§ 4.52 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SECURITY (LORD ABERDARE)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Aberdare.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.508
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]
§ Clause 20 [New local government areas in Wales]:
§ LORD ABERDARE
This Amendment is similar to Amendment No. 1 relating to the English clauses and is designed to improve the wording of the Bill. I beg to move.
Page 13, line 25, at beginning insert ("For the administration of local government on and after 1st April 1974").—(Lord Aberdare.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 88Z:
Page 13, line 27, at end insert ("There shall also be an elected Council for Wales").
§ The noble Baroness said: In many ways it would have been desirable if we could have taken this Amendment at a rather later stage. However, it seemed to us that this was perhaps the more logical Part of the Bill to which to table it. It is important that when we are discussing a clause of the Bill which is concerned exclusively with the Principality we should have at least some discussion of a matter which has been of great concern in Wales for a number of years and which is of increasing concern. It applies in a sense of course to England but there it is of far less urgent importance.
§ The Government are likely to say that they are not able to give any firm conclusions on this matter while they await the Report of the Crowther/Kilbrandon Commission. That we entirely understand, and it is for that reason that in tabling the Amendment we have not sought to do what was done in another place, which was to particularise the form which such an elected Council might take. But having said that, it is extremely important in the context of Welsh public life that we should have an indication from the Government that they are at least thinking about this matter.
§ In paragraphs 35 to 37 of the Government's White Paper on the Reform of Local Government in England they refer to what might be required in the future on a regional or provincial basis. They refer to functions both of central and 509 local government which need to be considered in a regional or provincial context, and they deal in particular with the formation of broad economic and land use strategy. In considering a Bill which is to define the scope and structure of local government for many years to come, it is extremely unsatisfactory if we do not get an indication from the Government, either in an English or Welsh context, of the sort of functions, possibly in addition to those referred to in the White Paper, they may have in mind as being appropriate for provincial or regional administration.
In regard to Wales, where the matter is, as I have said, of far more urgent importance, the reference in the Consultative Document to this issue is perfunctory in the extreme. The Secretary of State for Wales in paragraph 54 of his White Paper simply says that the Commission on the Constitution has not yet completed its work and that until it has done so it would be wrong to take decisions on the future of an all-Welsh machinery. But we are not asking the Government to take decisions at this point. We are simply asking them to give an indication of how their minds may be working.
says the Secretary of State for Wales in his Consultative Document
the Welsh Council, whose members are appointed by the Secretary of State, will continue their valuable and important work.
For two years I was the Chairman of the Welsh Council and I can therefore speak with some knowledge of the subject. At present this is an entirely nominated body, nominated by the Secretary of State. It is purely advisory to him, and its members, although of considerable experience and importance in Welsh life, are treated as individuals. They have no representative capacity and therefore the present Welsh Council, which now has an independent and not a Ministerial chairman, valuable though it it, is not the kind of body which we would want the Government to consider. Nor is it the kind of body which the Crowther/Kilbrandon Commission are in the least likely to recommend.
§ We have a particular problem in Wales. It is not just a problem of regional 510 economic planning, major road strategy or anything of that sort. We also have a national problem. I speak not as a Nationalist in the narrow political sense of that word, but as someone who is not only proud to be a Welsh woman but who is very conscious of the identity of the Welsh people and of the Welsh nation as part of the United Kingdom. In fact, we have expressions of this identity in a number of our organisations, many of which were referred to in the proposals made in another place on this Bill for an elected Council for Wales. It might be helpful if I refer to some of them because, although I am not proposing such a list, it illustrates the kind of point I wish to make.
§ Reference was made in another place to, for example, the Welsh Tourist Board and the Welsh Hospital Board, though the latter will be disposed of under the arrangements for the reorganisation of the Health Service. The Countryside Commission has a special Statutory Welsh Committee and the Welsh Arts Council has an existence of its own. We have the Welsh Books Council, the Welsh Sports Council, the Welsh Committee of the Water Resources Board and a special Welsh Advisory Council for Civil Aviation. There are many others. In other words, we have a number of bodies functioning in the Principality which are concerned with national policy as administered in the Principality, but which are expected to do so in a Welsh context and from a Welsh point of view.
§ The problem which I think will face us stems from the fact that there are differing attitudes to what sort of Welsh Council would be appropriate. We in the Labour Party have given a great deal of thought to this and have come to the conclusion that a nominated body is not satisfactory. The majority of us have come to the conclusion that an indirectly elected body that is, one made up of representatives from the elected local authorities—is not satisfactory either, although personally I believe that on any such body there should be an element of representation from the major local authorities in Wales; but, I repeat, that that is my personal view. The majority view in my own Party is that there should be a directly elected Council and that it should have various functions. But there is of course a considerable difference between 511 a body which is elected for executive functions and a body which is concerned with major planning and major strategy on the lines of the existing Planning Councils, even though the composition of such a body might be elected rather than nominated. It seems to me very regrettable if we have no indication whatsoever from the Government of how their mind is moving in this matter, because when we have the Crowther/Kilbrandon Report (and it would be very helpful if the Minister could give us further news of when we are likely to have that Report) the public mind needs to be prepared. There is considerable confusion as to the kind of functions which it would be appropriate for any such body to carry out, but certainly there is a very considerably strengthened consensus of view that some such body is required.
§ When the matter was debated on a new clause in the other place I must say that I was very much disappointed at the completely negative attitude of the Minister of State. His total comment on this matter, which is of very great importance in Wales, was contained in some 250 words which really told us nothing whatever. I hope very much that this afternoon the Minister is not going to ride off by saying, "We cannot tell you anything before we have the Report of the Commission". because I do not think that is a helpful attitude. The Government have been very well aware that this is a matter that has been discussed in Wales over a number of years, long before the Commission was actually set up. Proposals were floated—I will not put it stronger than that—by my right honourable friend Mr. Cledwyn Hughes, when he was Secretary of State, and the discussions have been carried on at a very lively pace ever since. So the Government should at least help us by defining the kind of attitude which they will take to the concept of a Council for Wales, without necessarily going into too close detail—and I would not expect them to do so—as to its precise composition or functions, which are certainly matters that must await the Crowther/Kilbrandon Report.
§ Are the Government in favour of a Council at all? That is something on which we should like to be entirely clear, and that is something the people of Wales 512 are entitled to know. As I say, the demand for a Council has been growing in strength over the years, and it seems to me that if we are discussing a Bill on local government we cannot do so adequately unless we know what the apex of this structure is likely to be, or whether there is to be an apex of any kind. Or are we to be content with what we may call a "plateau"? The Government have been a little franker in their own English White Paper than in the Welsh Consultative Document and have referred to the need for some functions of both central and local government to be administered at a regional or provincial level. Can they say whether they are going to have anything different for Wales from what they are proposing for England, or are they going to remain entirely mute upon this subject?
§ We should not be so much concerned if the Government were consistent in remaining entirely neutral and entirely passive. But, of course, they are not: and that is one of the reasons for our concern. While we have been waiting for the Crowther Report the Government have been proceeding in various directions to establish, or to strengthen, regional organisation without having, so far as we can understand, any very clear plan for regional policy in its entirety. As I mentioned on Second Reading, if one considers the proposals for the National Health Service, the proposals for water reorganisation, or the administration of the Department of the Environment itself, one sees that different patterns in different areas are being taken on a regional or quasi-regional basis; administration is being set up, or proposed. in these directions without the benefit of any advice which may be forthcoming from the Commission on the Constitution. It seems to us to be very unsatisfactory that one should be tackling these matters on a piecemeal basis. For that reason, among others, I hope very much that we shall have some further enlightenment this afternoon from the Government. particularly because of the very perfunctory and jejune reply which was given in another place. I beg to move.
§ 5.7 p.m.
LORD BEAUMONT or WHITLEY
I rise to offer the support of these Benches for this Amendment. It has of course 513 been Liberal policy for a very long time that there should be a Parliament for Wales—in fact certainly as far back as Asquith, 54 years ago—and we are not apparently very much nearer it now than we were then. For us this Amendment does not go far enough, though we understand that within the context of this Bill it is probably about as far as one can get in the terms of the Bill. But we believe that there is a very strong case both in Wales and in Scotland for a domestic Parliament which will not just co-ordinate and pull together the various functions that are common to the whole of those nations, but will take over also a wide range of powers devolved from Westminster. It is important to state this, however briefly, at this particular moment, when the European Economic Communities Bill is grinding its way slowly on towards the Royal Assent.
There are those who say that at a time when more and more power is centralised further and further away from the people it is illogical to devolve to smaller units. I believe that to be a very short-sighted attitude. I believe that the more we transfer the very great decisions to somewhere like Brussels, the more important it is that we give the ordinary people in this country, and in Wales and Scotland, more power over what affects them. This can best be done by elected Regional Councils in England and by National Parliaments for both Scotland and Wales. I know that, as the noble Baroness has said, the Government will plead the Crowther Commission. I recognise the difficulty they are in and that it is necessary to await the Report of that Commission before the Government commit themselves at all. But I, and I think my colleagues, too, are all extremely grateful to the noble Baroness and her colleagues for putting forward this Amendment at this time and giving us an opportunity to tell the Government that if, when the Crowther Commission have reported we do not get something along the lines of this Amendment or, better still, a Welsh Parliament, there will be others than Welshmen who will be disappointed, perturbed and angry.
§ LORD MAELOR
I think it should be emphasised, in the light of what has just been said by the noble Lord, that there is in existence at the moment a Council 514 for Wales, but it is a nominated body, and I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that in a democratic country this is not desirable. The people of Wales are asking that their representatives on the Council for Wales should be elected by the ratepayers of Wales, and if they are elected in that way I am sure that any Government will be prepared to give them greater power than they have at the present moment.
§ LORD HEYCOCK
Having served on the original Council for Wales and subsequently in the middle 'fifties having again served on the Council of Wales, when the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, was Home Secretary, I have some experience of the limitations that are imposed upon a Council of that character and realise very clearly that many of the aspects of Welsh life to which we gave detailed examination, economic aspects, sociological aspects, merely reached library and bookstall, and that is as far as they went. And that is really the limit of the powers of a nominated body.
We are witnessing the reorganisation of local government, and simultaneously next Session we shall probably have reorganisation of the Health Service. The main difficulty that will confront any Government in the future is what shall be the functions of an elected Council. I should have thought, perfectly frankly, that we might have examined the implications and recommendations of Crowther—and it affects not only Wales but the United Kingdom as a whole—before we started on the road of local government reorganisation. We would put clearly the impact on the present situation, and then examine the bodies below.
I am certain that the only thing the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, can do to-day is to give an indication of the time when we are likely to receive the Crowther Report; what are, if one can estimate, the implications of that Report, and how far it relates to the functions of a metropolitan area or a county council. Or do we come back to the fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said, whether or not we are to have a Parliament. In a sense, that Parliament would have legislative functions as distinct from administrative functions. These are the questions that exercise the minds of many people in the Principality. I am 515 delighted that the noble Baroness has put this Amendment down in order that we might see, from the point of view of Wales with its present political situation, all the sociological difficulties that exist there. We may probably derive from the Government some kind of answer and some kind of indication.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I have listened with very great interest to what has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady White, and by the noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate. There is no question at all that the subject of an elected Welsh Council, or for that matter provincial councils for England or any other form of regional government in the British Isles, is the subject of immense interest and importance and well worthy of debate. I am sorry if I fail to satisfy the noble Baroness. I do not think she can really have anticipated that I would say much more than that we really feel that we must await the proposals of the Crowther / Kilbrandon Commission. These are immensely complicated matters. They have tremendous repercussions and ramifications, and we feel that before we come to any decision we must take into account the views of the Royal Commission who have been studying these very matters for three and a half years. It surely would not make sense for the Government to come out with any thoughts that were in our minds before the Royal Commission, having studied all the evidence for three and a half years, had given us their views. I wish I could be more explicit about when we are likely to receive the Report of the Royal Commission. I am afraid I can go no further than has been already intimated; that is, that it is expected about the end of this year. But this is very much a matter for the Royal Commission themselves.
When I saw the terms of the Amendment on the Marshalled List, I took it that the noble Baroness intended this to be more of an opportunity for a general discussion of the subject, because clearly we could not expect to write into the Bill such a simple Amendment tacked on to a clause which is concerned with the division of Wales into new local government areas. I acknowledge that it has given rise to a short but interest 516 ing debate. I listened to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, which I had expected from the Liberal Benches; in fact we had an interesting debate a little while ago on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, on this very subject of a Parliament for Wales.
The noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, criticised us for having introduced a Local Government Bill before the Royal Commission Report was available, but I think that on the whole most of your Lordships would agree that the reform of Welsh local government has already been under discussion for far too long and further delay really would not have been desirable. But we did, of course, take the precaution of consulting the then chairman of the Royal Commission, Lord Crowther, who assured us that he saw no difficulty in proceeding with local government reform before the Report of the Commission was available. I am sure it is within your Lordships' recollection that at Second Reading this was reinforced in the clearest possible terms by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, who was himself a distinguished member of the Commission.
I feel that I can say little more without prejudice to an impartial consideration in due course of the Royal Commission's recommendations. I have listened with interest to what has been said, and I can assure your Lordships that the views that have been expressed will be studied when the time comes to take all these matters into account. I can assure the noble Baroness that we are thinking about this matter and I can repeat the assurance, which I do not think she thought went as far as she would have liked, that was given by my honourable friend the Minister of State in another place, that the ideas that have been voiced here to-day will be taken into consideration in our thinking on this very important subject. I am sorry I cannot go any further than that. I do not think the noble Baroness really thought that I could. I do not think any Government would wish to comment on a subject of this immense importance before the Report of a Royal Commission. I very much hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw this Amendment.
§ BARONESS WHITE
As we have started this debate rather late, my noble friend Lord Champion, who had a very carefully prepared speech on this important subject, has suggested that as we have many other extremely important matters concerning Wales before us, we should not prolong the debate. I am very sorry, because I should have liked myself to hear my noble friend's views.
I had rather hoped that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, might have been a hit more forthcoming if he had only set out the kind of matters he felt the people in Wales should be discussing. Also, I thought he might be more forthcoming as to the principle of the matter, as to whether the Conservative Government accept the principle, without committing themselves at this point to details, that there should be an elected Council for Wales. I would point out to those noble Lords who are perhaps not intimately concerned with Welsh affairs that there is some difference of view between these Benches and the Liberal Bench. The Liberal Bench, I think, is considering a body which would have some legislative functions. We are not asking for legislative functions. Quite frankly, I think that one Parliament in the United Kingdom is enough. I see no great virtue in having a Parliament for Wales, a Parliament for Scotland—we will put into the balance for the time being a Parliament for Northern Ireland—because then you would, in all fairness, have to have a Parliament for England and also a Federal Legislature of some kind for overseas affairs, trade, and matters of that sort. This is not something that we have ever regarded as practical politics. I know that the Liberal Party have, but this is one of the subjects on which we take issue with them. It is not that that we were suggesting.
I should like the noble Lord to make it perfectly clear to his colleagues that there is strong feeling on this question. Therefore, when they do have the Crowther Report, they should be fully aware that some positive response by the Government will be required, and not least because, as was emphasised in another place, we have no fewer than 58 nominated bodies for our small population in Wales. They are nominated, in whole or in part, by the Secretary of State for Wales, and this is regarded by 518 all of us who have ever had to take part in the procedure of nomination as a most invidious business. It is thoroughly undemocratic, very haphazard, and something which most of us would wish to reform. Having put the Government on notice that we shall expect a positive response when the Crowther Report is finally available, I would now ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 20, as amended, agreed to.
§ Schedule 4 [Local Government Areas in Wales]:
§ 5.22 p.m.
VISCOUNT SIMON moved Amendment No. 88TT:
Page 235, line 13, leave out ("and Pembroke").
§ The noble Viscount said: I rise to move Amendment No. 88TT, and I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I were allowed to discuss at the same time Amendment No. 88UU, which your Lordships will find on page 3 of the Marshalled List, the fourth Amendment down. These two Amendments are complementary. Their object is to take the administrative county of Pembroke out of the proposed county of Dyfed, and to establish it as a county in its own right under the Bill. I would say at this stage that if the Committee are agreeable to accepting these Amendments—and I hope that they will be after hearing the arguments—there will be some consequential Amendments to Part II of the Schedule. But I thought that at this stage it was enough to put down the substantive Amendment, and let the consequential Amendment be dealt with, if the occasion arises, on the Report stage.
§ This same proposal was put before another place, and it was defeated on a Division by 74 votes to 44. I had to consider carefully whether, in the light of that fact, it was right to raise the matter again in your Lordships' House. I came to the conclusion that it was right to do so mainly for two reasons. The first reason is—and I make this comment without the least kind of criticism being implied—that the Amendment was discussed in another place very late on a Thursday night, the debate was adjourned and then continued on Friday morning, and the Division was taken when, as the figures 519 that I have quoted show, there were very few Members present. The other reason is that in my view—and I shall hope to substantiate this to your Lordships—the Secretary of State's reply to the Amendment was totally inadequate.
§ Ever since this proposal to set up the county of Dyfed embracing Pembrokeshire. Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire was first mooted there has been continuous and consistent objection to it from Pembrokeshire. That objection has been recorded by a unanimous vote of the county council, and, earlier this year, by a petition which was signed by no fewer than 55,562 adult residents in the county, which is just short of 80 per cent. of the electorate. I would not seek to argue that a number of those who signed the petition were perhaps moved rather by emotion than by argument. I myself feel that the arguments which I shall seek to deploy are very strong indeed, but all I would say about those who feel emotionally about this question is that if your Lordships come to the conclusion that it is perhaps a rather nicely balanced issue as to whether Pembrokeshire should be separated from Dyfed, you may agree that we should not discount altogether the emotions of the people who live in the county of Pembrokeshire. After all, this Bill deals with people, and people feel as well as think. My submission is that if this enormous proportion of the population can be brought to sign a petition, if the elected representatives are consistent and unanimous in objecting to what is proposed, there must be very strong grounds for going against their wishes.
