Orders of the Day — Parish Councils (Fareham)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:55 pm on 25 January 1996.

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Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment) 7:55, 25 January 1996

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir P. Lloyd) on his success in the ballot. I am genuinely delighted that he has used this opportunity to clarify many of the figures and spell them out succinctly, so that it will be possible to take them away and consider them again.

Until we can consider the points that my right hon. Friend has made, it is worth touching on the scene as we now see it. As he said, during the early stages of its review in Hampshire, the Local Government Commission received proposals for the creation of seven new parishes, including the two that he mentioned this evening. Those proposals were put forward by local steering committees set up in Sarisbury and Warsash to look at the question of emparishing. Both groups held public meetings and conducted surveys, which provided some evidence that local residents supported the creation of parishes for both areas. My right hon. Friend covered that matter carefully. A report in the Local Government Chronicle of August 1993 said that business in Warsash favoured a parish council.

The commission consulted on all the parishing proposals when it included them in its draft report for Hampshire. As it received only one representation against the emparishment of Sarisbury and none against the emparishment of Warsash, it included both in its final report. The representations that we then received about the final proposals did not suggest that we would be justified in overturning the commission's recommendation for Fareham. Both those consultations took place against a background of draft and final recommendations for no change in the county and district structure in Fareham. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State accepted the parish recommendations in his announcement of 11 July.

Following further correspondence from my right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham, we agreed to look again at our decision, should evidence be provided to show that the majority of the electorate was clearly against the parishing proposals. As my right hon. Friend said, Fareham councillors have now carried out surveys in selected parts of both Sarisbury and Warsash, the results of which suggest that the majority of the residents who were approached were against the proposed parishes. A cynic suggested to me that, because a letter went out earlier highlighting the levy of just one nearby parish, that could have influenced the response. At the same time, I also received letters that continued to support the recommendation and asked that we proceed with creating the new parishes.

I should like to take away the points that my right hon. Friend has made this evening, look at them carefully and put them before my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, so that we may consider them before reaching a final decision. I am therefore grateful for the opportunity that my right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham has provided for us to look at this matter clearly and afresh, with the figures succinctly before us.