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Local Government etc.(Scotland) Bill [Money]

Queen's Recommendation having been signified --

Motion made, and Question proposed ,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill ("the Act"), it is expedient to authorise--

(a) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of

(i) any expenses of the Secretary of State incurred in consequence of the provisions (other than any provision authorising payments out of the National Loans Fund) of the Act ; and

(ii) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other enactment ;

(b) the charging on and issuing out of the Consolidated Fund of sums required by the Secretary of State for fulfilling guarantees given by him for the discharge of any financial obligations in connection with sums borrowed by any water and sewerage authority established by the Act ; and

(c) the payment out of the National Loans Fund of any sums required by the Secretary of State for the purpose of making loans to any water and sewerage authority established by the Act.-- [Mr. Stewart.]

10.43 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : Parliamentary longevity as a Member of the House does not, of itself, entitle me to suppose that I can offer better, more balanced judgments than parliamentary colleagues who have been here for less than thirty-one and a half years. On the contrary, on many matters the judgment of colleagues who were elected for the first time more recently may be more valid for the early 1990s.

However, parliamentary longevity entitles a man to do one thing, which is to warn and sound warnings. As one who went through it last time, I warn the House that the price of upheaval in local government is colossal and far greater than anyone suspects before the event. Incidentally, money may not be the most important element in the price. Upheaval in local government anaesthetises action ; initiative is stifled ; decision makers are understandably less immersed in decisions of policy than concerned with their own future ; and progress in helping the public is slowed down and often grinds to a halt.

My hon. Friends, many of whom have experience in local government, know what happened last time--many officials and councillors were simply distracted from the job of helping their constituents and ours.

Unpicking Lothian region would disadvantage my constituents and especially my most disadvantaged constituents, those who depend on the social services.

Unpicking Strathclyde--dare I say that it was a friendly neighbour?--would be a monumental task. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Dunnachie), who was the Strathclyde convenor for social work, knows better than any of us how difficult and costly such an intricate operation would be. We must therefore ask ourselves whether it is worth the candle. Often my hon. Friends would give a resounding no.

We are discussing the money resolution and I wish to go into some detail. I hope to be on the Committee and, if so, I shall certainly pursue the money aspect. At exactly 4.23 pm--we can check it in Hansard --I understood the Secretary of State to say that the net cost would be less than £50 million over three years. If I am wrong, the Minister

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will interrupt me, but I think that I heard correctly. How can that be reconciled with Touche Ross's estimates and with the Bill? Page ix of the explanatory memorandum of the Bill, which deals with part V, states that the transitional costs of part I are estimated at £120 million to £196 million, offset by savings of £22 million to £62 million. Touche Ross estimated transitional costs and ongoing costs and savings for each of the four options. Its estimate was nearest the 24-unit costs and would mean transitional costs of £194 million on annual savings estimated at £120 million. Those figures are disputed by the regional councils, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. The equivalent Strathclyde regional council figures for the 24-unit option were transitional costs of £439 million and ongoing costs of £14 million.

First, what is the difference between the Touche Ross estimate and the Government's estimate? Secondly, do the Government dispute the details that they have been given of the Strathclyde estimates? I wonder whether the Secretary of State would like to interrupt to clarify the position. I can see that notes are being passed. We are talking about the money resolution. Ministers introduced the Bill, so they should be able to give us the information off the top of their heads if they know what they are talking about.

Frankly, I do not think that the Government have begun to understand the matter and that is the trouble. Incidentally, before putting too much trust in Touche Ross I would go through the CIPFA criticism, which states :

"This area is essentially complex and much guesswork' is required but having taken specialist advice on the question of early retirement and redundancy, Touche Ross concluded that the package offered to employees would be a redundancy' package and therefore no early retirements other than those related to the reductions in staff numbers would occur. Given that 26 of employees are aged 50 or over, this is an optimistic assumption and"--

this is emphasised--

"seriously understates the potential costs associated with this item. Changes in status, remuneration, location and activity will affect an individual's choice and could lead to a significantly greater number of staff leaving the service than that assumed by Touche Ross."

