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Mr. Kynoch : I hear what the hon. Gentleman says and should be interested to know whether, were it ever elected to power, the Labour party would hold a royal commission before setting up a Scottish Parliament.
Mr. Gallie : The hon. Members for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) talk about a commission to ascertain the requirements of the Scottish people, but does my hon. Friend agree that the Scottish Labour party is particularly unable to identify what the Scottish people want, which is, above all, single-tier local government and the abolition of Strathclyde ?
On the issue of transition, I understand my right hon. Friend's logic in not wanting regional councillors to have to serve for six years. However, I must admit that I would prefer the 1994 elections to be postponed--
I should prefer them to be postponed because we need a meaningful transition, and to ask a regional councillor to serve for only two years would not be satisfactory. A councillor who has already served a four-year term might not want to serve the full six years but it is unreasonable to ask a new councillor to serve for only two years. I should have preferred it had my right hon. Friend been able to find a way to obtain sufficient agreement to pass quickly legislation that would enable the council elections to be postponed until 1996. Further to the issue of transition, reference has already been made to the use of assets and I hope that optimum use will be made of them. I also hope that many buildings occupied by councils may be used in the new structure.
I am aware that the previous local government reorganisation involved an increase in costs, mainly due to a significant increase in salaries. I am therefore pleased that that issue is being dealt with and that employees will get a fair deal out of the transition. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has recommended a staff commission, which will look after employees' interests, and the transfer of contracts to the new authorities should ensure that there will be some continuity. The Bill also provides that he can establish a body to examine excessive salary increases as it is exceedingly important to ensure uniformity throughout Scotland.
I wonder whether the Bill goes far enough and whether the controls are sufficient. I refer my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for local government in Scotland to Monklands district council. I was very concerned to read of the alleged goings-on in Monklands. An article in The Scotsman of 17 December 1992 stated :
"Councillors are accused of using their position to ensure friends and relatives are shortlisted for jobs at every level within the council. A system of pink and green applications is alleged to have enabled recruiting officers to favour certain applications". The Guardian of 5 January 1993 also reported :
"At least 22 close relatives of Labour Scottish councillors have secured jobs within the Council".
Has my right hon. Friend been approached by either of the Members of Parliament representing Monklands with suggestions that the issue should be covered in the Bill to ensure that there are adequate controls and that priority will not be given to any particular group of people when staff are recruited for the new councils? The Labour party held its own inquiry into Monklands and The Herald of 5 March 1993 reports that Mrs. Ann McGuire, the chairman of the Labour party's Scottish executive, admitted, on the "jobs for the boys" allegation, that
"the Council could be open to criticism at the level of involvement that the councillors have in the selection procedures at the lower echelons of council officials".
I do not expect my right hon. Friend to respond immediately, but I hope that, during our debates on the Bill, he will seriously consider the provision of adequate controls to ensure that such goings-on do not occur in the establishment of the new council structures.
Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) : I believe that the hon. Gentleman is a qualified lawyer, so we are entitled to expect him to speak with greater clarity than that. What exactly is he saying is wrong at Monklands district council? If he is saying that there is something wrong with the selection procedures, and if a senior officer of the Labour party is saying that steps will be taken to put
Column 560it right, why is the hon. Gentleman demanding legislation? I do not understand his point ; perhaps it is the cheap point that was made by the Secretary of State for the Environment, who, when challenged about Westminster council, said that it was a matter for the local authority, not the Crown. I think that the Secretary of State will give exactly the same reply this afternoon.
Mr. Hogg rose--
Mr. Kynoch : I must also correct the hon. Gentleman. I am not sure whether I am flattered to be called a lawyer. In fact, I came from business and was a mechanical engineer by profession, not a lawyer. I have finished with that issue but I should like confirmation that it will be considered as the Bill passes through its various stages.
Decentralisation is clearly of particular importance for rural authorities and I speak as someone representing a rural constituency. I understand my right hon. Friend's arguments for having a large rural authority surrounding a city in order to provide a counterbalance to ensure that the authority is large enough to provide local services in a proper and cost- effective way. I also greatly welcome his recognition that one needs decentralisation for the proper delivery of local services. I hope that, under decentralisation, he will still be able to use as much as possible of the existing local government structure.
