§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
I hope that this Bill, in whose favour I propose to say a few words, will have the same successful conclusion as that with which we have just dealt. I can assure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), that there is no complication in it about hairdressers, pigeons or starlings. It is a plain, simple Bill to secure the extension of the County Borough of West Hartlepool.
The Bill has two main proposals. It proposes the amalgamation of the existing Borough of Hartlepool with the existing County Borough of West Hartlepool; and it also proposes to extend the boundaries of the new county borough some distance into the existing area of the Stockton Rural District Council.
To deal with the first point, the amalgamation of the Borough of Hartlepool with the County Borough of West Hartlepool, for all practical purposes at the present moment the two towns are physically one. They form one Parliamentary constituency, and I have the honour to represent it. For all business, commercial, trading, cultural, and recreational purposes the two separate local authority areas are, in fact, physically one town. It is only in the case of local government administration that there are two separate pieces of organisation, governing what otherwise is physically one town.
The Borough of Hartlepool has a population of some 17,000 and it covers an area of 1,841 acres, of which, roughly, 400 acres are either foreshore or covered by tidal waters, which reduces its effective size to some 1,441 acres. It is true that the Borough of Hartlepool has a long and honoured tradition in civil and com- 2651 mercial affairs. It has been a municipal borough since 1201, and has played its part in the history of this country.
However, it is not intended in this Bill to lose the honoured name of Hartlepool. Within the Bill there is a provision that, subject to the other parts being agreed to, the new county borough is to be known as the County Borough of Hartlepool. It will, therefore, carry on the name and, I believe, all the traditions associated with this old borough.
From time to time, for the last 65 years, there have been efforts locally, between the two authorities, to reach some measure of agreement, but until 1947 complete agreement had not been reached between those two local authorities about amalgamation. On 8th May, 1947, the Hartlepool Borough Council passed a resolution, by 17 votes to one, in favour of amalgamation.
Hartlepool, in earlier years, was a separate police authority. The Police Act of recent years has transferred that duty to the county council. It was an education authority, but the 1944 Education Act transferred that power to the county council. It was a health authority. Steadily, over the years, this small borough council has been losing its powers, not to its near neighbour two miles away but to Shire Hall in Durham, 25 miles away.
Both authorities in 1947 submitted observations to the Local Government Boundary Commission, based on the desirability of the two boroughs being amalgamated. The Boundary Commission sent an assistant commissioner into the area to hold an inquiry. In page 51, Appendix B of the 1947 report, these words appear:…as would West Hartlepool and Hartlepool, after union as one borough by an order of the Commission.The Local Government Boundary Commission thought it was desirable, and that a case had been made out, for the amalgamation of this borough and county borough into one county borough. The Commission were satisfied that there was an overwhelming case for amalgamation. It is generally believed by the people in the locality that had the Local Government Boundary Commission been permitted to continue its work and had 2652 the 1947 report been implemented, there would, long ere now, have been one local government authority for this area.
I ought to mention, in common fairness that, subsequent to 1947, the present Hartlepool Borough Council passed a resolution, by 13 votes to 11, against amalgamation, and that there is at present a petition against the Bill. That, I suggest, is a very substantial reason why the Bill ought to have a Second Reading, that the Committee upstairs might inquire into the reason for the change of heart of the Hartlepool Borough Council between 1947 and 1952.
Towards the end of the year, in 1944, both these councils, together with the Easington Rural Council and the Durham County Council, established a joint planning committee. The purpose of the committee was to examine the possibilities and to plan the area. Late in 1946, or early in 1947, the committee decided to appoint a planning consultant. In 1947, Mr. Max Lock, with his associates, who had been successful a year or two earlier in drafting a very fine plan for Middlesbrough, was appointed planning consultant to plan the area. He and his associates began the social, economic and geographical survey of these two boroughs and the surrounding country.
In 1948, the plan was accepted, and printed in a volume which has been broadcast fairly liberally in the area. The volume contains, in its very first paragraph, the important observation that the committee had been charged with the responsibility of conducting a survey of the boroughs of Hartlepool, and a rural survey of the surrounding countryin regard to education, geography, history, industry, port trade, populations, daily movements to and from work, neighbourhoods, housing, open spaces, health services, land use, floor space and retail trade.The area of the survey was the two boroughs and the seven surrounding parishes that now lie within the area of the Easington Rural Council or in the Stockton Rural Council area.
I would quote from the first paragraph of this document one or two facts. Mr. Max Lock and his associates, in the very beginning of this publication, had this to say after they had completed their survey:For the two towns "—2653 they are talking about Hartlepool and West Hartlepool—to play their proper role in a rapidly changing economic scene, four things are necessary; first, the amalgamation of the borough of Hartlepool with the county borough of West Hartlepool and the extension of the boundary; second, stabilisation of the balance of industry and employment and re-construction of the docks; third, re-construction of the blighted areas; fourth, provision of social, cultural and recreational services, according to present standards.In the very next paragraph, entitled "Extension," there appear these very important words:To re-house the people now living in substandard conditions, almost a square mile of land will have to be bought outside the present county borough boundary. Agricultural interests will have to give way to necessary extensions, but not indiscriminately. A detailed survey of soils and farm boundaries undertaken with the help of the Durham Agricultural Committee and the Soil Survey of England and Wales has determined our policy for the development of town and country.The proposals contained in the Bill are based on these recommendations of Max Lock and his associates. It therefore might be argued that the Bill, which I hope will get its Second Reading, is the logical next step in the implementation of the Lock plan and that without the Bill, without amalgamation, and without borough extension the Lock plan cannot possibly hope to succeed. I suggest that the Second Reading and passing of the Bill into law are the logical next step.
§ Mr. Arthur Colegate (Burton)
Does the Lock plan suggest taking part of the Stockton Rural District into the plan, or the whole of it?
§ Mr. Jones
I am coming to that point in a moment, and I think I will prove to the hon. Gentleman that it proposes to take a very small part of the Stockton rural area.
I now come to the second principle contained in the Bill, the extension of the boundaries into the area of the Stockton Rural District Council. Although it is suggested in the petition against the Bill that the total added areas amount to 7,272 acres, if we deduct the 1,841 acres which now comprise the borough of Hartlepool, that leaves 5,430 acres to be taken from Stockton Rural Council's area. Of those 5,400-odd acres, 801 acres are either foreshore or land which is covered by tidal waters, and 218 further 2654 acres are already owned by the West Hartlepool County Borough Council, because it forms part of the airport.
A further 440 acres are covered by the Airfield Protection Order which has been in existence for some considerable time and precludes the building of any structure more than 10 feet in height over these 440 acres. If we take all those together, there are 1,500 acres to be deducted from the 5,400, making less than 4,000 acres of actual building land, or land that has been developed in any way, other than the way in which it is developing now.
How is this area of land made up? I will quote from a Press report of what the Clerk of the Stockton Rural District Council said to his Council:Mr. France gave details of the Council's land to be included in the proposed extention. At Greatham there are 344 houses of a rateable value of £7,212 and an estimated population of 1,410, and at Brierton there is a quarry of a rateable value of £104 but no population. No houses rateable value or population in the land proposed to come from Dalton Piercy parish. At Seaton it is proposed to take over the whole parish. Forty-five houses are included 27 of which are void and the rateable value is £1,816.What the Clerk of the Council omitted to mention was that in this area there are four industrial undertakings and the workpeople are resident within the county borough of West Hartlepool. For example, at Greatham there is a salt works employing about 1,000 girls, of whom more than 95 per cent. travel from the West Hartlepool County Borough each day to the factory. There is at Graythorpe in the parish of Seaton a ship repair yard which has for many years been within the borough of West Hartlepool. It is having to extend outside the county borough because there was no suitable land within the borough on which to extend it.
