Counties and Metropolitan Districts in England
Mr Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)
I beg to move Amendment No. 1020, in page 192, column 2, leave out lines 36 to 41 and insert:
'The county borough of Bury;
In the administrative county of Lancaster—
the Boroughs of Prestwich and Radcliffe;
in the borough of Heywood, so much of the Birtle and Ashworth ward as lies west of the line for the time being of the centre of the Cheesden Brook and so much of the Heap Bridge ward as lies west of the boundary referred to in paragraph 3AA of Part III of this Schedule; the urban districts of Tottington and Whitefield'.
Amendment No. 1023, in line 3, at end insert:
'3AA. The boundary dividing the Heap Bridge ward of the borough of Heywood referred to in Part I of this Schedule shall be such as the Secretary of State may by order determine on or near the general line of the western boundaries of Ordnance Survey parcels 1605, 1800, 2488, 2788, 2769 and 3557, the northern side of Bury Old Road, Moss Hall Road to Brook Cottage and thence westwards to the boundary of the borough'.
Mr Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask whether you will allow Divisions on individual Amendments within the group? It seems to me that the Amendments are grouped rather queerly and that some of them cannot relate to others in the group. If we are to be allowed to vote on only one Amendment, that will be most unfortunate for those hon. Members who have tabled Amendments in this group.
Mr Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)
I understand, and to some extent sympathise with, the hon. Gentleman's difficulty. It has been difficult to group this series of Amendments in a manner convenient to the House. When we last dealt with this matter the Amendments were grouped even more comprehensively. At least today we have split the ones dealing with this area into three groups. That has been done by agreement, and I shall consider the question of Divisions as we go along.
Mr Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)
What I am proposing is that what was originally put forward by my right hon. Friend as District (c) of the Greater Manchester Metropolitan County 12 should be divided into two, one district based on Bury, in which would be Prestwich, Whitefield, Radcliffe, and Tottington and the four wards of Ramsbottom as in the original proposal, and the other based on Rochdale and associated with it Middleton, Milnrow, Wardle and Littleborough. The hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) will take pleasure from the fact that I have excluded Whitworth from my Amendments.
I offer apologies on behalf of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. McCann), who is not with us today. Unfortunately he has been ill for a long time. I am sure that the House will wish to extend to him its best wishes for a speedy recovery and return to our midst. It is with his authority that I speak to the Amendments, and I have a letter written by him only 48 hours ago expressing support for what I am putting forward. I hope that the Minister will achieve his own aim and desire by accepting the four Amendments in my name and the names of the hon. Members for Rochdale and Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst).
This is a special case—indeed, unique. By accepting it the Minister would not create any precedent for change elsewhere, since there are so many special things that apply in this area alone which call for exceptional treatment.
First, I am not proposing any diminution in the size of the area or population of the Metropolitan district or the county itself. I accept the overall Greater Manchester Metropolitan County proposals. I am simply proposing the separation of proposed District 12 (c) into its two natural separate and distinct districts, and by adding it to the non-county borough of Middleton it will make a group with a total population of 400,000 which splits nicely and conveniently into two separate districts of about 200,000 each.
I remind my right hon. Friend that there are proposed districts in certain parts of the country well below that figure. For example, on Tyneside there is one of 177,000. It means taking Middleton out of District (f) which is based on Oldham, but it leaves that district with a population of more than 225,000, which is completely viable for all the purposes of this part of the Bill.
District (c) is one of the few in the country, and the only one in the Greater Manchester Metropolitan County, which includes two existing county boroughs. At present nine districts are proposed. Of these, six have only one county borough, two have no county boroughs at all, and only one of the nine, District (c) is proposed to have two county boroughs in it; namely, Bury and Rochdale.
I should have liked to have included the whole of Ramsbottom in the proposed District (c). I know the strength of local feeling, and I should like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Bray), who also has tried very hard to secure the reunification of all six wards of Ramsbottom. We have both tried to do this. The only difference between us is that he wishes to see the whole of Ramsbottom in the Lancashire area, whereas I wish to see it all united but included in District (c) of the Greater Manchester area. But at least the Amendment leaves the four wards of Central, East, South and West Ramsbottom, which look to Bury as their centre, as the Minister has included them in the Bill.
The Amendment brings in Middleton. My hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich will no doubt deal in detail with what is part of his constituency. It is enough for me to say that the Middleton non-county borough has gone on record as desiring to be grouped with Rochdale with which it has a community of interest, provided that Rochdale is split from Bury with which it has no such community of interest. This very fact is another indication that Bury and Rochdale are different entities.
I have here a letter from the town clerk of Middleton in which he said that
the Council recommend the Government to include Middleton in a Metropolitan District including Rochdale and Heywood and certain outlying Urban Districts but separated from Bury as indicated in the above minutes (these minutes referring to a Metropolitan District including Rochdale and Heywood and certain outlying Urban Districts provided always that the Government do in fact divide the proposed Metropolitan District 12(f))…into two parts.
Mr Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)
The hon. Gentleman will accept that I am quoting evidence. I should be glad to supply it in full. The letter was sent in November, 1971, and was followed by a letter in December from that Middleton authority to the town clerk of Bury. I have a copy. It was dated 14th December and it indicated that Middleton had decided to approve its inclusion in District 12(f) because the Local Government Bill had not divided Metropolitan District 12(c) into two parts. Clearly, Middleton would wish to be with Rochdale in District (c) if District (c) is split on the lines I have endeavoured to indicate.
The case submitted by the Bury local authority, and an identical case submitted by the Rochdale local authority, early last year and since then, set out a tremendous number of reasons as to why it was imperative that proposed district (c) be split into two parts. I shall not burden the House with the whole case, because I want to be brief. But the town clerk of Bury refers to paragraph 8 of the White Paper, which states:
Local authority areas should be related to areas within which people have a common interest—through living in a recognisable community, through the links of employment, shopping or social activities, or through history or tradition. Local boundaries, the allocation of responsibilities and the system as a whole should be understood and accepted as sensible by electors, by members and by officers.
The case is made as I hope to prove, that on all grounds, those cited in that statement, it is absolutely imperative that the proposed district be split in two on the lines I have indicated, for reasons of social geography, local trade interests, traditions, and many others to which I shall refer.
But equally, the geographical location of the administrative centres of these two new districts would be ideal. The one based on Bury could be served by the Bury town hall, which was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1954. It was specially built to cater for a larger area than Bury alone, but one based on Bury. It is right in the heart of the Bury based group.
On the other hand, Rochdale town hall is a building of unique architectural structure and is equally ideally situated geographically to administer the new proposed district based on Rochdale. Acceptance of the Amendment would avoid the scrapping of both buildings and the building of some new town hall in a no-man's land between the two districts. I have mentioned the populations which the Amendments will allow for. Broadly speaking, the two new districts would be each of about 200,000 population.
It is important to know what the travel patterns are. There are no east-west travel links whatever. They are all north-south. Here the details of the rail lines and the Selnec services which are available are important because all the railway lines are exclusively north-south. They run from Manchester to Bury and further north, or from Manchester to Rochdale and further north, the line between Bury and Rochdale being closed. The proposed M66 Bury easterly by-pass will ring Bury, going from north Bury down to Manchester.
Regarding trade and commerce, the Bury and District Chamber of Commerce has commented to me that it is strongly united as to why it is essential that the Bury-based district be separated from the Rochdale-based district. The Chamber of Commerce says:
There is virtually no contact in industry or communications between Bury and Rochdale…Industry draws little labour from the Rochdale area, or vice versa. Industrial rates of pay differ for similar industries between the Rochdale area and the Bury and District area.
The Chamber of Commerce points out that there are many compelling reasons for two completely separate districts.
I have had a communication from the clerk to the magistrates speaking for the magistrates and the Bury and District Law Society, all of whom make it clear that the arrangements made for the magistrates and judiciary clearly indicate that Bury and Rochdale are two separate entities and ought to remain so.
Clearly, we have two friendly but different boroughs, with different areas, traditions, local organisations and football and other sports clubs. Apart from the amateur football clubs involved, Rochdale has its fine club in one of the English leagues, which is supported by the Rochdale-based population, just as Bury has its professional team in the Football League, supported by the Bury-based population. Both areas have their own Government offices. Even geographically, the two areas are physically separated by a high ridge of land and a no-man's-land between the two.
The Minister's proposals also throw up problems of local democracy and equality of representation. There have been meetings to decide what kind of wards should be established and the local councillors to be elected both for the districts and for the metropolitan county. Meetings have shown that as it stands at present, the average number of voters per representative from Bury/Rochdale to the Great Manchester Metropolitan County will be 21,500, far in excess of any of the eight other districts in the Greater Manchester metropolitan county. From the Bury area alone, 23,930 voters per representative is the figure, compared with others which go as low as 16,500 per representative. It is no wonder that the town clerk was obliged to inform the Secretary of State that these variations could have been avoided if the districts had been split into two, one based on Bury and the other based on Rochdale.
Finally, the really vital new factor is expert opinion which has come from the Department of the Environment itself. I have a copy of the strategic plan for the North-West. The SPNW is a report which was published and released early this year, and hon. Members may obtain copies. The North-West strategic planning team was set up by the Department of the Environment under the director of strategic planning, Mr. A. G. Powell, the Assistant Chief Planner of the Department of the Environment. The report shows clearly two separate districts, one based on Bury and one based on Rochdale. It must be of tremendous importance to the whole House that this completely independent body of professionals of the Department feels that Bury and Rochdale, together with their surrounding districts, form naturally independent units: the planning district No. 30, of Bury, Rams bottom, Tottington, Radcliffe, Whitefield, Prestwich and Heywood, and planning district No. 31, of Rochdale, Whitworth, Wardle, Littleborough and Milnrow. These should not be amalgamated into one administrative unit.
Mr Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)
The date is December, 1971. It was made available in the early months of this year. It is a very up-to-date report.
It is no wonder that the town clerk of Bury should write to me referring to these Amendments, to say:
An informal meeting of representatives of the Councils of Bury, Prestwich, Radcliffe, Tottington and Whitefield was held recently to discuss this matter. They considered that in the interest of good local government in the area it is imperative that your amendment succeeds.
This then is the strength of local feeling—I emphasise that—of all parties in the area, united in wishing to see these Amendments succeed. I advise my hon. Friends and hon. Members of the Opposition that the leaders of the Labour groups of Bury and Rochdale Councils, which are both now Labour-controlled, support these Amendments and hope that they will succeed. If the local representatives whom the Minister met early last year were not unanimous then, they are certainly unanimous nowand are united in this demand. The people, the local authorities, the officers, Members of Parliament, the magistrates, the Chamber of Commerce, the Law Society and all parties in the area concerned are convinced that the aims and purposes of the Bill will be met by accepting the Amendments. Each of the two areas, one based on Bury and one based on Rochdale, will be fully viable and capable of administering all the services proposed for the district.
I beg of the Minister not to proceed with a shotgun marriage, creating a "Botchdale". It is not without interest that one of the local authorities, I believe Prestwich, held a competition to find a new name for the district. The result was Bury-Rochdale, or Rochdale-Bury, thus indicating the impossibility of linking the two together in any suitable form.
I have been working on the Amendment for more than a year. I first brought it to the notice of the Minister in February of last year, following the issue of the White Paper. I have been involved with this matter for the last 15 years or more, especially in 1957–58 as mayor of Prestwich, and as a former chairman of the local government reorganisation committee.
I was born in the area and I have lived there all my life. I have the deep passionate conviction that my Amendment is right, regardless of any party political considerations. It is a fair, sensible and
practical proposal. I should like to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) for their support when the needs of the district were referred to in Committee. I particularly pay tribute to the hon. Member for Widnes, who was the Opposition spokesman in Committee and who made such effective arguments in support of the plan which, broadly speaking, lies within these Amendments. He said in Committee:
I hope the Committee have noted that my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. McCann) and the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler)—two hon. Members on opposite sides politically, neither on the Committee although both spoke on Second Reading…unite on the matter of the metropolitan district proposed in the Bill which seeks to unite two entirely different places, the County Borough of Bury and the County Borough of Rochdale.…Knowing the area, and coming from Lancashire, I know perfectly well that there is little, if any, community of interest between the two great county boroughs, or their people.
The link-up by shotgun marriage between Bury and Rochdale is not acceptable to the hon. Members who represent those constituencies; nor is it acceptable to either of the councils, to the officers or to the people of the area. Consequently, the Amendment, which I put down on behalf of two hon. Members who are not members of the Committee, and whose arguments I fully support knowing the area as I do, is to divide that metropolitan district into two perfectly good metropolitan districts, one based on the County Borough of Bury and the other on the County Borough of Rochdale.
I also extend my thanks to the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin), who led the Opposition in the Committee, and who was kind enough to endorse the remarks of the hon. Member for Widnes. He said:
I should like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes), the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) and the hon. Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) by saying this. I hope the Minister is listening to the points that are being made, and that it is not some form of charade."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 14th December, 1971; c. 399–404.]
I can give the House further quotations, all of which indicate that at that time at least the right hon. Member for Deptford was most desirous of what he called the "flexibility" which might be demonstrated by my right hon. Friend in accepting the Amendment, then argued so eloquently by the hon. Member for
Widnes. These opinions represented the mature view of the right hon. Member for Deptford, based not only on the arguments which he had heard in Committee but on his long years of experience as a specialist in local government affairs. My tribute to him is based on the confidence that what he said then will again be said by him and that the Amendments will also have his support.
Finally, I also have pleasure in having in my hand a letter from the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton. Writing to the town clerk of Rochdale, the hon. Gentleman said:
…I should say that I do entirely agree with the Council's suggestion"—
that is, the Rochdale Council—
that Rochdale and Bury should be divided into two separate sub-Regional centres.
Whatever hon. Members on both sides may say, it is incontrovertible that there are only three hon. Members in the House whose constituencies are wholly within the district concerned. They are myself, representing Bury and Radcliffe, including Tottington, the hon. Member for Rochdale and the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich, which includes Whitefield. Those hon. Members come from both sides of the House, and they are unanimous in their support of the Amendments. Surely the greatest weight must be attached to their views above those of any other hon. Member in this debate.
Finally, to sum up, trade wants it, commerce wants it, society wants it, organised labour wants it, work people want it, employers want it, religious institutions want it, recreational associations want it, and social welfare workers want it. Geographically, industrially, traditionally and administratively, this is the answer. Generally, communications-wise and population-wise, this is the answer.
Mr Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)
The local authority representations which have been made in the area gravitate into two groups, one based on Bury and one on Rochdale. They are ready to go ahead in two individual districts. I believe there could be a new blossoming of local government achievement through the Amendments, which have everything in their favour and noth- ing against them. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend's acceptance today will give a tremendous fillip to all in the area to go forward tomorrow.
Mr Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)
Mr Joel Barnett (Heywood and Royton)
I am sure that if the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler) were able to convince the House by the length of his speech, he would win even without the Minister's agreement.
A notable victory has been won by the small town of Whitworth and there is a great lesson to be learned by it. By persuading, I hope, the Minister to allow it to have what it wants—that is to say, not to be in the Rochdale district—Whitworth has won a great victory for democracy. I shall be somewhat critical of the Minister, but I do not wish to be at all churlish, so I express now my appreciation that, as I understand him correctly, he is willing to accept that Whitworth will not be in either of the proposed new areas.
I recognise the impossibility of the Minister's task; it is absolutely impossible for him, as I am sure he is very well aware by now, to satisfy everybody on both sides of the House and in every district of the country. All of us are delighted not to have his job at the moment. However, the Minister told me when I was presenting the case for Whitworth that a junior Minister had flown over the town and had decided it was more suitable to go in with Rochdale. Apparently that flight was abortive, as I now understand that it is accepted that Whitworth is more contiguous with the area the other side of Rochdale.
Mr Joel Barnett (Heywood and Royton)
Knowing the length of Whitworth, I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman walked all the way up and down, but whichever way he did it, I am grateful to him.
This is a great victory for democracy. There was great pressure from Whitworth, and it is part of our democracy when a great pressure has the effect of persuading a Minister he has done the wrong thing and is prepared to rectify it. I am grateful to him for doing so. In this instance, the representations I have had from most of the people in the town are overwhelmingly in favour of going into Rossendale rather than staying in Rochdale. This is the type of case when local voices should be heard. The Minister has heard them and I am delighted that he has indicated he is prepared to accept the Amendment.
I turn to the other case where the Minister apparently will reverse a decision because of the magnificent speech of the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe, or for some other reason. If he stood on his head over the Whitworth case, for which I am delighted, on an important principle of local democracy, on the small geographical point of the division of Bury and Rochdale he has stood his whole policy on its head. I do not complain about that necessarily. I am delighted to say that much of the Government's policy has been stood on its head. Indeed they are doing well in that process.
The hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe made it clear—he quoted me and was right to do so—that I have always been in favour of splitting Bury and Rochdale. I have never made any secret of that. But what I have always said is that if we are having smaller district councils, then bodies such as education, social services and the rest should be with the larger authority. That is what I have always said and what is now happening means that the smaller district councils will be given nearly all the major powers, including education. In his circular the Minister stated that he wanted metropolitan district councils with populations of not less than 250,000 but here the figure will be considerably less. Bury will have about 180,000, Rochdale about 198,000 and Oldham about 220,000. They will be among the smallest of the metropolitan district councils in the country. It is an especially harsh decision in the case of Oldham and it affects my own area of Crompton and Royton.
They are now faced with a new authority which without Middleton will be in the position of having no major industrial site. An industrial site is vital to an area like ours in the North-West conurbation because without one the opportunities for expansion become, to put it mildly, extremely difficult, and it is crazy to take Middleton out. In spite of what has been said about Middleton being in favour of the decision, my understanding of the situation from the town clerk of Oldham only yesterday was that in recent months Middleton Council has made no firm decision either way. The vice-chairman of the steering group of the new Oldham Council is a Middleton councillor and has been working very well, as have all the officials, in moving towards the new Oldham District Council. But the crazy thing is that the steering committee has been advising industrialists to develop in Oldham and they have been told that they must go to Middleton because that is where the new industrial estate is situated. Oldham will be left literally with nothing but small sites. The town clerk was here yesterday with officials from Failsworth and other councils pointing out that in the area of the Oldham District Council there will be no reasonable industrial estates.
Forgetting the more emotive issues of the boundaries, the net result is that every ratepayer in each of the three districts in the area will, I believe, be faced with a massively increased rate burden because to try to finance education, social services and the rest of the major items of local authority expenditure out of small populations and the consequent smaller rateable values must be more costly. The very serious problems created for education, for example, will mean inevitably that local authorities, with pressure on expenditure, will be compelled to cut down and one of the areas in which they may be compelled to cut down is that of special schools and the number of school classes generally.
I cannot imagine what the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe would have said if I had put an Amendment on the Order Paper suggesting that a small part of Bury be moved out of Bury and put in Ramsbottom, or somewhere that he did not particularly like, without discussing it with him. But he put an Amendment on the Order Paper suggesting that a part of Heywood in my constituency should go into Bury and the other part into Rochdale. I suppose that the people of Heywood might appreciate sharing the two of us as MPs. I do not know what representations he has had from the people of Heywood, but I can tell him that they do not want to be split up in this way. They take the strongest possible exception to the idea, as I do. It is bad enough to play ducks and drakes with Heywood but now to split it up and take a little bit away is a monstrous insult to the people of a town with a long and great tradition and where the borough charter was granted in 1881.
Mr Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)
Mr Joel Barnett (Heywood and Royton)
I accept what the hon. Member says if he means that he told me that he was putting it on the Order Paper. But I did not like it then and I do not like it now, and the people do not like it.
I am happy, however, that the Minister has accepted the argument that I put to him yesterday, supported by the town clerk of Heywood and the chairman of the appropriate committee. It was stated that 2,500 people lived in this small part of Heywood but the Minister said yesterday that the figure was about 900 and the town clerk of Heywood told me today after a further check that it is nearer 850. To take 850 people out of a town and put them into Bury, the rest going to Rochdale, seems nonsense to me, and I am happy that the Minister accepts that at least the whole of Heywood should go into Rochdale.
However, I condemn the way in which the whole matter has been handled. The Minister has been adamant throughout that a major principle was involved and that he would not change it. The councillors and officials and town clerks have spent an enormous amount of time in steering committee meetings throughout the country yet, while they were meeting day after day and night after night, the Minister's policy was being changed. On Tuesday night my constituents read in the local paper what was to happen. That was the first indication they had. It looks very much to me that what the Minister intended was that it should go through without his being troubled with the representation that he was kind enough to agree to meet yesterday. But it came very late in the day. The councillors and town clerks who came yesterday telephoned me late the previous night and they had to work very hard to get the necessary people together in order to make representations yesterday.
The Minister's policy was being changed without giving councils the opportunity to make the representations that they would have made if the decisions had been known. That is not only my view but it was the view of the all-party delegation I brought yesterday. It was not the view of any one particular party or any one town. One of the most vehement of the local councillors was a Conservative councillor in my constituency who had some pretty strong words for the Minister because he had apparently read about what was to happen at tea-time the night before. I can understand his feeling because he, like other councillors, must have been having lengthy meetings in the last 12 months, and it is not good enough to be told to forget them and start again. It makes a nonsense of the situation.
While I have always favoured a division between Bury and Radcliffe, I dislike the way in which the proposals have been finally devised. I dislike putting areas together when they are dissimilar. Whitworth and Prestwich have only one thing in common. Their MP at one time represented Prestwich on the borough council. But all that Prestwich has in common with Bury is that its hon. Member is the Member for Bury and is also an alderman in Prestwich. Prestwich has much more in common with Manchester than ever it had with Bury.
I do not like splitting areas, but it is inevitable with conurbations as heavily built-up as those in our area. There would have been some sense if the powers in respect of education, social services and the rest had been given to the upper tier. The new proposal, while it has some merit, is doing the right thing in one sense but it is doing it in an appalling ham-handed way and it is putting powers in entirely the wrong place. Most people prefer it as it is today, and that is certainly the impression gained from speaking to people in the constituency. I fear that giving major powers to the smaller councils will mean higher rates for all those in these areas.
Therefore, we are now to get the worst of all worlds, doing away with small councils, many of which were doing a first-class job. In this case the hon. Gentleman proposed literally to destroy one town, Heywood, by splitting off a bit of it, at the same time by allocating powers ensuring a further boost to inflation through spiralling rates.
It will be clear that I am not entirely happy with what the Minister is doing in the Bill and in the proposal before us. I especially condemn the way in which the whole matter has been handled.
Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
The purpose of my Amendment No. 302 is to preserve the integrity of Turton. Although I feel strongly on the subject, I shall address the House briefly, moderately and at a low temperature.
By "Turton" I mean not my right hon. Friend the Father of the House but the Turton Urban District Council, one of the chief ornaments in the diadem of the Darwen Division of Lancashire. The Turton Urban District Council is something of a misnomer, because it extends over 17,000 acres and is chiefly beautiful moorland. Therefore, it is difficult to describe is as urban, and even more difficult to think of it in the context of metropolitan. Yet the Government's proposal is to sever it in such a way that 19,000-odd of its 22,000-odd inhabitants will go into the metropolitan area of Greater Manchester. The majority of the inhabitants do not want that severance; the district council does not want it; and I do not want it. At one time some of the inhabitants did want it, because, the Lancashire education authority having gone comprehensive, young married couples thought, rightly or wrongly, that their children might receive a better education under the aegis of Bolton, which was not comprehensive. But unfortunately there has been a change of power in Bolton so that even that advantage and attraction are likely to disappear.
Therefore, as time has gone on, the majority of inhabitants who have not wanted this has grown. The fact is that the vast majority of them do not want to leave the county of Lancashire, as they will under the Government's proposal.
It is said that they work and shop in Bolton, and indeed they do, but that argument proves too much. If everybody who travels to work or to shop in a neighbouring town is to have his home included in it for local government purposes, we shall be straight back to Redcliffe-Maud, a policy which I thought the Government had rejected. Also, if everyone who works or shops in a neighbouring town is to be transferred, the whole of the urban district should be transferred. Belmont and Edgworth were excluded by the line which was drawn across the Turton moors, rather as the Pope drew a line separating the interests of Portugal from those of Spain in South America. All of them should be included, for those in Belmont and those in Edgworth shop and work in Turton as much as do the others. Therefore, that argument cannot be used to defend the line, whatever else it may be used for.
But my chief objections are the repercussions of the line. If Turton could be preserved in its integrity, as my amendment suggests, it would form a natural district council with the present non-county borough of Darwen, with a few other villages, as both local authorities want. That would make a good district council of about 59,000 souls, which is about the right size for a district council in a rural area. It would be of about 40 square miles. But if 19,000 of the 22,00 are to be removed and put into Greater Manchester, that possibility will not be open, for then it would be too small, and it would have to join the district council to be based upon Blackburn, as has been proposed.
The county borough of Blackburn is already quite large enough as a district council with its present boundaries. It has over 100,000 souls, and if it is to have added to them Darwen, what remains of Turton and half the Blackburn rural district, it will approach 140,000, which is, on modern views, too large for that local contact which is so important in district councils in the county and which has been emphasised over and over again by experts and pundits in the matter. Fifty-nine thousand is good, 100,000 is tolerable, but 140,000 for a county district council is much too big. Yet that will be the inevitable result if the line drawn in the very curious way across Turton Urban District Council is to stand. It is an old line that has been dredged up from somewhere and it is obviously a wrong line, if there must be a line at all, for it cuts off the northern part of the Edgerton ward, leaving a dozen or so families out on the moors out on a limb, miles from anywhere.
My second and third Amendments, Amendments Nos. 403 and 1043, seek to rectify that line in a very modest manner, assuming the line must stand, for I think that that dozen or so families should stay with their ward of Edgerton, and if necessary they must go into Manchester along with the others south of the line. It would be cruel to leave them out on a limb, as the Government have proposed. If my right hon. Friend is determined to preserve the line, those dozen families should go into Manchester along with their neighbours.
In conclusion I must thank my right hon. Friend for coming to the area recently, to the surface of the area, not flying above it but walking over it. That was very much appreciated. It contrasts with a flight taking under half an hour, which was the only previous ministerial experience of the difficulties of the area. Even if the worst is to befall the people of the southern part of the Turton Urban District Council—and I have no great hopes of saving them—at least they will know that my right hon. Friend has taken a great personal interest in this difficult problem. I hope that even at this late hour I may be able to save them from this fate, but even if I cannot, I thank my right hon. Friend very much.
Mr Charles Morris (Manchester Openshaw)
I draw attention to the Amendment standing in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Oldham, East (Mr. James Lamond), Colne Valley (Mr. David Clark), and myself, Amendment 1021 (a). That Amendment seeks to retain Middleton in the envisaged Oldham metropolitan area. Against the background of speeches from the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler), nobody would dispute that Bury and Rochdale have a separate natural identity of community interest.
The Minister's original proposals, which we are now led to believe are to be dramatically changed, envisaged the Middleton County Borough being included in the proposed Oldham metropolitan area. We are entitled to know the reason for that dramatic change. Nobody will argue that Bury and Rochdale have a separate identity. But the Minister's proposals for accepting the Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe are contrary to the criterion of the 250,000 laid down in the Minister's White Paper. The Minister's decision is contrary to the ministerial view which was expressed during the Committee stage of the Bill on 14th December last. The decision has caused consternation amongst the local authorities in the proposed Oldham metropolitan area.
Yesterday the civic representatives from Failsworth, Oldham, Saddleworth, Chadderton, Royton and Crompton sought an immediate interview with the Minister to put their case. Their first concern was that they had only 36 hours notice of the Minister's decision. My hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) drew attention to that.
This should not be the way in which ministerial decisions are made. Those representatives came to the House to register their immediate protest. Their protest was that if one takes Middleton out of the proposed Oldham metropolitan area one will deny that area £1,700,000 of rateable value, which is approximately one-third of the rateable value of the Oldham County Borough. That is the financial implication of this move. It is bound to have an effect on the provision of education, personal health services and social services in the new Oldham metropolitan area.
The smaller authorities such as Fails worth in the proposed 12F area needed a very great deal of persuasion to accept the idea of joining the Oldham metropolitan area. For nearly 12 months they have been liaising and co-operating in the work of a steering group. They now
find at this late stage that the structure of the envisaged 12F area, the Oldham area, is to be changed and that Middleton, which was the growth development area of the Oldham metropolitan district, is to go into Rochdale. The Minister is obliged to provide an explanation. When this matter was considered at the Committee stage the Minister's colleague said:
The new proposals"—
that was the proposals to split Rochdale and Bury—if accepted
would give Bury a population of only 175,000. In place of our present proposals which create two strong districts—one based on Bury-Rochdale and the other on Oldham—we would end up with three under-sized metropolitan districts, the metropolitan districts of Bury, Rochdale and Oldham.
That is what the Minister is now proposing to accept. He continued:
If we were to accept…this proposal for splitting Bury and Rochdale…we should have established yet another precedent where there was no overwhelming case for so doing."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 14th December, 1971; c. 414–15.]
That is the contention of the local authorities in the 12F area.
Mr Charles Morris (Manchester Openshaw)
The local authorities in the envisaged Oldham metropolitan area were not aware that the Minister was going to change his decision and attitude and point of view so dramatically. The Minister said that the idea of putting Middleton in Rochdale and splitting Rochdale from Bury has been canvassed over a long period. Until 36 hours ago the ministerial statements and all indications from his Department were that the Oldham metropolitan district was to include Middleton. What has happened to change his mind?
The hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe has fought a very long campaign to bring the split between Rochdale and Bury about. I agree that he was not on the Committee which considered the Bill. His rôle at that time was, if he will forgive my saying so, very much one of the fiddler on the roof. Although he was not present he exercised what some might think was a malevolent political influence on the Minister's thinking. I hope that the Minister will tell us of the justification for this dramatic change of mind.
Sir Alan Haselhurst (Middleton and Prestwich)
In supporting the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler) I pay tribute to the energy and determination which he has shown in representing the views of his constituents and the sustained campaign he has maintained on this issue. For reasons which will be apparent, I have not at all times been able to stand by him during his campaign. On this occasion I stand foursquare with him in supporting these Amendments. The whole of my constituency is affected, though in varying degrees.
All three towns support Amendment No. 1020 and linked Amendments. I state that lest it be thought that their voices have been muted on this issue. Whitefield is the smallest town in the constituency and lies geographically on the Bury border. It found itself, under the arrangements of the White Paper, in District 12F from the beginning. That was confirmed in the Bill. Whitefield did not quarrel with that fact. It did not have any particular reason for wanting to transfer itself from one district to another. Nevertheless, the locally-held view in Whitefield supported Bury in Bury's fight to separate itself from Rochdale. That view has been endorsed by a minute of the urban district council. As the Member for Whitefield I have been urged to support that view.
As a result of the White Paper Prestwich found itself in District 12D, and very much resisted that proposition. There was very strong opposition developing locally, and persuasion on the Government proved successful. When the Bill was published Prestwich found itself in District 12C, and there was a sigh of relief as a result. Prestwich still had a view on the matter of further development with regard to Bury and Rochdale but perhaps did not feel that it was altogether gracious to push its luck in seeking another major change in the Bill.
When we turn to Middleton, the position needs rather more careful explanation. The position of Middleton can be shown to have been one that has not lacked responsibility throughout. I have to admit that the first response of any self-respecting Middletonian to the idea of local government reorganisation was that he did not want to know, that Middleton was "all right as it was, thank you." I imagine that this is an impression which right hon. and hon. Members have found many times in their own areas.
In fairness to Middleton, it also recognised that some sort of local government reorganisation had to come and on its own account was involved in discussions with neighbouring urban district councils ahead of the publication of the Bill. The White Paper put Middleton under District 12F. The council was reluctant to take a decision either to approve or disapprove because it did not feel that sufficient information was available on which it could base a sensible decision. In any case it thought that as the only alternative to being in District 12F, centred on Oldham, was to be in a metropolitan district which included Rochdale and Bury it did not feel that the choice gave it any great determination to escape from District 12F.
After months of consideration the Middleton Borough Council decided that if there was a possibility of a metropolitan district including Rochdale and Heywood but excluding Bury that was what it would wish. It took that decision before the Bill was published. After it was published and Middleton was still placed in District 12F the council decided to accept this, regretfully, feeling that the matter was finally settled and that what should be done was to co-operate in the setting-up of the new district.
It was certainly apparent to me and, I believe, many people in Middleton over a period of months since the publication of the White Paper that the people of Middleton were far from delighted at the prospect of being in District 12F. As awareness grew of Rochdale's fight for separation from Bury and for the creation of two metropolitan districts, so the people in Middleton were asking in louder voices why it was that there could not be a link-up between Middleton and Rochdale.
I recently felt it right to put this matter once again to the Middleton Council and to say: if there was a chance of a Rochdale-based metropolitan district, did it wish to be in that district, did it wish Middleton's voice to be heard in support of that proposition? The only convenient body at the time able to consider that question was the finance and general purposes committee of the council, although this has been the body which has, all along, formulated policy on reorganization matters. I was duly informed that Middleton would prefer to be in Rochdale. This was in March of this year. I also made it clear in the local paper, the Middleton Guardian, that the door might not be finally shut on the possibility of a change, and I invited comments.
The result was a considerable number of letters and mini-petitions. These amount to practically a 14 to 1 vote in favour of Middleton being linked with Rochdale rather than Oldham. All of us realise what might be termed a significant amount of correspondence on any issue. If one has an electorate of 35,000 one does not expect to be getting 5 per cent., 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. of letters on any subject. There have been a total of 378 names and addresses submitted mostly in individual letters and the rest in the form of mini-petitions, with 352 expressing themselves in favour of being in Rochdale and 26 against. The letters come from all parts of the town including the large Langley overspill estate which draws its population largely from Manchester.
Some of the things said in the letters are rather interesting. One lady says:
I did not know we had any choice. We were told we were going with Oldham. Middleton people were not even consulted.
Someone else said:
I feel sad…to see, like many others, that it was no use protesting about the link-up with Oldham as the powers-that-be would please themselves anyway, whatever we ordinary people feel about it.
One other lady wrote to me:
Last night, 12 days after my resolve to write to you I realised that time might be running short and that probably many of your constituents, like me, had decided to write and had let the opportunity slip. So I decided to canvass my neighbours for an hour or so. The result is the enclosed list of signatures. Every person I approached was most anxious to sign—some had intended to write. This proves to me how lazy we all are and we deserve just what we get. However, I do hope that you will succeed in getting the decision
that Middleton be merged with Oldham altered.
These remarks back up the clear message I have received at all the gatherings that I have attended in Middleton in the past few months. I am satisfied that the overwhelming view of the people of Middleton is in favour of these Amendments which would allow them to be linked with Rochdale.
It is also my duty to say that I received yesterday a resolution signed by 15 Labour members of the Middleton Council which supported Middleton staying in District 12F. I am equally bound to point out that this does not represent the entire Labour group on the Middleton Council. This is a matter which cuts across party lines as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe pointed out so adequately. I am also satisfied that, had there been time for a full meeting of the council to be properly convened to discuss this matter, then on a free vote it would once again have reflected support for Rochdale in preference to Oldham, in line with all its previous decisions.
When it comes to the merits of choice I will be frank with my right hon. Friend. It is not very easy to show the various considerations that can be taken into account in terms of amenities and finance and so on as being decisive one way or the other. Lord Redcliffe-Maud and Mr. Derek Senior who wrote a dissenting report at the time could certainly adduce no convincing reasons for placing Middleton with Oldham as they did. Mr. Senior was quite open about the difficulty. In paragraph 590 of Cmnd. 4040 he wrote:
Among other finely balanced decisions in which I have no great confidence, but which I have not yet had adequate cause to reverse, are the inclusion of Middleton in the Oldham rather than the Rochdale unit.
The impression might be given from all this that Middleton was being placed in the Government's White Paper more according to what seemed most convenient to fit in on a map being drawn up rather than because there was an absolutely overwhelming and outstanding case based on other considerations to place it in one direction or another. After all, an earlier local government commission had placed Middleton with Rochdale,
and this had also been the view of the Lancashire County Council at one time.
I have tried to balance these considerations. What weighs with me is that I believe there is a closer natural affinity between Rochdale and Middleton than between Middleton and Oldham and I believe also from the point of view of my constituents that there will be greater scope for development if Middleton is linked in an area with Rochdale.
But surely the thing that matters most where other considerations are not absolutely clear-cut is what the people themselves want. I submit that there is an overwhelming majority in Middleton which wants to be with Rochdale and shuns Oldham. This view is backedup effectively by Prestwich and Whitefield's desire to see a Rochdale/Bury split. This is further endorsed by the views of Rochdale and Bury themselves, and the other authorities mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe. In short, almost everybody wants to see this change brought about. I am sorry if Oldham and the other members of District 12 (f) do not now want to see this, but my responsibility is to speak for my constituents and I am very clear in my mind as to what the views of my constituents are. Whilst there may be financial considerations which affect the minds of the good citizens of Oldham, again not from any party consideration, I would also have to back the remark made by the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) about democracy. I believe it would be a triumph for democracy if the people in my constituency, thinking overwhelmingly as they do, had their views taken into account by my right hon. Friend in this connection.
My right hon. Friend could very easily grant my request in that we are not seeking in this Amendment to upset in any radical way the basic principle underlying the Government's reorganisation plans. We are not challenging the concept of the metropolitan county. We are not seeking to transfer powers from district to county, or vice versa. We are saying in effect that we accept all this in principle. All we are asking is that an extra metropolitan district be created. We say that this can be done without upsetting the Government's overall plan, and we say it should be done in order to create the greatest good will among the greatest number of people to ensure that the new authorities are launched under the most promising auspices.
Mr Frederick Lee (Newton)
I want to speak to Amendment No. 474. As the Bill now stands, the right hon. Gentleman proposes to dismember the Golborne Urban District Council. He is going to place two of its wards, Culcheth and Newchurch, with Warrington and Chester while the remainder of the urban district gees with that of Leigh and Wigan. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman realises the anomaly he is here producing. In the Newchurch ward there is a village called Glazebury which is already part of the Leigh borough, so there will be the ridiculous situation in which half of a village well into the heart of Lancashire will be in Leigh borough and the other half will be based on Chester. Could there be a more grotesque situation?
Those of us who have lived in the area for many years have always known this part of Lancashire as the Leigh rural areas. They were put with the Golborne Urban District Council many years ago, and since then we have had the great advantage of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority establishment at Risley a mile or so to the south, and Culcheth has become the residential quarter for the Authority. The first of the people at the Atomic Energy Authority establishment were housed by the Golborne Urban District Council on council estates. They showed themselves very enterprising, and we have a great number of social activities in the area based neither on Leigh nor on Warrington but on Culcheth itself.
My argument is that among those social amenities, and I could give a whole list of them, there is not a single one which is in any way based on Warrington or Chester. The great majority of them owe their origin in part to their proximity to Leigh. For instance, there are the Civic Society, the Drama Society, the Music Society, the WVS, two Women's Institutes, the Spastics Society, the Horticultural Society, and so on. Not a single one of them has any kind of origin in Warrington, whereas the Leigh children's department has liaison officers in Culcheth.
I have tried to describe as briefly as possible the way this area has now developed. I never heard any suggestion from any of the inhabitants of Culcheth or Newchurch of wanting to go into the Warrington area until we had a further input of people to the atomic energy establishment. These were not people who were being housed by the Golborne Urban District Council but people with pretty substantial residential premises of their own. They know nothing about Culcheth or its history, and they are not interested in it. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that they are far more interested in the value of their residences, and maybe in party politics as well, than they are in the desire to have decent local government in that area.
I have intimated that the Golborne Urban District Council has spent a great deal of time and money on developing what is now a very desirable residential area. It seems to me that there is more to it than a mere redistribution of local government functions. Of course, Leigh and Golborne are more famous for their cotton mills and slag heaps than for the more residential and balmy atmosphere of Cheshire, although maybe the thought of the Cheshire hounds going along slag heaps is entertaining. To my mind, this decision has not been arrived at on the basis of what is good for the area so far as local government is concerned. It has been done for very different reasons.
