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Scotland

Volume 718: debated on Wednesday 3 November 1965

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Forth Road Bridge (Tolls)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will now remove the tolls from the Forth Road Bridge.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether a firm decision has already been taken by the Government on this matter? If not, will he assure the House that when a decision is taken he will also publish the detailed statistics on which the decision was based?

I assure my hon. Friend that no decision has been taken. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave information concerning the procedure yesterday and I have nothing to add to what he said.

Cadco (Committee's Findings)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action the Lord Advocate intends to take as a result of the findings of the committee of inquiry into the Cadco affair.

The report which was sent to my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate by the Board of Trade discloses matters which call for investigation by the criminal authorities. Accordingly, inquiries are being made by him.

Can my right hon. Friend give the House any idea when these inquiries will be completed? Must it be assumed that all reports will be withheld from the public until the decision is taken and until court proceedings are finalised?

As to timing, I cannot say. All that I can assure my hon. Friend is that the inquiries are being pursued energetically. As to the report which is the subject of the Answer, it is important that nothing further should be said that might prejudice possible legal proceedings in due course.

Petrol Filling Station, Glasgow (Planning Permission)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why he has given planning permission for the building of a petrol filling station near the corner of Netherauldhouse Road and Auldhouse Road in Glasgow S3, in view of the fact that Glasgow Corporation had refused to allow this project to proceed because the site was dangerously situated and for other reasons.

I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of the report on the inquiry into this planning appeal and of the letter conveying my predecessor's decision.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that already in Netherauldhouse Road three petrol stations have been completed in the last four years and that a fourth already exists? Is he further aware that the corporation wanted to use the site for building houses? Would it not have been better to use the bricks for building homes for a city where homes are in scarce supply than to use them for petrol stations?

My hon. Friend is aware of the statutory obligation of the Secretary of State for Scotland in these matters: he is the final court of appeal. That means that, subject to an inquiry, he makes up his mind one way or the other. The case for the corporation was fully deployed at the time and I agree with the decision reached by my predecessor.

Houses (Compulsory Purchase)

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will introduce legislation which will permit local authorities to acquire by compulsory purchase groups of houses falling into middle-life category and to develop such areas in a comprehensive plan.

Local authorities already have extensive powers of compulsory purchase for these purposes under the Housing and Planning Act. If my hon. Friend, or any hon. Member, has evidence of any inadequacy under present legislation, I would welcome this information.

Old Houses (Renovation)

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a study of relative costs of renovating and bringing up to date older houses in Scotland; and if he will then give advice to local authorities who wish to carry out such programmes as to how overall costs might be reduced.

I will certainly consider this suggestion. A great deal is already known, and my Department is always ready to give advice to local authorities about improvement schemes and their costs.

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he is aware that there is a very great need, on social if not wholly economic grounds, for programmes of this kind to be engaged in at the earliest possible opportunity, but that many local authorities feel that the cost involved is far too high, and, I am sure, would welcome some assistance from research undertaken by his Department?

Yes, indeed, and we are prepared to provide this, because our aim and purpose is to get very speedy improvement as far as possible in this respect. Results over the years have been disappointing. There are reasons for it, but if they are financial I am prepared to look at them.

Edinburgh (Conferences)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will take action to encourage the use of Edinburgh as a conference centre by the United Nations, its agencies and other international bodies.

Yes, Sir, wherever appropriate. We have recently had the successful example of the first Commonwealth Medical Conference which met in Edinburgh last month.

In view of the increasing congestion in London, will the Secretary of State draw his colleagues' attention to the very successful E.F.T.A. Ministers' conference which was held in Edinburgh in the summer of 1964—though it was, admittedly, before the time of the import surcharge?

Let us miss out a little bit of the tail and concentrate on the real matter in the question. There have been 12 non-governmental conferences in Edinburgh, and there is every indication that Edinburgh is attracting to itself this kind of conference. My concern is to ensure that the facilities which Edinburgh has to offer are made as widely known as possible to those likely to hold such conferences.

Water Supplies (Fluoridation)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many water supply authorities in Scotland have decided to add the poisonous compound sodium fluoride to their supplies of drinking water.

