HL Deb 21 July 1994 vol 557 cc426-70

House again in Committee.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar moved Amendment No. 145: After Clause 143, insert the following new clause:

("Further provision relating to non-denominational schools

. After section 22D of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, there shall be inserted the following section—

"Further provisions relating to non-denominational schools.

22E.—(1) An education authority shall submit to the Secretary of State for his consent any proposal of theirs to which this section applies and shall not implement such a proposal without his consent.

(2) A proposal to which this section applies is one—

  1. (a) to—
    1. (i) discontinue the school or a part or it;
    2. (ii) amalgamate the school or a part of it with another school;
    3. (iii) change the site of the school;
    4. (iv) change the arrangements for admission to the school.
  2. (b) in relation to which the Secretary of State, having consulted any education authority affected by it, is satisfied, upon written representations made, that, if implemented, it will have any of the results specified in subsection (3) below.

(3) The results referred to in subsection (2) (b) above are—

  1. (a) a significant deterioration for pupils belonging to the area of the education authority submitting the proposal under subsection (1) above; or
  2. (b) a significant deterioration for pupils belonging to the area of any other education authority; or
  3. (c) where neither paragraph (a) nor paragraph (b) above applies, such a deterioration for pupils as mentioned in the said paragraph (a) and pupils of any other authority as mentioned in the said paragraph (b) as, taken together, amounts to a significant deterioration, in the provision, or availability of school education in a particular school compared with such provision, or availability in other schools managed by the education authority mentioned in paragraph (a) above or, where paragraph (b) or (c) above applies, any other education authority as mentioned in the said paragraph (b).

(4) Any question which may arise—

  1. (a) whether a proposal is one to which this section applies;
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  3. (b) as to the implementation of a proposal to which the Secretary of State has consented under this section shall be determined by the Secretary of State and the education authority shall perform their duties under this Act in accordance with any such determination." ").

The noble Lord said: In the absence of my noble friend Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove and also my noble friend Lord Ewing of Kirkford, I formally move this amendment and ask for the Government's response to it. I beg to move.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

The Government's view on this is that we would not wish to intervene in what are essentially local matters. What has been proposed would substantially restrict the freedom of authorities to deal with catchment area and feeder primary changes and could also frustrate attempts by authorities to rationalise over-provision. It would, in effect, draw the Secretary of State into most, if not all, decisions affecting proposed school closures, proposed site changes, proposed amalgamations and proposed changes to admission arrangements. We could not agree to such a restriction on local autonomy. Again, I make the point that we have sought to extend that autonomy but once again we are met with an amendment that would involve the Secretary of State in a way that he would not wish to be involved; a key objective of the Bill being to give authorities greater flexibility. This is a centralising proposal which would go against the principle of the Bill.

I am also concerned that, because the new clause as drafted would apply to all schools, both denominational and non-denominational, a considerable amount of confusion would exist as regards existing safeguards for denominational schools as already contained in Section 22D of the 1980 Act. The impact of the new clause would be to limit the requirement of consent under Section 22D, in effect, only to a proposal to change a denominational school into a non-denominational school. It is not at all clear what account should be taken of the arrangements to be made for the religious instruction of pupils in denominational schools currently set out in Section 22D. Finally, it would require the Secretary of State's consent even if the denominational body agrees to the proposal.

So the new clause is essentially a centralising measure—that is our objection to it—and, no doubt inadvertently, would weaken the safeguards which apply to denominational schools. We consider it is mistaken on another count also. It is plain that the impetus behind the clause is, at least in part, a feeling that additional protection is being offered in the Bill to denominational schools but not to non-denominational schools. That is not the case. Nothing in this Bill introduces new safeguards for denominational education. Moreover, the same safeguards as exist at present for non-denominational schools will continue to apply in all cases—cross-boundary or otherwise—after local government reform.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, which no doubt will be of great interest to those involved in this issue in Scotland. Although my name is not down to the amendment, I wonder whether the time has come to look at the whole question of so-called non-denominational schools and denominational schools within the community as a whole. However, I do not expect the Minister to answer that question because it is a major question as regards Scotland. Subject to that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 144 agreed to.

The Viscount of Falkland moved Amendment No. 145A: After Clause 144, insert the following new clause:

("Provision of Nursery Education

  1. .—(1) Section 1(2) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 shall be repealed.
  2. (2) It shall be the duty of every local education authority to secure that educational provision is available for any junior pupil who has attained the age of three years and has not attained the age of five years and whose parents or guardian indicate that they desire such provision to be provided, according to guidelines issued by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools.
  3. (3) The Secretary of State shall satisfy himself in respect of each financial year in which this section has effect that the resources available to local education authorities are adequate to enable them to fulfil the requirements of this section.").

The noble Viscount said: I am always diffident when I rise to speak on matters concerning Scotland as I am only a Scotsman really by naturalisation. I spent some time in Scotland at school and this amendment has to do with nursery school provision in Scotland. My son went to school in Scotland and I hope that the Committee will accept my presence here to press—I see the noble and learned Lord shaking his head but I shall carry on regardless—my case.

I think it is most appropriate that I should follow up a debate which I introduced in this Chamber earlier in the year where a measure of agreement was reached throughout the Chamber and helpful remarks were made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, on behalf of the Government as regards the desirability of providing pre-school education within the United Kingdom in general.

Over many years in this country we have received promises as regards the prospect of an increased provision of nursery school education. Those promises have been given by various administrations. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, when she was Mrs. Thatcher and held the post of Secretary of State for Education, gave her support to the concept of nursery provision for all. Some 22 years on we find that the United Kingdom, and particularly Scotland, are very under-provided as regards pre-school education. This is a very sad state of affairs because I think there is no disagreement, certainly across the parties, and probably in Scotland and indeed in England as a whole, as regards the desirability of pre-school education.

If nursery school or pre-school education were provided where appropriate for let us say, up to even 60 per cent. of children, that would constitute an enormous improvement and would have a quite dramatic effect not only on the abilities of children entering full-time statutory education at the age of five in terms of enabling them to adjust to that more quickly, but it would also have a beneficial effect on the level of juvenile crime and on the lives of parents. If pre-school education were available for that percentage of children, the position in this country would be brought more in line with the position in other countries in Europe, particularly France and Belgium. Although there are particular reasons for the level of provision in those countries, for example in France there is a relative scarcity of part-time jobs for women, and most women undertake full-time jobs and therefore nursery school provision, or something like it, is essential, it is desirable that we should at least narrow the gap between ourselves and other European countries in this regard.

It seems appropriate that Scotland with its tradition of taking a serious approach to education should be the place to start as regards making this provision. When I introduced my debate on nursery education earlier this year, the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said it was the Government's intention to make a serious attempt to provide this education as soon as finance was available to do that. In moving this amendment, I seek to put into the Bill a duty on local education authorities in Scotland to secure provision for, any junior pupil who has attained the age of three years and has not attained the age of five years". I seek to secure this provision for those who want it. I know that already some authorities in Scotland have made a serious attempt to secure this provision.

Indeed in some areas of Scotland there has been a reluctance on the part of some parents to take advantage of the provision. In deprived areas, in particular where unmarried mothers are in great deprivation, there is a fear and reluctance to send their children to the formal education with trained teachers which is desirable but often in such cases may not be appropriate. I believe that the feeling of the Labour Party has for some time been that it is essential to have trained teachers available for the teaching of pre-school children in every case rather than relying on playschool provision. There is often good reason why those alternative provisions may be more appropriate. I gladly give way to the noble Lord.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I understand the noble Viscount's view. I have always taken another view. Although I want trained people, there is great benefit for mothers in pre-playschool groups because they, as well as the children, learn a great deal.

The Viscount of Falkland

I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. I absolutely agree with him. Where playschools are often most useful is —dare one say it?—where the parents themselves gain as much, if not more, benefit than the children.

In general, I believe that for Scotland the Bill provides a good framework in which to impose a statutory obligation on local authorities to provide nursery school education for all. I believe that such a provision would be an enormous success in Scotland. It would quickly have an effect on the priorities of the Government in other areas of the United Kingdom. We could narrow the gap between this country and other countries in Europe. I beg to move.

8.15 p.m.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

It is an interesting provision in the field of education, in particular in Scotland. I am not sure of the position regarding England and Wales. Does such provision apply in England and Wales? If not, it is high time it did.

I believe that modern studies now indicate that if one takes care of a child in his young years one will save him from terrible events in his older years. The input by local authorities into education, and nursery education in particular, with children learning how to cope with each other is important. The amendment has the approval of this side of the Chamber. However, the monetary implications have to be considered.

I am a West of Scotland man exiled in Edinburgh. However, in the Lothian region, all parents who wish to enrol their children for a nursery place in Lothian at four years are guaranteed a place. Do the Government wish to extend that provision so that all parents who wish their child to receive a nursery place at four years of age will have such a place at the expense of the Government? It seems good that children can relate to each other and grow up together. Such provision may save time and money spent on prisons when people go wrong as juveniles.

I speak in support of the general principle which the noble Viscount proposes but without making any commitment from this side of the Chamber so far as concerns costs.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

I support the amendment moved by my noble friend. He need not feel in any way on the defensive as someone from South of the Border intervening in a Scottish local government debate. We are still a United Kingdom. If Scottish Members of the Committee were to feel that it was wrong to participate in debates on English education, or on Home Office affairs, it might speed up the business of the House but I believe that the House would be a poorer place.

My noble friend raises an important issue. It was not raised during the Committee stage in another place. He has initiated a discussion on the issue for the first time during the long debates on the Bill. From a purely Scottish aspect, the local government reform which the Government are carrying through involves increasing the number of unitary local authorities in Scotland quite substantially. Some will be quite small unitary authorities. Under the existing provisions in Scotland, the amount of nursery education provision made by local authorities in Scotland has often been a product of the economies of scale that are possible within quite large regional authorities. Therefore the thrust of the Government's Bill will put a downward pressure on the provision of nursery education in Scotland.

It is against that background that the Bill should provide pressure towards at least maintaining levels of nursery education, and, if possible, towards significantly increasing those levels.

I conclude with one interesting statistic. I am sure that it has been provided by the Scottish Parent Teacher Council to all noble Lords participating in the debate. It cites research in the United States which claims that every £1 spent on pre-school education saves at least £4 for tomorrow's taxpayers. I thought that that argument might appeal to the present administration.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I support the amendment. There is no doubt that, if children are interested in learning at an early age, they are better people. If both noble Lords on the Front Bench had been sent to school at three years, think what magnificent specimens they would have been! I was sent to school at four years, but that was because I was already into juvenile crime. I was sent to school at four because I put eggs through the turnip hasher, greatly to the detriment of the eggs and, I suspect, of Mackie. I am grateful to my colleague for bringing the provision forward.

Lord Kirkhill

I add my general support to the proposition which the noble Viscount and others have put forward. I remind the Minister that in 1993 approximately 16,000 signatures from Scotland were submitted in the other place on this specific issue.

I should point out that, in the existing structure of local authorities in Scotland, the scale of regional emphasis enables significant nursery provision to take place. We are about to revert to much smaller authorities in terms of size and scale. Within the regional structure there is now no nursery provision in the Western Isles, where a small authority is struggling with regard to ratecapping finance. I believe that the Minister should consider those additional points.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

I join the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, in upbraiding the noble Viscount for his apology for engaging in a debate at the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill Committee stage. I think it is entirely appropriate that any Member of your Lordships' House who wishes to contribute should be welcome to do so, particularly when the noble Viscount has a keen and intelligent interest in the matter both sides of the Border. His contribution to our debates is welcome and I hope he will not apologise in future for so participating.

