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Column 509salary of £55,000. Within two years he was on £80,000 a year and a flash sports car, but that was not enough. John Waite, in the programme, told listeners :
"Mr. Stonier and his number two, Councillor Walker, had awarded themselves unauthorised pay rises of a thousand pounds a month, twelve thousand pounds a year each, after TEL had won a contract to manage homes for"
--wait for it--Labour-controlled
"Stockport Council. Both men had also used the company credit card to finance personal spending, for which they later repaid the company. In particular, Mr. Walker put the plastic to work buying a holiday abroad just a week after the cuts package"
--which I shall mention later--
"was introduced in the borough's old people's homes. Mr. Stonier had also arranged an unauthorised loan from the company of sixteen thousand pounds, a loan made jointly to himself and his wife, Shirley, then chair of Tameside's Labour-controlled social services committee."
What about a waste of money? Let us consider some of the orders contracted. John Waite said :
"In fact, in just two years, almost half a million pounds went on carpet contracts alone, contracts awarded without tender to a former bankrupt who'd fitted carpets in executive director Paul Stonier's home. The tendering process was also ignored in awarding the contract to run TEL's payroll, with the job going to a firm run by one of Mr. Stonier's Labour party colleagues."
How could all that arise? Company law defines the responsibilities of company directors. Where were they, the directors appointed by and representing the shareholders--let us remember, Ashton-under-Lyne Labour party, the Labour-controlled council, or the Labour trustees of the so- called Community care trust? They either did not demand information or exercise control or they failed to assess it. It seems that that scandal was not confined to the instances that I have outlined ; it extended to the overall finances. Bills were not paid, debts were run up to the tune of £2 million, control was non-existent and--worst of all--the welfare of elderly residents was put in jeopardy. When the finances were in a shambles of a scale that even the Labour party could not fail to see, the Labour leaders of the council met.
The meeting consisted of Councillor Oldham--the leader of the council--the deputy leader, the director of finance and Councillor Middleton, chair of the council's debt recovery committee. Councillor Middleton said on the programme :
"All the three faces were ashen. As though they were waiting for an execution, that sort of thing. And it was the leader himself who said, Things are definitely not right with with Tameside Enterprises, Jim, but the last thing we want is any panic, you know, and eventually it'll work itself out and TEL will will ride out the storm' sort of thing".
Presumably, that is the way in which the Labour party operates, but rumours abounded, and, finally, in May last year, seven Labour councillors from the party's Ashton branch broke ranks to call for a public inquiry and the immediate dismissal of TEL's top management. The response from leader Roy Oldham and the controlling group of Labour-controlled Tameside council was swift and firm--the seven councillors were suspended. That is presumably the way in which the Labour party deals with the accountability to elected representatives for which its motion calls. Perhaps today's debate should be called "The Elected Sacked State".
How did the Labour group in Tameside ride out the storm? First, the board tore up the guaranteed pay and conditions package for the staff which had been negotiated
Column 510with the National Union of Public Employees. Then, the executive director was sent around the old people's homes in his sleek sports car, sorting out the severe cuts that had been called for. "In a flash sports car around the homes"--does not that have echoes of the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) describing
Labour-controlled Liverpool city council?
The key Labour party grandees began to resign from all the boards and committees of the company. Labour Councillor Rolland said : "All the key players seemed to be jumping ship because the first determined inquiry was now underway into that company. We really started to wonder whether things weren't far, far worse than we ever feared."
Mr. Arnold : A public inquiry is now under way and many other inquiries jolly well should be under way. If a public inquiry was instigated, it was thanks to the BBC, which is, incidentally, a quango, not to the Labour party.
How did the matter end? I call on the Opposition's spokesman who winds up the debate to tell the House what the Labour party headquarters in Walworth road is doing about it. We should like to hear what inquiry the Labour party has established. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether the district auditor is on to this, what steps are being taken to bring the directors of TEL to book, what the charity commissioners are doing about the trustees--two of whom are Members of Parliament--and whether the fraud squad is looking into the shambles.
Reading the motion leads one to think that people in glasshouses should not throw stones. Instead of tabling what can best be described as a sanctimonious boomerang of a motion, Labour should put its own house in order and clean out its Augean stable.
Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton) : The hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) should understand at least one thing--the series of incidents that he described bore no resemblance to those that I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) went through in Liverpool. I urge the hon. Gentleman to examine the historical record, which shows that the Labour party put its house in order. Such smears go nowhere.
