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Column 498

I was disgusted to read a report in The Guardian on 18 December. I shall not name the official featured in that report as it would be unfair to single him out--not that I have that much regard for what he did. The article states :

"A senior Whitehall official yesterday admitted he misled the jury in the Matrix Churchill arms-for-Iraq trial on three issues crucial to the defence."

I shall not go into those names--I want to deal with why he took such action. The report continues :

"The inquiry heard that before the committal proceedings in November 1991"- -

Mr. X--

"told his colleagues that he would do my very best to avoid embarrassment' to ministers and civil servants."

What about the people in the dock? Is not it appalling that officials are so committed to defending Ministers that they are willing to see innocent people go to prison?

When hon. Members talk about corruption, they tend to talk about financial corruption, but there are worse forms. Corruption of parliamentary accountability means corruption of the democratic process, and corruption of the rule of law means corruption of the rights and freedoms of citizens of this country. The work of the Public Accounts Committee and of the Scott inquiry has shown that a rot has set in throughout the system in the past 15 years, along the stepping stones of events surrounding the Cementation, Westland, Spycatcher and Iraq affairs and arms-for-aid deals. Ministers have so eroded standards that even civil servants decide not what is right and what is wrong, but what is politically convenient and what might be politically embarrassing.

7.25 pm

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : We should all be grateful to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) for letting us debate the unelected state because there is much to discuss on that subject. I hope that the debate will encourage the Government to review some of their exciting, wonderful and stimulating policies and to consider whether they have created dilemmas of democracy. As time is short, I shall mention one example of that that has arisen in Southend-on-Sea.

One of the reasons that I moved to Southend-on-Sea was that it had a splendid education system. All my children have gone to the excellent council schools there. Due to all sorts of problems in Essex, some Liberal Democrats and some Labour party members were elected to the council. Although their views are not nearly as extreme as those of the European People's party, we were worried that their election might threaten our great grammar schools.

The region that I represent is the only part of the United Kingdom where 25 per cent. of the senior schools are grammar schools ; four schools take a quarter of the pupils in the region.

As you probably know, Madam Deputy Speaker, because of the election of the Liberal Democrats, we thought that something had to be done. I notice that the Whips are interested--as always--in what we have to say. For that reason, we were presented with the grant-maintained schools option, which seemed wonderful. It was explained to parents that if they went for the grant-maintained option, they would be in charge, the people would have power, and those nasty bureaucrats in Chelmsford would not be able to do anything nasty.

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Although my wife and I sensibly voted no to the grant-maintained option because our daughter attended one of the schools involved, the majority voted yes and thought it was wonderful. The option won huge majorities.

Within six months, the boards of the four schools proposed an exciting plan, which they thought was wonderful, to do away with the 25 per cent. of grammar schools. They proposed to make them the schools for Castlepoint and Rochford instead of for Southend. Instead of being broadly based schools, they would become elitist schools, presumably with better results, which would be massively damaging to the able, working-class children in Southend -on-Sea.

Parents went to meetings a week last Monday. My wife attended one of them and she said that the vote appeared to be 99.6 per cent. against. Everyone was against except one poor lady from Rochford who said that she wanted her daughter to go to the school. After the meeting and comparable meetings at other schools, it was explained that parents were entitled only to consultation. Even though the parents voted 99.6 per cent. against, it did not mean that the proposal would not go ahead.

The boards are going ahead with their proposal and are presenting their plan to the Secretary of State for Education, who will decide. Although the decision has not yet been reached, that is one simple example of why we should be careful before surrendering democratic control. I am sure that hon. Members will know of many other cases where people have been misled and conned into thinking that they are in control when they are not at all ; all they have is the right to be consulted. Consultation, in many cases, gives them no real power. Due to my age, I rarely feel angry enough to want to punch people, but having heard some of the arguments today, I have come near to it. I want to describe my experience in Southend during the past week. Some people have been talking about fighting for democracy and fighting to save people's powers. However, they are the same twits who voted to pass over most of the power which was controlled by Parliament when I was first elected 30 years ago, at the same time as the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams). I shall give the House some examples of how that affects people. I hope that my hon. Friends will listen as it is a great advertisement for Maastricht.

