HC Deb 19 June 1973 vol 858 cc589-609

The Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act 1878

1. Section 121 (annual reports) shall cease to have effect.

The Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Amendment Act 1892

2. Section 5 (preservation of lands from injury) shall cease to have effect.

The Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1892

3. In section 396 (terms of licence for theatres, etc) for the words from the beginning to "£5 "there shall be substituted the words "A reasonable fee set by the issuing authority shall be payable for each licence".

4. In section 433 (brokers' licences), for the words "sum not exceeding two shillings and sixpence" there shall be substituted the words "reasonable sum set by the issuing authority".

The Burgh Police (Scotland) Act1903

5. In section 81 (licensing of billiard halls), for the words from "fee" to "shillings" there shall be substituted the words "reasonable fee set by the issuing authority shall be payable".

6. In section 98(2) (application of Parts I and II), the words from "intimated" to "Scotland and" shall cease to have effect.

The Milk and Dairies (Scotland) Act 1914

7. In section 28 (milk depots), the words "subject to the consent of the Board" shall cease to have effect.

The Performing Animals (Regulation) Act


8. In section 1 (restriction on exhibition, etc., of performing animals), the following amendments shall be made—

  1. (a) in subsection (2), for the words "the prescribed fee" there shall be substituted the words "such fee as appears to the local authority to be appropriate"
  2. (b) in subsection (5), the words "on payment of the prescribed fee", in both places where they occur, shall cease to have effect;
  3. (c) in subsection (7), the words "subject to payment of the prescribed fee" shall cease to have effect;
  4. (d) at the end there shall be added the following subsection—

"(8) A local authority may charge such fees as appear to them to be appropriate for inspection of the register, for taking copies thereof or making extracts there-from or for inspection of copies of certificates of registration issued by them."

The Roads Improvement Act 1925

9. In section 5 (prescription of building lines), paragraph (a) of the proviso shall cease to have effect.

The Slaughter of Animals (Scotland) Act


10. In section 2(5) (fees for licences), the words "not exceeding five shillings" and the words "not exceeding one shilling" shall cease to have effect.

The Bridges Act 1929

11. In section 7(3) (arbitrations, etc.), the words from "and any question" onwards shall cease to have effect.

12. In section 10 (rules of procedure), sub sections (1) and (2) shall cease to have effect.

The Road Traffic Act 1930

13. In section 53 (tolls), the following amendments shall be made

  1. (a) in subsection (2)(b), the words from "but a right" onwards shall cease to have effect;
  2. (b) in subsection (6), the words "subject to the aproval of the Minister" shall cease to have effect.

14. In section 56 (removal of structures from highways), the following amendments shall be made—

  1. (a) subsection (2) shall cease to have effect;
  2. (b) in subsection (3), the words from "or if" onwards shall cease to have effect.

The Restriction of Ribbon Development Act 1935

15. In section 17(2) (provision of means of entrance, etc., as condition of approval of building plans), the words from "measured" to "State" shall cease to have effect.

The Harbours, Piers and Ferries (Scotland)

Act 1937

16. In section 10(5) (application of 1847 Act), the words from "and if" onwards shall cease to have effect.

The Methylated Spirits (Sale by Retail)

(Scotland) Act 1937

17. In section 2 (lists of persons entitled to sell methylated spirits), the following amendments shall be made—

  1. (a) in subsection (1), in the proviso, for the words "prescribed fees" there shall be substituted the words "fees set by them";
  2. (b) in subsection (2), for the words "prescribed fee", there shall be substituted the words "fee set by the authority";
  3. (c) in subsection (4), for the words "fees as may be prescribed" there shall be substituted the words "reasonable fees as the authority may set".

The Water (Scotland) Act 1946

18. Section 3 (Secretary of State may require records, etc., from persons abstracting water) shall cease to have effect.

19. In section 9 (water for domestic purposes), the words from "and the Secretary" onwards shall cease to have effect.

20. In section 24(1) (power to carry out works), the proviso shall cease to have effect.

21. In section 29(2) (local authority may provide wells, etc.), in the proviso, the words from "and any" onwards shall cease to have effect.

