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Oral Answers To Questions
17 November 1965
Volume 720

Scotland

Rabbit Clearance

1.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will seek to make membership of rabbit clearance societies compulsory in areas where such societies are functioning.

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My right hon. Friend will consider this suggestion.

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I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply, but I draw his attention to the fact that the whole of Scotland is a rabbit clearance area under the Pests Act, 1956. Will he take steps to ensure that all Scotland is brought into this category for the purpose of rabbit clearance?

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The responsibilities in this are fixed on the agricultural executive committees, and we have no reason to doubt that they are doing their job.

North-East Scotland (Development Plan)

2.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has for preventing depopulation of the north east of Scotland.

22.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will announce his plan for the Borders.

33 and 52.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) when he now expects to publish the north-east of Scotland Development Plan;

(2) whether he will make a statement on his policy to reverse the trend of migration from the north-east of Scotland.

41.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he now expects to publish the Government's plan for the north-east of Scotland.

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The Government's plans will be set out in a White Paper which my right hon. Friend hopes to publish at the turn of the year.

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The National Plan foresees an average annual decrease of 20,000 in the working population of Scotland till 1971. Is not this an alarming tendency, and will it not bear most hardly on the periphery of the rapidly developing areas of central Scotland?

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We are concerned about this bearing on the periphery, and part of the object of the plan is to do as much as possible to prevent that happening.

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Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the plan for the Borders should be delayed until the plan for the north-east of Scotland is ready, as so much research has already taken place into the Borders problem?

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All these plans have to be fitted into one plan, otherwise they are apt to be contradictory and to fit into no pattern at all. It is precisely because of this that we are publishing a National Plan. The National Plan will take account of the needs of the various areas and of the reports which have been produced for these areas.

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Is the Minister aware that the North-East Development Plan has taken a very long time? Will he agree that plans are no substitute for action and that this problem of depopulation is serious and is still going on? Does he understand that there is urgent need to stem that tide and to start once again to revive employment in these distant areas such as the north-east of Scotland and other parts of Scotland in order to give our people a chance to work in the area where they were born?

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I understand hon. Members' impatience. I only wish that they had shown the same impatience during the past 13 years.

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Is the Minister aware that there has been almost intolerable procrastination by the Government in this matter? Is he aware that I was assured a year ago that this plan for the North-East would be published in the very near future? Can he guarantee that it will be published as soon as possible in the New Year? It has taken far too long already.

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New Town (Irvine)

3.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement on the creation of a new town in the Irvine area.

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Not yet.

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Is the Minister aware of the great interest shown in this suggestion of a new town, particularly by the hon. Member for Central Ayreshire (Mr. Manuel), who I know is very interested in it? Does he realise that many planning decisions of all kinds are held up in the meantime? Can he give any indication at all of when we may have a decision on this important matter?

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On the first part of the question, yes, Sir. On the second part of the question, the report was received on 31st May. Discussions have gone on with the local authorities concerned. My hon. Friend hopes to have a meeting on 3rd December, and after that we shall see what is what.

Later

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On a point of order. May I have your permission, Mr. Speaker, to ask a supplementary question on Question No. 3?

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I understand the hon. Member's interest. I am sorry that I missed the hon. Member at the time. It is now too late.

Ayr Bypass

4.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects work to start on the final stage of the Ayr bypass.

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I regret that it has not been possible to find a place for this scheme in our trunk road programme up to 1970.

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Does the right hon. Gentleman not recall his own promise a little more than a year ago that a Labour Government would complete this bypass? Does he not agree that there is great danger to people past whose houses traffic is now flowing? Will he please look again at the programme to see whether he can bring it forward?

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I still hope that a Labour Government will complete this programme. I remind the hon. Member that he was so proud of the priority given to this project that he put it in his election address.

Canadian Centenary Exhibition

5.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what pro posals he has for visiting the Canadian Centenary Exhibition in Montreal in 1967 in order to encourage or assist Scottish producers and manufacturers to show their wares there.

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None, Sir.

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Does the right hon. Gentleman know of the success of the trade mission to Australia recently? Why will he not not make preparations so that we may have similar success in Canada? Is he aware that the United Kingdom site at Montreal is extremely good? Does he recognise the wealth of good will towards Scotland by Canadian people?

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I welcome the spirit of the hon. Member's Question about the Canadian Centenary Exhibition, but he will appreciate that this is a cultural and prestige exhibition. It is not related to trade at all; in fact, commercial exhibitions there are forbidden. But he should not take it that we overlook the importance of this, or, indeed, that we are overlooking the question of having commercial participation by Scotland in trade fairs at that time.

Artificial Limbs

6.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the number of patients requiring artificial limbs; and what is the average waiting period before limbs are supplied.

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At 31st October 176 patients had been measured for but had not received their first artificial limb, and 657 patients were awaiting a replacement limb. The waiting time varies, depending on clinical and other factors and any average period given would not be meaningful.