My hon. Friend the Minister with responsiblity for local government in Scotland is quoted as saying that he recognises the benefit of community councils and their contribution to consultation in the new council structure. Community councils have served a useful function locally as advisory panels for local government and I trust that they will continue to play an important role under the new structure when we shall have larger rural authorities.
I was interested to hear what the hon. Member for Hamilton had to say about water. He appeared to be worried about cost and the delivery of service but also said that water services should be left as they are. If by that he means that we should leave water services with the nine existing authorities, I fail to understand him because, as I understand the Bill, those authorities will cease to exist and will therefore not be able to manage any water authority. If, however, he believes that water services should be turned over to the 28 proposed authorities, that is a different matter. However, 28 authorities would be far too many to ensure the uniformity that my right hon. Friend mentioned.
Clearly, there will have to be significant capital expenditure in the water industry in the next 10 to 15 years. I can see that nowhere more than in my constituency
Column 561where, due to the success of oil and the development of the north-east, Aberdeen local services--for example, sewage treatment plants--are bursting at the seams and desperately need renewing to cope with developments in the area. I hope that the funds will be more readily available through the use of private finance as a result of the structures that my right hon. Friend has proposed. I welcome the provisions in clause 80 to introduce capital from the private sector. The Bill means a partnership between public organisation and private finance and should be of immense benefit to consumers. I would be wrong if I did not mention rural areas and the representations that I have received from the Scottish Landowners Federation, which is concerned about the welfare of its members- -many of whom are my constituents--who live and work in rural communities. It wants to ensure that they are not hard done by because of the cost of implementing water services in the countryside. Obviously, I welcome the setting up of a customers council, which will protect the interests of consumers. I hope that representatives on the council will recognise the needs of those who live in rural communities and the countryside.
Mr. Foulkes : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. At the beginning of the debate from the Back Benches you sensibly and rightly asked hon. Members to be brief. The hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch) has been talking for 20 minutes and has a lot of paper left in his hand. Do you have no power to ask him to draw his remarks to a halt?
Mr. Kynoch : I am trying to talk as concisely as I can about a comprehensive Bill that has important implications for my constituents and the people of Scotland. If the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) is not interested in dealing with serious matters, that is up to him.
I hope that other aspects of water will be dealt with in Committee, in particular the legal framework for installing new water mains, which is also of interest to my constituents. I recognise that controls are necessary and that the controls built into the Bill are clearly better than the previous ones, but I hope that there will be detailed consideration of the matter in Committee.
Mr. Foulkes : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Am I not right in saying that such detailed matters are for Committee? We are discussing the principle of the Bill. Surely you have the power to draw that to the attention of the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside. He is going to be on the Committee anyway, so surely he can raise such matters then and talk only about the principles of the Bill now.
Madam Deputy Speaker : It is perfectly true that we are dealing with the principles of the Bill. Normally one allows reasonable latitude for hon. Members to make particular points, but I remind the House that it is true that we are dealing with the principles.
Mr. Kynoch : Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was endeavouring to keep to the principles of the water provisions in the Bill rather than the detail, which will obviously be discussed at great length in Committee.
During the summer, boundaries were the major topic of conversation in my constituency. This is a significant Bill, which will have much more import for the people of Scotland and to ensure that it works well, it is important to get the fine details right. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State knows only too well that I have approached him and my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for local government concerning two boundaries within my existing constituency and part of that of the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce). Under the parliamentary boundary reform, it is proposed that that area will come within the constituency that I represent. I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend has said that such matters will be debated in full in Committee. I hope that he will listen to rational arguments and that we can get those matters rectified. As suggested by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in previous debates on the subject, I shall ensure that amendments are tabled to enable proper discussion of those subjects.
Regardless of what Opposition Members say about cost--their arguments seem to be totally inconsistent as they go for single-tier authorities, but do not tell us what the cost would be--I believe that the Bill is good for the people of Scotland and for local government in Scotland. I hope that we can get it through as quickly as physically possible.
Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) : I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute so early to the debate. I hope that the temporary Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch) will forgive me if I do not follow all his arguments, although I agree with him on one matter. He said that he did not want elections for the region to be held in 1994, and I can well understand that. If I were an hon. Member serving on the Conservative Benches, I would not want elections for anything in 1994, 1995, 1996 or at any time this side of the turn of the century.
