HC Deb 19 February 1996 vol 272 c5
4. Mr. Murphy

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he last met representatives of Welsh local government to discuss the administration effects of the changeover to unitary authorities on 1 April. [14159]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Gwilym Jones)

Last Thursday, when I met the hon. Gentleman and representatives of his local authority.

Mr. Murphy

As we are now six weeks away from vesting day for the new unitary authorities, does the Minister agree that it is vital to ensure that—by that time, former—county council services, such as education and social services, are properly safeguarded? Will he therefore ensure that groups such as county youth orchestras and drama groups such as Gwent theatre in education are properly protected by a sound system of joint arrangements?

Mr. Jones

As the hon. Gentleman will know, decisions on local functions can be taken only by local authorities themselves in the light of local circumstances and priorities. Our reform legislation contained a unique feature—a service delivery plan that had to be published in draft form last November and that will be finalised for each of the 22 new unitary authorities in Wales. That unique step enables everyone to see what provision is being made by local authorities. I hope that as many people as possible will take the opportunity to comment on the plans.

Mr. Morgan

Will the Secretary of State discuss those issues with the civic leaders of Wales when he is guest of honour at their annual civic dinner in Cardiff next month? Will he confirm that that is the same civic dinner as he attacked on 8 February, producing an extraordinary report in the Western Mail on 9 February? Is it not an example of the Government's hypocrisy—or should I say duplicitousness—to attack a civil dinner in February and be its guest of honour in March? Is that not an example of dine as I say, not dine as I do?

Mr. Jones

The hon. Gentleman asked two questions. The answer to the first is that my right hon. Friend always welcomes any occasion to have meaningful discussions with local authorities. The answer to the second is no—the hon. Gentleman should read Hansard.