§ Basically there are two main reasons which have led the people of Pembrokeshire to reject this proposal: first, that the county of Dyfed thus created would be too large; secondly, that there is no real community of interests between Pembrokeshire and the adjoining counties of Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire. Perhaps I may take the second of those reasons first in my argument. I should like to make it quite clear at this stage, because some misapprehension may be created in people's minds by the references we so often see to "Little England beyond Wales", that this is not in any sense a dispute between an English 520 minority and their Welsh neighbours. In fact, it is quite the reverse. Your Lordships may be aware that South Pembrokeshire was settled many centuries ago by the Norman Kings partly with Normans and partly with Flemings, and that, as a result, a community grew up there which did not speak the Welsh language. But of course for years and years since then there has been an intermingling of the people.
§ This is nothing like the sort of situation with which we are so unhappily familiar in Northern Ireland. There is no basic dispute between the people of South Pembrokeshire and the people in the North. Indeed, both in the petition that was signed and in the views that were expressed in the county councils and the district councils, there is no difference of opinion whatsoever between those in the North and those in the South. In fact, there has been a great spread of Welsh people of Celtic descent into the South. My own great grandfather was born in Carmarthenshire. He came to Pembrokeshire about 150 years ago, speaking Welsh. with his wife. They settled in the South, their children no doubt picked up a little Welsh at home, but they went to the local school, which was conducted in English. and so when that generation had passed the Welsh speaking had disappeared. But they were just as much Welsh as anybody in Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire or anywhere else in Wales.
§ The people of Pembrokeshire, who have absorbed a number of foreigners and are therefore in some respects more like the English, in that they are a mixed race, feel themselves just as much Welsh people as anybody in the Principality of Wales. The communities have fused together and Pembrokeshire is a united county in Wales. I have gone to some length to make this point, because it might otherwise be thought that the wish not to be associated with their neighbours in Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire was a sort of English reaction to the Welsh. There is a problem here about language to which I shall return in a minute or two, because it has been mentioned and canvassed.
§ The second point—and I come back to the main argument—is that Dyfed is much too large. It is nearly 1½million acres, which makes it the largest county 521 in Wales. It is larger than almost any county in England. While this might be supportable if there were a real community of interest and a real centre, I maintain that it is in fact insupportable. In another place reference was made to the fact that the county of Devon is slightly larger, but although there has been criticism that the county of Devon is too large, all Devonians have undoubtedly for many years thought of themselves as sons and daughters of Devon; and there is there a community of feeling which simply does not exist in the three counties which it is proposed to throw together into Dyfed. Communications are none too good there; administration will be exceedingly difficult, and there is a real fear that if the centre of government is placed, as it naturally would be placed in Dyfed, at Carmarthen, which is a good central situation for that large unwieldly area, many people who would otherwise like to give their services to local government will be prevented from doing so because it is so far away.
§ There are two other considerations that I should like your Lordships to bear in mind. I have mentioned the question of language, and perhaps I ought to expand on that because in another place there was some criticism of the way in which this claim has been put forward. I do not know the precise figures, but in Pembrokeshire approximately 70 per cent. of the people do not speak Welsh. The 30 per cent. who do live mainly in the North of the county. There is a real fear that if they are thrown in with two other counties, one considerably larger which will dominate any elected council. in which Welsh is widely spoken, there may be some difficulty for public servants seeking promotion, not because they would be discriminated against—I hope that nobody would fear that—but because there would be a general feeling that in a county with such a large proportion of Welsh speakers posts should go to those who speak Welsh. This has been particularly felt in the education department. These fears have probably been exaggerated, but they have certainly not been lessened by the behaviour of the Welsh language enthusiasts—or perhaps I should call them the Welsh language maniacs—at the recent national Eistedfodd in Haverfordwest where they 522 went around tearing down notices in English and destroying them. I also do not think these fears have been lessened by something I learned only yesterday; that in an advertisement which appeared very recently for a senior local government officer in Carmarthen-shire one of the conditions laid down was that he should be a speaker of Welsh. That is the sort of thing which I am afraid rather fans the flames of these fears. Your Lordships may say that they are largely emotional, but they reflect the attitude of people towards the possibility of promotion in the public service; and it is a very real fear.
§ The other special point to which I should like to call your Lordships' attention is the position regarding the Pembrokeshire National Park. That is a rather ill-defined strip all around the coast, covering nearly all of the places which are most important to the growing tourist industry. It seems to me of tremendous importance that there should be, as there has been up to now, a really close liaison between the county council and the National Park Committee. As a matter of fact, this liaison has been quite ideally carried out in Pembrokeshire, and the Pembrokeshire National Park, with all its beauty, is one of the results. The National Park Committee and the county council arc closely linked together, and they work with a great many joint committees, so that planning problems which arise, whether in the National Park or just outside it, can be discussed between the two responsible bodies. I cannot believe that that close co-operation, which has been so beneficial to the National Park and to all the many thousands of visitors who go to Pembrokeshire to enjoy their holidays, can be continued so effectively from Carmarthen.
§ I must now turn to what the Secretary of State said in another place in reply to a similar Amendment. He relied almost entirely on the fact that, as a rough-and-ready yardstick, 250,000 persons should be the minimum number of inhabitants in a county. Of course this yardstick has been overruled in other cases, notably in the county of Powys, where the population is even less than the population of Pembrokeshire alone, or only very slightly more. In any case, while it is a rough-and-ready yardstick, 523 surely what matters in local government is not so much the number of people but the resources which they have at their disposal. It seems to me that the number of people multiplied by the rateable value per head is important. Pembrokeshire is in an extremely favourable position here. Last year it had a rateable value per head of £42, the second highest of any county in Wales, and higher than the average of any rural county in England and Wales. And in 1972, according to something I was shown yesterday, that figure has actually increased. So Pembrokeshire has an ability to be a wealthy rural county, largely because of the important industrial development around Milford Haven. Pembrokeshire can well afford to provide the services which a county is expected to provide for its people, and to stick rigidly to this figure of 250.000, and in order to do that to spread the county over 1½ million acres and to include people with whom there is very little common interest, is utterly wrong.
§ The second argument which the Secretary of State used was that to accept the Amendment would be to kill Dyfed. Obviously it would kill the Dyfed that is set out in the Bill, but what I imagine he meant to imply was that what was left—the counties of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire—would be unviable. I think it is worth observing that, if Dyfed existed without Pembrokeshire, the population—these figures relate to, I think, 1970—would be 217,500;the area would be 1 million acres and the rateable value £6 million. In the case of the county of Gwynedd. in North Wales, the population is 220.000, which is about 3,000 more; the area is 955,000 acres, which is nearly 100,000 less; and the rateable value is £6.6 million. So that what is left of Dyfed—that is, Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire—is almost directly comparable with Gwynedd, in the North; and I cannot for the life of me see why it should kill Dyfed. I think the Secretary of State may have had in mind that Cardiganshire has also asked to opt out; but quite frankly—and I have tried to look at this matter dispassionately—the arguments for excluding Cardiganshire are nothing like as strong. In fact, I 524 do not really see what the argument is, the county being small and weak in resources.
§ Finally, if anything could have made me believe that the Government really did not know how to answer this question it was the fact that the Secretary of State said that to accept this Amendment would kill the Bill. This seemed to me to be an almost hysterical statement which could be made only by somebody who could not think of any other argument, because how it could kill the Bill I cannot imagine. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, may produce some new arguments, and of course we shall all listen to him with interest; but all I would say at this stage is that, unless he has some much better arguments, I hope that he will at least agree to look into this matter in consultation with those concerned before the Report stage of the Bill. I beg to move.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ BARONESS WHITE
We are all indebted to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, for the most lucid and attractive way in which he has presented this Amendment, I must quite frankly admit that, for me, this is possibly the most difficult Amendment in the Bill. I say that for this reason. Although I have never had the privilege of living in Pembrokeshire, and I admit that I do not know it as intimately as I know some of the counties of Wales, nevertheless I know it well enough to know that there is the most genuine feeling on this matter, and that this is not just something which has been aroused by some public relations firm. Admittedly, they held a poll, with very remarkable results, as the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has indicated. In fact, I believe more people voted to keep Pembrokeshire as Pembrokeshire than voted in the last General Election. So there is no doubt at all that there is very strong local feeling on the matter, and that is why I find this such a very difficult and, frankly, rather embarrassing situation. I sympathise with it: I can feel for the people in Pembrokeshire who take this point of view. They are at the extremity of South-West Wales. The sea is their neighbour and a large part of their boundary; and I think it is fair to say that, by and large, they fail to feel 525 a genuine community of interest with their neighbours in either Carmarthenshire or Cardiganshire.
It is also true that they are, relatively speaking, a more prosperous county than one might suppose from looking at their position on the map, their population statistics and so on. This, of course, is because of the developments in and around Milford Haven, which bring in a certain degree of employment, though not so much as some of us would wish, but which also, of course, sustain them very considerably in rateable value. There is the very proper concern about their National Park, and a very proper pride, as the noble Viscount has said, in the way they have administered the Park. They have had the good fortune of there being one authority administering the Park instead of there being divided authorities, as we have in some other parts of the country, and this has certainly resulted in imaginative and far-sighted administration. As I say, one can sympathise very closely with them. I have before me the statement issued by the county council setting out their case. They talk of the uniqueness of Pembrokeshire. Of course, we are all unique. They say—and this, perhaps, in a sense, gives them awayNo county in Wales is so aware of its own identity as Pembrokeshire, not even Anglesey".There, surely, is the rub: because if one were to agree with the Amendment proposed, and if one were to agree to the exclusion or the excision of Pembrokeshire from Dyfed, then I think it would be extremely difficult to resist a plea, which I think would undoubtedly arise, that Anglesey should be excluded from Gwynedd. I am afraid that I cannot go along with the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, in his view of what would remain of Dyfed, because I do not think, quite frankly, that Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire would remain together if Pembrokeshire were taken away from the trilogy.
It is therefore for these broader reasons of policy that, with the utmost reluctance and with very genuine sadness (because I know how Pembrokeshire people feel about this), I feel that I cannot offer the official support, at any rate, of these Benches. In this particular matter, as we indicated earlier in this Bill, every 526 individual is free to vote as he or she pleases. But I cannot officially support this Amendment because we as a Party have put forward proposals for the reform of local government in Wales based upon certain principles; and those principles include a two-tier system, which we feel, on balance, is the best one for Wales as a whole, and the principle that the county tier should be based on larger units than those existing at present. It seems to me that, if one were to accede to the very eloquent and deeply felt pleas of Pembrokeshire, it would be virtually impossible to carry out the principles of the Bill in many other parts of Wales. I do not say it would be entirely impossible, but it would certainly make it extremely difficult in many other parts of Wales.
On the other hand, I think it is only right to make it clear where our sympathies lie. I have indicated certain respects in which, as I say, I have great sympathy with Pembrokeshire. I think it is only right that, as we are discussing Welsh affairs, we should say just a word about the very deeply felt apprehension in the English-speaking parts of Pembrokeshire that if they are included in this larger unit they may be tyrannised over by the Welsh-speaking elements in the other two counties. There is no use burking this fact: it is a very real apprehension. It is particularly felt, as the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has said, by those engaged in public service who feel that they may be excluded from positions of responsibility because they are not themselves Welsh-speaking, although they may be good and patriotic Welshmen.
This position has been made infinitely more difficult by the outrageous behaviour (and there is no other word for it) of the Welsh Language Society's adherents at the recent National Eisteddfod at Haverfordwest. The county of Pembroke, which is in the majority English-speaking, as the noble Viscount has said, could not have been more generous in its assistance and hospitality to the National Eisteddfod, yet it was treated to the most disgusting and churlish behaviour on the part of those who came to Haverfordwest. I was not myself present, but I have spoken to a number of my North and Mid-Wales friends who were, and some of them actually came away from Haverfordwest in disgust, 527 without staying for the conclusion of the proceedings during Eisteddfod Week. This naturally exacerbated feelings in the county. I think one should say this, because if the Welsh-speaking elements in the population are to behave in this way then we are going to have a very difficult time in the future in situations such as Dyfed where you have both English and Welsh side by side. I hope very much that the neighbours of Pembrokeshire, in Cardigan and Carmarthen will heed what is said here to-day and will take it into account.
If I could in conscience vote for this Amendment I would do so because I fully understand and very largely sympathise with the feelings of those who have promoted it. A number of my colleagues in another place supported a similar Amendment there. I have had to give long and deep thought to this, but personally have had to come to the conclusion that as I advocated the general pattern and philosophy of the reform of local government in the Principality on certain principles it would be wrong for me, if I felt that those principles would be seriously damaged (as I believe they would), to support this Amendment. I speak for myself here. I cannot give official Opposition support to this view. In general terms, we are trying to remain neutral on these territorial matters, although there is one big exception to that. Where there are differences of interests we try to remain neutral; but where there are differences of principle it is only right that we should express them. Because of my feelings for the case which Pembrokeshire has put up and which they feel deeply, I shall not vote against this Amendment; but I do not feel that I can support it.
§ LORD SOMERS
Could the noble Baroness clear up a point? When she speaks of Welsh-speaking elements, what percentage of that Welsh-speaking section is bilingual?
§ BARONESS WHITE
Of the present generation, I suppose that virtually everyone is bilingual, in the sense that they understand and speak the English language. But that is very different from feeling that one is completely confident and at home in the English language. Very few persons nowadays are monoglot 528 Welsh speakers, but there are a number who feel that they can express themselves more adequately in Welsh than in English.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ LORD WATKINS
Perhaps I may say a word or two in connection with this Amendment. I have for some time interested myself in the campaign for keeping Pembroke. I am glad that Members of this House have had the document from the Pembrokeshire County Council. It is well set out, with the references to different offices and to what is happening in Pembrokeshire, and I am sure it will weigh with a number of those Peers who are interested in local government in this way. I was also glad to hear the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, as he went through the different aspects of the case for Pembrokeshire. He spoke about emotion and argument. I did not see a great deal of emotion here because neither this House nor the other place has room for emotion. If they go to the Hwyl they will find more of it. But the noble Viscount did well on argument.
His first argument was that the case in the other place had not been satisfactorily dealt with by the Minister who replied. I have greater confidence if there is still a case for replying to Pembrokeshire, that we shall have it from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. I am interested to hear what sort of case he will put up. Will it again be on population, as in the English counties? If that is so, I shall listen intently when he comes to deal with Breconshire. The Government cannot call for more population and at the same time take it away. That is what is happening there. But we shall come to that later in my 10 Amendments.
In the case of Pembrokeshire there are no politics, and I am glad of that. May I join with the noble Baroness who spoke, as did others, in complimentary terms of the occasion of the National Eisteddfod in Pembrokeshire last year. That is a good county effort, and that effort is transcribed into local government work in Pembrokeshire. I know more about the National Parks administration. I am the Chairman of the Brecon Beacons National Park. I was at the ceremony of the Broadhaven countryside unit 529 opening. I know something about their administration. Is there anything wrong with the administration of the county council in Pembrokeshire? I pose that leading question now so that I can ask a similar one about Breconshire later. Regarding the Welsh language aspect, I am bilingual, but if I start addressing your Lordships in Welsh then I am sure I shall be told that I am completely out of order. But the people in Pembrokeshire are bilingual; they speak Welsh and English. My first language is Welsh, and I am sure that my mother would not like me to say anything different. The important point is that we have had all the propaganda and the case put out by Pembrokeshire but I have not seen a reasonable argument against it. I am looking forward to hearing the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, to see what sort of a case he has against it.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
It would seem strange if I did not rise on this Amendment. I am the head of that family which from father to son is descended directly from the ancient princes of Dyfed who ruled before the Normans came. It was my 20th great grandfather, Bledri ap Cadifor, called Latimerius who, in a classic Welsh swindle, handed his princely title (which was not his to give away) to the Normans in exchange for being allowed to keep his land—which was not his either. One of the direct results of this is that my family is still here to-day.
I have thought deeply about this. I am not a Welsh speaker; I am entirely an English speaker and have only the odd word or two in Welsh. This is a matter on which I have questioned myself deeply. Of course, Dyfed has been all sorts of different sizes. In its princely days sometimes it was very small, sometimes only the rich valleys of central Pembrokeshire, now known as the "Englishry". Sometimes it actually contained Cardigan and Carmarthen; as it did on the famous occasion when it was enlarged by my ancestress, Rhiannon the Witch, herself a princess of Carmarthen who by marriage brought Carmarthen into Dyfed. Then when her husband died young—it must have been very difficult to have been married to a witch for very long—she remarried a 530 prince of Cardigan, and when he died young, Cardigan was added to Dyfed.
It is a point we should now consider that the conjunction of the three princedoms thus created as a sort of greater Dyfed, as now intended, broke up for the simple reason that there was not a common centre. Here we come to the two arguments of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. First, this argument of the common centre is very important. Transport is very difficult in the area. Possibly, if the Government want to do this thing, if they want to force it through, they will give us better roads and, possibly, give us back some railways. Something like that will be necessary if these three units are to hold together as one. There is really great difficulty in moving about at any particular speed—which is useful for administration in this very large area which is not used to having a common centre. If the Government in reply say that they intend to build magnificent new roads over the area, which I am sure will be greeted with loud cheers in the area, then possibly they may attract some votes in their direction. But this is one of the difficulties.
