The interdepartmental Working Party which helped me in my examination of the functions and boundaries of Welsh local authorities had the benefit of the confidential advice of over thirty officers and members of Welsh local authorities whose names were suggested by the local authority associations for their knowledge and experience of local government in Wales.
My hon. Friend will be aware that in this case advice was given on a confidential basis, but not only did I have the advice of my Working Party and, through it, the members to whom I have referred, but I was also fortunate enough to have the benefit of the advice and evidence of local authority representatives who have been giving advice and evidence on these matters for over 20 years.
The first stage will be the consultation with local authorities and local authority associations which will, I hope, be completed by the end of the year. Work on the necessary legislation which will inevitably take some time will follow immediately. The Welsh Council, which will not require special legislation, will be set up next year at the end of the three-year term of office of the present Welsh Economic Council.
I have asked all Welsh local authorities to send me their views in writing by the end of September, but in the light of representations made I am giving further consideration to this. I am also arranging to get the views of the local authority associations.
When my right hon. Friend receives the views of local authorities, will he make sure that they are the views of elected representatives and not of paid officials protecting their vested interests?