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Question accordingly agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

Clause 36

Fire services

Lords amendment: No. 11, in page 32, leave out lines 34 to 41. 9.15 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton): I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss also Lords amendment No. 50.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: This is a technical amendment but I shall be happy to explain it to anyone who so wishes.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause

Lords amendment: No. 12, after clause 44, to insert the following new clause-- Chief social work officer --

" . For section 3 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 (director of social work), there shall be substituted the following section-- "Chief social work officer.

3.--(1) For the purposes of their functions under this Act and the enactments mentioned in section 5(1B) of this Act, a local authority shall appoint an officer to be known as the chief social work officer.

(2) The qualifications of the chief social work officer shall be such as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State."."


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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.--[ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to take the following amendments to the Lords amendment: (a), in line 4, leave out

" Chief social work officer.'

and insert

" Director of social work.'

(b) in line 7, leave out chief social work officer' and insert director of social work'.

(c) in line 8, leave out chief social work officer' and insert director of social work'.

(d) in line 10, at end add--

(3) The director of social work shall hold his office during the pleasure of the local authority, but he shall not be removed therefrom, or be required to resign as an alternative thereto, except by a resolution of that authority passed by not less than two-thirds of the members present at a meeting of the authority, notice of which specifies as an item of business the consideration of the removal from office of the director of social work or his being required to resign.

(4) The director of social work of a local authority shall not, except with the consent of the Secretary of State, be employed by that authority in any other capacity.

(5) A local authority shall secure the provision of adequate staff for assisting the director of social work in the performance of his functions.'.

It will also be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 13, 30 to 32, 58 to 64, 70 to 72, 87 to 89, 105 to 107, 110, 112, 118 and 122 to 124.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East): We welcome the amendments passed in another place, which require each of the new unitary authorities to appoint a chief social work officer. The amendments were carried in response to Opposition concern and we welcome the fact that the Government now recognise the importance of having in each of the new unitary authority areas a professionally qualified officer who will be responsible for the management of social work and accountable to elected members for the delivery of social work services. We especially welcome the fact that the Government have undergone a conversion on this issue because, as my hon. Friends--who, like me, debated the Bill for many long hours in Standing Committee--will testify, the Government at that time steadfastly refused to place any such requirement on the new authorities, despite our proposals. Indeed, Conservatives argued against the type of amendments that they have since supported in another place and voted against the amendment that they are now supporting. We can only applaud their conversion, albeit a late one, to a sensible position.

Some people--people less charitable than myself, perhaps--may wonder why the Government have changed their mind on the issue. It may have happened because the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) is no longer the Minister responsible for local government, and has been replaced by his fellow Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart). That change of personnel can hardly be described as signalling a Government move towards a more conciliatory moderate position.


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The real reason for the Government's change of mind is that in this Administration, the Minister responsible for local government is not the Minister responsible for social work. Indeed, the Minister responsible for social work is not to be found anywhere on the Government Benches here tonight, because he sits in another place. He is, of course, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, a Tory of a different hue from that of any of the Tories now occupying the Front Bench in the House of Commons. Anyone who incurs the wrath of the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) as Lord Fraser does cannot be all bad. If we read what Lord Fraser said in Committee in another place, we can begin to get some inkling of why the Government changed their position. He said that he had no criticism of

"social work committees . . . or of past or present directors of social work in Scotland."

Indeed, he recognised the contribution that they had all made, and said that they had been central in introducing care in the community and central, too, to the Government's policies on child care and criminal justice.

Lord Fraser singled out in particular directors of social work, who he said had

"provided very sound professional oversight and should take credit for some very innovative thinking".

He said that he had no doubt that many, if not all, the unitary authorities would not only establish social work committees and appoint directors of social work, but would do so

"along the lines of . . . the present statutory requirement."--[ Official Report , House of Lords, 14 July 1994; Vol. 556, c. 2014.]

