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Local Authorities (Direct Labour)

Volume 932: debated on Wednesday 18 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he proposes to introduce new legislation on local authority direct works.

The Local Authorities (Restoration of Works Powers) Bill was given a Second Reading yesterday. Unfortunately, comprehensive legislation on local authority direct labour organisations is not possible at present.

As the Government agreed to emasculate the original Bill in return for Liberal support, and as most Liberal Members did not bother to turn up last night to vote for the Liberal version of the Bill, does it not mean that the Liberals have broken their side of the bargain? Does this not justify the Government in telling the Liberals "We have had enough of any pact with you"? Is it not time to return to our original Socialist commitment and to tell the Liberals that they are a bunch of skivers?

We have not gone back on any commitment. The Government are committed, and in due time will bring in legislation to enable efficient direct labour organisations to expand. That will be done. As for the hon. Gentleman's comment about the Liberals, that matter is not within my responsibility.

Has the Parliamentary Secretary had a chance to reflect, since last night's discussion, on the extraordinary statement that was made from the Treasury Bench that the Government agreed with the CIPFA recommendations—as, indeed, does the whole House—but refuse to include them in the Bill?

The hon. Gentleman, who was present throughout yesterday's debate, must have heard it stated categorically that bringing in the CIPFA recommendations for those 25 authorities with which the Bill is solely concerned was not a practical proposition.

Why, then, did the Government not bring in the CIPFA regulations for all direct labour training? That would have been perfectly acceptable to both sides of the House.

If the hon. Gentleman had not approached our proposals for direct labour organisations in such a biased way, and if he had read them carefully and made an objective appraisal of the situation, he might have been in favour of the original Bill.