Having said that, it may be churlish of me now to say that there are drafting deficiencies in the proposal that he advances. For example, Scottish education legislation is drafted in terms of education authorities; local education authorities are the English equivalent.

More seriously, it is not clear from the amendment what might be meant by "educational provision". It could conceivably include not only nursery education but also other forms of pre-school provision, such as in day-care establishments.

I should like to make clear that the position of the Government generally—and I hope that the noble Lords, Lord Kirkhill and Lord Macaulay, will be interested to know this—is that we would very much like to see an extension of nursery and other pre-school provision. Our long-term goal is a full range of options which will satisfy the requirements of all parents of pre-school children. However, I have to say—and I think that the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, anticipated this—that those ambitions must be tempered by a sense of reality. They can only be brought about as resources become available.

I am advised that the estimated cost of extending the present mix of part-time and full-time provision in Scotland to all three and four year-olds would be at least an additional £100 million. If it were to be full-time, it would probably come to something like £250 million. That is a substantial sum and puts into context the anxiety about resources. Nevertheless, much is already being achieved. Since 1979, the number of children attending nursery schools in Scotland has risen by over 50 per cent. from 31,700 to 48,000. Moreover, taking the under-five provision generally —and I include nursery schools, day nurseries and pre-school playgroups in that grouping—there are now sufficient places in Scotland to enable authorities to cater for almost 80 per cent. of the three and four year-old population.

We are committed to exploring ways of adding still further, as resources allow, to the choice available to parents, whether it is to the Western Isles or elsewhere on the mainland of Scotland that that commitment is extended. But we believe that that must encompass choice in the public, private and voluntary sectors. We must guard against the danger that by favouring one element we may cause another to fall by the wayside. That might be the unintentional effect of the amendment, and I am advised, for example, that the Scottish Pre-School Playgroup Association is very concerned that that should not happen.

In encouraging choice and diversity in response to children's needs and parents' preferences, the Government will continue to promote both quality and cost effectiveness.

The amendment refers to guidelines issued by Her Majesty's inspectors of schools. In fact, the inspectors issued a report on pre-five education in Scotland in February this year. It provides support for our policy of choice and diversity through advice on the education of children under five across the full range of provision. I believe that the report sets the right tone for pre-five education in the future and I commend its conclusions and recommendations to all parents and professionals involved. But as that report emphasises, the ages of the children involved and their patterns of attendance vary considerably. Provision for education for children under five requires both a sensitive and a variable approach across a range of options. That is why our aim is one of seeking diversity and choice. The present arrangements seem to be working well. They leave to education authorities decisions about pre-school provision in their areas, according to both local needs and circumstances.

I do not believe that anyone has any doubt about the value of such education and the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, hinted that there was evidence from America—whether it is transferable to the United Kingdom may be open to question —that investment in nursery education at an early age can bring about some reduction in criminal activity in teenagers. There are many arguments to that effect, but I have explained our desire to see a full range of diversity. While thanking the noble Viscount for his intervention in this useful short debate, I hope that he will feel that he can withdraw his amendment.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

Before the Minister sits down, could he explain to the Committee what the figure of 80 per cent. means? Is it 80 per cent. in the rural area of Scotland or the urban area? Is it an 80 per cent. availability of nursery education? Neither I nor my noble friend Lord Carmichael had the benefit of nursery education, and, as he said to me in the course of the Minister's speech, probably it shows. We may be a bad advertisement for not having nursery education.

I should like the Minister to say what the figure meant. It is easy to pull figures out of the air and say "80 per cent. of people have access to nursery education", but what happens to a child in the Western Isles, as my noble friend Lord Kirkhill mentioned? How is the figure of 80 per cent. reached as between country and town? If any Members of the Committee wish to find out how the figure is obtained, do we go to the Library? Is there a report somewhere which gives that magic figure of 80 per cent.?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

In case the noble Lord mis-heard me, I ought to make it clear that I did not say that there were sufficient places available in nursery schools in Scotland for 80 per cent. I said that there was an under-five provision generally which included nursery schools, day nurseries and pre-school playgroups as well. The calculation was made simply on the basis that there are places within those facilities if one looks at the number of children in the age groups of three and four. However, if the noble Lord would like further details of the calculation which took us to 80 per cent., I can arrange for it to be provided.

The Earl of Minto

I am a little surprised at that figure, even after the last remark made by the noble and learned Lord. In my own authority there is a great desire for pre-school education and, quite frankly, we cannot afford it. Until the resources are made available to which the noble and learned Lord referred and the statutory obligation is placed upon the local authorities in Scotland, they will not be able to afford it. The GAE simply does not cover it. So something would have to fall in order to make the necessary provision if it became statutory, unless the resources were made available.

With regard to the problems in rural regions, such as the one of which I am convener, it is a massive burden that we face when we examine the situation. We have to realise that we have children who would fall into the category and who live way up in the hills and the glens. They would all have to be brought in to the schools in some way; one cannot have places dotted around in the middle of the hills, it would be totally unrealistic. It is a heavy financial burden which at present we cannot attack because we simply do not have the resources. Because it is not a statutory obligation on us, we turn our attention to those cases where we have to provide an education.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

Perhaps I may intervene briefly again. I hope that the noble Earl did not take from what I said that education authorities in Scotland had, by these various groupings, provided 80 per cent. for all three and four year-olds. There are those facilities which, as he will know, are provided by the Scottish Pre-School Playgroup Association. The noble Earl will appreciate that that is funded by central government; the extent to which it is also funded by local government I am not sure, but I did not intend to convey that there was an 80 per cent. provision by local authorities in Scotland.

8.30 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland

I should like to thank all those who have taken part in this short debate, and particularly the noble and learned Lord for his personal welcome to me in this debate and also his considered answer. The fact remains that only a third of all children of the age that we are discussing, between three and five, have provision in Scotland.

I am particularly grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Minto. He threw light on the problems in Scotland and the particular extra costs that would be expected in Scotland as compared with, for example, the South-East of England. I take on board the problems of costing. I do not quarrel with the noble and learned Lord's estimate of the costs that are involved in providing the cover which I have suggested should be given in this Bill. I shall read carefully in Hansard what has been said. It has been a useful debate. I hope that others will also read our proceedings this evening.

I believe that there is a general consensus that this provision should be available for all potential pupils. It is just a question of priorities. I hope that the Government will, sooner rather than later, make this a real priority. Most people now agree that to give this opportunity to children and their mothers, and indeed the teachers who have to receive children into their schools who are so ill-prepared in many cases, is a priority in our country, bearing in mind the great costs. I hope that the Government will find a way of tackling the matter with little delay. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 145 [Definition of "road"]:

On Question, whether Clause 145 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I move that Clause 145, and Clauses 146 and 147, do not stand part of the Bill. These are very important amendments on which the Minister may be able to reassure me; but at present I am very concerned about them, as are many other people in Scotland.

The purpose of the amendment (it is odd so to call it since it is simply negative) is to delete entirely the provisions of Clauses 145 to 147 and thereby reaffirm the continued application of the private legislation under which the Tay and Forth road bridges joint boards presently operate and the bridges are concurrently managed.

The background briefing is that Clause 145 provides that bridges constructed under private legislation, the Forth Bridge and Tay Bridge, shall be treated as if there were a public right of passage over them. At present there is some doubt whether in law such a right exists, since the public can cross the bridges only on payment of a toll rather than as of right. The significance of this deceptively innocuous provision is that there will be no doubt that the bridges are notionally accessible to the public as of right as they will fall within the definition of a road in the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.

The main significance of Clause 145 does not therefore relate to the conferment of the public right as such. It is, however, essential to the strategy underlying Clauses 145 and 146 that there should be no ambiguity that in law the bridges are roads. As roads, they can be brought within the scope of a special road order. Special road orders are made under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984—the most common examples of special roads being motorways; although the line of any strategic route can be classified as a special road either by the Secretary of State or the local roads authority. A special road order prescribes the route of a special road and authorises the appropriation of any existing road comprising that route and also the transfer of that road to the special road authority. The promotion of such an order is subject to various statutory procedures for the public notification and the dealing with objections.

Since, by virtue of Clause 145 the Forth and Tay road bridges would be roads within the meaning of the 1984 Act, a special road order could be promoted under the Act in terms of which the two bridges would form part of a prescribed strategic route and be appropriated by transfer to the Secretary of State.

Clause 146 provides that where a special road order transfers a road (that includes a bridge) to a special road authority (in this case the Secretary of State) and the road was previously managed by a body whose functions related solely to the joint boards, the Secretary of State may, by order, dissolve the body and repeal or amend the legislation under which the body was originally established.

Moreover, the dissolution order may transfer some or all of the assets and liabilities of the dissolved body to the special road authority or such other person as the Secretary of State may consider appropriate. The dissolution order may also make provision for the transfer of staff, pensions arrangements, etc. I could go on, but I think the matter is fairly clear. We want to be rid of this ambiguity. I am sure that the Minister will accept that I put down this amendment so that we could hear, as it were from the horse's mouth, what is the legal position. I beg to move.

The Earl of Balfour

I should just like to ask one question on Clause 145. In respect of a public right of passage, does this clause include a carriageway? In other words, can vehicles drive over it? I hoped that I might have managed to find an answer in the definition of a public right of passage, but I totally failed. That is the reason I ask the question.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

I should simply like to support the plea that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, for clarity on this matter. I speak as someone who has a very long interest in the Tay road bridge, which in other days and other places I helped to bring about politically. I am very puzzled by the situation. I simply seek clarity from the Government. As I understand it, there is a fear among local authorities, which is expressed in the CoSLA brief that we have all received, that the Secretary of State has a clear, but not readily apparent, intention to appropriate the Forth or Tay road bridges and dissolve the joint boards. It seems rather curious that we should be fearful that this Government would engage in the nationalisation of the bridges. I would be grateful for some clarity.

The Lord Advocate (Lord Rodger of Earlsferry)

With the permission of the Committee I shall first answer the point that was raised by my noble friend Lord Balfour and say that the right of passage is a right of passage according to Section 151(1) of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984. It is a right of passage by whatever means, so it would indeed include the means to which he referred.

We have all had the benefit of reading the CoSLA brief on this matter which in effect indicates that local authorities have detected a purpose under what are on the face of it rather technical looking amendments.

There is no secret at all behind what is intended in these amendments. Clause 145 does indeed clarify the definition of a road for the purposes of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984. In particular, it would make it apply to bridges—to take two examples, the Forth bridge and the Tay bridge. The effect therefore would be, reading that with Clause 146, to indicate that it would be open under the Act, as so amended, for there to be an order transferring to a special road authority a particular road. Having regard to the amendment being made to the definition of "road" in Section 151, that would include the bridges over the Forth and the Tay. The purpose would be to transfer them to a special road authority. That would include the Secretary of State. There would not be any question of privatisation in that situation. It would be a matter of the road going over to the Secretary of State. Therefore, it would follow that any powers on dissolution for transferring property would not relate to the property in the road because, according to the opening provisions of new Section 113A(1), that would already have transferred to the special road authority. It would refer to other property which might be left in relation to the road. So there is no question of the road being sold off, so to speak; it simply refers to the other matters.

