§ 10.1 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Sir Keith Joseph)
I beg to move,That the Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely Order, 1964, dated 14th February, 1964, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be approved.If the House agrees, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it would be convenient to discuss at the same time the next Order:That the Huntingdon and Peterborough Order, 1964, dated 14th February, 1964, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be approved.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
As I understand that we cannot discuss the legislation which has led to these Orders, nor discuss alternatives to the suggestions put forward, is there at the moment any advantage to the House in dealing with the two together?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It is for the House to decide; it is purely what the House wishes. If it is not agreed to take them together——
§ Mr. Reynolds
I do not wish to object, but I give notice that in future I shall insist on Orders of this nature being taken separately.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I take it that the House is agreed that these two Orders should be taken together.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The purpose of the two Orders we are discussing together is to create two new counties by the amalgamation of the Counties of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely and the Counties of Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough respectively—all counties of history and character. Looking around the Chamber I see my necessarily silent but watchful hon. Friend the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton), and my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge 172 (Sir H. Kerr). So there are a number of the hon. Members more directly concerned present in the House.
The Local Government Commission for England in its examination of Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, the Isle of Ely and the Soke of Peterborough revealed three main problems which required changes in the local government structure of the area. First there is the internal structure of the Soke of Peterborough. The county lacks balance between the City of Peterborough which has over 80 per cent.64,000—of the population and the rest of the county which had only 14,000 population last year. Having examined and rejected the city's claim to be a county borough because of its small size, the Commission concluded that the Soke must be merged as a whole into a larger unit of administration.
In the County of Cambridge too there is a lack of balance between town and country, not so acute as in Peterborough but still very marked. The City of Cambridge with 96,000 population last year, has about half the population of the county and over two-thirds of the rateable value. The Commission was never in doubt that the city—my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge will remember this—was qualified by current criteria to be a county borough. The open question was whether a county solution could be devised to withstand the loss of Cambridge.
This leads to consideration of the third problem, the question of county services. Three of these four counties are among the smallest in England. The Commission thought that these counties, by comparison with larger ones, were too narrowly limited in population and resources. This affects their capacity to provide comprehensive services of first-class quality and makes the provision of developing services an uphill struggle.
This is not just a question of finance but also one of case loads. If the population of an administrative area is small and its resources poor, the number of special cases which arise may not justify the employment of specialist staff or the provision of specialised institutions, particularly on the health and education sides. But the needs of individual people for special facilities or 173 special treatment, for example in education or in medical care, are just as urgent whether they live in a large area or a small area.
The Commission's conclusion was that after making proper allowance for the advantages of convenience, these three counties were below average in effectiveness, mainly through their limitations in case loads, staffs, institutions and principally in the developing aspects of some of the social services. In their draft proposals the Commission suggested that the City of Cambridge should become a county borough and that the rest of the four counties should be amalgamated into a single new county.
This plan was supported at the Statutory Conference only by the Cities of Cambridge and Peterborough. The opposition, on the other hand, was widespread and deep-rooted. This was not confined to the county councils; it existed in the great majority of the district councils, the voluntary bodies and, I believe, among ordinary men and women. The Commission concluded that the hostility to a single county, the differences between important elements in it and the almost total lack of leadership genuinely and actively in support made the prospect of an effective, healthy and progressive county decidedly uncertain.
All this led the Commission to examine again the second real starter—two north-south counties. The Statutory Conference had demonstrated that three county councils favoured this idea and there was no——
§ Mr. Reynolds
On a point of order. So far the Minister has been discussing alternative schemes to those contained in the Order which he is presenting to the House. In previous Orders dealing with county boroughs it has not been in order to discuss alternatives to the proposals before the House.
§ Sir K. Joseph
Further to that point of order. I was not explaining alternative schemes but telling the House the history behind the Commission's final recommendation and the Government's decision.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have not heard all that the Minister said, because I was not here, but I am bound to say that from 174 what I heard he seemed to he doing what he said he was doing—and that, I think, is in order.
§ Mr. Reynolds
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker But so far the Minister has been referring to other schemes which are not included in the Order, whereas I understood that discussion of Orders of this nature was limited to the scheme within the Order. The Minister has so far spent five minutes talking about other schemes which are not in front of us.
§ Mr. Speaker
The basic principle is that it would not be in order to discuss an alternative method of attaining the objective which the scheme set out to attain. On the other hand, it would be in order to discuss the reasons why this particular scheme has been decided upon. That is the distinction.
§ Sir K. Joseph
If I may, I will continue to tell the House the history by which the Government reached the decision embodied in the Order. I have explained the draft proposals of the Local Government Commission.
There was no doubt that a county of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely would be able to provide progressive services for the whole area. Huntingdon and Peterborough, though the smaller of the two, was a developing area with rowing resources whose constituents were willing to unite and able to offer leadership to the new county. Two counties, in the view of the Local Government Commission, would settle down more easily and naturally than the less homogeneous single county which they had originally proposed.
The main disadvantage of the two-county solution is that it does not meet Cambridge City's claim to be a county borough. The balance between city and county in Cambridgeshire, however is improved, and there are benefits for the surrounding area in retaining the city within the county. The two-county solution was therefore in the end, after all these sages, the solution proposed by the Commission. When the proposals were published there were objections, and a local inquiry was held. Cambridge City Council emphasised its fitness for county borough status and pressed for promotion. It criticised the two-county solution because Huntingdon and Peterborough would not be 175 sufficiently strong in population and resources and suggested that the inclusion of two large boroughs would lead to pressure for further change.
The Isle of Ely County Council, supported by many of its district councils and parishes, made a claim to remain a separate administrative county, arguing that the present county services were efficient and unlikely to be improved by amalgamation. The remaining three county councils, backed in the main by their district councils, supported the Commission and opposed Cambridge City's county borough claim, maintaining that it could not be looked at in isolation and pointing to the strong link between county and city.
There can be no doubt that the present structure of local government in these four counties is unsatisfactory. The Commission's points about the balance between town and country in Cambridge and the Soke of Peterborough are undeniable. On the services of the three smaller counties there is, of course, room for debate, but there can really be little doubt that the trend is for services to become more complex and specialised. For that reason alone, apart from any deficiences which may exist, it is in the general interests of the inhabitants of the whole area for stronger administrative counties to be created. The Government have decided, therefore, to establish two counties as recommended by the Commission.
In content, the two Orders follow one another fairly closely. Article 5 establishes the two new counties and also effects the changes of county, county district and parish boundaries. These changes will take effect from 1st April, 1965. The rest of the Orders contain the many consequential and transitional provisions which are needed. The Articles on electoral matters are likely to be of special interest to hon. Members. Article 7 keeps the existing county councils in office until they hand over their functions to the new authorities on 1st April, 1965. This provision avoids the inconvenience of holding elections in April this year for councils which will continue in being for less than 12 months. It has the support of the county councils concerned. The new county councils will be elected in the autumn of 176 this year, in time for them to make preparations for the amalgamations.
The next group of Articles deal with the administration of justice. Where no suitable precedent is available, these are based on the Administration of Justice Bill, which is at present before the House. Each of the new counties will have a lord lieutenant, a sheriff, a single court of quarter sessions and a single magistrates' courts committee.
There follow a number of Articles making detailed provision for the transfer of county services to the new councils; that is, education, health and planning and so on. The Orders also contain provision for the transfer of local authority staff and for the protection of their terms and conditions of service on the lines of the London Government Act.
The House might like to know what happens if the Orders are approved and, on the other hand, what happens if they are not approved. First, if they are approved. Local government in the four counties will be settled for the foreseeable future. No local authority will be able to promote a Bill to alter its area or status until 1973. Nor, for that matter, can the Minister introduce further changes under the 1958 Act. Approval of the Orders, therefore, guarantees a period of stable local government in which it is hoped that all the present authorities will pull together to make the new administration a success.
