Local Government Boundaries

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29 March 1993.

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Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend 12:00, 29 March 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list the representations he has received concerning his proposal to remove the communities of Coychurch Lower, Ewenny, Saint Bride's Major and Wide from Ogwr and place them in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

Since 1 March, we have received 44 representations about the proposal to transfer those communities to a Vale of Glamorgan authority.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend

Is not it true that the vast majority of the communities have made it clear that they totally oppose the transfer of Saint Bride's Major, Coychurch Lower, Ewenny and Wide into the Vale of Glamorgan? After all, those communities are part of the natural hinterland of Bridgend. They are in the Bridgend travel-to-work area and have an existing loyalty to that area.

Can the Minister instruct his civil servant, who is replying to letters from my constituents, to cross out the concluding sentence of the letter in which he makes a claim which is not true—that the Vale of Glamorgan is more used to dealing with small rural communities than is the Ogwr borough? In communities with under 4,000, it is 10:7 in favour of Ogwr and in communities with under 3,500, it is 9:7 in favour of Ogwr. If one looks at the size of Saint Bride's Major, which is the biggest community council, one sees that six communities in Ogwr have a population that is less than that of Saint Bride's Major—only two are in the Vale of Glamorgan. What the civil servant says is totally untrue. I hope that the Minister will listen to the representations from my constituents.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we will certainly listen to representations about any points of detail. The Boundary Commission is to examine boundaries after the legislation is in place to see whether there are any anomalies. I do not accept the fundamental premise of the hon. Gentleman's question. Essentially, these communities are geographically and socially part of the Vale of Glamorgan and I suggest that it would be more appropriate for them to be part of a Vale of Glamorgan authority.

Photo of Mr Walter Sweeney Mr Walter Sweeney , Vale of Glamorgan

Is my hon. Friend aware that, before the issue of the White Paper, the Vale of Glamorgan borough council made a suggestion to Ogwr that a joint survey be commissioned to produce an independent result of opinion in the communities in question but that that was rejected by Ogwr, greatly to the disappointment of those in the Vale of Glamorgan who overwhelmingly support the inclusion of those areas in the vale?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

I am sure that my hon. Friend makes an important point in the matter of independent consultation. I am aware that he is in tune with communities such as these four from his representation of the Vale of Glamorgan.

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith , Blaenau Gwent

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will outline the reasons for proposing a unitary authority based on Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil, together with the community areas of Rhymney, Darran Valley and New Tredegar.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

The proposed Heads of the Valleys authority brings together communities that have a similar social, economic and cultural heritage. A unitary authority for the area, by building on the strengths of all its component parts, will provide the effective local government which is needed to deal with its social and economic problems.

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith , Blaenau Gwent

Under the proposal for the new Heads of the Valley unitary authority, could the Minister give more details about the community links between Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr? Can he tell me the time that it would take to get from Swffryd in the south of Blaneau Gwent to Merthyr Tydfil by travelling on public transport? Of all those people who submitted evidence—I believe that the evidence is now in the Library—can he tell me how many people and who submitted evidence supporting a unitary authority based on the heads of the valley proposal?

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

My right hon. Friend has received a total of 252 representations, often conflicting, about possible boundaries for authorities in the valleys. I visited Blaenau Gwent on 19 March and talked to councillors there. I am well aware of their anxiety to remain an authority on their own. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the population of the area has fallen. In 1971, it was about 85,700 and by 1991 it was down to 76,900. It is very important that we should create a unitary authority which is viable.

When I travelled from Tredegar to Ebbw Vale I noted that we went by the Heads of the Valleys road. Only a little further along that road is Merthyr.

Photo of Jonathan Evans Jonathan Evans , Brecon and Radnor

Is my hon. Friend aware that on the journey between Tredegar and Ebbw Vale he went past a monument located in the constituency of the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith)? It is three stones which commemorate Aneurin Bevan, who represented the area for 30 years. The three stones represent the communities of Tredegar, Ebbw Vale and Rhymney—three areas to be brought together under the proposals of my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

I certainly noted that memorial to the late Aneurin Bevan. Indeed, I am so long in the tooth that I remember going to hear the declaration of his result in a general election, which Gaitskell conceded. Nye Bevan said: I shall not concede victory until the last ballot box is opened.

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands , Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

The hon. Member did not include Merthyr Tydfil in his list. I have not yet found an individual or representative organisation in my constituency which supports the Minister's proposal. I noticed that he was quiet about the 250 people and organisations who have written to him. Which one or more of them supports the principle of a Heads of the Valleys authority as proposed by the Government?

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

A Heads of the Valleys authority makes a great deal of sense for the main reason that I gave —that Merthyr and Blaenau Gwent have a similar economic and social history. I am sure that if Merthyr had been included in Nye Bevan's constituency, it would have been proud of him and of the constituency.