§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Cardiff Order 1966 (S.I., 1966, No. 1310), dated 17th October 1966, a copy of which was laid before this House on 28th October, be annulled.Whatever my personal feelings about this Order, which is opposed by so many of my constituents in the areas affected, I should be failing in my duty if I did not oppose it tonight. The general effect of the Order is to take away from the area of the Cardiff Rural District Council about 52 per cent. of its population and 51 per cent. of its rateable value. This is drastic treatment for any local authority and ought not to be undertaken if such a step is at all avoidable and unless the case is unanswerable. The areas affected would likewise be subtracted from the administrative County of Glamorgan and added to the City of Cardiff.
With respect, I submit that one unfortunate characteristic of our present procedure is that the right hon. Gentleman who presents the Order will have the support tonight of many hon. Members who cannot know much about the circumstances and subject matter which we are considering. It will not surprise the House if I say that the Order is strongly opposed by the Glamorgan County Council and the Cardiff Rural District Council.
The Minister may insist that careful consideration has been given to all the arguments in support of and against the Order, but many of my constituents feel that too little heed has been paid to one of the most powerful considerations of all, namely, the wishes of the inhabitants of the areas affected. The people of the areas affected have demonstrated their desire to remain in the County of Glamorgan and the area of Cardiff Rural District Council in overwhelming fashion.
At a referendum taken in June, 1961, 84 per cent. of the local government electors in Whitchurch voted, a remarkably high proportion of persons in any 1294 local government area to vote, and 91 per cent. of those voting voted against inclusion in the City of Cardiff. Likewise, in the adjacent area of Rhiwbina 83 per cent. of all local government electors voted. Again, this figure may well be compared with the average poll at a local election, which often reaches no more than a third of that percentage. Of those who voted, 90 per cent. voted against inclusion in the City of Cardiff. Comparable voting resulted in the other areas affected, too.
My constituents find it impossible to understand—I ask the hon. Gentleman to note this—why such drastic changes should be pushed forward now. At this moment, a Royal Commission is considering possible major local government changes in England, and the Government are themselves engaged in an appraisal of the future organisation of local government throughout Wales.
It is possible that this appraisal may lead to large scale changes in our present local government areas in England and in Wales. The Government themselves have considered these possible changes as grounds for refusing other piecemeal alterations to certain local authority boundaries. I can cite an example in South Wales, where the Caerphilly Urban District Council recently sought to obtain inclusion in its area of a relatively small adjoining area, Lansbury Park, in which it had erected local authority dwellings and which is on the very edge of the town of Caerphilly. The Secretary of State, however, ruled that such a transfer must await the general proposals for local government in that small case. My constituents cannot understand why, in this context, the right hon. Gentleman seeks to hasten the much larger transfer of these areas now affected by the Cardiff Order.
It is acknowledged, of course, that the proposed transfer would confer some useful benefits and advantages to the city. It is pointed out by many of my constituents that those benefits will not, however, compare with the damage and injury to be inflicted upon Cardiff Rural District Council and Glamorgan County Council. I reiterate that the transfer will deprive Cardiff Rural District Council of 52 per cent. of its population and 51 per cent. of its rateable value, and that my constituents cannot understand why a change of such magnitude should not receive a transitional period of at least some years.
1295 In the case of Glamorgan, the need for a transitional period arises because the areas affected—Whitchurch, Rhiwbina and others—are closely integrated with other adjoining and adjacent areas of the county in South-East Glamorgan for education, health, welfare administration and other services. I take an obvious example, with which the Under-Secretary of State will be acquainted.
The two secondary schools of Whit-church serve other county areas besides those affected by the Order. Similar arguments, of course, obtain in the case of the Cardiff Rural District Council, which has been an important housing authority with a splendid record of providing council houses as well as special purpose houses for many years.
Whitchurch and Rhiwbina, for example, are closely integrated with other adjoining and adjacent areas for the allocation of council tenancies. If the Order is not annulled or delayed, the rural district council will be deprived at one fell swoop of a large part of its sensible provisions for council houses for persons and families resident in its area.
