§ 3.44 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, DEPARTMENT or HEALTH AND SOCIAL. SECURITY (LORD ABERDARE)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Aberdare.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]
§ LORD CHAMPION
Before my noble friend Lord Jacques indicates to the Committee what he proposes to do about his Amendment No. 36 I wonder whether I might ask the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, whether he can make a statement about the future progress of the Bill in the Committee stage. I think it would be convenient to have that information, particularly in view of the fact that we still have 411 Amendments to deal with, some 241 of which have been put down since the previous Marshalled List was dealt with. In my opinion the task that remains is colossal, and I should like to hear what the noble Lord thinks about this and how he visualises the future progress of the Committee stage.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I am grateful to the noble Lord. Lord Champion. It is indeed a very formidable task. It is also a very difficult Bill about which to forecast the future; so many noble Lords have interests in different parts of it, and therefore it is not easy to foresee how long debates will take. But for the immediate future I would suggest that we should complete Part 1 and the relevant Schedules—that is Schedules 1, 2 and 3—to-night. That will leave us free to start on the Welsh clauses on Thursday. I have no doubt that we shall get through those fairly swiftly and then I hope we shall be able to make progress. Probably we shall have to sit until a fairly late hour on Thursday if we are to tackle this major Bill without running into a third week which I think would be something none of us would wish to do. I suggest 33 that on Friday we might again make as long a day as we can of it, but not to go beyond the 6 o'clock limit that we put on our Friday deliberations the last time we sat on a Friday. Next week, everything will depend on the progress we have made, but we hope very much that we can finish the Committee stage next week and avoid running into a third week.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I cannot answer that question; it depends on the progress we make. As I say, I hope that we shall finish Schedule 3 and get up to Amendment 88.
§ LORD JACQUES: Amendment No. 36 is not moved.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
Before I call the next Amendment I think that I ought to point out that if Amendment No. 37A is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 37B.
§ Schedule 1 [Counties and metropolitan districts in England]:
LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU: moved Amendment No. 37:
Corrigendum, page 3, leave out lines 27 to 30.
§ The noble Lord said: After what must surely be one of the shortest Summer Recesses in the history of this House, it is my rather invidious task to bring your Lordships back to discuss the Bill which we were dealing with just before the Recess. This Amendment concerns a part of the world where I am sure that many of your Lordships would prefer to be enjoying its well-known recreational activities rather than discussing its future. However, its future is important and as a consequence is causing widespread local concern. For the convenience of the Committee I will speak to both Amendments, although I accept the ruling of the Lord Chairman with regard to the acceptance of Amendment 37B.34
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The noble Lord is not suggesting, is he, that if Amendment 37A is not carried there should be no discussion on 38B? Clearly he may wish to refer to them both but he is not ruling out a possible debate.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
No: the Lord Chairman pointed out that if Amendment 37A was carried, 37B could not be called. May I describe the area in question, which lies along the North-West coast of the Solent stretching West from the Lymington River, which, incidentally, rises and flows through the New Forest, to Christchurch to the west. That is a very ancient town compared with the Bournemouth complex which it virtually joins. The depth of the area between the New Forest and the sea is only between three and five miles and has for centuries been part of Hampshire. I realise that in order to create sensible local government boundary changes must be made, and that many of them will be unpopular. Most of the Amendments are concerned with county boundaries and noble Lords from all over England are, not unnaturally, flocking to this House to plead special cases. I suppose I must admit that this also is a special case, but in southern Hampshire we have a rather different situation. Until a few months ago there was no question but that Lymington borough would remain in Hampshire although Christchurch would be transferred to Dorset. The original county line was not only recommended by the Boundary Commission but also reinforced by the Maud Report. However, at the same time. another part of Hampshire, the Ringwood district, which is in close proximity to the New Forest, was destined to go to Dorset.
This provoked a considerable outcry when the Bill was first published. The Minister, in his wisdom, eventually bowed to local pressure and, quite rightly in my opinion, transferred back to Hampshire three of the five wards of the Ringwood and Fordingbridge Rural District Council. This left Christchurch isolated, which appears then to have led the Minister to decide to compensate Dorset for the loss of Ringwood by illogically extending the Dorset boundary along the Solent coast.
Thus, at a late hour, two proposals became apparent to a rather bewildered 35 Lymington Council, who not unnaturally felt like victims of a political horse-trading arrangement. First, it was suggested that the boundary should be the Lymington River. This proposal caused deep local concern, as it seemed to go contrary to the Minister's own statement in another place in Standing Committee when he saidLymington is so much part of the Forest and of the southern part of Hampshire that this would be going too far in extending the boundary".Secondly, it was proposed to draw the boundary at the Taddiford Gap, a natural boundary between the built-up area to the East of Christchurch and the Lymington town and the Milford area which is much more rural in character and tradition.
The local borough were therefore faced with a terrible dilemma. If they chose the natural boundary at the Taddiford Gap it would result in the borough being split; but if they wished to remain united, then the whole borough, with all its historic ties with Hampshire and the New Forest, would be transferred to Dorset. Quite understandably, the borough felt most upset when consulted about these proposals, in particular with the short notice that was given to them, and also with the brief debate that eventually took place in another place at seven o'clock in the morning after an all-night Sitting. Consequently, on Second Reading in this House I gave notice that I would seek to put down Amendments to restore the borough to Hampshire, and also to give the Government an opportunity to explain their point of view.
I am sure that your Lordships will agree that it is most important to take notice of local opinion. Let me say quite categorically what I know to be true: namely, that the vast majority of the people of the present borough want to stay in Hampshire. Quite apart from their traditional ties with Hampshire and the New Forest, they fear that education, health and social services and many other facets of local government will be severely disrupted, and in some cases severely curtailed, by joining up with, Dorset.
There are, for instance, more adult further education opportunities in Lymington alone than in the whole of 36 Dorset, not to mention the new sixth form college at Brockenhurst which caters for children in the disputed areas. Lymington Hospital is part of the Southampton Group, and the medical staff there have represented to me strongly that if their ties are cut their future role will be radically changed for the worse.
For over 800 years the people in this area have looked towards Winchester for county administration and local services and to the New Forest for recreation. Not unnaturally, they fear domination by Bournemouth and Poole, and are apprehensive about dealing with a county council in Dorchester, some 60 miles away, where they know no-one, have no contacts whatever either in business or socially, and with a rather complicated road system to get there. It would seem, from reports of the debate in another place, that the Government have so far firmly resisted the idea of the whole borough staying in Hampshire, although I personally think this is most regrettable. It would appear, however, that they may still have an open mind about the wisdom of setting the boundary at the Taddiford Gap. It would therefore be right for me, not being a resident of the borough, to try to set out fairly the pros and cons of staying in Hampshire or settling on the Taddiford Gap, as represented to me by local people.
There must, of course, be a strong argument against splitting the borough. Over the years the borough has developed and spread its influence, and has, I believe, been a good local authority in every way. The local council, without consulting local opinion or, even more strangely, without even trying to find out what their own county council thought, made strong representations to the Minister that if there was a choice between going into Dorset or splitting the borough they would prefer to keep a united borough, even in Dorset, and a vote of the council—which of course included non-elected aldermen—endorsed this opinion. However, it is important to point out that because of the population the distribution of local members is heavily weighted towards the New Milton or eastern end of the borough. Thus the council's decision to go united into Dorset naturally incensed a large number of people at the Lymington end of the borough. who were 37 never consulted and who had a minority number of members on the council.
Before the Recess there was a lot of activity by action groups for and against splitting the borough. Opinion was difficult to gauge, but the Recess presented an ideal opportunity of testing local opinion. This opportunity I took. With the assistance of the local Press I asked the people in the borough to let me know if they wanted to stay united in Hampshire or if they wished to set the boundary at the Taddiford Gap, which would retain the Lymington end in Hampshire at the price of splitting the borough. It was explained that such a split would result in Lymington town being part of the New Forest Rural District Council, with a resulting loss of status that they had enjoyed for many years, and probably a less voice in local government than they would get by going united into Dorset.
The results were interesting. I had something like 600 postcards, and the voting was as follows: to stay as a united borough in Hampshire, 5,500; to go into Dorset as a united borough, 76: but 3,500 people out of that 5,500 who wished to stay in Hampshire wanted to have a split borough if that was the price that they had to pay. In other words, 64 per cent. of the people who wrote to me wished to stay in Hampshire even at the expense of splitting the borough.
Furthermore, this view was supported by almost all Lymington societies and associations—the British Legion, the Lymington Community Association, Lymington Hospital, and so on; and the supporters included, incidentally, the deputy mayor, who wrote to me saying that, although as a member of the council he thought it fit and proper to vote first for a united borough, he had never concealed the fact that if he could not have the whole cake, he would be prepared to have a slice of it.
He, as deputy mayor, has asked me to support strongly the suggestion of keeping the eastern end of the borough in Hampshire. He, like so many other residents of Lymington town, pointed out that New Milton, Barton and the western end of the borough only joined Lymington some 40 years ago. This in itself created a hybrid situation. At the time, 38 apparently, many felt that the union was illogical, and it is one which many residents of Lymington now say they have had cause to regret in recent years. There is no doubt that the two parts of the borough are very different in character and background; and in some ways the gap is widening under a new influx of population. Whereas the Lymington end is an historical rural town serving the New Forest, the New Milton end is a new area, with many newcomers living there with little or no county loyalties, and who for years have looked to Bournemouth for shopping and recreation.
To sum up, therefore, the local viewpoint appears to be this. There is an overwhelming wish that the borough as a whole should stay in Hampshire. There is a strong feeling, particularly at the New Milton end of the borough, that a split is highly undesirable. Equally, the majority of people in the borough, about 64 per cent., are prepared to accept the boundary at the Taddiford Gap, even if this results in a split and with the disadvantages that may occur.
§ LORD DIGBY
I do not quite understand what the noble Lord has said. He appears to have had about 500 letters and yet the votes seem to total about 5,000.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
I have 5,500 people. I did say 500. The 5,500 people said they wished to stay united in Hampshire and two-and-a-half thousand of them wished to stay in Hampshire even if a split occurred. Seventy-six wished to go into Dorset.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I think the confusion arose because the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, said he had received 600 letters: I think he meant to say 6,000.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
I apologise. It should have been 6,000.
May I now briefly examine the position from the county council point of view, although I know other noble Lords may wish to take this further? The area from the Lymington river to the Taddiford Gap is fundamentally one which connects the New Forest and the Solent coast. I believe that from a planning and conservation point of view, not forgetting coastal defences, it is very important that the whole area should be treated as one, 39 together with the New Forest. Lymington town is the service centre for the whole of the South side of the Forest, and I know that the police feel very strongly, as does the county surveyor, that the Taddiford Gap is the natural boundary. It would be absurd from the police point of view, with so much responsibility for controlling access and communications with the Isle of Wight, to have Lymington railway station in Dorset controlled by one police force and the Isle of Wight ferry point, a few hundred yards away in Hampshire, controlled by another. However, I believe that my noble friend the Duke of Wellington (himself a Hampshire county councillor) will be expressing the police point of view in more detail later on.
There is also the question of planning and supervision of recreation. Here again, the New Forest and the Solent area must be controlled as one planned unit. There is no doubt whatsoever that the type of development which stretches from Poole to New Milton is of such a different character that it could be planned separately. At this point I would certainly like to take issue with the Minister in another place who stated at the Committee stage that Lymington is part of the Poole/Bournemouth development. Not only is this absolutely contrary to fact but it was certainly enough to send shivers up the spine of every Lymington inhabitant who foresees the time when the coastal ribbon development, successfully held at hay by the Hampshire County Council for so long and which is unfortunately an acceptable feature of the Bournemouth area, would under speculative developers creep into and ruin the Southern part of the New Forest.
There is one further argument which I believe the Government should recognise; namely, the urgent need for one authority to control both sides of the Solent. Even if the future status of the Isle of Wight is not yet settled, I believe it would indeed be wrong to allow another local authority to control even a small part of the North coast of this unique water park. Happily, the coast up to the Taddiford Gap is mudland, and beyond that basically chalk cliff; hence even the methods of coastal defence would naturally divide at that point.
40 The Committee may well reject the first Amendment, to keep the whole of the borough in Hampshire, and indeed there may be local government reasons for transferring the whole borough into Dorset. However, I believe that if this Amendment is not accepted, from a national point of view the Taddiford Gap is a sensible compromise. It would still leave sufficient people in the new Christchurch and New Milton district—about 58,000 people—which is not too small considering there are 37 new designated areas of between 40,000 and 65,000. Indeed, the proposed new district is in any case rather on the large side with 73,000 people, and may need further division in due course.
Finally, there is the human side. There are the Royal Hampshire Regiment, the Community Centre, the Lymington Society, the county archives at Winchester, the Hampshire Cricket Club—all Hampshire organisations to whom people have been loyal for generations. They will now have to associate themselves with organisations in another county with whom they have no contacts whatsoever. Many of them are loyal supporters of Her Majesty's Government, and I think it is my duty to warn Her Majesty's Government this afternoon that there is at the moment a serious threatened defection from the Party locally. Indeed the Mayor has already said that she will stand as an Independent candidate against the Party's candidate for the next election. Nor do I relish the position of the Dorset county councillor in the future with embittered and rebellious minded constituents some 60 miles away. So I fervently hope that the Government will reconsider allowing the whole borough to remain in Hampshire. Failing that, perhaps they will accept the Taddiford Gap boundary, which was indeed originally a Government proposal. If neither is accepted, I hope the Government will assure the Committee that the boundary commission will be referred to the actual line which has been drawn, which takes the boundary through houses, splits farmsteads in half and even at one stage goes through a line of greenhouses. I certainly fear for these people if there is a fire or if an ambulance is required, because they will not know who to go to. There are many people in the New Forest who are looking with some fear 41 to the next reorganisation as they feel that later the Forest itself will be threatened. I beg to move.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT (LORD SANDFORD)
I believe it might be helpful if I were to intervene in a preliminary and brief way at this stage. I agree that it would be a convenience to the Committee to take Amendments Nos. 37A and 37B together and I should like to suggest to my noble friend Lord Selkirk that in this discussion, which relates to the boundary between Dorset and Hampshire, we should also consider his Amendment No. 37C.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
May I intervene for a moment? I think it would be extremely helpful if we could discuss the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and have really the equivalent of a Second Reading debate on all three Amendments, while reserving the position to come back to them individually. This is a possible make-weight.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I am grateful to the noble Lord for his support for that suggestion. The next thing I should like to do is to thank my noble friend Lord Montagu for having tabled his Amendment No. 37B which, if I may say so, is much more worthy of debate than is Amendment No. 37A. I really must say that this Amendment, involving a substantial addition of territory to Hampshire, which under the Bill is still by far the largest and the richest in resources of all the non-metropolitan counties, is not one to which the Government could agree. The noble Lord's own argument for keeping the whole of the built-up area comprising Bournemouth, Christchurch and Lymington, at least as far as Barton, is one of the main arguments which I would bring forward for saying that, but I will not deploy it any further now. However, the Government fully agree that the precise point at which to draw the line between Hampshire and Dorset from the coast upward is a difficult matter. Noble Lords will know—and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. because I explained the earlier processes to him before the Recess—that at one time the Government 42 did favour the Taddiford Gap boundary incorporated in the noble Lord's Amendment No. 37B. But for a number of reasons they have taken the view that the boundary is better drawn where it is now found in the Bill. However, they certainly welcomed the opportunity of the Recess to see whether there was any change of opinion or any new factor which might lead them to change their views. For that reason I particularly welcome this debate and will listen to the rest of it to see whether any such factors or any shift of opinion have occurred which would lead us to favour Amendment No. 37B rather than to retain the boundary where it is now drawn.
As to Amendment No. 37C, I would confirm that the parish boundaries, in this area in particular but also for the whole of this Southern part of the boundary between Dorset and Hampshire, will almost certainly need to some small degree to be altered in detail. But the Government firmly take the view that this is not the right moment to do that, and that it is supremely a matter for the boundary commission. We have already had a number of discussions with most of the interested parties to see whether at this stage a clear line would emerge which could he adopted. The only thing that does emerge is that some adjustment is required. It is not at all clear precisely what that judgment should be, and I hope that the Committee will agree that although we know that the precise line of the parish boundary is not right, this is a matter which is much better settled by the boundary commission which is being set up specifically for that purpose.
There is one further small preliminary point I should like to make and which I must make now because the parish of Sopley has come into our discussions. I should like to refer to a further printing error which has come to light on page 221, line 32, of the Bill. Paragraph (s) should not be there at all. The inclusion of Sopley was tabled in another place but the Amendment which would have given effect to it was never moved. It does not make sense since in the Bill as it now stands Sopley is not being divided. It could stay in the Bill that would not do any harm. It does not affect Lord Selkirk's Amendment one way or the other. I understand that when the Bill is reprinted this reference will be deleted.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ LORD MAYBRAY-KING
I am a little surprised at the Minister when he suggests that the purpose of the first Amendment is to make an addition to Hampshire, whereas in actual fact all that the first Amendment is doing is seeking to keep in Hampshire what has belonged to it for thousands of years. May I congratulate the noble. Lord, Lord Montagu, for the painstaking work that he has done in endeavouring to find out the opinions of the people of Lymington on this issue, and on the speech that he made? I should like to refer to his figures and perhaps he will intervene if what I say is wrong. I will quote from the local Lymington newspaper which says:Lord Montagu is of the personal opinion that it would be better for the inhabitants of the borough to remain together, as otherwise neither the New Milton nor the Lymington parts will have any effective voice in their future, being overshadowed by larger authorities of which they will form a small part.It then goes on to comment on the public opinion poll that was taken and says:While the 3,438 in favour of splitting the borough might tend to show that the borough should be split, Lord Montagu's office revealed on Wednesday that no less than 2,500 of these votes were counted as the result of one letter sent to Lord Montagu. Some of the organisations whose members had been counted as individual votes, through the letter, had not even been asked for their views…
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
That is perfectly true. On the other hand, the other votes counted were also coming in blocks in the same way, so I just counted one against the other.
§ LORD MAYBRAY-KING
I am grateful to the noble Lord. He and I and, I hope, a number of other noble Lords, are agreed on the first Amendment, although we differ when it comes to the second one. Christchurch and Lymington are two ancient Hampshire boroughs. Some forty years ago the borough of Lymington took in the surrounding villages and the Lymington borough is now an integrated unit and, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, it is a very happy unit. There is tremendous opposition in the borough to its being divided. The Government propose to encroach eastward into Hampshire, taking a coastal strip, an enclave, in Hampshire which will include Christchurch and Lymington. The county council of Hampshire as late as May 22 44 of this year unanimously reaffirmed its view thatthe whole of Lymington should remain united in the county of Hampshire".Up to Report stage in the other place the Government proposed to divide the borough of Lymington—this is why the Minister so eagerly welcomes the second Amendment—leaving old Lymington town in Hampshire and putting the rest of Lymington into Dorset. Because of the opposition expressed by Lymington Borough Council to the dividing of the borough (the only borough, incidentally, which this Bill proposes to divide) the Government have amended the Bill they have reunited Lymington and put it into Dorset. It is fair to say that they did this probably because they had just given back Ringwood to Hampshire. In the words of the Minister, this was an addition to Hampshire. They restored Ringwood to Hampshire and they wanted more rateable value in return for the county of Dorset. They argued—and Christchurch agrees with them—that Christchurch plus Lymington will form a more viable unit than Christchurch alone.
It is the proposed dividing of Lymington that has caused much confusion. It is my experience that it has raised as much opposition as has the putting of Lymington into Dorset. I believe that most of the noble Lords who live in Hampshire agree with the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, unanimously held by the county council and overwhelmingly supported by Lymington from the start, to keep this part of Hampshire, this part of the Solent coast, in the county to which it belongs. This, too, is the view of the Chief Constable of Hampshire, who believes that Lymington should remain part of his unified authority over the Solent, for efficiency, defence and security reasons.
On August 30 the Town Clerk of Lymington wrote to the Secretary of State for the Environment and again set out the view of his Council that the borough should remain united in Hampshire. Some months ago a petition to keep Lymington in Hampshire was signed by some 6,000 citizens of Lymington. The Hampshire county planning officer, in a report to the county council, pointed out that:the strip between the New Forest and the coast is of critical importance to the conservation of the New Forest. There is to be 45 major urban development on the Dorset side of whatever boundary is fixed—Hampshire wants to retain the special characteristics of this strip of Hampshire.The noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, in an excellent speech on the Second Reading debate, reminded the Government—as I do now—of their own declared duty to respect local historical associations, and he urged that Lymington should remain in Hampshire. During the Recess I have had many representations made to me about the reopening of the issue of dividing the borough. The New Milton, Barton and District Ratepayers Association, which has some 3,000 members, writes:While a small proportion of our members would have no objection to the borough being transferred to Dorset, all are strongly opposed to the division of the borough between Dorset and Hampshire.The Mayor of Lymington, in a letter to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, on September 7, writes:We have become a united borough during the last 40 years and our local services are organised on that basis. There is no valid reason why we should be divided.The Town Clerk of Christchurch has written to me and he says that they not only respect the views of Lymington against splitting, but indeed share them. They believe that Christchurch plus only a part of Lymington would be too small a unit and are not a little afraid that such a splitting might lead to Christchurch plus a little bit of Lymington being added to Bournemouth, and they do not want that to happen.
There is in Lymington a committee which calls itself the Action Committee for the Retention of Lymington Borough in Hampshire. Obviously, they still want the borough to remain in Hampshire. But in a letter to me dated September 7, a very thoughtful letter, the honorary secretary writes that the proposed splitting would be what she callsthe worst possible solution, althoughshe adds,we do recognise the right of Lymington Town to fight to stay in Hampshire whatever the cost".The Lymington branch of NALGO are of the opinion (I understand it is unanimous) that splitting the borough would be what they call "a retrograde step". They want Christchurch and the whole of Lymington, not part of it, to be united even if 46 it goes into Dorset. As for the Lymington Borough Council—and in democracy one must take the opinion of the elected representatives of the people—they voted down at their last meeting, by 27 votes to 5, a motion approving the division of the borough. I have a geographical distribution of those who voted against a division, and roughly it is 13 from one part of the borough and 14 from the other part against dividing the borough.
The letter of the town clerk to the Secretary of State for the Environment on August 30 reaffirmedthe viewpoint of the Borough Council as the responsible local authority that(a) the Borough should remain united in Hampshire;(b) the suggested division of the Borough would be a most disastrous step which should in no circumstances be sanctioned by the Government.The town clerk continues that, irrespective of whether Lymington goes to Dorset or remains in Hampshire, it would create fresh and acute difficulties if the borough were divided between the two separate counties and two separate county districts.
Last week I received two distinguished or senior Lymington aldermen who urged that in this debate I should emphasise the opposition of the borough council and, they claim, of most citizens in the borough, to dividing the borough even if it means going into Dorset. Apparently Christchurch and Lymington are getting on well together. They are already planning a joint future. Christchurch supports Lymington Borough Council in its opposition to being divided.
I have had many letters supporting the view—in fact, almost all the letters I have had support the view—that Lymington should remain in Hampshire. From them may I quote just one sentence? A lady writes:Look at the map: look at our traditions, and what about looking at us as people for a change instead of as a digit in a computer?I wish to be fair. I have had two letters from the other side: one from a Lymingtonian who wants to divide the borough and who writes:Lymington has nothing in common with New Milton and its rash of development. The Borough Council is domineered by them. We wish to break away and stay with the Forest and the Solent.It is true, too, that I have received a letter from the President of the Southampton Chamber of Commerce, himself 47 a Lymington citizen, pointing out the distinction that the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, has endeavoured to show us between old Lymington town and the rest of the borough.
An old friend of mine, Alderman Major Ziegler, a colleague of mine on the county council for many years, has set out in a letter to me a case for regarding the "old town" of Lymington as quite distinct from the newer part of Lymington. He argues that the police case for control of the Solent applies rather to old Lymington than to New Milton. He argues that the old town is part of the New Forest area—as indeed my friend Mr. Graham Page in the other House argued when he was defending the split—and he says that if the borough were to be divided old Lymington would link up with the rest of the New Forest and form an effective district. But against this other Lymingtonians have argued to me that a truncated Lymington would be too small to play a significant part in the new New Forest district.
There is much pride, there is much sentiment, which I share, in Hampshire's attitude to old Lymington town. But there is similar pride, there is almost passion, in the feeling of the citizens of Lymington that they want to remain united as a borough. The Minister now has to decide a problem which is complicated—complicated largely because he made it so by originally dividing the borough. I believe there is still a simple solution: that he should keep Lymington united, keep it in Hampshire and as Christchurch and Lymington seem to get on very well together, let him put back the Hampshire town of Christchurch into Hampshire, into our county. I believe that this solution would please not only Lymington, not only Christchurch even, who gave up the struggle some time ago, but the whole of the people of Hampshire, and would be a fair solution.
§ 4.26 p.m.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I have been invited by the Minister to say one or two words in regard to Amendments which appear in my name. I am glad the Minister agrees that the boundary in the Northern part, at least, of the area we are talking about is unsatisfactory. It is 48 unsatisfactory, and indeed the Dorset County Council in a letter to the Department described it as "ludicrous" I am afraid that this is not altogether wrong.
It is true, too, that in the other place, I think it was after 16 hours of debate, this Amendment was reached: so perhaps it was not examined as seriously as it might otherwise have been. We are dealing here not with (shall I say?) local nationalism; we are dealing with local administrative problems, and the people who are responsible for the administration are people whose views are important and therefore must be taken into careful consideration.
However, we are also dealing with a very big change between Dorset and Hampshire. Hampshire in future is to have a centre of gravity between Southampton and Portsmouth. That is where the big problems of Hampshire are going to lie. Dorset will have a very big problem in a new urban area which will extend—I think it must extend—from Milton to Sandbanks, because it is one urban area and there is no other way of looking at it. This is now run by three entirely separate organisations. This is crazy. It must have some common planning authority covering New Milton, Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole. They must be brought together more closely, and this is going to be very difficult. The noble Lord, Lord Maybray King, mentioned the difficulties between different areas. Unless Dorset is given every encouragement to do this properly it will be a mess. I emphasise this because the Ministry of the Environment is supposed to be the standard from which good planning proceeds. But at the moment the Bill is very badly framed.
The two parishes I have particularly in mind—I am not going to talk particularly about the Lymington side; I was in school at Lymington but I do not pretend to remember it so very well—are two parishes lying immediately to the North of Christchurch and Bournemouth. They look entirely to the BournemouthPoole—Christchurch area for economic development, for work, for distribution, for drainage, for social work such as Rotary clubs and all other works of this kind. That is the way they look. This is why I think they should be brought into 49 the area, so that the planning can be effectively carried out.
I would say, with respect, that I believe the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, was wrong in saying that the Maud Report gave Hampshire its original boundaries. If I remember rightly, the Maud Report went straight through the New Forest. I think the Government were right to unite the New Forest again. This is one of the real gems which, for reasons which are almost inexplicable, have come down to us, and I am sure that it must be preserved in its entirety.
I am quite certain that the New Forest should be in one local authority, and I have no doubt that Hampshire will look after it extremely well. However, Hampshire cannot carry out any effective strategic planning on the western side of the New Forest. It may have a "buffer state". I will not argue about Ringwood, although perhaps I may say that Hampshire might improve the road between the New Forest and Ringwood, an improvement which has been promised for a long time, and the road has certainly not been kept up to the standard which should be maintained.
Beyond that comes the Avon, and I must fundamentally disagree with the Minister when he says that the Avon is not a good boundary. It is an extremely good boundary. The ground on each side of it is low-lying, the river is wide, and there is only one bridge between Ringwood and Christchurch. It makes a quite natural boundary, and that is why I have suggested that this should fill into the area for which Dorset is responsible for land development and transportation; in other words, the general strategic planning.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
May I ask the noble Earl a question? Since he is arguing the line of the Avon, do I understand him to say that he is therefore in favour of New Milton and Lymington remaining in Hampshire? I think that is a powerful and logical argument, if that is what he is suggesting.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
No; I was carrying the Avon down as far as Sopley, but I have said previously that the whole urban area along the coast could not possibly be divided; it must be brought 50 under one control. I have made this point because I think the parishes concerned feed directly into Bournemouth and I very much hope that the Government will look at this point again.
I do not know what powers the Boundary Commission possesses, but is it in a position to move a complete parish from one county into another? Has it authority to do that in spite of the fact that it does not appear in the Act of Parliament? I am not making a personal plea. I have no particularly strong feelings about it. But if I understand correctly the continuous—perhaps I may say "homilies"—from the Front Bench telling us about the philosophy of the Bill, then the area immediately to the North of the urban area must go to Bournemouth and Christchurch and Poole. I hope the noble Lord will look at this carefully. I readily accept what he has said, that these are unsatisfactory and could be improved.
§ 4.34 p.m.
THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON
I speak this afternoon in support of the Amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. In my speech in your Lordships' House on August 1 I referred to the administrative unsoundness of the proposed transfer of Lymington Borough to the County of Dorset. It would clearly be improper for me to make such an observation unless I was prepared to back it with facts, and that I propose to do. It is therefore on the basis of the administrative weaknesses of this proposed arrangement that I speak this afternoon, and I speak as a Hampshire County Councillor and as a member of the Hampshire police authority.
I should like, in the proper military fashion, to draw your Lordships attention to a map. As I am unable to do that I will attempt to give your Lordships as nearly accurate a geographical picture of the proposed extension of Dorset as I can. The extension of Dorset into Hampshire is some 15 miles long, with an average depth of three miles. The communications run mainly North and South. It effectively cuts off the New Forest from its coastline. That is the geographical situation, and I believe, if I may make so bold as to say so, that this geographical nonsense is the root cause of what I believe will be the administrative difficulties which will face 51 this part of Dorset if this scheme comes about.
The second point I should like to make concerns the police and their present administrative set-up. In 1967 the police forces of Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Southampton and Portsmouth passed through a traumatic change and evolved into a combined police force, and I think it is fair to say that we now have an extremely efficient, well-integrated police force in the county. That police force has, as one of its sub-divisions, Lymington. Lymington is one of the important sub-divisions in the West end of the county. It looks to the New Forest division for control and to the headquarters in Southampton.
In Southampton, in addition to other sub-divisions, there is a marine sub-division with responsibility overall for police activities within the Solent. That is to say, control of illegal immigration. drugs smuggling, the surveillance of all craft from the largest liners down to small craft—and I should perhaps mention that Lymington has an excellent harbour for small craft—the saving of life, and the general policing of the Solent. That is the picture of the police administrative control at this moment.
What is the effect going to be if this proposal is implemented? I wish to make five points in this connection. The first is a planning point rather than a police point. For many years all the planning in the Solent area has been in the hands of the Hampshire County Council Planning Authority. I think it is right and fair to say that the county council has followed an enlightened policy, aimed towards the conservation of the Solent and its coastline. It has fought off the speculators and the developers, and while I am not in any way imputing any undesirable motives to Dorset, I believe there is a grave danger—and it is a belief which is shared by those who live in the area—that should the planning control of this area be split with another county there will be undesirable development and speculative building, as has happened further to the West.
