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Column 272The Secretary of State, who is not here at the moment, said that I was wrong, without saying why. Perhaps the Secretary of State for Wales or the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland could say why I was wrong, because, as I understand it, water and sewerage will be dealt with by three quangos, non-elected boards. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton is right : we should give one and a half cheers for that, because at least it is not privatisation, although regrettably it could be one step on the way to privatisation. However, we shall have a Labour Government, so fortunately the other step and a half will not be taken.
Water and sewerage will be dealt with at the Strathclyde level. In Strathclyde, as I understand it, the passenger transport executive is to continue at that level and the police and fire services will also continue at that level. We will then have a so-called all-purpose, single-tier authority and because some of the services are so small, they will have to join together as joint boards. The proposal is a total mess. It is not a single-tier authority, and certainly will not give accountability.
We know, of course, that the Conservative party is not worried about democratic accountability. The House heard my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson) talk about the quangos in Wales. It is exactly the same in Scotland. Tories who could not get elected and who do not have the support of the people whom they put themselves up to represent have been appointed by the Secretary of State. I will give some examples, particularly from the health service. Eileen Bates stood on a number of occasions in a constituency, and did not get elected. She moved to another constituency and did not get elected there either. The Secretary of State then appointed her to the community health trust in Ayrshire.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton referred to the particularly notorious case of Bill Fyfe. I endorse every word that my hon. Friend said. I may tell the House that there was a great cheer in Ayrshire when Mr. Fyfe was appointed as chairman of Greater Glasgow health board and moved away from the chairmanship of the Ayrshire health board. It seems strange that the Secretary of State could not find anyone from Greater Glasgow to be the chairman of the health board. I must say that Mr. Fyfe now seems to be very shy of the media, which he was not when things were going in his direction in Ayrshire.
I now come to the case of Ayrshire itself. What we have in the local government reorganisation is a series of five or six rotten boroughs which will be set up by the Government. The Minister in particular is the architect of that, and I am glad that he is sitting on the Government Bench today. My colleagues from Cumnock and Doon Valley all support an all- Ayrshire authority, and my Labour colleagues from Kyle and Carrick support an all-Ayrshire authority. They came with me to argue that case with the Minister and they did so in an articulate,
Column 273responsible, and powerful way. Naive as they may be, they expected an articulate, responsible, and powerful argument from the Minister in favour of his proposals.
The amazing thing was that the Minister could not answer or justify his proposals, because there is no logical justification for them. There is also no support for them. That is why we support an all-Ayrshire authority. First, the public want it, as even the hon. Member for Ayr has to admit. The hon. Gentleman has been at three public meetings and he has been forced to accept that the people who attended those meetings overwhelmingly reject what the Secretary of State proposes. They want an all-Ayrshire authority.
Mr. Gallie : I certainly do not accept the point that the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) makes. He referred to a number of Labour councillors in south Ayrshire who support an all-Ayrshire authority. There are a lot more Tory councillors in Kyle and Carrick than Labour councillors, and they all support the south Ayrshire authority that is to be established. Many of my constituents also support it, as do retailers in my constituency, who have made strong arguments. The hon. Gentleman is totally wrong.
Mr. Foulkes : If the recommendations of the Parliamentary Boundary Commission are passed, the hon. Gentleman may no longer represent Ayr. Looking at the demographic make-up of the proposed constituency, he may have to move somewhere else.
The hon. Gentleman attended public meeting after public meeting and argued in his usual articulate and powerful way the case for the Government's proposals. In one meeting, only four people supported him and in another no one at all supported the proposals. There are one or two people--such as Provost Gibson Macdonald, who wants to keep a little Tory fiefdom in Kyle and Carrick--who want to retain that authority. But those people are few and those views are not coming from the people at all. The people of Ayrshire are cynical about the Government's attitude to consultation.
I am glad that the Secretary of State for Wales is here. We have had a period of consultation in Ayrshire about the setting up of one of the first NHS trusts in Scotland, the South Ayrshire NHS trust. Almost everyone in Ayrshire is against it, with only a handful in favour. All the doctors, the nurses, and the paramedics in the health board area are against the proposal, as were the vast majority of people in consultation. However, the Secretary of State for Scotland went ahead.
