§ Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified].5.12 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
It is almost exactly three years since I stood at the Dispatch Box and announced the Government's intention to move towards a system of all-purpose local authorities in Scotland. In those three years, the discussion has been lively and the interest has been great. But after three consultation papers on local government and on water and sewerage, a White Paper, a Second Reading debate, almost 180 hours of debate in the Standing Committee and a two-day Report stage, we are now on the home straight of this particular marathon. This seems the right moment at which to express a word of thanks to all those—hon. Members, local authority councillors and staff, interested organisations, the general public and Scottish Office officials—who have contributed to the Bill. It is the better for their contributions.
I pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) for so skilfully and patiently steering the Bill through its stages in the House, ably assisted by his fellow Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State, my hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) and for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro). This also seems an appropriate moment—dare I say it?—to go back to basics: back to the basic principles underpinning the reform, because the arguments that led every political party in Scotland to propose single-tier local government for Scotland during the 1992 general election are as valid today as they were then and as valid as when Lord Wheatley's commission acknowledged them. The reform is about accountability and effectiveness in local government. The present two-tier structure lacks accountability in the most dramatic way. The "crisscrossing of responsibilities", which Lord Wheatley rightly identified as a fundamental problem in any multi-tier structure of local government, is an insurmountable barrier to real accountability.
§ Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)
Will real accountability apply to the right hon. Gentleman's three new water super-quangos?
§ Mr. Lang
I shall come to the water authorities later.
Everyone, from the Labour party to polling organisations, has found that far too many Scots are unfamiliar with what tier of local government is responsible for what service. It is little wonder that people are confused. Currently both tiers of local government are involved in a huge range of functions—conservation areas; the countryside; development control; grants to voluntary bodies; industrial and economic development; leisure and recreation; listed buildings and ancient monuments; planning; nature conservation; tourism; and urban development. In the circumstances, it is quite impossible to have a properly accountable system of local government. 213 And if councils are not properly accountable they lack authority and credibility. For too long, these problems have afflicted local government in Scotland.
§ Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)
Under the Bill's proposals, it will be possible in some areas to have a single-tier authority dealing with some functions, a joint board involving two authorities with other functions, and a joint board involving three authorities with yet others. That being so, does the right hon. Gentleman believe that members of the public will know where responsibility lies? Will not there be even more confusion?
§ Mr. Lang
It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman is not aware of the distinction between joint boards and elected councils. People will look to the single-tier, all-purpose elected council and its members for all local services. How these are delivered—whether through joint boards, through committees or by means of other shared or customer-client arrangements—will be a matter for authorities to develop.
Under the new structure of all-purpose councils, local people will know exactly who is responsible for local services in a way that is impossible in a multi-tier structure. The absence of confusion over responsibility will put local people in a far better position to encourage councils to be responsive. It will clear the lines of accountability, and it will be a shot in the arm for local democracy in Scotland.
It will also yield for Scottish local government that other characteristic that has been denied it by the current two-tier structure—maximum effectiveness. Of course, the present regional and district councils do, by and large, discharge their functions competently, within the constraints of their structures. But they are hamstrung by being part of a two-tier system. The fact that the new councils will be responsible for all local services will ensure that those services are delivered more effectively. Bringing together, under one roof, services such as housing and social work or education and leisure and recreation will bring immense benefits to local service delivery. The positive benefits of greater co-operation between those responsible for securing services will be achieved, and the present friction between tiers of government, which is all too familiar, will disappear altogether.
§ Mr. Lang
Planning will be a matter for the single-tier local authorities, which will co-operate with one another in the case of planning on a broader scale.
If the new local authorities are more accountable and more effective than their predecessors, they will be more powerful. In any case, each new council will have more powers than either of its predecessors. As the sole elected council for its area, each will speak with undoubted authority for the communities that it represents. And because it will be able to co-ordinate local service delivery to an unprecedented degree each new council will have an enormous ability to act as a force for good in the area that it represents.
As a result of the Bill, these huge gains in local government are coming over the horizon for the people of Scotland. I am pleased that, thanks to the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood and other hon. Members, as well as of local authorities and others, the boundaries of the new authorities should he so widely acceptable. From the start of this reform, we have made it clear that three 214 principles will apply to the determination of the boundaries of the new authorities. First, the new structure should not be based exclusively on either of the existing tiers of local government. Secondly, the new units need not be of uniform size but should reflect local circumstances. Thirdly, Parliament should have the final say over the boundaries of the new councils. That was the case under previous reforms, and is the case here. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary has met more than two dozen delegations from different parts of the country, led by hon. Members, and I have also met hon. Members and others. In total, the House has spent more than 22 hours debating the boundaries of the new authorities. Boundaries are a serious matter, and we have taken them seriously. Significantly, despite their at times offensive rhetoric, the Opposition divided the Committee only three times on the subject of boundaries.
The result of the work that has been done over the past three years is a structure of 32 authorities. It may not be everyone's ideal structure, but it is a structure based on consent. Every one of the new authorities enjoys the support, either of existing local authorities directly affected or local Members of Parliament, or both.
With the exception of minor boundary variations enjoying local support, the boundaries of the new authorities are those that emerged following the previous reform of local government. The overall total of 32 authorities represents the midway point between the range of options canvassed in the Government's second consultation paper. The House has sought to make far fewer changes to the scheme proposed for the present reform than the dramatic changes that it wrought on the Wheatley proposals of 20 years ago.
§ Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)
I want to nail one canard immediately. The Secretary of State said in an article in Scotland on Sunday a couple of weeks ago that the boundaries were based on consent. He is now trying to make out that the fact that there were only a minimum number of Divisions in Committee on boundaries showed that there was popular support for the proposals. We are opposed root and branch to the redrawing of the Scottish council map on a party political basis, which is what the Government have done. However, to take up the time of the House and the Committee with hours and hours of voting on that map would not be productive. The Bill and the boundaries will die. The issues, not simply the Government's gerrymandered lines, must be brought to the attention of the Scottish public.
§ Mr. Lang
We are seeing a change of policy from the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson). He was happy to waste the time of the Committee by talking and voting on a range of other matters. The fact is that most Labour Members are content with the local boundaries for their areas—[Interruption.] Yes they are—perhaps they have not been saying to the hon. Member for Hamilton what they have been saying to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and me. If the Labour party were as opposed to the proposals as it pretends to be, it would have divided the Committee. [Interruption.]
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
Order. There is now too much noise, to the point where I cannot hear what the Secretary of State is saying. Interventions are one thing, but repeated sedentary commentaries are another.
§ Mr. Lang
The structure that we have is sensible, balanced and durable. It is the right structure for Scottish local government for the 21st century. Of course, there are those who do not support the structure or have complaints about particular parts of it—that is inevitable in such a complex exercise. But I believe that now is the time to draw the line under the consideration of boundaries. The Government believe that the structure that we have now is the right one and are not contemplating further changes to it.
We also believe that the structure will yield continuing savings in the years ahead. We have made it clear throughout the reform that costs are only one part—admittedly an important part—of it. What matters most is obtaining the right structure of local government. It is therefore particularly pleasing that the reform will yield savings over the longer term. Of course, there will be transitional costs, but they will be a price worth paying for longer-term savings and a better, more durable structure of local government.
The structure that we have settled on will comprise 32 authorities, compared with our original proposals for 28. All four additional authorities are the result of proposals made by Opposition Members and accepted by the Government. That will, of course, have implications for the costs of reform and for the savings. We now estimate that the short-term costs will be up to £5 million less than was estimated on Report, at a ceiling of about £190 million, while the consequential long-term savings will also be a little lower, at up to £52 million a year. That is still a saving of £1 million a week, and the savings will continue in the long term.
It is on the subject of costs that the Opposition have got themselves into a terrible mess. In November, the Scottish Labour party published a briefing paper that stated that local government reorganisation would cost £200 million. Three weeks later, the hon. Member for Hamilton said that local government reform would cost at least £500 million. By March, the figure had risen to £720 million. The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) said that his own Fife council tax payers would face huge increases in their bills to pay for local government reform. He said that a band D council tar( would rise from £621 to £1,061 in Dunfermline and from £664 to £1,094 in Kircaldy—and all that despite the fact that Labour-controlled Fife region, where I understand the hon. Gentleman learned what he knows about such matters, has stated that a single-tier Fife authority will produce savings of almost £5 million per annum.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will the Secretary of State make available to professionals such as David Chynoweth—not politicians, but the professionals who conducted the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities report—the background working and evidence on which his figures are based? Will the Scottish Office workings be made available to COSLA? Yes or no?
§ Mr. Lang
Those figures have been considered extensively in Committee. The Touche Ross report has been published, discussed and revised in the light of input from COSLA and others. The combined estimates of all the local authorities—which have shown estimated savings for their own areas—added to the Touche Ross report and 216 the fact that we are halving the total number of authorities in Scotland, underline the probability that the figures are broadly accurate.
Up and down the country, local authorities have done detailed work on how a single-tier structure will produce savings. From Highland region to Cunninghame district and from Dundee city to the Borders, local authorities have established clearly that a single-tier structure will produce savings. Of course, the final figures will depend on decisions to be taken by the new councils. But what is clear today is that the Opposition have been flying blind on the issue and indulging in plain old-fashioned scaremongering.
§ Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)
Does the Secretary of State accept that he is making a fool of himself in trying to say that the figures of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy will not be properly challenged by the Government? The figures are being dismissed as though they have been done on the back of a cigarette packet. They have not been challenged by the Government, who have not refuted the figures in the Committee or in the House.
§ Mr. Lang
As I have said already, of course the CIPFA figures are taken into account. But the figures have been gone over in great detail. We have used outside professional consultants and published the figures. Local authorities have commissioned studies by consultants that sustain the general trend of the figures. The Opposition will not accept the figures simply because they do not suit their case.
A major part of the Bill involves the restructuring of water and sewerage services in Scotland. From the time of the first consultation paper in 1991, the Government have made no secret of the fact that they expected that the provision of water and sewerage services would best be handled by organisations separate from the new unitary authorities. The scare-a-day Labour party immediately claimed that we were hellbent on privatisation. We said that we were looking for a Scottish solution to a Scottish problem, and that we meant what we said. We considered a range of options, including privatisation, and rejected them. We settled finally on three new publicly owned water authorities. Water and sewerage services are being restructured within the public sector.
The new structure will produce two key benefits. It will make maximum use of existing resources through economies of scale and it will deliver the necessary new resources for investment on the best terms possible. The result will be lower prices for consumers of water and sewerage services than would be possible if the present structure were retained.
§ Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)
I want to explain to the Secretary of State why we doubt his commitment not to privatise. While the Secretary of State says that he is veering away from privatising water, the President of the Board of Trade apparently wants to privatise the Royal Mail. Does the Secretary of State believe that privatisation of the Royal Mail is any more popular than the attempt to steal Scotland's water?
§ Mr. Lang
The hon. Gentleman is tempting me away from the subject of the Bill. I shall resist the temptation to respond as I should be rapidly called to order if I tried to do so.
217 The new structure will also have within it a clear focus of accountability in the shape of the new customer councils. For the first time, consumers of water and sewerage services in Scotland will have a powerful watchdog working on their behalf, with the sole objective of ensuring that the new water and sewerage authorities are as consumer friendly as possible.
It has taken us three years to arrive at the new structure for water and sewerage services in Scotland. It will be several years before the new authorities are fully up and running. They are the Government's solution to the problem; they are a long-term, durable solution and I hope that in future councillors will play their part in helping to secure the efficient delivery of water and sewerage services by serving on the new authorities and the watchdog consumer councils.
The Bill has posed all sorts of difficulties—for the Labour party, of course. After all, the Opposition were in the vanguard of the calls for local government reform in Scotland—not that the hon. Member for Hamilton was aware of that when he embarked on his misplaced campaign of opposition to the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State addressed the same annual conference of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in March. My right hon. and learned Friend reminded the conference of the Labour party's commitment to single-tier local authorities; and to a radical vision of local government in Scotland spelt out in its policy document on the subject. He reminded the conference of Labour's vision ofmuch additional service development in the future taking place through partnership or contractual arrangements with other agencies. Local authorities should be able to develop their enabling role,Labour claimed,frequently acting as the commissioning agency rather than the direct provider of services.That and other commendable statements included in my right hon. and learned Friend's speech so confused the hon. Member for Hamilton that he set off on a desperate search to find the policy document in question, but his search was in vain.
In desperation, he wrote to the Minister of State four weeks after the original speech to ask for the precise source of the quotations that he had used. Happily, to enable the hon. Gentleman to obtain a copy of the document, my right hon. and learned Friend suggested that he write to Mr. Jack McConnell at the Scottish Labour party, Keir Hardie house, 1 Lynedococh place, Glasgow: telephone number 041 332 8946; fax 041 331 2566. In case he has not had the time to so, I have a copy here which I shall willingly lend to the hon. Gentleman after the debate.
Of course the hon. Member for Hamilton must be surprised that the Bill has got this far. After all, he took personal charge of the campaign to persuade Conservative Members to vote down the Government's proposals. It was a complete and total failure.
If we are to believe the hon. Gentleman, the House's consideration of the Bill has been an uninterrupted succession of parliamentary triumphs for the Opposition. In the Municipal Journal of 29 April, he listed 13 concessions supposedly wrung from the Government by the Opposition—it might seem impressive, but on closer inspection the 13 so-called concessions are not what quite what they are said to be. Let me list some of them.
First, 218denominational school catchment areas to be protected by the Secretary of State's veto— they always were; nothing has changed.
Secondly,Scottish police boards to be made up solely of local councillors— they always were; nothing has changed.
Thirdly,names of present fire brigades to be retained— that is a devastating one, but it involved no change to the Bill. Perhaps it explains the headline in The Herald of 1 November:
Labour to set fire burning under Tory MPs".Fourthly,Cash from property disposal to go to new councils and not to the Treasury— it always did; nothing has changed.
Concessions five and six:Water disconnection ban in Scotland to be specifically in statute for the first timeand,Water disconnections to be outlawed".In other words, two of the so-called concessions claimed by the hon. Gentleman are one and the same and were simply a statement of unchanged Government policy. Nothing has changed.
As Marlowe might have put it:
Is it not passing grave to be a King,And ride in triumph through Persepolis?It has been quite an odyssey since that June day three years ago when we first published proposals for single-tier local government in Scotland. It was to be the reform that never was. First, it was to be the reform that was Treasury driven; then it was the reform that the Treasury would veto. It was to be the reform that would be destroyed by rebel English MPs—the reform would be wrecked in Parliament. Here we are on Third reading, however, our plans firmly on time and on track. The reason why they are on track is that the arguments in favour of all-purpose authorities are compelling. The strength of the arguments was recognised by the Wheatley commission, by the Stodart committee and even by the Labour party.
