HC Deb 23 November 1983 vol 49 cc306-7
6. Mr. Dubs

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied with the success of privatisation measures by local authorities.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. William Waldegrave)

I am satisfied that contracting out has brought benefits to authorities which have tried it. I am not satisfied that enough authorities have done so.

Mr. Dubs

Is the Minister aware that, in my local authority area of Wandsworth, there is a positive avalanche of complaints about dirty streets and unemptied dustbins? Is he aware that the service is beset by industrial disputes and that even the Tory-controlled Wandsworth council has recently had to sack one of the private contractors? Is he further aware that Opposition Members will not be stilled by the practice of some contractors appointing ex-leaders of local authorities and present Tory Members of Parliament to their companies on retainers?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am aware that the contracting out of services in that borough will save the ratepayers about £10 million over the next few years. I am also aware that one of the strengths of contracting out is that if there is unsatisfactory performance, local authorities can find a new contractor.

Mr. Eggar

What is the rate per pound in Lambeth, and what is the rate per pound in Wandsworth?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am afraid that I do not have those figures to hand, but the implication of my hon. Friend's question is clear and correct.

Mr. Straw

Does the Minister realise that, in Conservative-controlled areas all over the country, there is increasing discontent with the services that have been privatised? Despite the fact that many of those companies are major paymasters of the Tory party, will he have the courage to admit that, in many areas, privatisation has been a bad deal for the councils and an even worse one for ratepayers?

Mr. Waldegrave

That is a foolish line of argument because it makes people wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is speaking for some of the trade unions which are paymasters of his party. There is no widespread dissatisfaction such as he mentioned. On the contrary, ratepayers have warmly welcomed the savings that have been achieved.


Mr. Hickmet

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) implied in his question to my hon. Friend that those involved with the privatisation of local authority services and who are now Members of the House were in receipt of pay-offs from the companies that obtained the contracts. Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House what evidence he has to confirm that statement. If he has none, will he withdraw the statement?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member draws attention to a legitimate point. If the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) had intended to impute any dishonour to any Member of the House on either side, I am sure that he will wish to withdraw the allegation.

Mr. Dubs

I thank the hon. Member for Blandford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Hickmet) for warning me that he would raise this point of order. I have to rely on my memory of what I said until we have the record before us. If the House will allow me, I shall clarify the position. I said that the Opposition would not be satisfied even if the contractors put on retainers the leaders of local authorities which had privatised local authority services. In saying that I was in no way intending to imply anything dishonourable. I was anticipating what the annual Members' Declaration of Interests would show when it was published. If that document had been available, I should have quoted from it. I was seeking to do no more or less than that.

Mr. Skinner

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Does the House not accept that if, as a result of privatisation, some of the bodies, such as Exclusive Cleaning and others, which are run by Tories for Tories, obtain additional contracts and are able to set other Tory Members on retainers, that would mean that they were lining their pockets? Is it not justifiable to say that in the House?

Mr. Speaker

Order. All Members of the House are honourable in their dealings. Let us leave it at that.

Back to
Forward to