HC Deb 07 November 1966 vol 735 cc1049-85

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)

The Bill comes before the House because the Burgh of East Kilbride, now a small burgh, is asking for the status of a large burgh in Scotland.

The House will know that a Second Reading for a Private Bill of this kind does not denote approval or acceptance of the principle of the Bill. This is entirely unlike the Second Reading of a Public Bill, whether it be a Private Member's Bill or a Government Bill, and therefore the House, in giving a Second Reading to the Bill, as I hope it will, would simply be ensuring that it went to a Select Committee. Such a Select Committee is of a special kind under the Private Bill procedure. It can hear evidence from outside bodies, and this would enable the case for and against the proposal in the Bill to be ventilated and examined in full.

The Private Bill procedure was the only procedure open to the promoters of the Bill. Under the 1929 legislation, in order to graduate to the status of a large burgh from being a small burgh, they had no other means of proceeding than by a Private Bill of this kind. I hope that the Bill will receive the Second Reading and support from all parts of the House which is necessary to enable it to go to the Committee and have these issues thrashed out in full there. In allowing this to happen, hon. Members would not be committed in any way to the principle of the Bill.

East Kilbride is a place of special interest to Scottish Members. It was the first and is the senior new town in Scotland. Indeed, I believe that it is of interest to all other hon. Members who are concerned with new towns, their past and their future. In 1947, East Kilbride was only a small village. It has grown and flourished as all who have been concerned with new towns hoped that it would. It has always been a text-book pattern of development for a new town.

In its layout and expansion, in the building which has taken place and—perhaps the most important aspect—in the synchronisation of the arrival of factories, homes and people living and working in East Kilbride, the arrangements have gone generally in accordance with the wishes of all those who want to see new towns flourish and grow. The arrangements for the town centre and the shopping areas have developed on lines which all of us hoped and expected to see.

The important point is that industry has come to East Kilbride and has prospered. The National Engineering Laboratory has been established there. The Inland Revenue computer to cover the P.A.Y.E. system for the whole of Scotland is about to go there bringing another 1,800 jobs. As a result, the population, which in 1946 was about 2,400, has risen to an estimated 50,000 today.

Many have contributed to this successful growth, but I am sure that no one will feel overlooked or excluded if I make special mention of the part played by the development corporation in this success story. In the course of its growth, East Kilbride has acquired burgh status as a small burgh, and the town council came into existence in 1963. Incidentally, that was opposed at the time by the county council but was not prevented. From the few remarks I have made in general, it will be seen that Scotland as a whole has an interest in the future of East Kilbride.

As Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, I had the honour and pleasure two and a half years ago of making an official visit to East Kilbride and had an opportunity of discussion with the development corporation, the new town council and the chance of visiting homes and different kinds of firms which had recently settled in the new town. It is because I am very much aware of East Kilbride as an expanding, thriving growth point of the kind we need in Scotland that I am glad to be initiating the debate. As I have mentioned, a Second Reading for the Bill would not commit any hon. Members who support it. The promoters of the Bill, in my opinion, have a very good case which should be heard, and heard fully, in Committee. I will give the House a brief outline of that case to assist hon Members in considering these proposals.

There are 20 large burghs in Scotland. They were formed in 1929 out of towns with populations of over 20,000, although one had under 20,000. Six of these large burghs have fewer than 30,000 population. If East Kilbride were now to become a large burgh, there would be only six of these large burghs larger than East Kilbride, which has a population of 50,000.

The burgh is growing at a rate of about 4,000 to 6,000 a year and the target for the new town is set at 70,000 in five years, rising eventualy to 95,000 with the natural increase in population. The target of 70,000 is likely at the present rate to be reached in about five years' time. In that event and when thathappens, EastKilbride will problably be the fourth largest town in Scotland, excluding the four cities. It is now over twice the size of any other small burgh.

One objection which can be raised to the proposal in the Bill is that the reorganisation of local government in Scotland is being considered by a Royal Commission, But any conclusions and recommendations coming forward from the Royal Commission are, I suggest, unlikely to be put into effect for some time. The Royal Commission has to report; the Government have to consider their own views and reactions to its recommendations; they then have to have consultations with the local authority associations; eventually, a Bill has to be drafted and go through Parliament. In my opinion, it would be optimistic to estimate that this could be done in less than five years.

The, change now proposed in the Bill cannot, in my opinion, prejudice the findings of the Royal Commission and the eventual reorganisation of local government. If the proposal goes through, East Kilbride will be in its proper category. With a population of between 50,000 and 70,000 it will be among the large burghs, where it should be. Indeed, it will be one of the largest of them. Surely, when the Government come to carry out whatever recommendations the Royal Commission may produce, they will not in any way be inconvenienced by finding East Kilbride in its proper and appropriate category rather than being completely outside that category.

This question has already arisen in England, and the Government's attitude is relevant to our debate this evening. On 10th February, when the announcement was made by the then Minister of Housing and Local Government, now the Leader of the House, that a Royal Commission on Local Government in England was being set up, the right hon. Gentleman indicated that the establishment of that Royal Commission would not prevent changes in functions and boundaries in England from being carried out in the meantime. That had already been demonstrated, because a few weeks before he had himself been supporting proposals which included the establishment of a new county borough in England, the Borough of Warley. Since then, other proposals have been put forward and accepted for similar changes of functions and boundaries in England. We in Scotland must also respond to rapid changes. We must not be so obscurantist as to accept the argument for postponement on the basis that there is likely to be a general reorganisation some years ahead.

I have spoken of the size of East Kilbride, 50,000 today rising to 70,000 in about five years' time. It is not just a conglomeration of population. Part of the success of this new town has been the building up of a balanced community. Quickly and easily the position and rôle of small burgh were assumed. People in East Kilbride feel that they are a town. They know that they are a town which can play an increasingly important part in the future of Scotland. There should be provision in the development of a new town for its graduation from one status to another as it becomes larger and develops. Surely it is contradictory to encourage and applaud the steady and rapid development of a new town on the right lines, but then to deny it the responsibilities of coming of age.

It might be argued that because there was a previous case of this kind when the small burgh of Grangemouth unsuccessfully applied to become a large burgh that is precedent. At that time, Grangemouth had a population of only 18,000 and it was therefore a proposal of a quite different scale from that which we are considering. It was below the minimum population of the other large burghs.

Another objection which might be raised concerns staff and transfer of functions. It might be argued by anyone opposing the Bill that there would be an overlapping of functions between the bodies concerned, the new large burgh, the county council and, possibly, the development corporation. I do not believe that this need be. It is estimated that only two new departments would be needed by the burgh in order to take on the new functions, and I understand that it is the intention to offer jobs in the new departments to those who are already fully employed at present by the county council in doing the same work in East Kilbride. Therefore, there could be a simple transition in transferring the functions which would be transferred from the county council to the burghs. It has already been proved that that can be done successfully by what was done when the burgh first achieved its status as a small burgh.

I have tried briefly to outline the reasons for the Bill. A community has been built up with the good will of all the bodies concerned in Scotland, including, I believe, all the political parties in Scotland. We have all wished success to East Kilbride as the first and senior of the Scottish new towns. This issue tonight arises from the very success of that project inside 20 years.

