HC Deb 04 April 1984 vol 57 cc943-4
1. Mr. Wareing

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has received any further responses to Cmnd. 9063, "Streamlining the Cities," since he last answered oral questions.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Patrick Jenkin)

Yes. I have now received over 2,300 responses in total.

Mr. Wareing

What proportion of those responses call into question the right hon. Gentleman's proposals? Is he willing to accept the responses of the Merseyside chamber of commerce that Merseyside county council has successfully promoted economic and business activity in the region and that the abolition of that council would result in no savings for the business community on Merseyside? Bearing in mind that the right hon. Gentleman told the Tory party conference last October that it should listen to the voice of industry, is it not about time that he practised what he preached?

Mr. Jenkin

The Government were elected on a clear manifesto commitment to carry out this reform of the structure of local government in metropolitan areas, and we propose to do that.

Mr. Cormack

Will my right hon. Friend give further thought to issuing a White Paper detailing his considered proposals when he has had an opportunity to reflect on all the representations that have been made to him?

Mr. Jenkin

I am considering the best way to announce our decisions on a number of matters about which we have received representations. I hope to show some of the Government's thinking when I move the Second Reading of the Local Government (Interim Provisions) Bill which I introduced last Friday.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

Further to the reply given to me by the Under-Secretary on 7 March, may I ask when the right hon. Gentleman proposes to publish the full objections and representations that he has had about the White Paper?

Mr. Jenkin

As I said when I answered questions last time, it would be contrary to all precedent for the Government to publish all the representations that they have received. We shall make available shortly, I hope before the weekend, a brief summary analysis of the main points. That will be followed as soon as possible thereafter by the full summary analysis of the representations.

Mr. Jessel

Does my right hon. Friend know how much ratepayers' money the GLC has spent on propaganda in favour of its own continuation?

Mr. Jenkin

The figures that I have seen suggest that up to the end of March it spent more than £2 million and that it has budgeted to spend a further £1 million in the remainder of the calendar year. Many ratepayers will regard that as a gross abuse of ratepayers' money.

Dr. Cunningham

As the proposals are against all precedent, why are the House and the 18 million people who will be affected by the proposals being denied any sight of the evidence? Is it not true that there is no manifesto commitment for the abolition of elections in 1985 as is being proposed? Does the Secretary of St ate not recognise that he is setting a very dangerous constitutional precedent in taking this course of action?

Mr. Jenkin

On the contrary, all the precedents are in favour of what the Government are doing. In each previous local government reorganisation, in 1963 and 1972, provisions were introduced with wording very similar to that in the Bill which I hope the House will debate next week.

Dr. Cunningham

They were by-elections.

Mr. Jenkin

As well as catching by-elections, the provisions caught ordinary elections for county boroughs and urban and rural district elections, many of which were elected by thirds. We happen to be dealing with a council the whole of which is up for election, but the principle is the same.