HC Deb 21 July 1972 vol 841 cc1218-57

Bill, as amended in the Standing Committee, further considered.

Mr. Kinnock

To continue with the lyricism of the clerk of the council, who, incidentally, is almost as good a poet as he is clerk of the council, he defines in his phrase better than I can by subjecting the House to a great deal of factual description, precisely what will happen in the event of the boundary being drawn along the eastern watershed of the Rhymney Valley as the Government propose.

The previous boundary between the two counties was the River Rhymney, which was an inadequate and divisive boundary which brought about complications, confusions and unnecessary duplications, but, by comparison with the new boundary which the Government propose, it is a model of clear definition which is preferable to the one proposed.

The drawing of such a boundary as the Government propose will compound all the divisions, confusions and diseconomies which have benighted the Rhymney Valley and have been a source of complaint by representatives in Parliament and in local councils for many years past. The drawing of such a boundary line moves the administrative perimeter from the middle of a river to the middle of a street. It is a nonsense. If the old boundary was a difficulty, this boundary is a lunacy. If the old boundary meant duplication and waste, the new boundary means duplication and squandered resources.

The Monmouthshire County Council and the urban district councils of Monmouthshire concerned have said that the exercise of planning, highway, general social services and education functions will be the source of major difficulties. How can they fail to be with such an arbitrary boundary?

A school situated on one side of the road will be denied to youngsters who live on the other side of the road. A fire station will not be able to protect a property a couple of hundred yards down the road which it was built to protect. Community facilities will be denied to citizens who happen to live on the wrong side of the street in a brand new housing estate. Obviously, administrative lines have to be drawn, but the boundary which I propose draws a clear line between setlements and does not go through them. It unifies a valley by clear demarcation instead of confusing and depriving the citizens of the valley by splitting villages and misapplying scarce resources.

What are the Government's reasons for daubing this new boundary across the community? They are to be found in the comments they make on the submissions of local authorities. In paragraph 21 of that document the Government say: A major part of the population in the proposed Valley District is at present on the Glamorgan side of the boundary. Obviously, that is a statement of fact, but if 100 per cent. of the people on the Glamorgan side are in favour of District 5 being in Glamorgan one can equally say that 100 per cent. of the people on the Monmouth side are in favour of that side remaining in Monmouth. In other words, there is a 100 per cent. majority for the statuts quo and the Government are doing no more than encouraging the basic conservatism of most people in that they would like to stay where they are. I thought this was supposed to be a challenging and progressive Bill.

The Government go on to say: It may be difficult to find a suitable boundary avoiding the closely built-up areas on the eastern side of the river, but any resultant anomalies are not likely to be vitally important, compared with the primary aim of getting the main constituents of the new counties right. That is total rubbish because of the complications involved on the two sides of the river.

The Government go on to say that these areas look to Cardiff. What precisely do they mean by that phrase? There was a time when under previous proposals they could look to Cardiff as the local authority capital, but in order to create a cosy little Tory county unique in the United Kingdom that cause has now been removed. They cannot look to Cardiff from this part of South Wales, at least to find inspiration, leadership or management for local authority purposes. Do they look to Cardiff in the sense that they go there to do their Christmas shopping? It would mean that the people of Brynmawr would have to be included in the area and people from other parts of Wales. In creating Mid Glamorgan there is no justification for saying that these areas look to Cardiff in any sense which would prevent this district from becoming part of Gwent.

The Government then say: The argument has been put forward on the Consultative Document proposals that the Valley should be associated with the weaker county…". They are saying that because of the creation of Mid Glamorgan that argument has been proved. There has been criticism from both public representatives and the man in the street that the Government have purposely created a weak authority in Mid Glamorgan to suit their political purposes. The Government are proposing to visit another administration abortion on the people whom we represent. The basic reason for moving the county boundary so that the area is in Mid Glamorgan is to provide sustenance for the cripple they have created in Mid Glamorgan.

The boundary proposed for Monmouthshire County Council and each of the constituent UDCs would provide for economically, efficiently provided services. It would mean the unity of contiguous communities on both sides of the valley—communities which will be split as never before if the Government proceed with their proposals. It will mean the ending of the division between related communities, which was the original reason for a united valley. It will also mean maximisation of the economic growth potential of the valley in a single strategic planning authority—growth which it will not have in the new Mid Glamorgan animal.

If the Government were to accept these proposals this would be the prospect for Rhymney Valley in Gwent. This is not just the view of a Member of Parliament with an axe to grind, or the view of the UDCs with positions to protect. It is the feeling of the ordinary people. I have a petition containing over 2,000 signatures from communities which have been written off by many experts. They include New Tredegar and Aberbargoed. The ordinary people of those communities are concerned about the situation and want to stay in an area which will be progressive. The Government should listen to these arguments.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

I apologise, but I should have included for discussion the following Amendments:

No. 594, in page 214, line 31, at end insert: In the administrative county of Glamorgan— The urban district of Caerphilly, except the Taffs Well ward; The urban district of Gelligaer, except the Bedlinog Ward; In the rural district of Cardiff, the parishes of Llanfedw, Rhydygwern, Rudry and Van.

No. 595, in page 215, line 7, leave out 'Caerphilly, Gelligaer'.

No. 596, in page 215, line 10, at end insert: In the urban district of Caerphilly the Taffs Well ward; In the urban district of Gelligaer the Bedlinog ward.

No. 597, in page 215, leave out lines 22 to 27.

No. 598, in page 217, line 57, at end insert: In the administrative county of Glamorgan— the urban district of Caerphilly, except the Taffs Well ward; the urban district of Gelligaer, except the Bedlinog ward; in the rural district of Cardiff, the parishes of Llanfedw, Rhydygwern, Rudry and Van. In the administrative county of Monmouthshire— the urban districts of Bedwas and Machen and Rhymney; in the urban district of Bedwellty, the Aberbargoed, Cwmsyfiog, New Tredegar and Philipstown wards.

Mr. Michael Foot

I will speak only briefly because my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) has put his case in an excellent fashion, and I do not think there is anything to be added on the main case. I support my hon. Friend wholeheartedly and I know that I have the full support of the part of the area which is involved in my constituency—the urban district of Rhymney, which fully supports all my hon. Friend said. I hope the Government will carefully consider the arguments which have been presented to them and will give a favourable answer.

There is one additional point which I should like to mention for the hon. Gentleman's consideration. If the Government decide to reject my hon. Friend's plea and to go ahead and insist that the new Rhymney Valley authority should be in Mid Glamorgan, and are not prepared to see it included in Gwent as originally suggested, the view of the Rhymney Council is that it would prefer to clear out of this authority altogether and to go in with Ebbw Vale and Tredegar in the No. 3 authority. It would prefer to be transferred to that complex if the first aim of securing the new authority in Gwent is not achieved.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman, first to accept my hon. Friend's plea. If he does, then from my point of view nothing arises. But if he rejects it, I hope that in another place he will be prepared to consider the proposition which the Rhymney Council has put forward that in that event it should be allowed to go in with the No. 3 area in Gwent. It would much prefer that, rather than be put out of Gwent altogether.

The Minister of State need not answer that appeal now, of course. I hope that between now and the final stages of the Bill he will be prepared to consider representations from the Rhymney Council to that effect. But the easiest course for him would be to accept what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty, and then those representations would not arise.

Mr. Fred Evans

The local authorities on the Glamorgan side of this valley object to these Amendments. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) said that where people are active in refurbishing their localities they should have their wishes considered and stay where they are. The vast bulk of the population engaged in this unification in the Rhymney Valley are on the Glamorgan side, and they wish to stay in. Glamorgan even if it is a Mid Glamorgan with all its weaknesses.

