HL Deb 08 March 1948 vol 154 cc524-6WA

asked His Majesty's Government: whether it is their policy that local government electors shall be encouraged to take an informed interest in the doings of their local authority, and that all unnecessary secrecy in public administration shall be discouraged; if so, whether they are aware that in at least one Highland county, electors are debarred from seeing county council minutes unless they make a personal visit to specified district centres; that in outlying areas of Scotland this is an almost prohibitive restriction inasmuch as it may entail a round journey of up to eighty miles on each occasion; that the inconvenience, wasteful expenditure and unnecessary travelling, thereby created are deplorable and unjustified; that the Secretary of State has no power to intervene; and whether therefore His Majesty's Government will introduce legislation enabling electors to purchase—as in the case of Hansard—minutes of proceedings of the county councils and committees they have themselves elected, by whose decisions they are constantly affected, and to whose expenditure they largely contribute.


The policy of His Majesty's Government is that local government electors should be encouraged to take an informed interest in the work of their local authority and that all unnecessary secrecy in public administration should be discouraged. In the Highland county to which it is understood that reference is made in the question, copies of minutes of the county council and of committees of the council may be perused in the county offices and in two public centres in the county.

As regards the supply of copies of minutes to electors, provision is made in Section 85 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946, and in paragraph 6 of the Fifth Schedule to the National Health Service (Scotland) Act, 1947, for local government electors to have access to the minutes of meetings of education and health service committees respectively, upon payment of a nominal fee and to make copies of extracts. Apart from these provisions, however, local authorities are under no statutory obligation to supply copies of minutes of their meetings to members of the public or to make the minutes available for inspection. The question of extending to local authorities and other committees provisions similar to those of the Education and National Health Service Acts referred to above has been noted for consideration in connection with any suitable amending legislation.

House adjourned at eight minutes past seven o'clock.