This is a minor adjustment of the boundary between the new metropolitan district centred on Bury and Rochdale. We divided what was originally one metropolitan district into two metropolitan districts. In between them is the borough of Heywood. The present borough of Heywood lying between the two county boroughs of Rochdale and Bury had a small portion of it jutting into Bury. When we drew the line to start with, it seemed right to cut off this promontory into Bury. After discussion of the Amendment in the House on the first occasion, and after a careful inspection of the area by my officials and the advice they received, we found that there was no case for cutting off this promontory except for a very small proportion.
Therefore, the three Amendments provide for the whole of Heywood, including the western fringes or the western promontory, to be in the district centred on Rochdale.
We on this side welcome the wisdom of the other place in leaving Heywood as a borough intact as to its entry into the new metropolitan district. It always seemed in this House that, by dividing Heywood in the way first suggested, with a very complicated and longwinded part of the Bill excluding wards and almost streets of that borough and putting them into a different metropolitan district, we were usurping the functions of the Boundary Commissioners. It is the job of the Boundary Commissioners to look at such minutiae. It is not the job of the House of Commons to divide wards in this way.
The other House has brought the position back to that originally envisaged and proposed by my friend the late Jack McCann. It is a great tribute to Jack McCann, who is, alas, no longer with us, and to the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler), who right from the start, in Committee and on the Floor of the House, consistently fought for their respective districts of Rochdale and Bury.
It was a great satisfaction to me, who was not only an hon. Friend of Jack McCann in the parliamentary sense of that term but was a close personal friend of his, that shortly before he died one of the last things he realised that the House had done was to effect the division of Bury and Rochdale broadly in the way he wanted it, thus preserving the town and the constituency he loved.
Although it may not be strictly in order on this Lords Amendment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I join in the tribute paid by the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) to the late Mr. McCann and say how deeply sorry we are that he is not with us now? I know better than anyone the late Mr. McCann's persistence in any cause which he had at heart and I always appreciated it. He was always co-operative, although determined to get his own way, and when he got his own way he did it in the most pleasant way.
The first two Amendments deal with Wilmslow and the third deals with Poynton. The effect of the first two is to move the urban district of Wilmslow from Greater Manchester and from the metropolitan district of Stockport into Cheshire, and no doubt into a district based on Macclesfield.
Briefly, the points which were put in another place in favour of the Amendment are as follows. The first was that Wilmslow is closely associated with Alderley Edge, which we had left in Cheshire, and that they are something of twin towns. The second was that the inclusion of Wilmslow in Cheshire will strengthen the administration in that area, and that it is more in Cheshire than in Greater Manchester. Thirdly, a referendum in the Wilmslow area has shown that 95 per cent. of the people there want to remain in Cheshire. Fourthly, there are, as it was expressed in another place, practically no links between Wilmslow and Stockport, although there may well he between Wilmslow and Manchester, and it was said that with the exception of employment there is no justification for Wilmslow going into the Greater Manchester area. It was also said that 61 per cent. of the employed persons in Wilmslow do not work in the Manchester area.
It is true that not a single one of the 86 social organisations in the Wilmslow area has a direct relationship with Manchester. Indeed, the overwhelming majority have a joint membership or association with Alderley Edge.
Next, it was said that if Wilmslow remains in Cheshire it certainly will not affect the viability of Greater Manchester. Finally, it was argued that two-thirds of Wilmslow is in the North Cheshire Green Belt.
I received a petition from 8,936 people in Wilmslow, out of a population of 28,982, pleading that Wilmslow should be in Cheshire.
No doubt Wilmslow has strong links with the conurbation and particularly with Manchester itself, links of work, shopping, travel and so on. For those reasons the Government were originally of the opinion that it belonged more appropriately in Greater Manchester than in Cheshire. I cannot say that I have completely withdrawn from that view. I have argued many times that the links with the conurbation are great, not so much with the metropolitan district in which it was placed as with Manchester itself.
The issue now is whether there are sufficient reasons to challenge the decision of the other place. But the Government do not intend to advise the House to take that course.
I am in the unusual and intriguing position of asking the Government to stand by their declared policy. It is said that few Governments have eaten more of their own words than the present Administration. My purpose now is to insist that they stand by just a few words in the Bill as originally drafted.
The Minister's words in support of keeping Wilmslow and Poynton within Greater Manchester are very recent words. His noble Friend Lord Sandford, for whom I have a deep personal regard, said in another place on 16th October:
My right honourable friend Mr. Graham Page received a further deputation from Wilmslow only last week and listened once more to their views. … we in the national Parliament sometimes need to take a wider view, and I submit that this is one such occasion.
The noble Lord also recalled that one of the main criticisms of the Bill as originally drafted was that boundaries had been too tightly drawn. He said that if there had been a mistake it had been to leave out Alderley Edge rather than to take in Wilmslow. I must agree with a very strong passage in the noble Lord's speech in which he said:
Wilmslow, like Marple, like High Lane, like Poynton, are by all objective criteria—geographic, economic, transport, social; whether one looks at migration, housing, trading, shopping, buses, trains, water, employment or administration—is an effective part of the great conurbation of Greater Manchester and the metropolitan district of Stockport."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 16th October, 1972; Vol. 335, c. 1587–1588.]
There could not be a more compelling case for disagreeing with the Amendment.
I understand the feelings of my noble Friend Lord Peddie. He has very close personal links with Wilmslow, and I have very close personal links with him. We have many interests in common, but this is not one of them. He will understand that we in this House are entitled to our view, and I am sure that he would expect us to press the Government in this debate on the Amendment which he carried in another place to stand by their declared policy.
Wilmslow and Poynton are an integral part of Greater Manchester, and are clearly part of its field of influence. The conurbation, and particularly the metropolitan centre, provides their principal source of employment and their main metropolitan shopping, professional and commercial services. The prosperity of these localities is related to their function as residential suburbs. Transport and communications follow the main radial pattern centred on Manchester, and both localities are part of the Selnec transportation study area and of the passenger transport authority area.
They have developed as high-class residential settlements for people working in the conurbation. They are localities which have accumulated their wealth from the conurbation. Thus it is only equitable that they should help to bear some responsibility for solving its problems, which is one of the objects of local government reorganisation. In the past the outer residential areas of the conurbation have from geographical circumstances, in the main, escaped these obligations.
In a memorandum prepared by the Cheshire County Council, stress was laid on the physical separation of these areas from the remainder of the conurbation as a result of the green belt and the likely future effect of the Manchester outer ring road. It is clear from the map that the green belt provides only a narrow break of open land between residential suburbs in this vicinity, and that there is almost continuous development along the main radial routes. The object of the green belt is to preserve those open breaks between the various settlements in the conurbation. If the argument were to be accepted that the metropolitan boundary should follow the green belt at Wilmslow it could apply with equal force in respect of Rochdale, Bolton or Bury. The argument would demonstrate a lack of appreciation of the nature of the conurbation, which is not a continuous built-up area but which nevertheless is functionally very closely knit.
The argument has been advanced by the Cheshire County Council that the Manchester outer ring road would further enhance the separation. This could equally well apply to the M62 motorway in the north of the conurbation. The whole point about major new roads is that they increase the ease of contact in the conurbation, not that they act as barriers or limits to the sphere of influence of the conurbation centre.
Employment and other statistics indicate that Wilmslow is becoming completely orientated towards the rest of the Greater Manchester conurbation. The Minister mentioned some figures. I should like to give the House some figures that have been made available to me since the Amendment was carried in another place. I am told that Wilmslow is becoming completely orientated as to employment towards the rest of the Greater Manchester conurbation. In 1951, 27·18 per cent. of the residential population were employed in other parts of the Selnec Metropolitan area. In 1966 the proportion had increased to 45·5 per cent., while only 7·25 per cent. were employed in the Cheshire County Area. This employment situation is perfectly understandable in view of the very good road and public transport links which make the centre of the conurbation within 30 to 45 minutes' reach.
Similarly, in shopping, many hon. Members will agree that the pull of the main regional centre in Manchester is most important. The then Ministry of Housing and Local Government in its publication, "The Manchester and Liverpool Conurbation: A Study of the Pattern of Retail Spending in 1961 and a Forecast of the Pattern of Retail Spending in 1981", published in 1970, showed that these areas were all clearly within the primary zone of influence of the Manchester central area as a regional shopping centre. Wilmslow is a sub-regional shopping centre in the same way as Altrincham, Stockport, Bolton, Rochdale and Oldham are.
I lived in Wilmslow for 24 years, and I think that I can speak far better for Wilmslow than some of the people who are sending telegrams to hon. Members. As my hon. Friend has rightly said, people shop not in Chester but in Manchester. They do not work in Chester, they work in Manchester. Because of the reactionary nature of the Cheshire County Council, which has, for example, turned down the comprehensive system of schooling, it seems to me right that Wilmslow should be inside the Manchester conurbation. Would my hon. Friend care to comment on that?
I am pleased that my hon. Friend has intervened. He was for a long time a resident of the Wilmslow area, and I always very much regretted that he was not on the other side of the local authority boundary. If he had been, he would have been living in my constituency, and he would have had a very warm welcome there. The point that he has made is often heard on our side of the constituency boundary. My hon. Friend is right, too, to refer to the very expensive propaganda campaign in which Wilmslow has indulged. Since this debate commenced, I have received a telegram from the Chairman of the Wilmslow Urban District Council. He is eminently entitled to put his case. His case was rejected by the right hon. Gentleman within the past two weeks. It was rejected by the Government spokesman in another place and I hope very much that it will be rejected in this House.
I was referring to the question of shopping. I was about to say that Wilmslow is on a more modest scale than most of the other centres to which I referred, namely Altrincham, Stockport, Bolton, Rochdale and Oldham. To argue that Wilmslow now exerts a comparable attraction to central Manchester as a specialised shopping area in the southern section of the conurbation is wholly to misunderstand the true nature of the shopping hierarchy in the conurbation.
As the hon. and learned Gentleman may recall, I was referring earlier to the memorandum submitted by Cheshire County Council. I do not represent Wilmslow. I am not a representative here of the county council. I believe that I am speaking representatively for the great majority of the people in the intended Greater Manchester conurbation.
I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will have an opportunity to argue the minority view at some other stage. I am arguing what was the Government's view. I am arguing what was the viewpoint of this House as a whole. I do not recall the hon. and learned Gentleman arguing on any recent occasion for a different set-up in the conurbation. My recollection is that on all occasions he supported his right hon. Friend in the submissions that he made on behalf of the Government.
I must proceed with my case. I have said that the Manchester City Council feels very strongly that the Government should not now eat the words spoken by the right hon. Gentleman so recently in this House and even more recently to the representatives of Wilmslow. He did not appear to me to be suffering from acute indigestion. Apparently he does not accept the Amendment carried in another place. He was frank enough to say in the speech with which he opened this debate that he still has his own reservations about the Lords' Amendment.
His reservations are shared by the Manchester and District Council of Churches. The Rev. James Bentley, Chairman of the Local Government Subcommittee, and the Rev. John Nicholson, the General Secretary of the Council, in a letter dated 19th October, 1972, said:
We are writing to you on behalf of the Local Government Sub-committee of the Manchester and District Council of Churches to express our concern at the amendment to the Local Government Bill concerning Wilmslow and Poynton which has been passed by the House of Lords. We acknowledge that this amendment expresses the desire of the majority of inhabitants of those two towns to remain in Cheshire.…
The Manchester and District Council of Churches believes
that this view is contrary to the best interests of the wider community of Greater Manchester. We maintain that the residents of Poynton and Wilmslow have a responsibility to the wider Metropolitan area in which many of them work, and that they have a contribution to make to that wider region.
They therefore pressed me to do everything possible in this debate to keep the Government to the policy which they have commended to this House and in another place.
The House ought to note that the hon. Gentleman said that he was referring to the Local Government Sub-Committee only of the Council of Churches, and this has obviously not gone before the full Council. I advise the hon. Member that his Lordship the Bishop of Chester dissents from this view, and part of his diocese is involved in the Greater Manchester area. In fact, the Council of Churches is speaking somewhat in isolation.
I have no wish to excite controversy within the Manchester and District Council of Churches. I did, however, say that the letter I received, dated 19th October, 1972, was signed by the Rev. John Nicholson, the General Secretary of the Manchester and District Council of Churches as well as by the Rev. James Bentley, the Chairman of its Local Government Sub-committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) pointed out correctly that Wilmslow is in the diocese of Chester and, therefore, comes within the area covered by the Bishop of Chester; but perhaps it should also be noted—and I am sure the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) will take note of the fact—that the Roman Catholic church in Wilmslow does not come into Manchester. It is another diocese outside Manchester—Shropshire, I think. It therefore places in doubt the full validity of the representations from the Council of Churches from whose statement the hon. Member is now quoting.
I cannot call into question the credentials of those who have written to me, namely the General Secretary of the Council and the Chairman of the Local Government Sub-committee. There will be, as in all organisations, different views on a matter as important as this is to the North-West of England. It will be for hon. Members to develop their criticisms of this letter if they are fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. For my part, I believe that the letter reflects majority opinion in the Manchester and District Council of Churches. If it does not, I find it difficult to understand how the general secretary, Rev. John Nicholson, would have signed the letter to right hon. and hon. Members.
It will be clear from the interventions from both sides that this is a deeply important question for those of us who represent constituencies throughout the Manchester conurbation. The people of Wilmslow are entitled to their view, and it is for their representatives to state their case in this debate. I felt it to be my job to reflect the view of representative people in the city of Manchester and, I believe, in the much wider community of the greater Manchester area.
I appeal to the Minister not to accept a case which was rejected in the name of all his right hon. Friends in meeting representatives from Wilmslow within the past few weeks. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will consider that we have a powerful case to press at the end of the debate. We are asking merely for consistency in government. I have no wish to make things difficult for the Minister. In my view, he will make things difficult for himself if he now decides to vote in favour of the Lords Amendment, against all the arguments which he has adduced both here and outside the House in meeting people from the Manchester conurbation.
I am sorry to intervene again, but I must put another point to my hon. Friend. I have lived for 24 years in Wilmslow, so I know Wilmslow, and, in fact, I think that it belongs to Manchester. But I fought the Macclesfield constituency in 1955, and I accept one point made by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). Although Cheshire is Tory-controlled and totally reactionary, I believe that there is a case to be made for Poynton remaining in Cheshire. I do not consider, however, that there is a case for Wilmslow itself to remain in Cheshire.
Will my hon. Friend distinguish between the two? There is an important distinction here between Wilmslow, a commuter town, a dormitory town of Manchester, which shops and works within Manchester, and Poynton which is really outside the Manchester conurbation. In my view, there is a good case for Poynton being in the Cheshire area, but Wilmslow should still remain with Manchester.
My principal argument has been about Wilmslow. I referred to both Wilmslow and Poynton in speaking about employment, transport, shopping and so forth. It may be said that there is a much stronger case for including Wilmslow in the Manchester conurbation than for including Poynton. I recognise the knowledge of Cheshire which my hon. Friend brings to this debate, but he will appreciate that I have three Amendments on the Paper referring to both Wilmslow and Poynton.
I consider that the boundaries were, if anything, too tightly drawn by the Government. In the House of Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said that the Government had been subjected to heavy criticism for drawing the new boundaries too tightly. But he was right to reject out of hand the case put to him by Wilmslow.
I must not take up more of the time of the House since this is a debate in which many hon. Members wish to take part. I appeal to the Minister to stand by his own policy, a policy reiterated at only very recent date both by himself and by his noble Friend Lord Sandford. If he is consistent, he will, I am sure, have full support from this side. I appeal to him to accept my submission that the House should disagree with the Lords in this Amendment.
I intervened during the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), when, speaking about the shopping advantages or otherwise as between Wilmslow and Manchester, he quoted a sentence from the county council's observations on this question. The hon. Gentleman took up the reference in that document to the specialist shopping importance of Wilmslow, but, as he was quoting that passage, I wanted him to quote the reasons given by the county council for what it said. If the hon. Gentleman described that statement as entirely wrong, I thought it only fair that the House should know the reasons which the county council gave for its conclusion.
With a few words omitted—nothing sinister; I wish to save time—the county council refers to the
Even more marked trends … evident in the growth of Wilmslow's importance as a shopping centre",
saying that Wilmslow had been advised by consultants that it
will require not less than 90,000 sq. ft. of additional shopping space in the town",
and then pointing to Wilmslow's easy access from Knutsford, Congleton and Macclesfield. As the hon. Gentleman quoted a sentence which he said was entirely wrong, I thought it right that the House should have the other references giving the reasons for the making of that statement.
It has been said that consistency is often the mark of a second-rate mind. I am sure that the House is wiser than that. It is never a strong argument to say, "You said this the other day, and now you are saying something different: you ought to stand by what you said earlier". It is a matter of opinion. The hon. Member for Wythenshawe was quite right to say that I did not support the claims of Wilmslow on previous occasions. But I have been persuaded by the arguments adduced in another place, which I find overwhelming. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the best way for the House to decide this matter is on the merits, not by reference to what was said on another occasion. It is common form in debate to point to what was said earlier, but that sort of argument does not carry a great deal of weight.
