HC Deb 23 October 1972 vol 843 cc927-43

Lords Amendment: No. 34, in page 3, line 5, leave out Clause 3.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

With this Amendment it will be convenient to discuss the following Lords Amendments: No. 35, No. 47, No. 74, No. 75, No. 86, No. 116, No. 117, Nos. 421 to 427, No. 429 and Amendment No. 4 to No. 429, and Nos. 430 to 432.

Mr. Oakes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Lords Amendment No. 429 is a new Clause 238 to replace the provisions of Clause 3, in the main beneficial, and we on this side would not disagree with that.

However, there is one part of the new Clause, namely subsection (6)(b), which allows a parish council to entitle its chairman as town mayor and its vice-chairman as deputy town mayor, with which we disagree.

Earlier I raised the point with Mr. Speaker that, in view of the unprecedented situation we are in, as we received the Amendments this morning and as we had to table Amendments to those Amendments during the course of the day, particularly when an Amendment as late as No. 429 is taken with Amendment No. 34, we are in a difficulty as regards tabling any Amendment which should normally reach the Notice Paper.

Earlier Mr. Speaker intimated that, because of the unusual circumstances, he would, depending on each case, look favourably on manuscript Amendments. This is clearly such an exceptional case because of the late number of the Lords Amendment and the impossibility of dealing with the matter in any other way than by voting against Lords Amendment No. 429, which we are reluctant to do.

I therefore seek leave to move a manuscript Amendment, which would be in effect Amendment No. 429, in line 40, to delete lines 40 to 42.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I greatly sympathise with the hon. Gentleman in his difficulties. I do not know whether Mr. Speaker has seen the Amendment. He said that he would consider it favourably, but he may not have considered it yet. In any case the hon. Gentleman would be perfectly entitled to table an Amendment today and have it reached later.

Mr. Graham Page

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That would be difficult, because we should have debated the Clause and would not be able to return to it on Amendment. I hope that you will be able to meet the hon. Gentleman's request, and probably the best way to deal with this is by selecting the manuscript Amendment, it that is acceptable to you.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am greatly obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his helpful suggestion, but I am not allowed to select an Amendment. It is the only power of Mr. Speaker that I am not allowed to exercise. I am therefore in a difficult position. However, this matter can be perfectly well discussed today.

Mr. Oakes

Further to my point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have reached an impasse. It is impossible. As the right hon. Gentleman said, if we debated an Amendment I should be precluded then from speaking on it because we would already have discussed the matter.

If Mr. Speaker has not yet seen the Amendment, that is through no fault of mine; because within one hour of receiving the Lords Amendment I went to the Public Bill Office and tabled the manucript Amendment, fearing that this would happen, even though at that stage I did not know what Mr. Speaker's selection would be.

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's support on this point. If we cannot deal with the matter in a sensible way, the only alternative will be for the House to adjourn.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I want to be as helpful as I can. If the hon. Gentleman can give me the Amendment and allow me to read it to the House, it can be discussed today and voted upon later when we reach it, if selected.

Mr. Graham Page

While the hon. Gentleman is writing out the Amendment, perhaps I can open the debate on the first Amendment in this group.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is a good idea.

Mr. Denis Howell

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that my hon. Friend the Mem- ber for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) has lodged the Amendment in the Table Office where it now lies. Perhaps inadvertently, he has not a copy of it with him. May we ask the Table Office to produce the Amendment, if you wish to have it read out immediately?

We are in this difficulty. All of us wish to co-operate to deal with the matter tonight. If it cannot be dealt with tonight, we have no alternative but to adjourn to get a definite ruling from Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Martin Maddan (Hove)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May we take the Amendment as read?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The Amendment has now been handed to me. The Amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes), is to Amendment No. 429, in line 40 to delete to the end of line 42.