One of the main arguments that we made during the consultation was that we would end up with a huge number of grey-suited bureaucrats with the new structure. That was exactly what was argued. Suddenly, just a week ago, the Secretary of State for Wales wakes up from a long sleep, like Rip van Winkle, and realises that that is precisely what has happened in the reorganisation of the NHS. What we predicted has come true, and the Secretary of State was absolutely right. There are far too many bureaucrats, and not enough medics and nurses.
Mr. Redwood : The hon. Gentleman should read more of my speech, which he might find enlightening. The speech said that trusts were excellent, give patients and doctors more choice, and permit us to reduce bureaucracy
Column 274in England, Wales, and in Scotland in a way that I would like. I am delighted to learn that the hon. Gentleman and his party would also like that. In the past, the Opposition set up a lot of the authorities and a lot of the bureaucracy.
Mr. Foulkes : That is not our experience in Ayrshire. The Secretary of State for Wales is closer to those matters than I, being a member of the Government and of the Cabinet. If he can give me one example of a trust that has reduced the number of bureaucrats, I will swallow my words.
Mr. Foulkes : The House will see that the Secretary of State for Wales generalises, and cannot give me a specific example. We know what has happened in Ayrshire. Where previously we had one board with one general manager, we now have one board, three trusts, and four general managers. We have also four directors of finance and four directors of administration. They are not called personnel officers now--they have a fancy title--but we now have four directors of human resources. Those are the grey-suited men, and there are fewer doctors, fewer nurses, and fewer paramedics.
That is what we were saying about local government reorganisation. It is being rejected by the people of Ayrshire, and I hope that the Government will, on this occasion, listen to the people of Ayrshire. The Secretary of State for Wales conceded that we got it right the last time round.
Secondly, Ayrshire is the right size to provide the services. It is the optimum size and was examined by Wheatley, as were Fife, Central and others at the time. Those areas were able to provide a whole range of services. Ayrshire is the optimum size for education, social work, planning, and for a whole range of services. All those services can be provided without recourse to joint boards.
Thirdly, if an all-Ayrshire authority were set up, it would match the other bodies in Ayrshire, such as the health board, the chamber of industry, Enterprise Ayrshire, and the tourist board. Therefore, the boundaries would be coterminous and co-operation would be much more possible.
Fourthly, the authority would have the strength to deal with the European Community in the way in which Strathclyde does to get funds for areas of great deprivation.
Finally, there is the argument of geography. The Secretary of State is proposing an amazing division of Ayrshire, where most of what is to be called North Ayrshire will be in fact south of most of South Ayrshire. It is an astonishing proposal and it defies all logic. I wish to make two general points before I conclude. First, the councillors who serve on the present authorities and will serve on the new authorities are much maligned, often in the House and a great deal in the press. Councillors strive to do their best. They have to declare their pecuniary interests. I wish that Conservative Members were as scrupulous as councillors in declaring their interests. Councillors receive little remuneration and work long hours. We ought to provide for proper recognition of the place of councillors in the new authorities and proper remuneration.
Column 275My second point is in some justification of my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) who, like many councillors, was vilified by the press, in particular the Scottish press, when he was shadow Secretary of State for Scotland. He was vilified by The Scotsman when he predicted during our annual conference in Brighton that the Welsh reorganisation of local government was likely to be postponed a year. The Scotsman said, "What a ridiculous suggestion. This chap does not know what he is talking about. He has been drinking in the bars and picking up gossip."
Yet today, if what my hon. Friends tell me is correct, it looks as if we are about to hear an announcement that the Welsh reorganisation will be postponed for a year. My hon. Friend the Member for Monklands deserves an apology from The Scotsman. The Secretary of State for Scotland ought to think again about Scottish reorganisation. If the Welsh reorganisation is to be postponed for a year, and there is no Bill to reorganise English local government, why are we in Scotland once again the scapegoats one year ahead of all the other reorganisations?
