HL Deb 27 February 1968 vol 289 cc721-58

3.57 p.m.

LORD CHAMPION rose to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Derby Order, 1968 [S.I. 1968, No. 44], laid before the House on 23rd January last, be annulled. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I do this because I am firmly of the opinion that the Derby Order, which I am asking this House to annul, is ill-conceived and, above all, ill-timed. It is to the ill-timing point that I shall address most of my remarks. What this Order sets out to do is to extend the area of the County Borough of Derby by about 11,000 acres and to increase its population by 90,000 people—from 129,000 to 219,000. This would be at the expense of the rural district councils of Belper, Repton and South-East Derbyshire and also at the expense of the Derbyshire County Council.

The County Council would lose rateable value of some £3,012,000. As a result of the Sheffield Order, which we dealt with last year, the County Council has already lost rateable value of £800,000, and this new Order brings the loss of rateable value in this important county to the total of nearly £4 million. This is a considerable sum. This is loss will inevitably affect the services which have to be provided by the Derbyshire County Council. The rural district that would be hardest hit by this proposal is that of South-East Derbyshire, an area which I know particularly well, having represented it in another place for 14 years. Its acreage would be reduced by roughly 8,000, its population by 65,000 (from 102,470 to a little over 36,000 people), and its rateable value by £2,700,000—from £3,385,000 to £1,377,000.

My Lords, these figures are tremendous. Everyone here who has any knowledge at all of the working of local government will realise the tremendous difficulties that are going to be thrust on these authorities as a result of this Order, which I am asking the House to annul to-day. The South-East Derbyshire Rural District Council is, of course, the worst hit. The injuries to the other councils I have mentioned, Repton and Belper, are comparatively—I repeat, comparatively—minor. The effect on the county council is, of course, bad. But the effect on the rural district council is nothing short of disastrous, for that rural district council will have both its population and its rateable value cut by almost two—thirds. This rural district council is geared to a population of over 100,000 inhabitants. Its staffing has been built up to cope with the services necessary for such a large group of population, and its office accommodation, and all the rest of it, has also been geared to that size of population.

The overall effect of this is going to be disaster for that rural district council; there will be great difficulties for the county council involved, and an overall effect upon those who remain in the areas of the councils that I have mentioned, because clearly, with all this rateable value disappearing, retention of the services which will still have to be provided by those authorities which are the losing authorities will suffer enormously as a result, or very largely increased rates will have to be paid in order to maintain the standard of service to which the people have become accustomed over the years.

This is bound to be the case, for what these authorities which are the losing authorities will lose are those closely-knit areas—true, mainly around this county borough of Derby; but they are closely-knit areas—where it is comparatively easy and cheaper to provide the services. When you extend into the vast county area outside, inevitably, as a result of distance and everything else, the provision of services becomes more costly. Looking round the House at this moment, I am grateful to see some noble Lords who know something about the administration of great counties, agricultural and others, nodding their head in acquiescence in the point I was just putting: that this is going to be a difficult exercise for the losing authorities I have mentioned.

Quite understandably, I think, people who live closest to the county borough of Derby and who would be affected and brought in as a result of the extension of the county borough boundary have been asked their opinion about it, and they have expressed it in terms which are clearly understood by everyone. In a plebiscite—and I have lumped all the parishes concerned together, because I do not want to take up the time of the House enumerating each and every one—of all the parishes concerned, an average of 79 per cent. were polled, and of that figure an average of 89 per cent. were against the proposals. I am as positive as it is possible for anyone to be that if those who are left out, who will still remain outside the county borough, were asked the same question, and it was pointed out to them what the effect of the loss of rateable value will be upon them, their replies would amount likewise to 89 per cent., or an even higher percentage, against.

What I have done up to now is just to lay out, as it were, the bare bones of the case against the Order. I have mentioned the loss of rateable value for the losing authorities; the loss of population; the increased difficulties that will be experienced in administering the services of the parts left to them, and the ascertained wishes of the people most closely connected. Everyone will, I think, admit that those things are of very great importance. Of course they are of very great importance, because they affect the lives of people. I am not going to detract from their importance; I hope I have stressed it sufficiently. But I am bound to say that I think the real case against the Order at the present time lies in the fact that, as I said at the outset, its timing is bad.

As the House is well aware, the Government set up a Royal Commission to look into the state of local government in this country and to recommend as to its possible future, its functions, its boundaries, and so on. Everyone thinks, so far as I can tell, at all events, that the Commission will report in the autumn of this year. Or, at least, if not everyone thinks that, certainly the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Skeffington, said in the other House the other day that he thought that the Commission would be reporting in the autumn of this year. So here we are, with that Report expected so soon, making by this Order a major change in an important county. I am not sure that the very timing of this Order is not disrespectful, to put it mildly, to the very eminent people who are sitting on that Royal Commission. I feel we are doing something here so late in the day that if I were a member of that Commission I should be saying, "Well, this, at least, to put it mildly, is disrespectful". Perhaps if I did not feel like putting it mildly I should say, "This is an insult to us". Be that as it may, I cannot see the slightest justification for proceeding with the Order at this time.

When I heard that the Order had been laid, I wondered what the case for its presentation at this time could possibly be. Because there was a debate on a Prayer in the other place last week, I have the advantage of knowing what the Government's case is—at least as it was presented on that day. Not being, or wishing to be, discourteous to my honourable friend Mr. Skeffington, whose qualities I greatly admire and whom I like immensely, I am bound to say that I thought the case that was presented to the other House last week was one of the least convincing cases I have ever examined. That is not his fault, of course, because the fact is that there is no good case, and there cannot be a good case, for proceeding with this Order now, before the Royal Commission's Report is available.

He seemed to me to have said three things in support of the decision to proceed with this Order now—because, clearly, some of the attack upon the Order in the other place last week dealt with this very point of the ill timing of the presentation of the Order. He said three things, as I understood him: first, that the preparations for the Order have been going on since January, 1960; secondly, that in the interests of housing, and particularly slum clearance, the county borough should be permitted to extend its boundary to take in land upon which it may build the required houses, and it wants to do that fairly soon; and, thirdly, after the Royal Commission report, it will take at least five to six years before their recommendations are put upon the Statute Book.

As to the first of those reasons for proceeding now, I am bound to say that I can find little fault with the procedure which has been followed since 1960. But the eight years which have passed since January, 1960, make it glaringly obvious that there was not very much urgency about these boundary changes, otherwise there would have been smarter action. Eight years have passed since the commencement of the procedure in January, 1960. If the people—and it is they who really matter—had been suffering as a result of administrative inefficiencies and difficulties caused by the existing boundary of the county borough, then eight years since the first move towards this Order has been much too long. But if it is the case that they have all, on both sides of the boundary, managed very well—and I am sure they have, because, as I have said, I claim to have some knowledge of the people on both sides of the boundary—there seems to me to be not the slightest justification for pushing this Order through at this stage. If eight years can elapse while the whole matter pursues its lengthy course I am positive that another three or four, or even the six years envisaged by Mr. Skeffington, just would not matter.

