Local Government Officers (Vacancies)

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th February 1987.

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Photo of Mr David Sumberg Mr David Sumberg , Bury South 12:00 am, 4th February 1987

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether the Government have any plans to seek to ensure that vacancies for officers in local government are not advertised in party political publications; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

We are discussing with the local authority associations the code of recommended practice designed to prevent this.

Photo of Mr David Sumberg Mr David Sumberg , Bury South

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Labour-controlled authority in Bury recently advertised for a director of social services in Labour Weekly? Is there not a clear implication that only Socialists need apply? [Interruption.] Will my hon. Friend take firm legislative action to stop this abuse?

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

I am very surprised that Opposition Members seem to approve of such a practice. Advertisements for local government officers in party political publications are inconsistent with the long tradition of politically impartial local government. To answer my hon. Friend's question, whether there was motivation to find a Labour party member to fill the post, or merely to make a ratepayer contribution to the advertising budget of Labour Weekly, it is an outrageous abuse of local authority power.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

Is the Minister aware that the London borough of Newham will not be advertising for vacancies either in Labour Weekly or in the Daily Telegraph, which is a Tory party newspaper, or in any other newspaper, because all vacancies have been frozen on account of the Government's attack on the London borough of Newham? Is the Minister aware that today 10,000 people marched through the borough protesting at the cuts that the Government are imposing upon us? If the Government will not listen to the arguments from Newham Members of Parliament in this House, they will have to listen to the people of Newham on the streets.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

It is very good news for the ratepayers of Newham that at last the council is responding to the need to live within its budget. I regard it as totally irresponsible of the council workers to withdraw their services. I always thought that the hon. Member was arguing about the need to provide local authority services. To withdraw them in these circumstances shows just where his true loyalties lie.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Stamford and Spalding

Is my hon. Friend aware that, arising out of many of these advertisements, far too many councillors, mostly Labour councillors, employed by one council, become councillors on another council?

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

Yes. There is widespread concern about the practice of what I think is called twin-tracking. The Widdicombe report had much to say about it. We are considering what we need to do in legislative form.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

Is the Minister aware that when I saw the question on the Order Paper I wondered why a Conservative Member of Parliament should be attacking Conservative newspapers, since most of the Tory newspapers carry a large number of advertisements and those papers are very faithful to the Tory party? Will the Minister give us an assurance that, despite what his hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) said, the offices of Labour Weekly will not be searched and invaded by the special branch?

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

Labour Weekly is a matter for the people who run that newspaper. They are trying to fund the newspaper out of ratepayers' money. I do not want hon. Members to think that the abuse that has been described by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) is limited to Labour party publications. In the January issue of Marxism Today Haringey council is advertising for a member for its direct works department.