House Of Lords
Monday, 11th September, 1972
Reassembling after the Summer Recess, the House met at half past two of the clock, The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.
Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Guildford.
Industrial Training Boards: Publication Of Accounts
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government how the Hairdressing and Allied Services Industry Training Board contrived to lay before Parliament on August 7, 1972, their Report and Statement of Accounts for the period ending September 30, 1972.
My Lords, as it appeared possible that this Paper, pursuant to the Industrial Training Act 1964, would be presented before the end of the Summer Recess, it was necessary to present it in dummy in order to avoid delay in its publication.
My Lords, I am obliged to the Minister for that Answer. Was this Paper one of 85 Parliamentary Papers that were laid in dummy between July 25 and August 8? Does this practice do any good at all or does it merely waste clerical time in the Departments and in Parliament? If that is so, is it not worth looking at the practice of laying in dummy, with a view to getting it abolished?
My Lords, I confess that I suspected that the noble Lord's Question was perhaps more concerned with Parliamentary practice than with the affairs of the Hairdressing and Allied Services Industry Training Board. However, I spent this morning trying to find out the state of play on the implementation of the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the publication of Proceedings in Parliament. The noble Lord will appreciate that this was not entirely easy as many people, particularly the officials concerned, are on leave and as the other place is in Recess. However, the information I was able to obtain suggests that the implementation of these recommendations is really a matter for decision by the other place. If the noble Lord wishes, however, I will take steps to see that he is given more information when the other place reassembles. He will appreciate also that this is not wholly a matter for the Department of Employment.
My Lords, I am much obliged for that answer.
National Army Museum
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware that admission to the National Army Museum is being advertised as free till the end of the year; and whether they will confirm that it is not proposed to introduce entrance charges in 1973.
My Lords, I am not clear to what advertisement the noble Lord refers but the National Army Museum is not one of the museums covered by the White Paper on future policy for Museums and Galleries. The charging of admission fees is at the discretion of the Council of the Museum.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Arising out of it, may I ask him whether he is aware that the National Army Museum is advertised in the way I have described inWhat's On in London dated August 25? Secondly, may I ask him whether he is aware that this very fine museum, which was opened as a result of the efforts of Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer, with the support of generous public subscription, has very few visitors; and can the Department do something to ensure that it receives more publicity?
My Lords, with regard to the first supplementary question of the noble Lord, I was not aware of that fact, but I can tell him that the decision on charges is of course one for the Trustees of the museum. I understand that they see no objection in principle, but they have as yet made no firm decision. With regard to the noble Lord's second question, I heartily endorse what he has said about the excellence of the National Army Museum. and the fact that it is entirely due to the efforts of Sir Gerald Templer—and others who have helped him of course—in getting subscriptions for the Army Museum—that it exists at all. Anything we can do to publicise it we shall certainly do, and I hope that the fact that the noble Lord has asked this supplementary question will go some way towards that end.
My Lords, in asking the noble Lord to do what he can for the National Army Museum, may I also ask him to undertake to provide equal support to the new R.A.F. Museum which,pari passu owes so much to the energies of Sir Dermot Boyle and which will be a very fine museum?
My Lords, the R.A.F. Museum is being opened by Her Majesty the Queen later this year and I shall, I hope, have the honour to attend that opening. I have no doubt that as Sir Gerald Templer must be very pleased with what he has done for the Army Museum, so, too, is Sir Dermot Boyle with the R.A.F. Museum.
Moroccan Officers' Deportation From Gibraltar
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the extradition from Gibraltar to Morocco of two officers alleged to have been involved in the deplorable attempted assassination of King Hassan involves any modification of the practice of extending asylum to political offenders.
My Lords, the two officers concerned were returned to Morocco in accordance with the Gibraltar Immigration Control Ordinance as undesirable immigrants. This was not therefore extradition and does not involve any modification to the practice of extending asylum to political refugees.
My Lords, while thanking the noble Baroness for that reply, may I ask whether she appreciates, in the words ofThe Times, the "deep disquiet" about this action, because, first of all—and despite what the noble Baroness has said it is relevant—there is no extradition treaty with Morocco; secondly, these persons were given no opportunity of exercising their legal right to go to the courts; and thirdly, they were not given the opportunity of being permitted to go to another country rather than Morocco?
My Lords, I would say, first of all, as I said in my original reply, that this is not extradition, because, under Section 43 of the Ordinance in Gibraltar, any non-Gibraltarian who has entered Gibraltar and who, in consequence of any information received from any source, is considered by the principal immigration officer to be an undesirable immigrant can be sent back. It is not necessary for him to go to another country because it is usual to send the person concerned, if he is a prohibited immigrant, back to the country of origin.
My Lords, is the noble Baroness not aware that there is the deepest anxiety over this particular incident? Am I right in understanding that there was in fact no need to have returned them, and that it would have been possible for them to be moved somewhere else? Does not the noble Baroness agree that there are occasions where refugees have come to this country who would also strictly have been prohibited immigrants? I would invite her to ask her colleagues in the Government to think about this matter very carefully, because I believe there must be great anxiety over what has happened.
My Lords, a great deal of careful thought was given to what is always a very difficult problem. There are about 3,000 Moroccans working within Gibraltar, and it was felt that this particular section of the Immigration Control should be used, as the presence of these two officers would not be conducive to the public good.
My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that this explanation, with great respect to her, makes matters very much worse? These two men were sent back to a firing squad. The question is not whether they should have been allowed to remain in Gibraltar, but whether they should have been sent to a country where they had been working, under the directions of the King and of a convicted murderer responsible for one of the worst political crimes in Europe in our day. Should not investigation be made as to whether this gentleman, who is now said to have committed suicide, was, or was not, then alive? They are sent to a firing squad because, according to the noble Baroness, they were thought to be"undesirable". Everyone knows that there is no justice in Morocco, and everyone knows that even if there was they might well have been shot. But to send them back by return, "parcel post"—
SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Speech!
without any adequate consultation with the authorities, without any investigation of the circumstances, and without any full knowledge, is something so deplorable that we welcome Mr. Bernard Levin writing on this with the pen of Voltaire.
My Lords, the fact remains that these two officers are going to come for trial under Moroccan laws. The fact must also be taken into account that these officers were alleged to have taken part in an attack on an unarmed aircraft containing no fewer than 100 people, including the King, and that when this was unsuccessful they went and shot up Rabat airport, where many kinds of people were involved who had no political connection whatever.
My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness will give careful consideration to what she has said. She is repeating allegations as though they were evidence. I recognise the noble Baroness's difficulty, but would she confirm that the authorities in Gibraltar consulted her right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary before this decision was taken?
My Lords, my right honourable friend was consulted. I think that it should also be borne in mind, in connection with the decision to send the officers back, that there is widespread distress and anxiety about the terrorist activities which are taking part all over the world.
My Lords, while not disagreeing with some of the concern that has been expressed, I should have felt happier if the Government of the day under Mr. Harold Wilson had done something about the extradition of Mr. Tshombe when he was abducted in a British aircraft. Nothing was done at all, and that was the first of the hijackings. Are not these matters very complicated, and do they not need very careful consideration?
My Lords, that is perfectly true, but the particular incident to which my noble friend referred is another question.
My Lords, while welcoming the noble Baroness's reply that this was another question, may I ask her whether she will bear in mind that there is a very important principle to which this country has been devoted for many years, and that is the right of political asylum? This decision has caused deep concern. Will she ask the Government again, whatever they may have done—and this was a decision clearly taken in the greatest haste—whether it was consistent with the constitutional practice and freedoms of this country?
My Lords, I have studied the constitutional practice with the greatest care, and I am satisfied that the Governor had a perfect right either to grant or to refuse political asylum. He is primarily, just as we are in this country, responsible for Gibraltar and the welfare of its inhabitants.
My Lords, would the noble Baroness confirm that since 1858, after the Orsini outrage against Napoleon III, it has not been customary to give asylum to those engaged in assassination, or in plots of assassination, against sovereigns of another country?
My Lords, I could not, without notice, give a categorical reply to the noble Lord's question, but I would say that the question of terrorism was certainly taken into account in this decision.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness this question? She has told us that these people were excluded under the immigration regulations. May I ask whether there is anything in the immigration regulations which requires these people to be sent to any particular place, or whether under the regulations they can go back to any place they like?
My Lords, no comment was received from those concerned when it was decided that they should go back to Morocco. As I understand it, they could go to another country, but it is customary to send them back to the country of origin.
My Lords, following on that reply, may I ask whether these two people were asked where they wanted to go?
So far as I know, no, my Lords.
My Lords, instead of describing these two officers as undesirable immigrants, would it not be more correct to describe them as political refugees and, as such, at least entitled to some consideration of their case before they were sent back to what will probably be their instant death?
My Lords, of course consideration was given to this question, but the subject of political refugees is very complicated and involves questions of persecution on grounds of race, religion or nationality. This case could not possibly come under that heading.
My Lords, will the noble Baroness agree that both her own reply and this discussion show that there should be some clarification of the confusion about the law in relation to extradition and deportation on the ground of not being desirable immigrants? Does the noble Baroness remember that ever since many years ago, when I raised this issue in another place—the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, was then Home Secretary—it has been accepted that in cases where there is a political element a person shall be allowed to go to another country, rather than to a country where he may be under liability to death or imprisonment?
My Lords, on the first point, I regret it if I have caused any confusion—I did not think I had—in the House this afternoon. But I would say that under Section 46 of the Gibraltar Ordinance Act these persons could have been removed—"removed"is the operative word—for a political offence. They were in fact sent under Section 43. The Governor of Gibraltar and ourselves have a responsibility to those concerned and to Gibraltar, and I think it is right that this decision was taken.
My Lords, does it not seem regrettable that there should be this widespread expression of sympathy with actions that were as distasteful, as dangerous and as contrary to humanity as these attempted actions were?
My Lords, I was careful to say that these were alleged actions, because of course there will be a trial. But the fact remains that we have to take into account the widespread terrorism all over the world, and somewhere we have to take a stand.
My Lords, in view of the character of the next Question in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Janner, would it not be appropriate for us to turn to that question now and consider it in antithesis to the Question which is now under consideration?
My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she is aware that those of us who are putting these questions are concerned with liberty and that we have no sympathy at all with the attempted assassination which took place in Morocco? May I also ask her to answer the second question which I put to her, about the right of these people to go to another country when there is a political element involved?
My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord expressed his concern about acts of this kind, which I think will be shared by the House as a whole. I answered his second question earlier. I said that it is customary to send a prohibited immigrant back to the country from which he came.
Olympic Games Tragedy And Joint Action On Terrorism
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government, in view of the horrific massacre committed at the Olympic Games in Munich, what steps they propose to take in conjunction with other Governments to prevent the harbouring by any State of terrorist assassins and those who plan the murders and train the murderers, and to deal with those criminals generally.
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have made it clear how deeply they deplore acts of indiscriminate violence. Together with other Governments we are considering various methods to prevent terrorism and to ensure that terrorists are brought to justice.
My Lords. in view of the ghastly massacre and the quite certain fact that these men were killed in a most callous manner while they were bound, may I, first of all, ask the noble Baroness whether she will see to it that since Egypt has declared that she condones—indeed, commends—the action, the Egyptian Foreign Minister will not be invited to this country, particularly in view of public anxiety about the matter?Secondly, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she will now see that some method is adopted whereby such organisations as the Palestine Liberation Organisation and indeed Fatah, whose offices in Beirut are being used by the Black September group who committed this action, will be prevented from coming here or opening offices? Thirdly, may I ask why Her Majesty's Government saw fit to attack Israel, when all that Israel was doing was trying to exterminate centres from which these activities emanate? It is vitally important, not only to Israel but to the world as a whole, that these centres should be destroyed, and States which allow such centres in their countries should not receive such facilities as civilisation affords to other nations.
My Lords, I perfectly understand the noble Lord's concern, but I do not think that we can hope to achieve peace in the Middle East if we deny a visit to this country of the Egyptian Foreign Minister. Therefore that will go on, and it is expected to be on about September 18, although it has not been finally confirmed.So far as the P.L.O. office and other offices of that nature are concerned, I am sure the noble Lord knows that under the laws of this country we cannot refuse permission for an organisation to set up an office. But we have very strict laws under which we can refuse persons whom we have any reason to think are likely to commit terrorist activities in this country. On the third question, I would say that the United Kingdom delegation in the Security Council fought hard to have inserted in the resolution something which also condemned what happened at Munich. We were not successful, and therefore we voted for the resolution which condemned attacks in the Middle East as it stood. because we did not think to do otherwise would help the cause which Israel has at heart.
My Lords, I am certain that the whole House will share my noble friend's great horror at the episode at Munich last week. I have a feeling that the House will agree with me if I suggest to the noble Earl the Leader of the House—since we are the only House of this Parliament which is now sitting—that perhaps means could be found to express to the Government and people of Israel our very deep regret and great sympathy at what occurred in Munich last week.The noble Baroness referred to the position of Her Majesty's Government under the law in regard to the offices of these various organisations. I believe that she undertook to look into this. I presume, in view of what she has said, that it is still being considered, and I hope she can confirm that. I wonder whether the noble Baroness could also say something about the attitude of Her Majesty's Government at the conference last week in America on hijacking and terrorism, since it is all part and parcel of the same problem. I understand that the Americans proposed that there should be a convention about the return of hijackers and terrorists. In that particular case the British Government, I understand, did not agree with the United States and have made their own proposals. I wonder whether the noble Baroness, to-day or perhaps while we are sitting, would make a Statement on this matter?
My Lords, I would say at once that of course Her Majesty's Government, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, instantly expressed very great concern and regret at the killings in Munich.In reply to the second question as to the P.L.O. office, there is, as I understand it, no intention at the moment to set up such an office. The question was examined. It would need legislation, and it would be extremely difficult to draft legislation through which there could not be a great number of loopholes. But under the law of this country we have power to act and will act against individuals, which is much the most important. On the third question, at the conference of the ICAO in the United States the Americans tabled an outline draft providing for a procedure first of all for deciding when a State was in default in relation to hijacking or sabotage against aircraft, and secondly for agreement among States on the form of concerted action they could take. A number of members, I understand, found it very difficult to accept these proposals. Therefore the United Kingdom put forward alternative proposals designed to be more acceptable, and those are now under consideration.
My Lords, in view of the great escalation of terror that has been going on, is it not urgent that the Government should consider legislation against terrorists, particularly in view of the reply of the noble Baroness to my noble friend Lord Brockway, which made it seem likely that terrorists could be harboured here and sent back to their own country to be let off and not to be punished?
My Lords, the noble Baroness's supplementary question was rather in contrast with that of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. Quite apart from the question of offices in this country, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will discuss this week with his European colleagues, the Foreign and Finance Ministers, in Rome, the whole question of the harbouring of terrorists and methods of preventing terrorism.
My Lords, would not the noble Baroness agree that, great as may be the drafting and legal difficulties, it is an anomaly that no powers exist to exclude organisations in the same way as we now can exclude individuals? Would she not agree that the principles of a free society, difficult as they may be to translate into legislation, do not involve acquiescence in being suckers?
My Lords, I would entirely agree with the noble Lord in that respect, but it is also a fact (is it not?) that any terrorist organisation could assume a perfectly innocent name, and therefore that it is more effective to have in the legal system a power to act against individuals.
My Lords, is it not the recognition of the ordinary legal and moral duty to co-operate against crime which belongs to the citizens and institutions of any civilised State? That principle was put to the Jewish National Council by Her Majesty's Government in 1947 following the murder of 40 British soldiers by a Jewish organisation. The Jewish National Council refused to accept the principle on the ground that it conflicted with Jewish political interests.I suggest to the Minister for earnest consideration that Her Majesty's Government should undertake a study with her Defence partners on the nature of modern society in relation to acts of war and the use of guerilla forces. For the world may now be facing a phenomenon which perhaps has its origins in the Book of Isaiah. But to-day the urban guerrilla is the ultra-modern manifestation of an emergency problem which we may have to accept as part of our lives. What happened at Munich is shocking and deplorable and can find no sanction in the minds of civilised men and women. But Her Majesty's Government will realise that the same thing is happening every day in Ulster and Vietnam and the problem must be looked at as a world problem and a continuing moral, political and defence problem that may continue and grow.
My Lords, I would agree that the urban guerilla is one of the most formidable and difficult problems civilised countries have to face and it is for that reason that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is consulting with his colleagues in Rome. It is also a fact that it has been brought into the United Nations General Assembly by the proposal of the United Nations Secretary-General to inscribe an item on measures to prevent terrorism, and this, of course, will be debated in this coming Session.
My Lords, while recognising that two wrongs do not make a right, is it not a fact, as the noble Lord has pointed out, that post-war terrorism started in 1946–47 with the brutal murders by the Irgun Zvi Leumi and the Stern Gang`"Referring to the Orange Grove murders and the blowing up of the King David Hotel did not Ben Hecht write:
As a soldier who served in Palestine at that time and lost a very close friend, and as the father of a soldier now on his third turn of duty in the Creggan and Bogside, may I ask the Government to make certain that the media give adequate coverage to the funeral this week of three or four, or it may be five, British soldiers killed in Northern Ireland, as they did to the Munich catastrophe? After all, the unfortunate soldier was only doing then what he is doing now, trying to stop two barbaric tribes murdering each other."I have a song in my heart every time a British soldier is killed."
My Lords, while I absolutely understand the noble Lord's feeling, I am afraid the Government have no power to influence the media on what they report or how they report it. I would suggest that if we do want to have a settlement in the Middle East me should as far as possible contain the many things no doubt many of us would like to say.
My Lords, those of us, and there are many, who have friends in both Israel and Egypt deeply regret that Egypt did not condemn the crimes of Munich, and when the Egyptian Minister comes to Britain will Her Majesty's Government convey to the Egyptians that crimes of this nature hinder everything that Egypt has in mind?
My Lords, I think we would all agree with the last part of the noble Lord's Statement. The first part of his question I will certainly draw to the attention of my right honourable friend.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether, having had raised again this question of the P.L.O. and similar organisations, she will inquire of the FATAII what they have been doing in this matter for many years? Similar organisations should, by legislation if necessary, be prevented from having centres in this country from which centres go forth instructions, directly or indirectly, to this kind of gang. Secondly, may I ask her to realise that what happened at the Olympic Games indicates that there is a cancerous growth which tends to destroy civilisation if it is not cut out at once? Will she see to it that the strongest measures as far as are humanly possible, are taken to prevent this kind of action continuing?
My Lords, I am glad the noble Lord said "as far as are humanly possible", because I think that sums up the whole question. We have for some time taken measures to strengthen our security arrangements here, and of course we are trying to cooperate with other governments in the international field. To reveal exactly what these arrangements are would mean that they would be useless, but I certainly take the point of the great seriousness of this matter.
My Lords, pending any further action, could the Government let it be known to the Governments of the Arab States, particularly during the forthcoming visit of the Egyptian Foreign Minister, that the presence of these terrorists, or any of their associates, would be highly unwelcome in this country?
My Lords, I think it is well known throughout the Middle East that we very much deplore the harbouring of terrorists of this nature.
My Lords, would the noble Baroness—
My Lords, although the questioning has gone very wide and some of it has not been in an interrogative form, I have hesitated to intervene in this discussion because of the seriousness of the issues raised in the last two Questions and because Parliament has not had a chance to ventilate these issues. But I would suggest to your Lordships, with all deference to my noble friend, that it would be right for us now to move on to the rest of our business.
My Lords, in supporting the noble Earl perhaps I may say that I was about to rise to ask whether, while he was on holiday and I was on holiday—and, of course, we all ought still to be on holiday—there had been a change in Standing Orders which allowed a debate to take place based on a Question; but in view of the extreme tolerance which I think the House has shown on a matter on which, equally, as the noble Earl makes clear, there is such deep feeling, I think he was probably right to let it run as far as he did. May I, however, ask one question? Would the noble Baroness consider what has been the result of the consideration which her colleague, the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, undertook to give to the possibility of taking powers to deal with the setting up of organisations?
My Lords, I know, of course, that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition is a good Parliamentarian, but at the end of his remarks to the effect that this debate should come to a close he has somehow managed to insert a question, which I feel is not entirely fair to my noble friend, sitting on this side, who had risen to his feet. Therefore, unless the noble Earl the Leader of the House asks me to go further I would say only that I did answer the noble Lord's question earlier on.
My Lords, the noble Baroness is so courteous and so fair. She heard what I said.
