§ 2.43 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE rose to call attention to the Government's proposals for the reorganisation of Local Government in Wales; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, on Monday last the Leader of the House, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in opening a similar debate with reference to local government reorganisation in England, implied that it was an historic occasion. This is an equally historic occasion for Wales because, as the noble Earl said, it is only once in a hundred years or so that we have an opportunity to discuss an enormous reorganisation such as is contained in the Government's Consultative Document. The present position so far as Wales is concerned is that there are 13 counties, four county boroughs, and numerous urban districts, rural district councils and parish councils, and I think we are all agreed that it is high time something was done. The only doubt up to now has been about what should be done.
§ Following the Report of the Local Government Commission for Wales, the late Government, in 1967 and 1968, proposed seven large county councils in a two-tier structure—that is, a county council and a district council structure. In 1970, however, I think impressed—perhaps over-impressed—by the Redcliffe-Maud proposals for England, the same Government, while keeping the original two-tier proposals for most of the counties of Wales, proposed a single-tier system for the industrial counties of Mon-mouth and Glamorgan. As can be imagined (and no doubt we shall hear more about this to-day, because there are several noble Lords and one noble Baroness who were concerned in this matter), the Government had taken a very great deal of trouble to get the original plan through, and to try to get a revised plan was a matter of considerable difficulty. In fact, they succeeded in importing consternation to their friends and confusion to their foes—and it is not often that one can do that, either in politics or in military matters. However, before anything really drastic could happen, the General Election took place. The present Government took over, and 1330 they have very largely gone back to the 1968 plan of the Labour Government. There are certain alterations; but basically the plan is much the same.
§ I am not going into the history of the matter, because I expect the Minister will do so; and if he does not there are other noble Lords and a noble Baroness who have more intimate knowledge than I have about the history of these proposals. But the present plan is for a two-tier system right the way across and down Wales. There are to be seven large county councils and 36 district councils, with an unspecified number of rather vague community councils of which we shall perhaps hear more to-day. The seven county councils which are to be created from the present 13 are to be named Gwynedd, Clwyd, Powys, Dyfed and Gwent—those are certainties, I am glad to say—and two others which are not so certain, East Glamorgan and West Glamorgan.
§ The problem of Wales, which is different from that of England, is that on the North Coast we have a residential, urban, watering-place population which is getting steadily older because it is a favourite retiring place for people from the Midlands and the North-West of England. In Glamorgan and Monmouthshire in the South, we have a heavily industrialised and urbanised population. Bet in between we have a very large and very sparse area. If I may apply the position to Scotland, it is as if in the North of Scotland there was a comparatively large population; then there would be the industrial belt in the South; and in between there would be the Highlands with very little population at all. The situation is further complicated by the three great mountain ranges of Snowdon, Plynlimon and the Brecon Beacons, although every Welshman is very glad of those mountain ranges, since we are here because of them. If they had not been there to retreat to at strategic intervals, we should probably have been wiped out by successive invaders—the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans and the English—and now we have the mid-Atlantic situation on the television with which, unhappily, the mountains do not deal.
§ What is necessary is that the local authorities must not be too large so that 1331 they are out of touch with the people. On the other hand, they must not be too small so that they are non-viable. The test of the Government's proposals is this: does it mean that the authorities they propose will not be too large to be out of touch, and will not be too small to be viable? That is what this debate is about. In my view, the Government's proposals meet this requirement, by and large. I do not mean that they meet this requirement in every particular, and of course there are certain qualifications and conditions; but, by and large, I think they are about as good as we can get. We can all think up ideal schemes and twist the subject around this way and that. But, in the end, we must come down to something which is fairly realistic.
§ I have one or two qualifications, as I have said. First of all, what is the Government's attitude to a domestic Parliament for Wales? Obviously, this will affect the local government situation enormously. I would ask the Government, through Lord Aberdare, for an assurance that the present proposals will not prevent the creation of a domestic Parliament for Wales if the Welsh people want it. I do not say that necessarily it need be on the lines set out in the Bill the Second Reading of which I moved in your Lordships' House on January 30, 1968, but some sort of legislative body. We are awaiting the Crowther Report, and I noted on Monday, when listening to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that he said he had had an assurance from Lord Crowther that the proposals in his Report were not likely to affect the Government's proposals for local government in England. I do not know whether Lord Aberdare could give us that assurance to-day for Wales.
§ There are, too, certain alterations to boundaries. Your Lordships will no doubt hear about these to-day. I know that a number of noble Lords will be discussing this question and will be asking whether this is a good time to correct boundary anomalies between Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire or Carmarthen-shire, Glamorgan and Brecon, Monmouth-shire and Brecon and so on. We shall hear of those later. So far as my own particular area is concerned, I think I am almost unique in the annals of your 1332 Lordships' House because I am a satisfied client. I have no suggestions to make by way of correction. I think they have done us very well. I may say I refer to No. 3 districts in Glamorgan—Bridgend, on the River Ogmore, is my home town: and I have no doubt that Bridgend will be the administrative centre of No. 3 district. I think it has all the qualities for that important position. Anyway, I have no complaints at all so far as my own area is concerned.
§ I come now to the names. These, of course, are important. As your Lordships will remember, in Bernard Shaw's play, when discussing all sorts of proposals on the question of a family arrangement, one of the characters said, "The important things are the names". "That does not matter", said the solicitor. "Yes", said the first person, "that is the important thing". I believe that it is very important that we should get the names right in this case. I have looked through a large number of maps of ancient Wales, going back right through mediæval times to ancient times, and from ancient times actually to the first century A.D. I do not mean to say that I consulted a map of the first century A.D.—I do not suppose there is one—but maps showing the tribal areas in England and Wales (or Britain, as they then were) at that time; and I must say that I think the first names I read out—Gwynedd, Powys, Clwyd, Dyfed and Gwent—are excellent. They all have an historical connotation. They refer, by and large, to the areas which they will now take in; and they are fine.
§ I cannot say the same, as your Lordships will no doubt have gathered, about East Glamorgan and West Glamorgan. Just imagine one man being asked, "Where do you come from?" He says, with pride, "I come from Dyfed", or, "I come from Gwynedd", or "Powys". Then another man is asked, "Where do you come from?", and he says, "I come from East Glamorgan". It sounds like some rather dull laundry company, the East Glamorgan Laundry Company; or a cement company, the West Glamorgan Cement Company Limited. I think it is dreadful. However, to be fair, the Consultative Document says that these names are adopted provisionally, and that the Government are prepared to consider others. I will give them some others to 1333 consider. First, so far as East Glamorgan is concerned, there seems to me to be no doubt at all. There is only one name, following the precedent of the others that I have read out, and that is Morganwg. Morganwg is the old name of that area, going back for many hundreds of years, probably a thousand years at least. The present East Glamorgan (I use that term for the moment) takes in basically most of the old Morganwg, other than a portion of it which is now in West Glamorgan; but by and large it follows pretty closely the original boundaries, and I urge the Government to adopt Morganwg for East Glamorgan.
§ As for West Glamorgan, the position is very different because there is no one division, either a tribal division or a princely division, which takes in West Glamorgan. On the precedent of the others I have mentioned, I think it should be Dinefawr, because the most Westerly part of the area was in the princedom of Dinefawr. The noble Lord, Lord Dinevor, and also the noble Earl, Lord Longford, neither of whom is here to-day, I regret to say, are both descended from this princely house—a very ancient house; way back, I suppose, almost to Roman times. They had a vast princedom running from the portion I have described in Glamorgan right through down to Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire. I think that that is probably logically the best name—Dinefawr. But perhaps it would not be acceptable, and so I suggest two others. I suggest Glynnedd or Gwyr. Of the three, I would think that Gwyr would probably be the most acceptable locally, but I still think Dinefawr is a very pretty name. It has this connotation; there still is a representative of the princely family in your Lordships' House; and I think it would be nice. I should like it, anyway. I think that aesthetically it would be best, but in these egalitarian times possibly Gwyr would be the most acceptable.
§ Now I come to certain specific questions—first of all, as to Cardiff. As in the case of Scotland and Edinburgh, Cardiff is now a city, a county borough, with a population of 284,000; it has a Lord Mayor, who is also a right honourable for his term of office; and it is the capital of Wales. Under the proposals, this city is going to be in No. 1 district of East Glamorgan. Certain special 1334 arrangements are proposed for it, but according to Cardiff the special arrangements are practically meaningless. All they mean is that they will have some rather vague powers to do local planning without the ability to carry out the plans. The effect is—there is no question about this and I think this is probably the most important question of all with regard to the Government's proposals; the most important criticism, anyway, or defect, if you like to call it that—that it will be a great blow to the prestige of the city. Cardiff has had a splendid east. Just lately, perhaps, it has been a bit in the doldrums, but I am sure it could have a great future. But it needs Government help, support and encouragement. In the central area of the city the Corporation is committed to spending £23 million over the next 10 years, and their commercial partners some £25 million. They have some important highway schemes: one road scheme alone will cost over £28 million.
§ Cardiff is very worried about this whole situation; and the same thing applies to Edinburgh, so far as I can see from the White Paper, unless the Government have altered their mind. How does a capital city, the focus of the pride of a nation, having to entertain, and all the rest of it, on behalf of a nation, carry on when it is in a district—in a district with others of course; No. 1 district—of a county area, East Glamorgan? I think the Government ought to apply their mind to this, because Cardiff is very worried, and should give great thought to this problem. I have no solution to offer to-day and it is not my place to have one. Basically, of course, it is between Cardiff and the Government.
§ The next point concerns aldermen. Is this not a very good opportunity, my Lords, to get rid of them? In the old days, of course, they were supposed to be senior citizens who had had a great deal of experience on the council, and when they got too aged or too deaf to attend acutely to the business they made them aldermen. That has changed. Now they are virtually pawns in the Party struggle. They are generally people who failed to get back in the local elections, and in order to make up the numbers so 1335 far as electoral representatives are concerned they are made aldermen. I suggest that this might be the time, in Wales at least, to get rid of them.
§ Now I turn to the payment of members. I believe that some remuneration to members is essential in the county areas. We are to have these very large areas now, especially in North and mid-Wales, and I believe that members should be reimbursed, first by means of travelling expenses such as we get—those of us who travel to this House—and, secondly, by attendance allowances on the same basis as we have here. Whether it is to be the same amount is a matter of discussion. If the basis that the Government follow with us—or we follow for ourselves, as the case may be, helped by the Chancellor—were followed for these councils, that would be as good an arrangement as possible.
§ I turn next to the police. We shall hear more about this subject from the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, who is closely concerned with the administration of police in this area. At the moment, I do not think that all the police force areas will coincide with the new county boroughs. Finally, on the question of community councils, I would point out that they are very vaguely specified in the Consultative Document. Have they any functions, except in some rural areas? And what are they?
§ There is not a great deal more that I want to say; but I ought to stress that in spite of these, in my opinion, satisfactory proposals the larger problems of Wales will remain. The local authorities cannot solve them by themselves. So far as the Welsh Office are concerned, I may say that I have found them to be very helpful. The Ministers, later Secretaries of State, have all been most helpful to me within the ambit of their authority. We have only a non-elected Consultative Council which is feeble and toothless. It has no independent secretariat and no budget of its own. It is a stop-gap institution.
§ In this situation the main problems of Wales—lack of communications and protection of the environment—cannot be dealt with. Then there is the terrible problem of mid-Wales. No one has yet made up his mind what is to happen to 1336 that area. It is something like the Highlands of Scotland. In summer it is full of tourists and holidaymakers, mostly from the Midlands and the North-East; in winter it is a solitary area of wild natural beauty. What are we to do with it? As matters are going now, it is becoming more and more depopulated. Soon there will be very few people there, especially if we join the Common Market and the small farmers are rubbed out. No one will be there but the odd garage attendant and people looking after youth hostels.
§ I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, whether he would consider for local government in Wales a system of proportional representation. I know that it does not suit the two main Parties nationally. The result of the "first-past-the-post" system that we have in this country is a gross misrepresentation of the electorate in Wales. It is also a misrepresentation in England; for invariably it means that a minority Party becomes the Government. That happened in the last Election and the one before it: almost invariably more people vote against the Government than for them. That seems to me to be most undemocratic; and in Wales it is even more so. I suggest that for local government in Wales we should try out a system of proportional representation. I do not know whether they would like it in the local authorities—I am putting this forward as a Liberal. It has long been a most important plank in our platform. I think it would be a good idea to have it. They have it in many other countries. We usually suggest proportional representation when we give people new Constitutions. Often in the past we have insisted that they have proportional representation. It is only here that we do not seem to like it.
§ In my view, the present Government, and so did their predecessors in some respects, have by their actions taken as a first step the expansion of the scope of the Welsh Office. They have already done that with regard to education, and that is good. The second step, by the present Government, was to reorganise the courts; and that was good. The third step is to reorganise local government, and I think that that is good also. The fourth step should be to provide a legislative body to deal with Welsh needs and Welsh problems in the way Wales wishes.1337
§ My Lords, as this is, in a way, a Welsh day and we are a sort of substitute Parliament for Wales, I should like to refer to a matter in the minds of most Welsh people here to-day. It is to congratulate the Welsh Rugby Union on winning the Triple Crown and the Championship, and particularly on that wonderful game in Paris last week. I should like also to congratulate Mr. John Dawes, captain of the Lions—the first Welshman to be captain—and the other twelve Welsh members of the party. I wish them all well. We hear much in this House and elsewhere about the decadence of modern youth. We hear about drug taking, and all that. It is just as well to look at some of the things that are happening in Britain to-day, some of the results to which I have been referring. Those who saw that match on Saturday, even on television, when Wales played France—and what a wonderful team the French were!—will know that there was no decadence about that. They are fine young men; and so long as we have men who can put up a display like that we have nothing to fear—not the English, nor the Scots, nor the Welsh. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords I am sure that we can all join in the closing sentiments, at least, of the noble Lord's speech in offering our congratulations to the Welsh rugby team. If the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and I agree on nothing else, we shall be in accord on that. If we could be only just as successful on the reform of local government in Wales as on rugby we should be happier than we are now; because we started post-war with Sir Malcolm Trustrarn Eve; then we had two Reports, Interim and Final, from the Local Government Commission for Wales; and if in 1965, when Mr. James Griffiths, the first Secretary for Wales, set up a Working Party on Local Government in the Principality, anyone had told us that to-day we should still be discussing no more than a Consultative Document, I think we should have expressed disbelief.
All of us who are concerned with administration in the Principality realise that the need for reform was and is acute. We still have in Wales, I think I am right in saying, 181 local authorities (apart from the parish councils) for a population of some two and three-quarter million 1338 people. Of these authorities, about 50 have a population of fewer than 5,000 each, and the product of a penny rate is a very small sum indeed—a few hundred pounds. Wales suffered, I believe, by being caught up in the wash of the bigger ship, the Redcliffe-Maud Commission. Had that Commission not been sitting I believe that we might have gone ahead with a pattern of reform as proposed in the 1967 White Paper which, while not perfect, on the whole would have done us pretty well.
That Paper, my Lords, was discussed with a thoroughness which can rarely have been equalled. Those of us who were Ministers at the Welsh Office at the time met and discussed it with every local authority in Wales. We did not discuss it individually with every parish council but with every other council, and parish councils were represented at meetings of the other authorities. We discussed it in principle, we discussed it in detail. One matter which we said had to be left over was finance; and the present Government, though critical of us at the time, find themselves in exactly the same position and we are to await a Green Paper on the financial proposals. The other subject which we said would have to be tackled after the major legislation had been passed was the detailed study of boundary anomalies; the present Government say the same, and we have no quarrel with them on that account.