They have had a late conversion. It would have been absurd to say to St. Paul, "You took the other view not long ago, so you ought now to be consistent and leave the Christian faith". The hon. Member would have said to St. Paul, "Look what you said only a fortnight before when you denied the divinity of Christ, and now you are admitting that divinity. You must be consistent."
This is a side issue and I do not wish to get involved in an ecclesiastical debate, especially with my hon. Friend.
Let us look at the arguments on their merits—I suppose that the hon. Member for Wythenshawe would say that St. Paul should have made his name Saul again, too. He took the point about shopping. I should have thought that was a finely divided argument, but to my mind it goes down in favour of Wilmslow. A very strong argument used by the Government on the previous occasion, by the noble Lord Lord Sandford in the other place and by the hon. Member for Wythenshawe was that relating to where people worked. In these days of the commuter, when people like living in the country or in less crowded places, that argument would extend the conurbation of London to Southampton or Reading and that cannot be right. It is an even less good reason for Wilmslow because, contrary to the satistics which the hon. Member adduced, my statistics are that on the last occasion they were collected about 40 per cent. of the people worked in Wilmslow and 28 per cent. in Manchester.
if to that is added the fact that Wilmslow is separated from the conurbation by a small but appreciable green belt we can see that the Government's original mistake was that, as the Cheshire County Council suggested, someone flew over it in a helicopter and saw the green areas which they thought belonged to Alderley Edge.
Never mind the statistics. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman deal with me because I lived in Wilmslow for 24 years and I know a little about the place. The majority of people living in Wilmslow work in Manchester and the only reason that the hon. and learned Gentleman wants it in Cheshire is because it is a Tory-controlled council. This is concerned with politics. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that the majority of Wilmslow people have been conned in the poll which took place? I take the Wilmslow Advertiser, which the hon. and learned Gentleman obviously does not read, because if he did read it carefully he too would find that the people have been conned. I wish he would stop quoting statistics and instead deal with the people who live there and who know what they are talking about.
My experience of the law courts is that the fellow who lives in a place is very often wrong. This cannot be helped, because his view is subjective. The last census showed that the percentages of 42 per cent. and 28 per cent.—or perhaps it was 41 per cent. and 28 per cent.—were correct. From calling witnesses in the courts, people who lived in a place, I have noted how they are entirely mistaken about such things as footpaths. A person who lives in a place knows only a certain sample of the other people there, and from that sample he often gets a false impression.
The Cheshire County Council has spent a great deal of capital in setting up the offices of the council in Wilmslow. They include the fire brigade, the North-East Social Services Council, the law courts and one of the planning committees. There is therefore a serious capital commitment. The argument about transport does not bear out the case for having Wilmslow in Manchester because it is on the line ending at Alderley Edge. Whatever applies to Stockport-Wilmslow also applies to Wilmslow-Alderley Edge. Those who are advocating disagreement with the Lords Amendment must remember that they are asking the House to run counter to practically every single inhabitant of Wilmslow. They must face the fact that the substantial petitions, the delegations and the meetings in Wilmslow show that the vast majority of the people there do not wish to go into Manchester. Whatever the percentage of those who work there, it could be that those who commute to Manchester do not want to live in Manchester just because they work there.
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman saying that if any group of 30,000 people wishes to contract out of reorganisation it should be allowed to do so? That is the logic of what he is saying about Wilmslow.
No. I am saying that where the arguments are fairly finely balanced, where the whole population want to stay in Cheshire they should be allowed to do so. The hon. Member for Wythenshawe said that I did not represent Wilmslow and I should let those speak who did. My right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. John Davies) represents Wilmslow and he is not able to answer these matters because of the constitutional position. I thought it only right as representing a neighbouring constituency and as one who has a long association with Northwich that I should explain why my right hon. Friend cannot make representations on these lines.
The hon. and learned Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster) invited the House to forget that which was said previously. He suggested that we should not lay too much emphasis on constituency. But it is my claim that the people who will be part of the structure of the envisaged greater Manchester metropolitan area are entitled to know from the Minister why the Government have surrendered abjectly and unashamedly in the light of the House of Lords decision on this matter.
That decision was taken by 146 Members of the other place. We speak about the processes of democracy but out of a membership approaching 1,100 less than a mere 10 per cent. voted and the majority of them were in favour of Wilmslow and Poynton being excluded from the envisaged greater Manchester metropolitan area. We are entitled to know on what basis the Government have accepted the substance of their Lordships' argument. I have listened to the previous speakers and their references to consultation. But there are people in the greater Manchester area whom the Minister should consult before he finalises his approach to this important subject.
The hon. Member has put a rhetorical question to the House as to how the other place reached a decision. Many of those who participated in the debate there were very well acquainted with Cheshire. They included Lord Woolley, the Cheshire farmer, my predecessor Lord Harvey who was the Mem- ber for Macclesfield, and Lord Leather-land, who had much experience of Cheshire, particularly the North Cheshire area.
I do not dispute their close association with Wilmslow and with North-East Cheshire. I wish that they would sometimes demonstrate an equally close interest in the affairs of the greater Manchester metropolitan area, or the envisaged structure now proposed.
There has been emphasis on where the residents of Wilmslow work and hon. Members have referred to the pull of different regional centres, of Macclesfield as opposed to Manchester. But the argument is not wholly about shopping centres, or where people work, or individual interests. At the bottom of the argument is the subject of rates, the envisaged financial burden that the ratepayers of the greater Manchester metropolitan area will he obliged to carry. Wilmslow and Poynton are an integral part of the greater Manchester area, but they are endeavouring to contract out of their financial difficulties. That is the nub of the argument, and I should like some hon. Members opposite to address themselves to it.
I have heard with interest the spokesmen for Poynton and Wilmslow going into historical antiquity to justify the extension of the area. However I remind the House that Lord Redcliffe-Maud said that without Wilmslow the concept of a greater Manchester metropolitan area would be completely illogical. The Minister should explain in detail to the people of the metropolitan area what prompted this last-minute conversion.
It was not a last-minute conversion. This has been the view since the reorganisation of local government was first suggested and consistently and solidly the view of all the electors of Wilmslow.
But it is not primarily a matter of the opinion of the residents of Wilmslow or Poynton; it is primarily a matter of the interests of the people of the greater Manchester metropolitan area. At the Conservative Party conference at Blackpool, the Minister met delegations from Wilmslow and the other areas of North-East Cheshire who put their representations on a personal basis. I should have preferred the Minister to have heard people from the envisaged metropolitan area before changing his mind.
It reminds me of St. Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus, but changes of mind have been a feature of the Minister's attitude throughout consideration of the Bill. We had the same situation with the "Fiddler on the Roof" and the separation of Bury and Radcliffe from Rochdale. The Minister should have some regard for consistency and for the interests of the people and the structure of the envisaged metropolitan authority, and reject the Lords Amendment.
I rise on a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I gathered that at this stage we were to debate only Wilmslow and so the argument for Poynton has not been fully made. At this stage, would I be allowed to discuss the Lords Amendment concerned with Wilmslow and later to support that in respect of Poynton?
I rise to support the case for excluding the village of Poynton-with-Worth and I hope that I shall be permitted naturally to support the argument for excluding Wilmslow, too.
I have previously strongly supported the village. I speak for more than 88 per cent. of the village in this matter, not only those who may support me in a future election and who supported me at the by-election, but members of two other parties who did not support me, for the village of Poynton is united in wishing to remain in Cheshire.
I welcome the decision that was reached by a narrow majority in another place, but reached in knowledge of the true situation—that the interests of Poynton lie with Cheshire. I regret to say that on a previous occasion inaccuracies were uttered in this place and they may have prevailed and swung the argument. They were advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen), but I will not delay the House by going into too many of them today.
It has been said that the people of Wilmslow wish not to be associated with greater Manchester. I remind the House that Wilmslow has re-housed many thousands of people from greater Manchester, accepting that financial burden to the advantage of the people of Manchester. But many of the people who live on the new estates wish to remain outside Manchester. Macclesfield, too, has undertaken the great financial burden of re-housing many people from the less desirable and the deprived areas of greater Manchester.
It has been said that there is some connection between where people work and where they live. However, as was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster), people often move away from where they work for good reasons. I do not wish now to go into the pros and cons of those reasons, but we should honour them.
More than 27 per cent. of the people of Poynton work in the greater Manchester area, but that means that 73 per cent. work outside greater Manchester, many of them on the new industrial estates, one of which is now springing up in Poynton itself, while another has been established at Macclesfield. People from the village have much to do with Macclesfield.
As the Member for the area, I spent a great deal of time in the Recess meeting not only the action committee, which has conducted a wonderful campaign, highlighting the desire to remain in Cheshire, but many of the amazing number of people who shop in Macclesfield, which is a developing shopping centre. People who in the past may have looked to greater Manchester or Stockport, or even Manchester itself, do not now do so. They look towards Macclesfield for shopping centres, and for industry they look to Macclesfield, Poynton and Woodford. Ultimately Woodford may be included in the greater Manchester area, but many people now look to those areas which do not at present lie within the greater Manchester area.
I am surprised at some of the comments that have been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Often we hear the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) rightly making pleas on behalf of people. Local government is about people. Surely, they should be allowed some say in what is to happen in local government.
Six months ago the people of Poynton presented a petition to the Secretary of State, a copy of which was sent to my right hon. Friend the Minister. I think 86 per cent. of the people indicated clearly that they wanted to remain in the county of Cheshire. When this matter was argued at an earlier stage, my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North said that support for "Poynton for Cheshire" was dwindling and, because of the setback they had suffered, it would probably peter out. I should advise the hon. Member for Wythenshawe that six months after the first petition was organised, a second petition to his Royal Highness Prince Charles the Earl of Chester was organised by the "Poynton for Cheshire" campaign committee with the same purpose in view—that the village should remain in Cheshire. On this occasion over 88 per cent. of the people clearly indicated what they wanted. This was after all the emotion had died down. I should be a very stupid man--and I think this House would be acting in a very undemocratic way—if such an overwhelming expression of opinion was ignored.
I can also agree with that. Perhaps wisdom has at last prevailed. It may be that in this instance my right hon. Friend has come to believe that democracy in local government means something and that, particularly concerning Poynton, it would be an abuse of democracy if the overwhelming opinion which has been expressed were ignored.
The village feels very strongly about this matter. I do not want to re-emphasise too much, but this is right across the parties. It refers to those not only within the Conservative and Liberal ranks but right across the party structure. This is a clear indication that the village is interested in itself.
On a previous occasion I referred to the tremendous community spirit in this village. It does a great deal for itself. I believe that this House should honour it and allow Poynton to remain in Cheshire.
I want to go back to Wilmslow because one or two unkind things have been said about it—for example, that it is trying to avoid its responsibility; that the people of the Greater Manchester area could do with the rateable value that Wilmslow would bring to them.
I remind the House that Macclesfield, particularly the Borough of Macclesfield, suffered greatly in the industrial revolution and thereafter. At Question Time today I drew attention to the massive contraction of the textile industry. This has created great problems for Macclesfield. There are many eyesores, which I hope will benefit from the Government's "Operation Eyesore", which need to be put right so that the area can offer amenity to all the people. This can be helped substantially by the addition of Wilmslow. Basically, Macclesfield is surrounded by a rural area, and the rateable value is not very high. It would be a great asset to have the additional rateable value of Wilmslow in the new district to help the deprived areas of Macclesfield. It may be a Conservative seat, but many areas need a great deal doing to them, and I believe that Wilmslow can add a great deal.
Equally, the urban dereliction, which is such a feature of life in Manchester, would be helped by the rateable value represented by Wilmslow if it were to go in the greater Manchester metropolitan area.
It would not be right for me to argue about an area which I do not know very well. I respect the opinions expressed by the hon. Gentleman, who knows his area very well. No doubt he respects my opinions about Macclesfield, which I know a little better than he does.
I must come back to the argument about Poynton and local democracy. This village has expressed itself twice in very fine terms. It is united in its objective of remaining in Cheshire. All the local authorities involved are unanimous in their wish that this area should remain in Cheshire.
The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) said that the Cheshire County Council is a reactionary Tory county council, and he brought in the matter of education. I remind the hon. Gentleman that Poynton possesses a brand new comprehensive school provided by that reactionary Tory county council.
Poynton has a very strong Labour Party which has helped tremendously towards that objective. I wish the hon. Gentleman would not spoil his case. If he will argue that Poynton should remain in Cheshire, I assure him that, whatever the Whips may say, I shall be in his Lobby tonight. If he will not stop involving Wilmslow in it, which I believe is an integral part of Manchester, I will be in the other Lobby. The hon. Gentleman must try to make up his mind what he is talking about. If he will concentrate on his constituency, which I know as well as he does, and talk about Poynton and forget Wilmslow, we might reach some amicable agreemdent on which way we should vote.
All the local authorities in Cheshire—the Cheshire County Council, the Macclesfield Rural District Council and the Poynton Parish Council—are unanimous in their wish that this area should remain in Cheshire. The people of Poynton are concerned about their village. The depth of feeling in the action group and the support which it has been given in organising this campaign for the village to stay in Cheshire is outstanding. I pay tribute to the efforts that have been put into this campaign.
The two petitions which have been organised, the massive lobbying, letters, and correspondence which have been generated have all been done voluntarily by the people of Poynton. Not one penny of public money has gone into this particular campaign. No council has allocated funds for the village to remain in Cheshire. The campaign has the support of all the local councils, but the campaign itself has been fought and contested by the local people. I believe this House should recognise their objective and honour the Lords Amendment.
I shall be brief because I think the Government have given all the answers to the supporters of the Lords Amendment—if not to the Lords in 1200 when the Charter for Poynton was supposed to have been granted.
Last week in the House of Lords and here the Government have been asking their supporters to stand on their heads, and presumably they will dutifully do so. I can understand the Minister's dilemma. He wants the Bill this week and he wants to get rid of it. For that I do not blame him, because he has had it a long time. We are asked to support these Lords Amendments not because they make for a proper reorganisation of local government in Manchester or Cheshire but because the Government want the Bill this week and they made a mistake in the House of Lords.
If the Government made a mistake in the House of Lords they seem to have been in good company. Looking down the list of the names of those who said "Content", we see Addison, Beswick, Blyton, Davies of Leek, Gaitskell, Gardiner, Maybray-King, Moyle, Royle, Serota, Strabolgi, and Summerskill.
Anything can happen in the other place.
I live in a district within the Greater Manchester area. It is not in the City of Manchester but will be part of the district within the new Greater Manchester. I remember the discussion which various councils in the area had when the 1957 White Paper was published. All the councils were unanimous that they wanted to stay exactly as they were unless they could take in the nearest smaller local authority. Poynton is one of those at the end of the line.
Like the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), I live in an area like Poynton, which has a great community spirit. It has a community association, active churches, garden societies, and all the other things. It does not have a council but that does not stop it from being a community and a good one at that. We ought to emphasise, when Poynton is being asked to go into Manchester, to form part of the district within greater Manchester, that it is more logical that it should be in greater Manchester than governed from Chester.
Wilmslow is, if anything, even more closely involved with the city and greater Manchester. A body of men and women live in Wilmslow although they work within Manchester and have influence there because of their interest in business or education or other spheres of activity. Indeed, 15 of the city magistrates live in Wilmslow. I wonder how many of the Chester magistrates live in Wilmslow.
I had a letter from a Poynton resident this morning and it says:
I have been to Manchester twice in eight years. We drove round for half an hour trying to find a parking spot and then promptly came back home.
I must say quite frankly—if I may use the expression—that she is rather a rare bird if she has been to Manchester only twice in eight years.
However, I understand how the residents of Poynton feel about the green belt and open spaces. They are worried about that, but I believe that a greater danger to the green belt and open spaces around Poynton comes not from the form of local government reorganisation but from speculative builders and from the Government in their drive for more spaces for houses. Greater Manchester and the city are as keenly interested in good town and country planning as are any other authorities.
The hon. and learned Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster) talked about capital expenditure by Cheshire in this area. Perhaps the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I should think that the loan charges on public buildings in this area ought to be taken over by the new authorities for the area and not kept by Cheshire County Council. In any case, Wilmslow would become an administrative centre for north-east Cheshire while the rest of north-east Cheshire, Stalybridge and Hyde and so on, have nothing to do with Manchester.
There are many residents who want to move out from the central area of Manchester but receive their profits and their pay and their rents from the city area and do not wish to pay the rates for running a complicated area like greater Manchester. This is what I would call unenlightened self-interest. One word which ought to be used in this connection is "snobbery". It is time we heard the last of that word.
I urge the Government to think again and reject this Lords Amendment.
As one whose first constituency was the Borough of Eccles, may I join with what an hon. Member opposite and others have said about the late Jack McCann. I watched him for many years as a councillor for Eccles and I witnessed his becoming its mayor. Ultimately he came to this House to represent Rochdale. I join with them in saying how much we regret his going.
I welcome the speech made by the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) in opposing what has been proposed by another place, as I welcome the remarks made by the hon. Members for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) and Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks). We are at one in sustaining this great new conception of a Greater Manchester, a great metropolitan area. It seems that the Government have fallen away from their plans for their ultimate objective of making a great success of the higher levels of local government in these great concentrated areas.