I can well understand why he does not want elections, but he will have to face them. There will be elections for the region and I am sure that, when the people of Scotland are asked how they view the Government's conduct, they will not hesitate to give the reply that they have given so consistently over the years.
In common with all my colleagues in the official Opposition and the other Opposition parties, I am less than impressed by the Government's proposals in the Bill. Nothing that I heard from the Secretary of State this afternoon lessened my fears for the future of Scotland's local authorities. It seems that the aim of local government should be to provide efficient services on a cost-effective basis within a democratic framework, but none of those objectives is dealt with or met in the Bill.
The question that remains to be asked is why we are having the reorganisations at all. The answer is clear. The Conservatives have failed to win councils or parliamentary seats in Scotland and they propose blatantly to fix things. The charge that that is gerrymandering is entirely valid. I think that all hon. Members would accept that redrawing boundaries for Scottish local government is difficult. It is not easy to marry the concentrations of population and the geography, but there is not a shred of evidence that those
Column 563considerations have ever been dealt with by the Tory Ministers who drafted the plans. It is all too evident that the proposals' aims are political and owe nothing to the provision of effective, cost-effective or democratic local government.
That fact is best illustrated by referring to my constituency. It is proposed that Cumbernauld and Kilsyth should be included in the new North Lanarkshire authority, but the area has not been a part of Lanarkshire at any time in its history. Cumbernauld was in Dumbartonshire detached--it was not part of main Dumbartonshire. Before borough status and the last reorganisation in the mid-1970s, services were provided by Dumbarton county council. After the formation of Strathclyde regional council and the district council of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, services other than district services were provided by the Dumbarton division of the regional council--I suppose that one could describe that as the county council continuing. More recently, social work provision moved to Monklands and health services were provided through the Lanarkshire health board. However, my constituents would have preferred their health provision to come from the Greater Glasgow health board. That is said with no disrespect to Monklands general hospital, or any other Lanarkshire hospital, or to the health provisions of the Lanarkshire health board, but is simply a reflection of where people come from.
They come from the city of Glasgow, and Kilsyth has a long historical attachment to Glasgow's hospital service. Lanarkshire and the towns of Motherwell, Coatbridge and Airdrie have never been associated with the provision of local government services for my constituency. Moreover, those locations are not easily reached by public transport from Cumbernauld or Kilsyth. It goes without saying that my constituents do not use--
Mr. Hogg : No, I am certainly not saying that. If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my case, I will make positive arguments for its being part of Dumbartonshire. I pointed out that historically we are part of Dumbartonshire. [Interruption.] The proposal is not to put Cumbernauld and Kilsyth in with Monklands ; it is to create a North Lanarkshire authority.
The obvious new authority for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth would be the council that was identified in the White Paper. That was the point to which I referred earlier. I think that the hon. Member hails from Dumbartonshire.
Mr. Hogg : We had better get that right, just for the record. The hon. Gentleman represents Aberdeen, South and may not be altogether familiar with Cumbernauld and Kilsyth and its location, but the obvious new authority for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth would be the council that was identified in the White Paper as East
Dumbartonshire. That used to be the name of the constituency that I represented
Column 564here a long time ago--the constituency that I originally represented in Parliament. In that authority we would continue to be part of the geographical and administrative area to which we have always related.
The community has been excluded from East Dumbartonshire because it would distort the Government's aim to produce a Tory-dominated council. To that end, they have decided to create East Dumbartonshire and exclude not only my constituency but part of Strathkelvin which is represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) and that part of the council area in Strathkelvin which is represented on the regional council by the president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Councillor Charles Gray. Strong representations have been made to my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West for that area to be included with Strathkelvin when it goes to the new East Dumbartonshire.
The area of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, currently the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth district council area, would be better placed in that authority and it would be better if that authority were given its correct name of Lennox. That is the view of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth district council. It is the view of the people of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth as revealed in a parliamentary answer that was given to me recently. There is overwhelming public support for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth being part of the new East Dumbartonshire authority, and no consent whatever from the public for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth to be part of North Lanarkshire.
I will now discuss the services of local government. I think that the Government's proposals pose a serious threat to the continuation of the excellent services that we have enjoyed from Scottish local government. I can honestly say--I think that it goes for most of my colleagues--that we rarely hear complaints about Strathclyde regional council and the provision of its services. It is a first class, well managed, well run local authority. That is equally true of the district councils that have the difficult task of administering, in the main, the housing function.