Parliament should be generous to a community like this, as Parliament was partially responsible for creating it and bringing it into existence, and Parliament should therefore at least allow the promoters of the Bill to put their case in full in a Select Committee and to have it fully considered there by a Select Committee especially set up for that purpose. I therefore ask the House to join me in giving the Bill a Second Reading.

Mr. Speaker

I should announce to the House that I have selected the Amendment in the names of the right hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Tom Fraser) and the hon. Member for Both-well (Mr. James Hamilton).

7.16 p.m.

Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)

I beg to move, to leave out "now" and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months".

I want to ask the House to reject the suggestion that the Bill should have a Second Reading. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Tom Fraser) and I have consistently objected to the Bill having a Second Reading. It is most unfortunate that my right hon. Friend should be engaged on other business. He is deliberating with the Royal Commission on Local Government, of which he is a member.

I have objected consistently to the Bill, and do so again this evening, for 13 good reasons. In my constituency I have 13 representatives of Lanarkshire County Council. Some are Labour members; others are Moderates and some designate themselves Unionists. It is significant that the 13 are unanimous in saying that the Bill should not have a Second Reading. Both the opposition and the ruling party on Lanarkshire County Council unanimously object to the Bill.

As the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) has said, East Kilbride was designated a new town in 1947, the first in Scotland based on the 1946 legislation. Prior to that—and this is very important to Lanarkshire—it was a village with a population of 2,400 and the main industries were agriculture and the manufacture of mining and agricultural machinery.

The idea of a new town was that we should have decentralisation of industry, people and housing and that in the main people would come from Glasgow, Cambuslang and Blantyre. The East Kilbride Development Corporation was set up and the local authorities were the Lanarkshire County Council and the fifth district council, with representatives on the corporation. In the initial stages East Kilbride had two representatives on the county council, then four and then six. Now that it has achieved small burgh status, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has agreed that it should have eight representatives on the county council. Because it was a new town, the Secretary of State appointed the corporation the planning authority. In the initial stages, planning was the responsibility of the county council, but, because of the mammoth task and because it was a virgin town, it was agreed that planning should be passed to the development corporation, which is now the planning authority.

By 1962 the population had increased up to 35,000. In that year a petition was lodged by 12 inhabitants, who petitioned the Sheriff to grant small burgh status to East Kilbride. This was in accordance with Section 135 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947.

Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)

Did my hon. Friend tell us that the corporation was the planning authority, and does he imply by this that a non-elected body was the planning authority?

Mr. Hamilton

That is perfectly correct. This was the decision taken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, for the reasons which I have related. The Sheriff is bound to hold a local inquiry when a body of people in an area wants small burgh status. The county council and the fifth district council objected, and in the main the reasons for the objections were as follows:

  1. 1. that the residents of East Kilbride are at present fully represented on the two local authorities, namely the County and District councils, and which at present carry out effectively functions which would be undertaken by the proposed Town Council;
  2. 2. that the already limited functions operated by a small burgh would in this case be further restricted by the operations of the Development Corporation in the proposed area in that the main function transferred to the small burgh is housing. At the time of this application something like 90 per cent. of the dwelling houses in the area had been provided by the Development Corporation and they would continue in this field until they had completed their target of 70,000 of a population;
  3. 3. that the granting of small Burgh status would result in three separate bodies, the Town Council, the County Council, and the Development Corporation, having a hand in the development of the New Town of East Kilbride and operating within three different boundaries.
Despite these objections the Sheriff granted East Kilbride small burgh status as from 10th May, 1963. This was the only decision at which he could have arrived, as the law at present stands. He stated that the objections from the county council were most interesting. In March of this year East Kilbride Town Council lodged a Provisional Order providing for the status of the burgh of East Kilbride "at present a small burgh in the County of Lanark" to be changed into a large burgh, "and for other purposes."

The county council lodged a petition against the Order and its draft. As mention has been made of it, I shall refer to the application of Grangemouth Town Council. For the record, it should be mentioned that in 1961 a Provisional Order was lodged by Grangemouth Town Council in which it sought to change the status of Grangemouth from a small burgh to a large burgh, and also to extend the boundaries of the burgh by annexing areas in the counties of Stirling and West Lothian. On that occasion it was decided by the Chairman of the Committee of the other House and the Chairman of Ways and Means, after representations on behalf of Stirling County Council, that as that particular Order raised questions of much novelty and importance, the procedure should be by way of a Private Bill in the other House.

Lanark County Council carried out a similar procedure when East Kilbride promoted its Provisional Order by instructing its Parliamentary agents in London to make the appropriate representations against the Order. As a result it was decided by the respective Chairmen of both Houses that the Bill should be presented to the House of Commons.

The main points made in the representations were: that there were no statutory provisions in either the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, or in any other enactment for changing the status of a small burgh to that of a large burgh, and the proposals of the draft Provisional Order necessitated amendments of the First Schedule to the 1947 Act, in which both the large and small burghs were particularly specified; so far as the county council was aware, there was no precedent since the 1947 Act, or since the passing of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929, for an Order to alter the status of a burgh in the manner proposed in the draft Provisional Order.

This meant that the provisions of the Order would create a precedent on a matter of importance affecting local government administration throughout Scotland and since the provisions of the Order would raise questions of public policy of such novelty and importance, it was felt that the matter should be dealt with by way of a Private Bill and not a Provisional Order.

The small burgh of East Kilbride does not have the right to determine certain matters in which it is interested. At the same time this can be said of all other burghs in Scotland when they act under the umbrella or administration of a county council. While the Minister's functions, transferred to East Kilbride on achieving large burgh status may seem many, there are only a certain number of functions involved which are of any importance. These include civil defence, fire, health and welfare, roads, planning and motor taxation.

The position with regard to civil defence is that the county council and the existing large burghs in the county, following the pattern in other areas of Scotland, this year set up a joint committee to deal with recruitment, training, and the operational aspects of this service. Prior to the setting up of the joint committee, the county council and all the large burghs had their own civil defence committees.

East Kilbride as a small burgh was represented on the county council's civil defence committee and all that will be achieved with this service is representation on a joint committee, as against representation on the council's civil defence committee. To deal with the fire service next. There is in Lanarkshire a fire brigade joint committee, which has been set up under an Order entitled the Lanarkshire Fire Area Administration Scheme Order, 1948, made by the Secretary of State. This administers the fire service within the county council. So far as this service is concerned, the town council will obtain direct representation on a joint committee along with the other existing large burghs. There would, therefore, be no change in the present administration of the fire service, except an increase in the composition of the joint committee. To deal with——

Sir Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)

Is it in order for hon. Members to read their speeches? Could they not be circulated in some form?

Mr. Speaker

It is not in order for hon. Members to read speeches. It is, however, in order for hon. Members to use copious notes.

Mr. Hamilton

Dealing next with health and welfare, the national trend is steadily moving towards a more unified health service on the lines of the Porritt Committee's suggestion of area boards, combining general practitioners, hospital and public health services on an area basis. Last week the White Paper, Social Work and the Community, was presented. In essence this means that even existing large burghs will be taken care of if the House is prepared to accept all that is stated in the White Paper.

