§ 3.8 p.m.
§ House again in Committee on Schedule 1
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER)
I have to call the Committee's attention to the fact that if Amendment No. 29 is agreed to I shall not be able to call Amendments Nos. 30 and 31.
EARL HOWE moved Amendment No. 29:
Corrigendum. Page 2, leave out lines 17 to 25.
§ The noble Earl said: My Amendments this afternoon deal with the boundary between Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, which I consider has been drawn unfavourably to Buckinghamshire. The Amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, on the other hand, seek to move this boundary and that with Oxfordshire in favour of Berkshire. These Amendments clearly have relevance to mine and those noble Lords, and I suggest that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if, with permission, all these Amendments were debated together.
§ It seemed to me on Wednesday evening that the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, wanted us to give some indication of our qualifications for speaking in the debate. I hoped that he would be here to-day, and in order to please him I intended to give my qualifications in the hope that he would support me, but he is not here. I should like to say straight away that, so far as these riverside parishes of Buckinghamshire are concerned, I was educated at what is frequently referred to as a single-sex comprehensive school—Eton 1516 College—and that I am and have been for many years a county alderman. As such I represent, not a constituency and not an area but my own county of Buckingham. In that capacity I feel that I have a considerable advantage and that I know—if I did not know I should be ashamed of myself—what the needs and wants are of the ratepayers of Buckinghamshire. The effect of the Amendment is to retain Buckinghamshire as it is, with the existing boundary between Buckinghamshire and Berkshire along the River Thames, which is our natural boundary.
§ As for the borough of Slough and the Eton urban district, for so long a part of Buckinghamshire, there is no overwhelming view of the population either for or against the proposed change. If Slough is wrenched into Berkshire it will only be because a majority of the borough council of Slough wish it, and it is inaccurate to say that the borough council view represents the overwhelming view of the population of that area. There is no very close association between Slough and Berkshire. Slough looks as much towards London and the North as it does to the South and West. If Her Majesty's Government set great store on the views of the local population and the Buckinghamshire County Council—and they should do so—I suggest that it is not too late for them to change their mind. During our debate on the White Paper on Local Government Reorganisation I was most grateful for the support given to me at the time by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, who then felt strongly that Slough—I think I am right in inferring this—should remain in Buckinghamshire. However, in spite of first thoughts being better than second thoughts, I understand that he has now, unfortunately, changed his mind. I am sorry about this in view of his distinguished services in another place as the Member for Eton and Slough. Buckinghamshire would have welcomed his support. If he is doing this for any political motive he need not worry, because my arguments for the retention of Slough have no political undertones whatsoever. I am appealing only to those who respect ties of loyalty and tradition.
§ For a thousand years or more the Thames has been the boundary between these two counties. Not only is it rooted in history but it is a clear and distinct 1517 boundary, completely severing the two except for a few bridges. Any change from the river as boundary is going to create many problems. Most important of all, the wishes of the people to remain in Buckinghamshire should be respected. I am opposing any attempt at a further takeover by Berkshire. It is unfortunate to see a neighbouring county acting in such an unfriendly manner. The effect of the Amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, apparently is to claim not only the parishes of Datchett, Horton and Wraysbury, the transfer of which is already provided for in the Bill, but also the whole of the parishes of Dorney, Taplow, Burnham, Farnham Royal, Stoke Poges, Wexham and Iver, which under the Bill are to remain in Buckinghamshire, except the Britwell part of Burnham and a small part of Wexham. In fact they are claiming even more than their spokesman claimed in another place. To repeat my remarks on the Second Reading, this is a policy, frankly and bluntly, of greed and grab by Berkshire, in which, incidentally, they also threaten Oxfordshire—but my noble friend Lord Camrose will be referring to that later on. Almost needless to say, this further transfer of riverside parishes would be disastrous for Buckinghamshire. If such a substantial part of the Eton rural district is seized by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire would be reduced in population and rateable value to figures very much lower than Berkshire. It is therefore much more vital to Buckinghamshire than to Berkshire that no more should be taken from them.
§ All our riverside parishes are now threatened by Berkshire. Dorney, for example, is rigidly opposed to being transferred. For over a thousand years it has been a part of Buckinghamshire and has never wavered in its determination to remain loyal to Buckinghamshire, and on the Report stage of the Bill in another place it was decided that Dorney should not be transferred. 'The Berkshire attack is bitterly resented by the people of Dorney, not just by a local authority but at a full parish meeting and by the expressions given to me personally by so many people, and from what I have found out for myself. This applies to all the other riverside parishes who have maintained their strong loyalty to Buckinghamshire over so many years. I feel sure that Her Majesty's Government 1518 would not wish to ignore the wishes of local people and will consider the age-old ties and traditions of these Buckinghamshire people.
§ After this rape of Buckinghamshire all that would be left of the Eton rural district would be four parishes—a population loss of well over 100,000 and over £9 million of rateable value in a rapidly expanding home county. Also, with the rapid growth of our new city of Milton Keynes in the North and the problem and burdens of supporting all this development they would be weakened just when they should be strong—bearing in mind that the Government's purpose in promoting the Local Government Bill is to create local authorities whose areas are large enough in size, population and resources to meet administrative needs. I do not want to be dramatic over something which is, frankly, not of world-shattering importance; but to the people of Dorney and those other riverside parishes it is sheer brinkmanship by Berkshire almost reaching a point of all-out war in their attempt to capture our riverside parishes. I beg to move.
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
I do not know if somebody else is supporting the noble Earl. I may be asked what interest I have in Slough. I would point out to this noble House that many years ago the Welsh. in the hungry 'thirties and the hungry 1926's, when there was mass unemployment, with the usual conjunction of cheerfulness and poverty, tramped, almost barefoot, towards the South-East of England looking for jobs. One of the parts of Britain that accepted these weird Celts with understanding, gave them comfort and succour and found them jobs, was dear old Slough; and I had in those remote days, which affluent noble Lords will have forgotten, a brother who was glad of the comfort and aid, and the job which Slough offered him. Consequently I hate to see the noble Earl left lonely, without any of his Peers rising to defend him in this piece of acquisitive brinkmanship on the part of another county.
Slough's affinities are more with London than with anybody else. Further, the River Thames has since the time of the Caesars been the natural boundary in that area. The other day in a brief speech I gave an example of the impor- 1519 tance of the ecology of an environment to the ethnology of the development of individuals. The Celts and the Swiss are barrel-chested, the reason being that they climb mountains and have to struggle in the thin mountain air, so we breathe deep and we play a damn good game of Rugby. We sing, too, from calling in the sheep. The same is true of the Swiss with their yodelling.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
If my noble friend wants to know the origin of yodelling I will tell him some day, but not now. Consequently I say that this is a neophiliac desire, a love of change for change's sake, and there is a real case to point out that there is no close association at all between Slough and this area. It looks to London.
Finally, all this state of flux that is being created between these two counties because of the building of this new town of Milton Keynes (I have an interest there, not cashwise but in friendship), is going to alter the whole rateable value. If I may cast one word of wisdom into this Chamber I think these local government boundary changes are too rapid. We should have a discussion of the layout of the country according to Crowther. Further—but do not ask me for the answers—we must find a new method of financing local government concerns, since 15 per cent. of the gross national product is under local government control. Here is an example par excellence where I am convinced that as a result of the suggested changes in the White Paper the burdens will be greater on those people living in the areas that are left after the piece of acquisitiveness on the part of the neighbouring county. Consequently, I sincerely support the appeal of the noble Earl who spoke from the other side of the Committee.
§ LORD CAMOYS
I should like to support what my noble friend Lord Howe has said. I am a supporter of the Government, but on this occasion my tie is rather pale blue. I believe that the Government should think again about this matter.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I was at one time the Member in another place for Eton and Slough. Let me first acknowledge the generous remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in regard to my service 1520 while I was the Member there. May I also express to my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek my appreciation of his remarks about the acceptance which Slough gave to the Welsh community. Perhaps I might add that the support, comradeship and good fellowshin I received from the Welsh community there during my representation of Eton and Slough in another place is one of my happiest memories.
We are here discussing a very difficult problem. When the subject of local government reorganisation was first discussed, I took the view that the great developing area of Slough was associated more with London than with Reading, and that therefore it should remain part of a county which was more closely linked with London. I think it quite possible that that is still true. I have given deep consideration to the memoranda which have been issued by the Buckinghamshire County Council, the Berkshire County Council, the Slough Borough Council and the Eton Urban District Council on this issue. I think one now has to face the fact that, whatever one's views may have been earlier, this great area of Slough will become a part of Berkshire and will be associated with Reading; and we have to think of it in that context as to what is best to be done. Slough was in a difficult position. It had two Greater London Council estates, one at Langley, which was within its borough, and the other at Britwell, a portion of which was in Slough and a large part outside. It also had its own housing area, built by the Slough Borough Council, in Wexham. Amendments which were accepted in another place have now made the Slough borough a logical area. It has included the Brit-well estate, it has included the Slough housing estate in Wexham, and Slough now, for the first time, is a logical geographical area, with the population in its borough centred on Slough, with a bus service in Slough, purchasing its needs in Slough—in fact, a co-ordinated community.
In that situation, one had to ask what was the best solution to this problem of association with Berkshire or with Buckinghamshire, and of the surrounding villages. Let me just say to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and the noble Lord, Lord 1521 Brooke of Cumnor, that I know all the villages they mentioned almost as though I were living in them. I can see in my mind's eye all those lovely Buckinghamshire villages—Datchet, Dawnay, Horton, Wraysbury, Taplow, Burnham, Farnham Royal, Stoke Poges, Wexham and Iver. But when we are considering whether they should be associated with Berkshire or with Buckinghamshire, I would say this. There is a case, since the decision has been made to move Slough into Berkshire and towards Reading, that it should be this co-ordinated area, while the other areas, rural Buckinghamshire linked with High Wycombe, seem to me to be logically part of Buckinghamshire itself.
I make just one criticism of the present proposal. There was Eton. I delighted in the fact that I represented Eton as well as Slough: I loved the balance of it. I got on well with the boys of Eton College and with the masters. If you look at the map now, you see that the Eton urban area is detached and divides the great area of Slough from the new Berkshire. I shall perhaps get into some trouble with my own Labour Party in Slough for saying that it seems to me that the Eton urban area is more associated with Berkshire than with Buckinghamshire. There is only that little willow-pattern bridge between the High Street of Eton and Windsor. Its association really is with Windsor. If any change is to be made in the pattern which is now before us, it may be that the Eton urban area should be linked with Slough and Windsor, and therefore linked with Berkshire, rather than with Buckinghamshire. Trying to take a very broad view, I come to the conclusion, regrettably, that these Amendments should not be accepted. But I hope that the Government will look at this problem again and try to find a final solution on the lines that I have proposed.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ LORD THOMAS
With permission I rise to speak to this whole group of Amendments, Nos. 29, 30, 31 and, later on, 48. May I first of all declare that I have no territorial interest in the particular area under review. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Sudeley raised the question of Wales because I was born in Wales. I have never had very much succour one way or another in Slough, although I have had a number of busi- 1522 ness and commercial activities in that borough and the surrounding districts. It seems to me that the changes proposed in the Amendment make very good sense from the commercial point of view. This is borne out by research studies such as those made in January, 1968, by the Greater London Group of the London School of Economics and the conclusion was also reached by the Redcliffe-Maud Commission in June, 1969.
I think that recent events such as the development of the M.4 Motorway make it clear that there are improving communications between Maidenhead and Reading, and the same kind of recommendation for the alteration of the boundary was made by Mr. Derek Senior in his Memorandum of Dissent in Vol. 2 of the Royal Commission's Report, which places Slough Borough, Eton Urban District and parts of Eton Urban District with Maidenhead Borough, Windsor Borough, Windsor Rural District and Cookham R ural District in his District 29(c) based on Slough. He also proposed the formation of a large Reading Region No. 29. The Department of the Environment Circular 8/71 of February,1971, again placed Slough Borough, Eton Urban District and Eton Rural District with Reading. So here we have a whole marshalling of facts in favour of what is proposed in these Amendments.