My Lords, I will, with the leave of the House, make a Statement about the situation in Northern Ireland. Since the House went into recess on August 11 operations by the security forces against the terrorists in Northern Ireland have been maintained at a high level. In the period between Operation "Motorman" on July 31 and September 8, 127 persons have been brought before the courts and charged with offences related to terrorist activities. Arms finds have included 17 machine guns, 150 rifles, 108 pistols, 24,500 rounds of ammunition and approximately 7½ tons of explosives. There has in recent weeks been a reduction in the number of bombing incidents, although the security forces continue to suffer casualties from bombing and sniping attacks made directly on them.But action against terrorism is not enough by itself, and at the same time Her Majesty's Government have pressed ahead with the preparations for a conference between the 25th and the 27th September which will discuss the future constitutional arrangements for the Province. At this conference the political Parties in Northern Ireland represented at Stormont will have the opportunity to express their considered views on the future of Northern Ireland. Her Majesty's Government are encouraged by the preparation, and publication, of proposals by some of the Parties. In addition, Her Majesty's Government have invited, and have received, a number of comments from other persons or organisations. It is the Government's intention to give the most careful examination to all of these comments and proposals. Political progress is, however, threatened by incidents such as that which occurred last Thursday in the Shan-kill area of Belfast, in which a mobile patrol was confronted with a riotous crowd. The incident led to an exchange of fire in which two persons lost their lives. The circumstances of this incident are being investigated by the police with the full co-operation of the Service authorities, and the conclusions will be reported to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It is clear that incidents of this kind cannot do other than impede and obstruct progress towards the restoration of peaceful conditions in Northern Ireland. Her Majesty's Government well understand the impact of three years of violence and terrorism, and the natural anxiety of people to protect themselves. If, however, the people of Northern Ireland, who have suffered so much, want to see the emergence of an orderly society, they must appreciate that this cannot be achieved so long as extreme factions in both communities persist in provocative behaviour and sectarian violence in the streets. The people of Great Britain know—and the people of Northern Ireland must realise it, too—that the lot of British soldiers, contending not only with sniping and bombing attacks but also with violent behaviour from opposing factions, including persons of all ages and both sexes, is a very hard one indeed. There can be no peace in Northern Ireland unless it is left to the properly constituted security forces to deal with violence and disorder from wherever it may come.
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, and indeed to the Leader of the House, for this Statement. I think it is most valuable that, while your Lordships are sitting, even if Members of another place are still enjoying a holiday, we should have reports on important matters; and this continues the practice of Her Majesty's Government in regard to Northern Ireland. I do not wish to comment at any great length because, in a sense, there is nothing very new in what the noble Lord has said, but I think it is fair to say that we receive with some feeling of relief the fact that the situation does not appear to have deteriorated since we last had a Statement. There have been some new developments, and once again the Army, as always, have borne the brunt. They have, for the most part, suffered the casualties; and, whatever particular incidents there may have been, they have shown a degree of discipline and self-control which I still believe could not have been equalled by any other Army. It is inevitable, when there is violence of this kind, that there should be incidents, although I do not know the detail of that in the Shankill area, and the tragedy of the civilians who were killed, about which there is to be an inquiry. One does not know the circumstances.But in the light of the very large arms haul following Operation "Motorman", and of persons being brought before the courts and charged with offences, may I ask the noble Lord whether there have been further internments? I think there is general agreement that, one way or another, it would be far better that there should not be; and it was interesting to note the Unionist Party's proposals that internment should be abandoned and that some proper form of judicial procedure should be followed. If the noble Lord can tell us it would be interesting to know whether internment is going on. May I further ask him whether, if he has any further information on the prospects for this conference, he will give it to your Lordships before the House rises, bearing in mind that we all accept the extreme delicacy of what Mr. Whitelaw is attempting to do and that none of us would wish in any way to impede what he is doing, or make his task more difficult, and would only wish him luck in bringing about a successful conference?
My Lords, perhaps I might comment on those points before the noble Lord the Leader of the Liberal Party intervenes. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked whether it was right to say that there has been no deterioration in the situation in Northern Ireland since Operation "Motorman". The position has changed, and the most significant feature in many ways is the considerable decline in the number of bombing attacks, particularly against civilian targets. This in itself is an advance, but in other respects the situation is still far from satisfactory. The Secretary of State has not signed any internment orders, but he has detained a number of people under the powers of detention contained in the Special Powers Act. If I can make a further statement next week, and my noble friend the Leader of the House thinks it appropriate, I shall be happy to do so.
My Lords, I should like to endorse everything that was said by the noble Lord about the appalling difficulties in which the British forces find themselves in Northern Ireland and to endorse what the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition has said about how proud we are of the way they are behaving. May I ask whether the conference will be confined to matters of constitutional importance or whether the opportunity will be taken, having got the participants together, to see if it is not possible for them to use their influence on the irresponsible groups of militants, and particularly civilians (men, women and even children), which are emerging and bring pressure on these wings to stop the unfair attacks on the peace-keeping forces of the area?
My Lords, tributes have often been paid in this House to the Armed Forces and I can tell your Lordships that they are very much appreciated. I invariably pass them on to the G.O.C. and will certainly do so again in the case of the comments of the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Byers. The leaders of the political Parties in Northern Ireland have a responsibility to try to use their influence in favour of moderation. Some of them, to their credit, have done so. But I would have some reservations about trying to adapt the conference for this purpose. It is essential from time to time to create an opportunity to enable people concerned with future constitutional arrangements to stand back from current events and think about the future pattern.
My Lords, in regard to what the noble Lord said about the possibility of distorting the purpose of the conference, might it not be worth while to consider getting agreement for a separate conference at a later stage on this subject of exerting pressure on all sides?
My Lords, I should like to bear that suggestion in mind. We are in touch on a regular basis with representatives of all the political Parties. The intimacy of contact between the Government, the political Parties and the politicians in Northern Ireland is of great advantage in this respect.
My Lords, could my noble friend say anything about the relationship between the Army and the Ulster Defence Association?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, speaks with great knowledge and experience on matters concerning Northern Ireland. The Ulster Defence Regiment is a disciplined body of men under the command of the G.O.C. and subject to the authority of the Secretary of State for Defence. They carry out useful and important duties such as safeguarding police stations, searching vehicles and so on, relieving Army personnel of these duties.
My Lords, would the Minister be good enough to give a slightly more objective account of the situation by informing the House how many casualties, killed and wounded, the Armed Forces have suffered since " Motorman" and the number for a comparable period before that operation?
My Lords, with the leave of the House, the most appropriate way in which I could answer that question would be to circulate the information inHansard.
My Lords, would the noble Lord consider whether he could make a Statement next week on the outcome of the Prime Minister's discussion with Mr. Lynch in Munich?—because the situation of Mr. Lynch is now becoming dreadfully analogous to that in other countries where terrorist organisations are permitted to exist, to advertise themselves and give publicity to their activities with complete freedom. Is the noble Lord aware that many of us feel that these bloody murderers are receiving rather too much encouragement and help, both below the Border and from British Press and publicity?
My Lords, it would be inappropriate for me to make a statement on matters covered in the discussion between the Prime Minister and Mr. Lynch. These discussions took place on the basis of confidentiality; but I can tell the noble Lord that Her Majesty's Government maintain the closest possible contact with the Government of the Republic. They are well aware of the strength of feeling in the North about cross-Border raids and similar matters. We intend to maintain that contact.
My Lords, would my noble friend circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT not only the details of the casualties among the Armed Forces and the police force but also the number of casualties and the number who needed hospital attention among the civilian population of Northern Ireland in the last three years—women and children as well?
My Lords, I shall certainly see what information is available and over what period. If it does not correspond exactly with that for which the noble Lord has asked I will get in touch with him and say what statistics I can provide.
My Lords, could the Minister at this stage make any assessment of the extent to which, as is suggested in the Press, it is factual that international leaders of violence, disorder and terrorism are taking an increasing part in the guidance, at close range or at distant range, of these unfortunate operations in Ireland?
My Lords, I have no information to give the House on that to-day. We are having enough difficulty in dealing with the national leaders of violence.
My Lords, could the noble Lord say what nature of investigation will be carried out into the Shankill Road affair?—by which I mean to say, will the result of the investigation he made public? Secondly, does the Secretary of State intend to hold the conference even if the S.D.L.P. refuse to attend?
My Lords, there is an established complaints procedure which, if it establishes the possibility that a criminal offence has been committed, involves the papers being referred to the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions. It is then for him to decide whether any further action should be taken. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, who speaks with such knowledge on matters concerning Northern Ireland, will agree with me if I say it is important that the complaints procedure should not be abused and made the vehicle for advancing sectarian interests. As regards the attendance of the S.D.L.P. or any other Party which has been invited to the conference later this month, it is our strong hope that every Party that has been invited to attend will do so. That remains the position. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister is meeting representatives of the S.D.L.P. to-morrow. But they must accept, as we have made plain to others, that nobody can expect to have a veto on the holding of this conference.
My Lords, is the Minister in a position to tell the House. as regards the large haul of arms made during Operation "Motorman", what proportion were made in Protestant and what in Catholic areas?
My Lords, the security forces search for arms wherever they believe they are to be found, no matter in what area. Since "Motorman", 14 machine guns, 136 rifles, 85 pistols, 36 shotguns, 18,000 rounds of ammunition, and over seven tons of explosive material have been found in predominantly Catholic areas. In Protestant areas the security forces have found 3 machine guns, 14 rifles, 23 pistols, 3 shotguns, 6,800 rounds of ammunition and 650 lb. of explosives.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, one question on procedure? Do I understand that in order to supply the information for which the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has asked, and which I think the House would like to have, it is possible for the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to circulate it, or should we not use the flexible procedure which we have by which a Question is put down to-day and, even though it does not appear on the Order Paper to-morrow, it can in fact be ans- wered to-morrow so that the answer appears at the same time, in which case Lord Wigg's Question could be translated formally into a Question for Written Answer?
My Lords, I think it would be very helpful if the noble Lord, Lord Wigg's Question could receive the wide publicity which it is possible to give by a Question for Written Answer. I understand that my noble friend Lord Windlesham is unlikely to have the information and be able to impart it to your Lordships to-morrow. Therefore it would be possible for the noble Lord to put down a Question for Written Answer and ensure wide circulation of the reply and the information.
Companies (Floating Charges And Receivers) (Scotland) Bill Hl
My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons Amendments be now considered.
Moved, That the Commons Amendments be now considered.—( Lord Drunialbyn.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
[References are to Bill 134 as first printed for the Commons]
[ No. 1]
Clause 11, page 7, line 4, at end insert—
"( c) after paragraph 6 there shall be inserted the following paragraph:—
'6A. In section 7, subsections (3) and (4) and the words"subsection (3) of "in subsection (5) shall be omitted '; "
My Lords, Amendment No. 1 remedies a defect in drafting. The Bill, as it stands, applies the provisions of Clause 7, which requires the registration of instruments altering floating charges, to Industrial and Provident Societies registered in Scotland. Floating charges created by such societies are registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies and the Clause 7 registration requirement as to alterations of such charges should not be applied to them. The Amendment ensures that it is not. I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1.
Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Lord Drumalbyn.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
[ No. 2]
Clause 13, page 8, line 37, leave out "14 days of its execution "and insert" 7 days of its execution and shall be accompanied by a notice in the prescribed form".
My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in Amendment No. 2. With permission, I ask leave to discuss Amendments Nos. 2 to 13 inclusive together.Clause 13 deals with the manner in which a receiver is to be appointed by the holder of a floating charge, the registration of the instrument of appointment and the date when the appointment becomes effective. As the clause now stands, the first step in the appointment of a receiver is for the holder of the floating charge to execute an instrument of appointment. The second step is for the holder, or someone acting on his behalf, within 14 days of the execution of the instrument to send a certified copy of it to the Registrar of Companies; and the third step is for the Registrar to enter the particulars of the appointment in his register of charges and to issue a certificate of the appointment of the receiver. Subsection (5) provides that the receiver shall be held to be appointed only when the Registrar issues his certificate. Under the clause as drafted there could therefore be an interval, perhaps of several days, between the time when the holder of the floating charge decides to appoint a receiver and executes the instrument, and the time when the receiver is held to be appointed and able to act. There are sound practical reasons for this based on experience of receiverships in England. It is often important that a receiver should act as soon as effect is given, by executing the instrument, to a firm decision to appoint him. It is not easy to keep matters of this kind secret. Employees, managers and the company's suppliers and customers will all want to know how they stand. They are most likely to have their anxieties allayed if the receiver can immediately go to the company and take charge. My Lords, I will deal with the Amendments in their logical rather than their statistical order. Amendment No. 6 deletes the existing subsection (5), which makes the receiver's appointment date from the issue of the Registrar's certificate, and replaces it by a new subsection which makes the appointment date from the execution by the holder of the charge of the instrument appointing the receiver. This Amendment brings the procedure into line with that in England and Wales, and the other Amendments ore really consequential. Amendment No. 2 reduces the period within which the instrument of appointment is to be delivered to the Registrar from 14 to 7 days as in England and Wales and provides for it to be accompanied by a notice in a form to be prescribed identifying the instrument and setting out the particulars which the Registrar is required to enter on his register of charges. Seven days is the longest it is thought right to allow for the appointment to remain unpublished. Amendment No. 3 imposes liability to a fine of £5 for every day over and beyond seven days that the instrument of appointment is not delivered to the Registrar—the same penalty as in Section 102 of the Companies Act, 1948. As the validity of the Receiver's appointment is no longer to depend on the issue of a certificate of registration, the words which Amendments 4, 5 and 7 seek to leave out are no longer needed, and in Amendment 7 the words "on the appointment of a receiver under (this section)"are substituted. Amendments Nos. 8 and 13 make parallel changes to Clause 14 to cover cases where a receiver is appointed by the court. I beg to move.
Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Lord Drumalbyn.)
My Lords, all I wish to do is to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, on having spoken so clearly to so many Amendments in so short a time.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
[ Nos. 3–13]
Clause 13, page 8, line 37, at end insert—
"(2) If any person without reasonable excuse makes default in complying with the requirements of the foregoing subsection he shall be liable to a fine of £5 for every day during which the default continues."
Clause 13, Page 9, line 13, leave out"the timeous"
Clause 13, Page 9, leave out lines 17 and 18.
Clause 13, Page 9, leave out lines 19 to 22 and insert—:
"() The receiver shall be regarded as execution of having been the instrument of his appointment"
Clause 13,Page 9, line 23, leave out from beginning to "this" in line 24 and insert "On the appointment of a receiver under"
Clause 14, page 9, line 38, leave out "within 14" and insert "accompanied by a notice in the prescribed form, within 7"
Clause 14, page 9, line 39, at end insert—
"() If any person without reasonable excuse makes default in complying with the requirements of the last foregoing subsection he shall be liable to a fine of £5 for every day during which the default continues."
Clause 14, page 9, line 40, leave out"the timeous".
Clause 14, Page 10, line 3, leave out from "charges"to the end of line 4.
Clause 14, Page 10, leave out lines 5 to 8 and insert—
"The receiver shall be regarded as having been appointed on the date of his being appointed by the court."
Clause 14, Page 10, line 9, leave out from beginning to "this" in line 10 and insert "On the appointment of a receiver under"
My Lords, I beg to move.
Moved. That this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 3 to 13.—( Lord Drumalbyn.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
[ No. 14]
Clause 15, page 10, line 35, leave out from "property"to end of line 36.
My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 14. This Amendment deletes some unnecessary words from the clause. Subsection (2)(b) of the clause provides that all the powers of a receiver are subject to the rights of any other holder of a security or charge over the property. The words in 1(c), which repeat this proviso in respect of one particular power, are therefore redundant.
Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Lord Drumalbyn.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
[ No. 15]
Clause 15, page 12, line 10, leave out from "as"to end of line 12 and insert"he has in relation to that part of the property attached by the floating charge which is situated in England, so far as those powers are not inconsistent with the law of Scotland."
The purpose of this subsection is to give a receiver appointed by an English company which has property in Scotland power over that property. The subsection as drafted provides that such a receiver shall have the same powers as if he were a receiver appointed under this Part of the Act, and the provisions of the said Part shall apply to him accordingly.The statement that the provisions of Part II of the Bill shall apply accordingly for that meaning depends on the significance of the word"accordingly". The words proposed to be left out might be taken to mean that the English receiver is subject to Clauses 25 and 26 and so would have to send documents to the Registrar of Companies in Scotland as well as to the Registrar of Companies in England. It was not intended that the subsection should have that effect. The intention was to give an English receiver the same powers over property in Scotland attached by the charge by virtue of which he was appointed as he has over property in England attached by that charge, so far as those powers are not inconsistent with the law of Scotland. That is what the Amendment does. I beg to move.
Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Lord Drumalbyn.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
[ No. 16]
Clause 17. page 13, leave out lines 20 to 25.
My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 16. This Amendment proposes to leave out subsection (3). The reason for this is that the first part of the subsection is already covered by subsection (5) and so it is unnecessary; and the second part is liable to give a wrong impression of the intention of the clause. The intention is that the receiver's personal liability should be confined to his own actions after he has taken over charge of the affairs of the company. For what has been done before and is not changed by him he will not have personal liability. Claims under existing contracts of service, like claims under other types of contract, would become claims against the company, not against him. As the subsection is drafted the receiver could be deemed to have incurred personal liability in respect of those contracts of service simply by allowing him to continue in force after appointment. This is not the intention and the subsection therefore is not necessary.
Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Lord Drumalbyn.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
[ No. 17]
Clause 17, page 13, line 27, leave out "or (3)".
My Lords, this Amendment is consequential. I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No.17
Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Lord Drumalbyn.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
[ No. 18]
Clause 17, page 13, line 29, leave out from beginning to "any".
My Lords, this Amendment is consequential. I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No.18
Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Lord Drumalbyn.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
[ No. 19]
Clause 29, page 23, line 15, at beginning insert—
".—(1) The notice referred to in section 22(5) of this Act and the notice referred to in section 25(1)(a) of this Act and the statutory declaration referred to in section 26(2) of this Act shall be in such form as may be prescribed."
My Lords, I beg to move that this House Both agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 19. I suggest that we discuss Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 at the same time. These Amendments relate to the Schedule and provide that certain notices and statements required under the Bill shall be in the prescribed form. They are notices to the Registrar that the receiver has ceased to act, under Clause 22(5); notice to the company of the receiver's appointment under Clause 25(1)(a); statutory declaration accompanying the receiver's statement of affairs, under Clause 26(2) and the memorandum of satisfaction in the Schedule, under Clause 106(F). The use of prescribed forms has been found helpful in England for the Registrar and for persons interested in the information contained in them, and it is suggested that they should be used in this case.
Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Lord Drumalbyn.)
On Motion, Question agreed to.
[ No. 20]
In the Schedule, page 26, line 19, at end insert"not including a charge for any rent, ground annual or other periodical sum payable in respect of the land, but".
My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 20. This Amendment corrects an unintended omission from the Bill."
Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Lord Drumalbyn.)
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
[ Nos. 21 and 22]
In the Schedule, page 30, line 9, after "companies"insert" on application being made to him in the prescribed form, and".
Schedule, page 30, line 34, at end insert:
"(4) Any memorandum or certification required for the purposes of this section shall be in such form as may be prescribed."
This Amendment and Amendment No. 22 go with Amendment No. 19. I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 21 and 22.
Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendments.— (Lord Drumalbyn.)
My Lords, I do not wish to disagree with the two Amendments. I wish only to comment that it is extraordinary how many defects the Government have found in this legal Bill when it was considered in another place, in contrast to the Government view of the Common Market Bill which is regarded as being completely infallible and incapable of improvement by your Lordships' House.
My Lords, it may be that one Bill was more widely considered before it was introduced than was another.
I would remind the noble Lord that this Bill was not subject to the guillotine procedure in this place.
On Question, Amendments agreed to.
