HL Deb 16 October 1972 vol 335 cc1571-661

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Report be now received.

Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Aberdare.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 1 [New local government areas in England]:

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 1: Page 2, line 8, after ("Act") insert ("and to any provision corresponding to that Part made by an order under section 250 below").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 1. Where a parish is divided in the Bill (that is, between two counties or metropolitan districts) provision is made in Part [V of Schedule 1 for the future parish government of the divided area. But some parishes will probably also be divided in the order establishing the non-metropolitan districts. Consequential orders under Clause 250 will be needed to do for those parishes what Part IV of Schedule 1 does for parishes divided in the Bill itself. This Amendment allows this to be done. A further Amendment is purely consequential.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Comities and Metropolitan Districts in England]:

LORD JACQUES moved Amendment No. 2: Page 218, line 31, after second (" the") insert (" Belmont ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 2. When speaking to an Amendment on the Committee stage, I said that I had great sympathy with those responsible for the boundaries. I still have that sympathy, for it is an area where there can be wide differences of opinion and also an area where there can be mistakes. I hope that when the case for the Amendment is as overwhelming as the one which I am now going to put, the boundary will be corrected forthwith and not at some time in the future. The area of the Turton Urban District Council in Lancashire is being divided between the County District of Blackburn to the North and the Metropolitan District of Bolton to the South. One of the wards in this urban district council is the Belmont ward, which has a population of 500, 90 per cent. of whom live in the village of Belmont, and which is 6 miles from Bolton. Let us first look at the geography. In the area which divides Bolton to the South and Blackburn, Accrington and Preston to the North, there is a line of hills. Naturally, the villages to the South look to the urban areas of the South for shopping, for entertainment and for employment. Similarly, the inhabitants of the villages to the North of the hills look towards Blackburn, Accrington and Preston. The village of Belmont, which is on the southern side and only six miles from Bolton, has, for some strange reason which I have been quite unable to discover, been put into the County District of Blackburn.

Let us look at public transport. There is a SELNEC bus service between Belmont and Bolton. It is a six-mile journey and the service is fairly frequent. But to get to Blackburn an inhabitant of Belmont would have to go into Bolton, which is six miles, and then go 13 miles from Bolton to Blackburn; he would have to take three buses to get to Blackburn town hall and three buses back. I submit that that is absurd. On the matter of employment, those who live in Belmont either work there or in Bolton or in Manchester. No one who lives in Belmont works in Blackburn; that is over the hill. Similarly with shopping. The people of Belmont go to Bolton to do their shopping and for their evening entertainment. When I lived in that part of the country Belmont had a jolly good cricket team, but it was in the Bolton district league and had nothing to do with Blackburn, which was a foreign place over the hill. Even though for the time being Bolton Wanderers are in the Third Division, that is the team which is sun ported by the people of Belmont because Bolton is easy of access. The people of Bolton do not support Blackburn Rovers because Blackburn is over the hill and far away.

Let us look at the existing arrangements. Although Belmont is in the county, the welfare services of the county are so inconvenient for the villagers that, by the courtesy and generosity of the Bolton County Borough, they get their welfare services from the county borough and not from the county of Lancashire. They go there for the maternity clinic and the child welfare services. They are hoping that they will be able to continue to do so by their village becoming part of the District of Bolton. Let us look also at the public utilities. Water is supplied to the village by the Bolton Corporation; and the corporation is responsible for sewage disposal in Belmont. The fire and ambulance services are operated from Bolton and the local hospital is in Bolton. But perhaps the worst aspect of all is that the children of Belmont go to a secondary school at Bromley Cross. That school will become part of the District of Bolton when this Bill becomes law. Surely the children should go with the school; otherwise they will have to go to Damen, to a secondary school over on the North side of the hill. My Lords, I submit that here you have an overwhelming case for putting this village into Bolton rather than into Blackburn.

The newspaper which circulates in Belmont is the Bolton Evening News and not the Blackburn Telegraph. So that whether the village is part of the District of Blackburn or the District of Bolton it is the reports of the meetings of the Bolton local authority which the people of Belmont will read in their newspaper. The biggest landowner in and around the village of Belmont is the Bolton Corporation which, for over a century, has bought land for its water undertaking. So far as public opinion is concerned, the case which I have presented has been prepared by two ward councillors, one Conservative and the other Labour, so there is no question of politics here. They called a meeting of the inhabitants of Belmont and 50 attended. Thirty-six were in favour of going into Bolton and nine were in favour of Blackburn. The Turton Urban District Council supports the Amendment and I assume that it has advised the Minister accordingly. Members of Parliament on both sides of the House who either represent constituencies in and around Bolton and Blackburn, or who live in that part of the country, have contacted me during the last few days and offered to support the Amendment. I submit that there is an overwhelming case, and because it is overwhelming I hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, will know that what he is now proposing was the Government's intention when the first proposals for this area were published at the time of our White Paper. But following a number of representations made by the Council and by others in the area my honourable friend Mr. Michael Heseltine, the Parliamentary Secretary in my Department at the time, paid a visit to the area in July, 1971, to look at the situation and to hear local representations on the spot. Although it is true, as one would expect in the case of a small place of the size the noble Lord has described, close to a big city like Greater Manchester or Bolton, that Bolton has ties with the area, the fact remains that Belmont does not in any sense function as a part of the conurbation; it is in rural country and is quite detached. For those reasons, and on account of the representations received by my honourable friend, the decision was taken to place Belmont in the County of Lancashire and the rest of the Turton Urban District Council in the Metropolitan County of Greater Manchester. Since then the Department has received no letters or representations specifically about its proposal for this ward to be included in the new County of Lancashire.

The noble Lord has told us that he has had representations and that there have been meetings held to discuss this subject. But I have had no advice from the Turton Urban District Council. What I have had since the noble Lord's Amendment was tabled is a letter from Belmont indicating that a petition was drawn up late last week, as a result of which already 204 householders out of 378 electors have indicated their wish to remain in Lancashire. So, my Lords, we are left with a situation where until recently there have been no representations received, following a decision taken in 1971, after a visit by my honourable friend specifically to look into the case on the ground. And now, as soon as an Amendment is tabled overturning the Government's decision which has stood for many months, we have all the indications that a substantial number of people wish to remain where they will be; namely, in the County of Lancashire. For those reasons I must advise the House to reject the Amendment; but I hope, with that explanation, that the noble Lord will not feel inclined to press it.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Jacques will have the right, by leave of the House, to reply to me. I should like to ask this question. The noble Lord has in the course of his strong arguments referred more than once to the alternative of Bolton or Blackburn. I am concerned about the nearness of Belmont to Preston. Under the Bill Preston and Blackburn are both to be in the county of Lancashire. It seems to me that there is as close an affinity—I put it no higher than that—between Belmont and Preston as there is between Belmont and Bolton, and since Preston is being contained within the county of Lancashire, it seems to me that the people of Belmont would be better off in Lancashire with Preston rather than in Greater Manchester with Bolton. Perhaps the noble Lord could reply to that point.


My Lords, I am surprised that the Minister said he has no knowledge of some of these things. When I put down the Amendment I sent him in full a copy of the case that I was going to present; and I also attached newspaper cuttings, one of which reported the public meeting and gave the facts that I have given. So the noble Lord certainly had notice of that.


My Lords, I agree that that is so.


As I understand the position, my Lords, there was an Amendment moved in the other place which included the placing of Belmont and several other wards of Turton in the metropolitan district of Bolton. In the discussions which followed, while the Government opposed the whole Amendment, they had a good deal of sympathy for Belmont, which had a far better case than elsewhere. It is for that reason that the Amendment which is before your Lordships' House is a narrow Amendment, covering Belmont only. I can assure the noble Lord that the Turton U.D.C. have agreed to support this Amendment. I have been informed of this in writing by one of the councillors representing Belmont, and who moved it in the council meeting. There is no doubt that this has been done.

I feel that the Minister has simply gone over the history here and has not dealt with the overwhelming case which I presented. He made no comment, for example, on the geography; on the public transport that is available; on employment, shopping and entertainment. He has ignored the whole of the criteria that really matters as to where this ward ought to be. So far as my noble friend Lord Royle is concerned, there is no such association with Preston as there is with Bolton. Preston is miles away over the hills. I may say that there is more than one village in Lancashire called Belmont, and I believe that my noble friend has in mind some other village. This village is South of the hills, and Preston is to the North. It is only six miles from Bolton and has always been regarded as part of the greater conurbation of Bolton. As I said, the people of Belmont work in Belmont, Bolton or Manchester. None of them go North to Blackburn or Preston as they are completely cut off geographically from those two towns. I do not think that this is an Amendment which I can press to a Division, but I must say I am disappointed that it has not received the consideration that I felt it ought to have received.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.24 p.m.

LORD TANLAW moved Amendment No. 2A: Page 219, line 34, after ("Bramhall") insert ("except the parish of High Lane' ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with your Lordships' leave, I should like to take Amendment No. 2B with Amendment No. 2A. I regret that my noble friend Lady Seear is unable to be here at present: she has been unavoidably detained and is now on her way to the House. The district of High Lane considers itself geographically and administratively as part of Disley in Cheshire, having nothing in common with Greater Manchester. This is emphasised both by the common road system and the common Green Belt between the two districts. It would appear as if the Department of the Environment also believed that High Lane was part of Disley, as they are said to have approached the Marple local authority to suggest that High Lane should remain in Cheshire. High Lane were not told by the Marple local authority that this approach had taken place. Furthermore, in a recent poll, no less than 96 per cent. of the electors of High Lane voted to be excluded from the metropolitan district and to stay in Cheshire.

Since this matter was debated in the other place changes in the transport system have further emphasised the separation of High Lane from Manchester by linking it more closely with Disley. The Manchester to Buxton railway line has been terminated three miles West of High Lane, and the National Bus Company has put the main High Lane bus service into the hands of the Midland group and not the North-West. I understand that local feelings are strong on this issue, and I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity, even at this late stage in the Bill, to put the record straight, with the knowledge that by doing so he will not only satisfy the residents of High Lane, but also improve the administration of this Bill. I beg to move.


My Lords, perhaps it would help if in answering the noble Lord I started by making the point that there is no such thing as a parish of High Lane; so the Amendment is defective to that degree. But the point is that High Lane is part of the South Ward of Marple Urban District. More on a matter of substance, the fact is (and I shall be saying this on subsequent Amendments) that there is no doubt in our minds that if your Lordships look at all the statistics—I will not rehearse all of them—they bear out that Marple and High Lane both function as part of the conurbation of Greater Manchester and will function as part of the district centred on Stockport.

But in addition to my own observations on that particular fact, I call in aid the guide of the urban district council, which describes their own place in these words: In the past an agricultural community, then a cotton manufacturing centre, Marple is now predominantly a place of residence for those who work in Stockport or Manchester. With that we entirely agree, and all the statistics bear it out. They go on to say: It still has some industry, engineering, publishing and plastics, but its residential role is now predominant. The same guide, continuing to describe High Lane, says : It is a rapidly growing residential district along the main Stockport to Buxton road.

That is the position. I could cite, as noble Lords have heard me citing on many other occasions, the ties of places such as this with the metropolitan county; but in view of that evidence from the town itself, I do not think there is any need for me to elaborate any further. The fact of the matter is that both Marple and High Lane, which is one of its wards, are an integral working part of the main conurbation, and the urban district council seem to recognise that.


Before the Minister sits down, may I point out that he did not mention anything about the result of the local poll, with 96 per cent. of the electors feeling that they wished High Lane to remain in Cheshire. Has he any comment on this?


Certainly, my Lords. Wherever it has been possible in connection with this Bill we have acceded to the wishes of local people, particularly when expressed through their elected representatives. But there are other considerations as well, and where to draw the line between one metropolitan county and the surrounding counties is an important matter which has to be considered in a wider context than what the local people may themselves feel. As the noble Lord knows, what the local people felt about the matter was the very point which I had in mind in answering the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, just now. It is certainly something which weighs with us a great deal, but it does not always prove to be decisive.


My Lords, I apologise for speaking again so quickly on this Bill, but this is an area that I know very well, and I hope very much that this Amendment will be resisted. High Lane is, in effect, one road that goes between Stockport and Buxton; and Marple is on the East and Bramhall on the West. It seems to me logical that because High Lane is the division of those two it should remain in the Manchester section rather than go into the Cheshire one. If this Amendment were carried, I should regard it as a completely illogical decision. It is ridiculous to me that High Lane—one street dividing Marple from Bramhall—should be put into Cheshire and the other two larger districts should go into the Manchester metropolitan area. I cannot see the purpose of this Amendment at all. I like to try to do something about people's desires but it seems to me that the people of High Lane, in this particular instance, are not being logical about the situation and that it would be very much better fur their wellbeing if they went to the metropolitan area of Manchester.


My Lords, may I just say that this is one of the occasions where the Government, whether consciously or unconsciously, are going the same way as the Royal Commission went after three years' study, and the way in which they advised everybody to go. I very much hope that this Amendment will not be pressed. I will not do more than entirely endorse what the Government spokesman has said. I feel very strongly about this. I should like, since I am on my feet, to add that this brilliantly illustrates the very great caution with which the House ought to regard polls. On the previous Amendment, I was going to say a word on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, because there again Belmont was in fact part of what the Royal Commission would have included in the Bowdon metropolitan district; but I was too late. In any case, the Government were not there going the whole way with the Royal Commission, and it would have delayed the House. But in this case all the evidence of those who have looked at the matter in the round and not simply from a strictly parochial point of view suggests that we should be very cautious. Of course we must take account of what local people say, whether through their local representatives or through any referendum, but in the last analysis, as a part of Parliament, we have to take a broader and a longer view.


My Lords, in view of what has been said, and in view of the position I am having to stand in, I hope that I may be forgiven for the fact that my geography may have gone a little awry. In view of what has been said from this side, and in view of the noble Minister's reply, I feel that I have no option but to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.35 p.m.

LORD PEDDIE moved Amendment No. 3: Page 219, line 35, leave out ("and Wilmslow")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Amendment standing in my name. This was discussed at the Committee stage and I took the opportunity then of presenting what I considered to be strong evidence in support of the attitude of the Wilmslow Council and Wilmslow people; namely, that they should remain in the County of Cheshire. I did not at that stage press the Amendment to a Division because I realised that it had been put down only the day before and the House had had little opportunity to study and assess the full merit of my case; and I also realised that there would be an opportunity to press it at a later stage. This I am now doing. In the interim it has been possible for many in this House to have the opportunity of reading detailed evidence in support of the Wilmslow point of view. In view of the fact that referenda have been mentioned already this afternoon—some for and some against—I will mention that a further referendum has been taken in Wilmslow since our last debate on this matter. It was overwhelmingly in favour of the Council's point of view that it should remain in Cheshire. I mention it only because this happened to be a census, a poll—call it what you like—that was certificated by attendance, one that did genuinely express the considered point of view of the people of that area.

The Minister has just stated that where possible the Government wish to accede to the wishes of local people. I would remind him of the statement that he made a few moments ago. I know that one should not base all one's attitude upon the result of a referendum, but I believe that the wishes and aspirations of the people in a particular area should be taken into account. I want to make it crystal clear that this reference to the referendum or the poll is the least of the arguments that I would seek to advance in support of the Wilmslow case. Every single organisation in Wilmslow and Alderley Edge, cultural, social, educational, political, has expressed its view in the strongest possible terms, both to Government and to their own local leaders and in letters to myself—masses of them, regardless of Party; and all have come down strongly and convincingly against the proposition put forward by the Government in this matter. I know of course that a Bill of this kind involves a multitude of boundary changes, and it would be a miracle if every decision was fair and just. There are bound to be some errors that demand revision, but I would say that there is no area and no group affected by this Bill that has a stronger case than has Wilmslow.

The arguments of the people of Wilmslow meet every single tenet or principle that is in the White Paper and upon which the boundary decisions are sought to be made. Above all—and this reinforces all the points I shall try to put forward, feeling as strongly about them as I do—I want to remind your Lordships that to reverse the decision to link Wilmslow with Stockport and Manchester presents no administrative difficulty whatsoever. If this House decided to reverse the decision, it would create no administrative problem. The noble Lord opposite said at the Committee stage that the inclusion or exclusion of Wilmslow from Stockport or Greater Manchester would not affect its viability. That is a point worth keeping in mind.

To add strength to our claim for revision of these proposals, I want to lay greater emphasis than I did on a previous occasion on the incredible error of judgment in dividing a community so closely linked as Alderley Edge and Wilmslow. I would go so far as to say categorically that the noble Lord opposite cannot produce one single argument to justify the separation of that community. Even where I have read over past years that people have urged that the Wilmslow residential area should go within the confines of Manchester, I have never seen any argument put forward urging that Wilmslow and not Alderley Edge should be brought into the Greater Manchester conurbation. There has been no case for it. On examination the argument is farcical. Now, under these proposals, one finds a situation, where half of one street will be in one area and the other in another area. The two areas are com- pletely interwoven. I might point out that social, cultural and other links, geographical and topographical, all bring the community together. There are no links at all with Manchester. There are many anomalies and I am quite sure that the Ministry itself recognises that a mistake has been made here.

I should like to move on a little further, to deal with, and to strengthen arguments that have been put forward in support of the Wilmslow case. I have already stated that the arguments of the Wilmslow people meet all the criteria laid down in the White Paper. But let us examine the arguments that are advanced by the Government and other people urging that Wilmslow should be linked with the Greater Manchester conurbation. It is said that Manchester has a great problem of dereliction and renewal, a problem born out of the Industrial Revolution. The argument is that Wilmslow, as a residential area, should make some contribution towards carrying that burden. That is not a valid argument, and it is not a sound reason for determining the shape of local government. But if one had some sympathy with it, I would use that same argument and say that one should accept the proposals of the Wilmslow people and be linked with Macclesfield which equally has suffered the effects of the Industrial Revolution, and which equally has a serious problem of reconstruction, rehabilitation and repair, but has less strength to deal with that situation than has, say, Greater Manchester.

