§ Madam Speaker
I have looked at the amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister. It is perfectly in order and has been selected for debate.
May I make a plea at this stage for short speeches? There are a great many Members in all parts of the House who wish to speak in the debate.
§ Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)
I beg to move,That this House notes the publication of the White Paper `Shaping the Future-The New Councils'; considers that these proposals have been brought forward without adequate consultation, and represent costly and unnecessary changes not sustained by general support for their introduction; condemns the blatant manipulation of boundaries for narrow party interests, consistent with an approach to the governance of Britain which centralises power and disregards the basic consensus necessary to a healthy democracy; welcomes the success of the public campaign against outright privatisation of water, but notes the continuing threat to the future of these services posed by the proposals in the White Paper to remove them from local authority control; and demands that Her Majesty's Government withdraws the White Paper, establishes an independent Commission to review the whole question of local government in Scotland, retains water and sewerage in local authority control, and makes proper provision for adequate investment in these services.I ought to say that we intend to oppose the amendment that stands in the name of the Prime Minister and his right hon. Friends.
There is a widespread belief that Scotland is usually the first to be at the receiving end of this Government's most damaging initiatives. That is certainly true of the discredited poll tax and the discredited Ministers who supported it, but the Secretary of State for Scotland can make no plea of mitigation in respect of local government and water privatisation. He already knows of the disasters that followed that elsewhere in the United Kingdom. He also knows now that Scotland is at the end of the queue.
What the Secretary of State announced last Thursday was not the product of original thought on his part. His announcement consisted of two proposals: to rearrange the map of Scottish local government to the advantage of his party, and to move a step closer to the selling of Scottish water. Both proposals have already been visited on other parts of the United Kingdom. The people of Scotland, having seen the so-called future, in Tory eyes, know that it does not work.
The fact is that the Government have one overriding conviction, and have adopted it in Scotland as well: if they cannot win elections, abolish them—[Interruption.] The Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), must know that they won 11 out of 72 seats in Scotland and that they have a mere 16 per cent. of support, according to the opinion polls, among the people of Scotland—hardly a mandate to do anything in Scotland, far less to impose this nonsense upon us.
§ Mr. Clarke
I shall give way in a moment.
We saw their solution to the problems that democracy poses. The Greater London council, the metropolitan counties and the Inner London education authority caused problems for the Tories and were abolished. Scotland has now been presented with the same sort of treatment.
§ Mr. Gallie
The hon. Gentleman referred to 11 Tory Members from Scotland. How many Scottish seats did he forecast the Tory party would get before the general election? Will he note that we achieved 25 per cent. of the vote at the general election?
§ Mr. Clarke
One thing that I will forecast is that, even with the gerrymandering, the Tories will not get in next time. They know that they cannot win Strathclyde, Lothian, Central or Fife, they suffered humiliating losses in Tayside, Grampian, Dumfries and Galloway and they did not do all that well in the district elections.
What is their answer? It is the same one as we have seen before—the London solution: sweep them away. They respond to the problem of voters who continue to elect Labour councils by creating safe havens for themselves. What is much worse is that they take away from councils as many powers and services as possible, reduce democratic accountability and prepare for sell-offs to the highest bidders.
On water and sewerage, the House will know that there was not a hint in the Tory manifesto at the general election in Scotland of the Government's proposals on water privatisation, or a suggestion that water would be up for sale. Most people in Scotland—indeed, 98 per cent.—believe that water is a gift from God.
Last Thursday, the Government stopped short—but not far short—of selling off water as a result of the Scottish people's influence and determination, not because there was a sudden change on the road to Damascus on the part of the Secretary of State for Scotland.
A few days before the House returned after the summer recess last year, and at considerable expense to taxpayers, the Secretary of State launched a glossy document in Glasgow. The document was full of marks, photographs and nice graphics, and even contained an explanation of why it rains in Scotland. Following that, a firm of consultants was commissioned, at a cost to the taxpayers of upwards of £100,000. It caused months of deep uncertainty among workers and consumers, and nearly 3,000 replies were received, of which only 1 per cent. favoured privatisation. All of that, for what?
The document that we saw last week was not even a full page—it had a mere four paragraphs on water. However, it still managed to disguise the real thinking of the Secretary of State on the matter. Why did he not tell us that water and sewerage will be left in the hands of democratically elected local authorities?
Those local authorities have 150 years of service in protecting the public in terms of health. They know about investment, and they know that they are entitled to protect God's gift to Scotland, as the Scottish people see it. The Government's determination to move in and profiteer is not welcomed either in Ayr or elsewhere.
The Secretary of State said that the public ownership of three new water companies can be combined with a major role for the private sector in providing and financing much 990 of the essential and large capital investment programme that is needed over the next decade. Therefore, the private companies will be providers as well as providing finance.
Perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us how that will work. What is the difference between the franchising option and what he suggested last Thursday? Nothing in the White Paper suggests that he has abandoned all hope of privatisation. We have seen a U-turn, but one that will last only to this side of the next election, as we saw in Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State has been less than honest in Scotland, so let us be clear that his paving Bill will be a major issue at the next general election in Scotland, and we will, of course, invite the Scottish people to decide.
As with water, the Government cannot conceal how they see the role of local government. For the Labour party, that role is about democracy, it is about elected councillors, it is about serving the local community, it is about accountability, and it is about sustaining high standards of services. They are all noble ideals that were once accepted as a consensus by all political parties on behalf of the Scottish people.
For the Government, in their miserable documents, that role is about centralisation, about competitive tendering and, in the end, about local councils organising meetings to award contracts to people who are not accountable to anybody.
The Government issued another glossy document in the past year with a flourish of publicity, including the publication of a video that I understand was called "Lang—the Movie". Civil servants advised the Secretary of State, so in future Ministers may take more account of advice from elsewhere. We were told that "Lang—the Movie" cost £25,000—many will ask if the right hon. Gentleman's presentation was worth that amount. All that was missing was Scarlett O'Hara saying that the Scottish people could not give a damn about his proposals.
That costly exercise offered the Scottish people options of 24 or 35 or 51 authorities. Did the Government respond to the replies? No, not really. They were not responding to people's replies to the various options. During that apology for a consultation exercise, the Government had their own ideas, and those ideas related not to what the people of Scotland wanted, and certainly not to an independent commission, but to a small minority view that coincides with what appear to be the interests of a small number of Tory Members.
During that important consultation on the future of local government, Ministers have been both prosecutors and jury, while the people had no right of appeal.
§ Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)
In support of the hon. Gentleman, he will remember the sentence in the White Paper that says:The Government recognise the time and effort devoted to preparing these reponses, and have examined them with great care".The responses have been on public view in St. Andrew's house over the past week. There were 108 submissions in the Borders, which have been examined, and of those only three support the proposals advanced by the Government to take Berwickshire out of the Borders region. Not surprisingly, the three who support it are the Conservative group on Berwickshire district council, the Conservative group on Lothian regional council and a single Conservative councillor. Is that public consultation?
§ Mr. Clarke
The right hon. Gentleman has done a service to the House in exposing what amounts to a disgraceful exercise. I invite the Secretary of State to publish not only those documents to which the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) referred, but other documents that are relevant to our discussions.
The Government claim that there is no evidence of gerrymandering, yet since Thursday—again I challenge the Secretary of State to deny this when he replies—not one independent commentator has been willing to say that the Government's exercise was not influenced by party political considerations alone.
Arthur Midwinter, an academic expert so clearly regarded as non-partisan as to be invited to the Prime Minister's breakfast sitting and invited to give advice during the state visit in the past year, said:Stirling, East Renfrewshire, Berwickshire and East Lothian represented Toytown councils.If I am mistaken about the influences on the Government, perhaps the Secretary of State, after his wide-ranging consultation, will tell us which serious commentator or advisory body, other than the Tory party, advised him to put Helensburgh into Argyll, to take Musselburgh out of East Lothian or to put Barrhead into Greater Eastwood. If he will do so, I am happy to give way.
I am happy to give way to him if he can name a single independent body that supports the proposals. I am happy to give way even to his sidekick, the hon. Member for Eastwood, if he will tell us of any independent body that supported such a view. The fact is, as is clear from the silence, that nobody did, because nobody would support a proposal so reeking of political corruption and so consistent with party political advantage. I am still happy to give way.
The House can reach only one conclusion—that the Secretary of State is the "Jim'll Fix It" of Scottish politics. He has fixed it for the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), he has fixed it for the hon. Member for Eastwood, and he thinks that he has fixed it for the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie). He certainly has not fixed it for the Scottish people, because they have fixed it for him. As someone else might have said at the Dispatch Box, never in the history of local government reform has so much been owed by so few to so few.
Let us consider the carve-up of Renfrewshire. West Renfrewshire has three times the population of East Renfrewshire. No doubt Eastwood has a consideration in these matters, and no doubt we shall get an impartial explanation of how such a conclusion was reached. North Ayrshire includes Cumnock and Doon Valley in the south, and is more than three times as large as South Ayrshire. There is a farcical situation in the Lothians. West Lothian is physically separated from Midlothian, and Musselburgh and Prestonpans are thrown in for good measure. West Lothian is three times as large as Berwickshire and East Lothian.
Are we to conclude that it is now official policy that three voters for a Labour council may be compared with one for a Tory council? That is hardly a model for a modern democracy. Stirling, the model toytown council, spent a year—[Interruption.] As the hon. Member for Eastwood is being so provocative, I shall spell it out again, especially as I have no wish to misquote Professor Midwinter.
992 Stirling, the model toytown council, spent a year selling everything in sight, no doubt on the advice of the hon. Member for Stirling. I have no doubt that the Government want to do the same to regional services. We are entitled to ask seriously, because the voters of Stirling regard the matter as serious, whether such a small council will begin to take responsibilities for education and social work.
Twenty years ago, the Wheatley report said that an ideal size of council area for social work was 200,000 people. The Secretary of State has often said that the regions have achieved quality of service and identity with local communities. The same is true of education, in terms of economies of scale, delegation of management, direct accountability of staff to councillors and direct accountability of councillors to voters, which the Secretary of State has told us his proposals are all about. Those factors represent a successful recipe for the delivery of strategic services.
The most important question before the House is whether the quality of services and their delivery will be met by the Government's proposals. In social work, what evidence is there to overturn Wheatley? Wheatley, after a long period of consideration and genuine consultation, produced an excellent report, not a sham report based on narrow political dogma.
Where is the evidence that social work departments are better and stronger if they are smaller? Where is the evidence that they can provide the necessary services? Where is the evidence that the needs of the vulnerable who are suffering under the Government's so-called policy on community care will be met by the Government's proposals? Since we are dealing with people who have to work with much larger health boards—in terms of co-operation with community care—perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us more about how he expects the system to work.
Since we are told that the Government are also willing to leave such important matters as education to local authorities, what guarantees are there that the people of Scotland will avoid the bitter experience of those in inner London? The Government argued that abolishing the Inner London education authority would cut costs—something that Tory Ministers repeatedly told us would work—and Ministers are telling us the same of our future in Scotland, but they must know that, in London, the opposite has happened. London boroughs, forced to duplicate central administration and to increase bureaucracy, have upped the number of managers by 67 per cent., which would blow the Government's costing to smithereens. Inner London boroughs were forced to duplicate specialist education services or to abandon them.
Perhaps we shall hear evidence today of what will happen to youth work in Scotland, to adult education and to special needs, based on the inner London experience, which no Secretary of State worth his salt would wish to emulate. When so many young Scots are imperilled by unemployment and drug-related crimes, community education and youth work may be among the victims of the Government's ideological obsessions. That is another reason why the people of Scotland find the Government's proposals so unattrative.
Last week, we had a short exchange in the House about transitional costs. I invite the Secretary of State to be more forthcoming today. We are told that, on the Government's estimate, the transitional cost would be about £200 million. Since, in response to my hon. Friend the Member 993 for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), he made it clear that that would have to be found from other elements of the Scottish Office budget, will he tell us which parts of that budget will be cut?
Which services will lose £200 million to pay for the schemes? When the Treasury is clawing back every penny, threatening pensions and benefits, imposing a new tax on people heating their homes and so on, why does the Secretary of State feel that it is the right time to spend £200 million on such an exercise?
All that unnecessary expenditure will not provide a single extra police officer on the beat, a single extra teacher in a school or a single extra home help for the most needy. There is nothing in the proposals that would save a single Tory seat. The Government are unashamedly offering us a two-tier system, but it is based on joint boards, on buying in services and on competitive tendering—a system in which the Secretary of State takes decisions and even makes appointments. Few Hon. Members understand how he can justify that on the basis of democracy.
Only one of the many organisations providing services will be directly accountable to the community. When numerous submissions were made to the Secretary of State, why did he disregard the importance of accountability? Was not that the strong view of the local community councils, of the elected councils, at district, regional and island level? Was not that the strong view of virtually all the voluntary organisations in Scotland, which see the need for positive local government and for co-ordinating activity locally and nationally?
The fact is that the Government are seeking to impose on the people of Scotland without adequate examination or independent assessment a system of government which, as we have seen in the gerrymandering of the proposals for Stirling, Eastwood, Lothian, and even Aberdeen, could have been thought up only by narrow-minded people in Conservative central office. That is not a recipe for success for the future of democracy or local government in Scotland.
The Secretary of State may not wish to be reminded of this, but it was Wheatley himself, who had more experience in these matters than the whole Tory Front Bench put together, who defined local democracy asto ensure that the effective power of decision in local matters rests on an elected council directly accountable to the electorate for the exercise of that power.How can we have that measure of direct accountability over education, the police and the fire service in Strathclyde, not to speak of the assessor's role? How can we have that measure of accountability when sprinkled throughout the document is the Secretary of State's determination to take upon himself even more powers, especially in relation to joint planning, than those he has now?
The Government's proposals are not about reforming local government, but about enfeebling it. It is about the betrayal of Scotland, yes, and Conservative promises to listen to the Scottish people. Above all, the latest in a series of cynical manoeuvres by which the Conservative party has overridden the wishes of local people expressed through the ballot box is the Government's response of removing the ballot box itself.
This is a foolish and dangerous course to follow. I hope that the Secretary of State will not mind if I refer to my 994 local government experience. There are many who have contributed to local government and who in a democracy are entitled to expect their views to be heard. Democracy depends on consent. Consent depends on those in power playing by the rules. By changing the rules to suit itself, the Conservative party is putting democracy itself at risk. That is the reason why we have tabled this motion today.
I call upon the Government today, knowing that we carry the overwhelming support of the Scottish people—
§ Mr. Clarke
No, I will not give way—to recognise the importance of Scotland's deep commitment to these democratic principles and to withdraw their proposals.