The case for single-tier local government was made before the last restructuring and has continued to be made since. The case for single-tier councils has proved so persistent and persuasive throughout the past two decades that reform has been inevitable. If there was a strong case for all-purpose authorities before—when, as one commentator put it—thedominance of municipal provision was unquestioned",there is an overwhelming case now that local government has changed.
Now the emphasis is on the strategic role of local authorities rather than on the role of providing services directly at their own hand. As the Labour party's own policy document urges and as the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) once put it,
To achieve the best and not just the basic public services, we must modernise and transform our social and economic fabric by creating new partnerships between public and private sectors.This reform of local government is far reaching.
§ Mr. Lang
No. I have given way twice to the hon. Gentleman.
The reform is designed to make sure that our councils reflect the 21st century and not the 1960s. It is based on the simple but compelling premise that one local authority in 219 each area should be responsible for all local services. It is designed to restore diversity to the structure of local government and to restore vibrancy to our local councils.
Under this reform, each local community in Scotland will be represented by a single strong council. Councils will be in harmony with their communities, not out of tune. There will be city councils for our cities and rural councils for rural areas—a new, stronger local democracy. That is what the people of Scotland want and in just 677 days from now, that is what they will have.
§ Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)
I shall first refer to the regrettable and perfectly understandable absence of Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), whose wife died this weekend. On behalf of all my colleagues, I express the deepest sympathy for the hon. Gentleman in his bereavement.
Let me make one first and obvious comment as we start the Third Reading debate. The Bill is not a reform. On the contrary, it represents a partisan dismembering of Scottish local government structures which have lasted, endured and served Scotland well for the past 20 years. It is not a rationalisation of the two tiers of local government for more efficient, effective local councils. Instead, it is a brutally cynical exercise, creating small, unviable councils leading, as night follows day, to the bulk of the decisions being taken by anonymous joint boards dominated by the fiat of the Secretary of State for Scotland.
The Bill is not a means of saving public money by eliminating one level of local government. Instead, it is a messy, ill-thought-out, divisive and politically corrupt exercise which will be enormously expensive and which will deliver no savings to the taxpayer. It is not a reorganisation of Scotland's local democratic structures, which, if it had taken place in the right circumstances, might have enhanced the delivery of services and revitalised decision-making at a local level. Instead, it is a weaselly redrawing of the map of Scottish local government to the perceived advantage of the Tory party in future local and parliamentary elections.
It is not a measure based on any independent study or on principles of what is good for Scotland. It is not based on consensus or review or genuine consultation. Instead, and sadly for Scotland, as for democracy itself and for the vitality and effectiveness of local government, it is rooted in chicanery built on malice, long-term Tory electoral failure in Scotland and constructed on a bed of obsessive centralisation. For all those reasons, it is doomed and it deserves to be doomed.
Yesterday, in a bizarre theatrical event held at the Scottish exhibition centre in Glasgow, the Secretary of State launched the Tory Euro-campaign, complete with an audience that applauded the Secretary of State's every word. The Secretary of State implies that people just turned up—they just happened to the passing the SEC on a sunny Monday morning at 9.30, wandered in to hear an amazingly revitalising discussion and applauded every word from the Secretary of State for Scotland. That was quite an achievement, given the number of supporters that the Secretary of State still has in Scotland.
220 I was interested in one of the things that the Secretary of State said, which undoubtedly got applause from the hand-picked audience:There has been a clear indication that the people of Scotland, like the people of the rest of Britain, are too worried about the centralisation process of Europe, about Europe playing too dominant a part in our lives.It would appear that the Secretary of State for Scotland, that born-again Euro-sceptic, is too worried about the centralisation process in Europe. The Bill centralises, in his own hands and those of the faceless joint boards and quangos, practically every service that is delivered by local government: education, social work, transport, police, fire, trading standards, regional chemists, regional analysts—even children's hearings reporters—and, most importantly, in three super-quangos directly responsible to him, Scotland's water. What worries and concerns the people of Scotland is not the ghouls and ghosties that the Secretary of State dreams about in Brussels, and which he proclaims in the empty halls of the Scottish exhibition centre in Glasgow, but his Edinburgh centralisation.
Consideration of the Bill in the House of Commons is coming to an end, but it still has quite a long way to go before the Secretary of State's new model of emasculated, gerrymandered local government is in place in Scotland. The Government have lost the argument at every single stage. There is no more convincing, unavoidable evidence of that than the miserable 13.7 per cent. of the Scottish vote that the Conservative party got in the regional elections only three weeks ago. Who would have thought, a generation ago, when the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party had a majority of the Scottish electorate, that the Conservative party could sink so low as to come barely above the election campaign record of Screaming Lord Sutch? Fewer than 14 Scottish people in every 100 now support the party that pretends to have the power and control over Scotland today.
The Government still have the trappings of power in Scotland—the cars, civil servants, glossy pamphlets, big launches and big offices and buildings—but with 86.3 per cent. of the people of Scotland against them, Ministers are left with all the vain credibility of the old eastern European apparatchiks. That is what they are. They are in office, but they have no authority. They strut around the stage of Scottish politics, but the emperor has no clothes. They still have the power, and they draw more and more of it to the centre and into their own hands as they chip away at local democracy, but, without public consent and support, they are corrupting that power, and the wise and intelligent people of Scotland will never forgive them for that.
Of course, the Bill has not escaped undamaged. The Government were forced to abandon their clear, undoubted intention immediately and fully to privatise water in Scotland on the English model.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)
§ Mr. Robertson
There is no doubt that that was the Government's intention, and some hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), who, with theatrical affectation, shook his head at that point, wanted that. They are ideologically committed to it, but they were forced by the pressure of public opinion to back away from that.
§ Mr. Robertson
The hon. Member for Eastwood, heckling from a sedentary position, says, "Prove it." Last week, I pointed to the fact that a mere handful of lines are used in the Government's consultative document to describe the option that they eventually chose, but 250 lines are devoted to describing the privatisation option and its attraction. That, combined with what they did in England and Wales, and what the Prime Minister blew the gaff on at the Dispatch Box, is as good a proof as the people of Scotland need. If the hon. Gentleman wants to question that, I refer him to the statistic that should haunt him and every other Conservative Member—13.7 per cent. of the people of Scotland support them and 86 per cent. are against them.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)
The hon. Gentleman was in Committee and will be aware of my views on privatisation. I am bitterly disappointed, because I happen to believe my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench when they tell me that they are not going to privatise. I personally want privatisation.
§ Mr. Robertson
At least the hon. Gentleman is honest in declaring his objective. Would that other people had the same honesty in declaring their private ambitions before the force of public opinion in Scotland turned them away from what we know was their intention.
§ Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)
Surely this is old hat. Surely we have heard it all before in Committee. Is it not the case that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State went out to consultation, the people of Scotland came back and suggested that they did not want privatisation, and to his credit my right hon. Friend listened and acted?
§ Mr. Robertson
If the Government were capable of listening to the people in the way in which the hon. Gentleman would have us believe, they would listen to the people of Scotland who say that they do not want the Bill and would take it away and rethink it, or better still abandon it completely.
§ Mr. Raymond S. Robertson (Aberdeen, South)
The hon. Gentleman has counted the lines in the consultation document on water and drawn a conclusion. In the Labour party manifesto of- 1992, there were 15 lines on law and order. Am I therefore entitled to draw the same conclusion about the Labour party's commitment to law and order?
§ Mr. Robertson
The hon. Gentleman is vice-chairman of the Conservative and Unionist party in Scotland—a position that he has held for precisely the period that it has taken the support for the Conservative party to go down from 30 per cent. to 13 per cent. Having burnt his fingers in that spectacular way, he might at least have thought up some better lines than that. The comparison is between the 15 and the 200-odd lines, but the evidence is not in what I say. It is not based on what the hon. Gentleman would have us believe. It is in the figure of 86 per cent. of the Scottish people who voted against the Conservatives three weeks ago in the regional elections. That is the proof. They simply do not believe the Conservative party, and they have every right not to.
In Committee, the Government were obliged—originally, they did not want to, and said that they did not have to and that it was superfluous—to put the illegality of water disconnections in Scotland on the face of the Bill. When that matter was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for 222 Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish), the hon. Member for Dumfries said that it was absolutely unnecessary and that there was no need to put it in the Bill, because it was in the Water (Scotland) Act 1980.
The reality is that the Government came back and put it in, because they needed to, in one further vain attempt to persuade the people of Scotland that their ambition, which they still harbour, was not to be realised immediately. They were forced to endure the record-breaking Committee, from which the Secretary of State for Scotland had scuttled away at the beginning, right up to the humiliation of the regional elections. That is one of the things that I said on Second Reading. The regional elections would provide a forum, a referendum, on the Government's proposals. If the Government are interested in the views of the Scottish people, let them learn the lesson of the elections. In Committee, they had to abandon the wildest gerrymandering proposals in the Bill—the amputation of Berwickshire from the Borders and the ludicrous Balerno corridor that they proposed between the Lothians—and, of course, their timetable for the unwanted reorganisation is now a complete shambles.
The Bill simply cannot receive its Royal Assent until October or November of this year, which will leave only six months until the proposed shadow elections in April of next year. Of course, Ministers can ignore wholesale public hostility to the Bill and reorganisation. They can—they are daft enough, suicidal enough and idiotic enough—simply fly in the face of the electoral humiliation that they have just experienced and press on regardless.
The Government can, if they want, use the draconian power conferred on the Secretary of State in schedule 2 —one of the many draconian powers contained in the Bill —to draw in secret, on the back of some used Tory party leaflets, the new ward boundaries on which the elections are likely to be fought. They can bring those proposals to the House of Commons for a one-and-a-half hour debate, although I promise that they will be given a rough ride if they try such tactics. They can do all that because they have the technical powers, even if they do not have the consent of the people of Scotland.
If the Government are unwise and suicidal enough to do those things, however, they will deliver this reorganisation only at the expense of devastation of vital services for the most vulnerable people, and at huge cost in the disruption and uncertainty caused to business and commerce across Scotland.
Yesterday, at a press conference, I sat beside the chairman of Glasgow chamber of commerce. In measured tones, he told the assembled press, "Glasgow chamber of commerce is still not persuaded that this reorganisation is necessary." Ministers should take careful note of that declaration: it was made in public by someone who is intimately connected with business in the west of Scotland and who represents the largest group of business people in that area.
There will be disruption to special needs education, community care, transport and strategic planning. All that disruption is predictable: people with no political partisan interest have drawn it to the attention of the House. The timetable for the reorganisation is in ruins, not because of a lack of co-operation on the part of Scottish councils but as a result of the incompetence, slipperiness and arrogance of Scottish Office Ministers.
223 In The Guardian on 7 May, Mr. Martin Kettle—a distinguished journalist and an outsider viewing the Bill perhaps for the first time—had this to say:the carving up of Scotland's local councils in the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill is one of the most disgraceful pieces of one-party political arrogance in modern times.He was spot on. We have spread the same message throughout Scotland, and the pitiful 13.7 per cent. of votes obtained by the party of government shows that we have succeeded in getting it through to the people.
The Bill, like the reorganisation that it promises—indeed, threatens—is flawed at its very heart. The atomisation of Scotland's local government set-up into a patchwork of some large, very many tiny, all-purpose and in many instances unviable councils will be an extremely expensive, hugely unpopular and unsuccessful folly. If they notice it at all, the history books will call it Lang's folly. Perhaps it will be the Secretary of State's farewell shot as he takes off to lead the English Conservative party, as he is widely tipped to do. If he can do for it what he has done to the Tory party in Scotland, he will do a great service to the British people.
Three hundred thousand employees of Scotland's councils are about to be thrown into an unemployment limbo, with only European law—the acquired rights directive—to help them. As that European legislation helps them, it will also make a mockery of the Government's figure for savings, which seems to derive entirely from the idea of sacking people from their jobs in local government. Today, the House has yet again been faced with brand-new figures—brand-new revisions of the previous totals, which we were told represented the actual savings and costs of local government. We are never given the background information and calculations and the Secretary of State repeatedly refuses to give detailed answers to the detailed points in letters sent to him.
The services expertly delivered by people in local government will be thrown into the turmoil of a transition so ill-thought-out and lacking in popular support that every facet of Scottish life will be affected and damaged. It will be remembered that it was this Conservative Government who, in Scotland, invented and pursued the poll tax. Sensible people thought that the Government might have learnt from that profligate fiasco, but, as the Bill shows, they seem to learn very little from such expensive disasters.
The Bill deserves only one fate: to be abandoned now. Privately—secretly—Ministers and Back Benchers would love to do that. It has no future; it will be swept away with the Labour victory that the local election results show to be inevitable now. If it is remembered at all, it will be remembered for one thing only—as one more spectacular stupidity that contributed to the demise of the Scottish Conservative party. In that one respect, it will have made its contribution to the good of Scotland. I urge my colleagues to vote against it.
§ Mr. Dalyell
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have given you and the Clerk notice of this point.
I hope that I do not have a vindictive record in the House, but I feel that a matter of principle is involved in deciding whether those who are not fully fledged civil 224 servants—however considerable and malign their influence on the Bill may be—should sit in the Box. Will you raise with Madam Speaker the question of those who are not fully fledged civil servants in the Scottish Office sitting in the Box?
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
I am not aware that the occupant of the Chair has ever recognised the existence of those who occupy what is usually called the Officials' Box. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me warning of his point of order; I shall certainly ensure that the matter is taken up with Madam Speaker, but I know from what he has said that he does not expect me to take it further at this stage.
§ Mr. Raymond S. Robertson (Aberdeen, South)
I shall be brief, as I know that many hon. Members wish to speak.
The day after the publication of the White Paper that started this whole process, The Press and Journal carried the banner headline "Aberdeen achieves goal". Following the conclusion of the Bill's Commons stages tonight, that goal will take an important step nearer to reality.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State observed, as the Bill nears the end of its stages it is appropriate for us to look back. I think we can safely say that we have enjoyed—if that is the right word—an Opposition Supply day, a Grand Committee debate in Edinburgh, a debate on the Gracious Speech, a Second Reading debate and marathon Committee and Report stages before arriving at Third Reading. During all those hours of debate, Conservative Members have become used to hearing Opposition Members quote the words of various councillors and officials in an attempt to gain votes against my right hon. Friend's proposals from different parts of Scotland.
In Committee—thanks to the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes)—we all became experts on what virtually all his constituents were thinking, and got to know them all virtually by name. We became very used to hearing from the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) about the various letters and phone calls that he had received from all over Scotland. Throughout his tour of the disgruntled of Scotland, however, we never arrived at Aberdeen. That town was never prayed in aid by Opposition Members as they searched for one-liners to quote, looked for scare stories to run and predicted doom, gloom, rebellion and chaos. It must irk the hon. Members for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) that their colleagues in Aberdeen never once gave them a sound bite during all those hours of debate.