The proposed reorganisation in Scotland is a gerrymander. It is a gerrymander to set up Greater Eastwood, and so that that does not stick out like a sore thumb, Kyle and Carrick will be renamed South Ayrshire. Someone suggested to me that it ought to be called Gallie-lee in honour of the hon. Member for Ayr. We shall have Stirling authority for the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth). It is corrupt gerrymandering and a partisan plan by which the Government hope to retain Conservative control of authorities.
The Government do not want local government to be powerful. They want to neutralise the councils, contract out the services, opt out the schools, centralise the powers as much as possible in central Government and create as many joint boards as possible.The Government are not interested in local government. We are interested in local government. The proposal should be scrapped until we have a Scottish parliament, a Labour Government and proper reorganisation.
Mr. Alex Carlile : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You always protect the interests of Back Benchers carefully. Several Welsh and Scottish Members still wish to speak. The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) is a chalk jockey who has been sent in by the Whips and has not been here for most of the debate, including--I will be corrected if I am wrong--the opening speeches. Is it right that he should take up the time of the House when we are supposedly discussing Welsh and Scottish local government?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse) : It is not for me to say who should speak on either side. I do not know how long the hon. Gentleman has been in the Chamber. I have called the hon. Gentleman and he must make his speech.
Mr. Riddick : I was in the Chamber at half-past two this afternoon. I heard both the opening speeches from the Front Benches. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) owes me an apology. I was here
Column 276until 10 minutes to 5 because I had a meeting at 5 o'clock. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will apologise for accusing me of not being present for the opening speeches.
I apologise to the House that I was not able to be here for the middle part of the debate. I wish that I had been able to be here. I wrote to the Speaker on Friday making it clear that I wished to participate in today's debate. I was here for the opening speeches. I knew that I had a meeting in the middle of the debate. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will now apologise.
Mr. Alex Carlile : Of course I apologise to the hon. Gentleman if he was here during the opening speeches. But it is not right that he should be out of the Chamber for two and a half hours and then speak in a debate on Scottish and Welsh local government when he has no interest in that subject except as a chalk jockey sent in by the Government Whips.
Mr. Riddick : I am grateful to you for making that clear, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have worked on my speech over the weekend so I have not been sent in by the Whips. The hon. and learned Gentleman can apologise to me about that at another time.
The Opposition choose the subjects for debate on the Queen's Speech. It is a good illustration of the Labour party's priorities that it devoted a whole day to local government reorganisation in Scotland and Wales and bracketed law and order and education together and gave them one day's debate. I do not doubt for a moment that local government reorganisation in Scotland and Wales is important, but the matters which worry my constituents are the problems of lawlessness and the need to drive up education standards. I suppose that it is no more than we should expect that the Labour party shows such scant regard for issues of law and order. As we know, it devoted only 155 words to law and order in its general election manifesto. That was fewer than the words that it devoted to the arts and leisure. Perhaps it also shows the influence of the Scots and the Welsh in the Labour party that a whole day was given to local government reorganisation in Scotland and Wales.
I want to make it crystal clear that, although I am delighted to speak in the debate today, I shall not volunteer to sit on the Standing Committee which will consider the local government Bill. I appreciate that other hon. Members have more expertise in local government in Wales and Scotland.
We have had a lot of hot air and synthetic rage from Opposition Members. I noticed that during the Front-Bench speeches--for which the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery said that I was not here, but has apologised for doing so--there were only 16 Labour Scottish Members in the Chamber. So there was a great deal of synthetic anger in what we heard tonight.
I regret that the Government do not intend to privatise the water industry in Scotland. We have seen clear benefits of privatisation in England in not only the water industry
Column 277but a host of other industries. We have seen increased efficiency. The water companies as well as all the other privatised companies, such as British Telecom and British Gas, have become more consumer-oriented. The privatised water companies have been able to attract massive investment for the improvements that were needed. On balance, I welcome the introduction of unitary authorities. I believe that they will lead to more rational decision-making in local government. Opposition Members do not have too much to fear from unitary authorities. My constituency is in West Yorkshire. When we abolished the county council in West Yorkshire, everyone said that it would be disastrous. It has not been. My local council is called Kirklees. It is Labour-controlled. I do not like it very much, but it has not been disastrous. The only reason why it has not worked as well as it might have done is that it has been controlled by the Labour party.