22. In section 53 (provision of water supply for new buildings), in subsection (1), the words from "in accordance" to "may make", and subsection (4) shall cease to have effect.

23. In Schedule 4 (provisions to be incorporated in orders relating to water undertakings), in paragraph 19, the words from "Any dispute" onwards, and in paragraph 24(2), the words from "or as" onwards, shall cease to have effect.

The Local Government Act 1948

24. Section 138(2) (consent of Minister to agreements) shall cease to have effect.

The Highways (Provision of Cattle-Grids) Act 1950

25. Sections 14 (provision of cattle-grids off roads) and 18 (provisions as to cattle-grids provided before the Act) shall cease to have effect.

The Pet Animals Act 1951

26. In section 1(2) (licensing of pet shops), the words "not exceeding £2" shall cease to have effect.

The Food and Drugs (Scotland) Act 1956

27. In section 21 (provision of cold stores by local authority), in subsection (I), the words "with the approval of the Secretary of State" and the words from "and any" onwards shall cease to have effect, and subsections (2) and (3) shall cease to have effect.

28. Section 22(2) (notification of cases of food poisoning) shall cease to have effect.

The Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963

29. In section 1(2) (licensing of boarding establishments for animals), the words "not exceeding £2" shall cease to have effect.

The Riding Establishments Act 1964

30. In section 1(2) (licensing of riding establishments), for the words "a fee of £10" there shall be substituted the words "such fee as may be set by the local authority".

The Plant Health Act 1967

31. In section 6(3) (publication of orders), the words from "in such", where first occurring, to "direction" shall cease to have effect.

The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967

32. In section 12(6) (temporary prohibition or restriction of traffic), for the words "six weeks from the making" there shall be substituted the words "three months from the coming into operation".

33. In section 29 (powers regarding off-street parking places), in subsection (1), the words from "exercisable" to "by him", and subsection (2), shall cease to have effect.

34. In section 31(2) (use of parking places), the words from "and where" onwards shall cease to have effect.

35. In section 37(5) (supplementary provisions), for the words "the prescribed steps" there shall be substituted the words "such steps as appear to them to be appropriate", for the words from "not less" to "occasions" there shall be substituted the word "afterwards", and the words "in the prescribed manner" and the words from "and in this" onwards shall cease to have effect.

36. In section 44 (financial provisions), in subsection (2), in the proviso, the words from "but shall not" onwards shall cease to have effect, and in subsection (3)(c), the words "with the consent of the appropriate Minister" shall cease to have effect.

The Water (Scotland) Act 1967

37. In Schedule 5 (amendments of the Water (Scotland) Acts), in paragraph 26, in subsection (1) of the substituted section 18, for the words "Secretary of State" there shall be substituted the words "water authority within whose limits of supply the premises are situated", and in the said section 18, subsection (2) shall cease to have effect.

The Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967

38. In section 41(1)(b) (ferries for purposes of long-distance routes), the words "with the approval of the Secretary of State" shall cease to have effect.

The Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968

39. In section 22 (removal of children in residential establishments), the words "the Secretary of State or" shall cease to have effect.

The Transport Act 1968

40. In section 12(4) (borrowing powers of Executive), the words "with the consent of the Minister" shall cease to have effect.

41. In section 36 (power of local authority to run contract carriages), in subsection (2), the words "subject to subsection (3) of this section" shall cease to have effect, and subsections (3) to (8) shall cease to have effect.

42. In section 37 (power for local authorities to acquire or dispose of public service vehicle undertakings), in subsection (1), the words from "with the consent" to "State" shall cease to have effect, and subsection (2) shall cease to have effect.

43. In section 138 (travel concessions), subsections (7), (8) and (9)(a) shall cease to have effect.

The Town and Country Planning

(Scotland) Act 1972

44. In section 63(1) (proper maintenance of waste land), the words from "then" to "State" shall cease to have effect.

45. In section 84(1) (power to serve enforcement notice), the words from "to any" to "State and" shall cease to have effect.