§ Mr. Clarke
If they will not do so, I call upon the people of Scotland to resist and oppose them in every way and to stop them in every way possible. In that, they can be assured that they can depend on the support of the Labour party, and in due course of a Scottish Parliament—which the right hon. Gentleman's absurd proposals, happily, have made even more inevitable.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang)
I beg to move, to leave out from 'House' to the end of the motion, and to add instead thereof:'welcomes the publication of the White Paper "Shaping the Future-The New Councils"; and considers that its proposals will lead to better and more efficient local government in Scotland, based on a single tier of strong and accountable all-purpose authorities.'.I welcome the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) back to Parliament—safe back from his little jaunt to Downing street. Last Thursday, he quoted what Oliver Cromwell said to the Rump Parliament in 1653:In the name of God, go!"—[Official Report, 8 July 1993; Vol. 228, c. 35.]I thought that it was singularly inapt, but when he picked up his papers and left the Chamber I realised that he was talking to himself. It is a pity that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was not at home. He is back from Tokyo now, if the hon. Gentleman would like to go again. Certainly the cameras were there in plenty. Indeed, the cameras were everywhere.
§ Mr. Lang
That is correct.
One of my hon. Friends at the St. Stephen's entrance was greeted by a cameraman asking, "Is this the entrance for the spontaneous Labour walk-out?" When the hon. Member for Monklands, West got to Downing street, he had his photograph taken with the policeman on the door, just as Harold Wilson once did when he was a boy. When Harold Wilson grew up, he went into politics, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman should do the same.
§ Mr. Lang
No, I will not give way.
I understand that the hon. Gentleman has his troubles at present. After all, we have it on the authority of the Daily Express in an article of 14 June headed, "Labour enemy within". It says:Militant is on the march again. When Labour's shadow Scottish Secretary, Tom Clarke, turned up to canvas support during the Easterhouse council by-election, he was cheered to the rafters.It turned out that it was thought that the right hon. Member was the comedian, Andy Cameron. When it turned out to be the comedian, Tom Clarke, the article said:Their tears turned to unprintable forms of welcome.All the comings and goings of the hon. Gentleman remind me of the doggerel by Mr. Hughes Mearns:As I was going up the stairI met a man who wasn't there.He wasn't there again to-day.I wish, I wish he'd stay away.Judging by the hon. Gentleman's speech today, he was not there again today.
I am glad that we have this early opportunity for a debate, but it is a pity that the Opposition thought that it was only worth half a day of debate. [Interruption.] It takes half a day to read the motion, which is perhaps why Opposition Members have not bothered to read it.
The motion talks about inadequate consultation. The hon. Member for Monklands, West tried to make much of that. I remind the House that we have had no fewer than four consultation papers over the past two years on different aspects of local government reform. We have had nearly 9,000 replies, some of them immensely thorough and detailed, and we have looked at them carefully. In addition, there have been many newspaper and media articles and surveys.
If one doubted the need for single-tier local government and the advantages of it, and the confusion and difficulty that arises from the two-tier structure, one need look no further than the ICM poll in The Scotsman of 9 March. It revealed that one quarter of Scots did not know that cleansing was a district council responsibilty; one third of Scots did not know that housing was a district council responsibility; and no fewer than 40 per cent.—getting on for half the population—did not realise that education, the biggest single local authority service, is a regional authority.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. Perhaps he will now answer the question that he did not answer last week about how he arrived at the conclusion that Westhill should be incorporated into the city of Aberdeen. Since then, there has been outrage in the daily newspapers in Aberdeen—and from many Tory councilors—that he is gerrymandering. Westhill does not want to be part of Aberdeen. Is not that typical of the way in which he has totally ignored the views of ordinary people in every part of Scotland?
§ Mr. Lang
If the outrage is coming from Tory councillors, I am not quite sure how I can be accused of gerrymandering. The fact is that there are many proposals on aspects of local government reform for which there is support and opposition in different parts of Scotland. We shall have ample opportunity to debate all of those during the passage of the Bill through Parliament, and the hon. Gentleman will have a chance to make his point.
§ Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)
Will the Secretary of State care to comment on the remarks made by one of his Scottish Tory colleagues, Mr. Brian Meek, a former distinguished Tory group leader on Lothian regional council? Writing in The Herald on Monday of this week, he said:So let us go on to the gerrymandering argument. Did Mr. Lang and his Ministers seek to give their party the best possible chance under the new set-up? Of course they did. Why shouldn't they?Is that not a remarkable confession of guilt by one of the Secretary of State's own party colleagues?
§ Mr. Lang
No, I must make a little more progress. As for the popularity of single-tier local government, the System 3 poll in The Herald showed support for single-tier up from 37 to 46 per cent., substantially the most popular option of those addressed.
The Labour party's contribution to the debate during the consultation period was almost zero. It is the party of scaremongers and has made no constructive contribution to the debate. We have had nothing but talk of hidden agendas. It was said that we would create a national police force, but our paper today demonstrates that to be wrong. Not only will there be no national police force, but there will be the same number of police forces as before.
The Labour party said that we would privatise water and sewerage—wrong again. We have established three public water authorities firmly in public ownership, maximising the efficiency gains to be had in the delivery of water and sewerage and benefiting from private sector funds for investment.
The Labour party said that there would he massive spending cuts—wrong again. Local authority spending will continue to rise. Private sector investment in water and sewerage will relieve pressure on our resources by billions of pounds.
§ Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)
The Secretary of State says that this is a single-tier system. Will he explain to the ordinary person in the street how his water, sewerage, education, police and fire services will be run in a single-tier system?
§ Mr. Lang
If the hon. Gentleman listens to my speech and subsequently takes part in the debate on the Bill as it goes through Parliament, all those questions will be answered. At the moment, I am dealing with all the scares and alarms raised by the Labour party in the past few months. Labour Members should be hanging their heads in shame at the sort of things they have said to cause scare, alarm and anxiety among the Scottish people.
Labour Members talked of a massive increase in joint boards. We had it again from the hon. Member for Monklands, West today. The fact is that the only major services that will be subject to joint boards will be the police and fire services, as at present. They talked about huge centralisation. Again, we had it today from the hon. Gentleman. Again, that is not so. All the major services, with the exception of water and sewerage, which we had clearly flagged as being subject to unavoidable alternative 997 arrangements, will stay with local authorities. The greater integration of services and the decentralisation from the regional level to the single-tier, all-purpose authorities will, in many cases, be the reverse of the centralisation that was proposed.
§ Mr. Lang
No, I will not.
Then there was the scare of the great Treasury veto. In The Herald on 3 September the hon. Member for Monklands, West said:The Scottish Secretary, Ian Lang, will not be able to deliver the changes because of a Treasury veto.That was around the time that he came forward with three successive forecasts of extra costs ranging from £400 million to £500 million to £600 million—wrong, wrong and wrong. There has been no Treasury veto and no extra costs. Rather, there will be savings of up to £1 billion over 15 years.
§ Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)
Does the Secretary of State intend to transfer all existing water services to the new water boards, or does he intend to write off part or all of that debt? What categories of person will he be nominating for those water boards?
§ Mr. Lang
Those are precisely the kind of points that it is perfectly proper to raise and which we shall consider when we draw up the proposals that we shall bring forward in due course, when the hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to debate them.
On costs and savings, I was interested to see that Dundee district council estimated that the new arrangements proposed in Tayside would save some £1.8 million per annum. Angus district council, the hon. Gentleman's own authority, estimated a saving of £2.3 million for the same arrangements. In Fife, Dunfermline district council estimated a saving of £8 million per annum from an all-purpose Fife authority, and North-East Fife district council estimated the same. Therefore, there is a cross-party consensus across those authorities on the kind of savings that will be available.
With regard to job losses—another scare raised by the Labour party—it turns out that rather than the substantial number of job losses of which Labour Members spoke, there will be a maximum of some 2,200. If one compares that with the burgeoning employment figures and bureaucracy in local government that I discovered only yesterday—last year alone, employment in local authorities rose by no less than 4,854, a rise of 2 per cent. at a time of recession and public expenditure restraint—one puts into clearer perspective the kind of saving of less than 1 per cent. that it has been suggested will be the result of job losses arising from reform.
Strathclyde's Labour leader surpasses even the hon. Member for Monklands, West when he talks about extra costs and extra job losses and plucks out of the air a figure of 20,000. He might have had some tiny shred of credibility had he argued for one or the other, but he cannot have it both ways. If reform can save 20,000 jobs, local authorities must be inefficient at present, in which case savings—not extra costs—are a certainty.
§ Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)
If the Secretary of State is so sure that his proposals are 998 right for Scotland, why does not he test them at the ballot box and give Scotland the opportunity of a multi-referendum that could include his proposals for local government? Is not it the case that he will not do that because the proposals would be binned by the people of Scotland?
§ Mr. Lang
The Government are answerable at the ballot box by elections to this Parliament for everything that we do.
The Opposition have been scaremongering about jobs, costs and other issues that they have raised to create distraction and misunderstanding about the proposals. It is disgraceful that Labour leaders seek only to instill alarm and despondency among local government staff whose interests they claim to protect. Now, as if the palpable failure of all their scares was not enough, the Opposition raise the spectre of gerrymandering. I reject that charge. Our proposals are largely based on the existing building blocks of regions and districts. Four existing regions survive largely intact and many more districts have had their powers enhanced greatly.
By abolishing the two-tier structure and by lifting the baleful socialist shadow which stretches across the central belt of Scotland and far beyond to the outlying areas, we shall enable those areas to break free and assert their own varied political allegiances, whether those may be Liberal, Conservative independent or nationalist. That is not gerrymandering—it is a healthy strengthening of local democracy in all its diversity.
§ Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)
The Secretary of State's last phrase was about the "healthy strengthening of local democracy". He specifically mentioned many cases from the blueprint of the enhanced powers that are to be given to the districts. Does he recognise that neither description can be applied to the highlands, where all existing districts are to be abolished and one council is to cover the region?
The Secretary of State's statement last week laid great emphasis on the way in which he would require decentralisation within the new authorities. He did not emphasise paragraph 3.5 of page 5 of the White Paper, which concerns decentralisation schemes. The White Paper is, interestingly, coloured blue. It says:Guidance will be issued to local authorities on how they might develop these schemes but the initiative will rest with the new councils and schemes will not require the approval of the Secretary of State.What possible satisfaction or guarantee can constituents across the highlands take from that worthless statement?
§ Mr. Lang
I have considerable sympathy for some of the circumstances in the highlands. I also note the hon. Gentleman's interest in imposing control over local government. I believe that local government should be allowed as much discretion as possible. I draw comfort from the words of the convener of Highland regional council. He has made it abundantly clear how strongly his local authority, like many others in Scotland, is committed to decentralisation.
I was addressing the baleful influence of socialism across the central belt of Scotland and beyond. I suggest that the Labour party is gerrymandering in reverse. It seeks to keep in place the distorted instruments of its unfair hegemony over central Scotland. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)
Order. So many hon. Gentleman are rising that no one can hear who wants to intervene.
§ Mr. Lang
The Opposition do not like the truth—they know how much it hurts.
Under the two-tier structure, Scotland has suffered double jeopardy under Labour. Labour has exercised control, if not through the districts then through the regions, in ways that have smothered local politics and local economies.
Since the Opposition's claims last week—this point was raised by the hon. Member for Monklands, West in his speech—I have checked on some figures. In the regional elections in 1990, the votes cast and seats gained revealed that it took 3,133 votes to elect a Labour councillor, 6,419 to elect a Conservative and even more to elect a Scottish Nationalist. That means that it is more than twice as hard for a Conservative councillor to be elected as it is for a Labour councillor. The picture in district councils is broadly the same, so what we are hearing is not the high tone of principle but the shrill cries of vested interests being dislodged.
§ Mr. Tom Clarke
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way at long last. It was rather unfortunate that he cited personal attacks, probably leaked by the Scottish Office itself to cheap newspapers, in defence of his speech. He said that one should become "adapt" at responding to the facts—I think that he meant "adept". He gave figures on voting at local elections, but will be explain why the Conservative party contests so few seats? Why is it that where it contested seats there seems to be more representation but where it did not field candidates the local authorities seem much larger?
§ Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can we make it clear that we all heard the Secretary of State say "inapt", which perfectly describes his speech?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I do not need any help from the hon. Gentleman. If all sides are not agreed, we shall have to go by what Hansard says.
§ Mr. Lang
I welcome the Labour party's predictions about the Conservative success that it thinks will flow from the proposals, although the Labour party's attitude is strangely defeatist.
Let us consider what the claim of our likely political success under the new system implies: either it means that thousands of Conservative voters have, in effect, been disenfranchised by the present structure and will now be liberated or that our proposals will be popular and will win support in Scotland. I can face either conclusion with complete equanimity.
I will take no lectures on gerrymandering from any Member of Parliament for Monklands, an area in which one group of Labour councillors stands accused by 1000 another group of Labour councillors of showing bias in capital allocations. How does that administration explain the fact that for every £1 of capital resources allocated to Airdrie, £10 is allocated to Coatbridge? We will protect the interests of all residents of all parties in Monklands, and under our proposals Monklands district council will be abolished.
§ Mr. Lang
No, I will not give way because I have already done so many times.
Where do the Opposition parties stand on our proposals for local government reform? The hon. Member for Monklands, West said on television last week that the Labour party was absolutely committed to reversing our reforms. Yet in the House the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) expressed hisgreat satisfaction at the restoration of a single tier authority for … Aberdeen".The hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) said that he hadalways advocated an all-purpose authority for the city of Dundee".The hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) welcomed our recognition in the White Paper thatCambuslang and Rutherglen are separate communities in their own right."—[Official Report, 8 July 1993; Vol. 228, c. 478–82.]The hon. Member for Monklands, West is committed to blocking, frustrating and sabotaging our proposals, yet only last Friday the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities had a productive and constructive meeting with my hon. Friend and myself at which it asked for a further meeting and agreed to co-operate through a working party on finance in studying costings.
Only today in The Herald, under the heading "Labour Councils Smooth Lang's Way", we learn that four councils in the Central region yesterday announcedthat they had signed a management agreement designed to smooth the way for the creation of single tier councils in their area.The Daily Record, which is no friend of the Conservative party, states:A giant hole has been blasted in Labour's campaign against Scots local government changes.Yet it is the chief executives who have made the agreement, although the Daily Record states—so I presume it is true—that they were backed by their political leaders, the council leaders, even though Central, Clackmannan and Falkirk are Labour controlled. That is less than 24 hours after Scottish Labour leaders pledged a non-co-operation pact involving Members of Parliament, the Scottish Trades Union Congress and COSLA. The fact is that the Opposition parties are all over the place, but those local authorities are being a great deal more responsible.