Local Government Bill
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, That the House do again resolve itself into Committee.— (Lord Aberdare.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]
Before my noble friend Lord Jacques indicates to the Committee what he proposes to do about his Amendment No. 36 I wonder whether I might ask the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, whether he can make a statement about the future progress of the Bill in the Committee stage. I think it would be convenient to have that information, particularly in view of the fact that we still have 411 Amendments to deal with, some 241 of which have been put down since the previous Marshalled List was dealt with. In my opinion the task that remains is colossal, and I should like to hear what the noble Lord thinks about this and how he visualises the future progress of the Committee stage.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. Lord Champion. It is indeed a very formidable task. It is also a very difficult Bill about which to forecast the future; so many noble Lords have interests in different parts of it, and therefore it is not easy to foresee how long debates will take. But for the immediate future I would suggest that we should complete Part 1 and the relevant Schedules—that is Schedules 1, 2 and 3—to-night. That will leave us free to start on the Welsh clauses on Thursday. I have no doubt that we shall get through those fairly swiftly and then I hope we shall be able to make progress. Probably we shall have to sit until a fairly late hour on Thursday if we are to tackle this major Bill without running into a third week which I think would be something none of us would wish to do. I suggest that on Friday we might again make as long a day as we can of it, but not to go beyond the 6 o'clock limit that we put on our Friday deliberations the last time we sat on a Friday. Next week, everything will depend on the progress we have made, but we hope very much that we can finish the Committee stage next week and avoid running into a third week.
Will the sitting on Friday start at 11 o'clock?
May I ask the Government to what time it is proposed to sit to to-night?
I cannot answer that question; it depends on the progress we make. As I say, I hope that we shall finish Schedule 3 and get up to Amendment 88.
Amendment No. 36 is not moved.
Before I call the next Amendment I think that I ought to point out that if Amendment No. 37A is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 37B.
Schedule 1 [ Counties and metropolitan districts in England]:
moved Amendment No. 37:
Corrigendum, page 3, leave out lines 27 to 30.
The noble Lord said: After what must surely be one of the shortest Summer Recesses in the history of this House, it is my rather invidious task to bring your Lordships back to discuss the Bill which we were dealing with just before the Recess. This Amendment concerns a part of the world where I am sure that many of your Lordships would prefer to be enjoying its well-known recreational activities rather than discussing its future. However, its future is important and as a consequence is causing widespread local concern. For the convenience of the Committee I will speak to both Amendments, although I accept the ruling of the Lord Chairman with regard to the acceptance of Amendment 37B.
The noble Lord is not suggesting, is he, that if Amendment 37A is not carried there should be no discussion on 38B? Clearly he may wish to refer to them both but he is not ruling out a possible debate.
No: the Lord Chairman pointed out that if Amendment 37A was carried, 37B could not be called. May I describe the area in question, which lies along the North-West coast of the Solent stretching West from the Lymington River, which, incidentally, rises and flows through the New Forest, to Christchurch to the west. That is a very ancient town compared with the Bournemouth complex which it virtually joins. The depth of the area between the New Forest and the sea is only between three and five miles and has for centuries been part of Hampshire. I realise that in order to create sensible local government boundary changes must be made, and that many of them will be unpopular. Most of the Amendments are concerned with county boundaries and noble Lords from all over England are, not unnaturally, flocking to this House to plead special cases. I suppose I must admit that this also is a special case, but in southern Hampshire we have a rather different situation. Until a few months ago there was no question but that Lymington borough would remain in Hampshire although Christchurch would be transferred to Dorset. The original county line was not only recommended by the Boundary Commission but also reinforced by the Maud Report. However, at the same time. another part of Hampshire, the Ringwood district, which is in close proximity to the New Forest, was destined to go to Dorset.This provoked a considerable outcry when the Bill was first published. The Minister, in his wisdom, eventually bowed to local pressure and, quite rightly in my opinion, transferred back to Hampshire three of the five wards of the Ringwood and Fordingbridge Rural District Council. This left Christchurch isolated, which appears then to have led the Minister to decide to compensate Dorset for the loss of Ringwood by illogically extending the Dorset boundary along the Solent coast. Thus, at a late hour, two proposals became apparent to a rather bewildered Lymington Council, who not unnaturally felt like victims of a political horse-trading arrangement. First, it was suggested that the boundary should be the Lymington River. This proposal caused deep local concern, as it seemed to go contrary to the Minister's own statement in another place in Standing Committee when he said
Secondly, it was proposed to draw the boundary at the Taddiford Gap, a natural boundary between the built-up area to the East of Christchurch and the Lymington town and the Milford area which is much more rural in character and tradition. The local borough were therefore faced with a terrible dilemma. If they chose the natural boundary at the Taddiford Gap it would result in the borough being split; but if they wished to remain united, then the whole borough, with all its historic ties with Hampshire and the New Forest, would be transferred to Dorset. Quite understandably, the borough felt most upset when consulted about these proposals, in particular with the short notice that was given to them, and also with the brief debate that eventually took place in another place at seven o'clock in the morning after an all-night Sitting. Consequently, on Second Reading in this House I gave notice that I would seek to put down Amendments to restore the borough to Hampshire, and also to give the Government an opportunity to explain their point of view. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that it is most important to take notice of local opinion. Let me say quite categorically what I know to be true: namely, that the vast majority of the people of the present borough want to stay in Hampshire. Quite apart from their traditional ties with Hampshire and the New Forest, they fear that education, health and social services and many other facets of local government will be severely disrupted, and in some cases severely curtailed, by joining up with, Dorset. There are, for instance, more adult further education opportunities in Lymington alone than in the whole of Dorset, not to mention the new sixth form college at Brockenhurst which caters for children in the disputed areas. Lymington Hospital is part of the Southampton Group, and the medical staff there have represented to me strongly that if their ties are cut their future role will be radically changed for the worse. For over 800 years the people in this area have looked towards Winchester for county administration and local services and to the New Forest for recreation. Not unnaturally, they fear domination by Bournemouth and Poole, and are apprehensive about dealing with a county council in Dorchester, some 60 miles away, where they know no-one, have no contacts whatever either in business or socially, and with a rather complicated road system to get there. It would seem, from reports of the debate in another place, that the Government have so far firmly resisted the idea of the whole borough staying in Hampshire, although I personally think this is most regrettable. It would appear, however, that they may still have an open mind about the wisdom of setting the boundary at the Taddiford Gap. It would therefore be right for me, not being a resident of the borough, to try to set out fairly the pros and cons of staying in Hampshire or settling on the Taddiford Gap, as represented to me by local people. There must, of course, be a strong argument against splitting the borough. Over the years the borough has developed and spread its influence, and has, I believe, been a good local authority in every way. The local council, without consulting local opinion or, even more strangely, without even trying to find out what their own county council thought, made strong representations to the Minister that if there was a choice between going into Dorset or splitting the borough they would prefer to keep a united borough, even in Dorset, and a vote of the council—which of course included non-elected aldermen—endorsed this opinion. However, it is important to point out that because of the population the distribution of local members is heavily weighted towards the New Milton or eastern end of the borough. Thus the council's decision to go united into Dorset naturally incensed a large number of people at the Lymington end of the borough. who were never consulted and who had a minority number of members on the council. Before the Recess there was a lot of activity by action groups for and against splitting the borough. Opinion was difficult to gauge, but the Recess presented an ideal opportunity of testing local opinion. This opportunity I took. With the assistance of the local Press I asked the people in the borough to let me know if they wanted to stay united in Hampshire or if they wished to set the boundary at the Taddiford Gap, which would retain the Lymington end in Hampshire at the price of splitting the borough. It was explained that such a split would result in Lymington town being part of the New Forest Rural District Council, with a resulting loss of status that they had enjoyed for many years, and probably a less voice in local government than they would get by going united into Dorset. The results were interesting. I had something like 600 postcards, and the voting was as follows: to stay as a united borough in Hampshire, 5,500; to go into Dorset as a united borough, 76: but 3,500 people out of that 5,500 who wished to stay in Hampshire wanted to have a split borough if that was the price that they had to pay. In other words, 64 per cent. of the people who wrote to me wished to stay in Hampshire even at the expense of splitting the borough. Furthermore, this view was supported by almost all Lymington societies and associations—the British Legion, the Lymington Community Association, Lymington Hospital, and so on; and the supporters included, incidentally, the deputy mayor, who wrote to me saying that, although as a member of the council he thought it fit and proper to vote first for a united borough, he had never concealed the fact that if he could not have the whole cake, he would be prepared to have a slice of it. He, as deputy mayor, has asked me to support strongly the suggestion of keeping the eastern end of the borough in Hampshire. He, like so many other residents of Lymington town, pointed out that New Milton, Barton and the western end of the borough only joined Lymington some 40 years ago. This in itself created a hybrid situation. At the time, apparently, many felt that the union was illogical, and it is one which many residents of Lymington now say they have had cause to regret in recent years. There is no doubt that the two parts of the borough are very different in character and background; and in some ways the gap is widening under a new influx of population. Whereas the Lymington end is an historical rural town serving the New Forest, the New Milton end is a new area, with many newcomers living there with little or no county loyalties, and who for years have looked to Bournemouth for shopping and recreation. To sum up, therefore, the local viewpoint appears to be this. There is an overwhelming wish that the borough as a whole should stay in Hampshire. There is a strong feeling, particularly at the New Milton end of the borough, that a split is highly undesirable. Equally, the majority of people in the borough, about 64 per cent., are prepared to accept the boundary at the Taddiford Gap, even if this results in a split and with the disadvantages that may occur."Lymington is so much part of the Forest and of the southern part of Hampshire that this would be going too far in extending the boundary".
I do not quite understand what the noble Lord has said. He appears to have had about 500 letters and yet the votes seem to total about 5,000.
I have 5,500 people. I did say 500. The 5,500 people said they wished to stay united in Hampshire and two-and-a-half thousand of them wished to stay in Hampshire even if a split occurred. Seventy-six wished to go into Dorset.
I think the confusion arose because the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, said he had received 600 letters: I think he meant to say 6,000.
I apologise. It should have been 6,000.May I now briefly examine the position from the county council point of view, although I know other noble Lords may wish to take this further? The area from the Lymington river to the Taddiford Gap is fundamentally one which connects the New Forest and the Solent coast. I believe that from a planning and conservation point of view, not forgetting coastal defences, it is very important that the whole area should be treated as one, together with the New Forest. Lymington town is the service centre for the whole of the South side of the Forest, and I know that the police feel very strongly, as does the county surveyor, that the Taddiford Gap is the natural boundary. It would be absurd from the police point of view, with so much responsibility for controlling access and communications with the Isle of Wight, to have Lymington railway station in Dorset controlled by one police force and the Isle of Wight ferry point, a few hundred yards away in Hampshire, controlled by another. However, I believe that my noble friend the Duke of Wellington (himself a Hampshire county councillor) will be expressing the police point of view in more detail later on. There is also the question of planning and supervision of recreation. Here again, the New Forest and the Solent area must be controlled as one planned unit. There is no doubt whatsoever that the type of development which stretches from Poole to New Milton is of such a different character that it could be planned separately. At this point I would certainly like to take issue with the Minister in another place who stated at the Committee stage that Lymington is part of the Poole/Bournemouth development. Not only is this absolutely contrary to fact but it was certainly enough to send shivers up the spine of every Lymington inhabitant who foresees the time when the coastal ribbon development, successfully held at hay by the Hampshire County Council for so long and which is unfortunately an acceptable feature of the Bournemouth area, would under speculative developers creep into and ruin the Southern part of the New Forest. There is one further argument which I believe the Government should recognise; namely, the urgent need for one authority to control both sides of the Solent. Even if the future status of the Isle of Wight is not yet settled, I believe it would indeed be wrong to allow another local authority to control even a small part of the North coast of this unique water park. Happily, the coast up to the Taddiford Gap is mudland, and beyond that basically chalk cliff; hence even the methods of coastal defence would naturally divide at that point. The Committee may well reject the first Amendment, to keep the whole of the borough in Hampshire, and indeed there may be local government reasons for transferring the whole borough into Dorset. However, I believe that if this Amendment is not accepted, from a national point of view the Taddiford Gap is a sensible compromise. It would still leave sufficient people in the new Christchurch and New Milton district—about 58,000 people—which is not too small considering there are 37 new designated areas of between 40,000 and 65,000. Indeed, the proposed new district is in any case rather on the large side with 73,000 people, and may need further division in due course. Finally, there is the human side. There are the Royal Hampshire Regiment, the Community Centre, the Lymington Society, the county archives at Winchester, the Hampshire Cricket Club—all Hampshire organisations to whom people have been loyal for generations. They will now have to associate themselves with organisations in another county with whom they have no contacts whatsoever. Many of them are loyal supporters of Her Majesty's Government, and I think it is my duty to warn Her Majesty's Government this afternoon that there is at the moment a serious threatened defection from the Party locally. Indeed the Mayor has already said that she will stand as an Independent candidate against the Party's candidate for the next election. Nor do I relish the position of the Dorset county councillor in the future with embittered and rebellious minded constituents some 60 miles away. So I fervently hope that the Government will reconsider allowing the whole borough to remain in Hampshire. Failing that, perhaps they will accept the Taddiford Gap boundary, which was indeed originally a Government proposal. If neither is accepted, I hope the Government will assure the Committee that the boundary commission will be referred to the actual line which has been drawn, which takes the boundary through houses, splits farmsteads in half and even at one stage goes through a line of greenhouses. I certainly fear for these people if there is a fire or if an ambulance is required, because they will not know who to go to. There are many people in the New Forest who are looking with some fear to the next reorganisation as they feel that later the Forest itself will be threatened. I beg to move.
I believe it might be helpful if I were to intervene in a preliminary and brief way at this stage. I agree that it would be a convenience to the Committee to take Amendments Nos. 37A and 37B together and I should like to suggest to my noble friend Lord Selkirk that in this discussion, which relates to the boundary between Dorset and Hampshire, we should also consider his Amendment No. 37C.
May I intervene for a moment? I think it would be extremely helpful if we could discuss the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and have really the equivalent of a Second Reading debate on all three Amendments, while reserving the position to come back to them individually. This is a possible make-weight.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for his support for that suggestion. The next thing I should like to do is to thank my noble friend Lord Montagu for having tabled his Amendment No. 37B which, if I may say so, is much more worthy of debate than is Amendment No. 37A. I really must say that this Amendment, involving a substantial addition of territory to Hampshire, which under the Bill is still by far the largest and the richest in resources of all the non-metropolitan counties, is not one to which the Government could agree. The noble Lord's own argument for keeping the whole of the built-up area comprising Bournemouth, Christchurch and Lymington, at least as far as Barton, is one of the main arguments which I would bring forward for saying that, but I will not deploy it any further now. However, the Government fully agree that the precise point at which to draw the line between Hampshire and Dorset from the coast upward is a difficult matter. Noble Lords will know—and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. because I explained the earlier processes to him before the Recess—that at one time the Government did favour the Taddiford Gap boundary incorporated in the noble Lord's Amendment No. 37B. But for a number of reasons they have taken the view that the boundary is better drawn where it is now found in the Bill. However, they certainly welcomed the opportunity of the Recess to see whether there was any change of opinion or any new factor which might lead them to change their views. For that reason I particularly welcome this debate and will listen to the rest of it to see whether any such factors or any shift of opinion have occurred which would lead us to favour Amendment No. 37B rather than to retain the boundary where it is now drawn.As to Amendment No. 37C, I would confirm that the parish boundaries, in this area in particular but also for the whole of this Southern part of the boundary between Dorset and Hampshire, will almost certainly need to some small degree to be altered in detail. But the Government firmly take the view that this is not the right moment to do that, and that it is supremely a matter for the boundary commission. We have already had a number of discussions with most of the interested parties to see whether at this stage a clear line would emerge which could he adopted. The only thing that does emerge is that some adjustment is required. It is not at all clear precisely what that judgment should be, and I hope that the Committee will agree that although we know that the precise line of the parish boundary is not right, this is a matter which is much better settled by the boundary commission which is being set up specifically for that purpose. There is one further small preliminary point I should like to make and which I must make now because the parish of Sopley has come into our discussions. I should like to refer to a further printing error which has come to light on page 221, line 32, of the Bill. Paragraph (s) should not be there at all. The inclusion of Sopley was tabled in another place but the Amendment which would have given effect to it was never moved. It does not make sense since in the Bill as it now stands Sopley is not being divided. It could stay in the Bill that would not do any harm. It does not affect Lord Selkirk's Amendment one way or the other. I understand that when the Bill is reprinted this reference will be deleted.
I am a little surprised at the Minister when he suggests that the purpose of the first Amendment is to make an addition to Hampshire, whereas in actual fact all that the first Amendment is doing is seeking to keep in Hampshire what has belonged to it for thousands of years. May I congratulate the noble. Lord, Lord Montagu, for the painstaking work that he has done in endeavouring to find out the opinions of the people of Lymington on this issue, and on the speech that he made? I should like to refer to his figures and perhaps he will intervene if what I say is wrong. I will quote from the local Lymington newspaper which says:
It then goes on to comment on the public opinion poll that was taken and says:"Lord Montagu is of the personal opinion that it would be better for the inhabitants of the borough to remain together, as otherwise neither the New Milton nor the Lymington parts will have any effective voice in their future, being overshadowed by larger authorities of which they will form a small part."
"While the 3,438 in favour of splitting the borough might tend to show that the borough should be split, Lord Montagu's office revealed on Wednesday that no less than 2,500 of these votes were counted as the result of one letter sent to Lord Montagu. Some of the organisations whose members had been counted as individual votes, through the letter, had not even been asked for their views…"
That is perfectly true. On the other hand, the other votes counted were also coming in blocks in the same way, so I just counted one against the other.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. He and I and, I hope, a number of other noble Lords, are agreed on the first Amendment, although we differ when it comes to the second one. Christchurch and Lymington are two ancient Hampshire boroughs. Some forty years ago the borough of Lymington took in the surrounding villages and the Lymington borough is now an integrated unit and, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, it is a very happy unit. There is tremendous opposition in the borough to its being divided. The Government propose to encroach eastward into Hampshire, taking a coastal strip, an enclave, in Hampshire which will include Christchurch and Lymington. The county council of Hampshire as late as May 22 of this year unanimously reaffirmed its view that
Up to Report stage in the other place the Government proposed to divide the borough of Lymington—this is why the Minister so eagerly welcomes the second Amendment—leaving old Lymington town in Hampshire and putting the rest of Lymington into Dorset. Because of the opposition expressed by Lymington Borough Council to the dividing of the borough (the only borough, incidentally, which this Bill proposes to divide) the Government have amended the Bill they have reunited Lymington and put it into Dorset. It is fair to say that they did this probably because they had just given back Ringwood to Hampshire. In the words of the Minister, this was an addition to Hampshire. They restored Ringwood to Hampshire and they wanted more rateable value in return for the county of Dorset. They argued—and Christchurch agrees with them—that Christchurch plus Lymington will form a more viable unit than Christchurch alone. It is the proposed dividing of Lymington that has caused much confusion. It is my experience that it has raised as much opposition as has the putting of Lymington into Dorset. I believe that most of the noble Lords who live in Hampshire agree with the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, unanimously held by the county council and overwhelmingly supported by Lymington from the start, to keep this part of Hampshire, this part of the Solent coast, in the county to which it belongs. This, too, is the view of the Chief Constable of Hampshire, who believes that Lymington should remain part of his unified authority over the Solent, for efficiency, defence and security reasons. On August 30 the Town Clerk of Lymington wrote to the Secretary of State for the Environment and again set out the view of his Council that the borough should remain united in Hampshire. Some months ago a petition to keep Lymington in Hampshire was signed by some 6,000 citizens of Lymington. The Hampshire county planning officer, in a report to the county council, pointed out that:"the whole of Lymington should remain united in the county of Hampshire".
The noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, in an excellent speech on the Second Reading debate, reminded the Government—as I do now—of their own declared duty to respect local historical associations, and he urged that Lymington should remain in Hampshire. During the Recess I have had many representations made to me about the reopening of the issue of dividing the borough. The New Milton, Barton and District Ratepayers Association, which has some 3,000 members, writes:"the strip between the New Forest and the coast is of critical importance to the conservation of the New Forest. There is to be major urban development on the Dorset side of whatever boundary is fixed—Hampshire wants to retain the special characteristics of this strip of Hampshire."
The Mayor of Lymington, in a letter to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, on September 7, writes:"While a small proportion of our members would have no objection to the borough being transferred to Dorset, all are strongly opposed to the division of the borough between Dorset and Hampshire."
