Viscount in saying that this has been an interesting debate. I am grateful to all Peers who have taken part and especially those who supported my amendment. If I may say so, tonight their lips have been brushed by the shade of John Milton.
It is unsurprising that the main points that have been made have been along predictable but important lines. I do not propose to weary the House at this hour by rehearsing them in detail. The noble Viscount has done that admirably, although with a rather different gloss from that which I would have put on them. Nor do I propose to pick out individual speakers since he has done so.
I must, however, point out that for the Government to claim that this new patchwork of authorities is where they always intended to end up is the most outrageous and hilarious claim since Arthur Askey claimed to be Charley's Aunt. The truth is that, in accordance with the old song, every time Sir John Banham turned, DoE Ministers turned too. For three years Marsham Street has resounded to the twanging of bed springs as Ministers change positions yet again.
I remain extremely anxious about the robust delivery of essential services, about the absence of a single authority for a major conurbation, the Government's unnerving ignorance about the roots of Teesside, the difficulty of establishing the truth about local opinion, the need to judge a particular case against the future shape of English local government as a whole, and the propriety of proceeding when the basis of the order is still subject to challenge in the courts.
What has been said on that last point would tempt me into the territory of Ignatius Loyola and his Jesuits, and I do not intend to tread that path. I am unchastened by charges that my amendment would prolong uncertainty; it was the Government who pressed the button of uncertainty three years ago. What about the uncertainty
But, in assessing my decision now, which, as the Minister pointed out, I must consider carefully, I have to consider matters other than the support and the opposition for my amendment so eloquently expressed tonight. They include the voting intentions, or lack of them, of the Official Opposition. I hesitate to comment upon what the police call "a domestic" and upon the fact that over 200 Members of the Opposition voted against the order in another place. We are told that the Opposition's attitude, apart from natural divisions upon the merits, is the continuation of a form of self-denying ordinance. If so, they are clearly acting on the basis that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, for as recently as 31st January last they voted in favour of an amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull.
That amendment, like mine, would have deferred approval of a draft order. The Opposition were led into the Lobby by their Leader, the Chief Whip, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. Moonbeams from the larger lunar system are shining brightly tonight. I predict that sooner rather than later the people of Teesside will have a single authority. It is the optimum practicable solution.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I am sure that the noble Lord did not wish to mislead the House, so perhaps I may draw his attention to the fact that the order to which he referred on 31st January 1994, and the amendment to it which was in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, said that the House should call upon Her Majesty's Government not only to withdraw the draft order but to relay it in a month, having considered whether it should extend to social services.
In other words, unlike tonight, that order, which has been quoted twice by the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft, was a one-off, with no consequences for other services or bodies, and it was time-defined. In that sense, it may have been hostile; it was not fatal. Therefore there is a world of difference between that and what we are discussing tonight.
Lord Bancroft: My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Baroness. As I said in my opening remarks, to which she was perhaps not listening, in my view, had the Government behaved sensibly over my amendment, then it would have been a matter of a delay of a few weeks and not a year. It is not a wrecking amendment.
I repeat: sooner rather than later, the people of Teesside will have a single authority. It is the optimum practicable solution. If the order is approved, there will be a period of sad and costly turmoil, until that inevitable optimum solution is achieved.
I hope that our debate will be a salutary foretaste for the Government of what lies ahead of them on the other orders. Given the strength of views in favour of the amendment expressed tonight, I believe it right to test the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.