|Previous Section||Home Page|
Amendment made : No. 86, in page 100, line 14, leave out from beginning to end of line 17.-- [Mr. Redwood.]
Column 837the principal councils in consultation with'.
No. 21, in page 103, line 32, leave out may by order alter either of the numbers' and insert
may with the agreement of a majority of the principal councils by order alter the number.'.
Mr. Morgan : Although this is the final group of amendments, I do not feel that we can simply whistle through the provisions to which they refer. They relate to issues that I touched on briefly when discussing Government amendment No. 87, which provided a foretaste of the questions raised by the establishment of the residuary body. We made certain demands in Committee. This is our first attempt to return to the theme in a big way, and our last opportunity to put right the difficulties encountered by the Government in their attempt to bridge the gap between the definition of quangos as
quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations, or non-departmental public bodies which are listed in "Public Bodies"--an annual Government publication--and the definition to which the Secretary of State and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary are trying to extend it. They suggest that a quango is something that they define as a quango ; a body created by local government could be a quango as well. That is an absurd proposition, but it is very relevant to the amendments. Quangos are organisations that are listed in "Public Bodies", the Government's bible, because their chairmen are appointed by the Secretary of State and because various other provisions apply. Certain other bodies probably ought to be listed. Several hundred are included, but it clearly is not complete. Occasionally organisations "drop out", as happened with the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which was removed about two years ago when it was deemed to be a commercial trading organisation.
What about the residuary body for Wales ? We do not want that to be a quango in either function or name ; we want it to be what the Government want to present it as. They may want to present it as not being a quango, but we want it genuinely not to be one. We do not want it to be completely under the control of the Secretary of State ; we do not want the Secretary of State to determine the appointment of its chairman, its membership, its powers or the length of its life, or to be empowered to shrink, maintain or extend its powers. The Bill gives the Secretary of State Henry VIII powers to extend the residuary body, terminate it and move it sideways, forwards, upwards and downwards. It is undoubtedly his creature. Given the way in which it is currently defined in the Bill, it will certainly be a quango-- although the Government do not want it to be recognised as such. Our amendments seek to remove it from any such danger by giving the Secretary of State some powers, but requiring the exercise of those powers to be conjoint with those of the new principal councils.
This is, after all, intended to be the body that will deal with the property of the present quantum of local authorities in Wales, if it is determined--after the passage of the Bill, and by means of various orders and subsidiary legislation--that that property is not to be properly housed among the new authorities. Cardiff-Wales airport is the outstanding example. We are concerned that its future lies with the residuary body.
Column 838could include private capital and a greater role for its management, which would solve the problem. If they do not, it will pass to the residuary body. I do not intend to split the shareholdings among all the new authorities that could have a claim. It is in the hands of local government, and I hope that it solves the problem.
Mr. Morgan : I am grateful, in one sense, to the Secretary of State for his attempt to clarify the matter, although not for the content of his intervention. He is placing a sword of Damocles over local authorities. Democratically elected councillors on unitary bodies, who have spent countless time building and fighting for a financial commitment to Cardiff- Wales airport, are being told, "If you don't sell it, you certainly won't see the benefit of it afterwards." It will be placed under the dead hand of a residuary body which, without amendments Nos. 19, 20 and 21, will be under the control of the Secretary of State.
In the next few months, those councillors will not be able to wait for an appropriate time to undertake the task that the Secretary of State has talked about of bargaining, on a willing buyer, willing seller basis, with private capital through privatisation, a management buy-out or the process that is sometimes known as Prescottisation--an option that the Opposition's employment spokesman adumbrated as an alternative to privatisation before the last general election, whereby private capital is used in transport projects to ensure that they are not restricted by the public sector borrowing requirement.
Such a process cannot be undertaken if it is known that the project must be shovelled off to management within 12 months rather than accepting more appropriate timing, which might be in the interests of the buyer, the investor, if it was taking a minority stake, or the seller--the three democratically elected councils of Mid, West and South Glamorgan. That is unsatisfactory because it puts all the pressure on the three Glamorgans to get shot of the airport now, even though they would receive a better price if the threat of placing it under the control of the residuary body were removed.
If the Government persist in that intention and cannot be dissuaded, we will face the problem of their in effect nationalising Cardiff-Wales airport. The Government are opposed to nationalisation, but that will be the result if the Bill is enacted and the Secretary of State executes his threatened action, because a satisfactory price will not be obtained by the three present owners with a sword of Damocles hanging over them, and control will pass to the residuary body--all of whose members will be provided by the Secretary of State--from the airport's municipal owners.