46. In section 260 (default powers of Secretary of State), in subsection (1), the words from "may give" to "confirmation or" shall cease to have effect, and in subsection (5), the words from "or under" to "61 of this Act" and the words from "may give" to "notice or" shall cease to have effect.—[Mr. Younger.]—

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Younger

I beg to move, That the Schedule be read a Second time.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

1.45 a.m.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

We have spent a long time considering this Bill, including 15 weeks in Committee with 42 sittings for a total of 123 hours. Apart from consolidation measures, this is the biggest Scottish Bill Parliament has had to consider in recent years, indeed in the memory of those who have been involved in Scottish parliamentary affairs. It is also one of great significance. We have been creating a framework for the next few decades and it is a major reorganisation which we recognise will entail a great deal of work for all concerned with local government.

The new pattern of regions and districts created with the aim of corresponding to the natural communities of interest throughout Scotland affords the opportunity for the new local authorities to provide services effectively and to meet the needs of their areas in the years ahead.

1.47 a.m.

Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)

I find it difficult to become enthusiastic about anything at this time in the morning. I would not be letting any secrets out if I told the right hon. Gentleman that I do not share the enthusiasm he showed in moving the Third Reading. On Third Reading we start to look at what we have done. My view is that I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can argue that we have reformed local government in Scotland—we have destroyed it.

Sometimes a moment of truth descends during debates. I heard an hon. Member on Report trying to defend the concept of Wheatley, and there was a moment of truth because all hon. Members knew that he was trying to defend something that could not be defended.

We were told that Wheatley was one of the pillars of the Bill. It has become something very different. It is an act of faith to say, as the right hon. Gentleman says, that we can make the system a success. This is a completely untried system. Why was it necessary to destroy entirely the existing system of local government to modernise and reconstitute it? The whole concept of centralising institutions argued by Wheatley is out of date now, and all over the world decentralisation policies are coming forward. We are not presenting Scotland with a democratic structure. The result of this will be that democracy will be a casualty. At a time when the whole philosophy of democracy which we hold so dear is coming increasing under challenge, this will not help to sustain and cherish democratic institutions.

The Government have always tried to convince us that the Bill is based upon the concept of Wheatley. The people of Scotland have become convinced that many pillars of Wheatley have been swept asunder by the Bill. The Bill is not Wheatley.

We argued that more and more people must be persuaded to participate in local government and that at present the franchise was too limited. Wheatley thought that an increasing number of people would aspire to serve in the new structure. But it cannot be said that the Bill is being extended in this structure. The Bill will inhibit people from aspiring to serve.

Last week I was discussing the new structure with a schoolteacher in the area where I live. He said that he would have liked to stand for election in the new system but could not, because he had been told originally that those serving on regional councils would be involved full time in organising the new structure. This schoolteacher has a responsible post in the profession and has a wife and family to support. The Bill disfranchises him. He was prepared to leave the profession to serve in local government and he, among with many others, would have made a splendid contribution. The Government in turning their backs on councillors being full-time have at one stroke destroyed another pillar of Wheatley, for only a limited number of people will be able to aspire to the new structure.

Another argument was that the icy hand of central Government would be removed and that the new local authorities would be able to go ahead with their own ideas independent of central Government. Even hon. Members who are enthusiastic about the Bill could not argue that the new structure will mean less central Government control. This is a bureaucrat's dream.

Under the existing structure of local government the Secretary of State does not have to consult all the organisations. He does not have to consult the county councils associations, the large and small burghs, the districts and city councils, and so on, about various aspects of Government policy as it relates to local government, and under the proposed structure the right hon. Gentleman will be able to intervene and tell them what to do.

Wheatley said that under the new system local government would have its own revenue and there would be a new financial structure which would result in imaginative ideas being put forward by the regions. It was said that because of the new financial set-up the regions would be more independent of central Government. We ain't going to have that, and the people of Scotland are entitled to know that we ain't. The people of Scotland should be in no doubt that under the new set-up the Government will be able to interfere more and more with the structure of local government.

We were told that community councils would be a wonderful answer to our problems. I do not want to make again the speech that I made in Committee about community councils, but I said then that the Government were not enthusiastic about them. The Government have decided that if community councils are given power to do certain things they will be an embarrassment not only to the new structure of local government but to the Government themselves. If the Government wanted these councils to succeed, they could have ensured their success by making the legislation mandatory instead of permissive. Some authorities will be enthusiastic about community councils, while others will not provide them with the help that they will need to perform their functions. When we discussed this matter in Committee I said that the Government were digging a grave for the community councils.

