HC Deb 15 February 1966 vol 724 cc1259-76

10.26 p.m.

Mr. Speaker

Before I call the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) to move the Prayer, it occurs to me that it might be convenient to take both Motions together. If that is the opinion of the House, so be it.

10.27 p.m.

Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Cornwall, North)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Cornwall and Devon (Broadwoodwidger) Order 1965 (S.I., 1965, No. 2087), dated 8th December, 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th December, be annulled. It would be convenient if with this we also took the Motion, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the South Western Counties Order 1965 (S.I., 1965, No. 2086), dated 8th December 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th December, be annulled. I shall address the majority of my remarks to the first Prayer.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not know whether I heard the hon. Gentleman aright, but I think that he moved the second Prayer. It is the first which he should have moved and with that can be taken the second.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I beg your pardon for doing so, Mr. Speaker. I moved the second, but in fact it makes no difference.

Mr. Speaker

It matters from the procedure point of view. The hon. Gentleman must move the first and we take the second with the first and not the first with the second.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

In that case, Mr. Speaker, I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the South Western Counties Order 1965 (S.I., 1965, No. 2086), dated 8th December, 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th December, be annulled. The two Orders are interwoven, but it is the second to which I wish to address most of my remarks, and I have one or two queries about the first. The purpose of my praying against these Orders is not that I disagree with them, but that there is no other way in which an hon. Member can raise matters of interest to many would-be constituents other than by a Prayer to annul an Order.

Certain matters require clarification, but they are purely of administrative detail and I will not weary the House with a long and impassioned speech. About 2,000 people are involved, 980 of them being transferred into Cornwall and 1,100 transferred from an existing rural district council which is being abolished into a completely new one with different conditions and different rates.

The first question which I put to the Parliamentary Secretary concerns the phrase "on the appointed day" which runs throughout the Order. I can see no way of telling when the appointed day will be or when the Minister will announce the appointed day. I thought that it would be on 1st February, but it was not. There is no indication in the Order of how one can discover what will be the appointed day. The first mention is on page 3 where I read, on 1st January, 1966, and for all other purposes on the appointed day.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. James MacColl)

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman and I understand each other, because on page 3 is the statement: 'The appointed day' means 1st April 1966.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I wondered whether the Joint Parliamentary Secretary would say that, but on reading the Order several times in the last few days I interpreted it as meaning that 1st January was one of the appointed days for the purposes of Article 2(a) to 2(j) but that for other purposes there would be a further appointed day to be announced by the Minister. If the appointed day was 1st January, then we know where we stand. But perhaps the hon. Gentleman would check that point.

In Article 6 there is the phrase that the rural district council shall liquidate all current liabilities incurred by them". That refers to the rural district council of Broadwoodwidger, which is being dissolved. It may be that they will not be able to liquidate all their current assets. What will then happen to the outstanding liabilities on the appointed day? If that were on 1st January, who met their current liabilities and what happened to the creditors?

Under Article 7, those who are being transferred into the Holsworthy rural district will be represented by six new councillors whereas those being transferred into the Launceston rural district will be represented by five rural district councillors. It is true that there is a difference of 180 between the numbers being transferred, but there are two complete villages being transferred to the Launceston R.D.C., and I feel that the Parliamentary Secretary should consider whether this increased representation is adequate. It might have been better to have six additional representatives on the Launceston R.D.C. instead of five. The number of people they will represent, including many young people not yet on the register, is considerable.

May I draw attention to the number of parish councillors and to the way in which that number will be decided? In Article 7(4) the number of parish councillors for the parish of Werrington is to be decreased from nine to six. I do not know whether any exception will be taken to this. Under Article 8 the existing councillors will have to resign on the appointed day and there will be new elections when the registers have been completed. When does the Parliamentary Secretary expect this to be? It hinges on the appointed day, whenever that is, and the period which will elapse between the appointed day and the elections. The provision for the retirement of parish councillors and the election of rural district and parish councillors is not on all fours with the treatment being given to the representatives on the water board which is outlined on page 14. All the representatives of the rural district council are being compulsorily retired. One might think this is a strange way to go about it. It does not seem to be on all fours with the provisions in paragraphs 7 and 8 under which councillors who are being transferred keep their seats. There does not seem to be equality of treatment, and perhaps the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will deal with the point.