I understand that it was handed into the Table Office this morning, and has been sent to the printer in the ordinary way because there was no indication that it was to be a manuscript Amendment. That is where the difficulty has arisen. Anyway, it can be discussed.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Further to the point of order. The problem illustrates the absurdity of the situation we are now in. It is disgraceful that we should be treated in this way. It was suggested earlier that we should have delayed our proceedings today to enable hon. Members to look at the host of Amendments that we have been discussing before we discussed them. It might seem a curious and unusual procedure, that we should demand the right to read what we are discussing before we discuss it. Is it not about time we came to our senses and gave ourselves an opportunity to read this great mass of Amendments? Cannot we even now terminate our stupid proceedings on the Bill today and show the public the absurd situation the Government have put us in?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I do not think the situation is quite as serious as he makes out. The point is that if the Amendment is now discussed it can be voted on later. Therefore, there is no great tragedy in the situation.

Mr. Graham Page

Lords Amendments Nos. 424 and 432 deal specifically with freemen. It may be convenient to have a separate debate on them rather than to confuse them with the rest of the list of Amendments.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That appears to be the wish of the House.

Mr. Page

Then I shall leave them out of the debate. Otherwise, this group of Amendments deals with the status and dignities of local authorities.

The Government's principal objective in the Amendments is to permit the retention of existing rights and privileges enjoyed by many ancient towns and cities in so far as it is practicable within the framework of the new local government system contained in the Bill. It is proposed to leave out the two present Clauses, Clause 3 and Clause 22, which deal with the conferring of borough status on districts in England and Wales, and to replace them, very significantly extending their substance, by the two new Clauses, which cover the authorities in both England and Wales.

I think that I can summarise the points by saying that there are three elements in the Government's new and wider proposals. First, there is the status of the area, and particularly the matter of borough status which is granted by royal charter. Secondly, there is the right of the chief citizen to use the title "mayor". Thirdly, there are a mass of rights and privileges contained in charters too numerous and varied for me to catalogue now. They range from practical matters such as the ownership of corporate land or the management of markets to the appointment of local officers or dignitaries and so on.

The basic provision in the Government's new proposals is contained in subsection (1) of the new Clause on the preservation of powers, privileges and rights of existing cities and boroughs. Subject to anything contained in a new Royal Charter or to any provision in the Bill, or an order made under the Bill, existing rights and privileges will continue in force in the areas where they now apply.

Earlier in the debate today I was flattered by being called "St. Paul" and by being described as having been converted on the road to Damascus. I have been converted on this occasion, because what we have adopted here is a reversal of the previous approach to the subject. Instead of saying that existing rights and privileges may be confirmed or re-granted by new charters, we have said in the new Clause that existing rights and privileges will continue to apply at present unless they are overtaken or dealt with in some way. But this general saving does not of itself preserve borough status for any particular area, nor does it preserve certain titles and styles which are granted under the royal prerogative and which we have discussed previously in debates on the subject. For instance, it does not preserve the right of a town to the style "city" or "royal borough". They are granted under letters patent. It does not of itself preserve the title "lord mayor". These styles and titles should be specifically granted.

Borough status and the right of an area to be called a borough will apply only at district level, and the right should be granted by royal charter, as it has been hitherto.

The right to apply for a royal charter will be open to all new districts. We have discussed that previously, when discussing the Clauses which are now overtaken by the new Clauses.

A new district council may petition before 1st April, 1974, for the grant of borough status and for the continuation of any dignity or style which it already enjoys, such as that of "city" or "lord mayor". If Her Majesty indicates that she consents to the retention of these dignities, they will continue in force without a break whether or not the formal instrument has been issued when reorganisation comes into effect. Therefore the continuation of the title will not be held up by the fact that the formalities have not been completed.

The Government Amendments to Clause 4 and Clause 23 give precedence to the chairman of the district council throughout the district. That is whether he is called a mayor or not. Some existing boroughs will be grouped with other authorities to form new districts and in many cases they will not necessarily be the dominant element in the new district.

The very small boroughs in that case may retain their councils as successor parishes. The Boundary Commission, acting under guide lines, will recommend which of those should be successor parishes and retain their dignities.