I should now describe, on the other hand, what happens if they are not approved. If the Orders are rejected local government in the four counties will be back in the melting pot. It is clear, in the light of the Local Government Commission's Report, that things cannot remain as they are. All the four counties concerned suffer from structural defects or want of resources. Reorganisation in one form or another is, therefore, inevitable if local government in this area is to continue on an effective and convenient basis.
It is unrealistic to think that those local authorities which have largely failed to reach general agreement in the past will miraculously succeed in doing so in the future. The best that is to be hoped if these Orders are rejected—and it is a gloomy outlook—is that after a further period of discord and instability, which can only weaken the area as a 177 whole, there will have to be a solution imposed by the Government by means of fresh legislation applying specifically to this whole area—which may command less general support than the present solution, which has the backing of three out of five of the local authorities mainly concerned.
Before concluding, I should like in particular to refer to the City of Cambridge. The Government very much hope that Cambridge City will loyally accept the decision, and throw in its lot fully with its new county, for it could be a grave mistake, indeed, if, instead, it were to cherish hopes that it has only to wait until 1973 before resuming its quest for county borough status. As I reminded the House on a previous occasion, the present criteria for county borough eligibility may well need to be reviewed when this round of reorganisation is completed, particularly in the light of population trends and the need for town expansion.
These Orders, therefore, provide the best available solution to the problems of local government in these four counties, where the principal need is to strengthen county government. The solution embodied in the Orders is the most practical one. County government will be greatly strengthened. The new counties will have a better balance between town and country than the present ones. Their population and financial resources should enable them to provide a full range of services of good quality. They should be able to afford specialist officers, and to run the necessary specialised institutions on a scale that has not been possible in the past. The new counties should gain great strength from the traditions and loyalties that they will inherit from the present counties. This reorganisation has the great merit of attracting the maximum support for any scheme of reorganisation in the four counties.
There is also good reason to hope that the new county of Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely will very soon evoke support and enthusiasm in the Isle of Ely. This is not to overlook for a moment that the county and my hon. Friend its Member have stoutly maintained the county's claim to independence. But the assistance given by the county council with the preparation of the Orders—while I do not wish to hold its co-operation against it— 178 suggests that if Parliament approves these Orders the Isle of Ely will lend its support in making the new county council successful. I have every hope, too, that Cambridge City will play its proper part in the new county, despite its disappointment that the decision has gone against it.
I should like to thank the members and officers of all the county councils for the great help they have given with these Orders. Their willingness to come to grips with the problems that will face the new county councils augurs well for the future.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I do not doubt that a little later the House will listen with great interest to a number of hon. Members opposite who represent the areas concerned, but I think it right that I should, from these benches, oppose these Orders on grounds that concern not merely the areas affected but certain general principles involved in the reform of local government. In that connection, I first refer to certain things the Minister said at the end of his speech. He praised the co-operative attitude of the county council of the Isle of Ely in preparing for the changes. He said that he did not wish to hold that, as it were, against the county council as being any condonation oil its part of the changes—and, almost in the same breath, that was exactly what he was doing. He was urging the fact that the Isle of Ely had been co-operative as a reason why the House should accept the Order. This is a warning to any local authority which in future endeavours under a mistaken sense of public spirit to be cooperative about changes in which it does not genuinely believe.
I also draw special attention to the right hon. Gentleman's account of what would happen if the House approved the Orders, and what would happen if it did not. If the House did approve, we had settled the question for nine years; if it did not, the whole thing was back in the melting pot. Admitting both these facts, they are very solid reasons why the House should have an opportunity of considering Orders like this at greater leisure than is possible when we start at 10 o'clock. These are, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, very important Orders and there will 179 be a great many of them. Once we have made them it will not be possible—apart from statutory provisions, it is a matter of common sense—to reopen many of the questions which they settle. We are worried that if we reject them we may cause great confusion in the areas concerned. The House, for these very reasons, ought to have leisure and proper time to consider these Orders.
More generally, on the principles of local government reform, I would have said that among the things one wants to consider when the House is asked to approve an Order of this kind are, first, the question whether the proposed changes carry with them the promise of benefits comparable to the amount of upheaval and distress and hostility that they cause. Admitted that any change means upheaval and that any change will evoke hostility and that if one allows upheaval and hostility always to be an argument one would never do anything at all, one must ask whether the benefits here are comparable to the degree of upheaval and distress that is caused.
Next, one must ask whether in any particular change the Government appear to be proceeding on a consistent plan and a coherent principle. I shall take great care to try not to transgress the rules of order, but I think that it will be proper at one stage to make a comparison with what is being done in this case with what has not been done in another. The relevance of that is that when the Government ask us to make changes in one area we are entitled to ask whether this is whimsical and capricious or is following out a coherent general principle.
The third thing which we must consider is whether the proposed reorganisation of local government is relevant to the real major problems which the country will have to face in this field. Bearing this in mind, how do these Orders stand up to the test? In this respect I want to confine the main attack to the Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely Order.
First, as to the amount of upheaval and distress, I have had letters from people engaged in local government, both as elected members and officials in the area, indicating the immense amount of 180 their time which has been taken up in the last two years in preparing arguments and counter-arguments on these schemes. Every one of these schemes starts with a considerable debit balance of consumed time and the hampering of local government.
Then we have to ask how popular were the Commission's original ideas. It is interesting to notice that when the Commission, as it then was, tried to get the initial reaction of the authorities concerned the reaction of Cambridge City was perfectly simple. It wanted to be a county borough and that was that. No one will blame those concerned for wanting that. It is not unfair to say that they felt that provided that was achieved they were willing to take a broad and sympathetic view of anything that the Commission might propose for any other part of the area.
Peterborough very sensibly drew attention to the anomalous position as between the City of Peterborough and the Soke of Peterborough. As to that, I do not think that there will be much argument. But all the county councils and the great majority of the district councils told the Commission, in effect, that they did not think that the Commission could do any good at all and they would prefer to be left as they were. This was the view not only of the councils but of a large range of voluntary bodies and official bodies.
The Health Service Executive Council, community councils, the National Farmers' Union, the Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and Isle of Ely Community Council all turned a cold shoulder to the Commission from the start. Indeed, in general, the idea of being anything like this appeared to be about as popular in the East Midlands as a proposal to abolish resale price maintenance would have been at last year's Tory Party Conference.
Cambridge University presented, so the Commission tells us, no agreed view on the matter. I stress this point because the Minister drew a picture of, I think he said, three out of the five parties concerned agreeing to this proposal. Nobody has agreed to these proposals except as a second or third best. Nobody in the whole area really likes these proposals. I do not say—and I emphasise this—that that would be a 181 decisive argument against making changes—certainly not. I say that it puts on us a special obligation to consider whether the changes are worked on a coherent principle and whether they confer corresponding benefits.
On that point I wish particularly to examine the case of the Isle of Ely, and trust that the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) will not feel that I am trespassing unduly on his preserves. As he will see, there is a matter here that concerns more than the Isle of Ely itself. The basic argument for swallowing up the Isle of Ely in Cambridgeshire plus Isle of Ely was that the Isle of Ely was too small to run its services properly. I concede that there is great force in that argument. I accept all that the Minister said about the importance of case loads. I wish that he had been willing to accept it when we were pointing out to him some time ago the unwisdom of breaking up the health and welfare service of the London County Council. But if the Minister had been really heroic on that ground, he would have stuck to the four counties proposal, despite its unpopularity. Were the argument on having an authority large enough——
§ Sir K. Joseph
The hon. Gentleman must mean "gone back to". It was the Local Government Commission that left the four counties proposal.
