§ 4. Mr. Johnston
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what disciplinary action was taken, and what new procedures have been instituted in the Scottish Development Department following the report, No. C.828/81, by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration of the results of his investigation into a complaint by Messrs. James Macpherson and John Donald Macpherson, Lairgandour, Daviot, Inverness.
§ Mr. Ancram
The staff concerned have been made fully aware that Ministers and the Department regard their handling of this case as falling clearly below the standards required of them. A new manual of guidance issued to all resident engineers codifies instructions for dealing with claims. When dealing with third-party claims my Department now sets up three-cornered discussions with the contractors and the agents where this is desired by the parties. All staff have been reminded of the need to handle compensation cases swiftly and flexibly.
§ Mr. Johnston
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Does he agree that this case, which involved his Department's refusal to pay compensation to my constituents over a period of four years, revealed a serious lack of political control, especially by the two previous Ministers, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind)? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that were it not for the existence of the Parliamentary Commissioner it would have been impossible for my constituents, or myself as their elected representative, to do anything about that matter? Will he promise to write to me to explain the details of those changes? Will he apologise to my constituents for the serious inconvenience they suffered?
§ Mr. Ancram
The hon. Gentleman knows that the Parliamentary Commissioner was asked by my Department to convey the Department's apologies. If any further apology is needed, I gladly offer it. A finding by the Parliamentary Commissioner is a grave matter and is taken seriously by my Department. That is why the new arrangements have been made.