Local Government Act 1972
The Local Government Act 1972 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that reformed local government in England and Wales on 1 April 1974. Its pattern of two-tier metropolitan and non-metropolitan county and district councils remains in use today in large parts of England, although the metropolitan county councils were abolished in 1986, both county and district councils were replaced with unitary authorities in many areas in the 1990s. In Wales, the Act established a similar pattern of counties and districts, but these have since been replaced with a system of unitary authorities, it was one of the most significant Acts of Parliament to be passed by the Heath Government of 1970–74 and is surpassed only by the European Communities Act 1972 which took the United Kingdom into the European Communities. Elections were held to the new authorities in 1973, they acted as "shadow authorities" until the handover date. Elections to county councils were held on 12 April, for metropolitan and Welsh districts on 10 May, for non-metropolitan district councils on 7 June.
Elected county councils had been established in England and Wales for the first time in 1888, covering areas known as administrative counties. Some large towns, known as county boroughs, were politically independent from the counties in which they were physically situated; the county areas were two-tier, with many municipal borough, urban district and rural districts within them, each with its own council. Apart from the creation of new county boroughs, the most significant change since 1899 had been the establishment in 1965 of Greater London and its thirty-two London boroughs, covering a much larger area than the previous county of London. A Local Government Commission for England was set up in 1958 to review local government arrangements throughout the country, made some changes, such as merging two pairs of small administrative counties to form Huntingdon and Peterborough and Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely, creating several contiguous county boroughs in the Black Country. However, most of the Commission's recommendations, such as its proposals to abolish Rutland or to reorganise Tyneside, were ignored in favour of the status quo.
It was agreed that there were significant problems with the structure of local government. Despite mergers, there was still a proliferation of small district councils in rural areas, in the major conurbations the borders had been set before the pattern of urban development had become clear. For example, in the area, to become the seven boroughs of the metropolitan county of West Midlands, local government was split between three administrative counties, eight county boroughs. Many county boundaries reflected traditions of the Middle Ages or earlier; the Local Government Commission was wound up in 1966, replaced with a Royal Commission. In 1969 it recommended a system of single-tier unitary authorities for the whole of England, apart from three metropolitan areas of Merseyside, SELNEC and West Midlands, which were to have both a metropolitan council and district councils; this report was accepted by the Labour Party government of the time despite considerable opposition, but the Conservative Party won the June 1970 general election on a manifesto that committed it to a two-tier structure.
The new government made Peter Walker and Graham Page the ministers, dropped the Redcliffe-Maud report. They invited comments from interested parties regarding the previous government's proposals; the Association of Municipal Corporations put forward a scheme with 13 provincial councils and 132 main councils, about twice the number proposed by Redcliffe-Maud. The incoming government's proposals for England were presented in a White Paper published in February 1971; the White Paper trimmed the metropolitan areas, proposed a two-tier structure for the rest of the country. Many of the new boundaries proposed by the Redcliffe-Maud report were retained in the White Paper; the proposals were in large part based on ideas of the County Councils Association, the Urban District Councils Association and the Rural District Councils Association. The White Paper outlined principles, including an acceptance of the minimum population of 250,000 for education authorities in the Redcliffe-Maud report, its findings that the division of functions between town and country had been harmful, but that some functions were better performed by smaller units.
The White Paper set out the proposed division of functions between districts and counties, suggested a minimum population of 40,000 for districts. The government aimed to introduce a Bill in the 1971/72 session of Parliament for elections in 1973, so that the new authorities could start exercising full powers on 1 April 1974; the White Paper made no commitments on regional or provincial government, since the Conservative government preferred to wait for the Crowther Commission to report. The proposals were changed with the introduction of the Bill into Parliament in November 1971: Area 4 would have had a border with area 2, cutting area 3 off from the coast. Seaham and Easington were to be part of the Sunderland district. Hum
Politics of Wales
Politics in Wales forms a distinctive polity in the wider politics of the United Kingdom, with Wales as one of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom. Constitutionally, the United Kingdom is de jure a unitary state with one sovereign parliament and government. However, under a system of devolution adopted in the late 1990s three of the four countries of the United Kingdom, Wales and Northern Ireland, voted for limited self-government, subject to the ability of the UK Parliament in Westminster, nominally at will, to amend, broaden or abolish the national governmental systems; as such the National Assembly for Wales is not de jure sovereign. Executive power in the United Kingdom is vested in the Queen-in-Council, while legislative power is vested in the Queen-in-Parliament; the Government of Wales Act 1998 established devolution in Wales, certain executive and legislative powers have been constitutionally delegated to the National Assembly for Wales. The scope of these powers was further widened by the Government of Wales Act 2006.
