§ 9.16 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD rose to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Sheffield Order 1967 [S.I. 1967 No. 104], laid before the House on 8th February, be annulled. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Prayer standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I should like to express not only my own regret, but I am sure that of all your Lordships at the lateness of the hour. I offer my apologies at this time for making these few remarks, but I regard this as an important matter.
§ During the course of what I have to say I shall certainly be critical, and my criticism will not be on the basis of a narrow parochialism; neither will it be through lack of interest in the reform of local government.
§ May I just bring to your Lordships' notice the purpose of the Order? I will do this quite briefly, because of the time. It is to give effect to the proposals of the Local Government Commission which were made in June, 1964. May I say that since that time it has been a long road, a lot has been done, and to-day appears to be the last stage of what has been taking place during these last two years? I would draw your Lordships' attention to the effect that this Order will have on the administrative county of Derby. It proposes to transfer some 33,000 persons, and a rateable value of £850,000, to the City of Sheffield. But that is only part of the process. I understand that later this year there is to be another Order laid before both Houses of Parliament, respecting proposals for the south-western part of the county. The cumulative effect of this involves the transfer from the county area of 123,000 population and a rateable value of £3¾ million. My remarks to-night will refer, naturally, only to the Sheffield Order.
§ There are two comments that I should like to make. The first (I know that this is within the knowledge of everybody, but I think that it should be repeated) is that the Local Government Commission Which was responsible for these proposals has now been abandoned, relegated to the limbo of the past. Further, these proposals on the basis of 140 logic can by no stretch of the imagination be regarded as local government reform as I understand it. What is proposed is a territorial expansion of an existing substantial county borough—just a transfer of people from A to B. May I say in passing, because I shall refer to this later on, that this proposed transfer is bitterly resented by the inhabitants of the areas to be transferred?
The inspector who conducted the inquiry was under no misapprehension about how the inhabitants in these areas felt. I should like to quote very briefly what he said in paragraph 56 of the report:
Throughout the inquiry it was made clear that the inhabitants in the areas to be transferred were against the proposals. In order to be able the more forcibly to express their views, they asked me to attend evening meetings in each of the four parishes concerned. All the meetings were well attended, the audiences"—
this is something of a miracle in these days—
numbering between 300 and 500 people, and in some cases people were turned away. Twenty or 30 speakers addressed each meeting, and save for one dissentient voice the audiences were unanimous in their opposition to the proposals.
§ May I now submit to your Lordships the reasons why I am seeking the annulment of this Order? There are a number, and I will spell them out without a lot of detailed comment. The first is that the provisions of the Order are not at the present time in the interests of effective and convenient local government. I should like to pause here and mention one phase of this business in the sphere of education. There is a large comprehensive school, called Egginton Westfield School, which accommodates 1,100 pupils, and the site upon which this school has been built will be part of the territory which under this Order is to be transferred to the City of Sheffield. But for a number of years it is estimated that two-thirds of the county of Derbyshire children will be attending this particular school. I would remind your Lordships that the Minister, when making his decision in regard to one part of Lincolnshire, made reference to the fact that it was inadvisable for pupils of one authority to attend the school of another authority.
§ The second reason is that the effect of the Order is to pre-judge the planning 141 of the area. It is not at all a proper solution to the overspill problem of Sheffield. May I say here that everybody recognises that this is a real problem for the city. But the Derbyshire County Council consider that the long-term solution of Sheffield's overspill problem is a new town further afield, and this proposal has been endorsed in the first Report of the Yorkshire and Humberside Economic Planning Council as recently as November 14 last year.
§ The third point which I should like to make is that there is an inconsistency with other decisions which have been made by the Minister. I will say only that in adjacent areas, where comparable circumstances exist, the Minister's decision was the opposite to the decision he gave in regard to the Sheffield area. Fourthly—and I do not put it last because it is the least important, and I think it should have priority No. 1—there is the question of the wishes of the inhabitants. I have already made a brief reference to this. May I remind your Lordships that when the Order was debated in another place two weeks ago, 650 residents of the areas to be transferred journeyed to London to express their disappointment with the Minister's decision, and their disagreement with and resentment of this Order. I would say in all seriousness and sincerity, from my knowledge of the area and of many of the people who live therein, that if this Order passes and if these proposals materialise, it will be the infliction of a wound which will take a very long time to heal.