Let me take one or two of the other developments which have taken place. I had to fight about the closure of two railways which run through Culcheth. Neither of them ever went near Warrington; they went in precisely opposite directions. Those stations went and we now rely on public road transport. In the main the provision comes from Leigh; we are in the SELNEC area, Wigan and Leigh. The nearest bus from Warrington finishes at Fearnhead, about three miles from Culcheth.
If we take the health side of things, there are two practices, one in Leigh, with a clinic in Culcheth, and the other completely local to Culcheth. Up to 10 years ago there was one practice run from Leigh. Recently one of the dentists has left the village to take up practice in Leigh.
I do not want to labour the point, but I must ask the right hon. Gentleman, on the evidence I have adduced, to give me any reason he can why, in the letter he sent to me the other day, he told me, before he had heard my arguments, that he had decided to reject the Amendment.
It is wrong that changes should be made when in an urban society like Golborne there has been established an affinity between the wards. The basis of that society having been laid, we now find it is to be dismembered. One half of the village of Glazebury is to be in Leigh and the other half is to be based on Chester. That is not organisation; it is organised chaos. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, even at this late hour, to examine this matter again, even if it means putting down an Amendment in another place.
In the last two years the first phase of the Culcheth High School has been brought into use With few exceptions Culcheth and Glazebury children go to the comprehensive school. Before the opening of the High School children went to grammar schools at either Leigh or Newton-le-Willows. Although it was theoretically possible for those children to go to Warrington Grammar School, I know of no parents in Culcheth or New-church who sent their children there. If a patient has to go to hospital, unless he asks specifically to go to Warrington he is sent either to Leigh or Wigan.
I have tried objectively to set out the facts. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to deny them. If he cannot deny them, I hope he will do the decent thing and transfer the whole of Golborne into the Leigh-Wigan area.
Mr Ronald Bray (Rossendale)
Since there are a large number of hon. Members who wish to speak, I will confine my remarks to matters which specifically affect the constituency which it is my privilege to represent, Rossendale.
The affairs of Bury and Rochdale are domestic issues within that area, and I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler) is not in his place when I make these remarks. My constituents and I strongly resent the intrusion of the Bury authorities and the manner in which it has been done. It has been done without authority from the local authorities or from political and social associations. I shall later refer to statistics which confirm that. I shall concentrate my remarks on Amendment No. 10, in my name, and Amendment No. 305 which I support in conjunction with the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett).
To get the picture into perspective, Rossendale consists of four comparable towns, and, we hope, with the addition of Whitworth urban district which is of smaller stature, five towns. They are valley towns which have a great deal in common in industry and social life, and they work amicably together. They have a great many social problems, but because of the Governments present policies they are being rapidly overcome. I hope that process will continue after the Bill becomes law, but that depends largely on the attitude adopted by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development.
About 20 years ago the four valley towns, Bacup, Haslingden, Rawtenstall and Ramsbottom, started negotiations for voluntary amalgamation. Two years ago those negotiations had reached an advanced stage. I discussed the proposals with my right hon. Friend and I am convinced that, had the White Paper not come forward when it did, those towns would have been amalgamated. That would have been a voluntary amalgamation rather than a shot-gun marriage.
With the publication of the White Paper a peculiar situation arose. Two thirds of the urban district of Ramsbottom was taken from what would have been the Rossendale district and handed on a plate to Bury. Perhaps, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) said, someone flew over the area in a helicopter, or maybe the buses ran that way. Be that as it may, that is the proposal in the Bill, and we utterly reject it. In addition, the district is bounded by the River Irwell, which confines a large part of Ramsbottom. I cannot see that any argument which disregards a natural boundary can be valid.
I give full marks to the activities of these four councils in putting forward their case. There was a referendum which came out in favour not only of Ramsbottom remaining within Rossendale but of Rossendale becoming a county district in its own right, but I may be slightly out of order in mentioning that.
On 22nd December, 1971, I asked the Minister for Local Government and Development a Question, to which I received the following reply:
The wishes of local residents were of course taken fully into account, but the Government proposals for the new areas set out in the Local Government Bill, necessarily had regard to many other relevant factors as well."—[Official Report, 22nd December, 1971; Vol. 828, c. 356.]
Be that as it may, surely the wishes of the people rather than whims of bureaucracy should be considered.
How many letters has my right hon. Friend received from my constituents opposing his suggestions? How many of my constituents have signed opposing petitions? How many of my constituents have supported him? If we are to believe the answers which have been given—and I always believe my right hon. Friend—not one of my constituents has supported his proposals, but well over 22,000 have objected, as well as the four councils, unanimously, and against party lines. Does not that in itself show the need for the acceptance of the Amendment to leave out lines 42and 43?
I look forward to my right hon. Friend's assurance that he will accept the Amendment and the two Amendments to secure the inclusion of the urban district of Whitworth within what we hope will be the county district of Rossendale. Finally, I thank my right hon. Friend for his courtesy in discussing this subject with me. I feel sure, even at this late hour, and on the basis of constant dripping wearing away a stone, that some good will come from today's debate.
Dr David Clark (Colne Valley)
I make no apology for participating in this debate as a Member of Parliament representing a Yorkshire constituency. I make this point at the outset since it highlights the difficult position in which the Government now find themselves.
Part of my constituency, Saddleworth, is on the western side of the Pennines, and the Maud Report and the Government's White Paper both suggested that Saddleworth should go into the Greater Manchester area. It will not need great imagination for hon. Members to appreciate that, while we all may have had difficulties in trying to explain to our local authorities why it was necessary for amalgamations to take place, I had one of the most difficult tasks in persuading people in Yorkshire that their future lay in an area which has traditionally been part of Lancashire.
The Maud Report suggested that the district should be split in two. The present White Paper and the Bill suggest that it should go in with Oldham. There is a great difference of opinion about this recommendation, but in the end the people of Saddleworth agreed to go into District 12(f). The area surrounding Oldham was probably the most logical answer. They opted for this area because they felt that it would be well balanced. At one end it has Saddleworth with open green spaces and moorlands, there is the urban area of Oldham, and on the very western edge there is the Middleton area, which we all thought would be the area for the industrial expansion which the district so badly needed.
It has come as a great shock to me and to the people of Saddleworth to find out that only 36 hours ago it was not known that the Government intended to take Middleton out of the Oldham district. I have the full support of the Saddleworth people, who believe that the Minister has acted in a rather shameful manner. They feel that they have not been consulted and have not had the opportunity to make their views known. In other words, they feel that an attempt has been made to slip this provision through without notice. I cannot emphasise too strongly that there will be great resentment in the district about this move. This point was made by every single one of the delegates who saw the Minister yesterday to ask for a last-minute reprieve.
There are two points which I should like the Minister to answer. He gave certain indications that parts of the green belt could be waived for the building of factories. Would he be more explicit on this point? Does he realise that much of the green belt in the Oldham district is in the Saddleworth constituency? It is hilly terrain and probably most unsuitable for large-scale industrial development.
The Minister has grossly offended every urban district in my constituency. In regard to the Huddersfield district, he refused to see the urban districts but saw the county boroughs, and in regard to Oldham he seems to have sold them down the river at the last moment. There is great resentment at the way in which the Government have handled the matter. There will be grave disappointment in the district, and a great many local people and local councillors of all parties will feel that many hours of anxious work and toil in trying to build up a cohesive unit will be destroyed by this last-minute, underhand move.
Mr Laurance Reed (Bolton East)
I shall say nothing about Amendment No. 7, except that I shall support what the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) will say. But I wish to deal with the remarks of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) concerning Turton, even though I raised this matter fully upstairs. We in Bolton understand and share the anxieties of Turton in being drawn into the Greater Manchester area. This is why we have fought hard during the proceedings on the Bill to obtain for the metropolitan district the maximum degree of autonomy. Having sought for ourselves a fair degree of autonomy, it is necessary and desirable to be organised on a level and scale that will allow us to operate effectively the powers which we have.
The great weakness about so many of the arguments about facts and figures about size, and so on, is that if the 20,000 people of Turton were taken out of the Bolton Metropolitan District we would be below the optimum size required to operate the powers we have won effectively. I am glad that the Minister has made a tour of the area, because it is evident from a visit that Turton is an integral part of Bolton. It is on our side of the high moorland that separates all of us from Blackburn.
My hon. and learned Friend said that many people in the Turton area were opposed to going into Bolton; but this is not the feed-back I have been receiving from the many people in Turton I meet in the shops, schools and factories of Bolton. This is not altogether surprising since a large part of the people of Turton are expatriate Boltonians. We look forward to a partnership with Turton in the changes which are to come in local government, and I am sure that these things will work out for the best. This has not been an easy decision for the Government, and there is perhaps no perfect solution, as the people of Belmont will recognise. However, the proposals we accepted in Committee are, I believe, the best that can be obtained.
Mr James Lamond (Oldham East)
I shall not detain the House long. It was rather interesting that the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler) quoted extensively from statements made by my right hon. and hon. Friends in the discussions in Committee but did not quote any statement made by his own Ministers. The reason why he did not quote from his own Ministers became clear when my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) quoted from the Minister's reply in Committee.
The Minister made it absolutely clear that if there was any principle at all in the Government's policy on local government—it was difficult to discern a policy, but perhaps the policy was to organise local government units of a certain minimum size so that they could operate efficiently and provide the various services—it was that he would rather have two viable metropolitan districts than three small districts which were all below the criterion for size to provide the services required. That seemed to be reasonable.
Therefore, it was with some amused interest that I listened to the case put forward by the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe. But it was with some astonishment that I learned about this proposal in the form of a back-bench Amendment, supported originally by two back benchers and now by a third recruit at the last moment. This is to become Government policy in one of the most important pieces of legislation we have had this Session.
As one who has had more than 12 years' experience in local government, I believe passionately that the roots of democracy lie there and that if we are to reorganise it and make it successful we must do it with a sense of responsibility, ensuring that the framework is correct. What we have done in this House is based on sound principles.
I have yet to discover from the Minister that he has changed his mind. I skip lightly over the tremendous blow that this proposal is to District 12(f), which includes my own constituency as one of its main parts. Many authorities are involved in 12(f) and they have sunk their differences to be part of it. It is no use the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe quoting decisions made in Middleton in 1971 saying that if there were to be two districts Middleton would wish to be associated with one of them, but that if there was to be one it would willingly come in with Oldham. After all, the urban district councils which make up 12(f) could all have made the same reservation. They were willing to go into 12(f) if Middleton was included.
This tremendous jigsaw consists of the whole of England and Wales. I appreciate the Minister's difficulties in trying to make a reasonable pattern out of this complex situation. However, if one part of the jigsaw is moved, it has consequential effects on many other parts—in this case especially those round about it in 12(f). It affects it in many ways. It affects the buoyancy of its rateable value. Already 12(f) suffers from the disability of having one of the lowest rateable values of any metropolitan district. Its rateable value is about £9,300,000. Middleton makes up £1,900,000 of that, or almost 20 per cent., and it is proposed to remove that at a stroke. The same applies to the population. Middleton's 55,000 is being removed from the metropolitan district's 277,000. We cannot stand by and allow this to be done by a back-door method without raising some complaint.
In the past, the Minister has moved reasonably. He has consulted the authorities concerned, and I have been impressed by his knowledge of the districts and areas being discussed. I was impressed again only yesterday about his knowledge of 12(f) when I discussed this matter with him. However, he has fallen down badly in terms of the lack of consultation with the authorities concerned, and that is surprising from one of his stature, interest and knowledge. The people who came to see us yesterday were thunderstruck when they were told that a back-bench Amendment was to become Government policy. Not one of them knew about it. I do not know whether Middleton was consulted. Cer- tainly Middleton's representatives were not present. But we were told by those who were present that it was touch and go whether they would accompany the deputation to see the Minister.
I do not believe that anyone can say that he knows how the people of Middleton feel. There has been no recent decision of the council to the effect that it wants to be taken out of 12(f). There has been a decision of a council committee, but it has not yet been taken to the council itself. There is every reason to believe that if and when it is taken to the council the district will wish to stay in 12(f).
Sir Alan Haselhurst (Middleton and Prestwich)
I apologise for not being here to listen to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's speech. However, with regard to his last contention, I think that he ought to say whether he believes that there is any reason to suppose that any decision that the council took today or tomorrow would be any different from any decision reached in the past?
Mr Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. James Lamond). I, too, have received a letter from the Labour majority on the Middleton Council. My hon. Friend knows the operations of local government as well as anyone. If the majority of the local Labour group in Middleton has decided that it would prefer to remain in Oldham, that will be put to a group meeting at which the majority decision will be taken, following which it will be carried automatically. That seems to be a practical reason for saying that a council meeting would express itself in favour of remaining with Oldham.
Mr James Lamond (Oldham East)
There are a number of very pressing considerations. One is the lack of industrial development sites of any size in 12(f) if Middleton is removed. To improve a rather depressing environment we must have room for industrial development. That will not exist if Middleton is removed. That is a consideration which we urged strongly on the Middleton councillors when they came to make their decision.
The members of the steering committee in 12(f) are bitterly disappointed. They settled all their differences, of which there were many. My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. David Clark) brought out one when he referred to Saddleworth. They sank their differences and they co-operated with the Minister. I doubt whether any proposed metropolitan district has gone as far. Now all that work has been smashed to the ground, and all the differences between the various urban district councils and Oldham itself again come to the fore. Human nature being what it is, it is likely that the electors of Saddleworth will say to their elected representatives "If Middleton can come out of Oldham, why were we told that we had to go in? You are not representing us properly. We want you to exercise the same democratic right as Middleton councillors have done. We want you to put pressure on the Minister to ensure that Saddleworth comes out as well."
If we accept this back-bench Amendment we open the door to the complete disintegration of the unity which has been built up and which we look forward to as a reason for the success of the new local government unit. That unity will be destroyed.
Mr Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
I intend to direct my remarks to Amendment No. 11. I am pleased to see my right hon. Friend the Minister in his place, because I have no doubt that the village of Poynton with Worth is well known to him, as he will have received some 800 letters from its residents urging him to allow the village to remain in the county of Chester.
As a county councillor as well as a Member of Parliament, I am especially interested in the Bill. Serving at both levels perhaps enables me to understand and appreciate both sides of the coin. But, at whatever level one serves, there is no doubt that local government is in essence a very personal matter. It deals with the administration of perhaps the two most personal services—those of social services and education. For this reason I believe that it must provide a a balance between efficiency and demo- cracy, efficiency being characterised by size and democracy by relatively small community units.
In this Bill, bureaucracy in the guise of so-called efficiency seems to have won all along the line, to the detriment of identity and an acceptable widely-based representation. Remoteness and frustration are the inevitable results. Councils are comprised of retired people with time on their hands, wealthy businessmen who can buy time, and an element of trade union officials and members who, in the main without financial loss, are encouraged to participate in local government. These people will provide the sparse harvest from which local government representation will be drawn. This will not provide either adequate or suitable representation. Grass roots availability and understanding are vital ingredients of local government. The Bill fails dramatically to provide these ingredients.
I hope that my right hon. Friend is prepared to consider this Amendment sympathetically, and also the others with which it is grouped, and has not set his mind with inflexible dogmatic resolve against accepting any further changes to the Greater Manchester county and the districts within it, despite, I emphasise, the weight of evidence and argument presented in the debate today. It is unfortunate that certain senior civic leaders in the Greater Manchester area have let it be known that in meetings with my right hon. Friend he has stated that the Government will not contemplate any further changes to the metropolitan and county boundaries. If so, our debate today is a pointless exercise and my right hon. Friend's attitude a discourtesy to the House.
Mr Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
A certain civic leader has indicated to people in the parish concerned that my right hon. Friend has clearly stated that he is not prepared to accept any Amendments.
The purpose of my Amendment is to remove the rural parish of Poynton with Worth from the proposed District 12(h) of the Greater Manchester County and to place it in the County of Cheshire, of which it has long been a part.
Poynton is a free standing village separated from Hazel Grove, Bramhall and the Greater Manchester conurbation by substantial tracts of agricultural land which is included in the North Cheshire Green Belt. When this matter was discussed in Committee, the then Undersecretary said:
I should not be able to describe it as a village separated from the conurbation. There is, it is true, a small green field gap, but it is very small."—[Official Report, 14th December, 1971; Standing Committee D, c. 418.]
This is incorrect and misleading. I admit that there is one point at which the green field gap is only 800 yards wide—about half a mile—but, with that exception, the green belt is well in excess of a mile wide. If there is any doubt in my right hon. Friend's mind, I suggest that he walks the area, as I have, to see for himself that which he can see from the map which I hold up.
The development which radiates from Manchester in a southerly direction comes to a halt at Hazel Grove. Unless the green belt proposals are to be completely abandoned, which would be an environmental disaster, there is no question of Poynton being linked physically with the conurbation for many years to come, if at all.
Although two road schemes are proposed in the area, one from the A6 at High Lane passing through Middlewood Poynton to connect with the Macclesfield north-south relief link road and the other from the A523 just north of Poynton to connect with Woodford Road, no development is proposed with the former project and only limited development with the latter on land already earmarked for residential development close into the heart of the village.
Despite its growth since 1945—its population is now about 10,000—Poynton with Worth still retains a village atmosphere with an extremely strong community spirit among its residents, many of whom actively participate in local matters. Poynton has a strong parish council which has made excellent provision for the area. Added to these facts are the close and happy relations with the local government authorities forged—this, too, is important—by the relatively high degree of representation that the village enjoys at county and county district level, and the co-operation that exists between these two tiers of authority and the parish council.
If local government is to be effective and local democracy meaningful, there must be a reasonable ratio between the number of local authority representatives and the people they represent. The serious reduction in representation at metropolitan county and district levels that will result from the Bill can do nothing other than take local government further away from the man and woman in the street—the very antithesis of what the Government claim they wish to achieve.
Poynton, like many other areas, will suffer in this direction. Its representation on the rural district council of eight councillors will be reduced to three on the Metropolitan District Council 12(h) which will be based upon Stockport.
The inclusion of Poynton in the metropolitan county will destroy the valuable county, district and parish relationship built up over many years. It must be realised that the constitution of the Greater Manchester County in Schedule 1 includes only nine rural parishes, including Poynton, in what is simply an urban mass of nearly 3 million population.
The comparative value of the population of the village of Poynton to the Greater Manchester and Cheshire counties respectively can be clearly illustrated. The population of the proposed Greater Manchester area is 2,870,000 and of the proposed new Cheshire approximately 800,000. Therefore, the percentage represented by Poynton is about 0·38 per cent. and 1·40 per cent. respectively.
Taking it at the proposed district council level, the population of District 12(h) is 331,000 and the Cheshire County district concerned 100,000. The percentage represented by Poynton is therefore approximately 3·3 per cent. and 10 per cent. respectively. Therefore, the effect upon the metropolitan county and district by the retention of Poynton in Cheshire would be minimal, whereas the effect on Cheshire is significant.
I wish to touch briefly on a point of administrative efficiency, seemingly so important to the Government. Of all the areas proposed for inclusion in District 12(h), only Poynton will be at variance with the parliamentary constituency boundaries recommended in the most recent report of the Boundary Commission. Only Poynton will be in the position of being located in one local government area, but in a different constituency. This must be considered administratively unfortunate. As Poynton has a growing affinity with Macclesfield, due to industrial expansion in that borough providing employment for many Poynton residents, and because of its own small but expanding light industrial estate, the parish should not be torn from its natural home in Cheshire.
While I admit that a high proportion—75 per cent.—of the employed population of Poynton, totalling 4,580 in 1966, travel out of the parish to work, the major source of employment is at Woodford Aircraft Works, immediately to the west of the village, and not in the Greater Manchester conurbation. Some 1,500 people find work within the Macclesfield rural district. As only just over 2,000 from the whole area of the rural district commute to Manchester, it is unlikely that more than 1,200 of the employed population of the parish work there.
The Minister has placed great importance on the fact that statistics prove that more Poynton people travel by public transport to Stockport and Manchester than in the direction of Macclesfield. I agree that public transport, totally inadequate as it is, is biased towards Manchester; but as a growing number of people in Poynton, as elsewhere, own vehicles and use them to get to work, statistics on public transport mean very little indeed.
Whitehall's blind craving for size and administrative ease fails to appreciate, or even comprehend, certain important matters. For example, the important service of education. Poynton contains an excellent new secondary school, which serves a large surrounding district particularly meeting the requirements of children from the villages of Pott Shrigley and Adlington—both remaining in Cheshire under the proposed reorganisation. These children undergo primary training in their own village schools and later enter the secondary school at Poynton. A number of Poynton children on the other hand, go to the King's School at Macclesfield for their secondary education.
I cannot see the new district councils taking kindly to heavy extra district charges. Apart from the financial aspect, the proposed situation is not educationally desirable, as it may well be found in future that differing systems of education exist between the two authorities—and the problems of school transport, so well known to this House, must also be appreciated.
Finally, if democracy is to mean anything—and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as well as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development have acknowledged the importance of public opinion; particularly my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who said that we governed by the people's mandate—how can the Government—and I say this with emphasis—ignore the clear wishes of 83·6 per cent. of the electorate of the village of Poynton, this figure representing 95·5 per cent. of those who wished, or were available to express an opinion on this matter, who have dramatically indicated their desire to remain part of the County of Cheshire? This is no borderline majority. This is an overwhelming expression representing all sections of the village, supported by the county council, the rural district council and the parish council.
The Bill, as proposed, will strangle local government. It exudes bureaucratic bumbledom and it will eradicate community spirit and take local government away from the people it serves. I admit that the reform of local government is needed, but the Bill contains far too many ill-thought-out proposals and too much illogical slaughter. I ask the House and the Minister to accept my Amendment.
Mr Thomas Price (Westhoughton)
After that tour de force I know that the House will forgive me if I do not seek to emulate such highly-coloured and emotive language as that used by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). There are occasions when I might be tempted to utter a few homilies about the doubtful character of this legislation that is being steamrollered through the House, but I should be out of order if I were to try such an exercise tonight.
A steamroller proceeds slowly but it crushes a lot of things in the course of its progress. I ask hon. Members not to provoke me to develop that theme, as I do not want to be out of order.
I rise merely to draw attention to a matter which I have been discussing with various Departments for about six or seven months. Amendment No. 7 in my name is supported by the hon. Members for Bolton, East (Mr. Laurance Reed) and Bolton, West (Mr. Redmond), and therefore by no stretch of the imagination can this be regarded as a party matter.
This is a matter of administration which originally came to my notice as an education problem. I am grateful to see present the Minister for Local Government and Development and his aide-de-camp the Under-Secretary of State, but I should have been even more grateful if there had been present a Minister from the Department of Education and Science.
In this short and fragmented debate—which is what it is bound to be—I want to draw attention to an administrative absurdity. The Rivington and Blackrod Grammar School is an ancient and historic school in my part of Lancashire within a few hundred yards of my parliamentary boundary. It has been there since a famous Bishop, Durham, Bishop Pilkington, an ancestor of the present distinguished member of the other place, Lord Pilkington, founded it in 1566, and some years ago I had the pleasure of attending the 400th anniversary of this famous foundation. These are historical embellishments which I mention merely to emphasise that this is by no means an artificially produced school because of the growth of population at a given time. It has a long history of distinguished service to education.
Some years ago, when the whole concept of comprehensive education was being debated vigorously by many people who had opposing views about it, this district, which was a division of the Lancashire County Council education committee for administrative purposes, decided to redevelop Rivington and Blackrod Grammar School, rename it Rivington High School, and use it on a comprehensive basis.
Regardless of party politics and the kind of disputes that arise on matters of principle on these issues, the educationally well-advised local people in my part of Lancashire, who knew the school, who had lived with it and had promoted its welfare and its progress, were all agreed that that development should take place. Then along came the moguls of Whitehall after the Redcliffe-Maud Commission reported and began to up-end all the established forward planning that had taken place. I should be out of order if I were to develop that now, and I do not wish to do so.
This school draws its population from three townships, all of which are in my parliamentary Division of Westhoughton—Westhoughton itself, Horwich, now an urban district, and Blackrod, another urban district. The school in its new form will have an intake of about 1,300 children. It is a mixed school on the site of the ancient grammar school on the shoulders of Rivington Pike at the foothills of the Pennines, with fine views across the countryside, and a fine place at which to have a school development. The land is there to be developed on a large scale in order to provide places for these 1,300 children from the three townships, all of which are now within Metropolitan District (b) of the Greater Manchester area to be administered from Bolton.
I do not want to over-elaborate this, to be emotional about it, or to make dramatic statements. I am concerned with common sense. I drew the attention of the Secretary of State for Education and Science to this matter on 6th January. Apparently, the right hon. Lady is not required to be present for this debate; nor is one of her Under-Secretaries of State. Presumably, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will be here until 8 o'clock tomorrow morning, at breakfast time, and anyone who wants a reply will have to sit it out till then, but I do not intend to do so. In fact, I cannot stay because I have business to attend to in other parts of the country. The right hon. Gentleman has my profound sympathy. He ought to receive support from other Government Departments which have a foot in this door, but they switch things over to his camp when they run up against awkward things such as this.
This school will not draw one half of 1 per cent. of its population from the county area, that is the non-metropolitan county area of Lancashire. They are all within the ring fence of Metropolitan District (b), and I am merely saying that we ought to have the common sense to make the necessary boundary alteration now.
I shall not quote in extenso the answer to my plea by the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Education and Science, because I do not wish to waste time embellishing what I say with much verbiage. Replying to my courteous and correct letter—all my letters are like that—after her general introduction the right hon. Lady said:
While I understand your concern, and certainly would not wish to minimise the difficulties that may face the school as a result of boundary changes, I know you will appreciate that the same kind of situation will occur in other parts of the country.
So what? Apparently, the merits of the question do not matter. Because there is a lot of measles during an epidemic, the bureaucratic mind takes refuge in saying, "It is not so bad your having measles because all the kids in the next street have measles". This does not make any impression on rational minded hon. Gentlemen who are supposed to be running the country. To put up that sort of cock to me is a bit much—if that is not using language which is too untidy.
The right hon. Lady continued:
The new education authorities will in general have, of course, the job of coping with these problems and I am sure they will be more than equal to the task.
If that is not a piece of self-righteous complacency I have never heard of one. I am sorry to have to say this behind the right hon. Lady's back, but she ought to be present, for I would freely say it to her face if she now entered the Chamber.
Having got that off its chest, the Department of Education and Science, which could not answer my questions, switched the point of attack to the Department of the Environment. This is where the Demon King comes into it, the right hon. Gentleman who is now the pivot of this operation in local government, ably assisted by the genial Under-Secretary. I do not wish to quarrel personally with either of them.
When the matter went to the Department of the Environment, I was not honoured by a personal letter from the Secretary of State. I got a letter from the Under-Secretary. The Department is split into little pockets, and I make no complaint about that. But this is a serious matter. The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, brought face to face with this problem—not directly through me but indirectly through the Department of Education and Science—is shunting it over the counter to another Department. He said:
We do appreciate that there is a problem here, but because of the further issues which arise on this particular boundary, I really do think that on balance it would be much more satisfactory to leave this over for the Boundary Commission's detailed review and to make arrangements meanwhile.
The hon. Gentleman continued:
But there will be no reason why the new school should not vest in the metropolitan district from the start, if is catchment area is so overwhelmingly in that district. Thus it would be possible for the school to be the property of the metropolitan district, and be administered by them, from the outset, even though the actual boundary between the two counties was not adjusted until a little later. I hope that this consideration will allay the fears felt locally, and will enable you to withdraw your amendment.
That was quite a courteous approach to me, but I did not accept it. Why should I withdraw the Amendment and accept a pig in a poke from any Government Department? As a Member of Parliament, I have lived with Government Departments for 22 years, under Governments of both political complexions, and often I am extremely sceptical of them. On a matter such as this, they have a technique for always dodging a difficult column. It is nothing to do with party politics. It is to do with the nature of bureaucracy.
But I shall not be tempted into that line of country. I shall not spell it out, except to say that no self-respecting or competent civic administrator, be he a town clerk, a director of education or any one of the kind of officials who will be concerned with the development of this new comprehensive school long before the Boundary Commission sets about this in 1974—when the Act will be on the Statute Book and it will be too late to plead these considerations in its aid—would agree that the matter should be handled in this way.
It cannot be done this way because the officials, meanwhile, have to arrange for the planning, design and erection of many new buildings at Rivington, for the recruitment of considerable additional staff and for the reorganisation of three existing schools which these children are already attending in Horwich and other parts of my constituency. These schools have to be brought together under one roof, rehoused, and made into a coherent school.
To say that these things can be done on an ad hoc basis, without rules laid down and known only by word of mouth, is not a feasible proposition. Although the Government may have done this with the best of good will, I am surprised, because one cannot do things like that. The man who is handling the money, engaging staff and paying out money for materials and buildings wants to know what his statutory authority is for exercising those powers. Therefore, this way of dealing with the matter is impossible.
I have been shown a considerable amount of tolerance until now and I have tried to be brief. I have discussed this matter with the right hon. Gentleman on several occasions. I say to him that this business does not make sense. At this distance of time, with all the months of haggling in Committee and now with this completely disorderly, fragmented debate on all kinds of disconnected questions which hon. Gentlemen from all parts of the House will be debating all night why cannot the Minister accept Amendments sometimes? The Minister has made concessions on the Bill previously. I know that the officials in my local authorities are behind me on this matter. There is one discordant voice in another part of the county area, but it does not add very much because it affects none of the children attending the school.
While I should preserve the courtesies in this matter, I would not be very much overborne by the argument that because this school has always been in the rural district area, it must always stay there. The school must be administered by the authority that has to provide the rate fund and the staff and to plan the buildings and the administration of the school. This matter ought not to be left hanging in mid-air until 1974–75 or some later period when this great monolithic body called the Boundary Commission decides to have a look at it. Meanwhile, much work has to be done.
Mr Idris Owen (Stockport North)
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate. I wish to bring the House back to Amendment No. 11 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). I congratulate him on a most sincere speech in favour of his Amendment. It was a highly emotional speech. It was capably delivered and very sincere. No one works harder for his constituency than my hon. Friend. I know this personally, because I am one of his constituents.
But I have a distinct advantage over my hon. Friend on the subject of the village of Poynton, because I lived there for 20 years. I have worked in Poynton and in the area of District 12(h) for the whole of my life. I have been a ratepayer to the Cheshire County Council and to the proposed District 12(h) at Stockport for the whole of my adult life, so I can reasonably assess the merits and demerits of local government administration on the ground.
Over those years I have worked to support the municipal candidates for the county borough areas, for the Cheshire County Council, and for the Poynton parish council. I have seen those people at work and have a great respect for them. Should the members of the Poynton council be embraced within the area of District 12(h), they will add lustre and character to the new area. The elected representatives of Poynton are wonderful people.
Poynton is astride the A523 leading directly out of Stockport. It is now to be embraced with other urban district areas in the surrounding district. There has been no protest from the other areas which are likely to be included within the district as recommended. My hon. Friends arguments would, if valid, be equally valid for many other urban districts. If those arguments were accepted, we could tear up the Bill and we should have no local government reorganisation. My hon. Friend referred to the massive campaign that has been mounted in the village of Poynton. I ask the indulgence of the House for being somewhat parochial, but this is a highly parochial and emotive issue in the village. The elected representatives, who felt strongly about the matter, decided to mount a campaign to stay within the county of Cheshire. They went from house to house with leaflets announcing that a meeting would be held. The leaflets issued were of a type calculated to arouse the emotions. It is not surprising that my hon. Friend was able to secure a large attendance at this meeting, and many letters were sent to the Government.
If the electors of a parish are threatened that, if they are embraced within a new area, their rates and motor insurance will be higher, they will lose their green belt, they will lose their rural amenities, they will lose their adequate social services, they will lose their identity, and they will lose their say in local government, it is not surprising that people will say that they do not want any part of it.
However, all those things are not true. In support of what I suggest, I have a letter from some of the parish councillors of Poynton inviting me to express their view, which is totally contrary to that advanced by my hon. Friend. These councillors mostly favour Poynton going into the area of Stockport.
My hon. Friend said that there was a substantial tract of green belt between the proposed Stockport area of District 12(h) and the village of Poynton. I lived in that "substantial" tract. My hon. Friend must have seven-league boots, because it is only 485 yards. If that is a substantial green belt, my hon. Friend has the wrong idea of what constitutes a green belt.
Poynton is only 5½ miles from Stockport. There is an area of approximately 500 yards separating the built-up area of Hazel Grove and Poynton. Going from Poynton in a southerly direction to Macclesfield, to the area that my hon. Friend desires to be attached, the distance is 6·5 miles. From the village of Poynton to Macclesfield it is almost continuous green belt. There are at least five miles of continuous green belt betweenPoynton and Macclesfield.
As to transportation and work arrangements, I say unequivocally that the majority of people who live in Poynton and who go out of Poynton to work go to the new metropolitan county area. There is literally a mass exodus from Poynton every morning by bus, by train and by car to the Greater Manchester area. When I lived there—I have no reason to suppose that it is any different now—buses left Fountain Place in Poynton at 15-minute intervals for Manchester. The bus that goes less frequently to Macclesfield makes a rural detour throughout all the villages in the area and takes much longer to arrive in Macclesfield.
The parish councillors who are elected to Macclesfield Rural District Council would have had considerable difficulty in going to their rural district meetings if they did not possess cars, for if they had had to wait for a bus, they would have had to wait a considerable time. They have to travel 35 miles to the county seat. They could not go by bus. They would have to go from Poynton to Cheadle Hulme, from Cheadle Hulme to Crewe. from Crewe to Chester, if going by train, or they could go to Manchester, with a direct service from Manchester. So they must have their own car. Over the years I have spoken to county councillors representing Poynton. They say that the responsibility of going to Chester makes it difficult. One distinguished alderman said that he had to have a taxi when he was no longer able to drive.
Mr Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
Macclesfield is the same distance from Chester as Poynton is. Is my hon. Friend suggesting that Macclesfield should be attached to the Greater Manchester area?
Mr Idris Owen (Stockport North)
I am suggesting that Macclesfield will be merely a county district; it will not be the seat of the county government. Chester will still be the seat of county government.
The elected representatives from Poynton will have to travel 5·5 miles—a journey of a quarter of an hour on the bus—to the seat of the county district council. Under the new proposals if, as we expect, the seat of the metropolitan county is in Manchester, they will be able to go on the train from Poynton to Manchester in 20 minutes. The difference in the mode of travel is bound to have some influence on the metropolitan county district and on the county.
The White Paper states that local authorities should be related to areas within which people have a common interest through living in a recognisable community through the links of employment, shopping or social activities. I lived in the village for 20 years. The employment of the people in the village in which I lived was at the Woodford Airport and at the works of the Hawker Siddeley company, which are in the new 12(h) area. Many other people work in Manchester and all stations north of Poynton. A smaller percentage of Poynton people travel south to Macclesfield.
Government and judicial agencies based on Stockport cover the Poynton area. The head post office of Stockport covers Poynton. The East Cheshire Valuation Panel and the coroner for East Cheshire cover Poynton. Stockport High Court Registry covers Poynton. The local probation service covers Poynton. Stockport area office of the Department of Employment covers Poynton.
As to local services, future sewerage for the village of Poynton will be undertaken in the Selnec area. The fire service assists in Poynton. We have a large college of further education in Stockport with 8,000 students, a substantial number of whom come from Poynton.
On the edge of Poynton is Lyme Park—one of the largest parks of 1,500 acres—available for community amenity in the district. It is on the boundary with Poynton and is maintained by the ratepayers of Stockport.
As to public undertakings, the water board in Stockport has worked with all the representatives in the new District 12(h) area for many years. The Stockport Water Board is responsible for water supply in Poynton. The same applies to the North-West Gas Board and the North-West Electricity Board. The ambulance service at Stockport serves Poyoton.
Going to ecclesiastical matters, the rural deanery of Stockport serves Poynton.
The Trades Council in Stockport is responsible for the trade unionist activities of Poynton. The Chamber of Commerce is similarly situated.
The local papers, the Stockport Advertiser and the Stockport Express, are the only newspapers distributed in Poynton. A substantial shopping precinct has been built in Stockport, which is one of the most successful in the North. That precinct is well supported by the people of Poynton.
The only major recreation in the district that the public enjoy is the local football team. Manchester is the source of the major football activity for the people of Poynton. The Davenport Golf Club, which is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Mr. Orbach), is now closing down. It is to be reconstructed in Poynton. The cultural centre for Poynton is Manchester. I add, perhaps facetiously, that if the people of Poynton wished to go to see a film, the nearest cinema is in Stockport.
I have had no representations from the Cheshire County Council, or any of the other urban district councils in the proposed District 12(h), the Poynton Parish Council or the Stockport Borough Council inviting me to oppose the new 12(h) area. I have received not one word of protest, although I live in the Macclesfield Rural District area. I have had no protest from Stockport, but that is understandable, because there has never been any diversity of opinion within the borough council on the subject of local government reorganisation. It appears that Stockport is prepared to accept the recommendation of Her Majesty's Government.
So the emotion and the protestation has come from Poynton. However, I should like my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield to appreciate that, although he has witnessed the mounting of a campaign protesting that it should not be moved into Stockport, it is not surprising as Poynton has been relatively isolated and has been well maintained as a village. My hon. Friend said that everyone in Poynton was extremely happy with the present form of local government, but I assure him—I have been associated with the area for more than 20 years—that in many local election campaigns the opposition has been highly critical of the services received from Chester. Of course, that was purely political, but there is no doubt that Poynton is a delightful, well knit community, although I must admit that it has been somewhat inward looking. Any dramatic change in local government was bound to be resisted. I should have been surprised if it had not been resisted. But if we are to accept the recommendations of the White Paper and the Government proposals, and if we take as our criterion the words of the White Paper, we cannot chip away at these proposals to satisfy parochial needs.
The people of Poynton are now getting less interested than they were and the emotion is disappearing. They are displaying hardly any interest in the matter. I know that there would be great difficulty now in whipping up another campaign. The local representatives must be assured that there is a place in the district council for them. They will have much to contribute to the new county district and they must not forget that they are inextricably linked with the other constituent authorities in the new 12(h) area. They are only two miles from Hazle Grove, 2·7 miles from Bramhall and 7·5 miles from Wilmslow. Those are the constituent authorities which are now to come into 12(h), with which Poynton has a considerable community of interest. If one area could be regarded as being outside 12(h) it would be Wilmslow, which would have much more cause to complain.
Finally, Poynton will gain from this merger and District 12(h) will gain from the inclusion in its affairs and deliberations of able and experienced councillors. They will add lustre and ability to 12(h). They need have no fears, and the fears which they have expressed are mainly the fears of "Big Brother". However, they are to join a new family which will be much more successful and more progressive than anything they have ever known in the past. I have no anxieties on that count. Time will show that they will never regret being part of the new District 12(h) community.
Mr Maurice Orbach (Stockport South)
The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) made a stirring speech using eloquent language in support of his Amendment, which I propose to support, as against the documented statement made by the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen). I was not supplied with a brief, and I want to make it clear that no direct representations have been made to me by the County Borough of Stockport, the people of Poynton or anybody else in respect of this matter. I have not been approached by groups of county councils, parish councils or anybody else. I speak solely as the representative for Stockport, South.
I have weighed up in my mind the situation regarding the approaches made to Poynton, and Poynton's rejection of them. Although it has been stated by both the Stockport local authority and the people in Poynton that approaches have been made to Members of Parliament, they forget that I have been a Member of this House for 22½ years and that the hon. Members for Macclesfieldand Stockport, North have been here for a much shorter time. However, I am sure that they have been approached because they belong to the party which, in the case of the Tory council of Stockport and the people of Poynton, seems to be more considerate totheir point of view.
