§ LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREAS IN WALES
§ Amendment proposed [This day]: No. 183, in page 214, line 22, column 2, leave out 'Carmarthenshire and Pembroke' and insert 'and Carmarthenshire'.—[Mr. Nicholas Edwards.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
Last night we heard a most effective speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Nicholas Edwards) in which he asked the House to consider a plea on behalf of a community who have made it clear for a long time that they do not wish to be embraced within the wider area of Dyfed which has been contemplated by successive Secretaries of State, and I compliment my hon. Friend on the manner in which he presented his case to the House. I thought he was cogent, clear and very persuasive.
On the other hand, this is almost like a battle between David and Goliath. It is a very small county—not small in extent but small in comparison with the more industrialised parts of Great Britain—fighting against the resources of the Welsh Office and the massed array possibly of both sides of the House.
I admire the way in which Pembrokeshire has fought this battle—apparently a forlorn battle when it started. I am 1128 not sure that we shall advance the cause of efficiency of local government by achieving a balance which in theory might appear admirable, if it is contrary to the convictions and wishes of ordinary folk living in a part of the country—
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
If I may interrupt the hon. Gentleman, may I take it that he applies that approach to the people of Glamorgan as well as to the people of Pembrokeshire?
§ Mr. Gower
I have seen no such evidence among the people of Glamorgan. Every letter that I have had about Glamorgan has come from a councillor or an alderman or somebody employed in local government, while in the case of Pembrokeshire, although I do not live there, I have had many letters from people who apparently have no connection with local government at all.
§ Mr. Gower
I would say several dozen, which is very impressive since I do not represent that part of the country. The hon. Gentleman may smile at this apparently small number but I think it is a considerable number in the context of what I am saying.
I have a tremendous sympathy for the case which has been adduced. I shall listen with interest to what is said about this case, but at the moment I say to my hon. Friend that even if I am the only supporter he has, I shall go with him into the Lobby.
§ Mr. Fred Evans (Caerphilly)
My intervention will be very brief. I have some connection with Pembrokeshire. It is the home of my mother, and her family have lived there for many generations. Knowing the people of Pembrokeshire, I am able to comment upon their sturdiness of character and independence of thinking, and I congratulate them on having imparted some of that sturdiness and independence to their Member of Parliament. Out of respect for those qualities of the Pembrokeshire people, the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) will not be on his own, for I, too, will join the hon. Member when he divides the House.
At the same time, I should like to remind the people of Pembrokeshire who their true friends are, and at the end 1129 of this debate when the House divides we shall see who are the democrats in this House and who are the anti-democrats. The people of Pembrokeshire will see quite clearly that the Conservative Party, which based its election manifesto in part on a plea for added democracy in local government, for a better dialogue between the people, the communities and government at all levels, will be faced with a test, and I have no doubt that the showing of hon. Members opposite will be very carefully watched.
It was a remarkable exercise about which the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Nicholas Edwards) told us—in fact, we all knew about it—in which such a large number of people expressed their resistance on paper in a Petition and a memorandum, a number larger than the number of persons on the electoral register at the last general election. I happen to know that the vetting of the signatures was extremely thorough, so that there was no possibility that the return was in any way fallacious, let alone juggled. I understand that about 100 names were found which, when checked against the electoral register, were seen not to be names of residents of Pembrokeshire, and all such names were excluded from the calculations in reaching the final total of those who were resisting the proposed treatment of the county.
It was a remarkable exercise in democracy active at local level. If we ignore the community spirit when it is expressed on such a scale, we run into grave danger.
It is right that Governments must lead as well as follow, and I do not claim for a moment that a Government must yield to every kind of pressure, regardless of the volume of support expressed in one or other community, but, when a community expresses itself so overwhelmingly, any Government would be foolish to ignore such an expression. If we ride roughshod over such strong manifestations of community feeling, we run the danger of turning communities which are willing to co-operate into communities likely to become cynical, communities where the spirit turns sour, communities which can become the breeding ground for disillusion with the whole process of democracy.
1130 I pay tribute to all those people in Pembrokeshire who had something to do with the organising of this resistance, but I pay a special tribute to those members of the Labour Party who played a prominent part in spearheading the resistance. In total, it was a non-party resistance, but within that total resistance there was a considerable effort made by the Labour Party and to that I wish a tribute to be paid at least from these benches.
I hope not only that the hon. Member for Pembroke will see a considerable number of my right hon. and hon. Friends in his Lobby but also that he will have succeeded in convincing a large number of his right hon. and hon. Friends. But that I take leave to doubt, for if the attitude taken about Glamorgan on the Conservative benches is so rigid, I can see little hope for any tolerance towards Pembrokeshire.
§ Mr. Gwynoro Jones (Carmarthen)
I wish to direct attention to Amendment No. 1190, in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. Denzil Davies). I am glad to have the opportunity of discussing the question of Dyfed in relation to Carmarthenshire. There is no question but that it is our duty to congratulate the people of Pembrokeshire on their determined and consistent efforts over the years in opposition to the concept of Dyfed. The local authorities of that county have played a leading rôle in the opposition, and to that extent it is fair to say that they differ considerably from my own county and its local authorities. There has been a consistent line from 1967, and from 1970, among the local authorities of Carmarthenshire to support, albeit with varying degrees of reluctance or acceptance, the concept of Dyfed. There is, therefore, that difference between Pembrokeshire and its local authorities and Carmarthenshire, and to some extent Cardiganshire, too.
However, I venture to say categorically that, if one systematically assessed the opinion of the people of Carmarthenshire and of Cardiganshire, one would find the same intense feeling of doubt, suspicion and opposition to the concept of Dyfed. The people do not want Dyfed.
1131 It is an ironic fact that, in historical terms the people who are now most vociferous against Dyfed—that is, Pembrokeshire—were at one time the original Dyfed. But that is a matter of history, and I leave it there.
The basic points put by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Nicholas Edwards) could be put on behalf of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire, and these will be the points to which I shall direct the attention of the Secretary of State. Many of the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Pembroke are as valid in our case, and, to be fair, are valid in respect of Anglesey, Breconshire, Radnorshire and virtually every county, and I will return to them later.
§ 11.15 a.m.
§ To be frank, I was rather worried when the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) rose to speak, because I felt that, as in the latter part of the speech the hon. Member for Pembroke, he tended to associated what I regard as a very good case with some rather peculiar arguments, and, looking at the expression on the faces of some of my hon. Friends, I thought that he would soon be losing votes rather than gaining them for his cause. So I was particularly worried when the hon. Member for Barry rose to speak. However, I am glad that he took only three or four minutes and finished without upsetting the case too much.
§ The hon. Member for Pembroke referred to the question of language. I understand the feeling of genuine concern, basically, of people in south Pembrokeshire on the question of language. In the counties of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire, 70 or 80 per cent, of the people speak Welsh, and I can understand that there may well be some fear among the people of south Pembrokeshire on this score; but to present the argument, as the hon. Member for Pembroke did, that we in either Carmarthenshire or Cardiganshire would go out of our way to undermine the position of English-speaking people—as though we ever do in our two counties in relation to the English-speaking communities within our own boundaries—is to stretch the argument a bit far.1132
§ The hon. Gentleman made much of the fears of officials. I can tell him that there are officials of Carmarthenshire County Council who are not able to speak Welsh, and we do not in any way undermine their position or make life intolerable for them. Their contribution is immense. I felt that the hon. Gentleman should not have used that argument.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards (Pembroke)
The hon. Gentleman will agree that I advanced the argument with great care. All I say at this moment is that these fears are, in fact, as widely felt among Welsh-speaking people in the north of the county as they are in the south. The director of education whom I quoted is a Welsh-speaking Welshman who comes from Carmarthen. The same views have been strongly put forward by the present chairman of the county council, who is a Welsh-speaking Welshman from north Pembrokeshire. I was putting forward a view widely held in Pembrokeshire.
§ Mr. Gwynoro Jones
No doubt, it is a view held by many people in Pembrokeshire, but the hon. Gentleman is in a special position, and it is his duty to make a reasoned assessment. I assure him that what he has said is not true in relation to Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire, and it should have been his duty to deny and contradict that basic fear. I leave it at that.
Another point which the hon. Gentleman raised tended to destroy his case, and I must now come to that. In passing, however, I assure him that he need have no fear that I am not in basic agreement with the purpose of destroying the concept of Dyfed, and I shall be with him in the Division Lobby. I must emphasise, however, that it is not right to argue, as the hon. Gentleman did, that there are no problems common between us. Indeed, in the same breath he went on to argue that the people of Pembrokeshire are concerned about the bottleneck of Carmarthen and the way in which it snarls up the industrial and tourist development of PemBrokeshire. We have common problems—the coastline, defence establishments, and activity roads, motorways, industrial development. There are many common problems; it is wrong to suggest otherwise, but a lack of community interest.
1133 The other point which undermines the hon. Gentleman's case is the argument that Pembrokeshire has a right to do this, but if it succeeds Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire must still be amalgamated. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) would not accept that for one moment. Whatever is valid for Pembrokeshire—and there are many valid points—is equally valid for Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire. May I also say to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan on the question of the fear of dominance, that the Carmarthenshire people are kind. I well understand the concern that Carmarthenshire shall be in a majority of three over Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire on a county basis. The Secretary of State will probably argue that it is unlikely that the councillors of Carmarthenshire will vote en bloc. I cannot see the Labour group in Carmarthen as it is now joining forces with some of the Independents of Carmarthenshire and constantly voting en bloc against Cardigan and Pembrokeshire. I trust they will find affinity with their Labour colleagues in those two counties.
Although many other counties might argue that they have a county structure and historical, cultural and community feelings to defend there is a special point on Dyfed. Dyfed will be larger than Clwyd, the three proposed Glamorganshire counties and three-quarters of Gwent. Dwfed will comprise 30 per cent. of the area of Wales, which is an extensive area to cover presenting administrative and travelling difficulties. One need only look at the escalating cost of the Dyfed/Powys police authority.
The hon. Member for Pembroke spoke about remoteness, community feeling and travel difficulties. I see that possibly Carmarthenshire is in a far more privileged position than Pembrokeshire or Cardiganshire in this respect. It is probably the people of Cardiganshire who will suffer travelling problems rather than the people of Pembrokeshire. There is a more direct rail link and a far more effective road link between Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire than between Cardiganshire and Carmarthen, or wherever the headquarters of the new authority will be, although I have my strong views on this.
1134 Another argument of the hon. Member for Pembroke concerns the destruction of local democracy; that applies equally in Carmarthenshire. The hon. Gentleman went on to stress the community feeling in various parts of Pembrokeshire. That is so, but, equally, it is so in Carmarthenshire. No doubt the Secretary of State has had many letters from the Borough of Kidwelly which has raised many points on the status of that authority. There is no affinity whatsoever between North Cardiganshire, South-West Pembrokeshire and South-East Carmarthenshire. In the affairs of the county council in Carmarthenshire—and my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly will probably agree—there is sometimes a tenuous affinity between South-East Carmarthenshire and North-West Carmarthenshire. A great many points that are discussed arouse feelings in the county.
Carmarthenshire, too, has a long historical tradition. For instance the first Charter to Carmarthen was granted in 1227 at the time of Henry III and to Kidwelly in the time of Henry I. In addition Carmarthen is one of four remaining boroughs that are counties in themselves. The people of Carmarthen will lose the Admiral of the River Towy. I did not know such a man existed until—
§ Mr. Jones
Alderman Rice, the Mayor of Carmarthen, is now Admiral of the River Towy. I am not sure what he will say when he is demoted under the Bill.
I accept the need to reform the basic structure of local government in West Wales. I would much have preferred my party when it was in Government in 1967 and the present Goverment to accept the county basis, with an all-Wales elected council and the counties as the second tier of goverment throughout Wales, with the reorganisation of local government within each county. A far better case can be made out for this, and it would have led to healthier local democracy, healthier local government and closer contact between the authorities and the people. I can see the value, for instance, of having Carmarthen Borough and Carmarthen Rural District Council with Llandeilo Borough and Llandeilo Rural District Council, but local organisation within the county 1135 structure should have been the basis for every county in Wales with a top-tier elected authority.
My attitude towards Pembrokeshire is clear. I look upon this group of Amendments as an attempt by hon. Members representing constituencies in West Wales to destroy and state our opposition to Dyfed. Therefore, I shall be in the Division Lobby with the hon. Member for Pembroke, despite the original support for Dyfed given by the councils—although I doubt whether that support was given by the people, and it was certainly not given by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly and myself.
Finally, many letters have been sent to the Secretary of State by various local authorities in Carmarthenshire—the Borough of Carmarthen, the Borough of Kidwelly, the Borough of Llandovery, Llandeilo Urban District Council, Newcastle Emlyn Rural District Council and so on. Each has written to the Secretary of State and to me saying clearly that, whatever is granted to Pembrokeshire, we in Carmarthen demand and expect similar status and facilities. It is our duty to make that abundantly clear. Carmarthenshire has a proud history and identity to defend.
I pay tribute to everyone concerned in Pembrokeshire, and I join my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans) in his tribute to the Labour Party in that constituency. In fairness, and as a matter of merit, I specially mention the devoted endeavours of Mr. Gordon Parry and the way in which he has tried to put the case and persuade people, including myself who have been concerned that Pembrokeshire might succeed to support him. I give notice to the Secretary of State to be careful of the Amendment. We do not want Dyfed, but whatever is granted for Pembrokeshire we expect for Carmarthenshire, and no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan expects the same for his county.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelly)
I agree with very much of what was said by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Nicholas Edwards), who presented his case with a sense of independence for which we respect him. Unfortunately, even though he may win the argument—and I with 1136 him on the main parts of it—he will be defeated by his own Whips and his own party. This is a sad fact; namely, that an hon. Member who shows this kind of independence and presents a good case will be defeated by people who are not even present in the House to hear his case but who merely go into the Division Lobby at the behest of the Tory Whips.
I do not want to dwell too greatly on his arguments about language. I hope that those fears do not exist too deeply. I hope it is not a case of the Normans in the South not wanting to be dominated by the Welsh. I assure hon. Members that in Carmarthenshire, which has a large Welsh community and culture, there is no bigotry in relation to the Welsh language. This certainly applies to my constituency, most of which is industrial in nature. There is a vigorous Welsh culture there and we do not suffer from fears of this kind. Therefore, so far as we are concerned such fears are groundless.
I was unable to see the reasons for Dyfed in the first place. It is true that the Carmarthen County Council and certainly the Independents and Nationalists on the county council seem to support the idea of Dyfed. The Labour councillors waver from time to time but basically give their support to the idea.
I suspect that any support in Carmarthenshire County Council for the idea is based on the belief that they will be able to run the show and dominate the people of Pembrokeshire. Everything will be located in Carmarthen, and they will be in a majority. The officials of Carmarthenshire County Council are also in favour of Dyfed. However, I have heard no argument adduced in favour of Dyfed which has convinced me that the joining of these three counties to make this very large area will be of any benefit to the people of those counties.
The people of Cardiganshire, Pembroke and Carmarthenshire still remember the first set of accounts produced by the Powys police authority which showed that in that amalgamation there was a doubling of expenditure compared with the expenditure if the authorities had remained separate. The people query this and want to know why the three counties are to be amalgamated. They fear that the cost will be increased, and 1137 it is doubtful whether any more efficiency will result from this new arrangement.
My first objection to Dyfed is that it is too large geographically to support these three counties with the differing community interests. South Pembrokeshire does not have any community of interest with North Carmarthenshire, neither do the people of South Pembrokeshire have any particular community of interest with Milford Haven, nor does Amman ford have a community of interest with Tenby.
I am fearful that because of the size of this new area councillors will not attend meetings. They may have to travel from Aberystwyth to Haverford west. Who knows where the headquarters will be situated? The headquarters could be in Carmarthen. This will mean that people will have to travel great distances to attend meetings and they just will not come. The result will be that more and more power will be vested in the hands of officials. The officials will decide things, and councillors will be called in to rubber-stamp decisions in a perfunctory manner what has already been decided by officials.
I suspect that the movement behind local government reform is partly a need to get away from the people. It is an attempt to push democracy further away. It is getting more difficult to make decisions today because people are prepared to speak out against them. Therefore, one reason for wanting these large units may well be the feeling "We must get the people off our backs" so that we can decide matters in a more cosy atmosphere with the people not being able to have their say.
I believe that Dyfed is too large a unit to provide efficiency and the kind of local democracy we should expect. Secondly, nobody has mentioned where the headquarters of Dyfed will be, there is no building to house this new mammoth authority. When we discuss comprehensive schools we are told that we should not build these schools until we have a new place for the schools to amalgamate. But here we shall be dealing with Haverford west, Carmarthen, Aberystwyth, and sub-offices will be established in all these places. We might just as well have the different county headquarters as we have at the moment because of all the 1138 to-ing and fro-ing that will take place. Letters will pass backwards and forwards, and there will not be the benefits of a merger which might otherwise accrue if there were only one headquarters.