Article 10(4) of Statutory Instrument No. 2087 deals with probationers. I should like an assurance about the man on probation. What is his exact position if he has been put on probation immediately before the appointed day? Is his probation officer transferred from Devon to Cornwall? This is an important aspect. The same argument applies to the provision in respect of children. There is a strange thing about Article 13(2), which is an extremely important provision. The Cornwall County Council "may" take over the care of the child with the concurrence of the local authority. So this is a purely permissive paragraph. Why is it permissive? It seems strange that there will be children who will be staying in the care of Devon County Council. One would have thought that it would be better to arrange for the children to be taken into the care of the Cornwall County Council. If the provision is left permissive, a terminal date for the transfer, whether in two or three years' time, should be given.

The education provisions are a little more complex and give rise to a little more anxiety. Only primary schools are affected by transfer from Devon to Cornwall, and they are not necessarily up to as high a standard as one would like. It may well be that minor works need to be done to the primary schools in the areas being transferred. I see no provision for the Cornwall County Council to get extra grants from the Ministry of Education should it so desire. Like other authorities, the Cornwall County Council is very pushed for money in present circumstances, particularly for minor works and improvements to existing school facilities. Numerous cases could be quoted of primary schools needing things done. One would like to see an extra allocation being made this year for all the primary schools which are being transferred. One would like to know that sufficient cash will be made available on a fair basis for the three schools being transferred from Devon to Cornwall in which works need to be done. It is important that we should know this. Otherwise there may be great difficulty over the estimates.

The provisions concerning transfer of staff are extremely good, and I compliment the Minister on them. It is laid down that the terms of employment to be offered to the staff should not be any less favourable than at the moment. This safeguards the position of anyone employed by the education authority. It is a good safeguard, and I welcome it. Article 15(5) concerns education, and one notices in the last two lines: …it shall be the duty of such council to make the remaining payments in pursuance of that grant,… This is a grant outside. I would like to know what will be the position over university grants, scholarships and grants outside the country which are made by local education authorities, under their own systems. It could be that some child expecting to go from a secondary school to a university who is at present residing in Devon might find her hopes dashed, or otherwise, by this change. What kind of provisions have been made to ensure that this does not happen?

Article 19 deals with executive councils, and it is extremely important to know what are the provisions affecting the Cornwall Executive Council. What powers will it be taking over? There is a strange omission in Article 20 in that the medical officer of health of the present council which is being extinguished, Broadwoodwidger, has a duty laid upon him to report to the Holds-worthy Council on public health matters in the area being transferred. There is no such duty laid upon him to report to the Launceston R.D.C. Why should there be a duty in one case and not in another?

Turning to planning provisions, one hopes that there will be no delay over planning applications already en route, through new applications, new examinations and new searches having to be made by the new county council. I have read the paragraphs of Article 24 carefully, and although there are certain safeguards I am not satisfied that there could not be additional planning delay owing to the transfer. At this stage one would accept an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that there will be no delay and that he will bend his best efforts to this end.

A minor point about motor vehicle driving licences arises under Article 27. This function is being transferred for the people concerned from Devon to Cornwall. One knows how full the lists are in Cornwall and one would like to know what provisions will be made to overcome the additional load—it will be an extra 900 to 1,000—placed on the existing testers. As far as I can make out tests will have to be taken in Launceston, and I know how busy they are.

Turning now to Article 33, one sees that the byelaws now existing in Cornwall will apply to the new areas coming into the county, and the same thing applies in Devon, except that those people in Devon already know them. But, as far as the Cornish side is concerned, what provisions are made so that people transferred to Cornwall are made aware of the byelaws? Heaven knows, it is easy enough to transgress the law, and it would be a pity if provision were not made so that the people transferred are given an opportunity of knowing the important byelaws which are in existence in Cornwall. How are they to be advertised, and who is to pay for the advertising? Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary can make mention of that in his reply.

I am a little apprehensive about local land charges registers, because it seems from the advice given in Article 37(7) that would-be purchasers have to make two searches not only in Cornwall but in Devon as well if he wishes to purchase a property in the part which is being transferred. That may mean an added cost, and I cannot see why it should be borne by the individual who wishes to go into that area. I am wondering what provisions the Parliamentary Secretary intends to make for that.

I come next to a most important point about the rating position, because it is one of the more complicated provisions in the Order which, heaven knows, is complicated enough. My future constituents would be content if the Parliamentary Secretary can give an assurance to the House that those people who are being transferred from Devon into Cornwall will not pay rates during the coming year which are greater than they would have paid if they had not been transferred.