It is interesting that the move towards the integration of this valley running north to south from the urban area of Rhymney to Caerphilly and taking in parts of the Cardiff rural area began on the Glamorgan side of the valley. The report of the Boundary Commission in the late 1940s, for which Mr. Aneurin Bevan had some responsibility, contained recommendations for unification all of which came from the Glamorgan side. In subsequent commissions the idea of unification was put forward in a number of ways. It was put forward horizontally by the Bevan Commission when it was thought that the Rhymney River was a natural boundary, though it was beyond the terms of reference of the Commission to deal with it. Then there was the idea of a lateral boundary. Eventually it came down to what we had always fought for—in other words, the integration of the Rhymney Valley. Our idea was that it should become an all-purpose authority.

The make-up of the new proposal would leave the bulk of the population and the bulk of the representation on the Glamorgan side. Therefore if we are to talk not in terms of 100 per cent. or of two out of two being 100 per cent.—there may be some significant difference between that and 20 out of 20being 100 per cent.—there must be force in the arguments of the people of Gelligaer and Caerphilly.

When we were struggling hard to convince various Governments about the need for the integration of the valley, we did not secure much blessing or aid from our colleagues on the other side of the river—

Mr. Kinnock

I was not here then.

Mr. Evans

It was largely our fight. The idea was actively opposed at some important levels. But the county of Monmouthshire and the county of Glamorgan reached a gentleman's agreement to observe the status quo. It was at the insistence of an urban authority, Gelligaer, that most pressure came for integration. When we reached the final stages about integration the people on the Glamorgan side were courageous enough to say that it did not matter to them whether they were in Monmouthshire or Glamorgan provided that they had an integrated Rhymney Valley.

4.15 p.m.

That evidence was submitted to the Commission, as the Minister knows. This was not because they were without feelings of rootedness. Preferably they would have liked the valley to remain within Glamorgan, but that would have been a secondary matter. Integration was the main thing, especially if it could be an all-purpose authority. Therefore, we all accepted it.

The Bill has put a different complexion on the matter for the people on the Glamorgan side. Without doubt, the majority of people wish to remain in Glamorgan, even if it is Mid Glamorgan with all the weaknesses which have been outlined this afternoon.

Taking the converse attitude, it is necessary to have an area which includes in Caerphilly the potential development of the Bedwas and Machen area, which is being severely hampered through Government action, to maximise the resources which can be included in that integrated area.

The boot is now on the other foot. When we said we did not mind whether the valley was integrated into Monmouthshire, we were conscious that it would not be good thinking to take rateable values from a county which had a smaller total rateable value to swell the rateable value of a larger authority. The situation has now changed. Monmouthshire is better off than Mid Glamorgan. As I see it, it is necessary to have within our unified Rhymney Valley a position of potential expansion to help the new Mid Glamorgan. The people wish to stay in Mid Glamorgan, and to help that new county as much as possible we oppose the Amendments. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will not take them to a vote.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

There are only two possible ways of dealing with the Rhymney Valley apart from that provided for in the Bill.

First, it would be possible to leave the county boundary as it is and to rely on the Boundary Commission to produce a better boundary. Secondly, the whole of the valley could be put into Gwent and we could draw a new boundary on the line suggested by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). The easy way out would have been to give the problem to the Boundary Commission, but this seemed entirely wrong.

As the hon. Members for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans) and Bedwellty said, there has been almost universal agreement that the valley should be unified in one county or the other. A great number of people and a substantial area are directly involved. The Rhymney Valley district contains a population of 100,000 and covers an area of 44,000 acres. It would be wrong to hand over a problem of this kind on this scale to the Boundary Commission.

Concerning the second possibility of putting the whole of the valley into Gwent, I accept that the hon. Member for Bedwellty has produced a good argument for doing so. We said as much when the Bill was published. In the circular letter of 2nd November, 1971, we said that the decision was very finely balanced. I still believe it is. However, there are powerful arguments on the other side. Over two-thirds of the population of district MG.5, the Rhymney Valley district, live on the Glamorgan side of the river and regard themselves as Glamorgan people. On numbers, it is better to bring 31,000 Monmouthshire residents into a Glamorgan county than to bring 69,000 Glamorgan residents into Gwent. There would be less disturbance. What I have said about population applies even more strongly to acreage. Almost three-quarters of the territory of the district lies on the Glamorgan bank.

The second reason for including the valley in Mid Glamorgan is that it would look westwards for its advanced further education and polytechnic provision to Treforest in the Pontypridd urban district council area. There is the difficulty of finding a suitable boundary on the east side of the river. It is a difficult and important matter, and this was referred to specifically by the hon. Member for Bedwellty. Any detailed aomalies which there must be in drawing up a boundary of this sort can be dealt with later by the Boundary Commission. In our view Rhymney is an integral part of the Rhymney Valley. It could hardly be treated separately from it, but my right hon. and learned Friend and I would be prepared to consider any views from the urban district council if it would like to send them to us.

Mr. Michael Foot

Rhymney's support for a unified valley authority has always been on the basis that it would be a Gwent. As soon as it discovered that the propostion was that it would not be in Gwent, it officially changed its mind and said that, that being so, it preferred to go into No. 3 authority with Ebbw Vale and Tredegar. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his undertaking that he will consider any suggestions that are put forward.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

That is why I replied in the way that I did. On the main argument which I have produced—and it has to be the judgment of Solomon between Glamorgan and Monmouth—I have to oppose the Amendment.

Mr. Kinnock

Some of the reasons adduced by the Minister of State for saying that his county would look to the west are rather tenuous. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the guidance that he has given on what the powers of the council might be. I shall not press the Amendment at this stage, but I hope that in another place the Government will pay close attention to this problem.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Rowlands

I beg to move Amendment No. 447, in page 214, line 26, leave out 'mid-Glamorgan' and insert 'Heads of the Valleys'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this Amendment we are to take the following Amendments:

No. 449 in page 215 leave out lines 3 to 27 and insert: Heads of the Valleys The county borough of Merthyr Tydfil. In the administrative county of Brecon: — the urban district of Brynmawr; in the rural district of Crickhowell, the parish of Llanelly; in the rural district of Vaynor and Penderyn, the parishes of Penderyn and Vaynor. In the administrative county of Glamorgan: — the borough of Rhondda; the urban district of Aberdare; the urban district of Gelligaer; the urban district of Mountain Ash; in the urban district of Caerphilly, the Nelson ward; in the rural district of Neath, the parish of Rhigos. In the administrative county of Monmouthshire: — the urban district of Abertillery; the urban district of Bedwellty; the urban district of Ebbw Vale; the urban district of Nantyglo and Blaina; the urban district of Rhymney; the urban district of Tredegar.

No. 450, in page 215, line 31 leave out 'mid-Glamorgan' and insert 'Heads of the Valleys'.

No. 451, in page 215, leave out lines 35 to 45 and insert: the urban districts of Bridgend, Maesteg Ogmore and Garw, Penarth, Pontypridd and Porthcawl; the urban district of Caerphilly, except the Nelson ward; the rural districts of Cardiff, Cowbridge, Llantrisant and Llantwit Fardre and Penybont. In the administrative county of Monmouthshire: — the urban district of Bedwas and Machen; in the rural district of Magor and St. Mellons, the parish of St. Mellons.

No. 452, in page 217, line 55 leave out from beginning to end of line 13 on page 218.

No. 453, in page 219, line 27, leave out from beginning to end of line 28 on page 220 and insert: Heads of the Valleys H.1 In the administrative county of Monmouthshire, the urban districts of Abertillery, Ebbw Vale, Nantyglo and Blaina and Tredegar. In the administrative county of Brecon: — the urban district of Brynmawr; in the rural district of Crickhowell, the parish of Llanelly. H.2 In the administrative county of Monmouthshire, the urban districts of Bedwellty and Rhymney; In the administrative county of Glamorgan, the urban district of Gelligaer, except the Bedlinog ward; H.3 The county borough of Merthyr Tydfil. In the administrative county of Glamorgan— in the urban district of Caerphilly, the Nelson ward; in the urban district of Gelligaer, the Bedlinog ward. In the administrative county of Brecon, in the rural district of Baynor and Penderyn, the parish of Vaynor. H.4 In the administrative county of Glamorgan— the urban districts of Aberdare and Mountain Ash; in the rural district of Neath, the parish of Rhigos. In the administrative county of Brecon, in the rural district of Vaynor and Penderyn, the parish of Penderyn. H.5 In the administrative county of Glamorgan, the borough of Rhondda.

