HL Deb 16 October 1973 vol 345 cc263-80

7.49 p.m.

LORD GARNSWORTHY rose to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Local Government (Successor Parishes) Order 1973, laid before the House on June 29 last (S.T. 1973 No. 1110), be annulled. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The Local Government Act, 1972, reorganised the areas and functions of district and county councils and, as a consequence, most towns and cities lose their individual status, being absorbed by amalgamations. Provision has been made in certain instances, however, for the setting up of what are known as successor parish councils, and the Local Government Boundary Commission was required to make proposals accordingly. These successor parishes are intended to be places with a clearly distinguishable community and, in general, they should have a population of up to approximately 20,000 people and a representation on the district council of less than 20 per cent. of the new district of which they form a part. Their councils will have the same powers as existing parish councils will enjoy under the new Act. The Act gives them the right to adopt town status and to continue to have a town mayor.

Borough and urban district councils were invited in January 1973 to consider whether they wished to apply to a parish council for the whole or any part of their area, having regard to guidelines issued to the Local Government Boundary Commission by the Secretary of State for the Environment, as detailed in paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England Report No. 3. May I here pay a tribute to the clarity of that Report and acknowledge the work that the Commission have undertaken, even if I may seem to be rather dissatisfied with the conclusions to which they have come, believing them to be too limited. I believe the total number of authorities which applied for successor parish status was something over 400. The Local Government Boundary Commission reported on May 31, 1973, and recommended that 269 urban districts or boroughs in non-metropolitan and metropolitan counties should be so constituted and this Order is the outcome. This has left a considerable number of dissatisfied applicants. Among them I believe are boroughs like Andover, Barnstaple, Chichester, Darwen and Truro; and urban districts like Wellington (Salop), Newton Abbot, Felixstowe, Denby Dale, Colne Valley, Potters Bar, Winsford, Saddleworth, Holmfirth, Meltham and Westhoughton, to mention a few. Quite a number of them wrote to me before I tabled this Motion and some since I tabled it.

I fully appreciate that the Secretary of State for the Environment has shown an awareness of this dissatisfaction and discontent, and that consequently he requested the Local Government Boundary Commission in August to consider the representations he had received following the publication of their Report No. 3 to which I have referred, and the Order which is the subject of this debate. It may therefore be asked why to-night I am pursuing my Motion since those aggrieved can have their claims further considered, with the possibility of a further Order being laid to give them the advantage they seek of retaining elected parish councils on the changeover to the new local government system next April. The reason is that Orders of this kind cannot be amended, and if there is to be any worthwhile review of what ought to be done, the time is surely now, before any further Order is laid.

I shall content myself with reference to only a few of the authorities who feel strongly that they ought to have the status of successor parish councils. First, may I mention Chichester, a city which has a history which goes back to pre-Roman times. My noble friend Lord Stow Hill will have something further to add on that aspect of the claims of that city. It has that lovely cathedral; and lately the creation of the Chichester Festival Theatre has brought to the city added lustre and interest. I was there recently on a market day, and once again was very impressed that here was a place which very definitely has its own identity. It is not just another commercial sales centre of concrete and glass, it has its own individuality, character and traditions; and on the occasion of which I speak I was impressed by the citizens who were collecting signatures for a petition supporting the application for parish status. It seemed to me they gave meaning to the claim that Chichester "has enjoyed the privilege of self-government" since 1135, when the granting of its Charter is first recorded.

I believe that here is a case where the application for successor parish status should be conceded and ought to have been included in this present Order. Certainly if the guidelines set out in Report No. 3 on pages 1 and 2, paragraph 3, section 2, are to be taken at face value, Chichester's case is indeed a very powerful one. It has a population of 20,649. This is certainly slightly in excess of 20,000, but paragraph (a) of Section 2 reads: "no absolute maximum figure is prescribed". And in this very Order parish status is being accorded to Leighton-Linslade with a population of 20,550; Wokingham, with a population of 21,300; Chesham, with a population of 20,480, and at Golborne, the two wards of Culcheth and Newchurch have been granted parish status with a population of 28,290.