There is no particular secret behind this. What is intended is to secure the future of what no doubt everybody would admit nowadays are vital links in the road network system in Scotland to secure their future and enable them to meet the demands of changing circumstances in Scotland. One of the successes of those bridges in one sense is that they have been built into the whole infrastructure of the area. The intention is to make sure that toll bridges are covered by the current legislation referring to roads and therefore to make sure that they are included in the legislation which provides for their safe working and effective operation as part of the wider network.

The clauses also address the situation in which bridges might be incorporated into a special road scheme. The Committee will know that that is a matter provided for under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984. Therefore, as I said, it is envisaged that those bridges should become part of the network of roads for which the Secretary of State has responsibility.

If that happened and the Secretary of State became responsible for the bridges, even those noble Lords with the most suspicious minds would acknowledge that one would have to review the role of the joint boards which at present administer those bridges. If they were then under the aegis of the Secretary of State, one would have to ask what was the role of the joint boards. That is why provision is made in Clause 146 for the dissolution of those joint boards in that eventuality. But that would be without prejudice to the fact that in that event the constituent local authorities would continue to have an interest in the future of those very important links, as we all admit they are.

At present a review is in hand to consider the bridges along with the other elements in the primary road networks. When the results of that review are available, they will be open for consultation with local authorities. We envisage that that will happen in autumn this year. The consultation will also be open to other organisations which are interested in this matter. It is only after the consultation and in the light of its results that any decisions will eventually be taken on what is most appropriate for these particular routes. If it were decided to take toll bridges into the Secretary of State's network, as is apparent from the terms of Clause 146 and particularly subsections (3) and (4), the Government would set out clearly their proposals for the future of the joint boards and any staff who would be affected.

Also envisaged in the same little network of sections in Clause 147 is a situation in which a toll order might be made for a special road scheme which included a road on which tolls were already charged. We are thinking particularly in that situation of the bridges over the Forth and the Tay. Under the existing arrangements in the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 that situation is not envisaged. Therefore to cover it we have introduced Clause 147.

The purpose of Clause 147 is to make clear that in the situation in which there are already existing tolls, where this particular procedure would come in we would envisage that, having regard to the fact that there are already existing tolls, the existing machinery for the increase and variation in tolls could apply. Also what is envisaged in Clause 147(2) is a provision to make quite clear that there can be no question of double charging in that eventuality.

With that explanation, which I am sure will reassure the Committee, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am most grateful to the Minister. He has cleared up the point for me although I shall want to look at his words very carefully. He will also appreciate that there was a genuine point to be made in raising the amendment because of the worries that have been shown. I shall not oppose the clause.

Clause 145 agreed to.

Clauses 146 to 148 agreed to.

Clause 149 [Exclusion from valuation roll of shootings, deer forests, fishings and fish counters]:

8.45 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 146: Page 102, line 23, leave out ("no").

The noble Lord said: This group of amendments caused great annoyance when the provisions were noted. The object is to require that rates be paid to the new authorities on shootings, deer forests, fishings and fish counters. The justification is that the abolition of the requirement to pay rates on shootings, deer forests, fishings and fish counters has reduced the amount of income of local authorities from non-domestic rates. The pooling of non-domestic rate income has reduced the adverse effect on individual authorities; but the overall effect across Scotland has been to reduce the total amount of income available from non-domestic rates.

It is incumbent upon us to support the amendment which requires that rates be paid on shootings, deer forests, fishings and fish counters. It is thought that the amount of money in question—it is only an estimate— is in the region of £2 million per annum.

The first amendment, Amendment No. 146, takes out the word "no" from subsection (1) (line 23 on page 102 of the Bill); the second amendment, Amendment No. 147, inserts at the end of that subsection: and shall be subject to the payment of rates to the new authorities"; Amendment No. 148 inserts in Clause 151(1) (in line 8 on page 103 of the Bill) the phrase: after consultation with local authorities". That is slightly different, though it is obviously tied up with it. It requires the Secretary of State to consult local authorities prior to prescribing the amount of non-domestic rates payable to councils and the provision gives the Secretary of State powers to make regulations subscribing non-domestic rates by reference to such factors as he thinks fit. Accordingly, he may set different non-domestic rates for different classes of property and rate payers.

Exercise of those powers will leave local authorities with no effective powers. However, they will have to pay for the administration of the service, which will be more expensive as a result of the changes that it is proposed should be embodied in the Bill and with potential anomalies arising from the interpretation of different levels of the rates. Local authorities should therefore be consulted in advance of any new requirements.

I was particularly annoyed about the provision. Many years ago the noble Lord, Lord Home, who was a man of great influence in politics and particularly in your Lordships' House, listened to an amendment tabled by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, to excuse from rates shootings which were not used for commercial purposes. A long debate took place in the Chamber and I was greatly impressed by the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Home, stood up and said—the words are classic and he had a way of saying them—"I approve in a way of my noble friend's amendment. But since I personally may gain from it, I would find it impossible to vote for it". The record will show that that is exactly what he said.

I do not want to go over the details, but this provision will go down like a lead balloon in Scotland. I hope that the Minister will accept the admonition of the noble Lord, Lord Home, and the serious political consequences that may arise. A lot will be made of it, particularly in rural areas. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My name is on the last amendment, which requires the Secretary of State to consult local authorities and which appears to me to be reasonable. The question of rates on shootings is a difficult one. One knows that the expense involved in running an estate is very high. When one considers that one day's grouse shooting can pay more than the rent for a whole sheep farm with several beats upon it, it is extremely important for the upkeep of employment in the area.

I shall listen to what the Minister says with great interest. I can see both sides of the argument. I should like him to confirm, increase or lessen the figure quoted. Every time we ask for something that we think beneficial we are told that it will cost £200 million or whatever. In this case the Government are introducing something which will lose money for the local authorities. We should therefore like to know how much that loss will be.

I shall be interested to hear the arguments, because I, as a countryman, know that there are arguments on both sides. I am concerned that the employment in the hills and the high ground should be kept up.

The Earl of Balfour

I rise as an interested party, having a shoot on my own estate, and to say that one of the reasons why I am in favour of the Bill's provision is that it makes both sides of the Border the same. I feel that it is unfair to have shootings in Scotland rated as highly as they are when, with exactly the same type of shoot south of the Border, no rates at all would be paid. Equally, I feel that shootings can create employment and bring a lot of benefit. I firmly believe that even if shootings run at a deficit, which they do for nearly all estates except the very big ones, if an estate is properly keepered, that helps and protects wildlife, particularly small and ground nesting birds. If it is to be heavily rated then I am afraid the average landlord will not be able to continue. I hope that the amendments will not be pressed.

Lord Cochrane of Cults

I support my noble friend Lord Balfour in this matter and also the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. The fact is that the countryside runs on money. It needs income in order to be maintained, preserved and improved. The countryside about which conservationists speak so ardently has been created with money spent for a variety of reasons, but nevertheless it has been spent.

I entirely agree with my noble friend that we are inequitably taxed in relation to the other side of the Border, as he so tactfully put it. If one is paying a tax it reduces the amount of money that can be spent locally to the advantage of the amount of money that can be spent centrally, and we all know where some of that goes. I therefore strongly support my noble friend and hope that the matter will be resolved in his favour.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

Not for the first time my noble friend Lord Balfour provides the key to the thinking underlying this provision and the provisions which extend to Clause 149 through to Clause 160. The theme that runs through those clauses is the elimination of distinctions between the system of valuation and rating which exists south of the Border and that which exists in Scotland. In particular, they are designed to eliminate matters which are prejudicial to the position in Scotland. That is very much so in connection with the matter of shootings, deer forests, fishings or fish counters.

In broad terms, the position is that, for various reasons, rates are not payable in respect of those items in England and Wales, whereas hitherto they have been entered on the valuation roll in Scotland and have been accordingly rateable. Whatever the Committee may think of the politics of rating such matters, I cannot imagine that the enthusiasm of the Opposition for taxation goes so far as to indicate that they would wish estates in Scotland to be more heavily taxed than those south of the Border. That is the effect of the position at present. The provision is designed to eliminate what has been regarded as a long-standing inequality between the position in Scotland and that in England and Wales. That is the basic purpose behind the provisions which runs through this part of the Bill.

Let me stress that, while it will result, as Members of the Committee indicated, in a loss of revenue to the Scottish non-domestic rating pool, nonetheless at the end of the day the effect will not be disadvantageous to local authorities. Figures were put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, and I can agree with his estimate that the likely amount is thought to be less than £2 million. The exact figure is not easily calculable because it depends on hypothesis as to what would have been recovered in the way of rating income on these items as a result of the 1995 revaluation. One cannot predict it exactly, but that is, roughly speaking, thought to be the figure. I do not think we are apart on that kind of figure. That amount is admittedly lost from the pool of non-domestic rates.

Nonetheless, as your Lordships will appreciate, the present system is that the non-domestic rates are remitted to the centre and payments then come out to local authorities by way of revenue support grant. The result of this will be that, if there is a reduction in the rating income to local authorities, there will be a corresponding increase in the revenue support grant. From the point of view of local authorities it will not make any difference. At the end of the day they will end up with the same level of income. Although it would come from different sources, nonetheless the position will be that local authorities will have the same income.

9 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

At a time when the Government are pleading financial stringency the fact is that £2 million will be lost to the country generally in taxation.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

I hope that I did not for one moment suggest otherwise. What I said is that this is part of a policy, which even noble Lords on the other side of the Committee might support, that there should be equality between the rating systems of Scotland and of England and Wales. Estates in Scotland should not bear a disproportionate burden. If they do, it will inevitably have the kinds of effects on employment and so on which were mentioned by my noble friends. It is for that reason that the provisions of Clause 149 are designed to put as far as can be done the rating system of Scotland on the same footing as that of England and Wales. That is the theme running through the rest of these clauses.

Clause 151 is designed to bring the powers of the Secretary of State into line with the powers open to government in England and Wales. At present there are powers available to the Secretary of State under Section 128 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 but those powers are limited to prescribing arrangements which are based on rateable values. On the other hand, in England and Wales the powers available are powers to prescribe the arrangements based on rates bills. The Government take the view that it is desirable that one should be able to give greater certainty in any scheme to the ratepayer as to what he or she will in the end have to pay. One has here a provision designed to give to the Secretary of State for Scotland equivalent powers to those which are already available in England and Wales. They are in effect an extension of powers which are already available in Scotland. In respect of those powers in Scotland there is no obligation to consult local authorities in advance. We see no reason why in respect of these extended powers there should be any obligation to consult local authorities either. In the light of that explanation I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

Before the noble and learned Lord sits down, does he accept that the sporting estates in Scotland are an industry? He has given a figure of £2 million in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. Are the Government really saying to the people of Scotland that the invaders of Scotland should have this advantage? We know that almost every sporting estate in Scotland is run by people outwith Scotland. I can take the noble and learned Lord to the various salmon areas and so on. I am not interested one way or the other in what happens in England and Wales. What I want to know is whether this Government are now saying that the people of Scotland are to be deprived of an income from sporting estates of £2 million. Are the Government washing their hands and saying, "It doesn't matter. The people who come up can use the rivers. They can fish for salmon. They can do what they like to do and have it for nothing"? It is a complete invasion of Scotland.

I for one am not prepared to accept what the noble and learned Lord has said in answer to the questions raised. If there is money to be made for Scotland in the sporting estates, let us get it for Scotland. Let us not make excuses. I find it very strange that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate has made the speech that he has in answer to the amendment and deprived the people of Scotland of their due rights in terms of income from the sporting estates.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

That was an astonishing speech. If the noble Lord had been listening he would have heard me explain that the income from these rates does not go, as he would have it, specifically to the people of Scotland and it does not go to the local authorities. This income goes to central government, who then return the appropriate income under the revenue support grant. If the noble Lord wished to indulge in this kind of strangely naive way of looking at the matter, he would be depriving the United Kingdom Exchequer of this particular level of income.