The Government have displayed a lack of political nous in not waiting for Kilbrandon to report, because it may prove to be the case that we are reorganising local government on the wrong lines. The right hon. Gentleman had a wonderful opportunity to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that because of the forthcoming Kilbrandon Report, and because of the difficulties that the Conservative Party would run into following that report, the implementation of the Bill would be delayed.

In Committee I made my point about the reorganisation of the police force, and when the matter was being considered on Report I found it difficult to restrain myself from intervening at length. Why do the Government think that bigger police forces are the answer, without thinking of the power that will be given to the chief constables who will be in charge of them? The Strathclyde Region will contain half the population of Scotland, and the powers of the chief constable for this area will be enormous. Will his power and authority equal that of the Secretary of State? What relationship will the Secretary of State have with the chief constable? The chief constable may be a very good individual, and let us hope he is—this is not a question attacking the police—but a chief constable, with the power he has, could practise tyranny within own police force, and the members of the force could be subjected to that tyranny. What we have done in this respect in the Bill is seriously deficient.

As I said at the outset, I have found it difficult at any time to have enthusiasm for the Bill. I find very little support in the areas for this concept of local government. We have heard said in defence of it such wonderful phrases as strategic economic planning, as though the Bill were a wonderful panacea, some wonderful key to open the golden gates of heaven, but the Secretary of State himself made it perfectly clear that the new local government institutions will have only a very limited rôle in strategic economic planning. When in Committee we were talking about Strathclyde and Hunterston he told us "I have reserved powers for Hunterston, and you would not want me to give them up". I agree with him. The Government should not give up central economic planning, and local government should not be superior to central Government in planning and management of the economy, but all the fine talk about the Bill and the fine phrases used about it have been a deception of the people of Scotland, who thought they were to get more autonomy. The reality is that the Government are not going to give all that power to local government, and they will not for the best of reasons, but even to suggest otherwise was dishonest.

I took no part in the debates on Report, and I hope that the House will understand that I had to say a word or two now. I have tried to restrain myself I could have said very much more. Now, in the usual and traditional way when one disapproves of a Bill, I shall vote against the Third Reading of this Bill, because the local government structure in it is inadequate for the people of Scotland and will serve them no good.

2.3 a.m.

Mr. Russell Johnston

It is a funny thing how so often births take place at inconvenient hours of night. Nevertheless, though that is true, they are usually very exciting occasions. It is a funny thing also that often they do not seem exciting at the time. There is not much excitement in this Chamber now. Nevertheless I certainly would not like the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie), sincerely though he feels it, to go out as representative of the general attitude of Scotland. I do not at all believe that it is.

For me personally this is an important moment. I can remember very well how, seven years ago, the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), then the Secretary of State, took me into a somewhat palatial room and invited me to serve on that commission known as the Wheatley Commission.

Mr. David Steel

Did my hon. Friend get a drink?

Mr. Johnston

No, I did not, but I was very grateful for the opportunity to serve on the commission, and it was perhaps the most interesting and exciting thing I have ever done.

Despite what was said by the hon. Member for Midlothian, I think that those who served on that commission—most of all, Lord Wheatley himself—in a surprising way, because we were a fairly disparate group of people, though extremely well served by some excellent civil servants from St. Andrew's House, welded together in three years in a remarkable way.

I know that the Bill is not perfect. Neither, for that matter, was Wheatley perfect; nor is the present system of local government perfect by any manner of means. But to hear the hon. Member for Midlothian one would believe that we were thrusting something terrible on something that was good.

Mr. Eadie

I never said that it was good.

Mr. Johnston

The implication certainly was that a disaster was about to strike us all.

Mr. Eadie

It certainly is.

Mr. Johnston

I do not think it is. I am optimistic and hopeful. I know that there are shortcomings. The power that the Wheatley Commission believed to be an essential part of the new structure will depend upon a different attitude to finance. The effectiveness which we saw as a vital ingredient should be there anyway, because the organisation should be simpler and more straightforward. Local democracy depends so much on what people will do and the candidates who come forward. I accept the criticism that there are limitations on candidates and that local involvement depends upon producing effective systems of devolution and of management. All these problems we will face. But tonight in this House I believe that we have done something very good and constructive for the future of Scotland. I hope that when the Bill comes back from the other place it will be the beginning of a better system of local government suited to the end of this century.

