HL Deb 07 May 1962 vol 240 cc58-78

5.25 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Merthyr.)


My Lords, I do not exactly know what is the function of a member of the Opposition here. It seems to me that this is a matter in regard to which, so far as I can see, there are objections. But it is not for me to act as advocate in regard to any objections, and I therefore support the Motion.


My Lords, I rise to support the Second Reading of this Bill, not because I feel that the Burgh of Grangemouth necessarily has a convincing case, but because I believe the issues involved are of the greatest importance to the whole future concept and wellbeing of local government in Scotland, at any rate in the industrial belt of the country. I consider that these issues are such as to warrant the closest examination not only of the facts but also, and more importantly, of the general situation which could arise if Grangemouth achieved its object. The only way in which such an examination can now be made is by means of detailed discussion and consideration in Select Committee, to which this Bill must go if it is given a Second Reading.

The Town Council of Grangemouth are anxious to achieve large burgh status, on the ground that the population of the town is approaching 20,000, which is the minimum under the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929, for the grant of such status, and also on the ground that this young and thriving centre of modern industry, with its fine sea communications, expects, and appears to have every reason to expect, to continue to expand considerably over the years. In fact, they expect to achieve a population of 22,500 by 1964 and 30,000 by 1975. They consider that it is desirable, and indeed financially practicable, to have as much direct control as they can in order to plan this not inconsiderable development over the years. I think it will be agreed by your Lordships that, in the circumstances, this is a reasonable line of thought, and one which is in no way biased by the natural antipathy which small burghs invariably have against their big brother the county council.

On the other hand, the petitioners, for a variety of valid reasons, are opposed to Grangemouth's desire. The two county councils are, of course, concerned at the loss of income from industrial valuation and the consequential danger that rates would have to rise in the remainder of the counties. The County of Stirling, in particular, can point out that over the years they have geared their administrative arrangements to meet their responsibilities with regard to Grangemouth, and that the removal of 20,000 souls from a population of 130,000 will not result in any proportionate or even appreciable reduction in expenditure by the county council. To give an example, Stirling County's children's department consists of the children's officer and two assistants. Grangemouth's population represents about one-sixth of the total, but it would be impossible to reduce the staff of this department by one-sixth. Stirling County can also rightly say that many who work in Grangemouth live outside the burgh boundaries, and indeed outside the proposed new boundaries. If Grangemouth becomes a large burgh, the county will still have to continue to provide the same services to these workers without any assistance from the employers.

There are many other points which both sides have made in their submissions, but I do not intend to bore your Lordships by recounting them. I should, however, like to make some observations on general policy. No new large burgh has been formed since 1929, when Arbroath, with a population of under 20,000, was given that status as an exception. At present, there are half-a-dozen or so small burghs in the industrial belt which are either just over 20,000, or close on that figure. If Grangemouth succeeds in its desire to become a large burgh, a precedent will have been set; and even if circumstances are different, it will be difficult to deny to one something which has already been given to another.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, when speaking to members of the Association of County Councils in Scotland on March 16 this year, spoke about the inter-dependence of communities and the need in these days to look far beyond the old administrative boundaries which were defined centuries ago to suit the conditions of a very different age from ours. He rightly stressed that the natural economic region is often far larger than most counties or burghs. We must therefore recognise that developments in one district tend to benefit a much wider area than was the case even, shall I say, 25 years ago. My Lords, I agree with my right honourable friend, and I have often wished, from my own local government experience, that the parish pump watered a larger area.

In conclusion, I hope that I have made it clear to your Lordships, without bias to one side or to the other, and without going into too much detail, that, apart from the facts of this particular case, there is a real need to consider the problem in the wider field and to study all the implications which could arise, whether or not Grangemouth is finally successful in its object. I would therefore ask my noble friend Lord Craigton for an assurance that at the appropriate time the wider problem will be very carefully considered, and, in order to ensure that it will be, I support the Second Reading of this Bill.