My second point is a police point, and refers to the general policing of this long and narrow finger of land which extends into Hampshire. It goes without saying 52 that the proper policing of such an area is extremely difficult. As I have pointed out, communications run mainly North and South and this complicates the whole of the police work in the area.
My third point refers to security. It was my intention, had we reached that stage before the House rose for the Recess, to draw attention to one of the most important aspects of the police in this area, namely the security problem posed by the gaols on the Isle of Wight. It appears to have been a particularly topical thought on my part, because during these last few weeks it has been revealed that there was a risk of a mass break-out from the prisons on the Isle of Wight, which house some of the most dangerous criminals in the country. There is of course a contingency plan for dealing with a mass break-out, but I know from the Chief Constable that this is a perpetual worry in his mind and in the minds of the members of the police force in the area.
As your Lordships may know, there are six ferry points, three on each side of the Solent. The westerly pair, so to speak, is served by the ferry point in Lymington. In fact, the ferry point itself will remain, by a short distance, in Hampshire, itself an anomaly, while the police headquarters will be in the borough, which will be in Dorset. Thus, from a security point of view this will be a nonsense. One cannot effectively ensure contingency planning, which of its nature must be quick, if one does not have a proper base in the area. Security is an aspect which must not be lightly forgotten. The police were not in any way consulted prior to the publication of the Bill about these proposed changes, and this is rather curious.
My fourth point is also a police one and concerns communications. Southampton is the headquarters of a highly sophisticated, complicated and efficient police network. The Lymington Sub-divisional Police Headquarters is the base for communications in the area and is an important link. It is adjacent to the ferry point, although if these proposals go through it will not be in the County of Hampshire; it will cease to exist. Your Lordships will see, therefore, that within the police communications network Lymington is an important asset. My fifth point is the question 53 of police morale, a subject into which I will not go in detail at this time. As I said, the police suffered a traumatic change in 1967. They took a hell of a shaking up and it has taken them some time to recover from it. They have done so and we now have a first-class police force which is well integrated among the four previous forces. It would be detrimental to police morale if one severed yet again an existing portion of that police force.
What are we trying to achieve by this Bill; what are the grass roots of the business? Surely they are to produce efficient and effective local government. People as a whole do not care tuppence about the political colour of the councillors who represent them—they just want good government from them. We shall not get good government if we have an area such as this in which the local services, police, planning, medical and the rest—the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, and the noble Lord, Lord Maybray King, dealt in an admirable way with these services; though I have not dwelt emotionally with the question of services apart from those I have mention—are organised in the way I have described.
The County Council would like to see its original unanimous decision—the decision of May—put into effect and to see the whole of the Borough of Lymington remain in Hampshire. It is right that I should add, however—I do so reluctantly—that if the County Council cannot have the whole of the cake, then from the points of view I have mentioned relating to planning and the police many of the objections would be met by the formation of a new boundary at Taddiford Gap. I realise that this is a controversial matter and I do not propose to deal with it now. Nevertheless, from the two aspects to which I have referred, a Taddiford Gap boundary would—I admit this with reluctance—meet many of our objections. I therefore earnestly beg the Government to have a good look at this matter again, because if things are allowed to go through as proposed we shall not get good local government in this area.
§ 4.44 p.m.
I do not propose to enter into a debate on statistics with the 54 noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. who by a curious system seemed to arrive at majorities in favour of or against the various proposals. I should have been among those who would have been swept up in the 500 or 1,000-postcard vote. Nor do I propose to deal with some of the points to which he referred, the answers to some of which I am sure he already knows. I am sure, for example, he knows that in Lymington the schooling problem in the event of a transfer to Dorset has already been dealt with. He must also know that the new hospital which will take charge of the whole area will better serve the combined Lymington-Christchurch area. Nor would it be appropriate when considering a Bill of this kind to debate the point made by my noble friend the Duke of Wellington about this being a Police State. We are not a Police State and we do not build our local government on the planning of the Police Force. Surely the Police Force can be organised around whatever is best for the people of the countryside.
I wish at the outset to declare my interest in that I live in Lymington, where my wife owns a freehold property. We have lived in that Hart of Hampshire for about 12 years, for six of them within the borough. We chose Lymington only after a very careful study of the various alternatives which were open to us at the time. Lymington is a medium-sized town, virile both in its industry and in its provision of leisure amenities, yet able to maintain an atmosphere which appeals to a great many retired people, particularly those from the Services. It provides a quiet yet active life for those who live there. Lymington has not achieved this balance without careful planning and the results continue to be seen in the very high quality of new housing in the area.
In the years since we moved to Lymington it has been somewhat alarming to watch the other end of Hampshire developing all the unpleasant characteristics of satellite communities against a background of a spaghetti junction of new roads. Inevitably this rapid and brash development of Eastern Hampshire will tend to make Hampshire as a whole an increasingly expensive county in which to live and will react on the cost of living in the quieter areas such as Lymington. The fate of Lymington under the provisions of 55 this Bill has given rise locally to a burst of emotion, much of it ill-informed—for example, the allegation that Dorset's education is inferior to that of Hampshire, whereas on aper capita basis the opposite has been the case for at least each of the last four years.
There are those who would like it to remain in Hampshire merely because it has always been that way. Others have a loyalty to the Hampshire cricket side or to the Hampshire Regiment and yet others are worried about the need to get a new address die for their notepaper. Perhaps there are those who would like to keep Lymington, or even part of Lymington, in Hampshire and take advantage of its charm in order to bolster the tinsel of neighbouring attractions. It may not be inappropriate for me to remind your Lordships that by this Amendment the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, is making proposals which would be seriously harmful to an area in which he does not reside.
What are the real facts as seen by those affected and who will have to make the new Lymington work after this Bill has become law? At an early stage Lymington Council debated what policy they should support, and by a majority of only 19 votes to 15 they affirmed their previous decision that they would wish the borough to remain united in Hampshire. When, however, it seemed unlikely that this would succeed, the borough council gave thought to the possibility of dividing the borough as would happen if this Amendment were adopted. By the conclusive majority of 27 votes to 5 the council rejected this alternative. It has been alleged that the councillors who voted by this overwhelming majority against the split were out of touch with the feelings of those whom they represent. I who live in Lymington, can assure your Lordships that this is simply not true. Not only am I in close touch with local sentiment but I have had many letters from people in Lymington, many of whom I have never met, urging opposition to this Amendment; and the Mayor of Lymington and the Town Clerks both in Lymington and Christchurch emphasise the administrative nonsense which would result from its adoption. I have been approached similarly by the local 56 All of the cold common sense and all of the logic show that Lymington must remain an administrative unit, and it is planning accordingly. It has already been established that Lymington cannot remain wholly in Hampshire—or at least it seems to be established—nor do I believe that it would be in its best interests to do so. Looking perhaps ten years into the future one must expect the Portsmouth-Southampton conurbation to grow, and if Lymington remains in Hampshire it would not be illogical for it to be embraced in some form of Solent city. What a convenient wastepaper basket this would provide for overspill population in masses of standard dwellings! That could well be the fate of Lymington if it stays in Hampshire.
Emotion, and indeed one might almost say hysteria, urge that Lymington should not go to Dorset. No logical argument persuades me, at any rate, as one who is directly involved, that there is any case to object to the transfer to Dorset. My new notepaper will be an irritant for a short while and we shall wish well to the Hampshire cricket side who will undoubtedly continue to play at Bournemouth; but for the benefit of the neighbourhood and for the sake of those who live and will live in it, I urge you to reject these Amendments. In asking you to do so I know that I have the support and encouragement of many of the thinking people of the area.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
I must declare my interest as the official verderer of the New Forest. I should say also that I know this area extremely well. I was born at Hurn; I embodied the Christchurch company of the Hampshire Territorial Brigade in 1939; I know the people; and I have also a third interest there in the fact that I have a boat on the Lymington River. The last time I came up to the House at the beginning of August, I came up from my boat, and during the last several weeks I have had a tremendous number of people who have come on board my boat. Some of them I have not always been very pleased to see because they have had nails in their shoes, but they have told me rather the opposite to what they have told Lord Geddes. They wish to remain in Hampshire. They wish the old Borough of 57 Lymington to be itself and join up with the New Forest district and what remains of the Ringwood and Fordingbridge districts.
One of the things which concerns me very much has just been touched on, but not in great detail, and that is the New Forest. Going back for, I think, nearly four years now, the Hampshire County Council ran a special study on the New Forest. It consisted of representatives of county council planners mostly, of the Forestry Commission and of the verderers of the New Forest. It was quite clear that if the New Forest was going to remain as we know it, as we love it and as it is valued not only by the people in this country but people from abroad as well and from such distant places as Canada, the United States, and so on, it has to be looked after. The only way it can he looked after is not only to have one planning authority over the Forest and within its perambulations but to have buffer areas, or cushion areas as we call them, round the Forest.
My noble friend, Lord Selkirk, has mentioned Sopley. Sopley runs right up to the perambulation of the Forest and I should be scared stiff if I thought another planning authority had control over Sopley, because in order not to spoil the Forest the planners must have control in these areas. Supposing we had, as we had the other day, a scare of foot-and-mouth disease and we order the animals, the cattle, off the Forest: where are they to go if another planning authority is allowed certain development there? We have to resist, unfortunately, the number of caravans that come into the Forest because we must not allow them to spoil it. These new caravan sites might have to go outside the perambulation. Again, the people in the Forest are very concerned that Lymington should be administered by the County of Hampshire. There are two old people's homes there and that is where these people would retire to or be looked after. They look towards the Lymington Hospital. The roads into Lymington run North or from an Easterly direction. The communications towards the West are bad.
My other interest, which again affects Lymington, is that I am a very keen sailor and yachtsman. It is very important that the Solent should come under 58 the same planning authority and this point has been mentioned by my noble friends the Duke of Wellington and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. I know that my right honourable friend in the other place received a telegram from the Cowes combined yacht clubs. These are the people who run the regattas, not only Cowes week but throughout the year. They are in very close touch with the various harbour boards in Southampton, Cowes, and so on, and the Solent, as your Lordships know, is an international waterway of international fame. It has a fascination and reputation with yachtsmen from abroad who come in their hundreds. It would be fatal if the planning authority control was divided from the Forest or from the Solent or from Hampshire. The key to this situation really is the old Borough of Lymington. I sadly see my old home in a way changing counties, because as a family I think we have played quite a large part in the County of Hampshire. I should be quite happy to go for the Taddiford Gap. What I think is peculiar and rather interesting and lends weight to this point is that the telephone people divide their district between Bournemouth and Southampton there and I believe the electricity people divide the Lyndhurst and Bournemouth district at this Gap. I should like to support my noble friends, therefore, in this Amendment. It is vital for good local government that what it proposes should be so.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ LORD JACQUES
I rise to support Amendment No. 37A. I should like to say at the outset that I have great sympathy with those who are responsible for drawing these boundaries, whether it be the Government in the case of the counties or the Commission in the case of the districts, but I feel that mistakes are being made because we are giving too much importance to the balancing of numbers, the balancing of populations, and too little importance to geography, whether it be physical, economic or social.
This is a case in point where there would appear to have been some horse-trading even since the Bill was introduced. Let us look at the boundary between Dorset and Hampshire. At the present time the boundary runs between 59 Poole and Bournemouth. I think everyone must agree that this is out of date, because there is a continuous urban area between Bournemouth and Poole. Bournemouth certainly has ties with Dorset, and I do not think anyone could very strongly argue against the transfer of Bournemouth to Dorset. But when you come to Christchurch the matter is much more doubtful. Christchurch has tics with the New Forest, and anybody who has spent any time in Christchurch will see evidence of the ties it has with the New Forest. On the other hand, one has to admit that it is part of the urban complex and there is perhaps some balance to the case for Christchurch going with Bournemouth and Poole into Dorset.
But when you come to Lymington there does not appear to be any rhyme or reason in it. Lymington is seventeen miles from Bournemouth. The whole of that coastal strip which constitutes the borough of Lymington is the Southern fringe of the New Forest, and certainly so far as I have heard it—I was surprised to hear the opposite conveyed here this afternoon—local opinion is overwhelming that Lymington should remain intact and should remain in Hampshire. I would remind the Government that a good deal of time was spent on this problem by the South-East Economic Planning Council. It made representations to the last Government when the Maud Report was published that the whole of the New Forest, including the coastal strip, should be under one planning authority. That is what this Amendment would do.
I suggest, therefore, that this Amendment first of all is in accordance with the geographical facts, it is in accordance with overwhelming local opinion, it is in accordance with the advice the Government have received from their regional planning council, and I hope on this question of detail the Government will give way.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ LORD DIGBY
As a member of the county council of this awful county into which Lymington might go and which might sanction development in these beautiful rural parts, I feel I must say a few words. do not think anyone can accuse Dorset of vandalising their planning system. I think we have perhaps 60 been a little weak in Dorset on these issues; the County Councils Association has no equivalent of the Bridlington rules on poaching; and the Dorset County Council has never wished to empire build at the expense of other counties to the North, East or West, and we do not wish to force unwilling inhabitants into Dorset. We hope that those who under this reorganisation will become part of Dorset will fit into cur peaceful, efficient and happy ways. We have, therefore, not carried out any campaign to obtain and hold large parts of Hampshire. But, following the criteria of local government efficiency, first of all the Maud Report placed part of the New Forest in Dorset.
This Government, realising the strong feelings held about the New Forest, produced this Bill and drew the line at Ringwood. Then, during the passage of the Bill, Ringwood and the parishes of Sopley and St. Leonards and St. Ives were excluded from Dorset; but Lymington at that stage was added, because it was felt that the Christchurch-Lymington area had common interests and formed a natural unit, and also that it would produce a viable county district East of Bournemouth of some 71,000 inhabitants. Perhaps Dorset has not fought strongly enough, but we have understood the natural loyalty of those areas to their most efficient county of Hampshire. We still believe that Ringwood, Sopley and St. Ives should be part of Dorset and regret that we did not lobby harder earlier, but I think you will understand our reasons for not wishing to appear aggressive.
With regard to the planning aspect, a land use and transportation study reported in 1967, and this definitely recommended that the whole area from Wareham to Lymington should be planned by one authority. It is a natural coastal strip, and I would submit that it is more important that the planning should be with Bournemouth and Christchurch than with the Solent. Also, the basis of this Bill has been the combination of town and country. Under these proposals Dorset and Bournemouth are to form a county, and it is most important that the hinterland round Bournemouth should be included so as to make a well-balanced county.
I am sure that the Government accept the arguments. I think there can be no 61 argument about Christchurch. So I shall concentrate particularly on Amendment No. 37B, which splits the borough of Lymington. I would like to make it quite clear that Dorset County Council is utterly opposed to this. It makes no sense in terms of the viability and efficiency of local government. This view is shared by the borough councils of Lymington and Christchurch, the local authorities most closely affected, and also by the Lymington branch of NALGO who will have to administer the resulting district. In other words, there is overwhelming opposition to this splitting of Lymington from all those who actually administer and are involved in local government.
We have heard that the borough council of Lymington voted 27 to 5 against, and 13 of those 27 were from the East end of Lymington town. The mayor, who has been a stalwart supporter of keeping the whole of Lymington in Hampshire, has said when faced with the possibility of a split:I am personally convinced that the division of the borough would be a tragedy and an administrative disaster.The Lymington branch of NALGO expressed their concern to many of us and pointed out that local ratepayers would have less participation in local affairs, and that their representation on a new authority based on Lyndhurst would be far less than with a county district authority combining Lymington and Christchurch. The town clerk of Christchurch writes that the view of his council is that the proper course would be to avoid splitting the borough or Lymington and that the whole borough should be included in Dorset, and this would enable a county district to be formed of 73,000 people, which is about the optimum population envisaged by the Government. In some cases the Government have envisaged smaller county districts but only in very rural areas, and the Christchurch-Lymington area cannot be considered rural. Therefore, without a viable county district to the East of Bournemouth, Christchurch would almost certainly be swallowed up into a greater Bournemouth.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Can the noble Lord tell me what would be the population of Christchurch without Lymington and New Milton? I am following his argument.
§ LORD DIGBY
The population of Christchurch, with part of Lymington as proposed in Amendment No. 37B, would be about 53,000.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I think that the answer to the noble Lord's question of Christchurch alone is 31,000.
§ LORD DIGBY
If I were permitted to quote from another place I need not really have made this speech, because the Minister for Local Government and Development, Mr. Graham Page, gave all the reasons for the present position in the Bill inHansard of July 6, at col. 1035. I cannot believe that this Government will accept either the Amendment returning the whole of Christchurch-Lymington to Hampshire, or this Amendment, so opposed locally, splitting Lymington town.
Finally, I certainly hope that the Government will look sympathetically—although I am rather doubtful about it—at the question of returning St. Leonards and St. Ives and Sopley. This would certainly increase the viability of this county district East of Bournemouth. That I certainly support; but I doubt whether the Government, at this stage, will alter their views on any of these three Amendments.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I shall try to set a good example and be brief. My only qualification for taking part in this debate is that I have some past experience in considering these supremely difficult and sensitive questions of local government structure and boundaries. I can truthfully say that when I first saw the proposals about Lymington I had a very open mind about them. Since then, I have come to certain conclusions, and they have not been shaken by listening to to-day's debate. If either of these Amendments is pressed to a Division I, for my own part, shall unhesitatingly vote against it. As regards the proposal in the first Amendment, that would create a boundary between Hampshire and Dorset running between Christchurch and Bournemouth. I find it very hard to believe that one should separate Christchurch from Bournemouth by a county 63 boundary, and I offer that in addition to the cogent reason—
§ LORD JACQUES
Would the noble Lord give way? This is factually wrong. If that Amendment was carried it would give a boundary between old Lymington and Christchurch. It is not proposed that there should be a boundary between Christchurch and Bournemouth.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I am referring to the first of these Amendments, Amendment No. 37A, which would take the whole of Christchurch and Lymington into the county of Hampshire.
§ LORD JACQUES
I am sorry to intervene again, but that is not so. Both of these Amendments would give a boundary for the two counties which is East of Christchurch. Neither of these Amendments would involve Christchurch.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I can only attempt to answer the noble Lord by quoting from the Amendment. Amendment No. 37A says: "leave out lines 26 to 30 Lines 26 to 30 provide that there shall be included in the county of Dorset the borough of Christchurch and the borough of Lymington, except a certain part of it. Therefore, if the first Amendment is carried the boundary between Hampshire and Dorset will run between Bournemouth and Christchurch. There is no Amendment to fulfil the desire that has been expressed by some noble Lords that the boundary between Hampshire and Dorset should run between the borough of Christchurch and the borough of Lymington.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I am grateful to the noble Lord. I fully realise how difficult it is to keep a clear mind on all these matters. That is the case if the first Amendment were carried, and I cannot believe that a new county boundary between the borough of Christchurch and the present county borough of Bournemouth would be right. I offer that in addition to the cogent argument which my noble friend Lord Sandford adduced, that the first Amendment would give rather too much weight to Hampshire and rather too little weight 64 and strength to Dorset in the new structure.
There is a further possibility, and that is that Christchurch and Lymington should be separated; but neither of these Amendments would provide for that. The difficulty about that solution is that it would leave this comparatively small area of Christchurch as a kind of appendage to Bournemouth, and it would be too small an area to satisfy the Government's criterion to be a separate district. Therefore, I should have thought that it would inevitably pass under the very powerful influence of Bournemouth and lose a certain degree of independence, which I should like to see Christchurch preserve.
The third possibility is that Amendment No. 37B should be carried, which would create a new county boundary at the Taddiford Gap, and would divide the borough of Lymington. Here I must speak with all the strength I can command in saying that it would be entirely wrong for Parliament to split a borough between two counties against the overwhelmingly expressed wish of the elected representatives of that borough. There seems to me to be no escape from the fact that if 27 councillors and aldermen have voted to retain the unity of a borough and only 5 have voted in favour of its division, it would be wrong for Parliament to do what, in this Bill, would be unique; that is, to divide the borough between two counties. I think my noble friend Lord Sandford will confirm that there is no case anywhere throughout England where it is proposed to divide a borough in that way even with the consent of the borough councillors, and here it would be against their expressed will.
I well realise that there is great feeling about these matters, and that it is extremely difficult to get them right. But I have given my reasons why I shall vote against both of these Amendments and why I feel that it would be a mistake, even at a later stage of the Bill, to seek to move a new Amendment to divide the borough of Christchurch from the borough of Lymington. As regards the local opinion in Lymington, it seems to me that the speech of my noble friend Lord Geddes is unanswerable. Although I have no special personal knowledge of the administration of either the Dorset county council or the Hampshire county 65 council, I cannot help thinking that the new Dorset county council would be capable of solving any problems that may be created by Parliament's decisions concerning this stretch of coast, which has, I feel sure, innate unity.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am in some slight confusion on this point. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, with his usual clarity, has clarified my mind a little, but was it the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, to take out both the borough of Christchurch and the borough of Lymington, and to put Christchurch back into Hampshire as well as New Milton and Lymington?
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
Perhaps I may explain. The original Amendment No. 37 dealt only with the existing areas of Lymington and New Milton. Amendment No. 37A added on Christchurch, because it was felt by many people that Christchurch left all alone would be in a very vulnerable position so far as Bournemouth was concerned. But the misunderstanding of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, arose because the original Amendment No. 37 which was on the Marshalled List before the Recess excluded Christchurch.
§ 5.22 p.m.
I have neither the force, the status nor the eloquence of previous speakers. In addition, most of what I intended to say has already been said. But I should like to give a rather short summing-up and will not detain your Lordships more than a few moments. First of all, I submit that the two most important organisations to be considered in this case are the Lymington Borough Council and the Hampshire police authority. We have already heard the figures, but I shall repeat them once more. The borough council voted 27 to 5 against being split, and they also voted 19 to 15 in favour of staying in Hampshire. I am given to understand on fairly good authority that that majority of only four for staying in Hampshire would have been higher if there had not been a certain misunderstanding. The view of the Hampshire police is that the best course is for the whole borough to stay in Hampshire. The next best would be to have a division at the Taddiford Gap. But what would be quite fatal, according to the police, would be for the whole borough to go to Dorset.
66 As my noble friend the Duke of Wellington has explained so ably and clearly, to put the whole borough of Lymington into Dorset would mean that Dorset police were responsible for many miles of vulnerable coast line, and that is what the Hampshire police authority objects to very strongly. Your Lordships may say, "Heavens above! Surely there is such a thing as liaison". Of course there is such a thing as liaison, but my noble friend Lord Aberdare who has experience in the Army, my noble friend Lord Sandford who has experience in the Navy, and even the Minister in another place who has experience in the Air Force, all know the difficulty of getting maximum efficiency when you are given a district to patrol and something which starts in your area then goes into somebody else's area, orvice versa. You just cannot get that maximum efficiency, and Ministers know that jolly well.
There has been some idea put about, rightly or wrongly, that one reason for suggesting that the whole borough should go into Dorset is in order to tidy up a Parliamentary constituency. I am all for tidying up and I only wish that my wife was, too. But, surely, the aim is to make the numbers about equal in each Parliamentary constituency. That is fair enough in a Parliamentary constituency, but I suggest that tidying up on a map or by population does not necessarily produce the best results in local government. The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, said something to that effect. There has been a suggestion this afternoon that what Dorset wants is a little more wealth. Bless my soul! if they cannot get out of Bournemouth all the money they need for many years to come, then it really passes comprehension. Bournemouth is frightfully rich and we are giving it to them on a plate.
Your Lordships are all familiar with permutations and, though these are not usually done until Thursday, I venture to put a perm before your Lordships to-day. You perm three from two. You have two organisations—the Lymington Borough Council and the Hampshire police—and the first priority for each is to stay in Hampshire. That is two ones, totalling two. The second preference of the Lymington Borough Council is to go to Dorset, but that is the third preference of the Hampshire police. That 67 makes a total of five. Then we come to the famous Taddiford Gap and there it is the other way round; Lymington Borough Council make that No. 3 and Hampshire police make it No. 2. There is your perm. There is a total of two. It is like golf, where the lowest number wins. We have two, five and five, the two being in favour of staying in Hampshire. I plead with Her Majesty's Government to have another long, cool think about leaving the whole borough of Lymington in Hampshire, thus satisfying both the borough council and the Hampshire police. If my noble friend on the Front Bench will give that undertaking, I am sure that my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu will be willing to withdraw his Amendment and we can then revert to the matter at Report stage.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Perhaps I may intervene very briefly now, because I intend to intervene for a little longer if the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, is agreeable to what I propose. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. I think a number of us were under the impression that we were discussing merely the borough of Lymington, and it was not until we looked more closely that we found that by a sleight of hand the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, had removed Amendment No. 37, where four dots appear, and inserted No. 37A, which looks the same but is significantly different.
For reasons which I shall be prepared to give, I am strongly disposed to support an Amendment which would put the borough of Lymington into Hampshire, and possibly to agree to either St. Leonards or Sopley going into Dorset to make up the numbers, although the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, will not be able to drive through St. Leonards with safety if he succeeds. That would be more acceptable. But I certainly will not support the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, on Christchurch, and I do not know whether many noble Lords are prepared to do so, although a number would certainly he willing to go a very long way on the New Milton-Lymington point.
I am wondering whether it might suit the convenience of the Committee if the noble Lord were to seek to withdraw his Amendment, although it is of course open 68 to any noble Lord to refuse him permission to withdraw it and to vote on it. I should then seek to move a manuscript Amendment—it is too complicated for me to move a manuscript Amendment to his Amendment, which would be in order—which would be No. 37AA, to leave out lines 27 to 30 instead of lines 26 to 30. That might even bring the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, over to our side, though perhaps not. But certainly a number of other noble Lords would agree. It is a question of whether that is acceptable to the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. I really do not think it is any use the noble Lord pursuing the Christchurch argument.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
I feel that I should perhaps apologise to your Lordships' Committee if it is thought there has been any deception on my part. I think I, too, was under the impression that we were going to debate Amendment No. 37, when I saw the dots there. I am perfectly prepared to withdraw my Amendment No. 37A if it is the wish of the Committee, and I would support the manuscript Amendment to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.30 p.m.
LORD SHACKLETON moved manuscript Amendment No. 37AA:
Corrigendum, page 3, leave out lines 27 to 30.
§ The noble Lord said: I should like to move a manuscript Amendment to Schedule 1. I think it would become No. 37AA. Inadvertently, I seem to have taken over the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, by a curious sleight of hand, which was not my intention because I had some reservations about his Amendment But of one thing I am completely certain; that is, that what is proposed in the Bill is just not acceptable. If any noble Lord were to look at a map (and it is a great disadvantage that we have not reached the stage when we can have visual aids in your Lordships' Chamber, but there are maps outside) it would be seen that it really makes a total geographical nonsense. It is perfectly true that noble Lords will lay great emphasis on what local people think. But local people are moved by all sorts of curious 69 pressures; and of one thing there is absolute certainty; that is, that the people of the borough of Lymington are, to put it mildly, split-minded on the subject. We have contradictory evidence. But, in contradistinction, we have the administrators who have been most concerned with this—I particularly have in mind those who have studied it; we have the Duke of Wellington and others; the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, a former Hampshire county councillor; and as a former Labour candidate for the New Forest, nobody knows it better than I do—who in fact feel that what is now proposed as part of a rather curious deal to bring Ringwood into Hampshire (and I support Ringwood coming into Hampshire) in order to get the number up to at least this notional figure of 40,000, is absolutely absurd.
§ For the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, to argue that the Duke of Wellington and others were talking in terms of a Police State argument is really using a rather emotional and, I think, a slightly unfair phrase, because what we are concerned with here is good public administration. What the Government are proposing is a sort of "dog-leg", with a long, narrow coastal corridor—a sort of strip which the police, from all the way over at Dorchester, have to administer; and there is no doubt that the police argument is a powerful one. We have had the argument from the innocent and non-aggressive county of Dorset. I noticed that they were extremely effective in resisting Poole's efforts to get county borough status in the past, but, granting that they are a non-aggressive county, we all have great sympathy. I live now in the county of Dorset instead of the New Forest. I have a high opinion of the county of Dorset. We know their difficulties. I do not know whether the capital of the county will remain at Dorchester or will go to Bournemouth; but we accept that this is right. I think it is logical that Christchurch, Poole and Bournemouth should all be in Dorset; and I think there is much to be said, as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, suggested, for the boundary being roughly on the line of the Avon. But he does not propose to extend this so far as Lymington and New Milton are concerned. It is now proposed to get as far as possible from the line of the Avon.70
§ Having some geographical connections and having some concern with planning, I cannot seriously believe that anyone who has looked at this as a planning unit could tolerate it for one moment. As to the arguments of the Official Verderer, the noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury, who knows this area so well and with whom I have co-operated over the New Forest Bill and other matters, the arguments in terms of the planning of the New Forest are, to me, vital. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, I think the Hampshire County Council have a good record in the matter of planning. I do not know what particular factor makes him less friendly to them. I think that, because of the pressures of urban areas, they are more likely to seek to preserve this area than even Dorset, which has so much beautiful rural country. I therefore think that the case here is very strong.
§ I find some of the arguments that have been produced less than convincing. I was written to by certain Lymington people who suggested to me that Lymington might wobble in its loyalty to the Conservative Party if this was not done for them; and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, more or less suggested that Lymington might somehow go Labour if this was not granted. I think this is one of the least likely events, much as I regret it. None the less, I am prepared to support the noble Lord. Nor do I entirely like the suggestion, which they made, that the courage of the M.P. for the New Forest failed, and that he was overwhelmed by Ministerial pressure and the Party Whip. This is not a simple issue. There are, indeed, arguments for the Taddiford Gap. I do not propose to deal with the Taddiford Gap argument, but I must say that I would seek to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, that if the whole of the borough cannot go hack into Hampshire it may be that the Taddiford Gap solution would be the right one.
§ But the fact is that what is proposed is a nonsense—a "dog-leg". They have chosen to take out of Hampshire and put into Dorset a part of the New Forest which is just about as far as it can be from Dorset. You could go a bit further, to Beaulieu, but logically Lymington is part of the New Forest; and anybody 71 who knows this area must realise that this is not a sort of planner's madness, it is in fact a politicians' deal. It is not good enough; and I would urge your Lordships to accept my substitute Amendment. I may say that we have no official Party line on this. The Opposition do not want to add to the difficulties of the Government in getting their legislation through, and I speak only for myself; but this is one of the occasions on which, if the noble Lord. Lord Montagu, will agree with my Amendment, I hope your Lordships' Committee will set a mistake right. I beg to move my manuscript. Amendment.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD ROYLE)
I must point out that if this Amendment were carried I could not call Amendment No. 37B.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
We have somewhere in ourCompanion to Standing Orders a discouragement against the moving of manuscript Amendments on Committee stage, and a still stronger discouragement to the moving of them on Report stage. Frankly, I should like more time to make up my mind about the manuscript Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. It seems to me doubtful whether, in a Bill like this, where we are vitally affecting the future local government structure (and, indeed, much more) of parts of the country, we should reach snap decisions on Amendments we have not seen before. We still have a Report stage for this Bill. I would humbly submit to your Lordships that, rather than seek to reach a decision at very short notice to all of us, and no notice at all to the people of Lymington and Christchurch, who are concerned, it would be better to postpone a decision on this new Amendment until the Report stage.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
On the procedural point, I think the noble Lord did not have an opportunity to consult theCompanion. Clearly, manuscript Amendments are to be discouraged. One cannot move a manuscript Amendment on Third Reading because one cannot move any Amendment on Third Reading without notice having been given. But there is specific provision for manuscript Amendments in Committee. The practice 72 has great disadvantages in that other Members will not have had the opportunity of considering the terms of such Amendments.
