HC Deb 23 January 1974 vol 867 cc1689-705
Mr. Ronald Bray (Rossendale)

I beg to move Amendment No. 68, in page 7, line 24, at end insert: (c) is of the opinion that the local authority is excessively staffed in relation to its size, functions, delegated responsibilities and agencies". The purpose of the amendment is to give the Secretary of State power to control local authority expenditure on the staffing of the new local authorities. It has been said that the local authorities, under the previous Act, have created what is now unkindly called the greatest growth industry in the country. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development is fully aware of the abnormal limits to which certain local authorities and county councils have extended their staffing. In some cases they are employing between two and three times the number of personnel required at greatly inflated—I use that word intentionally—salaries.

My right hon. Friend has had considerable correspondence with me on this matter and has made certain points. I am sure that he will not mind if I quote from the Under-Secretary's letter to me of 30th December, in which he implies that these matters could be regulated by reference to the Pay Board. With due deference to the Minister, I draw his attention to the fact that the Pay Board may be only transitory, whereas we hope that this measure will continue for a considerable number of years. The Under-Secretary wrote: In particular, the Board have made it clear to the local authorities that they need to be satisfied that the complements and grading of staff bear a proper relationship to the volume and level of work taken over from the old authorities. I pose the simple question: is the Pay Board competent to determine this matter? The Department of the Environment created many of these local authorities and they should have the requisite expertise to effect this work. I refer my right hon. Friend to a quotation from the late President Harry Truman, "The buck stops here."

There is every reason for the amendment being included in the Bill. One question may be: is the Minister competent? In this respect I draw attention to subsection (1)(a), the first words of which are "is satisfied", and (b), the first words of which are "is of opinion". The amendment starts on the same basis, "is of the opinion". I suggest that it is well within the capacity of the Department of the Environment to keep a reasonable rein on the staffing and expenditure of local authorities. As matters stand, they would put the law created by the well-known Professor Parkinson to absolute shame.

I commend the amendment to my right hon. Friend and sincerely hope that he will accept it.

Mr. Oakes

I must disappoint the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Bray), because the Opposition do not feel able to support the amendment. Nevertheless, it expresses quite a lot of widespread public disquiet about what may be happening as a result of local government reorganisation. At a time when we face a certain situation—I do not expect right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to agree with my views on this matter—it is ironic to see advertisements for very junior posts in local authorities at salaries in excess of £50 a week compared with a particular claim that I will not attempt to discuss for fear of being ruled out of order. However, one can understand the annoyance of people who do a hard, dirty and dangerous job when comparatively easier jobs seem to be prolific.

We disagree with the hon. Gentleman because it is often too easy for those who are not connected with local government and do not, as hon. Members do, know how extremely hard local authorities work to be critical of everybody in the town hall and assume that all they do is drink tea all day—the old view of civil servants. That is not true of 99 per cent. of local authority staffs, who work extremely hard.

Because of the reorganisation of local government and the increase in size of authorities, the creation of new posts—or perhaps one could say the giving of new names to old posts—has provided a convenient method of avoiding phase 2, phase 3, or any other phase that may be introduced. There is a duty on local government authorities to prove conclusively to their electors that the new posts are necessary. That is why I disagree with the amendment. Basically, the decision ought to be taken by electors in the area if they think that their local council is being too lavish in the appointment and payment of its officers.

Mr. Bray

I agree with the hon. Gentleman up to a point, but any action taken by the local electors must, of necessity, be historical. They will be shutting the gate after the engagement has been effected and the staff have been employed for perhaps 18 or 24 months.

Local authorities cannot be expected to have the expertise available to the Department. I think the hon. Gentleman will accept that members of local councils can be blinded by the scientific jargon of officials, and that must be borne in mind.

Mr. Oakes

I agree that there is that difficulty. Many of these are new councils dealing with new areas which they do not fully understand, and therefore they have to rely on what is normally the impeccable decision and judgment of their officers. On some occasions they have to rely too much on that advice because, due to the reorganisation of local government, they are not sure of the new area. They are accustomed to an urban district or a borough. When two or three areas are merged, with the resultant increase in population, those in charge do not necessarily know how many officers they will need or what their titles should be.