I have, however, had some indirect representations in the shape of an advertisement in the local Press which bore the heading:
Members of Parliament, will you please help us?
I thought it was proper as a Member of Parliament that I should read it and I did so. It was a heading to the protest which the people of Poynton were making, quite properly, against their incorporation in 12(h). In the third paragraph of the advertisement they say:
We have conducted our campaign in an exemplary manner. Had we all gone on strike, or possibly indulged in violent demonstrations, the powers that be would no doubt have sat up and taken notice.
We consider we are a special case. All we ask in life is that our village remains in Cheshire.
I support solemnly that last heartfelt wish, but I cannot support them in the idea that if they had threatened to go on strike or had acted violently in demonstrations it would have enhanced their chances of getting the Minister to listen to them more sympathetically than he has done. I hope that the Minister will not be inflexible in this matter, will consider Poynton as a special case, and will give way to the astonishingly effective plea of the hon. Member for Macclesfield, although I think that it might have been
better expressed on a different occasion—perhaps when the European Economic Community is under discussion next week.
Mr Maurice Orbach (Stockport South)
They are a special case, because a month after the advertisements appeared I noticed a newspaper report about Poynton. It said that Poynton people were
…'appalled'to see plans submitted for link attached houses, rather than detached houses…".
Apparently, all the houses in Poynton are detached. The report went on to say that, to Poynton people, hug houses that were linked together would bring a "shanty town' to Poynton. That gives one some idea of the type of area we are dealing with. It is because of these statements in the Press that I am strongly in favour of the case put by the hon. Member for Maclesfield and do not want these people included in District 12(h). In another newspaper article, we are told that there is in Poynton
…a sense of forelock touching feudalism…
which will continue and has come down from the days when the Vernon family ruled the whole village. I think that I have shown that as Labour Member for Stockport, South, I would prefer to keep Poynton out of the conurbation. We are happy in Stockport to continue our plebeian rôle.
The town was originally set up as a result of silk spinning. It developed into a haven for people who came over to build the railways and the roads of Britain in the "Hungry Forties". Later, when the Industrial Revolution was in full stride, Stockport turned to cotton spinning. It had 600 mills when I first visited the town; now I believe it has only one. It has changed to being a town of sophisticated engineering and the manufacture of electrical equipment. We are happy to remain that way. We do not all want detached houses; we do not want to go forelock touching around the town to our betters. We are quite happy, therefore, to leave the petit bourgeoisie of Poynton to Macclesfield.
Mr Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
I remind the hon. Gentleman that there are considerable council housing developments in the village of Poynton and that the tenants of those houses, as well as those living in the detached and semi-detached houses, wish to remain in Cheshire.
Mr Maurice Orbach (Stockport South)
That is probably quite true. I have not visited the village. I understand that 10,000 people live there. But I am sorry that many of them are in some way blind to their surroundings, although they appreciate their garages and detached houses.
Mr Idris Owen (Stockport North)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the whole economy of Poynton at the end of the last century and for the first 20 years of this was based on coal mining, which provided Stockport with almost the whole of its output? Poynton was a mining village.
Mr Maurice Orbach (Stockport South)
That is true. I read about that in a two-page spread in a newspaper. But I am not here to declare that I know all about Stockport or that I have lived there or in Poynton all my life. I merely advise the hon. Gentleman that the House of Commons is not a place which welcomes people with a pork barrel to push through on occasions. It does not want people here as delegates of an area; it wants people who represent an area and the national interest as well.
Mr Maurice Orbach (Stockport South)
I shall not give way again. I think I have given way a reasonable number of times. I have not been outrageous in any way. I do not think that I have made a flamboyant speech. I have not asked the clerks of the local authorities to provide me with a brief. I have reached my own conclusions. I think that the speech of the hon. Member for Macclesfield was perfectly proper and I do not agree with the hon. Member for Stockport, North. I hope that we shall be able to persuade the Minister not to be as flexible in this case as he has been in others.
Sir Sydney Chapman (Birmingham Handsworth)
I support Amendment No. 11 and do so not because my constituency is in any way affected but because until the last General Election I lived all my life in, and know the problems of, the area which is the subject of the Amendment. Therefore, hon. Members will agree that I have no vested interest in the sense of representing a continuency point of view.
We are talking about the parish of Poynton with Worth, which has a population of about 10,000. It is proposed that this parish should go into District 12(h), the Stockport district, which will have a population of just under one-third of a million people and will in turn be part of the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester, with a population of nearly three million. As my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has said, we are talking, therefore, about a parish which has just over one-third of 1 per cent. of the population of the new county of Manchester and just over 3 per cent. of the population of the new 12(h) District of Stockport. We are therefore, as he also said, talking about a minimal difference, if the Amendment is accepted, to these important proposals, and it is the almost unanimous wish of the electors of the parish that they should remain in the county of Cheshire and not come into the new metropolitan county.
Of course, there are some people in Poynton who are not against the change but in the petition those who were not necessarily in favour but were not against the proposition numbered 310, while the point of view expressed today so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield was shared by 6,658 people. Whatever the merits or demerits of the case, my hon. Friend therefore has the overwhelming support of the parish for which he has spoken.
Having lived near there nearly all my life, I agree with my hon. Friend for three reasons. First, Poynton historically has always been part of Cheshire; secondly, it is geographically part of Cheshire rather than of the conurbation; thirdly, and importantly, politically it has always been part of Cheshire. Its historical link is obvious. On the geographical aspect, I make one point about the green belt. The quality and purpose of a green belt should not be judged by its size. On that issue I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen). Indeed, the smaller or narrower the green belt is, the more important it is is a very real sense. I accept that if Poynton goes into greater Manchester that will not neces- sarily mean the end of the green belt, but its demise will be more rather than less likely. The green belt is of dramatic importance from the planning point of view.
Politically, Poynton has always been part of Macclesfield constituency and Macclesfield rural district. It is interesting to note that if the Bill's proposals go through it will be the only part of the Macclesfield constituency and of the Macclesfield rural district which will go into the metropolitan county, the rest staying in Cheshire county. The majority of people in Poynton seek their employment outside the parish, but by no means all of them in Manchester or Stockport. A number do so at Woodford and some go to Macclesfield. That is also true of the village that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North now lives in and of the village I used to live in.
But because the majority of people do no work in Poynton it does not mean that the village should go into the new metropolitan county. As my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield said, good government is surely a balance between democracy and efficiency. Ninety-five per cent. of the people of Poynton want to remain part of Cheshire. That is the democratic side. On the efficiency side, what I propose will in no way effect the Government's plans.
We are dealing here with a very marginal and minimal part of the new local government structure. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister is sensitive to the wish of people locally. I humbly ask him to consider allowing Amendment No. 11 because it will give great satisfaction to the overwhelming number of people who live in the parish.
Mr Michael McGuire (Ince)
I wish to speak to two Amendments which are on the Order Paper in my name, Amendments No. 444 and 445. Their purpose is simple. It is to form a more natural, homogenous unit within the proposed District (a) of the Manchester Metropolitan Council, namely the Wigan district. Ashton-in-Makerfield, the south ward of the town, is almost totally being taken out and being put into the Metropolitan County District (c), the St. Helens district. That contradicts what the Secretary of State said both at the Dispatch Box and in his much-quoted White Paper
Cmnd. 4584. In paragraph 8 the White Paper says:
Local authority areas should be related to areas within 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.
The people of the south ward consider themselves to be Wiganers and to be part of the Wigan district. They felt that long before the reorganisation proposals. They were more attuned to the town of Wigan. They went to Wigan for the majority of their shopping. There are facilities in Ashton but they do not compare with those at Wigan. The people indulge in their social activities in Wigan and their support of the Wigan Rugby Football team over a long period shows their attraction to Wigan. The Minister has fastened on the south ward reorganisation of a few years ago, which was purely a local domestic administrative problem which had to be overcome.
If the Amendment is carried it would be in keeping with the famous and much-quoted paragraph 8 and would encourage the community of interest which local government must have to succeed. I know that one of the Ministers difficulties has been with District 11(c) from which I am seeking to take a small part. For all kinds of reasons District 11(c) in the Merseyside metropolitan area has been probably the most difficult, notwithstanding the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler) dealing with the Bury-Rochdale grouping in the greater Manchester area.
The Minister has recognised the illogicality of putting Skelmersdale into the district and has now taken it out. We know that he will accept an Amendment which will still further carve up District 11(c) because it makes for a greater community of interest. With the best will in the world, these groupings, however natural they may seem to the Minister and his advisers, are doomed from the start if they do not have that essential ingredient of community of interest.
In the Amendments we are not dealing with a great carve up. Of the six towns in my constituency only two have been carved up. Billinge-and-Winstanley was carved up and everyone agrees that it was the most natural carve up. Half will go into the new Wigan area and the other half into District 11(c). I have received no representations from anyone saying that they disagree with it. In the case of Ashton the council have sent a memorandum to the Minister which I know he has studied. In a letter to me dated 4th July he seems to have rejected it fairly quickly.
We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) how an ancient grammar school or a parish church or some similar object or institution can create a great allegiance in the minds of the people, and how if the object or institution is removed to what the local people believe to be an alien area, that does not help the situation. My hon. Friend referred to an ancient grammar school in his constituency at Rivington. He mentioned Bishop Pilkington, who was the first post-Reformation bishop who went to Durham and who was supposed to be one of the ancestors of the famous Pilkington family. I do not know how true that is, but I believe it is his coat of arms which is reproduced as the trade mark for Pilkington Brothers.
My hon. Friend was making the point about the great affection that the local people have for the grammar school. In my constituency in the south ward, which is to be carved up and taken away from its natural connection with Wigan, there is also a very ancient grammar school. It is not now used for that purpose because the school has a betterbuilding in another area. But the people have an affection for it and they do not want to lose that part of the ward if they can help it. The ancient parish church of an area that will go into Wigan will be in the St. Helens district and that does not help matters.
I hope that, although his letter seems to indicate that he will not accept the Amendment, the Minister will agree that it does not imply the removal of thousands of £s of rateable value and the diminution of the number of people in it, reducing it to a parlous state. It is only a simple ward that affects only a few people but that does not mean that it is not important. I hope the Minister will say on balance and on reflection—and I agree that to a certain extent the argument is finely balanced—that in spite of his letters and comments he will accept the two Amendments.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
This group of Amendments can be divided into two kinds: first, those seeking a rearrangement of the metropolitan districts within the metropolitan county, and, secondly, those concerning the built-up areas one side or another of the boundary of the metropolitan county, including, for example, the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) which would involve a move from a non-metropolitan county to a metropolitan county.
The Amendments mainly concern authorities on the boundary of the conurbation. That is perhaps natural, because so many of their residents have moved there from the big town in order to escape the big town. But many of the areas around the fringe of the greater Manchester conurbation which have been discussed today depend on the conurbation for work, culture, leisure, shopping and so on.
Generally, the principle adopted in drawing the boundary of the conurbation has been to find the area of continuous build-up. Before deciding, we not only look into the conurbation to see the build-up from it but also see whether there is any reasonable joining up of the suburb of a conurbation with a town outside. It may be that the suburb is really of the same character as a nearby town, as in the case of Whitworth, which is far more Bacup and Rossendale than Rochdale. On the other hand, it may be that miles of open country stretch out beyond the suburb, as in the case of Poynton.
In drawing the boundaries I have tried to apply the principle laid down in paragraph 32 of the White Paper, Cmnd. 4584, dealing with metropolitan-type structures. It says:
The boundaries of these areas should include all the main area, or areas, of continuous development and any adjacent area into which continuous development will extend.
We cannot say that the boundary will include all the development of the conurbation, but I think that, in applying that general rule we get a sensible set of local government areas when drawing both the county and the metropolitan county districts.
I should like to deal first with the rearrangements of the metropolitan districts within the metropolitan county. We have had the case of the Bury and Rochdale division. Originally, as in the Bill, the Government chose to put Bury and Rochdale together. That was discussed very fully by all the local authorities concerned at a meeting which the then Under-Secretary held last July. We might have thought from today's debate that it was entirely a new idea sprung on local authorities only yesterday. In fact, it has been the subject of debate in the area for a very long time. The whole of the meeting last July was taken up with the debate on whether Bury and Rochdale should be separate or should be combined in one metropolitan district.
It is interesting to note that during that meeting last July the Oldham representatives said that if we decided to split Bury and Rochdale they accepted that Middleton would go with Rochdale. The case they presented to me yesterday was that they needed Middleton because it had an industrial site in it and they relied on that site. It has an industrial site up in the north-east corner. The rest is residential overflow from Manchester. I was shocked when Oldham based their argument on the need for an industrial site in Middleton, when there is all that derelict and cleared land in Chadderton and Failsworth all along the road from Oldham. Of course, it is nice to take the soft option and have tens of acres of virgin soil on which to produce the industry, but I ask Oldham to turn to its derelict and cleared land. It will find many sites for industry there.
Mr James Lamond (Oldham East)
Surely the Minister recalls that when he put that very point to the officials representing Oldham they denied that there were sites available on derelict land. They listed two very small sites which were available and said that the 100-acre sites and 50-acre sites, which are what developers look for nowadays, could be found only in Middleton.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
I did not accept that denial. From my own knowledge of the area I think the division of Bury and Rochdale will produce two very good local government areas.
I hesitated about the matter in Committee, because it was a new proposition put to me, and I thought we had got it right in the Bill. But I have since studied it carefully with my colleagues in the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Health and Social Security, and we think they will make good separate local government areas with sufficient population in each. They are different communities, and we are giving them what they want.
The difficulty arises not only with Middleton but with Heywood, which runs down the centre and is a town of a different character from both Bury and Rochdale. If we could take Heywood out and put it 20 miles north into the country it would be a far better place, but it is between Bury and Rochdale, and we must decide where it should go. The hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) objected to small parts of Heywood being cut off and put into Bury. These are promontories which go almost into the centre of Bury, but I was persuaded by the argument the hon. Gentleman put to me yesterday and to the House today.
If the House accepts Amendments of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler) and of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. McCann), as I advise it to do, I give an undertaking to study carefully what we have done about these promontories. There could then be a correction in another place. My officials will study the matter with the council officials, and we shall get the matter right, as the people want it. It is a small point. Only a thousand people are involved, but I should like to get it right, and so I ask the House to accept those Amendments.
I should now like to go clockwise around the edge of the conurbation, dealing first with Ashby-in-Makerfield. The whole south ward of Ashby-in-Makerfield is far more closely linked with St. Helens than with Wigan.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
I apologise for getting it wrong, but I was trying to speak too quickly.
In the Bill the Government have put the whole of one ward where they believe it belongs, with St. Helens rather than with Wigan. The Amendment on this matter mistakenly follows the usual illusory fascination of a major road—in this case the East Lancashire road—as a boundary line. It would be wrong to carve up that south ward of Ashton-in-Makerfield in that way, and, therefore, I cannot advise the House to accept that Amendment.
The Amendments of the right hon. Member for Newton dealt with moving the southern wards of Golborne Urban District and the wards of Culcheth and Newchurch, into greater Manchester. The Government proposed the split of Golborne Urban District Council as they did because Golborne has overwhelmingly strong links with the metropolitan county, with greater Manchester, as the right hon. Gentleman said. The two wards concerned are separated by open country from the remainder of Golborne; its links are predominantly southwards towards Warrington and other areas in the new Cheshire.
Although the right hon. Gentleman's argument today was very persuasive, I cannot advise Parliament to accept that proposal. Even so, there is still another place where the matter can be considered. I wish the right hon. Gentleman had been able to discuss this with me in more detail before. I hope I may have the opportunity of doing so with him in the next week.
Mr Frederick Lee (Newton)
The right hon. Gentleman implied that the open country provided one reason why he did not want to accept my Amendment to join the greater Manchester area. There is no open country between Newchurch and Leigh. In one way it is part of Leigh. The open country is to the south in the direction of Warrington.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
The open country forms the division which we make in the Bill. I have offered to talk with the right hon. Gentleman on this.
Coming to Horwich and the Amendment of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) to transfer part of the parish of Rivington, which comprises the land and buildings of the Rivington and Blackrod Grammar School, this is a small area which is not easily described by any ward or parish lines. It is a boundary which will have to be amended by the Boundary Commission, not only here but elsewhere; for example, Lever Park. One can leave this to the Boundary Commission and not ask us, across the Floor of Parliament, to draw lines which are not fully indicated on the map. Although the property transfer idea was scoffed at, it is practicable as a transitional idea.
Mr Thomas Price (Westhoughton)
Whilst I am disappointed at the right hon. Gentleman's negative approach to the Amendment as it stands, I hope I may have, coupled with the assurance I have already had from him in correspondence concerning the Boundary Commission, the assurance that, if he has any faith in the remedy that the school be dedicated and the property be dedicated to the metropolitan area, he will use the machinery of this Department to prevail upon Lancashire County Council to so dedicate it before the Boundary Commission has a further two or three years' gestation period before it reaches a solution by the conventional process.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
I am not giving any further undertakings, certainly not those which will encourage me to bully a county council.
The Amendment proposed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) concerned Turton. The southern wards of Turton are a straight build-up from Bolton. One proceeds on the road from Bury to Bolton. When one arrives at Ainsworth one turns north and there is a continuous build-up until one reaches the top of the hill, Turton Towers. One then arrives at new country, Edgworth, which is one of the grey villages of that area. We have drawn a line at that point except in relation to the small Amendment proposed concerning half a dozen houses. I ask the House to accept that. My hon. and learned Friend has delineated it exactly. It corrects an anomaly.
So far as Ramsbottom is concerned, again there is a continuous build-up from Bury. Ramsbottom in separated from the towns to its north. It becomes a suburb of Bury, although as one comes down the A56 from Broadfield towards Bury on the east there is one wide open country reservoir. On the west along the Irwell there is a modern built-up development. We must keep Ramsbottom within Bury.
It is different as one moves further to the east when one reaches Whitworth. There I was presented with a problem. One would take in a continuous build-up; then one would have to go out to Bacup and Rawtenstall. Someone looked for a real break between Rochdale and Bacup. It comes at the start of Whitworth, the southern boundary of Whitworth, where the character changes from the town of Rochdale to the country town of Whitworth. It is right to take Whitworth out of Rochdale.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
Yes. It comprises the south-western wards of Ramsbottom to which I referred. That comprises the suburb of Bury.
Going clockwise I arrive at Poynton. Here it is difficult to accept the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). As one leaves Stockport and arrives at Hazelgrove, which is part of Stockport, there is no real division. Along the road into Poynton, between the Fiveways Hotel at Hazelgrove and the Bull's Head at Poynton, the substantial area which my hon. Friend was talking about is Seven fields dominated by a few houses. Poynton is connected thoroughly, geographically and culturally, with Stockport. People from Poynton seek their theatres and so on within the conurbation. I cannot agree that one can hive off an area like that and leave it with Macclesfield, as there are many miles of open country between Poynton and Macclesfield.
Mr Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
My right hon. Friend and other hon. Members participated in the debate affecting Poynton. They have implied that much of what Poynton needs and uses is located in the Greater Manchester area. In many ways that is true. It is true of many areas which are not going to be located in the greater Manchester area under the local government reorganisation arrangements. So that does not hold much water.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
If my hon. Friend will look both east and west from Poynton there is a continuous build-up to Wilmslow and to the east. It is not as if Poynton sticks out like a wart into the conurbation. It is part and parcel of that area. If we took Poynton out of the area it would amount to a cut-in.
I give an assurance about the green belt. It does not mean that because we include a certain amount of green belt within the conurbation it is not going to be protected. It is going to be protected whether in or outside the conurbation. My hon. Friend's area, Poynton, is blessed because it will have its own parish in the future. It is one of those few areas of a rural district which have a parish and which have been included in a conurbation.
I have proceeded round the fringe of the conurbation. I have not dealt with it in any detail as I should like to have done and as I have tried to do in discussion with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in discussing these Amendments outside the Chamber. I should like to have gone into it in far more detail. There are some details where I have been able to meet the Amendments on the Order Paper and some which I must resist. We shall have a very reasonable county with very reasonable county districts.
Dr David Clark (Colne Valley)
When the right hon. Gentleman was referring to Poynton he made a succinct comment that Poynton would be one of the few areas that would retain a parish council within the metropolitan area. Is the right hon. Gentleman ruling out the possibility of urban district councils having parish council status within metropolitan counties?
Constance Monks (Chorley)
May I ask the Minister whether in the consultations he has with regard to this school in Rivington I might be included, since Rivington happens to be in my constituency and I had hoped to have an opportunity to speak on this but was not called? I would like that to be borne in mind.
Mr Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it customary for Front Bench speakers who have no direct geographical interest in an area to speak before other hon. Members on both sides who have such an interest have been called?
Mr Thomas Price (Westhoughton)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In case any wrong impression is left among my colleagues or among hon. Members opposite, let me say, with regard to this school on which I spoke at some length—and I apologise for that—that in fact I observed the usual courtesies and gave personal notice to the hon. Member for Chorley (Mrs. Monks) that I intended to do so. I should not like anyone to think that I have interfered with something outside my province because I gave full notice.
Hon. John Silkin (Deptford)
I was about to say that the House has spent three hours and 20 minutes discussing these Amendments. I realise that I should have said three hours and 22 minutes. I do not believe that it is the wish of the House that we should go on very much longer in discussing them. What the House wants to do is to come to a decision, because if we do not do so soon it looks as though the Local Government Bill, 1972 might turn into the Local Government Bill, 1973.
What is interesting about this debate, which centres on the question of the Bury-Rochdale spread, is that in Committee a number of my hon. Friends and I asked the then Under-Secretary—this was in his helicopter days; now it is Concorde—to consider the representations made to him, because it seemed that he had not done so. He had given the Committee a strong and forceful basis for saying "No" without, we thought, listening sufficiently. We rather chided the Under-Secretary and the Minister for being too inflexible. I withdraw that now because I believe that the Minister has been extremely flexible and has done what a Minister should do; he has looked and looked again. Having said that, the rather odd situation arises in that while the Minister has been looking again, so, too, have I.
I have been looking at the arguments the Under-Secretary put in Committee, which were basically two-fold. First, he said there is a common interest between Bury and Rochdale apart from the fact that they are both in South-East Lancashire—if my geography is correct. The second strength of his argument was that if one divided Bury and Rochdale one would create three metropolitan districts with populations of 175,000, 208,000, and 224,000. I realise that some Amendments have made a slight difference in that. He went on to quote from the White Paper which says that the minimum population for a metropolitan district ought to be 250,000. There is certainly one English example of a metropolitan district with less than that. The Minister has chided me for suggesting the creation of metropolitan districts with populations below 250,000. These were the points he made.
What he said in Committee was:
It would be misleading for me not to say that the Government's view remains that it would not be in the best interests, either of the local people or the form of local authority reorganisation which we are introducing, to accept this Amendment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee, D, 14th December, 1971; c. 414.]
If that is so we are entitled to ask what new factors have arisen. Apart from the
The only new factor, as I understand it, is the publication of the book on strategic planning for the North-West which the hon. Member said took place in the early months of 1972, although he went on to say when I asked him that it has been in the Department since December, 1971. Assuming that those dates are correct, an interesting view of the home life of the Ministry emerges. It is that it is totally unaware of a giant survey on planning in the North-West——
Hon. John Silkin (Deptford)
I rather suspected that that might be so. I do not think it is a new factor at all. In other words, what has happened is that the Minister, despite the strong case that was made in Committee, has changed his mind, not on external facts, not on new facts, not on any new considerations. I have studied the arguments again and again since Committee. Had there been new facts and considerations, I might have thought differently, but in view of the fact that the arguments were put so strongly in Committee by the then Under-Secretary, and that, to my mind, they stand today and because there are no new considerations, I shall have to ask my hon. and right hon. Friends to oppose the Amendment.
|Division No. 270.]||AYES||[7.30 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Buck, Antony||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Bullus, Sir Eric||Drayson, G. B.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Burden, F. A.||Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Bell, Ronald||Chapman, Sydney||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Benyon, W.||Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Churchill, W. S.||English, Michael|
|Biffen, John||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Farr, John|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Cockeram, Eric||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy|
|Boscawen, Robert||Cooke, Robert||Fidler, Michael|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Cooper, A. E.||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Cormack, Patrick||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Bray, Ronald||Crouch, David||Fortescue, Tim|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Crowder, F. P.||Fowler, Norman|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Dean, Paul||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Madel, David||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mather, Carol||Speed, Keith|
|Gray, Hamish||Mawby, Ray||Spence, John|
|Green, Alan||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Gummer, J. Selwyn||Miscampbell, Norman||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Gurden, Harold||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Moate, Roger||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Tebbit, Norman|
|Hawkins, Paul||Montgomery, Fergus||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Higgins, Terence L.||More, Jasper||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Holland, Philip||Murton, Oscar||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)|
|Hordern, Peter||Neave, Airey||Trew, Peter|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia||Normanton, Tom||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Nott, John||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hunt, John||Onslow, Cranley||Waddington, David|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Jopling, Michael||Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Powell, Rt. Hn. Enoch||Wall, Patrick|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Kimball, Marcus||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Warren, Kenneth|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Lane, David||Raison, Timothy||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Le Merchant, Spencer||Redmond, Robert||Wilkinson, John|
|Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Woodhouse, Hn. Chrilstopher|
|Longden, Sir Gilbert||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Loveridge, John||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Luce, R. N.||Russell, Sir Ronald||Mr. Victor Goodhew and|
|McCrindle, R. A.||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Mr. Marcus Fox.|
|McNair-Wilson, Michael||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Heffer, Eric S.||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Hooson, Emlyn||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Ashton, Joe||Horam, John||Pentland, Norman|
|Atkinson, Norman||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Prescott, John|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Irvine,Rt.Hn.SirArthur(Edge Hill)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Booth, Albert||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Roper, John|
|Bottomley. Rt. Hn. Arthur||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Judd, Frank||Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Kaufman, Gerald||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Lamond, James||Silverman, Julius|
|Cohen, Stanley||Latham, Arthur||Skinner, Dennis|
|Concannon, J. D.||Lawson, George||Spearing, Nigel|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Leonard, Dick||Stallard, A. W.|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||McGuire, Michael||Taverne, Dick|
|Dalyell, Tam||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Tinn, James|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Torney, Tom|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Deakins, Eric||Marsden, F.||Urwin, T. W.|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Dormand, J. D.||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Mendelson, John||Wallace, George|
|Dunn, James A.||Mikardo, Ian||Weitzman, David|
|Edelman, Maurice||Millan, Bruce||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Evans, Fred||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Faulds, Andrew||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Whitlock, William|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Ogden, Eric||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Foot, Michael||O'Halloran, Michael||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Forrester, John||O'Malley, Brian||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Orbach, Maurice|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hardy, Peter||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Mr. Ernest G. Perry and|
|Harper, Joseph||Pardoe, John||Mr. Ernest Armstrong.|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
Amendments made: No. 1021, in page 192, line 43, column 2, at end insert:
The county borough of Rochdale.
In the administrative county of Lancaster—
the borough of Middleton;
the borough of Heywood, except the areas in district (c);
the urban districts of Littleborough, Milnrow and Wardle'.
The county borough of Blackburn
In the administrative county of Lancaster—
the boroughs of Accrington, Clitheroe, Darwen and Haslingden;
the urban districts of Church, Clayton-le-Moors, Great Harwood, Oswald-twistle, Rishton and Withnell;
the urban district of Turton except the area in Greater Manchester;
the rural districts of Blackburn and Clitheroe.
In the administrative county of Yorkshire, West Riding—
the rural district of Bowland
The county borough of Blackpool
In the administrative county of Lancaster—
the boroughs of Fleetwood and Lytham St. Annes;
the urban districts of Preesall, Poulton-le-Fylde, Thornton-Cleveleys and Kirkham;
the rural district of Fylde;
in the rural district of Garstang, the parishes of Great Eccleston, Hambleton, Out Rawcliffe, Pilling, Stalmine-with-Staynall.
The county borough of Burnley.
In the administrative county of Lancaster—
the boroughs of Colne, Nelson, Bacup and Rawtenstall;
the urban districts of Barrowford, Brierfield, Paliham and Trawden;
the rural district of Burnley.
In the administrative county of Yorkshire, West Riding—
the urban districts of Barnoldswick and Earby;
in the rural district of Skipton, the parishes of Bracewell, Brogden and Salterforth.
The county borough of Preston.
In the administrative county of Lancaster—
the borough of Chorley;
the urban districts of Fulwood, Walter-le-Dale, Longridge, Leyland and Adlington;
the rural districts of Chorley and Preston;
in the rural district of Garstang, the parishes of Barnacre-with-Bonds, Bilsborrow, Bleasdale, Cabus, Catterall, Claughton, Forton, Garstang, Inskip-with-Sowerby, Kirkland, Myerscough, Nateby, Nether Wyresdale, Upper Rawcliffe-with-Tarnacre and Winmarleigh.
In the administrative county of Lancaster—
the boroughs of Lancaster and Morecambe and Heysham;
the urban district of Carnforth;
the rural districts of Lancaster and Lunesdale.
The county borough of Southport.
In the administrative county of Lancaster—
the urban districts of Ormskirk and Skelmersdale and Holland;
the rural district of West Lancashire except the area in Merseyside;
the rural district of Wigan except the area in Greater Manchester.
Mrs Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
I will move the Amendment briefly and I am doing so out of compassion as much for hon. Gentlemen opposite on the Government Front Bench as for my hon. Friends, because of course we could go on endlessly arguing the cases of our own particular areas. I hope that the Minister, if I am brief and if this debate is brief, will hold it as a credit to us and not as an indication that somehow we are not interested, because if that is to be the test of the measure of our enthusiasm he will be here not only all night but well into next week as well.
At this stage of a debate of this kind, anyone putting forward an Amendment of local application must almost have a sense of despair. The Government have been committed to a broad strategy of local government reform and they are buoyed up with a sense of the rightness of their own strategy. Therefore, it must be a very great temptation to dismiss individual Amendments dealing with particular areas as purely parochial.
I make a genuine plea to the Government to accept the Amendment, the effect of which will be to make Central Lancashire, that is area 10, into a petropolitan area. A powerful case for this was put by my hon. Friends in Committee and I thank them for making that case, although the Under-Secretary of State did not deal with it properly. We are grateful to the Chair for giving those of us who represent the county boroughs concerned a chance to add our plea to that which was so forcefully put by my hon. Friends.
It is inevitable, representing, as I do, the constituency of Blackburn, that I should look at this issue from the point of view of my own constituency, but I want to build up the picture from its foundations, on the basis not just of what my own constituents will suffer but of the whole principle of local government reform. On that basis, we find that the Government propose to destroy four substantial county boroughs, Blackburn. Blackpool, Burnley and Preston, and reduce an area which should be planned as a whole to a patchwork of small local authorities. No other non-metropolitan county in the Government's plan has this number of important county boroughs in its area.
I have read the Committee debates and the Government's White Paper, and it is far from clear on what criteria the Government have based their choice of the metropolitan areas. For heaven's sake. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, how can the Government include in their metropolitan areas South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire and omit Central Lancashire, when they are such comparable areas, having so many similar characteristics of urban concentration and unified interests? The Royal Commission carefully considered making Central Lancashire a metropolitan area, and there is reason to believe that if the plans for the Central Lancashire new town had been further advanced at that stage the Royal Commission might well have come down in favour of that solution.
The case for the coherent government of urban Central Lancashire, on which the future of the Central Lancashire new town depends, is surely unanswerable. Once the Government announced their intention to allow the development of the Central Lancashire new town to proceed, they made Central Lancashire into a metropolitan area. If local government reorganisation has any meaning at all, surely the area from Blackpool in the west to Burnley in the east must be planned as a whole, as a multi-centre urban area, with the Central Lancashire new town as a focal point under a first-tier authority dedicated to the development of this multi-community metropolitan complex and supported by strong second-tier authorities with a substantial range of functions.
I hope that the Government have not got so bored by this stage that they are closing their ears. The future of our local democracy is at stake, and I ask the Government to consider this on its merits. We are talking of a proud area of one million people, 80 per cent, of whom live in urban authority areas—areas that have known struggle, suffering and difficulty in the past years. This area has begun to pull itself up by its own bootstraps, and now it suddenly finds itself faced with a future which will downgrade many of its efforts and fill it with uncertainty. There is a great need for urban and industrial renewal. The problem can only be solved, for the sake of Britain as a whole, under a coherent structure of local government.
Is it not absurd that, under this proposed pattern of local government, we should plonk down a new town in the heart of such an area and expect it to develop in isolation from its urban hinterland?
The right hon. Gentleman knows that there was great anxiety in North-East Lancashire about having a new town there. I know; I was a member of the Government when it was first broached. There was tremendous anxiety amongst all sections of the population and all types of association and organisation because it was felt that the new town would be a magnet for industry and population not so much from the south as from the neglected areas, the old cotton areas of North-East Lancashire. Our fears were only allayed—and I played my part in allaying them —by the promise, first, that the old cotton towns would get differential help for industry compared with the new town—that has gone under the Government's new regional plans—and secondly, that the old cotton towns, the old county borough areas, would get new local government status as unitary areas with even stronger local authority structure and powers, and that has gone too.
I warn the right hon. Gentleman that, despite the progress now being made with the Calder Valley road—he and I have discussed this and we welcome that progress—those fears are alive again. It is no good having a first class modern road at the heart of an area if at the same time we are diminishing the power of that area to help itself. After all, roads lead more ways than one, and enable people to travel away from as well as into the old towns unless the old towns are given every facility to develop as an equivalent magnet to the new town.
If the new town were to be developed, as we plead in the Amendment, as part of a comprehensive metropolitan area, then we should strike a better balance in the tug-of-war that is bound to ensue between the old cotton towns and the new growth point. Instead of that, what will happen to the old towns when the Government's proposals go through? What will happen to the old county boroughs of Blackburn and Burnley? I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones) is waiting to add his quota to the debate. Those once proud self-reliant areas will be left with fewer functions than any contemporary rural district council. They are to have their educational powers and their responsibility for personal social services taken away. They are told, "That is all right, you will be left with housing". That is a bad division of functions anyhow, but I will not stop to argue that general local government point.
By making them into ordinary districts under an ordinary county council, instead of metropilitan districts within a metropolitan area, we shall break up the close co-ordination that exists between slum clearance, area improvement and planning powers. This will also be the fate of the new town if the Government's proposals go through. Imagine setting up an important new growth point which is not to be an all-purpose authority. Imagine a new town set down in an area which is already heavily urbanised, facing problems of urban renewal and developing its infra-structure, and then giving it no powers to control its own destiny.
I emphasise that the length of my speech should not be regarded as an indication of the strength of my arguments or the strength of feeling in the area which I represent. Brevity is an act of consideration, not capitulation. What the Government are doing by these present proposals is reviving in North-East Lancashire all the old fears and hostilities about the new town. It has disheartened local authorities who have done more than any in the country in similar circumstances to renew their own lives and to build up their own sense of community.
I have a pile of letters which I could quote but which I shall spare the House. The letters show that the support for making this comprehensive urban part of Britain into a metropolitan area ranges from chambers of trade and commerce right through to trades councils and Labour Party regional councils in the neighbourhood.
In the interests of good local government, I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will please think again. There is nothing in his present proposals as a whole to justify him refusing to this proud and courageous part of our country the metropolitan area status which it deserves.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
I hope that it will be convenient to intervene at this stage. Since this is a debate on principle it is probably better that I should make an opening statement now, rather than listen to individual constituency speeches and try to answer each constituency point. If there are points raised in the debate which need to be answered, I shall if the House will allow me to do so, take them at the end of this discussion.
I shall attempt to answer the questions of principle which were rightly put forward by the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). She touched on three subjects into which I do not need to go in great detail. In regard to the division of functions and the merits of such a division, we have to consider what functions the area would exercise if it were a metropolitan district. I hope she will forgive me if I do not go in detail into those functions because she will appreciate that next week or the week after we shall be discussing them in great detail.
The right hon. Lady then raised the question of the merits of having the new town in central Lancashire. Again, although the existence of that new town when built will have a great influence on our decision in relation to this Amendment as to whether this should have metropolitan or non-metropolitan status now or in the future, I ask her to excuse me from going into the merits of having the new town there or not.
The third point raised by the right hon. Lady related to the need for urban renewal. We all recognise, and the Government have recognised in practical fashion, the need for urban renewal in towns in North-East Lancashire and partly in Central Lancashire. I do not think the question whether they are of metropolitan or non-metropolitan status affects the efforts which they will make for urban renewal. Many are now taking great advantage of the assistance offered by the Government, and to great effect. I know that at present the county boroughs have full powers to do that, but even those towns which are not county boroughs at present are accepting and putting to very good purpose the assistance which the Government are giving in urban renewal.
I cannot think that the difference in status will affect that situation. I hope that this matter is gaining in momentum, and, as I have said on frequent occasions in the area, I hope that the existing towns will make rapid progress with urban renewal and rehabilitation in the introduction of industry with such assistance as my colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry can give, and that they will be fully revived before we even start building the new town. If that is so, we can gain great advantage out of the existence of the new town. There is no intention of the new town supplanting the existing towns.
Let us look at the principle of the setting up of a metropolitan county. The metropolitan county is an innovation in the provinces; it is an innovation in local government. We cannot judge it against existing examples because there is none. There is the Greater London Council, but I doubt whether anybody would suggest that that is particularly applicable to Lancashire. However, we can judge this proposal which we are now debating against the other metropolitan counties which we have set out in the Bill. The principle on which we propose to make those areas counties with metropolitan status is that they are predominantly urban in character and generally compact. This was said in paragraph 16 of the White Paper and is the principle we have tried to carry out in choosing the areas.
The right hon. Lady mentioned West Yorkshire and raised the question of whether it could be called compact. I must join issue with her on that point. West Yorkshire is of a different character to Lancashire in that, although it has a number of free-standing towns, they are far more compact than Lancashire. When we try to apply to Lancashire the phrase "predominantly urban in character" which is used in the White Paper, it becomes a little ridiculous. We think of the west of Lancaster and Lunesdale rural district, the Bowland Forest, West Lancashire rural district between Preston and Southport, the open spaces between Turton and Darwen, and we cannot call the area predominantly urban in character, nor can we call it compact.
If we were to place metropolitan status on this area at present, it would hold up our whole principle of metropolitan status to ridicule. The case in the Amendment is that the towns should be grouped in six districts and that those districts, because they would be of metropolitan district status, should have education and social service functions. That may be the desire of the present county boroughs which have those functions already, but the smaller towns in general do not want this grouping and feel that they may be overpowered by the county boroughs. The grouping which they would receive under the non-metropolitan status, if there were a non-metropolitan county, would be a grouping into 12 or 13 districts.
It is relevant to point out the representation which the people would have in their councillors under those two different sets of circumstances. If we were to group Lancashire into six metropolitan districts, the number of councillors in that area for the districts would be about 240 to 300—on the basis on which, say, greater Manchester or Merseyside have their councillors. If we leave the districts as they are in the Bill, and as the Boundary Commission has indicated, it will divide the area into districts, and the average size of a non-metropolitan district council is 50. That means, therefore, that there would be 650 councillors representing the area if this were a non-metropolitan county as opposed to only about 250 in the case of a metropolitan county.
At this stage, I believe that it is right to retain Lancashire as a non-metropolitan county. It means depriving the existing couny boroughs of direct rule in certain functions, but they will have through their councillors control of a far wider area in the carrying out of those functions.
In the Bill we are endeavouring to set up a structure of local government. It happens that at present certain areas fit into one type of structure and certain areas into another. That does not mean that in the next 10, 20 or 50 years an area will not graduate into the other structure of local government. Applying that to Lancashire, it may be that when the Central Lancashire new town is built there will be a compact area predominantly urban in character which will qualify as a metropolitan county. But that is not so at present, and, therefore, I must advise the House to reject the Amendment, although I have great sympathy with the intention behind it of producing a co-ordinated area in Lancashire, to get all the towns of Lancashire outside the Greater Manchester conurbation and the Mersey conurbation to work together. I think that they can do it best at present under non-metropolitan county status.