I am concerned about the representation of Dyfed from the point of view of my own constituency. The hon. Member for Pembroke mentioned rateable value of South Pembrokeshire, Milford Haven and other areas. But the industrial heart of Dyfed will be my constituency plus the East Carmarthen area. That will be the industrial employment centre of Dyfed I for a long time to come. There are many fears in my constituency that we shall be in a minority. I do not mean a minority in a political sense but in the sense of the industrial area versus the rural areas. What is happening is that the rural parts of Dyfed are now calling for a rural weighting. They are saying "We should not have the same kind of representation per head of population." I sympathise with that argument, but once we set up undemocratic entities we are bound to face further problems of this kind. One seat has already been taken away from Llanelly, and the result will be considerable tension as between rural and industrial areas of Dyfed. If one creates a large unit it becomes less democratic if it has some kind of rural weighting.
If the case for Pembrokeshire stands then the case for Carmarthenshire also stands. I do not believe that the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Pembroke are any different in principle from the arguments which can be advanced for Carmarthenshire. I shall support the hon. Gentleman in the Lobby, but I hope that in logic he and other people who support him will also support the same case which I am putting forward for Carmarthenshire.
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Thomas)
This has been an interesting debate, and I join in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Nicholas Edwards) on the extremely effective way in which he presented the case for Pembrokeshire. I should also like to congratulate other hon. Members in presenting their cases.
We must be perfectly clear about the effect of the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend and the other Amendments 1139 in this group. The effect, as the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynoro Jones) so rightly said, will be the destruction of Dyfed. The hon. Gentleman wishes to destroy the proposal for an amalgamation of the three counties into the new large County of Dyfed.
I will remind the House of the history of this proposed amalgamation. It was first proposed in the White Paper of July, 1967, which was presented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) when he was Secretary of State for Wales. The proposal in that White Paper was almost identical with the proposal which I have made, apart from the fact that today the districts have greater powers. They have certain planning powers which were absent when the proposal was made in 1967. In November, 1968, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) made certain modifications to the proposals in the White Paper of July, 1967, but he made none in the case of Dyfed. The proposals for Dyfed remained. In March, 1970, when the right hon. Gentleman presented a White Paper on local government reorganisation in Wales, there were further important modifications but again none in respect of Dyfed. That remained untouched. Therefore, it is only right that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite should realise that over the years this proposal for a large County of Dyfed has been a cornerstone of Government policy in respect of reorganisation in South-West Wales.
In respect of one matter raised by the hon. Member for Carmarthen, he will probably be relieved to know that the Admiral of the River Towy will not lose his rights under the Bill. After the Bill has reached the Statute Book it will still be possible to have an Admiral of the River Towy.
§ Mr. Thomas
I was as surprised and as interested as the hon. Gentleman to hear that this office existed. I have made inquiries, and I find that it will not be lost as a result of the Bill.
I deal mainly with Pembrokeshire, which is the kernel of this debate. I 1140 repeat that if Pembrokeshire were to be removed from Dyfed inevitably it would mean the destruction of Dyfed. It is clear from what has been said in the debate that that would be the result.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke is right when he talks about the consistent opposition to the proposal to link Pembrokshire with Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire to form Dyfed. There has been continual opposition, especially from the County of Pembroke, ever since this was proposed in 1967.
I have listened carefully to the arguments which have been put forward during the debate. As I see it, there are three main grounds on which the objections are based. First, my hon. Friend said that the area of Pembrokeshire is unique and must be treated differently from the remainder of England and Wales. It is remote. It has great possibilities for economic growth, and, as a tourist area, it has a seasonal population much greater than the Census records.
Then my hon. Friend said that the present linguistic balance in Pembrokeshire between the English-speaking people in the south and the Welsh speakers in the north of the country will be upset with unfortunate consequences for all concerned if Pembrokeshire is linked with the more Welsh-speaking areas of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire.
Thirdly, my hon. Friend, supported by the hon. Member for Carmarthen and the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. Denzil Davies), said that the County of Dyfed would be too large in area, that people would have to travel considerable distances in terms of Welsh roads and public transport to get to their committee or council meetings. The hon. Member for Llanelly said that people would not travel and that the effect would be that more and more power would gravitate towards the permanent officials.
I agree with my hon. Friend, of course, that Pembrokeshire is unique. But it is clear from the speeches that have been made today that practically every county in Wales regards itself as being unique and in some very important ways different from its neighbours. As the hon. Member for Carmarthen said, if one talked about unique counties in Wales one could instance Anglesey and a number of others who might say that they 1141 are different and have very different problems.
I cannot accept the argument that the circumstances of Pembrokeshire are so exceptional that it is right to accept a population figure of less than 40 per cent. of the desirable minimum of 250,000 which the Government have adopted as the aim for an authority which is to be responsible for education and the personal social services. The uniqueness of Pembrokeshire does not justify going against a population criterion which has been adopted for the whole of Great Britain on the basis of the conclusions of two Royal Commissions, Redcliffe-Maud and Wheatley.
§ 11.45 a.m.
§ My hon. Friend said that there should be exceptions. Of course occasionally there must be exceptions. An exception has been made in the case of Powys. But if one looks at the geographical nature of Powys and the sparsity of population, clearly there was no other alternative, and everyone accepts that that is truly in the nature of a real exception. Another exception was made in the case of Gwynedd, but that is not such a big exception. The population of Gwynedd, which is very sparse in certain parts, will be just under 230,000.
§ I turn now to the point made by my hon. Friend about the Welsh language, and I make no complaint about what he said. It is clear to anyone who has been interested in local government reorganisation that there is uneasiness, especially among teachers in the south of Pembrokeshire, that the present educational administration in the county will be disturbed if it is united with Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire. Non-Welsh-speaking teachers are worried about the effect that any new policy might have on their career prospects.
§ When I addressed the Welsh Joint Education Committee in July of last year I put forward my view that an education authority's bilingual policy should be in keeping with the linguistic characteristics of its area. I recognised that this would lead to variations up and down the country but I said that there should be a discernible and reasonably structured pattern which could command and merit the support of the public generally. Parents should be free to choose whether their 1142 children should learn Welsh in school, and the education authority's policy be acceptable to both teachers and parents alike.
§ At present the policy adopted for the north of Pembrokeshire, where more Welsh is spoken in the community, differs from that in the rest of the county. In the north, Welsh is taught in all primary schools to pupils from the age of seven and in the first two years in the secondary schools. In the south, less Welsh is taught. The people in the Anglicised area of the south have long been accustomed to living in close union with the more Welsh inhabitants in Pembrokeshire, and I see no reason why there should not be the same harmony in the larger area of Dyfed.
§ If I might again refer to the teachers, I can see no basis for the fears that prospects and promotion opportunities for non-Welsh-speaking teaching staff will not be maintained. I agree with the hon. Member for Carmarthen about that. I find it inconceivable that a linguistically mixed authority such as the Dyfed County Council will be would insist on all its teachers being Welsh-speaking.
§ As for the size of Dyfed, it will be smaller than the existing counties of Devon and the West Riding. In fact, the existing County of Devon is about 13 per cent. larger than Dyfed will be. Dyfed will be smaller than several of the proposed new counties in England. The existing counties of West Wales, as in the remainder of Great Britain, were delineated in the days when a good horse was the quickest method of transport. The size of Dyfed is certainly not too large in terms of the late twentieth century. It is 40 miles, for instance, from Fishguard to Carmarthen—it cannot be assumed that Carmarthen will be the new centre of county administration—but in terms of local government 40 miles is not a great distance. In the county to which we shall be referring, Glamorgan, people travel more than 40 miles to the county centre. It is over 40 miles from Gower to Cardiff.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan (Cardigan)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has compared the proposed County of Dyfed with Devon. Would it not be more accurate to say that the area of the proposed County of Dyfed will be larger 1143 than East Glamorgan, West Glamorgan, and the proposed County of Clwyd all put together?
§ Mr. Thomas
One can give instances. The hon. Member for Carmarthen was correct that it will be a large county within Wales. However, it is not all that large compared with other counties in England and Wales. We cannot say that this area is a major reason for objecting to the idea of the county.
I should like to refer my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke to the population growth in Pembrokeshire. The population figure in the consultative document was estimated at mid-1970 as 101,200. The 1971 Census population figure for Pembrokeshire is 97,295, which is a drop of 4,000 on the 1970 estimate. These figures do not hold out great promise of a substantial increase in the population of Pembrokeshire. I hope that the optimism which has been expressed about growth in Pembrokeshire is justified and that the county will grow substantially in both population and economic strength. However, even on the most optimistic assumptions, the population is unlikely to increase by 150 per cent. in the foreseeable future.
What I have said about Pembrokeshire applies very much to Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire. I am sure that the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) will agree that the population of Cardiganshire is well below that of Pembrokeshire. Therefore, my remarks on population apply even more forcibly to Cardiganshire. They obviously cannot apply soforcibly to Carmarthenshire. However, I submit that if any of these Amendments were accepted it would mean the destruction of Dyfed. I cannot commend that to the House. In fact, I ask the House to accept that it would mean the complete destruction of the Bill. Therefore, I ask the House to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. George Thomas
We have had a gem of a debate about a gem of a county. All Welsh people are extremely proud of the sheer beauty of Pembrokeshire and the warm-heartedness of its people.
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Nicholas Edwards) did what every hon. Member in this House ought to do: he represented the view of his con- 1144 stituents. However, he spoiled his case from time to time. That is easily done on the question of the Welsh language. I believe that the genuine and real fears of people on this matter have been made far worse by the activities of the Welsh Language Society in recent times than they would have been 10 years ago. The tensions which have been created have been made far worse by the antics of people who want to help the language but are damaging it.
The Secretary of State referred to the White Paper for which I was responsible. It was a White Paper, not a Bill, indicating the then Government's intentions. Unlike the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I served on the Committee stage of this Bill. We are hearing him for the first time. This is our first opportunity to question the Secretary of State for Wales. Only four Labour and two Tory Members from Wales were able to serve on the Committee stage of the Bill. That is why we have fought so hard for proper time today to discuss the biggest upheaval in local government in Wales in our time.
In Committee the Minister of State, who was dealing with the English part of the Bill, kept saying "I cannot ignore local feeling." Time after time the hon. Gentleman changed his policy because of the overwhelming upsurge of local feeling. It may be the Secretary of State has the right to say "You intoduced a White Paper. It does not matter what the people of Pembrokeshire say. My planners and I know best." But in Pembrokeshire I witnessed a mighty and overwhelming reaction, equalled only by the reaction in the County of Glamorgan to the proposals there. If I were Secretary of State I should have to bow to public opinion on certain changes. Everyone knows the storm of opposition that came over my proposals. That is no secret. If it is, then it is a secret shared with a wide community. Does anyone in his senses believe that in the face of that overwhelming opposition I could have said "Never mind what you say. I know best, and I shall go head with it."?
Everyone knows that this is a democratic assembly. We are supposed to represent the will of our people. All Pembrokeshire cannot be wrong. It is united. I got annoyed with the Lord 1145 Lieutenant, whose wife led a bull through the streets in support of the campaign, and with some of the other opposition that was put forward in my time. Therefore, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is riding for a fall if he thinks he can say to every major Amendment from Wales "No, no, no", when we have seen, in the long, protracted debate on English local government, major changes in Teesside and in Yorkshire on which the Minister of State has said that his own judgment was one way but public feeling was another. Major proposals for Essex—Southend—have also been changed because of the strength of local feeling. I am persuaded that local opinion in Pembrokeshire is so strong that I shall go into the Lobby to support the Amendment. 12 noon.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards
The right hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) spoke of a secret that we share. I am glad that he is to come into the Lobby with me. Another secret we share is the obstinacy with which he resisted Pembrokeshire's case when he was Secretary of State and the clear determination which he then expressed not to submit to it. I welcome the fact that at this late stage the right hon. Gentleman has turned a somersault and is joining us. It is a great conversion.
I welcome, too, the assurances which have been given about the Welsh language. I trust that the hon. Members concerned are right.
I regret that this debate could not have been concluded last night, because some hon. Members who heard the case which I presented are not able to be here today, and one or two of my hon. Friends who would have supported me have other engagements. The hon. Members for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan
|Division No. 308.]||AYES||[12.2 p.m.|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Foot, Michael||Lipton, Marcus|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Gower, Raymond||McBride, Neil|
|Booth, Albert||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Hattersley, Roy||Mikardo, Ian|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Hunt, John||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||John, Brynmor||Padley, Walter|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Probert, Arthur|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Ellis, Tom||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Evans, Fred||Kinnock, Neil||Spearing, Nigel|
§ Morgan) and Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynoro Jones) put forward cogent arguments for their constituencies—and I do not in any way wish to get involved in a dispute with them—but in doing so, they probably killed Pembrokeshire's case, because they gave my right hon. and learned Friend a decisive argument, in his eyes—that of the destruction of Dyfed. I do not accept that that is inevitable, because that which would have remained would have been the equivalent of Gwynedd in size, rateable value and population.
§ My right hon. and learned Friend hung his case upon that argument, and he picked out three others—the special character of Pembrokeshire, language and distance. My right hon. and learned Friend maintained that I rested my case on the uniqueness of Pembrokeshire. Never once in my speech did I refer to that.
§ My right hon. and learned Friend rightly said, as I did, that there were other counties as large, but of course in York in the West Riding there is a great city at the hub of a communications system. The system is different in Devon, which has an historic unity which we do not have. The question of area becomes decisive only when there are other factors as well, and my right hon. and learned Friend did not refer to the one decisive factor; namely, the lack of community of interest. I find it astonishing that my right hon. and learned Friend could have replied to the debate without reference to that crucial issue which was advanced not only by myself but by others.
§ For that reason, if for no other, I feel fully justified in pressing the Amendment
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 44, Noes 74.
|Stallard, A. W.||Vickers, Dame Joan||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)||Mr. Ernest Armstrong and Mr. Donald Coleman.|
|Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Adley, Robert||Hayhoe, Barney||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Rees, peter (Dover)|
|Balniel, Lord||Higgins, Terence L.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Benyon, W.||Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Boscawen, Robert||Kershaw, Anthony||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Buck, Antony||Kinsey, J. R.||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Clegg, Walter||Knox, David||Speed, Keith|
|Critchley, Julian||Lament, Norman||Spence, John|
|Crouch, David||Longden, Gilbert||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Dean, Paul||Mather, Carol||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Moate, Roger||Tebbit, Norman|
|Dixon, Piers||Molyneaux, James||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Money, Ernle||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Drayson, G. B.||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Eden, Sir John||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Murton, Oscar||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Eyre, Reginald||Neave, Airey||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Fell, Anthony||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Wilkinson, John|
|Fortescue, Tim||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Fox, Marcus||Parkinson, Cecil||Younger, Hn. George|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Green, Alan||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Mr. Michael Jopling and Mr. John Stradling-Thomas.|
|Grieve, Percy||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ East Glamorgan
§ The county boroughs of Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil.
§ In the administrative county of Glamorgan—
§ the boroughs of Barry, Cowbridge and Rhondda;
§ the urban districts of Aberdare, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Gelligaer, Maesteg, Mountain Ash, Ogmore and Garw, Penarth, Pontypridd and Porthcawl;
§ the rural districts of Cardiff, Cowbridge, Llantrisant and Llantwit Fardre and Penybont;
§ In the rural district of Neath, the parish of Rhigos.
§ In the administrative county of Monmouthshire—
§ the urban districts of Bedwas and Machen and Rhymney;
§ in the urban district of Bedwellty the Aberbargoed, Cwmsyfieg, New Tredegar and Phllipstown wards.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
With this Amendment it will be convenient to consider the following Amendments: No. 185, in page 214, line 26, leave out 'counties of Mid Glamorgan and South Glamorgan' and insert 'county of East Glamorgan'.
§ No. 188, in page 215, leave out lines 3 to 27.1148
§ No. 194, in page 215, line 30, leave out from 'Brecon' to end of line 32.
§ No. 195, in page 215, leave out lines 33 to 45.
§ No. 199, in page 217, line 42, at end insert:
§ East Glamorgan
§ The county borough of Cardiff.
§ In the administrative county of Glamorgan: —
§ In the rural district of Cardiff, the parishes of Lisvane, Llanedeyrn, Radyr, St. Fagans and Tongwynlais.
§ In the administrative county of Monmouthshire, in the rural district of Magor and St. Mellons, the parish of St. Mellons.
§ In the administrative county of Glamorgan: —
§ the boroughs of Barry and Cowbridge;
§ the urban district of Penarth;
§ the rural districts of Cardiff except the parts to be comprised in districts EG.1, EG.7 and EG.8;
§ the rural district of Cowbridge except the parts to be comprised in district EG.8.
§ In the administrative county of Glamorgan: —
§ the urban districts of Bridgend, Maesteg, Ogmore and Garw and Porthcawl;
§ the rural district of Penybont.
§ In the administrative county of Glamorgan, the borough of Rhondda.1149
§ EG.5 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.
§ EG.6 The county borough of Merthyr Tydfil.
§ In the administrative county of Glamorgan, in the urban district of Gelligaer, the Bedlinog ward.
§ In the administrative county of Brecon, in the rural district of Vaynor and Penderyn, the parish of Vaynor.
§ EG.7 In the administrative county of Glamorgan: —
§ the urban district of Caerphilly except the Taff's 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 Phillipstown wards.
§ EG.8 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 Peterton-super-Montem.
§ No. 200, in page 217, line 49, leave out 'and SG/'.
§ No. 202, in page 219, line 27, leave out from beginning to end of line 28 on page 220.
§ No. 211, in page 211, line 6, leave out from beginning to end of line 25.
§ Mr. George Thomas
The Secretary of State for Wales must be aware that he has just pushed a proposal on Wales without the support of a single Welsh Member who is not a member of the Establishment. He has spat on the opinion of the Welsh people.