§ Mr. Martin O'Neill (Clackmannan)
Perhaps the Secretary of State has not heard that the chief executives of the four authorities, including Stirling which is Conservative controlled, have today issued a statement saying:We reject any implication that our actions in issuing the joint protocol provide either support, co-operation, corroboration or agreement with the Government proposals.
§ Mr. Lang
That is absolutely fine, but the fact is that they are doing it and are being much more responsible 1001 than the Opposition, because they care about the delivery of local services in local government. The Labour party's shiny new slogan is "Bring back Strathclyde". If that is how Labour want to fight the next general election, it will be very interesting.
As well as reversing our proposals, Labour has a second policy. It wants to establish a commission, "an independent Labour commission" no less—presumably one which, to quote Harold Wilson, would take minutes and waste years.
We must have some clarification about the commission. Is it the same commission that Labour set up to consider a separate Scottish Parliament, or is it a separate commission? If so, would it not be more sensible to call it a convention to avoid confusion, or is there still a convention in being?
Which will come first—the commission or the legislation to reinstate the two-tier structure? Or will we have both together so that while Labour is legislating to set up the two-tier structure, it will also be setting up a commission to investigate whether it is a good idea to abolish the two-tier structure and, if so, what to put in its place? Perhaps Labour will also tell us how long the commission will take—five, 10, 15 or 20 years. Does it care?
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
Would a serious discussion of these matters not at least pay tribute to the considerable, although not perfect, achievements of Strathclyde and Lothian? Will the Secretary of State take it from me, in view of my particular political history, that what he is doing is inflicting grave injury on the Union?
§ Mr. Lang
I can only say that I profoundly disagree with the hon. Member. I am absolutely convinced that our proposals for the reform of local government will greatly strengthen local government, local democracy and good government in Scotland, which can only enhance the Union.
The real significance of the Labour party's pledge to establish a commission is that, beneath all the fumbling and stumbling, it is committing itself to a single-tier local government structure for Scotland. Usually, Labour's U-turns take about four years; this time, it has taken about four days. If the Labour party is serious about local government reform—its proposal for a commission suggests that it is—all that distinguishes us is disagreement over some aspects of the map.
It is time for the Labour party to raise the tone of its involvement in the debate and get away from its narrow party self-interest. Above all, let us hear some concern from the Labour party about the quality of services on which so many local people depend. A single-tier structure will provide a significant opportunity to improve further the quality and delivery of services. The integration of services that are currently divided between two sources clearly promises improved efficiency and co-ordination as well as cost savings. Housing and social work, or trading standards and environmental health, are just two examples of how better co-ordination can lead to better services.
There are also opportunities through proposals for decentralised management to improve the quality of local government. New authorities developing schemes of decentralisation in decision making, consultation, 1002 administration and greater access are going with the grain of local authority thinking. Many are already working on such schemes. There is a widely recognised potential that more can be done. Why should one have to go to Dumfries for the replacement of a broken street light if one lives in Stranraer? Why should one have to go to one council for a council house and to another for a home help?
There are new opportunities in local government in Scotland, but a change of philosophy and a flexible approach—things which the Labour party seems unable to comprehend—are needed to enable local services to be delivered in place of the old, rigid empires of direct service providers. I want to see local authorities liberated. I want to see a new era in which local government becomes a watchword for quality and efficiency. I want local authorities to be a source of pride and loyalty in their communities. I want them to provide exciting career opportunities for those who work in them.
That is the future which Conservatives seek to build for local democracy in Scotland—strong, all-purpose authorities that truly reflect the diversity and the qualities of all the varied parts of Scotland. On that positive note, I urge the House to reject this destructive and negative motion and to support the amendment.
§ Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)
I agree profoundly with my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) that the Secretary of State's is just the kind of speech and that these are just the kind of proposals that bring the Government and the House into disrepute in Scotland. If there had been any genuine consultation about the way in which the review of the structure of Scottish local government should be conducted, the Government could not possibly have come up with proposals such as those that we are contemplating now.
For example, surely they could not have overlooked the obvious distinction between East Lothian and Berwickshire. East Lothian and Berwickshire have always been, and always will be, distinct entities. The only way round that would be to rewrite the history of Scotland and to bulldoze the Lammermuir hills into the sea. The distinctions between the three counties in the Lothians and the four counties of the Borders could not be clearer. That is the message that I have been getting from all sorts of people on both sides of the Lammermuirs ever since these bizarre proposals came to light a couple of weeks ago.
Indeed, the Secretary of State for Scotland has created certain difficulties and embarrassments for his Conservative colleagues on East Lothian district council. They attended a council meeting in Haddington this morning, where their line was that they had no choice but to accept the Secretary of State's proposals although they opposed the idea of dividing East Lothian. That is their problem.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
It is debilitating local government. It is an illustration of the crazy situation that the Secretary of State is bringing about.
1003 Perhaps I should quote local papers in East Lothian and the Borders, which traditionally support the Conservative party. Last week's leader in the East Lothian Courier said:A wedding of the two counties would make nonsense of the word 'reorganisation' in virtually every sense, other than the narrow party political interest … Mr. Lang will hear the beat of the tom-tom and realise that the worst criticisms of the Opposition parties are shared by the man in the street, as well as many of his supporters.South of the Lammermuirs, the leader in the Berwickshire News, which is headed "We must remain in the Borders", said that the proposed amalgamationcertainly smacks of political opportunism.Indeed it does.
The Secretary of State is proposing two amazing new local councils to cover my constituency. Both of them would be beyond the political creativity of even the celebrated Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, the man who cobbled together a district shaped like a salamander and gave us the word "gerrymander". At least his salamander was in one piece, with its head attached to its shoulders. The proposed pseudo-Lothian creation is in two separate parts, detached by the Balerno corridor, with my constituents in Musselburgh and Prestonpans mysteriously tacked on to one of the bits. That mystery can, of course, be resolved by taking into account the fact that those parts of my constituency happen to have elected six Labour councillors, who do not fit into the scheme of things as seen by Professor Ross Harper. The remaining part of East Lothian, served by seven Tory councillors and four non-Tory councillors, is to be floated off to Tory-controlled Berwickshire. I wonder why.
What the Secretary of State for Scotland is proposing could be described as a sort of aggravated shotgun marriage. We can cast the Secretary of State in the role of an evil stepfather who could not care less about the welfare of the couple. All he wants them to do is to conceive a Tory council. This will produce some very curious bedfellows.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
Yes, bed persons. I think of Cockenzie and Coldstream. What else do they have in common? Not much. Political expediency is not a sound basis for the reform of Scottish local government. Nothing like this has ever been done before, and if the House is, for once, to live up to its responsibilities, it must not be allowed to happen now.
Let us have a quick look at the proposed Berwickshire and East Lothian authority. I represented both those counties from 1978 until 1983, so I am very well aware of the fundamental differences in community interests and identity, economic structure and general outlook, between the two sides of the Lammermuir hills. They have always, but always—right back to mediaeval times—had separate local administrations. The new authority proposed by the Secretary of State would be an administrative farce and a geographical joke. The only all-weather link between the two counties is at Dunglass bridge, and the geographical centre of the proposed composite district would be 1,000 ft up the Lammermuirs, on a hill called the Hungry Snout.
Since the political snout of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Hungry Snout seem to be the only common denominator between Berwickshire and East Lothian, I suggest that, henceforth, the Secretary of State's proposed area should be described as "Snoutshire". 1004 "Snoutshire" would be Scotland's smallest mainland authority. The Secretary of State proposes 25 council areas, with an average population of just over 200,000. This one would have just 76,000 people, despite the fact that it is a large, scattered and incompatibly divided area. So, with well under half the average population and a big area, the costs of running a full range of local services, including education, social work, special education and everything else, would be disproportionately high. Thus, there would be either a high council tax or worse services or—most likely—both.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not give way. I want to be fair to everybody.
I should love to go into the byways about where the headquarters would be. What about the school whose catchment area will be divided by the proposed boundary? I shall not go into those matters at this stage, except to say that what is proposed would be a complete travesty. It is not surprising that all sorts of people in both counties are amazed and outraged. Yesterday I received from a former chairman of the East Lothian branch of the National Farmers Union for Scotland a letter demanding that East Lothian be kept together. In last week's press we read words of a committed local Conservative. Speaking on behalf of the 60-strong East Lothian business group, he said:It's crazy. We don't want to see a very good relationship end in this farcical shake-up.The clear consensus in my constituency is that East Lothian must remain intact, as it always has been. There may or may not be a case for combining our district with a neighbouring district—it is very unlikely that that would turn out to be Berwickshire—but there is no serious or convincing support for the idea of dividing East Lothian in two. The existing district has a population of 86.000—bigger and more logical than the one proposed by the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Dalyell
On the question of local services, the Secretary of State, within the hearing of us all, said that when street lights in Stranraer were broken, one had to go to Dumfries. I have telephoned Wigtown district council—the office of Mr. Alastair Geddes—and found that this is absolute nonsense, that these things are done by the client services department, Church street, Stranraer. What we have been given is lies.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. There may be a misunderstanding or misinformation, but the hon. Gentleman may not accuse another hon. Member of lying. Perhaps he would like to rephrase his comment.
§ Mr. Dalyell
In the case of Westland, I was turned out of the House five times for having said that Lady Thatcher was a liar. That is now generally accepted—by Sir Leon Brittan and everybody else. I do not want to divert my colleagues by being thrown out again, so I shall refer to this as being economical with the truth.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
My hon. Friend has illustrated the fact that the Secretary of State knows as little about his own constituency as he does about my part of Scotland or the rest of the country.
I am prepared to accept that there may be a case for single-tier authorities, but I am certain that I speak for virtually all my constituents when I say that I reject the plan to split East Lothian between two freakish, artificial authorities. That sort of carve-up and the Secretary of State's proposals for non-accountable, unelected quangos to run the water industry are a disgrace to the office of the Secretary of State for Scotland. He should take his proposals away, set up a proper independent review and start all over again.
§ Mr. Raymond S. Robertson (Aberdeen, South)
On Thursday when the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) replied to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State he said:we are being asked to consider a White Paper for which there is no consensus in Scotland, no support, no demand".[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The hon. Gentleman said that clearly, definitely and with all the authority that he was able to muster.
The House will understand my complete astonishment when I found, on the following morning, that the front page of The Press and Journal carried an equally unambiguous and bold heading, "Aberdeen achieves goal". Given that this is the close season, the paper was certainly not talking about football. Two contradictory statements were therefore issued about my right hon. Friend's proposals, one from the hon. Member for Monklands, West and one from The Press and Journal. With all respect to the hon. Member for Monklands West, I would suggest that The Press and Journal is closer than he is to the thinking of the people of Aberdeen. I am sure that he will correct me if I am wrong, but in his time as shadow Secretary of State for Scotland he has yet to visit Aberdeen.
The hon. Gentleman need not take the word of The Press and Journal for the support expressed for my right hon. Friend's proposals. It has been voiced by all parties and all quarters in Aberdeen. The day after the original proposals were put to the House, the political parties in Aberdeen were vying with each other to try to outdo each other in clamouring to express their support. Not surprisingly, the support started with the Conservative group leader on the district council, Councillor Mike Hastie, who said:I am delighted we are to become a single-tier authority again.That was not any good for the Scottish National party, because its group leader, Brian Adam, pitched in and said:I am in favour of single-tier authorities".The leader of the Liberal Democrat group, John Reynolds, said:We are in favour of Aberdeen being made a unitary authority".The Labour party's group leader and leader of the council in the city of Aberdeen said:We welcome the return to being a single-tier, all-purpose authority, which we have been working towards since 1974".Even the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said—I concede that he said it rather grudgingly and through gritted teeth—
1006There will certainly be great satisfaction at the restoration of a single-tier authority for the city of Aberdeen.It was therefore breath-taking arrogance and a display of total contempt for the people of Aberdeen for the hon. Member for Monklands, West and his hon. Friends to ignore such statements of wholehearted support from all sides for my right hon. Friend's proposals.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
My acceptance of an all-tier authority was not made through gritted teeth. What I did say through gritted teeth and which was widely echoed by people in Aberdeen, including Tom Paine, the leader of the Labour group, was that I regretted the way in which Westhill had been tacked on to the city of Aberdeen. More important than that, however, it is clear that the Secretary of State's intention is to provide a smokescreen with the boundaries; his real intention is to strip local councils of real control and the real delivery of services.
§ Mr. Robertson
If the hon. Gentleman can contain himself, I shall discuss Westhill later.
It was breath-taking arrogance on the part of the hon. Member for Monklands, West and his colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench to ignore all shades of political opinion in Aberdeen. Such was the arrogance of the hon. Gentleman when he said that there wasno consensus … no support, no demand"—[Official Report, 8 July 1993; Vol. 228, c. 472.]for the proposals of my right hon. Friend. If the hon. Gentleman can dismiss in a cavalier manner the views of elected councillors of all parties in Aberdeen and those of his hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North, over how many other councillors', hon. Members' and people's opinions has he ridden roughshod in his frantic attempt to fabricate a case to help him deny the popularity of my right hon. Friend's proposals?
If the hon. Member for Monklands, West were still in the Chamber I would ask him to come to the Dispatch Box to apologise to his Labour local government colleagues in Aberdeen and to the wider community in Aberdeen, political and non-political, for misrepresenting them and ignoring their long-held views in order to score a cheap political point. I am sorry that he is not in his place, but perhaps the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish), when he replies to the debate, will apologise not only to the Labour party of Aberdeen, but to the wider Aberdonian community.
§ Mr. Robertson
As the debate develops in the coming months, the hon. Member for Monklands, West will be forced to eat his words of last Thursday in respect not just of Aberdeen but of communities throughout Scotland.
Much has been said about the decision to include Westhill in the new Aberdeen city council, to which the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North has already referred.
§ Mr. Graham
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that an awful lot of Labour supporters may want local government to be reorganised, but only when we have in place a Scottish Parliament? Then the debate would be meaningful and services would not be delivered by quangos, which would be running the cities, in accordance with the Tory plan.
§ Mr. Robertson
When the Scottish people watch this debate and the arrayed masses opposite, is it any wonder that they consistently vote against a Scottish Assembly?
We have been told that the decision to include Westhill in the new Aberdeen city council is all part of some great Tory plot to increase Conservative representation. If only, if only. Those who talk about Westhill seem to forget that it has no elected Conservative councillors at either district or regional level. In the 1988 and 1992 district elections no Conservative candidates even stood for election. That seems to be a rather perverse form of gerrymandering.