The suggestion here is that there should be links with Stockport. What is the true situation? In the Macclesfield area, to which Wilmslow should be linked, there is a total population of 99,000. In the Stockport area, in which this Bill seeks to place Wilmslow, the population is over 300,000. That in itself gives a clear indication that if one accepts the principle of assistance Macclesfield is the industrial town in Cheshire which would be the centre; and Wilmslow, if it remained in Cheshire, is also entitled to some consideration.

The second argument, which the noble Lord opposite used on a previous occasion, is that Wilmslow is essentially a commuter suburb of Manchester. A great deal of emphasis has been laid upon the employment link. Some figures which go back more than 20 years have been used to prove this point of the employment link. The noble Lord opposite accepts that the 1966 Census showed that 28 per cent. of the working population living in Wilmslow worked in Manchester. Out of 14,000 working population less than 4,000 worked in Manchester and very few in Stockport, where this Bill seeks to place Wilmslow. I contend that we must look ahead. The Cheshire County Council's projection to 1985 anticipates a provision of 6,000 new offices and service occupations, which indicates that Wilmslow could be a net importer of labour in due time. So I repeat the point—and I am not covering the ground that I covered on a previous occasion, but merely emphasising it—that in Alderley Edge and Wilmslow we have intimate cultural, economic and social ties, and those are to be broken.

There is also the cost. Wilmslow in past years has been developed as the administrative centre for North-East Cheshire. The area has been built up at a cost of millions of pounds, and there are in prospect buildings costing a further half-a-million pounds covering health, welfare, fire and ambulance services, and so on. If we proceed with this plan to link Wilmslow with Stockport it will mean a duplication of office facilities and foolish waste. Therefore, on the grounds of economics and finance alone there is justification for the points that I have been putting forward. On the grounds of geography, topography, social, cultural and historic considerations, Wilmslow should remain in Cheshire.

In the proposed new regional water authority Wilmslow is included in the Bollin watershed and within the Macclesfield group. That is the proposition of the regional water authority. If my Amendment were accepted and Wilmslow were linked with Macclesfield rather than Stockport, this would make for greater administrative economy and a better balance of the size of local authorities. My final point is that a map of the area would show how farcical and ridiculous the proposition really is to pull Wilmslow out of Cheshire and base it in association with Stockport with which it has little or no connection. I beg to move.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Peddie. I know this area extremely well. I have known Wilmslow and Alderley Edge for many years. For many years I visited that area in connection with my work, visiting offices and laboratories in Wilmslow and Alderley Edge. I was always confused as to which was Wilmslow and which was Alderley Edge; they all seemed part of the same place. Later I found myself having an office in Wilmslow. Until two years ago I was based there for four or five years. During that time I stayed in Alderley Edge and walked about half a mile each day to my office in Wilmslow, an office which had an Alderley Edge telephone number. The two are all one. I now have no interest to declare in the area at all. Anybody coming afresh with an open mind to Wilmslow and Alderley Edge could not fail to see the absurdity of dividing one from the other.

I do not propose to repeat the argument so ably made by the noble Lord, Lord Peddie. There are just one or two other points that I should like to emphasise. If your Lordships look at the map to which the noble Lord drew attention, you will find that Wilmslow is a thumb, as it were, pointing out into the County of Cheshire; and if you take off that thumb and join it with Alderley Edge and leave it in Cheshire you are making Cheshire, and indeed Greater Manchester, a much more orderly looking place on the map. In fact, in many ways the map of Wilmslow is reminiscent of the map of Lymington, showing Lymington pointing out, as it did originally under this Bill, into the County of Hampshire.

As I say, I can see little reason for including Wilmslow with Manchester; even less reason for dividing Wilmslow from Alderley Edge. Somebody, clearly, must make the decision at which stage and at which point Greater Manchester finishes and at which point Cheshire begins. Why that particular point was made short of Wilmslow, I do not know, because if the argument is that a lot of people—I think 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. of the people—in Wilmslow work in Manchester, then the same applies to Alderley Edge. And if it is said, "Then Alderley Edge should be in Manchester, too ", what about many other towns in the South of England which are on the borders of the Greater London Area but not in the Greater London Area? The fact that people live outside a metro-politan area, or try to live in the country, should not mean that the places where they live are automatically included in a place such as Manchester or the Greater London Area. Therefore, I strongly support the noble Lord's Amendment to leave Wilmslow in Cheshire allied with Alderley Edge within the district of Macclesfield.

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, I wonder whether I may say just a word, again speaking not as one who claims any special knowledge, and certainly no interest, except the interest we all have in every part of England in that area. The House ought really to go back to the basis of the Bill, which is the concept of the metropolitan area in certain parts of the country. It is a principle which of course we have in Greater London and which the Bill (and I think no one is disputing this) seeks to extend to six other parts of England. That means (and I do not think any of us could dispute this) that Greater Manchester is a metropolitan area. Therefore, the question arises: why do we have a new concept of a metropolitan area with a metropolitan authority for the whole, and metropolitan districts for parts, of that area in Greater Manchester'? And, in particular, where do we draw the line?

I am not going over the line of controversy, which we have traversed in Second Reading and before, as between the Royal Commission view and the Government view. The House is probably bored with being reminded that the Government take, frankly, a different view—a perfectly reasonable but fundamentally different view—from the Royal Commission about how wide the Metropolitan Areas ought to be thrown. But everybody agrees that, if we have Metropolitan Areas, Greater Manchester is one of them and the boundary must be drawn somewhere. Is it seriously suggested that the existing boundary of Manchester should itself be one of the parts of the boundary of Greater Manchester? That would be the result if Wilmslow were excluded and left in Cheshire.

What has been said by the last speaker, who spoke so eloquently about the close connection between Alderley Edge and Wilmslow, is of course perfectly true. That is why the Royal Commission were perfectly clear that both Alderley Edge and Wilmslow, plus Macclesfield and the Macclesfield Rural District, or most of it, must be included in the Greater Manchester Area. That the Government have set their face against, because it would be inconsistent with the principle upon which they have been drawing Metropolitan Areas, and no one in their senses would ask them to change their mind at this stage. But I suggest that it would be ludicrous to exclude Wilmslow and continue with the concept of Greater Manchester. It has already been accepted by the last speaker that 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. of the people who live in Wilmslow work in Greater Manchester; and it is not a question of whether Wilmslow and Stockport are tied closely together; it is whether Wilmslow is tied in with Greater Manchester and, if with Greater Manchester, then should it be a part of the Stockport Metropolitan District? The real issue is: Should it be a part of Greater Manchester? Looking at it so far as one can objectively, and as we did in the Royal Commission, there really cannot be any doubt that Wilmslow must be in Greater Manchester. Therefore, I very much hope that, in spite of these arguments—which are very convincing if looked at from only the narrower point of view of how Wilmslow feels towards Macclesfield, which is now of course excluded from the Greater Manchester Area—noble Lords will not press this Amendment or, if they do, that we shall successfully resist it.


My Lords, I want to say only a word or two in support of the noble Lord, Lord Peddie. What really makes me want to say a word is the very remarkable statement we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord RedcliffeMaud. This is so astounding that I think my hearing must be awry, and perhaps be would check whether it is so or not. He has just been speaking as though if we do not include Wilmslow—and he would also like to include the whole of Macclesfield; indeed, he was going to take most of Cheshire if he had his way—we are virtually not having any extension; there is going to be no point in this Greater Manchester metropolitan area. All I ask your Lordships to do is to look at Schedule 1 on pages 218 and 219. Look at what will be added to Manchester to create this area. It is astounding to suggest there would be no point in having a metropolitan area unless these districts were added to it. I cannot understand it. If your Lordships look at the Schedule you will see named the County Borough of Wigan, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Salford, Oldham, Chester, the whole of the County Borough of Stockport, Macclesfield. This is an enormous extension. The noble Lord, Lord Peddie, is talking about two particular small areas within the whole of this complex, and is saying that they do not naturally belong to Manchester. I am saying that Lord Peddie is absolutely right and that in my view the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, is absolutely wrong.


My Lords, I would comment on one point made by my noble friend Lord Redcliffe-Maud. He quoted the fact that 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. of those who live in Wilmslow work in Manchester. I would say that a considerably higher proportion, nearly 80 per cent., of those who live, say, in Guildford or around it work in London, but that is no earthly reason for including Guildford in Greater London. Where one works has no relation whatsoever to where one lives. To say otherwise is one of the most fallacious arguments I have heard.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, first of all I would once again confirm that we are indeed, and have been throughout the preparation of this Bill and its passage through Parliament, willing to listen to what the local people have to say and anxious to accede wherever we can to those wishes. We have known for a long time what the wishes of Wilmslow were and we wish we could accede to them. My right honourable friend Mr. Graham Page received a further deputation from Wilmslow only last week and listened once more to their views. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, has now twice reminded us, we in the national Parliament sometimes need to take a wider view, and I submit that this is one such occasion. Again as the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, has said, the heaviest criticism that the Government have had on the question of drawing the boun daries round the metropolitan counties in the proposals that we have published and are carrying through Parliament is that we have drawn these boundaries too tight, and most detached observers and critics would say in respect of this particular proposal that if there had been a mistake it was to leave out Alderley Edge rather than to take in Wilmslow. Wilmslow, like Marple, like High Lane, like Poynton, by all objective criteria—geographic, economic, transport, social : whether one looks at migration, housing, trading, shopping, buses, trains, water, employment or administration—is an effective part of the great conurbation of Greater Manchester and the metropolitan district of Stockport.

I will not rehearse all the statistics over again because I went through them in some detail on a previous occasion, but, on the specific point on which the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, rested his case, the fact of the matter is that as many Wilmslow people work in Greater Manchester as work in Wilmslow, and far more of them work there than anywhere else in the county of Cheshire. So for those reasons, which I am afraid fly right in the face of the wishes of the local people in Wilmslow. I must, for the sake of far wider considerations, advise the House to reject this Amendment if the noble Lord presses it. But because of these overwhelming arguments of a broader character than the ones which he raised, I hope he will not feel that he needs to press it.


My Lords, I felt that I ought to listen to what the noble Lord the Minister said before deciding to go into the Division Lobby with my noble friend Lord Peddie, whose argument on this Amendment seems to me to be completely convincing. I regret to say that I am completely unconvinced by the argument of the Minister, which simply is that most of the people who live in Wilmslow—and it is obviously equally true of Alderley Edge—go to Manchester to earn their daily bread. But he is not connecting them with Manchester; he is connecting them with Stockport, which is very difficult to get to from Wilmslow. I do not think that in the last 30 years or so there has been one year in which I have not spent two or three periods in Alderley Edge. I know the district very well indeed.

I usually listen to what the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, says with agreement and practically always with respect, but to-day neither with agreement nor with respect. I thought his argument was completely demolished from the Cross Benches. It is idiotic to tell me that part of Alderley Edge, which is 15 miles from the centre of Manchester, is required to go into Manchester in order to make a viable metropolitan area. It is nonsense on the face of it. It is just as idiotic as the dividing of Alderley Edge from Wilmslow, which over the last fifty years or more have grown together and become one community. Now an endeavour is being made to divide them in half and transfer one half to Manchester, to which they do not want to go and which can get on perfectly well without them. It is worse than farcical : it is just idiotic. It is asking for trouble and it will get trouble if the Government continue with this stupid proposal.


My Lords, I have no intention of endeavouring to score any debating points—I think the whole matter is too serious for that—but I did expect that there would be at least an attempt to present something of a reply to the statements that I made. I do not want to be too harsh because there are no political elements at all in this issue. People of all Parties in that area, whether Labour, Conservative or Liberal, share this point of view. But I am frankly amazed at the almost pathetic attempt to rebut the point of view that I have expressed. The noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, said that one must draw the line somewhere. We have Greater Manchester with a population of 21 million and it is said that the whole thing will tumble down if the 30,000 from Wilmslow do not come in. What a crazy, crackpot argument! It was answered by the Minister himself on the last occasion when we had a debate and he said categorically that the decision for Wilmslow to remain in Cheshire or go into Greater Manchester would not affect the viability of either at all. So the noble Lord received his answer from the Minister, but it was incredible how the Minister was clutching at that argument like a man clutching at straws, although he rejected the idea the last time that this matter was debated.

The noble Lord, Lord Somers, was right when he made reference to the working population. I live in Epsom and I think a greater proportion of the population work in London than there are people living in Wilmslow who work in Manchester. But, as has been said, it is not a question of Manchester; we are talking about Stockport. Why keep trotting out the arguments about the percentages for Manchester? Let me reiterate the point that I made: it is demonstrated and accepted by the Government that all the trends are for increasing numbers of people to find their employment in Wilmslow; and I am sorry to say that the statement made by the Minister is not strictly correct because there are more people from Wilmslow who find employment in Wilmslow than who find employment in Manchester.

I need say no more. I do not want to press this matter too hard. In the reply that has been given reference has been made to the fact that Mr. Graham Page saw representatives. He did, and those representatives came away with the impression that the Government representative had a strong appreciation of their point of view and felt that the measure of expression in this House might have some influence upon the attitude of the Government in this matter. I am proud to be a Member of your Lordships' House, and one of the things that I have always felt strongly about the House of Lords is the ability to consider a matter impartially, regardless of political consideration. Here there have been presented strong, powerful arguments that happen to coincide with the wishes of the community, and I would ask the noble Lord to give support to the point of view of the Wilmslow people as expressed in this Amendment. Therefore I press the Amendment.


My Lords, I am getting bewildered. Can somebody on the Government Benches clear up the point as to whether we are talking about association with Stockport or with Greater Manchester, or with both?


My Lords, the association is with both; there is the Metropolitan County of Manchester, which Wilmslow is joining, and the Metropolitan District of Stockport, which it is also joining.

5.10 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.


My Lords, I now call a Manuscript Amendment, and it will be No. 3A. I have to draw the attention of the mover to the rule which provides that the mover of a Manuscript Amendment shall read out the text of the Amendment when moving it.

Their Lordships divided : Contents, 85; Not-Contents, 61.

Addison, V. Garnsworthy, L. Rankeillour, L.
Airedale, L. Greenway, L. Rockley, L.
Archibald, L. Hanworth, V. Royle, L. [Teller.]
Arwyn, L. Harding of Petherton, L. Rusholme, L.
Bacon, B. Henderson, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Balogh, L. Henley, L. Sainsbury, L.
Barrington, V. Hoy, L. St. Davids, V.
Bathurst, E. Hylton, L. St. Just, L.
Beswick, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Savile, L.
Bledisloe, V. Jacques, L. Seear, B.
Blyton, L. Kinloss, Ly. Sempill, Ly.
Buckinghamshire, E. Latymer, L. Serota, B.
Carnock, L. Leatherland, L. Simon, V.
Chorley, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Sinclair of Cleeve, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Loudoun, C. Snow, L.
Clwyd, L. Lytton, E. Somers, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. McLeavy, L. Southwark, Bp.
Courtown, E. MacLeod of Fuinary, L. Strabolgi, L.
Craigmyle, L. Maelor, L. Strang, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Maybray-King, L. Strathcarron, L.
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Moyle, L. Summerskill, B.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Moyne, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Evans of Hungershall, L. Nunburnholme, L. Vernon, L.
Falmouth, V. Oakshott, L. White, B.
Fortescue, E. O'Hagan, L. Williamson, L.
Gage, V. Oxford and Asquith, E. Woolley, L.
Gainford, L. Peddie, L. [Teller.] Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.
Gaitskell, B. Phillips, B.
Gardiner, L. Platt, L.
Aberdare, L. Derwent, L. Mersey, V.
Ailwyn, L. Digby, L. Milverton, L.
Amory, V. Drumalbyn, L. Monck, V.
Ardwick, L. Dudley, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Ashbourne, L. Ebbisham, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Balfour, E. Eccles, V. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Belstead, L. Ferrers, E. Northchurch, B.
Berkeley, B. Gainsborough, E. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Blake, L. Grenfell, L. Redcliffe-Maud, L.
Bridgeman, V. Grimston of Westbury, L. Reigate, L.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Ridley, V.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, B. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Caccia, L. Hale, L. Sandford, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Hood, V. Trefgarne, L.
Cowley, E. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Tweedsmuir, L.
Craigavon, L. Lauderdale, E. Vivian, L.
Cranbrook, E. Limerick, E. Waldegrave, E.
Daventry, V. Long, V. Windlesham, L.
Davidson, V. Lothian, M. Wolverton, L.
de Clifford, L. Mancroft, L. Young, B.
Denham, L. [Teller] Merrivale, L.

5.19 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move Manuscript Amendment No. 3A: Page 219, leave out lines 36 and 37. I apologise to the House because I know that Manuscript Amendments, while they are in order, are frowned upon; they are certainly not encouraged. I pray in excuse of moving a Manuscript Amendment the fact that I did not know, and was not in a position to know, until Saturday morning that it was wished that I should move this Amendment. I had no time to do other than get in touch with the House as quickly as I could and the result was that the Amendment had to be in this form. I hope therefore that your Lordships will on this occasion forgive me.

It would not have made much difference to the House had they had earlier notice of the Amendment because it is in exactly the same words as the Amendment moved at Committee stage by the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, which I, along with others, had the pleasure of supporting and which, on a vote, was fairly narrowly defeated, by 52 to 40. Since then it has been quite apparent to me that the opposition of the people of Poynton to being included in the Greater Manchester Metropolitan Area has grown and not diminished. This is perhaps surprising. One might have expected that they would be discouraged and that perhaps their opposition would have faded away. Today we find too often that the people whose yews are, shall we say, balanced and sensible are apathetically complacent and compliant and that the people who are extremely aggressive succeed in their non-conformity by their very aggressiveness.