Mr. Michael Noble (Argyll)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for having given way: I did not want to interrupt his flow of language. My point is that these rather detailed points which he is putting to the House are surely exactly those which a Select Committee ought to consider. It seems to me—I say it in great humility—that the hon. Member's points are irrelevant to our discussion today.

Mr. Hamilton

I would say that these are most relevant for the County of Lanark. I am attempting to prove to the House that the move is towards larger local government representation.

I should now like to refer to education. When the block grant was introduced by the previous Administration, Lanarkshire County Council and other local authorities received a grant based on the formula adopted at that time. We made representations as a local authority—I was a member of that authority—to the Scottish Office. Realising that East Kilbride was a new town, we knew that it carried tremendous responsibilities. The Scottish Office was not prepared to give us any extra money, so the major proportion of the block grant for educational purposes went to East Kilbride, which meant that many of us representing Lanarkshire constituencies found that many of our dilapidated schools were still dilapidated and that we could not get the necessary money to build new ones.

A fortnight from now, I am to attend the opening of a school replacing one which existed for over 100 years. Another school is being built to replace one about which representations were made by one of my predecessors in 1930. Consequently, we on the county council feel that we have been more than decent with East Kilbride. We took in East Kilbride when it had a small population; now that it has grown to such dimensions, it wants to leave the county.

One of the main problems is that it will be financially beneficial to the people in the area and in the end detrimental to the landward part of the county. I am very concerned about this because there are 13 different areas in my constituency with no burgh association at all. The difference between Grangemouth and East Kilbride is that when the former made application the amount of money spent on education was 22.2 per cent. In East Kilbride, it was 7.7 per cent. On landward services, the Grangemouth proportion was 31.5 per cent. and in East Kilbride, 13 per cent.

Therefore, the number of people in East Kilbride comparable with the County of Lanark on a percentage basis is in no circumstances on the same basis as Grangemouth. When the latter made the necessary application, it was not granted large burgh status.

The Prime Minister announced that he was setting up a Royal Commission to deal with local government structure in Scotland, and that Commission is now sitting. This will mean another handout to East Kilbride. These are questions which I should like my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State to answer. It has been said that it is not imminent. How imminent is "imminent"? When does it become "imminent"? I should like to know whether the Government are insincere in asking that a Royal Commission be set in operation when, I assume, it will be able to give us its findings as quickly as possible.

It has also been said that the development corporation will wind up in 1971. That is not my information. To my knowledge no one knows when the corporation will wind up. I should like my hon. Friend to give us some information on this point also. I ask the House not to give the Bill a Second Reading.

7.37 p.m.

Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)

I am sure that the House will applaud the very sturdy explanation by the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) of some of the arguments against giving the Bill a Second Reading. He said that he had 13 reasons for making his speech and they were the 13 constituents of his on the Lanarkshire County Council. Those of us who support the Second Reading of the Bill could claim to have 50,000 special reasons for our support. Those reasons are the interests of the 50,000 people now living in East Kilbride.

The hon. Member made it clear that there is no party dispute—at least I hope that there is none—in this matter and that the only consideration is that of the public interest. What we must consider specifically is not whether the case of East Kilbride is right or not, but whether it is right that the cases for and against the Bill should be considered in depth and detail by a Select Committee.

This point has already been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) but it must be emphasised, not only for hon. Members but for the benefit of a wider audience, that we are considering not the merits, as such, of the Bill but whether or not there is a sufficiently strong case for it to be considered in detail by a Select Committee.

I have read, as others will have done, the statements by the Burgh of East Kilbride and by the Lanarkshire County Council, setting out the arguments for and against the Bill. It certainly seems to me, as an outside observer in these matters, coming from a part of Scotland far from Lanarkshire, that there is strength in the East Kilbride argument that the sark of the small burgh is now too cutty for this thrusting adolescent now approaching maturity. The transformation of East Kilbride was underlined by my hon. Friend. He showed that a population of 2,400 in 1946 has now reached 50,000. It has gone up 20 times in 20 years, and it is confidently expected to rise by another 20,000 in the next five years.

The hon. Member for Bothwell said that the Grangemouth Burgh Bill was ultimately thrown out by a Select Committee some years ago, and that point was also made in the statement put out by the Lanarkshire County Council against the Bill. I would, however, remind the hon. Gentleman that whatever its merits or demerits were the Bill was granted a Second Reading in another place. One might consider that the parallel was not very close to the present issue because, looking this evening through the debate in another place, I observed that the Grangemouth business was a much smaller affair than is the East Kilbride question. The population of Grangemouth was expected to reach 22,500 by 1964, and 30,000 by 1975. East Kilbride is likely to reach 70,000 several years before the latter date—two or three times as large a population some years sooner. I therefore suggest that the Grangemouth argument is not valid in the context of this Bill.

The hon. Member also referred to the Royal Commission. It can be argued, I suppose, that because a Royal Commission is now sitting it would be improper for this House to consider any change in local government matters until a Bill ultimately came before Parliament, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn has pointed out, the Royal Commission has still to report, and that could take a very long time. Following the report, there will be consultations, and then a Bill which will have to go through Parliament, during which time it will have to survive its long journey through the Scottish Standing Committee. That being so, I suggest that even my hon. Friend's estimate of five years may be an underestimate of the time that may elapse before any recommendations coming from the Royal Commission are finally enacted.

Is the fact that a Royal Commission is sitting a good reason to stifle all changes of this kind? It is a very convenient argument for government—and here I spell it with a small letter—to say that it would be administratively improper or unwise to proceed with this or that action, because the broad matter is being considered by this or that body. One remembers the chorus that went up from both sides of the House years ago of "Waiting for Molony". It would be wrong for us now to accept a cry of "Waiting for the Royal Commission." Are we to stifle all change just because this Royal Commission is now sitting? The Secretary of State for Scotland is now seeking powers to speed the amalgamation of police forces. I mention that only in passing to demonstrate that proposals affecting local authorities are now going through Parliament ahead of the findings of the Royal Commission.

One of the main arguments used by the county council in opposing the Bill is consideration of the efficient administration of local government. The county council believes that the present system provides a more efficient and economical form of local government than would be the case if the status of East Kilbride were to be changed. That may be so, but whether or not it is so is a matter that should be considered in great detail by a Select Committee.

I must add that the interests of the local population might, as I have read the argument, be better served if the status of a large burgh were conferred on East Kilbride. I imagine that East Kilbride, in common with other new towns, has a particularly large young population, so it would seem reasonable that children's welfare services should be moved to a position in local authority life where they impinge more closely on the people for whom they are primarily provided—the young children of the young population of East Kilbride. One could extend the argument to cover other aspects of local authority responsibility.

In short, while I recognise that there are arguments against the merits of the Bill itself, I do not feel that they have been proved sufficiently either by the hon. Member for Bothwell or by the statement against the Bill to justify the rejection of the Bill at this stage by the House. I very much hope, therefore, that the Amendment will be rejected, and that the Bill will be given a Second Reading, so that the full merits of the case can be considered in depth by the Select Committee.