The other difficulty is the one to which the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, referred, that of language. In my belief this is a difficulty that will vanish with time. I do not believe that the Welsh language will again become the language of Wales, in the sense of being the language of the major part of the population. I do not believe that this will happen. All over the world languages much more commonly spoken than Welsh are gradually vanishing, for the simple reason that as transport facilities get better so people mix around more; and with the television and wireless, and all the rest of it, these languages are disappearing. So I think that over the course of years this argument will fade out. However, it is a powerful argument at the present time, and it must be taken into account.
I feel very much, with the noble Baroness, Lady White, that the greater unit is the better one and I think that, given time, the Government will be right. On the other hand, as things are now I feel that at this point they may be wrong. I cannot bring myself to consider that they are right now, but they may be right in future—in fact I am sure that they 531 will be. I feel great difficulty about voting on this Amendment and, like the noble Baroness, Lady White, I shall abstain, while pointing out that in my belief ultimate union should come but with better communications and when the language question is more settled. There is only one point that I would wish to make. If the Committee does exclude Pembrokeshire from Dyfed noble Lords should remember that Dyfed was Pembrokeshire and not the other two counties. Therefore the "rump", or whatever it is, should not bear the name "Dyfed" but should have some other name. Some other historic name should be resurrected, and that would be pleasant.
§ LORD TREFGARNE
I must apologise to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, that I was not in my place when he moved the Amendment. But I cannot let the moment go by without observing that, as Trefgarne of Cleddau in Our County of Pembroke, I cannot possibly bring myself to oppose this Amendment. Indeed, I shall support the noble Viscount if he decides to divide tile Committee.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ LORD ARWYN
I apologise for having written out my speech, but I felt that I might get in difficulties emotionally and that if I did not write it down I might go "haywire". I rise to support the Amendment proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. If an example was needed to question the validity of the theory that an efficient unit of local government must have a population of a quarter of a million this is one example which makes nonsense of this counting of heads. Pembroke is referred to as "the little England beyond Wales". As a Welsh-speaking ancient Briton, like my noble friend Lord Watkins, the fact that 75 per cent. of the population speak English only is an offence to me. The emigration from Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, particularly in the last 200 years, has been the reason for this. So the vote cast by 78 per cent. of the electorate when the population of Pembroke was asked for their views in favour of preserving Pembroke's independence cannot be assessed as a Welsh Nationalist outburst. In fact, more people voted for this independence than the total vote of all five candidates at the last Election.
532 If this county of Dyfed becomes a reality, we shall see Carmarthen councillors outvoting both Pembroke and Cardigan. Pembroke is far in advance of its neighbouring counties. For instance, the smallholding estates are larger than the combined estates of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire, and I would go so far as to say that the efficiency of the Pembroke County Council is much higher than that of the other two counties. A county which can boast of the second highest proportion of sixth-form pupils of all the counties of England and Wales cannot be accused of administrative lethargy. Then, the proportion of the elderly housed in purpose-built accommodation is over 80 per cent., a higher proportion than that of the highly industrialised counties of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire.
Those of your Lordships who saw the recent publication of the blocked areas of the Celtic sea (I am now on my own subject) where an oilfield of enormous importance is about to be explored must know that this can release tremendous reserves and that the close proximity of Milford Haven will be of tremendous importance. The potential industrial development in this and the adjoining areas will be outstanding. The present population of 100,000 could very well be doubled, which would mean that it would exceed that of Carmarthen which at present can outvote Pembroke and Cardigan. The county councillors of Pembroke are already well experienced in the development achieved in the Milford Haven area which is one of the best deep water harbours in the country—and we are very short of such harbours.
There is an emotional factor to be reckoned with which could cause some very bitter dissentions. Only those of us who have lived in Wales can realise the danger. While the English and Welsh speaking peoples have learned to respect each other and to live in harmony, there is a danger that this harmony could be disturbed if the predominantly Welsh-speaking authorities of the other two counties imposed themselves on the English in South Pembrokeshire. Only those of us who know the dangers of these emotional conflicts realise what disasters can follow from closing the minds to what I call objective thinking. I speak as an industrialist and in the 533 interests of the country over the next ten years. In my view, it is absolute folly to include Pembroke in this new county. I shall very likely be the subject of pungent criticism from my fellow Welsh speaking Welshmen, but common sense must have priority over emotion.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
We have heard an Amendment moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, renewing the plea for a separate county of Pembrokeshire which was eloquently put in another place by the Member for Pembroke, and equally eloquently this afternoon, and very effectively I thought, by the noble Viscount. I do not suppose that I can rival his eloquence, but I will do my best to explain what is the Government's view, although it is based on the same principles that were explained by my right honourable friend in another place. May I say straight away that, like the noble Baroness, Lady White, I am sorry that it falls to my lot to resist the case for Pembrokeshire, which is a county that I know quite well and for which I have a very high regard and, indeed, affection? Unluckily, I had the same experience on Monday when I had to resist the efforts of Hereford to escape a marriage with Worcestershire. Hereford is another of my favourite counties, and I much regretted having to go against the wishes of her people.
I fully respect, and I am sure that all your Lordships fully respect, the very sincere views expressed by the people of Pembrokeshire themselves. I was not in the least surprised at what the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, told us about the very large majority of people who signed the petition for keeping Pembrokeshire out of Dyfed. I am sure that if I had been an inhabitant of Pembrokeshire I would have signed that same petition. But the point was made very effectively by the noble Baroness, Lady White, that equally there are those in other parts of Wales—in Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire—who would far prefer to be independent and not to be merged into the county of Dyfed. The noble Baroness went further and mentioned Anglesey as another example, and I have mentioned Herefordshire in England where the same difficulty arises; if you make an exception in one case 534 you are bound to make further exceptions in others.
When the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, was speaking about the break-up of Dyfed I thought the real point was that if Pembroke were to leave the county and be given an independent status it would certainly not be desired by Carmarthenshire or Cardiganshire that they should remain united. Therefore this is a particular difficulty. The basic difficulty is one of size, as the noble Lord, Lord Watkins, said. On Monday, when speaking of Hereford, I was trying to explain that with a population of 138,000 this was really too far below the desirable minimum of a quarter of a million to enable a county of the future to deploy the financial and staff resources necessary for modern services, especially in its role as an education and social services authority.
Pembrokeshire alone has a population of under 100,000, and I think for the reasons I gave on Monday—I do not want to repeat myself and I am sure your Lordships would prefer that I do not—when I pointed out in relation to Hereford what the Royal Commission on Local Government had said, after a great deal of research and after hearing a great deal of evidence, about a 250,000 minimum in terms of education and social services authority, I must base my case on, and stick to, the arguments which I used on that occasion.
This is the fact which to me is inescapable, and is the strongest and in my view the conclusive argument against a separate Pembrokeshire. Those who disagree with this, and particularly this afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Watkins, for very understandable reasons, base their case on the very exceptional circumstances of Pembrokeshire and compare its position with that of Powys. Nobody can get away from the fact that Powys is a very exceptional case. It is true that its population is much the same as that of Pembrokeshire; but this is far from being desirable and only a very exceptional case was forced upon us in the case of Powys because it covers such an enormous area and is so sparsely populated. This is certainly not what we would wish to have if it could be avoided. It covers over 1¼ million acres whereas Pembrokeshire covers only 393,000 acres.
§ LORD ARWYN
What I was emphasing in my speech, which has not been taken into consideration yet, is the industrial potential of Pembrokeshire when developing the oil resources in the sea.
§ LORD ABERDARE
If the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, will be patient I am coming to that point. At the moment I am making the point that although Powys has much the same number in population as Pembrokeshire, it covers an enormous area, whereas Pembrokeshire covers under 400,000 acres and so the new county of Dyfed would be more comparable to Powys in size. The concept of Dyfed which exists in this Bill—not going back into the historical Dyfed to which the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, referred—dates back to the Royal Commission for Wales. They recommended the creation of Dyfed. This was accepted by the last Government, as it has been by this Government. It is a large county. No one would ever wish to deny that. But I still think it is relevant to make the point that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, himself mentioned, that it is in fact smaller than the present Devon—considerably smaller, 13 per cent.—and it will be smaller than three new English counties, the counties of North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Devon, and five of the new Scottish regions.
Again I recognise that there will be difficulties in travelling; but certainly, although public transport facilities are poor, travel by car is not so formidable a difficulty. Sample studies have been conducted which show that, if we take Carmarthen as the centre of the county, the average travelling time by car to Carmarthen from sample areas in Pembrokeshire is just over 1½ hours each way. I thought it relevant to make the point that in a new county one would expect many of the county functions to be organised on a local basis, so that one would hope that there would be local county offices in Pembrokeshire.
As for community of interest, I think the differences are less than has sometimes been alleged. If we leave Cardiganshire out of account for the moment, both Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire are predominantly rural and agricultural. If I may come to the point on which the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn was speaking, 536 both have their industrial interests, Pembrokeshire centred on the oil industry at Milford Haven, growing rapidly as the noble Lord mentioned, and Carmarthen-shire on agriculture and light industry. In a mixed community linguistically I think it really inconceivable that there should be any attempt to impose the Welsh language on parents who do not wish it for their children; but certainly there is—and this was a point amply made by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon—at present no conflict between the English- and Welsh-speaking people in Pembrokeshire, and I see no need for conflict in a new Dyfed. I am sure that a new county of this size and responsibility will act responsibly. I feel certain that councillors coming from Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire will not wish to ride roughshod over the feelings of their colleagues from Pembrokeshire. These are the reasons that led the Local Government Commission in the first place to recommend this county, which convinced the last Government that this was the right organisation for South-West Wales and which still convinces us that this is the right solution. I am very sorry to have to recommend to your Lordships not to accept this Amendment.
If I may say one more word on the subject of Pembrokeshire National Park, which was touched on by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. our experience with the National Parks has shown that we do not need to tell the county councils to appoint local people to man their National Park committees; they do it as a matter of course. They can be relied upon to exercise commonsense in the matter. The majority of county council nominees live in or very near to the National Parks which they serve, and a number are also district councillors. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Watkins, will back me up on that. The question of the right balance among locally appointed members can be covered in a circular, which can also remind county councillors of the desire of National Park residents that their views should receive appropriate expression on National Park committees. I can give an assurance on behalf of the Secretary of State that such a circular will be issued at the appropriate time. I hope that I have been able to convince your Lordships that there is sound sense in the Government's 537 case, and that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, will feel able to withdraw his Amendment.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
I listened with sorrow to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, but not perhaps with surprise. I wonder whether he is quite right in saying that the creation of this Dyfed was accepted by the last Government. It was included in their proposals, but I do not know whether from that one must assume that they would not have listened to the pleas from Pembrokeshire to be released from this amalgamation. The noble Lord did not touch on the point, which perhaps I did not express very clearly—it is a rather difficult point—that in my view numbers are not the right criterion. In any community which has the resources to operate the county services, the smaller the community the closer they are to the county, and the better. The argument against small authorities is simply that they have not the resources to provide the necessary county services. It seems to me, on the figures that we have been given, that those resources are available in Pembrokeshire.
The noble Lord then went on to say—and it struck me as curious—that no doubt in these wide-ranging counties there would be local county offices. If you create those, are you not in danger of losing the economy of scale, which is the object of the exercise? Finally, both the noble Baroness, Lady White, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said that if we were to admit this Amendment it would be difficult to stop others. The noble Baroness referred particularly to Anglesey. Anglesey has a population of under 60,000, and I should not have thought, with respect, was a possible candidate for independence. When it comes to the noble Lord saying that if we allowed Pembrokeshire out we could not hold Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire together, I would only say that if the Government are in a position by their majority to force Pembrokeshire into
§ Dyfed, presumably they are in a position to force Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire to amalgamate.
§ However, we come to the crunch: what is somebody to do who has put forward to the best of his ability what he feels to be a very convincing case? If the Government are advising their supporters to oppose this Amendment, and if the noble Baroness, Lady White, is unable to urge her fellow Labour Peers to support it, I feel that I should be wasting the time of the Committee by asking for a Division.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON, If some of my supporters are willing to go to a Division, then I am very happy to do so and to have recorded the names of those who feel that Pembrokeshire should be allowed to stand alone. In those circumstances, I do not propose to withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
Before the noble Viscount sits down, I wonder whether he would mind answering one question. Will not the main result of passing his Amendment be to remove from Dyfed the wealthiest portion of the whole of this new county; and will it not strike a serious blow at the development of Cardinganshire, a very poor county, and the development of the Northern part of Carmarthenshire?
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
That is a very proper question, but I think the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, is what I tried to say during my speech: that what is left of Dyfed is almost exactly comparable with the county of Gwynedd in the North as to population, area and rateable value. So if one can exist, I do not see why the other cannot.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 88TT) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 46; Not-Contents, 55.539
|Arwyn, L.||Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Berkeley, B.||Crook, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Boothby, L.||Davies of Leek, L.|
|Bacon, B.||Brockway. L.||de Clifford, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Milverton, L.||Stocks, B.|
|Gainford, L.||Norwich, V.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Nunburnholme, L.||Strange of Knokin, B.|
|Garnsworthy, L.||Rennell, L.||Tanlaw, L.|
|Grimston of Westbury, L.||Rockley, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Hale, L.||Royle, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Henley, L.||Sandys, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Hereford, L.Bp.||Seear, B.||Watkins, L.|
|Hoy, L.||Sempill, Ly.||Williamson, L.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Simon, V. [Teller.]||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
|Loudoun, C.||Snow, L.|
|Maelor, L. [Teller.]|
|Aberdare, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Gage, V.||Pender, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Garner, L.||Portal of Hungerford, B.|
|Barnby, L.||Goschen, V.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Gowrie, E. [Teller.]||Rathcaven, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Reigate, L.|
|Blackford, L.||Ridley, V.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Hemingford, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Lauderdale, E.||Sandford, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Limerick, E.||Savile, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Selkirk, E.|
|Courtown, E.||Lyell, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Mancroft, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Denham, L.||Molson, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.|
|Digby, L.||Monck, V.||Wise, L.|
|Elles, B.||Monk Bretton, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Emmet of Amberley, B.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Young, B.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 88A:
Page 235, line 13, at end insert—
The county borough of Cardiff.
The county borough of Merthyr Tydfil.
In the administrative county of Glamorgan:—
the boroughs of Barry, Cowbridge and Rhondda;
the urban districts of Aberdare, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Gelligaer, Maesteg, Mountain Ash, Ogmore and Garw, Penarth, Pontypridd and Porthcawl;
the rural districts of Cardiff, Cowbridge, Llantrisant and Llantwit Fardre and Penybont;
in the rural district of Neath, the parish of Rhigos.
In the administrative county of Brecon, in the rural district of Vaynor and Penderyn, the parishes of Penderyn and Vaynor,
In the administrative county of Monmouthshire:—
the urban district of Bedwas and Machen;
in the urban district of Bedwellty, the Aberbargoed, Cwmsyfiog, New Tredegar and Phillipstown wards;
in the rural district of Magor and St. Mellons, the parish of St. Mellons.")
§ The noble Baroness said: I think it will be for the general convenience of the Committee if with this Amendment we discuss Nos. 88B, 88D, 88H, 88J, 88K, 88N and 88X, because they are all concerned with the same matter—namely, what we on this side of the House, at any rate, believe to be the necessity to reverse the Government's change of mind on the position in Glamorgan.
§ As I think we made very clear on Second Reading of this Bill, we were, quite frankly, shocked at the way in which the Government changed their own proposals so far as East Glamorgan was concerned. If I may briefly remind your Lordships, the original proposals made by the Government were that the county of Glamorganshire should be divided into two parts—West Glamorgan being based on Swansea and East Glamorgan on Cardiff. This was the proposal contained in their own Consultative Document issued last year. When it came to the publication of the Bill and its presentation on Second Reading in another place the Government had changed their mind. Instead of proposing a division into two, they proposed that Glamorgan should be divided into a 541 Western part, which is not in dispute at all, and that in the East there should be a division into two separate counties, one South Glamorgan, which is Cardiff and a small fringe of territory around it, and the other the amorphous county of Mid-Glamorgan.
The arguments against this division into three were put extremely cogently, as I reminded your Lordships on Second Reading, by the Secretary of State in his Consultative Document of twelve months ago in which he pointed out that to divide the administration of the county of Glamorgan into three was open to strong objections—and I use his own term. This was amplified in paragraph 43 of the Consultative Document by pointing out that:
… to divide the proposed county of East Glamorgan would inevitably mean the separation of areas which ought to be administered together for the purposes of town and country planning and transportation… To separate Cardiff and its neighbouring areas from either Mid-Glamorgan, or the North-Eastern Glamorgan valleys, or from both, would mean the creation of at least one authority which was comparatively weak in terms of rateable resources and was handicapped by lack of resources and lack of suitable land in seeking solutions to its problems.
When it came to the Second Reading, when the Secretary of State in another place had to explain the otherwise inexplicable change of heart with the proposal that we should have this miserable county of Mid-Glamorgan—an extended county borough of Cardiff: for that is what it really is—the Secretary of State gave as one of his principal reasons that he had received representations from a number of local authorities in Wales and from certain prominent individuals in favour of this suggestion. I will not weary your Lordships' House with the details. Those who are familiar with the situation already know the facts. The support given at that time was on a completely different basis. It was based on support for Cardiff as the capital city of Wales, which has never been in doubt in any sense of the word. And when it was pointed out to a number of those who had made the original protest what it was they were really protesting about they changed their tune. Therefore one of the principal arguments put forward by the Secretary of State falls entirely to the ground.
§ I think I should, however, say a little more about the question of the position of Cardiff as a capital city. This is something of great concern to us in the Principality. I should like to compare it a little more closely with the position of Edinburgh. I am well aware that there is as yet no legislative provision for local government reform in Scotland, but there are specific proposals. If your Lordships look at the position of Edinburgh you see that it is proposed that it should be included in the South East, or the Forth region of Scotland, and that that region should have a total population, in round figures, of 728,000 persons. Of this total the city of Edinburgh, as it now is, would have 358,000. In other words, it would have around 50 per cent. It will be incorporated in a region that would include Kirkcaldy, Dunfermline, West Lothian, Midlothian and East Lothian, as well as the City of Edinburgh itself.