I noticed that the Member for Stockport, North, Mr. Idris Owen (who is the only person I have seen publicly speaking for this amalgamation with Stockport within the greater metropolitan area of Manchester, and whose presentation of the case in July in the Committee stage in the other place I know is very much resented by the people of Poynton), said that the people of Poynton are now getting less interested than they were and that the emotion is disappearing; that they are displaying hardly any interest in the matter, and that there would be great difficulty in whipping up another campaign. There is there the inference that the first campaign was whipped up. No doubt all campaigns have to be organised. I took some trouble, before I took any interest in this matter, to ascertain how the first vote last March—over six months ago—was carried out, and I had authoritative confirmation that this was carried out most objectively and with complete integrity. After the Amendment had been debated, in the other place and here, and had been lost, and after this Member had said that no more emotion could be whipped up, the action committee in Poynton had another canvass and they presented a petition to the Earl of Chester, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. These people have fought tooth and nail because they believe in their case, because they are convinced—and I am convinced—in the rightness of their case. We have just had considerable debate on Wilmslow, and many of the arguments that apply in the case of Wilmslow apply in the case of Poynton. It is adjacent. It is very similar, except that it is smaller. It has a green belt dividing it from the proposed Greater Manchester area, and that green belt is of very considerable importance.

My Lords, I do not propose to go over the whole ground that was traversed on the Committee stage. I merely want to say that in September they had a poll which showed that, of the total possible electorate (of which a considerable part was not available to be canvassed) 88 per cent. of the people repeated, in the face of the disappointments they had suffered in the meantime, what they had said six months earlier : that they wished to remain in the County of Cheshire because they had no community of interest with Greater Manchester. They have a community of activity, but I think that has already been dealt with. Many of them, it is true, work in the Stockport area, in the Manchester area. Of course they do. Where else would they work, unless they were all to be engaged in cottage industries? That is perfectly natural. Bat that is a normal feature of our society and economy. But the place where people work is not necessarily the place where the activities of their life and their interests reside. These people say that they are in the environment where they have been for centuries and where the noble Lord, Lord Vernon—who I hope will follow me—and his family have played such a part through the centuries. This is where they belong. This is a wonderful community. I have never seen a community that was more closely knit together, in which there was more activity, more friendliness, co-operation, good will and a sense of community within their environment of the rural district of Macclesfield and the County of Cheshire.

There has been no suggestion that the Cheshire County would be in any difficulty in administering this area. There is no suggestion it would be better administered by Greater Manchester than by Cheshire. Indeed, if it goes into Manchester it would serve only to deplete Cheshire which will inevitably be shorn very considerably by these local government changes. The noble Lord, Lord Peddie, referred I think to the number of people in the Manchester area. Of course there are many cross-services; and so there should be. But as regards the lives of these people, surely, my Lords, we should take some notice of 96 per cent. of people who express a view—and express it twice. They are not foolish people; they are not all gullible people; and if there were a good case for going into Manchester it would have been made and would have attracted considerable support. But it has not.

I hope that the Government will see their way to accede to the wishes of these small people. They may be only terriers in stature in this sort of relationship, but they are plucky terriers. They have a view, and I think it is a very good thing that we should stop and take notice of how fast we are moving to a position where the views of the people seem no longer to be of any account. This is a dangerous trend, my Lords. We cannot keep dismissing the views of these people on the ground that they do not know what they are talking about. They know that it is their lives that will be affected, and they have a right. If that is not part of democracy, then I do not know what democracy is about. This is no question of their coming to some sudden snap decision : it is their view, and these people are working and fighting. In the case of some of them I fear for their health, considering the amount of effort they have put into it. Certainly that effort commands my sympathy, and their case commands my respect and my support. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name and the name of my noble friend Lord Vernon.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to support the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, I should like to repeat what I said at the Committee stage, that I myself have no personal interest, financial or otherwise, at the present time in this area. It is only in the past that my family have had connections there. At the Committee stage Lord Woolley made a very powerful speech which I think was very influential with some of your Lordships, and he has made a no less powerful speech this afternoon.

You really have to visit Poynton, as I did the other day, to see the strength of feeling which exists there. They feel passionately about this issue, and it is only because they feel so passionately that they have been able to go to the time and trouble and really great expense they have had in organising these two petitions. The result, as your Lordships have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, is that 95 per cent. of the people canvassed were in favour of Poynton remaining in Cheshire. I believe that you get 99.9 per cent. in Communist countries, but that is not common in our part of the world, and a percentage of 95 per cent. is not a figure which I should have thought any Government could really ignore. They believe, I think with some justification, that Parliament is riding roughshod over their wishes and their history, and that their whole case has not been given the sympathetic hearing which it deserves.

I do not want, any more than the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, to go over again all the arguments, and indeed many of them have been covered this afternoon under the Wilmslow Amendment. So far the Government have largely rested their case on the question of commuters and where people work. All I should like to say on that is that I do not think work should necessarily be the criterion. I believe that much more important is where people live, where they have their interests, their sport, their cultural facilities; where they have decided to make their homes and where they have their friends. As working hours become shorter, as they are doing, surely it becomes even more important that the home should be the criterion rather than the place of work. That is not to say that where people work should not be taken account of, but it should not be the predominant factor.

The other matter which I think is specially important, and it has been touched on, is the Green Belt. My noble friend Lord Sandford has told us before that if Poynton goes in with Greater Manchester the Green Belt will be just as safe in Greater Manchester as it was when they were in Macclesfield and Cheshire, and I am sure he holds that view quite sincerely. Perhaps I am a little more cynical than he is and without such faith in human nature. I cannot help feeling that if Poynton is in Greater Manchester the pressures that are going to be put on the Green Belt will become irresistible. Already there are many covetous eyes looking at this agricultural land; we know what is happening to agricultural land all over the country; it is becoming a national scandal; but that is a different issue on which I will not dwell. Poynton is not just another little country village which is frightened of being swallowed by the big bad wolf. It is a sizeable community of nearly 10,000 people, with an identity of its own, a history of its own, and many other factors which bring it within Cheshire rather than Manchester. I think Lord Sandford earlier mentioned water supplies and other amenities. He was dealing with Wilmslow at the time, and he said that all these things were fed from Manchester. But in fact water, fire and ambulance, to quote three instances, do not come from Manchester but from Macclesfield or Cheshire.

I believe it is not only in Poynton's interest that it should remain in Cheshire. I believe it is in Manchester's interest; I believe it is in Cheshire's interest; and I believe it is in the national interest. I would not be supporting this Amendment if I did not think this. The Government are making a grave mistake if they continue to reject the declared wishes of so many people, or such a high proportion of the electorate who have declared themselves in such unmistakable terms. I very much hope that even at this late hour the Government will have second thoughts about their attitude.


My Lords, there are two matters I think we have to consider when dealing with these matters of local government reorganisation. One is geography and the other is people, and I feel that in this case the people have been overruled and even geography has had to be stretched. I am supporting the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, and the noble Lord, Lord Vernon. I supported them in the Committee stage. Probably I rose out of sheer sentiment, because the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, had spoken of the long association of his family with the Macclesfield and Poynton districts and the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, spoke of his long agricultural experience in that part of the country; so I was prompted to get up and say that 50 years or more ago I was a reporter on the Macclesfield local paper and I had a very close knowledge of the people of Poynton and their activities and their close association with Macclesfield rather than Manchester. Therefore, if I did not rise again to-day and support the two noble Lords advocating the case of Poynton, people would think I had "ratted" on them or changed my opinion. Let me assure the House that I have not changed my opinion.

During the Recess I have been in close touch with people from Macclesfield and Poynton and I know exactly their sentiments in this matter. They want to be associated with Macclesfield and not Manchester. I have seen copies of the local newspaper, which has been enthusiastic in the cause of Poynton being associated with Macclesfield. Poynton has little in common with Manchester. Poynton is a little place and Manchester is a very big place; and the argument about commuters is hardly a valid one. If we accept it as one of the main criteria upon which we base our decisions, then Brighton should be in London because of the number of commuters from there, and Southend-on-Sea certainly should be in London. Poynton is not a part of Manchester in any conceivable way. It is Cheshire, has been Cheshire for centuries and wants to continue with Cheshire. Its people are Cheshire people and its associations are with Cheshire. Its farmers go to Macclesfield market. It has a strong representation upon the Macclesfield Rural District Council.

Looking at existing local council organisation there, let me say a word about the Macclesfield Rural District Council. I know something about it because I used to report its meetings every six weeks. Poynton used to play a very big part in the affairs of that rural district council, and at the present moment it is the biggest parish in that rural district council. It has eight members. There are only three other districts in the whole rural district council area which have more than one member; one has two, another has two and the other has three; the remainder have one each. Contrasted with that, you have Poynton with eight members, showing the predominant part their members play in the administration of the Macclesfield Rural District Council.

I also recall that the county magistrates' court, as distinct from the borough court, used to be in Macclesfield, and we used to have justices of the peace from Poynton coming to Macclesfield to sit on the Bench, and we used to have offenders from Poynton also coming to appear before that Bench. The drag has always been to the South to Macclesfield rather than to the North to Manchester, except for the fact that people had to go and earn their living in Manchester. But, as has already been said, people's homes are quite as important as the factories, the mills, the places where they work.

Now what is Greater Manchester to be? It is to absorb 20 boroughs and scores of urban and smaller districts. It is to absorb all these boroughs to start with: Manchester, with 590,000 people; Salford with 135,000; Bolton, with 152,000; and then Wigan, Leigh, Farnworth, Bury, Rochdale, Heywood, Middleton, Oldham. Altrincham, Sale, Stretford, Stockport with 140,000, Dukinfield, Hyde, Ashton-under-Lyne, and Mossley. So it has those boroughs that are being absorbed into Greater Manchester which account for nearly 2½ million people. When we take the urban and rural districts as well, it is going to be well over 21 million people. Surely, Greater Manchester can spare the 10,000 people of Poynton without having to plead that it would be no longer a viable community?

The natural place of Poynton is Cheshire, and it would fit very naturally in what has been described as "new district No. 5" which already includes the Macclesfield borough, Bollington, Knutsford and Disley. If included in that area, it would make a very natural new local government district. The population of that district at the moment is only 99,000; to add Poynton's 10,000 to it would make it a nice round number. It would not make it too big : it would not leave it at its present rather under-average population, and it certainly would not do any damage to the new Greater Manchester that is to come. I wholeheartedly support the Amendment moved by the two noble Lords.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, once again we are aware that in the case of Poynton there is a strong body of opinion that would prefer Poynton to remain in Cheshire, and as they have hitherto been in the county of Cheshire this is not the least bit surprising. Nor is it surprising that Poynton, being in the county of Cheshire, should receive county services, such as fire and ambulance, from within the county from Macclesfield rather than Manchester, though I do not think that I can accept that as an argument as to where their natural tics are. Once again it is not the fact that we are unaware of the views of the people of Poynton, or that we do not consider that they have weight, but we are concerned with the drawing of the metropolitan county boundary and Poynton, as I explained at an earlier stage in Committee, is even closer into the conurbation of Greater Manchester : it is more tightly connected to the district of Stockport. The employment ties with Manchester are ten times the employment ties with Macclesfield. There is less space than in the case of Wilmslow, which we were just discussing, between Poyton and the larger built up area, though I would confirm that that is a designated Green Belt and there is no reason to suppose that it will be lost as Green Belt.

There has been the further argument in this case, both in Committee and now, that here we are dealing with a small rural community whose farmers go to Macclesfield. Of the 4,600 people of Poynton in active employment, 70 are in farming, and that gives your Lordships an impression of the extent to which Poynton is devoted to agriculture. By far the greater number of people are involved in employment in the Greater Manchester conurbation. Unlike the debate before this on the question of Wilmslow where, at the Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, withdrew his Amendment and where we had further consultations and my right honourable friend saw a deputation from Wilmslow, this is a case where the Committee were asked, after hearing all the arguments (and after I had deployed the arguments much more fully than I think it is proper to do on this occasion, where we are going over the old ground all over again), to express their view. And they expressed their view clearly in favour of Poynton's staying with the Greater Manchester conurbation and in the district of Stockport. In view of that decision, which was taken after a very full debate, I hope that the noble Lord will not ask the House to reconsider the matter again.


My Lords, if the noble Lord the Minister could give us some encouragement, it would of course greatly ease our position. The only reason we are talking about this to-day is because he has not shown any recognition of the case. He has not demolished the case. He very fairly set out the Government's view much more fully in the Committee stage than he has done this evening, but he has not made any serious impression on the case of the people of Poynton. Of course no-one is suggesting that this is a farming village. Indeed, it is the more remarkable, because it has changed its nature so much in the last century, that there is this very strong feeling. It is surely a good thing that not everybody who works in an urban area should want to be part of that urban conglomeration. Surely it is a good thing that people should want to have this rural outlook, attitude and environment. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, has already said, I believe that what we propose would be better for Manchester. It is not for us to adjudge Manchester's interests, but I honestly believe that this is true. I believe that this area would be the better preserved for the recreation of the people of Manchester if it were within the Cheshire county rather than coming within the very heavily pressurised, built-up greater metropolitan area.

Be that as it may, I know that this is a case where one cannot say that because people vote by a large majority on an issue of this kind this ipso factor proves it right. I know that one can have

doubts about these polls, but I have said, and I am convinced of it, that these polls have been carried out objectively, fairly, and with an interval of six months between them, and do represent the considered views of the people of that area. If the Minister went and put his arguments in the Poynton parish hall I do not think he would make the slightest impression. I honestly do not think that he would convert one person in Poynton with his arguments.

In face of that situation, I do not think it right that we should ignore the reasonable democratic processes. What worries me so much is that we are ignoring them. We are saying that these people have no right to speak. There has been a great deal of talk in recent years about participation by the people, yet what do they get when they seek to participate? They are completely ignored. This appears to be a developing position, and it worries me greatly. I am amazed, in the case of Poynton and Wilmslow, that the Government attitude has been so intransigent. In my submission, there is no reason on the Government's side in this matter. I am sorry. I think that a vote of 40 against 52 against the Government machine was not too bad on the last occasion. We know that when this process is in motion it is very difficult indeed for Amendments to succeed, and in the light of that I feel I should not be doing my duty if I did not speak for the people of Poynton. I cannot say that I owe them any particular duty in Poynton : I am a Cheshire man and a Cheshire farmer, but I am not a Poynton man. But I know the case and I do feel that where people cannot get a spokesman in the area where it matters we should give them support. This would be a good blow for the processes of democracy and for small people, and that is why I am pressing their case. I am interested in small people, and I hope this House is, too, and I must therefore press this Amendment to a vote.

5.52 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 3A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 66; Not-Contents, 65.

Addison, V. Balogh, L. Beswick, L.
Arwyn, L. Bathurst, E. Blyton, L.
Bacon, B. Belhaven and Stenton, L. Brockway, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Jacques, L. Rusholme, L.
Chorley, L. Janner, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Leatherland. L. Sainsbury, L.
Courtown, E. Long, V. St. Davids, V.
Cowley, E. Loudoun, C. Savile, L.
Craigmyle, L. McLeavy, L. Seear, B.
Davies of Leek, L. MacLeod of Fuinary, L. Sempill, Ly.
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Maelor, L. Serota, B.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Maybray-King, L. Slater, L.
Evans of Hungershall, L. Milverton, L. Snow, L.
Falmouth, V. Moyne, L. Somers, L.
Gaitskell, B. Nunburnholme, L. Strabolgi, L.
Garnsworthy, L. Oakshott, L. Strathcarron, L.
Greenway, L. O'Hagan, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hanworth, V. Oxford and Asquith, E. Vernon, L. [Teller.]
Henderson, L. Peddie, L. Vivian, L.
Hoy, L. Phillips, B. White, B.
Hylton, L. Platt, L. Williamson, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Redesdale, L. Woolley, L. [Teller.]
Aberdare, L. Dudley, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L [Teller.]
Ailwyn, L. Ebbisham, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Exeter, M. Northchurch, B.
Balfour, E. Ferrers, E. Norwich, V.
Barnby, L. Fortescue, E. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Belstead, L. Gainford, L Ogmore, L.
Berkeley, B. Grenfell, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Blake, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Rankeillour, L.
Bledisloe, V. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Redcliffe-Maud, L.
Bridgeman, V. Reigate, L.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Rhyl, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, B. Hale, L. Ridley, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Hood, V. Rockley, L.
Carnock, L. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) St. Aldwyn, E.
Craigavon, V. Latymer, L. St. Just, L.
Cranbrook, E. Lauderdale, E. Sandford, L.
Daventry, V. Limerick, E. Trefgarne, L.
Davidson, V. Mansfield, E. Tweedsmuir, L.
de Clifford, L. Masham of Ilton, B. Windlesham, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Mersey, V. Wolverton, L.
Derwent, L. Monck, V. Wright of Ashton under Lyne L.
Digby, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Mountevans, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

6.1 p.m.

BARONESS BACON moved Amendment No. 4: Page 223, line 26, at end insert (" and Rothwell").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, if there is anything worse than listening to the same speech twice, it is for a speaker to have to deploy the same arguments twice, but I make no apology for this, because when this Amendment came before the Committee the vote was taken after 11 o'clock at night and it was very close indeed. There were 34 who voted for my Amendment and 37 who voted against it, and I think it was the time of night that decided the vote rather than anything else. I had support on that occasion from all parts of the House—from the Government Benches, from the Cross-Benches and from the Liberal Benches, as well as from my own Benches—and I think that that showed that there was considerable merit in the Amendment.