So far as I can make out, in Article 40 and those following there are special provisions made for that, but I am not exactly sure what the effect of Article 41 will be on the rating position in these areas or on the general rating position of the two counties. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary could elaborate briefly on that point and give the assurance that we would like.

Article 48 deals with security for loans, and there is a strange use of the word "indifferently" which I have not seen before. It occurs in the phrase …any liability or part of a liability charged indifferently on all the revenues of a public body". I am not a lawyer, and that may be why I do not understand the phrase, but it seems a rather odd way of putting it, and perhaps we could have some explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary.

The last important matter concerns the transfer of officers. Quite obviously, the officers who are at present serving the rural district council of Broadwoodwidger will lose their employment, and I say straight away that the provisions in paragraph 52 and onwards are very fair indeed. In addition, the provisions that have been made for the Minister to keep a sort of watching brief to ensure that council employees and local government officers are not stranded and left high and dry are satisfactory. But what is the reason for Article 52(4)? Why is it that the Contracts of Employment Act shall not be regarded as a statement of new terms and conditions of employment for the purposes of the transfer of a particular officer from the dying to the new council? I think that there is some simple explanation for this, but for the peace of mind of the local government officers concerned, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will tell us the purpose of this provision.

I hope that he will also assure us that, if it is humanly possible, no officer who is employed at the moment and who wishes to continue to work with one of the two new councils will be denied the opportunity of doing so, and that he will be able to continue there at his present salary. I understand that this is catered for, but an assurance from the hon. Gentleman on this point would be very welcome indeed.

I think that there is some doubt about the compensation provisions in Article 53(b) where it says: the compensating authority shall be— (i) in the case of loss of employment or loss of emoluments, the authority by whom the person is last employed or the emoluments are last paid, as the case may be, before the loss is suffered. It specifies the authority which will have to pay compensation, and that is fine, but what will happen if the last employing authority was the one which is extinguished by this Order? The appointed day is 1st April, 1966. The authority in question will have ceased to exist, and therefore nothing will happen. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to clear up this point.

In Article 54(5), on page 26, one sees the words if he has continued in their employment without a break of 12 months or more… Are those words and the time factor on all fours, and what is the purpose of making it a 12-month period?

I think the House will agree that the pension provisions in paragraph (7) on the same page are adequate and quite generous. On the whole the provisions with regard to local government officers are right and proper, and I do not think that they will be prejudicial to those who are employed.

Those are the main points that I wish to raise on this Order. We are glad that the Government have brought it in. The points which I have raised are those which have given cause for anxiety among the 1,000 people affected, some to a greater degree, and some to a lesser extent.

I extend a welcome to those who are coming to Cornwall, and I hope that they will be happy under their new council. We in Cornwall will do all that we can to make them welcome in our community.

I turn now to the other Order with which we are concerned. This goes much wider than the other one, and most of its provisions are the same as in the Order which we have been discussing in detail, but I should like the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to tell us why Devon and Cornwall have been included in this Order which deals with Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire and other parts of Eastern Devon. What is the point of including the areas which we have been discussing in the other Orders?

Returns by medical officers of health are dealt with in the first Order, but returns for the tranferred areas in Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset are not mentioned in the South Western Counties Order.

I do not want to speak any longer, because I think that this matter has been aired sufficiently, and I am grateful to the House for listening to me with such patience.

10.55 p.m.

Sir Henry Studholme (Tavistock)

I want to refer to the Broadwoodwidger Order, No. 2087. I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) put down this Motion, because this is the only way in which we can discuss an Order of this nature. I do not oppose the Order. No representations have been made to me in opposition to it. It seems to be an Order which is generally dictated by common sense. On looking up the ancient records, I find that at the time of the Domesday Book this small enclave, consisting of North Petherwin and Werrington, West on the Tamar, was included in the County of Devon, but although I shall always be a Conservative I see no reason why I should be conservative enough to oppose the Order. I am all for change when it is sensible.

I shall lose a number of very nice constituents across the Tamar, who will shortly be included in North Cornwall, I support the Order. I am glad that the Minister will have an opportunity of clearing up the various points which have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North.

10.56 p.m.

Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)

I am glad of this opportunity of saying a few words on the Order. I took the opportunity, before the debate began, to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Sir H. Studholme) whether I might do so, because this area is in his constituency and not mine. The reason why I want to say a few words and ask a few questions is that this is the area in which I have lived for many years. Indeed, all these parishes are right on my doorstep, in the parish of Luffincott. These changes are taking place in a truly rural area of West Devon and I welcome them.

Nothing but good can come out of them. I have consulted many people in my area on this subject and most of them agree with what is going to happen. I have talked to one of my friends who is a county councillor for that area—Bert Moon—and he is for these changes, as is the Chairman of Holsworthy Rural District—Prebendary James. He has done a very good job in all these discussions and all that has taken place.

The way the boundary has run in the past has always been something of a mystery to me. It is extraordinary to have this piece of Devon jutting across the Tamar and into Cornwall, because the Tamar is the great dividing line running from the Tamar Lake to Plymouth. It is always said in this area that things are different across the river. We even go so far as to say in my parish that "across the river they be furriners", and such things as, "Doan't 'ee marry a Cornish maid". There is a very big dividing line between Devon and Cornwall, and the Tamar is the natural boundary. This Order provides a sort of squaring up of the situation.

All these boundary reorganisations and local government reorganisation in this area are object lessons for many other parts of the country. The people concerned, including the hon. Member for Tavistock, are to be congratulated.

I believe that the alteration of areas laid down in Article 15 is right, the Tamar being the natural boundary. On the other side of the Tamar, people look towards Truro and on the Devonshire side towards Exeter, and now there can be no mistake about it. In considering Article 6, I think we ought to put on record our thanks to those on the Rural District Council of Broadwoodwidger who have done such an excellent job. I am not sure about the last part of that Article: …shall before that day liquidate all current liabilities incurred by them. Would the Parliamentary Secretary say whether this is possible?

I welcome the increase from 30 to 36 in Article 7 on the rural district and parish councils, but I am not sure that St. Giles on the Heath ought not to have two councillors instead of one, but I am grateful and pleased to see that Virgin-stow at last has one as well.

I am slightly concerned about Article 13 and I do not know whether I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) about this. I should have thought that, if a child was under the care of a particular council at the moment, he should continue to be, because no children like change. If they are under the care of a certain council at the moment, they should not change until they are out of the care of the council.

On Article 15, which deals with education, I trust that the children will look towards Holsworthy Secondary Modern School when the reorganisation takes place, and when the time comes for them to take secondary education. Holsworthy School seeks to enlarge and become a comprehensive school. I think that it is necessary for it to have a bigger "pupil shed", a bigger area from which to draw pupils, so that it can become a bigger and more successful school.

I welcome the words in Article 15 (2, b) that: …any agreed syllabus of religious instruction under section 29 thereof, being a direction or syllabus in force immediately before the appointed day, shall continue in force until replaced by a further direction… It is most important for the church primary schools in this area that the agreed syllabus should continue and I hope that this will be so.

There are two small matters arising from Article 55 which I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to explain. One concerns the words: …any ecclesiastical parish or district". Being a member of the Church Assembly and particularly interested in these matters in this area, I believe that changes are on the way and I hope that the Order will in no way stop change in this direction.

I notice that nothing is said about where the farmers will look for their authority. Will it be to Truro or to Exeter? At present, in Winton and Broadwoodwidger they look towards Exeter. Will they not in future look towards Truro for the administration of their agricultural affairs? This is a small point, but one which is worth noting.

I welcome this change. It is a tidying up operation and the whole area is to be congratulated upon what has been done. From the point of view of local government reorganisation, this is an object lesson to many other areas.

11.5 p.m.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

I have no wish to trespass on the preserves of my hon. Friends. My interest was considerably aroused when I saw that the Order was down for debate this afternoon. I have three questions to put to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, particularly since I feel that the Order could form a precedent for other Orders. I wish to ensure that certain positions are safeguarded.

First, are parish meetings affected by the Order? Parish meetings are in a special position and sometimes there is an advantage in their being maintained rather than being amalgamated into parish councils. I am the chairman of the Athelhampton Parish Meeting. On one occasion I assisted in preventing my parish from having to pay for the street lamps and drains of Puddletown. I wish to prevent amalgamations in certain cases and to ensure that under the Order parish meetings are safeguarded. Secondly, could any manorial rights be in any way disturbed by the Order? Thirdly, are there any rights of presentation of livings which could be disturbed by these provisions?

11.6 p.m.