Great stress has been laid on the need to provide building land for the city and if the Order affected only large areas of undeveloped land or land suitable for building, my constituents might take a different view. But the areas affected, apart from Whitchurch and Rhiwbina, are predominantly built up. They are developed and there is almost no building land available in them. What, indeed, is to be transferred is not building land, but rateable value. There is no real transfer of building land. It is a straightforward transfer of developed, built-up rateable value.
There is one other aspect of the Order to which I must refer. It proposes to transfer a portion of the parish of Radyr, near Cardiff, which includes the ancient parish churchyard and burial ground. For centuries, this burial ground was administered by the local parish church authorities, but 40 years ago it was taken over by the parish council with the voluntary agreement of the Church. It has since been maintained by the parish council, as the burial authority, from rates subscribed by Radyr parishioners alone, and they alone paid for the new extension.
1296 Owing to the limitations of space, and with Home Office agreement, only Radyr parish residents are buried at agreed charges and persons outside the parish have a right of burial at double charges only if they are already in possession of a burial plot or have a previous residential connection with the parish. My constituents at Radyr are profoundly disturbed by this Order, which will not, of course, affect the boundaries of the ecclesiastical parish. Although the Order has been changed to give some extension of time the Order does not in its present form ensure that the persons from the parish of Radyr shall retain their exclusive right of burial in their own burial ground at no enhanced fees, nor that arrangements for other persons shall be continued as at present.
I know that hon. Members on the other side of the Chamber wish to say a few words, and I want to give the Under-Secretary ample opportunity to reply, but I do hope that he will realise that this is a drastic transfer from the giving authorities, the authorities from which this area is being taken. It is a drastic Order which cuts back the existing local authorities in half. It takes away more than half the rateable value. It anticipates possible major changes in the whole local authority structure in the Principality. There would seem to be no good reason why this should be done before the other changes are considered.
It is difficult for my constituents to understand why this has been rushed through in this way. They object to it. In particular, they feel that this matter should not be proceeded with in this way. I believe that the arguments I have put to the hon. Gentleman represent the views of the vast majority of those who live in the area concerned. I hope that I have expressed their views with moderation, without exaggeration. This is an Order which is profoundly objectionable to them, as they have made clear to me, and they regret deeply that it may be done by Ministerial fiat, sustained, as I said before, by a majority of persons who know very little about the facts.
I hope that even at this late hour it can be reconsidered, and that is why I pray against it.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Pearson (Pontypridd)
The House will appreciate the reasons which 1297 have been given by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) why he found it necessary to pray against this Order. I feel it necessary to express disapproval of the Cardiff Order because it deals with the alteration of local government boundaries for only a part of Wales at a time when there are due for publication proposals for the whole of Wales.
We have been informed that such proposals will be the product of a working party set up by the former Secretary of State for Wales, my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths). To many hon. Members from the Principality this larger review gave justifiably reasonable grounds for expecting a reluctance to introduce any current innovation while the whole future of local government boundaries was under consideration, but instead we have this unnecessary pushing ahead with the Cardiff Order at an inopportune time.
This has resulted in a good measure of disapproval at the readiness of the Welsh Office in wanting to treat Cardiff unduly favourably by giving it a delectable preliminary bite of the cherry. Why this haste to please the capital at the expense of other highly efficient local authorities? There are many who hold the view that it is a misjudgment. I submit that there should not be any change in boundaries when a major and comprehensive operation in the same sphere is contemplated. In short, to chop and change now is a false step.
We are told that any of the conclusions that the working party may reach will not be prejudiced by the Cardiff Order. I cannot accept this. I believe that the changes in the Order will stay put regardless of any other proposal. The fact that the Order is disapproved of by hon. Members representing Parliamentary constituencies within the administrative County of Glamorgan does not seem to count for much. In a way, their views seem to have been looked upon as so much sawdust—all in all, not the kind of democracy that one relishes.