§ I now return to what I regard as the main argument in the case which I am putting. First of all, there is timing. I spoke in your Lordships' House on the Torbay Order, and the kernel of what I had to say on that occasion was: Why not a standstill? Why should there be a standstill? It is for the very potent reason that the Local Government Commission responsible for these proposals has been abandoned. By some strange coincidence even in this House tonight we have had the Second Reading of a Bill terminating the reviews which were laid down in the legislation of 1958. I believe there are 62 county councils in England and Wales, and only three of the counties completed their reviews before last August. That leaves 59 reviews which 142 have not been made, and we have had a Bill to-night saying that they are terminated and that there shall be a standstill.
§ In my view, the Royal Commission which has been appointed is making a fresh start. That is very necessary because, as I said on the Torbay Order, the 1958 legislation had no teeth in it at all. The terms of reference which have been given, to the Royal Commission are as follows: first, to look at the basic structure and functions of local government; and, secondly, to make recommendations for authorities and their boundaries, having regard to the size and character of the area in which those functions can he exercised. Those terms of reference of the Royal Commission are the equivalent of a major operation in the field of local government.
§ To me, it seems that the Government, in embarking on this course, were not satisfied that the 1958 legislation could do the job; and what has emerged therefrom has not been the most effective way of dealing with the thorny, controversial questions of reform in the field of local government. But, irrespective of what has been done arid what is now proposed, the appointment of the Royal Commission indicated, in my humble judgment, a fresh start. What has been said to them is: "Collect the evidence. Grasp this nettle. Treat the matter with urgency"—and it is hoped to have the Report by the middle of 1968. In view of this, a standstill on this Order and on similar Orders is, in my humble judgment, very desirable.
§ I advocate this course for two reasons: the first administrative, and the second psychological. If a standstill was ordered, it would mean that, administratively, a great deal of time and effort would not be needlessly spent. I put it to your Lordships: why run the risk—and there is a very grave risk in this—of having two upheavals in a relatively short time affecting large numbers of the population? I believe it is a reasonable assumption—and I think this is the basis of the evidence given to the Commission—that proposals and legislation are likely to emerge so far as structure, boundaries and functions are concerned. I would submit, if I may, a very humble opinion: that the Government should at this stage order a standstill in respect of this Order, and also 143 of other Orders which are in the pipeline, until the proposals of the Royal Commission are known. I applaud the action of the Government in appointing the Royal Commission, but I take the view, very seriously and sincerely, that in view of that appointment they are mistaken in not applying a standstill. I believe that what we have done in this House tonight, so far as concerns the termination of the reviews by the county councils, is very wise; and if it is right in that case, surely it cannot be wrong so far as this Order is concerned. Otherwise, one would be applying to one matter a different standard from that applied to another.
§ Finally, may I say that I do not regard this as a Party political matter. I listened to the debate in another place, as I have mentioned, two weeks ago, and there were two speakers on the Opposition side of another place. One was for the Order and one was against it. On the Government side, there were five speakers. Two were for the Order and three were against it. In conclusion, may I say that when my noble friend comes to reply I should like very much to hear him say—and I know many thousands of people in the areas affected would like to hear him say—that on this matter, on this Order, there have been second thoughts. I should like the Government to think again, and to say that it has been decided, in view of the pending Royal Commission Report, that, as in the case of the reviews, there should be a standstill. I should like my noble friend, when he comes to reply, to say that the process of thinking again has been put very much into operation by the Government, and that we are to have a standstill so far as this Order is concerned. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Sheffield Order 1967 [S.I. 1967 No. 104], laid before the House on 8th February, be annulled.—(Lord Taylor of Mansfield.)
§ 9.35 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF DERBY
My Lords, I am venturing to speak on this Motion for the first time in your Lordships' House, and I hope I may be forgiven if, through ignorance, I transgress at any point the customs and conventions of those who speak in this House. I hope also that I may have your sympathy 144 in speaking at this very late hour. I propose to cut out a great deal of what I might have said and to confine myself to main headings. It is never very easy to adjust what one intended to say at short notice in that kind of way.
I think this is a matter which raises issues of national policy, the future wellbeing of our people. It is not just a matter for dispute between Derbyshire County Council and Sheffield City; certainly not a matter of Party politics. It is a matter we need to look at on a long view and in the light of various issues of national policy.
