§ Mr. Symonds
I beg to move, in page 5, line 24, at the end, to insert:Where, on the thirtieth day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, the population of a non-county borough, as estimated by the Registrar General, exceeded one half of the population of the administrative county comprising the borough as so estimated, the provisions of this Act shall apply to the borough as if it were a county borough, and references in this Act to county boroughs and to non-county boroughs shall be construed accordingly.When my right hon. Friend reads the wording of this Amendment I hope he will recognise his own child, because it is exactly the same as the wording of Section 17 (1) of the Police Act, which was inserted by my right hon. Friend in that Act in 1946. The provision applies only to two non-county boroughs in the country. It is so drawn up that no others can qualify under this Clause. These two are Peterborough and Cambridge. Both of these non-county boroughs happen to be greater in population than the balance of the counties in which they are situated, so that were they, as non-county boroughs, to surrender their powers to the county council, it would mean that the greater authority was being absorbed in the smaller. During the progress of the Police Act, my right hon. Friend recognised this point and 'allowed for it. In Standing Committee he used these words, speaking of Cambridge and Peterborough:In those two cases I am making special arrangements to deal with the peculiar position presented by the fact that at the moment the borough has more than half the population of the county."—[Standing Committee B, 24th January, 1946; c. 706.]If, in the Police Act, it was found desirable to make special provision when this kind of situation occurred, I hope that my right hon. Friend will realise the justice of making a similar provision now.
I hope that he will not argue in relation to Cambridge that the Police Act is not 1369 an exact parallel. I hope that he will not bring in the University, and say that special arrangements were made in regard to Cambridge in the Police Act because of the existence of a large undergraduate population with special disciplinary arrangements. The case made on the Police Act, which I am repeating here, is embodied in Clause 17 (1) of the Act, and of course Peterborough qualifies as well. There is no university at Peterborough, and the essential part of the case is that the non-county borough is greater than the rest of its county.
There may be a certain amount of argument as to the exact relative figures. The last official ones we had are the Registrar General's estimate in June, 1939, which gave the borough a superiority of several thousands. Whatever the figures are now, there is another vital factor, which is that even now the borough is paying about two-thirds of the county rate. The changes promulgated in this Bill, if not amended, would mean that the authority paying two-thirds of another authority's rates would surrender completely all its powers to that other authority with regard to this service. For years past the borough of Cambridge has "fire serviced" the county, so to speak, and there has never been any question of the county or the county districts relying on their own resources.
If my right hon. Friend asks whether, if the borough is given the equivalent of county borough status, the balance of the county will be able to provide such services for itself, my reply is that that is not the suggestion at all. The suggestion is the fairly obvious one that there should be a combination scheme of some kind, as there was under the Police Act, so that the two authorities, roughly equal in numbers, should be given representation on that authority more in proportion to their strength, and it should not be the case of the larger authority disappearing inside the smaller. During the Third Reading Debate on the Police Act, my right hon. Friend said that he had had to see the representatives of the borough and of the county separately, because he understood that had they been assembled in one room it would have required more than the combined police authority to keep the peace.
§ Mr. Symonds
There must be some basis for that feeling. I hope that my right hon. Friend realises the feeling inside that non-county borough, which, larger in numbers and paying two-thirds of the county rate, steadily sees its powers passing one by one to that county, and out of its own control.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
Will not that position be considered under the new proposals now being considered in relation to the redistribution of local government boundaries?
§ Mr. Symonds
The whole question at local government boundaries in that area is very much in the melting pot. There are claims and counter-claims from all sides, and what the final decision will be one cannot say. The Amendment which I am moving would preserve some sort of balance between the powers of these respective authorities, and would prevent this anomalous situation of the larger surrendering its powers to the smaller. The principle has already been accepted in regard to the police, and I very much hope that my right hon. Friend will see, his way to accept the same arrangement in regard to the fire service.
§ Mr. Ede
It is true that I recognise the countenance of this child. It is a twin, because I was responsible also for inserting the same words in the Education Act. 1944. Hon. Members may have seen that yesterday a gentleman in Haifa was informed that his wife had given birth to quadruplets, and he said that he could not stand this mass production, he could not afford such luxuries. I have consented to twins, but I jib at triplets. Let us face the fact that the fire service is a very different one from the police in its administration. My hon. Friend misstates the situation. Cambridge borough is a part of the county of Cambridge. It is a non-county borough. This is not the case of the lesser absorbing the greater. It is the fact that Cambridge is not a fire authority at the moment, and in the new layout of the fire services we have to consider what is the best arrangement for the area. My hon. Friend said that there never has been a, fire station anywhere in the county of Cambridge outside the non - county borough of Cambridge. That is the place where most of the fires, especially those deliberately started, have occurred. Forty 1371 years ago I took some part in starting one or two. It is too long ago now for me to be brought up for them—and other people were caught.