Frankly, I must tell Ministers and their civil servants that I believe that local government treasurers know a great deal more about the subject than they do. I do not think that the Scottish Office is in command of the figures, which are guesswork. CIPFA and people such as John Lindsay--who have done the work--are far nearer the financial realities than the Scottish Office. I have been a Member of Parliament for thirty-one and a half years and I have absolutely no confidence in the financial management of the Scottish Office in this subject, although I have always been friendly to civil servants. No Labour Member of Parliament in his right mind would suggest that there should never be a change in local government. In the early 1960s, my first Secretary of State Jack Maclay and his successor Michael Noble were driven to the conclusion that there had to be a fundamental reflection on local government structures. Tom Fraser, Peggy Herbison, Willie Ross and Jo Grimond shared that view. So did most local authority heavyweights of all parties, elected councillors and officials in the local government service.

The result was that most people looked forward to the all-party consensus- seeking group, which we know as the

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Wheatley commission. It was agreed by the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), the late Betty Harvie Anderson and by Ames Imrie. It was a serious attempt to make some sort of constructive proposal.

This time round it is totally different. Can the Secretary of State tell us where the demand for change is coming from? We all heard him say that many people supported his point of view. I interrupted to ask whom he had in mind--[ Hon. Members :-- "Allan Stewart."] That is it : the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart). Other than the hon. Gentleman, with his mad local fixation, who wants it? That is what it is about and it is totally frivolous.

I repeat to the Secretary of State what I told him in his room, when he courteously invited anyone who had not been called to speak in the debate that took place in Edinburgh. He will recollect that my last words to him at that time were a request to go along the Corridor to the other place to seek out his noble Friend Lord Campbell of Croy and ask him about his experience. Lord Campbell of Croy will tell anyone that he laments greatly that his whole time as Secretary of State was vitiated by the fact that the Government had got into the mire of local government reform. Everything else that he wanted to do was swamped.

I do not know whether the Secretary of State did as I advised him, but he would have been wise to do so. I warn him that for years to come any type of initiative in Scotland will be torpedoed by the fact that everyone is thinking about their positions in local government reform. It is only human.

Mr. William McKelvey (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) : It is happening already.

Mr. Dalyell : The Chairman of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs says that it is happening now. I am afraid that it has started. The anaesthetic has started to work. That is a great pity. Not only is it a pity, but it seriously affects those whom we represent.

I have another question--not that I have had much success in getting any answers so far. I shall ask a specific question about the most costly item of all. If I briefly give some views, I had better say first whose views they are. They are the views of the Scottish School Board Association, the Scottish Parent Teacher Councils, the Forum on Scottish Education, the Catholic Education Commission, the Church of Scotland Education Committee, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland--Mr. Sandy Watson, its chairman, put the document together--the Educational Institute of Scotland, the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, the Professional Association of Teachers, which is not exactly a Labour organisation, the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association and UNISON Scotland. At the end I shall ask about the costings in relation to education :

Those organisations say :

"The costs of change are unjustified at a time of government restrictions on local government funding generally, and when the education service is faced with substantial additional cost factors over the next few years.

The Minister for Education has been advocating consolidation, stability and partnership' for the Education Service, but the proposals on local government reorganisation threaten stability, introduce more change, and possibly remove the notion of meaningful partnership."

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I confess straight away that I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) was instrumental in helping to set up the committee, but those are views far, far wide of those of my hon. Friend, who speaks on education on behalf of the Labour party. It represents every serious education organisation in Scotland and it goes on to say :

"The implications for services have not been thought out properly. Education--a universal service with more than 50 per cent. of all local authority expenditure--is dismissed in two small paragraphs and fewer than 200 words in the White Paper.

There are dangers in concentrating only on detailed, practical implications --which are, of course, important--and losing sight of the current strategy for change in education and local government." The document concludes :

"There is strong concern about the nature of the decision-making process (which compares unfavourably with that of the Wheatley Commission and with the process adopted south of the border) and about the lack of proper consultation on issues which are of fundamental importance to the people of Scotland. The signatories to this document call for a Royal Commission on Scottish Education"-- and let us remember who the signatories are.

"The implications for education have not been thought through and warrant more detailed consideration."

What thought has been given to the education costings? [ Hon. Members :- - "Absolutely none."] My hon. Friends on the Front Bench say "absolutely none". That is not only their view ; it is the view of the bodies that I listed so carefully and slowly to the House. Surely there should be some answer to them?

Will a serious response be given at an early stage in the Committee to the directors of education or, better still, to the organisations themselves? If the Government were sure about the Bill, they would have given a serious response some time ago. If the Government were sure about the Bill, they would have given a proper answer to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. They would have given some answer to the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives.