There is no reason why sporting estates in Scotland, as opposed to sporting estates in England, should contribute disproportionately to the income of the Exchequer for the United Kingdom. I should have thought that the noble Lord would welcome the opportunity for this extra money to be retained in Scotland and to be available for investment and to increase employment in Scotland rather than to be used in another way.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

Perhaps I may say a final word before the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael. While the arguments produced by the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, are absolutely wonderful, fine and old-fashioned complaints—some of them justified—from the Highlands of Scotland, which I like to hear, I do not believe that the Government have made a good case. I do not believe that it is enough to say that we should be like the English. If we want to do that, the English estates could be taxed. The Government failed to make the case that this tax harms the gross income coming into the Highlands. We do want the income from the German and Japanese shooters and from the rich English for the benefit of Scotland as a whole. The Government's case was fairly poor in attaching it to compliance with English law, when I should have preferred the Government to make a proper case that this provision would benefit Scotland as a whole.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I was surprised at the Minister's speech when he spoke about it being time that we got round to doing in Scotland what is done in England. It is an odd system of priorities that now, when things are so bad and our unemployment is as bad as it is, this is the time for the money to be given out. Despite what the Minister says, he knows that this £2 million will filter down to a group of people who do not really lack a crust. This is a big political issue. I imagine that the Scottish papers will be very interested in it. I have not spoken to any of them, but I may be tempted to. The estate owners are making a lot of money from these estates.

I know the argument that this measure will produce jobs. One noble Lord said to me not very long ago that he would be able to employ one more ghillie, but that is not good enough for me. He is not spending all the money on ghillies. But who will audit the figures? The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, is here. She raised this matter some years ago, but it was decided that it was not a good time to put the matter forward. The noble Lady may be able to give us the date, because I cannot remember exactly when it was.

What about the poor allotment holders who are paying rates on their miserable allotments near the railway sidings? Is there no comparison with them? The few pounds that they would get back if they were relieved of rates would be worth a great deal more to them. It has taken a long time to get around to this matter, but it is appalling that now is the time when it is to be implemented. It is not the time of night to test the opinion of the Committee, but it is a matter that we must come back to.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, has just referred to what I did—was it about eight years ago? I was then trying to achieve the derating of totally non-productive grouse moors which brought in no income whatever to their owners. At that time they were—and they are still, to the best of my knowledge—rated as though they were bringing in quite a large income.

The Earl of Dudley

I am astonished at the dearth of Scottish landlords on these Benches tonight but, if they were here, I am sure that they would be as astonished as I am at the extraordinary proposition coming from the Benches opposite—that is to say, that there is a group of English entrepreneurs culling profits from deer and fish in the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland.

I am only half Scots, and my knowledge of Scotland is totally different. Most of the Scottish deer forests and fisheries that I know are in the hands of extremely responsible Scottish landlords. In view of my noble friend's expose of the rating system, I should have thought that it is reasonable to assume that the £2 million would be far more likely to remain in Scotland in the hands of those landlords than in the UK Exchequer. Given those thoughts, I hope that noble Lords opposite will not be so pressing about their amendment.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I do not know the background of the noble Earl, but when a group of people appointed by the Secretary of State—that is, the independent chairmen of Scotland's rating and valuation tribunals—say that it was a shocking decision (I am sure that the Minister has all the details) there is no way of avoiding the argument. People in Scotland do not regard those who hold enormous tracts of land in Scotland, whether English or Scottish, with any great affection—

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry


Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am sorry that the noble and learned Lord feels that way. In fact, he is a Glasgow man so it is unbelievable that he should speak in that way. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 147 not moved.]

Clause 149 agreed to.

Clause 150 agreed to.

Clause 151 [Power of Secretary of State to prescribe amount of non-domestic rate]:

[Amendment No. 148 not moved.]

Clause 151 agreed to.

Clauses 152 to 161 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 149 and 150 not moved.]

Clause 162 [Calculation of limits on spending]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 151: Page 108, line 5, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that we have a debate on the power of the Secretary of State to limit spending and to raise the issue of a power of general competence for local authorities. This very important amendment is intended to elicit the Government's view on the role of local government in Scotland. That view has been stated only in the broadest and most general of terms. In neither of the consultation papers on reorganisation—that is, those published in June 1991 and October 1992—was there adequate consideration of the proper role of local government and the principles upon which it should be based.

Local authorities should have a right of general competence so that they can undertake activities which are in the interests of their communities. This would entail discarding the doctrine of ultra vires. If the Government do not accept the principle of the power of general competence, it is incumbent on Ministers to set out clearly their own views on what role local government should play in Scotland.

The Wheatley Commission was of the view that local authorities should not be limited by their statutory range of functions and that they should possess a power of general competence making it possible for them to act outside the cover of a specific enabling statute where the circumstances seemed appropriate. The commission stated: Such a power might be rarely exercised and yet it could prove profoundly effective in encouraging 'an enterprising and forward looking attitude of mind' in local government towards the particular needs of an area, which even the most comprehensive series of statutes cannot altogether provide for. The power should be granted to all local authorities on an equal footing". That was stated in 1969 in paragraph 640 of the Wheatley Report.

Wheatley also said: It is to the local electorate that the local council should have to answer for the use of such a power. Any restrictions should be aimed … simply at curbing any possible abuse of the powers by way of interference with private rights or the duties of other public bodies".

The commission went on to recommend that the Government should examine what form the safeguards would take when considering legislation on the matter of general competence. The introduction of a power of general competence would have both a symbolic and a psychological importance. It would demonstrate the view that local authorities exist not just to provide services but actively to represent their communities in the broadest sense. Local authorities should be seen as the legitimate voice of the community, with a concern for all public services in their areas, not merely as one agency among many others responsible for delivering services.

It is clear that many local authorities already adopt that role. Clydesdale District Council set out in its policy and financial plan for 1993–94 the following statement as its overall purpose: To represent the local community in all matters affecting the District, whether or not these matters relate to the services provided by the Council".

I could explain the amendment at greater length but it is getting late. I know that the Minister has the great privilege of being able to see the amendments that I am helped with, but I do not have a chance to see his answers before he gives them. I shall be happy to hear his answer on the role of local authorities and to be assured that they have not been emasculated. I beg to move.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

The effect of the amendment will be to preserve the existing formula for determining the maximum amount of discretionary expenditure which a local authority can incur each Financial year in terms of Section 83 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.

I appreciate that the noble Lord has taken the opportunity to engage in a brief debate on the issue of what is described as general competence for local authorities. I am happy to attempt to respond to him, but at the same time indicate some puzzlement as to why it should be thought that such a power for local authorities is desirable.

I know that there is a perception that in countries elsewhere in Europe where such a power exists local authorities have more flexibility and freedom. However, if the position is examined more closely, I cannot accept for a moment that that is necessarily the case. Powers for general competence are often introduced in other European countries where it is felt that the existing powers and responsibilities of local authorities are unclear. But the supposition that local authorities in those countries have a freer hand as a result and are less bound by legislation is misleading. In fact, a substantial raft of legislation is usually required to define precisely what local authorities are prohibited from doing. The net effect then is similar to the status quo here.

If the noble Lord wishes me to elaborate on the provision, I would be happy to do so. I believe that there is a misunderstanding about where that arrangement would lead us in the United Kingdom. We should not make simple comparisons with what happens elsewhere in Europe. I hope that my explanation has been helpful.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I obviously accept the Minister's good faith, and we will read his reply carefully in Hansard. The idea behind the amendment is good. I shall find out whether it is merely clumsily drafted or unworkable when I read the Minister's reply. We may bring it back on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 162 agreed to.

Clauses 163 and 164 agreed to.

Clause 165 [Special grants]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 151A:

Page 110, line 44, at end insert: ("(9) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, in exercising his powers under this section the Secretary of State shall take account of the reference library services provided by the councils of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee and the extent to which such services are utilised by persons not resident in the areas of those councils and shall make such special grants as seem to the Secretary of State appropriate for the purpose of spreading the burden of those services among all the councils whose residents make use of them.").

The noble Lord said: This is a very important amendment. I am a patron of the Scottish Library Association and I am delighted to be able to do something which will perhaps help the association. We have tabled this amendment in order to highlight a problem that exists at present and which will be more serious after re-organisation.

Although all public libraries in Scotland operate under the same statutory provisions (the Public Libraries Consolidation (Scotland) Act 1887, as amended), there are of course big differences in local needs and these result in differences in practice.

In particular, the big city libraries maintain reference facilities far in advance of those available in smaller towns. The Standards for the Public Library Service in Scotland, which were drawn up in 1986 by CoSLA and the Scottish Library Association, make clear that: the provision of reference and information services is essential in every community". I am sure that all Members of the Committee have discovered that to be true. But it is inevitable that the non-city authorities take for granted the big city facilities available in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee and skew their own expenditure towards other sectors of stock provision. The big city libraries can therefore be said to subsidise to some extent the services of other councils.

The problem will be intensified by the present Bill because the big cities will be surrounded in some cases by councils with even more modest resource bases than some of the present districts and those small authorities are likely to rely even more heavily on the city libraries. It is the firm view of the Scottish Library Association, which represents over 2,500 librarians in all kinds of libraries in Scotland, that the revenue support grant does not adequately reflect this extra-territorial role of the city libraries.

I therefore ask the Minister to give an assurance that, in principle, this is a consideration which it would be proper to cover in the revenue support grant and to undertake to have exchanges with the Scottish Library Association about it. I beg to move.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

We on these Benches strongly support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

I am happy to respond to the noble Lord in his capacity as patron of a worthy association. The purpose of his amendment is entirely commendable. It recognises that the reference library services provided in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee are used not only by the residents of those four cities but by people from outwith the cities, and it ensures that the funding arrangements for the libraries take account of their metropolitan role.

However, having said that, I believe that the amendment is based on a misunderstanding of how government support for the library service is, in fact, distributed among authorities. At present, such library services are a district function. The basis of distributing support is not resident, but adjusted, population. "Adjusted population" includes an allowance for tourists, commuters and out-of-town users. As a result of this, the present four district councils which are responsible for the libraries in question receive a level of funding which takes account of the fact that the libraries serve areas much wider than the cities in which they are situated.

Although the arrangements for distributing government support to the new councils have still to be discussed and agreed with CoSLA, it is likely that these arrangements will continue in future. As a result of this, recourse to a special grant to spread the burden of library provision is not necessary.

I understand the noble Lord's anxieties and believe that what he advances is based on a misunderstanding. I hope that, in the light of my explanation, he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

The Minister will be aware that there are some extremely good libraries in Scotland. They are worried that there will not be enough money and my mind rather wickedly went to the thought that £2 million would be a great help to them.

I appreciate that there are many demands. I believe that the Minister said that the Scottish Office would be happy to talk with the Scottish Library Association.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

I said that I would be happy to talk to CoSLA.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

Well I am sure that CoSLA will send along some librarians. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 165 agreed to.

Clauses 166 to 168 agreed to.

Clause 169 [Functions to include promotion of economic development]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 152: Page 114, leave out lines 4 to 39.

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 153. The purpose is to delete Section 171B which gives power to the Secretary of State to impose restrictions on the economic development activities of local authorities.

