Skip to main content


Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 22 January 1975

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

North Sea Oil (Aberdeenshire)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take steps to ensure that ratepayers in Aberdeenshire do not have to meet the extra finance that will be required to produce the necessary infrastructure for the new oil and oil-related industries moving into the area.

We have already done so, as is explained in paragraph 27 of the report—published on 20th January—on the Rate Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1975.

I thank the Minister for that reply. When does he think the first payments for this purpose will be made? When they are made will he take into account the moneys already spent and being spent by this local authority for these purposes?

The payments will start in 1975–76 and will, like the rate support grant generally, be paid throughout the year. It is not possible to take account of expenditure before 1975–76, except to the extent that any continuing commitments taken on will affect expenditure in that year. A good deal of it is capital expenditure, with continuing revenue commitments which, from 1975–76 onwards, will come in for the help that will be given.

I agree that the Government have done something in this regard but does the Minister agree that a great deal more needs to be done? Will he represent to the Chancellor and others that if the Government have large sums of money for investment in connection with oil they would do better to address at least a large proportion of it to infrastructure rather than to the highly specialist oil business, and get their money from the oil business by taxation?

That is a rather different and wider point. The right hon. Gentleman knows that oil-related infrastructure developments already receive preference in Government allocation of public expenditure. The Question is directed to seeing that this additional expenditure does not impose undue burdens on the ratepayers. We have taken care of that.

The hon. Gentleman said on Monday, and repeated again today, that this expenditure related mainly to loan charging. Has he any idea of the total amount of capital expenditure which this rate support grant will generate in this area?

I cannot give precise totals until we see all the returns and analyse what is eligible for help. The sum of £2½ million is provided for in the order concerned. The level of grant on the expenditure which we consider eligible for this additional help will be a high percentage, as I hope will be clear when I am able to make a final announcement shortly.

I agree with the Minister and his right hon. Friend over their decision about oil-related developments in Argyll, but is the hon. Gentleman aware that I would welcome their assurance that equal attention will be paid to the question of infrastructure in Argyll as compared with the North-East of the country?

I can give that assurance. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are already in touch with the county council about the particular matters affecting his constituency. We are anxious to see that infrastructure developments go hand in hand with industrial developments in his and other areas.

Will the Minister say whether, under this measure, it will be possible to offset in whole or in part the cost of the desperately-needed lorry park for oil-related traffic in Aberdeen?

I am not sure whether the local authority concerned included that in its return. If it did, it will receive consideration. I cannot commit myself at the moment.



asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he proposes to take following the report by the committee investigating truancy in Scottish schools; and if he will make a statement.

The Pack Committee of Inquiry into Truancy and Indiscipline was set up in the late summer of last year and has not yet reported.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that this problem has been a serious one for the past few years? Does he agree that it is due, among other things, to the shortage of teachers, the lack of an attractive curriculum for these young people aged from 15 to 16, and the slum school accommodation which they are expected to occupy? Would it not ease the problem immediately if the Secretary of State allowed such children to leave school on the day they turn 16? Would this not also help them to take up employment which they are frequently offered but lose because they have to wait until the official school-leaving date?

As my hon. Friend has recognised, the problems of truancy and indiscipline have many origins. As for the point that he makes about the leaving date, he will know that my right hon. Friend told my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Hunter) on 14th January that a review of school leaving dates is at present being undertaken.

Has the Minister seen the report in today's Press about a large number of children—a number running into many hundreds—who have been taken up by the police in the borough of Lambeth while playing truant? Does he think that it would be a good thing to have a similar swoop in some Scottish cities?

I have seen the report. I would need to consider the matter before drawing any conclusions.



asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any proposals to curb vandalism.

Such measures as the strengthening of the police force, crime prevention campaigns and the provision of better recreational facilities are valuable and important, but the greatest contribution to reducing this mischief would be a stronger sense of community responsibility, and this it is my object to encourage.

Is not talk of community responsibility altogether too vague? Is not something much more positive wanted from the Government to deal with this great social evil? Why cannot the Minister consider the suggestion made by his hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey)—a suggestion which I have made in the House—that these guilty people should be made to help put right what they have disfigured? Will the hon. Gentleman consider that positive move towards overcoming this grave social evil?

