§ 2.45 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SECURITY (LORD ABERDARE)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Aberdare.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [New local government areas in England]:
§ LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 1:
§ Page 1, line 8, at beginning insert ("For the administration of local government on and after 1st April 1974 ").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 1, and I suggest that it may be of convenience to the Committee if with it we consider Amendment No. 88, which does for Wales what Amendment No.1 does forEngland. These two Amendments have the simple and straightforward virtue of making clear at the beginning the respective parts to which they apply and what the object of the whole part is. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 2.47 p.m.
§ LORD JACQUES moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 2, line 5, at end insert—
( "(4A)(a) Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, in any order made under paragraph 1 of the said Schedule 3, the Secretary of State may designate any district to which the order applies as a special district within a non-metropolitan county in respect of which the district council and the county council shall have such functions and attributes as may be provided in the order, being functions and atributes of the council of a metropolitan district and of the council of a metropolitan county respectively under the provisions of this Act (other than sections 195 and 196 thereof) and, in the case of a district so designated within any such county, the said provisions of this Act shall have effect, in accordance with the provisions of the order and subject as may be provided therein, as if the district were a
metropolitan district and as if, in relation to that district the county were a metropolitan county.
(b) Any such order may contain such incidental, consequential and supplementary provisions as appear necessary or proper for bringing the order into operation and giving full effect thereto.")
§ The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment of principle rather than one of detail. The principle involved is flexibility. The Bill as it stands is extremely inflexible and this Amendment seeks to give the Government authority to act and to do that more flexibility is required. The Amendment by itself does not give additional functions to any local authority; it simply authorises the Secretary of State in circumstances where he thinks fit to give some or all of the metropolitan functions to districts in a non-metropolitan county. It will give to the proposals embodied in the Bill a mere modicum of flexibility. Each of the counties of England has its own physical economy and social geography and consequently if any principles are to be applied to these counties they can be applied only with flexible proposals.
§ The Government in the White Paper laid down admirable principles, but to apply those principles to the variation of counties we have in England can be done only by proposals in which there is some flexibility. Unfortunately, the proposals embodied in the Bill are extremely inflexible. As I said on Second Reading, they are on the basis that that which is not black must be white. This Amendment seeks to plead with the Government to bear in mind that there are other shades of colour between black and white and to recognise the facts of life. In terms of the Bill a county is either metropolitan or non-metropolitan; there can be nothing in between. We have counties in England which are graded as non-metropolitan and which have at their perimeter huge urban areas with greater populations than some of the metropolitan districts which will be created elsewhere; they have also needs and capacities which are quite different from the rest of the county and which should have some or all of the functions of a metropolitan district. Furthermore, in these particular counties the population is big enough to allow metropolitan functions to be given to these huge urban areas and still leave in the rest of the 1110 county a population which is far greater than the minimum laid down by the Government for metropolitan functions.
The two examples that stand out are Devon and Hampshire. In the case of Devon we have the largest administrative county; it has a population of 900,000. The principal feature of the geography of the county is the high land mass of Dartmoor National Park. This is a traditional barrier to communications and the principal roads and railways have to go around this land. Indeed, the problem of Devon was put by the Devon County Council itself. In its written evidence to the Royal Commission, the Devon County Council listed the principal difficulties affecting the administration of the county, and first among those difficulties was placed the problems of distances and communications. Here I quote:
Devon is more than ordinarily expensive to administer not only because of the mileage of the roads, but also owing to the time taken in travelling from the centre to the outlying areas. In normal travelling conditions, considerable areas of the county are more than one hour's travelling time from Exeter but in the holiday season congestion on the roads involves much longer times. The time wasted is impossible to quantify, but it is a very real factor in increasing the cost of administration. Moreover, it is responsible for a good deal of inconvenience to members of the county council who must travel frequently to Exeter to committee meetings where all the major decisions are taken.
§ Those are not the words of the County Borough of Plymouth. Those are the words of the Devon County Council, the people on the spot who have to administer the county.
§ The Royal Commission, having received those representations, put forward proposals which would have made modifications in Devon and would have made the administration easier. But the proposals for Devon embodied in this Bill completely ignore those problems. In fact, they add to them by bringing within the county the county borough of Plymouth which is in the extreme South-West. Plymouth is 43 miles from Exeter. It is already bigger than some of the new education authorities which are being created in metropolitan counties. Its population at the present time is 240,000, but it is clear that within a very short time it will exceed 250,000, which is the minimum laid down by the Government for education and social services. Furthermore, if Plymouth had metropolitan 1111 functions the rest of the county would have a population of 660,000 which I should have thought was an admirable figure for the administration of education and social services. We hope, therefore, that the Government will have another look at the position of Plymouth and we believe that the Amendment which is before the Committee is perhaps the best way of having that further look.
§ The other example which I want to give is the county of Hampshire. Hampshire already has a population of 1,500,000 and, if the structure plans which have been accepted by the Government are put into effect, the population of Hampshire will be two million before the end of the century. The Government have themselves said that one million should be the maximum for education and social services. Here we have a county which already has 1,500,000 and is fast climbing to two million. In the extreme south of Hampshire there are two huge urban areas; one is Portsmouth and the other is Southampton. In the case of Portsmouth, there is a population of 200,000. It is 27 miles from Winchester, the county town. There is no through train service between Portsmouth and Winchester. There is not even a through bus service between Portsmouth and Winchester. The county councillors from Portsmouth will have the same kind of inconvenience as the Devon county councillors spoke of in their submissions to the Royal Commission. Southampton is in much the same position, with a population of 214,000. If both of these cities, which have a long history and experience of education, were to keep education and social services by having metropolitan functions, the rest of the county would still have a population in excess of one million; in other words, in excess of the Government's maximum figure. So it cannot be said that the giving of metropolitan functions to these two urban areas would in any way impair the efficiency of the services in the rest of the county.
§ We know the Government's defence. We have read the reports of the debates in the other place and we know the reply which was given from the Government Front Bench during the Second Reading debate. I should like to place that defence before the Committee and to question it. The Government raised two issues 1112 in their defence. They said, first, that if metropolitan functions go to places like Plymouth, Portsmouth and Southampton, then Nottingham, Leicester, Hull and Bristol will want them and will be equally entitled to them. That is not so. Nottingham and Leicester are the cores, the very centres, of existing counties. Nobody has ever suggested that the core of the county, where the county administration is should have the education and social services functions devolving upon the districts. That would be an outrageous suggestion. Since the county headquarters are established in an urban area, then it is appropriate that the county should carry out those functions. In the case of Hull and Bristol, the Government themselves are proposing entirely new counties—Humberside and Avon. Hull will be the centre of Humberside and Bristol will be the centre of Avon. So that none of these core towns has anything like the claim of the three towns in Hampshire and Devon which are on the perimeter of the county, divorced from the county town.
§ The second argument which was used from the Government Front Bench was that the proposals which we are now making would divide the districts in non-metropolitan areas into first-class and second-class districts. I suggest that that is a misuse of words. The proposal is not first-class and second-class. The proposal is each according to his need and capacity. Nobody can suggest that the needs and the capacity of a rural area of 40,000 population are identical with those of an urban area of 250,000. An urban area of 250,000 is an entirely different matter. It has a need for the organisation of education and social services within the urban area to meet the problems of that urban area. It has a capacity to carry on these services efficiently, because it has the population with which to do that. Consequently, I say to the Government that the arguments which have been used so far do not hold water so far as this Amendment is concerned.
§ I am one of those who would like to see local government, once it has been reorganised, with us without change for a long time. It is not something which we should be meddling with day by day. I would therefore plead with the Government, where there are serious genuine anomalies, to be prepared to have a look 1113 at them. If they have a look at them and do something to put them right, then reorganisation will be permanent or, at least, will last for a very long time. But if they ignore the feeling of injustice among large urban populations, then they will leave behind a feeling not only of injustice, but of dissatisfaction which will lead to considerable insistence that further changes should be made. I would venture to say that in some of the urban areas. particularly the three I have mentioned, the questions which will be put to future candidates for the other place, regardless of Party, will be: Where do you stand on local government? Do you stand for a large area like this, which is on the perimeter of the county, having metropolitan powers, or not? I suggest that any candidate who does not fall in with the wishes of the local people is unlikely to become the candidate. Feeling is so strong. I would ask the Government: Please have a look at this question and see what you can do. If you cannot accept this Amendment, then at some later stage let us have an Amendment which is acceptable. I beg to move.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ LORD MAYBRAY-KING
The case for special treatment of a number of big county boroughs, and especially Plymouth. Southampton and Portsmouth, was powerfully stated by a number of noble Lords on the first day of the Second Reading debate of this Bill, the Report of which unfortunately has not yet been printed. That case has now again been powerfully deployed by my noble friend Lord Jaques. This modest Amendment seeks to permit a non-metropolitan county to hand over some of its functions to a district as though that district were a metropolitan district. This is already the case for districts where the county is a metropolitan county. Quite recently I received a letter from 33 chief education officers of metropolitan districts who are very happy that education has been left in their hands and who are able to show that their own conduct of education is as efficient as has been the case in the cities of Portsmouth, Southampton and Plymouth, all of which are to lose their control of education.
I have had a letter from the secretary and former chairman of the National Association of Divisional Executives who used to control private education. He 1114 himself is a former chief education officer for Gosport, and he writes:It is most unsatisfactory that the whole of the administration of the education service should be concentrated in the new super-large county authorities, especially where these include major cities which hitherto, as county boroughs, have controlled their own education service".He suggests that whereas there is perhaps a case for centralising some aspects of further education, the day-to-day administration of education should be in the hands of local people, nearer to the people. As the Bill stands, Clause 100(9) prevents education from passing into the hands of the three authorities which my noble friend has mentioned, and our modest Amendment would give the Minister power to change that.
Surely everybody, in theory at any rate, wants the new districts to be bodies with enough worthwhile functions and control of expenditure at local level to be really effective. But in a simple analysis of one county borough, Plymouth, the town clerk has shown that the present Bill, if it goes through unamended, will result in Plymouth having control of only 14 per cent. of the money spent in that city. The rest will be controlled by the new county, on the council of which Plymouth will have a permanent built-in minority; and this is roughly true of Southampton and of Portsmouth. The town clerk of Winchester, who has some 24 years of experience in office, writes with pride about what his city has done in local government, and in a letter to me expresses the fear, which I voiced in the Second Reading debate on behalf of the Associations of Rural Districts, Urban Districts and Municipal Corporations, that the taking away of functions from local authorities, the narrowing of functions of local authorities, willhave most critical importance to the quality of those who serve on the future council. Parliament should realise that if the details of a local function are entrusted to a county council, this takes away from a local body with locally elected members something about which the county cannot have the local knowledge, time or opportunity to deal with adequately".If these are the fears of professional local government men who have given their lives to the service, the Government should look sympathetically on attempts to satisfy their desires for the retention of a few more of the functions which the 1115 Bill proposes to take from them. No two counties are alike. In the allocation of functions, the Government and the counties would do well to temper the wind to the shorn lamb: consider each county separately, and consider especially the case of the counties which contain massive county boroughs. By this Amendment, the Minister would be able to treat at least some non-metropolitan districts more generously by retaining for some of the county boroughs some of the functions—not necessarily all—that are being taken away. That can be done by this Amendment, under which he could make certain districts what we call special districts and give them the powers that they would have if their county had been a metropolitan county. If the Bill has one fault, it is that it is too rigid, it is too mathematical. There are indeed special cases. On Second Reading we attempted to show that Southampton, Portsmouth and Plymouth were just such special cases and ought to be allowed to retain at least some of the functions which they have carried out so splendidly up to the moment. I hope that the Minister will accept this reasonable Amendment, and that, having accepted it, he will implement it with wisdom, after taking the advice of the local authorities who are concerned in it.
I sincerely hope that my noble friend will not agree to this Amendment. Under this Bill my own county of East Sussex is to be incorporated with three county boroughs. If they all claimed this metropolitan status and all got it, we should be right back to square one. The noble Lord says, "Of course, it does not mean that each case will have to be acceded to by the Minister ". I cannot believe that the Minister can be quite so arbitrary as the speakers have been suggesting. They have mentioned Plymouth, Southampton and Portsmouth. I imagine that all major county boroughs would immediately put in for this treatment; they would want to remain as all-purpose authorities. I think it is putting far too much on to the Minister to suggest that he should exercise this power.
But I am really somewhat concerned as to whether something like this cannot happen under the Bill as drafted. I apologise for referring to later clauses, 1116 but I think that some of the remarks that have been made have taken no account whatever of these clauses. Clause 47 expressly states that, after a review, the Commission may recommend to the Secretary of Statethe conversion of a metropolitan into a non-metropolitan countyand vice versa, and, in consequence thereof, similar treatment in the case of metropolitan and non-metropolitan districts. Clause 48 seems to provide that such reviews by the Commission must take place after ten years. I really was amazed that the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, paid no attention to this clause. Such a review will take place after ten years. After all this examination and re-examination, is it too much to ask that for ten years we should have the status quo?
But, then, Clause 49 seems to give the Minister power to alter the timing of such reviews. In all this Part of the Bill they refer (if I may use the word in the absence of my noble friend Lord Conesford) to the "metropolitanisation" or "de-metropolitanisation" of large areas at least the size of a county. It would be quite unreasonable to expect my noble friend to explain these clauses in detail at the present stage, but I shall be quite satisfied if my noble friend can assure me that the object sought by Lord Jacques and Lord Maybray-King cannot be met under these clauses.
§ BARONESS BACON
I find myself rather in a dilemma about this Amendment, because it might appear to be contrary to the view I put forward last week during the Second Reading debate. On that occasion I argued that in the metropolitan counties education ought to be the responsibility of the metropolitan county rather than of the districts, some of which were much too small and much too poor to carry out the functions of a local education authority. I am in this dilemma only because the Government are speaking with two voices on this Bill. The population of the new Hampshire will be fewer even now, without the increase referred to by the noble Lord, than the population of the new South Yorkshire metropolitan county. Yet whereas in South Yorkshire the education functions are to be given to small district councils in Hampshire education is to be the responsibility of the county. I should like to know, because it is germane to 1117 this discussion, what the Government propose to do about Amendment No. 103 in the names of my noble friends and myself in which we seek to put the responsibility for education in the metropolitan counties in the control of the counties rather than the districts. If as I fear, the Government are going to resist that Amendment, I do not see how they can resist the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, because it is absolutely contradictory to say on the one hand that we must have an education authority with a population of 1½ million, and on the other hand that fewer than 1½ million is much too big an area to be an education authority.
I think that where the Bill falls down is over this very artificial distinction between metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties. The Government are in a mess and a muddle about this. They argue one thing on one group of Amendments and another thing on another group. We should have clearly from the Government what is in their minds, because it is very difficult for us to make up our minds unless we know what is in the minds of the Government about education.