That would probably be the first nationalisation that the Secretary of State for Wales has undertaken. When he got home that night and told his wife that he had nationalised an airport in Wales, the dog would bite him. We are trying to get him out of that difficulty by asking him not to make the residuary body completely responsible to him for its membership and the power to terminate or extend its life. He should make it clearly a transitional body by means of which powers may be passed from one group of democratically elected councils to another group of democratically elected councils. The transitional bodies should contain a majority of democratically elected councils. That would be the solution and it would enable
Column 839the Secretary of State to avoid being bitten by his dog when he gets home after inadvertently nationalising Cardiff- Wales airport. I ask the Secretary of State to give serious consideration to his future state of health, in relation to either his leg or his backside, and accept our amendments to the clauses dealing with the residuary body.
The only precedents that we have for this type of body are the residuary bodies created under previous local government reorganisation in England on the break-up of the metropolitan authorities. I took the opportunity to look at the annual and final reports of a handful of residuary bodies to discover what sort of animal it is likely to be. I shall give the House the benefit of this modest degree of research.
Each of them turned out to be a huge property company. For example, the West Yorkshire organisation took over the powers of West Yorkshire metropolitan council. It took over about 28,000 deeds and 800 sites worth about £20 million, which it sold for £33 million, handing the distribution to the five district councils. At its peak, it employed 219 people, full time and part time.
That is one authority, dismantling one unit of local government and distributing the powers to five others. We are talking about a residuary body that will take over the surplus land of eight county councils and 36 district councils throughout the Principality. It will be one of the largest property companies in Wales. It will have enormous power. It will have the power to levy. However, one hopes that after the experience of the West Yorkshire organisation, the levies will be less than the distributed proceeds. The Secretary of State may nod his head. The reason for the success of the authorities at that time is that they coincided with the big property boom. The years 1986, 1987 and 1988 were a good time to get one's hands on property and then sell it off.
I do not think that the new residuary body will be operating in the same type of market. [Interruption.] I hope that it does not, because it would have a disastrous effect on inflation. I thought that the Government did not want a boom and bust economy. The Secretary of State seems to be backing a boom and bust economy. Is this another division between the Secretary of State and the Chancellor ?
We are right to draw attention to the amazing character that the residuary body will have. It will be dealing with sensitive issues. I do not know whether, like the West Yorkshire authority and others, it will handle the pension funds for a time. I assume that it will not. I assume that it will take surplus revenues, as opposed to just surplus land and property, from every one of the existing district and county authorities. It will also have in its possession a large number of sensitive civic buildings that might be surplus to requirements. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) has mentioned one. I am thinking of the Mid Glamorgan county council office. Will that be
Column 840taken over by a residuary body and sold off ? Will we have a Greater London council re-run in the middle of Cathays park ? As I have said, we should not just nod this organisation through. I have a practical suggestion to make to the Secretary of State. I can see the need for an organisation, but I wonder why he needs to create something new.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West has suggested one model that I suspect the Government will refuse. So why not use the Land Authority for Wales as the main body ? If it is to be what I suspect, which is a five- year property company, why create a huge new organisation when there is in existence a rather successful and well-organised body ? I should not really draw attention to it in case the Secretary of State decides to look at it. It was my creation and I am proud of it. Way back in 1974-75 it survived the abolition of the community land legislation. It has done a very useful job alongside the Welsh Development Agency. Why does not the Secretary of State use the Land Authority for Wales as the main vehicle for carrying out that function, given that, in many cases, it has created sensitive and good working relationships with local government ? It will not be a completely new animal. I hope that the Secretary of State will accept the model suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West, but, assuming that the Government do not accept that model, perhaps the Secretary of State would consider the practical solution of using the land authority.
We shall be very interested ; we shall watch with great care and scrutinise the new body, which will be an enormous property company, handling large numbers of parcels of land from the four corners of the Principality, at a time when it may not be the easiest thing in the world to sell that land and achieve values such as those obtained by the residuary bodies created under previous legislation. 9.15 pm
What will be the method of redistribution ? How are the proceeds to be redistributed ? It was not difficult for the property of the West Yorkshire body to be distributed among five district councils. In this case, the residuary body will be acquiring properties from 36 councils and eight counties and distributing them among 21--I cannot remember the exact number --unitary authorities. Will the method of distribution be related to the location of the land and property ? Will the proceeds stay in the community, or will there be some form of pooling of the resources and an equalisation of the distribution of proceeds ? Those are big and serious issues of public policy and before we nod the body through, we ought to find out a little more about the Government's thinking on it.