The Town Clerk of Christchurch has written to me and he says that they not only respect the views of Lymington against splitting, but indeed share them. They believe that Christchurch plus only a part of Lymington would be too small a unit and are not a little afraid that such a splitting might lead to Christchurch plus a little bit of Lymington being added to Bournemouth, and they do not want that to happen. There is in Lymington a committee which calls itself the Action Committee for the Retention of Lymington Borough in Hampshire. Obviously, they still want the borough to remain in Hampshire. But in a letter to me dated September 7, a very thoughtful letter, the honorary secretary writes that the proposed splitting would be what she calls"We have become a united borough during the last 40 years and our local services are organised on that basis. There is no valid reason why we should be divided."
she adds,"the worst possible solution, although"
The Lymington branch of NALGO are of the opinion (I understand it is unanimous) that splitting the borough would be what they call "a retrograde step". They want Christchurch and the whole of Lymington, not part of it, to be united even if it goes into Dorset. As for the Lymington Borough Council—and in democracy one must take the opinion of the elected representatives of the people—they voted down at their last meeting, by 27 votes to 5, a motion approving the division of the borough. I have a geographical distribution of those who voted against a division, and roughly it is 13 from one part of the borough and 14 from the other part against dividing the borough. The letter of the town clerk to the Secretary of State for the Environment on August 30 reaffirmed"we do recognise the right of Lymington Town to fight to stay in Hampshire whatever the cost".
The town clerk continues that, irrespective of whether Lymington goes to Dorset or remains in Hampshire, it would create fresh and acute difficulties if the borough were divided between the two separate counties and two separate county districts. Last week I received two distinguished or senior Lymington aldermen who urged that in this debate I should emphasise the opposition of the borough council and, they claim, of most citizens in the borough, to dividing the borough even if it means going into Dorset. Apparently Christchurch and Lymington are getting on well together. They are already planning a joint future. Christchurch supports Lymington Borough Council in its opposition to being divided. I have had many letters supporting the view—in fact, almost all the letters I have had support the view—that Lymington should remain in Hampshire. From them may I quote just one sentence? A lady writes:"the viewpoint of the Borough Council as the responsible local authority that(a) the Borough should remain united in Hampshire;(b) the suggested division of the Borough would be a most disastrous step which should in no circumstances be sanctioned by the Government."
I wish to be fair. I have had two letters from the other side: one from a Lymingtonian who wants to divide the borough and who writes:"Look at the map: look at our traditions, and what about looking at us as people for a change instead of as a digit in a computer?"
It is true, too, that I have received a letter from the President of the Southampton Chamber of Commerce, himself a Lymington citizen, pointing out the distinction that the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, has endeavoured to show us between old Lymington town and the rest of the borough. An old friend of mine, Alderman Major Ziegler, a colleague of mine on the county council for many years, has set out in a letter to me a case for regarding the "old town" of Lymington as quite distinct from the newer part of Lymington. He argues that the police case for control of the Solent applies rather to old Lymington than to New Milton. He argues that the old town is part of the New Forest area—as indeed my friend Mr. Graham Page in the other House argued when he was defending the split—and he says that if the borough were to be divided old Lymington would link up with the rest of the New Forest and form an effective district. But against this other Lymingtonians have argued to me that a truncated Lymington would be too small to play a significant part in the new New Forest district. There is much pride, there is much sentiment, which I share, in Hampshire's attitude to old Lymington town. But there is similar pride, there is almost passion, in the feeling of the citizens of Lymington that they want to remain united as a borough. The Minister now has to decide a problem which is complicated—complicated largely because he made it so by originally dividing the borough. I believe there is still a simple solution: that he should keep Lymington united, keep it in Hampshire and as Christchurch and Lymington seem to get on very well together, let him put back the Hampshire town of Christchurch into Hampshire, into our county. I believe that this solution would please not only Lymington, not only Christchurch even, who gave up the struggle some time ago, but the whole of the people of Hampshire, and would be a fair solution."Lymington has nothing in common with New Milton and its rash of development. The Borough Council is domineered by them. We wish to break away and stay with the Forest and the Solent."
I have been invited by the Minister to say one or two words in regard to Amendments which appear in my name. I am glad the Minister agrees that the boundary in the Northern part, at least, of the area we are talking about is unsatisfactory. It is unsatisfactory, and indeed the Dorset County Council in a letter to the Department described it as "ludicrous" I am afraid that this is not altogether wrong.It is true, too, that in the other place, I think it was after 16 hours of debate, this Amendment was reached: so perhaps it was not examined as seriously as it might otherwise have been. We are dealing here not with (shall I say?) local nationalism; we are dealing with local administrative problems, and the people who are responsible for the administration are people whose views are important and therefore must be taken into careful consideration. However, we are also dealing with a very big change between Dorset and Hampshire. Hampshire in future is to have a centre of gravity between Southampton and Portsmouth. That is where the big problems of Hampshire are going to lie. Dorset will have a very big problem in a new urban area which will extend—I think it must extend—from Milton to Sandbanks, because it is one urban area and there is no other way of looking at it. This is now run by three entirely separate organisations. This is crazy. It must have some common planning authority covering New Milton, Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole. They must be brought together more closely, and this is going to be very difficult. The noble Lord, Lord Maybray King, mentioned the difficulties between different areas. Unless Dorset is given every encouragement to do this properly it will be a mess. I emphasise this because the Ministry of the Environment is supposed to be the standard from which good planning proceeds. But at the moment the Bill is very badly framed. The two parishes I have particularly in mind—I am not going to talk particularly about the Lymington side; I was in school at Lymington but I do not pretend to remember it so very well—are two parishes lying immediately to the North of Christchurch and Bournemouth. They look entirely to the BournemouthPoole—Christchurch area for economic development, for work, for distribution, for drainage, for social work such as Rotary clubs and all other works of this kind. That is the way they look. This is why I think they should be brought into the area, so that the planning can be effectively carried out. I would say, with respect, that I believe the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, was wrong in saying that the Maud Report gave Hampshire its original boundaries. If I remember rightly, the Maud Report went straight through the New Forest. I think the Government were right to unite the New Forest again. This is one of the real gems which, for reasons which are almost inexplicable, have come down to us, and I am sure that it must be preserved in its entirety. I am quite certain that the New Forest should be in one local authority, and I have no doubt that Hampshire will look after it extremely well. However, Hampshire cannot carry out any effective strategic planning on the western side of the New Forest. It may have a "buffer state". I will not argue about Ringwood, although perhaps I may say that Hampshire might improve the road between the New Forest and Ringwood, an improvement which has been promised for a long time, and the road has certainly not been kept up to the standard which should be maintained. Beyond that comes the Avon, and I must fundamentally disagree with the Minister when he says that the Avon is not a good boundary. It is an extremely good boundary. The ground on each side of it is low-lying, the river is wide, and there is only one bridge between Ringwood and Christchurch. It makes a quite natural boundary, and that is why I have suggested that this should fill into the area for which Dorset is responsible for land development and transportation; in other words, the general strategic planning.
May I ask the noble Earl a question? Since he is arguing the line of the Avon, do I understand him to say that he is therefore in favour of New Milton and Lymington remaining in Hampshire? I think that is a powerful and logical argument, if that is what he is suggesting.
No; I was carrying the Avon down as far as Sopley, but I have said previously that the whole urban area along the coast could not possibly be divided; it must be brought under one control. I have made this point because I think the parishes concerned feed directly into Bournemouth and I very much hope that the Government will look at this point again.I do not know what powers the Boundary Commission possesses, but is it in a position to move a complete parish from one county into another? Has it authority to do that in spite of the fact that it does not appear in the Act of Parliament? I am not making a personal plea. I have no particularly strong feelings about it. But if I understand correctly the continuous—perhaps I may say "homilies"—from the Front Bench telling us about the philosophy of the Bill, then the area immediately to the North of the urban area must go to Bournemouth and Christchurch and Poole. I hope the noble Lord will look at this carefully. I readily accept what he has said, that these are unsatisfactory and could be improved.
I speak this afternoon in support of the Amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. In my speech in your Lordships' House on August 1 I referred to the administrative unsoundness of the proposed transfer of Lymington Borough to the County of Dorset. It would clearly be improper for me to make such an observation unless I was prepared to back it with facts, and that I propose to do. It is therefore on the basis of the administrative weaknesses of this proposed arrangement that I speak this afternoon, and I speak as a Hampshire County Councillor and as a member of the Hampshire police authority.I should like, in the proper military fashion, to draw your Lordships attention to a map. As I am unable to do that I will attempt to give your Lordships as nearly accurate a geographical picture of the proposed extension of Dorset as I can. The extension of Dorset into Hampshire is some 15 miles long, with an average depth of three miles. The communications run mainly North and South. It effectively cuts off the New Forest from its coastline. That is the geographical situation, and I believe, if I may make so bold as to say so, that this geographical nonsense is the root cause of what I believe will be the administrative difficulties which will face this part of Dorset if this scheme comes about. The second point I should like to make concerns the police and their present administrative set-up. In 1967 the police forces of Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Southampton and Portsmouth passed through a traumatic change and evolved into a combined police force, and I think it is fair to say that we now have an extremely efficient, well-integrated police force in the county. That police force has, as one of its sub-divisions, Lymington. Lymington is one of the important sub-divisions in the West end of the county. It looks to the New Forest division for control and to the headquarters in Southampton. In Southampton, in addition to other sub-divisions, there is a marine sub-division with responsibility overall for police activities within the Solent. That is to say, control of illegal immigration. drugs smuggling, the surveillance of all craft from the largest liners down to small craft—and I should perhaps mention that Lymington has an excellent harbour for small craft—the saving of life, and the general policing of the Solent. That is the picture of the police administrative control at this moment. What is the effect going to be if this proposal is implemented? I wish to make five points in this connection. The first is a planning point rather than a police point. For many years all the planning in the Solent area has been in the hands of the Hampshire County Council Planning Authority. I think it is right and fair to say that the county council has followed an enlightened policy, aimed towards the conservation of the Solent and its coastline. It has fought off the speculators and the developers, and while I am not in any way imputing any undesirable motives to Dorset, I believe there is a grave danger—and it is a belief which is shared by those who live in the area—that should the planning control of this area be split with another county there will be undesirable development and speculative building, as has happened further to the West. My second point is a police point, and refers to the general policing of this long and narrow finger of land which extends into Hampshire. It goes without saying that the proper policing of such an area is extremely difficult. As I have pointed out, communications run mainly North and South and this complicates the whole of the police work in the area. My third point refers to security. It was my intention, had we reached that stage before the House rose for the Recess, to draw attention to one of the most important aspects of the police in this area, namely the security problem posed by the gaols on the Isle of Wight. It appears to have been a particularly topical thought on my part, because during these last few weeks it has been revealed that there was a risk of a mass break-out from the prisons on the Isle of Wight, which house some of the most dangerous criminals in the country. There is of course a contingency plan for dealing with a mass break-out, but I know from the Chief Constable that this is a perpetual worry in his mind and in the minds of the members of the police force in the area. As your Lordships may know, there are six ferry points, three on each side of the Solent. The westerly pair, so to speak, is served by the ferry point in Lymington. In fact, the ferry point itself will remain, by a short distance, in Hampshire, itself an anomaly, while the police headquarters will be in the borough, which will be in Dorset. Thus, from a security point of view this will be a nonsense. One cannot effectively ensure contingency planning, which of its nature must be quick, if one does not have a proper base in the area. Security is an aspect which must not be lightly forgotten. The police were not in any way consulted prior to the publication of the Bill about these proposed changes, and this is rather curious. My fourth point is also a police one and concerns communications. Southampton is the headquarters of a highly sophisticated, complicated and efficient police network. The Lymington Sub-divisional Police Headquarters is the base for communications in the area and is an important link. It is adjacent to the ferry point, although if these proposals go through it will not be in the County of Hampshire; it will cease to exist. Your Lordships will see, therefore, that within the police communications network Lymington is an important asset. My fifth point is the question of police morale, a subject into which I will not go in detail at this time. As I said, the police suffered a traumatic change in 1967. They took a hell of a shaking up and it has taken them some time to recover from it. They have done so and we now have a first-class police force which is well integrated among the four previous forces. It would be detrimental to police morale if one severed yet again an existing portion of that police force. What are we trying to achieve by this Bill; what are the grass roots of the business? Surely they are to produce efficient and effective local government. People as a whole do not care tuppence about the political colour of the councillors who represent them—they just want good government from them. We shall not get good government if we have an area such as this in which the local services, police, planning, medical and the rest—the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, and the noble Lord, Lord Maybray King, dealt in an admirable way with these services; though I have not dwelt emotionally with the question of services apart from those I have mention—are organised in the way I have described. The County Council would like to see its original unanimous decision—the decision of May—put into effect and to see the whole of the Borough of Lymington remain in Hampshire. It is right that I should add, however—I do so reluctantly—that if the County Council cannot have the whole of the cake, then from the points of view I have mentioned relating to planning and the police many of the objections would be met by the formation of a new boundary at Taddiford Gap. I realise that this is a controversial matter and I do not propose to deal with it now. Nevertheless, from the two aspects to which I have referred, a Taddiford Gap boundary would—I admit this with reluctance—meet many of our objections. I therefore earnestly beg the Government to have a good look at this matter again, because if things are allowed to go through as proposed we shall not get good local government in this area.
I do not propose to enter into a debate on statistics with the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. who by a curious system seemed to arrive at majorities in favour of or against the various proposals. I should have been among those who would have been swept up in the 500 or 1,000-postcard vote. Nor do I propose to deal with some of the points to which he referred, the answers to some of which I am sure he already knows. I am sure, for example, he knows that in Lymington the schooling problem in the event of a transfer to Dorset has already been dealt with. He must also know that the new hospital which will take charge of the whole area will better serve the combined Lymington-Christchurch area. Nor would it be appropriate when considering a Bill of this kind to debate the point made by my noble friend the Duke of Wellington about this being a Police State. We are not a Police State and we do not build our local government on the planning of the Police Force. Surely the Police Force can be organised around whatever is best for the people of the countryside.I wish at the outset to declare my interest in that I live in Lymington, where my wife owns a freehold property. We have lived in that Hart of Hampshire for about 12 years, for six of them within the borough. We chose Lymington only after a very careful study of the various alternatives which were open to us at the time. Lymington is a medium-sized town, virile both in its industry and in its provision of leisure amenities, yet able to maintain an atmosphere which appeals to a great many retired people, particularly those from the Services. It provides a quiet yet active life for those who live there. Lymington has not achieved this balance without careful planning and the results continue to be seen in the very high quality of new housing in the area. In the years since we moved to Lymington it has been somewhat alarming to watch the other end of Hampshire developing all the unpleasant characteristics of satellite communities against a background of a spaghetti junction of new roads. Inevitably this rapid and brash development of Eastern Hampshire will tend to make Hampshire as a whole an increasingly expensive county in which to live and will react on the cost of living in the quieter areas such as Lymington. The fate of Lymington under the provisions of this Bill has given rise locally to a burst of emotion, much of it ill-informed—for example, the allegation that Dorset's education is inferior to that of Hampshire, whereas on aper capita basis the opposite has been the case for at least each of the last four years. There are those who would like it to remain in Hampshire merely because it has always been that way. Others have a loyalty to the Hampshire cricket side or to the Hampshire Regiment and yet others are worried about the need to get a new address die for their notepaper. Perhaps there are those who would like to keep Lymington, or even part of Lymington, in Hampshire and take advantage of its charm in order to bolster the tinsel of neighbouring attractions. It may not be inappropriate for me to remind your Lordships that by this Amendment the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, is making proposals which would be seriously harmful to an area in which he does not reside. What are the real facts as seen by those affected and who will have to make the new Lymington work after this Bill has become law? At an early stage Lymington Council debated what policy they should support, and by a majority of only 19 votes to 15 they affirmed their previous decision that they would wish the borough to remain united in Hampshire. When, however, it seemed unlikely that this would succeed, the borough council gave thought to the possibility of dividing the borough as would happen if this Amendment were adopted. By the conclusive majority of 27 votes to 5 the council rejected this alternative. It has been alleged that the councillors who voted by this overwhelming majority against the split were out of touch with the feelings of those whom they represent. I who live in Lymington, can assure your Lordships that this is simply not true. Not only am I in close touch with local sentiment but I have had many letters from people in Lymington, many of whom I have never met, urging opposition to this Amendment; and the Mayor of Lymington and the Town Clerks both in Lymington and Christchurch emphasise the administrative nonsense which would result from its adoption. I have been approached similarly by the local All of the cold common sense and all of the logic show that Lymington must remain an administrative unit, and it is planning accordingly. It has already been established that Lymington cannot remain wholly in Hampshire—or at least it seems to be established—nor do I believe that it would be in its best interests to do so. Looking perhaps ten years into the future one must expect the Portsmouth-Southampton conurbation to grow, and if Lymington remains in Hampshire it would not be illogical for it to be embraced in some form of Solent city. What a convenient wastepaper basket this would provide for overspill population in masses of standard dwellings! That could well be the fate of Lymington if it stays in Hampshire. Emotion, and indeed one might almost say hysteria, urge that Lymington should not go to Dorset. No logical argument persuades me, at any rate, as one who is directly involved, that there is any case to object to the transfer to Dorset. My new notepaper will be an irritant for a short while and we shall wish well to the Hampshire cricket side who will undoubtedly continue to play at Bournemouth; but for the benefit of the neighbourhood and for the sake of those who live and will live in it, I urge you to reject these Amendments. In asking you to do so I know that I have the support and encouragement of many of the thinking people of the area.
I must declare my interest as the official verderer of the New Forest. I should say also that I know this area extremely well. I was born at Hurn; I embodied the Christchurch company of the Hampshire Territorial Brigade in 1939; I know the people; and I have also a third interest there in the fact that I have a boat on the Lymington River. The last time I came up to the House at the beginning of August, I came up from my boat, and during the last several weeks I have had a tremendous number of people who have come on board my boat. Some of them I have not always been very pleased to see because they have had nails in their shoes, but they have told me rather the opposite to what they have told Lord Geddes. They wish to remain in Hampshire. They wish the old Borough of Lymington to be itself and join up with the New Forest district and what remains of the Ringwood and Fordingbridge districts.One of the things which concerns me very much has just been touched on, but not in great detail, and that is the New Forest. Going back for, I think, nearly four years now, the Hampshire County Council ran a special study on the New Forest. It consisted of representatives of county council planners mostly, of the Forestry Commission and of the verderers of the New Forest. It was quite clear that if the New Forest was going to remain as we know it, as we love it and as it is valued not only by the people in this country but people from abroad as well and from such distant places as Canada, the United States, and so on, it has to be looked after. The only way it can he looked after is not only to have one planning authority over the Forest and within its perambulations but to have buffer areas, or cushion areas as we call them, round the Forest. My noble friend, Lord Selkirk, has mentioned Sopley. Sopley runs right up to the perambulation of the Forest and I should be scared stiff if I thought another planning authority had control over Sopley, because in order not to spoil the Forest the planners must have control in these areas. Supposing we had, as we had the other day, a scare of foot-and-mouth disease and we order the animals, the cattle, off the Forest: where are they to go if another planning authority is allowed certain development there? We have to resist, unfortunately, the number of caravans that come into the Forest because we must not allow them to spoil it. These new caravan sites might have to go outside the perambulation. Again, the people in the Forest are very concerned that Lymington should be administered by the County of Hampshire. There are two old people's homes there and that is where these people would retire to or be looked after. They look towards the Lymington Hospital. The roads into Lymington run North or from an Easterly direction. The communications towards the West are bad. My other interest, which again affects Lymington, is that I am a very keen sailor and yachtsman. It is very important that the Solent should come under the same planning authority and this point has been mentioned by my noble friends the Duke of Wellington and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. I know that my right honourable friend in the other place received a telegram from the Cowes combined yacht clubs. These are the people who run the regattas, not only Cowes week but throughout the year. They are in very close touch with the various harbour boards in Southampton, Cowes, and so on, and the Solent, as your Lordships know, is an international waterway of international fame. It has a fascination and reputation with yachtsmen from abroad who come in their hundreds. It would be fatal if the planning authority control was divided from the Forest or from the Solent or from Hampshire. The key to this situation really is the old Borough of Lymington. I sadly see my old home in a way changing counties, because as a family I think we have played quite a large part in the County of Hampshire. I should be quite happy to go for the Taddiford Gap. What I think is peculiar and rather interesting and lends weight to this point is that the telephone people divide their district between Bournemouth and Southampton there and I believe the electricity people divide the Lyndhurst and Bournemouth district at this Gap. I should like to support my noble friends, therefore, in this Amendment. It is vital for good local government that what it proposes should be so.