The second reason is that of housing requirements. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary said; out of a total of 17,000 houses owned by Derby, about one-third of them—5,500 houses—have been built by Derby outside its boundaries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 14/2/68, col. 1502.] In this connection he made the point that land in the county area is urgently required if people are to be decently rehoused by 1981. The point I am bound to make in reply is that if 5,500 houses have already been built by the County Borough in the County Council area, a couple of thousand more, if they Are required, built in the county between now and the possible implementation of the Report of the Royal Commission just would not matter, and I am fairly sure that the County Council and the rural districts concerned would be only too glad to assist them to find the land upon which to build these additional houses—additional, that is, to those already built by the County Borough outside its boundary.

On the third reason, the length of time between the date of the Report and its implementation, my honourable friend said, speaking particularly of this Order (col. 1502): Whatever may be the future recommendation, I am quite convinced in my Own mind that the enlarged area, whether there be a first-tier or second-tier authority, is not likely to be upset by anything the Royal Commission may say. He went on, however, to say that the Government have no knowledge at this stage of how the Commission intend to report. My Lords, if I, with a little knowledge of some of the events that have preceded the setting up of this Royal Commission, guessed that the Royal Commission would plump for single-tier government for major services, and that the size recommended would be a population and area similar to that of Derbyshire, my guess might be as good as his; and if that happened to be the case then the major upset caused by this Order to the County Council and to the rural district councils concerned would be followed in another four to six years' time by another major upset. Is this the sort of thing that this House can justify: that these people, who will inevitably be involved in all these alterations that are bound to take place following this Order, may well find themselves, within another six years, involved in another major upset, perhaps of a similar size and nature?

But, my Lords, even if it be the case that the Royal Commission recommend that heavily built-up areas of the size and population that Derby will be if this Order comes into force are to remain part of the structure of local government in this country, is it likely that the South-East Derbyshire Rural District Council, for example, in its greatly reduced form will remain in being and with the same boundaries? If not—and my guess is that it will not—then it is bound to be the case that within a very short time this area, with its people and its local government officers, and everyone concerned, will be subjected to another major upset.

When I looked at this Order at the outset I was bound to admit straight away that it would create an administratively tidy-looking area; an area, that is, easily shown on a 6-inch to the mile map, its boundaries quite clearly indicated and understood by everybody. I was also bound to admit to myself that there is always a case to be considered for towns to take within their own boundaries their own housing developments. This situation is certainly present in the Derby case, and if there were no Royal Commission sitting and likely to report quite soon, and if I thought that people were suffering from poor local government services in the county area, I might not be moving this Motion this afternoon. But I do not know about these things, and there appears to me to be not the slightest justification for the Government to proceed with this Order at this time.

My Lords, it is fairly well known that I do not readily speak against my own Government, as I am doing to-day; it is not one of my little habits. But there are times when one feels so strongly about things that one feels impelled to say them, and this is one of those occasions. I regard this Order as a big blunder. I appeal to my noble friend Lord Kennet, who is in charge of this Order in this House, to withdraw it. The Government will not suffer any loss of prestige if they do that. After all, so far as I can see they have recently changed their minds about Stansted, which is a much bigger subject. I believe that a Government must be prepared from time to time to change their minds, and they ought not to feel, "We must not change our minds; it is the sort of thing that is not done. Having taken a decision, even if it is the wrong one, stick to it, boys". That is not the way it should be done.

As a result of what is said in this House to-day, as a result of what was said in the other place last week, as a result of the representations which I know have been made to the Minister concerned, I strongly urge my noble friend Lord Kennet—an intelligent man, who I am sure can see this case—to stand up this afternoon and say, "As in the case of Stansted, we have had a second look at this". I am sure that is the best thing that could happen. I am not rubbing this in, believe me, my Lords. I am merely pointing to the fact that one can do these things sometimes as a Government and gain kudos rather than the reverse as a result. I beg to move.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Derby Order 1968 [S.I. 1968, No. 44], laid before the House on 23rd January last, be annulled.—(Lord Champion.)


My Lords, I should like very strongly to support the noble Lord, Lord Champion, and ask whether the Government will not re-consider this Order, which on the face of it seems to me an extremely silly one. I think the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has given us the facts which show that in fact it is silly. It seems to me that there are only three reasons which would justify the Government going ahead with this Order at this juncture. The first reason is that they had been privately and informally told by the Royal Commission that this Order, if implemented, would in no way cut across anything that the Royal Commission was going to propose. As I understand it, the Royal Commission has not informally told the Government that this is so. In fact, the Minister in another place categorically said that he had no idea what the Royal Commission was going to suggest. Indeed, if the Royal Commission did suggest this to the Government it seems to me that we ought to know about it, but that does not appear to be the case. The Minister merely went so far as to say that in his guess he was convinced that the Order was not likely to be upset by the Royal Commission. The Minister's judgment is likely to be as good as anyone else's, but need it necessarily be any better than Lord Champion's, who said his guess was that it might well be upset?

That is the first reason, and it seems to me really the strongest reason which would allow the Government to go ahead with this Order before the Royal Commission reports in the autumn. But the Government have not based their intention to go ahead on that ground. It seems to me they have gone ahead on one of the other two possible grounds, that is, extreme urgency. So far as I can make out, this is the ground on which they base their case. I really cannot see that there is an extreme urgency here. If there were extreme urgency, no doubt it would come under the heads of financial or administrative urgency. Is there really any financial urgency? Somebody asked whether the Derby County Borough were going "bust". If they were, this would be the sort of financial urgency about which something should be done. Similarly, if Derby County was in financial difficulties this might well be a reason for doing this. But this is not the case. So far as I can see, both appear to be doing their jobs very effectively.

So far as any other financial benefits are concerned, none of these are agreed. Everybody says that the rates will almost certainly go up, and this is at a moment when the Minister of Housing and Local Government has said they ought to be pegged to the minimum. There may be justification for the rates going up; there may be other benefits to balance it. Nevertheless, I think it can be said that financially it is extremely difficult to see any great urgency.

The same applies, it seems to me, administratively. There is no real urgency to try to straighten out an administrative difficulty here by pushing this Order through before the Report of the Royal Commission. The noble Lord, Lord Champion, mentioned that there are certain administrative difficulties already; the Derby County Borough is probably not in any case geared to make this changeover from the point of view of staff and accommodation. I think there may be administrative setbacks in other respects. I think it is not inconceivable that under the new set-up the education provided by Derby County will be adversely affected. It may be that there are other benefits to balance this. It may be that the education in Derby County Borough will in fact be improved to set off the disimprovement in the County. But nevertheless there is no real urgency whatsoever, administratively or financially. The third reason why the Government might conceivably have pushed ahead with this is because of public clamour. But as the noble Lord has pointed out, the public clamour is all the other way.

Those are the only three reasons, it seems to me, on which the Government could have based the case for pushing ahead regardless. The noble Lord, Lord Champion, mentioned the fact that this has been under deliberation for six years, and this was part of the Government's case. That might well be so, but do not forget that this Order is based upon the Local Government Commissions's original recommendations, which have now been superseded. Do not forget the distinction between the Local Government Commission, which recommended what is being put into force in this Order, and the Royal Commission, which has not yet reported; and the system of reform of which this is the outcome has been judged deficient by the Government and abandoned. If that is so, it seems to me all the more reason why we should wait for the Royal Commission to report in the autumn—or, at any rate, which it is suggested will report in the autumn.

