HL Deb 25 October 1973 vol 345 cc753-8

[No. 7]

The Commons proposed the following Amendment to the words so restored to the Bill:

Page 152, column 3, leave out lines 16 to 20.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 7 to the words restored to the Bill. This Amendment hangs with the others which I have just moved.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment to the words restored to the Bill.— (Lord Polwarth.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

3.32 p.m.


had given Notice of two Amendments, Nos. 7A and 11A, to the words so restored to the Bill:

[No. 7A] Page 152, line 21, column 3, leave out from ("Lanark") to ("in") in line 29.

[No. 11A]

As an Amendment to Commons Amendment numbered 11 to the words restored to the Bill, at end insert—

("Rutherglen In the county of Lanark—the burgh of Rutherglen; in the Eighth district, the electoral divisions of Bankhead, Cambuslang Central, Cambuslang North, Hallside, Rutherglen, and those parts of Cambuslang South and Carmunnock electoral divisions lying out-with the designated area of East Kilbride New Town.")

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I know that the House does not like Amendments on Commons Amendments to the Lords and I apologise for rising, but there is a duty on Parliament to seek to remedy grievances, and that is what I am trying to do to-day. I particularly apologise for this being a Manuscript Amendment. I in fact put it in yesterday but, owing to certain procedural difficulty, there appeared to be some doubt as to the part of this somewhat complicated document where these words should be placed.

The Government have now put their plan before us, and the plan is this: that there is a district called Glasgow; around that district there are, as the noble Lord has said, certain peripheral districts. Of all those districts around Glasgow, there really is no question that the one which is best fitted to fulfil the role of a district is Rutherglen and Cambuslang. This was not questioned by Members from Glasgow in discussions which took place earlier this week. They admitted that. And there is no question of the depth of feeling, which indeed the Minister referred to in the other place when he was talking. It is, in the words of the House of Commons, a community pattern as distinct as any in that part of Scotland. It has, moreover, a larger population than Eastwood, Clydebank, Milngavie, Bearsden or Bishopbriggs and Strathkelvin. It has a higher rateable value; it has a more balanced economy, and, I think I can say, a stronger economy even than Clydebank. It is its own community centre and something like the equivalent numerically of 45 per cent. of the inhabitants are employed in that area. I agree with the noble Lord that there is a great deal of coming and going between Rutherglen and Glasgow. They go both ways. They come from as far as East Kilbride. Bothwell and the whole area. There is no doubt that this takes place. But the boundaries are distinct: the Clyde, the designated area, and Glasgow on one side.

The really important point is that in a communication which some of them had with Glasgow they said that Rutherglen was no use to them; they did not particularly want Rutherglen, and the same views were expressed by the Glasgow Herald, which throughout has supported what I would describe quite generally as the Glasgow point of view. This presents a very strong case. I do not want to emphasise the fact unduly that Rutherglen is in fact the oldest burgh in Scotland; that it has been responsible for the government of that area, not ten times as long as the Scottish Office have been in Scotland but twenty times as long as the Scottish Office have been there at all. For 300 years it has had a form of democratic constitution. It has had university education for slightly shorter than that period. More recently it has been a pioneer in health service, particularly in the provision of geriatric hospitals. I would add, too, that its housing position is such that they believe that no substandard houses will exist within two or three years. All this is quite a considerable achievement.

I feel it sad that the Wheatley Commission never visited Rutherglen, and so far as the people in Rutherglen are concerned they are not aware that the Secretary of State has ever been there. He has not received a delegation either individually or collectively from the people of Rutherglen. I can only repeat that I think this is very sad, and I would add that in the communication I have had with the Scottish Office their geographic description was inaccurate. I wonder, therefore, whether this matter has really received the close attention which it should receive.