Mr. Arnold rose--
I was beguiled by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster as he meandered in an entranced, Wee Willy Winkle fashion through the motion and the amendment without dealing with the basic difference between the two parties, which is whether or not we believe that there has been a regression to the non-elected state, whether public standards have been eroded or whether, as the Government contend, they have been upheld. I argue that it is certainly not the latter. I was also quite taken by the comments by the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) who left us spellbound, if nothing else, by his failure to explain exactly what he meant by accountability. He did not speak very succinctly and he certainly did not convince me. More important, he said several times that we were making all sorts of strange assumptions. He also said that he had not
Column 511had any difficulty in obtaining information. It is a shame that he is not here to hear about my odyssey about trying to obtain information which he apparently obtained with great ease and facility. I believe that the availability of information is vital for accountability but it has not materialised, or certainly not without a great deal of effort.
Every year the Cabinet Office produces a publication called "Public Bodies" which, allegedly, tells us all that we need to know about quangos. The 1993 edition summarises the number of staff employed by each body, its total expenditure, the number of people serving on it and what they receive per meeting or per annum. It even tells us how many men and women there are on each quango. Sadly, it does not answer the crucial questions. It does not tell us who the people are or why they are there.
Incidentally, the publication deals with the recognised bodies that we know as quangos. I digress a little to mention a body that I thought was a quango, the Charity Commission. A number of charity commissioners are listed at the beginning of the publication, but I wondered why the body did not appear in "Public Bodies". I rang the Home Office under whose aegis it apparently operates only to be told that it was not considered a quango because when the people were appointed they became public servants, ergo, it was no longer a quango. I wonder where there is a list of those to whom the people who receive up to £44,000 a year as charity commissioners are accountable.
My hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth) tabled a series of questions in 1993 asking various Departments to list the names, occupations and current employers of people who held positions in each public body. In most cases he was referred back to "Public Bodies" or told that the biographical information on appointees was not held centrally in the form requested. My view of that is simply--if not, why not? If something is published purporting to give public information, it is surely not too much to expect these bodies, most of which have full-time staff, to provide a list of their members' names.
I may now fall out with some of my Welsh colleagues because, oddly enough, there is one notable exception, although it is far from sufficient. There is a list of appointments made to public bodies by the Secretary of State for Wales. It details all public bodies in Wales and lists their appointees by name, residence and occupation, when the appointment commenced, when it will expire and the appointees' remuneration and time commitment. It does not, of course, tell us the criteria according to which people were appointed. Nevertheless, some effort has been made to provide information. I have a simple question : if the Welsh Office can do it, why cannot all the others?
Since the beginning of the year I have tabled more than 700 parliamentary questions to try to find out who sits on every one of the quangos. As we know, the first difficulty is getting the questions in bulk through the Table Office. It has its job to do but, nevertheless, if one wants up-to- date information, one needs to get the questions through as quickly as possible. I pay tribute to the patience of the Clerks in the Table Office who assisted me in tabling up to 80 questions a day. Nevertheless, I tabled more than 700 questions to find out who was on the quangos. Some Departments had already published lists of their members but as these are not held centrally it was almost impossible to know whether that was the case. It was difficult enough for a Member of Parliament, with access to the parliamentary on-line information service in the House of
Column 512Commons Library, to find that information. It would be virtually impossible for a member of the public to gain access to it. It is not only confusing to the public or to mere Members of Parliament, but many civil servants have not got a clue what is going on either. After I tabled the questions on quangos to the Home Office, I received a telephone call from an official and I was asked what I meant by the advisory committee on service candidates. Being the honest Member of Parliament that I am, I said that, frankly, I did not know, that it was something listed in the review of public bodies and that his guess was as good as mine. I also told him that it was an advisory body that did not publish an annual report, that it consisted of a male chairman, one male deputy chairman and five male and five female members. Other than that, I was up a cul-de-sac, so I suggested that he rang the Home Office. I was told that I was speaking to someone from the Home Office and that he did not know of the body. At least, I gave him credit for trying to answer the questions.
In dealing with some Departments, I have not only gone into a cul-de-sac, but run into a brick wall. For example, the Lord Chancellor's Department answered all 27 questions by saying : "The information requested is not readily available ; I will reply as soon as possible."
To my knowledge, in some cases, that information is not only readily available, but if one can search it out it can be found in the bowels of the Library. It certainly should be there.
To take one positive example, I shall cite the Law Commission, which, there is no doubt, is a quango. I was told that the information on that quango was not readily available, yet its chairman's annual salary is £90,148 a year--easily lost in the Department--and there are three male members and one female member who receive £64,307 each a year. I was told that the Lord Chancellor's Department did not have the names of those five people who are receiving substantial sums of money. First, the Department should have such names readily available and, secondly, that information is available if someone could be bothered to look for it. If the Department looked in "Public Bodies", it would see, as I could, that the Law Commission publishes an annual report, which is placed before the House of Commons, and on page 2 it names the law commissioners. According to that Department, that information is not readily available.