I do not wish to be over-detailed in my criticisms, but I wish to point out that it is not only Whitchurch and Rhiwbina which are to be added to Cardiff. Adding the land north of Llanishen is a mistake. Despite the assurances given, it gravely prejudices the preservation of the route of the proposed 1298 East-west motorway jealously and successfully safeguarded in the past by the Glamorgan County Council. The northern boundary of the capital at this point should be the southern boundary of the motorway. That is the appropriate limit. In addition, the throwing open for development and building of good quality land seems a neglect for which the future will call a toll.
Another blemish in the Order is the proposal that 365 acres at Forest Hall shall be transferred to the city. The city council has suggested that this area should be allocated for light industry which is situated in the flood plain of the River Taff. These 365 acres are placed between two residential areas of Whit-church and Radyr. What a pity to think of using them for industrial development. These acres should be reserved for playing fields and recreation and an aid for maintaining a green belt along this stretch of the River Taff entering the valleys.
The grounds for adding a part of the Radyr parish called Radyr Court to the city are entirely insufficient. It looks to me as if the case for its inclusion in Cardiff is based upon a misconception. The sole grounds for inclusion were that the area has quite a number of dwelling and may be classed as a well-to-do suburb of the city 'with which it would seem to have very close links. In fact, the greater part of this area consists of county council smallholdings. There is also the old parish church and there are two petrol filling stations. One cannot say that this is suburban development and for these reasons should be added to Cardiff.
I know that the Under-Secretary can quote the Local Government Commission as authority for these changes, that he has taken into consideration objections and has also had regard to the forthcoming White Paper dealing with reorganisation in the rest of Wales. I can only say that, having carefully weighed the case for and against the Order, my disapproval remains, for I am convinced that the Order with its changes is not the right step to take at this time.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)
Hon. Members who have spoken have been highly critical of the contents of this Order, in detail. Both my hon. Friend 1299 the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Arthur Pearson) and the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) are directly affected. My criticism is not one of detail, although I have my views on this, but is rather one of timing. It is worth remembering, in relation to the contents of this Order, that in 1961 draft proposals were put to the Secretary of State for Wales by the Local Government Commission for Wales. Page 20, paragraph 69 said:The areas of Whitchurch and Rhiwbina are substantially built-up, form a continuous development with Cardiff, and cannot be distinguished from other suburbs now within the city limits. It is proposed, therefore, that these two areas should be included in the county borough.There may or may not be good reasons for that. At least, the Commission considered this very seriously. All of us are aware of what happened to these proposals—they were put to the people of Wales and were certainly not acceptable in any sense and were finally pigeonholed. I do not know whether that pigeonhole is in the present Welsh Office, I hope not. A suspicion quite justifiably exists in the minds of the Glamorgan County Council, other authorities and people interested in local government reform in Wales.
I represent a constituency in the County of Glamorgan and, while I am not criticising or deprecating the details of this Order—there is much in it that is highly desirable—this suspicion is prevalent and highly justified. It is that this Order must conform with the ideas which the Welsh Office and the Secretary of State may have about the future proposals for local government reorganisation in Wales. The Secretary of State for Wales has stated that very shortly a White Paper will be published outlining the proposals which he thinks the people of Wales should consider.
If this is so, and if the suspicion which the Glamorgan County Council, the Cardiff Rural District Council and others have on this point is justified, then we are faced with a fait accompli. If the objections to the proposals to be put to the Welsh people in the White Paper are inclusive of the terms of this Order then, if the objections of the people of Wales to the proposals are successful, inevitably the Order must be changed completely.
1300 Boundary changes which will have taken place since 1st April, changes of personnel which will have taken place, changes of functions, and the movement of personnel will be or could be, reversed once again. If this is to be the case, and if this does not conform to the Secretary of State's ideas as to what the future of local government in Wales should be, then it is right to entertain these suspicions, and this would be a ridiculous position to assume. The only reasonable thing which we can ask the Welsh Office to do is to defer the effect of this Order until all the local government proposals are placed before the House and the Welsh nation. If the terms of the Order had to be completely changed in accordance with the proposals of the working party on local government, the position would be paradoxical and ridiculous in the extreme.