Indeed, the noble Lord gave as clear an indication as can be expected from a Tory Minister that, if he had had a free vote and could have cast it for what he in all conscience thought was the best course of action, he would have voted for the Opposition amendments. Of course, he is not allowed to do that in the adversarial atmosphere of the mother of Parliaments, so he did the next best thing and introduced in the House of Lords an amendment that went as far towards the Opposition position as he was allowed to go. That is why the Government amendments use the phrase "chief social work officer" rather than "director of social work" as our amendments suggest. We welcome the move in our direction, but it does not go far enough. We are still worried that the change of title may mean a weakening or undermining of the existing role of directors of social work. "What's in a name?" some might ask. If there is to be a statutory requirement that local authorities appoint chief social work officers, why can they not be required to appoint directors of social work?

Is there any significance behind the difference between the forms of words? Does the change of name reflect any loss of status or power? Is a chief social work officer guaranteed to continue to be the reporting accountable manager to the elected council for the management and delivery of social work services, as a director of social work is now? We want to hear from the Minister whether that is guaranteed to continue. The House deserves an answer to that specific question.


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Will the Minister give a categorical assurance that he will issue directions to the new authorities that chief social work officers are to continue as the reporting accountable managers to elected councils? Will he put on the record, in Hansard , the fact that the Government expect the new chief social work officers to be afforded the same rights, protection and support enjoyed by the current directors of social work, and will he say whether the chief social work officers will continue as direct advisers to the elected councils? Or will the Government allow them to be submerged in more generalist corporate management structures? Finally, will chief social work officers have responsibility for the management of all of the resources allocated to the social work services, including management responsibility for staffing and financial resources within, of course, the policy framework set by elected councillors? We need positive answers to all those questions and, if answers are not forthcoming, I ask the House to support the amendments tabled in the names of my hon. Friends. Ministers will try to tell us that the maximum freedom and flexibility will be available if the new authorities are left to manage their own affairs. They will tell us that the status, power and place of the chief social work officers within authorities' management structures are matters for those authorities, and that Parliament or statute should not require authorities to meet certain criteria.

Many of us would find that line of argument easier to take from the Government if they were not, at the same time, taking control of water and sewerage services away from elected local authorities in Scotland, if they were not abolishing every elected regional and district council in Scotland, and if they were not imposing upon Scottish local government a new structure which virtually no one in the country wants or desires. In short, if the Government were not murdering democratic local government in Scotland, we might believe that they were serious about granting to Scottish local government the maximum freedom and flexibility.

This is no small matter. It is not just a disagreement over the wording, because there are differences which divide the House tonight. For example, in my own area of Tayside, the social work department has developed a comprehensive and integrated structure of social work services. Like everywhere else in Scotland, that department has developed services under the umbrella and leadership of the regional councils. Now the Government propose that the regional councils, and with them the existing social work departments, are to be swept away, and replaced with a network of new and much smaller unitary authorities.

In Tayside's case the successor authorities are likely to be controlled by different political parties. I do not think that anyone would disagree with me if I suggested that the new Dundee unitary authority is likely to be controlled by the Labour party, or that the new Angus authority is likely to be under the control of the Scottish National party. At one time, we could have said that the Perth and Kinross authority would be an obvious one for Tory control, but these days, that kind of remark cannot be made of anywhere in Scotland. Nevertheless, Ministers say that those different councils--which may be controlled by three political groups--will be able to come together to ensure the continuity of policy and provision in the field of social work. They say that the chief social work officers from


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each authority will simply have to liaise with each other to avoid any disruption of the services which were previously available under Tayside. That depends on the status, power and place given to each of those social work officers by the respective authorities. One council may well give to the social work officer a role equivalent to the director of social work today. Another council might not, and the social work officer might be seen as a relatively minor official within a more corporate management structure. Under those circumstances, how can effective liaison take place between different chief social work officers? For liaison to be effective, social work officers in every authority must have the same status, power and place.

There is also the question whether the chief social work officers will be sufficiently senior to withstand politically inspired pressure from councillors. I shall again take a recent example from my area. A proposal was made by Dundee health care trust to place a small number of patients in a community home in Carnoustie. The proposal caused something of a furore, and led to a public meeting in Carnoustie attended by more than 200 people who were alarmed at the prospect of patients suffering from mental illness being placed in their midst.

I do not know whether the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) was there, but certainly the local SNP councillor, a Mr. Lamont--I do not know if he is a relation to the former Chancellor--was there. Following the meeting, he wrote to the local newspaper in the Dundee and Tayside area criticising the trust for proposing to put mentally ill patients into the community.