I turn now to speak on Amendment No. 32, without any burning passion but supported by the full knowledge that the flow lines of the working population, health services and educational facilities plus some sentimental and emotional reasoning, indicate that the recommendations made in the Amendment I am now proposing would be beneficial. I can claim residential and territorial interests in various parts of Oxfordshire, in Oxford City itself and now at Remennam, which is in Berkshire just across the river from Henley. My commercial and residential experience makes it quite plain to me that there is a far greater affinity between Henley and its surrounding parishes with Reading than with Oxford. Inevitably, this Amendment would raise a conflict of claims between the Henleys and either Oxford or Reading. Suffice it to say that it is 28 miles from Henley to Oxford as against eight miles from Henley to Reading. From Henley to Reading there is a regular bus service 1523 making 39 trips each way—a journey of half an hour only between the two places—compared with seven daily journeys between Henley and Oxford and a journey-time which is twice as long. This geographical fact also has a bearing, obviously, on support and fire fighting services. Henley also has a rail link with Berkshire, but none with Oxford. For people in the Henley area their daily paper is published in Reading and the news is slanted southwards towards Reading and London and not towards the Midlands and Oxford. I must say that in Henley our television programmes are a little confused. I get B.B.C. from Southampton and I.T.V. from Birmingham, but it is hoped that a booster station will shortly be introduced.
I admit that this is not a debate on the National Health Service, but I can assure your Lordships that the people of the Henleys look to Reading for their hospital-based services. If the present boundaries are adopted, the people in the areas under review will be subject to one authority for some parts of the Health Service and a different one for the remainder. These are pertinent factors and there are also other pertinent factors which support the Amendment and the changes which it would bring about. Finally, may I say that I support these Amendments.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I hope that we can discuss this group of Amendments in rational rather than emotive terms, because the simple issue is how the principles underlying this Bill can best be applied to the boundaries between Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire—boundaries which are now supplied by the River Thames. I would suggest to your Lordships that words like "greed and "grab", of which I must hold my noble friend Lord Howe guilty, are really quite out of place. The story of this, as my noble friend Lord Thomas has said, is that a number of objective inquiries (including the Royal Commission on Local Government) have all resulted in recommendations that there should be substantial adjustments to these boundaries. Those proposals were accepted by this Government in their 1971 White Paper. The Amendments to which I have put my name, following that of 1524 my noble friend Lord Thomas, go less far than did the original proposals of this Government in extending the boundaries of Berkshire.
The reason I am familiar with this subject, particularly with Amendment 32, is this. The village of Cumnor is five miles from Oxford, and has hitherto been in Berkshire. Under the principles laid down by the Government, and indeed by the previous Government so far as local government reorganisation was concerned, it was quite clear that a portion of Berkshire West of Oxford should be moved from Berkshire into Oxfordshire. It really was indefensible that the village of Cumnor and other villages nearby—Cumnor is five miles from Oxford, but 30 miles from Reading—should look to Reading rather than to Oxford as their county town and the headquarters of their county council. It was, I had thought at one stage, accepted by everybody that it would be a wise plan for a substantial area of North-West Berkshire South of the River Thames to be moved into Oxfordshire and correspondingly, on exactly the same principle, that a rather less substantial part of South-East Oxfordshire should be moved into Berkshire. The same principle applies to the Buckinghamshire/Berkshire boundary, but I will not go into that at the moment because it has already been discussed.
The Berkshire County Council accepted this plan. They agreed to a very large stretch of Berkshire, extending all the way from Oxford to Wantage (a distance of 15 miles) being transferred into Oxfordshire. Wantage, Abingdon, Wallingford, all of them ancient Berkshire towns, were in future to become part of Oxfordshire. They accepted this on the assumption, which seemed to them a fair one, that the same principle which pointed to the transfer of that part of Berkshire to Oxfordshire would point to that part of Oxfordshire abutting on Reading being transferred to Berkshire. That was the Royal Commission's scheme. That was the original scheme of the present Government. It was only when this Bill was published that it came to be seen that though the principle was being applied to North West Berkshire, it was not being applied to South East Oxfordshire. Some change in the county boundary is essential North of Reading. Whether these 1525 Amendments have it exactly right is an open question—we have had so many of these questions during these debates. But the Thames flows through Oxford and that has been the boundary, and it has meant that even the Western suburbs of Oxford have been in Berkshire hitherto. Now they are rightly going to be moved into Oxfordshire. The Thames also flows through Reading, and that has meant that even the Northern suburbs of Reading have hitherto been in Oxfordshire, though Oxford is 26 miles away. It cannot be consistent to apply a principle to that part of Berkshire which is near to Oxford, and not to apply it, in sensible terms, to that part of Oxfordshire near to Reading.
I have no idea why the present Government changed their mind, or why, when they published this Bill, they decided to depart from their own principles and not apply to South Oxfordshire what they were applying to North Berkshire. Clearly it is going to cause very considerable difficulties if the Bill is not amended. My noble friend Lord Thomas mentioned the health service, and there are all kinds of other links and services. The natural affinity of that part of South Oxfordshire which one may broadly describe as the Henley Rural District is with Reading rather than with Oxford. I am not arguing whether Oxford or Reading is the better town. What I am arguing is that the distance decides this. It cannot be right for the boundary of Berkshire to be drawn so tightly North of Reading if the boundary of Oxfordshire is not to be drawn tightly West of the City of Oxford. The same argument broadly applies to the territory around Slough, which is the subject of another Amendment.
The boundaries of Berkshire in this Bill are drawn too tightly. The boundaries drawn by the Royal Commission were drawn too loosely. That is why in our Amendments we are not even seeking to add to Berkshire as much as the present Government, following the Royal Commission, originally proposed to add. There is no selfishness here. There is simply a genuine desire to try and get the principles of this Bill properly applied to the whole of this boundary which now follows the curves of the River Thames. This boundary ought, in our submission, to be determined on the principles which 1526 underlie the reorganisation of local government that we are all trying to carry out. Let me just add that if the wishes of the inhabitants are to be the sole criterion for settling these matters, there will be no local government reorganisation whatever, because there is hardly a spot in the country where, if you ask people whether they would like to stay where they are or come under some other area, they will not reply almost unanimously that they are in favour of staying where they are.
§ LORD CAMOYS
I must oppose my noble friend and Lord Brooke so far as the idea that part of South Oxfordshire, including the borough of Henley, should go into Berkshire. We have had long debates this afternoon and I am not going to refer to omelettes, cooking or liturgy; we have had those before. People do not want to go into Berkshire because of the old traditional boundary which is the River Thames. I am certain that the Government in their provision have done the right thing in keeping the South part of Oxfordshire in Oxfordshire. I speak with some knowledge and I had better declare by interest. I live in South Oxfordshire; I spent 33 years on the Henley Rural District Council, seven as the chairman, and many years on Oxfordshire County Council. I was chairman of many committees; I was a member of Henley area planning committee for 13 years, et cetera. I have made it my duty to talk to people of all levels. We do not want to go into Berkshire. My family, and the families of some of my employees and tenants, have lived in the same place for a good many hundred years. I believe that I am speaking for the people of South Oxfordshire in resisting this Amendment.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ LORD BURNHAM
Although I bear the name of one of the parishes named in Amendment No. 30, I have no significant interests in that parish. I have, however, lived in South Buckinghamshire for forty years, whenever the War Office did not want me somewhere else, and my family have lived there for getting on for a hundred years. I am thus reasonably familiar with the area. It seems to me that Berkshire, having established a bridgehead over the river at Slough, are now seeking to consolidate it, though I accept what my noble friend Lord Brooke 1527 has said that this is not with any intention of a future breakout in the direction of Hedgerley and Gerrards Cross on the lines of the White Paper.
It is perfectly true that ideas have changed since the White Paper was published. They have changed because the local communities have had more of a chance to make up their minds where they want to be. Slough has decided that it would like to be in Berkshire. This happens to be bad luck on Horton and Wraysbury who do not, but who would be cut off if Slough goes into Berkshire. It may or may not be bad luck on Datchet, who would like to be in Berkshire but who wished to go in with Windsor, anyway. The other communities are not appendages of Slough; they are communities in their own right and they have been so for a long time. They are quite sure that they wish to remain in Buckinghamshire. My noble friend Lord Brocke said that if we paid attention to the wishes of local people nothing would ever get done. He may be right: but if Slough goes into Berkshire because people want it to, then a fortiori the people of the other communities, who feel much more strongly than Slough does, ought to remain in Buckinghamshire. If there were overwhelming administrative advantages in putting Burnham, Taplow. Dorney and the others into Berkshire with Slough I should like to hear them, because I have not so far heard them.
The Thames is a logical, well-established boundary. The methods of communication, North and South, are at least as good and, in some cases, a great deal better than those East and West, apart from the M.4. It is easier to get, for example, from Dorney to Beaconsfield than it is from Dorney to the centre of Slough. Bearing in mind that no great administrative advantages have been produced, and that people have expressed through their parish council meetings and every type of association, from the women's institute upwards, downwards, or sideways, their wish to remain in Buckinghamshire, I ask the Government to resist Amendment No. 30, even if they feel that they cannot agree to Amendment No. 29.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ LORD HODSON
I am concerned only with Amendment No. 32. I am afraid 1528 that Members of the Committee may be getting a little confused by various speakers addressing themselves to different Amendments. I have lived in the village of Rotherfield Greys for the last forty years. I was not born in the county of Oxford. That is one of the villages in the group set out in Amendment No. 32. There are about twenty villages in the rural district of Henley-on-Thames. The parish councils have all met to consider this question and have passed resolutions in favour of these villages remaining in the county of Oxford. The Government have accepted that un to date, and I hope that they will continue to do so. The same opinion has been expressed by the borough council of Henley-on-Thames itself.
I have listened to the debates on a number of these Amendments and I know that importance is attached to local sentiment in spite of the perhaps rather cynical way in which my noble friend Lord Brooke has expressed himself on that subject. There is not the smallest doubt that local sentiment, as expressed by the parish councils, is overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in Oxfordshire. I do not understand the reference of my noble friend Lord Brooke to the fact that a large slice of Berkshire is being handed over to Oxfordshire in the Abingdon neighbourhood. He talked as though there were a sort of horse-dealing business—we have got something so we must give something back. I do not attach much weight to that argument.
I do not fully understand either what was said about hospital services. As many of your Lordships know, not so long ago I had the misfortune to have a serious accident. I was picked up unconscious in the neighbourhood of Henley-on-Thames and I was taken to hospital in Reading. I am not a member of the Berkshire Council, but it seems not to make the slightest difference in what county you are injured when you have to be taken to hospital. The police or the hospital services will see that you are taken to the nearest and most convenient place as rapidly as possible.
My noble friend Lord Thomas mach; a point that seemed to imply that it is easy to get to Reading and that it is 20 miles or more from Henley to Oxford. That is true. Henley is only 7 or 8 miles from Reading, whereas it is 25 miles from 1529 Oxford. But it is difficult to get from Henley to Reading. You cannot go by train without going to Twyford by stopping train, then changing trains and getting a train to Reading. If you try to go by road, at the rush hour it is almost impossible because there are only two bridges across the river, and they are choked with traffic. You cannot get across without waiting for a long time. If you had an amphibian vehicle you could drive it down to the river and get across. I am not impressed by the argument in favour of trying to persuade the Government to abandon the stand which they have hitherto taken.
I ought to make one further point. My noble friend Lord Thomas has some connections with Nuffield. The suggestion contained in Amendment No. 32 involves the splitting of three of these villages, Nettlebed, Nuffield and Bix, because it is suggested that half lie to one side of the Oxford Road as you go one way and half lie to the other side as you go the other way. Lord Nuffield, for whom my noble friend worked for many years, would turn in his grave if he thought that Nuffield was to be split in two. I am surprised that Lord Thomas should press that. I hope he will not Press the Amendment to a Division and that if he does it will be resisted and will fail.
§ LORD RATHCREEDAN
I should like to say a few words in support of the opposition to Amendment No. 32. I have lived in the Henley district for over fifty years. Although there seems to be some suggestion by the movers of this Amendment that we would be better off by being in Berkshire rather than in Oxfordshire none of the arguments placed before us makes me agree. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, who suggested that we have some sentimental attachments to Reading. It is certainly the other way round. All the sentimental attachments are to Oxford rather than to Reading. We do not go to Reading for any entertainment or culture because the town of Reading does not possess a single theatre, whereas Oxford has two very good theatres. The argument that Henley is 26 miles from Oxford whereas it is only 7 or 8 miles from Reading might have been an argument before the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and others produced the cheap form of transport, so that, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord 1530 Hodson, has said, by the use of the motor car it is very nearly as easy to get to the centre of Oxford as to get to the centre of Reading. The boundary of the River Thames is a much better boundary than any other that can be thought out or made in Whitehall or by these Commissions. It is a well-defined boundary. The better a boundary is defined, the more satisfactory it is likely to remain. I hope that the Government will resist this Amendment as they have come to the very sensible conclusion that Henley rural district should remain in Oxfordshire.
