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Column 899Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Townend, John (Bridlington)
Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Twinn, Dr Ian
Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Column 899Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Tellers for the Noes: Mr. Sydney Chapman and Mr. Bowen Wells.
Column 899Question accordingly negatived.
Madam Deputy Speaker: Before we move on to motion Nos. 7 and 8, I must tell the House that Madam Speaker has decided that there should be a limit of 10 minutes on Back-Bench Members' speeches. Although that limit does not apply to the speeches of Front-Bench Members, I hope that they will be distinguished more for their quality than for their quantity.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Robert B. Jones): I beg to move,
That the draft North Yorkshire (District of York) (Structural and Boundary Changes) Order 1995, which was laid before this House on 16th February, be approved.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes): I understand that, with this, it will be convenient to discuss the following motion: That the draft Humberside (Structural Chance) Order 1995, which was laid before this House on 16th February, be approved.
Mr. Jones: With modifications, the orders implement the recommendations of the Local Government Commission for the future structure of local government in North Yorkshire and Humberside. I hope that it will be helpful to the House if I take the principal issues relating to the orders in the following order: first, details of the proposed new structure in both areas; then boundaries, powers and functions; electoral arrangements; and staffing, planning and ceremonial arrangements.
From 1 April 1996, the City of York will be a unitary authority on extended boundaries, which will incorporate parts of the districts of Ryedale, Selby and Harrogate. I shall return to the details of the boundary changes in due course. The remainder of the county of North Yorkshire will remain two tier, retaining both district and county councils. On 1 April 1996, the county of Humberside and Humberside county council will be abolished and will be succeeded by four unitary authorities.
The existing authority of Kingston upon Hull, on its existing boundaries, will be given unitary powers. The existing authorities of Holderness, Beverley, East Yorkshire and the northern part of Boothferry will be abolished and will comprise a single new authority, to be called the East Riding of Yorkshire. The existing authorities of Cleethorpes and Grimsby will be abolished and will comprise a single new unitary authority, to be called North East Lincolnshire. The existing authorities of Glanford and Scunthorpe and that part of Boothferry district south of the northern boundaries of the parishes of Crowle, Eastoft, Luddington, Haldenby and Amcotts will be abolished and will comprise a new unitary authority, to be called North Lincolnshire. That is the area known as the Isle of Axholme. As a rule, decisions about where boundaries should be drawn are difficult and provoke strong feelings. Our decisions about the boundaries of York and Hull have not proved to be an exception to that rule. In the case of the City of York, we have accepted the commission's recommendation--with only very minor modifications to exclude five small parishes--that the city's boundaries should be extended to include the York greater planning area. That will substantially increase the area covered by the city, and will increase its population from its existing 101,000 to approximately 167,000.
In making its recommendations to us, the commission took into account a number of factors, including the ability of a unitary authority to deliver services effectively and efficiently and the need to recognise community identity and the expression of local opinion. It acknowledged that opposition to the extension of the city's boundaries to include the greater planning area was
Column 901strongest in the outlying areas beyond the ring road. The strength of the opposition has also been made clear to us in the many representations that we have received from local residents and their parish councils. Nevertheless, the commission concluded, and we agreed, that the balance of advantage lay with providing an enlarged boundary to enable the new authority to deliver services efficiently and effectively and to adopt a strategic approach to economic development, transportation planning and environmental issues, among other things.
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras): What reasons did the commission and the Department adduce to show that, if the boundary were merely extended to the ring road, the requirements would not be met?
Mr. Jones: The trouble with merely extending the boundary to the ring road, as the hon. Gentleman must know, is that that road breaks through about 11 parishes and runs inside the existing city of York. At one point, it would reduce the area of the city and, at other points, it would lead to the fragmentation of communities.
Mr. Dobson: The Minister's officials have been making the fatuous point that the ring road breaks through certain parishes, but everyone regards it as an approximation of where the boundary ought to be. There is considerably more support-- [Hon. Members:-- "No."] Yes, there is. There is considerably more support within the ring road for joining York than there is anywhere outside it.
Mr. Jones: The fragmentation of communities and rural parishes may be a trivial matter to the hon. Gentleman, who represents an entirely urban constituency, but I can assure him that the parishes concerned would not want to be split up. Some of the parishes outside the ring road are the most urban in the Greater York area.