Mr Daniel Jones (Burnley)
I have listened carefully to the Minister, and although he has made his reply sound reasonable, I am quite sure that it will not be accepted as such by members of his own party in the county borough of Burnley. It is for that reason that I intend to support the Amendment so ably moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle).
On this occasion, I am privileged to speak, not only for the right hon. Gentleman's own party in Burnley. The Minister must also be aware that I speak on behalf of the Association of Municipal Corporations. With respect to the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers, the AMC has far more experience of local government work than they have, and that association, too, supports the proposals contained in the Amendment.
I must speak of Burnley predominantly, and I begin by telling the Minister that to reduce the county borough of Burnley to the level of a district council, stripping it of all its local authority powers, is a shameful act. I have been in Burnley for some 14 years, and I have represented my constituency during periods when both main parties have operated from the town hall. In all aspects of local authority work the county borough council has a unique record. For that reason it is an act of vandalism to bring down these people to the level of a district council, robbing them of powers that they have enjoyed for more than 100 years.
As I have said already, this is a unique occasion, and I intend to make full use of it by speaking for the Labour Party in Burnley and for the right hon. Gentleman's party.
Recently, the Minister had the privilege of being in the county borough of Burnley. He met people from all over the area. He will remember the fraternal welcome that he had, and he will know the sense of purpose of those who are elected by the ordinary people to the town hall.
Perhaps I might refer again to the geographical differences between the proposals contained in our Amendment and the Government's own proposals. It is intended that the people of Burnley and of the constituency of the hon. and learned Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) will go into Preston whenever they have points which they wish to discuss with those at the town hall. That is a laborious and costly journey. In my opinion it is also a rather unnecessary one. We have heard it said that local authority representation no less than central Government representation should be such that it is close to the people. Yet the people who for more than 100 years have been able to walk to the town hall to discuss their affairs will have to make a long and costly journey to Preston.
The whole of North-East Lancashire from Blackburn to Barnoldswick is a natural enclave. It forms itself naturally into one comprehensive geophysical setting. Those are not only my opinions. If the Minister cares to look at reports offered to the previous Government and to that Government's conclusions in relation to these recommendations, he will see that this area was to be one unitary authority. That met with the approval of the people. I do not know how the Minister can now say that the proposals in the Amendment would not meet the wishes of the majority of people in the area. I admit that there are those who would oppose them. However, I chose my words carefully, and I have no doubt what the majority view would be.
Again I ask the Ministry why an area like Huddersfield, a county borough with characteristics very much like those of Burnley and Blackburn, is to retain its county borough status. Why is this distinction made? I will not venture too deeply into this matter because I hope that it will be argued more extensively by others of my hon. Friends. I turn instead to the White Paper.
In choosing its six metropolitan areas the White Paper states two brief requirements; namely, areas needing to be treated as entities for the purposes of planning, transportation and certain other services, and areas which are divisible into districts all of which are populous and compact. If that does not fit Blackburn and Burnley, I do not know what does. It is because of that that I ask the Minister to give these proposals further thought.
The Minister has already intimated in a previous debate that he would adopt the mood of flexibility. He even hinted that Ministers had some right to expect that when these issues went to the other place possibly they could get some change there. I should have been happier tonight if similar assurances had been offered on this issue, but it seemed that before hon. Members on this side had an opportunity of supporting my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn the right hon. Gentleman had closed his mind and almost told us that whatever we said could make little difference. Therefore, the Minister has not been fair.
I should like to quote from another of the Government's documents. I do not wish to detain the House unduly long and promise that this will be my last quotation. Taking into consideration the Government's recommendation, one can see from this document a significance which definitely applies to the merits of the Amendment:
One aspect of this general question of interrelated services deserves special mention. Parts of Central Lancashire have a slum clearance and urban renewal task proportionately as great as that to be found in any of the conurbations. Most, possibly all, areas where a comparable concentration of urban blight exists will be governed under the metropolitan system. Two conditions are essential in the organisation for solving this desperately urgent problem, namely (1) integration of housing and social services (including education) within the redeveloped team, and (2) the closest co-ordination in the exercise of slum clearance area improvement and planning powers. It is, in our view, a daunting handicap, to say the least, to attempt this task with an organisation comprising separate housing and social services authorities and a planning authority with, in the case of Area 10, disparate and unrelated urban and rural objectives. The metropolitan authorities will be much better served in this respect.
That is the nub of the case for Burnley and Blackburn.
I should like to refer to social services. Without being unduly aggressive, I challenge the Government to point to any area in the country which has dealt with social services with the kind of humanity that progressively the county borough of Burnley has. It is to be denied that.
Within recent months I have received a petition signed by 4,000 to 5,000 people from all over the County Borough of Burnley stating that as their county borough status had been taken away they were prepared to do away with the Noyna centre in Blackpool to which they send their disabled and infirm for sound convalescent treatment. I do not know of any petition in the years I have been in Burnley which has evoked such a toll of humanitarianism as that project. It would be shameful were it to end.
The Minister must not think that the comparative brevity of our contributions indicates that our concern is superficial. I shudder to think what the position of Burnley through the years would have been had it been operating under the county council. No local authority has had to bear progresively the burden that this county borough has borne, certainly in post-war years. Had it not been for Burnley's own imaginative efforts, its own cost, with both parties in solid support, its position would have been tragic. It is a county borough which at one time enjoyed a population of 120,000. The population now is just over 70,000. It would have been "Heaven help the area!" had it not been for the efforts of the county borough and the people elected to serve that closely knit, splendid community to preserve at least a basic whereby industrial expansion could conceivably take place. All this will come to an end under the Government's proposals.
If the Minister does not feel he can respond to my overtures on behalf of the County Borough of Burnley, labelling me as an opponent anyhow and, therefore, against the Government, and cannot take into account the rather wiser deliberations of the AMC, which is certainly far more experienced at this kind of work than I am ever likely to be, perhaps he will take into consideration the claims made by his own political party in the County Borough of Burnley?
Mrs Elaine Kellett (Lancaster)
I rise strongly to oppose the Amendment. The last thing my constituents in the proud city and county town of Lancaster, the urban district of Carnforth and the rural districts of Lancaster and Lunesdale want is to be included in a metropolitan district. They know that they are perfectly capable of conducting their own affairs and beg leave to continue to do so. I ask the Minister not to heed the Amendment, but to allow my constituents the proud independence they have always had.
Constance Monks (Chorley)
I oppose the Amendment on behalf of the five local districts in my constituency because, if it were passed, the Lancashire County Council would virtually cease to exist, for the Government's proposals already truncate it and the Amendment would complete its annihilation. Nobody with any affection for Lancashire and regard for the extremely high quality of many of its services could possibly approve of the Amendment.
Central and Northern Lancashire is not a "metropolitan area" in any sense of these words. It contains large rural areas, some of them very attractive indeed, and the Lancaster County Council, by its overall planning power, has done a great deal to preserve and enhance these rural areas and yet supervise the provision of amenities and services second to none. Anybody with a close knowledge of Lancashire would know this.
Similar proposals put forward previously were bitterly opposed by the vast majority of the 40 district councils in Central Lancashire—I believe by 39 out of the 40—which shows loyalty to the county and gratitude for the services it has inaugurated.
This is one of the great county councils, which has been able to pioneer in many aspects of local government—in education, the police, motorways and welfare services—largely because it had high rateable value owing to its size and population.
The adoption of the Amendment would destroy the Secretary of State's concept of the proposed growth of the designated area of the Central Lancashire new town which is based on the closest co-operation between the county council and the new town corporation. The county planning department and the new town consultants have been working together on this project for seven to eight years, long before the new town corporation was formed, and now that the New Town corporation is getting down to business after two years, further delay by changing plans at this stage is absolutely unthinkable.
The whole planning theme has been and still is that a common centre must be avoided at all costs. In the Central Lancashire new town there are to be three separate growth areas based on the existing towns of Preston, Chorley and Leyland. Each will have something of its own individuality to give to the others, and we shall maintain a certain amount of green belt in between.
Perhaps I may link the Amendment with the previous one with regard to the school in Rivington. The area of Rivington and the country around it is just without the new town area, but it is in my constituency. It has been planned by the Lancashire County Council as a country park to be enjoyed by areas to the north as well as to the south. According to the guidelines given to us, a principle of the Bill is that a new district should comprise whole parishes or wards, and the county council could not entertain the transference of the whole of Rivington village and parish just to give greater Manchester another school.
Children will continue to cross boundaries from one area to another, and local authorities will continue to pay for their children going into other areas, so this school in Rivington does not present any great problems. To interfere at this stage with an area on which the county council has spent a considerable amount of money and which it has planned as a country park would be very wrong, indeed.
Mr David Waddington (Nelson and Colne)
I do not accept any of the arguments advanced either by the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) or by my friend—I cannot call him my hon. Friend—the Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones). The right hon. Lady said that the new town must be an issue when we consider whether there should be a metropolitan area in Lancashire. To introduce a discussion on the new town is to drag as large a red herring across the debate as I have ever heard. The new town obviously presents North-East Lancashire with great problems, but it will continue to do so whether or not North-East Lancashire becomes part of a metropolitan area.
The right hon. Lady went on to say that over the years Lancashire—and North-East Lancashire in particular—had pulled itself up by its boot straps. Is the right hon. Lady suggesting that just because her pet scheme of having a unitary authority or a metropolitan area is not carried out the boot strap which has been so useful over the years will suddenly snap? What absolute rubbish.
The hon. Member for Burnley referred to industrial expansion and seemed to suggest that it would come to an end if the proposal for a central Lancashire metropolitan area were not put into effect. The truth of the matter is that over the years North-East Lancashire has created a most important and influential body called the North-East Lancashire Development Committee which has done a great deal of work in the way of attracting new industry to that area. It is a classic example of the way in which small authorities can co-operate and work together. It does not need a monolithic structure such as a metropolitan area comprised of monolithic metropolitan districts to get that sort of co-operation.
Mr David Waddington (Nelson and Colne)
I do not accept that. To accept it is to suggest that the Lancashire County Council, far from encouraging the promotion of industrial expansion, is an impediment to it, and nothing could be further from the truth. A top tier authority will be working with us to get the industrial expansion that we want.
I can understand people involved in local government in, say, Burnley, bitterly resenting the loss of county borough status and thinking that the next best thing is to be the centre of a metropolitan district, but I cannot for the life of me see what the people, as distinct from the politicians, in, for example, Nelson and Colne, would get out of becoming mere appendages of Burnley.
Last summer posters and leaflets suddenly began to appear in Nelson and Colne. They were stuck on the town hall door, and they bore the legend "Keep Local Government Local". A number of my constituents were naive enough to believe that those responsible for the posters and stickers meant what they were saying. They believed that Nelson Council had suddenly seen the light and was supporting the Government's proposals, which are to make local government local, certainly in Nelson and Colne. Imagine their surprise when they discovered that the subtle originators of the posters wanted precisely the opposite. They wanted a Burnley take-over of the surrounding district, and that is something which is not acceptable to other than the tiniest minority of my constituents.
Some have tried to say that that slogan is justified because county hall is further away in terms of miles than Burnley town hall. People who say that ignore the fact that people in Nelson and Colne are used to the two-tier system. They are used to looking to Nelson town hall for certain things, and to the county for other things.
Most of all, the people who try to support that slogan ignore the fact that on the county council the representatives of small authorities such as Nelson and Colne, Lancaster and many others will find themselves alongside representatives of similar sized local authorities with similar problems and will be able to find common cause with those representatives. On a greater Burnley Council the representatives of Nelson and Colne would not matter two hoots. They would be outvoted on every important issue, and that is the principal reason why people like myself could never support this proposal.
I shall vote against the Amendment, and I shall do so in the knowledge that I am doing the right thing by my constitutents. In case there should be any doubt about the situation on the various councils in my constituency, let me tell the House that every local authority in my Division, apart from Nelson, is opposed to this proposal to bring about a central Lancashire metropolitan area. Even Nelson and Colne has not always been in favour of a metropolitan area. It has investigated all sorts of possibilities over the months, if the Press has been right. At the beginning also it was against a metropolitan area and at that time it was asking for a county district of Nelson and Colne, which I am quite sure we shall get and which I am sure would be the right solution.
Mr Gordon Oakes (Widnes)
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister will agree that in all the Amendments we have put forward, both in Committee and at Report stage, we on this side of the House have been trying to find the best and most appropriate form of local government for a particular area.
I support entirely what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), that the remaining area of Lancashire clearly ought to be a metropolitan county area.
The right hon. Gentleman sought to draw a very dangerous distinction. He represents a Lancashire constituency, as do I, and he will possibly realise the danger of what he did. He drew a comparison between Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire at that. The right hon. Gentleman appears to think Yorkshire much more compact than Lancashire and that, therefore, there is a big difference between the type of county structure we should have.
What about the moors of Skipton and around Keighley? What about "Ikley Moor bah't 'at?"How can one argue to the people in the Lancashire boroughs of Burnley, Preston and Blackpool that they are less compact boroughs than some of the Yorkshire areas in the West Riding which have become metropolitan counties? How can one explain to citizens of Blackburn or of Burnley why their authority should cease to be a metropolitan district when a few miles away Bolton remains a metropolitan district? How does one explain the same thing to the people of Preston when Wigan remains a metropolitan district? How does one explain to the people of Blackpool, that great seaside resort well known to both sides of the House from our conferences, that Southport, her rival holiday resort south of the Rubble, should be a metropolitan district but that Blackpool should not?
There seems no rhyme or reason in keeping Lancashire as a non-metropolitan county. The right hon. Gentleman said that there would be between 240 and 300 councillors if we had metropolitan status in Lancashire, whereas 50 or 60 could do the job. I do not submit to the idea that more means better, or that less means better. This compact urban area has many problems of urban redevelopment. Some of the towns have a higher proportion of old people than many other towns in Britain. In this area it is essential to have more councillors who are easily and readily accessible to the electorate and who are easily to be found.
The difficulty of this proposal is that it centralises most of the main functions of local government away from their traditional centres in Burnley, Blackburn, Preston and Blackpool. It removes them all to the county hall at Preston. The hon. Lady the Member for Chorley (Mrs. Monks), who is no longer present in the Chamber, put her finger on the matter, perhaps inadvertently, when she said that if the Amendments were accepted Lancashire County Council as we know it would cease to exist. That is the reason why Lancashire has been left a non-metropolitan county whereas the other parts, such as Merseyside, Manchester and West Yorkshire, become metropolitan counties.
I am not detracting from Lancashire County Council. Indeed, I dare not do that because my wife is a Lancashire county councillor. But the problems of Lancashire County Council should not be increased at the expense of such great community boroughs as those which have been mentioned today.
One of the factors which, perhaps, the Government do not realise is contained in the word used repeatedly by my right hon. Friend, the word "pride"—not arrogance but pride. It is proper, decent, Lancashire civic pride, pride in one's town and urban area, and in the things one's town has accomplished. Nation wide we hear of the Burnley Building Society and the Blackburn Building Society, and the savings banks of the North. These are names well known throughout the country. They arise from civic pride, which is felt just as much by the right hon. Gentle-
It is a matter of regret that we have not heard today from two of those great towns which are represented by hon. Members. We have not heard from Blackpool about what the Conservative-controlled council at Blackpool thinks of the proposal to demote it to a district council. We have not heard from Preston—proud Preston—in this year of all years, the year of the Preston Guild, when it will find itself demoted, from its ancient splendour as a civic centre, to a district council.
We on this side cannot be satisfied with the replies given by the right hon. Gentleman on the question whether Lancashire county be a metropolitan county. We believe that it should be a metropolitan county and that some of these great districts in Lancashire should be metropolitan districts with the powers of metropolitan districts—library powers, planning powers, and, most important of all, education powers—because of the way in which they have led the rest of the country in these matters. We believe that these towns do not want to be demoted to the status of little more than parish councils. I must ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide the House.
|Division No. 271.]||AYES||[8.40 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Dunn, James A.||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Edelman, Maurice||McGuire, Michael|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||English, Michael||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Ashton, Joe||Evans, Fred||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Atkinson, Norman||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Marsden, F.|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Foot, Michael||Marshall, Dr. Edmund|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Forrester, John||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Gilbert, Dr. John||Mendelson, John|
|Booth, Albert||Hardy, Peter||Mikardo, Ian|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Harper, Joseph||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Heffer, Eric S.||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Horam, John||Oakes, Gordon|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Ogden, Eric|
|Concannon, J. D.||Irvine,Rt.Hn.SirArthur(Edge Hill)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||O'Malley, Brian|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pardoe, John|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richrad||Judd, Frank||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kaufman, Gerald||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lamond, James||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Latham, Arthur||Pentland, Norman|
|Deakins, Eric||Lawson, George||Prescott, John|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Leonard, Dick||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)||Tinn, James||Whitlock, William|
|Roper, John||Torney, Tom||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)||Tuck, Raphael||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Urwin, T. W.||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Silverman, Julius||Vickers, Dame Joan||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Skinner, Dennis||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Spearing, Nigel||Wallace, George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Mr. Ernest Armstrong and|
|Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Whitehead, Phillip||Mr. Ernest G. Perry.|
|Adley, Robert||Grylls, Michael||Percival, Ian|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Gummer, J. Selwyn||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Astor, John||Gurden, Harold||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Haselhurst, Alan||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bell, Ronald||Hawkins, Paul||Raison, Timothy|
|Benyon, W.||Holland, Philip||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Holt, Miss Mary||Redmond, Robert|
|Biffen, John||Hordern, Peter||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Hunt, John||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Bray, Ronald||Iremonger, T. L.||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Jopling, Michael||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Buck, Antony||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Burden, F. A.||Kimball, Marcus||Speed, Keith|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Spence, John|
|Chapman, Sydney||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Churchill, W. S.||Lane, David||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Cockeram, Eric||Le Marchant, Spencer||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Cooke, Robert||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Cordle, John||Loveridge, John||Tebbit, Norman|
|Cormack, Patrick||Luce, R. N.||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Costain, A. P.||McCrindle, R. A.||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)|
|Crouch, David||Madel, David||Trew, Peter|
|Crowder, F. P.||Mather, Carol||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Dean, Paul||Mawby, Ray||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Waddington, David|
|Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Miscampbell, Norman||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Farr, John||Moate, Roger||Warren, Kenneth|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Fidler, Michael||Montgomery, Fergus||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||More, Jasper||Wilkinson, John|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Murton, Oscar||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Fowler, Norman||Normanton, Tom||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Goodhart, Philip||Onslow, Cranley|
|Goodhew, Victor||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gray, Hamish||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Mr. Tim Fortescue and|
|Green, Alan||Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)||Mr. Marcus Fox.|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Parkinson, Cecil|
The county borough of St. Helens—
In the administrative county of Lancaster—
the urban districts of Haydock, Newton-le-Willows and Rainford;
the urban district of Billinge-and-Winstanley except the areas in Greater Manchester.
In the urban district of Ashton in Makerfield, the South Ward.
In the rural district of Whiston, the parishes of Windle, Eccleston, Rainhill and Bold, except the area in Cheshire.
Mr Eric Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I ask the hon. Gentleman not to commit me completely at the moment. I will bear in mind what he has said.
Mr Michael McGuire (Ince)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was under the impression that exactly the opposite had been pronounced—that, since there are so many Amendments, individual Amendments in a group could not be put because it would be so time-consuming. I certainly do not want to deprive anyone of the opportunity to vote on an individual Amendment—I think that it would be a good thing in many cases—but I was told, when I raised this question with the Chair earlier in relation to a modest Amendment of my own, "You can vote only on the main Amendment in the group. "There does, therefore, seem to be a contradiction. If it is the case that a vote can take place on Amendment No. 15, that will be welcome news to many hon. Members concerned.
There may be some slight misapprehension in my mind about this which I would like a little time to clear up. If I may, I will announce something to the House shortly.
Mr James Dunn (Liverpool Kirkdale)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I appreciate that you need some time to take advice on the guidance given by Mr. Speaker. Nevertheless, I would point out to you that there are hon. Members on this side of the House, if not opposite, who would wish to take issue on Amendment No. 15 even if the Government were to accept it. We reserve our right to show our disagreement.
Mr Simon Mahon (Bootle)
This is a speech which I would rather not have made. It would have been unnecessary if the Government had been consistent about No. 11(a) District. Equally, I am aware of the time factor and that so many of my hon. Friends from Merseyside want to speak. I shall therefore be as brief as possible, but this is a very important Amendment for the people of Merseyside and my constituency in particular.
The constituencies of the Minister for Local Government and Development and mine are contiguous. When I welcomed the White Paper I was happy that the great new port of Crosby was being associated with the great ports of Bootle and Liverpool, in some ways. I find the Government's change of mind somewhat disconcerting, therefore. It is not usual for us to quote our own speeches in the House, but I feel it to be necessary in this case. In the debate on the White Paper, I said:
I think the Secretary of State is right in his adjudication on Merseyside. It would have been a great mistake to put the County Borough of Bootle and the County Borough of Liverpool in the same setup. We are rather pleased that he has given us the opportunity of land and advantages coming from the association"—[Official Report, 19th May, 1971; Vol. 817, c. 1337.]
Then I took care to mention every district because I thought there would be a change and I mentioned Crosby, Thornby,
Litherland, Antree, Altcar, Aughton, Downholland, Ince Blundell, Lydiate, Maghull, Melling, Netherton, Sefton, and Thornton. I finished by saying that if there were an election in the area tomorrow the Labour Party would not be in control. I repeat what I pointed out then, that anyone who plans the future of local government on the basis of partisanship is doing the country an injustice.
My attitude to the White Paper stands and my attitude to the partisanship, which I believe is now being shown, stands also. We are being wooed from both sides. There was a time when Liverpool wanted us. Liverpool has been constant in its wooing. But it is only lately that Southport has loved us in any way. Southport is like the Miller's Daughter we sang about at school. In those days Bootle people considered Southport to be a haughty lass who was certainly longing to be of a higher class. In all the problems we had in Bootle and Merseyside Southport eschewed us and gave us no help nor cognisance nor comfort.
When I came out of the Army and returned to my native town where I still live the medical officer of health, Dr. Wood, told me we had the highest maternal mortality rate in the country, the highest incidence of tuberculosis, the highest birth rate and the lowest death rate. Those were the problems that Bootle had to solve within the confines of the Bootle county borough. We were therefore willing to take assistance from anyone who would give it but it was not forthcoming at the time.
The situation in Bootle has changed. It has become a prosperous town—though not as prosperous as we would like—and the whole social and economic face of the town has changed as a result of the hard work we have done there. I hope that we can all claim to be patriotic about our localities and about our country. I was born in the middle of Bootle and have spent the whole of my political life in the town. It has a good authority which is kind, humane and forward-looking. That is quite proper because the motto of the town is Respice, Aspice, Prospice—look to the past, consider the present, plan for the future.
In all these circumstances I ask the Minister to reconsider what he is doing to us. We are perfectly happy to go on as we are. It is only because the Government have amended their original plans that it is necessary for me to change my attitude and my speech from that which welcomed their previous wishes. If the right hon. Gentleman will nod now and say the old District 11(a), which contained Bootle, Crosby and the other districts but not Southport, still stands, I will stop my speech. But he obviously will not agree to that and I am not expecting him to.
The council at Bootle is not now unanimous on the matter. A change of heart by the Government has caused anxiety, and I am seeking to ventilate the feelings of my people. The majority party is in Bootle is upset over the matter as the minority. The council passed a resolution accepting the original basis of the White Paper. Since then there have been elections, and the chief whip of the majority party has written to me saying
Strong feelings were also expressed at the inclusion of Southport in the proposed Metropolitan Merseyside Council. It was agreed to dissociate ourselves from Southport and if possible identify ourselves with Liverpool in preference to Southport.
Anybody who knows the history of Merseyside will understand what a revolutionary suggestion that is. The historical opposition to Liverpool was not because we did not understand Liverpool and not because we did not have an affinity with Liverpool. It was because we knew the immensity of the problems of Merseyside. We in Bootle felt that we could get on with our share of them better as a separate authority and that Liverpool could get on better with hers as she was. Bootle has done remarkably well—better than the city of Liverpool in many ways. I believe that our opposition was right then, and that my opposition to the inclusion of Southport now is right. We were proved right then, and we shall be proved right again.
I do not know what the political complexion of the places in question will be in 25 years' time. It would be a very good man who could say whether the Labour Party or Tory Party will be in existence then, or what the position will be in local government. I am not introducing the political aspect. If anyone thinks I am being political, I deny it straight away. I should like the same assurance from the Government that the new 11(a) District has no semblance of political thought behind it.
I remember hearing the late Aneurin Bevan asking the House "Why look into the crystal ball when we can read it in the book?" We know what Southport's attitude has been in the past. They are nice people there. They have nice manners, and live in a very nice way. No doubt they are very fine people. I am talking about the different character of thearea. We have our own problems. I believe that the old 11(a) gave an ideal opportunity to solve the problems, and that the Government are now doing us a particularly bad injustice.
I know that Southport people are not too happy about the new plan either. Many of them do not want to come in with Bootle. Southport would do better to go into other areas which are similar in character. It will not be too long before the Ribble Estuary is crossed. That will open up all sorts of new avenues. I am sure that is in the Secretary of State's mind even today. What a change would take place if the Ribble Estuary were opened! Would not that make Southport, Blackpool, Preston and the other places there have more in common with each other than with the Merseyside area?
An undesirable degree of stress is already showing in the meetings between Southport, Bootle and other authorities, not only between elected personnel but between non-elected personnel. I am not saying that such problems are insurmountable.
What I want for my people, and what I, as a long-standing Member of Parliament and long-standing local government man, am entitled to ask for on their behalf, is the best form of local government that I can help to give them. The opportunity is not being given.
I shall not quote all the figures which could prove that Southport's argument is fallacious. Southport residents working in Southport number 26,740—these are 1966 figures—or 78 per cent. of the working population. Only 2,790 work in Liverpool, 8 per cent.; on Merseyside and District (a) 2,290, 7 per cent., and in other districts 2,038. That explodes the idea being promulgated that Southport is a great commuter place for Liver- pool. Southport has more in common with Preston and Manchester than Liverpool.
I do not wish to push the Amendment concerning Liverpool. We are happy to stay in our own backyard. We do not wish to join Southport. We are not breaking our necks to go in with Liverpool. A decision has been forced upon us because of the attitude of the Government.
I do not believe there is a diabolical plot concerning Bootle. I am asking for the best thing. We must make up our minds. It is not an easy choice to make. There is a change taking place. The right hon. Gentleman is the Member for the best part of the finest port in the world; the new Seaforth complex is one of the finest things from the point of view of maritime interest I have ever laid my eyes on. The right hon. Gentleman has the honour to represent that area. In my constituency we have the great Gladstone Docks. The right hon. Gentleman and I have a lot in common. The right hon. Gentleman understands my plea. In Liverpool the South End Docks are closing. They comprise an area 3½ miles in length. The whole of the maritime and commercial aspects of Merseyside are changing.
I should like that problem to be looked at again. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has made up his mind. He knows the sincerity with which I am pleading for my own people. We recommend that Crosby and Bootle should not be separated. There is a natural character which has grown between us.
The right hon. Gentleman is foisting upon us something which is out of character with the Merseyside, which he and I know so well. Only the best is good enough. If he cannot leave us alone—and there may still be some chance of the Bill not going through—then he should put us back to what was originally planned in the original 11A District. Southport should be left out for its own sake, its future and prosperity. If not, the advantages or disadvantages of Liverpool joining Bootle should be considered.
Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)
I should apologise to the House in general and to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) in particular for misleading him. I have since ascertained what are Mr. Speakers intentions. A Division should be allowed upon the first Amendment of each group and also upon any Amendment which it subsequently turns out the Government can accept.
Mr Gordon Oakes (Widnes)
I am very glad to hear the ruling that Mr. Speaker has given on this matter.
There are three separate Amendments with which I shall deal. Two of them could be linked: the removal of the parish of Heywood, which is at present in the Urban District of Whiston, from the proposals of the Government to put it in District (b), that is the present City of Liverpool; and the division of District 11(c) into two separate districts. They are Amendments Nos. 15 and 966, which form one Amendment.
The other quite separate Amendment is Amendment No. 17 which asks for the inclusion of the Borough of Ellesmere Port in the Merseyside County, instead of, as at present, in the county of Cheshire. The central feature of the Amendment is to provide a better unit of local government, as far as it is practicable for this House to do so, and at the same time, whenever possible, to take into account the clearly expressed and declared wishes of the inhabitants of any area as to the area to which they wish to belong. I begin with Amendment No. 17, leading with Ellesmere Port, and ask the Government to put it back into the Merseyside area.
I say "put it back" because this borough of Ellesmere Port was originally, not only under the Maud proposals but under the Government's White Paper proposals, included in the Merseyside area. Subsequently the Bill came along and excluded Ellesmere Port and put it in the county of Cheshire. No one in the House or the Committee has given an adequate reason why the Government changed their mind between the White Paper and the publication of the Bill and moved Ellesmere Part into Cheshire.
Ellesmere Port is a growing and thriving town which rests on the banks of the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. Yet it has been decided that this should not be part of the county of Merseyside. That is surely a strange contention, par- ticularly when one looks at the industries in Ellesmere Port. It is a town of great oil refineries, at Stanlow, of expanding oil refineries; it is a town which has the Standard Triumph car factory. It is a town which has links with Merseyside in that many people have gone from there to Ellesmere Port to work and to make their homes there. Houses have been built to take the overspill from the Liverpool area. I have some personal knowledge of the area because until 1959 I was the parliamentary candidate for Bebington, which is next door to Ellesmere Port. I can assure the Minister and the House that the links with Ellesmere Port are very definitely along the south bank of the River Mersey.
Ellesmere Port is linked directly with Bebington and Birkenhead and Wallasey. It is in no way linked with Chester and the rural county of Cheshire, yet it is being put, for no good reason that has been adequately explained, into the Cheshire County Council. Clearly in the interests of good, viable local government, Ellesmere Port ought to be restored to the area where the White Paper and the Maud proposals put it, that is, the Merseyside metropolitan district, and not the county of Cheshire, where the Government have so strangely putit, between the White Paper and the printing of the Bill.
I come to what is possibly a much more contentious matter, although a matter on which I am led to believe by Press reports we might have some agreement because I understand from those reports that the Minister said, to use his phrase, that he was "minded to accept the Amendments". This matter concerns District 11(c) and not District 11 (b). It is proposed to divide District 11(c) for a number of reasons, the first of which is size. In accepting a previous Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler), the right hon. Gentleman said that the criterion of 250,000 is not sacrosanct. Indeed, in paragraph 12 of the White Paper the Government made it clear that if there were special reasons in an area they would depart from their figure of 250,000. On this division of 11(c) into two separate districts, I am suggesting to the House and to the Government that there are very abundant special reasons.
First of all, on the question of population alone, this division in the way Amendment No. 966 sets out, would give each authority just under 200,000. But so far as 11(cc) is concerned, that is the district based on Huyton, I think I can say without fear of any challenge at all that this is an area which is growing in population. Both on natural grounds, by the number of children per family, and by importing population into the area, it is one of the fastest-growing, if not the fastest-growing, district in the whole of Great Britain. The figure of just under 200,000 for that area is one that even during the long and sometimes tedious course of this Bill might be surpassed. The population is explosive in that area. There is a very high rate of population in 11(c), the area we suggest should be based on St. Helens in Amendment No. 966.
Therefore, I do not think that the Government have a great deal to worry about on the question of population, because these districts would be smaller than some of the other Merseyside districts and considerably smaller than District (b), the City of Liverpool, but they would be bigger than many metropolitan districts in the rest of the country.
There is another very good reason and I think that the right hon. Gentleman, who represents a Lancashire seat, is very well aware of this—why the forced union of all these urban districts in this part of Merseyside should be set asunder and two separate districts set up. It is the total difference in the character of the areas. St. Helens, Haydock, Billinge-and-Winstanley, that type of area which it is proposed in this Amendment should be in 11(c), are all Lancashire towns, based on heavy industry, glass making, formerly on coal mining. The people there speak with a clear and distinct Lancashire accent. The people there, for example, watch Rugby League, not Liverpool or Everton. The people in those areas eat tripe and onions, not scouse. They talk differently, work at different occupations. The problem—and this is far more important—is totally different; it is a problem of urban renewal.
That type of problem is totally different from the problems of Huyton, Kirkby, Halewood and Whiston, which are new, expanding towns—an overspill area where the people are basically from Merseyside, many exported from Liverpool to Huyton and Kirkby and all those areas, where they have basically light industry and support Liverpool or Everton with equal vociferousness, while poor little Huyton can hardly get a team going at all. Sport is important in the constitution of an area, just as important as the problems of youth facilities, schools, social services, and things of that kind.
This Amendment seeks to make two good, viable authorities, one based on St. Helens and one based on Huyton, each of which can make a great contribution to the Merseyside area, but a different kind of contribution.
Mr Michael McGuire (Ince)
I agree with most of what my hon. Friend says about the attitude of the people. So that I can get it clear, is it his intention, as I hope it is, to include in the new districts to be in the St. Helens 11(c) area the Eccleston Park district in which I live, because I can tell him that he is on a winner as regards the attitude to sport in that area, which properly belongs to St. Helens?
Mr Gordon Oakes (Widnes)
I am glad that one of my hon. Friends thinks that I am on a winner. Yes, it is the intention that Eccleston Park, the parishes of Eccleston, Rainhill and Windle, should be part of the St. Helens district and not part of the Huyton district. If one goes along Warrington Road in the parish of Rainhill, that is the dividing line; one half is in St. Helens and the other half consists of people who have come out from Liverpool. The parish of Rainhill is the dividing line, and it was decided that that parish should go into St. Helens.
I come to the most controversial aspect, which concerns the parish of Halewood. The Government propose in the White Paper and the Bill to put the parish of Halewood into District (b), that is the existing city of Liverpool. It is the only parish to go into Liverpool, and the people of Halewood, which is wholly in the Widnes constituency, resent very much being put into Liverpool. They prefer to remain with Whiston Rural District Council, in the 11(c) area, where they have been successfully integrated into the community.
Halewood was a village of 3,700 people in 1961. The latest 1971 figure is 26,850 people, most of whom came from Liverpool. Those people do not want to go back, they have become part of the parish of Halewood, they have become integrated into a parish-type community and they are proud of their own local area of Halewood. As testimony to that, a petition signed by nearly 50 per cent. of the voters of Halewood has been sent to me and transmitted to the right hon. Gentleman.
Mr Gordon Oakes (Widnes)
As my hon. Friend knows, it is extremely difficult to get as many as 50 per cent. of the people in a parish to sign a petition. He may say that 51 per cent. have not signed, but I assure him that I have not received a single representation, either written or verbal, from the parish of Halewood to the effect that it should be included in District 11(b). If my hon. Friends are worried, I know what worries them. It is not that the parish of Halewood would go into District 11(c); what worries them is that the Ford factory would go with it into District 11(c).
District 11(b) is by far the biggest; it is the giant among the Merseyside districts. On 1971 figures the population was 633,000. Its rateable value was £28,797 and the rateable value per head was £45·49. District (c) has all the problems—overspill, housing needs and the provision or youth facilities and social services. With Halewood, its rateable value would be £37·18 per head. Without Halewood it would be £36·11 per head. If Liverpool loses the Ford factory and its £800,000 rateable value to District (b), the rateable value per head goes down a fraction of a penny. Liverpool is a very rich authority compared with the very poor authority next door in terms of rateable value per head. The poorer authority has problems far grater than those of the much wealthier District (b). District (b) is big enough and rich enough, but District (c) has needs. For all these good local government reasons, I ask that Halewood be included in District (c).
Most important of all are the wishes of the people of Halewood, the parish council and all political parties. I have had a letter from a Conservative councillor who was on the parish council before the overspill came. I have had letters from all the churches and from the Community Council which is doing such excellent work in Halewood. I have a petition signed by nearly half the inhabitants of that parish, and I have had a letter from the Ford Motor Company signed by Sir Leonard Crossland.
Mr Eric Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Will my hon. Friend make it clear that, although he is speaking from the Opposition Front Bench at the moment, he is on this Amendment not speaking for the Labour Party and that he is now arguing his own case? I hope he will make that clear so that the House knows the exact position.
Mr Gordon Oakes (Widnes)
The Order Paper makes the situation clear because Amendment No. 966 in regard to splitting District 11(c) in two and Amendment No. 15 relating to Halewood is in my name, and in my name alone. If any hon. Member is in doubt, let me make it clear that both Amendment No. 966 and No. 15 are my Amendments; they are not official Opposition Amendments. Amendment No. 17 is an official Opposition Amendment.
I was about to quote from a letter from Sir Leonard Crossland, Chairman of the Ford Motor Company. Ford is the biggest ratepayer in the parish of Halewood. The Secretary of State was sent a copy of this letter, which in the concluding sentences says:
I do not know to what extent representations have been made to you, but I thought you might like to have this note setting out our view about the Amendment which Mr. Oakes proposes to make in the House on April 20"—
that is when he thought the Amendment would come on, as indeed did we—
and I hope you will be able to listen sympathetically to the case he puts forward.
That was the view of the biggest ratepayer in the area, and is the view of all the inhabitants in the area.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said, I am speaking here as a constituency Member. The foremost duty of a constituency Member is to represent the views of his contituents, especially when he believes those views to be absolutely right and he agrees with them.
Mr Leslie Spriggs (St Helens)
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool. Walton (Mr. Heffer) has just put my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) on the spot by saying that Amendment No. 966 is an unofficial Amendment. May I assure my hon. Friend that when he tabled that Amendment, I transmitted it to the St. Helens local authority and to others and asked for objections. I have not received one. Therefore, I was able to give my local authority and my constituents an assurance that I would give Amendment No. 966 my full support.
Mr Gordon Oakes (Widnes)
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. I have no doubt that if he has an opportunity to speak on this Amendment, he will wish to expand at much greater length upon it.
I conclude by saying that it is the duty of a Member of Parliament to represent the views of his constituents, particularly when he firmly believes that they are right. I believe that the people of Halewood are right in their desire to go into District 11(c), and that from a local authority point of view it is just and proper for the Government and this House to accede to their wishes and to make it a proper and more viable unit of local government.
Mr John Tilney (Liverpool Wavertree)
I am pleased that I have been chosen to take part in this discussion following speeches by the hon. Members for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) and Widnes (Mr. Oakes). The hon. Member for Bootle referred to the immense problems on Liverpool and Merseyside and suggested that Bootle had done better. But my own feeling is that these are problems for the whole of the economic community on both sides of the Mersey River and estuary and that we shall tackle the matter better in partnership under the new county than we have ever done before.
The hon. Gentleman said that he thought Southport's attitude in the past had been reprehensible. He might have said the same about those who live in Wirral. I believe in people being mixed together, and that we shall do very much better in the new County of Merseyside when the people are all part of one country.
Mr John Tilney (Liverpool Wavertree)
Once we improve Bootle and Liverpool I believe that many people who now commute will choose to come lo live in Bootle and Liverpool since their journeys to work will be very much easier.
I turn now to the remarks of the hon. Member for Widnes and to the Amendment relating to Ellesmere Port. I look from my home across the Mersey to Ellesmere Port. That does not mean that I think that it should be part of Merseyside. It is very much part of Cheshire. It has been part of your constituency, Mr. Speaker, for a long time. One might as well suggest that Frodsham and Helsby, which I also see, should become part of Merseyside. In my view, it is better lo leave Ellesmere Port out of the Merseyside conurbation.
I find it more difficult to argue about the splitting up of District 11(c). I accept the views of the hon. Member for Widnes that those on the western side of District (c) think very differently from those on the eastern side and regard themselves as part of the expansion of Liverpool and of Merseyside.
