HC Deb 18 January 1995 vol 252 cc691-2
1. Mrs. Angela Knight

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the local government review in Derbyshire.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. John Gummer)

The commission published its final report on Derbyshire last Wednesday. There is a six-week period for representations to the Department of the Environment.

Mrs. Knight

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widely held view of Derbyshire people that their arguments in favour of unitary authorities were ignored by the commission from the start? While Derby city rightly gets its independence under the proposals, does he agree that the benefits of unitary authorities should be spread more widely across Derbyshire, rather than leaving so many people to struggle on under the currently imperfect two-tier system?

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend will know that during this period I have to listen very carefully to views from all sides, and I have noted very clearly what she and many of her colleagues think. At the end of the six-week period I shall have to make up my mind as to what to present to Parliament.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that in the course of the Local Government Commission's discussions—which extended over many months, during which the Minister sent the commission back to test the water again—every single piece of evidence from all the polling surveys made it clear that the Derbyshire people wanted to retain the status quo? It has been an extremely costly exercise for the taxpayers of Derbyshire and for Britain as a whole. It is time that the Minister got off his political high horse and stopped trying to disassemble Derbyshire just because he does not like its political complexion. Why does the Minister not accept the survey results?

Mr. Gummer

There is clearly a difference of view in Derbyshire which has already been represented in the House today. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that, once the discussion period has ended, we should lay the order with due speed. I hope that he will ask his hon. Friends not to hold up all the orders until the end of the process because that would cause considerable difficulty for the people who work in Derbyshire and the districts. I hope that the Labour party will support a speedy process.