I suggest it is not unreasonable to argue that, where an industrial undertaking draws some 95 per cent. of its personnel from a neighbouring county borough area, which has to provide educational, housing and all other amenities, the industrial hereditament ought to be within the county borough. It is not unreasonable to argue that where they have to provide the amenities they should at least have the rateable value which might accrue from the industrial hereditament itself.
2655 The Durham County Council, who are petitioning against this Bill, have some objections which were stated quite shortly by Councillor Cunningham at a meeting of the Durham County Council on 10th January, 1952. I hope that my Government and county friends will note what he has to say:I think it is essential that, as a County Council, we should attempt to retain this land, because in this area in the near future there is to much industrial development,"—Not now, but some time in the future, so hold on to it in case something happens to it. He continues:the rateable value of which would accrue to the County Council…It is true that the British Electricity Authority proposes at some future date to build a new power station in the parish of Seaton, but that will not rob the Durham County Council of its share of the total rates because, as a result of recent legislation, it matters not where the power station is actually located since each authority gets its share of the rates. So from the point of view of the power station, it will not make any difference whether it is built on this land or any other land.
May I tell the House what the position will be if these extentions are granted, both as regards Durham County Council and Stockton Rural Council? I have in my hand a schedule which has been prepared showing that at present the administrative county of Durham has a total area of 620,869 acres. If all these extentions are granted it will still have 613,597 acres or 98 per cent. The rateable value before any changes take place is £4,028,038. If the changes take place, it will still be £3,938,861 or will lose 2.21 per cent. of its total rateable value.
May I give the House a more remarkable figure still? At present the rateable value per head of the population in County Durham is £4 9s. 3d. If this area is extracted and also its rateable value, they will still have £4 9s. 1d. per head. I suggest that nobody on either side of the House could suggest that the detachment of 2d. per head of its rateable value, or 2.21 per cent., will destroy Durham County Council as an entity.
What is the Stockton Rural Council's position? I am sure that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate) will be particularly interested. 2656 The present area of the Stockton Rural Council is 40,656 acres. If the 5,431 acres are taken away, it will still have 35,225 acres, or will be three times as big geographically as the new West Hartlepool County Borough and will lose 13.35 per cent. of its total acreage. The rateable value at present is £58,725. When it has lost what is proposed to be deducted from it, if the House agrees, it will still have £49,593. By no stretch of imagination can it be argued that a rural district council with £50,000 of rateable value will be destroyed.
Let me tell the hon. Gentleman something much more interesting. The present rateable value per head of the population in the Stockton rural area is £6 19s. 5d. If these 5,000 acres are granted to the Hartlepool County Borough, the rateable value per head will rise to £7 2s. 10d. In other words, the rateable value of the Stockton rural area will increase, not diminish, as a result of this alteration.
§ Mr. Colegate
Surely the hon. Member will agree that the revenue of the Stockton Rural District Council is likely to go down by some £5,000 or £6,000? And if that be the case, how can these smaller local authorities carry on in these difficult times if their finances are to be detached in that way?
§ Mr. Jones
That is fairly obvious, but I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that if it loses 5,400 acres of its territory it will not need to provide the services in those areas and will, therefore, not require that finance. After all, if it does lose that, I have proved that, so far as the district council itself is concerned, it will have a higher rateable value per head of the population afterwards than before.
§ Mr. Colegate
Surely the hon. Member would not seriously argue that a local authority which has part of its revenue taken away can then reduce the salary of its medical officer, its clerk, and so on, in order to come within the compass of its income. For a local authority with established services to reduce its income is to threaten the whole structure of the local authority of the area.
§ Mr. Jones
The hon. Member has selected a bad example, because the medical officer of health happens to be a part-time medical officer, and resides 2657 in Hartlepool. If the authority gets a higher rateable value per head of the population as a result of these alterations, it is not being worsened.
There are six petitions against the Bill. With three of them I do not need to bother now, because they are peculiarly matters for the Committee upstairs; they are narrow in character and are much better dealt with there. There are, however, three petitions of a general character: from the Hartlepool Borough Council, from the Durham County Council, and from the Stockton Rural Council.
Hartlepool Borough generally opposed amalgamation but has no observations to make about the borough extension. The Stockton Rural Council has, I gather, some serious objections to the borough extension but has no objection to amalgamation. Durham County Council, I understand, has objections to both.
These petitions could be far more efficiently dealt with in Committee upstairs than in a Second Reading debate of this kind. For example, the Hartlepool Borough Council ought in fairness to itself to be given the right to brief its experts, if necessary, to appear before the Committee upstairs, to explain why, after taking part in the Lock Plan and approving of it, now have a change of mind and oppose the proposals. It would be interesting for the Committee upstairs to have before it the witnesses of Hartlepool Borough Council so that they may explain why they have changed their opinion.
I have no single word to offer in criticism of the manner in which the Durham County Council conducts its affairs. I believe that it does so in a manner comparable with every other county council and far better than a good many. But even with that record, they are not entitled without some comment to put into their petition a paragraph of this kind:Your Petitioners submit that the Corporation "—that is, the West Hartlepool Corporationare not equipped to administer as satisfactorily as your Petitioners an area such as the Corporation propose to add to the borough. Moreover, the added area would lose the advantage of local government carried on by persons engaged solely in providing for the needs of their localities and in close and 2658 continual touch with the ratepayers and inhabitants thereof.I do not know how many hon. Members in the House tonight know the geography of this part of the country, but the distance from Greatham village to the municipal buildings at West Hartlepool is under 21 miles; yet the distance from Greatham to Shire Hall, Durham, is nearer 25 miles. How it is possible for an authority located 25 miles away from an area to claim that it is more competent to manage a village of this kind than is an authority only two miles away, I quite fail to understand.
As I have indicated, these extensions to the borough boundary, as adumbrated in the Lock Plan, are badly needed for rehousing, for educational development, for open spaces for the citizens of the county borough and, last but certainly not least, for the normal industrial development of that part of the country.
The single, simple issue which the House has to decide tonight is whether this county borough is entitled to have the Bill read a Second time, and thus to enable the council to make its case before an impartial Committee of the House. I suggest that the statement I have made indicates quite clearly that the council is entitled to have such a presentation.
I invite the House to consider what my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) had to say about this aspect of the case on 14th March, 1951, when he occupied the Treasury Bench. The occasion was the Second Reading of a Bill by the Sheffield City Council to extend its area. My right hon. Friend had this to say:I suggest we take the proposed extensions as they come; judge each of them on its own merits, commit ourselves to no detail "—
§ Mr. Jones
but if a prima facie case is shown, let there be a Second Reading."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 1637.]I wholeheartedly agree with those sentiments. I claim with modesty that I have, at least, made a prima facie case for the West Hartlepool Extension Bill. I therefore invite the House, having listened to my case to go into the Lobby, if we divide, in support of the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Slater (Sedgefield)
I rise to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill.
This is the first time I have ever sought to intercede on behalf of the Durham County Council as an interested party, but before becoming a Member of the House I was a member of that county authority and for a period of three years was the Vice-Chairman of its Highways and Bridges Committee and a member of its Parliamentary Committee and of the major committees attached to that authority. Therefore, I claim that as a past member of the authority, I know something about its administration within its county boundaries on behalf of the people who reside therein.
