HC Deb 03 July 1935 vol 303 cc1941-64

The following Notices of Motion stood upon, the Order Paper: That it be an Instruction to the Committee to exclude Norwood Green, Coley, and the Hipperholme district from the purview of the Bill."—[Mr. Levy.] That it be an Instruction to the Committee to exempt the districts of Sowerby, Luddendenfoot, and Midgley from the purview of the Bill."—[Mr. McCorquodale.] That it be an Instruction to the Committee to add the following words to Clause 19: 'Section seven of the Halifax Corporation Act, 1882, so far as it provides for inclusion within the limits of the Corporation in relation to gas supply of any part of the urban district of Queensbury is hereby repealed. Provided that the powers conferred upon the Corporation by the said Section shall continue to be exerciseable so far as may be necessary for the purposes of enabling the Corporation to continue any supplies of gas given by them in the said urban district at the passing of this Act.'"—[Mr. Levy.].


With the consent of the House, I propose to allow the discussion on the two Instructions in the name of the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy) and on the Instruction in the name of the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale) to be taken at the same time.

7.31 p.m.


I beg to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to exclude Norwood Green, Coley, and the Hipperholme district from the purview of the Bill. This Motion appears on the surface to deal with a small matter, but a matter of vital principle is contained in it. The three areas mentioned in the Motion deal with three parts of the constituency which I have the honour to represent, and the Instruction in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale) deals with areas which are within his constituency. I agree that there is no reason why these matters should not be discussed together. In order that we should have a proper understanding of the position, there are two considerations that we ought to take into account, one a matter of detail and the other a matter of principle. I will deal first with the matter of principle, and I will try to give a, proper perspective and to draw a proper picture. Years ago villages and towns sprang up with no co-ordination of planning, and you found that there were uneconomic administration and overlapping of social services. You also found that there were a number of boroughs and larger urban areas which drew into their bowls various other areas, and they always endeavoured to draw into their bowls areas with a high assessment and to leave areas with a low assessment to fend for themselves. In other words, they endeavoured to draw into their bowl the cream and to leave the skimmed milk to fend for itself.

Time went on, and this House had before it, in 1921, two Bills. One was promoted by Leeds and the other by Bradford, and in each case they were endeavouring to co-operate or to merge with the cream and leave the skimmed milk to fend for itself. The Parliament of the day, in its wisdom, turned those Bills down, and there emerged from that a Royal Commission, which was set to make a full inquiry dealing with the matter of proper co-ordinating and planning and economic local administration. That Royal Commission reported, and its report was considered by the Government of the day. There emerged the Local Government Act of 1929, which imposed a duty upon county councils to prepare schemes and plans for the merging of various areas within their own area, with the object of economic administration and good local government, to prevent overlapping, and to try to see that natural development and expansion took place on proper co-ordinated lines. I will read two paragraphs from a memorial drawn up by the West Riding of Yorkshire County Council on this matter. The first is as follows: The view of the County Council is that the decision of the Lords Committee"— This Bill has been before the Lords before it has come to this House— conflicts so markedly with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Local Government and the Parliamentary precedents on which the findings of the Royal Commission were based, that the matter calls for the closest examination by the House of Commons, in order that the counties and county districts of England and Wales shall not be put back into the position in which they were before the Leeds and Bradford Bills of 1921, the rejection of which by the House of Commons led to the appointment of the Royal Commission. They go on to say: I should clearly state that the County Council are most strenuously opposed to the Bill, which appears to disregard the main principles upon which the House of Commons has dealt with extension Bills in the past. If the Lords decision remains and comes to be regarded as a precedent, no county in England will be safe from the process of disintegration, which can only lead to the ultimate destruction of the whole system of county government. The County Council of the West Riding of Yorkshire is the largest county council in the whole of this country, with the exception of the London County Council, and I think it is true to say that there is not a Member of this House who would be prepared to allow some outside authority to take a slice or a piece of London. It is common knowledge that in the rebuilding of this country and the replanning of its various areas, we have to take into consideration the physical geography and the natural development, we have to see that there is no overlapping in the public services, and we have to see whether by the taking away of an area from a county council to a borough council, educational facilities, night institute facilities, and in particular sewerage and drainage facilities are not interfered with.

If we look at the map, we find that the areas to which I have referred lie by natural geography within the area of the West Riding of Yorkshire. Brighouse has to take the sewage of these three areas; Halifax cannot take it at all. Hipperholme, to which I will refer, does not adjoin Halifax, but is on the other side of a hill, with a large belt of territory intervening. If you went from the town of Brighouse, which is within the scheme of the West Riding of Yorkshire, to Hipperholme, you would not know where one ended and the other commenced, but if you wanted to go from Halifax to Hipperholme, you would have to take a bus and go over some of the roads of the West Riding of Yorkshire to get there. Halifax, which is asking to be merged with Hipperholme, is a fourpenny ride on a bus from Hipperholme.


