HC Deb 21 July 1976 vol 915 cc1773-5
5. Mr. Watt

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now transfer responsibility for social work from regional authorities to district councils; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Millan

No, Sir.

Mr. Watt

Does the Minister accept that the work of social work departments and housing authorities is indivisible and that many anomalies are creeping in? Does he agree that one of the first tasks of a Scottish Assembly will be to disband regional authorities? The sooner he gets on with the job the better.

Mr. Millan

There are problems of liaison between regional and district authorities, but at local level most of the problems can be adequately solved.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Notwithstanding what has been said about the indivisibility of social work and housing, does my right hon. Friend have any evidence that social work departments are falling down on the job?

Mr. Millan

I would not put it like that. The Morris Committee's report recommended that housing the homeless should be a function of housing authorities rather than social work authorities, and this is a problem in many areas. I do not accept the suggestion made by my hon. Friend in the way he puts it.

Mr. Fairgrieve

In the light of the forthcoming Scottish Assembly, would it not be of assistance to consider fairly quickly whether the two tiers of local authority in Scotland should be replaced by one-tier all-purpose authorities?

Mr. Millan

We have made our position clear on this matter on numerous occasions. There is no question of changing the present local authority structure before the Assembly is established. Matters of that sort will thereafter be for the Assembly. It will be for the Assembly to decide whether it wants to do anything about this matter, and, if so, what.

Mr. Rifkind

Does the Secretary of State accept that social work departments provide many vital services, such as the home help service for the old and disabled? At a time of economic stringency such as we are facing, is it not imperative to give these services priority in public expenditure rather than to abolish pay beds in Scotland or to introduce nationalisation proposals which are totally irrelevant to the welfare of the Scottish people?

Mr. Millan

That is very wide of the Question. As the hon. Gentleman will see when he gets further information about public expenditure, the expenditure of social work departments over recent years has gone up much more rapidly than has local authority expenditure generally.