As regards Halewood, again there is the fear that Liverpool will dominate because of its size, although I believe that it will always be primus inter paresof the new Merseyside county.
The argument has shown that, be it in the Army or in local government, mankind is fiercely tribal and likes to keep to his own history and friends. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will consider whether the new split district which has been suggested will be viable and produce the soundly-based housing, education and social services which every district should be able to support.
If my right hon. Friend accepts the Amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Widnes, there will be not four but five districts. They will range in population from nearly 700,000 to just over 200,000 in District (a). If District (c) is split, both will be below the 200,000 mark. It is up to my right hon. Friend to decide whether that is big enough. But any proposal must be soundly based and we must not jeopardise the adequate provision of local government services.
As regards Halewood, the House will be aware that before the Ford factory came the population was very small. It was in the context of the unemployment problem of Liverpool that Ford came, under a Socialist administration in Liverpool but under a Conservative Government nationally. It has helped the employment situation on Merseyside enormously. But in order to obtain the Ford factory Liverpool had to spend a great deal of money to provide all the necessary infrastructure in Halewood. The ratepayers were asked to do this and were delighted to do so.
I have heard it argued on Merseyside that Halewood should become part of Liverpool because of our housing there. However, it is a slightly bogus argument. There are only just over 4,000 houses in Halewood. There are 4,000 in Knowsley. No fewer than 7,000 are owned by the City of Liverpool in Huyton and as many at 11,500 in Kirby. It has been decided that these should be outside District (b) of the Merseyside County.
It is right that I should report to my right hon. Friend that I have had a letter from the Secretary of the Halewood North Conservative Branch which says:
I can tell you for a fact that if we go into Huyton many parents with children approaching secondary age will move into Liverpool City boundary to take advantage of the fine secondary schools.
I am not sure whether they are aware of the problems we have recently had over our city education.
The writer continues:
We are also disquieted by the loss of Liverpool City Police and the Parks Constabulary, (there is no park attendant in Halewood), both bodies sorely needed to fight vandalism here.
I believe that the important concept is Merseyside. When people living in the City of London are asked where they live, they do not reply that they live in Kennington, Kensington, Pimlico or Paddington; they say that they live in London. I hope the time will come when instead of people saying that they live in Wallasey, Bootle, Birkenhead or even Liverpool, they will say that they live in Merseyside.
It is to Merseyside that every help should be directed. What the escutcheon for the new Merseyside County will be we do not know. There ought to be a blue heraldic fosse, I suppose, rather than a fesse, though I think it will be a long time before the Mersey is as blue as that is likely to be. As an analogy, it should be attached at only one end by the tunnel—our river is like a number-plate half falling off a car—until we get the proper communication between north and south of the Mersey.
We have to make this Merseyside County a real success. I have urged the Department of the Environment—I am not blaming my right hon. Friend for this—to look into the matter of communications. Only yesterday I received this letter:
On theM53, while it may not give the inhabitants of Wavertree and Garston easy and immediate access to Wales, I would maintain that it has opened a significantly improved line of communication to Wales for the inhabitants of the Merseyside area as a whole!
As my right hon. Friend knows, the M53 has one-line traffic, because of the box girder bridges, and for only part of the way. In any case, it goes in the wrong direction. It reminds me of when we were bombed during the war by our allies and they were 90 degrees out for line. The M53 goes from the north-west to the south-east when we really want to go from the north-east to the south-west.
The letter continues:
Not only was the Mid-Wirral motorway opened in February this year, but also the 20-mile stretch of M62 connecting Tarbock and Worsley is at present under construction.
That has little to do with the linking of Merseyside.
…the public at large I think have certainly been impressed that over the last six months or so it has become possible to drive from London to South Wales and from London to Carlisle"—
what has that to do with the Mersey?—
(or, in Merseyside terms, that it is possible to drive from Haydock to Carlisle, London, Bristol and Cardiff)".
One has only to try to get out from the centre of Liverpool to Haydock to know what an immense time it takes. This is one of the silliest letters I have received in 22 years from any Government Department. This does not mean that we do not want to make Merseyside a great success. I hopethat that will be the paramount consideration of my right hon. Friend.
Mr Edmund Dell (Birkenhead)
I rise to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) said about Amendment No. 17 which he told the House was an official Amendment. I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for speaking about part of your constituency without your having the opportunity to reply, but this matter is important to Merseyside, and it is a wrong decision of the Government to exclude Ellesmere Port from the Merseyside conurbation.
It is admittedly a difficult problem when, in making this proposal, one is overriding the views of Ellesmere Port itself and, as far as I can see, of most people there who have expressed an opinion on it. Nevertheless, one of the facts about local government reform is that sometimes one has to override local views. In my view it is necessary to do that in this case in the interests of Merseyside as a whole and, indeed, in the interests of Ellesmere Port itself.
I should like to make clear the view of Birkenhead on this matter, because some doubt might have arisen as a result of Ellesmere Port's glossy publication on this issue. It suggests on page 19 that Birkenhead has changed its mind about whether Ellesmere Port should be within the Merseyside conurbation. It refers to certain comments made by Birkenhead in August, 1970, on the previous Government's White Paper on the reform of local government. In those comments Birkenhead accepted the argument for a link between Ellesmere Port and Chester, but at that time the whole concept of the Merseyside conurbation was of a very much larger metropolitan area, and within that much larger area it would have been possible to meet the two requirements, first, that Ellesmere Port should be part of Merseyside and, secondly, that it should maintain its traditional links with Chester.
The problem with which we are here dealing arises because of the restricted metropolitan area which the Government have created in the Bill. Given the choice that is thereby forced upon us, I am sure it is more important that Ellesmere Port should be part of the Merseyside conurbation than that it should maintain its traditional local government connection with Chester. That is the view of Birkenhead. Indeed, that was the Government's original view on the matter.
Ellesmere Port advances various arguments against what I am suggesting. It says that whereas Wirral looks to Birkenhead as its centre—and indeed it does—Ellesmere Port looks to Chester. It says that it is nearer to Chester, but that is hardly a decisive argument. If local government boundaries were decided on that basis it would be impossible to draw them anywhere. If one is to draw boundaries one has occasionally to divide boroughs from areas which are proximate to them.
Ellesmere Port also says that it has always been in Cheshire, and therefore all its existing political links are with that county. It says, further, that it is a small self-contained town, and that the great majority of its population works in that town. Those are the arguments which Ellesmere Port understandably presents in support of its view that it should be outside the Merseyside metropolitan county. I merely say that all those arguments are derived from the past and that they ignore the increasing future pull of Merseyside on Ellesmere Port.
Let us consider what current and future developments in Merseyside imply. We have just had an amusing speech from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) about the M53, which he says goes in the wrong direction. I am sure that that is a point he will take up with his right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), who directed it in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, it performs a function in linking the different parts of Wirral, and linking Ellesmere Port with Wirral, and linking Wirral with Liverpool.
Mr Edmund Dell (Birkenhead)
I agree entirely that it does not do that. If the idea the hon. Gentleman has in mind is that the south of Wirral should be linked with the south of Liverpool, when that takes place, as in due course I am sure it must take place, this will increase the pull of Merseyside and Liverpool on Ellesmere Port. That is a probable future development and it strengthens the argument for my case.
Railway developments will have exactly the same effect. The passenger transport authority is already examining links between Ellesmere Port and Merseyside. In other words, in terms of communications, all the arguments on future developments that will take place indicate this greater and greater pull of Merseyside on Ellesmere Port.
Industrial development in the area is having exactly the same effect. Ellesmere Port, with all the industrial facilities to which my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes referred, is providing employment for North Wirral, and across the river for people from Liverpool.
We come here to the question of the development area boundaries. This point is important to the future of Ellesmere Port. I wonder whether the Minister is prepared to say that the exclusion of Ellesmere Port from Merseyside will not affect its development area status in any way. We have already seen the way that, relatively, Merseyside has been downgraded by the creation of special development areas in other areas of the country. I should have thought it not inconceivable that the boundaries would be redrawn. We know that in the old days development area boundaries have had no relationship to local government areas, but will that remain true under the new conditions when we have these larger local authorities with wider areas which might conveniently provide the boundaries of development areas in future?
It seems that Ellesmere Port itself should want some assurance from the Minister in that respect before it strives so strongly to be excluded from Merseyside. But my general point is that industrial development in Merseyside is having exactly the same effect in linking Ellesmere Port to Merseyside and to Liverpool as are the developments of communications.
When we reform local government there is always a very great danger that the boundaries are out of date before the new authorities are set up. I am very much afraid that in the Government's idea of separating Ellesmere Port from the new Merseyside metropolitan area, they are falling into that error and creating an authority which, in terms of its boundaries, is out of date before we begin.
It is for those reasons that I so strongly support my hon. Friend's proposition that Ellesmere Port should be brought back within the Merseyside conurbation.
Mr Eric Cockeram (Bebington)
I wish to oppose Amendment No. 17, which is the proposal to which the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell) addressed himself; namely, that Ellesmere Port should be included in the Merseyside conurbation.
Despite the claims made by the right hon. Gentleman, those in Ellesmere Port have no doubt whatever in their minds that they are part of Cheshire. A new hospital, for example, is just being built to serve both Chester and Ellesmere Port. Income tax matters are handled from Chester. On matters of employment, police and courts, and social matters, the inhabitants of Ellesmere Port look towards Chester. It is possible to move a number of administrative offices, but it is not possible to alter people's habits.
In that respect, the House should be aware of a shopping survey recently undertaken by the Birkenhead Council. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested an affinity between Birkenhead and Ellesmere Port. But that is not shown in the survey, which covered a month and was taken in both mornings and afternoons and on different days of the week. The survey covered 1,300 people. Precisely seven came from Ellesmere Port. In another shopping survey of Ellesmere Port it was found that over 70 per cent. of purchases were made in Ellesmere Port itself and of the balance 25 per cent. were made in Chester. That indicates clearly where the people of Ellesmere Port regard their affinity as lying.
It has been argued that Ellesmere Port has housed people from Liverpool. This is true, even though the process of overspill is now coming to an end. It is also true that Runcorn has housed people from Liverpool, but Runcorn is not in the Merseyside proposal. It is also true that Skelmersdale has housed people from Liverpool, but it is not proposed that Skelmersdale should be part of the Merseyside area. Therefore, the suggestion that Ellesmere Port should be linked with Merseyside because it has housed people from Liverpool does not bear further examination.
On the important matter of employment, 82½ per cent. of the residents of Ellesmere Port work in that borough. Of the balance, more go to Chester to work than go to the whole of the Wirral combined.
The Merseyside Area Land Use and Transport Survey, the results of which were published in 1969, concluded that Ellesmere Port was separate from Merseyside and that Merseyside did not need Ellesmere Port to solve any of its land use problems.
If Ellesmere Port were to be included in Merseyside, it would produce another problem in that area of Cheshire. Ellesmere Port is an expanding town. Chester, only six miles away, is an historic town. A few miles in the other direction, to complete the triangle, there is Runcorn, an expanding new town. The present planning proposals incorporate the needs of all three and they are complementary. To divorce one from the other two would create problems, not solve them.
The glossy publication to which the right hon. Member for Birkenhead referred and which he somewhat decried is a publication of the council of Ellesmere Port, which is a Labour-controlled council. It is the clear wish of that council—I speak not only for the Labour majority but also of the Conservative minority—that Ellesmere Port should remain in Cheshire.
Birkenhead likewise made written representations some years ago to the effect that Ellesmere Port was separate and distinct from the Wirral area.
Mr Edmund Dell (Birkenhead)
The hon. Gentleman will agree that Birkenhead's representations on that point were made in an entirely different context and that Birkenhead has now made absolutely clear its view that within the new Merseyside metropolitan county it believes that Ellesmere Port should be within Merseyside.
Mr Eric Cockeram (Bebington)
I accept that Birkenhead has made those representations, but the representations of Birkenhead have been somewhat conflicting and confused, because it repeated its first representations only a couple of years ago.
The House should be reminded that the Labour Government deliberately excluded Ellesmere Port from the passenger transport area of Merseyside, stating that the local authority area which it seemed to the then Minister should be included in the PTA on the basis that the minimum area should make sense for proper planning should exclude Ellesmere Port.
Mr Eric Cockeram (Bebington)
I accept that Southport was excluded. I am arguing the case of Ellesmere Port. The Labour Government's action in that respect indicates that they were aware not only that public transport links between the two hardly existed but that it was not necessary to provide any. The case for Southport is somewhat different, as my hon. Friend knows, in that the public transport links are strong between the two and the need for them is equally strong. They are not two comparable cases, as probably he will accept.
Mr Eric Cockeram (Bebington)
That is so. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing that out. He is making my final point—that the inhabitants of Ellesmere Port do not wish to be included in Merseyside. That applies to the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Trade, the two political parties and the inhabitants. That being the case, I have no hesitation in supporting the proposal in the Bill that Ellesmere Port is, and should continue to be, part of Cheshire.
Mr Leslie Spriggs (St Helens)
Had I been given the chance to draftan Amendment like Amendment No. 966, it would not have been possible to draft one more intelligently. I compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) on the way he has tackled the drafting of the Amendment, because it is most important that hon. Members and the Minister in particular should take into account the common interests between the local authorities which are grouped.
St. Helens is a water authority in its own right. It supplies fresh water to many of the surrounding local authorities which are named in the Amendment. Transport, too, is another service which neighbouring authorities share with the St. Helens County Borough Transport Department. Industry is another thing we have in common with many of the local authorities which surround the great county borough. Some 18,000 people are employed in the glass industry at St. Helens. Many of them travel in and out of the town to earn their living, and through the urban districts which are shown in the list. In leisure time, what greater sport could we choose than rugby league? St. Helens has been able to prove that not only can it play the game but it can win the championship. It is a great town which houses not only the glass industry but chemical, engineering and coal and manufacturing industries.
I put the Amendment to my electorate and the local government officers and staff who work not only at the town hall but at the new administrative headquarters, which has been taken on by the corporation only on a rental basis. Perhaps I should qualify "on a rental basis". The local authority wanted to build its own administrative building but the Labour Government refused to give it permission. The same site was built upon by a private developer and we allowed the St. Helens Corporation to rent it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Widnes made it clear that the two authorities to which he referred, Huyton and St. Helens, would each have approximate populations of 200,000. Anyone visiting St. Helens or requiring accommodation in St. Helens has to visit the town only once to see that we have a thriving local authority which is building thousands of houses to rent. The town inherited some of the oldest property in Lancashire.
The local authority in St. Helens has shown how progressive it is. Hundreds of houses which were unfit for habitation have been levelled to the ground and in their place stand hundreds of beautiful new homes rising to house the people who are waiting for them.
Some of my own friends may feel that the split of District 11(c) is an indication that the local authorities named do not want to be part of the Merseyside metropolitan area. Let me disabuse them immediately. We are pleased to be part of the Merseyside metropolitan area. My hon. Friends should consider the matter from the point of view of the people who live on the perimeter of the Merseyside area who find that they have a lot in common with the people in the St. Helens local authority area. In addition, the St. Helens shopping centre is used by hundreds of thousands of people from the Lancashire area every week.
I ask my hon. Friends to consider the points that I have put forward and the assurances by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes and if the Minister feels he is able to accept the Amendment and a Division is called, I ask them to vote in support of the Amendment.
Mr Frederick Lee (Newton)
I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 472 and 473 which seek to leave out the name Newton-le-Willows from the St. Helens area and to add it to the Warrington area. I pursue my arguments in spite of what my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) said. I do not dispute for one moment what he said about the homely nature of his constituents, for I know it to be true. When we first saw in the Bill a short time ago that it intended to put Culcheth and New church into Warrington, and Newton-le-Willows, into St. Helens we genuinely thought there had been a mistake, and that in drawing up the Bill the Minister's intentions had become reversed.
I still live in Newton-le-Willows and I am not therefore merely conditioned by briefs which I have received. I know that the local authority has been in touch with the Minister and that, as I will argue, that they have very little affinity with St. Helens and that the magisterial arrangements, the sewerage arrangements and so on are with the Warrington area. That is not so in other parts of my constituency. My hon. Friend mentioned St. Helens. Another urban district of the Newton division, Haydock, is to go into the St. Helens area and that is right and proper. That urban district bases itself almost entirely upon services and shopping centres and so forth in the St. Helens area, but the position with Newton-le-Willows is different. I admire the way in which the right hon. Gentleman can take us through all the Lancashire towns. I wish he had stopped off in Newton-le-Willows. I should have loved to give him a cup of tea and discuss the matter with him. He would not find two people in a hundred who would opt for any move other than to Warrington, if we had to move at all. We would much prefer to be left within the Lancashire county——
Mr Frederick Lee (Newton)
It was argued in Committee by the right hon. Gentleman or one of his colleagues that there were more bus services to St. Helens than to Warrington. That is wrong. There may be the through buses to Manchester, Liverpool and so on, but most of my fellow Newtonians will agree that the services to Warrington from Newton are far better than those to St. Helens.
The overwhelming number of people from Newton who are unlucky enough to have to use hospitals go into hospitals in the Warrington area. The local authority has for many years had an agreement with the Warrington Corporation for the treatment of all the sewage from Newton by Warrington's sewage disposal works.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take particular notice of what Government Departments are doing. The head offices of many of the services for the district, such as those of the Department of Health and Social Security and of the Department of Employment, are in Warrington. I am correspondingly with the Secretary of State for Social Services because we are very annoyed about our social security office being demoted. We have organised a great petition, because the Department wants to move it to "the appropriate area". I wonder where the right hon. Gentleman thinks it is going. I assure him that it is not St. Helens. It is going to Warrington. We object to that, because we want to keep it in Newton, but the fact is that each of the Departments looks upon Warrington as the natural place for such services. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman seems to be out on a limb in this regard.
The Magisterial bench, the petty sessions, the county courts, and the police are all at Warrington. The postal services for Newton are based on the offices in Warrington. The vast majority of commuting workers are employed in the Warrington area.
I know that in Committee the question of access to St. Helens from Newton was mentioned. One of my hon. Friends who was good enough to move an Amendment for me spoke of the undoubted fact that it is not possible to get direct from Newton to St. Helens without going through Burtonwood or Haydock. Burtonwood is going into the Warrington area. It seems strange to us in Newton that the right hon. Gentleman should be thinking in terms of forcing us to hop over Burtonwood to get into St. Helens. Those are practical and real reasons why we suggest there should be a transfer to the Warrington area.
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks I am exaggerating, he should come to Newton. I doubt whether he would find two people in 100 who would opt for going to St. Helens. I understate the case. My friends on the local authority say they cannot find one person who would freely choose, between the two options, to go to St. Helens.
I was grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the way in which he dealt with my first Amendment. Will he give me the same kind of answer? I think there has been a misunderstanding. The local authorities in Newton and Golborne would be very happy to take advantage of the offer he made to me to discuss with him this matter before it goes to another place. If he would make the same offer in this case, he would be doing a just and proper thing. I should be grateful to accept that offer.
Mr Eric Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
This debate indicates differences in approach in issues involved.
I wish to speak about the question of Halewood. It was accepted policy that Halewood would be part of the new Liverpool district. When the Ford factory was established on Merseyside, Alderman Braddock was deeply concerned. The Liverpool local authority and Alderman Braddock pulled out every stop to ensure that that factory was established in our area, to create employment primarily for the people of Liverpool, but also for Merseyside as a whole, because Liverpool had the highest level of unemployment in the area. The local authority and Alderman Braddock gave an assurance that we, as Liverpool people, would make certain that all facilities and finance would be available, that the Liverpool ratepayers would make money available for the establishment of the Ford factory. That was done. Whiston local authorities at that time knew that the factory was being established as a result of the efforts primarily of the Liverpool local authority and people such as Alderman Braddock. There is no constituency interest in this matter. My hon. Friend says one must fight for one's constituency rights. I do not have any constituency interest. I have a Liverpool and a Merseyside interest.
If we look at the map issued by the Department of the Environment it will be seen that District 11(b) is drawn in such a way that Halewood was a natural part of 11(b). There is no reason whatever why Halewood should be excluded and placed in (c). It will not enter into the arguments about whether (c) should be split. My own view is that it should not be but I will not go into that because it is not my prime reason for speaking. The point is that Halewood ought to be part of the Liverpool district.
I would like to answer that point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes). He said that he had a petition signed by almost 50 per cent. of the people in Halewood. That must mean that over 50 per cent. did not sign it. Why? It may be that if someone went round with a petition for going into Liverpool more than 50 per cent. would sign it. We do not know. I have taken petitions round doors and I have heard it said that it is not easy to get people to sign them. My experience is that people are only too willing and happy to sign petitions just to get rid of the person at the door. They consider that person to be a damned nuisance and it is easy to sign the petition to get rid of him. That is not a serious argument and I do not honestly believe that my hon. Friend believes it to be.
He says that he thinks that if it is put in the Liverpool area sooner or later it might come out of his constituency. We all face this problem. Sooner or later there will be another change in parliamentary boundaries. No one knows what the future holds in that direction and we ought not to mix the argument about parliamentary boundaries with the local government issue. It is clear that Halewood is naturally part of District 11(b). I understand my hon. Friend's view about Hale village. It is a very salubrious area and I cannot afford to live there. It has nice thatched houses. When it comes to Halewood, it has council houses, built by the Liverpool City authority, owned by that authority and sustained by it. If anyone believes that those people have no interest in retaining their links with the people of Liverpool then he does not understand the situation.
Mr Eric Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
That is true. I was about to make that point. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) talked about the tribal nature of the area. If we were being octopus-like we could say that we ought to take the lot in because they all come from Liverpool, anyway. The constituency of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, Huyton, and Kirkby, all these areas are primarily made up of people from Scotland Road. That is why they are good Labour areas. They come from Liverpool, nowhere else. They are our people. We are not saying that all of them should come in but we are saying that the natural ones, those closest in affinity, should be part and parcel of District 11(b).
I cannot understand why the Government have suddenly decided that they have a great deal of sympathy for my hon. Friend's Amendment. I understand that this is so. I do not know whether it is true, but the Liverpool Daily Post, which I read from time to time, has said this. I do not know why they should have gone back on this decision any more than I know why they should have gone back on the Ellesmere Port decision. I am asking the Minister not to accept this Amendment but to continue with the original proposals that were contained in the Bill.
Mr Frank Marsden (Liverpool Scotland)
I will be as brief as possible because many people wish to speak and it is going to be a long debate. I wish to speak on Amendment No. 15.
As far as this debate is concerned the Minister should perhaps have represented Ross and Cromarty. As it is, he reckons he is the Member of Parliament for the Crosby constituency, and I know because I have heard him say so. He knows the area like the back of his hand, so it is no good trying to pull the wool over his eyes.
Henry Ford never brought his huge factory to Hale wood in order to do a favour for the workers of Liverpool. He did it because of the financial incentives offered by the Government of the day and because of the pressures of the Liverpool City Council. That council has always been a very great authority on Merseyside. It built a huge council estate to house the Ford workers. That was built with Liverpool money, and now the Minister seeks to take this estate away from us and to take away the huge factory with its high rateable value.
I just want to record the fact that my constituents are firmly of the opinion that the boundaries of District (b) should remain as recommended in the report.
Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw (Liverpool Toxteth)
I propose to speak for only two or three minutes. It has been said that we cannot understand why Halewood is being taken out of the Liverpool area. I think it is fairly clear that this is being done in order to make the subdivision of District (c) viable. I would like to ask the Minister, when he replies, whether he would have taken Halewood out—I understand he is in agreement with this Amendment—if District (c) had remained one district instead of being subdivided.
My difficulty is that unless one is completely selfish and says "We want to grab everything for ourselves", once one accepts the subdivision of District (c) I do not believe that one can make out a case for retaining Halewood in Liverpool instead of putting it in the Huyton area. It is difficult with a population of 700,000 and our rateable value. So if the Minister agrees with the subdivision of (c), why has he decided to do this?
It has been suggested that there is a growing population, but even if it increased 100 per cent. it would still not be as large as the Liverpool district itself; so what is wrong with keeping (c) as one complete district instead of subdividing it? The argument has been put that the people on one side are completely different, from those on the other; yet a short time ago we heard the argument about Southport being put in with Bootle. If that argument is true so far as (c) is concerned, surely the argument should be that Southport should be different from Bootle if one goes on the type of people in the particular areas.
I do not believe that these arguments hold water. One can take every argument that the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) put forward for subdividing District (c) and show at least another dozen instances where these are completely countered.
I believe that the orginal plans which were put forward may have been, in many cases, arbitrary, yet had some logic behind them, and because (c) was going to be one area Halewood naturally came into the Liverpool area. Because the Government have now decided that (c) will be divided, in order that it remain viable it is necessary to take away that rateable value of Halewood and put it into the Huyton area. That is where the Government are making a mistake. In a few years' time they will come to the conclusion that the two areas will not be viable, but the damage will have been done.
If it is decided to divide District (c) into two districts, unless I want to be completely selfish I cannot make out a case for keeping Halewood within Liverpool, because Huyton has a greater need for the increased rateable value than has Liverpool, but that is no reason for dividing District (c) into two. That is where the mistake is being made.
Mr Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) suggested that one reason why the Government should accept Amendment No. 15 is that they have already made up their minds about the division of District 11(c). My view is that the Minister should first decide the boundaries of the larger area. Let him first decide whether Halewood is to be inside or outside Liverpool and then go on to decide what division he will or will not have to make of the other areas. Let Halewood and this Amendment come first and then let the Minister make his dispositions in the light of that decision.
By the time we have completed the Report stage some days, weeks or months ahead, it may be thought that we shall have discussed every county, region, city, town, hamlet and lamp post in the country. It is right that that should be so. Equally, I hope my hon. Friends will think it right that on this first day we should be discussing the problems of Merseyside.
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) on Amendment No. 385. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) on Amendment No. 17, but he will not be surprised if I oppose him on Amendment No. 15. It is not unusual on this side of the House to say little where we are agreed and to say more when we disagree. I strenuously oppose Amendment No. 15.
The Government White Paper of February, 1971, "Local Government in England", outlined their objectives, proposals and principles for the reform of local government. On page 6 in paragraph 7 is set out a fundamental part of those proposals:
If local authorities are to provide services effectively and economically, their areas should be large enough in size, population and resources to meet administrative needs including the maintenance and development of a trained and expert local government service: boundaries should be drawn so that areas take account of patterns of development and travel: and services which are closely linked should be in the hands of the same authority.
I will take the phrase:
maintenance and development of a trained and expert local government service
and see how it applies to Halewood and to Liverpool. Whilst there is some private development in Halewood, most of the development is in council houses and the people look towards Liverpool for services, rents, rates, maintenance and so on. The Ford Motor Company complex is important. Its rateable value either to the Widnes area or to the Liverpool area is important, but we should look at wider things than the local area.
Mr Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
I apologise. I am using Widnes in the sense of the "Greater Widnes Authority" to which my hon. Friend has referred. The patterns of travel and development are towards Liverpool rather than the other way up the river. Rateable value is important, but it should not be the first priority.
The paragraph then said that
services which are closely linked should be in the hands of the same authority.
In all the services in this area Liverpool is surely not dominant but predominant. We have seen from discussion on earlier Amendments that in respect of South-East Lancashire, North-East Lancashire, South-West Lancashire and the Merseyside the Government have abandoned the principles laid down in their White Paper.
I am afraid that I have to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes that the Government seem to be using his intervention and initiative for their own purposes. My hon. Friend spoke of his conviction that he should speak on behalf of his constituents and his local authorities, and added "especially when one thinks they are right". Looking at the narrow issues, my hon. Friend's Amendment may be right, but every Member of Parliament has a duty not only to his own local constituents and his local area authorities but also to the region and to the county as a whole. My hon. Friend's suggestion would be detrimental to the area as a whole.
It is a tragedy that this Amendment has come forward since it is an example of a failure of consultation, co-operation and discussion between like-minded organisations in an area. I am sorry to say that this is the unfortunate result when one hon. Member decides that he must "go it alone" with the minimum amount of co-operation from his colleagues in the area. I must tell my hon. Friend that his good intentions and support for his local authorities and the people of his area are being used by the Government for purposes which in the long term will not be of any real value or worth for either his constituents or for the people of Merseyside as a whole.
Mr Robert Parry (Liverpool Exchange)
I am particularly interested in this Amendment because many thousands of my constituents, or former constituents, have been rehoused in Halewood. I have many contacts in the Halewood area and recently attended a wedding there. During the evening I had a number of conversations with people living in Halewood who asked me about the reorganisation of local government in the area. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) that all the people to whom I spoke that night were in favour of continuing their links with Liverpool.
My hon. Friend has tended to exaggerate the support he received from people in Halewood. I tend to go along with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) in the view that if petitions were distributed asking for support for the retention of links with Liverpool a completely different picture would emerge.
I wish to quote from a letter from the town clerk of Liverpool which deals with the Ford factory. The letter says:
Apart from the original small village of Halewood, the Parish essentially consists of Liverpool Corporation housing estates and the Ford factory. At the time Ford's came to Halewood it was made clear by the Whiston authority that Ford were coming in the context of Liverpool's unemployment problem, a problem which did not exist to anything like that degree in Whiston, and that Liverpool's ratepayers should accordingly pay for the local government services which were required.…
The Ford motor factory at Halewood which was brought to the area by the
Liverpool City Council, with the support of hon. Members from Merseyside, and it pays a small amount of its rates to Liverpool and the larger part to the Whiston Rural District It may interest hon. Members to know the figures given me this morning by the town clerk of Liverpool, which show that the present rates paid to Liverpool amount to £49,560. A proposed small extension will increase the figure to £53,000 per annum. The rates paid to the Whiston authority amount to £659,650. A proposed further extension will increase the amount slightly to £661,320 a year. The grand total paid to both authorities, including the two additional amounts in respect of the proposed extensions, is approximately £715,000.
The reason why I quote the figures of rates paid is that, due to the policy of Liverpool Corporation over the years of rehousing people from Liverpool's slums in the suburbs and neighbouring overspill authorities, the city has lost a lot of rate support grant. Figures provided by the city treasurer only this morning show that the estimated loss in rate support grant due to the drop in population is £1·5 million in each of the years 1971–72 and 1972–73. I am also advised by the city treasurer that, of the recent increase of 17p in the £ in rates, it is estimated that no less than 13p is because of the loss of rate support grant.
I feel strongly that Liverpool ratepayers, who have borne the cost of providing services to the Ford factory and of building thousands of houses and flats for Liverpool citizens, should now lose Halewood from District 11(b). The case has not been made out for maintaining the present position under the Bill on either social or economic grounds.
Liverpool City Council has protested at the area split which is now proposed. The opposition comes from both major political parties and has the support of the minority Liberal Party. That shows the strong feeling of the authority. On 29th June, the Liverpool Echo carried a report to this effect, quoting the Liberal leader on the council, Councillor Cyril Carr, as saying that it would be an absurdity to split Halewood from Liverpool in an effort to make the original St. Helens district into two viable districts.
Mr Gordon Oakes (Widnes)
I again make the point that I made to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). The argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mr. Parry) could apply to Kirkby, Huyton, Cantril Farm and possibly Runcorn and Skelmersdale. What is the difference?
Mr Robert Parry (Liverpool Exchange)
My hon. Friend the Member for Walton has given the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes.
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Walton pointed out that the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes is a private one. I understand that the Labour Party's temporary co-ordinating committee for the reorganisation of local government on Merseyside has considered the Amendment and decided to vote against it.
The recent visit to this House by the leader of Liverpool City Council, who had discussions with a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends and possibly with the Minister, shows the strong feelings of the people of Liverpool about Halewood being taken from District 11(b). Therefore, I fully support the opposition to the Government's proposal outlined by my right hon. and hon. Friends.
Mr Michael McGuire (Ince)
I have a constituency interest in District 11(c) I have successfully argued why part of it—namely, Skelmersdale and Holland Urban District Council—should be taken out, but a small part still remains in the old District 11(c).
We have had representations today from my right hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) that we should further carve up District 11(c). This district probably has the knottiest problem in the whole of the metropolitan areas. To find a natural unit based on the St. Helens district poses tremendous problems, and I support the Amendments moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes).
I will deal with the argument which Liverpool City Members, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), have been trotting out. It is claimed that because of the social and housing investment by Liverpool City Corporation in Halewood, which has been outside the city boundary for as long as anyone can remember, and the fact that it was mistakenly included in the earlier proposals, Liverpool should retain Halewood. My hon. Friend the Member for Widnes dealt with that argument most effectively.
I appeal to my hon. Friends, if they are Socialists, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden), who said that we should detach ourselves from our constituency interests here and think of the greater good—
Mr Michael McGuire (Ince)
I will give way to my hon. Friend, but not yet. I have not got steam up yet. He suggested that we should detach ourselves from our narrow-minded parochial constituency interests and think of the great Edmund Burke concept. I agree entirely, but my hon. Friend did not advance that argument. The greater good and the greater need is for the new District 11(cc), or whatever we are to call it. As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) pointed out in a most pertinent speech, the greater need still is for the old District 11(c) because it had social and dereliction problems to overcome which, considering the rateable value, posed a bigger problem for the old District 11(c) and for both of them now than it did for Liverpool. My hon. Friend pointed out that if Halewood is taken out of the Liverpool Metropolitan District it represents infinitesimal terms, the fraction of a penny, for Liverpool, but it means a considerable amount to the new and old District 11(c) to help it overcome the social problems it will have. I will give way to my hon. Friend.
Mr Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
I was waiting for my hon. Friend to come to a temporary full stop. I should like to put two quick points. First, Liverpool Members were not trotting out arguments. We were putting forward serious reasons, which we thought would be accepted, for opposing the Amendments.
Secondly, my hon. Friend, who came from the same background, the same union and the same coalmines as I did, might be doing my hon. Friends and me an injustice by suggesting "if we are Socialists". We proved our Socialism long before coming here and since we have been here.
Mr Michael McGuire (Ince)
I am sorry that my hon. Friend should take it in that light. He does not need to tell me that I know his background and he knows mine. We have shared the same office for many years. In fact, he wanted to link up with his reorganisation when we moved to another office. My hon. Friend has taken it rather badly. I am used to stating an argument forcibly. I apologise if I hinted he has lost his Socialism.
I was trying to remind my hon. Friends that we are talking about a jam pot which Liverpool naturally wants to keep. Liverpool has adduced arguments to show why Halewood should be included within its boundaries. I am arguing that if we are talking about reorganisation and about viable units the greater need is that of new District 11(c). The amount may be only a fraction of a penny from Liverpool's point of view, but for District 11(c) it is a great deal.
Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw (Liverpool Toxteth)
Does my hon. Friend think that District 11(c) would be more viable as one district? If he does, would he like to put forward arguments in favour of that? If he does not, would he like to put forward arguments against its being one district?
Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw (Liverpool Toxteth)
The suggestion is to divide District 11(c) into two. Would it not be a more viable district if it were left as one district instead of being divided into two? Would my hon. Friend like to put forward arguments against that being done?
Mr Michael McGuire (Ince)
I shall make my speech in my own time, and I am coming to that.
I want to deal with the question of Halewood remaining in Liverpool. Most of the opposition from this side of the House has been against this carve up. It is said that the district of Halewood, although it has never been in the Liverpool City boundary, should now be included in the city. I have tried to show why it should not be.
Would it be right to carve up this area? It would be a more viable district if it were left as the original District 11(c) to include Huyton, Kirkby, and so on. The White Paper gives the answer to this problem. The Minister knows that the most difficult district in any of the metropolitan counties is the St. Helens District, and it has been from the word "go".
Prescot puzzles me a little. I know the area. I live only a few minutes walk away from there, but I consider myself a St. Helens man, living as I do in the Eccleston Park part of the town. I cannot understand Prescot wanting to get away from St. Helens, but apparently that is what it wants to do.
All these authorities have one thing in common, but they are different in character. I do not say that in the worst sense of the word, but just that they have a different outlook on life. They do not play the same games. Unfortunately, Liverpool people are plagued with watching Liverpool and Everton football clubs. They do not play rugby league football.
St. Helens did not want them to leave, but the areas made the case right from the beginning that they were not St. Helens' oriented and were attracted by habit and tradition towards Liverpool. It said that this unit does not have the harmony that is required, that it does not have the necessary community of interest.
I regret that the area is to be carved up. I listened with interest to the speech of my right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee). I refer to his area not as Newton-le-Willows but as Earlestown as it is better known to St. Helens people, I dispute what my right hon. Friend said about people looking not to St. Helens but to Warrington. St. Helens has some attraction but they are more oriented towards Warrington for many of the essential services including, probably, shopping. However, the community divide is nothing like as great as the community divide between Prescot for some part but mainly Huyton and Kirkby under the old District 11(c).
I regret, too, that the Minister has to listen to so much special pleading from hon. Members who are forgetting the Edmund Burke concept. I, like many hon. Members, receive letters explaining why a certain manufacturing concern or activity should be excluded from the operation of value added tax. Similarly, everybody wants to be excused from District 11(c). It is rumoured that there will be a split, with the Liverpool end going on its own and the St. Helens district going on its own.
I hope that the fears about financial viability which are casting a doubt in respect of both suggested districts are unfounded. The miners have a saying "Samson was strong and Solomon was wise, but neither of them could pay Beawt Brass".
I know why the right hon. Gentleman has taken Halewood out of Liverpool and put it where it should have been in the first place—the old District 11(c). If the district is split that is the natural home for it, because it will need the money for it more than Liverpool. I support the Amendment, and, if it comes to it, I shall vote for it.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
To go back to the beginning of this series of debates—it started rather a long time ago—the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) proposed that Southport and Bootle should be hived off from the present district consisting of Bootle, Crosby and Southport.
I must, as the Member for Crosby, declare an interest, but I am sure that the House will forgive the hon. Member for Bootle and me for having a squabble about our constituencies on the Floor of the House.
If it had not been for the obvious sincerity with which the hon. Member for Bootle put forward the case, I should not have thought that he could be serious in suggesting the break-up of the district all of the components of which want to be in that district together. There was nothing from Bootle, after Southport had said that it wished to join the district, to say that Bootle did not want to be in it. I entirely deny that Southport does not want to be in the district. It came in voluntarily and willingly and is working very well with it, a fact which my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Soref) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) will endorse.
I know of no stresses which could endanger the district. The co-ordinating committee has been getting on well with the work. This is an absolutely model district—a balance of industry, commerce, residences; a balance of work and leisure, a balance of recreation, holiday and conference centres, and so on; a broad spectrum of social organisation. I cannot advise the House to accept the hon. Gentleman's Amendment, which would break the district up.
Mr Simon Mahon (Bootle)
If that is so, why did not the Government include Southport in the original proposals? When did Southport suggest that it would come in? Why did it make the change? Will the right hon. Gentleman take it from me that, on the best authority in the whole of that district, there are tremendous stresses already betraying themselves between officials and councillors which will take a great deal of getting over, though they are not insurmountable?
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
Of course there are stresses, particularly between officials, when four or five districts have to be combined and their officials have to sort out the very difficult problem of who shall do what in the new district. We are getting that sort of discussion and stress throughout the country. It is nothing unusual, and it will be sorted out, particularly with the help of the Staff Commission.
The people and elected representatives of Ellesmere Port have expressed their wish to be in Cheshire. I do not say that this has been a guiding factor in all cases, especially when that wish has been indicated by a PRO firm conducting a referendum in the district. But it has been much more freely given in the case of Ellesmere Port, and it was a fairly decisive factor in this case. Ellesmere Port is a part of the same belt of development as Runcorn, Widnes, Chester and Ince. In the case of Chester there have been planning studies in operation and the link with Runcorn new town on the other side of the water is very close.
Those links are likely to grow in future. For example, Helsby and Frodsham are fast developing as residential suburbs of Ellesmere Port. The green belt between Ellesmere Port and Chester will be maintained, of course, and it is more of a link than a separation between the two. Therefore, we wish to retain Ellesmere Port within the County of Cheshire.