It costs 4d. from Brighouse to Hipperholme, single fare.


And it costs more from Halifax to Hipperholme, single fare. Therefore I contend that if the general trend to-day in this House is for economic planning, the last thing we ought to allow is breaking up the county councils and disintegrating these areas. The natural geography shows that the plan created under the 1929 Act should be allowed to be examined by the Ministry of Health, whose inspector is down there at the present moment endeavouring to look into the plan and to see whether the districts that are suggested to be merged ought to be merged. There is a function of the inspector which is quite capable of dealing with this particular position, if he feels that it is in the best interests of the areas concerned. If he feels that it is desirable to effect any of the changes described, he can order any alteration or definition of the boundaries of any district or borough, the union of any district or parish with another district or parish, and the transfer of any part of any district or parish to another district or parish.

The proper procedure, I submit, would have been that the inquiry which is now taking place should have included these three areas, and Halifax would still have had the right, if they so desired, after the inquiry had been held, to proceed with this Bill, but they endeavoured, while the scheme was in its embryonic state, to jump a claim on the West Riding of Yorkshire, and they introduced a private Bill asking this House to give them power for this merger, although an inquiry is taking place at the present time by the inspector of the Ministry of Health. It may rightly be asked what advantages Halifax offers to the areas which it is proposed to merge with it. Halifax certainly supplies gas, but the calorific value of that gas is less than that of Sowerby Bridge. It also supplies water. I can claim to have some knowledge of water supplies, and, if the service of water from Halifax to these districts is an indication of the general public services that it proposes to supply, the less we say about it the better. During the drought a large number of factories, which would ordinarily have worked three shifts, could not work them because the water supply was so inefficient. The factories were cut off at various hours, and the workpeople had to cease work because the machinery could not be kept going owing to lack of water. I believe I am right in saying that gas and water are the only two public services which Halifax supplies to these districts. These areas, on the other hand, have their own educational and hospital facilities, and their own night classes, and they are well administered. I might pay a tribute to the West Riding County Council by saying that it is constituted of the three political parties, and that, whatever may be said during elections, when once the elections are over, they sink their political differences and work in accord for the benefit of the area under their administration.

It has been said that some of the local authorities agreed to this merger. May I examine that statement for a moment. When the councils were elected, this question was not brought forward and when the ratepayers heard that their councils had by a small majority agreed to the merger, they were up in arms. They formed citizens' unions, and when the next election came along the ratepayers sank their political opinions and voted against those councillors who had agreed to the merger. The result was that they were not elected, and some of them did not bother even to stand for election. Polls were taken to decide whether these areas desired to merge with Halifax, and in every case there was a poll of between 80 and 90 per cent. against going to Halifax. We are a democratic country, and we are supposed rightly or wrongly, to put forward in this House the views of the people we have the honour to represent. That applies to all of us, and we all do it to the best of our ability. The three areas to which I am referring are in my constituency. I have received a tremendous amount of correspondence, and every letter without exception has expressed a desire not to merge with Halifax. I have not received a communication from any individual in those areas who desires to go to Halifax. [Laughter.] Those who laugh are thinking of hell and Halifax, and they are right. If they go to Halifax, they will go to the other place too.

It may be said that this is a Bill which ought to go upstairs to a Committee where evidence can be heard. I am not going to argue at this stage whether it ought or ought not to go to a Committee, but I hope hon. Members will agree that, as a representative of a constituency affected, I am entitled to put forward in the House a case representing the views of my constituents. Therefore, I want to state as strongly as I can that my constituents in those areas do not desire to be merged with Halifax. They can see no advantage in it, and there is no advantage. The rates in those areas are low, and the areas are well administered. The rates in Halifax are high. That would mean that if there were a merger the rates in Halifax would decrease and that the rates in the the other areas would, because of the apportionments, increase. Taking the debt per head of the population, it is £18 in Sowerby Bridge and £45 in Halifax. I am not blaming Halifax for trying to bring into its fold those areas which I may call the "cream" and leaving the area which I may describe as "the skimmed milk" to fend for itself. If the House decides that these areas shall go to Halifax, the Committee must take note of the case that we are putting on the Floor of the House. There may have been exceptions where areas have been forced to merge, disadvantageously to themselves, with other areas because it was felt that it was necessary in view of the natural development and expansion. It is not, however, necessary in this case. Halifax is a declining borough; it's birthrate is declining. It is not as though it wants to expand with a big building scheme and has no land on which to expand. It has a tremendous quantity of unbuilt land all round its area. Therefore, that cannot be the excuse.