During the debate on the Avon order, the hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Mr. Dobson) accused us of proposing boundaries that would
"leave Bristol `cabinn'd, cribb'd, confin'd'."--[ Official Report , 22 February 1995; Vol. 255, c. 410.]
The city of Bristol covers an area of 10,954 hectares. The existing city of York covers an area of only 2,946 hectares.
Of course, we have said that we shall ask the commission to reconsider the Bristol boundary. I do not believe that it is necessary for it to look again at the York boundary because our proposals should ensure that the city is not "cabinn'd, cribb'd or confin'd".
The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras was quoted in the Yorkshire Evening Press recently. An editorial on 24 February 1995 said:
"It is a rich irony when Labour's shadow Environment Secretary attacks plans for a Greater York authority as a `political racket'. What else does he think he and his party are engaged in when they oppose it? Labour is not making a principled stand on grounds of whether a Greater York will best serve the people, but on grounds of whether it will best serve Labour and the signs are that it will not."
I hope, however, that most people will agree with Councillor Gerald Dean, the leader of the York Conservative group, in his letter to the same paper on 14 November 1994, when he said that it was
Column 902"vitally important for all people within the Greater York Planning Area now to become partners in a common endeavour to create the new `City and County of York' unitary authority to serve efficiently and effectively all the communities throughout the area, and to meet the needs and aspirations of all residents and their families and of future generations to come."
Following representations made to us by local people and by their Members of Parliament, we agreed to exclude five small parishes on the outer edges of the greater planning area. We were persuaded that the characteristics of those parishes and their relationship to the districts that they are in were such that their exclusion was justified. Cases were made for other parishes to be excluded, but in our view those were not as strong.
Mr. Hugh Bayley (York): Will the Minister specify what those characteristics were in relation to the five parishes that were excluded?
Mr. Jones: Certainly. Those were predominantly agricultural parishes, which had much less of a link with the city of York in terms of economic dependence and interdependence. Perhaps I may quote the Yorkshire Evening Press again, on the subject of the hon. Gentleman. In its editorial on 17 February it said:
"Opposition from York Labour MP Hugh Bayley too might well seem to be motivated more by the local party's fears about losing its grip on the City council if the boundaries are pushed out to the strongly Liberal Democrat and Conservative suburbs than by a disinterested appreciation of what York needs . . . The politicians should pay more attention to the real issue here, which is the need to deliver efficient and cost-effective services to a base of people who are defined as living and working in York."
I entirely endorse that editorial.
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): On the five parishes, which are all in my constituency, bearing in mind all the allegations about gerrymandering that are flowing back and forth, is not it the case that the removal of those five parishes will make not a scrap of difference to the warding arrangements for the new York authority, and that it will reduce Conservative party chances in the two wards affected?
Mr. Jones: The change certainly does not make much difference to the warding arrangements. I would not know whether it made any political difference, because I certainly did not consider that. We also took the view that if further parishes were removed, with each additional parish that was removed, the case for allowing the city to adopt a strategic approach to planning and service provision would be weakened.
In the case of Kingston upon Hull, we accepted the commission's recommendation that the unitary authority should be established on the city's existing boundaries. We have, however, decided that--in the light of representations that we received from the city--in due course its boundary with the new East Riding authority should be reviewed. That will not involve major revisions or extensions to the boundary, but will, we hope, sort out a number of small anomalies that exist at the moment.
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North): In view of the fact that it was considered wise to extend the boundaries of the City of York to include the outlying villages, why was it not also considered wise to extend
Column 903the boundaries of Hull to include the outlying villages, as the majority of the people who live there work in and gain all their benefits from Hull?
Mr. Jones: Not only did the commission not recommend that, but it noted the opposition of the areas to which the hon. Gentleman is referring to any such proposal.
There remains one outstanding boundary issue in relation to both the Humberside and the North Yorkshire reviews--the future location of the parishes that form Goole and rural Goole. The commission had recommended that Goole and its hinterland should, with the districts of Craven, Harrogate and Selby, form a unitary authority to be called the West Riding (Dales and Vale) of Yorkshire. We rejected that recommendation because we believed that it failed to take account of community identity.