The Committee need not be afraid that I shall detain them for more than a moment. I have a small interest to declare in that I live in Berkshire, but not anywhere near the area we are now discussing. My noble friend Lord Howe twitted me on Wednesday because I were an old Etonian tie on the day on which I thought this Amendment was to be discussed. I had to remind him that in all the time I spent at Eton the address used by my family and by anyone else who cared to write to me was Eton College, Windsor, Berks. That has always been the case.
My noble friend Lord Howe accused Berkshire County Council, unfairly I thought, of being greedy. So did the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. I do not think this is the case. Berkshire County Council has taken a realistic point of view. The noble Lord, Lord Burnham, brought one or two very smart military phrases into his speech. As most noble Lords know, I have never been mixed up in local government but I was for many years in the Army, and I think that the realistic point of view that the council has taken has been that it is always better to administer those who are going to use one's services. Therefore I should like to support Amendments Nos. 30 and 32.
§ 4.0 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
It seemed to me apposite that the debate on this series of Amendments should take place after the Statement made by my noble friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. When I heard the noble Earl, Lord Howe, talking about counties acting in an unfriendly manner, of policies of greed and grab, the rape of Buckinghamshire and the like, I thought 1531 we needed the F.C.O. to come in, and the help of my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir on this occasion. We have three things to deal with. We have the question of South Buckinghamshire being retained in Buckinghamshire, going back, so to speak, in terms of the Bill into Buckinghamshire. We have the question, secondly, of more of Buckinghamshire going into Berkshire; and we have the question of South Oxfordshire going into Berkshire and not remaining, as the Bill now proposes, in. Oxfordshire itself. I want to deal with these individually and I will try to bring up:is many points as possible which have been raised by noble Lords in a good series of debates.
May I first say to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, that I feel rather redundant here because to some degree they have answered each other. If not the anchorman in this tug-of-war, perhaps the referee has been my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor. I must respectfully differ from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hodson. I do not think my noble friend's point was about horse dealing; it was more about keeping the necessary balance between interests when making these very far-reaching changes. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, spoke of the long ties of loyalty and tradition in the area, and other noble Lords—Lord Davies of Leek particularly—have spoken about Slough looking essentially to London. I should have thought that it looked to Maidenhead and Reading as well. Here is a major artery. It has always been, so far as I know, a major artery of communication East to West. I would suggest to the Committee that these lines of communication, which are not only a major road and motorway and then a railway but are also economic and social as well, are strengthened by the Bill.
The noble Earl, Lord Howe, if I understood him aright, said that the bulk of the population was against the change; but we would argue that the bulk of the population involved is in Slough, and Slough's council has come out emphatically in favour of the proposed changes. The councils speaking for roughly 90,000 people favour the changes, whereas councils speaking for just under 10,000 do not. The original proposals in Circular 8/71 1532 put the whole of Eton rural district with Slough and Eton urban district into the new Berkshire in older to avoid splitting the rural district. But this proposal was very strongly opposed by parishes in the North of the rural district, notably Gerrard's Cross and Denham. I think that if noble Lords know the area (and most noble Lords seem to) they would accept that it is rather a nonsense that Gerrard's Cross and Denham should belong to the rural district.
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
I beg the acting Chief Whip's pardon in this respect. The protesting area was therefore transferred to the new Buckinghamshire and a fresh county boundary proposed running along the northern boundary at Slough except at Wexham, and there the boundary has been taken a little to the North to include the major hospital serving Slough and some houses contiguous with the town. The Bill also includes the Britwell ward of Burnham parish in the new Berkshire. This is to ensure that the municipal housing estate which is at.present divided by the Slough borough boundary should not be bisected by the new county boundary.
Here I must offer my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, whom on this side of the House we do not always find so helpful in his speeches. I can only conclude that he must have been affected by his position as an honorary old Etonian in this respect. I can however assure him that Eton urban district is proposed to be included in Berkshire along with Windsor and Slough. I think he seemed uncertain on that point. And of course we are extra grateful to have support from the noble Lord as he knows the area so well. Thus, the Bill now puts into Berkshire only those areas which must go if Slough is to be allowed to go as it wishes and as its natural affinities, I would suggest, dictate. I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, here. But we acknowledge that some adjustments of the boundary in Berkshire's favour will clearly be needed, but that is an arena which I shall come to in a minute.
The noble Earl, Lord Howe, and I think also the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, brought up the question of 1533 Milton Keynes. During the consultations which followed publication of Circular 8/71 the Buckinghamshire County Council expressed their view that the loss of Slough and Eton would jeopardise the future of Milton Keynes New Town. Specifically, Buckinghamshire County Council said that the resources required to support expansion within the county were not merely financial but also included the large and diversified services and full range of specialist staff which only a substantial county could support. I believe our answer to this is that new Buckinghamshire will still be a county of substance; it is a case here of a very rich county becoming slightly less rich, and becoming a slightly less rich county temporarily only. It will have a population approaching half a million and a rateable value of over £26 million; and I do not think that is bad going. Milton Keynes is undeniably—we acknowledge this—a drain on resources at the present time. But it should be only a temporary problem. As the development of Milton Keynes proceeds rateable value should rapidly build up, and thus the New Town is potentially a great source of strength to the county.
I come now to the question of more of Buckinghamshire going into Berkshire and, if I may adapt myself to Lord Howe's phrasing, the land-hungry Berkshire aggression must be dealt with now. The effects would be that a larger amount of Eton rural district than the Bill proposes would be included in Berkshire, and I have already dealt with some of the parishes. My honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, during Commons Report stage, acknowledged that the Northern boundary of Slough was tightly drawn and he might be quoted here. He said:I accept that the borderlines are tightly drawn, probably to the prejudice of Berkshire, and therefore at an early stage after April 1, 1974, we expect to take a comprehensive look at the boundaries both to the North of Reading and in the Slough area.May I now move on to the last point: the question of South Oxfordshire going into Berkshire. My noble friend Lord Brooke asked why the Government changed their mind on these proposals, and I will try to answer him. In our initial proposals we followed this recommendation by placing the Henleys in the new Berkshire. The proposal was, 1534 naturally enough, welcomed by Berkshire County Council, but it was opposed by Henley Borough Council, Henley Rural District Council and by numerous parish councils in the area, as well as by Oxfordshire County Council, who agreed, however, that some adjustment to the county boundaries might later be necessary to take account of the extension of the Northern suburbs of Reading. As was usually the case, and as has been the case in this Bill, with county boundary changes conceived to be in the interests of the inhabitants directly affected, the Government decided that in view of the opposition to the proposal the status quo should prevail, and some taste of that opposition has been given in your Lordships' House this afternoon by my noble friend Lord Camoys, whose family, I think, have lived at Stonor for over 1,000 years; by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hodson, and the noble Lord, Lord Rathcreedan. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hodson, in a telling phrase, spoke about the great importance of local sentiment.
However, to go some considerable way to meet my noble friend Lord Brooke we accept that the present county boundary will not be a very satisfactory long-term division between the two new counties as the Northern suburbs of Reading undoubtedly extend into the Southern part of the Henley rural district. But we believe that there is no clear-cut natural new boundary that we can adopt now. Therefore I recommend the Committee to accept our proposals, on the understanding that the Boundary Commission will be asked to make a thorough investigation of all the issues as soon as possible after April 1974.
Here I must say something to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor and also the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hodson, about the question of hospital services. I can assure all noble Lords that neither the definition of the county boundaries nor the new Health Service boundaries will affect the right of the patient and his own practitioner to use the hospital of their choice. I think noble Lords on all sides of the Committee will appreciate that it is impossible to tailor the organisation of local government to areas of the hospital service, although it is true to say that the Department of Health 1535 has been in close touch with my right honourable friend's Department and has made its preference known. As noble Lords will understand, in respect of this Bill in the final analysis local government considerations have obviously weighed most.
§ EARL HOWE
I should like to thank noble Lords who have supported me in my remarks this afternoon as far as Buckinghamshire is concerned. I cannot obviously speak for Oxfordshire. At the same time may I thank those noble Lords who would have wished to support me but who have been unable, for certain reasons, to be here to-day. I know perfectly well that they would have given me their support had that been possible.
I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Gowrie has been unable to accept my Amendment, although I am somewhat relieved to feel that he is to a certain extent in sympathy with me and with my noble friends in connection with the riverside parishes, because this is something that I, and those of us in Buckinghamshire, feel very strongly about. I am not sure that I feel particularly happy about this matter going to the Boundary Commission: it depends on the findings of the Boundary Commission. But at any rate I feel that I have drawn attention to it, and with those few remarks I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.10 p.m.
LORD THOMAS had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 30:
Corrigendum, page 2. leave out lines 21 to 25 and insert ("Datchet, Dornev. Horton, Wraysbury, Tanlow, Burnham, Farnham Royal, Stoke Foges, Wexham and Iver.")
§ The noble Lord said: I am very much obliged to those noble Lords who have spoken in favour of this Amendment and I am equally grateful to those who have spoken against it, because the sum total of knowledge is increased; that is a good thing. On the general understanding that the case for Berkshire will be kept in mind by the Department I do not intend to move this Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF GOWRIE: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Sandford I beg to move Amendment No. 31. This is the first of the two minor Amendments, one 1536 of which is purely drafting; the second is consequential upon an Opposition Amendment which was accepted in another place on Report. I beg to move.
Corricenium, page 2, line 22, column 2, leave out from the beginning to ("of") and insert ("ward").—(The Earl of Gowrie.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON moved Amendment No. 34:
Corrigendum, page 2, line 29, at end insert—("In the administrative county of West Suffolk—
the urban district of Newmarket;
in the rural district of Mildenhall the parishes of Kentford and Moulton.")
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. This is a simple Amendment, dealing with a relatively straightforward area and straightforward boundaries. It does not have any of the complications, or indeed any of the fascination, of some of the previous proposals to which we have listened. But before coming to my reasons for moving this Amendment I should like to make one or two personal points. First of all. I am not moving this as somebody who sits on this side of the Committee. This is of no Party political significance whatsoever. Secondly, I am not moving it in any way as chairman of the Regional Economic Planning Council for East Anglia. It would clearly be very wrong of me to do any such thing. It has not been discussed by the Planning Council. Had it been discussed and any conclusion arrived at, the appropriate channels of communication would have been to the Secretary of State for the Environment and not to your Lordships. So I want to make that disclaimer. I am speaking solely as a private individual; as somebody who was born in Cambridgeshire and has lived there all his life—within ten or twelve miles of Newmarket, but firmly in the county of Cambridgeshire.
§ There are four main reasons why I have undertaken to move this Amendment. The first one is what one can call the logic of geography. I do not know how many of your Lordships have actually looked at the map which has been prepared, and I do not know how many of your Lordships' eyes are good 1537 enough to recognise the outlines from this distance, but if it is looked at it will be seen that Newmarket is jutting out prominently into Cambridgeshire, so that by all normal ideas of logical boundaries it should be included in Cambridgeshire. Furthermore, it may be said that it is impossible in fact to reach Newmarket by any road of any kind at all without passing through Cambridgeshire. Therefore, one starts with the first consideration, that geographical logic supports this Amendment. But, of course, there are many things other than geographical logic which have to be taken into account in these matters.
§ The second point I would come to is the major industry of Newmarket, which, as your Lordships well know, is horse-racing and bloodstock breeding. It is of perhaps some interest that the county boundary as at present defined, as proposed in this Bill, runs across the middle of Newmarket Heath. So that when, for instance, the Cambridgeshire is being run, the horses start, it is true, in Cambridgeshire, but they finish (if indeed they cross the finishing line) in Suffolk. Even more curious, perhaps, is that, if one sits in the grandstand, it depends on the particular end of the grandstand in which you sit whether you are sitting in Cambridgeshire or in Suffolk. That is a somewhat peculiar but perhaps not an enormously important consideration.
§ What is more important, however, is that the stud farms which are situated around Newmarket, the bloodstock industry, are divided—not equally, but are divided—between the two counties, and therefore have different regulations, different ratings and different local authorities to whom to look. If one excludes the Newmarket urban district but takes the rural districts around, far and away the larger number of stud farms are in fact in Cambridgeshire rather than in Suffolk. This, I suggest, is of some importance, because the bloodstock industry as such is not only of local significance to Newmarket, it is of very great national significance. That is something which is far too often overlooked—the export earnings of the bloodstock industry—and it would undoubtedly be far more convenient to the breeders of bloodstock, who are performing a very valuable national service in this way, if the great majority of them were in one administrative county. That is my second point.1538
§ Now I come to the third, which is, in a rather unhappy phrase perhaps, the argument of administrative convenience. We all know that this is very often given as an excuse by bureaucrats for not doing what common sense or humanity dictates. In this case, I suggest that administrative convenience and common sense, and to a certain extent, perhaps, humanity, all operate in the same direction. Let me just point out one or two facts. Newmarket looks to Cambridge rather than to Bury St. Edmunds as the present main communicative centre of the County of West Suffolk but not to be, one imagines, the centre of the new administrative County of Suffolk which will be very much farther away at Ipswich. Newmarket looks to Cambridge as the main shopping centre. In fact, of the total expenditure outside Newmarket, 49 per cent. is in the City of Cambridge and only 12 per cent. in the town of Bury St. Edmunds. Therefore four times as much money is spent and, one can say, four times as many people look from Newmarket to Cambridge as look from Bury St. Edmunds.