2.7. a.m.

Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)

I am sure that we all pay tribute to the work done by the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) in his three hard years on the Wheatley Commission.

Viewing the situation now, I feel closer to the position than my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie). I remember when this long, weary trek for the reform of local government started with the White Paper produced by the Conservative Government and the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble), who was in the Chamber a moment ago. It started 10 years ago. Then the Wheatley Commission began work.

I was honoured to be the first to give evidence before that commission. I remember the excitement that I felt when I gave evidence and realised that here was a commission which was dedicated to the idea of a major constructive reform of local government which was to combine greater efficiency in handling services with greater democracy—a new system of local government for Scotland which would have a degree of independence from central Government, a degree of initiative and of power to do things for the people in its area. It was exciting.

When the Wheatley Commission reported I could not help feeling what a better system it advocated for Scotland than Maud advocated for England: a two-tier system adapted to Scottish needs. Admittedly, Scotland is a difficult country to fit into a single pattern, but the pattern evolved was the best that could be produced for Scotland, based, as it was, on the regional concept of government with difficulties in rural areas.

I admired what the Wheatley Commission did. I hoped that, as a result of the Bill that we would put through the House under one Government or another subsequently, we would get this great step forward in local democracy and efficiency that I wanted.

Looking at the Bill that we are passing through this House for Third Reading, my feeling of disappointment is almost overwhelming. What we have now is a bodge, a mess up—something that I fear will get rid of the good features of the present system without rising to the levels and the achievements that Wheatley hoped we would get with the new system. I am very frightened that we shall have produced something in the end which will be worse on the major criteria than the old system which we are now abolishing.

I should like briefly to point to the major things which worry me. First, the regional system, which had a certain logic and coherence, has been destroyed due to political weakness and wetness on the part of the Government, who have allowed the regional concept to be broken in the east of Scotland by the retention of one county, Fife, as a region, thus spoiling the regions that Wheatley set out to the north and to the south. Unfortunately, the island authorities, which were entitled to a greater measure of self-control, should not have been taken out of the strategic planning area of the Highlands. These were weaknesses, and they have broken, basically, the Wheatley structure as it was set out.

Secondly, a major problem, and one much more serious, is that the relationship between central Government and local government shows no fundamental sign of changing. Although there is a schedule of relaxations, the whole approach of the central Government at St. Andrew's House has not taken that leap of greater confidence in local government which Wheatley said was absolutely essential to the system working. There is every sign that there will be the same degree of centralised control. As my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian said, instead of having to control a large number of authorities, there are now nine regions that can be got together in one room in St. Andrew's House to have their heads knocked together regularly.

This is not only a matter of central Government controls. There is no real system of finance, which Wheatley said was essential to setting up the independence of these new authorities. There is no clear reduction in central Government control. Not only that, but in terms of functions, some functions have actually been taken away from authorities. The health functions that local authorities used to have have been taken away and given to area health boards. The Government's lack of confidence in the new local authority system is so great that, although the new area health boards are identical in area to the regions, they are not being given to the democratic control of the regions to administer because the central Government do not trust these bodies with the amount of money involved.

In effect, it is clear from the start that this system is starting without confidence in this new relationship. Part of the evidence of this we see throughout the Bill. One piece of evidence is that the Government have not removed the disqualifications of important sections of the community which would want to serve. We had a second piece of evidence yesterday when we asked for salaries, which Wheatley said were essential for councillors at both levels. The right hon. Member for Argyll told his own Front Bench that this system would not work unless they had the proper new form of councillor paid an adequate salary for an adequate job. What were we told by the Conservative Front Bench, as a great joke? They said "We cannot tell you the attendance allowances; but do not blame us because if they did get salaries we could not tell you about them either." That was a bit of a laugh.

The Government have shown no confidence in the new system that they are erecting. In neither the structure nor the functions, nor the kind of people, is it showing any great change of the kind that the whole Wheatley concept set up. What are we doing? We are sweeping away the liveliest section of Scottish local government today, the small burgh system, and setting up new large regions which have no intrinsic existing loyalty or enthusiasm.