I ask my hon. Friend to consider deferring the Order until we have received the proposals on Welsh local government as a whole from the Welsh Office.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I wish to set right the record about the background to this matter.
There has been reference to what we have come to call the Myrddin-Evans Report on Local Government Reorganisation in Wales, which had to be considered by the previous Government and by the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), who was then Minister for Welsh Affairs. He announced his decision in the House, and I beg hon. Members to remember what it was. There were, first, proposals regarding the county boroughs. It was proposed that the boundaries of three of them—Swansea, Cardiff and Newport—should be extended to take in areas which had become contiguous to them. No one can dispute that the areas dealt with in the Order are essentially parts of the City of Cardiff. To think that one can divide Cardiff from Rhiwbina, for instance, is wrong.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East announced to the House without very much protest that, while there were objections to the general proposals for the reorganisation of the county boundaries, he thought that, on the basis of the Myrrdin-Evans Report, the case had been made out for an extension of 1301 the boundaries of the three county boroughs which I have mentioned.
The statutory provisions for considering these extensions which led to these Orders were set in motion before I became Secretary of State for Wales. I presume that the Order for Newport has gone through. I presume that the Order for Swansea has gone through or is on the way without objection from any quarter. Now we have had the objections put forward, rightly, by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) and others in respect of this Order.
I gave very serious consideration to the proposals put forward for the extension of the boundaries of all three county boroughs. All of them create difficulties. Difficulties arise from the fact that the towns grow outwards and develop an organic association with the areas around them.
I am glad that we are considering the future reorganisation of local government in Wales. Everyone admits in private that the time is overdue for a radical reorganisation. The difficulty is to get people to say it in public. I hope that the Secretary of State will have a better reception. I trust that people will consider the proposals constructively. They will have the right to object. Statutory provisions will have to be complied with and there will be all kinds of constitation.
I considered very carefully whether the proposals for the extension of the boundaries of these three county boroughs, which seem to me to be quite natural extensions, would stand in the way of a radical reorganisation of local government in Wales, and I came to the conclusion that they would not.
I intervene only for the purpose of setting right the order of events. This had been set in train by the previous Conservative Government, and the procedure was well on the way towards completion by the time that I became Secretary of State.
There are no doubt different views as to precisely where the lines should be drawn. However, I have known Cardiff for many years, and, on the whole, this proposed extension of the boundary of the city is fully justified, although it is not all that Cardiff wanted. It is our capital city, and I hope that it will be content with 1302 this extension. It is now a city which, in its boundaries and its population, can look forward to prosperity.
I hope that, in future, there will be no attempt to extend the boundaries further than the present proposals. I have a view about the optimum size of a city in a country like Wales. However, Cardiff is entitled to this, and I hope that the House will grant it.
As one who took some part in the early stages of this matter, I think that the Order is fully justified, and I hope that hon. Members will support it.
§ 10.52 p.m.
§ Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)
I wish to say a brief word in support of the very moderate plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), and to congratulate him upon the way in which he has put his case.
As this Prayer has had support from both sides of the House and has been cogently argued, I rise only to ask the Under-Secretary of State whether, in his reply, he will make a specific point of answering the question which has been put from both sides. Why should this change in boundaries take place before the Royal Commission reports and, as the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) said, before publication of the White Paper which will result on the reorganisation of local government in Wales?
The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths), who has far greater experience in these matters than most of us, has seen this matter growing up over the years. His contribution to the debate, as usual, was well reasoned and received the ear of the House.
We shall have the Report of the Royal Commission towards the end of the year. As usual, Wales will lead in these matters, and England will lag behind. If that is so, I can quite see the point raised by my hon. Friend and by hon. Members opposite. Why should this proposal be put to the House before publication of the Royal Commission's Report?