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of visiting a Southend firm called PMS which imports toys from a place called China, which is a big country besides Japan. It has done that for 21 years. It employs 200 people in Southend-on-Sea. Many of them are my friends. They send their kids to the same schools and do their shopping at the same place as I do. Last year, the firm made a huge profit of well over £1 million. It helped the Government by exporting £10 million worth of goods. Things were going splendidly and last year it made a big expansion. It was one of the few firms in Southend doing well and providing good jobs. So what happened?

Last Friday, when I went to see the firm, the directors, the staff and the workers were shellshocked. They had received news from London that they had to reduce their business by 50 per cent. because the EC, with the help of all the Employment Ministers who work for democracy and freedom, had passed a resolution that all firms importing Chinese toys would have to reduce their imports to 79 per cent. of the 1992 figures.

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The motion refers to the unelected state. As the firm expanded last year, it has to cut its business to 50 per cent. Basically, the firm now has no future. I phoned up our friends in the Foreign Office and said, "What has happened?" They said, "We are terribly sorry. We voted against it, but it still went through. You cannot count on 50 per cent. because of the GATT rule."

The decision will be taken not by the Government but by the Commission that was elected by nobody. It is part of the unelected state. What do I say to them? I can do nothing at all. What can Parliament do? Even if the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Liberal Democrats, the Welsh nationalists and everybody else votes against it, it still continues.

The firm was dealt with wholly unjustly, but there is nothing it can do. The unelected state has taken over and the people's rights have disappeared.

If something is wrong, foolish, lunatic, negative or does no good to anyone at all, we in Parliament should be able to do something about it. However, because of the treaties we have passed we can do nothing. That firm and those workers, who have worked hard to build up a super organisation, have to wait for what the Commissioner tells them. The unelected state has taken over.

The day before, I had the pleasure of visiting a firm called MK Electric in Souhtend-on-Sea, another group that employs many people and is doing well. The staff there told me that they were paralysed with fear about the Euro plug. Ministers had said that the idea was bogus and concerned only an industrial organisation that had nothing to do with the EC. I found out that that was a load of codswallop. Basically, CENELEC--the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standarisation--produced a report of which I have a copy. It says that a move towards a Euro plug would be dangerous, costly nonsense. It passed that decision to the Commission, but the Commission said, "We are going to have it. If you do not do it, and we shall give you funds for it, we shall do it ourselves."

As that is true, MK Electric will have to change all its equipment when the French have it already and every householder in Britain will have to spend an extra £1,000 on plugs, sockets and wiring systems. It will also be dangerous, because the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has told us that, unfortunately, because the Euro plug does not have a fuse, more houses will be set on fire. What can we do about it? A nice Minister for Industry wrote to me last week saying that the measure will go through under article 103A, which means a majority vote. The Brits and the Germans are against and it seems that the balance is held by the Belgians.

What can we do about it? What about the firm in my constituency? It is a great employer ; they are great people doing great work. What can I say? What can the Minister of Employment do? Nothing at all. We have to wait and see. Democracy is largely dead.

Southend-on-Sea has 14.5 per cent. unemployment. All kinds of reasons have been given for that--perhaps it is their rotten Member of Parliament. The Government kindly said that they wanted to make Southend an assisted area. I am not quite sure what that is and I am sure that it is a bad thing in principle, but they said that they would give us money. I said, "Isn't that nice?" I do not like subsidies, but if they are going round, we should try to get some. They then said, "We are sorry, it is just a formality,

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but we have to send the application through to Brussels, to a Mr. van Miert." I do not know who he is. I sent him a Christmas card, but I did not get a reply.