Throughout the 15 years that I have served in Parliament and Strathclyde regional council and the district councils have been in existence, I have not encountered serious complaints about the administration of the authorities. On very few occasions have I had to fall out with those authorities in any major way. That has not been my experience and I am confident that my colleagues would support me in that.
I believe that the Government's proposals seriously threaten many of the major services of local government. I shall refer only to education--the service which is most threatened by the Bill. The Government's education policy in Scotland has failed. It has not secured public support. If it had, we would have opted-out schools, but we do not, because parents did not consent to that. They have not consented to the eccentric and somewhat radical ideas that have gained currency elsewhere in the United Kingdom, because they know what is good and what works. They know that education authorities such as Strathclyde regional council have not failed them and that they have dealt well with the difficulties foisted on them by the underfunding that has been such a feature of the present Government.
Column 565I believe that the Government will do what my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) hinted at. Scotland will be abused in much the same way as London has been abused, in educational terms.
Mr. Hogg : I believe that the post-Inner London education authority situation, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, will be the experience of Scottish parents if we allow the Bill to be passed. I am certain that in Scotland or among the Scottish media it will not be popular to draw parallels with London, but the experience in London has not been good and the proposals that are before us have much in common with what has happened here in the metropolis. I am certain that the people of Scotland do not wish that to happen to them and that they are right to reject the proposals. Much research has been carried out for me into what has happened with ILEA and I will make that available to my hon. Friends who will serve on the Committee. I hope that they will be able to use that material to expose what will happen if we move from the democratic control of elected councillors serving as an elected education authority to the type of diluted quango proposed by the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart).
Mr. Stewart indicated dissent .
Mr. Hogg : The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I do not think that he has read his own Bill. If he reads it--which I recommend that he do, because he might be frightened at some of the things that he discovers--he will discover what the Government propose for education, which is a dilution of democratic control. It is a dilution of parent power, and it is quite deliberate.
The Under-Secretary is doing it because the other policy, for which school boards were designed and opting out was designed, has failed and been rejected. No one agrees with him on education policy and that is why the proposals are before us today. It is one of the reasons why we are having a reorganisation of local government which no one in Scotland asked for and no one in Scottish local government argued for, but which the Minister thought was necessary to bolster a situation in which his policies had been rejected. That is why this is happening.
We shall lose control over major services such as education and social work. There will be a diminution of council--
Mr. Stewart : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I am genuinely puzzled by what he is saying. It is clear from the Bill that education and social work remain the responsibilities of the new authority.
Mr. Hogg : I am not surprised that the Minister is puzzled. Puzzlement seems to be his permanent condition. Is he really saying, however, that very small local authorities will be education authorities, with all the complex services that such authorities operate, and that they will be able to make the specialist provision that we enjoy in the Lothian region and the Strathclyde region? Is he really saying that the tiny minds of Eastwood, who
Column 566would be operating the tiny authority of Eastwood, will really be able to do that? Is that what the hon. Gentleman is arguing?
Mr. Hogg : I am not sure that that point illustrates very much. It obviously pleases the Minister, who is sitting looking awfully pleased with himself for having made that point. I am not sure that the point is worth making. Western Isles cannot be compared with great industrial conurbations such as Glasgow, in which education is administered by Strathclyde regional council.
To draw an analogy between an education authority with the complexities of Glasgow and Western Isles is fatuous. I am surprised that anyone who takes responsibility for Government policy in this area should make such a foolish point. The Government's proposals enjoy no respect among the people of Scotland. No support for these policies is expressed anywhere.
Mr. Gallie : Is the hon. Gentleman's mail bag as packed as mine is with representations from district councils throughout Scotland urging support for their case for becoming single-tier local authorities? If he is receiving such representations, will he withdraw his comments?
Mr. Hogg : No. I cannot say that I am receiving such mail. By the Government's admission, the overwhelming majority of the more than 4, 000 letters that the Secretary of State and I have had from my constituency oppose the Government's proposals for local government reform, oppose the proposal that Cumbernauld and Kilsyth should be part of North Lanarkshire and support the proposal that we should be part of a new Lennox authority. On that note, I end my speech. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie).
