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Mr. Dalyell: I agree with the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) that it should be local government that sorts itself out and that it should not be sorted out from any Parliament, either Holyrood or Westminster, but I am astonished at some of the other things that have been said. I do not make a party point here. Incidentally, I leap to the defence of the late

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Reginald Maudling. There were two sides to that story and I recall only that, for Scotland, he was one of the most helpful Chancellors of the Exchequer whom I ever went to.

As a doctor, let alone a politician, the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) should be extremely careful in his references to the late Gordon McMaster and suicide notes because the truth is that, as he will know--I will put it this way--Gordon McMaster, who was a friend of mine, as he was of my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman), said that he had been a fool when he was a lecturer in gardening at Langside college not to go along with the strict regulations on thehandling of pesticides. As we know, pesticides are organophosphates and, as research is proving, organophosphates and organophosphate poisoning can do very odd things to the human mind, so we should be extremely careful about using that example.

Dr. Fox: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that that, with all due respect, is not the issue here. The issue is the failure of internal regulation within the Labour party in Scotland to come to conclusions as to what happened and the wider issues relating to Paisley.

Mr. Dalyell: It was the hon. Gentleman who raised the subject and, frankly, I thought that to make that or any other point was uncalled for. Anyhow, what are we doing spending time on this when we should be discussing new clause 4, which deals with expenditure on reserved matters? If there is not time to deal with new clause 4, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would it be out of order for me at least to ask the Minister to give a Government explanation of the answer to--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): Order. Yes, it would be out of order for the hon. Gentleman to try to do that.

Mr. Dalyell: For Parliament to spend this time talking about corruption rather than the vital issues in new clause 4 is an absolute disgrace.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Before I call the next speaker, I should like to make the point to the House that all of today's debate is programmed and carefully timed. It is up to hon. Members on both sides of the House to decide how they spend that time.

Mr. Donald Gorrie (Edinburgh, West): I support the hon. Members for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) and for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) in their enthusiastic comments on proportional representation, which I think would make a very considerable contribution in sorting out corruption and misbehaviour in councils. I also agree with the intervention by the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Morgan), who pointed out that the Scottish Parliament will have complete control over local government. New clause 2 is therefore unnecessary, as the Scottish Parliament will be able to do what it wishes in regulating local government without it.

5 pm

I should like to make only one point to the Minister: the approach taken in new clause 2--which is undoubtedly well intentioned--is wrong in suggesting

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that the Scottish Parliament should have to establish its own inquiry into complaints made to it. I realise--from a small involvement, at second hand, in recent events in my own area--that a council may, as a council, establish an inquiry, which will be conducted by an official. Subsequently, the party involved in the inquiry may feel that it also must have an inquiry. The police may then feel that they, too, must conduct an inquiry. Ultimately, all the inquiries may become snarled up with one another. Therefore, if the Scottish Parliament is required to conduct yet another inquiry, the situation may become even worse.

I think that, in collaboration with local government and police, the Scottish Parliament will have to establish a sensible method of investigating allegations of corruption, so that we do not have one inquiry after another. Unfortunately, so far, such a series of inquiries has led to nothing being done about the allegations that have been made in Scotland.

I therefore plead that the Scottish Parliament does not replicate what others are doing, but co-operates with others to ensure that one thorough inquiry is conducted. After such an inquiry, action should be taken--rather than no action, as currently happens.

Mr. Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh, North and Leith): Although my speech will be very brief, I feel that I must very briefly mention the fact that the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) delivered his entire speech and seemed not to be aware of the Government's proposals on local government corruption and maladministration. I realise that the issue is difficult for Conservative Members, as they have no hon. Members representing constituencies in Scotland.

In April, the Government issued a consultation paper entitled "A New Ethical Framework for Local Government in Scotland", which deals with precisely the type of matters with which we are all concerned. In the paper, the Government have gone further than the Nolan committee's recommendations, to make it absolutely clear that we are determined to take a very tough line on any maladministration or corruption in local government.

In case Opposition Front Benchers are unaware of it, the Government are proposing that serious allegations of misconduct should be considered by a new national standards commission for Scotland, led by a Scottish standards commissioner. In his reply, the hon. Member for Woodspring should at least tell the House the Opposition's thoughts on that proposal, which seems to be the correct way of proceeding on a very important matter.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): I should like to remind the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Chisholm) that we are debating the Scotland Bill, and that--although it is all very well for the Government to have proposals and to be considering them--we are considering mechanisms that may be included in the Bill. Therefore--in the absence in the Bill of the Government's proposals, which the hon. Gentleman described--it is perfectly proper for hon. Members to attempt to include such necessary provisions in the Bill.

I differ from the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) in his analysis of this debate, as I believe that the matters with which we have been dealing are particularly important.

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My analysis differs very significantly from those of the hon. Members for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) and for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie), all of whom seemed to take the position that we should not find remedies to problems which clearly must be dealt with--Conservative Members have tabled new clause 2 to do so--but tackle what they regard as the fundamental institutional problem giving rise to the phenomenon of corruption that we have identified. The hon. Gentlemen think that if we work on the democratic and institutional structures, the problems will go away. As a solution, they have offered us a form of proportional representation, several forms of which they have discussed.

Proportional representation would make the problem worse. It is highly likely that proportional representation will lead to semi-permanent coalitions that will entrench administrations--just as administrations have become entrenched in certain parts of the central belt.

Mr. Dalyell: I had better speak on this for myself and not for my colleagues. If people are going to level charges of corruption at other men and women, the place to do it is a court of law. It is either put up--in a court of law--or shut up.

Mr. Swayne: I beg to differ with the hon. Gentleman. The fact is that the perception among newspapers and the public has been of a number of cases of what, in the previous Parliament, Labour Members themselves characterised as "sleaze". It is entirely proper for hon. Members--when considering a Bill that will hand to the Scottish Parliament responsibility for local government--to consider procedures to deal with that phenomenon. Such consideration prejudges nothing about cases that have been mentioned, and I have made absolutely no accusations about any specific council. However, it is entirely proper that the public mind should be put at rest by passing a provision, such as new clause 2, to deal with the matter.

Mr. Salmond: What was the public perception of this place in the previous Parliament?

Mr. Swayne: My suspicion--which was confirmed by my own knocking on doors--is that the public's perception of the reputation of this place remains considerably higher than their perception of the reputation of individual hon. Members. Many hon. Members would therefore do well to improve our conduct, so that we live up to the standard of the institution in which we take part.

It is entirely proper for us to consider new clause 2, which is designed to include in the Bill a mechanism to investigate the allegations that have been drawn to our attention. The new clause would provide the Scottish Parliament with a powerful investigatory mechanism.


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