But occasionally an Amendment is justified: for instance, to correct an Amendment already tabled. It was because the Committee were debating the wrong subject that it seemed desirable to move such an Amendment. Admittedly, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke—and, of course, the Government—appears to have known what was before the Committee; but the rest of us did not. We have chosen just to continue debating what we thought we were debating. With respect, I cannot say that we really need much more time if the Government are ever to get this Bill through.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I am not seeking to find fault with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, but I would put this consideration to him. He is now proposing a new county boundary which will bring back some 35,000 people into Hampshire and leave the 38,000 people of Christchurch in Dorset. Clearly, this is going to have far-reaching effects on the pattern of districts. I should have thought that Parliament ought to give some consideration to how the new districts are to be formed, before reaching any final decision. I say that in addition to the fact that I believe we ought to seek the opinion of the local people and local councils on this before we actually write into the Bill an Amendment which none of them has seen.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
With respect, the one thing that we have got is opinions on this Amendment. What we had not got was opinions on the Amendment that Lord Montagu moved in relation to Christchurch. The evidence is conflicting; but I do not see what the noble Lord wishes. We acknowledge his expertise in procedure, but we cannot just postpone this matter—unless he wishes to adjourn the debate altogether so that we can all go home. I cannot believe the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, would be very keen on that. I should have thought that at least the rest of the Members of the Committee do now know what we are debating.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I do not know whether it would help if at this stage I 73 said two things. First, the Government are very keen now, having had this useful debate and further canvassing of public opinion, to come to a decision. Secondly, the remarks that I made at the beginning about the Government not being prepared to consider any substantial shift back to Hampshire of population, area, or resources would have applied if the Amendment we had been debating from the beginning were Amendment No. 37AA which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has just moved as a manuscript Amendment. I do not know whether it will be of some help to make those observations at this stage.
As I have said, it has been very helpful for the Government to have had this further debate following a further canvassing of public opinion. Before I go into the main substance of what I want to say I should like to deal with the small point raised by my noble friend Lord Selkirk about the Boundary Commission, and confirm that the Boundary Commission, although it does not have the power to do anything about the matters remitted to it—it is advisory—is empowered to deal with boundaries of every kind: parish, district and county. That would involve making proposals about whole parishes.
I want to start by confirming what I said at the beginning; namely, that the Government do not agree that it would be right to make any substantial change in the boundary described in the Bill between Dorset and Hampshire; although they agree that it is difficult to decide precisely where it should go, and that almost certainly further changes here and there will be required on the advice of the Boundary Commission. The main reason for so thinking is that the whole built-up stretch of coast from Bournemouth eastward to the Solent needs to be planned and developed as a whole. Although this certainly does look like a thin finger on the map, the fact is that it forms a single unit for planning purposes.
I should like to address my remarks to the Committee on the issue of choosing now between a boundary which divides the counties at the Taddiford Gap and the boundary which is set out in the Bill as at present drafted. This is where the 74 difficulty comes and where the choice is so evenly balanced. In favour of the Taddiford Gap is undoubtedly the police point, which was known to the Government before and which has been deployed with particular emphasis and skill by my noble friend the Duke of Wellington, my noble friend Lord Monck and by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, himself. I think this is a cogent and weighty argument. There is also no doubt that looked at on the map there appears to be a natural gap roughly in the area of Taddiford. There are strong historical ties between the areas in question and the county of Hampshire. Noble Lords will know that wherever possible (and to a far greater extent in our proposals than those of the Royal Commission or the previous Government) we have stuck to these historical ties. We only abandon them when there are powerful arguments the other way. Then there is the question of local opinion and we have the benefit of the private poll conducted by my noble friend Lord Montagu.
Arguments against a change and making the boundary run along the Taddiford Gap as opposed to where it is, are these. First, there is the need for planning the whole of the coast together. This is the primary reason why the greater part of Christchurch and Lymington must be in Dorset. That applies to the whole coast and extends beyond the Taddiford Gap. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and others made this point very effectively, as did my noble friend Lord Selkirk and the noble Lord, Lord Jacques. The second point which I do not think has emerged (but which was made very powerfully to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State by the Members and officers chiefly concerned in this) is that joint work is now going on between Christchurch and Lymington on the basis of the previous decision of the Government. That is not an argument for sticking to the decision we have taken if it be conclusively shown that that was mistaken, but it is a strong argument for coming to a decision now; and I believe that it is an argument also for sticking to a decision that has been taken.
But most powerful of all—and this was the one point on which, if there had been 75 a change, I would on behalf of the Government have been prepared to recommend to the Committee support for my noble friend's Amendment No. 37B—are the local wishes expressed by the locally-elected representatives of the people on the borough council. Here, opinion is, if anything, more emphatic than ever before that if this borough of Lymington cannot stay in Hampshire—and for a number of reasons I have indicated that the Government do not feel that that would be right—then by a very substantial majority indeed, a majority containing the votes of a number of councillors and aldermen who live East of the Taddiford Gap, the borough is strongly in favour of remaining intact.
As I say, this has been a very useful debate for ascertaining whether there were any new factors, or any shifts in opinion or expressions of opinion which should lead the Government to feel that some solution other than the one they have selected so far was right. I must tell the Committee that no such new factors have emerged although we have had a very thorough debate, and no changes of opinion, particularly from the borough itself, have been indicated to us. For that reason, I would advise the Committee to reject all the Amendments on the understanding, as I promised my noble friend Lord Selkirk, that the details of the boundaries in a number of places besides those mentioned in his Amendment are matters for the Boundary Commission. I further urge the Committee not to accept the suggestion that we should delay a decision on this matter, so that necessary urgent work on the new boundary can he proceeded with.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I do not know whether this is really Lord Montagu of Beaulieu's Amendment, but since somehow I have fathered it I am bound to say that all the arguments employed by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, strengthen the case for this Amendment as opposed to the Taddiford Gap Amendment. I do not believe that the arguments in favour of planning this coastal strip have any validity as compared with the area arguments in relation to the New Forest, the general administrative and police arguments. I am sure that a decision which admittedly was taken in another place under certain 76 circumstances as part of a deal in regard to Ringwood, should be reversed. It may well be that some further consideration may need to be given on Report, but unless the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, wishes me not to press the Amendment I feel strongly, having heard the discussion, that I should divide the Committee. I hope that the Committee, having heard the powerful arguments from Hampshire county councillors and others, and those who, like myself, live in Dorset, will carry this Amendment.
§ Loan BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I am sorry to intervene again, but it seems entirely wrong to make a decision on this matter without having made any attempt to discover the views of the people of Christchurch on an entirely new situation. So far as my knowledge extends—and I have been told this on very good authority—the borough of Christchurch will be totally opposed to what is now suggested in this manuscript Amendment. They will realise that if the boundary is drawn as suggested for Christchurch Borough and Lymington Borough they will be at the mercy of Bournemouth. This does not seem to be the way to legislate. If the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is clear in his mind and wishes to press his manuscript Amendment to a division, I shall certainly vote against it in the circumstances and I hope that other noble Lords will do the same.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, that the one think we do know is that Christchurch is against this Amendment. There is no need to argue the case against this. We know that Christchurch wishes to have Lymington and New Milton do not wish to be included in Christchurch. I told the noble Lord this in the course of the debate, but I believe it is necessary to carry this Amendment. There may be some further sorting out to be done, but we have not been given adequate demographic reasons. It may well be that when we come to the question of Sopley we may do something about that, but I do not feel inclined to do so unless we are able to carry this Amendment now.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 37AA) shall be agreed to?77
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 81 Not-Contents, 65.
|Alport, L.||Hoy, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Arwyn, L.||Jacques, L. [Teller.]||Reigate, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Killearn, L.||Rennell, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Leatherland, L.||Ridley, V.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Leicester, E.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||St. Davids, V.|
|Blyton, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Selborne, E.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Long, V.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Carnock, L.||Longford, E.||Shackleton, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Loudoun, C.||Shepherd, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Snow, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Malmesbury, E.||Somers, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Maybray-King, L.||Stocks, Bs.|
|Croft, L.||Mersey, V.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Cross, V.||Monck, V.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Davidson, V.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L. [Teller].||Swansea, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Forres, L.||Norwich, V.||Wade, L.|
|Gainsborough, E.||Nunburnholme, L.||Watkins, L.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.||Wellington, D.|
|Gardiner, L.||Onslow, E.||Williamson, L.|
|Garnsworthy, L.||Pargiter, L.||Wise, L.|
|Hale, L.||Phillips, Bs.||Wolverton, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Popplewell, L.||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
|Harvey of Prestbury, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Rankeillour, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Heycock, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Gage, V.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Gainford, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Geddes, L.||Portal of Hungerford, Bs.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Goschen, V.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Gowrie, E.||Rockley, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Rothermere, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Hailsham of St. Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||St. Just, L.|
|Blackford, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hawke, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Hemingford, L.||Savile, L.|
|Chelmer, L.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Selkirk, E.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Kinnoull, E.||Stamp, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Latymer, L.||Strang, L.|
|Courtown, E.||Limerick, E.||Strange of Knokin, Bs.|
|Daventry, V.||Macleod of Borve, Bs.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Merrivale, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Digby, L.||Milverton, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Molson, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Elles, Bs.||Mottistone, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]||Windlesham, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Wynford, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Northchurch, Bs.||Young, Bs.|
|Fraser of Lonsdale, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 6.4 p.m.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved Amendment No. 37C:
Corrigendum, page 3, line 32, after ("Hurn") insert ("the parish of St. Leonards and St. Ives, the parish of Sopley").
§ The noble Earl said: In the course of a previous Amendment I made what was called a Second Reading speech about 78 an Amendment which stands in my name. Now that the Committee have decided as it has, the two Amendments in my name are of far greater importance and I ask the Government to give them careful consideration. The reason I raise the matter is that the Government, quite suddenly after, I think, 16 hours of discussion, said that they put St. Leonards and St. Ives parishes back into Hampshire because they were associated with Ringwood. No other explanation has 79 been given. So far as I am aware, not even that explanation was given with regard to Sopley. The whole of this area looks for almost all services to the Bournemouth-Poole area. A hospital of some consequence in the middle of St. Leonards—I believe it is a geriatric hospital—is concerned almost entirely with patients from Bournemouth and not from other parts of the country at all.
§ The whole of the area, with respect, from Lymington through to Wareham, apart from the tourist industry, is concerned with light industry, much of it of a very high character. This is likely to expand and it is of considerable importance to the area that it should be possible to expand North, inland of the area already heavily occupied. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, agrees that this boundary at present is absurd. I should like to know haw far the Boundary Commission could go. Why not strike St. Leonards and St. Ives and Sopley out, or put them in in the position that I have, and leave it to the Boundary Commission to make the appropriate adjustment? I am asking, therefore, whether the Boundary Commission can make the adjustment and, if so, will tile noble Lord not accept what I have suggested and let the Boundary Commission make its recommendations?
§ LORD SANDFORD
As I said originally, it is certainly true that the boundary in this area between Hampshire and Dorset is very difficult to determine, particularly in detail. But a detailed change at this point is not something which could be settled by shifting parish boundaries as a whole. There are objections whichever way it is done, not only from these two parishes but also from other parishes in the area. I recommend to the Committee that although this would involve delay—it would not be a long delay—it would be better to leave the parish boundaries where they are now, which is the best broad division which may be made; accept all the points which the noble Earl has made so cogently but acknowledge that there are others, and leave the adjustment of detail to the Boundary Commission.
Broadly speaking, the rural district of Ringwood is better as a whole with territory from these parishes in it. I could not say at this stage without consultation, 80 which there has not been as to the details here, where the precise boundary would be, or what configuration on the map or on the ground would be the one to follow. I would repeat my assurances that everything that needs to be done here falls squarely within the terms of reference of the Boundary Commission and it will be able, in due course after proper consultation which it is so important to have, to arrive at a sensible recommendation to make to my right honourable friend. I strongly recommend the Committee to leave matters there for the time being.
§ LORD DIGBY
We have spent most of the afternoon debating two Amendments which were never put and voting on an Amendment which did not seem to be—because I must admit that I can read my Order Paper. We are getting on to a third Amendment which is now of much greater importance than ever it was before the last Amendment was carried. It is suggested by the Government that we should wait until the Boundary Commission suggests changes. But surely, long before this the question of the county districts will be decided, and what has happened this afternoon has put Christchurch in an absolutely unviable position, as I understand it. It seems to me essential from the Christchurch angle, and for the whole efficient administration of local government in this area, that these areas to the North should be returned to Dorset. I hope the Amendment will be carried.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I do not understand what the Government are trying to do here. In the other place tile Minister said that the parish of St. Leonards and St. Ives, which is divided by a wide river and low ground from Ringwood, is associated with Ringwood and therefore has to go with it. Then the noble Lord gets up in response to a question which I asked and all he can say is that it is better for the Ringwood District Council. That is no reason whatever. This is really an integral part of the development from the South. There is a clear boundary in regard to this area. I do not believe that there is any strong emotional issue here—and I do not very much mind if there is, because most of the inhabitants there are fairly new. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who is not here at the moment, said that this would not he popular. My information is that 81 people North of the A.31 like to be in Hampshire because of the prestige, and people South of the road like to be in Dorset because they get on with the job. My view is that they have no strong loyalties to either county, but simply want to see what they can get out of it. There is, as I say, a clear boundary between Ringwood and St. Leonards and I would ask the noble Lord to consider this. You cannot adjust a river boundary; it is a great wide area of about two miles of flat country. I think this is an essential and integral element, as the noble Lord, Lord Digby, said, of the development, which is increasingly industrial, apart from the tourist industry.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
Is the noble Earl talking about St. Leonards and St. Ives as well as Sopley?
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
Then may I say that there is another factor here, which I have mentioned before. Sopley goes right up to the New Forest perambulation and it is essential that there should be a cushion area here for the good administration of the New Forest so that it can be under one planning authority. I should rather like to abide by the recommendation that we leave this to the Boundary Commission in the near future.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I would assure my noble friend Lord Selkirk that, in the light of the decision that has just been taken, fresh consideration will have to be given to this boundary here, because it is clearly linked up with it. But, as my noble friend Lord Malmesbury has just made clear, there are here a number of conflicting considerations. If it led to the conclusion that one parish should go in and a whole parish should go out, that would be easy, but this is not the case. It is a question of re-drawing the parish boundary. I agree with my noble friend that the boundary of St. Leonards and St. Ives to the East, which is a river boundary, is not one that it would be easy to change satisfactorily. But this does not mean to say that it may not be desirable to re-draw the western boundary, which is the one that forms the county boundary. I certainly give my noble friend the assurance that, in the light of the 82 decision we have just taken, this matter will be looked at again. But our information before that was that this involved a detailed adjustment that would be best left for the Boundary Commission. I will certainly look at it again between now and the Report stage in the light of the decision that the Committee has just taken, and if that leads to a different conclusion I shall be happy to consider this Amendment or some other form of Amendment with my noble friend.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I thank my noble friend for what he has said and am quite happy to accept it. I agree with what my noble friend Lord Malmesbury said. If Sopley should go into Dorset with, if you like, a corridorsanitaire—if that is what the noble Lord wishes—I should be quite happy to accept that. I hope that my noble friend will be able to put this forward at the Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.14 p.m.
LORD ALPORT moved Amendment No. 39:
Corrigendum. Page 3, line 46, after ("Essex") insert ("except the areas in Suffolk")
§ The noble Lord said: It may help the Committee if I draw attention to the fact that this Amendment is associated with Amendment No. 52. I should begin by explaining that I speak entirely as an individual, and that I seek to bring before your Lordships an issue which is of importance, at any rate in our part of East Anglia. I have no qualms with regard to the drafting of this Amendment, for the Amendment represents exactly the words of the Government draftsmen in the Bill as it was introduced by the Minister in another place at the time of Second Reading. I have no qualms either with regard to the policy of the Amendment, because it represents the considered policy of the Government at that time as a result of their study of the situation in South East Anglia and the Report of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission: indeed, the policy seeks to implement one of the principal recommendations of that Commission and is supported by powerful arguments which, as I say, convinced the Government initially that this was the right solution for North-East Essex and Suffolk.83
§ The arguments in favour can be summarised as follows. In the first place, the area concerned covers part of the estuary of the Orwell and the Stour, part of which at present lies in Suffolk with the ports of Felixstowe and Ipswich, and part in Essex with the important port of Harwich, which in due course, as a result of a decision arrived at by your Lordships' House recently, will be developed by the development of the Bath Side Bay project which will give to that part of the coast a deep sea port, with wharves, of great importance at the present time. It was the view of the Redcliffe-Maud Report, and I think of the Government, that this whole area, with the three important ports or havens facing the Continent and likely to become of increasing economic importance when we enter the Common Market, should be brought under one administration. That was the first argument in favour.
§ If I may refer to the debate which we have just concluded, I noticed that one of the arguments the Minister adduced for his point of view with regard to the part of Hampshire or Dorset (I was rather confused as to which we were talking about towards the end) was that it was a coastal strip which should be administered as one. Equally, I should have thought, if not far more so, the area of this haven estuary comprising these three important ports should be administered under one main local authority.
§ The second argument brought forward by the Commission, and again presumably accepted by the Government, was that by bringing North-East Essex in with Suffolk it would ensure the continuing integrity of the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley. The Dedham Vale will be familiar to your Lordships as the scene of so many of Constable's great paintings. It is a place of special natural beauty. It is protected, but is at the present time divided between the two authorities of Suffolk, on the one hand, and the Essex County Council on the other. It is something which I should have thought requires—again in agreement with the Commission—a single authority to safeguard and look after the planning and integrity of that beautiful part of East Anglia.
§ The third reason is the close affinity of North-East Essex with Suffolk and East Anglia generally. I can only speak from 84 my own experience. having lived there for 25 years. We in North-East Essex feel ourselves as part of East Anglia. I do not know whether it is in any way a measure of our one-ness with Suffolk, and to a less extent Norfolk, but we are covered by the same television system. We have in North-East Essex and in Suffolk the same daily paper, theEast Anglian Daily Times. The two organisations locally with which I am or was associated, the Eastern Area Federation of Building Societies, and until recently the British Institute of Management in Ipswich, link Colchester and Ipswich in Suffolk and are not connected with Chelmsford, our present Essex County Council. That is the third argument.
§ The fourth argument, from the point of view of good administration and local government, is perhaps the most important of all because it relates to the distribution of manpower and financial resources as between Suffolk with North-East Essex and Essex without North-East Essex. If I may draw to your Lordships' attention some of the statistics, they are as follows: if Suffolk and North-East Essex became a single local government area, a single county, the distribution of population would be roughly, in the case of Norfolk, 780,000; in the case of Suffolk with North-East Essex, 750,000; and in the case of Essex without North-East Essex, 1,250,000, assuming (as no doubt will be the case) that within a relatively short period of time there is a development in mid-Essex as a result of the decision to place a third London Airport at Foulness and to build a new large town of 125,000. If the Government's present proposals stand, the population of Norfolk will be 780,000; of Suffolk without Essex, 530,000; and of Essex including North-East Essex, 1½ million. There is such a disparity between these figures of population that it must and does mean—as I think would be generally recognised by the Government and indeed by everybody approaching this matter objectively—that as far as Suffolk is concerned, in population and to some extent in rateable value, it will be, I believe, the second smallest and perhaps from the financial point of view the second weakest of the county units. In the case of Suffolk without North-East Essex the rateable value will be about £20 million and for Suffolk with North-East Essex about £30 million. 85 Essex without North-East Essex will be £57 million.
§ I know that the arguments, so far as Essex and Suffolk are concerned, were concentrated upon financial considerations. I understand the strength of the arguments of the substantial financial resources of Essex County Council as it at present stands; but I have had some experience of this, as I say, over nearly a quarter of a century and I would say we were also a strong county financially in the 'forties and 'fifties. We in North-East Essex felt ourselves very much at a disadvantage with regard to West Essex, which at that time included a large urban population since transferred to the G.L.C. We felt ourselves neglected, and indeed we were to some extent quite justified in our feelings about that as regards the interests of housing development, educational needs and so on of these large urban populations. We realise that although to-day there may be some balance between West Essex and North-East Essex, so to speak, when this new conurbation arises in the centre of Essex—this new town as a consequence of the decision to put a third London Airport at Foulness—increasingly Chelmsford, Southend (a developing area) and this new town will dominate Essex, to the disadvantage of the rural areas of North-East Essex and the towns of Harwich and Colchester. We have had experience of this and we see no reason why it should not happen again.
§ I must confess that so far as the merits of the proposals which I am putting forward in my Amendment are concerned, which was the Government's original policy in this matter, we in North-East Essex are divided. Broadly speaking, the rural districts are in favour. Turning to the boroughs, the borough of Harwich is against joining Suffolk and I think the reason is a long-standing feeling of competition with Felixstowe and Ipswich and also a feeling that in the circumstances that previously existed Harwich might be at a disadvantage under a county council which would, they believe, be largely dominated by Felixstowe and Ipswich, and so they would not get the sort of advantages they hoped to get from the Essex County Council at Chelmsford. But we recog- 86 nise that this new factor has arisen and that there is going to be a new port at Foulness. There is no doubt at all that in spite of the special financing of that development from Government resources a great deal of the attention and the resources of the Essex County Council will be concentrated upon the Foulness development, at the expense not only of rural Essex but also of the port of Harwich. Therefore as regards the good healthy competition between Harwich and the present Suffolk ports, with the development of Bath Side Bay wharves, Harwich will probably be the biggest and most important of all the ports in the complex of the estuary of the Stour and the Orwell.
§ Colchester was originally in favour of joining Suffolk, but subsequently by about 18 or 20 to 12 they voted against. I would say to your Lordships that it should be noted that among those who voted in favour of joining Suffolk were seven out of eight chairmen of the principal committees of the Corporation. I find it difficult in present circumstances to assess very clearly what the public feels. What I am quite clear about is that public opinion in North-East. Essex, in Colchester, in Harwich, in our rural areas and our urban districts, has not yet had an opportunity of being informed about and being able to consider the effects of this new factor that has come into being: that is, the decision to establish not only a very considerable transport and industrial conurbation in the Foulness area but a new town in the middle of Essex.
§ Another factor discussed at the time was the position of the university. We have near Colchester the University of Essex. I see no difficulty about nomenclature in that case. If it were to become the University of Colchester we should be pleased and happy; indeed, it would follow the custom of practically every other university in the country. After all, the University of Oxford is not the University of Oxfordshire; nor for that matter is the University of York the University of Yorkshire, although I am quite sure that in the case of any of the new universities the county councils have played just as munificent, active and helpful a part as Essex County Council has played regarding the University of Essex.87
§ Another argument that was advanced against it was the integrity of Essex. Essex, it is true, was one of the kingdoms of the Heptarchy. It was not the most successful kingdom in fact, but it was certainly a kingdom of the Heptarchy and it is perfectly true that it has a longstanding historical presence and being in Britain. But the fact is that a very short time ago some of the most important and historic parts of Essex were severed from the county and handed over to London and the G.L.C. Quite honestly, there was not this controversy or this effort on the part of the county council to keep them in Essex that there has been during the last year or so in respect of these proposals to link North-East Essex with Suffolk. The truth of the matter is that other factors, other considerations and other motives were brought into play upon the problem of North-East Essex. I am not prepared to say that I can speak authoritatively on this but I can speculate, as indeed many of us do in North-East Essex, as to many of the steps which have led to a decision to start such a substantial campaign—a well-financed and a vigorous campaign—against the linking of North-East Essex with Suffolk. It was organised through professional public relations. So far as I know a substantial sum of money was spent on it.
§ Why is North-East Essex different from West Ham, Barking or all the other areas which have been lost to Essex during the recent past? There could be a political factor: North-East Essex is very largely a Conservative area. A Conservative county council would naturally feel that there was a strong argument for maintaining a Conservative area as part of the county, particularly where there is likely to be an intrusion of a very large number of new and uncertain voters in the future. In the case of Colchester it is quite possible that the Labour Party there—I do not know whether this is true or not—felt some reluctance at going into the county council of Suffolk which has been predominently Conservative and was likely to continue to be predominently Conservative. Whatever may have been the motives or factors behind it, the fact of the matter is that a very powerful campaign was launched against the Government's policy. The Government, in Standing Committee and during subsequent 88 stages of the Bill in the House of Commons, accepted an Amendment to reverse their original decision to unite North-East Essex with Suffolk despite all the arguments that had been put forward, and to leave North-East Essex with Essex despite all the obvious arguments which are against it.
§ What I am trying to do—and as I have said I am speaking as an individual—is not to ask your Lordships to make a definite decision on this matter, because I do not think it would be right to do so; but I think it is right that the people of North-East Essex, Essex generally, and Suffolk, should have a chance of considering a new factor which has arisen: the decision with regard to Foulness and the decision to build the new city in the middle of Essex. If my Amendment is accepted by Her Majesty's Government, not only will they be restoring the integrity of their own policy—which is always an advantage, because this is their policy and their proposal; and this is something which I know in their heart of hearts they believe to be right—but they will be giving the people of North-East Essex, Suffolk, and Essex generally, a chance to consider the position again in the light of this new factor. Any Amendment made in this House would be subject, if it was decided appropriate, to reversal by another place when this Bill returns there. I would be willing to accept that second decision by the House of Commons, and I am sure that would be generally acceptable to North-East Essex as well.
§ But for the moment we feel that we are justified in asking your Lordships—and this is a constitutional power and right of your Lordships' House—to give a second chance to an area to consider an important decision. It would also help Her Majesty's Government more clearly to put forward their views with regard to this particular issue than they were able to do on the previous occasion. If, as I hope, the decision is that we will join Suffolk it would mean for this part of South-East Anglia a stronger administration and a happier and more successful future. It is on those grounds that I move the Amendment and ask your Lordships for support.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
I must, before proceeding with my general remarks, correct two statements of fact 89 which have fallen from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Alport. First, he said that the new airport town is to be built in mid-Essex. That is not so; it is to be built in South-East Essex, which is a long way away. Secondly, he said that when Essex was last severed so that the Western boroughs could go into the Greater London Council the Essex County Council did not put up the same kind of fight as it is putting up to-day against this second severance. I was Chairman of the Essex County Council at the time of that Greater London severance and I can assure your Lordships that a fight of the utmost vigour was waged from the beginning to the end of that contest.
The noble Lord, Lord Alport, with deep sincerity, is advocating once again the theory that he has held so close to his heart for so many years. But sincerity is not enough; what we need in order to reach a true assessment of the situation are convincing, indisputable facts. I hope to be able to put those before your Lordships in a few minutes' time. What is the Alport Plan? It is nothing less than the castration of Essex.
§ LORD ALPORT
Perhaps the noble Lord will forgive me. This is not the Alport Plan; this is the plan of Her Majesty's Government, the Redcliffe-Maud Plan.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
Subsequently cancelled by Her Majesty's Government and adopted by the noble Lord, Lord Alport. So if this is not his natural child, it is his adopted child, as he has tried to make out to your Lordships this evening. I said, "What is the Alport Plan?". It is to take the five towns in North-East Essex, Colchester, Clacton, Frinton, Walton and Harwich—all of which have said they want to stay in Essex—along with the intervening countryside, one-fifth of the whole acreage of Essex, 220,000 of its men, women and children, and pitchfork them into the county of Suffolk, there to become subordinate—so far as prestige is concerned at any rate—to the growing industrial town of Ipswich.
The noble Lord and I have many things in common. We share many opinions on matters political. We both live in Essex. We have both played our part in the public life of that county. The 90 noble Lord is highly esteemed there. For ten years he was Member of Parliament for Colchester; he is now the High Steward of Colchester. So his sentimental attraction to that oldest town in England, and therefore the oldest town in Essex, can be well appreciated. But when we come to the question of local government administration the noble Lord is not quite so knowledgeable as he is in other fields of human endeavour. Let me recall what he said on March 29 last year. InHansard at column 1172 he said that Colchester was going to lose quite a number of its services to Chelmsford. That has nothing to do with where we draw the boundary between Suffolk and Essex. It has something to do with, and is an argument against, the fundamental principles of this Bill. In any case Colchester will lose certain services either to Ipswich, Suffolk, or Chelmsford, Essex. On the same occasion in the same column ofHansard the noble Lord went on to say:When I say 'Chelmsford' I do riot mean the county town, against which we have no animus, but the proposed county council dominated by the weight of population of the urban, industrialised South-West Essex—Dagenham, Thurrock and GraysThat word "Dagenham" is ringing in my ears. Dagenham does not exercise any dominating influence in the county council of Essex. Under the Bill Dagenham will not exercise any dominating influence in that county council. Dagenham is not in the Essex County Council. It is a part of the borough of Barking. Barking is a Greater London borough. When the people of Dagenham elect county councillors they do not elect them to sit at Chelmsford, Essex, but to sit in the Greater London Council across the other side of Westminster Bridge.
Having referred to the noble Lord's local government qualifications I must briefly, and of course quite modestly, mention my own. For 22 years I was an alderman of the Essex County Council. At the age of 70, four years ago, I thought I was getting too old and should give the new generation a chance. As the first chairman of its fire brigade committee I created the Essex County Fire Brigade. I was for five years chairman of the finance committee; I was for five years vice-chairman of the county council and then chairman of the county council, and for the greater part of that 91 whole period I was the leader of my Party on the council, both in Government and in Opposition. Good gracious! I have mentioned an improper word. I said, "Party". Yet this is about the purest, non-Party, all-Party debate that your Lordships have had for years. So let me put myself right very quickly. The Conservative majority on the county council and the Labour minority on the county council are both ferociously opposed to the noble Lord's Amendment.
Now let me look at the history of this situation. When the White Paper was published the whole of Essex was to stay in Essex. When the Bill was published, we were staggered to find that North-East Essex had been moved into Suffolk. How came the change? A powerful propaganda campaign was started in Suffolk with the assistance of a vociferous minority in North-East Essex, and when Mr. Graham Pare, the Minister, visited the district to ascertain the views of the local authorities he was told on behalf of Colchester Council that Colchester Council had decided to go into Suffolk. Then what happened? The full Colchester Council later met for the first time to consider this question. It had a three-hour debate: eloquent speeches were made on both sides. It took a vote. Eight councillors decided to vote for going into Suffolk; twenty-three of them decided to stay in Essex. And if you take all the boroughs, urban and rural district councils in that North-East area, you find those representing 78,000 wanted to go into Suffolk while those representing 141,000 wanted to stay in Essex—a majority of practically two to one. And if you accept that education is perhaps one of the main services of local government, then the North-East Essex Educational Executive voted to stay in Essex by nineteen votes to three.