§ If this is a situation which is acceptable to the proud city of Edinburgh we fail to see why it should be in any way derogatory to the dignity of the city of Cardiff to be included in the county of East Glamorgan. It would be the predominant body and the predominant area in East Glamorgan, without doubt, but it would be a vital part of a workable county, whereas the proposal now put forward by Her Majesty's Government means that Cardiff will be part of a so-called county of South Glamorgan which will contain two districts only, one of which will be the city itself and will have 80 per cent. of the total population of the county, while the other district will have 20 per cent. That is an obvious imbalance which cannot be defended on the grounds of good local government administration, whereas on the other side the proposed county of Mid-Glamorgan will be without shape, form or centre. Anyone who is familiar with the area will appreciate this fact. It will stretch from parts of what are now Monmouthshire, through what we call the Heads of the Valleys of Glamorgan and the Rhondda, the mining villages, into the Vale of Glamorgan—though not all of it, because some of the most desirable residential areas will remain in Cardiff. But there will be no centre, and it is suggested that one need not worry unduly about that because in the course of time 543 we may possibly have a new town at Llantrisant, which may be turned into an administrative centre. We have not yet even had the result of the planning inquiry at Llantrisant and in any case it is only some 8 miles from Cardiff. To my mind, it would be entirely unsuitable as a centre for the proposed new county.
§ A number of your Lordships will have heard the case put forward—put forward perhaps a little belatedly, but now put forward very well by the members of the Glamorgan County Council. I know there are some Members on the other side of the Committee as well as on this side who appreciate that if one is concerned for good local government administration and for the purinciples of the Bill itself, one cannot in conscience accept the proposals now advocated by the Government. The proposed South Glamorgan County which I have described, with its grotesque imbalance as far as the city of Cardiff is concerned, really does not comply with any of the criteria which have been set out for any other part of England or Wales. There is not one single example other than Cardiff where this pattern has been adopted. We have heard the pleas of Plymouth, which is the nearest analogy. If the Government believe that what they are doing in Cardiff is right, they have no grounds whatsoever to resist the pleas of Plymouth, because everything that can be argued for Plymouth can be argued for Cardiff, and vice versa. The only difference that could be sustained is that Cardiff is a capital city and Plymouth is not. I have already dealt with that in relation to the city of Edinburgh. I am entirely unconvinced by any such argument.
§ I do not believe that there is any rational explanation of what the Government have done. I think many of your Lordships will have seen the communication from the County Councils' Association, which makes it very clear what their view is of the proposed counties, neither of which is satisfactory—neither Mid-Glamorgan nor South Glamorgan. Neither of them is a proper unit of reformed local government. In the case of Powys, we are all aware of the difficulties which arise, but that is ines- 544 capable and inevitable. There is no alternative to Powys. But that is not the case with Glamorgan. There is the perfectly proper alternative, originally proposed by Her Majesty's Government, for East Glamorgan.
§ I do not want to take up too much time because we started our debate rather late, for very good reasons, and therefore I will cut short some of the remarks I would otherwise have made. But people who are knowledgeable about local government in all parts of the country and, I believe, in all parts of this Chamber, recognise that a serious error has been made here. We should think far more highly, not less highly, of the Government if they would acknowledge this. This is really my plea to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. If it is a question of the esteem in which the Government are held in Wales or beyond the borders of Wales, anyone who is really concerned with good local government in this country will, I am sure, recognise that they would gain in stature and in repute if they acknowledge that their first thoughts were right and that this decision, taken very ill-advisedly, to change those first thoughts was a mistake. One can understand it. There are difficulties and there are pressures in these matters. We should all feel not only relieved but altogether—well, prouder, quite frankly, of our country if we felt that a genuine error of this kind could be corrected through the democratic processes of this Committee. I do not think that the Government would lose in any sense. They would gain immeasurably, certainly in Wales, where frankly they are regarded with a certain degree of contempt for what they have done in this matter. But they can put it right: it is still open to them.
As things now stand, informed opinion is against them. It is not only the County Councils' Association but other associations too. For example, the Municipal Journal in July last said:
Both sides of the conflict are now left with a compromise solution which in the long run will satisfy no one.
§ It goes on to nut certain questions about the political background. I am not proposing to go into that. I want to argue this purely on the local government merits or demerits, and it seems to me 545 that on those grounds the case is absolutely unanswerable. In East Glamorgan you would have a sound, well-centred, well-based, cohesive unit of local government. If you split it into two local authorities of Mid-Glamorgan and South Glamorgan you will have neither in either of the two proposed new counties.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ LORD HEYCOCK
It is my privilege to support the Amendment. I gave very clearly in my Second Reading speech the main fundamental objections I have to the splitting of the administrative county into three. I have spent the greater part of my life in county administration and, in the historical sense, have seen during the last few years the changes that have been taking place in local government to meet the changes in the pattern of local government. Here we were concerned very clearly about the change in local government and its reorganisation, and I thought that here at least we were going to have a form of reorganisation that would he far more efficient and that as far as Glamorgan was concerned it would he better—if it could be better—because I claimed during Second Reading that in all fields of administration, and particularly as regards education (I was Chairman of the Education Committee for 27 years), our record would bear comparison with the best. I could mention the fields of social welfare, the fire brigade and the merging of the police force—all those component parts of local government administration we felt were among the best.
In 1962 when the Commission in Wales were examining local government, in their write-up they said that they felt that there was no justification for altering the county of Glamorgan because its organisation and service to the people was excellent. That was not the opinion of myself or of the authority but of the people who were appointed during that particular period to examine the structure of local government. I was amazed when the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, speaking on Second Reading, said that the reorganisation of local government that is now taking place was the most important phase of reorganisation since 1888, when the county councils were brought into existence. One believed that logically if 546 there were going to be any form of re-organisation the new system introduced would be more efficient and carry out its responsibilities better than the existing system. It is said that if we reduce the number of local authorities, create bigger units and make them more viable, the discharge of their responsibilities will he more efficiently carried out.
We made a statement that we were perfectly happy, as a county council, to remain as we were. In the Consultative Document the Secretary of State for Wales indicated that the best form of local government for the administrative county of Glamorgan would be to split it into two—East Glamorgan and West Glamorgan. I have no personal interest in whether it is two or three; I shall be in West Glamorgan. I have been privileged in the course of the last day or two to he nominated for that particular area of local government administration. But what amazes me and many people is that the Minister was influenced by the propaganda of the Cardiff City Council. He may have misunderstood the people in saying that they were supporting the capital city, the 47 authorities. He may have misunderstood the distinguished gentlemen who said they were supporting the capital city. But Cardiff is a district council, and there is provision in the present Bill that if the necessary applications are made, Cardiff can retain its status as a city and have its Lord Mayor and all the civic dignitaries that are required. I said on Second Reading that I had spoken to certain people who subsequently said that they did not intend that Glamorgan should he split into three. It was their clear intention and understanding that the recommendations of the Consultative Document were that the council should be split into two. I have read the debate in the other place and I have tried to analyse the reason for the change. It is said that the Government will give grants and that though Mid-Glamorgan is a poor county the Government will make up the difference so that they can be economically viable. This is not quite the situation. Although there is a very great degree of Government support, there is a lot of financial responsibility on Glamorgan county to meet the future commitments of Mid-Glamorgan.
547 The rate support grant is divided into two parts. There is the resources grant that brings the valuation of properties up to the national average. The resources grant is about 13 per cent. of the total Government grant. Then we come to the needs grant. I am talking about Mid-Glamorgan now and the argument for the opposite side is that they will not lack in the necessary financial resources. The needs element is 76 per cent. of the grant and it deals with the over-65s, the schoolchildren and the under-fives; it is a uniform grant. If there is a variation in the numbers of elderly people or the child population—and there will be a reduction in child population—then the uniform grant goes to the detriment of Mid-Glamorgan. If we look at Mid-Glamorgan, this piecemeal organisation, we see that there are 13,500 unfit houses in the county of Glamorgan. In the new administrative county there will be 8,500 of those houses. There is now something like 8,000 acres of wasteland, and in the new county there will be something like 5,600 acres. I took an analysis recently of the cost of buildings, and the costs in the new administrative area are greater than in the South Glamorgan area. The rate support grant is not based upon expenditure, it is based upon needs, upon the resources. The rateable value is nearly £25 per head of the population.
I make this appeal to-night: in the development of local government reorganisation do not create a poor relation, do not create in those valleys the situation that they have no centre, no head. I know that in the city of Cardiff 96 per cent. of the seats, 72 out of 76, will be held by the district of Cardiff City. In the county of South Glamorgan the figure is 71 per cent., 57 out of 80 seats. What amazes me when listening to the arguments on Pembrokeshire, Teesside and Plymouth, is that we are told, "You must not have one district council; what is given to you on a plate is virtually a county district or county borough". That has been done in the city of Cardiff. If this is accepted, Cardiff just changes its name to South Glamorgan County, but its functions are merely that of a county borough.
I have tremendous regard for the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and I say to the 548 Government, "For goodness sake, do not do this". There was a petition in Cardiff comprising 100.000 names; I have had letters from members of the staff, and I see two of them here in your Lordships' House to-night. They appealed to me to do what I could to persuade this Committee to be liberal in their attitude. The Government are doing in this county of Glamorgan what they are not doing in one single authority in England. I see that the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, is in his place, and I notice that the County Councils Association have in the main said that they will accept the basic philosophy of local government reorganisation, the two-tier system, and the recommendations of the Government. They made one reservation—about the splitting of Glamorgan into three.
The last time I spoke I quoted the Western Mail. The editor indicated that he was amazed that the Government were considering splitting Glamorgan into three. I have a quotation in my hand, "Glamorgan gets a raw deal". I have a quotation from the Guardian. You may say that last time I selected something from Wales, but here I have selected something from the Guardian which criticised the Government for reorganising and splitting Glamorgan into three. I appeal, along with my colleagues, to this Committee. On Monday there was an example of the Committee feeling that there was an injustice, and your Lordships declared by your vote your concern for that kind of injustice. I would say to-night that your Lordships are concerned with a greater injustice, really, than on Monday, because you are concerned with a form of local government administration that, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, might go on until the end of this century. Therefore, these people are going to suffer and they will not be able to render the services that are necessary.
The great argument is that the valleys are not related to the capital city. Good gracious! does not a capital city have a relation to every kind of area it represents? Does not the capital city represent the cultural, intellectual, the social and psychological interests of a country? Is not Cardiff related to the mining valleys which for years, for nearly a century, have poured wealth into the capital?
549 Was it not because of that wealth that the capital city grew? In a country, particularly such a small country, one cannot separate the capital city and say it is essentially different. Therefore, I look at the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, whose family made a contribution to the development of the City of Cardiff, and say that Cardiff will retain all its civic functions in the same way as the City of London retain theirs and the City of Edinburgh will retain theirs. If there is any fear in your Lordships' minds that that will not be so its cause is contained in the Bill which is before this Committee. Therefore, I make the same kind of appeal as that of the noble Baroness. The greatest men I have met are men who have admitted it when they have made a mistake and have tried to remedy it. if you are perpetrating an injury or an injustice, then you should stop doing it. I would say perfectly frankly to the Government—and I make this appeal with all the eloquence I have—"Go back to your original decision; split Glamorgan into two, and then you will have a happy community and a successful and efficient county administration in that part of the world"
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
On March 31, 1971, we had in your Lordships' House a debate on the Consultative Document that had been issued by the Government relating to the Reorganisation of Welsh Local Government. I ventured to speak in that debate, having, I must frankly confess, consulted nobody at all about the content of my speech and simply compiling it out of my study of the Document and my attempt to examine what seemed to me the strong and the weak points therein. I undoubtedly will support the Government and oppose this Amendment for the simple reason that what the Government are now proposing is almost exactly what I ventured to propose in that speech. I confess it was with some surprise that I read the Bill and discovered that the Government were in fact accepting very much the plan that I suggested for Glamorgan. I was complimented by that, but I do not claim to be the sole father of this because fortunately a great number of other people in Wales took a similar view.
550 I believe that the Bill is right for two main reasons. First, I think that the County of East Glamorgan, which was proposed in the Consultative Document, was far too large and had no natural unity. I cannot see any strand of unity that would gather together places as different, and in some cases as remote, from one another as Cardiff, Maesteg, Aberdare, Merthyr, Porthcawl and the Vale of Glamorgan. I was making a speech on Monday night in your Lordships' House about the essential importance of there being a unity in each local government area under this new plan; and undoubtedly the proposal for the big County of East Glamorgan fell short of the unity that was required. That point, incidentally, was taken also by the Merthyr County Borough Council, who in their comments to the Government on the proposed East Glamorgan County, which was to have included Merthyr, said that the area of the first-level authority should not be so large that contact between the principal authority and the people would be remote and thereby weakened, and that the most suitable alternative to the Government's proposals—that is, the proposals in the Consultative Document—to meet these requirements would be a division of the proposed County of East Glamorgan so as to divide the existing County of Glamorgan into three counties and not into two counties as is proposed in the Consultative Document.
So one found the situation in which the County Borough of Cardiff in the South and the County Borough of Merthyr in the North were both criticising the lack of unity in the proposed large East Glamorgan county.
§ LORD HEYCOCK
May I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? Was not Merthyr arguing for a Heads of the Valleys county? Following the logic of the argument to its conclusion, Merthyr were not disagreeing with a splitting of Glamorgan into two; what they were saying was that a desirable organisation would be a Heads of the Valleys county.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
What the Merthyr Council said (and I have it here) was that the most suitable alternative to meet these requirements, which 551 they had set out, would be to divide the existing county of Glamorgan into three counties and not into two counties. I quite agree that their idea was a rather different division. What they wanted was a separate county for the Heads of the Valleys area. But they would not have supported, would not at that time at any rate have accepted, the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, that it was essential that East Glamorgan should remain one.
My second reason for criticising the Consultative Document was that it seemed to me to do less than justice to Cardiff as a capital city. I listened carefully to what the noble Baroness, Lady White, said, but she did not seem to me to establish her point by making a comparison with Edinburgh. In the case of Edinburgh, on the figures she gave Edinburgh would, if the present scheme goes through, have about half of the existing new county in population. But the Consultative Document scheme for this huge County of East Glamorgan would have left the capital city of Wales with less than one-third of the population of the county which would have contained it. That seemed to me definitely wrong. It seemed to me essential that the redevelopment of Cardiff, which is one of the biggest local government problems in the whole of Wales, must be carried out by an authority in which Cardiff people predominated and in which they are not a minority interest.
I then looked to see whether it would be numerically reasonable to form a division of the proposed East Glamorgan on the lines which commended themselves to me. The figures there are very interesting. The previously proposed East Glamorgan County would have had a population of no fewer than 927,000—far, far larger than any other county in Wales. It seemed to me that that was further support for the view I formed that it would have no natural unity, and certainly support for the view that it could, without creating any authorities that were too weak, be divided. On the Government's proposals, I understand according to the figures available to me that East Glamorgan County will be divided into two: Mid-Glamorgan with a population of 533,000 and South Glamorgan with a population of 392,000. Both of those, so far as population figures go, are quite clearly fully adequate to 552 carry out all the responsibilities and duties of a county authority.
Let me say in passing that whereas the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, was chiding the Government for dividing up Glamorgan, in fact in future in the geographical county of Glamorgan under the Government scheme we are going to have three senior local authorities instead of four, as at present. At present there is the administrative county of Glamorgan and the county boroughs of Cardiff, Swansea and Merthyr, making four. In future there will be Mid-Glamorgan, South Glamorgan and West Glamorgan, making three. Incidentally, it may be that the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, can explain this point: I have never quite understood why the representatives, like himself, of the present Glamorgan County Council have protested so strongly against a population of 100,000 of their present citizens being transferred under the Government's proposals to South Glamorgan, but they have never, so far as I know, protested similarly against a population of double that number—200,000—being transferred from the administrative county of Glamorgan into the proposed new county of West Glamorgan. The transfer of population Westwards is very much larger than the transfer Eastwards. There is clearly going to be, even under the Consultative Document scheme (which I think the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, accepts, although he would say it is not as good as the present administrative county), a division of the present administrative county, and I do not think he can re-establish a claim for the administrative county to remain intact.
§ LORD HEYCOCK
May I ask the noble Lord one simple question? He seems to be basing his reasoning and argument on a population of 900,000—I can deal with the question of the transfer to West Glamorgan, and indeed can make another speech on it, if he wishes—but could he tell me what is the population of the new county of Hampshire?
§ LORD HEYCOCK
What is the geographical distance between the centre 553 point and the other points of the new county of Hampshire? I did not hear the noble Lord make any argument against Hampshire having a population of over a million and a quarter, and then he talks about 900,000. As I understand it, it is a quarter of a million.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, for the information that the population of the proposed county of Hampshire will be about a million and a quarter. I am a little surprised, however, that the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, should be basing his criticisms of the Government in this debate on the ground that they are not repeating precisely in Wales what they are doing in England. When I was Minister for Welsh Affairs I learned—and rightly learned—that one should not judge Welsh questions by English standards; one should examine the needs of the Principality on their own merits. That is what I have endeavoured to do.
There is one further point that I should like to deal with, and it was raised, I think, both by the noble Baroness and by the noble Lord. It is that the new county of Mid-Glamorgan under the Government's plan would be formless and weak. I really do not think that a county with a proposed population of over half a million can be said to be weak. If it is argued that its rateable value per head will be lower than the rateable value per head of the two other parts of Glamorgan, that is certainly true, but it will not be lower than that of a number of other counties in Britain. It is also necessary, of course, to take into account the rate support grant invented by the Labour Government, which has the effect of equalising the resources of the rateable value per head of counties and local authorities of different strengths.