The 1967 White Paper was based on the two-tier system, which we then thought and still think is the most appropriate, for most parts at least, of Wales. There were two major differences between that White Paper and the proposals which succeeded it. In 1967 it was proposed that there should be only one North Wales county, comprising the five existing counties of Anglesey, Caernarvon, Merioneth, Denbigh and Flint. I was rather surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, did not pay very much attention to this.
This proposal, after discussion, was later amended to provide for two North Wales counties: Gwynedd to take in the North-Western area of Anglesey, Caernarvon, Merioneth; and Clwyd, to comprise the present Denbighshisre and Flintshire. The Consultative Document we have before us this afternoon retains this division into two counties for the 1339 North, and I fully support this. I am very well aware that, even to-day, there are other views; and there are those, whose opinions I respect, who would prefer one North Wales county authority, but I have never had any doubt in my own mind that two counties were to be preferred.
There is, too, a great discrepancy of outlook between the largely industrialised area of North-East Wales, part of which I had the honour to represent in another place for over 20 years, and the North-Western counties, for real community of interest to be attained. To place the centre of administration in Colwyn Bay or some such place would have involved very long journeys for elected members, and I do not believe that at the present time cohesion could have been achieved, so I have no quarrel with the Government on their proposals for the North. I observed that in the debate on Scottish local government the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, was complaining that the proposed Highlands Region was too large and ought to be split in two. The conditions in Wales are not fully comparable, but the same sort of considerations seem to me to apply.
The second main difference between the 1967 plan and subsequent proposals lies in South Wales, in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. Here we have had two revisions, based on radically different principles, but each involving the division of the present county of Glamorgan into two parts, one including Cardiff and the other Swansea. I must admit that the 1967 proposals dodged the issue of amalgamating town and country, which is one of the main principles laid down for this current reform of local government.
If one accepts the principle of this amalgamation between town and country, then, my Lords, it can be implemented in one of three ways. First, one can do it by establishing unitary authorities—all-purpose or nearly ail-purpose authorities—as the former Secretary of State, Mr. George Thomas, proposed last year. Secondly, one can do it by setting up a two-tier system with a somewhat enlarged Cardiff and an enlarged Swansea as second tier districts; and that is the proposal in this Consultative Document. Thirdly, one could, of course, in industrial South Wales set up a metropolitan authority 1340 under which Cardiff, and maybe Swansea, would have the wider powers accorded to districts in such areas.
Quite frankly, I find the Consultative Document very unsatisfactory in its comlete lack of argument about these alternatives. In the two White Papers, produced by the last Government we set out pros and cons. This document quite baldly states the main principle and makes no effort at any reasoned argument as to the method of implementation which Her Majesty's Government propose to follow. In our 1970 White Paper, the one for which Mr. George Thomas, Secretary of State, was responsible, we explicitly rejected the proposals which are contained in the present Consultative Document—and I quote from paragraph 21, in which we said:If there were to be a tier system in South Wales it would have to be a metropolitan authority with a number of metropolitan districts under it.'The only argument put forward in the present document is that of uniformity throughout Wales, a uniform type of two-tier system for the Principality. But in England the metropolitan authorities break into the otherwise uniform system for the very good reason that they are different in character, so I think that that particular argument does not hold water. Similarly, in the Welsh context it could be argued, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has argued, that Cardiff and its surrounding areas are different. I do not pretend that there is an easy solution. The fact that we have had three radically different proposals in the course of four years proves that it is a very difficult situation. That I grant quite freely. Nevertheless, I believe that the Government owe it to Parliament and to the people of South Wales, and not least to the citizens of our capital city, to explain just how they have reached their present conclusions.
We can all see the attractions of the proposed arrangements in terms of Parliamentary seats (I shall refer to that later), but in terms of local government I think that a much fuller explanation is due. Edinburgh, I grant, seems to be in a similar sort of position and, judging by the recent debate in this House on local government in Scotland, seems to have taken its demotion lying down. But the vigorous representations that many of us have received from the city of Cardiff 1341 show that they are not likely to be satisfied with the few crumbs of special planning powers which have been thrown to them.
My Lords, in the presence of my noble friend Lord Heycock, who has been such a tower of strength to the Glamorgan County Council over the years, I will refrain from saying very much about that great authority of South Wales. But it was an open secret that the 1967 proposals owed their weakness, if it was a weakness where South Wales is concerned, to a very understandable reluctance to break up this great local authority which has done so much for Wales, not least in the field of education, in which the noble Lord has Played such an active part.
Where Monmouthshire is concerned, I find less difficulty in accepting the proposals in the Consultative Document, and for the reason that Newport is far more closely interconnected with its surrounding county areas I think that here the marriage could go forward without impediment, although if one were adopting a metropolitan pattern one would have to look again at its position in relation to Cardiff and the area between Cardiff and Newport.
I shall have a word to say later on about a particular matter in Monmouthshire, but to keep first to the main outline of the proposals, having touched on North and South Wales, I must referro the other areas, to Powys and Dyfed. Before I do so perhaps I should say a word about Lord Ogmore's suggestion as to names. I quite agree with him—and obviously the Government have had some hesitation about the matter—that East Glamorgan and West Glamorgan do not have the romantic ring which appeals to our Celtic hearts. Morganwg—certainly that has the right ring. Dynevor is indeed a famous name in Welsh history, but unfortunately the seat of the Earl is in Carmarthenshire and not in Glamorgan-shire, and I should have thought this would be a little awkward. I hesitate about the name for the other half of Glamorgan, and I do not enter into the competition. But the names do matter. We in Wales have a long history, and I hope that we shall find a happy solution. I think that we are happy with the names of Powys and Dyfed.
1342 Again, if it were only the names that presented difficulty there would be few problems, but none of us, my Lords, can overcome, by organisation or reorganisation—
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
My Lords, the question of names is extremely interesting to us and it would help us very much, those of us who are not Welsh, if the noble Baroness would sing the names
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, I will give the noble Viscount, a private audition. Modesty prevents my doing so in your Lordships' House. If I may return for a moment to Powys, which of course was one of our ancient Kingdoms, I am sorry that none of us can, by any organisation or reorganisation of local government, avoid the fact that Powys is such a sparsely populated area of the Principality that it is very difficult indeed to find a truly satisfactory unit of local government.
The ingenious suggestion was made in 1961 by the Local Government Commission for Wales that these counties of mid-Wales—Montgomery, Brecon and Radnor—should be split, and attached to the more industrially developed areas, in the North, on the one hand, and in the South, on the other, thereby possibly meeting some of their financial difficulties. Not surprisingly, this proposal was not very warmly welcomed, and I am glad to see that it has not been resuscitated here. I think the proposals for Powys, which are the same as those of the previous Government, are the only practical ones, and I would say that the solution for the problem of Powys really lies in other fields, in particular, development aid on a really significant scale. Also, I would suggest special help by other means. In this connection, of course, the financial proposals, when we receive them, will be very important indeed. At this stage I think all I should say is I am sure we would all agree that individual citizens in these areas must not be penalised, or have the standard of services lowered, because of the nature of the county. Having said that, I can assure the Minister that, as I now live in what will be part of Powys, he will have at least one pair of very watchful eyes on his future actions.
1343 As regards Dyfed—that is, Cardiganshire, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire—this area, too, has its problems of communication and economic development; not quite as acute as Powys, but still very important. At one point we discussed putting North Cardiganshire into Powys to help redress the balance, but that was not very popular, and I do not quarrel at all with the fact that the present Government have not resuscitated that. I must however query the decision that Pembrokeshire should be one district instead of two, or even three as was at one time suggested. I know very well that the county authority urged that Pembrokeshire should become one all-purpose unit; so, for that matter, did Anglesey. But for very good reasons this plea was rejected. But it does not follow that one district in a two-tier system is necessarily right. I hope that we may have some assurance that this matter will be discussed further. After all, the whole object of adopting a two-tier system is that the lower tier shall be truly local. Pembrokeshire is a large county, with more than 100,000 inhabitants, and in my view it could support two district councils, unlike Cardigan which has only half that population.
My Lords, it would be inappropriate, I think, in a general debate to go much further into detail on the district proposals which are of course subject to discussion. Local authorities have been asked to send in their views before the end of May, as I understand it. But there are two instances where the present Government are going against the proposals of their predecessors and I think we are entitled to know why. Each involves the same principle with which we do not quarrel; namely, that a river should not be the boundary of the administrative unit, but that both sides of the valley should be contained in one area of administration. This I regard as sound sense, and I entirely support it. It is the further step in each case that worries me. And the first instance is in Rhymney, in Monmouthshire, a place with which I have the closest possible connections.
Why on earth should Rhymney, the Rhymney Valley, be taken out of Gwent, as the new county will be called—the 1344 present county of Monmouthshire—and handed over to East Glamorgan—whatever it is to be called—which is more than twice the size of Gwent and nearly three times as large as any other Welsh county, and therefore cannot possibly need extra sustenance in population or rateable value? This seems to me a really monstrous proposal. The local council do not want it, they have assured me of that; and so far as I know the local people do not want it. The statisticians may have worked out some line of communication in their various investigations, and on the little maps which I have seen prepared from time to time, but I can assure the Minister, from the closest possible personal knowledge, that there are very strong links between Rhymney and the other valleys of Monmouthshire, particularly Tredegar. I see no reason at all why Rhymney should lose its historical connection in favour of a new county which is quite large enough without it. I hope very much that this point will be reconsidered.
The other instance is the Conway Valley and Llanrwst. Here, frankly, I must say that I feel that there may be some slight whiff of politics. It is, after all, not for nothing that the present Secretary of State is also Chairman of the Conservative Party and that he once lost his seat in Conway. By taking this area out of West Denbigh, which is a safe Tory seat, and adding it to Conway, which is a marginal seat, it may be that Mr. Peter Thomas has in mind to try his luck again in Wales. It will be very interesting to see.
§ BARONESS WHITE
It was the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, an impartial witness after all, who said in the debate on England on Monday:Some of the areas suggested … owe a great deal more to political pressures I think than any idea of constructing a rational local government area."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 29/3/71, col. 121.]I do not propose to pursue further the accusations of gerrymandering, but I think your Lordships ought to know that they are rife in the Principality, especially in regard to Cardiff and Swansea. It is difficult to explain the Swansea-Gower 1345 proposals on any other basis. I would only suggest that when the Secretary of State for Wales is also the Chairman of the Conservative Party he is in a peculiarly delicate position in that dual role, and I am sure that on reflection he must in honour feel that he should put his public responsibilities before any question of loyalty to his Party. I am sorry to have to say this, but there are such strong feelings in parts of Wales that I think it would be unrealistic not to let your Lordships' House know of them.
As perhaps there are not many noble Lords with close personal knowledge of administration in the Principality, may I be forgiven if I make one or two points before I come to one major concluding point on the Crowther Commission? The new counties will be in general very much larger in area than those we have at present and, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, rightly said, unless we recognise this by making much more generous allowances to elected members, then we simply shall not have the choice of candidates to which electors are entitled. They just will not be able to serve.
My noble friend Lord Champion touched on this point in speaking on local government reform in England earlier this week, and I hope that he will develop it to-day. Because for us in Wales this is vital. I would add that any method of payment must in equity take account of the position of women, who often cannot claim for loss of earnings but, as all of us in public life know, are involved in higher personal and also housekeeping expenses, if they are away from home for long periods at a time.
There are many other important points: provision for staff—I am glad that the present Government are proposing to have a Staff Commission, as we did: new arrangements for health services, on which further consultations will be required, as I know that these are causing a certain concern; and the distribution of functions. Here, rather interestingly, Wales is to have a more flexible system than England, with discretionary powers vested in the Minister to allot certain functions to the districts according to circumstances. I can see all kinds of trouble arising from this, and I am not sure that I should wish to be in the Ministerial shoes and have to decide on 1346 these matters. But I would not be implacably opposed to this suggestion, because I recognise the real discrepancies between the different authorities which will nominally have the same constitutional status. I am fortified in this view by the opinion again of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, in her speech on Monday, in which she referred to the lack of such flexibility in the proposals for England.
Finally, I turn to something which is exercising us very much in Wales, and that, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, rightly said, is the position of Crowther Commission. I am sure that had it not been for our problems in Wales and Scotland we should never have had a Crowther Commission, for England would have got along reasonably well without it. Scotland has its pattern of regional government, but to me Crowther is significantly important for Wales in a way which is not so important for England and somewhat less important also for Scotland. I must say that I was much disturbed when I found out recently that the Commission had not met to consider their Welsh Report, at least since last June. We know of course that the noble Lord, Lord Crowther, has been turning his powerful mind to other matters, such as consumer credit, but meanwhile we are kept in suspense.
Had we been able to legislate on the 1967 proposals, there was a strong case for going ahead and not waiting for Crowther, but, with the long delays, if Crowther had been speeded up it would have been far more satisfactory for us to-day to look at the picture as a whole. There are bound to be questions as to the division of functions between the new counties and any new all-Wales body which Crowther may propose, and which some of us hope he will propose. I grant that they are not likely to be functions which are of the essence of local government; they are more likely to affect relations with the central Government. But we do need to know where we stand, and the sooner we can have the Crowther Report, the better. Meanwhile, we must await the views of the local authorities themselves upon the Consultative Document. I hope our deliberations here today may help to clarify some of the issues which, after ten years of talk, still have to be resolved.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and I am sure that the rest of your Lordships are equally grateful to him, for having given us this opportunity to discuss the third part of the local government reorganisation in England, Scotland and Wales. I was glad to hear him say that in broad general principle the proposals in the Consultative Document have his approval. May I also say with respect that I was pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady White, made such a moderate and well-balanced speech? I think that perhaps the officials of the House were expecting something more in the way of pyrotechnics, as I see that both Front Benchs have been provided with asbestos fire blankets.
Wales has waited a long time for the reorganisation of its pattern of local government. It is 25 years since proposals were first made for reform, and in the meantime thinking has been influenced by the Redcliffe-Maud Report on English Local Government Reform and the Wheatley Report on Scottish Local Government Reform. It will surely come as a relief to all of us, whether or not we agree with all the proposals in the Consultative Document, that we intend to introduce a Bill in the 1971–72 Session so that the new authorities can take up their duties on April 1, 1974. There has already been a fair measure of agreement on at least one point of substance—that we cannot continue with a pattern of no less than 181 county, borough and district councils, all with major local government functions, to serve a population of 2,700,000.
If I may briefly put into perspective the history of these proposals over the last 10 years, your Lordships will recall that the Local Government Commission for Wales put forward two sets of proposals in 1961 and 1962, the first for 5 administrative counties in place of the present 13, the second for 7 counties. In both cases they proposed to retain the existing county boroughs, with the exception of Merthyr Tydfil, which was to become a non-county borough. However, these proposals were not accepted by the Conservative Government of the day or by the Labour Government which succeeded them, and Mr. James Griffiths, 1348 the Secretary of State for Wales, initiated a Study which resulted in the White Paper of July, 1967. This proposed that existing counties should be amalgamated with certain modifications to produce five new administrative counties and followed the proposals of the Local Government Commission for Wales in retaining the county boroughs except for Merthyr Tydfil. It also proposed considerable amalgamations of the existing 164 county districts and the county borough of Merthyr Tydfil into 36 new districts.
After consultations, these proposals were modified to provide two counties in North Wales instead of one and to make the whole of Cardiganshire a single district, resulting in 6 counties and 35 districts. However, after the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government in England, published in June, 1969, the previous Government reviewed their proposals and produced a new White Paper in March, 1970, in which they proposed to abolish all the county boroughs and to divide Glamorgan and Monmouthshire into three unitary authorities centred on Cardiff, Swansea and Newport.
The present Consultative Document accepts in general the grouping of counties other than Glamorgan and Monmouthshire to form four new counties—Gwynedd, Clwyd, Powys and Dyfed. But we see no sense in having a two-tier system in one part of Wales and a unitary system in another—particularly as we have preferred a two-tier system for England and Scotland. For this reason, we propose to establish three new counties in South-East Wales, Gwent, East Glamorgan and West Glamorgan, and within these three counties, 17 districts.