This is not in any way to leave unacknowledged what my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) said or to leave unacknowledged the feelings in villages like Withington, which is fighting hard against destruction of such a darling community as Ladybarn and complete rebuilding. Withington village is threatened because of works to prevent traffic inconvenience. I agree with my hon. Friend and others about the small local communities, but I think we have sometimes to look at higher considerations such as the one which is the main objective of the Government. I think the Government accept in good part the point which is being made but are rather frightened to mount their own horses on this occasion.
I have read the debates in another place and even the claims about the existing frontiers of Manchester sufficing for a great metropolitan area, but they would make it quite impossible, judged by rateable values alone, and the proposition here is not acceptable. I know the area as well, perhaps, as any Member of the House, including those like the hon. Gentleman opposite who is frequently on his feet claiming that he lived in Wilmslow for 24 years. It has been said that people of great experience in business and other activities live in Wilmslow and are not prepared to live in a great conurbation and a great metropolitan area such as that of Greater Manchester. I hope that that will be the outcome of our proceedings today vis-à-vis Wilmslow. I know these communities. One never leaves Withington. One leaves Withington and arrives at Altrincham, Bowdon and Wilmslow. Those places are one enormous community which I would like to see threaded together so that they are balanced and so that a better economy can be achieved. Let us consider the authority with which I have a great concern, SELNEC, the great transport authority. Do not let us leave a fragmented quilt.
A great mistake was made by moving Alderley Edge away from its twin, Wilmslow. I was told at breakfast this morning by my darling wife that somebody flew over the area in an aeroplane and decided where the line should be drawn on two green fields. That is silly. However, it does not divert me from the main objective which the Government have in mind. Let us have a great metropolitan area. It is not a matter of moving Amendments in another place to take away certain places—I should like to move a few Amendments to bring in a few places.
If one wants to make a success of a great city or a success of one's life, the basis upon which one does so must be the wealth which one can sustain in following that great ambition. Apropos of that, there is a famous story about the Manchester Corporation providing £5 million to complete the Manchester Ship Canal. The House would not provide the money, but the Corporation did so because it trebled the rateable values of the City of Manchester. These are not matters which can be thrown about in ordinary debate, point counterpoint and debate. These are deeply reflected matters by which events are managed.
I want to see the Manchester conurbation, greater Manchester, given the greatest possible chance to succeed. One of the tragedies of our cities, not only Manchester but some elsewhere, is that all to often they have been used as areas of extraction. Wilmslow has often faced extraction from Manchester, not only its people but the money which they make in the city. A splendid business like Finnegans has left Deansgate a wilderness. The building is still unoccupied. It is now a great, thriving business in Wilmslow. Next will be Kendal Milne's, We shall become a total wilderness. The case for resisting the Lords Amendment has been made and I fully support the speech made by the hon. Member for Wythenshawe.
Although I am a North-Western Member from the Opposition Front Bench, I do not want to deal with many of the excellent arguments which have been adduced from both sides about shopping areas, go-to-work areas, rates and various other local problems. Such arguments have been well expressed not only by hon. Members who represent neighbouring constituencies, but, in the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas), by a Member who for 24 years lived in Wilmslow. It is the opinion of all hon. Members, other than the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who is so interested in the matter as it comes within his constituency, but including the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary), that it is wrong that the House should agree and concur with the Lords in what they have done in the last stages of the Bill.
I shall follow the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington because he expressed the view of the Government and the view of the Opposition. The Government in their wisdom decided that they would set up great conurbation areas. The Opposition, although they differed from the Government on a number of matters, broadly supported the Government in the concept of a great, sufficiently rich metropolitan area in a given place. Why else were there not Amendments, as my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) said, to taken Wigan from Manchester—proud Wigan, an ancient town as old as Manchester, a Roman foundation? Speaking for Bolton, which I represented for eight years, I think that if there were a poll in Bolton there would be a substantial poll against going into greater Manchester. If there were a poll in Southport, which is in the Merseyside conurbation, whether Southport should join the Merseyside conurbation and not be a part of Lancashire, I think that Southport would choose to remain part of Lancashire.
The Opposition supported the concept of a big and sufficiently resourceful area. I give the Government great credit because throughout the Bill they have been prepared to look at issues and reconsider them. We have not agreed on everything but on many issues there has been agreement between the two sides of the Committee or the House, and when representations have been made by individual back benchers there has also been agreement. That was so when I moved Amendments relating to my constituency, and many other hon. Members can say the same. However, we are now dealing with an entirely different matter.
We persuaded the Government to change their minds and the Government did so either in Committee or between Committee and Report after intensive negotiations between hon. Members concerned, deputations and debates. The Government changed their position and gave reasons for doing so. The only reason that the Government are in the embarrassing position that they are in this evening—that of agreeing with the Lords Amendment—is that they were beaten in the Lords.
In the 12 months since the Bill came before the House, there have been representations by the hon. Member for Macclesfield and other hon. Members and by the local authorities regarding Wilmslow, Bowdon and Bramhall. The Government always replied consistently that although these representations might represent local wishes and feeling, they would interfere with the concept of the greater Manchester and therefore could not be allowed. The Government were consistent not only in Committee but also on Report. We know from the debate in another place that only a week before the Amendment was carried in the Lords the right hon. Gentleman received a deputation from Wilmslow and the Government correctly held fast to the view, which had been expressed in Committee and in the House, that it was essential that Wilmslow should remain in the greater Manchester area. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Local Government and Development held that view right to the last moment.
In the House of Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, right to the last moment urged his fellow peers to support the Government on the same principle which the right hon. Gentleman had urged this House to follow. The Opposition are asking the Government to disagree with this Lords Amendment for the same reason which the Government themselves advanced consistently until 16th October—that Wilmslow properly belongs to the greater Manchester area and that it is a nonsense to the whole of that area to suggest that Wilmslow can be divided from it and put in the county of Cheshire.
It was not only Lord Sandford who stressed this point over and over again in another place. An independent view was expressed by possibly the greatest expert on local government reorganisation in this country, speaking from the cross-benches. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) has already quoted a passage from Lord Redcliffe-Maud and I want to quote what Lord Redcliffe-Maud said about this Amendment. He said:
That the Government have set their face against, because it would be inconsistent with
the principle upon which they have been drawing Metropolitan Areas, and no one in their senses would ask them to change their mind at this stage. But I suggest that it would he ludicrous to exclude Wilmslow and continue with the concept of Greater Manchester.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 16th October, 1972; Vol. 335, c. 1586.]
That was the view expressed by the noble Lord who was responsible for the massive Redcliffe-Maud Report. He gave his opinion on various Amendments before the House of Lords during the proceedings of the Bill there. Thus, in addition to the consistent view of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Local Government and Development, and of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, we have this independent voice in the House of Lords stating that it would be a nonsense to continue with the concept of greater Manchester if this Amendment were acceded to.
We know that the Minister has no faith in what the other place has done—I accept that. I have had experience of him on this Bill both in Committee and in the House and know that when he has made up his mind on a position and thinks that he is right he is prepared to fight it out, no matter what the opposition. He has told us today that he has not completely withdrawn from his view that greater Manchester should include Wilmslow.
What, therefore, have we as the House of Commons got? I put this point to hon. Members opposite as well as to my hon. Friends. We have had a consistent view by the Government from the very beginning. But now, because of a defeat in another place, the Government are being put in the ludicrously embarrassing position of having to stand on their heads on the issue. Why are they having to stand on their heads? Why are they having to go back on all the words they expressed previously? Is it not because the House of Lords has effected a change of mind on the part of the Government. It is because the Government dare not disagree with the Lords Amendment because they have allowed a parliamentary situation to develop whereby we are in the last hours of the Session, so that the whole of the local government of the country is to be affected by what a few unelected Members of another place may decide and the Government have not the courage to ask the House of Commons to disagree.
I do not accept that. My noble Friends in another place very often have a mind of their own—not only on this matter but on such issues as the Common Market—and if we were to rely on being consistent with what they say, we would have a sorry business in this House.
Even at this late stage, I ask the Government and hon. Members opposite to have courage and say, "We will have the courage to stand by our convictions in the concept of local government which we have followed from the start, and we believe that Wilmslow should be part of greater Manchester. We will put it back where it belongs—in greater Manchester." I hope that both my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite will, on ground of consistency in local government, have the courage to go into the Lobby and disagree with the Lords Amendment.
I accept that I have dealt only with Lords Amendment No. 8, dealing with Wilmslow, from the Front Bench point of view. The Opposition have no view one way or another about Poynton. We are not dealing there with a very large area, which is not the case with Wilmslow. Wilmslow is a very large area; with Poynton, one is dealing with a village. One can say that Poynton has in many ways closer links with Cheshire than with Manchester. But this is not a major issue. Wilmslow, however, does raise a major point. I asked earlier in the debate for separate Divisions so that hon. Members could exercise their votes in different ways, if they wished, on Wilmslow and Poyton. The majority in another place for the Poynton Amendment was only one. There is no official Opposition Front Bench view about Poynton, but I urge my hon. Friends to reject the Lords Amendment dealing with Wilmslow.
I rise to support the contentions which were implicit in the Bill and which were unequivocally supported by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development. Throughout all our debates on the Bill, from Second Reading to Third Reading, no powerful representations were made on the Floor of this House, to my recollection, about the case of Wilmslow. On the other hand, the representations by Poynton were extremely consistent and determined. From the beginning, Poynton was determined to fight for its retention in Cheshire County Council. Not so Wilmslow. Wilmslow has come up fast towards the finishing post and has made its representations known by what may have been a massive lobby.
This local government reorganisation is possibly the most important reform in local government this century. Probably it is the last major local government reform we shall have this century. It is, therefore, a little unfortunate that we should he stampeded, as we are being tonight, into taking a decision which will affect the lives of people in the North-West for decades.
I believe we are being asked to support Lords Amendment No. 8 not from principle but from expediency. That is unworthy in view of the many hours devoted to debating the merits and demerits of the case. I have received a letter from a Cheshire county councillor, a very prominent gentleman, who unequivocally supports the view that Wilmslow should be part of the greater Manchester area. He states that every district in the Stockport area—including Cheadle and Gatley, Hazel Grove and Bramhall and others—equally did not wish to join the greater Manchester metropolitan county area but in their wisdom had decided that if we were to have viable local government reform they had no real justification for resisting the change, particularly in the light of the criteria in the White Paper, which points out:
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.
If it ever applied to any area it applies to Wilmslow vis-à-vis Manchester.
I cannot understand why we should change our views. There is no doubt that the real reason is that the Government have been pressurised. Cheadle and Gatley were linked with Wilmslow very closely. It has been said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster) that Wilmslow and Stockport have no community of interest, but Stockport is part of a metropolitan county district comprising Cheadle and Gatley, and the village of Cheadle Hulme, in Cheadle and Gatley, shares a common boundary with Wilmslow.
How can Wilmslow suggest that it has no community interest with Manchester when Manchester Airport is almost in Wilmslow itself, and the whole of Ring-way and Wythenshawe continues on to Wilmslow? If one looks at the map of the proposed metropolitan county one finds that Wilmslow is between nine and 10 miles south of the Manchester city centre, but going up north we have Rams-bottom, Wardle, Littleborough and Turton, north of Bolton. If Wilmslow has no community of interest with Manchester, nine miles away, what community of interest has Turton got?
We have been discussing this from a rather selfish and narrow view, but for the benefit of the region we should have considered the whole region. There is a certain amount of resistance on this side, and certainly in Wilmslow, when we discuss Manchester, because Manchester has always been regarded as "Big Brother". If we could have had some name other than Greater Manchester there might have been far fewer protestations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Man, chester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) excited me when he discussed the great adventure of the Ship Canal, and Manchester has also spent a very great deal of money on one of the greatest airports in Europe. It has made a great economic contribution to the region. Wilmslow is extricably in that region and it is only from sheer selfishness that it wishes to opt out. There is no economic reason, no local government administrative reason, why it should stay out. It is purely that it does not wish to be associated with the Greater Manchester area.
What is so distressing in this is that very many industrialists and business and professional men who serve the needs of Manchester but who live in Wilmslow want to opt out of any further responsibility after half-past five in the evening. This is distressing, because one cannot have these very able people not being interested in the wellbeing of the region as a whole. It is just not enough for such a man to say: "I go to Manchester, I work in Manchester, I serve Manchester people, but after that I have no interest in the social, the cultural or the economic wellbeing of the City. That is for someone else to take care of, not for me, thank you." It is a very unreasonable attitude to take.
When one looks at the effect of the proposed county district one sees that Wilmslow is naturally in the region. We look at Saddleworth, at Leigh, at Westhoughton and we look at Wilmslow. The proximity of Wilmslow to Manchester is undeniable. If one cares to travel along the road from Wilmslow to Manchester between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. one finds that the traffic is massive. It moves in a northerly direction from Wilmslow, commuting into the great city. To say that Wilmslow has no community of interest with Manchester is rather like saying that some of the areas south of London, such as Croydon, have no community of interest whatsoever with London. The suggestion is just not acceptable. I would not have minded had the case been advanced on principle, but I believe that it has been advanced purely for selfish reasons. There is nothing detrimental to the interests of Wilmslow in acceptance of being a part of the big North-West region—nothing to deter its supporting this proposal.
I have very great respect for the Minister because he is a man of deep conviction, and I know that his heart is not in this Amendment. I know that he is, generally speaking, being put into an extremely difficult position. How many commissions have we had? Every local government commission over the last 20 years has put this area in the GMC conurbation. Every commission which has made a study in depth of local government reorganisation in the North-West region has unhesitatingly recommended that Wilmslow be part of the metropolitan area, and has included Alderley Edge.
It has been said that the areas have been too tightly drawn. My memory goes back a few years to the time when the Redcliffe-Maud Commission recommended some rather dramatic changes which would have virtually wiped out the county of Cheshire. That county was naturally very deeply distressed and disturbed, and no doubt representations were made here on its behalf. When my right hon. Friend decided not to accept the Redcliffe-Maud recommendation and came up with a more reasonable proposal, the Cheshire County Council breathed a great sigh of relief and was extremely grateful to him. This recommendation envisaged Alderley Edge and Wilmslow being part of the economic county area.
As a result of pressure—I am almost inclined to say as a result of wheeling and dealing—Alderley Edge was excluded. Disley was excluded, and went into the area of the Derbyshire County Council. There was a certain unanimity among the powers-that-be in Cheshire that that should be so. But it was after the Measure had gone through the whole democratic procedure in this Chamber and had found its way to the other place that the lobbyists got busy, and the arm twisting started against the principles enshrined in the White Paper.
It is the White Paper that motivated my right hon. Friend to propose that this area be the greater Manchester metropolitan area, and nothing has been said in the other place to change my view on that. I feel sure that the people who recommended these proposals to the Government have not been convinced either, but unfortunately, pressures being what they are and the time being what it is, we are now being expected to reject what was basic to the White Paper proposals. I am sorry about this, and I will not support the Lords Amendment. I shall vote against it.
Although I have in the past suggested that Poynton should be included, I will follow the lead of hon. Members opposite. If I can retain Wilmslow in the Man- chester area, I shall not raise any opposite views on Poynton because I know, having lived there, that there have been social relationships with Macclesfield which are greater than Wilmslow ever had. It would surprise me if Wilmslow and Macclesfield ever sat in the same council chamber in the future. I can well imagine that Wilmslow would want to sit in a council chamber with Knutsford. I can imagine, and I have heard it on the bush telegraph, that it would like to be associated with a new county council based on Wilmslow or Knutsford. I have never noticed any real community interest between Wilmslow and Macclesfield. One would be very lucky to get a bus from Wilmslow to Macclesfield, and one cannot travel between the two by train. One can go only by car.
There is a distinct difference between Poynton, which is on a direct commuter line to Macclesfield, and Wilmslow. How can the latter claim any community of interest with the North-West area, located as it is, when Hale, Bowden, Ringway and Altrincham have to accept that they are associated with the greater Manchester area?
If the Hale people had held a referendum, 99 per cent. would have opted to stay in Cheshire. The same applies to the Cheadle people and the Bramhall people. They do not wish to be associated with Manchester. It is a little unfair that these authorities should have had no opportunity to express their views by a referendum.
If the referendum is the main reason for agreeing to the Lords Amendment, a new dimension is added to our deliberations. One can support referenda on Northern Ireland, the Common Market and many other subjects. But we have decided steadfastly against them. We have concluded that, in the interests of the people as a whole, a certain line of action should be taken and we have defended that action.
If referenda were the criteria, no area south of Manchester, including my own town, would vote to go into Manchester. I can imagine that this would apply up into the North in Turton and Wardle and the other areas. They have never had the opportunity of a referendum. They have never been encouraged to believe that, if 99 per cent. of their people voted against going into Manchester, that would be the end of it.
This makes a mockery of local government recommendations. My right hon. Friend cannot with conviction advise us to agree to this Amendment.
The House is the poorer because my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. John Davies), whose constituency includes the urban district council of Wilmslow is, for reasons well known to the House, unable to answer the caustic criticisms made tonight of that part of his constituency. It has been said that one or two hon. Gentlemen live in this area. May I disclose an interest by saying that I do, too? I have been there, perhaps, not for 24 years, but at least for 21. That is the only ground upon which I will do what I can, as briefly as possible, to project the views in support of the Lords Amendment.
