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Mr. Robertson : I am saying that English colleagues who are not here are behaving as we do when purely English business is being discussed. We tend to do other things and then return to the Chamber.

I return to the point about Aberdeen and north-east Scotland. On publication of my right hon. Friend's consultative document and the subsequent White Papter, the responses from Aberdeen and from the north- east poured in, from all the district councils, the regional council, the Conservative council groups, individuals and other interested bodies.

When listening to Opposition Front-Bench Members, as they fulminate and demonstrate against my right hon. Friend's proposals, one must ask whether the hon. Member for Hamilton is the shadow Secretary of State for all of Scotland or just for the part of Scotland from which he comes and in which his party is especially strong--Strathclyde and Midlothian.

The hon. Member for Hamilton must realise that, if he aspires to the great office of Secretary of State, he must be prepared to back all of Scotland and not simply that part of our country with which he is most comfortable. His attitude seems to be, and his speech confirmed it, that he will fight hard for Strathclyde and Lothian and damn the rest. It is notable that he had little to say about anything north of Edinburgh.

The response to what my right hon. Friend is proposing for Aberdeen is best summed up by a quotation from one of the submissions :

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"In short, local government in Aberdeen can be improved by re-establishing the city as a unitary authority. This would promote a more efficient, accountable, economical and responsive local administration and service delivery."

That letter was not from me, but from the Labour group of the city of Aberdeen district council which was unanimously adopted by the council's Labour group, Conservative group, Liberal group and two Scottish National party councillors.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), who is not in his place, has also gone on the record as saying :

"There will certainly be a great satisfaction at the restoration of a single-tier authority for the city of Aberdeen."

Perhaps the feeling in Aberdeen was best summed up by the Press and Journal, which carried this headline the morning after the publication of the White Paper : "Aberdeen Achieves Goal". Outside the city, an Aberdeenshire council is proposed, which, while large enough to act as a counterbalance for the new city authority, is also of a size which will allow it to be genuinely local and to be accessible and accountable to those who depend on it for their services. My right hon. Friend has again responded to many of the fears and concerns of the smaller district councils in the Grampian region, which were rightly concerned with the principle of accountability and the question of sensitivity in dealing with local matters.

For example, Kincardine and Deeside district council's response stated :

"Specifically, a combined Gordon/Banff and Buchan/Kincardine and Deeside unit would be acceptable"

and said that such an authority

"would not reflect local loyalties and allegiances. (There is little in common between the residents of say, St. Cyrus, and Huntly or Peterhead)."

My right hon. Friend's proposals address those concerns. The larger authorities, in terms of land area, must be instructed to come forward with detailed plans for decentralisation and dispersal throughout the authority area, which will further help to alleviate many of the fears.

There has been concern over my right hon. Friend's plans to include the suburb of Westhill in the new Aberdeen authority. Much nonsense has been talked over its similarity with other places such as Banchory, Ellon and Inverurie. Those who have made such statements obviously do not know the geography of the area. The extent of the present district council boundary, measured as the crow flies from Aberdeen's town house, the accepted centre of the city, is 9.7 miles north-west at Hatton of Fintray, 9.75 miles west at Leuchar Moss and 9.5 miles south-west at Moss-side, while the most westerly point of the community of Westhill lies some 8 miles from the town house, comfortably in the radius of the present district council boundary. In road terms from the town house, Dyce is 7.1 miles away and is already inside the city boundary and Peterculter is 7.3 miles and is already inside the city boundary, whereas Westhill is only 7.2 miles away--nearer to the town house than Peterculter.

The city of Aberdeen district council's Labour group acknowledged those facts when it said in its response :

"Portlethen and Westhill function to a significant extent as dormitory suburbs of Aberdeen. In social and economic terms they are very much part of the overall activity patterns of the city. Their location, close to the existing boundary distinguishes them from other settlements in the Aberdeen area (ie Ellon, Banchory,

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Stonehaven, Inverurie) where the effect of factors such as distance enable those communities to be more self- sustaining and identifiable in their own right."

In all the debates since the publication of the White Paper, I have heard no one deny that the people of Westhill look to the city of Aberdeen and none deny that their focus is the city.