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened with great interest to the noble Earl who has just sat down, and there is of course great weight in what he has said in general terms and in terms of administration. I hope your Lordships will agree to give the Bill a Second Reading and to commit it, but, if I were to disagree with the noble Earl, it would be because he implied that Grangemouth was much like any other small burgh. I take the contrary view, and, with your permission, I feel it would be proper for me to bring to your Lordships' notice, if only for the record, the features of the Bill which attract attention—or which certainly attract my attention.

The fact is, my Lords, that there is more in this matter, to me, than just the dry-as-dust administrative problems, because there iS a romance about Grangemouth and its growth which thrills me and much of the Scottish countryside. Its growth since I was a boy has been remarkable; and, of course, the proportion of its growth which has taken place in the last decade has been absolutely fantastic. The Forth and Clyde Canal created Grangemouth. Why?—because John Smeaton decided that at that spot the sea-lock at the Canal's eastern end should be located. The Canal was completed in 1790, only three years after Grangemouth's foundation-stone had been laid, and it is difficult at this distance of time to appreciate what that Canal must have meant, a century and a half ago, to Scottish industry and to the development of Scotland's industrial belt.

Enterprise, my Lords, has always been Grangemouth's watchword. Ingenium vincit omnia is its motto. In 1802 the first practical steamship in the world, the "Charlotte Dundas", was built there to operate as a tug on the Canal. Many a carronade for Nelson's ships must have been shipped from its quays to the dockyards in the South. The burgh as such was formed in 1872, with an area of about 450 acres and a population of 2,500. To-day it covers something approaching 3,500 acres, with a population approaching 19,000—which is expected to increase to 30,000 by 1975. The rateable value, at £1,053,000, is higher than in 14 out of the 20 large burghs which exist to-day, and higher than in 20 of the 33 county councils in Scotland. It is now the second largest port in Scotland, and is the centre of the Scottish oil-refining and petrochemical industry; Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited, have a large chemical works there. It has a large timber trade and a growing export business, particularly on the short routes to the Continent, which many of us believe have a great future.

With these introductory remarks, my Lords, I turn to the main objects of the Bill. It contains 36 clauses, but, happily, I need not deal with them, certainly not in detail, as they contain the usual administrative provisions consequential upon the powers which are being sought, powers such as are contained in many a local authority Bill which passes through your Lordships' hands in a year. In any case, these are really meat for a Committee. The first main object of the Bill is to be found in Part II, which contains powers to extend the boundaries: namely, to take in 419 acres of land from the County of Stirling, and 1,107 acres of foreshore; and 590 acres of land from the County of West Lothian, and 482 acres of foreshore. I am informed that the Town Council's main concern is to provide and service additional lands for expanding and incoming industries. These industries, I would emphasise, are already in the burgh and are served by the burgh. Would it not be better that that relationship should continue? In addition to actual industries, there is, of course, the concomitant need for housing, schools and open spaces which must accompany it. The areas it is proposed to bring within the burgh are already largely owned by the Grangemouth Town Council and industrialists who are established in the burgh.

The second main feature, Part III, is where it is proposed that Grangemouth should become a large burgh, and here is the problem which the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, has just brought so wisely to your Lordships' notice. The large and small burghs of Scotland are set out in Parts III and IV of the First Schedule of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947. Prior to that Act a large burgh was defined as follows: Large burgh means a burgh containing a population of 20,000 or upwards and includes the Burgh of Arbroath. Now, my Lords, Arbroath's population is less than 20,000.

The question of the population of large burghs was considered by the Jeffrey Committee which reported in 1939–1 quoted from the Act of 1929—and it is possibly proper that I should quote to you from the Jeffrey Report, where at paragraph 82 it says: The existing law in regard to local government makes no provision for changing a small burgh into a large burgh, and it was suggested to us that this was an omission which ought to be remedied. It appears to us that the questions which must arise in connection with a proposal to add to the number of large burghs will be so complicated and so important that it would not be appropriate to include provision on the subject in our draft Bill. The matter is one which, like the alteration of the boundaries of counties and large burghs, can be dealt with satisfactorily only by special legislation. The formation of a populous place into a large burgh would raise similar complicated and important questions and the draft Bill, like the existing law, makes no provision for it. We regard the granting of the status of a large burgh as a matter for special legislation. It is clear, from what is happening today and from the speech of the noble Earl who has just sat down, that that view expressed in the Jeffrey Report was a very wise one. By the way, 1 think that the noble Earl has just confirmed that this is the first occasion in the 33 years since the 1929 Act that a small burgh has sought to become a large burgh.