Sir Wyn Roberts : We discussed the residuary body fairly extensively in Committee. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) argues that it is a quango, but it has many of the characteristics of a local authority for the simple reason that it has to take over local authority contracts, deeds and so on. We certainly do not accept that it would be right for the new councils to appoint all the members of the residuary body or for there to be no limit on the number of members, as the amendments suggest, for the following reasons. Of course, the body will at times have to take difficult decisions on competing claims for an asset, for example, or on whether an asset is surplus. If all the members were
Column 841appointed by councils, it could give rise to conflicts of interest. That is therefore one of our objections to the proposals in the amendments.
The residuary body will have limited functions and, indeed, a limited life. It will advise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the transfer of property and the disposal of surplus assets. It would certainly make the body unwieldy if we had rather more than four to seven members, which we think would suffice. Having said that, we do not want the residuary body to be dominated by councillors, as proposed in the amendments. My right hon. Friend is open to suggestions--without commitment, of course--as to the membership. He is quite open to any suggestions from local authority associations or individual councillors, as well as from hon. Members.
The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) raised a specific point about the disposal of assets, and especially of proceeds. The proceeds will go to the new local authorities which have taken over from those authorities whose assets have been sold. Therefore, in the hon. Gentleman's words, the proceeds of the assets will stay in the area served by the authority from which the assets have been sold.
Mr. Morgan : The Minister of State said that the residuary body had some of the characteristics of a local authority because it would oversee some local authority contracts, but he omitted to mention that it would have one characteristic which is definitely not shared by local authorities : none of its members will be elected. That is a significant distinction which he chose to slide over rather quickly. Perhaps an authority with no councillors is the ideal Tory authority of the future.
The Minister of State also said, incorrectly, that the residuary body would have a limited life. If he reads the small print, he will find that the Secretary of State can extend or shorten its life as he wishes. The Secretary of State has Henry VIII powers to do as he wishes. He could, for example, decide to wait for a property boom. The Minister implied that it could be wound up neatly and that the danger of putting so many powers in the hands of the Secretary of State was therefore far less significant than it really is. The Secretary of State's powers in respect of the residuary body are almost infinite. We are not happy about the way in which it will operate, despite the olive branch so characteristically offered by the Minister of State.
This may be my last opportunity to pay my respects to the remarkable actuarial parliamentary longevity of the Minister of State, so I do so now. His record for holding the same office without being sacked or promoted is similar to the record length of time it took for the Cardiff Bay Barrage Act 1993 to pass through both Houses of Parliament. He and I share the latter record, so we can both appear in the "Guinness Book of Records". The Minister is known throughout the land for his ability to plough indomitably through his briefs and, if he is retiring shortly, I am sure that he has been offered the life presidency of the Freedom from Dyslexia Association. We look forward to the Minister's return to commercial television, the world from which he came. He would be the ideal host for a game show such as "The Price is Right" in Welsh, but I am sure that he will find suitable cultural pursuits. In any event, we shall miss his contributions enormously.
Amendments made : No. 87, in page 107, line 43, leave out from 17.' to end of line 45 and insert
Column 842The Residuary Body shall be included among the authorities to which the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 applies.'.
No. 88, in page 109, line 9, leave out enactments to' and insert circumstances in'.
No. 89, in page 109, line 38, leave out from (1)(b))' to and' in line 40 and insert
and 443 (local authority contributions to mortgage costs) ;'. No. 90, in page 109, line 42, at end insert
. The Residuary Body shall be treated as a housing authority for the purposes of sections 444, 452 and 453 of the Housing Act 1985 (provision in connection with local authority mortgages).'. No. 91, in page 110, line 1, leave out from 88)' to end of line 2 and insert
(retention or resumption of land required for public purposes)'. No. 92, in page 110, line 21, leave out Section 64A of' and insert
Paragraph 64A of Schedule 2 to'.
No. 93, in page 110, line 21, after 1971' insert (official pensions)'.-- [Mr. Redwood.]
Amendments made : No. 94, in page 118, line 11, leave out from beginning to end of line 12.