No. 454, in page 221, line 25, at end insert: SG.3 In the administrative county of Glamorgan— the urban districts of Bridgend, Maesteg, Ogmore and Garw and Porthcawl— the rural district of Penybont. SG.4 In the administrative county of Glamorgan— the urban district of Caerphilly, except the Nelson and Taff's Well wards; in the rural district of Cardiff, the parishes of Llanfedw, Rhydygwern, Rudry and Van. In the administrative county of Monmouthshire, the urban district of Bedwas and Machen. SG.5 In the administrative county of Glamorgan— the urban district of Pontypridd, the rural district of Llantrisant and Llantwit Fardre; in the urban district of Caerphilly, the Taff's Well ward; in the rural district of Cardiff, the parishes of Llanilterne and Pentyrch; in the rural district of Cowbridge, the parishes of Llanharan, Llanharry, Llanilid and Peterston-super-Montem.

No. 455, in page 222, leave out lines 8 to 12 and insert: H.2 Gelligaer In the administrative county of Glamorgan, the urban district of Gelligaer, except the Bedlinog ward. H.3 Nelson In the administrative county of Glamorgan, in the urban district of Caerphilly, the Nelson ward.

No. 456, in page 222, leave out lines 16 to 20.

No. 457, in page 222, line 23, leave out 'Taff's Well ward' and insert 'Nelson and Taff's Well wards'.

No. 458, in page 222, leave out lines 24 to 26.

Mr. Rowlands

The purpose of the Amendments is to reorganise and recast the whole of the new Mid Glamorgan authority and effect consequential changes in both south and west Glamorgan.

Many charges have been levied at right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite about the carve-up which the Bill represents, but one additional charge which can be made is that, having decided to carve out a small Tory enclave in South Glamorgan, they did not have the decency to try to find a meaningful and understandable form of county authority in what was left after the carve-up.

The purpose of the Amendments is to create a meaningful and independent administrative county unit bound by common interests and community of interest, and I can do no better initially than to quote from the letter which my authority sent to the right hon. and learned Gentleman on 11th November, 1971. I have quoted part of it already today, because right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have continually grossly misrepresented the views of Merthyr Tydfil in a pathetic attempt to find support for their carve-up.

In its letter of 11th November, 1971 Merthyr Tydfil said that it wished to see a northern area, a united one speaking with one voice and having one common purpose. The new Mid Glamorgan County Council will destroy that dream. That is the basis upon which the Amendments have been put forward. If there is to be a division into two of East Glamorgan, The Mid Glamorgan authority should be recast into a meaningful and understandable administrative unit.

The course of local government reform in Glamorgan has taken many tortuous turns. I have had the dubious honour and privilege of being associated with some of the developments over the last few years. It is a dubious privilege as everyone who is involved in local government will realise. All the reforms were characterised by honest endeavour and administrative integrity, neither of which can be found in the Bill and in its proposals for Mid Glamorgan.

When I was at the Welsh Office, my officials advised me that Mid Glamorgan was in the middle of Glamorgan and did not consist of Porthcawl and Merthyr Tydvil within one unit and supposedly with common interests and common ties, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman used to justify his carve-up.

The Amendments, in trying to re-cast Mid Glamorgan, attempt to establish in its place a major new heads of the valley county authority and to give some meaning to the idea that we could form a major new top-tier authority bound by common interests, common ties of community and similar problems. The vision represented by the Amendments is of a new administrative county bound not only by present-day community interests and problems but also by an ever-growing expansion of industry and development which will serve the heads of the valley community as a whole.

There has been an increasing awareness of the need to develop and plan the heads of the valley collectively as a unit. Merthyr should work increasingly in close co-operation with the authorities, not only in Glamorgan but Monmouthshire as well. In fact, Merthyr has been joined together with a number of authorities in the heads of the valley, on both the Glamorgan side and the Monmouth side, in combining to defend, fight and oppose the threatened new Town proposal at Llantrisant. It is one of the curious ironies that as a result of the threat of the new town there has been closer co-operation, thinking and planning and a vision or an ideal of what could be done if one combined and worked on a common collective basis at the heads of the valley. That is joint action which the authorities have had to take.

As a result of the counter-proposals which we have put up against the Llantrisant new town, geographical, industrial and economic development is going to push us towards a major heads of the valley development authority to plan and develop collectively and coherently the whole community and its residential, economic and industrial potential. It would also be extremely sensible, if we were to establish such an authority, that it should be coterminous with the new heads of the valley county with responsibility to carry out the wishes, needs and visions of such an authority.

I suggest that there is a growing pressure and a growing awareness of the inter-relationship of development and planning and the economic future of the authorities which are included in my Amendment, and of the need to establish a heads of the valley authority. We are increasingly planning alongside the authorities on the Monmouthshire side of the border. I am hopeful that Merthyr Tydfil will join with Monmouthshire in the Monmouthshire Derelict Land Unit and try to clear up the derelict land in our area. Here is an example of working with a degree of co-operation which may emerge from the discussions which have been going on with Merthyr Tydfil and Monmouthshire. The Derelict Land Unit would be a help and support in assisting to clear up over 5,000 acres of derelict land that surrounds the environs of Merthyr and the heads of the valley authorities.

4.30 p.m.

This is the way things are going. This is the way the pressure of development is working. The Government, having pushed through the division of Glamorgan, should at least try to establish a meaningful Mid Glamorgan authority. I appreciate the sensitive nature of the Amendment. I also realise that it does not receive, to use acurrent political phrase, the full-hearted consent of all those authorities which I suggest should join. It has not the full-hearted consent of a number of the neighbouring authorities. But the lack of full-hearted consent has not prevented the Government from forcing us into the European Economic Community, so I see no reason why we should not consider the possibility put forward by Merthyr Tydfil for a heads of the valley county authority.

I do not see why the ancient but, I still think, irrational county border between Glamorgan and Monmouthshire at the heads of the valley should be sacrosanct and unchangeable. But I believe that the vision of such an authority was in mind when the heads of the valley road was built, with the new Cardiff-Merthyr trunk road—slowly, unfortunately, being planned and developed—and with the improvement of the east-west trans-valley road. That vision was behind the development of the heads of the valley road, giving a major outlet to markets outside but also linking the valleys to each other more closely. We should now give reality to the vision and the dream behind the development of the heads of the valley road by establishing a heads of the valley authority to develop the economic and industrial future of the area as a whole

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Probert

If my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) presses the Amendment to a Division, I cannot support him. I compliment him on the effective way in which he has substantiated the claim of Merthyr Tydfil to retain its county borough status, but I do not admire the quality of the argument he has put forward. In fairness to him and to his constituency, I must say to him that he is mixing up industrial problems with local government reform.

Some years ago—indeed, while my hon. Friend was in office—a few of us met representatives of the unions in Merthyr Tydfil to discuss common problems of unemployment. Among those present was my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman). No one at that meeting suggested that Neath had a community of interest in local government with Merthyr Tydfil or that Aberdare and Mountain Ash should join a local authority with Merthyr Tydfil. It would be as incongruous a situation as the presence in the European Economic Community of the United Kingdom alongside France. It is absolutely stupid.

