§ 8.14 p.m.
§ House again in Committee.
§ LORD VERNON moved Amendment No. 11:
§ Page 209, leave out lines 40 and 41.
§ The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to remove the rural parish of Poynton-with-Worth from the proposed District 12(j) of the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester and restore it to Cheshire, where it has always belonged. Before coming to my reasons for moving this Amendment I should like to say two things. The first is that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, in whose name this Amendment also stands, has asked me to say that he strongly supports it and he would have spoken to it had he not been prevented from being present here this afternoon. Secondly, I should like to declare that I have no personal interest in Poynton or Cheshire. I neither live there nor own property there. But it is only fair to add that for about a hundred years, until shortly after the last war, my family did own most of the parish of Poynton. Therefore, although I know Poynton less well than does my noble friend Lord Harvey of Prestbury in whose name this Amendment also stands and who represented Poynton in Parliament for so many years, I am familiar with Poynton's background, I maintain contact with it and know something of the feeling there to-day.
§ Poynton in the last century and in the early part of this century was a very different place from what it is to-day. It was a small mining village, and like all mining villages it had its ups and downs. My family shared in its ups and downs; and I like to think (indeed I know) that they had a very happy relationship with the people of Poynton. Be that as it may, during the last century a remarkable community spirit grew up in Poynton, that has lasted to this day. Poynton 1210 is now no longer a mining village; it is more affluent and has grown in size and numbers to some 10,500 inhabitants. It is still a village although a large village, and it has retained its village atmosphere.
§ It is not and never has been a part of Manchester. Indeed it is separated from Stockport and Greater Manchester by a substantial tract of agricultural land which is included in the North Cheshire Green Belt. A lot of argument has centred round the Green Belt, especially during the discussions in another place. It is has been suggested that the Green Belt is so small that it is hardly worth considering; but, in fact, it is roughly a mile wide except at one point where (owing in my opinion to a very bad planning decision in the past) it has been reduced to 800 yards. But in any case, the smaller the size of the Green Belt the more important it is that it should be safeguarded. The Minister, Mr. Graham Page, stated specifically that if Poynton goes into Greater Manchester the Green Belt will be preserved. I accept the Minister's good intentions on this matter but I think that one would be absurdly naive to imagine that if Poynton goes in with Manchester (knowing the pressures to which big cities like this are subject at the present time) the chance of retaining the Green Belt is as good as if Poynton remained in Cheshire.
§ Again, it has been suggested that all Poynton's links in the fields of employment, culture, education and so on lie with Manchester and Stockport and not with Cheshire. I dispute this and the people of Poynton also dispute it. Of course many Poyntonians work in Manchester and Stockport and have links with those places, just as people who live in Surrey have links with London. But the important factor is where people have their roots, their interests, their recreation and their sporting activities. And they have those roots in Poynton and Cheshire. Even where employment is concerned, official statistics show that only 27 per cent. of the people who travel on public transport go to Manchester to work which leaves a substantial number who work outside.
§ More important than any of these arguments is the reduction in Poynton's representation at district and county level. It is not a matter of speculation, it is a 1211 fact. We have heard a lot from the Government, in the White Paper and in Ministerial speeches, about how vital it is to have local participation in government and how efficiency must, to some extent, be sacrificed to this end so that people can feel that they really matter and are not just small cogs in one enormous wheel over which they can exercise no control. Yet, in the case of Poynton, the Bill will have precisely the opposite effect. From having eight councillors on the Macclesfield Rural District Council and 10 per cent. of the district population it will be reduced to three councillors and 3.3 per cent. of the population in Stockport. In effect, therefore, Poynton will become a very small fish in a very large pond. It will be swamped and lose its identity. And in the process the extremely healthy relationship which has been built up between the parish council, the Macclesfield Rural District Council and the county council will be destroyed at a stroke.
§ I have attempted to put forward some of the compelling reasons for retaining Poynton in Cheshire, but in the final analysis it does not matter what I think; it does not matter what individual noble Lords think; it does not matter, in my submission, what the Government think. What matters is what the people of Poynton think, and they have expressed themselves in unmistakable terms. On March 25 of this year a petition was delivered to the Prime Minister. It showed that out of a total electorate of 7,881 people 6,658 requested that the Local Government Bill be amended so that Poynton could remain in Cheshire. Only 310 people refused to sign the petition. The balance of 570 were people who could not be contacted. This means that 95.5 per cent. of the electorate were canvassed and 83.6 per cent. supported the petition.
§ In the discussion on a previous Amendment we heard about different petitions and how one petition asked one thing and a later petition asked another. In this case there is absolutely no doubt about the petition. I have checked the position carefully, and I am satisfied that the signatures were obtained fairly and scrupulously. The people contacted were told of the possibilities resulting from Poynton going into Greater Manchester; they were also told the facts and they 1212 were asked to judge for themselves. They have made their decision and, as I say, 83.6 per cent. signed. This petition was not instigated by Poynton Parish Council; it represented a completely spontaneous reaction by the inhabitants of the parish who felt strongly about their future. If democracy is to be meaningful the Government surely cannot ignore the freely expressed wish of the people in a case like this.
§ Of course there may be cases where local views have to be over-ridden in the national interest, but I submit that this is not one of those cases. It has been said that if Poynton is taken out of Greater Manchester why should not some of the other rural parishes also be taken out? My answer to that is that every case must be judged on its merits; that Poynton has an excellent case and the people have made their views felt very strongly. I think that the position was extremely well put on another Amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, who said that there was a need to foster local loyalties and traditions; to knit people together. If this Bill goes through it will destroy local loyalties. So far the Government have shown a strange inflexibility on this issue. I hope that at this late hour, in view of the widespread objections to the Bill from the people of Poynton. the Government will have second thoughts and will accept this Amendment.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ LORD HARVEY OF PRESTBURY
I am glad to support the Amendment so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Vernon. The noble Lord said that his family had lived at Poynton a hundred years ago. When I went to Poynton as the Member of Parliament some 28 years ago there were no coalmines, fortunately for me. But Lord Vernon's family have always taken a great interest in the district and I can well understand why he feels so strongly about it. I can understand some noble Lords saying that people from the North Country have been very long-winded about their particular areas, but we are speaking about areas which we know extremely well. We have just been told that 95 per cent. of the people in the area of Poynton do not want to do certain things. Who are we in Whitehall to say to 95 per cent. of the electorate, "You have got to do this, 1213 you have got to do that"? Surely we ought to take note of their wishes.
I recognise that this Bill is a major piece of legislation and that the Minister has to be tough. This is the first big change in local government for about sixty years and he cannot continually give way, otherwise the floodgates would be opened. But I think that he must be more flexible than he has been recently when judging situations on their merits. A similar Amendment was introduced in another place by my successor, Mr. Nicholas Winterton. He said that the clear wish of 83.6 per cent. of the electorate of Poynton was to remain in Cheshire. I regret that a new Member in another place, Mr. I. W. Owen, the Member of Parliament for Stockport, North, presented a very inaccurate picture of the situation at Poynton, where he lives. I do not know whether he has an axe to grind—he probably has—but it was very unfortunate that he should have said what he did. Since the possibility of a Bill of this kind was first rumoured some years ago, when the Labour Party were in control, I have been inundated with letters, petitions and requests for interviews, and I have a file two feet thick on this problem of Poynton. One noble Lord referred to a helicopter in which Mr. Michael Hesletine flew over the area when he was in the Ministry. Really, it is not enough to fly over an area at perhaps 100 knots and say, "There is not much of a Green Belt separating Poynton from Hazel-grove". One has to live there and know what is going on in order to assess the situation. As my noble friend said, there is a large Green Belt separating Poynton from the areas to the North, Hazelgrove and the others.
Another fear about going into Manchester is of the increased rates. Owing to the rating equalisation clause it has been said that 27 per cent. of the working population go to Manchester. Where do the other 73 per cent. go? During the Second Reading debate last week I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, who took me up on this very issue. I now have the figures, and I can tell noble Lords that 23 per cent. go to Manchester. Rail fares are very expensive and people do not particularly want to go there. The others go to Macclesfield, Woodford, and 1214 the surrounding districts, to new industries which are fortunately springing up.
I hope that my noble friend will consider this Amendment sympathetically. I saw the Secretary of State some two months ago, together with Mr. Graham Page who is the new Member of Parliament for the area. We were very well received and talked for about an hour. I came away with the feeling that the meeting was very courteous and that we had been listened to, but that they had no intention of giving way even before we put our arguments forward. I hope that the Secretary of State will make a few exceptions in this Bill. It will give a very bad impression in the county if he is absolutely rigid and says, "We will go through the motions of debating the matter in the House of Lords, but that is that." As my noble friend said, Poynton is a free-standing village, separated from the Greater Manchester conurbation by tracts of agricultural land in the Green Belt area of Cheshire at the foot of the Pennines. It is a very beautiful village. Are the Green Belt proposals to be abandoned completely? If so we should like to be told.
Despite Poynton's growth in the last 27 years—its population is now nearly 27,000—it retains a very fine village atmosphere, and has all of the welfare amenities voluntary workers for this and that—amateur theatricals, youth clubs and So on—which go to make up village life. Is all this to be thrown away? As has been said tonight, like many other areas Poynton's representation will be reduced to three on the metropolitan district council which will be based on Stockport. The inclusion of Poynton in this metropolitan county will destroy the valuable county district and parish relationship, built up over so many years. It should be appreciated that the constitution of Greater Manchester County in Schedule 1 includes only nine rural parishes, including Poynton, in what is an urban mass of nearly 3 million people. Manchester's population is 2,870,000, and the new Cheshire is to have 800,000. Therefore, percentage-wise, Poynton's population represents 1.40 and 3.38 respectively. Owing to industrial expansion in Macclesfield Poynton has very close bonds with Macclesfield. Let no mistake be made about that. We had an industrial site 1215 immediately after the war—about 1948—and we got some very fine modern industries which compare with any in the country. The people of Poynton travel south, against the traffic jams, to work in Macclesfield.