I feel certain that your Lordships would be making a serious mistake if you were to accept this Amendment. The new plan has been carefully thought out and there is no doubt that these three are viable areas. There can be no doubt at all about the lack of community of interest between Cardiff, Merthyr, Aberdare, Maesteg, and the Vale of Glamorgan, and there is no reason why the new authorities should not, given good 554 will, work together in a co-operative way. Mid-Glamorgan will be fully strong enough to stand on its own feet. It will be extensive and highly populated. I feel sure that it will find the right administrative centre, whether it is Llantrisant, as I suggested in my speech last year, or elsewhere. I have quite sufficient faith in those who have hitherto been stalwarts of the Glamorgan County Council to know that they are capable of overcoming difficulties of that kind. But I ask your Lordships to bear in mind that there will be more unity in each of these counties under the Government's scheme than there would be if the Amendment were carried, and, secondly, that Cardiff is a capital city and deserves to be more than a one-third minority inside the county which will be the planning authority and the authority for education and so many other services. I trust your Lordships will reject this Amendment.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION
If it were not for a personal matter I should have relied completely on the advocacy of my noble friend Lady White and the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, to state a case, and to state it well and in a convincing fashion, but I must refer to something which I said in a debate which was held in this House on March 31, 1971. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, with considerable delicacy did not level at me the criticism that he might very well have done, on the grounds that in the debate on the Government's proposals for the reorganisation of local government in Wales, in March of last year, in a winding-up speech which commenced less than half an hour after the noble Lord had sat down, I made a qualified gesture of approval in the direction of his proposition that Cardiff should be extended to the East and West to make a new county. I have now put down an Amendment which is in direct opposition to what I then said.
What I then said was—and I quote—I rather like the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. I certainly think that Cardiff could be extended East and West along the coast;That was said, I must point out, in the context of a part of my speech in which I had previously said that I should hesitate long before ignoring the advice of my noble friend Lord Heycock that the 555 case for retaining Glamorgan as a single county was quite overwhelming. I quote againIt is only 16 years … since Cardiff, after decades of argument, was named the capital City of Wales. Its status as … a capital city, in which is located about the finest complex of governmental buildings in Great Britain, if not in Europe, has by now been accepted by most of those who opposed having the accolade of "capital" bestowed upon it at the outset. It is now accepted, and generally accepted. In these circumstances, I can well understand the feelings of the City Council, who feel that on becoming a district council the standing, the prestige, and the dignity of the capital is being lowered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31/3/71; col. 1395.]What I then said was said within a short time of hearing two powerful arguments, one by the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, for the retention of Glamorgan as it now is, and the other by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, dealing with Cardiff as a capital city.
Since then I have been faced with two facts. One is that the Government have ignored the advice of my noble friend, have persisted in their original intention to divide Glamorgan into two parts and have taken the further decision to subdivide one of those parts. The second is that further time for consideration and everything I have heard since about population, rateable value and so on has convinced me that what is in the Bill is totally wrong and ought to be put right by the acceptance of our Amendment. If I had not come to that conclusion before we reached the Committee stage of this Bill I should have arrived there by now, having heard the arguments of Ministers against Amendments moved by noble Lords. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, when resisting an Amendment to create metropolitan districts in non-metropolitan counties said:For the rest of England, and for all of Wales, we intend by this Bill to establish counties which will consist of a reasonable balance of urban and rural areas."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 9/8/72: col. 1128.]—an excellent precept with which I would find it hard to disagree. But does the Minister really think that by adding to the city of Cardiff three towns, two of them, Barry and Penarth, with a combined population of some 65,500, the small borough of Cowbridge, the rural district of Cardiff, much of which is made 556 up of the suburbs of Cardiff and by emitting from that area the truly rural parishes of Llanfedw, Llanilterns, Pentyrch, Rhydygwer, Rudry and Van and the rural district of Cowbridge, except Llanharry, Llanharen, Llanilid and Peterston-super-Montem, there is being created a reasonable balance of urban and rural areas? Clearly the answer is No. I say that because the whole concept of this proposition is as much in opposition to the principles on which the Bill is reputed to be based as would have been the creation of Southampton and Portsmouth as metropolitan districts, against which the Minister used such strong words.
The same Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, in opposing Amendments to exclude from the new county of Avon, Weston-super-Mare and some other areas of North Somersetshire, said, speaking of the boundary:The fact is that it is drawn very carefully … to fit in with the geography of the county … The boundary is chosen as near as possible to correspond with the area of influence exercised from Bristol. It is very important, in our view, that the area of influence of Bristol should be contained within the one county, anti that the boundary should reflect the pattern of life for the administration of services and, may I add, should also take account, where possible, so far as we can see ahead, of likely future developments."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11/8/72; cols. 1505–6.]The Minister stressed three principles and I agree with their importance: geography, the area of influence and the administration of services. I am strongly of the opinion that the separation of Cardiff from the rest of West Glamorgan-shire is in flagrant disregard of these principles. Cardiff grew into a major port because of a geographical feature; namely, the gap in the hills at Taffs Well, which dictated the flow of the River Taff, the line of construction of the canal and subsequently the line of the Taff Vale Railway. This in turn meant that the coal and iron of the valleys flowed out through the port of Cardiff. The Rhondda, the Ferndale, the Aberdare and the Merthyr valleys, by this accident of geography, made Cardiff. Without this accident of geography there would have been no Cardiff as a major port. The pattern of train and bus services dictates the relationship in which Cardiff stands to the valleys and the area of its influ 557 ence. The third point—the ease of administration of services—has been amply demonstrated by the services built up from the county hall in Cardiff by the Glamorgan County Council, which they rightly claim to be unsurpassed anywhere in the country.
If the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, had not persuaded me, the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, would most certainly have done so, for when resisting an Amendment to create a new county of South Devon he said, at the conclusion of a devastating speech:I am sorry to suggest that this is a little contrived, but I am afraid it is. I am afraid it is a reincarnation of Plymouth, writ large, spreading up further than any proper boundary should go but not far enough to make anything like the sort of county to which we should give credence under this Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11/8/72; col. 1576.]That was well stated and I echo those words completely, with the substitution of the word "Cardiff" for "Plymouth", because the rest of that strong passage fits to a nicety what the Government are doing to Glamorganshire under this Bill by the contrived—I borrow the noble Viscount's words—creation of Cardiff, writ large.
As I understand it, in the case of the Plymouth proposal, if the county borough of Plymouth were to remain as one district it would hold sway of some 73 per cent. over the new county. The comparable situation is that in the area of South Glamorgan, the No. 1 District, which is predominantly comprised of the present county borough of Cardiff, would hold sway over the new county of 72 per cent. How can the Government reject the proposal for South Devon and defend the decision to create as great a departure from the principles upon which they claim to have based their Bill in the case of Glamorgan? It is just not on in terms of logic or anything else.
I come to the question of Cardiff as a capital city. Subsection (10) of the new clause to follow Clause 238 makes it abundantly clear, as my noble friend Lord Heycock pointed out, that nothing in the Bill would prevent Her Majesty from conferring the titles of lord mayor, deputy lord mayor or right honourable on the principal citizens of Cardiff. I go further and add that if that is not enough, then I do not regard it as being beyond the wit of man to devise a special 558 status for the capital city of England—as was done to some extent in the London Government Act, which was passed in 1963—and for Scotland and Wales. The capital cities of all three could have had something devised which would have been extra special. This South Glamorgan proposal does not do it. It may attempt to do it but it does it badly and it is in contradiction to every principle on which the Government have based the Bill.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
It is with the greatest diffidence that I intervene in a Welsh discussion. I have never had the temerity to do so before. Thinking back, I cannot recall that I have ever had the opportunity to do so before, because one has to be very alert to get into a Welsh debate. I am going to be brief, too, because if my presumption in speaking at all becomes unbearable I know that some noble Lord from Wales will move "that the noble Lord he no longer heard."
I would ask the Government to consider very carefully indeed the cogent arguments which I thought were put forward with great moderation by the noble Baroness, Lady White, and the arguments adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Hey-cock, and the noble Lord, Lord Champion, both speaking with very great knowledge and experience indeed. I listened with great attention as always to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and I should like to say that there is no Member of this House whose opinions and whose wisdom I regard with greater respect and admiration than those of my noble friend. It has taken a great deal of screwing up of courage on my part to say that, though some of his arguments I thought were very strong indeed, on balance I was not absolutely entirely convinced.
Thinking back to the Consultative Document, when I read it I thought that the suggestion to divide into two was on the whole sensible. I did not find myself as frightened as my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor did about the projected size that East Glamorgan would have been, 900,000. I seem to remember also that the Secretary of State at that lime spoke very strongly against the alternative idea of dividing Glamorgan into three, though I realise, as my noble 559 friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor said, that three portions were not similar precisely to the portions proposed now.
In a nutshell, I find it extremely difficult. as has already been said, to reconcile this proposal as regards South Glamorgan with the pattern and theme that runs the whole way through this Bill for local government reform. It seems to me to clash absolutely. I agree with my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor that so far as the population goes, both Mid Glamorgan and South Glamorgan, as now proposed, would be viable, but in other respects I am not greatly impressed that Mid Glamorgan contains all the balance that would be desirable. What I find particularly difficult to understand is how it can be right to put forward a county containing only two districts—I will not go into this in detail because it has been put so clearly—one of which contains 75 per cent. or 80 per cent. of the population and which I should have thought was bound to dominate and throw out of balance the whole. So I will listen again with great attention to what my noble friend says, but at this stage I find it extremely difficult to imagine the arguments that he will bring forward which will outweigh the arguments that have been put forward by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness who have moved the Amendment this afternoon.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
The noble Viscount has put the case very well. I think he started by saying that he was afraid that perhaps some of us who were Welsh might suggest "that the noble Lord be no longer heard". But he can rest assured that no one in Wales ever wishes to ask a speaker to resume his seat until he has said fully all he has to say. We always enjoy listening to anyone speaking and especially when he speaks as well and as clearly as the noble Viscount has just done.
With regard to the proposal about Glamorgan, to anyone who was born and who has lived in Wales the idea of splitting up Glamorgan is something which we do not like, but to carry this fissiparous tendency to the point of splitting it up into three bits one of which is really, although it contains the capital city, a 560 little rump, means that it does not contain a sensible portion of Glamorgan. I supported the Government on the issue of Pembrokeshire being in Dyfed. and for precisely the same reason I am against the removal of the capital city and making it, just with a small addendum, a separate county. This is something which is really foreign to the whole Welsh conception of local government. For many years we resented the idea of having a capital city at all.
We in Wales felt that the real distribution of influence should be all over the country and when the National Museum of Wales was placed in Cardiff the National Library was deliberately placed at Aberystwyth, a very small town, to emphasise the fact that in Wales we do not think in terms of a high concentration of all power and of all culture in one place. In other words, we do not want Cardiff isolated and made a place of its own and given a ridiculous title, as it is called now, like South Glamorgan. It is not even called Cardiff. It seems to me that this idea is utterly foreign to everything that we have thought of with regard to government in Wales. I would prefer to see the whole county of Glamorgan as one, but if it is considered better for administrative purposes that it should be divided, then certainly it should be not more than two, East and West Glamorgan. Therefore, I support this Amendment because I find the whole proposal as put forward now—which is quite different from the proposal in the Consultative Document—quite foreign to the whole idea that we have in Wales of local government.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
This Amendment in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, the noble Baroness, Lady White, and the noble Lords, Lord Heycock and Lord Watkins is hardly unexpected. The proposals in the Bill were debated in another place on the Committee stage. They were debated again on the Report stage and we have listened to much the same arguments again this afternoon. In the other place a great many emotional speeches were made, and I must say I was delighted this afternoon that this was not the case and that the arguments have been on their merits and closely argued.
561 I think all of us would welcome my noble friend Viscount Amory's intervention in a Welsh debate. The only thing is that I think his memory is slightly at fault, if I may say so, because I distinctly remember him taking part before in a Welsh debate and in fact he said "Bore da", if I remember, and I was hoping that by now he might have made some progress and would be able to say "Nos da"
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
I might just remind my noble friend that I was speaking in Welsh on that occasion and not in English as he has said.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I hope it soon will be. Perhaps I could try and recite some of the facts that I think have led up to the Government's decision as it appears in the Bill. The first and most important fact is that there is a geographical county in South Wales, Glamorgan, which at present, for local government purposes, is divided between four major authorities: the Glamorgan County Council, the Cardiff County Borough Council, the Swansea County Borough Council and the Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council. One of the main objects of this Bill is to recast local government and to get away from the situation where county boroughs exist as all-purpose authorities in the midst of counties. It is at the very heart of the Bill that all existing authorities are abolished—everything goes into the melting pot—and out of it there emerge new authorities. That is the situation in Glamorgan, a geographical county at present comprising four major authorities, all to be abolished and a new organisation to be created comprising three new county authorities.
The last Government proposed that Glamorgan should be divided into two unitary authorities based on Swansea and Cardiff, and never I think in the whole previous history of local government has any suggestion met with greater opposition from all Parties. As far as the East Glamorgan authority was concerned the proposal was attacked just as much from the Labour Party as from the Conservative Party, and in particular the fact that Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, 562 was to be reduced to the status of a parish council was universally condemned. And I would suggest to your Lordships that this indifference to the status of the capital city of Wales has had its influence on the proposals that are contained in this Bill to-day.
However, the original proposals fell at the Election, and in February of 1971 we produced a Consultative Document for the reform of local government in Wales. In it we proposed a two-tier system for Glamorgan, the same as for the rest of Wales and England, with the geographical county of Glamorgan again divided into two, East and West Glamorgan, based on Cardiff and Swansea. This was the proposal before your Lordships when we debated the Consultative Document on March 31, 1971. This was a Consultative Document and part of the process of consultation was to have debates in both Houses. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales and certainly I did our best to recommend the proposals that were put forward in that Consultative Document. The response to our efforts was very far from favourable. In the Welsh Grand Committee of another place the proposals were condemned by 20 votes to 8. Glamorgan County Council opposed our proposals and advocated a new county covering the whole of the geographical county of Glamorgan, a county that would have comprised almost half the population of the whole of Wales.
§ LORD HEYCOCK
The first proposal was for the retention of the administrative county, and secondly, if that was not acceptable, we would go for a geographical county.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I accept that from the noble Lord, who is expert on this matter, but all I am saying is that Glamorgan County Council did not like our proposals either and had other ideas. The Swansea County Borough Council opposed the proposals. They wanted a single tier authority in West Glamorgan. The Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, as has already been made clear by my noble friend Lord Brooke, opposed our proposals and advocated a new county council based on the valleys of North-East Glamorgan and North-West 563 Monmouthshire. And, most resolutely of all, the Cardiff County Borough Council opposed our proposals on much the same grounds as Merthyr Tydfil, that there was little identity of interest between Cardiff and the valleys, and that Cardiff itself, as the capital city of Wales—and embittered by the proposals of the last Government to reduce it to parish council status—still deserved better than being a district council in a very large county, in fact the largest county in population terms proposed for the whole of Wales. I am not speaking of England. Even the noble Baroness, Lady White, when we were considering the Consultative Document, speaking of Cardiff, said:They are not likely to be satisfied with the few crumbs of special planning powers which have been thrown to them.On that occasion, as he has recalled this evening, my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, made a most powerful speech rejecting our proposals for Cardiff. If I may quote from his speech again, he said:Cardiff would have only one-third of the population of the county; it will have one-tenth of the acreage, and it will have under one-half of the rateable value. My Lords, it cannot be right to put a capital city, or the Lord Mayor of that city, into so subordinate a position.Not only was he critical, but, as we have come to expect from my noble friend, he was also constructive, and he made suggestions for a new county centred on Cardiff not basically different from the proposals in this Bill.
At the end of our debate the noble Lord, Lord Champion, as he has admitted, also spoke sympathetically to Cardiff. I will not quote his words because he has now changed his mind, but I do say that here was yet another voice that gave us to doubt whether our proposals were right. And when we came to the Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, for whose opinion I have the highest regard, said, when he was referring to the Minister changing his mind, "He wisely yielded on Cardiff". I do not know whether the noble Lord also has changed his mind since that occasion, but there again is another opinion that I would respect.
§ LORD MAYBRAY-KING
But the point is that what we argued about in Hampshire which the Government did not accept is now acceptable.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I thought that the noble Lord was referring to the wisdom of yielding to Cardiff. These are the facts that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State was presented with after the Consultative Document, and I believe that the decisions he took then were taken with the greatest propriety and in the best interests of the local government of Wales. The noble Lord, Lord Heycock, whose opinions on these matters I deeply respect, as he knows, said that the new county of Mid-Glamorgan would be a poor county with insufficient rate resources, and one must freely admit that the rateable value per head of population which has been quoted shows West Glamorgan at £47, East Glamorgan at £48 and Mid Glamorgan at £26. But I would take him up on the question of the rate support grant. I know this is a highly technical subject and I know how easy it is to mislead when one attempts to simplify it. But there is, as he said, within the rate support grant the resources element which replaced the old rate deficiency grant, and the object of the resources element is to raise the rate product per head of every local authority to the average rate product per head for England and Wales. This means that in terms of resources all authorities are equal except for those which enjoy a rate product above the average. But none of the three county borough councils in Glamorgan or the present Glamorgan County Council enjoy a rate product above the average, and therefore all the new authorities will receive the resources element of the rate support grant and will therefore, from a resources point of view, be on an equal basis. The noble Lord also made a comment on the needs element of the rate support grant. I would draw his attention—I do not know whether the noble Lord is actually listening to me or deciding whether to vote. Is the noble Lord listening to me, or is he deciding whether to go to dinner?—because I was trying to talk about the rate support grant in answer to the points that he made. I do not think it is very courteous of the noble Lord to engage in a conversation.