Far from a political manoeuvre, my right hon. Friend has responded to the case made by the Labour-controlled City of Aberdeen district council, whose submission to the original consultation document was approved by the full council, after being rammed through by the ruling majority Labour group. On page 53, that submission says:A boundary could be drawn quite tight to the west of Elrick, which is part of Westhill, to avoid including Kirkton of Skene, thereafter utilising minor roads and farm access tracks to reconnect with the existing city boundary at the Leuchar Burn in the vicinity of Mid Anguston. This proposal would enable the lands at Cairnie, owned by the City Council, to be incorported within the City's administrative area.Paragraph 7.20 of the submission states:It may be the case that inhabitants of those areas may not choose to regard themselves as part of the 'community' of Aberdeen, and that individual reasons for taking that view are of greater or lesser validity, but if the economic life of such places as Westhill is inextricably bound up with that of the City, and significant levels of use of the City's cultural and recreational facilities are enjoyed by residents of those places, there may well be a sound case for extending the City's boundaries.I am sure that Labour councillors on Aberdeen district council will be glad to hear that the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland has said that they are narrow-minded.
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that Westhill is in my constituency. The hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should take on board the fact that the people of Westhill have not expressed any wish to be included in the city of Aberdeen—quite the reverse. Gordon district has invested heavily in community facilities in Westhill, which the city of Aberdeen may not have done.
§ Mr. Robertson
The contention that I outlined in the submission from Aberdeen district council suggests that if my right hon. Friend is to be accused of gerrymandering it is Conservative Members who should be complaining.
§ Mr. Robertson
I am about to do so. The people of Westhill look to the city and their focus is the city, as I am sure the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) would agree.
The most recent figures produced by Grampian regional council show that, of a resident and economically active population of 3,200, some 2,200 work in Aberdeen. The inclusion of Westhill in the city boundaries is a welcome and long overdue move. It is vital to recognise the 1008 role that Westhill and its population play in the life of the city. It is also vital to recognise the corresponding demand placed on city services for which, until now, there has been no recompense.
The including of Westhill also addresses, just as importantly, what Opposition Members would call the democratic deficit, because the people of Westhill have had no say in the affairs of a city that plays such a major and strategic role in their day-to-day lives.
If the hon. Member for Monklands, West had bothered to address such issues as communities and the provision of services rather than playing to the gallery behind him last Thursday, he might have come to some different conclusions. In so doing, he would have spared himself the embarrassment of what followed.
Last Thursday, the House witnessed what the people of Scotland have had to witness for too long: the Secretary of State taking Scotland forward, updating her institutions and preparing her to meet head on the challenges and opportunities of the new century.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We must all be responsible for what we say in the House, but is it in order for an hon. Member deliberately to misquote from a document and not give way to someone who knows something about the matter?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
That is not a matter for the Chair. Hon. Members are entirely responsible for their speeches and how they quote from documents.
§ Mr. Robertson
Last Thursday, Labour Members responded, as they are doing now, with gesture politics, showing their inability to grasp the issues of the day or contribute to the debate in a meaningful way. The Scottish people were not persuaded by last Thursday's antics. Unfortunately for the hon. Member for Monklands, West, they laughed at his false rage and were left unmoved by his self-righteous indignation. They saw through the whole thing, as he and his colleagues will soon learn. They resented being used by the hon. Gentleman as a backdrop to allow him to start his re-election campaign to the shadow Cabinet. They resent being used by him in a frantic and grubby attempt to shore up the support of the Scotland United group of Members of Parliament and to win over a few of his, until now, unimpressed colleagues.
Last week had nothing to do with the hon. Member for Monklands, West trying to speak for Scotland or even for the Labour vote, but everything to do with sending a message to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) that he was, even after a year, still one of the boys.
Last week had nothing to do with plans to wipe Strathclyde, Lothian, Tayside or Monklands from Scotland's political map, but everything to do with trying to wipe the smirk from the face of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish). That smirk appears on the hon. Gentleman's face every time his boss speaks at the Dispatch Box. The Labour party went too far. It treated the people of Scotland with consummate contempt as pawns in its sordid little struggle as it jockeys for positions of power.
Last Thursday my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spoke for Scotland, which is why the reforms are popular, will work and will last.
§ Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)
The voters of Westhill will have noted the patronising terms in which the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) has referred to them. He implied that they should know better and should want to be part of Aberdeen. His argument could be applied to Eastwood's relationship to Glasgow, or even to Portlethen's Stonehaven's or Banchory's relationship with Aberdeen. I doubt whether his logic will go down well in the constituency of the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch).
We also heard the Secretary of State say that, if someone wants a light bulb changed in Stranraer, he must go to Dumfries. As the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said, that is palpably untrue. Under the Secretary of State's proposals, that might happen, because my hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) showed that, where existing regions are to remain, it will be up to the regions whether to devolve responsibility. Clearly, the House was seriously misled simply for the sake of cheap jibes and good one-liners, which did not befit the office of Secretary of State.
Given the blatant partisan nature of the proposals, I am not surprised that there has been so much furore about the boundaries. Everyone wants to know what criteria the Government applied when drawing up those boundaries. What is so special about Eastwood or East Renfrewshire that, with a population of 88,000, they can be single-tier authorities, whereas Inverclyde next door, with a district population of 93,500, cannot?
What is so special about Highland, and Dumfries and Galloway, which are both bigger in size and population than Borders, that they should remain intact, while Borders must be butchered to create a council in Berwick and East Lothian to suit the Conservative party's wishes? People might legitimately want a straight answer to those questions, but may not think that they will ever get one.
More important, what is local government all about? We play into the Government's hands if we spend all our time in the next 18 months debating the Balerno corridor or the Eastwood enclave. In his introduction to last autumn's consultation paper, the Secretary of State said:The exercise is, after all, not only about redrawing maps. It is ultimately about organising local government to enable it to fulfil its potential as a legitimate and powerful part of our democracy.I quote those words because the point is succinctly made, not because I attach significance to the fact that it was made by the Secretary of State. It is the kind of phrase that one expects Secretaries of State to put in such a document. One can envisage the Secretary of State writing it, the pen oozing with sincerity, but one knows full well that, when Tory Ministers talk about power and local democracy, they are as genuinely concerned about them as the big bad wolf was when he expressed concern about Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother. They have no concept of what local democracy is about, because 14 years of Conservative government have seen more than 150 measures designed to take powers from local democracy.
When the Secretary of State says that he wants to liberate local democracy, he should own up to the fact that the Government have emasculated local democracy and that the measure is a smokescreen to continue that course.
Even when we find in the document a germ of hope that might mean more power being given to local government, 1010 we must wait and see what happens. We are told that there will be statutory confirmation of a local authority's right to become involved in industrial development activities, yet the same paragraph tells us that the Secretary of State will reserve to himself powerto make regulations imposing conditions or restriction on the way in which local authorities carry out this function." Even when the Secretary of State is giving with one hand, he is taking away with the other.If this had been a genuine exercise in promoting local democracy, a general competence power would have been given to local authorities, and the Government would have ensured that councils were elected by a fair voting system.
I was delighted to hear the Secretary of State accept that the present system was rubbish, and that it took twice as many Conservative votes to elect a Conservative councillor as it did to elect a Labour councillor. Proportional representation is the fair way to deal with that, not gerrymandering councils. We want a system in which the electorate will judge local authorities' performance, and financial responsibility is enforced through the ballot box, not through ministerial fiat. We want not so much the glossy pages of the citizens charter as a statute setting down minimum standards that are enforceable by the citizen in law courts.
The Government stand most condemned when we consider their case for reform and see what they are saying compared to what they are doing. Today the Secretary of State quoted opinion polls, saying that there was an overwhelming popular demand for unitary authorities.
Let us be fair: having regard to popular opinion in Scotland is a novel approach for the Government. We are not told why public opinion on this issue must be heeded and why popular opinion expressed at the ballot box about the need for a Scottish Parliament is ignored. I suspect that many of the people who responded to the first consultation document in 1991, saying that they wanted a single-tier authority, understood that it would be a single-tier authority with a Scottish Parliament. That is the proper context in which to consider single-tier authorities.
The 1991 consultation document said that the people rejected the present system becauseThe risk of confusion, which was always inherent in a two tier structure, is therefore increasingly emerging as a serious weakness.It also spoke of the need to end the "clouding of accountability" andthe potential for duplication, waste, delay and friction.But surely the largest contribution to the clouding of accountability has come from the Government's interference in local government. How can a local authority be held to account when so many of the criticisms can be met with the response that inefficiency, nonsense or unpopularity has been imposed by central Government?
I doubt whether the friction between region and district has ever been as great as the friction that Tory Governments have generated between central Government and local government. Which local authority—islands, district or region—has managed to compare with central Government in producing the level of wasteful expenditure associated with the poll tax?
The Secretary of State has found an easy way to ensure that there will be no more clouding of accountability in the case of water: he will end accountability. Yet another quango will spring into life, which will make it easier to transfer the water industry into the private sector when the Treasury demands that that should be done.
1011 The Secretary of State's lack of an answer to a question posed by the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) was illuminating. Will there be another consultation paper to tell us what the three areas are, how the boards will be constituted, what the financial arrangements will be, and whether debts will be written off? In relation to water and sewerage services, the White Paper leaves more questions unanswered than even the original consultation document.
§ Mr. Wallace
Quayle-Munro will no doubt be paid a substantial amount to provide another report, which is meaningless.
When the Government were preparing their consultation document, they told us that, although regional councils all decentralise decision-making to some extent, inevitably it is difficult for individuals to find their way around those unavoidably large organisations.
In an open letter to the Secretary of State, Councillor Ross Finnie, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Inverclyde district council, has underlined how difficult it has been for Inverclyde residents in the Paisley-based Renfrew sub-region of Strathclyde. However, ignoring local opinion in Inverclyde and community links, the Secretary of State proposes that Inverclyde should form part of the existing unitary sub-region of Strathclyde. Therefore, Inverclyde will experience the problems which he has identified, and which he said in the White Paper would be eliminated.
Citizens in Caithness and in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) will be reassured that, since the publication of the consultation paper last year, when the difficulties were highlighted, Ministers have been persuaded that decentralised decision-making in a large region, if it happens, will no longer pose any problems for the individuals involved.
I am sure that people in Skye, Caithness and Stranraer will conveniently forget, as Ministers will want them to, that the document also stated:The individual may consider that the presence of a local office or existence of an area committee will not always be an effective substitute for being able to attend a full council or council committee meeting. In general, therefore, the links with the community seem likely to be closer, and the accountability of elected members more obvious and direct, in an authority which is relatively small.The one silver lining in the matter is that we might save the north of Scotland railway lines, because councillors and members of the public will have to travel the hundred miles by train to attend the local council meetings.
I shall continue to illustrate the mismatch between promises and outcome. The Secretary of State has done whatever he wants to be done, particularly if it helps to promote the Conservative cause. We have heard the figures quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel).
An analysis of the responses to the consultation document showed that, of 108 responses from south-east Scotland, 105 wanted the continuation of the Borders region or two units which would maintain the present integrity of the Borders region. Three were against: the Conservative group of Lothian region, the Conservative group of Berwickshire district council and one Conservative councillor.
The prospectus published last year stated: 1012We will consider carefully all the comments we receive before making decisions about the shape, size and number of the new authorities.The prospectus failed to mention the existence of the golden share, which is usually in the hands of the chairman of the local Conservative association.
§ Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Govan)
We are debating an extremely important issue. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government are making no attempt to justify the boundaries that they are proposing, safe in the knowledge that they have a parliamentary majority behind them? Does he agree that the Government intend to drive through these politically partisan proposals, which have no support in Scotland, except among their own ranks? Does he agree that that process will threaten the Union in the way described by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)?
§ Mr. Wallace
The hon. Gentleman puts his finger on the spot. The Government's proposals go beyond the conventions of an unwritten constitution. I would rather have a written constitution, but we have an unwritten constitution which is bound by conventions. Those conventions have been broken.
It may be argued that constitutional changes have taken place in the past—the Chamber has been the scene of many battles—but history will show that those battles were usually fought over the progress of people's democracy, not shabby little pieces of political manipulation such as those with which the House has been presented today.
Perhaps hope for us all lies in the words of the right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), who told the Select Committee on Defence earlier this week that, in two or three years, there might well be a different Government. It would be the ultimate irony if those who seek to defeat democracy are, in turn, defeated by democracy.
§ Mr. George Kynoch (Kincardine and Deeside)
I shall try not to detain the House longer than necessary, as I am aware that many Opposition Members want to speak.
The motion refers to "unnecessary changes", and talks of the lack of general support for the introduction of single-tier authorities. In my district of Scotland, there is a strong wish to have single-tier local authorities, and for a good reason. People want a single-tier local authority which is as near the people as possible and provides services at the best possible cost.
That is not to say that local authorities which have run services to date have not been doing a good job, but circumstances have changed and it is time to evolve. For too long, constituents have been at sea as to whether functions are carried out by regional or district councils. When they encounter a problem, it is passed from councillor to councillor or from department to department—it is not known who is responsible for the service involved.
In the short time that I have been a Member of Parliament, I have realised that, when I hold surgeries and constituents visit me, many of the problems they bring should be addressed to their local councillors. The reason my constituents come to me is because they do not know to whom they should turn, and they cannot be bothered to waste time as the buck is passed from person to person. 1013 They would rather achieve some action by going straight to the right place initially. Surely that is not what local government is about. Local councils should be accountable, local and flexible, and they should have clear responsibilities.
I represent a largely rural constituency. The problems and requirements of rural constituencies and districts are different from those which obtain in cities. One obvious sector of concern in my rural district is primary school education. In cities, it is possible to rationalise schools and ensure that funds are used in the best way in a new primary school which provides education for as many children as possible. Children may have to travel a distance which seems relatively far in city terms, but which is, in rural terms, a small distance. In rural constituencies, the primary school is often the hub of a local community—educating smaller numbers of children and providing the necessary education to the children of that district. If there is rationalisation, those children will have to travel greater distances.
Constituents in rural districts sometimes wonder whether a regional education authority which includes a city places too much emphasis on the easy option of providing primary schools in cities. It is all too easy to neglect primary schools in rural areas. I have seen that happen in my constituency, where numerous smaller schools suffer from lack of attention, because too much attention is paid to city education.
It would be useful to move towards city single-tier local authorities that are separate from rural districts, so that the problems of the rural outlying districts could be addressed by council members who understand the rural problems and do not have to battle with problems related to the city.
§ Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Does the hon. Gentleman believe that city suburbs should be included in cities, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) argued? If he does believe in that principle, why should it not be extended to Glasgow as well as Aberdeen?
§ Mr. Kynoch
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I do not want to argue about Glasgow. I would rather discuss the district of Scotland that I know much better—my constituency.
There is always a grey area about whether a suburb is part of the city or rural, but a line must be drawn. I appreciate the difficulties that my right hon. Friend must have encountered in drawing some of those lines.
Single-tier authorities will be welcomed by people in cities and in rural areas in which size is important. Rural authorities should be small enough to be local and large enough to be economically viable. We could debate for many hours what is viable and what is not, but, whatever the size of the unit, it must deliver services locally, effectively, efficiently and competitively.
As with any business, the larger the unit, the easier it is to spread overheads and reduce overall cost. That seems to be a better way than subcontracting to provide services, but the obvious risk in doing it that way is that the local touch and the flexibility to provide services with local needs at heart may be lost.
1014 The proposed Aberdeenshire will have an area of about 2,300 square miles and a population of almost 200,000 spread over a diverse geographical area. The White Paper refers to decentralised management and administration about which my right hon. Friend spoke. How will that ensure that decisions are taken at the most local level?
My right hon. Friend spoke commendably about people not having to make long journeys to visit council headquarters. I welcome that, because it embraces the idea of bringing local government to the people. How could that objective be achieved in single-tier local authorities in large rural areas without going halfway to a two-tier system?
When the detail of the Bill is debated, I shall listen carefully to the Secretary of State's explanations. The larger areas must not become dinosaurian, to use the term employed earlier in the week by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), so that the head does not know what the tail is doing. It is a long way from north to south in the proposed Aberdeenshire.
As the Secretary of State knows, I am concerned about the splitting of a local government area that has not been split for at least 170 years. In the 1970s, there was a strong fight in Kincardineshire to keep the area intact so that the Mearns was not separated from Kincardineshire. During the consultation period, nobody from that area who spoke to me favoured being separated from the north and attached to the south.
One of my constituents who lives in Stonehaven wrote to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. She sent me a covering letter and a copy of the letter sent to my right hon. Friend. The covering letter states:I am afraid my letter may have been dictated more by my heart than my head. I am, however, Kincardine born, bred and educated. My birthplace was Laurencekirk and my maternal roots are in what is termed the Mearns. I cannot let that area come under the jurisdiction of another authority, where there would be no real interest in caring for what I naturally feel is my heritage.Since the beginning of local government last century, the county of Kincardine has been responsible for the area stretching from the Dee to the North Esk and over the Slug up Deeside to Kincardine O'Neil. As I have said to Mr. Lang, Kincardine is a family area. It must not be split.In determining the proposed local authorities my right hon. Friend wants to keep together people who are naturally together. It is fortunate that the White Paper has been presented before the summer recess, because during that time we can ascertain what the people of that area really want. I shall return to the split in Committee.
While I warmly welcome the main thrust of single-tier local authorities, I neither applaud nor condemn the detailed proposal for my area. I seek from my right hon. Friend the reassurances that I have outlined, and I have flagged some areas of concern.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's proposals on water. The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) said that water was a gift of God. He failed to tell us that to get it from God to the human body entails a good deal of capital expenditure on equipment for treating it. When the human body has finished with it and before it passes to the sea, it has to undergo further treatment.
It has been said that capital of about £5 billion will be required over the next 10 to 15 years for Scottish water. My right hon. Friend's proposal will not affect other services, and he has recognised the strong opinion from, I am sure, all constituencies that the people of Scotland do not at this time welcome the prospect of full-blown 1015 privatisation. However, those who face facts and appreciate the need to raise funds recognise that private capital must be raised if other services such as health, education and roads are not to suffer.
The proposal for three public boards is sensible. The Government have grasped the local government nettle, and I look forward to the autumn, when we can debate the fine details of the Bill.
§ Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)
The White Paper and the Secretary of State's speech were sad efforts—an exercise in brute force and ignorance, with the stress on ignorance. That was made obvious by an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). The Secretary of State's theme was taken up by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), who has now left the Chamber. [Interruption.] He has moved from where he was sitting. The debate was not improved by the speech by the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch).
I have no fear of the Government succeeding in whatever they set out to do in Scotland. The aim of their hidden agenda is to make the Scottish people lose faith in local democracy. The Government tried to do that through manipulation in England and Wales and they are about to try it in Scotland. Local government elections in Scotland have always had a much higher turnout than those in any other part of the United Kingdom. That is because people take an interest and have faith in local democracy and in the publicly spirited people who seek to represent them.
Who will stop the Government carrying out their purpose? It will be the people of Scotland who will continue to vote in elections because their service aspirations have not been dimmed by past happenings. The Government will also be stopped by local authorities staff in Scotland whose high standards of professionalism and dedication in delivering services have been untouched by Government manipulation and attacks. That will continue to be the case regardless of the attempts to stymie their aspirations by any Government, even Labour Governments in the past, for which we should be rightly ashamed. The individuals who are public spirited enough to stand for local government seek to represent their communities in a public spirited way and that will continue regardless of the Government's manipulations.
I have every confidence that the non-Conservative council will fight on to optimise the services, but not necessarily to maximise them and try to make them as responsive as possible, as it has in the past.
Some of the things that the Secretary of State said are not just a shame and a distortion of democracy, but undermine the very fabric of the Scottish people. They are a genuine threat to the Union, if the Secretary of State thinks that he is defending it.
Local government is not and should never be a matter of geography or based on historic settlements. Some people jump up and down about such issues, but we should not look at them in that way. We need to consider communities as they can generate energy, create self-help initiatives and aspirations and reach out in an articulate way for the services that local authorities should provide.
Whatever local government structure applies under the future Scottish Parliament, and it is consistent that there 1016 should be a Scottish Parliament before we have single-tier or any other new authority, it must be judged against objective criteria.
The Labour party is accused of not looking at the future, but I chaired the local government committee of the Labour party in Scotland and we tried to look for those criteria. We did not look at geography but at criteria that would produce a positive result. It is quite clear that we studied the issues more deeply and intelligently than the civil servants have as we produced certain criteria for a Scottish Parliament and beyond.
The criteria are, first, that the local authorities can be properly resourced and achieve the necessary benefits of scale—not necessarily the largest scale but the optimum one. Secondly, they should be able to guarantee a standard and level of service capable of creating an acceptable quality of life and improving the quality of life for those within the council area. Thirdly, local authorities should be accountable and, more importantly, responsive to the needs of local communities and individuals within the council area. The fourth criterion—on which the Government trip up most often—is that those priorities should be applied consistently throughout Scotland. That has not been done in the Government's exercise.
The proposals resulting from the Government's supposed consultation do not reflect any of those criteria. The Government simply fail to do the right thing. The Secretary of State's rubbishing of an objective commission shows how unbelievably patronising to the Scottish people and how parochial and influenced by his party's interests rather than those of the Scottish people he has become. That is a sad fall for someone who I was told was an intelligent person with Scotland's future at heart.
None of the proposals is based on consultation. They are totally inconsistent with the responses to the consultation exercise. Consultation is devalued by asking people what they want and then ignoring what they say.
I want to focus on the bizarre manipulations and the contortions which resulted in what the Government hoped would be Tory enclaves. The image I had was Dickensian. I had Mr. Bumble the beadle, the hon. Member for Eastwood, and Mr. Scrooge, the hon. Member for Stirling, getting together to draw up something more like Dickensian local government than anything that could take us into the future.
As a former leader of Stirling district council for 10 years, I make no apology for focusing on the potential damage that the proposals could do to the quality of life and the services available to people in that district and to future generations there. Stirling district had high-quality services, so we had to have a high tax level to provide district council services, but I suspect that the other mini-councils have the same problem: they do not have the economic base to give them an adequate income to provide the services that are provided at the moment by Central regional council.
I shall not be tempted to draw boundary or geographical conclusions, but after 13 years in local government in Central region and three years outside, I can say that Central regional council delivers a higher level of service in education, social work, roads and economic development, not just absolutely but in terms of pound-for-pound spending and value for money than any predecessor authority and any alternative that has been suggested to date.
1017 The spectre of the Tory future which haunts the proposals for new Torylands, as I shall call them, has a particular form. In education, I suggest that there will be either higher local taxes—it is quite clear that the Conservative philosophy will not allow that—or massive service reductions with poorer staff training in education and fewer support staff. If a child in Stirling, Dunblane or Balfron needs educational psychology, he is less likely to get it under the proposed boundaries. Speech therapy and other support services for education such as libraries cannot be provided by small councils such as Stirling without raising the tax base, and that is not likely to be on the cards.
The new Stirling philosophy is likely to offer an alternative. I am told that Stirling district council put a 53-page submission to the Secretary of State. We have seen some of the things that are already happening in Stirling. There will be proposals on opt out. Schools in Dunblane, Balfron, St. Modans and Stirling will be told that, if they opt out of the local authority, they will get a one-off bribe, as they did in England and Wales. They cannot come back to local authorities once they have opted out, so if services start to break down they will be on their own.
The Tory alternative is already known. Community care policies in Stirling and Forth valley have been signalled by the unholy alliance between the ex-Tory councillor, Mrs. Iris Isbister, who chairs Forth Valley health board, and the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth). She thinks that the private sector can provide all the community care necessary for the elderly in my constituency and the others within the Forth valley. They will push those most in need out of the local authorities and force them into the profit-motivated private sector where services will be lower and shoddier and in many cases the cheap, shoddy private sector will be the only option.
I left Stirling in 1990 and moved to my new constituency. Recently, I went back to attend a function in that area and visited some friends in the estate where I used to live. The grass was a foot high. Stirling used to be a shining example of a tourist town. It now has a shoddy, shambolic council. It was so bad that the Conservative councillors were calling for special meetings to force the contractors to cut the grass to the standard that the people expected. There have been cuts in services; recently the solicitor service went out to the private sector with the sacking of solicitors who had given the council loyal service. That spectre haunts people in the Torylands.
I am tempted to encourage the Government in this way as that would be the end of the Conservatives in Scotland. In Stirling they will get rid of the hon. Member for Stirling and they will get rid of the council. The present Conservative Member for Stirling will have a weaker base when people realise that they not only have to put up with him down here but with his philosophies in local services.
I am proud of the fact that, in a constructed constituency, where they took out three mining villages that were recommended by the commission and put in Dunblane and Bridge of Allan, and where there should have been a massive Tory majority, the hon. Gentleman's majority went down to 548 when I challenged him in 1987 and he is hanging on by 700 at the moment. This proposal makes sure that another party will take that seat.
1018 I do not want to be so partisan. I want to recommend to the Government that they do the honest thing, not because I do not want rid of them in Scotland, but because I want the Scottish people to have decent local government. I ask them to turn back, change their minds and bring in a structure that is responsive to people's needs and not about trying to save one or two silly Tory councils.
§ Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)
The Opposition motion would be a joke if it were not in the names of members of the Labour Front Bench. It makes charges of "inadequate consultation", but the fact that 3,500 people were consulted disproves that accusation. The motion criticises also the shortness of time allowed, but there were four months of consultation and five months of consideration—and no doubt there will be 12 months of further debate in this Chamber and in Committee. How much time is needed?
§ Mr. Gallie
It is typical of Labour Members to seek more time, because it is easier to talk. They are not used to making decisions. After 14 years, they do not need to worry about making decisions.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Gentleman's voice was very clear. I am sure that the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) heard the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) earlier and that he does not intend to give way.
§ Mr. Gallie
The hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) said that he would approve single-tier government after the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. Labour has talked about establishing a Scottish Parliament ever since it was last in government in the 1970s. It failed to provide one then and it will still be talking about one well into the next century. A Scottish Parliament is not on the agenda, but single-tier government is—and I approve of that.
I have consistently welcomed single-tier government and that approach was reflected in my comments during the run-up to the last general election. I stated that my aim was the abolition of Strathclyde regional council. At a meeting of Ayrshire chamber of commerce, my political opponents stressed that that was their aim, too. Scottish National, Liberal and Labour opponents wanted to get rid of Strathclyde regional council.
§ Dr. Reid
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I know that he is a fair-minded man. He mentioned his opposition to Strathclyde regional council. I will not ask him the hard question, which is what it did wrong. As the Secretary of State made disparaging remarks earlier about Strathclyde regional council, I will ask the hon. Gentleman the easy question. Will he name any Secretary of State for Scotland since 1945, Labour or Tory, who had the broad support, democratic legitimacy and backing of more people than any leader of Strathclyde council—from Dick Stewart and Charlie Gray to Bob Goud today? Even though the hon. Gentleman may not 1019 agree with them, they had and have more democratic backing than any Secretary of State of any party. Will the hon. Gentleman answer without the advice of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), who is briefing him?
§ Mr. Gallie
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind initial comment. I accept that there has been strong backing for the conveners of Strathclyde regional council, but the boundaries do not reflect in any way local wishes or aspirations of people outside central Glasgow. That is the opinion also of many constituents to whom I have spoken recently.
§ Mr. Foulkes
My hon. Friend's question requires no reply.
The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) spoke of the legitimacy and popularity of Strathclyde regional council. Earlier, he implied that the Government had paid no attention to the results of consultations. Will he confirm that the vast majority of people consulted in Ayrshire—including the chamber of commerce and Enterprise Ayrshire—were in favour of an all-Ayrshire authority? Few people, and only Tories, were in favour of Kyle and Carrick and no one supported an authority comprising Cumnock and Doon Valley, Cunninghame, and Kilmarnock and Loudoun. That is an invention of the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Gallie
I will respond to that point later.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Opposition Members should show a little patience. I will respond.
My right hon.Friend the Secretary of State listened to the wishes of the hon. Members for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Donohoe), for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey) and for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) in trying to bring their areas together. He listened also to voices in my constituency and to me and I applaud that. It is democracy in action.
Nevertheless, we should seek to establish local authorities that recognise local needs and aspirations, whose elected councillors can be seen to be accountable to the electorate and whose administration will be judged on the performance of those councils. We do not want local authorities established on the basis of a state-given right to operate according to ideology and habit. In the central belt of Scotland, that is precisely the situation now.
We heard much from Opposition Members today about democracy and involvement. In the majority of cases across central Scotland, councillors are selected not by the choice of voters but by small cabals within the Labour party—by constituency organisations with, no doubt, considerable trade union input. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) is well aware of that.
It is not just council candidates who are selected by such cabals, because they select also committee conveners—
§ Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)
The hon. Gentleman suggests that local authority candidates 1020 are selected by cabals. Perhaps he will explain how the proposals will change that. Also, what kind of cabal selected the hon. Gentleman as a parliamentary candidate?