He warned everyone at the meeting about the murders that have been committed by psychiatric patients who have been released into the community. He also pointed out that, because of the continuing depopulation of Dundee, there were about 6,000 vacant council housing units available, 60 of which are detached. For the £105,000 which was to be paid for the Carnoustie project, Councillor Lamont said that the trust could have bought three council houses in Dundee for each of the four patients, providing much-needed revenue for the local authority in Dundee. The attitude of the SNP councillor in that area is best summed up by the term NIMBY--not in my back yard.

Mr. Welsh: The hon. Gentleman has a problem when he intervenes in Angus affairs. He betrays a total ignorance of the position. The events also illustrate the trust's lack of consultation of the local population. If the trust had made known its plans locally, it would have been a different story. The meeting was set up simply because the people felt that the proposals were being thrust upon them without consultation. There should be consultation to ensure that such projects fit in with the wishes of the local population and are not forced on them without their consent.

9.30 pm

Mr. McAllion: I know that the local Member of Parliament backs the SNP councillor against the trust and opposes the proposal to put the patients into the community. The case sums up the problems that chief social work officers will face. The argument made by the SNP councillor was repeated in the columns of The Evening Telegraph . Anyone can vouch for that. I am not making it up, but am using what he said. His argument


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was that people did not want the patients in their area. They wanted to dump them in the area of another local authority. Dundee has 6,000 empty houses, but it also has a council house waiting list because the houses are empty because no one wants them. They are in what are euphemistically called areas of low demand. Such areas are characterised by problems of crime and vandalism. I suggest that that is the last place that a home for people suffering from mental illness should be located.

Mr. Gallie: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that he is making a great case for building into the local government structure a director of social work and housing? Is that not the current position, given the choice that councils will have? I believe that social work and housing go together.

Mr. McAllion: The hon. Gentleman got it half right. I am making a great case for creating a director of social work. If the hon. Gentleman reads our amendments, he will see that that is what they say.

The case in Angus sums up the problems that will face professional officers in the new unitary authorities. Political pressure from politicians who are in turn subjected to pressure from people in their wards and constituencies sometimes has to be resisted in the interests of good social work care. That is why the chief social work officers in the new authorities must have sufficient seniority and clout within the authority and their department to resist the pressures put on them by councillors. That is why it is essential for the Minister to clarify the role and the standing of the new chief social work officers that he proposes. It is also why, if he is unable to do that satisfactorily, the House should support the Labour amendments, which will ensure the standing and status of the professional officers responsible for social work in the new authority areas.

We are not making a party political point. The point has wide support across the political spectrum. Indeed, when the matter was debated in the other place, Baroness Faithfull, who takes the Conservative Whip-- [Interruption.] Not Marianne Faithfull, Baroness Faithfull.

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Hillhead): She also takes the whip.

Mr. McAllion: I cannot speak for Marianne Faithfull, but Baroness Faithfull has wide experience of social work services in England. Among other things, she was a council member of the National Institute for Social Work, she was vice-president of Barnardo's and an honourary member of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. She said in a debate in the other place: "If we do not have social work committees or directors of social services, I suggest that the service will deteriorate." --[ Official Report, House of Lords , 14 July 1994; Vol.556, c. 2011.] She warned of vague accountability, lack of direction, neglect of standards and fragmentation of the service. She spoke from a lifetime of experience and from the position of taking the Tory Whip in the House of Lords.

Such a voice of experience should be listened to. It is certainly listened to by Opposition Members and it should be listened to by Conservative Members. I look forward to the Government explaining their position.


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Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow): This tawdry Bill, which has all the elegance and appeal of a piece of jewellery bought from one of Mr. Ratner's shops, will harm many disadvantaged people throughout Scotland, particularly with regard to floated plans for social work. So I have a number of questions to ask the Minister. Traditionally, prescribed social work qualifications meant QSWs, or qualifications in social work-- that is the basic qualification--and we then talked about CQSWs, or certificates in social work. There are also diplomas and degrees in social work. When he responds, will the Minister spell out what is meant by prescribed social work qualifications? Do they include those to which I have just referred? I know of one local authority chief executive who expressed the view that an administrative officer could carry out the work of a social work manager. That was before the amendment was tabled in the other place, but such a response shows how some local authorities may respond to the Bill.