True, Chichester will have 11 representatives among the 50 members of the new district council which includes, in addition to Chichester itself, a substantial part of the present Chichester rural district, the Midhurst rural district and Petworth—places where, it should be noted, there are existing parish councils where there is a population of any size at all. Surely, having regard to the architectural riches, the buildings which bear testimony to the part the city has played in the past and present, Chichester is entitled to consultation through an elected local council with a power to consult on planning matters, with the same opportunity as those smaller parishes to which I have referred. Paragraph (b) of Section 2 reads: If the town comprised more than one-fifth of the population of the district it would not normally qualify for parish status. But we are also informed, "no rigid limit is suggested". The position here, so far as Chichester is concerned, is indeed very marginal.

On the other criteria it seems to me there can be no argument. May I just make a further point on the mayoralty. The alternative to having an elected council, which in turn elects its mayor, would be in Chichester for the 11 new district councillors acting as Charter Trustees to choose one of their number to hold that office. That is a procedure that adds nothing to the dignity of the chief citizen of a town. It has been said elsewhere that a mayor without the support of any council with powers, albeit the limited powers of a parish council, could be something of a nonentity. I can recall what nonentities Portreeves became when they had no council to which they were responsible.

The noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, I am very glad to say, will be speaking later and adding what I am sure will be a very influential voice, from more local knowledge and experience than I have, to the points that I have tried to make. I know that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester would have spoken had he been present. Indeed, he has written to me and said: I would have indeed wished to support your plea, and would be glad if you could quote my advocacy of its case. Chichester has strong claims, not only for its antiquity, but because of its strong and varied modern community life … the cathedral, as a centre of the diocese which embraces the whole of Sussex, is approaching its 900th anniversary. It is an educational centre. It is a cultural centre with its own Festival Theatre. It has been the home of the County Regiment throughout its separate existence; and of course it is the administrative centre of the County of West Sussex. The Bishop goes on at length and I am cutting short what he had to say, but may I quote him just a little further: But above all … it is an extremely lively and varied community with its own characteristics, and it could not be merged into a wider area of government without destroying much of its civic life and vitality. … To us in Chichester it seems unthinkable that this City should be deprived of an independent status within the wider framework on what must appear to be purely technical grounds. We have a very strong case for consideration, and I want to add all my support to the plea you are making. I hope due note will be taken of what the Bishop has had to say.

The noble Viscount, Lord Monck, will I believe be speaking in regard to the particular claims of Andover, so I shall not touch on that. I will turn to a quite different part of the country: Yorkshire. My noble friend Lord Rhodes would certainly have spoken to-day if he could possibly have been present. I am sure he would have urged very strongly that Saddleworth should have parish council status, and if a further Order does not meet that claim I venture to think the House will be hearing something from him. I put it to the Minister that surely the case that the Saddleworth Urban District Council submitted met substantially the whole of the criteria laid down in the Guidelines. Its population of 21,260 is marginally above the 20.000 figure, but it is less than one-tenth of the new Oldham Metropolitan District, and I have already pointed out that others with populations in excess of 20,000 have been successful. I am sure the Minister knows of the great disappointment felt in this part of the country, and the revival of hope that successor parish status will now be granted to places such as Colne Valley, Denby Dale, Holmsfirth and Meltham, among others. I could detail their claims, but at this stage I will content myself by saying they are places which seek to preserve the identity of local communities and to retain some measure of self-government. One hopes their claims will be given not only a further hearing but a most sympathetic hearing, and that when a further Order is laid their names will be included. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Local Government (Successor Parishes) Order 1973, laid before the House on 29th June last (S.I. 1973 No. 1110), be annulled.—(Lord Garnsworthy.)

8.6 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say a few words in support of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, especially in the case of Chichester. I know I may be reproached for special pleading, but I think it is the duty of Parliamentary representatives to plead for special cases and for minorities which might otherwise be swallowed up in the quicksands of Civil Service departments and put away in pigeonholes. Chichester is my home town and it really has a very remarkable history and (if one can say this of a town), as a result, a personality particular to itself. If it has a certain civic pride and has applied for parish council status, I think this is justified both on its past history and on how it is moving with the times at present: one can look at the new theatre which has been built, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, and its tremendous archælogical interest, discoveries and pursuits.