I noted with great interest the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for the renaming of East and West Glamorganshire. As he knows, we are still anxious to receive any suggestions for the names of these two counties. I cannot say that I was particularly attracted by "Dinefawr", except as a pleasant sounding name, especially when I realised that the two claimants to the Throne of Wales in your Lordships' House both sat on the Opposition Benches. But certainly Lord Ogmore's 1349 proposals for names will be seriously considered.
We further propose that the present geographical county of Glamorgan should be divided into two, roughly East and West of a line Hirwaun to Porthcawl. The detailed boundary would, in the first place, follow the existing boundaries of districts and parishes. The proposed East Glamorgan county is by far the largest in population of the new Welsh counties. It will have a population of 928,000, neary 200,000 more than the present administrative county of Glamorgan. The proposed West Glamorgan county will also be very substantial compared with the other Welsh counties. It will have a population of 371,000—the third largest of the seven proposed.
The Consultative Document explains that the Government have considered very carefully the alternatives to this two-way division of Glamorgan. The first would have made the present geographical county, including the three county boroughs, into a single new county. But this would have had nearly twice the population of the present county, and nearly half the population of Wales. It would therefore have thrown the whole scheme of reorganisation out of balance, and there would, I suggest, have been a dangerous tendency for it to have been pulled in two directions, between Cardiff at one end and Swansea at the other. The other alternative would have been to divide the county into three or more new counties. We took the view, however, that to divide Glamorgan into three would inevitably have split off areas which ought to be planned together, and that at least one of the new counties would have been seriously hampered by lack of resources and lack of suitable development land.
Cardiff, which has been mentioned both by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and the noble Baroness, Lady White, will continue to be recognised as the capital of Wales. It is proposed that the present City, along with Penarth and suburban parishes at present in Cardiff rural district and Magor and St. Mellons rural district, should form a new district in the county of East Glamorgan. In order to emphasise its special status as the capital of Wales, we intend to give the new City Council substantially wider powers and responsibilities than other district councils in Wales or, for that matter, in 1350 England; in particular, they will have power to make their own local development plans.
I was a little surprised at the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady White, for Cardiff, when her Government's proposals envisaged Cardiff as being reduced to no more than a parish council. Under our proposals, Cardiff will maintain its identity as a strong district council, with special planning powers, with enlarged boundaries and with the status befitting the capital city of Wales and the seat of the Welsh Office.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, if the noble Lord will permit me to interrupt, I recognise the importance of this being the seat of the Welsh Office. But, after all, in our proposals Cardiff was at least in a unitary authority, with all the powers, whereas by the present Government's proposals these powers will be divided. The noble Lord said that Cardiff would have substantially greater powers than a rural district. Can he perhaps enlighten us as to what powers, other than the planning powers, he has in mind? Are there to be other powers?
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, certainly the planning powers, as the noble Baroness knows; and as a result of the discussions that are going on, it may be possible to find other powers which would help to distinguish Cardiff. But this at the moment is still under discussion.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would apply his mind to the question of expense. At the present moment, Cardiff has all the powers and large resources. If it is a district council, how will it be able to afford to carry out the expensive duties of a capital city, with a Lord Mayor, a Rolls-Royce and all the rest?
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, it will still have its rateable value. I cannot of course anticipate what will be in the Green Paper in regard to financial provisions; but Cardiff, I should have thought, would in any circumstances be a fairly rich and well-to-do authority, whether it be as a district authority, as we envisage, or in some other form.
§ LORD HEYCOCK
My Lords, perhaps I may intervene to clarify something in my mind. A question was put as to the 1351 future planning functions of Cardiff. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, went on to say, if I understood him correctly, that there were other functions. Are we to assume that there will be a departure from the functions specifically laid down in the Consultative Document for a county council?
§ LORD ABERDARE
No, my Lords. I merely said that there were discussions in progress with local authorities, and that in the course of these discussions we should naturally take into account representations that might be made to us by the county councils or by the City of Cardiff.
So far as the districts are concerned, we propose only one major alteration, and that is to retain Pembrokeshire as one complete district within the County of Dyfed. I know that there are those who object to Pembrokeshire being joined with Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire to form this new county. They argue that the distances involved are great, and that the differences of outlook are significant. But we cannot accept that the population of Pembrokeshire is sufficient for it to form a new county on its own. However, in view of the concern expressed that Pembrokeshire should continue as a single unit, we have proposed in the Consultative Document that it should form a single district. I can only say to the noble Baroness, who asked me about this, that again we are still subject to consultation on this matter, and it can be discussed further if the local authorities wish it.
I was somewhat surprised that the noble Baroness, Lady White, should have urged that the Rhymney Valley should be included in Gwent rather than in East Glamorgan. She was, after all, Minister of State in the Welsh Office at the time the previous Administration proposed in their White Paper of March, 1970, that the valley should be included in East Glamorgan. That White Paper said:In so far as the communities in the valley have linkages with either Cardiff or Newport, those with Cardiff predominate.The difference between the proposals in the Consultative Document and those made by the previous Administration is that we are proposing that the Rhymney Valley should have a district council, with substantial executive functions, to 1352 represent it. Nevertheless, I accept that there are substantial arguments on both sides on this particular question.
There is little disagreement that the administration of the valley should be unified within one county. The Local Government Commission for Wales, as the noble Baroness pointed out, suggested that the county should be Monmouthshire. This was also the first thought of the previous Administration in their White Paper of 1967; but they subsequently changed their minds. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State will, I know, be prepared to give full consideration to the views of the local authority of the valley and the two county councils on what should be done.
The effect of our proposals is a total of 7 county councils and 36 district councils, in place of the present 13 counties, 4 county boroughs and 164 non-county boroughs, urban and district councils. We intend that existing parish councils in rural areas should continue with their present functions, although renamed community councils, and we propose that similar community councils should be established in the towns if there is a local demand for them.
My Lords, I have spoken so far of a two-tier system, since this is the generally used and understood term. But I would emphasise, as does the Consultative Document, that the new district councils will be autonomous within their own areas of responsibility and will not be subordinate to the county councils. Although we have taken the view that the basic organisation of local government in Wales on a two-tier system should be the same as in England, there are some significant differences in the proposals for the two countries to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention. In the first place, the new Welsh districts will be prescribed in the Bill itself, whereas the new English districts will be set up by orders made between the passage of the Bill and the appointed day. The difference is mainly due to the fact that Wales is a much smaller country and that a great deal of thought has already been given to the future district pattern in Wales.
Secondly, it is proposed that there should be six metropolitan areas in England, where the allocation of functions 1353 between counties and districts will be substantially different from that in the remainder of England. But the conditions that apply in the proposed English metropolitan areas do not apply in Wales—I think this is the answer to the noble Baroness, Lady White. There are no similar large, heavily populated areas which need to be planned as a whole but which can be conveniently divided up into districts with a population of 250,000 or more. For this reason we propose no metropolitan districts for Wales and the whole Principality will have the same basic system of local government.
Thirdly, there are differences in the range of size of the new counties in England and in Wales. In acreage the differences are not substantial. The largest of the proposed English counties will be larger in area than the largest of the proposed Welsh counties, but there is not a great deal in it. However, in terms of population most of the proposed new Welsh counties will be small compared with the proposed new English counties. Powys and Gwynedd, for example, will be smaller in population than the smallest of the proposed English counties. This is of course due to geographical differences between the two countries.
So far as the distribution of functions between the county authorities and the district authorities is concerned, this in general follows the pattern in England. Major functions requiring to be exercised over a large population will be the prerogative of the county councils. These include education, the personal social services, development plans and highways and traffic management. District councils will exercise those functions most intimately of concern to their local community such as housing, including slum clearance and housing improvement, building regulations, development control, clean air, food hygiene, refuse collection and the provision of parks, playing fields, museums, art galleries and so on. As was noted in the debate on English local government reorganisation on Monday, it is proposed to allocate to the new Welsh district councils a slightly wider range of responsibility than those allocated to the new English district councils outside the metropolitan areas. For example, responsibilities in connection with clean air, refuse disposal and 1354 building regulations will be given to district councils in Wales, whereas in England they will be reserved to the county council. And, of course, as I have already mentioned Cardiff City Council will have special powers of making local plans enjoyed by no other district council in England or Wales.
My Lords, our proposals have not been greeted with unanimous approval. Several of the existing counties consider that they are perfectly competent to continue to exercise full county responsibilities; there are bound to be objections from district councils to the amalgamations proposed for them. Many of those who disapprove of the present proposals are maintaining that it is wrong to take any action before the Report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Crowther. My Lords, with due respect to those who advocate this view, it is really a red herring. It is not part of the Royal Commission's task to review the organisation of local government, although naturally they have been invited to have regard to developments in the field of local government.
Whatever their recommendations may be, it remains our view that major local government functions, such as education, planning and social services, should be carried out wherever possible by authorities with a population of over 250,000. Equally, we are of the opinion that the more local functions of district councils should be exercised in a minimum desirable population of 40,000. Whatever Crowther may recommend, this basis for the exercise of local government need not be affected. The Commission's Report will inevitably bear more closely on the future exercise of central Government powers and the position of the Welsh Office and of course I can give the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, the assurance that the Government will consider the recommendations of the Commission very carefully. But I believe it to be far more in the interests of Wales to proceed swiftly to the reorganisation of local government without finding further excuses for delay and indecision.
My Lords, the present Consultative Document was published on February 16 and Welsh local authorities have been invited to comment on it by the end of May. I would emphasise that it is a 1355 consultative document and that we shall consider very carefully any comments made by the local authorities. It would, however, be misleading to suggest that our proposals are subject to modification in their basic essentials, notably the need for legislation, the broad division of functions in a two-tier county district system, and the range of size of the proposed counties and districts. On all other matters we are open to persuasion. I know that my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Wales, very much welcomes this debate on the Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and I can assure the noble Lord that all points that he and your Lordships will make in this debate will be most fully considered.
I have not covered all the points that have been made by noble Lords and the noble Baroness, but if I may, with leave, speak again for a short time at the end of the debate perhaps I may pick up one or two of the points that have been made on matters such as aldermen, remuneration and other points which may well arise in the course of the debate.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ LORD HEYCOCK
My Lords, may I first of all say that I welcome the opportunity of this debate, and I appreciate the fact that my noble friend Lord Ogmore has raised this matter. I should also like to say to the Government how delighted I am that they have afforded us the opportunity of debating the Consultative Document on the reorganisation of local government in the Principality. May I say to my noble friend Lord Ogmore that for at least 35 years I have been a member of the Glamorgan County Council, and have been perfectly happy with the term, "Glamorgan". I am convinced that if I go into West Glamorgan I shall want to carry the very fine tradition of local government which Glamorgan has established over many years.
Secondly, I should like to draw attention to the fact that there was one omission from the noble Lord's speech, although I do not want to dwell too much upon it. He illustrated clearly to the Members present the victory of the Welsh team in Paris. I was in Paris, and a great tribute should be given to Clive Rowlands (although this is getting away a little from the aspect of local 1356 government), for he was the instigator of the victory. I hope that the Government will also be a very good coach in relation to channelling the very nature and character of local government of the future.
I welcome the philosophy that underlies the Consultative Document; namely, the two-tier system of government. In 1970, in the Llanelli area you would have had eight chances more of serving on a local authority than in Glamorgan under a unitary system. Therefore I welcome the two-tier system, because it gives the larger authorities the facility of administrative experience and financial control to administer the services with which, under the present Consultative Document, they have to deal. Secondly, it presents the opportunity very clearly for local authorities, who are much nearer to the core of the people, to administer the functions contained in the document.
I want to say here this afternoon very clearly that there is a strong body of opinion on this question. I am not in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, when he says that red herrings are drawn across the path in relation to the Crowther Report. Having spent nearly 35 years in local government administration in the Principality, I make the prophecy that if we get the recommendations of Crowther they will have an effect on local government in Wales in the future. Obviously if you are going to set up a committee or elected body, which may be the recommendation of the Crowther Commission, logically they must have some power. I am certain in my own mind that when the Crowther Commission recommendations are made, if such a body is set up it will take away from the local authorities the co-ordination of education in Wales, the co-ordination of economic planning, and the co-ordination of physical planning. I am convinced in my own mind that in those three fields, at which at the moment we labour as local authorities, the Crowther recommendations will have that effect; and therefore, from that standpoint, I feel fairly certain that there is a sense of apprehension in the Principality.
I do not want at any stage to delay the implementation of the Consultative Document. We have waited far too long for the reorganisation of local government up to the present moment. In that 1357 particular sense I should like to deal with a question of procedure. I speak as one who for 35 years has been engaged in local authority work, as I said previously, and one who has taken part in many negotiations upon various Reports, right from the first Report of Trustram Eve in 1947 up to the Report of 1958, finished in 1961, plus the two subsequent Reports. I am conscious of the fact that the time factor which the Government have allowed is not sufficiently long for the local authorities to give necessary attention to the effect which reorganisation is going to have upon them, to the physical aspect and to the question of functions.
We have been given the assurance of the Secretary of State for Wales about representations. I know that there will be no alteration of the fundamental basis of the reorganisation of local government—there can be no alteration to the two-tier system of government. But there should be careful consideration of the arrangement of boundaries. I want an assurance this afternoon from the Minister that, wherever representations are made by the Welsh Counties Association, or through the individual county associations, they will be given consideration; and that the Consultative Document as it is set out at the moment, and its boundary arrangements and functions, is not a fait accompli. At the end of this debate I should like it to be placed on record that we have the assurance—and I speak for the Welsh Counties Association and for the Glamorgan County Council—that at least proper consultation will take place; that such consultation and representations will be given proper consideration; and that this Report is not a fait accompli.
I come to the question of functions. Both the noble Baroness, Lady White, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, seemed perfectly happy that the functions that are given to the Principality are in essence a little different from the functions that are given to the English counties. I have not considered in detail the functions given to the English county, but I believe, as a member of a county authority, and one of long experience, that the functions should be similar. I cannot make out why in the English document the provision for libraries shall be a responsibility of the county council. The reason given for that is the fact that it is a part of the educational apparatus 1358 of the administration of English counties. I cannot understand logically why it is necessary to say that in certain district councils in Wales the functions of the administration of libraries shall be the responsibility of the district council. I have had a long experience in the field of education and its administration, and we have in that particular field adequately met the requirements of the people of our administrative county.
Let me again go over one or two points in relation to the question of planning. I was not very happy earlier at the statement made by the Minister when the noble Baroness, Lady White, questioned him on Cardiff. This statement created a sense of apprehension in my mind. The noble Baroness spoke about planning and said that the planning did not have any teeth. I say frankly that from our own county standpoint in the foreseeable future I feel that a duplication of planning is not right. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Fiske, who on Monday indicated some of the problems of dual interference in planning that occurred in the Greater London Authority.
The Minister said that when we come to consider other matters we shall consider whether certain other functions should be given to the city of Cardiff. I want to say here, from my own county's standpoint, regarding the concepts of structure planning, that I am fairly certain it is a mistake at this particular stage to separate planning from county administration and to give Cardiff something that is not given to any authority in England. Therefore, I believe that what is proposed is merely a sop to the city of Cardiff in order to get some sense of support for the Consultative Document.
I have spoken generally on the question of local government administration; I have touched upon the Crowther Report and also upon functions—there are clean air functions and others which are going to be the responsibility of the district council, whereas in England many such functions are to be the responsibility of the county council. We in Wales say—at least, I say and I know that the Welsh counties say—that we shall require from this Consultative Document the same measure of responsibility and the same measure of functions that the English counties get.
