HC Deb 22 July 1958 vol 592 cc357-9

Lords Amendment: In page 18, line 11, after "then" insert ", either—(a)."

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Bevins

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Perhaps it would be convenient to the House to discuss with this Amendment the series of other Amendments dealing with the same point, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

When the Bill was before the House at an earlier stage its drafting seemed to allow only for the local government commissions or for a county council producing proposals for changes of one kind or another. This Amendment and those which go with it are intended to clarify the position which may arise where the commission or a county council decides against making any proposals at all for changes in the area which it has reviewed. It may be that this will not happen or, if it does, that it will happen very seldom, but, nevertheless, we thought it ought to be clearly provided for.

The Amendments make it clear that where no proposals at all are made, then the local authorities and the public are informed of this, just as they are informed of proposals which are made, and both the local authorities and the public are in a position to see the report of the reviewing body whether it be the commission or county council.

If they are hostile to the absence of proposals, they will be able to make complaints to the Minister, and the Minister will then have to decide whether he uses his powers under Clause 24 of the Bill, enabling him to initiate proposals himself or, in the case of a review, which has been undertaken by the county council, to put in the appropriate local government commission under Clause 30 to do the review all over again in the place of the county council.

Hon. Members will remember that after the stage of consultation the Commission is obliged to circulate its draft proposals, to consider any representations which it may receive and then to confer with the interested local authorities. These Amendments apply this same procedure where the commission is not making any proposals at all. In such a case they must none the less, give the local authority the chance to persuade them that something ought to be done. In other words, we are making it quite clear that the same procedure is to apply where no proposals are made as applies in cases where proposals are made.

I hope that the explanation which I have given to the House is a clear one, because the purpose of this group of Amendments is simply to clarify the position where a little doubt may perhaps have existed before.

Mr. Mitchison

These Amendments seem to me to make a change in the Bill as drafted. I would not expect there to be many cases where a review is made by the Commission. I am very glad to see that they also extend to the cases of a county review, because the history of county reviews, as it appeared in the Government's own White Paper and as we told the Government in Committee, shows that the county councils are occasionally apt to be inert over county reviews and it is as well, if they come to no conclusion, that it should be quite clear there are means of putting the commission in to do the job again and more thoroughly. There is sometimes an opportunity for local log rolling on county reviews, and I do not believe that any of us, not even the Government, really want it to happen.

Question put and agreed to.

Further Lords Amendments agreed to: In page 18, line 13, leave out "specifying" and insert: or (b) if the Commission have not formed the opinion that there are changes which are desirable in the interests of effective and convenient local government, shall notify the said authorities and bodies that they have no draft proposals to put forward, and in either case shall specify".

In line 14, after "proposals" insert: or, as the case may be, as to the desirability of proposals being put forward by the Commission

In line 19, at end insert "if any".

In line 21, leave out "preparation of draft proposals" and insert: action taken by the Commission under subsection (3) of this section

In line 40, at end insert: (c) if the Commission notify local authorities that they have no draft proposals to put forward, the Commission shall give public notice thereof.