My hon. Friend the Members for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans) and Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick) were also with me at that meeting. When we talked about a development corporation, we did not think of it in local government terms. I recall also that my hon. Friends the Members for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) were present, and they too, will confirm that there was never any understanding of a local government set-up comprising these authorities. My constituents and I could not in any way support the Amendment.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

The House should be grateful for the Amendment. The Merthyr Tydfyl County Borough Council put forward a well-argued alternative to the proposal in the consultative document, and, indeed, put it verbally to me when it came to see me at the Welsh Office. For reasons already explained, we could not accept that alternative but it deserves serious and very careful consideration.

The provisions in the Bill and the provisions proposed in these Amendments have several important elements in common. They both involve a division of the East Glamorgan county proposed in the consultative document. In both, the South Glamorgan Districts 1and 2 are in one county, and the new districts founded on Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda, Aberdare and Mountain Ash are in the other. The two differences are, first, that the proposed Heads of the Valleys County contains a substantial Monmouthshire element, representing a population of over 100,000; second, that the Heads of the Valleys County does not contain Pontypridd, Llantrisant and the new district centred on Bridgend. However, the basic idea behind both the Heads of the Valleys County and the pattern proposed in the Bill is the same: that there is a sharp difference of interest between Cardiff and the coastal plain and the valley communities. As Professor Carter wrote, commenting on the proposed East Glamorgan county: I would…do no more here than argue that the association of the Valleys with the Cardiff area can hardly be said certainly to promote their welfare. Even the opposite may occur. If benefits are to be gained by large scale investment this will inevitably be at or near Cardiff and will tend to undermine the sense of identity which the Valleys have. There are other points to be made in favour of the Heads of the Valley County. It could have a population well over the desirable minimum. I accept that it could have a very low rateable value per head of population, but, as I have tried to make clear on previous occasions, this need not be a fatal defect.

However, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council's proposal suffers from two major drawbacks which I must point out. First, it splits off from the tops of the valleys the land at the mouths of the valleys and immediately to the south—notably Llantrisant, but other important areas as well. That is the first objection. Secondly—this is the point raised by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert)—Merthyr Tydfil's proposals have attracted little support and much opposition from the other authorities directly involved. Thus, the steering committee representing the Gwent District 3 authorities—including Tredegar, Ebbw Vale, Nantyglo and Blaina, and Abertillery—have made it clear that they are strongly opposed to Merthyr's proposal.

The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) was genuine in referring to this matter himself. These are the reasons why the Government find it impossible to accept the proposals in the Amendment.

Mr. Rowlands

The hon. Gentleman has not presented the case against the Amendment very satisfactorily. He continually referred to the amount of support or lack of support for he Amentdment. At least one major authority supports my Amendment for the heads of the valleys, which is more than can be said for the Government's proposal for Mid Glamorgan County. Who supports the Bill? Who supports Mid Glamorgan? At least I have one major authority backing the heads of the valley couny which I now propose.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Caerwyn E. Roderick (Brecon and Radnor)

I beg to move Amendment No. 186, in page 214, leave out lines 28 to 31.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this Amendment it will be convenient for the House to discuss the following Amendments:

No. 192, in page 215, leave out lines 19 to 21.

No. 201, in page 218, leave out lines 10 to 13.

No. 912, in page 219, leave out lines 41 to 43.

No. 204, in page 219, leave out lines 48 to 50.

No. 210, in page 220, line 52, leave out from the beginning to end of line 56 and insert: The urban district of Brynmawr. The rural district of Vaynor and Penderyn.

Mr. Roderick

This group of Amendments seeks to reverse the proposals in the Bill which affect the boundary of South Breconshire. This hiving off, so to speak, will produce a county with an area of 1,250,000 acres, a population of 100,000 and a rateable value of £2,553,000. We are not debating the merits or demerits of Powys in these Amendments. The Secretary of State knows full well that I have no love for Powys. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has said that everyone recognises Powys as a special case, with a population spread so thin on the ground. In those circumstances, is it not perverse further to reduce this population? The withdrawal of the areas concerned, such as Brynmawr Urban District Council, Llanelly Parish, Vaynor Parish and Penderyn Parish, reduces the population of Powys by 16 per cent. and the rateable value by 16 per cent., but it reduces the area by only 2 per cent. An area already recognised as difficult is to have its difficulties compounded. If those percentages had been reversed, there might have been merits in the proposals, and the proposals might have been accepted. If a large area had been taken out but only a small population and a small rateable value, we might have been able to agree to that.

The Secretary of State and the Minister have said repeatedly that they determine the areas in accordance with the wishes of the people in the areas concerned. The Breconshire County Council conducted a postal ballot in the areas concerned. A pre-paid card was sent to every elector in the areas to be hived off. The Secretary of State, who has been sent a copy of the voting card, will agree that it could not be fairer, in that it does not attempt to put the case either way.

The Secretary of State has also been sent the results of the ballot. The four areas were Brynmawr, Llanelly Parish, Penderyn and Vaynor. The percentage of votes cast in those four areas was 67.2, 68.4, 72.5 and 53.9 respectively. Within those areas, 83.6 per cent. of those voting in the first area supported staying in Powys, 84.2 per cent. in the second area, 87 per cent. in the third area and 80.9 per cent. in the fourth area. Does the Minister of State acknowledge that this is overwhelming evidence of the desire of the people in these areas to stay within Powys?

In Standing Committee the Minister of State said this: …I do not think that the Government or Parliament can proceed on the basis of polls…On all past experience of referenda of this sort, not only on this side of the Committee, but on the opposite side, we have had a clear understanding that referenda as such were alien to our system of government. The hon. Gentleman may have misgivings about polls when matters of principle are concerned. Do I take it that he is opposed to the Prime Minister in his willingness to use the mechanism of a poll in Northern Ireland? Did the Minister of State oppose the polls used in Wales to decide whether licensed premises should be open on Sundays?

The Minister for Local Government and Development was not so coy in Committee. He accepted changes in response to local wishes expressed in this way.

Later in Committee the Minister of State said this: My argument is that the Government must base their case upon the views of local authorities and not upon polls which are not the same as democratic elections".—[Official Report, Standing Committee D; 15th March, 1972. cc. 2766–73.] It is clear that the Secretary of State and the Minister of State rest their case on the views of local authorities. Local authorities within Powys are opposed to this hiving off. We have others outside Powys which it is proposed the hived off areas should join which accept the proposals—naturally; it is a piece of empire building.

Let us concentrate on the area and the views of the authorities directly concerned. Brynmawr Urban District Council accepted the proposal to join Gwent, but the Secretary of State knows, because the urban district council has so informed him, that that council has now changed its view and wishes to remain in Powys, mainly in response to the result of the ballot. Those councillors have responded, I think rightly, to the wishes of the people they represent. On any measure of public opinion, Brynmawr should remain in Powys.

It is important to get the record straight about the position of Llanelly parish in the rural district of Crickhowell, because the Minister has tended to misinform the House on one or two occasions regarding this matter. The rural district of Crickhowell held the view that it wished to be dealt with in its entirety. Its first choice was to join up with Abergavenny district in Gwent. Failing that, it wished to remain in its entirety within Powys. The proposals in the Bill split the rural district council and hive off Llanelly parish. The RDC has constantly opposed this proposal, and still does; so does the parish of Llanelly.

Admittedly, Vaynor and Penderyn Rural District Council welcomes the proposals. I leave the councillors on that council to face their electors, but I deplore the way they suggested to the Secretary of State that there was sharp practice in the conduct of the ballot. When questioned about this, they said that the case for either side had not been put to the people. That, even if true, is a very far cry from sharp practice.

