HC Deb 26 January 1972 vol 829 cc1394-6
47. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received on the proposed division of functions between county councils and district councils in the Local Government Bill; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Graham Page

There has been a wide welcome for those provisions in the Local Government Bill which allocate to district councils more functions than were originally proposed in the White Paper. Various further Amendments have been tabled for consideration by the Standing Committee now examining the Bill in detail.

Mr. Lane

Is my hon. Friend aware that in the view of many people not enough of the functions most relevant to local life are assigned to the district councils? In his continuing efforts to get the balance absolutely right, will he look especially at traffic management, parks and libraries in cities?

Mr. Page

These matters will come up for discussion in debates on the Bill. I am satisfied that we have generally achieved the right division of functions between the counties and the districts.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Is the Minister aware that many county boroughs, for example Southampton, are extremely upset that, in addition to the functions mentioned by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), education and social services are also to be taken away from them and passed to a rather abstract county authority?

Mr. Page

It should not be overlooked that those county boroughs will now have representation within the counties, which they have never had before, and that the functions given to the districts will enable them to build up the character of their towns.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Will my hon. Friend give special attention to the representation which has been made to him on behalf of parish councils to ensure that the parishes most likely to be affected by planning decisions are consulted before any decision is taken?

Mr. Page

In answer to a Written Question I have already said that we shall provide for parishes to have notice of planning applications and, if necessary, this will be put into legislation later. Otherwise, there is much which we are bringing into the Local Government Bill to strengthen the parish system.

Mr. Cant

I appreciate that much of the discussion on the Bill is taking place in Committee, but would not the Minister, as a matter of general principle, agree that authorities like Stoke-on-Trent, with a population of over 250,000, are, as future district councils, entitled to more powers? I ask him not to listen to the shrill cries of the Tory counties who seem anxious to take back again those small extra planning powers that, in his graciousness, the Secretary of State for the Environment has given to the district councils.

Mr. Page

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am trying to hold the balance between the counties and the districts. I believe that we have the line of functions right. There may be a need for some tidying up on one side or other of the line, but I believe that in general we have the right line, and I will not give way in either direction.