1359 Having spoken in the general sense, I come to the particular sense—my own county authority. By tradition, by character, by progression, we have played our part in the local government development in the Principality. I am certain that in cultural matters the Glamorgan County Council has taken a lead. In the field of education, on the Welsh Joint Education Committee we have coordinated education in every particular sense of the word and have played a leading part. Furthermore, in the fields of the social services, welfare and health, the tradition of the county council has been such that it can compare favourably with all that has been done by any of the county council organisations in England.
The point I am making is that we are clearly opposed to the division of the county. I do not want to say, in the same sense as my noble friend Lady White said it, that there is a political motive behind this. I could go into detail as to the composition of the South-East Glamorgan authority in the future, as against the political composition of the present County Council in Glamorgan. What we do say, first of all, is that the Report of 1967 was the one that commended itself most to the local authorities in Wales and the one that would have been accepted by the great majority, for one reason only. All the other previous Reports had fragmented the county councils. For the first time the county councils were amalgamated as single units, and for that reason I am fairly certain that the Report commended itself to the majority of people in the Principality.
The only divided authority under the Consultative Committee is the Glamorgan County Council, and on this I should like to make one or two suggestions for the consideration of the Government. The ideal thing would be for the county council to remain as it is at the moment. We should be perfectly content, and we should have sufficient resources and contact with the people to meet all the necessary needs of the period from 1970 to 1980.
If that suggestion does not commend itself to the Government I would make another. I do not know what the noble 1360 Lord, Lord Merthyr, is going to say, but although we in Glamorgan have had our teething troubles in the police administration this is now working well. The police administration covers the geographical county of Glamorgan. I am fairly certain that we shall go into West Glamorgan. This means that we shall build a new staff. The position will be no different from that which has obtained in England. We shall have new county offices in Swansea; and if the Government will have another look at the administrative recommendation and they decide that so far as Glamorgan is concerned it should be based on the geographical county, that would obviate a tremendous amount of difficulty and also a great deal of opposition to the recommendation in the Consultative Document.
On the question of finance, I think that, coincidental with local government reorganisation, we should have had a Green Paper on finance. If there is to be any change from the present system of rateable value to an added value tax (or whatever it is called) then the local authority should be informed of it. We are concerned with what should be contained in the Green Paper and with the financial resources of each authority. I know that the present document contains the figures, £22 million, £70 million and £29 million but, if I may say so, that is hypothetical reasoning in relation to the viability of a local authority of the future. I hope that the Government will, as soon as possible, bring out a Green Paper on local government reorganisation.
The document states that health reorganisation will take place simultaneously with the reorganisation of local government. I make the plea that when that reorganisation takes place we should have regard to an efficient school health service. If we take away all the medical personnel and the diagnostic analyses of the pupils I am certain that the school health service will suffer unless it is established on a sound basis.
I hold the view that reasonable expenses should be paid to members of local authorities. For many years I have served on a local authority, and I am certain that the time has now come when local authority representatives should have reasonable compensation. There is also the suggestion made that we should have a boundary commission 1361 for England and Wales. In Wales the district councils are arranged in a different way from that obtaining in England. A boundary commission is necessary to examine the arrangements of districts in England. In Wales we have already come to the conclusion that the anomalies that will occur as a result of the established districts could be easily tackled by a boundary commission which could be set up by the county councils themselves.
Perhaps I may say, in conclusion, that I welcome the Consultative Document as a basis for discussion on the reorganisation of local government, and I hope we shall see the fulfilment of that reorganisation within the next few years.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ LORD BRECON
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for having introduced this debate on the reform of local government in Wales, and say that I, too, welcome the Consultative Document that we have before us to-day. It was my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor who set up the first Local Government Commission in about 1960, which reported in 1962 and produced two Reports. The first was to the effect that the counties should not be divided, to which everybody objected and then they produced a second Report with the recommendation to divide the counties, and everybody objected to that, too. Subsequently, there have been other Reports: the last Administration had a White Paper and a Report, and we find that even now there are great objections to the Report which has just been published.
It is a pity that after ten years of Commissions and Reports we have made no progress in the reform of local government in Wales, which is so urgently needed. I should like to congratulate my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales on having produced a document which contains some firm decisions and which will allow us to have consultations with him to produce a situation whereby local government can be reorganised as soon as possible. If we have further Reports, I do not think that we shall get any closer agreement with the local authorities than we have had in the past.
1362 The need is urgent. There are something like 165 local authorities in Wales concerned with building houses, and they cannot really be efficient. Some are efficient, but others are not. There are many other directions where our services are split up in this manner, and we should try to do something about it. The fewer they are, the stronger they are. When they are given their own finance and allowed to control it and spend it without too much interference from either Whitehall or the Welsh Office, then I think the councils themselves will carry greater responsibility to the electors, and the electors will take more interest in the elections because the councillors will be responsible for spending the funds. That is what local government is about, and I think we should try to keep it as local as possible.
With regard to the Consultative Document, I rather felt that the functions were not sufficiently clearly defined between the county councils and the district councils. In fact there are nine functions on the county council list and also, obviously, on the district council list, which will run concurrently with each other. I am not sure that it will be easy to make decisions on who should run what, and perhaps in the thought that is to be given to this by the Government they will clarify the position a little so that we do not have this division of responsibility.
A number of services have been taken away from local government. The personal health services are to be taken away and the police authorities have been moved from the local level into slightly different areas. Water is also moving away, as is sewerage. This process of taking off certain functions from local government and putting them into area boards and other organisations makes one wonder what local government will have left in the course of time. Will education go? Will roads go? I think there will be little left for local government to look after, because the principles of reform which are stated in the Report are as follows:Many important services are most effectively organised on a large scale. This permits the recruitment of specialised staff and makes for economy in operation.Those of us who have seen police authorities taken away from the old 1363 counties and county boroughs, then water and sewerage, and now the personal health services, know exactly how much extra these services cost to run since these organisations have been set up, and yet we were promised that if the organisations were larger they would run more economically in every way. I am told that in most cases the cost of these services to the county is now three times what it was when the counties were running them themselves. I hope that if we are to have reorganisation of local government in Wales, we are not going to build up great bureaucracies which will cost the ratepayers much more than they are costing at the present time. One only has to think back a few years when our rates were 20s., 25s. and sometimes 30s. in the pound. Then the assessments were doubled and the rates came down to 10s. or 12s. Now they are creeping up again and they will soon be back to 25s. again. This means that ratepayers will be paying twice as much as a few years ago. I am particularly anxious that whatever we do will be done efficiently and well and will not become a great burden on ratepayers.
So far as the administrative map is concerned, Cardiff has been mentioned by noble Lords and by the noble Baroness, and I think they are making strong representations at the present time. I would raise one matter. I am not happy about calling the three counties certainly of Powys, county councils and then calling Breconshire Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire district councils. I wonder whether we could retain the title of county council instead of district council, and call the other three together a regional council? I believe that this would save a great deal in many ways and would retain for the counties their own particular position and title.
Viewing all the difficulties of local government in Wales—and they are very difficult—I think the plan that has been put forward is the best division of Wales that can be achieved. Certainly in North Wales it is right to have the two counties. It is right to put the Conway Valley into one of them, whatever the noble Baroness says is the reason for it, but it is right to remove the boundary from the river and put it on top of the mountain. The Report says that 1364 the Southern edge of Breconshire, the small towns and villages there, South of the watershed of the Brecon Beacons, are closely united economically and socially with the neighbouring areas in Monmouthshire and Glamorgan. The Consultative Document then proceeds not to carry out the view expressed there; they have taken Vaynor and Penderyn into Glamorgan East, which is right, and Brynmawr into Monmouthshire, but then the parish of Llanelli, which runs into the Usk Valley and right down to the river, is taken into Monmouthshire. At the top end of the Swansea Valley we have Ystradgynlais, which has nothing to do with Breconshire, Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire, and it seems odd that this small entity which has all of its interests—social interests, work interests and further education—in Glamorgan is to remain with this area of Powys.
I hope that the Government will look at this again. If the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, were here I might not have suggested that her parish of Ystradfellte ought to go where it really belongs, into the Valley of Neath. As she is not here, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, will tell her that I did it with my tongue in my cheek, anyway. Of course, we have always been cursed with these boundaries in the rivers and valleys of Wales and in other parts of the country, and this is because populations have been built up around them and the boundaries have become blurred. I am very glad to see that it is now going to be changed.
With regard to the finance question we shall look forward with interest to the Green Paper. It is important that we should have this as soon as possible, to see how we are to finance the operation. It was said by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that mid-Wales is a terrible place. I can assure him that it is not.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I cannot let that pass; I never said anything of the kind. I was criticised before when I said something about mid-Wales. I said it was a problem; I did not say it was terrible; I think it is a lovely place, but it is getting depopulated fast.
§ LORD BRECON
My Lords, I am sorry if I misunderstood the noble Lord. 1365 I know that the noble Baroness spends a lot of time there enjoying that countryside. We cannot really make mid-Wales an industrial area; and God forbid that we ever should! Therefore, on the financial side, if these rural areas of mid-Wales have to be retained in order that those who work in the industrial areas of South Wales, the Midlands and Manchester, can come and enjoy their beauty, they must be prepared to come and pay to support the local government in the rural areas so that it can provide the necessary services. But we must in all circumstances retain the beauty of the countryside there for these people.
With regard to the electoral side of the Report, generally speaking I would say that there are far too many councillors to every council, and I see that it is now even proposed that the figure for county councils should be 75. In the past, when other members besides council representatives were appointed to education committees it was quite possible that for quite a small area there would be an education committee of well over a hundred members. I hope that, when the Government are looking at this question, the number of county councillors will be reduced. We can certainly run in Powys to three Members of Parliament, but we shall need 75 people to run the county council if these proposals are carried out.
May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, whether he can tell us how many members there will be on the district councils, because I shall be very worried if we have on the present county council 75 members, and another 75 on the district council, which covers exactly the same area as the county council at the present time. As I say, I hope that we shall be able to reduce the number of councillors. In any case mobility is so much better to-day than it was when all these councils were set up, I believe in 1888.
There is one other point concerning community councils. I think one ought to try to satisfy the local communities about what will happen when their small councils—borough councils—go and become in effect, in their minds, almost county councils. In the rural areas we have the parish councils to look after our 1366 affairs. But the small boroughs have never had parish councils, and I look for something to be done fairly soon to try to explain to these people how these community councils will look after their local needs. I am really asking why we should wait until the appointed day before these small community councils are set up.
The question of aldermen has been referred to. I always say that there are far too many—one quarter of the membership of county councils and county boroughs, and also of borough councils. I think the day has come when the office of alderman should be changed completely, and certainly it should not be used for political manoeuvring, as has been done in the past by so many of all Parties. I suggest that the numbers of co-opted people—call them aldermen if you wish—on councils should be greatly reduced; and men and women should be co-opted because they have a particular contribution to make to that particular council, and not for any other reason.
If all these changes take place, there is hound to be a big change for all the staffs of our county councils, and I welcome the fact that there is to be a Welsh Staff Commission. I am glad to see that it is to function, and I hope it will not be too long delayed, because I know that there is much uncertainty among stall on these local authorities at the present moment, and there has been for quite a number of years. If these new arrangements are to operate efficiently—and this is the purpose; to get greater economy of operation—then there must be a fairly large reduction in staff. I think that as a result of that there should be a great saving as well, but I hope that the Commission will deal with the placement of staff into other positions in order to help them through this very difficult time.
This is a very good Consultative Document. Perhaps it has been some time in coming, but it is a document that we badly need. I am very glad that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is now pressing ahead with this reorganisation, and we are going to make whatever contribution we can to try to make it rather better, if that is possible, and to produce for Wales the sort of local government service that is vital for us. We should not shrink from doing what we believe is absolutely right to give 1367 us the type of local government that we need.
§ 4.32 p.m.
My Lords, first I declare an interest because I am the President of the National Association of Parish Councils. Second (though it ought not to be necessary for me to say this), what I have to say to-day is only on my own behalf, and not on behalf of anybody else. My first question to Her Majesty's Government is: why is it necessary to have a different scheme for Wales and for England? Why cannot the Government determine what is the best system, and apply that to the whole of the country, England and Wales? I concede that the fault for this state of affairs lies with the Labour Government, because they started it; but the Conservative Government have continued it. Why is it necessary to have a library system for Wales that is different from a library system for England? I cannot imagine what the answer is. It makes for more work, and more delay. Perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply will touch on that point. Both Governments are to blame: one for starting it, and one for continuing it.
The best system that has been invented so far is that of the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud and his Royal Commission, but that is thrown to the winds. I regret that very much. Why appoint a Royal Commission to sit for years, and spend thousands of pounds on it, and then, when their Report is published, disregard it entirely and throw it over, despite the fact that it was supported by every member of the Commission except one? I think the noble Lord's solution was the best, and I am very sorry to see it go. The Labour Government deserve credit for starting to put the Report into force, as I understood it, but this Government have, as I said, thrown it to the winds. I regard that as a big step backwards.
Let us start afresh by all means; and when you start afresh in this matter you must ignore present boundaries, as was found by the Royal Commission on Assizes and Quarter Sessions, who in the course of their Report said they had examined the boundaries of local authorities and found that they were irrelevant to their needs. The Commission meant 1368 that the local government boundaries in this country are simply hopeless and cannot be used for any other purpose. That is what that Royal Commission found, and I think rightly. The boundaries very badly need reforming. In this respect, I think that the English scheme, although not nearly so good as Maud, is slightly the better of the two, because England does alter the boundaries much more than Wales, which leaves them severely alone and has some pretty bad results. Boundaries should be our slaves; we are far too much inclined to make them our master.
If we must have two tiers, as is apparently the case, it immediately creates difficulties—and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, mentioned one big one, that of Cardiff. If we had Maud, there would be no objections from Cardiff. It is because the present scheme takes away major powers from Cardiff and Swansea and others, and places them under some other distant authority, that the objections arise; and I know that we shall hear a lot more of these objections. Under the scheme, Cardiff loses its major powers, top layer powers, for the first time for a very long period. It does not like it, and I am not surprised. That difficulty is immediately solved by having all-purpose authorities, of which Cardiff would be the centre and the head. Incidentally, the same applies to Bristol.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord recalls that the last Government proposed a unitary authority round Cardiff, and Cardiff was very loud in its protests?
My Lords, I did not know that Cardiff was protesting against that. But surely under that scheme Cardiff would have been in a much better position than it is now. Anyway, we shall have to leave that as a matter of opinion.
If we must have two tiers I concede, and I am very glad to do so, that the present scheme is not far off being right so far as the boundaries of counties, the number of counties, and the shape of counties is concerned. They could be improved, in my view, by greater attention to detail, and I hope that they will be; but they are not far off right. I must say that I have serious misgivings about Powys because it is so very small. I would have had one central county going right 1369 across the centre of Wales and bring Glamorgan right up to the top of the Beacons. That is surely the best place for the northern boundary of Glamorgan. I agree with those noble Lords and the noble Baroness who said that mountains are the best boundaries, and rivers the worst. Unfortunately, at present we have far too many rivers as boundaries.
I agree that Glamorgan should be divided into two. Perhaps it is somewhat presumptuous of me to say that, because I do not live there, and I know that it offends some people who do, as we have heard this afternoon. But, after all, the present county has a city at each end of it, East and West, and I think we could well have two counties, with ample numbers of people and a city in each county to be the capitals. I do not think the names are right. I do not like East and West Glamorgan. What is wrong with Gwyr? It has been mentioned, and I think it is by far the best name for West Glamorgan. And why not "Glamorgan" for East Glamorgan? If you want to call it "Morganwg" well and good, but I see nothing wrong with plain "Glamorgan". It must not be called Dynevor, because Dynevor is in Carmarthenshire and will be in Dyfed, and it will create one more tremendous muddle if you have the name of a county the same as the name of a place in the next county. That is suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, I am sure with the best intentions.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I want to be quite clear about this matter. I said that it was logical, but it would not be popular. I said that the name I thought would be acceptable was "Gower", which the noble Lord has just mentioned. I simply said it was logical, because it followed the logic of the others. They have practically all taken the names of the ancient principalities or divisions into which Wales was split. But I do not propose Dynevor. Personally, I think "Gwyr" is the one which will be acceptable.