To date, 12 Scottish local health authorities have received approval to make arrangements for the fluoridation of the water supplies in their areas. The advice of my Standing Medical Advisory Committee is that in the recommended concentration of one part per million fluoride is not harmful to health.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a great many people do not accept the view which he has enunciated? Is he further aware that one of the authorities is Kilmarnock Town Council which, after five years' experimentation, decided to have nothing to do with this tampering with our water supplies? Does he further realise that Paisley Town Council has decided to have nothing to do with it because this poisonous compound may affect the thread industry in Paisley? Is he further aware—

I can assure my hon. Friend that it does not surprise me—nor should it surprise him, nor should he read too much into the fact—that some local authorities come down on one side and some on the other. It is a matter entirely up to their discretion. As far as Kilmarnock is concerned, I am very familiar with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, and I can assure him that during the trial period in that area there was no evidence of any harmful effects either to individuals or to industry—and we have in Kilmarnock very considerable and important industries not unconnected with certain liquids.

On a point of order. I beg to give notice, Mr. Speaker, that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

I would explain to the hon. Member that what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) has just done precludes me from calling him.

Seaside Resorts (Bathing Fatalities)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the growing number of bathing fatalities at seaside resorts; and if he will circularise local authorities with a view to their employing teams of lifesavers, especially during the holiday period.

I share my hon. Friend's concern over the bathing accidents which occur each summer, but I have no information about whether they are increasing in numbers. Local authorities of seaside resorts do appreciate the importance of making their beaches as safe as possible.

Would it be possible, Mr. Speaker, for me to ask my right hon. Friend for some sort of thing to be done from his Department to try to persuade local authorities in Scotland of the importance of having some individuals such as lifesavers on duty during these busy periods? Does he realise, for example, that some parents nowadays are visiting seaside resorts with considerable fear and alarm at the possible consequences? Would he use his good offices to try to allay their fears?

Yes, indeed; but I think my hon. Friend should appreciate that seaside resorts in Scotland are themselves the first to take action when they feel that warning notices or any other preventive measures are required to be taken.

Medical Certificates (Doctors' Charges)

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will seek to regulate the charges for medical certificates made by general practitioners under the National Health Service; and if he will make a statement.

General practitioners in the National Health Service are required to issue free of charge certificates for certain statutory purposes which are listed in regulations. I have no power to regulate the charges made by doctors for other types of certificate, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and I have recently asked both sides of industry to do all they can to reduce the need for private certificates.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the tremendous variety of charges, which range nowadays from as low as 2s. 6d. to as high, I am told, in some cases as five guineas for a simple medical certificate assisting someone in a quest for a municipal house? Does he not think the time has now arrived to adjust this matter by having some understanding as regards a regulated charge for all sorts of certificates issued by general practitioners in Scotland?

If my hon. Friend has any information about unreasonable demands in this respect I should be glad to have it, but I think he should appreciate that it would be unfair and not right to expect the National Health Service to bear the cost of all private certificates.

Fishery Training Scheme (Western Isles)

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware of the success of the Fishery Training Scheme in the Western Isles, of the demand for its revival and continuation, and of the large number of young and suitable seamen and fishermen anxious to be trained and acquire fishing vessels; and what action he intends to take to continue and extend the scheme.

I know that the scheme has achieved its primary object of establishing a fleet in the Outer Isles manned by local fishermen, and that they have been fishing successfully. I have received many representations for the continuation and extension of the scheme and I am arranging for this question to be discussed with the Highlands and Islands Development Board and other authorities concerned.

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for his assurance. May I ask him if he is aware that this scheme originated from the Highland Panel and was primarily put into operation by the Fisheries Department and that there is no need to go into any long investigation in order to extend this scheme which has proved to be successful, while there are excellent crews and fishermen waiting now for boats, and shipbuilding yards in Scotland awaiting orders?

I am sure my hon. Friend appreciates that the Highlands Development Board is already in existence and that it will be sufficient to deal with this special problem.

Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us, of the 12 boats, which, I believe, was the number involved, how many have shown a real and substantial success? Have they all, as we all hoped they would?

Not without notice, particularly in relation to each of the 12; but, generally speaking, it has been successful.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the feeling of the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) that action should be taken immediately is shared by other Highland Members, and that many of the young men on the west coast of Sutherland would like to take part in this scheme? If we wait till the Board examines all the possibilities, it appears to me that that will cause unnecessary delay.

I think that if we examine all the possibilities we shall be doing the right thing. Time spent in seeing if we can revive the scheme is essential delay.