§ Mr. Gallie
The party organisation in constituencies such as that which I serve presents a candidate to the electorate, but ultimately the electorate do not vote according to ideology and habit but on the case that is presented to them. They are offered alternatives. My right hon. Friend's proposals address that important option.
Labour wants to protect party interests. It is not interested in democracy but in the power of the party—a truly socialist tradition. The local government debate has for a long time concentrated on that aspect and it is time for change. That change is reflected by my right hon. Friend's proposals, which recognise that local interests must at all times be to the fore.
The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley referred to the representations made by Ayrshire. I remind him of his own previous comments—particularly those about Enterprise Ayrshire, which he accused of concentrating mainly on Irvine and Kilmarnock interests. If we opted for an all-Ayrshire authority, it would be dominated by Irvine, Kilmarnock and—probably—Cumnock influences. That would not be good for my constituents in Kyle and Carrick.
Most of those consulted about the proposals have stressed the need to consider the local aspects. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken that on board in Ayrshire's case. Let me, however, raise three specific points with him. First. I received a letter today from a group purporting to represent the interests of children's education in Glasgow. That group fears that nursery education will cease to exist following the demise of Strathclyde regional council. In Kyle and Carrick, one nursery school must serve 80 per cent. of my constituents. If that represents good service from Strathclyde region, I look forward to the day when we in Kyle and Carrick can take on our own responsibilities.
I have some sympathy for my former colleagues in Cunninghame, North. The north coast of Cunninghame was always alienated from Strathclyde and, to some extent, from Irvine. I know that my right hon. Friend intends to meet local councillors in the not-too-distant future; I hope that he will accommodate them, but I fear that, if he does, Opposition Members will simply accuse him of gerrymandering.
§ Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)
I am puzzled by the hon. Gentleman's remarks. Is he seriously suggesting that, when the Secretary of State meets Tories from the north of my constituency, he will reach an accommodation that will satisfy their specific wishes without taking account of the wider concerns of all north Ayrshire—and, indeed, of all those who are to be lumped in with the crazy authority of that name, which will stretch all the way to Auchinleck and other areas? Will the hon. Gentleman adopt a less parochial outlook and recommend an all-Ayrshire solution, based either on a single council or the existing districts? He cannot make sensible pleas for Tories in the north of my constituency without presenting a more general format. In saying that, I speak for people across the political board in my constituency.
§ Mr. Gallie
I speak for my constituents and their right to a voice in local government. They need to be able to influence their councillors and to take account of their actions. It is up to the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) to decide how best to represent the interests of his constituents. I understand that he has argued for an all-Ayrshire authority in the past, but perhaps I am wrong: perhaps he has argued for the retention of Strathclyde region. I leave him to look after his own interests, but I am aware of anxieties in a part of his constituency with which I have a great affiliation.
My third point involves community councils. [Interruption.] I have given way on a number of occasions, allowing my own time to be used by others in lengthy interventions. Hon. Members will just have to listen to the rest of my speech.
The Government are considering extending the involvement of community councils in planning and licensing. That is a great step forward for local democracy. Members of community councils do a grand job in looking after local interests and their voices should be heard. The need for funds for such councils should also be considered.
I believe that the Secretary of State's proposal for three public authorities to deal with water is well worth implementing. It will fulfil all our requirements, providing high quality, constant volume and lower costs in the long term. In recent years, Strathclyde region has ignored Ayrshire's sewerage needs time and again; I trust that, following the establishment of the new public authorities, those needs will be given appropriate priority and Ayrshire will have a proper sewerage system.
Many of my constituents have complained about the link between water charges and the new council tax banding valuations. I hope that, with the new structure, different charging arrangements will be introduced.
§ 6.5 pm
§ Mrs. Irene Adams (Paisley, North)
I promised my hon. Friends to speak for no longer than five mintues. The fact that I have had to listen to 20 minutes of drivel from the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) reflects the current imbalance in the House: 11 Conservative Members can take up all the time, while 62 Opposition Members must scramble for the few minutes that remain.
The Government's proposals do not surprise me. After all, at the last election they asked the Scottish people to vote for them if they supported the status quo. Only 25 per cent. of Scottish voters did so; 75 per cent. said, "No—we do not support the status quo."
The Government chose to ignore that 75 per cent., just as they ignore everything else that matters. They do so at their peril: they are now endangering democracy in Scotland. Their manifesto contained no proposals for water privatisation, but it was the first thing they mentioned when they returned to power. The Scottish people will not be fooled by the way in which privatisation is being introduced through the back door.
I defend Strathclyde regional council. It irked the Government because it got it right. The Government should ask people in the former Tory counties—in the old Renfrewshire and Argyllshire areas—about the condition of their roads before Strathclyde region was invented. They should go up to the islands, and ask people in Colonsay what social service provision was like when Argyll controlled the council. Strathclyde has been 1022 efficient and successful; it has given services to areas that never had them before. The Government have opposed the council because it was democratically elected.
My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) asked about the power of the Secretary of State. A Tory Secretary of State for Scotland was last elected with a majority in 1955. Strathclyde convenors have all been elected with vast majorities, as have those of Renfrew district council.
Apparently, Renfrew district council is not big enough to be the sole authority, although the area contains 206,000 people. Down the road, Greenock—in the Inverclyde district—contains 93,000, but apparently it is not big enough either. A new council representing 88,000 people is now being proposed for Eastwood: apparently Eastwood is big enough. The other council represents a population of 256,000, including—funnily enough—four elected Labour Members of Parliament. The proposed Eastwood council has one Tory Member of Parliament. What has the Secretary of State for Scotland done to justify that? He has taken poor old Barrhead, which has never voted for the Tories, and lumped it into Tory Eastwood.
The Secretary of State has also taken the only Tory ward—Ralston—from my constituency and put it into Eastwood. He will have a job on his hands when he tries to justify to the people of Ralston why their children will no longer be able to go to Paisley grammar school.
When the grammar school issue last raised its ugly head the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), was there, right out in front, telling people that he had the right to speak because children from his constituency went to Paisley grammar school. But it will be in a different council authority. Paisley grammar school will have to take children from Greenock, Wemyss Bay, Gourock and Erskine before it is allowed to take children from Ralston.
If that is not the case, can the Under-Secretary tell us what new financial arrangements will be made to allow council boundaries to be crossed so that children from Ralston can go to Paisley grammar school? The people of Paisley, Greenock and the surrounding areas pay for these services. Is the Under-Secretary telling us that they will have to pay for children from Eastwood to go to the grammar school, while children from Ralston, who live not half a mile away from Paisley grammar school, have to go to school in Barrhead? There is no direct bus link from Barrhead to Ralston.
According to the Secretary of State's proposals, the people of Ralston will have to look to Eastwood for all their services. If a street light is broken, they will have to go six miles to Eastwood and ask the council to fix it. But there is no direct bus service from Ralston to Eastwood.
There is no geographical or historic reasons for setting up the Renfrewshire councils. Half the areas that have been taken in were part of the old Renfrewshire county council, but so was Renfrew. Renfrew, though, votes Labour, so it is not going into the new Eastwood council. It is staying with the other council. The only reason for all this is political gerrymandering—setting up a Tory safe haven in Eastwood to protect the hon. Member for Eastwood.
§ Mr. Brian Donohoe (Cunninghame, South)
I am absolutely opposed to the Secretary of State for Scotland's proposal to reform Scottish local government, as outlined in "Shaping the Future—The New Councils." This is the latest episode in a systematic and concerted attack on the powers of Scottish local government which began when the Tories first came to power in 1979.
It must have been a surprise to anyone reading the document to find that the Secretary of State had committed himself to setting up effective and efficient local authorities. For any council to be effective and efficient, it requires, first, powers to initiate change that have not been emasculated by central Government. Secondly, it requires money so that it can provide efficient services to the public whom it is meant to serve. After 14 years of Tory Government, Scottish local authorities are neither effective nor efficient.
Despite the Secretary of State's assurances in the White Paper, Scottish councils will see their powers further eroded by any reform of local government that is initiated by a Tory document and presided over by a Tory Secretary of State with a hidden agenda which still, even after all his announcements, includes water privatisation and the extension of compulsory competitive tendering. The Tories' hidden agenda is still very much in being. Nothing that was said last week takes away from the fact that the Tories still intend to privatise Scottish water.
The major criticism of the Government concerns the wholly undemocratic way in which the reorganisation has been carried out—not by a commission, as in England and Wales, but by the Secretary of State and his cronies on the Treasury Bench. He has ignored the repeatedly expressed demand of the Scottish people for an assembly. He has compounded that error by denying the Scottish people at least a quasi-independent commission to determine the structure of Scotland's local government. The only area of change allowed for in the document is to be found in paragraph 1.4 which states that the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland will be able to review the boundaries if an anomaly arises.
I urge the Government to look at Ayrshire, for a start. How is it possible, according to that document, to have a north Ayrshire and a south Ayrshire when Skelmorlie in the north is in the same authority as Loch Doon? It is utter nonsense. It is hardly surprising that my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) spoke as he did earlier.
The financial implications of the Secretary of State's reforms are so highly subjective as to be meaningless in any serious analysis of the proposed changes. Any reform of local government, even the abolition of Strathclyde regional council, which the Secretary of State has decided on, will result in the additional expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds of Scottish taxpayers' money in the midst of an economic recession.
In the House the other night, Tory Members of Parliament said that the Government are bankrupt. The White Paper makes it clear that the Scottish Office, too, is bankrupt of ideas.
The implications of the proposals are that there will be job losses in areas where jobs are already in short supply. It is wrong to use local authority employees as political footballs. Any reform of local government based on the Secretary of State's proposals will, by its very nature, 1024 create democratic deficits in the accountability of many existing local government functions. A reduction in the number of local authority units will result in decisions being taken further away from, not closer to, the people.
That unaccountability will be made worse by the inevitable introduction of joint boards and quangos, whose members will be appointed by the Secretary of State, who has announced that the police, fire and water authorities in Strathclyde are to cover the same geographical area. Why does he not consider setting up a second tier of local government to cover those functions, which would then be the responsibility of directly elected representatives? What is wrong with that?
Those who are appointed will not be democratically elected councillors. They will be given only the power that the Secretary of State decides that they ought to have, according to his vision of Scottish local government. The proposals will further erode the already limited powers that Scottish local authorities have used to protect their people from the worst excesses of successive Tory Governments.
My reasons for opposing any change in the structure of Scottish local government are clear. The cost and the disruption that will be caused cannot be justified. The face of local government in Scotland will be changed for ever.
To be more specific, what will happen to the wind-up programme for the new towns in the area that I represent? In my case, that factor is critical to the well-being of Irvine new town. When will the Secretary of State answer that important question? Why is that subject not addressed in the consultative document? It is not in the White Paper at all and that is wrong.
Any reforms will simply be perceived by the Scottish people as political navel-watching at a time when the real problems in the country should be addressed. There are 300,000 unemployed in Scotland and thousands of homeless, yet the Government have decided to review local authorities.
§ Mr. Donohoe
The hon. Gentleman had 20 minutes—I have only 10 minutes.
Any review of Scottish local government must be undertaken in conjunction with the establishment of a local Scottish Parliament. Without that underlying principle, any reform of Scottish local government will certainly be temporary. The Secretary of State should understand that.
The Scottish people have repeatedly voted yes for reform and how we are governed. However, in voting yes, they reject the Tory philosophy completely. I reject the proposals, as do the majority of those who responded to the consultation. I reject the need for any reform in Scotland at present.
§ Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)
The Secretary of State for Scotland has attacked the Strathclyde region on several occasions. He should remember that there are many dedicated men and women who have served Strathclyde region since it was created by a Tory Government. He did not complain too much about Strathclyde regional council when he used it to gather the 1025 poll tax. He let that local authority take the brunt of the abusive attacks caused by the Government. At the end of the day, they had to do a U-turn.
The Secretary of State should also remember that welfare rights officers were appointed in Strathclyde region to protect the poor and those who needed protection. Many men and women in my constituency got a great deal of benefit from the advice given by those officers. Some of them were former soldiers who gave six years of their lives and did not see their friends come back. They were denied their right to services of Government Departments until Strathclyde stepped in. [Interruption.] I wish the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) would shut up. I listened to his speech—he said absolutely nothing. His constituents would he ashamed of what he said. The more he opens his mouth, the more he puts his big foot in it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) made a good point about Argyll. I was a full-time union officer in Argyll when Strathclyde took over. It was clear to me that the workers in Argyll had had to suffer at the hands of Argyll council, which was a penny-pinching authority and denied the workers their basic rights. Some of the workers had no protective clothing. The road men had no bothies in which to store their tools—they had to store them in their homes. Many of the workers said that they were glad that a Strathclyde union was coming in because they would at least get national wages and conditions and many were able to go on and be promoted. Under Strathclyde, people who worked in Dunoon were able to get promotions in places such as Greenock, Paisley and Glasgow.
It is easy for me to have a go at Strathclyde region. But if—God forbid—these proposals get through the House, some people will say, "I wish that Strathclyde was back again".
Reference was made to Tories objecting to these proposals. I am proud that I served on Glasgow district council before I came here. John Young was a councillor on that council. He was a leading Tory—no one could say that he did not defend the Tory party on that council. Lo and behold—John Young is a Glaswegian who has a great love for the city of Glasgow, and the Secretary of State cannot deny that as soon as the Tory proposals came out, John Young was one of the first to say that they are absolute rubbish.
Let us examine the accusation of gerrymandering. No matter what we call it, it is ludicrous when people who live in the Toryglen area will have to go to Hamilton for their services, although some of them live nearer the city chambers than I do. The Secretary of State will say that I am wrong about that because at one time Toryglen was not in the city of Glasgow.
§ Mr. McAvoy
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to give way to an hon. Member who has knowledge of his own constituency, of which the other hon. Member has no knowledge?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)
The hon. Gentleman is well aware that it is for the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) to decide whether to give way.
§ Mr. Martin
This is not simply another hon. Member's constituency. The White Paper says that the proposal is for the city of Glasgow. I am entitled to comment on a proposal that will take a place that has been part of Glasgow for a long time—Toryglen—and put it into south Lanarkshire. The logic of the Minister's argument is that at one time Toryglen did not belong to Glasgow. Springburn, Keppochhill and Maryhill did not belong to Glasgow at one time. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Wray) does not belong to Glasgow—he stays outside it. Perhaps if he came in, we would get more population. We need a decent population in the city of Glasgow if we are to stay in a city that gives employment to most of the constituents of my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)
I well understand the strength of feeling of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) because of his experience in local government. When we look at the empty Conservative Benches, there are few Tories because the Scottish electorate rejected them.