Why is that? Could it possibly be because every political group in Abderdeen district council, on the day of the White Paper's publication, fell over itself to support a single-tier Aberdeen? Could it possibly be because the Labour group, responding to the White Paper last year, said:In short, local government in Aberdeen could be improved by re-establishing the City as a unitary authority. The Council argues that this would promote a more efficient, acountable, economical and responsive local administration and service delivery"?Before Opposition Members shout "All under a Scottish Assembly", I shall tell them that, in the council's entire response, the words "Scottish Assembly" do not appear at all.
225 Or could it possibly be that the Labour party in Aberdeen took to heart an editorial in The Press and Journal on 19 August last year? It said:The clearest signal to the electorate today that Aberdeen Labour councillors have at least some regard for the welfare of their city would be a vote backing single-tierdom that they have sought for so long.Or would that require backbone, commonsense and independence of spirit that seem in desperately short supply in Labour local-government cliques?
§ Mr. Wallace
I seem to recall that, on Second Reading, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) was very much against the inclusion of Westhill in Aberdeenshire as opposed to Aberdeen. Is he now satisfied with the Aberdeen single-tier authority as presently constituted?
§ Mr. Robertson
I am absolutely in favour of it: I voted for it in Committee. Or could it possibly be that everyone who cares about local democracy in Aberdeen all agreed with Labour's councillor, Jean McFadden, when she identified that the real threat to local government in Scotland would come in the form of a Scottish Assembly? Writing in the Glasgow Herald, she said:I think we have to be very much on our guard here. There may well be a tendency for the Scottish parliament to suck up power from below.From whatever angle it is approached, the message from Aberdeen is clear. The people of Aberdeen, the politicians in Aberdeen and the business community in Aberdeen all want the Bill.
It is an appropriate time to say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and to other of my hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench that the challenge for us on this side of the House over the summer, into the autumn and on to the shadow authority elections is to ensure that, elsewhere in Scotland, the reforms and the plans are as clearly understood by the people of Scotland as they are in the granite city, because the message from Aberdeen—[Interruption.] The message from Aberdeen is that, when the proposals are understood, when the scares give way to facts, the people respond and they are enthusiastic.
§ Mr. Connarty
Moving on from the boundaries, will the hon. Gentleman cite one example of a councillor in the city of Aberdeen, Labour or otherwise, who supports the proposals for water, for the police or for any of the other services?
§ Mr. Robertson
In supporting the concept and supporting the plans that my right hon. Friend is clearly setting out, of course they support the plans in their entirety. They have not selected one aspect of the plan—as the hon. Gentleman has implied—and said that they support one thing but not anything else. They accept a single-tier Aberdeen as the best way to provide services for the people of Aberdeen and all that that entails.
The hon. Member for Hamilton has made much of the local election results on 5 May. Indeed, many Opposition Members have done that. Again, interestingly, they have not mentioned the results in Aberdeen. Perhaps that is because in my constituency all Conservative regional councillors in the city—John Porter, Jack Dempsey, Joy Gordon and Tom Mason—campaigned hard for a single-tier local authority. They all put that at the centre of their appeal,and all won. Their election address made that very clear. They were all handsomely returned and, indeed, in one of the divisions in which the hon. Member for 226 Hamilton came to Aberdeen on a bank holiday and campaigned hard, we increased our vote and our majority. So I say to my hon. Friends, "Come the general election, invite the hon. Gentleman along: he will do wonders for your vote."
I am not for a moment belittling or criticising the many fine Conservative councillors who lost on 5 May, or the many outstanding candidates who never made it. However, I am told constantly by Opposition Members to listen to the people and to learn a lesson from 5 May. The lesson that I take from my constituency is one from which my party and the whole of Scotland can learn: from now to the shadow authority elections in April, we must challenge head-on every scare, every misrepresentation, every half-truth and every untruth. In doing so, we shall have nothing to fear.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The hon. Gentleman will find it difficult to challenge them because he spends all his time making them up himself.
§ Mr. Robertson
One of Scotland's national newspapers said today that the debate marked the end. How wrong it is. The debate marks only the beginning of the end of round one. In round two, the debate will move away from this place, as we on this side take to the Scottish people my right hon. Friend's vision for local government in Scotland. It is a new era in the affairs of local government —strong, accountable, powerful unitary authorities—yet, at the same time, councils, by their very nature, will be sensitive to local needs and responsive to local requirements.
In the run-up to April, we shall take every opportunity to remind our fellow Scots that that is in stark contrast to what is on offer from each of the Opposition parties. They offer an assembly in Edinburgh which would plunder the powers of local councils and take them to Edinburgh, thus denuding councils and town halls up and down Scotland of their rights and responsibilities and centralising them on Calton Hill. They offer to take decision-making away from the people rather than empowering the people through one councillor and one council.
That is the choice facing the Scottish people in April. For us, the shadow authority elections start the day after the European campaign ends. We shall campaign hard for the measures in the Bill, for the councils that it will create and for the new partnership in local government that will result. I have no doubt that, when we do that and take our message to the Scottish people, they, in turn, will respond.
§ 6.6 pm
§ Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me so early in the debate.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) will forgive me if I do not follow what he said about Aberdeen. I can only say as an Aberdonian that it is certainly not my conclusion that the people of Aberdeen are flocking in great numbers to support the Conservative party. If they are doing that, as recently as three weeks ago there was precious little evidence of it. There is precious little evidence, too, that there is any support for the Bill in Scotland. It has been universally condemned. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which the Secretary of State did not seem to like recognising, was opposed to the Bill. Individual local authorities were 227 opposed to it. Individual councillors, irrespective of their party, were opposed to it. But, most important, the people of Scotland were opposed to it.
The Secretary of State said that he was going "back to basics" and he said that there were three basic principles on which the reform—he calls it reform—or the reorganisation was founded. He went on to tell us what those three principles were and it seemed that they were mechanisms only, designed to be convenient for the Conservative party and not for any other purpose. I shall give him three principles on which any reform ought to have been founded: first, to provide the best arrangements for representing the people and the communities, which they, not the Government, recognise; secondly, to provide the best arrangements for democratic control over the local bureaucracy; and, thirdly, to provide the best arrangements for cost-effective and efficient delivery of services.
None of those principles is contained in the Bill, which, in fact, is a most unprincipled measure, reflecting an unprincipled Government who have devised and drafted it. What principle drove the Government to drafting the Bill? There is no principle at all. It was designed to facilitate a Conservative party that has all but passed out of Scottish political and public life.
Of course, as they see it, there is a need for success, somewhere, anywhere, by creating unrepresentative councils out of places which often have nothing in common. All hon. Members would be able to tell the House of some eccentricity or madness in their area that has been dreamt up by the demented hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart). It is his fault that we have such a situation on our hands. It is his fault that it is happening. He is kowtowing to the chairman of the Conservative party in Scotland, Michael Hirst. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sir Michael Hirst".] Yes, Sir Michael Hirst. In fact, I am quite sure that it would be a good idea if the council at East Dunbartonshire was renamed Hirst. That would be an appropriate name. Sir Michael, unelectable and unelected, has determined what should happen in the reorganisation. Some of us find such an apparatchik an unacceptable influence, but altogether consistent with what is going on nowadays in the Conservative party in Scotland.
§ Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)
The last time the extraordinary exercise of local government reorganisation was undertaken, Fife regional council did not add one hen or chicken to its population or alter its responsibilities in any way. It nevertheless increased the membership of its police from 16,000 to 18,000 and that of all other services by three. A socialist organisation did that: will it do the same this time?
§ Mr. Hogg
I agree that Fife regional council, like most in Scotland, is a socialist council.
There is further evidence of gerrymandering in my area. There is no consent for the measure among the political parties—including the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth Tory party and even Cumbernauld and Kilsyth Scottish National party—in so far as it has a view on anything—and certainly no consent among the ordinary people who have petitioned the Government, written letters, signed postcards of protest and voted against Tory candidates in local elections. However, it all adds up to nothing because this authoritarian Government are determined to push through 228 this measure. We have arrived at a new slogan for the Tory party. Nowadays, it is "Whitehall, not town hall", which is the very opposite of what Tories said once upon a time.
Cumbernauld and Kilsyth has historical and administrative links with East Dunbartonshire with which it should be linked. However, that did not serve the ends of Sir Michael Hirst or those of the Tory party which is trying to create particular conditions for Bearsden and Strathkelvin. It is a serious charge—
§ Mr. Gallie
I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. In view of his comments, and given his support for the notion of single tier authorities included in Labour's manifesto at the previous election, and given what I understand to be his "anti-feelings" for a Scottish Assembly, would he have been happy with the changes had he got his way over the boundaries that he wants for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth? If so, it is a pity that such an argument was not advanced in Committee.
§ Mr. Hogg
The answer is that I hope that I can always see the bigger picture. I hope that I come to the House with a view on Scottish local government as a whole and am not driven by parochial considerations of the type that apparently motivate the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie). Even if the Minister agreed with what I wanted in respect of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, I would still be immensely unhappy with the Bill and would vote against it for the reasons already set out by my party's Front-Bench spokesmen on Second Reading, in Committee and again today. I hope that that clarifies the position for the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. George Kynoch (Kincardine and Deeside)
The hon. Gentleman has made some pretty strong accusations about how the boundaries were created. Unless I missed something in Committee, I did not hear the Labour party offer any proposals on boundaries, with the exception, I think, of Ayrshire.
§ Mr. Hogg
In fact, the Opposition tabled amendments affecting Cumbernauld and Kilsyth and East Dunbartonshire and they were consistent with the view that I am advancing now. The hon. Gentleman is therefore wrong.
It has become clear that the Government have tried to arrange things in my area in the hope that another part of Scotland will ultimately return a Conservative Member of Parliament and a Conservative-controlled local authority. There is no prospect of either likelihood being realised.
If there were a case for local government reform, the Bill has certainly not met it. A body such as a royal commission should have been charged with reviewing existing arrangements; there should have been full public consultation; the Government should have sought a consensus on any proposals for change; and, above all, any proposals should have had the confidence of the Scottish people. The Bill fulfils none of those criteria.
To use an old phrase, this is a wicked Tory Government. They are far removed from the principles on which the Tory party once thrived. This is not a matter of conviction politics; it is a product not of conviction politics but of expediency. There is no concept of one nation, just autocratic diktat. There is no belief in the people or the judgment of the people. The Government simply believe that they know what is best for us, that they are our betters, and that they can tell us how to behave and think.
229 The Scottish Office has no respect for the people or great institutions of local government in Scotland. The people have sensed that the Government have no respect for them, which is why the people have no respect for the Government and why 13.7 per cent. Tory support in recent elections stands as a condemnation of the Secretary of State and his Front-Bench team who have so clearly failed to take account of the view of the Scottish people.
This is a squalid Bill. It is the most squalid measure that I have encountered in my 15 years in the House. I am ashamed that it will be passed. The fact that it has been brought before us does not increase the respect in which Parliament is held. The people of Scotland will have none of it and they will have nothing to do with the Conservative Government. The Conservatives will be swept away in whatever elections they put up candidates.
§ Mr. George Kynoch (Kincardine and Deeside)
I listened to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State with great interest and watched the reaction of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish). When my right hon. Friend referred to the confusion between the tiers of local government—confusion that I have encountered in my constituency—the hon. Member for Fife, Central shook his head and did not appear to accept that such confusion existed. I can only quote from a document published in February 1990 which stated:The continuing widespread confusion about what tier carries out what functions undermines accountability.That document, entitled "The Future of Local Government in Scotland", was the Labour party's pre-election policy document. It has been universally accepted that there is confusion between the two existing tiers and, as was mentioned on Second Reading, all the Opposition parties have at some stage advocated single-tier unitary authorities.
I also listened with interest to the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), but I heard nothing new. Since I have been a Member of Parliament, and since the consultation documents were published, the hon. Gentleman has done nothing but scaremonger. He has spread scare stories about the setting up of a most cost-effective and efficient tier of local government, and about water and sewerage.
As the hon. Member for Hamilton repeated something that he said on Report, I shall repeat something that I said. I heard him say on the BBC "Scottish Lobby" programme that the issue of water privatisation was a dead duck and that the Government had made it virtually impossible for Scottish water to be privatised because of the insertion of clause 79, which enforces current legislation preventing water supplies from being disconnected.
The hon. Member for Hamilton clearly said that; have it on videotape, and if he cares to ask to see it I shall be more than happy to arrange for it to be played back to him again and again. He does the people of Scotland a grave disservice by continuing to peddle such scaremongering to people who are less able than he to argue the point, and who have been told clearly many times by the Secretary of State and his Ministers that Scottish Water will not be privatised. However, we need to do something about it; we need to make it a better organisation, and to take it forward in order to find the £5 billion in capital expenditure that will be needed over the next 10 to 15 years, and to cope with the new structure of local government.
230 I talked about confusion. One of the main areas of confusion—
§ Mr. Salmond
The hon. Gentleman will have heard his colleague from the north-east, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), express satisfaction with the Conservative party's results in the local elections. I found that confusing, so I checked in the edition of The Herald dated Saturday 7 May, which gives the local results by parliamentary constituency. It turns out that the Tory party is 8 per cent. behind in Aberdeen, South, 30 per cent. behind in Aberdeen, North, 26 per cent. behind in Aberdeen, Central, 47 per cent. behind in Banff and Buchan, 17 per cent. behind in Gordon, 30 per cent. behind in Moray and 16 per cent. behind in what would be the constituency of the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch)—Deeside and Howes. Is the hon. Gentleman as satisfied as his hon. Friend is with those results?
§ Mr. Kynoch
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says about the local election results, but what he does not take into account is the role of independents—[Laughter.] In my constituency the issues were significantly clouded—[Interruption.] However, I shall not embark on that argument, because I know that the hon. Gentleman is engaged in a battle with his Opposition colleagues in the Labour party over what the result of the Euro-election in the north-east of Scotland will be. However, I can tell him that his figures are totally wrong; if he considers the general election results he will realise that the Conservatives will win with a majority of 20,000.
Before I am ordered to do so, I shall now return to the Bill. I was talking about confusion between the two tiers of local government, especially on planning. In my constituency, the picture for long-term and strategic planning is at present one of great confusion. There is talk in Grampian of a proposed new settlement. Kincardine and Deeside had already thrown out the idea at district level, but Grampian region initially decided to approve a new settlement in my constituency. Confusion existed while the proposal ping-ponged backwards and forwards between the region and the district. Finally, it was thrown out by the previous administration in the region, much to the annoyance of the Labour convenor.
The issue will not go away. While we have a district council and a regional council that can take totally opposing views there will be total confusion, and that does not serve the best interests of the local community, nor the future of the area.