It may astound the Minister to hear that we believe that the City of Chichester started before St. John wrote the Book of Revelations, so you can go back quite a lone way in its beginnings. It was occupied by the Romans in 43 under Vespasian, and we have a relic of the Roman Wall still there. It then was under the Saxon Kings and obtained its name from one of the Saxon Kings' sons, Cissa; hence, Chichester or the Custra Cissa. Then the Danes came, and the legend of King Canute and the waves and his courtiers is supposed to have taken place in Chichester Harbour. Then under the Norman rule it acquired its first Bishop, St. Wilfred, and the cathedral started to be built in 1043. It doubled its numbers and flourished as a trading centre. Its first Charter was given to it in 1135 by King Stephen. The last Charter, interestingly enough, relates to when the Corporation Act was passed in 1835. The first mayor of Chichester dates from 1239. Of course, in all this we must not forget St. Richard of Chichester who was a great saint both of the Roman Calendar and of our own Church. I am rather proud to say that the house I inhabit at one time belonged first to St. Wilfred and then to St. Richard. I feel therefore always very happy when I am at home under their protection. The first mayor of Chichester, who, as I say, was established in 1239, was the senior mayor of the whole of Sussex and has remained so. What is a mayor going to do without a corporation of a council? It is like leaving off his shoes or omitting part of his dress. It is a most hopeless position to put anybody in.

We must also remember that Chichester played a very important part during the war. It was the centre of the A.R.P. control for the whole of that part of the coast—as I know to my cost, because at certain times I spent more nights in county hall than. I did at home. It has throughout always played its part, whether as a cathedral town or as a capital (which it is) of our county. I understand that it has failed in its application, partly on grounds of population census, and I see, to my surprise, that East Grinstead has been granted parish council status. I was a Member for East Grinstead at one time, and anybody who knows that part of the world must know that any figures connected with East Grinstead will be fictitious in another couple of years or three years' time. It is growing at such a progressive rate that I think it will quite easily surpass the 20,600 figure which is the one for Chichester. To my mind, population is a very dangerous thing on which to base approval or otherwise, when we think, for instance, of what has happened to the population of London: when we think how high it was and how rapidly it has gone down in recent years. To my mind this is not a real measure to go by in applying this particular Act.

One way and another, I have been in local government for 45 years, and what appealed to me in local government was the word "local". I am afraid I was not an aficionado of the Redcliffe-Maud Report. I am not at all sure that I am very fond of the present new Local Government Act because of its (to my mind) disregard of the word "local". Where we can help and support a real local interest and the importance given to it, such as the application of Chichester for parish standing, it seems to me to be a very little mind that would refuse it on the ground of the population being 100, 200 or 300 above a certain limit. If we are going to keep the spirit of a city like Chichester alive—and it is a very live spirit—and all the interest which is shown in various directions, I appeal to the Minister to put it strongly to the Boundary Commission, which I understand has the last word, that this is a very special case: a case of a cathedral town, of a capital town, of a thriving town, a beautiful town—and a town that deserves its own personality.


My Lords, speaking from these Benches I should like to support briefly the Prayer of the noble Lord. Lord Garnsworthy. As the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, has just said, since the passing of the 1972 Local Government Act many of us have been afraid that it might he for administrative reasons that the local character was going out of local government, in the interests of size and efficiency. If this happens, then local democracy, which is, after all, the root from which all democracy, springs, will suffer with it. Moreover, we are told repeatedly that there may be a social disease today: the disease of alienation, of people feeling that they belong nowhere. This is all too true in many parts of this country and in many sections of society. Where we have a community to which people feel that they really belong and of which they are rightly proud, then surely this is a treasure to he preserved, and where this feeling exists surely it is right and proper that it should he reflected in the right of the people of that community to have direct control over their own affairs, in so far as it is possible. It would be possible by the simple act of reversing the decision which has been made and restoring to the people of Chichester at least a limited right of control over their own affairs which, as we have already seen and as we surely know, they have managed so excellently in the past.

8.15 p.m.


My Lords, I hesitate to intervene in this debate to add a point of view in support of the three moving speeches to which we have already listened, in so far as they touched the City of Colchester. If I may, I should like to support those arguments. I have not the advantage that the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, has, of being able to say that Chichester is my home city. Possibly I have a slight qualification as an entrant into this debate in that I may describe myself as having some claim to be a Boshamite. I do not know whether your Lordships know what a "Boshamite" is. A Boshamite is a person who is closely united in sympathy and affection with Bosham, which is a most lovely place close to, and in a sense almost part of, Chichester, four miles away and with a similar history. In the years well before the First World War I often went to Chichester and enjoyed the general feeling, even at that young age, which its great antiquity inspires in a visitor.

