HC Deb 05 May 1993 vol 224 cc180-1
10. Mr. Maxton

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when next he intends to meet COSLA to discuss local government services.

Mr. Stewart

I addressed the annual conference of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on 26 March. My right hon. Friend and I will be meeting the convention later this year as part of the normal consultation on local government finance matters.

Mr. Maxton

If the Government insist on continuing with the unwanted and unnecessary reform of local government, does the Minister agree that all the existing services provided by local government should continue to be provided by a direct democratically elected local government? If so, does he believe that he should stop his open and active campaigning for the retention of Eastwood district council as a single absurd unitary authority which made a nonsense of the consultation process on local government reform? Does he accept that the logic of his argument means that Eastwood should be part of a Greater Glasgow council that is democratically elected? Does he also agree that it would be obscenely unfair if his wealthy constituents in Giffnock and Whitecraigs should sponge off my poorer constituents in Castlemilk when they use the facilities provided by Glasgow?

Mr. Stewart

May I first wish the hon. Gentleman many happy returns on his birthday? I am sure that hon. Members will agree that he is wearing well. He will not be surprised to learn that I wholly disagree with him and deprecate his remarks, as do, for example, the Labour leadership in Strathkelvin district council. I suggest that he consults them on his plans for a Greater Glasgow. Objectively, one might look at what has happened, for example, to Roukenglen Park. Glasgow district council wanted to walk away from it, but it is now a major excellent asset for the whole community under Eastwood district council. That is a classic example of the success of Conservative local government policies in action.

Mr. Oppenheim

When my hon. Friend meets COSLA, will he discuss the employment practices of Scottish councils? While English Members find many Scottish customs both colourful and quaint, one that we find extremely strange is the practice of issuing green forms to general job applicants and pink forms to applicants who apply through councillors or who are relatives of councillors at Monklands council. Does that novel application of the share and share alike principle account for the fact that no fewer than 22 close relatives of councillors are employed at Monklands council?

Mr. Stewart

I think the figure may be higher than that. My hon. Friend has rightly highlighted matters of major concern to people in local government in Scotland. What is absolutely astonishing is that the shadow Secretary of State and the leader of the Labour party have remained silent on this matter for months, even though it directly affects their constituents at least one way or the other. They are capable of commenting on anything except this matter which affects their constituents.