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Is the Under-Secretary of State aware of the many complaints which many hon. Members have had about the waiting period for artificial limbs? Is she aware of the great concern and anxiety which this causes and the trouble which is caused both to employers and workmen because they cannot get back to employment as early as they ought? This is something which ought to be hurried on by her Department as much as possible.

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I take the point made by my hon. Friend. I can assure him that I, too, am deeply concerned about the waiting period involved. We have made a number of efforts during the year, as a result of which there has been a considerable improvement in some directions, but I am by no means satisfied yet, and we are looking at the situation.

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May I ask the hon. Lady whether all possible resources in Scotland are being fully utilised for this purpose? I have in mind the supply of artificial boots for artificial limbs, which are made by the Princess Marie Louise Hospital. Is the order book of that hospital completely full at the moment?

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Most order books are full. We are looking very closely at the possibility of enlarging the field of production, and this is very relevant in speeding up the whole process.

Slum Clearance

7.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has formulated in the course of the past year for accelerating the pace of slum clearance.

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In response to approaches my right hon. Friend has made to them, Scottish local authorities are proposing to accelerate the rate of slum clearance, so that some 45,000houses are closed or demolished during the three years 1965 to 1967. He intends to present very soon a White Paper about this and other aspects of the housing programme.

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While thanking the Minister for that Answer, may I ask him whether he realises that this is another sad story of procrastination on the part of the Government and that a great many of us are profoundly dissatisfied that he has not shown a greater sense of urgency in pressing ahead with the solution of these tragic social problems resulting from the slums, particularly in view of the aggressive speeches made by his right hon. Friend when in Opposition?

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I am sorry that the hon. Member misheard me. The figure which I stated was 45,000 houses proposed for demolition in three years. The past average has been 12,000 a year. The present figure of slum clearance under this Government is 7,870 in the first six months. I think that the hon. Member is wrong

Justices Of The Peace

8.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to ensure that newly-appointed justices of the peace shall represent accurately a cross-section of the community from which they are appointed.

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Advisory committees are asked, when they recommend persons for appointment as justices of the peace, to see that there are persons in the Commission representative of various sections of the community and I take into account the need to secure this when I am considering their recommendations.

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Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he takes into account not only political affiliations and political colours in various areas, but the social and economic background of the individuals representing particular areas? Will he take into account the desirability, wherever possible, of appointing postmasters or sub-postmasters, because very often these are the people most in contact with the local community?

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Yes. General guidance along the lines of the recommendation of the Royal Commission has been given to the committees in respect of this matter. I find that they do select carefully, but we must appreciate that the paramount consideration must be fitness to discharge their judicial functions. I can assure my hon. Friend that I will take into account the matters which he has raised.

Procurators-Fiscal

9.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will seek to improve the terms and conditions of service for procurators-fiscal to encourage recruitment to that service.

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In August last increases of salary, effective from 1st January, 1964, were awarded to various grades of the Procurator-Fiscal service, including the recruitment grade.

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Is the hon. Member aware that, with the development of legal aid in criminal cases, there is an ever-increasing demand on the Procurator-Fiscal service, and that unless recruitment to that service is speeded very serious danger arises that the administration of criminal jurisdiction in this country will be seriously prejudiced?

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I am aware of certain difficulties in connection with this service, but there are shortages of legal civil servants in practically every sphere and I do not think they are any worse in this sphere than in any other.

Erskine Bridge

10.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a state ment on the progress of the Erskine Bridge project and the probable starting date.

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Dunbarton and Renfrew County Councils have agreed with my right hon. Friend's proposal that the bridge should be built as a trunk road project; and our intention is that work should start in the financial year 1967-68. My Department is now taking over the preparatory work from the joint committee formed by the two councils.

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Is the hon. Member aware of the importance of this project to the whole trunk road problem in Renfrewshire and that it is a matter in which the people of Renfrewshire have a very great interest?

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My constituents are thoroughly overjoyed.

Farm Improvement Scheme (Sludge Tanks)

11.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if a grant is available under the farm improvement scheme for sludge tanks which are made of synthetic rubber.

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My right hon. Friend has had no applications for grant on sludge tanks made wholly of synthetic rubber. Any application would have to be assessed in accordance with the conditions of the scheme, including the test of durability.

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May I congratulate the hon. Member on the fact that his procrastination has not been carried into the field of sludge tanks? May I ask him whether he is, aware that applications have been made to his Department for grants for tanks which may not have been made wholly but which had been made at least partly of this material? Is it not the case that grants are available for these tanks under the farm improvement schemes in England and Wales? Is he satisfied with the co-ordination between his Department and the Ministry in seeing that there is uniformity in this matter?

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There have been two applications and each of them was in connection with a tank in which the synthetic material was used as a lining. It was therefore not made wholly of synthetic rubber. There is nothing against the use of this material if it measures up to the requirements of the scheme.

Shellfish (Rail Transport)

12.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received about the refusal of British Railways to carry small consign ments of shellfish; what reply he has given; and what is his estimate of the effect of this decision on the shellfish trade in the North of Scotland.

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I have received such representations, but I understand that small consignments of shellfish are carried in guards vans of passenger trains, provided there is room, and I shall reply to that effect. I appreciate that some fishermen are anxious lest this should result in delay and losses, but I have no evidence that it has had any significant effect on the shellfish industry.