One is tempted to seek to conduct your Lordships on an antiquarian tour of Chichester, but I will resist the temptation. But, having studied the 1972 Act, and in particular the lines of guidance laid down by the Secretary of State for the Local Boundary Commission, it seemed to me, when I looked at paragraph 2(c) at any rate, that one could draw the conclusion that the broad purpose envisaged by the registration and its interpretation by the Secretary of State was this: that there are some communities which, as it were, are set aside by their tradition, by their antiquity, by their special characteristics and feelings. It is fair and in the general interests that those particular communities should have their own special elected bodies which can be relied upon to be specially sensitive to the needs and feelings of the denizens of those communities. I should have thought that Chichester was eminently such a community.

I have spent hours walking and enjoying the ancient cathedral cities of this country: Chichester is a very special cathedral city. It has been pointed out that so far as population is concerned, broadly speaking it conforms to the "norm" (if I may use that rather inelegant term) laid down in paragraph 2(a) and (b) of the Minister's Lines of Guidance. But when one comes to subparagraph (c) one finds that the historic character of the city is particularly to be taken into account in interpreting those lines of guidance. I should have thought that anybody sensitive to the atmosphere of Chichester, when he treads its pavements feels himself uniquely in the presence of history. It is a city which I think almost more than any other of our ancient cities provides a direct link between our bustling modern age and Roman times. It is laid out as a Roman city; the Roman walls are still there, partially preserved. One feels almost that beneath every yard of it, if one were to dig down and excavate, one might find traces of the Roman civilisation which, after all, was so important in the development of our country.

I think I am right in saying, but historians may correct me, that the Downs to the North were in Roman times thick forests, and therefore the flat land between the sea and the Downs was the area in which the Roman civilisation deployed itself to the uttermost. Therefore it is, I think, that one finds in Chichester such a direct link with the earliest development of civilisation in this country. I promised to be short, but I should like to add my urgent plea to those that have been voiced by the three previous speakers in their very cogent and moving speeches, that Chichester should be given the opportunity of parish status. A representative of a ward thinks of a ward; a representative of a parish thinks of a parish. This is natural. I hope that your Lordships may feel that it is desirable, having regard to the very special characteristics of this ancient and venerable city, that it should enjoy the privilege of having as its governing authority elected members who can be relied on to be peculiarly conscious of its atmosphere, peculiarly sensitive to the special wishes, desires, longings and feelings deeply held of those who have lived all their lives, and still live, in Chichester, following in so many cases forebears over so many centuries before them. I beg to support the Motion.

8.21 p.m.

Viscount MONCK

My Lords, I feel certain that the noble Baroness who will reply for the Government will be familiar with that famous work The Anatomy of Melancholy, written by that great man Robert Burton, slightly before my time and considerably before the time of the noble Baroness. He passed away in 1640. He wrote: No rule is so general which admits not some exception". In view of this I have always been very wary of supporting anything which is called a special case, but the case which I wish to mention tonight is so exceptional and outstanding that I make no apology for bringing it up.

My Lords, in Hampshire as from next April one of the new district councils will be the Test Valley District Council; that will cover an area in which 45 parishes will be represented by 45 parish councils, and the Boroughs of Romsey and Andover. The 45 parishes will continue to have their parish councils. The Borough of Romsey has also been granted successor parish council status. This leaves Andover alone, the only one out of the 47 units without any local representation at all, and no local body to speak for the borough. I do not consider that this is either fair, right or sensible, and I most sincerely trust that without any further delay the Borough of Andover may be granted successor parish council status.

8.23 p.m.


My Lords, we have all listened to very interesting and at times very moving speeches on the subject of this order, and I should like to say at the beginning that no one appreciates more than I do the strength of local feeling. It is one of the great strengths of British local government that it attracts to it so many who care so much about the standard of service that it provides.