§ Mr. Stewart
Yes, I accept that correction. The Minister should have gone back to the four counties proposal if he had been really heroic and consistent on the question of case loads. What he has produced now are counties which, I freely admit, will have an advantage on this question over the existing counties. But he has only gone a distance so limited as to prevent him getting the full advantage from the case load argument. I feel, therefore, that he is in danger of falling between two stools, of producing something that cannot really be justified on the ground of efficient services on the one hand, and that it is only very little removed from being extremely unpopular on the other hand.
This argument, "This county is too small to continue to exist on its own", was particularly urged with regard to the Isle of Ely. When we study the Commission's Report we find that its account 182 of services in Huntingdonshire, the Soke of Peterborough and the Isle of Ely take up only a page and a half of the Report. There was no detailed examination in the Commission's Report of the quality of the services in the Isle of Ely. The Commission seemed to feel that that omission was justified because it had already proved, as it felt, the general proposition that in a small county one cannot get good services in relation to another county. Indeed, earlier in the proceedings, the Commission had devoted a great many pages to studying the services of Rutland. They were examined in great detail and brought the Commission to the overwhelming conclusion that Rutland was incapable of supporting the services. So satisfied was the Commission with that argument that it felt it unnecessary to make a similar detailed review of Ely services because it felt that the case against small counties was already made when it had examined Rutland.
Let us look at the comparative position of Ely and Rutland. This was the point I was making earlier, that if we are asked to approve these Orders they should follow a coherent principle. Some of the matters raised in the discussion of Rutland were the following. One was the question of opportunities for grammar school, or what is commonly called grammar school, education in Rutland. The Commission pointed out that Rutland was dependent for this kind of education entirely on schools outside its control. That is true. Ely is not entirely dependent for this kind of education on schools outs de its control. I do not dispute that there are difficulties about the education service in the Isle of Ely. I do say that any argument which applied in that field which applied to Ely applied with greater force to Rutland.
In the provision made for handicapped children, the Isle of Ely has of its own a school for educationally subnormal children. Rutland has not. In agricultural education, Ely has its own college of further education and horticultural institute at Wisbech. There is no comparable institution in Rutland.
Ely maintains its own police force. Rutland has always been obliged to make a joint arrangement with the neighbouring County of Leicestershire. At every point, every argument that is used for swallow- 183 ing up Ely applies with greater force to Rutland. The Minister should explain to the House why, if he is so eager to swallow up Ely, he was so determined to preserve Rutland.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
In case, Mr. Speaker, I am not in order in making a speech on this subject, I should like to intervene at this stage and ask the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) whether I can take it, therefore, that if an Administration comprising his party had been handling this matter, Rutland would have disappeared. I take it that in the case of my county——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is desirable that the House should follow the position clearly. We cannot, in the context of this Order, investigate other schemes and their merits or demerits in relation to other places. What we are looking at in the context of this Order is why, if a principle justifying this Order exists, it was not also applied in the other instance. That is the position.
§ Mr. Stewart
The only answer I can make to the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. K. Lewis) which would be in order, and I think that it is sufficient, is that whatever solutions might be adopted anywhere, the one thing that is clearly indefensible is the combination of the preservation of Rutland with the destruction of Ely. The reason given for it is that Rutland is unique. In what respects is it unique? Which resisted longest against the Conqueror? Was it Ely or Rutland? What is the respect in which Rutland is unique? It is unique in the sense that there is no other county in the country the arguments against whose continued existence are stronger.
That is the reason the Minister has given for this discrimination between Rutland and Ely. I have no quarrel 184 with the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford. I think that the whole House sympathises with the very valiant fight which he has put up. We are bound to congratulate him on his success. It is the Minister whom we cannot congratulate on the transaction. Cambridgeshire said that it would agree with the idea only if Ely were a willing partner, and did not like the idea of being tied to a reluctant Ely.
There is one other interesting matter about Cambridgeshire. An interesting proposal was put to the Commission which might have gone some way to meeting the views of the Cambridge City. It was that the whole of Cambridgeshire should be treated as a single all-purpose authority. Obviously, there are a good many pros and cons for that and it is a pity that the Commission did not feel able to examine that interesting proposal in greater detail. If it had done so, some of the difficulties might have been resolved.
Lastly on the Cambridgeshire Order, I should like to revert to one of the general principles which I mentioned earlier—what relevance all this has to some of the major problems which we shall have to face. The Government themselves have indicated what they consider to be the purpose of these changes and the standard by which they should be judged.
In our recent debate on the Buchanan Report, the Government rejected Professor Buchanan's suggestion for regional development agencies on the ground that local authorities, as enlarged and strengthened by the work of Orders of this kind, would be able to deal with the kind of problem which Professor Buchanan described. Nobody who has read Professor Buchanan's "Traffic in Towns" and considered his examination of these problems on the scale of regions bounded by traffic water sheds and who has grasped what he is talking about would suggest that by amalgamating Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely one would produce the kind of authority which could deal with the Buchanan problems. I would not have raised this if the Government themselves in that debate had not set that standard. That is why the Government must more seriously consider the problem of regional administration, and until 185 they do they will never get their local government thinking right.
Since the House has agreed that we should discuss the two Orders together, I wish now to refer to the Order about Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough. This is on quite a different matter. The Minister said that the electoral provisions of the Order would be of great interest to the House; they will indeed. I notice particularly Article 8 of the Huntingdon and Peterborough Order, paragraph 1 of which says:The number of county councillors for the new county shall be 64 and the electoral divisions shall be those indicated on the electoral division maps, their areas being those shown by red and purple lines on those maps.That does not tell the casual reader a great deal.
If one finds out how these electoral districts are drawn, one gets some interesting results. Each of these electoral districts is to return one county councillor, and one would reasonably suppose, therefore, that there should not be too great a difference between the number of electors in one district and the number of electors in another. Indeed, the relevant Statute, the Local Government Act, 1933, says in Section 11(6, a):The divisions shall be arranged with a view to the population of each division being approximately equal, subject to due regard being had to area, to a proper representation both of the rural and of the urban population, to the distribution and pursuits of the population, to the last published census for the time being, and to evidence of any considerable change of population since that census.That is not an unreasonable statement in itself, and it should be noticed that it gives primacy to approximate equality of population. That is not to be an absolute unquestioning rule. There are other provisos put in, but the divisions are in the first place to be arranged with a view to approximate equality of population.
As a general rule, approximate equality of population will mean that there will be approximately the same number of electors in one electoral district as in another, but in certain parts of the country, of which this is one, one may get a rather curious result. If there is a large military establishment, where a number of the inhabitants are our allies and not citizens of this country, they are none the less part of the 186 population of the area, and one has the curious result of their being taken into account when one is drawing an electoral district. I think that our allies would be greatly startled if they realised that the presence of their forces in this country had this extraordinary effect on electoral districts of county councils. I think that this is a matter which should be looked at, to see whether our measuring rod ought to be the number of electors rather than population.
Apart from that special factor, as a general rule, approximate equality of population will mean approximate equality of electors, and I propose to examine some of the electoral districts in the new county council of Huntingdon and the Soke of Peterborough to see how equal or unequal is the number of electors in each district. It is, of course, generally argued that one must expect there to be fewer electors in a rural countryside part of the county than in an urban part of it. There are two arguments advanced for that. The first is that if one has equal numbers the countryside electoral districts might be too large—though why one cannot remedy that by having more electoral districts in the urban part of the county I have never seen—and the second is that it tends to give a political advantage to the Conservative Party. We have become accustomed—too accustomed in my judgment—to accepting that.
But the electoral areas drawn in the new county do not even give one equality as between one part of an urban district and another. Consider the Urban District of Fletton and two of the several electoral districts into which that is divided. Fletton No. 3 has 2,426 electors and Fletton No. 4 has 1,380a difference of over 1,000. Some of the electoral districts in the county have not got 1,000 voters all told, yet the difference between those two similar areas in the same urban district is more than 1,000.