As we heard in an earlier ruling from the Speaker, at the end of the day the customs and conventions of the House and the English majority will force the proposals through against the wishes of the Scottish people. The Tories cannot get the democratic mandate of the Scottish people, so they use this manoeuvre to force through their policies, which the Scottish people vote against, and deny Scottish democracy. We should be trying to restore that democracy.
Local government provides a wide range of essential daily services through its councillors and elected officials. It fulfils a highly democratic function in our society by allowing people to participate in local decisions. It also provides a vast pool of expertise and professional, trained, qualified and experienced staff giving a proven service to our local communities.
Scottish local government has a proud record over the centuries for supplying services to our local communities and that is precisely what is at stake in the White Paper. The Secretary of State for Scotland has served his country well and, undoubtedly, England will be suitably pleased with him. However, Scotland has nothing to be pleased about.
This short debate is only one small protest in what will surely be an ongoing debate for days and years against the Government's political chicanery. I will be brief but my anger goes deeper than this debate will allow. From the poll tax fiasco to Rosyth and Ravenscraig, the Tory roll of shame in Scotland is long and the Government have the gall to add this political deceit to it.
The Government's plans are irretrievably rushed. There has been no real consultation on these fundamental changes. [Interruption.] If this rabble would shut up, they might learn about the Labour party's record in Government. There is an obvious contrast between the royal commission in 1969, followed by legislation in 1973, and the condensed timetable offered by this Government. In fact, the previous review of local government started in 1027 1963. It took a total of 10 years from the commencement of the review to the final enactment of legislation. The Scottish Office published its present consultation paper in October 1992 and invited submissions up to January 1993.
Wheatley undertook visits, held meetings and seminars with academics and experts, and placed public notices in the press inviting both oral and written evidence. He commissioned studies and even had an intelligence unit aiding the previous reform of local government. All that suggests that that remit was taken very seriously. If the previous reform took over 10 years to gestate and then failed, what serious chance has the present rushed reform of lasting anything like the 20 years of the previous reorganisation?
There has been no attempt to match communities to the new local government units, which are merely political conveniences for the discredited Tory party. The English get a commission, the Scots get gerrymandering. Like the poll tax, Scotland once more will be the Government's guinea pig. There has been no attempt truly to involve local government officials or the public or councillors before the structure of the proposed change was decided by central Government.
The Government's proposals are fundamentally flawed. There has been no community of interest locally between Kincardine and Angus, or between Perthshire and Angus. There has been no community of interest through employment or through local government practice. The proposals have been introduced irrespective of past and present work, or social and historical patterns. That approach is being mirrored throughout the country; the proposals are for the pure political convenience of the Tory party and not the result of the will or wish of the people.
The previous Scottish local government reform, which was given all the promises that we have heard from the Government tonight, lasted less than 20 years. Before that, reforms lasted for 50 or even 100 years. The new reform looks as though it will last even less time than the 1973 reform, because of the way in which it has been introduced and because of its substance.
The rush to legislate simply guarantees a period of instability, unemployment and the disruption of daily services. The Government have clearly forgotten the cost of chaos and the reality of running parallel authorities from the past local government reform. Why should the reform occur through silly gerrymandering and an effort to govern by deceit?
The Scottish people clearly rejected the Tories at previous elections, yet the Government are now inflicting those rejected policies and philosophy through a series of unelected and publicly unaccountable quangos. There has been an attempt to bypass the democratic process in Scotland. The boundaries have not been agreed and discussed with local communities, but are simply a civil service solution produced under the direction of the Tory party.
The local service proposals are the ultimate sell-out. They represent privatisation through the back door with stealth, through the creation of an unelected, unaccountable quango. The Tories who were rejected by the electorate are now ruling Scotland by a whole series of such unelected and unaccountable quangos—the opposite of democracy.
The process by which the Government issue a consultative document, only then promptly to ignore the 1028 results, is also the opposite of democracy. They prefer proposals that are overwhelmingly rejected by the Scottish people. Public pressure has forced a retreat from outright privatisation of water, as the Government originally wanted, but that has resulted in privatisation by two sips rather than one gulp. Scots want local-government-run water services, not the quango-controlled system nominated by and under the direction of the Secretary of State.
I noticed that the Secretary of State was careful to give us absolutely no details of what the legislation will entail. I hope that he changes that by telling us what was in the Quayle-Munro report and exactly what the Government have in mind.
Every customer in Scotland will await price rises, existing staff can expect disruption and redundancies, and we shall get all that is unnecessary and unwanted in both local government and water services.
The local government restructuring is different in kind and nature. There has been no real consultation, no royal commission, and no cross-party consensus, except among the people who opposed it. I reject with disgust the gerrymandered boundary reorganisation and the theft of Scotland's water resources. I seek in its place a strong, autonomous local government system, based on true local communities and founded after close consultation with those communities.
Any review must meet three important criteria. Scotland must receive equal treatment. If there is a commission in England, there must be something similar in Scotland. There must be maximum consultation that reflects the views of the Scottish people, and there must be democratic control over education, police and fire which must not be switched to central Government quangos.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am finding great difficulty in hearing the hon. Member for Angus, East.
§ Mr. Welsh
May I say to the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) who is trying to intervene, and to all the hon. Members making a racket behind me, that it is no use going through the motions of having photo calls outside 10 Downing street. Scotland expects more than that. That technique failed for Rosyth, it failed for Ravenscraig, and it will fail again because of the nature of the House. It is time that the Labour party joined others to ensure that Scottish views prevail.
Scotland has every right to feel betrayed by the Government's botched, unfair and undemocratic proposals. It is time that Scots united to ensure that the proposals are defeated.
§ Mr. Henry McLeish (Fife, Central)
We do not need any lectures from the Scottish National party about defending Scotland's interest in the Chamber. May I 1029 remind the hon. Gentleman that the Labour party has 49 Scottish seats and the SNP has a miserable three seats, and its work rate is nothing to commend it?
The Secretary of State today treated local government in Scotland with maximum contempt. It was a disgraceful speech that did not address the key issues. It was a knockabout speech, at a time when we deserve to know why some of the decisions in the White Paper were made. More importantly, why is the Secretary of State willing to ride on the back of the rantings of his Back Benchers over Monklands? He knows that he has the power to set up an inquiry. He should either put up or shut up on that issue.
The debate has exposed the organised hypocrisy masquerading as government in Scotland, and it has explained why the Conservatives are so deeply unpopular there. Only a rump of Tory Members, led by a ragbag of Tory Ministers, could have produced such a dog's breakfast and called it a reform. The reform of local government is irrelevant to the needs of Scottish people, damaging to the people who depend on its services and dismissive of democracy.
The Secretary of State must shoulder much of the responsibility for the mess. Why is he plumbing new depths of political dishonesty? Why is he unwilling to distinguish between the interests of the Conservative party and the interests of the country? The democratic credentials of the Secretary of State now lie in tatters. He failed in Rosyth, he has failed in local government and he has failed on the issue of water. How many failures does he need to have before he reconsiders his position?
Much of the debate has concentrated on the Tories and their gerrymandering of boundaries. We have heard pathetic excuses that the proposed action is not gerrymandering, but good government. We know that, if there is an Operation Safe Haven and the only real people who are consulted are Tory Members, one ends up with a gerrymandered map of Scotland, which carries with it all the responsibility of the governing party.
The key question is what criteria were used to gerrymander the boundaries of East Renfrewshire, Berwickshire, East Lothian and Stirling. Did they use history, geography, culture or a bit of economics? The criterion was simply the vested interests of the crew on the Government Benches, who could not care about the wishes of Scottish people and who will now do everything from that base position of 16 per cent. to win any credibility they can.
We hear the Government lecture us about the vested interests in local government. They mean the 300,000 employees who, every day of the week, provide some of the best services in Europe. If that is a vested interest, I and my colleagues will speak up for them. If our councillors, who do such sterling work, are another vested interest, I have no doubt that I and my colleagues will be willing to stand up and be counted. What is utterly disgraceful is that the Tory party stands up for its own vested interest and is unconcerned about what is happening around it.
This debate is a watershed in Scottish politics since 1929, because we have never in that period had a major reform of local government which has smacked of contempt and of a lack of concern for those who are the beneficiaries of the service. We know that there is no case.
1030 What is the justification for this massive upheaval? There is no consensus. How on earth can the reforms endure? My hon. Friends have made the point that one cannot sustain the reforms without a consensus in which every political party and every section of Scotland is committed to them. No one will be committed to the proposals. They will not endure, because the Government have ignored the basic tenet of democratic politics, which is to arrive at a consensus. If there is no consensus, my hon. Friends will not be committed to the proposals. The proposals will have no credibility, and the people of Scotland will have little confidence in proposals that do not have that consensus.
My hon. Friends have raised the question of a commission. Even the English have a commission. Why has the Secretary of State declined to give the Scots a commission? Why will the Government not put the matter to an independent test—to an independent commission? We should be happy to contribute proposals to such a commission. Why does the Secretary of State not do the same? We know the reason. The proposals will introduce a corrupted map of local government. The proposals are all about the Conservative party, and if they were exposed to the light of an independent commission, they would simply be shown up for what they are.
The other key issue raised by the proposals is constitutional change. If we had a Scottish Parliament sitting in Scotland—
§ Mr. McLeish
If we had a Scottish Parliament, Scots would be allowed to look at their own boundaries sensibly and sensitively, and they would be able to draw up a future that they wanted—not a future that satisfied the Conservative party, but a future that would take local government into the next century and would carry on the proud tradition of the previous 100 years.
If there is one part of the proposals that smacks not only of gerrymandering but of manipulation, it is the section dealing with costs. The Government have brought comic farce to financial accounting in the proposals. The Government took on Touche Ross. The National Audit Office in Scotland is now interested in carrying out a study into why £50,000 of taxpayers' money was spent on such a flawed exercise. The first exercise came up with transitional costs and on-going costs over five years, but the Government did not allow that. It was suggested that there might not be any savings, but that there would be substantial costs.
What did the Government do? They went back to Touche Ross and the civil servants, and came up not with a five-year period, but with a 15-year period. They paraded around at the weekend saying that they would save £1 billion up to the year 2010. Why not 3010, in which case the figure would be £6 billion? Why not 4010, in which case the figure would be £12 billion? What an utter absurdity. The fact that we have been asked to participate in discussions on the White Paper on the basis of those bogus figures is a scandal of massive proportions. We dispute the figures for savings, because there will be none.
There is no disguising the fact that, in the next three years, £200 million of costs will be incurred. Where will the money come from? It will not come from the Treasury. The money will come from services being cut and from the 1031 council tax being increased. Will the Minister tell Scotland that our present council tax levels will be safe in Tory hands when the reforms take place? They will not be, because the council tax and cuts in service will pay for this collective madness.
A lobby is here today. We want the Secretary of State and his Ministers to reassure the 300,000 Scots who work in the service about their future. We want those workers to know, unlike the workers at Rosyth, that they have a future, that they will not simply be disregarded. Who on earth believes that only 2,200 people will leave the service over the next few years? Again I ask the Secretary of State for a reassurance for servants who have made a valuable contribution to the quality of life in Scotland. All the proposals add up to no case at all.
What about services? We have heard much talk about all-purpose authorities. Those all-purpose authorities will be multi-purpose authorities, because there will be a degree of centralisation unprecedented in Scottish politics. There will be commercialisation and then joint committees. Struggling beneath that will be the so-called "all-purpose" authorities. That is astonishing. They certainly will not be all-purpose authorities as the Government pretend.
If there is one issue above all others on which contempt has been heaped, it is the discussion about water. Many of my hon. Friends have made the point that we are at a halfway house towards ultimate privatisation. That is clear. We shall have three boards. Why three? No one has given us a reason why there should be three. Why not have six, or one? No details are given in the three paragraphs out of the 30 pages.
We are being softened up for the privatisation of water. The first step is centralisation, which will be followed by privatisation. No Conservative Member will mention the F-word—franchising. The word does not appear in the White Paper. Why not? There is no escaping the conclusion that the Government are moving surely and steadily towards the sell-off of Scottish water. It may not happen next year, but that is their intention. Scotland will not be fooled by the utterances and bogus reassurances it has received from Ministers.
If all of that was not bad enough, there is the point, which many of my hon. Friends have made, about the democratic deficit. Deep down in the debate is the question of costs and the question of consensus, but there is also the fundamental question of democracy. Democracy is being undermined by services being transferred to the marketplace and to the Scottish Office.
We are seeing an attack on the balance between local and central Government which is essential to the constitution. We are seeing a system being corrupted, and being made more unstable and more vulnerable to commercialisation and privatisation. We in Scotland are proud of our deep sense of security and our deep sense of collective provision, which are in danger of being abandoned irreversibly by the Government.
The proposals are unwanted, unnecessary, undemocratic and uniquely irrelevant to the people of Scotland. They deserve no support in the House, and we will certainly not support them. We will oppose them at every opportunity.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)
We have had a most enjoyable debate. The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish)—I shall come to his more serious points later—continued his customary rant and scaremongering. I shall deal at the outset with his point about local authority staff. We estimate that reorganisation could lead to a reduction in total staff numbers of 1 per cent. That is against a background in which local authority staff in Scotland last year increased by 2 per cent., which puts the matter into context.
A number of positive points have been made in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) pointed out that every group leader in the city wanted a single-tier system and wanted the city of Aberdeen to be a single-tier authority. My hon. Friend asked the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) for an apology to the city of Aberdeen; an apology has not been received.
§ Mr. McLeish
Will the Minister accept the challenge that I offered the Secretary of State? He keeps referring to Monklands. He has the power to set up an independent inquiry. Will he put up or shut up?
§ Mr. Stewart
I thought I was talking about Aberdeen, but I can express some hope for the hon. Member's interest in Monklands. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) is interested in serving on the Standing Committee, and no doubt his extensive researches on Scottish local government will be available to hon. Members.
§ Mr. Stewart
Not at the moment.
My hon. Friend rightly pointed out that the accusation of gerrymandering in relation to—
§ Mr. Wilson
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It seems to me that the Minister has sought to pre-empt the work of the Committee of Selection, and has done so by referring to matters that are clearly extraneous to the contents of any Bill. I hope that you will draw the matter to the attention of the Committee of Selection.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The Minister is responsible for his own speech, and no Standing Committee is involved in this debate. [Interruption.] Order. So far, I have had great difficulty hearing what the Minister has had to say.