The only reason, I submit, for this merger is a selfish self-interest Halifax desires to bring into its fold the high assessment areas so as to reduce the rates and so that Halifax shall get the benefit of it. I do not think this House will be a party to such an arrangement. I am of opinion that the House feels that the county councils should be allowed to continue to govern within their own areas, and to prepare schemes, to provide for natural development and expansion, to police, to deal with the roads, to have control over education, and to provide necessary public services as they do now. The administration of the county council is a good administration. Is there a Member who would agree that a slice should be cut off London and given to an outside area? Is not the natural trend of the expansion of London to bring other areas into that good local government which is the admiration of the world, irrespective of the party in control? The general trend not only with regard to the West Riding, but with regard to areas throughout the country, is that the districts should be merged into units of large size which can be controlled by a proper and substantial local government without any particular self-interest but for the good of the community at large. You find that spirit in county councils, but you do not always find it in local borough councils. They never mind who sinks as long as they can swim. It is to their interest only to look after the population and the area of their own particular boroughs. In the case of a county council, however, the councillors look after the larger area impartially without any prejudice to any particular district, but for the good of the whole.

I have endeavoured to show that the areas which it is proposed to merge have no desire to be merged with Halifax. They have no advantage to gain, but only disadvantage. Their public services are now satisfactory, although they can be improved, but they will not get improved by a merger with Halifax. Hipperholme and the other two areas desire, above all, to retain their own identities. It has been admitted that their local government is economic, efficient and good. It may be that, even within the area of the West Riding, they can make an arrangement whereby they shall retain their identities, but, if they are merged with Halifax, they will lose their identities for all time. I hope that if this question is taken to a Division the House will vote for these areas being sent back so that they can come under the purview of the inspector of the Ministry of Health, who can decide whether they shall be retained within the West Riding or whether they shall go to Halifax. Even if this Bill is destroyed, Halifax will not be precluded from an opportunity of bringing forward another Bill in the near future if the inspector decides against the merger.

8.0 p.m.


I beg to second the Motion.

Having been for years a member of the West Riding County Council, I may look upon this problem from a somewhat different angle to other hon. Members. As a county councillor I view with the greatest concern the action of towns in trying to steal territory from the county council. I have nothing whatever to say against Halifax or any other town; it is the broad principle with which I am concerned. I regard it as a matter of common sense. The West Riding County Council have a vast organisation, an enormous county hall and a numerous and efficient staff, and all that costs a great deal of money—speaking from memory, somewhere about £7,000,000—which is an enormous sum for any provincial county council or any body to have to find. Where does this money come from? Some hon. Members may not know the West Riding, but when the big towns like Leeds and Bradford have been taken out, what is there left to bear this burden? In the southern area of the West Riding there are mining districts. All who know Yorkshire know that the miners are having the greatest struggle to keep body and soul together. They do not live, they exist. In the north end of the West Riding there are chiefly farmers on grass land, who are dependent upon two things, milk and meat, the two branches of farming which are the most depressed. My own constituency is there, and I have lived there all my life, and know very well that the farmers are fighting with their backs to the wall to keep out of the bankruptcy court and in the hope that conditions may improve. Without going into details, but keeping to the broad principle, I feel that it is a very serious thing for this House to support anything which damages the county council. This House has lent the credit of this country to Austria and to Newfoundland, and I do not object to that in the least, but we must remember that there are some 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 Yorkshire people who can ill afford to have their rates increased, and if we decrease the area from which the West Riding County Council draw their revenue the rates are bound to rise.

8.5 p.m.


As the duly elected representative of the county borough of Halifax I am anxious to support this Bill, and, therefore, I am speaking against the Motion so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for the Elland Division (Mr. Levy). He has expressed some doubt as to the benefits of some of his constituents being included with mine for the purposes of local government. Possibly he may be looking ahead and fear that in a few years time the Halifax council may turn Socialist and inject Socialism into some of his constituents. I have no such fear.


May I at once contradict that? That was not in my mind at all.