The Government are fully aware of the problems caused by vandalism and have been vigilant in introducing new and helpful measures to deal with the problem, but in our view the hon. Gentleman's suggestion would not be helpful.

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, is he not being rather complacent? Surely he should treat more seriously a suggestion made by both the Opposition and his hon. Friend. Is he aware that the Criminal Justice Act, which allows reparation by the offender, has been tried out in some areas of England and Wales with considerable success? Will he not do something about this, instead of sitting back and doing nothing?

There is certainly no complacency on my part, or on the part of the Government. We are very concerned about vandalism. Of that there can be no doubt. The figures of committals from the children's panels in Scotland are up by a substantial percentage, and most of those committals were as a result of vandalism. It does not become the hon. Gentleman to say that no measures are being taken. The Government are very much aware of the problem of vandalism, and they are doing and will continue to do everything in their power to resolve it.

Irvine New Town


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will pay an official visit to Irvine New Town.

I have no immediate plans to do so, but look forward to the possibility at a convenient future date.

When my right hon. Friend decides to visit Irvine New Town, will he remember that his Minister of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Energy got lost several times when they last visited North Ayrshire, and that on the next day, again because of the bad roads in North Ayrshire, 14 Labour Members of Parliament took an hour and 40 minutes to go from Cambuslang to Largs, and missed an important appointment? When will the Secretary of State start the motorway link, from North Ayrshire to the M74 and the M8 to serve Hunterston and Irvine New Town, which was promised by both Conservative and Labour Governments? It is especially important now that oil-related developments are going to the area.

If and when I visit the new town officially, my hon. Friend may take it that I shall not get lost. He probably knows my familiarity with the area. For my hon. Friend's information, I shall be there unofficially in a fortnight's time. Not everyone in Ayrshire is entirely agreed on the line which the motorway should take.

My hon. Friend has been in communication with my noble Friend the Minister of State on this subject, and he will be aware that we require much more hard information about the generation of traffic—it will not all be going from Irvine to Cambuslang—before we can embark on a massive project of this nature.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the tremendous damage caused by heavy wagons which have to use the old coastal road on their journey to Hunterston, and of the danger caused by the excessive speed of lorries going through West Kilbride? Will the right hon. Gentleman look into that?

I am aware of the difficulties. There are always difficulties when a major project causes roads to be used for purposes for which they were never designed. This matter must be considered in future.

After the Secretary of State has visited Irvine New Town I shall be delighted if he will visit Cumbernauld New Town. I should like to discuss with him the question of employment for our young people—

Order. The hon. Lady may make statements to the Secretary of State on that occasion. Today she must ask a question.

Is the Secretary of State aware that in Cumbernauld young people have great difficulty in securing employment? There is only one job for every 40 girls leaving school, and one job for every 16 boys leaving school. The development corporation, the town council and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with him.

I should be glad if the hon. Lady would put down a Question on that subject, but she had better be careful. She asked me to visit Cumbernauld after I had visited Irvine. I make no commitment, but I might visit Cumbernauld before visiting Irvine.

Sports Council


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the amount of grant that will be available to the Scottish Sports Council for 1975–76; and what increase this is on 1974–75.

My right hon. Friend is still considering the matter and will announce a decision as soon as possible.

That is disappointing news. By this time last year the sports council had been awarded a substantial grant by the Conservative Government. When does the chairman of the sports council hope to announce his decision on the inquiry into Hampden Park? Will the Government commit themselves to giving official assistance towards the rebuilding of that important national stadium?

I understand that the report on the future of Hampden Park is expected in the spring. The committee is aware of the urgency and importance of the problems concerned. The Government will have to see what the report says and consider the financial implications before committing themselves to any specific grant.

If there is any spare money going, would it not be better to put it into the grant-aided schools?

Economic Affairs


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish a White Paper outlining his plans for the Scottish economy in 1975.

I have nothing to add to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) on 6th November.—[Vo1 880, c. 107.]

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is concern and alarm in Scotland about the almost daily reports of factory closures and extended short-time working? Has he the agreement of the Cabinet to an emergency package of measures if unemployment reaches an unacceptable level in Scotland?