The Government make the point that even if the Royal Commission reports in the autumn it will take five or six years to get anything on the Statute Book. This is a bit depressing, I agree, especially if the discussions on the question of Derby County and Derby County Borough have already gone on for six years. But it still does not seem to me necessary at this last stage, just before the Commission reports, to go ahead with the old recommendations of the now defunct Local Government Commission when there are only three months to go before there is a decision. This could mean not one complete upheaval for the people in Derbyshire and Derby County Borough but two complete upheavals, one after the other.

As the noble Lord, Lord Champion, pointed out, if housing is the reason for the Government wanting to push ahead without waiting for the Royal Commission, it should be remembered that Derby County Borough have for many years been building most of their houses outside their own boundary, anyway. In any case, does it make sense to make a non-sense of the new system of local government arrangement just in order to have an administrative convenience in the building of houses, which is not in any case generally agreed? Unless the Government can make a very much more convincing case than they made in another place, I must say that if the noble Lord does take it into the Division Lobby—I am not sure whether he proposes to do so—I and my friends shall be delighted to join him.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, I should not have intervened in to-day's debate but for the fact that I think it will be necessary to press my noble friend Lord Kennet to take the course which Lord Champion has advocated this afternoon; and in fact, if one or two more voices were raised against the Order he would be perfectly justified in doing so. My noble friend Lord Champion has made a speech which has covered the whole of the ground, and it is almost tedious repetition if one follows that course. Therefore, I want to make just one point quite clear, and I am certain that Lord Champion will support me.

The present structure of local government arises largely from the Municipal Corporations Act 1834, the Local Government Act 1889, which set up the county councils, and the Local Government Act 1894, which set up urban and rural district councils. It would be foolish for anyone to say that a structure that was set up seventy years ago, when the speed of man was dependent on the speed of the horse, is necessarily the right structure of local government to-day when we have much quicker means of communication and are in a very different society. No one is suggesting—at least I am not; and I am sure that Lord Champion is not—that the local government system of this country is not in need of some form of reorganisation. Indeed, that is the reason the previous Government set up the Royal Commission on Local Government, to look into the general structure, the function, and also, I hope, financing of local government.

Here we find proposed a very major alteration within a county. One of the problems in local government is that there is a viable size for a local authority, in exactly the same way as there is a viable size for an industrial organisation; and, of course, the smaller local authority is not viable, taking into account the running costs that it has to carry in its officers and the rest. But here we have the cutting almost in half of a county council which serves a wide area. One of the problems of local government is that it is comparatively easy in an urban borough area to provide a service, because you have a rateable value compact within a small space—houses all along the street; every house a rateable value; factories, shops and everything else to build up a rateable value to carry the cost of services. County government has to carry services which are spread over a wide area, and with rateable value much less condensed than in the case of the urban or borough organisation. Therefore, you are destroying the viability of a county authority by taking away half its population—at any rate 88,000 population and £3 million of its rateable value—and adding it to an authority which is already greatly viable by reason of the fact that it is a borough.

The point has been made by the two previous speakers that this is an ill-timed Order; that the Royal Commission on Local Government is sitting. No one knows what it is going to bring forward by way of proposals. Everybody expects the proposals to be quite radical. One is perhaps dependent upon one's own background and experience in relation to one's outlook as to what will be the solution. There are those in the municipal corporations who believe in the single purpose authority. My own background of the minor authority and the county administration is in the two-tier system. But no one knows what the Royal Commission is going to bring forward.

I think it would be wise of the Government to withdraw this Order, to wait until the Royal Commission has reported and see what the future of local government is going to be, not only in Derby and Derbyshire but throughout this country. Again, if my noble friend presses this Prayer to a Division, I will go into the Division Lobby with him against the Order.

4.33 p.m.


My Lords, I had not thought of saying anything on this Order. I have no connection with Derby. I think I have passed through it occasionally; but that is all. But having heard my noble friend make the case, I should like just to say this. He made it on two grounds: first, that the Order was ill-conceived, and, secondly, that it was ill-timed. I am not going to pass any judgment on whether it is ill-conceived. It seems to me, on the face of it, doubtful whether my noble friend made the case that it was ill-conceived. This is an Order which has been the subject of a full public inquiry and full consideration by the Ministry on the merits, and I am prepared to assume that the justification for the Order, purely on the merits, has been fully made out.

But I am greatly impressed by the fact that it is ill-timed, and in that respect I agree with both my noble friends who have spoken. One cannot be sure of anything, but I should be tremendously surprised if the Royal Commission did not make revolutionary recommendations about the structure of local government. Everyone who knows anything about local government realises that the time has now arrived when these revolutionary changes are necessary. I do not know anyone who is prepared to defend the present structure of local government, and if these drastic recommendations for the reorganisation of local government were made, it seems to me absurd that we should make such great changes in the structure of one particular county.

Look at the services that have to be transferred: there is the children's service, there is licensing, there is the education service and there is the mental health service. All these services would be transferred from the county council to Derby County Borough, and possibly for quite a short time. When one considers the dislocation that is going to arise over the next two or three years merely by the transfer of these particular services, one has to be quite sure that it is justified by what is going to happen as a result of the Report of the Royal Commission.

I would say that the onus is upon the Government to satisfy the House that all the changes they are proposing to make under this Order will not have to be made all over again within a quite short time. It may well be that my noble friend Lord Kennet is not to-day in a position to take back the Order. But would he be in a position to adjourn the debate and not ask the House to come to a decision to-day while he and his right honourable friend the Minister give further consideration to the whole question?

I realise that this particular Order is representative of a number of cases that may arise within the next few months. If we refuse this Order, on the ground that we are expecting a Report of the Royal Commission quite soon which may nullify all this, then every other similar case will have to be dealt with in the same way. Possibly that is a responsibility which my noble friend is not prepared to take to-day. But I am sure that the sense of this House at this present time is that with the proximity of a Report of the Royal Commission we ought not to be having these Orders at all, except in cases of extreme urgency; and nobody would suggest that this is a case of extreme urgency. Therefore I feel that, rather than have a Division, which is distasteful to many of us—because after all this is merely a piece of administration—it might be more desirable to adjourn this debate and give my noble friend Lord Kennet an opportunity of considering the matter with his friends and with the Minister. If he then feels that he must proceed with the Order, he will come back and we shall have to decide what to do.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, I have some connection with this subject. I think that the last time Derby wanted an extension I was a member of the Select Committee which considered their demand. I remember that we went into the subject with great care and, to the best of my recollection, we granted to Derby a considerable part, if not all, of what they wanted. I would venture to add my voice from these Benches to the powerful voices which we have heard from the Liberal Party, and from the elder statesmen behind the Government, asking that in the circumstances the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, should increase the great respect we already have for him by paying attention to what has been said.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Champion, intends to divide the House on this Motion. If he were to do so, I should feel bound to abstain, because I do not know Derby and I know very little of the circumstances which prevail there. But I should like to say this. We have recently been told, and particularly throughout discussions about the possible reform of your Lordships' House, that in no circumstances must we question the opinion of another place because it is the elected House and voices the will of the people. I understand, from what I have been told and from what I read, that all the people who live around Derby and who would be included in this extension are violently opposed to it. They will, of course, suffer certain disadvantages, which have already been mentioned, such as increased rates, and so on and what I would ask is: Has the opinion of these people who will suffer as a result of this proposed action been considered? Has their opinion been voiced in another place?