The right hon. Gentleman was quite right when he said that the local authorities concerned, the Glamorgan County Council and the Cardiff Rural District Council have had something to say on the matter. I will not go over what they have said, but I ask the Under-Secretary 1303 of State to reply adequately to the question raised initially by my hon. Friend the Member for Barry, and tell the House why it is necessary at this stage, with the Royal Commission about to report, to have this Order brought before the House.
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Ifor Davies)
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), with his usual clarity and courtesy, has put his case before the House. In response to the appeals which have been made to me, I assure hon. Members that I shall give as clear and as direct an explanation as I can. In reply to the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt), may I say that, I owe it to the House to give very clear and detailed answers, and since time is on my side I propose to do so.
This Order is the culmination of a process begun as long ago as 1959, when the Local Government Commission for Wales was set up to make proposals for boundary changes of counties and county boroughs. The proposals made by the Commission in 1963 for county amalgamations proved unacceptable, and this matter is now being dealt with in another way.
However, the Commission's proposals for major extensions to the county boroughs of Newport and Cardiff were accepted by the Secretary of State, as we have heard. The Order dealing with Newport County Borough was debated in this House and came into force on 1st April of this year. It was not possible to get the Cardiff Order ready to be operative on the same date, but essentially this Order is part of the same decision, taken for much the same general reasons as the Newport County Borough one.
It was suggested by some hon. Members—and this was emphasised by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Arthur Pearson)—that as we were so near to a much more comprehensive reorganisation we should abandon this Order even at this late stage. The hon. Member for Hereford, too, made this point. Local government reorganisation is under consideration, and the House would not expect me to elaborate on that point tonight. In the meantime, there are problems which will be made easier when the 1304 changes brought about by this Order come into effect, and my right hon. Friend is satisfied—and I say this in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert)—that there is nothing in this Order which will prejudice decisions about the wider issues of local government reorganisation now under consideration.
I do not think that there is any justification for the fears and suspicions which my hon. Friend mentioned. It has been suggested unless the date of transfer was put back another year, that is until 1st April, 1968, both the Cardiff Rural District and the Glamorgan County Council would suffer serious administrative difficulties. There are always administrative difficulties attendant on the transfer of areas between local authorities, particularly when the transfer involves a large number of people, and those mentioned to us seem in no way abnormal.
The hon. Member for Barry complained that the Order is being rushed, I would remind the House that it was as long ago as May, 1965, that the Secretary of State announced his decision on the Commission's recommendations. At that time, his aim was to bring this Order into effect on the 1st April, 1966, but, as I have said, this proved to be impracticable, not, I might add, because of any representations from either the county or the county rural district council, and on 22nd February the Welsh Office told the local authorities that the changes would be made effective as from 1st April, 1967.
§ Mr. Davies
I am not suggesting such a thing. I was replying to the statement that the Order had been rushed, and I mentioned the steps taken and the fact that the decision is quite clear that the administrative difficulties do not seem to justify to my right hon. Friend the further deferment of the transfers. The date has been widely known for some time, and I hope that the House will agree tonight that it should not now be changed.
On the merits of the change, the Commission made a very thorough analysis 1305 and there was a public inquiry into the objections. The conclusion of both was that there should be substantial extension of the county borough boundary. Much has been said about this or that land being needed or not being needed for development, but my right hon. Friend believes that the Commission's approach was the right one.
I want to quote to the House paragraph 737 of the Report, which says:We cannot regard Cardiff County Borough as it now exists as being so extensive that its expansion must be prevented at all costs. It occupies a key position in the dynamic area which South Wales has now become and it is impossible for us to draw up an exact schedule of its land needs for the next fifteen years. What we have tried to do is to estimate its needs broadly and, having decided that they could not be met within the present city confines, to suggest adding to the city areas within which such development could take place. We must point out, however, that within such added areas the Minister will have power to control development and it is quite impossible for us to forecast how much of the added land will actually be developed.It is against this background that the proposals should be judged tonight.
