HC Deb 29 March 1965 vol 709 cc1337-54

10.4 p.m.

Sir John Hobson (Warwick and Leamington)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Coventry Order 1965 (S.I., 1965, No. 222), dated 12th February, 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be annulled. This is not, I think, on the whole a party matter. I speak from the back benches in order to represent the views of my constituents who are affected, and many others in Rugby and Meriden, who are of all parties.

It is, of course, true that the Minister himself can rely upon the fact that his predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), proposed to make this Order, and that this Order is in accordance with his decision, but, despite the fact that he can rely on a decision of his predecessor, I can rely on the fact that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Meriden (Mr. Rowland), who is one of the supporters of the Government, has put his name to my Motion, and on the fact that very many constituents of mine and of his, of all political parties, object very strongly indeed to the provisions of this Order and the effect which it will have.

Therefore, even if both the present Minister and his predecessor are in agreement about making this Order, very many people who are affected by it, and of all parties, are strongly opposed to it, and object very strongly indeed to it.

I should like to be permitted to say a word of gratitude to the Minister for being here this evening. It is, of course, the fact that Coventry is within the Order and that he is well acquainted with that city, but, despite that fact, I am grateful to him for being in the House this evening to deal with this Motion.

The purpose of the Order is to transfer within the jurisdiction of the City of Coventry about 10,000 people who at present live on the outskirts of Coventry and within the jurisdiction and administration of the County of Warwick. Approximately 5,000 of those persons live within my division of Warwick and Leamington, largely in the area of Fin- ham, and those 10,000 people are, by this Order, to be transferred, as from 1st April, which is two days after to-morrow, into the extended and swollen boundaries of the City of Coventry, and they are, so far as I can make out, to be so transferred without any administrative benefit of any sort or description to the City of Coventry.

It has not been suggested by any evidence in the course of the inquiry, that either the City of Coventry itself or the people who comprise the city will derive any benefit at all from the attachment of this 10,000 people. Nor has there been any evidence at all by anybody who has looked into this Order that, on the balance of administrative advantage, one way or the other, there will be any balance of advantage in favour of the change which is proposed.

It is suggested that this Order bringing this change should be made in the teeth of the unanimous opposition of almost everybody who is affected and certainly of all the local authorities who are affected, all of whom object very strongly to the making of this Order. Therefore, this Order is ignoring local public opinion, ignoring local wishes, and ignoring the views of those who are to be affected by it.

To tell something of the feelings which the Order has aroused in the areas which are affected, 80 percent. of the voters in the area to be attached to Coventry which lies within my division have, by a referendum organised by the local rural district council, expressed their opinion contrary to the intent of this Order. As to the balance of 20 percent., I do not think that it appears whether they did not vote, or could not be found, or whether they were, in fact, against the Order, but I certainly, since this proposal was first mooted, since it was first put forward on behalf of the City of Coventry, and long before the inspector held his inquiry, received the most strong and violent representations against it from everybody with whom I discussed it.

Ever since then I have had loud and prolonged protests from all those who are affected, and from all the local authorities affected. Within the area that is affected I have not heard one single voice raised in favour of this proposed alteration of the boundary. The only one that I know of, even in relation to Coventry itself, is the city council and its officials. At the time of the inquiry that was held within Coventry and the area there was a public meeting to discuss and to allow the expression of opinion by local residents. The meeting, which was held in the centre of Coventry was packed. Every person who spoke was against these proposals. Not one voice was raised in favour of them, and the inspector reported that the meeting was intensely hostile to this proposed extension.

There cannot be the slightest doubt that there is the strongest objection from almost everybody who is affected by this Order, and in that they are almost unanimous. Therefore, one has to see what is the justification for this overriding of local opinion in the area. Local opinion has always been regarded, and I am sure that it is by the Minister, as a matter of the greatest importance. The right hon. Gentleman"s predecessor said that this was one of the most important factors in the consideration of a Minister as to what should be done.

