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Mr. Alasdair Morgan: I feel as though I have to express my own thoughts--also, I suspect, the thoughts of many other hon. Members--in having to deal with a succession of totally specious and spurious amendments and new clauses, which have been tabled only to give the official Opposition an opportunity to score some political points. The amendments and new clauses--especially new clause 2--will add nothing to the Parliament's powers, but will merely give it yet another instruction, which is so

12 May 1998 : Column 181

patronising. Although we want to give a Parliament to the Scottish people, we seem to feel that we have to tell them what they must do with that Parliament. We are saying, "Using these powers, you will do such-and-such; using those powers, you will do something else."

The Conservative party is very fond of criticising the Government for running a nanny state and for constantly telling the public what to do. However, Conservative Members want the Westminster Parliament to be a nanny Parliament, always telling the Scottish Parliament what to do. The Scottish people will not stand for it.

The Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office (Mr. Henry McLeish): I agree with almost every hon. Member speaking in this debate on one point: we should take the issue seriously. I hope that there is no serious dispute between hon. Members, first, about the need for the highest standards of conduct at any level of government; secondly, on the matter of effective and efficient scrutiny; and, thirdly--I agree with the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond)--that we want open and transparent structures in both the Parliament and local government. The culture will have to change, and such structures will be the best way of ensuring that it does.

I hope that hon. Members agree also that, in any forum, the best method of discipline is self-discipline. Those who participate in democratic life should always be aware of circumstances and of their obligations, not only to one another, but to the communities that they represent.

The new clause adds nothing to the quality of what the Parliament will be able to do. It is narrow and unnecessary. The Bill places a duty on the Parliament to make provision for the investigation of relevant complaints of maladministration made to its Members. It does not place a duty on the Parliament to investigate complaints about maladministration or corruption in local government--but that does not preclude the Parliament from making provision about such matters.

It is important to stress that we have in Scotland the Accounts Commission, which will investigate complaints of financial impropriety, and the Commissioner for Local Administration in Scotland, who will investigate complaints of maladministration. Criminal corruption will continue to be a matter for the police. The powers and duties of the Secretary of State in relation to the commissioner and the Accounts Commission will transfer to the Scottish Executive.

By tabling new clause 2, the Conservatives are trying to impose a duty on the Scottish Parliament to make provision for the investigation of complaints of corruption or maladministration in a Scottish local authority. The Government do not think that that is necessary. Provision is already made for the investigation of complaints by the Accounts Commission or the local government ombudsman, depending on the nature of the complaint. In addition, the Government have just published proposals to strengthen further the ethical framework for local government, which has been alluded to in the debate.

The new clause would have the perverse effect of requiring investigation only of the very limited subset of complaints about financial impropriety, which, in England and Wales, falls within the remit of the Audit

12 May 1998 : Column 182

Commission. I hope that it comes as no surprise to Opposition Front Benchers that the Audit Commission does not operate in Scotland.

Dr. Fox indicated assent.

Mr. McLeish: The hon. Gentleman has confirmed that the Opposition know that. It is therefore interesting that their new clause makes no reference to the Accounts Commission and refers only to the Audit Commission, which is germane only to England and Wales.

Dr. Fox: Obviously, the Minister did not either listen to my remarks or read the new clause, which states that a complaint is relevant


It clearly draws a distinction between England and Wales and Scotland.

Mr. McLeish: I rest my case. It is obvious that a new clause or an amendment to the Government of Wales Bill may have to be changed for the Scotland Bill. I think that hon. Members will agree that the issue of local government conduct stretches more widely than the narrow remit of the Audit Commission.

Mr. Salmond: I think that I heard the Minister make a very serious allegation. Is he saying that the Conservative party is so short of people and researchers that it is economising by tabling the same amendment to different Bills? That surely cannot be so.

Mr. McLeish: I will not entertain the hon. Gentleman on this issue any further. I shall just leave a little thought in hon. Members' minds.

The Government are very serious about ensuring that there is a robust ethical framework for local government conduct. Following the Nolan committee's report on local government conduct in July 1997, we have been giving a great deal of thought to how to secure the highest standards of conduct in local government. We have published proposals that go much further even than Lord Nolan's committee recommended in ensuring swift and authoritative independent investigation of allegations of misconduct against councillors.

We believe that a stronger ethical framework for local government is needed if the instances where local government conduct appears to fall short are not to undermine people's confidence in local democracy. Once we have consulted on our proposals, we intend to look for an opportunity to legislate to bring into effect a new ethical framework.