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ LORD FOOT
I should like to say a few words in support of this Amendment, and they will be few because of the admirable and comprehensive way in which the Amendment was explained by the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King. I want to support the principle of the Amendment which I understand to be that where you have an area with exceptional circumstances and conditions, the best and most sensible thing to do when trying to restructure the local government system is to have regard to those exceptional circumstances and try to meet them, rather than to try to avoid them. Subject to that, you must try to meet the special circumstances without breaking up the structure of the form on which you have decided.
The second reason why I support the Amendment is because, as the noble Lord, Lord Jacques explained, if the City of Plymouth were designated under the Amendment as having metropolitan district powers it would go, not all the way, but a long way, to meeting those 1118 exceptional conditions which exist in the South-West. I do not speak for the City of Plymouth because it is my native town and the place where I have spent most of my life. I do not rise in order to pursue a sort of battle with the rest of Devon or the people of Exeter. I am concerned solely with trying to ensure that we get the best system of local government in the South-West that this Bill can provide.
I studied the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, when he wound up the Second Reading debate, and I very much regretted the brusque way and, apparently, the unqualified way, in which he dismissed this suggestion. The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, has dealt with the argument that if you designated Plymouth, Southampton and Portsmouth in this way you would have to go on to designate other places like Bristol, Nottingham and Hull. But the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, used a second argument. He said:More importantly, it—that is the proposal—would mean that we should be on the way towards re-creating the present patchwork of counties and county boroughs which the Bill aims to abolish."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1/8/72; col. 253.]That is much the same sort of argument as I understand was being advanced by the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, when he spoke about being back to square one. But I submit that that argument is fallacious. The suggestion is that if you give metropolitan district status and functions to two or three, or four or five, different large urban areas, you would be on the way to re-creating what were formerly county boroughs. But the county borough is an animal of an entirely different kind to the district authority with metropolitan district powers, because the county borough is an all-purpose authority and exercises all the functions of local government within its area. If this proposal were accepted, admittedly, you would have two different kinds of district authority, but it would still be a two-tier system. It would still be county and district authority working side by side. The only change would be that you had passed some functions from the county down to the district.
I hope that the Government have not made up their minds to give us a final, 1119 "No". This proposal has been put forward by people who are very experienced in local government. It has great authority behind it. It is not a proposal that favourable treatment should be given to one particular place or another; it has nothing to do with that. It is a genuine attempt where it is required to make special provision for those exceptional cases.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
With great respect to the distinguished mover of this Amendment I feel that it would be a great mistake if the Committee accepted it. I say that the more sadly because of the lucidity, moderation and restraint with which the mover and his supporters have made their case. But if we were to adopt the Amendment, I believe that we should be in danger of throwing the reformed pattern of local government back again into a condition of uncertainty, instability and confusion. In fact, we should be introducing yet another type of intermediate authority. I am one who feels that you can pay too high a price for a tidy system. Of course, the system we are now considering is not all that tidy. There is provision at the top for ad hoc regional bodies; then we have metropolitan counties, metropolitan districts and the counties and the districts and the parishes. In this case we should be introducing two different types of district within a county. I think that one of the aims of this reform is to bring town and country together and another is to make it as easy as possible for the ordinary citizen to understand which authority does what and to whom he should go. Imagine the confusion in a county with two different types of districts, with two different types of functions! What a source of jealousy, bitterness possibly, and, anyway, confusion of responsibility and of administration I think that there would be! I think the public would find it more difficult to understand such a system than the system described in the Bill.
Then there is another aspect. I think the effect of the Amendment is to give the Secretary of State a power really to create such hybrid authorities. This amounts to giving the Secretary of State power, on his own initiative, to carry out 1120 further local government reform. I am sure that Parliament would not wish to give the Secretary of State as wide a duty and responsibility as that, and I do not believe the Secretary of State would wish for this kind of power. In spite of the able way in which this case was put forward (and at first sight there are some reasonable aspects of it) I am sure the Committee must not contemplate for a moment approving the Amendment or it will be bound to add confusion to the whole objects set out in the Bill. I believe it would introduce an element of disastrous confusion for the future.
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
It may be of help to the Committee that I attempt to give the reasons why I support this Amendment. I see it as a means whereby the Government can extract themselves from a difficulty in which I believe they will find themselves in a very short time; because as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said on Second Reading:The spreading dissatisfaction with over-centralised authority offers local government a most serious challenge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 165; 1/8/72]Indeed, if the proposals embodied in the Bill remain as they are for Hampshire, such over-centralisation will happen.
Those who support this Amendment have attempted to put before the Committee the relevant figures of an authority existing now with a population of 1¼ million rising to 2 million and so on. Were the educational and social service functions to remain with the county council, as proposed in the Bill, such over-centralisation would occur. Already in Hampshire the county council, because they are a realistic authority, have recognised that the existing population (which is already above the upper limit of one million suggested by the Government and in the Redcliffe-Maud proposal) will prove to be too difficult. How it would be with 2 million people remains to be seen. The county authority have already suggested that decentralisation of some of the functions will have to take place. Notwithstanding the fact that the agency agreement cannot apply to the education and social services, they will probably seek some such kind of appointment as, for example, a district education officer. A district education officer looking after, 1121 say, Portsmouth or Southampton, already with a satisfactory educational set-up, will merely represent a return to the situation envisaged by Lord Aberdare. I will quote what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said in his reply, to which the noble Lord, Lord Foot, referred. He said:More importantly, it would mean that we should be on the way towards re-creating the present patchwork of counties and county boroughs…"(col, 253.).In effect, if as the counties have suggested, there is a decentralisation, one is returning not to the existing patchwork but to a patchwork which is vastly inferior because it has no authority or responsibility.
The noble Viscount, Lord Gage, urged the Committee to reject this proposal because he said it sought to alter the status. It does not do that at all. All it attempts to do is to provide, long before the 10 to 15 year period of review, an opportunity for the Government to reallocate functions where they see fit; in other words, it attempts to be something of a rubbing block in between that which is proposed now and has yet to be proved and the review period 10 to 15 years hence. The noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, said that she found herself in something of a dilemma. I hope that she will find that dilemma removed, because she herself put her finger on the point, which is: why should one authority have an educational and social service responsibility with vastly fewer people to look after and a vastly lower income through rate and grant than that which we are suggesting could pertain to certain district councils within Hampshire?
With great respect I will suggest that the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, also has got wrong the intention of the proposers of the Amendment. We do not wish to create any second or special type of district council. We are very well aware of what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said on Second Reading—albeit Lord Foot said somewhat brusquely (with which I must agree) that we will not have Southampton or Portsmouth as a special circumstance. We are not asking for this. We are suggesting that this Amendment provides a way out of the situation in which the natural abrasions that are going to come about over the next few years between these large urban 1122 populations, well able to take care of these activities will embarrass the Government.
§ 3.28 p.m.
This is a peculiar Amendment. Before any of the four noble Lords who gave their names to it rise up in wrath, may I say that if you look up the definition you will find that there are four meanings to "peculiar". I do not propose to disclose which one I am using or whether I am using all four. I am reminded of His Majesty of blessed memory King George III who, for the benefit of any old Harrovians present, reigned from 1760 to 1820 and who never understood how the apple got inside the dumpling. This Amendment is nothing but a Devon dumpling. There is the noble Lord, Lord Foot, encased by the three musketeers from Hampshire. It is a broadly-based Amendment, but even with my low intelligence it did not take me long to realise that we should have Plymouth and Portsmouth and Southampton brought up. Devonshire, that beautiful county! I have spent my last 15 annual holidays there and I hope to spend the sixteenth—but do not tell the Whips! In spite of that, I should not have the impertinence to pronounce on Devonshire's internal affairs.
With Hampshire, where I have virtually lived and worked all my life, it is another matter. May I quote one short passage from the Government White Paper of February, 1971? Paragraph 6 says:The division between counties and county boroughs has prolonged an artificial separation of big towns from their surrounding hinterlands for functions whose planning and administration need to embrace both town and country.In my opinion that is an excellent intention. It gets away from the "we" and "they" attitude which we have all met in organisations, whether councils or charities, or whatever. I was rather surprised and very sad to see the names of the three noble Lords from Hampshire who are moving this Amendment, because with their background I would have expected them to be three of the most helpful and co-operative in joining up town and country. The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, is affectionately known as "King of the Co-ops". Then there is the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, who had his early 1123 education—what I believe people in the Department call the formative years—at Winchester. There is also my dear friend the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, who happens to be both an honorary county alderman and a Freeman of Southampton. They decided that way, and that is the way they must have it.
Nobody has better experience of the ramifications of local government than the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. I have been looking round the Chamber to-day and unless the noble Baroness is sitting among the right reverend Prelates she is not here. If she thinks I have gone too far she can always sue me! She, albeit from the safe neutrality of Wiltshire, wrote a powerful letter to The Times last April in which she said—or The Times said she said:The straightforward solution is to recognise the reality of Hampshire's social geography and to split it into two.That is bad enough, but we have gone further since then. There have been suggestions to split the county into three. In another place there was also a proposal that there should be a quartet of metropolitans. It sounds rather like a musical performance by the Greek Church! There was another proposal to make it a hybrid county. Referring again to my old friend the Oxford dictionary, the first definition of "hybrid" is that it isthe progeny of a tame sow and a wild boar".That would be interesting, but hardly trustworthy.
In her letter the noble Baroness also said:The county council cannot be expected to give to the metropolitan problems of Portsmouth and Southampton the concentrated attention they need.In the first place I am assured that under the present Bill all the education and social services departments at Portsmouth and Southampton would be retained as a complete entity. Secondly, it is a great mistake to think that county councils consist of a lot of old rustic cabbages. I have never been a county councillor myself so I can say what I think. It may be of interest to your Lordships to know the position of the chief officials of the county council in Hampshire. The clerk was previously deputy town clerk of Wolverhampton which has a popula- 1124 tion of around 300,000, far bigger than that of either Portsmouth or Southampton; the county medical officer and the county architect have previous experience at Bournemouth; and the director of social services came from Coventry, whose population is well over 300,000.
I have here (and any noble Lord or Baroness may read them with pleasure) signed letters from the Mayor of Gosport, Fareham Urban District Council, Havant and Waterloo Urban District Council, Droxford Rural District Council, Peters-field Rural District Council, the Hampshire Association of Parish Councils—in a minute I shall be going too fast for the Official Reporter !—Basingstoke Borough Council, and the County Councils Association, all protesting against metropolitan status being introduced into Hampshire. It really is ridiculous to think that town and country cannot work together for the benefit of each other. One has seen it done. May I remind your Lordships that the captain of Southampton Football Club was discovered in a Winchester boys' club, which shows a certain amount of co-operation between town and country. Already, in order to make that beautiful county of Dorset viable, we are being asked to sacrifice such valuable assets as the long port and Bournemouth Symphony stretches of sandy beaches, Hum Air-Orchestra. Further than that we cannot go. Metropolitan proposals would leave the county with a population of less than half a million and an area bigger than any metropolitan county.
Here may I apologise for my voice. Curiously enough, I began to lose it last Monday week at a meeting in Southamptin. Whether it caught me by accident or design perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, would be able to answer. To return to the particular. this Amendment in the first place would give the Secretary of State for the time being the biggest headache he had ever experienced, and no metropolitan county would ever know where it stood. I have to apologise for the absence of my noble friend Lord Malmesbury. He intended to be here to-day, but unfortunately he had a bad attack of laryngitis and a touch of pneumonia. However, I told him that I would tell your Lordships that he agrees with every word I say. It seems to me that, with my noble friend and the noble 1125 Baroness, Lady Sharp, I shall be in the courts for some time to come!
I sincerely trust that Her Majesty's Government will resist this Amendment. I do not have any clue as to which way they will turn. Should the Amendment be pressed to a Division I ask your Lordships to register an overwhelming vote against it. By so doing you would in the first place prevent the rape of Hampshire and, secondly, you would give Hampshire (and incidentally other non-metropolitan counties) opportunities, which I am sure will be seized, to show the whole country how urban and rural areas can work together for the benefit of both.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ BARONESS WHITE
Perhaps I should make it plain that, so far as these territorial matters are concerned, we on the Front Bench on this side would propose for the most part to remain neutral. We regard them as private wars between the people concerned and Members of the Government Front Bench. But this particular Amendment raises a matter of principle and it is appropriate to say a word about it. It is a very difficult suggestion, although I have the utmost sympathy with the arguments put forward by those noble Lords who support the Amendment. One can fully understand that people of such experience and standing would not have put forward any such Amendment had they not been concerned with very genuine difficulties.
Frankly, I think the Government have failed to face the genuine difficulties in all the areas which are touched by this Amendment. I am quite sure that one of the reasons for such dissatisfaction was the one emphasised by my noble friend Lady Bacon. Had the Government done what we have so strongly supported—namely, left the education functions with the metropolitan counties rather than the metropolitan districts—my noble friend Lord Maybray-King would have felt a good deal less strongly than, quite plainly, he does in the circumstances. I can very well understand Portsmouth, Plymouth and Southampton, when they see other areas exercising the full powers which they have been given, saying, "If they can, why can't we?" Therefore I think the Government have made difficulties for themselves by giving way and putting the education responsibilities 1126 upon the metropolitan districts rather than the counties. Had they remained in the metropolitan counties, then this natural sense of grievance of the three great cities that have been discussed would not have been there. There is a later Amendment upon this, and if the Government would accept that Amendment, and go back to putting the education responsibility on the metropolitan counties, certainly the edge would be taken from the grievance which is now affecting the cities concerned.
As I think many of your Lordships know, on our side of the Committee we have broadly said that where Hampshire is concerned we support the metropolitan county in South Hampshire. Again, if that had been accepted, it would have removed the grievances of both Portsmouth and Southampton, because then they would have been metropolitan districts within a metropolitan county. I do not want to rehearse all the arguments at this stage; I just point out to the Government that if they had looked at this matter more realistically than I think they have done, they would have removed the grievances of two of the three cities which are mostly concerned. I feel that the Government have got themselves in a position where people have felt constrained to put forward proposals which frankly, as a matter of principle, I think are dubious. I think this idea of having special metropolitan district powers within a non-metropolitan county, as the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, and others have pointed out, would add greatly to the complexity of things. Therefore, with the utmost reluctance—though in this particular Bill I think everybody judges for himself or herself—I do not feel that we can officially support this Amendment. What I have said would not of course meet the particular problems of Plymouth. I will content myself with saying, as I said on Second Reading, that if the Government had been prepared to do for Plymouth what they have done for Cardiff, they would have heard a great deal less about Plymouth in the course of our debates.