The main point of the debate concerns the movement of Halewood from the position in which we placed it in the Bill. I must correct what has been said time and time again in the debate about the Amendment taking Halewood away from Liverpool. Halewood has always been a part of the Whiston rural district since 1894. The fact that a large town invests in a rural district does not give it the right to deprive that rural district of that area.
Mr Eric Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
The Minister knows very well that what was being said was that it was being taken out of the proposals originally made by the Government in the Bill. Everyone knows that it has never been a part of Liverpool, but it was in the Government's original proposals. We want to know why it is now being taken out when it was obviously and naturally accepted by the Government as part of the 11(c) grouping.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
I will give the hon. Member a reason. The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) put the case for the proposal very well but at that time I was not convinced that the boundary was wrong. Buton re-examining it I considered that the area which created the growth should be in the same local government area as that which has to support the infrastructure for that growth. In this case Halewood has created the growth for Whiston rural district. It has created it by the Ford factory. Whiston has to support the infrastructure, the sewage disposal, the refuse collection and so forth. Therefore, to apply that principle makes sense of the proposal that the hon. Member for Widnes has put forward.
This was a separate consideration to that of the division of Huyton from St. Helens. In that case there was consultation with all the local authorities concerned; and I pay tribute to the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for Widnes for acting as the go-between for the local authorities and for helping me to understand the opposition of the local authorities on the matter. When I found that every local authority in the area was in favour of the division it was a matter we had to consider seriously.
I accept the argument of the hon. Member for Widnes and the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) for the creation of the two metropolitan districts of Huyton and St. Helens. They make sense in local government. I have only one worry about them, and that relates to the hospital service, where there could be problems. We shall be looking into them, but meanwhile I do not think it would be right to allow this consideration to be the main determinant of the new local government pattern.
I come to the problem at the eastern end of these two new local government areas of Huyton and St. Helens—the problem of Newton-le-Willows. I was shaken by the argument of the right hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee)——
Mr Eric Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Before we come on to that, may I ask whether that was really the only argument the Minister will put forward for taking Halewood out of the Liverpool area? If it is, I have never heard anything more disgraceful. It is no argument at all. The right hon. Gentleman has not made out a case.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
I do not intend to put forward any other argument, because that was an extremely strong argument. The only argument the hon. Gentleman put forward for his proposition was that Liverpool wanted the rateable value, the value of the factory at Halewood—that it wanted to deprive Whiston of something that belonged to Whiston.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
That is not a sound argument.
I was touching on the proposition of the right hon. Member for Newton. As on his previous Amendment, he put points with some force, with which I do not at present agree. I find great difficulty in arguing from my no great knowledge of Newton. Though I have been there many times and know the district, the right hon. Gentleman has greater knowledge. The whole urban district lies on the hinge of Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire. It is a distribution centre, and, therefore, has its contacts with all three. But I thought that the links with the metropolitan county were stronger than those to the south. The decisive factor was the physical location, which makes it more reasonable for the conurbation boundary to run along its southern rather than its northern boundary, and the fact that the western part of Newton-le-Willows shares common problems of rehabilitation with the Haydock and Ashton-in-Makerfield areas, both of which are now in Merseyside, in St. Helens. I had thought that the contacts were greater in that direction than towards Warrington. I am prepared to give the same assurances as I gave on the previous occasion, that I should like to look into the matter again with the right hon. Gentleman and see whether it can be solved. I believe that what the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) said is true, that there is an affinity between St. Helens and Newton, but I should like to discuss that again with the right hon. Gentleman.
Mr Michael McGuire (Ince)
Does not the Minister agree that to include Burtonwood in the new District 11(c) would make more sense than its exclusion? The case for the exclusion of Newton is stronger because Burtonwood is in the Warrington district.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
That is the sort of thing I should like to discuss further.
We have had a long discussion on the Amendments. At one time I thought that I should have drawn the boundary to divide between those areas which play Rugby Union and those which play Rugby League. In my own district we play Rugby Union. We provide all the professionals for St. Helens and Wigan and all the rest. We are the nursery. That is a diversion from local government, but it sometimes shows an indication of the communities and their interests. Perhaps it shows the difference between Huyton and St. Helens.
Mr Harold Wilson (Huyton)
I hope I shall be accorded such indulgence as is appropriate to someone making a maiden speech on this Bill. It is axiomatic that anyone who speaks on local government reform who does not have to wants his head examining.
Any Government embarking on local government reform are likely to make more enemies than friends, both within their own party and on the opposite side of Parliament. That was the case when we set up the Maud Commission. That is the case in respect of this Local Government Bill.
Both sides are agreed that local government reform, including changes in boundaries, is urgently necessary. While we would perhaps have preferred a rather differently orientated scheme, not so much on a county basis working inwards but on an urban basis working outwards, we recognise that the present Government are entitled to put forward this proposal, this Bill and this Schedule.
I must declare that I have constituency interests in this matter, as the right hon. Gentleman has just declared his interest. I hope, in part at least, to be speaking about the wider Merseyside area because most of those who have spoken are Merseyside Members of Parliament.
I have lived on the other side of the Mersey for many years. I can speak with some sympathy about the problems of Ellesmere Port and the area represented by Mr. Speaker.
I propose not to go into the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon), nor to take up the question of Ellesmere Port, nor the question raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee), of the Newton-le-Willows/Earlestown district. I wish to confine myself to two separate subjects. One is the division of District 11 (c) into the new areas of 11 (c) and 11 (cc).
My hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) and I led a deputation to the right hon. Gentleman on the question not of Halewood but of the division of 11 (c) and 11 (cc). We were most courteously received. The right hon. Gentleman listened very carefully to what we were saying. We made it plain to the right hon. Gentleman that we would not discuss the interests of any area that was not represented in the deputation; for example, if there was to be any question of the future boundaries of St. Helens we were not competent to speak on that. We were concerned with the area which we represented.
The arguments for separation have been well put by a number of my hon. Friends, though not all have agreed, and also by the right hon. Gentleman. In part we have heard the arguments about sport which the deputation urged on the hon. Gentleman. We have rugby league in Huyton. Most of my constituents are divided between Liverpool and Everton. St. Helens has different loyalties. But there is more than that.
In so far as what has been called, for shorthand purposes, the ethnic difference, there is a very big different between those who are essentially Liverpool-based and those who belong to the old Lancashire, summarised by some of us as the difference between scouse and black pudding. That is the ethnic difference somewhat simplified.
Mr Harold Wilson (Huyton)
I know that my hon. Friend never did like black pudding. That is why some of my scouses do not want to be with St. Helens, with respect to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs), who likes black pudding. I happen to like both.
There was a very serious argument on this matter going far beyond the ethnic difficulties. The area in the proposed area 11 (cc) is mainly characterised by the Liverpool overspill, the highest birth rate in the country and the highest school population and potential school population in the country. The recent census—and many of my hon. Friends have seen the figures published by the Lancashire County Council—show that Kirkby, Huyton and Halewood, for example, are only a little behind the area with the highest proportion of under 15s in the population in the county, probably in the country. This means there is a high cost for this 11(cc) area for educational provision of county schools and denominational schools.
On the other hand, St. Helens has a different problem. It has a high birth rate but an enormous problem over urban renewal. With 11(cc) as it stands there would be a big education burden in the newer areas, the urban renewal and the older areas, particularly when we remember that, contrary to our view, education is a second-tier authority responsibility, not a first-tier authority responsibilty. That is one good reason for splitting the two.
I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for the courtesy with which he received the deputation and for his decision.
I come to the much more difficult problem of Halewood, and here I find myself at odds with my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes, who is wearing his Freeman of Hale tie tonight. We have some little problems here. I shall probably be massacred or lynched in my constituency for what I am about to say, but I am trying to look at the problem in the interests of the wider Merseyside as a whole. I know my hon. Friend will disagree and can produce powerful arguments in his favour. Nevertheless, if we had remained as 11(c) with our educational costs and our urban renewal costs, it would have been essential to press for Halewood to come in. I know my hon. Friend disagrees, for reasons he has already urged, and I do not depreciate them.
With the separation, despite the enormous burdens on the Huyton-Kirkby-Prescot-Whiston 11 (cc) area, we have to consider the question of Halewood. It is a powerful argument used by my hon. Friend. He is the Member for Halewood, and he has told us what the people of Halewood want. This is something which should not be lightly disregarded, and I do not disregard it. We know it has been the Whiston Rural District Council and the Lancashire County Council which have borne, mainly through a rate burden falling on the people outside Halewood, what the right hon. Gentleman called the infrastructure. I do not underrate that. I do not think that there are any politics in this. I do not believe that the numbers on the register in Halewood will make all that much difference to the Labour or Tory balance, whether in Liverpool or anywhere else. It is a question of rateable values, and in a sense that has to be set against the argument used by my hon. Friend.
Studying the interests of wider Merseyside as a whole, I feel some regret that we could not have achieved 11(cc) in another way which did not involve the Halewood decision. I would have hoped—I know great consideration was given to this—that we could have looked elsewhere to make up the vital numbers. The right hon. Gentleman is in great difficulties. He has to face pressures from hon. Members in all parts of the House, from all parts of the country, pressing for smaller authorities, and he has rightly resisted these. It is a fact that if we had taken 11(c) and split it into two, one or other part of it would have been too small to be viable in the terms he has laid down. We understand his difficulty.
I would have preferred that when consideration was given to the idea of bringing in Aintree, parts of Netherton and Thornton into the area that the right hon. Gentleman had made the Huyton area viable with some transfer from the Huyton area to the other. I would have preferred that to the proposal to take Halewood away. I hope it has not been done just to balance up the figures. On balance in the wider interests of Merseyside, despite my constituency interests—and I shall have a rough time when I go there next—I consider that Halewood should have remained as it was in the Bill.
The Minister refers to what he calls the St. Helens area or the Huyton area. I do
not know whether that means that the Government have decided that 11(cc) is to be called Huyton? This is a matter which can be left to the local authorities concerned. There is some jealously between Huyton and Kirby, as the Minister knows. There is the historic area of Prescot which is part of it, and, indeed, the postal address of Liverpool used to be "Liverpool near Prescot"250 to 300 years ago. I hope the Minister will leave the people to choose their own title. Some are canvassing Knowsley for one and St. Helens for the other. I hope that the Minister will not prejudge this.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
Throughout the Bill where names are concerned we have relied entirely on local areas, and if the area which I have for shorthand purposes called St. Helens come forward with another name we shall try to meet local wishes.
|Division No. 272.]||AYES||[11.12 p.m.|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Forrester, John||Milne, Edward|
|Ashton, Joe||Gilbert, Dr. John||Ogden, Eric|
|Atkinson, Norman||Heffer, Eric S.||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Horam, John||Palmer, Arthur|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Irvine,Rt.Hn.SirArthur (Edge Hill)||Pentland, Norman|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Prescott, John|
|Cohen, Stanley||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Judd, Frank||Roper, John|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Kaufman, Gerald||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Latham, Arthur||Skinner, Dennis|
|Dalyell, Tam||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Urwin, T. W.|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Marsden, F.||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|English, Michael||Marshall, Dr. Edmund||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Mr. James A. Dunn and|
|Foot, Michael||Mikardo, Ian||Mr. Simon Mahon.|
|Adley, Robert||Crowder, F. P.||Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia|
|Astor, John||Dean, Paul||Hunt, John|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Drayson, G. B.||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Kimball, Marcus|
|Benyon, W.||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Lane, David|
|Biffen, John||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fidler, Michael||Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey (Sut'nC'field)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Fortescue, Tim||Loveridge, John|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fowler, Norman||Luce, R. N.|
|Bray, Ronald||Fox, Marcus||McCrindle, R. A.|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Gibson-Watt, David||Mather, Carol|
|Buck, Antony||Goodhew, Victor||Mawby, Ray|
|Burden, F. A.||Gray, Hamish||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Chapman, Sydney||Gummer, J. Selwyn||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Gurden, Harold||Moate, Roger|
|Cockeram, Eric||Haselhurst, Alan||Monks, Mrs. Connie|
|Cooke, Robert||Hawkins, Paul||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Cordle, John||Holt, Miss Mary||More, Jasper|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hordern, Peter||Neave, Airey|
|Normanton, Tom||Sinclair, Sir George||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Onslow, Cranley||Speed, Keith||Waddington, David|
|Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Spence, John||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)||Stanbrook, Ivor||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Percival, Ian||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)||Wall, Patrick|
|Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Sutcliffe, John||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||Wilkinson, John|
|Redmond, Robert||Tebbit, Norman||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||Mr. Michael Jopling and|
|Shelton, William (Clapham)||Trew, Peter||Mr. Oscar Murton.|
No. 911, in page 204, line 3, at end insert:
'3AB. The boundary dividing the borough of Whitley Bay referred to in Part 1 of this Schedule shall be such as the Secretary of State may by order determine on or near the general line of the access road to Hartley West Farm, Hartley Lane, West End, the northern boundaries of Ordnance Survey parcels 0057, 2657 and 4156 and then north-eastwards to the boundary of the borough'.
Mr Frederick Willey (Sunderland North)
This is a matter that is not unimportant to us. The North-East has always been an area easily recognisable and to designate, but it has always been difficult to designate its constituent parts. Some years ago, Sir Sadler Foster tried to overcome the difficulty of attracting industry to the region by suggesting that it should be called "The Three Rivers Country", but the suggestion did not prove sufficiently popular to be adopted.
Our proceedings might be even further expedited if the Minister would correct something in later Amendments. The Secretary of State's name has been put to Amendment No. 459. I cannot believe that that is correct, as the County Borough of Sunderland has not been consulted about that subject. I hope that the Minister will be able to set our minds at rest by assuring us that no such view as might be expressed by the name of the Secretary of State appearing on that Amendment will be pursued until Sunderland has been afforded an opportunity to consult him.
Mr Edward Milne (Blyth)
I wish to make two points in connection with Amendment No. 910, which is supported by the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), who is unable to be present. The first is that it is possibly a unique Amendment in the sense that a referendum was held in the village to decide its contents. Secondly, and possibly even more important, it covers the area in which I live. I can give no higher commendation for the Amendment.
Mr Norman Pentland (Chester-le-Street)
The Minister is aware of the depth of feeling existing in my constituency about the proposals embodied in the Bill affecting the parishes of Birtley and Lamesley. From the outset, everyone concerned has requested me to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman and the Government their intensely strong feelings about the proposals and their desire to retain their long-established and historic identity with the County of Durham. I happen to have lived in my constituency all my life. I know the area, and it goes without saying that I share the concern of my constituents about the Government's proposals. They have my complete support in their objections to the proposals affecting the areas to which I have referred.
The Minister knows that Durham County Council, the Chester-le-Street rural district council, the Chester-le-Street urban district council and the parish councils of Birtley and Lamesley have made the strongest representations to him. They have made them without emotion, but with logic and realism, facing what is in the best interests of sensible planning and realistic local government administration.
My hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) and I have met the Minister and his officials at his Department on two occasions. We have had lengthy discussions with him about all the issues involved. I have also presented to the right hon. Gentleman petitions in which the people of Birtley and Lamesley by an outstanding majority—80 per cent. of the population having signed the petitions—have expressed in no uncertain terms their desire to retain their identity with Durham County. In addition, scores of personal letters have been sent on to the right hon. Gentleman from individuals and organisations.
It seems very strange to me and my constituents that the Minister has simply brushed aside these strong feelings, because all along the line he has indicated that the Government would be guided in their proposals by the reaction of the people affected by such proposals. Here is an area where 80 per cent. of the population have expressed their feelings about the Government's proposals. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to cite any other area of the country where 80 per cent. of the people have indicated their desire to remain in a certain local government unit and he has not accepted it. In other cases, the right hon. Gentleman has accepted people's opposition when only 20, 30 or 40 per cent. of the populations have signed petitions and sent them to him.
On 18th January, during the thirteenth sitting of the Standing Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) moved an Amendment standing in both our names. In an excellent speech he explained to the Minister the logic behind our proposal to have Birtley and Lamesley removed from the Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County and retained in the new Durham non-metropolitan county. Like myself, my hon. Friend was completely astonished that at that stage the Minister was not prepared even to accept that reasoned Amendment.
I do not propose to cover the technical issues dealt with so effectively by my hon. Friend on that occasion; nor do I intend to go over the question where realistic boundaries should be drawn for Birtley and Lamesley, because the Minister and his Department are fully aware of the case which has been advanced by my hon. Friend and I, by Durham County Council, by the Chester-le-Street Rural District Council and the other councils involved in my area on the boundary issue. In brief, the Minister knows, probably better than anyone else, that the boundary proposals suggested in the Bill are absolutely disgraceful in terms of realistic local government planning.
However, since the Committee stage something else has happened. The House will be aware that the Local Government Boundary Commission has submitted draft proposals to the Minister for new districts in the English non-metropolitan counties. The Commission proposes that seven new districts should be established in the new Durham County area. It is proposed that Chester-le-Street Rural District Council and Chester-le-Street Urban District Council should amalgamate to form one of these districts. This is acceptable to us. It is also acceptable to Durham County Council.
However, looking at the population strength of this new district we find that it is only 49,919. This means that this district is completely under strength. Indeed, looking at the other six new districts the Commission proposes for Durham County, we find that the population strength of the Chester-le-Street district is 31,680 less than the smallest of these six new districts. It goes without saying that the rateable value of this new district is also most inadequate.
Therefore, we submit that the case we have put forward all along the line to have Birtley and Lamesley retained in the new Durham County has been justified and strengthened very much by the draft proposals that have been submitted to the Minister by the Local Government Boundary Commission.
What are the facts? The facts are that if Birtley, with its population of 12,800, and Lamesley, with its population of 4,200, are excluded, the rateable value for the district will be reduced by almost 50 per cent. and the population by a quarter. In my view, if the Government insist that the parishes of Birtley and Lamesley should be retained in the Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County based on Gateshead, they are guilty of turning the principles embodied in the Bill upside down.
We are advised, and the Minister has advised on more than one occasion, that the object of this reform is to give better government at local level. That aim is completely denied to my constituents if Birtley and Lamesley are taken out of Durham County.
I want to impress upon the Minister that his proposal to transfer these two parishes to Gateshead is based on a false premise. He must know that Birtley is now fully developed and in that context would be of no value at all to Gateshead. Furthermore, the addition to Birtley and Lamesley to Gateshead would only increase the population and the rateable value of the new Gateshead district by a very small amount, whereas if the two parishes were retained in Durham County and formed part of the new Chester-le-Street County district they would be of tremendous value in providing a sensible, realistic and viable unit of local Government.
Like every other hon. Member who feels deeply about the issues involved in the Bill, I could speak at great length about the many aspects involved for my constituents. However, in dealing with the Birtley and Lamesley aspect I want to conclude by again trying to impress upon the Minister that he should recog- nise above all else the strength of feeling that exists among my constituents in the parishes of Birtley and Lamesley about the Government's proposals.
Every organisation, all political parties and the churches are unanimous in their desire to remain in the County of Durham. Like myself, they are dismayed and angry that their long history and traditions as citizens of the County of Durham is to be broken by the Government proposal which makes neither sense nor logic of realistic local government reform.
I appeal to the Minister and to the Government to honour their promise in the White Paper, because they say there that power should go to those people who would exercise decisions locally and ensure that local government is given every opportunity to take that initiative and responsibility effectively. We agree with that and we accept it, but that can be done in this case only if Amendment No. 275 is accepted.
I turn briefly to Amendment No. 277, because the Bill also proposes that Washington will be taken out of Durham County and transferred to District 2(e) in the Tyne-Wear metropolitan area based on Sunderland. Here again I emphasise most strongly that all sections of the population of Washington wish to retain their long historical and traditional links with the County of Durham.
The Washington Urban District Council has convened special meetings on the Government's proposals and the people of Washington have made known their dismay about the Government's intentions. Washington has a distinct and separate identity and is clearly recognisable as a community. Furthermore, it is not linked by continuous development with the Tyneside-Wearside conurbation and as far as I am aware there are no proposals to bring that about.
The facts are that the urban district and the new town of Washington have practically no affinity with Sunderland County Borough or with any of the other communities in the conurbation. The development of Washington new town, the greater part of which lies within the urban area, is a significant factor in the case for excluding Washington Urban District from the metropolitan area.
As long ago as 1961 Washington Urban District Council and Durham County Council initiated a proposal for a new town, and prior to the establishment of the Washington Development Corporation in 1964 it had been agreed that if necessary they would go ahead with such a project as a joint effort between the county council and the urban district council.
Another fact that cannot be denied is that the co-operation that has existed between the new town development corporation and Washington Urban District Council and Durham County Council has been largely instrumental in securing the successful progress of the new town. The Government's proposals, if implemented, will be detrimental to this progress.
The Minister for Local Government and Development, who has visited Washington New Town, will agree that remarkable progress has been made in industry in the new town. Most of the land allocated in eight main areas has already been developed or is in the process of being developed. The Government have granted further land for industrial expansion. National and international companies are successfully established in the new town. In addition, a long-established chemical company and two large coalmines operate in the area. Unfortunately, one of the pits has to close in October.
The Minister knows also about the considerable progress that has been made in the provision of housing by the Washington Urban District Council and the new town development corporation. A start has been made on the construction of Washington town centre, which will provide the main shopping facility for the new town and the surrounding area. The development corporation is ensuring that almost 1 million sq. ft. of land is made available for the building of commercial and professional offices, a health centre, with regional hospital board and industrial health centre facilities, restaurants, public houses, a police station, a library, and a sports centre which will include eventually a swimming pool.
It should be obvious to the Minister and all others concerned that Washington will become in a very short time more and more self-sufficient as regards indus- try, housing, shopping and other commercial requirements and will be less reliant on other areas.
So I could go on. Once again, I impress upon the Government the strong feeling that the entire population of Washington have about the proposals in the Bill. The people of Washington have historic and traditional connections with the county of Durham which they passionately believe should not be broken.
I therefore appeal again to the Government to accept the traditional and historic links that the people of Washington have with Durham County. If my Amendment is accepted the Government will be acknowledging that sensible and realistic local government administration will continue in the years ahead at Washington.
Mr Bernard Conlan (Gateshead East)
I oppose Amendment No. 275. My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland) opposed the Amendment with his usual fairness, with sincerity, and with a deep conviction of the Tightness of his case. Although I sympathise with my hon. Friend, I ask the Minister not to accept my hon. Friend's case. My hon. Friend claimed that the areas of Lamesley and Birtley have natural traditions and connections with the county area. Nobody can deny that these areas have for a long time been associated with the Durham County area. That is not to say that this is an ideal arrangement for local government.
The reorganisation of local government gives the South Tyneside area a chance to arrange a system which is sensible and realistic. The areas we are discussing have a greater affinity and a closer connection with the conurbation of Tyneside than they have with the county area. The areas of South Tyneside and Tyneside as a whole have a social and economic attraction to the areas of Lamesley and Birtley. One of the largest industrial estates in the country is situated in the Team Valley and one-fifth of the Team Valley trading estate is situated within the area.
It follows that the area of Lamesley and Birtley is very much dependent economically and socially on the Tyneside area as a whole. A few years ago an independent survey was made by the Universities of Newcastle and Durham in which were analysed the possibilities of local government reorganisation in the Tyneside area. The conclusions of the analysis were that not only Lamesley and Birtley should be part of the Tyneside conurbation, but so also should Chester-le-Street. We are not going that far tonight. If my hon. Friends the Members for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam), and Blaydon (Mr. Woof) and myself had our way we might be proposing this evening that the Gateshead District (c) should not be of the proposed size but should be even larger. We might even propose that it should take in the whole of Chester-le-Street as well. However, in deference to the very strong feelings of other of my hon. Friends, we do not propose to go that far.
In a good British way I think the proposal now before us is a decent compromise. Even though District (c) will have a population of about 220,000 it is still very low compared with the districts in the rest of the metropolitan areas in the country. If the Amendment is accepted it would mean the hiving off of about 20,000 people and that would reduce the population of the area to about 200,000. I believe that to be too small by any standards, including those of the Minister. All the other districts in the metropolitan areas have populations far higher than 200,000. Rather than hive off those 20,000 in Lamesley and Birtley we should be increasing the number of people in area (c) but I shall not argue that tonight. We shall go for the good old-fashioned compromise and tell the Minister that we believe that his proposals are about right.
Mr Norman Pentland (Chester-le-Street)
When my hon. Friend talks about compromise, does not he realise that the Minister obviously is compromising by bringing one area into County Durham at the expense of Birtley and Lamesley? Some of us would like to know why.
Mr Bernard Conlan (Gateshead East)
I was about to say, in conclusion, that this area of Lamesley and Birtley has for many decades been part and parcel of the conurbation of Tyneside, and it would be wrong if this opportunity were missed to put right a situation that should have been put right long ago.
Mr William Hughes (City of Durham)
I should like to make a few short comments on the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Conlan). It was as long ago as 1070 that the people of Gateshead showed their disrespect to the county of Durham by murdering its bishop, and what my hon. Friend proposed in his speech is little short of homicide on a similar grand scale. His arguments in favour of transferring Birtley and Lamesley to Tyneside against the wishes of their inhabitants is as brutal as the harrying of the North by William the Conqueror, and as undistinguished and unprincipled.
Nothing that my hon. Friend suggested about the historic presence of the Team Valley and Birtley and Lamesley in the conurbation of Tyneside has any reality in economic history. It is a fiction, conjured up out of the warped minds of Gateshead men.
I turn to the most appalling affair the Bill has yet produced. Under Amendment No. 459, Seaham, that creation of the third Marquess of Londonderry and John Buddle between 1820 and 1836, is to be returned, as is quite right, to County Durham, and yet apparently that on which Seaham was created, Hetton, Easington Lane and East Renton, is to be golloped up in the maw of a great Tyneside. The Minister has already suggested that Tyne and Wear should have its boundaries so closely drawn as not to include one acre that has no right to be considered as metropolitan. He has already accepted that the only conceivable reason for keeping Hetton inside such a metropolitan area is that there is to his mind a defective boundary between Hetton-le-Hole and Hetton-le-Spring. As one who perhaps knows the boundary between Hetton-le-Hole and Hetton-le-Spring rather better than many hon. Members do, I say that that is a fiction of an Ordnance Survey map which has no basis in reality. As I suggested on Second Reading, to propose to the people of Hetton-le-Hole and Easington Lane that they belong to Tyne and Wear rather than County Durham is to show a marvellous incompetence in understanding the reality of the feelings of real people that is beyond my comprehension.
There is no political advantage in adding Hetton-le-Hole to one part or another. It is 98 per cent. Labour. It has not had a non-Labour councillor for 70 years. There is no advantage in adding that area to either side. No one on either side of the boundary believes that putting Hetton-le-Hole this way or that would upset the political balance of power. The reality is simple. Whichever way Hetton-le-Hole goes is Labour. It does not matter.
We are faced with the fact that the heartland of East Durham—for that is what Hetton-le-Hole is—should be sent off to some Cloud Cuckoo Land dreamed up in a Ministry but which has no basis in the minds of the people living there. The people living there have not indulged in a public relations campaign. They have relied—like the members of the Durham Light Infantry, of whom they have formed a major part for many centuries—on knowing they are right. To assume that Rommel, any more than the Minister, can stand in the way of the people of Hetton-le-Hole and suggest that they belong to Tyne and Wear is an aberration of which the Minister shall be guilty very soon. To pretend that an area such as that is not part of County Durham on the feeble grounds that there is an inadequate boundary, and to pretend on that ground that Hetton-le-Hole should be transferred to alien country, is a total foolishness.
I urge the Minister to look again at this problem.
We accept there is a great difficulty in finding a satisfactory southern boundary for the metropolitan area in Hetton-le-Hole and Silksworth. No one with a detailed knowledge of that area could pretend there is not. But to pretend that Seaham in Durham, Coldheseldon in Durham, and Easington Lane in Tyne and Wear makes any sense is to show a total misconception of the reality of human occupation, the movement of population, economic activity and everything else which—if this Bill passes through all stages—would make the Government the laughing stock of County Durham.
Mr John Horam (Gateshead West)
I should like to return the House of Commons from the blood curdling backwoods of Durham to the shining, modern rationality of Gateshead.
I understand why the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland) has put forward this Amendment. I understand and admire the efforts of the Birtley and Lamesley Action Committee. It said it would "fight like hell for B and L" and like hell it has fought. Supposing the Minister has not withered and disappeared under the avenging finger of my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Mark Hughes) before a vote is taken, if a vote is taken, I hope that reason will prevail and the Amendment will be defeated. I believe that it should be, because I believe that to include I amesley and Birtley in the new District (c) of the new metropolitan county of Tyne and Wear is a good, sound local government structure, and good for the citizens of Lamesley and Birtley.
I say that for three reasons. First, Lamesley and Birtley are more naturally linked with Tyneside than with Durham. The people of these places, if they do not work in Lamesley or Birtley, go further north to Team Valley and Tyneside to work. When they want to go shopping on Saturday morning they go to Tyneside. When they want major entertainment, other than television, when they stay at home, they go to Tyneside. While it is true that historically there are strong connections between Lamesley and Birtley and Durham these connections are based firstly on the mining industry which we must accept is in decline and secondly on the Church and the traditional links with the See of Durham. The day has long passed when local government boundaries must coincide with diocesan boundaries.
In the Labour Party we have always striven for wider urban areas. People at the heart of our cities have long been constrained in the narrow straitjackets of urban living and we want to give them freedom to expand in a wider urban setting. That is why, fundamentally, we must include Lamesley and Birtley and areas like that in areas such as the new metropolitan country of Tyne and Wear. In particular we have one great jewel, the Team Valley trading estate, a most important area in the economy and environment of southern Tyneside which should logically be planned as one. If Lamesley and Birtley do come into Tyne and Wear this will be planned as one and that must be right.
The new District (c) is small by any standards. To take away Lamesley and Birtley would make it smaller still. My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland) would naturally say that to include Lamesley and Birtley would make Chester-le-Street smaller and that is right. But the fact must be faced that whereas with county areas the major responsibilities are with the top tier, in the metropolitan counties the major responsibilities are with the districts. Therefore it matters a great deal more if we lose out on total population with a district in a metropolitan county than it does with Chester-le-Street, because Durham has the responsibilities for providing services to local authorities.
Mr Edward Leadbitter (Hartlepools, The)
I am following closely what my hon. Friend is saying about Lamesley and Birtley, and why they should be in this metropolitan district. What is the extent of the population he is talking about and what is the rateable value?
Mr John Horam (Gateshead West)
I do not know the rateable value, but the population is 17,000 I am told. The remaining population in Chester-le-Street would be 49,000 and the total population of Gateshead is 220,000.
Mr Edward Leadbitter (Hartlepools, The)
If the hon. Member has come to this conclusion, is he aware that a number of metropolitan districts in metropolitan counties have considerably less population?
Mr John Horam (Gateshead West)
Yes. District (c) of the metropolitan county is the fifth smallest of those created, and if Lamesley and Birtley were subtracted, that would make it the second smallest. Three of these small districts are in the Tyne and Wear county and we can ill afford small districts which have to struggle to maintain education. There is fierce controversy over education, and these authorities must struggle to maintain education at its best.
This is why I believe that reason is opposed to the historic links and suggest that we should reject this Amendment.
Mr Gordon Bagier (Sunderland South)
I rise to oppose Amendments Nos. 277, 459, 1040, 1041 and 276.
I am satisfied to leave the other arguments to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam), but the effect on Sunderland, District (e), would be catastrophic if these Amendments were carried.
Mr Thomas Urwin (Houghton-le-Spring)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I have your guidance on these Amendments? Is it in order for my hon. Friend to debate Amendments which have not been moved? My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street, (Mr. Pentland) moved, I understood, an Amendment, and I understood that we were moving to a Division on it.
Mr Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)
I think I called the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street to move Amendment 275 and said that it would be in order to consider the Amendments to which the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier) has referred. These are for discussion and not necessarily for Division.
Mr Gordon Bagier (Sunderland South)
Yes. That is what I understood, that we could speak to the Amendments listed immediately after Amendment No. 275.
If those Amendments were carried it would entirely destroy the concept of Sunderland area, section (e) of the new Tyne and Wear area, and having listened to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Mark Hughes) I am not sure whether he was speaking as a historian or on this Bill. He sounded like a prophet of doom, but many residents of Hetton and Seaham and those other places he referred to would come to Sunderland, in the Tyne and Wear area and find that the natives there were friendly.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland) spoke on the Birtley and Lamesley argument which I am happy to leave to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West, but on the question of Washington, under successive Governments, it has been pointed out that for its growth point, Sunderland would look to Washington.
Washington is a new town, one of the best in the region if not one of the best in the country. It has grown and provides employment for the whole Wear Valley. We have repeatedly asked for new industries in the knowledge that Sunderland could not grow sufficiently to provide jobs and we had to look to Washington. In considering the growth of Washington we had to take into account the dormitory aspect of Sunderland.
I know my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street feels strongly about this. He is as proud of Washington as I am. The Government's proposals for the district of Sunderland to include Washington are much more sensible than the Labour Government's proposals in which Washington was not included with Sunderland. The growth point of Washington will be an important factor in determining the growth of District (e).
I suspect that the Amendments in the name of Mr. Secretary Walker are likely to be accepted by the Government. I am alarmed by this because the Amendments concerning District (e) to which he has appended his name are those dealing with Seaham, Dalton-le-Dale and Seaton with Slingley. If the Minister has made up his mind to accept those Amendments, it is a little unfair that Members of Parliament representing Sunderland and Sunderland Corporation have not been consulted about his intentions.
We have been quiet on this issue because we felt that the Government's proposals for District (e) were correct. Taking Seaham out of District (e) would have the effect of producing an imbalance. We are conscious that Tyneside will be dominant in the new Tyne and Wear metropolitan district. The Minister's acceptance of the change of name to Tyne and Wear suggests that he wanted a balance. Yet one of the main Amendments which he is likely to accept will create an imbalance by taking a large section of the community of Seaham out of District (e). Geographically and socially that does not make sense.
According to the latest travel survey, one in every four of the inhabitants of Seaham travels every day to Sunderland for work, shopping and so on. If District (e) is to be a viable section of the new metropolitan area, dealing with education, housing and personal services, with all the costs involved, it must not be too small. I ask the Minister to look again at this issue and perhaps introduce an Amendment in another place. I would prefer him to have consultations with the County Borough of Sunderland and with the Members of Parliament representing Sunderland before making a final decision.
I hope that the Minister will not only resist those Amendments to which he has not appended his name, but will agree to think again on the Seaham one before making a final decision, and will hold the consultations for which I have asked.
Mr Jack Dormand (Easington)
I do not wish to be controversial in the two or three minutes for which I shall speak, but my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier), when he says Dalton-le-Dale ought to be part of Sunderland, is, with the greatest respect, out of touch with reality. It has no affinity whatever with that area. I never thought I should be praising this Government for anything they did, but I give them some praise for their initiative in introducing Amendment No. 1040.
It is a belated realisation of the truth. The Minister was kind enough to meet a number of my colleagues and myself to discuss four parishes concerned with Easington rural district. He return Cold-hesledon and East Murton to Easington rural district. It seemed entirely illogical at that moment to leave out Dalton-le-Dale and Seaton with Slingley. We now welcome their return. The Minister will be a popular man in Dalton-le-Dale and Seaton with Slingley if this happens.
Like the occupants of many other villages throughout the whole of County Durham and in the whole of the country they have made their presence felt by writing letters to their Members of Parliament. I have had letters from both parish councils, strong organisations like the women's institutes and from individuals who are concerned. I quote the moving sentences I received from a resident of Seaton:
Many of us feel frustrated not only because of what has been said but also because of a feeling of helplessness. It is difficult to avoid an impression that the wishes of people are being swept aside with such little regard that the result will be a further decline in the faith in democracy.
What the Minister has done in returning these villages is to restore faith in
democracy. It is true to say that both of these villages have been highly satisfied with the administration under Easington Rural District Council and have no desire to leave it. I would dare to say that it is literally true that there is not a single resident in both of these parishes who wishes to go into the metropolitan area. The minister must know of the affinity of Dalton-le-Dale with Murton. Dalton-le-Dale residents work and go to school in Murton; they are connected with the church in Murton; and their whole social and economic links are with Murton. It was an obvious thing to do. I do not want to end on a sour note, but I do not see why the Minister could not have done it in the first place. I welcome it, and I give him praise for having second thoughts on it.
Mr Thomas Urwin (Houghton-le-Spring)
I would like to focus attention on Amendment No. 459, and in making this early reference to it accept the fact that Minister has seen the error of his ways by superimposing his name over that of my own, as mover of the Amendment. This indicates his complete support for the return of Seaham Urban District from the Metropolitan County of Tyne and Wear to the administrative county of Durham. I also applaud the Minister's decision to table Amendment No. 1040 concerning Dalton-le-Dale, Seaton with Slingley. This is long overdue for what I would describe as a tidying-up operation.
This matter has a long history in local government terms. I remember from my personal service in local government extending over many years in this area that a deep sore was felt to exist on the part of Seaton, Hetton and Houghton-le-Spring because of the existence of the large wedge of the Easington rural district which brought with it so many problems in terms of administrative services—adding, one imagines, good deal to the cost of those services in terms of the local authorities concerned and the Durham County Council.
In the passage of the Bill in Committee there were considerable variations of the original text of the Bill, and a number of successes attended the efforts of various hon. Members, some with more influence than others on the Minister's attitude to their special objections. Be- cause of the fragmentation that has taken place, and because of the Minister's rather surprising voluntary acceptance of Seaham in the way I have suggested, it has led to a great deal more speculation than perhaps otherwise would have occurred. Much more activity has been engendered by one or two hon. Members on this side of the House because of the Minister's lack of solidarity towards the Bill which he himself produced.
Against this background, I wish to draw attention to the ridiculous situation created by the right hon. Gentleman in terms of the untidiness of the boundaries which will operate when the Bill is enacted, if it is not changed in another place.
I remind the Minister that attention is now much more sharply focused on the position as it will affect Hetton, subject of Amendment No. 276, and the urban district of Houghton-le-Spring, subject of Amendment No. 1041. These two places have an even greater claim for exclusion from the Tyne-Wear metropolitan county. They accept the statement made by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier) because, inevitably, if such a decision is taken it will have a weakening effect on the Sunderland district of the Tyne-Wear metropolitan county.
In this new situation, which I am sure the Minister has overlooked, there is an equally strong claim for similar treatment to be afforded to Seaton, Houghton-le-Spring and Hetton as will be afforded to Seaham urban district.
Many of us have lived in this area for most if not all of our lives. I have privately paid tribute to the Minister for Local Government because of what I considered to be a genuine and worthwhile attempt to learn for himself all about the geography of the area in making decisions which will fundamentally affect the lives of many people in the area. Therefore, I wish him seriously to reflect on the repercussions if these decisions remain unaltered and if the Amendments are not accepted.
Let us reflect on the case of Seaham, with an eastern coastal boundary on the one hand, sitting astride the main artery, south-north, of the A19, with three link roads from Easington Lane on the southern extremity of a corridor 7 or 8 miles long, extending northwards to Penshaw in the Houghton-le-Spring urban district, and three link roads from Easington Lane at the southern end. Hetton in the centre and Houghton-le-Spring at the northern end.
The area is well serviced, and the communications are very good in Seaham, a community with a population of 23,310, coming within the administrative county of Durham but separated, paradoxically, from the nearest western district of the new county of Durham—District No. 8—by a large corridor comprising Houghton and Hetton urban districts, within the metropolitan county. This is so ridiculous as to be almost unbelievable, especially as Murton, already the subject of discussions successfully presented to the Minister, lies immediately to the east of Easington Lane at the southern extremity, and remains now, subsequent to the Minister's decision, within the county of Durham.
The corridor to which I refer is populated by 50,000 people. They are resident in this huge corridor between two administrative districts of the new county of Durham. Nothing could be more nonsensical than the new situation that the Minister seeks to create by not accepting at least Hetton and addressing himself to the possibility of a more adventurous idea of a new grouping beyond that just described.