It seems to me that there are four main issues, and that to each of them there is a counter-issue. I think that the Derbyshire County Council is giving account of what 1 would call the major issue while at the same time, by its nature, by the fact that it draws into itself people concerned with the country, it is looking rather more adequately at what I would call the counter-issue. There is the issue of population, of population pressure. We all agree that that is urgent. It is going to be a growing factor in Sheffield and in our whole country, as it is one of the most urgent issues of our generation on a world scale. But just because it is an urgent issue, there is the counter-issue of food. People have mouths and need to be fed. There is therefore the counter-issue of agriculture, and I am told that the Sheffield proposals for this area mean the use of some 1,400 or 1,500 acres of good agricultural land over and above the original Derbyshire proposals for the area round Eckington and Mosbrough.
There is the issue of homes for our people; and that certainly is most urgent. We should do nothing to delay or prevent the building of homes that are needed in these urgent days. That is recognised from the side of the Derbyshire County Council. If there is delay over the Order, I would certainly hope—and I expect the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, would agree—that there should be no delay in going forward with building plans that would take some of the Sheffield overspill. That is provided for; but if there are to be homes, if there is to be more and more building in England, then it becomes more and more necessary that there should be open spaces; that there should be adequate 145 playing fields for young people, and that there should be open places to which people can go for fresh air and recreation.
The Derbyshire County Council has shown a greater concern for preserving a green stretch between the built-up areas which has to come round the Mosbrough area to prevent it from becoming one vast conurbation with Sheffield. It is worth saying also that Derbyshire has its first of the National Parks, and that it received a European award not long ago for the care and preservation of an area of unspoiled beauty.
While that area is not directly involved in the area with which we are concerned under this Order, it is relevant because it is obviously questionable whether county councils can continue to be viable and to care for the open country and relatively undeveloped areas unless they keep under their care too some of the more densely populated areas. That seems to me to be the relevance of the figures about population and rates. It is not a question of power politics; it is a question of keeping a constant concern about densely populated areas and more open agricultural areas and areas of the countryside.
Then, my Lords, there is the issue of work. Of course we need work for our people and we need to build up exports to pay for imports. In that respect the name of Sheffield is famous throughout the world, but with automation and, it would seem, in developing technological interests, we are likely in the years to come to produce the things we need with shorter hours of work, and recreation is likely to be an issue in the future quite as much as work. This has been mentioned several times in our debate. Here, again, Derbyshire with its National Park, has a very strong tradition of care for young people and of educating youth and youth leaders in the things that belong to healthy creation suited to such areas as the National Parks—climbing, potholing, the beauty of the countryside, flowers, ferns and so on. They are healthy interests which are needed in our modern world, as the peace of the countryside is needed as a counterpart to the greater pressure and pace of life in our towns.
Finally, there is the issue of large-scale organisation. Obviously that is needed 146 in the sphere of transport and in other spheres. But over against it there is the issue of local loyalties, the fellowship of small communities and respect for the feelings of people in very small communities. The small communities are training grounds for responsibility. If we lose that training ground we may find that we are losing those qualities of leadership which we need in the larger communities as well.
On that issue the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, has said that the Derbyshire County Council has been showing a greater respect for the people in the mining and other villages in this part of Derbyshire. The county administration with its three-tier system—county council and rural district and parish councils—is the more likely to build and develop these local loyalties and responsibilities which again are something precious in our national heritage. All these issues will no doubt be considered, are being considered, by the Royal Comission on Local Government. We do not yet know what their Report will say. The very fact that it is imminent within a little over one year's time is a reason for waiting and reviewing these issues in the light of the Royal Commission's Report.
Looking ahead, people are talking in terms of local regions and for complete reorganisation of local government. There may well be needs for new and wider patterns of local government in various spheres. There may well be needs for adjustments of boundaries in different spheres. The part of the Gleadless Estate which is in Derbyshire is much more closely connected with Sheffield than are Beighton and Mosbrough. These things may come, but I see also the possibility that this Order may be the first step on a dangerous road.
The argument for city regions, with their commuter areas can be pressed too far. How far do commuter areas go in these days of faster transport? One can see the possibility of Manchester taking over Glossop and Chapel-en-le-Frith as far as Buxton. Sheffield may revive its earlier claim to come as far as Dronfield and perhaps Chesterfield. Burton will no doubt want to take parts of the East side of Derbyshire.
What would be left of the county, or indeed of other counties, if you applied 147 the same argument to them? What would be left of the Peak District National Park? I think it would be a dangerous prospect for our country if we saw the whole of England becoming urbanised. We would lose all sorts of things that are precious in our national heritage and quite as necessary for people living in towns as a change from the pace and pressure of town life as they are for those who live in the country and treasure the traditions of the country.