We wanted to get that by conferring a much wider degree of power on local government and by trying to get new groups in the community to take part in local government. There is no evidence that this is happening. There is no evidence that the people coming forward are anything but the people in the existing pattern of local government with the existing attitudes and ideas. They are coming forward into a system with the same degree of central Government control and domination. All the hope that we put into the Wheatley system seems, I fear—I say this with regret—to be already disappearing.

As I look ahead I have only one overwhelming feeling, and that is of sorrow that this great opportunity that we had of recasting a greater, more democratic system of local government for the rest of the century has been seriously lost due just to a lack of imagination, confidence and courage on the part of the Government. I for one feel a great sense of disappointment at what has happened in this House.

2.15 a.m.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

I echo some of the criticisms that my hon. Friend has made but I do not go so far as to say that the Bill is a botch-up. I share his criticisms about salaries and the mistakes that the Government have made.

I also feel a sense of personal achievement at having notched up a couple of amendments. The Government were not very good at accepting amendments in Committee but the Opposition can claim to have done the job that an Opposition should do and have probed, examined and questioned. I think that we did that job well. There is also a sense of relief that the whole thing is just about finished.

I should give the Government in general terms almost full marks for genuinely trying to do what they believe to be best for local government in a situation where there were so many opportunities for playing at party politics. That was one of the disturbing features about many of the representations we received. I landed in trouble for saying that before. But from both sides there were political representations which had nothing to do with trying to get good local government.

By and large, with the exception of Fife, these remarks apply. The exception is Fife, where the retreat by the Government—that is the only way to describe it—was a disaster. I am sure that they will regret what they have done. It is too late now to do anything about it, but I am sure that it will prove to be the biggest mistake of all. The big challenge for many of us will lie in the Strathclyde region. There will be enormous problems, but equally I am a little more optimistic than some of my hon. Friends.

I hope that the resources of the political parties—this is one of the worrying factors—will be able to match the opportunities that are presented for encouraging and stimulating a greater public interest in depth on the many services that are discharged by local authorities. This is something which in another context the House will need to address itself to—what resources and what help might be given to political parties to enable them to do a better job in a democratic set-up.

If there are dangers because there are bigger authorities or because the institutions are big, it seems to me that it is not always right to break up the institutions, but we should provide balances and checks through the political system which can inject democracy that we on the Opposition believe in and want to encourage. But, in spite of these criticisms, there is an opportunity for improvement. The system is not perfect. I would not say that it is nothing like Wheatley; we are not always obliged to regard everything that a Royal Commission sends to us as the last word. Some of the basic principles have been so rigid that it makes it difficult to judge why the Government have done what they have. In spite of this we have an opportunity. I am confident that people in the local authorities—some of the existing ones and the new one to come in—will accept the challenge and create opportunities that might perhaps help to overcome some of the failures of the Government in this respect.

2.19 a.m.

Mr. Dalyell

Perhaps it is not entirely accidental that I am the third and last of the representatives from the Lothians to express extreme gloom because, contrary to what we thought would happen, we are now confronted in our areas with being part of an area which is dominated by the leviathan of Edinburgh when we thought that there would be a balanced area and that half of Fife would be with us. That makes some difference. because I should like to express the views of many people in West Lothian—not only in the Labour Party but in the trade unions and others—that it is wrong that we should be spatchcocked in with Edinburgh without the counterbalancing effect of the south of Fife.

I do not say that for party political reasons. It is something far deeper. It is the fear that country areas which have run our affairs well for many years will be dominated by a city. I do not want to be unduly pompous, but we are not that kind of people, and these differences are important. If there were a balance, it might be acceptable, but the alteration in the east of Scotland is something we shall have to live with, and we look on this with gloom.