If the Minister is concerned that elected representatives should be consulted, what opinion does he hold of the county council by-election which was held in Cefn Coed on 20th April, when the candidate who won by 312 votes to 75 based her campaign mainly on the retention of Cefn Coed in Powys? Finally, all the county councillors representing the Brynmanr Llanelly parish, Vaynor and Penderyn parishes reject all the proposals in the Bill. What more evidence does the Secretary of State need to support the Amendments? The Minister said in Committee that he would look at the Amendment before Report. We have no indication so far on new thinking on the Amendments but I hope that the Minister of State will respond to the force of argument and allow people to determine their own destiny.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

It is always a privilege to reply to one's Member of Parliament. He has put the case for his constituency and his Amendment clearly. In Committee I said that I could not hold out the certainty that we would change our minds on the matter but that I would look into the matter again without commitment before Report. We have done so, but, difficult as the problems are in this part of the world, complicated as the boundaries are and always have been, the situation we are trying to remedy is one which many people believe to be highly unsatisfactory. Hirwaun, for instance, is under a great number of councils and for many years there has been the demand that the situation should be cleared up. No one could reasonably argue that Cefn Coed, situated as it is just over the Cyfarthfa Bridge from Merthyr, could not be better administered from Merthyr than it could be from Brecon.

We are not arguing that the top of the Swansea Valley, the Ystradgynlais area, should go into Glamorgan because we know that the views of the local authorities have always been against it. The views of most of the other authorities have been in favour of joining. That is also true that the Tredegar Council, to which the hon. Member referred, is anxious and eager to receive—

Mr. Roderick


Mr. Gibson-Watt

The hon. Member says "naturally", but he will agree with me that this probably makes sense with regard to administration of local services.

The hon. Member had a difficult point to argue in relation to polls. I could argue that in 1966 the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Ifor Davies) had the same problem with Whit church going into Cardiff. On that occasion he took the same view as I am taking today. One must go against the wishes of the people who signed the petition in the cause of good administration.

Mr. Roderick

May I correct one misapprehension by the Minister of State? It was not a petition; it was a postal ballot.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I am grateful to the hon. Member for correcting me. I say only that in the interests of good administration we believe this to be the best answer.

I would not go as far as the Hirwaun Joint Labour Party in its criticism of the ballot. That is a matter for it. But in the interests of good administration it is right the change should be made, and I ask the House not to support the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. John

I beg to move Amendment No. 189, in page 215, line 5, at end insert 'the borough of Cowbridge'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this Amendment we are to take the following Amendments:

No. 190, in page 215, line 14, leave out 'in'.

No. 191, in page 215, line 14, leave out from 'Cowbridge' to end of line 16.

No. 196, in page 215, leave out lines 40 to 42.

No. 206, in page 220, line 25, leave out 'in'.

No. 207, in page 220, line 25, leave out from 'Cowbridge' to end of line 28.

No. 214, in page 221, leave out lines 23 to 25.

Mr. John

The effect of these Amendments is to take from South Glamorgan and put into Mid-Glamorgan the whole of the rural district of Cowbridge. First, the people do not want to go into South Glamorgan County. Their elected representatives have said so, and we know how much weight the Minister places on the views of the elected members of councils in coming to his conclusion.

Secondly, they feel no historic or cultural connection with Cardiff. Thirdly, for 50 years and more they have in both Parliament and local government been allied with the northern valleys. They wish to keep this connection. They do not wish to be disturbed in this way. I see no cogent reason why they should.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

The hon. Member for Pontypridd has argued—as he argued in a slightly different context in Committee—that the whole of Cowbridge rural district and the borough of Cowbridge should be kept together. He says that if there has to be a division between Mid and South Glamorgan the whole of his constituency should be in Mid Glamorgan. I respect his point of view and his local knowledge. I can understand why he is putting these Amendments forward but I do not believe that he has proved his case.

There are significant differences between the southern part of Cowbridge rural district—the area surrounding Cowbridge—and the four northern parishes which have been included in Mid Glamorgan. The core of these four parishes—the Llanharan-Llanharry area—was a community based on coal and iron mining. This background has generated different outlooks and needs from those of the parishes to the south. Industrial employment is being found in Bridgend and Llantrisant—

Mr. John

Does not the Minister agree that the whole of Cowbridge rural district—north and south—has rejected the proposal that it should go with South Glamorgan?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

That is another matter. I was trying to explain to the hon. Member the differences of outlook in these areas. There is a basic economic difference between the northern and southern part of the rural district, which has been recognised in the way in which they have been separately located in Mid and South Glamorgan respectively.

There are important differences between the two areas that we are discussing, for Cowbridge and the surrounding areas are more closely allied to Cardiff than to Mid Glamorgan. In Committee, when the hon. Member was supporting an Amendment to transfer Penarth from SGI to SG2 he said: The removal of Penarth from District 1 to District 2 would transfer 23,200 people—the projected population by mid-1970. It would at least take the second District up over 100,000 and make it much more balanced within the grave limitations of this proposal."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 15 March, 1972; c. 2796.] Acceptance of these Amendments would mean the transfer of 18,000 population from District SG2, reducing the population of that district almost to its level before Penarth was added—84,000 compared with 78,000, on the basis of mid-1970 estimates in each case. On 15th March the hon. Member supported the principle of a larger District SG2—with a population above the 100,000 mark—but today he argues the opposite case, calling for a reduction in size from 101,000 to 84,000.

I fear that I cannot agree to the Amendments.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. John Morris

I beg to move Amendment No. 871, in page 215, line 8, leave out 'and Porthcawl'.

The House would not forgive me if I did not deal crisply, even at this late hour, with this Amendment, which would take Porthcawl out of Mid Glamorgan and put it into West Glamorgan. All the local authority members, all the political parties and the Civic Trust support the Amendment. Indeed, a document has been sent to the Secretary of State, which I hope has been studied. It has also been sent to many hon. Members.

I shall spotlight only one or two features of that admirable document. One of the bases for the Secretary of State's proposal is that there should be a community of interest. I argue that Porthcawl and the remainder of Mid Glamorgan have no community of interest and that, rather, there is a conflict of interest. I have yet to understand what community of interest there is between Porthcawl and Merthyr. We have heard the argument in respect of Cardiff and the Valley communities.

The Minister said that there was a sharp difference of interest between Cardiff and the Valley communities. It is exactly what will happen here. Porthcawl is principally a holiday town, and one of its major problems, as I said in an Adjournment debate at about this time last year, is the appalling problem of the saturation point of caravans in Porthcawl. A major interest of Mid Glamorgan would be to ensure greater facilities for holiday makers, but there would be this clash of view between the two parts of Mid Glamorgan. Therefore, it is not a community of interest but rather a conflict of interest.

Porthcawl would wish to have the advantage of the expertise of other holiday resorts, seaside centres and places which suffer from erosion and all the other problems which arise from being contiguous to the sea. In that way it would have a community of interest with all the towns in West Glamorgan.

Ten years ago the proposal might have been right, but, as one sees Porthcawl being developed more and more as a dormitory town for Port Talbot, with more and more people working in Port Talbot and living in Porthcawl, and with the development of the shopping centre in Port Talbot, not only would there be more people going there to work but there would be more going there for their shopping and other interests. Therefore, it might have been right 10 years ago and there might have been an argument for it five years ago, but, as the years go by, undoubtedly this proposal will show itself to be a nonsense having regard to the developments which are taking place year by year and the greater community of interest between Porthcawl and the West.

If the Minister cannot accept my Amendment, I hope that this matter will be referred to the Boundary Commission at the earliest opportunity so that it will be considered speedily.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

The right hon. Gentleman has chosen, through the Amendment, to try to transfer Porthcawl to West Glamorgan. I should remind him that the Porthcawl Urban District Council's preference was for inclusion with South Glamorgan. Therefore, with permission, I will take the two propositions together.

Mr. John Morris

Will the hon. Gentleman accept from me that the view of the Porthcawl Council is that it would prefer to go to West Glamorgan?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I will accept that from the right hon. Gentleman because I expect his information is more up to date than is mine.

If Porthcawl is to be added to another county, whether this be South Glamorgan or West Glamorgan, the transfer must be of a larger area than Porthcawl alone because Porthcawl is surrounded by Penybont rural district on one side and the sea on the other.