Local opinion should not be overridden except for the very strongest reasons, and I am sure that the Minister agrees with that principle. While the Act itself and the Regulations lay down a series of factors which have to be considered, one of them certainly is local opinion, and it is only if the other factors point strongly in an opposite direction that local opinion should be overridden.

Apart from local opinion, local authority opinion is equally firm against the Order, and equally unanimous. First, all the parish councils are against it. Secondly, the Warwickshire Association of Parish Councils is against it. Thirdly, Warwick R.D.C. and Meriden R.D.C. are both strongly against it. The Order will have a disastrous effect on Warwick R.D.C."s viability and capacity to carry on efficient local government until a redrawing of the district boundaries in Warwickshire can be carried out. Warwick R.D.C. is to lose 20 percent. of its population, and 36 percent. of its rateable value by the effect of this Order. Until some alteration can be made in the Warwick R.D.C. boundaries, the Order will not produce an efficient unit of local government. The Warwickshire County Council itself is also, and has been throughout, opposed to this Order. It is proud of the way in which it has administered the area, and it knows of no complaints about the way in which the areas that it is to lose have been administered.

Therefore, except on the principle that all big towns ought to extend over the area of their adjacent built-up areas, there is no justification at all for this Order. In my submission, the House ought to call a halt to the process whereby, merely because an area adjacent to a big town has become more or less extensively built up, the boundaries of the administration of the county borough should therefore be extended to cover that housing area.

There is no administrative advantage, and there never has pretended to be any, in support of this Order. The Minister will remember that a lot of evidence was given on this point at the inquiry, and that the inspector who held the inquiry reported that he was unable to come to any conclusion on whether, on the balance of advantage, this Order ought or ought not to be made. That was his report after listening to a great deal of evidence. We therefore have a situation in which, after the fullest inquiry, the inspector says that there is no conclusion to which he can come on whether there is any balance of advantage in making this Order.

Both the local authorities and the private residents are entirely satisfied with the service which they at present receive from both the county and the rural district councils. Most of them consider those services to be considerably superior to the services which they are likely to receive when they have been incorporated into the city of Coventry.

In his decision letter, the Minister"s predecessor said, I think, that it would be of benefit to the City of Coventry for this change to take place, but there was no evidence to that effect during the inquiry. It certainly was not a topic upon which the inspector either deliberated or decided. It was a pure inference, unsupported by any evidence. As I have already said, I cannot believe that it makes any difference one way or the other to the City of Coventry whether these 10,000 people are incorporated into its boundaries or not. Therefore, on the basis of an assumed but unproven benefit to the city, and without any balance of advantage either way—putting it at its lowest—this Order intends to override the express and strong view of the people who are affected by it.

I would remind the Minister that there was a case in the last Parliament, when the County of Rutland was affected. There was very strong local feeling in that case. There were strong administrative reasons for the County of Rutland being abolished, but the previous Government at any rate allowed, and took into account, and made it their decision upon the basis of, the very strongly held wishes of the people of Rutland, despite the administrative advantages which were likely to flow from incorporating the county into some other local government area. Here, we have no such situation. Here, we have no balance of advantage, no proven benefit to the City of Coventry and the strongest possible objection from everybody concerned with the making of this Order.

I summarise—only on behalf of my own constituents; I believe that other hon. Gentlemen wish to speak about their constituents—the strong objections and the basis of the objections which there are from those whom it is suggested should be incorporated into the City of Coventry. First, the local residents who now live outside the city do not want to be subject to what they regard as a spendthrift and doctrinaire city council. Secondly, they do not want to lose elected representatives who look after them very well at the moment. For instance, in Finham, they have five parish councillors, two representatives on the rural district council and one county councillor. That is eight elected representatives representing that area and they will exchange that for a part in three city councillors whom they will elect annually, together with a large part of the existing City of Coventry, consisting of the wards into which they have now been incorporated. Therefore, they lose substantially, on elected representation which they now enjoy, as a result of this Order.