During the past few months my impression has been that the other House is not so much the voice of the people as the voice of a very small group of people—namely, those who sit on the Government Front Bench. Members who disagree with their own Party are silenced by the Whips, and if they dare to abstain are deprived of their Parliamentary privileges. My Lords, is that democracy? It looks to me very much more like totalitarianism. Therefore I hope that, before this Order is pressed, the people concerned will be consulted, and that before the Government take any action all the advantages or disadvantages will be carefully examined.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, as I took part in the last debate on the Derby Order and with my noble friend Lord Taylor was a Teller against that Order, I feel that I must now say that I shall adopt the same position to-day and vote against this Order if the noble Lord, Lord Champion, should take the matter to a Division. I remember when they tried to force upon us the Tyneside conurbation, which was deferred until the Royal Commission on Local Authorities was set up, and when we did not get any decision. In the light of what happened on Tyneside, I think one ought to consider the position in relation to all county councils where an area has been encroached upon by spreading municipalities, until such time as the Royal Commission gives a diagram as to what the future position will be. One should know how these matters are to be financed and what will be the size of the units for local government in the future. It is quite possible that this Order may pass the House to-day and that the Royal Commission may come to an entirely different decision. If that proves to be the case, then the people of this area will be upset for a second time.

It seems strange to me that the police are being swallowed up by the county councils. Northumberland County Council has taken over the whole of the police of Newcastle, and Durham has taken over that of South Shields. Where is the consistency when such an Order as this one gives to a municipality power to extend the boundary and at the same time forces the police to come under the county council? I feel that the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government on this Order would be well advised to let this matter lie until the end of the year when the Royal Commission gives a decision on the whole position of local government, so that we shall all know where we stand.

4.46 p.m.


My Lords, on a previous occasion I had the temerity to vote against the Government on a Derby Order, and if my noble friend decides to take this Prayer to a Division I shall certainly support him. I recollect very well, since I was then in the other place, the setting up of the Royal Commission. The grounds for setting up the Royal Commission were that events had largely overtaken the then Boundary Commission and new terms of reference were necessary to deal with the wider aspect of local government which had been thrown up largely as a result of the review by the Boundary Commission. Therefore, we were told that it was necessary to proceed anew and to go ahead with some urgency with the setting up of a Commission. It was designed to report rapidly, and the intention at that time was that, following the Report of the Royal Commission, the Government should proceed urgently with a review of local government. I am now advised that the Parliamentary Secretary in another place says, "Well, even if they report this year, they cannot do anything for about five years". These arguments just will not do. You cannot at one moment because it suits you say that a matter is urgent and then at the next moment say that you cannot do anything in under five years. That anyone in a responsible position in Government should use such arguments appears to be negative in the extreme and would seem to be politically motivated rather than in accordance with the facts.

If the Royal Commission is to report this year, as it is anticipated it will do this autumn, there should then be consideration by the Government about their attitude. All the evidence has been obtained and everybody of any importance in local government has had an opportunity to express a view. The Government would then be in a position to make a decision, and your Lordships and Members of another place could come to a conclusion on the desirability of the changes which might be recommended. That would not seem to me to involve a period of five years. But even if it did, what is the case for a change now? When the Boundary Commission was set up there was another concommitant factor in regard to the Boundary Commission; namely, the county review. The two were to be a combined objective. The view was that changes which were made as a result of the Boundary Commission might lead to other changes as a result of the county review. In other words, one had authorities which were to be truncated, as in this particular case, and the county would have an opportunity to look at the structure with a view to making amalgamations or adjustments as might be necessary. But they cannot do that now because the county reviews have been stopped, so these truncated pieces have to be left as they are until such time as the Royal Commission reports. If it is good enough for them to wait for the Royal Commission Report, surely it is good enough for the Derby Order to await that Report. These things must be taken together. One cannot separate them and take one part of them.

I recollect that when the Torbay Order came before this House it was part of the Government's case that the Government had promised a decision on the matter a year prior to the date when they gave it. In other words, they asked Torbay to defer their requests, or Torbay agreed that there should be a deferment for one year, and therefore the Government committed themselves absolutely to the Torbay Order; and to this extent it was largely accepted. It was not accepted on merit. I have no doubt that, if there had been a vote on that issue even then, your Lordships would in the main, on the arguments used, have been against the acceptance of the Torbay Order, on the ground that the Royal Commission would be considering the whole of the area and that the scheme involved a vast change of area and copulation.


My Lords, the noble Lord has no grounds for that statement.


My Lords, I have grounds for the statement that many Members of your Lordships' House were opposed to the Torbay Order, for, while I admit that I ought not to pre-judge how your Lordships would vote, the balance of argument appeared to be such that the Order would have been resisted. Be that as it may, that is water under the bridge so far as Torbay is concerned.

Then we came to the Sheffield Order, and the argument was used again that this was a case where the Government were committed and that, having regard to the amount of work that had been done, the Order should go through. I recollect also that at the time when the Royal Commission was set up the local authority associations met the Minister of that time—as a matter of fact, I was there when we discussed the question of what ought to be done—about the position of inquiries which had already been made. The overall general view was that there ought not to be any major alteration, involving large movements of population and area, unless the circumstances were such that it was fully justified. When the public inquiry had been proceeded with and the whole machinery had been gone through, the Minister would, in general—not in every case—examine the matter with a view to deciding whether or not he would present an Order, and in those cases where he had already given a decision he might then proceed.

This was a question that had to be faced against the general background of two or three years ago, as against the background of to-day. It might be argued that what was proposed two or three years ago was valid, but it does not follow that it remains valid if action is delayed, as in this case, for a very long time, and then you suddenly decide to take action just before—perhaps only a few months before—the Royal Commission reports to Parliament on the future of local government.

It would not surprise me in the least if Derby Borough were to be transferred to Derby County—there is always a possibility in the case of a large area—in which case this movement would make nonsense. In any case, the object would be an exercise merely of transfer, in order to transfer one part to another part, and then transfer the lot back again. That, to some extent, might be a possibility. But there really is no justification for making this movement at this point in time. It seems to me, since the County is unable to proceed with its review of the areas which will be so severely affected by this scheme, and which are unlikely to be viable as a result of the action contained in this Order, that the Order ought not to be proceeded with.