As the Secretary of State said, we have had a long period of debate on the local government reform. I had forgotten that it was as many as three years ago that my right hon. Friend introduced his first consultation document. I remember that in the run-up to the general election a major part of my campaign was the fact that we regarded the reform as a key piece of legislation for the future, so that we could get rid of the two tiers and consolidate them into one, so that local government would be better and more effective.
Throughout the consultation period, my right hon. Friend has listened effectively. I especially commend him and his Ministers for the amount of listening that they did in Committee. My right hon. Friend knows that some of us were concerned about various issues, whether those were minor details concerning boundaries or the need to look 231 after the interests of the rural communities with regard to water services. On all those issues my right hon. Friend has listened and has moved. He commended his ministerial team; may I add to that my commendation of the long-suffering Whip, the Lords Commissioner to the Treasury, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope).
Having sat through 177½ hours of debate in Committee, listening to debates such as the one about the word "reasonably", which lasted three hours, at one time I questioned whether the Opposition were opposing or simply trying to obstruct. However, I know that they were in order because the Chairman kept them in order. I take my hat off to, and commend, both the management and the chairmanship of the Committee. Because the Committee stage was allowed to run for its full 177½ hours, the Opposition were left with no excuse for saying that their concerns and worries had not been fully aired.
Yet the Opposition continue to peddle their lies about water—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] They continue to peddle their distortions about water. They are still arguing that the Government are intent on doing something that the Government do not intend to do. Typical of their behaviour throughout has been the fact that they cannot oppose in a constructive manner. I have not heard them make constructive proposals on any issue.
Throughout our proceedings, the Opposition seemed intent on arguing the case for looking after local government employees' jobs. I commend them for that, because in any reorganisation, whether in business or in local government, one must ensure that the transition from one structure to another is made in an orderly fashion so as to safeguard the rights and the best interests of employees. Unfortunately, change is sometimes necessary. To obstruct on the sole basis that jobs will be lost is totally unconstructive in terms of looking after the interests of the people whom we are here to represent—the people of Scotland, the ratepayers and the taxpayers of Scotland.
§ Mr. Connarty
Is the hon. Gentleman really trying to sell to this House a package saying that all the people who wrote in and whom the Opposition represented—all the lobbying organisations such as Enable and Relate, and all the people who wrote in about special education, about the destruction of children's panels, and about many other issues—were trying to be obstructive? Will he not give credit where credit is due? A case was put for many people in Scotland who do not want the Bill, yet the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends ignored them.
§ Mr. Kynoch
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and I recognise that the Opposition put forward cases on behalf of organisations such as Enable, on behalf of children, on behalf of children's panels, and so on. However, the Opposition have not accepted that within the Bill as drafted my right hon. Friend and his Ministers have allowed the flexibility for the new councils to provide the services in the best possible way for their constituents.
The hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) does not accept that what may be a good structure in the central belt is not necessarily the best structure in the north-east of Scotland. I commend my right hon. Friend's proposal for the north-east, which is now clear in the Bill. The Bill will 232 give us a single-tier authority big enough to provide the services in the area, and big enough to command the highly qualified staff that will be required to deliver those services, but one which will, at the same time, be able to decentralise to provide local services.
§ Mr. Jimmy Wray (Glasgow, Provan)
Will the hon. Gentleman retract his statement that the Opposition lied? We have made it clear that where water is concerned there are no ifs, no buts and no whats. We do not want privatisation; we do not want franchising; we do not want quangos.
§ Mr. Kynoch
What I said about the Opposition's attitude to water relates clearly to the fact that the Secretary of State has said many times—as have the Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State for Scotland, my hon. Friends the Members for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) and for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) in Committee—that water privatisation is not on the agenda. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood said that Scottish Water would not be privatised by the front door, by the back door or by any other door. That fact has been stated on innumerable occasions, yet the Opposition still distort it, and the people of Scotland do not know what to believe.
I argued strongly—and the hon. Member for Hamilton has accepted the argument—that the provisions in clause 79 concerning disconnections have made it virtually impossible to privatise Scottish Water. The prospect is not on.
§ Mr. George Robertson
I did not say that it was virtually impossible to privatise water simply because the Government had included a provision with regard to disconnections; I said that it would make privatisation much more difficult. But the Government have never been prevented by such difficulties in the past and they will not be prevented in the future either. During the election campaign, the Government promised that they would not extend the scope of value added tax, but they have now extended it to domestic fuel. Why should we believe their promises about water, any more than their promises about VAT?
§ Mr. Kynoch
If the hon. Gentleman had been present earlier this afternoon, he would have got a response to that: it was never referred to.
I shall draw my remarks to a close by saying that the Bill is nearing its completion in this House and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) said, going on to another phase in another place. It is important that we encourage local authorities which thus far have not co-operated with the Government during the passage of the Bill to co-operate now in the interests of the people of Scotland.
In Grampian and the north-east of Scotland, the Association of District Councils in Grampian, under the current chairmanship of Councillor Doreen Ewing, convenor of Kincardine and Deeside district council, has already started talking in outline about the way forward under single-tier authorities, but it has been thwarted in taking the matter much further by the non-co-operation of Grampian regional council. I implore my right hon. Friend to do whatever he can to encourage the new administration in Grampian region to co-operate with his Department by providing the necessary information to enable it, in turn, to give the financial information back to the existing 233 councillors in the area, thus enabling them to plan the way forward. It is in the best interests of the people of Scotland that the Bill should go forward as smoothly and as quickly as possible.
§ Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)
First, I associate myself with the comments of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) in extending sympathy to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), the Under-Secretary of State, on his recent sad bereavement and I am sure that I speak on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends in doing so.
It seemed that the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch) was unable to answer the point made by the hon. Member for Hamilton that the Government completely deceived the electorate about their intentions on value added tax and extending the VAT base. The hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside cannot now understand why the people of Scotland have difficulty believing what the Secretary of State said on water privatisation. The credibility of Tory Members and Ministers in Scotland is so low that if a Scottish Tory said that snow was white, most Scots would want to suspend judgment until next winter so as to check for themselves. That is the sort of loss of credibility that Tory Members have suffered, and they cannot complain if the people will not believe at first hand what they say.
The Bill is a thoroughly bad Bill. It is unwanted, it is ill thought out and it is anti-democratic. It is true that during its passage in Committee and on Report a number of boundary changes were made which my hon. Friends and I wished to see. We wished to see the restoration of Westhill to Aberdeenshire—we welcome the conversion of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) to that move—the restoration of Berwickshire to its proper place in the Borders, the establishment of a separate council for Inverclyde, and the restoration of Ralston to Renfrewshire. Those changes are eloquent testimony to the power of Liberal Democrat success at the ballot box. On this Bench, however, the test never was and never would be the niceties of boundary lines. Placing Westhill in Aberdeen city or in Aberdeenshire matters little if neither authority has power to deal effectively with local issues affecting the area. The real test is whether the Bill will strengthen and improve the quality of local democracy and by that test it fails miserably.
The Bill is unwanted because there is no real democratic mandate for it. On occasions when Tory Members have quoted—as they have done today—from the manifestos of the Scottish Opposition parties citing support for single-tier local government throughout Scotland, they have conveniently ignored the context of a home rule Parliament in which those commitments were made. Indeed, the exclusively Scottish issue of Scottish local government should be determined in a Scottish Parliament.
Nor can the results of the local elections on 5 May be taken as an endorsement of the provisions of the Bill. Even in Aberdeen, the Tory party came in fourth place with only 16.4 per cent. of the vote. If that is the kind of result that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South regards as a ringing endorsement of the Government's proposals, I hope that it will be repeated at the next general election.
§ Mr. Kynoch
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way on that point. Perhaps he will point out to his friends on the Labour Benches that the Labour party actually lost four seats in Aberdeen city.
§ Mr. Wallace
I am happy to take the opportunity to say that the Liberal Democrats did well in Aberdeen city. Among the issues on which our campaign was based were the Government's proposals for local government and for the future of water and sewerage services, so the Conservative failure at the ballot box shows what the people really think of the proposals.
In Grampian region, the number of Tory councillors is now down to single figures in a region which their party controlled for eight years, and there is not one Tory councillor left in Fife, where the Tory party is even in a worse position than the Communist party even though it got 10 per cent. of the vote. Perhaps if Tory Members want to join us in campaigning for proportional representation —that is not a feature of the Bill, which shows once again that the Bill is undemocratic—we would certainly welcome their conversion.
The water and sewerage provisions in the Bill are unwanted. People know that the issue is about quangos. Certainly, my experience during the local elections in different parts of Scotland showed that the people clearly understood what the issue was about—it was about taking responsibility out of the hands of elected councillors and putting it into the hands of placemen and placewomen. A vital service which has been in municipal hands for many years is disappearing out of the hands of those with elected responsibility. Having travelled throughout Scotland, I cannot claim to have been deafened by any clamour to pass the Bill today.
The Bill is also ill thought out. My hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) served diligently on the Committee on behalf of my party's interests. On many occasions, I found him in his office suffering from frustration and disbelief at how ill equipped Ministers had been to respond to detailed probing on various aspects of the Bill, not only in response to partisan points that were being made, but on matters of substance relating to the delivery of important services. I recall one evening going to watch the proceedings of the Committee from the public benches and seeing the Under-Secretary of State stand up and, in response to a question or an intervention from the hon. Member for Hamilton, contradict a Government amendment that he had just moved. I accept that one can make mistakes late at night, but the thing that really worried me was that the Under-Secretary of State did not realise that there was a contradiction, which shows how little understanding Ministers have of what they are trying to do in the Bill.
Today, we heard the Secretary of State say that joint boards would not confuse the electorate—we would all know that it was a responsibility of the councils. It is not so many years ago—it must be a number of years because the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) was the Member for Edinburgh, South and a Scottish Office Minister at the time—that I went to see the hon. Gentleman about a joint board for the police in the northern constabulary where, clearly, most of the members who came from Highland region were trying to make decisions which would adversely affect the Islands interests and 235 where the locally elected councillors for the Islands had only limited powers. Joint boards will cause confusion—that has been underestimated by the Secretary of State.
Hon. Members who were in the House last Tuesday will recall the hon. Members for Midlothian (Mr. Clarke) and for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) asking about the consequences of water no longer being pumped from disused mines. Not only did the Secretary of State seem to have difficulty answering the question; he appeared unaware that it was even a problem. There are a number of such issues on which I am sure that there will be problems when the Bill is enacted.
In the same debate, the Secretary of State was asked why there were only three authorities instead of four or five. We are still waiting for an answer. All that we get is a bold assertion that that is what it says in the Minister's brief. Unlike previous restructuring, this reform or restructuring of local government has not been preceded by an independent commission or detailed analysis; nor does it proceed on a generally consensual basis. That does not bode well for the Bill's implementation, because even with good will it is likely to drive down morale, especially among staff whose future employment and conditions are still in doubt.
§ Mr. Wallace
As the hon. Member for Linlithgow says, it has done so already.
Perhaps most important, the Bill is anti-democratic. The transfer of water and sewerage services from elected to non-elected hands is, beyond doubt, an undemocratic reform. To pile more than 180 measures on top of the 160 measures that have already been introduced by the Government to transfer power and responsibility from local to central Government is in itself fundamentally anti-democratic.
Conservative Members ought to be aware that the powers given to the Secretary of State by order could be used by a Secretary of State from another party. If an incoming Secretary of State for Scotland chose to use them to clear the placemen and placewomen out of the water authorities and replace them with elected councillors, he or she would have my full support.
Above all else, the Government have abused the language by saying that the Bill will be a shot in the arm for local democracy. It is an abuse of the English language because they are doing one thing and claiming that it is the opposite. Most important, they have not listened, learnt or changed, especially in the light of the Strathclyde referendum.
In a letter to the president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on 22 December, the Prime Minister said of the measure, with particular reference to water:The Bill will shortly begin its parliamentary scrutiny. That will provide the opportunity for both principle and detail to be publicly debated and at the end of the day Parliament will decide what is to become law. That is the right approach and one which allows Scottish opinion to be given expression through Members of Parliament.It is evident that Scottish opinion has not been given such expression.
The most significant contribution to our discussions last week came from the hon. Member for Linlithgow, who said during our debate on water: 236The issue will become the attitude of people in Scotland towards the Union. Because of political history I, of all people, am empowered to tell him"—the Secretary of State—
that if he goes ahead he must not start lamenting when the Union turns sour."—[Official Report, 17 May 1994; Vol.243, c. 725.]Neither I nor my party want Scotland to go down a costly road to independence, but we should reflect on the fact that the threat to the Union in this century did not come from the parties of home rule but from intransigent Unionists—and that is still the case today. When the then Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, moved the Government of Ireland Bill in 1912, he said:We are content to delegate local matters to the different constituent units. However well we may transact … our common and Imperial affairs, we must perpetually bungle and mismanage the affairs of each unit. That, Sir, is what Home Rule, as we understand it, and federation as we are going to pursue it, means for the people of this country."—[Official Report, 9 May 1912; Vol.38, c. 700.]This Bill is today's monument to Westminster's continuing bungled and mismanaged government of Scotland.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)
I shall not speak at great length, but that does not mean that I do not have strong views on a number of matters.
First, we should recognise that much consultation has taken place. In Committee, many hours were spent reviewing the Bill and considering its detail, so no one can say that the House did not give it adequate consideration.
I am concerned because the Bill is important and has massive constitutional implications. The attitude that the Labour party demonstrated throughout the Committee stage can only be described as humbug. Labour Members want to establish a Scottish Parliament, or whatever it is to be called; I should have thought that they would agree that the measures contained in the Bill would make it easier for an incoming Government to do just that. That is certainly true of all the powers given to non-elected bodies, which could easily be transferred to an incoming Scottish Parliament.
I was concerned from the outset, but not because I am opposed to the principle, as I support single-tier unitary authorities. I know that in Tayside, Perth and Kinross, Angus and also Dundee people are happy to have such authorities. I shall not speak for other areas, but I can speak about those with some authority. We were also satisfied that the arguments on boundaries were listened to and acted upon. There is therefore no doubt that anyone who is genuinely interested in the well-being or future good government of Scotland would recognise that the principle of single-tier unitary authorities was accepted by all. One runs into problems over matters that have to be dealt with outside the smaller, new unitary authorities. They quite properly caused considerable debate. There is no doubt that some of the debate was motivated by concern about job preservation, but much was motivated by concern about the provision of services and the Committee had to deal with that.
Because of the circumstances in which the Bill came about and the pledges given before the general election, I believed that the Government would produce a Bill which —one hopes—will become an Act and establish unitary authorities. The Government will have delivered their pledge.