Thirdly, they do not want to exchange the excellent services which they at present receive from the Warwickshire County Council for the arrangements which at present exist in the city. I recognise the difficulties of the city, and I do not want to make comparisons which are odious, but matters like the collection of dustbins, the provision of a local district nurse and a local midwife will be radically altered by having the centralised system which is at present provided in the centre of the city, compared to the local service which exists in the actual area of Finham as it is at present constituted. These and other services are now provided on a local basis in a local community, but will be provided as part of the much wider system, and this the residents do not wish to have.

Fourthly, they do not wish to exchange the excellent Warwickshire high schools and grammar schools for the overcrowded primary schools of Coventry and the prospect of their children going later into comprehensive schools. This is a matter which we may argue. This is a matter upon which we may think they are wrong—although I think that they are right. Many of the residents went to live outside the boundaries of Coventry so that they should enjoy the benefits of the educational system of the County of Warwick. They tried to escape from the boundaries of Coventry for that very reason, but now find themselves thrust back into the area from which they tried to escape. Finally, they do not want to pay a considerably higher rate for inferior services from a city council which they think is antagonistic to their point of view and their way of life.

These are the arguments upon which I say that this Order ought not to be allowed to operate. But if the Minister and the House are not prepared to accept that request, there is the further point that this Order ought not to come into operation as quickly as it is laid, namely, the day after tomorrow. The rearrangements of the urban districts and rural districts of the County of Warwick are due to come into operation on 1st April, 1967. They could not take their decisions within the county on the nature and shape of their own internal administrative boundaries until they knew for certain the Minister"s final decision on the way in which these boundaries are to be ordered.

The district councils were asked for their comments on this draft Order on 31st December last. That was when they were first approached and asked for their comments. They were given less than three weeks in which to make their comments on an exceedingly complicated administrative alteration, because they were asked for their comments by 20th January, within three weeks of the Order being placed in their hands. The Order was made on 12th February and it was laid on 19th February. It was not available for several days. It came into operation on 22nd February. The time for praying against it expires on 30th March, which is tomorrow, and it is due finally to come into operation on the day after that.

The Minister knows very well that this is a very complicated and elaborate administrative arrangement. Much remains to be done. I have been in touch with the local authorities today about the details of the transfer of staff, and some problems have already arisen about the transfer of mortgages for schoolmasters; contributions are given by the county council and the question arises whether this will be continued by the city council.

Many details of this kind remain to be completed. The whole of the extract from the planning register in respect of the transferred areas remains to be done. The adjustment of the improvement grants remains to be made. The financial adjustments between the two authorities remain to be made. These may be small matters, but an enormous amount of work has been pressed on the local authorities already, and these additional details still require to be done. The readjustment of the boundaries which will be necessary within the County of Warwick cannot be brought into operation until 1st April, 1967, and we shall have a lag of at least two years between this Order operating and the new adjustments of the district boundaries within Warwickshire being ordered.

In addition, we shall have the odd situation of the city, or parts of it, being represented by five different Members of Parliament. I am sure that the Minister realises that I shall become one of the City of Coventry"s Members of Parliament. This might be a matter which, he might think, should be postponed for a little while until the electoral revisions take account of the alteration of the boundaries.

Taking the problem as a whole, and looking at it very much more broadly, this Order will do nothing to increase the effectiveness or convenience of local government, which is the statutory requirement which we are considering. It will not make the slightest difference to the City of Coventry whether it does or does not have these added areas.

Most of the inhabitants of the added areas think that their services will be depreciated and less beneficial as a result of the transfer. Certainly, the inspector who inquired into the matter came to the conclusion that there was no balance of advantage in favour of the Order. Therefore, one is left with informed local opinion which should only be overridden for good reason. It is unanimously against the Order and there is no good reason why that local opinion should be overridden.

10.26 p.m.

Mr. Christopher Rowland (Meriden)

I speak on this matter in an even less politically partisan spirit than the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson). The fact that we both speak in support of the Prayer is an index of the non-partisan nature of the objections which have been lodged in our differing constituencies, both of which are affected by the Order.