§ When you come to journeys to work. 14.2 per cent. go from Newmarket into Cambridge and only 4.6 per cent. travel from New Market to West Suffolk. In the opposite direction, going to Newmarket from Camt-ridge there are 26.5 per cent., and from West Suffolk to Newmarket 7.8 per cent. By these statistics it is clear that three times as many people from Newmarket work in Cambridgeshire as they do in Suffolk and three times as many people from Cambridgeshire go to Newmarket for work as from Suffolk.
§ In the previous Amendment there was a discussion about bus services and access to, in that case, Oxford and Reading. I do not think this matter is insignificant because it is by bus that a very large number of people travel; not everybody has a motor car of his own. The weekday bus service from Newmarket to Cambridge, 13 miles away, comprises 60 buses per week; whereas that from Newmarket to Bury St. Edmunds, 15 miles away, comprises only 17 per week. Therefore, all these arguments add up to !the inescapable conclusion that New-working area and entertainment area and market looks to Cambridge and Cambridgeshire as the main shopping area, not to Bury St. Edmunds or Suffolk.1539
§ Continuing on this argument of administrative convenience there are some other points which are worth bringing out. For instance, so far as planning of Newmarket and Cambridge is concerned, Cambridge is desperately short ofdevelopable land whereas it is reasonably plentiful in Newmarket. Cambridge is the largest and most varied market for labour and it is absolutely vital that the youth employment service of Cambridge is available for Newmarket children. Therefore I suggest it is an extremely important point. On the educational front it is also of enormous convenience (and convenient as reflected in the facilities offered to children and the opportunities that those children may then enjoy) that Cambridge and Cambridgeshire should be the educational authority for Newmarket as it is for its own villages and city.
§ It would seem that Newmarket's position in East Cambridgeshire should be the obvious centre to serve a wider range than the town itself for a great number of advisory services and further education: for instance, for the Cambridge College of Art and Technology, a very fine college, which has a wide range of studies and which should be within easy reach of the residents of Newmarket in the administrative County of Cambridgeshire. Similarly, social services would be more effectively and cheaply carried out. The administration of justice would be somewhat easier. At the moment there are two juvenile courts in Newmarket, one for Cambridge and one for West Suffolk. This is not a very logical or administratively adequate way of managing these affairs.
§ The psychiatric clinic in Newmarket Hospital is part of the Cambridgeshire psychiatric service. The social worker concerned with drug problems is employed jointly by the United Cambridge Hospitals, and the social services department is based in Cambridge but also operates in Newmarket. There are many other points of this sort which I could make, but I will mention only one other which I think of particular importance; that is, the police service.
§ As I have pointed out already, the urban district boundary nuts right across the Newmarket racecourse. Thus there is a division of responsibility for policing the racecourse between the Suffolk Constabulary and the Mid-Anglia Police 1540 Authority. Given the very special character of racing and the type of people who congregate at race meetings, it is surely obvious that there should be a strong and unified police force to deal with this. The Mid-Anglia Police Authority, on the logical understanding that the Government's proposals were to be implemented (I would remind your Lordships that it was originally the Government's proposal, incorporated in this Bill as it first appeared, that Newmarket should be in Cambridgeshire) has made plans for Newmarket to be the centre for the divisional police headquarters. They considered that the most efficient way to deal with this special and rather serious problem. Unless this Amendment is carried those plans will fall to the ground and the police force will have to abandon the idea which it has already promulgated for increasing its own efficiency.
§ At the same time, the Ely Urban and Rural District Councils have entered into very close support and co-operation with the Newmarket Urban District Council, at present in Suffolk, and Newmarket Rural District Council, at present in Cambridgeshire, for the unification of many of their services. Unless this Amendment is accepted by the Government, this arrangement will fall by the wayside. and again local government of that level will suffer inconvenience, and will be less efficient and probably more costly than otherwise would be the case.
§ The fourth point that I put forward, on which some noble Lords have laid stress and on which others have poured scorn, is the old-fashioned argument of democracy: what do the people want? I am encouraged to put forward this point in view of some of the remarks we have heard from Government spokesmen, and particularly from the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, who said on August 9, in answer to my noble friend Lady White and my noble friend Lady Bacon, that the council of Rothwell, supported by several authorities in the Wakefield district, wanted to be in Wakefield. He adduced, quite correctly, that that was a strong argument for resisting a particular Amendment and for sticking to the Government proposals.
He went on to say that the fact that the people of Rothwell, through the expressed view of the urban district council itself and that of a considerable majority
of people, had voted in favour of transfer to Wakefield district showed that the views of the people, and particularly the local authority concerned, quite rightly carried weight with Her Majesty's Government. In this case there can be no doubt whatever about the wishes of the Newmarket Urban District Council: they are unanimous in their wish that this Amendment should be accepted and that Newmarket should be in Cambridgeshire. In addition I have here a telegram which says:
Newmarket Branch NALGO express their support for your efforts to include Newmarket in the new authority for Cambridge.
While, as I have said, there is not any Party political significance in this, the honourable Member for Bury St. Edmunds, in which constituency Newmarket finds itself, wrote a letter to the chairman of West Suffolk County Council in which he states his personal opinion to be that
the links between Newmarket and Cambridge are so strong that it would benefit Newmarket if it was joined administratively with Cambridgeshire.… I personally have supported this view. Newmarket is a promontory sticking into Cambridge.
§ It is only fair to that honourable Member to say that I understand he has since changed his views but it is also only fair to point out that at one time he put very clearly and forcefully the reasons for supporting this Amendment.
§ I am asking Her Majesty's Government and your Lordships not to bring in something entirely new but to revert to what was in the original Bill as published, with the exception of Haverhill which I have not mentioned because nobody—neither the people of Haverhill themselves nor the other people who are concerned—wish it to be in Cambridge. For that reason this Amendment deals solely with what the M.P. described as a promontory. The local authority is unanimous in its desire that it should be incorporated. I therefore ask your Lordships to accept this Amendment.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ LORD MAYBRAY-KING
The noble Lord, Lord Walston, asked me whether I would support him in this Amendment. I have read the case before, and after listening to the noble Lord's speech I have no doubt whatever that it should be supported. The noble Lord spoke about the logic of geography and the 1542 need to avoid promontories. It seems to me that part of the habit of the Government in this dividing of boundaries is to create some of these anomalous promontories. The noble Lord spoke about the importance of having all the racecourse and the urban district council in the same county. He proved that Newmarket looks towards Cambridge in every way and that the wishes of the urban district council are that they should be in Cambridge. I have much pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
We in Suffolk have got rather cynical during the last few years about the number of commissions, Bills, White Papers and the like which have tried successfully to force us into various Procrustean beds of ideas as to what a county should consist of—lopping of a district council here and adding one there. It was with a great sense of relief that we finally got this Bill in your Lordships' House with the county in its entire, traditional, geographical situation—the whole of Suffolk to be placed in one unit with the exception of one, two or three parishes in the extreme North which are to go into Norfolk, parishes which we think a Private Bills Committee would probably have put into the neighbouring county and which certainly ought to be dealt with by the Boundary Commissioner and not by an Amendment in your Lordships' House.
I was therefore somewhat surprised—perhaps "surprised " is not the right word, because we are used to being surprised by rather ill-founded suggestions about the way our county should be developed—but in any case it was nothing new to us, when we saw this Amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, in what I must confess was about the weakest case I have ever heard, knowing the situation in the county as I do. I have no doubt that if the noble Lord who sits on the Cross Benches had as close a knowledge of the county of Suffolk as some of us have, he might not have supported the noble Lord, Lord Walston, so quickly after hearing but one side of the question.
I will deal first with the question of democracy, to which the noble Lord, Lord Walston, referred as the last of his 1543 four points. He told us that the Newmarket Urban District Council was unanimously in favour of going into Cambridgeshire and that that therefore meant that all the people of Newmarket were also in favour of the move. In fact, at a meeting held on July 3 last only 11 out of the 15 members of the urban district council were present. Ten of them voted in favour of going into Cambridgeshire, one voted against and, as I say, the other four were not present. Thus, all one can say is that 66 per cent. of the members of the urban district council are in favour of going into Cambridgeshire, one is against and all the others have not voted on the subject.
The demos of Newmarket do not elect only the urban district council. Exactly the same people elect their county councillors, and of the four county councillors who represent Newmarket—one presumes that having been elected by the local people they are able to sneak on their behalf, knowing the will of the people—all of them, 100 per cent., have voted in favour of staying in West Suffolk. The only thing I have been able to discover about the real feeling of the common man there is by looking at the letters that have been written to the local newspapers, and all of those save one have been in favour of staying in Suffolk. That one letter came from Bottisham, a place in Cambridgeshire, and the writer, like another person from Cambridgeshire—the noble Lord, Lord Walston—felt that the neighbouring part of West Suffolk should come and join him. It will be seen, therefore, that it is certainly not the unanimous wish of the district council or of the county councillors to go into Cambridgeshire. The strong expression of view among the writers of letters to the local newspapers shows a strong desire to stay in their own county.
The noble Lord, Lord Walston, then referred to the apparently ridiculous position of the racecourse going out of one county and coming into another, and of the training establishments being in the two counties. He suggested that the only way of overcoming the problem was to put the lot into Cambridgeshire. We in Suffolk have been fully aware of this position, but it affects only a few small parishes round Newmarket. We always felt that that was not the sort of matter 1544 about which we should trouble your Lordships. At various times it has been suggested that certain small parishes should go into the town so as to overcome these boundary complications, and it would seem on balance preferable that the small parishes which have caused this difficulty should be joined to the larger unit rather than having the larger unit taken away in order to join these small parishes.
It was curious to hear the noble Lord, Lord Walston. say—I hope I am not misrepresenting him; he will correct me if I am wrong—that 14 per cent. of the employed population of Newmarket went towards Cambridge to work and that only 4 per cent. went to the West, and he described going to the West as going to West Suffolk. In fact Newmarket is already in West Suffolk, and by my calculations the proportion of the people in the West Suffolk town of Newmarket who work in West Suffolk is 100 minus 14, which is 86. I should have said myself that 86 per cent. worked in West Suffolk and 14 per cent. go to Cambridge, which I think is a remarkably small proportion, bearing in mind that Cambridge is only 12 miles away and highly industrialised. I should have thought it would have taken at least 50 per cent. from any little town with a population of 10,000 or 12,000—inevitably a dormitory town—10 or 12 miles away from it.
He then referred to the fact that the surrounding district council area had its office in Newmarket, there were two juvenile courts in Newmarket and there were various other administrative bodies that worked in Newmarket from the surrounding district. Because that was so, he suggested that Newmarket should be joined to the surrounding district. I do not live in West Suffolk and I may have made some mistakes about what actually goes into West Suffolk, but certainly in the county borough near my home two rural districts have their offices. The county council has its office there and the magistrates from two divisions outside the county borough meet there. But none of us has yet suggested that the county borough should be joined to the rural district council which has its office there, or to the county council whose county court is there. Inevitably where there is any town in any rural district, 1545 the bench, the juvenile court and the whole of the social services will be administered from that town. That is the right and proper way to manage things.
I do not think myself, and I feel that your Lordships will not think either, that the noble Lord has made any case for altering the status quo which has existed for a great many hundreds of years. When Charles II came to Newmarket to see the races, justice was administered partly by the justices in quarter sessions sitting in Bury St. Edmunds and partly by the justices of the peace sitting in quarter sessions in Cambridgeshire; and exactly the same position occurs to-day. Indeed, that visit, it has been said, is part of Suffolk history, because had not his late Majesty been accompanied, I am told, by the Duchess of Cleveland, neither your Lordships' House nor we in Suffolk would have had the pleasure of numbering among our friends and companions the noble Duke, the Duke of Grafton.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
I wish to support my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, and to tell your Lordships that I live in Newmarket and served for nine years on the West Suffolk County Council. I should like to tell your Lordships very briefly—because I know there is a great deal more business to be done—a little about the early history of the great problem with which we are faced. It is true that in the Royal Commission's Report they said that Lowestoft, in the East, should go into Norfolk, and Newmarket, and parts of the rural district of Clare and Haverhill, into Cambridgeshire. But to compensate for the loss of those areas they said that the whole of the North-East area of Essex—the Colchester/ Harwich area—was to go into Suffolk. As your Lordships know, that was in the Royal Commission's Report and in the White Paper. When we debated the White Paper there was great feeling by Essex County Council against the loss of that part of Essex. So when the Bill came out the Government altered their ideas on that and put back that part of Essex, largely because Essex had made Colchester a university town.