As has already been mentioned, we are in the position where the Government had this Order first in another place. I recollect that on previous occasions the Opposition Front Bench here have said that they do not regard these Orders as being matters upon which they would wish to challenge the Government; that they are not of sufficient importance to try to defeat the Government. That is an understandable point of view. I could have wished that this Prayer had come before this House, that it had been convenient to take it here, before it was taken in another place. We should then have been much freer to come to a conclusion as to what we wanted to do with this Order. Nevertheless, I still hope that the Prayer will be supported and that, in the event of a Division, we shall be able to ensure that no action is taken in this vital area and in this matter until such time as the Royal Commission has reported.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, I rise briefly to support the Prayer of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, particularly from the point of view of the rural areas which are going to be very seriously affected if this Order goes through. All the arguments have been put before your Lordships' House with great strength this afternoon, mainly, it seems, by experienced members of the Government's Party who have had connections with this area for many years. It is an area where the Labour Party has always had a great deal of support among the people. But speaking from these Benches I do not wish to be at all political about the matter. It is not a Party matter. It is largely a local government administrative matter, and I do not think that any of us ought to try to make any sort of capital out of it from a Party point of view.

It has been quite evident from the speeches we have heard—and the noble Lord, Lord Pargiter, speaks with great authority as a former Chairman of the County Councils Association, as does the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren—that this is something which is felt very deeply by the people in the county of Derby. The intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin—unexpected, I think, by some of us who came here to-day specifically to support the Prayer—is most welcome, because he speaks with very great experience. I hope very much that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. who I am afraid has borne the brunt of these attacks on local government Orders will take some heed of the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, which seemed to be a very good one.

As the noble Lord, Lord Pargiter, and others have asked: why rush this through now? Why get it through by April 1 when in October or November this year we are to get the Report of the Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Sir John Maude, as he then was? Knowing him, I am sure that it will contain some revolutionary suggestions and that there will have to be a further upheaval in four or five years' time. But even that length of time will be quite short, when one considers that Derby Borough will have to get accommodation for the staff to administer the area which they are going to have. They already have staff separated all round the town, which is not very efficient. They are now going to have this added area, which is going to make administration even more difficult.

This Order will have a very adverse effect on the rates in the South-East Derbyshire rural district councils, as was forcibly pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, in his very able opening statement. The rate in this area is likely to go up by nearly Is. at a time when all local authorities have received a letter from the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government, urging that rates should be kept down to a minimum. There is also going to be a great deal of trouble with the careers of the local government officers. People will find themselves with a much more difficult task to accomplish. They have to look forward to several years of disruption, instead of being able to get on with the work of providing services in the efficient way which I think everybody recognises they have been provided by the rural district councils around South-East Derbyshire, Repton and Belper.

I know that the Government are in a difficulty here, and that they were in the same difficulty with the other Orders. But in the matter of Worcestershire they came to a decision not to proceed with the Worcestershire County Review, and I think quite rightly. In recent weeks there has been a change of heart on certain very vital subjects, and it is to the Government's credit that they have had the courage to say, "This is something which we must look at again". They will have gained the respect of people in the country by the unpopular decisions which they have taken recently in respect of other matters. Surely, in a matter of this kind, which affects the lives of a great many people in our own countryside, they will be prepared to meet us halfway and say that they will have another look at this problem to see whether any other solution can he found, rather than force the Order through with threats of constitutional problems being raised by any action which your Lordships may wish to take. I hope very much that there will be some support from those other parts of the House from which we have not yet heard; but so far as I can recall no one has yet spoken in favour of the Order, and I think I am the seventh or eighth speaker. It seems to me that there is a wide measure of support for the Prayer of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, and I for one will be very pleased to support him if he presses the matter to a Division.

5.1 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Lord who has just spoken said, there has not been a single speech so far in favour of the Order. That may be due in part to the cogency and ability with which the noble Lord, Lord Champion, moved his Prayer—and perhaps I may say, as a member of the Opposition, that the thought which passed through my mind was, "Thank heaven he is off the Government Front Bench!".

I think I am the second speaker from this side to venture to address your Lordships. I do not propose to say anything about the merits of the Order (in any event. I do not know about the subject), but I believe that there is an overwhelming case for the argument that for the Government to introduce the Order now, to try to rush it through now, is very ill timed. It is upon that basis that I personally, if the noble Lord chooses to take the matter to a Division, shall support him. But I should like to say this to the Under-Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I think we all realise that he is in a difficult position. There has been a vote in another place, and he no doubt ha s the same brief as the junior Minister who dealt with it there. For that reason, I would urge him to do all he can to see whether the very sensible advice given by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, on the best way to resolve this matter, can be followed. Failing that, as I say, I shall be one of those who support the noble Lord, Lord Champion.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not vote against the Order. I take that view out of sheer Party loyalty. I do not want to vote against the Government: they have sufficient trouble on their hands at present. Nevertheless, I do not agree with the Order that has been put before us. Another reason why I shall not vote against it is that there is probably some kind of constitutional issue involved here namely, that this House should not vote against an Order which has been accepted and recommended by the other House. All the same, I sincerely add my voice to those of other noble Lords who have pleaded with my noble friend to take this Order back, have it discussed in the Ministry and see whether some other decision cannot be reached.

When the Torbay Order, which has been mentioned by some of your Lordships, was before this House, I trespassed on the time of your Lordships to speak for about 36 minutes. I shall not do that to-day; but I did so then because I have what might be called a county council mind. I have been a member of my county council for well over 22 years and I have held almost every office in it, from chairman of the fire brigade committee to chairman of the finance committee, from vice-chairman of the council to chairman of the council, and now to that dignified position of leader of the Opposition. I therefore probably feel rather jealous for the future of county councils. But if I am wedded to county councils, I confess it must be a kind of polygamous marriage, because concurrently with my membership of the county council I was for some years finance committee chairman of an urban district council, and in the days of my youth, before I degenerated into journalism, I was a local government official in charge of the costing system of one of the biggest city corporations in this country. So although I am now a county councillor, I can see the other person's point of view.

It is a fact, my Lords, that almost every county borough in this country has territorial ambitions. It wants to spread out its boundaries. It puts forward various excuses: that it is neces- sary to do this in order to plan its road system, that it is necessary to do this in order to build its housing estate, or sometimes that it is necessary to do this for financial reasons. But I sometimes feel that those expansions of territory do not have the result of reducing the rates of the people in the city. The housing argument has nothing whatsoever in it. Any city or county borough can buy land outside its boundaries and build houses there. In my county of Essex we have had five or six gigantic London County Council estates built within our territory. There is no difficulty whatsoever—except, of course, that the county council has to provide all the schools, the firemen, the policemen, the nurses and the other services that follow because we have to accept London's population.

When there are annexations of territory, there is always a great difficulty about the future of the officers of the councils that are taken over. Each one of those councils has a clerk, a treasurer, a surveyor, a public health inspector and so on—and what happens to them? They will probably have to be pensioned off prematurely with compensation, or they will be absorbed into the larger authority's organization, probably at some level which is not commensurate with their abilities. But usually there are financial burdens falling on both councils in that respect.

We have to bear in mind—and this is fundamental to my opposition to this Order—that the Order was framed under the now defunct Local Government Commission. That Local Government Commission was set up to do what I will irreverently call a patchwork job with regard to the reorganisation of local government in this country; that is to say—I do not want to be too disrespectful about it—it was to take a town and say that it should have a bit added on to it, it was to take a county and say that it should have a bit taken off it, and so on. At that time, probably, that was the best way available of tackling the problem.