It is to the city that the people of Westhill go in their thousands to work each day. The Westhill people go to Aberdeen to catch a long-distance bus or train, for their weekly shopping, their entertainment, to eat out and for their leisure and recreation. To get to Aberdeen, they travel on the upgraded A944, which has been part-dualled to cope with the volume of traffic.

Mr. Hood : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I find our tour of Aberdeen interesting, but I thought that you ruled earlier that this is the Second Reading of a Bill which covers a bigger part of Scotland than Aberdeen. I hope that you will ask the hon. Gentleman to tell us more of his views on the rest of Scotland after what he said about my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson).

Madam Deputy Speaker : It is perfectly true that we are debating the general principles of the Bill, but during such a debate, there is no reason why hon. Members should not use illustrative examples if they so wish. It must be for the Chair to decide whether the balance is right. I am sure that all hon. Members will bear that in mind.

Mr. Robertson : I shall give way to the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg).

Mr. Norman Hogg : The hon. Gentleman will know that, unlike him, I am a real Aberdonian ; born and bred in the city and the son of a distinguished Lord Provost. I am sure that he would agree that my qualifications for asking him about Aberdeen and the surrounding area are not to be challenged. I am interested in what he says about all those areas. Would not that be a case for Eastwood being part of Glasgow?

Mr. Robertson : I knew that somewhere, somebody sitting on the Opposition Benches would fall into that trap. Westhill is a tenth of the size of Eastwood. There is no parallel whatever. A portrait of the hon. Gentleman's father hangs with distinction in Aberdeen town house, which is soon to be the home of an all-purpose city of Aberdeen authority, about which I am sure he will be delighted. The A944 has been part-dualled to cope with the volume of traffic from Westhill to the city centre. Inverurie, on the other hand, can be reached only by an A class road into Aberdeen or by travelling on a number of tortuous B and C class roads. It is also worth noting that on 10 January, the Bluebird bus service increased its off-peak service between Westhill and the city centre in response to customer demand.

The case for the inclusion of Westhill into the city has been supported by Councillor Geoff Hadley, the former independent convenor of the Grampian regional council and no friend of the Government. In the Press and Journal on 9 September, he said :

"During the 25 years since Aberdeen County Council fell in with the developers Westhill has grown and been variously described as a garden suburb, dormitory town and satellite town--all terms which imply a population shunted between home and work locations. But this is not simply about commuting. I would guess that perhaps 90 per cent. of Westhill residents' activities associated

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with work, cultural affairs, social events, sports, shopping and so on relate to the Aberdeen city locus. Few will look to Inverurie or other towns in Gordon District for promoting their lifestyle. Given this, is there not a certain illogicality in the declared reluctance of Westhill residents to become part of Aberdeen? If local government is to be wholly local, Westhill being no further from the city centre than Dyce or Peterculter lends weight to a logical--if reluctant-- acquiesence to the Government's proposals for a merger."

Mr. Kynoch : I do not think that this is the place to debate such matters--that would be in Committee--but will my hon. Friend tell the House, for the benefit of those who do not know where Westhill is, the distance between Westhill and the nearest housing in Aberdeen city and what lies between there and Westhill?

Mr. Robertson : A more useful parallel for my hon. Friend to draw is that the commuter suburb of Peterculter, in his constituency, is 7.3 miles from the city centre and that Westhill, not in his constituency, is 7.2 miles from the city centre.

At present, the existing Grampian region gives the people of Westhill some say in the affairs of Aberdeen on a number of, although not all, important issues. In April 1996, all that will change. If Westhill remains outside the city, residents will be left as the poor relations with no democratic input into a city which plays such a large role in their everyday lives. They deserve representation in the city.

Today does not mark the end of the debate on local government reform, but it marks an end of the beginning. My right hon. Friend's proposals offer a new era in the affairs of local government in Scotland--strong, accountable and powerful unitary authorities--yet, at the same time, those councils will, by their very nature, be sensitive to local needs and responsive to local requirements. That is a stark contrast to what is on offer from the Opposition : an Edinburgh assembly plundering the power of local councils, to grab it and to take it to Edinburgh. It would have denuded town halls in Scotland of their power and centralised it at Calton Hill, thus taking decision making away from the people, rather than empowering the people through one councillor and one council. Two visions of Scotland's future are on offer. I am happy and proud to support the vision of my right hon. Friend, which the people of Scotland will endorse.

