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Mr. McFall : The hon. Gentleman talks about confusion. I have never heard the hon. Gentleman comment on the issue affecting Helensburgh. If he went to Helensburgh and listened to the people there, he would find that the implications of the local government reorganisation in respect of education, social work and transport greatly concern them.
Only today, The Herald pointed out that the unsubsidised return fare from Helensburgh to Glasgow is £9, but, because of the passenger transport authority, the subsidised fare is £4.50. When the burghers of Helensburgh realise that £4.50 is being subsidised by Strathclyde every time they go to Glasgow, they will think again. If anything, the local government reorganisation is about services and the quality of services. That message will get through to Helensburgh and Luss. Mr. Gallie rose
Mr. Gallie : I must agree that quality of service is all-important. However, I must point out to the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) that the passenger transport executive will continue under the remit of the Bill, and it will continue to assist his constituents in Helensburgh. When I look at schedule 1 to the Bill, I see some illogicality in the west/mid Lothian situation. I recognise the strong feelings that have come through from Dunfermline. I will not necessarily get involved in the details of the Bill, but I shall certainly listen with keen interest to the views expressed in Committee by Labour Members. Bearing in mind that this is a local government Bill, I shall certainly listen to the local input from places such as Dunfermline, Cunninghame and Gordon.
Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North) rose --
Mr. Gallie : I see that the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) wishes to intervene. [Interruption.] Obviously, the hon. Gentleman does not want to intervene. I shall cover a few general issues. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is changing his mind again. One minute he wants Strathclyde ; the next minute he wants Cunninghame ; then he wants an all-Ayrshire authority ; then he wants to intervene ; and then he does not want to intervene. If he wants to get up, he should carry on.
Mr. Wilson : It is a great pity that the hon. Gentleman's press release of that well-rehearsed paragraph will not be accompanied by actions. I will not get involved in his ravings about constituents other than his own. The people in Cunninghame can sort out their problems without his attempt to influence matters or to make party political capital out of them, so I shall leave that aside. I shall pursue the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) about the Strathclyde passenger transport executive. Recently, the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) said that the problem with the Ayr-Glasgow service, which is certainly the busiest commuter route outside London, is that not many people use it. He now tells us that the Strathclyde passenger transport executive will continue as before. Obviously, he has studied the workings of passenger transport executives in England, where a precepting system fails to operate because the PTEs depend on contributions from individual local authorities.
Can the hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that the proposed passenger transport executive will have access to the same level of funding as the Strathclyde passenger transport executive has at present? If he cannot give that assurance, he cannot give an assurance to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton--
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse) : Order. A few moments ago, I said that many hon. Members were hoping to catch my eye, and suggested that long interventions do not help. Obviously, that fell on deaf ears. I hope that future interventions will be brief.
Column 580constituents any assurances about investment, rolling stock or anything to do with the Strathclyde passenger transport executive.
Mr. Gallie : Obviously, I shall listen with interest to what Ministers say on this issue in Committee. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I am not prepared to make promises that I am certainly not in a position to fulfil.
Mr. Kirkwood : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He made an important statement before the previous intervention. I understood him to say that he wants to be a member of the Committee, and we welcome that. He also said that he is willing to listen to representations.
Bearing in mind that the Standing committee may have a Government majority of one or perhaps two members, is the hon. Gentleman prepared to take representations from local groups and county councils in areas such as Berwickshire which think that they are getting a rough deal from the Bill, seriously consider them, and follow with his vote if appropriate amendments are made?
Mr. Gallie : As I have said all along, I intend to listen carefully to the debate. I shall attempt to persuade Ministers along the lines of my feelings, and at the end of the day I will take a combined judgment with my colleagues about the way in which the Bill should proceed. [Interruption.] There is nothing odd about that. I have given an undertaking to listen to representations. The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) is well aware of the procedures of the House. I shall apply pressure in any way that I can to influence Ministers along the lines of my beliefs.
My interest in the matter is to ensure that people in Ayrshire get their just desserts. That is my intention, and it will be my overriding priority. I accept the hon. Gentleman's point. I have given him an undertaking that I will represent the views of the people.
When I examine the wider aspects of the Bill, some matters concern me a little. I am happy that the police authorities in Scotland will be maintained at their present size. I am a little concerned about funding, especially as we have seen the constant underfunding of the police service in Strathclyde recently. I should like to hear something from my right hon. Friend about funding arrangements for the police.