I go so far as to say that if the Bill is carried tonight in the interests of West Hartlepool, the high standards that have been set by Durham County Council on behalf of the people resident within the Borough of Hartlepool, and within the precincts of Greatham and the other parishes, will not be surpassed if they have to come under the control and administration of the West Hartlepool Corporation.
I should like to pay tribute to the helpful speech that my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) has made in the case he has endeavoured to present to the House on behalf of the West Hartlepool Corporation, but I think that every Member who listened to that speech would have been led to believe that the hon. Member for The Hartlepools is in a rather difficult position in seeking to argue the case for this Bill being given a Second Reading.
The reason is that his constituents are divided on the subject. There are 59,000 Parliamentary electors in his constituency, of whom 48,770 are in the county borough whose council has promoted this Bill. I am not prepared to argue on this point on the number of electors, but the figure I have is 11,163 in the municipal borough whose council opposes the Bill.
The Stockton Rural District Council, in my constituency, with Hartlepool Borough Council, has launched petitions with the county authority against this Bill. It may not be often that we have a unanimous decision in Durham County Council on matters arising therein. If ever any authority has received wide public- 2660 ity throughout the country because of certain actions taken in relation to policies they regard as vital to the administration of a county, it has been Durham County Council.
However, on this particular issue members of Durham County Council are unanimous in their decision in seeking to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill and, in common with other county councils throughout the country, they view with the gravest concern the ultimate effect on county administration if constant aggression on the part of county boroughs is allowed to continue.
We have five county boroughs in the geographical County of Durham and, as a result of an extension of boundaries, the County Council of Durham have had to give up no fewer than 11,000 acres in the last 30 years. I wish to quote an extract from the report of the Local Government Boundary Commission for 1947, which states, under the heading of, "Conflicts over boundaries":Ever since 1888 conflicts between counties and county boroughs over boundary extensions and the aggression of county boroughs has been a constant feature of local government. These difficulties have been mainly created by the growth of population, changes in its distribution following movements of industry, the growth of urban at the expense of rural population and other circumstances over which local authorities have had little or no control.The existence of autonomous and ever-growing county boroughs made conflict inevitable, and the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Local Government, while making it more difficult to secure county borough status for extensions of boundary, did little to improve the atmosphere between the two parties.The heavy burdens on the ratepayers of both parties caused by the expense of an opposed Bill and of settling claims for compensation after a successful Bill has been serious enough. But what has been most harmful has been the consequential antagonism between county and county borough councils, both as classes and individually.Between successive applications for extensions, administration on both sides of the boundary has necessarily been influenced by the knowledge that the opposing party would use any facts which appeared to support or hinder future applications. Correspondence has often been 'at arm's length'; the citing of services near the common boundary has been unduly influenced; and there has often been a reluctance by county districts to avail themselves of services, e.g., sewage disposal, which the neighbouring county borough could have given to them. This atmosphere has seriously militated against effective co-operation in town and country planning.2661 I agree whole-heartedly with those expressions of opinion. I believe that mere adjustments of boundaries can be no solution to this problem, whether it be real or imaginary, of county administration. I am more convinced than ever that until Her Majesty's Government have determined the future pattern of local government, piecemeal extensions of county boroughs should cease to be permitted unless they can be agreed between the parties. Let it be said that Durham County Council have never yet been unreasonable in these matters.
§ Mr. Slater
Yes, not the Tory Party. As recently as last year the county council agreed to extension of the county boroughs of Sunderland and South Shields and the corporations of these two towns were able to proceed with their extension Bills without opposition from the county. On Monday, 25th February, 1952, reported in HANSARD, in answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate), the Minister of Local Government and Housing, moving the Second Reading of the Town Development Bill, stated that that Bill neither detracted from the right of a county borough to come to Parliament for extension of its boundaries, nor the right of a rural district council to defend itself if it wished to do so against such a proposal.
Therefore, I submit that if the provisions of the Town Development Bill, whenever they become effective, could be applied to the County Borough of West Hartlepool and the other local authorities concerned, no question of altering boundaries need arise. My hon. Friend has endeavoured to build up a case about the condition of certain property within his borough boundary, but West Hartlepool Corporation cannot plead even at the moment any overspill population in aid of their case. The only property they hold in the area which they are seeking to acquire is a civil airport in the parish of Greatham—
§ Mr. D. Jones
If the West Hartlepool Corporation cannot provide an overspill immediately, will my hon. Friend explain how it is that in the Durham County Provisional Plan they have already made provision for the overspill from West Hartlepool Borough?
§ Mr. Slater
Will my hon. Friend wait until I have completed my speech? He will get an answer to the question he raised, and in all probability it may uproot some of the arguments he has put forward in relation to this application.
I repeat that West Hartlepool Corporation cannot at the moment plead overspill and that the only property they hold in the area is a civil airport in the parish of Greatham. This civil airport, about which they talk so much, is leased to a charter company and not operated by the corporation themselves. Not only has there been no development outside the county borough boundaries, but there is room for great development within the existing boundaries. I am given to understand that, with the co-operation of the county council, development plans have been prepared—and they have received the approval of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government—to meet the requirements of this county borough over a period of 20 years. The only provisions in those plans for what might be regarded as an overspill is a comparatively small area of land on the west of the county borough for a neighbourhood unit at Owton in the administrative county.
It is equally true that the development plan which the Borough Council of Hartlepool have prepared can be carried out perfectly well without amalgamation with West Hartlepool. As has been stated, the Hartlepool Corporation and the Stockton Rural District Council oppose the Bill. By this Bill Hartlepool will lose the identity which it has had for many centuries, long before West Hartlepool came into existence, and Stockton Rural District will be deprived of a large part of its district with great rateable value potentialities.
I feel that it is unreasonable to suggest that a rural community such as that in the village of Greatham—and let me remind my hon. Friend that I have received letters from Greatham—has, or could ever have anything in common with an industrialised county borough. It is not surprising that there is no inclination on the part of the inhabitants to do other than oppose their transfer to the county borough, particularly when the corporation can produce no evidence that they can offer to the people concerned any better services than they enjoy at the 2663 moment. In my opinion, we have here a glaring example of a county borough seeking to extend its boundaries for no better reasons than those of self-aggrandisement; unless, as is more than possible, they are reasons of self-preservation.
What are they seeking to do? They are seeking to enlarge their area to nearly two-and-a-half times what it is today and to increase their population by 25 per cent. In the last 30 years their population has increased by less than 4,000, and there is no evidence at the moment that the Borough of West Hartlepool has burst its boundaries. The only suggestion that they ever will do so is contained in the development plans which my hon. Friend wishes to know something about. Those plans were designed by the planning experts to take effect over no less a period than 20 years, and even those plans do not constitute a reason why the boundaries should be altered.
It was stated in evidence before the Royal Commission on Local Government in 1925 that the ruling principle which the Minister of Health bore in mind in determining applications for provisional orders for extensions of county borough boundaries was whether the effect of granting the applications would be to secure efficient and economical local government with reasonable regard to the wishes of the inhabitants.
This is still a sound principle, and if it is applied to the West Hartlepool Extension Bill that Bill must fail. I submit to the House that there is not a shred of evidence that the inhabitants of the proposed added areas would enjoy more efficient and economical local government under the corporation than they do at present; and the inhabitants most certainly do not desire to go into the county borough.
My hon. Friend said it was not unreasonable to argue that where an authority is evolving housing and educational facilities within its administrative area they should be allowed to go outside their boundaries to embrace these facilities. In my constituency I have one of the biggest industrial hereditaments in the county, I.C.I. Moreover, my hon. Friend seeks to use in his argument the case of the Cerebos salt works and the percentage of the population employed there. He 2664 said we had drawn this particular force away from the Borough of West Hartlepool. I am beginning to wonder whether he has taken a census of the people of Greatham at the Cerebos salt works.