When the Act of 1947 was passed, large and small burghs were listed, but the population figure of 20,000 had disappeared. However that may be, if 20,000 is still regarded as the population figure which justifies the establishment of a large burgh—and, clearly, it is so regarded in some people's minds, if it is not actually in the Act—then Grangemouth will have reached that figure by the time this Act comes into force in May, 1963. But even so, population may not be the only criterion in an industrial place like Grangemouth. The type of plant in the oil and chemical undertakings in Grangemouth does not call for large numbers of operatives, no matter how large the installation may be. Indeed, in my view the number of operatives is no longer the yardstick of the magnitude of an industrial undertaking. There are, of course, other criteria—community of interest, trading services, town planning.

I am tempted to refer to a paper read only a few weeks ago at the 69th Health Congress at Scarborough, where in a paper on "The Shape of the Future", Dr. Bronowski used the words: The small town of the future can be as well equipped, physically and intellectually, as the largest modern city. "He went on to say: I think that you can do all these things in a town round about thirty thousand strong, and this is my forecast of the size of the new industrial communities in the future. The unique planning problems related to the expansion of Grangemouth would, I feel, best be solved by the Town Council's having its own planning arrangements, which, of course, are not available under small burgh status; though, indeed, the town to-day employs its own planning consultant.

I come now to the -third object of the Bill—namely, that the Council shall become the water authority responsible for water supply in the areas proposed to be added. This seems to me a logical consequence. The Town Council have the necessary resources. Indeed, the Council have recently taken a prominent part in the development of an additional source of supply—I refer, of course, to the Loch Turret scheme—and Grangemouth is now one of the largest water undertakings in Scotland. This has been developed to meet the needs of existing and incoming industry. The Council own all the water that the area uses, and it uses it in great quantity, 80 per cent. of it being supplied to industry. In any event, I am advised that other water boards in the area could not supply such needs from their existing resources.

In coming to Parliament for these powers Grangemouth may be creating a precedent, but I feel confident that, if your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading and allow it to go to Committee, it will be shown on the merits that there is a special case for the powers which Grangemouth seeks—Grangemouth, the hum of whose activities and the blaze of whose light dominate the upper reaches of the Firth of Forth. My Lords, I support the Motion for the Second Reading.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, I rise very briefly to support the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill. It so happens that Grangemouth was part of the constituency which I represented in another place 30 years ago, but that is not my reason for seeking to address your Lordships this afternoon. I would say nothing about the burgh expansion or the water supply provisions. Those are in familiar form. Committees of this House have been accustomed to dealing with them for generations, and I do not suppose that any special, novel point is raised by these matters. But the third main provision of the Bill, the change of status from a small burgh to a large burgh is, as has been said, a novelty, and I think it is worthy of a little consideration. I do not suppose the relevant facts will be in dispute at all, but policy probably will be.

As your Lordships know, the division between large and small burghs originated in the legislation of 1929. I am bound to say that there were quite a number of provisions in that Act which I never liked, but I have always thought that the division between large and small burghs was, on the Whole, a good one, and that the line was drawn in about the right place. I have no reason to suppose that that situation has seriously changed. It is perfectly true that no one has attempted to alter the status of any burgh during the last 33 years, but I think the reason is that there has never really been a comparable case. I am afraid that one's recollection about these matters becomes, perhaps, a little hazy, and I have not checked what I am about to say. When these matters were discussed at the end of the last war this point came up, and I do not remember anybody suggesting, in public or in private, that there should never be a change in the present lists. Undoubtedly at that stage there was no sufficient case for moving any burgh from one list to the other. However, there might well be such a case in the future; and there were two things which could have been done.

