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Historic Counties (Traffic Signs And Mapping)

Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 25 June 2003

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12.40 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law so as to require the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to mark the boundaries of the historic counties on its maps; to require traffic authorities to cause traffic signs to be placed on or near roads for the purpose of indicating the location of historic county boundaries; and for connected purposes.

We live in an era when so much of our heritage and traditions seem to count for nothing and when, seemingly on the whim of those who find history an irrelevance, institutions can be dispensed with, without so much as a by your leave. Yes, I will unashamedly admit that I am in favour of traditions. However, sad though it is to admit, I have to acknowledge that things move on. To me and to many others, the historic counties of this country have a real significance.

I am not trying to turn back the clock for counties to become the administrative authorities once again. I am not even attempting to get self-rule for Middlesex, however tempting that might be—I hope, perhaps, to return to that another day. All that I am asking is that those historic counties' place in our heritage is recognised. They have played a prominent role in our national life for more than a thousand years, and their names and areas are widely used in tourism, sport, business, local and family history, military history, literature and the arts. They are a source of identity and affection for many people, and they have been the basis for an unchanging, recognisable and stable geography.

Now, all that is at risk. The link between local government and the historic counties has been broken throughout much of the country. Quite frankly, some of the names of the more modern administrative areas have not really got the same ring to them. In Scotland, for example, in my opinion the title "Central Region" is not exactly evocative. Goodness knows what the bureaucrats will come up with in the future. They will probably number the counties, so I might live in region 3B.

My Bill would introduce just two of the measures that have been proposed by the Association of British Counties, under the admirable chairmanship of Mr. Michael Bradford. Those aspirations are shared by many other county trusts, such as mine in Middlesex, where Mr. Russell Grant is such a champion, not just for us Middle Saxons, but for all the counties. All I ask is that signs, such as the brown and white tourism signs, be placed to mark the county boundaries and a duty be placed on the Ordnance Survey to mark those boundaries on larger-scale maps.

Perhaps it is unfashionable to be proud of our past and our heritage. I am self-evidently not cool, and some Labour Members—and even people outside the House—may say in today's parlance that I am quite sad. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Sad I may be, but I am immensely proud of the history of my county and my country. That is why I ask the House to support the Bill today.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. John Randall, Mr. David Amess, Mr. Harry Barnes, Mr. David Curry, Mr. Nigel Evans, Mr. Adrian Flook, Mr. David Hinchliffe, Mr. Elfyn Llwyd, Mr. Andrew Rosindell, Mr. Hugo Swire, Mr. David Wilshire and Sir Nicholas Winterton.