The answer to the first part of the supplementary question is "Yes, I am aware". To the second part of the supplementary question, the answer is "No". The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the plans that we have put forward about the Scottish Development Agency, the legislation for which we hope to get through the House in the present Session of Parliament if certain hon. Members do not obstruct the Government's legislative programme.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the problems facing the Scottish economy is the lack of public accountability of private industrialists who are not slow to take advantage of public funds, such as Government grants and the regional employment premium and advance factories? Is he aware that in my constituency in the past few months four advance factories have been closed, throwing more than 400 people out of work? What steps does the Secretary of State intend to take to make private industry more accountable to the Scottish work force?

Accountability is one matter which we shall be discussing and hope to cover in the proposed Industry Bill.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the vitally important part that a large number of small businesses play in Scotland's economy and the catastrophic effect on these businesses of the current proposals in the Finance Bill? Will the right hon. Gentleman summon a special meeting of the Scottish Economic Council, of which he is chairman, to discuss this before it is too late and small businesses have all gone under?

On the matter of summoning a special meeting of the Scottish Economic Council, I do not know what the council is because, if the hon. Gentleman remembers rightly, the Conservative Government let it lapse. Things were going so well that the Tories obviously forgot about its existence.

On the point which was raised about small businesses, I appreciate the important part they play in the development of the Scottish economy and I have made it my task to ensure that these firms take the initiative, in terms of expansion. This is one of the tasks which the SDA will be able to perform. We shall have for that purpose an instrument which we have not had hitherto in Scotland. I do not accept all the implications of the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the Finance Bill.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the announcement of new oil platform construction sites is maintaining the pace of oil-related developments in Scotland? Will he see that it is given greater depth when the Prime Minister visits Scotland next month, so that momentum is imparted to the steel and heavy engineering industries?

There is no doubt that industry in Scotland, small and large, is playing a greater part in the opportunities afforded by oil developments. This is one of the most heartening features of the Scottish economy at present. I have seen figures showing that, directly and indirectly, the number of jobs created in this respect is approaching 28,000.

Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the best ways of curing industrial problems today is to support the call made by the SNP for an easing of restrictions which the Bank of England has imposed on Scottish clearing banks, thus preventing those banks from making available as much resources as they would like to afford to Scottish industry, or is he content to see Scottish industry suffer from credit restrictions and from an economic medicine being administered for an economic illness which does not exist in Scotland?

It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman, in his prepared supplementary question, did not take account of the fact that the Scottish banks have disowned the attitude of the SNP.

List D Schools (Tayside)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what percentage of pupils in List D (approved) schools in the Tayside Region comes from other regions.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, although it is substantially different from the information which I was given in my region. Does he not agree that the transfer of large numbers of pupils away from the regions in which these schools are situated must cause considerable extra expense? Has he looked into the effects of a policy which has resulted in drawing away pupils from other areas, and does he think that the extra expense is justified?

It is the responsibility of the children's panels to decide where pupils in need of care and attention should go. My hon. Friend may be referring to the fact that expense is incurred by social workers going from one area to another to visit children within their responsibility. At present there are no reciprocal arrangements covering such activities. I shall consider putting these matters to the directors of social work departments to see whether unnecessary expense—and perhaps, more important, loss of valuable man hours—can be reduced.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the basic problem lies in the List D places? Will he say when he will be in a position to offer a sufficient number of places because, unless action is taken the Social Work (Scotland) Act cannot be properly implemented?

It is true that there is a shortage of places, but the waiting list has been reduced a little. I have not the precise figures, and I do not disguise the fact that there is a shortage of List D places, but, as I have emphasised time and again, List D places are not the only answer when children are in difficulty. All kinds of avenues should be explored, and local authorities are already doing so. They are examining other schemes, such as intermediate treatment schemes. There will be more List D school places, but I repeat that that is not the only way to tackle these problems.



asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what official representations he has had from the Scottish teachers since the rising of Parliament before the Christmas Recess; and whether he will make a statement on the present state of education in Scottish schools.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "None, Sir".

