Conduct in Local Government (Committee)

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th June 1974.

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Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth 12:00 am, 27th June 1974

asked the Prime Minister if he will now make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's proposals in regard to the report of the Committee on Conduct in Local Government chaired by Lord Redcliffe-Maud in connection with the recommendations that can be implemented at once.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Some of the committee's recommendations can be implemented by local authorities straight away. Consultations will begin very soon with local government bodies on those proposals which would require legislation.

Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth

May I thank the Prime Minister for that excellent report? Will he have a special look at the section in the Redcliffe-Maud recommendations that deals with the question of local authority party groups and the fact that their code of conduct should be no less strict than the code of the authority?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Where decisions are taken outside the council about the line to be taken in council this recommendation is important, irrespective of party. The hon. Gentleman will know that certain decisions were taken yesterday to try to improve this situation.

Photo of Mr Robert Elliott Mr Robert Elliott , Newcastle upon Tyne North

Does the Prime Minister recognise that the constant suggestions of his hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Milne) about corruption in the North-East of England, particularly in the ranks of the Labour Party, are doing a great deal of harm to public life in the region? Does he recognise that Recommendation 5 of the report, which suggests that councillors and officials need to work and should work in harmony, is accepted by most officials and councillors in the North-East of England? Will he consider instigating a Labour Party inquiry into the relationship between his party and local government, as requested by so many hon. Members?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

What we have done is to set up a Royal Commission dealing with the whole subject. I agree with the opening remarks of the hon. Member's statement about the damage being done by certain irresponsible statements that are being made, but the House will recognise that the speech I made at Shildon last year, which was warmly accepted by the hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Milne), was followed up immediately by the then Prime Minister, in that he set up the Redcliffe-Maud inquiry into the general issues, knowing that the inquiry could not look into issues which were the subject of court proceedings. As soon as the court proceedings in those cases ended I took action, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would have done, to set up a Royal Commission, which will be able to take account of the evidence produced in those police inquiries and the court proceedings, to look into the wider issues.