As a modification, our preferred option was to combine Goole with Selby as a new district in North Yorkshire, but in the light of the representations that we received and to enable the full range of options for the future of Goole to be considered, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will next week direct the commission to undertake a boundary review between the districts of Boothferry, Selby, Glanford and Doncaster, in relation to the parishes that form Goole and rural Goole. The commission will be asked--taking into account the structural arrangements that the orders will produce if they are approved--to recommend whether those parishes should remain with Boothferry, transfer to one of the other authorities, be divided between them, or be established as a district council in its own right in a two-tier North Yorkshire.
The commission will be asked to give priority to that review and to submit its recommendations to us as swiftly as possible.
Mr. John Townend (Bridlington): My hon. Friend appreciates the great pleasure that the end of Humberside and the return of our beloved East Riding gives those of us who come from that part of the country, but there is considerable opposition to the last-minute change of view--the decision to put Goole, in the first instance, in with the East Riding of Yorkshire. There is no historical connection or commonality of interest. We welcome the proposal that that decision should be reconsidered and, on behalf of the people of east Yorkshire, I ask that that be done as quickly as possible, so that all the administrative changes caused by reorganisation do not go too far along the line before a decision is made.
Mr. Jones: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has campaigned for the abolition of Humberside for a very long time. I am delighted that we are honouring that in the order. On the Goole issue, we shall of course ask the commission to deal with the matter as speedily as possible because of the uncertainty, not merely for planning but for staff. It is very much our view that it should be dealt with speedily and I hope that my hon. Friend and others who feel the same way will make their views known to the commission.
Mr. John Sykes (Scarborough): My hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) made an interesting argument. Many of us are delighted today at
Column 904the prospect of walking through the Lobby in support of abolishing Humberside. Goole does not belong to Yorkshire, and never did for 1, 000 years.
Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby): Mind your own business.
Mr. Sykes: Goole never belonged to Humberside. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) is a carpetbagger. He is not from Grimsby; he is not from Goole. He ought to know better.
Goole was never part of Yorkshire, and today many people will rejoice in the fact that Yorkshire will once again stretch from the Humber to the Tees, as it did for 1,000 years.
Mr. Jones: I do not know what Goole has done to upset my hon. Friend, but I can tell him that Goole was in the old West Riding of Yorkshire.
Once the orders are made, all the authorities in Humberside and the authorities affected by the changes in North Yorkshire will have extra duties and powers to prepare for the reorganisation. They will each be under a duty to co-operate in implementing change. Unitary authorities will have access to the information that they need. Once the councils for the unitary authorities have been elected, they will have further powers to make the necessary preparations, including setting budgets and recruiting staff for the functions for which they will assume responsibility on 1 April 1996. They will be required to consider whether any of their new functions would best be discharged through joint arrangements with other authorities. Taken together, we believe that those provisions will ensure a smooth transition to the new structure, while providing proper safeguards for essential services.
In the absence of clear agreement between the authorities in Humberside, we have decided that the superannuation fund maintained by the county council should be vested in the council of the East Riding of Yorkshire. We believe that that will cause the least disruption to the management of the fund and the least inconvenience to its pensioners. The East Riding authority is expected to locate its headquarters in Beverley, where the county's mainframe computer and other systems and communication links and databases are located. We believe that authorities that are to be given unitary status should be given a fresh democratic mandate. There will therefore be whole council elections to the four unitary authorities in Humberside and to the new City of York authority, in May this year.
In future, with the exception of Hull, all the unitary authorities will hold whole council elections every four years. If they wish to apply to the Secretary of State to change to a system of elections by thirds, they may do so following the passing of a resolution by the whole council, passed by not less than two thirds of the members. Hull will return to its current arrangement of elections by thirds from 1997. That follows the city's representations that it wished to retain elections by thirds and that it did not wish to have elections in the year immediately after reorganisation. We agree that that is a sensible arrangement and have made similar provision in Bristol.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: It would be sensible to increase the number of councillors to four councillors per ward, at
Column 905least in the North East Lincolnshire authority. It would also be sensible to hold elections annually--or at least more regularly than the Local Government Commission proposed. The commission said that that matter would be reviewed after five years. When will the Minister entertain an application to review the number of councillors and the frequency of elections?