I rise to support Amendment No. 37A. I should like to say at the outset that I have great sympathy with those who are responsible for drawing these boundaries, whether it be the Government in the case of the counties or the Commission in the case of the districts, but I feel that mistakes are being made because we are giving too much importance to the balancing of numbers, the balancing of populations, and too little importance to geography, whether it be physical, economic or social.This is a case in point where there would appear to have been some horse-trading even since the Bill was introduced. Let us look at the boundary between Dorset and Hampshire. At the present time the boundary runs between Poole and Bournemouth. I think everyone must agree that this is out of date, because there is a continuous urban area between Bournemouth and Poole. Bournemouth certainly has ties with Dorset, and I do not think anyone could very strongly argue against the transfer of Bournemouth to Dorset. But when you come to Christchurch the matter is much more doubtful. Christchurch has tics with the New Forest, and anybody who has spent any time in Christchurch will see evidence of the ties it has with the New Forest. On the other hand, one has to admit that it is part of the urban complex and there is perhaps some balance to the case for Christchurch going with Bournemouth and Poole into Dorset. But when you come to Lymington there does not appear to be any rhyme or reason in it. Lymington is seventeen miles from Bournemouth. The whole of that coastal strip which constitutes the borough of Lymington is the Southern fringe of the New Forest, and certainly so far as I have heard it—I was surprised to hear the opposite conveyed here this afternoon—local opinion is overwhelming that Lymington should remain intact and should remain in Hampshire. I would remind the Government that a good deal of time was spent on this problem by the South-East Economic Planning Council. It made representations to the last Government when the Maud Report was published that the whole of the New Forest, including the coastal strip, should be under one planning authority. That is what this Amendment would do. I suggest, therefore, that this Amendment first of all is in accordance with the geographical facts, it is in accordance with overwhelming local opinion, it is in accordance with the advice the Government have received from their regional planning council, and I hope on this question of detail the Government will give way.
As a member of the county council of this awful county into which Lymington might go and which might sanction development in these beautiful rural parts, I feel I must say a few words. do not think anyone can accuse Dorset of vandalising their planning system. I think we have perhaps been a little weak in Dorset on these issues; the County Councils Association has no equivalent of the Bridlington rules on poaching; and the Dorset County Council has never wished to empire build at the expense of other counties to the North, East or West, and we do not wish to force unwilling inhabitants into Dorset. We hope that those who under this reorganisation will become part of Dorset will fit into cur peaceful, efficient and happy ways. We have, therefore, not carried out any campaign to obtain and hold large parts of Hampshire. But, following the criteria of local government efficiency, first of all the Maud Report placed part of the New Forest in Dorset.This Government, realising the strong feelings held about the New Forest, produced this Bill and drew the line at Ringwood. Then, during the passage of the Bill, Ringwood and the parishes of Sopley and St. Leonards and St. Ives were excluded from Dorset; but Lymington at that stage was added, because it was felt that the Christchurch-Lymington area had common interests and formed a natural unit, and also that it would produce a viable county district East of Bournemouth of some 71,000 inhabitants. Perhaps Dorset has not fought strongly enough, but we have understood the natural loyalty of those areas to their most efficient county of Hampshire. We still believe that Ringwood, Sopley and St. Ives should be part of Dorset and regret that we did not lobby harder earlier, but I think you will understand our reasons for not wishing to appear aggressive. With regard to the planning aspect, a land use and transportation study reported in 1967, and this definitely recommended that the whole area from Wareham to Lymington should be planned by one authority. It is a natural coastal strip, and I would submit that it is more important that the planning should be with Bournemouth and Christchurch than with the Solent. Also, the basis of this Bill has been the combination of town and country. Under these proposals Dorset and Bournemouth are to form a county, and it is most important that the hinterland round Bournemouth should be included so as to make a well-balanced county. I am sure that the Government accept the arguments. I think there can be no argument about Christchurch. So I shall concentrate particularly on Amendment No. 37B, which splits the borough of Lymington. I would like to make it quite clear that Dorset County Council is utterly opposed to this. It makes no sense in terms of the viability and efficiency of local government. This view is shared by the borough councils of Lymington and Christchurch, the local authorities most closely affected, and also by the Lymington branch of NALGO who will have to administer the resulting district. In other words, there is overwhelming opposition to this splitting of Lymington from all those who actually administer and are involved in local government. We have heard that the borough council of Lymington voted 27 to 5 against, and 13 of those 27 were from the East end of Lymington town. The mayor, who has been a stalwart supporter of keeping the whole of Lymington in Hampshire, has said when faced with the possibility of a split:
The Lymington branch of NALGO expressed their concern to many of us and pointed out that local ratepayers would have less participation in local affairs, and that their representation on a new authority based on Lyndhurst would be far less than with a county district authority combining Lymington and Christchurch. The town clerk of Christchurch writes that the view of his council is that the proper course would be to avoid splitting the borough or Lymington and that the whole borough should be included in Dorset, and this would enable a county district to be formed of 73,000 people, which is about the optimum population envisaged by the Government. In some cases the Government have envisaged smaller county districts but only in very rural areas, and the Christchurch-Lymington area cannot be considered rural. Therefore, without a viable county district to the East of Bournemouth, Christchurch would almost certainly be swallowed up into a greater Bournemouth."I am personally convinced that the division of the borough would be a tragedy and an administrative disaster."
Can the noble Lord tell me what would be the population of Christchurch without Lymington and New Milton? I am following his argument.
The population of Christchurch, with part of Lymington as proposed in Amendment No. 37B, would be about 53,000.
I think that the answer to the noble Lord's question of Christchurch alone is 31,000.
If I were permitted to quote from another place I need not really have made this speech, because the Minister for Local Government and Development, Mr. Graham Page, gave all the reasons for the present position in the Bill inHansard of July 6, at col. 1035. I cannot believe that this Government will accept either the Amendment returning the whole of Christchurch-Lymington to Hampshire, or this Amendment, so opposed locally, splitting Lymington town.Finally, I certainly hope that the Government will look sympathetically—although I am rather doubtful about it—at the question of returning St. Leonards and St. Ives and Sopley. This would certainly increase the viability of this county district East of Bournemouth. That I certainly support; but I doubt whether the Government, at this stage, will alter their views on any of these three Amendments.
I shall try to set a good example and be brief. My only qualification for taking part in this debate is that I have some past experience in considering these supremely difficult and sensitive questions of local government structure and boundaries. I can truthfully say that when I first saw the proposals about Lymington I had a very open mind about them. Since then, I have come to certain conclusions, and they have not been shaken by listening to to-day's debate. If either of these Amendments is pressed to a Division I, for my own part, shall unhesitatingly vote against it. As regards the proposal in the first Amendment, that would create a boundary between Hampshire and Dorset running between Christchurch and Bournemouth. I find it very hard to believe that one should separate Christchurch from Bournemouth by a county boundary, and I offer that in addition to the cogent reason—
Would the noble Lord give way? This is factually wrong. If that Amendment was carried it would give a boundary between old Lymington and Christchurch. It is not proposed that there should be a boundary between Christchurch and Bournemouth.
I am referring to the first of these Amendments, Amendment No. 37A, which would take the whole of Christchurch and Lymington into the county of Hampshire.
I am sorry to intervene again, but that is not so. Both of these Amendments would give a boundary for the two counties which is East of Christchurch. Neither of these Amendments would involve Christchurch.
I can only attempt to answer the noble Lord by quoting from the Amendment. Amendment No. 37A says: "leave out lines 26 to 30 Lines 26 to 30 provide that there shall be included in the county of Dorset the borough of Christchurch and the borough of Lymington, except a certain part of it. Therefore, if the first Amendment is carried the boundary between Hampshire and Dorset will run between Bournemouth and Christchurch. There is no Amendment to fulfil the desire that has been expressed by some noble Lords that the boundary between Hampshire and Dorset should run between the borough of Christchurch and the borough of Lymington.
May I apologise to the noble Lord. I am entirely wrong.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. I fully realise how difficult it is to keep a clear mind on all these matters. That is the case if the first Amendment were carried, and I cannot believe that a new county boundary between the borough of Christchurch and the present county borough of Bournemouth would be right. I offer that in addition to the cogent argument which my noble friend Lord Sandford adduced, that the first Amendment would give rather too much weight to Hampshire and rather too little weight and strength to Dorset in the new structure.There is a further possibility, and that is that Christchurch and Lymington should be separated; but neither of these Amendments would provide for that. The difficulty about that solution is that it would leave this comparatively small area of Christchurch as a kind of appendage to Bournemouth, and it would be too small an area to satisfy the Government's criterion to be a separate district. Therefore, I should have thought that it would inevitably pass under the very powerful influence of Bournemouth and lose a certain degree of independence, which I should like to see Christchurch preserve. The third possibility is that Amendment No. 37B should be carried, which would create a new county boundary at the Taddiford Gap, and would divide the borough of Lymington. Here I must speak with all the strength I can command in saying that it would be entirely wrong for Parliament to split a borough between two counties against the overwhelmingly expressed wish of the elected representatives of that borough. There seems to me to be no escape from the fact that if 27 councillors and aldermen have voted to retain the unity of a borough and only 5 have voted in favour of its division, it would be wrong for Parliament to do what, in this Bill, would be unique; that is, to divide the borough between two counties. I think my noble friend Lord Sandford will confirm that there is no case anywhere throughout England where it is proposed to divide a borough in that way even with the consent of the borough councillors, and here it would be against their expressed will. I well realise that there is great feeling about these matters, and that it is extremely difficult to get them right. But I have given my reasons why I shall vote against both of these Amendments and why I feel that it would be a mistake, even at a later stage of the Bill, to seek to move a new Amendment to divide the borough of Christchurch from the borough of Lymington. As regards the local opinion in Lymington, it seems to me that the speech of my noble friend Lord Geddes is unanswerable. Although I have no special personal knowledge of the administration of either the Dorset county council or the Hampshire county council, I cannot help thinking that the new Dorset county council would be capable of solving any problems that may be created by Parliament's decisions concerning this stretch of coast, which has, I feel sure, innate unity.
I am in some slight confusion on this point. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, with his usual clarity, has clarified my mind a little, but was it the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, to take out both the borough of Christchurch and the borough of Lymington, and to put Christchurch back into Hampshire as well as New Milton and Lymington?
Perhaps I may explain. The original Amendment No. 37 dealt only with the existing areas of Lymington and New Milton. Amendment No. 37A added on Christchurch, because it was felt by many people that Christchurch left all alone would be in a very vulnerable position so far as Bournemouth was concerned. But the misunderstanding of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, arose because the original Amendment No. 37 which was on the Marshalled List before the Recess excluded Christchurch.
I have neither the force, the status nor the eloquence of previous speakers. In addition, most of what I intended to say has already been said. But I should like to give a rather short summing-up and will not detain your Lordships more than a few moments. First of all, I submit that the two most important organisations to be considered in this case are the Lymington Borough Council and the Hampshire police authority. We have already heard the figures, but I shall repeat them once more. The borough council voted 27 to 5 against being split, and they also voted 19 to 15 in favour of staying in Hampshire. I am given to understand on fairly good authority that that majority of only four for staying in Hampshire would have been higher if there had not been a certain misunderstanding. The view of the Hampshire police is that the best course is for the whole borough to stay in Hampshire. The next best would be to have a division at the Taddiford Gap. But what would be quite fatal, according to the police, would be for the whole borough to go to Dorset.As my noble friend the Duke of Wellington has explained so ably and clearly, to put the whole borough of Lymington into Dorset would mean that Dorset police were responsible for many miles of vulnerable coast line, and that is what the Hampshire police authority objects to very strongly. Your Lordships may say, "Heavens above! Surely there is such a thing as liaison". Of course there is such a thing as liaison, but my noble friend Lord Aberdare who has experience in the Army, my noble friend Lord Sandford who has experience in the Navy, and even the Minister in another place who has experience in the Air Force, all know the difficulty of getting maximum efficiency when you are given a district to patrol and something which starts in your area then goes into somebody else's area, orvice versa. You just cannot get that maximum efficiency, and Ministers know that jolly well. There has been some idea put about, rightly or wrongly, that one reason for suggesting that the whole borough should go into Dorset is in order to tidy up a Parliamentary constituency. I am all for tidying up and I only wish that my wife was, too. But, surely, the aim is to make the numbers about equal in each Parliamentary constituency. That is fair enough in a Parliamentary constituency, but I suggest that tidying up on a map or by population does not necessarily produce the best results in local government. The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, said something to that effect. There has been a suggestion this afternoon that what Dorset wants is a little more wealth. Bless my soul! if they cannot get out of Bournemouth all the money they need for many years to come, then it really passes comprehension. Bournemouth is frightfully rich and we are giving it to them on a plate. Your Lordships are all familiar with permutations and, though these are not usually done until Thursday, I venture to put a perm before your Lordships to-day. You perm three from two. You have two organisations—the Lymington Borough Council and the Hampshire police—and the first priority for each is to stay in Hampshire. That is two ones, totalling two. The second preference of the Lymington Borough Council is to go to Dorset, but that is the third preference of the Hampshire police. That makes a total of five. Then we come to the famous Taddiford Gap and there it is the other way round; Lymington Borough Council make that No. 3 and Hampshire police make it No. 2. There is your perm. There is a total of two. It is like golf, where the lowest number wins. We have two, five and five, the two being in favour of staying in Hampshire. I plead with Her Majesty's Government to have another long, cool think about leaving the whole borough of Lymington in Hampshire, thus satisfying both the borough council and the Hampshire police. If my noble friend on the Front Bench will give that undertaking, I am sure that my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu will be willing to withdraw his Amendment and we can then revert to the matter at Report stage.
Perhaps I may intervene very briefly now, because I intend to intervene for a little longer if the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, is agreeable to what I propose. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. I think a number of us were under the impression that we were discussing merely the borough of Lymington, and it was not until we looked more closely that we found that by a sleight of hand the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, had removed Amendment No. 37, where four dots appear, and inserted No. 37A, which looks the same but is significantly different.For reasons which I shall be prepared to give, I am strongly disposed to support an Amendment which would put the borough of Lymington into Hampshire, and possibly to agree to either St. Leonards or Sopley going into Dorset to make up the numbers, although the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, will not be able to drive through St. Leonards with safety if he succeeds. That would be more acceptable. But I certainly will not support the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, on Christchurch, and I do not know whether many noble Lords are prepared to do so, although a number would certainly he willing to go a very long way on the New Milton-Lymington point. I am wondering whether it might suit the convenience of the Committee if the noble Lord were to seek to withdraw his Amendment, although it is of course open to any noble Lord to refuse him permission to withdraw it and to vote on it. I should then seek to move a manuscript Amendment—it is too complicated for me to move a manuscript Amendment to his Amendment, which would be in order—which would be No. 37AA, to leave out lines 27 to 30 instead of lines 26 to 30. That might even bring the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, over to our side, though perhaps not. But certainly a number of other noble Lords would agree. It is a question of whether that is acceptable to the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. I really do not think it is any use the noble Lord pursuing the Christchurch argument.
I feel that I should perhaps apologise to your Lordships' Committee if it is thought there has been any deception on my part. I think I, too, was under the impression that we were going to debate Amendment No. 37, when I saw the dots there. I am perfectly prepared to withdraw my Amendment No. 37A if it is the wish of the Committee, and I would support the manuscript Amendment to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved manuscript Amendment No. 37AA:
Corrigendum, page 3, leave out lines 27 to 30.
The noble Lord said: I should like to move a manuscript Amendment to Schedule 1. I think it would become No. 37AA. Inadvertently, I seem to have taken over the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, by a curious sleight of hand, which was not my intention because I had some reservations about his Amendment But of one thing I am completely certain; that is, that what is proposed in the Bill is just not acceptable. If any noble Lord were to look at a map (and it is a great disadvantage that we have not reached the stage when we can have visual aids in your Lordships' Chamber, but there are maps outside) it would be seen that it really makes a total geographical nonsense. It is perfectly true that noble Lords will lay great emphasis on what local people think. But local people are moved by all sorts of curious pressures; and of one thing there is absolute certainty; that is, that the people of the borough of Lymington are, to put it mildly, split-minded on the subject. We have contradictory evidence. But, in contradistinction, we have the administrators who have been most concerned with this—I particularly have in mind those who have studied it; we have the Duke of Wellington and others; the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, a former Hampshire county councillor; and as a former Labour candidate for the New Forest, nobody knows it better than I do—who in fact feel that what is now proposed as part of a rather curious deal to bring Ringwood into Hampshire (and I support Ringwood coming into Hampshire) in order to get the number up to at least this notional figure of 40,000, is absolutely absurd.
For the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, to argue that the Duke of Wellington and others were talking in terms of a Police State argument is really using a rather emotional and, I think, a slightly unfair phrase, because what we are concerned with here is good public administration. What the Government are proposing is a sort of "dog-leg", with a long, narrow coastal corridor—a sort of strip which the police, from all the way over at Dorchester, have to administer; and there is no doubt that the police argument is a powerful one. We have had the argument from the innocent and non-aggressive county of Dorset. I noticed that they were extremely effective in resisting Poole's efforts to get county borough status in the past, but, granting that they are a non-aggressive county, we all have great sympathy. I live now in the county of Dorset instead of the New Forest. I have a high opinion of the county of Dorset. We know their difficulties. I do not know whether the capital of the county will remain at Dorchester or will go to Bournemouth; but we accept that this is right. I think it is logical that Christchurch, Poole and Bournemouth should all be in Dorset; and I think there is much to be said, as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, suggested, for the boundary being roughly on the line of the Avon. But he does not propose to extend this so far as Lymington and New Milton are concerned. It is now proposed to get as far as possible from the line of the Avon.
Having some geographical connections and having some concern with planning, I cannot seriously believe that anyone who has looked at this as a planning unit could tolerate it for one moment. As to the arguments of the Official Verderer, the noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury, who knows this area so well and with whom I have co-operated over the New Forest Bill and other matters, the arguments in terms of the planning of the New Forest are, to me, vital. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, I think the Hampshire County Council have a good record in the matter of planning. I do not know what particular factor makes him less friendly to them. I think that, because of the pressures of urban areas, they are more likely to seek to preserve this area than even Dorset, which has so much beautiful rural country. I therefore think that the case here is very strong.
I find some of the arguments that have been produced less than convincing. I was written to by certain Lymington people who suggested to me that Lymington might wobble in its loyalty to the Conservative Party if this was not done for them; and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, more or less suggested that Lymington might somehow go Labour if this was not granted. I think this is one of the least likely events, much as I regret it. None the less, I am prepared to support the noble Lord. Nor do I entirely like the suggestion, which they made, that the courage of the M.P. for the New Forest failed, and that he was overwhelmed by Ministerial pressure and the Party Whip. This is not a simple issue. There are, indeed, arguments for the Taddiford Gap. I do not propose to deal with the Taddiford Gap argument, but I must say that I would seek to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, that if the whole of the borough cannot go hack into Hampshire it may be that the Taddiford Gap solution would be the right one.
But the fact is that what is proposed is a nonsense—a "dog-leg". They have chosen to take out of Hampshire and put into Dorset a part of the New Forest which is just about as far as it can be from Dorset. You could go a bit further, to Beaulieu, but logically Lymington is part of the New Forest; and anybody who knows this area must realise that this is not a sort of planner's madness, it is in fact a politicians' deal. It is not good enough; and I would urge your Lordships to accept my substitute Amendment. I may say that we have no official Party line on this. The Opposition do not want to add to the difficulties of the Government in getting their legislation through, and I speak only for myself; but this is one of the occasions on which, if the noble Lord. Lord Montagu, will agree with my Amendment, I hope your Lordships' Committee will set a mistake right. I beg to move my manuscript. Amendment.
I must point out that if this Amendment were carried I could not call Amendment No. 37B.
We have somewhere in ourCompanion to Standing Orders a discouragement against the moving of manuscript Amendments on Committee stage, and a still stronger discouragement to the moving of them on Report stage. Frankly, I should like more time to make up my mind about the manuscript Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. It seems to me doubtful whether, in a Bill like this, where we are vitally affecting the future local government structure (and, indeed, much more) of parts of the country, we should reach snap decisions on Amendments we have not seen before. We still have a Report stage for this Bill. I would humbly submit to your Lordships that, rather than seek to reach a decision at very short notice to all of us, and no notice at all to the people of Lymington and Christchurch, who are concerned, it would be better to postpone a decision on this new Amendment until the Report stage.