So far as the second part is concerned, hon. Members will be aware that an agreement was reached in the Scottish Teachers Salaries Committee on 30th December on a revision of salaries for school teachers within the total cost recommended by the Houghton Committee. The teachers' side agreed to recommend to its constituent organisations that industrial action in support of pay increases should cease.

Work to rule unrelated to pay continues in some schools, and I intend shortly to discuss this with employing authorities and teachers' representatives.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that owing to a dramatic doubling of fees for those who send children to grant-aided schools in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland, there may be a mass exodus from those schools? Is he also aware that many parents are extremely concerned and have reason to fear that if they have to send their children elsewhere, the other schools in Edinburgh will not be able to accommodate their children? Will he take into consideration the interests of the thousands of children involved and seriously consider making an immediate increase in the grants to grant-aided schools?

The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is unrelated to the Question on the Order Paper. [Interruption.] He will be aware that there is another Question on the Order Paper that deals with this subject.

Will the Secretary of State stop trying to hide behind the wording of a Question later on the Order Paper—a Question he knows will probably not be reached? Does he not agree that the policy on grant-aided schools is not a policy at all, but a mean and spiteful vendetta that could cause chaos throughout the whole of Scotland and is causing damage to children's education? Will he not abandon this mean and spiteful policy and adopt, in its place, a sensible policy? There may well have to be a change in future, but the right hon. Gentleman's present policy will create chaos in Edinburgh and will cause enormous hardship, for no good educational reason.

I can well understand why the hon. Gentleman does not wish to face the Question which relates to official representations I have had

"from the Scottish teachers since the rising of Parliament before the Christmas Recess; and whether he will make a statement on the present state of education in Scottish schools"
not grant-aided schools. Having fallen flat on his face over his attitude to the troubles before Christmas, he is now proceeding to fall flat on his face over grant-aided schools.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the inordinate number of fee-paying places, whether independent or grant-aided, has bedevilled education in Edinburgh for everybody for too long? It has been harmful to pupils in schools in the State sector, and it is time that it was diminished. Will he say whether any professional educationist or teaching body has made a protest about the proposals on grant-aided schools?

What my hon. Friend says may be true, but it is not related particularly to this Question.

In view of the totally unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's answer, I beg to give notice that I shall ask leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

Rents And Incomes


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the ratio of the average local authority house rent to the average household income in Scotland for the year 1973.

Will the Minister say whether those figures include rents rebated? Does he recognise that if rebated rents are taken into account this may be an extremely low figure? Does it not justify the provisions of the Housing Finance Act? Would it not be more realistic to stand by those provisions and to use the resources thus saved for the building of badly-needed houses?

One thing we are not convinced about is that the 1972 Act, whatever other virtues it may have, produced more housing for the Scottish people. On the specific point raised by the right hon. Lady, the figures are taken from the family expenditure survey of 1973 and relate to rebated rents. The ratio between rents and income has been increasing. The figures require a lot more study before we can justify any excessive increases in local authority rents.

Is my hon. Friend aware that Scottish tenants were very grateful for the rents freeze implemented by the Labour Government? Will he, in turn, congratulate Scottish Labour local authorities which, over the years, have managed to keep rents of council houses at a reasonable level? Will he tell my constituent the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire East) Miss Harvie Anderson), that it ill behoves those who live in large country mansions to criticise the rent levels of council tenants who are obliged to live in much humbler circumstances?

There has been a unanimous welcome by local authorities for our decision to give back to them freedom to determine their own rent levels. Most constituents—unfortunately, not all of them—voted for us at the last election. Most council tenants, not because they are council tenants, certainly appreciated the freeze on rents which was introduced as part of the counter-inflation measures.

Does the Minister agree that the average income of private tenants living in private rented accommodation is less than the average income of those living in council houses? In those circumstances, why are the Labour Party and he himself, as Minister in charge of the recent Bill, still supporting an unjust system, under which those who are poorer support those who are richer?

I challenge some of the assumptions behind that question. Many people in the private sector pay rents which are far too high for the type of slum accommodation in which they live. I would rather approach the matter on the basis of being fair, As a general rule, it is not wise to hand out public money unless there is a proven need for it. There are other sections of the community in which no income tests are applied—including owner-occupiers—so it is very difficult to generalise and apply a policy in an attempt to be fair to all sections. I am convinced that we have the right housing policies for the people of Scotland.