On the one hand, the new Act might have contained a statement of the conditions which had to be fulfilled if a burgh was to remain in, or join, the ranks of the large burghs. The other way was the way which was adopted following on the recommendation of the Jeffrey Committee: that the matter should be left for consideration in each particular case as it arose. I think that everybody who hoped that Scotland would develop—and everybody did—realised that the time would come, sooner or later (and preferably sooner, rather than later), when some change would be necessary; and it will be for the consideration of the Committee whether that time has now come with regard to Grangemouth.

I think that one has to consider not only the present position but the apparent future trend. Because if the present growth of Grangemouth continues as everybody supposes it will, and if it should then appear inevitable that a Change ought to be made, one would suppose that convenience would require the Change to be made sooner rather than later. If, on the other hand, of course, the future development of the town were wholly problematical, the case would be quite different. But I do not myself see why this should be delayed simply because there may have to be, sooner or later, some general reorganisation of the local government "set-up" (if I may use the word) in Scotland. It may be that some day the present arrangements will have to be overhauled as a whole, but those things have a habit of taking longer to achieve than one expects, and I see no reason why that should be an argument for postponing the consideration of this particular issue.

When one finds a burgh which is already on the threshold of having the requisite population, which has a larger rateable value than is normal with populations of that kind, and which shows every sign of growing pretty rapidly, I should have thought that there was a very strong case to send to the Committee. Of course, what the Committee will decide one does not know, but I assume that they will be assisted by evidence from the Scottish Office, and I assume that they will be fully in a position to decide the matters of policy which inevitably arise on this application. I see no reason to suppose that those matters will not be fully, adequately and rightly considered, and properly decided, and I would therefore firmly support the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill.

5.54 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise to your Lordships for making a second speech in the same afternoon. Whether or not it will prove to be what my noble friend referred to as "another typical speech", I can hardly tell. I believe the key to this debate is found in that part of the Petition by the County of West Lothian which was originally presented against the Provisional Order where they say: Your Petitioners believe that there is no justification for the constitution of the Burgh of Grangemouth as a large Burgh and that any such alteration of the status of the Burgh in the circumstances now existing would be contrary to the interests of good local government and administration in Scotland". In other words, they draw attention to the matter of broadest principle which is inherent in this Bill, and which I think is also implicit in the fact that it is being dealt with by a substituted Private Bill, its having been refused permission to proceed as a Provisional Order by the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, and his colleague, the Chairman of Ways and Means, in another place.

I, too, would support the Motion that this Bill should be read a second time, but in sending it upstairs to a Select Committee I do hope that the debate this afternoon will have presented a broad background to the considerations of that Committee, against which they can view the effects of this particular Bill in the whole setting of local government in Scotland to-day. Although the creation of a new large burgh has not previously come before your Lordships' House since 1929, it is, of course, very similar to what is a most familiar characteristic of Private Bills—that is, a request by an English urban district council to be turned into a county borough. This has been going on frequently over the past 30 years. South of the Border there has, of course, been a chequered history of local government reform proposals, ending up with the 1958 Local Government Act, which set up the Commission which is at present sitting. At the same time, the Herbert Commission was appointed, which went into the local government of the London Area and whose Report will no doubt be very recent in the memory of your Lordships.

The wider Commission has, of course, made the most remarkable and fundamental suggestions with regard to English local government, which is as far as it has reached so far. For instance, it has suggested the abolition of the county boroughs of Burton and of Worcester; it has suggested doing away with Rutland and merging the Isle of Ely and the Soke of Peterborough Council; it has put forward a completely new conglomeration of county boroughs in the Birmingham area; and it has proposed an entirely new local government borough for Tyneside. So, quite apart from the London proposals, south of the Border the matter has been fundamentally looked at, and some very far-reaching and startling ideas have emerged. Of course, the purpose behind all the considerations of both Commissions has been that the cardinal object of local government is the efficient and economic administration of the sort of services provided by local government, and not local government for the sake of local government or for the personal satisfaction of the people involved in it, whether councillors or officials. Of course, the people involved must be enthusiastic, and must feel that they have something worth while carrying out, but theirs is not the prime reason for the existence of local government, or for the services which it administers.