Views which are mainly emotional have been voiced—from both sides of the House, I regret to say—about whether Wilmslow should or should not be in the greater Manchester area. Motives have been attributed which are good, bad or—predominantly—indifferent. But I take note of the views of the late Jack McCann about the wishes of the people. Jack McCann was a man I knew very well within the House and without. One thing that he fought for above all else within the framework of party loyalties was the rights of the people and the need to recognise the deep, passionate and sincere views of people. I challenge any hon. Member to deny that.
Were he here today, I believe that Jack McCann would have taken the fullest possible cognisance of what the people of Wilmslow have said consistently and with great sincerity and force.
In another place, Lord Leatherland said:
…there are two matters I think we have to consider when dealing with these matters of local government reorganisation. One is geography and the other is people, and I feel that in this case the people have been overruled and even geography has had to be stretched."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 16th October, 1972, c. 1597–8.]
The Lords, many of them in the party opposite, took note of the views of the people and rejected the original decision in the Bill.
If this House rejects these passionately held views, it does so at its peril. I know that one or two hon. Gentlemen believe that there should be referenda on all major issues. I do not share that view and I will not try to argue the case for this in broad parliamentary terms on national or international issues. But I will argue the merits of the referendum on local issues.
Local people are responsible and, I passionately hope, will always be responsible for governing their own communities with the absolute minimum of dictation and influence from this House. If they, through their normal constitutional local governmental channels, have gone to the trouble to consult their electorate—not in a highly emotional and supercilious way, but deeply and continuously—this House will be ill advised to ignore the views of those people.
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that, if any village, urban district or borough in the greater Manchester area decided that it would rather be governed from Preston or Chester, its wish should be granted? What kind of county government should we get then?
I do not say that this should be the sole criterion by which decisions should be taken, but I repeat that, if we fail to give reasonable weight to the opinions of the people, we do so at our peril.
Highly emotional criteria can be injected at all levels, particularly in tightly-knit communities. This is not a matter purely of emotion or of selfish interest which has activated 30,000 residents of the Wilmslow Urban District Council to express and consistently to press the views enshrined in the Amendment.
To start with, where does the hon. Gentleman get the figure of 30,000? That is more than the total population of the Wilmslow urban district. Would he agree that no one on either side appreciates more than I the great work that Jack McCann did in this House? He was a tremendous Member of Parliament, appreciated by both sides. But Jack McCann would have said that it is the long-term view that matters. He would of course note what people said, but he would have acted—as I believe the hon. Member himself would do—in the interests of the people as a whole and not just of a particular section.
I take note of that point and would not challenge it, in the sense that the late Jack McCann would have taken note of issues in addition to local views and anxieties. If we were to be moved solely and exclusively by local issues, and if that were the sole criterion, this would be a bad decision.
The figure of 30,000 is the population in round figures of the Wilmslow urban district, and it is growing at a phenomenal rate. Those 30,000 people have expressed their views, as have the people who have become residents of Wilmslow urban district, and particularly people in the Handforth area. Indeed some 93 per cent. of households in the district have expressed their views forcibly and effectively in terms of the debates in the other place. I am sure that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) will be prepared to accept this, not as a matter of opinion, but as a fact.
I could go through the whole case in detail on behalf of the citizens of Wilmslow urban district council, but suffice it to say that any hon. Member who was sufficiently interested will have read the document which was sent to every single Member of Parliament. If hon. Members have not read that document, it shows their cavalier attitude to an expression of public opinion. It displays a disregard for those views in an attempt to rise roughshod over the local population for what I can only described as devious and doubtful reasons.
The case for this Amendment has been spelt out in the other place where the intrinsic merits were discussed. It would be a mockery and an abdication of regard for the feelings of the people if this House were to reverse that decision and to fly violently in the face of the public of Wilmslow.
I, like the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas), inter- vene in this debate briefly not because I represent a constituency in this area but because I have lived all my life until the last election at a point directly between Wilmslow and Poynton. I hope that the House will accept Lords Amendment No. 9 which will exclude the village of Poynton-with-Worth from Manchester metropolitan county. I do not want tonight to argue one way or the other about the position of Wilmslow.
Most of the arguments on these Amendments have been on the assumption that the reform of local government would be based on the city-region concept but this is not what the Government's proposals are about. I should add that on Report I spoke in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) when he sought to exclude Poynton from the metropolitan county. I wish to pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the energy he has displayed on this matter. There is a fundamental difference in respect of this village and I believe that an exception should be made in terms of Poynton.
The fundamental difference is twofold. I speak as a planner and I believe that it is vital to preserve the albeit tenuous stretch of green belt which exists between Hazel Grove and Poynton. It can be argued that the consequence on the green belt is nothing to do with the shape of local government. In other words, if Poynton were in the metropolitan county, it would not necessarily mean that the green belt would go, but there is a much stronger chance of that green belt being saved if Poynton remains in Cheshire county. Geographically one can argue that Poynton should remain in Cheshire. On political grounds in the broadest sense it is a peculiar proposition that Poynton should become part of the Manchester metropolitan county. It would have been the only part of the Macclesfield rural district that would have been taken into the Manchester area. Therefore, I believe that we should make an exception in this respect. Incidentally, I well recall the rural ride of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) in the Macclesfield constituency in 1955 and his quick ride out after the result of the election.
The hon. Gentleman may like to know that after I fought Blackpool, South in 1951 they made my opponent a knight six months later, that when I fought Macclesfield in 1955 they made my opponent a knight in three months, and then in Huddersfield, West when I beat the sitting Member they made him a peer within one month.
In talking about Poynton one is talking about 0·3 per cent. of the new Manchester metropolitan county; and Poynton contains about 3 per cent. of the total population of the new district centred upon Stockport.
I am not saying that whatever the people in an area think the Government should accept, but that if the arguments are finely balanced, then they should. It is said that the arguments about Poynton are finely balanced for and against, but I must point out that 90 per cent. of the electorate of that village want to remain part of Cheshire county. Therefore, I believe that the Government are wise, whatever their original views on this topic, to accept the Lords Amendment, an Amendment which was supported on both sides in the House of Lords.
My hon. Friend has made these observations about Poynton from his experience and qualifications as a planner. Would he care to say whether by allowing Poynton to remain in Cheshire and by bringing Wilmslow into Manchester, this would not make
I am doubtful about planners who think they can judge everything by drawing a line on the map. I take my hon. Friend's point. If Poynton remained in Cheshire, then geographically it adds to his case for Wilmslow's staying in Cheshire. I shall support the Government in the Lobby in their wish to keep Wilmslow in Cheshire. But I am not speaking specifically to the argument about Wilmslow. I am confining myself to the argument about Poynton.
The arguments are finely balanced. Consequently, I believe that the balance should come down in favour of the overwhelming desire of the local residents. It is unfair to say that my right hon. Friend has stood on head the arguments that he used. He has admitted that he seeks to agree with the Lords Amendment with reservations. It is a tribute to my right hon. Friend that, balancing the arguments, he has decided to take cognisance of the overwhelming wishes of the local residents. That is true local government and true democracy at work.
|Division No. 344.]||AYES||[7.12 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Cormack, Patrick||Gummer, J. Selwyn|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Costain, A. P.||Hall-Davis A. G. F.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Crouch, David||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Crowder, F. P.||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid,Maj.-Gen.Jack||Hawkins, Paul|
|Balniel, Rt. Hon. Lord||Dean, Paul||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Benyon, W.||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Hiley, J.|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Dykes, Hugh||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)|
|Biffen, John||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Holland, Philip|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Blaker, Peter||Eyre, Reginald||Hordern, Peter|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Farr, John||Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia|
|Boscawen, Hn. Robert||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Hunt, John|
|Bray, Ronald||Fookes, Miss Janet||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Brewis, John||Fortescue, Tim||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Fowler, Norman||James, David|
|Buck, Antony||Fox, Marcus||Jessel, Toby|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Gardner, Edward||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gibson-Watt, David||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Goodhart, Philip||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Goodhew, Victor||Kinsey, J. R.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Gorst, John||Kirk, Peter|
|Churchill, W. S.||Gower, Raymond||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Knox, David|
|Clegg, Walter||Gray, Hamish||Lane, David|
|Cockeram, Eric||Green, Alan||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Cooke, Robert||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Coombs, Derek||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Le Marchant, Spencer|
|Cordle, John||Grylls, Michael||Longden, Sir Gilbert|
|Loveridge, John||Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)||Soref, Harold|
|Luce, R. N.||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Speed, Keith|
|MacArthur, Ian||Parkinson, Cecil||Spence, John|
|McCrindle, R. A.||Percival, Ian||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|McLaren, Martin||Pink, R. Bonner||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|McNair-Wilson, Michael||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Stokes, John|
|Maddan, Martin||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Madel, David||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Mawby, Ray||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Raison, Timothy||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Trew, Peter|
|Mitchell, Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire,W)||Redmond, Robert||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Moate, Roger||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Money, Ernie||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Monks, Mrs. Connie||Ridsdale, Julian||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Monro, Hector||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Murton, Oscar||Scott, Nicholas|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Normanton, Tom||Simeons, Charles||Mr. Kenneth Clarke and|
|Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Skeet, T. H. H.||Mr. Michael Jopling.|
|Osborn, John||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Abse, Leo||Horam, John||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Albu, Austen||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Pentland, Norman|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Allen, Scholefield||Huckfield, Leslie||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Ashton, Joe||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Prescott, John|
|Atkinson, Norman||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Probert, Arthur|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Janner, Greville||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Beaney, Alan||John, Brynmor||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn Anthony Wedgwood||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Bishop, E. S.||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Kaufman, Gerald||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor)|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Kelley, Richard||Rose, Paul B.|
|Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne,W.)||Kerr, Russell||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Buchan, Norman||Kinnock, Neil||Rowlands, Ted|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Latham, Arthur||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Lawson, George||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton,N.E.)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Leonard, Dick||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Sillars, James|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Silverman, Julius|
|Cohen, Stanley||Lomas, Kenneth||Skinner, Dennis|
|Concannon, J. D.||Loughlin, Charles||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Davidson, Arthur||McCartney, Hugh||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Strang, Gavin|
|Davis, Terry (Brom[...]grove)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Doig, peter||Marks, Kenneth||Swain, Thomas|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Eadie, Alex||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)|
|Edeiman, Maurice||Mayhew, Christopher||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Torney, Tom|
|Ellis, Tom||Mendelson, John||Varley, Eric G.|
|Evans, Fred||Millan, Bruce||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Ewing, Harry||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Wallace, George|
|Foot, Michael||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Ford, Ben||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Forrester, John||Moyle, Roland||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Oakes, Gordon||Whitlock, William|
|Golding, John||O'Malley, Brian||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Oram, Bert||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Orme, Stanley||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Oswald, Thomas||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Woof, Robert|
|Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Paget, R. T.|
|Hardy, Peter||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Pardoe, John||Mr. Michael Hamilton and|
|Hattersley, Roy||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)||Mr. Joseph Harper.|
|Division No. 345.]||AYES||[7.20 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Green, Alan||Murton, Oscar|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Grylls, Michael||Normanton, Tom|
|Awdry, Daniel||Gummer, J. Selwyn||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Gurden, Harold||Osborn, John|
|Benyon, W.||Hall-Davis A. G. F.||Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Biffen, John||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Pardoe, John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hawkins, Paul||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Blaker, Peter||Hayhoe, Barney||Percival, Ian|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Hiley, Joseph||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Boscawen, Hn. Robert||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Holland, Philip||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Hooson, Emlyn||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Bray, Ronald||Hordern, Peter||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Brewis, John||Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia||Raison, Timothy|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Buck, Antony||Hunt, John||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Redmond, Robert|
|Carlisle, Mark||Iremonger, T. L.||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||James, David||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Chapman, Sydney||Jessel, Toby||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Clegg, Walter||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Cockeram, Eric||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Cooke, Robert||Kinsey, J. R.||Scott, Nicholas|
|Coombs, Derek||Kirk, Peter||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Cordle, John||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Simeons, Charles|
|Cormack, Patrick||Knox, David||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Costain, A. P.||Lane, David||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Crouch, David||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Soref, Harold|
|Crowder, F. P.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Speed, Keith|
|Dean, Paul||Le Merchant, Spencer||Spence, John|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Longden, Sir Gilbert||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Dykes, Hugh||Loveridge, John||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Luce, R. N.||Stokes, John|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||MacArthur, Ian||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Eyre, Reginald||McCrindle, R. A.||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Farr, John||McLaren, Martin||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Maddan, Martin||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Madel, David||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Mawby, Ray||Trew, Peter|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Fowler, Norman||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Fox, Marcus||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Gardner, Edward||Miscampbell, Norman||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Mitchell,Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire,W)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Goodhew, Victor||Moate, Roger||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Gorst, John||Money, Ernie||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Gower, Raymond||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Mr. Kenneth Clarke and|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Monro, Hector||Mr. Michael Jopling.|
|Gray, Hamish||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Abse, Leo||Buchan, Norman||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Albu, Austen||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Eadie, Alex|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Edelman, Maurice|
|Allen, Scholefield||Cary, Sir Robert||Edwards, Robert (B[...]lston)|
|Ashton, Joe||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Ellis, Tom|
|Atkinson, Norman||Churchill, W. S.||Evans, Fred|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Ewing, Harry|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Faulds, Andrew|
|Beaney, Alan||Cohen, Stanley||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Concannon, J. D.||Foot, Michael|
|Bishop, E. S.||Crawshaw, Richard||Ford, Ben|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Davidson, Arthu[...]||Forrester, John|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Gilbert, Dr. John|
|Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne,W.)||Dolg, Peter||Goldlng, John|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mayhew, Christopher||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton,N.E.)|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mendelson, John||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Hannan, William (Glasgow, Maryhill)||Millan, Bruce||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hardy, Peter||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Sillars, James|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)||Silverman, Julius|
|Hattersley, Roy||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Horam, John||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Moyle, Roland||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Strang, Gavin|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Oakes, Gordon||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||O'Malley, Brian||Swain, Thomas|
|Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Oram, Bert||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Janner, Greville||Orme, Stanley||Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)|
|John, Brynmor||Oswald, Thomas||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Torney, Tom|
|Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Paget, R. T.||Varley, Eric G.|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Kelley, Richard||Pavitt, Laurie||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Kerr, Russell||Pentland, Norman||Wallace, George|
|Kinnock, Neil||Perry, Ernest G.||Wellbeloved, James|
|Latham, Arthur||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Lawson George||Prescott, John||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Price, William (Rugby)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Leonard Dick||Probert, Arthur||Whitlock, William|
|Lever Rt Hn Harold||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Lomas Kenneth||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Loughlin, Charles||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|McCartney Hugh||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Woof, Robert|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor)|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Rose, Paul B.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Marks, Kenneth||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Rowlands, Ted||Mr. Joseph Harper.|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
On a point of order. We have had a long debate on Wilmslow, in which not only many Opposition Members but many Conservative Members spoke against the Government. Yet at the end of the debate there was no windup speech from the Government Front Bench. Was it embarrassment, or was it because the Government agreed with the Opposition, as they have done consistently? May I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether all debates will be conducted in this way, with no reply to the points raised by hon. Members?
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
The Amendment makes a minor adjustment to the boundary between South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire at Bawtry on the Old Great North Road.
Bawtry in Yorkshire has already extended a little over the county boundary into the neighbouring parish of Harworth, and the Bill already provides for one ward and part of another ward of the parish of Harworth to be moved across the county boundary to join with Bawtry. It has since been found that part of the Bawtry built-up area lies not in these wards but in the east ward.
The Amendment therefore seeks to move the relevant part of the east ward into Bawtry as well, to complete the job which the Bill is setting out to do in this case. The change is acceptable to the local authorities concerned on both sides of the boundary.
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
Perhaps we may discuss with it Lords Amendment No. 13, in page 214, line 12, leave out "Rothwell".
The effect of the two Amendments is to move Rothwell from the district centred on Wakefield to that centred on Leeds. When the House was debating the matter in the middle of the night, many months ago as it seems, I advised hon. Members that it was to the advantage of the reorganisation in the area that Rothwell should be linked with Wakefield. The urban district council of Rothwell favoured this, and a locally organised poll favoured it. It would strengthen a small metropolitan district at the expense of a very large one. We do not have the same arguments here as there were in our previous debates, since whatever happens Rothwell should stay within the metropolitan county.
Since another place took its decision a week ago, my right hon. Friend has received 16 telegrams, 17 letters and a petition, now probably containing over 1,000 signatures, protesting against the decision taken in another place. The arguments in favour of a link with Leeds which were advanced both in another place and in this House on Report were that although Rothwell is distinct from Leeds the important industrial area of Stourton is continuous with Leeds development and indistinguishable from it. Examination of the Stourton area showed that there was undoubtedly very much a meeting point there.
Another point advanced in another place was the imbalance in the Leeds district, particularly the tremendous weight to the north in terms of area and the relatively little weight to the south in the Wakefield district, coming up to within about a mile and a half of the district centre of Leeds.
The main links for employment and transport undoubtedly are between Roth-well and Leeds, both ways, although I would not give that point overwhelming importance. Although the district centred on Wakefield would be strengthened by Rothwell, it does not mean that it would not be viable without Rothwell. Therefore, it cannot be of overwhelming significance.