Mr. John Hay (Henley)

The House will have a certain degree of sympathy with the Joint Parliamentary Secretary because he has had to bring forward two extremely complicated Orders—complicated in form, although their purpose is quite simple. I am sure therefore, that he does not complain about my hon. Friends and I asking a number of questions about these provisions.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) pointed out, this might well be taken as a precedent. We must be absolutely clear about what some of these rather complicated provisions mean. Certain words used in the Orders are bound to give rise to confusion. Perhaps this is because of the form in which they have, by law, to be written. Certainly anything the Joint Parliamentary Secretary can do to clear up any misunderstanding will be welcomed.

I have a number of questions to put to the hon. Gentleman and my remarks underline what my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) said. Article 13(2) relates to children in care, but it is not clear what exactly will happen in future in respect of children in the county transfer areas. The provision gives the County Council of Cornwall power to take over the care of a child with the concurrence of the local authority in whose care he then is. However, it is not clear whether that power is given only in respect of children in the county transfer area or whether it is a general power conferred on all children in the county district.

I am particularly concerned about Article 24(9), which deals with I.D.C.s issued under Section 38 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962. It states: Any industrial development certificate…issued in respect of any land in the existing rural district of Broadwoodwidger, Holsworthy or Launceston shall continue… That one can understand. It preserves I.D.C.s, but it goes on: …as if this order had not been made". I do not understand the purpose of those words. If the Joint Parliamentary Secretary could throw some light on the reason why that exception is there I should be obliged. I will not comment further on this matter because time is short and we wish to allow the hon. Gentleman time in which to reply. Although I could give a number of other examples, I would refer in particular to Articles 33 and 34. My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North, has referred to Article 33, which deals with byelaws. We should like an assurance about what is to be done in respect of publication or generally making known to the people who are to be transferred into the County of Cornwall the effect of the byelaws in that area.

The House will see that Article 34 deals with compulsory purchase orders that have been submitted to the Minister for confirmation before the appointed day. It makes it clear that these orders may be amended by the Minister by substituting the name of another authority as the acquiring authority. Here, again, I ask: what is to be done to ensure that the owners of the land or interests to be acquired by these compulsory purchase orders will be informed of the fact that the authority which is to acquire their land or interests has changed by Ministerial order?

Lastly, I turn to Article 53. The House will recollect that Article 6 provides for the winding-up—if I may use that expression—of the rural district council of Broadwoodwidger, its dissolution on the appointed day and the obligation to liquidate all current liabilities incurred by the rural district council as far as practicable before the appointed day. But in Article 53(b, i) we read that the compensating authority in respect of any person who suffers loss of employment or loss or diminution of emoluments is to be …the authority by whom the person is last employed or the emoluments are last paid, as the case may be, before the loss is suffered… If the officer concerned was an employee of the Rural District Council of Broadwoodwidger, and if that authority has been wound up in accordance with the provisions of Article 6, how is that position squared with the words used in that part of Article 53?

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman can answer that question off the cuff—I know that it is rather difficult to answer—but it is something that should be looked at, because the last thing we want to do is to leave in any kind of doubt the rights and liabilities of the individual officers of these local councils.

Apart from that, I agree with my hon. Friend that although we were obliged to put down Prayers to annul the two Orders, as a method of obtaining this short debate on some of their provisions, we should not press the matter to a Division.

11.13 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. James MacColl)

As has been said, one happy feature of these Orders is that they are generally approved. They were approved by the last Government. They are approved by this Government. They are approved by the two county councils, by the district councils and by the parishes concerned. There is a remarkable degree of unanimity and, if I may say so as a northerner, I think that it shows a high level of civilisation in the South-West which I hope will be followed in other places.

I should like first to deal with as many of the points as I can read in my notes, and if I either get them wrong or miss any of them I will certainly write to the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) about them. The appointed day is 1st April, which is defined in the Orders. Outstanding liabilities which are not paid off by the rural district council will be transferred to the Hols-worthy R.D.C., so that they will remain in the County of Devon—

Mr. Hay

Under what provisions is that?

Mr. MacColl

I may find that later on, but as I am rather anxious about the time I would prefer not to start looking for it now.

As to representation on the rural district council in the new areas, it is quite true that although the number of councillors has gone down, the ratepayers are still well represented in comparison with other parts of the receiving rural district councils. If it is found that this is an unreasonable arrangement, the county council has powers to increase the number of members. The elections must take place before 1st April and it is for the returning officer to arrange for the elections, not for us.