In Scotland, in contrast to the picture south of the Border, there has recently been no such general overhaul and examination of the structure. The 1929 Act was the last that produced any major reorganisation, and the Jeffrey Committee, to which reference has been made by several noble Lords this afternoon, was not set up with anything but terms of reference to deal with consolidation and machinery, except that they were allowed to put forward amendments to the law which would facilitate consolidation and secure simplicity, uniformity and conciseness; and their Report was very largely implemented by the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947.

My Lords, what I have just been saying on the very broad picture is, I believe, relevant to this Bill because a large burgh in Scotland is more or less equivalent to a county borough in England. Within it there is single-tier government, except for the purposes of education: and, of course, there is a difference in the population levels, too, because whereas in England the generally acceptable level for county borough status is about 100,000 people, in Scotland it still seems to be in the region of 20,000, although, as the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, said, that is not mentioned in the 1947 Act. In fact, the largest of the large burghs in Scotland is Paisley, with a population of 95,000; and, if my arithmetic is correct, I make the average of all the large burghs to have been about 43,500 in 196l. Grangemouth, I believe, has got a perfectly reasonable case to put forward. Other noble Lords have mentioned its present population, and that to which it will rise, or is intended to rise according to the development plan, by 1975.

My noble friend Lord Mar and Kellie also mentioned, I think, the rateable value, which in 1961 was £969,000, and in fact at the moment is calculated to be just over £1 million. I notice also that there are only 6 out of the 20 existing large burghs which exceed that figure. Grangemouth, too, has a rateable value per head of population which is twice the highest of that of any large burgh or county city in the whole of Scotland. It is clear that this is a growing and thriving place. Industry is at the moment the real tonic which Scotland needs, and I am sure that that is the point which noble Lords opposite were really making when discussing the Housing Bill earlier this afternoon.

With Cumbernauld, Grangemouth is probably the "white hope" of industry and the expansion of the Scottish economy at the moment, and in such circumstances I am sure it is right that everything possible should be done which would enable it efficiently (o expand, attract industry, grow and thrive. Also, it is probably right to distinguish between a small burgh which is growing in that way and one which is, although much the same in size of population, more or less a static, and possibly even stagnant, community. So I do not think that anyone would disagree that there is a prima facie case here which ought to go upstairs to the Select Committee; nor indeed say that the town council of Grangemouth have been wrong in choosing private legislation as the method of promoting their case. I am sure that the Jeffrey Committee were right when they said that this was the proper method of doing it, and so other noble Lords have thought this afternoon. However, the fact that the legislation is promoted is not necessarily the same as saying that it will be passed, and that is why I wish the Select, Committee to take extra care in their consideration of this particular Bill.

My Lords, I have already said that there is no Commission in Scotland at the moment inquiring into local government in general. I wonder, first of all, whether the very fact that Grangemouth has applied to become a large burgh might not be the spur which Her Majesty's Government need to set up such a Commission. In view of what I am about to say, I hope that my noble friend Lord Graigton may be able to say something in his speech in reply in a moment. It is true—and I have no doubt that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reid, is right—that even if this were to be set up, it is not necessarily right that Grangemouth should wait for its results before the proposals in this Bill are considered. Nevertheless, I do believe that this is an introduction to the more general issue.

The background against which I think the Select Committee ought to look at this Bill, and also the evidence which the Scottish Office will, I am sure, prepare for it, should be looked at in two ways. First of all, will this bring forward a flow of other similar applications? My noble friend Lord Mar and Kellie suggested that there were other places which might like, as it were, to jump on the band wagon. Looking at the figures, Buckhaven and Methil have a population of 21,000, and Johnstone, Kirkintilloch and Renfrew are all in the region of 18,000 and are possible candidates. They are all growing places, and Renfrew has a very high rateable value and rateable value per head of population. Although it is a new town at the moment, no doubt later on East Kilbride might also be a candidate, for it already has a population of 32,000 people.

