HC Deb 14 December 1988 vol 143 c891
1. Mr. Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has received any representations on day-time meetings of district authority committees.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley)

No, Sir.

Mr. Atkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that district councils which choose to hold their committee meetings during the day preclude many good people, from all political parties, from standing as local council candidates? Will she consider including in the forthcoming legislation on the conduct of local authority business a provision that such meetings should be held after normal working hours whenever practicable?

Mrs. Bottomley

Before answering my hon. Friend, I wish to inform the House that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is undertaking an official visit to China to demonstrate the Government's support for China's efforts in tackling pollution problems and other matters. He cannot, therefore, be here today.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) made an important point. However, it is for local councils to decide when to hold council meetings. The desire to encourage all people possible to serve on local councils is clearly vital to the future of local government. There are often special factors in rural areas, such as people having to travel long distances. We do not propose to legislate to cover that matter, but we hope that councils will have regard not only for serving councillors but for those who might otherwise be excluded.

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