Unfortunately, before he looked at the list of 24 per cent. of the working population of Britain he decided to cut off 2 per cent., so instead of 24 per cent. it was 22 per cent. and, sadly, Southend-on-Sea was in the other 2 per cent.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham) : And Gravesham.

Sir Teddy Taylor : He did not say, "Which are the nice places?" He simply decided to cut off 2 per cent. and when I contested the decision, I was told that I should not complain because they cut the Germans by 3 per cent.

Mr. Arnold : It was not Mr. van Miert ; it was Bruce Millan who used to sit on the Opposition Benches. He jolly well should have known better.

Sir Teddy Taylor : My hon. Friend is absolutely wrong. I was talking about assisted area status. Mr. Millan dealt with the second problem. My hon. Friend is so anxious to fight for his constituency that he forgets that Mr. van Miert dealt with the assisted area application. The next application was for European funding and that went to Mr. Millan who refused Southend because he wanted to give more to Greater London.

What has happened to our elected democracy? There is no Commitee to go to, no Parliament and no Ministers. I cannot write or appeal to anyone because basically, one bloke decides. It is terrible. When blokes decide we get the same things--the fiddles, the frauds and the rest.

I went through my mail this morning. You, Madam Deputy Speaker, probably have done more than anyone to fight for the rights of animals. We all know that Madam Deputy Speaker is a great lady--she has a heart. I received five letters this morning from people saying, "I saw the television programme. What are you going to do about this horrible export of animals?" I have to say that we can do nothing. It is a horrible thing ; the most filthy cruel thing in the world. Animals are treated disgracefully, but there is nothing we can do. Even if the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and all Members of Parliament want to do something, we cannot unless we go to the Commission and ask for a Euro law to enable member states to ban live exports. We are kidding ourselves.

At Question Time we say that we want inquiries and reviews, but we are kidding ourselves. Democracy has largely died. I would not mind if the decisions had gone somewhere else democratic, but they have gone to people, councils and boards totally outside our control. Having been in the House for 30 years, I know that there is nothing worse than a person with power who is not answerable to the people. The strength of democracy is the right to get people out, to get rid of rotten Governments, rotten Oppositions and rotten Members of Parliament and to say that we are fed up to the teeth, but in the next election people will have great difficulty in deciding on what to vote for.

I am glad Labour has raised the issue. I hope that people will think about it and stop kidding themselves. If they have any doubts at all, those who voted for the treaties should go to PMS on Arterial road, Southend and tell the firm what to do now because I do not know what to say. It is a great tragedy. The firm has worked wonderfully ; the

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staff have produced jobs and profits. Now they are being kicked in the teeth by a stupid nonsense and tragically there is nothing we can do.

7.38 pm

Mr. Mike Hall (Warrington, South) : I shall echo some of what the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) said. We all agree with the principle that when Government go wrong, the electorate can turn them out of office. That is one of the fundamental reasons why we are debating the unelected state this evening. It is an important debate as it goes to the heart of how we govern the country. The existence of the unelected state challenges Britain's claim that it is a parliamentary democracy. I hope that, if nothing else, the debate will allow the Government to reflect on that issue and that it will bring the Government back to a more accountable position ; the Labour party will then have achieved something. I am not optimistic that that will happen, because the 15 years of Conservative Government are characterised by three things. First, the Tory party philosophy and the Government's policy is the feverish accumulation of wealth in private hands. Secondly, there is the accumulation of power at the centre. The Government do not like anyone else to have the power ; they want it all for themselves. I will develop that point later on. Thirdly, they impose their way of thinking on every walk of life in this country. We now see the arrogant use of power. The main purpose of the Tory Government is to govern, to bring about a situation where they stay in government. They want to preserve their hegemony and use every instrument of Government to achieve it.