The Secretary of State has agreed in general with the Commission's thinking. He accepts the county council's view that it would be wrong to acquiesce in unlimited expansion of the city without considering its future size in the context of the whole of South-East Wales, but he was satisfied that the city's need to have land available within its periphery for what might be regarded as its short-term and medium-term needs was at least as great as the Commission had set out and, indeed, justified the addition of several hundred acres more.
It was, therefore, only reasonable that, provided long-term planning objectives for South-East Wales, including the important question of traffic planning, would not be prejudiced—and my right hon. Friend is completely satisfied about that— the city council should be allowed the limited expansion proposed in the Order.
§ Mr. E. Rowlands (Cardiff, North)
Will my hon. Friend nevertheless give an assurance to us that this Order will not prejudice any future more radical change in the city boundary in the whole concept of the reorganisation of local government in South Wales?
§ Mr. Davies
It does not prejudice any future development. It is surely reasonable, provided long-term planning objectives in South-East Wales—including the important question of traffic planning—will not be prejudiced, that the city should be allowed the limited expansion proposed in the order.
As for the built-up areas of Whitchurch and Rhiwbina—and the hon. Member for Barry, said that whatever may be his feelings he had a duty to put before the House the feelings of his constituents—there can be few impartial observers who would regard them as anything but suburbs of Cardiff.
No one who was asked to draw local authority boundaries from scratch would do other than count these built-up areas as physically part of the city. I recognise that people living in Whitchurch and Rhiwbina may feel that they have a vigorous community life of their own, but there can be no doubt that these areas are part of the Cardiff community, even if, like Llandaff and other existing suburbs of Cardiff, they have a local government community life too. There is no reason why the community life of Whit-church and Rhiwbina should not continue to flourish when the area is part of Cardiff.
Whitchurch cannot claim now to have any rural village characteristics. The greater part of its development has taken place as a result of the growth of the city's economy and in response to the need for houses for people working in the city, many of them formerly city residents needing a house and garden for young families. It is right that these people for whom Cardiff is a focal point, should have a share in its government. Whitchurch residents, in common with the residents of other parishes affected by similar Orders, want no change. Their wishes merit respect, but the Commission would not have been given its task if the final conclusions on local government were not to depend on wider considerations as well. Direct comparison of individual services tends to be profitless because circumstances vary so much. Over all their functions and services Cardiff City Council provide at least as good local government as the three tier system at present enjoyed by Whitchurch residents.
1307 The city's rates are higher than those in the county areas affected, but it has been decided that the immediate impact of an increase in rates for the added areas should be softened by the provision in the Order for differential rating. This will ensure that the rates in the transferred area will not rise by more than 6d. on account of transfer, although they may rise, of course, on account of increased costs.
The hon. Member for Barry raised the question of the Radyr burial ground. I appreciate that this is a delicate and personal matter, and I wish to deal with it in that way. The St. John's churchyard burial ground at Radyr is included in the Radyr Court area which is transferred to the city by this Order. The burial ground was vested in the Radyr Parish Council under the Welsh Church Acts as a consequence of the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, and is now held and administered by the parish council as a burial authority under the Burial Acts. When the Cardiff Order takes effect, this burial ground will be held and administered under the same Acts by the Cardiff City Council.
I am advised that the law confers a right of burial in one's own parish burial ground, but not in the burial ground of any other parish, although permission is usually granted if sought. Any such permission invariably carries with it a requirement to pay higher fees, normally double the fees which the authority charges its own parishioners.
Clearly, this would cause hardship when, as a result of boundary changes, an existing burial ground passes into another burial authority's area, while some of the parishioners who would have expected to be buried there remain outside the new boundary. It is, therefore, customary, in county borough boundary extension Orders, to specify a period during which such parishioners may retain their former rights of burial and pay no extra charges.