Mr. Jones: We have always adopted the opinion that we do not wish to lay down a specific rule and that it is for the local authorities concerned to decide whether they hold elections by thirds or all-out elections. The commission will carry out a review of ward boundaries, but naturally its priority must be areas where there are the most inequities between the present elector-councillor ratios. I shall discuss that in relation to Glanford and Scunthorpe specifically in a moment.
With the exception of minor changes that we have made to accommodate leaving Goole in Boothferry while it is being re-reviewed, warding arrangements for the new authorities are as recommended by the commission.
I have received representations from a number of the Humberside authorities that those warding arrangements are unsatisfactory and that the councillor- elector ratio recommended by the commission is inadequate. Specifically, I know that Glanford and Scunthorpe districts feel strongly about the issue. However, we have made it clear that, other than where the arrangements are technically incorrect, or where, as in the case of Boothferry, they need to be changed to reflect modifications that we have made to the commission's structural recommendations, we shall not modify the commission's recommendations for electoral arrangements without first referring them back to the commission to consider any new evidence that we have received.
On the basis of the representations that we had received, we did not consider that it was necessary to refer the recommendations back to the commission, because that would have put at risk the timetable for holding the elections to the new authorities and would have prolonged the uncertainty. We have said, however, that we shall consider asking the commission to undertake an early electoral review of authorities where there is pressure for that and it appears to be necessary, for example, for the districts affected by the York extension.
We acknowledge that staff at all levels will have a crucial role to play in implementing change and ensuring that the new structures work successfully. Most staff--we estimate at least 90 per cent.--will simply end up working for the successor authorities. The majority--the front-line service providers such as teachers and care workers--will transfer by statutory transfer order, ensuring continued provision of essential services from day one of reorganisation. Others will secure posts through open competition if the post is new, or prior consideration in which competition is limited to those in the outgoing and continuing authorities concerned.
We recognise that there may be redundancies. Local government reorganisation is intended, among other things, to achieve greater efficiency and long-term savings in the cost of providing services, and inevitably there will be some effect on staffing structures. The changing role of local government is bound to have implications for the
Column 906skills and numbers of the local authority work force, whether there is structural change or not. Ultimately, it will be for the authorities to decide on their new staffing structures and how to fill them, taking account of the available resources and the need to ensure continued provision of services.
We have recently announced new measures for those who are redundant as a result of local government reorganisation. We are also consulting on a possible scheme for detriment compensation for those who take a drop in salary as a result.
As unitary authorities, the new York district council and the four Humberside district councils will be responsible for both strategic and local land use planning in their areas. We are determined that there should be adequate arrangements for strategic planning in areas affected by reorganisation.
Reflecting its recommendations for structural changes, the commission recommended that the authorities for the area north of the Humber should work jointly on a structure plan for their combined areas. It made a similar recommendation for the authorities in the area between the Humber and the Wash. However, as a result of the modifications that we have made to the commission's structural recommendations, we have also needed to modify its recommendations for planning arrangements.
Therefore, having considered representations from the local authorities and other organisations, we have concluded that the most satisfactory grouping of authorities for joint structure plan purposes would be the new York unitary authority working with North Yorkshire county council; the new East Riding of Yorkshire unitary authority working with Kingston upon Hull city council; and the new North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire unitary authorities working with Lincolnshire county council.
Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe): The Minister must be aware that there is grave concern that that decision is a departure from the Local Government Commission's original recommendation that structural planning in Humberside should be estuary-wide. As someone who once chaired the Environment Select Committee and considered coastal zone policy, I am sure that the Minister would recommend from his own Committee reports that there is a great deal more logic in having structural planning embracing an estuary in terms of industry, conservation and management than in breaking it in two, as in his recommendations. Where is the logic in those recommendations?
Mr. Jones: The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to learn that I said to my officials, "If the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) is there, he will mention estuarial planning, " because he and I have a long history of interest in that subject. Apart from the regional guidance element, there is a duty for neighbouring structure plan authorities to consult, and we intend to ensure that that works to deliver the cross-estuarial co-operation that is necessary for those issues, while retaining the relationship between the North Lincolnshire authorities and Lincolnshire county council for issues that go wider than that. I am sure that the hon.