The overwhelming theme of Tory rule has been power without accountability. That brings me to a point made by the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), who is not in his place at the moment. He said that one could not divide power and accountability. That is what the Government have tried to do in a whole range of things. The hon. Member for Southend, East talked about the democratic principle, where power is exercised. If the communities that local authorities serve do not like what is being done in their name, they have the power at elections to change that. That is a fundamental criticism of power without accountability. It is a corrupting influence on the processes and institutions of Government and that is why the Government have gone about trying to demolish some of our democratic institutions. With the money that they have spent on quangos and the unelected state, they have created a monster. That is the hallmark of the Government.

Where the Government meet resistance to their way of thinking, they attempt to impose their way of life on the country by doing one of two things. They either abolish it or circumvent it. That is positive proof that there is an undemocratic element in Government. We have only to look at the abolition of the Greater London council. It had the nerve to oppose the Government on a number of issues. The Government could not beat it at the ballot box, so they abolished it. They ran into the same argument with the metropolitan counties, which voted Labour after they were initially controlled by the Tory party. It was obvious to the Government that they would not win them back, so they abolished them.

In other areas the Government will circumvent the provisions of local democracy through the creation of quangos and a range of agencies. We have seen the

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incorporation of governing bodies, sixth form colleges and colleges of higher education. The Government have taken them out of accountability to their local education authorities. That is one way in which they circumvent the resistance that they meet in the nation. As a result, much of our public service is funded by public money, but is provided by unaccountable agencies, quangos and, in some cases, privatised companies. The debate is about accountability. To whom are those organisations accountable? That is an interesting question and I hope that the Minister will respond.

We can look at all areas of public service. On education, the Funding Agency for Schools takes away democratic responsibilities from locally elected education authorities. I have already mentioned incorporated colleges. What about the role of the Centre for Grant-maintained Schools? According to a confidential report to the Public Accounts Committee--it has not been published--the centre was on the verge of using public money to fund an organisation that is involved in political activity. The report makes great criticisms of what happened. The PAC was able to say publicly that, part way through the accounting year 1992, it could not say that the money given to the Centre for Grant-maintained Schools was being used for the purposes for which it was voted.

The Minister mentioned how much money was being spent on the Housing Corporation. The Housing Corporation is accountable to Government. It funds housing associations, which are accountable to the Housing Corporation. Those housing associations are not accountable to the communities where they provide houses. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster then said that the Government have put much more money into that organisation. That may have been true, because in 1992-93, £3.4 billion was made available for the Housing Corporation to dispose on public housing. In the next three years, only £5.4 billion will be provided to the Housing Corporation. That is £1.8 billion per annum, which represents a cut of £1.6 billion. He held that up as a good example of why such an approach for the agencies is a good thing.

We can also talk about social services, care in the community and the Benefits Agency. No hon. Member in the House this evening was not horrified at the incompetence of the Benefits Agency in dealing with the complaints of people who applied for the disability living allowance.

There are environmental problems with the National Rivers Authority. It is another organisation that is not accountable to the communities that it serves, but is partially accountable to the Minister who provides it with money. Given the high level of unemployment, the huge level of youth unemployment and the need for proper skills in our community, training is an important issue. It is now provided by training and enterprise councils. I shall deal with their make-up in detail.

The Minister told the House that there has been some improvement in the management of the health service. We shall have to wait and see, but the report that was produced by the King's Fund puts a question mark over the so-called Government reforms. I shall make a constituency point, because it relates to appointments to public bodies. When the Secretary of State for Health announced that the Government were to merge the Merseyside regional health authority and the North West regional health authority, I

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wrote to her in December and asked how the appointment to the chair of that authority would be made, because I would have liked to have made some of my views known.