No. 95, in page 119, line 43, leave out from for' to whom' and insert
"council of the district" substitute "local authority to'. No. 96, in page 121, line 15, at end insert
. In section 255(1) (transfer of officers), for "27, 28 or 29" substitute "28, 29 or 29A".'.-- [Mr. Redwood.]
Amendments made : No. 97, in page 124, line 27, leave out from powers"' to end of line 28 and insert
for "or county council" substitute ", county council or county borough council".'.
No. 98, in page 133, line 17, after second council' insert or a police authority established under section 3 of the Police Act 1964'.
No. 113, in page 142, line 46, at end insert
. In section 88(2) of that Act (councils to whom transport grants may be paid), after paragraph (a) insert
"(aa) a county borough council,".'. -- [Mr. Redwood.]
Amendment made : No. 114, in page 152, line 8, leave out that Act' and insert the Act of 1980'.-- [Mr. Redwood.]
Order for Third Reading read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.-- [Sir Wyn Roberts.]
Mr. Alex Carlile : The process leading to Third Reading began a long time ago, before the beginning of this parliamentary Session. Indeed, it was as long ago as 1992 that we heard from the then Secretary of State that local government in Wales was to be reformed. At that time, all parties shared a common purpose, which was to bring unitary local government to Wales. The then
Column 843Secretary of State made a declaration which, if not full of eastern promise, was certainly full of western promise. The declaration promised the people of Wales unitary local government based on natural communities. In the event, some natural communities, such as Merthyr Tydfil, Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire, are to have unitary local government, but others are not.
The history of the Bill will be viewed with interest by Welsh political historians. There are not many serious broken promises in Welsh political history which one can nail and which leave one bemused when one analyses why they were broken. One of the most significant promises that has been broken in Welsh political history is what will be known as the Llanfechain promise : the then Secretary of State for Wales, the right hon. Member for Wirral, West (Mr. Hunt), promised without equivocation or ambiguity that there would be a unitary Montgomeryshire. We have never had an explanation as to why that promise was broken. We have never been told the history of how the change of mind came about. We have never been given a proper insight into the thought processes of the Welsh Office and its Ministers.
At the last gasp, the Local Government Commission for England--the Government appear to accept this--proposed that Rutlandshire, Huntingdonshire and six other authorities smaller than
Montgomeryshire in population should have unitary authority status. That decision is entirely consistent with the Secretary of State's views as declared in a Conservative party conference speech, of which he reminded us yesterday.
Earlier, the Under-Secretary of State was asked why what is good enough for Rutlandshire, Clackmannanshire and Huntingdonshire was not good enough for traditional communities in Wales. He did not give us an answer. I hope that in the last breath of the Bill in this House we shall be given a ministerial answer to that question.
In 1992, I thought that we would see an improvement in local government in Wales based on consensus. I am grateful for the support that Montgomeryshire has received from right hon. and hon. Members in all parties : the two Tory rebels in Committee, the hon. Members for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Evans) and for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Hawksley) ; the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd), who has equal cause for complaint with myself ; and the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies), who from an early stage made it clear that the Labour party would support unitary status for
Montgomeryshire. Despite what was said earlier this evening, the hon. Member for Caerphilly has been entirely consistent in what he has said and done, and he deserves praise for that.
Unfortunately, those of us from Montgomeryshire, including the hon. Members for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy and for Brecon and Radnor, will leave the Bill with a deep sense of disappointment. There was a great opportunity to do what was originally promised, but that promise has been broken, leaving us with a sense of deep frustration. I can only express the fervent hope and expectation that one day in the not too distant future we shall return to this issue and I shall be here to see Montgomeryshire restored as a council.
Column 8449.28 pm
Mr. Martyn Jones (Clwyd, South-West) : Sadly--or perhaps happily, in view of the late hour tonight--I was unable to be a member of the Committee. I had hoped that the Government would listen to all the members of the Committee representing Welsh seats on at least two major issues, the first being of importance to the whole of Wales and the second of great importance to the people of an area in my constituency, Llangollen.
The first issue is the lack of any provision for an all-Wales elected tier of government. The creation of unitary authorities makes almost no sense without a regional tier of government. Only a panoply of quangos of one sort or another can provide the services that need to be provided on a strategic basis. It is hardly surprising that the Government should set their face against any increase in democracy, however, as it is far easier to place stooges on quangos than to win elections in Wales, at any rate for their party.