Mr. Raymond S. Robertson (Aberdeen, South) : This is the third occasion on which we have debated the reform of local government in Scotland on the Floor of the House. Despite the three debates, one statement in the House and one debate in the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh, the Opposition still seek to deny their past commitment to single-tier authorities. They continue to opt out of the real debate and they still fail to grasp the issues and the arguments involved. We saw that today when the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) had to pad out his speech by ranting about Westminster city council and by rambling on about the Inner London education authority and the Greater Glasgow health board. None of that had any relevance to the Bill.
The Opposition's approach is interesting. When we debate cost, for example, the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) formulates his attack in a sophisticated way. He thinks of a number, adds a nought and then multiples it by a factor of anything between one and 31, depending on which day of the month it happens to be. If that does not get him a headline, he adds another nought. He goes on until someone, somewhere--anyone, anywhere
Column 567--picks up his press release and gives him a headline. He then smirks with satisfaction, not realising that out there, no one--not even his own party's council groups--believes him any more. As we have heard before, Dundee district council, which is Labour-controlled, predicts savings of £1.8 million. Dunfermline district council, which is Labour-controlled, predicts savings of more than £8 million from the proposed reforms.
Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North) : Any hon. Member could produce a precedent of a single education authority that has been turned into a dozen education authorities and could then show that the number of officials above a certain level has increased by a factor of about 75 per cent. Why is that irrelevant to the present debate ?
Mr. Robertson : I shall answer that question if the hon. Gentleman stands by his manifesto commitment to return to single-tier authorities. Is he trying to say that the way in which we propose to achieve single-tier authorities will be more expensive than the way that he proposed ? Throughout this debate and our debate last summer, the Opposition have sought to deny their previous commitment to this policy. The hon. Gentleman has just displayed that.
When we debate boundaries, the hon. Member for Hamilton and his party are all over the place. On the previous occasion on which we debated the matter on the Floor of the House, he told us that he believed that commuter communities--those were his words--surrounding cities should be in the same unitary authority as their city and he used Dundee as an example. He now screws up his eyes. If he looks at column 210 of the Official Report for 22 November 1993, he will see it all there.
That is not what the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) is saying about Aberdeen and it is certainly not what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) is saying about Glasgow. Perhaps the hon. Member for Hamilton, in agreeing to this diversity of approach, is quietly accepting what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been saying since last summer--that to be genuinely local and properly sensitive, there can be no one solution that is correct for all parts of Scotland. Uniformity of principle does not demand uniformity of approach.
Mr. George Robertson : The hon. Gentleman and I share a surname. Surely the hon. Gentleman can share the same standard. If he quotes me, he should quote me accurately. In relation to commuter communities, I said :
"In Tayside, despite the changes announced by the Secretary of State today, Dundee city has still lost some of its major commuter communities in Monifieth and in Invergowrie. That leaves the city to pay the hefty bills for services provided to those people who are now taken out of the city boundaries."--[ Official Report, 22 November 1993 ; Vol. 233, c. 210.]
That point related specifically to Dundee, which I mentioned in my speech today. Where is the general principle that the hon. Gentleman is now beginning to develop as a policy?
Mr. Robertson : Surely the hon. Gentleman is saying--I shall gladly give way to him again--that communities should be with their city. Why is that to be relevant to Dundee, but not to Aberdeen? That is the point that I am
Column 568making. You are all over the place. You are saying one thing for one city and quite another for another to try to suit your argument--
It is in Labour's opposition to the Bill in general that we see its complete disarray. The grand campaign of non-co-operation by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, about which my right hon. Friend talked, was first on, then off, then on again with refinements, then off, and then on again with refinements. It is now expected to be abandoned by the end of the week. We must not despair. The hon. Member for Hamilton tells us that, he still has an ace to play. He tells us that to breathe new life into the campaign against the Bill, he plans to motivate a vast army of angry Conservative Back Benchers from English constituencies who, we are told, believe it or not, are fearful of their seats because of the reform of Scottish local government. According to the hon. Gentleman's line, they will, together with Opposition parties, amend, wreck and finally defeat the Bill.
Looking around me today, I have to say that it would have been nice if there had been some more English colleagues here to listen and perhaps to take part. I see no vast, angry army, whom the hon. Member for Hamilton hopes to employ. My hon. Friends show by their absence from this debate that they are far more prepared to take the leadership of my right hon. Friend than they are to take the words of the hon. Member for Hamilton.