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Is the acceptance of these small consignments in the guards vans of passenger trains a new offer of British Railways? Will these people be charged the penal rates by British Railways which are being charged for a full van consignments? Has there been any exploration of other methods of moving them if this proves unsatisfactory?

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Some of the fishermen are arranging their own schemes for the consignment of shellfish, as with other fish. As far as we can see, this seems to be working quite well. British Railways gave a three-month halt in the arrangements coming into effect to enable it to be done. The prices to be charged are as set out by British Railways in their scheme. No change was made.

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Is it a new offer?

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This is an offer which was made originally.

Sheep And Lambs (Prices)

13.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the current average prices in Scotland for fat clean sheep and fat lambs this year compared with 1955.

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For the last period for which this information is available, namely the four weeks ended 26th September, 1965, the average prices paid at Scottish auction markets for sheep certi-field for fatstock guarantee payments were for clean sheep 26·5d per lb. and for lambs 32·6d. per lb. The comparable figures for 1955 were 25·4d and 30·8d, respectively.

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From those figures, it is clear that the prices have risen very little. While one welcomes anything which keeps down food prices, because—

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Order. The right hon. Gentleman must ask a question.

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Is the Minister aware that the costs which these sheep farmers have to meet have risen very much—for example, transport costs? This may have a serious effect on the sheep farmer in Scotland unless a bigger profit is available to meet the extra costs.

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These factors are taken into account at the time of the annual review. In the last Review White Paper it was pointed out that this section of the industry continued to show a good figure of profitability, so it would not appear that heavy losses are being incurred. But all these factors are taken fully into consideration.

Hospital Building Programme

14.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why it has taken over twelve months to review the hospital building programme; and when he expects to publish the result.

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There are many factors to consider in the review, and its later stages have to await Government decisions about priorities in expenditure. My right hon. Friend hopes to publish the results of the review by about the end of the year.

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Does the hon. Lady agree that, whatever has motivated her right hon. Friend in this matter, it is not the dynamic feat of energy which we were promised by the Administration? Can she give a firm and unqualified undertaking that the review will not affect in any downward direction at all the quinquennial expenditure in the two periods to which the Government fell heir in the plan of the last Government?

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I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that there will be no reduction in the total programme. We believe in a dynamic programme of social investment and, therefore, we must plan everything in integration.

Capital Projects

15

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the number of capital projects in Scotland which are being slowed down in response to his circular letter to local authorities drawing attention to the Chancellor's state ment of 27th July; and what is the total value of these projects.

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Local authorities are not required to report to my right hon. Friend all projects which they have decided to defer.

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Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the very wide interest in these matters? Will he take some action to find out whether the Secretary of State's request for cuts is being observed by local authorities? Will he recognise that the Chancellor's statement in July and the Secretary of State's circular represented major changes in policy and that the House wishes to know what cuts are being made in Scotland?

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The answer to the first part of that supplementary question is, yes, to the second part, yes, and to the third part, no. In exemplification I would point out that the total borrowing in the three months August, September and October, apart from houses and schools, of course, was £8·3 million compared with £12·9 million in April, May and June. Without a disproportionate amount of work it would be impossible to give a complete list, although I recognise the hon. Gentleman's interest in the matter.

Teacher Training Colleges

16.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has for providing extra teacher training colleges in Scotland.

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A large programme is in hand for the expansion and modernisation of the facilities of the colleges of education, including a new college for 900 students due to open at Hamilton next October. My right hon. Friend has under review the possible need for an extension of the programme.

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Can the hon. Lady say whether the programme has been cut back by the Secretary of State's request to local authorities to hold back expenditure for six months and to plan for reduced expenditure in the next financial year? What effect will these cuts have on the supply of teachers in Scotland during the next critical years?

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There is only one area in which there is slight deferment, and this does not affect the number of places to be available next year. The unprecedented demand for places in the colleges requires us to look again at the programme for next year and the year following, and this is what we are doing.

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How many prospective students were unable to gain places at the training colleges at the beginning of the year?

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Because of the demand for places, it was necessary to limit acceptances to those who applied within the period and who were not late and to those of the correct minimum age. On that basis, we had to refuse 110 girls who applied for admission to the three-year diploma course and who were either under the minimum age of 17 or had not applied in time. That is all.

Marriages (Young Persons)

17.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many marriages involving persons between the ages of 16 and 18 years occurred in each of the last 10 years; and if he will introduce legislation to raise the age limit.

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The number of the marriages in which either one or both of the parties was 16 or 17 rose from 1,302 in 1954 to 2,938 in 1963. I shall, with permission, circulate figures for each year in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I am not aware of any general demand in Scotland for raising the lower age limit.

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Is my hon. Friend using the argument that there is no demand for action as a reason for taking no action at all, because in that case the Judges Remuneration Act would never have gone through this House? Does not he think that the age of 16 is a very low age for this desperately lifelong commitment to be taken? Will not he reconsider the position? How long has this legislation been effective?