On the procedural point, I think the noble Lord did not have an opportunity to consult theCompanion. Clearly, manuscript Amendments are to be discouraged. One cannot move a manuscript Amendment on Third Reading because one cannot move any Amendment on Third Reading without notice having been given. But there is specific provision for manuscript Amendments in Committee. The practice has great disadvantages in that other Members will not have had the opportunity of considering the terms of such Amendments.But occasionally an Amendment is justified: for instance, to correct an Amendment already tabled. It was because the Committee were debating the wrong subject that it seemed desirable to move such an Amendment. Admittedly, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke—and, of course, the Government—appears to have known what was before the Committee; but the rest of us did not. We have chosen just to continue debating what we thought we were debating. With respect, I cannot say that we really need much more time if the Government are ever to get this Bill through.
I am not seeking to find fault with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, but I would put this consideration to him. He is now proposing a new county boundary which will bring back some 35,000 people into Hampshire and leave the 38,000 people of Christchurch in Dorset. Clearly, this is going to have far-reaching effects on the pattern of districts. I should have thought that Parliament ought to give some consideration to how the new districts are to be formed, before reaching any final decision. I say that in addition to the fact that I believe we ought to seek the opinion of the local people and local councils on this before we actually write into the Bill an Amendment which none of them has seen.
With respect, the one thing that we have got is opinions on this Amendment. What we had not got was opinions on the Amendment that Lord Montagu moved in relation to Christchurch. The evidence is conflicting; but I do not see what the noble Lord wishes. We acknowledge his expertise in procedure, but we cannot just postpone this matter—unless he wishes to adjourn the debate altogether so that we can all go home. I cannot believe the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, would be very keen on that. I should have thought that at least the rest of the Members of the Committee do now know what we are debating.
I do not know whether it would help if at this stage I said two things. First, the Government are very keen now, having had this useful debate and further canvassing of public opinion, to come to a decision. Secondly, the remarks that I made at the beginning about the Government not being prepared to consider any substantial shift back to Hampshire of population, area, or resources would have applied if the Amendment we had been debating from the beginning were Amendment No. 37AA which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has just moved as a manuscript Amendment. I do not know whether it will be of some help to make those observations at this stage.As I have said, it has been very helpful for the Government to have had this further debate following a further canvassing of public opinion. Before I go into the main substance of what I want to say I should like to deal with the small point raised by my noble friend Lord Selkirk about the Boundary Commission, and confirm that the Boundary Commission, although it does not have the power to do anything about the matters remitted to it—it is advisory—is empowered to deal with boundaries of every kind: parish, district and county. That would involve making proposals about whole parishes. I want to start by confirming what I said at the beginning; namely, that the Government do not agree that it would be right to make any substantial change in the boundary described in the Bill between Dorset and Hampshire; although they agree that it is difficult to decide precisely where it should go, and that almost certainly further changes here and there will be required on the advice of the Boundary Commission. The main reason for so thinking is that the whole built-up stretch of coast from Bournemouth eastward to the Solent needs to be planned and developed as a whole. Although this certainly does look like a thin finger on the map, the fact is that it forms a single unit for planning purposes. I should like to address my remarks to the Committee on the issue of choosing now between a boundary which divides the counties at the Taddiford Gap and the boundary which is set out in the Bill as at present drafted. This is where the difficulty comes and where the choice is so evenly balanced. In favour of the Taddiford Gap is undoubtedly the police point, which was known to the Government before and which has been deployed with particular emphasis and skill by my noble friend the Duke of Wellington, my noble friend Lord Monck and by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, himself. I think this is a cogent and weighty argument. There is also no doubt that looked at on the map there appears to be a natural gap roughly in the area of Taddiford. There are strong historical ties between the areas in question and the county of Hampshire. Noble Lords will know that wherever possible (and to a far greater extent in our proposals than those of the Royal Commission or the previous Government) we have stuck to these historical ties. We only abandon them when there are powerful arguments the other way. Then there is the question of local opinion and we have the benefit of the private poll conducted by my noble friend Lord Montagu. Arguments against a change and making the boundary run along the Taddiford Gap as opposed to where it is, are these. First, there is the need for planning the whole of the coast together. This is the primary reason why the greater part of Christchurch and Lymington must be in Dorset. That applies to the whole coast and extends beyond the Taddiford Gap. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and others made this point very effectively, as did my noble friend Lord Selkirk and the noble Lord, Lord Jacques. The second point which I do not think has emerged (but which was made very powerfully to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State by the Members and officers chiefly concerned in this) is that joint work is now going on between Christchurch and Lymington on the basis of the previous decision of the Government. That is not an argument for sticking to the decision we have taken if it be conclusively shown that that was mistaken, but it is a strong argument for coming to a decision now; and I believe that it is an argument also for sticking to a decision that has been taken. But most powerful of all—and this was the one point on which, if there had been a change, I would on behalf of the Government have been prepared to recommend to the Committee support for my noble friend's Amendment No. 37B—are the local wishes expressed by the locally-elected representatives of the people on the borough council. Here, opinion is, if anything, more emphatic than ever before that if this borough of Lymington cannot stay in Hampshire—and for a number of reasons I have indicated that the Government do not feel that that would be right—then by a very substantial majority indeed, a majority containing the votes of a number of councillors and aldermen who live East of the Taddiford Gap, the borough is strongly in favour of remaining intact. As I say, this has been a very useful debate for ascertaining whether there were any new factors, or any shifts in opinion or expressions of opinion which should lead the Government to feel that some solution other than the one they have selected so far was right. I must tell the Committee that no such new factors have emerged although we have had a very thorough debate, and no changes of opinion, particularly from the borough itself, have been indicated to us. For that reason, I would advise the Committee to reject all the Amendments on the understanding, as I promised my noble friend Lord Selkirk, that the details of the boundaries in a number of places besides those mentioned in his Amendment are matters for the Boundary Commission. I further urge the Committee not to accept the suggestion that we should delay a decision on this matter, so that necessary urgent work on the new boundary can he proceeded with.
I do not know whether this is really Lord Montagu of Beaulieu's Amendment, but since somehow I have fathered it I am bound to say that all the arguments employed by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, strengthen the case for this Amendment as opposed to the Taddiford Gap Amendment. I do not believe that the arguments in favour of planning this coastal strip have any validity as compared with the area arguments in relation to the New Forest, the general administrative and police arguments. I am sure that a decision which admittedly was taken in another place under certain circumstances as part of a deal in regard to Ringwood, should be reversed. It may well be that some further consideration may need to be given on Report, but unless the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, wishes me not to press the Amendment I feel strongly, having heard the discussion, that I should divide the Committee. I hope that the Committee, having heard the powerful arguments from Hampshire county councillors and others, and those who, like myself, live in Dorset, will carry this Amendment.
I am sorry to intervene again, but it seems entirely wrong to make a decision on this matter without having made any attempt to discover the views of the people of Christchurch on an entirely new situation. So far as my knowledge extends—and I have been told this on very good authority—the borough of Christchurch will be totally opposed to what is now suggested in this manuscript Amendment. They will realise that if the boundary is drawn as suggested for Christchurch Borough and Lymington Borough they will be at the mercy of Bournemouth. This does not seem to be the way to legislate. If the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is clear in his mind and wishes to press his manuscript Amendment to a division, I shall certainly vote against it in the circumstances and I hope that other noble Lords will do the same.
I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, that the one think we do know is that Christchurch is against this Amendment. There is no need to argue the case against this. We know that Christchurch wishes to have Lymington and New Milton do not wish to be included in Christchurch. I told the noble Lord this in the course of the debate, but I believe it is necessary to carry this Amendment. There may be some further sorting out to be done, but we have not been given adequate demographic reasons. It may well be that when we come to the question of Sopley we may do something about that, but I do not feel inclined to do so unless we are able to carry this Amendment now.
On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 37AA) shall be agreed to?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 81 Not-Contents, 65.
|Alport, L.||Hoy, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Arwyn, L.||Jacques, L. [Teller.]||Reigate, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Killearn, L.||Rennell, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Leatherland, L.||Ridley, V.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Leicester, E.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||St. Davids, V.|
|Blyton, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Selborne, E.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Long, V.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Carnock, L.||Longford, E.||Shackleton, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Loudoun, C.||Shepherd, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Snow, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Malmesbury, E.||Somers, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Maybray-King, L.||Stocks, Bs.|
|Croft, L.||Mersey, V.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Cross, V.||Monck, V.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Davidson, V.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L. [Teller].||Swansea, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Forres, L.||Norwich, V.||Wade, L.|
|Gainsborough, E.||Nunburnholme, L.||Watkins, L.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.||Wellington, D.|
|Gardiner, L.||Onslow, E.||Williamson, L.|
|Garnsworthy, L.||Pargiter, L.||Wise, L.|
|Hale, L.||Phillips, Bs.||Wolverton, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Popplewell, L.||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
|Harvey of Prestbury, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Rankeillour, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Heycock, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Gage, V.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Gainford, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Geddes, L.||Portal of Hungerford, Bs.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Goschen, V.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Gowrie, E.||Rockley, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Rothermere, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Hailsham of St. Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||St. Just, L.|
|Blackford, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hawke, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Hemingford, L.||Savile, L.|
|Chelmer, L.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Selkirk, E.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Kinnoull, E.||Stamp, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Latymer, L.||Strang, L.|
|Courtown, E.||Limerick, E.||Strange of Knokin, Bs.|
|Daventry, V.||Macleod of Borve, Bs.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Merrivale, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Digby, L.||Milverton, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Molson, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Elles, Bs.||Mottistone, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]||Windlesham, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Wynford, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Northchurch, Bs.||Young, Bs.|
|Fraser of Lonsdale, L.|
Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
moved Amendment No. 37C:
Corrigendum, page 3, line 32, after ("Hurn") insert ("the parish of St. Leonards and St. Ives, the parish of Sopley").
The noble Earl said: In the course of a previous Amendment I made what was called a Second Reading speech about an Amendment which stands in my name. Now that the Committee have decided as it has, the two Amendments in my name are of far greater importance and I ask the Government to give them careful consideration. The reason I raise the matter is that the Government, quite suddenly after, I think, 16 hours of discussion, said that they put St. Leonards and St. Ives parishes back into Hampshire because they were associated with Ringwood. No other explanation has been given. So far as I am aware, not even that explanation was given with regard to Sopley. The whole of this area looks for almost all services to the Bournemouth-Poole area. A hospital of some consequence in the middle of St. Leonards—I believe it is a geriatric hospital—is concerned almost entirely with patients from Bournemouth and not from other parts of the country at all.
The whole of the area, with respect, from Lymington through to Wareham, apart from the tourist industry, is concerned with light industry, much of it of a very high character. This is likely to expand and it is of considerable importance to the area that it should be possible to expand North, inland of the area already heavily occupied. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, agrees that this boundary at present is absurd. I should like to know haw far the Boundary Commission could go. Why not strike St. Leonards and St. Ives and Sopley out, or put them in in the position that I have, and leave it to the Boundary Commission to make the appropriate adjustment? I am asking, therefore, whether the Boundary Commission can make the adjustment and, if so, will tile noble Lord not accept what I have suggested and let the Boundary Commission make its recommendations?
As I said originally, it is certainly true that the boundary in this area between Hampshire and Dorset is very difficult to determine, particularly in detail. But a detailed change at this point is not something which could be settled by shifting parish boundaries as a whole. There are objections whichever way it is done, not only from these two parishes but also from other parishes in the area. I recommend to the Committee that although this would involve delay—it would not be a long delay—it would be better to leave the parish boundaries where they are now, which is the best broad division which may be made; accept all the points which the noble Earl has made so cogently but acknowledge that there are others, and leave the adjustment of detail to the Boundary Commission.Broadly speaking, the rural district of Ringwood is better as a whole with territory from these parishes in it. I could not say at this stage without consultation, which there has not been as to the details here, where the precise boundary would be, or what configuration on the map or on the ground would be the one to follow. I would repeat my assurances that everything that needs to be done here falls squarely within the terms of reference of the Boundary Commission and it will be able, in due course after proper consultation which it is so important to have, to arrive at a sensible recommendation to make to my right honourable friend. I strongly recommend the Committee to leave matters there for the time being.
We have spent most of the afternoon debating two Amendments which were never put and voting on an Amendment which did not seem to be—because I must admit that I can read my Order Paper. We are getting on to a third Amendment which is now of much greater importance than ever it was before the last Amendment was carried. It is suggested by the Government that we should wait until the Boundary Commission suggests changes. But surely, long before this the question of the county districts will be decided, and what has happened this afternoon has put Christchurch in an absolutely unviable position, as I understand it. It seems to me essential from the Christchurch angle, and for the whole efficient administration of local government in this area, that these areas to the North should be returned to Dorset. I hope the Amendment will be carried.
I do not understand what the Government are trying to do here. In the other place tile Minister said that the parish of St. Leonards and St. Ives, which is divided by a wide river and low ground from Ringwood, is associated with Ringwood and therefore has to go with it. Then the noble Lord gets up in response to a question which I asked and all he can say is that it is better for the Ringwood District Council. That is no reason whatever. This is really an integral part of the development from the South. There is a clear boundary in regard to this area. I do not believe that there is any strong emotional issue here—and I do not very much mind if there is, because most of the inhabitants there are fairly new. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who is not here at the moment, said that this would not he popular. My information is that people North of the A.31 like to be in Hampshire because of the prestige, and people South of the road like to be in Dorset because they get on with the job. My view is that they have no strong loyalties to either county, but simply want to see what they can get out of it. There is, as I say, a clear boundary between Ringwood and St. Leonards and I would ask the noble Lord to consider this. You cannot adjust a river boundary; it is a great wide area of about two miles of flat country. I think this is an essential and integral element, as the noble Lord, Lord Digby, said, of the development, which is increasingly industrial, apart from the tourist industry.
Is the noble Earl talking about St. Leonards and St. Ives as well as Sopley?
Certainly. That is in the Amendment.
Then may I say that there is another factor here, which I have mentioned before. Sopley goes right up to the New Forest perambulation and it is essential that there should be a cushion area here for the good administration of the New Forest so that it can be under one planning authority. I should rather like to abide by the recommendation that we leave this to the Boundary Commission in the near future.
I would assure my noble friend Lord Selkirk that, in the light of the decision that has just been taken, fresh consideration will have to be given to this boundary here, because it is clearly linked up with it. But, as my noble friend Lord Malmesbury has just made clear, there are here a number of conflicting considerations. If it led to the conclusion that one parish should go in and a whole parish should go out, that would be easy, but this is not the case. It is a question of re-drawing the parish boundary. I agree with my noble friend that the boundary of St. Leonards and St. Ives to the East, which is a river boundary, is not one that it would be easy to change satisfactorily. But this does not mean to say that it may not be desirable to re-draw the western boundary, which is the one that forms the county boundary. I certainly give my noble friend the assurance that, in the light of the decision we have just taken, this matter will be looked at again. But our information before that was that this involved a detailed adjustment that would be best left for the Boundary Commission. I will certainly look at it again between now and the Report stage in the light of the decision that the Committee has just taken, and if that leads to a different conclusion I shall be happy to consider this Amendment or some other form of Amendment with my noble friend.
I thank my noble friend for what he has said and am quite happy to accept it. I agree with what my noble friend Lord Malmesbury said. If Sopley should go into Dorset with, if you like, a corridorsanitaire—if that is what the noble Lord wishes—I should be quite happy to accept that. I hope that my noble friend will be able to put this forward at the Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 39:
Corrigendum. Page 3, line 46, after ("Essex") insert ("except the areas in Suffolk")
The noble Lord said: It may help the Committee if I draw attention to the fact that this Amendment is associated with Amendment No. 52. I should begin by explaining that I speak entirely as an individual, and that I seek to bring before your Lordships an issue which is of importance, at any rate in our part of East Anglia. I have no qualms with regard to the drafting of this Amendment, for the Amendment represents exactly the words of the Government draftsmen in the Bill as it was introduced by the Minister in another place at the time of Second Reading. I have no qualms either with regard to the policy of the Amendment, because it represents the considered policy of the Government at that time as a result of their study of the situation in South East Anglia and the Report of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission: indeed, the policy seeks to implement one of the principal recommendations of that Commission and is supported by powerful arguments which, as I say, convinced the Government initially that this was the right solution for North-East Essex and Suffolk.
The arguments in favour can be summarised as follows. In the first place, the area concerned covers part of the estuary of the Orwell and the Stour, part of which at present lies in Suffolk with the ports of Felixstowe and Ipswich, and part in Essex with the important port of Harwich, which in due course, as a result of a decision arrived at by your Lordships' House recently, will be developed by the development of the Bath Side Bay project which will give to that part of the coast a deep sea port, with wharves, of great importance at the present time. It was the view of the Redcliffe-Maud Report, and I think of the Government, that this whole area, with the three important ports or havens facing the Continent and likely to become of increasing economic importance when we enter the Common Market, should be brought under one administration. That was the first argument in favour.
If I may refer to the debate which we have just concluded, I noticed that one of the arguments the Minister adduced for his point of view with regard to the part of Hampshire or Dorset (I was rather confused as to which we were talking about towards the end) was that it was a coastal strip which should be administered as one. Equally, I should have thought, if not far more so, the area of this haven estuary comprising these three important ports should be administered under one main local authority.
The second argument brought forward by the Commission, and again presumably accepted by the Government, was that by bringing North-East Essex in with Suffolk it would ensure the continuing integrity of the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley. The Dedham Vale will be familiar to your Lordships as the scene of so many of Constable's great paintings. It is a place of special natural beauty. It is protected, but is at the present time divided between the two authorities of Suffolk, on the one hand, and the Essex County Council on the other. It is something which I should have thought requires—again in agreement with the Commission—a single authority to safeguard and look after the planning and integrity of that beautiful part of East Anglia.
The third reason is the close affinity of North-East Essex with Suffolk and East Anglia generally. I can only speak from
my own experience. having lived there for 25 years. We in North-East Essex feel ourselves as part of East Anglia. I do not know whether it is in any way a measure of our one-ness with Suffolk, and to a less extent Norfolk, but we are covered by the same television system. We have in North-East Essex and in Suffolk the same daily paper, the East Anglian Daily Times. The two organisations locally with which I am or was associated, the Eastern Area Federation of Building Societies, and until recently the British Institute of Management in Ipswich, link Colchester and Ipswich in Suffolk and are not connected with Chelmsford, our present Essex County Council. That is the third argument.
The fourth argument, from the point of view of good administration and local government, is perhaps the most important of all because it relates to the distribution of manpower and financial resources as between Suffolk with North-East Essex and Essex without North-East Essex. If I may draw to your Lordships' attention some of the statistics, they are as follows: if Suffolk and North-East Essex became a single local government area, a single county, the distribution of population would be roughly, in the case of Norfolk, 780,000; in the case of Suffolk with North-East Essex, 750,000; and in the case of Essex without North-East Essex, 1,250,000, assuming (as no doubt will be the case) that within a relatively short period of time there is a development in mid-Essex as a result of the decision to place a third London Airport at Foulness and to build a new large town of 125,000. If the Government's present proposals stand, the population of Norfolk will be 780,000; of Suffolk without Essex, 530,000; and of Essex including North-East Essex, 1½ million. There is such a disparity between these figures of population that it must and does mean—as I think would be generally recognised by the Government and indeed by everybody approaching this matter objectively—that as far as Suffolk is concerned, in population and to some extent in rateable value, it will be, I believe, the second smallest and perhaps from the financial point of view the second weakest of the county units. In the case of Suffolk without North-East Essex the rateable value will be about £20 million and for Suffolk with North-East Essex about £30 million. Essex without North-East Essex will be £57 million.
I know that the arguments, so far as Essex and Suffolk are concerned, were concentrated upon financial considerations. I understand the strength of the arguments of the substantial financial resources of Essex County Council as it at present stands; but I have had some experience of this, as I say, over nearly a quarter of a century and I would say we were also a strong county financially in the 'forties and 'fifties. We in North-East Essex felt ourselves very much at a disadvantage with regard to West Essex, which at that time included a large urban population since transferred to the G.L.C. We felt ourselves neglected, and indeed we were to some extent quite justified in our feelings about that as regards the interests of housing development, educational needs and so on of these large urban populations. We realise that although to-day there may be some balance between West Essex and North-East Essex, so to speak, when this new conurbation arises in the centre of Essex—this new town as a consequence of the decision to put a third London Airport at Foulness—increasingly Chelmsford, Southend (a developing area) and this new town will dominate Essex, to the disadvantage of the rural areas of North-East Essex and the towns of Harwich and Colchester. We have had experience of this and we see no reason why it should not happen again.