My Lords, I am glad to hear that, and I hope we can agree that Gower is a very good name. It is historical and goes back a very long way. What we now call Gower does not cover the whole area, but it covers the major part of it, and it would be a very good name for the new county.
1370 I turn to the districts. I think that there should be none, because I want the Maud Report implemented; but I know that I am not going to get it. But if we are to have districts—and we are—then I agree that these are not too bad. I congratulate the Government on this, at least: that they have made a very satisfactory reduction in the number of districts and therefore have increased the size of the districts. It is a big step in the right direction, if we must have districts. But the boundaries, which we are told are already fixed, are not at all the best that could be invented. For my liking, we have followed too much the existing boundaries.
May I say this without being too parochial? The boundary between Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, which is to form the boundary of the new district of Pembrokeshire, is about as had as it could be. It has never been altered, simply because neither of those two counties has ever been willing to give one inch to the other. The counties concerned could have altered the boundary at any time since 1933, whenever they liked. But they have done nothing at all, because neither side will give an inch; and the boundary is very bad. I will not go into details, but it is very regrettable that that bad boundary should be continued as the eastern boundary of the district which is to form what used to be Pembrokeshire.
It has been mentioned that there has been a doubt and a dispute as to whether the present county of Pembrokeshire should be two districts or one. I much prefer one. There was a feeling that it should be two, but I understand that locally that feeling has largely disappeared and that, for the sake of unity, although they do not like Dyfed one little bit they are happy that Pembrokeshire should be one district under Dyfed, if they must have Dyfed. I shall not find a red carpet stretched out for me when I go home to-morrow, because I am about the only person in Pembrokeshire who likes Dyfed. I think it is perfectly all right. It is sensible and is not too big an area, although it is big. It also has a perfect place to be its centre and to have its meetings, and I think it is right that we should have a Dyfed County Council with districts underneath it—five districts in one county. I hope that the 1371 boundaries will be attended to by a Commission, appointed soon and urgently, for the reasons I have already given.
Talking about boundaries, I would point out that no one has yet mentioned the boundary between England and Wales. I know that that is a very dangerous subject. I knew someone who used to be a Member of another place who once boasted to me that he had got an Act through Parliament—I do not know which it was—that made it impossible for that boundary ever to be altered again. Of course he ignored the fact that Parliament can do anything, even alter its own Acts. But why do we always conveniently forget the boundary of England and Wales, apparently assuming that it is perfect? I do not live anywhere near it, but I would hazard a guess that it is anything but perfect. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, will touch upon that subject this afternoon, because he lives very near it, and I strongly suspect that the boundary between Monmouth and Gloucester, to say nothing of the rest of it, could do with an improvement and an alteration. I see no objection to the name Gwent, though the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, apparently does and will probably say so.
The noble Lord does not, and I beg his pardon. I did not know that he was here. I want to mention rural boroughs, which I do not think anybody has referred to this afternoon. Inevitably, under this scheme, all the ancient municipal boroughs of Wales will disappear as borough councils. They will not disappear, I hope, as boroughs. I very much hope that they will retain their antiquity, their ceremonial, their mayors and their town clerks, but when the mayor goes to preside over a meeting he will preside over a parish council meeting, instead of over a borough council meeting. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will apply the Local Government Act 1958 to all the ancient boroughs in Wales which are losing their old status. I have some sense of history and I do not want to destroy it. We can make the necessary alteration. Surprisingly, that provision has hardly been used yet in the 12 or 13 years since the Act was passed, except, I believe, in Shropshire 1372 and to some extent in Cornwall, but not at all in Wales, so far as I have ever heard. I think it is an excellent provision and I hope it will be used.
I turn now to the communities as, according to paragraph 21 of the Consultative Document, I suppose I must, for the time being at least, call them. But why in the world must we change the name of the good old parish councils? What is wrong with the parish councils that we have had for over seventy years? Why must the parish council now be called a community council, apparently only in Wales and not in England? It is another muddle and another reason why we should have not two different schemes, but one. We shall muddle the new community councils with the existing community councils, of which there is one in every county. Who is going to explain to us, day by day, the difference between the existing community councils and the new community councils? I concede that the word "parish" has only two syllables, whereas the word "community" has double the number, but I really see no argument at all for changing the name. I have never heard, in Wales or anywhere else, a complaint about the name parish council". If there must be a change, I suggest that the name common council "would be far better than community council". At least there is no other common council nearer than London. But why change the name at all?
I agree entirely with the Government that the number of these councils, call them what you will, must be far fewer and that, consequentially, they must be far larger in area. That is right. The number of parish councils that we have now is nothing short of scandalous, and there has been a complete lack of effort over these years to nut the position right. In that respect, though not in others, my county is the worst in Wales—by which I mean that it is the county which has the most parishes without a parish council. I say that every parish ought to have a parish council. In the next county, over the border in Carmarthen, there are no parishes without a council. If they can do it we can: but we have never done it. We ought to be compelled by some new Commission to do it, for it will never be done voluntarily.
1373 So I plead with the Government to appoint urgently a new Commission that will alter these boundaries and will not be too particular about the complaints they receive in opposition to changes—because inevitably they will receive a great many complaints. But the number of parishes that have no council at all—the paucity of their population and the badness of their boundaries—is almost scandalous. Those difficulties can be put right, and ought to be put right most urgently. I was glad to hear several people mention this afternoon—I think the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, was the last one who mentioned it—that a speedy review of these boundaries was necessary, and I strongly support him in making that plea.
My Lords, I have said that I disagree with my friends at home about Dyfed. In my view, the new county of Dyfed, though big is not too big. It will be the biggest in Wales, but not the biggest in Britain. It is not as big as Devon, with Torbay, has been since 1889; it is not as big as the West Riding of Yorkshire has been since 1889. And during all the early years of that period there were no motor cars and no telephones. I have never heard anyone say that those counties are too big; yet when it is proposed to make a county which is not as big as they are, there is violent opposition. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will strongly resist the opposition to the formation of the county of Dyfed.
That leads me just to mention the police, only because some other speakers have done so. I happen to be the chairman of the police authority which has the smallest force and the largest area in Britain. I plead with Her Majesty's Government now not to alter the police area except as regards trivial alterations to boundaries as required. Please do not upset us again. We were very much upset three years ago by very great changes—six counties rolled into one force. We have hardly recovered from that yet: please leave us alone for a bit.
My Lords, we differ about these boundaries, but I suggest that when thinking of these boundaries we must look at the problem from the point of view of the whole country, and not from a merely local or parochial point of view. We must not think only of our 1374 own interests. The first interest to be thought of is the interest of Britain, because we are in the British Parliament. It is because so many people look at this from a short-sighted parochial point of view that we get nothing done.
Surely, the counties, as counties, are not being altered at all. That fact is often overlooked. If I am right, it is not the counties that are being touched, but the county councils; and it is not true to say, as so many people do say, that 400 years of history are being overturned. What is being overturned has been in existence for exactly 82 years, and is quite a different thing. As I understand it—and I hope the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong—the counties as such will continue to exist, as we now have legal counties such as Haverfordwest, which has never had a county council and will continue without one, I think, into the foreseeable future.
There are other little details upon which I think further information would be most valuable. First, what will happen to the sheriffs of counties? I take it that they will not be affected at all because their counties will be still in existence. But if I am wrong, I should be most interested to know. What will happen to Lords Lieutenants of counties? I do not think we have been told that (unless I have missed it), yet many people besides the Lords Lieutenants themselves must be very interested in the answer.
Finally, I come to one more point about Dyfed. One of the strongest objections to it comes from people in Pembrokeshire who say, "If we are compelled to go in with Carmarthen; if we are forced to do that, as we hope we shall not be, the language question will create difficulties." They say, "The English, who live in the South of Pembrokeshire—most of the county—will be swamped by the Welsh, who live in the other parts." I do not think that that view ought to prevail, and my major reason for saying that is this. What these people overlook is the fact that the present boundary between Pembrokeshire and their two neighbours is about as bad as it could be. It is not a boundary between ethnic peoples—English on the one side and Welsh on the other. There are many Welshmen in Pembrokeshire and a good many English in Carmarthenshire.
1375 My Lords, if anyone wanted to devise a boundary in order to separate the two and form an English county (and I hope we shall never be compelled by the more ardent Welsh Nationalists to do that) it would not be that boundary. It could not be. It would be the ancient, historical boundary of the landsker, which went in quite a different direction. Since the year 1106, when Henry I invaded Pembrokeshire with his Englishmen and Flemish, and drove out the Welsh over the boundary of the landsker, that is where the boundary must be, if it ever has to be changed, though I very much hope it will not. My point is that objections on racial grounds, on linguistic grounds, are really hopeless because they are based on a boundary which is in itself thoroughly bad.
My Lords, subject to the criticisms that I have ventured to make, I think that on the whole the proposal in the document is a very good one, and one to be welcomed, and I hope that it will be put into force without undue delay.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ LORD SWANSEA
My Lords, I must apologise in advance to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and to my noble friend Lord Aberdare, that I shall not be able to stay to the end of this debate because I have to catch a train to Wales as soon as I have finished speaking. For that reason, too, I shall not detain your Lordships very long, but I shall look forward with interest to reading Hansard as soon as the postal services can get it down to me in Wales.
My Lords, I have more than a passing interest in local government in Wales. My grandfather was the first chairman of the Glamorgan County Council; my father was a member for some years of the Swansea Borough Council; and I myself was a member for 15 years of a rural district council in mid-Wales, until I became ineligible to sit on that council any longer, having lost my residential qualification. The problems of mid-Wales are what I propose to talk about this afternoon, because that is the part of Wales that I know best. The proposed county of Powys comprises three present administrative counties. It will be the second largest in area and the smallest in population and rateable value in the whole of Wales. It will measure, 1376 as the crow flies, some 80 miles from North to South, and many more miles by road. It will present considerable difficulties of travel and time to the councillors who will be elected to the new council. Even if the seat of that new county council is near the geographical centre, for the sake of argument in Llandrindod Wells, there will still be considerable distances to be covered by the councillors to get to the meetings.
I feel that we are in danger of losing the voluntary character which has always been a great characteristic of local government service in this country. Councillors cannot be expected, however dedicated they may be and however public-spirited, to carry out their duties properly under the heavy burdens of travel and loss of time without proper compensation. I am very glad to see that the Government intend to consult local authority associations about improving the allowances paid to councillors. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, touched on that subject, which I think is an important one. At the same time, I think that we should be very wary of establishing the principle of salaries to councillors. That is another matter altogether. One advantage of our present system is that it attracts the sort of persons to local government whom we want to have in it: public-spirited people who are prepared to give up their time for the good of the community. But if we once establish the principle of paid councillors, then I very much fear that the wrong sort of people will come into local government. There is mention in the Consultative Document of a suggested maximum membership of any of the proposed new councils of 75. I think that we should not be too rigid over this; that we should bear local considerations in mind and keep the size of a council elastic, depending upon the distances to travel, areas and population.
It is a matter for very deep concern, particularly in the present Breconshire Council, that it is proposed to transfer certain fringe areas in South Breconshire to other areas. The urban district of Brynmawr and the parish of Llanelly, from the Crickhowell Rural District, are proposed to be transferred to Gwent: the parishes of Vaynor and Penderyn it is proposed to transfer to East Glamorgan. I cannot believe that this is absolutely 1377 essential and that Gwent and East Glamorgan cannot possibly do without those areas. In those circumstances, in both population and rateable value, Powys will have by far the lowest resources of any of the proposed new counties. For example, whereas East Glamorgan will have a population of about 927,000 and a rateable value in excess of £32 million, Powys will have just over 100,000 in population and a rateable value of over £2½ million.
It is rather surprising that the Government in these proposals have thought fit to cut away from the existing county of Breconshire a good part of the southern fringe of that county. The population and rateable value are not particularly large in themselves by comparison of those of Gwent and East Glamorgan but they would make a considerable difference to the size of Powys and Breconshire district councils because the transfer would represent a loss in both population and rateable value of about 16 per cent. of their resources.
On the other hand, their addition to Gwent and East Glamorgan would have a negligible effect on those areas. Indeed, if I may quote from the Consultative Document, in paragraph 29 it says:The population and resources of Powys would be small even if its constituent counties remained intact, and a decision to reduce them further needs particularly careful consideration.It is hard to appreciate the viewpoint that the likely advantages to Gwent and East Glamorgan would justify the transfer of those areas from Powys. I think that the loss to Powys would far outweigh the advantages gained in other directions. The view has been expressed also that Powys, as it is at present proposed, would need a great deal of assistance by way of Government grant to make it viable. Would it not be of advantage from the Government's point of view, and from the point of view of the taxpayers, to restore the fringe areas to Breconshire and thus make the Breconshire district and Powys less dependent on central funds?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, touched on the question of county names. I think that the choice of names for most of these counties is very good. They bring back to one a bit of history. Like the noble Lord, I 1378 am not happy about East Glamorgan and West Glamorgan, and I think his suggestion of Morganwg for East Glamorgan is very good. For West Glamorgan—well, on might suggest to the Western Mail that it runs a competition among its readers to suggest the most suitable name for the new county. But I am inclined to agree with the noble Lords, Lord Ogmore and Lord Merthyr, that Gower would not be a bad choice. In any case, the names of the existing counties would still be perpetuated in the new districts, and I think that a resident of mid-Wales would rather be able still to say, "I belong to Radnor "—or Brecon, or Montgomeryshire—than, "I belong to Powys".
Much has already been made of the status of Cardiff. I should like also to raise a point about the status of Swansea which only very recently was raised to the status of a city. Only last night I was in Swansea and sitting next to the Mayor. He asked me. "What is going to happen to Swansea under these proposals? Is it still going to retain its city status?" I was unable to reassure him; but I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, will be able to do so.
Local government areas in Wales are a bit of a "dog's breakfast", and it is high time that they were sorted out. I think the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, is quite right when he says that we need not feel bound to stick to the existing boundaries and that we should perhaps have a certain elasticity; but broadly speaking I think that these proposals are about the best that can be worked out. The problem of mid-Wales is one that will always be with us. These proposals will not solve it entirely but it is very hard to see how they can be improved upon. I hope that the Government will be open to persuasion in matters of detail so far as boundaries are concerned, but apart from that I think that these proposals should be commended.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for bringing the Consultative Document before us this afternoon. I hope that he, for his part, will pardon the first Englishman who ventures to take part in his debate. My excuse is that for four and a half years I was Minister for Welsh Affairs, and in 1379 that position I gained an experience enjoyed, I found, by relatively few Welshmen—I gained a working knowledge of all parts of Wales. Perhaps I have another excuse which might commend itself to your Lordships to-day, so soon after Wales has won the championship as well as the triple crown, and that is that I am the son-in-law of a Welsh international.
While I was the responsible Minister I made it my business, as I gather the noble Baroness also did when she was Minister of State, to visit on their own ground pretty well all the local authorities throughout Wales. I found it a fascinating experience. It removed a number of my preconceived notions. It was clear, of course, that some authorities were far too small. But sometimes when I was visiting an authority of some importance I was depressed by what seemed to me the lifelessness of the council; at other times I met representatives of a council which seemed to me to have rather depressing tasks in front of it and not very much in the way of resources, yet I was revitalised by the vigour of the approach of the councillors towards those tasks.
