Local Government Review

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th June 1992.

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Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss , North East Cambridgeshire 12:00 am, 17th June 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will ensure that full weight is given to local opinion in the forthcoming review of the structure of local government.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Minister (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

Yes. That is most important. Local opinion will be crucial in the local government commission's work programme. I have asked the commission to ensure that there are good arrangements for Members of Parliament to be able to make representations to it on those crucial matters.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss , North East Cambridgeshire

Will my hon. Friend confirm that a priority of the local government review is to preserve community identity? In the interests of testing real local opinion, does he agree that in rural areas such as Cambridgeshire it would make sense to start at grass roots, at local parish council level, and work upwards, rather than have something imposed from the county council downwards?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Minister (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

It was clear in the legislation passed last Session that the definition of natural communities was an important task of the commission. That is one of the two guiding principles in making recommendations on a new structure. Parish councils should be prepared to have discussions with county and district councils, which will undoubtedly put proposals to the commission to see how the powers under existing legislation can best be used to ensure that strong parish councils wishing to undertake a role in the new structure can do so.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

Why does the local government boundary commissioner have to consult the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration when drawing up proposals? Is not that wide open to abuse? For example, Derbyshire is in the first tranche to be investigated under local government, but it is likely to be at the back end when it comes to parliamentary seats. That means that, because of the link between the two, the parliamentary seats will shape the local government provision, rather than the usual practice of local government shaping parliamentary seats.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Minister (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

I do not agree with all the implications behind the hon. Gentleman's question. The purpose of the local government review is to find suitable boundaries and proposals for councils and there can be interaction only if county boundaries are to be changed. All the relevant considerations will be taken into account by the new commission as it goes about its work.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles , Brentwood and Ongar

Does my hon. Friend recognise that there is much local concern about reorganisation and that the principal concern is that there should not simply be a replication of existing councils, with either a small county council or a large, super-district council? Will the Government ensure that the review's function is such that we have an enabling council and that a new civic pride is engendered not only in the ownership of services but in the quality of services?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Minister (Department of Environment) (Local Government)

A sense of belonging and of happiness with the proposals in the local community is important, as I have already said in answer to previous questions. The style and method of operating particular councils will be reviewed by the commission in the light of proposals from the councils in the area and in the light of its thoughts about any other options that should be considered. My hon. Friend will have a full chance to influence the commission, as will other hon. Members, when it reaches their areas.