I have a little experience of social work, and believe that the new authorities will need to establish social work departments and committees, and directors of social work. The nondescript outfit opposite may wish to talk about chief social work officers with prescribed social work qualifications, but I genuinely believe that many of the new authorities will recruit, select and appoint directors of social work. It is important for the many disadvantaged people whose interests and needs are cared for by social workers, area teams and hospital social work departments that we have social work directors.

One element of a social work director's role is that of advocacy in relation to the needs and interests of many disadvantaged people. Those may include disabled people, people with learning disabilities and elderly people placed in residential homes, some of which are not fit to be used as Army barracks for young soldiers. I would close down some residential homes tomorrow, including one in my constituency. But that is another matter. Most sensible councillors will opt for the appointment of directors of social work. May I ask the Minister some questions about social work? First, will he assure the House that the chief social work officer will perform the same role and duties as are performed at present by social work directors? I refer specifically to section 6 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968. My questions have been prompted by a deeply disturbing statement made by the Minister in another place, where he said:

"Perhaps I may say to the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, that in moving the amendment I said that the chief social work officer will be responsible for the oversight of all the social work services provided or purchased by the local authority."

We are in dangerous waters when we talk about the "purchase" of social work facilities and resources. He went on to say:

"Undoubtedly there will be a staff for which he is responsible but I do not wish to suggest that every single service would necessarily be provided by that staff. Services may be purchased in, as is frequently done at present."--[ Official Report, House of Lords , 19 October 1994; Vol. 558, c. 259.]

I am not so sure that purchasing social work resources is good practice.

I remind hon. Members that the theme of the 1968 Act was, and is, the promotion of social welfare and health. I am worried about the attitude of the Government. For


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example, I ask the Minister, in relation to the role and functions of a chief social work officer, how stands the principle contained in the statement in section 3(7) of the 1968 Act, that

"A local authority shall secure the provision of adequate staff for assisting the director of social work in the performance of his functions"?

Is he satisfied that his legislation is equal, or superior, to that stated in section 3(7) of the 1968 Act?

With regard to section 3(3) of the 1968 Act, what role will the Secretary of State play in the approval of the appointment of chief social work officers? I seem to have lost the attention of the Minister, so I shall repeat the question. In terms of section 3(3) of the 1968 Act, where stands the Secretary of State for Scotland in terms of the appointment of a chief social work officer? Will the Secretary of State continue to have the power of sanction that is contained in section 3(3)?

Section 3(5) states:

"The director of social work shall hold his office during the pleasure of the local authority, but he shall not be removed therefrom, or be required to resign as an alternative thereto, except by a resolution of that authority passed by not less than two-thirds of the members present at a meeting of the authority."

Will the Minister confirm that that will hold in regard to the so-called chief social work officer?

In relation to subsection (4), about the functions of a local authority, will the Minister confirm that what he proposes in the legislation is equal, or superior, to what is contained in that subsection? I ask him to give the House an assurance that a chief social work officer will have the same role, the same duties and the same autonomy, in relation to that important role of advocacy of the needs and interests of disadvantaged people.

Let me give a couple of examples. I say to the Minister that I am worried about the role of the welfare rights officers. They play an important role in the lives of many hundreds, even thousands, of people in Strathclyde region. I cannot speak for other regions, but I know that the three welfare rights officers employed in the Inverclyde division of Strathclyde regional council's social work department play an important role in the lives of ordinary people--people whose lives are heavily scarred by poverty. One example of the work of welfare rights officers is that of advocacy, representing people at social security appeals tribunals, at medical appeals tribunals, and similar functions. Many constituents have told me that they would not have the nerve--the confidence--to appear before an appeals tribunal without the comforting, highly professional presence of a welfare rights officer.

Ms Rachel Squire (Dunfermline, West): I very much want to endorse the arguments that my hon. Friend is making, and to provide the House with the information that, in Fife, the rights office in Dunfermline--the equivalent of the welfare rights officers in Strathclyde--has experienced a 42 per cent. increase in its work load in just the past 12 months. Therefore, I very much endorse what my hon. Friend has said.

9.45 pm

Dr. Godman: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention because, quite apart from its value, it gave me a breather.