I accept that Kirklees council is too big. I should like to see it split. I hope that the Local Government Commission will examine the status of Kirklees council in the near future. We should create a new council based on the Huddersfield area. That is what my constituents want.
My third point relates to the proposals of the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats to introduce regional assemblies. The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) admitted that there will be four distinct levels of government--municipal, regional, national and European. What has bedevilled this country for so long is not too little government, but too much government. Yet the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats advocate that we should introduce a new layer.
Mr. Win Griffiths : On that point, surely the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) must be aware that Germany, which is the most successful country in the post-war European economy, has strong municipal government, extremely strong regional government and national Government and was a main player in the creation of the European Community. It does not seem to have suffered from doing all those things.
Mr. Riddick : Germany is not exactly without its problems at the moment. I believe that the reason why it has prospered since the war is that it has had a stable economic framework in which its industries have been able to flourish and invest. I do not put that down to its system of government.
The one thing that we know for sure is that politicians want to justify their existence. If there are more politicians, or if more assemblies are created, which need politicians to man them, one must give those politicians something to do.
Here I am, making a speech in the House of Commons justifying my existence. I know that there are not so many people in the Chamber and I do not suppose that anyone will take any notice of my speech, but I hope that they will.
Mr. Riddick : My hon. Friend says that he will. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, an important Member of the Cabinet, is also here listening to my speech ; he is one of the men who are formulating policy and generating ideas in the country at the moment. I am delighted to see him in his place.
Column 278The reality is that when politicians look for things to do, they usually start by interfering in the lives of ordinary folk. They want to pass laws. I do not quite understand why the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats want to foist yet more government on the nation when clearly we have been suffering from far too much.
One forecast that I would make is that if we were to set up those regional assemblies, one could be sure that they would participate in the latest fashion--political correctness. County councils are currently voting to ban hunting on most of their land. It is fairly meaningless, of course, but it is the politically correct thing to do at the moment.
The Labour party says that so many women candidates must be selected in marginal seats. I think that the Labour party will get into serious trouble and it has already generated much unrest within those constituencies. It is a time-bomb waiting to explode. I notice that the black section of the Labour party is now saying that 30 inner-city seats should be devoted specifically to black candidates. I would have thought that people should be appointed as candidates on merit. That is certainly the way that we go about it in the Conservative party. [Interruption.] The Labour party ought to follow that example.
I am sorry to say that, even in the national health service, we see a little bit of political correctness at the moment. It is an unfortunate spectacle that right now the NHS is paying compensation to a retired admiral because he did not get the job as chairman of the Cornwall health trust, for one simple politically correct reason--he is a man.
I noticed in Hansard the other day that we are spending half a million pounds on setting up a race unit in the NHS. Again, I must say that I am slightly dubious about such an approach.
Mr. Robert Hughes : The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) should understand that there are certain matters in the health service in which it is important that ethnic minorities have a proper say and in respect of which their illnesses should be properly considered. He will know of the problems of sickle-cell anaemia, which particularly affects the black and Greek populations in this country, about which the NHS knows little and for which it has not done enough to be able to deal with.
I hope that the hon. Member for Colne Valley will not simply discard those matters because he takes a jaundiced view on issues on the basis that he thinks that it is politically correct to do so. It is correct from the point of view of the health service that there are units that look at particular problems that affect different people.
Mr. Riddick : The hon. Gentleman has made a perfectly sound point. However, I do not agree with him that one needs to set up a specialist unit in that way. I have about 3,000 Pakistanis in my constituency. My local council in Kirklees, to which I have already referred, has an equal opportunities unit. Many of those Pakistanis have told me that they do not want that unit to exist. They see it swallowing up a great deal of money. They also see that the unit does not do much for them.
