asked the Minister of Health how many persons are engaged on schemes of borough extensions in the Ministry of Health; how many have been so engaged and what has been the cost to the taxpayers during the last 12 months; and whether, in the interest of economy in local rates as well as in national expenditure, he will consider the desirability of dispensing with this section of his Department and suspending further consideration of such extension schemes for the next five years until the matter, as it concerns the whole country, has been inquired into by a Royal Commission?
The examination of borough extension proposals forms part of the general work of one of the Departments of the Ministry, and there are no officers exclusively engaged on this work. In reply to the last part of the question, I am advised that I have no power to refuse, on general grounds, to entertain an application for the extension of its boundary properly made by the council of any borough.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that the time of these officials, which has been devoted to a considerable extent during the last few months, at any rate, to these extension schemes, would be better employed in helping smaller local authorities to improve their administration, rather than assisting or encouraging larger towns to absorb their smaller neighbours?
It is the duty of my Department to examine these schemes, and the duty of my officials to go into them, both from the point of view of the larger and the smaller authorities, and the smaller authorities are just as much safeguarded by that examination as the larger ones.