Since 1999 most areas of domestic policy are decided within Wales via the National Assembly and the Welsh Government. Judicially, Wales remains within the jurisdiction of Wales. In 2007 the National Assembly gained the power to enact Wales-specific Measures, following the Welsh devolution referendum, 2011, the National Assembly was given the power to create Acts. Wales, together with Cheshire, used to come under the jurisdiction of the Court of Great Session, therefore was not within the English circuit court system, yet it has not been its own distinct jurisdiction since the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, at which point Welsh Law was replaced by English Law. Before 1998, there was no separate government in Wales. Executive authority rested in the hands of the HM Government, with substantial authority within the Welsh Office since 1965. Legislative power rested within the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Judicial power has always been with the Courts of England and Wales, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
After the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, Wales was treated in legal terms as part of England. The Wales and Berwick Act 1746 stated that all laws applying to England would be applicable to Wales, unless the body of the law explicitly stated otherwise. However, during the latter part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century the notion of a distinctive Welsh polity gained credence. In 1881 the Welsh Sunday Closing Act was passed, the first such legislation concerned with Wales; the Central Welsh Board was established in 1896 to inspect the grammar schools set up under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act 1889, a separate Welsh Department of the Board of Education was formed in 1907. The Agricultural Council for Wales was set up in 1912, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries had its own Welsh Office from 1919. Despite the failure of popular political movements such as Cymru Fydd, a number of institutions, such as the National Eisteddfod, the University of Wales, the National Library of Wales and the Welsh Guards were created.
The campaign for disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales, achieved by the passage of the Welsh Church Act 1914, was significant in the development of Welsh political consciousness. Without a popular base, the issue of home rule did not feature as an issue in subsequent General Elections and was eclipsed by the depression. By August 1925 unemployment in Wales rose to 28.5%, in contrast to the economic boom in the early 1920s, rendering constitutional debate an exotic subject. In the same year Plaid Cymru was formed with the goal of securing a Welsh-speaking Wales. Following the Second World War the Labour Government of Clement Attlee established the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, an unelected assembly of 27 with the brief of advising the UK government on matters of Welsh interest. By that time, most UK government departments had set up their own offices in Wales; the Labour Party had partly reappraised its view to devolution, establishing in 1947 the Welsh Regional Council of Labour from the constituent parts of the party in Wales and as part of a move to plan the economy on an all-Wales basis.
However, resistance from other elements of the party meant that the machinery of government was not reformed until much later. The post of Minister of Welsh Affairs was first established in 1951, but was at first held by the UK Home Secretary. Further incremental changes took place, including the establishment of a Digest of Welsh Statistics in 1954, the designation of Cardiff as Wales's capital city in 1955. However, further reforms were catalysed as a result of the controversy surrounding the flooding of Capel Celyn in 1956. Despite unanimous Welsh political opposition the scheme had been approved, a fact that seemed to underline Plaid Cymru's argument that the Welsh national community was powerless. Welsh nationalism experienced a modest increase in support, with Plaid Cymru's share of the vote increasing from 0.3% in 1951 to 5.2% by 1959 throughout Wales. In 1964 the incoming Labour Government of Harold Wilson created the Welsh Office under a Secretary of State for Wales, with its powers augmented to include health and education in 1968, 1969 and 1970 respectively.