These new posts are being advertised not only for local government, but also to meet the proliferation of staff following the setting up of the water boards, the National Health Service reorganisation, and so on. What the hon. Gentleman said strikes a chord in me, as I am sure it does in many others. Some of these new posts provide a means of escaping the provisions of phase 2 and phase 3 at the expense of other workers in the community who have to abide by the rules of those policies.

Although the action may be historical, I maintain that this is a matter for the local inhabitants. Both sides of the House are concerned to ensure that local government is kept local. We want to give local government its head and its own powers. It would be tragic if the words in the amendment were added to the Bill, because the clause is already regarded with some suspicion by local authorities. They think that the Government are saying, on the one hand, that local government should be local and rule itself and, on the other, that the interfering busybody of Whitehall should tell local authorities what to do. It would be a severe curtailment of local freedom if local authorities had for ever to look over their shoulders and wonder whether the Secretary of State might come to the conclusion that they were over-staffed. If the amendment were accepted, that would have to be a judgment of the Secretary of State and not of the authority concerned.

5.45 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman has raised a problem that is in many people's minds. I hope that local authorities will consider the matter that he has raised and either give an explanation for what they are doing or solve the problem themselves. The last thing that I want to happen—and I think that in essence the Minister will say what I am saying—is for Whitehall to be given added power to tell a local authority what staff it should have or what its establishment should be. Therefore, although the hon. Gentleman was right to introduce the amendment, I must tell him that the Opposition would oppose it if it were put to a Division.

Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)

I agree almost entirely with what was said by the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes). There is considerable public disquiet about the apparent growth in the staffing of the new local authorities, and I hope that they will pay the most careful attention to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Bray), the hon. Member for Widnes and anybody else who emphasises the problem. I have no doubt that many members of the public are beginning to feel that the rates which they will have to pay and the grants which will be received from the Government will be used to far too great an extent on administrative manpower, rather than on the provision of services which they require.

There is a difficulty from the local authorities' point of view. As my hon. Friend said, many local authorities are covering new areas and there are many new councillors and councils who have not had a chance to shake down. They are still looking round and finding their feet, and have not had adequate time in which to assess the situation. On the other hand, senior council officers are often planning for the ideal number of staff for their departments, or perhaps for more than what would otherwise be the ideal number because they do not know the potential of their new staff, or what any given number of them will be capable of doing, whereas they did know what their old staff could do. Local government officers do have a problem.

The best that we can do in this House is to emphasise to locally elected representatives that they should exercise their responsibilities for the employment of new staff with the maximum care, remembering perhaps above all that almost never is there a cut in staff. They should remember that they will have opportunities in future, if it proves necessary, to increase their staff, but we all know that it is almost impossible to obtain a reduction in the staff employed. I hope that local authorities will remember that, and that when my right hon. Friend sums up this brief debate he will emphasise what has been said.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I share the strong feeling on this subject. I welcome the fact that the amendment has appeared on the Order Paper, although I am more disturbed about the upgrading of posts and some of the problems arising from early retirements than I am about excessive staffs. In many cases the responsibility for excessive staffs lies here.

In passing the Local Government Act and making provision for the reorganisation, we imposed certain requirements on local authorities which they have to meet. I am thinking particularly of planning requirements. There are now far more planning authorities than there were previously, and the demand for planning staffs, at any rate, is enormous. They are competing against each other in a very unhappy way. But I am particularly disturbed about the upgrading of posts which seems to be occurring. This is a particularly unhappy matter at present in industrial areas, where comparisons are being made with the position of many other people who do a very valuable and useful job in the community. This excites a great deal of criticism.

I am worried about very remunerative early retirements. A number of senior officers are retiring when one would have expected them to be able to contribute a great deal more of great value in local government. They are relatively young people and have great and valuable experience ; yet they are retiring on very advantageous terms, which are far better than the terms which many industrial workers have enjoyed, and they will, I suspect, be able to take up other work in the community with the advantage of the retirement provision that they have been able to acquire.

These matters need to be examined. There is a great deal of unhappiness and dissatisfaction in some of our industrial areas.

Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)

There is a great deal of force in the criticism made by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Bray). Much of what he said is correct. However, the amendment is unnecessary. The hon. Gentleman is seeking to say that if it is the opinion that the local authority is excessively staffed in relation to its size, functions, delegated responsibilities and agencies that is a matter to be considered. But one finds in the wording of subsection (1)(a) a duty on authorities to maintain a reasonable standard in the discharge of any of their functions. If they offended in any of the directions mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, it may well be said that they did not maintain a reasonable standard in the discharge of any of their functions. Therefore, with great respect, I suggest that the amendment is unnecessary.

Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

I accept that there is some alarm about some of the upgradings and some of the increases in salary of the new posts following the reorganisation of local government, but the amendment gives a job to the Secretary of State which his Department is not able to perform. I know the difficulties which the Department had in trying to monitor rates last year. I do not believe that it is possible for the Department at present to examine all the local councils and metropolitan counties and districts, and other counties and districts, to ascertain whether, in the Departments opinion, they have the right staff at the correct rates of pay. The Department does not have the staff to enable it to do that.

This is a job for local government. If local councillors get it wrong, they will pay the penalty as well as ratepayers.

Mr. Idris Owen (Stockport, North)

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reconsider what he said. He is suggesting that if the local councillors get it wrong it is they who will have to face the consequences. With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, local authorities are having to meet only approximately 20 per cent. of their expenditure, the rest of it being provided by the Treasury and by industry and commerce. Therefore, local authorities would not have to face the consequences of their own wrong doing.

Mr. Marks

I think that the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. When I said "the penalty' I meant the consequences that we and councillors face periodically when we get matters wrong, that is, the consequences of the choice of our electors.

The problems are too variable for us to agree to the amendment. It is difficult to judge what is the right staff, particularly for new metropolitan districts. The metropolitan counties have been accused of empire building in their departments. But what are they to use as a guide? The only previous metropolitan county is London. Shall they take London as a guide as to the size of their departments and to the salaries of their officers? They must make up their minds on their own experience and knowledge of the district, and very often on their knowledge of how difficult it is to persuade officers of high calibre—not only in terms of salary—to come to areas which may not be as salubrious as others.

One-third of my constituency is in the City of Manchester. Two-thirds of it will be in the new Tameside Metropolitan District. Manchester hardly changes under local government reorganisation. The lord mayor puts his other hat on and he is the chairman of the district council—at present, at any rate. The departments have hardly changed. It is true that some of the council's offices have moved upstairs to the county. But reorganisation has not presented great difficulties.

Tameside consists of nine non-county boroughs and urban districts, none of which has had its own education officer or director of social services previously but all of which have had treasurers. Having to start from scratch, they have a much more difficult job. In proportion they probably need more able officers than the more settled authorities in this situation

That is the kind of authority which is coming in for criticism. Ratepayers who are used to seeing urban district standards of pay for their chief officers get a slight shock when they see the salary of a chief officer of a metropolitan district with a population of about 350,000 people. There have been difficulties in the past when there have been shortages of particular officers, for instance, chief public health inspectors. At one time an auction took place among local authorities which were trying to obtain enough well qualified health inspectors.

We have presented ourselves with a difficulty regarding early retirement. In the main, officers are not retiring but moving on to private enterprise, and so on—probably at higher salaries, whatever phase 3 says about that. In the case that I have mentioned, nine treasurers will be superseded by one treasurer, and I should think that six or seven of them will elect for early retirement.

I cannot support the amendment. I know the worries involved, but the local authorities, particularly the new authorities with different problems, should be encouraged to tackle their problems and, if necessary, to get the right officers to do the job.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Bray) on his ingenuity in finding a place in the Bill in which to discuss this important subject. It has resulted in some assistance to me in that I have been able to assess the atmosphere and the general feeling. I have had a large postbag on this subject. Some of the opinions which have been expressed are exaggerated and some are ill-informed, but some cannot be disregarded. Therefore, I have considered what can be done.

My hon. Friend will not be surprised when I say that I cannot advise the House to accept the amendment. I say that for two reasons. The first reason is that the basis of the reorganisation of local government, which comes into effect in a few weeks on 1st April, is that local government should be more independent of central Government and not less so. Local authorities have certain functions placed on them by statute and they have the statutory power to employ such officers as they may think necessary for the proper discharge of their functions. For central Government to take over the task of assessing whether local authorities are excessively staffed would be a fundamental encroachment on the discretion of authorities in a vital sphere. It would inevitably shift from local government to the Secretary of State the responsibility to judge a local authority's staff requirements and, in the last resort, its ability to provide local services.