I see grave difficulties in the way of moving Porthcawl plus part of Penybont rural district or even Porthcawl plus the whole of Penybont rural district. There is a very closely bound unit here which I suggest is much bigger than these two districts, and there can be no question of breaking up this unit into parts.

The Government have grave doubts about weakening Mid Glamorgan, and I fear that I cannot accept the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Wyne Roberts (Conway)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1181, in page 218, leave out lines 49 to 55 and insert: 'the borough of Bangor; the urban district of Bethesda; the rural district of Ogwen. GD 3 A, In the administrative county of Caernarvon; the borough of Caernarvon; the rural district of Gwyrfai except the parts to be comprised in G.D/'. The purpose of the Amendment is to divide the proposed District 3 of the new County of Gwynedd into two separate districts, one based on the Royal Borough of Carnaervon and the other on the Cathedral City of Bangor. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State not only knows all the arguments involved in this case; he also knows the area. He has written to the mayor of Bangor and the Chairmen of the Bethesda and Ogwen councils.

I am sorry that at this late stage I am not able to put the full case to the House, but I know that my right hon. and learned Friend is well aware of it, and I ask him to comment.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I fully appreciate the strong feelings on this issue, which have been expressed to me by the authorities in the Bangor area. As my hon. Friend knows, I have had discussion with them.

For the reasons which I explained in a letter which I recently sent to the local authorities, I cannot agree to what is proposed in the Amendment. I think that it would be not to the advantage of the people in the area, and I have expressed my reasons to them very fully. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will not press the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I beg to move Amendment No. 1036, in page 219, line 8, column 3, leave out 'Conway' and insert 'Conwy'.

This Amendment is necessary in view of the recently approved change in the name of the Borough of Conway. I gave my formal consent under Section 59 of the Local Government Act, 1958, on 21st June this year to the change from Conway to Conwy, the Welsh spelling of the name, and the change is to take effect from 1st August, 1972.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Alec Jones

I beg to move Amendment No. 1178, in page 219, line 34, at end insert: 'in the rural district of Llantrisant and Llantwit Fardre the northern part of the parish of Llantrisant, in the urban district of Pontypridd the village of Trehafod'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We shall consider at the same time the following Amendments:

No. 203, in page 219, line 34, at end insert: In the rural district of Llantrisant and Llantwit Fardre the wards of Tonyrefail and Gilfach Goch.

No. 1196, in page 219, line 38, at end insert: 'except for the Ynysybwl Ward'.

No. 1179, in page 220, line 18, at end insert: 'without the village of Trehafod'.

No. 205, in page 220, line 20, at end insert: 'except for the wards of Tonyrefail and Gilfach Goch'.

No. 1180, in page 220, line 20, at end insert: 'without the northern part of the parish of Llantrisant'.

No. 1197, in page 220, line 22, at end insert: 'in the urban district of Mountain Ash the Ynysybwl Ward'.

Mr. Jones

Although the proposals in the Bill are described as local government reform, it cannot be said to be local government reform for the borough of Rhondda since it adds not one square inch, not one person and not one £ in rateable value to the resources of the borough.

In Committee, the Minister of State said that this was a matter which would probably be looked at by the Boundary Commission, but it seems to me that that would be merely passing the buck to the Boundary Commission, and, since we are here dealing with a Local Government Bill designed to reform and bring up to date local government arrangements throughout Wales, it behoves us at least to tackle some of the existing anomalies.

Amendments Nos. 1178 and 1179 would add small pieces of territory to Rhondda. They would give us the whole of the township of Trehafod, instead of dividing into two as it is at present, which is a nonsense which no one can justify. They would in addition give to Rhondda the northern part of the parish of Llantrisant, an area of land which the borough has been consistently led to expect would fall to its lot to meet the land resources needs of its people.

On Second Reading, the Minister of State said at one point that the change of mind regarding the northern part of Llantrisant and whether it should go into Rhondda was brought about as a result of the express views of the local authorities surrounding Rhondda. I only wish that he and his right hon. and learned Friend had paid the same attention to the views of the local authorities which now surround South Glamorgan.

Mr. John

As it is my constituency which is affected by—if I may so call it—this proposed piece of banditry, I must say a word. Although I sympathise with the last point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones), I must re-emphasise that Tonyrefail and the part of Gilfach Goch have traditionally been part of the rural district of Llantrisant and Llantwit Fardre for a long time. They are an integral part of that community, and the community is fully of a mind to continue with that organisation.

I hope that the Minister of State will, therefore, at least defer this question until an independent inquiry can look into it. I should certainly oppose the transfer at this time.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

The exchange on the benches opposite shows how difficult is the problem. As I said in Committee, this must be a matter for the Commission and not for the Government to legislate in the Bill. That is not to say that the matter which the hon. Gentleman has raised is not important; it obviously is to his constituency. I cannot go further than I did in Committee.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Gower

I beg to move Amendment No. 488, in page 220, line 24, leave out 'Llanilterne'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We can take with this the following Amendments:

No. 489, in page 220, line 24, leave out 'Pentyrch'.

No. 771, in page 221, line 10, leave out 'Lisvane'.

No. 490, in page 221, line 10, leave out 'Radyr'.

No. 491, in page 221, line 10, leave out 'St. Fagans'.

No. 492, in page 221, line 10, leave out 'Tongwynlais'.

Mr. Gower

My right hon. and learned Friend is aware of the main reasons why I have tabled the Amendments. The places mentioned in Amendments Nos. 488, 489, 771, 490 and 492 are all suburbs, but villages, around Cardiff, essentially rural in character. I have been asked to achieve their exclusion from the city area and to ensure their inclusion in District No. 2.

I emphasise Amendment No. 491, which deals with the special area of St. Fagans which contains the National Folk Museum. It is a small rural village and a conservation area. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will look at this with special attention.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I have looked carefully into the Amendments. The case for Tongwynlais and Lisvane is particularly weak, and the case for Radyr is very difficult. Perhaps I might look again at St. Fagans, but I cannot possibly accept the Amendments as they stand because they are technically incomplete.

Mr. George Thomas

Did I hear aright? Is the Secretary of State conceding St. Fagans?

Mr. Peter Thomas

No, the right hon. Gentleman is totally wrong. I am not conceding St. Fagans. I am saying that the cases for the other three are weak and that I will look again at St. Fagans. The Amendments cannot be accepted because they are technically incomplete.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

I beg to move Amendment No. 215, in page 221, leave out lines 28 and 29.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We can take also Amendment No. 216, in page 221, line 33, at end insert: 'the rural district of Gower'.

Mr. Williams

I much resent the fact that we are having to conduct the debate under the pressure of time and that representations are continuously being made to us by the Government benches to restrict our contributions on this important local government reform in Wales which will last for the next century. Most of my hon. Friends have had no opportunity even to express an opinion on matters relating to their own constituencies, and that applies to my hon. Friend the member for Swansea, East (Mr. McBride) and myself. We were not on the Standing Committee—very few hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies were—and even if we had been, the Secretary of State was not there to listen to our arguments.

This is the only chance we have had to deploy our arguments. We are co-operating and curbing our natural volatility. We do so realising that it is an insult to the people of Wales that discussion of their affairs should be squeezed into a short debate at the end of the proceedings on a major Bill.

If the proposals for Swansea—which only a short while ago was given the status of a city—are accepted Swansea will become a mere district council. All the strategic decisions relating to Swansea, the second city of Wales, will be taken by a county authority in which Swansea will be in a minority. Swansea, as a second city in terms of local government status, will occupy a markedly inferior position to that which is being accorded to Cardiff. Although Cardiff is being called a district council, it is in a county for which there are only two districts and 80 per cent. of the county is made up of district No. 1, Cardiff. Cardiff, in effect, has been made a single-tier authority by subterfuge. It is a unitary authority and keeps its county borough status; but Swansea is to lose its borough status.

