§ 7.54 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD KENNET)
My Lords, this Order creates a county borough, to be known as the County Borough of Hartlepool, by amalgamating the existing County Borough of West Hartlepool with the Borough of Hartlepool and some adjoining parts of the rural district of Stockton. It is an area which is to all intents and purposes a single township, is administered partly by a county borough council, a county council, a borough council, a rural district council and some parish councils; and it is this disgregate system of local administration which it is proposed to roll up into one county borough.
I think that at this time of night I should not dwell long on the provisions of the Order, but content myself with saying that I will answer any questions which noble Lords may wish to ask about it. I beg to move that the Hartlepool Order 1966 be approved.
§ Moved, That the Hartlepool Order 1966 be approved.—(Lord Kennet.)
§ 7.56 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I do not want to ask questions about this Order so much as to elicit from the noble Lord if this is one of the Orders which was mentioned by the Secretary of State in another place as arising out of the 1958 Act review and as having come forward at a suitable time in relation to the announcement of the 1469 formation of the Royal Commission. The new county borough will have a population of approximately 96,700. This is dangerously near the minimum of 100,000 needed for a county borough, and I suppose that the same criticism is implicit here as was brought forward in the case of Torbay—namely, that we are setting up a relatively small county borough at a time when these matters are being looked at again. I wonder whether the noble Lord can tell me if the population is expected to increase and, if so, to what extent; or is the new borough going to have a stationary population for the foreseeable future? Although it is not a matter on which I would wish to detain your Lordships, this is another slightly unfortunate incident to happen at this time when the Royal Commission are beginning their labours.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, the new county borough is one of the fruits of the review instituted under the 1958 Act. It is covered by the statement of my right honourable friend the then Minister of Housing on February 10, 1966, when, in announcing the setting up of a Royal Commission, he said that decisions already announced would be carried out and proposals, including proposals for the 1470 formation of county boroughs, which had not yet elicited a decision from him would be considered on their merits in view of the forthcoming setting up of the Royal Commission. This is one of the latter class. The proposal was considered on its merits and was deemed to be desirable.
On the question of population. I think that it is wrong to regard 100,000 as any kind of hard and fast minimum. The noble Viscount will know that there are county boroughs with populations as small as 64,000. This will still be a rather small county borough, but there will be something like 30 smaller in the country when it comes into existence. The population is expected to rise in the sense that the new county borough will include a stretch of flat land between Hartlepool and Teesside, which is likely to attract industrial development not far from now, and this will doubtless lead to a sensible increase in population.