The reason for the situation in regard to the water board is that Launceston has already representatives on the board. The result of the change will be to avoid double representation.

The question about probation officers is one for the Home Office. I can only pray in aid my experience in the days when I was a magistrate to say that courts normally have a great deal of power to make adjustments if necessary about probation orders if there are any special reasons for leaving a person in the care of a particular probation officer.

A number of points were raised about education, about grants and so on. These I think are essentially matters for the local education authorities. As this is an agreed Order, these are matters which local education authorities can be left to adjust between themselves.

I was asked why the medical officer of health would report only to Hols-worthy R.D.C. One answer is that his report will deal with a period when Broadwoodwidger was in Devon. It is not for me to say whether life in Cornwall will lead to an improvement in health or not. That is a matter for report to Launceston because then those people will be citizens of Launceston.

As to the additional load on driving examiners, it will not be a large amount. No doubt it can be dealt with in consultation with the Minister of Transport. Similarly, on the point raised by two hon. Members about byelaws, responsibility for seeing that the byelaws are advertised will be with the authority which makes the byelaws. It is in its own interests to see that the byelaws are known and I am sure that it will see to that.

Mr. Hay

I know that time is short, but this is a somewhat important point. Will the hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that he will bring it to the attention of the council concerned? I think it vital that it should take every step open to it to bring the byelaws to the attention of its new citizens.

Mr. MacColl

I will certainly look at that. I would not like to give an undertaking about it because I do not see any reason to suppose that responsible local authorities will not carry out their responsibilities in the matter. I shall certainly take advice to see whether there is anything more that we can do.

I was asked about the rather complicated formula—which I agree is complicated—about differential rates. Although it is complicated, it is common form and is fairly familiar in local government Orders. Roughly, what it means is that the rate paid by the area coming into the new rural district council is its old rate, plus any increase in the receiving local authority rate, plus 6d. So that there will be, by degrees, a creeping adjustment of the differential by sixpences every year, and it will not take very long before they reach the same level as the receiving authority.

I was asked some questions about the transfer of officers. The happy situation here is that all the senior officers of the dying R.D.C. are also officers of the receiving R.D.C., so that there will be no difficulty with them at all. Everyone will be transferred to the new authority, and, if any officers suffer a change of employment or a reduction in level of employment, the matter will be in the hands of the new authority, which will be the compensating authority.

I was asked why Cornwall got into the general Order. This arose because a quite different point was being dealt with there, the boundary adjustment of the Tamar. The effect now—it is not, I think, unique though it is an unusual feature to find in an Order—is that the boundary is in the middle of the Tamar for the time being, which means that, as the Tamar fluctuates in its course, the boundary fluctuates similarly.

I was asked whether the powers regarding children in care would apply only to the new area or whether it was a general power. The answer, I am sure, is that this Order cannot go beyond its purpose and scope, that is, adjustments made as a result of the change of boundaries. We cannot alter the Children Act in a general way. Therefore, these powers will apply to those who may be subject to a transfer from one children's authority to another.

Mr. Hay

It is quite definite, is it, that there will not be a child left hanging in the air, so to speak, without a particular local authority holding responsibility?

Mr. MacColl

Yes. The children will remain, by agreement, with one authority or with the other.

The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) raised some points about syllabuses and so on which are really matters for the local education authority to settle. I am sure that it will do that wisely. As regards agriculture, I imagine that people will look to Truro or to Exeter, according to whether they are in Cornwall or Devon after this operation.

I was asked about ecclesiastical parishes. It is said within the Order itself that it does not affect ecclesiastical parishes. If it does not affect ecclesiastical parishes, I think one may assume that those authorities which want to alter such parishes will do so according to the powers they have under other Measures or statutes.

I do not know the answer to the question asked by the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) about the possible effect of the amalgamation in abolishing parish meetings. If I find that there is something I should have told the hon. Gentleman in this connection, I shall let him know. I should not like to think that he was to be deprived of his chairmanship because of some skulduggery under the Order. As far as I know, it will not arise. Further, I do not think that the Order affects manorial rights, and I am sure that I can say with considerable confidence that it does not affect rights of presentation of benefices.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

In view of the kind and helpful way in which the Parliamentary Secretary has dealt with the points we have raised, and his assurance that, if he finds, on reading the debate tomorrow, that he has not answered all our questions, he will write to hon. Members concerned, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.