This Amendment is to take the urban district of Rothwell out of the Wakefield metropolitan district and to put it back into the Leeds metropolitan district. I say "put it back" because when the Bill was originally published, and throughout the Committee stage in another place, Rothwell was in the Leeds metropolitan district and it was only towards the end of the Report stage that the Government accepted an Amendment to take Rothwell out of Leeds, where it really belongs, and to put it into Wakefield. There is no case whatsoever for Rothwell to be in Wakefield, but there is a good case for the Rothwell urban district to be within the Leeds metropolitan district; there is a case geographically, historically, industrially and socially.

One has to know something about the map of Leeds to realise what has been done here. The city centre of Leeds, the centre for shops, for commerce and for the railway stations, does not lie in the geographical centre of Leeds. What one calls the city centre of Leeds lies within a mile of the South of the city of Leeds. So one may travel from the city centre North, East and West for several miles and still be within Leeds, but when one starts to go South through the industrial area of Hunslett one strikes the city boundary within a mile and is in Roth-well. Where Leeds meets Rothwell there is Hunslet, which is in Leeds, and Sturton, which is in Rothwell, and people who have lived in this area for many years do not know where one begins and the other ends. Strangers coming into Leeds naturally think that this area is part of Leeds. It is industrial, it is built-up, it has many factories in it and it really belongs to Leeds.

After reorganisation the city of Leeds becomes bigger as a metropolitan district. It takes in a great deal more to the West, to the East and to the North. It takes in Otley, which is 11 miles from the city centre, and originally under the Bill it was to take in Rothwell to the South of Leeds; but now, because of the Amendment in another place, Rothwell has been taken out and put into Wakefield. So we shall have the extraordinary situation of Leeds spreading about 11 or 12 miles North, East and West of the centre, but being truncated in the South. Indeed, if one looks at the map of Leeds Rothwell seems to take one big bite into the industrial centre, so I think it is natural that Rothwell should be in Leeds.

I said during the Committee stage that the ludicrous situation is that not only are streets divided, but there is one factory in Leeds—Waddington's factory, which is famous for playing cards, games and printing—through which the boundary between Rothwell and Leeds actually goes. The works are in Leeds and the offices are in Rothwell. I quoted the case where one of the work-people once died in the factory and they took him into the offices and called a policeman. The policeman came from Rothwell and as soon as he knew that the man had died in the works he said, "Take him back into the works and call a policeman from Leeds." But even if we look not at this built-up area but at the rather big village of Rothwell, which is the centre of the Rothwell urban district, we find that it is only about four miles from the city centre. The extraordinary thing is that Otley, which is 11 or 12 miles away and has very little in common with Leeds, has sought to be taken out of Leeds, but the Government turned a deaf ear to that. Morley, which lies to the West of Leeds, also wanted to go from Leeds into another area and, again, the Government turned a deaf ear. But Rothwell, within a mile of the centre, has now been taken out of Leeds and put into Wakefield.

To look at some of the other relevant points, Yorkshire Imperial Chemicals employs 4,000 people. The factory is in the Rothwell area, but Leeds runs nine special buses a day for the work-people. The Sturton Grange power station is in Leeds, but the main entrance is in Rothwell. Ninety per cent. of the people of Rothwell work in Leeds and the whole of the transport of this area is between Rothwell and Leeds, rather than between Rothwell and Wakefield. There is a good bus service. There is even a railway service, which is rather rare in these days. From the station of Woodlesford, which is in Rothwell, there is a service which takes 10 minutes only to get to Leeds. I was looking at the time-table to-day and found that there are 17 trains in each direction which stop at Woodlesford to take people into Leeds. That really must be a record, outside London, for British Rail!

Rothwell has a Leeds postal district; it is served by the Leeds telephone exchange; its water is supplied by the Leeds water undertaking; Leeds is the main shopping area for Rothwell; the West Riding magistrates, covering Roth-well, meet in Leeds; and there are very strong historical connections between Hunslet and Rothwell. I will not bore your Lordships' House by quoting the ecclesiastical connections which I could put forward in this regard. Rothwell ought to be in Leeds, and much more so than Otley or Morley. Sir Malcolm Stoddart-Scott, the Member of Parliament for the area covering Rothwell, was so incensed by this decision to accede to the request to put Rothwcll, and not Otley, out of Leeds, that he voted against the Government and was heard to say "Rubbish!" on several occasions during the debate in another place.

A good deal has been said to-night about local opinion, and I want to be perfectly frank with your Lordships' House. I think one should take account of public opinion, but I really do not see how any Government could have produced a Local Government Bill based solely on plebiscites of the people of the area. There was a pressure group in Rothwell which wanted to go out of Leeds and into Wakefield. Some of my political friends on the council in Rothwell were in favour of this, but for entirely wrong reasons. The reason they wanted to go out of Leeds and into Wakefield was because if they stayed in Leeds they would get only three councillors, whereas if they went into Wakefield they would be a bigger fish in a smaller pond and would get six councillors and so there was this agitation. There was a poll of a kind. It was not an official poll, and I do not want to say too much about it except that I know that some ballot papers which were not collected were put in an envelope and sent to Mr. Joe Harper, the Member for Pontefract, with a note saying, "These are marked against going into Wakefield and for going into Leeds, but nobody has bothered to collect them".

What I do know is that misleading statements were made at public meetings about the effect on education—and this is very serious. In Rothwell there is a good comprehensive school for children and young people from 11 to 18, and at a public meeting, very well attended, the point was made that there was a middle school system in Leeds and if Rothwell went into Leeds Rothwell would have to change its system of education. This was entirely erroneous, because what the same people failed to point out was that two of the boroughs into which Rothwell would be going if they went into Leeds also had a middle school scheme of comprehensive education. Therefore there was nothing in that argument, but I think it affected a great deal the way in which people voted and agitated.

During the last debate, as I have said, there was support for my Amendment from all parts of the Committee, and the noble Lord, Lord Boyle of Handsworth, who is sorry he cannot be here to-day, both spoke and voted in favour of my Amendment. He is the Vice-Chancellor of Leeds University and has lived there for two years. He said—and I read from column 1259 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for August 9: … I have come to know reasonably well the area about which the noble Baroness spoke. She is right when she says that Hunslet and Rothwell … form one of those contiguous areas where it is simply impossible to know where one ends and one begins".

He went on to say : …I cannot but agree with the noble Baroness that it will seem a curious outcome of this great exercise if Otley moves into the district of Leeds whereas Rothwell remains outside".

The noble Lord, Lord Boyle of Hands-worth, as I say, not only spoke but voted in favour of my Amendment.

I do not want to impute motives. I think that probably the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has been a little naïve and a little innocent about this matter. But I would ask noble Lords : is it not curious that an area which begins a mile from the city centre of Leeds should be moved into Wakefield from Leeds, whereas other areas, 11 or 12 miles away, which really want to go into another county, remain in Leeds? I know that in this House noble Lords vote according to how they feel and do not always follow a particular Party line. I believe that there is a very good case indeed why Rothwell should go back into Leeds, where it was when this Bill was published, and not into Wakefield, where it was moved during the Report stage in another place. I beg to move.


My Lords, I hope that this is an Amendment which the Government will feel able to accept. Up to now I have resisted all blandishments to distort the Bill to the call of local loyalties. This is an area in which my family have lived for nearly 350 years. I know it as well as the noble Baroness, as I knew her when she was Member for a neighbouring constituency. But in this Amendment there seems to me to be a difference which overcomes my reluctance to change the Bill, in that this is not distorting the Bill. In fact it is, as the noble Baroness has pointed out, pulling this part of the Bill back into its original shape; and this, it seems to me, should make it easier for the Government to accept. I think that all the qualifications that the noble Baroness used—geographical, residential, industrial and other factors—making Rothwell more closely a part of Leeds than of Wakefield, are valid. The noble Lord, Lord Boyle of Handsworth, said in the previous discussion, on a similar Amendment, that he drove continually through the area. I used to, though I now have to admit that I use the appropriate section of the M1; but I do know the area. I suppose that when my noble friend Lord Sandford said that what was Leeds's loss was Wakefield's gain I should have been moved by that because my own loyalties lie far more closely with Wakefield; but I seriously and sincerely believe that, if looked at objectively, right is with the noble Baroness in this issue, and I hope that the Government will see it that way. If they do not, I shall follow the noble Baroness into the Lobby.


My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend's Amendment. I have not taken part in this debate hitherto, but surely this is very largely a matter of common sense. The areas of Rothwell and Leeds are contiguous, yet the Government wish to take Rothwell away from Leeds. Nobody could say that the area of Wilmslow and Manchester are contiguous, or that Poynton and Manchester are contiguous, yet they tried to establish a continuous boundary there, putting one within the other. It seems to me that the difference between Rothwell and Leeds is very much akin to the difference between Manchester and Salford. There you walk over one bridge and find yourself in another area. To my mind, it would not really make sense to separate Rothwell from Leeds. As the noble Baroness has so rightly pointed out, it is only, I was going to say a few minutes walk from the centre of the town. Of course, I could not walk it in a few minutes now, but in the old days one could. I hope the Government will accept this Amendment.

6.20 p.m.


My Lords, one thing that has changed since we last discussed this matter is that I have had an opportunity to visit the area. I was planting some trees in Normanton, which is the noble Baroness's home town, and I took the opportunity to have a look at this area, which hitherto I had not known well. There is not a great matter of principle here, and no great issues concerning a wider area outside the one which we are considering are raised. It is really a matter of common sense, as the noble Lord has just said. It is correct to say that Rothwell was initially included in the Leeds district. It is not denied that on balance the objective factors point to the inclusion of Rothwell with Leeds. But as I have been stressing, we are very much concerned with the wishes of local people. We are anxious, as I have said, to respond to them when it is possible to do so, and we have been swayed by the views of local people and of the urban district council, in particular. It was they who expressed a preference for the Wakefield district, and they were supported by several other local authorities in the area. A canvass was organised of the local electorate and of those who voted, 81 per cent. voted in favour of transfer to the Wakefield district.

It is considerations like that which have obviously been swaying your Lordships in the last two debates, and they have certainly swayed the Government in this case. The noble Baroness went on to ask : why did we accede to these expressions, to this point of view, in this case and not in the case of Otley, much further away but in the same district? The reason is that the boundary at Otley affects the county boundary. This issue, one affecting the boundary between a metropolitan county and other counties, is quite different from the issues involved in drawing a boundary between two districts within a single metropolitan county. The issues affecting Otley differ considerably from those of Rothwell : it is not just a question of distance. The comparative size of the metropolitan districts would lead to Rothwell having a bigger voice in the new Wakefield district council—and I think that the noble Baroness has acknowledged that.

Another point that she makes is that a large number of the people of Roth-well work in Leeds, that the transport services in the centre of Leeds provide for that and are very much better than those linking Rothwell and Wakefield. But surely the main reason for this is that Leeds is a great city and the centre of the whole metropolitan county, and Rothwell is very close to it. The population of Leeds is nearly half a million, compared with Wakefield's population of just under 60,000. So it is not surprising that large numbers of people from Roth-well commute into Leeds. But, even so, it is only 46 per cent. of the resident employed population.

The noble Baroness made the point before—and she has made it again—that at Stourton, part of Rothwell, the city boundary runs through built-up areas. That is true. But there is hardly a metropolitan district boundary that does not run through built-up areas, because the character of a metropolitan county is that it is very largely a built-up area. In the case of boundaries between counties, and boundaries between a metropolitan county and other counties, one seeks to find a gap so that this does not occur. It is impossible to do so in the case of a metropolitan county where all the districts are built-up and where, inevitably, some district boundaries run right through streets and so on.

This is not to say that in this particular case, as in many others it may not be possible for the Boundary Commission, when it is able to turn its attention to these things, to find a slightly better line. Of course that can be done. But the main point is that the greater part of Rothwell is quite separate from the city of Leeds. It is contiguous at Stourton, but a glance at the map will show that further South there is a quite distinct physical break between the two communities. This anomalous boundary, if it be anomalous, is a point which can be looked at again; but the case for retaining Rothwell urban district in the metropolitan district centred on Wakefield is best summed up in the same terms as were used by the group in Rothwell which made these representations to us.

They say that a definite division exists between Leeds, a heavy manufacturing city, and Rothwell which, apart from Stourton, is in a predominantly rural area with a clear amount of country around it on all sides. With the one exception at Middleton and South of Stourton, the break between the two communities is distinct: a heavily built-up area on the Leeds side of the boundary and a comparatively rural area on the other side. In comparison, there is no clear distinction between Rothwell, Stanley and Wakefield, in the Wakefield district. Rothwell also has an overlay of coalmining which links it with the South Yorkshire coalfield community.

Thus, although it is true that coal mining here is contracting to some extent, and one-third of the employed population of the urban district worked in Leeds as long ago as the 1966 Census, it is still true that there is a gap of over half a mile between the main built-up area of the urban district and the built-up area of Leeds. In these circumstances, we believe that to accept the transfer of the urban district from the Wakefield metropolitan district to the Leeds metropolitan district would be to go unnecessarily against the general trend of opinion, both within the council and among the citizens, two factors which have weighed heavily with your Lordships in the case of the two previous Amendments. In view of the fact that your Lordships have already taken a view on this matter, I hope that the noble Baroness will not feel disposed to press her Amendment but that, if she does so, your Lordships will take the same view as you took before.


My Lords, I must say that I thought the noble Lord was rather uneasy in the reply that he has just given. I felt rather sorry for hint. I must correct one thing he said, otherwise he will get into hot water the next time he goes to Yorkshire. He said that Leeds was the centre of the metropolitan county. People in Wakefield have a different point of view, and it has probably already been decided that the metropolitan county offices shall be in Wakefield.


My Lords, I said nothing about where the offices were going to be.


My Lords, this is what has been done, and therefore I think the noble Lord had better be careful. It is true that he went to Yorkshire last week. I could see him, through my binoculars, planting his trees in Normanton: I kept close tabs on him. However. I was very surprised to hear the noble Lord calling in aid local opinion, because on the last two Amendments he resolutely set his face against local opinion—local opinion expressed in a much more definite and fair way than it was expressed in Rothwell. What he said about "half a mile of country" between the built-up areas I find very unconvincing; because between Leeds and Otley or between Leeds and a place called Bramhope and Leeds and Wetherby there are great tracts of Wharfedale. Yet these have been included in the Leeds metropolitan district. I still say to the noble Lord that Leeds is going to be a peculiar shape and a peculiar district where one can go 12 miles North, East and West and yet stop short a mile from the city boundary in the built-up area where it joins Rothwell.

I mean it as a compliment when I say that the noble Lord is perhaps a little

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

naïve and innocent. It may be that some of his colleagues have not been entirely frank with him. And "frank" is the operative word—or perhaps in this instance I should say "naïve". I hope that noble Lords who have listened to this debate will realise that I have made out a very good case for Rothwell being included in Leeds. I must take this Amendment to a vote and I hope that noble Lords from both sides of the House will follow me into the Lobby.

6.30 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided : Contents, 71 Not-Contents, 46.

Addison, V. Granville of Eye, L. O'Hagan, L.
Arwyn, L. Hale, L. Phillips, B.
Bacon, B. [Teller.] Henderson, L. Platt, L.
Balogh, L. Henley, L. Rankeillour, L.
Bathurst, E. Hood, V. Redcliffe-Maud, L.
Berkeley, B. Hoy, L. Ridley, V.
Beswick, L. Hylton, L. Rusholme, L.
Bledisloe, V. Hylton-Foster, B. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Blyton, L. Jacques, L. [Teller.] St. Davids, V.
Brockway, L. Janner, L. St. Just, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Killearn, L. Saint Oswald, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Kinloss, Ly. Savile, L.
Carnock, L. Lauderdale, E. Seear, B.
Champion, L. Leatherland, L. Serota, B.
Cork and Orrery, E. Long, V. Simon, V.
Craigmyle, L. Loudoun, C. Slater, L.
Crook, L. McLeavy, L. Southwark, L. Bp.
Davidson, V. MacLeod of Fuinary, L. Strabolgi, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Maelor, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Derwent, L. Mansfield, E. White, B.
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Masham of Ilton, B. Williamson, L.
Evans of Hungershall, L. Maybray-King, L. Woolley, L.
Gainford, L. Norwich, V. Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.
Garnsworthy, L. Nunburnholme, L.
Aberdare, L. Denham, L. [Teller.] Mersey, V.
Ailwyn, L. Digby, L. Milverton, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Drumalbyn, L. Monck, V.
Balfour, E. Dudley, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Barnby, L. Emmet of Amberley, B. Moyne, L.
Belstead, L. Exeter, M. Northchurch, B.
Blake, L. Falmouth, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Bridgeman, V. Ferrers, E. Orr-Ewing, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, B. Fortescue, E. Redesdale, L.
Carrington, L. Gainsborough, E. Reigate, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Grenfell, L. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Courtown, E. Grimston of Westbury, L. Sandford, L.
Craigavon, V. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Trefgarne, L.
Cranbrook, E. Windlesham, L.
Daventry, V. Jellicoe. E. (L. Privy Seal.) Young, B.
de Clifford, L. Malmesbury, E.

6.38 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 5 :

Amendment moved— Page 224, line 12, leave out (" Rothwell ").—(Baroness Bacon.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD ARWYN moved Amendment No. 6: Page 224, line 24, leave out (" boroughs of Bath and Bristol ") and insert (" borough of Bristol ").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name, and since this and the following Amendments are related may I ask that they may be discussed together although they may be moved separately. I wish to save as much time as possible. The reason for this Amendment is to encourage the Government to be flexible. "Flexible" is the operative word. It was used by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, during the Committee stage when referring to the parish boundaries on the Southern borders of Avon. In view of the increasing fears experienced by the people of Somerset, I am asking the Minister to consider a much wider range of flexibility by accepting these Amendments. The real value of the North Somerset Green Belt area to Bristol's prosperity has never been adequately explained except as an additional administrative area. If it is excluded, is Bristol's prosperity in jeopardy or not?