I would sincerely ask the Government to think again on the main points of the place of education in relation to the metropolitan counties, and also the position in South Hampshire, because it seems to me that it is only realistic to 1127 suppose that when the review comes in ten years' time there will then be no doubt about South Hampshire, which is one of the most rapidly developing areas in the Kingdom. Is it really worth while sticking out now and saying, "We will not anticipate the review ten years hence", setting up a system of local government which I think none of us can realistically suppose will last more than ten years, and then having to transmogrify it? Would it not be better, even if it means eating a little humble pie, to say now that this is, on balance, the best thing to do? I have suggested various ways in which the Government might extricate themselves, but with great reluctance we are unable to feel that this is an entirely satisfactory Amendment.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
Perhaps it would be convenient if I were to speak at this time. Both the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, who proposed the Amendment in eloquent terms, and the noble Baroness, Lady White, put the point that this is a matter of principle which we are now discussing, and it is on that basis that I am afraid we do not see our way to accept the Amendment. And I think the noble Baroness indicated that, given the facts as they are, she could not support this Amendment either. The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, has explained the effect of his Amendment, which is to allow the Secretary of State to provide by Order for districts with metropolitan district powers to be created within a non-metropolitan county. I agree with him and other noble Lords who have spoken that this has a certain initial attraction on the grounds of flexibility; and it certainly would meet the wishes of a great many former county boroughs, who would be only too anxious to retain the powers that they have at the moment as all-purpose authorities. But we cannot accept it on the grounds of principle, and I will explain that a little more fully. Before doing so, I would say that I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, thought that I was brusque on Second Reading. Perhaps they will recall that we were a litle pushed for time at that moment, with another important debate to follow, and I apologised at the time for having to be rather rushed in my winding-up speech.
1128 In our White Paper on Local Government Reorganisation we defined the criterion on which we suggested the metropolitan county should be established. This was that it should be divisible into districts, all of which are populous and compact. That, as the noble Baroness, Lady White, will know well, was the reason why in another place we could not accept metropolitan county status for Hampshire. For the rest of England, and for all of Wales, we intend by this Bill to establish counties which will consist of a reasonable balance of urban and rural areas. I suggest to your Lordships that to accept this Amendment would be to fall between two stools. To create metropolitan districts in a non-metropolitan county would undermine the whole principle of the Bill, and would result in a reversion to the division between town and country which has bedevilled our local government in the past. It would completely upset the delicate balance of functions, of which my noble friend Lord Amory spoke eloquently on Second Reading, and of which he has spoken eloquently to-day.
We have high hopes—I thoroughly agree with my noble friend Lord Monck—of the new counties which are coming into being under this Bill. They will consist of a mixture of town and country, and they will be able to plan their services to balance the needs of both town and country. It would destroy this concept from the very start if certain districts within the county were to have special powers similar to those of a metropolitan district, while others did not. I am sure that it would be undesirable from the point of view of the organisation of social services; and certainly it would have equally unfortunate consequences for the matching health services which we hope to organise on a similar territorial basis in 1974.
So far as education authorities are concerned, which were mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, our fundamental principle has been that these should consist of a minimum population of a quarter of a million wherever possible. Therefore our position has been completely consistent throughout: that most of the metropolitan districts have populations of this order, and so do the counties, but the non-metropolitan districts in most cases do not. I think it is 1129 wrong to suggest that if one were to allow certain cities such as those mentioned—Southampton, Portsmouth and Plymouth—to have these special powers, we could successfully draw the line when being approached by numerous other cities and large towns. Why should those other cities and large towns not retain their powers? Why should we single out three cities more than others? I am sure that this is an unrealistic suggestion, and that what would happen if we were to accept this Amendment is that a great many other towns and cities would ask for the same privileges. I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friends Lord Amory and Lord Gage on that point.
May I take up one point that my noble friend Lord Gage made on the effect of Clauses 47, 48 and 49? These clauses allow the Local Government Commission to review the situation in the future and they also allow for reviews normally to take place between 10 and 15 years after April 1, 1974. This surely is the way to achieve the flexibility that noble Lords have been asking for. Here is provision whereby new arrangements can be made for non-metropolitan counties to be converted into metropolitan counties, and vice versa. The one thing that is not possible under Clause 47—and I should like to make this absolutely clear to my noble friend—is to do what the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, wants to do; in other words, to create metropolitan districts within a non-metropolitan county. The noble Lord referred to Clause 47(1)(d) where he quoted the words,…conversion of a metropolitan into a non-metropolitan district",but this is consequential upon the words,the conversion of a metropolitan into a non-metropolitan countyand vice versa. So this provision gives flexibility but does not give the powers that the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, is seeking in this Amendment.
May I try to illustrate in a little more detail the case of Hampshire, which has been specifically mentioned? It is here that the difficulties emerge rather more clearly. I assume that those who are seeking metropolitan district status for Southampton and Portsmouth are not proposing that they should retain the present boundaries: that would simply be to re-create them as county boroughs, as 1130 they are at present, and we know the difficulties of that. I imagine that what they want to do is to create two metropolitan districts in South Hampshire, one based on Southampton and the other on Portsmouth. In the first place, this would be strongly resisted by all the other urban authorities in Hampshire, as my noble friend Lord Monck made perfectly plain. Moreover, it would create a very unbalanced county with two very large districts in the South containing the bulk of the population and running their own education and social services, and perhaps four or five non-metropolitan districts, smaller, poorer and dependent for their services on a county, the southern part of which had a majority on the council.
If one thinks, for example, of education, you would have a situation where there would be county councillors elected from the Portsmouth and Southampton areas who would thereby become responsible for education in the North of the county though not in their own districts, where their own district councils would be responsible. This would not be very happily accepted by those who live in the North of the county. I suggest to my noble friend Lord Lucas that this type of organisation would lead to far more abrasions than what we are suggesting. In the words of my noble friend Lord Amory, I think it would result in "an organisational nightmare" if we accepted this Amendment: it would destroy the fundamental basis of the county and district organisation and the division of functions between them, on which the whole of this Bill is based. I would strongly urge your Lordships not to accept this Amendment, if the noble Lord wishes to press it.
§ LORD JACQUES
All kinds of things have been introduced into this debate which have little to do with the Amendment. At one stage I thought we were being entertained after dinner until I looked at the clock. Even the Minister in his reply has raised questions which have nothing to do with the Amendment. For example, the question of boundaries has not been raised. In this Amendment we have not raised the question of boundaries; and so far as educational administration is concerned, this was a problem which had to be faced in London when there was a reorganisation there. If I may say so, it was more 1131 difficult to get over in that case than it would be in Hampshire; so I do not think there would be any difficulty in getting over the administrative problems. It was also suggested that the Amendment tried to re-create the all-purpose county boroughs. That is not so. Nobody has ever mentioned the all-purpose authority—and certainly the Amendment does not mention it. The second-tier principle has been reluctantly accepted. I believe that the Bill ignores the geographical facts, and what we are trying to do with this Amendment is to look at those geographical facts. I should like to ask the Minister whether the Government recognise that South Hampshire and South Devon, and in particular the Plymouth area, present special problems,
§ whether they have any other plans for dealing with them or whether the Bill is the end of the matter.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I quite agree that these are very difficult problems, but we have confidence that the new Hampshire County Council will take account of those difficult problems and will be able to solve them.
§ LORD JACQUES
In other words the Bill is the last word. In that case, regardless of the result, I shall divide the Committee.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ The Lordships divided: Contents, 39; Not-Contents, 134.1133
|Amherst, E.||Henderson, L.||Portsmouth, L. Bp.|
|Arwyn, L.||Hereford, L. Bp.||Shinwell, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Hirshfield, L.||Slater, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Hylton, L.||Stocks, Bs.|
|Brockway, L.||Jacques, L. [Teller.]||Stow Hill, L.|
|Burntwood, L.||Lindsay of Birker, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Crook, L.||Loudoun, C.||Tanlaw, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||McLeavy, L.||Wade, L.|
|Foot, L. [Teller.]||Maelor, L.||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
|Gloucester, L. Bp.||Maybray-King, L.|
|Hale, L.||Peddie, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Davidson, V.||Hanworth, V.|
|Abinger, L.||de Clifford, L.||Harvey of Prestbury, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Denham, L. [Teller.]||Hayter, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Digby, L.||Headfort, M.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Drumalbyn, L.||Helsby, L.|
|Amory, V.||Dundee, E.||Hemingford, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Ebbisham, L.||Hodson, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Eccles, V.||Hood, V.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Effingham, E.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Elles, Bs.||Howe, E.|
|Blackford, L.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Hunt, L.|
|Bourne, L.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.|
|Boyd of Merton, V.||Essex, E.||Ironside, L.|
|Boyle of Handsworth, L.||Falmouth, V.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Brentford, V.||Faringdon, L.||Kemsley, V.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Ferrers, E.||Kinnoull, E.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Fortescue, E.||Latymer, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Gage, V.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Burnham, L.||Gainsborough, E.||Leatherland, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Garner, L.||Lee of Asheridge, Bs.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Goschen, V.||Limerick, E.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Gowrie, E.||Long, V.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Greenway, L.||Lothian, M.|
|Cowley, E.||Gridley, L.||Macleod of Borve, Bs.|
|Craigavon, V.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Macpherson of Drumochter, L|
|Cranbrook, E.||Grimthorpe, L.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Crathorne, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Mar, E.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Hankey, L.||Middleton, L.|
|Milverton, L.||Rathcavan, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Monck, V.||Reigate, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Montague of Beaulieu, L.||Rennell, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Morrison, L.||Ridley, V.||Thomas, L.|
|Mottistone, L.||Roberthall, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]||Rochester, Bp.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.||Vernon, L.|
|Moyne, L.||St. Just, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Napier and Ettrick, L.||Saint Oswald, L.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Northchurch, Bs.||Sandford, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Nugent of Guildford, L.||Sandys, L.||Ward of Whitley, W.|
|Ogmore, L.||Selborne, E.||Watkins, L.|
|O'Hagan, L.||Selkirk, E.||Wellington, D.|
|Orr-Ewing, L.||Sempill, Ly.||Wigram, L.|
|Oxford and Asquith, E.||Strang, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Platt, L.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.||Young, Bs.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF LISTOWEL)
Before I call Amendment No. 3 I should point out to the Committee that if this Amendment is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 4.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 2, line 8, leave out subsections (6) to (8) and insert—
("(6) On and after 1st April 1974 every district shall consist of one or more areas to be known as communities which shall be established in accordance with the following paragraphs:
§ (7) The Secretary of State may, on an application in writing made to him before the 31st December 1973 by the council of an existing 1134 borough or urban district make an order excepting such borough or urban district from the provisions of subsection (6) of this section.")
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 3 standing in my name. On Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, said that he saw the Bill as setting up a three-tier scheme and, after talking about the existing parishes, he said:
It is that grass roots community which I think should continue to be the basis of the whole structure of local self-government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31/7/72]
§ In that connection, he was to some extent re-stating what was said in the Report of the Royal Commission both by the majority and also by Mr. Senior in his memorandum of dissent. When the Local Government Bill first saw the light of day it was obvious that so far as England was concerned the Government accepted the philosophy of three-tiered local government only in a very limited way, for parishes would continue to exist only in those rural parts of the country where parishes were already in existence. For the rest, only the two tiers of county and district would be the institutions of local government.
§ The exception to what I have just said was that certain boroughs created by an Act of 1958 in rural areas would immediately become parishes on ceasing to exist as rural boroughs. That was what was originally in the Bill. As a result of pressures from all sides in the other place on Standing Committee and, further, on Report, substantial amendments were made by the Government. What the Bill now says is to be the pattern for England is county, districts and parishes, and it is in relation to parishes that the main change has come about.1135
§ As a result of the Amendments made on Report in the Commons there may be many more parishes than at first was envisaged by the Government when they prepared their Bill. In subsection (8) of this clause, and the associated Part V of Schedule 1, the English Boundary Commission is instructed to consult the councils that exist today of counties, boroughs and urban districts, and the committees to be set up under Clause 251, with a view to making proposals to the Secretary of State for the constitution of parishes with boundaries conterminous with that of broadly existing urban districts or boroughs when those bodies disappear. On receipt of such proposals the Secretary of State shall give effect to them by order.
As I said just now, there may well be a considerable increase in the number of parishes, for parishes now enter the confines of the town. When Mr. Page was moving the Amendment in the Commons, he said at column 98 of Hansard for April 17:
There are good reasons why it would not be desirable to retain parish councils within the areas of all existing boroughs and urban districts. Where there is a borough which becomes merged within a new district and its population is large enough to have influence in the new district, to have a substantial number of representatives in the new district council, it would be wrong to preserve any particular powers, even at parish level, for those larger towns. I am thinking of towns with a population of 40,000 or 50,000 or more. Where we have the smaller towns, anything up to 10,000 or 20,000, it is right to keep alive the parish status.
§ Although the figures of population from 10,000 to 20,000 which Mr. Page mentioned are not contained in the Bill as an instruction to the Commission, they may well be contained in the guidelines which the Secretary of State will have to give to the Boundary Commission. If that figure of up to 20,000 is to govern the considerations of the Commission it could mean that if all the eligible boroughs and urban districts were to be recommended for parishes some 397 parishes would be added to the 10,000 already existing in England. The 397 would be what have come to be called successor councils.
Noble Lords may very well ask what is the difference between that which is now in the Bill before us and the Amendment I am moving. The first is the
change of name from parish to community, and from that would follow community council instead of parish council. This would be a name more in keeping with the successor authorities, particularly for the towns, than one which is still associated with the definition of parish as being
the district under the charge of a parson or other person having a care of souls therein.
§ Surely that would be inappropriate to the sort of body which ought to be created. The name that I have suggested is the one which was chosen by the Government themselves for comparable authorities in Wales.
§ The second difference is that every existing borough or urban district would automatically, on ceasing to exist on April 17, 1974, become a successor community and have a community council regardless of its population. That would be the immediate effect of this Amendment. But there would be a safeguard for a county borough such as Bristol, say, with a population of 425,000, which completely dominates district No. 2 in the new Avon county as proposed in the draft by the Commission, or Bath, with a population of 84,000 which comprises completely district No. 6 of Avon. All the councils of such boroughs, or any other boroughs or urban districts, would have to do in order to opt out of what I am proposing would be to write to the Secretary of State and tell him so before December 31, 1973.
§ Another effect of the Amendment would be to save an already overburdened Commission the task of consulting councils of existing counties, boroughs and urban districts and the many committees to be set up under Clause 252. There would be no limit imposed as to size. The existing council, which is best able to consider how it will stand in relation to the new district, is surely in the best position to judge whether or not a community council would suit its area. I have looked at this matter very carefully, and I think that our proposals would have the merit of greater flexibility. While one council with a population of well over 20,000 might feel that, geographically and for other reasons, there was no advantage in having a successor community council, another, with a population of well above 20,000, might, because of its relationship to the other boroughs or 1137 urban districts or the many rural parishes in the new district, see a worthwhile advantage in it. This would be left to the council itself to decide. It would consider its existing situation and would relate that to what would emerge after 1974. It would then say either, "We think there should be a community council for this area", or "We think there ought not to be a community council". If it took the latter course all it would have to do would be to write to the Secretary of State before the date I have mentioned.