I now turn to the Secretary of State's proposal regarding Glamorgan—
§ Mr. Michael Roberts (Cardiff, North)
I am not certain what the right hon. Gentleman meant by "member of the Establishment". I do not include myself in that number, and I went into the Lobby as did the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Geraint Morgan).
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I hope that we shall not go back to the last Amendment. We are now discussing Amendment No. 184.
§ Mr. George Thomas
Quite right. I am not surprised at anything the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts) does.
The Secretary of State will know that we were anxious to have the advantage of his presence when Glamorgan was discussed in Committee. We have not had any indication that he has even heard the logic of the arguments advanced by the Minister for Local Government and Development in dealing with Leicester, Luton and Plymouth. The Minister then made it clear that the Government did not agree with a county borough enlarging its boundaries so as to be dominant in its own area.
Since our discussions in Committee, there have been major changes within Cardiff. The people have had an opportunity to tell the Secretary of State their views in the municipal elections. The Secretary of State's proposals were well known, and the result was a changeover of 24 seats in Cardiff. Today, the majority of the elected representatives in the council chamber in Cardiff are opposed to his proposals. We all know that if the aldermen had been abolished, as is proposed in the Bill, we would have had today, by the will of the people expressed through the ballot box, a united request from Cardiff and Glamorgan for a change to two authorities and not three.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State has no right merely to advance the old arguments which he advanced earlier because we are asking him to revert to his original proposals. It was he who made the massive case for two and not three. It was he who said that to create three authorities would mean that one of them would be economically weak and dependent upon rate support grant. One of the major ideas of the reform of local government 1151 is that local government shall be strong and independent and that the chairman of an authority will not have constantly to run to the Secretary of State cap in hand for permission to undertake various projects because he has to get the finance from the Government. The Secretary of State knows that the Glamorgan proposal will play havoc above all with the old industrial areas which are already scarred—the mining and steel areas of Merthyr, Aberdare, Rhondda and Pontypridd, for example.
§ I do not want to draw attention to my age, but I remind the House that I grew up in the depression in a poor community where we could not afford to look after our old people and where social services were far below those of Bournemouth and places like that. It was that experience which gave me my burning sense of injustice against the society in which we lived. It made me determined to fight, as much as God would allow, for a better and more just society. The Secretary of State is creating an instrument of Government which will restore the old injustices, which will mean that mid-Glamorgan will be completely dependent, with its£25 per head rateable value, which is less than half the rateable value of Pembroke; yet the Secretary of State is not prepared to let Pembroke stand on its own two feet. Mid-Glamorgan is being sacrificed to the political ambitions of the junta of the Tory Party in Cardiff.
§ The proposals which we advanced in our White Paper were based at least on a local government commission. Our proposals for Glamorgan and Monmouthshire, controversial as they proved to be, were based upon the Redcliffe-Maud principles of reform which the Minister for Local Government and Development has so faithfully accepted, The Secretary of State's proposals for South Glamorgan and Mid-Glamorgan are not based on a Royal Commission or on a local government boundary commission. They are based upon secret rotten discussions at Tory headquarters. It is the Secretary of State's own decision, not that of an independent body. There has been no voice of a Royal Commission and no local government boundary commission. The Secretary of State, in concert with the hon. Member for Cardiff, North, who I 1152 understand acted in liaison, knows that I knew in the previous July that the Secretary of State had agreed with Cardiff's proposals secretly. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that we were both at a function at which a former Lord Mayor of the city let whisper to me, "Peter's giving way. He is giving in to Cardiff."
§ I am revealing the whole dirty manœuvre as to what happened. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North has played what to the Tory Party in Cardiff is an honourable part but what to my mind is the very reverse.
§ Mr. Michael Roberts
May I assure the right hon. Gentleman that he is completely wrong when he attaches any substance to the words spoken on that occasion by the ex-Lord Mayor of Cardiff. Indeed, I am fully aware of what happened on that occasion. It was a rather pleasant function. We were present at the opening of a school. I said then to this ex-Lord Mayor of Cardiff—and this is important, as the matter has been raised—
§ Mr. Peter Thomas
It is very serious, and the right hon. Gentleman has made serious allegations which are totally untrue. I did not have any secret talks whatsoever about Cardiff or Glamorgan with anybody at all. The only talks I had were with official bodies which came to see me openly. The only talks I had were in the presence of officials. I did not tell anyone outside my office what my proposals were before they were published.
§ Mr. George Thomas
It is customary that when a right hon. Gentleman makes a statement like that one says, "Of course I accept it". I wish that I could. I am going further. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has made a mistake. He talked to the hon. Member for Cardiff, North. Is it not significant that what I was told by the former Lord Mayor of the City came to pass five months later with the statement? It could be that the 1153 former Lord Mayor had visions and dreams. But it is highly significant to me. I only wish that I had taken it seriously, because I told my hon. Friends at the time that this happened. But I could not believe that although the right hon. and learned Gentleman was then Chairman of the Conservative Party he would stoop to doing such a thing to the people of Glamorgan as he now proposes.
They boast about this new Mid-Glamorgan. The former Lord Mayor of the City—not the immediate former Lord Mayor but Alderman Ferguson-Jones—makes no secret of the fact that he did everything he could, privately and publicly, to get the right hon. and learned Gentleman to reach this conclusion. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North knows, and I know, that what we are faced with is the result of a shoddy, brazen political manœuvre. In the process, local government is being made to suffer and the people of the valleys are being thrown to the wolves.
One would think that Cardiff people wanted this. If the Secretary of State could produce such proposals, one would have thought that he could say that he had the overwhelming majority of the people of Cardiff behind him. But he never has had that and can make no claim to that. He could never have it. The last ballot ended that. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has received a Petition containing the names of over 10,000 Cardiff citizens—we could have had far more names on the Petition had we spent longer in collecting them—trying to persuade him to change his mind.
Let us look at the consequences of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is proposing if the Amendment is not accepted. This body to be created has no natural focus centre. We are told that the new town of Llantrisant will make the focus for it. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) could vote for the people of Pembrokeshire, but the people of Barry do not want to be suffocated by the people of Cardiff. The hon. Member for Barry told his constituents in a letter that the new town would be a good focus. But we all realise that there will not be a brick there until 1990, and they will be very lucky if they get it then. Evidence has been given at the public inquiry in Cardiff which reveals that the Llantrisant new town will probably be 1154 in the red for the next 30 years. That will be an added burden on the new mid-Glamorgan authority.
Right hon. and hon. Members know that when a new town is established it has to be given priority and helped. It is such a disaster if it fails that it is given priority over other areas. The other areas in this case are the Rhondda, Pontypridd, Aberdare and Merthyr. I believe this is disastrous.
§ Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydyil)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts) and the City Aldermen of Cardiff, who have boasted so much about how they will achieve this division, are major objectors to the new town of Llantrisant?
§ Mr. George Thomas
My hon. Friend knows that I am not in the fan club of the Conservative group of the Cardiff City Council and have not the highest opinion of that group.
I have been a Member of the House for nearly 28 years. I have never known such a shoddy piece of work as this. The whole business leaves a slimy trail behind the manoeuvres. Even those engaged in local government cannot understand it.
The Municipal and Public Service Journal on 12th November last year began an article by Mr. Clement Innes in this way:Dominant Cardiff saved by P.R. So within another two and a half years all the county boroughs in England and Wales will have disappeared, with the impressive exception, that is, of Cardiff. More important, Cardiff has achieved every county borough's dream—survival plus green pastures in which to expand.The article continued:Cardiff's MP, Mr. Michael Roberts, did his stuff in the corridors of Westminster.I will say he did. He did it in a typical Tory way.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State told us that he could not fail to be impressed. He has repeated in correspondence in recent months that he had to act on oral and written representations. The last time we had a chance to talk to the Secretary of State on this matter he said that over 40 local authorities in Wales supported him. He knows that 37 of those local authorities have now denied that they supported 1155 the divisions of Glamorgan into three and have stated that the campaign which they supported was for Cardiff to be made a capital city.
§ Both the right hon. and learned Gentleman and I made it clear beyond a pre-adventure that the capital status of Cardiff was never in question. [Interruption.] It is no good noises coming from the Minister of State on this question. He had better keep quiet; my next engagement, if I have a little luck, will be in Hereford.
§ The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. David Gibson-Watt)
I was only saying very quietly that what the right hon. Gentleman was trying to do when he was Secretary of State was to make Cardiff into a parish council.
§ Mr. George Thomas
The Minister of State knows that I used exactly the same language as the present Secretary of State about the status of the City of Cardiff and its dignities and its place as a capital. If the hon. Gentleman will do his homework, he will find that the language is the same and that both his right hon. Friend and I assured the city of Cardiff that its status would be fully preserved.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the status of Cardiff as a capital would remain, but was he not proposing for the city of Cardiff functions which approximated those of a parish council?
§ Mr. George Thomas
We happen to be discussing the functions which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is proposing. Under the Secretary of State's present proposals, Cardiff will be a district council. There is not another peep or whimper about capital status or about Cardiff's being a capital city. It is still a district council, but, of course, it is a Tory district council under the change the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made in the district boundaries when he brings in Lisvane and the Tory parts from outside. That was the real battle. It was nothing to do with the capital status but everything to do with the interest of the local party.
The Chairman and Managing Director of Partner Plan, Mr. David Wynn-Morgan, writing in The Times last 1156 November about the petition which he organised, said this:The campaign did not involve stunts or gimmicks.In the Welsh Grand Committee I handed the Secretary of State a pencil—very like this one, except that this is a Labour Party pencil—stating "Keep Cardiff a capital". That pencil was given as a free gift to anyone who signed the petition. So much for its being a petition without gimmicks. It would have been enough to disqualify it if it had been a petition to the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that that campaign was in reality "Keep Cardiff Tory".
The Chairman of Partner Plan tells us a little more:This campaign worked finally because the co-operation between the City Council, the Lord Mayor"—the Lord Mayor of the day played a big part in this; he made private visits to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and there were conversations in the Mansion House; the game that went on reminds me of what I thought Tories were like when I was a boy, and that was not much—the chief executives, Michael Roberts, one of Cardiff's Members of Parliament, and the directors and executives involved at Partner Plan, was complete".This vulgar and dishonest campaign misled local authorities throughout Wales into believing that the capital status was at stake. It misled some very distinguished people in the city itself. I refer in passing to the former Archbishop, whose death we all mourn; to the Most Rev. John A. Murphy, Archbishop of Cardiff; to Sir Julian Hodge of the Welsh Bank, if I may refer to him in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan); and to Sir David Davies, formerly of the Tourist Board. Every one of them retracted. They have all gone back. There was such a song and dance to the effect that men of this eminence supported the proposals. The truth is that there has been manoeuvering and representation.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said in the Welsh Grand Committee, and he has told constituents of mine within the past five months, that he still thinks that the arguments for two, not three, are sound arguments. His only argument 1157 for sticking to his present position of dividing East Glamorgan into three is that public opinion is on his side and that he cannot ignore the oral and written representations that have been made to him.
I have been privileged to see one or two other things which have been sent to the right hon. and learned Gentleman from my constituency. From Llandaff Mr. James Brown, a lifelong Conservative, indicates that he has lost his faith; he has written to the Prime Minister indicating that he considers this to be a wholly dishonest exercise.
The campaign for two, not three, is not a Labour campaign. Nor is it a Liberal campaign. It is an all-party campaign, because all Glamorgan is upset. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that we have had demonstrations on a scale unprecedented in Wales in the campaign to ensure an equal standard of local government for mid-Glamorgan as for the coastal belt.
The whole purpose of local government reform is to end the distinction between town and country. We are all aware of the old hostilities between the Glamorgan County Council and the Cardiff City Council. They were a fact of life. I had thought that when we had a Labour council in Cardiff and a Labour county council in Glamorgan it would go. Not at all. The officials had much too much power for that. The old rivalries continue.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has the chance of a lifetime to end all those old hostilities, because they exist not only between Cardiff and the county council but between every county borough and the county council. The jealousies are there. The whole purpose in the rest of the country is to remove them and to get people with a common responsibility working together.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has run away from the principles of good local government reform and has come down in favour of party considerations. I hope that he will see that our Amendment, which would bring the valleys and the coastal belt together, would give us an opportunity to hold our own with a powerful Avon authority across the bridge, because South Glamorgan, rich as it will be compared with its neighbour, 1158 will never on its own be able to compete with the strength of Avon. I know that the authorities are on the Government side. I know that the hon. Member for Pembroke is unlikely to support the people of Glamorgan as in honour he should after the case he put up this morning. If he believes that the will of the people should be taken into account he will be in our Lobby at the end or he will be the biggest humbug Pembroke has had since Desmond Donnelly left.
The hon. Member for Barry, who screamed and shouted when my Bill proposed that Barry should be brought in with Cardiff, and who emerged as the champion of the people of Barry, is the biggest traitor Barry has had since Judas Ischariot. Before the election he sang one song and now he is singing another.
I hope that the Secretary of State will accept my Amendment because if he does not I have news for him. We reserve the right to change these boundaries when we come back into power. I want the people of Glamorgan and Cardiff to know that what has been done on a fiddling political basis without the authority of any royal commission or local government boundary commission will be dealt with by the next Labour Administration. I hope that the Secretary of State can avoid that situation and accept the will of the people and propose that East Glamorgan, as in the terms of my Amendment, should be established.
§ Mr. Michael Roberts
I seek at the outset of what I hope will be a brief speech to explain one point which I hope the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) will accept. I know that he will want to be fair, however strongly he feels on the matter. I know that he would not wish to misrepresent any particular point.
He put considerable emphasis on an incident which occurred six months before the decision was announced when we were attending the opening of a school. As I understand it an ex-Lord Mayor of Cardiff said to the right hon. Gentleman that he thought the case that the Cardiff authority was backing would be accepted. If the ex-Lord Mayor claims that he derived that evidence from me, there was no substance in the remark that he made. I asked the ex-Lord Mayor on that occasion in an optimistic way, 1159 because I am always optimistic that the views I put forward will ultimately prevail, why he did not change his mind and join the winning side. At that time I hoped it would be the winning side. He shot away from me and went into consultation. I have tried to explain the point to the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West before. Those are the facts.
§ Mr. George Thomas
There will be a wide public interest in this matter in Wales. The former Lord Mayor, as the hon. Member knows, told me categorically—and he was proved to be right—that the hon. Member had assured him that they "need not worry. Peter is giving way."
§ Mr. Roberts
That is a colourful account of the conversation. I can say with absolute certainty that I could not have made that statement because I was unaware of the Secretary of State's decision until he actually announced it. That is not in question.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ I opposed the view of the Secretary of State at the time. I had every hope that he would see reason, and in the event I was proved right. It was a decision which, with sincerity, I urged upon him from the outset. As the right hon. Member said, there has been a change in the municipal government in the City of Cardiff. I do not question his figures. His party was returned in overwhelming numbers at the last election just as they were returned at the previous election. But not even the most ardent supporter of the view "two, not three", that Glamorgan should be divided according to the original East-West proposal, would say that this was a burning issue at the municipal elections in Cardiff last May or previously before the decision was made.
§ In Cardiff we did averagely well. We did not do any worse than the national swing, and, therefore, the issue was not an important factor. Some people might say we could not have done worse, and that may be the case, but it is unfair to say at this stage that because the municipal elections went the right hon. Gentleman's way for all sorts of reasons, of which he would be a great proponent, that the voters were in favour of his proposals for local government reform.1160
§ Mr. Brynmor John (Pontypridd)
Am I not right in assuming that the hon. Member has been claiming exactly that for the Common Market argument over the last General Election?
§ Mr. Roberts
I have made no such claim. When the results showed a massive Conservative majority on the city council the right hon. Member described the council's views as representing a junta. Now that his party controls the city he claims that on this specific issue it represents the full sweep of opinion. That stretches his argument of popular consent and popular support a little too far. He said—and I view his argument with deep concern—that he was brought up in the area of the valley authorities. He said that the authorities were unable to provide for their poor in the way that Bournemouth, a richer area, could provide. That was one of the things—but not the only thing—that put him where he is today and instilled in him a burning passion and desire to serve the interests of the people with whom he was brought up. I hope he will be charitable enough to credit people who now reside in Cardiff but who, like myself, were not born there also with having some concern for the people living in the areas of the valley authorities.
One is concerned that these authorities—those which are being created and those which exist already—should have the resources to give to people, old and young, what they need in terms of service. He will be more familiar than I am with the whole system of rate support grant. He will know of the needs element factor. He will know of the formula on which the needs element is based, so that one takes into consideration the number of children and the number of old people, the length of roads and in general the complicated nature of that formula which brings the aid of national resources to local authorities with poor rateable values. The right hon. Gentlemen will be more familiar than I am with the whole question of resources grant.
Since the right hon. Gentleman mentioned Merthyr and Bournemouth, may I quote to him a view which has been expressed, that the whole object of rate support was to ensure that the postman of Bournemouth paid the same rates as 1161 the postman in Merthyr Tydvil. The quotation goes on:It is impossible to treat an authority badly. All you can do is to ill treat a person. What we should find out, therefore, is whether two citizens of equal substance in different parts of the country are to make an equal contribution to the same local service.Those are the words of Aneurin Bevan. He was talking in terms of using national resources and bringing them to the aid of those authorities to which the right hon. Gentleman was referring.