This area of 50,000 people is bigger than the fragments remaining to my hon. Friend and his local government colleagues in Chester-le-Street rural district and Chester-le-Street urban district, and big enough, on the basis of that comparison, to form a single Durham county district. The Minister is the only one who does not know—everybody else knows where the boundary should be drawn. The Minister will create a further difficult situation with the administrative authorities who will have to leapfrog from Seaham on the coast, about 7 or 8 miles inland to service the district on the western side of Houghton-le-Spring and Hetton-le-Hole, which will remain within the metropolitan county.
The Minister will be perpetuating, accentuating and aggravating the difficult problems to which I referred earlier and with which my local government colleagues have had to contend for many years. These problems could be largely
avoided if the Minister would only interpret and act upon paragraph 7 of the Government White Paper, in which he says:
If local authorities are to provide services effectively and economically, their areas should be large enough in size, population and resources to meet administrative needs, including the maintenance and development of a trained and expert local government service: boundaries should be drawn so that areas take account of patterns of development and travel: and services which are closely linked should be in the hands of the same authority.
All the arguments here can be adduced to support the case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland), but, with respect to him, I suggest that they can be also adduced to the greater benefit of the areas to which I refer.
The singular decision on Seaham is not in accord with the very sound premises on which paragraph 7 of the White Paper is based, unless the Minister accepts Amendment No. 276, in the name of the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Mark Hughes) and Amendment 1041 in my name, for Houghton-le-Spring. Even the Minister must realise that the proposals are so ridiculous as virtually to compel the Boundary Commission to come back later unnecessarily to do work again to redraw these boundaries on a much more sensible basis than he has drawn them. There must inevitably be later changes.
I finalise my remarks as quickly as I can. I know that the Minister has a long night before him and I sympathise with him. I am sure that other hon. Members in this and subsequent debates will not be half as tolerant on their problems as I am on those which affect me and the area I represent.
Where, then, does the Minister now suggest that Seaham should go? Obviously he will be in consultation with Durham County Council. It has submitted eight districts to the Boundary Commission. Will the Minister suggest to Durham that Seaham should go into the Easington Rural District, one of the eight, bearing in mind that this district will no longer be rural, with the addition of Murton and Hesledon, agreed with all the parishes?
Easington Rural District and Seaham Urban District would comprise a population of 107,797, 32,000 more than the minimum requirement laid down by the Boundary Commission. With the best will in the world, I suggest to the Minister that this is perhaps unwieldy. It is certainly numerically much larger than any of the other seven districts in the administrative area of the Durham County Council.
If, as has been whispered abroad, Seaham should become part of the Chester-le-Street Durham County No. 3 district, this would be adding insult to injury. Even though its numbers are sadly depleted and it is a much smaller local government unit than it need be, if my hon. Friend's Amendment were accepted it would add insult to injury to unload Seaham on to Chester-le-Street and create other greater geographical problems.
I hope that the Minister will deliberate long and deeply on the proposal I now make. If he is not disposed to accept Amendment No. 276 from my hon. Friend the Member for Durham and Amendment No. 1041 from myself in respect of Houghton-le-Spring, I ask him to consider the possibility—indeed, the practicability—of a further district within the administrative County of Durham which would have, first, Seaham Urban District—I take it not in order of priority but merely because the Minister indicates his willingness to accept Seaham Urban District within the County of Durham—with a population of 23,310 linked with Hetton and its population of 16,871 and in turn with Houghton-le-Spring, with 31,000 population, with Murton and Hesledon, with respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand), with a population of 9,030, and those northern parishes of Easington R.D.C. with 677 population. This would give a total population of 80,888, or almost 90,000. I would consider that to be an ideal county district, well within the limits prescribedby the Boundary Commission, and a completely viable and economic local government unit.
When some of us met the Minister concerning the very questions we are now debating and we discussed at great length Birtley and Lamesley, we fondly believed that we had converted the Minister to our way of thinking when he accepted the representations of my hon. Friend the Member for Easington and myself. We discussed Murton and Cold Heseldon and we thought that we were winning the battle.
I remember asking the Minister whether he would not be guided in any way by the Parliamentary Boundary Commission's Report. Perhaps I shall be ruled out of order for daring to mention that report, but it is relevant as well as important. For the first time within the memory of people much older than me, the constituency of Houghton-le-Spring has the distinct advantage of belonging to one local government unit. That was achieved by the Boundary Commission's Report, which was accepted by the Government. For the first time the parishes and districts I have mentioned—Houghton, Hetton, Seaham, Murton and Cold Heseldon and the parishes of Easington R.D.C.—will be within the parliamentary constituency of Houghton-le-Spring. This is an ideal situation, probably the most ideal in the British Isles, but the Minister seeks to demolish it at one fell swoop.
The Minister is kind-hearted, friendly and sometimes helpful, but, at the risk of being repetitive, I ask him to think again and, if he will not accept the Amendments, at least to assure us that changes will be made. I shall otherwise certainly seek to pursue the matter in another place through the medium of my predecessor in the House who represented Houghton-le-Spring for 19 years, and I hope that if my efforts are unsuccessful, his will meet with the success they will deserve.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
One of the phenomena of our debates of yesterday and today has been that on almost every occasion I have given a concession suggested in an Amendment by hon. Members opposite only to be slated for doing so. I do not know whether to concede any more, or to show the solidity which I am accused of not showing when I am flexible. I am required on occasions to be flexible and on others to show solidity.
These Amendments deal with the southern boundary of the Tyne and Wear area with County Durham. They deal with towns now in County Durham. They think of themselves as Durham towns, but they have become suburbs of Gateshead and Sunderland and they are part of the continuous built-up areas of the conurbation.
In considering where the line should now be drawn as we reform local government, I have stuck to the statement in paragraph 32 of the White Paper which, dealing with the metropolitan type of structure, said:
The boundaries of these areas should include all the main area, or areas, of continuous development and any adjacent area into which continuous development will extend. It may be right to include closely related built-up areas, too.
In almost all these instances there is a continuous build-up from the conurbations. Starting from the western end, Lamesley and Birtley are unique in their connection with Gateshead, being part and parcel of Gateshead because they are attached to it both residentially and industrially. I can assure the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland) that I did not brush aside the feeling of the people here. I gave it very deep consideration. But this is not the only factor that one has to consider when reforming local government——
Mr Norman Pentland (Chester-le-Street)
But is not it a fact that in this case 80 per cent. of the people Expressed their will and were turned down, whereas in other areas 20, 30 or 40 per cent. of the people have expressed their will in petitions and the Minister has acceded to it?
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
The will of the people gathered, as it has been in areas such as Birtley, by an organised referendum which can be worded to obtain the appropriate answer is only one factor that we have to consider in deciding where to draw the boundaries.
The residential area of Eighton Banks in the north-east of the parish is a suburb of Gateshead. Part of the Team Valley industrial estate extends across the Gateshead border into the northern part of Lamesley. I recognise that the argument that I am putting does not necessarily apply to the western half of Lamesley. Because it is part of a district, perhaps that might be considered later by the Boundary Commission. In fact, I give the assurance that I will ask the Commission to look at the western and southern boundaries of Lamesley to see whether we have them right when we draw the line along the existing authority's boundary. But having considered this thoroughly, I am satisfied that Lamesley, with the Team Valley industrial estate running across the boundary into Gateshead, really is part of Gateshead.
The same applies to Birtley. This is a continuation southwards of the Gateshead complex. It is physically homogenous with Washington on one side. Although the A.1(M) runs between the two, we find now that these major roads are not divisive but attractive to development either side of them. This is no barrier between Birtley and Washington.
In the case of Lamesley and Birtley, therefore, I ask the House to reject the Amendments and to retain these areas within the Tyne and Wear conurbation.
Moving eastwards, I deal now with the Amendments relating to Hetton and Houghton-le-Spring. In the case of Hetton, the work ties are with the metropolitan county. I have to go back rather far in the census on this because reliable figures are not available since the 1966 census, but at that time there were 7,250 residents in employment, half of whom worked within Hetton itself. Of the remainder, at least 2,000 odd were employed within the area of the proposed metropolitan county. Almostall of these were in the Sunderland district.
The boundary has not been drawn south of Hetton merely because, as was suggested, I had not found an adequate boundary between the two. It was drawn south of Hetton because Hetton and Houghton are a continuous built-up area.
Mr William Hughes (City of Durham)
There are two points. Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that since 1966 the evidence is clear that, rather than it being 7,000 people working in Hetton, 2,000 in Sunderland and the rest nowhere, in fact the lure of Peterlee is meant that the travel to work pull of Hetton has moved back into County Durham?
Secondly, the boundary has gone on the south side because, according to the Minister, there is no boundary between Hetton and Houghton. There is a boundary, except along one road. I agree with that. However, except for that one road, there is a clear boundary between these two districts.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
I think the districts are so much part and parcel of each other and of Sunderland that it is right to include them in the Tyne and Wear complex. Houghton-le-Spring has stronger economic links with Sunderland than with Durham; the urban district council wants to remain in the metropolitan county and also opposes the suggested exclusion of Hetton.
So I am faced with a council decision that Houghton-le-Spring wants to remain with Sunderland and the Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County and to take with it the adjoining Hetton.
Mr Thomas Urwin (Houghton-le-Spring)
Does the Minister understand that that very fine majority decision recorded by the Houghton-le-Spring Urban District Council—I believe it was a majority of one—was very much influenced by the knowledge that it was more than likely that Seaham and Hetton Urban District Councils would also be going into the Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County?
Mr Thomas Urwin (Houghton-le-Spring)
Just on one point. I am grateful to the Minister. I know he is being harassed on this issue. There is a direct contradiction in terms, is there not? On the one hand, the Minister pins his faith on a narrow majority decision of one local authority, to wit, Houghton le Spring Urban District Council, and yet, on the other hand, rejects the very strong representations made by the Birtley and Chester-le-Street urban and rural district councils and almost all the people living within that area who expressed similarly strongly their desire to retain their status within the administrative County of Durham. The Minister cannot have both sides of the argument.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
The hon. Gentleman has made his speech and only delays matters if he repeats it. There is a difference between the referenda which I have received from so many areas, on which I do not pin a great deal of faith, and the resolution of the properly elected council.
I now pass to Washington. The new town is part of the conurbation and was built to provide a focal point for the renewal of that conurbation. It is firmly within the built-up area, at the hinge between Tyneside and Wearside, and it would be planning nonsense to have it in Durham. I know the Washington Urban District Council wants to be part of Durham. Sunderland, Gateshead and the other county boroughs on Tyneside support the Government's proposals. From the planning point of view, to remove Washington from the conurbation would not make sense.
I should like to deal with Amendments Nos. 20 and 105, in the name of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, which deal with a strip of land at Harraton. These are merely tidying up Amendments. This strip of land was inadvertently left out of the descriptions of the areas in the Schedule. Nobody lives on this strip of land. I hope the House will accept these tidying up Amendments.
Turning to the eastern end of this boundary I should deal with Seaham. Here I am glad that I am taking some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite with me, if not others. It was originally an Amendment by an Opposition Member which, after consideration, I am prepared to advise the House to accept.
If Seaham urban district is left in the Durham area and not moved out of it as the Bill proposes, it will be reasonable to take with it the parishes alongside it of Dalton-le-Dale and Seaton with Slingley but not, I think, the other two in the neighbourhood, Warden Law and Burdon, because they seem so closely joined with Houghton that they should stay in the metropolitan county with that district.
I am asking the House to accept the Amendment which would remove Seaham, Dalton-le-Dale and Seaton with Slingley from the Tyne and Wear metropolitan county. I ask that because Seaham is physically separated from Sunderland. Seaham is pretty well self-contained in journey-to-work terms. Again at the time of the previous census 69 per cent. of its economically active population worked in the town itself.
Mr William Hughes (City of Durham)
The right hon. Gentleman told the House not five minutes ago that more than 70 per cent. of the population of Hetton worked in the town of Hetton. If he is saying that there is a greater affinity between Hetton and Sunderland than between Seaham and Sunderland, I fear that he is under a misapprehension.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
The hon. Gentleman has made his speech, and I am sure the House took note of it. We are presented with a rather peculiar situation with regard to Seaham and the whole of the Durham coast. Seaham is a place of considerable significance for that coast, and I wish to see the coast administered in future under one local authority.
At present the National Coal Board tips its coal at Nose's Point at the south end of Seaham urban district. The polluting of the Durham beaches as a result is a terrible sight to see. The area which is the source of this pollution ought to be in the same county as the area it pollutes, both on grounds of equity and because it will give local government a stronger hand to play in trying to put things right than would exist if a county boundary separated the polluter from its victims.
Moreover, the most likely alternative method of disposing of the colliery waste will be by barging it out to sea from Seaham, and to put Seaham in Durham would mean that the site of both the problem—that is dirty beaches—and of the remedy—Seaham harbour—would be in the same major planning area. When that is done we shall have cleared pollution in that area. I am sure it will be right for the beaches to be under the same administration, and I think that this is a practical reason for putting the whole of the Durham beaches under one local authority. I therefore ask the House to accept the Amendment relating to Seaham harbour, Dalton-le-Dale and Seaton with Slingley.
Mr Graham Page (Crosby)
This has been debated for the past 12 to 18 months. I do not think it is necessarily incumbent upon a Minister to consult local authorities when he reaches a decision after months and months of debate.
Mr Ernest Armstrong (North West Durham)
I now represent, and live in, West Durham, although for a time I lived in Sunderland and was a member of a local authority there; so perhaps I can bring some objectivity to these arguments.
After serving on the Standing Committee for so long and attending so many of its Sittings, I hope that I pay regard to certain criteria and principles in regard to the reform of local government. We all agree that local government must be reformed, and various criteria are used in discussing topics such as those we have discussed throughout the night.
The Minister's reply was disappointing to most of us on this side. He carefully selected certain arguments for certain cases—the very arguments that on other occasions he has rejected. The right hon. Gentleman was most unconvincing. I stress that I do not relish saying that in view of the helpful manner he displayed in Committee. I believe that local government reform must come, because we want efficient local government and we must stimulate far more interest and activity amongst ordinary people. Participation is an "in" word nowadays, but we must create a new local government structure that appeals to the people and is likely actively to secure their involvement.
My hon. Friends from Gateshead do not dispute the wish of the people of Birtley and Lamesley to be in Durham County. My hon. Friends said that we in Gateshead know what is good for Birtley and Lamesley. We had the argument that the Minister in Whitehall or Marsham Street knows best.
Mr Bernard Conlan (Gateshead East)
My hon. Friend is being unfair to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam) and myself. We are not saying that Gates-head people know what is best for the people of Lamesley and Birtley. We say that we have an objective point of view about what structure of local government on South Tyneside should be. After the new proposals have been implemented for some time, the people of Lamesley and Birtley may well be glad that they became part of area (c).
Mr Ernest Armstrong (North West Durham)
My hon. Friend is saying that he did not say that the people of Gateshead know best but that the two Members of Parliament know best what is good for Birtley and Lamesley.
Mr Ernest Armstrong (North West Durham)
The last thing I want to be is unfair. I withdraw what I said. I was only interpreting what I thought I heard.
The Minister was less than fair when he dismissed so casually the referenda which have been held in the area. I have not heard of anybody who has received letters from anybody in Birtley or Lamesley asking to be put into the metropolitan area. The overwhelming will of the people is to come to Durham County.
These proposals mean that the Boundary Commission, acting on the recommendation of Durham County Council, has been compelled to create a district which makes nonsense of the guidelines laid down by the Department's circular. Paragraph 2 of the circular states:
Except in sparsely populated areas, the aim should be to define districts with current populations generally within the range of about 75,000 to 100,000".
The Chester-le-Street District Council, although far from being a sparsely popu-
I welcome that Seaham will go to Durham. But whatever arguments the Minister uses in that case, they would be so much stronger in the case of Houghton and Hetton. After all the pushing and pulling, after all the changing of minds, after all the different statements about Teesside going into Durham and Durham into Teesside, and Easington and Hesledon and so on going into Durham, the Minister must sit down and take a cool look once again at the area. I think when he gets his maps out again, and when the people of Durham realise that Seaham is coming to Durham and not Hetton and Houghton, and that Birtley and Lamesely are going to the metropolitan area, they will feel that it is such a hotch-potch that the whole arrangement will need revision. I believe that it will have to be revised in the House of Lords and I hope that the Minister will give careful thought to this matter before the Bill reaches the other House.
|Division No. 275.]||AYES||[1.22 a.m.|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Gilbert, Dr. John||Pannell Rt Hn Charles|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Ashton, Joe||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Prescott, John|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Kaufman, Gerald||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Skinner, Dennis|
|Dormand, J. D.||Marsden, F.|
|English, Michael||Marshall, Dr. Edmund||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Oakes, Gordon||Mr. Norman Pentland and|
|Foot, Michael||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)||Mr. T. W. Urwin.|
|Adley, Robert||Cormack, Patrick||Lane, David|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Drayson, G. B.||Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Luce R N|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Mather, Carol|
|Biffen, John||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Mawby, Ray|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Fidler, Michael||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Fortescue, Tim||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Bowden, Andrew||Gibson-Watt, David||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Bray, Ronald||Goodhart, Philip||Moate, Roger|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Goodhew, Victor||Money, Ernle|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Gray, Hamish||Monks, Mrs. Connie|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Gummer, J Selwyn||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Churchill, W. S.||Haselhurst, Alan||More, Jasper|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hawkins, Paul||Murton, Oscar|
|Cohen, Stanley||Horam, John||Normanton, Tom|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hordern, Peter||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia||Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Corby)|
|Cordle, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Redmond, Robert||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Sutcliffe, John||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||Wilkinson, John|
|Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Tebbit, Norman||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Sinclair, Sir George||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Speed, Keith||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Spence, John||Trew, Peter||Mr. Michael Jopling and|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Waddington, David||Mr. Marcus Fox.|
No. 565, leave out lines 43 to 46 and insert:
The county borough of Stoke-on-Trent In the administrative county of Staffordshire—
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, Stone and Uttoxeter (part).
The county borough of Burton-upon-Trent.
In the administrative county of Staffordshire—
the boroughs of Stafford, Lichfield and Tamworth;
the urban districts of Cannock and Rugeley;
the rural districts of Cannock, Lichfield, Stafford and Uttoxeter (part).
Mr John Forrester (Stoke-on-Trent North)
I beg to move Amendment No. 293, in page 196, line 4, at end insert—
In the administrative county of Staffordshire—
in the rural district of Seisdon, the parishes of Codsall, Lower Penn, Wombourne and Wrottesley.
Nevertheless, I wish to concentrate my remarks on Amendment No. 565.
It is a great pity that when the Government were drawing up the boundaries for local government they did not pay more attention to the views of the Royal Commission on Local Government. Those boundary suggestions were made after a great deal of detailed investigation, local discussion and deliberation. Everyone would admit that the boundary proposals were not perfect, but at least they were an attempt to give meaning to the new areas and to bring together those areas which had a community of interest.
It was regrettable that the Minister opted very largely for the archaic county boundaries, which have no meaning in twentieth century Britain. Given the need to reorganise local government—I can see there is such a need—the areas ought to be as small as possible to afford an efficient administrative organisation.
I am not convinced that we need monstrous-sized units of local government to provide good educational facilities, social services, libraries. The ideas about economies of scale do not apply in local government. If we take into account what has happened with the police amalgamations, it is possible that we shall see the opposite effect.
One cannot compare the problems of local government with the problems of industry. Schools, health centres and libraries must be within centres of population. Despite what we may hope about savings we have to have a series of district offices which will report upwards and receive their orders from the fountain-head in some remote place.
The problem of the functions of local authorities is probably contained in another series of Amendments. I refrain from discussing those further this morning. The fewer district offices we have, and the closer those district offices are to the head offices of the organisation, the better that will be for local democracy and participation.
Amendment No. 565 proposes two counties for Staffordshire. If the Minister will concede that point I am convinced that both those counties will be viable. Both will have a community of interest and local democracy will benefit.
In the original proposals submitted by the Minister, there were 13 counties which had populations of under 500,000. In the proposals outlined in this Amendment, North Staffordshire would have a population of 520,000. The South Staffordshire area would have a population of about 425,000. My colleague and I omitted Seisdon because that was omitted from the Minister's original proposals. If the Minister saw fit to put Seisdon into South Staffordshire, that would give South Staffordshire a population of about 460,000-plus.
Dealing with the rateable value of the two areas, North Staffordshire would have a rateable value of £19 million and South Staffordshire a rateable value of £16 million. It is interesting to compare those values with the rateable values of some of the other county authorities which have been set up. Warwickshire and Durham will have rateable values of around £19½ million, Lincolnshire and Cumbria £17½ million, Somerset £15½ million, Cornwall and Shropshire £13½ million and Northumberland just over £9 million. On rateable values these areas would be viable. I have not the slightest doubt that two counties in Staffordshire would be viable and efficient units of local government.
Each would be able to provide the wide range of services required and would be in a position to attract and employ the high calibre staff so necessary in local government. It is a great fallacy to imply that because someone lives in Stoke or Kidsgrove or Biddulph in North Staffordshire he has an affinity of interest with people in South Staffordshire, from Can-nock, Bobbington or Pattingham. About 99·9 per cent. of the people living in Stoke have no idea where Bobbington and Pattingham are. They do not know that they exist and they have no interest in the problems of those areas. I am prepared to concede that it may be our misfortune that we do not know about these places, but I do not doubt that the good people of those areas have no interest in the problems and difficulties of North Staffordshire.
It may be many centuries, if it were ever true, since Staffordshire as a whole had a community interest. I do not believe that if we reorganise the functions in the drastic manner proposed they will ever be drawn together. There will continue to be a gulf and indifference which will exist until the next reorganisation of local government. This would be a pity because a great opportunity to fashion meaningful boundaries of local government, which would leave the people contented, will have been missed.
There is so little contact between North and South Staffordshire as to be almost non-existent. South Staffordshire, culturally, socially, economically and geographically looks towards the West Midlands conurbation and will continue to do so. North Staffordshire is an independent sub-region, owing allegiance for industry and culture not to the West Midlands, the North West or the Manchester conurbation. It will continue to be an area apart from the rest of the county, come what may.
In North Staffordshire, the major services, such as gas, electricity and telephones are organised on this sub-regional basis. The local newspaper, which is often a good reflection of the community interest, circulates roughly in the area outlined for North Staffordshire in the Amendment. It has little or no sale in South Staffordshire districts. The reverse is true of the papers serving South Staffordshire. They have no sales at all in the north of the county. I believe that North Staffordshire would make an ideal unit of local government. It is a distinct and separate community and I hope that the Minister will accept that.
I do not wish to say much about Amendment No. 293 on Seisdon, that rather unhappy piece of country. I understand that other hon. Members may have something to say on it, but I heard the Minister explain the position to his hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) in the matter of Poynton-with-Worth earlier. If the Minister applies the same criteria to Seisdon that he applied to Poynton-with-Worth, I have no doubt that he will accept the Amendments in the names of my hon. Friends and myself. On Poynton-with-Worth, the Minister did not accept that local opinion was sufficient evidence to override the facts and there was some argument in the preceding debate on the same line. Seisdon, to use the Minister's own words, is a wart on the body of Staffordshire, and Seisdon is almost completely dependent on the West Midlands conurbation.
There is a great danger, if we have very large units of local government which take away powers from those who have exercised them in the past and replant them in some remote county hall, that that will lead to serious decline in democratic control and local participation.
The big, enhanced, authorities with major powers may, and apparently do, appeal to politicians of all parties, but I wonder whether we are running local government for a handful of people in the majority party or organising it on behalf of the ratepayers of these areas. I still believe that the town hall means something to many people in the country and they still look to this as the place where they can go for help and guidance when they need it. Remote control from an area 20, 30 or 40 miles away is a soulless, impersonal thing and it is unnecessary for the efficient administration of local government in this country at this time.
I hope that we shall not lightly cast away those things which are good and proven and which are still useful to the community, especially when there is only a slight chance of only a slight improvement in services to the people, and there is a distinct possibility that what we put in place of the present system will lead to a decline in the standards to which we have been used. I hope that the Minister will say that two counties for Staffordshire is not only possible but in the best interests of the whole of Staffordshire, of the people of Staffordshire and of democracy in general.
Mr Geoffrey Lloyd (Sutton Coldfield)
In my Amendments I intended to provide a constructive alternative to the proposal to merge Sutton Coldfield with Birmingham which has provoked a sense of overwhelming grievance and outrage among my constituents, but I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Minister for the care which they have given to receiving many deputations from Sutton Coldfield. The divisions into metropolitan districts give rise to acute feeling among those living in these areas. Many people consider that they are being manipulated in accordance with mathematical formulae and administrative expediency. This is a very strong feeling in the Borough of Sutton Coldfield.
Sutton Coldfield is an ancient borough which for over 400 years has been an independent municipal authority. It is a borough of over 83,000 people, with an efficient administration exercising the maximum powers that a non-county borough can exercise. They include, under delegation, the functions of health, town planning and education. The borough administers over 4,400 municipal dwellings, 45 schools, and a large nationally famous park, and it has embarked on an ambitious redevelopment of its town centre which should be completed by 1975.
Why should this established, efficient local authority, strongly against the wishes of its inhabitants, be merged with the City of Birmingham to form Metropolitan District 15(e) within the West Midlands Metropolitan County?
Birmingham already has a very large population and if the two are conjoined the metropolitan district will have a population of 1,100,000. This is far too large in population and area for a local authority to give the kind of personal service to its residents that the people of Sutton Coldfield have been accustomed to.
Metropolitan District 15(e) with a population of 1,100,000 would be by far the largest metropolitan district in the country. Its population would be virtually 40 per cent. larger than the next largest which is Leeds, and its rateable value would be nearly double that of Leeds. It would, therefore, be overwhelmingly the biggest unit in the Midland County—far too big and disproportionate in size, influence and people when compared with other authorities within the county. The next biggest is under 400,000, only about one-third of District 15(e). Birmingham is too big now; to make it bigger by absorbing Sutton Coldfield within its boundaries would be, in the opinion of my constituents, the negation of democracy and good local government.
The area proposed in my Amendments for another metropolitan district includes the present borough incorporating some areas of the City of Birmingham up to the line of the new motorway. It would give a compact area, with its administrative centre in the middle of the district and would be bounded by a well defined boundary. It would have a population of about 220,000, falling by some thousands, it is true, below that of the Government's so-called minimum population for a metropolitan district, but, even so, bigger than Solihull. There are however, already nine other metropolitan districts in the country below 250,000.
Why must we, in this case, be bound by this magic norm? It would be for only a temporary period, as land exists within these proposed boundaries which will be developed in a few years, and thus the proposed population will soon be exceeded. There is an overwhelming desire in my constituency, which has an intense community spirit and individuality, that it should form the nucleus of an eighth district. Sutton Coldfield is not dependent upon Birmingham. It has a strong individuality of its own; enlarged it could be a viable and effective metropolitan district.
I must make special reference to our park, because it plays a large part in the sense of grievance and anxiety felt by my constituents and in any case is in its own right a most important issue. The park was a gift to the town from King Henry VIII and has been part of the town since 1528. Sutton Coldfield is the trustee forth preservation of this beautiful natural area of 2·500 acres. There is widespread anxiety about the fate of our park under the proposals in the Bill.
Mr Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
I hope that both my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Forrester) and the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) will understand that I am likely to win wider support for my Amendment if I express no views on their Amendments.
I wish to speak to Amendment No. 278. It stands completely alone and has no reference to any other Amendment in this Staffordshire group of Amendments. Amendment No. 278 refers to the Government's proposal to join together Warley and West Bromwich in a single district authority. Presumably, that is the Government's view of what is best for the people of that area. It is not their own view of what is best for them. It is not the view of either council. It is not the view of either political party in either authority. Recently Labour recovered its natural and proper position in control of both authorities, and there will I hope soon be some changes in policy, but on this matter there will be no change.
The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Stokes), who does not always express his complete agreement with my speeches, has been kind enough to say that his views have not changed in the least since he added his name to my Amendment. The Government's view is not the view expressed by housewives in supermarkets or by menfolk in clubs or by tenants' associations or by ratepayers or by anybody who has to live in the area.
Other debates have reflected the disputes between authorities in particular localities. Here the whole locality speaks entirely in unison. This is the opinion of Government in the face of universal opposition by people whose lives will be affected by this proposal. Traditionally the shotgun wedding is where one of the participants is reluctant, and marched to the altar by the family of the other. Here, the shotgun is pointed at both parties by people who have not been within 100 miles of the area.
The arguments have been fully rehearsed before on many occasions. First, there is the matter of timing. In 1966 a number of ancient authorities in the Black Country were hustled into five big boxes, not only without a "By your leave" but in the face of the clearest evidence that that leave would have been refused. These amalgamations were unpopular then and they have remained unpopular ever since. The people of West Warley feel nothing in common with the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds). People in Tipton feel that they are the forgotten part of West Bromwich.
Members of both authorities have loyally set about trying to forge new communities. I pay tribute to institutions such as the Warley Council of Social Service and the Councils of Community Relations of both Warley and West Bromwich, who have laboured hard to awaken a sense of community in each of the boroughs. But it is a slow and painful process. People are still not convinced. It will take another 10 years at least before the names Warley and West Bromwich stand for anything which evokes a sense of belonging
Now it is proposed that there should be a new identity again, that the authority should be even bigger and that the town hall should be even further away. Already there are people who cannot afford the bus fare to the town hall. Now it will be virtually out of reach.
London was excluded from the consideration of the Maud Commission because it underwent a major upheaval in 1963. The Black Country underwent a major upheaval in 1966. But I do not concede that at any time this would be an appropriate step to take. The Minister of State kindly wrote to me indicating that the Government's reason for proceeding with the proposal was their adherence to the population minimum of 250,000 for a metropolitan district. I concede at once that the population of West Bromwich is 224,000 and the population of Warley is 168,000. It is unconvincing to say that these populations do not represent viable units. They have in fact managed, and they have run their affairs, if not always to the satisfaction of the local population. Such troubles as they have do not arise from under-population or from inadequate size.
I stand to be corrected, but I believe that of the 32 London boroughs, 20 have a population of less than 250,000. One appreciates the need for co-ordination over a wide area for certain services. The five Black Country boroughs have been co-ordinating their activities for some years now. They have a joint committee that will continue to be necessary even if this proposal goes through. Co-ordination for specific purposes between two authorities is possible without merging one into the other.
When this matter was debated as long ago as February, 1970, I said it was a precious safeguard to many ordinary people to know that the services which most affect them are administered by people whose door-knockers are available at tea time, and with whom they can stop to have a word on the way home from work. I warned the previous Government, and I warn the present Government that if they bring into existence a new authority by caesarian operation, performed with an axe, they will lay up trouble for themselves and for the unhappy people who will have to nurture the Siamese offspring.
The people of the Black Country can be persuaded, but they will not be "steamrollered". And at present they have not been persuaded. If I have not persuaded the Secretary of State, he will have his way tonight. I shall not waste the time of the House by calling a hopeless Division on this Amendment, but if the Government have their way with the House now, it does not follow that they will have their way with the people in the area.
I hope that the scheme will work and that the people in the area will co-operate. It is better that there should be a bad arrangement which works than a bad arrangement which does not work. Local government services must be administered. But how much better to be assured of willing co-operation than to throw down a challenge to the obstinacy of the people who live in the area and who are united in this matter against the Government. A local government structure divorced from the feelings and aspirations of people who have to live with it is a sterile, fossilised contraption. The Government propose to call the new authority by the unevocative name of District (d). History will give it a more descriptive name: Walker's Folly.
Mr Fergus Montgomery (Brierley Hill)
The hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer) said that London had had a local government reorganisation in 1963–64 and therefore was left alone this time, Those of us who represent West Midlands constituencies know too well that we had a local government reorganisation at an even later date, in 1966. I feel it is monstrous to have a further reorganisation in this area. Things are just beginning to settle down after the last reorganisation. New identities are being formed in the authorities which were set up at that time, and now suddenly the whole pattern is to be changed again.
I wish to confine my speech to Amendments Nos. 293 to 296. These are all Amendments concerning Seisdon rural district which is in the county of Staf- fordshire, and their purpose would be to dismember Seisdon and to split the rural district four ways. Part would go to Wolverhampton, part to Dudley, part to Salop and part to Hereford and Worcester.
These Amendments stand in the names of the three hon. Members for Stoke and the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding). It is difficult to decide why those four hon. Members, representing interests in the North of Staffordshire, should suddenly be so interested in the rural district in the South-East of Staffordshire which is a good distance from their constituencies.
Earlier in the year I read in a Stoke newspaper that hon. Members opposite were to make a determined effort to split up the Seisdon rural district. As I was serving on the Committee of the Local Government Bill, I waited with interest for discussion to take place. But day after day these Amendments did not appear on the Amendment Paper, though I was anxiously watching for them. Then one day we struck oil and the Amendments appeared—but at such a late date that the Chairman ruled that they could not be discussed because they had not been tabled in time. I wonder why it took those Amendments so long to reach the Order Paper. That was one of the mysteries that we never solved in the Standing Committee dealing with the Bill.
I suggest that the reason for the Amendment is purely political. Under the changes put forward Staffordshire will have Stoke included in it, but with its inclusion Staffordshire is likely to be a politically marginal county council, and it could be that the rural district of Seisdon will be vital as to which party controls Staffordshire in future elections.
Mr John Forrester (Stoke-on-Trent North)
If the hon. Member thinks that the Amendment is political from our point of view he will accept that we are tempted to think that he is being political from his point of view. We were only trying to help the Minister revert to his original proposals in putting down the Amendments in this way.
Mr Fergus Montgomery (Brierley Hill)
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be grateful for the help of the hon. Member. It may be important for hon. Members opposite, but I believe that the wishes of the local people are more important. I assure my right hon. Friend that there is little or no support for the Amendments in South Staffordshire. I admit that at one time there was an unholy alliance between the Socialist-controlled Stoke council and the Conservative-controlled Wolverhampton council, until there was a political change in Wolverhampton, and the new Labour-controlled council there showed no interest in taking over the northern part of Seisdon rural district. Now, all the surrounding local authorities support the Seisdon council's desire not to be carved up.
Seisdon rural district provides a very green and pleasant area, on the fringe of a large industrial area. It survived the 1966 local government reorganisation in the West Midlands. It was felt right at that time that it should be left out of the West Midlands conurbation. It is just as important that it should be left out now. To carve up Seisdon as the Amendments suggest would create tremendous problems, particularly in education. At the moment, all the schools in the area are controlled by Staffordshire County Council, and if a rural district is suddenly split up the children have to be moved into other local education areas.
We all profess to believe strongly in democracy. During last autumn I held a series of meetings on the Common Market. On average, 100 people attended each of those meetings. But when I held a meeting last year on the question whether Seisdon should stay in Staffordshire or be split up, I had an enormous attendance. All but a handful of the people said that they wanted Seisdon to stay in Staffordshire. If we believe in consulting the public, and that we are here to serve the wishes of the people we represent, I ask my right hon. Friend formally to reject the Amendments in the names of the three hon. Members from Stoke and the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Mr Terry Davis (Bromsgrove)
I want to correct one impression that may have been given by the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery), when he said that these Amendments had been put down by hon. Members on this side of the House. The implication was that they were supported by all hon. Members on this side of the House. That is not so.
I want to address my remarks to Amendment No. 295, which affects the parish of Kinver, and would transfer it from Staffordshire to Hereford and Worcester. I know Kinver very well. I was born and brought up in Stourbridge. I could tell hon. Members about my youthful experiences on Kinver Edge, but I do not think that they would be relevant. There are great connections between Kinver and Stourbridge but in recent years I think they have diminished rather than strengthened. Certainly, since Stourbridge is now to be removed from Worcestershire, any reason for transferring Kinver from Staffordshire into Hereford and Worcester on that account has been completely removed.
I accept that there is a link between Kinver and the area to the south of it which will still be in Hereford and Worcester—there is a geographical link and similarity in the countryside—but from what I know of the area and have seen in the local Press, not only the meetings described by the hon. Member for Brierley Hill but Press comment and reports of the views of the people of the area, I am convinced that the people who live in the Parish of Kinver do not wish to be transferred into the County of Hereford and Worcester.
There would be an educational problem if the Amendment were passed. Kinver has a new, very good comprehensive school, the catchment area of which includes, I believe, other parts of the district of Seisdon. It would be very unfortunate if, at this stage, that school were separated from part of its catchment area. That is another reason for opposing the Amendment. It is true that the Government's original proposals would have done what the Amendment suggests. The Government have changed their minds in this respect and I am glad they have done so.
Mr John Jennings (Burton)
In addressing myself to Amendment No. 565 I shall try to be brief. I shall not try to get out of order by making a Second Reading speech but I should like to say that I do not like the Bill and I do not like such big changes as we are having. I shall not go into the reasons because that would be a Second Reading speech. I wish, however, to indicate my feelings to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
Nevertheless, I obviously have to accept the change and try to make it work. Therefore, I wish to say to the House that the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Forrester) is much worse than the scheme put forward by the Government. We have to look at both of them to assess the value of each.
My right hon. Friend says that the administrative County of Staffordshire, with one small exception, should now also include the County Boroughs of Burton-on-Trent and Stoke-on-Trent. That is a scheme I have to accept. It is far better than the scheme adumbrated by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North, who wishes to split the proposed new county or whatever it is to be called—Staffordshire—into two.
One has to get down to details. As far as I am concerned, we are dealing with the effect of the hon. Member's proposal on places like Uttoxeter, sometimes called Utcheter, Burton-on-Trent and Tutbury. There is a curious omission from these proposals. When one examines the urban districts, the rural districts and the county boroughs that the hon. Member has listed, one finds the curious omission of Tutbury Rural District Council. I wonder whether it is declaring a UDI.
Tutbury is a very famous place. It is in my constituency, of course, which makes it famous. But we imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots there in the castle. Whether that is good or bad I shall not say. We also had a memorable debate here some years ago about Tutbury when the branch line was closed. We had a debate lasting at least four hours on railway closures—the main debate collapsed—and worldwide fame was given to a famous train, "Tutbury Ginny". I am trying to show that for some mysterious reason the famous town of Tutbury has been omitted, and I should like to know why.
Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)
As the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) has had to give such an instruction himself so many times in his life, I am sure that he will not object if I give him the instruction that he must keep to the Amendment.
Mr John Jennings (Burton)
That means that Tutbury is in no-man's land and must declare UDI, and I shall become its first president. It is a no-go area.
The hon. Gentleman has made a great mistake by trying to divide Staffordshire into two, putting into each half places which have no affinity with what would become the centre of each area. What affinity has Uttoxeter with Stoke? Some may ask what affinity it has with Burton, but at least the affinity is closer, because both are in the constituency of Burton.
I urge the House to reject the Amendment. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for not putting Burton and Uttoxeter and Tutbury, these four authorities—there are two councils in Uttoxeter—into the metropolitan area. The great thing is that Staffordshire is being kept as one unit, and the Government are to be commended for that. Burton may lose almost all its local government power and Uttoxeter may lose the right to govern its racecourse—and I hope that the borough will put that right in the near future—and I know that I am getting out of order again, but I had to get in that plug. But the Government have done the right thing. If change had to be made, the Government, not the hon. Gentleman have chosen the right way.
Dr John Gilbert (Dudley)
I understand the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Mr. Forrester) and I have much sympathy with the purposes of his Amendment, in contradistinction to what has been said so eloquentlyby the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings). We do not need especially large units of government to get efficiency. Staffordshire divided in the way my hon. Friend suggested would be perfectly competent to minister efficiently to the needs of the affairs of the populations of both halves.
However, I am more concerned, as was the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery), with Amendments Nos. 293 to 296. This is one of the few subjects on which the hon. Member and I will find ourselves in complete agreement if not for the same motives. I am particularly concerned about Amendment No. 294, which deals with the future of the rural district of Seisdon.