The thing becomes more remarkable, however, when one compares Fletton No. 3, in an urban area of the County, with its 2,426 electors, returning one county councillor, with Great Gransden with 793 electors, also returning one county councillor. "One vote one value", once said the right hon. Mem- 187 ber for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), but this is giving a vote in the rural part of the county three times the value of a vote in some urban parts of the county. One also notices that in the whole area of St. Neots urban district—which is divided into several county council electoral districts—there are twice the number of electors in every county council electoral division as there are in the divisions to be found in Huntingdon rural district. So this inequality runs all the way through.
Proposals were made to the Commission by the Trades Council and the Huntingdonshire Constituency Labour Party which could not be faulted as being partisan. The proposal put forward by the Huntingdonshire Labour Party would have given an average number of electors in the rural parts of the county of about 1,200 or 1,300, and an average number of electors in the urban part of the county of about 1,500 or 1,600. Even under that proposal there would still have been some advantage in the rural areas—but not the intolerable advantage which is apparently to be fixed in this Order.
There is, however, one possibility—and I hope that the Minister will lay hold on it: this is something which can be revised before the nine years are up. But the persons interested have not been able to obtain any guarantee of how early such a revision will take place. It is a pity that there is no provision for it in the Order. But this at least is one unsatisfactory feature that the Minister could remove tonight, by giving an assurance that there will be an early revision of the shockingly unequal electoral districts.
I must apologise if the arguments that I have presented appear to be a somewhat mixed bill of fare, but it is inevitable, in discussing Orders of this kind, that whenever one brings forward proposals for local government reorganisation an immense number of pros and cons have to be weighed. But I am led to the conclusion, on adding up the defects generally—the inconsistency, the lack of principle, the failure to give the House sufficient time to consider the matter, and the perpetuation of this long-standing injustice in county council electoral divisions—that together they make a case why the House should reject the Orders.
§ 10.49 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I hardly know whether to play the rôle of a gladiator or that of Androcles tonight; whether to say morituri to salutamus on behalf of the Isle of Ely County Council or to try to pull the thorn out of my right hon. Friend's lion's foot—the thorn of Rutland. The speech of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) was, in that part concerned with the Isle of Ely, not quite all that it seemed. It is very easy indeed to play party politics with this business, but what concerns me most is how to ensure continuing effective local government in my constituency. Other hon. Members principally concerned will no doubt have the same sort of consideration in mind.
There is a very real risk—I think the House should know this—unless the Isle of Ely County Council staff knows for certain whatever we do tonight will be a lasting decision for the best part of 10 years, of county council government breaking down in the Isle of Ely. This is because of the delay which has happened since the Boundary Commission first got to work.
There are many who could perhaps criticise the way in which the Commission was set up and the terms of reference it was given. When in the late 1950s we debated the three White Papers concerning local government, none of us knew which counties would actually come under the hammer. Had we known that perhaps we would have said different things, but the fact is that Parliament set up the Commission, it has produced draft proposals and a final Report. The difficulty I have been in all the way through is that, while I knew that my constituents in general were in favour of continuing with an independent county council with which they were entirely satisfied, the moment we came to consider what the alternatives were there was very little agreement.
My right hon. Friend is open to a little criticism tonight for not having drawn attention to the fact that Wisbech, the only other borough in the geographical County of Cambridgeshire other than Cambridge, was inclined to favour the four county recommendation if the independence of the Isle of Ely had to go. Thorney Rural District 189 Council is to be taken over by the other Order to become a part of Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough. It too has interests towards Peterborough rather than towards Cambridge.
The Isle of Ely is not agreed as to the alternative to being allowed to remain independent. The southern part would prefer, if it had to go to any authority, to go towards Cambridge, while the northern and north-western parts would rather go to Peterborough. They would have preferred the four counties to be set up to bring Peterborough into the picture.
As my right hon. Friend recognised, in the debate I initiated before the Summer Recess, I have tried all through, both with him and his two predecessors—to convey to the Department how my constituents were feeling on this matter. I have to say frankly tonight that my heart tells me that I ought to vote against this Order, but my head tells me that if I and the majority were to do so there would be a very real risk of local. government breaking down in the Isle of Ely.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Because the confidence of local government officers at March, the principal town in the Isle of Ely, has been so undermined by the length of uncertainty that already 50 officers have put in for transfers to other authorities. A large number does not wish to go to Cambridge, others do not wish to move and others do not wish to travel from March to Cambridge each day to work under the new dispensation. The result is that local government is starting to break down.
If this were to happen, it would be the negation of what we ought to do, for we ought to be ensuring continuing effective local government. I say to the hon. Member for Fulham that if we could start all over again and give different terms of reference to the Commission, and if none of the things which have happened had in fact happened, there would be much to be said for his argument. But with all the seriousness I can command—and the House knows me well enough to accept that I am not unduly hesitant in voting according to my true feelings—I suggest that it would be a catastrophe if the Order were re- 190 jected. It would mean that all the work which has been done to smooth the wheels would be undone and wasted. I agree with the hon. Member for Fulham: that to say a certain amount of work has been done on the assumption that the Orders would be passed is no reason for passing them. But I do not think that we can otherwise undo the uncertainty which has been created.
My right hon. Friend said that if the Order is rejected the whole matter is thrown back into the melting pot. If that happened, the staff of the Isle of Ely would drift away pending a final decision. Who knows when that would be taken? Nobody can suppose that it would be taken in the next eight or nine months. In all probability, it would take over a year for the Department to make up its mind what it intended to do.
I have some regret in having to refer to this, but when the present Home Secretary was Minister for Housing and Local Government I did my best to try to overcome the appalling difficulty which would inevitably arise in meeting the natural ambitions of Cambridge City while avoiding a decision to wrench the county town out of the heart of Cambridgeshire. These problems are almost irreconcilable I have always sympathised deeply with Cambridge City. I recognised its natural ambitions, based on numerical qualification, for county borough status.
For that reason, some years ago I had a resolution passed in Cambridge by a substantial majority suggesting a new type of authority. But that would have meant altering the Commission's terms of reference, and my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary would not do that because, he said, Parliament had debated the White Papers and had decided that we should stick to the present types of authority, however much be altered boundaries or merged authorities. We were not to create a new type of authority.
I believe that the time will come—I do not know when, and presumably it cannot happen before 1973—when we shall have to have new types of authority. I want to see a rural county borough, with only one set of elections, with nominations from districts to serve on the higher authority and with the large borough, which wants county borough status, having a larger share in this autho- 191 rity than before. But these are all hypotheses for the future. I wish that we could have dealt with the problems in more detail before we reached this stage. Unfortunately, that was not possible because Parliament had decided that it wanted the old types of authority.
The present Clerk to the Isle of Ely County Council, Mr. Richard Thurlow, when he was appointed in 1935 was the youngest-but-one clerk ever appointed to a county council. He has stayed with the county all the way through and has served it loyally—as loyally as any man could. Possibly no one more than I and the chairman of the county council know the care and thought which he has given to the well-being of his present staff. His nobility can best perhaps be shown from the fact that he is laying no claim to go on to be clerk to the new county but is prepared to serve as clerk of the peace in that new county with another clerk by his side. That is public spirit of a very high order.
May I add a word of appreciation of the present chairman of the Isle of Ely County Council, Commander Alfred Gray, R.N. Comander Gray was my Labour opponent in 1945. He fought me again in 1950, 1951 and 1955. Nothing, however, gave me more pleasure than to learn that he had become chairman of the county council, with Conservative support.