I felt that the case I advanced a few months ago was strong. Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly fine balances. Since the balance of advantage is relatively fine, and the arguments were finely balanced, notwithstanding the very strong opinions now being expressed by the constituents of the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts) that they should be in a district centred on Wakefield rather than Leeds, we felt that we should not be justifield in seeking to persuade the House to reverse the decision of another place.
The enthusiasm and feeling inside the township of Rothwell for being in an area based on Wakefield are tremendous. That is why so many telegrams and names have been sent to the Department giving reasons why Rothwell should be part of an area based on Wakefield.
The area centred on Wakefield is probably one of the poorest in Yorkshire, whereas district (b), based on Leeds, is one of the wealthiest. The people of Rothwell feel that being in the Wakefield district, district (e), would be of tremendous help to that district, and they also believe that they can be far better identified with that district.
I can refute the arguments advanced in the other place. Their Lordships were told about five buses coming to the Imperial Metals works inside the Roth-well urban district. But it was also stated that 4,000 people were employed there, and five buses mean only about 450 people. It is true that the part in question is only about 2½ miles from the centre of Leeds, but Rothwell itself is equidistant from Leeds and Wakefield.
Our education is linked with Stanley, which is going into the Wakefield district.
We share the same grammar school and the same secondary modern schools, which are second to none in the country. The Rothwell people are very proud of their services. I was a member of the Rothwell Council for 15 years. We had one of the best maternity and child welfare services in the country. Our housing problem is not great. We dealt with immunisation long before some of the county boroughs did.
What is local government all about? Are we to be sacrificed on the high altar of politics?
This weekend I received a number of telephone calls and telegrams about the matter. I must reflect in this Chamber the feelings of the people concerned.
In the other place it was said that Rothwell was 2½ miles from the centre of Leeds. But Cargate, part of Morley Borough, in district (b), comes within a mile and a half of the town hall of Wakefield. That argument cuts both ways.
The people in the area can identify themselves far better with the south side of my constituency than with the north side.
On two occasions Leeds County Borough has tried to annex Rothwell. The last attempt was in 1919. The arguments that were good when it tried twice and failed are equally good today.
I was born and bred in my area. The people there are very anxious to maintain what they have.
I have never been in favour of this local government reorganisation, though I was more or less in favour of the 1963 West Yorkshire Review. Size does not mean quality. It means that millions of pounds of taxpayers' money will be spent to build new edifices and so on if the Bill goes through. I would sooner see some of the smaller authorities brought together which would at least give quality service.
The people in Rothwell understand local government. I was there on Saturday evening at a dance organised by my party, and a person from Leeds said to me, "I am living in Rothwell, Mr. Roberts, and I want to stay there." I said, "Did not you like Leeds?" to which this person replied, "Well, it is far better here. There are better amenities, better housing and first-class services all the way round." Of course, that is perfectly true. Leeds has always had contempt for the south side of the river. I have mentioned this before. Leeds people north of the river have always looked upon the south of the river as the Shoreditch of Leeds. Only now is an attempt being made to clear the place up. This is why the people in Stourton, which is contiguous to Leeds, are so anxious to be re-housed in the Rothwell area. I realise that the Government are making a sacrifice, but probably we shall have a bit of horse-trading over the weekend. They know what is in the minds of the people in Rothwell.
This Lords Amendment ought to be rejected. It was organised in another place, and noble Lords on the Conservative benches voted for this Amendment. It is, therefore, no use my hon. Friends saying that this Amendment ought to be accepted. We ought to reject it, because the people of Rothwell cannot be wrong. The right hon. Gentleman visited the constituency, unknown to me. He said that in his opinion there was a case for Rothwell going into district (e).
Reference has been made to the town's water. We know that it will be nationalised in the near future. We in Rothwell have done more good for local government than possibly Leeds City Council has. We have a large urban district about eight miles in diameter. We had dusk-to-dawn lighting before they ever made the attempt in Leeds. We had sodium lighting, going right to the edge of Leeds, while Leeds was struggling with its gas lamps. If people enjoy such services in a place where there are no pressures for housing, where the aged people are looked after and where education is first-class, what are we talking about? I plead for a rejection of Lords Amendments 12 and 13.
I hesitate to intervene in this debate because Rothwell is not part of my constituency but it happens to be the place where I live, like my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts). Therefore, I must first declare an interest as a ratepayer. It is only right that somebody with close knowledge of the urban district, such as I have, should put a point of view which may not be the majority point of view of the people in Rothwell.
My family have lived in the Rothwell urban district for over 100 years. From my early days I recollect that Rothwell has always been a place close to Leeds. The whole community of interest of the town of Rothwell and the villages of Oulton and Woodlesford, which are the main centres of population in the Roth-well urban district, is towards the city of Leeds and the areas surrounding Leeds.
I will not go into all the details of listing how one can define this community of interest—the transport links, the employment links and the links in public services. Anybody looking at a map can see quite clearly that Rothwell goes towards Leeds. There is a great bulge in the boundary of the city of Leeds—a bulge made up by Rothwell. If Rothwell is taken into metropolitan district (e) based on Wakefield, there will be this great bulge coming into the metropolitan district 6(b). Indeed, if one went by road from Austhorpe, on the eastern side of the city of Leeds, to Middleton which is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), one would find that the quickest way would take one through the middle of Woodlesford and the middle of Oulton and Rothwell—the main centres of the community in the urban district.
Judged on a balance of a community of interest, Rothwell is part of the whole area centred upon Leeds. In many ways I should like to see it going into the Wakefield area because it is there that my own constituency has an interest. I differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton when he says that Wakefield district is entirely a poor district. There is within it the urban district of Knottingley, which is part of my constituency and is in fact a very wealthy district from the point of view of industrial rateable value.
In this reorganisation nobody is trying to make the people of Rothwell into people of Leeds. They will be part of a new district, with other places besides Leeds—Pudsey, Morley, Horsforth and Otley—places where there will be different characteristics to contribute to the local authority. The decision of the Government, having changed their minds on this, is the right one. There is this community of interest between Rothwell and Leeds which can find expression if Rothwell belongs to the new metropolitan district which is based upon the centre of Leeds.
There are two points which have been responsible for a great deal of feeling within Rothwell on this issue. First, there was the feeling that if Rothwell were part of the metropolitan district based on Leeds, it would be under-represented at metropolitan district level. Indeed, when the draft proposals from the Home Office were published and one looked at the figures, it was shown that there would be for representing Rothwell one councillor for every 7,000 electors, compared with one councillor for 5,500 electors as the average right through the district. I therefore think that there were legitimate grounds for grievance within Rothwell that it would be under-represented in the new metropolitan district council.
I know that these draft proposals from the Home Office axe intended to apply only to the first lot of elections which will take place next year, but I know how very often the thin edge of the wedge gets in and things become perpetuated from early beginnings.
If, as a result of this debate, Rothwell is returned to the metropolitan district based upon Leeds, serious consideration should be directed, therefore, to giving Rothwell better representation within Leeds. I shall gladly confer with my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton on this point, for there is a case for saying that the Home Office should look at that aspect of the matter again.
Second, some of the feeling in Roth-well which has led people to want to belong to the district based upon Wakefield has arisen because they were somehow frightened of being taken over by a big city, the City of Leeds. I have already said that this is not necessarily the case. There are other areas within the metropolitan district based upon Leeds, but outside Leeds, all the way round, and Rothwell will be joining with them. There is no question of the big city taking anyone over. The whole concept of local government reorganisation envisages that the various communities will be able to contribute to the new authorities.
I hope, therefore, that if Rothwell is returned to the metropolitan district based upon Leeds, everyone within that metropolitan district will go out of his way to make Rothwell welcome. This is very important. The people of Rothwell have been chopped and changed about and in many ways have been losing out in all the temporary co-ordinations and joint committees which have been getting to work over recent months. Roth-well should now be given a little more special treatment so that, when it takes its place, as I hope it will, within the new metropolitan district based upon Leeds, it will be accepted as a very welcome partner. I know that those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who represent Leeds constituencies are anxious that Rothwell should belong to the metropolitan district based upon Leeds, and I ask them, therefore, to use all their good offices to make Rothwell a new welcome member of that metropolitan district.
As I say, I was reluctant to intervene in this debate, knowing that there has been strong feeling in Rothwell on this issue, feeling which I, on every ground of reason, cannot share. However, I have every right, as a Member of Parliament and with the knowledge at my disposal, to put my view to the House. I am very pleased that, after all the to-ing and fro-ing during the Bill's long process, the Government are now recommending that Rothwell should be part of the metropolitan district based upon Leeds.
First, I take the almost unprecedented step of expressing appreciation to the Minister and to the noble Lord concerned with these matters in the other place for bringing this Amendment before us. I disagree in considerable measure with some of the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts). This situation and the Amendment giving expression to it is a good example of the way in which, within the Houses of Parliament in the widest sense, a degree of wisdom and justice eventually prevails, in spite of what public opinion may sometimes say about us.
Whatever criticisms may be levelled at it, the Amendment is based upon what I should describe as social justice. It is based upon the cultural, economic, geo- graphical and historical relationships which Rothwell has with Leeds. As one of the members who represented part of south Leeds on the city council, the part which is directly associated with Roth-well, I take some exception to the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton that this was a neglected area. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If we were basing our decision in this Chamber upon considerations of geography and history and cultural, social and economic links, there would, I think, be little need for any of us to speak. The decision would readily go in accordance with the wishes of some of my hon. Friends and myself, for although there is a strip of green belt between Rothwell and Wakefield, the closeness of Leeds and Rothwell is such that the boundary cuts through many of the business interests in Leeds and Rothwell, cutting through the premises themselves. As one of the representatives in the area, I recall that difficulty was often experienced in deciding where Leeds ended and Rothwell began. We had difficulty, for example, in trying to assure people in the Rothwell area that we were not in a position to help them in certain of their problems.
I greatly regret the suggestion that this Amendment is the result of political machinations. Nothing could be further from the truth. Politics was in no way the basis of my concern, and I am sure that it could not be said of the citizens and local authority of Leeds that they based their concern purely on political considerations.
I have been reading some of the literature issued on behalf of the Rothwell Urban District Council, and this brings me to the question of democracy and the position of local residents and electors. An opinion census was taken in the Rothwell area, and it was overwhelmingly in support of going into Wakefield. But that census should be put into true perspective. I should liken it to the taking of a census of opinion of the British people on the question of entering the Common Market, and allowing only one side—pro-Marketeers or anti-Marketeers—to be able to state their case, issue the ballot papers, and call upon people to express their views. That was what happened in Rothwell. The opinion census was organised, the ballot papers were prepared, and the propaganda was circulated in the Rothwell area by people entirely committed to one point of view.
There is such a thing as oral propaganda, and there was a great deal of that. The propaganda circulated—oral, if my hon. Friend prefers me to put it like that—was purely on one side. The questions put were loaded, and the situation was completely misrepresented. My hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Dr. Marshall) is quite right to say that many people are under the impression that this was the case of a small authority being taken over by a "Big Brother". A totally wrong concept was created by the people who canvassed on behalf of the prospect of going into Wakefield.
Considering the history of the association between Rothwell and Leeds, I find it hard to imagine how such a case could be stated for going into Wakefield. Apart from the fact which I have already mentioned, that the boundary is so interlaced as to prevent difficulty, there are the further facts that only recently Rothwell has become part of the Leeds postal district, the telephone code for Rothwell is now the same as for Leeds, Rothwell is represented on the Leeds Regional Hospital Board, and it is represented on the Leeds employment committee. If that is not an indication of integration of communities, I add the further fact that 90 per cent. of the people who live in the Rothwell area are employed in Leeds, and the 10 per cent. who are not are mainly in the mining industry. Those in the mining industry in Rothwell are well aware of the time limit likely to be set upon their industry there, for there has been constant decline in mining in the area, and that decline, so far as one can tell from the evidence, is likely to continue.
I hope my hon. friend is right. But unfortunately that is the situation. The vast majority of people who live in the Rothwell area are employed in Leeds. They use Leeds as their shopping centre. The Leeds technical colleges
have more than their fair share of young people from the Rothwell area. I noticed from one of the circulars issued by the Rothwell Urban District Council that so far as transport is concerned
No Leeds Corporation transport enters the Rothwell area
That is perfectly true, but there are excellent rail and bus communications between the areas and Rothwell Urban District Council has appealed to the Leeds Corporation to provide them with transport services because the existing services are so inadequate.
I was chairman of the Care of the Children Committee in Leeds. One of the major Leeds children's homes is based in Rothwell. Hunslet Workhouse, as it was then called, is also based in Rothwell. One of the major hospitals caring for geriatrics in the Leeds Hospital Board area is in the Rothwell district. Yet we talk about Rothwell having no local connection with Leeds. That is an irresponsible attitude and it is based on parochial considerations.
The leaflet issued by the Rothwell UDC gives what I believe to be one of the most decisive factors behind the attitude they have taken. It says:
Representation: Rothwell would have three councillors among 96 in Leeds and six councillors among 72 in Wakefield
People in positions of responsibility have tended to act in what I can only describe as an irresponsible way to achieve on behalf of a very limited number that which would be of disadvantage to the people of Rothwell. I appeal to hon. Members to bear that in mind if and when we have to make a decision on the issue. The point has been made that Rothwell is 2½ miles from the centre of Leeds, and that is perfectly true. The area in which I live in Leeds is eight miles from the city centre and was part of Rothwell not many years ago. It is not suggested that that area should be taken out of Leeds, and I am delighted that that is the case. But when we have the situation which existed the last time this subject was debated, when it was being suggested that we should take Rothwell out of Leeds and bring into Leeds areas which were as much as 20 miles away, we are entitled to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Nermanton that if political considerations were ever taken into account, they were taken into account then.
Consideration we are now giving to the Amendment is based purely on the question of association with Leeds and on the historical, cultural and geographical problems that could arise if we reject the Amendment. When the matter was considered in the other place members as reputable as the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald and the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud supported the Amendment. That is an indication of the justification that those of us who support the Amendment feel for it. That is justification in itself for giving support to the Amendment and I hope that the House will do so.
Mr. Joseph Riley:
I feel almost an intruder into the domestic wrangle on the other side of the House. But unlike the hon. Member for Goole (Dr. Marshall) I have a close interest in Leeds and I have had a long experience, like the hon. Member for Leeds, South East (Mr. Cohen), on the city council. It is that knowledge and experience which prompts me to support the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts) in his fight and determination to secure that the people he represents in Rothwell should have their views properly and ably expressed in the House. I owe the hon. Member an apology because of a misunderstanding of his speech. I am satisfied that he would state the case adequately because he has made it a matter of prime concern for himself in recent days.
It is almost an impertinence for other hon. Members to attempt to intervene. The House should listen to the representative of the constituency, to the man who lives in the constituency and who has been impressed by the representations made to him from Rothwell. I believe that the large body of constituents in Rothwell are determined, so far as they are concerned, that they should be allowed to join with the Wakefield arrangement.
I do not believe in merely reiterating what others have said and I shall therefore make only one point in what may be the shortest speech of the debate. If there is anything wrong with my right hon. Friend's proposals, it is that they will make the population of that metropolitan area far too large. A population of 700,000 to 800,000 is a ridiculously high figure, particularly when there is an opportunity to equalise the numbers. To have almost 800,000 in the Leeds 6(b) district makes it too big. There is an excellent opportunity to equalise the populations to some extent.
All the points about two miles here and there mean nothing for Rothwell and Wakefield. Anyone who knows the districts knows that the trams used to pass through Rothwell and a traveller could be in the centre of Wakefield as quickly as he could be in the centre of Leeds. That does not matter. Let us take the opportunity of equalising the numbers and let us give some semblance of real local government to the new area.
Over the weekend in Leeds I was asked what would happen today in view of the change of policy brought about as a result of the Amendment in the other place. We note now that it is the Government that has proposed that the House should accept the Lords Amendment. They have changed their minds yet again. That has been at the root of the problem relating to the Rothwell issue. We know that Rothwell was first intended to have been in district 6(b) as a result of the social research, journey to work patterns and the geography, which was explained to us by my hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Dr. Marshall). Part of my constituency in Leeds, South was at one time in Rothwell and that was not so long ago. I am referring to Middleton.
The talking point in the south of Leeds is why the Government changed their minds in the first instance because this has led to the problem in Rothwell where quite understandably there is very strong feeling about it. There is very strong feeling in the city of Leeds that the change was made for narrow party political purposes, and for no other reason. It was made in order that district 6(b) should have a different political complexion. Once that sort of consideration comes in then rational argument goes out of the door. It would have been much better had we stuck to the basic arguments put forward by Redcliffe-Maud and so on in the first instance.
Part of my constituency is Hunslet. My constituency is now larger because of redistribution. Part of Leeds, South-East which included the other part of Hunslet, is now in Leeds, South. I do not like to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts) referring to Hunslet as "a sort of Shore-ditch". I have no great knowledge of Shoreditch but my hon. Friend said it in a derogatory sense. The area of South Leeds has been a poor area over the years. One has only to read The Uses of Literacy" by Professor Hoggart.
I knew Hunslet long before my hon. Friend did. It has been sadly neglected by the city council and that is why we resent its having to come under the control of a large city that has failed to do its job.