I fully agree with the single-tier option for social work. The link between social work and housing is important, and at present there is a massive gap. I believe that social workers and those in housing management find it difficult to bridge that gap under the current arrangements. I look forward to the future when the Bill comes to fruition and the gap is no longer there.
I commend clause 78, which provides that councillors who fall behind in their payment of council tax should declare that and cease voting in council affairs. The matter was raised during debate on the non-payment of the community charge. I welcome that provision in the Bill. Perhaps we should extend the provision to Members of Parliament ; we should not simply pick on councillors.
Column 581I welcome clause 38, which relates to the designation of trunk roads. I should like to think that the Secretary of State will take a liberal view on this matter in the future and bear in mind the need to give trunk road status to the A77/M77 into the centre of Glasgow. I welcome the support of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey).
Another important aspect of the Bill is domestic rate capping. The right of the Secretary of State to determine the levels of non-domestic rating poundage is important for the business community. Domestic capping is also an essential element. I should like to think that local authorities will act responsibly in the future. Capping may well be a useful facility in the early days of the council, when there could be a move towards inflating expenditure in the hope that the Government will take the blame for restructuring the local authorities.
I am puzzled by some of the comments made by Labour Members about the cost of the reforms. When we are reducing the number of local authorities from 62 to perhaps 30 or 35--no one knows the final number, because we are still debating the matter--there seem to be areas where savings can be made. I am not the only person who feels that way ; local authorities in Dunfermline, Cunninghame, Kyle and Carrick, Argyll and all over Scotland feel the same way. They have presented their case, which shows savings. That supports the arguments of the Secretary of State.
It is worth noting that the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) said at one time that the measure would cost £400 million to £500 million. That figure has been moderated to about £200 million, which is broadly in line with the Secretary of State's statements, which suggest that the costs will be about £120 million to £196 million. At last the hon. Gentleman has a figure with some reality about it and that, if nothing else, is to be commended.
I am looking forward with some relish to April 1995, when the electorate will be able to give their commendation to the Bill by going to the polls to elect councillors to become involved in the new local authorities.
Mr. Graham : The hon. Gentleman mentioned the possibility of some flexibility. Therefore, will the people who took part in the survey in the constituency of the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) get the chance to remain within Renfrew district council ?
Mr. Gallie : I said a few moments earlier that it is my understanding that my hon. Friend the Minister will listen to genuine constructive comments in Committee. That did not really need to be said, as I recognise that my hon. Friend takes great regard of what people say to him. It could be that the points raised by the hon. Gentleman will be considered ; whether they are justifiable or not is not for me to say. The points should be raised, and I am quite sure that they will be taken into consideration.
I have not spoken about water, sewerage or a number of other issues. The proposals for water and sewerage are in line with the presentation that I made in response to the Secretary of State's consultation paper. I have no difficulty in living with the three public authorities, and I am glad that the Scottish Office listened and recognised the strength of feeling throughout Scotland on the privatisation of
Column 582water. Scotland did not want it, and the Secretary of State has recognised that. I believe that the public authorities provide a reasonable way ahead and I commend the Bill, but it needs a wee bit of amending here and there.
Mr. Thomas McAvoy (Glasgow, Rutherglen) : I wish to spend a few minutes on the position of my constituency before moving as rapidly as possible to that of Strathclyde regional council, on which my view is entirely opposite to that of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie).
Some people refer to the wonderful days of one-tier local government in Scotland but in fact before 1975 only the four cities had one-tier local government while the rest was a mixture of district and county councils and boroughs. There was no golden age of one-tier local authorities in Scotland. In 1973, the Wheatley Commission put the bulk of my constituency- -Cambuslang, Halfway and Rutherglen--into Glasgow district council. I understand that a decision for a separate council for those areas was lost by just one vote, so in a sense there is a historical injustice because those areas campaigned for a council at that time.
I oppose the Bill and I make no bones about that. Realistically, and like every other hon. Member, I have a constituency interest to look after. My having a view on whether the Bill receives its Second Reading is no worse than, for instance, Glasgow district council having a view on what should happen if the Bill receives Second Reading.