§ LORD ALPORT
May I interrupt my noble friend to say that when the Bill came out there was no change in Govern 1546 ment policy. Any change made was made subsequently.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
It was subsequently, in the House of Commons; I beg your Lordships' pardon. The change came for Lowestoft, and they put Lowestoft back again. They did not put back Newmarket, Haverhill and Clare. There was a great deal of feeling about breaking up the county. I spoke on the White Paper, and I said that I thought it a great pity to break up the county, and urged that we should keep a united county. In another place three honourable Members representing parts of Suffolk put down an Amendment to put back Haverhill, parts of Clare, and Newmarket into the new Suffolk, which is going to be the combined East Suffolk and West Suffolk and Ipswich County Borough. The Minister said he would give careful consideration to that suggestion but did not commit himself either way. When the Bill came to Report stage he said that they had decided that they would keep a united Suffolk and put that back. That has pleased enormously Haverhill and Clare, but it has not pleased the Urban District Council of Newmarket. My noble friend Lord Cranbrook has told me that. It has pleased a great many people in Newmarket itself; in almost all the letters I have read, except about one, the people in New-market said that they were relieved at this alteration back again and the decision to keep a united Suffolk. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not change their minds again. It is quite true that on geographical logic Newmarket looks to its regional city of Cambridge for shopping and such things, but I do not see why they should not go on doing that in the future.
In 1965 and 1966 there was a major Boundary Commission inquiry by the old Boundary Commission, and the whole of this matter was threshed out. I was a member of the West Suffolk County Council at the time and I attended all the meetings; it was a very costly inquiry, with all parties represented by learned counsel. They came to the decision that Newmarket should stay in Suffolk, but that there should be slight adjustment of the boundary because it stuck right out into Cambridgeshire. That recommendation was never implemented. Your Lordships will remember that there was a 1547 change of Government; and the new Government said that they would implement only recommendations of the old Boundary Commission which had been completed; and that area had not been completed. But in the Newmarket area they made a recommendation, which is set out in the memorandum prepared by the West Suffolk County Council. They came to the unanimous decision that, with only a slight boundary alteration, Newmarket should remain in the County of Suffolk, where it has always been. That alteration can easily be made by the new Boundary Commission, which has been set up to look at these matters in 1974 and make any slight adjustments considered necessary. They could make slight adjustments of the boundary, especially as it affects the built-up area of Newmarket and the racecourses. The Jockey Club have always said (it is in a memorandum prepared by the Newmarket Urban District Council) that whatever county they were in they would like the two racecourses to be in the same county. The two racecourses now are both in Cambridgeshire, although the Suffolk boundary runs right up to the racecourse. In fact I believe that the stands of the Rowley Mile are in Cambridgeshire and the paddock is in Suffolk; but that boundary can be altered by slight alteration.
There is one important thing that Lord Walston said that I must correct. He said that there is very little land in Cambridge for development but that there is plenty of land in Newmarket. I can assure your Lordships that there is not plenty of land in Newmarket. The West Suffolk County Council have released enough land for building, but it is quite difficult to get the building plots they want, because the planning authority have been trying to preserve as much of the land as possible for training and breeding of horses. So there is not a great deal of extra land available.
I must say one word about the police. The Suffolk police were an amalgamation of East Suffolk and the County Borough of Ipswich and they are organised as one division for the whole of West Suffolk. But Newmarket has a powerful subsub-division, which consists of a chief inspector, four sergeants, a detective sergeant, two detectives and 25 constables. That is a good force, and I should have 1548 thought quite adequate for protection—they do a wonderful job—for a town with a population of 10,000. I do not think there is any more I can tell your Lordships, but I hope that on the grounds I have mentioned this Amendment will be resisted.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT DAVIDSON
At this relatively late hour in what has been the busiest week in your Lordships' House for a very long time, I shall speak as briefly as possible. This particular race at Newmarket has now been run, and it appears has been won by Suffolk. Now we have an objection from the owners of the horse that lost. In racing terms, some people could call it an objection based on bumping and boring, but in my submission it is ill-founded and should not be allowed to succeed. The stewards of the course, in this instance your Lordships, will have to decide the matter impartially and objectively and I shall do my best to support my noble friends Lord Cranbrook and Lord Wolverton and to convince your Lordships that the race has been run fairly and squarely under Jockey Club rules and that there is no reason whatever for overturning the decision which has been taken in another place.
I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, for missing the first few sentences of his speech. He told me yesterday he would be speaking in a purely private capacity, and not as chairman of the East Anglia Economic Planning Council. I only say that because I also serve on that Council under his distinguished chairmanship and, as I am opposing this Amendment, I feel I must make it clear that I am speaking in a purely private capacity. The fact that he lives in Cambridgeshire and I live in what is still for another few months West Suffolk I suppose has some bearing on the fact that we take opposing views, but the fact that he speaks from those Benches and I speak from these Benches is not, I submit, particularly relevant.
It is my understanding that the Government have agreed to the transfer of areas into neighbouring counties under this Bill only where there is an overriding reason for doing so. This naturally has taken into account the views of all those who are affected by any such transfer. In 1549 the case of North-East Essex, which is the subject of another Amendment later, although in my view there are overriding reasons for its transfer into Suffolk on economic, geographical and planning grounds, and although certain local councils in that area are 100 per cent. in favour of the transfer, it appears that there was not a sufficient majority who favoured its transfer into Suffolk. The same logic surely applies to Newmarket, where the campaign for its transfer into Cambridgeshire is being led and has been led by a small and vocal majority, whereas the majority so far as I can ascertain wish to remain in Suffolk.
A letter in last Monday's East Anglian Daily Times reads as follows:I see that Newmarket has had 'news' in your paper for the past three days about the boundaries. I am very surprised to know that you have not published a letter from any of the townspeople.I share the view of a great number of my fellow townspeople who wish to abide by the decision of the Government and leave the town in the county of Suffolk.And it goes on, my Lords, in (what shall I say?) terms which I think perhaps I ought not to repeat in your Lordships' House. As my noble friend Lord Cranbrook has already mentioned, the four county councils who represent that part of Suffolk are very keen for Newmarket to stay in Suffolk.
I cannot agree with the argument that Newmarket should go into Cambridgeshire in order to straighten out the county boundary. If you look at the map of the proposed county boundaries in England, you will see many examples of bits of one county sticking out into another. If you take this to its logical conclusion, the entire map would have to be redrawn, with a set square and ruler. Similarly, the map would have to be redrawn if one agreed with the argument that all small towns in a region had to be in the same local government area as the regional centre to which they look for shopping, leisure, and recreational purposes. For example, many people in Suffolk go to Norwich for these purposes—others go to Cambridge, and some, I have heard, even come so far as London.
I am not impressed by the argument that Newmarket should go into Cambridgeshire because it is only 12 miles from Cambridge where, it is said, the new 1550 headquarters of the new county council are likely to be. It is quite possible that the new headquarters might be at Huntingdon or even Peterborough. At the same time, the A.45 road to Ipswich (which will be the new Suffolk county headquarters) is about to be brought up to motorway standards, and there is anyway bound to be an area office of that county council in Bury St. Edmunds.
I cannot accept the argument that Newmarket should go into Cambridgeshire for educational or social services reasons. There are perfectly satisfactory existing "over the border" arrangements for the free movement of children for education, and of sick people for hospital treatment, and there is no reason to suppose that these arrangements should not continue to work as well in the future. There is no doubt a case for some modest boundary adjustments to be made in order to remove certain local boundary anomalies which noble Lords have already mentioned, which relate to the needs of the training establishments and the two racecourses to be in the area of the same local authority and within the same police authority—and also for the trunk roads in the area to be in the control of the same highway authority and the same police authority. But these are matters which can and should be resolved quite satisfactorily by the Boundary Commission.
But my main argument for Newmarket remaining in Suffolk is one of balance. I am not talking of political balance; I am talking of economic, geographical and planning balance and I am trying to look at it objectively from the point of view of both Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. I admit that I am also looking at it from a traditional point of view, and I freely admit that the most important consideration is the future welfare and prosperity of those who live and work in the Newmarket area. On all these counts, as I hope is by now fairly obvious to your Lordships, I cannot and do not favour the transfer of Newmarket into Cambridgeshire. Far from there being any one overriding reason for its transfer, there are many overriding reasons why it should remain in Suffolk.
I would therefore ask your Lordships to stand by the Government's decision, to ensure that this objection does not succeed, and to indicate a collective view, 1551 if this particular Amendment is taken to a Division, that it finishes up in the Lobbies, where it started, as an "also ran".
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ LORD WIGG
I shall trouble your Lordships for but a few moments. My interest in the matter arises from the very simple fact that it seems to me that whether Newmarket goes into Cambridgeshire or into the new Suffolk is a matter that concerns those who know much more about the subject than I do. The one thing that I am certain about is that somebody—and I rather suspect the Minister—does not know quite so much about racing as perhaps he should. Newmarket is probably the most famous racing headquarters in the world, and long may it remain so. To indulge in a boundary revision, and then draw the boundary through the Rowley Mile—and indeed through the grandstand—is enough to make Charles II turn in his grave. I hope that, irrespective of the considerations of high policy which have been before your Lordships this afternoon, the Government will bring to bear their influence on the Boundary Commission to redraw the boundary in such a way that both racecourses, if it is possible, are brought within the area of the same authority.
I represented for a number of years in the House of Commons a constituency which I think was almost unique; it was a small bit of Worcestershire surrounded by Staffordshire. I know only too well the troubles that this caused. It affected every aspect of local government life. Those problems have now been forgotten and there is a greater Dudley. But these questions of boundaries touch on local patriotism and perhaps there are those who think that these kinds of feeling can be swept on one side. I think that is a political blunder of the first magnitude.
When one thinks of a great industry like racing—and I freely admit that the stud farms around Newmarket are associated directly with the prosperity of that industry—one has to remember the sales which take place and earn for this country very considerable sums in foreign currency. This is something worth bearing in mind. I am perhaps in a minority this afternoon in not pleading to your Lordships for this local authority or for 1552 that local authority, but I say to the Government, "Please have another look at these boundaries and, if you can, treat the racing industry with the seriousness with which it ought to be treated; please ensure that whatever decision is finally taken it is either all here or all there." For heaven's sake do not let a future second in one of our classics say, " I am sorry that I lost the race, I thought I was in Suffolk when I was in Cambridgeshire ", or vice versa.
I am sure we were all delighted to hear Lord Wigg. I did not know that he was behind me and was to speak on this Amendment, but I am glad that he has done so.
I support the noble Lord, Lord Walston, on this Amendment because although I have nothing to do with local government it horrifies me that a boundary should go through the sacred bit of turf known as the Rowley Mile. All our bloodstock which we export abroad is bred around there and bought by the Japanese or people from elsewhere. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, might even find the water-jump in the five-furlong race, and that is only four inches deep, I think. I rose only to say that I support the noble Lord, Lord Walston.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
I heard such a devastating, logical argument put forward by my noble friend Lord Walston that I was interested in trying to find the answers. I am still interested in trying to find the answers from the Government. I do not wish to declare my vote either way because I listened to the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, to whom this House always listens with the greatest respect. Nevertheless, if we look at the "iron filings" attracted to the magnet of association with Newmarket for Cambridge and the examples that the noble Lord, Lord Walston gave of the economic, human and social interests of Newmarket with Cambridge, I think we shall find them overwhelming.
I should like to ask my noble friend, Lord Wigg, although he has never given me a winner in all his life—he might have done so once or twice when I "shacked" up with him—if there is any planning wanted for the racecourse at Newmarket, would the racecourse authorities have to apply to both local authorities and would both have to come 1553 to a decision? Could that not be lay planning for a first-class racecourse like this?
§ LORD WIGG
I am afraid that is a technical question I could not possibly answer, but I think there is enough good sense, whether Newmarket went into Cambridgeshire or Suffolk—they are not foreigners and both speak the same language and understand racing—to have such problems solved on the basis of common sense. I do not think my noble friend need worry about that. I am sorry that he has always backed losers.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
I am grateful to my noble friend for that answer. I note that the noble Lord has to ride two horses at the same time. I am glad that he can do so.