My hon. Friend is entitled to make that argument, but I do not like the innuendo. In discussions over recent months it has been said that Hunslet is a poor area and that Rothwell is joining a poor area. It is a district that has had its problems for a hundred years and only recently has any attempt been made to deal with them, but an enormous amount has now been done.
I understand the suburban desire to opt out of that sort of thing and many people have moved out of the cities to get away from it, but local government reform has been introduced so that the overall problem may be studied and not so that one may opt out of the realities of city living.
It now looks as though Rothwell is to go back into district 6(b). There are major problems in Leeds, south of the river. The hon. Member for Pudsey (Mr. Hiley), as a former lord mayor, will know those problems and will know that only in the last 10 or 15 years have the ravages of a hundred years started to be put right—and here I am not opportioning blame.
All of us living south of the river, whether in Rothwell or in Stourton, a part of Rothwell where a great deal needs to be done, should all put our minds to the problem, for much needs to be done. If internecine strife results from ill feeling—and here I mean across political barriers—we shall not do what has to be done to eradicate the problems. Whatever their political opinions, the people of Hunslet are fine people. This is not a matter of Hunslet joining Rothwell, but of Rothwell coming into a much larger area with overall problems. Now that the Government have changed their minds yet again, for the third time, we can get down to the real problems.
I agree with the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Mr. Hiley) and with the theme of the speech of the hon. Member for Goole (Dr. Marshall). What we are in part deciding tonight is not the aggrandisement of the city of Leeds, or the denuding of the city of Wakefield. We are considering the creation of two new metropolitan districts, 6(b) to be centred on Leeds, and 6(e), to be centred on Wakefield. It will give us no help to argue about minor details and about the past and about whether boundaries are contiguous. We are considering a large metropolitan district, 6(b), which will have a population of between 700,000 and 750,000 and a smaller district, 6(e), with a population of 400,000 or fewer.
In the early hours of the morning when we discussed this matter in Committee, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary explained why he decided to accept the proposal of the hon. Member for Norman-ton (Mr. Alfred Roberts) to move the urban district of Rothwell from 6(b) into 6(e), and he said that it was to help to balance population numbers. That was the main theme of his argument at that time. Others put forward other nonpolitical arguments. They were nonpolitical then, and they are non-political now. I was glad to hear it said from the Opposition side that the decision in the other place had not been motivated by any political considerations, and so that argument can be easily rubbed out.
In Committee I made a plea based on the historical fact that Leeds had never expanded towards the south or the southeast in any way. There had been a small area near Stourton, but on the whole Leeds has always expanded in other directions—north and north-west and to the east. The reasons for that were that in that direction interests changed. The inhabitants of Rothwell looked towards Wakefield and other areas.
In Committee I suggested that if it was good enough for the people of Harrogate to be able to express their opinion so strongly and to object so strongly to their inclusion in district 6(b), as had been proposed in the White Paper—
—that when the Bill was published, it was seen that Harrogate had been deleted from 6(b), it was good enough for the wishes of the people of, for instance, Rothwell, to be given heed. This was the argument overwhelmingly adduced by the hon. Member for Normanton in Committee. If the wishes of the people of Rothwell—
My hon. and gallant Friend wishes to make a speech while remaining seated. No doubt he will catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in due course, but I hope that he will not keep muttering.
We have heard that it is clearly against the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants of Rothwell to be moved from Wakefield into the area of district 6(b). In this instance I am on the side of democracy, on the side of the wishes of the people. They had a good referendum in Rothwell and whatever view one may take of that, the question on the ballot paper was clear—"Do you wish to be moved into Wakefield or into Leeds? Put a cross against Wakefield or Leeds."
Tonight the Under-Secretary has performed a wonderful feat and in the years to come he will look back on it with great joy. He has eaten all the argument that he adduced when we discussed the matter in Committee. He will suffer greatly from indigestion and so will the area of 6(b), because he is condemning district 6(b) to a large number of inhabitants—700,000 to 750,000—while denuding the adjacent district 6(e). Above that, he is denying additional democratic representation to the Rothwell residents who, if they stay in Wakefield, will have six representatives on the metropolitan district council. If we agree with the Lords Amendment, the inhabitants of Rothwell will have three representatives on the council of district 6(b).
I would add only one word of caution on the suggestion put forward by the hon. Member for Goole, who put in a special plea that, for some strange reason, because of the acceptance of this Amendment from the other place, Rothwell should have six, nay, nine or perhaps a dozen representatives on the Leeds council. But what about all the other districts? What about Otley, Pudsey and Morley? They will want more. So we shall go on building up to an enormous council of preposterous size.
I hope that even at this late hour, the Under-Secretary will do another leap, another somersault. He still has time. He may swing round on his perch as much as he likes, but I should like him to swing round and come back to the proposal that we should disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
I think that I can perhaps endorse the remark by the hon. Member for Pudsey (Mr. Hiley) by saying that it would be a little impertinent of me, too, to intervene in a debate of this kind. As the hon. Gentleman said, it was impertinent of him to do so.
I can only plead that there has been reference to Hunslet and its relationship to Rothwell and Leeds.
I plead two points: first, I married a Hunslet lass, and, secondly, for many years whilst living in the City of Leeds I supported Hunslet Rugby Football Club.
In a debate of this kind it is absolutely essential, bearing in mind that we are dealing with highly emotive issues, that hon. Members who have for a long time been associated with a particular area and feel they have a contribution to make which can be made in a completely dispassionate way—as it were, standing on the sidelines—should make that contribution, not being pressurised in any way. I invite any hon. Member to say that he has not been pressurised on certain aspects of the Bill. I have received representations from almost every parish and rural district council in my constituency, all claiming that the Bill will denude them of or reduce their powers. My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts), who was referred to as the hon. Member for Rothwell, which he is, knows that every hon. Member has been subjected to pressure from various quarters within his constituency concerning the Bill.
The hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Sir D. Kaberry) was subjected to some sedentary interventions by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Sir M. Stoddart-Scott) who referred to a number of areas within the immediate vicinity of Leeds. He implied that if there were to be special pleading, it should be undertaken not only for Roth-well but for the other areas to which he referred. This is quite true. It is one of the problems we must face.
I told a number of local authority people in my constituency, concerning proposals that we made about Redcliffe-Maud and the Government's recommendations, that if Members of Parliament simply considered the particular sectional interests of rural district and parish councils there never would be any reorganisation of local government affairs. In consequence, I may be a little more unpopular than usual in my constituency.
This is a matter on which somebody who can manage to sit on the sidelines, but has knowledge of the area concerned, can be most helpful. I lived in Leeds for 10 or 12 years and I know Rothwell as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton. I say that in no disrespectful manner. This is not a question of equalisation of numbers. If all we were dealing with was equalising area (a), area (b) and area (c), the Bill might just as well be put in the wastepaper basket. That is not what we are dealing with. There is instance after instance where, because of identity of social, political and economic interests, there is an apparent imbalance of population. I do not believe that, considering Rothwell and Leeds and Rothwell and Wakefield, the balance or imbalance of the population is of any consequence.
We ought to get it right. Rothwell is a collection of about five small townships. If Rothwell goes into Leeds it means that parts of Roth-well which are no more than two miles from Wakefield will go into Leeds.
What is more, it is contiguous with Leeds, which is perhaps of more significance than its geographical distance from Leeds. I know the people of Rothwell and the people of Leeds, and as one who was resident in that city for a long time but now has no sectional interest, to grind, I cannot conceive of any social, political or economic interests which would lead me to believe that Rothwell should not be included in Leeds.
The Under-Secretary of State has been invited to eat some of his words. I was a Parliamentary Secretary for 5½ years and I can tell him that if he does not eat some of his words during the time he is in office—and he happens to be one of those persons I hope to see in office till the Government fall—he will not be much of an Under-Secretary of State. Consistency has value only when one is making a Yorkshire pudding. I think that that reference is appropriate to this debate. I hope that the Lords Amendment will be accepted because, as somebody who has no vested interest, I believe it quite right that Rothwell should be included in Leeds.
Despite my southern connections I think I can at least stake place as doyen of the Leeds Members. I am a local lad by adoption. When I first went to Leeds I was attacked by the Conservative Party. My Conservative opponent put it about, all over the billboards, and it was in the headlines, that he was born in West Leeds, educated at West Leeds High School, and was a graduate of Leeds University. Somebody asked, "Why was not the Labour candidate born in West Leeds?" I said, "Because his mother was not here at the time." I have had the honour now to represent West Leeds for about 24 years.
The only argument we have had tonight has been from the hon. Member for Pudsey (Mr. Hiley). That was the population argument. The best argument which the Under-Secretary of State advanced at about 4 a.m. when we considered the matter before, was his suggestion that it would even out two districts. I recognise the force of that argument. On the other hand, if we look at the map and see the gap which will be left in this new district if we take Rothwell out, we see that that makes nonsense of planning. We have only to look at the map. There were arguments adduced in the other House—I shall not adduce them here—about how far north one can go in Leeds and how far to the south one can go before one would be in Rothwell. That is the only argument I have heard.
There is no doubt that the Under-Secretary of State did a good job for his Department. After all, he went up there and spent the weekend in Rothwell; he sampled the wares of the local hostelry and got into conversation with the natives—
I shall not carry that argument any further.
It has to be remembered that, when the Government were looking at this objectively, and considering the original Bill, Rothwell came into Leeds. It was only when my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts), stirred with local patriotism, put down an Amendment, and then was aided by the hon. Baronet the Member for Leeds, North-West (Sir D. Kaberry) that the Government thought there was some merit in the case. I will not adduce reasons or impute motives, because presumably I shall get my way at the end of the day and I do not struggle for liabilities, but I am glad there has been this right about face.
However, I must take the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West up on one point. When first the proposals were put he was in favour of Harrogate coming into the district; he was in favour of Knaresborough, Ilkley and Otley, not with a predominance of Socialist votes.
What becomes of the hon. Baronet's argument about population, with Rothwell with 27,000, and the unnatural bloat within the new region? It would be absolutely at bursting point with all the local imperialism which the hon. Gentleman has wanted to bring in. He made nonsense of his own arguments and he was rebutted by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Sir M. Stoddart-Scott). When I went to Leeds last weekend on a social occasion with my hon. Friends the Members for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) and Leeds, South-East (Mr. Cohen), the argument was not whether Britain should go into the Common Market but whether Rothwell should return to its original allegiance. That was the politics of the matter.
I do not want to make a song and dance about the fact that the Government have changed their minds once or twice. It was Emerson who said that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. The Government, as a result of the admirable arguments which have been directed towards the Bill in another place, have seen the error of their ways. They have returned Rothwell to its rightful allegiance and I have no doubt that it will prosper in the larger conurbation of Leeds.
Those of us who have been for a long time the colleagues of my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton will have great sympathy and understanding for him. He need not reproach himself. He has done all that one man can do as Member for his constituency. Those of us who represent Leeds and not Normanton may differ in other arguments, but at the end of the day we hope that his constituents will recognise what he has done for them and that they will get some sort of peace and contentment within the larger conurbation of Leeds.
We have listened to a fascinating debate. It is an interesting case. Like the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State, who proposed that we agree with the Lords in the said Amendment, I think that I am the only other person here who has spoken in the debate who cannot claim a close local knowledge of the district.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) put the matter very well when he said that it is a House of Commons matter and that the House of Commons has to make a decision. One cannot decide great issues about city regions, strategic planning and all the tremendous repercussions that these principles involve entirely on the basis of the wishes of the local inhabitants, although, of course, one should always try to take the wishes of the local inhabitants into account to the best of one's ability. That is a matter which we have raised many times during these debates. Occasionally we have strongly objected to some of the Government's decisions, which seemed not to take local views strongly enough into consideration, but at the end of the day any Government must make a decision on the balance of considerations as they see the interests of the neighbourhood as a whole.
Although, surprisingly enough, virtuous claims have been made by the Opposition for the policy of inconsistency, which I cannot from the Front Bench be expected to support, the only people who have been consistent throughout the matter have been the Opposition. I do not want to sound too churlish, but I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts) that if his constituents, his local Labour Party and others in revolt find themselves in a state of indignation and perplexity, then those of us who consistently supported the view that Rothwell should be in Leeds can well understand that situation because of the constant change of Government opinion.
The proposal to include Rothwell in Leeds was not challenged in Committee in this House. Government and Opposition jointly agreed that, having regard to strategic considerations, this was the right solution. But it was challenged on Report, with the agreement of the Government for reasons best known to themselves. The Government's new attitude was jealously adhered to in another place but, because they lost there on the issue, at the 59th minute of the 11th hour they again changed their minds. In the light of all this, my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton and his constituents are well entitled to be perplexed and to ask what on earth is going on.
As a former Minister, I have had experience of having to stand at the Dispatch Box and to put forward cases which were difficult to defend. I do not want to sound churlish to the Under-Secretary of State, but in the light of everything he has said, one wonders where the shining light occurred on the road to Damascus in Yorkshire. It was not evident in his speech today, which leads me perhaps to the uncharitable view that the Government's decision to accept the judgment of the House of Lords on this matter has more to do with the parliamentary timetable than with the merits of the case.
It should also be said at this stage that I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton was quite correct in saying that he had never been in favour of this piece of local government re-organisation. Neither were we. We have spent 12 months demonstrating that the Bill is nonsense in terms of local government re-organisation. Indeed, on Second Reading, when I was probably carried away a little, I expressed my view strongly that the Bill had more to do with the political complexion of local government and therefore with the political complexion of this House, since parliamentary constituencies are based on local government areas, than it had to do with the merits of local government re-organisation.
The whole Bill has been imposed upon Parliament without the support of any non-party and independent considerations. It goes quite contrary to the Redcliffe-Maud proposals after that Royal Commission had spent a very long time in looking at the situation in local government. This solution is being imposed by a Conservative Government, no more and no less. Therefore, I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton that I well understand and absolutely agree with his comments in that respect. I see you looking at me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so I will merely add this. We on this side believe passionately that we have to have a mixture of regional local government and strong all-purpose local authorities, which Redcliffe-Maud proposed, and we shall come back to that form as soon as we can.
The Bill, as we have made clear, is not to be taken as the last word on local government re-organisation. I hope I shall be excused if I recall my Second Reading speech again. A future Labour Government cannot be expected to accept automatically the political jerrymandering in local government which the present Government are obviously carrying on.
We shall return to it very rapidly, I am glad to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but not before, with your indulgence, I say that the point that the right hon. Gentleman has made was exactly the burden of my speech on Second Reading. What we have had to do in Committee, and what we are now having to do, is to make the best we can of this wretched Bill. If we do that and take an outside look at the situation, the case for including Rothwell within the Leeds district is overwhelming, as I have always thought.
One does not have to rehearse all the arguments. The geographical case is absolutely outstanding, with Rothwell's short distance from the Leeds city centre compared with places on the north, east and west of the Leeds perimeter. I am struck by the fact, as I have been in so many of the cases considered in Committee and elsewhere, that from an industrial as well as from a social point of view Rothwell is inextricably bound up with the interests of the great city of Leeds. I find it impossible to escape coming to that conclusion. Rothwell, like so many similar districts, owes its prosperity to the tremendous importance of Leeds as a city.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Pudsey (Mr. Hiley) seemed to be arguing against big cities. I understand that he has had the privilege of being Lord Mayor of Leeds and I have no doubt that he treasures that experience. But it is becoming commonplace round the country, and it makes me very sad, to try to denigrate our large cities. Let us be under no misapprehension at all about their importance. Our whole economy, since we are an industrial nation, is based largely on the industrial strength of our large cities, so we should not seek to undermine their importance.
I do not want to fall out with the hon. Gentleman or with the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Sir D. Kaberry), but if they think that Leeds is too big, what on earth were they doing voting for Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle and, a few years ago, supporting proposals for the Greater London Council? The argument is nonsense.
The point made by the hon. Member for Pudsey brings me to my next comment, which is that what the Government have done, and on which so many of us take issue with them, is to draw the boundaries of these large urban district councils and most metropolitan authorities so tightly that they have left the large cities and metropolitan areas with all the problems of the urban society—slums, bad educational facilities, inability to plan the future, and so on—but have not provided them with any of the resources or land with which to solve them. This is one of our main criticisms, and it has happened again in this case.
In another place, Lord Sandford, for the Government, said that there was a definite division between Leeds and Rothwell which had to be accepted and understood. If we accepted that logic, it would mean that we were drawing the boundaries around Leeds so tightly as almost to strangle it as a community and that we were failing to help it to solve its problems.
Geographically, the case is overwhelming that the commercial and cultural interests of Rothwell are identified with Leeds. I take some comfort from a football analogy in drawing that conclusion. Whenever I go to see Leeds United play, which I do as often as I can, notwithstanding their great loyalty to Rothwell, I see the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West and my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton at Elland Road supporting Leeds.
Some misinformation is being given. More people are employed in the Rothwell area than in the city of Wakefield. We do not depend upon Leeds. A false impression is being given.
I was dealing with Leeds United, but I am prepared to take a small wager that whether people are employed in Rothwell or Leeds, they are very strong supporters of Leeds United, as is my hon. Friend. That confirms my point, that, from a cultural, civic and sporting point of view, the fortunes of Rothwell are inextricably linked with those of Leeds.