I recognise, also, that it is a bipartisan problem from the other side, because the Minister has in many ways only inherited a decision made by his predecessor. All that he has done is to implement it. I speak on behalf of members of all parties and no party in the Meriden Rural District Council. This is certainly the first, and it may be the last, time that I shall have an opportunity to express their protests and the protest of many constituents to the Order, because it is to be implemented in two days" time.

The opposition to the Order is of long standing. It goes back at least six years, when the proposal was first mooted. During this time there has been no deviation whatsoever by any organisation or body of opinion within the Meriden rural district to the implementation of the Order. Its inevitability has not reconciled my constituents to it nor has it abated their opposition. At the very beginning of this campaign, long before I was elected the hon. Member for this constituency, large public meetings were held in some of the villages affected. In May, 1960, a petition was lodged and in March, 1962, the inspector examining the subject said in his report: It is clear that there is a strong objection locally to the proposals". Knowing the temperate language used by inspectors, that was a striking statement. It certainly made it clear that local objection to the proposals was indeed strong. When one bears in mind that it is laid down in matters of this nature that the wishes of people are one of the most important considerations, one sees that the inspector"s statement should have been weighed more heavily.

Not only individual constituents and residents have objected to the Order. Every organised body of opinion has done likewise, ranging from the Warwickshire County Council downwards, including the Warwickshire Association of Parish Councils, the Keresley Parish Council, the Eastern Green Residents" Association, which is part of the Allesley parish, which is also affected, and even organisations like the Eastern Green Young Wives.

All these people, who have chosen to live in the Meriden rural district, are worried—rightly or wrongly; that is not the issue before us tonight—about being incorporated in Coventry. They are worried on the grounds of education and about the possibility of higher rates. They are satisfied so far with the education provided in Warwickshire and with the services, such as the library and refuse services. It was not proved to them at the public inquiry that there is any advantage to them in going into Coventry. There has been no plea from anybody to go into Coventry. The inspector himself came to no conclusion at all; he threw up his hands on this issue of the balance of advantage as between going into Coventry and staying out.

It is no part of my case to criticise the City of Coventry, of which the Minister is himself a distinguished parliamentary representative, and part of which I shall also, like the right hon. and learned Gentleman, represent if this Order stands. I prefer to dwell mainly on the opposition that has been expressed by the Meriden Rural District Council in respect of the way in which this Order will affect it.

The Council has opposed this Order and this proposal with tenacity and con- viction for years past, because it presents the council with very great problems as and when it is implemented. The rural district is not only one of the largest and most important in the country; it may well claim to be the most important in the country in the one respect that it has total responsibility for maintaining the green belt between the Birmingham conurbation and the City of Coventry.

It is not unfair to say, and I am sure that the Minister will agree, that it has been successful in doing this partly because it is an effective and viable unit of administration. I will not pretend that after the Order has gone through it will not still be an effective and viable unit. It will lose 10 percent. of its population and 6 percent. of its rates, but it will survive, and its problems are not as acute as those presented to the Warwick Rural District Council.

I would, however, draw the Minister"s attention to one factor. The Local Government Commission, when discussing whether or not part of the Birmingham conurbation should be taken out of the Meriden rural district and placed under the Birmingham City authorities, said that …The decisive consideration is that it is important to have a strong rural district council assisting the county to control the green belt area between Birmingham and Coventry. I believe that the Commission was right, and it is a pity that the Commission and in turn the Ministry, should have gone against that excellent advice when dealing with the smaller Coventry conurbation.

I cannot accept that big cities, whether Birmingham or Coventry, can look after the green belt better than can the rural districts that lie between them; but the rural district councils can only act effectively if they have the resources to do so. This Order will deprive the Meriden Rural District Council of a proportion of its resources. It may well be that, in the long term, local government reorganisation and regional government will resolve this problem in a different manner, but there seems little prospect of that in the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, we have to face the problem of who can best preserve the green belt—the big cities, naturally voracious of land for expanding populations, or the rural districts lying between them. I have no doubt at all that the rural districts can do the job best.