The Minister did not confine himself to seeking the views of the local authorities. He threw the invitation open to voluntary organisations and others. And then what happened? The main group of newspapers, edited and printed in Colchester, held a postal ballot. By four votes against one the majority was in favour of staying in Essex. Then a public opinion survey was held in those parts of Essex which were closest to the 92 Suffolk border: the borough of Harwich and the villages South of the Stour—a 75 per cent. majority in favour of staying in Essex. Then all the Members of Parliament in Essex, with one solitary exception, decided that the North-East Essex territory should stay in Essex.
Then there were 52 voluntary organisations that responded to the Minister's request to express their opinions. Four of them said, "We will go into Suffolk"; 48 of them said, "We will stay in Essex". The four who wanted to go into Suffolk were the Clacton-on-Sea Boarding House Proprietors' Association, a Colchester firm of surveyors, the Colchester branch of NALGO and the East-Anglia Consultative Committee, which is a semi-statutory body dominated by the two county councils of Suffolk and by the Ipswich Borough Council. But when you look at the 48 who said they wanted to stay in Essex you never saw a more impressive cross-section of enlightened public opinion. There was the Diocesan Moral Welfare Committee—I am afraid I had nothing to do with that decision; the Diocesan Education Committee; the Colchester Round Table—a gathering of most eminent citizens; the Head Teachers' Association; the National Union of Teachers; St. John Ambulance Brigade; National Health Service Executive; Old People's Welfare Association. And then there was a group of four organisations in a slightly different category: the Colchester Constituency Labour Party; the Colchester Co-operative Society: the Colchester Co-operative Women's Guild and the Harwich Trades Council. It might be said that those four are somewhat tainted. They may be, but let me balance them by four more. There was the Country Landowners' Association—the trade union of the squires; the National Farmers' Union; the Essex Agricultural Show, and the Essex Community Council, which is the godfather, as your Lordships know, of the pretty villages in the county. There was also the University of Essex.
The Minister carefully considered these powerful expressions of public opinion and decided that the North-East territory of Essex should remain in Essex, and the Bill embodying this is before the Committee of your Lordships' House to-day. But the noble Lord wants to turn it upside 93 down. Surely, the time has come when we should try to remove all this uncertainty and let the local government officers, who have a huge task in dealing with this reorganisation generally, get on with their job. How does the existing, unadulterated County of Essex square up with the criteria laid down in the White Paper? First of all, let us take the boundary. The River Stour has been the boundary between Suffolk and Essex for over a thousand years. This is no mere trickling stream. It is a mile and a quarter wide at its mouth; a mile and a half wide a few miles inland, and you have to travel 10 miles before you get to the first bridge and it is still a quarter of a mile wide there. This estuary is not like the estuaries of the Tyne, the Tees and the Mersey, which are closely built up on both sides. This is a rural area and the present boundary does not cut in two any single community.
The next criterion is that of employment. Of the 96,000 registered workers in North-East Essex, only 1,800 cross the border into Suffolk to work—just over 2 per cent.—and of all the registered workers in East Suffolk County and Ispwich Borough, fewer than 1 per cent. come into Essex to work. The South-East England Strategic Planning Organisation, which is a highly respectable body, invariably takes the River Stour as its boundary.
The next thing I want to say is to my mind very important. It so happens that many of the public institutions which cater for the population of the whole of Essex are situated in this North-East territory. There are five out of six of the hostels for the mentally handicapped; there are nine out of ten of the rehabilitation centres for recovering mental patients; there are five out of every eight of the beds for elderly mental patients; there are one out of two of the residential nurseries; there are five out of every six of the communal units for homeless families; two out of three of the residential schools for maladjusted children, and one out of three of the residential schools for educationally subnormal children. There is also in this North-East territory the International Youth Camp, famed among educationists throughout the whole world. So your Lordships will see that this North-East territory is very heavily 94 laden with institutions which cater for the population of the whole of Essex.
Now let me look at the police force. If the county is severed, the Constabulary will be confronted with their third major reorganisation in 10 years—more expense; less efficiency. As to the fire brigade, which has a divisional headquarters at Colchester—I know that because I put it there—the fire brigade committee and the Fire Brigades Union are most solidly opposed to any change. Then there is the education service. The reorganisation of secondary education in Suffolk has proceeded along quite different lines from that in Essex. The schools now built in North-East Essex, and those now building there, would not fit in with the Suffolk secondary education system. If the North-East Technical College at Colchester were put into Suffolk it would cause grave disruption among further education in the county. There is the National Health Service Executive whose area is always supposed to be co-extensive with that of its county. This happens to be in North-East Essex. There are 53 voluntary organisations in North-East Essex to which the Essex County Council gives aid. It gives that aid because it appreciates their valuable services and also because it has the resources with which to do it. This year a £13 million building programme is being undertaken by the Essex County Council, and over £4 million of this is in this North-East territory.
Now we come to the Essex University, to which the noble Lord has referred. The University of Essex at Colchester owes its very existence to the initiative of the Essex County Council. The Essex County Council bought a mansion and a 200-acre estate and gave it to the University. It formed the University Promotion Committee, made a public appeal and raised over £1¼ million, largely from Essex, and I, unfortunately, happen to be the nominal custodian of that £1¼ million. Then the Essex County Council voted £107,000 a year towards the University funds and the Southend Borough Council made a similarly generous gift, having regard to its proportionate population. If this university is put into Suffolk, will Suffolk give the same kind of generous assistance, especially having regard to the fact that Suffolk County 95 Councils have for years been linked with the East Anglian University at Norwich'? Also, if the university went into Suffolk would the people of Essex and the County Council of Essex feel that they were under an obligation to show the same generosity and liberality as they have shown in the past?
I have a minor declaration of interest to make. I am the treasurer of the University of Essex, and have been so since its foundation. It is a dignified and onerous but absolutely honorary post. But I am also a shy person and very easily embarrassed. Just imagine my embarrassment at the next meeting of the University Court when I rise, turn respectfully to the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, and say, "My Lord, and Chancellor, I beg leave to present the yearly accounts of the University of Essex in Suffolk".
§ LORD ALPORT
May I interrupt the noble Lord? Would he be equally embarrassed in saying "The University of Colchester"?
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
You may juggle with names like that but this was promoted as the University of Essex. You do not change its name, even if you change the name of the adopted child to which I referred in my opening remarks.
I wonder whether the noble Lord has really considered the extra population power and prestige that will devolve upon Colchester town if the Bill in the form in which it now stands is adopted? Colchester will then absorb the Mersea urban district, the Wivenhoe urban district, the Lexden and Winstree rural district, and will then have a population of 117,000 people, contrasted with the 76,000 which it has to-day. It will have more than half of the population, it will have more than a half of the seats on the Council, it will have a little empire of 82,000 acres against the 12,000 acres which it has to-day. Surely all that is better than being the mere "little brother" of Ipswich.
The noble Lord has referred to the fact that Essex County Council engaged a firm of public relations consultants. It has had to do so. Ever mindful of the ratepayers' money, it does not have a 96 large public relations staff—it just has one officer who is responsible for most of his time for that kind of duty. But remember that Essex was the subject of a takeover bid from Suffolk. It had to defend itself. It was being told by the Essex Press that it must make the real facts of the situation more widely known. So it called a county conference, attended by one hundred local authorities and voluntary organisations. Their voice was, "You must fight", and so the public relations consultants were told to spread the real facts as widely as they possibly could throughout the county, and one of the facts that they were told to drive home was that whereas the story was being spread about that Colchester Council wanted to go into Suffolk, the real fact was that Colchester Council, by 23 votes to 8, had decided that it wanted to stay in Essex. Another of the facts that it had to make known was that Essex County Council is recognised as having one of the finest social welfare organisations in the country and that during recent years the Essex County Council have regarded the North-East Essex territory as being an area of high amenity value. It has spent £100,000 there on preserving open spaces; it has made 20 conservation orders; it has preserved historic houses; it is now planning another country park and it spearheaded the three-county campaign to preserve the beauties of the Dedham Vale, to which the noble Lord has already referred.
In recent years it has also done work to the extent of millions of pounds on roads in the North-East of the county and on coastal protection and this year it is building £2 million worth of secondary schools in that area, in addition to eight primary schools. Yet the rates in Essex are lower than the average for all the English counties and lower than those in East Suffolk and West Suffolk. When the noble Lord criticises the council for engaging public relations consultants, surely he does not mean to say that public relations consultants are not respectable people? Your Lordships can go into the Library and pick up theDirectory of Directors. You will find in that a company called "Financial Public Relations Ltd.". You will also find the name of the chairman of that company, and the name of the chairman is 97 given as the noble Lord, Lord Alport. He will probably tell me that he has since resigned.
§ LORD ALPORT
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to point out that I am no longer connected with that company. However, apart from that it gives me perhaps an even greater insight into the operations of public relations consultants than the noble Lord, who has not had my advantage.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
For years the noble Lord was the chairman of a public relations company. I will leave it at that. He has moved up since then in the City, I quite agree, but he has not cast behind him into outer darkness that period which he spent as a public relations expert.
It has been said that Essex is a big county. It certainly is in terms of population, and it will get bigger. The noble Lord has suggested that the airport new town will swell it still more. It certainly will, but, as I said before, this is in the South-East of Essex and not mid-Essex. This is not a new factor. The Essex County Council has known for some years that it was to expect an extra 300,000 people in South-East Essex. That was made clear at the Roskill Commission and it was made clear by the South-East England strategic planning organisation. In any case, whether there is an airport new town or not, there are 300,000 people planned to settle in the South-East of Essex. If they settled there unsystematically, think what a great employment problem that would create; think how it would swell the army of commuters who travel each day to London. But with the airport new town it will be systematic: the houses and the jobs will be created concurrently, and if we accept the philosophy that the ideal county comprises both town and country, this extra urbanisation in South-East Essex is an additional reason why Essex should not be deprived of the wide open spaces in North-East Essex.
Speaking of growing counties, I saw an advertisement in the Press only the other day, inserted by the West Suffolk County Council, which said that West Suffolk was the fastest growing county in England. Essex is really a natural county, comprising both town and country. It has natural boundaries—the Stour on the 98 North, the sea on the East, the Thames on the South. It is an ably administered county; it is an economically administered county. If this severance takes place many of the public services will be disrupted and the public will suffer accordingly. It is a county with a noble history. It is a county with a present and future that are progressive and enterprising. So why not leave it alone? I call in aid the words of the White Paper:Where possible, existing county boundaries will be retained in order to keep the maximum existing loyalties and minimise the administrative problems".I could not have put it better myself. While I apologise for having trespassed on your Lordships' patience for so long, I plead with the Committee to reject this unrealistic Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
For the first time, and I suspect for the last, I wish that I were a Peeress in my own right and not a Peer, so that I might really be the sort of Queen Boadicea who led the Iceni in the sack of Colchester across the Stour some 1,900 years ago. However, as a mere male I shall try to fill the dreadful warlike figure which the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, seemed to want to draw of those of us who live North of the Stour.
I do not want to repeat the arguments which were used by the noble Lord, Lord Alport. It is clear that there is an awkward boundary between Suffolk and Essex. The noble Lord, Lord Leather-land, drew a nice picture of the mouth of the Stour and told us that it was extremely wide. However, that is only a small part of the boundary, and when one gets to the uppermost parts of the Stour one can practically jump across it. Certainly one can throw a fly across it and get it caught up in an alder tree, as I have done on many occasions.
We have awkward boundary problems. The major one is the Haven ports, while another is the area of outstanding natural beauty running the whole way up the Constable country and beyond. It is fair to say that wherever one goes one gets awkward boundary problems. One tries to solve them with that last resort of an incompetent administrator, the joint committee, but the long and short of it is that if one were drawing the boundaries of new county council areas to-day, nobody in his senses would draw the one 99 between Essex and Suffolk where it now is.
The arguments adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Alport, were those adduced by the Redcliffe-Maud Commission. Much more interesting were those adduced at the meeting which the Minister held in Colchester which I attended, but which I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, attended. At that meeting the local authorities in the northern part of Essex and the southern part of Suffolk met the Minister to explain their outlook on the provision in the White Paper of not joining North-East Essex to Suffolk, as the Redcliffe-Maud Commission had recommended. I went from Suffolk feeling rather awkward—not like an unwilling bride but wondering whether I would be a bride at all, if I am still in my capacity of a Peeress—and it was interesting to hear what the people from Essex had to say.
They were worried about the boundary, but I do not think they would have stressed that as being the most important consideration that led them at that time to the view they were taking, and it was clear by the end of the meeting that most of them were at that time led to wish to join Suffolk. What worried them above all was the increasing population of circum-metropolitan and what they called commuter-land Essex, whom they felt would look on them in the way I think the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, looked on them in his speech—as a sort of lung for the main part of Essex; a Latin Quarter to which one goes for one's holidays and visits.
I thought they felt that they would increasingly have less community of interest, and that those coming in would not really appreciate the problems which they had, in a largely agricultural cornmunity—although Colchester is rapidly a growing industrial town. The coastal towns of the area are important tourist resorts, and in that respect, curiously enough, there is a close analogy with South-East Suffolk, with a whole series of coastal resorts, and with very similar problems on both sides of the boundary.
What they did not realise at that time, and what has been accentuated since, is the vast difference in the influence which they would have on the county council 100 of the new county which it was suggested by Redcliffe-Maud should be set up and the influence which they were likely to have in the Essex County Council itself. The noble Lord, Lord Alport, told us about the population—of a little over 500,000 in Suffolk and just over 200,000 in the part of North-East Essex in dispute. They, joined to Suffolk, would be a very large proportion both of the population and of the County Council—something between one-third and one-quarter—and I confess that when we in Suffolk first realised, when Redcliffe-Maud published his Report, that we would have this large addition of people, we at first felt like saying, "This is a lot of people coming from another administration". We then realised that they were the same sort of people as ourselves—barley growers on both sides of the Stour, turnip bashers and the like, and we felt that we had a community of interests with them, that they would like what we would like, and wish what we would wish, and that we could get on well together.
I do not believe—this is one of the reasons why I hope the Government may be prepared to accent the Amendment—that at that time the people of North-East Essex really appreciated that they would have a much larger number of representatives with much smaller constituencies if they came into Suffolk, and a much larger say—though I do not believe that they as a group would want to say anything that the rest of us would not want to say—in the government of the joint county; of between one-quarter and one-third, as I have said, whereas if they remained in Essex, increased in the way that has been described, they would be between only one-seventh and one-eighth.
If only for that reason I hope the Government will accept the Amendment, so that the people of North-East Essex may have a chance to think the matter over again. They may realise the much greater influence that they would have in running their own affairs as a large fish in a relatively small pond, instead of being a very small fish in a very large pond.
I confess with the greatest deference that I was not impressed by the points 101 made by the noble Lord, Lord Leather-land, about there being a large number of residential homes and the like in North-East Essex which would make for difficulties of administration. As one who was the treasurer of another university in East Anglia, I could not agree with the noble Lord's contention that because the university would be moved into another county the remaining part of Essex would immediately lose interest. I cannot believe that he really meant to say that, but it was my understanding of his argument. After all, we in Suffolk have for long subsidised the University of East Anglia, which is situated in a different county and comes under a different county borough. Most of us pay money to universities quite outside our geographical areas if we happen to be interested in them. I would be certain that the County of Essex would continue to support the University of Essex in the future as in the past.
So far as these residential homes and the like are concerned, it is common practice, and it has always been common practice, to have residential homes and the like quite outside the county boundaries. I can remember 45 years ago when I was a member of the London County Council we had residential homes in Essex. The Greater London Council to-day has a residential school in Suffolk. When boundaries are altered it is common practice for the arrangements made at the alteration to take that into account. The homes which cover the area which is being moved will probably move to the new authority, and those which cover the area of the old authority remain under its jurisdiction, and little difficulty arises.
There is the fact that Colchester and the whole North-East Essex have been joined to Essex for a very long time. Colchester is the oldest town in England. Indeed, I can remember myself feeling that very strongly when I was stationed at Colchester in the early 1920s. On some night exercise or other when I heard the jingle of the bits of my troop horses I could not but think that a couple of thousand years earlier some Roman centurion—who was probably higher up in the hierarchy than I was myself at the time—had heard exactly the same jingle of bits of his troop horses as he went along that self-same road.
102 The appeal made by the noble Lord seemed to be rather more the sort of appeal one hears for some small urban village being ravished into some large conurbation than the reverse, which the people in North-East Essex thought it was. One's heart does make one feel that alterations should not be made unless it is abundantly clear that they ought to be made. But in this case nobody in his senses drawing up county boundaries anew would think of drawing them up as they are to-day, and your Lordships' hearts, although perhaps drawn to thestatus quo can be a little schizophrenic—if that is a medical possibility for heart—because it is clear that the rural population in this area would prefer to be with the rural population of Suffolk, and sentiment and one's heart draw one in both directions.
For my own part, I think that the administrative advantages are sufficiently great to make the alteration worth while. I certainly think that the people of Essex ought to have the chance to look at it again, and I hope your Lordships will support Lord Alport's Amendment.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT DAVIDSON
I should like to intervene very briefly in this debate. Many of the points which I would have made have already been made by my noble friends Lord Alport and Lord Cranbrook. First of all, I should declare an interest, in that I live in Suffolk where I farm, and I also have farming interests in mid-Essex and in the Tendring Hundred of Essex which forms part of the area which is under discussion in North-East Essex.
From the beginning, I was entirely in favour of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission's proposal that North-East Essex should be transferred to Suffolk. It seemed to be eminently logical, sensible, and practical, and to a large extent it reflected the genuine feeling in that part of Essex that traditionally the area forms part of East Anglia. It reflected the community of interests between the two areas generally, and in particular over the Haven Ports of Ipswich, Harwich and Felixstowe and over the Constable country, the Dedham Vale and the Stour Valley, all of which the Commission thought should be in a single administrative county.
103 Then, as we have heard, the Essex County Council brought pressure to bear and a campaign was promoted to keep North-East Essex in Essex. The Government concluded that the majority of those living in that area were in favour of staying in Essex. I am not yet convinced that this is the case, and although we have had a mass of statistics from the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, I feel that those statistics represent the county views rather than the local views of the area under discussion.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
If the noble Viscount would forgive me, those statistics were actual and objective. There was no "view" about them at all.
§ VISCOUNT DAVIDSON
I quite take the point that they were statistics and factual, but I think they represented the county views rather than the views of the area under discussion.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
If the noble Viscount would pardon me, what they showed was that an overwhleming majority of the, people, the authorities and organisations were in favour of staying in Essex.
§ VISCOUNT DAVIDSON
I will let that pass now, but in any case I would agree that if that does represent the majority feeling, and if the Government accept that that represents the majority feeling, then that does constitute an overriding consideration in arriving at any decision.
But there are other considerations which must be taken into account. It is, for instance, impossible to forecast accurately the future pattern of population distribution, but if current trends are maintained, the inflow of population into Essex will continue, quite apart from the proposed new town which will be created to service the new airport at Foulness. What worries me is the growing imbalance between the respective populations of Essex and Suffolk, as we have already heard, and the increasing disparity between the financial resources of the two neighbouring counties. I am concerned also about the gradual growth northwards of metropolitan Essex and the increasing emphasis on urban matters at the expense of rural interests.
It has been fairly argued that the retention of North-East Essex in Essex will 104 result in a more balanced county. But there is an opposing argument to that, which I would submit is equally valid, and that is that the interests of those who live in North-East Essex would be better served by a local authority which was geared to dealing with similar rural problems in Suffolk than by one whose main interests were attuned towards a growing urban and metropolitan community. I understand the dilemma, but I just wonder whether the Government have grasped the point, and have not perhaps been unduly persuaded by those who are responsible for administration rather than by the interests of those who are administered.
The main point I should like to make is that I understand that the Boundary Commission will have a duty to review all existing boundaries in 15 years' time. By then it is likely, of course, that the population of Essex will have reached the two million mark. By then the Commission may find that it is essential for Essex to be split into two counties. I have a feeling that when that time comes the Commission may well wonder why North-East Essex was not transferred to Suffolk in this Bill. Indeed, I would suggest to the Government that the acceptance of this Amendment would in the long term resolve many more problems than it might create in the short term, and it is for that reason that I must support my noble friend. Lord Alport.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
Before the noble Viscount sits down, may I try to correct something he said which he probably said inadvertently? He said that metropolitan Essex would overshadow the interests of North-East Essex. May I repeat that metropolitan Essex is not part of Essex, it was absorbed into Greater London several years ago?
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE (LORD BELSTEAD)
As the noble Lord, Lord Alport, has reminded the House, the Bill as originally presented to Parliament put North-East Essex into Suffolk mainly because six of the nine local authorities in the area under discussion in the noble Lord's Amendment, namely, North-East Essex, representing 155,000 against 65,000 people, asked to become part of Suffolk 105 both in written representations and at a meeting with the Minister which was held at the rural district council offices on July 22, 1971, of the Rural District Council of Lexden and Winstree. This was in fact a unique case: a substantial part of one historic county, Essex, was asking to become part of another county, Suffolk—and may I make it clear to your Lordships that in all other cases so far as I know when it was suggested at any stage, either in the White Paper or during discussions as the Bill was beginning, that a district in one county should become part of another county, almost invariably so far as I know it has always been met with a great deal of opposition. But in this case the opposite occurred. Here was an area, North-East Essex, for which no proposal was being made and which was expressing a majority wish to be moved.
But certainly there was an objective case for this transfer and the noble Lord has outlined the objective case again to-day. Although Lord Alport told the House that he was speaking in a private capacity, I am bound to recall to your Lordships that no one is better qualified to talk about this part of England than the noble Lord. He was, after all, Member for Colchester for some eleven years. He has been joined in the debate to-day by the chairmen of two county councils who are concerned and the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, of the Eastern Region Economic Planning Council. The noble Lord and his colleagues have put forward the argument of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission, that there should be if possible, an equalisation of the population resources of the two counties. There was the argument that the Stour Valley and particularly, of course, Dedham Vale should be brought under one authority; and, thirdly, there was the concept of uniting the estuaries of the Stour and the Orwell, Harwich harbour and the Haven Ports all under one authority, which the noble Lord, Lord Alport, explained in some detail.
These arguments were, and they remain, strong, but they are not necessarily absolutely conclusive. In all fairness, I think the Government would like to see population resources equalised between counties wherever it is possible, and indeed I have used the argument myself from this Box already on this Bill. But sometimes it is an ideal which is not in fact attainable; 106 it may be, for simple geographical reasons, that one authority is simply smaller than another and it is very difficult to make the smaller one bigger; or there may be reasons of local opinion, which, of course, is a great factor in this particular case. Of course, the arrangements for future local government finance do not in fact form part of the Bill.
It would certainly be desirable to see the Stour Valley under one authority and particularly the Constable country. If this were possible I think your Lordships would all take this view. We have beautiful areas of the country which are divided by county lines, and I believe I am right in saying that National Parks are in some cases cut across by county boundaries. But the third argument, that relating to the Haven Ports is, I believe, very powerful, although now that plans are being implemented for improving the road links from the West across East Anglia towards the ports I think that the communications argument is a little less urgent than it was a few years ago. Your Lordships may be aware that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is undertaking a survey with the two county councils and the two planning councils about the whole future of the Haven Ports area.
The decisive factor and the one that persuaded the Government originally that North-East Essex should go into Suffolk, was the majority request of the local authorities in the area. After all, such a move would be of major concern for the county of Essex. The boundary of the River Stour, as has been said, is historic. The transfer would have involved about 18 per cent. of the area of Essex, and it is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, has said, that some very valuable services would have been removed summarily northwards. After the noble Lord'stour de force, I hope the Committee will forgive me if I refer only to the one service which I know at first hand, that of education. I would confirm that it is true that there would have been some valuable services—special schools, the North-East Essex Technical College, not to mention the University of Essex—which would have been removed, as it were, northwards. And although I listened carefully to what my noble friend Lord Cranbrook said—and it is quite 107 true, of course, that there are arrangements in the educational world for seeing that pupils can cross county boundaries—none the less this is a factor.
It is also a factor that, although my right honourable friend and the Department of Education hope that different forms of secondary education for schools in areas to be amalgamated will not cause problems, I must say that I do not think we would have gone out of our way to advise the Secretary of State for the Environment that on educational grounds these two areas should be put together, because it is a fact that in North-East Essex there is a developing system of 11 to 18 secondary schools and in South-East Suffolk there is a system of developing middle schools with transfer at the age of 12. When I say "developing", we have at this moment in the pipe-line about £1¼ million of secondary school building which is going to take place between 1972 and 1974.
If I may put one more point on this aspect, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, I do not accept his argument that it is conclusive that the two areas should not come together because people do not travel to work from Suffolk into Colchester and from Essex into Ipswich. I agree with my noble friend Lord Alport, who referred to what he thought was a community of interest. I should not have thought that the physical fact of travelling to work was necessarily a very important point. But that is as may be.
The arguments were finely balanced, and it was because of that fact that on November 16 last year, during the Commons Second Reading debate, my right honourable friend Mr. Walker referred to the majority wishes that had been expressed and added:I shall take a great interest in the views expressed as a result of the publication of this proposal."—that was for North-East Essex to go into Suffolk—All I want to do is to ensure that this area is dealt with in a way which meets the wishes of the people there. It is understandable and right that my Department should endeavour to meet their wishes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 16/11/71, col. 236.]It was subsequent to publication of the Bill and at Second Reading in another place that Colchester Borough 108 Council changed their mind. I can well understand my noble friend Lord Davidson picking up this point because it has a slight complication. As a result of Colchester changing their mind the position was and remains that five authorities, representing however only 78,000 people, still want the transfer into Suffolk, and only four authorities, but representing nearly double that number, 141,000 people, wish to remain in Essex. In view of this swing of majority opinion in North-East Essex, in accordance with the Secretary of State's undertaking Amendments were accepted at the Committee stage in the House of Commons for the area to remain in the new Essex.
The noble Lord, Lord Alport, however, injects into this debate a new factor, the argument that the Foulness development will create such a huge county in the new Essex that it will be necessary to re-think the boundaries of the authority. It is estimated, of course, that by 1991 the total additional population in the Foulness area will have increased a great deal. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, mentioned a figure of, I think, 300,000. I cannot confirm that figure, but it will have increased by a very great deal. This will follow the designation of a New Town which the Government have given as their intention; the designation will happen next year. There is Lord Davidson's important point: that between 1984 and 1991 the Local Government Boundary Commission have a statutory duty under Section 48 of the Bill to undertake their first general review of local government boundaries, and by the time of that review, I am suggesting to your Lordships, the effects of Foulness will be much clearer to discern. First of all, the studies of the New Town designated area are not yet even completed. Transport studies for the areas which will be affected by the New Town are not completed yet. It is therefore much too early to say what effect the Maplin development may have on the whole transport pattern of the Essex area and therefore on the commuting trends, not to mention the links that there will be between that part of Essex and other parts of Essex, and not least with North-East Essex itself.
I think it is worth noting that this Maplin development will increase Essex rate resources. I do not quite follow 109 my noble friend Lord Alport that this is going to be to the detriment, both generally and financially, of the authorities in the North-East of the county. But I would not deny to my noble friends Lord Alport, Lord Cranbrook, or Lord Davidson, that if the development of South-East Essex does cause an increase in population and a spread of influence in the kind of way that those noble Lords were forecasting, then this is bound to be a significant factor for the Local Government Boundary Commission to consider in ten to fifteen years' time. I believe that without any of the earlier studies yet completed it would be premature in this Bill to transfer North-East Essex, which is at one end of the county, to Suffolk because of Foulness, which happens to be at the other end of Essex.
The noble Lord, Lord Alport, has very reasonably asked that time should be given for reconsideration locally in view of the Foulness decision. The noble Lord has spoken very generously about the identity of interest, as he sees it, between the people of North-East Essex and the people of Suffolk, and this was something to which my noble friend Lord Cranbrook referred as well. I am in the difficulty that although the Government's Statement on the runways on Maplin Sands was made in this House and another place only on August 9 of this year, it was known that Foulness had been chosen as the site of the Third London Airport back on April 26, 1971. We shall not have another step in the story until we get the designation order for the New Town next year. We are therefore between decisions, and I am saying that the people of North-East Essex affected knew in principle about the Foulness decision as from April 26 last year.
I should like to be helpful to my noble friend Lord Alport, and to my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, who took the same line, but I feel that on the facts I cannot meet them on this point. I should have liked to be helpful to them, if I could have been: it might perhaps have been possible to split the area up and in some way to have transferred the authorities in North-East Essex who wish to transfer and to leave the authorities in North-East Essex who do not wish to transfer, but again on administrative 110 grounds this would be impossible. I tried to explain why when I touched on the education point. I would just emphasise the change in the majority, a very significant change, which has prevailed, and it is for this reason in the final analysis that I have to ask your Lordships not to agree to this Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
wonder whether my noble friend Lord Alport, after hearing what the Government have to say, would feel that it would be well to withdraw his Amendment. The reason I should have liked to see it passed was so that the people of North-East Essex could have one more chance of expressing their view. They will certainly read this debate. If he withdraws his Amendment and puts it down again at the Report stage, it might give time for a further expression of opinion by the people of North-East Essex.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ LORD ALPORT
I should like to say how grateful I am to my noble friends Lord Cranbrook and Lord Davidson for having supported me in this Amendment, and particularly to the Minister for the sympathetic reply which he bas given—sympathetic not in the way that he promised to do anything, but sympathetic because he knows the problem I have put forward. I can assure him that I can reciprocate that sympathy because, as a Suffolk Peer arguing against something which he knows is in the interests of his county, he is placed in a diabolical position by the Front Bench.
I should like to say one or two things about what the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, has said. I think the mistake I made as chairman of a public relations organisation was not to invite the noble Lord to join as a director of that organisation, because there has never been a more effective public relations exercise for Essex County Council than the one which he produced for the benefit of your Lordships this evening. I am sure that your Lordships, who can see behind words and eloquence and all the rest of it, will realise that this is precisely the factor that arose between the decision of the North East Essex authorities to join Suffolk and the reversal of opinion that took place. It was a powerful, well 111 organised and no doubt eloquent campaign by the Essex County Council to prevent that from happening, and to prevent it not in the interests of North East Essex—there was no word about the interests of the people of North East Essex in the speech of the noble Lord—but in the interests of Essex as a whole. I am not against Essex—I am proud of the county and I have many friends all over it—but I must confess that when I and many of us in my part of the world have considered this matter we have considered it from the point of view of what I should like to call South East Anglia; not the benefit it would bring to Suffolk specifically, or North East Essex specifically, but to the whole of our part of England.
Let me give one example of the way in which the Essex County Council—not the noble Lord—tended to use the so-called facts. The noble Lord said that all the Members of Parliament except one were against; however, there are only two Members of Parliament in North East Essex. One was in favour and one against.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
I am sure that the noble Lord does not wish to misrepresent me. I said that all the Members of Parliament for Essex, with one solitary exception, were in favour of the North East territory staying in Essex, and that is a fact.