My hon. Friend tells us how many people are employed in Rothwell, but whether people work one side of the boundary or another is not the essence of the situation. The industry of Rothwell and that of Leeds are interdependent. It is not a case of Rothwell being outside the great city of Leeds with entirely independent industry. That cannot be so. The industries of the two are inextricably linked because they form an industrial city region.
When we have completed our studies of the future of local government we may find that we cannot maintain a common interest even in a city region. It is in regional government terms that one is forced to think when one sees how dependent one part of a region is on another.
If this case is valid—that has always been the strength of our case—then, whatever their reasons and motives, we are glad that the Government have accepted this in the 59th minute of the 11th hour. One respects the local patriotism and the fervour of the people of Rothwell and pays tribute to the tremendous flight that my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton has properly put up on their behalf as their Member of Parliament. But, on any objective assessment by the House as a whole, it would be right to concur with the Lords in this Amendment.
These Amendments move from Avon to Gloucestershire the five parishes of Alkington, Berkeley, Hamfallow, Ham and Stone and Hinton. Those parishes are now part of the Thornbury rural district. The Amendments also move into Gloucestershire Alderley, which is part of Sodbury rural district. The populations involved in the five parishes amount to just over 6,000; in the parish of Alderley the population is only 50 people.
The Government have accepted the movement of these five parishes from Avon into Gloucestershire because, having studied the matter with some care and having followed the debates on the Bill on the boundary between the county of Avon and the county of Gloucestershire, we have concluded that there are links between those five Berkeley parishes and the area based on Dursley in Gloucestershire. It seems that everybody concerned will be satisfied if those parishes are moved into Gloucestershire.
The Alderley parish is one of four on the eastern boundary of the county of Avon, and the other three Hawkesbury, Badminton and Acton Turville from a geographical point of view could not be divided from one another. But Alderley is on the boundary of Gloucestershire and has its connections with Wootton under Edge, a town which is to remain in Gloucestershire. Alderley looks to that town for various services, and therefore the Amendment places the small parish of Alderley in Gloucestershire.
This debate has been thrust upon us suddenly and I apologise to the House if I have not got all my references at my finger tips. Incidentally, I was sorely tempted to speak on the previous Amendment since I was born in Leeds and was brought up in the West Riding, but I exercised a becoming restraint.
I must speak on this pair of Amendments because when I spoke on this matter in Committee I said that I considered that in the case of Thornbury there was a very nice balance as to whether they should go into Gloucestershire or into Avon as the Minister at that time proposed. I recognise that there were points for and against. However, I thought that the case in respect of the Sodbury parishes was much less substantial.
In Committee the Minister took the contrary view, saying that the Sodbury case was possibly open to question. However, he was adamant about the Thorn-bury parishes and said this:
I have far more doubt about the Sodbury parishes than I have about the Thornbury ones. I am satisfied that we are right, and that we shall benefit those Thornbury parishes by keeping them within Avon—and in the plans for development of the area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D; 20th January, 1972, c. 828–9.]
The right hon. Gentleman says that his change of mind is due to debates that we have had. However, his change of mind has come about very late, because even on Report, when talking about the Thornbury parishes, the Minister said this:
It may be right for the Local Government Boundary Commission to review this in due course. But it is right for the purpose of the Bill to retain the boundary of the rural district council."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th April, 1972; Vol. 835, c. 169.]
No progress was made at that stage. Only in the Lords did it appear that there was a possibility that the Government would shift their ground, but even there the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare resisted the matter in August, saying:
… both … rural districts are in favour of the Bill. My noble friend Lord Sandford has telegrams from both of them and this was the underlying reason why the boundary is drawn as it is at present."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords. 10th August, 1972, Vol. 334, c. 1487.]
Only latterly, after the presentation of a petition by the noble Baroness, Baroness Berkeley did the Lords begin to shift.
Although only 7,000 people are involved, it should be pointed out that the Government are sanctioning a change in the boundaries of the new county of Avon. On a number of occasions before being ruled out of order by the Chair I have objected to the name "Avon" There are valid reasons for the objection. It is unfortunate that the name "the county of Avon" came at the head of the list of non-metropolitan counties, because to some extent this engendered a feeling in the Government's mind that on this first non-metropolitan county all Amendments must be resisted because any signs of a concession would only encourage more demands in the debates to come.
Avon has had a raw deal. In the case of the parishes centred on Berkeley, it is well known that there has been considerable pressure to go into Gloucestershire and that with the arguments economically, socially and educationally being possibly in that direction the Government are right to accede to the requests of the local people for this change.
In the case of Alderley, the Government say that they are prepared to listen to the local people. The population of Alderley is only 50. I have canvassed Alderley on an alphabetical register. I had an unfruitful afternoon. Not only was it very difficult to locate places, but I received minimal support when I got there.
If the Minister is prepared to listen to comparatively small numbers of people and thinks that it is worth breaking up the boundaries of the county of Avon to cater for local democracy—he says this after all the talks we have had about how Avon in its state as conceived by the Minister was the perfect balance between rural and urban development—it makes a mockery of the treatment meted out elsewhere. The boundaries on the south side of the county have been treated in a cavalier fashion.
If the Minister says that we should accept these Amendments because the local people have expressed a preference for one county as opposed to another, there is a slight inconsistency in that the Government have been prepared to ignore the overwhelming expression of opinion in the south of the county with regard to the proposals relating to Somerset. As the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) said on Report in that area there was an 85 per cent. vote in favour of remaining in Somerset and only 15 per cent. vote in favour of going into Avon.
The Minister tried to belittle those figures by saying that only 62 per cent. of those eligible to vote were in favour of Somerset, but this was an unbecoming argument for him to advance, because virtually no Government this century have had the support of even 50 per cent. of those eligible to vote, yet they have claimed substantial mandates for all sorts of things.
The importance of the Government's recommending these Amendments does not lie so much in the comparatively small numbers involved. It shows that under pressure, including the pressure of time, they are prepared to make concessions to some areas, whereas the claims of other areas which are much more pressing, legitimate and substantial have not been met. I believe that the House will yet come to regret what has been done in the Bill through the creation of the county of Avon. There is trouble in store, first, because of the bitterness and resentment caused, and, second, because, on the Minister's own admission, the whole of the Avon county will have to be restructured within a comparatively short time.
I appreciate that at this late stage of the Bill's progress, it is not possible for the Minister to do anything about that larger question. But in welcoming the two Amendments, in so far as they meet the aspirations of the local people—the arguments are nicely balanced, I strongly ask the Minister to consider the other claims in the county of Avon and possibly to think of an amending Bill within the next Session.
With this we are to discuss the following Lords Amendments:
No. 18, in Corrigendum, page 3, line 32, leave out "the parish of Hum and" and insert:
the parishes of Hurn and St. Leonards and St. Ives'.
No. 19, in Corrigendum, page 3, line 33, leave out "south-west" and insert "west".
No. 20, in Corrigendum, page 3, line 35, at end insert:
and so much of the parish of Sopley as lies west of the boundary referred to in paragraph 10A of Part III of this Schedule.
No. 24, in Corrigendum, page 8, line 1, leave out paragraph 9.
No. 25, in Corrigendum, page 8, line 7, leave out from "line" to end of line 8 and insert:
from the neighbourhood of Barrett's Copse to the River Mude in the neighbourhood of Waterhouse Farm and thence along that river downstream to the parish boundary.
10A. The boundary dividing the parish of Sopley referred to an Part II of this Schedule shall be such as the Secretary of State may by order determine on or near the general line of the River Avon.
No. 27 in page 221, line 21, at end insert:
(ii) the part of the existing parish of Christchurch East in Hampshire.
No. 28 in page 221, line 31, at end insert:
(rr) the part of the existing garish of Sopley in Hampshire.
No. 29 in page 222, leave out lines 4 and 5.
No. 30 in page 222, line 15, at end insert:
(8A) The part of the existing parish of Sopley in Dorset shah be added to the parish of Hum.
This group of Amendments deals with the boundary of the Hampshire and Dorset counties from Lymington in the south-east of what we originally had as the Dorset county towards the northwest and up to the north to the boundary of Ringwood.
In another place an Amendment was accepted restoring the whole of the borough of Lymington to Hampshire. As we had it in the Bill, Lymington would have been a part of Dorset and would have made, perhaps with Christchurch, a reasonable district alongside the rather larger district of Bournemouth, separating Bournemouth from the New Forest.
I think that after studying what was said in another place this House will wish to accept the Lords Amendment, that the whole of the borough of Lymington should return to Hampshire. The town of Lymington has strong ties with the New Forest and the Solent. I would not go so far as to say that there is not a boundary which could be drawn leaving part of the existing borough of Lymington in the Christchurch area, because of a continuous build-up from Christchurch into Lymington. Nevertheless, the decision having been made, I do not think that the argument is strong enough not to accept that the whole borough of Lymington should go into Hampshire.
On the principle that the town of Lymington is closely related to the New Forest, we looked again at the boundary moving northwards from Lymington through the parish of Christchurch to the parish of Sopley and up to the parish of St. Leonards and St. Ives, which is to the south of Ringwood. On the principle of taking those areas which have the closest connection with the New Forest back into Hampshire, we were prepared to accept Amendments removing the eastern part of the parish of Christchurch East into Hampshire and the eastern part of the parish of Sopley into Hampshire. But with regard to the parish of St. Leonards and St. Ives we looked again at the development in the south of that parish, which is strongly connected with the parishes to the south-west. It seemed that the development from the south-west of St. Leonards and St. Ives would move into St. Leonards and St. Ives, and that that parish should now be with Dorset. It is related to Ringwood in the north of the parish, but in the south it is very much related to the areas which we have now in Dorset, and which have always been in Dorset.
Therefore, the group of Amendments would place St. Leonards and St. Ives in Dorset, and no doubt part of the district of Christchurch—though it is not for me to say that before I receive recommendations from the Boundary Commission; the eastern parts of the parishes of Sopley and Christchurch East in Hampshire; and the whole of the borough of Lymington in Hampshire.
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, I should like to ask him one or two questions. I do it in this way because, no doubt for the best of reasons, he is not replying to a debate.
It seems to me that the arguments the right hon. Gentleman first put up in connection with the boundary arrangements have a great deal of validity. Why has he changed his mind, other than for the obvious reasons that he does not want to upset a Lords Amendment? Was it not his own view, as it is mine, that there is a rather more logical attachment to Dorset, if one looks at Dorset county, of what is now in Hampshire—that is, the borough of Lymington moving towards Christchurch and including the borough of Christchurch and the parish of Christchurch East which is now divided into two? Is it not a fact that as Lymington borders on to Christchurch, one has a more or less continuous built-up area? What possible new facts are there that have made the Minister change his mind, other than the fortuitous one of an Amendment in the Lords?
There was a very thorough debate in the Lords and, although I may have a personal opinion, there could be a boundary between Christchurch and Lymington drawn along the Taddiford Gap so that east of the Taddiford Gap one takes the built-up area of Lymington into Christchurch. There is also the present boundary between Christchurch and Lymington along the Walkford Brook which is a rather narrower boundary than the Taddiford Gap. But it is a matter of debate and argument, and certainly the public feeling in Lymington, if one is to take that into account, was that they should stay in Hampshire. We took that into account. But it does make good local government for the town of Lymington to be in Hampshire, and it did not seem right to upset the decision on that by niggling over the boundary at the west of the borough.
As a Hampshire Member of Parliament, I am delighted that the borough of Lymington will now form part of the new non-metropolitan county of Hampshire. I will not weary the House by repeating the very convincing arguments advanced in another place in favour of Lymington remaining in Hampshire. There is no doubt that this is what the overwhelming majority of the people in that borough wanted. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on accepting the will of the people so gracefully.
I realise that on administrative grounds, other solutions might have existed in his Department. However, this happy outcome leaves an important residual problem—that of Christchurch. The idea of amalgamating Lymington and Christchurch together to form a second-tier authority was, in my judgment, eminently sound. I exclude the detailed arguments about the parishes of Hurn and Christchurch East. One would have produced a new district council of 67,000 with considerable affinity of interest, as has already been said.
As a result of Lymington staying in Hampshire, Lymington will join the present New Forest rural district, the larger part of the Ringwood and Fording-bridge rural district producing a new New Forest District Council of 130,000 people. This, no doubt, will work successfully. I know many of the people concerned and they will make it work. But it is rather on the large size for a new district council in a primarily rural area.
Past of my present constituency is within the New Forest RDC and hence is within the new district council boundaries. My real concern is for Christchurch. This will be a new district council in Dorset with a population of less than 40,000. I am confident that the people of Christchurch will make a go of it. But surely the right answer was to have left Christchurch in Hampshire and not put it into Dorset. Then Lymington and Christchurch would have been amalgamated to form a new district council as was my right hon. Friend's intention.
As I understand it—he has not said it tonight, but I believe this to be the point—my right hon. Friend argues that the new Dorset needs Christchurch. With Christchurch, the new Dorset has a population of 515,000. Without Christchurch, the new Dorset has a population of 483,000. So we are talking here about a 6 per cent. reduction in the new Dorset. I cannot believe that the future viability of the new Dorset stands or falls by the addition or subtraction of 6 per cent. of its potential population right down in its new south-eastern corner.
The other argument against retention of Christchurch by the new Hampshire might be that the new Hampshire is already large enough. We recognise that the new Hampshire will be one of the largest of the new counties in Britain. But that argument, I believe, is no longer relevant because, as we shall see in the next set of Amendments, the Isle of Wight is not to be part of the new Hampshire but is to remain in its own right as a non-metropolitan county. But the combined population of Lymington and Christchurch is considerably less than that of the Isle of Wight. I conclude, therefore, that there is no validity in that argument.
I repeat my view that the correct solution is that both Lymington and Christchurch should remain in Hampshire and together form a new district council. It is probably too late, under our procedures, to add Christchurch to Lymington to form a new district council, but I ask my right hon. Friend whether it would be possible for him to direct the Local Government Boundary Commission for England to review the whole position of Christchurch consequential upon the decision of the other place to keep Lymington in Hampshire. I think that Clause 49, soon to be Section 49, provides relevant authority for my right hon. Friend.
I realise that time is vital in this matter, but I am confident that the English Commission could carry out its examination in under a month. If, after examination, the Commission decided to recommend that the boundaries should remain as currently drafted, they would then stand. But everyone concerned—this is the vital point—would feel that the new situation had been fully examined and that justice was being done. If, on the other hand, the Commission were to recommend that Christchurch should be part of the new Hampshire, my right hon. Friend would implement that at once and, in my judgment, all would be light and happiness in south-east Hampshire.
By leave of the House, may I speak again, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) has asked me specifically whether the Secretary of State would give a direction on this subject to the Boundary Commission?
Although the Boundary Commission has the right to make any investigation it chooses after 1st April, 1974, I would not give it any direction to look at these boundaries before that date. I am convinced that the right boundary here is one which takes Christchurch into the same county as the areas of Poole and Bournemouth. There is that continuous buildup from Sandbanks to the Taddiford Gap, at least to the boundary of Lymington, and I think that they should be in the same county, but not in the same districts. I should not wish to give any direction to the Boundary Commission to unsettle that at the present time, although the Commission has power as an independent body, after 1974, to investigate any boundaries and make recommendations to the Secretary of State.
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
I understand that with it it will be convenient to discuss Lords Amendment No. 22, in, corrigendum, Page 4, line 29, at end insert:
|"Isle of Wight||The administrative county of Isle of Wight."|
There were three possible lines of action. First, we could have set a special authority for the island within the overall structure of a non-metropolitan county council responsible for both Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, but that would have cut across many principles of the Bill. It is essential that each county council shall have full responsibility over the whole range of its functions for the whole of its area, and to breach that principle would be a serious step.
Second, we could have made the Isle of Wight a metropolitan district within a non-metropolitan county as was proposed by the Opposition at one time, but I think that the objections are similar there in that a county should have the full county function over the whole of its area and should not have exceptions by becoming some sort of hybrid county, partly metropolitan and partly non-metropolitan.
Will the right hon. Gentleman forgive me for intervening on a point of information? He should reread the proceedings in the earlier stages. The third alternative was suggested by one of his hon. Friends and was supported by myself and my hon. Friends in Committee stage.
I should never have started on this. It is perfectly simple to make the island a county on its own, and that is the course we have chosen. I hope it is satisfactory to the House. It breaches our formula of population; I recognise at once that the island has a population of only 109,000, which would be considerably smaller than that of other authorities and counties. But the Isle of Wight is a unique case, and I am sure from the response I had when I was addressing the House on the subject before that the House wished us to treat it as a unique case. No other place is faced with the problems of communication with its neighbours as the Isle of Wight is so faced. The difference is not a matter of degree; it is a difference of geography.
This decision is the last word in absurdity. I am not objecting particularly to the Isle of Wight getting its county status but it shows clearly that the whole decision for the southern part of Hampshire, and indeed for Hampshire itself, is ludicrous.
Instead, the Isle of Wight, as with Southampton and Portsmouth, should have been a metropolitan district inside the metropolitan county of Hampshire. I do not want to go over the old arguments. We all know the size of the county of Hampshire. The Minister admitted in one debate that in ten years time when the population exceeds 2 million Hampshire will become a full metropolitan county and we shall have to change the whole system all over again.