There has been a public spirit in local government in the Isle of Ely that is truly noteworthy. The gallant gentleman to whom I have just referred took over the chairmanship from another gentleman who has had to bear a great burden in all these negotiations, Alderman T. W. Anthony. I will mention only these few names tonight, but the only hope for the county is for it to work and display the sort of public spirit which they and all concerned have displayed. I believe that the other counties concerned can also do this, but it will come about only if there is a spirit of give and take on all sides.
There are about 12 principal officers to be appointed by the new local authority. Given the earliest possible moment that an election can take place for the new authority, it will be well into November before the new council can possibly meet; that is, assuming that 192 the election takes place on the earliest occasion. If we must wait until then before the new authority starts selecting anyone, imagine what will happen in the meantime. There will be jockeying for position and the possibility of unnecessary anxiety, which could be avoided if the new partners in the new authority could get together through their working party to try to bring about a set of recommendations to implement these Orders as soon as they come into force.
I was deeply grieved to learn from my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) that Dr. Ellis had passed away last week. He had been acting as chairman of the working party and had been doing a tremendous amount to try to get some of these problems resolved. Presumably a new chairman will be appointed. I hope that the working party will get to work as quickly as possible. The Minister, in a letter which he wrote to me after he had kindly received a deputation from the Isle of Ely County Council, went out of his way to say how much he had been impressed by the public spirit shown by those who comprised the delegation, which was led by Commander Gray.
I should like to feel that the Minister is as keen as I am to see the Isle of Ely—while it no doubt will not get the majority of the high offices that will be going—gets its fair share of appointments. I appreciate that my right hon. Friend's powers will be limited, but an immense amount of goodwill could be built up with the help of his Department, and I hope that the Minister will do all he can.
The trite phrase, "The gentleman in Whitehall knows best," has been used time and again. It was particularly in evidence at the last General Election. I hope that it will be taken in the good humour it is intended when I say that local government officers are now saying, "The Dame in Whitehall knows best." We all enormously respect the head of my right hon. Friend's Department. She addressed an important meeting at Bristol on 11th April, 1962, and uttered some wise words about the future of local government. She said:Local government has got to become more collectively effective. At the same time, central government must make greater efforts to bring 193 local government into the working out of policies. They can only do this, however, if there is an effective machinery for consultation. You cannot work out policies with 1,400 local authorities, most of them intent on their separate, parochial and often conflicting ends …A little later on she said:Isolationism never yet paid—or not for long …The Isle of Ely has to some extent been an isolated authority ever since 670 A.D. Tonight, we kill it as a separate authority, but I do not believe that in killing that authority we will kill the spirit of the people living there. Nor do believe that, if the Order be carried, we are denying to the many people who will go on living there long after we have gone an opportunity to serve their fellowmen as well as the County Council of the Isle of Ely has served them during its existence.
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ Sir Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)
When my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government recently visited Cambridge to discuss the sanguinary question of college rating, I remarked that he reminded me of some of the pictures of St. Sebastian, who was pierced with a hundred arrows, but whose gaze, in spite of his torments, was raised in an ecstatic smile to the sky. Tonight, I am afraid, I have to shoot another arrow at him; because he then remarked, "You shoot most of the arrows". I am afraid that I must oppose this Order.
When the Boundary Commission started its investigation, the City of Cambridge presented its case under three headings; first and foremost that its population of some 96,000 came close to the figure of 100,000 usually accepted as the criterion for county borough status; secondly, that this population comprised some half that of the existing authority and, third, that the City of Cambridge bore some two-thirds of the existing precepts. For this reason, the City of Cambridge favoured what is known as the four-county solution, which would allow its claim for county borough status to be accepted and, at the same time, create a new local authority of some 335,000 people.
In its draft proposals the Boundary Commission agreed with this point of view. After having said that the new 194 authority would be that of some average-size county, it said:Secondly, it allowed us to recognise Cambridge city's claim to be made a county borough without leaving a weak system of government for the rest of the area. Thirdly, it seemed to us that despite certain disadvantages it produced a reasonably convenient county broadly similar in size to many existing counties.After these draft proposals had been published, the City of Cambridge maintained what I claim was a dignified silence—no debate in the city council, no propaganda, no Press headlines pushed its claim further.
Why has he position changed? Why is Ely now dissolved, and the County of Rutland absolved? Can it be the activities of the public relations officer which became infectious? The campaign of Rutland was so ingenious, so full-blooded, it filled me with admiration. At the county boundaries one was met with a forest of flags, every window carried a poster, every car a sticker carrying the same theme: "Rutland fights to keep local government local. Rutland fights on." Never since the days when Cromwell led his troops to Naseby have the leafy lanes and immemorial elms of Rutland witnessed such a scene.
The Boundary Commission, terrified by this display—like the advance of some Chinese army with devils, masks and gongs—revised its decision, and its second proposals now came up, but, alas, leaving some regrets for, in its final proposals, it said:There is a danger that our proposed new county would be ineffective, because few of those immediately concerned would want to make it effective.I favour the four-county solution, and I regret the present solution, because I believe that no solution can be lasting that does not rest on the active consent and good will of those concerned. For that reason I must oppose the Order.
I believe that I am right in saying that when the Commission received its instructions it was told to make its recommendations within the existing framework of local government in England, excluding the great conurbations, but now we hear from my right hon. Friend that there are to be new forms of loca1 authorities in Wales. Has St. Sebastian, banish the happy thought, been seduced by the wiles of a Welsh witch?
195 Having shot this arrow, may I utter a word of thanks in conclusion to the Home Secretary for having increased the representation of the city from 17 to 21 in the new proposed local authority? Perhaps my few words tonight will recompense my right hon. Friend for the eggs and stalks of Brussels sprouts thrown at him recently by undergraduates.
§ 11.11 p.m.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
After having represented Huntingdonshire for the last 19 years and lived there for the last 15 years, it is not without some emotion that I shall witness its disappearance as a separate county. It so happens, as far as I am able to find out, that the present boundaries of my constituency are the boundaries of the constituency represented by Oliver Cromwell when he was a knight of the shire. Although loyalty is based on tradition and we can use history to inspire us, I do not think that we should be imprisoned by the past to the extent that some people apparently wish today.
Nobody really knows why we have these four small counties. No doubt the fact that the fens were there originally has something to do with it. But let us face the fact that, as a recent inquiry has shown, none of the small counties by themselves can provide all the specialist services that modern local government requires.
Before I go further, I should make my position plain to the House in relation to what is to happen to my own constituency. As I hope to be able to show to the House, although it is a small county it is also a leading county. We have the largest number of places in old people's homes per head of the population of any county in England. The latest statistics of the Ministry of Health show that we had less illness in the county than any other county and were indeed the healthiest people in England. We had for many years the largest number of people enlisted in Civil Defence per head of the population. I do not know the latest figures but certainly that was the position for some years up to the time I left the Home Office, though it had nothing to do with me. Our people are thrifty and generous. Their thrift is 196 shown by the fact that they often head the eastern region in the national savings campaign, and their generosity, because per head of population they often raise the most money for Poppy Day.
Progress in education since 1945 has been most remarkable, although it is fair to say that some of it could not have been achieved without the co-operation of the central Government. One could spend a lot of time outlining the achievements of Huntingdonshire. The House may feel that things having been going so well with us that there may be little need for the proposed change. In a sense that would be a fair comment, but it would be one based on inadequate information. This is a change which, in my opinion, would be of benefit both to Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough. I do not regard Huntingdonshire as being assassinated. I regard tonight as a happy betrothal, as a prelude to what I am sure will be a happy marriage. Each of the two counties is small but the new county which is to be formed will not be very large. The two counties already have a number of contacts. They share the same agricultural executive committee and various other common services, especially where their borders join. For example, the fire services at Fletton and Peterborough, although in separate counties, have worked together as one. The new county will have very good communications and a great community of interest. It will be a compact and convenient local government unit.