The other issue that has not been dealt with is the placing of Llangollen in the new Denbighshire authority, against the wishes of its people as expressed in the referendum organised by Glyndwr council, of which Llangollen is a part. To set the record straight, the result of that referendum--without rounding up or down--was, on 68 per cent. of ballot slips returned, 58 per cent. in favour of Wrexham and only 42 per cent. in favour of Denbighshire. I remind the Government that they have been governing--I use the term loosely--for 15 years on much less than that majority, even if one measures the vote as a percentage of the total electorate, which seemed to be the Minister's response in Committee.
The Minister of State put forward another strange argument in Committee when he said :
"As Llangollen and the other two areas belong to the old Denbighshire area which we are reviving and there is no clear majority against joining the new authority, we should let matters stand."--[ Official Report, Standing Committee A , 21 April 1994 ; c. 155.]
The Minister was, to say the least, confused with that argument since Wrexham was also part of Denbighshire prior to 1974. Hiding behind the decisions of the three community councils involved does not hold water either. The biggest--Llangollen town council--is now overwhelmingly in favour of Wrexham, and Llangollen rural district council's decision against was six to three, which is roughly the same proportion as Glyndwr's referendum of all residents. Llantysilio has at least been consistently opposed to Wrexham, although it clearly does not represent the views of those polled throughout Llangollen.
Glyndwr has also had a chequered history on the subject, voting only on the casting vote of the chairman to opt for Denbighshire and ignoring its referendum. The chief executive, Mr. Julian Parry, who now writes criticising my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) for some extremely minor errors of little consequence in Committee, and is militant in his ignorance of the referendum result, advised Glyndwr council as follows at its policy and finance committee on 23 June 1992 :
"Being south of the Llantysilio mountains/Horseshoe Pass, there is little community affinity or interaction between this area and north Glyndwr, local communities look to Wrexham as their main centre for most goods, services and employment, the existing pattern of communications and the geography/topography being important relevant factors. The 3
Column 845town/community councils would prefer to remain part of a rural unitary authority rather than joining the new Wrexham unit. Whilst respecting this expressed preference, application of the relevant criteria results in your Sub-Committee recommending that this area has decidedly stronger relationships with Wrexham than with West Clwyd."
I could not have put it better myself and I wonder how Mr. Parry thinks that things have changed in the interim.
The people of Llangollen feel let down : they have voted and nothing has happened. Now we hear that the local government boundary commission for England is to mount an in-depth consultation with English residents over its review. Surely the same could be done for Wales. In any event, I hope that the anomaly of Llangollen can at least be put right, or the people of Llangollen will once again feel let down by this Government. Judging by the European election results in Wales, they feel let down in every other respect as well. 9.32 pm
Mr. Rowlands : I hope that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) will not mind--we have shared their hurt and disappointment in Committee and on Report--if I say that at least the Bill is better in one respect than the Bill that started out. It is a better Bill in respect of schedule 1, part II, page 53 where, under the title "County Boroughs", the "district of Merthyr Tydfil" is listed. It would be wrong not to recognise the significance and importance of that change.
I first came to the House in 1966. As a young, green and inexperienced Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in 1969, I wandered into the terrible world of local government reorganisation, when we attempted to introduce a unitary authority and found that we offended almost everyone on our own side, let alone the then Conservative Opposition Members. We therefore had to be man enough and sufficiently principled politicians to withdraw those proposals in 1969-70.
I was out of Parliament for a brief time, but returned at the tail end of a local government reorganisation measure to see the proud county borough status of Merthyr Tydfil removed by a Conservative Government with the Local Government Act 1972. It is a privilege to be still here 22 years later to get to my feet on Third Reading of the present Bill and talk about the restoration of the county borough of Merthyr Tydfil.
I must break it ever so gently to the Secretary of State that I suspect that he will not get too much of the electoral credit in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney for the change. On the basis of the enormous achievement of Glenys Kinnock in the European
elections--which I am sure will be repeated in the national elections--I doubt whether the Secretary of State will reap too much electoral benefit from the change. Nevertheless, it would be churlish not to say that we were glad that he was a listening Secretary of State, at least in this respect. He has created a county borough which I believe will take the full opportunity of being a unitary authority and will regenerate and redevelop a community in a manner which I hope will be as colourful as in the past. Therefore, I can at least welcome that part of the Bill which recognised the spirit and character of the county borough of Merthyr Tydfil.