That shows how silly it all is. Here is the Isle of Wight with a population of 109,000—I appreciate that there are special geographical reasons—to be given full county status while great cities such as Portsmouth and Southampton, with populations of more than 200,000, are to be reduced to district councils. The more I see of the way in which the Government have dealt with southern Hampshire, the more I believe it to be plain straight forward political gerrymandering.
The whole object of the Bill, particularly these provisions, is to destroy the cities in favour of the counties. The Government have given way to the special case for Isle of Wight which the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) has made for it The Government have given in to a county, a Conservative county, one that they know will remain Conservative, but they will not similarly give in to a city because it is clear that a city may be a Socialist city, as it is at the moment. Throughout the Bill there has been this jiggery-pokery on political lines, and this latest decision merely re-emphasises the opinion that I have always held.
I welcome the Amendment with the greatest relief and I support it with the utmost vigour. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) should have made an intervention of that sort, because my right hon. Friend has made it clear that the Amendment has nothing to do with size, but is because of the Isle of Wight's isolation, communications and transport problems. In any event, it is resources per head of the population that matter, not the number of people. Much as I sympathise with Portsmouth and Southampton, I do not see how my right hon. Friend could have breached the principle of the Bill and have treated them any differently from other county boroughs.
On Second Reading in another place, supporting county status for the Isle of Wight, the noble Lord Lord Redcliffe-Maud expressed the hopes of the whole island when he said that the Government should relent with "the last gasp of Love's latest breath". In quoting from that beautiful Elizabethan sonnet he was expressing the views of all of us. It is a refreshing gasp that we are now receiving. It may not be a gasp of love, but it certainly is a sound breath of common sense.
I thank my right hon. Friends the Minister and the Secretary of State for the understanding of the island's problems that they have shown throughout the Bill. I thank, too, all my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite and noble Lords in another place for their strenuous efforts to create an exception for the Isle of Wight, as both Houses have recognised as being necessary. If this honourable House accepts the Amendment, as I am sure it will, I am certain that future generations of islanders will justify the faith that Parliament is placing in them.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) is justifiably pleased tonight. I share his pleasure, because any Member for Parliament who obtains county status for his constituency has every right to be proud of himself and if I were to obtain county status for Deptford, I might be equally proud of myself.
I am sorry that at this happy love feast there should be a spectre, but the spectre, I fear, is that of common sense, and I regret to say that it is represented by me. What their Lordships propose and what the Government agree to do is to turn the Isle of Wight, under the new Bill, with all that that implies, into a county. I yield to nobody, not even to the hon. Gentleman, in my love and respect for the Isle of Wight. But for Deptford, I almost envy him his constituency.
The question is: is what is proposed the right status under the Bill for the Isle of Wight? It is proposed that the Isle of Wight shall become an English county. So we are entitled to ask: what is an English county? The dictionary definition—I have slightly abbreviated the abbreviated Oxford English dictionary definition because we do not want to take too much time—is:
Territorial division treated as an administrative entity.
That definition, under the Bill, is equally true of districts, so we have to go a little closer than that.
How much closer can we go than to the Minister himself to find how he divides the responsibilities between county and district? We find that in Committee on 25th November last year when the Minister said:
We can divide the functions of government reasonably between the two spheres"—
that is, between county and district—
one covering a wider area geographically and resourcefully and the other carrying out its functions more locally."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 25th November, 1971; c. 40.]
So there we have that difference. But not all territorial divisions covering, in the Minister's words, a wider area geographically have been made counties.
We have, for example, Herefordshire, which was a county before and would dearly like to have been a county under the new set-up. So there must be some further limitation.
For that further limitation we can do no better than to go to the White Paper at page 13, paragraph 7, where it says:
The Government accept the view that the units appropriate to the provision of these services should have populations broadly within
the range of 250,000 to 1 million. These limits should not be inflexible, but it should only be in special circumstances that these services are provided with populations below this range.
In rejecting the idea of some special solution for the Isle of Wight, the Minister was unwilling to breach a principle. So far two principles have been breached.
We now have the criteria for an English county from the fount. First, an English county must cover a wide area geographically; secondly, it must have a population broadly between 250,000 and 1 million. If it does not fit those criteria and one still wants to make it a county, there must be special circumstances. I allow that the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight says there are special circumstances.
Let us see how the Isle of Wight measures up to these criteria. Does it cover a wide area geographically? The area of the Isle of Wight—I hope the hon. Gentleman will not correct me too forcefully; geography is not my strongest forte—is about 73 miles square.
The hon. Gentleman agrees with my poor mathematics. I think he will also agree, therefore, that it does not cover a wide area geographically. There may be other reasons for wanting the Isle of Wight to have county status, but that is not one.
Now the second of the criteria. The population of the Isle of Wight is 109,000. True, the White Paper spoke of the limits of population being "broadly" 250,000 to 1 million. But how broad is broad? Can one think that the White Paper contemplated that the lower figure of these limits should be less than one-half? In other words, if it had done that, would it not equally have contemplated an upper limit of not 1 million, but 2½ million?
The right hon. Gentleman said "except in exceptional circumstances". Does he agree that as the only single island separated from the mainland by five miles of sea, it is very exceptional?
I think if the hon. Gentleman listens a little longer he will see that I shall come, not to exceptional circumstances—I want to use the correct wording in this case so that the Minister shall not have another breach of principle—but to special circumstances. which is what we are coming to, and I hope that we may, perhaps, deal with this as we go along.
On this question of population, then, there are these limits: not inflexible; broad; but, nevertheless, between 250,000 and 1 million. How are we to construe this? The hon. Gentleman the then Under-Secretary at the Department of the Environment, now the Minister for Aerospace, said in Committee—and here is yet another authority for us—
If one were to seek authorities in the 100,000, 120,000 or 140,000 range, the local government reorganisation Bill would not look like the present Bill.… There would be endless permutations throughout the country.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 25th January, 1972; c. 978.]
As I hear this proposal, dimly throughout this land of ours I can feel endless permutations going on, showing up this Bill, because the local government reorganisation Bill after this, if one follows what the Under-Secretary said, will not look like the present Bill at all. I am surprised that the Minister should appear to smile at this terrible complication about to overthrow him, but I am equally astonished that the Minister can talk at the same time about not accepting Amendments, other than that which he is accepting, because they might breach a principle. This not only breaches a principle; it explodes it.
If one looks at what the Government are doing at this time it becomes even more extraordinary, remembering that the Under-Secretary of State used those monumental words rejecting county status under the Bill for what at this time is a county, namely, Herefordshire. It is worth considering the parallel. I hope that for just a few minutes I shall have some of the sympathy of the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight with me. As a man deeply concerned to get county status for his island, for his constituency, perhaps he can spare a little bit of sympathy for someone else trying to get county status.
Both Hereford and the Isle of Wight, as I pointed out, used to be counties. Both have, I think he would agree, a community of population, a community of interest, a community of planning, a community of communications, and both, let us agree, have an ancient history of independent local government. This is true of both Hereford and the Isle of Wight. There are differences. I would be the first to concede this. The first difference is that the Isle of Wight is an island. Poor old Herefordshire. It has the misfortune that it is not an island. But it has one compensating difference. Whereas the population of the Isle of Wight is 109,000, the population of Hereford is 140,000.
Once again I would remind the House of the words of the Under-Secretary, although this time I will spare the House quotation of his words, when he was saying that we could not possibly even have a county with a population as low as 140,000—in England at any rate; in Wales, he was not prepared to argue, but in England we could not. How much more, therefore, would that apply to the Isle of Wight? Frankly, I was sorry about Herefordshire. He is not here at the moment, but my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Terry Davis) fought a very gallant campaign on behalf of Herefordshire, and certainly 140,000 is much nearer the broad limit given in the White Paper. I think the House would agree, than 109,000.
What I am arguing is that what is sauce for the goose of Herefordshire—that is, before the Minister cooked its goose—is also sauce for the gander of the Isle of Wight. I want to tell the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight that I am not all bad, that I see something in the local independence of the Isle of Wight. However, I am looking at the solution. It must be a solution, if I may borrow the Minister's words, that does not breach any principle in the Bill.
The Bill is already reeling from the endless permutations of which the Under-Secretary of State spoke. I do not want to deny the Isle of Wight its local independence. On the contrary, I understand and sympathise with the hon. Gentleman. But I want it to fall within the Government's own criteria. There have been few examples of principle throughout the Bill. It has been a patchwork quilt. On one day Wilmslow has been in greater Manchester, the next day it has been out. Rothwell was out of Leeds and then it was in Leeds. These matters go on and on. Let there be some principle.
It defeats me and most hon. Members, although which way they will vote is another matter, how one can possibly justify the Isle of Wight, with its 109,000 population, as a county with all that that implies in education, social services, and other matters, when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) points out, it is proposed to reduce the former county borough of Portsmouth, with a population of 197,000 and a fine education record, and Southampton, with a population of 214,000 and an equally fine education record, to the status of district councils. That screams to folly, like most of the Bill.
I propose to ask my hon. Friends to assist me in rejecting the Amendment. My solution is that as soon as possible—may-be it will have to be in the next Session, but I do not mind—the Government should introduce amending legislation to deal with Hampshire. They should make Hampshire, as was suggested by hon. Members on both sides, a metropolitan county and they should give the Isle of Wight metropolitan district status. It is no good saying, "Oh dear, that will put Hampshire into disarray, and it will not know whether it is coming or going" because the Minister has already put Hampshire into disarray. For 18 months the Minister has been telling Hampshire that it will be a non-metropolitan county containing the Isle of Wight. Incidentally, he will reduce the size of the Hampshire County Council by approximately eight seats. Of course, there will be a difference and it will have to be thought about again in Hampshire.
The time has come when even this Government should act sensibly and with a due sense of principle. I do not believe that the Government will vote against the Lords Amendment, but I strongly advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to do so. I offer that advice not in the spirit of wanting to deny local independence to the Isle of Wight but in the spirit of giving local independence to Southampton and Portsmouth, with their equally ancient and equally long, proud history of local independent government.
It is only the remarks of the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin) which have brought me to my feet. First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development not only for doing justice but for showing common sense. The right hon. Member for Deptford, for whom he knows I have great devotion, was tonight below his normal form of generosity. The right hon. Gentleman cannot see the difference between the Isle of Wight and Herefordshire. I think that he has fallen below that intellectual capacity and that sensitive imagination which I have always believed him to possess.
If we had been sitting here in about the year 20,000 B.C., the right hon. Gentleman's argument would have had great validity, but since then, due to the forces of nature, the Isle of Wight has been separated from the mainland. That is the reason for the exception. Although the right hon. Gentleman is qualified as a lawyer, I did not think that he was so narrowly casuistic that he must never make an exception. I think he will agree that consistency in every detail is the refuge of the very little mind.
I think that the correct quotation is, "Hobgoblin of small minds". At any rate, that was Sir Winston Churchill's view of it. I want the hon. Gentleman fully to understand my position. I am defending a special status for the Isle of Wight. The status of metropolitan district is a very important one. Many areas with much larger populations are very pleased and proud to have that status. I believe I am right in saying that the lowest population of metropolitan district in England at this moment under the Bill is 170,000 to 175,000.
I do not deny that, but those areas are all mainland areas. The whole case of my hon. Friend has been the fact that the Isle of Wight, is, curiously enough, an island. The right hon. Gentleman has been arguing as though somehow my right hon. Friend and the House of Lords have conferred a status on the Isle of Wight which has never existed, but he seems to have forgotten that it is now a county. The whole argument concerns whether it should be demoted, from a county and become a district council, if we had a different solution in Hampshire. The plain fact is that it is at present a county, and that is what the argument is about. Now the right hon. Gentleman is using his highly imaginative mind.
I am sorry for the people of Herefordshire but if an exception is to be made I cannot see a better case than for something which is not on the mainland. It is a fact of geography. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do me the honour to visit my home on the coast of Hampshire, opposite the Isle of Wight. He will find that it takes a great deal of time to get from where I live, although it is only about two and a half miles away from the Isle of Wight, to the island. The quickest way is by powerboat, but I am not rich enough to possess one.
The solution now proposed seems to me to be an admirable answer to the very difficult problems of the Isle of Wight. The heavy weather which the right hon. Gentleman is making about the fact that we on the mainland in Hampshire have been working out our arrangements is irrelevant. I welcome very much, on behalf of the mainland of Hampshire, this very happy solution to the future of the Isle of Wight.
As someone who has fought for his constituency—and I know that the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) has fought for his—I believe that we should not be small-minded enough tonight not to be delighted by the success of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt). The hon. Member campaigned with the excellence of Napoleon, and he certainly conquered. How he conquered the Minister I cannot even guess. We have
Like the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) I intervene only because of the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin). I am very fond of the Isle of Wight. It is an extremely nice place and I have spent many happy hours there. However, my right hon. Friend spoke of the reduction of Portsmouth and Southampton to the status of district councils, and drew the contrast with the creation of a new county with full powers but having a population of only 190,000—
I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says, but under the Bill and throughout our discussions we have given these criteria and have been told that areas which do not meet them cannot have their legitimate aspirations satisfied. During the Report stage the House was seized of the contradiction of reducing the county of Somerset to a population of 360,000, and reducing the city of Bristol, with a population of 424,000—four times the population of the Isle of Wight—to a district council, stripped of its powers though retaining control of housing, though in that case it is virtually emasculated by the housing Acts, that the Government majority slumped to five and in another place they were also in very serious trouble because of the anomalies in the Avon county.
Whilst I bear the Isle of Wight no ill will, I must tell the Government that this sort of anomaly will create a great deal of ill will in the very many other large cities which are being virtually stripped down and degraded by the Bill.
|Division No. 346.]||AYES||[9.58 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Biffen, John||Bowden, Andrew|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempatead)||Biggs-Davison, John||Brewis, John|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Blaker, Peter||Bryan, Sir Paul|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylabone)||Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Butler, Adam (Bosworth)|
|Benyon, W.||Boscawen, Hn. Robert||Carlisle, Mark|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Bossom, Sir Clive||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Chapman, Sydney||Holt, Miss Mary||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hordern, Peter||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Clegg, Walter||Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Cooke, Robert||Hunt, John||Raison, Timothy|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Cordle, John||Iremonger, T. L.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jessel, Toby||Redmond, Robert|
|Costain, A. P.||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Crouch, David||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kinsey, J. R.||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|d'Avlgdor-Goldsmid,Maj.-Gen.Jack||Kirk, Peter||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Dean, Paul||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Knox, David||Rost, Peter|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lane, David||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Scott, Nicholas|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Le Marchant, Spencer||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Farr, John||Longden, Sir Gilbert||Simeons, Charles|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Loveridge, John||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|F[...]dler, Michael||Luce, R. N.||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||MacArthur, Ian||Soref, Harold|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||McCrindle, R. A.||Speed, Keith|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Spence, John|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maddan, Martin||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Fowler, Norman||Madel, David||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Fox, Marcus||Mawby, Ray||Stokes, John|
|Gardner, Edward||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Miscampbell, Norman||Tebbit, Norman|
|Gower, Raymond||Mitchell, Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire,W)||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Green, Alan||Moate, Roger||Trew, Peter|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Money, Ernie||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Grylls, Michael||Monro, Hector||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Gummer, J. Selwyn||Montgomery. Fergus||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Gurden, Harold||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Hall-Davis A. G. F.||Murton, Oscar||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Normanton, Tom||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Hawkins, Paul||Osborn, John|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Hiley, Joseph||Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)||Mr. Michael Jopling and|
|Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Mr. Hamish Gray.|
|Holland, Philip||Percival, Ian|
|Abse, Leo||Faulds, Andrew||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Albu, Austen||Foot, Michael||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Ford, Ben||McCartney, Hugh|
|Allen, Scholefield||Forrester, John||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Ashton, Joe||Galpern, Sir Myer||Marks, Kenneth|
|Atkinson, Norman||Gilbert, Dr. John||Marshall, Dr. Edmund|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Golding, John||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mendelson, John|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Millan, Bruce|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Miller, Dr. M, S.|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Harper, Joseph||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)|
|Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne,W.)||Harrison. Walter (Wakefield)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Hattersley, Roy||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Horam, John||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Oakes, Gordon|
|Cohen, Stanley||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Concannon, J. D.||Huckfield, Leslie||Paget, R. T.|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Janner, Greville||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Dalyell, Tam||John, Brynmor||Pentland, Norman|
|Davidson, Arthur||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kaufman, Gerald||Prescott, John|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Kerr, Russell||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Doig, Peter||Latham, Arthur||Probert, Arthur|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lawson, George||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Rees Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Leonard, Dick||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Edwards, Robert (B[...]ston)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Ellis, Tom||Lomas, Kenneth||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Evans, Fred||Loughlin, Charles||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor)|
|Rose, Paul B.||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Swain, Thomas||Whitlock, William|
|Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton.N.E.)||Torney, Tom||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Urwin, T. W.||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Varley, Eric G.||Woof, Robert|
|Sillars, James||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Silverman, Julius||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Skinner, Dennis||Wallace, George||Mr. Tom Pendry and|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Mr. James Wellbeloved.|