§ In connection with the size of districts and so on, it has been reported that the Town Clerk of Abingdon asked the boroughs with 25,000 population or less if they were in favour of some form of local council to succeed them when they merged into the new district. Some 90 per cent. answered that they were in favour of establishing some form of council to succeed them when this Bill becomes an Act and becomes operative. Most of the towns with a population of between 25,000 and 40,000 were not in favour. In the latter connection I stress the word "most", because if there were some they are entitled to consideration. They ought to be able to opt for themselves whether they will have a community council after April 1, 1974.
As regards name, and to some extent size, there were pleas from all sides of Standing Committee D in another place, and subsequently on Report, for some way of permitting boroughs which had old charters, regalia, the title of mayor for the borough's chief citizen, and some forms of pomp and ceremony which they have inherited from the distant past, to retain these privileges. Pomp and ceremony, and names with a long historical background are not ignoble. We certainly respect them in this Committee, as do Members in another place. Mr. Page clearly recognised this desire on the part of those towns which, when they merge with a larger district dominated by a borough, would be able to apply for a charter under the terms of Clause 3. He recognised that some of the privileges which towns have previously bad ought to be passed on to some form of successor council. He told another place on Report:
We have been unable to table Amendments at this stage on the retention of certain dig-
nities, such as the mayors. I gave a forecast about this in Committee, but I am still in consultation with the local authority associations about the details. I hope we shall be able to put forward a proposal in this respect in another place, but so that right hon. and hon. Members of this House know about our intentions the consultation paper with the local authority associations has been put in the Vote Office. Right hon. and hon. Members will be able to see from it the form in which we are consulting the local authority associations and our intentions in another place about preserving the civic dignities at parish level."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 17/4/72, col. 100.]
§ I regret to say that I have not seen the document referred to, and I do not know what it contains. But it seems to me that a community council would be a much better vehicle to carry such dignities, to preserve the regalia and property of ancient boroughs, than a parish council. I cannot envisage the mayor of the parish council going along to some civic function and there doing the things that mayors have to do, and ought to do, in their communities.
The final point I wish to urge on the Government is on functions. I am taking it for granted that the existing functions of parishes would be automatically transferred to the community councils, and that they are as set out in Annex 3 of the Royal Commission's Report. But to the existing functions I would seek to add somewhere in the Bill something which would enable the community council to give effect to what Mr. Senior in his memorandum of dissent said so succinctly when on the subject of the grass roots level. That was—and I quote from his paragraph 427:
My colleagues and I are also agreed that the key function of such a body must be to act as a sounding-board for community opinion—to focus the sense of the local community, whether in protest against, in agitation for, or in consultation about anything that affects its social or environmental wellbeing, and to bring that consensus to bear on the responsible decision-makers, whether they be members of a local authority or of any other agency, public or private.
§ With that sentiment I am in complete agreement, although the Government would, I am sure, assert that, having opted against unitary authorities, local government will continue to be local under the Bill. But certainly districts are to be very much larger, in many cases covering very wide areas indeed by comparison with the existing situation. 1139 Remoteness is going to be increased. If I look at the draft proposals of the Boundary Commission for some of the new districts, I see it is obvious that some of the districts are going to be geographically large and, wherever they set up the centre of the district, put their municipal buildings and so on, it is bound to be some considerable distance away from much of the district.
§ The offices, as I say, of the district may be miles away. People ought to have a truly "local" authority to which they will have access and to which they may turn to talk about their grievance, even if the community council has not a functional power to remedy the grievance—which might indeed be about housing, about schools or planning or things of that kind. Such a community council could consider the grievance of these people and perhaps pass it on to the appropriate local authority. Those noble Lords in this House who have served in the other place will know that very often satisfaction was given to people who had a complaint by the simple fact of their having told someone who seemed to be an authority about it. So often this was the case; so often that satisfaction, I am sure, was felt by the people who went away, because. I have had this experience so many times myself. I urge upon the Government the acceptance of this Amendment in principle. If it is accepted, the consequential and other Amendments made necessary could flow from such a decision and be added to the Bill on Report in October. I say on Report in October " but we shall not be reaching the Report stage in October—I beg your Lordships' pardon: we shall complete the Committee stage, Deo volente, some time in September and therefore "Report" was the right word.
§ Perhaps the most persuasive argument I could adduce is that the Government have accepted the idea of community councils for Wales, and I am sure their decision does not arise from the fact that the Church of Wales is disestablished. While I should wish for Wales very favourable treatment in all matters, I would not seek the favour of the exclusive use of the community councils idea, but would gladly grant it to England. I beg to move.1140
§ 4.26 p.m.
This is a somewhat formidable looking Amendment, but if it means what I think it means after the noble Lord's speech, that it would be a good thing to have some equivalent to parish councils in urban areas, then I agree it is a principle which merits consideration. I remember a particular case where, under previous legislation, the county borough wanted to enlarge itself and to take in certain rural parishes, the attraction being that they would thereby have a much smaller rate burden. Nevertheless, the rural parishes were prepared to forgo that because if they went into the county borough they would lose their parish councils which they very much liked. I am quite convinced that there is this strong desire to take some part in the administration of the county, and it is a very sound one provided that it does not lead to too much delay.
I must confess that in my own county, where at the present juncture we are asked to formulate schemes providing these new communities—I suppose they would be recommendations to the Commission—they might wonder whether the prevailing burden to the administration could be managed. The noble Lord has made the definition of a community council fairly simple. I would imagine that where there is a district the size of a county borough which would lose its first-tier status but would be big enough to make a second-tier council on its own, the community council there would be unnecessary because it would be the same thing as the second-tier council. Nevertheless, I cannot believe that it is going to be a very simple matter, and although I think that as a principle it is very sound, whether it can be worked out so simply I am not at all sure.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
I should like to support my noble friend in this Amendment. I wonder how much difference there is between us and the Government Benches on this question. When we are making this review, if we make a decision in the Bill that these local councils shall be termed "community councils", as distinct from parish councils, this may help to meet the needs and the opinions of some of the larger urban areas that are being amalgamated into a district, and of some of the boroughs. I do not feel that they would quite 1141 like in their opinion to be denigrated to a parish level, having previously been urban or borough. To change the name from "parish" to "community" would encourage a lot of good will among local people whom we should like to encourage to take an interest in this regard. The Government have definitely accepted that where there are parish councils and urban councils they shall continue as a three-tier system, largely with these areas having the powers as defined by the Parish Councils Act of 1957. This came out very clearly during the Second Reading debate on this Bill.
There is also a little ambiguity, although the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said quite distinctly that parishes going into the metropolitan area would retain the same powers as those that remained outside the metropolitan area. In my opinion that immediately brings another important point to light. While parishes do that, what is the position of urban authorities that do it? Would it not be better, instead of (as some people think; quite wrongly perhaps) downgrading them to parish level, if we could give them a community status, as in Wales, so that they could carry out their functions with the dignity that they thought appropriate to their area? It also raises another important function which was dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, at Second Reading. In many of these areas, particularly those in the metropolitan areas, parishes and urban councils going in will have the status as defined by the Bill, with very large areas where there will be wards. What will be the position of those wards? Will they have an equal status with a parish or a community council? I think this is something we might clear up at this stage of the Bill. I do not think there ought to be a great deal of difference between us and the Government on this Amendment.
It is a desire on our side to try to retain the interests of people, to continue to give advice, having regard to the powers that were defined by the Parish Councils Act of 1957, having in mind the opinion of the Maud Commission and the consensus of opinion of those people who have been brought into consultation by the Maud Commission, which evidently indicated that something on these lines was necessary if we wanted 1142 to maintain the interest of people at local level, which is the most important function in local government. Therefore to change the name from "parish" to "community", as my noble friend Lord Champion has rightly pointed out, would enable the Commission thinking of these things to receive a directive, instead of the position being left as it now is in the Bill for areas to make their own application for definition of name. If the Government cannot accept this Amendment I hope they will at least accept it in principle and re-word it to meet the needs that we advocate.
§ LORD RHODES
The Minister should seriously consider the implications of this Amendment. We are too ready to worship size and to think that if we can get something bigger it is automatically better, but it is not; and anything that this House, in the late stages of this Bill, can do towards preserving and fostering local loyalties to knit people together should be done. Since the War we have seen policies, and I have been an ardent supporter of them, which have led to whole areas being swept away by the bulldozer, originally in the belief that by doing so and by putting up marvellous property so that people might live clinically, as one might say, it would make for a better community. In many cases it has done nothing of the sort. All that it has done is to divide people and to make them less neighbourly. We want to consider very seriously what the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has said and what can be done to foster local loyalties and local traditions, so that over the years a bridge may be built between the old and the new. What happens in the case of an authority of fewer than 20,000 people which is suddenly put together with an authority of 130,000 or 140,000 without the same characteristics, and perhaps over a hill? It takes a long time for them to grow together. We should bridge it more easily if we were to preserve some of the loyalties that are there at present. Destroy nothing in the way of loyalties; build them up, and I think that by accepting this Amendment we can build them up.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I am grateful to the noble Lord for moving this Amendment because I think it will enable me 1143 to establish that, as the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, has said, there is little difference between us. I think there is nothing whatever between us in principle and only a certain amount in detail to do with nomenclature and procedure. We agree, and I think I made this clear enough for it to be unnecessary for me to repeat it now, that parishes are indeed a vitally important element in the whole structure of local government, and I should not wish to contradict or to dispute anything that the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, has just said. For that reason we have provided that every existing parish—and there are 10,000 of them—will continue, whether in a metropolitan county or an ordinary county, after April 1, 1974. Indeed they are the only authorities which will continue unchanged throughout this "general post" on April 1, 1974. Furthermore, we are providing that all small, free-standing towns will be able to apply to have successor parishes to continue all their traditions and ceremonial and still be able to continue to be the owners of parish property.
I note that this Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has moved is in exactly the same form as an Amendment moved in another place at the Committee stage. So far as I can see, it does not take any account of the Amendments moved by Her Majesty's Government at Report stage, which were in response to this Amendment and to several other Amendments of a similar kind. I also note that the noble Lord said that he has not seen the further consultation document which my right honourable friend the Minister for Local Government and Development promised. I will certainly send him a copy and he will see there more precisely the pattern that we propose for the establishment of successor parishes and also many other matters to deal with parish dignities and ceremonial.
The Amendment also imports into England a number of ideas and names which are applicable to and have already been adopted for Wales: but perhaps it does not give sufficient recognition to the fact that Wales, with two million people, with no metropolitan county and with its district boundaries already provided for and defined in the Bill, is in a different position front that of England with well over 40 million people, six metropolitan 1144 counties, all the district boundaries still to be defined and a considerable amount of work yet to be done. The point my noble friend Lord Gage made was that whatever we may think about the merits and virtues of what noble Lords are proposing in the Amendment—we agree that there is considerable merit and virtue in it—we do not think it is practicable in England to go as far as that in setting up this structure as fully as it has been set up in Wales.
That is one of the main reasons for the differences between the two countries. The advantage to England is that when we are able to give further thought to the possibility of urban parishes, we will have the great benefit of the Welsh experience on which to draw. I will return to this aspect shortly. In the meantime, our thought is that the argument in favour of establishing special community units in towns in England, whatever its merit (and I have said it is considerable) must wait because we cannot get round to doing that at the moment. For example, in Greater London it would mean establishing no less than 1,000 separate statutory bodies, and we could not cope with doing that as well as with carrying out all the other arrangements involved in local government reform.
I come to the three aspects of the Amendment. First, there is the suggestion that we should change the term "parish", which is hallowed and respected in England, for the term "community council". This might be the right term when we get round to statutory authorities or even non-statutory authorities in the big towns, but I would not wish to commit the Government one way or the other. I fully take the point about a settlement of some size, which has had its own urban district council or which has even been a borough, not wishing to be styled and titled a "parish" together with a lot of other settlements with populations of not more than a few hundred people. It is for that reason that we have opened up again the possibility of allowing these larger towns that are opting for successor authorities to elect perhaps to call themselves towns instead of parishes and have successor town councils whereas smaller units might decide to have successor parish councils. These and a number of other possibilities I shall come to shortly. 1145 I ask the Committee to consider the question of size. We are not in any doubt that the smaller free standing towns that have had their own urban district councils should be free to apply for successor parish status, but the facts are exactly as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, said—namely, that whereas the smaller towns are clear that this is what they would like, when one gets to the size of towns with populations of between 25,000 and 40,000, one finds that they are by no means clear that they would want to apply for successor parish councils. They see their future lying very much more with the district as a whole. However, the various patterns that are possible under the various combinations are set out fully in the Consultative Document on which the Secretary of State has been consulting the local authority associations and noble Lords who care to read the document will see what it contains.
These consultations are complete. They led us to the conclusion that the best way to proceed, and to seek the objective of the Amendment, is to refer this matter to the Boundary Commission as one of the next matters it will tackle, after the district boundaries have been established, to see which of the urban units wish to apply for successor councils—we can call them parish councils for the moment; they may wish to call them town councils—and throw in their lot, as it were, with the boroughs as a whole.
Turning to the concept of urban parishes, our view is that there might be a case for the identifiable communities to which the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, referred to be given a voice and to have a way of expressing their identity. As I say, whatever we might think about it now, there are severe practical difficulties in England such as are not encountered in Wales against bringing this into being immediately. However, we are not closing our minds to the idea. We certainly think that there is room for non-statutory bodies of many kinds straight away, and we are making provision elsewhere in the Bill for the principal councils to be enabled to finance such non-statutory bodies. We do not rule out the possibility of further legislation on this subject at some later stage and we will then be able to draw on the Welsh experience.
1146 Not only are we providing for the continuation of existing parishes and an addition to their number, but we are also providing that, for example, planning applications relating to a particular parish should in future be notified to them by the planning authorities and we are giving parish councils express power to oppose private Bills relating to them. I hope from what I have said now and from what I said more emphatically on Second Reading that I have convinced your Lordships that we share the views that have been expressed about the importance of parishes and that we are doing very much what is being sought in the Amendment, though in slightly different ways. I confirm that what I have been saying in a tentative way about the use of the term "town" instead of "parish" and about the continuation of local dignities and ceremonials will be the subject of an Amendment which we hope to table before we return to the Committee stage in September.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has been extremely temperate in addressing the Committee, but I am left with the feeling that he is not really seized of the desire expressed by a number of noble Lords that the Government should have a thorough look at this whole matter between now and Report. We have had some extremely powerful speeches on this subject. That made by my noble friend, Lord Rhodes, is likely to be one of the most powerful we shall have in Committee. A similarly powerful speech came from my noble friend Lord Popplewell.