It may be old-fashioned nowadays to refer to the Wheatley Commission, but this area of some 60,000 souls falls well within the limits set by Wheatley for a district, and it is quite distinct as such, The Wheatley Report continues, on page 195, to say, when referring to the enlargement of city boundaries: only so far as those parts would be better served and more effectively administered. No attempt has been made to indicate that that in fact would be the case here. We know that the Rutherglen housing is better than Glasgow's, and we know that if you are a councillor of the whole area you would inevitably give priority to Glasgow's housing because it is a bigger problem. It is a worse problem. I do not want to blame Glasgow for this. They have an enormous task and anyone who has been to Glasgow realises with what resolution, with what determination, and on what a large scale their redevelopment schemes are taking place. But the fact is that they would inevitably place the housing problems of Rutherglen subordinate to those which exist in Glasgow. That is one of the reasons why I consider that this district would be very much better served if it were on its own.

The Minister in the other place has said that it is doubtful what we should do with Rutherglen. He has expressed uncertainty as to what should be there and he has used two arguments, one of which was referred to earlier to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth. He said that it was too near Glasgow. Obviously, boundaries are near each other. But the fact is that there are just about six miles as the crow flies between the centre of this district and the centre of Glasgow. If one takes the lines from George Square to the centre of Cambuslang, which is about the centre of the district, it is just about six miles. I ask the Government: is that too little? Do they think that is too small a distance between districts? If they do, perhaps they might look at Motherwell and Monkswell and see how far they are apart. Or Hamilton and Motherwell—that is nothing like six miles—or, again, Hamilton and East Kilbride. Are all these districts to be amalgamated because they are too close together? This district is just as distinctively a district from Glasgow as any of these other districts are from each other.

A second point raised in another place was that there are 300 buses which go through Rutherglen into Glasgow. This is no doubt perfectly true, but the whole of northern industrial Lanarkshire goes through Rutherglen in order to get to Glasgow, and many of the buses are quite full before they get there. In any case, this is irrelevant, because transport has nothing to do with districts; it is entirely a regional matter. It is for the regions to look at this matter. The whole of the tasks of the districts are local. They may be described broadly as housing, local planning, environmental services and perhaps consumer protection services. They are all matters that can he conducted on quite a small scale and do not need a very large environment.

I think that Rutherglen has been unfairly treated and I really am disturbed that this should be. As some of your Lordships may have seen, they have a Charter which says that they will be in charge of this area for ever. Of course, "for ever" is a term nobody should use. But it was used in the most solemn form that existed at that time. I do not think it has been wholly (shall I say?) out of place for the Scottish Office to draw attention to the fact that this Act was necessary, for the well-being of Scotland, to.abrogate that and possibly even to thank them for what they have done, because the most important words to come out of the Wheatley Report are: "Is local government worth while?" This is the most important pattern that should be the judge of whether this Bill is good or not. Does it or does it not make the local government of Scotland worth while? I contend that the removal of this self-running district, which has been there for some 800 years, makes local government, certainly in that area, very much less worth while.

Your Lordships may ask why I should be interested in this. I have known the area off and on for fifty years. It had a rough time in the latter part of the 19th century with grime and squalor, and I have seen it evolve and improve. To-day it is really getting its nose above water and I can foresee the time when that graceful way of living, which no doubt took place in Rutherglen in earlier times, will he restored. I believe they will have a much better chance of achieving that if they are working alone. I believe that the present arrangement is reducing the sense of civic responsibility which has been very fully exercised there. I ask again—is this making local government more worth while? It is because I do not think it is that I beg to move this Motion.


My Lords, the Question is, That this House doth disagree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 to the words restored to the Bill, but proposes manuscript Amendments Nos. 7A and 11A in lieu thereof. The manuscript Amendments read as follows: Amendment No. 7A: Page 152, line 21, column 3, leave out from ("Lanark") to ("in") in line 29. Amendment No. 11A. As an Amendment to Commons Amendment No. 11 to the words restored to the Bill. At end insert—("Rutherglen…in the county of Lanark—the burgh of Rutherglen; in the Eighth district, the electoral divisions of Bankhead, Cambuslang Central, Cambuslang North, Hallside, Rutherglen, and those parts of Cambuslang South and Carmunnock electoral divisions lying outwith the designated areas of East Kilbride New Town.").