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Rural and Community Hospitals

Mr. David Prior accordingly presented a Bill to establish procedures to place restrictions on the closure of rural and community hospitals: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 3 July, and to be printed [Bill 186].

SCOTLAND BILL (PROGRAMME)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee),


Question agreed to.

Resolved,


TABLE

Allotted dayProceedings Allotted period
Second day New Clause 2 and New Clause 445 minutes
New Clause 12 and New Clause 151 hour 30 minutes
New Clause 172 hours
New Clause 182 hours 30 minutes
Amendments to Clause 1, Schedule 1 and Clauses 2 to 193 hours 30 minutes
Amendments to Clauses 20, Schedule 2, Clause 21, Schedule 3 and Clause 22 4 hours 30 minutes
Amendments to Clauses 23 to 28, Schedule 4 and Clauses 29 to 325 hours 30 minutes
Amendments to Clause 336 hours 30 minutes
Third dayAmendments to Clauses 34 to 4530 minutes
Amendments to Clauses 46 to 751 hour 15 minutes
Amendments to Clauses 76 to 851 hour 30 minutes
Amendments to Clauses 86 to 91, Schedule 6 and Clauses 92 to 1092 hours 15 minutes
Amendments to Schedule 5 up to and including line 14 on page 59 of the Bill3 hours 15 minutes
Amendments to Schedule 5 from line 15 on page 59 of the Bill up to and including line 13 on page 764 hours
Remaining amendments to Schedule 5, remaining New Clauses and New Schedules, amendments to Clause 110, Schedules 7 and 8 and Clause 111 up to and including line 28 on page 50 of the Bill4 hours 15 minutes
Remaining amendments4 hours 30 minutes
Third Reading6 hours 30 minutes

12 May 1998 : Column 171

12 May 1998 : Column 172

Orders of the Day

Scotland Bill

[2nd Allotted Day]

As amended (in the Committee), further considered.

New clause 2

Corruption or maladministration in local government


'.--(1) The Parliament shall make provision for the investigation of relevant complaints made to its members in respect of instances of corruption or maladministration in a Scottish Unitary or Island Authority.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a complaint is a relevant complaint if it is a complaint which, if it were made of a local authority in England or Wales, could be investigated by the Audit Commission.
(3) "Scottish Unitary Authority" and "Scottish Island Authority" mean local authorities established under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994.'.--[Dr. Fox.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

4.34 pm

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

New clause 2 would provide scrutiny and accountability in the Scottish Parliament. The debate that we have had in the past hour shows why proper scrutiny and accountability are required. The new clause relates to corruption and maladministration in local government, which should concern all those involved in local government in Scotland. There has been a litany of accusations of maladministration in parts of local government in Scotland, and we have tabled the new clause because of the failure of internal scrutiny.

It is not long since the Secretary of State and his colleagues arrived in Paisley to deal with allegations of scandal and corruption and the other problems afflicting the local Labour party. The headlines in the compliant Scottish press at the time referred to them as sleaze busters. We were told that they were going to sort the problems out once and for all, and that no stone would be left unturned. Now--a considerable time later--one inquiry has been completed and then ditched, and a separate inquiry is having to be held for which the House will have no locus, because it has not been set up by us although the matter is of great concern to us.

The failure of internal regulation in Paisley is a good example of why the Scottish Parliament should have some powers over local government in Scotland. The relationship between local government in Scotland and the Scottish Parliament will be extremely important.

Inquiries have been held into local government maladministration. The Labour party attempted such an inquiry in Glasgow. It was something of a kangaroo court and the charges were never made public. It ultimately collapsed because Millbank could not understand Scottish law, or at least that was the excuse. It was a complete farce and did party politics no good. If we want politics to be held in high regard, we must ensure that everything is above board. After the low turnout at the local government elections in England last week, all the political parties were talking about the need to explain the importance of local government and to foster a spirit of

12 May 1998 : Column 173

civic responsibility. Any inquiry into the behaviour of those who take part in local government should be fair and public. Those are important aspects of natural justice.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): I am puzzled. The hon. Gentleman asserts--it is only an assertion--that the Scottish Parliament should have some powers over local government. What powers? In particular, what powers does he think Holyrood should have that Westminster at present does not have?

Dr. Fox: The new clause refers to complaints that, if they occurred in England, would be investigated by the Audit Commission. That is what the clause seeks to introduce for Scotland. There have been a number of scandals and allegations involving local government in Scotland that have given rise to great public disquiet. The Labour Opposition of the time told us that the Monklands problem was an isolated example. Glasgow was another isolated example, as were Govan and Paisley. When we join up the dots it becomes a large isolated example, because it involves the whole of the west of Scotland. We should be concerned about that.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West): The hon. Gentleman did not mention Tory-controlled Westminster council. Is he proposing that the Scottish Parliament should have investigatory powers similar to those in England and Wales that exposed the disgusting scandal of Tory-controlled Westminster council?

Dr. Fox: The new clause would give powers to the equivalent of the Audit Commission, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support it. He will, of course, be aware that the remit of the Bill does not extend to Westminster council, so I shall ignore his remarks.

What occurred in Paisley shows best of all why these powers are needed. The Government may find it inconvenient that I bring up this party political subject, but questions remain unanswered. Such events have a negative impact on places such as Paisley. It is wrong for Paisley to get a bad name because of the Labour party's failure to deal with allegations. The people of Paisley dislike the way in which the town has become synonymous with problems in the conduct of local government. That is unfair, and there should be a clear mechanism of scrutiny. We still do not know what is going on in Paisley. The Government have not come up with a clear method of dealing with the allegations about the way that local government in Paisley was conducted. An hon. Member who was respected and liked in all parts of the House committed suicide and another hon. Member has been under suspension by his party for some time and is not representing his constituents in the House. There is no reassurance for the general public, and we need a mechanism that will reassure them. Matters must be above board so that those in local government know that they will be dealt with fairly. There must be proper public scrutiny.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde): I should perhaps declare an interest. My wife is a councillor in the west of Scotland and she is a remarkably honourable woman. I have to say that because she is bigger than me.

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The new clause is disgraceful. It plainly shows that Scotland is slipping away from the grasp of the Conservative party, what I call the English rural party. The United Kingdom as a unitary state is slipping away from it, and the new clause is an absurd attempt to bring some order to what should be done in Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) asked about Westminster council and the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) said that that had nothing to do with Scotland. He was right in the context of the Bill, but we must not forget the face of corruption.

I suppose that at a moment like this I should murmur de mortuis nil nisi bonum in respect of the late Reginald Maudling, Mr. Poulson and Mr. Pottinger. I am tempted to repeat that for the benefit of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), who is not a Latin scholar. Those three gentlemen and, I seem to recall, a Labour Member and Labour representatives from the north-east of England were involved in scandalous affairs. Corruption was a feature of much of Conservative public life.


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