The past 20 hours or so have been an eye-opener for one who was not on the Committee. I should have thought it inconceivable to the Wheatley Commission that we should have reached Third Reading without any clear idea of how finance and planning will be worked out. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) will interrupt me if am wrong, but I believe that it was generally assumed, perhaps naively and wrongly, that by the time we reached this stage in the proceedings we should be presented with a clear idea of the nuts and bolts on finance and planning. What do we get? When certain courteous questions are put to the junior Minister about what he means by structural and strategic planning—[Interruption.] If I am grossly unfair, let him speak. If he wants to reply, he must define what is strategic planning and what is structural planning. It is no good his frowning. When the question was asked, the answer was the proverbial lemon, that it was not worked out.

The truth is that there is a basic fallacy here, which was perhaps accepted by the Wheatley Commission and which has gone into many of our discussions, that somehow bigger is better. I am not at all persuaded, after all the arguments in the Press and by people who have worked very hard in the Committee, that the economies of scale, which have been taken as self-evident and axiomatic, work in the context of local government in Scotland. I wonder whether much of the argument for larger units is not based on a deep fallacy. Only time will tell, but some of us have the gravest doubts.

The next thing that worries me is what worries my hon. Friends the Members for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) and Midlothian (Mr. Eadie), that in all the discussions it was crucial to Wheatley's view that at any rate certain councillors should be relieved of financial worry; it was generally accepted that there should be paid councillors. If that is changed, one assumes that a different kind of person will have key jobs. The great importance of those key jobs is common ground between both sides of the House. A very good point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), who asked a very simple question which was not answered. He said that there is no security in attendance allowances and asked what happens if a key individual goes sick. Such a person does not have a salary. There is no security for a person who decides to give five years of his life to public work of that kind. Therefore, the jobs will be done either by people with means of their own or by retired people, because very few people in the prime of life will undertake the risk. This set-up excludes many of the people best fitted to do these important jobs. They would not have been excluded if the Wheatley package had been accepted.

I have grave doubts about the consequences to local democracy. The question that is often asked is: "Is one councillor to represent the whole of Whitburn and half Fauldhouse?" That is a very different situation from what has been known before. There are grave doubts not only about democracy and personal contact but about the political parties in general. Local democracy has been the life-blood of political parties on both sides of the House.

The package is biased towards officials. There is gossip about how officials are taking over. I do not sneer at officials, but to have the healthy kind of local government we have known it is necessary for officials to be argued with by people who are in a position to argue with them. The package puts councillors at considerably more of a disadvantage vis-à-vis officials than ever before. For me this is a serious matter.

To sum up, the package before us is, for Scotland, the worst of all possible worlds.

2.27 a.m.

Mr. Ross

I should like to be a fly on the wall when my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) meets his father-in-law and has a discussion with him. I am fairly sure that Lord Wheatley would have something to argue about. I recognise my hon. Friend's courage. He had something to say and he has said it.

Mr. Dalyell

My right hon. Friend will accept that the package we have tonight is a very different proposition from the Wheatley proposals.

Mr. Ross

I shall come to that.

The Secretary of State said that this is one of the biggest Bills we have had for a long time. I can remember bigger ones. I have had the misfortune to serve on the Committee of at least one of them. There has not been a more important Bill certainly in the last 50 years. It was about 50 years ago that we made a sweeping reorganisation of local government.

I regret that after a fairly good Committee stage, during which at one time the Government completely lost their place and seemed to be reeling from one disaster to another, we have moved on to a Report stage which has been hurried. The Bill affects every part of Scotland and every Member of Parliament. Yet the Committee was one of the smallest we have ever had. We were entitled to far more time in which to consider the Bill in the House.

We are moving from a familiar pattern of local government. That familiar pattern was attacked when it was introduced. I can remember some of the things that were said when the old parish councils were wiped out. I lived through 1929 and all the changes that took place. I was brought up in a local government home, and similar predictions were made. There were similar rivalries between burghs and county councils in which changes took place, from which after 50 years we have never quite escaped.

The decision taken in Committee about Fife was very upsetting, not simply from the point of view of the former division of Fife but from the point of view of two other areas affected—Tayside and the Forth area. That decision will linger not only there but in other places which, if they had conducted a publicity campaign on the same lines, might have been just as successful with a Government prepared to bend to local pressure.