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About 50 welfare rights officers are employed in Strathclyde and they have brought a measure of comfort to many poor people. At a recent surgery, a man told me that, with the help of a welfare rights officer, he had won £9,000 from the Department of Social Security. "Won" is the right word because it was a hell of a struggle. For that man, it was like a small win on the pools because it gave him some comfort in a sparse existence.

A woman constituent told me that, with the help of welfare rights officers, she was paid money that she should have received over a period of 11 years. Conservative administrations are a vanishing phenomenon, but some of those that remain may see welfare rights officers and members of area social work teams as agitators or troublemakers, but those people fulfil an important role. Too many Conservative Members see social workers as the lady almoners of yesteryear. The legislation is taking Scotland down the poll tax road because we are to be used as an experimental laboratory. If we must have the new authorities, the social work departments must be adequately staffed and resourced. We shall need social work committees, and to protect the interests of the many poor and disadvantaged people, there must be a director of social work with prescribed social work qualifications. The Government have made a concession, but it does not go far enough for many of our constituents.

Mr. Dalyell: What response has the Minister given to the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations in relation to its concerns about special needs groups?

Mr. Welsh: The Government appear to have bowed to pressure to reinstate social work to its statutory and deserved place in local government services, but it is still to be downgraded in status because statutory directors of social work are to become chief social work officers and the previous statutory social work committees are to be consigned to history.

The Government's attitude to education and social work is wrong because their proposals sweep aside historical reality and the contribution of the statutory directors and their committees, and they also ignore the social and educational reality that led to their creation.

Social work departments have to deal with the daily reality of poverty and unemployment and all the other inbuilt problems of Scottish society. The Lords amendment chooses to ignore the long-standing status and priority given to education and social work in our society. I support the amendments to the amendment because they at least try to restore some of that recognition, but the Government will again summon their absent battalions to force through their views in the face of opposition and advice from Scotland, because that is how the system here works.

In another place, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie said:

"We have always recognised the vital contribution which social work services make in our community. Vulnerable groups depend on community care, and child care services can be reassured about the continuity of the service."--[ Official Report, House of Lords, 19 October 1994; Vol. 558, c. 254.]

That is what the noble Lord said, but people in those services cannot be assured about the status of that service and the statutory provision for it. In many ways, we are up against double standards. I agree with what Lord Fraser says, but not with what the Government have done about it. There was no reason why they should not have ensured


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the continuing high standing and status within the new system of social work and education by ensuring statutory directors and the continuation of statutory committees.

I should like to ask the Minister a few specific questions to which I hope he will respond. In the amendment, the Government have gone some way towards meeting concerns about chief social work officers, so why have they not taken it to its logical conclusion and retained in the legislation the term "director of social work"? Why did they not take that extra step, which would have ensured the standing, status and continuity of the post of director of social work? What assurances can the Minister give to many voluntary organisations which lobbied so extensively throughout the Committee stage of the Bill, to meet the real concern that the change of title may signal a reduction or diminution in the status and authority of the chief social work officer? Will the Minister give a straightforward guarantee that that will not be the case and that the new title will bring with it all that the old title had? We are entitled to ask why there was a change in title. Can the Minister give an absolute guarantee that there will be no diminution in status with the Government proposal?

If it is not the Government's intention to retain the title of director of social work, will the Minister make it absolutely clear that the Government expect the new unitary authorities to bestow upon the new chief social work officers the same rights and

responsibilities as the existing directors of social work? I suspect not, and that is at the heart of the concerns expressed about the Government's proposal.

Will the Minister clarify that the chief social work officer will continue to be the person who acts as the direct adviser to the council in the context of the council's wider strategic role and responsibilities, along similar lines to existing directors of social work?

Given that there cannot be responsibility for standards without an equal control of resources, will the Minister make it clear that the chief social work officer will have responsibility for the management of all resources that are directly delivered or purchased? Does he accept that that management responsibility must cover all staffing resources if councils are to discharge the social work duties and responsibilities envisaged for them?

Scotland's social work system does not need a watered-down version of the present provision; it needs a very much strengthened, well resourced and supported continuation of the present system if it is to work properly and meet the needs of local populations. That is what we need, but it does not seem to be what the Government are delivering. Will the Minister address the specific questions that I have asked regarding the standard, status and powers that he envisages for the new term and the new officer?