The best way to promote the interests of ethnic minorities is to ensure that the management is well aware of all the problems, the difficulties and the needs of ethnic minorities. I genuinely believe that there is an awful lot of political correctness about the way that we have seen some of those race units, equal opportunities units and so on
Column 279being set up. If it was left to me, the Equal Opportunities Commission, which currently costs the Government £5 million per annum, would be abolished. It does not carry out any particularly useful purpose.
I hope and believe that the Queen's Speech heralds a break from that sort of approach, and that we will go "back to basics", as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has described. We shall take on the civil servants in Whitehall who justify their existence in such numbers by introducing new regulation after new regulation. I welcome the changes that are taking place in Whitehall--market testing and putting senior civil servants on to contracts. That is a revolutionary but welcome idea. It seems to me that we should make it quite clear in their contract that they will be rewarded for employing fewer civil servants and for spending less public money than was budgeted for. At the moment, it seems to be quite the opposite way around.
We are also going "back to basics" because we are taking on the liberal- minded do-gooders who have dominated Home Office thinking for the past 30 years. We are challenging the legal establishment that says that the British legal system is the finest in the world and should not be changed in any way ; the same establishment which defends the right to silence, which has been of such benefit to so many criminals over so many years.
The reality is that it is terrorists, child killers and ordinary criminals who benefit from the right to silence. They have used that right ruthlessly. I have talked to a number of police officers and they all tell me that it is amazing how even 14, 15 or 16-year-olds, when they come into the police cells, say nothing. They are well aware that they do not have to say anything and that the right to silence exists. Their refusal to say what they were doing and where they were at a particular time cannot be taken into account by a court when and if they come up for trial.
I am delighted that the Government have grasped that nettle and that we will be doing something about it. The reality is that the tape recording of inverviews, which now takes place, provides the safeguard for those people who might be mistreated by the police and will ensure that we do not have miscarriages of justice. We have the example of a case in Leeds last weekend, when the judge said that one of the statements made by the suspect in a police cell was not admissible in court.
It seems to me that there are two factors that will deter people from offending : first, the likelihood of being caught ; and secondly, when they are caught, the likelihood of being severely punished. We are taking measures on both those fronts. The police Bill should improve the effectiveness of the police. I hope that the reduction of senior ranks within the police force will lead to more police officers on the streets. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary recently made an announcement about reducing paperwork. Last Friday night, I went to address the Huddersfield police forum with my neighbouring MP, the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman). The Labour chairman of the forum referred to the changes that we are making to the police authorities. He said that they were anti-democratic and that the police authorities, as currently constituted, represented true democracy. He said that police authorities were where people could look to obtain redress and ensure that their views are known.
I asked the people present at the forum to raise their hands if they knew the name of the chairman of West
Column 280Yorkshire police authority. The only person who knew that individual's name was the Labour chairman of the police forum. We want police authorities that are professional in their outlook and depoliticised. I believe that the new police Bill will achieve that. It is time to reintroduce the concepts of deterrence and punishment. I welcome the changes that have been made to cautioning. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary made a very robust change to the cautioning regime only recently. I also welcome the tougher punishment of juvenile offenders and the crackdown on bail bandits.
I obviously support a settlement that will bring peace in Northern Ireland. However, we must not forget that the initiatives that were taken over the past 20 years were designed to bring peace. Sunningdale and the Anglo-Irish Agreement were meant to bring peace. At the end of the day, the objectives of the IRA terrorists were not fulfilled by those agreements. Therefore, they continued to kill, encouraged by the political movement which their violence had brought about.
The IRA, the SDLP and the Irish Government all have a united Ireland as their ultimate objective. That is something which the Britisrthern Ireland is governed.
If the peace process involves the nationalist factions giving ground, that is absolutely fine. However, I do not see how the British Government can give any further ground. We have already allowed the Irish Government some say in how Northern Ireland is governed. I do not see how we can go any further than that and I hope that we will not. Tonight's debate is about local government and I should like to see more and proper local government in Northern Ireland.