I am glad to see the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food here tonight. I know, from being a guest of the Norwich Labour party, that she was extremely highly thought of as a Norfolk county councillor. Why are not we in Scotland having at least the discussion and the care that is being taken over the reorganisation of local government in England? Why should we be different? The right hon. Lady knows very well from her experience as a Norfolk county councillor about the difficulties of local government reform. I tell the English Members who will be members of the Committee that they should not regard the Scottish Standing Committee as a political penitentiary. I ask them to raise their heads from their constituency correspondence. If they listened, they might start to warn Ministers of the troubles that are likely to be caused by the Bill. Let us remember where the poll tax started.

I offer my committed support to my hon. Friends in their efforts to oppose the Bill in Committee.

I heard a lot this afternoon about the Wheatley commission and about Lord Wheatley's views. On what would have been the late Lord Wheatley's 86th birthday, I wish that certain people would not attribute to him views that he certainly did not hold.

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11.1 pm

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : The House always listens with great respect to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). Apart from the fact that he has been here for 31 years, we know that he always speaks with great sincerity and knowledge. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is here. The hon. Gentleman said that the extra cost caused by reorganisation would be £50 million over the next four years. That is a massive sum. It is almost as much as the EC spends every day on dumping and destroying food. To that extent, it is an enormous amount.

The House will also wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who appears to have had a Front-Bench position thrust on him. We wish him every possible success as a Whip, because he has waited for so long.

Having been a councillor many years ago in Glasgow, I am well aware that a single-tier local authority--only cities were single-tier authorities then- -involves less spending. When two-tier administration was introduced in Scotland, there seemed to be ample evidence that there were increased costs, more bureaucracy, more officers and more confusion. To that extent, although I believe that we must listen carefully to the hon. Member for Linlithgow, I hope that hon. Members will appreciate that, for Mr. Average, there are cost benefits and satisfaction benefits in having a single-tier local authority. I hope that Scottish Office Ministers will listen carefully to this important point. Since going to Southend, East as a Member of Parliament, I have had lots of experience of making representations to Ministers and to Departments. I sometimes find that those representations are treated rather casually. Sometimes we feel that they are treated in an off-hand way, and sometimes we gain the impression that no one is listening.

I made representations on the Bill about expenditure on behalf of the residents of King's Park. We know that they are well looked after by the excellent hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton). I simply put forward the views of local residents in a brief letter. I wish to record that, in all fairness, not only did I receive a satisfactory reply, but two Ministers came to talk to me and not only showed courtesy, but wanted to know the arguments, the background and whether there was a good case. I was delighted to see in the revised Bill that, instead of King's Park being put into Lanarkshire, which the local people did not seem to want, it has been returned to Glasgow.

Having had limited experience of making representations on behalf of four or five old friends in King's Park, I genuinely found that the attention, courtesy and consideration given by the Scottish Office was an example of government. I feel that the Government would be on an even stronger basis than they are according to the opinion polls, if other Departments and Ministers showed the same consideration and expenditure as the Scottish Ministers.

It is not my habit to stand up and pay compliments, but I genuinely feel that, although I am sad that I am no longer a Scottish Member of Parliament, even though the proposals may be politically unacceptable to some people in Scotland and even though some of the policies may be criticised there, they have a most courteous and attentive Secretary of State and excellent junior Ministers.

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Irrespective of what happens in politics, I hope that the excellent tradition of the Scottish Office will continue. I pay credit to it, and I wish that all Ministers in all Departments acted in the same way.

11.6 pm

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian) : That was an interesting view of the Scottish Office, from Southend. I must tell the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) that those of us who have to deal with the Scottish Office day in and day out and month in and month out on behalf of our constituents, see it in a different light. Knowing the genuine interest that the hon. Member has had in Scottish affairs in the past, I wonder whether the Secretary of State may like to consider offering the hon. Gentleman, as he has expressed interest in the money resolution, a place on the Committee.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang) : indicated assent .

Mr. Home Robertson : I see that the Secretary of State is indicating his willingness to do so. Since, unlike most of the hon. Gentleman's parliamentary colleagues from Scotland, he has experience of serving on a local authority in Scotland, he may be able to bring some rather unusual wisdom to the Committee.