§ Mr. George Thomas
Is the hon. Gentleman's case that it does not matter what the rateable value of an authority is, that it does not give greater strength and power to an authority if it has a good rateable value as compared with the authority that has a low rateable value? What is the burden of his argument?
§ Mr. Roberts
The burden of my argument is this. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the situation in the Rhondda and in Tonypandy where the resources did not exist to meet the needs of the poor, the old and the young. I am suggesting that as the system is now, these authorities which may not have high rateable values nevertheless have the opportunity—and this has been central government policy—to ensure that the resources are available so that the service is provided.
May I use this illustration? The present borough of Merthyr is not known for its lack of resources in terms of education services. By repute it has excellent schools and other services. The new policy is not just to bring the services up to the national average but to make an improvement. I would have thought—I put the argument no higher than this—that many hon. Members opposite would welcome the idea of national resources being used in order to help those areas in particular—
§ Mr. Rowlands
I am trying to follow the burden of the hon. Gentleman's argument. Is is that we in Merthyr Tydvil do not pay? We have a very high rate in Merthyr Tydvil. We need it. We pay for these things out of our own pockets just as much as from Government assistance.
§ Mr. Roberts
The argument that I was developing was that besides the resources 1162 of the taxpayer—the taxpayer of Merthyr and of Glamorgan—national resources in terms of taxation come to the aid of local authorities. I only ask that this fact be taken into consideration before asserting that an authority with a low rateable value is unable to provide the services essential for the people.
I would go further. If this were not the case, and the whole expense for the provision of services was met by a certain local authority area, it would be difficult to expect a good service to be provided by the amalgamation, shall we say, of Cardiff, Merthyr and Aberdare, although by some standards—the standards of the United Kingdom and of richer areas—Cardiff might be thought to have very high rateable resources.
I wish to take issue with the right hon. Gentleman on the point about the city status of Cardiff. It is true that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West tended to agree on what was needed to provide an essential capital city basis. They felt—and it is an argument that many people have advocated—that what one required was all the ceremonial dignity, pomp and tradition which we associate with a capital city. I never held that view; nor did many others. For a variety of reasons, we felt that as Cardiff had been a capital city for only about 16 years, it needed some additional resources which were not provided by the traditions which London had encouraged over 500 or 600 years. This is a point with which some may disagree. But I advocate that we should have a local authority identified with the task not necessarily of keeping Cardiff but making Cardiff a real capital.
§ Mr. George Thomas
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but this debate will be examined very carefully in Cardiff. The campaign was to keep Cardiff a real capital and not to make it a district council. The Secretary of State is making it a district council. The hon. Gentleman has dropped his opposition. Does he think for one second that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and I, who have had the great privilege of representing the people of that city for over 27 years, would do anything but 1163 advance its interests, as I believe we are advancing them, by linking up with the hinterland behind the City?
§ Mr. Roberts
I have never made any such suggestions about the two right hon. Gentlemen. They have worked in a spirit of collaboration and co-operation for the City. But I must make this point about the people who have been cited—Sir David Davies, the Archbishop of Wales, the Archbishop of Cardiff and Sir Julian Hodge. They all felt that there was a validity in the argument about a capital. There is no question about that. I want to go one stage further, and that is about the whole validity of the argument, not on the basis of a capital city but on establishing a sound authority based on the valleys, on Merthyr, the Rhondda and Tonypandy.
Sir Julian Hodge made a statement, not in general terms but specifically, not in a letter to The Times but in an interview with the Western Mail. He made this point, first, in respect of East Moors. I do not pretend that I always agree with Sir Julian Hodge, but I respect his knowledge on matters of economics, finance and general development. He said:The important East Moors steel development proposals, for instance, are far more likely to be supported by a coastal authority than by a county authority".I agree with him. The right hon. Gentleman does not. But the point is that Sir Julian did not repudiate the views which he expressed on the creation of a coastal-based authority. I am not saying that we should all bow down and accept Sir Julian Hodge as right. But I happen to think that he is right on this matter, though I acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman considers that he is entirely wrong. Nevertheless, this eminent person in South Wales—one person only, I admit, but a figure, surely, of some significance—did not repudiate at any time those views on the question of a sound coastal-based authority.
One more quotation from Sir Julian:It is more important than ever that nothing else should be done to weaken the competitiveness and efficiency of our coastal belt"—and he was referring there, of course, to the local government changes.
1164 In the confident hope, therefore, that we shall see two authorities getting on with the different tasks which confront them and pressing on efficiently with their different jobs in creating two efficient units of local government, I put the Amendment to the House.
§ Mr. Walter Padley (Ogmore)
Since so many of my hon. Friends wish to speak, I shall be brief. Our job today is relatively simple, because we seek to reconvert the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State to the views which he expressed in February, 1971. One cannot emphasise that too much, and a quotation will be in order here, I think, because it states the case which will run as the theme through every speech made from these benches.
In his consultative document of February, 1971, the Secretary of State set out our case with admirable clarity:There are again strong objections to this. First, it would divide further the existing County Administration. Secondly, to divide the proposed County of East Glamorgan will inevitably mean the separation of areas which ought to be administered together for the purpose of town and country planning and transportation. Thirdly, to separate Cardiff and its neighbouring areas from either Mid-Glamorgan or the north-eastern Glamorgan Valleys, or from both, would mean the creation of at least one Authority which was comparatively weak in terms of rateable resources and was handicapped by lack of resources and lack of suitable land in seeking solutions to its problems.That, incidentally, is the reply also to the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts) The Secretary of State himself, in his consultative document, made the point that a weak rateable value is a handicap in carrying out the functions of local government over wide areas.
It is proposed to divide Glamorgan into three. For my part, I think that there was something to be said for retaining the status quo, but a case can be made for dividing Glamorgan into West Glamorgan and East Glamorgan, as was originally proposed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. But nothing can be said in favour of the present proposals. In any case, "Mid-Glamorgan" is a misnomer in itself. Mid-Glamorgan is, in fact, a much more restricted area, and that title could be the title of one of the new district council areas being formed out of my constituency and part of the constituency of my right hon. Friend the 1165 Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris). Neath, too, could stake some claim to be a member of the Mid-Glamorgan authority, but, rightly, in the division of Glamorgan Neath ranks with the Swansea-based area.
There is no focal point in this amorphous area called Mid-Glamorgan. What will be the physical accommodation of the new authority when it is created? Will it be the existing county hall? So far as I can see, in the whole of the so-called Mid-Glamorgan authority area which the Secretary of State proposes to establish there is no physical building which could properly house the administrative machine necessary for carrying out the vital tasks of local government in Mid-Glamorgan.
This is a selfish Tory measure in so far as it links Cardiff with part of the Vale of Glamorgan which is very rich. It leaves in Mid-Glamorgan the valley authorities which bear the scars of the Industrial Revolution. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of the slum dwellings and unfit houses are to be found in the Mid-Glamorgan authority area. Similarly, between two-thirds and three-quarters of the derelict land is to be found there. Inevitably, this means that, with a rateable value second only to the newly created Powys County—if that comes about—at the bottom of the table, it will be ill equipped to meet the demands placed upon it.
I hope, therefore, that the House will rise to its opportunity and reject the right hon. and learned Gentleman's proposals by adopting the Amendments, which will say, "Two not three". This is a Tory-administered plot, and it should be exposed as such. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) for the eloquent way in which, as a true son of the valleys, he expressed our case in his opening speech. There is no doubt that it represents the overwhelming majority of opinion not only in Mid-Glamorgan but throughout Glamorgan, showing clearly that the Secretary of State's scheme is being foisted upon the people regardless of their opposition.
§ Mr. Gower
I had not intended to intervene, but I am moved to do so by some of the observations which have been made. I respect the views of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West 1166 (Mr. George Thomas), and I respect a good deal of what he says, has said and has done. I only wish that his behaviour this morning had been on the same level as it has been in the past. It added nothing to his argument to sling offensive epithets at my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Nicholas Edwards) and myself. I think that it was quite unworthy of him, and I am appalled that he should stoop to such a level. I always thought the right hon. Gentleman not capable of that kind of behaviour on such a personal plane.
I remind the right hon. Gentleman that my opposition to his original proposals was directed against a unitary authority for the whole area of the County of Glamorgan, including Swansea, Merthyr and Cardiff.
§ Mr. Gower
The extent of that main authority was to embrace the whole lot, from Merthyr to the sea, a very large authority with a very large population, and it was in that context that I felt that the interests of such a diverse area were not easily to be reconciled. It was not local government in the true sense. Whatever criticisms one might level against the proposals of my right hon. Friend, they are not one-quarter as objectionable as those of the right hon. Gentleman. The Government's proposals represent much more "local" government than did his, and they are enhanced by the substantial, virile and powerful district authorities.
§ Mr. George Thomas
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that he is strengthening the case of the Secretary of State for the casualty services for Barry being in Cardiff, and aggravating the problem of the Barry people?
§ Mr. Gower
The right hon. Gentleman started that in motion when he was Secretary of State. I have always been opposed to over-centralisation of hospital services, but one does not need to alter the shape of local government to centralise police, hospital, or any other services. That was done before the Bill was introduced and the right hon. Gentleman's argument is completely bogus and fallacious. The right hon. Gentleman's policy when he was Secretary of State 1167 was contrary to the wishes of those who wanted hospital services in Barry and other small towns. I do not quarrel with that; there are powerful medical arguments which I recognise, but there are also human considerations which I have tried to press on successive Secretaries of State in different Governments. The present proposals are far less objectionable than those of the right hon. Gentleman when he was Secretary of State, which were a distinct change from the proposals of his predecessor the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes).
Those who oppose the present proposals say that there will be a strong authority and a very weak one. I am not pessimistic. I think that the three local authorities will be virile and successful. Mid-Glamorgan which has a lower rateable value, will have the benefit of the grants, but as the whole area is in the Welsh development area it will be entitled to the larger development area grants. The proposed South Glamorgan is not within the development area and enjoys only in part intermediate status. Therefore, Mid-Glamorgan will be receiving the maximum aid from local government and industrial grants, whereas South Glamorgan will largely have to stand on its own feet. To that extent, the fears which have been expressed are greatly exaggerated. I respect the views of those who have these fears but I am sure that events will prove that they are misplaced.
§ Mr. Gower
I do not know why the hon. Gentleman should refer to pauperism. There is no pauperism about grants approved by Parliament for improving the infrastructure of counties of lower rateable value. That policy has been approved by successive Governments for many years.
In addition to those grants, there are the industrial grants which are appropriate to development areas, and Mid Glamorgan will enjoy the benefit of those. The proposed South Glamorgan will not have those grants either, but will stand on its own feet. It will have to rely mainly on service industries, and to that extent will have a different kind of battle, 1168 but I am sure that these areas will thrive alongside each other. They will not be exclusive; they will assist each other; and I see the three areas of Glamorgan as virile and successful authorities in the years ahead.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
We have listened to two speeches from Conservative Members which contained nothing but a series of platitudes, whereas I expected from them reasoned arguments in support of the proposal. Both hon. Gentlemen whistled to keep up their spirits in the hope that all will be well on the day. A disservice has been done to the House in that not one tittle of argument has been advanced in answer to the overwhelming case put so reasonably by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas).
All proposals for local government reform are bound to raise overwhelming objections in some part of the land, and the Government, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West who was previously responsible, have my sympathy on that score. I hope that the brevity of my remarks will not detract from my strength of feeling that the Government are behaving stubbornly in face of the view expressed throughout the County of Glamorgan that the present proposal is not on. In this shabby course which the Government are pursuing, a course motivated by highly political considerations in the worst traditions of Tammany Hall, they are pandering to the whims of a small body of people in and around the City of Cardiff. I do not blame the Secretary of State or the Government for changing their mind. Consistency is a virtue that is highly overrated—not by this Government, but by those who do not wish to be blinded by new evidence.
When in a matter of weeks or months there is a change of mind on a major issue—and local government in Wales is undoubtedly a major issue—one expects to hear detailed arguments applying not only to the present position but to the views held previously by the Secretary of State. Only a short time ago he was merrily whistling the tune against splitting East Glamorgan. Now, just as the Chancellor of the Exchequer on industrial grants, having seen the economic policy 1169 of bringing new industry in Wales falling to pieces, changed his mind because of the tremendous uproar and the resultant problems which developed and whistled with equal enthusiasm the new tune, so does the Secretary of State on the issue of local government. We want to know who is paying the piper for this new tune which is being whistled.
I do not wish to go into the excellent speeches in Committee of my hon. and right hon. Friends, which contain enough nuggets of information and evidence to demolish the Secretary of State's case. No wonder the Secretary of State found that his other duties made him much too important to be able to spend a little time in Committee.
In his consultative document the Secretary of State referred to the strong objections to splitting East Glamorgan and the divisive nature of those splits. He said that it would mean the separation of areas that should be jointly administered and the creation of a three-county structure which would mean:one authority which would be comparatively weak in terms of ratable resources and handicapped by lack of resources and lack of suitable land in seeking a solution to its problems".Those were the Secretary of State's weighty words in a document issued by him. If those views were then held by the right hon. Gentleman and by his advisers, why has the situation now changed so drastically?
It has been said that to have an authority for the whole of East Glamorgan would cause difficulties in terms of the status of Cardiff. A public relations firm was engaged and it is one of the sad features of our life today that public relations men play far too important a rôle in the workings of our society. I believe that there has been a confusion of thinking about the creation of one authority for the whole of East Glamorgan and the whole question of the status of the City of Cardiff.
The Secretary of State on the Floor of the House prayed in aid those who had objected to the proposal for one county for East Glamorgan, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West completely exploded that contention in Committee. At the end of the day the only authorities which objected to the proposal were Cardiff City, Penarth UDC, St. Mellons Parish Council and, by one 1170 vote, Barry Council. There has been an element of false pleading in the kind of argument adduced for the Government's present proposals. The justification put forward by the Secretary of State for the proposal has collapsed like a house of cards under the ruthless examination which has been conducted by my right hon. and hon. Friends.
I ask three brief questions of the right hon. Gentleman. First, who wants the three counties as proposed by the Secretary of State? If we could have an answer to this question, it would greatly assist the County of Glamorgan. Secondly, after he has answered that question, and not before, will he say why the three counties are wanted? Why is there a special case for having one district council for Cardiff which will dominate the remaining parts of the new county? Why has one solution been argued in one case in Wales and yet not been pursued in parts of England?
The name being canvassed for the new South Glamorgan County Council, Dinas County Council, gives the whole game away. If Cardiff were being prosecuted for trying to obtain Naboth's vineyard by false pretences, any reasonable jury would be easily persuaded that any attempt to call it Dinas County Council would show, to anybody interested in the Welsh language, that the urban area was taking over the lush pastures all round it so that it could expand.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas
The right hon. Gentleman asked me who wanted the three counties. May I ask him a question? Can he give me the name of any hon. Member opposite, or a local authority in the County of Glamorgan, who has indicated to me that they wanted the East Glamorgan proposal which I put forward? Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite not only opposed it, but voted against it in the Welsh Grand Committee. They are now saying that this is the proposal they support.
§ Mr. Morris
I will not be distracted from the course of my argument by the spurious suggestion of the Secretary of State. This matter has been dealt with by all my colleagues representing the whole of Glamorgan. The right hon. Gentleman's comment was an indication of his ignorance about what is happening in Wales, which he is supposed to represent. It is for him to prove what was 1171 signally absent in this debate and that is any justification for his present proposal. That is where the onus lies. It is for him to persuade the House of Commons, without his having to rely on the pay-roll vote being dragged from every office up and down the catacombs of Whitehall.
Lastly—and this is a most serious point—how is Mid Glamorgan to survive? Mid Glamorgan, if it comes into being, in due course will be applying for its coat-of-arms. I suggest, with respect, that the coat-of-arms of Mid Glamorgan should be a begging-bowl rampant; and, having been supported by the seals of office of the Secretary of State as the paymaster of Government grants, that body would be a poor body. It would not be able to stand on its own feet and would be dependent on the whims of those who allocate the money in the Welsh Office.
We see today a strong County of Glamorgan, we see effective local government. But we have no confidence whatever that the proposals of the Secretary of State will do anything but harm to effective and sound administration in local government in the County of Glamorgan.
§ Mr. Ifor Davies (Gower)
I support these Amendments which have been proposed with such sincerity and characteristic passion by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) when he feels deply on a matter. This is a subject on which we all feel deeply.
I wish to declare my interest, not perhaps directly as a constituency Member, but my interest in the County of Glamorgan. I was privileged to be a member of the Glamorgan County Council. I believe I am the only hon. Member, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. G. Elfed Davies), who unfortunately is not able to be with us today, who has served on that county council.
When I contemplate the proposals about the county which are before the House in this Bill, I am forced to speak not only with sorrow but with anger. I was against any splitting of the County of Glamorgan and favoured the retention of Glamorgan as a geographical unit. 1172 If that proved to be impossible, the only reasonable alternative appeared to be a division between East and West, but to divide the County of Glamorgan into three is an insult to the record of its efficiency and progress throughout the years.