I must confess that so far as the merits of the proposals which I am putting forward in my Amendment are concerned, which was the Government's original policy in this matter, we in North-East Essex are divided. Broadly speaking, the rural districts are in favour. Turning to the boroughs, the borough of Harwich is against joining Suffolk and I think the reason is a long-standing feeling of competition with Felixstowe and Ipswich and also a feeling that in the circumstances that previously existed Harwich might be at a disadvantage under a county council which would, they believe, be largely dominated by Felixstowe and Ipswich, and so they would not get the sort of advantages they hoped to get from the Essex County Council at Chelmsford. But we recog- nise that this new factor has arisen and that there is going to be a new port at Foulness. There is no doubt at all that in spite of the special financing of that development from Government resources a great deal of the attention and the resources of the Essex County Council will be concentrated upon the Foulness development, at the expense not only of rural Essex but also of the port of Harwich. Therefore as regards the good healthy competition between Harwich and the present Suffolk ports, with the development of Bath Side Bay wharves, Harwich will probably be the biggest and most important of all the ports in the complex of the estuary of the Stour and the Orwell.
Colchester was originally in favour of joining Suffolk, but subsequently by about 18 or 20 to 12 they voted against. I would say to your Lordships that it should be noted that among those who voted in favour of joining Suffolk were seven out of eight chairmen of the principal committees of the Corporation. I find it difficult in present circumstances to assess very clearly what the public feels. What I am quite clear about is that public opinion in North-East. Essex, in Colchester, in Harwich, in our rural areas and our urban districts, has not yet had an opportunity of being informed about and being able to consider the effects of this new factor that has come into being: that is, the decision to establish not only a very considerable transport and industrial conurbation in the Foulness area but a new town in the middle of Essex.
Another factor discussed at the time was the position of the university. We have near Colchester the University of Essex. I see no difficulty about nomenclature in that case. If it were to become the University of Colchester we should be pleased and happy; indeed, it would follow the custom of practically every other university in the country. After all, the University of Oxford is not the University of Oxfordshire; nor for that matter is the University of York the University of Yorkshire, although I am quite sure that in the case of any of the new universities the county councils have played just as munificent, active and helpful a part as Essex County Council has played regarding the University of Essex.
Another argument that was advanced against it was the integrity of Essex. Essex, it is true, was one of the kingdoms of the Heptarchy. It was not the most successful kingdom in fact, but it was certainly a kingdom of the Heptarchy and it is perfectly true that it has a longstanding historical presence and being in Britain. But the fact is that a very short time ago some of the most important and historic parts of Essex were severed from the county and handed over to London and the G.L.C. Quite honestly, there was not this controversy or this effort on the part of the county council to keep them in Essex that there has been during the last year or so in respect of these proposals to link North-East Essex with Suffolk. The truth of the matter is that other factors, other considerations and other motives were brought into play upon the problem of North-East Essex. I am not prepared to say that I can speak authoritatively on this but I can speculate, as indeed many of us do in North-East Essex, as to many of the steps which have led to a decision to start such a substantial campaign—a well-financed and a vigorous campaign—against the linking of North-East Essex with Suffolk. It was organised through professional public relations. So far as I know a substantial sum of money was spent on it.
Why is North-East Essex different from West Ham, Barking or all the other areas which have been lost to Essex during the recent past? There could be a political factor: North-East Essex is very largely a Conservative area. A Conservative county council would naturally feel that there was a strong argument for maintaining a Conservative area as part of the county, particularly where there is likely to be an intrusion of a very large number of new and uncertain voters in the future. In the case of Colchester it is quite possible that the Labour Party there—I do not know whether this is true or not—felt some reluctance at going into the county council of Suffolk which has been predominently Conservative and was likely to continue to be predominently Conservative. Whatever may have been the motives or factors behind it, the fact of the matter is that a very powerful campaign was launched against the Government's policy. The Government, in Standing Committee and during subsequent stages of the Bill in the House of Commons, accepted an Amendment to reverse their original decision to unite North-East Essex with Suffolk despite all the arguments that had been put forward, and to leave North-East Essex with Essex despite all the obvious arguments which are against it.
What I am trying to do—and as I have said I am speaking as an individual—is not to ask your Lordships to make a definite decision on this matter, because I do not think it would be right to do so; but I think it is right that the people of North-East Essex, Essex generally, and Suffolk, should have a chance of considering a new factor which has arisen: the decision with regard to Foulness and the decision to build the new city in the middle of Essex. If my Amendment is accepted by Her Majesty's Government, not only will they be restoring the integrity of their own policy—which is always an advantage, because this is their policy and their proposal; and this is something which I know in their heart of hearts they believe to be right—but they will be giving the people of North-East Essex, Suffolk, and Essex generally, a chance to consider the position again in the light of this new factor. Any Amendment made in this House would be subject, if it was decided appropriate, to reversal by another place when this Bill returns there. I would be willing to accept that second decision by the House of Commons, and I am sure that would be generally acceptable to North-East Essex as well.
But for the moment we feel that we are justified in asking your Lordships—and this is a constitutional power and right of your Lordships' House—to give a second chance to an area to consider an important decision. It would also help Her Majesty's Government more clearly to put forward their views with regard to this particular issue than they were able to do on the previous occasion. If, as I hope, the decision is that we will join Suffolk it would mean for this part of South-East Anglia a stronger administration and a happier and more successful future. It is on those grounds that I move the Amendment and ask your Lordships for support.
I must, before proceeding with my general remarks, correct two statements of fact which have fallen from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Alport. First, he said that the new airport town is to be built in mid-Essex. That is not so; it is to be built in South-East Essex, which is a long way away. Secondly, he said that when Essex was last severed so that the Western boroughs could go into the Greater London Council the Essex County Council did not put up the same kind of fight as it is putting up to-day against this second severance. I was Chairman of the Essex County Council at the time of that Greater London severance and I can assure your Lordships that a fight of the utmost vigour was waged from the beginning to the end of that contest.The noble Lord, Lord Alport, with deep sincerity, is advocating once again the theory that he has held so close to his heart for so many years. But sincerity is not enough; what we need in order to reach a true assessment of the situation are convincing, indisputable facts. I hope to be able to put those before your Lordships in a few minutes' time. What is the Alport Plan? It is nothing less than the castration of Essex.
Perhaps the noble Lord will forgive me. This is not the Alport Plan; this is the plan of Her Majesty's Government, the Redcliffe-Maud Plan.
Subsequently cancelled by Her Majesty's Government and adopted by the noble Lord, Lord Alport. So if this is not his natural child, it is his adopted child, as he has tried to make out to your Lordships this evening. I said, "What is the Alport Plan?". It is to take the five towns in North-East Essex, Colchester, Clacton, Frinton, Walton and Harwich—all of which have said they want to stay in Essex—along with the intervening countryside, one-fifth of the whole acreage of Essex, 220,000 of its men, women and children, and pitchfork them into the county of Suffolk, there to become subordinate—so far as prestige is concerned at any rate—to the growing industrial town of Ipswich.The noble Lord and I have many things in common. We share many opinions on matters political. We both live in Essex. We have both played our part in the public life of that county. The noble Lord is highly esteemed there. For ten years he was Member of Parliament for Colchester; he is now the High Steward of Colchester. So his sentimental attraction to that oldest town in England, and therefore the oldest town in Essex, can be well appreciated. But when we come to the question of local government administration the noble Lord is not quite so knowledgeable as he is in other fields of human endeavour. Let me recall what he said on March 29 last year. InHansard at column 1172 he said that Colchester was going to lose quite a number of its services to Chelmsford. That has nothing to do with where we draw the boundary between Suffolk and Essex. It has something to do with, and is an argument against, the fundamental principles of this Bill. In any case Colchester will lose certain services either to Ipswich, Suffolk, or Chelmsford, Essex. On the same occasion in the same column ofHansard the noble Lord went on to say:
That word "Dagenham" is ringing in my ears. Dagenham does not exercise any dominating influence in the county council of Essex. Under the Bill Dagenham will not exercise any dominating influence in that county council. Dagenham is not in the Essex County Council. It is a part of the borough of Barking. Barking is a Greater London borough. When the people of Dagenham elect county councillors they do not elect them to sit at Chelmsford, Essex, but to sit in the Greater London Council across the other side of Westminster Bridge. Having referred to the noble Lord's local government qualifications I must briefly, and of course quite modestly, mention my own. For 22 years I was an alderman of the Essex County Council. At the age of 70, four years ago, I thought I was getting too old and should give the new generation a chance. As the first chairman of its fire brigade committee I created the Essex County Fire Brigade. I was for five years chairman of the finance committee; I was for five years vice-chairman of the county council and then chairman of the county council, and for the greater part of that whole period I was the leader of my Party on the council, both in Government and in Opposition. Good gracious! I have mentioned an improper word. I said, "Party". Yet this is about the purest, non-Party, all-Party debate that your Lordships have had for years. So let me put myself right very quickly. The Conservative majority on the county council and the Labour minority on the county council are both ferociously opposed to the noble Lord's Amendment. Now let me look at the history of this situation. When the White Paper was published the whole of Essex was to stay in Essex. When the Bill was published, we were staggered to find that North-East Essex had been moved into Suffolk. How came the change? A powerful propaganda campaign was started in Suffolk with the assistance of a vociferous minority in North-East Essex, and when Mr. Graham Pare, the Minister, visited the district to ascertain the views of the local authorities he was told on behalf of Colchester Council that Colchester Council had decided to go into Suffolk. Then what happened? The full Colchester Council later met for the first time to consider this question. It had a three-hour debate: eloquent speeches were made on both sides. It took a vote. Eight councillors decided to vote for going into Suffolk; twenty-three of them decided to stay in Essex. And if you take all the boroughs, urban and rural district councils in that North-East area, you find those representing 78,000 wanted to go into Suffolk while those representing 141,000 wanted to stay in Essex—a majority of practically two to one. And if you accept that education is perhaps one of the main services of local government, then the North-East Essex Educational Executive voted to stay in Essex by nineteen votes to three. The Minister did not confine himself to seeking the views of the local authorities. He threw the invitation open to voluntary organisations and others. And then what happened? The main group of newspapers, edited and printed in Colchester, held a postal ballot. By four votes against one the majority was in favour of staying in Essex. Then a public opinion survey was held in those parts of Essex which were closest to the Suffolk border: the borough of Harwich and the villages South of the Stour—a 75 per cent. majority in favour of staying in Essex. Then all the Members of Parliament in Essex, with one solitary exception, decided that the North-East Essex territory should stay in Essex. Then there were 52 voluntary organisations that responded to the Minister's request to express their opinions. Four of them said, "We will go into Suffolk"; 48 of them said, "We will stay in Essex". The four who wanted to go into Suffolk were the Clacton-on-Sea Boarding House Proprietors' Association, a Colchester firm of surveyors, the Colchester branch of NALGO and the East-Anglia Consultative Committee, which is a semi-statutory body dominated by the two county councils of Suffolk and by the Ipswich Borough Council. But when you look at the 48 who said they wanted to stay in Essex you never saw a more impressive cross-section of enlightened public opinion. There was the Diocesan Moral Welfare Committee—I am afraid I had nothing to do with that decision; the Diocesan Education Committee; the Colchester Round Table—a gathering of most eminent citizens; the Head Teachers' Association; the National Union of Teachers; St. John Ambulance Brigade; National Health Service Executive; Old People's Welfare Association. And then there was a group of four organisations in a slightly different category: the Colchester Constituency Labour Party; the Colchester Co-operative Society: the Colchester Co-operative Women's Guild and the Harwich Trades Council. It might be said that those four are somewhat tainted. They may be, but let me balance them by four more. There was the Country Landowners' Association—the trade union of the squires; the National Farmers' Union; the Essex Agricultural Show, and the Essex Community Council, which is the godfather, as your Lordships know, of the pretty villages in the county. There was also the University of Essex. The Minister carefully considered these powerful expressions of public opinion and decided that the North-East territory of Essex should remain in Essex, and the Bill embodying this is before the Committee of your Lordships' House to-day. But the noble Lord wants to turn it upside down. Surely, the time has come when we should try to remove all this uncertainty and let the local government officers, who have a huge task in dealing with this reorganisation generally, get on with their job. How does the existing, unadulterated County of Essex square up with the criteria laid down in the White Paper? First of all, let us take the boundary. The River Stour has been the boundary between Suffolk and Essex for over a thousand years. This is no mere trickling stream. It is a mile and a quarter wide at its mouth; a mile and a half wide a few miles inland, and you have to travel 10 miles before you get to the first bridge and it is still a quarter of a mile wide there. This estuary is not like the estuaries of the Tyne, the Tees and the Mersey, which are closely built up on both sides. This is a rural area and the present boundary does not cut in two any single community. The next criterion is that of employment. Of the 96,000 registered workers in North-East Essex, only 1,800 cross the border into Suffolk to work—just over 2 per cent.—and of all the registered workers in East Suffolk County and Ispwich Borough, fewer than 1 per cent. come into Essex to work. The South-East England Strategic Planning Organisation, which is a highly respectable body, invariably takes the River Stour as its boundary. The next thing I want to say is to my mind very important. It so happens that many of the public institutions which cater for the population of the whole of Essex are situated in this North-East territory. There are five out of six of the hostels for the mentally handicapped; there are nine out of ten of the rehabilitation centres for recovering mental patients; there are five out of every eight of the beds for elderly mental patients; there are one out of two of the residential nurseries; there are five out of every six of the communal units for homeless families; two out of three of the residential schools for maladjusted children, and one out of three of the residential schools for educationally subnormal children. There is also in this North-East territory the International Youth Camp, famed among educationists throughout the whole world. So your Lordships will see that this North-East territory is very heavily laden with institutions which cater for the population of the whole of Essex. Now let me look at the police force. If the county is severed, the Constabulary will be confronted with their third major reorganisation in 10 years—more expense; less efficiency. As to the fire brigade, which has a divisional headquarters at Colchester—I know that because I put it there—the fire brigade committee and the Fire Brigades Union are most solidly opposed to any change. Then there is the education service. The reorganisation of secondary education in Suffolk has proceeded along quite different lines from that in Essex. The schools now built in North-East Essex, and those now building there, would not fit in with the Suffolk secondary education system. If the North-East Technical College at Colchester were put into Suffolk it would cause grave disruption among further education in the county. There is the National Health Service Executive whose area is always supposed to be co-extensive with that of its county. This happens to be in North-East Essex. There are 53 voluntary organisations in North-East Essex to which the Essex County Council gives aid. It gives that aid because it appreciates their valuable services and also because it has the resources with which to do it. This year a £13 million building programme is being undertaken by the Essex County Council, and over £4 million of this is in this North-East territory. Now we come to the Essex University, to which the noble Lord has referred. The University of Essex at Colchester owes its very existence to the initiative of the Essex County Council. The Essex County Council bought a mansion and a 200-acre estate and gave it to the University. It formed the University Promotion Committee, made a public appeal and raised over £1¼ million, largely from Essex, and I, unfortunately, happen to be the nominal custodian of that £1¼ million. Then the Essex County Council voted £107,000 a year towards the University funds and the Southend Borough Council made a similarly generous gift, having regard to its proportionate population. If this university is put into Suffolk, will Suffolk give the same kind of generous assistance, especially having regard to the fact that Suffolk County Councils have for years been linked with the East Anglian University at Norwich'? Also, if the university went into Suffolk would the people of Essex and the County Council of Essex feel that they were under an obligation to show the same generosity and liberality as they have shown in the past? I have a minor declaration of interest to make. I am the treasurer of the University of Essex, and have been so since its foundation. It is a dignified and onerous but absolutely honorary post. But I am also a shy person and very easily embarrassed. Just imagine my embarrassment at the next meeting of the University Court when I rise, turn respectfully to the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, and say, "My Lord, and Chancellor, I beg leave to present the yearly accounts of the University of Essex in Suffolk"."When I say 'Chelmsford' I do riot mean the county town, against which we have no animus, but the proposed county council dominated by the weight of population of the urban, industrialised South-West Essex—Dagenham, Thurrock and Grays"
May I interrupt the noble Lord? Would he be equally embarrassed in saying "The University of Colchester"?
You may juggle with names like that but this was promoted as the University of Essex. You do not change its name, even if you change the name of the adopted child to which I referred in my opening remarks.I wonder whether the noble Lord has really considered the extra population power and prestige that will devolve upon Colchester town if the Bill in the form in which it now stands is adopted? Colchester will then absorb the Mersea urban district, the Wivenhoe urban district, the Lexden and Winstree rural district, and will then have a population of 117,000 people, contrasted with the 76,000 which it has to-day. It will have more than half of the population, it will have more than a half of the seats on the Council, it will have a little empire of 82,000 acres against the 12,000 acres which it has to-day. Surely all that is better than being the mere "little brother" of Ipswich. The noble Lord has referred to the fact that Essex County Council engaged a firm of public relations consultants. It has had to do so. Ever mindful of the ratepayers' money, it does not have a large public relations staff—it just has one officer who is responsible for most of his time for that kind of duty. But remember that Essex was the subject of a takeover bid from Suffolk. It had to defend itself. It was being told by the Essex Press that it must make the real facts of the situation more widely known. So it called a county conference, attended by one hundred local authorities and voluntary organisations. Their voice was, "You must fight", and so the public relations consultants were told to spread the real facts as widely as they possibly could throughout the county, and one of the facts that they were told to drive home was that whereas the story was being spread about that Colchester Council wanted to go into Suffolk, the real fact was that Colchester Council, by 23 votes to 8, had decided that it wanted to stay in Essex. Another of the facts that it had to make known was that Essex County Council is recognised as having one of the finest social welfare organisations in the country and that during recent years the Essex County Council have regarded the North-East Essex territory as being an area of high amenity value. It has spent £100,000 there on preserving open spaces; it has made 20 conservation orders; it has preserved historic houses; it is now planning another country park and it spearheaded the three-county campaign to preserve the beauties of the Dedham Vale, to which the noble Lord has already referred. In recent years it has also done work to the extent of millions of pounds on roads in the North-East of the county and on coastal protection and this year it is building £2 million worth of secondary schools in that area, in addition to eight primary schools. Yet the rates in Essex are lower than the average for all the English counties and lower than those in East Suffolk and West Suffolk. When the noble Lord criticises the council for engaging public relations consultants, surely he does not mean to say that public relations consultants are not respectable people? Your Lordships can go into the Library and pick up theDirectory of Directors. You will find in that a company called "Financial Public Relations Ltd.". You will also find the name of the chairman of that company, and the name of the chairman is given as the noble Lord, Lord Alport. He will probably tell me that he has since resigned.
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to point out that I am no longer connected with that company. However, apart from that it gives me perhaps an even greater insight into the operations of public relations consultants than the noble Lord, who has not had my advantage.
For years the noble Lord was the chairman of a public relations company. I will leave it at that. He has moved up since then in the City, I quite agree, but he has not cast behind him into outer darkness that period which he spent as a public relations expert.It has been said that Essex is a big county. It certainly is in terms of population, and it will get bigger. The noble Lord has suggested that the airport new town will swell it still more. It certainly will, but, as I said before, this is in the South-East of Essex and not mid-Essex. This is not a new factor. The Essex County Council has known for some years that it was to expect an extra 300,000 people in South-East Essex. That was made clear at the Roskill Commission and it was made clear by the South-East England strategic planning organisation. In any case, whether there is an airport new town or not, there are 300,000 people planned to settle in the South-East of Essex. If they settled there unsystematically, think what a great employment problem that would create; think how it would swell the army of commuters who travel each day to London. But with the airport new town it will be systematic: the houses and the jobs will be created concurrently, and if we accept the philosophy that the ideal county comprises both town and country, this extra urbanisation in South-East Essex is an additional reason why Essex should not be deprived of the wide open spaces in North-East Essex. Speaking of growing counties, I saw an advertisement in the Press only the other day, inserted by the West Suffolk County Council, which said that West Suffolk was the fastest growing county in England. Essex is really a natural county, comprising both town and country. It has natural boundaries—the Stour on the North, the sea on the East, the Thames on the South. It is an ably administered county; it is an economically administered county. If this severance takes place many of the public services will be disrupted and the public will suffer accordingly. It is a county with a noble history. It is a county with a present and future that are progressive and enterprising. So why not leave it alone? I call in aid the words of the White Paper:
I could not have put it better myself. While I apologise for having trespassed on your Lordships' patience for so long, I plead with the Committee to reject this unrealistic Amendment."Where possible, existing county boundaries will be retained in order to keep the maximum existing loyalties and minimise the administrative problems".
