§ 4.20 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE EARL OF LONGFORD)
My Lords, with permission, I should like to repeat a Statement which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made in another place. His words were:
"The House will recall that, on the 10th of February, I announced that the 1287 Counsellors of State acting on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen had approved the setting up of Royal Commissions to undertake a comprehensive review of local government in England and Scotland respectively.
"I am now happy to be able to tell the House that Her Majesty has been pleased to approve the appointment of Sir John Maud as Chairman of the Royal Commission on Local Government in England, and of the right honourable Lord Wheatley as Chairman of the Royal Commission on Local Government in Scotland.
"I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the terms of reference for the two Commissions and the names of the other members.
"When the House has had an opportunity to study the details, all honourable and right honourable gentlemen will, I think, agree with me that these are powerful Commissions on which we can place our hopes. I am sure we all wish them well in their work."
My Lords, that concludes the Statement of the Prime Minister.
§ Following is the information referred to in the Statement:
The terms of reference for the Royal Commission on Local Government in England are:
To consider the structure of Local Government in England, outside Greater London, in relation to its existing functions; and to make recommendations for authorities and boundaries, and for functions and their division, having regard to the size and character of areas in which these can be most effectively exercised and the need to sustain a viable system of local democracy.
§ The names of the members are:
- Sir John Maud, G.C.B., C.B.E. (Chairman),
- Mr. J. E. Bolton, D.S.C. (Vice-Chairman),
- Mr. V. G. H. Feather, C.B.E.,
- Sir Francis Hill, C.B.E.,
- Mr. J. I. Longland,
- Mr. A. H. Marshall, C.B.E., Ph.D.,
- Mr. Peter Mursell, M.B.E., D.L.,
- Mr. Derek Senior,
- Dame Evelyn Sharp, C.B.E.,
- Mr. T. D. Smith,
- Mr. R. C. Wallis, J.P.
The terms of reference for the Royal Commission on Local Government in Scotland are:
To consider the structure of Local Government in Scotland in relation to its existing functions; and to make recommendations for authorities and boundaries, and for functions and their division, having regard
to the size and character of areas in which these can be most effectively exercised and the need to sustain a viable system of local democracy.
§ The names of the members are:
- The Right Honourable Lord Wheatley (Chairman),
- Miss M. B. Harvie Anderson, O.B.E., T.D.,
- M.P. (Mrs. J. F. P. Skrimshire),
- Mr. Henry Ballantyne, D.L., J.P.,
- The Right Honourable Thomas Fraser, M.P.,
- Mr. A. L. Imrie, C.B.E.,
- Mr. D. R. Johnstone, M.P.,
- Mr. James McBoyle, C.B.E., D.L.,
- Mr. H. T. MacCalman.
§ One further member will be appointed shortly.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl the Leader of the House for repeating the Prime Minister's Statement, and I congratulate the Government on securing the services of Sir John Maud and Lord Wheatley as Chairmen of these two Commissions. I am sure that we all agree that these are admirable choices, and I should like to echo the words of the Statement in wishing the Chairmen and the members of their Commissions well in their important work.
I have one question to put to the noble Earl. The establishment of these Commissions has inevitably created a great deal of uncertainty in local government circles. While this uncertainty is natural, it is also potentially harmful and should clearly be dispelled as quickly as possible, since those who work in local government wish to know where they stand. Can the noble Earl give us any indication when the Government expect these two Commissions to report?
§ LORD WADE
My Lords, may I join in welcoming the appointment of these two distinguished gentlemen as Chairmen of these Commissions? I also hope that we may have some indication as to when the Commissions will commence work, and how long the reviews will take. Lastly, could the noble Earl the Leader of the House give any indication as to the position with regard to Wales?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Lord, Lord Wade, for their support of these Commissions, and for their approval of the names of the Chairmen. I am sure there are many friends of Sir John Maud in this House who would agree that he 1289 is the ideal choice. And the same holds good of Lord Wheatley.
May I answer the point raised by both noble Lords, and say that it is hoped that the Commissions will report in not more than two years. As regards Wales, which I thought might be raised by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, if it had not been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wade—or possibly the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore—I can say this. Following rejection by the last Conservative Government of the proposals of the Local Government Commission for Wales, the then Secretary of State, Mr. Griffiths, on taking office, set up a Working Party composed mostly of officials to take a fresh look at local government. This survey, which has taken place in consultation with local authorities in Wales, is now almost complete. It is hoped that a White Paper will be presented in due course. When the White Paper has been drafted, the Secretary of State will be consulting his colleagues and hopes to be able to publish it before the end of the year.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the reason why the Conservative Government's Commission on Wales became a dead letter was that it was felt that the terms of reference were inadequate? Is that not a lesson we should have learned in regard to the setting up of Commissions for England and Scotland?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am afraid I must leave the noble Lord to fight that one out with the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and other Welshmen. As the noble Lord knows, one of my grandmothers came from Llandudno, but that hardly equips me to pronounce on that particular point.