Outside the non-county borough, there are only eight part-time stations, even under the National Fire Service. It is clear that while the boundaries remain as they are, the county of Cambridge must get its fire service from the non-county borough. Adequate services from the eight part-time stations, or such other number as the Cambridge County Council choose to have, must be organised from the centre of Cambridge. This Bill differs in its local government provision from either the Education Act or the Police Act. I will discuss it on the assumption that the New Clause, (Fire brigade committees in counties), which I have put on the Order Paper will be adopted. I propose there, in order to meet this and similar situations, that the county council shall have a majority on the fire brigade committee. On the Cambridge County Council there is a substantial number of members representing the borough. It is safe to assume that some at least of those members will get on to the fire brigade committee. The county district councils, including the non-county borough of Cambridge, will have the right of appointing certain persons to sit on the fire brigade committees. Therefore, I think 'it is fairly safe to say that a very substantial proportion of the fire brigade committees will consist either of representatives of Cambridge borough on the county council—they will get on by appointment by the county council—or of representatives of this large non-county borough which has more than half the population of the whole county.
In that way, I think they should get quite adequate and sufficient representation on the committee which will be responsible for organising the fire brigade. That is not the position under the Police Act where, had the ordinary law applied to Cambridge, a very different situation would have arisen and the Cambridge town council would have had no right to appoint any member to sit on the police authority for the county. I am disappointed at the very slow rate of progress which has been made under the Police Act. I do not want to say more than that. The very generous arrange- 1372 ments I made in the matter have not proved acceptable to those two authorities—the county council and the non-county borough—and I cannot contemplate leaving the fire service in the same state of suspense.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Symonds
Surely my right hon. Friend recognises that the cause of the delay in the police arrangements is the complete uncertainty in regard to future local government boundaries and the status of the borough in relation to the county?
§ Mr. Ede
Precisely the same excuse could be pleaded if I advanced the non-county borough of Cambridge to county borough status for the purpose of this Bill. Exactly the same argument could be used. One cannot contemplate leaving the county in that position. As a result of the concessions I have made owing to our discussions in Committee, the local government set-up under this Bill is different from the set-up under the other two Measures. When the scheme for the county is prepared, both Cambridge and Peterborough will have the right to make representations to me if they are not satisfied. I say frankly that I could not contemplate having two fire brigades, one for Cambridge non-county borough and one for Cambridge county, one for the City of Peterborough and one for that part of the Soke of Peterborough not within the city boundaries. The county brigade, in both cases, would have no centre from which to work. I could not contemplate allowing such a state of affairs to exist.
I hope my hon. Friend will feel that the new Clause which I have placed on the Order Paper completely alters the local government set-up. It is one which the non-county boroughs, urban and rural districts, and the county have been willing to accept. I think it adequately covers the situation created for the present by the position of Cambridge and Peterborough in boroughs in which they represent more than half the population.
§ Mr. Symonds
I hope my right hon. Friend will make it clear that I did not suggest for one moment that there should be two separate fire authorities. All I suggested was that an arrangement, which had Worked very well, should continue. He has said that for an indefinite period of time the fire brigade must be run from 1373 and be stationed in the borough of Cambridge. If that is so, why not leave its control and management in the hands of those people who, in the past, have run it very effectively?
§ Mr. Ede
Because the county council under this Bill becomes a fire authority and it was not under any previous legislation. The non-county borough of Cambridge is a part of the county of Cambridge, at any rate until local government boundaries are revised. The previous arrangements were not made with the county. They were made with the adjoining rural district councils or, before the Act of 1938, I have no doubt they were made with the parish councils. The situation is entirely altered by the creation of the county council as a fire brigade authority and by the local government arrangements I introduce in the new Clause which is on the Order Paper today.
Mr. Scott-Elliot (Accrington)
I wish to support the Amendment. Indeed, I would like to go a good deal further, because, as my right hon. Friend knows, I feel very strongly about the position of the large non-county boroughs, including the borough of Accrington which I represent. The position of the non-county boroughs is rather anomalous. There are some very small boroughs, and I do not think that they could defend the various powers which they have had in the past. Then there are non-county boroughs like Cambridge, Peterborough and Accrington and certain others. There are not very many of substantial size. Some are as big as perhaps bigger than some of the old county boroughs, and yet they are deprived of their powers altogether by reason of the fact that Government Departments have decided that the units of administration must be purely county councils and county boroughs. I very greatly deplore that, I recognise the Home Secretary's point that fire, police and education services each need very different types of administration. That is, of course, a reasonable point, but I do feel that some consideration should be given to the comparatively small number of non-county boroughs of substantial size, such as Cambridge and Accrington.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
May I ask the Home Secretary one question? He mentioned the non-county borough of Peterborough and the Soke of Peterborough, and said they were in a peculiar position vis-a-vis the county of Northampton.
§ Sir R. Glyn
But the right hon. Gentleman says that the county will be the fire authority in that area.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Gentleman should have been here the other morning when we were discussing Peterborough in relation to cinemas. There is the most extraordinary position in England here, where we have an administrative county smaller even than that of Rutland—the Soke of Peterborough. It is a county area, with a separate county council, and it will become the fire authority. Within that county is the city of Peterborough, which is a non-county borough sending members to sit on the Soke of Peterborough County Council. In that respect, it is exactly the same as Cambridge sending members to sit on the county council of Cambridgeshire. It is a quite distinct local government entity from the administrative county of Northampton, although it is included in the county of Northampton, and generally, is shown in the same colour on the maps of England. Nothing I have said this afternoon applies to Northamptonshire.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but I wanted to be clear that the Soke of Peterborough was being kept as a separate county and was not being merged in Northamptonshire.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.