It is significant, perhaps, that the first two boroughs in the whole of the United Kingdom to unite since the war were the boroughs of Huntingdon and Godmanchester, and in that way my constituency gave a lead in the voluntary amalgamation of boroughs.
Now we are to have what is, I think, very near to being a voluntary amalgamation between these two counties. Even many of those who have misgivings about it, whether they be local government officers or members of the county councils, have in recent months, since the Government's decision was announced, done all they could to prepare the way successfully for this merger. Therefore, I was rather surprised by the speech of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). When he spoke of the "upheaval, distrust and hostility" that 197 these proposals have aroused, he was quite remote from the feeling in, at any rate, Huntingdonshire. There has been nothing of the kind that he described. Although, no doubt, he will get a proper and accurate answer from my right hon. Friend on the question of the polling districts, I wonder if he realises that if his suggestions about polling districts in Huntingdonshire had been brought to fulfilmint, Huntingdonshire would have been thought by the Soke of Peterborough to have an undue preponderance of seats on the new county council, and that might have prevented the merger from being so happy and successful.
There is one request on a matter of detail that I should like the Minister to make to my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor. It relates to the question of what the judicial centre of the new county should be. The whole question of where assizes and quarter sessions should be held, and what the judges' circuits should be for the new county has not been settled. Those matters are not mentioned in the Order. If I may make a suggestion to the Lord Chancellor, it is that no decision on those questions should be taken until the new administrative centre for the county has been fixed after the first meeting, or maybe the second meeting, of the new county council. I do not think it would be right to anticipate or forestall the decision as to the siting of the administrative centre by making any decision at all meanwhile about the judicial centre.
It is not without much searching of both the heart and the head that I have come to the conclusion that this is the right decision for my constituency and, for that reason, I welcome the Order.
§ 11.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Maddan (Hitchin)
The Commission in its proposals suggests that Royston should be transferred from Hertfordshire into the new County of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. The Minister decided to keep Royston in Hertfordshire. That was very much welcomed in principle by the vast majority of people in Royston, but they are concerned about the Minister having deferred his decision about adding to the land area of the urban district council, which asked that it should have 198 a few hundred acres now in Cambridgeshire added to it.
This is what the Minister said in his memorandum:… he has decided that any adjustment of the county boundary should be left until the expansion of Royston becomes a reality. It would then be open to either of the county councils to make proposals for boundary alterations under the provisions of the Local Government Act, 1933.So, the point is this. Of course, before expansion can become a reality, there must be land on which the expansion can take place, but the fact is that there is very little suitable land within the Royston Urban District Council's present boundaries. Furthermore, expansion requires new industry, and new industry requires new workers who require houses suitable to live in. Yet much of the land which is available for such housing—or could be available—within the urban district's area, cannot be developed in the near future because at present it is used for sewage works and refuse tips. Expansion is obviously desirable and I am certain that, in the light of the conclusions he has set out in the South-East Study which is to be published in a fortnight's time, the Minister will welcome the expansion of Royston.
Secondly, expansion is desirable to increase rateable values, necessary to help pay for the new sewage works which the town must have, and to make an economic propostion of the development of the town centre where there is at present so much property that is empty or derelict. In my view, the Minister is bound to want expansion. Royston wants expansion, and the urban district council and Hertfordshire County Council have begun discussions on the detailed requirements for expansion. Settling these matters will meet the point made by the boundary Commission which the Minister summarised in his memorandum to the effect that, with the extent of the expansion of Royston still unsettled, it would be difficult to fix the precise line of expansion into Cambridgeshire. But, if the county council and the urban district council agreed on the expansion and in order to make it a reality they secured the additional land, then I hope that the Minister will consider sympathetically the proposals made to him.
199 In a matter of a few months he may expect to receive a list of joint representations from the county council and the urban district council, and I shall certainly support those representations. I hope that the Minister will tell us tonight that he will seize this chance sympathetically and, on that understanding, I support the Order.
§ 11.24 p.m.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
I listened carefully to the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) and while he was speaking it occurred to me that he must have lived in cloud-cuckoo-land during 1957 to 1958 for, if he thought he could support the Order for setting up a Boundary Commission and that the Isle of Ely would then be left alone, anyone would have told him that it could not be left as it is. If one had had a list of, say, half a dozen county boundaries which were likely to disappear once the Boundary Commission started looking at them, surely he must have known that the Isle of Ely must have been one of them. The hon. Gentleman cannot say that he might have had second thoughts about what he did in 1957–58. Obviously, he did not know any details, but he must have known that something like this would have happened. Anybody would have told him that the Isle of Ely would have had to be included in the recommendations or that it would have to be reviewed at some time in the future.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
What I said was that none of us knew which counties would come under the hammer.
§ Mr. Reynolds
I agree, but if he had ticked off a list of half a dozen, I should have thought that this particular area would have been one for certain. Obviously, there were half a dozen counties in 1957–58 and we have pulled one of them out. The Minister and other hon. Members opposite have laid stress on the fact that tonight's Order will settle matters until 1973 or some such date. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely said that district council government would break down if the Order was not passed. An attempt has been made to give the general impression that when we have dealt with the matter tonight, that will be the end 200 of it and the people in the Isle of Ely, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire and the Soke of Peterborough can sit back and everything will be all right as from 1st April, 1965.
These Orders, however, are only the beginning of the procedure. We should not try to delude anyone that this is the end of it. It is only the beginning. Once the county councils are set up, they must start reviewing county district and other boundaries and the question will arise whether there are other areas which may be dealt with in this way.
I heard with interest the suggestion, from my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and from an hon. Member opposite, that it might have been a good idea to have had a county borough of Cambridge. With the existing terms of reference, which were restricted under the Local Government Act, 1958, it would have been stretching them a great deal, if not impossible, for the Commission to make any such recommendation.
I am aware also that I cannot in this debate criticise the terms of reference and the terms of the Act. I simply repeat what I said on the Luton and Solihull Orders recently, that in 1958 I supported those provisions because I believed in the terms of 1958 that they were correct. I equally believe that conditions have altered so much in the last six or seven years that the provisions of the 1958 Act and the purpose of obtaining local government in England and Wales are now as completely out of date as if the Act had been passed in 1908 instead of 1958.
I am opposed to the two Orders tonight to a certain extent because of that but, secondly, because I cannot see the point of this House approving a major alteration in the county government structure of this part of south-east England when, on the 19th of this month, in another 10 days or so, we are to receive the first regional report that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government has prepared. We have had Reports on the North-East and on Central Scotland for development purposes, but they were rush jobs done in six or seven months. For the last two and a half years, however, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government—and latterly, I understand, the Board of Trade has also been involved— 201 has been preparing a detailed regional study of the whole of the area from the Wash across to, I think, somewhere near Lyme Regis. That work has been going on for two and a half years.
In less than a fortnight's time, we are to be given information, with a White Paper expressing the Government's views on matters contained in the Report, which will delineate where population will be moved to and make all sorts of proposals about the location of industry, of new towns and expanded towns, transport facilities and a number of matters of that nature affecting, not only the South-East, but the whole country, because of the concentration of population in the South-East. I suggest that when we are awaiting the first detailed regional report, which must have a massive effect on the local government structure of the South-East, we shall prejudice the position by agreeing to tonight's Orders. We have been awaiting the recommendations ever since the 1958 Act was passed.
I agree with what hon. Members opposite have said about the difficulties that are bound to arise with staff when everything is hanging in the air, but that is inherent in any local government organisation whether or not one agrees with its final outcome. The staff have been in this position ever since shortly after the 1958 Act was passed. This applies even more so to those areas where the Commission has not yet started its work than to those which the Commission has visited, because people do not know how much longer they must wait in the county areas which have not yet been considered.