For the first time, and I suspect for the last, I wish that I were a Peeress in my own right and not a Peer, so that I might really be the sort of Queen Boadicea who led the Iceni in the sack of Colchester across the Stour some 1,900 years ago. However, as a mere male I shall try to fill the dreadful warlike figure which the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, seemed to want to draw of those of us who live North of the Stour.I do not want to repeat the arguments which were used by the noble Lord, Lord Alport. It is clear that there is an awkward boundary between Suffolk and Essex. The noble Lord, Lord Leather-land, drew a nice picture of the mouth of the Stour and told us that it was extremely wide. However, that is only a small part of the boundary, and when one gets to the uppermost parts of the Stour one can practically jump across it. Certainly one can throw a fly across it and get it caught up in an alder tree, as I have done on many occasions. We have awkward boundary problems. The major one is the Haven ports, while another is the area of outstanding natural beauty running the whole way up the Constable country and beyond. It is fair to say that wherever one goes one gets awkward boundary problems. One tries to solve them with that last resort of an incompetent administrator, the joint committee, but the long and short of it is that if one were drawing the boundaries of new county council areas to-day, nobody in his senses would draw the one between Essex and Suffolk where it now is. The arguments adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Alport, were those adduced by the Redcliffe-Maud Commission. Much more interesting were those adduced at the meeting which the Minister held in Colchester which I attended, but which I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, attended. At that meeting the local authorities in the northern part of Essex and the southern part of Suffolk met the Minister to explain their outlook on the provision in the White Paper of not joining North-East Essex to Suffolk, as the Redcliffe-Maud Commission had recommended. I went from Suffolk feeling rather awkward—not like an unwilling bride but wondering whether I would be a bride at all, if I am still in my capacity of a Peeress—and it was interesting to hear what the people from Essex had to say. They were worried about the boundary, but I do not think they would have stressed that as being the most important consideration that led them at that time to the view they were taking, and it was clear by the end of the meeting that most of them were at that time led to wish to join Suffolk. What worried them above all was the increasing population of circum-metropolitan and what they called commuter-land Essex, whom they felt would look on them in the way I think the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, looked on them in his speech—as a sort of lung for the main part of Essex; a Latin Quarter to which one goes for one's holidays and visits. I thought they felt that they would increasingly have less community of interest, and that those coming in would not really appreciate the problems which they had, in a largely agricultural cornmunity—although Colchester is rapidly a growing industrial town. The coastal towns of the area are important tourist resorts, and in that respect, curiously enough, there is a close analogy with South-East Suffolk, with a whole series of coastal resorts, and with very similar problems on both sides of the boundary. What they did not realise at that time, and what has been accentuated since, is the vast difference in the influence which they would have on the county council of the new county which it was suggested by Redcliffe-Maud should be set up and the influence which they were likely to have in the Essex County Council itself. The noble Lord, Lord Alport, told us about the population—of a little over 500,000 in Suffolk and just over 200,000 in the part of North-East Essex in dispute. They, joined to Suffolk, would be a very large proportion both of the population and of the County Council—something between one-third and one-quarter—and I confess that when we in Suffolk first realised, when Redcliffe-Maud published his Report, that we would have this large addition of people, we at first felt like saying, "This is a lot of people coming from another administration". We then realised that they were the same sort of people as ourselves—barley growers on both sides of the Stour, turnip bashers and the like, and we felt that we had a community of interests with them, that they would like what we would like, and wish what we would wish, and that we could get on well together. I do not believe—this is one of the reasons why I hope the Government may be prepared to accent the Amendment—that at that time the people of North-East Essex really appreciated that they would have a much larger number of representatives with much smaller constituencies if they came into Suffolk, and a much larger say—though I do not believe that they as a group would want to say anything that the rest of us would not want to say—in the government of the joint county; of between one-quarter and one-third, as I have said, whereas if they remained in Essex, increased in the way that has been described, they would be between only one-seventh and one-eighth. If only for that reason I hope the Government will accept the Amendment, so that the people of North-East Essex may have a chance to think the matter over again. They may realise the much greater influence that they would have in running their own affairs as a large fish in a relatively small pond, instead of being a very small fish in a very large pond. I confess with the greatest deference that I was not impressed by the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Leather-land, about there being a large number of residential homes and the like in North-East Essex which would make for difficulties of administration. As one who was the treasurer of another university in East Anglia, I could not agree with the noble Lord's contention that because the university would be moved into another county the remaining part of Essex would immediately lose interest. I cannot believe that he really meant to say that, but it was my understanding of his argument. After all, we in Suffolk have for long subsidised the University of East Anglia, which is situated in a different county and comes under a different county borough. Most of us pay money to universities quite outside our geographical areas if we happen to be interested in them. I would be certain that the County of Essex would continue to support the University of Essex in the future as in the past. So far as these residential homes and the like are concerned, it is common practice, and it has always been common practice, to have residential homes and the like quite outside the county boundaries. I can remember 45 years ago when I was a member of the London County Council we had residential homes in Essex. The Greater London Council to-day has a residential school in Suffolk. When boundaries are altered it is common practice for the arrangements made at the alteration to take that into account. The homes which cover the area which is being moved will probably move to the new authority, and those which cover the area of the old authority remain under its jurisdiction, and little difficulty arises. There is the fact that Colchester and the whole North-East Essex have been joined to Essex for a very long time. Colchester is the oldest town in England. Indeed, I can remember myself feeling that very strongly when I was stationed at Colchester in the early 1920s. On some night exercise or other when I heard the jingle of the bits of my troop horses I could not but think that a couple of thousand years earlier some Roman centurion—who was probably higher up in the hierarchy than I was myself at the time—had heard exactly the same jingle of bits of his troop horses as he went along that self-same road. The appeal made by the noble Lord seemed to be rather more the sort of appeal one hears for some small urban village being ravished into some large conurbation than the reverse, which the people in North-East Essex thought it was. One's heart does make one feel that alterations should not be made unless it is abundantly clear that they ought to be made. But in this case nobody in his senses drawing up county boundaries anew would think of drawing them up as they are to-day, and your Lordships' hearts, although perhaps drawn to thestatus quo can be a little schizophrenic—if that is a medical possibility for heart—because it is clear that the rural population in this area would prefer to be with the rural population of Suffolk, and sentiment and one's heart draw one in both directions. For my own part, I think that the administrative advantages are sufficiently great to make the alteration worth while. I certainly think that the people of Essex ought to have the chance to look at it again, and I hope your Lordships will support Lord Alport's Amendment.
I should like to intervene very briefly in this debate. Many of the points which I would have made have already been made by my noble friends Lord Alport and Lord Cranbrook. First of all, I should declare an interest, in that I live in Suffolk where I farm, and I also have farming interests in mid-Essex and in the Tendring Hundred of Essex which forms part of the area which is under discussion in North-East Essex.From the beginning, I was entirely in favour of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission's proposal that North-East Essex should be transferred to Suffolk. It seemed to be eminently logical, sensible, and practical, and to a large extent it reflected the genuine feeling in that part of Essex that traditionally the area forms part of East Anglia. It reflected the community of interests between the two areas generally, and in particular over the Haven Ports of Ipswich, Harwich and Felixstowe and over the Constable country, the Dedham Vale and the Stour Valley, all of which the Commission thought should be in a single administrative county. Then, as we have heard, the Essex County Council brought pressure to bear and a campaign was promoted to keep North-East Essex in Essex. The Government concluded that the majority of those living in that area were in favour of staying in Essex. I am not yet convinced that this is the case, and although we have had a mass of statistics from the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, I feel that those statistics represent the county views rather than the local views of the area under discussion.
If the noble Viscount would forgive me, those statistics were actual and objective. There was no "view" about them at all.
I quite take the point that they were statistics and factual, but I think they represented the county views rather than the views of the area under discussion.
If the noble Viscount would pardon me, what they showed was that an overwhleming majority of the, people, the authorities and organisations were in favour of staying in Essex.
I will let that pass now, but in any case I would agree that if that does represent the majority feeling, and if the Government accept that that represents the majority feeling, then that does constitute an overriding consideration in arriving at any decision.But there are other considerations which must be taken into account. It is, for instance, impossible to forecast accurately the future pattern of population distribution, but if current trends are maintained, the inflow of population into Essex will continue, quite apart from the proposed new town which will be created to service the new airport at Foulness. What worries me is the growing imbalance between the respective populations of Essex and Suffolk, as we have already heard, and the increasing disparity between the financial resources of the two neighbouring counties. I am concerned also about the gradual growth northwards of metropolitan Essex and the increasing emphasis on urban matters at the expense of rural interests. It has been fairly argued that the retention of North-East Essex in Essex will result in a more balanced county. But there is an opposing argument to that, which I would submit is equally valid, and that is that the interests of those who live in North-East Essex would be better served by a local authority which was geared to dealing with similar rural problems in Suffolk than by one whose main interests were attuned towards a growing urban and metropolitan community. I understand the dilemma, but I just wonder whether the Government have grasped the point, and have not perhaps been unduly persuaded by those who are responsible for administration rather than by the interests of those who are administered. The main point I should like to make is that I understand that the Boundary Commission will have a duty to review all existing boundaries in 15 years' time. By then it is likely, of course, that the population of Essex will have reached the two million mark. By then the Commission may find that it is essential for Essex to be split into two counties. I have a feeling that when that time comes the Commission may well wonder why North-East Essex was not transferred to Suffolk in this Bill. Indeed, I would suggest to the Government that the acceptance of this Amendment would in the long term resolve many more problems than it might create in the short term, and it is for that reason that I must support my noble friend. Lord Alport.
Before the noble Viscount sits down, may I try to correct something he said which he probably said inadvertently? He said that metropolitan Essex would overshadow the interests of North-East Essex. May I repeat that metropolitan Essex is not part of Essex, it was absorbed into Greater London several years ago?
As the noble Lord, Lord Alport, has reminded the House, the Bill as originally presented to Parliament put North-East Essex into Suffolk mainly because six of the nine local authorities in the area under discussion in the noble Lord's Amendment, namely, North-East Essex, representing 155,000 against 65,000 people, asked to become part of Suffolk both in written representations and at a meeting with the Minister which was held at the rural district council offices on July 22, 1971, of the Rural District Council of Lexden and Winstree. This was in fact a unique case: a substantial part of one historic county, Essex, was asking to become part of another county, Suffolk—and may I make it clear to your Lordships that in all other cases so far as I know when it was suggested at any stage, either in the White Paper or during discussions as the Bill was beginning, that a district in one county should become part of another county, almost invariably so far as I know it has always been met with a great deal of opposition. But in this case the opposite occurred. Here was an area, North-East Essex, for which no proposal was being made and which was expressing a majority wish to be moved.But certainly there was an objective case for this transfer and the noble Lord has outlined the objective case again to-day. Although Lord Alport told the House that he was speaking in a private capacity, I am bound to recall to your Lordships that no one is better qualified to talk about this part of England than the noble Lord. He was, after all, Member for Colchester for some eleven years. He has been joined in the debate to-day by the chairmen of two county councils who are concerned and the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, of the Eastern Region Economic Planning Council. The noble Lord and his colleagues have put forward the argument of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission, that there should be if possible, an equalisation of the population resources of the two counties. There was the argument that the Stour Valley and particularly, of course, Dedham Vale should be brought under one authority; and, thirdly, there was the concept of uniting the estuaries of the Stour and the Orwell, Harwich harbour and the Haven Ports all under one authority, which the noble Lord, Lord Alport, explained in some detail. These arguments were, and they remain, strong, but they are not necessarily absolutely conclusive. In all fairness, I think the Government would like to see population resources equalised between counties wherever it is possible, and indeed I have used the argument myself from this Box already on this Bill. But sometimes it is an ideal which is not in fact attainable; it may be, for simple geographical reasons, that one authority is simply smaller than another and it is very difficult to make the smaller one bigger; or there may be reasons of local opinion, which, of course, is a great factor in this particular case. Of course, the arrangements for future local government finance do not in fact form part of the Bill. It would certainly be desirable to see the Stour Valley under one authority and particularly the Constable country. If this were possible I think your Lordships would all take this view. We have beautiful areas of the country which are divided by county lines, and I believe I am right in saying that National Parks are in some cases cut across by county boundaries. But the third argument, that relating to the Haven Ports is, I believe, very powerful, although now that plans are being implemented for improving the road links from the West across East Anglia towards the ports I think that the communications argument is a little less urgent than it was a few years ago. Your Lordships may be aware that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is undertaking a survey with the two county councils and the two planning councils about the whole future of the Haven Ports area. The decisive factor and the one that persuaded the Government originally that North-East Essex should go into Suffolk, was the majority request of the local authorities in the area. After all, such a move would be of major concern for the county of Essex. The boundary of the River Stour, as has been said, is historic. The transfer would have involved about 18 per cent. of the area of Essex, and it is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, has said, that some very valuable services would have been removed summarily northwards. After the noble Lord'stour de force, I hope the Committee will forgive me if I refer only to the one service which I know at first hand, that of education. I would confirm that it is true that there would have been some valuable services—special schools, the North-East Essex Technical College, not to mention the University of Essex—which would have been removed, as it were, northwards. And although I listened carefully to what my noble friend Lord Cranbrook said—and it is quite true, of course, that there are arrangements in the educational world for seeing that pupils can cross county boundaries—none the less this is a factor. It is also a factor that, although my right honourable friend and the Department of Education hope that different forms of secondary education for schools in areas to be amalgamated will not cause problems, I must say that I do not think we would have gone out of our way to advise the Secretary of State for the Environment that on educational grounds these two areas should be put together, because it is a fact that in North-East Essex there is a developing system of 11 to 18 secondary schools and in South-East Suffolk there is a system of developing middle schools with transfer at the age of 12. When I say "developing", we have at this moment in the pipe-line about £1¼ million of secondary school building which is going to take place between 1972 and 1974. If I may put one more point on this aspect, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, I do not accept his argument that it is conclusive that the two areas should not come together because people do not travel to work from Suffolk into Colchester and from Essex into Ipswich. I agree with my noble friend Lord Alport, who referred to what he thought was a community of interest. I should not have thought that the physical fact of travelling to work was necessarily a very important point. But that is as may be. The arguments were finely balanced, and it was because of that fact that on November 16 last year, during the Commons Second Reading debate, my right honourable friend Mr. Walker referred to the majority wishes that had been expressed and added:
that was for North-East Essex to go into Suffolk—"I shall take a great interest in the views expressed as a result of the publication of this proposal."—
It was subsequent to publication of the Bill and at Second Reading in another place that Colchester Borough Council changed their mind. I can well understand my noble friend Lord Davidson picking up this point because it has a slight complication. As a result of Colchester changing their mind the position was and remains that five authorities, representing however only 78,000 people, still want the transfer into Suffolk, and only four authorities, but representing nearly double that number, 141,000 people, wish to remain in Essex. In view of this swing of majority opinion in North-East Essex, in accordance with the Secretary of State's undertaking Amendments were accepted at the Committee stage in the House of Commons for the area to remain in the new Essex. The noble Lord, Lord Alport, however, injects into this debate a new factor, the argument that the Foulness development will create such a huge county in the new Essex that it will be necessary to re-think the boundaries of the authority. It is estimated, of course, that by 1991 the total additional population in the Foulness area will have increased a great deal. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, mentioned a figure of, I think, 300,000. I cannot confirm that figure, but it will have increased by a very great deal. This will follow the designation of a New Town which the Government have given as their intention; the designation will happen next year. There is Lord Davidson's important point: that between 1984 and 1991 the Local Government Boundary Commission have a statutory duty under Section 48 of the Bill to undertake their first general review of local government boundaries, and by the time of that review, I am suggesting to your Lordships, the effects of Foulness will be much clearer to discern. First of all, the studies of the New Town designated area are not yet even completed. Transport studies for the areas which will be affected by the New Town are not completed yet. It is therefore much too early to say what effect the Maplin development may have on the whole transport pattern of the Essex area and therefore on the commuting trends, not to mention the links that there will be between that part of Essex and other parts of Essex, and not least with North-East Essex itself. I think it is worth noting that this Maplin development will increase Essex rate resources. I do not quite follow my noble friend Lord Alport that this is going to be to the detriment, both generally and financially, of the authorities in the North-East of the county. But I would not deny to my noble friends Lord Alport, Lord Cranbrook, or Lord Davidson, that if the development of South-East Essex does cause an increase in population and a spread of influence in the kind of way that those noble Lords were forecasting, then this is bound to be a significant factor for the Local Government Boundary Commission to consider in ten to fifteen years' time. I believe that without any of the earlier studies yet completed it would be premature in this Bill to transfer North-East Essex, which is at one end of the county, to Suffolk because of Foulness, which happens to be at the other end of Essex. The noble Lord, Lord Alport, has very reasonably asked that time should be given for reconsideration locally in view of the Foulness decision. The noble Lord has spoken very generously about the identity of interest, as he sees it, between the people of North-East Essex and the people of Suffolk, and this was something to which my noble friend Lord Cranbrook referred as well. I am in the difficulty that although the Government's Statement on the runways on Maplin Sands was made in this House and another place only on August 9 of this year, it was known that Foulness had been chosen as the site of the Third London Airport back on April 26, 1971. We shall not have another step in the story until we get the designation order for the New Town next year. We are therefore between decisions, and I am saying that the people of North-East Essex affected knew in principle about the Foulness decision as from April 26 last year. I should like to be helpful to my noble friend Lord Alport, and to my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, who took the same line, but I feel that on the facts I cannot meet them on this point. I should have liked to be helpful to them, if I could have been: it might perhaps have been possible to split the area up and in some way to have transferred the authorities in North-East Essex who wish to transfer and to leave the authorities in North-East Essex who do not wish to transfer, but again on administrative grounds this would be impossible. I tried to explain why when I touched on the education point. I would just emphasise the change in the majority, a very significant change, which has prevailed, and it is for this reason in the final analysis that I have to ask your Lordships not to agree to this Amendment."All I want to do is to ensure that this area is dealt with in a way which meets the wishes of the people there. It is understandable and right that my Department should endeavour to meet their wishes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 16/11/71, col. 236.]
wonder whether my noble friend Lord Alport, after hearing what the Government have to say, would feel that it would be well to withdraw his Amendment. The reason I should have liked to see it passed was so that the people of North-East Essex could have one more chance of expressing their view. They will certainly read this debate. If he withdraws his Amendment and puts it down again at the Report stage, it might give time for a further expression of opinion by the people of North-East Essex.
I should like to say how grateful I am to my noble friends Lord Cranbrook and Lord Davidson for having supported me in this Amendment, and particularly to the Minister for the sympathetic reply which he bas given—sympathetic not in the way that he promised to do anything, but sympathetic because he knows the problem I have put forward. I can assure him that I can reciprocate that sympathy because, as a Suffolk Peer arguing against something which he knows is in the interests of his county, he is placed in a diabolical position by the Front Bench.I should like to say one or two things about what the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, has said. I think the mistake I made as chairman of a public relations organisation was not to invite the noble Lord to join as a director of that organisation, because there has never been a more effective public relations exercise for Essex County Council than the one which he produced for the benefit of your Lordships this evening. I am sure that your Lordships, who can see behind words and eloquence and all the rest of it, will realise that this is precisely the factor that arose between the decision of the North East Essex authorities to join Suffolk and the reversal of opinion that took place. It was a powerful, well organised and no doubt eloquent campaign by the Essex County Council to prevent that from happening, and to prevent it not in the interests of North East Essex—there was no word about the interests of the people of North East Essex in the speech of the noble Lord—but in the interests of Essex as a whole. I am not against Essex—I am proud of the county and I have many friends all over it—but I must confess that when I and many of us in my part of the world have considered this matter we have considered it from the point of view of what I should like to call South East Anglia; not the benefit it would bring to Suffolk specifically, or North East Essex specifically, but to the whole of our part of England. Let me give one example of the way in which the Essex County Council—not the noble Lord—tended to use the so-called facts. The noble Lord said that all the Members of Parliament except one were against; however, there are only two Members of Parliament in North East Essex. One was in favour and one against.