237 I hope that when we reach saner times we shall reconsider how we deliver services and make the people delivering them accountable. If we do not do so, we shall provide the very set-up that an incoming Labour Administration would welcome, if Labour ever get elected —I am not one of those who think that the next general election is lost—
§ Mr. Walker
Or won, but I am concerned with losing it. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand that.
The recent election results were serious and ought not to be ignored. Anyone who thinks that they can take a flippant view of the results is not being realistic. I remind Opposition Members, however, that I have listened for many years to them telling me that an incoming Labour Government would do such and such, but such a Government never came to pass. I have also listened to the views of separatists, but their predictions have not come to pass either.
One thing that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and I probably agree on is that the structures created by the Bill have constitutional implications. My party should consider that and deal with those implications before it is too late.
§ Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)
The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) seemed to believe that the Bill, if it is enacted, would make it easier to create a Scottish Parliament. Whether that is true or not, it is no excuse for dismantling Scottish local government services and every system in such a desultory and unsatisfactory way.
It is inevitable that, after all the talk today, the Government will produce their majority and the Bill will be hammered through, as it was hammered through in Committee with 102 defeats for Scotland. It will pass into law against the wishes of the Scottish people. There is no wish for this change in Scotland. There is a wish for a consensus view and a well-thought-out change in local government that will last well into the 21st century and not merely 20 years, as the last change has done. The Government have not produced such a change, and we are witnessing a wasted opportunity.
The Bill has no consensus, except perhaps against it —it is not even perhaps; it has a consensus against it. Because of that and its relationship with the Tory party it will not last.
§ Mr. Stewart
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that his district council, which is SNP-controlled, is against the proposal for a single-tier Angus?
§ Mr. Welsh
Had there been proper consultation, or consultation similar to that undertaken by Wheatley—or an ounce of the thought that he and his commission put into the matter—we would have had a chance of a proper local government system that would be agreed.
The Minister mentioned Angus district council. The district is a good size and will make an excellent council. One hopes that it will continue to be controlled by the Scottish National party and to be one of the best run in the country. That is no excuse, however, for destroying the system in the way that the Government have done, without 238 consulting the people. It is certainly no excuse for stealing Scotland's water assets, which is totally against the wishes of the people in the way that they have done.
After all the talk in Committee and on Report, the Bill is basically unchanged, apart from some boundary changes. It is as the Government always wanted it to be, but as the Scottish people did not. Concessions such as retaining the title of firemaster are no consolation for the loss of services and the attack on Scottish local government contained in this atrocious and unacceptable Bill.
These are Tory changes which are inextricably linked with the Conservative party. They have been made by and for the political convenience of the Conservative party. It is a Tory measure from start to finish, and it will be seen as such. It simply will not stand the test of the future.
There is no popular support for moving from a service-providing local government system to that of mere enabling authorities. The opposite is true. The Scottish people have already shown that they wish water services to remain as a service provision by local authorities. There has been no real consultation, and it is ludicrous for the Secretary of State to pretend that there has. There has not, and the whole of Scotland knows it.
There has been no commission in Scotland to take a proper look at the situation. All we have had is the imposition of the Government's own views. Certainly there has been no consensus, except in creating outright opposition both at local elections and general elections against the Government and the proposals. The Bill is basically an ill-thought-out botch-up. The boundaries it proposes defy analysis. They are not based on Wheatley's city regions, and they are not based on the old counties.
Can the Minister explain how it happened? We certainly did not hear any rational analysis from the Secretary of State of the basis on which the Government approached the boundary changes. They vary in size from the Highlands—geographically the same size as Wales—to tiny Clackmannan. There is apparently no rhyme or reason to the decisions.
The Government are simply tacking and changing for short-term gain without any overall principle apart from their own party political self-interest. The end product has been not a simplified unitary system at all, but a more complex multi-tiered, various-sized, central-Government-dominated set-up. The Government cannot hide from their responsibility for creating this mess of a Bill.
The rushed timetable was self-inflicted; the Government chose to rush the measure through—nobody else. The motivation of the Treasury rules was also self-inflicted, as was the massive fiscal deficit which overshadows everything else, and the previous lack of investment in water and sewerage services. On all counts, Scottish local government is being made to pay for the Government's past policy mistakes.
The Government—and no one else—are to blame for the failure to provide statutory directors of education and social work committees.
§ Mr. Gallie
The hon. Gentleman has just blamed the Government for the failure to maintain and provide reasonable water and sewerage systems in Scotland. Have not water and sewerage been under the control of local authorities since the turn of the century? Surely theirs is the failure, and the Government are trying to address that.
§ Mr. Welsh
The hon. Member clearly does not know anything about capital consents. Local government has a superb record of supplying quality services at low cost to the Scottish people. They understand that, and have asked the local authorities to continue. The hon. Gentleman is throwing democracy to one side and denying the 1.2 million people in Strathclyde who have said no to the changes which his Government are forcing, through thanks to the nature of this Parliament and the Union. We will see that tonight when the votes are counted.
The refusal to have statutory directors of education and social work, statutory social work committees and directors of social work is simply a continued attack on the poor and vulnerable in Scotland, and that should not be happening.
I must say also that the people who brought us the poll tax and who are taking water services out of Scotland have rejected seat belts in school buses. I have never heard before of somebody writing a third suicide note, but the Government have just done so.
The Bill would allow the barbarity of warrant sales to be inflicted for water debts, and advocates three-year, short-term electoral cycles.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)
Any council in Scotland can impose within its contracts with school buses conditions and stipulations which make it absolutely clear that seat belts can be made mandatory. The hon. Gentleman is totally misleading the House on that point.
§ Mr. Welsh
I do not think I am. Any council can do that, and Tayside has just done it under the Scottish National party. The point is that the Government could have made sure that every council had those powers, by putting the matter on the face of the Bill. The Minister has abdicated his responsibility. He could have put the matter on the face of the Bill.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
A council does have powers to put that in its contracts and, if it wishes, it is strongly encouraged to do so. We acknowledge that there has been public pressure for councils to do just that.
§ Mr. Welsh
When the Government want to make sure of something, they put powers into the Bill, and this Bill is full of Secretary of State's powers. Why did not the Government make sure in this case? They would have had popular support, and support from both sides of the House. When the Government want to abdicate their responsibilities, they run the other way. There can be no excuses. The Government turned down an amendment that would have made sure that seat belts were installed in school buses. The Government made a mistake in not doing so.
The Bill reduces Scotland's elected representatives to the lowest proportion per head in the whole of western Europe, and replaces them with more placemen and women, hand-picked by the Tories in quangos such as the three giant water boards. So much for decentralisation. The Government create three unelected and unaccountable giant quangos and destroy elected, democratic and accountable local authorities.
The Bill multiplies centralised power and, while the Government talk about subsidiarity at a European level, they centralise power from local government in Scotland. The water services proposals are plainly wrong, unfair and undemocratic. There has been no attempt whatsoever to 240 tackle the problems involved. Debt interest payments will continue to cost more each year than water service provision.
There is no green dowry in sight, so what was good enough for England will not be good enough for Scotland. Scottish taxpayers who have found that their money has been used to sweeten privatisation in England will not find a similar deal in Scotland from the Government.
§ Mr. Kynoch
The hon. Gentleman is talking as if water is being privatised. There is nothing to give a dowry on, as water is still in the public sector.
§ Mr. Welsh
I know that hon. Members want to speak, so I shall be as fast as I can. The hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch) and his Front-Bench Members have repeated promises tonight. I remind him that, in 1984, Neil Macfarlane, then Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, said:We have absolutely no intention of privatising the water industry. The Government have no plans to urge that upon the water authorities. There has been some press speculation about it in the past, but there is no intention to do so."—[Official Report, 19 December 1984; Vol. 70, c. 457.]Two years later, another Minister—the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) the then Secretary of State for the Environment, said:In the last six years we have made the water authorities fit and ready to join the private sector …Privatisation is the next logical step."—[Official Report, 5 February 1986; Vol. 91, c. 288.]We have heard all those promises before, and they were broken. Why should we trust the Government any more now than when they made the promises in the past?
The only rational conclusion must be that any future investments in water services will be paid for by vastly higher water charges imposed by the three unelected, unaccountable quangos, which will meet in private.
The Bill is a charter for the Government to steal Scotland's massive water resources prior to privatisation. The Secretary of State for Scotland is our very own Ceaucescu. When 97 per cent. of voters do not want the changes, he just ignores them. No doubt he would equally ignore them if 100 per cent. of Scots were opposed to the plans.
The right hon. Gentleman takes a sort of President Marcos approach to democracy—consult, then ignore. His own party has twigged what is going on. If the Secretary of State does not have the Scottish people on his side, at least he has England and the Union. We will find that out tonight when English Members who have not been present turn out and vote the measure through, against the clear wishes of the Scottish people.
The Tories cannot hide for ever,and they will eventually have to face the electorate again. This has been a shameful process in which an unwanted, unnecessary and ill-thought-out affront to Scotland is being forced upon our people. An opportunity to provide real democratic local government—the services which the Scottish people really want—has been thrown to one side by this dogmatic Government. They have a great deal to answer for, and answer they will.
Mr. Phil Gaulle (Ayr)
It is a great pleasure to speak at the final stage of the Bill, before it goes to another place. I look forward to discussing it again once it returns, and hope that it will be a fairly swift return.
241 Having listened carefully to the words of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I think that it is a great pity that he could not find a place on the Committee. It was dastardly of Opposition Members, recognising the requirement of the Secretary of State to represent Scotland's views at Cabinet level, deliberately to keep my right hon. Friend off the Committee. However, having seen how my right hon. Friend destroyed the arguments of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) before he rose to speak, I well understand why the Labour party did not want my right hon. Friend on the Committee.
We had many long and full debates in Committee. What emerged was that the Government had no intention of gerrymandering boundaries. It was up to individual Members to represent local views. Sadly, Opposition Members hung back on that and did not fight their corner, with the exception of the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), who fought the battle for the Borders and won. He presented his arguments well, and persuaded the Minister to listen to sound and sustained argument. It is just a shame that Labour Members did not follow suit.
I have two reservations about the present boundaries. The first is in the Fife area. The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) used the word "crazy" in virtually every contribution he made. He defended the requirement for Fife to have a single-tier authority based on the region. I wonder at the wisdom of the Government in accepting that option. I hope that we do not live to regret making that decision.
The second issue on which I have slight regrets is the sound arguments by Clydesdale district for a single-tier authority based in that area. I am saddened that the hon. Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood), perhaps bludgeoned into submission by Opposition Front-Bench Members, did not defend the right of those in Clydesdale to achieve a single-tier local authority that would have been larger than the Clackmannan authority that has since been established.
There has been wide debate on a number of issues, including school transport. We heard about the concerns of parents throughout Scotland, and of the Catholic Church. Measures were taken to recognise the problems that would arise. The hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) suggested that the -Government should have legislated to make local authorities fit seat belts in school buses. That is centralisation. Throughout the Bill's Committee stage, Opposition Members argued against centralisation. Are they now saying that, if the Government do not legislate, local authorities will not achieve? Surely the Government are right to give local authorities the responsibilities and powers, and let them get on with the job.
§ Mr. Welsh
Hon. Members on both sides of the House want seat belts fitted on minibuses. The Government defeated an amendment that would have ensured that seat belts were fitted on school buses. When the Government want something, they are quick to use that power, but they have not been willing to do so in this case. Individual local authorities have that power, and the SNP-controlled authority in Tayside has introduced seat belts. As in ordinary automobiles, one way to ensure that seat belts are fitted is to pass such an amendment.
§ Mr. Gallie
The amendment was illogical, as it concentrated on school buses. Local authorities use coaches for a range of options. The amendment dealt with 242 school buses only in Scotland, whereas we should look at the position UK and Europewide. That is currently happening and, before long, legislation will probably be introduced to meet that requirement.
We heard many stories about children's panels, but little about the downside. I have attended the hearings of children's panels in my area and am acquainted with some of their requirements and problems. Much of the resentment arose from the fact that too great a clamp was put on them by social work directors.
§ Mr. Gallie
It is certainly not rubbish in Ayrshire; it is up to the hon. Gentleman to say whether it is rubbish in Fife. But that viewpoint came across to me when I attended the panels' area council in my constituency.
Water has been key area of controversy throughout our debates. I know that my hon. Friends were aware of Strathclyde's referendum, but were they aware of a report on water commissioned by Strathclyde regional council?
Sir William Halcrow was asked to examine the management of water structures and provision within Strathclyde. What have we heard about that? What were the findings? The report found that, if water was to remain in the public sector, it needed to mimic the commercial organisation of other management structures. For that matter, it needed to mimic the management structures of working arrangements set up in the privatised industries in England and Wales.
The electorate of Strathclyde heard not a dicky bird about that. The council went ahead with the referendum—
§ Mr. Gallie
No, not for the moment. I am under some pressure to continue, because the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) wants to speak.
Strathclyde council held back the report from the electorate. Opposition Members shout about open government, but, when it comes to doing something practical about it when they are in government and have an opportunity to do so, they hide their findings because they do not suit their purpose.
§ Mr. Gallie
No, I shall not give way.
Strathclyde council distorted the facts. It maintained the belief that water would be privatised, and got the result it wanted in the referendum.
§ Mr. George Robertson
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to make assertions to the House that an elected local authority hid from its public the conclusions of a report, whereas that local authority had a press conference on that report? Is not the hon. Gentleman in danger of getting precious close to misleading the House?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)
Hon. Members are entirely responsible for what they say in the Chamber. It has nothing to do with the Chair, so long as their remarks do not impugn other hon. Members.
§ Mr. Gallie
I was quoting from the Scottish Sunday press. As Opposition Members always seem to believe 243 everything they read in the newspapers, I may have been marginally gullible—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Hamilton is right.
At the weekend, I checked how many of the people who responded to the referendum had heard about the Halcrow report, and not one knew what I was talking about. The news of the report came as a complete surprise. Why did not Strathclyde council issue the information with the referendum? Why did it not give the facts? Opposition Members know the answer as well as I do—it was because it did not suit its purpose.
§ Mr. George Robertson
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for finally giving way. Will he tell the House that the Halcrow report said that the water industry was suffering from under-investment but that that was directly caused because capital consents to do so had not been given by central Government? If, as I have said, the Halcrow report was released and there was a press conference, what does it have to say about the assertions that the hon. Gentleman has just made?
§ Mr. Gallie
I recognise full well that central Government makes a lot of demands upon the national borrowing requirement. This country is already deep in debt. Public sector borrowing is excessive at the present time. It is better that cash is found from other sources. That is the intention of the Bill as far as water is concerned. I approve of that.
Drawing to a close—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Perhaps I will continue for a wee while longer. I refer to the words of the hon. Member for Hamilton a few minutes ago. He suggested that the Government were vandalising local government and tearing apart structures which had served Scotland well for 20 years. That is open to question. In my view, Strathclyde regional council never gelled or registered with a large part of the constituency.