The real tragedy of the situation that confronts us today in these Government proposals is that when we look back at today's situation in the years to come, we shall recall not an era of great reform but the deliberate destruction of a great county. This was never contemplated in any Royal Commission report or in any study of local government throughout the years. On the contrary, the last Royal Commission in 1962 said one thing very clearly, and I quote from paragraph 630, on page 125:…we had no major proposals to make for the county of Glamorgan. We based our decision on our view of the generally high quality of the services provided by the county…".That is a compliment which we welcomed very much. What is more, in education especially Glamorgan has a record which is second to none in the whole of Britain. It is incredible that we have reached a position where it is claimed that in order to reform local government in Wales it is considered essential to destroy the Glamorgan County Council, an authority which is widely acclaimed for its efficiency.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ It is only right and proper that it should be made perfectly clear in this House that not only have most of the local authorities in Wales been shocked by the treatment of Glamorgan. The opposition has been overwhelming, as we have heard already.
Let me emphasise that anyone who attempts to brush aside the opposition as mere emotion will be displaying a complete ignorance of the facts of the situation. In paragraph 42 of the 1962 Report of the Local Government Commission Lord Brooke is quoted as saying when he was Minister of Local Government,
No fanatical reform but thorough overhaul is what we want…".
I submit that what we have in Glamorgan is fanatical reform with a vengeance.
§ We on this side of the House are united in our support for these Amendments and 1173 in our opposition to the creation of a South Glamorgan authority based almost entirely on Cardiff, leaving another authority, Mid-Glamorgan, to be basically a valley authority. Whatever may be the arguments to the contrary, that is the fact of the matter.
§ In my view this proposal is a denial of the very basic principle of reform which is supposed to be the creation of a balance between town and country in which the town—in this case the city—should not be allowed to dominate the rest. Yet the facts are that here we have the new South Glamorgan county dominated by the City of Cardiff representing over 80 per cent. of the population. In plain language the Government are creating a new unitary authority and are merely extending the boundaries of the City of Cardiff. This will not be a two-tier system by any stretch of the imagination. The city will have 57 seats in the new set up and the other smaller areas to be swallowed up will have only 21 seats between them.
§ The separation of the South Glamorgan county from Mid-Glamorgan is a proposal which also cuts off the valley communities from the resources of the coastal belt. It is tantamount to saying that Cardiff is the capital of Wales so long as it has no obligation to these inland communities. In these Amendments, therefore, we are fighting for the very existence of the valleys, and it is our privilege today not to turn our backs on them since they have suffered enough already and had their share of the desecrations of industry and economic conditions.
§ There is another cardinal principle which is being violated. All the White Papers have emphasised the need to provide local authorities with adequate resources. The major principle of local government reform which has been stressed all along is the creation of viable units. But we have the startling comparison of the new South Glamorgan county, with a population of 393,000 and a rateable value of £46 per head of the population and the new Mid-Glamorgan with a rateable value of only £25 per head of the population of 533,000.
§ In this regard, I draw attention to the Government's own opposition to the very proposal now embodied in the Bill as it 1174 was expressed clearly in the Consultative Document. It had been my intention to read paragraph 43 of that document. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) has done so already. Incidentally, I am very glad that my hon. Friend was well enough and made such an effort, despite his illness, to be here today to speak for his constituents.
§ The question that arises, therefore, is what made the Secretary of State change his mind. We deserve to be told. We have our own ideas of course.
§ I want to stress that the opposition to these proposals comes from a very large body of people who in my view are the best judges. They are people of great experience in local government. The opposition to South Glamorgan cuts right across party lines. Leaders of the Conservative Party in this area have spoken out clearly against the proposals.
§ I shall name one or two. Among those who lobbied hon. Members recently was a Conservative county councillor, Mrs. Winn Jones. She told me that she had been horrified that the views of only one authority, Cardiff, had been taken into account. A few months ago, Mr. John Cory, the Conservative Chairman of Cardiff Rural District Council, accompanied a number of us on a deputation to the Prime Minister led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West.
§ It is also noteworthy that opposition to the Government's proposals for Glamorgan has come from a wide cross-section of people and local government organisations including the County Councils Association, the Urban District Councils Association, the Rural District Councils Association and the Glamorgan Association of Parish Councils. Between them these organisations have a wealth of experience in local government and their views should be respected.
§ This great good will towards the county of Glamorgan is based on the fact that for many years it has had a remarkable and outstanding record of support for all-Wales activities. Millions of pounds have been spent by Glamorgan to sustain many organisations which enrich the life of Wales, and they are organisations not only confined to Glamorgan. Among them are the University of Wales, the Welsh National Opera Company, the 1175 Welsh Agricultural College Coleg Harlech, the Welsh Books Council and especially Glamorgan's services for young people. I refer especially to the Glamorgan Youth Orchestra and its remarkable musical achievements. I speak with firsthand knowledge about it since my own children belong to it. Glamorgan has used its wealth and its authority, but it has used them for the benefit of the whole of Wales.
I acknowledge that recent White Papers have expressed differences and doubts about how to deal with Glamorgan. In view of them, I commend to the House the words in paragraph 10 of the Redcliffe-Maud Report:
Wherever the case for change is in doubt, the common interests, the traditions and the loyalties inherent in the present pattern, and the strength of existing services as going concerns, should be respected.
I hope that the Secretary of State will attempt to answer that.
§ Here, then, is a county which deserves better treatment from the Government. One way in which the Government can repair the damage that they have done Glamorgan is to accept the Amendments.
§ Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)
I support the Amendments moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas).
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Ifor Davies) I, too, am unrepentant in the desire that Glamorgan should be kept as a whole. Nevertheless, having said that, I have come to accept the argument that has been displayed that there should be a division of the administrative County of Glamorgan and that there should be a West and an East Glamorgan.
In Committee, when dealing with the matters which engage our attention today, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West quoted these words which were written by the Lord Bishop of Llandaff, the right Rev. Eryl Thomas:I have thought deeply over the reasons put forward for cutting Glamorgan into three parts and have come to the conclusion that the proposals would be detrimental to the proper development of the social amenities and educational services of Mid-Glamorgan, an area which would have the largest population of all the new counties in Wales. This is an area where so much needs to be done to improve road communications, to remove some 1176 of the worst scars of past industrialisation, to promote a rapid programme for better housing, to provide amenities and an environment which would halt the de-population of some of our Valleys with all their life and distinctive culture. I am not convinced that Mid-Glamorgan will have all the resources of land available for effecting such necessary improvements as easily as could be done in an administrative area with greater resources and with a more natural focal centre.The Lord Bishop went on to say:I am not concerned with the political implications of the proposals but I am greatly concerned with the well-being of such a large number of people whose work and culture in the past has so greatly enriched the lives of others.I have quoted these words of the Lord Bishop of Llandaff again on Report so that they may drum in the ears of the Secretary of State and the Minister of State in the hope that they may, even at this late time, turn from the folly upon which they have embarked in the Bill—a folly which I believe they have embarked upon against their better judgment—which, if they persist in it, will hang around their necks like a millstone.
In his statement the Lord Bishop shows us a real understanding of the situation facing those who live in the proposed area of mid-Glamorgan which comprises the greater part of the place where he carries on his work.
Earlier this week in the Welsh Grand Committee we debated Environmental Pollution in Wales. I think that everyone who was there will agree that it was a fine debate. However, I draw attention to some remarks made in that debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards) who suggested that we should be concerned not only with the preservation of the environment of places of beauty, but equally with the environment in other places. I could not agree more, because we are considering how the people of Glamorgan will be living their lives in future.
I turn again to what was said by the Lord Bishop regarding the problems of environmental improvement which are all crying out for a solution in mid-Glamorgan. Here the days of depression hit hardest, here the young were driven out because of lack of employment, here can be seen in abundance the scars of past industrial exploitation, here, because of its difficult terrain, are found the 1177 greatest of the problems that confront road builders, and here the most urgent need to renew the fabric of housing for the people can be found.
These are gigantic social problems which will call for vast expenditure to resolve them. Yet, by agreeing to the proposals in the Bill, the Secretary of State is putting an impediment in the way of their solution by denying the strength and the wealth which will be needed by the authority concerned to resolve those problems.
§ 1.45 p.m.
§ It may be tedious for the Secretary of State to be reminded, but I feel that the House and Wales must yet again hear from the figures how the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be denying the strength and wealth to overcome the social problems of the valley communities of mid-Glamorgan.
§ The population in each of the divided parts of our great county is as follows: West Glamorgan, in which most of my constituency will lie, 370,810; mid-Glamorgan, where the remainder of my constituents will live, 533,310; and South Glamorgan, 392,830.
§ The rateable value per head of population in the respective counties, already rehearsed in the debate, is West Glamorgan £45.75, mid-Glamorgan £25.49, South Glamorgan £46.55. In other words, the county area with all or at least most of the problems will have the least in financial resources to overcome them.
§ My constituency, instead of having, as we now have in the rural district area, a uniform pattern of services administered by either the same district council or the same county council, will have two district councils and two county councils. Most of my constituents will live in the more wealthy West Glamorgan and have their services provided by that authority, while the remainder will have to live their lives in the much poorer Mid-Glamorgan.
§ Both the Secretary of State and the Minister of State know my views, which I have expressed to them very strongly, on the position of the parish of Rhigos. It is my belief that by persisting with their proposals to have a county of South Glamorgan they will make it more difficult for the Boundary Commission to 1178 resolve a problem that has existed in Rhigos and Hirwaun for countless years.
§ That South Glamorgan is an artificial creation which does not stand up to examination and is nothing more than a "political deal" is borne out in the consideration given to the Bill by the County Councils Association. In its memorandum the Association accepts the broad pattern of areas proposed in the Bill, with one important exception—the proposed new county of South Glamorgan. The Association states that it is opposed in principle to any new county consisting of only two districts, particularly where one of the districts—Cardiff—would have 80 per cent. of the population of that county; that is, four times that of the other district. Such a proposal is inconsistent with the generally agreed principles of merging town and country in a reasonable balance and constituting counties over wide areas which are being applied by the Government in the rest of England and Wales.
§ I am a native of the town of Barry, which will comprise part of the second district of the proposed South Glamorgan. I am proud of that fact. I understand only too well the feelings of those in Barry who have always been fearful of "Big Brother" Cardiff dominating the smaller Barry. I grew up in this atmosphere, but I can tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that those fears are today the same as they were in my younger days.
§ During my younger days I worked in Cardiff. I know it well and I have boasted in many places of its fine set of civic and other buildings. It is a fine capital city, and Wales is proud of it. The Secretary of State is no longer responsible for the political and electoral fortunes of his party and I urge him, indeed, I beg him, not to allow the name of the capital city to become besmirched by party political intrigues. I urge him to allow Cardiff to take on an even greater rôle. Let her give back to the valleys which created her wealth that which they need to rehabilitate themselves by joining them, as Swansea does in the West, instead of isolating herself from them.
§ The Lord Bishop has shown wisdom and understanding of the need for a restoration of the relationship between the City of Cardiff and the eastern valleys of 1179 Glamorgan. Is it too much to ask that the Secretary of State shows that he can match the wisdom and understanding of his fellow North Walian by conceding the case for two, not three, in Glamorgan?
§ Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)
As Chairman of the Welsh Grand Committee I have for a number of years listened to my colleagues on both sides of the House debating local government in Wales. In consequence, I am aware of hundreds of arguments which could be put on record today against the Government proposals, but I shall desist from doing so and refer briefly to one or two arguments only.
There is a slight dichotomy of interest here, in that I am bitterly opposed to the Government's proposals in general for the division of Glamorgan into three, and yet—and here I am in conflict with my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman)—I support the Government's proposals for Hirwaun.
The Schedule divides Glamorgan into three new counties—Mid, South and West. I speak with some authority, in that at one time I was a local government officer. There are too few local government officers in the House. I had 26 years experience in local government, and I speak with some feeling about what is happening in the area in which I served my apprenticeship, as it were and later my professional life.
Splitting the area into Mid, South and West means that we have three populations of 370,000, 533,000 and 400,000. The rateable value per head in the West is 45.75p; in the South it is 46.55p and in Mid-Glamorgan, where I reside, it is 25.49p. Those figures themselves indicate that it is imperative that the Government change their mind, even at this late hour. If they do not, those figures will be an indictment of the Government's irresponsible attitude to local government in Wales.
One member of the Royal Commission on Local Government in England said:No system of local democracy can be viable unless its executive authorities are financially accountable to their own electorates.That is the basis on which local government should be reformed.
1180 I regret that the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has left the Chamber, but we are accustomed to this sort of thing. He makes a speech and then disappears. Having spoken himself, he does not want to hear the arguments advanced on the other side. The hon. Gentleman's view apparently is that the poorer a local authority, the better off it is. That was the vein of his argument as far as I could gather it. The quotation which I have made was from a dissenting member of the Royal Commission, but on this issue at any rate he had the universal support of all the members of the Commission.
Not by any stretch of the imagination can it be claimed that the proposed Mid-Glamorgan county, with a rateable value of 25.49p is meeting that criterion. Furthermore, one has to consider the industrial despoliation that has taken place. In a wonderful speech in Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda West (Mr. Alec Jones) dealt with this issue. He elaborated on the despoliation in the Mid-Glamorgan area from both an educational and housing point of view. He referred to the houses which sprang up during the industrial expansion of the 1880s and early 1900s. Perhaps I may tell my hon. Friend that Aberdare preceded Rhondda by about 40 or 50 years in this respect, which means that our houses are older than those in his constituency. Merthyr Tydfil was an industrial centre in Wales, and important to the United Kingdom as a whole, when Cardiff was just a struggling little seaport dependent on the prosperity of the valleys.
The industrial scars are still to be seen, perhaps more clearly in my constituency than in some others. There are still standing hundreds of houses which were built during that period of rapid expansion. What we need, therefore, is not an impoverished or emasculated local authority, which is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is proposing, but one which can have equality of rateable value per head with its neighbours.
I have mentioned industrial scars and derelict land, and again I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West. I pay tribute to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and to his predecessors, my right hon. Friends the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas), and Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) for what they have done to deal 1181 with the problem of derelict land, but in the Mid Glamorgan area there are more than 5,000 acres of such land, compared with 300 acres in South Glamorgan, and 1,750 acres in West Glamorgan. That shows the magnitude of the problem to be dealt with in an impoverished area.
We were told by the hon. Members for Barry, and Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts), that Government grants assist in dealing with this problem, but anybody with a knowledge of local authorities knows what bunkum that is. Of course assistance is provided, but I refer again to the quotation which I gave earlier. As I know from my experience as a local authority officer, too much dependence upon Government grants affects the initiative and judgment of local authorities.
Furthermore, grants are not always certain to be provided. I ask the House to remember that. Reference is often made to the rate equalisation grant, or whatever it is called—it seems to change its designation every year—but it is not inexhaustible. There is a ceiling to the amount that is provided; depending on the economic situation, the grant may be lower in one year than in another.
I am vice-president of the Urban District Councils Association, and have been for many years. I should like to quote from a letter which I have received from the associaion. The Secretary of State may have heard this time and again, and even perhaps ad nauseam, but it sums up the situation very expertly indeed.
The letter says:The new counties should be strong authorities with adequate resources. Powys have been criticised on this score, but it is generally acceptable because…there is a special problem in Mid Wales where there is a scattered population. The same problem does not exist in Mid Glamorgan. It is completely wrong in principle to establish a new county which will have both the largest population in Wales and the lowest rateable value per head, apart from Powys, especially when it is borne in mind that it will have some of the severest slum and derelict land difficulties to tackle. It will be a Cinderella as regards resources and it will lack suitable land for the solution of its problems.A county also neds a focal point. There will not be one in Mid Glamorgan. Without a recognised centre, or base, it will be impossible to build up a cohesive entity capable of reconciling the interests of the disparate parts. The nature of the terrain"—1182 I know that well enough—creates a serious problem of communications, and administration would be most difficult. The inescapable conclusion is that it is an artificial creation and, as such, incapable of a useful independent existence".
§ 2.0 p.m.
That is the voice of the experts. I will refer only briefly to Hirwaun because it has been mentioned already. I will quote what Alderman Lord Heycock said in the South Wales Echo on 10th November, 1971. I agree straight away that Alderman Lord Heycock is a Labour councillor and an alderman of the Glamorgan County Council, and as such has a vested interest. However, we all have a vested interest in any case. He was reported as saying:
Never in our wildest dreams did we think the Secretary of State for Wales would concede to political pressure and allow Glamorgan to be split in three.
It was 'sheer hypocrisy' for the Secretary of State to say he would receive representations on the proposal and at the same time that it would be a matter only Parliament could decide.
In the South Wales Echo on 10th November, 1971, a Conservative county councillor, a very eminent lady, Mrs. Win Jones said that she had been horrified that only the views of one authority—Cardiff—had been taken into consideration by the Minister. She said:
I felt this last set of proposals was not honest. For the first time I was ashamed of something my own political party had proposed.
We suffer no illusions
—this is very important—
as to what our future will be.
She added that she promised the full support of the Cardiff Rural Council for Glamorgan's opposition to the plans.
I shall not weary the House, but I have one more quotation which I address particularly to the hon. Member for Cardiff, North because of the shirt-sighted policy which he has pushed on the Secretary of State and which will in the short term be to the detriment of Cardiff. The editorial of the Western Mail of November said:
The creation of a small County dominated by Cardiff is surely likely to promote isolationism rather than the wide outlook demanded of…
The lack of overall logic and fairness in the new proposals would greatly harm the
valley areas and—in at least one important respect—Cardiff itself.