What seems to me to be the real crux of this matter has, I think, been mentioned by nobody else this afternoon so far, and that is that the proposais in this Bill are proposals towards fragmentation of local government. So far as I can make out, this is directly in contrast to the present trend of local government north of the Border. The Jeffrey Report mentioned and reinforced the powers of all sorts of local authorities to combine voluntarily by means of joint committees to fulfil various duties which were laid upon them, and I see that in Section 119 of the 1947 Local Government (Scotland) Act the suggestion of the Jeffrey Committee on the powers of the Secretary of State to force compulsory combinations has in fact been adopted.

But whatever the powers may be, the opportunities presented by them have been grasped most strongly by Scottish local authorities, and I should like to give your Lordships a small example of what has been done in terms of combination of authorities in order to fulfil local government duties. I have selected a county which seems to have come in for much mention this afternoon already, Roxburghshire. 1 see that it is combined with Selkirkshire for civil defence and its valuation committee. It is combined with the surrounding counties for its fire services, with Selkirk and Berwick for its police, probation and road safety committee; with Berwick, Selkirk and Peebles for Tweed River purification and weights and measures; and with Peebles and Selkirk for its superannuation committee. Stirlingshire, which is one of the counties involved in this particular Bill, is combined with Clackmannan for police, fire services, probation and valuation. It is also combined with Fife, Perth, Clackmannan, West Lothian and the large burghs therein for Forth River purification; with Falkirk and Stirling for accident prevention, road safety and also weights and measures; and with Falkirk for water.

There are, of course, many other similar examples all over Scotland which could be quoted. It is a widespread pattern and I think it is inevitable when you have small counties and big, some of the counties, indeed, being the smallest. For example, there are Kinross, Nairn and Bute, where I have noted, as a matter of interest, that not since number plates on motor vehicles began has any of those counties registered, I believe, many more than 3,000 motor vehicles—a remarkable state of affairs for a period of some 60 years. Kinross and Nairn are, of course, statutorily combined with Perthshire and Morayshire for a large number of county council functions.

My noble friend Lord Mar and Kellie mentioned the approval given for this sort of trend by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, when he spoke in March of this year. I will not repeat what he said, but the whole emphasis of what he was saying in the context of the growth of industry and the economy of Scotland is, of course, most closely and vitally tied up with the question of planning—of regional planning, and of planning for larger areas than simply county councils. Again, one of the most important things the provisions of this Bill would lead to would be rather the fragmentation of planning into smaller areas than the building up of planning provisions into larger economic regions, because Grangemouth Town Council would become the town planning authority for its own area.

There are, of course, the usual questions in matters of this kind, which again have already been mentioned, such as the viability of Stirlingshire without Grangemouth's rates—indeed, a very large chunk of the rateable value of the county would inevitably go—the proportionally increased burden in terms of staff, and the possibility, which 1 think is a considerable one, of the county, and perhaps West Lothian, too, having to house the workers in Grangemouth, provide them with services, education, and so on, while the new large burgh would get the rates from the industry in which they work. They are all familiar questions in matters of this kind, and questions which the Select Committee will have to consider on their merits. But the fundamental question must be that of the reorganisation of local government, whether or not this Bill is premature in that respect, and 1 wonder whether, in fact, Her Majesty's Government have any plans for a Commission for Scotland similar to that now doing such noble and challenging work south of the Border.

There is one other respect in which I believe the Select Committee ought to consider the question of prematurity; and that is, the question of water supplies. Perhaps, on the face of it, it is a small matter that Grangemouth should seek to take into the area of its water undertaking all the areas constituting the burgh, including, no doubt, those which it hopes will be added under this Bill; but the fact remains that the world of water in central Scotland is at the moment a very troubled one. The Secretary of State has recently reconstituted the Scottish Water Advisory Committee, with a remit to advise him about the whole problem of water supplies in central Scotland, which are by no means in a healthy position.

Grangemouth has plenty of water at the moment, as, wisely and with great foresight, it has joined with Perthshire and Clackmannanshire in getting water from the Loch Turret scheme. It also gets water from the Stirlingshire and Falkirk Water Board, which supplies, in part at least, almost all the other area undertakings in the centre of Scotland. But that Board has now reached the position where it has been forced to say that, unless some peculiar and fundamental steps are taken, it is in danger of being able to produce no more bulk supplies. The Board has had to say to the New Town of Cumbernauld (which is one of the main focal points of industrial growth in central Scotland) that it may not be able to supply any more water. And if that were to happen the subsequent growth of this town might cease altogether. The new car factory at Bathgate and the proposed New Town of Livingstone will no doubt increase the difficulty.

