HC Deb 23 February 1994 vol 238 cc274-5
14. Mr. Kynoch

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to strengthen the accountability of local government in Scotland.

Mr. Stewart

The proposals contained in the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill to establish a single-tier structure of local authorities will significantly strengthen the accountability of local government in Scotland.

Mr. Kynoch

My hon. Friend will already have heard this afternoon of the deep unrest in the north-east over the so-called early retirement of the chief executive of Aberdeen city council. May I add the deep concern of my constituents about the situation? In the light of that, and of the allegations about Monklands district council and other Labour-controlled councils, will my hon. Friend give some reassurance to my constituents that, in the transfer to unitary authorities, staffing matters will be dealt with in a proper and professional manner?

Mr. Stewart

Yes. My hon. Friend raises an important point in relation to council tax payers, the public interest and the interests of employees themselves. The transitional arrangements for staff have been discussed. We are setting up a staff advisory committee and, when the Bill receives Royal Assent, a staff commission. I am glad to have the agreement of a number of Opposition Members that my right hon. Friend's announcement of the chairman of that commission, Mr. Robert Peggie, is widely and warmly welcomed.

Mr. McAllion

I can follow how the quangos created by local government reform will be accountable to the Secretary of State for Scotland. What I cannot understand is how the Secretary of State for Scotland is accountable to the Scottish people, particularly since three out of four of them at the last election voted to remove him from the office that he now holds. Does the Minister agree that, as long as the Secretary of State for Scotland holds his high office in defiance of the democratically expressed wishes of the Scottish people, no aspect of government in Scotland is truly accountable, there is no Scottish democracy and, in every sense of the word, Scottish people are already living in an unelected state?

Mr. Stewart

That probably confirms that it is only a matter of time before the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) joins the Scottish National party, where I am sure he will be warmly welcomed. Ours is a United Kingdom Parliament and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is fully accountable to the House, as is every other Minister in the United Kingdom Parliament.

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