7.46 p.m.

Sir Myer Galpern (Glasgow, Shettleston)

The other day, during exchanges in this Chamber between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) interjected to inquire whether it was a private war or could anyone join in. It seems to me that this evening we are listening to a private war on the municipal or local government front between East Kilbride, which has small burgh status at present, and the larger county council. I think that it would be a fine gesture if, at the end of the debate, those who are immediately interested in it—that is to say, hon. Members representing areas governed by the Lanarkshire County Council and the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), who represents East Kilbride, were to refrain from voting. We might then get a fairer representation of the wishes of the House.

An objective point of view is called for now. The reference to the Royal Commission and the reasons advanced for delaying any consideration of the request by East Kilbride to attain large burgh status is, as has already been pointed out, entirely beside the point. If the House were to be given an assurance this evening that whenever the Royal Commission reported all its recommendations would be accepted forthwith by the Government I would be prepared to withdraw my opposition to the Lanarkshire County Council case, but it must be well within the knowledge of every hon. and right hon. Member that not only has it sometimes taken a long time to implement the findings of Royal Commissions but that they have also been known to be buried in pigeon-holes. Who is to gainsay the fact that if it is inconvenient to adopt the opinions of Royal Commissions a similar fate might befall the report of the Royal Commission presently sitting in Edinburgh?

One could refer to another Royal Commission. A Royal Commission has just reported that, in its view, it would not be proper for an Attorney-General to appear before tribunals, but we know that the Government, in the knowledge that this view would be reported today, have decided that the Attorney-General will appear before a tribunal. Therefore, the question whether the Royal Commission is to report in any particular direction should be left out of consideration this evening when deciding whether or not to allow this Measure to proceed further.

I have a good deal of sympathy for the point of view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) speaking, as he does, on behalf of the Lanarkshire County Council because East Kilbride has so far been a contented member of a happy family in the Lanarkshire County Council. She has derived all the benefits that we all admit come from excellent parential guidance from the County Council. But she has not yet attained her majority. Mr. Deputy Speaker, you know full well, having recently had the happy event of one member of the family hiving off from your family household, and giving that event your blessing, that you did not remind them that you had spent so much in the past and that surely the time was right for them to stay on in order to repay you. You were delighted about that event, and that is exactly how the Lanarkshire County Council ought to feel about this event.

Here we have a local authority which has built up a tremendous reputation in Scotland. It has set the pattern for industrial and other developments such as we should like to see spread throughout Scotland. It has exceeded the target set for it in a much shorter time than expected and, with a population rising to a figure of 90,000, it far outstrips others who oppose it when it says, "We recognise and thank you for what you have done in the past, but now we wish to hive off on our own and see how we can carry on with our own resources and gain our own experience". In the spheres in which it can operate as a small burgh, such as clean air, sewerage, street lighting, roads, and so on, it has not only come up to but exceeded the standards set by the Lanarkshire County Council in the facilities provided by it. Having grown to the size that it has, it wishes to take under its wing some of the other services which may not be so readily provided by the Lanarkshire County Council because of the costs involved. I think that that is a reasonable attitude to adopt. It is one which should be encouraged and not opposed by the Lanarkshire County Council.

What is the real reason for the opposition? As I read the statement published by the Lanarkshire County Council, it is purely a financial one. I cannot read anything else into it, and paragraph after paragraph stresses that fact. In paragraph 6, for example, one reads: While the transfer of functions now administered by the County Council would lead to a considerable increase in the cost of providing equivalent services and facilities in the Burgh, there would be no corresponding reduction in the cost of such services in the remainder of the County. No one disputes that. But that is no reason why a town with a population of 50,000, rising ultimately to 90,000, should be denied large burgh status, simply because Lanarkshire County Council says, "It will not help us financially".

In paragraph 10, the county council says that it should not be obliged to go before a Select Committee. That is all that it is asking, and I think that that fact ought to be stressed. I appeal to my hon. Friends on this side of the House to listen to the plea, even if they agree with East Kilbride, because, although I am behind the East Kilbride case, it has to be examined. All we ask is that an opportunity should be given, by giving the Bill a Second Reading, to enable it to be investigated fully by a Select Committee.

In paragraph 10, the Lanarkshire County Council says, arbitrarily: In these circumstances the County Council respectfully submit that they should not be put to the considerable expense of appearing before a Select Committee of your Honourable House in opposition to the Bill and that the Bill should be rejected on Second Reading. That is the sole reason that the county council advances for our not giving the Bill a Second Reading. It says that it will involve the council in considerable expense. Surely right hon. and hon. Members of this House will recognise that that is no valid argument for extinguishing completely a case which is put forward reasonably by responsible people. I have a letter from one such responsible body, the East Kilbride Trades Council, which says: East Kilbride Trades Council urges all Scottish Members of Parliament to support the Bill which will grant Large Burgh Status to the East Kilbride new town. We are not going as far as that. We are not urging the House to grant large burgh status to East Kilbride this evening. We ask that there should be an examination by a Select Committee.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the Lanarkshire County Council in the minor difficulties which it faces, but I am sure that, with the aid of hon. Members of this House, it will be able to overcome those difficulties. In addition, we have the assurance given by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) that the officials who are presently looking after the two new departments which will be set up in the Lanarkshire County Council will, if they so desire, be taken over by the East Kilbride Town Council. I think that that was what he said.

Mr. G. Campbell

I said that I understood that those fully employed in East Kilbride at present on the same services would be offered employment.

Sir M. Galpern

I thank the hon. Gentleman for amplifying his statement. If they are willing, these officials will be able to move over and have their salaries paid by the large burgh of East Kilbride, when the Lanarkshire County Council will be responsible for them no longer. I take it that that is the position.

In East Kilbride now there are 50,000 people who have given this very close consideration. Even when applying for small burgh status, there was a school of thought in East Kilbride which said that it should go from the beginning for large burgh status. However, after considering other representations made to it, it thought that it would take two bites at the cherry. It may be that it made a mistake and that, if it had gone ab initio for large burgh status, it might today have been enjoying that status. It knows that its rateable value is such that it is adequate for the additional powers which it now seeks, and that is a very important aspect.

While recognising that there may be something in the argument that the Lanarkshire County Council will suffer financially if large burgh status is granted to East Kilbride, in my opinion, there is still a 100 per cent. case for the examination of the proposal by a Select Committee. I hope that the House will agree to give East Kilbride that opportunity.

7.57 p.m.

Mr. W. H. K. Baker (Banff)

I make no apology for intervening in this debate. From the point of view of remoteness, my constituency is even further away from East Kilbride than that of my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur). Like other hon. Members, I think that a matter of principle is involved here, and it is the simple one which has been stated already that the matter should be investigated in depth by a Select Committee.

I was going to deal with some of the points against the Bill, but, in view of the admirable speech by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern), I shall leave those on one side. As he said, the main consideration against the Bill by the Lanarkshire County Council seems to be a financial one. It also mentions population.