I have said enough to express my opposition to the proposals which the Government are putting forward for Glamorgan. I now come on to the same wicket as the Secretary of State. I am sure that he will be pleased to hear somebody supporting him on at least one matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Neath has referred to the proposals in the Schedule to include in Hirwaun certain parts of the Neath area and certain parts of the Breconshire area. Anyone with a knowledge of local government—I know I have the support of my right hon. Friends and the Secretary of State—will know that the classic case for the tidying up and reform of local government is Hirwaun. The Government have placed in Mid-Glamorgan, says Aberdare UDC,
The present position is that the village of Hirwaun has a population of approximately 4,000, and it is administered by the Breconshire County Council, the Vaynor and Penderyn Rural District Council, the Penderyn Parish Council, the Glamorgan County Council, the Aberdare Urban District Council, the Neath Rural District Council and the Rhigos Parish Council. Seven local authorities are administering a small township with a population of 4,000. I agree with the proposals that the Secretary of State is putting forward and I will state the reasons why in case he changes his mind.
§ Mr. Coleman
Would my hon. Friend accept from me that as far as Hirwaun is concerned I entirely accept the argument which he is putting forward? Hirwaun has always been an anachronism. However, will my hon. Friend also accept from me that the Secretary of 1184 State's proposals merely transfer the problem of Hirwaun?
§ Mr. Probert
I shall not argue in detail what my right hon. Friend said. I am concerned that Hirwaun has an entity. I am certain that the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Neath will be listened to by the Secretary of State. However, I shall illustrate for a few more moments the proposals of the Government to include the whole of Hirwaun within the new county district which Aberdare and Mountain Ash will comprise. The proposal is founded upon the community of interest which has existed for many years between the village of Hirwaun and Aberdare. I could go on and on about this matter, but I will desist from doing so because so many of my hon. Friends want to speak. The proposal, which I support 100 per cent., was produced in 1948 and 1949, then again as a result of Section 28 of the Local Government Act, 1958, and again in 1961.
I could go on for half an hour at least illustrating the importance of Hirwaun, a classic example of local government in chaos. I hope that the Secretary of State will go ahead with his proposal for Hirwaun even if he will not change his mind about the division of Glamorgan into three.
§ Mr. Alec Jones (Rhondda, West)
In common with all of my hon. Friends, I support the Amendment. We regard the Government's proposals as a complete betrayal of the best interests of the people who live in the district council of East Glamorgan. The debate has already revealed quite clearly that the Bill should not have been brought to the House in this form. There should have been a separate Welsh Bill which would have enabled us to have studied these problems in depth and to have had the opportunity of cross-examining the Secretary of State for Wales, particularly on the proposals which affect Glamorgan.
I have read the Committee proceedings. The Minister of State, who wound up the debate, referred to the fact that it had been a closely argued debate, conducted with thought and concern, and with a great deal of good temper. Of course it was a thoughtful debate. We on the Opposition benches who took 1185 part in that debate were speaking for our people, the people who sent us to this House, which is certainly more than could be said for hon. Members on the Government side. It was quite natural that we should express our concern. That is why we are pressing our Amendments today.
We are concerned at the destruction of Glamorgan County Council, concerned at the weakened, impoverished Mid Glamorgan which is being set up, and concerned that our people will be denied the quality of the services to which they have become accustomed and to which they have every right.
It is the Government's lack of concern that disturbs us. The Government clearly set out their aims for the reform of local government in their Consultative Document. They talked of creating authorities which would be powerful enough to make their own decisions with adequate resources to establish priorities, and so on. But this aim has been abandoned. That is why we are pressing our Amendments. At best, we can say that the aim was forgotten; at worst, that it was sold out to the vested interests of the Tory Party in the City of Cardiff.
The Minister of State said that the Committee had been very good tempered. I hope that he realises that that good temper was a reflection of good manners and not a reflection of the deep and bitter feelings that exist in Glamorgan over these outrageous proposals. The deep and bitter feelings against the proposal to divide Glamorgan into three are shared by councillors—that is to be expected, perhaps—by council staff, by technical experts and by the majority of the people of Glamorgan. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) was fully entitled today to use the very strong language he used in attacking these proposals and the shabby way in which they saw the light of day. I welcome particularly my right hon. Friend's assurance that, even if the Amendment is not accepted and the Bill is passed unamended in respect of Glamorgan, this need not be the end of the story and that an incoming Labour Government would not feel it necessary to continue this mutilated form of the County of Glamorgan.
1186 The famous paragraph 43 of the Consultative Document—which ought to be engraved on the heart of the Secretary of State because it has been used against him so many times; these were his arguments—contained a fair summary of the Government's thinking of that time. It was that paragraph which gave the people of Glamorgan hope that whatever reform came would be a reform in accordance with the Government's aims and the philosophy of paragraph 43, and a reform of local government in Glamorgan which would be acceptable to the people.
Yet the Government have now deliberately chosen to throw overboard all the old principles—if they ever had any. They are even anxious at present to eat the words contained in their Consultative Document. They are deliberately creating local authority administration which is separate in areas which, according to the Government's words, ought to be administered together, certainly for the sake of good town and country planning and efficiently planned transportation. The Government are deliberately creating the mid-Glamorgan county which, according to the Secretary of State, must be weak in rateable resources and handicapped by the lack of resources. That was the very thing which the Consultative Document condemned, but that is what the Secretary of State is inflicting upon the people of Glamorgan.
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) suggested that the poorer the authority was, the more Government grants we should have and the better we should like it. That is absolute nonsense. If that were so, we should all welcome having the lowest rateable value and we should all sit back and expect a benevolent Government to pour in the money to make amends.
§ We have had this about turn from the Consultative Document to the realities of the Bill. We have become accustomed to about turns from the present Government. But this particular about turn on local government reform in Wales will inhibit both South Glamorgan and Mid-Glamorgan from efficiently exercising their local government functions and, in 1187 the long term, it will injure not only Mid-Glamorgan but those who reside in South Glamorgan as well.
§ This is not specifically a boundary issue. It is fundamentally an issue and disagreement as to functions. If we set up Mid-Glamorgan and South Glamorgan as the Bill proposes, we shall be setting up two local authorities which are incapable of efficently planning their transport and carrying out their town and country planning activities.
I am no expert on town and country planning. In this matter one tends to take advice from technical experts. I put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the view expressed by the South Wales branch of the Town Planning Institute, which has some 200 members in South Wales who work for local authorities, in civil service departments and in consultative firms there. These are the planning experts, as it were. They decided that they would oppose the division of East Glamorgan into two. They said that this was
a complete betrayal of the aims of local government reorganisation.
I should have thought that a Secretary of State for Wales who is concerned with efficient local government services for East Glamorgan would be well advised to take account of the views of experts.
A great deal has been said on the question of resources. I spoke of this in Committee. The bone of our contention is that if one divides Glamorgan into three, one inevitably creates the one authority, Mid Glamorgan, which is, in the words of the Consultative document
comparatively weak in rateable resources.
But this is exactly what the Government are doing. After the figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert), that South Glamorgan would have a rateable value per head of population of some £46, and that West Glamorgan's rateable value would be £45 and Mid Glamorgan's £25, can anyone honestly claim that it is local government reform, using the criteria laid down by the Secretary of State in the Consultative Document, to create that vast difference in rateable value per head of population? Almost every other new county throughout the United Kingdom
has had an addition to its rateable value, but for Mid Glamorgan it is even worse than it was previously.
§ The lack of resources has long been regarded as a weakness of existing local governments. Succesive Governments, the White Papers of the Labour Government in the 1967 and 1970 and the present Government in the 1971 Consultative Document, have constantly referred to the lack of resources as weakening effective and efficient local government services. The evidence is there for all to see. As one Government has succeeded another, they have emphasised that when reforming local government one has to deal with the problem of lack of adequate resources.
§ Resources are now not so important as they were when the consultative document was printed. This is another about turn. In Committee the Minister of State said, in effect, that Government grants can be relied upon. Is it satisfactory to create a county council of Mid Glamorgan knowing that it will have to become increasingly dependent on such grants? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman state categorically that a Conservative Government will never change the financing of local government and that the rate resources grant will continue for ever?
Further, the evidence from existing local authorities and from councillors and officials with years of experience is that over-reliance on Government grants saps initiative. The Local Government Commission for Wales stated:
It has been represented to us that, because of the operation of the rate deficiency grant systems, no authority now suffers any practical disadvantages because of a penny product per head which is less than the average. We are by no means satisfied that this is in fact the case.
The Royal Commission then stated that undue dependence on Government grants has the effect of sapping initiative and stated that, if such dependence could be removed, it would be no unhealthy thing. Paragraph 16 of the Green Paper on this subject speaks of the ever-widening gap between local government expenditure and revenue and suggests ways of closing the grap, stating:
to shift some of the burdens from local government to central government…runs contrary to the Government's objective.
That being so, how can we reasonably tell the people of Mid Glamorgan that they can rely on the rate resources grant to keep them going and enable them to carry out the necessary services?
§ Lack of resources in Mid Glamorgan is the most worrying feature of all for those of us who live there. We do not need parliamentary Questions or masses of statistics to enable us to know that the Mid Glamorgan area, which we represent and in which so many of us live, has the greatest social problems. It has four times the number of slums that the South Glamorgan area has, eight times the acreage of derelict land, four times the number of primary schools more than 50 years old, and 27 times the number of secondary schools over 50 years old.
§ If we had had the opportunity to question the Secretary of State in Committee, we might have made no progress. The Minister of State, Welsh Office put up a pathetic defence of the Government's proposals in Committee, but I do not blame the Minister of State for that. He could not make a defence of the Government's case, because there is no case to defend. The two arguments, if such they can be called, were that there were no links between Cardiff and the Valleys. I do not suggest that Cardiff and the Valleys are bosom friends and that we visit each other every Sunday for tea. If there are no links between Cardiff and the Valleys, that must be true of Porthcawl and the Valleys.
§ However, there are links between Cardiff and the Valleys. Many people travel to Cardiff from the Valleys every day to work. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West was Secretary of State, an analysis was made by the Welsh Office which indicated that a large number of people travelled daily from the Valleys to work in Cardiff and a large number travelled to Cardiff to shop. There is a great deal of entertainment in Cardiff which attracts people from the Valleys. The only source of live entertainment for the people of the Valleys is in Cardiff.
§ All the road and rail communications link the Valleys with Cardiff. It is easier for me to travel from Tonypandy to Cardiff than it is for me to travel from Tonypandy to Ebbw Vale although the latter journey is shorter.1190
§ The other argument advanced by the Minister of State was that Merthyr, Cardiff City and Glamorgan did not support the Consultative Document. Did anybody in his sense believe that they would? Could it be believed that Merthyr would voluntarily relinquish its county borough status and accept whatever plans the Secretary of State produced if they threatened Merthyr's county borough status? Was it likely that Cardiff would accept the proposals in the Consultative Document when it regarded them as a threat to its capital status? Could Glamorgan County Council be expected to rush in and welcome the published plan? It was reasonable to say that those councils had the right to express their criticisms of the Consultative Document. It is not fair to use their criticisms of the Consultative Document as an acceptance of anything in the Bill. Merthyr had its own solution. Glamorgan preferred to retain its identity. Neither of them wanted the South Glamorgan and Mid Glamorgan divisions as proposed in the Bill.
§ However, we are talking of Cardiff City, not of the whole composition of the Cardiff authority; we are talking only of those parts which had conservative members at that time. Fortunately, there are fewer of them today than there were then.
§ The very pertinent question has been asked as to who wants to divide Glamorgan into three—not the people of Glamorgan, not the Glamorgan County Council, not any one of the political parties represented on the county council, not the vast majority of the councils in Mid and South Glamorgan, not the Members of Parliament who represent in the main the express wishes and views of the people of Glamorgan.
§ Until the Secretary of State can explain adequately why he changed his preference for the proposal in the Consultative Document, all the accusations made against the Tory Party in the City Hall in Cardiff will resound throughout Wales. We know that the Cardiff Tories want it and I suspect that the only others who do are the public relations firm who have been organising the campaign to keep Cardiff as a real city. But I say to those who ran the campaign in Cardiff that the only people who have damaged the city 1191 and its capital status are the Cardiff Tories. They have been demonstrating that the city is surrounded by a sea of local government hostility and they have blighted their chances of leading Wales on any issue.
§ The Government proposals have created one misshapen, poverty-striken illogical county in Mid Glamorgan and one haven of selfish urban power in South Glamorgan. By his retrograde step and his shock conversion away from the principles he enunciated in the Consultative Document the Secretary of State has not only buried his own principles but has buried the chances of effective local government reorganisation in East Glamorgan.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil McBride (Swansea, East)
Living as I do in Glamorgan in the second city of Wales and having grown to know the people of the county and their opposition to this illogical move, I add my simple support to the proposition so well set out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas). It was a speech which was brilliant both in content and logic and vibrant with feeling as befits one who opposes injustice. It was a brilliant effort from one of Wales's greatest sons. It was a speech of which he could well be proud.
Listening to the attempts by hon. Members on the Government side to justify their proposals I was reminded of the odoriferous atmosphere of the back alleys of Chicago and paradoxically this morning I thought that we had two Daleys here come to judgment. It is curious for a Minister to put forward a proposition in which he does not believe and for which he could not count on the support of his hon. Friends, as was proved conclusively this morning. It was surprising to have such illogicality from one trained in a profession where logic is a paramount consideration. The county of Glamorgan has a richly deserved reputation as one of the finest local government units in the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Ifor Davies) mentioned the cultural achievements of the county. In educational terms it is a shining example to the rest of the country.
1192 In view of the excellence of the local government services in the county it is strange that the Government should wish to carve it up into three counties instead of two. It would be sheer folly to expect that the people of three counties will get a uniform standard of service from their local authorities. A few minutes ago, in a brilliant speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda West (Mr. Alec Jones) pin-pointed these factors with a brilliant clarity which deserves the highest commendation. The County Councils Association is opposed to the new County of South Glamorgan and it has adduced reasons which bear logical examination. It says that it is opposed to any county consisting of two districts. It is opposed to it also because one district contains 80 per cent. of the population. The Bill will do away with aldermen, yet paradoxically in Cardiff the Government are being supported by the aldermen.
In Standing Committee my right hon. Friend drew attention to paragraph 7 of the consultative document and said:the Secretary of State makes a point fundamental to the entire Bill. He says:'The division between county boroughs and administrative counties is one of the main defects of the present system. This division must be ended.'My right hon. Friend then said:Unfortunately, South Glamorgan perpetuates the very problem which the Government denounced in their Welsh document, and which they seek to cure."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D; 14th March, 1972, c. 2642.]If the Secretary of State can get round that he is a very good man. The county councils also logically assert that the Government's attitude is inconsistent with the generally agreed principles of merging town and country in a reasonable balance and constituting counties over wide areas.
There is justified opposition to the proposals in Glamorgan which is now welded into a powerful fighting force and was strikingly exemplified by the lobbying of the House by more than a thousand people from South Wales. They came to express their opposition to the Prime Minister—not that he will do much to help Glamorgan because one could not appeal for help to a weaker man. They came to present their opposition to the Bill and they were very angry. They represented a cross-section of the county. Even members of the Conservative Party 1193 are treating the Government's proposals with disrespect. They are opposed to the political carve-up of a county whose efficiency in matters of local government has earned universal approval. When the Lobby came to Westminster, meetings were held in the House and I presided over one of them. I have first-hand experience of the opposition which exists in Glamorgan to the Government's proposals.
The question of population and financial resources has been referred to. With his knowledge of the situation, living as he does in the area, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West rightly asked about the financial liabilities, rehabilitation, new houses, hospitals and education which must be paid for by a low rateable income per head. The Government are the party of business men yet here they are abdicating from the principles of good business. They are, in fact, the party of appalling mediocrity. With such a low rateable yield the authority will for ever be going cap in hand for assistance to the central Government. The Government are seeking to create a lame duck local authority.
In fighting for Glamorgan, Labour hon. Members are today justifying the trust that is reposed in them. We shall judge the Government by the extent to which they accede to our requests today. The decision to divide Glamorgan into three is contrary to all planning criteria. The Government are aware of but disregard the fact that the people who suffer are those in the valleys. Are the Government actuated by the fact that huge development corporations are interested in Cardiff? This carve-up of Glamorgan is reprehensible. When hon. Members from Glamorgan, who cannot justify this carve-up, say that they will support the Government, and eat their words, one wonders what sort of Government we have. Truly a country deserves the Government it gets, and what a Government we have!
§ Mr. John
In speaking of our own areas and expressing concern for our own counties and districts, we are expressing the concern of the whole of Wales. No body has been so fruitful in the preservation of the national life of Wales as the Glamorgan County Council. If it had been left to the Cardiff City Council, a 1194 number of national institutions would not now exist. I believe, therefore, that in seeking to reform the framework of local government in Wales we should be very careful not to destroy or recast authorities in such a way as to weaken Welsh national life.
In the speeches which I have heard from the Government benches, both in the House and in Committee, I have heard no arguments in favour of the three-way split. I have heard one argument against the two-way split but none in favour of the three-way split. The argument advanced by the Government against the two-way split is that Cardiff and Merthyr would not wear it. This is worth analysing, particularly in view of the experience of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Nicholas Edwards) earlier this morning. Logically, if the wishes of the authorities and not necessarily those of the people are to be taken into account, none of the Vale of Glamorgan should be included in the Glamorgan authority. There is no evidence for believing that any of the people in the Vale of Glamorgan want to be included with Cardiff. When the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts) speaks of Cardiff feeling estranged from the Valleys and feeling that it has no logical connection, I might point out that there is no logical connection with the Vale of Glamorgan either. If the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) had had the courage to speak up on behalf of his people in the Vale of Glamorgan, he would say likewise.