My Lords, I do not intend to enter into any detailed discussion on the principle of "Let us say what we can". To do so each Member of your Lordships' House would need a large-scale map in his hands, a familiarity with each area and its people: and even then it would be difficult to judge values in favour of Avon or Somerset. The exercise would be concerned not with the attitude of people, but the distribution of administrative power: and when we attempt t differentiate between that administrative power and other people, we are getting into hot water. I am concerned entirely with the wishes of the people of Somerset, who seem to be of little or no importance to the administrative genius. To the people of North Somerset this Bill is a monument to a capacity for cold, impersonal calculation.

Unfortunately, I could not take part in the Committee stage, when Amendments were moved by the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, because I had to leave to keep a long-standing appointment. Reading the OFFICIAL REPORT later, I came to the conclusion that the fate of Somerset seemed very bleak. The debate, in my view, centred around differences and areas, disparities in population and the consequences on rateable value. There was certainly a mention of the "Save our Somerset" campaign and the referendum, but the overall picture seemed to be an acceptance of the proposal: and it was not so much "Save our Somerset" as "How much can we claw back in addition to that which has been conceded in order to soften the blow?" I reject that attitude. We want Somerset to remain intact. Let me make it quite clear that that is the purpose of this Amendment.

In your Lordships' House I am better known as a Welsh Cornishman than someone connected with Somerset, but the fact is that for a total of some 24 years my family and I have been ratepayers in Bath or Bathford. My son was born in Bath. I have been a member of the Group Board of the Bath and Portland Group of Companies for 22 years. I am therefore in Somerset qualified as an industrialist and as a ratepayer. It is as an ordinary ratepayer, without even any connection with local government, that I have subscribed to the aims of the "Save our Somerset" campaign, and it is as a ratepayer that I wish to be heard; not as any authority on the efficiency of local government, but as one who might suffer the consequences of this planners' carousel to be pitched in the Avon. The word "Avon", which in Welsh means "river", is apt, for there North Somerset will be drowned to satisfy the will of the Government's academic administrative masters, aspiring members of local councils and ambitious councillors, on the plea that it will help Bristol and perhaps Bath to further development.

What other valid reason there is seems very obscure. And what advantages there are for Somerset are even more obscure, and they are more obscure every day that passes. All we have is an admonition that Somerset should dare to disagree. I relish this foretaste of the "Big Brother knows best" attitude. It is a tonic for flabby muscles. There is an awakening among our people which the statistician, some of the Civil Service top administrators and the natural bureaucrat might not understand. Their outlook has to be blinkered. The recent spate of correspondence in The Times regarding the fate of Somerset is good, but it was just a tiny indication of the wave of indignation spreading over the whole of Somerset, not only in the Green Belt to the North. Those with their own axes to grind, or those who think there will be opportunities for self-advancement, are a very small minority. That has been proved by the referendum, which the Government ignore.

My Lords, in view of the fact that we still claim to be a democracy, and that your Lordships' House has in its long history been known as the defender against any menace of injustice, I should like to issue a challenge on behalf of the ratepayers of North Somerset. This may be one of the last opportunities for this House to champion those who are menaced. The fulfilment of this long history of duty to those menaced may be emasculated when we become a corner of Europe; but while we are still potent let us make at least one stand against this policy of bulldozing. As a challenge, I ask the Government to accept these Amendments on condition that the whole proposal be re-examined and the maximum publicity afforded to the people of North Somerset to voice their views, and to receive a full explanation of exactly how they will benefit; not just an administrator's "pie in the sky" promise, but a lucid analysis in what I call ratepayers' simple, factual language, free from the legal draftsman's ambiguity or the administrator's verbal architecture which adorns this monumental report. After such a document has been digested will be the time to have another referendum. No one can then accuse the people of emotional action.

But, my Lords, if the Government have decided to extend their bulldozing policy and to resist every Amendment, and thus ignore once more the democratic right of the majority of the people affected, then I would remind the Government that where there has been a declaration by the people against the Government's policy the reason lies in one of two grounds. First, there has been an inadequate explanation of the detailed reasons; secondly, there is resentment against the policy because it is regarded by the people as unjust and contrary to their interests. The Government then have to choose between one of two alternatives : either to agree to re-examine the whole policy and then seek agreement to the modification, or, secondly, to bulldoze it through, ignoring the majority who oppose—and in this case it is 85 per cent. of a 73 per cent. poll. If the Government are determined to follow such a course, then we are just wasting our time in debate, and we shall realise that George Orwell's 1984 is not such a fantasy after all : we shall be on the way! I warn the Government that the people of this country are resilient enough to stand quite a lot of pushing around, but all the euphoria generated in an atmosphere of mutual admiration at Blackpool will turn sour unless this bulldozing ceases. We have had enough evidence during this Session of the strength of "Big Brother's" whip, and it fills us with apprehension. We on this side are a minority in your Lordships' House, and we have to bow to the hereditary majority. Let us accept that fact. I now ask : why should not an even greater majority of the hereditary Somerset people be allowed to dominate the minority? Who wants to see them drown in the Avon? I should welcome the Government views on that point, because it seems of moral significance.

Since I joined the campaign I have received many letters, and I have a number of them here. I will quote an extract from two. This is the first : If democracy means anything at all it must recognise the expressed views of the people and then give a fair hearing and a decision.

The writer lives in Clutton and is personally known to me. The second letter is from a stranger to me who says that he has over 41 years' experience of L.C.C. and county council work as one of the administrative staff. He says: In every respect. Somerset people are far better qualified than the Whitehall bureaucrat to say what is best for them. Indeed, what can such people know about the West Country?

I fully agree. These are the views of only two of the ratepayers who are in danger of being drowned.

Also, I will support the words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells during his speech on Second Reading, when he asked: Why, then, should this scheme be thrust on people who clearly do not want it, who believe that they will be better served by remaining in Somerset? "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31/7/72, col. 45.]

The only answer to that question, so far as I can discover, was in a reference made by the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, in a speech that day at column 59. I will quote the following passage, in which he was referring to the right reverend Prelate: He rather argued, it seemed to me, as if the only criterion that the Government or this House should have was whether the people in Somerset at the moment voted this way or that in a referendum.

I maintain that that is a valid democratic criterion. North Somerset voted against being thrown into the Avon. That is democracy.

In the same column on that day, the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, said: I hope very much that the Government will resist this not perhaps too Christian plea to save Somerset at the expense of her neighbours.

My Lords, what is meant by "at the expense of her neighbours"? I think it is a deplorable sentence and I should like to have a full explanation, because the people of Somerset demand it. There is obviously a wide divergence of opinion between that which is considered good for the country and in human terms for the citizen by one who has gained a formidable reputation as an administrator and that of the other equally eminent in understanding the needs and rights of a democratic people, and more intimately concerned with their happiness.

We all know that the pattern of local government has to change in order to comply with changes in industrial development. This is true in industry itself, and every efficient company is alive to the need to change policies to readjust emphasis, but in so doing it must safeguard its labour relations. A dedicated administrator's urge to tidy everything up without regard to the reactions of a work force is far too often the basic reason for industrial strife. If I translate labour relations in the industrial field to human relationships in Government, we have the same problem here—the clinical opinion of dedicated administrators versus that which cannot be defined in statistical terms or even as the pattern of community life. It is far deeper, and emerges as the will of the people.

I now come to another problem arising out of this proposal. I would seek the Minister's assurance that if these Amendments are to be bulldozed and this administrator's Elysium is established, then what is known as the Bath clinical area must be preserved. Bath will be involved with three new health areas: Wiltshire, Somerset and Avon. I understand that none of these areas really wants to take responsibility for the Bath clinical area. A composition of the shadow Area Committee does not come into existence for another year and will have no power or authority until April, 1974. It is necessary that the administrative pattern should be known now. Apart from being involved in three health areas, there are two different regional boards serving the existing area—the South-West, looking after Avon and Somerset, and the Wessex Board, looking after Wiltshire. We must come out of all this. It is too confusing.

I cannot find what the solution is. The fact is that the Bath clinical area must remain inviolate. The welfare, care and well-being of all patients in hospital will not be one whit better for all this reorganisation. Whether it is the patient in the hospital or the doctors, the only ones who will declare Utopia in 1974 will be the administrators, for they will be the only people who will recognise it. The retention of the Bath clinical area has the 100 per cent. backing of the medical profession, and this cannot be ignored. This must not be sacrificed to appease administrative or bureaucratic propriety.

The people of Somerset have a pattern of life which is different from that of Bristol. Bristol's expansion is North into Gloucester. North Somerset is a Green Belt. I do not know whether your Lordships can see on this map, but I will indicate the Green Belt. There is Bristol, and the Green Belt has always been part of Somerset. Why cannot the Green Belt remain in Somerset? That is a simple question being asked by a ratepayer. Is the purpose of this upheaval the development of Bristol? If that is so, why cannot Bristol be allowed to follow its own plan and develop Northwards, as Gloucester welcomes it? This expansion to the North has been praised by everybody concerned. The Bristol area might even become the metropolitan district. As for Bath to be thrown in, let me make it quite clear that the great majority of the people in Bath, as well as in Weston-super-Mare, do not agree with their council. The repercussions have yet to come.

Finally, I have expressed the views of the majority of ratepayers in Bath. They are perfectly satisfied with the way their county council has looked after their welfare. Their needs are understood and catered for by people who understand them. Let me emphasise that: people who understand them. What does Bristol know of the ordinary rural people of Somerset? If this plan is to be forced on us I want to know why the sacrifice is to be made and who is to benefit. We are not concerned with the inviolability of a planner's carousel. We want hard facts, and we want to be allowed to judge on them. It is our pattern of life which is at stake, not that of the planners. North Somerset should remain a Green Belt, and Bath should remain in Somerset and not be over-shadowed by Bristol, as it inevitably will be if the Government are not sufficiently flexible to relent. My Lords, I beg to move.

7.0 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to support the Amendment. I hope that you will allow me to make a few general points as we begin these series of Amendments in our fight to save Somerset. I have very little to add to what I said on Second Reading and to what has been said and written in defence of Somerset. I should like to make three short points and three references to the Government's White Paper. We are not sentimentalists in Somerset, nor, as my noble friend has said, are we particularly keen to be pushed around. My noble friend Lord Redcliffe-Maud said that I had used rather unepiscopal language when I spoke on the Second Reading. I do not know exactly to what he was referring, unless he thought that I had transgressed the Second Commandment and I did not love Bristol as much as I loved Somerset. May I remind him that there is a duty to oneself?

We feel very strongly that we have been unfairly treated. We believe that the present Government's proposals are detrimental to the welfare of Somerset. It is quite clear that Avon will be dominated by a Bristol-controlled county council and Somerset people are very strongly opposed to this, particularly those who are directly affected on the North of the county. It is quite clear that that area will be dominated by a completely urban and Bristol-controlled county council, the majority of whose members will have neither understanding nor sympathy with the areas taken from Somerset. The argument that urban Bath or urban Weston-super-Mare is needed to offset Bristol urban domination is disingenuous and, indeed, is a fair admission. As has already been stated, the impression made in Somerset by these proposals generally is that for a reason still unexplained to them they have to be severed from their traditional county. We believe that in Somerset we have a very fine record and a very fine tradition—and, indeed, that we have a certain culture of our own. The constant cry of the need to preserve balance seems only to take into account Avon's case without any care or heed for Somerset.

The second point I want to make is about the great diminution and reduction in the area's resources. Quite apart from the reduction in rateable value of over £10 million, it will have a population well below the minimum of half a million that the Department of Education and Science have stated as being in their view necessary for an effective local education authority. In addition, it will place Somerset in the lowest population bracket for chief officers' salaries and so make it difficult to obtain the best people.

Thirdly, I must return to the matter of public opinion because it is most confusing to be told at one point that we are to be consulted and that our views are to be taken into account, and then, when our views are tested, to be told that they are of no account. I do not believe that it is inappropriate to ask why, if a referendum or plebiscite is promised on the Northern boundary question in Northern Ireland, it is not appropriate when it comes to the question of the boundary between Somerset and Avon. It seems to me that the Government have almost gone out of their way to court criticism that a referendum can only be good and reliable and be taken into account if its results are favourable to Government policy. We have been told that Weston-super-Mare certainly does not want to go into Avon. It has decisively repudiated the decision of the borough council. The same is true in the rural district of Axbridge, as it is throughout the whole of the North of Somerset.

May I end by quoting from the White Paper? In paragraph 6 of the proposals for reorganisation it says: The division between counties and county boroughs has prolonged an artificial separation of big towns from their surrounding hinterlands for functions whose planning and administration need to embrace both town and country. Surely this justifies joining Bristol, its suburbs and its area of industrial, commercial and residential development, which are now artificially separated from Bristol by the Gloucestershire boundary. But it is no justification for taking parts of the conservation area of Somerset and joining them to the development area of Bristol, since the planning and administration of these areas do not need to embrace both town and country, which would be very much better kept apart.

Secondly, in paragraph 7 it says that local authorities should be large enough in size, population and resources to meet administrative needs, including the maintenance and development of a trained and expert local government service. Cutting Somerset from 600,000 to under 400,000 is, it seems to us, wantonly harmful to Somerset, quite unnecessary to Bristol, and completely rejected by those people to be transferred. Lastly, one final quotation from paragraph 33. It says: The bigger cities and towns will retain their identities. In other places it would be right to re-unite smaller towns with the rural communities associated with them. Where there is no clear centre to act as a focal point in a new unit, it may still be desirable to form a new district by the amalgamation of rural areas. The Government are anxious, in this structure, to ensure that the special interests of rural areas are not over-shadowed. We submit that if Somerset's boundaries are left substantially undiminished every one of the criteria in paragraph 33 can be observed, as will be also the overwhelming wishes of the people. The city of Bath, with its incomparable heritage, will be able to retain not only its identity but also its character, safeguarded by the surrounding Green Belt. The smaller towns, like Frome, Radstock and Keynsham, will form one district with Clutton, Bathavon and Frome rural districts.

The special areas of the rural areas of North Somerset will be overshadowed almost into oblivion if they are transferred into Avon. I am sure they will survive and prosper as they do now if they are left where they belong, in their native Somerset. I support my noble friend's Amendment and I assure the House that it is not only in Somerset that there is anxiety about the Government's proposals, but the anxiety is very widely held throughout the country.


My Lords, perhaps before the noble Lord replies I might support the proposer of this Amendment on what he has said about Bath clinical area. This obviously is the only matter on which I could speak to your Lordships' House with any kind of knowledge or conviction, for I am no expert on local government or local government boundaries. But he is very right in saying that, medically speaking, Bath has built up a tradition which is unique. It owes very little to Bristol, certainly no more than Bristol owes to Bath, and from a purely medical point of view I should not like to see it under the domination of Bristol. It may be said that this is a narrow angle. If so, I accept that criticism. Nevertheless, I should like to support the Amendment.


My Lords, as one who has lived in Bristol for forty years and been very much involved in Bristol politics and on the Bristol City Council, I should like to support everything that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells has said. It would be true to say that Bristol, if it looks outward, looks northward; that it is towards the Gloucester area that it looks. I am not going to say that it is therefore necessarily wise to bring any particular part of Gloucestershire into Avon. What I am quite certain is that Somerset is a completely different ethos from Bristol. I know that on my days off as a young man it was always to Weston-super-Mare or to Bath or to Wells that one used to go, just because of the joy of getting into a quite different kind of environment. And inevitably, because of my associations with the Diocese of Bath and Wells when I lived in Bristol, I realised that there again was a quite different kind of community from the community in the big city.

Bath is a remarkable city, so near to Bristol—indeed, for twenty years I lived on the Bath Road and was within twenty minutes of Bath—yet it was a city as different from Bristol as it could conceivably be. I hope that the Government will look at this matter again. Having myself been involved in problems of this kind concerning boundaries, I know very well how difficult it must be for the Government. I do not share some of the criticisms that have been levelled at them, but I should have thought that if there was one which stood out as a really bad decision it is this one with regard to Somerset and Avon. For the sake of Somerset, and indeed I would say for the sake of Bristol, I hope that this Amendment will go through.


My Lords, I have come to support sundry Amendments relating to Somerset, but I wonder whether I might ask if the one we are dealing with now, No. 6, relates to Bath and only to Bath. If that is the case, I wonder whether it is quite correct that the population is so unanimous, because in regard to the whole of Somerset my information is this. The Chairman of the Somerset County Council (this information is about three days old) says this: Bath opinion we know little of. The best guesses vary around 50 to 60 per cent. preference for Somerset. Of the rest, a good 90 per cent. preferred Somerset at the referendum. So if we are talking, as I understand it, about Bath and not about the whole of Somerset, whether the North or the rest (which I hope will come later and give me my opportunity), is it entirely correct to say that they are so unanimous? Of all the counties, it seems that they are the least unanimous and the most deeply divided—almost 50/50.

7.15 p.m.


My Lords, I was rather astonished at the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, that the Government were trying to bulldoze anything through this House. He must have written that part of his speech before we voted on the Amendments on which we have already suffered defeats. I am also rather surprised that at this very late stage in the proceedings on the Bill he should have introduced an Amendment which I must say to your Lordships frankly is a wrecking Amendment. We are engaged in trying to redraw the whole local government map of this country which has not been altered since about the 1880s. We have had the benefit of a great deal of expert advice in so doing. The first and most expert of the bodies concerned of course was the Royal Commission under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud. The Royal Commission recommended a new county of Avon and that concept of a county of Avon has been accepted: it was accepted by the last Government and has been accepted by this Government. It is accepted pretty generally now, not only in circles outside Somerset but even by a great many people in Somerset; because if one is going to create a new county (and this applies not only in the case of Avon but also in other cases throughout England) it inevitably means that one has to include in it areas which up to that time have been in other historical counties.

