§ 82. Mr. de Freitas
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether, in his scheme of local government reorganisation, he will pay regard to the peculiar position of ancient cities which, although they have a population of less than100,000, have enjoyed self government for many centuries, are now county boroughs, and which have had separate representation in Parliament for 700 years.
§ 83. Captain Pilkington
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will now make astatement on the future of local government.170W
§ 84. Squadron Leader Cooper
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is yet in a position to make a statement on the reform of local government.
87. Mr. I. O. Thomas
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is now able to make a statement on the Government's promised intentions and proposals for the reform and reorganisation of local government authorities and their administrative powers.
§ 89. Wing Commander Bullus
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is now in a position to make a statement on the question of local government reorganisation.
§ 90. Sir F. Medlicott
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is now able to make a statement concerning the future of local government.
§ 91. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will now make a statement on the reorganisation of local government.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Governmentwhether he is now in a position to make a statement on the results of his discussions with local authority associations on the reform of local government.
§ Mr. Sandys
A year ago, in the Second Reading debate on the Luton Corporation Bill, my predecessor promised that before any further Bills for conferment of county borough status came forward, the Government would inform the House whether or not they were in a position to introduce legislation for the reorganisation of local government in England and Wales.
Last November, I had a meeting with representatives of the local authority associations, at which they explained to me their widely divergent positions on the subject of local government reorganisation, as set out in their published memoranda. I told them that, in my opinion, it would not be fruitful to embark on any extensive reform, unless there existed some broad measure of agreement among the local authorities themselves. In the light of this, the representatives of the associations said they would be sorry to see this question indefinitely shelved; and that, if I would 171W take the chair at further meetings, they would like to make a fresh attempt to find a basis for agreement within the framework of the existing structure. I consented to do so, on the understanding that the Government must, of course, reserve their position in regard to any conclusions they might reach.
Although I can today make only an interim statement, I am glad to tell the House that, as a result of these talks, the representatives of the associations have now agreed upon common proposals covering a number of the main issues upon which they had previously been divided. These proposals, while not involving any change in the basic structure, contain important recommendations for theimprovement of local government organisation. The proposals also include a general recommendation that there should be some redistribution of functions between county councils and county district councils; but the associations are not as yet agreed on what changes should be proposed. In any case, since most of the services concerned are the responsibility of other Ministers, these questions will have to be discussed between the associations and my right hon. Friends.
When these talks on functions have beenheld, the Government will examine the proposals as a whole and consider their attitude towards them. A further statement will then be made to the House. Meanwhile it would not be desirable for me to go into details. However, in view of the Luton, Ilford and Poole Corporation Bills which are before the House, it is, I think, right to indicate that the proposals include agreed recommendations for the adoption of revised principles and new procedure for promotions to county borough status. In these circumstances, although there is obviously no possibility of general legislation on this subject during the remainder of this Session, the three corporations will, no doubt, consider the desirability of withdrawing their Bills for the present.
I should add that the representatives of the associations have also asked that there should be a review of local government finance. A review of this kind by the Government is, in any case, likely to be necessary before long; and we are examining what its scope should be.172W
Finally, let me say that the Government are greatly impressed by the determined efforts of the local authority associations to reach agreement. They are thereby making a very real contribution towards the solution of the problem of local government reorganisation; and this will, I am sure, be warmly welcomed by the House.