Bearing that in mind, together with the fact that we are to have the report in less than two weeks' time, it is ridiculous now to press forward with something which, under the terms of present legislation, will afflict us until 1973. I am convinced that the provisions of the 1958 Act do not now give us enough scope for dealing with this problem. I am convinced that we have to go forward to the idea of trying to set up some kind of regional bodies with regionally elected representatives with most-purpose authorities, as suggested by the Boundary Commission's Report in 1947, dealing with practically the whole of normal local government responsibilities. We would then have something like the County Borough of Cambridgeshire, but 202 at this moment we are only making it more difficult to deal with the matter in the light of the report which we are to have in less than a fortnight and more difficult when we have to get down to dealing with the regional planning of the country
§ 11.31 p.m.
§ Mr. A. V. Hilton (Norfolk, South-West)
I should like briefly to refer to what the Minister said about the Isle of Ely and Cambridgeshire. The right hon. Gentleman said that if the Order were passed, the matter would be settled until 1973. Did he mean that there would be no subtraction from or addition to the boundary before that date? He will be aware that the Commission is looking at the other side of the boundary and that there are suggestions—no more at the moment—that part of Norfolk should be taken over by the Isle of Ely. If there is lo be no change until 1973, how does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile that with the distinct possibility that part of Norfolk will be taken over by the Isle of Ely?
§ 11.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Denys Bullard (King's Lynn)
I speak as a resident and elector of the Isle of Ely. It is not proper to let the Order go through without registering a protest at the disappearance of the Isle of Ely from the list of administrative counties. I am all in favour of boundary changes when there are great changes in population, but I am by no means in favour of the method, instituted in 1958, of the Local Government Boundary Commission inquiring into all and sundry changes regardless of population changes, and upsetting administration wholesale into the bargain.
The Isle of Ely is one of the truly historical counties which have grown up to meet local administrative needs. Originally it covered the administrative area up into the Fens stretching from the Abbey of Ely. If there is any area which justifies a separate existence as a local government unit, it is this. It seems to be only its size which is against it. Unfortunately, it has been decided that a new county, consisting of Cambridgeshire, the Isle of Ely and Cambridge itself would be out of balance and that Cambridge is too big to retain in the balance, and so the Isle of Ely is thrown in in order to make up 203 the so-called balance between urban and rural populations. This is a very bad reason for a change and I could not support the Order except for the reason advanced by——
§ Mr. Bullard
Whips have nothing to do with it. There is not an easier Order on which to justify opposition for perfectly good reasons, and I do not think that the Whips would have any objection to a protest of that kind. I shall not vote against this Order, for the reasons advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir Harry Legge-Bourke). We are in the awkward position—and I have protested against this procedure being used that if we vote against this Order we shall throw the staffs of the present county councils into a period of great confusion indeed, and they have had plenty of that already, as many of them have shown by their resignations and their applications for posts elsewhere.
We are in this dilemma—as we shall always be when Orders of this kind are presented—that if we vote against it we shall plunge the local government administration into a further period of uncertainty, and that I am loth to do. I cannot think that this Order is a good one, because it means the disappearance of a county which I believe is, and has been, a very good administrative unit.
§ 11.36 p.m.
§ Sir K. Joseph
With the leave of the House, I shall try to answer some of the points that have been made.
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) charged the Government with aberrations under three main heads—consistency, proportion, and relevance. First, he said that if it be right to amalgamate the Isle of Ely with Cambridgeshire, how much more right must it have been to have amalgamated Rutland with Leicestershire. He charged the Government with having called Rutland unique. I was the person who used that word, and I stand by it. The point that was made from this Box at the time was that while Rutland, be- 204 cause of its size, had difficulty in providing, on its own, services suitably specialised for its people, there would be no advantage to Leicestershire in joining Rutland with its larger neighbour; whereas, with the Isle of Ely and Cambridgeshire we have a potential partnership in which both partners can add very considerably to the new whole. That is why it is not the least inconsistent of the Government to have reprieved Rutland while seeking to amalgamate the Isle of Ely with Cambridgeshire.
On the second charge, the hon. Gentleman said that it really might not make sense—he did not press this charge very hard—to go in for all the trouble and inconvenience that must be caused to the elected members and officials of counties when the result might not be dramatic. But, as the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) said, this sort of inconvenience and trouble is inherent in any local government reorganisation. The hon. Member for Fulham went on to contrast the priorities involved in providing the means to apply the principles of the Buchanan Report with the needs of country areas. I know that he will be with me when I say that Parliament must deal with case loads as well as with cars. While it is right, if we are seeking now, in the light of what we know, to organise the priorities of local government reorganisation, to deal first with conurbations, it would be wrong if, the Local Government Commission having done all the work, we were to neglect to make a decision on what is a rural area.
The Government have dealt with all the local government recommendations which have been made in England. We have dealt with London, against the retrograde and bitter opposition of the Socialist Party, and when we are returned to power we shall not fail to carry through such Orders as may be shown to be necessary for the other conurbations when the Local Government Commission reports. But in the meanwhile we have this Report to deal with what is a rural area, and we are dealing with it. I think that I have dealt with both the points of proportion and relevance in what I have said in reply to the hon. Member for Fulham.
205 My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard)—a highly respected Member, who cannot be an easy man to Whip—mourns greatly for the departure of his county, and we can all sympathise with him. But he must recognise that there is much force in what the Commission says about the inevitable limitations of a small county's uphill struggle in providing specialised services for its citizens in education and health. Rutland would have added nothing to its neighbour, while its neighbours have contributed a great deal to help it.
The hon. Member for Fulham was on much firmer ground when he dealt with the electoral areas. This is not a matter that comes immediately within my responsibilities, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is bound by procedure laid down by Parliament. He must appoint a commissioner to hear objections to any electoral proposals put forward by the county council, and in this case he did so. It was only after a fuller study of the objections—and there were a few in the case of the proposed combined County of Huntingdon and Peterborough—that my right hon. Friend approved the proposals.
§ Sir K. Joseph
He does not have to, but he did in this series of cases. He departed from the proposals in the number of representatives for the County of Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely allotted to the City of Cambridge. My hon. Friend was good enough to say a word of thanks to him for that.
It is open to the county to make proposals for a revision of electoral areas to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary as soon as it wishes after the coming into existence of the new counties.
The hon. Member for Fulham made only one other point. He thought that the bold decision by the Government would have been to revert to the draft proposals of the Local Government Commission for a four-county solution. The hon. Member is in a minority here, with my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) and the City of Cambridge itself—very distinguished 206 company. The only common factor to all three is that none of them wants to have any part in the one-county solution. That is why they proposed it. In fact, the majority of counties concerned were against the one-county solution, and I think that my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) put the position best when he said that it would be a case of wrenching the city out of the midst of the county.
I should also comment on the City of Cambridge's criticisms that the Government have acted differently in the case of Wales from their treatment of this rural area in the heart of England. Measured by every possible index of sparsity, the extent of the sparse population in Wales is far greater than it is in any comparable area in England. It was necessary for the Government to take special steps in connection with Wales, because by an Amendment proposed to my right hon. Friend who is now the Home Secretary, during the passage of the 1958 Bill, by the then Labour Members of the Committee, Wales was excluded from the provision which allowed the Local Government Commissions to seek authority from the Minister to treat any particular area as a special review area and consider functions as well as structure.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
Can the Minister tell me which way the Home Secretary voted at the time?
§ Sir K. Joseph
My right hon. Friend warned the Committee that it might well regret this decision, but in the face of strong Welsh pressure he excluded Wales from that provision. The justification for words of warning has become apparent.
I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton) for the warm welcome he gave these proposals. I shall certainly put to my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor the questions that he raised.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely on what I thought was a brilliant speech. It was full of cogency, and I hope the words he addressed to his own constituency authorities will be heeded. He was right 207 in saying that the Isle of Ely and Cambridgeshire should be partners.