§ LORD ALPORT
I am not denying that at all. I am saying that there are two Members of Parliament for the areas of Essex concerned; one was in favour and one against. Of course all the other Members of Parliament in Essex were in favour of keeping North East Essex in Essex; North East Essex is the best part of the county. It is the pride of the county. It gives the county some relaxation from the reputation it has of being just an outpost of Southend on the one hand, and of East London on the other. I accent that. But from our point of view—that is, the point of view of North East Essex—we believe and feel that we have a link with Suffolk as part of East Anglia, rather than as part of that area of Essex which looks towards the Thames estuary and down towards the eastern parts of London.
It is perfectly true that there has been a ferocious campaign against North East 112 Essex, against this project. The argument which perhaps weighs more with me than anything else is the argument which my noble friend referred to and which I did not use, and that is the position which we in North East Essex would occupy in the South East Anglia County Council, if it is called that, or in the Suffolk County Council if you like, as compared with the one which is in prospect for us in Essex. We should have one in three members, or perhaps one in four in Suffolk, but one in seven or eight in Chelmsford, and that is the prospect ahead of us.
Another point which the noble Lord made interested me. He referred to all the urban districts, to the boroughs in North East Essex, who at one time or another were against North East Essex joining Suffolk. He did not refer to the rural areas, to the two big rural districts of Tendring and Lexden and Winstree, that were in favour of it. This is precisely what produces resentment in my part of the county and a feeling that we do not get a fair deal, so far as rural interests are concerned, from a largely urban-orientated county council. I do not want to take the argument any further. I hope that what I have said will be heard by Chelmsford and the County Council. I hope they will perhaps remember it during the 15 years which lie ahead, by which time perhaps I snail not be as interested in local government as I am at the present moment. I will withdraw this Amendment, but I hope that this debate has produced a platform from which in time a change in attitude on the part of the Government of the day and of Essex County Council and Suffolk County Council may take place which will ensure a better, more healthy and more viable form of local administration lay-out for our part of East Anglia. On that basis, and with those words, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.40 p.m.
LORD RENNELL moved Amendment No. 40:
Corrigendum, page 4, leave out lines 10 to 13 and insert—
("Herefordshire. The administrative county of Herefordshire.").
§ The noble Lord said: In a sense this Amendment is rather an anti-climax. Your Lordships have been listening to 113 a very interesting debate concerning millions of people, but this Amendment has nothing to do with the arguments put forward by the supporters of the noble Lord, Lord Alport. This Amendment would have the effect of cancelling a proposal in the Bill to merge the counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Herefordshire is a small county by any standard, though not the smallest which has been under discussion. That has been created by the Government, in spite of an apparent wish to make local government into nice tidy parcels of about the same size with a proportion of urban and rural interests combined.
§ I find it necessary here to make the point that no one on the Government side has yet produced any argument in favour of the merger of two counties which are totally different. Worcestershire is a fairly large county with a population of some 400,000, and Worcester City is now largely industrialised. Herefordshire has a population of only 141,000 which, if added to that of Worcestershire, makes a county which is rather larger than was laid down as one of the principles on which counties should be made, or should survive.
§ The only argument adduced for the amalgamation is that the original opposition from Herefordshire has undergone certain changes. I must here draw your Lordships' attention to a most interesting and rather reprehensible fact. The only public meeting held in favour of the Government's proposal in the Bill to amalgamate these two counties was stated to be a meeting which took place in the northern part of Hereford. But in fact that was not a public meeting; it was the annual general meeting of the Conservative and Unionist organisation in Northern Hereford, the Member for which has not expressed a view in public other than at that meeting, though he has done so in private, and the two Members sitting in another place have both failed to argue against the merger which the majority of the population of Hereford have stated they dislike.
Earlier this year, a petition was signed by no less than 64,000 people, not necessarily electors, against the amalgamation of the two counties. It has been stated elsewhere than in a public meeting that if the merger were to take place it would
be of considerable benefit to everybody concerned. I do not know on what grounds that statement was made, but I must quote what was said in another place. It was said that
those in Government who have access to all the information know what is ultimately for the benefit of the people.
That was the last defence of a recommendation made by the Civil Service, but it bears no relation to the facts. It is only right to criticise the allegations at a meeting which took place—
I cannot give the actual reference, but it was said. I personally have no quarrel at all with the Civil Service. I have been a civil servant in more Ministries—I think about seven—than anybody would care to mention, in the course of a long mis-spent life, and I have the greatest admiration for the work of civil servants and for their assiduity, which in this case has produced this monstrous Bill of 400 pages for discussion in Parliament.
The alleged advantage is that the amalgamation would mean a saving. In my experience, both in the Civil Service and elsewhere, large organisations are not necessarily more efficient or cheaper than smaller ones. In Herefordshire we have an administration which has given no cause for complaint, and indeed has had a modicum of praise. As was stated in another place, the Government agreed about the present excellent services in Herefordshire but contended that they could not be maintained without amalgamation with Worcestershire. That statement was unsupported by any figures.
We have in Herefordshire a small county which is geographically almost perfect. If anybody is sufficiently interested in geography, I recommend the maps published in 1946 in a publication on the future lines of development of Herefordshire produced by the West Midlands Committee, which had the benefit of the late Lord Stamp and a number of very eminent geographers. What those maps show, though the figures are long since out of date, is that Herefordshire is a county whose capital is right bang in the middle of the plain of Hereford, which is at the junction of one great river and two or three smaller ones which meet at 115 Hereford. The surrounding margins of the county consist very largely of high ground all the 'way round, which in the rather severe climate from which we suffer is frequently impassable in a severe winter. We have had so mild a winter in the last two or three years that people have forgotten that the roads between, say, the part of Herefordshire where I live, which is in the extreme West, and Worcester—a matter of 40 miles—become virtually impassable in the winter.
The Malvern Hills are well known to your Lordships, and are another barrier to the edge of the county. The same applies in the South. In fact, the only low country outward-bound from Hereford goes into Wales. Nevertheless, the whole of the county, including that part on the edge of Wales, faces, economically and by way of communications, towards Hereford, which is the market and the centre of economic activity of the county. Therefore, I claim that there are these twoipse dixits of various members—I do not know where they originally came from—that there was a financial advantage to Hereford in being amalgamated with Worcester, making a county which would be rather larger than the optimum for a county as stated in the White Paper. It is, of course, an agricultural county as a whole, with some growing industry in Hereford itself, but of which industry is not a major part whereas the City of Worcester, as many of your Lordships know, is largely industrialised. It is not a country town it is a town in the country. The same applies to the only other urgan agglomeration at Malvern, which is on the edge and which is in Worcestershire.
That brings me to the recommendations which were made in the committee's paper (I do not quite know what it is called) which the Boundary Commission is about to consider—indeed, it is going to begin its sitting to-morrow, as the Boundary Commission designate—concerning the boundaries of the districts of the merged counties. That seems to me rather a case of selling the bear's hide before the bear has been killed. This Bill is not yet an Act. To delineate the districts of a county which still exists and the future of which is as yet unknown is rather an arrogant way of treating both the public in Herefordshire and other in- 116 stitutions in this country. Therefore, to cut the debate as short as I can at this late hour, the intention of my Amendment is to remove from the Schedule certain words, which removal would in fact cause the proposition to amalgamate the two counties to have no effect and there are one or two consequential Amendments which would then be required. It is proposed, if the amalgamation does take place, that two of the districts in Herefordshire should be taken away and made into a No. 5 district based on Malvern. which is the wrong side of a rather difficult piece of country to get across in the winter. In other words, in my view, with some knowledge of the geography, the proposal for the further local administration of the county leads, frankly, to a nonsense. There is a way around, of course, but it means doubling the distance to get there.
To give an example of the position about communications, it is quite simply this. I live on the extreme Western border—and when I say "extreme" I mean that the end of my land is the boundary between England and Wales. I am 21 or 22 miles, according to the roads that you take, from Hereford, which is not unreasonable: it takes 42 to 43 miles for me to go to Worcester. The same applies at the bottom end of the county of Hereford, in the Ross-on-Wye district, only there the distances are greater still. The proposal in the Bill will not create a geographical entity. It makes for an eccentric administration, with Worcester as the county council of the amalgamated counties, right away in the Northern part and bordering on an urbanised and industrialised area which eventually leads to the conurbation (as they now call it) of Birmingham. The effect of this break-up, by putting two areas from Herefordshire under the district which would have its capital as Malvern, is in fact to break up the county of Hereford, which, as was stated at the time the Bill was under discussion as a White Paper, was not what Her Majesty's Government wanted. They did not want to see counties broken up, and it was for that reason that they abandoned the rather misguided proposal to create a new county called Malvernshire.
Financially, Hereford does not need the amalgamation. It is a viable county to-day. We have a little unemployment. 117 The position in the counties of Hereford and Worcester is that, under the exchange organisation, the unemployment is 3.2 per cent. for Hereford and 4.5 per cent. for Worcester. The Worcester precept on the rates, to keep the organisation in Worcester going, is 63p on the county as a whole for county purposes. In Hereford, it is 62p. It will have the effect of breaking up the entity of Herefordshire, because detaching these two districts removes about one-third of the area of the present county of Hereford—and with it, of course, the equivalent proportion of the population, as well as the rateable value.
The rateable value is a matter of some interest. We have a low rate in Herefordshire, and are not likely to have a higher one by remaining independent. Furthermore, the debt of Herefordshire is lower than the average of the 40-odd counties in England which are taken as the returning basis. Therefore, there is no reason to accept the statement, that there will be some benefits of unknown size or kind, madeex hypothesi and propagated to the public only as propaganda in favour of the amalgamation at a so-called public meeting of a Party organisation to which access was allowed only by showing some identity of membership by way of a subscription to the Conservative Party, all of which I must say I consider somewhat reprehensible. I expect your Lordships will agree with me.
The final appeal that I make to accept this Amendment, which would in fact bring to an end the question of merger between the two counties, is that Herefordshire is a very old county. It is largely agricultural, about 26 per cent. of the population are engaged in agriculture, and it is prosperous. It looks to Hereford as its centre and cannot possibly look to Worcester to take the place of Hereford. The mere fact of a merger tends to break up the local loyalties. It was stated in the White Paper that the Government in their recommendations wished to have and would have regard to the geography of the area in question, to the communications in the county for people and to which way they looked for their business and their administrative hierarchy. Finally, and this will come up in another Amendment, there is the possibility of the 118 Lieutenancy of the county being abolished or submerged below the Lieutenancy of Worcestershire. Those are the arguments in favour of Hereford, for which I speak and where I have lived for a very long time. My family have been there since the 13th century. I speak for Herefordshire because I want to see an entity which is an entity, one which is not bankrupt, one which has a low rate and is not a severe burden other than through the grant of the Treasury over the country as a whole.
The county originally came into existence at the time of Edward the Confessor. Incidentally, it also had a bishop appointed in the 9th century. It took its present form and present boundaries with Wales with a circumambulation of the county in the reign of Henry VIII, since when there has been no change. It seems to me a pity, apart from any sentimental reasons, that this entity, which is viable, should be dismembered in the way suggested by a Committee which is only a Committee-designate. This, I repeat, is rather like selling the bear's hide before it has been shot. I beg to move.
§ LORD SOMERS
The noble Lord's Amendment, taken together with Amendment No. 55, is almost exactly similar to my Amendment No. 40A. The only difference is that he has, correctly put Worcester in its proper place alphabetically; I have not. I have no intention of moving my Amendment and will speak to his instead. The Government have said that they have no desire to change county boundaries where it can be avoided. I welcome that very much. I must confess that a great deal of this Bill has seemed to me to be change just for the sake of change; but that view may be due to the fact that I am totally ignorant of civil service and local government matters.
Here we are up against something totally different: that is, natural boundaries. The noble Lord mentioned the Malvern Hills. He rightly pointed out that they are practically impassable in a bad winter and that there is only one road, a very narrow one, over them. I assume from what he has said that it is intended to make Malvern a county town. It is on the other side of the Malverns from Herefordshire. He quoted Herefordshire as being a small county, but it is not as small as all that. It is small in 119 population; but the two counties put together would make a vast area for one having to travel for administrative purposes from one extreme of the county to Malvern. That, apart from anything else, seems to make it an impracticable proposition.
The Government have also said that they were anxious to consider the wishes of the people. In this case I should say that that is a very strong point. I do not think that you would find any Herefordshire people who were particularly willing to mix with or who felt they had anything in common with Worcestershire people, and I think that probably the same is true in reverse. They are totally different counties. As the noble Lord pointed out, Herefordshire is practically entirely rural. It is wonderful farming country, one of the most fertile counties in the country. Worcestershire is very much industrialised, particularly towards the North and in Worcester itself. Therefore the two counties are totally different. I cannot see any advantage whatsoever in amalgamating the two counties. It seems to me simply a desire to show that one is making—I was going to say "progress"; but that would be too flattering a name for it—some change, shall I say? If there can be any advantage in it then I am willing to listen and to consider it, but I must say that at present I am absolutely unable to find any merit at all in this proposal. Therefore I sincerely hope that your Lordships will accept the noble Lord's Amendments.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ LORD SANDYS
As a Worcestershire Peer, I rise to support my noble friend Lord Rennell in his Amendment. As your Lordships may be aware, he is the only holder of the Royal Geographical Society's Gold Metal. His remarks have related to a whole range of aspects of this subject. I should like to address myself, not specifically to geography, which has been dealt with in great detail by both my noble friend Lord Rennell and the noble Lord, Lord Somers, but to another aspect, agriculture.
Here I must declare an interest as I am the president-elect of the Three Counties Show. This show of the three counties, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, is one of several reasons why I support the Amendment. 120 The show forms a very significant part in the agricultural trading of this country, and I consider that it will continue to do so to the great advantage of a healthy and viable agriculture. Visitors come to these shores from all over the world to purchase every type of agricultural implement and also breeding stock. Of course both the County of Hereford and the County of Worcestershire can say that they have some pre-eminence in this regard.
I consider—and I am certain from my researches that this is true—that the Three Counties Show will be endangered by the amalgamations. It is one of those fundamental principles of business that one should trade and continue to trade in the name with which one is associated. On the proposed amalgamation of Worcestershire and Herefordshire what will the show become? Will it be the Show of Area 17 and Area 27? This is an obvious absurdity. I feel that greater regard should be paid to these important local functions.
Earlier this afternoon, the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, asserted that questions of numbers and population—I hope that I quote him correctly—weigh more heavily in the mind of the Government than questions of geography. I heartily agree with him in that regard over this particular amalgamation. In Worcestershire we can look around the county where there is this very definite natural boundary of the Malvern Hills. During the Recess I took the trouble to discover the feelings of local people and, moreover, to discuss the matter with Worcestershire County Council. I inquired whether the county council supported my noble friend Lord Rennell's Amendment. I was assured that they took a completely neutral view upon it. I respect those views and therefore this evening I speak as an individual and not for the county council. I speak for all those—perhaps I should have the temerity to say that I attempt to speak for all those—in Worcestershire who oppose the amalgamation of the two counties. We oppose for a variety of different reasons.
§ LORD SOMERS
May I interrupt my noble friend for a moment? He said that Worcestershire County Council has taken an entirely neutral view. That is far from being the case with Hereford- 121 shire County Council. They are very strongly against it.
§ LORD SANDYS
I am much obliged to my noble friend Lord Somers for indicating that. I was not speaking solely for Worcestershire. I listened with very close attention to what my noble friend Lord Rennell said about the petition from Herefordshire, signed by no fewer than 64,000 people. I feel that this is an indication of public opinion which perhaps is not reflected in the County of Worcestershire. I would say, however, that there is a substantial body of people in Worcestershire who do oppose the amalgamation.
A further case for doing so has not been mentioned in the debate up to this point. That is the quite separate issue that under the Government proposal the county boroughs of Halesowen and Stourbridge are to be joined with the conurbation of Birmingham. The two borough councils, duly elected, are wholly opposed to being joined to the conurbation. I think that is a further reason why the existing County of Worcestershire should be retained in its existing shape. A reason for the support of the county council, which is wholeheartedly for the county boroughs of Halesowen and Stourbridge in their opposition to joining the conurbation, is the question of the Green Belt. Your Lordships, I think, will entirely support this view. If those areas which are already heavily built up are joined to the conurbation it immediately makes available a stretch within Worcestershire, which, although not designated Green Belt, becomes distinctly threatened.
Other aspects of this subject have been touched on to some extent, but the financial ones are very important. I have been furnished by Herefordshire County Council with details of their capital expenditure. In my view it is an overwhelming indication of the solidarity and strength of the services in that county that the education service is extremely effective. They have a lower teacher/pupil ratio in primary schools than the average in forty-five counties. They can be proud of their secondary education. An overwhelming point is that they are viable at the moment and will continue to be viable in future because Herefordshire is a county which will attract staff. It will attract the best staff from the 122 National Association of Local Government Officers because it is a place where people in that organisation wish to serve. I hope that no one will suggest that Herefordshire as it stands at the moment will be unable to acquire staff of the very finest calibre.
Finally, I wish to refer to the Redcliffe-Maud Report because there is a paragraph which I feel is strictly in accord with the views expressed this afternoon. It occurs in Volume 1 on page 4. The Report says:The new local government pattern should so far as practicable stem from the existing one. Wherever the case for change is in doubt, the common interests, traditions and loyalties inherent in the present pattern, and the strength of existing services as going concerns, should be respected.I wish to support the Amendment. I feel that the case is overwhelming for re-examining the question of the amalgamation of Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I think all of us will feel very great sympathy for Hereford with its ancient history as detailed by my noble friend Lord Rennell, its traditions and its very lovely countryside. I think many of us who come from Wales and have often passed through Hereford have cast envious eyes over the Border, but we are not allowed to discuss that Border to-day. It is our view that in the long run Hereford itself will gain from the union with Worcestershire which is proposed in the Bill. I do not think, if I may say so with respect, that my noble friend Lord Rennell advanced his case by quoting from a document which he alleged somehow to have emanated from the Civil Service, of which he was unable to give us any details. Although he said that he bad nothing against the Civil Service, he went on to criticise them for producing this Bill. I should like to make it clear that this is a Government Bill and the Government are responsible for it. Nor is it in any way a matter of change for the sake of change, as was alleged by the noble Lord, Lord Somers. It was our view, and it remains our view to-day, that Hereford, with its population of 138.000, is too small to be a county authority of the future.
If I may just quote from the White Paper, we said:… with functions such as education and personal social services … there is considerable advantage in having units of population 123 sufficiently large to provide a base for their effective organisation and a high quality of service.And for this purpose we accepted a normal minimum of 250,000. This figure was not plucked from the air; it was not, as was said by my noble friend Lord Rennell, a tidy administrative parcel. It was based on very long experience and thorough research, particularly the research carried out and the evidence taken by the Royal Commission. My noble friend Lord Sandys quoted the Royal Commission, and I should like to quote from their Report:We came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a single 'right' size for any local government service—but that the area of an authority responsible for education, housing "—housing in their case—and the personal services should contain at least a population of around 250,000.
§ LORD SOMERS
May I interrupt the noble Lord? I do not think that that is a very valid argument, because the more people you have in your charge the more schools you have to build, the more houses you will have to build, and the more you will have to improve your roads and the more car parks you will have to provide and so on.
§ LORD ABERDARE
If the noble Lord will do me the courtesy of waiting until I have finished, he will hear what I have to say on that subject. If I may go on quoting from the Royal Commission:… Only an authority serving a population of some 250,000 or more will have at its disposal the range and calibre of staff and the technical and financial resources necessary for effective provision of the whole group.These were the conclusions that were reached by the Royal Commission after exhaustive inquiry and after receiving evidence from all sorts of bodies representing various interests. Certainly I would agree that it would be wrong to decide on a figure and to be inflexible. But there is a tremendous difference between the desirable figure of 250,000 and 138,000 which is the population of Hereford, and which really falls far short of what we consider to be the right minimum figure.
So far as education is concerned I know that there are members of this 124 Committee who consider that a quarter of a million is too low a figure, and who spoke on Second Reading in favour of education being a responsibility of the metropolitan county. In the social services, which I know best, we believe that a quarter of a million population is the right, normal minimum figure for providing the full services which are required in any one community to cope with the varied problems that arise. The foundation on which the social services must be based is a social works staff with the necessary spread of professional expertise and the necessary internal strength. It is precisely this foundation that an authority, particularly a rural authority, with a population as small as 138,000 will find it difficult if not impossible to provide.
If I may perhaps go a little further in this, because I think it makes the point, there are two features which we consider essential for the social services. The first is an adequate corps of specialists who can guide and help front line social workers in dealing with special problems, such as the deaf or the blind; and the second is an overall staff complement large enough to support efficient arrangements for in-service training and staff development generally and to provide satisfactory career structures.
In both these respects a thinly populated area like Hereford is bound to find itself at a serious disadvantage. If the social work staff is weak the services will be poor and the recipients will suffer. We believe that a united staff which would result from the union of Hereford and Worcestershire would clearly make for a better solution. I would recall to your Lordships, for example, that the Northumberland County Council made the most forceful complaints to the Government that the original proposals in the White Paper allowed for a population of only 251,000. In this House only recently we heard complaints from Somerset that it was not viable with a population of 385,000.
I should like to take up one or two other points which have been made in the debate. I cannot agree with my noble friend, Lord Rennell, that Hereford and Worcestershire do not have common interests. If an answer was required to that it was given by my noble friend Lord Sandys who made the point about the 125 Three Counties Show. This is the agricultural show, as he told us, of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Hereford, and surely this goes to underline the common agricultural interests which are enjoyed by Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Although the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, did not approve of it, the moving of Halesowen and Stourbridge from Worcester to form part of West Midlands Metropolitan County will surely only serve to increase the common agricultural interests of the two counties.
My noble friend Lord Rennell, and I think Lord Sandys, mentioned the difficulties of transport. The direct route from Hereford to Worcester is, I understand, about 26 miles, and although it crosses the northern end of the Malvern Hills, it is at an elevation of only 300 feet. From my experience of certain roads in Wales I cannot believe that this is a road which is very much out of action throughout the winter. Moreover, there are 15 trains daily from Hereford to Worcester and 10 buses. I do not believe that these transport difficulties are as considerable as my noble friends made out.
Some noble Lords, I think Lord Rennell was one, spoke about the financial aspect of the merger. The figures I have, which I would have thought fairly conclusive, show that Hereford would certainly not lose from the merger; in fact, it would stand to gain financially. A comparison of the rateable value per head in the two counties shows that at present the rateable value per head is £34.5 and in the new county it would be £39.6. My noble friend Lord Rennell also made some disparaging remarks about the Boundary Commission designate, which he called "arrogant". This is not so. The Boundary Commission designate at the moment is coming forward with proposals in order that we may keep a very tight timetable, and its proposals are currently under discussion. None of these proposals takes effect until the Order is put before both Houses of Parliament, and that is subject to the Affirmative Resolution of both Houses, so I do not think that the noble Lord can call that "arrogant".
No one likes amalgamations be they regimental or county, or any other form of amalgamation, but unfortunately there are cases where in general the interests of counties seem to indicate that this is 126 desirable. Rutland and Westmorland, for example, are both too small for county status. So is West Suffolk. However flexible we wish to be, the case for an amalgamation of Hereford and Worcestershire seems to me to be conclusive. I hope very much that your Lordships will agree and will not accept this Amendment.
I should like to add one point. The figures which the noble Lord has quoted are not quite as accurate as they could be. I think the population of Hereford to-day is about 141,000. In the second place, if the County of Worcester is, as he says, going to be the fairy godmother and provide more money, why is the precept of the county higher in Worcestershire than in Herefordshire? If their rateable value is so much greater, it would seem to be logical to raise the rate of Worcestershire. It will not be necessary in Herefordshire.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ 8.31 p.m.
LORD DAVIES OF LEEK moved Amendment No. 50:
Corrigendum, page 6, leave out lines 17 to 20 and insert—
("North Staffordshire. The county borough of Stoke-on-Trent.
In the administrative county of Stafford-shire—
the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme;
the urban districts of Biddulph, Kidsgrove, Leek, Stone and Uttoxeter;
the rural districts of Cheadle, Leek. Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stone, and in the rural district of Uttoxeter the parishes of—Croxden, Denstone, Ellastone, Leigh, Mayfield, Okeover. Ramshorn, Rocester, Stanton, Uttoxeter Rural, and Wootton.
South Staffordshire. The county borough of Burton-upon-Trent.
In the administrative county of Stafford-shire—
the boroughs of Stafford, Lichfield and Tamworth;
the urban districts of Cannock and Rugeley;
the rural districts of Cannock, Lichfield. Seisdon, Stafford and Tutbury, and in the rural district of Uttoxeter the parishes of—Abbots Bromley, Blithfield, Draycott-in-theClay, Kingstone, Marchington and New-borough.")
§ The noble Lord said: I am pleased that I managed to get here in time to move this Amendment. I will not delay the Committee or try to use delaying tactics. 127 In fact, I am pleased to see that most of the arguments for constructive alternatives to this Local Government Bill—and I have sat through all the debates since I got here—have been gracefully and cogently put from the other side of the Committee. I should like to say to noble Lords present that I felt so much about this Amendment that I rushed back from the High Tartras in the Alps of Bohemia to get here to-day. To diverse for a moment, when I get the opportunity to follow my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry about the conditions for the poor passengers at the airport I shall have something to say about it. I have never seen such a mess. I thought that I should miss moving this Amendment because of it.
§ Having come from the land where vampires once existed, I think this White Paper wants to eat up and suck the blood out of local government administration and is losing some of the graceful results of trial and error and experiments in democracy over centuries of local government. I base my arguments, first, on the Royal Commission, secondly, on the new local authorities management and structure, and thirdly, on the delightful speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, and that of the noble Lord, Lord Somers, who were talking about viable units of local government. They must have a 250,000 population. The city of Stoke on Trent, in which I worked for years, and the contiguous area of the constituency of Leek, which I represented for over 25 years, I know well. Stoke on Trent alone has a population of over 273,000. It has an art gallery and its pottery is known all over the world. In fact in some of the Bohemian castles I was looking at old Josiah Wedgwood's pottery only yesterday: the pottery that was produced for the Empress Catherine the Great, the famous green frogware, was produced by the city of Stoke on Trent. The personality, the individuality and the cogent ethnological development of the city of Stoke on Trent disappears completely as a result of this proposal.
§ The Royal Commission supported the area of the city of Stoke on Trent as the magnet that drew the iron filings of the natural geographical areas—and I am an old Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society—into the city of Stoke on Trent, 128 using the natural watersheds, the natural flow and the natural movement of people in the river valleys and the roads between the different types of hill country. The noble Lord, in countering the arguments of the noble Lord who spoke about Worcester and Hereford, said these words at precisely 8.23—and I looked at the clock. He said that the Royal Commission had been quoted, and he quoted the Royal Commission against Hereford and Worcester because they could only throw up about 180,000 souls—and wonderful souls they are too, because I lived for many years in Abergavenny and I know the beautiful country about which the noble Lord was speaking. He countered by saying that in this area they have only 180,000 and therefore they are not liable for education. Stoke on Trent has 273,000—this is not antipathy to the people of Stafford town or Staffordshire—yet its entire development is going to be pushed into Stafford. There is one outstanding fact about the city of Stoke on Trent and its contiguous areas: it is an island of great industry in a sea of agriculture. That is the best economical and geographical way of expressing it in a sentence or two without boring the Committee. Stoke on Trent, with its pottery, its steel, its inherent traditions of art and craft, and the area around, is a natural magnet that drives right out almost to Uttoxeter, Leek and the nearby areas.
§ The elementary judgment of the interests of an area is the circulation of the local newspaper. In the city of Stoke-on-Trent the great paper (it did not support me for many years, but, being an individual who has managed to ride the storm, I still had a pot of ale with and said "Good evening" to the editor whenever I felt like it; and I did not expect support all the time) is generally a fair paper. Where does the newspaper of the city of Stoke-on-Trent circulate? It circulates all through the areas of North Staffordshire, in the industrial core of Stoke-on-Trent and the contiguous agricultural core. It is a fascinating, flourishing local newspaper, demonstrative of the commercial, economic and, I can say, ethnological interest, because of the wonderful Pottery dialect and its historic growth out of the old Mercia area in the diocese of what we to-day call Lichfield. There is a wonderful tradition. I consider the area of Stoke-on-Trent to be one 129 of the most friendly areas that I know anywhere in the English-speaking world.
§ Here we are being cast aside by this proposal. The city, with its 273,000 people, was invited by circular 8/71 to respond. It responded. I will not bore the House about this because the Minister has the documentation, and as a Minister who takes a constructive and first-class interest in his work he will have read the document thoroughly, as he always reads anybody's documents. Therefore I will not take advantage of the speaking time here to quote it all, because if the Minister tells me he has read it, that is enough for me. However, I want to spike down parts of it that are absolutely redolent with a first-class argument against the machinations of the White Paper so far as this city is concerned. Where do I spike them down? The population of the area is enough to meet the figure of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare—273,000. The Royal Commission said that 250,000 was enough. For years I have known adult education and have worked for the Oxford University extra-mural area, and Stoke-on-Trent had a first-class educational record. The people locally take a great interest in this. Again, the City Council are aware that the Government are not prepared to entertain representations which are contrary to the view that there should be two levels of executive authority throughout the country.
In the arguments put forward by the city of Stoke-on-Trent, they are not malicious; they did not think the people who had drawn up the report were fools; but they put forward a constructive argument showing where they considered they were wrong. They said in their reply:
The proposals contained in the White Paper may appear to be broadly reasonable in the case of proposed metropolitan areas and most of the remainder of England and Greater London. It is felt most strongly by the City of Stoke-on-Trent County Borough Council that the greatest weakness of the White Paper lies in its treatment of areas like Leicester, Nottingham, Stoke-on-Trent and Tees-side in the relation to the division of functions"—
note the re-emphasis of the 8.23 p.m. statement by the Minister—
all four of which have populations in excess of 250.000 people, and believe that they have a special case with regard to functions.
§ That is the main nub of my argument.130
§ The noble Lord who is going to reply to me will know that I have two Amendments down later. I will not repeat the arguments now but I will bring arguments about education and social services later. The city of Stoke-on-Trent therefore put forward a constructive alternative. It said, "You want this administrative area: Staffordshire is so big and there is such a dichotomy between the North and the South, though this does not mean there is no fellowship, because there is fellowship between Britishers all over the world—but their traditions are different: the Black Country in the South, the agricultural area in the North."They could have said," Let us make two county council areas, one of them revolving around the hub of Stafford and the other around the city of Stoke-on-Trent."A magnificent map, carefully thought out, was sent to the Ministry showing these divisions and setting out the arguments on geographical, industrial and traditional developments of the city. I hope the Minister had a good look at the map when he read the arguments.
