HC Deb 18 June 1973 vol 858 cc321-3
Mr. Grimond

I beg to move Amendment No. 255, in page 27, line 15, leave out 'and to public authorities' and insert: 'to public authorities and to the Secretary of State for Scotland'. The point of the amendment is to ascertain whether the right of the new community councils to approach not only the regional or the islands area councils but also the Secretary of State, the Scottish Office, public authorities and nationalised industries, and so on, is still safeguarded. The particular point in the amendment is the right to approach the Secretary of State for Scotland.

It may be said that clearly the community councils have such a right. The Secretary of State has already explained that he will reply to a letter from anyone—although some replies take longer than others.

If it is unnecessary to specify when they have a right of approach, I should have thought that it was unnecessary to put into the Bill local authorities and public authorities. Presumably they are inserted for some purpose. If they were left out the community councils would suffer. If they are put in, it is important to know what is covered by "public authorities". There is a view that the Secretary of State is a public authority. I am not certain whether that is so.

I shall not take up much more time. I protest that the House is still sitting at this time in the morning on important Scottish business.

I shall be content if the Government say what is covered and assure me that community councils will have the right to approach not only district or regional councils but also the Scottish Office and public bodies.

Mr. Younger

I can give the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) the assurance that he seeks. It is a most reasonable request.

A community council's general purpose, as outlined in Clause 52, includes expressing to the local authorities for its area, and to public authorities, the views of the community which it represents, in relation to matters for which those authorities are responsible. This amendment would add the Secretary of State for Scotland to the list of those to whom representations may be made.

That wording gives an outline of what is expected to be one of the main activities of community councils; but to try to make it more precise by additions such as the one suggested would inevitably tend to harden what is intended as a general indication into a more rigid and formal classification, and to imply that anything not expressly included in Clause 52(1) was thereby to form no part of a community council's remit. For instance, if the Secretary of State for Scotland is to be brought into the clause, why not the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the Secretary of State for the Environment or any other Minister? The danger would arise that a Minister not specified might be able to claim that a community council could not make representations to him.

Community councils can and no doubt will make representations to the Secretary of State. That is the assurance that the right hon. Gentleman wished for, and I hope that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Grimond

With that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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