It is all very well to make these applications for extension of boundaries as they are seeking to do under this Bill. But I am convinced that one of the principal reasons the West Hartlepool Borough Council are seeking to present this Bill is of the possibility of the industrial transference of their particular borough into another part of the Stockton Rural District within the next few years. It is just that they are wanting to secure the kind of industry that might seek to develop in other parts of the country, and, therefore, I hope that hon. Members will follow me into the Lobby against the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. S. Storey (Stretford)
I rise to support this Bill, not only because, from my knowledge of the area, I regard it as a reasonable proposal, but, as a representative of a non-county borough, I feel that it is in the interests of all county and non-county boroughs that such a Bill as this should not be blocked in this House, as this Bill has been blocked, but should be sent to a Select Committee for proper examination.
Apart from this aspect of the matter, from my own local knowledge, gained from business connections with the Hartlepools—and here let me say that I stand to gain nothing from the Bill, because under the Max Lock plans to which the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) referred, my works would be taken from a desirable and central site and deposited I know not where—I consider this a reasonable proposal which should be sent to a Select Committee for further examination.
The two towns do form a closely-knit area. Together, they have a population of only 90,000. For administrative convenience, economy, and prestige, for industrial development and for economic planning, I think they should be considered as a whole. Already, they share an adjoining trading estate, they have a joint transport system, and many of the inhabitants of both towns gain their livelihood from the activities centred round the common port.
2665 I quite understand the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Slater) saying that the people of Hartlepool do not wish to lose their identity. I agree that they have a long history and a Charter going back 750 years, but, as the hon. Gentleman who represents The Hartlepools pointed out, West Hartlepool has met that cause of hesitation generously by agreeing that the new borough should be known as Hartlepool, and not as West Hartlepool.
As regards the county area which West Hartlepool propose to take in, it has been made quite clear that it will mean very little loss of rateable value to the county area, and it is an area which, in my opinion, is vitally important to the industrial development and to the amenities of the borough. After all, West Hartlepool has spent a great deal of money on the development of its seaside resort at Seaton Carew, and it is only right that the foreshore and beaches as far as the mouth of the Tees should be included in the area which the local authority controls.
For these reasons, I feel that the proposals put forward by the West Hartlepool Corporation are reasonable, and I hope that this House will see that tonight they are sent to a Select Committee for further examination.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. J. D. Murray (Durham, North-West)
I wish to associate myself with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Slater) in opposition to the Second Reading of this Bill, and to underline some of the important points which are exercising our minds on this issue.
It was my privilege, before coming to this House, to serve as a member of the Durham County Council for over 17 years. During that time I had the pleasure of serving on many important committees, including the committee whose duty it was to deal with Bills similar to this one. During those 17 years applications were received from boroughs contingent on the county administrative area, and usually an amicable settlement was reached.
The Durham County Council has always been very reasonable in matters like this; they have never been hard taskmasters. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield said, during the 2666 last two years authorities applied for extensions and were allowed to proceed without any opposition from the county council. In fact, when I was on the county council I thought they were far too generous on many occasions.
Be that as it may, we of the counties are beginning to wonder how long these applications are to be allowed to continue and what is to be the final result of the tail wagging the dog. When I was a member of the county council I often asked where the stopping place was to be. When do we call a halt? Or will there ever be finality on this issue? To my mind, these are very important questions. I realise that it is essential to have good will among neighbouring local authorities, but I also realise the possibility that in time the county boroughs will take over the county councils if such a policy of infiltration is allowed to continue unchecked and unabated.
My hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) made a grand speech. I enjoyed every minute of it, and have no complaint about the way in which he put his case. But as I sat listening to him I was interested to notice that he very carefully avoided telling the House the exact position. I do not say that he did so deliberately, but that is what he did. I certainly admire his courage, but I do not envy him his position on this issue. He must find himself between the devil and the deep blue sea.
I am informed that nearly one-fifth of the electors in his constituency are in a municipal borough whose council opposes this Bill. If the aim of this Bill is to acquire for the sake of acquiring, then to my mind the proposition is regrettable and should not be tolerated; it is then an iniquitous Bill which must be thrown out lock, stock and barrel because of its unworthiness. Such a Measure should not have been promoted.
Let my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools and his corporation be under no illusions about the Durham County Council. They are unanimous in their opposition, Tories and all, and will fight the proposals with all the power they possess.
This is a very important Measure, and very important issues are involved, not 2667 only for Durham but for county councils throughout the land, who view with considerable concern the situation which is developing. The Hartlepool Corporation and the Stockton Rural District Council both oppose this Bill, along with the Durham County Council. A trinity in opposition, if one likes, all having much to lose.
In the case of the Borough of Hartlepool, I was interested in the hon. Member's description, but I look at the matter from a different angle from the hon. Member. In this case, none is to be left. They are to be swallowed outright just like an oyster. No double bite at the cherry in this case. They are not coming back any more: they are going to have it all in the first slice. The child is to take over the parent. Local pride is to have no consideration at all. Not even the fact that the Borough received its first Royal Charter in the year 1201 and only celebrated its 750th anniversary a very short time ago is to be considered.
On historical grounds I suggest that this House should recognise the fact that Hartlepool existed long before West Hartlepool. Let it also be remembered that some of the areas West Hartlepool seeks to acquire have nothing at all in common with West Hartlepool, nor can this county borough claim to have burst its boundaries. Indeed, I think that is the trouble of it. It never seems to have tried to do that. If it has, I should like to be informed where such an attempt has taken place.
I was interested and am still interested to know where the overspill is. I thought the arguments of the hon. Member were very diplomatic indeed. We usually hear—and I always used to listen very carefully to them when I sat on these committees—grand arguments put forward about the overspill into the other district's area. But the hon. Member avoided that tonight. He said very little about overspill. In fact, it is hypothetical. What it is going to be—or what we are going to do. That was the strength of his case. It reminded me of the motto:Silence is golden.But the maxim is an old 'un.Little Tommy SouthHad the money in his mouth.Yes, silence is golden.
Another argument usually used with great force is the amount of development 2668 that has taken place outside the county area. We did not hear a word from the hon. Member about any development which has taken place outside the area. Another strong point usually advanced is the rateable value that has been created outside the area. Silence again. Nothing was said about rateable value that has been created outside the area. On this the hon. Member was very subdued and silent because from what I am told and from what I have read I think it is true to say that there is no such development at all. In fact, I am informed that there is still room for further development within the existing boundaries.
Further, I want to emphasise—because I think it is very important—that an agreement has recently been reached between the county council and the county borough regarding development which has been approved by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government that will meet all the requirements in this particular area for the next 20 years.
§ Mr. D. Jones
May I interrupt my hon. Friend? I do not know whether he heard, but I did read from the Lock plan. If he will listen I will read again from the plan drawn up in 1947. It says:To rehouse the people now living in substandard conditions, almost a square mile of land will have to be bought outside the pre sent County Borough boundary.
§ Mr. Murray
Exactly. I heard all my hon. Friend said, and I referred to it by saying his case was hypothetical. Why have they not done this before? They have had the opportunity nobody was stopping them. The county council have always been reasonable in meeting county boroughs where application has been made, as shown by experience one year ago when they granted two extensions and this House knew nothing at all about them. Therefore, my hon. Friend cannot get away with that one.