6.9 pm

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland) : It will have been noted how the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), in his infinite wisdom, patronis-ingly told the people of Westhill what was best for them, despite the fact that, in a house-to-house survey 98 per cent. of them said that they want to remain part of a rural authority. That attitude should come as no surprise from a member of a party whose Government are proposing a Bill to dictate, to patronise and to tell us what is best.

This is the biggest Scottish Bill since 1979, but it is one of the most disreputable Bills that I have seen since becoming a Member. Rather than being a well-designed vehicle to bring about a smooth reform of local government, we have a hybrid between a bulldozer and a parliamentary omnibus.

The Bill contains six different measures that could have merited separate legislation--reform of local government ; a fundamentally changed structure for water and sewerage

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services ; important detailed provisions on local government finance ; important changes in the organisation of the function of the reporter to the children's panel, which has scarcely had a mention so far ; significant changes to the legislation on road tolls ; and important detailed provisions on the reform of tourism--an important part of the Scottish economy which, because of the nature of the Bill, will scarcely receive the adequate consideration that it requires.

Each of those issues could be appropriately dealt with by a Scottish Parliament. The Bill, combined with the Government's proposals to smuggle in sweeping reforms of the police and prison administration under the cloak of English legislation and their failure to find time to legislate for proposals in the White Paper, "Scotland's Children", shows how ill served Scotland's legislative interests are by the current arrangements of the House.

If they were here, Conservative Members for English seats would not countenance a full domestic agenda for one Session being cobbled together in one Bill, and if that would not be good enough for them why should Scotland's legislation be treated in such a second-rate manner?

The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 was in Committee from early January until May. This Bill requires just as much time and I trust that the Government will make a commitment this evening to secure it.

The Bill is further tarnished by the procedures that have led to the proposed changes in local government structure, which are taking place only 20 years after a Conservative Government undertook the last reform. On that occasion, reform took place against a background of a royal commission and broad consensus. Today, there has been no overall view of local government and of its role and functions and no independent proposals on boundaries. Uncertainty exists among local authority employees about their future conditions of employment and whether they will have jobs--it would be welcome if the Minister could confirm that the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 will apply to staff who are faced with dislocation as a result of the reforms. Above all, there is no consensus. That is no basis for the stable reform of local government.

Perhaps the most disreputable aspect of the Bill is the profoundly anti- democratic thrust of its provisions. Should its provisions pass into law, the Government's talk of reviving the dynamism of local democracy will be seen for the fraud that we know it to be. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury expresses concern about the cynicism that he claims is now attaching itself to our national institutions, but he should not be surprised. His name appears on the Bill as a supporter.

What can be a more cynical gerrymander than the provisions that describe the new East Renfrewshire local authority ? One wonders whether the Chief Secretary has looked at them. For example, schedule I mentions

"the southern curtilages of No 43 Ben Lui Drive, Nos 52 to 50 Ben Wyvis Drive and northwards along the western curtilages of Nos 20 to 16 of the said Ben Wyvis Drive".

I want to know what has happened to Nos 22 to 48 Ben Wyvis drive. I am pleased to see the Chief Secretary standing at the Bar of the House. He should pay careful attention to schedule I if he wants to know why the population are rightly cynical of the Government's proposals.

Much has been made in the debate, and will be made in Committee, of boundaries. My hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), my hon.

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Friends who represent highland constituencies and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North- East (Mr. Campbell) have expressed deep concern about the proposals that affect their areas and appear to take no account of local opinion. The same applies to residents of Westhill, which is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce).

Such matters are critical to people who want to identify with their local community--and one hopes that even at this stage the Government will recognise the importance of that--but it will hardly matter where boundaries fall if local government has been stripped of its ability to govern. The Government have already introduced 150 measures to take such power from local communities and put it in the hands of central Government and the Bill goes a long way to completing that neutering process.

More than 180 provisions in the Bill extend the power of the Secretary of State to interfere in the decision making of locally elected councils. The phrase

"The Secretary of State may by order"

or words to similar effect, appear more than 70 times in the Bill and more often than not are subject to negative procedures. In addition, the Secretary of State can issue guidelines or directions in a further 47 instances to change, to block or to compel council decisions and in a further 65 instances the Bill is littered with open-ended phrases like

"as the Secretary of State thinks fit"

or "as he considers appropriate". Such powers tear the heart out of local democracy and are wholly inimical to what the Liberal Democratic party stands for.

The hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch) quoted from the Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto for the last election. I am pleased that he did. I regret only that more voters in Kincardine and Deeside did not vote for our proposals. My party believes in reforming and strengthening local government, but this Government are interested only in reforming and substantially weakening it.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce : Does my hon. Friend agree that the argument against a Scottish Parliament advanced by the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch) is undermined by my hon. Friend's point about the number of times that the Secretary of State proposes to intervene and direct local authorities? The purpose of a Scottish Parliament would not be to take power from local authorities but to make the Secretary of State and the Scottish Office accountable to the people of Scotland, about which the Conservative party does not care because it cannot win the support of the people of Scotland.

Mr. Wallace : My hon. Friend sums it up concisely. He will share our party's belief that local government should allow local people the power and opportunity to shape and influence their local communities with minimal interference from outside, from a Scottish Parliament or from the Secretary of State, and to be subject only to proper regard for the law and human rights and, ultimately, to the accountability of the ballot box.

What sticks in my craw as I read the Bill is the Government's arrogant underlying assumption that only a Tory Secretary of State will ever exercise the Bill's powers. That belief might stretch credibility today, but before Conservative Members vote for the Bill I hope that

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they will contemplate the possibility of a Labour Secretary of State having the kind of powers that are contained in the Bill.

Mr. Foulkes : Does the hon. Gentleman recall that, when a Labour Secretary of State proposed to reorganise local government, he set up a royal commission and put on it Miss Betty Harvie Anderson, a Tory Member of Parliament, and the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston)? That was the proper, democratic way to reorganise local government. I hope that he will give credit to a Labour Secretary of State for doing that.

Mr. Wallace : Indeed. The hon. Gentleman makes a factual point for which I readily give credit. That path should have been pursued in this instance.

Perhaps Conservative Members will read page 17 of the Bill and the proposed new section 62B to be added to the 1973 Act. What in that section would stop a Secretary of State of a different party considering that the local government functions of west central Scotland should be discharged jointly by a joint board comprising Dumbarton and Clydebank, East Dumbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, West Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire and City of Glasgow councils? The whole of Strathclyde region could be recreated. Indeed, any other region could be recreated as a result of the powers which the Bill gives to a Secretary of State. There is provision for statutory consultation, but that is unlikely to save the day if the standards of consultation operated by the present Scottish Office team were to be adopted. I hope that Conservative Members will think carefully about that before they vote to give such unfettered power to the Secretary of State.

Is it the Minister's intention or that of the Secretary of State to appoint persons other than elected councillors to the joint boards? How does the Minister expect the party balance to be established on those boards? While joint boards are less acceptable than directly elected authorities, they are nevertheless preferable to quangos. As might be expected from a Department which has an insatiable appetite for quangos, the Bill creates its fair share of them. The Scottish Office should learn lessons from quangos.

Having listened to the exchanges between the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), I believe that the House should be concerned by the clear and apparent discrepancies between the answers given to the Select Committee by Lord Fraser and the answer given by the Secretary of State in the House. I am also concerned about the fact that the Secretary of State appeared to know the contents of a letter from the head of the home civil service to the hon. Member for Hamilton. Perhaps the House should be informed of the protocol when an hon. Member writes to the head of the home civil service. Is he being tampered with and expeced to bow to political pressure? As that famous phrase in a magazine states, "I think we should be told." Very important constitutional points arise on that matter.

The Bill has its fair share of quangos. Not only is the supply of water and sewerage services to be removed from elected and accountable control, but the consumers watchdog is to become a committee of the Secretary of State's appointees. Those appointees will be paid to be members of that committee and will receive expenses. In addition, they may receive compensation if a term of office expires early. They may receive pensions, allowances and

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gratuities. I believe that democracy would render the delivery of those services more accountable and that the ballot box is probably a cheaper watchdog than cumulative paid jobs for the boys and girls as proposed in the Bill.

I have several specific questions about water and sewerage services. Is the accrued capital debt of the regional and islands water authorities to be written off and a green dowry given to the new water authorities as was the case when the English water services were restructured? Surely our domestic consumers should receive the same kind of benefits. Indeed, our business consumers should also receive those benefits. How can they compete equally with English competitors which have had the benefit of water supplied by companies whose debts have been written off?