It did come home to me in those days that there was one Welsh borough with a population of under 1,000 souls, where a penny rate—this of course was the old penny—produced only £22. Resources like that are not adequate for any purpose—hardly for buying a new typewriter. In another district I visited I found to my surprise that apparently it was regarded as the duty of the clerk to the council to find people in the town willing to serve on the council. He explained to me that he had never failed to get sufficient people nominated to fill the council at the triennial elections, but never during his tenure of office had he persuaded anybody to stand for a casual vacancy. There again one realised the weakness of the small district.
But, my Lords, I am quite sure that in local government matters, not only in Wales but throughout Britain, the most important criterion of viability is not the rateable value of the area, nor the administrative convenience of the area, but the willingness of public-spirited citizens to serve on the council. You can have 1380 a good local authority with not very good officers, if there is really leadership among the elected members; but, however good the officers, I do not believe you can have a good local authority—certainly I have never seen one—if there is no vigour and sense of local pride and energy among the elected members. I noted just now what my noble friend Lord Swansea said about the problems that great distances were going to create. We must not minimise that in our thinking about the reorganisation of local government. Already in many places county councils are thought of as remote bodies; believe me, some are going to be a great deal more remote if the reorganisation on these lines goes through. And yet I think it should. I believe in principle that it is right.
If I may look first at the smallest authorities, about which the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, spoke with such knowledge and sympathy, I am a bit worried by a sentence in paragraph 50 of the Consultative Document which says:The present rural parishes would not be a satisfactory basis for a system of community councils, partly because many of the parishes are too small to support effective councils …".I am not quite sure what is meant by that. In my view, no village worthy of the name is too small to support an effective council. One will not get a more effective council by joining together in a single community council two villages four miles apart which hate one another. I happen to be a member of a parish council at the present time, as I had been long before I became the Minister, and all my parish council experience teaches me that the virtue of a parish council lies not in its population nor its financial resources but in the fact that you have a group of people who know the village and the parish through and through and are prepared to give some of their spare time to improving it. But it must be a unity. If what the Document and what the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, meant is that some parishes are so tiny that they comprise fewer than 50 people, I grant that those cannot support a parish council or community council. But I sincerely trust that one of the features of reorganisation in Wales is going to be a revitalisation of parish council work in the best sense.
I am not sure why we should wait at all about getting new parishes suitably 1381 organised to form parish councils. The Consultative Document suggests that the new county councils will be too busy to take that on in the early stages, and therefore it should be done by an ad hoc commission nationally appointed. Let me hasten to say that when I use the word "nation" in this debate I mean the Welsh nation, not the British nation. I should have thought that this work could go ahead straight away, and under the auspices of the present county councils. There need be no conflict of interest here, and I should have imagined that by 1974 the work could have been completed; and if it emerged that there was either inertia or sharp controversy among parishes it should be the duty of the present county council to bring pressure.
My Lords, as to the district councils, with great respect to my noble friend Lord Brecon, whose services to Wales are unparalleled, I do not believe that one could call the new Brecon District Council or the Radnorshire District Council or the Pembrokeshire District Council a county council. It would be too confusing to do that. But I do not see why they need be called district councils. That might seem to be an unnecessarily pejorative word to apply to what has hitherto been a whole administrative county. I should have thought the solution of this problem would be for us to think up a new word to use instead of "district". The word "district" is one to which, as far as I am aware, neither the present Government nor their predecessors have been in any way committed.
I am glad to see that in Wales the Government have been bolder in their allocation of functions to the district councils than they have been in the case of England. This seems to me on the right lines. I firmly believe that if we are to have a two-tier system of government, the lower-tier authorities must be given well worthwhile jobs to do. The Consultative Document also recognises that some strong district councils could administer more functions than some of the weaker and very scattered ones. I see no reason why we need to have precisely uniform patterns throughout Wales, or throughout England for that matter. Places differ. Local authorities of the same category differ greatly in strength and size, and I consider that the 1382 plans should be flexible enough for the functions in some degree to be tailored to suit the council concerned. In the last resort, if there is difference of opinion between a county council and a district council about whether the district council is capable of conducting some service, it must be for the Minister to decide.
Arising out of this question of the powers of the district councils, I hope that the Government will be able at some stage, not necessarily to-day, to explain exactly what is meant by the statement in paragraph 15 of the document that:Ways will have to be found by which the interests of district councils "—in roads and traffic management—can be adequately expressed.My Lords, that sounds to me very like a form of words designed to cover a gap in thinking. That gap must be filled before the scheme comes into operation. I have little doubt that the local authority associations will make certain that it is filled, but at the moment it seems to me one of the less satisfying phrases in the document.
It is of course a virtue that, as has been pointed out, a number of what might seem arithmetically to be the weaker district councils will in fact be coterminous with existing counties, so the new bodies will have additional strength gained by the previous experience of administering front the same town all of the major county services. The new district councils will have passed over some of those services to the new and enlarged county councils, but nevertheless there should be a fund of valuable local government experience.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, I believe that Dyfed is the right shape for the new county. I cannot agree with some of my friends who argue that Pembrokeshire should be a county on its own, because, among other things, it has as large a population as the new Powys will have. I do not think it would make sense in South-West Wales to have Pembrokeshire as a separate county; though I am devoted to Pembrokeshire and greatly look forward to spending a Whitsun holiday there. As to whether the existing Pembrokeshire should in future be administered by one district council or two, I should have thought that the important developments on both 1383 sides of Milford Haven made it wiser to form the county into a single district than into two separate ones.
My Lords, with one exception the shape and the boundaries of the new counties seem to me to be right. The noble Baroness, Lady White, attacked the Government's decision in the case of the Conway Valley. I hope that everybody will be in agreement that the River Conway is not the ideal boundary between two counties. I should have thought it extraordinarily difficult, if one accepts that, not to put Llandudno and the whole Conway Valley into the same county. The noble Baroness suspects political motives, but I would ask her to examine, as objectively as she can, the alternative which in her speech she seemed to favour. I do not think she will find it makes sense to have Llandudno in Gwynedd and the Conway Valley in Clwyd.
The other boundary on which there has been much discussion is the southern boundary of Brecon, in future of Powys. I cannot agree with my noble friend Lord Swansea that the Government are wrong to propose transferring Brynmawr from Brecon to the new county of Gwent. If one drives along the road through Beaufort and Brynmawr to Abergavenny it is impossible to see any clear division of community as between Beaufort and Brynmawr. Both of those unquestionably, I should have said, ought to be in the same county. As to Ystradgynlais, which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Brecon, on paper and in economic geography there seems to be a great deal to be said for joining Ystradgynlais to Glamorgan. But I gather from the document that the local authority of Ystradgynlais has not yet been sufficiently attracted by the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, and his county, to wish to transfer from North to South of the county boundary, and I am sure that one must pay careful attention to the views of the local authorities concerned.
Mention was made by the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, of the parish of Ystradfellte in Vaynor and Penderyn rural district. If my noble relative had strong feelings that the Consultative Document was not doing right in keeping Ystradfellte in Brecon I feel sure that she would have 1384 taken part in the debate; just as I feel sure that Lord Maelor would be here to take part, had he not been satisfied about the detached part of Flint, from which he takes his title, being merged in the new county of Clwyd.
My Lords, I said there was one exception. The one area where I cannot agree—and indeed fundamentally disagree—with the Consultative Document concerns Cardiff. Cardiff was constituted by my predecessor the capital city of Wales nearly twenty years ago. It must be treated as a capital. I do not believe that one can maintain the dignity of Cardiff as the capital city of Wales if Cardiff is to be a district comprising only a small part of the county in which it is situated. Reference was made to the position of Edinburgh, but if noble Lords look at the Scottish White Paper, they will find that Edinburgh will comprise a much larger part of the whole region in which it is situated, than Cardiff will under this plan for a new county of East Glamorgan. Cardiff will have only one-third of the population of the county; it will have one-tenth of the acreage, and it will have under one-half of the rateable value. My Lords, it cannot be right to put a capital city, or the lord mayor of that city, into so subordinate a position.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, spoke wise words in our debate two days ago on very similar points arising in England. She specially instanced the case of Plymouth which, like Cardiff, is under the Government's plan to be situated in a corner of a large county. The noble Baroness said that there must be internal cohesion between the parts of a new county, and she pleaded with the Government to think again and not to be afraid of creating two or more additional major authorities, if in fact a strong case were made out for that. I believe that there is a still stronger case with regard to Cardiff than with regard to Plymouth.
As to internal cohesion, I cannot really believe that there is any perceptible internal cohesion, except perhaps on a Saturday when Wales is playing at Cardiff Arms Park, between Cardiff, on the one hand, and (let us say) Maesteg or Aberdare, on the other. Let me hasten to say that I mean the town and not my noble friend. Nor can I see how the 1385 "special arrangements" referred to somewhat vaguely in the Consultative Document can be made to work. They will work only if there is complete mutual understanding and good will between the new Cardiff and the new East Glamorgan. The tone of the vigorous speech by the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, did not seem to me to bode well for there being that close co-operation which I should have thought all persons would regard as absolutely essential, if this new scheme is to operate successfully.
In the last Government's 1970 White Paper, it was said thatthere is a viable planning region focused on Cardiff".I agree, but it does not extend to the whole of East Glamorgan. It was said in that same document that it is neither necessary nor desirable that East Glamorgan should be responsible for the planning of Cardiff. That is exactly it. The capital city must be given the opportunity to plan for itself—not only to do some of the initial planning, as the Consultative Document suggests, but also to carry out the plan and implement it. I have studied this matter so far as I am able—and I have had some experience of planning—and I am bound to say to your Lordships that this proposal about giving Cardiff some special place in the making of plans seems to me to be a sop offered to the city, not a scheme that will work out successfully in practice if we are to have a new Cardiff that is to be worthy as the capital of Wales.
The redevelopment of Cardiff must be carried out, I feel certain, by an authority in which Cardiff people predominate and are not a minority interest. Nor is there any insuperable difficulty in doing this, and in creating an extra county. I would not go so far as some people would suggest beyond the borders of Cardiff. I would include Cardiff and Penarth and the strip to the East, which I think everybody agrees should be moved over from Gwent. Then on the West I would include Barry and, broadly speaking, the Eastern part of Cardiff rural district; but I would not go farther West than that into the Vale of Glamorgan, nor further North to include Caerphilly or Pontypridd. It seems to me that in this way we could make a strong new county of 1386 something like 400,000 in population, and we should still have a large East Glamorgan with a population and rateable value not so far different from that of Gwent.
The objections to this are stated in paragraph 43 of the Consultative Document. It says:First, it would further divide the existing county administration.If the new East Glamorgan is to be so enormously larger than any other county in Wales, I do not think it is a fatal objection if that county were reduced roughly to the size of West Glamorgan and Gwent. The Document then says:Secondly, to divide the proposed county of East Glamorgan would inevitably mean the separation of areas which ought to be administered together for the purposes of town and country planning and transportation.That statement certainly needs careful study and analysis, but I incline to put more faith in the statement, which I quoted from the Labour Government's White Paper, that "there is a viable planning region focused on Cardiff."
The third argument in paragraph 43 against the proposal is that:… to separate Cardiff and its neighbouring areas … would mean the creation of at least one authority which was comparatively weak in terms of rateable resources, and was handicapped by lack of resources and lack of suitable land in seeking solutions to its problems.As I indicated, the new but restricted East Glamorgan would have a population and rateable value comparable to that of Gwent; so that argument seems to me to be not so strong as it appeared to be to the Government. As for the new East Glamorgan being handicapped by lack of resources and lack of suitable land, I certainly would not detach from it any but a small part of the Vale of Glamorgan and certainly would not extend the boundary to include Cowbridge or Bridgend or Caerphilly or Pontypridd. I believe the map will show the new East Glamorgan to have ample resources of land for development. It would then be natural for the new East Glamorgan to have its administrative centre at, say, Llantrisant, which is acknowledged by the Consultative Document to be destined as a major growth centre.
If South Wales were divided in the way I am suggesting, I can envisage, as I believe many other people can envisage, local government peace and co-operation 1387 between the different parts of the present county of Glamorgan and the former county boroughs, which I cannot believe will ever be achieved if Cardiff, the capital city, is merged as a district into East Glamorgan. In saying this, I am not seeking to delay the implementation of local government reorganisation. It is even more urgent in Wales than it is in England. As the Minister who set up the original Reorganisation Commission for Wales, nobody is more concerned than I that the job should be settled. My main plea to the Government is that they will re-examine the situation in Glamorgan before introducing their Bill. I was relieved to gather from my noble friend Lord Aberdare that, though there were certain matters on which the Government would not be prepared to move, there were others, including this field which I have mentioned—the of new major authorities—which he did not include among those on which the Government were inflexible.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
My Lords, I believe this to be the first Welsh debate in which I have ever participated. As a mere Englishman, I have been dubious about whether I could be equal to the intellectual pressure. I am conscious, too, that my halting, stumbling phrases will accord ill with the mellifluous flow of Celtic eloquence.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, as the noble Viscount interrupted me, may I interrupt him to say a very warm croeso—that means "welcome"?
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
My Lords, may I respond to the noble Baroness with, Bore da? Yet I do so now, after declaring once again my interest as having the honour to hold the appointment as President of the County Councils Association, only because it gives me an opportunity of subscribing wholeheartedly, I think, to the principles on which the Consultative Document is based. This subscription applies both to the two-tier principle and in general to the proposed pattern of areas of 7 new counties and 36 districts.
I am going to speak only briefly, but I speak with the greatest diffidence in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, whose services in local govern 1388 ment in Wales have been almost unique in their length and depth, and who has rendered most distinguished service, in particular, to his county of Glamorgan.
The current proposals for South Wales seem to be better than those that were embodied in the 1970 proposals. Individual county councils no doubt will be submitting their comments in accordance with the request that has been made by the Welsh Office to them to do so before the end of May on boundaries and other matters. I thought that my noble friend Lord Brooke, whose knowledge again is unparalleled, made a strong plea for reconsideration of one important area; and other noble Lords, too, have mentioned the question of the responsibilities that are going to devolve on the second-tier authorities of very different sizes and populations. No doubt those matters will receive the further study and consideration that they clearly require. As the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, mentioned, there are some differences in the allocation of responsibilities between the authorities in Wales as against those in England. That again is something that I should have thought required further study.
The noble Baroness, Lady White, mentioned political pressures, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, in our debate last Monday. Those of your Lordships who have belonged to Governments, including the noble Baroness, will know that so often when one tries to do what most local electors seem to want, one is accused of pandering to political pressure; and if one does not, one is accused of arrogantly flouting the declared wishes of local democracy. So one can never wholly win.
I was interested in Lord Ogmore's little dissertation to us on names, which I am sure is important. I have been astounded at the brevity of the names brought forward for these new bodies, because as an Englishman I was always under the impression that Welsh names were very long and complicated. After about six or eight syllables, most Englishmen forget where they started and have to begin again. I was thinking, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was speaking, that "Ogmore" would possibly be a little long. But would "Og" suit some area somewhere? That is just a thought. It is tantalising for those of 1389 us who live in England and know the beautiful areas of Wales to hear noble Lords from Wales talking about "the magnificent road along the ridge" between somewhere and somewhere else, or "going down the beautiful valley" from somewhere. I thought how nice it would be for a Committee of the Whole House to spend two or three days going to look at these boundaries for ourselves, on the spot.
Perhaps I may say a word about the section of Lord Ogmore's speech which dealt with rugger. I agree with him that it is splendid that so many young men still pursue the activities of that noble game; and the enthusiasm of the Welsh for it is unrivalled. I remember the story of a Welshman who was watching an international rugger match in Wales, and had an empty seat next to him. Somebody said to him: "Mr. Jones, how come that you have got an empty seat next to you?" Mr. Jones said, "It was for Mrs. Jones, but she was unable to be here to-day." "Ah!" said the other, 'but surely you have many other friends who would have been delighted to occupy that seat?" Mr. Jones's reply was: "Yes, I have; but they all insisted on going to Mrs. Jones's funeral."