There is an Amendment later to move the exclusion of the Vale of Glamorgan from the South Glamorgan authority and to include it in the mid-Glamorgan authority. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is sincere in putting forward the wishes of the local authority as an argument, he will accept the argument that Cowbridge and the other areas should be included in mid-Glamorgan. But he will not. He is using this as a fig leaf to cover up a political manoeuvre.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ The second reason advanced against the Amendment is that Merthyr has expressed its opposition. But it has not got what it wanted. Why is Cardiff being given what it wanted, whereas Merthyr has been denied it? There is a political connotation here. It is a desire to keep 1195 a Tory presence in South Wales. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North urges one positive advantage in the creation of the South Glamorgan authority. He has urged it today as he urged it in Committee. It is that with a sea-based authority we would achieve a greater concern for those areas. In particular he has instanced the steelworks. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) will forgive my mentioning this argument of the steelworks in this connection. If the hon. Gentleman seeks to suggest that the steelworks is the sole concern of the Cardiff authority he is making a very big mistake. We know that the future of the steel works lies not in the hands of Cardiff Corporation or of any other local authority but in the hands of the British Steel Corporation.
§ There exists at Llanharry an iron ore mine which is dependent solely on the continuance of the East Moors works. If the East Moors works were to close, 300 men in my constituency would be thrown out of work. If we had a total East Glamorgan authority, does the hon. Gentleman say that it would want caprisiously to close the East Moors works or that it would not be as zealous in its interest? It is because there is interdependence in this connection that there would be concern, a link and a genuine control over what happened in the whole of the county.
§ Mr. Michael Roberts
I have never at any time suggested that there would be no interest. Indeed, I have always acknowledged the fact that a Glamorgan authority even at this stage would do everything it could to help the interests of Cardiff. What I have suggested is not that there would be no links but that a coastal-based authority would be able to look after the specific interests of the authority, just as much as they had been looked after before.
§ Mr. John
I repudiate that entirely. I have adduced arguments to show that it is as much the concern of the Mid Glamorgan authority as it is of the South Glamorgan authority. There are people who work in Cardiff, who have moved there from other areas and who travel every day to work. There are authorities which are traditionally linked—both 1196 town and country—which have links with the sea coast and the industrial belt. Such a one is Cowbridge, Llantwit Major and Llanharry which have existed happily for 50 years or more. My parliamentary constituency has such a connection between the sea coast, the agricultural south and the industrial north. There has not been an absence of friction but it has been a friction which has been contained in one area tolerably.
These areas do not want to be connected with the Cardiff-based coastal authority. They would prefer to look up the Valleys as they have done habitually. We must conclude from all this that there is here a manoeuvre designed to maintain Conservative control in Cardiff. I say that because the Cardiff City Labour Group do not want the present proposal of the Secretary of State. It has opposed them, and it has sent deputations to this place to say so. I say again, therefore, that this is a party-political matter.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North says: "Why worry about local government finance when there is the rate support grant?". Coming from a member of a party which, traditionally, looks upon recipients of social security as second-class citizens, that is rich. I will give the hon. Gentleman the reason why it is a handicap to rely upon the needs element in the rate support grant. The needs element is based upon the average cost of administering services. It is precisely in poor areas that services cost more—not the average—to administer. Therefore, one would have grants made on an average basis, but one's costs would be above average, and local government poverty would be perpetuated.
If the hon. Gentleman does not see that, he flies in the face not only of his own argument but in face of the argument in the consultative document. If the Secretary of State had thought that the question of indigenous resources was irrelevant, why did he say in paragraph 43 that it was relevant? Why was that his advice at that time? The right hon. and learned Gentleman now chooses to dismiss it, but he cannot get away from his own past.
If the Secretary of State asks, "Who wants a two-way split of Glamorgan?", I will tell him. The first person going into print as wanting it was the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself. He 1197 must not now suddenly pretend great piety and say that no one wants it, and that he never wanted it. In fact, he wanted it and said so in print.
I refer again to the hon. Member for Barry. I criticise him in his absence, and that I regret, but he has been in the Chamber so little since his speech that it would be difficult to criticise him in his presence. In an intervention during the Pembrokeshire debate, the hon. Gentleman said that he had not heard from anyone, except councillors and council representatives in his constituency, opposing the present proposal. If that is so, the reason is that he has not sought to find out. There have been constituents of his here to say so. Both this week and last week, they sought to canvass his views, and they indicated clearly that they were opposed to the three-way split of Glamorgan and regarded the two-way split as preferable.
The answer on the local government issues is obvious. I shall not go over the facts because it is no good making a reasoned case to the Government and their supporters. They do not listen. We made the case in Committee hour after hour. There has been no factual reply. The truth is that, since the Committee stage, the fight to save Glamorgan from the carve-up has not ceased. It has redoubled in intensity. There has been a massive and most impressive demonstration at this Palace within the last week on this very question.
I warn the Secretary of State that, if he hopes to go down in history as providing a long-lasting reorganisation of Glamorgan, he should accede to the Amendments. If he does not, his proposals for local government in Glamorgan will be as short-lived as his Government.
§ Mr. Fred Evans
I feel that a few words should be added as this tragedy moves to its climax. It is a tragedy of murder, and for the House of Commons the final act of butchery, I suppose, will take place in a few minutes. I wish, therefore, to draw attention to a couple of the major factors which have emerged from the debates here and in Committee.
The first outstanding fact is the standing on its head of the Secretary of State's own argument about the criteria for establishing good local government and his intial analysis of the County of 1198 Glamorgan as the split was originally envisaged. The second factor is what went on in the Committee, where we saw one of the strongest and most logical attacks on a piece of legislation ever mounted being met by the feeblest defence that I have read since I came to the House. No case whatever was put forward, yet my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West and my hon. Friends the Members for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) and for Pontypridd (Mr. John) put up a formidable attack, calling for the retention of a valid form of local government in the County of Glamorgan.
For those of us who are sons of Glamorgan, this tragedy goes deep. We have watched that county, with its ancient history, pass through many vicissitudes in the depression of the 1920s and the 1930s, patiently husbanding scarce resources, managing them with superb efficiency, and building out of a derelict background a superb education service, one of the best community health services in the country, certainly one of the best services in the whole of Britain today for disabled people, one of the finest library services and one of the best highway systems so far as it has lain within its control.
In whatever field of service to the community one examines the performance of the County of Glamorgan, it is found to equal the best in Britain, and all this has been done against a background of much scarcer resources and in face of tremendous difficulty.
The test of local government, surely, is efficiency. I challenge the right hon. and learned Gentleman to find one branch of public service in which the County of Glamorgan could not challenge the best in the rest of Britain. If he can show me even only one, I shall admit that there may be some sort of argument for his present proposals.
I favoured the retention of the geographical County of Glamorgan, but I felt that, if there had to be a butchery, what the right hon. and learned Gentleman first envisaged could prove acceptable. But his existing proposals will destroy everything that I and my fellow citizens in Glamorgan have held dear.
I am appalled when I consider the prospect for Glamorgan, with its low rateable resources, sentenced perennially to be a lame duck appealing for rate 1199 support grant and all sorts of Government grant, when I consider what effect that kind of situation will have in eroding the quality of local government candidates, people willing to fulfil the heavy duties placed upon them, and when I consider the effect which it will have on population, accelerating the very process of depopulation which we want to arrest, which the Secretary of State knows is so much our concern. Only recently, my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) and I lodged objections, on behalf of eight Members on these benches, at the public inquiry into the new town at Llantrisant, part of our argument was based upon depopulation. When we look at Mid-Glamorgan, ill-equipped, with the biggest problems in South Wales, with a need for urban renewal, with a large amount of derelict land and all the other legacies of a bad industrial past, we can only ask how this county can survive.
I appeal to the right hon. and learned Gentleman to reconsider this matter. Feelings are running so deeply now that this will not be the end of the story. We are entitled to ask why this is being done. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) put his finger on some of the reasons this morning, but how many visits did the City Clerk of Cardiff pay to this House; how many messages were conveyed to him to have a cup of tea in the Strangers' Cafeteria? How many hours did a certain intelligent and pleasant personality, a former well-known Lobby correspondent, spend going round this place and bringing Cardiff influence and pressure to bear?
Why was a reception for the Lord Mayor of Cardiff mounted downstairs by the Action campaign for keeping Cardiff a capital city—as though anyone in Wales ever cast any doubt upon its capital status? That was a dishonest exercise and, if we cannot get the answer in local government and political terms in this House, we are entitled to make our own interpretation, which is that this is a sorry piece of political gerrymandering to retain a Tory enclave in Cardiff. We on these benches I hope will have enough sense to look forward to the late 1970s when there may be a Boundary Commission report and wonder, if this kind of 1200 exercise is to be carried out in local government, what will happen when it comes to parliamentary boundaries.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ We make the specific accusation that this is a politicaly motivated move. During the passage of the Bill at no stage have we heard a single concrete answer to that accusation. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not yield, I hope that my right hon. Friend's forecast will be fulfilled, and that when a Labour Administration returns to power we shall make sure that justice is accorded to Glamorgan.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I have the unique distinction of representing both the city of Cardiff and part of the county of Glamorgan—until the redistribution took place—so perhaps I can look at this issue from both sides of the fence. I have never taken the view that Cardiff aggrandised itself or gained in importance by weakening its neighbours.
The criticism which has been made of the proposal—and it has been admitted by the Secretary of State—is that it constitutes a weak authority in Mid Glamorgan. Indeed, in his letter to his hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), which was sent on to us, the right hon. and learned Gentleman thought that there were still strong reasons for the original proposal. Speaking for myself, I would much prefer to see one county and not two, let alone three, but that is another issue.
We must all declare ourselves on this issue. As an observer who has played no part in it, I have reached the conclusion that this proposal is put forward for party reasons. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has no substantial support for what he is doing, indeed, the reverse. The County Councils Association, the urban district councils, the rural district councils, the parish councils and many other bodies are opposed to the proposal. The only body which supports it is the Conservative Party in Cardiff. No other body actively says that it agrees with the proposal.
It is a strange new doctrine. We have passed through many phases of the lame duck philosophy. The first was that lame ducks should be allowed to sink. That has been replaced by the philosophy that 1201 lame ducks should be revived, allowed to float, succoured and kept alive. Now, apparently, the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts) and his hon. Friend the Member for Barry have advanced a third development, that where one has a perfectly good duck quacking vigorously one breaks both its legs to show that one can provide it with social security.
I well understand, and indeed it has been accepted on both sides, that because of changes in industrial structure, depopulation, and the rest, areas may develop historically in which it is found necessary to give security and assistance in a wide range of services. I have yet to hear advanced the theory that one deliberately creates a weak authority to show that one can give it national assistance. That would be an absurd view to put forward.
The Secretary of State for Wales has taken a battering today and I know that he will not assume that my hon. Friends who have spoken in this debate do not represent the views of their constituents. I know they do and my hon. Friends know they do. The right hon. Gentleman has, had little support, and he must deal with the charge put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) that he has yielded to a party political group. The conclusion I draw is that Wales has suffered and that the new authority of Mid Glamorgan will suffer because we had the misfortune to have a Secretary of State for Wales who combined with that office the chairmanship of the Conservative Party.
I remember the rebukes uttered to me when I proposed that the report of the Boundary Commission should be deferred until we had had a chance to consider this Bill. I remember everything said on that occasion. Had I known at that time about the proposals which would come forward from the Conservative Party, I would have been reinforced in my decision on the proposals I then made. It is quite clear that as a result of this Bill there will have to be substantial changes in parliamentary boundaries.
The Secretary of State has made a profound mistake. He has created an authority that is weak from the start. He does not serve the long-term interests 1202 of Cardiff by so doing, and it does not help from the point of view of easing tension between any of the authorities and Cardiff. I hope there will not be tension, and indeed I have never thought it necessary. The right hon. and learned Gentleman faces the charge that he has yielded, against the advice of every authority I know, to a small political group in Cardiff.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas
We have had a very full debate on this important subject, as I think everyone who heard it would agree.
The effect of the Amendments is that there should be substituted for what is contained in my final proposals in respect of Glamorgan my original proposal that the geographic area of Glamorgan should be divided into two counties, East and West Glamorgan. The Amendment suggests that it would be advisable to return to the original proposal which I made in my consultative document.
The issue of the Glamorgan County structure has been debated at considerable length for some time. We had quite a full debate on this matter in the Welsh Grand Committee on 13th July, 1971, when we first debated local government reorganisation.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas
I am talking about the meeting of the Welsh Grand Committee after my consultative document was published—the occasion on which the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Ifor Davies) made a powerful speech for a complete authority for the whole of Glamorgan and asked his right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against my consultative document. That included the part of that document which the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) invites the House to support. We also had a full debate on the county structure and we had a debate in Standing Committee D on Glamorgan.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas
The right hon. Gentleman criticises the fact that neither I nor my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment was present. That is not usual, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. My hon. Friend the Minister of State was not only present 1203 throughout the proceedings of that Committee but acquitted himself extremely well and gave answers which expressed the Government's position admirably.
It is clear from the fact that we have had these long debates that it is extremely difficult to say anything which has not been said before. I say that with respect to right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken today. Very few new points have emerged.
I want if I may to stand back for a moment and consider what we are trying to do. We are trying to find the most suitable form of local government for the 1,255,000 people who live at present in the administrative county of Glamorgan and the county boroughs of Cardiff, Merthyr Tydvil and Swansea. It is right to stress that we are not concerned with what Glamorgan County Council wants or with what Cardiff City Council, Merthyr Tydvil Borough Council or Swansea City Council want at this moment. What we have to consider is what is likely to suit this area and its inhabitants best when most of us and most of the present aldermen and councillors will no longer be taking an active part in public affairs.
In considering this question we must also remember that we are dealing with existing local authorities which during all or most of their lives have existed independently of each other and without any direct responsibility for each other's activities. It does not follow that the type of administration that has worked well in the City of Cardiff or in the County of Glamorgan in the past will work satisfactorily for their combined areas if they are amalgamated.
When we came to office we decided that we had to tackle the present distinctions between administrative counties and county boroughs. The previous Administration dodged that issue when they produced their White Paper of 1967—
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Gentleman was not there. They dodged the issue in respect of Cardiff and Swansea because they left them as county boroughs. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, West tackled it head on in the 1970 White Paper and he received a severe jolting. We decided that we must accept the principle 1204 of uniting county borough and administrative county but at the same time meet the main solid criticism that the 1970 proposals had attracted in that they did not provide for any effective replacement of the present district councils.
The important matter which we have put forward is contained in paragraph 22 of the consultative document. That is the view which has been expressed over and over again that for authorities responsible for education and personal social services one should aim at a population of at least 250,000.
It is a matter of simple arithmetic that it would be possible to divide the geographic county of Glamorgan into no fewer than four areas each with a population of about 250,000. A case could be made out for that on merit. After all, there are at present four independent planning, major highway, education and social service authorities in the area. The more authorities that there are, the more councillors can be directly involved in the administration of services and the more local can the services be administered. I therefore say that a case could be made out for a division of the geographic area of Glamorgan into four. However, we made it clear in the consultative document that the figure of 250,000 was put forward as a desirable minimum. Much larger figures might be acceptable where there were good reasons for them.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ The proposed counties of South, West and mid-Glamorgan will have populations much larger than the desirable minimum of 250,000. The figures were given by the hon. Member for Gower. West Glamorgan will have a population of 372,000, South Glamorgan 390,000 and mid-Glamorgan 531,000. With the exception of Gwent, each authority is larger than any other proposed county authority in Wales. These three new counties in Glamorgan will have populations amply large enough to enable them to carry out their functions economically and effectively.
§ Hon. Members have referred to paragraph 43 of the consultative document. It was suggested that the argument in favour of two counties in Glamorgan and against three was put so clearly by me in that document that—I will not use the harsh language which has been used in the 1205 debate—dark forces were at work to get me to change my mind. I assure the House that this is absolute nonsense. The essence of a consultative document is that one is prepared to change the proposals in it if they are shown to be seriously objectionable. What was the point of issuing a consultative document if everything was cut and dried in February, 1971?
§ Mr. Peter Thomas
The right hon. Gentleman has made his speech and was able to have his headline phrases.
§ Mr. Alec Jones
The right hon. and learned Gentleman could have had them if he had served on the Committee.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas
I made it prefectly clear in the Welsh Grand Committee on 13th July of last year that I was considering the alternative proposals of the Cardiff City Council within the context of a system of counties and districts. Those proposals were similar to, though not identical with, the provisions in the Bill.
Further, the Glamorgan County Council and several district councils in Glamorgan urged that the proposals in the consultative document should be dropped and that instead the whole of the geographic county should be made into a single county. That would have been against the wishes of the three county borough councils. That was one of the suggestions put forward by the hon. Member for Gower, who wound up the debate and received the support of his hon. Friends when there was a vote at the end. I wonder what the Opposition would have said if we had abandoned the consultative document and gone over to a single county of Glamorgan, therefore going against all the arguments which I had set out in paragraph 43.