This policy has been followed in the Cardiff Order in relation both to the St. John's churchyard burial ground and to a burial ground at Whitchurch, both of which will, when the Order takes effect, become part of the City. The Cardiff Rural District Council, the Radyr Parish Council and the Radyr Parochial Church 1308 Council objected to this and asked that the burial rights of the Radyr parishioners in the Radyr burial ground should remain unchanged in perpetuity. The parishioners of Tongwynlais made the same point in respect of their burial ground.
My right hon. Friend takes the view that concessionary rights in perpetuity cannot be justified. Apart from the practical difficulties, it had to be remembered that the maintenance of these burial grounds will in future be wholly at the expense of the City Council. If appropriate, it will be open to the parish council to seek financial adjustment under the powers of Section 151 of the Local Government Act, 1933.
Nevertheless, and I am very glad to say this, after considering the representations, the Secretary of State decided to extend the concessionary period from 15 to 50 years, so that the rights of parishioners would be preserved until 31st March, 2017. This concession is considerably more generous than in any similar English county borough boundary Orders, and I am sure that the House will agree that it goes a long way, and as far as practicable in alleviating possible hardship.
The question has been asked: why has it been included? The Cardiff City Council has been constituted as a burial authority under the Burial Acts for the whole of Cardiff, and it is, therefore, considered that once these burial grounds form part of an area within the City of Cardiff the appropriate authority to control and exercise jurisdiction over this ground under the burial Acts must be the Cardiff City Council. I trust that puts the position quite clearly.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd referred to the area of North Llanishen. The Order provides for the transfer to the city of 1,200 acres of largely undeveloped land in this part of Whitchurch and Lisvane parishes lying to the north of the line of the projected South Wales motorway as shown in the county development plan. In approving the Commission's recommendation to include this land with the city, the Secretary of State did not overlook the fact that he had recently refused permission for the housing development of a substantial part of it. He took the view, however, that whatever form the future development of this land took, the city must have more 1309 elbow room in which to plan its overall development within its own boundaries.
Planning is a constantly changing exercise which must be flexible enough to meet changing conditions. There is no reason to believe that Cardiff City Council will be any worse planning authority than Glamorgan County Council in respect of the areas added to the city; the Secretary of State regards them both as responsible planning authorities. But if development is proposed which is substantially out of accord with the development plan, the Secretary of State will have the opportunity of considering it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd also referred to the problem of Forest Hall. This area was not among those which the Commission recommended; it was added by the Secretary of State following the public local inquiry. The inspector felt that a satisfactory case had been made out for the inclusion of this area within the city, although he considered that it would be inappropriate to include it unless Whitchurch was also included—having in mind, no doubt, that otherwise the area would he physically separate from the rest of the city.
Whitchurch was included, and the Secretary of State considered it sensible that the boundary of the added areas on this side of the city should be extended to the River Taff, thus not only embracing the undeveloped land in the Forest Hall area, and some high flats owned by the rural district council which he felt might impose an undue drain on the finances of the weakened rural district council, but also making use of a clear, natural boundary.
Radyr Court is an area of about 300 acres which the Commission recommended should be added to the city for two reasons: to provide more building land and to produce a more regular boundary. It has been suggested that the inspector's description of the area is misleading. Whether or not this is so, the primary reason for adding this area is to make it available for development as part of the city to meet part of the needs to which I have referred. Its inclusion will undoubtedly produce a better boundary. Indeed, if this change were not made a most inappropriate rural wedge into the outskirts of the city would be left.
1310 I notice in his place the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), who intervened when we had a Prayer on the Newport Order. He then made a point relevant to some legal aspects of the Orders. I made a particular note of his comments, which appear in column 1582 of HANSARD of 3rd May. On that occasion, I said that I thought that he was mistaken and I repeat that tonight. There was some doubt as to the propriety of the legal position. It was contended by him that the Secretary of State had no power to make the provision contained in Article 54 of the Newport Order—and this is the same kind of situation—indealing with the compensation of transferred officers.