This is a very difficult and complex Bill and when reading it—and indeed, if I may say so with respect, when listening to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford—one has the feeling that while the Government have set about the business of trying to revivify local government they have not given sufficient consideration to the involvement of people in that process. If it fails to secure the goodwill of the people then all the paper plans will come to nought. We have seen in this House on Second Reading, and we can see when we look at the growing list of Amendments, that this business of local loyalties is an extremely powerful matter. The Government ought to use the time available to them to give rather more thought than has been given to date,
1147 I live in an urban district that was made up of a number of parishes some years ago. If one thing was felt very badly by the inhabitants, which feeling remained with them for a very long period of time, it was the loss of the old parish council. It has taken us, I suppose, the best part of forty years to achieve any sense of belonging to the urban district. We are now about to be amalgamated with the nearby non-county borough, and instead of the town hall being brought closer it will be more remote. Here we have an urban district which has been in existence some forty years and throughout it, so far as those interested in local government are concerned, there is a feeling that they are going to lose, and lose in a very big way. They are going to have no voice, whereas they have had a voice; and they regard the new council as very much the council of the non-county borough to which they ate to be attached.
If this idea of community councils is good enough for Wales, then, despite what has been said, I think it is good enough for England. It is not that anyone begrudges Wales anything. But if they are to have it, there is something good in it and we ought to have it. I cannot see that there is created any great problem that cannot be solved with good will. If the Government are going to succeed in securing co-operation in this drastic scheme of local government reorganisation, there is not too much they should do to secure it. I hope that before we leave this matter the noble Lord will be able to give an indication that the Government have not got a closed mind on improving the Bill in this direction.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
I am slightly perplexed because I find myself in agreement with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has said; with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes said; with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, has said, and with everything that my noble friend Lord Sandford has said on this subject. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, and I have always had in common a passionate belief that if you cannot get loyalty in small groups at low levels then you get no loyalty of any kind whatever. So, I go wholly with what has been said on local 1148 loyalty. I am a little perplexed as to where the difference precisely lies. My noble friend I think said that he could not see that there was any difficulty because, as I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Champion, suggested the name of "community council" for the equivalent of the parish council in towns, and the parishes in the rural areas would presumably have the name of "community council" too. So, while from the point of view of the towns I can see that "community council" may be in many cases a more appropriate title for the local body than a "parish council", of course, if it were applied to the parish councils, too, there would be no real distinction. As I understood my noble friend Lord Sandford to say, the precise form and title or name of the local council as applicable to towns of various sizes is a matter under consideration and a matter for discussion and further study. In the light of those studies some conclusions will be made. Might it not be that, at the end of the day, it would be clear that there was no difference whatever between the aims as outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, and those so clearly described by my noble friend Lord Sandford?
§ LORD RHODES
The noble Viscount, Lord Amory, expressed himself perplexed because we all seem to be agreeing with one another. I think that the reason for his being perplexed is that the Minister has not said enough. If the Minister would only say a little more on why, for instance, there are these difficulties about the continuation of an urban district council having as a continuation an urban district community council, we should be happier in our minds. We really are staking our claims this afternoon for local loyalties, and we just want a little more support from the Minister if he will give it to us.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I think I can do that very briefly. We expected that the smaller free-standing towns that had had urban district councils of their own would want to have some sort of successor authority. When the Bill was first presented the suggestion was that they should be called "parish councils". In the latest consultation paper to which I referred, we are considering giving them 1149 the option of using the term "town council" and I think that will appeal to them. But we were correct also in our assumption, our expectation, that although it would appeal to the smaller free-standing towns to have successor authorities, we have proved to be right in our assumption that the larger ones do not want this successor status. As we have a Boundary Commission about to be set up when the Bill is enacted, this is a matter that can be referred to the Commission to say whether these authorities should or should not have successor authorities if they apply for them. This is a matter of really minor detail or difference between us. I would rather not attempt to go further now because the consultations for which this paper was first produced in April, following the discussions on this point at Committee stage in another place, have now just about been completed and we shall be ready to put down an Amendment at this Committee stage when we come to the point in September. That will give us an opportunity to look at the matter again and to put firm Government proposals before the Committee. I think that would be much more satisfactory than going into it further now.
§ LORD SANDFORD
No, not after a decision of the Boundary Commission but after consultations about the guidelines to be followed by the Boundary Commission in determining this question of successor status which itself will be taken only after local consultation with the local authorities concerned.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
But will that decision be taken so that ultimately it will be embraced in the Bill before it becomes an Act? That is the point I wanted to clear up.
§ BARONESS WHITE
May I put a point to the Minister on the matter of nomenclature? One of the objects of the Bill is to eliminate, so far as may be, the differences between town and country. I appreciate that Wales is different from England, in the sense that with us the Church is disestablished; but, nevertheless, even looking at it in the English context, might there not be something to be said at least for allowing them, if 1150 they wish, to use the term, "community council"? "Town council" might not be entirely appropriate either. We had a great deal of discussion in Wales on this question, which is why I am stressing this point, and we came to the conclusion that on balance "community council" would suit all possible circumstances better than any other particular name. The only other point I should like to make before my noble friend finally replies to the Amendment is that there is a real danger of a lack of continuity. If one loses continuity it is a serious matter, and this seems to us to be something that one has to think about carefully. The Boundary Commission have a great deal to do, and if we leave it to them there will be a lapse of time, it would appear to us from the procedure suggested by the Minister. I wonder whether he could reassure us on that point.
§ LORD SANDFORD
It is certainly true that under the Bill as originally published there would have been a break in continuity, but because of the representations made about the importance of securing continuity the Bill has been amended to ensure that the 10,000 parishes in England will continue, through the general post of April 1, 1974, unchanged.
§ LORD CHAMPION
I am very grateful for the powerful support this Amendment has received in this Committee. The noble Viscount, Lord Amory, I think rightly, at the end said what is the difference now between us. The difference of name, which we regard as very important in this connection, as has been mentioned by my noble friend Lady White, still remains. We believe that the procedure we propose is better, in so far as it does not involve the Boundary Commission but permits local councils to opt for themselves. Thirdly, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said nothing about functions being granted to statutory bodies. I recognise what he said about voluntary bodies being set up and that some sort of power might be given to them; but this, of course, is not in the Bill. At the start of his speech he wrongly accused me by saying that I had not taken into account what went into the Bill on Report in the other place. But I devoted at least one-fifth of my speech to pointing to the difference in the Bill as it first saw the light of day and as it emerged 1151 from Report in the other place. On those grounds I think he was entirely wrong.
I cannot accept all these differences the noble Lord mentioned. I live in Wales, and have lived there now for 50-odd years; so I know something about Wales, I think. I still know something about the country I was born in and the county, Somerset, and I find it difficult to see all these differences the noble Lord talked about between the two countries. Differences are there; they are slight and not sufficient to justify the difference between England and Wales in this matter we are now discussing.
What worries me at this stage is that we have been told of so much that might appear before us eventually but we do not have it before us at the moment. The suggestion for having the term "town council", for instance, appears to me to be an excellent one, but it does not appear as an Amendment on the Marshalled List, I should have thought there has been ample time since Report stage in the other place to have solved this problem and dealt with it. Will the provision for non-statutory bodies about which the noble Lord spoke appear anywhere in the form of Amendments? This is something to which we shall have to pay considerable attention. My noble friend Lord Rhodes said the reason we are perplexed is that the Minister has not said enough. I must say that my difficulty is the fact that much of what the Minister said is neither in the Bill nor on the Marshalled List. This is my worry at this stage. But the Minister seemed to me to be so forthcoming, and I admit that there is not now a great deal between us. I do not propose to press this Amendment at this stage, but I shall carefully study what appears on the Marshalled List at a later stage, even in Committee, and then further on Report, and then decide our next step. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 4.
§ Page 2, line 15, leave out from ("the") to end of line 17 and insert ("boundaries of which are determined by reference to those of 1152 existing boroughs and urban districts and also, in cases where the areas of such boroughs and urban districts are divided by or under this section between two or more new districts, by reference to the boundaries of the new districts.")
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 4, which is still dealing with parishes, and would ask the Committee to be good enough to consider with it Amendments No. 72, 73, 74, 75A and 80 to 87 inclusive. There is not time within the present timetable to allow for the adjustments in boundaries or the division of districts where, for instance, an existing urban district comprises more than one settlement; there is not time to do that before April 1, 1974. The Bill as drafted therefore provides for the successor parishes to be coterminous with the present borough or urban district. This does not mean that it will not be possible for any adjustments to be made, but these will need to be made after April 1, 1974, under the permanent machinery being established under Part IV of the Bill. Meanwhile the essential point, which is to ensure continuity of local goernment identity in the small areas concerned as a whole, has been met.
§ But there does remain a special case in that a handful of small boroughs and urban districts have already been divided by the provisions in the Bill. For instance, in Yorkshire the urban district of Queens-bury and Shelf asked that the Queensbury part of the urban district should go into one new metropolitan district and the Shelf part into another. I am sure the Committee would agree that it would be unfair if areas of this kind were debarred from consideration for the establishment of successor parishes simply because they had been divided in the Bill. Moreover, the practical reason against ad hoc divisions in these cases at the present time does not apply by definition, because the borough or urban district has for one reason or another already been divided.
§ Similar considerations could arise on the establishment of the pattern of non-metropolitan districts by Order after Royal Assent. As I have reminded your Lordships, the district boundaries in England are not yet provided for in the Bill. The Amendments to which I am speaking therefore adapt the general provisions for successor parishes so as to cover also this handful of cases in which 1153 existing small boroughs and urban districts are being divided either in the Bill itself or under the Bill by virtue of an Order establishing non-metropolitan districts in England. As I say, this is a purely English problem—we are in an English section of the Bill—as the provisions for establishing new communities in Wales are of an entirely different kind, and we have got much further with them. I beg to move.
§ LORD CHAMPION
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, for explaining to us what these Amendments actually amount to. I must admit, having given them some consideration, that it appeared to me that they were an improvement on the Amendment that was in fact moved on Report stage in the other place. As such, and because we have got a great deal of business before us, I do not propose to say another word except that I welcome the Amendment.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I beg to move Amendment No. 5. We need not spend any time on this Amendment because it is purely drafting.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 2, line 30, leave out ("including one") and insert ("and the corporation of a borough included").—(Lord Sandford.)
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Schedule 1 [Counties and metropolitan districts in England]:
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 6:
§ Page 208, column 2, leave out lines 39 to 45
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 6. May I at the same time speak to Amendments Nos. 8 and 56. This provides for minor adjustment of the boundary between the new metropolitan districts centred on Bury and Rochdale which were set up by a Back-Bench Amendment at Report stage in the Commons. The present borough of Heywood lies between the county borough of Rochdale and the county borough of Bury. In any split of the district it is clearly appropriate for Heywood as a whole to go with Rochdale.1154
§ But the Westernmost fringes of the borough abut on to Bury county borough and clearly have some links with it. In these circumstances, the Government accepted the proposed Amendment which divided off a small part of the Western fringe of Heywood borough containing a population of a few hundred people only. However, this was strongly resisted locally and an officer of the department had a meeting with the local authorities concerned, made an inspection on the spot and, following his report, the Government consider that the case for moving these fringe areas into the Bury district is not sufficient to justify dividing the area of the present borough of Heywood. These three Amendments therefore provide for the whole of Heywood, including the Western fringes to be in the district centred on Rochdale. I beg to move.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ LORD HALE moved Amendment No.7:
§ Page 208, leave out line 52.
§ The noble Lord said: I feel it is understood that the Amendment, which I now beg to move, is really part and parcel of Amendment No. 10. I apologise to the noble Lord for not having replied to the letter which I received this morning, by the second post, just as I was leaving home, and to which I attempted to reply immediately, but through the courtesy of my noble friend Lord Champion I found that he had already come to exactly the same conclusion and there was no difficulty about it. The situation, as I understand, is that if my Amendment No. 7 is carried it follows that Amendment No. 10 must be accepted, and if it is not carried then Amendment No. 10 need not be moved. I think it convenient to consider the two together, because there is some confusion about twelve (f)s and twelve (g)s, and so on, and therefore I propose to put the point as clearly as I can in terms of the towns concerned.
§ District (d), to which my Amendment relates, is one of the districts of the metropolitan county of Manchester. It was arranged, it was part of the whole plan laid down, part of the whole discussions that one of these should be centred on Oldham and that one of the others (there are nine divisions) should be centred on the neighbouring town of 1155 Rochdale. I want to make only one other point clear: I speak for nobody on this matter. I am told by my noble friend that he has received a letter from someone in Middleton saying that I have no right to speak for Middleton. Of course I have no right to speak for Middleton. I have no right to speak for Oldham, but I know little about Middleton, and I do not know a great deal about Lancashire. I have never lived in Lancashire. I was for 25 years a member of the Leicestershire County Council and I resigned from that over 20 years ago. But I was associated with Oldham as a member, and I am now a citizen of Oldham by reason of the fact that a Conservative-dominated council of Oldham made me a Freeman of the Borough. My only predecessor as Member of Parliament for Oldham was Sir Winston Churchill. Oldham has much that can be said for it and I propose to say just a few words about it.
§ I do this without any brief. Indeed, I rushed to put down Questions the moment I saw this proposal, because I realised what it meant to Oldham and because I wanted to know just what had happened that quite suddenly resulted in a complete alteration of plan after years of discussion. I am not proposing any alteration to the Bill as originally drawn, I am proposing a restoration word for word to the Bill as it was drawn, as it was negotiated, as it passed Second Reading in another place, as it passed through unlimited Committee in another place until before a very small House (noble Lords will find this reported in the first of the two Hansards for July 6: it is also a remarkable fact there should be two on one day, which indicates the lengths to which the discussions did ultimately go) this was considered with 17 other Amendments. Eighteen Amendments, all of them geographical Amendments, were considered concurrently. Quite suddenly the Minister announced that he had altered the whole of his plans and that he was creating a completely new borough: that instead of being two, one centred on Oldham and one centred on Rochdale, there would be three, one centred on Oldham, one centred on Rochdale and one centred on Bury, none of them viable by the Minister's own standards as laid down in the White Paper—and this on the Motion of the 1156 honourable Member for Bury, who happened to belong to the Conservative Party.
§ The problem of Oldham is quite simply stated in the figures—and may I say that I refused to see the officials of Oldham on a matter like this because if I did it would be necessary for me to see the officials of Middleton as well. I have tried to keep my independence in the matter. I do not disguise the fact that I am heavily biased in favour of Oldham. Indeed, I hold the view that anyone who knows the town as I do would feel the same. I had hoped to call in my aid the brilliant pen of the biographer of Talleyrand, who was Member for Oldham long before me. Being rather tired from some researches into the French historians' account of Magna Charta, when they recalled that it was repealed by Pope Innocent immediately it was made and that he excommunicated the French who threatened to support the Barons, I could not this morning find my copy of that lovely book to see what Duff Cooper, the noble Viscount. Lord Norwich, said about Oldham and its people, and I must therefore ask noble Lords to re-read it.