Of course everyone understands, everyone in this House must understand, the intense feelings this creates among people who are proud of the county they have lived in and where their background has always been. We have done our best, as my noble friend Lord Sandford has said on more than one occasion this afternoon, to find out what people themselves are thinking, and of course we have taken their opinions into account. But that, unfortunately, cannot be the only guiding rule by which we revise the map. If it were, we should have no local government reform at all because, naturally enough, people always want to remain where they have always been.

If we were to accept the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, and were to do what he wants us to do, so that the whole of Somerset remained intact, we should be left with Bristol alone and a piece of South Gloucestershire. I am certain that South Gloucestershire would not be very happy at that. They would be entirely dominated by the City of Bristol. What we have been trying to further throughout the debates on this Bill are balanced counties that are not dominated by any one previous county borough. And I am afraid that I must say to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells that it is not true that Bristol will have a majority in Avon under our proposals; under our proposals Bristol will represent about 47 per cent. of Avon. If the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, has his way, or indeed if my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve does, then Bristol will dominate Avon. That is something we wish to avoid.

It is also wrong to suggest that the new county of Somerset will not be a viable county. We went into this question on the Committee stage and, as has been admitted in the course of this afternoon, the population of Somerset will be around the 400,000 mark in 1974. This is well above the quarter of a million minimum population which the Royal Commission thought was the right population for an authority that had responsibility for education and social services. It is well above that, and it really is rather ironical that it was I who had to defend the figure of a quarter of a million against those from Hereford and Pembrokeshire who thought that their populations of 139,000 and 97,000 were sufficient for them to be a county, with county powers.

When we talk about rateable values, it is of course perfectly true that if we reduce the population of Somerset, as we are bound to do if we are to create a balanced Avon, the total gross rateable value will fall, but so will the population. What really matters is the rateable value per head, and the rateable value per head in fact will be slightly more than it has been hitherto, and will be more or less the same as in Gloucestershire. To those who say that Somerset will be so poorly off I would suggest that they should also read some of the correspondence in The Times. The noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, mentioned The Times "campaign"; well, we have great sympathy with The Times "campaign" because we all know that the editor lives in Somerset, but there were letters in The Times the other day from people who did not agree with that point of view, and in fact the chairman of the county finance committee is one of those who certainly does not think that the new county of Somerset will be unable to be a viable county financially.

I sympathise with the sentiments that have been expressed from all parts of the House, but it really does not alter the fact that there is here a local government entity. There is an area which, when we are taking a new look at local government and trying to get away from the old concept of a county borough in the midst of a county, has a distinct entity existing around the cities of Bath and Bristol. There is a sphere of influence bounded by a well defined area in the arc of hills extending from South of Dursley, running East of Bath and joining up with the Mendip massif, which forms a natural boundary extending to the sea South of Weston-super-Mare. I could go on to give the noble Lord all sorts of figures in support of this. A survey of bus services, for example. There are 94 buses daily in each direction between Bristol and Bath. Southwards from Bath there are 45 services daily to Radstock, 33 of which continue to Midsomer Norton. But only 23 cross the Mendips.

Then there are the commuting figures. There are many other figures with which I do not think your Lordships would wish me to burden you at this moment. I can only say that in my view it is inevitable that if one is to create a new Avon county it is impossible to make that a balanced county without including in it territory from South Gloucestershire and North Somerset. There are many people in North Somerset who recognise this. I daresay the noble Lord does not accept that there should be a new Avon county but this is something which is at the root of the Bill. Most of the inhabitants of North Somerset would no doubt have preferred to go on being in Somerset but they recognise the fact that they will be in Avon and they are anxious to form strong districts in Avon. One example, of course, is Weston-super-Mare, where the borough council has voted to be in the county of Avon.

I should like to make one last point on the Bath clinical area, of which the noble Lord, Lord Platt, spoke. Unfortunately, in a great many cases local government boundaries will not coincide with health boundaries—that would be asking too much—but we are extremely conscious of the difficulties. They have been studied very carefully and we have given absolute assurances that there will be no interference with the right of general practitioners to refer their patients to Bath General Hospital, if that is where they wish to send them. The management has made a special study of the problems of overlap, and appropriate arrangements will be made to see that in no way do patients suffer from this kind of boundary alteration. So I hope at least that the noble Lord will take that amount of comfort from me and I hope that at this late stage he will not press an Amendment that really goes to the root of the Bill and would in fact produce an impossible situation. I very much hope that he will withdraw the Amendment.


My Lords, I do not know much about the details of Somerset, Bath and Bristol, but what really amazes me is the inconsistency of the Government arguments that have been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. It appeared to me that the main plank of what he was saying—and he will correct me if I am wrong—was that unless the proposal of the Government is accepted in relation to this particular area the domination of Bristol will be felt. That is how I understood the noble Lord. Where the inconsistency comes in is that the Government argue the exact opposite in regard to Glamorgan. It was put forward by the people of Wales, who know that county extremely well, that in the event of this new county of South Glamorgan being created it would be dominated by Cardiff. It is the inconsistency of the arguments put forward by the Government in relation to these areas that rather puzzles me, and because of that inconsistency if my noble friend presses this Amendment to a Division, particularly on the basis of what we heard so far as South Glamorgan is concerned, I shall support him in the Lobby.


My Lords, I wonder whether I might help my noble friend by just describing what has happened on the North side of Bristol at the Gloucestershire end. As the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Southwark has just been saying, Bristol is looking towards Gloucestershire and the experience from that part is not a very happy one. I believe that the Southern part of Gloucestershire has realised that it should throw in its lot with Bristol; that it will have very good representation upon the new council which will be Avonside; and that it will have much more money available, as my noble friend Lord Aberdare has just explained, on the rateable value per head. The people there all hope, and I feel it will be quite certain, that much more care will be taken in the future on the planning requirements of a vast population such as Bristol—and Bath is getting pretty big as well—so that the mistakes of the past, from the results of which they are now suffering (and I see that my noble friend has a vast document entitled Severnside, which I am quite certain he would not wish to go into to-night) will not be repeated in the future in this particularly beautiful part of Somerset about which the noble Lord has been telling us this evening. I believe that his fears and those of his colleagues are not as substantial as he believes; and provided this Bill and the small print can be made to work I think it can be only to the advantage of the people in the country confronted by large conurbations, and that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated to such great effect.


My Lords, I wish to make it clear that my Amendment covers more than Bath. It covers everything which would enable Somerset to remain as it is. I was grateful to the Minister for his assurance about the Bath clinical area. It will give a lot of pleasure to the medical fraternity of Bath to have that assurance. However, I was greatly disappointed by the remainder of his reply. I had hoped to persuade the Government to be flexible in the case of Somerset, even at this last moment. The Minister was right to call this a wrecking Amendment. How else could all Somerset be saved? I do not know the record number of telegrams received by an advocate in one day, but I hold in my hand a bunch of 38. The Minister can count them if he wishes. This is an indication of the support of the people of Somerset for the case I have made and as their spokesman I feel obliged to press the Amendment, which represents the will of the people of Somerset.

7.32 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 6) shall be agreed to?

7.39 p.m.

EARL BATHURST moved Manuscript Amendment No. 6A, in page 224, line 28, after ("Sodbury") insert: ("except the parish of Alderley").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, my noble friend the Earl of Kinnoull is unavoidably absent. I am therefore moving on his behalf this Amendment which stands in his name and mine and in that of the noble Lord, Lord Sandys. I apologise to the House for moving a Manuscript Amendment. The holidays and the difficulty of getting a sufficient number of representatives of parishes together made it impossible for the Amendment to be tabled earlier. Your Lordships may wonder whether that was possibly a reason why I intervened a moment or two ago to ask my noble friend Lord Aberdare as a result of the win that Her Majesty's Government had

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 26; Not-Contents, 68.

Addison, V. Garnsworthy, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Arwyn, L. [Teller.] Hale, L. Seear, B.
Bacon, B. Hoy, L. Slater, L.
Barrington, V. Jacques, L. Southwark, L. Bp.
Bath and Wells, L.Bp. Longford, E. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Blyton, L. Phillips, B. Wade, L.
Burntwood, L. Platt, L. Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L
Caradon, L. Raglan, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Davies of Leek, L.[Teller.] Rusholme, L.
Aberdare, L. Digby, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L
Ailwyn, L. Drumalbyn, L. Newall, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Eccles, V. Northchurch, B.
Amory, V. Falmouth, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Balfour, E. Ferrers, E. Orr-Ewing, L.
Bathurst, E. Fortescue, E. Poltimore, L.
Belstead, L. Gage, V. Rankeillour, L.
Berkeley, B. Gainford, L. Redcliffe-Maud, L.
Bledisloe,V. Gainsborough, E. Ridley, V.
Bridgeman, V. Grimston of Westbury, L. Rockley, L.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Hood,V. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Brooke of Ystradfellte, B. Hylton, L St. Just, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Hylton-Foster, B. Saint Oswald, L.
Congleton, L. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Sandford, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Killearn, L. Sinclair of Cleeve, L.
Courtown, E. Kinloss, Ly. Terrington, L.
Cowley, E. Lauderdale, E. Trefgarne, L.
Craigavon, V. Long, V. Vernon, L.
Cranbrook, E. Malmesbury, E. Vivian, L.
Daventry, V. Mansfield, E. Windlesham, L.
Davidson, V. Milverton, L. Wolverton, L.
de Clifford, L. Monck, V. Young, B.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Monk Bretton, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

on the last Amendment whether possibly I might have this Amendment or a medal if he cannot accept it.

This is a very modest Amendment indeed. The reason for it follows exactly the principles which your Lordships have been considering in the previous Amendment, Amendment No. 6. There are very few people concerned. This is a result of local people in this parish of Alderley wishing to remain within the new county of Gloucestershire. It is the only part that we have been able to salvage from an Amendment which my noble friend Lord Kinnoull moved on Committee stage, hoping that we could respect the wishes of the people in the parish of Badminton. Badminton is traditionally a part of Gloucestershire, being connected historically particularly by the name of the Duke of Beaufort, who is our Lord Lieutenant and whose family has served the county for many hundreds of years. It was believed that that parish would be capable of being retained in Gloucestershire, but as a result of the opinion of a neighbouring parish this has become completely impossible. That parish wished to go to Avonside, very much for the reasons that I have just explained in my intervention. Therefore only Alderley, the parish in question and the subject of this Amendment, can be retained by a very modest movement of the proposed boundary line.

My Lords, for the same reason my noble friend Lord Kinnoull again had success, on the plea that people living in parishes know what they would like and what they would wish as opposed to the representatives at local district council level. That had the effect—and here we are most grateful to my noble friend Lord Aberdare—of including the parishes in the forthcoming Amendment which my noble friend Lady Berkeley is going to move. I know your Lordships will appreciate that very much indeed because the Berkeley parishes too have a great historical connection with Gloucestershire. I can only say how very sorry the rest of Gloucestershire is that it has proved impossible for my noble friend to continue with the Amendment to include Badminton in Gloucestershire, but I understand from my noble friend Lord Aberdare that he might ask the Boundary Commission to examine this particular point. In any case I understand that all the four parishes concerned in the Amendment of my noble friend would be able to approach the Boundary Commission in the next few years.

Meanwhile, I content myself—and my noble friend Lord Kinnoull is content—with this very modest Amendment on the Marshalled List to seek the inclusion of Alderley in the new county of Gloucestershire.

I do not know whether in fact the grammar is entirely correct. I should draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that presumably "except the parish of Alderley" will come between the word "Sodbury" and the comma. It would be a dreadful thing if as a result of this very modest Amendment the whole parish of. I think, Warmley and another very large parish as well happen to be excluded from Avonside. That is certainly not the intention of this Amendment, and I wonder whether to make it clearer possibly "Alderley" should be in brackets. I am quite certain that this is a purely drafting matter, although I thought it worth drawing to the notice of your Lordships. I beg to move.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Bathurst has explained the background to his Amendment. He has explained it absolutely correctly. It is true that I undertook on Committee stage to consider these four parishes again. It is true that Hawkesbury expressed a definite preference to be included in the new county of Avon as indeed did Acton Turville and we have kept in close touch. I am most grateful to my noble friend and to my noble friend Lord Kinnoull for the co-operative way in which they have looked at this whole matter. As we have said on various occasions to-day we like, and have always tried, to meet the wishes of local inhabitants where that did not clash with other considerations. In this case the local inhabitants of Alderley number 50 and we do not think it is likely to have any dire effect on the Bill if we meet them in their desire to go into Gloucestershire. I am happy therefore to accept the Amendment of my noble friend. I hope it is correctly drafted.

On Question, Amendment agreed to

7.46 p.m.

BARONESS BERKELEY moved Amendment No. 7: Page 224, line 28, leave out ("Thornbury").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, these Amendments are almost similar to the ones I moved on the Committee stage of this Bill and withdrew as my noble friend Lord Aberdare promised to consider the matter. Many noble Lords on all sides of the House supported the Amendment to keep these villages in Gloucestershire. Much has already been said on the boundary question and I do not feel that a further speech would be either helpful or necessary. Our noble Leader, Lord Jellicoe, bade us not to repeat all the old arguments that we had made in Committee so it is not my intention to do so. I await the Minister's reply and trust that it will be a favourable one. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, in this case also the noble Baroness is quite correct. I did undertake to have a look at the parishes in question. We were all very moved, I think some time ago, when the noble Baroness presented her petition on behalf of the parish of Berkeley, and it gives me all the greater pleasure therefore to be able to say that I accept her Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, Amendment No. 8 and the previous one I should really have moved together. I regret the error and must crave your Lordships' pardon. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 224, line 29, at end insert ("the rural district of Thornbury, except the parishes of Alkington, Berkeley, Ham and Stone, Ham-fallow and Hinton").—(Baroness Berkeley.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD HARDING OF PETHERTON moved Amendment No. 10: Page 224, leave out line 31.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 10 which stands in my name together with the names of the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Clecve, and the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy. This Amendment is the first of a number of Amendments all related to the Government's proposals for the boundary between the old county of Somerset and the new county of Avon, so I would propose to discuss all these Amendments together though they may of course have to be moved separately. I hope that will be for the convenience of the House. Although these Amendments are substantially the same as those moved and withdrawn by the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, on the Committee stage, they call for some explanation particularly in view of the debate that has recently taken place on the Amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, in reference to the city of Bath.

These Amendments in my name and those of the other noble Lords that I mentioned fall into two main groups: Amendment No. 10 would keep the borough of Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, and Amendments Nos. 11, 12, 13, 25 and 29 all relate to the Northern part of the Axbridge rural district except for the parishes of Wrington and Butcombe, and this area forms the natural hinterland of Weston-super-Mare and for local government purposes cannot sensibly be divorced from that borough. Amendment No. 14 is an alternative to Amendment No. 13 and will only be moved if Amendment No. 13 is lost. That is the first group.

The second group comprises Amendments Nos. 15, 16, 20 to 24, 26 and 27, and they all relate to the northern slopes of Mendip and are being moved to ensure that the area of Mendip remains intact and within Somerset. To put it briefly, the object of these Amendments is to keep Weston-super-Mare with its natural hinterland and the whole of Mendip in Somerset. We are not making proposals which would in our opinion do any damage to the concept of creating the new county of Avon. We are not, as the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, proposed, suggesting that the City of Bath should not fall into Avon.

At this point I think I should declare my own personal interest, because I am a Somerset man. I was born, bred and educated in Somerset, and I served in the Somerset Light Infantry. All my forbears as far back as our family history goes have been Somerset folk, and my own home is in South Somerset. So I have no personal axe to grind in this matter, but I honestly think that I know the way Somerset people think and feel as well as anybody, and better than most. In consequence, I am speaking for Somerset from both my head and my heart. All the same, I fully accept that the issues we are discussing cannot be settled on sentimental grounds, but I do claim that sentiment is important, because sentiment is the basis of loyalty, loyalty is the basis of voluntary service and without voluntary service local government would be neither representative nor effective.

I must emphasise that by moving these Amendments we are not challenging any of the principles enshrined in the Bill. Quite the contrary. For instance, if Weston-super-Mare is moved into Avon it will adversely affect the balance between town and country in Somerset, without, I maintain, a corresponding improvement of the position in that respect in Avon. Replying to my noble friend, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, on the question of the future of Weston-super-Mare, at Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said: The burden of my speech really is that Weston-super-Mare wants to be in Avon, Weston-super-Mare is closer to and more under the influence of Bristol and will continue to be more so in the future". I cannot accept these statements. It is true that the large majority of the Weston-super-Mare Borough Council has expressed itself in favour of Avon, but all the other available evidence points to the conclusion that the majority of the residents of Weston-super-Mare wish to remain in Somerset. In any case, as has been stated this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, and endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, there are other considerations to be taken into account. The Government are hardly being consistent if they regard the view of the local council as overriding in the case of Weston-super-Mare but not elsewhere.

As to the question of the comparative merits of associating Weston-super-Mare with Avon or with Somerset in terms of local government, my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, who has lived for many years in this part of Somerset and has had long associations with Bristol as well, has devoted much thought and study to this issue. As a result, he has come to the firm conclusion, with which I entirely agree, that in the long term the balance of advantage in all respects, not only for Somerset but also for Avon, lies with Weston-super-Mare remaining in Somerset. He will, I am sure, explain his thinking on this subject when he comes to speak.

There are a number of strong arguments for keeping Weston-super-Mare in Somerset which were deployed in the debate at Committee stage and have been aired more recently in the Press. I do not propose to go over them all again, but I should like to refer to one which, so far as I am aware, has not been advanced in public before and which is mentioned in a letter from the honorary secretary of the Somerset local medical committee, himself a resident of Weston-super-Mare, published in The Times on Friday, October 13, from which I quote one small passage: The effect"— of moving Weston-super-Mare into Avon— will be that a considerable number of patients will be using a hospital run by a different authority to the one in which they live. Added to that there will be the inevitable confusion with retard to the other health services, such as ambulances, nursing services and presumably the social services". In that connection, I understand that the Regional Hospital Board is on record as having stated that from their point of view it would be better if Weston-super-Mare remained in Somerset.