A town with a population of approximately 50,000 would come into the category of a large burgh in any circumstances, I should have thought. There are five other large burghs already in existence in the County of Lanark, only two of which are at present bigger than East Kilbride. If the population trend continues, in two years' time there will be only one large burgh in the county which is bigger than East Kilbride will be at that juncture. I might add that even that one is the joint burgh of Motherwell and Wishaw. To me, it is only reasonable that East Kilbride should achieve large burgh status and shoulder the responsibility which obviously it is only too willing to do.

Many of these responsibilities which it wishes to take on are administered by Lanarkshire County Council. The County of Lanark may not be a particularly large county in area compared with many other counties in Scotland, but it is very much more densely populated, and it is perhaps incidental that the town council wishes to take on responsibilities which closely, one might even go so far as to say intimately, affect the local people and the local ratepayers. Some functions which I have in mind are the care of children, the major health services, and a comparatively minor service, but a very important one, school crossing patrols. In addition, there is the care and welfare of the older people and of handicapped persons.

I do not want in any way to appear to be criticising the present set-up, nor in particular the officers who administer the services as they are at present. Far from it, but how much better that the control of these services should be in local hands? After all, if local government is to mean anything, it must be local in the true sense of the word.

We are not asking, or at least the Bill does not ask, much in this sense. As has been mentioned, it requires only two new Departments—a new health and welfare department for major health services and for the care of the old folk and the handicapped, and a children's department. All the other functions for which it is asking will be taken on under its existing departments. In the wider sphere, East Kilbride has no representation on many joint committees, such as the fire brigade in which it has a definite and considerable interest. I am advised that if large burgh status is achieved this state of affairs will be remedied.

To progress from small burgh status in 1963 to readiness for large burgh status in 1967 is a considerable achievement. It is a considerable tribute to those who have been farsighted and who have worked hard to produce a town council which is obviously viable and which is obviously very much alive. I think that this ought to be encouraged, and I therefore hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading.

8.3 p.m.

Mr. John Robertson (Paisley)

I preface my brief remarks by saying that I am a Lanarkshire man with local government experience in Lanarkshire. I know the area. I have been in it all my days.

I am not surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) says that all the members of the county council, irrespective of party, are united in opposing this application. This has always been the case. If one wanted to unite the county, one had only to bring up the question of one of the other local authorities wanting to spread its wings. I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) that the only thing which united the large and small local authorities and the county council was the attempt by Glasgow to intervene. This is the sort of thing we always found, and this aspect is extremely important because it reveals the inherent antagonisms within the existing structure. This is one good reason for the reorganisation of local government. The other is the relationship of local authorities with the Scottish Office.

One thing of which we can be sure is that East Kilbride is a town. There is no denying that. Indeed, if someone were to visit East Kilbride, he would realise just how much of a town it is. It is a natural unit of local government. It is close knit, well-designed, and well-planned, even though a stranger would need a map and a compass to find a way through the roundabouts and one-way streets.

The county council should realise that this town is not its child. If the county council did not oppose this town being built, it certainly did not build it itself, although it may be argued that the opportunity was there so to do. It will therefore not do for the county council to argue in the way that it has done.

My hon. Friend the Member for Both-well dealt at great length with the functions which would be performed by the new authority, saying that the corporation would be the planning authority and the housing authority. This is a jolly good reason why East Kilbride should become a large burgh, so that at the earliest possible date this non-elected body can have the opportunity of transferring its functions to an elected body, and I repeat that a large burgh is a natural unit.

My hon. Friend told us how much the county council had done for the people of East Kilbride in providing education. He seems to have forgotten that a large amount of the money raised for education in Lanarkshire was contributed by the people in the large burghs of Motherwell-Wishaw, Airdrie, Coatbridge, Hamilton and Rutherglen, and also by people in the small burghs. It was not all provided by the county council. Other local authorities pay a substantial amount of the education requisition.

I think that the idea of a Royal Commission is a red herring, and I know that my hon. Friend will not pay much attention to it. After all, his right hon. Friend was not prevented from bringing in proposals for the amalgamation of police forces just because a Royal Commission was to report. Nor did he feel inhibited from bringing in proposals for the reorganisation of water supplies merely because a Royal Commission reported. Again, he had no misgivings about bringing in a White Paper on the social services, although a Royal Commission may report. My right hon. Friend realises that although a Royal Commission may report at some date, it does not mean that anything will be done, or that if something is done, it will be what the Commission recommends.

It is important that this large burgh should be established so that it can assume the powers of the corporation as a housing authority and as a planning authority and take over its other functions before the Royal Commission reports. I believe that the Royal Commission will not go for county councils. I do not think that the decision has been made, and that the Royal Commission will merely rubber stamp it. I think that it will bring in original proposals, and that East Kilbride will have a place among them. I therefore suggest to my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell, and to any hon. Member who feels disposed to support me, that we should allow this matter to go upstairs to be investigated and for the arguments to be heard. I therefore suggest that we should give the Bill a Second Reading.

8.8 p.m.

Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)

I cannot help feeling a little sorry for the hon. Member for East Kilbride, because I feel that he has been sent to this Chamber with a pistol at his back. I admit, however, that I admired the spirited attempt which he made to put forward his case.

The Minister of State, Commonwealth Affairs (Mrs. Judith Hart)

I am not proposing to speak in this debate, but I must correct the accuracy of the hon. Gentleman's designation. I think that he meant my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Robertson). I am the hon. Member for Lanark, which includes East Kilbride.

Earl of Dalkeith

I meant the hon. Member for Bothwell. The hon. Gentleman's arguments were good arguments in favour, rather than otherwise, of this Bill going to a Select Committee. This, after all, is what we are concerned about. It is so easy to be carried away with the arguments for Lanarkshire, or for East Kilbride, but this is the only point about which we are concerned, and I think that the hon. Gentleman's argument emphasised how necessary it is that the Bill should go to a Select Committee.

Several hon. Members have mentioned that we ought to take an objective view, especially those who are far away from East Kilbride. It is relevant to point out that this is one of the few occasions when we are not blinded by the sparks that fly off the grinding of party political axes. I came here with an open mind, but after hearing the arguments which have been advanced so far I feel that there is every reason why this Bill should be given a Second Reading.

The principle involved here is one that we recognise not only in respect of local government but throughout the British Commonwealth. It is the same situation that arises when a colony grows up and reaches the stage at which it wishes to have its independence. Its people want their own say in how they shall run their affairs. Surely the situation in East Kilbride is the same. I warmly support my hon. Friends and am itching to hear what the Government position is on this matter.

8.12 p.m.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

I agree with the overwhelming weight of opinion that the Bill deserves a Second Reading. My hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) has said that that 13 people were unanimous. I would point out that on the East Kilbride County Council there were 15 unanimous members—nine Labour, three Conservative and three Independent. That representation is the equal of any approach that my hon. Friend may put up.

Mr. James Hamilton

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that when I referred to 13 unanimous members I was referring to county council members in my constituency and not to the county council as a whole?