§ The problem is that Oldham is three miles square; its actual area in acres is just under 10 square miles—not ten miles square, ten square miles. It had a population of 10,000 in 1900. I suppose the only really prosperous time that Oldham has ever had was in 1960. It has never been a rich town; it has always been a low wage area, even with highly skilled labour and great firms. I am not making any criticism of this. It is acknowledged now that Manchester is a low wage area and this is one of the matters which is now being discussed. We have great firms in Oldham. We had great industrial relations. We never had strikes we have a religious population divided almost equally between Catholic and Non-Conformists and Church of England. We have never had religious intolerance in Oldham. We have one of the best newspapers centred on Oldham, certainly one of the most independent that I know. We had a population living in decency, and in 1960 160,000 people were concentrated in those ten square miles. What has happened since, as I said in a previous intervention in debate, is that the young men have gone South, and the old people 1157 have said: "We cannot move; all our ties are here, all our intimate relations are here". It is not easy for anyone, it is not easy for me, to picture what it is like to live in one of these overcrowded conurbations which used to have, when I first went there, back-to-back houses. But even when we managed to erect housing estates—and, first of all, we had to acquire the land, build the roads and open up new areas—it was difficult to persuade people to leave those back streets and their friends and their ties. It might be the local chapel, it might be the local pub, it might be the local allotment.
§ I have a group of friends, and I know of no town which has quite so much in the way of social service. I will not refer those who think that these areas are backward areas to the ebullient youngsters whom we are producing today, who are making their name in every direction, but Oldham can boast of its children. There is Sir William Walton in music; James Fitton, who I think is almost the senior Royal Academician to-day and an intimate and close friend of mine; and Eva Turner, the best-loved figure in modern opera, perhaps one of the most distinguished stars of her day. So we have a civilisation in Oldham. I apologise for my purely physical defect which results from a motor accident. It is not to be taken too seriously; I just cannot help it. I am almost happy to see that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor occasionally suffers from hay fever—though I hope he is cured very rapidly, and I would not wish him harm—because it makes the defect almost respectable.
§ The proposal was that Oldham should become the centre of one area, should take in Chadderton, a great urban district which came into my constituency in 1950, and should take in the historic borough of Middleton. Middleton is about 5,000 acres. Those two, and Rochdale, too, are all very ancient townships. Middleton is a historic borough associated very intimately and closely with the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, whose name in the House of Commons—Assheton—is shown in Ashton-under-Lyne. It was from Middleton that Richard Assheton led the bowmen of England to weed awhile the flowers of the forest on Flodden Field and took a 1158 determined part in that battle. It was an Assheton who was the principal founder of the Oldham Bluecoats School. I think it was an Assheton who was the Black Knight of Ashton-under-Lyne. The word "black" in the title Black Knight incorporates the noble Lord's criticism of the Black Prince, and for the same reason.
§ I would refer your Lordships to the pages of the debate on Report stage in the House of Commons which deal with this subject. There was an interesting and rather surprising little discussion yesterday, when it was said that it is a rule of this House not to suggest or impute motives. Here I find myself in a difficulty. I do not know precisely what the line is. I had thought that if you said a man was not Labour it was regarded in the Labour Party as a criticism. In fact, if some of us said that a man was not a Socialist that was regarded as a criticism. I should not have thought it was a criticism of the Tory Party to say that a man was a Tory, although I could understand that at this moment he might be a little sensitive if the reference was made too constantly.
§ But it was actually upon the Amendment of the Tory Member for Bury, with the support of the Tory Member for Middleton, that this surprising proposal was accepted in very surprising circumstances indeed. The discussions had gone on for years. All the assembled urban councils and boroughs concerned—such as Failsworth, Crompton and so on—had drawn up proportionate payments, estimates of rateable value per head, estimates of contributions to form the new organisation. It was all done and the change was not our child. Let us be fair about this. Of course Middleton does not want to go with Oldham. Middleton does not want to go with Rochdale. Middleton has much more connection with Manchester, because in any radial centre all transport goes to the centre. But it had been agreed, it was settled and then something happened; and without being able to impute motives it is almost impossible for me to provide a solution. Under the rules of your Lordships' House I cannot refer to the previous debate on the 18 Amendments which took place on the afternoon of 1159 Friday, July 6. But, as I understand it, I can quote the Minister's reply.
§ I know the Minister. I knew him in the House—I have not seen him for years—as a fellow solicitor. I knew him as one of the most industrious Members of the House, as a man of high integrity, of great activity, as a man who is likely to defy Newton's law and rise by his gravity, and who has undoubtedly performed a stupendous labour in fathering this immense scheme and in piloting it through in the face of all sorts and sizes of local criticisms, and all sorts and sizes of complaints from the parish pump. But what he said on that day is really quite surprising. He was accepting a Tory Back Bencher's Amendment on Report stage, to take out of the new conurbation the ancient borough of Middleton of about 5,000 acres, half the population of Oldham, a very large proportion of the proposed conurbation, and of course a very substantial rateable value—the second highest rateable value there. I do not propose to weary your Lordships with figures. Perhaps I have already tired your Lordships in taking so long over a cause which is certainly very near to my heart.
But the Minister said:
I should like to deal first with the rearrangements of the metropolitan districts within the metropolitan county. We have had the case of the Bury and Rochdale division. Originally, as in the Bill, the Government chose to put Bury and Rochdale together. That was discussed very fully by all the local authorities concerned at a meeting which the then Under-Secretary held last July. We might have thought from to-day's debate that it was entirely a new idea sprung on local authorities only yesterday. In fact, it has been the subject of debate in the area for a very long time. The whole of the meeting last July was taken up with the debate on whether Bury and Rochdale should be separate, or should be combined. ….
and they came to the conclusion that the plan should stand after all these discussions. Then, after an intervention, the Minister said:
I hesitated about the matter in Committee, because it was a new proposition put to me, and I thought we had got it right in the Bill.
It is very difficult to reconcile the new proposition put to him—and, after all, the reply was so brief as to be almost contemptuous—with something which he
had just been saying they had been discussing for two years. He went on:
But I have since studied it carefully with my colleagues in the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Health and Social Security, and we think they will make good separate local government areas with sufficient population in each. They are different communities, and we are giving them what they want."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 6/7/72 Cols. 824–5.]
§ Then he went on to mention Heywood, which I think is the subject of the next Amendment and which is no concern of this area. It is not easy to explain that, and it is certainly not easy in terms of not being allowed to impute motives. It is not my practice to impute motives, and it never has been; but I think that perhaps it is in order to say that if a casual American visitor had been sitting in the Gallery observing the proceedings in another place he might have misled himself, by the brevity of the utterance and by the, rather casualness of the approach, into thinking that he was witnessing something which looked to his untutored mind very much like political skulduggery; and if he had said this to me later, I would find it very difficult to disabuse him completely of these suspicions.
§ I am moving this Amendment to call attention to something which breaches the principles of the Bill; which creates authorities not viable by the Minister's standards; which does not even settle the question whether Middleton people should still go to Oldham hospitals—and many Middleton people work in Oldham and many Oldham people work in Middleton—and which relies for its support on two propositions. The first is that we had all-Party support, because we got the support of the former Member for Rochdale. Unfortunately, the former Member for Rochdale was seriously ill at the time, but if I had been the Member for Rochdale of course I would have been advocating Rochdale's case. Every constituency Member knows how much of the "parish pump" there is in his activities, and how much there must be. Indeed, it is the whole point of the democratic system that the Member for Oldham should express the views of his own people. The Member for Rochdale died two or three days later, and there is a by-election pending in Rochdale; and, of course, one can understand that the 1161 question of the enlargement of the Rochdale division and the transfer of Middleton to Rochdale could be a very powerful and very potent argument with the electors.
§ But I have tried to put the case fairly, and as it is now clear that this Bill has got to go back to another place, because the Minister himself has already carried Amendments and has tabled many more; as the first intimation of this decision appeared in a well-informed note in the Guardian on the Tuesday, that there was then a brief discussion at a meeting hurriedly called on the Wednesday and then the acceptance of a Back-Bencher's Amendment at a moment's notice on the Friday afternoon, I ask your Lordships to say that the proper course is to accept these Amendments and to send the Bill hack to another place as it started. Then, if they want to re-discuss it, let them re-discuss it there. I beg to move.
§ LORD SANDFORD
The noble Lord, Lord Hale, has read from Hansard of another place the events leading up to the decision to treat Bury and Rochdale as two separate metropolitan districts instead of one, and I do not want to add anything to what my right honourable friend Mr. Page said on that occasion. It is in fact the results of discussions in the previous July which had been undertaken by my honourable friend the Under-Secretary at that time, and the wishes of the authorities as gleaned on that occasion are now reflected in the Bill as amended. So we have to deal with the question, having taken the decision to have three metropolitan districts—Bury, Rochdale and Oldham—which of those it would be the more appropriate for Middleton to join, because it is possible and practical to consider as belonging to any one of those three.
Now the facts are that of the three authorities Oldham is the greater in terms of population, with 224,000—the others are considerably less. The Middleton Borough Council have expressed a clear wish to join Rochdale, which certainly could do with an addition to their population because they would otherwise be as low as 140,000, which is considerably below the ideal figure for a metropolitan district. So we have the fact that the Middleton Borough Council have expressed a clear wish to be in Rochdale; 1162 and Rochdale is an authority which, without the addition of Middleton, would be seriously on the low side—148,000—but which, with the addition of Middleton, would be 202,000, whereas Oldham is already 224,000.
§ LORD HALE
I hope the noble Lord will forgive my interrupting him. I am certain he does not wish to mislead the Committee, but I honestly feel that he is in danger of doing that. I know how he puts it, but if you look at the proposals as they were you will see, of course, that there was not any Bury district, and you then had the position that district No. (c) was Rochdale, I think, and district No. (c) had a population of 331,000 as against then Oldham's 277,000. Each had a rateable value of just about £9 million, in each a penny rate would produce £86,000 to £88,000, and the balance had been perfectly fairly held. It is only when you create your new borough on the spur of the moment, and say, "We have got to try to make it into two new ones that the trouble arises. Indeed, one of the arguments put forward was," They add up to 400,000, and if we divide them mathematically by two they come to 200,000 each "—both of them non-viable, both below the limit. Surely, the material figures for the noble Lord to put forward are the figures before the Minister had this voile-face.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I do not think I would agree with the noble Lord for the reasons that I made clear at the beginning and which my right honourable friend made clear in another place. It is not accurate to say that there has been a volte-face. There were discussions a full year before this matter was discussed in another place, over which my honourable friend the Under-Secretary presided, as a result of which the decision was taken to treat this area not as two but as three metropolitan districts. That is the situation we are dealing with, whatever the situation may have been previously. If Bury and Rochdale had been one district there would be no case whatever for moving Middleton to join what would then be certainly a far larger and more resourceful area than Oldham. But the situation we are dealing with now is a situation in which there are three metropolitan districts, of which Oldham is the most populous and in relation to which Rochdale, if it were not joined by 1163 Middleton, would be very weak in resources and population; and it is for that reason that the decision was taken that Middleton should join Rochdale. But that decision, which can be taken on a consideration of population, rateable value, resources and so on, is reinforced by the fact that the Middleton Borough Council themselves want to join Rochdale. In view of those circumstances, I am quite sure that the decision taken in another place is the correct one and that it would be right for the Committee to resist this Amendment if the noble Lord, Lord Hale, feels he must press it.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD RHODES
The noble Lord, Lord Hale, need not apologise for his emotion when he is referring to the town that he so well represented for so long. His name stands as high as any in Oldham, and there is no doubt about the fact that the work he did for them will be remembered as long as Oldham is a district. He partially made the case for Saddleworth, which is what I was talking about last week. I do not want to labour that case at all to-day. A referendum is taking place to-morrow and depending upon the result of that I hope to return to the matter at Report stage. The noble Lord, Lord Hale, said that originally the Redcliffe-Maud recommendations put Middleton in and Saddleworth out; now it is Saddleworth in and Middleton out. But there is no question that, despite all the talk there has been about boundaries and the grouping together of areas and townships and so on, in all England there is no district which has been as hammered by misfortune as Oldham. Two large industries declining in the space of 35 years is enough to put any district on its back. When Lord Hale is pleading the cause of Oldham he is pleading the cause of people who have been under considerable strain, of people whose houses need renewing, of people in an area where vast numbers of the population have shifted from one place to another. They need all the sympathy and help they can get from anywhere. I propose leaving the matter there. I will support Lord Hale in the Lobby if he brings the matter to a Division, in the hope that he will support me.
§ LORD RHODES
Well, it is natural. Of course it is. We are parish pumping, and proud of it. In the hope that he will support me when the time comes I will give him my vote in a few minutes' time.
THE EARL OF BALFOUR
I have listened carefully to what has been said. At the present moment, in area Rochdale is clearly smaller than Oldham. To remove Middleton from Rochdale to Oldham would leave Rochdale in far too small a state. Therefore, having looked carefully at the plan and having listened to everything Lord Hale has said, I do not feel that he has a case. At the last moment, when he interrupted my noble friend the Minister, he brought in Bury; but again I feel that if anything were to be done by removing Middleton into the area of Oldham you would probably then have to take elaborate steps to make Bury take over the rest of Rochdale. I do not think that this is feasible. I have looked at the map and considered the position. I have no axe to grind and I feel that Lord Sandford gave an excellent description of the position. I do not think that we should accept this Amendment.
§ LORD RHODES
May I ask what sort of speech that was? Was this a Back-Bench speech inspired by the Front Bench? May I ask what Lord Balfour knows about the district? Has he ever been there? Has he ever lived there? What is the point of making a speech like that?