Furthermore, the proposal ignores completely the wishes of Swansea Council, Pontardawe rural district council, as well as the local district council and the Glamorgan County Council—and all this to accommodate the Gower rural district council.

On an earlier Amendment relating to Glamorgan, the Secretary of State said that in making his decision he did not agree with what was said by the County of Glamorgan, the City of Cardiff, the County Borough of Merthyr or by the City of Swansea. It would appear that he only agreed with the rural district of Gower. If the proposal goes through we shall have a county composed of four districts in which one district, Swansea, will have a minority in voting terms but a majority of the population within that county area.

Various arguments have been adduced by the Government in support of their proposals for Swansea. The have said that Swansea asked for a larger local government area in the past. This is true, but Swansea always asked for the larger area when it also had powers compatible with its size and in conjunction with retaining its status as a unitary authority. Under the Government's proposals Swansea is now being given extra territory, but it is losing powers which it now possesses.

Then it is said by the Government that it makes sense to link Swansea with Gower because they are inseparable for planning reasons and because of their community of interest. There are variations on this theme, such as the argument that it is a travel-to-work area. The same applies to places such as Gowerton which is inseparable from Swansea. A person could walk from Swansea to Gowerton and not know that he had moved out of the county borough of Swansea; yet that peripheral development is not supposed to have any community of interest with the borough of Swansea.

In the same way it is said that roads and planning matters should be handled jointly between Swansea and Gower. This is not a valid argument under the right hon. Gentleman's proposition on the strategic planning of roads. It does not matter whether or not the rural district area of Gower is added to the Swansea district. There will also be the unified planning which the Government claim would be essential.

It is said that the reason Gower should be linked with Swansea is that many Swansea people use Gower for leisure and holiday reasons. But surely the same argument can be put forward for other parts of the county. Pontardawe and Llwchwr already use Gower as much as Swansea people for leisure and holiday pursuits. If the argument is applied to the one, it can surely be applied to the other.

5.15 p.m.

Then it is said: It is clear that the Gower Rural District Council would not wish to go into Llwchwr and Pontardawe."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 15th March, 1972, c. 2806.] Pembroke did not want to go into Dyfed, but it has to go there. Swansea does not want to go into a district with Gower, but it will have to. Every authority can be ignored except Gower, and I shall demonstrate later exactly why that is the case.

Then it is said that Swansea is agreeable to the proposition now put forward by the right hon. Gentleman. In Committee, the Minister of State referred to a letter of October, 1967, from the Town Clerk of Swansea. That letter is not relevant in the context of the present Bill. It related to a proposition to expand Swansea as a unitary authority, not as a second-tier authority. Yet in the debate we heard the hon. Gentleman quoting that letter, which reads: The high visual amenities should be the responsibility of one authority so that the coast line in its entirety may be preserved and the coast line planned as a whole. I have pointed out already that it does not need the proposition that we are challenging to achieve that. It will be obtainable at the top tier of the new county structure.

If it is suggested that Swansea is the most appropriate authority to look after the development of the coast line of Gower, I remind the Minister of State of a deputation that he received from the Mumbles conservation area protesting about the way in which even in Swansea at the moment it is felt that the planning which is being permitted is damaging the amenities.

When my hon. Friends the Members for Gower (Mr. Ifor Davies) and Swansea, East and I went to see the Secretary of State he fell back on the minute of a meeting that he held with representatives of the Swansea City Council. The fact is that that minute has never been ratified by the council. To the best of my knowledge it has not even been seen by the council. Certainly when I last challenged the right hon. Gentleman it had not been. However it was clear from that minute that at the outset of the meeting the Secretary of State made it plain that he would not deviate in any circumstances from a two-tier system and that he was determined that either part or the whole of Gower would be added to Swansea. The only choice offered to Swansea for discussion that day was not whether it wanted Gower in but whether it wanted the whole or part of Gower. Because Swansea undertook the discussion within the only framework within which the right hon. Gentleman was willing to discuss the matter, the right hon. Gentleman now says that Swansea was agreeable to his proposition.

I have no doubt that the Minister of State will fall back, as he did in Committee, on a report which appeared in the South Wales Evening Post of 9th November setting out the views of the leader of the Labour group on Swansea City Council. The statement was in the form of an olive branch to the Gower Rural District Council, attempting to show that Swansea with Gower imposed upon it was willing to work with the Gower authority. But a prime condition was that equal terms should be given to Swansea as had been meted out to Cardiff. The article went on: Swansea would have protested very vigorously if it had been given any different treatment from that accorded Cardiff. But this had not been the case, both city councils having been incorporated into a district council. Since that proposition was put forward, that Press report on which the hon. Gentleman depended in Committee for support has become invalid. Concessions have been made to Cardiff which have not been made to Swansea.

I could and, indeed, I should go on in greater detail to refute all the allegations which have been made by the Minister of State. I am in a different position. We have been told that if we go on debating these matters we shall keep the staff very late this evening. At the same time, we are trying to refute the Government's gross misrepresentation of the Swansea position. It would have been better to enable us to deploy our arguments properly if the Government had moved to report progress and dealt with this matter next week.

Mr. Kinnock

They are afraid.

Mr. Williams

Of course they are. Since this statement was made Cardiff has been made an effective unitary authority whilst Swansea is to remain a district council. That invalidates all that goes before in the Press statements which the Minister of State had scraped together for him by his Department's public relations team.

After the Secretary of State saw my hon. Friends the Members for Gower and Swansea, East and myself, he said that he had heard nothing further from Swansea Council arising from our discussions. That was not true. As soon as we finished our discussions I informed the Leader of the Swansea Council, who wrote to me on 16th February. His letter ends with these words: It is important to note that Swansea City Council has unanimously supported our policy in respect to local government reform, and quite frankly I cannot see how we can be more explicit than these documents indicate"— they were documents enclosed with the letter— I trust you will succeed in your endeavours. I submitted that letter with the enclosed documents to the Secretary of State. I will not quote from those documents as I wish to save time. Nevertheless, those documents clearly show that the only circumstance in which Swansea was willing to contemplate the addition to it of the whole of the Gower RDC was when the alternative available to it was to be given only part of the Gower RDC.

I will cut out a section of the speech I intended to devote to that documentary evidence. [Hon. Members: "No."] I am grateful to my hon. Friends for their support. However, the fact that the Government have got their timetable into a hopeless mess and are having to force the Bill through on a Friday should not be pursued by us at the expense of the staff of the House.

Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

Does my hon. Friend realise that some of us are extremely interested to hear what he has to say, because this issue concerns local government? People in local government are interested. Although the Government have made a mess of their business, these people are entitled to hear my hon. Friend's argument. Therefore, I urge him to take the matter seriously.

Mr. Gibson-Watt rose

Mr. Williams

I do not know whether the Minister wishes to interject or is rather optimistically expecting to sum up. Many of my hon. Friends hope to take part in the debate, because they also are concerned about the misrepresentations they heard in Committee concerning Swansea's view. The council's view was grossly misrepresented in Committee.

In truth, the Government no more care about the opinion of the Gower RDC than that of Cardiff, Merthyr, Glamorgan or Swansea. The Secretary of State quotes Gower RDC because it is the only voice he can hear saying what he is saying. It is not that he is taking account of its needs but that it happens to conform to the proposition which he is putting forward as part of his deeply laid political plot.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's objective concerning Wales was shown in his first set of proposals. When he first came to us he was not proposing to add the whole of Gower as he now envisages; he was proposing to exclude not the most remote part, but the nearest part of the Gower RDC, which is half in and half out of Swansea. The part that was literally on the doorstep of Swansea was not to be brought in, because it happened to be a Labour stronghold in the Gower RDC. Therefore, it was to be hived off, although it meant cutting a "v" out of the new district map to allocate it to the Pontardawe district council. It was at that stage that he indicated his primary objective. It was to add a solid block of Conservative votes to Swansea. In this instance the objective was so clear that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, having protested that that was not his objective, had to back down from the untenable position into which he had got himself.