Kidney Transplants


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what easily available figures he has to indicate the number of people in Scotland on kidney machines, and the number of those who have had a successful kidney transplant; and if he will make an estimate of approximately how many would opt for a kidney transplant if matching tissue were obtainable.

At 31st December 1974, 171 people were on kidney machines in hospital units or at home. A total of 241 kidney transplant operations, including 15 relating to second kidney transplants, have been carried out in Scotland since 1960. Of the 226 patients who received kidneys, 134 are still alive. As regards the last part of the Question it is not possible to make an estimate, but 38 patients resident in Scotland have been notified to the national organ matching and distribution service at Bristol as potential recipients.

Do such figures persuade the Government to support a contracting-out scheme?

I am afraid that that matter will have to await discussion on the Second Reading of my hon. Friend's Private Member's Bill.

Tied Cottages


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received concerning legislation on tied cottages.

I have received direct representations from the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, the Scottish Landowners' Federation and the Aberdeen and District Milk Marketing Board. They all expressed concern about the possible adverse effect on Scottish agriculture of the proposal to abolish the tied cottage system.

What consultations has my hon. Friend had with the Department of the Environment about any proposed legislation? Will this apply to all tied housing, or only to the 10 per cent. in agriculture? Does he also agree that the problem of tied housing in agriculture is largely a reflection of the shortage of housing in rural areas generally? If legislation is not brought in this Session, will he consult local authorities about measures to alleviate this shortage?

Yes, I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. There have been discussions with all interested parties in Scotland and in the United Kingdom as a whole, but the House should be reminded that there are sometimes different circumstances in Scotland, so the effects of our policy will require careful consideration. However, the Government are convinced that the existence of tied cottages is detrimental to social justice, and causes hardship in many cases. We therefore intend to ensure that these injustices are removed. But this is a complex matter and I want it to be seen in the context of tied houses generally.

Does the Minister realise the cruelty which can be inflicted on cattle if stockmen do not actually live on the farms where they work?

This point is put to me regularly. I remind farmers that when my daughter was born, the midwife did not sleep with me—and I reckon that my wife is more valuable than any cow that the hon. Member has.

I certainly have no intention of venturing on to that ground. May I bring my hon. Friend back to his original answer? Was I right in understanding that he has not received representations or views from individual farm workers, who are the people most affected by the agricultural tied cottage system? Will he consider advertising in the farming industry's own Press to invite independent points of view from ordinary farm workers on a confidential basis? He will understand, I am sure, that there is a difficulty in organising these people.

I am always willing to meet people, but I am a little reluctant to give that specific commitment. It could, perhaps, be arranged privately. If my hon. Friend has any ideas on the subject, perhaps he will discuss them with me. There are unions involved in this, so I can take account of the official representations made at both Scottish and United Kingdom level. I emphasise that we recognise that there is a difference in the Scottish scene. Bearing in mind that new district authorities are coming into being in May, I would not see it as a top housing priority in Scotland at the moment. However, we have given a commitment in our manifesto, and it will certainly be honoured.

Does the Minister appreciate that in the west of Scotland, where farms are scattered, the real problem is providing housing for farm workers once they have left their tied cottages on retirement, and that the provision of such housing would solve the whole problem?

Yes, I agree, but it is not as simple as that. The hon. Member must make up his mind whether he is on the side of the local authorities, the farm workers or the farmers. This is a com plex problem. I want to discuss these matters with local authorities in the context of the provision of housing for general needs as well as those which might arise from the abolition of tied cottages.

Does the Minister accept that the House appreciates his reasonable approach at this stage to this complex problem? Does he not also accept that the key issue is the new district authorities? Will he put on them all the pressure he can, with support from all parts of the House, to provide a stock of housing to which people retiring from farm work, or the police or local authority service, will be able to move? This is the crux of the matter, not the individual industries.

My dilemma is a personal one. I have two hats, one representing agriculture and the other housing. With my agricultural hat on, I would say that it has been the backwardness of local authorities which have been Tory-dominated in the past which has failed to face up to this problem—

Dumfries County Council is probably one. But with my housing hat on, as I have said, I want to approach this matter with some urgency, bearing in mind the other demands made on housing resources.