While clause 54 places restrictions on the ability of existing authorities to enter into contracts that exceed £1 million--and if they go beyond 31 March 1996 the limit will be £100,000--unless approved by the successor body, where does that leave the status of undertakings given by a number of water authorities to the Secretary of State two or three years ago with regard to an extensive programme of capital investment required to meet European Community requirements?

While there is dismay across Scotland about the responsibility and accountability for those services being taken from elected people, there is deep scepticism in the islands areas about the reforms of water and sewerage. Problems relating to the delivery of those services are complex and there is little confidence that a remote bureaucracy will be able to understand them.

When Orkney's water was previously supplied by the North of Scotland water board, there was an under-estimate by a factor of five of the daily consumption of water by cows. That could make a huge difference to the supply and engineering of water services. We have no guarantee that similar mistakes will not be made again. Different charges that can be made in different circumstances are of particular concern. What safeguards are to be offered, not just to the islands areas, but to remoter rural parts, that they will not be charged heftily by authorities which have the power to charge differentially?

While the islands authorities do not change--apart from the fact that the title "islands" becomes a geographical description rather than a council description--it was much easier when we had a generic term to describe those authorities to adapt legislation and devise solutions to meet different circumstances. I accept that on some occasions the Government did that with regard to FE colleges and the provision of housing for teachers in remoter areas.

The ability to make distinctions to meet particular circumstances may be lost when those authorities are like every other council. The Montgomery committee endorsed the success of the islands areas and urged the Government to "consolidate, develop and extend" their powers. The Bill takes them in the opposite direction. If the islands authorities make specific points during the progress of this legislation, I hope that they will receive sympathetic attention from the Minister and his officials.

The islands authorities persuaded me to support single-tier authorities and the policy of my party involves single-tier authorities, as has already been said in the debate. We are generally disposed towards such authorities, but not to authorities that are motivated purely by partisan and political reasons. We see such authorities within the context of a Scottish Parliament. As my hon.

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Friend the Member for Gordon said, those authorities will not suck powers away from local government. They will take the powers of this Parliament to deal with Scotland's domestic affairs and place them where they can be properly, adequately and democratically accountable.

We want that decentralisation of power from the House to a Scottish Parliament. We do not want to support a Bill which continues the trend of centralisation. Nor do we wish to support local authorities that will continue to be elected by a corrupt electoral system which weakens the accountability of the councillor to the people he represents. For those reasons my right hon. and hon. Friends cannot support a Bill which will lead to the emasculation of local democracy in Scotland.

6.26 pm

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr) : I begin by apologising unreservedly for apparently breaking parliamentary procedures with regard to a press release. I will make sure that that does not happen again. Should I become aware that any other Member so transgresses, it will be drawn to the attention of the Chair. As a relatively new Member, I thought that I had grasped parliamentary procedure. Obviously, that was not quite the case.

Having said that, I did take my seat on the right side of the House when I first became a Member--unlike the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) who, I understand, did not quite manage to do so. However, having heard the hon. Gentleman's disorientated remarks, I understand how that occurred.

The Bill is one of the most important and long-awaited legislative measures for Scotland. People in Ayrshire have never been happy with the Strathclyde scenario. Strathclyde was a local authority misnomer : there was very little local about it.

The target set by all the candidates in the 1992 election in my constituency was to get rid of Strathclyde and to move towards single-tier authorities. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his Front-Bench colleagues have driven towards that target.

Having heard the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), I hope that his colleagues, who will vote against Second Reading from loyalty tonight, will consider local interests and local involvement in Standing Committee. I hope that they will work in Committee to make the Bill an excellent one for people throughout Scotland. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will listen to the views that will be expressed in Committee, which may logically justify amendments. Over recent weeks, I have had many contacts with local authorities from north, south, east and west. I have had contacts with Gordon, Renfrew, Argyll, the Lothians, Dunfermline, Cunninghame, Kyle and Carrick, Kilmarnock and Loudoun. They all supported single-tier local government for Scotland. That contradicts the views expressed by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in particular.