I must also join issue with those who say that the reduction in population and rateable value of Somerset will make no difference to the people of Somerset, since there will be a few—I think there are three—counties smaller than Somerset. But of course it will make a very great difference and in all fields. It is one thing to remain small, but quite a different matter to be reduced by 33 per cent. in population and 39 per cent. in rateable value through no fault or weakness of your own. It seems to me that the Government, in trying to do their best for Avon, have lost their sense of proportion and forgotten the old and wise adage that the best is very often the enemy of the good.

I now turn to the second group of Amendments relating to the boundary along the northern slopes of Mendip. Your Lordships will remember that at Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, undertook to look at these Amendments before Report stage, and he very kindly invited my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve and myself to meet him to discuss this matter last week. Unfortunately, all he could tell us was that after further consideration, following a visit by a representative of the Department of the Environment to the area, he was unable to make any changes in the Government's proposal. Hence the Amendment I am now moving. Mendip is an area of great interest and great natural beauty. It is also a single area, an entity. The evidence of this is that locally it is known as Mendip, not as "the Mendips" or "the Mendip Hills" but simply and plainly as Mendip, with all that that implies, and Mendip is an integral part of Somerset just as Exmoor is, and as Dartmoor is of Devon.

The boundary between this integral part of Somerset and the new County of Avon which is being proposed by the Government in the Bill lies generally along the 500 ft. contour across the northern slopes of Mendip. I have had some experience of the problems of drawing boundaries between neighbouring and sometimes jealous military formations, and I have found that to avoid friction and misunderstanding the cardinal principle is to lay down a boundary which has some significance on the ground, which follows features such as a river bank or a watershed or a road, for example—things that are recognisable on the ground; a contour line never. What is more, in this case the Government boundary not only splits parishes but farms between the two counties, with all the problems that that will create to the people living in the area. The only solution offered by the Government to these problems is to leave them to the Boundary Commission to settle, quite regardless of the confusions that further changes at a later stage will inevitably cause. Order; counter-order: disorder.

I have no more to say on this point. I am happy to leave it to those of your Lordships who have much more experience than I have of the practical problems of local government to decide which makes the more sense: a boundary running generally along a contour line as proposed by the Government, or one, as proposed by these Amendments, which follows the long established and recognised parish boundaries and does not divide what is essentially a single geographical, administrative, and social area between two counties.

I have been speaking for longer than I intended, but before I sit down I must repeat with all the emphasis of which I am capable that this is not an issue between local partisanship and general principle; it is essentially a question of judgment. The Government's position to-day is that they and their advisers know best; our position is that the weight of local knowledge, experience and opinion is against them, and that our proposals are better calculated than theirs to give effect to the general principles on which local government should be based as set out in the Bill. I am not one of those who believes in the all pervading wisdom of the Press, but I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the third leader of The Times on Tuesday, October 10, which realistically, objectively and briefly sets out the arguments in favour of the Amendments I am moving. The last sentence of that leader reads: This is the last opportunity the Government will have to avoid a serious error of judgment. I leave it to your Lordships to judge. To the Government I would address some words used by Oliver Cromwell: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.

8.3 p.m.


My Lords. I rise to support my noble friend Lord Harding. I entirely agree with what he said, and therefore I would not propose to do more than add what I can from my own knowledge and experience, having lived in North Somerset for over fifty years. As my noble friend Lord Harding said, this group of Amendments falls naturally into two parts. I should like to start by taking what I conceive to be the easier part. the Mendip parish. At the outset, may I join with my noble friend in expressing to my noble friend Lord Aberdare our appreciation of the way in which he saw that the undertaking he gave in Committee on August 11 was fulfilled. The Department had a good look at this boundary line on the spot. Unfortunately, as my noble friend Lord Harding indicated, we are rather given to understand that it is likely that the Government will not be able to go further than ensure that this boundary is among those which are referred to the Boundary Commission for prior consideration. This means of course that nothing will be settled for a considerable time—for more than two years—and in the meantime these parishes have to conduct their planning on the basis of what will very soon be the Local Government Act, with the consequent disadvantages to which my noble friend has referred.

It has been argued that these parishes are within the influence of Bristol. Frankly, that is something I cannot understand, and something which I believe the inhabitants would strongly dispute. Although some may find employment in Bristol and others may from time to time do some shopping in Bristol or go to Bristol for recreation or entertainment, the majority certainly would not for one moment regard themselves as under the influence of Bristol. The parish of Hinton Blewett, which is referred to in Amendment No. 15, was not mentioned at the Committee stage. That, I confess, was an oversight. It is a case where the parish is just as much a Mendip parish as the others, but it escaped by itself in that on the line proposed in the Bill it is not to be divided but it is to be put wholly in Avon and taken out of Somerset. As will be seen from the map, it is a very small excrescence, or, more politely, a re-entrant on the general line, and it should be, just as much as those other Mendip parishes through which the proposed boundary line goes, wholly retained in Somerset. I most earnestly plead with the Government to accept this series of Amendments, and cancel this threat of execution, or rather dichotomy, and keep these parishes in Somerset.

I now come to the more difficult part, which deals with Weston-super-Mare, and one or two parishes which constitute, in this context, the hinterland of the Weston-super-Mare area. To date, the Government have given no indication whatever of willingness to accept the argument that Weston-super-Mare should remain in Somerset. They have quoted the Severnside Study, and they have stated quite flatly that with Weston in Avon a better balance between Somerset and Avon is secured. I frankly find myself in a difficult position here, for it goes very much against the grain with me to support and vote for an Amendment specifically and primarily dealing with Weston when that proposal is still opposed by the council of the borough. The argument used by the Government in this case, however, seems to be based primarily on balance—that is, the urban and rural balance secured in the counties of Avon and Somerset—and this balance must, I would assume, have some relation to the economic viability of the respective areas. In other words, it suggests that with Weston in Somerset that part of the County of Avon South of the River Avon would, without Weston, with its considerable population and high rateable value, be unbalanced and be unduly under the influence of Bristol. Although in Committee I ventured to indicate that in some cases political considerations were a factor in determining the attitude of the people affected by the proposed boundary changes, such considerations are likely to be ephemeral and not of an enduring character. I do not suggest that purely political argument forms any part of the Government's case for making this particular change, but it may carry weight with some of the people, and with some district councils, in that part of Avon South of the River Avon.

I think that it would be true to say, and my noble friend Lord Redcliffe-Maud will certainly correct me if I am wrong in this, that the Royal Commission, in their approach to the highly complicated problem of finding the best demarcation lines for the new counties and districts, had particular regard to what I think was called the "community of interests", and on that basis Weston was regarded as much more linked to Bristol, and what is now to be Avon, than it is to Somerset. So it is that here again this "influence" argument comes in. It is true that a number of people who live in Weston work in Bristol, but very far from a majority of the working population. It is also true that many people in Weston on occasion do some of their shopping in Bristol, but Weston is very well equipped as a shopping centre; Weston people will tend to go to the theatre in Bristol, and so forth, but nevertheless—and I think I can say this from my own experience and knowledge without too much reliance on the statistics of the referendum taken by the Save Our Somerset campaign—the great majority of the people in Weston have long felt themselves to be part of Somerset, and do not at all look forward to being taken into Avon.

Here I should like to make the point which was brought to mind by a reference already made to some letters which appeared in The Times rather arguing against the first letter from Somerset County Council and the leader in The Times. One of those letters concerns districts, which I believe are generally conceded to be an extremely important part of the whole reorganised local government. This letter, sent by a Mr. S. E. Williams, whom I know well and who has rendered great service as a county councillor, as a district councillor and as a parish councillor, argued that great damage would be done to the new district councils by the exclusion from Avon of Weston-super-Mare and Ax-bridge district council. On the day that letter appeared I received from the Axbridge Rural District Council—and this was pure coincidence—a long statement approved by the chairman of the attitude of that council over the relevant period starting with the evidence submitted to the Royal Commission in 1966, and referring to their active co-operation since 1971 with the adjoining urban and rural district councils which are included in district No. 4 in the county of Avon to which reference has already been made. This statement makes it clear that Axbridge, which is intimately concerned with this problem, dissociates itself from the statement recently made by Avon District No. 4 opposing the transfer of any part of that district into Somerset, and it says that this not only is the view of the majority of electors in the district but also reflects the decisions of the parish council.

To conclude, I have tried to look at this question dispassionately and without, I hope, undue regard to the sentimental considerations which are undoubtedly very strong. I have tried to weigh up a good deal of diverging advice that has been given to me on the practical ground, in many cases by people whose opinion I have good reason to respect. Although at the present time there may be something in the argument—and I believe there is—that that part of North Somerset which goes into Avon will be weakened in terms of population and rateable value if Weston remains in Somerset, I am convinced that the harm done to Somerset by Weston going into Avon would be much greater than would be the benefit to Avon even in the short term. As the Severnside Study has clearly shown, as indeed everyone recognises, the population and wealth in terms of rateable value of the new county of Avon will in all human probability be largely increased by the developments which are planned to take place in that county and more particularly North of the Rivon Avon, and we must, I think, surely have regard to the long-term effect of these changes. I have not found it easy to evaluate many conflicting considerations, but I have in the end come to the firm conclusion that the right course would be to accept these Amendments and I hope that the majority of your Lordships may be similarly convinced.


I wonder whether, after these two very persuasive speeches from two Members of your Lordships' House whom we greatly respect and who speak from deep knowledge and with absolute sincerity, I might add some words in the same sort of spirit. I cannot speak with the same knowledge from having lived there, though I did fall off a horse more often perhaps on Exmoor in following various hunts than in any other part of the country; and that has left a lasting impression of affection for that part of the country. I really want to declare a lack of interest which perhaps is the only qualification for taking a few moments of your Lordships' time.

As has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, the concept of a county of Avon (although we did not risk giving it a name; we only gave it a number in the Royal Commission Report) emerged from the work of the Royal Commission, and the noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, did say that the Government were perhaps doing Avon rather too well and that the best for Avon might be the enemy of the good for Somerset; that they had in fact done Avon, at any rate geographically, a good deal less well than the only begetters of the county of Avon, namely the Royal Commission, suggested. After the debate and the disastrous counter-productive effect of my last speech on those who voted against the Government in another matter I should perhaps not be speaking at all. If I may be old-fashioned, we in the Royal Commission felt that there was general agreement that in considering how local government should be reformed you should try to see how people lived and moved and had their being now, regardless of the local government boundaries inherited from the past—although of course they would be taken account of later—and consider how they are likely to be living in five, ten, fifteen or twenty years' time. That is what we did in the Royal Commission, and that is what your Lordships are really trying to do.

If you do that in respect of this particular area, based not, let us say, on the county borough of Bristol, because we are going to burn up the county borough of Bristol just as we are burning up the county council of Somerset (we are burning up all the counties and county boroughs), it means creating new authorities, and the new authority for Avon is to be centred on what at the moment is Bristol. In the Royal Commission we thought that if you were going to do that it was necessary to embrace not exactly a balance between town and country, certainly not a balance between Labour and Conservative or Liberal—we never addressed our minds to that question—but something corresponding to the sort of community that does exist and is going to exist. From that point of view we thought it desirable to take in not only the area we are discussing at the moment but an area which would include more of Somerset, Frome and areas round that which I think this Government, when they first looked at the problem, were disposed to think was right and did include in their first draft, though they withdrew it later, in view of further thoughts no doubt stimulated by our friends in Somerset and also we thought, in the Royal Commission, a bit of Wiltshire. That was never a starter with the present Government, though the previous Government thought it right. We thought also, that a bit of North Gloucester might be included.

The present proposals are a withdrawal not only from what the Royal Commission suggested but from what this Government thought at first was the right area for Avon. I believe that it would be wrong, in spite of all these powerful arguments that the two noble Lords have raised, to retreat further, not, in my view, because of the balance in Avon so much as because of the facts of life and what we think the facts of life are going to be. It is not that this area of Weston and the rural district, the hinterland of Weston, is under the dominance of Bristol and likely to come still more under the dominance of Bristol. It is because people in that area will, I believe (and this is what the Royal Commission thought), increasingly look towards that part which is at the moment Bristol, in the way they go to work, in the way they entertain themselves and in the way they buy that double bed to which we referred earlier and which they do not buy in Weston. They can buy most things in Weston, but they will probably increasingly go to Bristol, which is a great deal nearer than Taunton, to buy the odd thing that they want to buy elsewhere. This is only one of the many considerations that one must have in mind, but it is essential to start with this if one is trying to reform local government on the basis of the economic and social future as well as of the facts. This is my reason for thinking that the Government are at any rate more right in sticking to what they are now proposing than in accepting what they are being asked by the movers of the Amendments to do.

There is also the fact that Weston borough want to do what the Government are suggesting they should do. But, as we have often said, when there is a local dispute nowadays it is possible to look to someone to support almost any view, one way or the other. There is also the rather powerful letter from the Chairman of the Joint North Somerset District Committee. Of course it is true that planning has been going on for some time between these districts which are to be. That is not a conclusive reason for not changing our plans now, but we ought to bear it in mind that the time is drawing near when we must reach a decision and that thoughtful local governors have been getting together and making various plans against the day when Parliament will have made up its mind.

Speaking of objectivity, I do not accept the leader in The Times as an example of objectivity. I accept the argument from a great Somerset citizen like the noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, as absolutely objective, as I do that of another old Somerset man who spoke. But for various reasons, one of which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, I do not accept the objectivity of The Times on this or certain other aspects of local government reform. So I hope that the House will be disposed to support the Government, if the Government feel that they must resist these Amendments.

8.23 p.m.


My Lords, think we can all accept the rationale of the Government's case on the county of Avon. In fact, that rationale has been expressed with great foresight and very lucidly indeed by the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud. I shall be very interested to see whether that powerful speech is reported in full to-morrow in the newspaper to which he referred. The principles of local government predicate a balance between town and country and the aspects to which the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud has called attention. The Government are anxious that the city of Bristol should not excessively dominate the new county of Avon by itself, and therefore it is proposed to include slices of rural North Somerset and Weston-super-Mare in the new county as a balancing influence. Nevertheless, the proposals are pretty hard on the county of Somerset.

A cut of 33⅓ per cent. is a savage one, though I think we all believe that even if these provisions go through Somerset will continue to be a viable county. I do not think any of us would imagine anything to the contrary. But the present county is most efficiently administered by an excellent county council, and with the inclusion of Weston-super-Mare it is a very well balanced county. At the Committee stage we were told of the resolution of the Weston-super-Mare council to the effect that they would like to go in with Avon, and of course weight must be attached to that opinion. One understands, however, from the speeches that have already been made by the noble Lord, Lord Harding, and by my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, that there is a great deal of evidence to the contrary; that, in general, public opinion in this area would take the opposite view. These proposals are clearly to the benefit of the new county of Avon. The question is: is the benefit to the new county of Avon sufficient to outweigh the damage which will be done to the county of Somerset? It seems to me that this is essentially a question where the real wishes of the local inhabitants should be the deciding factor, so I admit that I have some sympathy with the arguments put forward by the mover and seconder of these Amendments.


My Lords, may I first of all say that in speaking from this Box I am not speaking for all of my colleagues behind me? I speak, as I said at Committee stage, as one who was born in Somerset; and because of that I have taken an interest in what is happening in the field of local government there. This afternoon we have seen the House pull off a hat trick; it has carried three Amendments against the Government. We have seen the Government accept two Amendments, and I was hoping that we might see a hat trick in that direction also. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said on the recent Amendment regarding Somerset, I hope that the Government's mind is not so closed to these Amendments as he seemed to indicate. I should think it rather unfortunate if the Government came to a hard and fast conclusion before they had heard the very powerful arguments advanced.

I always listen with the very greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud. With continuing respect, may I tell him that I was not an enthusiastic supporter of the proposals of his Commission; and I do not accept—and I am sure he would not expect me to do so—that his view was the final view on what should happen in the field of local government reform. But it seems to me that he has made it clear this afternoon, as I thought was clear from reading his Report, that he and too many of his colleagues paid far too little attention to loyalties and to the interests of local people, and that he and his colleagues had determined what might be good for them in the future. I have reached an age when I am a little sceptical when somebody else is deciding what will be good for me in 10 or 15 years' time, and I believe that at this late stage the Government will do well to pay more than a little attention to the express loyalties of the people who live in the areas which we are considering.

It is because I feel a sense of loyalty to Somerset that I am speaking in this debate. My memory tells me that once upon a time Weston-super-Mare played a very important role in the county of Somerset, and when I was a boy a great many of the meetings, though not all, were held at Weston-super-Mare. It is only comparatively recently that Taunton has become the seat of local government. What worries me in this debate, as it did in Committee, is that far too much consideration is being given to what is good for Avon.

Far too much has been said about the effect of these proposals on Avon. It is important that we should remind ourselves of the effect of the Government's proposals on the county of Somerset. Because let us be under no delusion at all: they are going to be devastating. I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has said that he did not like my using the words "surgical operation" when we were in Committee. When you are cutting off one-third of the population; when you are cutting off one-third of the rateable value; when you are reducing a county from the size that Somerset is to the size it will be, 600,000 to 390,000, and its rateable value from £23 million to £14 million or £14½ million, is that not a surgical operation? I do not think it is enough to say that if the Government's surgical operation is carried out the rateable value per head will be slightly higher than it would be if these proposals were carried, because, my Lords, services will be more costly. There will inevitably be a transference of responsibility, and nobody in this House would pretend that such a transference as is involved here can be carried out without cost. But the cost, I think, is likely to be to the services that will be in what remains of Somerset. I think the point was raised in Committee—and it was not answered—that, for a county reduced as Somerset will be, it will not be able to attract people of the calibre that it has been able to attract with a larger population and larger rateable value.

The noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, paid tribute to the powerful arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Harding, and the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve. If these are powerful arguments, then why not listen to them, because these are people who come from the areas and know the people, and who know their attitude. I regretted that when we were in Committee (I think it is reported in column 1506) the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, indicated that he had little respect for referenda and for public opinion polls. He preferred to rest on what the Weston-super-Mare councillors had to say. Local councils, as is the case with Governments, do not always speak for the people, and the people continue after the councillors and the Governments have gone. I think the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, made it clear in Committee, as he has to-day, that the people of Weston-super-Mare and the people of North Somerset, certainly in the part of Somerset covered by this series of Amendments, wish to stay in that county.

I do not wish to take up a great deal more time, but I would ask that further, sympathetic consideration be given to this matter. If the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, indicates that the Government are adamant and will not give way, I sin- cerely hope that this matter will be pressed to a Division, for I am certain that if it had been pressed to a Division at the Committee stage the Amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, would have been carried. I should have liked to see this House full to hear the arguments advanced by the two noble Lords who spoke at the beginning of this debate, for I believe there would have been no doubt in the Division Lobbies—and I hope that there will be none now—that the House would have indicated that here is a case where, if the Government do not see the force of the argument which has been advanced, if they do not appreciate the damage which is being done to the county of Somerset, the House should call them to account and say, "It is our view that these Amendments should prevail."


My Lords, the hour is getting late and there is an atmosphere of hunger in the air, so I will be brief in supporting this group of Amendments moved by my noble friends and neighbours, Lord Harding and Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy. I speak as a Somerset man on both sides of the family going back for several hundreds of years, but lest anyone on the Front Bench should think I am a refugee from the new county of Avon, I would point out that if the Government's proposals go through as they are now drafted I shall still be in the county of Somerset, so I hope that I am also speaking from an impartial point of view.

I would mention just three things: the question of the split parishes, the question of Weston, and the general treatment of Somerset as a county. At the Committee stage we were promised that these six split parishes would be reviewed. I wonder whether it has come to the attention of the Government that their line will divide Burrington Combe into two halves, splitting a magnificent natural feature; and that the commoners of Burrington Common will be separated from their common, with their houses on one side of the line and their beasts and their common on the other side. I wonder also whether it has been noted that the access points from the main road which will lead to the amended area of outstanding natural beauty will be separated from the higher ground which constitutes the area of natural beauty. In my opinion this cannot be a good planning principle or a good line to draw. One comes then, secondly, to the question of Weston. At the last stage of the Bill the Government attached great importance to the decision reached by the Weston-super-Mare Borough Council. They tended to dismiss with scorn the referendum; and they also dismissed the opinions of the elected county councillors of Weston, who were unanimous for remaining in Somerset. I presume they would also dismiss the opinions of the Member of Parliament for Weston, who, among other writers to The Times, came out very strongly for the Somerset case.

If I may add a brief word about the general treatment of Somerset, I think it is a county which can claim to have been worse treated by the Government's proposals than any other in the rest of England. It is true that Cornwall, Shropshire and Northumberland will be smaller in population, but these were ancient counties with existing boundaries which have been respected. Therefore, on the Government's principle they could not be any further reduced. If these Amendments are accepted, Somerset will emerge with a population of some 450,000, which will put it on a parity with new Gloucestershire, new Wiltshire and new Dorset. This, to my mind, will have a very important effect on the recruitment of local government officers. Under the Government's proposals Somerset loses its largest town, Weston-super-Mare. The noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, claims that the inhabitants of Weston-super-Mare go to Bristol to buy their beds. Is it not rather more important that in 1966, the last year for which employment figures were available, only 6 per cent. of the employed population of Weston commuted to Bristol, the rest working either in their own town or somewhere else in Somerset? For these reasons, my Lords, I beg to support these Amendments.


My Lords, as the noble Lord mentioned the county of Northumberland. I think it is only fair to say that under the Bill this county's population is being reduced from 510,000 to 280,000. Although this may not be a perfect solution, that county is not complaining about the Bill.


My Lords, I have listened very carefully to what has been a most interesting and well-thought-out debate on the part of those of your Lordships who have taken part in it; and once again I am bound to say how sincerely and deeply I respect the views of those who are Somerset people and who obviously feel very deeply about this particular subject. I am sure that we acknowledge now, as a result of the Division we have just had, that the county of Avon is a necessary part of our future local government map. These particular Amendments, most eloquently moved by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, relate to the Southern boundary of Avon, between Avon and Somerset, and we are again rehearsing, in fact, the arguments that we have already had on the Committee stage. Your Lordships will recall that on that occasion I explained our reasons for including Weston-super-Mare in Avon and I said that we could not consider going back on that decision. That is still our position.

I will in a moment briefly rehearse again some of the reasons which led us to this conclusion and which fall roughly into the same category of reasons as those advanced so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud. I said that we should have a careful look at the boundary further East where it divided various parishes. On that basis the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, was good enough to withdraw his Amendment and I can tell your Lordships that there have been further discussions. Officials from the Department of the Environment have been to see the Somerset County Council officials and I had the opportunity of a meeting myself with the noble Lords, Lord Harding and Lord Sinclair of Cleeve. I am grateful to them for their acknowledgement of that matter. We have given a tremendous amount of attention to this particular boundary but I am perfectly convinced (and I have no axe to grind in this) that despite my very natural feelings for the sentiments of people in Somerset. the boundaries that we now have in the Bill are the right ones.

May I briefly say again why we look for the inclusion of Weston-super-Mare as being the best local government solution? It must be acknowledged that there is a distinct and growing centre of population activity based on Bristol and Bath and extending to Weston-super-Mare. The noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, has told us that this was recognised in the Royal Commission Report which included Weston-super-Mare in unitary area No. 26. That Commission, just as the Government, were looking not only at the present position but how it may develop over the years, particularly economically with the conclusions of the Severnside study, for example, in mind. Since then, as the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, has told us, we have tried to meet some of the needs of Somerset by putting 130 square miles more and 30,000 more people into Somerset than was originally proposed, this being in the Frome area. But we feel that for the future planning of the Severnside area a part as important as Weston-super-Mare should not be removed from it. There are close employment links between Weston-super-Mare and the rest of Avon and with Bristol in particular. Moreover it seems likely that these will grow as the M.5 motorway nears completion. I should have thought that it was obvious to anyone who studied the map of the area, who looked at the roads and at the figures for the movement of population, for work and shopping, that Weston-super-Mare must be more closely linked with Bristol than with Taunton.

The noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, said that I was a little cavalier in my treatment of referenda. I am speaking only in the sense that referenda are very often misleading. I do not say that they are in this particular case; it depends on what questions are put. But what I am saying—and I said this on the last Amendment—is that one can only take them into account in trying to decide what the future local government map should be; because if we did not, if we were to accept people's views as being the only or overriding reason for the boundaries that we draw, then, as I have said before, we should not have any local government reorganisation, because people in this country are conservative and like things to stay as they are.


My Lords, I rise because I rather think the noble Lord is putting an interpretation of what I said that might be misunderstood. I do not think I misunderstood what he said on Committee. With permission, I will read what he said: I should prefer to accept that view rather than any referendum or other type of public opinion poll which, frankly, I think is always very difficult to accept. I do not think I did the noble Lord an injustice.


My Lords, I think that the noble Lord did so, because I was trying to explain that I prefer to go by the views of the elected representatives. I prefer a view in Parliament to a referendum. That said, I accept a referendum as giving the views of most people. I accept absolutely that the people of Somerset would prefer to remain in Somerset but I am trying to explain the other reasons in this case that outweigh those. I think it is striking in the case of Weston-super-Mare that the borough council, despite all the pressure put upon them and despite the referenda, still wish to be in Avon. They surely recognise that their future lies in this area in Severnside and recognise their links with Bristol, I am sure that this is something we cannot lightly ignore.

The situation now is that former parts of North Somerset will have to go to form part of Avon if this county is to come into being. The question is: where should the boundary be? What I am saying is that Weston-super-Mare for economic reasons, for all the reasons I have given, for the reason that its own council wish it to remain in Avon, should do so. There are many other opinions of people living in North Somerset who, again, would much prefer to have remained in Somerset but, knowing now that there is to be an Avon and that parts of North Somerset will be in it, are only too anxious that they should build up a solid community basis, a solid, strong local government, and not be dominated by Bristol.

I have had one or two telegrams to this effect: Long Ashton Rural District Council alarmed at Somerset County Council proposal stop Avon without Weston-super-Mare is worst solution stop Strongly urge retention Avon as proposed stop Only alternative total retention of Somerset (Signed) Stella Clark, Chairman. I have a number of them. I will not read them all. The last is from the Chairman of North Somerset District Joint Committee: At the unanimous request of the five councils in the North West of Somerset who form the new North Somerset District of Avon County I ask you to take all possible steps to prevent Somerset County Council campaign to take Weston-super-Mare back into Somerset stop Weston wants to stay with us and is naturally and politically part of us stop Weston and the District Council want to go together stop (Signed) Atchley chairman North Somerset District Joint Committee. There is one particular barbed thrust, if I may say so, to my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve: The village of Cleeve has by heavy majority demanded the retention of existing Somerset boundaries. (Signed) E. L. Pelling. The facts are that from the point of view of Avon, as I explained on the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, without Weston-super-Mare Bristol would have a share of over 50 per cent. in the new county as opposed to their present share of 47 per cent. This would upset the balance in Avon. It would also result in, I would say, a reasonable balance in Somerset. The noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, made out that the balance would be altered; but the population of the future county will be divided almost equally between those who live in urban areas, 47 per cent., and those who will be living in the country areas, 53 per cent. I do not think that that upsets the balance in Somerset.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, but he was making a point about the preponderance of Bristol in the county of Avon if the Amendment were accepted. Would he not apply an equally strong argument to the position of Cardiff in South Glamorgan where there is a considerably greater proportion than exists at Bristol?


My Lords, I do not want to get diverted to Cardiff. As the noble Baroness knows there are many other considerations in relation to Cardiff.

I cannot accept either, as I also have said in respect of the previous Amend- ment, that Somerset will be poorly off. I have already given the population figures and explained that whatever be the gross rateable value, it is the rateable value per head that counts. For all those reasons I am afraid that we cannot give way on Weston-super-Mare.

May I come to the point with which I was rather more sympathetic, that of the divided boundaries in parishes. Again I believe that the proposals in the Bill are correct although, as I said then, the Boundary Commission will have to look at these in due course. No one would wish to divide parishes unless it is absolutely essential, but the fact is that we have tried to do exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, has asked—to run the boundary along a distinctive course. The top of a hill is the best sort of boundary you can have, but in this case, in order to keep the top of the Mendips in Somerset, we have put the boundary a little way down on the other side. Although it is at moment on a contour it is still intended that the detailed boundary will be worked out with local people and included in an Order. They will not simply follow the contour; they will follow a clearly defined line.

The noble Lord mentioned Exmoor, but that was not a very good example because for a long time Exmoor has been divided between two counties and there is no reason why Mendip, as the noble Lord called it, should not equally exist as it does to-day as a well-defined area, even though a boundary which is not obvious on the land actually runs between it. We are looking at the local government point of view. Where do the children from these villages go for their schools? Where do the social services come from? They do not go up to the top of the hill and South over the Mendips; they must go North, and so the education authority which looks after these villages must be to the North and not over the escarpment. These are the reasons why we have run this boundary as we have, through the villages. I would emphasise that it does not run through communities, through villages. The villages are all in Avon, in order that their education and social services may run towards the North which I believe to be undoubtedly right on local government grounds. As I say, we believe that the boundary is the best we can achieve at the moment. I hope that your Lordships will not accept this Amendment. I would qualify that only by repeating that the Boundary Commission will have to look at the detailed boundary as soon as possible after this change comes into effect on April 1, 1974.


My Lords, before my noble friend Lord Aberdare resumes his seat perhaps he would allow me to make one point, as he has referred to the village of Cleeve and my position in connection therewith. I explained during the Committee stage that Cleeve is within the proposed boundaries of Avon. There has been no suggestion that it should be removed and taken back into Somerset. We have always recognised that there must be a balance, a mainly rural and urban balanced area South of the River Avon, if the county of Avon is to be sensible at all. Cleeve

9.6 p.m.

LORD HARDING OF P moved Amendment No. 14 Page 224, line 41, leave out from ("Axe") to end of line 44.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 14 is an alternative to

comes into that area, and there has never been any suggestion that our motive in expressing this was in any way influenced by my position.


My Lords, I have listened carefully and with admiration to the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud. I also listened attentively to the arguments produced by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, in reply to the Amendment. But I am afraid I am not convinced either by Lord Redcliffe-Maud's eloquence or by Lord Aberdare's arguments. So I must ask that this Amendment be put to the vote.

8.56 p.m.

On Question: Whether the said Amendment (No. 10) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 41; Not-Contents, 42.

Addison, V. Hale, L. Rusholme, L.
Amory, V. Hall, V. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Bacon, B. Harding of Petherton, L. Seear, JB.
Barrington, V. Hoy, L. Serota, B.
Bath and Wells, L.Bp. Hylton, L. Shackleton, L.
Beswick, L. Long, V. Simon, V.
Carnock, L. Lytton, E. Sinclair of Cleve, L.
Champion, L. Maybray-King, L. Strabolgi, L.
Congleton, L. Milverton, L. Vernon, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Moyne, L. Wade, L.
Digby, L. O'Hagan, L. White, B.
Falmouth, V. Oxford and Asquith, E. Woolley, L.
Gage, V. Phillips, B. Wynne-Jones, L.
Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.] Rennell, L.
Aberdare, L, Eccles, V. Northchurch, B.
Ailwyn, L. Emmet of Amberley, B. Nugent, of Guildford, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Ferrers, E. Orr-Ewing, L.
Balfour, E. Fortescue, E. Rankeillour, L.
Belstead, L. Gainford, L. Redcliffe-Maud, L.
Bridgeman, V. Grimston of Westbury, L. Ridley, V.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Hood, V. St. Aldwyn, E.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, B. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) St. Just, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Limerick, E. Sandford, L.
Cranbrook, E. Molson, L. Trefgarne, L.
Davidson, V. Monk Bretton, L. Vivian, L.
de Clifford, L. Montagu of Beaulieu, L. Windlesham, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Mowbray and Stourton, L. Wolverton, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Newall, L. Young, B. [Teller.]

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Amendment No. 13. It keeps the whole of the parishes of Blagdon and Burrington in Somerset, despite the loss of the remainder of the Axbridge rural district. I beg to move.


My Lords, I cannot advise your Lordships to accept this Amendment for the same reasons that I tried to explain in my last speech. I do not think that I should embark on another major speech at this late hour of the night. I can only say that I have given the reason why we believe that the boundary as we have fixed it is correct, and I hope that your Lordships will accept that and not agree to the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

LORD HARDING OF PETHERTON moved Amendment No. 15: Page 224, line 48, leave out ("Hinton Blewett").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 15 places the whole of the divided parishes of East Hartley, West Hartley, Compton Martin and Ubley in Compton. I beg to move.


My Lords, I have tried to answer this Amendment already. The divided parishes seem to us to be a logical line to draw for local government reasons, because they are along a fairly distinct geographical feature. They do not actually divide communities and they ensure that the educational authority and the social services authority are North of this boundary line, and the people seeking education for their children and so on do not have to go over the crest of the Mendips. This is also true of the district functions. The district does not have to have its rubbish collected along the tip of the Mendips, but is in a district North of the Mendips. To my mind, for good reason, the boundary should run along the Mendips.


My Lords, in view of the vote on this part of the proposals, may I ask whether the Government would have yet another look at this matter? I do not think I shall be the only one in this House who feels that it perhaps was a little unfortunate that these Amendments have come up at this rather late stage, following upon earlier Amendments. The result of the Division being so very close, I would nave thought that the Government could well afford to look at this point again and perhaps give very special and sympathetic consideration to it.


My Lords, I really am sorry not to be able to accept that argument. We have been over this question so very carefully. I was perfectly convinced that it was wrong to divide parishes, but having seen it on the map and having had explained to me how local government services flow and having seen the alternative boundary, it really is very unsatisfactory to put the parishes all into Somerset. The boundary runs through the middle of two reservoirs which supply Bristol with water. It really is not a very sensible suggestion, and I promise the noble Lord that having looked at it so carefully it would be wrong to accept his suggestion now. I can only advise the House that in my view the boundary is correctly drawn and the Amendment is mistaken.


May I say—and I am sure that I speak for my noble friend Lord Harding as well as myself—that we remain completely unaltered in our view. We feel it is wrong on the basis of the argument to arrive at a decision which results in the division of six parishes. I feel it would be only reasonable for the Government to undertake to have another look at this particular point, as the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, has suggested. I think it would be very worth while.


My Lords, may I just put it to my noble friend Lord Aberdare that it would be right on town and country planning grounds to keep the six whole parishes in Somerset. On the question of schools, there is a very good comprehensive secondary school at Chew Magna to which these children already go, and surely trans-border arrangements could be worked out to enable the children to continue going to a school which they already attend.


My Lords, if I have leave to speak just once more, these are all the considerations we have looked at so carefully, and a mountain range or a hilltop is a very good boundary for all sorts of purposes. I have said that the boundary will not follow slavishly along the contour and that we shall have a look at it and make it a more sensible boundary. I would emphasise that it does not cut through communities: it keeps the villages intact and it keeps them in their own part of North Somerset where they are at present and where they presently enjoy local government services. This was the one point on which I was sympathetic in Committee and the one point I looked at most carefully. I really do not think I can agree to take it back again.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

9.11 p.m.


My Lords, I ask leave to withdraw Amendment No. 16.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, I think this would be a convenient moment to break off. I beg to move this House do now adjourn.