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Column 255

Of course we have no assessment of costs. It is a ludicrous position. Hundreds of millions of pounds could still be spent on policies that nobody wants from a Government who will not provide high investment to services that are badly needed, such as community care and fighting crime. It is an act of monumental irresponsibility and it lies fairly and squarely with the Secretary of State for Scotland who took on this madcap proposal and is willing to see it through, even to the destruction of the Conservative party which will surely follow as a result of the process being completed in the House and then moving to another place.

The Government cannot stomach the fact that there is no commitment from the Scottish people. We have heard so much drivel about people in Scotland wanting this reorganisation. We have heard about councillors clamouring at the Minister's door to fix their own areas, but a reorganisation that does not have the support of the people does not deserve to survive, and this one will not survive. The Opposition are concerned that the Bill has ignored services completely. Life and death services have never figured in the minds of Government Ministers or Tory Back Benchers. It is all about beating a path to the Secretary of State's door saying, "We will slavishly accept the wisdom of this gerrymandering political exercise with no regard to the high-quality services which are being delivered in many areas."

Some 300,000 employees will now find that, as Government did not have the guts to transfer them on the face of the Bill, they may end up in court to determine their future because the Government have also ignored European legislation. The Bill is disgraceful on two points : there is no transfer and no simple adherence to European directives.

The hallmark of the mess has been the Government's commitment to butcher the delivery of water and sewerage services in Scotland. We have heard many words spoken in the House and elsewhere about water. They were given the opportunity after they heard the opinion polls, the Strathclyde referendum and the results of the local government elections, but the Government are so removed from reality that they will take no opportunity to secure their own political future and instead treat the people of Scotland with bitter contempt on those important issues.

We can tell the Government this evening that Scots do not want three super- quangos. We want no halfway house. Despite the bleatings of Tory Back Benchers, they know that water is an albatross round their necks. We shall ensure that it will remain an albatross until and during the next election. They can bleat all they wish, but we shall not let them forget it.

The Bill has also been a root and branch attack on democracy. My hon. Friends have talked about quangos. Scotland will be represented by 1,200 elected people, but 5,000 quango members, meeting in private to do the dirty work of the Secretary of State, will deal with £7 billion worth of expenditure in Scotland.

It is an insult to the House. We pride ourselves on being elected to Westminster to enact legislation that is in the interests of the people. The Government are now hell-bent on ensuring that what they cannot win by the ballot box they will win by the appointment of quangos to every organisation throughout the length and breadth of

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Scotland. On behalf of the Scottish people, we shall have none of it. The Government stand condemned and isolated on the Bill and have shown no remorse whatever. They are adding insult to injury by dismantling local government and passing services over to the friends and supporters of their party.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood) highlighted another fact. Last week, on Report, we gave the Government the opportunity to put the record straight on seat belts, but what did they do ? They brought 250 Tories Members into the House to vote against improving the safety of vulnerable children travelling in minibuses and coaches in Scotland. That can be with their conscience, but my hon. Friend is also right to suggest that we will push until the measure is implemented and Scots can travel safely throughout the country.

The Tories are in a mess in Scotland, but are unconcerned. The Bill is a mess, but the Tories are unconcerned. What they should be concerned about is that the timetable for this ludicrous proposal is also in crisis. In another place, the Bill will be delayed. The prospect of having elections less than a year from now is simply outrageous by any standard of democratic traditions. Let us warn the Government, before the Minister replies, that the story does not end in the House this evening. We shall step up the campaign vigorously throughout Scotland. We expect local authorities not to have anything to do with this legislation.

The Government should remember that, until they get this bad Bill and all the required regulations that go with it through in November, Scotland will have nothing to do with it. That is absolutely right. Parliament and the people should now combine to delay, derail and, ultimately, destroy the Bill. It is not in the interests of Scotland, services or local government. That is why my hon. Friends will vote against its Third Reading tonight.

8 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart) : May I first say to the hon. Members for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) that I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) will be grateful for the sympathy that they expressed ?