§ Mr. Stewart
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that Opposition Members will give me the chance to develop my speech. I repeat that I said that I understood that my hon. Friend the Member for Dover might be interested in serving on the Committee. That does not pre-empt any decision of the Committee of Selection or of anyone else.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South rightly answered the charge that the Government are somehow gerrymandering through the proposal to bring Westhill into the city of Aberdeen. He rightly pointed out that Westhill does not have a single Conservative councillor at either regional or district level, so that accusation cannot be sustained.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch) reminded us of the importance of 1033 rural areas. He underlined the common sense of the proposals in the White Paper that city authorities should be surrounded by strong rural authorities where the interests were quite different.
My hon. Friend expressed his concern about particular boundaries, as did a number of Opposition Members. Frankly, it would be surprising if the Government produced a set of proposals on boundaries which received immediate and universal acclaim, because people differ.
§ Mr. Wallace
I think the Minister accepted that there has not been exactly total acclaim for all the boundaries that he has proposed. What level of opposition will he take account of in amending boundaries? What size of petition and what kind of opposition will he take as evidence that what he is proposing is unacceptable to a local community?
§ Mr. Stewart
First, we have had a period of consultation. Secondly, that will be a matter for Parliament to decide. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there can be legitimate differences of view on boundaries, but my right hon. Friend and I will take seriously the points that are made to us in the Committee.
§ Mr. McAvoy
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Does he accept that the regional ward of Kings Park Toryglen, which it is recommended should be included in south Lanarkshire, is more than 50 per cent. Rutherglen and Lanarkshire area and more than 50 per cent. Rutherglen and Lanarkshire population? Bearing in mind his last statement, will the Minister also assure me that he will accept it from me, as the Member of Parliament for Toryglen, that I want that area to remain part of the city of Glasgow, where it has always been and should stay?
§ Mr. Stewart
I am grateful to the hon. Member. I assure him that we shall listen to people such as himself when there is a constituency question. Then we will consider whether appropriate changes need to be made during the passage of the Bill—
§ Mr. Stewart
No. I have given way a number of times, and I have to sit down in a few minutes.
I welcome the excellent speech that my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) made on behalf of his constituents, in which he pointed out the importance and relevance of the Government's proposals for the best interests of his constituents. I had hoped that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) would pay a tribute to the council that he represents, which is generally recognised to be—
§ Mr. Graham
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My colleagues and I wish to object that we have not been able to put our point of view to the Secretary of State about our objection to the inclusion of Toryglen in our area.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am sure that as many hon. Members as possible have been called in the time available.
§ Mr. Stewart
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps the Committee of Selection will choose the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) for the Committee, and he will doubtless have many hours to put forward his point of view.
I had hoped that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland would say that—on the basis of his experience as a constituency Member—although he might disagree with some of the boundaries proposed by the Government, there was a strong case for single-tier authorities.
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) is remonstrating. I will give way to her if she wishes. She walked out of the Chamber last Thursday, throwing the White Paper back to the Secretary of State—I am grateful for that, because we are running low on copies. The White Paper implements the views of Argyll and Bute for a single-tier authority based on Argyll and Bute.
§ Mrs. Michie
The Minister should know from our submissions to the Secretary of State that the Scottish Liberal Democrats have always been in favour of single-tier local authorities, but with a Scottish Parliament. [Laughter.] If Conservative Members care to read the submission, they will understand why.
While the Minister is talking about Argyll and Bute, I welcome the fact that it is to be a single-tier local authority, but it will be interesting to see the result of putting Helensburgh, which has no historical link with Argyll, into that area.
§ Mr. Stewart
The independent council and polls in the Helensburgh area are overwhelmingly in favour of that.
We turn next—
§ Mr. Stewart
I regret that I cannot give way. I have only three or four minutes left.
I turn next to the Scottish National party. The hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) says that there is no support for the Government's proposals. I refer him to the following statement in The Press and Journal of 30 June:I will be very pleased if, as the information available indicates, the council will be retained.His hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) made that statement. She clearly supports what the White Paper proposes.
§ Mr. Stewart
I have given way on several occasions. The hon. Member for Monklands, West refused to give way.
The hon. Member for Fife, Central is normally meticulous in his research on such matters, and he mentioned costs. I was surprised that he did not refer to the submission from his regional council. Perhaps I should remind him of what that submission said.
§ Mr. Stewart
Has the hon. Gentleman not read the submission of his own council'? Dear me, that is not very good. It strongly supported the retention of the kingdom of Fife, and that Labour regional council argued that a single-tier Fife council would produce annual savings of £4.9 million, as opposed to transitional costs of £5.5 million. It argued that the total savings over a longer period would be more than £42 million at net present value.
Those are not the Government's figures, but figures produced by a Labour authority which is going to continue in the single-tier system. That is a good example of how much nonsense has been talked by Opposition Members. When they consult their local councillors in a number of areas, they will find that many Labour councillors, such as the convener of Fife, support what the Government are saying. Does the hon. Member want to hear what he said? The hon. Gentleman will find a constructive response from the councils in Central region, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, in marked contrast to the slogans that we have heard from hon. Members today. We do not know whether the Labour party wants a commission or whether it will reverse the proposals, if elected. The Labour party has no policy; we have the policies. I commend the Government amendment to the House.
§ Mr. Tom Clarke
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister says that he does not know whether the Opposition support a commission. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am having great difficulty hearing what hon. Members have to say. If we cannot hear in this Chair, we cannot conduct the business properly. I call Mr. Tom Clarke, and I hope that it is a point of order.
§ Mr. Clarke
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister said that he was not aware whether the Opposition supported a commission. May I through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, point out that it is clear in the motion before the House that we do indeed support a commission?
§ Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 272, Noes 316.1039
|Division No. 333]||[7 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Betts, Clive|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Blair, Tony|
|Ainger, Nick||Blunkett, David|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Boateng, Paul|
|Allen, Graham||Boyce, Jimmy|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Boyes, Roland|
|Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)||Bradley, Keith|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Bray, Dr Jeremy|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)|
|Ashton, Joe||Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)|
|Barnes, Harry||Burden, Richard|
|Barron, Kevin||Byers, Stephen|
|Battle, John||Caborn, Richard|
|Bayley, Hugh||Callaghan, Jim|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret||Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)|
|Beith, Rt Hon A. J.||Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)|
|Bell, Stuart||Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Campbell-Savours, D. N.|
|Benton, Joe||Canavan, Dennis|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Cann, Jamie|
|Berry, Dr. Roger||Chisholm, Malcolm|
|Clapham, Michael||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Hoyle, Doug|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Coffey, Ann||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Connarty, Michael||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Hutton, John|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Ingram, Adam|
|Corbett, Robin||Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Jamieson, David|
|Cousins, Jim||Janner, Greville|
|Cox, Tom||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Cryer, Bob||Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)|
|Cummings, John||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Darling, Alistair||Jowell, Tessa|
|Davidson, Ian||Keen, Alan|
|Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)||Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Khabra, Piara S.|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Dewar, Donald||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)|
|Dixon, Don||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Dobson, Frank||Leighton, Ron|
|Donohoe, Brian H.||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Dowd, Jim||Lewis, Terry|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Litherland, Robert|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Livingstone, Ken|
|Eagle, Ms Angela||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Eastham, Ken||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Enright, Derek||Loyden, Eddie|
|Etherington, Bill||Lynne, Ms Liz|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||McAllion, John|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Fatchett, Derek||McCartney, Ian|
|Faulds, Andrew||Macdonald, Calum|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||McKelvey, William|
|Fisher, Mark||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Flynn, Paul||McLeish, Henry|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||McMaster, Gordon|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Foulkes, George||McWilliam, John|
|Fyfe, Maria||Madden, Max|
|Galbraith, Sam||Mahon, Alice|
|Galloway, George||Mandelson, Peter|
|Gapes, Mike||Marek, Dr John|
|Garrett, John||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|George, Bruce||Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)|
|Gerrard, Neil||Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Martlew, Eric|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Maxton, John|
|Godsiff, Roger||Meacher, Michael|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Gordon, Mildred||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)|
|Gould, Bryan||Milburn, Alan|
|Graham, Thomas||Miller, Andrew|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Gunnell, John||Morley, Elliot|
|Hain, Peter||Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)|
|Hall, Mike||Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Hanson, David||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Hardy, Peter||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Mudie, George|
|Harvey, Nick||Mullin, Chris|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Murphy, Paul|
|Henderson, Doug||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Heppell, John||O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)|
|Hill, Keith (Streatham)||O'Brien, William (Normanton)|
|Hinchliffe, David||O'Hara, Edward|
|Hoey, Kate||Olner, William|
|Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Home Robertson, John||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Hood, Jimmy||Patchett, Terry|
|Hoon, Geoffrey||Pendry, Tom|
|Pickthall, Colin||Soley, Clive|
|Pike, Peter L.||Spearing, Nigel|
|Pope, Greg||Spellar, John|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Law'm E)||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Stott, Roger|
|Prescott, John||Strang, Dr. Gavin|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Straw, Jack|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Randall, Stuart||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Raynsford, Nick||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Redmond, Martin||Tipping, Paddy|
|Reid, Dr John||Tyler, Paul|
|Rendel, David||Vaz, Keith|
|Richardson, Jo||Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold|
|Robertson, George (Hamilton)||Wallace, James|
|Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)||Walley, Joan|
|Roche, Mrs. Barbara||Warden, Gareth (Gower)|
|Rogers, Allan||Wareing, Robert N|
|Rooker, Jeff||Watson, Mike|
|Rooney, Terry||Welsh, Andrew|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Rowlands, Ted||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Ruddock, Joan||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)|
|Salmond, Alex||Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Wilson, Brian|
|Sheerman, Barry||Winnick, David|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Wise, Audrey|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Worthington, Tony|
|Short, Clare||Wray, Jimmy|
|Simpson, Alan||Wright, Dr Tony|
|Skinner, Dennis||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)||Mr. Eric Illsley and Mr. Alan Meale.|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Burns, Simon|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Burt, Alistair|
|Alexander, Richard||Butcher, John|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Butler, Peter|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Carlisle, John (Luton North)|
|Amess, David||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Carrington, Matthew|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Carttiss, Michael|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Cash, William|
|Ashby, David||Chapman, Sydney|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Churchill, Mr|
|Atkins, Robert||Clappison, James|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)||Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey|
|Baldry, Tony||Coe, Sebastian|
|Banks, Matthew (Southport)||Colvin, Michael|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Congdon, David|
|Bates, Michael||Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Coombs, Simon (Swindon)|
|Beggs, Roy||Cope, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Bellingham, Henry||Cormack, Patrick|
|Bendall, Vivian||Couchman, James|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Cran, James|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)|
|Body, Sir Richard||Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Davies, Quentin (Stamford)|
|Booth, Hartley||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Boswell, Tim||Day, Stephen|
|Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)||Deva, Nirj Joseph|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia||Devlin, Tim|
|Bowden, Andrew||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Bowis, John||Dicks, Terry|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Brazier, Julian||Dover, Den|
|Bright, Graham||Duncan, Alan|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Duncan-Smith, Iain|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)||Dunn, Bob|
|Browning, Mrs. Angela||Durant, Sir Anthony|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Dykes, Hugh|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Eggar, Tim|
|Elletson, Harold||Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Knox, Sir David|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)||Kynoch, George (Kincardine)|
|Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Evans, Roger (Monmouth)||Lang, Rt Hon Ian|
|Evennett, David||Lawrence, Sir Ivan|
|Faber, David||Legg, Barry|
|Fabricant, Michael||Leigh, Edward|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Lennox-Boyd, Mark|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Fishburn, Dudley||Lidington, David|
|Forman, Nigel||Lightbown, David|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Forth, Eric||Lord, Michael|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Luff, Peter|
|Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Freeman, Rt Hon Roger||MacKay, Andrew|
|French, Douglas||Maclean, David|
|Fry, Peter||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Gale, Roger||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Gallie, Phil||Madel, David|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Maitland, Lady Olga|
|Garnier, Edward||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Gill, Christopher||Malone, Gerald|
|Gillan, Cheryl||Mans, Keith|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair||Marland, Paul|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Marlow, Tony|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Gorst, John||Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Mates, Michael|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Grylls, Sir Michael||Mellor, Rt Hon David|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Merchant, Piers|
|Hague, William||Milligan, Stephen|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)||Mills, Iain|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Moate, Sir Roger|
|Hannam, Sir John||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hargreaves, Andrew||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Moss, Malcolm|
|Hawkins, Nick||Needham, Richard|
|Hawksley, Warren||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Hayes, Jerry||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Heald, Oliver||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Hendry, Charles||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Hicks, Robert||Norris, Steve|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.||Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley|
|Hill, James (Southampton Test)||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)||Ottaway, Richard|
|Horam, John||Page, Richard|
|Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Paice, James|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Patnick, Irvine|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)||Pawsey, James|
|Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)||Pickles, Eric|
|Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Hunter, Andrew||Portillo, Rt Hon Michael|
|Jack, Michael||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Jessel, Toby||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Richards, Rod|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Riddick, Graham|
|Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)||Robathan, Andrew|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn|
|Key, Robert||Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)|
|Kilfedder, Sir James||Robinson, Mark (Somerton)|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Knapman, Roger||Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)|
|Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)||Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Sackville, Tom||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim||Thornton, Sir Malcolm|
|Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas||Thurnham, Peter|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)|
|Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian||Tracey, Richard|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Tredinnick, David|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Trend, Michael|
|Shersby, Michael||Trimble, David|
|Sims, Roger||Trotter, Neville|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Viggers, Peter|
|Speed, Sir Keith||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Spencer, Sir Derek||Walden, George|
|Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)||Waller, Gary|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Ward, John|
|Spink, Dr Robert||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Spring, Richard||Waterson, Nigel|
|Sproat, Iain||Watts, John|
|Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)||Wells, Bowen|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Whitney, Ray|
|Steen, Anthony||Whittingdale, John|
|Stephen, Michael||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Stern, Michael||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Stewart, Allan||Wilkinson, John|
|Streeter, Gary||Willetts, David|
|Sumberg, David||Wilshire, David|
|Sweeney, Walter||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Sykes, John||Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)|
|Tapsell, Sir Peter||Wolfson, Mark|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher)||Wood, Timothy|
|Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)||Yeo, Tim|
|Taylor, John M. (Solihull)||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Thomason, Roy||Mr. Timothy Kirkhope and Mr. Derek Conway.|
|Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Question, That the proposed words be there added,put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments) and agreed to.
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
That this House welcomes the publication of the White Paper "Shaping the Future—The New Councils"; and considers that its proposals will lead to better and more efficient local government in Scotland, based on a single tier of strong and accountable all-purpose authorities.