§ 5.5 p.m.
THE EARL OF GAINSBOROUGH
I should like for a few minutes to support the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Walston. Although I am very fond of racing, I do not want to talk about racing because we have heard a lot about it. It is most important, but it is not the only thing that is important concerning Newmarket. I am very concerned, as are the Newmarket Rural District Council, about the planning problems which the proposal in the Bill will cause. The Newmarket Rural District Council surrounds the Urban District Council and they have a very good working arrangement, although they are in two separate counties. They were looking forward to having a closer arrangement, which both authorities felt would be of great value to their ratepayers. We must bear in mind that we are trying to do something which will last for a long time, and it is not sufficient to be told that the Boundary Commission can look into all these points later. I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, who said that these matters should be decided on their merits now and should not be allowed to be done wrongly and then have to be done again. I feel that if this Bill is passed in its present form it will be wrong.
This matter has been gone into at great length by many experts: by the noble Lord. Lord Redcliffe-Maud, who spoke in the Second Reading debate; by the Boundary Commission under the 1958 1554 Act, which was operating in very different circumstances, and which came to the conclusion that changes were needed; and by the Government after very careful negotiation and consultation. As I said in my speech on Second Reading, the Government tried very hard to get agreement. I attended the meeting in that area at which the right honourable gentleman the Minister for Local Government and Development was present, and after that consultation the Bill was printed with Newmarket Urban District Council put into Cambridgeshire. A miracle seems to have happened and Amendment No. 58 got through at the last minute. It was a bit of a dark horse, if I may use racing language; and how it got into the stalls nobody knew. I believe that the leak that it had got in caused the Member for Bury St. Edmunds some embarrassment. He had previously said that he was in favour of Newmarket Urban District Council going into Cambridgeshire, as was stated by the noble Lord, Lord Walston.
I do not suppose we shall get another miracle and that the Government will accept this Amendment here, but I would ask them to have a look at this matter in the same way as they have undertaken to look at other matters which have been dealt with this afternoon. It seems to me, and to many other people, irrespective of Party, that to leave a boundary like this must be patently wrong. There must have been very compelling reasons for Government Amendment No. 58 in another place. Noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite have not yet had an opportunity of putting those reasons to your Lordships, and we shall naturally listen to them with great care. The noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, and the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, stick up for their county as I stick up for Rutland, where we achieved a complete miracle in 1966. There was no possible logical defence by our side. Suffolk also seemed to have achieved a miracle in getting Amendment No. 58 put into the Bill right at the end of the proceedings. I hope your Lordships will agree that miracles of this kind do not happen unless there is a very good reason, and unless the prayers of our right reverend colleagues on the Bishops' Bench are strong enough to bring them about.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
I hesitate to speak again at this late hour, but I have some experience of working between district councils. Here we have two district councils in two different counties already working together, as every one of us works with his neighbours throughout local government. Indeed, the Government go a little further in this Bill. One clause—I believe it is around Clause 100—makes special provision for two district councils to combine in carrying out a part or the whole of their functions. This is common practice among local authorities and I should have thought the fact that two local authorities are already co-operating as any proper, well brought-up local authority does, was possibly a reason for not finding it necessary to put them together.
§ VISCOUNT DAVIDSON
If I might say just one more word: talking of miracles, does the noble Earl, Lord Gainsborough, suggest that God has in fact moved from Gloucestershire to Suffolk?
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE (LORD BELSTEAD)
In answering this Amendment I must also declare an interest, because I am a resident not of West but of East Suffolk. I hope that your Lordships will acquit me of partiality, because, although I am replying to this Amendment, by which the noble Lord, Lord Walston, is seeking to remove an area of West Suffolk into Cambridgeshire, I am also intending to reply to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Alport, which comes a little later on the Marshalled List, and which would carry North-East Essex into Suffolk. This, subject to the persuasive powers of the noble Lord and any other noble Lord, the Government have hitherto been resisting. Although the noble Lord who moved this Amendment did so in an entirely private capacity, the noble Lord, Lord Walston, none the less is currently Chairman of the East Anglian Planning Council, and all residents of East Anglia have good reason to be grateful to the noble Lord for the unstinting way in which he gives his services to us, the people who live in the Eastern Region.
1556 As we should all expect of the noble Lord, knowing his work, he has, I am afraid to say, prosecuted the case for this Amendment with his customary clarity. The noble Lord asked us to look at what he called the logic of the geography of Newmarket. I am a little surprised that he did not also remind not only the Committee, but particularly the noble Lord. Lord Maybray-King, and the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, of the conclusion which on not one occasion, but on two occasions, the Boundary Commission have drawn from their inspection of Newmarket on the map. For in 1961, and again in 1965, the Local Government Boundary Commission were impressed by the need to look on Newmarket and its surrounding parishes as a whole, taking Lord Wigg's point, and on both occasions the Commission recommended not that a number of surrounding parishes should be transferred into Cambridgeshire, but that they should join Newmarket in West Suffolk. And to be specific, in 1965 the Local Government Boundary Commission recommended adding to West Suffolk the parish of Kennett and parts of ten other parishes in Newmarket rural district, comprising just under 11,000 acres, with the objective of uniting in Suffolk, Newmarket, the racecourses, the training establishments and the stud farms. Going no further than that, in the light of that evidence from the Local Government Boundary Commission on two occasions, I am simply asking your Lordships on behalf of the Government this evening to agree that this historic town, which has always been part of Suffolk, should remain within its county boundary. May I assure the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, that the details of the Suffolk boundary on this point will be referred (I give this as an undertaking) to the Local Government Boundary Commission to review the links between the urban district and its surroundings after 1974.
There are positive reasons locally for maintaining the historic link with Newmarket in Suffolk, which has been spoken about so eloquently by some of my noble friends, not least a former chairman of the East Suffolk County Council (this is not his territory), my noble friend Lord Cranbrook. First, as he said, the four county council representatives have made it clear that this is a view which they 1557 support. It is perfectly true that the urban district council take a diametrically opposite view. It would be wrong for me not to record this. But it would also be quite wrong for me not to record that I have listened carefully to the speeches this afternoon, and, as I understand from what noble Lords have said, the published letters which have appeared seem to have been enormously in favour of the same course. Then the parishes of Moulton and Kentford (and these are two parishes of which nothing has been mentioned in the debate this afternoon, but they are also the subject of the noble Lord's Amendment) have made it crystal clear that they wish to remain in Suffolk.
I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that it is most desirable for many services to be based, and to be seen to be clearly based, on one county—though I must say that, like my noble friend Lord Wolverton, I was a little startled to hear the noble Lord, Lord Walston, refer to housing needs in Cambridgeshire being assisted by development in Newmarket. I was not quite sure that that was something which Newmarket would take kindly to. But that is as it may be.
In this debate may I remind the Committee that the Boundary Commission has twice concluded that the way to see a logical approach to services is to retain the boundary and to remove a small area into Suffolk. Your Lordships should be aware that if this were done there would be no difficulty, as I understand it, with the highways immediately around the town coming under one authority; and there would be positive advantages in clarifying the jurisdiction of some services which hitherto, it is quite true, covered statutorily only part of the immediate area but which could—and I entirely agree with the noble Lord when he says "should"—serve the racing industry as a whole.
The noble Lord took the police as an example. It is as good an example as any to take. The Suffolk Police Authority recognises the special problems of Newmarket and a strong establishment is maintained in this subdivision. If it were transferred, I am advised that this would entail about 60 men moving across to a different police authority, and high though the standards are of all the East Anglian 1558 police, it would mean that a force which has had special experience of Newmarket urban district would no longer in fact serve the area. They say that the loyalties of police officers are, first, to the Service as a whole, and secondly, to the local authority responsible for policing; but I seriously submit that it would be both unnecessary and unwise in this case to prove the truth of this assertion.
Then the noble Lords, Lord Gains-borough and Lord Walston, raised, quite rightly, the additional argument about districts, and of course the specific matter of the withdrawal of Newmarket from the proposed Cambridgeshire District No. 4, which the Boundary Commission designate have given in their memorandum of draft proposals. The withdrawal of Newmarket would render that proposed Cambridgeshire district too small. In another place, the honourable Member for the Isle of Ely expressed his strong regret—as he would very probably be expected to do—about the move proposed by the Government. I think it would be right for me to record that the honourable Member also expressed the opinion (which was extremely constructive and helpful of him) that the proposed Cambridgeshire District 4 would work harmoniously without Newmarket urban district. Of course it will be for the Boundary Commission designate to make their final recommendations, after visiting districts with special problems, and these recommendations are going to be subject to Parliamentary approval. Your Lordships may wish to know that it was announced on Monday that the Commission will be visiting Cambridgeshire next month precisely for this purpose.
Your Lordships may ask whether I have left something out. Did not the Redcliffe-Maud Commission recommend that Newmarket should join a Cambridgeshire and South Fens unitary authority? Redcliffe-Maud did indeed make that recommendation and they made exactly the same recommendation about Royston. Your Lordships will know many examples in this area of border towns which have links across their county borders—I can think of Beccles, Bungay, Thetford, Royston, and perhaps one might add Saffron Walden. But I imagine that the noble Lord, Lord Walston, takes the view that towns of this sort are very important parts of their county.
1559 Like the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, and the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, I must voice my perplexity as to why it is that this East Anglian town of Newmarket, with such historic links, has been chosen as just the one for this particular Amendment. I believe, and I submit, that Redcliffe-Maud is another example of scrutiny of this area and the conclusion that it must be treated as a whole, because I find it interesting that Newmarket was not included in the Cambridge catchment area for commuting flows for the Local Government Boundary Commission, and I understand that the Cambridgeshire development plan does not show Newmarket as being within the sphere of Cambridge influence. Among the points which the noble Lord, Lord Walston, made so ably about travel to work, the social services, shopping and so on, there were points (on which I must say I agreed with my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, that I felt I had heard bandied forwards and backwards many times, although rarely as ably as this afternoon.
Forgive me, as time is pressing, if I only pick the one which I know a little about at first hand—education. Since I went to work at the Department of Education and Science I have obviously been interested to see at first hand the way in which the West Suffolk County Council provides educational facilities for the surrounding villages in the Newmarket schools. In January of this year statutory proposals were approved for [5–9] first schools in this area south of Newmarket, and for middle schools based on Burwell village college. The effect of these proposals is to add about 30 pupils a year to the Newmarket middle school from the Cambridgeshire [5–9] schools, and 50 pupils, rising to 60, to the upper school from Burwell. The school population in both areas is rising steadily.
But this is not a significant factor in the way the schools are organised. The significant factor is that Newmarket has traditionally served the parts of Cambridgeshire to its South and that with reorganisation taking place elsewhere in the county the schools fit together. No longer are we considering the RedcliffeMaud concept of a unitary authority. It will be for the Boundary Commission, with Parliamentary approval, to desig- 1560 nate the new distriots. The Government appreciate the care and hard work which have been displayed by the Newmarket Urban District Council in exploratory plans with possible district neighbours in Cambridgeshire, and time will be given to authorities to give fresh thought to districts in the light of final decisions on the Bill. Whatever is decided, the presence of Newmarket in a Suffolk district will be much appreciated. We are also considering Moulton and Kentford, both of which lie on the Suffolk side of Newmarket.
Criticism has been levelled at the distance from Newmarket to Ipswich. We are considering a Bill with important functions allocated not only to the county but to the districts. As those who live in the region know, the A.45 main artery across Suffolk is a road which is now rapidly being improved by a by-pass at Bury St. Edmunds and another already under construction at Stowmarket. Any of your Lordships who live in East Anglia will readily understand the increasing pressure of accelerating population and industrialisation to which this once wholly rural region is now subject.
Nowhere is it more true than in parts of Suffolk, and nowhere is it more true than in the area in which I live in East Suffolk. Anyone visiting the whole county to-day would agree that the authority is handling its planning, its social services, education, all the things one wants for a rapidly expanding population, sensitively and well. For this to continue Suffolk must remain not just viable in terms of its size but healthy. This is why the speeches of my noble friends Lord Cranbrook, Lord Davidson and Lord Wolverton, were so important.
At the South-East end of the county it was proposed to add a very large part of North-East Essex, but it was finally understood to be unacceptable to the area to be transferred. At the moment of speaking, subject to the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Alport, the South-East boundary of Suffolk remains the same. The Government were then considering moving Haverhill and Newmarket into Cambridgeshire, but as there had been no addition to the South-East Suffolk boundary the Government accepted that any proposal to deprive the county's western boundary needed careful consideration. On Report stage in 1561 another place the Government therefore retained both Haverhill and Newmarket, and their environs, in Suffolk.