Let the Secretary of State not misunderstand the position. My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) received the Wheatley Report as Prime Minister and I welcomed it on behalf of the Labour Government. I accepted its general principles, and still do. But that did not mean that I accepted all the details. I hoped that in preparation of the Bill we would even out some matters. But this Bill did not turn out to be Wheatley. Wheatley insisted, for example, on the unity of Orkney, Shetland, the Highlands and the Western Isles for economic and industrial development, and we have not got that. We have an independent Orkney, an independent Shetland, and a truncated Western Isles. It may have been right—in certain aspects it probably was—to deal with the islands in this way but could it not have been done in a way which achieved the unity which is now even more necessary than when the Wheatley Commission was sitting?

The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) was a member of the Wheatley Commission. He appreciates that with the changes taking place in the north of Scotland, affecting the whole of the North and the Western Isles, we should have retained a unity of control of development in that area. The Government have floundered over the oil issue and have not done what was needed in the North, but there is time yet to do it, and I urge them to look at this again in another place.

Wheatley also put the Borders along with the southern part of Fife and Edinburgh, to that extent providing a counterbalance to Strathclyde, and, of course, it is a natural community. So is Ayrshire, and one can say the same of other parts of Scotland. It is the Government's failure to stand by Wheatley which has caused difficulties.

The independent island areas are not viable. Indeed, even if one put them together they would not be viable—Wheatley deceived himself on that issue. The Borders is not viable. The Secretary of State himself has recognised the need for certain contacts with other areas in fire and police services and other matters. Let us not deceive ourselves that in this Bill we have the perfect pattern. We have not nibbled at Wheatley; it was to a certain extent eaten away before we even started. But the Govern- ment made it worse by some of their actions.

However, I do not despair that we shall not be able to get anything out of the Bill. But let us not think that everything is wonderful. We must accept that people move out of their areas. People move from the area in which I live to Glasgow and near the ICI plant. Over a wide area they make a demand for services which are not provided where they live. Such services are often provided miles away from the area where they work.

For example, to provide the services necessary for development in North Ayrshire the water had to come from South Ayrshire. We cannot deal with such problems and get the kind of development which is needed with the pattern of local government which we have. From that point of view any change would be bound to create difficulties and hardship for some.

The Government have not failed but made a misjudgment. The Royal Commission made a misjudgment when it concluded that there is a limit to size and the provision of certain services. For some services connected with planning and other matters it would have been possible to make Strathclyde even larger. It is true that we are waiting for Kilbrandon. Lord Kilbrandon's father wrote a good book on the reform of local government in Scotland. It may be that the solution is that provided by James Edward Shaw or something which will fit in with what his son may bring forward.

We should not despair. There is still hope that my noble Friend Lord Hughes in another place will press for changes to be made to make some sense of the relationship between size and personal services. That is one of the great weaknesses in respect of Strathclyde. There is time for repentance.

Of paramount importance is the quality of the men who will serve.

Mr. Younger

indicated assent.

Mr. Ross

I am glad to see the Under-Secretary of State shake or nod his head. I do not want to give the impression that he is asleep. He could have contributed more to establish confidence. There was a report in 1969 and Second Reading took place during December last year. The Committee stage started on 23rd January. Here we are, and we still have not determined the allowances which will be received by those who serve. That is not good enough.

If we get the right men I am sure that they will be able to face the difficulties which will arise. There will be difficulties from the start. If we do not get the right men there will be disaster before we finish and we shall be back here trying to sort matters out. If we get the right men and they see the difficulties, they will hammer at the doors of St. Andrew's House to ensure that the right changes are effected.

From that point of view I ask my hon. Friends not to be too gloomy. We must put our faith in Scotsmen and their practical ability to deal with the problems which will arise. At the same time I suggest that during the next stage the Government should reconsider the serious problems which have been raised. We do not raise them out of any party feeling. In Committee, for the greater part there was cross voting. That applied even during the Report stage. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has not taken that too hard. He made the mistake of taking too much to heart his defeat on one particular amendment. The matter should have been put to the test and it should have been put right. He has to be careful how he reacts on this point, in view of some of the things that have been said.

I hope that, in further stages of the Bill, the Secretary of State will listen to justified criticisms about lack of balance in these proposals, the size of particular areas and the question of achieving, where required, even some of the further unity of development that is necessary in large parts of Scotland.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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