These are some of the things which we shall have to look at a great deal more thoroughly when we come to look at the suggestions of the Local Government Report for new planning of administration. But while there are all these issues before us, it seems to me a little unwise to take steps to forestall the Commission's Report, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, that it is time to say to the Government, "Let us think again".
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ LORD BLYTON
My Lords, I rise for two or three minutes to say that I hope that on local domestic matters that arise the Government will take notice of the Back Benchers in your Lordships' House and in another place. While I know nothing about Derbyshire, though I have been there many times, I know that there are Orders to come, one of which may affect Tyneside. If we get a Tyneside conurbation—I do not know what the Minister's ideas are about it—it will have nearly 2 million people and if the local authorities, who have been municipal boroughs for a hundred years, are left to do only the cemeteries and parks, and all the little menial matters that cannot be dealt with at regional level, there is going to be trouble. The Government have got to recognise that in these matters people have local feelings and loyalties. The Government cannot just say, "This is what we think", without taking into consideration what the local people in the area think. That is the danger that I see arising with all these Orders.
Why did the Government set up the Royal Commission to review the whole circumstances of local government and then, in the interim period, bring in the "heavy boot" of these Orders, which are going to upset everybody, with the possibility that, when they have been passed 148 and are in operation, the Royal Commission may come down on the other side; and people will be upset again? It is because of the impending decisions that I, coming from Tyneside, speak tonight. I shall finish now, and I shall be quite frank. If my noble friend Lord Taylor of Mansfield carries this issue to a Division to-night, I shall support him, because I think the Government must face the fact that they have to take into consideration at some time the feelings of the people in the areas.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, let me first say this to my noble friend Lord Blyton, for whom, as he knows, I have a very special feeling, because I sponsored him when he first arrived in this House. We are not discussing Tyneside at the moment, and anything that we say about this Order is no precedent, one way or the other, about Tyneside. But I would say this to him. He has told the House that people have local feelings, and it becomes the Government to remember this fact. And so it does. But in all these local government Orders there are local feelings on both sides, and I think it would ill become a Government to consider the local feelings on the side which has taken more trouble with the lobbying and all the documents than those on the other side who, for better or worse, have rested their case on that presented to the Local Government Commission.
We have had the pleasure of listening to an admirable maiden speech from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby. I hope that it will be the first of many. I can only say this to him, as some comfort: that we are not really proposing to urbanise the whole of England with this county borough extension, or with any of them; there will be sizeable tracts left. National Parks are not affected, and I believe that if he looks at the map of the proposed Sheffield extensions closely he will see the country that is taken in is of a pretty suburban nature already. There is nothing truly rustic, let alone anything wild, in these extensions.
We have heard a sincere and convinced speech from my noble friend Lord Taylor of Mansfield. I admire his sincerity in this matter. I should not be saying that, but I do: I want to say it. 149 Let me take, first of all, his point about the general standstill. He asked whether there could not be a general standstill of all these local government Orders because of the Royal Commission. I do not want to trouble the House by putting again the case which I put earlier this afternoon on the Local Government (Termination of Reviews) Bill, and which I put a few days ago on the Teesside Order. The case is that a great deal of work has been done, and we are reluctant to lose the benefit of that work because we have set up the bigger review. In all these cases that we are bringing forward the Government are convinced that there is a case for doing it now, before the Royal Commission on Local Government reports in a number of years into the future.
My noble friend said that it would not be "convenient and effective" (I quote the words of the 1958 Act) to extend the boundaries of Sheffield in this way. But the Local Government Commission said that it would be convenient and effective to do so. And the moment before my noble friend said this he lamented the demise of the Commission on Local Government as though it were a wise and valuable body which we should not have terminated.
§ LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, if I said that, I did not intend to. I do not think that I said either that I welcomed or did not welcome the demise of the Local Government Commission in those words.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, the noble Lord mistakes me. I took it that he was saying that we should not have terminated the Local Government Commission.
§ LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD
The words I used were that I applauded the Government for having set up the Royal Commission and, by so doing, I welcomed the demise of the Local Government Commission, which has now been abandoned.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I am sorry, I mistook the noble Lord's drift. In any case, it was the opinion of the Local Government Commission that this extension would be convenient and effective—an opinion which the Government in this case, as in most of these cases, endorsed.