Following on from what I said about borough status being confined to the new authorities at district level, we are not able to continue borough status at parish level, too. We are proposing that former boroughs who retain their parish or community level should be entitled to adopt the title "town" if they so wish. The council can be called a town council, and the chairman of the town council will be the town mayor. This power to adopt the status of town will not be confined to former boroughs as the new Clause is drawn at present. It will extend to all councils at parish or community level. It will therefore be enjoyed by any small town with a council of its own, whether it was formerly a borough, an urban district or a parish.

But those boroughs which are too big to be likely candidates for parish Government will not retain a separate successor parish status. In such cases the position will depend on whether or not a district itself becomes a borough. If it does acquire borough status and if the existing borough does not retain its own successor parish council, if it is too big for a parish council, the style and privileges of the existing unit become merged in those of the larger borough which has been newly created. One can have only a district borough but not a number of boroughs within the district. But if the district does not decide to apply for borough status, the continuing boroughs, or those that were boroughs before, can continue with a form of borough status within that district.

In that connection there is, first, the general saving for the preservation of charter provisions in those areas where they now apply. Secondly, we propose the new concept of charter trustees to look after what remains of the old borough. These trustees would be the district councillors elected in the area of the former borough who would constitute a separate body corporate, able to hold corporate land and able to elect one of their number to be town mayor for the area of the former borough. Although that area would not have all borough status, it would retain its dignities. It could even retain its corporate land, its plate and so on, retained by this device of the district councillors for that area being the charter trustees.

10.30 p.m.

I will now sum up, and I apologise if I have rather hurried through these points, but I think I have covered the main points. I sum up in this way. First, we propose that borough status should continue to he enjoyed by Royal Charter and should be granted only to authorities at district level.

Second, there will be machinery for the continuity of existing dignities such as the status of city or the title of City or Lord Mayor.

Third, we propose that, unless some other provision is made in a royal charter or in the Bill or by any order under the Bill, all existing rights and privileges enjoyed in a present borough will continue to apply within the same area as at present.

Fourth, we propose that in all areas which have mayors at present, there will be a mayor in future, either because the district itself becomes a borough or because the town council or the charter trustees have elected a town mayor.

Finally, we are providing for the chairman of a parish or community council to be given an allowance. This power will permit the allowance to be paid to a town mayor elected by charter trustees.

Those are the points covered by this series of Amendments. To a great extent, they were included in previous Clauses now overtaken by the new Clauses, but the new Clauses have extended them and given greater explanation of the position, and have been carefully drafted so that they will operate well in practice.

Mr. Oakes

I beg to move the manuscript Amendment in your hands, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to delete lines 40. 41 and 42 of new Clause—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

No, not to move it. The hon. Member may read it and discuss it but not move it.

Mr. Oakes

And vote on it later, I take it, when we come to it, Mr. Deputy Speaker?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If it is selected.

Mr. Oakes

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but we are back where we were. May I raise a point of order? The difficulty is that we on this side are forced either to vote against new Clause L, which we do not want to do, or to vote against the little bit of it with which we disagree. This is our difficulty, because of the timetable, not for any other reason, as we have moved as fast as we can. I appreciate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you cannot say whether any Amendment will be selected, since that is for Mr. Speaker, but I must emphasise the impossible position into which hon. Members are put. I am about to speak to an Amendment, and you now tell the House that it may well not be voted on.

Mr. Graham Page

Surely the hon. Gentleman is not in such difficulty as that. He may discuss the Amendment now, as you have said, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is only a question of waiting till tomorrow to see whether he will vote the whole Clause down or vote on his Amendment.

Mr. Denis Howell

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The House has got itself into a ludicrous situation. I respectfully submit that if this Amendment is not to be selected tomorrow by Mr. Speaker, then, since we are discussing Lords Amendments, it is out of order for us to discuss it now. How can we have a debate tonight on an Amendment which may not be selected tomorrow? I submit that, if it is in order for us to discuss it, it must be selected.

Several Hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It is time the Chair said a word on this matter. It is not nearly as bad as hon. Members fear. The discussion may go on perfectly well now. The probability, in view of what Mr. Speaker said, is that he will select the Amendment, and I myself shall have something to say in his ear in that direction. Hon. Members need have no great fear on this score.

Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I feel that the House ought to address its mind to the fact that we had the same sort of trouble in 1963, when London was being carved up. In the last 10 years, we have learned what a terrible mistake was made in 1963, and I warn the House that we are in danger of doing exactly the same now. Local government is far more important than the playing of silly games like this tonight. I hope that the Government will take this away and come back at a proper hour to discuss it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will there not be an opportunity for a vote tomorrow, when either the Amendment or the Clause can he voted on?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is perfectly true that the Clause will be voted on tomorrow. It is extremely probable, in view of what the hon. Gentleman tells me of his discussions with Mr. Speaker, that he will be able to vote on the Amendment also.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)

Is the hon. Member not in exactly the same position as I? I had an Amendment on the Paper to be voted on tomorrow.

Mr. Denis Howell

On a point of order. I am not wasting time because an important House of Commons principle is involved. I appreciate that you are doing your best in this unfortunate situation, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the House is in an impossible situation. In a number of years in the House I have never before met the situation in which the House is discussing Lords Amendments and is told that it can discuss a manuscript Amendment which Mr. Speaker may or may not select tomorrow. I submit to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, notwithstanding your desire to assist the House and the Government to get their legislation, and your understanding approach to what my hon. Friend said, that, nevertheless, it is a constitutional point of some importance. Either the Amendment is selected and can be discussed or it is not selected and cannot be discussed.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sure that the hon. Member will not object to my intervening here. The Amendment can be selected for discussion and later selected for voting. Those are two quite different things and that happens again and again.

Mr. Maddan

On a point of order. Do I understand that by the time we come to vote on the Lords Amendment we shall know whether the manuscript Amendment has been selected for discussion? If that is so, the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) is not in the dilemma which I can understand that he fears.

Mr. Oakes

That would depend upon what time we finish tonight. I do not propose to waste any more time of the House. I appreciate that you are endeavouring to assist us, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the difficulty in which we find ourselves.

The problem with the new Clause lies in subsection 6 (b). The Opposition said both in Committee and in the House that the old Clause 3 was inadequate in many respects in that the status, various titles and dignities of boroughs which had existed for hundreds of years might well be inadvertently eliminated. Many hon. Members were worried at their possible disappearance. The Clause eliminates many of those problems, but in doing so the House of Lords has introduced an entirely new set of circumstances which seem to be totally irrational. It has introduced the concept of what a mayor should he. It is suggesting that any parish or community council can at a meeting decide that it will call its chairman a major and its deputy chairman a deputy mayor.

The position differs for a district, which is a much larger authority, whether it be a metropolitan or a non-metropolitan district. A number of procedures have to be gone through, whether or not that district was previously a borough, before its chairman can be called mayor. For a start it must have a specially convened meeting to decide whether it will be a borough and whether its chairman should be called mayor. At that special meeting there must be a two-thirds majority of those present to decide whether the district is to become a borough and have a mayor. A petition must then be presented to Her Majesty and, acting on the advice of Her Privy Council, she may then grace that district with the title of mayor. A district has to go through many stages. I do not object to that procedure, although I should have thought that with local government reorganisation the red tape could have been cut and the process made speedier. But any parish or community council at any meeting—not only a special meeting—may decide, not by a two-thirds majority, that its chairman be called the town mayor of the parish and the deputy chairman called deputy town mayor. Their lordships have taken the dignity of the mayoralty to absurdity and have stretched this ancient and dignified title for which districts have to fight into something that may be obtained flippantly and easily by a parish or community council at any meeting, if it so resolves.

Let us consider the instance of a district in which such a parish is contained and which does not opt to become a borough, and therefore does not have a mayor of its own. It might have a succession of what one might call petty mayors, town mayors within the district, wearing chains and holding the status and dignity of mayor. There would be the difficult situation that the chairman of the district would be only a chairman while the chairmen of the parish councils would be mayors.