I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Sedgefield when he said that during the last 30 years the increase in the population has been less than 4,000. I emphasise that figure because when one works it out very carefully it really means an increase of less than three per week over the last 30 years in the population of the county borough. What a county borough! I leave the House to draw its own conclusions, but without being rude 2669 I would say it was a standstill borough—-no production whatever.
But let us not think too much about municipal power. What about the people? It is they who matter. Do they stand to gain a more economical or more efficient administration? Of course they do not Stockton Rural District Council are actually asked to give up 4,629 acres of land, more land than the county borough now actually possess. They are also asked to give up £9,132 of rateable value. The yield from a 1d. rate is £239, so this will mean a further reduction to that small rural district council of £36. Would any hon. Member suggest that taking such a huge slice from any rural area will make for good and efficient government, which I understand is one of the most important points in considering matters of this kind?
Does it make for good and efficient government? Can anyone wonder that the owners, ratepayers and inhabitants of the district are all strongly opposed to the proposals in this Bill? I submit that no one can justify disturbing a local government administration which has proved both efficient and economical. I am sure that in all parts of the House we can all agree about one thing, and that is that the county borough have certainly a splendid appetite. Their total requirements are 6,101 acres of land, 18,699 persons—14,699 more persons than they have created themselves for the last 30 years—and £89,177 of rateable value, which again is more than one-fifth of their present rateable value.
This Bill should fail because it is unnecessary, unreasonable and cannot be justified, and because the county borough have nothing to offer these areas which they seek to take over which is not enjoyed by those areas today. The hon. Member for The Hartlepools did not tell us any of the advantages which the inhabitants of the added areas would receive when they were taken over. On the contrary, this Bill would impose a serious financial burden on the ratepayers in the added areas, and would necessitate them contributing to the expenditure incurred in connection with the administration of the county borough from which they would receive no benefit.
In fact, I understand that if this extension were granted, the rural district council would have a reduction in their 2670 general revenue account of over £6,000. Under Section 11 of the 1948 Act, no compensation would be payable by way of a financial adjustment in respect of the increased burden on the ratepayers as a consequence of this Bill. That is very important indeed.
All the facts of the case which have been elaborated in detail by previous speakers prove quite conclusively that this Bill is an ill-conceived Measure which cannot improve the existing structure of local government or make for better administration for the people of the areas concerned. This Measure, as well as being ill-conceived, is ill-timed. Let us have no more of this piecemeal snatching and grabbing. If and when the time is opportune we should look at the structure of local government as a whole by all means let us do so, but in the meantime let us resist the pleas of those who would seek to anticipate what the findings of such an inquiry would be.
There is definite resistance here. Let no hon. Member make any mistake on that point. What is asked today is no solution of the problem of county borough administration. Until Her Majesty's Government have determined the future pattern of local government, such applications as this should be refused unless agreement can be reached by both parties. If the Measure proposed is successful, it will only serve to embitter an inevitable conflict the cause of which must be firmly placed at the doors of some county boroughs which would seek power for power's sake.
The House is being asked to give this Bill a Second Reading so that the Committee may go into all the pros and cons of the case. I suggest that this House, having heard all the arguments for and against, can now make up its mind, and I am sure it will do what it thinks right and proper. Our opposition to this Bill is now on record. Therefore, I say to the House: why send it to another place? Why waste thousands of pounds of public money? Why make a beanfeast for the lawyers? Why rush a Bill like this at the present time when we are all fighting for our very lives?
Provision has been made by the Durham County Council and the county borough for all the development that they require—housing or anything else—for the next 20 years. Surely that is enough to 2671 be going on with until some Government has at least decided what the future of local government is to be.
What does the Report of the 1947 Local Government Boundary Commission say? It is only a very short quotation.It is, in our view, a matter of first importance to the future of local government that this very natural antagonism should cease, and that these frequent battles should not take place.I agree with the Boundary Commission. Therefore I say that this House should reject this proposal outright tonight. I say, with great sincerity and conviction, backed up by my own experience in local government, that we should oppose this Bill with vigour, since it is a Measure which promotes self power without regard to co-operation, good will, good government or even sweet reasonableness.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. J. E. S. Simon (Middlesbrough, West)
I think the House will agree that we have heard an extremely enjoyable and forceful speech from the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Murray), but I listened in vain to his speech and that of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Slater) for any point of principle which ought really to weigh with this House on a Second Reading of a Bill of this sort. The hon. Member for Durham, North-West, said that the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) was between the devil and the deep blue sea. I knew that The Hartlepools was near the deep blue sea, but in casting my eyes in the other direction I found great difficulty in discovering whom he was talking about.
He also seemed to suggest that the rate of fertility in The Hartlepools did not justify the extension or changing of their boundaries. That is a point of principle, if one is going to accept it, but I ask this House to say that it is quite a novel principle that there must be a certain rate of fertility before any local authority is entitled to come here and ask for some relief.
We have had canvassed between the hon. Member for The Hartlepools, the hon. Member for Durham, North-West and the hon. Member for Sedgefield, a number of matters of detail about which they are clearly of different opinions. There is the question whether this reform is really wished for locally; the question 2672 whether there is a prospective or present overspill; the question whether there is still room for development within the present boundaries and, finally, the effect on county administration and county borough administration.
I suggest that we cannot possibly judge points of detail of those sorts, particularly when we have three respected hon. Members differing, as they do, with their great local knowledge. I suggest that that is a conclusive argument in favour of saying that this Bill should have a Second Reading, that it should go upstairs with these important points of detail and then be canvassed before a Committee of this House sitting in a much calmer and more judicial atmosphere than that which is found on a Second Reading in the Chamber itself.
The only point of principle which really arose out of the speeches of the opponents of this Bill—and I took it down as the hon. Member for Sedgefield said it—was that there should be no extensions of county borough boundaries until the Government had carried out a Measure of local government reform. We have been waiting for that Measure of local government reform for a very long time now. Looking at my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, I see that his face is quite impassive, but I think it is quite likely that we may have to wait a considerably longer time. I suggest that it is quite impossible to hold up all these measures of local boundary adjustment until this House has debated and passed into law a general Measure. It is for those reasons that I shall vote in favour of this Bill.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
I am very pleased to be able to follow the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon), because I dare say this will be one of the few occasions in this Parliament on which we shall be able to support the same Measure. I am very sorry that I have to part company from my very loyal and well-respected friends from the County of Durham who have spoken against this Measure. We have heard some fine robust speeches and it is evident that there is no closed shop on this issue.
I represent, on the one hand, a County of Durham Constituency which, neverthe- 2673 less, is a non-county borough, and I feel that I have to have one foot in each camp on this issue. My hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) has to be even more careful because he represents, on the one hand, a county borough and, on the other hand, a non-county borough; and the county borough are in the majority, and they are the people who are promoting the Bill. We all admired the very great reasonableness of his case and the sincerity with which he put it forward.
My hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Murray) and my hon. Friend the Member for Sedge-field (Mr. Slater) spoke about the reasonable attitude of the county on this question. That is not in doubt—until it comes to the, House; but I scarcely believe that we can class the speeches we have heard as being eminently reasonable, and I therefore suggest, following the example of the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West, that we have to approach this matter in a calmer and more judicial manner.
First of all, I should like to try to discover what we are trying to do in local government today. It seems to me that we should aim at achieving well-balanced communities where there is the possibility of a real, individual interest in the affairs of the community. We have to avoid, on the one hand, any parish pump politics and, on the other hand, the remoteness of control which exists today in some county authorities.