I accept that statement. Joking apart, what is the real issue? The question is the extension of the borough. Apart from the fact that I Am Member for the borough, I should like to put before the House a few reasons why I think this Bill should go to Committee without any restrictions upon it. Without going into a great deal of detail, the object of the Bill is to extend the boundary to include Norwood Green, Coley, Hipperholme, Sowerby Bridge and one or two other smaller districts. Hipperholme has always been within the ecclesiastical parish of Halifax, and until 1929 it was linked with Halifax for Poor Law purposes. There is, I submit, a very strong community of interests between Halifax and Hipperholme. Halifax supplies Hipperholme with gas and water. Hipperholme also depends very largely on Halifax for its hospital services, for the fire brigade, for the ambulance and for much of its technical education. Halifax has provided Hipperholme with transport ever since 1901, and in the opinion of the majority of people Hipperholme is one of the dormitories of Halifax. Many people employed in Halifax live in Hipperholme. They look upon Halifax as the centre for shopping, for commerce generally, for amusements and for social life. With the development of housing in the last few years it is almost correct to say that Halifax and Hipperholme join up. I know that in the past few years some of my own workpeople have lived in Hipperholme.

The urban district council passed a resolution in favour of joining with Halifax. I agree that they would have preferred to remain as they are, but if they were to be joined up with any place they favoured joining with Halifax. They gave evidence before the Committee in another place, where the Bill occupied 16 days. It was, as my hon. Friend has said, opposed by the county council, but much evidence was taken during that period and every argument was thoroughly examined. The Bill, having passed that Committee, I submit that it is only right that it should be sent on to a Committee of this House for further consideration. I think it was a principle of the Act of 1929 that larger local governing areas should be encouraged, the idea being that more efficiency would be secured in local government. If that idea is to be carried out, obviously some of these smaller areas must link up with the nearest large town or county borough, as is suggested in this Bill. It is a reasonable supposition that a larger area can be worked much more economically than a number of small ones. A review of the county districts is going on at the present time, following on the Commission to which my hon. Friend has referred. The county council proposed that Hipperholme should be added to Brighouse, but that proposal was turned down by the ratepayers of Hipperholme by a majority of 2,418 to 34, which does not sound as though they were particularly keen to go to Brighouse. Brighouse petitioned against this Bill, and their case was heard before the Committee.

The county council seem to be adopting various methods of opposing this Bill. I understand they have written to the county members stating that they are not opposing the Second Reading. That may be true, but the statement is, in my opinion, merely a play upon words, because they are encouraging the Instruction now before us, and obviously if this Instruction is passed the Bill will be virtually killed. The arguments which I have just put in the case of Hipperholme apply almost equally well to Sowerby Bridge. There is amost a closer relationship between Sowerby Bridge and Halifax. We supply Sowerby Bridge with water and transport, with most of their hospital services and with technical education, and there is a mutual agreement in existence for the disposal of sewage. Sowerby people come to Halifax for county court proceedings and for public assistance. My case is that these districts are getting many advantages from Halifax, and, to be frank, are not paying their full share of the cost. I ask the House to bear that in mind, and I suggest that they should give the Bill the privilege of following the usual course, that is going upstairs to Committee, where all sides can be heard and where the several cases can be put by expert witnesses, but do not let us send it there tied with the restriction proposed.

8.14 p.m.


If I intervene at this early stage, let it be understood that it is not by any means with the intention of trying to choke off other hon. Members who may wish to address the House on this subject. It is merely done for certain domestic reasons, of which I am sure hon. Members will entirely approve when they discover later what they are. I only want to put to the House what may be described as the official view which I think it my duty to take as Chairman of Ways and Means, and to give that advice to the House on this particular point of the Instruction. It is perfectly true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Gledhill) has said, that if this Instruction were carried it would virtually kill the Bill; but I do not know that that is really the point. The real point is that these proposals for the absorption of certain other districts not only raise points of importance, to the inhabitants of those particular localities but points of principle which are proper points of policy to be decided by Parliament. Therefore, I do not complain for one moment of my hon. Friends having put down these Instructions or of their giving their views in support of them. They are putting the case as representatives of their constituencies, and are fully entitled to take this means of expressing their views.

None the less I express the hope that when they have stated their views to the House they will be satisfied, and on further consideration will withdraw their Motions in order that the matter may go before a Committee in the ordinary way. I appeal to them to do that for the reason that a body like the House of Commons is too large to go into these questions of detail, and obviously it is not so well able to ascertain the true facts as is a small committee of a judicial nature which hears witnesses and perhaps counsel also. I do not wish to limit the Debate or to ask hon. Members to refrain from expressing their views, but I do hope that when they have done so and have threshed the matter out on the Floor of the House, they will be satisfied to await the decision of the Committee, and then, if they think it necessary, they can take further steps at a later stage of the Bill.

8.16 p.m.