Energy Conservation


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what energy conservation measures he has introduced in Government Departments and other offices under his control.

My Departments are co-operating with the Property Services Agency in implementing the measures applying to Government offices announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy on 9th December. There are also detailed standing instructions to my staff on economies in the use of fuel for all purposes.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that he should be setting the pace in energy conservation in Scotland and not following meekly in the timid steps of the Secretary of State for Energy? Is he aware that Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce is leading a local campaign to save energy? Will he take its advice on how to introduce an effective conservation programme?

The hon. Gentleman had better be careful when he tells me to set the pace. One of the things that we are trying to do is get people to slow down, so as to save energy. He will appreciate that the actual buildings are the responsibility not of the Secretary of State for Scotland but of the Department of the Environment.

The people are. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the advice which was given by the Government of whom he was a supporter over the last winter has been retained, and we have carried it on and strengthened it as far as we could all this time. We are not letting up. If anyone else has anything to offer us in the way of advice and suggestions we shall gladly consider it.

Forth And Tay Road Bridges


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the number of years which will elapse before the total debt on the Forth and Tay road bridges will be repaid by the tolls levied; and if he will make a statement.

In present circumstances any forecasts must be speculative, but the most recent reviews suggest that with the present level of tolls the repayment periods for the Forth and Tay bridges would be about 20 and 40 years from today's date, respectively.

Does not the Minister of State agree that it would be a good plan, if he cannot implement the bad things in his own party's programme, to implement the Conservative Party's programme to abolish the tolls on both these bridges?

It had escaped me that that was in the programme. It had certainly escaped me up to February 1974.

Does my hon. Friend recognise that, in principle, I have always been against tolls on these bridges? Now that we have some very late conversions to this principle, will he look at the matter again? It is quite clear that the imposition of tolls is unnecessary and inconvenient, and that it will never pay for the cost of the bridge, and should not be expected to do so.

As I think my original answer made clear, the debt will be re, paid in the period I have mentioned. I know that there are strong feelings about tolls. I am sorry to tell my hon. Friend that I see no prospect of having these tolls removed.

As the toll booths are never all in operation at once, will the Minister explain why it has been necessary to spend £300,000 to erect eight more, which are not yet open? If his figure of 20 years is correct, does he appreciate that I, for one, will be a major contributor in paying off the debt?

That is one of the cheerful aspects of the situation. I shall look into the question of the extra toll booths. I think that they were started by the Conservative Secretary of State.

Is my hon. Friend aware that Fife County Council is mounting a campaign to get these tolls abolished on both road bridges? What can we expect when those representations are made?

Is my hon. Friend also aware—this answers the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour)—that a deputation of Members of Parliament from Fife, Edinburgh and other areas went to see the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) a few years ago, and he turned us down flat?

I am aware of that. I note that a campaign is being mounted. I think that there has been a permanent campaign. I am sorry to make these discouraging noises, but I honestly do not see that these tolls can be abolished in present circumstances. I may as welt state that absolutely frankly.

Empty Houses


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the number of houses built for the corporation of Glasgow since 1945 which are now unoccupied and unlet; how many have been unoccupied and unlet for periods of four, eight, 12 and over 12 weeks, respectively, at the latest convenient date; how much revenue in rent and rates has been lost to the city of Glasgow in the most recent 12 months; how much is the current monthly loss; and whether Her Majesty's Government are still paying subsidies on these empty houses.

I do not have the information readily available in the form requested. However, at the end of November 1974 Glasgow Corporation had 263 houses available for letting but unlet for more than eight weeks. I shall write to my hon. Friend giving what further information can be provided. Government subsidies are not affected by temporary vacancies in houses available for letting.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I, too, was unable to obtain the relevant statistics? Is he aware also that in my constituency and in his constituency, on any criteria, the number of empty council houses, ignoring those vacant because they require modernisation, must run to about 1,000? This is quite unacceptable in a city like Glasgow, which is terribly short of housing accommodation. Will he set up an inquiry into all aspects of housing, including demolition, construction, modernisation, repair and letting in the city of Glasgow?