All we have to decide, on the speeches we have heard, is this: has a prima facie case been made why the Bill should go to a Select Committee upstairs? We are not concerned with the individual items of the Bill. Very few of us know the local characteristics of the areas concerned and, on the conflicting evidence on the two sides which we have been given, it is quite clear that we could not reach a reasonable decision on the issue from the debate today.
I am in this position. I think a prima facie case has been made out for the amalgamation of The Hartlepools. We have heard some denunciation of that principle from my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West, but practically the whole of the case of the hon. Member for Sedgefield was against the addition of part of the Stockton Rural 2674 District Council to West Hartlepool and The Hartlepools. In my opinion, if these two issues were separated, that of the amalgamation of The Hartlepools would stand the greater chance of success.
I am not satisfied, in my own mind, that a full case has been made out for the addition of part of the rural district and that, to my mind, is all the more reason why this Bill should go upstairs to a Select Committee where the point can be settled. If there is any doubt about it at all, it seems to me that the benefit of the doubt should be given to the applicant in that the Bill should be sent to a Select Committee, where expert evidence can be heard and sifted by an impartial body and a proper decision reached.
One of the objections raised was the objection to piecemeal reform. It was quite obvious that we could not get a local government Bill through the last Parliament and it seems to me equally obvious that we cannot expect one in this Parliament. Consequently, unless we give Second Readings to Bills of this kind, the whole of our local government structure will be sterilised from now on, and in my view that is an unhealthy position. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will intervene in the debate, because I should like him to make clear what is the Government's view on this issue.
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) has left us at the moment. I know his views on this, now that he is the representative of Bishop Auckland and not the Minister of Local Government and Planning; but when he was Minister of Local Government and Planning and I was his Parliamentary Private Secretary he said:I suggest we take the proposed extensions as they come; judge each of them on its own merits, commit ourselves to no details; but if a prima facie case is shown, let there be a Second Reading."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 1637.]On that evidence alone, and on the evidence we have that the opposition to this case has not proved its point, I believe we should do the right thing in sending this Bill upstairs where it can be examined properly.
I know that I am in a difficult position in this case because the time may come when I shall have to bring a similar Bill to this House, because my borough is 2675 surrounded by Stockton Rural District; but it would not be to bring in part of the district: it would be merely, when we have a population of 75,000, to try to get county borough status.
It would be regrettable if, on principle, this House should adopt the practice of rejecting all such Bills as this on Second Reading without giving a fair chance for the case to be examined. Because I think we are in some danger of establishing that precedent—if this Bill is rejected wholesale tonight—I want to make a special plea that we should not divide ourselves between those for counties, on the one hand, and those for boroughs on the other, but that we should agree that each Measure should be judged on its merits. The only place where that can he done properly is in a Select Committee. I hope the House will give this Bill a Second Reading
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. William Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring)
I do not intend to speak at any great length on this Bill. I suggest that the House is probably pretty well divided between those who represent boroughs and those who represent county boroughs. This warfare is going to go on for a long time. While I recognise that when this party was in power we did not tackle the question of local government, I would say that, no matter how we may argue these particular cases, the question of local government some day has got to be faced.
The Town Development Bill, which is in its Committee stage, gives to all towns the necessary powers to develop their areas without extending their boundaries. If that Bill is giving such powers to local authorities—to go outside their areas to settle their overspill population without altering their boundaries—surely that can be allowed, and as a means of saving any amount of ratepayers' money; and surely that would be a way of tackling such problems as these until such time as the basic problems of local government are finally settled.
Someone has said tonight that Hartlepool is by the deep blue sea. No doubt, it is. It may not be generally known, but when the monkey came from the deep blue sea it was held as a French spy. But Hartlepool has no case at the 2676 present time for extending itself to meet the circumstances of its population. What West Hartlepool's idea is—and my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) had better be careful—is to have a foot outside the boundaries, and, when the industrial development in the docks is extended, to capture that rateable value.
There has been an amicable settlement in the County of Durham of the question of the extension of South Shields. There was an amicable settlement on the question of Sunderland. But Sunderland and South Shields did not ask for half the county. Here is Hartlepool asking for all Hartlepool and the area outside it, and all because they want to protect the area for an airport. The House has decided, and the present Government has not retracted it, that whenever the financial resources of the country allow the big airfield for the North-East will be built 'at West Boldon.
Why should West Hartlepool convey in a statement to every M.P. that they want to develop, and give the idea that Hartlepool will one day be a great airport of value to the people of West Hartlepool? A statement on behalf of the promoters of West Hartlepool Extension Bill says:For the protection of the Corporation Municipal Aerodrome, and to provide for the needs of industrial development.I know something about Greatham aerodrome. I was for some years in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and I know that there is absolutely no hope of Greatham becoming an international airport for the North-East. [An HON. MEMBER: "Dead as a doornail."] This statement is put forward to try and beguile some M.P.s.
§ Mr. D. Jones
Why does my hon. Friend deliberately seek to mislead the House? No one is claiming for Greatham an international status. All we say is that there is an airport there now which covers 218 acres
§ Mr. Blyton
There are 218 acres and they get one aeroplane a day. It is used by a flying club. That is the extent of the Greatham airport, which is purely a private airport from end to end. Can my hon. Friend deny that?
There has not been one word of reason in the whole case South Shields' case was settled outside, and so was that of 2677 Sunderland. West Hartlepool wants to take the lot. We have had much encroachment by this borough. I was a Durham councillor for 10 years, and I know that the county is becoming worried about what is to happen to the rateable value of the county. If the town areas keep on encroaching, we can see the day in Durham county when we shall have green fields and all the roads to maintain, and no rateable value.
I therefore ask this House not to give the Bill a Second Reading. Let West Hartlepool go back and come again with a Bill that is reasonable and can be discussed, and there can be an amicable settlement without these fights in the House of Commons. The Bill that we are now asked for is absolutely unreasonable. If they come with a reasonable Bill there will be an amicable settlement.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Ernest Marples)
Perhaps I might venture to intervene at this stage in the internecine warfare which is going on upon the benches opposite. It is another manifestation of the split that we read about. It may be for the convenience of the House if I indicate the view of the Government.
This is a Private Bill for which the Government have no responsibility for bringing it before the House. The policy of this Government is very similar to the policy of the previous Government in this respect, and it was mentioned by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd). As stated in the note attached to the West Hartlepool Extension Bill, this policy was laid down by the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), who with great lucidity and clarity said in March, 1951:I suggest we take the proposed extensions as they come; judge each of them on its own merits, commit ourselves to no detail; but if a prima facie case is shown, let there be a Second Reading."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 1637.]That was the broad policy of the previous Government, and my right hon. Friend considers it desirable that this Bill should be brought before a Select Committee in the normal way. Its merits and demerits can then be fully investigated and, indeed, they will be closely examined there. There will be an opportunity for cross-examination, and all the powerful 2678 detailed arguments we have heard tonight can be brought forward in that calm atmosphere upstairs and fully ventilated. There are no grounds of policy upon which the Bill should not pass its Second Reading. There may be grounds of detail, and if so they will be disclosed upstairs.
The House will excuse me if I do not go into the merits of some of the points which have been brought forward tonight. The question of local government cuts right across party boundaries. It transcends all parties. Indeed, since I have been a short time in my present office I have come to realise that the loyalty of a member to the area he represents is deep-rooted and takes a great deal of shifting. So far I have not been able to move any one in the slightest respect where the interests of their own constituency are concerned.