A number of genuine points were made during the debate, amid a certain amount of the usual ranting and raving from the Opposition Front Bench. The hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) rightly raised the point about Blindcraft. I can assure him that I have met representatives from Blindcraft, with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin). I hope that any difficulties will be resolved. The hon. Gentleman asked about the future of the Strathclyde regional chemist laboratories, but the point is that there are only four such laboratories in Scotland, serving all 65 councils in Scotland. That is an excellent example of a joint arrangement that works. There is nothing new or radical in suggesting, as we are, that, under the new structure, local authorities must co-operate in joint arrangements. That happens now.

Following the speech of the hon. Member for Hamilton, there were four excellent speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch), for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and for Ayr (Mr. Gallie). A general theme

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underlined those speeches. The House spent an immense amount of time, rightly and properly, on the Bill. Some 177 hours were spent in Committee and that, as my hon. Friends pointed out, meant that many of the amendments that were tabled were accepted by the Government. The changes that were made to the boundaries in Committee all resulted from approaches to the Government, which were on either an all- party or a non-party basis.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North rightly referred to the need to look carefully at the most cost-effective way of delivering services in future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr and the hon. Members for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) and for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood) referred to boundary questions in relation to the proposals for Lanarkshire. I was rather surprised that the hon. Member for Clydesdale attacked the proposals as gerrymandering, because he came to see me, as part of a delegation, to express the hope that the Government would not change the proposals for South Lanarkshire. I was extremely glad to confirm that we were persuaded by the strength of the arguments made by the hon. Gentleman

Mr. Hood : I am sure that the Minister would not like to mislead the House. Does he agree that the hon. Member for Clydesdale facilitated the meeting for his local authority to come down and put its case, and that there is a marked difference between that and what the Minister said ?

Mr. Stewart : There were two meetings.

Mr. Hood indicated dissent .

Mr. Stewart : The hon. Gentleman, as I recall, came along with his hon. Friends to a second meeting, in which he agreed with the case that the Government were making for South Lanarkshire. If I have misinterpreted the hon. Gentleman, of course I shall withdraw that, but it was certainly the case that a number of his hon. Friends clearly supported the case for South Lanarkshire.

Mr. Salmond : May I examine the Minister's credentials, as he is one of the contenders for the crown of thorns in the Scottish Office ? Has he ever personally believed in water privatisation ? If so, when did he stop ?

Mr. Stewart : I am glad to respond to that point. I was going to come to it in a moment or two, because I thought that the hon. Member for Hamilton alleged that I had publicly supported the privatisation of water and sewerage in Scotland. I have never publicly supported-- [Hon. Members :-- "Rubbish."] I have never supported the privatisation of water and sewerage in Scotland. The hon. Member for Hamilton made great play of the fact that the privatisation option for water and sewerage used rather more lines in the consultation paper than the option that was eventually adopted by the Government. That proves nothing. The ten commandments were pretty short, but nevertheless they are a great deal more important than many other passages of literature.

Mr. McAllion : Will the Minister give way ?

Mr. Stewart : No. I have only a limited amount of time available. Opposition Members talked about gerrymandering and the cost-effectiveness of the new councils. I have quotation after quotation from individual Labour-led councils in Scotland, not universally but across the central belt and

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elsewhere. The hon. Member for Hamilton and others referred to Clackmannan. I do not know how much of the Clackmannan case he wishes me to read out, but it is a Labour-led district council, which made a very clear case for its authority to be a unitary authority. I find it astonishing that the Labour party should have so little confidence in Labour councillors and Labour councils up and down the length and breadth of Scotland that it derides the cases made by Clackmannan, Falkirk, West Lothian--the authority of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) --and East Lothian. We responded to the cases that were made by Labour council after Labour council.

Mr. Dalyell : West Lothian is not a Labour authority, but will the Minister answer the substantial question of whether there will be a Lords amendment on Queensferry ?

Mr. Stewart : That, of course, is entirely a matter for individual Members of the other place.

The key charge of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) was that the timetable has slipped. I am sorry to disappoint him. That is wishful thinking on his part. I assure the House that the timetable for local government reorganisation under the Bill remains as planned. The hon. Gentleman is whistling in the wind

Mr. McLeish : Will the Minister give way ?

Mr. Stewart : No, I really do not have time.

The hon. Gentleman is whistling in the wind if he dares to suggest otherwise. The Bill is on track and on time ; nor will it be moved by the programme of non-co-operation to which the hon. Member for Fife, Central referred positively, but which the hon. Member for Hamilton rightly suggested had not delayed the Bill's passage or the reorganisation programme.