The second reason for having to resist the amendment is that even if my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment thought it right to take over this function from local government which, as I have said, he does not, central Government are not in a position to reach conclusions regarding the precise numbers of officers who should be employed in each grade by every one of the 400-odd new authorities in England. That is a task which each authority must consider and settle for itself. The authorities are in a position to do so.

Having explained those two reasons, I must say that I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend and other hon. Members who have spoken for having raised this matter, on which I and my ministerial colleagues have received so many letters and oral representations. The Press has carried a number of allegations about the extravagant staffing proposals of the new authorities. It would be true to say that there has been public uneasiness, to put it in the mildest terms. I have referred to it in fairly strong terms in recent public speeches.

Over the years the number of local authority employees has steadily risen to meet the needs of expanding services. People expect local authorities to provide wider services and to achieve higher standards. To do so requires staff who are trained and skilled. That is the basic reason why the number of those who are employed in local government has risen over the years. It is proper that that should have happened as local government services have increased.

That is the long-term view, but recent uneasiness is not connected so much with the long term, or the increase in local government services and the administration of them, but with the short-term transitional problems which have been raised by reorganisation. Reorganisation produces an upheaval. The administration of staff is a great responsibility.

When the new system has settled down, the larger authorities should mean a much more economic use of manpower. I am sure that that will be the position. In the short-term transitional period there are conflicting influences at work. The new authorities making a fresh start have understandably considered what staff they will need to provide the range of services to which they and their electors aspire.

In some areas—and the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) mentioned planning—the new allocation of functions has given responsibilities to all district councils whereas at present they are chiefly in the hands of counties and county boroughs. Both influences tend towards a demand for extra staff. On the other hand, when we look at the hard realities, whatever plans there are on paper, we know that reorganisation will not lead to a sudden and dramatic rise in local government employment. Many existing authorities are operating below the complement which they think desirable. There are shortages in some of the professions on which the local authorities rely.

The staff who will man the new authorities after 1st April will be essentially the people employed by the existing authorities who have either already accepted appointments with the new authorities or will be transferred by order on 1st April. I do not expect any sudden increase. It is true that many officers are timing their retirement to coincide with reorganisation. That is a factor in the other direction which must be taken into account.

There have been complaints of salary increases. Salary scales are settled through the established negotiating machinery. Salary movements are governed, like other salaries, by the Government's counter-inflation policies. Attention has been directed towards the salary scales of chief executives and other chief officers. The first point which I must make is that reorganisation will lead to the establishment of more large authorities and that there will be more posts carrying greater responsibilities and, therefore, higher salaries. That is because grading depends so frequently upon population. If the size of the authority is increased the chief officer will get into another grade.

The second point is that the scales for chief executives and other chief officers have been examined by the Pay Board, which indicated its satisfaction, in general terms, that the scales had been devised with proper regard to the pay code. There are detailed applications for some posts which may still be the subject of investigation by the Pay Board. I should like the House to understand that fully. My Department is not the right authority to inquire into any breach of the pay code. If such a breach arose the Pay Board would be the right authority. For some posts there may be such investigation by the board.

I have been attempting to consider the situation dispassionately and to point to some of the pressures at work. I believe that the allegations of over-staffing may turn out in many cases to be exaggerated. However, allegations have reached me and my Department on a scale which requires that they should be examined authoritatively as quickly as possible. What are needed are firm facts and figures against which the rumours and allegations can be tested.

Mr. Idris Owen

My right hon. Friend is casting some doubt on the question whether there is evidence of over-staffing. He may be right. However, it cannot be overlooked that the largest growth industry in my constituency is local government. Is my right hon. Friend aware that not one of the urban district authorities that have been embraced within the metropolitan county district has given up its local offices? In fact, those offices have been used as sub-offices for various departments. In addition, offices have been built costing millions of pounds to accommodate the staffs. For years past the town hall has been reasonably adequate, coupled with the establishment of the urban district offices, but now not only are we keeping the urban district offices, and nearly doubling the size of the town hall, but renting offices on a long-lease basis which have been built for speculative purposes. All I am suggesting is that if we are having all that accommodation we inevitably must put bodies into it.