But since then the Royal Commission on Local Government for the whole country has been set up, and that is looking at the subject through a much longer telescope. We are undoubtedly going to have a revolution in the style of local government in this country in the future. As noble Lords have said, we cannot forecast what the Royal Commission is going to recommend, but I think most of us have a suspicion that it will recommend much larger, much more populous, local government units than we have ever known before. That being the case, my Lords, why should we do this little patchwork job at this moment, in the full knowledge that in a few years' time this patchwork job will have to be reincorporated into a much larger organisation, whether it be called a region, a province, a city region or any of the other proposals that have been adumbrated? My main objection, as it was to the Torquay proposal, is that if we do this job now we shall have a bigger job to do in a few years' time. I think we should leave it until we can see the whole of the picture and not just a little corner of it.

5.8 p.m.


My Lords, I can address your Lordships this afternoon only by the indulgence of your Lordships' House, because I was not present when the noble Lord, Lord Champion, moved his Prayer. My Lords, we do not hear the noble Lord in your Lordships' House as frequently to-day as we used to do, and I much regret that I missed the opportunity of hearing him move his Prayer. I am quite sure that it would have been an object lesson to us all in how to handle these somewhat obscure and difficult questions.

I am tempted to address your Lordships for a few moments this afternoon only by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. He rested his case entirely upon the allegation that this Order was mistimed, and he went on to explain, as other noble Lords have done, that we ought to wait until the Royal Commission make their Report; that anything that is done under this Order to-day can be only temporary. My Lords, since 1945, when the problems of reorganising local government first began to be acute, there have been innumerable attempts to reach some solution of the difficult problems of boundaries, areas and local authority finance. Each one of those attempts hitherto has failed; and it has failed after a long, protracted effort to produce a result which would remove the great and growing difficulties that local authorities have experienced in the last 25 years. All those efforts have come to nothing, and it looks as though that will be the fate of this Order.

This Order comes to your Lordships' House as a result of protracted and prolonged consideration. There have been local inquiries at which the inhabitants of the area proposed to be combined with Derby had the opportunity of being represented—and did not always take it. There have been prolonged conferences; much time has been expended, and there has been much expense. Now, when it reaches the last stage, we are asked to wait again, to cast on one side all the labour that has gone into the making of this Order simply because the Royal Commission are expected to produce something with which it may prove to be inconsistent.

But will it prove inconsistent? This is a proposal in which certain rural areas—and semi-rural areas, for they are not all rural by any means—are to be combined with an urban centre. Is that not just the pattern of authority, although perhaps on a small scale, which rumour says is likely to find favour with the Royal Commission? Indeed, all our experience points to some solution on those lines as the solution of this problem of boundaries which has caused so much perplexity since the end of the War. Would it not be better to let this Order go through, and to allow these changes to take place? I see no reason why they should result in the sort of chaos which has been suggested. There is no great difficulty about transferring these areas from one authority to anther. That was done for the whole County of London without any serious chaos. The same teachers go on teaching in the same schools; the same nurses go on nursing in the same hospitals; every-thing goes on very much as it did before.


My Lords, would the noble Lord pardon me for interrupting him to say that the reorganisation of the County of London had the most disastrous effects on the neighbouring County of Essex, half of whose population and more than half of whose rateable value was snatched away?


Yes, my Lords, but the noble Lord knows that that half of the population of Essex ought never to have remained in the County of Essex as long as it did. I, myself, when I was in another place promoted four or five Private Bills to make that part of Essex a county borough, which was the right government for it. Each of those Bills failed because it was argued that we ought to wait until the Boundary Commission gave a decision or until somebody else came to some other conclusion; and we had to wait. The result was very unfortunate for that part of the population of the County of Essex which extended into Greater London. This proposed transfer of the area outside the borough is not likely to produce the sort of chaos which has been forecast. Apart from the County of Essex, where others might hold different views, the whole of the Government of Central London was reorganised without any very great difficulty and without any very great hardship to those concerned. And so it would be here.

So far, I think I am the only speaker who has advocated the case of the County Borough of Derby. Of course, advocates for the borough are stronger in another place and, correspondingly, in your Lordships' House those for the counties tend to be stronger. But tonight, at any rate, I hope we are going to give some finality to this Order which is brought to us after such a prolonged and protracted investigation.


My Lords, in the earlier part of his speech my noble friend referred to the fact that if this Order is not allowed to go through there will be a great waste of money. But need that necessarily be so? After the Royal Commission has reported, if they report on the lines which make this Order fit in with their recommendations, surely the money will not be thrown away; if they report otherwise, it is well thrown away as being against a better recommendation.


My Lords, I wish I could think there was some substance in my noble friend's point. I am afraid that the cost of the earlier inquiry will undoubtedly be thrown away if this Order is revoked to-night.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, the House puts me in a difficult position, not for the reason that I have any doubt that this Order is the right answer to the problem of Derby and the County, nor because I have any doubt that the House of Commons decided the matter rightly last week; but because it is a fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, has just pointed out, that the voices of the counties and the rural districts are in this House so very much more eloquent, better informed and more numerous than the voices of those who have experience of the boroughs of England. It puts me in a difficulty because what I should like to do—and what any Minister would like to do on an occasion like this—is to be as impartial as I possibly can and say: "Bearing in mind all the facts on both sides of this difficult question, does not the House think it right to come down in the way proposed in this Order?" Unfortunately, that course is not open to me, because we have had seven, eight or nine—I do not remember how many—speakers saying what a bad thing it is for county boroughs to swallow up bits of counties; and only one and two "halves" saying that the county boroughs may sometimes be right to swallow up bits of the county. For that reason, I shall be forced to depart from the neutral stance I should have liked to adopt and to put the case of a county borough which is in the long-standing trouble that the county borough of Derby is.

Let me first just get out of the way some possible misconceptions. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, asked whether the Government had been privately told by the Royal Commission that this Order, and perhaps others, would not conflict with its findings. Of course not. The Government were not told anything by the Royal Commission. All that they have been told—and I think it would be right to say this—was in the case of another Order some time ago when an informal inquiry was made of the chairman of the Royal Commission whether the Royal Commission would find its work and findings inhibited if the Government were to take decisions such as this and were to go ahead with that boundary adjustment. The answer was, "No, not at all. The Government must continue to govern until the Royal Commission formulates its views, which it is at present in the course of formulating, after which the Government must decide whether they accept them. "No other answer, I think, could have been returned.

The noble Lord, Lord Henley, also suggested that the Local Government Commission (this is the old adjustments board) recommendations had been superseded and the system abandoned. This is quite wrong. Its recommendations have not been superseded and the system has not been abandoned. I am inviting your Lordships to take part in the system of work originating in the findings of the old Local Government Commission at this moment. And this would be the moment to remind the House of the general framework for these borough changes. I believe that this will be the fourth or fifth time that I have had to say this on Local Government Orders in the last year; and I hope the House will bear with me in my saying it again, because nobody this afternoon has taken it up from any of the former debates.