A much more difficult situation occurs if the district decides to become a borough and the parishes decide to have town mayors. There would then be a mayor of the borough, that is, the district, on a charter from the Queen, and mayors of the parishes, both called mayors. In the eyes of the public, the fact that one was called town mayor and the other the mayor of a borough would have little significance. Indeed, in many areas the town mayor would be thought to have greater status and dignity than the borough mayor.

An even worse situation could occur. This takes us near the right hon. Gentleman's constituency and mine, for there are moves afoot to call the new metropolitan district by the name of a parish which is also the name of an ancient hall within the district. This is being done to avoid jealousy among the various large authorities making up the district. This is absurdity heaped on absurdity. The mayor of the district will have exactly the same title as the mayor of the parish, if the parish should opt to have a town mayor of its own.

There seems to be no reason for this insertion by another place which would give the status and dignity of the mayoralty, which we all expect to be at a certain level, to any parish council. If their lordships were proposing that the title should go, for example, to existing boroughs converting themselves into parishes, that would be understandable. I do not say that I should entirely agree, but I could understand that. But that is not what the Amendment says. It says that any parish, no matter what its size or circumstances, by simple resolution at any time may have a mayor.

It is an absurd situation. I am fortified in my opinion by a letter that other hon. Members and I have received from the Rural District Councils Association. Hon. Members are bombarded with literature from outside organisations, but this is not just any organisation. It is a local government organisation and it is that association which, apart from the Parish Councils Association itself, is most closely associated with parish councils.

10.45 p.m.

The Association clearly says that although it has no objection to a parish or community council calling itself a town, if it so wishes, and the parish meeting being called the town meeting, if it so wishes, it can see nothing but difficulties and confusion for the inhabitants of the area in having a town mayor for a parish and a mayor for the district in which that parish is contained.

The Association is wrong in referring to Clause 241(6)(b); it must mean Clause 238(6)(b). In view of the confusion which we had earlier, I do not blame it for making that mistake. The Association urges that that paragraph of the new Clause be deleted. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to think seriously about this matter. We are with him in the valiant attempts which have been made in the other place to try to straighten out and clear up the old Clause 3 and make it into a workable and acceptable Clause, but for some strange reason their Lordships have added this absurd extension of the mayoralty to any parish anywhere. If things go well later, I shall seek to ask the House for this particular part of Clause 238 to be deleted.

Dr. Glyn

I sympathise with what the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) has just said. I have a similar Amendment down, but for slightly different motives. I was worried that some authorities might find themselves in difficulty in having to rely on the second rather than the first new Clause.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for carrying out the undertaking which he gave to this House before the Recess that he would endeavour to introduce in another place legislation which would allow the ancient boroughs to retain some of their privileges and status. However, I am extremely worried about the drafting of the Bill, so I should like to put a point, of which I have already given notice, which is not so very different from that put forward by the hon. Member for Widnes.

If a district applies successfully for a charter to convert itself into a borough and to have a mayor, what will be the position of other parts of the area which also wish to retain their status and mayors?

For instance, in my district there are two ancient boroughs, Maidenhead and Windsor. If the district elects to become a borough and have mayoral status, I am not sure under which machinery the boroughs would have to apply, if they wanted to do so. The boroughs may not want to do so; but, if they do, I am not clear about the position. Looking carefully at the drafting of these new Clauses, they would not be able to do so as parishes, because they would be too small, their populations being 24,000 and 30,000 respectively. They would have to apply to incorporate the two mayors of the areas in the same charter. There would appear to be no other machinery in the Bill for doing it.

I want my right hon. Friend to address himself to the questions: where a district becomes a borough and has a mayor, can two other former mayoral offices exist? If so, what is the machinery for doing it? It was made perfectly clear in the other place, and I think my right hon. Friend at the beginning of his speech said, that the status which existed would continue to exist. However, I am not clear how that can be preserved under the Bill.

It may be that the wishes of the electorate will eventually be that there should be one mayor of a district, and no sub-mayors. At the same time, I think it is right and proper that opportunities should be given to the ancient boroughs to have mayors if they desire.

I should like my right hon. Friend to make clear the machinery by which they can achieve this. Do towns with populations between 20,000 and 30,000, such as Windsor and Maidenhead, have one charter, or do they apply separately, do they apply this rather difficult machinery, or do they do nothing?