Mr. Page

It might have been better if my hon. Friend had sought to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and make that as a speech. I was coming to very much the point that he raises. He is repeating the sort of facts that I have received many times in correspondence. It is these very facts that I want to check. It would be irresponsible of any Minister to accept them without an authoritative examination.

Therefore, I am glad to be able to tell the House that the collection of comprehensive information is proceeding and that this exercise is being undertaken by the Local Authorities Conditions of Service Advisory Board—commonly known as LACSAB—upon which are represented all the employing local authorities and their associations. I believe that it is right that local government itself should provide the facts on this.

The advisory board will be sending a questionnaire to all old and new authorities ; and on the basis of the answers it should be possible to obtain a true comparison of the general staffing situation and the wages bills both before and after reorganisation. When the facts have been received and analysed by LACSAB, the local authority associations and the advisory board will be able to identify whether there are problems and, if so, where and what the solution may be.

Mr. Oakes

I welcome what the hon. Gentleman is saying. I wonder, when the investigation takes place, whether it should not be only of local authorities but whether the regional water boards and the regional health boards should be considered also, because it would appear from the newspapers that their proliferation, multiplication and enhancement of posts is even greater than has occurred with the local authorities. So I should like this to be an investigation, not only into local authorities, but also into regional water boards and the National Water Council and the regional health boards, if that were possible.

Mr. Graham Page

This does not arise on the amendment. I will certainly consider what the hon. Gentleman has said.

I want to concentrate at the moment on a very definite step which has been taken. Work is being carried out in the collection of this information. It is entirely right that this move should be undertaken within local government by a body which is part of local government. There is a long tradition of joint negotiation on staffing matters in local government. I welcome this move, not only because it is being taken by the body which is best placed to carry out the formidable task of collecting and analysing the very complicated information which will flow in, but also because it is evidence of the ability and desire to tackle local government problems through local government machinery.

The Pay Board also has a statutory interest in salary levels. I do not want to trespass on the Pay Board's territory or inhibit the exercise of its separate and independent powers. However, I am told that the information needed by the Pay Board for its functions will be made available to the board by LACSAB.

So this carries through the whole process by which LACSAB collects the information for an authoritative examination. It will submit the information to my Department and, more important, LACSAB will be prepared to submit the information to the Pay Board. LACSAB is, however, independently of the Pay Board, carrying out its own inquiry into staffing levels and costs, and it is this initiative which I am welcoming today. I hope that authorities will co-operate fully in this review.

Mr. Weitzman

Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with the short point which I raised? If, as the amendment postulates, the evil is that a local authority is excessively staffed, does not that come within the words in Clause 5(1)(a) which refers to the authority having failed to … maintain a reasonable standard in the discharge of any of their functions. Therefore, has not the power already been put into the Bill in that provision?

Mr. Page

The provision which the hon. and learned Gentleman quotes is repeated from previous legislation and I do not think that it has ever been applied to overstaffing as being something not within the standards. I should have to take some legal advice on that, perhaps from the hon. and learned Gentleman himself. I have not seen it applied in that form before. Therefore, I think that it is necessary for us to carry out this investigation and to leave the matter then to the Pay Board to consider.

6.15 p.m.

I hope that local authorities will regard it, not as an implied criticism of the preparations they have been making, but as part of the much wider exercise now facing central as well as local government—that of carrying out a realistic appraisal of plans in the light of current economic constraints and the general shortage of skilled and experienced staff.

So, to sum up, I have attempted to set out some of the background pressures which will influence the level of local government staffing in the long run. The allegations which have been made in recent weeks are primarily associated with the transitional period of reorganisation. The Advisory Board—LACSAB—will be collecting the information on which a realistic appraisal of the present situation can be made and a comparison drawn between the pre-reorganisation period and the post-reorganisation period. I urge local authorities to co-operate with this investigation.

I could not advise the House to accept an amendment which would drastically reduce the responsibilities of local authorities in this vital field. In view of the way in which the problem is about to be tackled by local government itself, though I again congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and thank him for initiating the debate, I invite him to consider withdrawing the amendment, in view of what I have said.

