HC Deb 21 January 1970 vol 794 cc492-3
11. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with local authorities regarding the Wheatley Report.

Mr. Ross

None, as yet.

Mr. Taylor

The right hon. Gentleman has asked the local authorities for their views but many of them are finding it impossible to give authoritative views without knowing the cash implications of the Wheatley proposals. What is the right hon. Gentleman's plan for dealing with the capital debts of existing local authorities and what is the time scale to be? When does he expect to produce legislation?

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman knows that we will not have discussions with the local authorities until after we have received their written representations. We have asked to receive those representations by the end of this month. We received one or two representations in respect of this time scale and some have asked for more latitude. I have said that we cannot go beyond an additional one or two weeks. All we are asking at the moment is for views on broad structure and broad functions. Authorities can deal with these aspects in the four months allowed, although it might as well have been only two minutes, judging by a reaction I met when I visited the Borders recently.

Mr. Grimond

The right hon. Gentleman will accept that the local authorities are concerned about this. I appreciate that he cannot give definite dates, but when he has received these written representations, which he says will be quite soon, will he confirm that he intends to have further discussions with them?

Mr. Ross

Yes, Sir. I intend to have further discussions with the associations of local authorities.

30. Mr. W. H. K. Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will publish the White Paper consequent on the publication of the report of the Royal Commission on the Reform of Local Government in Scotland.

Mr. Ross

In the spring. I have invited comments by the end of this month, and a number have still to be received and considered.

Mr. Baker

Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate what his thinking is about the timing of consequent legislation?

Mr. Ross

Consequent legislation? We have not even started consultations yet. The hon. Gentleman will want me to give proper time to considering the representations, then to have consultations, and then to embark on the further consultations in relation to the other parts of the Wheatley Report before we start thinking about legislation.

Mr. Willis

Is it my right hon. Friend's intention to allow hon. Members to discuss this Report before issuing a White Paper?

Mr. Ross

It would be very difficult to stop hon. Members discussing something which they really wanted to discuss.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

What consultations is the right hon. Gentleman proposing to have with local authorities between the end of this month, when they have been asked for their first written observations, and the publication of his White Paper?

Mr. Ross

I thought that I had replied to that in answer to an earlier supplementary question from the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). I said that there would be consultations with the associations following the receipt and consideration of their representations by me.

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