Before turning to answer, if I can, some of the points raised, I should like to say something about the background to the successor parish exercise and its purpose, so as to make clear at the beginning that local government reorganisation leaves existing rural parishes untouched. There are about 10,000 of these, and they will remain. The great majority of them have populations under 5,000, although it is true that some range up to and over 20,000. There are many existing small boroughs and urban districts of a similar size and character to these existing parishes. These authorities will cease to exist next year when their areas are absorbed into large districts. When the 1972 Act was being considered, it seemed to us right that these small towns should continue to have a local council and the aim was to achieve continuity at this most local level of representative government. This meant carrying out an exercise limited in scope by the need to fit it into the main local government reorganisation timetable. So we provided for the Local Government Boundary Commission to examine the claims of existing local authority areas to parish status. Had a more complicated process been carried out, which might have involved partitioning of existing areas or the drawing of new boundaries, this could not have been accomplished in time for the Act to come into force, as it does, on April 1, 1974. As a result of this first exercise 269 successor parish councils will be added to the existing rural parish councils. I wish to emphasise this point because the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, spoke about people feeling that local authorities were no longer local —a point which I think was also made by my noble friend Lady Emmet—and that people feel out of touch. It seems to me that what this exercise has done is not only to keep the existing role parishes, but to add to them. What we are discussing is whether in fact that list should be extended further.

My Lords, the powers of those parish authorities have certain new characteristics which should be borne in mind. They are not just informal neighbourhood groups but statutory representative authorities. They have independent functions relating particularly to pathways, open spaces, and provision for recreation. They act as a focus for community feeling, but have quite substantial functional and money-spending powers which make them most appropriate in relatively sparsely populated rural areas and in small country towns which form distinct communities.

As a result of the Local Government Act 1972, a parish is entitled to call itself a town and to have a town mayor. The preservation of local civic dignities may well be—and I think the debate this evening has shown this—one of the concerns of successor parish councils. But I should remind the House that in cases where a new district does not seek borough status, the dignities of any former borough in the area will be protected without the need for a parish council. The 1972 Act provides in such circumstances for district councillors for the former borough to be a body corporate, by name the Charter Trustees, with the function the name suggests, of preserving the civic dignity of the former borough. This provision will help to meet the need for local civic leadership, since one of the powers of Charter Trustees is the right to appoint a town mayor. I appreciate that this is not exclusively an argument of Chichester for wanting parish council status, but I have spelt it out because I think it would be helpful for Chichester to know that in any event they can, if they so wish, continue to have a mayor.

Noble Lords have talked about the guidelines laid down for the Boundary Commission. They were to take account of local wishes, of the identity of a town both as a community and as a physically separate unit; they were to take account of its historical background and size. What was said in the guidelines was that acceptable proposals, unless an exceptional case were put forward, should normally involve a town with a population under 20,000 and less than 20 per cent. of the population of the new district. The functions of parishes as third tier authorities and their task in acting as a focus for local views points to a relatively small unit and, of course, most existing parishes have populations far below this upper range of 10,000 to 20,000 as set out in the guidelines.

The noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, raised an example of a parish, and I think he was mistaken in the figures he gave with regard to Golborne. The wards of Culcheth and Newchurch, have a population of 9,626, not 28,000 which he named.


My Lords, if I made an error it was on advice. I accept without hesitation the correction. I did mention a number of other places; I do not know whether the noble Baroness is going to question the accuracy of those.


My Lords, I wished only to put the Record straight on this matter. This is the advice I have been given, and I think it is rather important to get the figures right. I do not intend to go down the complete list and give the noble Lord all the figures, but of course if there are any figures he would like, or any other noble Lord would like, I should be happy to provide them.

The basic criterion on the proposals for the successor parishes is in fact comparability with existing parishes. As regards the figure of 20 per cent. of the district population, towns with a much greater proportion of the district population than this should have considerable influence on the new district council and therefore less need for a local body of their own. Indeed, local councils for important towns in new districts could be rather a divisive influence, because the new districts will want to administer their district as a coherent unit. Perhaps I may say in passing that an historic place such as Winchester did not apply for parish status since with a population of 30,000, which was nearly one-third of the new district, the city council clearly felt that parish council status would not be appropriate.

The Boundary Commission had a difficult task in considering the many applications for parish status they received. I think their report clearly indicates the care that they have exercised and refutes the charge that they have been either rigid or dogmatic in the interpretation of the guide lines. They have looked basically at the concept of the parish, which is the key to the guidelines, and the members of the Commission have wide experience of local government and for many different areas of the country. However, because of the exigencies of the timetable allotted for the exercise to which I have already referred, the Commission were not able to carry out the full procedure which they would expect to carry out after 1974, including the publication of draft proposals for local consideration which will normally take place.