The effect of the Order is to weaken the Meriden Rural District Council in various respects. It will weaken it in its rateable value. The product of a ld. rate this year will go down from £10,700 to £10,365. It is true that there will be a saving in services estimated at £8,000 a year, but I understand that this will be more than offset by a reduction in the rate deficiency grant of £16,000.

Perhaps most important of all, for rural districts, this kind of decision puts a premium on building in the middle of their green belts rather than on their peripheries, because the result of building on the periphery of the green belt—which takes it right up close to the expanding city—is that sooner or later that city will demand to have that building incorporated within its own community. So, in the long run, this kind of decision could erode the green belt at its heart, because only in this way can rural districts protect the rateable value arising from development.

There is one other matter in respect of housing which I would like to mention, and that is that under this proposal 231 council houses belonging to the rural district will be absorbed into the City of Coventry. The problems that this poses are many. First, these council houses were built at a period of lower costs. Therefore, they have had the effect of moderating any rise in rents in the rural district, but we have recently had the decision taken in this rural district of a rent rise of 30 percent. this year.

Many factors are involved, but one is the fact that 231 houses built at a time of lower costs have been taken out of the rural district. In fact, this represents 13 percent. of the total housing pool open to the rural district. Of course, this 13 percent. cannot easily be replaced, because by definition it is not easy for a green belt rural district to find other sites on which to get building permission. It means that 13 percent. of the houses will now no longer be available for the general housing needs of the eastern area of the Meriden Rural District Council.

An associated feature to which I would draw attention is the dashing of the hopes that the Meriden rural district had of selling six acres of land in the parish of Keresley, one of the two parishes going into Coventry, for development, the proceeds of which would have been used to finance local authority housing elsewhere in the rural district. This land has gone to Coventry. Coventry may well decide to use it as an open space, but the Minister has not excluded it from the transfer provisions. I express my regret and the rural district council"s disappointment in this matter. I believe that this decision may well have been a casualty of the speed with which this Order has been brought in and to which the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington has referred.

I am not sanguine enough to expect the acceptance of our proposal for annulment of the Order by the Minister, but I trust that he will feel able to give us some assurance that he will bear in mind the kind of considerations that I have presented if ever he feels tempted to approve further Orders of this sort at the expense of the Meriden Rural District Council or any other similarly placed rural district close to one of our great cities.

10.38 p.m.

Mr. William Wilson (Coventry, South)

I wish to deal particularly with the area which the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) has described as Finham. Of that area I probably have greater knowledge than any other Member of the House. I represent the division which adjoins the area of Finham. I live in the municipal ward of Coventry, to which, when this Order goes through, Finham will be lost.

Further, as a member of the Warwickshire County Council I can say that frequently the residents in Finham have consulted me rather than their own member about county council issues that have arisen in connection with Finham. Indeed, I can go further. Upon the issue which is before the House tonight, both those who wish to stay in the County of Warwick and those who wish to come out of the county have come to me for help and advice, and with great impartiality I have passed on their comments to the Minister.

As I listened to the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington, I detected a note of nostalgia in his voice, because he and I are old Parliamentary opponents on this very ground of Finham. It is true that there are some local pundits who say that if it had not been for Finham the results of the by-election in Warwick and Leamington in 1957 would have made Roxburgh look like a Tory victory.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)

Order. I am enjoying this, but it is still out of order.

Mr. Wilson

Thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was enjoying it as well.

Now that the decision is clearly to be made on Finham by means of this Order I feel that it is time for discussion to stop. The decision has been well and truly considered. The Boundary Commission has looked at it, an inspector has looked at it, and two Ministers have looked at it and they have come to the conclusion that Finham should be brought into Coventry. The right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington spoke about the politics of Coventry as being "spendthrift and doctrinaire". He should realise that there has been continuous Socialist rule in Coventry for the last 27 years and that last Thursday, so "disappointed" are the residents of Coventry with their representatives, we had five Socialist gains on the local council. So much for "spendthrift and doctrinaire."