I trust the House will give the attention which they deserve to the words which have just fallen from the Chairman of Ways and Means. I know something about the West Riding of Yorkshire, but although I have lived there all my life I must confess that I do not feel competent to pass an opinion by giving a vote as to the merits or the demerits of this Instruction. I could answer a great deal of what was said by the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy) in reference to the Bradford Bill, but I do not want to go into controversial questions at this moment. I must, however, repudiate distinctly the suggestion that Bradford proposed that Bill in order that they might get the cream—I think these were the words which the hon. Member used—and leave the skimmed milk to someone else. There were a good many things in that 1921 Bill which would have been of great advantage to the areas mentioned in it. We have always had a sense of unfairness that we should have spent any amount of money and time in promoting a Bill which hon. Members of this House did not, and could not, fully understand and that hon. Members were persuaded to go into the Lobby to destroy the work of years.

This House makes a great mistake when it declines to allow a Bill to proceed to a Committee which is adequate to deal with it, and which, as every corporation in the country must recognise with a great sense of fairness, shows no partiality to one authority or another. Corporations get a square deal from the Committee, but when a Bill is thrown out as the result of an Instruction of this description and the Bill is destroyed, there is justification for a corporation feeling that it has not had a square deal. I should like to have made reference to what was said by the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Rickards) who is not in his place at the present moment. He mentioned the rates of certain areas, but he forgot to tell the House about Harrogate, Ilkley and so on. The argument of the hon. Member for Elland was not quite sound when he appealed that the area of a county should not be split up. Anybody who knows the West Riding of Yorkshire knows that it is split up all over the place, and that there is no particular area where you can go without saying that you are splitting up any number of boroughs. We are not wise in discussing the administration of the counties or of the boroughs. The West Riding County Council is a very efficient body; if I said otherwise it would be untrue. But the boroughs in the West Riding of Yorkshire are just as efficiently controlled, and the services which are provided are as good and as adequate as are provided by the county council.

I appeal to the House to allow the Bill to go forward as it is, to be examined by a Committee which is able to take and to listen to evidence in a perfectly impartial manner, and to give a, balanced judgment on the facts as submitted. That is fairer to everybody concerned. I am certain that the hon. Member for Elland would not want to gain anything by unfair methods. If we give an opportunity to borough councils to submit Bills in this House we should give them a fair opportunity of impartial examination of their case, and of a decision based upon the evidence given. I appeal to hon. Members to take notice of the words of the Chairman of Ways and Means that that is the only wise way.

8.22 p.m.


As representing a division near Halifax, I am pleased to have the opportunity of expressing my opinion. I was very glad, Sir Dennis, to hear you give the advice that you did give.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)

I hope that the hon. Member will remember that some Members of this House have the disadvantage of a double personality.


Thank you, Sir Dennis. I will put the point rather differently, and say that it was a pleasure to me to know that this Bill is going to a Committee to be considered. That is a most sensible suggestion as to the proper way of dealing with the matter. The House of Commons could not be expected to deal with a matter of this size without knowing the details of the particular case. I have had very great experience in local government work. I have been on council work for many years, and I have seen many changes. I have known many occasions when the increasement of a borough has taken place, and I say, without fear of contradiction, that in every case where a borough has extended its boundaries and has taken in outer districts, the change has been to the advantage of the outer district.


Oh, no.


I grant that in some cases it may have appeared that they had to pay rather more rates, but in most cases they had the great advantage of all the things that had been developed in the boroughs. I know this district very well. Part of my life I lived in Halifax, and I know Hipperholme and the other districts. It is wrong for the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy) to say that there is a dividing line between Halifax and Hipperholme, because one practically runs into the other.


Will the hon. Member excuse me? May I ask him to look at the map?


I have no need to look at the map, because I know every yard of the district. I know there is the dividing line of the railway, but that is the only one. As the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Gledhill) knows, the people intermix with each other. In local government the county borough has greater facilities for providing such services as gas, water, electricity, and even education. The time is coming when there will be no alternative to the taking in by the larger boroughs of the various districts around them, and those districts will thereby get greater advantages. I feel that the proper course is that this Bill should go to a Committee, where the whole question can be gone into, each item being taken on its merits; and I have no doubt that from that procedure a good result will follow.

8.26 p.m.


I am not opposed to the legitimate aspirations of Halifax or any other district in regard to extensions where these are necessary, but I want to protest—and here I must be very careful, because I am speaking against the opinion expressed by the Chairman of Ways and Means—against the custom which is growing up of claiming that a Bill which comes before this House must of necessity be sent to a Committee. In my opinion no Bill should be sent to a Committee unless those who support the Bill have carried out the duty of making a reasonable case for it on the Floor of the House. None of the arguments which have been put forward satisfies me that there is any real reason why this Bill should go to a Committee, and I should like to put forward what is in my opinion a very strong and valid reason why it should not, namely, the expense which will be thrown upon the county council in opposing the Bill in Committee.


