We hope to announce the membership of the Economic Planning Council for the South-West Region before the Easter Recess. On representation I have nothing to add to what I told the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) on 21st January. We told the local authority associations in December that we are prepared to consider local government officers as well as elected representatives as members of the councils.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that Answer does not add much to the information already available? Will he convey to his right hon. Friend the fear and concern of many county councils that they will have imposed upon them an organisation which may suit his right hon. Friend but does not suit them and will deny to them what they feel are the rights of representation to which they are fully entitled?
Will the Joint Under-Secretary explain the reason
for this delay? Does he not recall that on page 3 of "Let's Go with Labour", the manifesto on which his party fought the General Election, appear these words:
Labour is ready. Poised to swing its plans into instant operation".
Is the Minister aware that local authorities are particularly disturbed about the planning aspects of the councils and, indeed, of the boards? Can he give an assurance that there is no intention of taking away from the local authorities the powers which they now have over the planning of development in their areas?
My right hon. Friend has already made it perfectly clear that there is certainly no intention to usurp the proper function of local authorities or to take away any of their existing powers.
As the Minister of Transport has announced that before any rail closures are proposed a regional plan is to be produced, can the Joint Under-Secretary tell us what association there will be between the two sorts of regional plans? What conversations will he have with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Land and Natural Resources on this subject?
As my right hon. Friend has made clear, the purpose of the boards is to make sure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, which has certainly not been the case in the past. We shall take full account of the needs of communications, whether rail or road, in all our regional planning.