Let us look at Manchester. It was the last of the great cities to tackle its housing problem seriously. They have nothing to be proud of. Only now are they pulling down the slum areas. Leeds, Burnley and other towns were far ahead. If they now want to take in places like Poynton, why did they send out thousands of residents (using that horrible word, "overspill") to Macclesfield and elsewhere during the last 10 or 12 years? Many people did not want to leave Manchester. Perhaps the authorities thought they would get more rates from industry than they would from residents. They unloaded these people into Cheshire, and now they want to take some of them back. They have always been trying to grab good agricultural land from various places, but they have not always got away with it. One noble Lord said that the present Member of Parliament for Knutsford, Mr. John Davies, could not make the case because he is a senior Cabinet Minister. If Sir Walter Bromley. Davenport were still the Member for Knutsford the roof would have gone off another place. He certainly would not have stood for Wilmslow going into Greater Manchester. It is distressing to see a village like Poynton being steamrollered into Greater Manchester against the wishes of its residents. I ask the Minister with all the power at my command to look at this matter very sympathetically and to talk about it at a later stage. That would be worth while and I hope the Minister will be flexible.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
What very strange things happen in your Lordships' House! Here am I, waiting patiently for Amendment No. 39 to come up, an Amendment which is going to cut off a slice of Essex and put it into Suffolk. Yet I find myself rising to support the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, and the noble Lord, Lord Harvey of Prestbury. The noble Lord, Lord Vernon, said that his family had been in the Poynton area for 100 years, and the noble Lord, Lord Harvey, said that he first became Member of Parliament for Macclesfield 28 years 1216 ago. I rise because over 50 years ago I was a bright young reporter on the Macclesfield Courier, with which both noble Lords will be familiar, so I know something about this district. As a matter of fact I got married there just over 50 years ago, and I lived there for four or five years. I had to drive myself away from that delightful district to come to London. Otherwise, I should still have been living a happier life than that which has been vouchsafed to me since coming South.
I used to attend the monthly meetings of the Macclesfield Rural District Council, which has been mentioned, and I am aware of the very important part which was played by the representatives who came from Poynton. They were highly respected. As the noble Lord, Lord Harvey, has said, I know that the people of Poynton tend to gravitate to Macclesfield for their social life. They used to attend the Macclesfield market. Some of them actually had stores in it, selling Cheshire cheese of a consistency which is far superior to any of the Cheshire cheese one buys to-day. Poynton looked towards Macclesfield in the South, as it does to-day. It is not by any stretch of the imagination a metropolitan village. So I sincerely—not merely sentimentally, but of my own knowledge—support the noble Lords in the Amendment they have put forward. Incidentally could the noble Lord, Lord Sandford (I know that the noble Lord, Lord Alport, also wants to know), tell me whether Amendment No. 39 will be reached to-night? If he could, it would help us with our domestic arrangements.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ LORD WOOLLEY
I rise to support this Amendment. I do not have the historical and traditional connections which the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, has, or the political connections which the noble Lord, Lord Harvey, has, or the remarkable and unexpected connection of the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland. But support is very welcome from all quarters, expected or unexpected. What the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, has said has been very impressive because he speaks from experience and from a very independent position. I am relatively independent in that I do not come from the Poynton area. I live in the same county and of course I know Poynton, 1217 but I am in the South of the county. I farm down there. Poynton is quite a big village with a considerable urban population. Colleagues of mine farm in that area—the North. It is a farming as well as an industrial area.
I fully support what has been said by noble Lords who have moved and supported this Amendment. Poynton is a remarkable instance of the blend of the old and the new. It is an old village in which the tradition of the name of Vernon, though the Vernons have departed and play no active part, as the noble Lord said, still permeates the place. The noble Lord's modesty would preclude his saying that. The respect for and the effect of the Vernons in that village has to be seen to be believed. It is a very fine and heartening thing to find that, because it is one of the intangibles, one of the asthetic, spiritual things of life, of which we are inclined to lose sight. We are grovelling about with figures and lines and we are overlooking the spirit of people that makes them great. I would only say that the spirit in Poynton is a remarkable one.
This is not a question of special pleading. I have no axe to grind. Indeed, the only person I can find who has spoken against Poynton remaining in Cheshire and against the purpose and intent of this Amendment is the Member for North Stockport, Mr. Idris Owen. I do not know the gentleman, but he put up a whole array of figures about the conection of Poynton with Stockport and how its very life would appear to depend on Stockport. All those things are remarkably impressive if one takes them at face or book value. I have no doubt that Mr. Idris Owen knows more about Poynton than I do. He knows the precise distance of the Green Belt at its narrowest point—he may have measured it; I have not—because he is a well-known local builder, and he will have a much more intimate knowledge of the Green Belt and of the various other factors in the Poynton area than I would pretend to have in factual content. All I would say about the Green Belt is that it is a real buffer against the continual urban sprawl which will otherwise completely engulf the area. If one looks at the map—and I see the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has a map at his left hand, and no doubt he is looking at it— 1218 Poynton is an island in this Green Belt, though the barrier at one point, I grant, is narrow.
But that is not, I think, the real importance of the argument. The real importance to me is that this is a quite remarkable community with very strong loyalties, a progressive and fine parish council, and people who are quite clear in their desire. Their desire is that they should remain in the rural district of Macclesfield and within the county of Cheshire. This is in no spirit of hostility to Greater Manchester or to Stockport, within whose district they would fall, They have nothing against them. Many of them go to work over the boundary. That is not unusual. It is becoming more and more common in local districts that people do go over the boundary. But this is a village that has grown on the basis and foundation of the old village rural life. The new people who have come in have blended with it and absorbed the traditions, and they are a community.
I went there and spent most of last Sunday going round the village to refresh my memory and to get information. Nobody except the action committee has approached me to take action. The county council have not; the rural district council have not; and the parish council have not. The county council, the rural district council and the parish council of Macclesfield are, as the Minister knows, all strong supporters of Poynton's remaining in Cheshire. I went there and people took me round. At one point there were a number of motor cars, and I said: "There are a lot of cars here. Why are they here?" They said: "Oh, that is the Baptist chapel". I said: "That is very encouraging, to see so many cars outside the Baptist chapel." Then they went on to tell me of what I thought was a most interesting incident. A short time ago the chapel was in difficulties. It needed renovation, and it needed painting, and people of all denominations, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Methodists, joined with the Baptists to renovate that chapel. That is the spirit that permeates Poynton. It is a community. You do not go and roll over these things lightly with any bureaucratic juggernaut. That is not a good thing to do.
1219 I appeal to the Minister to listen to these pleas. As I have said, I have heard no one except this one gentleman, Mr. Idris Owen, speak against this plea. Why is that? If this transfer is made, I can only say that it will be a glaring and unfortunate example that "Whitehall knows best". I am sure that Whitehall knows a lot and I hope it knows enough to recognise a good case when one is put before it. I sympathise with the Minister, because this is a difficult matter. Of course he can say: "If we concede here, then we have to concede there." On that basis every defendant in a court of law must be found guilty, because all the others who are condemned would feel badly about it if some were let off. So we have to use some common sense. If we are to have a complete fiat on this matter, why waste time bringing it to this House? Why do we go through the process?
I ask that this case be listened to. I am sure that if this is done, not only will it be justice but it will be justice tempered with mercy and common sense; and it will be the best decision to ensure that a realy good community, which has been built upon the basis of its structure, its environment and its interests in the past, will go forward in the future: and it will be a better community within our country than if it is forcibly transferred into an unsuitable and unnatural environment, however good that environment may be. I do not belittle Greater Manchester, but this is a different thing, and you do not try to mix things that have no basic mutuality. Therefore I support the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, and supported by the noble Lords, Lord Harvey of Prestbury and Lord Leatherland, and I am sure the people of Poynton will be delighted to see the noble Lord back again to write another article for them.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
We have listened to four very persuasive arguments, and the Government are very ready, and have been all along, to be persuaded by persuasive arguments. Even to-night we have, by the various Amendments, in the case of the Middleton Borough Council done what the Middleton Borough Council asked us to do; we have done by the Government Amendment, No. 8, what the 1220 Heywood Borough Council asked us to do; and by resisting Amendment No. 9 we have done what the Whitworth Urban District Council wanted us to do—all different from what we had originally intended. So I hope there will be no feeling left that this Government have been inflexible and unresponsive to local opinions. But in this massive business of reforming the whole of local government for England and Wales there are occasions when the principles have to prevail over local opinion. This is one of them.
The facts are these. Poynton began as a mining village, and it was a rural parish, but the fact of the matter is that it is now a substantial commuter suburb of Greater Manchester with a population of 10,000. I fully understand that the people who live there wish to continue to call Poynton a village and themselves a parish. That is perfectly understandable and respectable. But we have to bear in mind the actual facts. It is true that a number of people have gone to live there wishing to find a rural environment; and it is true that some people living in Poynton are still employed in agriculture. But for every person employed in agriculture in Poynton there are 60 people employed in other industrial and commercial activities in urban centres. For every person who goes to Macclesfield to work, there are 10 people who go to Manchester, to say nothing of all those who go to Stockport. So I do not think there is any getting away from the fact that Poynton is now, whatever it has been in the past—
§ LORD HARVEY OF PRESTBURY
Would my noble friend give way? I know that he does not mean to misrepresent the figures, but 23 per cent. go to Manchester and the remainder go to work elsewhere. Three miles away there is Woodford (with Ambrose Shardlow) and people work in a conurbation South and South-West of Poynton.
§ LORD SANDFORD
What I was attempting to do for the benefit of the Committee, was to draw a distinction between the ties Poynton has with Macclesfield, represented by 2 per cent. of the employed population of Poynton working there, and something like 23 per cent., as the noble Lord said, who go to 1221 Manchester. One in ten is the comparison of those links. Certainly other people work in Stockport and elsewhere.
§ LORD SOMERS
May I interrupt the noble Lord? He said earlier that Poynton had developed into a commuter suburb of Greater Manchester. I suppose the same could be said about Guildford being a very convenient commuter centre for Greater London. Is he going to make Guildford part of Greater London?
§ LORD SANDFORD
No, I do not think that Guildford, by any stretch of imagination, can be considered as an appendage to Greater London. When we were re-drawing the boundaries of Greater London and reorganising the local government of Greater London there was never any question of embracing Guildford. The fact of the matter is that Poynton is an integral part of the Greater Manchester conurbation, both by function and by physical conjunction.
As noble Lords have said, there is a Green Belt separating Poynton and Greater Manchester—a matter of perhaps half a mile or one mile, but no more than that. The links between the two possibilities that are being proposed by the Government and by this Amendment are indicated by the fact that Poynton is separated from the centre of Manchester by eight miles, from Macclesfield by seven miles; from the centre of Stockport by seven miles and from Chester (the county capital) by 43 miles. So I do not think there is any doubt that these links are closer and stronger with Greater Manchester and Stockport than they are with Macclesfield, Chester and Cheshire. But we heard a powerful plea from several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, to the effect that the community and identity of Poynton should be preserved. There is no reason why it should not be. This is a small rural parish and it will remain so. It is one of the provisions of the Bill that all parishes like this will preserve their parish identity unbroken and with complete continuity.
