Local Government (Scotland)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:53 pm on 17th January 1983.

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Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram , Edinburgh South 8:53 pm, 17th January 1983

I am answering the question, if the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, Central (Mr. McCartney) will give me time. One of the answers can be found simply by looking at the manpower figures. The amount of extra money that has had to be found within local government in Scotland to pay for extra people who are employed is something which all hon. Members should bear strongly in mind.

The right hon. Member for Craigton, who accused me of interrupting him from a sedentary position, is the expert from whom I learnt that trade. I shall not give way to him at this point.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about cutting services and losing jobs because of cutting manpower, but can he, or his hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden when he sums up, explain how, as Secretary of State, the right hon. Gentleman was satisfied with the position in local government in Scotland where there were 8,700 fewer people employed than there are now? The right hon. Gentleman presided over the biggest cut in local authority manpower in the 18 months between June 1976 and December 1977. There was a reduction of more than 11,000 people employed in local government in Scotland. We did not hear him, as Secretary of State, bleating about the cuts in services and the terrible implications that would have for people living in those local authority areas. The reason was that they were achieved painlessly and simply without many redundancies, but by simply not replacing people whose jobs came to an end.

The right hon. Gentleman knows, I know—and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will confirm this when he sums up—that this can be done again. There is no point in the Government making money available to local government, as they have in what I believe to be a reasonable package, unless efforts are made to cut out those areas where there is overmanning. If that is the sole achievement from the package this year, not only the people of my constituency but the people of Scotland as a whole will be grateful to the Government.