§ LORD ABERDARE
Perhaps I could have the noble Lord's ear for a minute while I am on the rate support grant aspect, because it is important. When he talks about the needs element in the rate support grant, I would draw his attention to the Government's Green Paper on the future shape of local government finance, which clearly recognises the need for further work to be done to establish a new needs element formula which would more closely reflect the ideal of a recognised standard cost per head than does the present one. So I think the point he made on the needs side of the rate support grant will there be met.
I believe it is nonsense to suggest that Mid Glamorgan will be a poor relation in terms of financial resources. Moreover, in so far as its housing is poor its district councils will receive higher sub
§ sidies for slum clearance. In so far as it comprises much derelict land it will receive grants up to 85 per cent. for the reclamation of that land. I do not see Mid Glamorgan in that light at all. As one who lives in what I hope will be the new county (as indeed does the noble Lord, Lord Champion), I see it as an opportunity for a new county, without regard to the great city centres of Cardiff and Swansea, to build on the foundations so ably laid by the Glamorgan County Council—and all tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, and his colleagues for their achievement—to build a new and progressive county council to tackle the dereliction of the past, and to build for the ambitions of the future. I cannot advise your Lordships to accept this Amendment.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 88A) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 36; Not-Contents, 58.565
|Amory, V.||Hoy, L.||Simon, V.|
|Arwyn, L.||Jacques, L.||Slater, L.|
|Bacon, B.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]||Stocks, B.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Berkeley, B.||Maelor, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Maybray-King, L.||Tanlaw, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Phillips, B.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Champion, L.||Ridley, V.||Watkins, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Saint Albans, D.||White, B.|
|Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.]||Seear, B.||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
|Granville of Eye, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Hale, L.||Serota, B.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Heycock, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Emmet of Amberley, B.||Monck, V.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Falmouth, V.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Ferrers, E.||Monsell, V.|
|Balfour, E.||Gainford, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]|
|Barnby, L.||Gowrie, E.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Newall, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Hailes, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Brabazan of Tara, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Rankeillour, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Harvey of Prestbury, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Hatherton, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Hemingford, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Hereford, L.Bp.||Savile, L.|
|Courtown, E.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Selkirk, E.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Killearn, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Limerick, E.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Lytton, E.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.|
|Digby, L.||Mansfield, E.||Vivian, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Milverton, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Elles, B.||Molson, L.||Young, B.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ LORD ABERDARE
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if we were to adjourn for three-quarters of an hour for dinner at this point. I beg to move that we adjourn the Committee until a quarter to nine.
§ Moved accordingly, and on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ The Sitting was suspended at 7.59 p.m. and resumed at 8.45 p.m.
LORD WATKINS moved Amendment No. 88C:
Page 235, leave out from beginning of line 18 to end of line 21.
The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment I should like your Lordships to take into consideration Amendments Nos. 88E, 88G, 88M, 88P, 880Q, 88S, 88T, 88U and 88V. These are ten separate Amendments dealing with different areas of a very large new county, the county of Powys. These Amendments would restore to Breconshire areas which Schedule 4 of the Bill provides for transfer to Monmouthshire—in future to be called Gwent—and Mid Glamorgan. The proposal in the Bill will mean the transfer of 16,190 population, which is a large figure compared with the present total population of Breconshire of 54,000. It will mean robbing a poor area like Powys to pay better-off areas like Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. Paragraph 29 of the Consultative Document states:
The population and resources of Powys would be small even if its constituent counties remained intact, and a decision to reduce them further needs particularly careful consideration.
§ No one so far, except those of the same opinion as myself, has given to it the careful consideration which this decision needs.
§ I listened with interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said about population when we were dealing with Pembroke. He said that 250,000 is the basic figure and that we cannot have populations less than that. But the Government are doing contrary to that in this proposal in the Bill to transfer 16,190 people. There are three separate counties to be amalgamated. Your Lordships will have seen this map in the Royal Gallery. This shows the new county of Powys and the areas which I am talking about are right on the fringe of this map. One has to live in a county to know what 568 change will mean, and I know what I am talking about. I shall be interested to know whether there is real evidence to show that the economy and social interests of the small towns and villages on the Southern fringes have been in any way prejudiced in the past by the administration in Breconshire. The total population of Powys will be 100,360 in an area of 1¼ million acres, with a rateable value of £2½ million. It is said of one of the counties that there are more sheepdog exemption licences than there are members of the population, so I can see how poor an area it is. But nothing was said in another place by the Minister of State on this aspect, on the resources of Breconshire being prejudiced at all if it is transferred.
At one period, some of the local authorities were in favour. There was an element of truth at the beginning, in favour. There is nothing so much now; and I would remind your Lordships of the referendum taken by the Breconshire County Council. It was a postal ballot. I will not go through the numbers or the percentages of the people who voted: I only wish, for the sake of this nation, that the same proportion of people who voted in this referendum would vote in any General Election or by-election. But here is the result. In the Brynmawr area, 56.2 per cent. of the population voted for Powys, 10.8 per cent. for Gwent. In Gwent, in the parish of Llanelly, which includes three wards, 57.6 per cent. voted for Powys, 10.8 per cent. for Gwent. In the parish of Penderym, 63.1 per cent. voted for Powys, 9.4 per cent. for Mid Glamorgan. In the parish of Vaynor, 43.6 per cent. voted for Powys, 10.3 per cent. for Mid Glamorgan. This was a postal ballot, which was taken only recently. The Brynmawr Urban District Council is in one area, and it has a population of 6,470. It has been suggested before that Brynmawr did decide to go into Gwent. But as a result of this postal ballot, this is what the urban district council had to say to the Secretary of State—and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has a copy of this letter:
My council are prepared to accept the results of the referendum as indicative of the wishes of the people of Brynmawr, of whom they are elected representatives.
§ Then we come to Cefn Coed, on the boundary of Merthyr Tydfil. The Minister of State said that the Government base their opinions on local authorities, and not on polls. That was his answer. No matter what kind of argument one puts up they find some other argument to try to destroy it. But, whether he was joking or not, the Minister referred to a person standing on Cyfartha Bridge, and said he would find it easier to get more services from Merthyr Tydfil than from Breconshire. He fails to realise that there are no services belonging to the Merthyr Tydfil Corporation being used in Breconshire—none at all. In this area, the Breconshire County Council carries out its education services by means of a district education committee, with governors for its secondary schools; its social services are administered through the social services committee; and they have an old people's home. Then there are health services, with a clinic. They are not administered by Merthyr. They do not get anybody from Merthyr. They have autonomy in that area. As Chairman of the Joint Planning Committee for Breconshire, I know that this area has its own delegated powers, and we are most helpful to them in that respect.
§ I will not go into detail about the parishes, but the same argument applies to Brynmawr and the three wards of the Llanelly parish within the Crickhowell Rural District Council. In another place, the Minister indicated in a Parliamentary reply that there were ten authorities which supported Breconshire in their opposition to this proposal. He said they were too far away, and, "Let us get that argument isolated." Let us examine the "isolation" of that argument if it is applied generally. First, does he repudiate the speech of the noble Lord. Lord Swansea. in a debate on the Consultative Document in March, 1971? He made a strong speech; and he lives towards the Northern end of Brecon. It was an admirable speech which had an effect on the House when he made it. But that speech cannot be said to be isolated. That is the conclusion of people in Breconshire. A very important objector, one of the organisations which objected to this proposal—and I do not want to bring politics 570 into this matter—was the Brecon and Radnor Conservative Association. I can understand the Brecon and Radnor Divisional Labour Party or the Liberal Party objecting: but the Conservative Association was the organisation which sponsored the Minister of State in two Elections. However, the wishes of the people returned me as Member of Parliament for the constituency at that time. But in fairness the organisation covered the fringe of the territory.
§ Let us look at the financial aspect. Powys will lose nearly £400,000 rateable value. Local government financial support in future is uncertain; but we know that the more rateable value we can get into the new county of Powys (which I must support as the Government proposal for a new county) the better it will be. It will be far better for the people living in the county to depend on their own resources of rateable value than to get Government grants towards it. If there is any surplus in grant they could use it (as my noble friend Lady White will know) for the growth towns of mid-Wales. My own personal reaction is to favour greater rateable value, to save the central Government grant and to use the financial support for other means.
§ Everything possible has been done to induce the Government to change their mind. On July 6, 1971, I was a member of the deputation from the Breconshire County Council who met the Minister of State. We stated all these arguments at that time, and said that there would be no ballot or referendum. We were told that they would be borne in mind. They were borne in mind, so much so that the Government still carried out the decision to transfer this huge population away from the county of Brecon—and for what purpose? We heard some arguments in the debate on Mid Glamorgan this afternoon. No one suggested that Mid Glamorgan wanted resources from Breconsh ire to carry out its local government. Why put on to an authority additional population which is not required and denude a poor authority like Powys?
§ Finally, I would say that it is not only local government bodies which are loyal to the counties; we all have loyalties to the counties or cities that we belong to. But there are voluntary bodies who will be prejudiced by this decision, bodies 571 such as the rural community council. Brynmawr and the southern fringe of Vaynor and Penderyn will no longer belong to the community council in that area. Then, too, the Brecon Society, a historical society, is cut out. Then there are the religious organisations. I do not know what will happen to the diocese of Swansea and Brecon in the future. Now it seems they must take in some parts of Monmouthshire. I wonder whether the right reverend Prelates in this House have had discussions on this. Where do they stand on this? Then the religious organisations apart from the diocese of Swansea and Brecon constitute another important factor. Then there is the Naturalists Trust. They have a very important voluntary organisation in Breconshire. But we are discussing local government reorganisation. I followed closely the arguments the Minister was using against Pembroke and about Glamorgan, and I suggest that somehow he must reverse what he said this afternoon in order to carry out what is intended. I beg to move the Amendment in my name and the name of my noble friend.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I hope that I may be forgiven by your Lordships for taking part in the debate on another Welsh Amendment, but I happen to have some close personal knowledge of the two areas of the country with which these two groups of Amendments are concerned. It has always been a puzzle to me why Brymawr has historically been in Breconshire. I am sure that it was admirably looked after by the noble Lord, Lord Watkins, when he was Member of Parliament for that division, but it is anomalous that it should be linked with Brecon rather than with Monmouthshire.
I do not know how many of your Lordships have driven along the old road from Merthyr and Dowlais through Dukestown and Beaufort and Brynmawr down to Abergavenny, but I defy anybody to spot from any local difference on either side of the county boundary which cuts that road somewhere between Beaufort and Brymawr. The built up area is quite continuous. Brynmawr is not only linked continuously with Beaufort to the West but also it is linked continuously with 572 Nantyglo to the South, and both of those places are in Monmouthshire. If we are seeking to establish unity of community, so to speak, in this Bill as a guiding principle for the boundaries of new local authorities, it seems to me absolutely undeniable that Brynmawr should fall into the new county of Gwent rather than into Breconshire.
I think that the noble Lord, Lord Watkins, was wishing to debate his Amendments concerning Vaynor and Penderyn at the same time. Here I have a personal interest because the rural district of Vaynor and Penderyn contains three parishes Vaynor, Penderyn and Ystradfellte. I know that some of your Lordships doubt whether such a place as Ystradfellte exists, but my noble relative is sorry that she cannot be here this evening to speak up for the place from which she takes part of her name. The rural district consists of those three parishes of which I would have thought undoubtedly Vaynor and Penderyn had their links Southwards. Vaynor is adjacent to Cefn Coed and Merthyr, and Penderyn runs virtually to Hirwaun and Aberdare, while away Northwards one comes into the sparsely populated countryside of Brecon-shire.
I would have thought it hard to say that either of those two parishes Vaynor and Penderyn looks to the North. Ystradfellte, on the other hand, is completely a country parish. It is a most lovely village, and definitely outside the industrialised parts of South Wales. I can well understand how the people of Ystradfellte, and the Government likewise, have decided that Ystradfellte should remain part of the county of Brecon. But on geographical grounds I equally understand why the decision has been reached that Vaynor and Penderyn should be joined to Mid Glamorgan even though this means, like the decision about Brynmawr, reducing somewhat the total population of Powys.
I hope that my speeches on previous Amendments to this Bill to-day and on Monday have shown that I am deeply concerned about retaining a community of interest for each new local authority and on those grounds I think the Government are right. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Watkins, I believe that his Amendments are mistaken and 573 that it is right that Vaynor and Penderyn and Brynmawr, but not Ystradfellte, should be moved into the counties which lie to the South of them.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I want to say only a few words because my noble friend Lord Watkins has put the case very convincingly indeed. I was somewhat surprised by the argument advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, when he said that because they were adjacent to and added some interest to the industrial belt, these parts of what is now the county of Brecon should therefore in future be linked with industrial areas. Surely one of the main purposes of the Bill, as I understand it, is that we should attempt to have some balance of town and country, rural and industrial areas. This is precisely what Brynmawr does; it provides an industrial element which otherwise is virtually absent from Brecon. We are doing our utmost and hope to have more Government support for industrial activities for the towns of mid-Wales. At the moment we have met with some limited success and, after all, the object is to improve the balance.
It seems to me that the arguments advanced by my noble friend Lord Watkins are irrefutable, apart from which there is in a sense a stronger argument, a practical argument, which is that Powys, as we all recognise, is a county with too few people and too few resources, as I said in an earlier intervention on another Amendment. We cannot help the situation in Powys, but we should do nothing to its detriment. The feeling we have about the Government proposals to take from the existing county of Brecon and therefore the future county of Powys the area under consideration in this series of Amendments is that they are taking from the less populated and poorest county of the whole of Wales some slight resources, which in relation to the total are not as slight as all that. For all these reasons—and I do not want to detain your Lordships' House as we have a considerable amount of work to do—I hope that the Government may reconsider their decision on this matter.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
One hears on television American lawyers saying that 574 they "rest their case". I would rest my case on the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor. He seems to have put most lucidly the geographical and other reasons why we feel the present boundary is right. I cannot think that anyone believes that the boundary as it exists is satisfactory. No fewer than seven local authorities have responsibilities for the administration of Hirwaun—two County Councils, three district councils and two parish councils—and Cefn Coed is divided from Merthyr of which it is essentially a part. Brynmawr has much closer links with the lower valleys, and with Blaenavon, Ebbw Vale and Nantyglo than with the rest of Breconshire.
This was the view taken by the Local Government Commission in 1963. They recognised these anomalies and recommended that wherever possible the southern boundary of Breconshire should follow the watersheds of the Beacons and the Black Mountains. I know that they went further than we have gone in the Bill in following this principle and included the whole of Crickhowell rural district in Gwent. Moreover, they reported thatthe southern fringe of Breconshire, with its industrial element, goes economically and socially with Glamorganand it is these recommendations in large part which we have sought to follow in the Bill. The areas included in Mid Glamorgan and Gwent lie South of the Black Mountains and the Beacons and are cut off from the rest of Powys. They have the closest possible associations with areas to the South where many inhabitants work, shop and go for recreation. From a local government point of view everything is to be said for them to be administered from the South rather than from the other side of the mountain barrier. The original proposals were supported by Vaynor and Penderyn Rural District Council and Brynmawr Urban District Council, although as the noble Lord, Lord Watkins, rightly said, Brynmawr have changed their minds after the postal ballot organised by Breconshire County Council; but Vaynor and Penderyn Rural District Councils have not changed their minds.
As I think I said before in the course of these debates, while I accept that we should certainly pay heed to public 575 opinion this cannot be the sole criterion if we are to achieve a sensible local government system. I believe that all people, and I say it with great conviction from this Box, are conservative at heart and naturally would wish to remain in the county where they have always lived; and one respects their local pride. I am not a bit surprised, therefore, that there should be considerable majorities from all areas for remaining in Breconshire. But in this case I believe that the arguments of the Local Government Commission, based on geography, common interest and good administration, are the stronger arguments, and I am confident that the proposals in the Bill are right. Where there is a reasonable doubt about whether a boundary change should be made, or when the issues involved are not of vital and continuing importance, then the wishes of the inhabitants, expressed either directly or through their elected representatives, can well be the deciding factor. We have certainly accepted this in a number of areas throughout Wales. But where it is clear on every ground of common sense and good administration that changes ought to be made, we believe it right to make them.
I fully recognise that Powys is a large county with a relatively small population.
§ I know it is an exception. I mentioned this when we were discussing Pembrokeshire. But this is a fact surely that we cannot change. We believe that in this particular instance we are better advised to stand by the main recommendations of the Local Government Commission as to where this boundary should run; and we believe that both county and district services can be better organised for these areas from the South rather than from the other side of the mountain barrier. For these reasons, I hope that your Lordships will not accept the Amendment but will stand by the proposals in the Bill.
§ LORD WATKINS
I do not want to go into further arguments with the noble Lord about this subject, but he has omitted to mention the wishes of the inhabitants of Ystradgynlais rural district, a large area in the southern fringe and below the Beacons, that they should remain in Breconshire: and the Government agreed that they should remain in Breconshire. I hope that the Committee will come to a conclusion on my side.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 88C) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 19; Not-Contents, 39.575
|Beswick, L.||Sandys, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L. [Teller]||Sempill, Ly.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Garnsworthy, L.||Serota, B.||Tanlaw, L.|
|Heycock, L.||Shepherd, L.||Watkins, L.|
|Maelor, L. [Teller.]||Simon, V.||White, B.|
|Newall, L.||Stocks, B.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|St. Davids, V.|
|Aberdare, L.||Falmouth, V.||Molson, L.|
|Amory, V.||Ferrers, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]|
|Auckland, L.||Gainford, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Gowrie, E.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Grimthorpe, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Ridley, V.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hatherton, L.||Savile, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Hemingford, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Hood, V.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Killearn, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.|
|Digby, L.||Limerick, E.||Vivian, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Mansfield, E.||Young, B.|
|Elles, B.||Milverton, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 9.22 p.m.
BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 88F:
Page 236, line 8, leave out ("and Rhymney").
§ The noble Baroness said: I want briefly to say a word about the proposal in the Bill that what is now the urban district of Rhymney should be taken out of its historic connection with Monmouth, put into the county of Gwent and transferred to Mid Glamorgan. I need hardly say again to your Lordships what I think about Mid Glamorgan. If I thought the addition of Rhymney would really improve it I would not be moving this Amendment, but I have very close family connections with Rhymney and in fact my own title is Baroness White, of Rhymney. My father, I think I may say, was one of the most illustrious sons of this community and I still have relatives there. It is a place I know very well. I fully admit that there is a problem here. The Government have decided, rather than use the river as the boundary, to take the entire valley and put it into the new county of Mid Glamorgan.
§ This would be all very well if the entire valley so desired, but I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, is fully aware that Rhymney itself has no such wish. It is at the head of the valley and was one of that community of former mining areas which we call the Heads of the Valleys, and its natural affinities are not with places like Caerphilly, Ystradaynlais, arid so on, but with its neighbours, Tredegar and Ebbw Vale. It comes into the Parliamentary Division of Ebbw Vale, which was represented for many years by the late Aneurin Bevan and now by Michael Foot; and the urban district council has made it quite plain that if the entire valley cannot be included in Gwent at least it would want itself to be so included. It does not wish to go into Mid Glamorgan, it wishes to stay in Monmouthshire or Gwent, and I can see no valid reason why this particular desire should not be acceded to. It is not a matter of overwhelming significance to anybody but the inhabitants of Rhymney. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has said that if there is no overwhelming reason against that desire the wishes of the local inhabitants should be taken into account. The total population of Rhymney is given in the 578 Consultative Document as 8,610 persons. That will not make a vast difference either to Mid Glamorgan or Gwent. But if it makes a real difference to the people of Rhymney, then is there any real reason why we should thwart their desires in this respect? Its natural affinity is very largely—not exclusively—with the other communities on the Heads of the Valley road. Naturally, people from Rhymney go across to Tredegar. There is a bus service there, a hospital and so on, and the people are quite accustomed to this. A great many of them work in the steelworks in Ebbw Vale. I do not wish to labour the point, and I do not wish to pretend that it is of momentous importance, but having as I do a close personal connection with this small community, and knowing what its expressed wishes are, I feel it is only right that in your Lordships' House we should pay some attention to them. I beg to move.
§ 9.27 P.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I find the Amendment a very difficult one. I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Baroness has said. I am sure that the whole valley should be either in Mid Glamorgan or Gwent and should not be divided between them. I do not have the close family connection which the noble Baroness has, but my father-in-law was born and brought up in Rhymney and therefore I have a very special feeling for it. One of the reasons why I was tempted to speak briefly on this Amendment was because I learned so much more about the Rhymney of those days from the wholly admirable book by the father of the noble Baroness, Dr. Thomas Jones, who wrote Rhymney Memories, which is a model of a first-hand account of an industrial area in the 1870s.
§ I know that the Labour Government changed their minds over Rhymney. First of all it was to belong to Monmouthshire, and then to Glamorgan. I find it extremely difficult to settle in my own mind which way the balance should go. We all respect the feelings of the noble Baroness for this and her natural desire to raise the matter. I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend Lord Aberdare says. I am doubtful whether I could decide one way or the other, and I am thankful that I am not the Minister who has to reach the decision.579
§ LORD MAYBRAY-KING
I am in the same position as my noble friend Lord Brooke. My father was born in Rhymney and I am waiting to hear the Minister's remarks.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
This is surely one of those cases where we go beyond administration and local politics and begin to come into the region which is very important in that part of Wales—rugby football. For generations the Welsh valleys all along that part have been the homes of the rugby footballers. To them it matters a great deal which county they are playing for. If there is virtually no other criterion, I think this plays some importance. Therefore I should have thought that where one has a valley such as Rhymney Valley, which clearly has belonged in Monmouthshire, where everyone has expected to play for Monmouthshire if he was good enough, then we ought to leave them in Monmouthshire and not move them into Glamorgan.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I am not sure that as an advocate of Glamorgan I would accept the last remark of the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones. I would rather have them in Glamorgan.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
But surely the noble Lord does not wish to go around snatching from every cradle in the country.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I appreciate, as have all your Lordships who have spoken, that this is a very difficult point. Certainly it is an astonishing fact how many distinguished people Rhymney seems to have bred over the last few years. But where we are in difficulty is that, although we are all agreed I think on the necessity to unify the administration of the Rhymney Valley, we find it difficult when it comes to Rhymney itself. Yet I think we are all agreed that it is undesirable in this reorganisation of local government to have a river as a boundary. The noble Baroness herself, when we discussed the Consultative Document, confirmed that view when she said that a river should not be the boundary of the administrative unit but that both sides of the valley should be contained in one area of administration. This she said she regarded as sound sense, and I entirely support it. This is the Government view on this matter so far as the Rhymney 580 Valley is concerned. We believe it should be unified in one authority. We have put it in Mid-Glamorgan rather than in Gwent. And if one takes the view that a river should not be a boundary, then one is driven to the conclusion that Rhymney should be in Mid-Glamorgan with the rest of the Valley.
The present Amendment would mean that Rhymney Urban District alone would be separated from the rest of the valley in which it lies and would be linked instead with a district of Gwent. This would have the very effect of which the noble Baroness disapproved, of making the river a boundary, and I do not think this would be sound sense.
§ BARONESS WHITE
Would the noble Lord allow me to intervene? If he knows the area, as I believe he does but perhaps not quite as well as I do, he will recognise that so far as the Northern end of the valley is concerned there is very little the other side of the river. Rhymney and Rhymney Bridge have their natural road of communication on the heads of the valleys. Therefore, what would be perfectly valid in his argument, I entirely agree, lower down, perhaps half way down the valley, is not so where you are at the very head of the valley and you have the head of the valley road and virtually nothing but moorland on the other side of the river: so the river argument, which certainly applies lower down, does not really apply right at the head of the valley.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I know the area, but I think the noble Baroness knows it a good deal better than I do. But this was the argument I would have rested my case on: not wishing to make the river a boundary.
§ LORD ABERDARE
But if that is the noble Baroness's feeling on this may I take further advice on it? This is what was in my mind: the undesirability of resting the boundary on a river.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I should be extremely grateful. I am very grateful indeed to the noble Lord for taking this very constructive and co-operative attitude. Might we have a discussion about this afterwards? He has very properly quoted what I myself said. I should 581 have liked the entire valley, frankly, to go into Gwent, but I appreciate that the inhabitants lower down the valley are not of that view and one does not therefore wish in any way to go against their opinions. I am just arguing that this particular community right at the top of the valley has better communications at the head of the valley than it has possibly in the other direction. If we might discuss the matter, I should be very happy to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.15 p.m.
LORD ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 88AA:
Page 239, column 3, leave out line 39 and insert ("Porthmadog").
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is necessary to meet the fact that the Portmadoc Urban District Council have recently notified us that in accordance with Section 147 of the Local Government Act 1933, they have obtained the consent of the Caernarvonshire County Council to the changing of the name of their district from Portmadoc to Porthmadog. I beg to move.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I am sure none of us would wish to oppose this Amendment and I have no intention whatever of doing so. It has always struck me as odd that Portmadoc, which was called, not after Madog—the person who found America long before Columbus did—but after Mr. Maddox, should not recognise the fact by keeping its name in an Anglicised form and remaining "Portmadoc".
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD TANLAW moved Amendment No. 88LL:
Page 239, leave out lines 45 to 51 and insert—
(" the borough of Bangor;
the urban district of Bethesda;
the rural district of Ogwen.
G.D.3A, In the administrative county of Caernarvon—:
the borough of Caernarvon;
the rural district of Gwyrfai except the parts to be comprised in G.D.2.")
§ The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to divide the proposed District 3, the new county of Gwynedd, 582 into two separate districts, one based on the Royal Borough of Caernarvon and the other on the cathedral and university city of Bangor. The full details of the case behind the Amendment are known to the Secretary of State and, I am sure, to the noble Lord opposite, and were briefly discussed in the Standing Committee, but they were only very cursorily discussed in another place. I feel that there is a possibility that some of the arguments put forward by the local people of Bangor were not given due consideration in another place and that there is a possibility that the main points about the movement of this boundary have escaped the Minister of State and the noble Lord opposite.
§ My purpose in moving this Amendment now is that from the information available to me, and from Hansard, there is some doubt in my mind whether the Minister has fully taken into consideration the economic development of Anglesey, which shifts the focal point of the development of this area from Caernarvon to Bangor. At face value it might appear that the proposed division of District 3 in an Amendment separating Bangor and Caernarvon is a small and almost petty differentiation—a small boundary change. This may be so at the moment, and on the surface it could be the case. But I should like the noble Lord opposite to produce an argument that will be of advantage to the people in the area not to divide District 3 and to prove the case that the development of the infrastructure in this district, including education and communications, can be carried out more effectively by leaving things as they are.
§ It is my belief, from representations made to me from the city of Bangor, that the proposed division as outlined in this Amendment may be the right division of responsibility for the future development of this area; whereas although the proposed divisions under the Bill may be right for the present time I am not entirely convinced that they will be right for the future, bearing in mind the new industrial development in Anglesey which is due to take place and, in my opinion, could be retarded if Bangor is not recognised as the geographical and economic focal point of the area and the powers of decision making are taken elsewhere.583
§ As a Scotsman I cannot of course speak with local knowledge of Bangor and the proposed new district. I can only share sympathy with those who live on the periphery of a centralised administration, such as we have now, with the knowledge that lasting and important decisions can be made against local interests because of the lack of communication. This is certainly true and it is borne out by the very cursory discussion that occurred in another place on the arguments put forward for this Amendment, on the very feeble communication that sometimes exists between these areas and Whitehall, and, sometimes, the lack of expression that these areas get in their argument in the Palace of Westminster. As yet there are no locally elected representatives for Scotland and 'Wales ensuring that the case which is being put forward by the city of Bangor gets a proper hearing. I can only hope that in this Chamber are noble Lords who will speak with local knowledge and comprehension in support of the Amendment.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, regrets his inability to be here this evening. However, he has prepared a speech and I believe that his views are known to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. He has put forward arguments similar to those which I am expressing now. The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, who is unable to be present at this late hour, has given his name in support of the Amendment and I am sure that had he been here he would have spoken in its favour. At this late hour I intend to be brief and leave other noble Lords, and perhaps those with local knowledge of and sympathy with the case of Bangor, to voice their views. I beg to move.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
It is perhaps appropriate that a Scotsman should have moved this Amendment, the acceptance of which would be useful because the case which is being put to us on behalf of the city of Bangor is important and should be considered carefully. I have not lived there but I know Bangor well. My maternal grandfather was a physician at Llansantffraid, which is almost in Denbighshire and is virtually within this same district. For many years I have been interested in Bangor, and although I was at a different part of the University of 584 Wales at Aberystwyth I know that the University College of Bangor has always played an important part in the life of Wales and particularly of North Wales. We should pay great attention to what Bangor is saying. Essentially it is saying that this district, which roughly speaking runs all the way along the Menai Straits and back up to the Snowdon Range, should be cut in two. At present the district includes both Caernarvon and Bangor, both cities of historic importance, Bangor in particular being one of great modern importance, and most people would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, that Bangor should be regarded as the centre of this growing area.
It is important to note that whether Bangor were in the district as proposed or in a district of its own, it would not have the authority to do the work of the county. The county authority, according to the proposals, would be responsible for all the major developments which spread over into Anglesey. These would not be the responsibility of either Bangor in the proposal of the Amendment or of Bangor and Caernarvon in the proposal of the Bill. However, under the Bill as drafted this district would be responsible for the whole of the shore of the Menai Straits. This is a matter to which one ought to pay some attention because one has these two towns which are, roughly speaking, nine or ten miles apart, and the Menai Straits roughly, I suppose, about twice that length, and the new district proposed in the Bill would be responsible for the whole of that shore. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he thinks it would be equally sensible to split this into two and say that one half of the shore shall be the responsibility of the Bangor district and that the other half of the shore shall be the responsibility of the Caernarvon district. I should have thought that on those grounds it would he better to have one authority rather than two. But perhaps I am not right in that.
If one moves on to another matter, to the question of services such as refuse, sewage, and so on which do come under the control of the district, in modern terms it is going to be more important to have one large central unit for the disposal of refuse than to have a number of smaller units. This is particularly true when one comes to deal with the disposal 585 of the enormous quantity of modern plastic containers and so on which cause a real problem, because if they are put into a small incinerator they cause considerable contamination. If, however, they are dealt with on a larger scale then the contamination can be reduced considerably.
When one moves to the third field, which is education and to which the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, has referred, I think I am right in saying that the district is responsible only for primary and secondary education and that further education, higher education, would be the responsibility of the county and not of the district. So far as primary education is concerned, secular education, there is no question at all that Bangor stands very high indeed. It has a splendid system and always had a high reputation. It has, incidentally, had a number of grammar schools which have produced even rugby captains of Wales and people who have played for England at cricket. In other words, it is a place which has always had high distinction both academically and in other fields, and no one would doubt for a moment the high standard of Bangor.
What I should like to suggest, however, is that it is surely a sensible thing for a city as good as Bangor not to keep its pearls just for itself; that it can do a great deal in spreading throughout the whole of the district the excellent system which it has developed by itself, and if it does that it will do far more good than just working by itself. The idea that they can not only do something good for themselves but can act as the initiators of good for the neighbourhood, is something which I know has always appealed to Welsh municipalities, I would hope that Bangor would be prepared to realise that it can do even greater work than it has done in the past by associating with Caernarvon and by forming a stronger authority than exists at the present time, or would exist under the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord.
THE EARL OF BALFOUR
I should like briefly to support what the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, has said. This is one of the few parts of Wales I happen to know very well. He has absolutely hit the nail on the head. I am sure Bangor should remain as the centre of the community for the whole area having 586 absolutely at its right hand the town of Caernarvon. It is important to have on the same boundary the whole of the Menai Straits. I am sure this is right and I am sure that the Government have been right in drawing the boundary line where it has.
§ 9.50 p.m
§ LORD ABERDARE
I am sure we are glad to welcome another recruit to our Welsh debates, the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, and I think Bangor owe him a debt of gratitude for having brought this matter to the attention of your Lordships. Although he referred to the cursory examination of the problem in another place, I think this was only the tip of the iceberg, because in fact exhaustive efforts and negotiations had gone on outside to try to produce a solution which would have been satisfactory to everybody concerned, and in particular I know that the two Members of Parliament for Caernarvonshire have desperately done all that they can to try to arrive at a good solution, but nothing agreeable to everybody has been found.
The proposal in this Amendment is to divide district GD.3 into two, one based on Bangor and the other based on Caernarvon. The effect would be to break up a district which under the Bill is something over 52,000 population into two weakish districts of 24,000 and 29.000. Gwynedd has already one district, GD2 which has a population of only 26,000. This is the Llevn Peninsula which covers an area of 153,000 acres and is very sparsely populated. We do not think it makes sense to create within the county two more small districts with areas of only 35.000 and 66.000 acres. The desirable minimum population for a district we have set at 40,000, both for England and Wales, and even my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor in his powerful plea last Monday for smaller districts in England did not advocate going below a minimum of 40,000. We are convinced that, in the long term particularly, small districts will be seriously handicapped in the task of providing efficient services; they will not be able to employ the full range and quality of staff for the very important functions, especially the housing functions, for which they are responsible.
I know there are exceptions to every rule. Lleyn Peninsula is one, and another 587 is the county of Radnorshire. Here again, Radnorshire is a large sparsely populated area and has historic links as a county. But in the case of this district these other considerations do not apply. We really feel that we would be doing a disservice by dividing into two a district that would otherwise have a sufficient population and would make an effective district. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, had to say about the desirability of having one authority along the shores of the Menai Straits. The Minister of State in another place did make a final effort after the debate there. He sent a letter to all local authorities in the present Caernarvon county to elicit their views on the proposal in the Bill, or on one or other of the proposals for creating two large districts rather than the three in the Bill, but the result was a conclusive rejection of all these proposals except the one in the Bill. We really feel that in the circumstances we would be better to stick to the principles of the Bill. I hope that perhaps the noble Lord will consider withdrawing this Amendment.
§ LORD TANLAW
Noble Lords who have spoken—and I would like very briefly to take what the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, has said—speak with an advantage that I do not have, as I expressed when moving this Amendment, of local knowledge. It seems to me that it is like trying to mix oil and water to keep the boundaries as outlined in the Bill. Yet the usually courteous manner in which the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has taken forward my arguments, the serious consideration he has expressed about the position of Bangor, and the sympathy which noble Lords on both sides of the House who know Bangor have expressed, leads me to think that in the interests of the Bill I should withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 21 agreed to.
§ Clause 22 [Conferring of borough status on districts]
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 22 shall stand part of the Bill?588
§ LORD ABERDARE
I beg to move to leave out Clause 22. This is a case similar to that on Monday, when at the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, my noble friend Lord Sandford moved to leave out Clause 3. I suggest that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we do the same on this Welsh clause and consider it when we come to it towards the end of the Committee stage.
§ LORD CHAMPION
That course is agreeable to me. It is one I suggested. I think it is the sensible way to do it, and I support the noble Lord in his proposition that we do not include this clause.
§ On Question, Clause 22 disagreed to.