Furthermore, as to the fear that the buffer of Green Belt separating Poynton from Greater Manchester by this half-mile or mile or so will be lost if Poynton goes into Greater Manchester, that does not follow at all. Green Belt policies are not prescribed and maintained by 1222 local authorities: they are set by the Secretary of State. So far from any weakening of Green Belt policies, if there is any change in our policies it will be to strengthen them. So the parish remains with its identity unbroken, and there is no reason to suppose that changes in local government boundaries will do anything to weaken the Green Belt policies which serve to preserve Poynton as a single, identifiable community on its own. That is not to say that Poynton can be regarded as anything but an integral part of Greater Manchester and an attractive commuter suburb of that city. For those reasons, I cannot recommend the Committee to do anything but to resist this Amendment.
§ LORD RHODES
Because I find this interesting. I had great difficulty in preventing tears from welling up when the noble Lord was speaking and also when I heard the noble Lord, Lord Woolley. But my noble friend Lord Wright of Ashton under Lyne made an equally strong case for Whitworth. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Harvey of Prestbury, how he voted on Amendment No. 9. Did he vote against us on Amendment No. 9, or is he such a prisoner of the machine that he supports an equally heart-rending argument on that side of the Committee yet preserves his standing with the Tory Party by voting with them against us, and then expecting us to come in with him? Even now it is not too late. I will do a deal with him: I will vote for him if he will vote for me on the Report stage.
§ LORD HARVEY OF PRESTBURY
I must say that I know a little bit about the area I am talking of, but the area that the noble Lord's noble friend was talking about I do not know. With great respect, I found it rather difficult to follow all the details, and in this case I am following the advice of my noble friend on the Front Bench.
§ LORD RHODES
What the noble Lord is saying seems to be that persuasion does not count in this House any more, so why waste our time?
§ LORD WOOLLEY
Of course I am always persuaded by the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, but I found a difficulty in that there was some confusion about these two referenda held in the area referred to, and as a person who did not know the local details I was rather bothered—there was the question of the 2,000 and 3,000 vote. These are real difficulties. We are not expecting noble Lords to be persuaded against their better judgment, because we know they will not be; but there is a difference, because in this case I do not think there is any doubt at all. I have said, and I repeat, that the only voice I have heard raised in favour of Poynton's going into Greater Manchester has been the voice of the honourable Member for Stockport, North, who is very interested in this. Apart from that, the county council, the rural council, the parish council and the people of Poynton, one might say almost to a man or a woman, are against this. Are we going to ignore all these things; and, if so, why?
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear!
§ LORD VERNON
There has been support for this Amendment from noble Lords in all parts of the Committee, including the noble Lords, Lord Leather-land, Lord Woolley and Lord Harvey of Prestbury and myself; and the Lord Bishop of Chester, had he been here, would also have agreed. Yet the Government have shown complete intransigence. One begins to wonder whether it is really worth going through these clauses and Amendments, one by one, if the Government are not going to give an inch anywhere. I do not believe that the arguments advanced have been properly answered by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. I am not going to take the arguments any further because they have been adequately covered. I am merely going to ask the House to support me in the Division Lobby.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
I rise like a trout to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, because I found the Government's arguments absolutely conclusive. The arguments we have had are those with which those of us who have sat on Private Bill Committees in the past on boundary extensions and the like are very familiar. We have heard these arguments in such Committees scores and scores of times. There was the small parish—as it was in the old days—on the outskirts of a county borough which had been almost completely eaten up. Sometimes there was a little space of Green Belt left between it and the county borough, but by and large the parish was virtually an integral part of the county borough. We had the pleas from the other side: "Here are we, a poor little parish; we have always been a poor little parish. Now we are being swamped by commuters from the borough; why the hell should we go into it?" That argument is as old as time. When I used to sit on those Committees I found the arguments put forward in reply, which were comparable to those put forward by the noble Lord on the Front Bench this evening, quite conclusive. I find them conclusive to-day, and I shall vote against the Amendment.
§ BARONESS STOCKS
It is with great regret that I find myself in agreement with the Government. This Bill will cause more unhappiness and frustration among wide circles than any Bill within my memory; but it is quite obvious that Poynton is a commuter suburb of Greater Manchester. In the past Manchester made itself greater by a succession of Private Acts. To my mind, that is the way a big urban district should make itself greater. But in this case the Government are going to do it for them. With sorrow and regret, I am going to vote for the Government.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 11) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 40; Not-Contents, 52.1225
|Alport, L.||Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Croft, L.|
|Bacon, Bs.||Burnham, L.||Davies of Leek, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Falmouth, V.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Coleraine, L.||Garnsworthy, L.|
|Hale, L.||Maybray-King, L.||Somers, L.|
|Harvey of Prestbury, L. [Teller.]||Moyne, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Newall, L.||Strang, L.|
|Helsby, L.||Northchurch, Bs.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Hemingford, L.||Rathcreedan, L.||Vernon, L. [Teller.]|
|Hereford, L. Bp.||Reigate, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Hylton, L.||Sandys, L.||Wade, L.|
|Kinnoull, E.||Seear, Bs.||Watkins, L.|
|Leatherland, L.||Shinwell, L.||Woolley, L.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Slater, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Ferrers, E.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Gage, V.||Rennell, L.|
|Amory, V.||Gainford, L.||Ridley, V.|
|Balfour, E.||Gowrie, E.||Sandford, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Selborne, E.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||James of Rusholme, L.||Stocks, Bs.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Sudeley, L.|
|Chelmer, L.||Latymer, L.||Thomas, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Limerick, E.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Lothian, M.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Craigavon, V.||Luke, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Mancroft, L.||Wellington, D.|
|Davidson, V.||Monk Bretton, L.||Wigram, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Mountevans, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]||Wright of Aston under Lyne, L.|
|Dulverton, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.||Young, Bs.|
|Elliot of Harwood, Bs.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 12:
§ Page 210, line 30. column 2, leave out ("Windle, Eccleston, Rainhill and ") and insert ("Eccleston, Rainhill and Windle, and the parish of").
§ The noble Lord said: This is purely a drafting Amendment but I hasten to make it clear that it is required because of the flexibility of the Government in yielding to an Opposition Amendment in another place. What is required now is only a drafting Amendment consequential upon that. I beg to move.
§ LORD MAYBRAY-KING
I hope we shall not pass this important Amendment without a little more explanation from the Minister. He has said that it illustrates the flexibility of the Government in yielding to pressure. As he said, the proposal is to substitute for Windle, Eccleston and Rainhill the words "Eccleston, Rainhill and Windle". I want to ask the Minister whether it is being done because of representations from the County Councils Association, the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Rural District Councils Asso 1226 ciation or the Urban District Councils Association. We ought to be told before we accept this earth-shaking Amendment. After all, we might have substituted "Eccleston, Windle and Rainhill " or "Windle, Rainhill and Eccleston". The fact that we are asked to substitute "Eccleston, Rainhill and Windle" rather than "Windle, Eccleston and Rainhill" demands an explanation. I do not propose to divide the Committee.
§ LORD SEGAL
If I may also add a plea, can the Minister justify relegating Windle to the bottom of the list? If he intends to do it simply in sequence of alphabetical order his argument remains completely unconvincing.
§ LORD SANDFORD
There are important pitfalls to be avoided here. It is in order to avoid them that we have adopted the drafting conventions used elsewhere in the Schedule.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD moved Amendment No. 12A:
§ Page 211, line 14, leave out ("the parish of Finningley")
§ The noble Lord said: One thing that has impressed me to-day is that by the end of the Committee stage the geographical 1227 knowledge of all of us will be greatly enhanced. Coming to Finningley, may I first of all say to the Minister that the purpose of putting down this Amendment is not to decide whether this parish should go into the metropolitan county round Doncaster in South Yorkshire or whether it should remain in the County of Nottinghamshire. My reason for putting down the Amendment will become clear as I go along. Finningley is a very small parish. To-day your Lordships have been talking about Plymouth, Southampton, Rochdale and other places that are household words. We all know where they are and we know something about them, but Finningley is very small. Compared with the other places I have mentioned it is hardly a pebble on the beach. Its total population is only 771. But why should not the few be mentioned in your Lordships' House? Why should not the interests of the smaller communities have a voice in this Assembly?
§ I made mention a moment or two ago of geography, and I must state the geographical position of this very small parish. It is at the extreme northern tip of the County of Nottinghamshire. During the Committee stage in another place Finningley was referred to as sticking out like a sore thumb into South Yorkshire. However small it might be, it certainly is known in Nottinghamshire, and it may be known to some of your Lordships because there is a famous R.A.F. station within the parish boundary of Finningley. My information is that the services and the amenities there have given satisfaction to the inhabitants of this small parish. Also, I am told that there is general satisfaction because they have been, and are still being, well looked after by the rural district council of East Retford and by the County Council of Nottinghamshire. Again, so far as I know, no objection by the inhabitants has been made to the transfer by the council council. It is purely a local objection among the majority of the inhabitants of the parish.
§ Furthermore, my information is that when it came to the knowledge of the people there that they were to be transferred into the metropolitan district council around Doncaster they held meetings, and had a petition. I understand that there were two meetings attended by 100 1228 people—and to get 100 people at a public meeting in these days is almost a miracle. But at both meetings no fewer than 100 people were present. They voted unanimously, I am told, to stay in the county of Nottinghamshire. The petition, which was organised by local inhabitants, was signed by 87 per cent, of the adult population, who felt that they should be allowed to stay in the County of Nottinghamshire.
§ It is a good thing in our Parliament that the views and the wishes of the people, even in small communities such as Finningley, should be ventilated, and I have this primarily in mind as my purpose in moving this Amendment. Looking at the map and the geographical situation of Finningley, and its close proximity to Doncaster, which will be a metropolitan district of South Yorkshire, and bearing in mind the fact that there had been no objections to the transfer (may I say this quite frankly) by the Notts County Council so far as I know, and also bearing in mind administrative convenience, my immediate reaction was that the proposed transfer was all right. However, representations were made to me by the clerk of the parish council asking if I would bring to the notice of your Lordships the wishes of the inhabitants of his parish. The main objection, on the evidence submitted to me by the clerk of the parish council—and I should like the Minister to note this particularly because this is the kernel of the speech I am making—is the manner in which the transfer has been done.
May I read an extract from the letter which was sent to me by the clerk not more than a few days ago? It states:
The parish of Finningley is to be transferred from the county of Nottinghamshire to the South Yorkshire metropolitan district of Doncaster, much against the wishes of the local inhabitants. The chief objection is against the manner in which this has been brought about without the local parishioners knowing that the transfer was to take place until an article appeared in The Times informing the general public that the Minister had agreed to the transfer at their own request."—
that is to say the request of the parishioners—
The people of Finningley have never expressed any desire to leave Nottinghamshire on the contrary they have repeatedly stated that they were a rural community and were quite satisfied to remain as they are.