Mr. Dalyell

Being suspicious, and perhaps of an uncharitable turn of mind, whenever I am approached by people who have an axe to grind I view them with a certain amount of reserve. With the permission of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) in whose constituency East Kilbride is, I paid a visit to the town yesterday and carried out some personal research. I make no claim for the statistical accuracy of that research, but it is worth mentioning to the House that I called at 100 doors in Falkland Drive, Cloverhill View, Avon-dale, Lochaber Place, Logie Square, Windward Avenue, and Bousefield Road, and elsewhere. Anybody who knows East Kilbride will admit that that is a fairly wide representation of the town.

Sir M. Galpern

Did my hon. Friend combine his call with a request for the local people to join the Labour Party?

Mr. Dalyell

Because I was so open to the charge of having this or that axe to grind I did not even take with me, or accept any hospitality from, anybody to do with East Kilbride.

One thing is quite clear; the question whether the people there have large borough status is very important to them. This matters to them. It really does. I asked the people who came to the door a simple question. I said that as Member of Parliament for West Lothian I had been asked to take part in the debate in the House of Commons tomorrow and that the only question I wanted to ask was: does it matter whether you are a large borough or not? Of the 100 people I asked, 69 said "Yes" and 31 were either too busy to answer or did not know very much about it. No one showed any hostility to the thought of East Kilbride's becoming a large borough.

It seems to me that the wishes of the people whom we are discussing matter, because if democracy means anything it means that we have to take account of the wishes of people, and if they feel strongly about this matter that is in itself a good reason why the House should take those feelings into account.

We should be sensitive to the views of the residents in any area that we discuss. I do not wish to criticise the Lanark County Council. Nevertheless, I would tell my hon. Friend the Member for Both-well that that County Council is unloved in East Kilbride. There is undoubtedly a feeling of remoteness to the council in the area. I do not go so far as the man who told me that they would be stifled by an octopus; I am not sure whether the Lanark County Council can be called an octopus. Doubtless many of its members do excellent work. Nevertheless, that is the feeling of some people in East Kilbride.

Mr. James Hamilton

Has my hon. Friend been to Lanark in order to discover how the people there feel in relation to the point that he has made? What he has told us is absolute balderdash and nonsense.

Mr. Dalyell

I studied the county council's memorandum and found it to be a very thin document, until I reached paragraph 10, which has already been quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern). Paraphrased, it means that the county council says that democracy is too expensive and that we should short-circuit this matter. It says, in effect, "We, Lanark County Council, do not believe that the House of Commons is right to have set up this kind of procedure." That is an accurate paraphrase of the county council's attitude.

In my view, that come jolly near to privilege. I take my stand—having read that document very carefully and discussed it with many people, including some of my hon. Friends, and bearing no personal malice of any kind—on the argument that it would be wrong for the House not to go through the procedure of giving the Bill a Second Reading, and a proper consideration.

Sir S. McAdden

If I understood the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) correctly, he said that when he carried cut his personal research in East Kilbride yesterday he did not accept any hospitality. Was he offered any hospitality?

Mr. Dalyell

It was—yes—full hospitality—lunch on the town council. The important question here is the question: how local should government be? I represent two different places—Whitburn and Blackburn. Any Member for West Lothian will notice that whereas there are comparatively few frustrated complaints from people in Whitburn, there are many from people in Blackburn—and I think that I know the reason. In Whitburn a local resident can go round the corner and see the people against whom he wishes to complain, whereas in Blackburn it is often a question of going to Linlithgow. This applies to East Kilbride. If democracy is to work properly it must be as local as possible. Ask the mums of East Kilbride about local maternity centres.

It would be unwise for me to criticise the Chairman of the Royal Commission, or its members. Nevertheless, the Royal Commission will take a long time to report. My hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston said, "How do we know that the findings of the Royal Commission will be accepted?" I ask the House to recognise that East Kilbride is a bustling community, where these things matter; where they are considered with a sense of urgency. This House should create a situation in which the feelings of the local people are taken into account. Let their energies be released.

8.20 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Wolrige-Gordon (Aberdeenshire, East)

I rise briefly to support the Bill, or rather to urge its consideration by a Select Committee. It is not much to ask. It is a very reasonable proposition that the whole matter should be discussed and thought through very carefully. I hope that common sense will have its way tonight.

Here we have a village transformed into a burgh, thrusting its way onwards to become a large burgh. It has developed from 2,400 souls in 1947 to a township of approximately 50,000 or more today. This means that it already has more than double the population of any other small burgh in Scotland, and is, in fact, larger than over half the 20 existing large burghs. Since East Kilbride was granted the status of a small burgh on 6th May, 1963, it has had conspicuous success in developing necessary services, and it has now reached the conclusion that it should extend this worth while process still further.

This burgh has such a prima facie case for the status it seeks, at least to be examined, that it behoves one to query why there should be any objection at all. I should have thought that it would have been the aim of national government and local government actively to assist the growth of places like East Kilbride. I regret the aims of those who seek to retard the control of its own growth. I think they value their own control too highly for their own health or for the health of those they seek to restrain. They make the claim that it will dislocate services, will make administration more inconvenient, and is likely to disrupt public services—all the arguments, in short, which can always be adduced and, sadly, so often are adduced, by governments or local governments or anybody attracted by the elementary proposition of the wisdom of doing nothing. Such arguments are, as usual, founded on opinions and lacking in fact. As the alternative to such a charge can only be distinguished by a Select Committee, I think the question should go there as quickly as possible.

8.22 p.m.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)

I do not think that this is the occasion or the opportunity to make speeches of a self-evident nature. Hon. Members who have spoken have been saying basically that East Kilbride was a small town, that it has become a large town and that, therefore, it should have large burgh status. The implication is that the Lanarkshire case is a frivolous one. I do not think it is a frivolous case. I have been in on the East Kilbride story longer than anybody in this House. I was a member of the survey team who, in 1946, prepared the research data on which the town was built. For the last 14 years I have been closely involved with the education of young people in the town.

It was correct for East Kilbride to raise this demand. The demand is by no means a frivolous one. There will be a Select Committee—there is no doubt in anybody's mind that this should go to a Select Committee; but I think it would be very bad if this matter went to a Select Committee on the basis of the type of debate which has taken place today. My hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) would be one of the first to acknowledge that this is an important matter.

Sir M. Galpern

It is a dangerous argument to suggest that a Select Committee will be in some way influenced by the debate which has taken place this evening. I hope my hon. Friend will make it abundantly clear that, once we have disposed of the procedure, the Select Committee will be enabled to consider the matter de novo without being influenced by what has taken place this evening.

Mr. Buchan

Of course. That goes without saying. Having said that, we should be perfectly clear that a particular problem exists.

This is not so much a small town which has become a large town—it is a new town, with new town priorities and with new town costs to the county council. It costs the Lanarkshire County Council, for example in education, a great deal. I was one of those who suffered from this in my teaching duties. If it was a choice of replacing an old school where a school still existed, or of building a new school where none existed but which was needed in East Kilbride, then the new school had to come first. Therefore, in fact, we had an undue expenditure on facilities in East Kilbride. Therefore, when the matter comes up, as the county has raised it under point No. 6, we must realise that a great deal of expenditure is involved. A great deal of expense has been incurred by the county in the past, which it cannot make up out of future rating, because it will now lose the rating factor of the new town.