As to Lords Amendment No. 35, which continues the Royal prerogative, I have always maintained that there is no necessity to insert such a statement into a Bill because that prerogative exists already, and I am quite certain that the Royal prerogative would never be used to usurp the rights of Members of this House.

Mr. Cormack

I do not wish to detain the House for more than a moment or two, but I believe I was the first to raise this issue. I did so in Committee on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) who was not on the Committee but was in the unique position of having in his constituency several boroughs created in 1958, and he had noticed how greatly valued were their dignities and civic insignia, and how great was local civic pride in them. On his behalf I pressed in Committee the case of such localities, and my right hon. Friend was very gracious in listening to the arguments. When we returned to the attack on Report he gave an assurance that this would be looked at, and that something would be done in another place.

On behalf of my hon. Friend and myself I would like to thank him very much for what has been done. I think legitimate local aspirations and desires, and real and deep feelings, have been recognised. As the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) has pointed out, there may, perhaps, be a flaw in the drafting. Nevertheless, I thank my right hon. Friend very much for the spirit in which he has accepted our points, and for the changes which have been made.

Mr. Graham Page

With the leave of the House may I deal with the points which have been raised, particularly that on which, I hope, we shall be able to see a manuscript Amendment in print tomorrow? I have taken the gist of it. It is, as I understand it, to delete paragraph (b) of subsection (6) of the Lords new Clause as coming after Clause 238.

This is new; the whole of subsection (6) is new. Its genesis lies in the desire of the small boroughs which will not be districts on their own after reorganisation to retain their identity, and their existing civic dignities. The proposals contained in this subsection (6) are not confined to the existing boroughs. We did not see how we could confine it to local authorities which formed certain classes before reform. The subsection allows a parish council in England, or a community council in Wales, by simple resolution, as the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) pointed out, to adopt the status "town" for the area of the parish or community We thought it must follow from that that it would have the right to adopt the style of "town mayor" for the chairman of the parish or community council, and use the style "town meeting" for the parish meeting or community meeting.

That power applies only to parishes or communities which are under separate councils and, for example, to parishes which are too small to have a parish council or communities which are too small to have a community council. The effect of this innovation is to permit the ex-boroughs and ex-urban districts which have councils or parish councils, or any parish or community which considers itself to have the character of a town, to adopt the new statutory status by its own choice, but it is only if it adopts the status of a town.

I will consider the matter overnight and decide whether we have gone too far. My difficulty is that one would have to put a prohibition in if one did not want a parish, which wanted to call itself a town, to have a town mayor. That would be a difficult choice to make. One would have to put a prohibition in the Bill to the effect that one could not call one's chairman a mayor.

Mr. Oakes

I do not think there is the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman envisages. If he put after "community", the words "Prior to 1st April, 1974, a borough", surely that would meet the point. There are difficulties when one wants to merge two authorities and create a unified whole in having them still retaining their separate mayors, but that is another point.

Mr. Page

I am obliged for those suggestions. We shall reach only the point of dividing on the original Amendment tonight, if that is thought fit, and we shall have time to look at the matter overnight.

The point was raised about the position of a borough which has merged in a district which has applied for borough status by a new charter, and whether either of the boroughs which have merged retain any borough dignities. If the district has not applied for a charter, then it is clear in the Bill, and we have set out the rights of the previously constituted boroughs to retain their mayoralties. If the district has applied for a charter, then the only way in which the dignities of the merged boroughs can be retained is within the new charter. That is the only machinery by which it could be done.

Dr. Glyn

May I have my right hon. Friend's assurance that it is perfectly possible and proper to exercise that machinery?

Mr. Page

I cannot give any assurance as to what may be in the charter. The district will petition Her Majesty for certain rights and dignities under the charter in its new status as a borough, and it will be a matter for the constituent members of the new district to decide what petition to put before Her Majesty. That is as far as I can go. I am grateful to hon. Members for the points which have been raised within the new Clause. I think that I have covered them all.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.

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