§ The main reason why I have tabled this Amendment is to clear up this matter because the local parishioners are accusing the Government of showing a lack of consultation. They feel that they ought to have been consulted; that they ought to have had the opportunity to express themselves as to whether they wanted to stay where they are now or to go into the new metropolitan creation. That is my main purpose—and I say this quite sincerely to the Minister—for tabling this Amendment but I have done so also for this reason: that whatever happens, whether or not there is a change, I should not like to feel that the future was in jeopardy. Although a small community, they have their local pride and they do not like to feel that they are being left out in the cold.
§ I should welcome some observations from the Minister, particularly upon the point of non-consultation and the people's ignorance of what was happening until the article appeared in The Times. I beg to move.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I am grateful to the noble Lord for speaking in the way he did on this Amendment and for making it clear that it is the manner in which the change has been proposed which disturbs the local people of Finningley more than perhaps the change itself. It illustrates the difficulty of making changes that have not been subjected to the fullest possible consultation, but Members in another place were persuaded by the arguments put forward in Committee that the change was desirable. Also anybody looking at the position on the map, with Finningley and Blaxton as two villages—one in Nottinghamshire and one in Yorkshire, both close to each other and both serving the same R.A.F. operational airfield—must see that on the face of it the case for putting both villages together and putting them into the metropolitan district of Doncaster in the metropolitan county of South Yorkshire is indeed a compelling one.
Were it not for this feeling of grievance about the way in which the proposed change had been brought about I think the local people of Finningley would almost certainly be persuaded to accept the change themselves. The position is that all the secondary and adult educa 1230 tion services available to the village are provided from Doncaster. Doncaster is undoubtedly the place where most people go to shop and from where they get all their services.
However, if they take a different view the matter will fall to be reviewed by the Boundary Commission. All concerned will then have an opportunity to make their views felt and if the Boundary Commission were persuaded that the balance of argument lay in favour of Finningley remaining in Nottinghamshire or Finning-ley and Blaxton remaining together but being moved from Yorkshire into Nottinghamshire, then those changes could be made. There is no question of the decision which has been taken, and which I must advise the Committee to maintain, prejudicing the position of the parish or in any way controlling or dictating the conclusion to which the Boundary Commission might come after hearing all the facts of the case. I hope that with that assurance and explanation of the considerable advantages which are plain for all to see in making this change, the noble Lord will not feel it essential to press the Amendment.
LORD TAYLOR or MANSFIELD
If my information is correct, may I ask the noble Lord to explain why there was a lack of consultation. of public relations so to speak, about the wishes of the people of Finningley?
§ LORD SANDFORD
As I explained on Second Reading, the Government started with the benefit of the very full consultations and studies undertaken by the Royal Commission, supplemented by very careful consultations in all those areas where there appeared to be problems, in which consultations all parties concerned were given an opportunity to make their views felt. However, in this imperfect world the problems of these two villages round this particular airfield did not emerge. When they did emerge, in Committee in another place, Members of the Committee were persuaded by the arguments and by all the factors relating to the problem, of which I have mentioned a few, that the change should be made, and it was made.
But when changes are made during the passage of a Bill of this kind through Parliament it is inevitable that some of 1231 the people concerned will hear of them through the Press and the OFFICIAL REPORT of our proceedings before they have had a chance to express their views. This is one of the reasons why I am reluctant to make changes, in spite of the persuasive arguments that are being adduced by noble Lords, and why from time to time, as now, I am suggesting to the Committee that in all the circumstances the best course is to wait until the Boundary Commission can look at the matter and hear all the views of those concerned.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 13:
§ Page 211, line 17, column 2, after ("ward") insert ("so much of the East Ward as lies east and north of Ordnance Survey parcels 4800, 4749, 5136 and 8630").
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment makes a very minor adjustment in the boundary between South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire at Bawtry on the Old Great North Road. Bawtry in Yorkshire has already extended a little over the county boundary into the neighbouring parish of Harworth, and the Bill already provides for one ward and part of another ward of the parish of Harworth to be moved across the county boundary to join with Bawtry. It has since been found that part of the Bawtry built-up area lies not in these wards but in the East ward. This Amendment therefore seeks to move the relevant part of the East ward into Bawtry as well in order to complete the job which the Bill is setting out to do in this case. The change is acceptable to the local authorities concerned on both sides of the boundary. I beg to move.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ LORD BLYTON moved Amendment No. 14:
§ Page 212, leave out lines 8 to 10.
§ The noble Lord said: In the interests of time perhaps my two Amendments could he taken together. There is one argument on the two issues as both places are in the County of Durham. I beg to move.1232
§ LORD ABERDARE
I am very grateful to the noble Lord. This would be very convenient. I am wondering if the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, would like to discuss his Amendment, which is a manuscript Amendment, at the same time as it covers the same area.
§ LORD BLYTON
The first Amendment is to retain the parishes of Birtley and Lamesley in the County of Durham and not include them in the Tyne and Wear metropolitan authority. There is great depth of feeling in these two parishes of Birtley and Lamesley about this; their desire is to retain their long-established and historic identity with the County of Durham. The Minister will be aware that the Durham County Council, the Chester-le-Street Rural Council, the Chester Urban Council and the parish councils of Birtley and Lamesley have made strong representations to him. They have made them with realism facing what is in the best interests of sensible planning and realistic local government.
Petitions have been presented to the Minister in which 80 per cent. of the people of Birtley and Lamesley, signed the petition in which they expressed their desire to stay in County Durham. I do not understand why the Minister has just ignored those strong feelings, because he has always indicated that the Government would be guided in their principles by the reaction of the people affected by such proposals. Yet, here is an area where 80 per cent. of the people have expressed their feelings and until to-night I did not know of any other area where 80 per cent. of the people have indicated their desire to remain in a certain local government area and their request has not been accepted.
It is quite apparent that there have been no representations from these two parishes asking for them to be put into the metropolitan area based in Gateshead. The Government proposals mean that the Boundary Commission, acting on the recommendation of the Durham County Council, has been compelled to create a district which makes nonsense of the guidelines laid down in paragraph 2 of the Department's circular. The circular states:Except in sparsely populated areas, the aim should be to define districts with current populations generally within the range of 75,000 to 100,000.1233 The Chester-le-Street District Council, far from being sparsely populated, will have a population under this Bill of fewer than 50,000. They are being compelled to go even against the guidelines that have been made by the Minister. In other areas the Minister has accepted people's opposition where only 20 to 40 per cent. of the population have signed petitions, and I listened to the Minister say to-night that they had listened to the people's view. In this case the view has been entirely ignored.
The Boundary Commission is proposing seven new districts to be established in the new Durham County area. They propose that the Chester-le-Street Rural Council and the Chester Urban Council should amalgamate to form one of these districts. To that there is no objection. Even that leaves this district with fewer than 50,000 people, and leaving this district well under strength as laid down in the guidelines of the Government itself. Looking at the other six districts in Durham County that the Commission proposes, we find the Chester-le-Street new area is 31,000 fewer in population than the smallest of these six new districts. It means that the rateable value of the new area of Chester-le-Street is also almost inadequate.
The case that Birtley and Lamesley should be retained in the County of Durham is strengthened very much by the draft proposals submitted to the Minister by the Local Government Boundary Commission. The fact of the situation is this, that if Birtley and Lamesley with their population of 17,000 are excluded, the rateable value of Chester-le-Street district will be reduced by nearly 50 per cent. and the population by a quarter. In my view, if the Government insist that the parishes of Birtley and Lamesley are retained in the Tyne and Wear metropolitan county based on Gateshead, they will be turning against the principles embodied in their Bill and turning them upside down.
We have been told that the object of this reform is to give better local government at local level, yet this aim is denied to these people if they are taken out of the County of Durham. I know this area, as my life has been spent in Durham, and I do not know on what premise the Minister has done this. Birtley now is fully developed and is of no 1234 value to Gateshead. Again, the addition of Birtley and Lamesley to Gateshead will only increase its population, and increase the rateable value of the new Gateshead district by only a very small amount, whereas if these two parishes were retained in County Durham and formed part of the new Chester-le-Street county district, they would be of tremendous value in providing a sensible, realistic and viable unit of local government.
I should like to impress upon the Minister that he should recognise the strength of the feeling that exists in these two parishes against their being absorbed in this metropolitan area based on Gateshead, and to realise that the proposals are not good in terms of realistic Government planning. Every organisation, all political parties, the Churches, are unanimous in their desire to stay in County Durham, and are dismayed that their long history and tradition as citizens of the County of Durham is to be broken by this proposal, which neither makes sense nor logic of realistic local government.
I will now deal with my second Amendment. Why was Hetton put in the Sunderland area? What a ridiculous boundary it will be so far as Hetton is concerned if this district is left in the metropolitan area of Sunderland! Once the Government decided, quite correctly in my view, that Seaham urban district should not be in the metropolitan area of Sunderland, it is quite evident from the map that Hetton should have been treated in the same way as Seaham and put into the County of Durham. Anyone who knows of the pattern of the development in Hetton, which is typical of the Durham coalfield, knows that they have nothing at all in common with Sunderland. The history, the tradition, the social structure and the planning problems of this area are such that they should he left in the Durham area. Hetton Urban District Council have consistently maintained in the strongest possible way the view that in the interests of the welfare of the people of Hetton they should remain where they are now, in the County of Durham. If ever there was untidiness of the boundary which will operate when this Bill is enacted it is in the Sunderland metropolitan area, with Hetton jutting like a sore finger into the new Durham county area as it is to be in future.
1235 I welcome the decision to put Seaham back into County Durham, but whatever argument was used by the Minister for that there are much stronger arguments in the case of Hetton. It is predominantly a mining village. Many of its people work at Peterlee, and the majority work in Hetton itself; and they have had nothing at all in common with Sunderland. I am confident that when the Minister looks at his map again, and when the people of Durham realise that Seaham is coming to Durham but not Hetton, and that Birtley and Lamesley are going to the metropolitan area of Gateshead they will feel that it is such a mess that the whole arrangement will need revision. I am certain also that this will have to be done in the not very distant future and I therefore ask the Minister to give these two Amendments careful consideration tonight because no one is happy in these parishes as a result of the arrangement in the Bill. I beg to move.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
It should be explained that in addition to what my noble friend, Lord Blyton, has said, the concept which inspired the Boundary Commission to suggest the change was that these two parishes, Birtley and Lamesley, should be transferred to the new metropolitan county of the Tyne and the Wear. That is the idea. There ought to be some explanation for this, but so far as we can gather no explanation has been forthcoming. There was a debate in another place, in the course of which the honourable Member for Chester-le-Street and the two honourable Members for Gateshead participated. I have read the Report of the debate and I am bound to say, irrespective of the views of Durham County Council, the contention of my honourable friend and colleague representing Chester-le-Street was conclusive in this respect: that nothing was to be gained by either of those parishes from the transfer.