I must correct the hon. Member with regard to a matter of fact. The Bill has already been read a Second time, and therefore as a matter of course will go to a Committee. All that we are discussing now is whether or not there shall be a certain Instruction to the Committee.


With all due respect, I understood that it had been said with very great authority that, if this Instruction were carried, it would prevent the Bill from going to a Committee and it is for that reason that I am supporting the Instruction. Therefore, I hope I am entitled to refer to the question of expense, which to my mind is very important. In such a case as this the county council stands no chance whatever of winning. It either stands to lose the area the transfer of which is applied for, or, if the county council retains the area, it is put to the expense of defending itself in an action in which it cannot possibly gain anything. I have an instance in mind in which a borough lost its case in this House, though the decision was reversed in another place, and the expense to which the county council was put in defending its rights amounted to a rate of no less than 1s. 8d. in the £.


They have to get the Bill passed in both Houses. It is of no effect if they get it in one House only.


I said that it was granted by a Committee of this House, but that was not supported in another place; but nevertheless they had all the expense of opposing. While I believe that these authorities should have extensions which are necessary, I am of opinion that under the Act of 1929 they have full opportunities of obtaining their rights and needs. We have been told to-day that consideration is now being given in the districts concerned to the question of necessary extensions under the Act of 1929, but I believe that the local authority and the residents in the area should have full opportunities of expressing their views either for or against the proposal. I understand that there is great opposition from those resident in the areas which it is proposed to transfer, but the Act of 1929 gives them the opportunity of appearing and expressing their views, and I think that that is the proper course to pursue. One hon. Member has said that the West Riding was split from top to bottom, but that is hardly an argument for making further splits. Possibly he thinks that some other division, say crosswise, might be of advantage.

It has been said that Halifax is now providing certain facilities, such as gas, water and transport, for these areas, but it is not providing them free. I have no doubt that the areas availing themselves of these services are being asked to pay adequately for them, and that is no argument for taking in the area. After all, it is an advantage to the undertakings in Halifax to have the custom of these other people, and I do not think that Halifax is justified in wishing to have it both ways. As I have said, I hope that the passing of this Instruction will have the effect of preventing the Bill from going to a Committee, and saving the county council the unnecessary expense of opposition in Committee. I believe that the right thing to do is to proceed under the Act of 1929.

8.33 p.m.


Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), I hope that the Instruction will not have the effect of preventing the Bill from going to a Committee. I have no doubt that my hon. Friends who have moved and supported the Instruction put to the House the whole case that they could in its favour, but it appeared to me that the case which they made indicated that it was essential that the Bill should go to a Committee. It often happens in this House that a Bill has to be considered which offers some new departure in local legislation, and I have many times joined with my hon. Friend who moved this Instruction in asking the House to refuse to give facilities for Bills presented by local authorities. One may find that a Bill contains some unusual proposal, some attempt to extend municipal trading or local authority interference in a way which is open to the gravest criticism, and in such a case the House may well say that the matter is not one that should be dealt with by local legislation, but that, if it is dealt with at all, it should be discussed under the microscopic eye of this House as a matter of national application. No such observation can apply to the present Bill, which seems to be an ordinary Measure seeking the ordinary useful objects of municipal extension. It seeks to take in certain urban districts, all of which adjoin the Borough of Halifax, and every one of which, I believe, is within the ecclesiastical parish of Halifax.


Hipperholme does not adjoin.


It does not adjoin, but, if there is any dividing line between Hipperholme and Halifax, Hipperholme, just the same as any of the other areas sought to be taken in by Halifax, is within the ecclesiastical parish of Halifax. Some 16 days were occupied in Committee in another place in the consideration of the Bill, and all interested parties were heard. I think the position really is that the administration of the West Riding of Yorkshire is now the subject of review by the county council under the appropriate section of the Local Government Act, 1929, which provides that there shall be amalgamation where possible in, the general interest and, giving full regard to that, I should have thought that in this case it is most imperative that Halifax and the surroundings should be brought within some convenient and permanent local government boundary with some appropriate centre for effecting efficient administration. I should have thought that it is clear that the position of Halifax is one which justifies the closest scrutiny in the proper place upstairs. The Bill, as I read it, seeks to incorporate within the Borough of Halifax a number of communities whose interests seem identical with those of Halifax, who are dependent on and who even to-day share the various services supplied by the borough and who enjoy to the full the whole of the amenities which Halifax has provided.