It rapidly became clear from many representations we received after the publication of the Commission's Report that there was very strong local feeling in a number of areas about the Commission's findings and our endorsement of them. Some of the points raised by these representations were new ones, and it seemed to us right that we should give the Commission the chance to give those cases which had been raised with us the sort of further consideration they would have received had the Commission published draft proposals and there then had been further time for local comment to be considered before final recommendations were made. It is for this reason that all the further representations have been passed on to the Boundary Commission, and they will be producing their Report in November.

May I say to noble Lords that I have read with great interest the many letters that I have had about Chichester, from the town clerk, from the Civic Society, from my noble friend Lady Emmet, and that I have listened with very great interest to everything that has been said on this particular case this evening. The Government have decided that the final decision on successor parish council status shall rest with the Boundary Commission. I am quite sure that everything that has been said in the debate this evening will be read with great interest by the Commission when they come to consider this review of Chichester, and, as my noble friend Lord Monck has said, of Andover, and indeed of the other towns that have been mentioned. It is their responsibility. They will have the facts before them.

I would only add in conclusion that I think they are trying to achieve what is always a very difficult balance. Everybody listens with sympathy to the special cases that are put forward, not only because of the cases themselves, but because naturally we should like to do what would please the local people. But we have entered and are entering a new period of local government, on a two-tier system, in which the second tier, the districts, should be representative of local opinion, and it is therefore very important that we should not introduce an element which could in fact make that district level less effective, less democratic, and in any way less responsive to local needs than it might have been. I think this is the other side of the argument that must be weighed up.

I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, will not press this Motion this evening, because, of course, should it be carried all those parishes that have successor status would lose it, and I am sure this is not what he would wish to happen. I will give this assurance, that all the representations we have received have been passed to the Boundary Commission. I feel certain that they will read with great interest what has been said, and I think we must await their Report, which will come in November.

8.37 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for the care she has taken in replying to the points raised in the debate. We have listened for two days to our Scottish colleagues debating Scottish matters, and I found it something of a pleasure to turn to English affairs and at this late hour in the evening to be able to put up an all-Party point of view, and it is an all-Party point of view that has been expressed this evening. I hope the Boundary Commission will take note of that fact, because although I shall not press my Motion to a Division this evening I could give no guarantee that if the next list is not more satisfactory I shall not feel on that occasion under an obligation to press matters further.

I take complete responsibilty for the error so far as the Golborne Urban District Council figures are concerned: I ought to have checked the figure that was provided to me. But it does bring out a point. One wonders what on earth the wards of Culcheth and Newchurch have been given parish council status for and the rest of the urban district not. I take issue with the noble Baroness when she suggests that we ought not to introduce a new element in a new district that is going, as I understood her to say, to press a special case for that parish, when we have two very clear instances quoted this evening: Chichester not having a voice and the parishes within the new district having a voice, and the opportunity to do the very thing the noble Baroness said she hoped would not take place. Clearly, a place like Chichester will be placed at a disadvantage with its neighbours.

But the case made by the noble Viscount, Lord Monck, seems to me to be even stronger. I suggest that there is need for a little further thinking. Although he spoke with brevity, I thought the case of the noble Viscount was a very strong one indeed. The dignities of a mayor will not benefit from his having no elected council to support him. I do not know what the status of the mayor is likely to be without a council. I should have thought that in those places where it has been demonstrated that they wished to make the election of a mayor a democratic reality consideration would be given to this fact. I hope the Boundary Commission will take note of it.

I do not want to give the impression that I am unappreciative or over-critical of the replies the noble Baroness has given, because she has been extremely considerate and has gone to very great lengths to deal with the points that have been raised. Chichester has been raised as an outstanding example, and so has Andover; but I should like to make the point that there are other areas which feel they have equally serious claims. I hope that the Local Government Boundary Commission, when they next report, will be a little more flexible than they appear to have been. I should have liked to feel that the Government would have widened the guidelines they have given. I suppose that it is too late for that.

One small suggestion. When the Local Government Boundary Commission report and state the places that they propose should be given successor parish status, it would be useful if the population figures for the new parishes that are to be created were printed in the Report. I made one slip this evening, but I think it has been useful in demonstrating that one part of a district is going to benefit and the other parts are not. I have instanced—and I think that I am correct generally in the instances that I have given —that new parishes have been created in excess of the 20,000. I am grateful to those Members of the House who have stayed, and I hope that they feel that this debate has been fully justified. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.