I acknowledge that the Minister with responsibility for local government has recognised that there is a community position in Cambuslang, Halfway and Rutherglen which is different from those areas being a part of a big city council. I am grateful for that, and it would be unfair not to place that on the record. The disadvantages of one-tier local government without a Scottish assembly or Parliament would apply in the same way to a local council for Cambuslang, Halfway and Rutherglen as to any other council in Scotland, and my campaigning for such a council does not mean that I am ignoring the difficulties. In population terms, the addition of other former Lanarkshire areas to Cambuslang, Halfway and Rutherglen would bring the area up to the population size of Eastwood or Stirling, but that is a matter for a later stage.
It is a measure of the desperation of the people in the former Lanarkshire part of my constituency to stop the erosion of their community spirit that they would be prepared to take on a one-tier council. The White Paper stated that King's Park and Toryglen should go into south Lanarkshire, along with Cambuslang, Halfway and Rutherglen. I opposed that, and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) rightly opposed the inclusion of King's Park in that council.
I opposed the inclusion of Toryglen as it has always been a part of the city of Glasgow and I regarded it as my duty as a Member of Parliament to make sure that the people of Toryglen should not be included in a council in which they had no interest. Others might pontificate and make gestures, but I did my job as a Member of Parliament. I am sure that the Minister will recognise that I was partly responsible for his change of mind about King's Park. A referendum was carried out by Glasgow district council in the areas concerned. If one added the votes from King's Park and Toryglen, the area would have voted
Column 583against its inclusion in south Lanarkshire. When the former Glasgow areas were counted separately from the former Lanarkshire areas, the result was 53 per cent. for inclusion in south Lanarkshire and 47 per cent. against. I asked Glasgow district council not to put the question in such a raw fashion, but to give the people the choice of voting for a local council. In my opinion, the majority would have voted for a local council. If they could not get that, I believe that they would have preferred the status quo of Glasgow district council.
Unfortunately, a Tory and a Labour councillor attacked the council's spending on Cambuslang and Rutherglen. That resulted, in my opinion, in a negative vote for the south Lanarkshire proposal. There is no doubt that Glasgow district council shot itself in the foot. Unfortunately, we are now landed with a situation where the Government can rightly say that the people in my constituency voted for inclusion in south Lanarkshire but I would argue that they voted for that only because they were not offered a better choice. There is a separate identity in Cambuslang and Rutherglen. While people there are certainly no better than Glasgow people--because people are people--they have a different identity and I make no bones about that. We must look at the gerrymandering aspect of what the Government have done, because it is certainly gerrymandering : the Government want to make sure that the Tory enclaves are kept so as to allow Tory councillors to win elections. The Government have totally avoided the issue of costs in the debate. The Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities analysed the Touche Ross costs and clearly exposed them as false.
The joint boards are undemocratic, which brings me to the thrust of what I wish to say. A while ago, the Prime Minister referred to Strathclyde regional council as a monstrosity. That caused deep offence, not just among political people but among the people of Strathclyde and especially among people who gain from the services provided by the council. I am proud to have been a Strathclyde regional councillor to have contributed in a small way to the council's record in delivering services. I agree that it is not the small local borough so beloved of people in Scotland, but it delivers services to residents and that is what matters.
Another aspect that the Government have not addressed in any of their propaganda is Strathclyde regional council's record of achievement in Europe. Many people take the view that Europe sits there with plenty of our money but that we do not get a fair share back. If everyone followed the example of Strathclyde region and got some of our money back from Europe, we would be a great deal better off.
Strathclyde region has secured £260 million from the European development fund. In addition, it has obtained £90 million in grants from the European social fund. That provided 67,000 training places and helped Strathclyde firms to take on an additional 28,000 employees. If that type of positive approach to Europe were taken by every other council in Britain, never mind Scotland, the financial, economic and employment base of the country would be far better. If Strathclyde goes, the people of Britain and Scotland will lose the progressive, innovative policies of that regional council. Notwithstanding the comments of the hon. Member for Ayr, one issue that has not been addressed is the concessionary travel scheme for pensioners. More than
Column 584400,000 concessionary travel cards are provided for elderly and disabled people, giving them subsidised travel across the region. Before 1975 there was no record of two councils under the old system reaching agreement on a travel scheme. That illustrates what happens if there are too many councils spread about when it comes to implementing and organising a travel scheme. The travel scheme is a first- class example of Strathclyde's reputation for delivering services to people.
Under the Government's proposals, the various services for which Strathclyde council is now accountable will be hived off to unelected boards, including Strathclyde joint police authority, the Mid-Western and South-Western fire authorities, the west of Scotland water authority, the Scottish water and sewerage customers council and so on. Democracy and accountability will be removed in a series of services. There is no doubt in my mind that the Secretary of State will make sure that Tory placemen and placewomen will make up those boards.