§ Clause 23 [Chairman]
§ LORD ABERDARE
I beg to move Amendment No. 88MM. This is a paving Amendment for the Amendment we shall come to at the end, Amendment No. 125RR.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 16, line 22, at end insert—
("(4) The chairman of a district council shall have precedence in the district, but not so as prejudicially to affect Her Majesty's royal prerogative.").—(Lord Aberdare.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 24 and 25 agreed to.
§ Clause 26 [Term of office and retirement of councillors]
§ LORD SANDFORD
On behalf of my noble friend I beg to move Amendments Nos. 88BB and the next three Amendments, Nos. 88CC, 88DD, and 88NN, to Clause 26, which are all comparable to Amendments Nos. 75B, 75C, 75D, and 75EE, which we moved and discussed in the English section.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 17, line 17, leave out ("Schedule 10 to") and insert ("Part IV of ")
§ Page 17, line 28, leave out from beginning to ("in") and insert ("Subject to subsection (4A) below, a district council may")
Page 18, line 3, at end insert—
("(4A) A resolution may not be passed under subsection (4) above within ten years of a previous resolution thereunder")
Divide Clause 26 into two clauses, the first to consist of subsections (1) and (2); and the second to consist of subsections (3) to (8) inclusive.—(Lord Sandford.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 26, as amended and now divided into two clauses, agreed to.
§ Clauses 27 to 29 agreed to.
§ Clause 30 [Restriction on community application during and after reviews]
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS moved Amendment No. 88vv:
Page 22, line 13, at end insert the following new subsection—
("(IA) In relation to an application under section 28(4) above subsection (1) above shall have effect as if for the words "two years" in each place where they occur, there were substituted the words "five years".")
§ The noble Baroness said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper. We move to a slightly different point here, although still connected with Wales. I would declare my interest in that I am Vice-President of the National Association of Parish Councils, and it is on their behalf that I put forward this Amendment. They have studied this matter very closely. Your Lordships will remember that we are now talking about the community councils, and we do not think that the community meeting should be able to abolish the community council within two years of its first creation, as the Bill suggests. The period of office is four years, and it seems to us that an Opposition ought to be satisfied if it is able, by the ordinary democratic process of election, to change a council's membership and policy. This Amendment deals with the abolition of a council, and we are asking that the power to abolish a council should not be exercisable until two years after the second election. I feel that this Amendment, which springs from much discussion on the part of those concerned with the community councils, is so eminently sensible that it will commend itself to your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ LORD ABERDARE
The noble Baroness has put her point very clearly. I find it very difficult ever to refuse her anything and I am very happy to accept the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.590
Page 22, line 21, leave out ("subsection (1)") and insert ("subsections (1) and (1A)").—(Baroness Phillips.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 30, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 31 to 33 agreed to.
§ Clause 34 [Chairman and vice-chairman of community council]
§ Amendment moved—
Page 23, line 31, at end insert—
(4A) A community council may pay the chairman for the purpose of enabling him to meet the expenses of his office such allowance as the council think reasonable.").—(Lord Sandford.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 34, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 35 to 37 agreed to.
§ Schedule 5 [Establishment of new authorities in Wales]
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
This Amendment is the same for Wales as Amendment No. 79C was for England. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 244, line 16, at end insert—
("(3) An order under this paragraph may contain such incidental, consequential, transitional or supplementary provision as may appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary or proper.").—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD SANDFORD
Amendments Nos. 88QQ, 88RR and 88SS are comparable to Amendment No. 79DD. They are all paving Amendments to a large number of Amendments to Schedule 12 which is common to England and Wales. I beg to move.
Page 246, line 14, leave out ("1(6)") and insert ("4(1)").
Page 246, line 15, leave out ("2(3)") and insert ("4(2)").
Page 247, line 9, leave out ("20(3)") and insert ("21(2)").—(Lord Sandford.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.591
§ Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 38 and 39 agreed to.
§ Clause 40 [Returning officers at parliamentary elections]:
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved Amendment No. 88FF:
Page 26, line 10, at end insert—
("(1B) In the event of the death of a sheriff the acting returning officer shall discharge all the duties of sheriff as returning officer until another sheriff is appointed and has made the declaration of office.
(3A) Section 25 of the Sheriffs Act 1887 (Death of sheriff) shall not authorise the under-sheriff to discharge the duties of returning officer.")
§ The noble Viscount said: This is really only a technical. Amendment. If a sheriff dies during the period of a Parliamentary election, any duties that he has as a returning officer are to fall on the acting returning officer and not on the under-sheriff. That is exactly what this Amendment in its two parts provides. I beg to move.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I had intended to raise the matter of sheriffs on the Question, whether Clause 40 shall stand part of the Bill? I had in fact proposed to put it this way because I thought it was not perhaps quite fair to your Lordships' Committee, at a rather late stage, to ask it to come to a conclusion on the point which I really wished to make, which is that the sheriff should not be the returning officer at all, whether alive or dead. I think that, in the course of this Bill, we really should pay some attention to this. It is perhaps a minor matter, but those of us who have lived in county areas sometimes query very much the whole position of sheriffs. I am well aware that the appointment of sheriffs is a matter of Her Majesty's Prerogative, and therefore is not for us to discuss; but the duties of sheriffs area included in the Bill, and are surely some. thing which we may properly discuss.
I have felt for a long time that while we—and I think I speak for most of us in this Committee—are concerned to preserve the dignities of, for example, mayors and lord mayors, and the holders of other positions of eminence, which really arise out of the wishes of the people, the position of a sheriff is an entirely different matter.A sheriff is 592 not elected by the people, and is not in any way representative of the people. I am speaking now, of course, of sheriffs in counties: I am not speaking of sheriffs in cities or boroughs, which are another matter altogether. What I have to say is entirely concerned with Clause 40(1)(a), which relates to county constituencies. A sheriff is selected by a peculiar means. His name is pricked from a list. I have taken the trouble to look up the note on sheriffs which is contained in the Dictionary of Local Government. and I think I should perhaps remind your Lordships that, in the Middle Ages, the sheriff, who was usually a landowner appointed by the King, was the chief executive officer of the county. In other words, he had some very important duties to perform. But from the 15th century onwards, by which time the justices of the peace had acquired many administrative and judicial responsibilities, the office of sheriff declined in importance. It is true that, while we had capital punishment, one of the duties of the sheriff was the responsibility to carry out the death sentence. But that has now lapsed, so he is no longer responsible for that.
For 20 years I was a Member of another place, and my recollection is that, as returning officer in a county election, the sheriff very seldom put in an appearance. The whole of the duties in this matter were left to the county clerk or to the deputy county clerk. I really cannot see why, in this day and age, we should continue an office which has such vestigial functions that it seems to me to have no justification. What happens, as we know, is that the sheriff gives a lunch; or it may be that, if he is a wealthy man, he gives more than one lunch. It is a matter of social concern as to whether or not you are invited to the sheriff's lunch. It is a form of county snobbery which I personally do not very much relish; and I do not see why, in this Bill, in which we are proposing to modernise local government, we should continue with this office of sheriff in so far as we are capable of considering the matter; namely, as the returning officerin the case of a county constituency which is co-terminous with or wholly contained in a county…".The chairman of the county council, surely, is as capable of performing this 593 duty, or of devolving it, as in fact normally happens, on the county clerk, as would be the mayor in a borough or the chairman of a district council. I cannot see that the chairman of a county council is any less capable of doing this. At a later stage, therefore, I would propose to put down an Amendment in that sense to Clause 40(1)(a), but I thought it was only right and proper, as I had given no notice of this, that I should indicate by a much more general Amendment at this stage of the Bill that this is what I really intended to do, and therefore give Her Majesty's Government a little time to think about it.
THE EARL OF BALFOUR
May I say a few words following on what the noble Baroness has said? I was very intrigued with this question—not that I am familiar with English procedure in local government. I wonder whether my noble friend the Minister would take this into consideration. In line 16, page 25, there is mentioned "the chairman of the district council". I should have thought that a much better person would have been the clerk of the district council, as he is usually the returning officer in elections. Furthermore, I would refer your Lordships to paragraph 5 of Schedules 3 and 5. It is the same in either Schedule, but as the noble Baroness is more interested in Wales than in England let us refer to Schedule 5, on page 245, paragraph 5, which says:At the first elections of councillors for a new area, the returning officer shall be an officer of the council appointed…I feel that surely the ideal person is the clerk rather than the chairman of the district council. This is not something on which I wish to take up any more of the Committee's time but I believe that this is the usual procedure.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
I ought to say a word about this point raised by my noble friend Lord Balfour. At the first elections (if that is what he is referring to) I am not sure that it will be entirely plain in the case of every one of the new councils whether there will be at that juncture a clerk or some other officer who could be universally appointed under this Bill for the purposes of all the elections. I should have thought it 594 better that my right honourable friend should designate somebody for the first elections to suit the particular locality, having in mind the stage the council has reached in its formation and the officers they have appointed. I think it would be most unwise to lay down something universal in this procedure. I hope my noble friend will agree.
The noble Baroness wanted to raise the whole question of the sheriff. With great respect, I think that if she looks at Clause 211 she may consider that that clause will provide the right opportunity, because there, in subsection (9), is really the substantive provision that deals with sheriffs. When we are dealing with Clause 40 we are dealing with only a fairly minimal part of their duties. We are there concerned with formal duties in relation to elections. As she will appreciate, they are entirely formal and do not involve any active participation in the running of the elections. They sometimes involve the announcement of the results, but nothing much more. If the noble Baroness really wishes to consider this point for a further Amendment in due course, I am not sure that she has made out a case for the abolition of this ancient office. The sheriff does not do a great deal, but he has in relation to the courts of law certain functions which are not entirely decorative nor entirely social, and I think there is a place for the sheriff even in this modern world. I am not certain that everybody would like to see a very ancient office of this sort which does not do any harm and could arguably do some good abolished merely for the sake of tidiness. Would she consider this point? Certainly I do not think that this clause is one where we ought to take a substantive decision on this question; and to leave out Clause 40—I know that she has not moved to do so—would make a dreadful hole in the Bill.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I do not think that Clause 40 is really at risk but I will reserve my position on this matter and shall wish to return to it. I have had some experience in county matters and I do not feel that sheriffs add to the quality of life. I am not at the moment speaking to my own Amendment and I should not wish to impede the Amendment moved by the noble Lord.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.595
§ Clause 40, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 41 and 42 agreed to.
§ Clause 43 [Ordinary day of election]:
§ 10.15 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved Amendment No. 88GG:
Page 28, line 1, leave out from beginning to ("shall") in line 3 and insert ("In every year after 1974 the ordinary day of election of councillors shall be the same for all local government areas in England and Wales and").
§ The noble Viscount said: This Amendment results from consultations which were held with local authority associations and various parties about the dates of elections. As the clause now stands the ordinary day of election for councillors for local government areas shall be the same throughout England and Wales and that is to be fixed by my right honourable friend. But in fact now, as a result of negotiations and discussions, it is proposed to fix different dates for the elections in 1973 and therefore we want to be able to provide for those by Statute. That is what this Amendment does. It provides that the principle of local elections on one day shall not apply to the first elections in 1973 and therefore fulfils the result of those consultations. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to. Clause 43, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 44 [Omission to hold election or election void]:
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved Amendment No. 88HH:
Page 28, line 17, leave out from ("on") to end of line 20 and insert ("a day appointed by him to fill any vacancy which remains unfilled, being a day falling within the period of forty-two days (computed in accordnce with section 237(4) below) beginning with the day fixed as the day of election for the first mentioned election.").
§ The noble Viscount said: This Amendment, I think, could be taken with advantage, if the Committee would agree, with Amendments Nos. 88JJ, 92B, 92C and 92D; 125S which is the substantive one, 122A, 122B, and 122C, 122D and 133.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
There are some Amendments left on the 596 Marshalled List after that, but 125S is a replacement for the existing Clause 237. It is a very technical provision which relates to the computation of time and the timing of elections, and it deals with Christmas Day, Easter, Bank Holidays and matters of that sort. It has been completely redrafted in order to cure some defects of an ultra-sophisticated nature, and this requires paving and consequential Amendments throughout the rest of the Bill. This Amendment happens to be the first of them. I hope that I can answer questions on this matter. I think that it does not change any of the substance of the Bill but expresses it rather better if put in this way.
THE EARL OF BALFOUR
Would my noble friend please tell me which Amendment he is taking? He has gone so fast that I do not know which page of the Marshalled List we are referring to.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
I apologise to my noble friend. I was in fact in the process of moving Amendment No. 88HH. I was proposing that we should take with it Amendments Nos. 88JJ, 92B, C and D, 125S, 122A, B, C and D and 133. If I have still lost the Committee, I will say that again: The two Amendments on Clause 44; on Clause 89 the three Amendments in my name, numbered 92B, C and D which are all to do with complications under Clause 237, and then on a little and out of order we find Amendment No. 125S, which is—
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
I would not be at all surprised, but I have the last Marshalled List and not the current one.
§ LORD CHAMPION
May I suggest that the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, should tell us what it is all about? We can then deal with these other Amendments and when we come to them the noble Viscount can say that he moves them formally.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
Yes. As I say, this is simply a replacement, in slightly different words, for the existing Clause 237 of the Bill and these are all consequential Amendments to it.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.597
Page 28, line 21, leave out subsection (2).—[Viscount Colville of Culross.]
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 44, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 45 agreed to.
§ Schedule 6 agreed to.
§ Clause 46 agreed to.
§ Schedule 7 [Constitution and proceedings of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England]:
§ 10.24 p.m.
LORD ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 88KK:
Page 251, line 16, leave out paragraph 3.
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 88KK which goes with another series of Amendments, Nos. 90C, 134, 136, 138, 146 and is related to Amendment No. 131C, and the whole are brought together in Amendment No. 131C in a new clause after Clause 254. The effect of these Amendments is to disqualify from membership of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom Parliament the members of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales, the Local Government Staff Commission for England, the Local Government Staff Commission for Wales and the Assistant Commissioners of the Local Government Boundary Commissions for England and Wales and the electoral registration officers at Parliamentary Elections.
§ Part IV of the Bill provides for the establishment of a permanent Local Government Boundary Commission for England and a separate Boundary Commission for Wales. The third paragraphs of Schedules 7 and 8 already contain provisions to secure disqualification of these Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners. The Bill makes no provision, however, for disqualification of the members of Local Government Staff Commissions. We believe that it should do so, and that is part of the purpose of this Amendment. Part III of Schedule 1 to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1957 disqualifies the clerks and deputy clerks of county, urban 598 and rural district councils in England and Wales, the town clerks and deputy town clerks of county boroughs, London boroughs and non-county boroughs in England and Wales and the clerk and deputy clerk of the Greater London Council. This disqualification extends to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom Parliament and the Senate and House of Commons of Northern Ireland.
§ Clause 110(3) of this Bill will have the effect of relieving the new authorities and the authorities in Greater London of the duties at present in Part IV of the Local Government Act 1933 to appoint clerks and town clerks, and we are conferring no express power for the appointment of deputies of any kind. In future the work now done by clerks, town clerks and their deputies will be done by "proper officers". Indeed, after reorganisation the present statutory functions of, say, a town clerk may be performed by more than one "proper officer". Moreover, there will be no requirement for new councils or the authorities in London to appoint a "first officer" or "chief executive". It may once have been argued that clerks and town clerks should be disqualified because they often have to advise their councils on matters with a highly political content. But clerks and town clerks are not unique in this. Housing managers, treasurers, planners and other senior officers also advise on controversial questions. So if the object of disqualifying clerks and town clerks is to keep them politically impartial, then the disqualification should be extended to all officers who advise councillors.
§ Bearing all these matters in mind, we believe that it is not practicable or necessary to devise a new formula to replace the present references in the 1957 Act to local government officers in English and Welsh authorities. On the other hand, we consider that registration officers should be disqualified for membership of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom Parliament. By Clause 43 all but the formal duties of a returning officer at a Parliamentary election are to be discharged by an acting returning officer who is the registration officer. At present, the registration officer is ex officio either clerk of a county council or a town clerk of a borough, and 599 thus is disqualified from election to Parliament. Clearly the registration officer who may be acting returning officer ought still to be disqualified, and this is achieved by the Amendment. On reflection, we considered that the whole question of House of Commons disqualification under this Bill should be dealt with in a new clause and should not be tucked away in a Schedule. This is achieved by the new clause after Clause 254.
§ If I may briefly sum tin the effect of all these Amendments, first, they incorporate the material now in the third paragraphs of Schedules 7 and 8 of the Bill (Local government boundary commissions for England and Wales). Secondly, they disqualify the members of the Local Government Staff Commissions for England and Wales. Thirdly, they get rid of the disqualification on English and Welsh clerks, town clerks and their deputies for membership of the House of Commons at Westminster and the Senate and the House of Commons of Northern Ireland. Fourthly, they disqualify registration officers appointed under Clause 39. I beg to move.
§ LORD CHAMPION
I did not follow all the twists, turns and convolutions of the journey which the noble Lord made, but I certainly think it is good sense to bring this into one clause and do the things which the noble Lord has suggested. To try to extend or maintain some of these disqualifications appears to me to be nonsense. I happily support the Amendment that has now been moved.
THE EARL OF BALFOUR
Perhaps I may ask one question. For how long would a person who is disqualified because of the position he holds have to remain disqualified after giving up the job? For example, a town clerk or a county clerk is usually quite a prominent lawyer. He might decide to leave his position as county clerk and take up the ordinary practice of law with a firm of lawyers or on his own. Can he then, having resigned, stand as Member of Parliament the day after? I ask this question, but it is probably one that I 600 need not have asked if I had had longer to study the Bill. We are travelling a little fast here.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I, too, should need a little time to study this question, but my instinct would be that a person is disqualified because it is undesirable that, holding a certain post, he should also be politically involved. I should have thought that if he resigned that post he would be at liberty to stand as a Member of Parliament.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.
§ Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.