Liberals scorn devolution bill: The week that was December 6 - 12, 1976

Most of the delegates at a Liberal conference held in York this week favoured a parliament for each of three Northern regions '“ the North-West, Yorkshire and Humberside and the other Northern counties.

The delegates – from four regional Liberal regional parties in the North – also rejected the government’s Devolution Bill for Scotland and Wales.

In a statement issued after the conference, the Bill was described as “.. a disastrously inadequate and expensive party-political expedient”. Unless the Bill was extended it would “shatter” hopes of better government throughout Britain.

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Delegates urged an immediate Liberal campaign for a federal Britain, with more efficient and less expensive regional government taking responsibility for health, land planning, water, education, passenger transport, traffic control and the structure of local and neighbourhood councils.

Colne Valley MP Richard Wainwright said the Devolution Bill in its current form was: “…a recipe for providing an over-taxed and over-governed people with an immense extension of bureaucracy.”

Moves to change the rules for choosing Labour Party candidates were expected to be announced this week, with the aim of making it more difficult for small groups of extremists to stage constituency takeover bids.

Meanwhile, a cover-up row flared over a leak of highly radioactive waste from an old storage silo at the Windscale atomic plant in Cumbria.

The leak was discovered a few weeks previously during excavation work for construction of a new silo.

Energy Secretary Anthony Wedgwood Benn ordered that any future nuclear incidents, however trivial, should be reported to him immediately.

After 24 hours of Whitehall buck-passing, the blame appeared to have landed in his department, but he said he had only come to hear of the leak almost two months after it had happened.

However, Department of the Environment officials insisted they had told the Department of Energy within a couple of days of the incident.

A £1m firebomb blitz in Londonderry wrecked 16 shops and damaged six others hours before thousands of peace marchers braved freezing conditions to join in a massive north/south rally.

An investigation was underway into how so many devices could have been smuggled through the checkpoints surrounding the city centre.

A member of Wakefield City Council accused other members of hypocrisy in refusing to ban “sexy” books in its libraries although it still vetted films shown in cinemas.

Councillor Vera Steele had complained that some books were “sheer porn”.

The education committee, which was responsible for libraries, had agreed not to impose restrictions based on moral grounds on books had not fallen foul of the law elsewhere.

Con Steele said: “It seems a bit hypocritical for the council to vet films, which have age restrictions and which people have to pay to enter, but not books in its own libraries, which are free to enter and have no age limits.”

Composer Sir Benjamin Britten was laid to rest this week in Aldeburgh, the Suffolk fishing village that had been his home and inspiration.

Among the distinguished mourners was his long-standing associate the tenor Peter Pears.