Mr. Wallace: The fact that the Government felt obliged to introduce the clause in the House of Lords showed that they had got it wrong when they first published the Bill and argued it through the House. I regret that they have not gone further and made provision for a director of education as chief education officer, but I might be out of order if I proceeded too far down that line; suffice it to keep to social work.

As the Minister of State, Lord Fraser, said in another place, the Government had set out compelling reasons why a director of social work or a chief social work


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officer was necessary. It is recognised by hon. Members on both sides of the House that we are dealing not simply with administrative arrangements for the delivery of social work services but with issues ranging from children to frail elderly people. Social workers deal with human beings and issues affecting civil liberties. I know only too well from my constituency work load how directly social workers can interfere in the lives of citizens. It is important, therefore, that those who discharge the functions, and the person in charge of them, are properly professionally qualified.

I cannot understand why the Government do not go the whole way and call them directors of social work--the only possible reason for their not doing so is loss of face--and Lord Fraser said that many authorities would choose to do just that. He also said that other authorities may have a different structure, but would still be required to appoint a professionally qualified chief social work officer who would have overall responsibility for the services provided or purchased by the local authority.

It would be interesting to hear from the Minister whether he sees any difference between what a director of social work and what a chief social work officer would deliver. If there is no real difference, the Government should be prepared to swallow their pride, accept the Opposition amendment and call them directors of social work. In many people's eyes, that is precisely what they are.

Mr. McAvoy: I shall be extremely brief. As one of several hon. Members who are former members of Strathclyde regional council's social work committee, I could not let the amendment pass without referring to the effect of the Bill and the amendment on the council's operations.

Strathclyde's social work department has a record that is second to none, both in the existing statutory services that it provides and in the innovations that it introduces. Reference has been made to welfare rights officers. Strathclyde, under a director of social work, pursued that policy within the region and helped many people. There have also been initiatives for disabled people, such as the disabled olympics--a great innovative gesture by Strathclyde under the direction of a director of social work working in league with councillors. The range of policies, initiatives and services implemented by a director of social work shows that the system works and that the Government are making a mess of the changes. Mention was made earlier of the pressures on directors of social work. Who knows what the pressures would be on someone called a chief social worker. I remember the pressure on Dr. Fred Edwards, the director of social work at Strathclyde when the region courageously made payments to striking miners who were suffering great hardship. The director did so in conjunction with councillors. It was a perfect example of a caring council looking after its own people. If the Government's new system is to work, it is essential that there is someone with the seniority, status and experience to ensure that it runs properly. The people


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of Strathclyde will regret the passing of the Strathclyde regional council and the Government will pay the price in future for their efforts to destroy it.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) on his maiden speech from the Front Bench. He moved an extremely important amendment. It is not simply a question of the words used to describe the new official but of the status of an official who will be responsible for providing for the needs of the most vulnerable people in our society in different localities in Scotland.

Are we to have, as it states in the Lords amendment, a chief social work officer, which I understand to mean an executive officer who will have to do as he is told under all circumstances, or are we to have, as it states in our amendment, a director of social work--an official who will have a duty to initiate action to protect those who require social work care? That is a crucial point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) gave examples of important areas of social work responsibility. Ministers have heard me repeatedly refer to the need to promote mobility for elderly and disabled people in Scotland and the great value of the present integrated concessionary travel schemes, which enable elderly and disabled people to move around within the regions of Scotland. With all the new boundaries that will be established under the Bill, it will be extremely difficult to maintain the schemes for the benefit of elderly and disabled people. I fear that if we are simply to have what the Lords amendment calls a chief social work officer, he will have to live within the physical and management structure boundaries laid down under the scheme. That means that there is no future for cross-boundary concessionary travel schemes for elderly and disabled people. At Question Time last week, the Minister confirmed to me that under this and new legislation the new local authorities will be able to provide concessionary travel schemes only for people living within their boundaries--their own electors. There will be no scope for cross- subsidisation across boundaries.

We are talking about social work, which will obviously be crucial for people in the districts around cities. If they cannot take advantage of concessionary travel across boundaries into Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen or Dundee, the existing scheme will be greatly and seriously undermined.

It being Ten o'clock, consideration of the Lords amendments stood adjourned.


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