HC Deb 09 December 1964 vol 703 cc1525-6
7. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that comprehensive reorganisation of the structure of local government in Scotland is required; and when he intends to submit proposals to the House to achieve this.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Dr. J. Dickson Mabon)

I have nothing to add to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) on 11th November.

Mr. Taylor

While appreciating the guidance which the right hon. Gentleman gave on that occasion, may I ask whether he would not agree that what Scottish people are concerned about is that local government in its present form is increasingly unable to carry out the functions given to it in ever-increasing amounts since 1929? Can he give an assurance that he will further the impetus given to this programme by the White Paper issued last year?

Dr. Mabon

On the first part of the question, yes. On the second part, we are taking every step we can to have this very complex matter properly examined before making a decision. A precipitate decision would probably be the wrong one.

Mr. G. Campbell

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the Government are continuing the committee of local authority associations which has been studying this problem?

Dr. Mabon


Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

Is my hon. Friend aware that the principal concern is with local government finance, particularly the burden placed on many local authorities in the past decade, and that we shall make little progress in modernising the structure of Scottish local government till we solve this basic problem of money?

Dr. Mabon

Yes. My right hon. Friend made that point perfectly clear in his Answer on 11th November, and it is absolutely essential to our consideration.

Mr. Brewis

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the difficulty of administering remote rural councils if the centre of regional government is to be over a hundred miles away? Will he be able to get representatives to go all that distance?

Dr. Mabon

I really cannot anticipate whatever recommendations there may be from the working party. I am sure that very pertinent point will be uppermost in the working party's mind.