He referred to possible difficulties in the appointment of chief officers. He will realise that this will be essentially for the new county, when it exists, to decide, but I can well see that a joint committee could give valuable service in paving the way. I have already given some advice on staff to the counties. If any of the counties or constituent authorities feel that any further advice from my Department or me might be of use, I gladly invite them, through my hon. Friend, to let me know.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Could my right hon. Friend express a view as to whether he thinks it desirable that preparations should be made for these appointments before the elections are held, the first not being likely before November at the earliest?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I think that it would be sensible for a joint committee to pave the way as far as possible, although I cannot go so far as to say that it could possibly commit the new county to particular appointments.
My hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Fulham were wrong in one detail. They said that the Commission had failed to consider the proposal of my hon. Friend for a single-tier authority. I refer them to paragraph 133 of the Report, which deals—only shortly, it is true—with that point.
§ The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton) asked me about the kind of stability which could be guaranteed until 1973. In referring to 1973, I was referring to the embargo in the Local Government Act, 1958, on any initiative being taken by a borough to seek county borough status for 15 years after the passing of the Act. There will be boundaries still to be settled on the periphery of the new County of Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely when the East Anglian Report emerges from the Local Government Commission.
§ My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) asked about Royston. I undertake to consider any proposals which at some future date may be put to me for boundary changes at Royston to deal with the circumstances of any expansion which may one day Occur.
§ In answer to the hon. Member for Islington, North, who rightly stressed the importance of the South-East Study, which will be published next week, I stress again that, however much we may go in for planning on a wide scale, we shall still need effective and convenient units of local government to administer services.
§ I hope that, having heard the main views of hon. Members on these two most important Orders, the House will make its decisions.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 144, Noes 84.209
|Division No. 40.]||AYES||[11.49 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Cleaver, Leonard||Harris, Reader (Keston)|
|Allason, James||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Corfield, F. V.||Hastings, Stephen|
|Barlow, Sir John||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hendry, Forbes|
|Bateford, Brian||Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Bermett, F. M. (Torquay)||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hocking, Philip N.|
|Bidgood, John C.||Drayson, G. B.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin|
|Biffen, John||du Cann, Edward||Holland, Philip|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hollingworth, John|
|Bishop, Sir Patrick||Elliott, R.W. (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Holt, Arthur|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Errington, Sir Eric||Hopkins, Alan|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Hornby, R. P.|
|Box, Donald||Gammans, Lady||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John|
|Braine, Bernard||Gardner, Edward||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Brewis, John||Gibson-Watt, David||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Glover, Sir Douglas||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bullard, Denys||Gower, Raymond||James, David|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Green, Alan||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Grosvenor, Lord Robert||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Kirk, Peter||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Lambton, Viscount||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Temple, John M.|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Litchfield, Capt. John||Percival, Ian||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Pitt, Dame Edith||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Longbottom, Charles||Pounder, Rafton||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Loveys, Walter H.||Prior, J. M. L.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|MacArthur, Ian||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|McLaren, Martin||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Wall, Patrick|
|Maddan, Martin||Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Maitland, Sir John||Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Marten, Neil||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Whitelaw, William|
|Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Mawby, Ray||Roots, William||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Scott-Hopkins, James||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Seymour, Leslie||Worsley, Marcus|
|Mills, Stratton||Shaw, M.|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Sheet, T. H. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Mr. John Peel and|
|Mr. Francis Pym.|
|Ainsley, William||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hynd, H. (Addrington)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Barnett, Guy||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Bence, Cyril||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rhodes, H.|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.W.)||Kenyon, Clifford||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Ross, William|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||King, Dr. Horace||Silkin, John|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Lawson, George||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Slater, Mrs. Harrlet (Stoke, N.)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Loughlin, Charles||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Snow, Julian|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||McBride, N.||Sorenson, R. W.|
|Dalyell, Tam||MacColl, James||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Delargy, Hugh||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Diamond, John||Manuel, Archie||Stonehouse, John|
|Doig, peter||Mapp, Charles||Taverne, D.|
|Driberg, Tom||Marsh, Richard||Thornton, Ernest|
|Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley)||Millan, Bruce||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Foley, Maurice||Milne, Edward||Watkins, Tudor|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mitchison, G. R.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Grey, Charles||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Whitlock, William|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mulley, Frederick||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hannan, William||O'Malley, B. K.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Harper, Joseph||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Parkin, B. T.||Woof, Robert|
|Hilton, A. V.||Pentland, Norman|
|Holman, Percy||Price, J. T. (Weethoughton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Howie, W.||Probert, Arthur||Mr. Charles A. Howell and|
|Mr. Ifor Davies.|
That the Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely Order, 1964, dated 14th February, 1964, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be approved.
§ Motion made, and Question put.210
§ That the Huntingdon and Peterborough Order 1964, dated 14th February, 1964, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be approved.—[Sir K. Joseph.]
§ The House divided: Ayes 143, Noes 83.211
|Division No. 41.]||AYES||[11.58 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Box, Donald||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Braine, Bernard||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.|
|Allason, James||Brewis, John||Corfield, F. V.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Batsford, Brian||Bullard, Denys||Drayson, G. B.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||du Cann, Edward|
|Bidgood, John C.||Chichester-Clark, R.||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Biffen, John||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Elliott, R.W.(Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Bishop, Sir Patrick||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Cleaver, Leonard||Gammans, Lady|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Cooke, Robert||Gardner, Edward|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Renton, Rt. Hon. David|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Litchfield, Capt. John||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)|
|Gower, Raymond||Longbottom, Charles||Roots, William|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Loveys, Walter H.||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Green, Alan||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Seymour, Leslie|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Shaw, M.|
|Grosvenor, Lord Robert||MacArthur, Ian||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||McLaren, Martin||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maddan, Martin||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maitland, Sir John||Tapsell, Peter|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Marton, Neil||Temple, John M.|
|Hastings, Stephen||Mathew, Robert (Horriton)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Hendry, Forbes||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Mawby, Ray||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Hocking, Philip N.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Holland, Philip||Mills, Stratton||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hollingworth, John||Miscampbell, Norman||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Holt, Arthur||Montgomery, Fergus||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Hopkins, Alan||Mare, Jasper (Ludlow)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Hornby, R. P.||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Wall, Patrick|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Whitelaw, William|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Percival, Ian||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|James, David||Pitt, Dame Edith||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pounder, Rafton||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Prior, J. M. L.||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Worsley, Marcus|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Kirk, Peter||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Mr. John Peel and|
|Lambton, Viscount||Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)||Mr. Francis Pym.|
|Ainsley, William||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Barnett, Guy||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Rhodes, H.|
|Bence, Cyril||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics. S.W.)||Kenyon, Clifford||Ross, William|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||King, Dr. Horace||Silkin, John|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Lawson, George||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Loughlin, Charles||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Snow, Julian|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||McBride, N.||Sorenson, R. W.|
|Dalyell, Tam||MacColl, James||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Manuel, Archie||Stonehouse, John|
|Diamond, John||Mapp, Charles||Taverne, D.|
|Doig, Peter||Marsh, Richard||Thornton, Ernest|
|Driberg, Tom||Millan, Bruce||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley)||Milne, Edward||Watkins, Tudor|
|Foley, Maurice||Mitchison, G. R.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Whitlock, William|
|Grey, Charles||Mulley, Frederick||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||O'Malley, B. K.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hannan, William||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Harper, Joseph||Parkin, B. T.||Woof, Robert|
|Hayman F. H.||Pentland, Norman|
|Hilton, A. V.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Holman, Percy||Probert, Arthur||Mr. Charles A. Howell and|
|Howie, W.||Redhead, E. C.||Dr. Broughton.|
Bill read a Second time.