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This was the common law of Scotland and was made statutory in 1929, so it has always been the law of Scotland. The question as to whether the age is too low is a matter of opinion. We have no evidence that there is any demand to change this law.

Following are the figures:

The number of marriages registered in Scotland
(a)where one or other of the parties was aged 16 or over but under 18

19541,302
19551,640
19561,815
19571,940
19581,960
19592,028
19602,316
19612,588
19622,683
19632,938

(b) where both the parties were age 16 or overbut under 18

195469
1955113
1956135
1957132
1958104
1959113
1960164
1961189
1962235
1963304

Rivers And Lochs (Fishing Rights)

18.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will seek to take all the rivers and lochs in Scotland into public ownership, abolish exclusive fishing rights and ensure that fishing for salmon and trout is equally open to all.

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My right hon. Friend is considering the law relating to salmon and trout fisheries in Scotland in the light of the Report of the Hunter Committee and the comments he is receiving on it, but he is not yet in a position to make a further statement.

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Is my hon. Friend aware that salmon fishing is now almost exclusively confined to the very wealthy and poachers and that the angling associations now believe that if the Hunter recommendations are implemented by the Government there will be the same position in relation to all fishing in Scotland?

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The associations have been asked to submit their views on the Hunter Report to my right hon. Friend. They will, therefore, have the opportunity of putting their views at great length.

Road Accidents (Warning Signs)

19.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will circularize police forces in Scotland to ensure that all police and public service vehicles which are called to the scene of road accidents carry warning signs which can be put out to give advance warning of any obstruction caused by accidents.

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It is already the general practice for police traffic patrol cars to carry warning signs. Emergency tenders of fire brigades also carry such signs.

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Would the hon. Gentleman also ask that ambulances should do the same? They often have to stand at scenes of accidents and if they carried these warning signs it might help to prevent further crashes from taking place.

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They do not carry them at present. Only those authorised by the chief constables to do so can erect these signs. However, the point is worthy of consideration.

New Towns

20.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement on the future management of new towns in Scotland after they have obtained borough status.

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Burgh status does not affect the functions of a development corporation which, as at East Kilbride, retains the duty of developing the new town to its planned size. It is important, however, that at all stages in the life of a new town the development corporation and all interested local authorities should work closely together.

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Have the Government any plans for the eventual handing over of these: new towns so that they are removed from the development corporations?

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It is too early to make a statement on this.

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Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that the terms of the New Towns Act, 1946, will be fully implemented and that we shall get full democratic control of these new towns by elecied authorities at the appropriate time?

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In principle that is the policy of the Government, but there is a transitional stage during which we shall have to sort out how that position is to be reached.

Civil Defence

21.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement regarding the future of civil defence; and whether the number of recruits keeps pace with the number of resignations.

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The review of home defence referred to in the Statement of Defence, 1965, is not yet complete, and I cannot anticipate the results. The active strength of the Civil Defence Corps in Scotland fell by 94 in the year ending 30th September, 1965, to a figure of 22,688.

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Will the Minister of State bear in mind that the delay in publishing this review of civil defence is very discouraging to people who are giving voluntarily of their time to doing this work?

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I fully appreciate that, but I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree that this important matter should be given proper consideration and that we should not try to be too hasty about it.

Departmental Staff

23.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what increase or decrease there was in the staff of the Department under his control in the period 16th October, 1964, to 15th October, 1965; and what increase or decrease he anticipates in the period up to 15th April, 1966.

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There was an increase of 448 in the staff of the Departments under my control between October 1964 and October 1965, and a further increase of 278 is expected by April 1966.

Fort William-Mallaig Road (Dual Carriageway)

24.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will start work on the thirty miles of single carriageway still remaining between Fort William and Mallaig.

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We intend to improve the worst sections as far as possible by using minor improvement funds, but I am afraid that comprehensive reconstruction cannot find a place in the road programme before 1970.

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Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is a narrow road which is causing very grave concern and great difficulty and is virtually endangering the whole future of Mallaig? There is also considerable doubt about the future of the railway. Can he assure us that he will bring pressure on the Minister of Transport to ensure that, if the railway goes, it will not go before the road is improved?

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I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he wants in the latter part of his supplementary Question, provided that he is willing to accept that, while traffic has increased on this road, it is much heavier on the single carriageway Invergary-Kyle road. This is a matter of priority, as he appreciates, and we naturally want to concentrate our efforts there.

Hydro-Electric Development

25.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will make a statement on the Government's policy concerning the future of hydro-electric development.

30.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will make a statement concerning the future programme of hydro-electric projects in Scotland.

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My right hon. Friend hopes to make a statement very shortly.

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I welcome this announcement very much.

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Is not this one other example of procrastination? We have waited a year for a reply and there is a hold-up of potential investment in the Highlands of £144- million as a result of the delay.

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I understand why the hon. Gentleman blushes when he says that in view of the past record of his own Government, which to a large extent caused this delay. Fortunately, my right hon. Friend will be in a position very shortly to make a statement which I hope will find acceptance throughout the House.

