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Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East) : Will the Minister give way?

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Gummer : No. I promised that I would not take too long, and I want to answer the question that the hon. Member for Truro put to me.

The hon. Gentleman asked how officers will be dealt with. There is a difference. Officers are employed by the local authority, which can impose whatever requirements it likes on its officers. It cannot impose legally the same requirements on local authority members. It does not have that kind of power. The local authority should decide what it wants its officers to state about themselves. Some officers must declare rather more about themselves than others. That is a much better way to deal with it. I hope that both in those authorities in which the hon. Gentleman has some influence and in those in which I have some influence we shall seek to ensure that officers who have any of the connections about which he spoke make clear, because the local authority insists upon it, where they stand. It is not for Parliament to impose such a requirement on local authorities. It is for local authority members to make those requirements quite clear to the officers concerned.

Mr. Matthew Taylor : I understand what the Minister says, but he lives in an idealistic world. That does not happen in practice. It is not a party-political issue because it does not arise between the different parties, whoever

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may be running the local authority. However, enormous discontent has been expressed by local communities. On some occasions, local officers find themselves hauled across the coals. I can think of one recent example in my local authority. Innuendo and rumour destroyed the life of a local authority officer. There was very little that he could do about it. There was no statutory requirement that he should declare his interest. Frankly, no one would have believed him, whether he did or not, after a while. If there were a statutory requirement, people would have more confidence in the system. It would benefit the vast majority of officers who are upright and honourable. It would also protect the public in the few instances where that is not the case.

I understand what the Minister says about local authorities being able to set their own rules, but in this instance I do not believe that that is adequate. We are dealing with the conduct of public life at all levels. There should be basic rules according to which people in local government, whether they are elected or whether they are paid employees, have to work. It is for Parliament to set the basic rules according to which they work.

Mr. Gummer : I do not think that that is the best way. It should be left to local authorities. I believe in as much power as possible being given to local authorities. I have sought to provide that power. I very much hope that local authorities will shoulder that responsibility. It is not for the House to lay down rules.

Mr. Rooker : The new clause does not make clear whether the register will be available for public inspection. Can the Minister elucidate that point? It ought to be made clear because it is not clear to me. It is an important point.

Mr. Gummer : It will be available for public inspection.

Mr. Andrew Welsh : How does the Minister intend to use these powers? I notice that the new clause uses the word "may" : "The Secretary of State may by regulations require each member of a local authority".

It does not use the word "shall." How will the Secretary of State use his powers? Will he be sparked into action by a single incident, or will he target authorities? Will the regulations apply to every local authority?

Mr. Gummer : The intention is merely to give the power to do these things. I give an undertaking that the Secretary of State for the Environment, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales intend to use the power in the way that we have described.

Mr. Soley : With the permission of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We intend to divide the House because there has been total lack of proper consultation by the Government, as they promised. Moreover, a terrible double standard is involved here, which we do not accept. The principle that people should have to declare an interest is right, but we cannot impose on others what we are not prepared to accept ourselves. Above all, we must not do it by means of this shoddy form of consultation which has resulted in just one meeting with local authorities. Consequently, the Minister has been able to answer only some of the questions--for example, about publicity. That is unsatisfactory. For that reason, we shall seek to divide the House. Question put, That the clause be read a Second time :

The House divided : Ayes 246, Noes 135.

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Division No. 235] [5.38 pm


Adley, Robert

Aitken, Jonathan

Alison, Rt Hon Michael

Allason, Rupert

Alton, David

Amos, Alan

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)

Ashby, David

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Aspinwall, Jack

Atkinson, David

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)

Baldry, Tony

Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)

Batiste, Spencer

Beaumont-Dark, Anthony

Beith, A. J.

Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)

Benyon, W.

Bevan, David Gilroy

Blackburn, Dr John G.

Body, Sir Richard

Bonsor, Sir Nicholas

Boscawen, Hon Robert

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Peter

Bottomley, Mrs Virginia

Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)

Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)

Bowis, John

Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes

Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard

Brandon-Bravo, Martin

Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)

Browne, John (Winchester)

Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick

Buck, Sir Antony

Budgen, Nicholas

Burt, Alistair

Carlisle, John, (Luton N)

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Cartwright, John

Channon, Rt Hon Paul

Chapman, Sydney

Chope, Christopher

Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)

Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)

Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)

Colvin, Michael

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cope, Rt Hon John

Couchman, James

Critchley, Julian

Currie, Mrs Edwina

Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Devlin, Tim

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dunn, Bob

Durant, Tony

Dykes, Hugh

Emery, Sir Peter

Evennett, David

Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas

Fallon, Michael

Favell, Tony

Fearn, Ronald

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey

Fookes, Dame Janet

Forman, Nigel

Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Forth, Eric

Fowler, Rt Hon Norman

Fox, Sir Marcus

Franks, Cecil

Freeman, Roger

French, Douglas

Fry, Peter

Gale, Roger

Gardiner, George

Garel-Jones, Tristan

Gill, Christopher

Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian

Glyn, Dr Alan

Goodlad, Alastair

Gorman, Mrs Teresa

Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Gregory, Conal

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)

Grist, Ian

Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn

Hague, William

Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)

Hanley, Jeremy

Hannam, John

Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')

Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)

Harris, David

Haselhurst, Alan

Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney

Hayward, Robert

Heathcoat-Amory, David

Heddle, John

Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)

Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)

Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.

Hill, James

Hind, Kenneth

Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)

Hordern, Sir Peter

Howard, Michael

Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)

Howells, Geraint

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Hunter, Andrew

Irving, Charles

Jack, Michael

Jessel, Toby

Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Jones, Robert B (Herts W)

Jopling, Rt Hon Michael

Kennedy, Charles

Key, Robert

Kirkwood, Archy

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Greg (Derby North)

Knox, David

Lang, Ian

Lawrence, Ivan

Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark

Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)

Lightbown, David

Lilley, Peter

Livsey, Richard

Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)

Lord, Michael

MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)

McLoughlin, Patrick

McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael

Mans, Keith

Maples, John

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Maude, Hon Francis

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