I received a letter in the middle of January saying that the Secretary of State was about to make the appointment and would be interested to receive my views. Three days later, it was announced that Sir Donald Wilson, chair of the Mersey regional health authority, had been appointed to the post of chair of the newly created North West regional health authority. I was given three days to let the Secretary of State know, but it was quite obvious that she had made up her mind before then. It is no coincidence that Sir Donald Wilson is a well-known Tory in the city of Chester. He may do a good job, but we were not given the opportunity to suggest any other names. That brings me to the point about public service. It is no longer accountable to the communities. It is characterised by membership. Membership of most of those bodies is largely determined by the Government. As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) and other hon. Members, statistically that can be shown to be down to political patronage. Tory placemen and women are staffing quangos, agencies and other organisations that deliver public services. That is bad, but there is another layer on top that makes it even worse. In some organisations, such as the training and enterprise councils, and other independent organisations, the governors are not appointed by Government ; they are

self-perpetuating. They appoint their own members to their own boards. There is not even the accountability of the Government being able to tell the Warrington Collegiate Institute, "We think that you are doing a pretty bad job. We should replace some of your governing bodies." They do not have that power. Nor do they have the power to do that in relation to the TECs.

The Warrington Collegiate Institute is the new name for what used to be called the North Cheshire college. On incorporation, the North Cheshire college governors kicked its staff and student representatives off the governing body, on which they had been represented since it was Padgate college of education and then Padgate college of higher education. That was a retrograde step. The institute has run into great problems. Not only has it had to sack one principal--to be absolutely accurate, one principal left under a cloud--but that principal's replacement left under a cloud shortly afterwards. There was uproar in the town about the way in which the college was being managed ; the community of Warrington demanded action from the institute's governing body. A staff representative and a student representative have now been appointed to that body again--but only because the community of Warrington did not accept the way in which the Government had removed accountability and demanded at least some community involvement in the governing body.

The real problem with self-perpetuating governing bodies is that they can create a climate of nepotism. There is great fear about that climate of corruption. The Public Accounts Committee report published on 17 January raises a question mark over glaring examples of fraud, corruption, incompetence and sleaze. The report--with which the Government have dealt only in part, in a very offhand way--catalogues a catastrophic number of examples of waste and improper spending. The opening paragraph of the report--entitled "The Proper Conduct of Public Business"--states :

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"In recent years we have seen and reported on a number of serious failures in administrative and financial systems and controls within departments and other public bodies, which have led to money being wasted or otherwise improperly spent. These failings represent a departure from the standards of public conduct which have mainly been established during the past 140 years."

That is powerful criticism. It is not surprising that the PAC is able to make such criticism, given what is said about the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on page viii of the report :

"The Department's accounting arrangements were open to strong criticism, and inadequate controls created a climate which was conducive to fraud and theft, and may have heightened the risk of irregularities remaining undetected."

That is what the Public Accounts Committee said, passing judgment on the spending of public money. The Government must look at the matter again : it is not sufficient for the Prime Minister to respond in the way that he has.

According to written answers in Hansard, in the current year the training and enterprise councils will receive £1.8 billion of taxpayers' money from the Government. The PAC reported that, between 1989 and 1991, the Government had incorrectly paid the TECs £79.5 million. The Department of Transport, however, was not happy merely to provide them with £79.5 million to which they were not entitled ; between 1990 and 1993, it also provided them with £48 million worth of computers, which did not work at all, for the information technology field system.

Mr. Riddick : I assume that the hon. Gentleman means the Department of Employment, rather than the Department of Transport.

Mr. Hall : I was expecting a much more interesting intervention from the hon. Gentleman, in view of his earlier performance. However, he is absolutely right. It was the Department of Employment.

Mr. Fabricant : Say thank you, then.

Mr. Hall : If the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) wants to intervene as well, I shall willingly give way to him, given the quality of his earlier intervention. I note that he remains seated. If he wants to interrupt from a sedentary position, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am sure that you will deal with him in your usual manner. [Interruption.] I know that the hon. Gentleman was trying to be helpful.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. I allow a few seated interventions--with reluctance--but I certainly will not allow general conversation across the Chamber.