Edinburgh (Traffic Conditions)

26.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what assistance or advice his Department is giving to Edinburgh Corporation on traffic problems.

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My Department is represented at meetings of the working party which the corporation has set up to advise on the future traffic pattern in the city. The corporation also consults the Department about short-term traffic measures.

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Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the traffic problems in Edinburgh are getting worse every day? What has happened to the ring road? Will he take up with the Minister of Transport the question of retaining the surburban railways, particularly in the light of experience in Canada and the United States, where they are being brought back? Will he see that we retain Caledonian Station, which is a valuable asset for railway purposes?

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I appreciate the point, but the problem hinges on the submission of the quinquennial review by the corporation, which is at liberty to commission any transportation study it wishes, but at the moment my Department is concerned about the procedure under the review. When that review comes forward will be the time to make decisions in principle on a comprehensive assessment of the situation, including the position of suburban commuters and the railways.

Rates

27.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many Scottish local authorities have now announced their rate poundages for the year 1965–66; and what percentage increase there will be in the total amount raised in rates by these authorities in the year 1965–66 compared with amounts raised in the year 1964–65.

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All Scottish local authorities have now, by Statute, fixed their rate poundages for 1965–66. There is likely to be an increase of slightly over 9 per cent. in rate income, or 7 per cent. increase in average rate poundages.

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Does the hon. Gentleman recall saying in Committee on 29th June that the probable increase in rates this year would be 4 per cent.? Why is it that, on housing and roads and other vital matters, he is proving to be such a bad prophet all the time?

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This is the only assessment that has ever gone wrong. But I would point out that it compares not unfavourably with the 8·6 per cent. increase in 1963–64 and the 19 per cent. increase in 1961–62. He must await the Government's next steps in this matter, including, of course, the legislation which we have promised will be introduced this Session.

Housing

28.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many houses were completed in Scotland in the 10 months ended Ocotber 1965; and how many it is estimated will be completed in the year 1965.

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About 28,500 in the ten months and around 35,000 in the full year.

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Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that this means a fall in the house-building programme this year of over 2,000? Does he also recall stating on the 1st June that it was wrong to say that house building this year would be less than last? Why has this further forecast of his gone wrong?

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The hon. Gentleman is committing a grave error. He must read again what has been said. There are several factors, and we have always stated them in the House. The principal factor in the number of house completions this year—and he and his right hon. Friends cannot escape responsibility for that—was the dramatic fall in tender approvals during the period April-September, 1964. It is worthy of note that at the end of last September houses under construction in Scotland by all agencies totalled 50,554 —an all-time record.

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Why, then, was the hon. Gentleman's estimate in the summer of a total of 37,000 so wrong, considering that it has been reduced to 35,000?

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Because it has proved far too difficult to get over the initial errors for which the hon. Gentleman himself was primarily responsible, when he was in my position, by failing to see that the rate of tender approvals was at the level of the preceding first quarter as compared with the second and third quarters over which he presided in his final six months of office.

34.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the number of houses being erected in Scotland by private enterprise at the latest convenient date; and what was the comparative number being erected on the corresponding date last year.

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At 30th September, 8,100 houses were under construction for private owners, compared with 7,132 a year earlier.

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I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the success of his policy in encouraging private ownership. Is he aware that many hundreds of young couples who had set their hopes on being able to buy these houses now find themselves unable to do so because of the financial policies of his right hon. Friend the First Secretary? What does the hon. Gentleman intend to do about it?

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I much appreciate the natural enthusiasm which the hon. Gentleman shows for the success with which the Government are reaching their housing targets. There is no short-fall of requests by young people for private builders' houses. The total of 6,051 houses already built in the first nine months of this year compares with the 5,559 built in the last year of the previous Administration.

Salmon And Trout Fisheries (Report)

29.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will bring forward proposals following the Hunter Committee Report on Scottish Salmon and Trout Fisheries.

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My right hon. Friend is awaiting the observations of many of the organisations he invited to comment and he will be studying the Report further once these observations have been received.

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Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the extreme concern about these proposals among all sections of the industry, and particularly among those employed in it? Would he, therefore, bear in mind that a decision about the proposals should not be delayed if uncertainty is to be avoided?

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I am aware of the concern, but I am also aware of the importance of the decision, and I should have thought that the importance of the decision warranted the matter being given proper and not hurried consideration.

A74 (Dual Carriageway)

31.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are now the estimated starting dates for the reconstruction to dual-carriageway standard of the Underwoodhouse to Hill Tollbar section and the Hill Tollbar to Mossband railway bridge section of the A.74.

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Providing the necessary orders can be made in time, my right hon. Friend hopes that work will start on the Underwoodhouse-Hill Tollbar scheme in the spring of 1967 and on the Hill Tollbar-Mossband scheme a few months later.

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Is the Under-Secretary aware that traffic conditions on this road are now intolerable? Why cannot he revert to the Conservative target of the summer of 1966?

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Because the last Administration set targets but did very little work. The fact is that on the Underwoodhouse to Hill Tollbar scheme it has been necessary to vary the line to achieve better engineering standards. The reason with the second scheme is that we hope that the junction arrangements at Gretna will turn out to be better than our predecessors tried to arrange.