Mr. John Robertson

My learned Friend should realise that the Lanarkshire education authority is not the Lanarkshire County Council. The education requisition falls upon quite a number of large burghs which constitute a quite considerable proportion of the population of Lanarkshire. Therefore, to suggest that the cost should fall on the county council would be quite wrong.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I should like to ask my hon. Friend if East Kilbride is trying to get control of its own education.

Mr. Buchan

Of course it is not. I am speaking about the problem of costs as it affects the county. The large burghs are involved in the costing of educational facilities in smaller places like East Kilbride. The points that I am putting forward do not detract from my argument, but add to it.

Mr. Eadie

My hon. Friend, in speaking about education costs, referred to the fact that East Kilbride was a new town and was affected by the burgh requisitions. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. John Robertson) mentioned that the Government also made extra money available because it was a new town.

Mr. Buchan

I was not going into the raw, crude figures. I said there was undue cost within Lanarkshire being devoted to East Kilbride. Other proportions came from other Government resources towards the new town. Nevertheless, the effect was in general costing an undue amount. There was a rundown effect on educational development within the county generally. The presence of the new town meant that Lanarkshire incurred, in one way and another, additional costs. Therefore, when the question of costs is raised it is not a frivolous argument.

This is an important point which underlines the necessity of sending the Bill to a Select Committee. What arises from this is that our method of financing the new towns has been inadequate in the past, but it should not have been the position that counties should have been involved in these additional costs. Therefore, we should allow a Select Committee to begin to consider this matter. If we do not, before too long with some half-remembered, nostalgic memories of things which might have been said in a debate in the House, we shall be faced with this problem again with other new towns. Unless the problem which now faces Lanarkshire is removed, it will be repeated time after time in the case of other counties—for example, Ayrshire and Dunbartonshire in the case of Cumbernauld. Lanarkshire has raised an important matter—the question of the cost of financing new towns. It would be wrong for us to say that it had a frivolous case based only on point 10.

I have tried to state my reasons why this matter should go to a Select Committee. I know East Kilbride and I wish it well in its arguments before the Select Committee.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Michael Noble (Argyll)

I shall take only a few minutes to support my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell). He moved the Second Reading of the Bill shortly and brought out the major points which the House should consider.

East Kilbride has been one of the great success stories of Scotland. It has been so by the happy occurrence that it was conceived by the first Socialist Government and nourished under successive Conservative Governments. As far as I know, no party politics have ever played any part in this to the detriment of East Kilbride. I speak this evening because this is the first of what will be many other similar cases. I well understand the point made by the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) that perhaps in the past some of the financial arrangements between new towns and county councils have not been perfect. There are many parts of this which I have been aware of and which the hon. Lady who is now Minister of State, Commonwealth Affairs, has discussed with me in the past.

Mr. Dalyell

To reinforce the right hon. Gentleman's point, may I point out that it is as well to remember that the Lothians Regional Survey and Plan has recommended that Livingston should be a large burgh within 10 years?

Mr. Noble

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. This is the first one. I am much comforted by the support it has had on both sides of the House. Surely we do not want to have a debate of this type in the future as to whether Cumbernauld is to stay part of Dunbartonshire, whether Livingston is to stay part of West Lothian or whether Glenrothes is to stay part of Fife. This is not the point at issue.

Whether I and the many other hon. Members who have received the report from the East Kilbride Town Council agree with it or not, it is good evidence of careful and clear thinking. It is not a document put forward by a few amateurs hoping to gain a little support from one side of the House or the other. It is a very carefully prepared document, whether it is right or wrong. It shows that the case should go to a Select Committee for further consideration.

In view of what has been said on both sides, I cannot believe that the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) will press the Amendment, because I do not believe there is a case for so doing. If he were to press it, he would merely weaken the case he genuinely tried to make. If there is a case, it should be examined. The only reason for refusing to have it examined is that there is not a case. It would enormously weaken the hon. Gentleman's position and that of his right hon. and hon. Friends who support the Lanarkshire side if they were to try to stop this matter going to a Select Committee, although I believe they would certainly fail in any such attempt.

Lastly, I want to take up the point made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern). He wondered whether East Kilbride might not have been wiser to go straight for large burgh status instead of taking the intermediate step. One of the really good things about the development of East Kilbride has been the success of the integration between the Development Corporation and the Town Council. I think it was right for the Town Council to go for small burgh status, because it was in the process of growing up. Everything that has happened since it has got small burgh status has shown that it is absolutely worthy of it and that it thoroughly deserves the success that it has had.

For these reasons, and because I believe that the whole of our democratic way of life and belief in Scotland indicates that we should allow this case to go before a Select Committee, I support the Second Reading of the Bill with my whole heart.

8.36 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Dr. J. Dickson Mabon)

I apologise to those of my hon. Friends who want to speak, but I feel that at this stage it would be wise for the Government to make their own views known so that the matter may be clarified.

I endorse what the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) said about the East Kilbride Town Council inasmuch as it has justified its creation as a small burgh. The town council has been remarkably vigorous and co-operative in working side by side with the new town development corporation. It is not always a happy symbiosis in all circumstances, but in this way it has been unique and very successful. Whether it follows from that that the success of the town council as a small burgh justifies it to be a large burgh is hardly for me to say, and I do not propose to do so. This is indeed the Government's view on this matter.

The proponents of the Bill—that is to say, those who would want it to have a Second Reading—can be divided into two groups. There are those who, like my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern), simply argue that it is only right and proper that the Bill should be discussed before a Select Committee. My hon. Friend is not arguing the merits or demerits of the Bill; he is merely asking for a hearing. If one looks to the HANSARD report of this debate, one will see that this is the expression of view of the majority of hon. Members on both sides of the House.

On the other hand, there are one or two who positively champion the merits of the Bill, and the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) is certainly one of them. He is, of course, entitled to express these views as vigorously as he did. My hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton), on the other hand, is in the same partisan spirit against the Second Reading of the Bill for very cogent reasons. I do not want to comment on the case which either hon. Gentleman has offered in support of the Second Reading, or in denial of it, although I feel I must comment on one or two of the points that they made. My counsel to the House, on behalf of the Government, is that while we do not comment on the merits of the Bill without having a full discussion of them, we see no reason why a Second Reading should be opposed if the House wishes to enable the Bill to proceed to a Select Committee for fuller discussion of those merits.

In taking that line we have impeccable precedents. In 1962, when the Grangemouth Bill was sponsored, a similar Provisional Order was brought forward and this was turned down by the Chairman and later converted into a Private Bill. The then Government agreed that the Bill should obtain a Second Reading in the House of Lords, and it proceeded to a Select Committee, though no views on its merits were expressed. The Select Committee subsequently reported that the creation of new large burghs should be a matter for general legislation.

