§ 2.47 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government when a Statement can be expected relating to their review of the South-East Study; and whether, before being required to submit evidence to the Local Government Boundary Commission, local authorities in South-East England will be given adequate time to consider the implications of this review.]
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD CHAMPION)
My Lords, this review is making very good progress, but it is a difficult and complex matter and it is not yet possible to say when a Statement can be made. A large part of South-East England, as defined for the purposes of the Study, has of course already been reviewed by the Local Government Boundary Commission. In so far as the Commission have still to examine this area, the procedure laid down in the Local Government Act, 1958, should give local authorities ample opportunity to put forward their views in the light of the review of the South-East Study.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. Am I to assume that there will in fact be a Statement, as has been hinted in numerous speeches; that the Statement will not be long delayed, and that we shall be given ample opportunity of considering the implications of the report?
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, a Statement will most certainly be made; just exactly when, I cannot give the noble Lord any indication now. It is quite clear that we recognise the difficulties some local authorities in this area must be suffering under as a result of this little delay, and we shall try to speed up the matter as quickly as is humanly possible having regard to the fact that a plan must fit into the national plan as a whole.
§ LORD COHEN OF BRIGHTON
My Lords, so far as this Study is concerned, 151 is it possible to expedite the hearing before the Boundary Commission, which is very relevant to the Question of the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, because the delay is holding up any possibility of making a plan for the future of our towns in the South-East?
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, of course this is a matter very largely for the Commission itself. It has had a considerable job, a big undertaking. So far as the counties immediately surrounding London are concerned—Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey, West Sussex, East Sussex, Kent—the Boundary Commission will be starting to review this area, I would think, something around about six months from to-day. I am not quite sure of the date, of course; it is up to the Commission. But this will give ample opportunity for all the authorities in that area to consider the Government's Statement on it and then prepare their plans and proposals for the Commission.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, is my noble friend in a position to confirm the recently published statements in the Press, that the trend from the North to the South-East shows signs of being arrested?
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, this is an entirely different question. If my noble friend would care to put down a Question on the Order Paper, I should be happy to reply to it.