This amendment arose because in 1993, the Government published their White Paper on local government reorganisation which set out their conclusions about industrial development powers, and the Minister will be familiar with them. It stated: The Government value the significant contribution of local authorities in this area and have decided to take the opportunity to confirm in statute for the first time a local authority's right to become involved in industrial development activities".

The White Paper goes on to say that: While there would be no obligation on any of the parties involved to come to an agreement on the plans, the Government hope that this provision will improve co-ordination between the various bodies involved in industrial development". Local authorities in Scotland presently have considerable scope to incur expenditure on economic development under Section 83 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. That power has been exercised successfully without the need for regulation by the Secretary of State.

It is also noteworthy that that was an issue considered in detail by the Widdicombe Committee report on the conduct of local authority business which was published in 1986. That recommended the continuation of the discretionary power and that was accepted by the government of the day.

CoSLA has looked at the matter carefully and its reasons for rejection of the case for defining local authorities' economic powers in statute relates primarily to the power being taken by the Secretary of State to make regulations restricting the economic development activities of local authorities.

Whether or not we like the Government taking more powers to control local authorities, it must be accepted that it reduces local government authority. It makes people feel less and less involved in their own affairs because the local councils always say that they cannot do what they want to do because they are not allowed to. We hope that this amendment will give back some real power once more to local authorities. I beg to move.

The Earl of Minto

I support the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, very strongly in this amendment. Those of us who work in local government are fearful of what we consider to be a restrictive provision.

The role of local authorities in economic development really is significant, and I believe that the noble and learned Lord will accept that. I am conscious of the work that my own local authority has done over the past six years in "Perifra II" and Objective 5(b) and the preparation for that in the autumn of this year.

While I do not believe that the clause would affect the development in that field, the offshoots involved are, nevertheless, important in local authority terms. The range of activities that we undertake is very wide: for example, developing economic strategies and initiatives; providing business support infrastructure; improving the physical environment and removing barriers to economic development; supporting people entering the labour market or preparing for a new or better job; assisting disadvantaged areas and people participating in the wider economy; and attracting external resources in the area. Such activities are but a framework without the actual flesh that goes into a local authority's duty in its view and, indeed, in the view of all local authorities in Scotland. Given that contribution to economic development, I believe that it would be extremely adverse if that were to be affected in the way suggested in the clause.

It is important to understand that local authorities work very closely with the local enterprise companies. It is beholden upon us within local authorities to speak with our local enterprise companies. In most cases the relationships in Scotland between local authorities and the local enterprise companies are very good. Local authorities are to have placed upon them through statute that they must meet and consult with the LECs, but I see nothing upon which the LECs must consult with the local authorities. If there is to be a sensible division of economic development within the new council areas of Scotland, it is absolutely vital that it should not be one-sided and that the consultative process is statutorily imposed upon both bodies rather than only on one of them. Therefore, I support the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, most strongly in his proposed new clause.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

I have listened carefully to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, and the noble Earl, Lord Minto. However, I have to say at the outset that the Government cannot accept the amendments. Perhaps I may take a moment or two to explain why. The proposed Section 171A gives local authorities under the Bill a very broad power to engage in activities to promote the economic development of their areas. I understand that that has been warmly welcomed in Scotland. I should also say that we fully expect that local authorities will use the power given to them in both a responsible and an effective fashion. However, the Secretary of State wishes to impose two conditions on local authorities' use of that power; and the proposed Section 171B will provide the means by which those conditions will be imposed.

The first intended condition will be a requirement on local authorities to consult other parties—particularly the local enterprise company or companies and the chamber or chambers of commerce in each of their areas—before taking action on economic development plans. We believe that that will help to foster a spirit of co-operation among the main actors operating in the economic development field and to achieve a greater co-ordination of effort.

Secondly, the Secretary of State wishes to require local authorities to supply details of whatever economic development activities they carry out. That will be a requirement for periodic summaries of information, and I have to say that it is a requirement arising from the United Kingdom obligations under European law.

The latter are two important purposes for which provisions would have to be made on the face of the Bill if they were not to be effected by secondary legislation; but in our view, it is more appropriate that they be effected by such regulations because both requirements will need to be spelled out in detailed terms.

I should also point out to the Committee that it is intended that regulations for those purposes will be Laid in time to come into force from the beginning of the new local authority regime. It is not envisaged that the Secretary of State will wish to make early use of that power under Section 171B to impose any other restrictions or conditions on local authorities' economic development activities. We expect, as I say, that local authorities will use this power in a responsible and effective manner. It is only reasonable, however, to allow the Secretary of State to impose additional restrictions or conditions if in future there should arise any need for him to do so in the interests of co-ordination between local action and national policy.

Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands, Enterprise have wide statutory powers for promoting the economic development of their areas, and in the case of Scottish Enterprise, of the economy of Scotland as a whole. They already consult widely with other relevant bodies, including, where appropriate, with local authorities, but have to be able to lake a strategic overview of their functions which transcends purely local interests.

It would be unreasonable—I am sure this will be appreciated—to take statutory measures to require Scottish Enterprise or Highlands and Islands Enterprise to engage in unwieldy consultation with local authorities on economic development questions which might have absolutely no relevance to their part of Scotland.

As regards the local enterprise companies, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Minto, for his observation that in the main they are working pretty well in Scotland as regards their consultation arrangements with local authorities. However, so far as they are concerned, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise delegate the discharge of many of their functions. They are of course not defined by statute, and their operations are governed by a contractual relationship with the enterprise bodies. If the intention of this amendment is to ensure that the local enterprise companies consult the local authorities in their area, desirable as that is and important as that is, given the fact that they are not defined by statute, it is in our view inappropriate to bring about that result by statutory means. The local enterprise companies are, however, in no doubt as to the Government's wish that they should work closely in partnership with local authorities and other local bodies in promoting the economic development of their areas.

I have taken a moment or two to spell out the two conditions. I think that is important, as there should not be any misunderstanding in this regard. The Secretary of State does not wish to get involved in this further than is necessary. However, as regards the two conditions that I have taken some time to spell out, I think it will be appreciated that they are important because the first one is necessary in terms of our international obligations and the second is perfectly sensible and desirable. I hope that, with that explanation, the amendment can be withdrawn.

The Earl of Minto

I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord for the response that he has given to the particular points which I raised. I shall read with the greatest interest what the noble and learned Lord had to say upon those matters. I feel it is important that the economic development agencies, if you like, of Scotland—whatever they may be—should work well together. One of them should not feel that something has been imposed upon the other to the disadvantage of the latter. Naturally I shall leave it to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, to decide what he wishes to do with the amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord. He obviously has a great deal more personal knowledge than I on this subject through his local authority, where I know he is extremely active. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 169 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 153 not moved.]

Clause 170 [Duty of Secretary of State to establish area tourist boards]:

Lord Mackie of Benshie moved Amendment No. 154: Page 115, line 7, leave out from ("specified") to ("hereafter") in line 8 and insert ("in Schedule (Area Tourist Boards) to this Act").

The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 154 and speak to Amendment No. 158. The amendments hang together. They have a simple purpose, which is to give Argyll and Bute, which form a proper entity, a single tourist board. In Argyll and Bute at the moment there are a number of tourist boards, so there will be a joining together and a clarification of the position which the people of Argyll and Bute all support.

All the bodies previously involved support a tourist authority or tourist board which simply takes in Argyll and Bute. That is their feeling among themselves; they are very close. They do not wish to be associated—it is not for any nasty reason—with Clackmannan and Falkirk Council, Dumbarton and Clydebank Council and Stirling Council. It seems logical that Argyll and Bute, with its 500 islands, a great many of them inhabited, provides a different tourist attraction from the Loch Lomond side. One can go round Loch Lomond within a day on a bus. But Argyll and Bute needs to attract people who will spend several days within the area and who will acquire a taste for the loneliness and the peace of that countryside. The area requires a specific authority in order to promote such tourism which has a great future if it is properly undertaken. Obviously as we swelter in the heat (although not in this Chamber) we do not think of visiting Clackmannan or Stirling but the islands. I can understand that feeling.

The Government are a little inconsistent. On the Marshalled List we have, rightly and properly, Shetland Council, Orkney Council and the Western Isles Council, each of which will have its own tourist board. That is logical. If I may digress while moving the amendment, it is quite illogical that, although the tourist boards in the islands are on their own, the Government still wish to put water and sewerage in with a larger authority. There is no way that one can carry water or sewerage across between the islands. The Government are being entirely illogical in that case. I shall return to the issue of water and sewerage at Report stage.

However, the logic extends to Argyll and Bute. It has a solid case. Those people are united in their desire for that authority. I should like to hear any proper reason that the Government can produce for refusing the request. I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

The noble Lord has urged that we should change the decision to create a new area tourist board for the West Highlands and the islands of Argyll, Bute and Cowal, along with Loch Lomond, Stirling and the Trossachs boards. In fact he is indicating that Argyll and Bute should simply have its own tourist board.

From a technical point of view—I do not make much of the point—his amendment would have the effect, which I think the noble Lord would probably regard as undesirable, of restricting or removing entirely the flexibility to provide for future changes in the boundaries of area tourist boards which is available within the clauses as they stand. Of course, we always hope to achieve perfection in legislation. But there is always the possibility that in future circumstances may change and something may have to be altered. As noble Lords will appreciate, the scheme in the Bill allows for change if that is appropriate. But if the noble Lord's amendments were incorporated, they would remove that element of flexibility.

The real thrust of the noble Lord's amendments was to deal specifically with the case relating to Argyll and Bute. Even he would accept that in the nature of things this is an issue upon which it is always difficult to be sure that there is one uniquely correct answer. Different views may be held. The issue comes from the original decision of the Government in 1992 to review the system of tourist support arrangements in Scotland. As a result, views emerged from the tourism industry and the existing tourist boards that we required radically to reduce the number of boards which operate at present in Scotland. I do not believe that that is a controversial conclusion; it was certainly supported by the industry. At present, there are 31 boards and the effect of the legislation is to reduce that number.

In reaching our decisions on the matter, we took the advice of the Scottish Tourist Board, which is the Government's statutory adviser on tourism matters in Scotland. As I am sure the noble Lord is aware, the Scottish Tourist Board was strongly of the view that a board which comprised the area of the new Argyll and Bute, Stirling, Clackmannan and Falkirk councils would be both an effective and—in so far as it is different—a financially sound organisation which would bring great benefit to the tourism industry in the area.

The mere fact that that representation was made does not mean that it has to be accepted, but we considered it as we also considered other representations which were made. In the light of that, the Government reached the view that the interests of tourism in Argyll and Bute would be better served at the end of the day by the arrangements which have been announced rather than by a board covering only Argyll and Bute.

The thinking behind that, as the noble Lord may be aware, is that Argyll and Bute would gain a considerable advantage from having associated with it Loch Lomond, which is one of the main tourist attractions in Scotland. It would also gain from being associated with Stirling, which is already one of the drawing points of tourism in Scotland and is increasing in popularity. There is a pattern of tourism whereby people coming to Scotland go to Edinburgh, then to Stirling and shoot north up to Inverness and so on. It is envisaged that by this marketing strategy which would associate Argyll and Bute with Stirling, people would be drawn west towards Stirling, then on to Loch Lomond, then westward to Argyll and Bute. Everyone acknowledges that there have recently been problems in the Cowal area and it is necessary to do all we can to attract visitors to it. Based on the advice which comes from the Scottish Tourist Board, we feel that a package which markets the area as a whole, thereby drawing people to it in such a way would be attractive and at the end of the day it would be the most successful way of marketing tourism there.