I would say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and to the residents of Finham that Coventry is a city which is in the forefront of municipal administration and endeavour. As a Coventrian, I say to the residents of Finham, "We welcome you into the City of Coventry. By coming in you will not lose your identity. We hope that you will come in with us and that you will make a city which was great in the days of destruction even greater in the days of construction. Come into Coventry and you will say with us, I am proud to be a citizen of Coventry"".

10.42 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I do not propose to enter the ring on the merits of the Order. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) and the hon Member for Meriden (Mr. Rowland) have put forward a strong case against it and their arguments cannot be brushed aside. The Minister has something to answer in the case which they put forward. They touched upon a number of services the administration of which, to use my right hon. and learned Friend"s phrase, will undergo some radical changes.

The Order is made in pursuance of a Section of the Local Government Act, 1958, which gives the Minister power to give effect to the Commission"s proposals. Those proposals, made in this and other Orders, affect very wide areas of the country. A great number of these Orders may be brought before the House in future. It is important, therefore, that a wrong precedent should not be set at an early stage, particularly in the timing of the Orders. This Order was made on 12th February. It was laid before Parliament on 19th February and, in respect of certain matters set out in Article 2, the Order came into operation on 22nd February. The rest of the Order is to come into operation on the appointed day, the 1st April.

There are many important transitional matters to be undertaken by the local authorities concerned, and seven weeks from the making of the Order to the appointed day is not a very long time for this purpose. We have heard tonight that some of the local authorities were asked about the order in its draft form on 31st December last and then given only three weeks in which to comment on it. This is not good enough when dealing with local authorities which have these important functions to carry out in the transition between their old structure and the new structure which is being given to them.

I do not recall a previous precedent of an Order under the Local Government Act, 1958, for alterations of areas which gave such a short time between the making of the Order and the appointed day on which the local authorities were required to carry it out. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will in future be able to ensure that a longer time is given for all the necessary things to be done.

10.46 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Richard Crossman)

I had better start by declaring an interest in this matter. I represent a part of the city of Coventry, and, after careful consideration, I decided that it was my duty to reply to the debate. I thought that it would be more proper, having an interest to declare, to do it myself rather than allow a Parliamentary Secretary to do it for me.

I am aware of the problem of timing. It is fair to say that my predecessor made the original decision in December, 1963. He had plenty of time. The Minister"s decision was issued on 10th December, 1963, and on that date he promised consultation and asked for the co-operation of the local authorities concerned in the preparation of the Order. He was Minister from December, 1963, until October of last year, and no consultation took place. There was ample time for it to be done under his aegis. When we took over, there was a nasty problem before me as Minister of Housing and Local Government. I had the choice of regarding this as a matter calling for speedy decision after such a long hiatus, or of saying that one should still give the normal period for consultation. If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) cannot think of a precedent since 1958 for such a short period, there has been no precedent for an October election since 1958, if one wants to finish before 1st April.

I knew it was a short time, and I give an assurance that, after this Order, we shall make sure that there is at least one month for local authorities to consider new Orders. I regard the period as short, but it was a question of a short period or one whole year"s delay in the fulfilment of the Order.

I have been most interested in the debate. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Mr. William Wilson) for expressing that strictly impartial and neutral view of the situation which I myself take. He saw matters with that integrity and impartiality which we all feel in Coventry about questions which affect our city"s interests and which every speaker feels on this issue.

My hon. Friend reminded us that the result of the Order will be to add 13,000 people to Coventry.

What has not been said yet is that Coventry asked for 36,000 people and the addition has been scaled down to 13,000. We asked for 19,000 acres, and we have got 1,100 acres, a very modest gain for a city of Coventry"s ambitions. How has that result come about and how are the surrounding areas divided? Taking the three names appended to the Motion, the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) loses 4.700 people, my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Rowland) loses 6,696 people, and the third, the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise), whose absence is noted, loses precisely three people. Perhaps that explains his absence. The length of speech was in direct relationship to the number of voters lost from each constituency to Coventry. This does not mean that the speeches were not impartial, detached and wise. I use the argument to relate the numbers to the feeling.