With the reduction in size of authorities, especially Strathclyde, there will be a loss of strategic overview of service provision. The closer we get to the elimination of Strathclyde regional council from Scotland's local authority life, the more some of us react in horror. I make no apology for speaking about my area. When I envisage my area without the influence of strathclyde regional council, I see a nightmare.
What has taken place is a disgrace. The Government have no mandate for what they are doing. There has been no royal commission. In a democracy it is wrong for any political party to set political boundaries. The point was rightly made earlier that local government reorganisation will in turn impose political boundaries on the parliamentary constituencies. The Bill has all the hallmarks of a rotten borough Government who have been in power too long, are too complacent and believe that they will be re-elected time and time again. The public will react.
I do not take the view that we have lost and that the Bill will sail through Committee and the House. There will be united opposition against the Bill in Committee. If the Government think that the Bill will have an easy passage, they have another think coming. We shall fight it tooth and nail to save not only Strathclyde but the whole of democratic Scottish local government and to put an end to the dictatorship of St. Andrew's house under the Tories.
Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East) : Like the hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy), I look forward to the day when there is a public reaction to what the Government are doing. The sooner it comes, the better.
Today is hansel Monday--the day in the old Scots calendar on which employers gave their employees a gift, a good meal and a day off. Sadly, today the Secretary of State for Scotland--our colonial governor--has not heard of hansel Monday. He bears no gifts. He is starving our local authorities of funding and powers, and is trying to write off real local authority accountability within our communities.
The Secretary of State should try to link tradition with modern-day needs and dump the Bill. The sooner he does so, the better. My objections to the Government's proposals are deep, and are founded on the principle that democratic government should be the norm, not the
Column 585exception, in Scotland. The Government are inflicting the Bill on Scotland with minimal consultation and even less support. The Bill will be bulldozed through the House and Committee, using the votes of English Tory Members who have no electoral mandate in Scotland or any particular knowledge of Scotland.
The empty Benches behind the Secretary of State--empty even of Scottish Tories, apart from one--show how little the English Members who will appear in the House at 10 o'clock and force the measure through know or care about Scotland. Those self-same English Tories will be packed on to the Committee to bulldoze the measure through against the wishes of the Scottish people. That is not what democracy should be about, however the Bill is dressed up.
The House of Commons claims to be a United Kingdom Parliament. The Under- Secretary has often said it. He has often said that every hon. Member has a right to speak on any issue. But the Bill is oppressive and clearly unfair to Scotland. It does no credit to the Westminster system when democracy is crushed by the Executive, who use a whipped Parliament to force through measures which do not reflect the wishes of the Scottish people.
However the Bill is dressed up, it is an attack on democracy. The Scottish electorate rejected the Conservatives and their proposals. The majority English population were never even asked about the proposals. Yet English Tory Members will be herded through Parliament, and the legislation will be passed using the Government English majority.
The proposals on water command the support of no more than a tiny minority of Conservatives in Scotland--a tiny minority of a tiny minority. Yet the Bill is about to be whipped through Parliament with minimal change. Scotland is already being run by far too many non-elected quangos hand- picked by the Government. If the measure is passed, Scotland will have proportionally the fewest elected representatives in the whole of Europe. That is what the Government are doing to us.
The Bill not only erodes our elected local government system by reducing the number of freely elected councillors, but seeks to replace those elected councillors with a handful of nominees hand-picked behind closed doors by the Secretary of State. The Bill also gives the Secretary of State a massive new batch of delegated powers. The most frequently used phrases in this pathetic Bill are "the Secretary of State will make an order", "the Secretary of State may make regulations", "the Secretary of State shall" and so on. The Bill is not a decentralising measure. It empowers the Secretary of State, not local authorities.
Mr. Norman Hogg : The hon. Gentleman makes a strong and powerful case, with which I certainly agree. Where does his party stand on the formation of new authorities and small authorities? He said that power will be handed over to the Secretary of State. That will be facilitated by the formation of single-tier authorities in existing districts. Does his party oppose giving single districts multi-purpose status?
Column 586Administration solved the problem by creating the Wheatley commission, which undertook surveys and checked what the population wanted. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Rowntree Trust report, which tells us that actual size is not important. Therefore, we can fairly look at communities. That is where I take issue with the Government. Their Bill is based not on communities but on a gerrymandered map.