The Secretary of State is determined to go ahead with this proposition. When he was Chairman of the Conservative Party he came to Wales to carry out a specific job.

Mr. George Thomas

To carve it up.

Mr. Williams

That is my right hon. Friend's view. The Secretary of State came to Wales to jerrymander the political map, and that is what today's exercise is all about. He has lost his chairmanship of the Conservative Party. There are those who wish he had kept it, and lost his Secretary of Stateship.

The Secretary of State will descend on Wales from his London constituency while he draws his reward for betraying Wales. Unlike his biblical predecessor, he has scorned the lump sum and is taking his 30 pieces in extended payments.

Mr. McBride

I sympathise with the English Members who have been forcibly drafted here today at the behest of the Patronage Secretary, but I remind them that they have connived in full against legitimate Welsh desires.

Mr. Ronald Brown

I was not drafted here today.

Mr. McBride

I accord the halo of virtue to my hon. Friend, who is a local government expert. I was referring to those who know so little about the subject.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams). When the Government assumed office they promoted two Bills—this Bill, the purpose of which is to destroy the power of Labour in the conurbations, and the Housing Finance Bill, the purpose of which is to destroy the power of Labour in housing estates—and the architect is on the benches opposite. He is by no means Peter the Great.

We have before us a Bill which seeks to incorporate into Swansea 11,000 people who have not the remotest connection with the city. Anyone who says that there is a community of interest, an affinity of interest, between them and the city, is stretching truth beyond any known limit. The purpose of this proposal to merge the whole of the Gower rural area into Swansea and to unite two areas in West Glamorgan No. 1 area is to try to effect a cleavage in the natural affinity and unity of interest between Llwchwr, Pontardawe and Gower Rural District, and the Secretary of State, who is hiding in a corner, knows that to be true.

These three areas have a natural sense of partnership.—[Laughter.] Those hon. Members from English constituencies who laugh so glibly should realise that I live in the area and know the position. The expatriates who are Ministers have not one Welsh vote to support their proposals in the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West says that the Secretary of State has walked out. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not take part in our Committee proceedings in order to defend the interests of Wales. What courage! What stature! I would resign if I were him.

My hon. Friends the Members for Swansea, West, and Gower (Mr. Ifor Davis) and I went to see the Secretary of State and the Minister of State to protest against this proposal, and we made a good case but, politically speaking, it fell on stony ground. The population of Swansea is about 173,000. Llwchwr, Pontardawe and Gower would have a population of 171,770. There is a natural balance, but it does not seem to be of the slightest concern to this present Government of mediocrities. There is no wild enthusiasm in Swansea or in Gower for the Government's proposals. The only people who support them are those who are thinking of political events in the years ahead.

5.30 p.m.

One might conclude that the only persons who favour this proposal are Welsh Tory Ministers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) said, they cannot find many people to support them. That is not surprising. Wales is a good, progressive country and in my constituency we bury Conservatives. There is no community of interest between Gower and the constituency which I have the honour to represent. The Minister of State, who knows the area well, can tell me precisely how much community of interest he sees between Gower and Swansea, East.

On 25th May, 1971, Llwchwr favoured the inclusion of the whole of the Gower district, Pontardawe was not in favour, and Gower Rural District Council went in No. 2 district. The local government unit providing the links between Swansea and the Gower rural district is not the Swansea City Council but the new county council. The Gower area has more community interest with Glyncorrwg and Pontardawe than Swansea.

There is no need for a change in the boundary not based on the foundation of reality. It is political chicanery, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) has said.

The Government came in determined to do something about local government, as they did on so many other directions with great disaster to the nation. In Swansea we have the example of a local government unit of high quality, of an excellent size, and fulfilling its all-purpose functions to the satisfaction of the citizens of the city. As my right hon. Friend said, Swansea was graciously honoured by the Sovereign by being given the status of a city, but the Secretary of State forgot to put in "City", and that omission had to be pointed out to him. Yet he is a Welshman. That unit of local government should in the terms of the Amendment, be left to govern as now. The only people who seek to benefit from this sordid manoeuvre are the Tory political butchers, the Welsh Ministers.

Mr. Ifor Davies

I shall not detain the House, but I ask hon. Members for a little indulgence while I say a brief word. My constituency is vitally affected. We are talking about an area which is the first to be designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty. I expect that the Minister will tell us that the Gower Rural District authority, by a narrow majority, decided in favour of the proposition, but I identify myself with the case presented by my hon. Friends the Members for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams) and Swansea, East (Mr. McBride). The interest of the area would be far better served by its amalgamation, as originally proposed in 1967, with the neighbouring authority of Pontardawe and Llwchwr. Those areas have a long experience of co-operation with Gower and a way of life which is much better identified with Gower.

If it is true that Swansea is lukewarm and halfhearted about amalgamation with Gower, in contrast with that I point out that Pontardawe and Llwchwr would welcome co-operation and amalgamation with the Gower area. This would be a happier combination and more efficient than the proposed amalgamation with Swansea. There is powerful and active parish council activity within the Gower rural district and there is great fear among the parish councillors that they will lose the opportunity to serve. Many of them are not interested in serving in a higher capacity but are vitally interested in serving in an ordinary, humble way as parish councillors. They feel that their interests would be better served by amalgamation with Pontardawe and Llwchwr.

We should note not only that the Gower Rural District Council itself is in favour of the proposal but also the feeling of Gower parish councillors. There is no majority opinion in the Gower area for the Government's proposed amalgamation, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to think again. If he cannot help us this afternoon, perhaps he can do so when the Bill reaches another place.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I am grateful for the modest yet powerful way in which the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Ifor Davies) made his case. There is a majority view in the Gower Rural District Council for joining Swansea, as the hon. Gentleman conceded. This matter has not been easy to resolve. I went to considerable lengths in Committee to explain why the Government reached their conclusion.

Swansea would have preferred a unitary authority and its second choice was to remain alone. But when a deputation from Swansea met the Secretary of State, it said that if Gower was to come in at all Swansea would rather all of it came in than just part of it. One of the latest letters to me from the Town Clerk of Swansea, dated 11th April, makes this absolutely clear. The town clerk says: In my letter to you dated 26th May, 1971, I informed you that the Council adhered to their opinion that a single tier authority would prove to be the most efficient system of local government for the proposed West Glamorgan County Area. On the basis of the statement which had been made by the Secretary of State that the reform was to proceed on a two-tier basis, then my Council stated in the said letter of 26th May that the new District 1 within the proposed West Glamorgan County should be confined to the area of the existing City of Swansea. When the Secretary of State received a deputation of the City Council at the Welsh Office in Cardiff on 6th August, 1971, the question of the area of District 1 was discussed and the deputation then said that if the Secretary of State took the view that the existing area of the City should be extended to form the new District 1, then rather than a part of the area of the Gower Rural District Council being added, it was their view that the whole of the area of the Rural District should be joined with the City of Swansea to form the new District. It is generally conceded that Gower and Swansea, particularly in tourist terms, are considered together. It is one of the most beautiful parts of Wales.

Mr. Alan Williams

Swansea has not itself put forward the proposition of amalgamation with Gower. It was told that it had to have part or all of Gower. According to the minutes of the meeting with the Secretary of State, Swansea was opposed first to Gower being added to Swansea and then apparently said to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that if he was adamant it felt that it should be the whole of Gower.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

The hon. Gentleman is not disagreeing with what I have said. I made that point clear in reading the letter. I assure him that the points he has raised have been taken very carefully into consideration by both my right hon. and learned Friend and myself. We have looked at this detailed and difficult problem very carefully, and I fear that we cannot accept the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

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