If the Bill goes through, it will cost not only the Treasury but many of our constituents very dear. I listened to most of the debate on Second Reading, and I must endorse the concerns expressed by a whole range of right hon. and hon. Members following the representations which we have all had from our constituents about what the reforms will cost them. There are not only the transitional costs and the upheaval to consider, but the extra costs that will arise from watering down the high-quality services that they enjoy at the moment.

I have received a large number of letters from the parents of disabled children who require specialist education that is now available to them under the auspices of the Lothian regional council. They are understandably concerned that they will have access to that kind of specialist education only if East Lothian goes to Edinburgh as a result of a sort of second-hand contractual arrangement between different local authorities.

Then there is the small matter of all the people who depend heavily on concessionary travel and the excellent service that makes it possible for my constituents in the Lammermuir hills and around the coast of East Lothian to travel throughout the region, to visit relations, to go shopping and to go to hospitals with the benefit of a proper, comprehensive, concessionary travel system. I fear that that system will not be available to them under the kind of fragmented local authority system that the Government are proposing. I am interested to see the list of sponsoring Ministers on the face of the Bill. The Chief Secretary of the Treasury is one of the names printed. I saw that he paid a fleeting visit to the Chamber during the debate. It must be a "back to basics" Bill if he is supporting it. He is joined by the Secretaries of State for Scotland, for the Environment and, mysteriously, for Wales, and the hon. Members for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) and for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro). There is no guilt by association for the other Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), who has managed to be

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missed off the list of guilty people sponsoring the Bill. I wonder whether the Chief Secretary realises what he is letting the Treasury in for by endorsing the Bill.

I agree with everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said. He referred to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and to the work undertaken by the director of finance of east Lothian district council, John Lindsay, who knows much about local government finance. On behalf of CIPFA, he and his colleagues have carefully considered the Bill.

It is very difficult to see how the Government and Touche Ross make the figures add up. They do not make sense. I shall give one or two examples that have been drawn to our attention, on which we have not received proper replies from Ministers.

What about the projected costs of planning and economic development ? Touche Ross has calculated that savings ranging from £58.4 million at the 51 unit level to £75.1 million at the 15 unit level--so we can assume that it is thinking of savings of about £60 million--could be made from planning and economic development.

As the Scottish Office calculation of grant-aided expenditure for development in 1992-93 for regions and districts was £68.3 million net --the source for that figure is the Scottish Office publication on grant- aided expenditure for 1992-93--it will be interesting to know how savings of as much as £75 million will be made from a combined regional and district service that costs £68 million. Something does not add up, and it has not been explained. It is an example of how the Touche Ross analysis has been shown to be seriously flawed. The big issue has been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow--transitional costs. Every time any Government service is reorganised, it costs more than anybody anticipated. Extra costs are always involved in changing staff, structures, corporate identities, maps and everything else. I see that the cost of winding up existing authorities has been estimated by Touche Ross to be £88 million over five years before inflation, whereas experience elsewhere shows that expenditure on this item could amount to 3.7 per cent. of current expenditure--£275 million. That is crucial to any sensible cost analysis of this upheaval. We have not had proper answers to those questions.

I am baffled how the Chief Secretary to the Treasury can associate his name with the Bill, because anybody in the Treasury must be able to take a pretty jaded look at the figures produced by Touche Ross, the figures being postulated by the Scottish Office and the wildly optimistic ideas proposed by the Under-Secretary to justify this dotty gerrymandering operation.

Of course the transition will be very costly, and in many cases it will give rise to more expensive, less efficient services. Nowhere could that be clearer than in the local authority that the Government propose to serve my constituents. They are proposing to split East Lothian in two and to float off one bit that happens to have a majority of Tory councillors and add it to part of the Borders region, Berwickshire, which has a few Tory councillors, in the hope that they will produce between them a Tory- controlled local authority. It is pretty blatant. There is no other reason for the proposal. In order to carve out that bizarre boundary straddling the Lammermuir hills, with only one all-weather road linking the two parts of that proposed local authority, the Government suggest a local authority that will comprise a

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population of 75,000 souls. That would be the smallest mainland local authority in Britain. It would be an all- purpose local authority, running the whole range of services, including social services and education. It would have a sparse population in a large area that is naturally divided by a range of hills. It would have a very small tax and population base. Of course the proposal will be expensive.

If the Government pursue that demented idea, my constituents will be saddled with an extremely expensive range of local authority services. They will be paying very high council tax bills, and they will probably receive poorer quality services.