150 I will not trouble the House with a lengthy account of the history of this Order. It is similar to that of others which have been before the House recently. The Local Government Commission began their review of the area in question in the Spring of 1960, no less than seven years ago. They published their draft proposals at the end of 1962; they held their statutory conference with the local authorities in 1963, and their final proposals were published in 1964. There were objections to these proposals and there was a counter-proposal by the City Council of Sheffield for additional areas to be included in the city beyond what the Local Government Commission had recommended. The Minister appointed an inspector who held a local inquiry into these objections in the summer of 1965. He then laid his report before the Minister, and the Minister endorsed it. The history is one which has become familiar to the House. It is the working out of the statutory provisions of the 1958 Act.
My noble friend rightly said that this was a long story. He also said that the people of the relevant part of Derbyshire were against it. The Government know that well. That is not in dispute. The people of that part of Derbyshire are against it, as we all know, but it is not as if we could make up our own minds in the abstract. We have Statute Law on this point which says that certain regulations shall govern what the Local Government Commission are to take into account. And these regulations list many factors to be taken into account, one of which—an important one—is local opinion, and others of which are based on the concept of convenient and effective local government. In this case the hostile opinion of the relevant part of the county of Derbyshire was not held by the Local Government Commission itself to outweigh the need for convenient and effective local government, which the Commission believed could be achieved only by this extension to the city.
Now we will come to the reasons. This is primarily a housing question. The City of Sheffield has at the moment 25,000 unfit houses. Every year more houses become unfit. The population of the City of Sheffield is growing, as the population of cities will. This situation has been apparent for some years, and 151 in 1962 the then Minister of Housing and Local Government, Dr. Hill (as he then was), took a planning decision. His planning decision was that a total of not less than 80,000 people could not be housed within the existing city boundaries of Sheffield over the next so many years. Where should they go? He examined the question and he came to the conclusion that they should go here and there, but that 65,000 of them could be best housed, according to normal planning criteria, around Mosbrough. This was in 1962. A planning decision can be taken, but then there remain other problems.
How is it to be done? First of all, you may say: should it be in Mosbrough at all or further out? Should there be a new town, or must we have a corn-muter settlement, a commuter settlement for which Mosbrough suggests itself as the right place? I do not need to tell my noble friend that the industry of Sheffield is a little unlike the industry in many other cities in England. It is all very closely geared to one type of production. You cannot very easily take away a section of the industry in Sheffield and put it fifty or a hundred miles away. You disrupt the whole. The smaller firms feed the bigger ones. There is a well-established system of servicing one establishment from another, largely geared to the traditional products of the city. The Ministry's inspector in his report committed himself to the judgment that the removal of even 2 per cent. of the labour force of the City of Sheffield would be "an economic disaster". One cannot go against such judgments. So a new town is out; it has to be the commuter settlement, which means Mosbrough.
What is the best way to achieve this commuter settlement? It can be achieved in either of two ways; first, under overspill procedure, which means many thousands of houses built at Mosbrough but in the County of Derbyshire. For this to happen the agreement, and not only agreement but the active cooperation and help, of the County of Derbyshire would be necessary. Those of your Lordships who know this history will know that this collaboration was not forthcoming; the County of Derbyshire were not willing to redraw the town map 152 in order to accommodate this overspill in the territory of the county. I do not think it is for me to go into their reasons. I understand they believed the new town would have been the best solution in spite of the expert opinion of the effect of a new town on the economy of Sheffield.
So one has to look at the alternative to the overspill procedure, and there is one alternative only. That is the extension of the boundary of the city so that the large new housing development would be within the city boundaries of Sheffield. This is the conclusion that, after seven years of examination and statutory procedure, the Government have come to. I noticed that my noble friend did not say which of the other two conclusions he thinks we should have come to, whether overspill in the county or a new town. It was interesting also, I should like to say in passing, to note that this argumentation was broadly accepted by the Front Bench spokesman of the Opposition, Mr. Graham Page, in the House of Commons the other day.
There is the case for this Order. It is a very awkward one, and nobody knows better than the Government the intensity of the feeling which exists in Derbyshire against the proposal, and nobody regrets more than the Government their inability to find another way to do it. If the county had agreed to redraw the town map and accept overspill procedure this would have been the way. The new town is out. Since both these courses, for one reason or another, are impossible, nothing remains but extension of the city boundary. My noble friend has asked the Government to think again. The Government and the statutory machinery have been thinking again for seven years; the Commission have thought and published their draft proposals; they have thought again about them and published their final proposals; the Minister has thought again about them and sent an inspector to investigate on the spot; the Minister has thought about the inspector's recommendations.