His views were controverted in part by the two honourable Members for Gateshead. Their contention was that Gateshead wanted these parishes—for what reason was not very clear. But Gateshead wanted a colony, grabbed them, and had them transferred. They had never thought about it before—this is the remarkable thing about it—but when 1236 the Boundary Commission suggested the change, Gateshead seized upon it at once as very desirable. So far as I am able to ascertain, no other valid argument had been adduced in support of the transfer. As my noble friend, Lord Blyton has pointed out, these are two historic parishes: both Birtley and Lamesley have historic associations. They do not want to be uprooted; they are content where they are. I hope the Minister will take note of this point: that it will not make the slightest difference, except geographically, and then in a very minor fashion, if the two parishes remain where they are. What inspired the Boundary Commission to suggest the change it is difficult to say. That is the position so far as the two parishes of Birtley and Lamesley are concerned. Unless the Minister can adduce any valid arguments in support of this transfer, then I think the matter deserves further consideration.
I come to the second Amendment which affects the urban district of Hetton. I have been furnished with a map by the Durham County Council. Perhaps I may digress for a moment to explain why I speak on their behalf, alongside my noble friend Lord Blyton. I have a long association with the County of Durham, even longer than that of my noble friend Lord Blyton. I first went to Durham in the year 1892.
§ LORD SHINWELL
I went to South Shields from London, and went to school in South Shields; I was then just about eight years of age. I was there for some time. I then went to Scotland, where I acquired a somewhat fine Scottish accent, which has no doubt been observed. Then, at a later stage, I returned to South Shields and lived there for some time. So I have an acquaintance with the County of Durham, apart from the fact that I have spoken in every village and township in Durham. I almost forgot that I represented a Durham constituency for 35 years, apart from other constituencies elsewhere. So I know something about the place; and I know Birtley and Lamesley, having spoken in both places. We do not get very big meetings there. but the meetings are all right and they helped my colleague who is now in the other place to retain his seat. So I do 1237 not understand why they should be disturbed. Indeed, the fact of the matter is that there is no reason why Durham County should have been disturbed at all. They would have preferred to remain as they are. I do not mind the Boundary Commission coming along and making a good job of changes, but they left it all very untidy, and I want to refer to the untidiness.
My noble friend referred to Hetton as being like a sore thumb. It is quite a useful analogy. If noble Lords will look at the map they will see that Hetton is just jutting out. If the Boundary Commission are to make a good job of it, they should tidy it up. The line should not jut out there but should carry on with a reasonable and rational boundary. My noble friend pointed out what happened in the case of Seaham. I used, at one time, to represent Seaham, not in your Lordships' House of course but in the other place. It was suggested at one time that Seaham should be incorporated in the metropolitan county of Sunderland. Perhaps the Commission changed their minds, as Seaham remains in Durham County. But Seaham is nearer Sunderland than Hetton, yet it has now been decided that Hetton should be included in Sunderland while Seaham escapes. This is absurd. The Commission cannot carry on in this irrational fashion.
I come to what is more in my line in connection with Easington Rural District Council. I also represented Easington for seven years. When Seaham Harbour was hived off, it remained as Easington. What is proposed in connection with Easington Rural District Council is that two tiny villages, Burdon and Warden Law, should be transferred to another area—extracted like a bad tooth from Easing-ton Rural District Council. What is the purpose of it? I used to go to these places very often. I had to go to a remote part of the Easington Rural District Council area, the administrative area, the electoral area, very often to address meetings. I never could get an indoor meeting: I had to speak through a loudspeaker on a street corner, and talk to the people there in that way. Nobody ever came to listen to me. Whether I ever got any votes from the place I am unable to say; but it was part and parcel of the Easington rural area, and everybody was quite happy. When all the 1238 people are quite happy, why should somebody come along and disturb them? That is what I want to know. As to the Boundary Commission, they are no doubt very decent people, I should not be at all surprised—quite decent people—but what have they been up to?
§ LORD ABERDARE
I should just like to put the noble Lord right on this matter. It has nothing to do with the Boundary Commission. He can blame the Government for this, but not the Boundary Commission. The Boundary Commission are concerned with district boundaries.
§ LORD SHINWELL
I am only too delighted to blame the Government—that is right up my street. Now that I know, am ready to transfer my resentment from the Boundary Commission to the Government. But that makes it even worse. You can expect anything from a Boundary Commission—after all, what do they know?—but a Government, an intelligent Government! It really is too bad.
I am not sure what my noble friend wants to do about this Amendment, whether he wants to divide on it. I should be quite content if the Government said in reply to what my noble friend has said and to what I have ventured to say that they would give the matter consideration. They may have some difficulty about Hetton. I am prepared to let that go, because there may be some difficulty about that. There could be certain adjustments, but that could be arranged later on. I would not bother so much about that, and I am rather inclined to think that my noble friend would agree with me about it. He had better say, "Yes" or "No". I think he would agree. Of course, he must not commit himself too far. He lives in Durham, and I do not; that is the difference. But it seems to me that, as regards Birtley and Lamesley, the Government might care to reconsider the matter. As regards Burdon and Warden Law, it does not matter very much. Leave them where they are; they are quite content. Why should they be disturbed? They are quite happy: do not make them miserable. Therefore I support my noble friend in these Amendments.
§ LORD SLATER
I rise to give support to the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Blyton of South Shields and supported by my noble friend Lord Shin-well of Easington. It so happens that I was on the county authority six years prior to becoming a Member of Parliament, so I am in a different category from the two noble Lords who have already spoken and presented their arguments to your Lordships in regard to what has happened under the local government proposals. I know Birtley well and I know Lamesley well, as a member of the local authority at that time prior to becoming a Member of Parliament. There is one point of which I took particular notice. During the course of the speech which was delivered by my noble friend Lord Shinwell he talked about representing that particular area of Easington as a Member of Parliament in the other place, but he did not tell your Lordships that my constituency was next door to his and that the boundary ran down the main street, so that he had one side of the street in his constituency and I had the other half of the street in mine. That is the way the thing runs.
I am interested in the important matter of these Commissions that are set up by the Government, especially in regard to local government. I am not talking about Parliamentary Commissions—the time will come when one will be in a position to say something in regard to Parliamentary Commissions—but about local government Boundary Commissions. Do I take it that the Boundary Commissions, as set up by the Government, just work away, as it were, from an ordnance map? We have heard comments made by the Minister that observations have been taken from the air by helicopter, by plane and so on, but I should like to know how much attention has been paid locally by the Boundary Commission, over the period of years that they have been examining this situation concerning changes in local government boundaries within this country, and the number of visits that they have made to the respective areas before submitting recommendations to the Government for consideration. I wonder how many, if any, visits they have made into the County of Durham. I believe if they had paid these visits and had had consultations with the local 1240 authority they would not have given consideration to Birtley or Hetton going somewhere else. There has been a long struggle over the years and the purpose has always been not for Lamesley and Birtley to go into Gateshead but for Gateshead to go into the Newcastle area across the Tyne. This is where the battle has been going on all the time. Now the Government come along and propose a new situation for Birtley which is a self-contained area which has any amount of heavy industry, is well supported by outside interests and is in close proximity to Chester-le-Street. It is a place where people can easily satisfy their shopping needs, for it has good road transport, without their having to depend on going into Gateshead and Newcastle.
Therefore I hope that the Minister will note the arguments presented by my noble friends. My noble friend Lord Taylor said we had heard about Southampton and other towns and areas. I want to say that one of the best cases that I have heard presented in this Chamber in regard to local government was presented when the noble Lord, Lord Harvey of Prestbury, and the mover of that Amendment on that occasion argued against their own Party in Government because of the procedure that they were seeking to follow in these changes. I hope the Government will heed the appeal by my noble friend Lord Shinwell over the changes that they seek to introduce in regard to Durham.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT RIDLEY
I support Lord Blyton on Amendment 14. I do not have his detailed knowledge of these parishes but on these occasions I feel that it is incumbent upon all Geordies to support each other. A strong argument for these two parishes has been presented and I know that in these two parishes, Lamesley and Birtley, there are strong feelings expressed that they should remain in County Durham. This Committee should take notice of these feelings. If the noble Lord chooses to divide the Committee on this Amendment I will support him.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
I feel somewhat embarrassed on this occasion because my noble friends, Lord Blyton, Lord Shinwell and Lord Slater, and my noble but friendly enemy, Lord Ridley, 1241 have all spoken in favour of separating Lamesley and Birtley from the metropolitan county. I suffer from the disadvantage that I have been resident on Tyne-side for only 25 years whereas they have been resident for very much longer. Consequently, they know this district very much better than I. But I am not convinced by their arguments. If one drove out—when I first went to Newcastle in 1947 I used to bicycle out—along the road from Gateshead and Low Fell to Birtley one did not notice that there was any difference as one went from Low Fell into Birtley. The first time I went to Birtley was to visit the laboratories of the Birtley colliery. So far as I could see, these were virtually part of Gateshead. They were actually on the edge of Gateshead. When one goes down the hill from the main road towards the Team Valley one ends up in the Team Valley Estate.
§ LORD SLATER
Is my noble friend aware, when he talks about Low Fell as being more or less attached to Gateshead, that he has to pass through Ravensworth before he gets to Low Fell?
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
I am describing what happened to me as I went along. As one goes down the hill one gets to the Team Valley Estate, which is part of Gateshead. It is part of this whole metropolitan area. One looks at Birtley and sees it as an industrial area which is virtually indistinguishable from the Team Valley Estate, and surely in the North-East we want an extension of the Estate. The whole future of the North-East depends upon the Team Valley Estate developing still further; already there are 80,000 workers there, many of whom live in Birtley and Gateshead. The whole mass is one conurbation. To pretend that it is not, that Birtley is something segregated from this conurbation, is, I suggest, to do a great disservice to the whole development of that part of the country.
I have been a resident there for 25 years and I am very much concerned with the development. The services in Birtley are dependent on Gateshead. You cannot say that you could run an effective transport service except through Gateshead. In my opinion there is no 1242 question that the whole of that part depends on it. Lamesley is a relatively small and scattered part—
§ LORD BLYTON
Is my noble friend aware that the transport for Birtley people depends on the Northern and the Sunderland district and not on Gateshead?
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
Sunderland is part of the metropolitan district. The whole of this district ought, in my opinion, to be considered as one. The only question I would ask is whether it is wise to leave out Chester-le-Street. Maybe it is, but I think that Chester-le-Street ought to come in. If one comes to such questions as the provision of technical education, which is an extremely important matter in this area, what technical education is going to be afforded through Chester-le-Street? Gateshead can afford far better technical education. It has a first-class technical college; it can afford far better library facilities, museum facilities and all the facilities that are required for the development of this area.