Mr. Hall : Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Yesterday, the PAC heard evidence from the Welsh Office about the way in which it was dealing with TECs in Wales. There are only seven, but they have received over £130 million. In 1992-93, they were overpaid by £5.96 million for services--that is, the Welsh Office said to the TECs, "You provide training, and we will pay you the money." Only about £200,000 has been recovered. The Welsh Office had to write to the TECs, demanding that they improve the organisation of their finances, for which they called on the public purse. The senior accounting officer in

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the Welsh Office wrote three strong letters, all of which were ignored. He then contacted the TECs, saying, "If you do not fall into line, I will fine you." In the end, a wonderful fine of between £600 and £1,000 was meted out.

Even that did not work, however. The Welsh Office then had to say that, unless the three main culprits got their act together, they would be breached--in other words, those seeking training in Wales would have to go to a different organisation. That is just one example of the way in which TECs--which are not even a

non-departmental public body--resist accountability to the Welsh Office, which is said to be the route of accountability to Parliament.

Mr. Hanson : While my hon. Friend is on the subject of TECs in Wales, he may be interested to know that 34 of the people who sit on their boards also sit on other Welsh quangos. It is part of the general multiplicity of quango appointments. What is true of TECs is also true of other non-departmental public bodies in Wales.

Mr. Hall : My hon. Friend has made a valid point about the membership of the TECs. They have become self-fulfilling bodies-- accountable to whom? They resist accountability to Government and they do not seem to be very accountable to those on the training schemes. Where is the accountability, in a large area of public provision? They have also resisted the appointment of elected representatives to their boards--and by "elected representatives" I mean local councillors. That is a good example of why the unelected state is failing to meet public needs.

The PAC report makes a number of further points. I shall not go into the details, as most have already been referred to. The report gives 26 examples of failure to meet proper standards of probity in Government. Wessex regional health authority wasted £20 million on introducing the regional information system, which has already been mentioned. What has not been mentioned is the National Rivers Authority--a body which, along with its chairman, is appointed by the Government. The NRA mismanaged its headquarters relocation project, which, according to the PAC, was characterised by inadequate and poorly controlled tendering and contract arrangements, with the attendant risks of fraud, corruption and failure to gain value for money. A total of £1 million of public money was wasted.

In 1992-93, the NRA received £113.6 million from the Government ; from the people whom it serves, it has collected £348 million in receipts. The Property Services Agency has cost the taxpayer £65.6 million and could not collect the money that it was owed from its customers. We have already heard about the Welsh Development Agency, which has received a Government grant of some £171 million. Its international director spent nine weeks in work and received £228,000 in payment. That is clearly not the right way in which to do business, or to inspire hope that there is some accountability in the system. The director of regionally managed services of West Midlands regional health authority was made redundant. As has been said, he should have been sacked, and not paid a £81,837 lump sum and £6,462 in redundancy money. The health authority wasted £10 million that should have been spent on health care. Wessex regional health authority, working with Wessex Integrated Systems Ltd., cost the taxpayer between £500,000 and £1 million by introducing an over-priced computer system.

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The PAC also refers to the Telford and Warrington development corporations. They made their staff redundant and paid them £6.6 million ; the staff were then taken on as private companies in the same offices, doing the same jobs for the development corporations. There is a catalogue of abuse of public funds.

When my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition raised that question with the Prime Minister at Question Time on 27 January, the Prime Minister said that he welcomed

"the report issued by the PAC today"--[ Official Report, 27 January 1994 ; Vol. 236, c. 414.]

because it provided a useful checklist. He went on to say that it supported the Government's "drive for efficiency." If that is how the Prime Minister receives that highly critical report, which demonstrates 26 ways in which the use of public funds and the proper conduct of public business have sunk to a low point after 140 years, it begs the question, will the Government take the Public Accounts Committee report seriously?

This is an important debate because we need to reverse the trends away from quangos and agencies to accountable government. We must return to local government the powers and finances that they need to deliver the services for which they have been responsible before and for which they should be made responsible again.