We should drive home the message that, if people with responsibility or even influence in COSLA opt for non-co-operation, the people they will damage most are council tax payers--the people who will elect whatever local authorities are established in future--and COSLA's actions will be long remembered. When the poll tax--the community charge--was introduced, people in local

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authorities encouraged non-compliance with the laws of the land. That attitude has rebounded in a most horrific way on many hon. Members' constituents.

I hope that there will be a constructive debate in Committee. Part I, schedule 1, will be considered very early in Committee. I can certainly see much-- [Interruption.] Nobody has sought to correct anything that I have said today. I regard that as total agreement with all I say.

As for Ayrshire, I am perfectly happy with the current proposals. To an extent, they coincide with the views expressed by all Ayrshire Members at the time of consultation. I wanted a separate south Ayrshire--a Kyle and Carrick. That was recognised in the Secretary of State's proposals. In the main, it appeared that other hon. Members from Ayrshire wanted an all- Ayrshire authority. The Secretary of State has democratically recognised those representations and, as closely as possible, has met the combined views of all Ayrshire Members. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) knows very little about Ayrshire.

Mr. Foulkes : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gallie : I shall give way very shortly.

I consider that I am the only Ayrshire Member who speaks for local interests in Ayrshire. On that basis, I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to modify his plans and create a third local authority, as opposed to the planned two, in Ayrshire. Already, the wishes of Kyle and Carrick have been recognised, with the intended creation of south Ayrshire. I shall offer no change to part I on that point.

There is no reason why recognition should not be given to the wishes of the people of Cunninghame and their elected representatives to allow a free- standing Cunninghame under the banner of a north Ayrshire authority. That would allow the wishes, as I understand them, of Kilmarnock and Loudoun councillors to have an east Ayrshire or a central Ayrshire authority set up, linked with Cumnock and Doon Valley.

Cumnock and Doon Valley councillors preferred an all-Ayrshire authority, but I understand that my proposal is their second preference. Given the lack of support for their idea, they would no doubt be relatively happy with my proposal.

Mr. Foulkes : I am getting a bit confused. The hon. Gentleman says that one authority or two authorities are just the same, but he is now in favour of three authorities, whereas originally he was in favour of two, which was the same as one. I must say that I find that very confusing.

However, I will not accept the hon. Gentleman misrepresenting what other people think. It is absolutely clear--I spoke today to the convenor of Cumnock and Doon Valley, the leader of the district council--that my council supports an all-Ayrshire authority--first, second and third choice. Will the hon. Gentleman make it absolutely clear that that is the case? He has misrepresented the council. Will he accept that that is the second, third or fourth that he has made tonight?

Mr. Gallie : The hon. Gentleman's confusion is not new. I consistently find him in a state of confusion in respect of every issue. If he had listened carefully, he

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would have heard me acknowledge fully that the first preference of Cumnock and Doon Valley councillors is for an all- Ayrshire authority. That cuts across other Opposition Members' requirement that a Strathclyde authority be maintained.

I acknowledge that Cumnock and Doon Valley would like an all-Ayrshire authority, but, quite honestly, even the confused Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) will recognise that he cannot have second, third and fourth preferences that are all the same--it is not logical. However, that does not surprise me. I ask all Ayrshire Members to back Ayrshire local authorities. Perhaps Opposition Members will support the amendment that I intend to move in Committee, given the opportunity. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) would listen, he would know that I referred to "the amendment that I intend to move in Committee, given the opportunity" I am not trying to second- guess anyone. It would be helpful if Opposition Members would open their ears and listen a bit more.

Let us consider some of the representations that have been made. I am sure that the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) will join me in backing the representatives of Argyll district council, who certainly want to go along with the Secretary of State's proposals. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) seemed to suggest that the citizens of Helensburgh do not desire to join Argyll. He should listen more to public opinion in Helensburgh. People in Helensburgh very much identify with Argyll. It would do the House well to pick up that point.

Mr. McFall : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gallie : I now make a plea for the people of Luss. The community council, which has made strong representations, wishes to be linked with Argyll, and asks for that matter to be taken on board. I commend the measures, which extend the involvement of community councillors. They have played a tremendous role in recent years. I hope that community councillors will extend their involvement in the years ahead.

Mr. McFall : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gallie : I give way to the hon. Gentleman, as I have been talking about issues which affect his constituents.

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