I suggest that we are really being anachronistic if we say that 1,000 years or more ago we had the Venerable Bede in Jarrow and that everything is centred round something which disappeared a long time ago. To-day we are thinking of the future and I suggest that we ought to think of making this metropolitan area really effective. While I am prepared to agree with my noble friend Lord Blyton—partly, I admit, through ignorance—that Hetton might not be included, nevertheless I am quite sure from my own knowledge that both Birtley and Lamesley ought to be included in this metropolitan area.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
The debate on these Amendments has illustrated the great difficulties we are in with regard to these matters of geography, particularly when it comes to the creation of a new county such as Tyne and Wear. In another place there was exhaustive debate on the southern boundary of the metropolitan county, which is what we are basically discussing. In fact the Government made one concession to the Opposition in taking Seaham and two neighbouring parishes out of the metro 1243 politan county and putting them in Durham. As noble Lords who have spoken are well aware, this was for an extremely special reason connected with the pollution of beaches at Seaham caused by coal-mining operations in Durham. We saw great advantage in Seaham's remaining as a port for the dumping of waste coal materials.
The result has been that by giving one concession and taking Seaham back into Durham we have encouraged a horde of demands. The noble Lord, Lord Blyton, would take Hetton, Lamesley and part of the parish of Birtley. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, wants to take Houghtonle-Spring back into Durham. We should have no Tyne and Wear left if we listened to all of these pleas. As we go along, noble Lords will realise that it is extremely difficult to deal with these matters of parish boundaries.
I want to make one or two detailed remarks about the Amendments, but before doing so I would say that where there are parish difficulties, as in the case of other Amendments, these are matters for the Boundary Commission to have a proper look at in due course. The debate has also illustrated the differences of opinion which exist. One does not really know on what side one's friends are in these debates. I felt very much that I had more of an ally in the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, than in my noble friend Lord Ridley.
I agree that Hetton itself would prefer to be included in Durham, but its work ties are with the metropolitan county. According to the 1966 Census there were 7,250 residents in employment, of whom roughly half worked within Hetton. Of the remainder, at least 2,150 were employed within the area of the proposed metropolitan county and over 2,000 in the Sunderland district. Far fewer were employed in the proposed county of Durham. We really feel that Hetton is much more closely linked with District E (Tyne and Wear) than with Durham. I am thinking of ties of employment, shopping, newspaper circulation, and general community interests. Ties are likely to be strengthened rather than weakened as coalmining becomes less important and new industrial estates are developed. In 1244 fact the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, seems to be prepared to go along with the idea of leaving Hetton.
Then there is the question of the parish of Lamesley and part of the parish of Birtley. There are two reasons, at least one of which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, why Lamesley is rightly placed with Tyne and Wear. In the first place, the residential area of Eighton Banks, in the North-East of the parish, is a suburb of Gateshead. Secondly, part of the Team Valley Industrial Estate, mentioned by the noble Lord, extends across the Gateshead boundary into the northern part of Lamesley. So far as Birtley is concerned, this is physically linked with Washington. I agree that the A.1(M) divides the two, but it is a substantially built-up residential and industrial parish, and part of Washington. For those reasons, I would suggest that these particular parishes are better left with Tyne and Wear for the present moment. My right honourable friend in another place undertook to refer these matters to the Boundary Commission, who will make a special study of them after 1974.
§ LORD SLATER
May I ask the noble Lord how he arrives at the conclusion that Birtley is linked with Washington? Has he been in the area? It might be as well if he visited the area and saw for himself where Birtley is and where Washington is.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I regret to say that I have not been in the area. I am afraid that there are too many areas involved in this Bill to visit them all. But I am told that it is separated only by the A.1(M).
§ LORD ABERDARE
If the noble Lord would like to have some words with me afterwards about that, I will certainly take it up. So far as Houghton-le-Spring is concerned, the information I have is that Houghton-le-Spring wants to stay in Tyne and Wear and is opposed to any other major alteration in the boundary. So far as I know, there has been no local campaign to take them out of Tyne and Wear, and I suggest that their 1245 ties are towards Sunderland rather than with County Durham. If the noble Lord wishes to press this Amendment, I hope that the Committee will not accept it.
§ LORD BLYTON
At this stage I 1246 accept that this matter will be reviewed in 1974. The matter has been debated, and I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1247
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ LORD HENDERSON moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 212, leave out lines 41 and 42 and insert—
("District (d) the county borough of Warley
District (e) the county borough of West Bromwich ").
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment refers to the Government's proposal to combine Warley and West Bromwich in a single district authority within the new area of West Midlands. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, must be aware that the proposal is disliked throughout this part of the Black Country. It is disapproved of by the two councils concerned. It is looked upon with disfavour by the two communities involved. So far as I can gather, there is no welcome for it in any local quarter.
§ I do not think that such an unfavourable popular reaction should cause surprise. As recently as 1966 there was a major local government reorganisation in the Black Country. A number of local authorities were amalgamated into five county boroughs. As part of this reorganisation the county borough of West Bromwich was extended to take in adjoining areas. Warley was created as a new county borough, comprising substantially the former county borough of Smethwick and the boroughs of Oldbury and Rowley Regis. It is obvious that Warley Council has been faced with a major task in welding together the constituent parts of the new county borough and in organising the effective administration of the many services that had to be dealt with. The council are now able to state that they have performed this task with a great deal of success and that they have undertaken considerable expansion of the services. They have a fine record.
§ Having loyally adapted themselves to the pattern of reorganisation imposed upon them in 1966, having made real progress in getting over the obvious teething troubles, having made good progress in their efforts to develop a new community loyalty and a new identity, as well as having built up a fine record in respect of the many social services for which they have become responsible, they are now to be compelled to start all over 1248 again the exacting process of amalgamation and reorganisation. The council hold the view that their record of practical achievements amply demonstrates that Warley, as at present constituted, is a viable unit of administration. Having become a viable unit for all the functions of local government, it will also be viable under the new system to administer a more limited range of functions. They are convinced that if they are allowed to continue to direct their energies and efforts to the further development and improvement of their own borough as they have been doing in the last five years, a great deal more progress can be achieved.
§ What is asked for in my Amendment is that Warley and West Bromwich should each remain as a separate independent metropolitan district in the new West Midlands County. That is what both of them desire. If my Amendment was accepted, the effect would be that instead of the seven districts as now proposed there would be eight districts in the new county. I am sure the Minister will be reminding me that as the basic population figure for district units has been fixed at 250,000, and Warley's population is just around 170,000, and that of West Bromwich about 220,000. neither county borough matches up to the basic minimum, whereas they will be fully adequate when combined. That is true. But unless I have misread Appendix 6 of Circular 8/71, there are three proposed district authorities whose populations are below 200,000.
§ I have also seen it stated that in the Greater London authority area, of 30 London boroughs 20 have populations of fewer than 250,000; seven have populations of fewer than 200,000; two have populations of fewer than 170,000, and one fewer than 150,000. I admit that this position is not due to any provisions of the present Bill, but if the relevant figures that I have quoted are correct it surely means that the Government are not rigidly enforcing the basic population rule but are permitting some exceptions under the present Bill. What I am seeking to persuade the Government to do is to agree to include Warley and West Bromwich in the limited number of exceptions.
§ I am sure that the Minister will be aware of the pressing and persuasive 1249 representations that have been made in support of this proposal, representations by personal interview, by correspondence, and by speeches in another place. So far all these efforts have failed to achieve the desired end. A similar Amendment to mine was rejected in another place by the Secretary of State for the Environment. This decision has caused widespread local disappointment, but it has also led to further representations being made in the hope of persuading the Secretary of State to have a further look at the matter and allow a favourable response to be given here. I add my support to what must be regarded as a final appeal, and I hope that the Minister who is to reply is not going to disappoint Warley and West Bromwich again, or disappoint me for the first time. I beg to move.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I am sure that the whole Committee will have been impressed by that eloquent plea from the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, on behalf of the area which his brother used to represent with such distinction. I do not think that there is any doubt at all we would all pay a tribute to what these two county boroughs of Warley and West Bromwich have achieved since the reorganisation that took place in 1966. Their regret and disappointment at the upheaval that they now face is only too understandable. But I do not think it is necessary to regard the task and challenge that faces them now as being aptly described as having to start all over again.
What they are being asked to do by the Bill as it stands is to carry one stage further the work to which they set their hands a short period of six years ago, in 1966, when it fell to them to embrace, to amalgamate and to give coherence to a multiplicity of separate authorities. They are now being asked to join hands and to do the same for one single area at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation. This does not in the least diminish our acknowledgment and our appreciation of what they have achieved.
However, their populations of 163,000 in the case of Warley and 167,000 in the case of West Bromwich are considerably below the standard of 250,000 which is 1250 regarded as the normal minimum for metropolitan districts carrying out the functions assigned to those districts.
It is perfectly true that exception is being made for other authorities—we have been discussing two of them earlier this evening—whose populations are below that figure, namely, the district of Bury with 175,000 and the district of Rochdale with 200,000. Whereas Bury and Rochdale and other similar districts, like, say, South Shields with 177,000, have been accepted as exceptions below the standard of 250,000, there were justifications in those cases because they are distinct areas, standing apart and identifiable on the map as distinct entities. In the case of Warley and West Bromwich we are dealing with two contiguous county boroughs whose built-up areas are now entirely coalescing, as I am sure the noble Lord will agree. To look at the two on the map one would not realise that there are two identifiable and separate units. The other awkward fact which prevents us from doing what Warley and West Bromwich would like and what many of us would want to do, were it not for these facts, is that whereas the population of the county borough of Bury, which already stands at 175,000 is increasing rapidly the populations of Warley and West Bromwich are declining; in the case of Warley it is declining quite rapidly.
So for these three reasons, first, that they are too low in population to shoulder the functions and responsibilities assigned to metropolitan districts; secondly, that they cannot readily be regarded as exceptions in the same way as Bury, South Shields, Rochdale and others because they are contiguous and it is convenient for them to be brought together, and for the further reason that their populations are declining whereas that of the other districts where exception is being made is rising, I cannot recommend the Committee to accept this Amendment, however eloquently it was moved and however sincerely expressed were the feelings of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. I regret this very much indeed because the record of the two county boroughs has been so distinguished, but I am confident that they will be able to carry forward the work which they have been doing over the last six years.
§ LORD HENDERSON
I am very grateful to the Minister for his friendly references to the two county boroughs. Of course I am disappointed at his decision. Before I make a further point I am rather in doubt about the figures which the Ministed has given. I am quoting the circular which I mentioned. It gives the population for Warley and West Bromwich together as 392,000. If we take 170,000 from that for Warley that leaves roughly 220,000 for West Bromwich, which is the figure I gave. However, that is a point of correction if I am right in what I am saying. I am grateful to the Minister for his kindly references to the work that is being done by these two borough councils. I am not going to withdraw the Amendment and I am not going to divide on it: I will have it negatived.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ BARONESS BACON moved Amendment No. 17:
§ Page 213, line 26, at end insert ("and Rothwell").