We have had some vigorous speeches. I have enjoyed the lively contribution of my hon. Friend, if I may so describe him, the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Murray), who said that silence is golden. I was reminded of four lines of poetry which were current during the election campaign of 1906, when one of the issues was free trade or protection. The lines ran like this:My interests must not be neglected.What I produce must be protected.With that exception we all agreeThat everything should be duty free.The attitude of that business man was rather like the attitude of hon. Gentlemen on all sides of the House on the question of local government reform. I think I have indicated that the attitude of the Government is that it is desirable that the Bill should go upstairs and be examined by a Select Committee in the normal way and subjected to its scrutiny.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
At the beginning of the debate I felt it was a pity that the House had to discuss these matters tonight, but since I have been sitting here I have realised that we should have been deprived of the delightful speeches of some of my hon. Friends who all too infrequently join in our deliberations. On that account alone the debate has been worth while.
I think the House is in a great difficulty over these matters of detailed extension Bills. They are not matters 2679 with which the ordinary member is familiar, either geographically or in respect of any of the other arguments deployed. In all these cases there is a strong prima facie case that they should be sent to a Select Committee where the arguments and the facts and figures can be thoroughly examined.
I sympathise with the hon. Member who spoke first in support of the Second Reading of this Bill, because I had to do the same thing last year for Sheffield. Not only do I hope that this Bill will get its Second Reading tonight, but I hope that it will fare better than the Sheffield Extension Bill did in the last Session. [Laughter.] This is a serious point. That Bill, after more than three weeks of deliberation by the Select Committee, passed through all its stages in this House and was rejected unceremoniously in another place.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to ask his right hon. Friend if he will consider whether a more satisfactory procedure for the consideration of extension Bills cannot be devised. When a matter of this kind has passed the scrutiny of the House of Commons, representing the people, it is rather unfortunate that it can be thrown out by a body representative of no one. I think that with the time and expense which is involved in these extension and similar local government Bills, while there may be good reason at the moment for not having a comprehensive local government reform, some better and cheaper device for considering these problems should be presented to the House for consideration.
The Minister of Housing and Local Government, in introducing the Town Development Bill, rebuked me for suggesting that it was not possible in local government affairs to get everything done by sweet reasonableness and by agreement between the authorities concerned. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman was not in the House tonight, because the bellicose pacifism in local government affairs of my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Murray), and revealed also by other speeches, would have indicated to him the very great difficulty in these matters of getting agreement between a county borough and the surrounding rural district and county council authorities.
2680 I ask the hon. Gentleman to convey these thoughts to the Minister. Can we not have before the next session of Parliament some alternative method for considering these Bills, to have these debates on the Floor of the House and without the possibility of the House of Lords interfering with decisions taken by this House?
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
As the representative of a county constituency in South Wales which nevertheless contains a very large borough, I will not detain the House for more than a few short minutes. I may be said to have a foot in both camps. I believe that the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) summed up the problem which is before us, in that while it is true that the objectors may have a very strong case indeed, what the House has to decide solely is whether a prima facie case has been made that the Bill should go before a Committee.
If the Bill goes upstairs before a Select Committee, the proposers and objectors will have ample opportunity of presenting their respective cases for extra and skilled consideration. That is the only question to which the House should address itself.
In all justice, I believe that such a prima facie case has been made out and that the Bill should go upstairs before a Select Committee. We should not establish a precedent of blocking these Bills at this stage, otherwise the existing Private Bill procedure would be sadly damaged.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Boardman (Leigh)
I think I ought to confess at once to abysmal ignorance both of The Hartlepools and Durham County. I do not think I have ever been near either of these places, and I do not think I have missed a lot—
§ Mr. Boardman
I have been both entertained and provoked, and, if I may say so with due respect to all hon. Members who have taken part in this debate so far, apart from one or two of the latest speeches, it has been a monument to the futility of this type of procedure for this type of Bill. I really think it has been a waste of time. We have had entertaining speeches and admirable 2681 speeches, whole catalogues of facts and figures, but so far as I can see the cases which have been made were neither based on party nor principle, but simply either on pride or prejudice, and I do not think this is the sort of atmosphere in which we should judge cases of this description.
Some hon. Members will remember how during the war when the then Prime Minister was proposing the setting up of a Select Committee to go into the question of the rebuilding of this House after it had been blitzed, there was some criticism. I think, incidentally, that it came from my predecessor who said that it would probably be better to build houses for people to live in than a House to debate in. The answer of the right hon. Gentleman was that he regarded the rebuilding of a new House of Commons as important as a battleship because this is the home of democracy.
I think most of us would echo those sentiments, but what is this "home of democracy" doing when we are sitting here for a couple of hours trying to gag a local authority which wants to state its case? There is no case at all for this sort of procedure. I hope we shall give the Bill a Second Reading and let the Bill be dealt with on its merits, not on pride and prejudice, but judicially.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Colegate (Burton)
Naturally, I have very great sympathy with the arguments put forward by the hon. Members for Sedgefield (Mr. Slater) and for Durham, North-West (Mr. Murray). I cannot imitate the eloquence of the hon. Member for Durham, NorthWest—we all enjoyed his speech—but, at the same time, I would plead with him and with his friends to allow this Bill to go upstairs.
The case against the proposals in the Bill which affect the rural district council is really very bad, in my opinion. There is no doubt that we are making any future re-organisation of local government more difficult if we create a number of rural districts the councils of which are not capable of carrying out their statutory duties with the efficiency they ought to employ.
The hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones), in a very clear and excellent speech, dealt with a large part of his case most effectively, but I am bound 2682 to say that when he came to the rural district council he did not deal with the case quite as fully and candidly as I had hoped he would.
The hon. Member was kind enough to give way to me and I pointed out that that council were losing £6,000 a year of revenue. I anticipated that in pleading for the Bill the hon. Member would have said, "We shall provide financial compensation," and so on, but there is not a word of that. The county borough is to be strengthened; but what about the local authority that is to be weakened?
In contradistinction to one or two hon. Members who have spoken, I think it is right that we should have serious Second Reading debates on these Bills before we send them upstairs. It is not a question of blocking a Bill but discussing and debating principles which cannot be done so well upstairs, where details can be examined.
§ Mr. Mulley
The point I tried to make is that there is only one debate. I agree that there are matters of principle, but there is only one debate and we get six or eight views of this sort over the same ground on the point of principle to which the hon. Member is now drawing attention.
§ Mr. Colegate
I agree with the hon. Member to a certain extent, but it should be remembered that while I agree that any local authority should be free to bring a Bill before the House, there are certain Bills—I think the Luton case is one in point—where we might be right in rejecting a Bill It may well have been that this is also a case for rejection, but on the whole, having heard most of the debate except for a few minutes, I think that the rural district council is being offered an extremely raw deal.
Nonetheless, I believe that upstairs, in Committee, that can be put right. I have had a great deal of experience in defending rural district councils and in some cases the parties come forward at some stage of the proceedings, usually upstairs, and we go outside in the corridor and very often reasonable arrangements are made.
I hope that The Hartlepools will realise, after the speeches of the hon. Members for Sedgefield and Durham, North-West, that there is a very real case for them to meet if we allow this Bill 2683 to go to a Committee. Therefore, although I feel very strongly about the weakening of the position of the rural district council, I consider this a case where there are other objects in the Bill and we might let it go to a Committee. I am certain that The Hartlepools will come forward at some stage with a reasonable offer in order to deal with a situation which affects the rural district council so adversely.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Ewart (Sunderland, South)
I was disappointed that the Parliamentary Secretary could not say tonight that his Ministry, or the Government, were preparing to bring in a Bill which would have the effect of stopping the type of debate we have had this evening. I am now referring to the vexed question of local government reform, and that in the absence of such reform, hon. Members of this House should have to argue, within a very narrow confine, the merits and demerits of Private Bills about which they must have a very limited knowledge.
