HC Deb 27 March 1968 vol 761 cc1679-82

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Teesside (Amendment) Order 1968, dated 1st March, 1968, a copy of which was laid before this House on 5th March, be approved.—[Mr. Skeffington.]

10.18 p.m.

Mr. Timothy Kitson (Richmond, Yorks.)

I want to say a few words of thanks to the Minister for changing the position which obtained six months ago. All of us in the North Riding and on Teesside are delighted that the amalgamation which was originally intended has not been proceeded with. I have received over a hundred constituency letters opposing the amalgamation which was originally proposed. When hon. Members on both sides met the Home Secretary and put the problems of the area to him, fortunately he took the point, and we are very grateful that the position has been changed.

I want to ask only two questions. First, how many members of the North Riding police force and, secondly, how many members of the Durham police force are expected to be transferred to Teesside?

I am sure that I speak on behalf of all my constituents and of people on Teesside and North Riding when I say that we are extremely grateful for the Government's changed attitude. In the words of one of my senior constituents, uttered after Members on both sides had been to see the Home Secretary and he had changed his mind, "Democracy still works in the House of Commons".

10.20 p.m.

Mr. James Tinn (Cleveland)

I join the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks. (Mr. Kitson) in welcoming the Order and thanking the Home Secretary for the changed decision. One can understand his reluctance, because it must have seemed to him that, by altering his original decision for the amalgamation of the Teesside police force with that of the North Riding, he was opening the floodgates for similar requests from other forces. However, this was neither an exercise in parochialism by the local authorities which strongly resisted the original proposed amalgamation, nor an exercise by Members on both sides of the House who strongly urged him to change his decision. It was an example of cooperation between back bench Members on both sides and of democracy in operation in that the Home Secretary saw the points of the argument and yielded to them.

It is worth noting that the inquiry which the Home Secretary set up found that the Teesside police force would have been viable, and the original proposed amalgamation resulted from difficulties originating in Hull rather than on Teesside or in the North Riding.

It would seem that the new force will get off to a fine start. Morale appears to be high. I expect that my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State will be able to give a reassuring reply to the question of the hon. Member for Richmond on recruitment. All the signs are that this will be very satisfactory. All members of the old Middlesbrough force are staying on. There is a very satisfactory rate of transfer to the new authority from the affected areas in the North Riding.

Perhaps the coming into being of the new Teesside authority on Monday next week is slightly marred for the police force by the unfortunate illness of the chief constable elect, whom we all hope to see swiftly back in his place.

As the House sat late last night, I have tried to be brief, as I always try to be. I simply wish to join in with what I am sure will be a general welcome for the Order on Teesside and for the flexibility of Ministers which made it possible.

10.24 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Bottomley (Middlesbrough, East)

As the one who took the lead in getting going the talks which have led to the Order, I, too, should like to take the opportunity of thanking the then Home Secretary—now the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and the Under-Secretary of State who made the coming into being of this Order possible. But it was the present Home Secretary who had to take the decision, and for that the people of Teesside genuinely thank him.

10.25 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Arthur Skeffington)

I am sure that it is very gratifying to all those concerned that all these bouquets should have been thrown to the Ministries, and particularly to the Home Department, which are responsible for the substance of this Order. The Order itself refers to the fact that there is an alteration of areas, but in fact this is really only the consequence of the Order which the House passed on 10th March last year. The provisions about the police were deliberately left out then because at that time the Home Office was looking towards a rather larger compulsory amalgamation. But after representations were made by the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson), my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley), my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn) and others, second thoughts were had about this matter.

There was an inquiry and eventually it was decided, on a quite voluntary basis, and with full agreement of everybody, that the proposals made by the police authorities of the North and East Ridings and of York for their voluntary amalgamation should go ahead and, very exceptionally, that the force should be retained for the new borough which is coming into elective effect in a few days' time.

This has seemed very satisfactory and very welcome. I am very glad to have heard what has been said and shall pass it on to the Department concerned. I am here only because this in the normal way would have been dealt with by a separate Order or have been provided for in the original Order. This is really entirely a Home Office matter. I am sure the House will have observed that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department is present. Any points which may be made which are really matters for his Department will be dealt with by him. The points made by the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks., are matters for the Home Office.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

This is just the point on which I wished to intervene, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He has taken from his hon. Friends the bouquets for this Order, but why has it been made by the Minister of Housing and Local Government rather than by the Secretary of State for the Home Department under the Police Act, 1964? It seems a rather peculiar way of doing it, and I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will explain to the House why it was chosen to do it this way.

Mr. Skeffington

It is perfectly possible under general legislation to include provision for the transfer of police. This is done in areas which are being amalgamated voluntarily, but where a new authority is being set up it has to be subject to a special Order.

I have the figures the hon. Gentleman for Richmond, Yorks., asked for about the numbers being transferred. I understand that, there will be about 350 transferred to the new authority from Middlesbrough, 175 from Durham, and 200 from the North Riding. These are approximate figures. I hope I shall not be tied down to great detail, but that is broadly the picture.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Teesside (Amendment) Order 1968, dated 1st March, 1968, a copy of which was laid before this House on 5th March, be approved.

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