§ LORD HALE
As a matter of courtesy, I must say to the noble Earl who spoke last on the Benches opposite that of course I accept that if you take Middleton out of Rochdale now and do not restore the position to what it was before the Report stage in the other place there will be chaos. The whole point of this Amendment and the next Amendment is to restore the position. It does not go as far as that, because in fact the new borough of Bury is not my pigeon. I know nothing about it. My knowledge of some of these small Lancashire towns consists merely of arriving at a half-filled or quarter-filled Labour hall and hearing the secretary say, "We had six times as many turn up when Bessie was here." Then he would say to me, "You take the 8.10 bus and change at Oswaldthistle and 1165 you get to Manchester Station by about 10". Then after about two hours the train would leave for London. That is all I know about some of these places. But I have suggested that we restore the admirable plan of the Minister for these boroughs, the plan as it was put in the Second Reading debate and throughout the long Committee stage in the House
§ of Commons. In the circumstances, I hope that my noble friends will support this Amendment in the Lobby.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 7) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 36; Not-Contents, 119.1165
|Arwyn, L.||Hale, L.||Rhodes, L.|
|Bacon, Bs.||Henderson, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Balogh, L.||Hoy, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Jacques, L. [Teller.]||Shinwell, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Janner, L.||Slater, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Leatherland, E.||Stocks, Bs.|
|Diamond, L.||Lindsay of Birker, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Maelor, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Milner of Leeds. L.||Watkins, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Peddie, L.||Wells-Pestell. L.|
|Fiske, L.||Phillips, Bs.||Wright of Ashton underLyne, L.|
|Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.]||Popplewell, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Eccles, V.||Lovat, L.|
|Abinger, L.||Effingham, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Elles, Bs.||Mancroft, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Middleton, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Milverton, L.|
|Amory, V.||Essex, E.||Monck, V.|
|Avebury, L.||Falmouth, V.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Ferrers, E.||Mottistone, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Fortescue, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]|
|Belstead, L.||Gage, V.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Gainford, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Garner, L.||Northchurch, Bs.|
|Bourne, L.||Gloucester, L. Bp.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Boyd of Merton, V||Goschen, V.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Boyle of Handsworth, L.||Gowrie, E.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Greenway, L.||Reay, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Grimthorpe, L.||Rennell, L|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Ridley, V.|
|Burnham, L.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Camoys, L.||Harvey of Prestbury, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Hayter, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Chelmer, L.||Hemingford, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Henley, L.||Seear, Bs.|
|Colvillie of Culross, V.||Hereford. L. Bp.||Selborne, E.|
|Colyton, L.||Hodson, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Hood, V.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Howe, E.||Sudeley, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Hurcomb, L.||Thomas, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Croft, L.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Kemsley, V.||Vivian, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Killearn, L.||Wade, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Kinnoull, E.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Latymer, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Digby, L.||Lauderdale, E.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Limerick, E.||Wigram, L.|
|Dulverton, L.||Long, V.||Wolverton, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Loudoun, C.||Young, Bs.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I must apologise to the Committee. When we were considering Amendment No. 6 I should have suggested that we also consider Amendment No. 8, which is linked with it and concerned with the same thing. So also is Amendment No. 56. I beg to move Amendment No. 8.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 208, line 52, column 2, leave out from beginning to end of line 4 on page 209 and insert ("the boroughs of Heywood and Middleton ').—(Lord Sandford.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD WRIGHT OF ASHTON UNDER LYNE moved Amendment No. 9:
§ Page 209, line 6, leave out ("and Wardle") and insert ("Wardle and Whitworth").
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment refers to the Urban District Council of Whitworth, geographically situated to the North of Rochdale and, geographically again, it is very much like the wedge of a pie chart where the segment shoots right into Rochdale. It is as much a part geographically of Rochdale as Rochdale itself, and it has, of course, a common boundary. There was, and has been, a good deal of confusion about where Whitworth should be placed. Originally it was proposed that Whitworth should be part of the Rochdale and Bury Council. This, of course, has now been changed because they have been split and Rochdale and Bury are separate. At this point, when the decision had been made by the Minister that Whitworth should be part of Rochdale, a petition was organised in the Whitworth area asking that Whitworth should go with Greater Manchester. There were about 2,000 signatures to the petition.
The urban district council issued about 250 copies of a window bill. It was a most misleading bill—this is one of the points that I want to put to the Committee—because Rochdale was never mentioned on the bill at all. The whole point of the window bill was to persuade people that if they voted they had to vote either for Rossendale Valley or Manchester. I cannot think of anything more calculated to deceive people who were trying to make up their minds. Had the council said that it was a matter either of Manchester or Preston, that is, the top tier in either segment, that would have
been one thing; or had they compared Rossendale with Rochdale that would have been another. They would then have been linking like with like. But to say for instance:
Our complaints will be shelved in a central office a long way away
implies that if Whitworth went in with Rossendale Valley their complaints would not be shelved in Preston a long way away.
There was a good deal of confusion. I am convinced that this publicity deceived not only the Minister but also the local Member of Parliament who at one time went to persuade the Minister to change his mind and to put Whitworth in the Rossendale Valley. It seems quite clear that the Minister gave a good deal of attention to where Whitworth should go, because in a letter to the clerk of Whitworth Urban District Council he wrote:
I recollect that Whitworth Urban District Council made representations to us last summer about our proposal that they should form part of the Greater Manchester metropolitan county. We considered these representations very carefully and in fact when I visited the area in the summer I looked at Whitworth, both on the ground and from the air, and met the representatives of the urban district council to hear what they had to say at first hand. I am afraid that our conclusion at the end of these consultations was very clearly that Whitworth belongs with the Rochdale county borough and the metropolitan county rather than with the new Lancashire of the North".
§ That letter was from Mr. Michael Heseltine when he was Minister in charge of these affairs.
§ One may think that that is clear enough. The Minister made up his mind. Having popped all over the area, not only on foot but in a helicopter and given the matter very serious consideration, he reached the clear conclusion that Whitworth should be part of Rochdale. I think the Minister was right. There does not appear to me to be any strong reason for changing his mind. But change it he did. He may have done so because he believed that a petition of 2,000 out of an electoral roll of something like 5,000 indicated the wishes of the inhabitants of Whitworth. That would not be an unworthy motive. But a second petition was organised. I have never in my life come across a more confusing situation; no wonder the Minister is confused about it all. The second petition realised 3,000 1169 signatures in favour of going into Rochdale, whereas the previous one had 2,000 signatures in favour of going into Rossendale. So within the space of a week those inhabitants of Whitworth who want to stay with Rochdale have got more than 60 per cent. of the electorate, and that figure is growing day by day. It is rather important to note that this petition was supported by the vicar of Whitworth, the Roman Catholic parish priest and the Methodist ministers, who in many ways represent a fair cross-section of opinion.
I may be asked what my interest in the matter is. It is that I lived in Whitworth for eight years. I knew the area very well, and still do. I know its affinity with Rochdale. And I was asked, as one who knew something about Whitworth, whether I would try to persuade the Minister that he was right first time and that he ought not to have been swindled by a misleading leaflet to change his mind. I can see the Minister's reason for deciding that Whitworth ought to go with Rochdale. Paragraph 8 of the White Paper dealing with local authorities, which I am sure most noble Lords have seen, says:
Local authority areas should be related to areas within which people have a common interest—through living in a recognisable community, through the links of employment, shopping or social activities, or through history and tradition.
§ Only Rochdale could satisfy those needs. Rochdale, with Whitworth as part of it, would completely satisfy the requirements of paragraph 8 of the White Paper) whereas, with the wildest stretch of the imagination, Rossendale never could; it is too far away. Indeed few people have heard of it. They know vaguely that it is a place some miles away. When people who live in Whitworth say that they are going to town, they mean that they are going to Rochdale.
§ Everything about Whitworth is associated with Rochdale. People go the other way only when they are going home, as I used to do when I went to Yearby, in Yorkshire, where I once lived. I hope I do not offend any Whitworth people, but I must say that one is likely to find people going there only when they have nowhere else to go.
§ I am informed that some 90 per cent. of the people who work other than in Whitworth work in the greater Rochdale 1170 area. That is one of the employment links about which we read in paragraph 8 of the White Paper. Rochdale is a shopping centre for Whitworth. As its population indicates, Whitworth is a small place. If one were to see the long queues for evening buses going to Rochdale, and those in Rochdale for buses going to Whitworth, one would realise the affinity between the two areas.
§ The cinemas are in Rochdale, and everybody from Whitworth who goes to the cinema goes to Rochdale. People would not dream of going to Rossendale; indeed, I am not sure whether it has a cinema. Certainly there are cinemas in Rochdale. There are also light opera, repertory and, of course, both codes of professional football. Rochdale Hornets is not a bad team, although Rochdale soccer team is not particularly good. People generally go to watch Manchester United, which shows their good sense. Whitworth people patronise events in Rochdale because it is on their doorstep; it is not miles away, as the Rossendale Valley is. People pop along to Rochdale regularly to take advantage of the amenities provided there. Most social services enjoyed by the Whitworth inhabitants are administered from Rochdale: moral welfare, family planning, the Blind Welfare Association and most of a host of others. We need not consider the gas, water and electricity services, all of which come from Rochdale. All three post offices are sub-post offices of the Rochdale area, and of course all the local news is contained in the Rochdale Observer which circulates very freely in Whitworth.
§ For all these reasons one can understand quite clearly why the Minister decided after his helicopter tour that Whitworth was quite clearly—his words—a natural part of Rochdale. I am not suggesting, in mentioning these things, that in the event of Whitworth's going in with Rossendale no gas, electricity or water should be supplied by Rochdale. The point is that paragraph 8 of the White Paper would be satisfied. How on earth could it be satisfied by going in the other direction? There are other matters worthy of note. One of these is that the interests of Whitworth and Rochdale coincide. I will not weary the House by reading out a whole host of organisations 1171 whose titles include the words, "Rochdale and District", which term embraces Whitworth. For example there are the Rochdale and District Employment Committee, the Rochdale and District Hospital Management Committee, the Rochdale and District Chamber of Trade, the Rochdale and District Chamber of Commerce, all of which embrace Whitworth and the Whitworth associations, whereas none of them is mentioned, thought about or considered in so far as Rossendale is concerned. I have here a list, with which I will not weary your Lordships dealing with Rochdale and district. I notice on it the Rochdale and District Wine-makers' Circle, but I do not suppose that is of any importance. Ninety per cent. of the branches of the trade unions are centred on Rochdale.
Perhaps your Lordships will permit me to give you the views of the Rochdale County Borough on this matter. They say:
It is also possible that a further Amendment may be moved to bring Whitworth back into the metropolitan district C.C."—
that is. Rochdale.
The Rochdale Council feel that this is a matter to be decided primarily according to the wishes of the inhabitants of Whitworth, but they would certainly raise no objection to such an Amendment, since in their view there is a greater community of interest between Whitworth and the Rochdale area than between Whitworth and the Rossendale area of Lancashire.
§ There is no doubt about this in my mind, and I have lived in the area for eight or nine years. I know what happens there, and I know the close affinity with Rochdale.
§ What the Amendment seeks to do is to endorse the Minister's original decision on this matter. It does not change anything. We are saying: " You did a good job when you reached your original decision; but why on earth you should be persuaded by 2,000 signatures to change your mind and suggest that Whitworth should go into Rossendale defeats the imagination. "The reply of course is:" You may have 2,000, but we have 3,000 ". So if you are trying to assess the wishes of the people of Whitworth there you have more than 60 per cent.—and it may be 70 per cent. now; I do not know how many more signatures they have obtained in the last few days. What we 1172 are saving to the Minister is: "You were right the first time, and we regret that, largely on the basis of misleading publicity, you sought to meet what you thought to be the wishes of the Whitworth residents—and if this be so, of course it is not an unworthy motive. But now that it has become clear that this is not the case, then the Amendment asks that you revert to your original decision and leave Whitworth with Rochdale, of which socially and traditionally it has always been part."
§ The Amendment is not aimed at the Government, and it is not aimed at the Minister. It is aimed at those who, for whatever motives, tried to persuade the Minister and apparently succeeded, that he was wrong the first time and ought to have second thoughts. The Minister is apparently having second thoughts. Now—how confusing for the poor fellow!- -it has been demonstrated that he is wrong again. What this Amendment seeks is that the Minister's original decision should stand. The inhabitants of Whitworth clearly, through the latest poll, want to stay with Rochdale and there seems to be no reason (it may be that the Minister can find one, but I cannot) why, if the choice is there, it should not be Rochdale rather than the Rossendale Valley. I beg to move.
§ LORD RHODES
I wish to support this Amendment. I would say to the 129 supporters of the Government who so loyally padded their way through the other Lobby against the last Amendment: "This is a winner! This is an absolute natural'". The reason for it is this. I know the place very well. When I was Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire I used to go out through Whitworth many times. In any case, I once fought an Election in Whitworth, and two notable things happened which have imprinted themselves on my mind for years and years, and probably will always be there. The first was that I arrived at Whitworth one night ostensibly to address a Labour meeting, and nobody knew until afterwards that I had been addressing one organised by the Liberal Party. The other thing—it is obvious how inexperienced I must have been at the time—was that I accosted a Whitworth resident (it could not have been the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Ashton under Lyne, because even with the passage of years he would have been 1173 considerably older) and told him all about what the Labour Party stood for and implored him to vote for me at the Election. After I had been doing this for about seven minutes, he put his head up and loked at me and said: "A'm voting Labour, it doesn't matter what tha' says."
When I said that Whitworth was a "natural to go with Rochdale, I meant it, because it is one of the Rochdale watersheds. The little river which runs through the village goes into the Roch. The road which runs past the end of the valley over into Yorkshire is about the only main road that they have. It is in effect a cul-de-sac. To make a journey into Rossendale means a real effort. In fact, the number of buses going over into the Rossendale Valley are very few and far between. The industries in Whitworth are similar to those in Rochdale: the thinking of the people; the way in which they live; the papers they read; the social conditions they have are all Rochdale-way. And I can tell the Minister something else. I do not think Lancashire wants them—not because they are not nice, not because they are not good citizens, but because it is over the hill, it is another wedge, as the noble Lord explained so eloquently, which goes down to the Valley of Rochdale. If the Minister can stand at that Box and defend Whitworth's going into Lancashire, I shall believe anything of him.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I am grateful to both noble Lords for that spirited argument for moving Whitworth into the Greater Manchester conurbation. My right honourable friend will also be grateful for the noble Lord's compliments about his judgment. But the fact is that we appear to have here something of a marginal case. We have had two lots of petitions, one for moving Whitworth into Greater Manchester and another for moving Whitworth into Lancashire. I think that the case on geography is also finely balanced. This urban district stretches like a spoke out of Greater Manchester. It is not, geographically speaking, an integral part of the conurbation; and it certainly has strong links, as the noble Lord has said, with Greater Manchester. Equally it has affinities, which he apparently has underestimated—if I understand aright the intervention 1174 of the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes—with Rossendale. They are not so strong.
§ LORD RHODES
No; I was quite explicit about that. I said that it was difficult to get into Rossendale and that the natural desire at weekends is for people to go down into Rochdale. The noble Lord is quite wrong.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I was referring to the cinema, on which point the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, had to correct the noble Lord, Lord Wright, as to the attractions of Rossendale towards Whitworth.
§ BARONESS BACON
I wonder whether we are not getting confused between Rochdale and Rossendale. There are two places.
