HL Deb 15 June 1976 vol 371 cc1104-5

2.52 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is a fact that Edinburgh District Council have refused to implement Section 52 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, in connection with community councils, and whether the Minister will set up an immediate inquiry into Edinburgh District Council's decision.


My Lords, the City of Edinburgh District Council have not refused to implement Section 52 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. Although the District Council have indicated some doubts about the need for community councils in their area, they have been given until 31st July 1976 to submit to the Secretary of State a scheme for the establishment of these councils. The extension of time was granted at the request of the Council. No final decision about the scheme has yet been taken by the District Council and it would be inappropriate, therefore, for an inquiry to be set up into this matter.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his encouraging Answer—encouraging because I had understood that the City of Edinburgh District Council was quite adamant about that—may I ask whether he is aware that under Section 11, the relevant section, this is the second time the Edinburgh District Council have been granted delaying powers? If by July they have not produced a plan for a community council, will the Government take action?—because otherwise the Edinburgh District Council will be breaking the law.


My Lords, the Secretary of State for Scotland has default powers under Section 54 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. I am well aware that the noble Baroness paid very close attention to that Bill during its passage through your Lordships' House, but the underlying concept of community councils is that such councils should develop by way of consent and negotiations: hence the Secretary of State's agreement to a further extension.

The Earl of SELKIRK

My Lords, is it not quite clear that, while the desire of the City of Edinburgh for economy is very commendable, there is a clear legal obligation that where a community council is requested such a council should be formed, and it falls upon the local authority to do so? Was that not specifically stated by the Government during the Committee stage in 1973?


Yes, my Lords; I agree with the substance of the question put by the noble Earl. But the present position is that there are indications that the Edinburgh City Council is moving towards the creation of a community council, and their propositions and any outstanding representations pertaining thereto will eventually lie with the Secretary of State for Scotland. I think, at this stage, the correct policy, which the Secretary of State is pursuing, is to give an extension of time for these discussions to take place.