The Treasury will have to pay more, and that means that the taxpayer will have to pay more, as a result of the costs of transition. There will also be a range of other costs. At the end of the day, our constituents will be paying higher local authority taxes for worse services. I do not know how the Government have the brass neck to introduce this kind of legislation to the House, but I suppose that nothing should surprise us nowadays.

11.15 pm

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East) : I commend the considered, thoughtful and quite excellent speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). Conservative Members should take on board his point about the breadth of opposition in Scotland to the measure. The Bill is not simply opposed by political parties on the Opposition Benches. It is not just opposed by local authorities in Scotland. Opposition to the Bill is much wider.

My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow referred to Mr. Sandy Watson, the chairman of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland. I met Mr. Watson and Mr. Peter Bates, the chairman of the Association of Directors of Social Work. They made exactly the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow made earlier. They said that voluntary organisations, parents' bodies, the Churches and all those who benefit from local services in Scotland are 100 per cent. opposed to the Bill. They will not understand why Conservative Members chose to vote down an opportunity for them to have a say in the Committee stage of the Bill when they voted against committal to a Special Standing Committee.

Conservative Members must accept that, because they have a majority in the Chamber and can railroad through whatever legislation they choose, in the end that is bound to rebound against them if they continue to ignore the democratic opinion of those who send us to this House in the first place. That is particularly apposite in this debate.

We must remember that the party in government won only 25 per cent. of the vote in Scottish constituencies at the last general election. The results of an opinion poll will appear in the Scottish press tomorrow which will show that the current standing of the Conservative party in Scotland is just 15 per cent. Even those who supported the Government at the last election are turning away from them because of measures like this which the Government are railroading through the House.

By ignoring that public opinion, the Government simply undermine public confidence in institutions like Parliament. In the long run, they will undermine the longevity of this Parliament by taking such a cavalier attitude to those we represent.

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Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland) : Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in the highlands, the previous Conservative party parliamentary candidate in my constituency leads the campaign against the Government's proposals in Caithness? Is he also aware that another former Conservative candidate, Mr. John Young, has also joined that campaign and rejects the Government's proposals most vociferously? Not only are non- party people opposed to the measure : Conservatives are also against it.

Mr. McAllion : The hon. Gentleman has made a fair point. The last education committee of Tayside council to consider the measure passed a resolution unanimously, with the support of Conservative councillors, which expressed concern about the implications of the measure and its impact on education, particularly on Catholic education.

If the Minister and his Back-Bench colleagues believe that they can continue to ignore the opinions of just about everybody in Scotland and do as they like to the Scottish people and even to their own supporters in the Conservative party, they are in for a very rude awakening when the measure eventually winds its way from the House and into the real world outside.

I should like to refer in some detail to some financial aspects of the Bill --in particular, staff who are likely to be rendered surplus to requirements as a result of the move to single-tier authorities. I am speaking about headquarters staff in regional councils--for example, staff in administration, finance, property and planning departments People who work in such departments in regional councils are likely to be declared surplus to requirements as a result of the Bill. I will give way to the Minister on this point. If staff are rendered surplus, made redundant or given early retirement as a result of the Bill, will the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 apply? If they take employment with authorities, will the same wages and conditions of employment apply in their new jobs? That is an important issue, and it is worrying people who work for local authorities, but we have had no guidance from the Government.

Equally, we must also consider severance payments to staff who are declared surplus. Upon privatisation, there were generous severance terms for people who worked for the gas industry, the Thames water authority, the Central Electricity Generating Board, the South of Scotland electricity board, and, in the Post Office,

telecommunications. Will similar severance schemes be available to local authority staff who have to quit their jobs as a result of the Bill?

If the Minister thinks that he is likely to achieve savings to the public purse from the sale of regional council property which is no longer required by the succeeding authorities, he should consider the situation in Dundee at the moment, and Tayside house in particular. The freehold of that building belongs to Tayside regional council, but the condition of the building is such that it requires significant expenditure to bring it up to a proper standard. As the Minister knows, the market for office accommodation in Dundee is very slack indeed, and the likelihood that the local authority will be able to make any saving from the sale of Tayside house is virtually non-existent.

If the Minister has worked into his calculations that he is going to make savings from the sale of buildings such as

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Tayside house, he had better think again. He will know from his friends elsewhere in the Government that Customs house in Dundee, which the Government spent more than £1 million to refurbish with a view to selling it, remains on the market. Nobody wants it. Given that track record, the property savings which the Government claim to arise from the Bill are almost certain not to occur.