As I have said, the case for the Bill has been advanced over an extremely long period, and it has been presented powerfully and effectively by my hon. Friends tonight. Opposition Members do not know what their policy is, but it is to hand over local government to some other body. That is the policy of the hon. Member for Hamilton : he will stand at this Dispatch Box and have no responsibility whatever for local government policy. The Opposition have no policy to put before the House, as they had no policy to put before the Standing Committee that considered the Bill in such detail. I commend the Bill whole-heartedly to the House as a blueprint for effective, accountable, stable local government in Scotland--not just for the next two years, but into the next century.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time : The House divided : Ayes 289, Noes 253.

Division No. 257] [8.12 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)

Aitken, Jonathan

Alexander, Richard

Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)

Allason, Rupert (Torbay)

Amess, David

Ancram, Michael

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)

Ashby, David

Aspinwall, Jack

Atkins, Robert

Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)

Banks, Matthew (Southport)

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Batiste, Spencer

Bellingham, Henry

Bendall, Vivian

Beresford, Sir Paul

Biffen, Rt Hon John

Blackburn, Dr John G.

Body, Sir Richard

Bonsor, Sir Nicholas

Column 259

Booth, Hartley

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)

Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia

Bowden, Andrew

Bowis, John

Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes

Brandreth, Gyles

Brazier, Julian

Bright, Graham

Brooke, Rt Hon Peter

Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)

Browning, Mrs. Angela

Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)

Budgen, Nicholas

Burns, Simon

Burt, Alistair

Butler, Peter

Butterfill, John

Carlisle, John (Luton North)

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Cash, William

Channon, Rt Hon Paul

Chapman, Sydney

Churchill, Mr

Clappison, James

Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coe, Sebastian

Colvin, Michael

Congdon, David

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cope, Rt Hon Sir John

Couchman, James

Cran, James

Davies, Quentin (Stamford)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Deva, Nirj Joseph

Devlin, Tim

Dickens, Geoffrey

Dicks, Terry

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Duncan, Alan

Duncan-Smith, Iain

Dunn, Bob

Durant, Sir Anthony

Dykes, Hugh

Elletson, Harold

Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)

Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)

Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)

Evans, Roger (Monmouth)

Evennett, David

Faber, David

Fabricant, Michael

Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas

Fenner, Dame Peggy

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Fishburn, Dudley

Forman, Nigel

Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Forth, Eric

Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)

Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)

French, Douglas

Fry, Sir Peter

Gallie, Phil

Gardiner, Sir George

Garnier, Edward

Gill, Christopher

Gillan, Cheryl

Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair

Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles

Gorman, Mrs Teresa

Gorst, John

Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)

Grylls, Sir Michael

Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn

Hague, William

Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie

Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)

Hampson, Dr Keith

Hanley, Jeremy

Hannam, Sir John

Hargreaves, Andrew

Harris, David

Haselhurst, Alan

Hawkins, Nick

Hawksley, Warren

Hayes, Jerry

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward

Heathcoat-Amory, David

Hendry, Charles

Hill, James (Southampton Test)

Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)

Horam, John

Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Howard, Rt Hon Michael

Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)

Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)

Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)

Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)

Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)

Hunter, Andrew

Jack, Michael

Jackson, Robert (Wantage)

Jenkin, Bernard

Jessel, Toby

Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)

Jopling, Rt Hon Michael

Key, Robert

King, Rt Hon Tom

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)

Knight, Greg (Derby N)

Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)

Knox, Sir David

Kynoch, George (Kincardine)

Lait, Mrs Jacqui

Lang, Rt Hon Ian

Lawrence, Sir Ivan

Legg, Barry

Leigh, Edward

Lennox-Boyd, Mark

Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)

Lidington, David

Lightbown, David

Lilley, Rt Hon Peter

Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)

Lord, Michael

Luff, Peter

Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas

MacGregor, Rt Hon John

MacKay, Andrew

Maclean, David

McLoughlin, Patrick

McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick

Madel, Sir David

Maitland, Lady Olga

Malone, Gerald

Mans, Keith

Marland, Paul

Marlow, Tony

Marshall, John (Hendon S)

Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)

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