HC Deb 17 May 1994 vol 243 cc691-2

'. In section 88 of the 1973 Act (provision of information etc. on matters relating to functions of local authority), after subsection (2) there shall be inserted— (3) A local authority may assist voluntary organisations to provide for individuals—

  1. (a) information and advice concerning those individuals' rights and obligations; and
  2. (b) assistance, either by the making or receiving of communications or by providing representation to or before any person or body, in asserting those rights or fulfilling those obligations.".'. —[Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.24 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to take new clause 17—Voluntary organizations(1) 'Subject to the provisions of this section, the Secretary of State shall establish an interim committee with the power to consider, and as it deems appropriate to approve applications for grant aid from voluntary organisations in good standing funded by existing councils in 1995 whose funding applications to existing councils for the year 1996–97 and/or to new councils for the year 1997–98 have been refused or delayed. (2) The committee shall number not less than five and not more than seven members chosen from among people with knowledge and experience of the voluntary sector, at least two of which shall be chosen from a list drawn up by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and at least one of whom shall be chosen from a list drawn up by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, with a convener appointed by the Secretary of State. (3) The committee shall operate from an appropriate date in 1995 to an appropriate date in 1997 as determined by the Secretary of State.'.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

In Committee, I undertook to consider an amendment that sought to confer specific powers on authorities to assist voluntary organisations in the provision of information, advice and representation. The original amendment was withdrawn on that basis. New clause 21 has been tabled following our further consideration of the issue. It seeks to amend the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 by giving a specific statutory discretion to local authorities to assist voluntary organisations in providing people with an information, advice and representation service. It will give the new Scottish councils the same powers as local councils in England and Wales.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

I did not think that the Minister would be quite so concise in his presentation. My intervention will literally be an elongated question.

I am being serious and I want a serious answer. Will the new clause allow the representatives of voluntary organisations to intervene in a strategic way in decision making about the disbursement of European structural funds? I remind the Minister that, in relation to structural funds for Northern Ireland, the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, the right hon. Member for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler), said at the Dispatch Box no more than two months ago that he could see a role on the monitoring programme committee for representatives of the voluntary organisations. So, with regard to the distribution of structural funds to voluntary organisations in Scotland, will those organisations' representatives be aided and encouraged by the clause to take part, with Scottish Office officials, in determining the way in which such money will be spent?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

My understanding is that representatives of voluntary organisations are encouraged to act in partnership. I will inquire whether they are eligible to be appointed in that connection and will write to the hon. Gentleman, but certainly we would want a full input from the voluntary organisations. We would desire maximum continuity.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the other commitments given in Committee. We shall give guidance and, what is more, we shall issue directions to the new local authorities in due course, making it clear what assistance has been given to voluntary organisations in the past. We are keen that their interests should be borne in mind.

I will follow up the detailed legal questions that the hon. Gentleman asked.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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