Most importantly, there should be a balance in the appointments to public organisations. When I first became involved in local politics in Warrington, Jim Mason was the chairman of Warrington development corporation. Jim Mason was clearly a Labour party activist ; there is no doubt about that. His connections with the Labour party are renowned. The deputy chairman was Councillor John Walsh, the leader of Warrington borough council, which was a Conservative-controlled council at that time. Peter Shore insisted on having political balance in Warrington development corporation and that is a lesson that the Government should learn.

Perhaps one way to deal with the problem would be to ensure that all public appointments made by Government are scrutinised by a Select Committee which makes the decisions or recommendations to Government. That would ensure that decisions were transparent and above board and that we restored accountability.

In 1944, Reinhold Neibuhr wrote a book called "The Children of Light and Children of Darkness." At the time it was obvious that the war was coming to an end and that we were going to defeat the fascist Nazis in Germany. He tried to write a thesis on preparing the new western world for democracy. He said :

"Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary."

That is true today.

8.1 pm

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham) : I am grateful to the Opposition for allowing us the opportunity to have this important debate. The motion is interesting. It

"condemns the use of contractors to provide public services ; notes that these organisations are not publicly accountable to elected representatives ; is concerned that their proliferation has been accompanied by a loss in the quality of public services, by increased fraud and waste, and by falling standards in public life". Those are serious accusations and we had many insinuations of corruption from the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), who opened the debate for

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the Opposition, but where is the evidence? We should consider that accusation in the context of some cases, and those cases should be brought forward and analysed against each accusation made in the motion.

My attention was brought to one such case by the 13 January 1994 edition of the Radio 4 programme "Face the Facts". That programme referred to a contract that the Labour-controled Tameside borough council near Manchester made with Tameside Enterprises Limited to privatise its old people's homes. The Labour motion before us condemns the use of contractors to provide public services, but that is a Labour-controlled council which has done exactly that. What is Tameside Enterprises Limited, or TEL for short? Let us look at its shareholders. First, the Labour-controlled Tameside metropolitan borough council ; secondly, Ashton-upon-Lyne constituency Labour party--very interesting, that one--thirdly, the Thameside community care trust, the majority shareholder. That sounds better, but who are the trustees of that trust? They include two Labour Members of Parliament and a Labour Member of the European Parliament. I should like to know who are the other trustees. Do they also have political views in common?

The set-up was best described by a member of staff speaking on the radio programme :

"Well, to be quite honest, I I thought I was working for the Labour Party, basically. The directors always seemed to be somebody from the Labour Party. There seemed to be jobs created for it was always somebody's wife or somebody's daughter or an ex councillor who lost his seat. And it just seemed that anybody you met was either involved in the Labour Party or a relation of somebody."

Who did run TEL? The answer was given by the programme presenter, John Waite. He said :

"At the top of the heap, as the fifty five thousand pounds a year company secretary and sole executive director, was Mr. Paul Stonier, a former Labour Parliamentary candidate whose wife was chair of the" Labour- controlled

"borough's Social Services committee. His number two was local Labour councillor, Simon Walker. Neither man had any significant business experience. Both had a wealth of party connections. Too many, according to"

a Labour

"Councillor Craig Brodie."

Then, on the programme, Councillor Brodie was quoted as follows : "Paul Stonier was a former director of Policy Services at Tameside Council and had no financial qualifications at all."

Let us remember that we are speaking about the chief executive of quite a major company. He continued :

"Councillor Simon Walker was appointed from a short list of one. There was the chairman of the company and he was also the chairman of the Strategy committee of Tameside Council. One councillor's wife and daughter received jobs in TEL. Basically, it was a family affair."

Let us remember that those are the words of Labour Councillor Brodie.

Mr. Waite went on to state :

"Links between the council and the company were further strengthened by the appointment of council leader, Roy Oldham, as the director of a subsidiary of TEL set up to oversee property projects."

Let us return to another accusation in the Opposition motion, about

"increased fraud and waste, and falling standards in public life".

Let us judge that case on those criteria. The House will remember that the executive director was appointed on a

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