If the hon. Member's view is to stand, I wonder how he will reflect upon this fact. As I understand it, Opposition Members opposed tooth and nail the setting up of the structures of which he now supposedly regrets the demise. I suggest to hon. Members that, in 50 years' time, people will look back and feel happy about their accountable and responsible local government units. They will be grateful to the Conservative party for insisting upon the reforms that it introduced in 1994.
§ Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale)
Obviously the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) had a preview of the speech by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie). When he referred to humbug, he was obviously referring to the speech to come rather than those which had been made previously.
I heard a comment about the abuse of language. We have heard abuse of language by Government Members tonight when they have talked about democracy and accountability. The Bill will leave Scotland with 1,200 elected councillors and 5,000 people on quangos—and they talk about democracy and accountability! That is certainly an abuse of language.
The hon. Member for Ayr briefly mentioned the boundary question. I think it is a bit of a nonsense, and that is where the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) did 244 himself and the country a great disservice. Quite frankly, the Bill cannot be taken seriously by anyone who knows anything about local government. It is all about politics and gerrymandering. From day one it was about politics and gerrymandering, as it has been throughout all its stages. When it finally becomes an Act, it will be the most political, gerrymandered Act ever to go through this place. That is a fact.
I know that we are pressed for time in the debate and I have one or two other comments to make, but I have to mention the hon. Gentleman's comments about seat belts in school buses. I did not intervene in the speech of the hon. Member for Ayr because I thought that he was taking too much time and I did not want to give him another opportunity to speak more humbug about the problem.
The hon. Gentleman obviously does not understand the problem. I listened to the Minister's intervention as well and, if that was the sum total of his assumptions about the problem, he does not have a clue. I was not of that view until I heard the interventions in the speech of the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh).
The hon. Member for Ayr referred to allowing local authorities to spend money and agree to it in a contract. But the issue is about protecting every child in Scotland when he or she is travelling to and from school. It is not about leaving it to discretion. That is the argument.
I deliberately tabled an amendment to an education clause in the Bill because it is not a transport question which is separate from the real problem. I wanted to address the problem of getting our children to and from school safely. To do that, one has to accept that it is a problem for education.
When I moved my amendment I said that, as we make it a legal obligation under education law for parents to send their children to school, why can we not protect those children in transporting them to and from school? When it comes to a question of safety and making seat belts compulsory, the Government run behind the Commission and say that they cannot do anything because of European Community law. When I moved my amendment, I quoted the Commissioner who said that, as a member state of the European Union, we have powers within our own sovereignty—we have heard quite a lot about that—to protect our children with seat belts in school buses. That is why I moved the amendment.
It is no good Conservative Members, who trooped through the lobbies last week to vote down the amendment, looking for excuses. It was a disgrace. It was an opportunity for us to take a lead in this area. I cannot accept what the Minister said from the Dispatch Box last week about it being a United Kingdom problem. It was not a UK problem when Scotland got the poll tax a year before England and Wales. It was not a UK problem when the Government, thankfully, conceded and made it illegal to cut off water supplies. That was different from what happened in England as well.
We had an opportunity—and the Minister knows it—to pass an amendment to the Bill which would have made it compulsory to protect children while they were travelling to and from school. Tragically, the Minister ran away from it. When the Department of Transport releases its report, we will see that it is full of excuses to do nothing. That is all we will hear. The Minister can intervene if I have said anything that he wants to correct, but I am sure that he does not want to do so.
245 On the question of tourism, the Government have taken a nonsensical decision to amalgamate the Clyde Valley tourist board with the City of Glasgow. How can the Government say seriously that it is in the best interests of tourism to amalgamate a city culture with a rural culture and try to address the problems of both? They are different cultures with their own Interests to serve. Amalgamating the two will create great problems.
Government Members have done their party no favours, but I am not here to advise them about how to represent their party better. The hon. Member for Ayr said that the Conservatives in Scotland have listened to the people. What about the 86 per cent. who voted against the privatisation of water? That is why we put down our amendments: to stop privatisation. We are the listening party. If the Government can be admired for anything—I cannot think of anything off the top of my head to admire them for—it is for their gall. If that is not gall, I do not know what is.
If this is a new listening party, it should accept that more than 80 per cent. of people are against the privatisation of water—and I suggest that the figure is higher than that. I also remind it that more than 90 per cent. of the people want a Scottish Parliament. It has not listened to that for the past eight or nine years. These questions must be addressed.
The hon. Gentleman should not try to kid us by saying that the Government are listening. They are not listening. They are not considering in any way the true interests of the Scottish people, and they will have to account for it at the ballot box.
§ Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Govan)
I note with some regret that the hon. Members for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson), for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) and for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) have not deigned to grace us with their presence during the debate. They formed the Government's majority in Committee. Without them, the Government would not have put through the vast majority of the motions that they carried in Committee. Their interest in Scottish local government is so considerable that they have not bothered to turn up for the debate today. That illustrates the way in which the Government have proceeded on the Bill. They have not bothered to listen to the views of the Scottish people or of the majority of their elected representatives. They have been prepared ruthlessly to use a majority to ram through policies that were ill considered, badly thought out and designed simply to promote partisan advantage.
I wish to mention one aspect of local government that was inadequately touched on earlier.
§ Mr. Davidson
I want to proceed because I know that a number of other hon. Members want to speak.
At present, local authority councillors are overworked and grossly underpaid for the valuable work that they undertake on behalf of the community. The position will worsen as a result of the changes that the Government are introducing, because they intend to reduce the total number of councillors in Scotland.
It is not enough to say that everyone who does the job of a councillor is a volunteer. Those men and women take on an important social role on behalf of their communities. 246 They suffer mightily as a result, in financial and in family terms, and they are inadequately resourced for it. I believe that the Government should take the opportunity to announce that they intend adequately to resource the payment to elected councillors as part of the introduction of any new local government system.
The burden that councillors will have to bear in the new authorities will be greater because, not only will they have to make policy decisions as they did in the past, but they will be in the front line when they are confronted by the public to explain why services are being reduced at a time of increased need and decreased provision. They will have to carry the burden of the decisions which we make here, and which, from the Scottish side, the vast majority are forced to make against their will.
The present local government finance system results in councillors who are unemployed being virtually unem-ployable, those who are in employment losing the opportunities for promotion and those who are in work losing money as a result of broken time payments and losing pension payments for the future. None of that is adequately taken into account. The Government should make adequate recompense to councillors. No one becomes a local councillor for the money, but that is no reason why councillors should be penalised financially in the way that they are.
I enjoyed the Secretary of State's well-presented, witty speech. It was the House of Commons as vaudeville—as theatre. However, we should not allow the style of the Secretary of State's delivery to mask the content. The content was every bit as ruthless as that of any speech from the Government throughout the discussion of Scottish local government. It is a clear attempt to gerrymander the local government map. It is a corrupt and dishonest set of proposals, deliberately designed for partisan advantage.
My colleagues and I have a responsibility to the Scottish public to continue to repeat that not only were the measures drawn up in a fundamentally flawed way, but their motivation is alien to the public spirit that has operated throughout Scotland for many years. Although we have had disagreements in the past, I do not believe that such a nakedly corrupt set of measures has ever issued from a Government. The measures are motivated by malice against local government by the Government, deliberately designed to destroy what they have found it impossible to control. As they cannot win elections, they have decided that they want to emasculate local government. They want to give the powers and responsibilities to their appointees —their chums, their golf partners, their acquaintances, their relations—in a way that the vast majority of the Scottish public reject.
We on the Opposition Benches are united in opposition. Although there are nuances of difference between the Liberals, the nationalists and Labour Members, we have been united on the major issues. It is important to recognise that, with Scottish public opinion behind us, we stopped the privatisation of water and ensured that the Government introduced a measure to stop water disconnections. Nevertheless, I believe, and the majority of Scottish people believe, that, given a chance, the Government will privatise water at the earliest opportunity. It will be the responsibility of elected representatives in the House and in Scotland to ensure that the pressure is kept on the Government; to ensure that they are not allowed to go down the franchising route, which is a step on the road to privatisation. The Scottish people do not believe the 247 Government when they say that they have no intention now to privatise. They think that, given half a chance, the Government would do it in a flash.
I regret that we did not stop more of the Government's proposals. The costs of reorganisation will come out of services. That will result in worse provision for the people in need of those services. It will result in job losses. I do not simply mourn those job losses because of the disruption to the people involved; I regret them because they will result in dereliction of the duty of local government to provide first-class services. We are having dislocation and disruption which is unwanted and entirely unnecessary. The Government will pay a price for their naked exercise of power—as they have paid a price for it —in the ballot box.
The Secretary of State's speech was not an effort to persuade; it was simply a reiteration of Government policy, delivered tongue in cheek on many occasions with a wee joke and a smile, as if to say that he knew that he would win the vote at the end of the day and did not need to bother taking seriously anything that was said by anyone else.
The dive in the Conservatives' share of the vote in the regional elections to less than 14 per cent. causes us to worry for the future of democracy in Scotland. I was on Strathclyde regional council for several years. I notice, with some regret, that the Conservatives are now down to three out of 103 elected representatives on that council. When I joined, the Conservatives had about two dozen. In such circumstances, a real political debate is possible. I recognise that the Conservatives represent a political current in Scotland and that their views need to be adequately discussed and expressed. However, the viciousness and the extremities of dogma that they are pursuing have driven the Conservatives' vote down.
We ought to consider what has happened in previous Euro-elections, as similar elections are about to take place. In 1979, the Conservatives won five of the eight seats in Scotland. In 1984, they went down to two. In 1989, they went down to none at all and now no one seriously believes that the Conservatives have any prospect of winning a seat in Scotland at the coming elections. I do not believe that, if the Tories thought that they had any prospect of winning Euro-seats in Scotland, they would have proceeded with the local government reorganisation. They have given up, and the way in which they are prepared ruthlessly to use an English majority to ride roughshod over the views of the people of Scotland bodes ill for Scottish democracy.
I hope that the Bill continues to be fought in Scotland. I hope that it is fought in the Lords, even though I want that place to be abolished. The Government should suffer for what they are doing to Scotland tonight.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
I shall ask four succinct questions.
First, on a relatively minor matter, what will be said in the Lords as to whether South Queensferry is to be in West Lothian or in Edinburgh? Will there be a Government amendment?
Secondly, will the Government place in the Library of the House of Lords their view on the background to the figures with which they challenged the Convention of 248 Scottish Local Authorities? They owe it to COSLA, to David Chynoweth, to Albert Tait and to many other people who are non-political but extremely professionally capable, to show where, according to the Government, they have gone wrong in the COSLA calculations. That information ought to be put into the Lords Library; it is the honourable thing to do.
Thirdly, will the Government place in the Library of the House of Lords a statement of their thinking on the very real problem of strategic planning? This matter is central to areas such as West Lothian, where there is overlapping development. Surely some thought has gone into that.
Fourthly, the Government owe it to us to deposit in the Library of the House of Lords a statement of their thinking on the future of specialist services, especially in relation to social work. For example, as we learned time and again in Committee, many services for the vulnerable can be provided only on a very large scale. If the Bill reaches the statute book, people will very soon be asking where Lothian and Strathclyde are. Much of the help provided by specialist authorities has been taken for granted.
It is the poll tax all over again. We shall see what happens next year, when, I understand from the Government Chief Whip, there will be endless orders—orders on Norfolk, on Somerset, and so on. We shall have all the problems of the English local authorities. It seems to me that once again we in Scotland are the guinea pigs. I think of the memorable words of Enoch Powell: this arrangement has the smell of death about it.
Although I do not want to repeat a point that was made by the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), I must say to the Secretary of State that I do not believe that it was his intention, by dismantling the structures in Strathclyde and Lothian in particular, to produce solutions very different from those that he might favour for the future of Scotland. But when that happens, let it be on his own head.
§ Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)
As many other hon. Members want to take part in the debate, I do not intend to take up much time. I want to concentrate on a number of issues that the Bill does not address at all.
What is to happen to consumer and trading standards in Strathclyde? We have one of the best consumer groups in the country. Strathclyde's consumer and trading standards department is one of the country's largest and most effective. Last year alone, it dealt with more than 250,000 inquiries. How will the new authorities maintain this capability? The size of the Strathclyde region provides economies of scale that give the consumer and trading standards department unparalleled clout as a consumer watchdog. Without the benefits of size and the corresponding strategic role, it is unlikely that the department's success will be maintained by 12 smaller authorities. Last year, the department helped consumers to recover almost £2 million from unscrupulous traders.
There are 15 money advice centres throughout the region. These provide advice and support for people struggling with debt. The department deals with £1 million of consumer debt each year. Its specialist car fraud unit is unique. That unit is currently investigating 1,300 cases involving alleged car clockers, thereby ensuring value for car buyers, as well as protection for legitimate second-hand 249 car dealers. It is estimated that such fraud costs Strathclyde consumers more than £10 million a year. What is to happen in that area?
Blindcraft—the largest sheltered workshop in Europe —employs 134 blind and disabled people, as well as 87 support staff, and has an annual turnover approaching £4 million. Let us bear in mind what was done to the disabled last week. Once again, that lot opposite will bin them right on to the dole. Strathclyde region gives Blindcraft a subsidy of £1.8 million a year, without which the factory could not survive. In addition, the region is the biggest purchaser of Blindcraft merchandise, buying £2.6 million-worth—more than 50 per cent. of the factory's products—every year. How will Blindcraft survive if Strathclyde goes?
Another vital area that the Bill ignores—one about which I am concerned—is the work of the regional chemist, who is responsible for analysing food, water, consumer products, sewage and industrial waste and for examining other environmental situations. It would be very difficult to split the regional chemist's functions into 12 parts. The specialist equipment and experience could not be supported by smaller authorities. Strathclyde's laboratory—purpose-built recently at a cost of £4 million —is one of only four such laboratories in Scotland, and it is twice as large as all the others combined. On average, the department tests 75,000 samples a year. Apart from the analytical work, a team of trained scientists is on standby to deal with chemical and related emergency incidents. It is estimated that it would cost the 12 smaller authorities an extra £8 million to maintain the current level of service.
Like almost all other Opposition Members, I believe that the Government have got it wrong. What is being done is vindictive. It is disgraceful to dismantle a system that has been working. I am convinced that the smaller authorities will not be able to deliver services of the excellence that has been known in Scotland. It is a disgrace that one of the most successful authorities ever seen in Britain—the one in Strathclyde—is being dismantled. Other hon. Members will be able to speak with authority about the areas that they represent. The one about which I am most concerned is Strathclyde, on whose authority I served with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Davidson). There, I was aware of the provision of excellent services and of the commitment not just of councillors but of officers.