To give another example, I tabled questions to the Ministry of Defence on 21 January and, to date, I have had no answers whatever to 23 questions on quangos. I have a list of those questions. Over a month later, the Secretary of State for Defence has been unable to tell me who are the members currently appointed to the review board for Government contracts. I would have thought that that was a powerful body which dealt with all the contracts going through the Ministry of Defence.
I could not be told the identity of the members who are currently appointed to the nuclear weapons safety committee. I would have thought that that was a key job and that the names would be readily available to any Secretary of State.
On the subject of our economic situation, I asked the Secretary of State for Defence who are the members currently appointed to the oil and pipelines agency. He said that he would answer shortly that and every other question. Four weeks later, I am no closer to getting the right answer.
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) : I was tempted to reprimand my hon. Friend in my intervention for being naive, but I am sure that, knowing him, he would never be accused of that particular vice. Is not it the fact that none of us should be surprised about what he is saying because secrecy goes hand in hand with corruption? As soon as one starts making public appointments, which are made not on the basis of merit, but on whether that person is a member, a supporter or a financial donor to a political party, corruption and secrecy stalk the land.
Mr. Kilfoyle : It certainly gives rise to the suspicion that people have something to hide when the information is not readily available, it is not detailed and it is not accessible to the general public. For example, I was not suprised, on considering the overseas project board and the members of that quango, when I saw the interested parties in the Malaysian dam scheme and that that board had a part to play in advising the Government on that type of project. I am somewhat naive and I hope that my hon. Friends will forgive me. I did not stop to think that many of those board members would have provided huge amounts of money to the Conservative party. Having said that, I commend the few Departments which are ready to provide the information. With difficulty, I have been able to amass a huge file, which contains a massive number of sheets of paper on which there are lists of names. Some of the Departments realise that if they are not careful and if they give too much information, one may be able to trace a little more about the membership of some of the quangos.
Mr. Jonathan Evans (Brecon and Radnor) : The hon. Gentleman praised the Welsh Office earlier for publishing the names of people on quangos in Wales. Does he concede that if there were a general publication policy, it would answer the point raised by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman)? I note from the publication that the Welsh Office council has a person named Councillor Jane Davidson as a member, who is also recorded in the index of the House of Commons as research officer for the Labour Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan).
Mr. Kilfoyle : The hon. Gentleman put two questions. I shall answer the first one simply. Yes, I gave credit where it was due, although I included the caveat that it would be nice to know the basis on which members are appointed. I do not have any problem with open government or try to divest the secrecy which surrounds many of those bodies. We are at one on that. May I continue to give an example where obfuscation rather than illumination is the order of day in the quangos?
We came across a series of quango committees, some of which I have great difficulty in pronouncing. There are committees on toxicity, on mutagenicity, and on carcinogenicity. [ Hon. Members :-- "Hear Hear."] They are important committees because they deal with additives, chemicals in foods, consumer products and the environment. The preamble to their report, which was not given to me, of course, listed the professors involved. I thought that they would be eminent people involved in those three quangos and that it was good to know that one was in safe hands. The preamble said :
"Committee members are appointed as independent scientific and medical experts on the basis of their special skills and knowledge."
Column 514I felt more comforted by that, until I was most surprised to find that there were registered interests for each of the committee members. It was not something of which I was readily apprised. Quite by accident, I found the register which listed all those eminent professors and noted the kinds of consultancies which they held. Bear in mind that they are considering toxicity, mutagenicity and carcinogenicity, about chemicals in food, in consumer products and the environment.
Some of their members have no commercial interests whatever to declare. However, on the toxicity committee, nine of its members declared a consultancy interest in some 30 companies. Two of the members were shareholders, two were employees and one received an occasional fee from companies in which he or she had a commercial interest. On top of that, they honestly declared that they had all sorts of research contracts with the companies. If we consider them, it is a roll call of honour. It is all about conflict of interest, about having open government and about ensuring that the people who make the decisions are seen for what they are and for what their interests may or may not be. That not is to suggest any impropriety on their part, far be it from me to do that. However, I want to highlight where there is a potential conflict of interest with those companies.