Technical Colleges

32.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to what extent the programmes in Scotland of building and extending technical colleges has been postponed or reduced by the Government' economic measures this year.

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The following two new further education colleges have been deferred for six months and will now start next spring: Telford District College, Edinburgh; Esk Valley Technical College, Midlothian.

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Is the hon. Lady aware that any postponement of technical education in Scotland could have a serious effect on industry in the years to come?

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Yes, of course. But the point is that we think—in fact, we are quite certain—that the effect can be minimised, because the buildings can be partially occupied as they are completed. We are quite satisfied that there will be no serious repercussions from the delaying of these two projects.

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Would the hon. Lady care to convey those comments to the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs who, in the debate on the National Plan, advised the House that Scotland was unaffected by the credit squeeze and cuts?

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As the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, Scotland is relatively unaffected. Indeed, most of Scotland is protected under the present Government against the kind of thing that happened under the last Government because of our recognition of the needs of areas of unemployment.

Local Authorities (House Purchase Schemes)

35.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many local authorities in Scotland operate mortgage schemes for private houses; and how many have ceased such schemes during the past 12 months.

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Out of 108 local authorities which operate schemes of loans for house purchase, 96 have made loans during the past year. I have no knowledge of any decision to cease making loans.

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Will the hon. Gentleman do everything he can to encourage local authorities to operate these schemes to help the hundreds of young couples in Scotland who find themselves not able to buy houses for themselves? Will he do everything he can to encourage his right hon. Friend the First Secretary to make mortgages available at rates which people can afford to pay?

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I am sure that the hon. gentleman is not unaware of what the Prime Minister has said and of what both Housing Ministers have declared to be their policy. He will no doubt read that when the White Papers are published shortly. The 12 authorities in Scotland whom I have not included as making regular loans are mostly small burghs and lend only from time to time. However, we take the point. The hon. Gentleman is quite right, and it is the policy of the Government, and we shall pursue it much more energetically than our predecessors did.

Forth Road Bridge

36.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now make a statement on the question of tolls on the Forth Road Bridge, following the experimental period of one year.

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I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to the right hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray) on 2nd November.

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Does the hon. Gentleman consider that the present rate of toll is likely to prove a handicap to plans for industrial expansion?

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The present toll? No. There is no such evidence. As for future arrangements, I indicated in my reply that there would be discussions. The Joint Board met on 27th October and considered the inescapable financial effects of the first year. In the 12 months starting 1st October, 1964, 4·6 million vehicles crossed the bridge—excluding the initial surge of traffic in the earlier month. In the nine months to 28th May, 1965, tine Joint Board was due to make payments to the Secretary of State's Department of £569,059. The payment it was able to make amounted to £248,359. Therefore, £320,700 has to be carried forward and added to the capital debt of £14.5 million. With those facts in mind, it is difficult to go further than I went in answer to the right hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray).

Oxgang Primary School, Kirkintilloch

37.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many new primary school places will be provided by the proposed Oxgang Primary School, Kirkintilloch.

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The school will provide 680 places.

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Is my hon. Friend aware that in the burgh of Kirkintilloch it is feared that we may be repeating the errors of the previous Administration over the last 14 years and providing school accommodation to meet current needs and forgetting to provide for the future? Can my hon. Friend give an assurance that she will not repeat the terrible blunders of the previous Administration but will see that school accommodation provides for future as well as present requirements?

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My hon. Friend will know of the study which we have sponsored during the last year into methods of forecasting need for school places arising from population movement. This study is now going on. It is concentrated on the Scottish new towns and the Cumbernauld Development Corporation and the education authority concerned is giving a great deal of help. That will indicate the importance the Government attach to the issue which my hon. Friend has raised.

Cumbernauld (Maternity Unit)

38.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has for the provision of a maternity unit in the new town of Cumbernauld.

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The Western Regional Hospital Board's long-term plans for Cumbernauld's hospital services include the provision of a materntiy unit with facilities for both specialists and general practitioners.

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Can my hon. Friend give an assurance that the provision of the maternity unit will precede the building of the hospital, as, with a birth rate of 28 per 1,000, there is an immediate and urgent need for maternity facilities in the new town? Will she do all she can to urge forward the building of this maternity unit?

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The exact starting date will, of course, be a matter for the regional hospital board's own assessment, but I understand that the general practitioners' maternity unit will be provided ahead of the consultant unit to which my hon. Friend refers. That should enable the immediate need to be met more quickly than would otherwise be possible.

Higher School Bursaries

39.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the large number of higher school bursaries which have been refused; and, to avoid any further hardship, if he will increase the ceiling value of these bursaries.

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My right hon. Friend has no evidence that education authorities are refusing higher school bursaries to pupils entitled to receive them. The rates are kept under review and we will be glad to consider any evidence of hardship the hon. Member may have.