The motion makes available to the Secretary of State money with which to finance borrowings by water and sewerage authorities. The point of the argument on Second Reading was that the Government would not privatise Scottish water companies. Of course, they had to say that, given the massive opposition to privatisation in Scotland : fewer than 1 per cent. of those who responded to the consultation process supported privatisation.

We now have three quangos set up by the Secretary of State for Scotland. In effect, they will offer the private sector contracts to design, build, operate and control services. The private sector will then be in complete control of water and sewerage operations in Scotland. It will set the prices, and it will make profits from water and sewerage services in Scotland. What we have is privatisation. The very heart of the Bill is flawed ; there is an inaccurate analysis. Perhaps there was a deliberate attempt by the Government to mislead their own supporters and Back-Bench Members, saying that they would not privatise water services when they were doing so but are keeping the fact behind a public sector smokescreen. That flaw runs through the whole Bill.

Several hon. Members rose --

Mr. McAllion : My hon. Friends have indicated that they would like to intervene in this short debate, so I shall leave it there. The Government must take on board the fact that their majority in this House does not give them the democratic right to destroy local government in Scotland. If they proceed with the destruction of local government in Scotland, they will pay the ultimate political price for it.

11.24 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart) : I shall try to answer as many points as I can in this short debate. Undoubtedly, hon. Members will raise these and similar points in Committee.

Ministers listen to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) with great care. We all appreciate his experience and knowledge in this specific area, and we look forward to his contributions in Committee. The concept of the Chief Secretary not knowing about the costs of the Bill must bring a slightly wry smile to one's face, because the Treasury takes a keen, and right and proper, interest in all areas of public expenditure. I can confirm that the Treasury has been rightly involved in all the calculations of costs.

Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale) : We are not saying that the Scottish Office has not told the Chief Secretary the cost of the reform ; we are saying that the Government have not told the Chief Secretary the truth about the costs. Indeed, they have not taken on board the real costs of local government reform.

Mr. Stewart : The Government have fully taken on board the real costs of local government reform. Hon.

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Members have referred to the Touche Ross report. Not only did we have that report : there were comments on that report, which we have taken fully into account in the figures that have been published. Figures for 1994-95, 1995-96 and 1996-97 have been announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. They relate to the Touche Ross figures as amended in the light of consultation.

[Interruption.] Is the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) suggesting that the Government should not have taken into account the comments that were made on the Touche Ross report? Of course we took them into account.

The estimates for a 15-year period are that the costs will be between £128 million and £196 million with annual savings estimated in the range of £22 million to £66 million. It is sensible to put forward a range, because much will depend on the decisions of individual authorities.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) asked me about the allowance for surplus buildings with regard to a specific building in Dundee. We have been extremely conservative--

It being three-quarters of an hour after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker-- put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business).

Question put :

The House divided : Ayes 299, Noes 122

Division No. 71] [11.28 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)

Aitken, Jonathan

Alexander, Richard

Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)

Amess, David

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)

Ashby, David

Aspinwall, Jack

Atkins, Robert

Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)

Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)

Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)

Baldry, Tony

Banks, Matthew (Southport)

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Bates, Michael

Batiste, Spencer

Bellingham, Henry

Bendall, Vivian

Beresford, Sir Paul

Biffen, Rt Hon John

Blackburn, Dr John G.

Bonsor, Sir Nicholas

Booth, Hartley

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia

Bowden, Andrew

Bowis, John

Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes

Brandreth, Gyles

Brazier, Julian

Bright, Graham

Brooke, Rt Hon Peter

Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)

Browning, Mrs. Angela

Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)

Budgen, Nicholas

Burns, Simon

Burt, Alistair

Butler, Peter

Butterfill, John

Carlisle, John (Luton North)

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Cash, William

Channon, Rt Hon Paul

Chapman, Sydney

Clappison, James

Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)

Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coe, Sebastian

Colvin, Michael

Congdon, David

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cope, Rt Hon Sir John

Couchman, James

Cran, James

Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)

Davies, Quentin (Stamford)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Deva, Nirj Joseph

Devlin, Tim

Dicks, Terry

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Duncan, Alan

Duncan-Smith, Iain

Dunn, Bob

Durant, Sir Anthony

Dykes, Hugh

Elletson, Harold

Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)

Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)

Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)

Evans, Roger (Monmouth)

Evennett, David

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