The companies include the Wellcome Foundation, ML Laboratories, Ortho Ltd., Pfizer Ltd., SmithKline Beecham, Sterling Winthrop Ltd., Syntex Ltd., Wyeth Ltd., Zeneca, Roche Holdings, Ciba-Geigy, Nestle , Sandoz, Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, TAP Pharmaceuticals ; and the list goes on. Every chemical and drug company in Europe and North America has an interest in those people in the form of a consultancy or in some other form. Those very people are advising on the kind of pollution over which those companies are often found wanting. I believe that that information should be readily available in the public domain.
Mr. Hanson : I am pleased to hear from my hon. Friend that there is a register of interests. The Secretary of State for Wales, whom he rightly praised for producing a report on the membership of quangos, has just refused, in answer to a parliamentary question from me, to establish registers of interests for all quangos in Wales. So we do not know the interests of the people on those bodies, and we still do not have the accountability that we should seek.
Mr. Kilfoyle : I am not surprised by anything that emerges in connection with quangos. Just now I heard some sedentary comments from Conservative Members to the effect that I am a stupid man. I am perfectly happy to accept that if they mean that I, like most of the public out there, was in blissful ignorance, because the information is not readily available or accessible. I cannot go to any central collation of that information and seen who is making the decisions and what those people's interests are. If that is stupidity, I, like the bulk of the population, must plead 110 per cent. guilty. Something positive had to come out of the process, but not much. I examined the details about other quangos. Hon. Members should bear in mind that the information is not available on a database, so it is a manual exercise to go through the papers about the quangos and find out who belongs where. One of the professors--it may be unfair to name him, because he is one of many--is on the committee on pesticides, the committee on toxicity, the committee on
Column 515carcinogenicity and the medicines commission. All those are fee-paying posts, from which he gets up to £160 per meeting. He also has his professorship, and his consultancies with ML Laboratories, Ortho Ltd., Pfizer Ltd., SmithKline Beecham, Sterling -Winthrop, Syntex and Wyeth, his research fellowship with another company, and a pension from yet another chemical company. I have to say that whoever pays the piper calls the tune when that man gives his professional opinion on such matters.
When we look further into the quangos we come across other names that are repeated time and time again. The dread Sir Donald Wilson, the chairman of the Mersey regional health authority, has already been mentioned. The one thing on which I can agree with the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) is probably our mutual loathing for the gentleman in question. [Interruption.] I should not like to be thought to mince my words in any shape or form. The gentleman in question forced through the trusts in the Mersey region as a vanguard of the NHS reforms. He used no local people, and there was no sense of accountability. He imported people en masse from the Tory shires ; they moved across and made the decisions. They stopped hon. Members from having access to any information about their decisions, or to most of the information about their accounts. We were misled and there were misrepresentations at every stage. Now we see that the reward for Sir Donald is another promotion. I wonder whether Sir Donald's deputy, Professor Alasdair Breckenridge--I nearly made a Freudian slip and said Myra--will get a further promotion. He is a professor of clinical pharmacology at the university of Liverpool and the deputy chairman of the regional health authority. It seems to go with the job that he has to spend so much time on quangos all round the country. Between teaching clinical pharmacology and running the regional health authority with the redoubtable Sir Donald, Professor Breckenridge is on the advisory committee on NHS drugs, the committee on the safety of medicines, the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation, and the medical research council. I am not even halfway through the list yet. There are ways in which the problems can be tackled, but they require a will on the part of the Government to do certain things. First, we should produce an annual report listing the members appointed to all public bodies and giving the following information. First, the name--that is self-evident--and the occupation is an important sign of what knowledge and expertise someone can bring to the post. Then we should know the date on which the person was appointed and the date on which the appointment expires, the remuneration, the time commitment, any political offices held, past or present, and, obviously, a declaration of commercial interests. I realise that that may be somewhat difficult, but a party that has done the best job since Maundy Gregory in making sure that it gets its way in appointing people to offices and jobs galore all over the land should be able to find a way to make that information accessible to the general public, not merely to Members of Parliament. I shall touch briefly on the trusts, because they give an insight into the mentality and hypocrisy of Conservative Members. It is no accident that former Conservative Members of Parliament are heavily involved in the NHS hospital trusts. The Tories Lord Heyhoe, Sir Timothy Raison, Sir Robert McCrindle and Tony Favell are all
Column 516heavily involved on a paid basis, earning anything up to £19,285 per annum for running health trusts. If that is not looking after your own, I do not know what is.
Several hon. Members rose --
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse) : Order. There are 45 minutes available before the wind-up and many hon. Members want to catch my eye. I hope that the hon. Members whom I call will bear that fact in mind.
"a loss in the quality of public services, by increased fraud and waste, and by falling standards in public life"
is patent nonsense. Those appalling words describe the situation in Labour- run councils far more accurately than they do quangos or contractors.