The House will remember that when I had the duty of introducing the first of this series of Orders, the Torbay Order, because of the opposition that was voiced to it in this House I withdrew it temporarily, and a new Minister once again considered the whole series of Orders, 153 in view of the opposition and other factors. There has been no lack of thinking again on the Government side about this Order. In conclusion, I should like only to say to my noble friend that I wonder whether he could find it in his conscience, and compatible with his great experience of local government, to think again about pressing this Prayer to a Division this evening.
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ LORD PARGITER
My Lords, it is a late hour to be discussing a very important piece of legislation, affecting as it does, many thousands of people—33,000, to be precise, so far as the existing population is concerned. And there are many thousands of others who may possibly be moving into this area. It seems to me that there is a different procedure with regard to this Order from that on the Torbay Order. I do not know why. I take it that the Government have the power either to put these matters in the form of an Order subject to the Affirmative or Negative Resolution procedure. The Torbay Order, I believe, came under the Affirmative Resolution procedure, but here the Order is subject to the Negative Resolution procedure.
It will take me some little time to discuss the ramifications of this matter in relation to the way with which it is now dealt. It is no desire of mine that the House should be debating this important matter at this late hour. If the Government so arrange their business that these important matters have to be discussed at such a late hour, there is no particular reason why we should not discuss them, notwithstanding the absence of Members from the Liberal Benches—those staunch supporters of individual liberty; or, for that matter, from the Opposition Front Bench, or the Back Benches.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE EARL OF LONGFORD)
My Lords, does the noble Lord realise that it is very very unusual to wait until the Minister has made his speech as on this occasion and then intervene? He is defying the ordinary practice of the House.
§ LORD PARGITER
My Lords, I am sorry. I am such a Philistine that I am not so well versed in the practice of the House. It is not unusual in another place, after the Minister has spoken, for 154 Members to speak—in fact, it is done frequently. I see no particular reason why it should not be done in this House. If the Minister says something that I should like to deal with, I prefer to listen to him first to see what his argument is; to see whether there is anything that I want to say about what he has said. It happens that on this occasion he said a number of things on which I want to say a word.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
The customs for this House are not the customs of another place. The noble Lord is defying the ordinary customs of the House.
§ LORD PARGITER
I am sorry if I am defying the ordinary customs of the House. I take it that your Lordships may decide that I shall "be not heard", in which case I shall be not heard. But unless your Lordships so decide, I prefer to be heard. I will leave it to your Lordships to decide. After all, this Order affects a large number of people, and, as I say, it is not of my choosing that we have it at this late hour. If the Government choose to take a lot of business, and to put this Order at the tail end of it, they must accept that at least time will be taken. I am proposing to develop my arguments unless your Lordships decide otherwise.
I want to deal with one or two things which the Minister has said about this Order. I should like to deal with the general question of development, particularly as it applies to Sheffield, and also to certain other large cities. One of the objects of creating green belts around cities the size of Sheffield, Leeds, London, Birmingham and so on, was first that it was deemed desirable to set a limit to the development of large areas: that they should not become merely urban sprawls. We should begin to think in terms of containing them within a given area and if we wanted to do more than that we should begin to think in terms of other communities outside that particular area. That is particularly the case here.
Sheffield are notorious in this respect. They have never been willing to accept this idea that they ought to start and think in terms of establishing other communities, or help to do so. The thing they have always been concerned with is that they should be able to extend the area 155 of Sheffield just as long as they so wished; so long as they had surplus population in Sheffield which had to be rehoused, then Sheffield must be extended in order to accommodate it. If this is the theory that the Government have, I wish they would say so quite frankly, because this is precisely what they are doing in this particular instance. It is not the first time that this has happened with regard to Sheffield; it has happened before. So I suppose they think it can keep on happening until Sheffield are satisfied, and we shall have another urban sprawl, another conurbation, and we shall be scratching our heads and saying, "What on earth did we let this happen for?". That is where the Government are leading us at the present time.