My hon. Friend is not alone in taking an interest in this area these days although the hon. Member for Burton could not understand his interest. He based his argument on the division of Staffordshire with the exclusion of Seisdon from the southern half as he would wish it to be. But, as I am sure he will agree, that is not the last word, just because the report suggests that Seisdon be excluded.
Seisdon may or may not wish to be split up into its component parts. It is not for me to say either way. We have heard from the hon. Member for Brierley Hill, who represents Seisdon in this House, and I am sure that he is competent to represent the views of the people of Seisdon in this matter. However, I am not surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North saw fit to suggest that Seisdon should be split into four different sections. It is becoming such a turbulent area these days that it might be too much for any one local authority to ingest in one piece.
I am concerned particularly about Amendment No. 294, which says that the parish of Himley in the rural district of Seisdon should be amalgamated with the county borough of Dudley. I am not so much concerned, as the hon. Member for Brierley Hill naturally is, with the effect on Himley of going in with Dudley. I am more concerned with the effect on Dudley of having to take in the parish of Himley.
It was a little unfair of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North to refer to the rural district of Seisdon as "the wart on the body of Stafford shire." I am sure that there are many conscientious citizens in the rural district of Seisdon, and I am sure that it was not my hon. Friend's intention to imply anything to the contrary——
Mr John Forrester (Stoke-on-Trent North)
My main description of Seisdon is that it is a geographical appendage to Staffordshire. I was using the Minister's words when discussing a previous Amendment dealing with Poynton-with-Worth. I thought the Minister's phrase more descriptive than any words of mine.
Dr John Gilbert (Dudley)
My hon. Friend was referring merely to the geographical considerations of the configuration of the rural district of Seisdon.
I want to pray in aid some words said by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) earlier about Birmingham. He said that Birmingham was too large, and I endorse that sentiment. The effect of Amendments Nos. 293 and 294 would be further to enlarge the metropolitan area of Birmingham by attaching to it different parts of the rural district of Seisdon, one part to the county borough of Wolverhampton and one part to the county borough of Dudley. This would be a further argument against the merger referred to in Amendment No. 294 and the others grouped with it.
Not only is Birmingham big enough now. In my view, so is the county borough of Dudley. We have no imperialist ambitions in Dudley. I think that that is true of both political parties. We have no wish to engorge Stourbridge or Halesowen. Although the merger is going through smoothly, as a result of the exercise of tact and co-operation on the part of all the local authorities and between and within all the political parties in the local authorities which are now merging into the new metropolitan district to which we do not yet give a name and which will comprise Stourbridge, Halesowen and Dudley, we see no reason further to extend our boundaries.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr Peter Archer) spoke of the difficulties or reorganisation which have been encountered in the Black Country in recent years. He also spoke of the great dedication in his own borough of people of both parties in trying to settle down and marry disparate elements into a new unit of local authority.
We have enough on our plate in Dudley. In 1966 we took in with the old county borough the urban districts of Coleshill, Sedgley and Brierley Hill. We have got that running fairly smoothly. I will not say that it is by any means as smooth as we would want. But there are elements in the County Borough of Dudley, just as there are in Warley, as my hon. Friend pointed out, who believe that they are already neglected on the periphery. Under the new reorganisation, having to take in Stourbridge and Halesowen, it will be unnecessary and unsatisfactory to expect us to be fed forcibly with a diet of further mutilated, dismembered and reluctant local authorities
The people of the rural district of Seisdon and certainly of the parish of Himley lead a different type of social life from the people of the County Borough of Dudley. They earn their living in different ways. They have very different political attitudes. The hon. Member for Brierley Hill told us that they have no wish to be incorporated in the surrounding or adjacent county boroughs.
I have not heard a single voice in Dudley, certainly in that part which I have the honour to represent, in favour of any proposal of the kind incorporated in Amendment No. 294. I therefore oppose the Amendment and hope that the Secretary of State will not accept it.
Mr Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
Although I have the privilege of representing a Cheshire seat, for my sins I still sit on the Warwickshire County Council. I wish the House to know that Sutton Coldfield and the Warwickshire County Council have no desire for Sutton Coldfield to go into the Birmingham Metropolitan area. However, if the Minister is not prepared to budge, the people of the area—I must emphasise that this view is shared by all parties on the council—believe that Sutton Coldfield should form the centre of a district council within the Midlands Metropolitan County.
My right hon. Friend has clearly indicated that Sutton Coldfield possesses the population to form a very effective and efficient metropolitan district council. Recently many additional acres, or are they now called hectares, have been released by the borough and the county council for residential development. Hundreds of houses will be built providing much needed homes in the area. These will quickly swell the population of Sutton Coldfield to meet the criteria laid down in the White Paper.
I strongly and fervently hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will heed the Amendment and give Sutton Coldfield the opportunity of providing good government at local level as it has for many years.
Mr Jasper More (Ludlow)
I am a bit of a loner in the debate and I wish to say a few halting words on Amendment No. 1042 which seeks to substitute the name "Shropshire" for "Salop", which I suppose is not all that familiar as a geographical description.
I recall that when we were being reorganised in 1966 and had to vote on what was called the Salop (No. 2) Order, as I went through the Lobbies some of my hon. Friends, despite the clarity with which the Question had been put from the Chair, crowded round me and asked, "What are we voting about, old boy? Is it something to do with salmon?"
There was once a great simplicity in Shropshire. In old English times we lived in a county called Scrobbesbyrigscir. However, when those foreigners arrived in 1066 they apparently could not manage that and they developed the form of Salopescira.
From that we developed two names, Shropshire and Salop, and it was when we started county councils in 1888 that the pedants who formed the authority then thought that there could not be a county with a shire, that there could not be a county of Shropshire, so they called it the County of Salop, a pedantic reason to which nowadays we should not attach any importance.
We have lived with this until recently, but now things are changing, and not long ago I met a constituent who said, "This has all been very well, but now that the Government are going to take us into the Common Market the name of Salop will not do". I was surprised and asked what he meant. He replied, "I am not sure that I want to tell you". My constituent is by birth a Swiss, and there are two things about the Swiss. The first is that they have enough sense not to want to go into the Common Market themselves. Secondly, they know all the three languages used in the Common Market as it is now.
I started on the dictionary. I looked up the Italian, and found nothing wrong. I then looked at the German, and found that there is a word salopp. It is an adjective which means slovenly or sluttish. I thought that we could live with that. French and German are never the same, but for form's sake I looked up the French. I was horrified to find that there is a word salope, which is feminine substantive and that means slattern, slut or trollope. That is what my constituent was alarmed about.
I looked further, and was horrified to see the word saloper, which means to botch one's work. And that is not the end of it. There is another word, saloperie, substantive feminine, which has two meanings. One is filthiness or filth, and the other is trashy goods, trash or rubbish. Then there is the idiom—they have these things in French—dire des saloperies, which I was horrified to find means to talk smut.
Carrying on down the dictionary one finds two words, salopiaud and salopin. I should have thought that that should have meant a proud Salopian, but not a bit of it. It means the same thing as another word, salaud. As my right hon. Friend will be aware, French is a ridiculous language. To begin with they pronounce all the vowels wrongly. Secondly, when there is a consonant like "d" or "p"at the end of a word they do not pronounce it at all. Anyone pronouncing Salop would say "Salo". And if he were pronouncing Salaud in French he would say "Salo".
Salaud is a political word. At the end of a heated debate in this Chamber someone from the Tribune Group is likely to shout across the Floor something like "We will get your guts, shysters", whereas in France it would be "Ah! Scélérats: on les aura, les Salauds". If one looks up the meaning of salaud, one finds that it has two meanings. It is a masculine substantive, not feminine. One meaning is "swine, filthy beast", and the other is "skunk or son of a bitch". I am not sure that it is really "on" to go into the Community like this.
We have had a good precedent this evening—an Amendment moved by the Government about Tyneside to change its name to Tyne and Wear. I think that mine would be one of the easiest Amendments to accept of those that we have discussed tonight. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look sympathetically at the predicament in which we have been placed, not by him, but by his colleague the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and consider seriously whether we might not, if we are to go into this new European destiny, go into it with a real, good rugged British-sounding name like Shropshire.
Mr Peter Walker (Worcester)
I will first deal with the penetrating speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr More). I am slightly concerned that he gave us a great analysis of the Common Market interpretation of various words similar to "Salop" but no detailed analysis of the Common Market use of a word something like "Shrop". That might produce equally frightening results.
The Government have no wish to impose upon any locality a name other than the name which has the general agreement of the people in the area. We asked for views on names in the new counties. We have received only one representation about the name for this county—the county council urged that we should retain the name "Salop". If as a result of the frightening speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow public opinion in Salop or Shropshire suddenly changes—arising from a fear of the possible consequences mentioned by my hon. Friend—and there is a widespread demand to convert the name to "Shropshire", we should take account of the change in public opinion.
I understand the arguments of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Forrester) in favour of the Amendment concerning the creation of two Stafford-shires, but I greatly agree with the arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) on this topic. It would be a mistake to divide this county, particularly as the South Staffordshire part of the proposals would be a county with nothing like the strength of the total county we propose. The North Staffordshire part would be very dominated in numbers by the two major boroughs of Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent. The combined new Staffordshire county, bringing in as it does the former county boroughs throughout the county, will be a very strong and important county.
In any such proposals, obviously, arguments can be made for a sizeable group of of towns and cillages in any locality being a perfectly viable county. I appreciate the sincerity with which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North argues that these would make two good counties. It is the Government's view that we should retain the county of Staffordshire in its entirety and have one strong county in the area. I therefore ask the House not to accept these Amendments.
As for the Amendments regarding the area of Seisdon, I am delighted to have such a formidable array of supporters as the hon. Members for Dudley (Dr. Gilbert) and for Bromsgrove (Mr. Terry Davis) and my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) in resisting these Amendments. There is a case for this. It is to some extent a fringe decision. One could argue in other directions. There is no doubt that the balance of feeling among the people concerned is in favour of the proposals in the Bill. I therefore ask the House to resist these Amendments.
I well understand the arguments advanced by the hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer) about West Bromwich. I know the feeling in the Black County that, having gone through the drama of local government alterations once recently, it would be wrong and unfair that that area should be subjected to the process again so soon.
I ask the House to accept that it would have been a mistake to decide that, because one locality had changes but a few years ago, it should become different from the pattern of local government in the rest of the country. The Government having decided upon the principle of a two-tier system, it was important to ensure that we created a system which was similar throughout the whole country, with the one exception of London. The system in London is a two-tier one and it therefore conforms to some extent with the general pattern which we have created in the metropolitan areas, although there are some dissimilarities and there is also the fact that London contains a large proportion of the population and is a unique area.
I am sure I could not convince the hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton over his argument that we should not combine the two county boroughs. He feels that these would make two separate districts on their own. I believe that both sides of the House see the merit of the argument that if the districts were to combine to provide a population of a quarter of a million or more they would have advantages in the type of services that a population of this size would need. To carry out the suggestion contained in the hon. and learned Member's Amendments would create the two smallest districts in any metropolitan area and their populations would be well below 250,000. I am sure that what we are suggesting will make a very strong authority to tackle the considerable local government problems in the locality. Therefore, I must ask the House to resist the Amendments,
I pay a tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) for the very active rôlehe has taken in constantly trying to present the anxieties of his constituents on the problem. We have given a great deal of detailed attention to the representations that were made. We know what a proud area Sutton Coldfield is and how proud it has been of the services it has created. But in proceeding with this type of local Government reform it must be realised that Sutton Coldfield by itself is nothing like the size required if it is to be a feasible district of a metropolitan area.
The proposal now put forward by my right hon. Friend, although it would increase the population, creates a locality which has nothing to unite it except its proximity to a motorway. Certainly it is not an area which has a natural unity of population of its own. It has always had very close and distinct connection with Birmingham. It may well be that many people have moved to Sutton Coldfield in the past believing it to be a better locality than the one in which they previously lived, perhaps in Birmingham. But there is a great common objective in the two areas. Over 50 per cent. of the employed population of Sutton Coldfield works in Birmingham. Over 80 per cent. of the people in Sutton Coldfield who commuted in fact commute to Birmingham each day. The geographical proximity of the two areas is obvious. The Government's proposals will create a very strong district to cope with many important problems.
I recognise the interest of the people of Sutton Coldfield over the park. I can give an assurance that my Department recognises the enormous amenity value of the park and the pleasure it gives not only to the people of Sutton Coldfield but to the people of Birmingham. It is inconceivable that such an amenity, which is of such enormous value, should not continue as an amenity and should not be conserved and cared for in the best possible way. In fairness it should be noted that Birmingham has a pretty good record in the manner in which it performs activities conducive to seeing that parks are maintained to a very good standard.
Mr Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
Mr Peter Walker (Worcester)
My right hon. Friend, not my hon. Friend, speaks for Sutton Coldfield, and I am sure that if I say that my Department and the people of the area put great store in this amenity he will accept that. What other leaders may say about other golf courses does not enter into this argument.
I recognise the very strong feelings of my right hon. Friend and his constituents. I believe that their fears about matters such as the park will prove to be unfounded. I believe that they will have a considerable contribution to make in the future life of this very important district of the metropolitan area, and therefore I must ask the House to reject the Amendments.
Sir Malcolm Stoddart-Scott (Ripon)
I cannot disagree with a single thing in the Bill; I cannot disagree with anything that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said on Second Reading; and I cannot disagree with anything that is in both the White Papers about local government in England. What worries me is that the Government are not doing what is in the White Papers. They are not doing what they said they would do.
My Amendments are about the Urban District of Ilkley, which it is proposed should go into the Bradford Metropolitan District; the Urban District of Otley, which it is proposed should go into the Leeds Metropolitan District: and some of the rural parishes in the Wharfedale rural district.
Paragraph 32 of the White Paper published in February, 1971, said:
The Government are therefore of the view that the metropolitan type of structure should be adopted in the six areas referred to in paragraph 30, and not elsewhere. The boundaries of these areas should include all the main area, or areas, of continuous development and any adjacent area into which continuous development will extend.
Surrounding these urban districts in this rural district is a large green belt area which includes the Otley Chevin and Ilkley Moor B'aht 'At. These are green belt areas over which there are no lines of development and over which there can be no lines of development. Otley is a market town with two cattle markets. It has its own industries of leather manufacturing and textile manufacturing and a printing machinery industry. It attracts labour to it and does not send people to work in the city of Leeds. It has its own existence in Wharfedale.
Ilkley is a residential area and conference centre. An equal number of people go to work in Leeds and Bradford. It is separated from both Bradford and Leeds by Ilkley Moor and the green belt.
In one of the Wharfedale parishes which it is proposed should go into Leeds no house can be built at present unless it is for an agricultural worker. These cannot be, and are not, lines of development.
On the Second Reading the Minister said:
I want to make it clear that my decision to draw the boundaries of metropolitan areas tightly is made quite intentionally as part of our total approach to the planning problem of the regions. It has been suggested that my duty was to provide the major conurbations with what is described as a breathing space, to provide them with more land to meet their housing problems and their urban needs. Put another way, it is suggested that my duty was so to draw the boundaries of the metropolitan areas that the urban sprawl would continue. I believe this is a mistake in planning terms."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1971; Vol. 826, c. 237.]
The Minister laid it down that he did not want to have areas where there were green belts in metropolitan districts and where there was room for more urban spread. It is extraordinary that these
three localities—two urban districts and part of one rural district—should be included in these metropolitan districts. Ninety-nine per cent of the people in these two urban districts and rural districts are against going into the City of Leeds and the City of Bradford. I have visited these areas every weekend for the last 27 years. I have found only one man who wishes to go into the City of Bradford. He thinks that if he goes into Bradford it might help to keep the railway lines between Bradford and Ilkley and Leeds open, as Bradford may be prepared to make a larger contribution to the maintenance of those railway lines than if they were outside the Bradford Metropolitan District.
Ilkley now has a council of 18 members. It is going into Bradford and will have one and a half members on Bradford Council, which is comprised of 68 members. Otley has a population of 14,000 and has 18 members on its council. If it goes into the metropolitan district of Leeds it will have one member on the council. If the three parishes, which now have five rural district councillors, go into the City of Leeds they will have only one half of a representative in that city.
How can the interests of these residential and rural areas be looked after with such a small representation on councils with memberships of 68 and 80? Three of the parishes which it is proposed should go into the metropolitan area of Leeds have parish councils. If these parishes go into the metropolitan district of Leeds, as proposed, they will lose their parish councils. There will be no parish councils left.
Sir Malcolm Stoddart-Scott (Ripon)
I am glad the Minister shakes his head. I was given that information by the clerk of the rural district council. I hope that the Minister will write to me and confirm what he has just indicated so that I can assure these parish councils that they will exist even if they are incorporated into the metropolitan area of Leeds.
Paragraph 8 of the White Paper says that decisions should be taken as locally as possible. I wonder how locally it will be possible to take decisions once those three parishes have been absorbed into the great metropolitan area of Leeds. Will the Under-Secretary tell us why there is a great difference between the metropolitan districts of Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and those of Yorkshire. Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham have less than 20 ecclesiastical parishes in their areas, whilst in Leeds and Bradford there are nearly 100 ecclesiastical parishes in each of the proposed areas.
I should also like to ask why the boundaries of metropolitan districts cannot be left to the Boundary Commission. All of us feel that we would get a fairer and more logical decision if a boundary commission looked at this rather than if the gentlemen who sit in Whitehall made the decision. Why must the division be a river? Rivers may have been good boundaries in the past, before bridges were built, but now that local authorities are spread across bridges and populations of towns have grown up on both sides of rivers, it is stupid to make boundaries of rivers. It would be much better if the watershed formed the boundaries within different areas. Here the River Wharfe has been taken as the boundary between these two metropolitan districts and that part of my division comprising Otley, Ilkley and rural Wharfedale.
There is the stupid position whereby there is a population living over the river, in the Ilkley part of the urban district of Middleton, which will have to go into Bradford, yet the large Middle-ton Hospital, just outside the urban district area will have to go into the north of Yorkshire. This is one of the problems involved in using a river as a boundary between local authorities. It would appear that in the East Riding and North Lincolnshire the Government have completely given up the idea of river boundaries by creating the Yorkshire and Humberside local authority. They have not stuck to the river there and it seems extraordinary that they should stick to the River Wharfe and not take the watershed of Otley Chevin, Ilkley Moor and Adding-ham. If they had done that I do not think I could disagree with them.
I hope the Minister will look at the position of Otley and Ilkley again and these parishes of rural Wharfedale. If he cannot find a way to meet the point of view I have expressed, held by 99 per cent. of my constituents and all the local authorities, who are unanimously in favour of staying out of these metropolitan areas, then there will be some sad hearts in Yorkshire this weekend. It will lead to a decline in the standard of local government in this area. It will be the destruction, almost the negation of it.
Mr Donald Kaberry (Leeds North West)
I should like to share the guilt of my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Sir M. Stoddart-Scott) over the concern we feel about considering this Bill at this early hour in the morning and about how the Government have applied their mind to the implementation of the promises held out in the White Paper. There were many offers made in the White Paper which have not been carried out in any way at all. I want to extract from the Under-Secretary some explanation of why the Government veered away from the proposals in the White Paper and altered them when they produced the Bill.
A phrase constantly used by my hon. Friend concerned the number of smaller towns "going into Leeds" or Bradford. Such is not the case. In fairness to the City of Leeds, of which I am proud to be a citizen, and to the City of Bradford, it should be remembered that in those cities the citizens are giving up a considerable amount of freedom in local authority which they have had for many years. We are losing county borough status. We will lose a great deal of autonomy in our own affairs. We are surrendering that and becoming a second tier authority in conjunction with, in partnership with, in association with all the other authorities listed in the Schedule, so it is a proposal to form a new undertaking and a new association of local authorities.
I have heard many speeches around Leeds from representatives of the adjacent smaller boroughs, looking with some degree of horror on being associated with a larger county borough. They have no need to be concerned or worried because democracy will work its way through and they will have fair representation on the new councils. I should say that, in fairness to the citizens of the two towns, so constantly attacked by smaller authorities at present
What concerned me more than any other matter was that in the White Paper the Government proposed, in the establishment of a West Yorkshire metropolitan authority a series of smaller district authorities, and the second largest in the new area was to be that centred upon Leeds, unit 6 (b) which embraced, and all the surrounding districts, Aireborough, in the north, Harrogate, Knares-borough, Pudsey, Morley, Garforth and districts to the south.
It was a Government proposal, not a proposal from the City of Leeds, or in the adjoining areas, from the City of Bradford or the City of Wakefield. It would have promised to be a good, reasonable, self-governing unit of administration, but something strange happened before delivery of this new authority took place. Some miscarriage occurred and Harrogate and Knares-borough were whisked away before the new authority was spelt out properly in the Bill.
I do not propose, at this late hour, to go into a long dissertation on the close association of these towns with both Leeds and Bradford, the creation of towns historically dependent largely on Leeds and Bradford, and closely associated with them in every way. I leave it at that, and I ask the Minister to tell us why he did it. I am sure he has a good reason but in taking them away, he shortened the boundary of the metropolitan area to the north and left a very difficult boundary for any development purpose. It would be utterly wrong to shorten that boundary still more now by taking away the two smaller boroughs of Otley and Ilkley and putting them into North Yorkshire. These small towns and units are reasonably self-contained and utterly dependent on either Bradford or Leeds.
Of course, there is a tract of moorland between Leeds and Otley and between Bradford and Ilkley, and so it will remain, I hope for ever, never to be developed, always to remain the green belt we want. But the remainder of the land will be available for the develop- ment of the new metropolitan district generally.
I hope that the Minister will not be beguiled by the sweet words uttered by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon, and fall for the suggestion of taking out still more land from the new Districts 6(a) and 6(b).
I could go into enormous detail to prove how utterly dependent for almost every part of life are these two towns on the major towns of Bradford and Leeds, but that is self-evident. I live mid-way between the centre of Leeds and the centre of Otley, and I can form my own conclusion on the flow of traffic, both commercial and social. I hope my hon. Friend will say firmly that these two places will remain as stated in the Schedule.
If my hon. Friend feels that Harrogate should be removed from Metropolitan District 6 because it is has no close association with Leeds, Bradford and the remainder of the area, what an opportunity he will deny himself to take a step further. To the south of Leeds there is the urban district of Rothwell.It lies close to the city centre at one point. It is 1½ miles from the centre of Leeds to the junction of the boundary where Hunslet finishes and Rothwell begins. It has been like that for well over 100 years——
Mr Donald Kaberry (Leeds North West)
I am reminded that it is 1,000 years—so be it. That is the natural boundary where Leeds finishes and Rothwell begins. It is both the natural barrier and the commercial barrier. Leeds is a commercially developing city and between Leeds and Rothwell, certainly at the Hunslet end, there are natural and artificial barriers. An enormous sewage works has been there since 1910. A large power station, commercial buildings and a large British Railways marshalling yard are just inside the boundary of Rothwell. All these form a natural buffer, and for generations the people of Rothwell have looked to the south and the south-west. They have drawn their existence mainly from the coalfields. They have been drawn towards Wakefield, Castleford and Ponte-fract, never towards the city of Leeds.
Mr Alex Lyon (City of York)
Would the hon. Gentleman explain to me—I am completely impartial—why he wants to take out of this new area the Labour area to the south of Rothwell and bring in the Conservative area of Harrogate? Does it have anything to do with politics?
Mr Donald Kaberry (Leeds North West)
There is a simple answer to that question. I am a believer in democracy and I like a free vote on difficult questions of the day. The people of Rothwell recently had a poll which was impartially conducted, and 87 per cent. of the electorate said that they did not wish to be associated with District 6(b) but wished to remain in the Rothwell urban district and to go into the Wakefield area 6(e). They had an even better reason which may appeal to the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon).
Under the scheme for the establishment of the authorities for 6(b) Rothwell would have three representatives. If they go into Wakefield—the 6(e) unit—they will have six representatives. They will have more representation and be far better represented with an area with which they are closer associated and which they know best, think and work best with. It is broadly and simply that.
I see the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts) has arrived. I am glad to support the Amendments which stand in his name and mine, to delete from unit 6(b) the urban district of Rothwell and to put it in the Wakefield Unit 6(e).
Mr Joseph Harper (Pontefract)
The hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Sir D. Kaberry) mentioned that an impartial referendum was undertaken in the Rothwell local government area. Did every household receive a voting paper? If they did, were all voting papers collected?
Mr Donald Kaberry (Leeds North West)
Fortunately the detailed answer to that can be given by the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts). He was to have spoken to this Amendment in the first place. He will give the details of the poll which was taken. As I understand it, it was an impartial poll. I have no cause to cast any doubt on it. I have to accept the information I have received from Rothwell people themselves who say it was impartially conducted and that it was added up correctly. There was an 87 per cent. majority in favour of going into the Wakefield Unit 6(e). I should have thought that these arguments were so overwhelming that the Minister would have no hesitation in accepting this Amendment.
Mr Joe Ashton (Bassetlaw)
I wish to speak to Amendment No. 261. One of the questions that is asked me practically every week in the House is "Where is Bassetlaw?", my constituency. It is actually in North Nottinghmshire, surrounded on three sides by Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire across the River Trent. The boundary of the top of Bassetlaw is the boundary of the Yorkshire-Humberside Planning Area and it distinguishes Yorkshire and Humberside from the East Midlands Planning Area.
The Amendment refers to the village of Finningley, which is the northern tip of Bassetlaw and Nottinghamshire. Bassetlaw sticks up like a sore thumb into Yorkshire, and Nottingham city, the heavily populated part of Nottinghamshire, is at the other end. The village of Finningley is not large by electoral standards, with a population of 771 and an electorate of 462. One of the democratic principles we have in the House and one of the fine traditions of English democracy is that a little village like this can have its case raised, even at this time in the morning.
Public opinion, by a large number, is against going into Yorkshire. There have been two public meetings with over 100 attending each one, and the meetings voted unanimously that they wanted to stay in Nottinghamshire. A petition was organised by the local parish council and 87 per cent. of the population signed it, saying that they wished to stay in Nottinghamshire, for reasons of loyalty and tradition and because they wished to distinguish themselves from the people on the other side of the boundary. Several letters have been received on this subject. The petition was brought down to the Minister, and the parish council would like to say how grateful it is for the way the delegation was received.
The people are satisfied that by staying in Nottingham their rates will be cheaper. They are satisfied that their services are adequate and that the Retford rural council looks after them. They have modern services such as deep sewerage, and a modern plastic sack refuse service which is an unusual service to find in a rural area. There is controlled tipping. A modern primary school for 240 pupils has been built. The local authority has built 28 council houses, 10 old people's bungalows, has given 47 improvements grants and has designated seven acres of land for future building. The parish council is active and well informed about the needs of the villagers. It has provided bus shelters, seats for pensioners, a fine village green, a village pond and a village hall.
Local people have taken a great pride in the advance achieved by them in the local district. It is a restricted village designated by Notts County Council, it will not attract a great deal of overspill and the number of houses in future will be kept to a reasonable minimum.
I am grateful for this opportunity on behalf of the villagers to put the case to the Minister, and I hope that a decision will be arrived at which will be favourable to them and democratic.
Mr George Drayson (Skipton)
I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 441, 442 and 443 which stand in my name and which deal with two parishes in my constituency. I should like first to say that, although the Bill seems to do some rather drastic things to my constituency, the proposals are generally acceptable in the area. The White Paper was disastrous because a large part of the Skipton rural district council area was transferred to the Bradford metropolitan district. We were very pleased that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development took immense trouble to come to our area to listen to objectors. Consequently a large part of the Skipton rural district council was recovered from the Bradford Metropolitan district, except for the two parishes about which I wish to speak this morning.
One parish is Addingham which has an electorate of 1,700, and the other is Kildwick with an electorate of 99. Both parishes have taken local polls and the result was that in Addingham over 60 per cent. were in favour of remaining in North Yorkshire and of not going into Bradford. In Kildwick the number was even higher: some 86 per cent. of the electorate were in favour of staying in North Yorkshire.
The form of the referendum taken in Addingham was simple. Electors were given an opportunity of saying whether they objected to the proposal to include the parish in West Yorkshire Metropolitan District (a). They asked Parliament to transfer the parish to the new North Yorkshire county so that it could become part of the Craven district.
Addingham considers itself to be essentially a rural area. Its links have always been with Skipton rural council and the Craven Dales. Kildwick and the neighbouring parish of Farnhill are invariably coupled together. They share the same main street and it is impossible to tell when one has left one village and entered the other. This, again, is an essentially rural area; in fact, the Department has been supplied with aerial photographs which show this quite clearly.
In the case of Kildwick, I express the hope that the Boundary Commission, which I understand will deal with minor adjustments, will look at the parish and see whether it is possible—even if some of the land area is required in the Bradford metropolitan district, possibly for future developments—that at least the part of the village of Kildwick that joins with Farnhill can be left in North Yorkshire, within the area of the present Skipton rural district.
The Minister for Local Government and Development was good enough to write to me on Monday, 3rd July, telling me that he had given very careful consideration to my Amendments but he felt that he would be unable to accept them. What worries me and will worry my constituents is the fact that my right hon. Friend went on to say:
Both of the parishes ought, I believe, to be considered properly in the light of the West Riding County Council's county strategy, which nominated the Silsden area (which specifically includes Addingham and Steeton with Eastburn and which will unavoidably take in Kildwick)
and so on. I cannot see why it should be unavoidable. I should have thought that this was one thing that could be avoided, and that there was no need to take in this small village which, as I
have said, has an electorate of only 99 people.
Bearing in mind the small number of people involved, I hope that the Minister will find it possible to make a concession for Kildwick and certainly give me some hope that when the Boundary Commission that is to deal with minor matters of boundary adjustments is set up this subject will be brought to its attention, and it will be able to do something to help this parish.
Even at this late hour—a quarter past three in the morning—I hope that the Minister can have second thoughts and accept the Amendments.
Mr Albert Roberts (Normanton)
I want to speak to Amendments Nos. 27 and 35. As a representative of the Normanton constituency, I am here to support the case on behalf of Rothwell, which is very much in favour of the 1962-63 review, which recommended that Stanley, Rothwell and Castleford be formed into one unit with a population of about 60,000. It is strange how things change in local government. Here we are arguing from one side, and we shall have arguments from the other side saying that the 1962–63 review was wrong. We are speaking about people when we speak about local government. We were disappointed when the review was passed over.
I want to refer to the recommendation that the five towns of Pontefract, Feather-stone, Knottingley, Castleford and Normanton should be made into one unit. Without doubt it would have been a viable unit, identifiable, with areas in close affinity. But that was not to be. We now have a recommendation dealing with the metropolitan area and the various districts. Inside Rothwell there has been a pressure group of independent people, who have provided their own finance. They conducted a referendum throughout the districts. The figures announced by the group showed 80 per cent. in favour of going in with a district based on Wakefield, District E.
The officially accepted economic viability argument seems to be a population of about half a million. Leeds with Rothwell would be about 738,000. Leeds minus Rothwell would be 711,000. Wakefield minus Rothwell would be 275,000, and Wakefield with Rothwell 302,000. Without Rothwell Leeds would still stand above the accepted norm. Rothwell would certainly add to the economic viability of the district based on Wakefield.
It is argued by some people, particularly in my district, that its affinity is with this part of the county, with Normanton, Stanley, Knottingley and so on. They have the affinity, however, that they have been administered by the West Riding County Council for certain services for quite a long time and they are without doubt proud of their education record. Most people who take an interest in education know of our education officer, Sir Alec Clegg. They think that if Rothwell were to be placed in District B, their education services would suffer.
According to the pressure group, the people of Rothwell would like to remain more or less as relations of Stanley, Wakefield and so on rather than go in with Leeds. Their advanced comprehensive plans in education are well to the fore and they think that by going into Leeds their education services would to some extent be retarded. Therefore, as the Member of Parliament for Rothwell, the district in which I live, I feel that it is my duty to put the views of the pressure group which has existed in Rothwell for quite a time.
I should point out that the local council decided in the first place to go in with Leeds. After further consideration it changed its mind. I understand that the clerks of Castleford, Pontefract and Hemsworth had written to the Minister supporting the case of the pressure group in Rothwell. The group undertook the journey to the House of Commons and interviewed many Members of Parliament. Without doubt the group feels very strongly about this issue. It must be appreciated that the group did this entirely on its own initiative, with the support of the local authority. That is why I am here—as has just been said, in the early hours of the morning—to put the case for my Amendments Nos. 27 and 35. The feeling is that to remove the people from the tradition and control of a local authority they have enjoyed for many years would be entirely alien to them and what they had been accustomed to. That is why I am supporting the case put forward in my two Amendments for Rothwell to be placed in District E instead of District B as proposed.
Mr Stan Cohen (Leeds South East)
It is most regrettable that at 3.30 a.m. we should be discussing a matter vital to a section of the community in the West Riding of Yorkshire. I am surprised that the Amendment has even appeared, but I am also surprised by the inconsistency of the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Sir D. Kaberry). At one point he was arguing against contraction of boundaries—
Mr Stan Cohen (Leeds South East)
—in the south. There is a marked inconsistency. He emphasised that any area coming into Leeds could rely on the city's democratic principles. Leeds has a justified reputation for treating the public democratically and justly.
Sir Malcolm Stoddart-Scott (Ripon)
Would the hon. Gentleman look at the property that Leeds owns at Fewston and Blubber-houses, the worst property in the whole of the West Riding of Yorkshire?
Mr Stan Cohen (Leeds South East)
I should be delighted to take up that offer. Fewston and Blubber-houses are a delightful part of the country. If the situation is as the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggests, I should be glad to look into it. However, Leeds council may take credit for the way in which it has treated the electorate fairly and justly and with social equity.
It can hardly be said that although this is the way in which we treat people from the north, there is some doubt about the way in which we treat people coming to the south of the city. The hon. Member for Leeds, North-West has probably highlighted one of the major problems in the city. It is that by bringing into the Leeds metropolitan area District 6, only three seats would be created for the Rothwell contingent, whereas if that area goes to Wakefield, six seats will be created for it.
As someone who served for 20 years on a local authority, I sympathise with those who have given years of service to the community and who suddenly, because of the reorganisation of local government, find themselves without a seat to represent the public. One can understand the frustration and concern that this arouses among those affected. At the same time, we have to consider the effect on the community as a whole, and this is the important factor that we and the local authorities have to consider.
What has pleased me during our debates has been that no hon. Member has mentioned the political aspects, and I give credit to all who have spoken for being more concerned about the effects on a community than about political considerations.
Paragraph 8 of the White Paper says:
Local authority areas should be related to areas within which people have a common interest—through living in a recognisable community, through the links of employments, shopping or social activities, or through history and tradition.
I am certain that if the House bases its decision on that sort of premise, there is little doubt about the decision to which we shall come, and that it will be to reject the Amendment.
In all modesty, I feel that I can speak with some authority, having served on the Leeds City Council for 20 years, about the problems which might arise if the Amendment were carried. The hon. Member for Leeds, North-West talked about natural boundaries in the South Leeds area. If a natural boundary can be described as one which runs through the middle of a factory employing people from both areas, which is what happens in the South Leeds and Rothwell area, then I stand to be corrected.
I had the good fortune to represent the parts of Leeds on the city council which immediately bordered on to Rothwell. In addition to the Leeds people whom I represented, people came to me from the Rothwell area under the impression that I was their local representative. The boundary is so indefinable there as to be almost impossible to distinguish.
The people of Rothwell, of whom about 90 per cent. are employed in the south of Leeds, are historically associated with the city. If people are employed to the extent of 90 per cent. in a city, it is not just a matter of their employment and incomes. They become socially and culturally associated with that city.
When one considers the history of Rothwell and Leeds and the integration which has developed over the years, it is a situation which should not be destroyed. The area in which I live, which is represented by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), was part of Rothwell in 1950. Now it is an integral part of Leeds and is not involved in this argument. But that area is twice as far from the centre of Leeds as Rothwell. We can hardly argue on the one basis that we should take out of Leeds an area which is 2½ miles from the city centre, when we propose leaving in areas which are up to 20 miles away.
I hope that the hon. Members for Ripon (Sir M. Stoddart-Scott) and Leeds, North-West will not press the Amendment. I say that purely on practical grounds. It is impractical to destroy a situation which has existed for so many years. We shall do much damage to the people of Rothwell economically, socially, industrially and culturally if we divide them in the way suggested and move them into the area of Wakefield, which is separated from them by a green belt, talking of natural conditions.
My one fear is that if we carry this Amendment the people of Rothwell will live to regret our unfortunate decision.
Mr Charles Pannell (Leeds West)
I represent the western part of Leeds, and I received a letter the other day saying:
Rothwell really should be part of the new Leeds authority from almost every point of view.
That is a native putting it rather better than I could, because everyone knows that I am a "comer in "and not a local lad. I am an Essex-born near-Cockney domiciled in Kent who has had the honour to represent Leeds for 23 years. Therefore I look at the matter with more objectivity than any local lad such as the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Sir D. Kaberry). He looks at it purely from the political point of view of what it will be like after the next election. I am not afraid of mentioning politics in this context, because the motive of the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in hitching on to this Amendment is the belief that after the next election
they can carry the new authority without Rothwell, but that with Rothwell it will remain with its rightful allegiance.
It is a wonderful piece of gerrymandering, and, as my correspondent says:
Rothwell really should be part of the new Leeds authority from almost every point of view. The urban district comes within 2 miles of Leeds city centre (at Stourton), whereas in the rest of the city the boundary is between 5 and 6 miles distant. Virtually all the industrial premises in Rothwell are in Stourton on the opposite side of the river from Osmond-thorpe and even the most distant part of Rothwell UDC is still not further away from Leeds Bridge than is (say) Stanningley.
Stanningly is in my constituency.
Historically Rothwell was part of the Hunslet Union and a good part was in the old Hunslet Rural District Council.
I believe that during the period when Hugh Gaitskell represented Leeds part of it was in his constituency.
Mr Charles Pannell (Leeds West)
At any rate, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. Cohen) said that many people there turned to him rather than to my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts) because they looked on him as their Member.
The Bill, at the top of page 197, refers to
the urban districts of Aireborough, Garforth, Horsforth, Otley and Rothwell.
That was the idea in the minds of the planners at the beginning. That was the main resolution before the meeting. Then suddenly my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton wants Rothwell taken out.
Mr Charles Pannell (Leeds West)
I am speaking in the context of the debate this evening. My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton moved the Amendment in a speech of remarkably little persuasion. His heart did not seem to be in the job. He claimed to speak on behalf of people who had a limited view on the matter. However, when planning for bigger authorities we need a view of greater objectivity, and that view should normally be taken by the Member of Parliament. I understand the original plan would cut straight through my hon. Friend's constituency so that it would be in two local districts. Obviously he wants to keep it in one district.
The natural affinity running through this idea is that this area should be part of the great City of Leeds. The hon. Member for Leeds, North-West is proud of his part of the city. He has represented it for a long time and probably has the longest parliamentary links with it as one who was born in Leeds. The hon. Gentleman must have some regrets, just as I have, that it is passing into a larger conurbation, because it is big enough and proud enough to stand on its own. It did not want any of this nonsense anyway. However, if we are going to put it in, we might as well round it off. Looking at the map, if Rothwell is left out it breaks the whole of the continuity. I am surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton has associated himself with the Amendment.
We are asked at other and better times to consider objectively the idea of going into the EEC, and so on. If some of the useless time which has been given to the European Communities Bill had been given to more mature and leisurely consideration of the problems of Yorkshire and this country generally we would probably come to a better conclusion at the end of the day.
I do not know what the Minister will say. May I have the Minister's attention? Order. May I have the ear of the Minister? Order. When I am speaking I am presumably addressing the Minister, who should pay some mannerly attention. The hon. Gentleman is a relative new boy in this place and I have been here a long time. I hop