My hon. Friend is quite right. He does not need to remind me that I have some of this problem in my constituency. However, in fairness to and in appreciation of the efforts Glasgow has made, it should be said that the number of unlet houses has been reduced from 900 to below 500 in the last few months, so there has been a considerable improvement.

As for any longer-term assistance that we can give to Glasgow to help it to cope with its housing problem, together with my noble Friend I have had two meetings with the Glasgow authority to see in what way we can assist it to overcome some of its problems.

Does the figure of 263 for Glasgow, to which the Under-Secretary referred as houses which were available for letting, cover houses which are not available for letting but which are empty and awaiting maintenance workers to put right the results of vandalism or disrepair? The hon. Gentleman and I both represent large housing estates. Is he aware that there appears to be a major problem of houses lying empty for a long time and damaging the amenities of the area, simply because there is some delay in maintenance? Will he, with his officers, look into the question of maintenance procedures in Glasgow?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the proportion is about half and half. Half of the number of houses due at any one time are empty because they are ready for letting but are not taken up. The other half are empty because they are being repaired or undergoing modernisation or some other treatment. There have been considerable improvements in this regard and I hope that the efforts that Glasgow has made in the last two months will continue.

Licensing Laws


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has for implementing the recommendations of the Clayson Report on the reform of the Scottish licensing laws.

My right hon. Friend is considering the various recommendations but is not yet in a position to make a statement.

My right hon. Friend must be very late developer, if that is the case.

Is there any prospect of getting legislation next Session? Quite clearly there is no prospect for this Session. If there is no prospect for next Session, will my hon. Friend give an undertaking that drafting assistance will be given to a private Member to introduce a Bill and that representations will be made by the Scottish Office to the Leader of the House that time should be provided to enable this very important report to be implemented?

My hon. Friend hits the nail on the head in saying that this is a very important report. It is also a very complex report. Therefore, the Government require time to consider its implications. I cannot give the assurances that my hon. Friend seeks.

I appreciate the problem of the pressure on time in the House. Will the hon. Gentleman consider publishing the representations which have been made to him, so that at least the House may have some idea of the Scottish people's attitude to the report? Will he make representations to the Leader of the House that the report would be a very suitable matter for a debate? There is great concern about it and interest in it in Scotland.

The report was published in 1973 and was sent by the hon. Gentleman's own Government to a wide variety of organisations and bodies. The previous Conservative administration did not state their views on the Clayson Report before the February election. However, I shall consider what the hon. Gentleman has suggested.

Government Departments And Public Authorities


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many Government Departments, or public authorities, with United Kingdom responsibilities have established their headquarters in Scotland over the last five years.

A headquarters unit of the National Savings Bank has been established in Glasgow and the headquarters of the Offshore Supplies Office of the Department of Energy has been transferred there. The Forestry Commission headquarters will move to Edinburgh in the course of this year, and we have announced that the British National Oil Corporation will be set up in Scotland.

I am sure that the whole House will welcome these very real and meaningful forms of devolution in terms of employment and decision making.

Will the Secretary of State confirm the report in today's Glasgow Herald that the Government have decided to set up the Scottish assembly at the former Royal High School in Edinburgh? If that is the case, will he inform the House whether the Government will provide meaningful facilities to Edinburgh Cor poration to ensure a new home for Edinburgh Art Gallery?

I have seen those reports. It is true that we are looking closely at the whole question of the siting of the assembly, but no decision about any particular building has been taken, provisionally or otherwise.

Is any planning going on for the necessary changes in staffing and accommodation generally, apart from houses which will be necessary when the assembly is set up in Scotland?

The right hon. Gentleman can take it that all the practical aspects and implications of this matter are being given consideration.

With regard to the devolution of jobs, will the Secretary of State say whether he dissociates himself from the published views of William Kendall, the General Secretary of the Civil and Public Services Association, that devolution to a Scottish assembly will reduce the effectiveness of the British Civil Service?

I am sure that we do not want to introduce anything which would reduce the effectiveness of the British Civil Service—

—the Civil Service, shall we call it? Its effectivenes is related to all those ways in which an assembly or Parliament is able adequately to utilise its services in the policies which are pursued.