§ Section 339 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947 (which relates to expenditure by county and town councils on special purposes), shall have effect as if in subsection (1A) thereof for the word 'Scotland' in each place, except the last, where it occurs there were substituted the words 'the United Kingdom'.—[Dr. Dickson Mabon.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.1391
§ This Clause seeks to extend the 1961 Act to permit Scottish local authorities to make payments to funds relating to events in the United Kingdom outside Scotland, whereas, as we know, they are confined at present to events or occurrences in Scotland and to funds of direct benefit to persons residing in Scotland. Section 339 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, originally did not allow local authorities to contribute to disaster funds and so on, except those relating to their own areas. This was obviously too narrow, as was revealed at the time by the Auchengeich disaster a few years ago, when the then Government sponsored the 1961 Act.
§ Even this, however, did not allow contributions to anything but Scottish funds. As a result, Scottish local authorities have been unable, because of the Statute, to contribute to the Churchill and Kennedy Appeals and the British Olympic Games Fund. More topically, Scottish local authorities cannot contribute, because of the Statute, to the Aberfan Disaster Fund. The sympathy felt throughout Britain for the survivors of the Aberfan disaster cannot be given expression by Scottish local authorities. Whether this is something which they wish to do is a matter for each individual authority to express, but, whatever their wishes, they can do nothing about it.
§ I commend this useful Clause to the House and hope that it will have support from both sides.
§ Mr. G. Campbell
We have come across this problem in the past and know to what the hon. Gentleman was referring. It is clear that some local authorities might want to contribute to the sort of disaster funds which he has mentioned, but are debarred from doing so by the present law. Clearly, a local authority might extend this to all kinds of funds and bodies not of the kind which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, which might not be in accordance with the wishes of all the ratepayers. Would he confirm that the approval of the Secretary of State is also necessary when a local authority intends to make a contribution of this kind?
§ Mr. Adam Hunter
I happily congratulate the Government on the new Clause. Last Session, I tried to introduce a Private 1392 Member's Bill dealing with the same subject and I waited in the House on four Fridays in the hope that I would gain a Second Reading of the Bill. Unfortunately, I was obstructed on those four occasions by hon. Members opposite. I hope that they will not be so recalcitrant tonight as they were then.
§ Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)
I think that I support the new Clause, but I would be glad if the hon. Gentleman would say exactly what is in his mind. Of course, I should be glad for local authorities to support disaster funds, but I am not sure that I would pay for their support to the Olympic Games, or something of that sort. What standards and guide rules will the Secretary of State follow?
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr. Adam Hunter) that I appreciate his concern. There was originally some misunderstanding about this, which prompted some of the opposition at that time. I am sorry that he spent four fruitless days dealing with this matter. We have clarified the point to some extent.
My answer to the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) is that the Secretary of State is consulted about this. I hope that will answer the point of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison), bearing in mind the local authority's own discretion and the Secretary of State's judgment—this can only be empirical; one cannot assess the nature of these things at the time.
§ As amended, the Statute would mean that such moneys would be confined to events or occurrences in the United Kingdom or funds of direct benefit to persons residing in the United Kingdom. In the case of the Olympics, obviously, the people concerned will be going abroad, or, in the case of the next Commonwealth Games, coming to Edinburgh. I hope that we are all agreed that this is desirable.
§ Mr. Galbraith
Is there any limit on the rate poundage? Is it 1d? I have that feeling, but I may be wrong.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.