HC Deb 05 June 1945 vol 411 cc826-8

Save as in this Act provided nothing in this Act shall prejudicially alter or affect the rights, privileges and immunities of any municipal corporation or the operation of any municipal charter.—[Mr. G. Hutchinson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. G. Hutchinson

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

Much has been said in the course of to-night's discussion upon the subject of the charters of the older municipal corporations, and, indeed, of those municipal corporations which are not so old. Those charters are granted by the Crown, and the authorities who receive them attach great importance to the grant of a charter. It would, I think, be a pity, if we were to do anything in this Bill which would prejudice or affect the respect which these authorities have for the powers and privileges which are conferred upon them by their charters. I am sure that is a point of view shared by my right hon. and learned Friend, and I hope very much that he will find it possible to accept the new Clause.

Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)

I hope the Minister will implement what he has said on previous occasions about helping to maintain the charters of these boroughs. I would like to ask one question on a point about which I am not quite clear. In the case of the Boundary Commission deciding that contiguous parishes, forming either a county district or even an urban district, are to be either amalgamated or joined up with a non-county charter borough, whilst this new Clause gives to the existing borough all its own rights and privileges, can it extend those privileges to the new area? I think the Minister said on a previous occasion that the mayor of a borough incorporated in a new area could possibly move about with his mace but it would mean nothing. I do not think it ought to be quite so empty of privilege as that, and if the Minister could give some slight assurance that the old traditions of an ancient charter borough can be brought into the new area as denned by the Boundary Commission, I think it would be all to the benefit of the new area, because it would inherit those traditions and it would feel it was part and parcel of something which had played a great part in history. I know it is wrong to mention anything about one's constituency but one of the charter boroughs there sent two Members to this House for a great many years, and I think that has been done away with as a rotten borough. It is anything but a rotten borough now; it is a very go-ahead borough, and I would like to see its privileges and history extended into the new area for the benefit of all.

Colonel Sir George Courthope (Rye)

In support of this new Clause I would like to know whether it will include the very unusual rights and privileges of places like Rye and Winchelsea, which have all sorts of ancient rights arising from ships that fought the Armada and things of that kind, which, I think, everyone will agree should be preserved. I am not quite clear whether the words "municipal borough" would cover such ancient towns.

Mr. Willink

I can certainly give the assurance for which my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) asked—that the borough will still be the same borough, and that its privileges will be extended with it when it is extended. I can also say, "Yes," to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rye (Sir G. Court hope). There may, of course, be some special privileges—which can come within the phrase "rights, privileges and immunities"—of a municipal corporation, and which certainly will not be invaded by this Bill but will, by this Clause, be preserved. I am happy to accept this Clause in its modified form. The fact that I suggested a slight modification was not due to any hostility; it was merely that there were provisions, such as increasing the population, which went beyond the question of boundaries, which was all that was referred to in the previous drafting.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I am glad that the Minister has been able to accept this Clause. I take it that what he said with regard to the position of a borough was that, from the time the extension comes info effect the burgesses are equally the burgesses of the extended borough and that the rights, privileges and immunities that the ancient corporation enjoyed will be enjoyed by the new corporation except, perhaps, for some charities that may refer to a specific area of the ancient borough.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered; read the Third time, and passed.