|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, I am not sheltering behind the commission. I am saying in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, who said that we were not implementing the people's wishes, that it is up to the Local Government Commission to consult upon local people's wishes. It is the commission's recommendations that we are implementing. It went to great lengths to establish what local opinion was. I believe that the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft, about gerrymandering was unworthy of him and, incidentally, does not reflect well on the commission or its former chairman, of whom he spoke, who certainly would not appreciate the suggestionand in fact has gone into print on itthat he had been doing the dirty work of the Government or, for that matter, the Opposition.
Lord Bancroft: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene for a moment. I was careful to say that "gossip had it", or words to that effect, that the fingerprints of a Mr. G. Mander were on this; and, I said, of course I did not share that view.
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, since the noble Viscount mentioned me, perhaps I may say that I did not make any accusation of gerrymandering. However, I said that that is what is being said now in the neighbourhood; and it is.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, perhaps the Minister will give way. Does he not agree that it is possible for Government to accept those recommendations of the commission which suit them politically and not to accept those which fail to suit them politically, and that therefore an accusation might be levelled by someone of a suspicious mind that the Government were considering the matter in a gerrymandering way, quite outside anything that the commission had intended?
Perhaps I may address straight away the opposition to the greater York boundaries which was conveyed in the remarks of the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, and indeed is referred to in the amendment that she put down. I acknowledged in my opening speech the weight of representations on the point. Indeed, I recognise that the
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am sorry, but I actually said exactly the opposite. I look for support from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I said that the city of York was calling for an extension to the outer ring road, which had the general consent of the people of York, but to go beyond that into rural areas, from a population density of 350 people per 10 hectares down to 10 people per 10 hectares, would produce additional costs to provide the same level of service for smaller communities. Therefore the city of York would be financially the loser by that. In that context, I called on the Government to address the problem of finance through reform of the standard spending assessments. I am sure that the Minister will recall that that is what I said.
Viscount Ullswater: Indeed, my Lords. If the noble Baroness had waited, I would have mentioned the suggestion to increase the size of the city of York up to the ring road. Then there would be a further extension which was proposed by the Local Government Commission and accepted by the Government. I understand the fear that the extension may lead to domination by the city of the surrounding area, but I believe that it is unduly pessimistic. The boundary change will bring about an increase in the population of the area of over 50 per cent., as I indicated, and it will be reflected in the composition of the new council. I feel sure that representation from the surrounding area will be capable of ensuring that the new council takes due account of its interests.
The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, mentioned the proposal to extend York to the ring road. We considered it, as did the commission. The ring road, however, is not a natural boundary; in one place it cuts into the urban area and it also splits a number of parishes. We did not want to divide them. The commission did not recommend that and noble Lords have been unkind about relying on Whitehall advice, but that is exactly what we would have been doing if we had made the change to go to the ring road.
Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, I am saying that they do not cut through parishes and we did not wish to divide parishes. Following representations made to us by local people and by Members of Parliament, we
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, asked me what the difference was between the five parishes taken out and those remaining within the new boundaries. The parishes are rural by nature and on the basis of specific representations which were made on their behalf, they were excluded from the boundaries. I do not deny that there must be a nice judgment on the point, and on balance we thought that it was justified by the representations made to us; otherwise we would accept what was proposed by the Local Government Commission.
The noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, asked me whether the city of York would retain its city status. We have absolutely no intention of abolishing the city of York. Because its boundaries are to be extended and it is to be established as a new authority, its charter falls. Before the new authority is established, we intend to make specific provision for the continuation of the city's status and privileges either by laying an order extending the city's existing charter or by providing for York City Council to apply to the Home Office for its charter to be transferred to the new authority.
Various noble Lords complained about the transfer of the Yorkshire Museum to the new unitary city of York council. I share the anxiety that that important museum should continue to play a role as an independent trust beyond the boundaries of the city of York. While I can see a case for North Yorkshire continuing to have a part to play in the museum's running, as proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Holliswho recommended that a number of the trustees should remain with itI believe it would be inappropriate to put that into effect by statutory means. It is for the two local authorities to co-operate. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Mr. Jones, has written to both authorities outlining our expectation that robust arrangements for safeguarding the museum's role serving both North Yorkshire and York city should be put in place
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, I apologise for keeping on interrupting the noble Viscount. He is always so courteous in giving way. I ask him at least to reconsider the matter of the Yorkshire Museum. Very close to the Yorkshire Museum is the National Railway Museum, which gets on perfectly well by being administered not in York, and not even in the county, but nationally.
While I am on my feet, perhaps I may also mention the nearest large museum, Bowes Museum, which, if my recollection is right, falls under the aegis of more than one local authority. That may include Lancashire,
Certainly, not only from this House, but from the other place, we have heard the discussions about the Yorkshire Museum. As noble Lords will know, it houses important collections of archaeology and other material. I would expect the two local authorities to co-operate, as I said. We should seek to make certain that that happens.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield raised the outstanding boundary issue; namely, the future location of the parishes that form Goole and the 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 in particular it failed to take account of community identity. As a modification to it, our preferred option was to combine Goole with Selby as new districts 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 honourable 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 these orders will produce if they are approved, to recommend whether these 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 would be asked to give priority to this review and to submit its recommendations to us as swiftly as possible.
I hope that that will in some way relieve the right reverend Prelate's mind in that the position is to be reconsidered. He indicated to the House, quite rightly, that where Goole falls is not indeed clear in any consideration, and therefore it is rather a difficult matter to deal with in local government terms
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page