Mr. Hogg : The hon. Gentleman tells me what the Rowntree Trust thinks, but it would be a great help if he could tell us what the Scottish National party thinks. Is it or is it not in favour of single-tier local authorities founded on existing districts?
Mr. Welsh : The hon. Gentleman plays the Tory game in his own way. The authorities should be based on-- [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman asks questions and then does not listen to the answer. If the Bill was based on communities, the problems would be sorted out.
The Bill does not empower local authorities. It takes power away from them and from the House. There is a mass of European secondary legislation and general secondary legislation sloshing through this place which is not properly scrutinised by anyone who has been elected to the House. Yet the Bill will add massively to that number, because it gives the Government and the Secretary of State massive powers to regulate. It will not be properly scrutinised. I do not call that democratic.
The Tory minority Government in Scotland are introducing a new word to the political dictionary--"langocracy", which means Government by and through the Secretary of State. In the langocracy system, the Secretary of State rules everything. What he does not control directly will be run by non- elected, hand-picked quangos of his choice. In Lang's land, if one does not get the vote of the people, ignore them : take over their assets, appoint one's own people to run things and use one's own inbuilt English majority to bulldoze it through. That is langocracy. That is how Scotland is now governed. It has nothing to do with democracy. The Secretary of State is acting as a governor-general.
The Bill is littered with extra legislative powers for the Secretary of State, with the Greater Glasgow health board situation now being writ large throughout the country. The points made earlier about that, with the House not being able to get at the truth, are a lesson well worth learning and a matter of which the population of Scotland should be well warned if the Bill is implemented. The Bill is not an enabling measure for local government. It is disabling. Nor is it a decentralising measure. It gives the Secretary of State massive new powers, and means that central Government will take decisions about daily services in Scotland, which should be the preserve of locally elected councillors. The window dressing of decentralisation schemes shows the power that is being taken away. What use is a council office to a town,
Column 587which probably had one anyway, when the councillors who are elected by it, are reduced in numbers and powers? That would simply be more window-dressing from central Government, who are notorious for their secrecy and lack of true consultation.
Even the decentralisation schemes are subject to centralised scrutiny by the Secretary of State. I find it objectionable that the Government intend to take billions of pounds of water assets--public assets--in our water and sewerage industries and grab them for the use of unelected, unaccountable quangos, which are only the first stage to eventual privatisation, in which private pockets will benefit. But then again, that Tory Government invites quango nominees to private fund-raising dinners and pretend that that is perfectly normal and that the invitees are disinterested, non-political spectators. That situation reeks of the goings-on at Westminster, to which the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) alluded earlier. The water industry's capital assets were not created by central Government. The figures of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities show that central Government contributed only 0.03 per cent. to them. They are public assets, paid for over generations by local taxpayers, who now find democratic control removed and replaced by a Greater Glasgow health board system over which they have no say and absolutely no control.
I want the Minister to tell us how democracy will be advanced by those quangos. Will public accountability be increased? How can there be greater scrutiny when Scotland's billions of pounds of water assets will be controlled by two, perhaps three, football teams, all hand-picked and nominated by the Secretary of State for Scotland? Their meetings will be held behind closed doors. What is democratic about that? It goes against all the words he used, and shows the basic hyprocrisy of the Government and the hypocrisy contained in the Bill.
According to the Bill, local government does not even need to have an education committee. That becomes understandable if the Government are planning enabling councils and not service-providing councils. That perhaps gives the Government's ultimate game away, because the Tories obviously hope for massive school opt-outs, and the break-up of Scotland's national system of education.
That figures, because the Secretary of State has never been taught in a Scottish school or university. Most of his pals pack their kids off to private schools as soon as they can. I do not think that Cambridge Footlights happened in Scotland, apart from the Edinburgh festival.
If that is the Government's attitude, and if their end product is not to put an education committee in the Bill, I thoroughly disagree with that, given Scotland's traditional importance attached to education.
The boundaries are clearly pochled to suit Conservative party political convenience. I could have used the word "gerrymandered", but "pochled" sounds more appropriate. There has been little or no attempt to match boundaries to communities--far less, real consultation. The motive is plainly gerrymandering. In a two-party electoral system, the Tories now find themselves the third--often the fourth
Column 588--party. Their response is change the rules to change the results. With revelations about Westminster council, gerrymandering, like telephone canvassing, seems to have become a tried and tested Tory technique.
