Information Centres, Wales
asked the Minister of Health whether he will issue a list of local authorities in Wales which maintain information bureaux and those which have citizens' advice bureaux; and whether it is his intention to continue grants for either or both of these activities.
:I have no complete information as to the local authorities in Wales which are maintaining information centres, but there are 72 citizens' advice bureaux, the majority of which serve as information centres for local authorities in whose areas they function. As explained in Circular 197/45, which I recently sent to local authorities on the subject, it is intended that the peacetime cost of this service should be borne locally and no direct Exchequer grant will be payable.
Public Relations Machinery
asked the Minister of Health how many local authorities have set up public relations machinery; and whether it is his intention to inaugurate a national public relations organisation to co-ordinate such activity as recommended by the National Association of Local Government Officers.
:Local authorities generally have machinery for contact with the Press and public. My Department is consulting representatives of the local authorities associations on suggestions for the improvement of local government publicity both locally and nationally.
Is the Minister aware that the country has 26 public relations departments and does not want to begin the same racket with local authorities?
I think we can leave that to the local authorities.
Rating And Valuation
asked the Minister of Health what steps the Government propose to take for the reform of the present system of rating and valuation.
I cannot hold out hopes of early action in this matter owing to the many other more urgent questions which are fully occupying the time of all those concerned.
Does my right hon. Friend appreciate the urgency of this matter, having regard to the increase in the financial responsibilities of local authorities; and is he not aware of the general desire that an early step should be taken, particularly in the repealing of the Derating Act?
My hon. Friend will have ample opportunity to debate the matter and discuss all these aspects of local government finance. I appreciate the need for the overhauling of all the machinery of local government finance, but there are certain substantial changes to be made before very long in the functions of local authorities, and we ought first to see what they are before we overhaul their finances.
Sea Defence Works
asked the Minister of Health if he will give the authorities concerned with sea defences a definite assurance that legislation will be introduced to enable him to make contributions towards the cost of schemes undertaken by local authorities.
No, Sir. Where drainage interests are involved, a drainage board which does approved capital works of sea defence is eligible for substantial grants under the Land Drainage Act, 1930. Other local authorities are not in general responsible for sea defence, but have the ordinary rights and duties of a property owner to protect their own property. The financial arrangements in these cases vary with the type of property to be protected. I am not satisfied that further special Exchequer assistance to local authorities as property owners is justified.
Does the Minister realise that there is a body of opinion in favour of sea defence being made a national charge?
:Is the Minister aware that in defence areas on the South-East coast we are losing some of the few houses we have?
Yes, Sir. I am aware that there is a problem here. It is one which is very substantial in character, and requires investigation and probably legislation.