Local Government (Scotland)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:23 pm on 17th June 1991.

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Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale 4:23 pm, 17th June 1991

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) started his remarks by giving praise, faint but discernible, and gave with approbation a number of quotations from the White Paper. I welcome his support for a number of the principles we have set out in the White Paper. I also welcome his specific and almost unqualified statement of belief in single-tier local authorities. That belief had an important qualification because he wanted to establish another tier over and above those local authorities—a tax-raising assembly based in Edinburgh. That would not make local government more local, nor would it be devolution; it would be centralisation of local government and contrary to what we are trying to do.

I believe that local government should be considered on its own merits. We should be concerned with the health and future of local government, as is demonstrated by the White Paper.

The hon. Gentleman related one or two changing roles in local authorities that I could not recognise. Whether they are Labour party policy I do not know. We are consulting on local government and we shall be interested in any proposals on the changing functions for local authorities. It is true that their role is changing into one of enabling others to deliver services rather than at their own hand.

The hon. Gentleman asked about cities being unitary authorities and I accept that that is a probable outcome, n6but I am open to consultation. I shall be interested to hear what submissions are made in the course of the consultation period.

The hon Gentleman asked me whether we were contemplating the use of joint boards for the police or a national police service. It is unlikely that we would reach a conclusion in favour of a national police service. I cannot think of any service at present delivered by local authorities that could be better delivered on a national basis.

On the question of a commission, I believe, as I said in my statement, that what is right for Scotland is not necessarily what is right for the much more complex, diffuse and diverse situation in England. I do not believe that a commission is necessary as part of the consultation process, but I am willing to listen to any proposals on how we may seek advice on elements of our proposals as we develop them through consultation on the White Paper and future consultation.