When the Minister of Housing set up the Royal Commission, he was faced with the problem of what to do with the work of the Local Government Commission which was in the pipeline. This was a very real problem. When should he turn the tap off? I should like to remind the House of the decision Mr. Crossman came to and announced at that time, in the summer of 1966. Boundary changes on the basis of the Local Government Commission's recommendations on which he had already issued decisions would stand. That was the easier part of his decision. The harder part was what to do with the recommendations which at that time were before him, but on which he had not issued decisions. He decided that the thing to do would be to look at each recommendation in the knowledge of the fact that the Royal Commission was then sitting and would in due course come up with recommendations on an entirely new local government structure and decide whether or not such recommendations were urgent enough to justify their implementation pending the Royal Commission's Report.

This is what has been happening and this Order, with two or three others which your Lordships' House has passed in recent months, have been the fruit of these pragmatic decisions of the Minister. Although this Derby Order is a difficult decision, the Minister thinks that it is urgent enough for certain concrete reasons to be proceeded with pending the Royal Commission's Report, which we may expect to lead to action in five, six or seven years from now.


My Lords, I am not quite sure whether the noble Lord thinks that it would be improper for the Government to consult informally with the Royal Commission as to whether they should continue with this in the pipeline, or whether it is urgent enough to proceed with it—or does the noble Lord feel that this would not be helpful?


My Lords, the Royal Commission cannot be expected to judge whether these Orders are urgent enough. They are trying to devise a complete new structure ab initio on general principles, and to refer particular cases to them for judgment would, I think, be quite wrong. The decision has to be taken by the Minister, subject to the approval of Parliament. That is what he is there for and what Parliament is here for. As to this Order, over the last eight years the proceedings have included meetings between the Local Government Commission and the local authorities and a long public Inquiry in 1965, at which objections to the proposals of the Local Government Commission were elaborated before an inspector appointed by the then Minister of Housing. The conclusion that the Minister reached after this Inquiry took account of all the views expressed and of the information amassed during this long and detailed procedure, which in this case, as in all others, followed the procedure laid down by Parliament for determining these thorny questions.

The essence of the Commission's views, as the House knows, was that the developed parts of the three rural districts touching Derby are really an extension of the town itself, that the residents look to Derby for employment, shopping, entertainment and in many cases education, and that the whole area forms a single free-standing town, which ought to be planned and administered as a unit The Commission's conclusions about the unity of this town are tellingly set out in their Report and are reinforced by the Report of the inspector who sat later at the public Inquiry.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this debate this afternoon has been that none of the noble Lords who have spoken against the Order have mentioned this conclusion of the Local Government Commission, of the inspector and of the Minister, that all the areas in question are de facto part of the town of Derby. Criticism has concentrated on three aspects—the wishes of the inhabitants, the financial implications and, above all, the question of timing. They are all interrelated. I should like to spend most time on the issue of timing, which I agree is the most difficult decision, one where the reasons for the Order appear to be weakest, but where I think that they are strong enough to make it desirable to have this Order.

I do not think that anybody would dispute that many of the inhabitants of the rural districts—I need not go into figures—are against this Order. The question of the wishes of local residents is always one of the trickiest in these decisions. My Minister and I appreciate the feelings of the local people who want to retain their present arrangements, which attract them for many reasons, and I do not delude myself that anything I say here is going to change their minds about this. But all noble Lords who are familiar with local government and with the procedures of these boundary changes know that the wishes of the inhabitants can only be one of the factors which first the Commission and then the Minister must take into account in considering whether or not to make changes now. Parliament itself approved the regulations under which the Commission worked and certain criteria against which they had to test the desirability of these boundary changes. These regulations list nine factors, of which the wishes of the inhabitants is only one. Although the most important, it has to be balanced against the eight other factors.

I do not think that I can do better than quote the words of the Commission, in paragraph 429 of their Report where they say: We do not underestimate the many local activities and interests in the fringe areas, but all the evidence confirms our conclusion that these areas are suburbs of the town and the reasonably hard line between town and country lies beyond that. What do we do with the suburb of a big town? Ought it to be left indefinitely or even for six or seven years as part of a rural district? Is this not making nonsense of the word "rural"? Or ought it to be incorporated, with all due safeguards for transitional arrangements, into the town of which it is economically part and of which it ought to be part for planning purposes?

About the financial arrangements, the first and most obvious point is that the authorities outside the present town will all lose population and rate resources. I do not minimise the size of these transfers, but equally I hope that your Lordships will not exaggerate them. The county will lose some 88,000 of their residents—not, I think, quite the 90,000 my noble friend said. It is true that they have already lost 33,000 in the areas recently transferred to Sheffield. It is more than understandable that they should be concerned at the overall loss of 120,000 of their residents and ratepayers, but I should like the House to remember that after this Order they will be left with a population of some 665,000 and that they will still be one of the more populous counties in the country. There will be no question of their being reduced to a mere rural stump by any means. The impact on the three rural districts will be severe enough, and I will not disguise the fact that they will be required to make considerable changes in their internal arrangements, particularly in South-East Derbyshire, about which my noble friend particularly spoke. But again there can be no question that they will remain not only viable, but also strong and healthy authorities.

The Derbyshire authorities are right to look carefully at the financial repercussions. This is a difficult subject to deal with fully and accurately in a debate of this kind, because the level of rates in the borough and in the surrounding rural districts is subject to so many influences, many of which unfortunately tend to push the rates up. There are two aspects of finance particularly connected with this Order which my right honourable friend in reaching a decision has taken into account. The rates in Derby are higher than they are in the rural districts by varying amounts, but on this year's rate poundages it may be as much as 1s. 8d. in the pound higher.

In passing, let me say that this is not at all unusual. It is not a reflection on local authorities on either side of the boundary. Rates in county boroughs are generally higher than in rural districts, for reasons that we all know well enough. But those people to be transferred to Derby will be cushioned against a big and sudden jump in their rates. That is why Article 47 was included in the Order. It is a provision often found in Boundary Orders. Briefly, its effect is to ensure that although the transferred ratepayers will in due course pay the full rate, they will make the transition by steps spread out over two or three years, instead of in a single jump.

The other financial aspect that I mentioned concerns the rates in the county and rural districts. The transfer of population means that those authorities in the rural districts must rearrange their financial system. They will in future be responsible for a smaller population. They will not need to provide on the same scale. But they cannot make these economies overnight. So much is in the nature of things. There will have to be a period of adjustment, and initially the boundary changes are likely to mean that services will be relatively more expensive to provide in the county and rural districts than they were before. To meet this it is quite usual to include an Article in an Order of this nature which requires an extended county borough to contribute towards the expenses of the authorities part of whose population they are taking over over a transitional period. Contributions would have the effect of restraining consequent rate increases above a certain threshold, which is usually about 6d. in the pound. In the case of this Order, Article 45 does it. It provides for Derby to pay certain sums to Belper and to South-East Derbyshire on a descending scale over four years, which is longer than the other way round. These sums are related to likely rate increases which are attributable to the boundary organisations and are intended to ensure that the rate increases shall not exceed about 6d. in the pound.

I come here to a rather important point in this somewhat complicated analysis, and it is this: that the sums referred to in this Article were not calculated by Derby and imposed by the Ministry; they were not calculated by the Ministry and imposed on both sides by the Ministry: they are the result of agreement between the authorities themselves. Here I should like to pay tribute to the good sense of the authorities, who, despite their acute difference on the principle of this Order, were able to discuss this problem objectively and to reach an agreement. The Article and the settlement which it embodies also illustrates something else. It shows that the financial repercussions arising from this Order are not as serious as some people have suggested, not I am glad to say, in this House, but outside.

