HC Deb 07 July 1993 vol 228 cc319-21
6. Mr. Riddick

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to reduce corruption in local government, in Scotland.

Mr. Stewart

There are a number of forms of redress against corruption in local government, notably through the courts, the Commission for Local Authority Accounts in Scotland, the local government omudsman and the statutory powers available to my right hon. Friend. The Bill on local government reorganisation that my right hon. Friend intends to introduce will be an opportunity for consideration of the future framework within which local government operates.

Mr. Riddick

Does my hon. Friend think that the events surrounding Monklands district council—council jobs provided to relatives of Labour councillors, the council leader's rather dubious business activities with his own council and the disastrous £1 million a year loss on the Quadrant shopping centre—result from corruption alone, or merely from a mixture of incompetence and corruption?

Is my hon. Friend aware that the two Labour Members who represent that area have said nothing in the House about the shenanigans? Is he also aware of the embarrassment of the Leader of the Opposition who, at his recent constituency AGM, had to witness the expulsion of some of the Labour mafia who were involved? Does my hon. Friend agree that the whole situation—

Madam Speaker

Order. This is not a statement, but Question Time. The hon. Member has asked enough questions.

Mr. Stewart

I should have thought that the major piece of embarrassment of the Leader of the Opposition on that subject was when he was picketed outside his own constituency surgery by members of his own party. I do not think that that has ever happened to any other hon. Member.

Mr. Norman Hogg

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister has no responsibility—

Madam Speaker

Order. Hon. Members ought to guard their language in the House. As "Erskine May" indicates, moderate language is the cornerstone and the hallmark of our parliamentary debates. I will not take a point of order at this juncture. I will simply remind the House that this is a civilised debating Chamber. We should conduct ourselves accordingly.

Mr. Stewart

Thank you, Madam Speaker. The Government take seriously the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick). The people of Scotland continue to be astonished by the silence from the two hon. Members who represent the Monklands area in the House.

Mr. Home Robertson

Would not it be a most serious piece of corruption for Scottish local government to be carved up by the Government purely on the basis of the Government's political expediency? Will the Minister give an undertaking that no historic Scottish county will be carved up in the forthcoming review without the consent and support of the people in the area concerned?

Mr. Stewart

I note that that is another example of Scottish Labour Members being prepared to discuss anything except Monklands.

On the hon. Gentleman's specific point, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told the House earlier, the hon. Member will have to await the announcement that my right hon. Friend will make shortly.

Mr. Dickens

Whenever we discuss the allegations about Monklands district council, is it not apparent that the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) never reveals to the House that from 1975 he served as provost to Monklands district council?

Mr. Stewart

To be fair to the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), it is a matter of public record that he was provost to that council. He does not hide that. But he certainly hides his opinion about what has been happening in that district council since his tenure as provost.

Sir David Steel

Is the Minister aware that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is busy promoting a policy of good governance throughout the world and that one of the principles involved is that the party in power should not seek to manipulate the constitutional or electoral rules to its advantage? Is the Minister aware that the Scottish

Office is in danger of being in breach of that policy if The Scotsman leak is anything to go by? Not since South Africa created Bophuthatswana out of 20 different bits of the map has there been such naked corruption.

Mr. Connarty

Answer the question.

Mr. Stewart

I am answering the question. I repudiate what the right hon. Gentleman has said. Such language does his considerable reputation no good whatever. The right hon. Gentleman will have to await the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I am sure that when he sees and understands the details of the Government's proposals, he will be the first to withdraw his absurd allegations.