It is important to understand that Suffolk will still have, despite this move, the lowest rateable value of all the East Anglian counties. If the Amendment were agreed to over 14,000 more people would be transferred out of this important strategic, but less strong, county. If both Newmarket and Haverhill were to be part of Cambridgeshire the loss to Suffolk would be over 30,000 in population. The noble Lord accepts this argument for Haverhill, but apparently rejects it for Newmarket. I ask your Lordships to resist this Amendment and by so doing prevent this historic area of the county being transferred, with the undertaking that the Boundary Commission will examine the details of the boundary in this area.
§ LORD WALSTON
Suffolk undoubtedly must be grateful to its own noble Lords who have rallied so loyally to its defence. It is indeed a fortunate county to have spokesmen such as we have listened to to-day. I think I am right in saying—and there may be some significance in this—that the only noble Lord who spoke in favour of this Amendment also happens by chance to be resident in Suffolk. So I hope that the county expresses its thanks in an appropriate manner. I would express my thanks to the other noble Lords, none of whom happen to live in Cambridgeshire and therefore perhaps can look at this somewhat more objectively, who have supported what I have said. Obviously I shall not repeat any of the arguments and I shall deal only briefly with what I may, by courtesy, call the arguments which have been put forward on the other side. I do not wish to be in any way offensive to noble Lords, some of whom are my friends outside the Chamber, for what they have said.
First of all, I would take issue with the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson. I might have accused certain people in this race of bumping but never, surely, of boring your Lordships in this Chamber. The theme of these "arguments" has been that Newmarket has always been in Suffolk and that therefore there can be no other argument about it as things 1562 have been so they shall remain. That argument has many attractions, but that is not the way in which we should look at local government and at the modernisation of local government. The other argument put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook and of which I could not quite follow the logic, was that as a result of Newmarket being in Suffolk, Suffolk is now graced with His Grace of Grafton. Fortunately, your Lordships' Chamber is graced by him. I wish it were more so. But even that is not a telling argument in favour of rejecting this Amendment.
In view of the support that I have received I am strongly tempted to press this Amendment to a Division, but I am probably right in saying that this is the latest date in August that your Lordships have ever sat. I know that you have more business to get through and that many are getting somewhat impatient, apparently more on this side of the Committee than on the other side. Therefore, I shall not press this to a Division because it would detain your Lordships for another six or seven minutes. However, I should like to reserve the right to raise this matter again on Report stage, when I hope that there will be a more representative gathering of noble Lords so that, if it is thought fit, this can be dealt with in somewhat more detail. In the circumstances, I beg, leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.28 p.m.
LORD JACQUES moved Amendment No. 35:
Corrigendum, page 3, line 21, leave out ("Plymouth").
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment seeks to apply all the principles laid down by the Government in the White Paper. Furthermore, it follows closely the proposals which the Government have made for solving a similar problem in other parts of the country, particularly at Humberside and Avonside. Indeed, my argument will closely follow the argument put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross when he defended Humberside in the debate on Amendment No. 20 this morning. I therefore feel that I should only have to outline the case for him to accept it warmly.1563
§ Devon is our largest administrative county. Its dominant geographical feature is the land mass of Dartmoor. The roads and railways have to go around Dartmoor rather than across it, and the development is around the Moor rather than on the Moor. In consequence, in the administration of the county there are long distances to be travelled by both councillors and officials. Furthermore, in the summer the roads are congested by tourist traffic. Put very briefly, the county council in its written evidence to the Royal Commission said much time was wasted in travelling; that it was a very real factor in increasing the costs of administration, and it was responsible for a great deal of inconvenience of councillors who had to travel frequently to Exeter for committee meetings. The Royal Commission took note of the county council's evidence and of the geography of the county, and they decided that there would be two units of local government in Devon, one based upon Plymouth and the other based upon Exeter.
§ This Bill ignores the evidence both of geography and of the county council. Indeed, it adds to the problem which the county council pointed out, for it increases the amount of travelling that would have to be done by the administrators. For example, for the first time 24 councillors will have to travel two or three times a week 43 miles from Plymouth to Exeter for committee meetings; and officials of the county council who are supervising the work of the council throughout the county will have additional miles to travel.
§ This Amendment, on the other hand, takes note both of the geographical features of the county and of the evidence of the county council. It seeks to create a separate South Devon County on the South-West edge of Dartmoor. This would not seriously affect the rest of the county. At the present time the administrative County of Devon has a population of 449,000. If this Amendment were accepted by the Government, the population would still increase to 578,000. Furthermore, at the present time the average rateable value per head for the administrative County of Devon is £33.5. If this Amendment were carried it would nevertheless increase from £40 to £42.6. 1564 So, even if there is a separate South Devon County it would not seriously impair the rest of the Devon County, which would be bigger than the administrative County of Devon at the moment.
§ This Amendment would leave as a separate county a population of 315,000 to the South-West of Dartmoor. The area concerned is not merely the main catchment area for employment, shopping and recreation, which is centred on Plymouth; it is also the regional sub-area of the South-West Economic Planning Council. It is also the intermediate areas under the Local Employment Acts for Plymouth and Tavistock. It is the area for the newly created crown courts which are centred on Plymouth, and it is the administrative areas of practically all the main public services and public utilities in that part of the country.
§ An independent survey by the Manchester University, completely independent of local authorities, conducted in April of 1972, showed that that part of the population of this area which was living outside the city of Plymouth had an overwhelming preference for Plymouth as the seat of county government, for the very obvious reason that it was more convenient for them.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
With great respect, they chose it as the administrative centre. They were not asked about county government.
§ LORD JACQUES
But if it is the administrative centre, then I am quite happy because that is what I am asking for. I am asking that there should be a South Devon county with Plymouth as the administrative centre. The survey showed that there was an overwhelming majority of people living outside the city who preferred Plymouth as the administrative centre for local government. If this Amendment were accepted by the 1565 Government then, first, decisions would not only be taken locally but would be seen to be taken locally. The reorganisation of local government would be seen as sensible by the electors, by councillors and by the inhabitants. The community itself would be a cohesive community with a common interest through links of employment, shopping and social activities. According to the White Paper this is what the Government set out to do, and by accepting this Amendment they will put their own principles into practice. I beg to move.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ LORD MAYBRAY-KING
The general case for Plymouth as a city which requires special consideration was admirably expressed in the Second Reading debate by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, himself, the noble Lord, Lord Foot, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud expressed his uneasiness about the position of Plymouth as he did about the position of Southampton and Portsmouth. We are fortunate now, at last, to have printed the OFFICIAL REPORT of the first day of the Second Reading debate, so I do not propose to rehearse any of those arguments. I will only say that the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, has presented in a nutshell the case for this Amendment which would seek to make Plymouth a new non-metropolitan county.
But to me, one of the best speeches in favour of Plymouth having some degree of independence of its own was the speech made by my noble friend Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. His speech revealed the utter incompatibility of the shotgun marriage between Devon and Plymouth. In another place Dame Joan Vickers, the Conservative Member of Parliament and one of the ablest Members of Parliament in the country, fighting for Plymouth, which she has served with distinction over such a long period of time, had already spoken of the folly of handling over the progressive City of Plymouth to the control of what she called the "squirearchy" of Devon. I thought those were strong words, but they are gentle compared with the noble Lord's counter attack on Plymouth. He took us back to the Civil War, when Exeter was Royalist and Plymouth was Parliamentarian. For good measure he added the Cornishman's dis 1566 like, not only of Devon but especially of Plymouth—a dislike he seems to share, and enjoyed sharing. He spoke of the "machinations" (the word is his own) of Plymouth in its attempt to retain its status, and he said that Plymouth, and its paid public relations firm, were "bonkers (I seem to have heard the word before) or—and I quote again"—just plain uneducated".
In Hampshire we have long forgotten what parts of Hampshire were on the side of Cromwell and what were on the side of Charles. The noble Lord seemed to be determined to revive the Civil War in this part of Britain. He did his best to prove that Drake did not play bowls on Plymouth Hoe. Seriously, the fact that the noble Lord should be so eloquently opposed to Plymouth itself, and that in his opposition he no doubt represents the depths of feeling of Devon County, surely makes this a special case. We ought to leave these two parts of Devon each with its own domain. We should not seek to join what the noble Lord has put asunder. In the words of the noble Lord. Lord Clifford of Chudleigh," Never the twain shall meet I therefore support the Amendment so ably moved by my friend the noble Lord, Lord Jacques.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
I am reminded of the story of, I think, the Paris Zoo, where there was a printed notice saying:This animal is dangerous—If he is attacked, he defends himself".If I may be permitted to join issue with my noble friend Lord Maybray-King, I would point out that the reason why I took the line I did is because he and Plymouth did nothing other than attack a large portion of the County of Devon, and I like to think that I speak as a Devon nationalist. I am not anti-Plymouth. I joined up in Plymouth; during my career as a soldier, I have served three times in Plymouth; I know many people in Plymouth and I am very fond of Plymouth. But what I am against—and I say it again—is the machinations of Plymouth and its supporters in taking large portions of the County of Devon and putting them under city control. Therefore, I say that I am only defending myself. I also thank my noble friend for giving me notice that he was going to attack me in his speech.
1567 I think what the intentions of Plymouth were can be made clear by just looking at the First Marshalled List of Amendments. Your Lordships will see that the name of my noble friend Lord MaybrayKing, along with that of the noble Lord, Lord Jaques, is down to move the Amendment which is now No. 49. Before I go on to discuss the relevance of that, I should like to remind your Lordships that at the end of the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, I asked, in effect—and I am sure the noble Lord will remember the occasion—whether she was concerned with just extra functions for Plymouth, which I was not against, or whether she wanted to add these large portions of the county to Plymouth. The answer was somewhat irrelevant, and I think that makes that point clear. I am not going to argue the question whether Plymouth should have extra functions or not, but I do say that if Plymouth wants to take large portions of Devon which, by any democratic test at all, do not want to go there, then that is what I am against. It is these territorial ambitions of Plymouth.
However, Amendment No. 49 still stands, and if I just point that out to your Lordships it should, I hope, make the case. By that Amendment the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, would insert, at the end of line 16 on page 6 of the Corrigendum,
That is the first point. It is a pity that the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, is not here, because I know she often goes to near Kingsbridge for her holidays; in fact, she has visited me from there. For anyone with any knowledge of that part of the world to think that anyone in that part of the world would have any affinity with Plymouth at all is really——
"( South Devon. The County Borough of Plymouth In the administrative county of Devon— the urban districts of Kings bridge and Salcombe…'"
§ LORD JACQUES
These are the very people who told Manchester University that they wanted the administrative centre to be in Plymouth.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
I think the answer to that one came from the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. In all the areas—and I am coming on to the others in a minute—where they have had referendums since this matter first came up (and I quoted this in my speech on Second Reading: the noble Lord. Lord Jacques, can read it there, and I am not going to read it now) there has been a majority of over three to one against, even in places close to Plymouth, like Tavistock and Yelverton, and, of course, it goes even more so for places like Kingsbridge and Salcombe, the rural district of Tavistock and Plympton St. Mary. The noble Lord will remember the argument which took place a year ago when the Plympton and Plymstock Order was going through. That was a minor thing. It then goes on to the rural district of Totnes. Well. I happen to be in the Totnes Parliamentary constituency and so it shows how far away one is getting from Plymouth. Then the Amendment reads:… South Brent. Ugborough, North HUish …There is a whole list of them and they are miles from Plymouth and have nothing to do with it at all. The population has a great aversion to being brought into Plymouth. I do not see how, if you are going to have a democratically run system, any argument can be presented to prove that any of these people want to have anything to do with Plymouth. Plymouth first tried to get a part of Cornwall on the Tamar side. Such was the local outcry that they dropped that idea. They now say they will take South Devon and come up to Salcombe and Kingsbridge. This is not only completely unpopular but would not be workable.
There is one point that I should like to make about the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques: that we are such a large county that we cannot get around it easily. I admit that at this time of the year travelling can be "hell". I have been trying for the last 10 years in this House to get successive Governments to do something about our roads and so on. But for three years I commanded the local Territorial Army battalion. I had 16 drill halls all over the country. I visited each company once a month and each drill hall once every six months. I found 1569 no difficulty in that: and if I could do that at that time I cannot see why there is any argument that a county council or a county official cannot get around. I hope that the Government will make certain that this Amendment is not accepted.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
May I briefly take a point of principle which I see in the total reform which the Government are trying to carry out, namely to re-draw and re-structure our local government on lines which will suit the needs of the day. The major factor, I should have thought, was to try to harmonise town and country. I should have thought that this Amendment goes exactly against that principle. The point that my noble friend Lord Clifford of Chudleigh was making about the animosity of local villages with Plymouth is common to villages around all big towns in the country, big towns which naturally wish to push out their boundaries.