The creation of administration devolution defined the territorial governance of modern Wales. Labour's incremental embrace of a distinctive Welsh polity was arguably catalysed in 1966 when
1979 Scottish devolution referendum
The Scottish referendum of 1979 was a post-legislative referendum to decide whether there was sufficient support for a Scottish Assembly proposed in the Scotland Act 1978 among the Scottish electorate. This was an act to create a devolved deliberative assembly for Scotland. An amendment to the Act stipulated that it would be repealed if less than 40% of the total electorate voted "Yes" in the referendum; the result was that 51.6% supported the proposal, but with a turnout of 64%, this represented only 32.9% of the registered electorate. The Act was subsequently repealed. In 1976, the UK's Labour government led by James Callaghan, which had won the previous general election in 1974 by just three seats, had lost its parliamentary majority following a series of adverse by-election results. To recreate a voting majority in the House of Commons, the government made an agreement with the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru whereby, in return for their support in Commons votes, the government would instigate legislation to devolve political powers from Westminster to Scotland and Wales.
This followed the findings of the Kilbrandon Commission, which had recommended the establishment of a separate Scottish parliament. The Scotland and Wales Bill was subsequently introduced in November 1976, but the government struggled to get the Bill through parliament; the Conservative opposition opposed its second reading, on the first day of committee 350 amendments were put down. Progress slowed to a crawl. In February 1977, the Bill's cabinet sponsor Michael Foot tabled a guillotine motion to attempt to halt the delays; the motion was rejected and the government was forced to withdraw the Bill. The government returned to the issue of devolution in November 1977. Separate bills for Scotland and Wales were published and support from the Liberals was obtained. In spite of continued opposition requiring another guillotine motion, the Bills were passed. During the passage of the Scotland Act 1978 through Parliament, an amendment introduced by Labour MP George Cunningham added a requirement that the bill had to be approved by 40% of the total registered electorate, as well as a simple majority.
Had the Scotland Act 1978 entered force, it would have created a Scottish Assembly with limited legislative powers. There would have been a Scottish Executive headed by a "First Secretary", taking over some of the functions of the Secretary of State for Scotland. Meetings of the Scottish Assembly would have been held at the Old Royal High School in Regent Road, Edinburgh; the former school hall was adapted for use by the Scottish Assembly, including the installation of microphones and new olive-green leather seating. Members would have been elected by the "first past the post" system; the Scottish Assembly would have had the power to introduce primary legislation to be known as "Measures" within defined areas of competence. This form of legislation would not receive royal assent. Instead, the legislation is signed via an Order in Council, which the monarch signs and appends to the assembly measure once passed; some new offices would have been created, such as a Auditor General for Scotland. The areas of responsibility included: Education The environment Health Home affairs Legal matters Social servicesResponsibility for agriculture and food would have been divided between the Assembly and the United Kingdom government, while the latter would have retained control of electricity supply.
Source: Glasgow Herald, House of Commons Library. The result was a majority in favour of devolution. A total of 1,230,937 voted at the referendum in favour of an Assembly, a majority of about 77,400 over those voting against. However, this total represented only 32.9% of the registered electorate as a whole. The Labour government held that the Act's requirements had not been met, that devolution would therefore not be introduced for Scotland. In the wake of the referendum the disappointed supporters of the bill conducted a protest campaign under the slogan "Scotland said'yes'" launched in a Glasgow hotel on 7 March 1979. In particular, the Scottish National Party carried out a survey of the electoral register in the Edinburgh Central constituency; this appeared to show that the register was so out of date that in an area where major support for a "yes" vote might be expected, achievement of 40% of the electorate was unattainable. This was because the majority of electors lived in older tenements or newer Council blocks of flats where flat numbers were not specified.
The work of electoral registration staff to obtain an accurate current register was impossible. Under the terms of the Act, it could be repealed by a Statutory Instrument to be approved by Parliament; the government's decision to abandon devolution led the SNP to withdraw its support for the Labour government. It was in a minority in Parliament and had relied on deals with the smaller parties, including the SNP, for its survival. After establishing that the Liberals and the SNP would vote against the government in a confidence motion, the Conservative opposition tabled a motion on 28 March; the government was defeated by one vote, a UK general election was subsequently called. This was won by the Conservatives, Parliament voted to repeal the Act on 20 June 1979. A second referendum to create a devolved legislature in Scotland was held in 1997 under a newly elected Labour government, which led to the enactment of the Scotland Act 1998 and the creation of a devolved Scottish Parliament in 1999.
Scottish independence referendum, 2014 Scottish independence Referendums in the United Kingdom Scottish Assembly Royal Commission on the Constitution Welsh devolution referendum, 1979 Chronology of Scottish Pol