HL Deb 04 April 1995 vol 563 cc91-2

2.43 p.m.

Lord Mottistone asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they propose to introduce legislation to ensure that the elections for the parish and town councils in the Isle of Wight remain in step with the elections for the island's new unitary council as specified in paragraph 5(6) of the order introducing the new council and as recommended by the Local Government Commission.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater)

My Lords, the Government have accepted the Local Government Commission's recommendation that parish elections on the Isle of Wight should be held at the same time as the elections to the unitary authority. We are actively considering when and how to bring that about.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that encouraging Answer. Perhaps I may remind him that, although three years may seem a long time in some ways, quite often measures miss out because the necessary legislation does not come up at the right time. Does he agree that it would be a good plan to get on with this matter sooner rather than later?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, as I indicated to the House, we are conscious of that situation. The Local Government Act 1992 laid down quite tightly the amendments that the Secretary of State may make to local government electoral cycles. He has the power to make only incidental consequential and transitional changes. He cannot make the permanent changes that are required in this instance by using that power. That is why we have to consider how and when the situation that my noble friend indicated to the House should be brought about.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, I am not very clear about the current electoral arrangements for the Isle of Wight. Can the Minister advise the House on whether the Council is elected on an all-out basis once every four years or whether there is a rolling programme of elections every year? If the council is elected on an all-out basis every four years, would he consider it useful for the parish councils to be elected in a year when there are no county council elections, and for the town councils to be elected in another year so, effectively, constituents in the Isle of Wight have the opportunity of electing at least one tier virtually every year?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, in the case of the Isle of Wight, the parish elections, which are due in 1995, will coincide with elections for the unitary authority. But for later years, including those transitional elections scheduled for 1998, the parish council elections will not take place because they are on a four-year cycle. Primary legislation will be needed to bring the electoral cycles into line. Because the Isle of Wight council is a continuing authority of a county council, it will be elected every four years, except for this transitional period, with a further election in 1998, until it falls into the county cycle in the year 2001. In the case of parish councils and town councils, as my noble friend suggested, it has been thought wise to have them at the same time as the elections of other authorities. It improves the turnout and reduces the cost.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, when the dates of those elections are decided, will they advise the BBC?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I failed to hear the last part of the noble Lord's question.