What the Government are doing will be of no help to the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled or industrial concerns. How do they think it will help the people of Scotland? Why do they think we need it? I do not know, and I do not believe that the Government have the answer. Perhaps the number of Tory supporters in work will be increased. Quangos will be stuffed with Tory failed business men making a few bucks at the expense of the many people thrown on to the dole. It is quite clear that, as a result of this measure, many local authority workers will lose their jobs, even though the services that they have been providing will continue to be needed.
We have heard a great deal about water. In this respect, the people of Scotland overwhelmingly reject what the Government are doing. There is no question about that. The Strathclyde referendum should have been a warning to the Government to stop, listen to the people, think and review. They have not done that. They are still blundering along the road. They are still talking about quangos and about appointing placemen to try to run the water 250 authorities. Scotland needs investment in sewerage and in water supplies. The cash should come from central Government. This is what we pay taxes for. People expect to be able to drink clear, fresh water, and they expect sewage to be treated. They do not expect rubbish to be dumped along the road, as is happening in Britain at present.
I want to make a lighthearted but none the less sincere comment. The Secretary of State and his cohorts are the Jack and Jill of Scottish politics, especially when it comes to water:
Ministers should consider what they are giving to the people of Scotland—a crass and empty bucket. They are not providing anything to improve the quality of life or of water in Scotland. They are doing nothing to secure the delivery of services to the elderly and others badly in need or to youngsters at school. Tonight, we should be debating improvements for the people of Scotland, rather than something that will damage them.
- "Jack and Jill went up the hill
- To fetch a pail of water;
- Jack fell down and broke his crown,
- And Jill came tumbling after."
§ Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)
When my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Davidson) mentioned English Members we were joined by a few. I thought that they were taking an interest in local government, but it is obvious from their chatter that the Tea Room is full and that they cannot find anywhere else to carry on their conversations. If the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) were to listen, he might find out something about the idiocy that the Government are trying to perpetrate in Scotland and might bring it to the attention of people in the Lancashire constituency that he currently represents.
I should like to make one positive comment before dealing with the substance of the Bill. It is gratifying that the Secretary of State amended schedule 13 to include the provisions of section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976 to cover the quangos and other bodies that are being set up. It seems that people of all races in Scotland are to be equally abused by the Bill, without discrimination.
I do not mind ideology. But I have heard some distasteful Tory speeches tonight based on distortion. Those distortions will not sit well with the people of Scotland, who know that they are distortions. The Bill's main problem is that it is like an idiot's plan for local government. If one gave a child with no learning ability a set of building blocks on local government and asked him to put it together he might come up with something similar to what the Government have come up with. The Bill is a dislocated series of errors based on prejudices and boundary readjustments to suit the Tory party. It is a dog's breakfast—to use a good Scots phrase—but no dog would swallow it and nor will the people of Scotland.
We were told by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) that political advisers were involved in putting the Bill together. The Government should check whether those advisers were on their side, because the Bill is one of the most disastrous pieces of legislation for the Conservative party. The regional elections were only the beginning of the demise of the Tory party based on that piece of Government stupidity.
251 The Bill is like a jigsaw puzzle that someone buys at a car boot sale, only to find, on opening the box, that half the pieces are missing. We do not know what is to happen to special education or the concessionary fares system. We do not know where the water boards will get their money. We have heard hints that the £3 billion allocated over 15 years from the public sector borrowing requirement may be withdrawn. That should worry people as they do not know how much in water and sewerage charges will have to be paid by the consumer for capital works. We do not know how the joint boards and the loyalties of those who sit on them will work out. We do not know whether people will receive fair allocations across all parts of the joint board areas. Half the pieces of the jigsaw are missing, just as half the Ministers' logic was missing during every debate of our 179 hours of Committee.
Perhaps we should be thankful. In my first speech on the Bill, I said to the Government that if I wanted to be partisan I would encourage them to go ahead with the proposals, which would be disastrous for them. If the Government do not think that the regional council elections showed that I and other hon. Members who said similar things were correct, they must be living in a different political world from mine. Perhaps we should thank the Government for sacrificing their majority on the altar of their ideology. If the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) were a symbol of what the Government meant, he would symbolise a Spartan end, with Conservative Members standing until they were slaughtered one by one. We know that the Secretary of State will not be a Spartan; he will sneak off down south to join his friends in the Conservative party in England whom he is currently serving. I remember the glory days when he said what he would do for the revival of the Conservative party in Scotland. All I say to him is, "Keep it up Ian, keep it up."
The problem is that the people of Scotland will suffer because of the Government's ideology. They will suffer because the weak will not be cared for as local authorities care for them at present. The authorities will have to try to make up the resources as they will have lost between £365 million and £720 million because of this stupid exercise. The Secretary of State, Ministers and advisers were unable to answer the accusation of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy about the cost of this stupid Bill.
The most needy people—those in community care who are already suffering—will be cast out of national health service hospitals into private hospitals and nursing homes. Only the local authorities will stand between them and dire poverty. They will suffer, as will those young people who had a quality future ahead of them, which had been worked for by the regional authorities. They will find themselves in small authorities without resources. The quality of the future of those young people will be much reduced.
The people of Scotland will make the Conservative party pay dearly for the proposals—not the Conservative party in England. I do not mind the fact that the hon. Members for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) and for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) are not present now, as they were in Committee. It was not the Conservatives from England who kept the Government's majority. As the majority of the Committee was reduced to one, it would have taken only one hon. Member—the hon. Member for Tayside, 252 North (Mr. Walker)—to be honest with his conscience and stand with the people of Scotland instead of the Government. It would have taken the hon. Members for Ayr (Mr. Gallie), for Aberdeen, South or for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch)—just one of those Conservative Scottish Members—to cross the Floor. I do not believe the blandishments of the Scottish National party that it was the English who kept the majority—
§ Mr. Connarty
No, I shall not give way.
If just one of the Conservative Scottish Members had crossed the Floor, it would have given the people of Scotland the chance to break this poisoned chalice. Instead, those hon. Members forced the people of Scotland to drink from it. As a result, those hon. Members will lose their seats.
§ Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)
I shall be brief —I have to be as there are just five minutes remaining before the Front-Bench spokesmen start their speeches. In the short time available, I want to congratulate the Secretary of State for Scotland, not on anything that he has said today or done in relation to the Bill but on the fact that last Saturday he had the rare privilege of presenting the Scottish cup to Dundee United when the club won it for the first time in its history, in a magnificent victory over Glasgow Rangers.When the official party was presented to the teams before the kick-off, the Secretary of State had the rare distinction of being booed more loudly by the crowd than Mr. Jim Farry of the Scottish Football Association. Anyone who is booed by a Hampden crown more loudly than Jim Farry is in serious trouble. Hampden had not seen anything like it since Baroness Thatcher came to present the cup at the height of the poll tax fiasco.
The Government should take on board the fact that the argument does not just take place inside the Chamber: it rages back in Scotland. The arrogance that they have shown to the Scottish people time and again results in booing and in the sort of treatment that they receive every time they show their face north of the border. The message for the Conservative Members is that Scotland does not want them—people in Scotland have had enough of them over the past 15 to 16 years. Everyone in Scotland looks forward to the day when we can have a Tory-free Scotland, with a Scottish Parliament and self-determination for our own country.
The Secretary of State's speech was amusing in those parts where he did not intend it to be. One of his funniest lines was when he said that the Bill had caused many problems—of course, it has. First, it caused the collapse of Tory support in the opinion polls in Scotland once Scottish people realised what the Bill was about. The Strathclyde water referendum created problems for the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), who found that 90 per cent. of their own constituents were opposed to what the Tory party was proposing in the Bill.
In the local government elections on 5 May, the Tories were pushed not into fourth place in Scottish politics but into fifth place—behind the independents mentioned by the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch). They were beaten by the Communists in Fife. Communist 253 candidates have a better chance of being elected in Scotland than Tory candidates. I have been a great supporter of the tradition in Fife of electing Communist councillors as I think that they have done a marvellous job on Fife regional council.
The Secretary of State said that he had started out three years ago on a quest to achieve what he called all-purpose local authorities. Who on earth can believe the nonsense that what are being created north of the border are all-purpose authorities? Water and sewerage—one of the main services for which local government is responsible —is being taken away from local authorities in Scotland. No single-tier authority anywhere in Scotland will control the police and fire services—the joint boards will do that. Dundee will not be able to determine the level of policing in Dundee because it will be determined by the majority in Perth, Kinross and Angus, who will decide where the resources are to go within the joint board in Tayside. The same is true for all the social and education services, which will have to be provided by joint committees. The Bill is not creating all-purpose local authorities; the purpose of the Bill is to strip local authorities of their current powers. Everyone in Scotland understands that only too well.
The Minister said that a number of principles underlined the national boundary decisions and the shape of the new single-tier councils in Scotland. The principle that underlined the new boundaries was gerrymandering, which we have seen in other parts of the United Kingdom. In Westminster council—in this very district—the Tory council drove out council tenants and the homeless in order to make way for the well-heeled and better-off Tory voters to take over their accommodation in Westminster. The strategy was targeted at the marginal areas to ensure that the Tories hung on to power in Westminster—the same is happening in Scotland.
I joined Tayside regional council in 1984 when it was the jewel in the Tory crown in Scotland, and 28 of the 46 seats were safely in Tory hands. It was unthinkable that Tayside region should ever drop out of control of the Tory party. I spoke only two weeks ago to John Riddle-Webster, an ex-councillor from Tayside, who first stood for election in 1986. He said that the Tories in Tayside were discussing the forthcoming local election and it never entered their heads that they could possibly lose control of Tayside. He said that they were deciding who would deal with what convenorship once the election was safely out of the way. A Labour administration was elected to Tayside regional council in 1986 and again in 1990. More recently, it elected an SNP administration. The Tories have been reduced to just four seats on what was once the best Tory council in Scotland.
Will the Conservative party realise for once that what the Opposition say about the iniquities in the Bill is not just rhetoric. Nobody in Scotland wants the Bill—not even the Tory party in Scotland; the Westminster party does not represent its friends north of the border. The real Tories in Scotland do not want this nonsense; nobody in Scotland wants it and that is why everyone in the House should vote against it.
§ Mr. Henry McLeish (Fife, Central)
Some interesting parallels can be drawn from the debate. On the Government Benches we see a party heading for defeat, oblivion and opposition. My colleagues are quite buoyed 254 by the experiences of Committee, Report and Third Reading. The Bill simply will not survive in any particular form in the months and years that lie ahead. We look forward with enthusiasm when we come into Government to dealing with the residual effects of this particularly nasty measure.
It is important to nail some of the smears and distortions thrown around tonight about Strathclyde by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie). It is unforgivable that when the Prime Minister, in that half-baked speech at conference described Strathclyde as a monstrosity, he gave a lead to all Conservatives, whether in the House or in Scotland, to decry that public authority on every occasion.
Mention has been made of the Halcrow report on Strathclyde water. The report was favourable to Strathclyde and stated that Strathclyde could stand examination with any water authority in England or Wales and, more to the point, supply water at half the cost.
Let us also nail another smear tonight—that Strathclyde tried to suppress the report. It was quite disgraceful that on the radio this morning the Under-Secretary should make the same smear. It is simply not true that Strathclyde suppressed the report. There was a press conference and it was available to all concerned. We should have some humility from the hon. Member for Ayr, who made that bitter and ill-informed remark.
§ Mr. McLeish
No. The hon. Gentleman had enough time to smear Strathclyde and does not deserve the opportunity to speak again.
It is also interesting that the Secretary of State for Scotland has now divorced himself completely from the reality of Scottish politics. We can debate whether that is because he is preparing to move to a more lucrative position in the Tory party down south, but it is clear that the Secretary of State distanced himself from the Committee and then wanted very little to do with the Bill when it was being debated in Scotland. It is quite clear to us all that the Secretary of State has run out of enthusiasm for this particularly pernicious piece of legislation.
It is also important to say that the Secretary of State has tried to pretend to the Scottish people that the Bill is all about all-purpose authorities. When we heard that Clackmannan district council, with 47,000 people, is to become one of the new unitary authorities it became clear that the Bill had moved from all-purpose to no-purpose authorities. It is simply disgraceful to ask a council with so few people to do so much on behalf of the electors it wishes to serve. That underlines the fact that the Opposition have always been right to say that the Bill is about gerrymandering and boundaries with no regard whatsoever to the services that are being provided.
There are also some other considerations worth repeating as the Bill ends its Third Reading. There remains no consensus for the measure. The Government may argue that there is, but in Scotland there is not. There has been no commission. The Government have been unwilling to appoint one because they lack the guts to test their crazy policies against any objective criteria. We have had no constitutional change. We shall deliver a Scottish Parliament. That will be the context within which we shall seriously examine services in Scotland and the people who deliver them.
255 Of course we have no assessment of costs. It is a ludicrous position. Hundreds of millions of pounds could still be spent on policies that nobody wants from a Government who will not provide high investment to services that are badly needed, such as community care and fighting crime. It is an act of monumental irresponsibility and it lies fairly and squarely with the Secretary of State for Scotland who took on this madcap proposal and is willing to see it through, even to the destruction of the Conservative party which will surely follow as a result of the process being completed in the House and then moving to another place.
The Government cannot stomach the fact that there is no commitment from the Scottish people. We have heard so much drivel about people in Scotland wanting this reorganisation. We have heard about councillors clamouring at the Minister's door to fix their own areas, but a reorganisation that does not have the support of the people does not deserve to survive, and this one will not survive.
The Opposition are concerned that the Bill has ignored services completely. Life and death services have never figured in the minds of Government Ministers or Tory Back Benchers. It is all about beating a path to the Secretary of State's door saying, "We will slavishly accept the wisdom of this gerrymandering political exercise with no regard to the high-quality services which are being delivered in many areas."
Some 300,000 employees will now find that, as Government did not have the guts to transfer them on the face of the Bill, they may end up in court to determine their future because the Government have also ignored European legislation. The Bill is disgraceful on two points: there is no transfer and no simple adherence to European directives.
The hallmark of the mess has been the Government's commitment to butcher the delivery of water and sewerage services in Scotland. We have heard many words spoken in the House and elsewhere about water. They were given the opportunity after they heard the opinion polls, the Strathclyde referendum and the results of the local government elections, but the Government are so removed from reality that they will take no opportunity to secure their own political future and instead treat the people of Scotland with bitter contempt on those important issues.
We can tell the Government this evening that Scots do not want three super-quangos. We want no halfway house. Despite the bleatings of Tory Back Benchers, they know that water is an albatross round their necks. We shall ensure that it will remain an albatross until and during the next election. They can bleat all they wish, but we shall not let them forget it.
The Bill has also been a root and branch attack on democracy. My hon. Friends have talked about quangos. Scotland will be represented by 1,200 elected people, but 5,000 quango members, meeting in private to do the dirty work of the Secretary of State, will deal with £7 billion worth of expenditure in Scotland.