Labour-run councils such as Monklands, Lambeth and Tameside lead the field- -but, sadly, they lead it in nepotism and corruption. Monklands is extremely significant for the debate, because that is the constituency of the man who wants to be the Prime Minister of this country-- [Hon. Members :-- "Where is he?"] I gave him an invitation at 3 o'clock this afternoon to come and listen to the debate.
Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that the debate is about the unelected state? The hon. Member for Dover is referring to people who are part of the elected state.
Mr. Shaw : Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am ready for many points of order, because Labour Members are so sensitive about what I say about Monklands that they are always trying to interrupt my speeches.
Monklands is the constituency of John Smith, the man who wants to be Prime Minister of the nation. John Smith-- [Hon. Members :-- "Order."] John Smith closely supports
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. Surely the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends do not think that Monklands council is a quango. We are discussing quangos and unelected bodies. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will stick to talking about unelected bodies.
Mr. Shaw : I made it clear in my opening remarks that I was talking about the allegations of falling standards in public life. In my view, that allegation applies, as I hope to demonstrate, far more to Labour councils such as Monklands than it does to quangos.
Mr. Shaw : If I may say so, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have read from the motion and I shall explain how there is an unelected state in Monklands. If you listen, you will find out that what I am saying fits in accurately with the motion. The motion mentions increased fraud--
Mr. Sheerman : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the hon. Member for Dover continues to make allegations of corruption involving Members of the House, he should be called to order, or we shall call his speech to order.
Mr. Shaw : Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When the Opposition allow me to continue I shall explain how contractors, often connected with the leader of Monklands council, are taking money out of the council and the public sector, and how the leader of the council, a friend and close associate of the Leader of the Opposition, is involved in actions that fit the terms of the motion to a tee.
Mr. Sheerman : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the hon. Gentleman continues to make allegations about people who are unable to defend themselves in the House, is he prepared to repeat them outside the House to give ordinary citizens the right--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I have already drawn the hon. Gentleman's attention to this. I must tell him that he is going outside my interpretation--it is the Chair who decides. If he sticks to the motion, he will be all right. If he does not, I shall have to rule him out of order.
Mr. Sheerman : It is not the same point of order. The hon. Member for Dover has constantly referred to a Member of the House by name. He has been in the House long enough to know the convention. If he does not, he should go outside the Chamber and learn it. [Interruption.]
Mr. Richards : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance because I understand that what my hon. Friend is saying relates to the motion. The motion says that Labour are concerned that the proliferation of quangos
"has been accompanied by a loss in the quality of public services, by increased fraud and waste".
I believe that my hon. Friend is talking about fraud and waste in public services.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : The Chair will decide--I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not challenging the Chair. I have already made my ruling. I ask the hon. Member for Dover to stick to the motion before the House. If he does not, he will have to resume his seat.
Column 518Members. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) went extremely wide in his opening remarks and referred to fraud and corruption. I only hope that you will allow me to answer some of his points about fraud and corruption and his allegations.
Mr. Streeter : Does my hon. Friend agree that the whole argument of Labour Members is that locally elected councils are better at delivering services than quangos and that local authorities with elected members crack down on fraud and waste? If he does not agree, could he give some examples of local authorities which, although they have elected members, still have fraud and waste rampant in their organisations?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I must tell the hon. Member for Dover not to go down that road. I draw his attention to the motion before the House, which refers to quangos in the first line and which says in the second line :
"these organisations are not publicly accountable".
The hon. Gentleman must base his speech on that.
Mr. Shaw : I have not yet started my speech--I am still making my opening remarks. I hope that you will bear with me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as I develop my opening remarks to cover the unelected situation that exists and many of the points for which no one was elected in Monklands. The fact is-- [Interruption.] May I continue and quote from Labour party members in the Monklands area about the unelected state in Monklands?
Mr. Richards : Does my hon. Friend agree with the motion, which says that there have been falling standards in public life because of quangos, as opposed to the continuation with elected bodies such as Monklands district council?
Mr. Shaw : I note my hon. Friend's point about falling standards in public life. I cannot accept that quangos are causing falling standards in public life. The whole argument that I am trying to put forward is that even Labour party members in Monklands believe that quangos would be better than the state of affairs that they have in the district council in Monklands.
In 1992, Catherine Miller, who is the secretary of the Holehills and Raywards branch of the Labour party in Monklands, East, said : "This branch unreservedly condemns the nature of Cllr. Brooke's highly personalised and" --
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. That is it--I will not tell the hon. Gentleman again. As I interpret the motion in front of me, he is out of order. He must come back to order. If he does not, he must take his seat.