§ A further thing: the county boroughs of Stoke-on-Trent and Burton-on-Trent give a population of 925,000 people and a rateable value of £34 million. It is appreciated that this is not the largest of the new top-tier units but it is a very large area and, as such, needs to be studied in detail to establish whether it comprises a sufficient community of interest. Stoke-on-Trent did discuss this point of view with Staffordshire. I would ask the Minister to-night to take that point from the circular—the point that it should be studied in more detail. I would ask the Minister to hold his hand and not say to the city of Stoke-on-Trent "Nay, we will not accept any of your Amendments". I ask him not to say that to the city of Stoke-on-Trent and to me, after I have struggled to get from one side of the world to the other, as I should not have done had I not thought it worthwhile and that there was justice in my argument. Why should I struggle and get bad-tempered at the airport, and so on, and spend a lot of money to get here on time?
§ I believe this to be a sound and reasonable argument, not based upon any mischievous point of view but built upon 131 the realities of the people living in the area. That is why I am delighted that noble Lords of many different nuances of politics are speaking not in a Party political way, because we must remember that these arguments are not just based on the Labour, Independent or Tory side of the city of Stoke-on-Trent. This is the Council's opinion and that means that it cuts across the pattern and the tapis of local politics. So I would ask the Minister if he could give me that assurance. It would save a Division.
§ In round terms, then, the North Staffordshire area would give you half a million population. I could paint a beautiful picture of the community interest but this has been made in my construction of the argument. Here is the 64,000-dollar point, to use the language of the Americans, which unfortunately seems to be dominating our own language. The creation of the proposed two new counties means that the people in the area would have double the number of democratically-elected representatives which they would have if the whole area were to be administered as one unit. This is what I regret all over the world. There is a passion in the capitalist world and in the Communist world—indeed, everywhere—to centralise everything and there is this neophiliac desire to shatter the old and put up something new. We are getting to the pitch when if a thing is old, knock it; if a tradition exists, knock it. It is clever to write a semi-philosophical article inThe Times or in a local government magazine, knocking traditional systems of local government.
§ I beg the Government not to knock the traditions of North Staffordshire because they are old. They have contributed to Britain's greatness. I have taken Wedgwood and Staffordshire tea cups and saucers almost everywhere in the world. I have taken them to the Kremlin though not yet to Berlin. But I turned a piece over in Bohemia the other day and it was a Stoke-on-Trent product. This Bill is doing something that cuts against the commercial interests of Britain. Those traditional names exist abroad. I saw Herefordshire cattle in the hills in the South of Europe. We have to be careful. If names are being attached to something 132 they have a monetary value. I do not think that the Local Government Commission thought about these things in the White Paper.
§ I come to my final point but two. I hope that noble Lords are pleased and are fully awake by now. Nobody can gainsay this. I am quoting now and so nobody can come to the Box and ask where it is from. The West Midlands Economic Planning Council have consistently advanced the point that the natural centre for development in North Staffordshire is the city of Stoke-on-Trent. Leek is one of my first loves. They do not know whether they want to come in or not. The Minister knows this and he is going to bring this argument against me. I might as well spike his guns a little. Leek are not sure. Some want to come in and some do not. If they come in they will have bigger representation than if they go to the South. Mycri de coeur is that if the Government are not going to accept this—and the evening is rolling away and I have not had a bite to eat for hours—will they tell me that they will consider a division of the education services and social services and let Stoke-on-Trent retain some of the functions that they have in those services?
§ The Government have done a magnificent job of work in getting for us this document on the management and structure of the new areas. If the Minister has this document before him this will save a lot of verbiage. Will the Minister look at the preface to this document—I need not quote all of it—which looks at reorganisation as an opportunity not to be missed in the 21st century? I think that the White Paper has missed a lot of the opportunities. Will the Minister also look at the second point on the role of members and officers and effective decision making? I am worried about this.
§ There is a reference to the corporate approach. I knew Italy. I do not want a corporate state. I am a freeman of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and that is because Welsh colliers opened the anthracite pits there. I was at Wilkes-Barre once and they, in a romantic mood, made me a freeman. I hope that this White Paper is not going to drive these huge units into a system of government which 133 will follow the American pattern, which is almost the pattern of a corporate state where you have a manager. A lot of people expect that you can run local government like a business, but if there is one axiom of local democracy it is that it cannot be run like a factory or a businessman's office. I sincerely hope that the noble Lord will look at the points in the preface to this document. I also refer him to page 2 of the document which refers to the functions of the framework, the role of the officers, corporate planning, and working arrangements between authorities. In the working arrangements between Staffordshire authorities will the noble Lord at least make suggestions to find a method, if the Government persist in rolling this Bill through, whereby some of the essential services will be left as they are in the hands of the city of Stoke-on-Trent?
§ I will sit down with a protest. This is a vital Bill for the history of Britain. Much of it is going to be good. Whichever Government, Conservative, Liberal or Labour, came into power they were bound to meet objections. But because the Government are in a jam with their business with the Common Market Bill and this Bill we are rushing through some of the most interesting parts of the life of the British people. I could keep speaking for three hours.
§ A NOBLE LORD: Don't!
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
I will not. But I am not going to listen to my Front Bench or any other Bench if I am in the mood to put a point. I was courteous enough to the Committee to say that I would not delay it by reading masses of my speech. I said to the Minister that I would call attention to the brief that I know he has. Consequently I do not want any directions from my Front Bench or anybody else. I took the trouble to come here because I wanted to protest against the way that this business is being rushed through this noble House. I should have liked us to have about twice the time to discuss this Bill. It is a part of our system of government that we may regret 15 years from now when the Royal Commission has to look into these matters once again. There are enough things in the busy world of to-day that upset people without bringing in areas of disquiet or irritation. In local govern- 134 ment the White Paper has brought vast areas of irritation into the lives of the ordinary people.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
We all have sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, with regard to his holidays because we are all in the same boat. He is not the only noble Lord who has had his holidays messed up by the necessity to get this business through. I am sorry to hear that with all those disadvantages he has gone so far as to spend some of his holiday reading about local government management. I am delighted that he has studied the booklet, but I am sorry that it was necessary for him to do so while on holiday.
I do not agree that we are rushing this matter through. The whole Committee has listened not just patiently but with the very greatest interest to the points the noble Lord has made about the county and city which he knows so well. But I must put to the Committee a number of countervailing arguments. The effect of the noble Lord's Amendment would be to divide Staffordshire—a county of just under a million, the seventh in size of population of all the countries in the Bill—into North Staffordshire centred upon Stoke-on-Trent, and South Staffordshire centred more or less on Stafford. North Staffordshire will have a population of around half a million of which the two adjacent boroughs of Stoke and Newcastle-under-Lyme would account for something over 65 per cent. This would mean that what was to all intents and purposes one single built-up area would account for some two-thirds of the population of a Maud type unitary area rather than a county. It would in fact be rather smaller than the Maud area which extended well into Cheshire. That is not to say that this area could not work as a county if there were strong enough reasons for defining it in that way. But I would submit to the Committee that there do not seem to be strong reasons for doing it, and there are certainly very strong reasons for not dividing the county as the proposed South Staffordshire that would result from the Amendment would be quite unsatisfactory. It would lack cohesion; it would quite simply be what was left over from the existing county of Stafford after Stoke-on-Trent 135 had taken as much of the county as it wanted.
The South Staffordshire left by the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, would have no obvious principal town. Stafford, Burton-on-Trent and Cannock have populations of just over 50,000; Tamworth, 40,000; Lichfield 22,000. The proposed South Staffordshire County would not be a distinctive enough entity. Individually the two counties would be much weaker in resources than the Staffordshire in the Bill and the Staffordshire we know now. Moreover, the division would unnecessarily sever the existing county administration, some of which, many of the important services of which, would continue into the new county; and it would add to the complications of reorganisation without any real compensating advantage. If I may, I will leave the question of the education services until we reach them at the appropriate stage of the Bill.
On the basis of last year's consultations with the local authorities, it is undoubtedly true that the City Council of Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council would be in favour of the Amendment which the noble Lord has put before us. Staffordshire County Council would undoubtedly be opposed to it, and, I am advised, so would all the districts of the county. As I have said in earlier debates on these geographical Amendments, so far from knocking old traditions, of which the noble Lord accused us, we are thoroughly and strongly disposed not to disturb county boundaries, or any boundaries, unless there are compelling reasons for doing so, because the historical and traditional ties are so important. I submit to your Lordships that the noble Lord, Lord Davies, has not given us any such compelling reasons for doing so in respect of the county of Stafford in this particular case. But I venture to say that I have given your Lordships a number of weighty objections to what the noble Lord has proposed. It is for those reasons that I hope the noble Lord, having heard the cogent arguments for sticking, broadly speaking, to the existing boundaries of the County of Stafford and with the reassurance that the City of Stoke under these new arrangements will certainly 136 have a very considerable range of functions to exercise in their own right and a reasonable area in which to do it, will not feel it necessary to press his Amendment. However, if he does, I advise the Committee to resist it.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
It was rather a nice reply the Minister gave me, but let me take him up on one argument before I consider whether I will call for voices. When the noble Lord said that if Stoke-on-Trent goes out there will be no other suitable city, he gave away his argument. Is he implying by that that the best place for the government of the whole of Staffordshire would be the City of Stoke-on-Trent, because that is the only city of any size? There are Burton-on-Trent and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire town, with the river in the background, coming down to the Black Country. But I do not want to chop logic. The Minister at the end of his speech was rather gracious and he assured me that when it comes to the issue of services Stoke-on-Trent would play a part. Irrespective of the destiny of my later Amendments, I do not accept the Minister's argument. But why should we bandy words with each other at this time of night? We can do that another time, privately maybe. In view of the Minister's gracious reply, I think I would be a bit of a curmudgeon if I divided the Committee this evening. All noble Lords have heard that he assured me that the City of Stoke-on-Trent would get a fair share of its social services. If that assurance is given, I think it is a fair answer and perhaps I should obtain a better result by not dividing the Committee now but waiting to see how much Stoke-on-Trent gets and how we get on with the social services later. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD SANDFORD
Before the noble Lord sits down, I must make it clear for the Record that the assurance I gave him was in respect of a number of important local government services. I certainly did not mention the social services specifically and, as the noble Lord knows perfectly well, the education services and the social services are county functions. So my assurance would not cover that point. Nevertheless, each district, of which Stoke-on-Trent will be 137 one under these new arrangements, has an important range of local government services.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
I did not expect a hard and fast and categorical statement. I am hoping for a sympathetic broad expression of the Government's re-attention to this problem when we come to the social services and education. But with a partial offer of deeper consideration, I will beg leave to withdraw the Amendment this evening.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.6 p.m.
LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 53:
Corrigendum, page 6, line 26, leave out ("except the areas in West Sussex").
§ The noble Lord said: With this Amendment I should like to speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 54, 59, 61 and 64, all of which are consequential. May I make it perfectly clear that, while standing at this Box, I speak not for my Party but for myself. I have an interest to declare in that I have been for many years a member of the Surrey County Council and for some years now have been an alderman of that authority. The proposals under the Bill for the alteration of the Surrey boundary along its frontier with West Sussex means an intrusion into the county of Surrey which shows up on the map like a sore thumb. It involves the transfer of the greater part of the parishes of Horley and Charlwood including Gatwick Airport from Surrey to West Sussex. That is a proposal which some 87 per cent. of the 18,000 residents involved have rejected. They have made it clear that they do not want to be transferred. The strength of their feeling, as indeed of their case, has been recognised in the assurances given by the Under-Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Mr. Speed, at the Report stage of the Bill in the Commons, that they (the residents of those parishes) could opt to remain in Surrey if they so wished, even though the airport was transferred. But it is the wish of those same people not only that they should remain in Surrey but that the airport should do so as well. This is because the control and development of the airport plays such a vital part in determining the environment in which they live at the present 138 time, and will continue to live. They are Surrey people. The area has a long and strong historic involvement in the county, and I took note that when the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, was speaking a moment or two ago he made a clear and definite statement to the effect that the Government would not make a change unless there were compelling reasons.
§ So far as the people of Harley and Charlwood are concerned, their schools are organised on the principles of Surrey's development. Their other services have been maintained at the high levels which obtain in the county of Surrey; and while it may seem somewhat mundane to mention sewage, nevertheless it is a most essential service, and the effluent from Horley enters the River Mole, which flows through Surrey right out into the Thames. In addition I should like to mention that the whole of the Gatwick area drains into the River Mole, including its surface water drainage.
§ I mention this because in 1968 there were extremely serious floods in Surrey and considerable damage was caused in places like Molesey. In that connection—and it provides something of an answer to any claim that West Sussex should have the £350,000 rateable value of Gatwick Airport—Surrey are having to make a total payment of £4.6 million, spread over the next 40 years, towards massive flood relief works following those disastrous floods. I repeat, in 1968, deriving from the rainfall in the Gatwick area, those floods had very serious consequences indeed, and particularly for people living in Molesey.
The Minister for Local Government and Development, Mr. Graham Page, gave an assurance to the Member of Parliament for Dorking, Sir George Sinclair, that the people in Harley and Charlwood need not consider exercising the option to which I have referred—the option given by Mr. Speed—to remain in Surrey until after any Amendment to retain the whole area (including Gatwick) in Surrey has been disposed of in this House in one way or another. So, having conceded that the people living in the area may choose to stay in Surrey, the only issue is whether the airport should be retained as well. I should like to touch on what the
Redcliffe-Maud Royal Commission proposed for this particular part of the country. It said:
The new town of Crawley adjoins the Surrey border and has become an important centre for shopping, employment and other urban services. It has close links, particularly for employment, with Gatwick Airport and with the adjacent residential area of Horley. In 1966, 1,200 people travelled from Dorking and Horley rural district in Surrey to work in Crawley. No less than 2,300 Crawley residents worked in Dorking and Horley rural district. There would be clear advantage if Crawley and the Surrey areas with which it is linked were in the same local government unit, and we think that it should be the East Surrey unit rather than a Sussex unit.
I should like to repeat those last few words, that it should be included "in the East Surrey unit rather than a Sussex unit".
§ I regret that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, is unable to be present to-night because I know that she would be supporting the Amendment. I say that because I asked her if she considered it a desirable proposal, and she assured me that if she were able to be here she would support it. In view of her role on the Royal Commission I am sure that your Lordships will agree that her view is of considerable importance.
§ It may be that Surrey should have pressed for the inclusion of Crawley within Surrey, but Surrey is not and in my recollection has never been acquisitive in its approach. It takes the view that the present boundary between West Sussex and Surrey, which has existed for so long, should remain. The present division follows a reasonably straight line and runs through the Green Belt between the airport and. Crawley, the result of deliberate planning policy to ensure that the area is kept open and undeveloped.
§ There seems to be an overwhelming case against the transfer. Gatwick is a London-oriented airport, with its major consequences affecting Surrey; 80 per cent. of its passengers and 70 per cent. of its freight movements come from north of the airportvia Surrey; it flight paths run east and west over Surrey. These factors show quite decisively the London-orientation of the airport, and the particular concern therefore not only of the people of Horley and Charlwood but of the people throughout the County of Surrey.140
§ The noise effects are primarily felt by Surrey residents, and I rely on the figures of the noise and numbering contours prepared in 1970 for the public inquiry into the extension of the runway. These figures, which were accepted by West Sussex at that inquiry, show that twice as many people are affected in Surrey as in east and west Sussex.
§ The lines of communication which link Gatwick with Heathrow run through Surrey. The 1966 Census showed the places of residence of workers employed at the airport; 1,540 resided in Surrey and 1,940 in West Sussex, of whom 1,640 lived in Crawley. As to the future, Surrey has the capacity on its own to provide up to 1979 for half the additional housing needs, when the projected workforce may reach 17,000.
§ West Sussex without Gatwick will not be a poor county. Its rateable value will be £29 million, or £59.37 per head of population. This compares with Surrey, even with the airport included, of £59 million or £58.50. Thus, the people living in West Sussex without the airport are better off per head of population than the people of Surrey with the airport. The transfer of the airport would accentuate the difference. The people of Horley and Charlwood have made their wishes known. Surrey has shown that it has the expertise and experience to deal with the many problems which spring from the existence of the airport, and on its own it has handled many of them. It has shown that in co-operation with adjoining authorities it has the ability to have concern for an area greater than its own.
§ In 10 to 15 years' time the Local Government Boundary Commission will be carrying out a general review of county boundaries, when they will no doubt be able to give further consideration to this matter in the light of facts as they then exist, rather than on matters of speculation which seem to me to play such an important part in the proposals of the Bill as they stand now.
§ Meanwhile, it would be quite wrong for any change to be made in the historic boundary between Surrey and West Sussex when the case is unproven. I hope that other people who know Surrey as well as I do, and perhaps some of them know it even better, will add to and strengthen the case I have endeavoured 141 to put before your Lordships in moving this Amendment. I beg to move.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
My justification for speaking on this matter is that I was brought up in Surrey, my married life has been in West Sussex, and my political life in East Sussex, and therefore my sympathies are divided among all three counties. My constituency bordered on Gatwick, and I am extremely familiar with the whole of the geography of that area.
At this late hour, one wants to put three simple points to your Lordships in support of the Government's present suggestions. Really the rates should go where the burden is going to go and be felt. The development of Crawley and Gatwick are really intertwined. You cannot separate the two. People from Crawley go to work in Gatwick andvice versa, people from Gatwick shop in Crawley, and both are going to grow. It is anticipated that Crawley will probably increase by 50 per cent. in the near future, and that Gatwick equally will increase, not quite as much but very nearly so.
At the present time, I understand that there are 8,500 people who work at Gatwick. That represents a population—taking their families into account—of 32,000. The work available there is expected to increase to require 11,000 workers, which means a population of 43,000 to be provided for. The social services for these people in Gatwick are already very largely provided by West Sussex, and when West Sussex takes in the piece of East Sussex bordering on Gatwick it will of course increase that burden. We calculate that there is now a shortfall of £8 million up to 1981 for social services in this district. That will increase to £11 million in 1991 and £14 million in 2001, and that is at present-day prices.
I am not going to deal with Charlwood and Horley because I understand that there is flexibility there and I do not want to complicate the point we really have to consider this evening. Surrey, though probably very willing to increase its social services, housing, transport and so on, is hampered by the fact that the Green Belt prevents any further expansion in that direction, and the noble Lord who has just spoken, Lord. Garnsworthy, has said that already the sewage is a problem in 142 the River Mole. That will certainly not decrease. The expansion will have to take South and East and West in Sussex.
With regard to noise and problems from flights, that depends very much on the weather. Sometimes Surrey suffers more and sometimes Sussex suffers more. If you want to go from Gatwick anywhere you have to cross another county, it does not matter whether it is Surrey, East Sussex or any other. I do not think those are actual arguments that really hold water.
What matters is that if Gatwick is transferred to West Sussex it will mean that with the Sussex income of £19,574,000 West Sussex will get an increase of £234,000. Surrey, which has an income of £35,077,400, will lose £218,400 out of its total; that is to say £218,000 out of £35 million; and West Sussex will gain £234,000 on top of £19 million. It makes a difference to the £19 million, but it makes very little difference to the £35 million in Surrey.
The main point, therefore, really is that with the spread of Gatwick and Crawley intertwined, not able to spread North, bound to spread East, West and South, with the housing, roads, transport, social services, education, everything to be provided, it is really only fair that the rates which Gatwick will bring in should go to the authority which will have to provide the social services.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
I also would like to support this Amendment, and with all due respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, I do not feel the arguments she has put forward are entirely convincing. In the first place, no doubt one could make a general proposition that rates should go where the burden falls, but it is at least disputable whether the burden is going to West Sussex more than to Surrey; and we are taking into account largely what is going to happen in this decade, not the expansion that is going to occur in West Sussex later on. Gatwick will have expanded or got its maximum labour force approximately by the end of the decade, and half of this will probably come from Surrey. So I do not accept that view that the greater burden is going to be on West Sussex.
Do not let us forget either the sum of £4.6 million which has to be spent 143 in any case on the River Mole; no doubt when it is spent it will be perfectly capable of taking the small quantity of extra sewage which may come from the extra accommodation which Surrey is providing for the workers.
The second argument was that Surrey is in trouble because of the extension of the Green Belt. They are very pleased about this; I have had a letter this morning and I am assured that this makes no difference at all to their capability to provide housing for the increase in workers that will be required.
The third argument was that of noise, and I thought it was generally agreed that predominantly the noise would affect Surrey worse. I think the Government have agreed that changes from existing boundaries will only be made with good cause, and I think no good case can be made on financial grounds, though I admit the case runs fairly evenly for both. But there are other cogent reasons, quite apart from not making a change where it is unnecessary, why Surrey should have this.
The Redcliffe-Maud Report recommended that Crawley should be added to Surrey, rather than the reverse. The Government normally accept the recommendations of a Report unless they have good reasons to disagree with them. So far another place have been given no good reasons why this should not be implemented. Obviously Gatwick serves London. It affects the lives of residents because, as I said earlier, the flight paths are predominantly that way. The noise affects twice as many people in Surrey—this is the estimate—as it is likely to affect in West Sussex, because the traffic access is primarily from Surrey. For all those reasons I would think on balance that there is a strong case for leaving things as they are, and the Government so far have made out no case for making a change.
§ 9.31 p.m.
THE EARL or LYTTON
My excuse for speaking on this subject is that I have had intermittent family connections with Crawley and Gatwick all my life, and I still live on the fringe of that area. I think that it will be for the Government to say which of the conflicting arguments and figures must carry 144 weight. For myself, I am convinced that the two places, the airport with its workers and Crawley New Town with its workers and residents, would be best regarded as a single unit. I think that that was not only the recommendation of a Royal Commission but also, I fancy, of the Labour Party's proposed reorganisation, which has been replaced by the one we are considering now. Most people I have met considered that the two should be as one.
I do not think that it is a very convincing argument that one county should be labelled acquisitive and the other non-acquisitive. This is a matter of national policy in which counties appeal against, or support, as the case may be, and it is not a question of grab or renunciation, so my first contention is that these two should be regarded as one. My second remark is that the Mole, which has been described as taking the flood water from Gatwick Airport, takes something more important and more obnoxious; it takes the whole of the sewage from Crawley, and will have to take the whole of the sewage from the future expansion of residents of both growing Crawley and growing Gatwick. That is a further case for treating the two as one.
I understand that whatever is spent on the Mole, the valley is of a restricted nature which will make the carrying away of the sewage of the proposed, planned and accepted growth something of a strain. It is possible. The only disastrous prospect which has faced us and which we have warded off is the possibility of another 70.000 to 100,000 population should there he a second runway at Gatwick Airport. That has been abandoned, and so long as that is abandoned the planned increase can be coped with. This is the point where I think there are differences. West Sussex—and East Sussex, to the best of my belief—are under the impression that something like two-thirds or three-quarters of the increase at Gatwick and Crawley must find its residential accommodation in what is at present East and West Sussex South of the area, and that there is no acceptable area for it North or East of Gatwick. The areas immediately South, the Weald of Sussex, are a pleasant watershed of five rivers—the Ouse, the Arun, the Adur which go into the Channel, the Eden 145 which becomes the Medway, and the Mole. Of these the Mole is polluted and I can see no future for it. The Mole Valley has been polluted. The Mole where I used to tickle trout in my youth is a drain, and it will remain a drain. One hopes that the others will be preserved.
Therefore one has a feeling that something of the residential amenity area to the South should be included in this unit. Whether it should be a sore thumb sticking into West Sussex and belonging to Surrey, or a sore thumb sticking northwards from Sussex into Surrey, is I suppose a debatable point. There is a certain logic in regarding as a single unit this area where people will work and live together, and, if I am correct—it is for the Government to say what they accept—the bulk of this area will grow. The people will not come from anywhere in particular; it will be part of the natural growth of the South-East region which I think is growing at the rate of a little under 100,000 a year, and people will have to find accommodation somewhere. That is the purpose of planning: to plan those areas where growth may most usefully take place. We have had one long debate about Maplin and this is a debate about another area.
My conclusion, whether it were a Sussex unit of West Sussex or East Sussex, or a Surrey unit, is that the logic of the situation demands that there should be some uniformity and unity of administration in these two very adjacent growth and dormitory areas, which I hold will inevitably be around Crawley and to the South; and in the interests of everybody between London and Brighton the remaining amenity areas—and this watershed of five rivers, the Weald, is one of them—should be protected. It is a question of who will do it best. We are all English people. We are not grabbing each other's territory like former imperial Powers; it is a question of what is best. If it comes to a Division, I think the balance tips in favour of the Government's proposals and I will vote for them.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
I should like to support my noble friend Lady Emmet of Amberley in resisting this Amendment. It seems to me that an over-whelming case has been made for the transfer of Gatwick to West Sussex. The 146 Royal Commission thought so, so did the Government and so did the South-East Economic Planning Council. Crawley, on which Gatwick largely depends, is in Sussex and houses most of Gatwick's work force. My noble friend Lady Emmet calculated that this would amount altogether to some 43,000 people who depend for their livelihood on Gatwick, and it looks to me as though the great majority must live in Sussex, unless of course Surrey's Green Belt is to go, which I am sure none of us would like to see. Therefore most of Gatwick's growth must be in West Sussex and I believe that Gatwick and Crawley must go together; that is the only solution.
The noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, indicated that Gatwick is very much London oriented and no doubt the tourist agencies like to point out that it is a London airport. Let them continue to say this. I have no objection whatever to it. Let us boast about Gatwick being a London airport. It is a London airport. But to my mind this has no relevance in local government affairs when the airport is so dependent upon the various services from local councils around it, and is dependent upon West Sussex to accommodate much the greater part of its population. At all events, from the tourist point of view I cannot imagine that the attractions of West Sussex are less than those of Surrey.
I know that the Royal Commission on Local Government did not propose the transfer of Gatwick to West Sussex, but then—and I should like to make this point because I do not think it has been made before—what the Commission proposed was an entirely different system of government, by unitary authorities throughout the country, and under that Surrey would have been divided in two. However, the Government discarded those proposals in the interest of keeping a two-tier system, and adhered to the policy of putting Gatwick, Crawley and this nearby growth area together under the wing of a single planning authority.
Much, therefore, as I respect the views of the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy—and he certainly put the best possible case for Surrey—I hope he will not press his Amendment to a Division. I do not want to see an outbreak of hostilities between Surrey and Sussex, with the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, as the 147 Napoleon of Surrey and my noble friend Lady Emmet as the Boadicea of West Sussex. Therefore, I must vote against this Amendment.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
May I say a very brief word before my noble friend on the Front Bench replies? I should say that I had not intended to take up your Lordships' valuable time until I heard my noble friend on the Cross-Benches referring to the River Mole as a drain. It is a tributary of the River Thames, for which I am responsible. I really cannot accept such a description. It is quite true that the River Mole has to accept the sewage of Crawley, and it is quite true that there are sometimes difficulties.
The town of Crawley, of course, has an important industrial estate, and, as noble Lords will well know, wherever there are industrial effluents there are considerable problems of purifying the final effluent. But I can assure my noble friend that the Thames Conservancy is ever vigilant, and sometimes brings a little pressure to bear on the local authorities, which in the main respond pretty well. If my noble friend went to fish in the River Mole—and there are still angling clubs there—he would find that he would still be able to catch a trout; and despite all the problems of taking this effluent away it is still not too bad. It may be that we will make it even better as the years go by.
The reason why I was not going to speak on this subject is because I have a divided loyalty. On the one hand, I am a Surrey man and a former Surrey County Councillor and County Alderman; and, on the other hand, I am chairman of the Standing Conference for the South-East. Therefore, I have a loyalty to Surrey and I also have a loyalty to the overall strategic plan for the South-East which we and the Government Departments conceived.
The fact is that Surrey have a good case. Their case is that Gatwick is now part of Surrey, that the residents of Surrey, including myself, have to put up with the noise shadow from the aerodrome, and that therefore they are at least entitled to make a claim on the 148 rateable value; and a good many of their residents work there. But, of course, the case on the other side is pretty strong, and my noble friend on the Cross-Benches was developing some of it. This is as referred to inStrategy for the South-East.
This tried to define the areas in the South-East which have such amenity value that they should be preserved at all costs, and the areas which might take the major development which is coming in the next 20 or 30 years and the extra 4 million or so people who are going to be living there. In this broad, and, I think, very sensible strategy, certain areas were defined such as the North Downs, the South Downs, the Chilterns and so on, the Green Belt, which must be preserved at all costs. By the time you define those areas you are pinned down to relatively few areas in which you can make the major development which is required.
Looking at the southern area of the South-East region, the coastal area, the big towns like Brighton and Eastbourne and so on are all pinned down in their development by the South Downs; and these are to be preserved. So that any expansion that originates from there must take place somewhere else. The most adjacent area for all that development is in this triangle of Crawley, Burgess Hill and Horsham with Gatwick as part of it. The sub-regional area was defined in theStrategy as to be an area of major development and to take a very large part of the population increase over the coming decades.
My noble friend is right. If we are to preserve the amenities of the rest of the area that we so much value, we must concentrate development in certain selected areas, and this was one of them. Clearly, if this is to be such an area, it must be treated as a whole. It would be better to have the whole of it in West Sussex rather than part of it in West Sussex and part of it in Surrey. This is the planning argument for including it in the way the Government now propose. My personal position in this is that my heart is on one side and my head is on the other side. I shall not vote, but I will listen with interest to what my noble friend has to say.
§ LORD REIGATE
Before my noble friend sits down could I ask him to comment on one point. The Eastern side of the Holley Rural District Council is an area in which expansion is to be allowed. When he says that West Sussex should contain the whole of this area, is he suggesting that the area which really extends to Merstham in the North should also go into West Sussex?
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
Certainly, Horley is in the area of development. I would, with respect to Horley, suggest that there is not much more amenity to be lost there. Broadly, the triangle to be developed is the triangle of Crawley, with its already rapid and attractive development coming out from London, Burgess Hill and Horsham. This triangle is roughly the area. I cannot define it precisely but in terms of planning in the South-East it makes good sense.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
Before the noble Lord sits down may I take the opportunity of responding to his remarks on what I said? I personally owe an enormous debt to the Thames Conservancy, under both his management and that of Sir Jocelyn Bray years ago. The whole world acclaims its success in depolluting. There is a little trout occasionally not only in the Mole but in the Thames.
I do not want to prolong this debate. I regret that it seems to have taken the line of its being a battle between the two counties. As my noble friend Lord Bessborough said, this is not the case. When last year we were debating the second runway at Gatwick there was set up a joint committee between Surrey and East and West Sussex to deal with this problem. In my view there should be a joint committee to deal with the difficult problem we are faced with to-day. What seems unarguable—I have not heard any argument against this—is that Crawley and Gatwick must be in the same unit. It may be that the noble Lord who moved this Amendment might suggest that Crawley New Town should move into Surrey. I do not think he would suggest anything as drastic as that. You have only to look at the map to see where the people who are working at Gatwick Airport come from—and the vast majority come from Crawley New 150 Town—to see that you cannot divorce those two units.
I must make clear, because I think I should, that I am a member of the West Sussex County Council and therefore it might be said straight away that I am taking a party line. But it is not a question of money; there is very little in it. Figures have been given as to the rate and there is not very much in that. It surely is a question of planning. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, has made his point and he says that he will not vote. Surely it is a much bigger point than what I call an inter-county squabble. If we are to plan for the South-East as a whole we must put Gatwick Airport with all its services that will be required under one unit. There will be the new roads, the new schools which have to be produced as the population will increase enormously. We have been given various figures for this, but probably all of them are too low. As things are, I cannot see any possible argument—I say this quite frankly and not because I happen to live in Sussex—for retaining the airport in Surrey.