I hope that the advice of the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) will be taken on this occasion and that this Bill will be sent to a Committee and subjected to very close scrutiny before coming back to us for Report and Third Reading. Many arguments have been used in favour and against the West Hartlepool extension scheme, and I believe that there is merit on both sides. My hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) made a fine speech, as did the hon. Members representing the Durham constituencies. They pointed out that in the past Durham County had been extremely generous to Sunderland and South Shields in their extension claims and had come to an agreement.
That is true, but I know for certain that Sunderland will be coming back within the next few years asking for more, because that compromise arrangement only gave Sunderland County Borough five years of breathing space and only permitted them to get on with their essential re-housing plans. I could find no justification for the argument that because West Hartlepool have control of the Greatham Airport, which is let out to a charter company, that is a strong reason for extension.
2684 I wish to refer to one statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools who said, in answer to a question, that unless there was an overspill population there was no argument for county borough extension. That is not a very firm argument. A strong point made by the hon. Member was that under the Lock plan West Hartlepool would have to find one square mile of territory to permit the re-housing of people living within the county borough under substandard conditions.
Surely it is a weighty argument that there are people living in the county borough in sub-standard housing conditions, that the county borough is charged with the responsibility of re-housing them and requires one square mile of territory to permit their policy to be brought into practical effect. If there is one single consideration why we should give this Bill a Second Reading and a closer examination upstairs, it would be the very fact of the dire housing problem which is confronting the West Hartlepool county borough, and its necessity at the present time either to overspill or extend its boundaries to allow it to provide a solution to its housing problem.
For that reason alone, I should be prepared to support my hon. Friends, if necessary in the Division Lobby, in support of this Bill.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Thompson (Liverpool, Walton)
I very much hope that the House will accept the advice which has been tendered to it from the other side of the Chamber and send this Bill to a Select Commitee upstairs, if only because of the wide diversity of argument that has been offered tonight, mainly from the other side of the House.
It seems to me to make an irrefutable case for a Measure of this kind, which contains a lot of disputatious detail which arouses passions according to the geographical location of votes. I can imagine no less acid test, for, as one hon. Member has said, that is the source from which he has drawn his inspiration.
§ Mr. Thompson
I admire very much the hon. Member's efforts, and I unreservedly withdraw my comments in respect of him.
2685 After a debate like this, this Chamber is not qualified to decide on the merits or demerits either of this extension Bill or any other, and, therefore, having given a broad recognition to the very wide differences that can be raised by a seemingly well-intentioned Measure, the House should commit that Measure to a Committee upstairs.
I hope that neither the House nor the Minister will imagine that the Minister sheds all responsibility in this matter by recommending that the Bill should go to a Select Committee. That Select Committee does not pretend to be a microcosm of this House. It is not necessarily an elected body, and it does not act as such. In the case of the Liverpool Extension Bill, it was sent to a Committee of the House of Lords. Perhaps it is not very fitting for me to comment on what was done by that Committee; I think it made a very bad mistake. It sat in a judicial capacity without very much guidance from the Ministry as to the broad intentions of the Ministry regarding the future status and organisation of local government.
It seems to me that the time is very opportune when the Government ought to make as clear as it possibly can the kind of local government organisation which it seeks to have for the future, and I hope that the Minister of Housing and Local Government will draw a lesson from the kind of debate which we have had on this Bill, and take the earliest possible steps to announce the wishes and intentions of the Government with regard to the future status of local Government.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
I rise only to appeal to my colleagues to allow this Bill to have a Second Reading, and to follow the advice of the Parliamentary Secretary. As I gather, the case of the county Members is that in the previous examples of South Shields and Sunderland a compromise was reached before this stage, but in this case a compromise has not been reached. I do not think that is a weighty enough factor to drive the House to the conclusion that this Bill ought not to be given a Second Reading. The fact that a compromise has not been reached ought not to stop the Bill going to a Select Committee.
The difference between the West Hartlepools Corporation and the sur- 2686 rounding local authorities in the county is one which could very properly be decided after the arguments are put before a Select Committee, and I therefore appeal to the county Members to allow this Bill to have a Second Reading. My hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) gave credit to us in Sunderland for having been so reasonable. In Sunderland, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Ewart) has said, we got far less than we required, but we struck a compromise. I think that we can rely upon the Select Committee, having heard the arguments on all sides, to reach a sensible decision, and I again appeal to my hon. Friends to allow this Bill to go to a Select Committee to have the matter settled.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)
I wish to make three short points in extension of the very excellent speech made by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Boardman), and I hope that in doing so I shall not fall into the error of trying to do in this Chamber what ought to be done in a Committee upstairs.
The real reason for his criticism of procedure is because that is what we so often, as now, tend to do—to go into detail instead of into the general principles. The hon. Member for Leigh rightly emphasised that the issue of principle was a question of whether there was a prima facie case to go upstairs. On that, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. K. Thompson), that the fact that there has been so much discussion of detail here is, in itself, a most compelling cause for saying that it should go upstairs.
Furthermore, it seems to me that one of the important factors of alleged principle is whether or not the Durham County Council can claim that The Hartlepools have been unreasonable, or whether they ought to have been, like some other elements of Durham County, sweetly reasonable. I would say that this House is, and must be, the judge of whether people are being sweetly reasonable or not; the Durham County cannot itself be the sole judge of that. Therefore, it must go upstairs for that point to be judged.
The final point I wish to make is that in all these matters there must be the visual as well as the oral; matters of this kind cannot be discussed without a map 2687 and all the papers that are required. For that reason, too, I think that this Bill should go upstairs.
|Division No. 44.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Baird, J.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Russell, R. S.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Hopkinson, Henry||Schofield, S. (Barnsley)|
|Black, C. W.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)|
|Blackburn, F.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Scott, R. Donald|
|Boardman, H.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Shepherd, William|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Braine, B. R.||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Janner, B.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Jenkins, R. C. D. (Dulwich)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Burke, W. A.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Butcher, H. W.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Speir, R. M.|
|Channon, H.||Kaberry, D.||Steele, T.|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||King, Dr. H. M.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Collick, P. H.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Storey, S.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Lindsay, Martin||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Longden, Fred (Small Heath)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||MacLeod, lain (Enfield, W.)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Marples, A. E.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Thorneycroft, R. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Marshall, Sidney (Sutton)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Erroll, F. J.||Mitchison, G. R.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Ewart, R.||Morley, R.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)|
|Fienburgh, W.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Foot, M. M.||Moyle, A.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Gower, H. R.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Oakshott, H. D.||Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Pannell, Charles||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Parker, J.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Partridge, E.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)||Pitman, I. J.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Hannan, W.||Powell, J. Enoch||Wills, G.|
|Hardy, E. A.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hargreaves, A.||Raikes, H. V.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Redmayne, M.||Yates, V. F.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Rhodes, H.|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Roberts, Maj. Peter (Heeley)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Heath, Edward||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Mr. Mulley and Mr. Chetwynd.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Grey, C. F.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Grimond, J.||Oswald, T.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Peart, T. F.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Herbison, Miss M.||Pryde, D. J.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Holman, P.||Ross, William|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Slater, J.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||MacColl, J. E.||Wellwood, W.|
|Fernyhough, E.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Medlicott, Brig. F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gage, C. H.||Messer, F.||Mr. Blyton and Mr. Murray|
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and Committed.2688
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 147; Noes, 39.