Although, no doubt, plans can be worked out to cope with the situation, probably by sharing out the Loch Turret water, any provision of this Bill to alter the present set-up must inevitably come within the scope of the Advisory Committee and be liable to be altered. But in taking this step, presumably the matter will be dealt with more quickly than through the general reorganisation of local government in Scotland, and I think that the Select Committee should carefully consider whether this matter of water ought not to be left out of the Bill and dealt with in the general reorganisation that I think is bound to come. Therefore Part V of the Bill, which deals with water provision, may also be premature. This is the range of matters which I hope that the Select Committee will consider carefully and in which their views will be helped by evidence from the Scottish Office. As I have said, I do not wish to delay the Second Reading of this Bill. I believe that it is an important and novel measure before Parliament, which ought to receive scrutiny of the highest care and diligence.

6.14 p.m.


My Lords, I have been in and out of Grangemouth many times in the last twenty years and it has always struck me as a place that seemed to grow in front of my eyes. One thing I am quite sure of is that if I were an inhabitant of Grangemouth I should think it of great importance that the town should become its own planning authority. The whole future of Grangemouth and the comfort of its inhabitants will depend on good planning. I do not cast any aspersion on any planning authority in Scotland, and certainly, and specifically, not on the planning authority of West Lothian. But my experience teils me that sometimes small burghs feel that they do not get as good planning as they would like. They probably feel that they are thought of as humble, and planning takes place more with regard to economy than with regard to amenities. I am sure that this is not the case with West Lothian, and I am not suggesting it for a moment. Probably it is not the case with any planning authority in Scotland. But I quite understand that small burghs may feel a little restive, and when they grow to the size of Grangemouth I am perfectly certain that they would feel much happier if they were responsible for their own planning.

6.16 p.m.


My Lords, I will speak only briefly. By allowing the Bill a Second Reading, your Lordships will be taking the view, with which the Government agree, that there should be an opportunity for its merits and demerits to be further examined. The Select Comimittee, of course, will hear the views both of the promoters and of the objectors and it will be open to the Committee to reject all or any part of the Bill after careful examination.

My noble friend Lord Ferrier referred to the Report of the Jeffrey Committee on Local Government Law Consolidation, which explains why there is no provision in the 1947 Act. It is clear that, though they are the first to seek such a change, Grangemouth are nevertheless taking the steps that it was expected would be taken when the 1947 Act was passed.

It has been suggested by several noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, in a typically well-informed speech, that the Government should institute a full inquiry into the structure of local government in Scotland. The Governmen't are not committed to any such inquiry, and it would be wrong for me to commit them in the context of this Bill. I do not deny, however, that in the light of the Toot-hill Report, and the emphasis which must be placed in the future on economic growth, an examination of the Scottish local government system may well be necessary. But I agree with my noble and learned friend, Lord Reid, that the possiblity of such an examination should not be allowed to hold up the proper consideration of practical proposals considered urgent in particular areas. The Government do not express any views on the merits of the case at this stage. If your Lordships give the Bill a Second Reading, my right honourable friend will follow the normal practice of making a Report to the Select Committee. I hope that your Lordships will decide to follow the usual practice on this occasion and allow this Bill to proceed.

6.18 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words in reply on this Bill. First of all, there may have been a little surprise in some quarters that I did not make a speech in moving that the Bill be read a second time. May I therefore explain that it is not customary for the Chairman of Committees to make a speech in moving the Second Reading of any Private Bill? If he apprehends that there is sufficient opposition to the Bill to make it possible or likely that the Bill might be rejected, then it is his duty to secure some other Member of your Lordships' House to be an advoca'te on the Second Reading of the Bill. Today, although I was aware that several Members of the House wished to comment on this Bill, I was informed, in response to inquiries, that no Member wished to move the rejection of this Bill and, so far as I could ascertain, that no Member wished to prevent its having a Second Reading. Therefore, in moving the Second Reading without any comment I followed custom, and if I unwittingly embarrassed the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, by so doing, I apologise to him. However, I did send him a note warning him of what I was going to do, and I hope therefore that I was not wrong. Incidentally, may I say how glad I am to see him back after his illness?