I welcome other measures in the Queen's Speech such as the reform of student unions, the reform of teacher training, the privatisation of British Coal and the fact that, at long last, we are going to sort out Sunday trading. Those are all very positive measures. This autumn's Conservative party conference and this Queen's Speech will prove to be a turning point. There can be no doubt that this year has been very difficult for the Government. We will not become popular overnight. However, I believe that the Conservative star will undoubtedly shine bright once again because we have returned to our fundamental philosophy.
We allowed public spending to rise to an unsustainably high level and we are now tackling that. We put aside our belief in free markets when we joined the exchange rate mechanism, but we now have appropriate economic and monetary policies. As a result, economic growth has resumed ; we have low inflation and unemployment is falling. That is good news and it has come about because we are now following Conservative policies.
It was interesting to see how grumpy the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) was during the debate on the Queen's Speech last Thursday. He was grumpy because the unemployment figure had fallen by 50,000 on that very day and he had just taken on the job as Opposition employment spokesman. He was fed up because we had already shot his fox. The Opposition are also fed up tonight. The Queen's Speech heralds the fact that we are now following Conservative principles which are acting as our
Column 281guiding light. Those principles include our belief in free markets, our belief in private enterprise and in personal freedom and personal responsibility and the reintroduction of proper deterrence and punishment into the law and order system.
What a contrast all that is to the Labour party. After 14 years, the Labour party still has not developed a coherent policy and philosophy of its own because, in its heart of hearts, it still believes in the old philosophy of equality, state control of industry, politicians running the lives of ordinary people and higher taxes. That is what the Labour party truly believes. Labour cannot say it, because it knows that that does not win elections. People do not want it.
The Conservative party and Conservative politicians, not least my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, are generating ideas. The Queen's Speech is full of policies that go with the grain of human nature and the grain of Conservative philosophy. That is why I will support it enthusiastically.
Mr. Peter Hain (Neath) : This Queen's Speech will be a drag anchor on Wales. It contains no strategy for industry, for full employment or for building housing and overcoming the homeless and housing crisis in Wales and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Instead, we have a fatuous set of new right dogma involving deregulation and cutting safety and conditions at work. There are more private mines in my constituency than in any other. Over the past 20 months, two miners have died and one has been paralysed from the waist down. That situation will become worse as a result of the deregulation measures.
The Queen's Speech is the product of an exhausted and bankrupt ideology which the Government are seeking to progress. The Secretary of State for Wales should spend more time looking after the interest of Wales and not seeking out scapegoats like single mothers or broadcasting on every possible Thatcherite fad into which he can get his claws.
With regard to local government, my hon. Friends have quite properly paid a great deal of attention to boundaries. Neath has an historic tradition of which it is proud. The town of Neath dates back to Roman times. It has a strong sense of community and it wishes to retain a viable identity in its own right.
We are very proud of our extremely strong sense of community in Neath. That is a strong tradition on which we are building and we will build on it for the future. Either I or my hon. Friends--if I am not a member of the Standing Committee--will move an amendment to the Welsh local government Bill to keep Neath's identity.
If there is to be a shotgun marriage between Neath and Port Talbot, the Secretary of State's proposal to bring in the Upper Lliw valley is logical. The removal of Ystradgynlais and Tawe Uchaf from the original White Paper proposals is also welcome. There are details around the edges which must be examined. It is illogical for Pontneathvaughan to be outside the new Neath, Port Talbot and Lliw West Glamorgan authority. However, perhaps that can be addressed later.
I will be brief as others wish to speak. The new Bill on local government and what the Government have been doing and plan to do in future will destroy the principle of
Column 282local democracy. The Government are creating a situation in which town halls will simply become agents for administering contracts. The leader of the new authority will effectively be the chair of the board of a giant company and the chief executive his or her managing director. Local services will be hived off, opted out, contracted out and privatised.
Apparently, there will be pressure from the Government to sell the assets of local authorities to cut the ability of local government to perform the innovative role that it has traditionally played, especially in Wales. There are even proposals from some Conservative Back Benchers to abolish local education authorities entirely. That has always been the Government's agenda under opting out. As local education authorities are effectively abolished, local government will no longer have a strategic approach to education.
