HC Deb 23 June 1998 vol 314 c831
6. Mr. Andrew Rowe (Faversham and Mid-Kent)

What steps he intends to take to regulate direct labour organisations. [45575]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Donald Dewar)

The Government will not tolerate incompetence or inefficiency. I expect all councils to look critically at whether direct provision is required, and to put performance and value for money at the centre of all that they do.

Mr. Rowe

What steps will the Secretary of State take to ensure that the appalling problems that have arisen in Scottish local government do not afflict the new Scottish Parliament?

Mr. Dewar

I remain an optimist about the Scottish Parliament, and I am sure that that optimism is shared by the hon. Gentleman, who always has the slight air of a rebel on the Conservative Benches. I do not believe that comparison with local government is relevant. At the end of the day, Westminster's powers will go to the Scottish Parliament; local government will not be raided. The Scottish Parliament will be a policy-making legislative body; local government, essentially, is involved in the provision of local services. I do not therefore believe that the machinery is the same, or that the parallel is relevant.

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North)

What effect does my right hon. Friend believe compulsory competitive tendering and local government reorganisation have had on the regulation of direct labour organisations?

Mr. Dewar

The consequences of the last reorganisation of local government—which was very much a pattern imposed by a Government who, however honourably they may have acted, did not command widespread support in Scotland—were undoubtedly a great deal of disruption, financial difficulties and unavoidable expenses that are still being met by council tax payers and taxpayers. That is perhaps an answer for Conservative Front-Bench spokesmen who now worry about such matters.