It is an insult to the House. We pride ourselves on being elected to Westminster to enact legislation that is in the interests of the people. The Government are now hell-bent on ensuring that what they cannot win by the ballot box they will win by the appointment of quangos to every organisation throughout the length and breadth of 256 Scotland. On behalf of the Scottish people, we shall have none of it. The Government stand condemned and isolated on the Bill and have shown no remorse whatever. They are adding insult to injury by dismantling local government and passing services over to the friends and supporters of their party.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood) highlighted another fact. Last week, on Report, we gave the Government the opportunity to put the record straight on seat belts, but what did they do? They brought 250 Tories Members into the House to vote against improving the safety of vulnerable children travelling in minibuses and coaches in Scotland. That can be with their conscience, but my hon. Friend is also right to suggest that we will push until the measure is implemented and Scots can travel safely throughout the country.
The Tories are in a mess in Scotland, but are unconcerned. The Bill is a mess, but the Tories are unconcerned. What they should be concerned about is that the timetable for this ludicrous proposal is also in crisis. In another place, the Bill will be delayed. The prospect of having elections less than a year from now is simply outrageous by any standard of democratic traditions. Let us warn the Government, before the Minister replies, that the story does not end in the House this evening. We shall step up the campaign vigorously throughout Scotland. We expect local authorities not to have anything to do with this legislation.
The Government should remember that, until they get this bad Bill and all the required regulations that go with it through in November, Scotland will have nothing to do with it. That is absolutely right. Parliament and the people should now combine to delay, derail and, ultimately, destroy the Bill. It is not in the interests of Scotland, services or local government. That is why my hon. Friends will vote against its Third Reading tonight.
§ 8 pm
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)
May I first say to the hon. Members for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) that I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) will be grateful for the sympathy that they expressed?
A number of genuine points were made during the debate, amid a certain amount of the usual ranting and raving from the Opposition Front Bench. The hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) rightly raised the point about Blindcraft. I can assure him that I have met representatives from Blindcraft, with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin). I hope that any difficulties will be resolved. The hon. Gentleman asked about the future of the Strathclyde regional chemist laboratories, but the point is that there are only four such laboratories in Scotland, serving all 65 councils in Scotland. That is an excellent example of a joint arrangement that works. There is nothing new or radical in suggesting, as we are, that, under the new structure, local authorities must co-operate in joint arrangements. That happens now.
Following the speech of the hon. Member for Hamilton, there were four excellent speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch), for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and for Ayr (Mr. Gallie). A general theme 257 underlined those speeches. The House spent an immense amount of time, rightly and properly, on the Bill. Some 177 hours were spent in Committee and that, as my hon. Friends pointed out, meant that many of the amendments that were tabled were accepted by the Government. The changes that were made to the boundaries in Committee all resulted from approaches to the Government, which were on either an all-party or a non-party basis.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North rightly referred to the need to look carefully at the most cost-effective way of delivering services in future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr and the hon. Members for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) and for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood) referred to boundary questions in relation to the proposals for Lanarkshire. I was rather surprised that the hon. Member for Clydesdale attacked the proposals as gerrymandering, because he came to see me, as part of a delegation, to express the hope that the Government would not change the proposals for South Lanarkshire. I was extremely glad to confirm that we were persuaded by the strength of the arguments made by the hon. Gentleman—
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman, as I recall, came along with his hon. Friends to a second meeting, in which he agreed with the case that the Government were making for South Lanarkshire. If I have misinterpreted the hon. Gentleman, of course I shall withdraw that, but it was certainly the case that a number of his hon. Friends clearly supported the case for South Lanarkshire.
§ Mr. Salmond
May I examine the Minister's credentials, as he is one of the contenders for the crown of thorns in the Scottish Office? Has he ever personally believed in water privatisation? If so, when did he stop?
§ Mr. Stewart
I am glad to respond to that point. I was going to come to it in a moment or two, because I thought that the hon. Member for Hamilton alleged that I had publicly supported the privatisation of water and sewerage in Scotland. I have never publicly supported—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] I have never supported the privatisation of water and sewerage in Scotland. The hon. Member for Hamilton made great play of the fact that the privatisation option for water and sewerage used rather more lines in the consultation paper than the option that was eventually adopted by the Government. That proves nothing. The ten commandments were pretty short, but nevertheless they are a great deal more important than many other passages of literature.
§ Mr. Stewart
No. I have only a limited amount of time available.
Opposition Members talked about gerrymandering and the cost-effectiveness of the new councils. I have quotation after quotation from individual Labour-led councils in Scotland, not universally but across the central belt and 258 elsewhere. The hon. Member for Hamilton and others referred to Clackmannan. I do not know how much of the Clackmannan case he wishes me to read out, but it is a Labour-led district council, which made a very clear case for its authority to be a unitary authority.
I find it astonishing that the Labour party should have so little confidence in Labour councillors and Labour councils up and down the length and breadth of Scotland that it derides the cases made by Clackmannan, Falkirk, West Lothian—the authority of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)—and East Lothian. We responded to the cases that were made by Labour council after Labour council.
§ Mr. Dalyell
West Lothian is not a Labour authority, but will the Minister answer the substantial question of whether there will be a Lords amendment on Queensferry?
§ Mr. Stewart
That, of course, is entirely a matter for individual Members of the other place.
The key charge of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) was that the timetable has slipped. I am sorry to disappoint him. That is wishful thinking on his part. I assure the House that the timetable for local government reorganisation under the Bill remains as planned. The hon. Gentleman is whistling in the wind—
§ Mr. Stewart
No, I really do not have time.
The hon. Gentleman is whistling in the wind if he dares to suggest otherwise. The Bill is on track and on time; nor will it be moved by the programme of non-co-operation to which the hon. Member for Fife, Central referred positively, but which the hon. Member for Hamilton rightly suggested had not delayed the Bill's passage or the reorganisation programme.
As I have said, the case for the Bill has been advanced over an extremely long period, and it has been presented powerfully and effectively by my hon. Friends tonight. Opposition Members do not know what their policy is, but it is to hand over local government to some other body. That is the policy of the hon. Member for Hamilton: he will stand at this Dispatch Box and have no responsibility whatever for local government policy. The Opposition have no policy to put before the House, as they had no policy to put before the Standing Committee that considered the Bill in such detail.
I commend the Bill whole-heartedly to the House as a blueprint for effective, accountable, stable local government in Scotland—not just for the next two years, but into the next century.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 289, Noes 253.262
|Division No. 257]||[8.12 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)|
|Alexander, Richard||Banks, Matthew (Southport)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Banks, Robert (Harrogate)|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Batiste, Spencer|
|Amess, David||Bellingham, Henry|
|Ancram, Michael||Bendall, Vivian|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Beresford, Sir Paul|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Ashby, David||Blackburn, Dr John G.|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Body, Sir Richard|
|Atkins, Robert||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Booth, Hartley||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Boswell, Tim||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)||Gorst, John|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia||Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Bowis, John||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Grylls, Sir Michael|
|Brazier, Julian||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Bright, Graham||Hague, William|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Browning, Mrs. Angela||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Hannam, Sir John|
|Burns, Simon||Hargreaves, Andrew|
|Burt, Alistair||Harris, David|
|Butler, Peter||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Butterfill, John||Hawkins, Nick|
|Carlisle, John (Luton North)||Hawksley, Warren|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hayes, Jerry|
|Carrington, Matthew||Heald, Oliver|
|Carttiss, Michael||Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward|
|Cash, William||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Hendry, Charles|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hill, James (Southampton Test)|
|Churchill, Mr||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)|
|Clappison, James||Horam, John|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Coe, Sebastian||Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)|
|Colvin, Michael||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Congdon, David||Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)|
|Conway, Derek||Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)||Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Hunter, Andrew|
|Couchman, James||Jack, Michael|
|Cran, James||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamford)||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Jessel, Toby|
|Day, Stephen||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Deva, Nirj Joseph||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Devlin, Tim||Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Dicks, Terry||Key, Robert|
|Dorrell, Stephen||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Knapman, Roger|
|Dover, Den||Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)|
|Duncan, Alan||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Duncan-Smith, Iain||Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)|
|Dunn, Bob||Knox, Sir David|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Kynoch, George (Kincardine)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Elletson, Harold||Lang, Rt Hon Ian|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Lawrence, Sir Ivan|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)||Legg, Barry|
|Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)||Leigh, Edward|
|Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)||Lennox-Boyd, Mark|
|Evans, Roger (Monmouth)||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Evennett, David||Lidington, David|
|Faber, David||Lightbown, David|
|Fabricant, Michael||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas||Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Lord, Michael|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Luff, Peter|
|Fishburn, Dudley||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Forman, Nigel||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||MacKay, Andrew|
|Forth, Eric||Maclean, David|
|Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|French, Douglas||Madel, Sir David|
|Fry, Sir Peter||Maitland, Lady Olga|
|Gallie, Phil||Malone, Gerald|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Mans, Keith|
|Garnier, Edward||Marland, Paul|
|Gill, Christopher||Marlow, Tony|
|Gillan, Cheryl||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair||Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Spring, Richard|
|Mates, Michael||Sproat, Iain|
|Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian||Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Mellor, Rt Hon David||Steen, Anthony|
|Merchant, Piers||Stephen, Michael|
|Mills, Iain||Stern, Michael|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Stewart, Allan|
|Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)||Streeter, Gary|
|Moate, Sir Roger||Sumberg, David|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Sweeney, Walter|
|Moss, Malcolm||Sykes, John|
|Nelson, Anthony||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Taylor, John M. (Solihull)|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Thomason, Roy|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)|
|Norris, Steve||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley||Thornton, Sir Malcolm|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Thurnham, Peter|
|Ottaway, Richard||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Page, Richard||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)|
|Paice, James||Tracey, Richard|
|Patnick, Irvine||Tredinnick, David|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Trend, Michael|
|Pawsey, James||Trotter, Neville|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Portillo, Rt Hon Michael||Viggers, Peter|
|Renton, Rt Hon Tim||Walden, George|
|Richards, Rod||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Riddick, Graham||Waller, Gary|
|Robathan, Andrew||Ward, John|
|Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)||Waterson, Nigel|
|Robinson, Mark (Somerton)||Wells, Bowen|
|Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)||Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)||Whitney, Ray|
|Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela||Whittingdale, John|
|Ryder, Rt Hon Richard||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Sackville, Tom||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim||Wilkinson, John|
|Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas||Wilshire, David|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Wood, Timothy|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Yeo, Tim|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Speed, Sir Keith||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Spencer, Sir Derek||Mr. Timothy Kirkhope and|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Mr. James Arbuthnot.|
|Spink, Dr Robert|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Betts, Clive|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Blair, Tony|
|Ainger, Nick||Blunkett, David|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Boateng, Paul|
|Allen, Graham||Boyes, Roland|
|Alton, David||Bradley, Keith|
|Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)||Bray, Dr Jeremy|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)|
|Ashton, Joe||Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)|
|Austin-Walker, John||Burden, Richard|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Byers, Stephen|
|Barnes, Harry||Caborn, Richard|
|Barron, Kevin||Callaghan, Jim|
|Battle, John||Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)|
|Bayley, Hugh||Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret||Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)|
|Beggs, Roy||Campbell-Savours, D. N.|
|Bell, Stuart||Canavan, Dennis|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Cann, Jamie|
|Bennett, Andrew F.||Chisholm, Malcolm|
|Benton, Joe||Clapham, Michael|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Clark, Dr David (South Shields)|
|Berry, Roger||Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Hanson, David|
|Clelland, David||Hardy, Peter|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Henderson, Doug|
|Coffey, Ann||Hendron, Dr Joe|
|Cohen, Harry||Heppell, John|
|Connarty, Michael||Hill, Keith (Streatham)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Hinchliffe, David|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)|
|Corbett, Robin||Home Robertson, John|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hood, Jimmy|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Cousins, Jim||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Hoyle, Doug|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Darling, Alistair||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Davidson, Ian||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)||Hutton, John|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)||Ingram, Adam|
|Dewar, Donald||Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)|
|Dixon, Don||Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)|
|Donohoe, Brian H.||Janner, Greville|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)|
|Eagle, Ms Angela||Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)|
|Enright, Derek||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Etherington, Bill||Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Jowell, Tessa|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Fisher, Mark||Keen, Alan|
|Flynn, Paul||Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Khabra, Piara S.|
|Foulkes, George||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Fraser, John||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)|
|Fyfe, Maria||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Galbraith, Sam||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Galloway, George||Lewis, Terry|
|Gapes, Mike||Litherland, Robert|
|Garrett, John||Livingstone, Ken|
|George, Bruce||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Gerrard, Neil||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Loyden, Eddie|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Lynne, Ms Liz|
|Godsiff, Roger||McAllion, John|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Gordon, Mildred||McCartney, Ian|
|Graham, Thomas||McCrea, Rev William|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Macdonald, Calum|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||McFall, John|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||McKelvey, William|
|Grocott, Bruce||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Gunnell, John||McLeish, Henry|
|Hall, Mike||McMaster, Gordon|
|McNamara, Kevin||Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)|
|McWilliam, John||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Madden, Max||Roche, Mrs. Barbara|
|Maddock, Mrs Diana||Rooker, Jeff|
|Mahon, Alice||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Mallon, Seamus||Rowlands, Ted|
|Mandelson, Peter||Ruddock, Joan|
|Marek, Dr John||Salmond, Alex|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Martlew, Eric||Sheerman, Barry|
|Maxton, John||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Meacher, Michael||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Meale, Alan||Simpson, Alan|
|Michael, Alun||Skinner, Dennis|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Milburn, Alan||Snape, Peter|
|Miller, Andrew||Soley, Clive|
|Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Spellar, John|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)|
|Morley, Elliot||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)||Stevenson, George|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Stott, Roger|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Strang, Dr. Gavin|
|Mudie, George||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Mullin, Chris||Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)|
|Murphy, Paul||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Turner, Dennis|
|O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)||Tyler, Paul|
|O'Brien, William (Normanton)||Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold|
|O'Hara, Edward||Wallace, James|
|Olner, William||Walley, Joan|
|O'Neill, Martin||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Wareing, Robert N|
|Parry, Robert||Watson, Mike|
|Patchett, Terry||Welsh, Andrew|
|Pickthall, Colin||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Pike, Peter L.||Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)|
|Pope, Greg||Wilson, Brian|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Winnick, David|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)||Wise, Audrey|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Worthington, Tony|
|Prescott, John||Wray, Jimmy|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Wright, Dr Tony|
|Purchase, Ken||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Randall, Stuart||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Raynsford, Nick||Mr. Jim Dowd and|
|Rendel, David||Mr. Eric Illsley.|
|Robertson, George (Hamilton)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.