§ LORD SANDFORD
If they were one and the same we should have no trouble at all. The position is fairly finely balanced, but the decisive factor, from the point of view of my right honourable friend—and it still pertains—is that the Urban District Council of Whitworth want to be regarded as belonging to Lancashire, and this, to our mind, in a fairly evenly balanced case, is decisive. But that is not to say that this issue, which as I say is fairly finely balanced, cannot and ought not to be looked at again by the Boundary Commission after April 1, 1974, to see whether in fact we have got it right and to test opinion on the spot, which is clearly divided.
We have these two Petitions but, as will become quite clear as we go through this Bill, I have to judge these Petitions with very great care and take every view that is expressed, whether by means of referendum or Petition, with a very large grain of salt. I said that the issue is quite evenly balanced and my right honourable friend, having at first taken one point of view, has now taken another. The decisive fact of the matter is that the formal and official view of the Urban District Council is in line with the Bill as it stands. I hope, bearing that in mind, that the Committee will agree, if the noble Lord. Lord Wright, feels disposed to press this Amendment, that the right thing to do, in view of the state of the Bill in its passage through Parliament and the fact that there are only 18 months to wait before the Boundary Commission
1175 can take a careful look at this issue and assess opinion locally, is not to accept the Amendment. The whole matter can be looked at in quite a short time by the Boundary Commission which has been specifically set up to consider problems such as this.
§ LORD RHODES
I do not think we ought to leave the matter like this. It seems to me that the Minister has looked at a map without any contour lines on it. Oh, yes! This is a Whitehall "look at a map": this, I can see, is a classic case. If the Ordnance Survey would supply the Ministry with a map with contours on it, it would be seen at once that the steep sides of this valley and the steep valley leading down to the valley which joins Rochdale is the natural place for Whitworth to be: that is, in the Rochdale district. I think that the noble Lord. Lord Wright, while perhaps not pressing this Amendment to a Division now, would expect something a little more forthcoming before the Bill passes through your Lordships' House.
§ LORD WRIGHT OF ASHTON UNDER LYNE
Yes, I was just about to say something like that when the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes said it for me. There seems to be nothing to be lost, so far as I am concerned by pressing this Amendment, and I must say that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, does not appear to have made a very strong case. He seems to be as ambivalent as the Minister in dealing with the situation. I agree that it is rather marginal, and bearing in mind the sort of leaflets that were distributed, which gave such a misleading idea of what was happening, to have got 2,000 signatures out of a total electorate of 5,000 does not seem very good. But when it later became clear what was meant and that the question was Rochdale or Rossendale "and not " Manchester or Rossendale" then the change occurred. That is when the people of Whitworth
§ then gave 3,000 signatures on the basis of staying with Rochdale.
§ I mentioned earlier that the probability is that that number will be greatly exceeded. We had a situation where 60 per cent. of the electoral role preferred to remain with Rochdale. That is not too finely balanced. Whether I am permitted to disclose this or not I do not know—if I am not, somebody will tell me—but on the Whitworth Council there were four votes to five in favour of going into Rossendale. I agree it was purely on a political basis—the five Conservatives wanted to go into Rossendale and the four Socialists wanted to go into Rochdale—so you can draw your own conclusions from that and I will not make any political imputations whatever. But I think that for 60 per cent. of the people to want to go into Rochdale is substantial. I repeat that the proportion is probably greater than that now. It seems to me that all the affinities Whitworth has are with Rochdale—for instance, if you get into trouble with the police you will be tried in Rochdale and the magistrates sit in Rochdale. There is nothing you can think of, so far as Whitworth is concerned, that has not got an affinity with Rochdale. Whilst the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has pointed out that the Boundary Commission could look at this question in 1974, it seems to me that I should be letting down the 60 per cent. of Whitworth people if I did not say that I am afraid, we shall have to divide on this. I only hope that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, will say to the Committee that this is a matter which is so finely balanced that he would advise the Committee to make up their own minds as to what they ought to do.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 9) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 45; Not-Contents, 97.1177
|Arwyn, L.||Fiske, L.||Jacques, L.|
|Bacon, Bs.||Gardiner, L.||Janner, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Garnsworthy, L.||Leatherland, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Gloucester, L.Bp.||Lindsay of Birker, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Hale, L.||Maelor, L.|
|Croft, L.||Henderson, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Hereford, L. Bp.||Peddie, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Hoy, L.||Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Hylton, L.||Popplewell, L.|
|Raglan, L.||Slater, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Rhodes, L.||Stocks, Bs.||Wade, L.|
|Saint Oswald, L.||Stow Hill, L.||Watkins, L.|
|Seear, Bs.||Strabolgi, L.||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L. [Teller.]|
|Serota, Bs.||Tanlaw, L.|
|Shackleton, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Drumalbyn. L.||Lothian, M.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Dulverton, L.||Loudoun, C.|
|Albemarle, E.||Dundee, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Eccles, V.||Luke, L.|
|Amory, V.||Elles, Bs.||Mancroft, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Mersey, V.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Milverton, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Falmouth, V.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Ferrers, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L [Teller.]|
|Bessborough, E.||Fortescue, E.|
|Bourne, L.||Gage, V.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Boyd of Merton, V.||Gainford, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Brentford. V.||Garner, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Goschen, V.||Redesdale, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Gowrie, E.||Ridley, V.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Greenway, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Camoys, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Sandys, L.|
|Chelmer, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Harvey of Prestbury, L.||Selsdon, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Headfort, M.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Henley, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Colyton, L.||Hodson, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Howe, E.||Thomas, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Killearn, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Kinnoull, E.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Latymer, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|de Clifford, L.||Lauderdale, E.||Wigram, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Limerick, E.||Wolverton, L.|
|Digby, L.||Long, V.||Young, Bs.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ LORD PEDDIE moved Amendment No. 10A:
§ Page 209, line 39, leave out ("and Wilmslow").
§ The noble Lord said: I have pleasure in moving the Amendment that stands in my name on the Marshalled List. I do not intend to take up much of the Committee's time. The arguments here are pretty clear, and I am quite sure that this is not going to be something which will arouse any geographical confusion. Wilmslow is a place which is well known to many persons. It is an urban district council in Cheshire with a population of about 20,000. It is integrated with a smaller community, which is adjacent to it, called Alderley Edge. Under the existing proposals Wilmslow will go into the Greater Manchester County Council, and1178
§ Alderley Edge will remain in Cheshire, I will try to point out how farcical that decision is. I will indicate that a reversal of that decision, leaving Wilmslow in Cheshire, will involve no administrative difficulties; indeed, it will strengthen the administrative organisation in that area I know that in such an exercise as this, covering such a wide field and involving so many areas, communities and councils, opposition is bound to arise through fear, pride, or prejudice, on the part of some areas or councils that do not like change. In this case I believe that a genuine mistake has been made by those responsible and when it is recognised by intelligent persons the decision already made will be changed and Wilmslow will remain in Cheshire.
§ There was a referendum taken on this matter in the Wilmslow area. Rather more than 95 per cent. of the people desired to remain in Cheshire. I know that many noble Lords opposite subscribe 1179 to the belief that there should be a greater degree of public participation in these matters. I do not advance the results of this referendum as my sole argument in favour of the Amendment. This is just one argument and I consider it to be a small one; there are so many other sound arguments.
§ Noble Lords will wonder how it is that Wilmslow has not kicked up a fuss to the same extent as some other councils. The explanation is unusual. Wilmslow enjoys the distinction and suffers the disability of having as its Member of Parliament a man who is a distinguished Member of the Cabinet. Obviously, this places the loyal supporters of that Member in some difficulty in challenging a decision made by the Government. I agree that they have left it a little late. However, I am convinced that there has been misunderstanding on the part of someone which has caused this decision that Wilmslow should go into the Greater Manchester area. I have already said that to leave it in Cheshire would create no difficulty and would not reduce the viability of the district of which Stockport is the centre. There are practically no links at all between Wilmslow and Stockport; yet Stockport would be the administrative head of the area in which Wilmslow would be placed.
The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, quoted the White Paper in support of his arguments against a previous Amendment; therefore I too shall use the White Paper. I shall not deal with it at length but will merely refer to paragraph 8 which has already been mentioned. It states:
Local authority areas should be related to areas within which people have a common interest—through living in a recognisable community, through the links of employment, shopping or social activities, or through history and tradition.
§ In all those criteria, with perhaps one slight exception, there is provided no justification at all for Wilmslow to go into the Greater Manchester area. I said that there was perhaps one exception; it is the question of employment. A number of people from Wilmslow are employed in the Greater Manchester area, but 61 per cent. of the employed persons living in the Wilmslow area do not work in the Manchester area. Therefore one could argue strongly that even employment does 1180 not provide to any extent a justification as one of the criteria which determine the action of the Government in these matters.
§ In regard to common interest, which is very important, it is interesting to note that of the 86 social organisations in the Wilmslow area not a single one, so far as I am aware, has a direct relationship with Manchester. The overwhelming majority have a joint membership and a joint association with the people of Alderley Edge, an adjoining community. In those circumstances, how on earth can such an action as indicated in the Bill be justified? To create a boundary between Alderley Edge and Wilmslow is a mistake. There is no doubt that they are closely integrated communities.
§ My last point is a strong one. I have indicated that if the decision is taken by the Government that Wilmslow should remain in Cheshire it will not affect the viability of the Manchester area into which it is supposed to go. But if it remains the decision that Wilmslow is to be forced into the Manchester area it should be realised that over the past decade a substantial sum of money has been spent on building up divisional headquarters to provide local services for areas in Cheshire South of Wilmslow. The services covered are health, welfare, planning, ambulance, fire and law courts. If this decision is enforced it will mean that most of that expenditure will be negatived or rendered almost valueless. Only a matter of six to 12 months ago £500,000 was spent on one building. If Wilmslow is not kept within Cheshire it will be necessary to put up administrative buildings to serve that area. If that is not a waste I do not know what waste is. Therefore I would merely ask at this stage that there be further consideration.
§ As was mentioned by my noble friend in another case the Minister has done his helicopter judgment. Probably from a helicopter the situation looks a little different than through the eyes of the people who live there. I know the district because I have lived there for a matter of eight years. I do not need to go over it in a helicopter. Therefore I would ask the noble Lord who is to reply on behalf of the Government to think again about this. It will not trouble Manchester or Her Majesty's Government if the decision that has been taken 1181 is reversed. The general administration of the area would be strengthened, great economies would be achieved and many people would be satisfied if this Amendment were accepted.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
As a start I should like to make it clear that my right honourable friends have come to their conclusions on this Bill after a much more thorough process than flying over areas in a helicopter, though in some cases this has been an additional part of the studies and consultations undertaken. In contrast to the previous debate, here we come to a matter where the issues are clear cut and the decisions are quite certain. The Wilmslow Urban District Council have consistently opposed their inclusion in the Stockport-based metropolitan district, though I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, that their inclusion or exclusion does not seriously affect the viability either of Stockport or of Greater Manchester; that is not an issue. The urban district council want Wilmslow to be in Cheshire and Cheshire County Council want Wilmslow to be there too, and several other Cheshire authorities support them in that. But it is a fact, as the noble Lord. Lord Peddie, said, that there has been remarkably little fuss or commotion from the inhabitants of Wilmslow itself.
The Government's view is that Wilmslow should be in Greater Manchester because on any objective criterion, whether you look at it from a map or a helicopter or study any of the relevant facts or figures, it is plainly part of the Manchester conurbation, both physically and in function. Physically it is almost connected, though there is a narrow green belt of about a quarter of a mile wide between Wilmslow and the main built-up area. Much of the criticism of the way in which we have drawn the metropolitan counties is to the effect that we have drawn the boundary too tight. Here, if we were to respond to that criticism, we would include not only Wilmslow but go further out into Cheshire still. We have thought it right to draw the boundary tight but no tighter than we have here at the moment, for to reduce it still further would be contrary to the principles we have adopted in these cases.
1182 I would make the point that Wilmslow is essentially a commuter suburb of Manchester, and this is partly illustrated by a number of factors which I should like to rehearse and to catalogue. The latest migration figures for a five-year period show that no fewer than 58 per cent. of the people moving into Wilmslow come from Manchester. The C.B.C. of Manchester have just built a housing estate for 4,000 people at Handforth in the North of Wilmslow. The train services number 70 trains daily from Wilmslow into Manchester. There are no direct train services from Wilmslow either to Macclesfield or to Chester. There are 71 buses daily from Wilmslow into Manchester, and 29 daily into Stockport. Sixty-nine per cent. of Wilmslow households read the Manchester Evening News. Water is supplied by Stockport. On shopping, not only do many Wilmslow residents go into Manchester but Wilmslow itself functions as an out-of-town shopping centre for the conurbation. It is in the employment exchange area of Manchester. Manchester is only 12 mile away; Chester is 32. Wilmslow is within the Selnec P.T.A. All those reasons add up to the fact that Wilmslow is an integral part of the conurbation.
It is quite true that there is some agricultural land in the urban district, and farmers perhaps look to Cheshire for their social and economic purposes. But this is a minute proportion of the total employed population—170 out of 11,000. It is for these reasons, which are not matters of judgment but matters of fact, that the Government strongly take the view that Wilmslow is an integral part of the metropolitan area, physically and by function, and it would be quite wrong to draw the boundary other than outside the urban district council. For those reasons, I must advise the Committee to resist this Amendment if the noble Lord feels disposed to press it.
§ LORD PEDDIE
I am certainly disappointed with that answer but it is also one that I expected. I do not intend to force a Division at this point because I have sufficient confidence in the noble Lord opposite to feel that he will give a little more consideration to this matter than he has done in merely reading a brief on the subject. All the arguments 1183 he has advanced I have already foreseen. For instance, as to that concerning the reading of the Manchester Evening News. I would suggest that Blackpool also ought to be included, because I should think that the most popular newspaper read in Blackpool is the Manchester Evening News. I should think, for instance, that there are many flights from Ringway, which is close by, to Schipol airport. Is the noble Lord, on the basis of the number of flights from Ringway to Schipol airport, going to suggest that there should be administrative links between Manchester and Amsterdam? He says that Cheshire wants Wilmslow in. Of course they do. So also did every other authority when this matter came under consideration ten years ago. Every single one indicated that it was wise for Wilmslow to be in the Cheshire area.
However, the general argument that is advanced, apart from the Manchester Evening News and so on, I do not accept. Two-thirds of the area of Wilmslow is in the North Cheshire Green Belt—I repeat, two-thirds of all the area. I have already dealt with the question of people's employment. Sixty-one per cent. of the working people in Wilmslow do not find employment in Manchester. But it is perfectly obvious that the Minister came along with the firm determination to turn this proposal down, and I know he has had very little time to consider it as it was put down only yesterday. I will not force a Division on this occasion, but I can only hope that more thought will be given to the arguments I have advanced to-day, and I will take the opportunity of presenting the case in stronger form on a future occasion. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD ABERDARE
It seems hardly worth while to start on another Amendment, so perhaps I might move that the House do now resume.
§ House resumed.