The right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) described paragraph 43 of the consultative document as containing weighty words. The hon. Members for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) and Gower asked me to consider those words and to reconvert myself to my original view. I accept that paragraph 43 of my consultative document sets out three 1206 strong arguments for dividing the geographical area of Glamorgan into not more than two new counties. They have been quoted at wearisome length already but in view of what hon. Gentlemen opposite have said it is only right that I should comment on what I said.
I said, first, that division into three would further divide the administration of the present Glamorgan County Council. That is self-evident and is obviously a substantial factor although, I suggest, not a critical one. After all, the administrations of the three county boroughs will have to be divided anyway, by functions rather than by area. Further, even if the proposal in the consultative document had been adopted, the county administration would have had to be divided into two. The House should remember that what we are doing in these proposals is creating new authorities. We are not just amalgamating or dividing. We are creating three entirely new authorities instead of the orignal four.
The second point is that in paragraph 43 I said that to divide the proposed county of East Glamorgan would mean the separation of areas which, inevitably, ought to be administered together for the purposes of town and country planning and transportation. I regard this as probably the most important of the three factors which I mentioned in the consultative document. Obviously, there is a good case for saying that since different parts of East Glamorgan are interdependent—and I accept that they are—they ought to be planned as one unit.
But here we come to the main argument on the other side of the question, which is the divergence of interest—not links, but interest—between, on the one hand, Cardiff and the coastal plain and, on the other, the valley communities. It is all very well to suggest that the people involved ought to recognise that they have common interests which can best be expressed by all joining happily in a new East Glamorgan County Council or some even wider union. The fact is that a large number of the people directly involved do not recognise that their common interests in East Glamorgan need or ought to be expressed in this way.
They say—and their point of view merits respect—that the needs and aspirations of the coastal plain and the valley 1207 towns in the fields of planning and transportation are substantially different that both sets of needs and aspirations require great efforts and the expenditure of vast sums of money if they are to be met, and that to give a single local government body overall responsibility both for re-developing the City of Cardiff and revitalising the Cynon and Rhondda Valleys is the best way of making sure that neither task is done effectively.
There is no doubt that if an East Glamorgan County Council were set up it would have to choose, sooner or later, between spending vast sums of money on Cardiff and the coastal plain and equally vast sums of money on the rest of East Glamorgan. It would have no way of dodging this issue except by delaying a decision or passing the buck back to the Secretary of State. What would be the result? I am satisfied that there would be endless bickering, waste of members' and officers' time on sterile arguments, unsatisfactory compromises in some instances and imposed solutions and bitterness in others.
§ Mr. Alec Jones
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman address himself to the fact that the arguments which he is using were valid before he produced the consultative document? The circumstances have not changed one jot.
§ Mr. Thomas
I shall tell hon. Members why I have changed my mind, but I want to refer to one other point that I made in the consultative document; namely, the shortage of suitable land and regional resources, and the latter were mentioned by the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones). The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) suggested that I had dismissed the view which I expressed in the consultative document, but that is not so. I am satisfied that the handicaps which I mentioned then still exist, and are substantial, but I am convinced that the handicaps are less important than the risk of disunity in a single county of East Glamorgan.
Further, I am quite clear that hon. Members opposite have exaggerated grossly and deliberately the importance of the low rateable value per head of population in mid-Glamorgan.
§ Mr. Thomas
Just allow me to mention what I am going to say about rateable value and then I shall give way.
It would be better, all other things being reasonably equal, to divide counties in Wales with rateable values per head of population much closer to the national average than that of mid-Glamorgan. However, that is not the main object of local government reform. We have never said—neither did the previous Administration, to do them justice—that existing areas must be put together to produce new areas with higher average rateable values perhead. Put in that form, the statement obviously makes a nonsense. The fact of the matter is that, measured in terms of rate resources per head of the population, much of Wales is at present far below the England and Wales average. Unpalatable though this may be to all of us directly concerned, much of Wales will continue to be far below the national average, whatever local government boundaries are devised for it.
The right hon. Member for Aberavon asked how mid-Glamorgan was going to survive. He used colourful phrases about its coat of arms containing a begging bowl. The hon. Member for Rhondda, West asked how mid-Glamorgan could be viable.
§ Mr. Alec Jones
That is the question that was asked previously by the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Mr. Thomas
I did not use the word "viable". This is an example of what I meant by gross and deliberate exaggeration. Few existing Welsh local authorities would be viable without grants based on their lack of rateable resources. Few of the new authorities would be viable without grants in something like that form. The effect of the resources element of rate support grants is to bring up to the standard level the resources of all authorities with rate budgets below that level.
§ Mr. Thomas
I do not say that at all. That is a distorted summary, as the hon. Gentleman knows.
1209 I have been asked why I changed my mind. The first reason is that I found there was wide opposition to my proposals, which are being supported now by hon. Gentlemen opposite. There was wide opposition by the Glamorgan County Council, the Cardiff County Borough and Merthyr. There was no support from hon. Gentlemen opposite for this proposal. That opposition may be understandable, but the hon. Member for Rhondda, West said that we must understand that there would be opposition. I accept that. That opposition by itself is not significant, but the significant factor which emerged was the unwillingness of any one of those authorities which I have mentioned to settle their differences and work together. When I met them not one was prepared to do that and to move into an East Glamorgan County. They all wanted something different. I was satisfied on the basis of much consultation that there would be tensions, animosities, and a conflict of interest.
§ Mr. Thomas
I can hear what the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Rowlands) says—"Who supports the present Bill?"
Merthyr put forward a strong case for its being a separate authority from Cardiff and the South. Merthyr in particular made it clear that there would be a conflict of interest.
§ Mr. Rowlands
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman now say, first, who supports the present proposals? Secondly, does he recall the letter of 11th November, 1971, from Merthyr Corporation, which states:The new Mid Glamorgan County Council will destroy Merthyr's dream of reform."?Merthyr does not support the present Bill, nor does any authority other than Cardiff.
§ Mr. Thomas
I gave way to the hon. Gentleman who referred to Merthyr. In my consultations with authorities in respect of my proposals, it was quite clear from the submissions I had from Merthyr that there would be real dissension and a lack of common interest if Merthyr and the heads of the valleys were to be joined with Cardiff. This was part of the reason why I had to consider my original proposals—[Hon. Members: 1210 "Answer."]—and the evidence which came from Cardiff—[Interruption.]
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)
Order. Hon. Gentlemen have been listened to very carefully throughout the debate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should be listened to.
§ Mr. George Thomas
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Interruptions are normal in the House of Commons. When a Minister refuses to answer, it is customary for him to be interrupted, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas
The evidence which I gathered from the meetings I had, in particular from Cardiff and from Merthyr Tydvil, stressed the differences of interest between the valleys and the coastal plain in the allocation of resources. This was shown in the arguments present to me by Merthyr when it proposed the heads of the valleys authority, and it was firmly upheld by Cardiff. I came to the conclusion, therefore, that it was only right that there should be a change. I had told the Welsh Grand Committee that I would consider the submissions made to me by the City of Cardiff, which represented a very large number of people. I concluded that after all the information I had gathered this was the proper, right and fair solution.
§ Mr. George Thomas
I regret that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has revealed himself as a humbug. That is putting it mildly. He as eaten the words of his own proposals. On behalf of his hon. Friends, he has been engaged in a political fiddle, and we are exposing a piece of naked, brazen, brutal political chicanery. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has tried to give the impression that Merthyr Tydvil supports his new line.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas indicated dissent.
§ Mr. George Thomas
But the insinuation was there. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was far from speaking the truth, and he knows that he was 1211 deliberately misleading. It was a twist. I am addressing those who have been twisters about local government in Wales. [Hon. Members "Hear, hear."] What is more, I represent the overwhelming opinion of the people of Wales in this matter. Hendon and Hereford may push this on us today by bringing in hon. Members who have not listened to a word of the argument—
§ Mr. Thomas
The payroll vote may push this on us, but I tell them and Wales that this political fixer will not last. We are determined to reserve our position on this matter, I should have thought that when the turn comes for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to leave his office—which is not a very happy moment—whether to go to another office or to leave politics, he would want to leave behind an honourable record. This proposal, not based on anything to do with an independent commission, not based on
|Division No. 309.]||AYES||[3.40 p.m.|
|Atkinson, Norman||John, Brynmor||Pardoe, John|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Booth, Albert||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Probert, Arthur|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Kaufman, Gerald||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Kinnock, Neil||Silverman, Julius|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||McBride, Neil||Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Mayhew, Christopher||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Ellis, Tom||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Evans, Fred||Mikardo, Ian|
|Foot, Michael||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hattersley, Roy||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Mr. Walter Harrison and Mr. Donald Coleman.|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Padley, Walter|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Adley, Robert||Green, Alan||Murton, Oscar|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Grieve, Percy||Neave, Airey|
|Balniel, Lord||Gummer, Selwyn||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Benyon, W.||Hawkins, Paul||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Hayhoe, Barney||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Boscawen, Robert||Higgins, Terence L.||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John|
|Clegg, Walter||Hordern, Peter||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Critchley, Julian||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn.Dame Patricia||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Crouch, David||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Rees, Peter (Dover)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hunt, John||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Dean, Paul||Jopling, Michael||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Kershaw, Anthony||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Dixon, Piers||Kinsey, J. R.||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Knox, David||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Eden, Sir John||Lamont, Norman||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Longden, Gilbert||Sharples, Richard|
|Eyre Reginald||Mather, Carol||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Speed Keith|
|Fox, Marcus||Moate, Roger||Spence, John|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Money, Ernle||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Gower, Raymond||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
§ a Royal Commission, but based on the Secretary of State's own political judgment, will leave a dishonourable record that will follow him as slime follows when dirty work is under way. [Interruption.] If the Minister of State wants more, I am willing to give it to him.
§ The Minister of State likes to believe, when he stands at the Dispatch Box and does not answer any of our questions, that as long as he has the votes he is all right. He is dealing with the Welsh people now. We are dealing with two Members from English constituencies who are embarked on a disgusting and dishonest carve-up of local government in Wales in favour of a political rump in the Conservative group in Cardiff which has been disowned even by the people of Cardiff. I hope that the House will vote against them.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 42, Noes 74.
|Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)||Wilkinson, John|
|Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek||Winterton, Nicholas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Weatherill, Bernard||Younger, Hn. George||Mr. John stradling Thomas and Mr. Kenneth clarke.|
|White, Roger (Gravesend)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport)
I beg to move Amendment No. 567, in page 214, line 24, leave out 'The county borough of Newport'.
It is always a very serious and important matter when a town or city loses its county borough status. That is particularly so in the case of my town and constituency of Newport. It grew up from the little community in Pillgwenlly, in the docks area, about 100 years ago, and it is now the third largest town in Wales, with a population of approximately 150,000. It is strategically placed for future economic development. It is the heart of the Severn side Development Plan. About three years ago it was selected as one of the three outstanding sites for future maritime industrial development area status.
Newport has attracted within its boundaries many large and important industries. It has excellent communications. By road it is now directly linked with the South-East, and shortly the final stretch of road works will be completed, linking it with the industrial Midlands. It has a mainline railway station, and excellent docks. It is therefore well served for communications.
It is a managable and efficient unit of local government. It has a fully comprehensive system of 11-plus education. It has colleges of art and technology. It has many fine, modern, well-planned housing estates, and a fine civic headquarters. As one of the largest local authorities it is well able to stand on its own feet, looking into the future.
The 1967 reorganisation plan for Wales, produced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) recognised these basic facts. Newport has been a county borough for well over 100 years, which means that there are strong local identities in the town. These are very important in a modern industrial society, with all the great technological changes that are now taking place. Since people have this identity with the town of Newport, my forecast is that if the Government proceed 1214 with this plan to take away its county borough status there will be a considerable backlash from its citizens.
In saying that, I am in no way criticising the county of Monmouthshire, which I know to be a progressive authority with a fine record of municipal achievement over the years. But Newport being a county borough, is a unitary authority, and my preference is for unitary authorities.
One would feel that Newport was a town with a great future; at least, I always felt so until this Government came to power just over two years ago. Since then one blow after another has been rained upon it. Several of our factories, such as British Aluminium and Stewart and Lloyds, have been closed. Then there has been the decision to take away the vast bulk of the iron-ore trade from Newport Docks and the decision of the Government to let the Port of Bristol go ahead with its major expansion plans. We know from the figures which were published yesterday that unemployment in the town is increasing. Now we have this final irony of the status of Newport being taken away, while Cardiff is to be allowed to remain more or less as a county borough. We have heard of the slimy intrigue associated with this decision on Cardiff exposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) and others.
Being on the more eastern side of the seaboard, Newport is more strategically placed for future economic development than Cardiff. There has been rivalry over the years between these two towns, and not only in sport. The people of Newport feel that what black and blue can do, certainly black and amber can do better.
Newport was the great centre of the Chartist uprising. A mayor of Newport, John Frost, was one of the leaders of that great movement and was transported to Australia for his efforts. The Chartist movement fought for citizens' rights and for ordinary people to be represented in this Parliament. If John Frost came back today I wonder what he would say about this move.
1215 We know that this plan was introduced by the Secretary of State for Wales when his principal job was Chairman of the Conservative Party, and we know where his first loyalty has lain at all times. I have accused him of this many times in this House, and I make no apology for deing so. The whole Bill is nothing but a mass gerrymandering exercise. It will be remembered down the years with all the corruption associated with it. The Government will never be forgiven.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I say to the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes) straight away that I very much understand his personal feelings, as the Member for Newport, for the town of Newport. At least he has been consistent in his attitude towards local government reorganisation as it affects the town. He has stood on the principle that Newport should remain a county borough, and on that principle he opposed the proposal of the former Government that it should be combined in a unitary area with the whole of Monmouthshire.
However, I am afraid that I have to disappoint the hon. Gentleman. I have to resist the Amendment on two grounds. First, it would make nonsense of the Bill to make Newport both a county and a district. This would mean recreating a county borough under a slightly different guise, and the principle of the Bill is that Wales should be divided into counties and districts.
Secondly, Newport's pouulation would be far too small to make it acceptable as the area of an education or social service authority. At 112,000 the poulation is less than half the required minimum. Even if one extended Newport to include Llanwern and Cwmbran, for which the hon. Gentleman asked in the Welsh Grand Committee in December, 1968, Newport would not have a big enough population to meet these functions.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes
Is the Minister of State saying that in education services, for example, Newport is any less efficient and less progressive than is any comparable authority in the rest of Wales? In fact, the reverse is true.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
No, that is the last thing I would say. I was pointing out 1216 that if in a Bill of this kind one has to take a norm or criterion, and that criterion happens to be 25,000—
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
With respect I know it is difficult for the hon. Gentleman, but if one has to have a figure one must use that figure in arguing the case. I am pointing out that, well done though the functions may be at the moment in Newport, if one has to adopt that figure it is fair to make the point in argument.
Even the county borough itself has seen that there is no hope for the borough to retain its present constitutional position, or anything like it, and has suggested that it would prefer the alternative of a division of Monmouthshire into two unitary areas. But such a loose solution would not be acceptable to the Monmouthshire County Council or, I suspect, to most of the district councils concerned.
I am sure that the solution embodied in the Bill is the right one for Monmouthshire and for Newport alike. I know that the county council and the borough council have co-operated well with each other on many matters in the past, and I am certain that there is enough good will on both sides of the present boundary to make this proposal a complete success. I was glad to note the remarks of the hon. Gentleman himself in expressing the high regard he has for the county council.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I beg to move Amendment No. 593, in page 214, line 25, leave out from 'Monmouthshire' to end of line 27.
The purpose is to bring the Rhymney Valley into the administrative county of Gwent. In view of the pressure of time, I shall depart from my usual practice of trying not to refer much to notes and I shall make extensive reference, by leave of the House, to the notes which I have prepared.
The Amendment is not about the constitution of the proposed new Mid Glamorgan District No. 5. The new district fulfils a deep and long-standing social and economic need for unifying the Rhymney Valley. The new district will give legislative effect to an unbreakable 1217 relationship between the valley communities. It will make legislative sense out of the confusion and duplication of services which the people of the Rhymney Valley have borne for too long. It will put a legislative end to the frustration and bewilderment of communities which are socially and industrially united though divided by boundaries which have no relevance to everyday realities. Unification of the Rhymney Valley, therefore, is the outcome of a happy and unusual coincidence of expert opinion, as borne out by a Commission and by the 1967 White Paper, and of the public will of the people living there, especially on what is now the Monmouthshire side of the Rhymney Valley.
The disastrous development which mars this progress towards unification of the valley, however, is the decision that the Rhymney Valley should be in Mid Glamorgan. There is no clear boundary given for the two new counties, the County of Gwent and the County of Mid Glamorgan. This is not a piece of administrative semantics or an expression of mere parochialism and it has little to do with county loyalties. The objections I have to the Government's proposals are based on a practical consideration of the difficulties which the people of this valley have already encountered and will continue to encounter unless the Government change their attitude to this new administrative district.
On the western watershed of the Rhymney Valley there is an almost unpopulated area of moorland. There are several opportunities there for a clear and indisputable boundary. In the east where the Government propose to have the boundary one can best and most lyrically describe what will happen to the boundary by quoting the clerk of one of my local urban district councils, John Rogers, who speaks of a boundary that will:…meander incomprehensibly down lanes, along a principal road, through a river, up a stream and across fields, like a bemused fox trying in desperation to throw the hounds off the scent.
§ It being Four o'clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.