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Baroness Blatch: No, my Lords, the noble Lord is contradicting himself. He has said emphatically in this Chamber that it is not regional government. If the noble Lord is saying that there would be three tiers of government, it is a very different kettle of fish from what he has been proposing at four stages of the Bill.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the noble Baroness is playing with words, as she has done today. Normally, she is a little gentler, but today she has gone over the top. I shall stop being friendly towards her in future. It is known what I mean by three tiers. I have said that they would not involve service delivery—I do not argue otherwise. There would have been a large national campaign; we were not prepared to have that political argument.

The price for elected regional assemblies is single-tier local government. As I said at Second Reading, if that were not the case, we would not proceed with the Bill. On offer is elected regional assemblies with a single tier of local government beneath, not two tiers; otherwise, we would not proceed with the Bill. That is not a threat; it is not an argument against Parliament. Parliament can decide what it wants. But it is a government Bill, and we would decide whether or not to proceed with it.

I must make absolutely clear what is on offer in this amendment. It is fundamental in that it is designed specifically to frustrate the Bill. It is also a little unfair. It was not quite put this way, but the majority of the population of four regions is rural, and in four the majority is urban. But I accept that normally

28 Apr 2003 : Column 491

soundings show that an overt desire for regional elected assemblies is expressed mainly in areas with single-tier authorities. But if this amendment were accepted, a region with perhaps four, five or six counties, one county voting against an elected regional assembly could frustrate the other four or five counties that expressed a clear view in favour of one. Where is the democratic fairness if one county gets a veto over all the rest? It would be very unfair.

That is not the other side of the coin of the urban-versus-rural argument. I do not accept that everyone in either urban areas or rural ones will vote the same way. That is why I said that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, operated as a two-nation Tory because she saw the situation in black and white—you were rural or urban, and you were set against each other—which is not the intention of the Bill. The amendment is designed to frustrate the Bill. But that has been the intention of the Conservative Opposition all along.

We have made changes to the Bill. Those changes have been shown, by and large, through votes to satisfy the majority of the House. Where the single tier is to be arranged, those who decide will choose the form of the single tier. I do not know what it will be. It will be up to the Boundary Committee to come forward with that in the way that we discussed. It would be very unfair if the amendment were carried, because we would be pulling a fast one. Noble Lords could not go on the stump to defend the ability of one county to stop in their tracks another three or four counties voting the other way. From a democratic standpoint, it would be completely indefensible.

Earl Peel: My Lords, will the noble Lord accept that in principle it would be acceptable if the majority of counties were in favour?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am speaking to this amendment. That is not what this amendment says. It would enable one county to veto the rest. If the Tories wish to change their policy and return with something else, I shall debate it. But this amendment says that one county voting against an elected regional assembly could decide, irrespective of what every other county voted. Where is the fairness in that? It cannot be fair; it is absolutely disgraceful to try to defend it. There are no new arguments to be made and there are no new arguments I can make.

Contrary to what my noble friend Lord Stoddart has said, I intend to abide by the strictures I have been given, irrespective of how it is written down. Once I sit down, having made this short contribution, I do not intend to stand again. Therefore I thank the team of officials who have supported me, the staff in my Private Office and my noble friend Lord Evans. I also thank the Opposition for the pleasantries and the spirited way in which they have taught me a few things about this House—I am learning every day.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords—

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am not giving way to the noble Lord because I intend to sit down. I shall not

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answer the Europe argument because I have done that already. I thank noble Lords on all sides of the House for the way in which they have helped scrutinise the Bill. It justifies what I have said since I have been in this House—scrutiny of Ministers in this House is much superior to that in another place. I am collecting evidence as the months go by for this. I have no problems saying that—it does not cause me any difficulties. However, I certainly hope that this amendment is not carried.

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I am becoming concerned about the kind words the Minister keeps saying about me—he will be doing me a disservice on this side of the House.

Fortunately, they are about my knowledge and involvement in local government. That is in the spirit in which we moved this last amendment. In Committee, on Report and now today, we have been told consistently that there is no new money. There will have to be new money. Reorganising local government will cost a lot of money. Local government officials are already talking to Treasury officials and I do not think that the Treasury share some of the views we have heard from the Government Front Bench during this debate. It will cost money. It will not be a case of "no new money"—a considerable amount of money will be spent on reorganising local government. I have been through this before. We heard the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, talk of his experience of the 1970s. The reorganisation of local government is very expensive.

Local government is about providing services. It delivers services to thousands of people every day. I have said that in Essex every day we deliver services to 20,000 people in their homes, in care, and noble Lords can multiply that to reach a figure for the whole country. Those services will be disrupted. Elderly and disabled people will not know where their care will come from. Staff will be concerned. I have addressed meetings of staff who are concerned about local government reorganisation. We have taken local government reorganisation far too lightly during these debates.

Whatever the Government wanted in regional government, they should not have embarked on a wholesale reorganisation of local government. It was contrary to what they promised when they first came to power. They said that they did not want local government reorganisation, which pleased me because it was a nightmare during the Conservative period. I admit local government organisation was not a great success. It does not win friends and it is of no help to services.

With this amendment, I was, at this last stage, trying to do something for the Northumberlands, the North Yorkshires, the Cumbrias and the Lancashires, who look to be under threat in the coming months. There will be a tremendous amount of disruption. We are making a last-ditch attempt to get the Government to acknowledge the problem and give these areas a chance to keep their two tiers. That would be the best outcome. The Government have proceeded with this Bill in a way which has caused more harm than if they

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had kept the two tiers. They have made a fundamental mistake and they will realise that in the months to come. There would have been greater acceptance of regional government if they had kept the two tiers. They will live to regret it. At this stage we have to test the feeling of the House.

5.44 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 16) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 118; Not-Contents, 157.

Division No. 3

CONTENTS

Aberdare, L.
Alexander of Weedon, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Arran, E.
Astor of Hever, L.
Biffen, L.
Blackwell, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Bowness, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burnham, L.
Caithness, E.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carrington, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L.
Chadlington, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Crathorne, L.
Crickhowell, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Flather, B.
Fookes, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Fowler, L.
Freeman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Garel-Jones, L.
Geddes, L.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goschen, V.
Hanham, B.
Hanningfield, L.
Henley, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Home, E.
Hooper, B.
Howe, E.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Inglewood, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kimball, L.
King of Bridgwater, L.
Kirkham, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Lane, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
MacLaurin of Knebworth, L.
Mancroft, L.
Marlesford, L.
Marsh, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Montrose, D.
Moynihan, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Naseby, L.
Newton of Braintree, L.
Noakes, B.
Northbourne, L.
Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Patten, L.
Peel, E.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plumb, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Rawlings, B.
Renton, L.
Ryder of Wensum, L.
St John of Fawsley, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Selsdon, L.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stewartby, L.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L.
Tebbit, L.
Thatcher, B.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vinson, L.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wakeham, L.
Warnock, B.
Weatherill, L.
Wilcox, B.
Windlesham, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bragg, L.
Brennan, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Chan, L.
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Fearn, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gavron, L.
Geraint, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hamwee, B.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hooson, L.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jones, L.
Jordan, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Michie of Gallanach, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Mishcon, L.
Mitchell, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Newby, L.
Nicol, B.
Paul, L.
Pendry, L.
Peston, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Radice, L.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rennard, L.
Richard, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roll of Ipsden, L.
Rooker, L.
Roper, L.
Sandberg, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Sharman, L.
Sheldon, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stallard, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thornton, B.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Truro, Bp.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

28 Apr 2003 : Column 495

5.55 p.m.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Rooker.)


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