I deal with Meriden first. My hon. Friend felt that a rural district council such as his had been sadly damaged. He did not add that in a few weeks he will be receiving 800 people from Tamworth, which will be an accretion of strength to him. So I should have thought he could have afforded to give us the 6,000. He complained of the six acres which he hoped to sell at a profit. He also mentioned the 230 houses. I would say that these are subjects for arbitration. I strongly advise him that they are matters which should be settled by consultation between the authorities under Section 151 of the Act of 1933. There is power to have consultation, and I think that Coventry City would be generous in dealing with a "small and backward" local authority such as Meriden rural district on the subject of the 230 houses and the six acres.

As for my personal view of the matter, my hon. Friend did not add that in exchange for the loss of 230 houses to Coventry City, by a recent decision about overspill from Birmingham, thousands of Birmingham houses are to be built in his constituency, the rateable value of which will accrue to Meriden. When he thinks what the Minister has given him from Birmingham, he should be grateful to me for the small loss that he has suffered to Coventry.

I turn to Warwick and Leamington. This was the first Order that I had to consider, and it is true that my consideration was considerably eased by the fact that the Local Government Commission, an inspector and my predecessor had all decided in a certain direction. The right hon. and learned Member did not mention that the Local Government Commission had in its wisdom allocated to Coventry a vastly greater area covering our refuse disposal works, our airport and many other facilities essential to Coventry in the Baginton area. Great was the rejoicing when the city found that for the first time these essential services were to be included in its area. But great was the shock when it was discovered that, after a neutral verdict by the inspector. my predecessor had allocated the whole of that area to Warwick.

All I would say is that with an astonishing self-restraint and impartiality I have accepted this denial to Coventry. I told myself "Coventry can afford to accept this defeat and be content to be denied its refuse disposal facilities, especially if they are to remain right outside in the county area". It is owing to Coventry"s belief in good relations with the county that we believe that we shall still continue to have the services of our airport and other essential facilities even though they are across the frontier. It says much for the city"s great belief in collaboration with the county.

My hon. Friend has said wise words about Finham. I do not deny what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, that the people of Finham protested strongly and vigorously, with all the power of protest that a small group feels in escaping from what they regard as a doctrinaire ideological dictatorship. We all know the feeling of passion in Finham. The feeling was organised and stimulated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He did it with great good spirit, I am sure.

Sir J. Hobson

I never on any occasion stimulated any opposition. The whole of it was entirely voluntary. All I did was to repeat what has been forcibly put to me. It was not stimulated by me or my party.

Mr. Crossman

I did not mean about the city of Coventry. The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to deep feelings about comprehensive education, which is a common situation. I agree that it is a factor which one has to consider. I will take it more seriously than some. I believe very strongly that one should consider this.

If it had been a larger area, and if it had been an area not so clearly contiguous with Coventry and not clearly an essential part of the city, sharing its services, I might have said that I must overrule the Local Government Commission and my Conservative predecessor. Despite myself, I must say, however, that the thousands of citizens of Finham who object to entry must be denied. I felt it impossible to do otherwise and, on balance, I accepted the decision.

As my hon. Friend put it crudely, I inherited the situation, but I decided that my predecessor was right in saying that Baginton, on balance, must stay out and that Finham, on balance, must come in. These are questions of balance, and there it is. I do not think this was a difficult decision to take. It is not a major one, but I will give my assurance once again.

I am not content with the time given. The complaint about that is reasonable. We will make every effort to ensure that in future decisions which I shall be making from time to time now from the pile I have inherited, we really do try to make sure that we have adequate time for consultation with the local authorities.

I am grateful to right hon. and hon. Members for their self-restraint in expressing their feelings. I feel that they are right in thinking that this decision was not unexpected and that I would uphold a decision which, after all, was taken carefully and impartially by the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph). It was, in my view, a correct decision by him. Although in certain ways it has disappointed Coventry profoundly, I think that on balance it is a decision we have to uphold.

Question put and negatived.

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