I suppose that I must not talk any more about rugger, and therefore I should like to end by saying that, in general, these proposals seem to me to merit positive approval, and our thanks are due to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for initiating this debate this afternoon.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ LORD RAGLAN
My Lords, I do not wish to join in the discussion on the boundaries of the new districts, because I am employed in a strictly non-political capacity in the only district which I know intimately. If I gave some opinions on that subject I might get into trouble with one or other of my friends back there, and that I do not wish to do. What I wish to do is to draw attention to the unique condition of Monmouthshire, which some say is neither in England nor in Wales. I am wondering what will happen to it under this reorganisation.
Under Thomas Cromwell's Act of 1536 the county is mentioned as being part of Wales; but it is not so mentioned in the Act of 1542, which was a kind of consolidating 1390 Act designed to clear up some things left out of the previous one. Until about the beginning of the present century the county was treated as being more in England than in Wales, but more recently it has been lumped in with those counties which are in the administrative area of the Welsh Office. Some people say that the change has been helpful; others that it has not. To me, life seems to go on much the same in either condition, and so long as one can travel without hindrance between what is called Wales and what is called England, without being subject to a different law, and without having to speak a different language, I dare say that most people will not notice much difference either.
But the motto of the county reflects its ambivalence. It is, "Faithful to both." Why it remains faithful to either, except that being so tiny, it has no option, I cannot think, because in the 1,500 years or so of the existence of Gwent (which under the reorganisation is the proposed new name for Monmouthshire) it has been continually rampaged over and quarrelled about by the big bullies from either side. It used to be a proudly separate Kingdom, taking in, in addition to its present area, much of South Herefordshire and the Forest of Dean. But the Saxons took to stealing bits from the East and the North, and when they were not doing that we were being laid waste by swaggering Princes from the North-West. Neither side, I may say, was concerned with the welfare of the inhabitants, but only with territorial aggrandisement.
This condition of being a kind of buffer state or no man's land, belonging neither to one nor the other, was reflected in the Acts of Henry VIII. Henry and his advisers were understanding. They knew the land and its people, and I am quite certain that their ambivalence was deliberate; and they knew, too, that the boundaries they were creating were for administrative convenience. They did an excellent job right the way down the Border—although I know that my noble friend Lord Merthyr will not agree with me.
If speaking Welsh is a measure of Welshness, then Shropshire is actually more Welsh than Monmouthshire, because I think that there are more Welsh 1391 speakers in Shropshire than in Monmouthshire. This is a curiosity of the English-Welsh Border which was not meant to be in the modern sense a national boundary. I replied rather indignantly with a "No" to the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, when he said I was not satisfied with the name "Gwent", because I have from my youth been very familiar with it. My ancestral home, Raglan Castle, used to be called the Yellow Tower of Gwent. Newspapers have been using "Gwent" rather than "Monmouthshire" in headlines for many years because, being a shorter word, it fits more easily into a headline.
My objection is that these new proposed county names have an air of false antiquity, in the same fashion as those public houses that one sees with appliqué beams and bulls eye panes of glass. These names are "stockbrokers' Tudor" gone political. It is unfortunate for Wales that modern Welsh politics should have taken this neo-Celtic path, though perhaps it helps the tourist trade. I hope that the English never fall for the same kind of thing and start renaming their towns and districts with Anglo-Saxon names. It makes life very complicated and it is expensive. If we in Monmouthshire are to readopt the ancient name of Gwent as an acknowledgement of our position under the Welsh Office I, and many others in the county, would still much prefer to retain our status and not be absorbed by either side.
I know that those with tidy, administrative minds will object to this, for they say that there is no point to it. But there is a point: for one thing, nobody in the county has ever been asked whether they wished to be English or Welsh; we have just had one thing or another "plonked" on us without so much as a "by-your-leave". It is suggested that there should be a parish by parish plebiscite in order to determine where the border between England and Wales should run. Leaving the county neutral would solve that problem very delicately. If, as a man of Gwent, you like to think yourself Welsh, you can. If you like to think yourself English, you can. If, like me, you like to think yourself both English and Welsh you can do that, too, as a pleasant example to the nationalists of either country, showing them that national borders are arbitrary, unnecessary and archaic, 1392 and that it is quite time that we abolished them and thought of something else.
My Lords, the people of Gwent have existed for over 400 years without belonging to any particular nation, and it is a matter of some significance that we should be able to go on doing so. I cannot say that otherwise your Lordships will see demonstrations by Gwent nationalists in the now time-honoured fashion: lying in the middle of the road, blowing up power lines and such, or replacing road signs with whatever language was spoken in Gwent before either the Celts or the Saxons came there—I expect we could find one. If Monmouthshire's present motto disappears, it will be a sad thing for Gwent, Wales and England. I hope that the governments of both neighbouring countries will have the sensitivity to allow us to keep it, in fact as well as in words and in spirit.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, in his excellent speech in opening the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, spoke of the waves of successive invaders into Wales, most of whom were repelled in part by the strategic advantage of the mountains. I suppose that I must count as one of the later invaders, a very minor one it is true, but I have been far from repelled, either by the mountains or by the local tribesmen. I am proud to have been, I think, after 58 years adopted. That is my only justification for speaking to-day in this debate. The Government must be very grateful to the Liberal Party for giving up one of its precious days to enable us to debate this Motion and, as I have said, the debate has been well opened by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. This is my second winding-up speech on local government in three days. On Monday I was, in rugby terms, playing in the white strip of England; to-day it is in the red jersey of Wales, striving on this occasion not to beat England, as Wales seems habitually to do, but to ensure that both England and Wales should be working towards a better form of local government on parallel, but not exactly similar lines. That point should be stressed.
A certain Welshman, whom I regard as one of the brilliant ornaments of Wales in the first half of this century, said of democracy:We have experimented with increasing doses of democratic government for less than 1393 a century, but long enough to realise its dangers and disappointments. But in the matter of government we are among the most inventive nations and our genius for compromise, for steering mid-way between enlightenment and prejudice will, I believe, surmount our difficulties.A few sentences later, after mentioning some of the aspects of the indifference of the public to local elections and local government matters, he said:Despite this indifference of the ordinary voter, there is some improvement continually proceeding, prompted by Royal Commissions, departmental, consultative and advisory committees. But the demand for reform does not come from the electorate. It originates from above, not from below.I do not know whether the noble Baroness, Lady White, recognises that quotation, but if she does not she ought to do so, for it was said by her father in a speech to a gathering of civil and municipal servants in 1942. I feel fairly sure that if Dr. Thomas Jones were here to-day he would be proud of his daughter and the way in which she spoke at the outset of this debate.
The proposals we are now discussing stem from the Local Government Commission for Wales which reported in 1962 and the Redcliffe-Maud Royal Commission which reported in 1969. I believe that those two Commissions have prompted a proposal for improvement which is the document we are considering to-day. It certainly fits Dr. Jones's remark that we have agenius for compromise, for steering mid-way between enlightenment and prejudice".It is true also that the demand for it originated from above and not from below, but it is none the worse for that. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, that we should have accepted in toto the Redcliffe-Maud proposals, or any Commission's proposals. You set up a Commission to examine something; they examine it and report, and it is then for you, as a Government, to decide what parts of the proposals or recommendations of the Commission should be adopted in the interests of the country. It is for the Government of the day to decide, and perhaps for the Opposition to criticise their decision. Frankly, I do not criticise the decision of the Government in connection with the Consultative Document and their rejection of proposals 1394 of Royal Commissions. Of course, they have adopted some proposals.
There are some differences in the proposals in this Consultative Document from the English White Paper, but they are nothing like as great as in the Labour Party's original proposals for Wales and for England. For some reason or other the Labour Government's first, 1967, set of proposals for Wales was a much more down to earth and more acceptable White Paper than the 1970 White Paper for England, or the amendment subsequently made by the Labour Government for Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. That amendment was, in my opinion, a mistake, and I am glad to see that it is not repeated in this Consultative Document.
Basically there is now a close similarity between the proposals for Wales and for England, but it is not so close, I am glad to say, as not to allow for some difference in the allocation of functions. I cannot see why they should be exactly similar; I cannot think why there should not be differences, and differences which can pay some regard to variations in population sizes, areas and all these matters. On areas and boundaries, with some slight exceptions I tend to feel that the Consultative Document has them nearly right; but in the case of Glamorgan I am bound to recognise the strength of the arguments advanced by my noble friend Lord Heycock, whose experience of local government in, and knowledge of, the county is quite unrivalled. When I was listening to my noble friend I could not help feeling that if every Welsh wing three-quarter from now on had the speed that the noble Lord had in speaking we should never lose another match; we should always win because certainly his speed was quite terrific. But the sense that he poured out was very well worth listening to.
If I had to take the final decision in the matter of "to divide or not to divide" Glamorgan into East and West, I should hesitate a long time before ignoring the noble Lord's advice, but there is—and we cannot shut our eyes to the fact—a strong case to be made out for a county area centred on Cardiff, and one centred on Swansea. I believe that in both instances it is possible to say that, broadly speaking, one can identify the areas in which people live who look to one or 1395 other of those cities as their centre. Had it not been for the advice so cogently advanced by my noble friend, I would have plumped for the Document. I must admit that he has sown a great seed of doubt in my mind. And generally on this whole point of the possibility of a third county, I must say that I have some sympathy for the point of view advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor; but I shall come to that a little later.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, spoke, as almost everyone has done, about this point of the capital of Wales. It is only 16 years, as has been said, since Cardiff, after decades of argument, was named the capital city of Wales. Its status as a county borough and as a capital city, in which is located about the finest complex of governmental buildings in Great Britain, if not in Europe, has by now been accepted by most of those who opposed having the accolade of "capital" bestowed upon it at the outset. It is now accepted, and generally accepted. In these circumstances, I can well understand the feelings of the City Council, who feel that on becoming a district council the standing, the prestige and the dignity of the capital is being lowered. I am not unaware of the difficulties, but I feel that the Government must pay very great regard to the representations which the City Council will undoubtedly be making in the future. As I said just now, I rather like the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. I certainly think that Cardiff could be extended East and West along the coast; but I would agree with him not to extend it to Pontypridd and the area there. I do not say that merely because I live in Pontypridd. I like Cardiff, I like to visit it, and I certainly do not like the idea of its being virtually demoted.
So far as Pembrokeshire is concerned, until I heard the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, speak I was strongly inclined to the view that there ought to be two districts there. I thought that the county divides geographically, and certainly to some extent culturally, into two areas. My experience of Pembrokeshire—that beautiful county with the coastline which I think is about the finest in Great 1396 Britain—taught me that North of the Haven the county is largely Welsh in character—culturally and in character. South of the Haven, for some historical reason, some historical set of circumstances, it is an area which has been described with some truth as the "little England beyond Wales". I should have thought there was a justification here for it, but I should have said that this was a matter in which we ought to take the views of the inhabitants; and the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, has told us to-day that Pembrokeshire does not wish to be divided into two. So it is not for me to press this upon the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and the Government. I would accept his word for it, of course.
The only other point I would make on boundaries is of a small alteration which I think should be made, and that is that the towns and villages in the Ynysybwl Valley look to Pontypridd as their centre. They have a direct and a very heavily used bus service running to and from that town, and I think that that Valley should be attached to the East Glamorgan No. 8 District. I know the interest of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. He lives in Mountain Ash, and at present the Ynysybwl Valley is part of the Mountain Ash Urban District Council—but it ought never to have been. It is time that it was changed and that it now became part of the No. 8 District.
I must say that, on balance, I tend to support the noble Lord, Lord Swansea, in his plea for Brynmawr, Penderyn, Vaynor, being perhaps retained in the area which he comes from and which he supports; namely, Powys. But these are matters which will be argued out elsewhere on the representations of the various bodies concerned. There will inevitably be some opposition to the various proposals on areas and boundaries up to the very time of the Parliamentary debate upon the Bill. Here we are fortunate, in a way, that the boundaries are going to be settled and will appear in the Bill, and will be known to us very early.
This applies, too, to the allocation of functions. As I said on Monday, councillors and officers tend to cling to their 1397 little bits of territory and their powers with very great tenacity. I was the chairman of what was known as a Part III education authority in Pontypridd before the Act of 1944, the Butler Act. A Part III authority had powers up to grammar school level. I have a memory of the opposition I encountered when I said that I thought that the Butler proposals for doing away with the Part III authorities made good sense for it would mean that the whole of primary and secondary education would be in the hands of the county education authority. I found that in this, in local government, as in so many other fields of human activity, councillors and officials pay lip-service to the urgent need for reform but tend to add under their breath, "Not in our neck of the woods at all." In this connection, I must say that I welcome the proposed disappearance of the education divisional executives as the accepted district of the Rhondda. I shall not fear going home this weekend, despite the fact that I live at the foot of the Rhondda, because this was, in my opinion, a device to please the areas which had become deprived of their Part III powers. I welcome it because I think it must be very frustrating to be carrying out policies not of their own making, nor directly derived from Parliament.
On functions, I am pleased to see that, unlike those in England, the district councils are to be allocated building regulations. I would say that what is good for Wales would be equally good for England in this respect. With the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, I like the idea that under paragraph 16 room is left for manœuvre. There is a distinct possibility that there may be some adjustment in functions to meet the wide variations that exist in the sizes and populations of the proposed areas in Wales.
On Crowther I do not think that very much needs to be said to-day. We have had the assurance that was given in the English White Paper that the Crowther Report and recommendations are not likely to touch very much upon local government, certainly in England, and I imagine that exactly the same assurance and undertaking has been given by Lord Crowther to the Government in relation to Wales. But in this connection I should like to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, whether it is in fact the case 1398 that Lord Crowther has given this undertaking.
On pay, there is inevitably a difficulty in speaking within three days on matters so closely related, and in which the very paragraphs are repeated in the two documents that have been under discussion in the two debates. One is in danger of repeating oneself on many of the issues involved. I said on Monday in connection with pay that if the Government decide that a salary ought not to be paid, there should be the payment of daily expenses which would not only cover travelling expenses, a subsistence allowance and a loss of earnings allowance, but also be sufficiently generous to compensate for loss of promotion opportunities. Young men suffer this loss, as I know. Something ought to be done about it, and I think it will not be done unless we accept a proposal that was made to-day, by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, by my noble friend Lady White and by the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, that we should have some form of daily allowance which would truly compensate councillors for the things that I have mentioned. Here, although I had not given it any thought previously, I very much support my noble friend when she says that the position of women in this relationship must also be considered.
On the timetable, as I said on Monday I think that, despite pressures which will be brought to bear upon the Government, the decision to get on with it has been about right. If you do not set a target date and make it clear that you intend to stick to it, we who are interested in local government here or elsewhere, would be tempted to go on arguing about this or that aspect of the proposed reforms "until the cows come home". We should be at it, at it, at it, and there would not be reform of local government for perhaps even another twenty years.
Finally, I must say a word about the councillors and officials who have served so excellently in local government in Wales. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, paid a tribute to some of them. It is true that he was not wholly impressed by all of them that he met, but in the main councillors have done a first-class job of work. Many of the councillors I knew in my period as a councillor were unreservedly devoted to the task they 1399 had then undertaken. Many, like myself, were uneducated in the formal sense, but were shrewd, sagacious and very knowledgeable about their authority's powers. It was a joy to work with them; it was a joy to feel that these men really were thinking in terms of the people they represented and the area they were serving; and the people about whom I am speaking did a really first-class job.
