Motion to Approve
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I beg to move the two Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper en bloc.
My Lords, it is not my intention to delay the House, and I apologise if that is the case. I realise that we have a heavy day of statutory instruments ahead of us.
I would like to use the opportunity of this order concerning Buckinghamshire to make a parochial plea on behalf of my own native Cumbria, in which I should declare an interest as a county councillor. I am raising the issue on this order because the situation of our county is precisely parallel to the situation in Buckinghamshire. I am rather pleased that, in the case of Buckinghamshire, the Secretary of State has decided in favour of a single unitary authority for the county. In Cumbria, we went through an extensive period of debate with the district councils on the question of local government reorganisation. We tried very hard to establish consensus, but we could not and therefore the county council with the full support of all parties has applied to the Secretary of State, as it is entitled to until the end of March, to make a request for consideration of reorganisation.
I would like an assurance from the Minister. I realise that a lot of effort has gone into this Buckinghamshire case and that the Government will have an awful lot on their plate by the end of March, but for us this is an absolutely vital concern if we are to avoid major cuts in our services and to have an efficient local authority system in Cumbria and one that can deal with the very big challenges that we are facing.
My Lords, while not strictly on the issue of Buckinghamshire, I think I signed off a letter yesterday to the noble Lord in response to the one that he had written to me on the subject of Cumbria. I am not sure whether he has received it yet—possibly not. The same letter went to my noble friend Lord Cavendish putting forward similar arguments which support the thesis of the noble Lord that there is cross-party support for this. The issue is very much in the in-tray. Suffice it to say that, after the end of March, there is still a facility for local government reorganisation, even if the initiative is not taken before then, although it is on a slightly different basis—it would be an invitation from the Secretary of State. I do not think, from memory of the letter, that we are ruling that out in any way. We would need to consider that.