Mr. Oakes

I rarely speak twice in the course of one debate, but on this occasion I should like to do so, with the leave of the House, because in effect what the right hon. Gentleman has just made to the House is a major statement. I am not criticising him for this, but he gave it in reply to an amendment tabled by his hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Bray) whereas it would be more usual for a statement of this magnitude to be made at half-past three as a ministerial statement. I have a number of questions which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to answer, as he has made this statement on a matter which will be of very deep concern to local authorities and to the public at large.

First, will LACS AB's investigation apply to all local authorities, or will it be restricted to a number of authorities? If it is to be a selected number of authorities, on what criteria will they be selected? In other words, will LACSAB investigate only those authorities against which complaint has been made to the Minister or to LACSAB itself, or will it investigate all local authorities to see in what way they have structured their staff, their pay and so on?

I am certain that most local authorities will agree to this investigation on a voluntary basis. Secondly, however, what statutory authority—indeed, what authority at all—has LACSAB to obtain information from local authorities if those local authorities are recalcitrant and will not give the information to the advisory body?

This does not strictly arise on the amendment, but it arises from the statement the Minister has made. Thirdly, I earnestly ask the Minister to ask LACSAB, if it is within its purview—or, if it is not, to ask some other body—to investigate the regional water boards and the regional health boards as well as local authorities. I ask LACSAB to look at the appointments which those bodies are making and the salary structure they are offering and to report back to the Minister, to some other body or to the Pay Board.

Finally, having taken that action, when LACSAB has this information what action can it thereafter take? Will it report to the local authority associations, to the Minister or to the Pay Board? In other words, LACSAB having armed itself with this information, what use will it make of the information that it has obtained?

I am sorry to have intervened in the debate again, but I think you will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister has made a major statement.

Mr. Graham Page

On the first point about whether LACSAB will be making an inquiry of all local authorities, the answer is "Yes". Both existing and new authorities will be helping because a comparison is necessary to judge what is happening.

On the second point about LACSAB s authority for making the investigation and what it can do with a recalcitrant authority that refuses to answer, I should stress that LACSAB is a voluntary body of local authorities. It is, so to speak the trade union of employers—that is, local authorities. I would not expect any revolt among local authorities on a matter of this kind. If a local authority refused to give information, I should have thought that it was suspect right away, but one does not look at it from the point of view of statutory authority when asking local authorities to co-operate.

As for regional water authorities and area health authorities, I will consider the former as it is within my Department's jurisdiction, but I cannot answer in respect of the health authorities.

One has not the same voluntary employers' union in the new body of regional water authorities as with the local authorities under LACSAB. It may be that the National Water Council could get such information. However, I promise the hon. Gentleman that I shall not ignore the matter.

The fourth question was about what would be done as a result of the investigation. The important point is that LACSAB will make its information available to the Pay Board. It is the Pay Board that should, in present circumstances, look into the subject. Beyond having been supplied with information, I want to avoid my Department acting as a kind of "big brother" or ombudsman to local authorities. I am deeply interested in the result of the inquiry but I should not like to forecast any action upon it from my Department in the form of monitoring or orders to local authorities to do anything. The publicity that will come from such an inquiry will bring its own results.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

I have two points to raise about the investigation. First, will there be any opportunity for councillors or those concerned with local government to be heard by the inquiry, because there are policy matters to be considered? I am concerned about overstaffing where a number of boroughs are telescoped into one district council. Will accountants take part in the investigation, people well versed in deciding what is the appropriate ratio of staffing? I do not know what is the composition of the inquiry, but there are both the policy and accountancy aspects in considering the proper outcome.

Mr. Page

LACSAB is a body concerned with the conditions of employment by local authorities, such as the wages and salaries offered to officers. It is a body well suited to the subject. I hope that I did not use the word "inquiry". I fear that in using that word my hon. Friend may have got the wrong impression. The exercise will be the collection of information by means of a questionnaire. The information will be studied by a body which has perhaps the best knowledge of the functioning of local authorities. But it is in no way an inquiry, and people will not be cross-examined. Once the information is collected, the proper conclusions may be drawn.

Mr. Bray

I thank my right hon. Friend for a positive and satisfactory reply. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Back to
Forward to