I do not think it is for us to conjecture what a Select Committee might or might not say if we were to give this Bill a Second Reading tonight. Certainly it is true that a Royal Commission has been set up, and here I must comment in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell. The Royal Commission has been set up and the Government hope that there will be a report from it in 1968 or shortly thereafter. I emphasise this in case there is any doubt. But I hope, as we all do, that it will be in 1968 and that the discussion and consultation thereafter with the local authorities will not mean undue delay before a Bill is presented by the Government to Parliament. I naturally hope that it might be this Parliament, but that remains to be seen. I say that in answer to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell on the question of how imminent is "imminent". That is the best answer I can give him in the circumstances.

My hon. Friend also mentioned the "assertion"—in paragraph 9 of the summary of the case for the Bill in the Statement by East Kilbride—that the hand-over of the new town would be proposed in 1971. I should make it clear that the Government have never suggested that that date is appropriate for such a hand over. It is true that under Section 15 of the New Towns Act, 1946, the Secretary of State is empowered to order the winding up of a development corporation when the purposes for which it was established have been substantially achieved.

Perhaps the confusion in this matter arises because it will be in 1971 or 1972 that East Kilbride will reach its planned population target. That is an entirely different issue. The decision on the future control of new towns is still to be made. It is true that the Government are actively considering this and may want to make a statement as soon as possible. But this is a very complicated matter, as anyone knows who has had responsibility for new towns. It is not easy. We have already seen what happened in England and Wales, though in Scotland we have no comparable instrument such as the new towns Commission. Whether the Government will adopt this is still to be resolved. There is, perhaps, confusion here over the date of 1971 in relation to the so-called hand-over of the town.

The Bill is the conversion of the East Kilbride Provisional Order seeking large burgh status, which was deposited by the Town Council in the Scottish Office last March. When it was deposited in Parliament the Lord Chairman of Committees and the Chairman of Ways and Means reported that: … the order raises questions of public policy of such novelty and importance that it ought to be dealt with by Private Bill and not by Provisional Order". In the face of this report, the Secretary of State was bound to refuse the Provisional Order, and the Town Council then decided to proceed by means of a private Bill.

Those of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite who know of the vigorous representation of the constituency by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) will not be surprised to know that she has been making representations to Ministers. I wish to quote from a letter of 16th June this year, which I sent to my hon. Friend on behalf of the Secretary of State, and which simply concerns the question of the Order. Something may be made of the fact that the Secretary of State did not confirm that order, and I want to make the position absolutely clear by quoting the last part of the letter: This is a difficult and complicated matter, considering on one hand the rapid increase in the population of the burgh and on the other the prospect of a much more general reorganisation of Scottish local government, but you may rest assured that under present circumstances the Secretary of State does not propose to report against the Order. Equally, you will understand, it would not be appropriate for him to recommend to the Commissioners in its favour. The Secretary of State therefore remained neutral at the East Kilbride Provisional Order stage, as I think is proper in those circumstances, if only because it would have been wrong to deny East Kilbridge an opportunity of making its case by the statutory means open to it. The Town Council has not exhausted those means, and I suggest that in order that full discussion of the Bill's merits should be allowed to proceed the House might reasonably consider that a Second Reading should not be opposed.

I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell that a Second Reading—he will find this laid down in Chapter 37 of the current edition of Erskine May—does not mean endorsement of the principle of a Private Bill, unlike a Public Bill. A Second Reading today would not imply endorsement, and neither could it be called in aid by anyone as endorsement of the Bill in principle by the House of Commons. I realise the depth of my hon. Friend's concern in this matter but, on that assurance and in the light of the very proper comment by my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston that proceedings will start de novo in the Select Committee and not be consequential upon What is said here, I suggest that my hon. Friend might not think it unreasonable, having stated his case so vigorously, to agree that a Second Reading should be given to the Bill tonight and that a Select Committee should take it up thereafter.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

I also urge that the Bill should be given a Second Reading and go to a Select Committee. This is almost a unique occasion in the House, when there seems to be a great measure of unanimity across the Floor. Perhaps this is rather out of character for right hon. and hon. Members opposite because they are usually not in favour of giving anything away. In this case, of course, it is something which belongs to someone else which we are thinking of giving away, so they are not so much bothered about it.

We must keep well in mind the whole situation outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton). Understandably, representing solely landward areas in Lanarkshire, he reflects the county council's point of view. In thinking that the Bill should have a Second Reading, but I recognise the problem, a problem which has been skated over in some ways. There is no question here of lack of democracy. If some of the people who have been making comments had been longer in local government, they would have understood the issues more clearly. The issues are financial.

I feel that the county council has been wrong—though in present circumstances there is a lot to be said for its view—in thinking that it will have to bear the onus of any shortcomings in ratable strength if the Bill ultimately goes through and East Kilbride becomes a large burgh. This question, in the present set-up, highlights the anomalies which abound in Scottish local government today. We commend places such as East Kilbride in their desire to achieve a better status and become large burghs. East Kilbride, a small community of 2,400 in 1946, is now a thriving community of 50,000, with 120 firms which have either contracted to go in or have already started work in East Kilbride, and it is wholly commenable that it should be thriving and striving to become a large burgh. But it will mean something to Lanarkshire County Council in so far as the rateable strength embodied in East Kilbride now will, for certain rating purposes, be lost. This does not apply to education. The education argument does not hold water because the education service will still be run by the county education authority.

The onus here, in my opinion, is the Government's. The Government must ensure, by whatever means they can under the present local authority grant or equalisation schemes, that areas depleted of a great deal of rateable strength are reimbursed so that services at present given to the people are not in any way diluted.

Mr. Dalyell rose——

Mr. Manuel

I will not give way at the moment.

I am fortunate in that I am speaking after we have had a speech from the Front Bench. If I had spoken before my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, I should have asked him whether he intended to remain silent or to tell me the line upon which his argument would proceed. He told us a little. He mentioned the Royal Commission, and, obviously, that indicated that, no matter what we do tonight, there is a Royal Commission considering local government and it will report in five or eight years' time and then we may get some legislation.

But the Government themselves do not believe in this. At present they are proceeding apace with police amalgamations in Scotland, with a vast reorganisation of Scottish water resources and so on. Therefore, if East Kilbride thinks that it has to wait for five or eight years before it can accomplish what it is desirous of accomplishing, it is perfectly justified, in view of what the Government are doing in the local government sphere, in proceeding in the way it is doing.

I hope that a situation will not develop in which, in ways which we do not quite understand, a case will be put up which will destroy East Kilbride's case when it goes before the Select Committee. I do not know how these things operate. Nevertheless, I am certain that we are doing the right thing tonight in showing this degree of unanimity in deciding to give the Bill a Second Reading. A Select Committee should probe the whole circumstances. I would favour East Kilbride becoming a large burgh.

It may be argued that because there is nothing in the 1929 or 1947 Local Government Acts to allow a small burgh to become a large burgh, the proposal should not go forward. That was the finding arrived at in 1947. This would not be good enough. We now have a situation in which the Government will need to grasp the nettle, and we must recognise that communities growing as East Kilbride is growing want their place in the sun and should have it.

Mr. James Hamilton

Having listened to the debate and particularly to what has been said by the Under-Secretary of State, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.