I fail to see how in those circumstances the House can say, not that the Bill is right or wrong, but that it is not a matter which should be scrutinised by the proper Committee upstairs. We cannot as a body consider what the amenities are. Those are essentially matters to be considered by the Committee upstairs. I think that is the proper place to consider evidence of the conveniences, the amenities and the advantages, and I hope hon. Members will realise that in Clause 59 there is the usual provision for differential rating. I should have thought that this House is and must be lacking in material on which it can form a view as to the question of differential rating. That is a matter that can only be considered upstairs, where all the interests can be heard and a semi-official body can go closely into the case made by Halifax and the objections, if any, of those who do not want to be amalgamated in the larger body. Since 1929 the general tendency has been to amalgamate where possible and to give a general centralisation and a general larger administration of all public conveniences for the benefit of a larger public generally. It makes for individual betterment and for parochial betterment. I hope the House will do no such thing as to say that this is a Bill which shall not even be considered by the Committee upstairs. We must, of course, be guided by the observations of the Chairman of Ways and Means, and I think the House can come to one opinion only, that this is essentially a Bill coming within the scope of the machinery provided by the House previously for the consideration upstairs of Bills seeking the purpose that this Bill seeks.

8.40 p.m.


We as a party do not desire to take up any position in favour of one or other of two very excellent local authorities. We feel that it would be wise for the House to follow the advice, with which you, Sir, would also no doubt agree, of the Chairman of Ways and Means. If I may say a word from my own point of view, I have listened to the arguments that have been put forward, and I am certain that I am not in a position to make up my mind as a result of hearing those arguments. As to the 580 members who are not present to listen to those arguments, I hesitate to think what they might do if they approached the portals and had to decide into which Lobby they would go. It really would be impossible if people who had not attended the Debate at all were to be asked to decide now as to whether or not one or other of these local authorities should have certain rights.

Before I came into the House I had considerable experience before Committees upstairs in dealing with matters of this kind, and I know from my experience what a very patient hearing those Committees give to these matters and what a vast mass of detail has to be gone into before any one can really arrive at a sound and proper decision. I have heard to-day every argument with which I was so thoroughly familiar in those days about the various incidents which weigh on the one side or the other, each one of which is required to be carefully sifted and analysed to see what weight should be given to it in the eventual decision. I am sure we are not in a position this evening to arrive at that just decision on the matter which I know every Member of the House would desire to be given. Therefore, I beg that the House will allow the matter to go to a Committee where the rival merits of the two sides can be thoroughly sifted by a competent body whose decision will eventually come before us for review.

8.43 p.m.


I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that this is the only opportunity that a representative of the electors concerned has to put forward the views of those electors in the matter of a private Bill which is likely, if proceeded with and passed, to affect very greatly their private lives. Therefore, I was especially glad to hear the Chairman of Ways and Means say that he had no quarrel at all—which I understood to mean a blessing—with the idea of raising on the Floor of the House, as we have done, this Instruction to the Committee. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Lyons) said it was a perfectly ordinary Bill brought up in a perfectly ordinary way and should be treated in the perfectly ordinary manner of sending it upstairs. I agree that it is a perfectly ordinary Bill introduced in a perfectly ordinary way, but not at a perfectly ordinary time, because the time has been selected when, under instructions from this House by Act of Parliament, there is at present going on examination of the whole matter on lines which this House has laid down, and the Bill, if passed into law, will materially upset the examination that is going on, and indeed has now held it up. I should like to refer to the statements which the Halifax Corporation put out on behalf of the Bill, because in Clause 4 they have, in my opinion, let the cat out of the bag. They say that the justification for the promotion of this Bill is that local government administration is now subject to review by the county council under the terms of the Local Government Act, 1929, and they go on to say—and I will paraphrase it—that before such review is completed it is imperative that we should grab hold of every bit we can, because after it is settled we shall have no more chance. If those words are read, that is the legitimate conclusion to draw. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is your way of putting it."]

I wish to refer more specifically to the views of the constituents in my division of Sowerby. If this Bill passes, at least a quarter to a third of the division will pass under the jurisdiction of Halifax. The two sections which they wish to take may be divided into the Luddenden Foot and Midgley districts on the one hand, and Sowerby, which is largely Sowerby Bridge, on the other. With regard to Luddenden Foot and Midgley, the local councils concerned decided that they did not with to go into Halifax. They decided, on the other hand, that they wished to go into the scheme for making Calder Valley an urban district authority, which was a scheme put forward by the county council. Those urban district councils, not content with making up their own minds, thought it their duty to consult their and my electors.