It has been said that, so far as Derbyshire is concerned (the Minister raised a question which I did not fully appreciate), collaboration was not forthcoming—at any rate, the implication was that co-operation on the part of Derbyshire was not forthcoming. This just is not true, and I should like the Minister to admit it. The fact was that what Derbyshire wanted to do was what was proposed, and was supposed to be generally accepted policy—that is, to preserve a green belt around existing cities. They were prepared to discuss with Sheffield the question of development, and a quite considerable amount of development, provided that the green belt principle was observed. In other words, it was not to be an extension of Sheffield as such, but it was to be a separate development and a proper development of a proper community. It might have been a commuter community; it might well have been a community in which there would have been industry as well. But it is certainly not true to say that Derbyshire refused, because it is on record that Derbyshire repeatedly invited Sheffield to discuss this question of some development beyond the boundaries of the green belt, but Sheffield consistently refused to discuss it. Therefore the people who refused to discuss it are to be favoured, and the people who wanted to discuss alternatives are to be castigated and treated in this particular fashion.
This is no way in which the Government ought to treat a responsible authority such as the Derbyshire County 156 Council, and I must say that I regret that the matter has been put in this particular form before the House, with the implication that the Government had no alternative but to agree to the extension of Sheffield because there was no collaboration—they did not say upon whose part; but the implication was that there was a lack of co-operation on the part of Derbyshire. This just is not true, and I want it clearly understood, and I am making this statement quite clearly that that is the position as I now understand it.
The argument has also been used that 80,000 people need to be rehoused. Surely, rather than talking about the continuation of an existing city, it is really time to begin to talk in terms of a new town. When one talks about the closely integrated industry of Sheffield, I wonder whether I could remind the noble Lord of what his colleagues do with regard to many industries in many parts of the country where they want to expand their factories, and where probably, from an economic point of view, it is the best thing they could do. The Board of Trade say, "Oh no, we are not going to give you an I.D.C.; we shall not give you planning consent. You go and build another factory up in the development areas. Sheffield cannot do that."
This is pure nonsense. I am surprised at the Minister putting forward puerile arguments like that to your Lordships and expecting them to be accepted. There are vast sections of industry within Sheffield which are most improperly housed at the present time, which could well be moved out into new places and helped to form part of new communities, without interfering at all with the economic life of Sheffield. Certainly in these days of modern communications, when we realise the number of factories which were established around London, but which because the Board of Trade would not give them I.D.C.s were obliged to go to places like South Wales and establish subsidiary factories, with the transport of goods and pieces going backwards and forwards between South Wales and London, to suggest that this could not happen in Sheffield is asking your Lordships to accept just a little too much.
Should local feelings be taken account of? Whether they like it or not, 33,000 people are to be lumped into another 157 area, some of whom will have moved away from Sheffield in order to be able to get out of the area anyway. They are now going to be lumped into Sheffield, and Sheffield are to have their say with regard to their future development. Well, I suppose that 33,000 people are not very many from the Government point of view and that it does not really matter, but I should have thought they would have considered the possibility of the alternative as suggested to Sheffield. Sheffield have been secure in their position. They have not been prepared to take up and discuss these matters with Derbyshire, because they had in mind that what happened in the past would happen again. Sheffield have no need to talk to Derbyshire because the Government are going to give them what they want.
Having regard to what has happened on other occasions, I should not have been surprised, even if the Local Boundary Commission decided against Sheffield, if the Minister decided in favour of Sheffield, as he may have done in other cases. That is a matter of conjecture. I am not arguing that it would or would not be so, but the Minister is not bound by the decisions of the Boundary Commission and therefore Sheffield appears to be quite secure. They have no need to discuss the matter with Derbyshire, for in the end they will get their own way and obtain the extension of the city.
I do not blame Sheffield in the slightest for doing this. From their point of view, it is more power to their elbow. But whether this is providing effective local government and whether the central Government ought to agree to do this is another matter. If this were to be the preliminary to a new local government reorganisation, one might have taken a different look at this. Certainly Sheffield has a problem, but it is a problem which can be solved in another way without necessarily upsetting and affecting the lives of these 33,000 people.
I am not unduly concerned about the rateable value aspect—I am sorry if I am interrupting a conversation that is under way. I am not unduly worried about the question of £850,000 rateable value. The rateable value should be adjusted in various ways. We might at some stage re-rate agriculture or something like that. The Government are 158 shy of it, but I would not expect them to be otherwise on that particular problem. The fact remains that the whole of the Green Belt project in this particular case is being destroyed. It may be argued that it cannot happen again now because we shall be awaiting the report of the Royal Commission. However, I sincerely hope that this Prayer will be carried. If it is not carried, I hope that it is not defeated in such a way that the Prayer cannot be repeated, and we shall await to see what happens when we come to a decision.