As to the two villages concerned, I agree that is a harder question. If they feel very strongly that they would like to remain in Surrey I should not like to press that matter. I think it would be much tidier if they came in with Sussex, but that is not something I would press. But to divide the airport and Crawley New Town just does not make sense.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ LORD PARGITER
If I may intervene briefly, it seems to me that Surrey was a little slow off the mark in not following up the Royal Commission proposals in regard to Crawley because the whole argument has developed over the relationship of Crawley to Gatwick. I do not think it is an altogether sound argument. We have had it earlier from the Govern-mew that because people live in one place and work in another there is no particular reason for joining them together. If that argument holds good in one place, presumably it can hold good in another place. There is no particular argument on the question of where one lives and where one works. I agree that problems may arise from working in an area as well as from living in an area.
151 If the argument is to be on planning grounds, whatever happens in regard to planning there has to be planning between Surrey and East and West Sussex. Planning cannot be effective merely by taking Gatwick out of Surrey and putting it into West Sussex. That will not settle the planning argument; planning will still have to take place, and Surrey will have to have a major say in this planning. If all this extra work is to develop because of Gatwick and its surroundings and from other industries developing which are attracted to the area, possibly because of the airport, or other developments, it seems that in view of the fact that no one denies that Gatwick is London orientated Surrey will have to have a major say in some of the planning because of the communications which will be required.
The question of communications is vitally important. No one is thinking in terms of communications to Gatwick Airport coming from the South. The lines are bound to be from the North, from London and the surrounding area. It is true that when we get a third airport some of this will be hived off from that direction, but by that time Gatwick will be stabilised.
What about development in the next ten or twenty years? Some time ago the Government were arguing that there is no case at all to transfer North Essex to Suffolk because of what may happen to development in other parts of Essex. Let the Boundary Commission take care of that problem when it arises. In other words, let us see not what is projected, but what actually happens when considering what adjustments may be necessary. It seems that at this late hour Surrey would be wise to say that if the question hinges on the connection between Crawley and Gatwick the case is for Surrey to take over Crawley. That would seem to me the logic. If, as we hear, the Mole is the essential drainage area, there is a strong case for the authority responsible for that part of the area to be responsible for the area which causes problems with regard to the Mole. All these things lead to the conclusion that the Government decision is wrong at this time. I do not say that it would necessarily be wrong all the time. The development may well be so far to the 152 South that the whole of this area might come in and not only the area prescribed. It may well be that the Boundary Commission will find it necessary to make even more radical changes than are proposed now.
There is no special problem at the moment beyond the fact that Crawley ought to be linked, though I do not think that essential. It seems to me that the matter would be better left alone until we can see what are the developments. A lot of it cannot happen for at least ten years. So it will be ten years before the problem will need serious attention. Surrey is well capable of looking after the approaches to Gatwick airport and of taking care of the housing which is required. That has been established, and it seems to me that the matter should be allowed to develop rather than that a radical change should be made at this stage. Such a change might necessitate further changes in the future.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
So much of the argument has centred on where the people who work at Gatwick live that I should like to put on record—though I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, quoted them—what the figures were in the 1966 Census. There were 1,540 living in Surrey, of which 930 were in Horley, Reigate or Redhill; and there were 1,940 in West Sussex, of which 1,640 lived in Crawley. So I think that the argument that everybody comes from Crawley leaves out the fact that nearly half come from Surrey.
§ LORD REIGATE
I suppose I ought to apologise for detaining the Committee at this late hour, but I would rather not do so because I think that of all the noble Lords who have spoken so far I am the only one who has a house within earshot of Gatwick Airport and who for 20 years represented one of the constituencies which abutted on the Airport. I was present at the original meeting when my noble friend Lord Boyd of Merton announced to a rather surprised and unhappy meeting of local residents that Gatwick was going to be turned into an airport. I have seen it grow throughout those 20 years and, may I say, it has grown in nuisance value. I do not want to harp on the noise factor but I can say to my noble friend Lady Emmet of Amberley, who mentioned her experience 153 in her political life, that she ceased to represent East Grinstead in 1964, which was before the VC 10 came on the scene. And she may be interested to know that since it came on the scene the number of complaints I have received has multiplied about five or even six times.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
May I correct the noble Lord's views about my knowledge of what is happening at the moment? I have a daughter who lives in West Sussex, on the border, and within earshot of Gatwick Airport. I do go and stay with her.
§ LORD REIGATE
I am glad to hear it, but I am sure my noble friend will agree and accept the statement that the second runway at the Airport would affect twice as many Surrey people as Sussex people. That argument is still valid and I hope that the noble Lady's daughter will come and live in a part of Surrey further from Gatwick than she is now.
I think I know the area better than a good many people, and when my noble friend also said—I thought it a shrewd point—that rates should go where the burden is, I thought: "What about the burden that Surrey has borne all through the years and is still bearing?" My noble friend said that most of the social services for Gatwick were borne by West Sussex. I might remind her of one or two factors. If, by any chance, she was unfortunate enough to be involved in an air crash at Gatwick, she would almost certainly be taken to Redhill General Hospital.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt again. If Surrey has borne the burden, it has also been paid the rates.
§ LORD REIGATE
Yes; I accept that. And it is continuing to bear the burden, but is being denied the rates. That is the point. I agree with the last speaker from these Benches that we must not involve an inter-county battle. We have to think of the planning of the area as a whole. I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pargiter, and the other noble Lord who spoke on the matter, that Crawley and Gatwick Airport cannot and should not be divided. That is why Redcliffe-Maud suggested that Crawley should go into the unitary area of East Surrey. That was accepted reluctantly by Surrey 154 County Council, because they did not like the unitary area idea—I think they were wrong—but it was not acceptable to West Sussex. However, at that time West Sussex made no claim to Gatwick.
I think the transfer of Crawley to Surrey would make a great deal of sense, and I know the area well enough. It is not only Crawley and Gatwick: it is Crawley, Gatwick, Horley, Reigate, Redhill, Earlswood, Salfords, Smallfields, Merstham, all villages or towns which are in this half built-up half semi-country area. And there will be much further development in Crawley. The new extension of the Green Belt allows a great deal more development both in Horley and, although it is rather far away, in Oxted, from which many people now go to work in Gatwick. I think the idea that Redcliffe-Maud had of putting Crawley into Surrey was the right one. What my noble friend has done is to put forward a kind of King Solomon's judgment, but unfortunately he has divided the child into two, whereas it ought to be one area planned as such. I think the argument for Surrey is much more rational.
The Government have constantly, rather defiantly, repeated that they do not want change for the sake of change. Therefore I think the argument is a strong one for supporting the Amendment now; not making a final decision, but giving the Boundary Commission a chance to review the situation when the future of Gatwick is a little better known than it is at present. I think they could do this under Clause 48(2), I think it is, by which they can ask the Boundary Commission to review the matter. I should like to see a totally independent review of the whole situation, which would be able to build not only on the strategic plan for the South-East, but also on the good work that was done for the Redcliffe-Maud Commission. Who knows where it would end up? Crawley may end up in Surrey or in Sussex, or parts to the North such as Horley might end up in West Sussex. I wish to echo the noble Lord's plea. We cannot disunite this area, and we shall be disuniting it if at this stage we put Gatwick into West Sussex.
There is one other factor that I should like to mention, and that is the curious anomaly—and I welcome it—that the 155 Secretary of State has given an option to Holley and to Charlwood to choose their destiny. I cannot help contrasting this generous approach with the many compulsory transfers which have taken place in the rest of the Bill, in many cases against the strong wishes of the local inhabitants. I cannot help feeling that in this matter the Government have a slightly guilty conscience. But if the population is allowed to opt out they 156 are almost certain to opt to go into Surrey and the division, which the noble Lord regretted so much, of Gatwick and Crawley will be made even worse by the division of Gatwick and Holley. For those reasons I would appeal for a little more time and consideration to be given to this matter. I think there is a strong case at the present time for not disrupting thestatus quo and not having change for the sake of change.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
It is the most natural approach of anyone who has ties with and pride in his own county, to wish to leave the boundaries of his own authority unchanged. The Committee will have been impressed—most certainly I have been—by the sincerity with which this Amendment has been moved and supported. The noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, has been a Member of Surrey County Council for some 20 years, as he reminded us, and a Surrey alderman since 1966. He has been supported by Lord Reigate, who was the Member for Reigate for 20 years and who knows the area intimately because he is so close to the airport at the moment. The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, also knows the area well from his own personal experience as does the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. The noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, of course knows the area in a very special way—in a triangular way, as she explained to us, in Surrey, in East Sussex and in West Sussex. My noble friend Lord Bessborough, also spoke; and then my noble friend Lord Nugent, having been brought to the surface like a carp, as it were, by the mention of the River Mole, dealt with two points, I thought very fairly. He dealt on the one hand with the very justified claims of his own county (for he is, as he said, a Surrey man) but also speaking on the other side, on a matter which had scarcely been touched upon at all except by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton; namely, the thoughts and findings set out in theStrategic Plan for the South-East.
I am compelled to say from this Box that both from the Government's point of view and also personally—because I have done my best to read about this case, which affects other people I know, although it does not affect me—to my mind one of the greatest achievements of planning since 1945, from a layman's point of view, has been doing away with the eyesores of ribbon development. But we all know, without being told, the statistics of the enormously fast population growth in the South-East and how this can still bring with it the ever-present danger of a scatter of uncoordinated development. I think it is fair to claim that this was why the South-East Strategic Plan referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, was set up 158 and defined five major growth areas. One of these, called Planning Area No. 6, extends in the area mentioned by the noble Lord from Harley and Charlwood in the North to the Southern boundaries of Horsham and Cuckfield or, taking it from the West from Horsham Rural District, and to Cuckfield, Burgess Hill and East Grinstead in the East. So this planning area spreads into three counties: Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex.
But as has been said many times this evening, planning means people and it must not be remote from reality. I think for the good of the people living in this area—which has seen and will see such population growth—there are compelling arguments for the continued planning of the area to be conducted by one authority. It is a fact that whenever this area running from Horley through Gatwick down to Crawley has been studied the conclusion has been reached—and this has been mentioned by my noble friend Viscount Mersey and by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton—that this Gatwick area within the Planning Area should be looked at as one entity. The need to put Horley, Gatwick and Crawley together was recognised by Redcliffe-Maud, and although the Commission carved off East Surrey from West Surrey-and put Gatwick in the East, as the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, has reminded us, I think it is an answer to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, and to my noble friend Lord Reigate, that surely nobody from Surrey would now ask for that to be done to their county. In any event, that solution was overtaken by the South-East Strategic Plan. I must confess that the expression, Strategic Plan." has a cold and impersonal ring.
I also suggest that if one happens to pick the plan up and look at the text it becomes clear fairly soon that the authors of the plan were concerned with people. If one looks at page 100 one reads that the first and the largest factor is the expected continuation of employment growth at Crawley and expansion at Gatwick airport. Because of these factors, a structure plan for the area is urgently required. The report went on to identify how the structure plan could help the growing number of people in the area: drainage difficulties, the effect of the airport and its noise shadow, the scale of investment required for the benefit of the 159 area, and variable rates of growth which have to be dealt with. These were reasons for Planning Area No. 6. Inescapably, it cannot stretch right the way down to the coast because the South Downs lie behind the coastal resorts. This places the pressure on the Sussex area which has been identified: Horsham to East Grinstead with a lateral centre at Crawley. Inescapably Gatwick is linked to Crawley. Crawley is taking and is going to take the major portion of the increase in the airport's population. It is unthinkable for the planned development of the airport area to be turned northwards towards what unfortunately one must term the congestion of Greater London.
Thus I am led inexorably to the conclusion that strategically the move of Gatwick to West Sussex from the point of view of the good of the people living in this area makes sense. The deep attachment to one's county is something that all of us understand. The people of the surrounding parishes of Horley and Charlwood have been offered the opportunity to state what is their preference for themselves. I am not aware that Charlwood has as yet stated an official view, though it is known that Horley would like an extension of time to submit their view. In the House of Commons, my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State, Mr. Speed, said that he would consider Horley's representations within a reasonably short period of time. All along the Government have made no secret of their view that it would be wrong to split up this Gatwick area. But I want to make it clear this evening that the invitation to Horley and Charlwood was perfectly genuine and it remains open. I believe that the proposals in the Bill, being unassailable on planning grounds, are also considerate to the wishes of the people living in the area. That, then, is the case for the provision in the Bill that Gatwick should move into West Sussex.
May I attempt to deal with one or two specific points made by noble Lords? It has been represented that the Gatwick area should look northwards and form a link between Reigate and Horley. Some people, though not this evening, have called this the Reigate-Horley complex. This would be a most serious concept to 160 accept. It would be tantamount to accepting that the lion's share of Gatwick's growth will go northwards. I suggest that the facts do not bear this out. The three county councils of Surrey, East Sussex, and West Sussex have been consulting on a joint advisory committee for this area. Many times this evening noble Lords have said, "Let us in this House at least support the view that the matter should be looked at for the benefit of people on as joint a basis as possible." I understand that on this joint advisory committee for the area, Surrey, as one of the three county councils, have agreed that the major part of the future population growth resulting from the expansion of Gatwick will now settle not in Surrey but southwards into West Sussex, and I base that assertion on the reading of the Report stage debate in the House of Commons which, so far as I know, has not been contradicted
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
Before the noble Lord goes any further with that, may I say that what he was just saying comes to me as news. I should very much like to know whether he is absolutely sure. I have considerable doubt whether he is as justified as his tone of voice would seem to indicate.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I have just said that I based what I said on the reading of the Report stage in the House of Commons, which took place on July 6; and I also said I was not aware that the conclusions which were reached there had been since contradicated. What I have said across the Floor of the Committee remains as I said it just now.
I would put it to your Lordships that Reigate is distinct from Crawley and Gatwick. The Green Belt, which has been mentioned by some noble Lords, to the South between Crawley and Gatwick is certainly valuable as a noise buffer, but it is narrow and some of Crawley obtrudes into Charlwood parish. Over 50 per cent. of the airport's employees lived in Sussex according to the 1966 figures, which have been given by about three noble Lords, and a third of these were in Crawley.
The case has been put forward by speakers in another place, and this evening by the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, representing the views of 161 West Sussex, that in all fairness the county with the greatest share, and taking the greatest share, in Gatwick's expansion should have the airport within its county boundary—a view with which I know my noble friend Lord Reigate does not agree. That is for your Lordships to decide this evening. What is clear is that Surrey has a higher rateable value per head than West Sussex and will also have some 30 per cent. more residents to share the burden, and I am bound to say that Surrey are not going to be impoverished by this, although I entirely understand the Surrey view on it. The Surrey population is a buoyant one. It has risen from three-quarters of a million for the existing Surrey in 1951 to a million to-day, and it is still expanding rapidly; and the population at Crawley and Charlwood, if they were to be transferred represent less than 2 per cent. of this.
§ LORD REIGATE
Did my noble friend say that the rateable value per head in Surrey was higher than in West Sussex, because my information is exactly the reverse?
§ LORD BELSTEAD: I am so sorry
I may have said that. I think it was a slip of the tongue. I meant the total rate product.
§ LORD PARGITER
Surely the noble Lord cannot use an argument of total rateable value. It is sheer nonsense. You use your rateable value and calculate it per head of the population. That is the only possible way by which one can assess what rateable value is in relationship to people. If the argument is going to be people, the rateable value of West Sussex is higher than the rateable value per head in Surrey.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
Yes; my argument is a general one, which is that the removal of what is hardly 2 per cent. of the population of the whole County of Surrey, if the populations of Charlwood and Horley do transfer—and it is up to the residents of those two parishes to decide whether they will or not—is not, 162 I used the expression, going to impoverish Surrey. I do not think it is an unreasonable argument.
May I put three final points to your Lordships. The noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, raised the matter of drainage and the River Mole. He made the point that the area subject to the Amendment drains northwards into the River. But as the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, has informed the Committee this evening, so does Gatwick and so does the Crawley area. This can be taken as being yet another argument that the whole area should come under one planning authority so that unified decisions can be made to see that the flooding, which was properly referred to by Lord Garnsworthy earlier on, does not take place again.
§ LORD PARGITER
Does the noble Lord mean that the planning area should extend over the whole length of the Mole—in other words, the Mole where it comes out to join the Thames? If the Mole is to be part of a single planning authority, that single planning authority must be Surrey.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I have not suggested that at all. What I have suggested in connection with the area which is under discussion is that it can be argued—I am not saying that it necessarily should be argued, but it is open to argument—that the area under discussion should be treated as one planning authority so that one may make sure, through whatever authorities the river may run, that overloading of the Mole does not take place.
There was a real point put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, that if the capacity of the Mole limits the development of the Gatwick area, which I understand it does, then inevitably the development of Gatwick is bound to spread East, West and South.
There is a second point which I should like to make. The noble Lords, Lord Reigate and Lord Pargiter, have said that the decision really ought to be put off until the boundary review which is provided for under section 48 of the Act, for 10 to 15 years. The noble Lord, Lord Pargiter, referred to North-East Essex. 163 It seems to me that there is a distinction here.
In the case of the Amendment in connection with North-East Essex the Foulness development has not progressed even as far as initial preliminary findings of initial studies. Here Gatwick is being developed and figures have been mentioned this evening by the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, of the increase which is expected in the number of people who will be working at Gatwick by 1981, and they are figures which have been mentioned many times in both Houses as the probable increase of population in connection with Gatwick by 1981.
Lastly, may I refer to the question of aircraft noise? At the end of July I spent Saturday afternoon at Lingfield and saw jets coming straight overhead on their approach from the East to Gatwick Airport. Therefore I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, has said about the problems of Surrey residents, and I know that the county council have a unique experience of dealing with aircraft noise and aircraft problems. But the noise problem from the airport does not affect only Surrey. The environmental study carried out for the area was commissioned by the three county councils acting jointly, and the three authorities have a shared experience of aircraft noise and use. I understand, the same consultants.
Of course, co-operation on such matters is obviously excellent and sometimes it must be the answer, but here I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Pargiter, that although co-operation will continue, and of course there will continue to be co-operation on aircraft operating arrangements, it should not surely be the only answer. For the good of the Gatwick area and for the benefit of the whole growth area, for the future of the people living in this area of rapid expansion, local government should, if possible come under one authority and excellent though the administration of Surrey has been on every foreseeable ground, the future administration I think inescapably must be the responsibility of West Sussex.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
I think the Committee will appreciate that we have 164 had an extremely interesting debate and very few words have been wasted. There have been only one or two occasions when anybody who has spoken has attempted to indulge in flights of fancy. I thought the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, did so when he suggested that the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, was a Boadicea: she is not defending or seeking to defend—she is seeking to acquire—and if the noble Earl can see in me a Napoleon then let me say at once that I want to remove any suspicion that I have any such ambition.
It is a very odd circumstance that I stand this evening as the mover of this Amendment. I am proud to live in Surrey, having chosen to live there. I am the only serving member of the County Council in your Lordships' House. I am the leader of the minority group on Surrey County Council, though it is a very small group indeed. I do not stand here as the spokesman for Surrey County Council. I stand here because I am satisfied beyond question that there is virtue in the Amendment, and that the attitude of Surrey County Council in this matter deserves the fullest possible consideration and sympathy of the Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Reigate, and I contested many elections for the Reigate Division. The support of his political organisation always ensured that he received a much greater vote than I did. We have nevertheless always been the closest of friends.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
Except that I arrived here before the noble Lord, and some people have thought that possibly there was an element of justice in that. I am not at all sure that by that intervention the noble Lord, Lord Reigate improved the powerful case which he made and which should be noted by the Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead is inviting the Committee to make a final decision tonight, and I ask your Lordships to consider seriously whether there is any such need, particularly having regard to the circumstances as they have developed. I regretted the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and I would have liked to have 165 known beforehand not only that he intended to speak but the line he intended to take, because I have always regarded him, being an ex-member of Surrey County Council, as one whose heart as well as whose head was involved in the interests of Surrey.
I acknowledge, however, that the noble Lord has responsibilities which put him in a difficult position. I appreciate that he does not wish to vote and I understand how one can be provoked by the sort of reference made by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton to the Mole being a drain. I might have invited the noble Earl to look at the river. If he did so he would soon adjust his view, and appreciate how extremely unfair it is to refer in those terms to this charming Surrey stream.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
I remind the noble Lord that it is also a Sussex stream. I am not insulting the county and I visit it every time I come to London. Indeed, I park my car within three feet of it, though it is not as clean as all that.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
If I had thought that I had any hope of persuading the noble Earl to change his view I would not have sought to provoke him. We are here concerned with what we in Surrey must accommodate in that part of the River Mole which runs through our county, and we are entitled to ask the Committee and the Government to pay attention to the effects on the County of Surrey as a consequence of the development of Gatwick Airport.
I do not think anybody who knows the area and lives there could accept for a moment that Reigate is distinct from Honey and Crawley and Gatwick. I do take the view, and I ask the Committee to take note of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Reigate and by my noble friend, Lord Pargiter, and other speakers, that the Royal Commission recommended that Crawley and Gatwick should go together. But Horley and Charlwood were also going to be included and the fact is that the Government have accepted that if the people of Horley and Charlwood wish to remain in Surrey they can do so.
May I come briefly to the question of figures as to rateable value? I should like 166 to say before I do so that I thought the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, spoke extremely fairly, and I should like to express my appreciation to him for the great care he took to try to meet the points that were being made. Perhaps I did not make the position absolutely clear when I spoke. The noble Lord, Lord Reigate, intervened and my noble friend, Lord Pargiter, intervened.
I think that the position has been quite clearly established that rateable values per head in Surrey with the airport are lower than they are in West Sussex without the airport. If the airport is transferred to West Sussex, then the difference is likely to be greater. Certainly nobody at the moment knows what is going to happen as far as the populations of Horley and Charlwood may decide. At the moment the certainty is that the people of Surrey per head in terms of rateable value are less well off.
May I now come to the future? It has been put to the Committee that all the development to meet the needs of Gatwick is to be met in Crawley. I have before me a letter which informs me that one firm of builders alone has secured options on 750 acres of land, which could give an expansion of the town of Horley up to 20,000. There is little doubt that those options will be taken up. At this stage it is an assumption to suggest that Crawley is the only area that is going to be seriously affected.
I would finally make this point—and I cannot accept what the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough suggested, that the London orientation had nothing to do with local government. Surrey County Council has been greatly concerned as a consequence of the development of Gatwick airport, and it has proven to be a matter of profound importance in regard to local government. We who live in that part of the county are affected, and affected in a very considerable way.
It is not only a matter of the noise overhead—I get it every night, and we all of us notice it more at night than we do in the day time—it affects our roads; we get an effect on our schools. The growing population of Horley is partly a consequence of the development of Gatwick. We have other services, too, 167 and a point has been made that Redhill and Reigate and the hospitals there are nearer at hand than the hospitals at Crawley. Many of the services on which the airport depends are better met North of the airport than they are from the south.
I would suggest that what has been recommended to your Lordships is well worthy of your support. If this Amendment is accepted, then the Boundary Commission can look at the situation and take an independent view. If it be that
§ 10.41 p.m.
Corrigendum, page 7, line 18, leave out paragraph 4.—(Lord Sandford.)
§ Amendment moved—
Page 221, line 16, at end insert—
("(ee) the part of the existing parish of Burnham in Berkshire;
§ 10 or 15 years is regarded as being too long, then something could be done to speed that up. But it would be wrong to make a final decision tonight to dispose of Gatwick Airport as lightly as it will have been done unless further consideration is given to the matter.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 53) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 14; Not-Contents, 61.167
|Barnby, L. [Teller.]||Pargiter, L.||Somers, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Reigate, L.||Stocks, B.|
|Gainsborough, E.||Segal, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.]||Serota, B.||White, B.|
|Hanworth, V.||Shannon, E.|
|Aberdare, L.||Elles, B.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]|
|Albemarle, E.||Emmet of Amberley, B.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Ferrers, E.||Northchurch, B.|
|Balfour, E.||Fortescue, E.||Orr-Ewine, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Pender, L.|
|Berkeley, B.||Gage, V.||Portal of Hungerford, B.|
|Bessborough, E.||Gainford, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Gowrie, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone L. (L. Chancellor.)||Ridley, V.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Hawke, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Chelmer, L.||Hemingford, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Sandys, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Latymer, L.||Savile, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Leicester, E.||Selkirk, E.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Limerick, E.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Daventry, V.||Lytton, E.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Davidson, V.||MacLeod of Borve, B.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Mersey, V.||Vivian, L.|
|Digby, L.||Milverton, L.||Wise, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Molson, L.||Young, B.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ (eee) the part of the existing parish of Burnham in Buckinghamshire").—(Lord Sandford.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 10.46 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I beg to move Amendments Nos. 72, 73 and 74, which are consequential on Amendment No. 4.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 222, line 27, leave out from ("parishes") to end of line 29 and insert ("each of which has a boundary coterminous with that of—
- (a) an existing urban district or borough, the area of which is not divided by or under section 1 above between two or more districts, or
- (b) so much or an existing urban district or borough, the area of which is so divided,
169 as is wholly comprised in a single district, and for naming those parishes.")
§ Page 222, line 34, after ("but") insert ("except in so far as any such order specifies part of the boundary of a district as part of the boundary of a parish")
§ Page 222, line 42, after ("which") insert ("or of part of which").—(Lord Sandford.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3 [Conferring of borough status on districts]:
LORD WISE moved Amendment No. 74A:
Page 3, line 8, after ("district") insert ("or part thereof").
§ The noble Lord said: Perhaps we can consider Amendments Nos. 74B, 74C, 74E and 74F at the same time as this Amendment. May I use King's Lynn as an illustration of many similar towns in a like position as regards their present borough status? The object of my Amendments is to try to ensure that these towns may continue to enjoy the privileges of their borough status which they have guarded and treasured for many years. One associates the word "borough" with an entirely urban area. Although King's Lynn and its immediate adjacent urban area may have 50 per cent. or even more of the population, it will comprise only a very small part of a large predominantly rural district, and it is highly unlikely that this district would apply for borough status. It is even more unlikely that it would be granted if it did apply. Surely these existing boroughs within districts such as this could and should be allowed to continue with their present status.
§ Lynn has some magnificent and priceless regalia, manuscripts, silver and the like, and if any of your Lordships are ever in Lynn with half-an-hour to spare I commend a visit to the town hall to view them. It will be well worthwhile. This belongs to the borough and must surely continue to do so. I do not want to touch on the question of mayoralty at the moment—that will come later; but it would be a tragedy if all our ancient customs and traditions fell by the wayside in the wake of progress. I do not think there can be any possibility of the ultimate authority of the district council 170 being undermined if the suggestions in the Amendments are agreed to. In fact the title of "borough" could possibly be divorced from specific local government functions. That would be one way by which our old customs and traditions could flourish alongside, and without detracting from, the progress and improvements in local government which we are seeking to achieve by this Bill.
§ I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, for sending me the explanatory notes on the Amendments to the Bill which he will shortly be moving. If I understand them correctly they embrace my suggestions. That I am very glad about, and I know that a number of other people will also be glad. I think that the noble Lord is happy to debate them at this moment, so I shall simply beg to move this Amendment.
§ 10.50 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee, subject to the agreement not only of the noble Lord, Lord Wise, but also of my noble friend Lord Brooke, who has other Amendments on this topic, if at this point I were to take the opportunity which the noble Lord, Lord Wise, has afforded me of speaking to the two substantial Amendments which are down in my name as new clauses following Clause 238. In these, we incorporate the whole of the Government's intentions dealing with the status and dignities of local authorities. The other Amendments which, if this course commends itself to the Committee, I suggest we should also consider are the parallel proposals for Wales, to leave out Clause 22; Amendment No. 125SS by my noble friend Lord Brooke; some consequential Amendments to Clauses 74 and 235; Amendments to Clauses 4 and 23 regarding the precedence of chairmen of district councils; and additions to Clauses 15 and 34, to allow the chairman of a parish or community council to be paid an allowance to meet the expenses of his office.
§ LORD CHAMPION
May I ask the noble Lord if he thinks he is right in wanting to discuss at this stage the clause which is to be inserted after Clause 238? I personally am of the opinion that, having regard to the programme which we set out, and which the House passed, the 171 correct place to discuss this new clause is after Clause 238, when the new clause is to be inserted. I would have thought that the best thing at this stage would have been to advise the noble Lord, Lord Wise, to retain his place, as it were, to put down an Amendment, if he felt it necessary, to the new clause which is to follow Clause 238. I notice that 'the noble Lord. Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has done precisely that. He has put down an Amendment in. so far as I can see, exactly the same terms to the new clause which is to follow Clause 238. I would submit to the Committee that it is quite wrong for us to think in terms of discussing, and perhaps disposing of, Clause 238 at this stage, when I am sure that certain of my noble friends will think that Clause 238 is going to be dealt with in its entirety when we get to the appropriate place in the programme which we, as a House, have in fact decided for this Committee.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I think there is a great deal of force in which what the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has commended to the Committee. My difficulty is that, in order to deal with the Amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Wise, and of my noble friend, Lord Brooke, I need to deploy the greater part of what I would otherwise have to say when we come to the new clauses after Clause 238; and even if they were to agree to withdraw their Amendments on the understanding that I can meet their points with what is incorporated in these two new clauses, there will be other occasions, when we come to the other clauses which I have mentioned, on which I shall need to give an explanation—and again it will call for a pretty full explanation—based on these two new clauses. This is the difficulty. On the other hand, if the Committee as a whole feel that, not only on this occasion, when we are dealing with the Amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Wise, and of my noble friend Lord Brooke, but on all the subsequent occasions I have mentioned—that is, Clauses 4, 15, 22, 23 and 34 as we reach them—we should leave the substantive consideration of this matter of status, dignities, and so on, until Clause 238, then I for my part would be very happy to fall in with what the noble Lord has suggested.
§ LORD CHAMPION
I am bound to say that I think this would be by far the tidier way of dealing with these matters. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Wise, will withdraw his Amendment and that subsequently the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, will not move his Amendment to something which is to be deleted from the Bill as a result of the Government's intention to leave out Clause 3.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I, too, have a great deal of sympathy with what Lord Champion has said, but on the other hand it occurred to me that it might be helpful to all if the spokesman for the Government were to explain at this stage the reasoning behind the action he has taken. I should not like to forgo any chance of speaking or of dividing the Committee on matters relating to the new clauses after Clause 238. But I think we all might be able to approach those new clauses with greater intelligence if the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, were given the opportunity of explaining what is in the Government's mind and what the Government are driving at.