My objection is that the Bill is based on hypocrisy. The Government state that Strathclyde region is too big, too bureaucratic and remote, and that therefore it must be demolished. Yet they do the opposite when it comes to creating three monster unelected boards to run water services. On their own argument, if Strathclyde region is "too big and remote", why are they creating the giant Western area water board and running it with 11 hand- picked appointees?
The old Soviet Union would have been quite proud of that centralist dictatorship, which no doubt the Conservative Kremlinists are now introducing. When the Soviet Union has abandoned such a system, it is an irony that it has now been foisted on Scotland by English Tories forcing the Bill through Parliament. While England gets a Commission and thought- through boundaries, Scotland gets a rush job. The last time the Tories visited that on us was when we had the fiasco of the poll tax.
No matter what happens in the Bill, when the Government bulldoze it through, Scottish local government will continue, because of the expertise of the officials and councillors who run it. It will be despite--not because--of this ill-thought-out and disgusting Bill, which I hope the House will oppose.
Mr. Brian Donohoe (Cunninghame, South) : I must declare an interest in the debate and in the Bill. The interest is of someone who passionately believes in the ethos of Scottish local government, and who is appalled by these proposals. The Bill is the latest in a long line of legislative sledgehammers that the Government have sought to use on Scottish local government.
There are a great many reasons why the House should not be debating the matter today. Indeed, the Secretary of State should have had the good sense to stop trying to push through the proposed legislation some months ago, when it became obvious that, even among Scottish Tories, there was no consensus on the reform.
Despite the worst efforts of Ministers to rubbish Scottish local government, it is clear that there is no justification whatever for reforming it at this time, barely two decades after the Wheatley commission debated the matter at length and produced a blueprint which had the broad support of all Scotland's political parties. Despite the black propaganda campaign pursued by the Scottish Office, the Scottish people have refused to allow themselves to be conned into believing the Tory party, which has spent the past 14 years destroying Scottish local government and which has minimal representation on Scottish councils. They do not believe that the Government can be trusted with the future of Scottish local government. The Bill clearly demonstrates, as have other events not a million miles from this place, the political prejudices of a Government determined to pursue a party political interest before the interests of the people as a whole.
My hon. Friends have referred to the Government's hidden agenda on a whole range of legislative issues. Through the Bill, the Government have changed their attitude fundamentally. They have decided to adopt the not-so-hidden agenda and to parade their political bias to
Column 589create Tory rotten boroughs across Scotland. The Bill cynically carves out Tory safe havens in Perth and Kinross, Stirling, Eastwood and, of course, in Ayr. As my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) has said, Ayr has now become known in Ayrshire as Gallielee.
Mr. Raymond S. Robertson : The hon. Gentleman has spoken about the different size and range of authorities throughout Scotland. Has he seen the document entitled "The Future of Local Government in Scotland", produced by the Labour party? It states :
"As the first criterion of any reform, there is no one solution for all parts of Scotland."
Mr. Donohoe : I would not argue with that. I am arguing about gerrymandering to create unfair electoral areas, particularly in Ayrshire. When Gallielee was created, it literally meant the promised land to one Conservative Member, until the deliberations of the Parliamentary Boundary Commission, got in the way. Perhaps because of that, I understand that even the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) is now opposed to the Secretary of State's proposals for as they affect Ayrshire. That clearly suggests that there is no obvious consensus on the Government Benches on this matter.
Gallielee will, none the less, be followed by Fairbairnlee, Forsythlee and Stewartlee, because the local government boundaries outlined in the Bill show how the new structures have been gerrymandered. It has been done to maximise the number of Tory-controlled authorities and try to minimise the number of Labour-controlled ones.
The Government's central argument in favour of the Bill is that money will be saved and the extent of bureaucracy will be minimised. That was outlined in a report conveniently produced for the Scottish Office by the management consultants, Touche Ross. The report's arguments have been taken apart by costings produced by many organisations in Scotland, which have demonstrated how subjective and irrelevant that report is.
No detailed assessments of the claimed savings were offered in the report. Let us compare those supposed savings with those that Strathclyde regional council currently makes from economies of scale. It spends approximately £60 million each year on fuel. Because of its size, and only because of that, it can negotiate with British Gas, Scottish Power--I am sure that the hon.