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Is my hon. Friend aware that it is estimated that nearly half the applicants for higher school bursaries in Lanarkshire this year have been refused? Will she bear in mind that that is due not to parental incomes being too high—because these are the incomes of ordinary people—but because the ceiling for bursaries is too low? Will she and the Secretary of State look into the matter?

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I am looking into it at the moment, as is my right hon. Friend. A number of factors are involved when secondary school children leave school earlier than they otherwise might. The economic factor is certainly very important.However, any particular evidence of hardship which my hon. Friend can supply will be very welcome in the study which we are making.

Education (Gaelic Courses)

40.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of the introduction of foreign languages into Scottish primary schools, he will approve the introduction of the Gaelic language with a view to preserving Scottish culture; and if he will make a statement.

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It is open to any education authority to provide Gaelic courses in primary as in secondary schools. In Gaelic-speaking areas education authorities have a duty to ensure that adequate provision is made for the teaching of Gaelic language and literature and 4,125 primary pupils are studying it in these areas.

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Can my hon. Friend see whether that information can be made known to all Scottish local education authorities? Is she aware that while French, for example, is being taught— and we welcome the introduction of the teaching of French in primary schools— in many primary schools in my district Gaelic is not taught as a subject of instruction? Therefore, in the interests of her Scottish culture, will my hon. Friend make sure that this information is available to the education authority concerned?

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A number of pupils outside the area which normally speaks it are studying it. For example, at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Lanark and Renfrewshire just under 500 secondary pupils are taking it. Certainly the education authorities know their duties and power.

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Is the hon. Lady aware that restricted experiments in Gaelic teaching in primary schools in the county of Inverness have been going on for some time? Would she take steps to make some money directly available and, if this is possible, to extend the area where this is being done? At present it is relatively restricted and the restriction is primarily financial.

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This is a matter for the education authorities concerned. They have a duty in it. The allocations of money which they have are supposed to provide for this, but I would be very glad to look at the particular point if the hon. Member will write to me about it.

Road Programme

42.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to what extent the road programme in Scotland has been reduced or postponed, outside development districts, as a result of the economic measures announced on 27th July.

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With minor exceptions, all road schemes outside development districts which were due to start in the six months from August, 1965 to January, 1966 are subject to deferment under the measures announced on 27th July. It is worthy of note that, of the whole Scottish road programme, 96·6 per cent. is unaffected.

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With nine trunk road schemes postponed, in addition to these local authority schemes, is it not deplorable that there should be any interruption of the Scottish road programme, which is so important to the development of all parts of Scotland, not just development districts?

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Obviously the hon. Gentleman has prepared his supplementary question before he heard my Answer. The fact is that 96·6 per cent. of the Scottish road programme is unaffected by these cuts. Scotland has been exempted to this degree because of the large incidence of development districts. We accept, as does the rest of the country, the sacrifices that must be made with regard to general policy to solve a situation which, after all, hon. Members opposite left to us.

Taxicabs (Licences)

43.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of wide spread trafficking in taxi licences; and if he will seek power to take action to eliminate this practice.

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The control of taxicabs in Scottish burghs is entirely a matter for the magistrates and I do not think that further legislation is necessary.

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Is my hon. Friend aware that in the Glasgow region sums in excess of £1,000 are being paid, ostensibly for the purpose of buying a taxicab? In fact the major proportion of the sum is for the licence, because the vehicle in question has a market value somewhere in the region of £150 or £200. Does my hon. Friend conside: that this black market is a desirable state of affairs, or does he think that there should be action?

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If such a black market exists, then, of course, it is not desirable. But I think that the point is whether or not magistrates consider their powers adequate to deal with this. This is the substance of the question, and the answer is that the Secretary of State has no knowledge that the present powers are inadequate.

Unlicensed Clubs

44.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now introduce legislation in order that unlicensed clubs may be brought under proper police supervision.

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It would be difficult to justify making all clubs subject to police supervision; but, as I explained on 14th April, the operation of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1963, in its application to gaming clubs is under review.

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Is my hon. Friend aware that in Glasgow and other major cities of Scotland, in addition to gaming clubs, there are many clubs springing up, in attics and basements, which present a fire hazard to the general public? Is my hon. Friend further aware that the police and the fire service in Glasgow have expressed great concern about the upsurge of these clubs? Will he give the House an assurance that he will give further consideration to this matter?

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I am aware of these facts and, as I pointed out on 14th April, we are preparing fire legislation which will be introduced whenever it is possible to do so. The wider issues such as the question of interfering with social clubs are very complex, but these are also under consideration.

Scottish-English Schools (Joint Projects)

45.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with local education authorities on joint educational projects of a residential nature between Scottish and English schools.

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None, Sir. It would be for the promoters in England of such a project to canvass support direct from Scottish education authorities.

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Will my hon. Friend be prepared to receive a deputation of teachers—

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From Woolwich.

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From Woolwich—who are interested in the project in Argyllshire, which may well be of inestimable value to Scotland?

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We are always delighted to help our friends over the Border, but on this occasion I would suggest that the best course for my hon. Friend to pursue would be to take it further with the education authorities in England and Scotland and then, if the point arises, I shall be only too glad to discuss it with him.