I would remind the House that some time ago—I think it was on the Dominions Office Vote—we discussed the future of certain protectorates in South Africa, and an aide memoire was presented to the House by the Dominions Secretary on the subject; and one of the clauses mentioned in the aide memoire which was agreed to by every Member of the House was that before these protectorates were handed over to the jurisdiction of the Union of South Africa the wishes of the natives should be consulted. The wishes of my constituents should also be consulted, and allowed to have weight in this matter. Therefore, because the local council thought the same they carried out a ballot, and the figures of that ballot were to the effect that 92 per cent. of the electors were against going into Halifax, and, on the other hand, over 80 per cent. were in favour of joining up in the scheme put forward by the county council for making an urban district area of the Calder Valley. One of the most urgent needs of our time is that democracy should flourish in this country and should certainly not be thwarted by any act of ours in this House. Here is the democratic wish of these people given in no uncertain terms and it should carry paramount weight over any other argument that might be put up against it.

I will now turn to the larger area of Sowerby, which is mainly the town of Sowerby Bridge, and two smaller townships round it. The Council of Sowerby Bridge, the late council, felt it their duty without any mandate from the people, because the matter had never been discussed before, to pass a Resolution agreeing to go in to Halifax. The ratepayers and electors were incensed at this and asked for a ballot. The urban district council said that they could not conduct a ballot as their clerk had instructed them that they might be surcharged if they held a ballot, although such ballots have been held in almost every area in Great Britain. So the ratepayers called a meeting—it was largely attended—and elected a committee of their own, upon which Conservatives, Liberals and Labour were represented, to show that there was no political bias, and proceeded to conduct a ballot themselves. It was a postcard ballot carried out under conditions which I have gone into, and which, I think, are accepted by everybody as being perfectly fair. They obtained something like an 80 per cent. return of votes by the electors, and an 82 per cent. majority against going in with Halifax. Eighteen per cent. of the population voted in favour of going into Halifax, and 82 per cent. of those who voted voted against going into Halifax. Moreover, this was remarkably confirmed, more strongly confirmed even than by the ballot, by events which took place shortly afterwards. The local elections took place, and it was found that the electors were prepared to throw over their normal party allegiances and to vote for people and parties for whom they were not in the habit of voting in order to oppose those who had been on the council and had voted for handing Sowerby over to Halifax. In every case a marked change appeared in the figures of the poll of those councillors who were standing again and who had voted either for or against going in with Halifax.

The conclusion was perfectly obvious. As far as my electors are concerned—and it is the same with regard to the electors of my hon. Friend tire Member for Elland (Mr. Levy)—they do not want to go to Halifax. They would rather stay away. The overwhelming majority voted against going into Halifax, and it would be a negation of the principles of a democratic country if they were forced against their will to go into Halifax. It has never been pretended that my electors will gain anything by going in with Halifax. I am not arguing that Halifax will not gain a great deal by having my area passed over to them. These are low-rated, efficiently run, with a small debt, as against a large debt in the case of Halifax. Notably in respect of sanatoria, clinics and hospital work my area, coming under the West Riding County Council, has much more efficient services than Halifax, a smaller area than the West Riding, can possibly supply. Our education, primary and secondary, with steps and scholarships leading up to the universities, is such that no child in those areas, provided he has the necessary knowledge or the ability to acquire knowledge, is debarred from ascending to the university. There is no possible doubt as to the efficiency of the present system under which those areas live. Therefore, I would respectfully state that to turn them over to Halifax and to go so contrary to the declared wishes of the people would not be the action of the democratic State on which we pride ourselves, but would rather be the action of a unitarian or utilitarian State, such as Italy, Germany or Russia, which we affect or pretend in this House and in this country to despise.

The advice which the Chairman of Ways and Means gave to us in the early stages will no doubt be listened to with sympathy by my hon. Friend the Member for Elland to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for combining with me in raising on the Floor of the House these important considerations. I have no doubt that if he decides to follow that advice, in the Committee upstairs due weight will be given to the overwhelmingly important considerations that have been put forward to-night, and I hope that my electors and my people in Yorkshire whom I have the honour to represent here will not find their wishes at the end of the proceedings flouted, as they undoubtedly will be if Halifax gets its way.

8.56 p.m.


I am sure that the Committee upstairs if we withdraw this Motion, which course appears to be the sense of the House, will give due consideration to the speeches that have been made. I sincerely hope that we shall get a fair and square deal, and that unless the weight of evidence is overwhelming in favour of Halifax, these areas will be allowed to stay where they are and where they want to be, for local government purposes, and that is in the West Riding of Yorkshire. In view of what was said by the Chairman of Ways and Means, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


Does the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale) desire to move his Instruction?


No, Sir.


There is another Instruction on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy). It is my duty to inform the hon. Member that that Instruction is out of order, the reason being that the adoption of the course suggested in the Instruction would result in a non-compliance with the Standing Orders of the House.