I told him that I appreciated his intervention and the importance of the point made, and I was equally concerned to see that there was no misunderstanding about the matter. He argued that the power to make such a provision is contained in Section 60(2) of the Local Government Act, 1958, and that this power had not been transferred to the Secretary of State for Wales. Similar provision to that contained in Article 54 of the Newport Order has been made in Article 54 of this Order and it is, therefore, appropriate for me to put the record right.
It is agreed that the Secretary of State has no power to make general compensation regulations under Section 60(2). This power still continues to be exercised by the Minister of Housing and Local Government or such other Ministers as are determined by the Treasury. But Article 54 of the Cardiff Order and Article 54 of the Newport Order were made under Section 60(1) of the Local Government Act, 1958, when read with Section 23 and Section 38. This power was transferred to the Secretary of State for Wales and it does enable him to make the specific provision contained in Article 54 to deal with the application of these general regulations to the circumstances of the case.
I have said that my right hon. Friend and I cannot agree to the deferment of the Order, and I hope that the House will agree that it should now he accepted.
§ 11.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I am grateful to the Minister for referring 1311 to a point which I raised on a previous occasion, whether there was power legally to make a regulation such as is contained in Article 54 of this Order. It is the most roundabout way to acquire the legal power to make the Order, but I am grateful to him for explaining it.
May I, however, refer to a matter more of principle, not in connection with Article 54 but in connection with the Order as a whole. It is unfortunate that this Order is brought before the House when the Royal Commission is sitting to consider the whole subject of local government both in England and Wales.
§ Mr. Probert
The hon. Member is not correct. The Royal Commission is considering local government only in England.
But it may well bring forward principles of local government which will apply both in England and in Wales and for that reason it is unfortunate that the Order should come forward at this stage, particularly having regard to the fact that the recommendation upon which this Order is based was made as long ago as 1962. The Local Government Commission for Wales, in its Report, submitted proposals for Wales in December, 1962. That Report came before the House at that time. The Commission then said, on page 149:Since we decided upon our draft proposals"—I pause there; the proposals were similar to those contained in the present Order—there have been four main developments. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government in conjunction with the planning authorities in South Wales have commenced a study of the main planning problem of the area as a whole. This survey will undoubtedly cover the nature and extent of the need for housing land…This was one of the considerations, and it went on to many others.
At that time, in 1962, the Local Government Commission for Wales was uncertain about its recommendations and it set them out in the Report. It was uncertain because the Ministry was carrying out further investigations. Indeed, on the next page, 150, the Commission said:We should have preferred not to have come to a decision before the Minister has 1312 completed his investigations into the planning problem of the South Wales area.Many years have elapsed since 1962, and now, on the eve, as it were, of the Royal Commission setting down certain principles of local government throughout the country this Order is brought before the House.
The hon. Gentleman said that this does not prejudice further reorganisation, but surely that is a very naive statement. If the Order is made it is unlikely that it will be altered later when the Commission makes its recommendations. Undoubtedly, whatever he may say, this is going to prejudice future arrangements. No Government, whether the present Government, or that to come when the Opposition—I hope, shortly—will be in their position on the other side of the Chamber, are likely to alter Orders of this sort, whatever recommendations there may be from the Royal Commission. Therefore, I think it must prejudice the future. The very fact that the Commission showed doubts and that subsequently the Royal Commission has been appointed makes it most inopportune for this Order to be brought before the House at this time.
§ 11.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Ifor Davies
By leave of the House, may I speak again, to say to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) that I took advantage of the opportunity to clarify the point he made on the last occasion on a legal matter. Frankly, the hon. Gentleman has rather disappointed me, because I thought that he would have raised some more obscure legal points. He has not taken advantage of that opportunity tonight. Instead, he has repeated what was said by other speakers.
I am bound myself, therefore, to repeat what I said earlier, that my right hon. Friend is satisfied that there is nothing in this Order—I say it with emphasis—which will prejudice decision on the wider issues of local government reorganisation now under examination. The plain fact is that Cardiff needs this Order now, as I have explained in detail, and that further investigations are relating to the long term. For these reasons, I say, once again, that I hope that the House will approve the Order.
§ Question put and negatived.