There has even been another proposal put forward by a Back Bench Conservative Member of Parliament. We cannot dismiss it as an outpouring of some demented Thatcherite because, inevitably, the proposals will appear in a pamphlet and, a year or two later, will appear in the Queen's Speech. The hon. Member proposes that local authorities should be required to sell off all council housing at a rate of 10 per cent. a year until it is all sold off. That will destroy the ability of many local families to enjoy the prospect of owning their own home. In my constituency, families face the desperate plight of having no opportunity to get a home--no council homes are being built because local authorities are prevented from doing so.
The more fundamental issue at stake in the Government's approach to local authorities is the destruction of the principle of citizenship. We are all being forced to become consumers of education services, consumers of health services and consumers of social services. As individuals, we are being turned from citizens into consumers in which the market rules rather than the principle of service and provision according to everybody's need, either as individuals or as a community. It is a fundamental change that is not being acknowledged.
Local government and public services are being compartmentalised. Every little service, agency and area of activity pursues its own narrow self- interest and that destroys democracy through democratic institutions and so destroys citizenship and the ability to take a general interest in affairs that are in the broad public interest. We are all being segmented into each area of government and it is destroying the democratic tradition that goes back to the ancient Greek polis, where one became a real citizen through political activity and participation in politics. Politics meant a system of services to provide for the needs of society and the nation. That tradition is now being undermined because citizenship is being destroyed and local government is no longer able to express the needs of local citizens.
That entire thrust is to be seen most sharply in what I term as the "quangoitis" that has broken out in Wales unlike almost anywhere else in the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson) eloquently described the problem of quangos and how the number in Wales has doubled since 1979 from 40 to over 80 bodies that are filled with men and women appointed by the Secretary of State.
Mr. Jonathan Evans : The hon. Gentleman informed the House that there were 40 quangos in 1979. Why did the Wales for the Assembly Campaign in 1979 claim that there were 100 during the referendum on devolution?
Mr. Hain : It depends how one defines quangos, but I have quoted the official figures. There is now a new elite of 1,400 place men and women in those "quangia" who are responsible for administering services that were previously accountable either to Members of Parliament or to local councils. Those "quangia" control budgets of well over £2 billion-- almost the same as the entire local government budget in Wales.
As privatisation, opting out, contracting-out and market testing are driven through remorselessly, almost every public service will be run by a quango or a private company. Members of such "quangia" are in some cases paid more money for a couple of days work in a month than a nurse or a postman earns in an entire year. That is destroying the whole principle of democratic government. National government is being hived off into hundreds of different agencies and local council work sub-contracted to private operators or opted-out boards. The whole civic structure is decomposing.
I hope that the Secretary of State will directly address the threat that such destruction is opening the door to massive corruption. The public service system in Britain has been the envy of the world because it has been relatively or entirely free of corruption. In a system as fragmented as the one to be introduced, public accountability will become increasingly difficult. We have already had a taster of that with the shenanigans of the Welsh Development Agency.
As such fragmentation accelerates and it becomes the function of local government not to deliver services strategically but merely to dish out contracts to private operators, there will be an increasing number of back- handers and all sorts of other corruption will take root and drive the machine of government. I do not believe that the Conservatives have sufficiently woken up to this, or if they have they seem content to allow it to continue.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) : Does the hon. Gentleman accept that Wales is comparatively well-off in comparison with Northern Ireland where four times as many people are appointed to quangos spending 10 times the amount spent by local government? I share the thrust of his argument.
One of the dimensions missing from the proposed reforms is the absence of an elected parliament for Wales. If we are to move to unitary authorities, we need over-arching strategic authority at a Welsh level. Otherwise, the fragmentation of government will be carried through society. In future we will find that Wales has lost the ability as a country to determine its own future on a strategic level. That will become an increasingly important drag anchor as we move into European integration and Wales gets left behind on the periphery of the European Union.