§ The noble Baroness said: I understand that the Minister has suggested that we take my two Amendments and the Amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Popplewell together. Is that not so? I understood that that was his request. However, let me say that the Amendment about Sherburn and my Amendments about Rothwell have one thing in common, in that we are both seeking to put something into the Leeds district (b) of the West Yorkshire Metropolitan county. I do not propose to speak about Sherburn, except to say that I fully agree with the Amendment which my noble friend Lord Popplewell will move.
§ The effect of my Amendments is that the urban district of Rothwell will be retransferred from the Wakefield district to the Leeds district in the West Yorks metropolitan county. I have lived all my life in what will be the Wakefield district, and I represented for 25 years the City of Leeds, the Leeds district, so I can, as it were, be on the boundary and look at the problem from both sides. In the original Bill which went before another place Rothwell was included in the Leeds district, and it was not until the Report stage on July 6 that the Government, in 1252 another place, accepted an Amendment taking Rothwell out of the Leeds district, where it rightly belongs, and put it into the Wakefield district.
§ We are all grateful to the Minister for providing the excellent maps which we have before us. I should like to say, though, that while this is an absolutely correct map of Leeds, it is perhaps a little misleading, in that if one looked at this map of Leeds one might think that the centre of Leeds was in the centre of the county borough, but in fact the city centre of Leeds comes nearly up to the southern boundary where Rothwell takes one big mouthful of Leeds right into the industrial part of the city. It is possible to travel now under the present boundaries from the city centre West, North and East for several miles and still be within the city boundaries, but if one travels South to the boundary which meets Roth-well it is only about 1 or 1½ miles; so Leeds, even now, is very much truncated on the southern side. After reorganisation the Leeds district will take in many more areas to the West, to the North, and to the East. Otley, for example, which is 11 miles from the city centre, will be taken into the Leeds district; and although they very much wanted to be in North Yorkshire the Government have turned a deaf ear to this proposal. But, as I say, the southern boundary of Leeds meets Rothwell only a mile or 1½, miles from the city centre.
§ It meets Rothwell at a very industrial, built-up area of Leeds. I represented this area of Leeds, which is called Hunslet, and the part of Rothwell which meets Hunslet is called Stourton, which will be well known to the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton. He will know, as others will know, that where Leeds meets Rothwell at Stourton, Stourton is really a part of Leeds. It is the industrial area of Leeds. When I have gone canvassing in that area it has been difficult to see which streets were mine and which were those of Stourton, which is in the Rothwell district.
We have heard a lot about green belts to-night, and the lush green areas of England; but believe me! this is no green belt area. It is difficult even to see a blade of grass; it is the industrial area of Leeds. Indeed there is one factory
there where the city boundary goes right through the factory. Waddingtons, well known as printers and manufacturers of playing cards and games, have a factory where the works is in Leeds (all in one area) and the administrative block and the office are in Rothwell. Recently, the managing director of Waddingtons, Mr. Victor Watson, was speaking at a function and mentioned the difficulties which this created for his factory. He went on to say,
Everyone in Waddingtons knows the troubles that this has caused, the most celebrated being the case before the War of the man who died in our works. The corpse was removed to the office and the police were sent for (from Rothwell). The very first question from the local copper ' elicited the fact that the death had taken place in the works, whereupon the constabulary notebook was decisively closed and the instruction given to return the deceased to the works and send for the Leeds police.
§ This still obtains today, that the boundary runs right through this factory.
§ The small town of Rothwell is the centre of Rothwell urban district, but even that is only four miles from Leeds city centre. If one takes the whole area of the Rothwell Urban District Council, not just the area bordering on Leeds, there are overwhelming reasons why Rothwell should be in Leeds and not in Wakefield. I will give just a few. Ninety per cent. of the people of Rothwell work in Leeds. The transport services from Rothwell to Leeds are very much better and greater than from Rothwell to Wakefield, both the bus services and the train service. The Yorkshire Imperial Chemicals, which is just over the Rothwell border, employs 4,000 people: the works are in the Roth-well area, but Leeds runs nine special buses a day for the workpeople. The Skelton Grange power station is in Leeds but its main entrance is in Rothwell. Rothwell's water is supplied by the Leeds Corporation water undertaking. Leeds is the main shopping centre for Rothwell. There are courts at Leeds and Wakefield, but the West Riding magistrates, covering the Rothwell area, meet in Leeds and not in Wakefield. Historically, Rothwell and Hunslet (which is in Leeds) are one. The old Hunslet workhouse is now St. George's hospital, Rothwell. Rothwell has a Leeds postal district; it is served by the Leeds telephone exchange, and if we turn to ecclesiastical matters all the Church of England parishes in the Roth- 1254 well Urban District are part of the Diocese of Ripon, in which also is Leeds, and not of Wakefield. The Methodist circuit covering most of the Rothwell Urban District is called the Leeds (Rothwell) Circuit. I could go on but I think I have said enough—
§ BARONESS BACON
—to show that Rothwell really belongs to Leeds, and much more so than other places like Morley and Pudsey and Otley and Boston Spa, and all the others round the West and North and East of Leeds to which the Government have turned a deaf ear. Why, then, did they accept this Amendment and not Amendments from other places?
Reference has been made to local opinion, and I want to be quite frank about this. In Rothwell an active pressure group and some councillors, I admit Labour councillors among them, were agitating to go into Wakefield, principally on the ground that they would be a much smaller fish in the big pond of Leeds than would be the case if they went into Wakefield. For example, if they went into Leeds they would have only three councillors, but if they went into Wakefield they would have six. There was a poll of a kind, but it was on duplicated paper and took the form of a leaflet extolling the reasons why the people should vote to go into Wakefield rather than Leeds. I am informed that not every house received voting papers and that some papers were not collected. Although it was an unofficial poll, we were informed that a large majority of people were in favour of going into Wakefield. However, it is true to say that misleading statements were made at a public meeting about what would happen to the education services.
I am not blaming the people of Roth-well for agitating to be transferred from Leeds to Wakefield. Nor am I blaming my Member of Parliament, Mr. Albert Roberts, for tabling an Amendment at the request of the local people. But within no time at all after that Amendment had been tabled Sir Donald Kaberry, the Member of Parliament for North-West Leeds, added his name to it, thereby ensuring that the Amendment could not be withdrawn, and before one 1255 could say "Jack Robinson" the Government had accepted it. Why did that happen? Why did the Government turn a deaf ear on Otley, which is 11 miles from Leeds, but fall over themselves to move Rothwell, which is practically in Leeds, out of Leeds and into Wakefield? I must leave noble Lords to draw their own conclusion as to the reason.
Could it be that the areas to the North, West and East were not so solidly Labour, to put it mildly, as Rothwell Urban District Council? It was all too much for the Member of Parliament for Ripon, Sir Malcolm Stoddart-Scott, who in another place, where this matter was discussed at half past four in the morning, could hardly contain himself; he shouted "Rubbish!" to his own Government colleagues and voted against taking Rothwell out of Leeds and putting it into Wakefield. I appeal to all noble Lords, and not only my noble friends, who wish to judge this matter on its merits to support me to-night in what I believe is an overwhelmingly just case.
§ 10.44 p.m.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
I gather that as we are discussing Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 together it will be convenient, should a Vote be required, for separate Divisions to take place. In supporting the case presented by my noble friend Baroness Bacon I can claim to have some knowledge of the area about which she has been speaking, though I will not delay your Lordships at this late hour by repeating the arguments she adduced. Rothwell was originally encased, so to speak, in a number of the areas which are shown to be bordering on Metropolitan District (b). It is this transfer of Rothwell into Metropolitan District (e) that just creates this very untidy boundary. If one looks at it in a particular direction on the map, one sees where the boundary is and where the rest is. You cannot tell when you enter Roth-well. It is contiguous with Leeds in every possible direction. Therefore some very sharp practices, if I may say so, which do not appeal to us in this House have been employed in taking Rothwell out of Leeds for a specific purpose.
I do not want to say any more about that. I want now to come on to my own little pet pigeon. In moving my 1256 Amendment to insert Sherburn-in-Elmet, South Milford and Huddleston with Newthorpe into this area, I do so with an unrivalled knowledge of the area. I have lived in that area all my life. I know it, and I knew it in its difficult years. I knew Sherburn when its poverty was real: and what difficulties we had! I played some part during the war years in planning for the future. Those plans have materialised and there is now a very thriving privately-owned industrial estate. That estate has now something like 12 or 15 companies, and all are doing very well. Furthermore, into that area three large undertakings—Avery's, the weighing machine people, Avon cosmetics and Gypsums—have established very sizeable factories where approximately a thousand people are employed. Additionally there are those employed in the smaller factories.
That at once indicates that Sherburn is an industrial village. It is a village of 2,400 inhabitants. It has evolved into that industrial village because of the bad economic conditions in the past. The present proposal is that this industrial village of Sherburn should be linked up anew. If your Lordships will look at the maps which you have, you will see that the village of Sherburn is linked up in this great massive North Yorkshire rural area. The present proposal for a district link-up would be into an area comprising 90 odd villages, and Sherburn is the only industrial village of the lot.
Selby is, as most of your Lordships will know, a country market town, but it has some industries too. That is included in the 90. The whole of the rest is purely truly rural. Tadcaster, a brewery town, you might say could come within an inch and if so I will accept it; there is only the brewery at Tadcaster and no other industry. This is something which is not quite in accord with this village and with the factories we have there. Working night and day, with heavy lorries coming through the whole time, it does not link up at all with the rural areas.
Further, in relation to these proposed linked up 90, on Sunday last I took the car and had a run round the area, to see just exactly what the local government set-up would be. I travelled for miles and miles and could not find any villages of any comparable size in this Southern 1257 part at all. That is not quite the link-up that is necessary. It is proposed in the Bill that common interest must be taken into consideration. We are an industrial village. The border of the new Leeds (b) area comes up to the Sherburn border itself. In one small part is Arthington; Huddleston comes across, and South Milford and the three Western boundaries link up to the area with which they have always been associated down through the ages; industrial Micklefield, Swillingdon and Prescot area is going into Leeds and that was previously associated with the old Tadcaster Rural District Council; Sherburn is now going into Leeds but Sherburn is going to be an off-shoot itself.
In addition to this developing industrial background there is a commuter area. Comparatively large-scale private housing and council housing development has taken place, and there is the direct bus service and also train service with the Leeds (b) area, as distinct from no through service at all with the rest of the area in North Yorkshire to which we are being linked. In the planning in the war years the general idea was to develop South Milford and Sherburn as a housing site and to link the two villages up. Private housebuilding and council building is now making the gap between the two about half a mile or three-quarters of a mile. South Milford has not such an industrial background as Sherburn, but it has about 900 inhabitants and is developing considerably on a commuter basis where it has its direct service to Leeds. Therefore, there does appear to be a community of interests, and it would be a shame to destroy it by linking these areas up with a truly rural atmosphere to which they are not aligned in any shape or form. I say that feelingly because for some 15 years or so I played a rather large part in the development of this particular area.