To those who have advised us, and whose advice we have accepted, it seems that there would be a possibility of having a kind of "package" of towns, history, sites, outdoor activities and so on. In that way we would hope that people would be drawn over to the west, and would go to Argyll, instead of simply moving on northwards, as they tend to do at the moment, into the Highland area and in effect by-passing the Argyll and Bute area. The findings of the existing board suggest that that has not been as successful as one might have hoped.

We therefore think—although I realise that there are different views on this issue—that the approach envisaged by the Government is the correct one. In the light of that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I thank the Minister for that very full explanation and the logical way in which he expressed it. There is of course one great snag; namely, Argyll and Bute are against it. If you start with an area where there is a split, it does not work too well.

I know a little about the tourist industry. I have been associated with it. The fact is that you may guide people along a road, but they go there not with the intention of touring. If, for example, they are going to Argyll and to the Islands, they mean to go there. You are not going through Stirling; you are not being drawn along a channel; you are actually going there. The four tourist boards, which are amalgamated now, believe that they have a special case for marketing.

I have listened to the arguments and I will withdraw the amendment. But I hope that the noble and learned Lord has listened to my argument and that he might consider it. If there is provision for alteration in the future, it might be better to make it now. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar moved Amendment No. 155:

Page 115, line 8, at end insert: ("(1A) For the purposes of this section a new local authority may no later than 1st October 1995 submit to the Secretary of State for his approval a scheme for the establishment of an area tourist board, together with any other such authority whose area lies wholly or partly within the area of that board. (1B) The power conferred on new local authorities by subsection (1A) above may only be exercised after consultation with the district or islands councils whose area lies wholly or partly within the area of the board for which the scheme is proposed. (1C) Before making schemes under this section the Secretary of State shall have regard to any schemes submitted under subsection (1A) above, approval of which shall not unreasonably be withheld.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment would allow the local authority to conjoin with the Secretary of State to approve a scheme for the establishment of an area tourist board together with any such authority whose area lies wholly or partly within the area of that board. The purpose is to allow the new local authorities the power to present proposals for the establishment of new area tourist boards.

It is probably an open secret that this amendment comes from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. CoSLA is anxious that its views should be taken into account and that local authorities should work in conjunction with the Secretary of State to project the image (if you can put it that way) of Scotland in the most desirable way, setting aside all parochial issues as to which part of Scotland is more beautiful than another. (We all know that Scotland is a beautiful country anyway, so we cannot start arguing about that.)

CoSLA makes the point that it has not been consulted by the Scottish Office on this particular matter or by the Scottish Tourist Board in making recommendations to the Secretary of State. The amendment was put down to focus on this particular issue: all of us in Scotland wish to project Scotland in the most favourable light. The effect of the amendment would be that the local authorities, the Secretary of State and the Scottish Office could all get together and make Scotland a place to which people will want to come for many years to come. With those remarks, I beg to move the amendment.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

The noble Lord concentrated on Amendment No. 155. The Committee will notice that the wording of subsection (1A) in that amendment indicates that a new local authority may submit a scheme to the Secretary of State for his approval. As the noble Lord acknowledged, that is a power and not a duty.

The first of the noble Lord's remarks was that the local authorities should be given the power to submit the schemes to the Secretary of State and in effect work in conjunction with him for the establishment of the area tourist boards. I have to tell him that the Government believe that the new shadow authorities will have neither the time before 1st April 1996 nor indeed the resources to devote to the task of establishing the new tourist boards. That seems to us to be a particularly important matter. If the boards are not up and running by 1st April 1996, there will be a void for tourism which could not be filled in another way and which could result in damage to the tourism industry and harm to visitors.

We believe that that has to be avoided and it is avoided only by giving the power which is contained in the Bill to the Secretary of State. Because we believe that that is the only way that people can be sure that those arrangements are in place by 1st April, we feel that what is in the Bill is in fact necessary.

I stress to the noble Lord that that does not mean that the boards will be set up without consultation. In so far as there are fears on that score, let me set them at rest. Both the new and the existing local authorities will be given every opportunity to contribute to the work necessary to establish the new area tourist boards. I believe that the contribution of the local authorities will be no less under the Government's proposal than would be the case under the noble Lord's amendment. The difference—I believe that it is a crucial difference—is that under our proposal the tourist industry has a guarantee that area tourist boards will be established, whereas it is plain on the face of the amendment that under the noble Lord's proposal there is no guarantee and only a hope. In that situation I believe that our proposal is preferable.

With that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

10 p.m.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation, but I find it a contradiction in terms. If the position of the Government is that the new authorities will have neither the time nor the resources to set up their own area tourist boards, how will they find the resources to consult with the Government? One cannot have it both ways. Either they have the time and resources or they do not have them. Therefore what the noble and learned Lord has just said is a meaningless promise from the Government.

I understand that he should say, "All right, we will consult with all the local authorities"; but let us not hedge that reassurance with, if I may say so, silly restrictions to imply that, "You do not have the time and resources and therefore you cannot do it yourselves. But if we consult with you, you do have the time and resources."

It seems to me to be a nonsensical approach. However, I am sure that the new shadow authorities will do everything in their power to co-operate with the Government in projecting the image of Scotland. With those observations, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 156:

Page 115, line 16, leave out paragraph (d) and insert: ("(d) provide that the members of the board shall be nominated by the new local authority whose area lies wholly or partly within the area of the board together with any other such authority whose area lies wholly or partly within the area of that board and by the tourist industry in the said area.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of Amendment No. 156 is to provide that the members of the board shall be based on nominations from local authorities and the local tourist industry in such proportions as they may agree. The Secretary of State for Scotland, in a statement in June 1993, said, In order to encourage further evolution of industry involvement in Area Tourist Boards, the proposed legislation will provide that on Executive Committees, the members representing trade interests shall be in a majority".

It is interesting to note therefore that during consideration of this matter in the Commons, Ministers tabled an amendment to the Bill allowing that local authority representatives and those representing trade interests can be of equal numbers on an area tourist board controlling body.

The Government's desire to increase the representation of trade members is interesting in that no evidence exists to support any suggestion that this is a desire widely held by the trade itself. In that regard it is interesting that the Dumfries and Galloway Tourist Board expressed concern at local authorities forming a minority on the area tourist board, stating that, we believe that such matters as representation on these controlling bodies should be left to individual ATBs and should not be subject to specific legislation. It should be up to each of the new Area Tourist Boards to determine the most appropriate representation on their controlling body".

Given the Government's desire to deny local authorities a majority on the controlling bodies of ATBs, local authorities are very concerned, as are many trade members of area tourist boards, over the future funding of the new tourist boards by the new councils. I hope therefore that the Minister, who has all the figures, will answer that pertinent point from a tourist board. It is hard to break into the big time of tourism in Scotland, though the area is one we should exploit much more. I beg to move.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

I am slightly puzzled about the amendment because it would delete paragraph (d) which simply provides for the Secretary of State to appoint the first members of the controlling board. That is all the provision is designed to do. The noble Lord addressed his amendment as though it were designed to deal with the respective representation of the local authority and the subscribing members of the board. That is a completely different issue, which is dealt with in Clause 170(6) of the Bill which deals with the composition and provides that the number of persons representing a local authority shall not exceed the number of subscribing members appointed as members of the controlling body.

The noble Lord will be aware that as a result of representations made, that provision was altered and now provides for equality between the two sides. Again this is a matter where it is possible to hold different views as to exactly what is the correct proportion. But we believe that at the end of the day equality is a good thing. It means that the local authority retains an interest in this body, which is important, as is recognised by the tourist industry members. Equally, it means that the tourist industry members feel that they have a proper say in the body and that their interests are being properly protected. The Government have no interest other than appointing the initial members. That is part of the overall scheme to get the board under way as soon as possible. The provision relating to the composition of the boards is in subsection (6) and provides for equality. We believe that that is acceptable. In the light of that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

The Earl of Minto

I have to admit that my local authority does not as a region have a direct responsibility for a tourist board within the borders as it stands at the present time but the districts do. I would have to say to the Committee that there is concern that, since the funding would appear still to come from the new authority, it is perhaps only right that there should be some form of majority representation if we are having to impose a form of taxation upon ourselves in order to fund the tourist board element. I think there is a legitimate concern that perhaps the majority should be seen to be from the elected membership so that one could then turn to those one represents and say, "At least we have a majority and we therefore feel it justifiable that we should spend your money on this subject".

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am sorry if I misled the Minister and addressed the wrong amendment at the beginning. I thought that they dealt with the same subject. However, it was a bonus because I received an explanation which was a great help to me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

Perhaps I may say to the noble Earl, Lord Minto, that there is provision for people to be subscribing members in terms of Clause 170(7).

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 170 agreed to.

Clauses 171 to 174 agreed to.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth moved Amendment No. 157: After Clause 174, insert the following new clause:

("Preservation of museums and art galleries

. A local authority shall consider museum and art gallery collections held by them as community assets held in trust, and make proper arrangements for their preservation and management.").

The noble Lord said: Perhaps I may move this amendment in the absence of my noble friend Lord Mackie of Benshie. The amendment has been put down for two purposes. The first is the general purpose of underlining to the Government the importance in the aftermath of local government reform of ensuring the continued vitality of the museums and art galleries mat are under local authority control and ownership. A change in the structure of local government is always destabilising and it is extremely important that in those circumstances the new authorities should be encouraged by government in every way possible to maintain adequately the museums and art galleries that currently belong to Scottish local authorities.

Secondly, there is the more specific matter that has been raised by CoSLA of the legal situation relating to the management and ownership of the collections. There is some obscurity on the matter, and with the establishment of the new structures it is a good moment to consider the legal status of the local authority collections in our museums and art galleries. It is extremely important that, in a period of change in local government with very severe financial pressures on the new authorities, it should not be the standard and the quality of the museum and art gallery services that suffer. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

The Earl of Balfour

There is something in this amendment. I take up the word "held" which is in it. Are the collections held on trust or on loan or are they the property of the local authority? There are problems here with new authorities taking over and the old ones being wound up.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I said that I would withdraw the amendment, but I had no right to do so because my name is not attached to it. I was glad that I had made that mistake and that the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, came in and gave me the chance to speak. There is no question but that museums and art galleries over the past 15 to 20 years have become extremely important for the development of some areas. People have more leisure and the techniques of displays at museums and art galleries have improved enormously. That is true particularly in areas like Liverpool and the west of Scotland, where there are great engineering and industrial traditions. Some of the machinery has been saved. It is well worth while that we should do everything we can to give an example to future generations as to what made their area great and how the capital was produced to build up their area.

It is also extremely important to appreciate the general attractiveness of museums because of greater leisure and people being more interested in the past. They are also more interested in their roots. Attendances have increased quite remarkably over the past few years. A number of local museums have engendered great local pride in industries which were perhaps extremely narrow in their range. For instance, in some parts of Ayrshire there are quite small weaving museums concerned with things such as woollens and netting, the plant which creates them and the very intricate machinery which produces them. I hope that the Minister will accept that museums are becoming very important and that, if we do not do something now, many very good exhibits and sources of knowledge, pleasure and recreation for people will be lost.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

As the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, has said, this is an opportune moment to consider just exactly what is the proper arrangement that should be made for museums and galleries in Scotland. As the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, said, there is encouragingly greater interest in these parts of our national life and they should be preserved and regarded.