I come now to the question of timing. As I said when I began, I do not disguise that this is a very difficult question, and that there is much on the face of it to suggest that it is wrong to press ahead with an Order of this nature while we are in the shadow of the Royal Commission's Report. But I should like to make one or two points about this. First of all, there is the likelihood of the enlarged town having to reorganise everything again within seven years. I think the remarks of my honourable friend in another place about this should be interpreted as meaning that he in his own judgment (and it is a judgment I share we are all guessers at this) would be very surprised if the Royal Commission came up with the sort of result which meant that county boroughs like Derby had to carve themselves up into bits; and, of course, it is this which would make nonsense of the kind of change that I am proposing now.

If you allow a borough to enlarge itself and take in what are in fact urban areas, that would indeed be nonsensical if there was any danger of the Royal Commission saying that county boroughs ought to chop themselves up into smaller first-tier authorities. But since I think we are all agreed that this would be most unlikely, it does not matter very much whether or not the Royal Commission recommend larger authorities, and the Government then accept the recommendation for larger authorities because, if the nucleus is there, it will indeed turn out to be a nucleus of a larger authority. This is the over-riding reason why we think it would not make sense to hold up these schemes for fear of having to unpick them if the Royal Commission recommend in a way they are not likely to do.

I do not know to what extent it would be proper for me to paint a picture to your Lordships of the troubles of Derby Corporation—they are great enough. I was there myself about ten days ago. I do not know how many of your Lordships have had the benefit of recent visits to Derby, and have looked round. It is visible to the naked eye that it is only about two-thirds of the town. There is so much outside. It is trying for the Corporation, with the nucleus of that urban population, to run services (and I will refer particularly to two) which it cannot do properly because it has not that whole settled urban unit as a unitary whole. This applies particularly to planning. The difficulties of planning two-thirds of a town have only to be imagined to be admitted, I think; and they certainly feel it in the town of Derby. It applies to housing, both directly and indirectly, through planning.

To all my noble friends who made light of difficulties of putting almost all your new housing in another local authority area, I would say that I am not sure they were right to do it. One third of Derby Corporation's housing is outside its own boundary. This is an impossible proportion to have in out-borough developments. The City of Derby has over one quarter of its houses more than 80 years old. It has one of the greatest clearance and renewal problems of any town in England, and it is hemmed into two-thirds of its own populated area as it stands. It is not, I believe, quite realistic to say that with good sense (and I am not saying that the County of Derbyshire have shown anything but good sense) it is as easy for a town to solve its housing problem outside its own boundaries as it is to solve it within its own boundaries.

If one considers the way that transport development must be dovetailed with new housing, and the way all the services which have to go with new housing ought to be, and indeed must be, done together in a co-ordinated whole, with the best will in the world two neighbouring authorities cannot share the rational development of one town. This is really the point of the argument. I myself think it is so obvious that this is so, and I think I shall probably carry those noble Lords with me who know Derby and who know the part of Derbyshire which immediately surrounds the town (we do not want to think of the Peak district and the moors or farms; we are not talking about that; we are talking about the suburbs of Derby), when I say that even under the shadow of the Royal Commission the rational development and planning in that town is so urgent as to justify this particular Order.

My noble friend, in moving his Prayer, mentioned Stansted. He complimented the Government on having changed their minds about that, and asked whether the Government could not change their mind about this. There are differences in the two cases. I think that much of the opposition to the Stansted Order came from the feeling that not the right kind of inquiry had been held, and that all opponents were not given a chance to state their case. I do not think that any of that could possibly be aimed at the present Order. All the due inquiries have been gone through under the procedure laid down by Parliament; all the possible objections have been heard and have been weighed; and at every stage. Government Commission, inspector and the Minister, the judgment has agreed that the Order should go through.

This Order has been through the House of Commons. I do not wish to lean too heavily on this point, but I expect that not many noble Lords will agree with the noble Lord who said that he found the proceedings there verging on the totalitarian. It has, as I say, gone through the House of Commons. It is your Lordships' undoubted right to have a separate debate on it, and this we have had. The House will remember that this is one of a series of Orders, all of which have already been through this House. It presents most of the characteristics that we discussed in full in the case of the Torbay Order and the Sheffield Order, and one or two others. In each of those cases the House, after full debate, decided that it would not be right to annul the Order; and I hope, in view of all I have said, and taking account of the fact that I have been almost alone to say it and to present the difficulties of the town of Derby to your Lordships, that my noble friend will, on reflection, withdraw his Motion for annulment.

5.41 p.m.


My Lords, it seems to me that my noble friend and I have appealed to one another. I appealed to the noble Lord to withdraw this Order, to take it back and discuss it with his right honourable friend, and then, perhaps, to lay it again. He has now appealed to me to withdraw my Motion. I can understand his feeling on this issue. But he must recognise that I, too, have a feeling about it. I moved this Motion strongly because I feel pretty strongly about it. I feel that the Order never ought to have been laid; but I will not go over the ground again. Many of the points my noble friend made I think could be controverted. I will not attempt to do it at this time.

However, I am bound to agree with something that was said in relation to this matter: that this House ought to be careful, very careful, about voting against Orders of this sort. It so happens that I am on record as saying that I think this House ought not finally to have the right to decide against an Order of this kind until some careful thought has been given to it and perhaps there has been an amendment to our Constitution. The Government cannot force this Order through again within a limited space of time, as they could a Bill. Most of the Orders of this kind were never thought about in 1911, when the first big step in the direction of limiting the power of this House was taken, As I say, I am on record as having said that I do not think this House should have the right to turn an Order down. I think it ought to have the right to discuss it, to bring its point of view to bear upon the Minister of the day and ask him, perhaps, to withdraw the Order. I think this would be right; but I am extremely reluctant to take this House, so far as it lies in my power, to a Division on this matter tonight. On the other hand, my difficulty is that I cannot accept as a complete answer the answer given by my noble friend Lord Kennet. Much as I like him, much as I appreciate his excellent qualities, I simply cannot do it.

So, my Lords, I am going to adopt what seemed to me to be the excellent suggestion of my noble friend Lord Silkin. His suggestion was that this debate should be adjourned in order that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, may go back and see his chief Minister, the man finally responsible for the Order, and tell him what has been the feeling in this House, so that he may then consider it again. It seems to me, thinking the matter over, that there might be a way in which I could achieve this, and that would be by moving the adjournment of this debate, in order that I may put the matter down again to-morrow. It would have to be to-morrow because of the importance of the material to be discussed on Thursday and the length of Business on that day, plus the fact that the last day for a Prayer to be laid against this Order happens to be the last sitting day, Thursday, of this week. So I find myself facing this position. I do not want to withdraw this Motion at this stage, but I like Lord Silkin's idea and I am going to adopt it. I believe it to be in order. I move that this debate be adjourned until to-morrow, when will put the Motion down again. I beg to move.

Moved, that the debate be adjourned until to-morrow.—(Lord Champion.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.