HC Deb 18 November 1970 vol 806 cc1222-3
34. Mr. Freeson

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will introduce legislation for the appointment of a Parliamentary Commissioner or Ombudsman for local government.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Peter Walker)

I am considering this, in consultation with the local authority associations.

Mr. Freeson

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking to the House that he will pursue the policy, which was advocated in the last Government's White Paper on Local Government Reorganisation, of establishing a local government Ombudsman? There are many people in need of such a service. When can we expect a White Paper announcing the Government's intentions on the future of local government?

Mr. Walker

The latter half of the supplementary question is an entirely different question. This is a matter with which we are progressing as speedily as possible. I cannot give a definite date at the moment. In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, with his experience as Minister, will agree that before coming to final conclusions on what should be done in this sphere, there should be proper consultation with local authorities.

Mr. Deedes

Will my right hon. Friend say what representations he has received from the Parliamentary Commissioner on this point?

Mr. Walker

As far as I know, none, Sir.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Will the right hon. Gentleman in his consultations with local authorities take into account that they have a lot to hide? Is he aware that more than two-thirds of my daily mail is taken up with complaints against the London Borough of Bexley, which I partially represent? He should not be misled by the local authorities.

Mr. Walker

I am certain that the previous Government in setting up a proper redress against grievances would consult the local authorities concerned, and I am doing that.

Sir R. Thompson

Will my right hon. Friend accept that hon. Members on both sides of the House are perfectly capable of fighting their constituents' battles for them, whether or not with local authorities? Will he firmly resist any suggestion for setting up more bureaucracy to come between a Member and his constituents?