The first part of this clause would require a local authority to hold all the items in their museum and art gallery collections in perpetuity. The authority would not be able to dispose of such items in any circumstances. The second part of the clause would require it to secure the preservation and good management of its collections.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, that the clause does not take account of the existing provisions of Section 21 of the Public Libraries Consolidation (Scotland) Act 1887, which deals with the operation of museums and art galleries, as well as libraries.

Among other things, Section 21 of the Act imposes a duty on local authorities to manage, regulate and control their museums and art galleries and gives them a general power to do whatever is necessary to fulfil their management duty, including specific powers to take the necessary steps to keep items in their collections in a proper state of preservation and repair. Given the terms of the noble Lord's amendment, I believe that he would approve of that existing provision. The local authorities therefore already have broadly the same duties in relation to collections management and preservation as the new provisions seek to impose.

I return now to the first part of the new clause which would prohibit local authorities from ever disposing of items in their collections. Section 21 of the 1887 Act makes specific provision only for disposal of duplicate items in collections by way of sale or exchange, provided that—it is an important proviso—the proceeds of the sale or the property received in exchange is applied to the benefit of the museum or art gallery.

A total prohibition on disposal would conflict with the aim of the second part of the new clause—that relating to the good management of collections. The freedom to dispose of some items for good reasons— such as the collection already has two and one will suffice—seems an essential part of good collections management.

I could make a number of other observations about the registration scheme which is operated by the Museums and Galleries Commission, which is the Government's adviser on these matters. Some guidance has been given on what might be an appropriate regime in terms of maintaining and managing items and, in certain limited circumstances, disposing of them. However, I hope that the explanation that I have given to the noble Lord will be sufficient.

The Earl of Dudley

Will the Minister say something about the substantive point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, in that a number of museums and galleries in Scotland, particularly the National Gallery of Scotland, contain some very fine pictures, including some Titians and Poussins, which are on loan from private collections? I think that I am right in saying that the noble Duke, the Duke of Sutherland, has loaned pictures to the National Gallery of Scotland. Although I do not pretend to know the arrangements that exist between the noble Duke and the gallery, those pictures are not the property of the gallery. That is the point that the noble Lord should take into account when considering both the amendment and the legislation.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

I apologise to my noble friend Lord Balfour for not dealing with that matter. Noble Lords will appreciate that specific provisions relate to the National Gallery of Scotland. I can think of a number of important benefactors who have allowed paintings, books and the like to go on show in Scotland with varying bases of trust. If there is some arrangement whereby such works are held on trust, nothing that we would propose would seek to alter the terms of those trusts. Indeed, I do not think that the proposed amendment makes any suggestion that the terms of particular trusts allowing paintings to be exhibited and shown to the public would be altered in that fashion.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

I confess to the noble and learned Lord that that Scottish Act of 1887 is not something that I have studied recently. However, I am grateful to the Minister for the care that he has taken in his response and for its sympathetic tone. I shall want to study carefully what he has said. No doubt those who are professionally concerned with these matters will also want to study the statement that he has just made.

On the face of it, I am inclined to agree with the Minister that our amendment, as drafted, contains an inherent contradiction. We were trying to ride two different horses in slightly different directions at the same time. That is a familiar experience in your Lordships' House. You cannot have absolute trust and, at the same time, flexibility in the good management of a gallery or museum. I accept that. However, having said that, I am grateful to the Minister and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Halsbury moved Amendment No. 157A: After Clause 174, insert the following new clause:

("Scientific Services Agency

.—(1) There shall be constituted in accordance with Schedule (The Scientific Services Agency for the Scottish Local Authorities) to this Act, a body to be called the Scientific Services Agency for the Scottish Local Authorities (referred to in this Act as "the Agency") which shall have the functions conferred to it by this section.

(2) Local Authorities may delegate to the Agency such of their functions as they consider appropriate.

(3) The Agency shall provide such services and carry out such tasks for local authorities as the Agency and those authorities may agree, and on such terms and conditions as may be agreed.

(4) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (3) above the Agency shall provide the services of Public Analyst and Agricultural Analyst to the local authorities. The Agency may further provide the services of chemical analysis, microbiological examination, physical and other testing, and scientific advice to the local authorities in accordance with Schedule (The Scientific Services Agency for the Scottish Local Authorities).

(5) For the purposes of this section any reference to provision of services to a local authority shall be taken as including a reference to Water Authorities, Police Forces, Fire Brigades, Strathclyde Passenger Transport Authority and public bodies within the meaning of section 21 of the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970.").

The noble Earl said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 158A which relates to a schedule to the new clause proposed in Amendment No. 157A. The amendments together provide for a scientific agency service for Scotland to provide services to the new unitary local authorities for Scotland which will take over in April 1996. The amendment deals with an aspect of what has hitherto had only the briefest mention in this place or elsewhere. It is a probing amendment which I shall not carry to a Division. However, I reserve the right to raise it again on Report if the Minister's reply is unsatisfactory.

The Minister should note that the amendments have the support of the Society of Directors of Trading Standards in Scotland and environmental health officers. The hour is late. I am trying to avoid prolixity, but I must explain what and who public analysts are. The public analyst must, first, have an Honours degree in chemistry. That takes three years. He must then have a postgraduate Masters degree in analytical chemistry to a standard set by the Royal Society of Chemistry which is the standard-setting body for the whole chemical profession. As if that were not enough, he must be skilled in microscopical examination and microbiological identification. To crown it all, he must be very familiar with national and international law on standards.

I have said on an earlier occasion in another context that the public analyst is the crème de la crème of the profession of applied chemistry. His verdicts are accepted in the courts. Of those admirable people, there are only 10 in the whole of Scotland. They are employed by local authorities which provide them with what I might call in a generalised sense ammunitions and rations. To particularise them, that is laboratories and equipment.

The situation is a little different in England and Wales, but I shall not take up the Committee's time with a digression on that point. Currently, the public analysts' ongoing arrangements are with local government as it now is. The foundation of ongoing arrangements for local government, as it will be, has to be provided for. But that has not been so. That is the reason for the amendments. We must not leave a vacuum between government and public analysts. Who, for example, will own the laboratories now owned by public authorities to be dissolved in favour of other public authorities?

I do not want to see a situation reminiscent of a well remembered wartime cartoon where an inexperienced subaltern is marching his platoon over the edge of a cliff and an irritated sergeant major is saying to him, "For God's sake say something, sir, even if it's only goodbye". I hope that that is not an admonition that I shall have to address to the Minister.

The authority and status of those people go a long way back but were consolidated in the Food Safety Act 1990. But the Bill sets up food authorities, without requiring them to be those that now exist It also sets up a food safety examiner, without specifying who or what he is to be; and elsewhere in other legislation authority is provided for standards in agricultural services, animal feeding stuffs, and standards with respect to toy safety, household chemical safety, fraudulent substitution and labelling.

The Bill, unamended, would abolish regional councils which employ the public analysts and which own their laboratories. It redistributes their authority and responsibility, and the result could be the dismembering or fragmentation of the present partnership and relationships which could take a long time to repair. The new clause and the accompanying schedule propose to deal with that danger by setting up a science service for Scotland as a whole similar to the children's reporter administration in Part III of the Bill. If one likes, it is an Omnium Gatherum of all the scientific skills at the disposal of local government in general. I hope that the Committee will remember that under the terms of the European Community's education additional measures directive all the public analysts' laboratories have to be properly accredited and assessed. This is now achieved by existing accreditation to the NAMAS and FAPAS schemes—I shall not bother the Committee with what those acronyms mean—on quality assurance. Maintaining these schemes is expensive and it can be best achieved by maintaining the structural integrity of the public analytical laboratories as they now are. This amendment comes forward at a late stage of the Bill and the noble and learned Lord may feel that he has not had time sufficiently to consider it in all its aspects. I hope that he will receive it with sympathy and possibly give me an undertaking to meet the public analysts and Royal Society of Chemistry representatives who have assisted me in the preparation of these amendments at some time between now and the Report stage, which I take it will be in the autumn—in October or around that time. In the hope that the Minister will be able to give me some such assurance, I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Tordoff

The Committee and the public analysts will be grateful to the noble Earl for introducing this amendment so that it can be debated, although it is somewhat late in the evening. The noble Earl has covered the ground extremely well, as one would expect, because this is a subject with which he is well acquainted. His connections with the Royal Society of Chemistry are well known. Like him, I am grateful to the Royal Society for the support that it has given by way of briefing.

I should like to make one or two points. First, I direct the Committee's attention to the 1st Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology 1985–86, under the chairmanship of the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, on which I had the honour to serve. We looked at the question of science and technology in local government. Paragraph 4.23 of the report states: The scale of services has to be appropriate to present-day needs. The evidence quoted in Chapter 3 and the experience of the Committee's own members convinced the Committee that economies of scale are achievable in science and technology… in short, the Committee consider that scientific and technical services will obtain better quality facilities and instrumentation, better career structures and employment advantages, leading to higher overall quality of staff, and greater efficiency at any given level of cost, if they are organised on a large scale". Paragraph 4.24 states: Few local authorities are large enough to be self-sufficient in this respect, and the smaller ones are going to be at a disadvantage in the employment of staff and the purchase of capital equipment". That is very much at the heart of the noble Earl's argument, supported as he is by the noble Lord, Lord Porter. Perhaps en passant I may say without any disrespect to the noble and learned Lords opposite that I wonder sometimes why in your Lordships' House we refer to undoubtedly learned members of the law as noble and learned Lords and yet we refer to Nobel Prize winners as "the noble Lord". I think that it is rather sad that we do not recognise the skills, knowledge and experience that we have in your Lordships' House in the shape of the noble Lord, Lord Porter, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Todd.

It is important to maintain certain specific principles in the operation of these excellent laboratories which the noble Earl's clause seeks to enshrine in the Bill. Among these are the unrestricted and equal access to the specialist scientific services by the new Scottish unitary local authorities; the preservation of the independence of the public analysts—and that is a very important point because these people are not only skilled but they are independent and when they go to court they are respected because of their skill and independence—the availability of experienced analytical chemists, food analysts, food examiners and agricultural analysts to all the new Scottish local authorities; and the proper co-ordination of specialist scientific services and enforcement, as is the case at present.

It is unfortunate that the Bill has not so far encompassed those matters. I hope that when the noble and learned Lord responds, he will come forward with some mechanism by which those very important services can be maintained. They are important not only for the scientific community but for the average man and woman in daily life. Local authorities should be given the degree of scientific back-up which they need in an increasingly complex scientific world.

The Earl of Balfour

I add a few words of support from a purely practical point of view. I believe that that body needs to be given the special provisions necessary to meet the ever-increasing hygiene requirements of both British and European Governments.

Tremendous care needs to be taken in respect of bacteriological tests in order to ensure that the sample taken is not polluted by other bacteria. Also, very often, temperatures come into the matter. An analyst taking a sample of water from the kitchen, straight from the main, should use a blow lamp on the tap to keep that sterilised before he takes a sample. The water is then put into a bottle which is very often insulated so that the temperature does not change during its transportation to the laboratory where it is fully tested. That is extremely important.

Equally, the local authority environmental health departments are taking on ever-increasing responsibilities for many of those matters. It is extremely interesting that unlike many of the other local authority departments, they have never asked for a director. I believe that that is a good example of a department which is better off without a director.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

Perhaps I may say somewhat defensively to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, that I did not determine that those with legal qualifications should be described as "learned". At the risk of losing my professional colleagues, I feel bound to say that there are many occasions on which the contributions of non-lawyers may be more learned than those made by lawyers. I believe that the noble Earl provided just such a contribution to our debate this evening.