In the meantime, we do not see a need for the specific measure proposed by Conservative Front Benchers. Nor do we believe that we should legislate piecemeal for the creation of a new ethical framework for local government. We think that the Bill gives the Parliament the desired flexibility to make arrangements for the investigation of complaints against other bodies. In view of that, I urge the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) to withdraw the motion.

Dr. Fox: The entire point of considering the Bill is to delineate the responsibilities that the Scottish Parliament

12 May 1998 : Column 183

should and should not have. It is therefore quite legitimate for us to circumscribe its investigative powers in any one area. I therefore disagree with the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Morgan).

I am not entirely clear about the Government's objection to the new clause. The Minister began by saying that many of the powers of investigation into local government maladministration are sufficient, but then said that the Government had to introduce a new ethical code and new powers. I cannot see why, if the Government plan to go much further, they will not accept the new clause.

The perception among voters in Scotland will be that the matter concerns the development of a cosy relationship and a lack of scrutiny. Those who read the Scottish press and follow local government events in Scotland will know that there is a great deal of disquiet among the public. Although some of it may not be correct, it deserves to be taken seriously--I agree with the Minister on that.

I must disagree with the Minister that the provision is unnecessary and that it is not legitimate for the House to try to impose a responsibility on the Scottish Parliament to take the issue seriously at the soonest point. We should remember that the Secretary of State has told us that the Parliament should be up and running six months sooner than we expected--long before the Government's White Paper proposals are enshrined in legislation, even if they can cram them into their legislative programme at the earliest opportunity, which is likely to be three years down the road.

For that reason, I have no intention of withdrawing the motion. We shall press it to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 132, Noes 323.

Division No. 270
[5.14 pm


AYES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
(Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Faber, David
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Oliver Heald and
Sir David Madel.


NOES


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burstow, Paul
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Stephen
Cable, Dr Vincent
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cotter, Brian
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna
(Perth)
Dafis, Cynog
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Galbraith, Sam
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gorrie, Donald
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harvey, Nick
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Heppell, John
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kirkwood, Archy
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
McLeish, Henry
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McNamara, Kevin
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Milburn, Alan
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Norris, Dan
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
Organ, Mrs Diana
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Pollard, Kerry
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salmond, Alex
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stott, Roger
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Swinney, John
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Vaz, Keith
Wallace, James
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Welsh, Andrew
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Willis, Phil
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Ms Bridget Prentice.

Question accordingly negatived.

12 May 1998 : Column 186

New clause 12

Concordats


'.--(1) Any concordat relating to--
(a) the procedures to be followed when issues relating to devolved matters are to be discussed at meetings of the Council of Ministers or made the subject of discussions with or representations to the European Commission, or
(b) the implementation of the provisions of Parts 3 and 4 of this Act and any other financial dealings between the Treasury and Ministers of the Crown and the Scottish Parliament or the Scottish Executive
shall not come into effect until it has been--
(i) approved by the Parliament;
(ii) approved by a resolution passed by the House of Commons;

12 May 1998 : Column 187


(iii) signed by a member of the Scottish Executive, and
(iv) signed by a Minister of the Crown.
(2) In this section "concordat" means any agreement between a Minister of the Crown and the Scottish Executive regarding the consultation arrangements and common United Kingdom guidelines in respect of:--
(a) any reserved matter under Schedule 5,
(b) any devolved matter under section 29(4),
(c) any transfer of ministerial functions under section 49,
(d) any functions exercisable by agreement under section 51,
(e) any shared power under section 52,
(f) any cross-border public body under sections 83, 84 and 85, and
(g) any agency arrangements under section 87.'.--[Mr. Ancram.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time. This is not the first time we have addressed this issue. We had a lengthy general debate on concordats on 31 March, and I do not intend to rehearse all the arguments made then. The new clause--which I hope to introduce briefly--has been tabled in all seriousness, in an attempt to meet some of the points made during that debate. As the House knows, my concern about concordats is that they are designed, either intentionally or unintentionally, to avoid the legislative process. Like executive agreements in America, they are designed to avoid scrutiny; the scrutiny of this House. It is evident from the paper on concordats--which the Government most helpfully put in the Library--that they will not come before this House. They will be made public; there is no question of their being confidential unless there are reasons for confidentiality. However, they are informal agreements which will not be legally enforceable, and they will not be subject to the scrutiny of this House or of the Scottish Parliament. I mention the Scottish Parliament because, when I made the point during the last debate--[Interruption.]


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