Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lady Kinloss: My Lords, I understand that I can speak to the points in my amendment but not move the

6 Mar 1995 : Column 80

amendment formally until the Minister has moved the North Yorkshire (District of York) (Structural and Boundary Changes) Order 1995.

I am aware that this matter has been discussed in another place, with results that have left many residents unhappy and bewildered. Apart from the debate, I call attention to a Question for Written Answer in another place, which the Minister answered as recently as 23rd February. He had been asked how many representations his department had received (a) supporting and (b) opposing the proposed boundary change in his draft order to create a new York local authority, from individual members of the public, from local authorities, from parish councils and others.

The Minister replied that 1,066 members of the public had opposed the proposed boundary change, with only 30 individuals in favour; and seven local authorities and 26 parish councils had declared against the proposal, with none for it. As to the others—I do not know who those "others" were—there were 15 against and one single individual in favour.

That is why I speak tonight in support of all those who have tried to make their voices heard, not least the district council in which I live and the parish council in the village where I have lived for nearly 30 years. I live outside the proposed greater York boundary and so I have no personal axe to grind, except in regard to its effect on my district council of Ryedale. But the unhappiness and distress of most people is very evident.

Most people would be happy to have a unitary authority for York. In fact, I have said on previous occasions that I have long thought that York should be a self-governing city. It had been so since at least the 12th century and until 1974. It is generally acknowledged that an enlarged boundary might be necessary, but not the huge one recommended by the commission, extending to what is known as the greater York planning area. Can the Minister say whether York will keep its old name of the City of York? It is not at all clear in the draft order.

In other orders brought before Parliament, Ministers have laid very great emphasis on public opinion. This is the first case on which Ministers will agree that a decision has been made in the teeth of opposition. Replying to the debate on the Cleveland order, the noble Viscount quoted from a press release:

    "It is very disappointing that the County council is still attempting to mislead the people of Cleveland at this stage. It really is time they accepted the decision of local people, the Commission and the Government and used their energies to help plan the way forward for the future".—[Official Report, 23/1/95; col. 960.]

The Minister agreed with that. Does he now agree that that is precisely what his right honourable friend the Secretary of State has failed to do in the York case—listen to the people?

There are a number of other points of concern. There are technical problems in regard to Article 11, which deals with appointments to the police authority. During the debate on the Avon order, the noble Baronesses, Lady Farrington and Lady Hamwee, referred to uncertainty over the powers and duties of authorities in relation to certain statutory functions during the shadow period. That relates also to Article 18 of the North

6 Mar 1995 : Column 81

Yorkshire order. There are also questions in regard to the pension fund and the right of transferor authorities to be consulted and to seek information. I am sure that other noble Lords will speak on these matters.

The North Yorkshire County Council and three affected districts—Ryedale, Selby and Harrogate—will need to review their own operations. To make responsible decisions about their own operations they will require information from the new authority at certain points. The new authority is compelled by Article 17 to consider whether it wishes to seek any joint relations during the shadow period. The new authority's wishes will need to be known reasonably early. It would be a needless loss if an existing authority were compelled to scale down a particular specialist service, for example, only to hear too late that the city authority would, after all, like to draw on that service.

Therefore, it is a pity that the order does not explicitly require the new authority to consult the county council where services inherited from it are in question—for example, child protection, or special educational needs. Likewise, it is unfortunate that the order requires the county and districts to provide the city with information, but not vice versa. Will the noble Viscount confirm that the new authority will be obliged to assist its neighbours by co-operating to provide information and consulting as early as it can wherever its decisions might affect its neighbours' decisions about the future?

I turn now to the Yorkshire Museum, which has been the subject of much discussion, as the Minister said. The Yorkshire Museum is a major museum with nationally important collections. It has developed greatly in the past 20 years as a museum which serves all North Yorkshire. It is understood that the existing city council has proposed that if it acquires the museum it will refocus on the City of York, with a much reduced remit.

The Department of the Environment has discovered that there is extensive support for continuing county council control of the museum. The department has received formal advice to that effect from the Museums and Galleries Commission, which is the Government's own museums advisory body. The Government have been advised to vest the museum in North Yorkshire County Council by means of a statutory instrument, but even if that were possible it would not satisfy the city.

May I have an undertaking from the Minister that all possible mechanisms will be explored to ensure that the county council has continuing involvement in the planning, running and funding of the museum? One possible way, for example, might be a joint arrangement; another that the city council offer a substantial number of trustee places to the county council and that the trustees should be able to co-opt other interested bodies such as the York Philosophical Society, which started the museum in 1822, and York University, with which the museum already has a treaty of alliance to promote academic work and excellence.

In recent times the museum itself has raised more than £3 million to develop its resources and promote a stable organisational relationship for the management and its dedicated staff. The museum's director and staff would be happy to work together with both councils. I add that three universities and 23 other organisations,

6 Mar 1995 : Column 82

including one from France and one from India, have written to the Secretary of State asking that it should stay under the control of the North Yorkshire County Council. However, I realise that that may not be possible by itself.

In 1994 the Yorkshire Museum was honoured in winning the Gulbenkian Museum and Galleries award for the best museum publication, with its publication Medieval Pottery in the Yorkshire Museum. Last Saturday, my husband and I went to visit the museum. It is beautifully clean, has well set out showcases and is well labelled. There were numerous publications on its various collections. The one that I mentioned was very well produced and the photographs were excellent. If the Secretary of State will agree, I believe that my suggestion of a joint arrangement for trusteeship can satisfy both parties.

The Lord Bishop of Sheffield: My Lords, I listened to the Minister with a degree of contentment and satisfaction, even though I am one of those who to the last moment remain loyal to Humberside and the feeling that its service to the people for 20 years deserves a better fate than abolition. However, that is ancient history, and it is not of that I speak. I speak of Goole. I thought for one moment that the Minister was not going to mention Goole. He gave an account of the neat division of Humberside but said nothing about the 10 parishes, lately of West Riding and all in the diocese of Sheffield, which fell originally into none of the new unitary authorities.

In recent months each new development has offered a new and sometimes bizarre proposal for what is to happen to this area. I believe that it has left both the commission and the Government bemused and uncertain. At the last moment, without consultation with anybody, as far as I am aware, it has been provisionally placed in the East Riding. It has never been part of the East Riding. It may just conceivably be the right answer. However, it seems to me to be extraordinary that at a week's notice a proposal is made without consultation; and it is even more extraordinary when the word "provisional" is attached to it.

Sadly, the East Riding does not want the town and port of Goole or the country parishes around it. Nobody knows—because they have not been asked—whether Goole wants to be part of the East Riding. But a provisional arrangement, particularly in the areas of strategic planning and so on, is the least satisfactory result. The town and port of Goole is a special place. There is something curiously discouraging and dispiriting about being tossed from one authority to another when the only common feature is that nobody seems to want it to be part of their new area.

I hope that serious attention will be given by somebody to finding the right answer to these lands of Humberhead, anciently West Riding and still important. Nearly 50,000 people live in those lands and in the growing port at the heart of them. I hope that the promise of consultation and a future settlement that has both the consent and the good will of all the parties

6 Mar 1995 : Column 83

concerned will not be left on one side once the order has been approved. This a piece of unfinished business that needs careful attention.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page