The whole idea of this particular major reform is to try to eliminate that animosity by merging the town and country together into new counties. I know the county very well. I was born there and lived a good many years in its Southern part. I am certain that the right solution is to merge Plymouth into the county as a whole and that the whole thing will then shake down and be all right; but it would not be advisable to try to set up a new county in the South around Plymouth. I hope that my noble friend will resist the Amendment, admirably though it was moved.
Surely it would be a bad plan to put a boundary slap down the middle of Dartmoor. I cannot even see which side of the boundary that great monument to the Hounds of the Baskervilles will lie. But it is bad planning.
§ 5.49 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
I am sorry but I am going to suggest to the Committee that this Amendment should be resisted. When we were discussing Amendment No. 2 the noble Lord, Lord Foot, who probably knows Plymouth better than anybody else in this House, said that that Amendment was not going all the way to re-create a whole county borough, that it was an Amendment which applied to a number of different parts of the country. But 1570 certainly Plymouth was mentioned in it. I am very much afraid, however, that this Amendment does create a thinly disguised but none the less very recognisable Plymouth county borough with a fairly substantial fringe of Devon attached to it.
It is therefore, in my submission to the Committee, not Lord Jacques's Amendment which is entirely in accord with the principles of this Bill but my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, and the new Devon county we propose in the Bill as it stands. We are, after all, seeking to build on the old loyalties and traditions of existing counties wherever we can and nobody can deny that Plymouth has always been a most important Devonian town. But the county that we build, in addition, will be particularly well balanced. It will have a population of just under 900,000 of which almost exactly half will be in the country areas and the other half in the three present county boroughs of Exeter, Torbay and Plymouth. So far as one can foretell, it looks as if this is going to be the pattern for some time to time.
I think practically every local authority in Devon is anxious to have Plymouth in with the new county, and if there has been a small minority in the few councils they have all been defeated. I suggest, again as did my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, that once this has settled down any resentment will soon be forgotten. I do not think this will prove to have been a "shot-gun marriage" and certainly it will not lead to divorce. I believe that Plymouth will find that in the new local authority they can take an important and leading part in the advance of local government in that part of the world. It is not quite like Humberside. The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, sought to rely on my speech, but this new county that he seeks to form has a population, according to our calculation, of just under 300.000 people. I know that the figures of the Department of the Environment do not agree with the Plymouth figures. Plymouth seems to have slightly bigger figures for its own purposes all the way through; but let us take it as being about that. It makes it the second smallest county in the whole of England, being beaten for smallness only by Northumberland.
The other areas where we have dealt with the matter exceptionally and created 1571 metropolitan counties are obvious cases of very large conurbations and there are three other exceptions, Avon, Cleveland and Humberside. But the new South Devon county or Plymouth, as in effect I am afraid that it would be, is only half the size of Cleveland and a third of the size of Avon or Humberside. So that the marriage of town and country is something that one can lay claim to only in theory and not in fact at all. There is nothing like the scale that we have in those other three newly created counties. I think that the case stands or falls on whether this would be a viable and sensitive unit on its own.
I would say a word about how it might be sub-divided, because this is all so illustrative of the sort of difficulties. It is perfectly true, as the noble Lord said, that there have been occasions in the past when the Commission, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Silsoe, as he now is, and indeed the more recent one, suggested that Plymouth should be a separate unit. They were working under entirely different philosophies and principles from those in the Bill. Here to-day we have a complete set of opposition against the whole of this idea. We have Avon, Cleveland and Humberside. At least this new concept is something which is welcomed by the vast majority of local authorities in the area. I am afraid the Committee must know that not one of them, except Plymouth, wants South Devon. There is a total lack of support for this, whereas the other counties on which the noble Lord sought to rely are really very well backed as new concepts by their future component authorities.
The noble Lord mentioned the Manchester Study. I owe him an apology. I looked at the questionnaire again and it does say "county centres" so I withdraw what I said. But there was no mention in that survey of the question of a separate county to be hived off from Devon. What the university team was working out was a statistical study as to whether people's choice of administrative centre followed their patterns of work and shopping. The questionnaire was very carefully phrased for that purpose. The noble Lord will know very well that the way in which a questionnaire is phrased is vital to the reliability of the statistics it produces. There was 1572 no question of choosing whether to opt out of Devon. It was for that particular purpose that the study took place. Nevertheless, the noble Lord relied upon the view of those people in the outlying areas.
One has only to look at the matter to see the fairly cogent argument in support of my theory and claim that this is new Plymouth writ large. First look at the population. The population of Plymouth at the moment is 239,000. According to the calculations of the Department of the Environment they would add only 60,000 in the country areas. My noble friend Lord Hawke mentioned Dartmoor. Why do they want the parish of Lydford, the historic centre of Dartmoor to which, until the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter set up a Commission in about 1215, all the inhabitants of Dartmoor had to go for their church services, and where to this day the historic lych-way leads across the top of the moor to the parish church of Lydford'? Why does Plymouth say that the Western half of Dartmoor, the ancient parish of Lydford, belongs to Plymouth rather than to the rest of Dartmoor? I can see no possible argument for this. The only conceivable reason is that it happens to be in the rural district of Tavistock. But we are cutting free from these old boundaries. I am bound to say that I can see no affinity between Lydford and Plymouth. I take that only as one of the most obvious examples. I suppose it would be mischievous of me to mention reservoirs.
The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, put distance as his first point. I do not know when he was last driving along the A38, but I did so last Sunday and I noticed—indeed I have seen it many times before—the amount of roadworks which are going on. In a very few years the A38 will be dual carriageway the whole way from inside the present City boundary to the outskirts of Exeter. There are not many parts which have not been or are not being built, and the distance is 43 miles. I have just been looking at the A.A. book and I think that on the other side of the river it is 48 miles from Saltash to Truro. But if some noble Lords do not like Cornish examples in a Devon setting, let me say that it is 50 miles from Ilfracombe to Exeter, and the road is absolutely atrocious. There is no question of dual-carriageways there. Yet I have never known it impossible to get 1573 decent representatives on the Devon County Council to come from Ilfracombe or Barnstable. And very fine representatives they have been, as no doubt they will be from Plymouth, particularly if they drive down the dual carriageway, which I believe will be able to cope even with the summer holiday traffic!
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
Well, perhaps not at 100 miles an hour. It would do them very well to stick to the 70 miles an hour limit.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
The noble Viscount seeks not to miss anything.
There was mention of intermediate area status. The Committee will forgive me if I am wrong, but this is an important point for that part of Devon. Let it be known that in the days before Plymouth took over Plympton St. Mary and Plymstock, Devon County Council were responsible for that area as well as for areas like Leemill, which they joined with Plymouth in saying that they should he intermediate areas. They fought very hard for this. The present Devon County Council are very well acquainted with the whole question of encouraging industry to come to the outlying parts of their county. They have not done at all badly at Barnstaple and they are familiar with these matters. But even if there were a lack of experience on that body, what would there be to stop the new Plymouth District Council from using all its experience and public relations—there has been much success on this front—to encourage industrialists to go there? Why should there be a conflict on this front if they were part of the new county?
What I might say on the question of services is much the same as I have already said about Humberside. Why there need be any worry about this I do not know, because I am certain that the county council and district services in that part of Devon will be handled from district centres.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
It is all very well for the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, to shake his head in disagreement, but——
§ LORD JACQUES
The words I used were not mine. They came from the evidence given by the Devon County Council, who pointed out that members of that Council must frequently go to Exeter because of the all-important decisions that were taken at Exeter.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
That is now. What we are talking about under the Bill is a totally different concept of local government. We are not working on the basis of the old days when people had to go to the centre. There will be areas and these powers will be delegated so that matters of this kind can he decided locally, including the county services. Indeed, if Plymouth cannot do something about that in relation to its own area, then I do not have the faith in the strength of character of the folk of Plymouth that other people have.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
No, but if there is such a terrible difficulty in getting from Plymouth to Exeter, I cannot see why the Plymouth contingent on the Devon County Council should not argue for some of these matters to be dealt with in Plymouth.
§ LORD MAYBRAY-KING
Is the noble Viscount aware that one matter which expressly cannot be delegated by the new local authority under Clause 100 is education?
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
I think it is, and it is in accordance with the philosophy underlying the Bill. We finally come to the flaw in the argument when we look at what the city of Plymouth have to say about their districts. It is not a conclusive answer because this is not necessarily the way in which it would be done. We have a proposition, which the City Council now prefer, whereby they would have two districts. One would consist of the whole of the city of Plymouth, except for those areas which were added in 1968, and the other would consist of those added areas and the whole of the fringe. This is what they have to say about the two added areas, being Plympton and Plyrnstock:The two centres of Plympton and Plymstock incorporated in the city in 1967 have naturally the strongest links with the city. Nevertheless they have retained their previous character and would I suggest associate well with the other communities within the proposed district in the context of a new South Devon County.Leading up to the annexation of those two areas by the City Council was an argument to which the Government and this House acceded; that those areas were inextricably joined to and connected with the city of Plymouth—they should be part of it and they were so closely connected that they should fall within its very boundaries. And the county borough boundary was indeed extended so as to comprehend them. Now the city say that in order to produce a second city of a reasonable size we shall have to hive them off again and put them in with Kingsbridge, Salcombe, Tavistock and the areas to the North East. That is the only sensible way they can do it on the district basis, apart from splitting up Plymouth into four districts, which they do not themselves like and which would not follow any recognised divisions which have existed at any time within the city. 1576 I am sorry to suggest that this is a little contrived, but I am afraid it is. I am afraid it is a reincarnation of Plymouth, writ large, spreading up further than any proper boundary should go but not far enough to make anything like the sort of county to which we should give credence under this Bill.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ LORD JACQUES
The evidence in regard to travelling and the difficulties of administering the county because of its size and geography was not mine; that was the evidence given by the county council to the Royal Commission. It was they who said that the waste of time in travelling was a great addition to the cost of administration. It was the county council itself which said that it resulted in a great deal of inconvenience to county councilors, and it cannot be denied that this Amendment would considerably reduce the travelling and inconvenience.
We are told that we must harmonise town and country. The present basis is not harmonising it, and what the Government are doing is just as unlikely to harmonise it. Another difficulty put forward by the Devon County Council was that there was a lack of community interest between the seaside towns and the agricultural hinterland. I believe the only way of harmonising town and country is to associate the country around the town with the town. The people who live around the town use that town for shopping, for social activties and often for employment, and the only way you will be able to harmonise is to associate them with that town. You will never associate them with another town which is miles away.
The population of the new county, as I understand it—and it has never been contradicted before; it was not contradicted as I understand it in the other place when this was discussed—is 315,000. We were told that in the other cases such as Avon and Humberside the local authorities were in agreement, but here they were not in agreement except for Plymouth. But, this morning we were told that both Bristol and Somerset have withdrawn from the working parties and are not co-operating in the setting up of the new county of Avon. There is a good deal of contradiction going on. Then we were told that there could be 1577 delegation, that there could be area offices and area committees.
§ LORD JACQUES
The facts are that in regard to the service which costs the most money—education—divisional executives are abolished. There is no delegation. There are not even agency arrangements. So under what part of this Bill can there be done what the noble Viscount has said can be done? So far as I can see, none of what he said in that respect can be done.
Turning to the areas
I lived in Plymouth and I would say that there are three natural areas for local councils—one is Devonport, another is Plymouth and a third is the area outside Plymouth. I can say that the Plymouth City Council has resolved that they would accept any reasonable arrangement for the allocation of the county into districts for the purposes of local government. So that I do not think there would be any great practical difficulty in arranging the areas. I believe there is very considerab!e merit in this. Certainly it is a problem about which, if you leave it, there will continue to be unrest, and ultimately either this Government or some other Government will have to do something about it.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ LORD ABERDARE
Perhaps it would be convenient now to resume the House and adjourn the proceedings in Committee until September. I beg to move that the house do now resume.
§ Moved, That the House do now resume.—(Lord Aberdare.)
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD CHAMPION)
I think this is the time when we should do that. I rather feel that, having been here so long since the last Recess—so many hours and so on—I ought to wish all Members a Happy Christmas. But I am sure that after one month we shall come back thoroughly reinvigorated, and I hope that by that time, when we get over all these boundary questions, my neutrality will cease and I shall do something more than just sit here.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.