I should say to him immediately that we are anxious to ensure the continuing integrity of the public analyst service. As he pointed out, regional and islands councils are required by Section 27 of the Food Safety Act 1990 to appoint public analysts. District councils are then required to use those analysts for various purposes. Under the terms of this Bill those responsibilities will be transferred to the new councils. Thus all 32 new councils will be required to appoint public analysts and use them for certain specified tasks.

I should emphasise, however, that that does not mean the appointment of 32 different analysts. Indeed, the Government would hope that that will not be the case. While it will be up to each new council to take its own decisions on this matter, there would appear to be no reason why councils should wish to alter the existing arrangement whereby all councils use the same four public analysts.

Mention was also made of whether the analysts will continue to be employed by the new councils. There is, of course, no statutory obligation on local authorities to employ analysts in-house. I understand, however, that while that has not always been the case, the four analysts at present are employees of regional councils.

As such, I should have thought that local government would wish them to be covered by the staff transfer orders which are to be made under Clause 8 of the Bill. Similarly—the noble Earl raised this matter—I should imagine that the authorities involved will agree to transfer their laboratories and equipment under the auspices of Clause 15 of the Bill.

The question regarding which authorities the public analysts will be transferred to is largely one for the regional councils and their successors to decide. The most sensible options would appear to be either to transfer them to the councils for the four main cities or, alternatively, to arrange for them to be employed jointly by some or all of the successors to the existing regions.

While I appreciate the argument which has been put forward in favour of a single scientific services agency, I am not immediately persuaded that that is necessary. Public analysts in Scotland already operate satisfactorily on a joint basis. As I said, there is no need for each new council to employ its own expertise and set up expensive laboratories; nor, on the other hand, is there any need to combine all the existing services into a single national unit.

I believe that we touched briefly on the matter of the public analyst service on an earlier occasion when I took the opportunity to say that I thought that it was an example of excellent joint working. That possibility remains under the Bill, without, I hope, the necessity of the direction of the Secretary of State. However, as we discussed previously, that power does exist.

Finally, I must tell the Committee that I have received a request for a meeting from the public analysts. I do not intend any discourtesy to them, but I believe that I have not as yet responded. However, if the noble Earl and the noble Lord think that it would be helpful for me to have such a meeting before Report stage, I should of course be happy to take up that opportunity.

Lord Tordoff

Before the noble Earl responds, I should like to point out that it seems to me that the Government have not grasped the seriousness of the situation. The regions are being abolished and a great vacuum is opening up. It is possible that the local authorities can get their act together and in due course produce some sort of amalgamation and coherent structure. But I believe that it ought to be included in the Bill somehow. In other words, the Government ought to be giving a lead to the new local authorities and saying to them, "This is an essential thing for the health of the people of Scotland, and that is the structure around which you should amalgamate". That is why I commend the amendment to the Government. It is a way forward. Indeed, the noble and learned Lord is offering very little in its place.

The Earl of Halsbury

Perhaps I may, first, thank all those who associated themselves with me by attaching their names to the two amendments. I should also like to thank all noble Lords who have spoken and contributed to our debate. In addition, I believe that I should extend my thanks to the Royal Society of Chemistry, of which I am a fellow, and the Association of Public Analysts, of whom I am not one, for the massive support that they gave me in preparing the words that I have delivered to the Committee this evening.

I very much associate myself with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and must return to what I originally said: the Government are leaving a vacuum in the hope that people will sort it out for themselves. I do not believe that one should. I hope that during the holidays the noble and learned Lord will study carefully what I said and come up with a conviction that he should do something about it. For now, I shall await the Report stage, reserving my position thereon. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 175 to 178 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 158 and 158A not moved.]

Schedule 13 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

[Amendment No. 159 not moved.]

10.45 p.m.

The Earl of Minto moved Amendment No. 160:

Page 192, line 49, at end insert: ("( ) In section 46(1) (Travelling allowance and subsidence allowance) for "necessarily" substitute "reasonably" and add at end "which shall have regard and be reasonably comparable to rates paid to members of other public bodies and shall not be less than that paid to Members of Parliament".").

The noble Earl said: This is a short amendment which attempts to make certain that the Government are aware of the discontent in the present local authorities in the hope that in the new local authorities due attention will have been paid to the pressure that we have tried to place upon the Government to alleviate the problems that we are facing at the moment with travelling allowances and subsistence allowances. I humbly say to the Committee, as I have before, that I shall not be standing at the council elections next April so this amendment is not for my benefit. However, it is something I feel quite strongly about.

The mileage rates that local authority members are paid at the moment fall short of those paid to APT & C staff, to jurors and to Members of Parliament by quite significant figures. It seems to me a little: odd that if my Member of Parliament and I travel separately but from approximately the same distance to the Scottish Office for a meeting, he is paid 68.2p. per mile to run his car and I am paid 26.6p. per mile to run my car. I have raised this matter with the Secretary of State in the past and he has always said to me that he has nothing to do with what Members of Parliament are paid for their mileage, which seems to me quite a subtle way of making his point. I would ask the noble and learned Lord please to consider seriously the situation with regard to travelling, and the cost of travelling and the cost of living while one is away from home.

In the rural areas we do not have buses; we have to use cars. It is perfectly normal for a member of my council who has to come to a meeting to clock up 112 miles getting there and back, and he will probably do a considerable number of extra miles on the way in connection with his duties with regard to planning applications and other matters. To be losing, losing, losing all the time is not a terribly attractive proposition. One has listened, during the four days of this Committee stage, and indeed on Second Reading, to certain noble Lords talking about the need for good quality councillors in the future, but we shall not get them unless they are at least allowed to break even. They certainly cannot be expected to pay, pay, pay as some presently are having to do. I know that they are suffering from having to do that.

I ask, through Amendment No. 160, that the Government urgently look at the situation with regard to the payment of both travelling and subsistence allowances to local authority members. There is a further amendment associated with this in the grouping, Amendment No. 161. I have learnt this evening that there is to be a consultation document—and I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for informing me of that; I believe it is to be issued within the next three weeks or so—on this subject and Amendment No. 161, which concerns the basic attendance and special responsibility allowances for local authority members. In view of that, it will not be my intention to move Amendment No. 161 when we reach it. I beg to move.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I support the noble Earl, Lord Minto, on these two amendments. Of all the people who have spoken in this debate I believe that he probably has the best current information. The fact that the noble Earl is from a rural area makes these amendments even more important, although this matter is also of relevance to those local authority members who live in cities. It is a long time since I was involved with a local authority, when we were paid practically nothing. I know that for some people at certain times of their lives, service as councillors becomes very difficult. There is criticism of councillors, saying that they are inadequate. If we do not pay them adequately, we gain people in all parties on occasions who are not the most suitable but are the only persons available. That is a bad thing. As the noble Earl, Lord Minto, said, people do not become councillors to make money—they would not make money on the figures to which he referred—but they should not lose money. I give the noble Earl every support possible.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

It is not often that the noble Earl is inaccurate. However, I have to advise him that my understanding is that a Member of Parliament does not receive 68p per mile; I think he now receives 74p. That may not make the noble Earl feel any happier.

Perhaps I may say more publicly what I intimated to him earlier: that we certainly agree that those who contribute as councillors should be, in a sense, properly rewarded for the important contribution that they make. We are indeed currently considering both the system of councillors' allowances generally and the travel and subsistence rates. In doing so, we shall give careful consideration to the comments which have been made to us during our extensive consultation exercise on local government reform.

However, more particularly, as he has already indicated, following on the consultation paper which the Department of the Environment has already issued to local authority associations on changes to the existing system of councillors' allowances, we shall be consulting separately in Scotland with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and others. I anticipate, without being absolutely bound by it, that there will be a consultation paper issued, if not within days, certainly within weeks. I understand that the Secretary of State for Scotland will be meeting with CoSLA as soon as tomorrow. I have no doubt that this issue will be raised then.

Against the issue of a consultation paper, I think it would be advisable if I were to say no more than that we wish to hear what people have to say.

The Earl of Minto

I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord for all that he has said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment N0.160A not moved.]

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 160B: Page 210, line 41, at end insert ("and after the word "London" there shall be inserted the words "and Edinburgh".").

The noble Earl said: We discussed Lords Lieutenant and Lords Provost in Clause 4. As within the Reserve Forces Act 1980 it states that the new appointments must be announced in the London Gazette, I do not understand why it should not be both the London Gazette and the Edinburgh Gazette, because the issue covers both countries. I beg to move.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

That was a brisk but powerful moving of the amendment by my noble friend Lord Balfour.

However, as drafted, the amendment would so amend Section 133(5) of the Reserve Forces Act 1980 that Clerks of Lieutenancy throughout Great Britain were required, at the cost of the local authority concerned, to publish in the Edinburgh Gazette as well as the London Gazette, as at present, the names of persons appointed deputy lieutenants.

The amendments which in Schedule 13 to the Bill the Government have proposed to the Reserve Forces Act 1980 have been confined to those parts of the Act which require amendment as a direct effect on the Bill now before the Committee. I question whether we should be seeking to introduce in the Bill an amendment which would impose a duty upon Clerks of Lieutenancy furth of Scotland, if indeed it would be competent to do so. I think that my noble friend will appreciate that, if the amendment were carried, not only would the Clerks to the Lieutenancy in Scotland have to advertise in the Edinburgh Gazette but all the Clerks to the Lieutenancy elsewhere in Great Britain would be under a comparable duty. That would seem to be excessive. However, I wish to consider what the noble Earl has said. I do not offer him any commitment because it seems to cover a matter that goes somewhat beyond the general scope of the Bill.

The Earl of Balfour

I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 160C: Page 230, line 26, at end insert:

("The Water Act 1983 (c. 23)

.—In section 3 of the Water Act 1983, paragraph (e) of subsection (5) shall be repealed.").

The noble Earl said: I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 160C and 160D together. I may not be right up to date with some of the legislation, but this appeared to me to be a necessary provision to bring the Water Act within the scope of the legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

This is not the first occasion on which I am grateful to my noble friend for the care with which he has investigated the legislation to see what may require to be amended as a consequence of the Bill.

I believe that Amendment No. 160C would have no real effect. The Water Act 1983 is in effect spent legislation. I believe that Section 3 has served its purpose and that the assets of the National Water Council and the Water Space Amenity Commission have been dealt with. I hope that it will be seen that it would be wasted effort to amend a provision which is spent, but I am grateful to my noble friend for raising the matter. I shall certainly double check to make sure that there is no outstanding reason for an amendment to be made.

I am also grateful to him for tabling Amendment No. 160D. It has highlighted an interesting question concerning the occupancy provisions for those who will reside in properties owned by the new water authorities. This is a complex area and one which will require further consideration about how best to deal with the issue. My noble friend has done us a service by pointing this out and I can assure him that we will pursue the matter as appropriate. Once we have checked the complication that he has pointed out, I shall write to him. With that assurance I hope that he will withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Balfour

I wish equally to record my grateful thanks to my noble and learned friend for the answers he has given to the several letters I have written to him about the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 160D to 161A not moved.]

Schedule 13 agreed to.

Schedule 14 [Repeals]:

[Amendments Nos. 161B to 163 not moved.]

Schedule 14 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with an amendment.

House adjourned at eleven o'clock.