My Lords, watching and listening to a television programme on Sunday last I heard the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, being asked if he would tell his audience what was the most personally satisfying period of his public life. It seemed to me that his answer virtually said that he could pick out no single period, for many periods had their own satisfactions. Were I to be asked the same question, my answer would be that my period in local government was by far the most personally satisfying part of the whole of my life. It was an honour and nice to be a Member of the House of Commons. It is also very nice to be here, my Lords: it tickles the ego. But the result of what one has done, or is trying to do, in these places is so far removed that one can never feel the sort of satisfactions that can be felt when a particular school was going up during the period when I was the chairman of the education committee, or when certain houses were being built when I was the chairman of the housing committee. My Lords, when I go home at weekends I still look with pride at that school and those houses, and feel some satisfaction that I played some small part in bringing them about.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
My Lords, I wonder whether I may ask the noble Lord whether he has yet had the experience that I have had: that a building which I, as a very young man, opened, has now been declared an ancient monument.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, that is the worst of the noble Viscount: he is so good a speaker and he has such wit that he destroys every other speaker in the House. That lovely story of his about Mr. Jones—what a delight that was! I hope it will not be reported too widely because I hope to use it at every possible rugby function in the future.
1400 To get back to the main lines of my speech, in Clarke's Local Government of the United Kingdom there is a sentence which reads:It is probably true to say that many men have found greater satisfaction in local government administration than at Westminster.I agree with that. Councillors have their satisfactions, but they also bear the slings and arrows of those who mistakenly think that they are in it for what they can get out of it in monetary terms. Be that as it may, I believe that councillors have done an excellent job in a local government machine which, though it certainly creaked a little, has nevertheless served the people pretty well in Wales, as it has done in England.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to intervene fairly shortly at the end of this debate to pick up one or two of the points that have been made. I have listened with the greatest interest to all the speeches that have been made. I was only sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, had to leave apparently he was not feeling well, and it was a great loss to us not to have his Welsh eloquence in this debate.
It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Champion, once again. We seem to have been following one another fairly frequently on recent Wednesdays, and it is a great tribute to him that he has spoken both on English local government and on Welsh local government. It is a pity he did not carry the ball into the Scottish half and "have a go" at Scottish local government too. He spoke some wise words, if I may say so with respect, on the differences in the proposals that we are making for Wales as opposed to those for England. After all, our history, geography and tradition are different, and it it is quite right that we should not ignore them simply for the sake of uniformity.
The noble Lord cannot expect much personal sympathy from me in his attempt to grab Ynysybwl from Mountain Ash Urban District Council. He did not reveal that what he so coyly called "District No. 8" is Pontypridd, where he lives. But my personal feelings do not come into this, and naturally all the 1401 points which he made will be most carefully considered by my right honourable friend.
The noble Lord spoke about the compulsory delegation of functions from county councils to county district councils. We are clear that it tends to obscure responsibility and to increase the risk of friction between county council and district council. It may work satisfactorily in sonic areas for some of the time, but generally we do not want to see a continuance in the new system of local government where responsibility is shared, as for example under our proposals it will be in town and country planning. The district council's responsibilities should be conferred upon them clearly and directly, without delegation.
My Lords, so far as the assurance he asks me for with regard to the noble Lord, Lord Crowther, is concerned, the Secretary of State has discussed these proposals with Lord Crowther, and Lord Crowther indicated that he had no objections to the proposals we were putting forward at this present moment. May I also follow him in paying tribute to the councillors and staffs of the local authorities in Wales. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady White, who commended the fact that we were following the last Government in setting up a staff commission. Quite clearly, whatever we do in the way of reorganisation we must do our utmost to protect the staffs of the local authorities.
A number of your Lordships have spoken about pay and allowances for members of local authorities. I can only say that we intend to consult further with the local authority associations about the whole question of financial allowances for members. Going back for a moment to what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said in his opening speech, he asked me about aldermen and was personally, I think, in favour of abolishing them. We want to consider very carefully in co-operation with the representatives of the present local authorities, whether it is right to maintain the institution of aldermen in the new structure of local government; but we think it would be a great mistake to abolish this long-established institution without giving it very careful thought.
If I may refer again to the noble Baroness, Lady White, I should like to rebut her allegations about what we were 1402 doing at Conway, which she seemed to think was for political reasons. I can only refer her to the Consultative Document, paragraph 26, where she will see that the proposal stems originally from an independent body, the Local Government Commission for Wales, and from the views expressed by local authorities in the area.
The noble Lord, Lord Heycock, as he always does, made a very distinguished contribution to the debate this afternoon based on his very long and intimate experience in Glamorgan County Council. I was glad that he welcomed the two-tier system. He spoke of the tight deadline asking for rte local authority's views by the end of May. I recognise that it is a very tight deadline, but unfortunately it is necessary to impose it if we are going to get through the timetable we have set for legislation. I give him this categoric assurance for which he asked: that this is a consultative document, and although there are broad principles which I spoke about in opening which we shall abide by, it is certainly a consultative document in other ways and all the representations made will be most carefully considered. He did not want Glamorgan divided. Of course I quite sympathise with that viewpoint, coming from him. The difficulty is that if it is not divided and one keeps to the administrative county of Glamorgan, and it swallows Cardiff and Swansea, it would be twice as big as at present and comprise nearly half the population of Wales. From the point of view of reorganisation of the whole of Wales this would be rather difficult. May I say how much importance I attach to the school health service. It is too early to comment because our proposals for the reorganisation of the National Health Service have not yet seen the light of day, but I take note of the noble Lord's concern.
On the question of libraries, our proposals are similar to those of the previous Administration. We propose that the main library authority should be the new county councils. This is an important and developing service and needs to be administered by strong local authorities. There are advantages in making the education authorities the library authorities, but we leave open the possibility that a limited number of stronger district councils may be made 1403 library authorities, because there are in our proposals certain present county councils which will in future be district councils. I think one has to leave this matter open for further consultation.
My noble friend Lord Brecon, spoke with great authority as a previous Minister of State and one who did a great deal for Wales. He spoke about concurrent powers. They exist under the present law for nearly all the functions mentioned in the Consultative Document as being subject to these arrangements; for example, both county and district councils have powers to involve themselves in the clearance of derelict land, and in Wales at least good working relationships between them have been established for this purpose. We see no reason why the principle of these arrangements should not continue in relation to some functions. Again, the details are open for discussion with local authority associations.
My noble friends Lord Brecon, Lord Swansea and Lord Brooke spoke about the Southern boundary of Breconshire, and essentially they made three points: why pay so much attention to the views of local councils in one instance and not others? Why not include Ystradgynlais rural district and the parish of Ystradfellte in West Glamorgan, and why include the whole of Llanelli parish in Gwent? My answer to the first point is that plainly the wishes and views of the local councils concerned must be considered and given due weight, but they cannot be the overriding factor if only because they are often in conflict with one another. In the present instance, most of the local authorities concerned, Brynmawr urban district council, Vaynor and Penderyn rural district, Monmouthshire and Glamorgan County Councils, the Merthyr Tydfil county borough council and the district councils in Monmouthshire and Glamorgan are in favour of the boundary being moved Northwards; but the idea is not accepted by the Breconshire County Council or the Ystradgynlais Rural District Council. I am speaking of the views they expressed on the previous Government's proposals, and for all I know they may wish to put forward different ones now.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, if I may intervene, I do not think it would be right to say that anybody had seriously suggested that Ystradfellte should be moved from Brecon into Glamorgan. I should certainly have got into serious trouble at home if I had suggested that.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord; I take his point. My noble friend also asked about size of councils. Proposals about size are about to be put to local authority associations. There will be discussions about the appropriate sizes for the new county and district councils. There is certainly no intention of having an inflexible figure to fit all circumstances.
The noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, who was generally in favour of the Redcliffe-Maud Report and would have preferred to see that applied to Wales, seemed, I think, to be rather more enthusiastic about the Redcliffe-Maud Report than Lord Redcliffe-Maud who, at least on Monday, seemed to commend the Government proposals. But I was grateful to him, at any rate, for giving full support to the fact that Pembrokeshire would form one district, and for saying that he likes the concept of the county of Dyfed. I can assure him that we have no present intention of altering police authority boundaries.
The noble Lord spoke about the alteration of other boundaries. The proposed boundaries of the new authorities are almost all existing county borough, district or parish boundaries, with a few ward boundaries in urban districts. We have adopted this procedure for practical reasons. We think that we should be creating impossible difficulties for ourselves if at this juncture we tried to draw fresh boundaries all over Wales. But the existing boundaries contain many anomalies, and there will have to be an effective procedure for putting them right and keeping revised boundaries up to date as new building and similar developments tend to make them obsolete. Any procedure for this purpose must allow full opportunity for local views to be expressed, and we think that there is much to be said for setting up a permanent Commission to keep boundaries and local authority electoral areas up to date.
1405 I can also assure him that paragraph 53 of the Consultative Document makes it clear that:The titles of borough and city, and their honorific attributes … will be continued in the forms best suited to local circumstances.With such a wide variety of boroughs in Wales, we must have discussions with the associations concerned before we come to conclusions, but we want to do everything practicable to safeguard the traditions of the Welsh boroughs. I took the point that he made about keeping the title of "parish" rather than "community councils", and I will certainly see that that is considered.
He also asked me about Lords Lieutenant and sheriffs. We are very much aware of the concern about the future of these traditional offices, and we shall be discussing these matters with representatives of the officers concerned with a view to finding ways of smoothing the transition from the existing pattern of local government to the new one. I should prefer not to go into any further detail at the moment because Her Majesty's prerogative will be involved, but I can assure noble Lords that their views will be carefully considered.
I can also assure my noble friend Lord Swansea that the city status of Swansea, just as of Cardiff, will be maintained, and indeed enhanced by the extension of its boundaries. My noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor spoke from his wealth of experience as a previous Minister for Welsh Affairs. He told us of his claims as a son-in-law of a former Welsh international, and he has also since drawn our attention to his close relationship with the noble Baroness from Ystradfellte. I took much to heart the points that he made, and I will certainly see that they are brought to the attention of my right honourable friend. He made an interesting point about the setting up of parish councils, and the reason why we should not proceed with that immediately. I think we have always taken the view that it was better to wait until the new county councils were in being before tackling the new parish councils, but I accept the force of his argument and I will see that it is considered.
He spoke of the thinking—which I felt he thought we had not done—about highways and traffic management. We 1406 are clear that the main highway and traffic management functions must rest with the seven new county councils. The present arrangements for the allocation of these functions are confusing and illogical. No fewer than 122 Welsh authorities have some highway responsibility, and the range varies according to the type of authority. We have given careful consideration as to whether some substantial highway responsibility should be conferred on some, or all, of the new district councils, but we are satisfied that the county councils ought, in the interests of efficiency and economy, to employ all the professional highways and traffic management staff and have overriding control over policy within their areas. At the same time, we shall be pleased to consider any ideas which local authorities may have for associating members of district councils with decisions on highway and traffic management matters of local concern.
My noble friend spoke about the problem of Cardiff, and he spoke with very great force. The difficulty is that we are trying to get away from the old county borough concept. We feel that it is undesirable that areas which ought to be looked at as a whole for such matters as town and country planning, roads, education, and the personal social services, should be split by boundaries which are based on the out-dated idea that the county borough should begin where the continuously built-up area ends. I recognise that his proposal went rather further than that, and he included in his projected new county of Cardiff a good deal of not built-up area. I certainly undertake to draw my right honourable friend's attention to his very strong views on this.
It is perhaps worth making the point that the East Glamorgan County, as suggested in the Consultative Document, will be very small in area compared with most of the smaller proposed English counties. It will be only a fifth of the size of the proposed Plymouth/Devon County, for example. Cardiff City Council, I repeat, under our proposals, will have power to redevelop the city in accordance with their own local plans, and they will have power to buy land, redevelop it themselves, and control development within the city.
My noble friend Lord Amory delighted us all with his speech. He broke into 1407 Welsh, which I thought was very impressive, coming from him. I am not sure that he was not a little late in saying "Bore da", but no doubt if he takes a few more lessons he will become very fluent at it. I was very grateful for his positive approval of our plans. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, decided to take part in the debate, and I was very pleased that he did. He has an unrivalled knowledge of the history of Monmouthshire, about which he told us. I would only say that for nearly all administrative purposes Monmouthshire is treated as part of Wales.
It is within the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State for Wales; it is covered by such bodies as the Welsh Hospital Board and the Welsh Joint Education Committee. It has been treated as part of Wales for the purposes of the Welsh Church Act and for licensing law, and for recent local government legislation, such as the Local Government Act 1958, which included Monmouthshire within the terms of reference of the Local Government Commission for Wales. Just before the noble Lord interrupts, may I add that it is also included for the purposes of rugby football, which I should have thought would have pleased him.
§ LORD RAGLAN
My Lords, on that last point, if you play for Glamorgan you can also play for England. The administrative entity at the moment is called "Wales and Monmouthshire"; I should like the new one to be called "Wales and Gwent".
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point. Whatever happens, I do not think that legislation and administrative practice need affect how people feel, and I am sure that some natives of Monmouthshire will no doubt continue to feel that they are English, and others will feel just as strongly that they are Welsh. They can continue with their motto "Faithful to both" or, as the noble Lord seemed to prefer, "Faithful to neither". I am sure that the noble Lord's own eloquence is proof of the fact that he has Welsh blood in his veins.
I should like to conclude by again thanking the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, 1408 for initiating what I feel has been a very good consultative debate on a Consultative Document.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for both of his speeches, and for taking trouble to try to answer some of our points. I should like to thank all the speakers, including the noble Baroness, for their contributions, which were weighty and, I am sure, will be regarded with considerable attention both by the Welsh Office and by the people of Wales. I want to make it quite clear to both the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, that, so far from there being any hesitation on our part in welcoming them, we were delighted that they took part in the debate. They made important contributions.
On the one question that the noble Viscount asked—perhaps not very seriously—about why Welsh names are usually very long and these new ones are not, the fact is that most of the old Welsh names were descriptive: they were either geographical descriptions, such as, "The little mill by a waterfall near to the church", and so on, or they were biographical: "The house were Red Evan lives". That is the reason. The new county names are not descriptions; they are, in fact, the old divisions of the country. They are not geographical descriptions; they were divisions on tribal lines.
I am very glad the Minister has agreed to put to his right honourable friend some of the suggestions that have been made this afternoon, because I think they were valuable and very important. I hope they will receive the consideration which they demand. A great deal of anxiety has been expressed about the position of Cardiff, and the Government should consider very carefully the views of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. I cannot see how Cardiff is going to operate as a district council. It is in a better position than it was before, when it was going to operate as a community council. I objected strongly to that, but I really feel it is not "on" that a national capital should be a district council. If some suggestion, such as has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, were put 1409 into effect, it would be valuable. Of course whether you carried out his suggestion or made District 1 a new Cardiff, the population of East Glamorgan that would remain would still be far more than that of most of the new counties. So that it would be quite viable.
The question of names was raised, and I think I was quite right in saying that, however logical Dinefawr is—there is a certain logic, though perhaps not much—it would not be popular. I think that those who have expressed a view, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Swansea, and the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, have agreed with me that probably the favourite will be Gwyr for what is now West Glamorgan. I am very glad that both of those noble Lords agree on Morganwg for East Glamorgan.
Finally, I cannot let pass what the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, said on my having been remiss about referring to the Welsh Rugby Union. As patron of the Bridgend Rugby Football Club, one of the constituent clubs of the Union with a very important and first-class team, I must point out that I fully accept that Major Cliff Jones and Mr. Clive Row-lands and the others, who have been concerned with selecting and training the Welsh team, are much to be congratulated and commended. I did not enlarge upon the subject before, because I did not think it was particularly relevant to this debate. But as everybody else has been talking about rugby football right through the debate, perhaps I may be excused if I am slightly out of order. With those few words, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.