Gaelic

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will appoint a committee to clarify the legal status of the Gaelic language and to consider what changes in the law ought to be made.

I doubt whether the appointment of such a committee would be justified, but before making up my mind, I wish to consider the report on Gaelic, based on the 1961 Census, which will be published early next year.

My right hon. Friend is the Secretary of State for all Scotland, including the Gaelic-speaking area, and may I ask him to take into account the fact that a Minister in the last Government saw fit on his own initiative to set up a committee on the status of the Welsh language, including such questions as its equal validity and status in the courts, and so forth? Will he receive delegations and representations from authentic Highland sources before he finally makes up his mind, and not look at this merely in terms of the Census background?

This is not against the Census background; it is an actual report on this matter. I shall be very glad to receive representations from my hon. Friend or any other Highland Member who is concerned about this.

Why cannot the Government Law Officers clarify the status of this language?

Seal Cull (Orkney)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many new-born seals are to be slaughtered this year in Orkney; and what precautions are being taken to see that the slaughter is controlled.

A cull of 750 seal pups will take place this month under the same controls as operated last year. Permits will be issued to seal hunters and the number of seals each is entitled to kill and the area and period within which this may be done will be specified. Permit holders will be obliged to send their seal skins through a central point in Orkney where they will be checked.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that Answer, but may I ask him to bear in mind that last year the cull was considerably exceeded, and may we hope that that will not occur again?

University Of Dundee (Draft Charter)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the dissatisfaction of students and members of the Association of University Teachers, Scotland, in respect of the proposed draft charter for the university of Dundee; and whether he will seek to ensure, through the Committee of the Privy Council to which petitions for grant of university charters are referred, that the representation of non-professorial staff on the governing bodies and the scope of academic planning are comparable with the charters recently granted to new universities.

When the draft Charter is submitted to the appropriate Privy Council Committee by the university I shall keep in mind the points my hon. Friend has raised.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask why it is that the proposed new university at Dundee cannot make application on its own for a charter similar to those granted to the other new universities?

I think my hon. Friend will appreciate that what he is discussing in this Question is a draft. It will be a long time before it gets to the Privy Council stage, but when it does I will bear his representations in mind.

Scottish Universities (Royal Commission)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will advise the appointment of a Royal Commission on the Scottish universities.

As it would appear that the Government have accepted the proposals of the establishment of the Scottish universities that the 1889 University Act should be amended, as opposed to the proposal and recommendation of the Robbins Committee that that Act should be repealed, would not it be of great advantage to have such a Royal Commission so that there could be a full examination of the internal government of the traditional universities, and the innovation of new fields of study?

I do not think that the problem which my hon. Friend has mentioned is something which merits a Royal Commission.

Solway Firth Barrage (Feasibility Study)

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has accepted the offer of Messrs. Babtie, Shaw and Morton to undertake a feasibility study of the Solway Firth Barrage at a cost of £300,000; when the study will begin; and when it should be completed.

As a result of the moratorium on certain kinds of capital expenditure announced in July by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is not possible to proceed immediately with the full-scale feasibility study into the Solway Firth Barrage. I am glad to announce however that, after consultation with Messrs. Babtie, Shaw and Morton, it has been possible to arrange for them to start a preliminary study right away at a cost of some £10,000 to £15,000 into the quantity and quality of water that would be made available by a barrage.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his failure to proceed with a full technical investigation will cause grave disappointment? Would he agree that a social and economic survey is of equal importance?

Yes, Sir. I think the hon. Gentleman should appreciate that what we are doing is making a start, and that will not prejudice the feasibility study that was originally the concern of the same consultants.

Staffordshire Assizes (Judge's Comments)

35.

asked the Attorney-General if he is aware of the observation of Mr. Justice Glyn Jones at the Staffordshire Assizes at the trial of John Brown concerning proceedings against his employers and their transport manager; and what action is being taken.

Inquiries are being made into the matters commented on by Mr. Justice Glyn Jones but have not yet been completed.

In view of the suggestion made by the learned judge about a bill of indictment—in other words, further proceedings—in the case of this terrible accident, does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the case can to some extent be considered still sub judice, and is he aware that it is absolutely imperative that the greatest diligence should be shown in taking this case further to another court if necessary?

Inquiries are still taking place into the matter, and I should have thought that the prudent course, therefore, would be to assume that the mater is still sub judice.