There are very few things I want to say in reply to this debate. Another point which perhaps your Lordships may be a little curious about is this. How comes it, you may ask, that a Private Bill, related wholly to Scotland, is moved on the Floor of the House, whereas in almost every case the Bill proceeds in Scotland by a Provisional Order and not by Private Bill? It may be of interest if I explain that under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1936, the normal course is for Bills which are on all fours with Private Bills in England to proceed instead in Scotland by a Provisional Order. But there are provisions in that Act which provide that where the Provisional Order procedure is objeoted to, an appeal can be made to the Chairman of Ways and Means and myself. If, in our opinion, a sufficient case is made out for the Bill to proceed not by Provisional Order, but by Private Bill, then we so decide.

I may mention that that happened in this case. There was a controversy about the procedure to be adopted. Some of the petitioners against the Bill were of the opinion that part of the Bill should proceed by Private Bill and part by Provisional Order. To cut the story short, I may say that we decided—I hope rightly—that the whole Bill should proceed by way of Private Bill procedure. I have explained why there are so few Private Bills from Scotland on the Floor of the House; but once that decision is taken—and it was taken in February—the Bill proceeds in exactly the same way as any other Private Bill. The fact that it comes from Scotland is henceforward irrelevant. I may add that in deciding whether it should proceed by Private Bill or by Provisional Order the two questions which the two Chairmen have to bear in mind are: first, whether it relates to matters outside Scotland—and in this case that, of course, did not apply; and secondly, whether it relates to matters which are "of such novelty and importance" (those are the exact words) that it ought to be dealt with by a Private Bill. So I was comforted to hear the opinion of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reid, that this was at any rate a question of novelty, if not of importance, and I hope we came to the right decision. That is how the Bill comes here to-day.

Having said that, may I say this? So far as I am aware, beyond that point there is nothing about this Bill which is unusual. The fact that it is opposed is, of course, not unusual at all. That leads me to say this. Throughout this debate, with the exception of the noble Lord who has just sat down, who expressed no opinion on the merits of the Bill, every speaker, so far as I can tell, has been on the whole in favour, if not of the Bill's becoming law, at least of its being referred to a Select Committee.

I should just like to say what will happen. The Bill will go to a Select Committee in the ordinary way. The fact that it is a Scottish Bill, as I have said, makes no difference. The Committee is to sit soon under the Chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes—and I should like to say this because the debate has been so onesided this afternoon. It is my province to protect the interests of the opponents of this Bill alike with the interests of the promoters. I am told that the Committee stage of the Bill may occupy anything from ten to fourteen days, which may be some indication to your Lordships that the real debate may not be quite so one-sided as it has been this afternoon. There are six petitioners against the Bill: the County Councils of Stirling and West Lothian, the Burghs of Kilsyth and Bo'ness and two water boards. Your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that those six petitioners are likely to have quite a little to say about this Bill upstairs.

There is one other detail which I think I might mention. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Reid, and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, both mentioned that no doubt there would be evidence from the Scottish Office on this Bill. I should like to make a slight correction there. I do not think there is any difference with this Bill, so I am saying, with some confidence, that Government Departments cannot give evidence before Private Bill Committees. The procedure is that Government Departments—and no doubt the Scottish Office will follow the usual procedure—make a report to the Committee on the Bill. The Committee consider the report. The report is either considered by the Select Committee, or by myself later. I wanted to say that it is not proper for any Government Department to give evidence on oath on a Private Bill Committee. I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I make that small correction. Those are the only comments that I should like to make in reply to this debate.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Select Committee.

Report from the Committee of Selection, That the following Lords be proposed to the House to form the Select Committee for the consideration of the said Bill; (viz.):

agreed to; and the said Lords appointed accordingly.