HC Deb 04 December 1991 vol 200 cc244-5
2. Mr. Pawsey

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what response he has so far received on his White Paper about reform of local government.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Michael Heseltine)

A list of the respondents to the consultation paper, "The Structure of Local Government in England" and copies of the responses were placed in the Library of the House on 14 October. There were 1,893 responses.

Mr. Pawsey

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the draft guidance issued by his Department does not require local authorities to be of any particular size to deliver an effective and efficient service? Does he agree that, generally speaking, smaller authorities are closer to local people and better able to reflect their needs and aspirations? Therefore, will he do what he can to encourage a response from small authorities to adopt the new powers?

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend will be glad to hear that in our draft guidance we have left considerable room for the discretion of the Local Government Commission. We are looking for authorities that can deliver efficient and effective services. Certainly there will be every opportunity for authorities of any potential size to put forward their views.

Mr. Pike

Does the Secretary of State accept that if local government is to be local, it is essential that we do not repeat the mistakes of the 1973–74 reorganisation and that any reorganisation must be acceptable to local people?

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman has obviously followed the Government's proposals, which are designed carefully to consult local people and to find out whether we can create local authorities that reflect a genuine sense of local community.

Mr. Channon

Does my right hon. Friend agree that his proposals are welcome, but that the sooner the uncertainty is removed the better? By what date does he believe that the reform of local government will be complete? Will he do his utmost to ensure that it is as quick as possible?

Mr. Heseltine

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his support. We expect that the first of the new authorities will be in place by April 1994. We have not set a date for the completion of the exercise, but I shall bear what he said very much in mind.