This village, too, has developed a civic consciousness, with its well equipped recreation ground with football, bowls, tennis, each of them having their own pavilion, with wonderful sports arrangements for children with playground equipment. They have developed a first class village centre. It would do your Lordships really good to go and see it, because of its furnishings and because of what they have made of the centre. It is a purely social centre, being utilized 1258 for play for children in the morning and all kinds of things during the day; and in addition they have now taken over nine acres or so of land to develop as a park. This is not a rural background; this is an industrial background. In addition, educational development is taking place there. The recruitment area of the comprehensive school is 95 per cent. from the West Yorkshire area as distinct from the North area. The water supplies and all amenities are more with the metropolitan Leeds (b) area than anywhere else. Therefore, I sincerely hope the Government will have a further look at this matter with a view to putting this village into its rightful heritage, as it were.
I make no apology for having a word with the Minister. He told me he had received a telegram from some of the areas to the effect that they did not want to come into the metropolitan area, they wanted to come into district (b). I do not know from whom that telegram could have come, unless from South Milford Parish Council. The Sherburn Parish Council, when a review of local government was taking place—I am referring to four or five years ago—has discussed whether it should be rural. This is even before the schemes had materialised. But the Sherburn Parish Council has been firm the whole of the time as to where they would like to be. Only last weekend the chairman and members of the parish council interviewed me and we discussed this matter very firmly and clearly, so there cannot have been any telegram from Sherburn Parish Council. It might be that Milford has a different approach; if so, well, instead of being Milford, Newthorpe and Huddleston and Sherburn-in-Elmet, let us drop Milford but let Huddleston and Sherburn come into their rightful heritage. I shall move my Amendment on those lines.
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ LORD BOYLE OF HANDSWORTH
My lords, I wonder whether your Lordships will forgive me if, as an adopted citizen of Leeds, I briefly give my support to what I think was the very strong case put by my noble friend Lady Bacon in her speech in moving this Amendment. I should not speak to-night but for the fact that I have come to know reasonably well the area about which the noble Baroness spoke. She is right when she says that Hunslet and Rothwell 1259 (I am sure many of your Lordships will have wondered why they have never heard of Rothwell before) form one of those contiguous areas where it is simply impossible to know where one ends and one begins. I have driven through both areas a number of times, because one does not live a completely Vatican city life as a vice-chancellor, and I cannot but agree with the noble Baroness that it will seem a curious outcome of this great exercise if Otley moves into the district of Leeds whereas Rothwell remains outside.
As I have said, I should not have spoken if I had not come to know this area reasonably well. And I suggest that it is not unreasonable that we should send back one Amendment, particularly on a decision that was taken on Report stag in another place at 4.30 in the morning. I quite understand the reluctance your Lordships may well feel at this time of the Session to prolong argument about details of legislation, but it would seem to me in this one case that there is very strong ground indeed for feeling that the earlier thoughts of another place were right and that the proposal in the Bill as it comes before your Lordships is wrong and, therefore, that the noble Baroness's Amendment should be supported.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I was very glad that my noble friend Lord Boyle added his considerable weight to the arguments put forward by my noble friend Lady Bacon. As I have said earlier to your Lordships, in general, so far as our Front Bench representation is concerned, we are maintaining a reasonable neutrality on these territorial matters. But we feel that the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Bacon is an exceptional case, and the arguments in its favour so absolutely overwhelming, that anyone who has even a much less intimate knowledge of the area than my noble friend or the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, must agree that Rothwell is really a part of Leeds and it is absurd to consider it otherwise. I know that certain local considerations arose which perhaps this Committee may not wish to go into, and which led to certain movements towards Wakefield. But looking at the matter objectively, and from the point of view of good local administration—and that, after all, is our 1260 job; this is the aspect from which we must consider this Bill—I do not think that any person could seriously doubt that Rothwell ought to be in Leeds.
I hope very much that on this matter the Government will go back to what was their own view. The change was made in the other place at the last moment, in rather peculiar circumstances, and I am quite sure that if the Government are conscientious about this matter they will agree that their own first thoughts were right and will reverse the change made at a very late stage, and will recognise that their duty, as it is our duty, is to secure the best possible administration in this area. Looked at from that point of view, I do not think there can be any doubt whatever.
On the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Popplewell, I am not in the same position to judge. I do not pretend to know the area with a great degree of intimacy, and he himself has admitted that perhaps South Milford is not of the same mind. So perhaps that is a matter which might be reconsidered later. But on the main contention of my noble friend Lady Bacon, I vet much hope—and I make the most serious plea—that the Government will agree that their own first thoughts were the right ones.
§ 11.2 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I am glad to consider and deal at the same time with both Amendments which affect the boundary of the City of Leeds, though they raise rather different issues. Our error—if we have made one—in the case of Rothwell is in being too flexible and too responsive to local opinion. Although there is no doubt at all that Rothwell has close links with Leeds—and nobody is better qualified to expound on those than the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, and the noble Lord who spoke in support of the Amendment—the council of Rothwell, supported by several authorities in the Wakefield district, want to be in Wakefield. There is also no doubt that they have links in that direction, strong as their links with Leeds may be. Certainly, when one compares the population of Wakefield with the population of Leeds, the district of Wakefield could well do with the accession of the 28,000 people who live in Rothwell, whereas the addition or sub- 1261 traction of that number in the case of Leeds, with its 708,000 people, would make very little difference. Those two arguments, the fact that the people of Rothwell—both through the expressed view of the urban district council itself and that of a considerable majority of people who voted in favour of the transfer to the Wakefield district—plus the benefit to a local authority which will not be any too large for the functions which it has to discharge, have led the Government to take and maintain the view that on balance, it will be better for Rothwell to be in the new district of Wakefield.
To turn to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, once again he has put forward persuasive arguments for these three parishes to be moved out of the rural district of Tadcaster into the metropolitan district of Leeds. But up to this moment no desire has been expressed by any of these parishes to move in that direction, and we have had no representations from them. The only comments expressed up to now on the White Paper's proposals have been that Sherburn expressed a preference to go to the Wakefield District (e), while the Tadcaster rural district felt that the parishes should be in North Yorkshire. Since the noble Lord tabled his Amendment I have received telegrams from the South Milford parish council, totally opposing the Amendment; from the Huddleston with Newthorpe parish council, strongly opposing being connected with Metropolitan District 6(b); and from the Tadcaster Rural District Council, opposing the Amendment. It is perfectly true that I have not received a telegram from Sherburn, and the Committee must form a view as to what weight it gives to the previously expressed opinion of Sherburn that they wish to be in the Wakefield district and the view now expressed by the noble Lord that they wish to be with Leeds. But on this particular issue I would say that these parishes can certainly be reviewed by the Boundary Commission when it is in a position to do so after April 1. 1974, to see how their views can be reconciled and effect given to them. The awkward fact is that the two parishes which are opposed to this move lie between the parish of Sherburn and the City of Leeds, so it is difficult to see how it is possible—
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
Huddleston with Newthorpe appears as a wedge. Sherburn also touches the Parlington area of Leeds. I accept at once that in the discussions which have taken place as to whether it should be the Wakefield catchment area or the Leeds district they have indicated that they would like to be linked up with the metropolitan area.
§ LORD SANDFORD
But I think the noble Lord would agree that to accept the proposition that Sherburn should be connected with Leeds, and that Huddleston with Newthorpe and South Milford should not, would lead to the oddest possible boundary shape that we have anywhere on any map so far.
For those reasons, I advise the Committee to reject the Amendments: first, because the urban district council and people of Rothwell have expressed a clear wish to join the Wakefield district, and the Wakefield district could well do with that increase in their population; and, second, because we have by no means a clear indication that all concerned are in favour of the Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell. In any event, there will be an opportunity for the Boundary Commission to look into the matter and make a change if there is a clear balance of opinion in favour of it.
§ BARONESS BACON
I must say that I find the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, very disappointing and unconvincing.
§ BARONESS BACON
And inadequate. It gives two reasons alone why this Amendment cannot be accepted. One is because he says, the people and the council of Rothwell have expressed a wish. I have already said something about that; but we have been sitting here all day to-day listening to Amendments and speeches by noble Lords from areas where they have expressed a wish to go into one area rather than into another, and in every case the Government have resisted those wishes of the people in the areas concerned. Morley, which is a borough in the Leeds area, expressed a wish—but the Government did not accede to that Otley expressed a wish, but the Government did not accede to that. It is only in 1263 the case of Rothwell that the Government have acceded to what they call the wishes of the people, although, as I have said, it is not quite clear that there was the overwhelming vote that has been suggested.
The other excuse that has been given is that the Leeds area is big and the Wakefield area is smaller. I said something last week about the way in which the West Riding of Yorkshire had been divided up into a large number of little areas, but this is the way the Government divided it up; and I should have thought that if it was desired to make Leeds smaller and Wakefield bigger, the very last thing that should have been done was to
§ Resolved in the negative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 11.17 p.m.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 213, line 31, after ("Parlington") insert ("Sherburn-in-Elmet, South Milford and Huddleston").—(Lord Popplewell.)
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.1264
§ take Rothwell out of Leeds. There are other ways of doing this. I am hoping, even now, that the noble Lord will say that the Government will reconsider this between now and the Report stage. But in the absence of such an undertaking, I must divide the Committee, late as it is and knowing that many noble Lords have gone home. I would appeal to noble Lords on all sides of the Committee to join me in the Lobby.
§ 11.10 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 17) be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 34; Not-Contents, 37.1263
|Amory, V.||Diamond, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Grimthorpe, L.||Simon, V.|
|Bacon, Bs.||Hemingford, L.||Somers, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Henderson, L.||Stocks, Bs.|
|Beaumont, L.||Hereford, L. Bp.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Hylton, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Lindsay of Birker, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Boyle of Handsworth, L.||Middleton, L.||White, Bs.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Milner of Leeds, L. [Teller.]||Wigram, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Newall, L.||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Popplewell, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Seear, Bs.|
|Aberdare, L.||Digby, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Abinger, L.||Drumalbyn, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Dulverton, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Elles, Bs.||Sandys, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Falmouth, V.||Sudeley, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Ferrers, E.||Thomas, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Gowrie, E. [Teller.]||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Limerick, E.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Lothian, M.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Davidson, V.||Northchurch, Bs.||Young, Bs.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]|
§ LORD ABERDARE
I think we have had enough geography for one day. I beg to move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.