§ LORD CHAMPION
When the noble Lord comes to introduce his new clause he will have to tell us all about it. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, will then be able to move his Amendment to the Amendment which will be introduced at that stage. The same thing would apply if Lord Wise at that point moved his Amendment to the Amendment. We could then deal with the whole matter in what I regard as a very tidy fashion.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I think we are almost in a position to fall in with what Lord Champion has commended to us. I see the force in what he is saying. It will also involve the Committee in accepting from me the deletion of Clause 3 without any full explanation of what I am going to put in its place. But to compensate for that disadvantage, if disadvantage it be, perhaps I could make the first point I was going to make in my general remarks; namely, that became of the complexity and novelty of the whole of this package, I have had prepared and put into the Royal Gallery (where several noble Lords have already discovered it) a full statement of what is in the Government's mind. In view of the fact that that is available in writing now, perhaps it would be excusable, correct 173 and sensible for the Committee (if the two noble Lords agree to withdraw their Amendments at this stage on the full understanding that we shall have a full debate on them in some shape or form when we reach my new clauses at the end of Clause 238) not to seek a full explanation from me now on what is being put in place of Clause 3 and that when we reach Clauses 4, 15, 22, 23 and 34 the opportunity will not be sought on that occasion to have the debate that we are now to take after Clause 238. On that understanding I should be prepared to agree with what Lord Champion has proposed. In due course I shall move the deletion of Clause 3.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD SANDFORD
For the reasons given earlier I propose to the Committee that Clause 3 be left out of the Bill.
§ Clause 3 disagreed to.
§ Clauses 4, 5 and 6 agreed to.
§ Clause 7 [Term of office and retirement of councillors.]:
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved Amendment No. 75B:
Page 5, line 21, leave out ("Schedule 9 to") and insert ("Part IV of").
§ The noble Viscount said: This is no more than a drafting Amendment. The object is to enable the number of councillors returned by a ward of a non-metropolitan district to be varied at any time. At present as the Bill is drafted the number of councillors to be returned is fixed in the initial review under Schedules 9 or 10. This Amendment goes with Amendment 88BB, which is the Welsh equivalent. The Amendment would allow the number to be varied on any occasion, either on the initial review or subsequently when a change is to be made under Part IV of the Bill.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.174
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved Amendment No. 75C:
Page 6, line 1, leave out from beginning to ("in") and insert ("Subject to subsection (6A) below, a non-metropolitan district council may").
§ The noble Viscount said: This is another group of Amendments, Nos. 75C, 75D and, if I may speak to the Welsh equivalent, 88CC and 88DD, which fulfil the Government's reaction to criticism made in another place that a district council might wish too often to change the systems of election, possibly for political reasons. Therefore these Amendments allow the change to take place only at 10-year intervals. We feel this is right and in accordance with the system and timing of elections and that it fulfils the promise that was made.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved Amendment No. 75D:
Page 6, line 20, at end insert—
("(6A) A resolution may not be passed under subsection (6) above within ten years of a previous resolution thereunder").
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 75E:
Divide Clause 7 into two Clauses, the first to consist of subsections (1) and (2); and the second to consist of subsections (3) to (10) inclusive.
§ The noble Lord said: This is simply a matter of dividing the clause into two to take the two halves as set out in the amendment. It is a technical and drafting amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
§ Schedule 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 9 [Parish meetings and councils]:
§ LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 75AA:
Page 8, line 38, at end insert—
("(b) every parish which immediately before the passing of this Act was co-extensive with a rural district").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment 75AA.175
§ LORD SANDFORD
On the bottom of page 7 there is the first Amendment 75A and, to get the Record correct, we must, as the Chairman indicated, refer to this Amendment in Clause 9 as Amendment 75AA.
There are ten other Amendments associated with this Amendment which together provide for a separate parish council for a parish of an existing rural district of one parish. There are three such rural districts: Alston with Gathigill, Disley and Tintwistle. At present, under Section 43(3) of the 1933 Act there is no need for a parish council in these cases. The rural district council is deemed to be the parish council and has all the parish council functions. Unfortunately, of itself, this provision does not preserve the existing rural district council as a new parish council, and so these Amendments are required. The other Amendments are Nos. 79, 82A to G inclusive and 87A and B.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 10 to 14 agreed to.
§ Clause 15 [Chairman and vice-chairman of parish council or meeting]:
§ LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 75G:
Page 12, line 3, at end insert—
("(4A) A parish council may pay the chairman for the purpose of enabling him to meet the expenses of his office such allowance as the council think reasonable.").
§ The noble Lord said: This is one of the Amendments that I should have moved had we had the full debate I was speaking of on leaving out Clause 3. It will require amendment in due course. If the Committee is prepared to have the Bill amended in this sense without a debate, I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 16 to 18 agreed to.
§ Schedule 3 [Establishment of new authorities in England]:
§ 11.6 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved Amendment No. 77:176
Page 227, line 28, at end insert
("Provided that such directions shall lay greater stress on securing that each district shall relate to an area within which people have a common interest than that its population shall be generally within the range of 75.000 to 100,000.").
§ The noble Lord said: Here we come to the Local Government Boundary Commission, and to the power granted in Schedule 3 to the Secretary of State to give directions for the guidance of the Commission in making proposals for the size and shape of the new districts. I deeply regret that it should be in such a "thin" Committee that I am calling attention to what appears to me to be the gravest defect in the new scheme of local government reorganisation.
§ I have no criticism of the Bill, and the only reason I have put down this Amendment is to raise again in Committee a point which I raised on Second Reading. I made clear then that my objection could be met without amendment to the Bill, but it has not been met so far, and this is the one chance I have of bringing it again to the attention of your Lordships.
§ My criticism is that the Government, having decided against the recommendation of the Royal Commission, and in contrast to the decision of their predecessors to introduce a second-tier system, have failed to make that second-tier system truly local. The demand for second-tier authorities was on the ground that the unitary authority would be too remote, and the Government, by the population figures they have set in their direction to the Boundary Commission-designate, have, in my view, ensured that in lightly populated country areas the district councils will continue to be remote, as remote to the ordinary citizen as county councils already are.
The story begins with a passage in the Government's White Paper, with which I cordially agree. In paragraph 8 the Government said:
Local authority areas should be related to areas in which people have a common interest—through living in a recognisable community, through the links of employment, shopping or social activities, or through history and tradition.
If the Government had put that at the very head of their directions to the Local Government Boundary Commission-designate it would not be necessary for
me to move this Amendment. Instead, only towards the end of the directions the Government have given does there come any mention of that general consideration to which I have called attention. The first four directions are concerned almost exclusively with matters of population. But you cannot judge the unity of an area by population figures.
There has been a curious history to this question of population. Originally Government spokesmen referred to districts of "about 40,000 population". Then it became "upwards of 40,000." Now in these directions we read that
districts should be generally within the range of about 75,000 to 100,000.
Those figures are admirable for built-up areas, and far too large for scattered country areas. It is quite true that towards the end of this directive the Government are good enough to say that
in formulating their recommendations the Commission should weigh all relevant considerations in the light of the general objectives of local government reorganisation as set out in the Government White Paper ….
from which I have quoted. But it is quite clear from the order in which these various points are put to the Commission that in the Government's view it is the population criteria which the Local Government Commission designate must first and foremost satisfy. This of course has produced in a number of counties districts which I believe will be found in operation to be much too large.
§ Why has there not been more protest against this? I can tell your Lordships. It is because the local authority associations and others have been pursuing a campaign to get as many powers as possible transferred from the counties to the districts, and if they called attention to the excessive size of many of the districts they feared that it might weaken their case for transfer of powers.
§ Let me say, in passing, that I am wholly unconvinced by the argument that a local authority has to be large in order to be efficient. It is undeniable that many local authorities at present are too small, but it is equally possible for them in the future to be too large. My grave anxiety is that some of the best potential members of local authorities will simply find that they cannot give the time to serve on these authorities which are to administer very extensive areas. Any 178 noble Lord who cares to look through the list of the recommendations of the Boundary Commission-designate will quickly be able to spot areas which seem to be excessively large.
§ But the trouble is not simply that they are so large. What really matters is that they lack unity. I hesitate to quote counties in which I do not live and have never lived, but some of the proposed districts seem to me very remarkable when set against the test of unity. In Somerset, for example, the Boundary Commission, guided by the population directive, has collected in one district Glastonbury, Wells, Frome, Shepton Mallet, Street and Wincanton, an area which, with all the rural areas that are included, adds up to well over 300 square miles. I cannot see any natural unity in that proposed district. Or again, also in Somerset, we have in another district gathered together Taunton, Minehead, Watchet, Wellington, Dulventon and Williton. I cannot see that there is going to be a natural unity there, or that people in any of those towns will be likely to take the sort of personal interest required in the problems of towns other than their own.
§ My hope, and, I believe, the expectation of almost everybody, was that these new districts within the counties would in general be centred on a country town, and that the district would be formed by taking that town and all the villages surrounding it which in general looked towards the town for shopping, employment and so on. That could have been met if only the Government had not laid such stress on these large population requirements. I know so many people who are young councillors serving on a borough council, urban district council or rural district council, who have to find a good deal of time for their public service but nevertheless are willing to do so because the distances are not impossible and because they have a genuine interest in all the people and places within the area of the authority. But if you seek to collect together five different country towns which are not particularly well linked, and all the villages surrounding them, it is going to mean that younger people will simply not have the time or the inclination to travel constantly to meetings in a town with which they have 179 no particular connection, or to get to know and care about the whole of their district in a way that an efficient councillor should.
§ I fear that unless the Government have second and wiser thoughts on this matter, their reorganisation is going to cause to drop out from local government a large number of younger men and women on whom we ought to be relying for the chairmanship of committees in the future. I am not speaking about urban or built-up areas, but service on the district council in these new far-flung districts is going to be for the leisured and the retired, and I do not believe that we should rely on them alone for the future of second-tier local government.
§ It will probably be said that it is too late because the Boundary Commission is coming towards the end of its work. It may surprise your Lordships to know that the Boundary Commission is not yet in existence: it cannot be set up until this Bill has reached the Statute Book. What we are discussing now are provisional directives that have been given by the Government to what is a Boundary Commission designate. I should certainly challenge any statement by Ministers that before the Boundary Commission had even been set up it was too late to change the intention of the directions given to it as merely a Commission designate.
§ I feel deeply about this because I am one of those who are convinced that the real future of local government depends not on structural changes made by Parliament, not on reallocation of functions, not on the adoption of the most modern management methods, but on making sure that the best people who are available throughout the country are drawn into service as elected members. I grievously fear that many of those people are going to be deterred by what seems to be the excessive emphasis placed by this Government on large populations. It should be, even at this stage in time, the direct duty of this Committee to seek to correct that error and to try to ensure that the new districts are such that, first, their size does not deter able younger people from coming forward to serve as elected members and that, secondly, they genuinely reflect that which is laid down in the Government's own White Paper as the prime requirement. Local authority areas 180 should be related to areas within which people have a common interest. I beg to move.
§ LORD CHAMPION
It would be rather remiss of me if I did not support the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, in this matter. I am not going to do it at any great length for obvious reasons at this late hour. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has made an excellent case and, so far as I am concerned, he has seized on the area of the country which I happen to know well. I agree entirely with what he said, particularly about the area which includes Glastonbury. This is an area well known to me and, so far as I can see, there is no common centre to it. I doubt whether the type of interest that the noble Lord seeks to ensure will be taken into consideration by the Boundary Commission when it makes its decisions. I am sorry to say that I did not bring along with me the tentative proposals of the Boundary Commission. Had I done so I am sure that I could have found many other instances where stress has been laid on numbers rather than on general interest. I support the noble Lord in the representations he has made, and I sincerely hope that the Government will acceed to the addition of this proviso to this part of the Bill. I support the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, in this Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT RIDLEY
May I briefly support the noble Lord. Lord Brooke, in every word he said? We have lost sight of the community of interest. We talked about districts of 40.000 as a minimum; now we seem to have reached 75,000. Although I accept that it is entirely a matter for the Boundary Commission, there is—if I may move from Somerset—very grave disquiet in Northern Northumberland about the towns of Berwick and Alnwick, where there is no community of interest and some 25 miles of inadequate road separate the two places. Local feeling is very strong and representations have been made. This is a perfect example of where, in the case of sparsely populated rural upland areas, the figure of 75,000 is much too large. I have pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
§ 11.23 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
I have seldom heard a series of speeches bringing back the days of the horse and cart in 181 what are now the days of the motor car. I have been a member of a small rural district council—far too small—for a great many years. I live in a village in a rural area. There are a remarkable number of people who do not realise the changes that have taken place in country districts like the one in which I live. I do not refer to those country districts in Wales, where some of my relations live and where there are more sheep than men per acre. Quite clearly, the unit in such areas has to be very small in population. By and large, country people to-day, young and old, are infinitely more mobile than they were when those of us who are now old were young. There are people in my village who drive every day to work 20 or 30—and some 40, or more, miles—because the working man in the country district to-day is as mobile as the stock-broker was half a generation ago.
What matters is that the units should be sufficiently large to be able to give a good service to the people who require it. In the days when our district councils were small it was almost impossible to move more than 10 or 15 miles without getting into the area of another district council, and it was impossible to get on to the housing list. It is vitally important today in rural areas, such as those in which I live, that we should keep as much mobility of labour as we possibly can so that people can move with their jobs into new housing areas. If areas are reasonably big, that is possible; if they are small, it is quite impossible. I see no difficulty in young men joining district councils and going quite long distances to attend at meetings.
In visiting the places we know to-day (when I say "we", I mean people of all classes and of all income groups, because everybody has a car) we have an infinitely wider radius of movement and an infinitely wider range of knowledge of the countryside than our fathers had. Everybody in my village goes quite happily at a weekend, or even on a Sunday evening, for a 10, 15 or 20 miles drive round with their family; and people know intimately the whole district, the local towns and villages which their fathers never knew at all. The basic function of a district councillor in the future—indeed, of any councillor—is going to be to know his own area, to know well the area he represents. That 182 he can continue to do, and will continue to do. But it is vitally important that the services we offer to the people should be spread over a wide area. Housing, of course, is the one that is outstanding. There is no difficulty at all in people going quite long distances to their monthly or weekly meetings and still keeping completely in touch. I hope that the Government will resist this Amendment.
§ LORD SOMERS
I would make the point that any district should have its own individual character. The single town has an individual character, and if you were to take half a dozen of them you would find that they all had different characters. Therefore to make a district out of half a dozen towns and rural districts seems to me incredibly foolish. Although, as the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, has just said, everybody is much more mobile today than when we were young, we have to remember that the larger a district is, the more difficult it is for any councillor to know intimately the problems of that district or the people who live within it. And the less character a district has, the less will people be drawn towards serving it, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has so rightly pointed out. I support every word that he said.
THE EARL OF BALFOUR
What I ask your Lordships' Committee to recognise first is that we shall in future have a smaller representation of the public; councillors will be fewer in number and will represent a much larger population. And in quite a small rural area there can be a tremendous variety of interests. There may be mining, industrial and agricultural interests, and sea fishing—one can mention twenty other subjects in different little villages. I can quite well see that, in future, in the really rural parts of England—or Wales, for that matter—one representative may well be expected to cover an area of 12 by 6 miles. That is a very large area to cover effectively if he is going to give any sort of personal attention. He will have to cover the whole area of 72 square miles. People will not travel 12 miles to see him—this is the point. He cannot deal with all the local authority problems without actually being in touch with the people, and one of the most difficult problems with which he may be faced, if he is covering more than one village or more 183 than one area, is that he will have to be somewhat like a doctor and set up his own surgery in different places. I think we should be careful here.
Another point that I would mention to your Lordships is that of course in England at present a county councillor has nothing to do with housing. In future he will; and let me say that housing will take up an enormous amount of his time. A thousand and one problems creep into housing. Education is the other matter that will take up a vast amount of time, particularly since every school should be visited fairly frequently by the local representative. I am sure that if local government is to continue this is a vital necessity. There may be different tiers—I am not familiar with all the details yet. I should like to make one final remark. Democracy will work only if the ordinary man is prepared to give up some of his own free time to make it work, but it is important that his free time is not so tied up that he can no longer take an interest. I feel that there is a lot in what my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor has said; he has obviously gone into the subject. But, equally, I am very much against authorities remaining too tiny. I am dead against the idea of part-time officials: this method does not work. It was a wonderful thing in the old days but it does not work today.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I recognise that this Amendment does not apply to Wales, because the Welsh districts are set out in the Bill and the whole arrangement is quite different. But I have been making a rapid calculation and it seems to me that, on the proposals as made by the Government at present to the English Boundary Commission, if we were to apply a similar principle to Wales only 11 out of our proposed 37 districts would in fact qualify under these figures; and we must assume that there are at least parts of Wales which are comparable to England. We do not have the great conurbations, but in any case the conurbations would not come into this because they would be included either in Greater London or in the metropolitan counties. I should have thought there was substance in what the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and other noble Lords (with the exception of the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook) have said: that the figures proposed really are on the 184 high side. I hope that we may have an explanation of why the Government, having first suggested 40,000 as a minimum have now worked up to a proposed minimum, generally speaking, of 75,000.
§ 11.34 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I know very well how deeply my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor feels on this particular matter. I listened to him with interest on Second Reading. I took very much to heart what he said then, and I referred his speech to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State personally, and I know that my right honourable friend wrote to him to explain his reasoning. I cannot, I think, add very much to what he said in that letter.
The fact is that the guidelines given to the Local Government Boundary Commission designate for defining new districts in non-metropolitan counties did not, in my opinion, lay undue stress on population and did clearly emphasise the importance of common interests. It is important that the guidelines should be read as a whole, and in reading them as a whole it is apparent that the Commission were in fact given very wide discretion on which to make their decisions. And these are, after all, the recommendations of the Boundary Commission-designate. The opening paragraph of the guidelines puts a minimum population figure of 40,000 as being desirable. That is my answer to the noble Baroness, Lady White. Only in paragraph 2 is it suggested that the normal pattern should be within the range of about 75,000 to 100,000. But even in this paragraph it says at the end that regard should be had to a pattern of districts,conducive to effective and convenient local government throughout the county as a whole".Then, as my noble friend rightly pointed cut, the Commission are also asked to weigh all relevant considerations in the light of the general objectives of local government reorganisation as set out in the White Paper of February, 1971. It is specifically stated that… among other things they should have particular regard to the wishes of the local inhabitants, the pattern of community life and the effective operation of local government services.It does not seem to me that these guidelines are too rigid. They give ample 185 discretion to the Boundary Commission, and I know that the Commission in their further considerations are most anxious to meet local wishes. They have been their working guidelines since last December and they published draft proposals in April. It would be—I do not say impossible, but undesirable, at this stage to vary guidelines which, as I say, seem to me to leave a good amount of discretion. The draft proposals have been widely accepted by local authorities. Nearly three-quarters of existing local authorities, including the district councils, have accepted them, or have raised no objection to them. County councils have accepted all but 31 of the 278 proposed new districts, and of course consultations continue. It is also worth remembering that the Bill provides for the continuation of existing parish councils and also in Schedule 1(5) for the creation of successor parish councils; and here is an opportunity for the sort of grass roots local government of the future.
I certainly agree with my noble friend that nobody would wish to claim that efficiency necessarily increases with size. However, it is equally true—and here I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Cranbrook—that for the exercise of certain functions a local authority that is too small cannot afford to operate services of the standard and scope which people have come to expect and which they will most certainly expect in future from the reorganised local government. These new districts will have very important functions, especially housing. My noble friend Lord Balfour seemed to be somewhat confused over this: housing is a district function while education is a county function. It is difficult to discuss the specific proposals of the Boundary Commission-designate which are still subject to further consideration. I am sure that noble Lords have sympathy with what my noble friend Lord Brooke said, but for the reasons I have given I am afraid that T find it impossible to accept his Amendment, which I hope he will feel disposed to withdraw.
§ 11.38 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
Nobody is suggesting the continuance of the many very small local authorities that we have at the present time. My noble friend Lord Cranbrook suggested that I had something of that kind in mind. He 186 must credit me, as a former Minister of Housing and Local Government, with an understanding of the weaknesses of the very small authorities which are now scattered throughout the country. My point was that in marking out new districts the unity of the area was the first essential. I was seeking, I fear without success, to discover why the figure of 40,000, which was originally stated by the present Government to be a suitable and satisfactory population figure for a new district, had been increased by stages to the new figure of between 75,000 and 100,000.
My noble friend Lord Aberdare said there had been relatively few objections to and criticisms of the Boundary Commission designate's proposals. I cal tell him why that has been the position, at any rate in a number of cases. County councils have very little incentive to object to large districts, because the fewer districts there are in a county the more convenient it is to the county council. Existing second-tier authorities have, I know, in a number of cases felt that it was no use protesting against what they saw to be over-large proposed districts, because they had read the Governments figures of 75,000 to 100,000 and had gained the impression that it was no use suggesting a new district which would fall far short of a population of 75,000.
I feel no less seriously about this matter than I did when the debate started, and if these Benches were less sparsely populated I should press the Amendment to a Division. But in a Committee as thin as this is, that would be a pointless thing to do. However, I would ask my noble friend Lord Aberdare whether ho can help us all in one respect. Can he say, in words that the Boundary Commission will read, that the Government still hold firmly to their own original statement in the White Paper, that local authority areas should be related to areas within which people have a common interest? If he could say that the Government still hold firmly to that, and that they do not wish that criterion and consideration to be overruled and set aside because of the standard population figures which have been laid down in the earlier paragraphs of the directive, that would at any rate make me a little less unhappy than I am at present.
§ LORD ABERDARE
It would be very difficult for me, off the cuff, speaking here tonight, to go beyond the directive which has been issued by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. I have tried to explain how wide that directive is and how much it emphasises the importance of common interests, as well as figures of population, and I do not really think I can help my noble friend any further than that at this moment. Perhaps I might make one further remark on the figures of population. The White Paper referred to 40,000 as a minimum. But even when the Paper was published my right honourable friend the Secretary of State quoted figures which indicated that the average was likely to be higher than 40,000. I really think that I must rest on the directive which he issued, but once again I will certainy make sure that the words that have been spoken in this debate are drawn to his attention. I am afraid, however, that I should not like to go further than that.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I fail to realise why my noble friend cannot say that he stands absolutely by the statement in the Government's own White Paper that local authority areas should be related to areas within which people have a common interest. If he cannot say that he stands by that, at least I trust that the Local Government Boundary Commission-designate will pay attention to that and will believe, whatever may be said in the directive, that that is at the heart of the Government's proposals. That is what I ask: that these authorities should cover areas where people have a common interest and that they should not be spread out in order that, simply for population purposes, they may gather together districts and villages which have no relation whatever to one another.
I do not think it would be useful to divide the Committee at the present time, with so few noble Lords here, but I certainly shall not lose interest in this matter, and I must give notice that I shall continue to press my noble friend and the Secretary of State to pay greater attention to their own words in their own White Paper. Meanwhile, I sincerely hope that the members of the Boundary Commission-designate will read this debate and will sense the feeling of the 188 House. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 79:
Page 227, line 33, at end insert—
("(3) An order under this paragraph shall, notwithstanding that it applies only to one or some of the non-metropolitan counties, proceed in Parliament as if its provisions would, apart from this paragraph, require to be enacted by a Public Bill.").
§ The noble Lord said: This is a matter of procedure and it is one that applies particularly to your Lordships' House and with which your Lordships will be very familiar. The fact is that the new districts, when the Boundary Commission has done its job, will finally be defined by the Secretary of State making an Order which will be subject to Affirmative Resolution in both Houses. In your Lordships' House an Order requiring Affirmative Resolution is of course referred to the Special Orders Committee, and that Committee, if your Lordships refer to page 139 of theCompanion to the Standing Orders, has to look at these Orders and define them in two categories: first, those which but for the empowering Act would require a Public Bill, and secondly, those which but for the empowering Act would require a Private Bill or a Hybrid Bill. In the second case, relating to those requiring a Private Bill or a Hybrid Bill, except for Manoeuvres Orders under the Manoeuvres Act 1958, Petitions may he presented against the Order just as if it were a Private Bill or Hybrid Bill.
§ We do not yet know whether the new pattern of non-metropolitan districts will be contained in a single Order, but it may be that certain districts will have to be defined in a separate Order or Orders. Were that to be so, it is just possible that it might be considered to fall into the category of an Order which but for the empowering Act would require a Private Bill or Hybrid Bill, in which case Petitions could be heard against it. I think your Lordships would agree that this is not desirable when in fact this is a matter for the Boundary Commission to go into, and not for further Petitions to be heard just because a particular district has to be covered by a separate Order. This is 189 really a matter of procedure in your Lordships' House and I hope your Lordships will agree that in the circumstances it is right to make this Amendment. I beg to move.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I am certainly not going to be controversial on this Amendment, but I must in a sense declare an interest. I am Chairman of the Joint Select Committee of both Houses on delegated legislation, and we have recently presented a Report to both Houses which stated that we proposed in a further Report to deal with this difficult question of Hybrid Orders. If I sat here silent while this Amendment was approved, it might be thought that I was prejudging in some way the final conclusions of that Committee on a matter which it has not yet reached in its studies. I hope that in the words I am using I am being entirely neutral and merely calling the attention of the House to the fact that it has set up this Joint Select Committee and that the subject with which the Amendment deals is undoubtedly within the terms of reference and the field of study of that Committee. That is all I wish to say.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I do not think I can let this Amendment pass without pointing out that there appears to be an injustice to England contained in it. In so far as Welsh districts are concerned, they are included in this Bill and the proposals for the Welsh districts are subject to amendment. They may or may not be successfully amended but they are capable of amendment, whereas, as I understand it, by the proposal contained in this Amendment not only will the suggestions for English districts be included in draft form which will not be capable of amendment but only of outright acceptance or rejection, but the possibility of petitioning against them will also be withdrawn. I do not think one should allow this to pass without making it clear to your Lordships that there is a great difference in the procedure as between England and Wales, and in this respect I think Wales is getting much the better of it.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, and there are two completely different procedures. Wales is having its districts defined in the Bill and England is having its metro- 190 politan districts defined in the Bill but not its non-metropolitan districts which is done under a completely different system. Which is preferable I do not know; whether Wales is coming off better than England I do not know; but certainly these are two different procedures. The only thing I am trying to achieve with this Amendment is that in England no one district should have a different procedure from that which applies in other districts.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved Amendment No. 79C:
Page 228, line 4, at end insert—
("(3) An order under this paragraph may contain such incidental, consequential, transitional or supplementary provision as may appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary or proper.").
§ The noble Viscount said: This is a technical Amendment. It is necessary under this Amendment for England, and under Amendment No. 88 EE for Wales, to make sure that Orders for warding and divisions in the new counties can contain consequential and transitional provisions. These in fact will be confined to rearranging the electoral register. This is something which can be done as a matter of course, but because of the drafting of the Bill it has to be specially provided for. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I beg to move Amendment No. 79B. This is a simple drafting Amendment to make the meaning of the clause slightly clearer.
Page 228, line 20, at the beginning insert ("for any ward of a metropolitan district").—(Lord Sandford.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 79D:
Page 229, line 14, leave out ("1(6)") and insert ("4(1)").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 79D. This is the first of 27 Amendments; 2 to Schedule 3, 3 to Schedule 5, and 22 to Schedule 12, which are really little more than drafting in every case. The present 1933 Act is being repeated in a number of cases in this Bill, and these Amendments correct a certain number of defects and 191 obscurities in the process of doing that which have not been detected hitherto. Other of them simplify and clarify the provisions of Schedule 12, which sets out the minimum statutory framework regulating the meetings and proceedings of local authorities. The local authority associations have been consulted about these Amendments and are content with them. They have suggested some further very small amendments which are now being considered and will form the subject of a few further Amendments in this series. The Amendments to Schedules 3 and 5 are to references to the basic Schedule ill this matter, which is Schedule 12. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 229, line 15, leave out ("2(3)") and insert ("4(2)").—(Lord Sandford.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 230, line 7, at end insert—
("(c) the number of councillors for a parish which immediately before the passing of this Act was co-extensive with a rural district which is not divided into wards shall be the same as the number of councillors for that rural district; and
(d) where a rural district which is coextensive with a parish was immediately before the passing of this Act divided into wards for the purpose of elections to the council of the rural district, the parish shall be divided into those wards for the purpose of elections of parish councillors and the number of councillors to be elected for each parish ward shall be the same as the number to be elected for the corresponding ward of the rural district.").—(Lord Sandford.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I beg to move Amendments Nos. 80, 81 and 82en bloc. They are all consequential on Amendment No. 4.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 230, line 10, leave out ("parishes") and insert ("a parish")
§ Page 230, line 11, after ("above") insert ("and having an area co-extensive with that of an existing borough or urban district").192
Page 230, line 36, at end insert—
("(3) In the case of a parish constituted under Part V of Schedule I above and having an area co-extensive with part only of an existing borough or urban district, the Secretary of State shall by order make such provision with respect to—
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ 11.55 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I beg to moveen bloc Amendments Nos. 82A to 82G, which are consequential on Amendment No. 75A.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 230, line 47, after second ("district") insert ("other that a rural district which is coextensive with a parish").
§ Page 231, line 48, after ("district") insert ("or of a rural district which is co-extensive with a parish").
§ Page 232, line 1, at end insert ("or rural district").
§ Page 232, line 2, after ("borough") insert ("or rural district").
Page 232, line 21, at end insert—
("(9A) Without prejudice to the continued operation, until its repeal by this Act, of section 43(3) of the 1933 Act (council of a rural district which is co-extensive with a parish to have the functions of, and to be deemed to be, the parish council) the council of a rural district which is co-extensive with a parish shall, as from the date when the persons elected councillors of the rural district in pursuance of sub-paragraph (8) above come into office, also be the council of the parish, and—
§ Page 232, line 23, after ("(9)") insert ("or sub-paragraph (9A)").
§ Page 232, line 41, after ("district") insert ("other than chairman of a rural district which is co-extensive with a parish")—(Lord Sandford.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I beg to moveen bloc Amendments Nos. 83 to 87, which are consequential on Amendment No. 4.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 232, line 45, leave out ("paragraph 13") and insert ("paragraphs 13 and 13A").
§ Page 232, line 47, after ("and") insert ("falling within paragraph 10(2) above and also in relation").
§ Page 233, line 44, after ("and") insert ("without prejudice to sub-paragraph (3) above").
§ Page 233, line 46, after ("office") insert ("as a councillor of the borough or urban district").
Page 234, line 9, at end insert—
("(13A) In the case of a parish constituted under Part V of Schedule 1 above and falling within paragraph 10(3) above, the Secretary of State shall by order make such provision in relation to the councillors of the parish, the chairman and vice-chairman of the parish council and the aldermen and councillors of the borough, or as the case may be the councillors of the urban district, concerned as appears to him to be appropriate to secure for the parish and that borough or urban district a result corresponding, so far as practicable, with that produced, in the case of a parish falling within paragraph 10(2) above, by sub-paragraphs (2) to (6) of paragraph 13 above.").—(Lord Sandford.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I beg to move Amendments Nos. 87A and 87B, which are consequential on Amendment No. 75A.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 234, line 17, at end insert ("and, in the case of a rural district which is co-extensive with a parish, the annual meeting of the rural 194 district council which (apart from this Act) is due to be held on or as soon as conveniently may be after that date").
§ Page 234, line 20, after ("district") insert ("or rural district councillors").—(Lord Sandford.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 19 agreed to.
§ Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.