River Don

46.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans have been made to purify the estuary of the River Don at Aberdeen and to apply to it the new method of oxidation designed by the Shirley Institute, Didsbury, for cleaning up rivers which have been polluted by industrial waste from mills and factories.

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These matters are the responsibility of the Dee and Don River Purification Board.

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Surely the Minister has some power with regard to this river, which is not in my constituency alone; it borders another constituency. The new method of oxidation mentioned in my Question has been tried with great success elsewhere. To use it in the River Don would result in great benefit to trade, industry, commerce and to employment in Aberdeen city and county.

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I quite accept what my hon. and learned Friend says in this regard. I would strongly suggest that if he contacts the Board itself he will obtain a thorough explanation of all its plans, both in this regard and in others. I have a lengthy submission here, but I do not wish to ascribe it to the OFFICIAL REPORT at this stage and weary the House with it.

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Does the Under-Secretary of State not agree that this is a very complicated matter involving several local authorities, besides the river board, which I mentioned to him in detail at the beginning of last Session, in Committee? With a view to bringing an end to the procrastination between the Ministry and the local authorities, will he now—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."]— accept my invitation to visit the area for himself and see the extent of the nuisance—and smell the nuisance with his own nose?

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Order. The hon. Gentleman's supplementary questions must be shorter.

Large Estates (Sales)

47.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will refer to the Highlands and Islands Development Board recent sales of large estates, such as the Ben Alder Estate of 22,300 acres in Inverness-shire, with a view to using their powers to have such estates taken over by the Board and developed in the interests of the people of the Highlands.

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I think that the initiative in this matter can appropriately be left to the Board.

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Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that many people in Scotland, particularly in the Highlands, are becoming outraged at this traffic in huge sections of our native land? Is it not time that this was brought to the attention of a public board in order to develop the full potential of this land, both in agriculture and forestry, in the interests of the people in this area where a real land hunger exists?

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I have no reason to doubt that the Highlands and Islands Development Board will keep its eye upon these things and will, if it requires land in order to carry out its development plans, put forward proposals to acquire it.

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Is the Minister aware of a quite outrageous case at this moment which runs entirely counter to the Government's declared policy in setting up the Highland Development Board? A large part of the Island of Coll is being acquired by a Dutchman for the purpose, declared publicly by himself, of starting it as a sporting estate. Does not this run quite counter to everything for which the Government stand? Will he take some action?

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I am aware of this case. If the Board decides that something should be done in Coll, it has all the powers to do it, in spite of the Dutchman.

Arbroath (A92 Inner Relief Road)

48.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what request he has received from Arbroath Town Council to be allowed to proceed with the proposed new inner relief road on the A.92 forthwith; and what reply he has sent.

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The council asked last month to be allowed to start work, at a cost of about £20,000, on the first phase of the proposed inner relief road. My right hon. Friend has told the council to go ahead if it is fully satisfied that the road must proceed now.

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I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply, but is he aware that the delays imposed by the Departments have already involved the local authority in considerably increased costs, because of the purchase of property for the building of this road, and will he see that there are no further delays?

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As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have met the town council on this matter and we have given it the go-ahead on the first phase as early as possible. For the remaining phases, we will have to see how the provisional programme for 1967–69 goes.

Local Government Reorganisation

49.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, when the working party appointed to consider the reorganisation of local government will report; and if he will publish its findings.

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The working party of officials has prepared a summary of its work since its first report was published, which is being circulated to the elected members of local authorities who form the steering committee. The summary is not in a form suitable for publication.

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Perhaps the summary might be submitted to Members of this House who might wish to offer an opinion about it?

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I accept that, but I am afraid that the report is inconclusive. It contains no formal recommendations as such. Once my right hon. Friend has consulted the local authorities, he wishes to proceed from that to see what should be done to take a wide consensus of opinion.

Rating (Large Estates)

50.

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will refer to the Scottish Valuation Advisory Council the matter of the discrepancy whereby large estates in the Highlands with lucrative fishing and sporting rights are ratedat low levels.

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The valuation of fishing and sporting rights is a matter for the local assessors acting in accordance with valuation law. There is to be a general revaluation in 1966, and I hope my hon. Friend will agree that it would be better to await the results of that before pursuing the matter further.

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Will my hon. Friend keep in mind that within land which is normally regarded as exempt because it is not productive there is very valuable and remunerative land which is used for shooting and deer stalking? For example, in Inverness-shire there is an estate of 22,000 acres on which only £330 is paid in rates despite large and lucrative fishing and deer rights?

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Yes, Sir. It would, however, be better to await the up-to-date 1966 figures before making a fresh evaluation of the position.

Question Time

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On a point of order— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—which I submit, with the greatest respect, to you, Mr. Speaker. We lost three minutes at the beginning of this sitting of the House. Would it be possible now to have them back?

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As a Sassenach, I was about to congratulate my Scottish colleagues on their co-operation at Question Time. I appreciate the parsimonious economy of time on the Question of the hon. Gentleman. I have no power whatever to add three minutes to Question Time.