Column 8469.37 pm
Mr. Llwyd : First, may I echo the words of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) ? I know that it was a great deal of hard work by the hon. Gentleman which brought about the change of heart by the Government, and I congratulate him on his success. I wish that that could also have been the case for the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) and for myself, but it was not to be.
I also add my voice to that of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) in congratulating the Minister of State on his service to the House in his present capacity. I am sure that we will all join in congratulating him if it is true that this evening is his final evening at the Dispatch Box.
Sir Wyn Roberts : I thank the hon. Gentleman, and of course I relish the remarks of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West. Were not it for the matter of time and of delaying the House, I would have risen to respond to the hon. Gentleman. I must tell hon. Members that I have made no statement whatsoever about any impending retirement.
Mr. Llwyd : I do not wish to be niggardly, but I was going to couple that with a few remarks. I was going to say that, during his happy days of retirement--thinking of poetry and poets and possibly sitting on a river bank, fishing--the Minister might recall several questions which I put to him during discussions on the Bill which he has not yet answered.
On a serious note, the first flaw which my party sees in the Bill, as was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Jones), is that there is no strategic all-Wales tier of government. My party makes no pretence. It wishes to see a fully fledged Parliament in Wales with tax- raising and legislative powers. But even in the terms of the amendment which was the subject of the debate, it would have been a great step forward. It would have halted the proliferation of quangos in Wales and would have given accountability in a true sense.
It is a matter of some regret that the amendment was not carried in Committee or on Report, but it was the initial response of my party and it remains our main response. There should have been an all-Wales, truly democratic tier responsible for strategic matters in Wales. There are numerous questions that have not been answered which I believe should have been. I am afraid that there are many flaws in the Bill. One that comes to mind is the absence of strategic planning, about which numerous bodies of professional and expert opinion are concerned. But I shall not go over the same old ground, as we have debated that matter this evening.
A further flaw may be the lack of cohesion, on unitary development plans, among unitary councils. Area committees may be a poisoned chalice--we do not know, and we are quite unsure about many matters to do with them.
I must say, with the greatest respect to the Minister, that earlier today I put to him five specific points about redundancy, TUPE and transfer generally. I have not had one reply. I regret that bitterly because at least one of those matters was put to me by council advisers in Wales. It was of the utmost importance that those matters should have received a reply and I deeply regret the fact that they have not.
Sir Wyn Roberts : I had a great deal of ground to cover, but I was under the impression that I had given at least a framework of an answer to the points which the hon. Gentleman raised. I shall, however, look carefully at what I said and, if points are still outstanding, I shall write to him.
Mr. Llwyd : I am grateful to the Minister. It may assist him to know that those points were raised towards the beginning of my speech. I am not trying to score points. I sincerely asked for answers and should be grateful for them in due course. Many thousands of people in Wales are extremely concerned about the position. I still have misgivings about voluntary organisations, which have lobbied hard and are concerned about their futures under the present set-up. I moved an amendment in Committee to deal with that point and I am far from assured that their futures are guaranteed in any shape or form. Likewise, many people have contacted hon. Members on both sides of the House about support for the arts. There is little comfort for them, either.
Earlier today, I mentioned the role of community councils. I was reassured in part by the Under-Secretary of State and I sincerely hope that, in due course, the guidance to unitary authorities will include specific provision on the matters incorporated in an earlier amendment.
I feel extremely sad this evening at the loss of Meirionnydd, where seven centuries of government have gone by the board. The same applies to Montgomery, with which we are good neighbours. Both are proud communities which respect their traditions and have a great deal of cultural integrity. I am sure that they will be grossly disappointed at what has been transacted this evening.
I have said before and shall say briefly again that the Bill does not have the consensus of the Welsh people. In those circumstances, it must be wrong. To be workable, it must have the consensus of the people of Wales. After all, it is designed to deliver services to them. It does not have that consensus for many reasons, some of which I mentioned earlier. The Bill is flawed and I echo the words of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery : I honestly believe that we shall shortly be back here discussing local government again. I conclude with a point of particular concern to me--the maxim, "Tra mor tra Meirion", which will doubtless be referred to again. We in Meirionnydd have stood the test of time and I shall stand up in this Parliament or, I hope, one nearer home, and look at the matter anew in the not too distant future. The people of Meirionnydd will not allow 700 years of their proud history to be done away with at the whim of a Conservative Government.