My final word, quite sincerely, is this. Many of these Orders need not necessarily have been proceeded with once a decision was taken that the Royal Commission was being set up to deal with this problem. The Royal Commission was to take a wider look at the matter. So that even on the Ministry's own showing this is not the answer to the problem; it is not even the beginning of an answer. The Department mention 40 major authorities, looking at the country as a whole. This is not even beginning to touch the problem. It might be argued that Ministers are not responsible for what Departments tell Royal Commissions. This is a new theory, for I should like to know what Government Department gives its views to a Royal Commission without the Government looking at them.
The Government have decided to press on with this, in spite of what the Department are proposing, which, if it does not have ministerial approval, certainly does not have ministerial disapproval, and the position may well in the end be confusion worse confounded. I am making this plea not only in regard to Derbyshire, but with a view to stopping the Orders generally speaking, and I ask the Government to call a halt at this stage. I hope that the Government will be defeated at this stage. I am not particularly interested in protest votes. I know that in another place there are sometimes protest votes on the ground that the Government are not likely to be defeated. This particular instance does not involve confidence in the Government; the Government have already stated the issues in which confidence is involved. This is a relatively small issue affecting perhaps a small number of people, but also affecting a very large principle of local government.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall not speak, because I do not wish to condone a breach of the customs of the House. But if my noble friend were as conversant with the 1958 Act as I should have thought he might be, he would know that the question whether or not one of these Orders comes forward under Negative or Affirmative procedure has nothing to do with the will of the Government of the day but is determined by the Act. The Torbay Order came forward under the Affirmative procedure because it created a new county borough. This one comes forward under the Negative procedure because it does not create a new county borough, but extends an existing one.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, I do not propose to detain the House for more than a few moments, but I feel that I have a right to reply. I am sorry that my noble friend has not been able to give a more satisfactory answer to the case which has been deployed for the revocation of this Order. During the course of his speech he said that the population of Sheffield was increasing. As I said, I listened to the debate in the other place a fortnight ago, where it was stated by one of the Sheffield Members who was supporting the Order that the population of Sheffield was decreasing. We should have to look at some of the statistics to see what is the correct position.
I regret that by implication my noble friend suggested that so far as Derbyshire County Council was concerned co-operation was not forthcoming. That is not really the case. I shall not deploy the argument further than my noble friend Lord Pargiter has done, but when my noble friend sees in print and reads
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, as it appears that fewer than 30 Lords have voted, in accordance with 160 all the evidence during the past sixteen or seventeen years, I think he will find that what he has said about co-operation and collaboration on the part of Derbyshire County Council is not at all the case.
My noble friend made some reference to overspill and a new town. The County Council of Derbyshire has always held the view that the long-term solution to this problem is the development of a new or expanded town further afield. May I remind my noble friend that there is not a new town on the eastern side of England from Corby to Peterlee, and the Economic Planning Council of Yorkshire and Humberside, looking at these matters objectively, have made the suggestion that the real solution to the problem of Sheffield's overspill population is a new town.
The only other thing I wish to say is this. Just as I asked the Minister to suggest to the Government that on this particular Order they should think again, he reciprocated by saying that it might be very good if I thought again with regard to taking this matter to a Division. I am on the horns of a dilemma. I have been a very loyal supporter of the Party which this Government represent for more than 50 years, but I feel very sincerely that I cannot be guilty of a breach of faith to some of my very good friends in Derbyshire, who feel this position very keenly and who feel that the Government are making a mistake in perpetrating this Order. I agree with them; and, with some reluctance, I am proposing to take this Motion to a Division.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Motion shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 5; Not-Contents, 19.159
|Blyton, L. [Teller.]||Iddesleigh, E.||Taylor of Mansfield, L. [Teller.]|
|Derby, L. Bp.||Pargiter, L.|
|Addison, V.||Hall, V.||Phillips, Bs.|
|Beswick, L.||Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.]||Plummer, Bs.|
|Bowles, L.||Kennet, L.||Popplewell, L.|
|Burden, L.||Listowel, E.||Shackleton, L.|
|Crook, L.||Longford, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Shepherd, L.|
|Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Morris of Kenwood, L.||Sorensen, L. [Teller.]|
§ Standing Order No.51 I declare the Question not decided, and the debate thereon stands adjourned.