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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 886: debated on Wednesday 12 February 1975

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

Scotland

Health Centres

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish a list of health centres in Scotland at which pharmaceutical services are presently available; whether his Department has undertaken any investigation to determine if such services could offer savings to the National Health Service; and if he will make a statement.

Pharmaceutical services are at present provided in the health centres at Sighthill, Edinburgh and Woodside, Glasgow. Health centres under construction at Kirkcaldy and Peterhead include pharmacies.

The present policy is to offer local chemists the opportunity to form a consortium to operate a pharmacy in any proposed health centre. Such arrangements do not alter the total cost of pharmaceutical services in the area served.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I give him two cheers for that reply? Does he not realise that the provision of a facility such as this would do two things? First, it would provide a considerable amount of finance for the running of the health centre. Second, it would provide a facility to patients using the health centre, without which the whole concept of the health centre, with its medical, dental, radiological and other ancillary services, is not complete?

I accept what my hon. Friend says. I shall certainly consider any evidence he is prepared to submit to me.

Will my hon. Friend clarify one point? Will the pharmacists who will work in the health centres be directly employed, on a salary basis, by the health board or will they merely be agents of some private enterprise which will use the health centre as a branch of its own business?

The current position is that ordinary commercial pharmacists take up accommodation in the same way as doctors and dentists.

Young Offenders

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what extra back-up resources in terms of trained staff and residential accommodation have been provided in the Glasgow area to cope with young offenders within the terms of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968.

The number of headquarters and field-work staff in Glasgow social work department has increased from 186 in 1970 to over 300. A number of projects providing residential accommodation for children and young people are in progress, and additional places are being provided at two List D schools near Glasgow.

It is gratifying to hear that some improvement is being made, but my hon. Friend will understand that many social work departments are losing credibility because the social workers do not have enough remedial places to which to send children requiring help, and that we are abysmally short of residential accommodation, hostel accommodaion and specialist resources. Will he do everything in his power to see that the social workers get the tools to do the job?

Yes. Additional accommodation is in prospect. For example, a unit of 18 places is being built at St. Mary's School, Bishopbriggs, and 41 additional places are being provided at St. Philip's School, Aidrie.

The report on the rate support grant order shows that there is allowance for increased staffing during the year, and other commitments. Certainly we shall encourage local authorities to give the back-up which the social workers require.

What regulations apply to those who are in List D schools as to the age at which they are allowed to get out of the schools, on what conditions they are allowed to come out of the schools, what sums of money are given to them when they leave the schools, and what other regulations apply to these people?

I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman should table a Question seeking that information.

Assembly

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received with regard to the powers of the proposed Scottish Assembly.

I have received representations with regard to the transfer to the Scottish Assembly of many aspects of Government functions with appropriate powers. These representations have come from a wide range of interested parties in Scotland, mainly in response to the Government's consultative document published on 3rd June 1974.

I am grateful to the Minister. Taking into account the Government's new approach to the question of collective responsibility, will he distinguish between his own published views on these matters and the views of the Government of which he is a member? Will he confirm that the Government will not forfeit Scotland's right to a place in the Cabinet or her entitlement to benefit from the future location of industry or employment in parts of the United Kingdom as determined by United Kingdom Ministers?

I am really surprised at the implication of that supplementary question. In all fairness, I thought that the hon. Gentleman made a first-class concluding speech on the first day of the debate on devolution. The Government are committed without any reservation to the retention of the Secretary of State for Scotland in the Cabinet, and to 71 Members of Parliament.

Will my hon. Friend indicate when these representations will come to an end and when the Government will bring forward their firm proposals for the Scottish Assembly?

The question of representations will obviously be a continuing one. At this stage it is impossible to say when the Government will be in a position to bring forward firm proposals to the House. These matters were debated on Monday and Tuesday of last week, and my right hon. Friends the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State did give an answer in kind to the questions which are now being asked.

Can the hon. Gentleman say when the Scottish Assembly will be established?

I should first of all apologise to the hon. Member that Scottish Question Time is being held in the middle of his week's holiday. We hope to keep to the timetable which the Leader of the House mentioned in the concluding speech in the debate on the Queen's Speech. At the same time, I should say that it is the Government's firm intention to get the matter right. If this means taking a bit longer, we feel sure that the people of Scotland will accept this as right and proper in all the circumstances.

Coming back to the powers of the Scottish Assembly, has my hon. Friend taken note of the observation of the Kilbrandon Commission that the Stormont Government had substantial powers over trade and industry which they chose not to use because they found it impracticable to do so within an integrated economy?

Yes, the Government have taken note of the reference to the Stormont situation in the Kilbrandon Report. I should mention that there is a very interesting paragraph in Lord O'Neill's book on this matter. That is one of the points of which we have taken note.

Capital Transfer Tax

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received with regard to the effect of the proposed capital transfer tax on farming in Scotland.

I have had representations about the possible adverse effects of the tax on farming structure and efficiency from the National Farmers' Union of Scotland and the Scottish Landowners' Federation, and from a few individual farmers.

I should first declare an interest in this matter. Does the Minister feel that a son or daughter has the right to inherit the father's business, be it a small business or a farm? Does he not feel that the confiscation level of CTT will mean that large units will be broken up and will become less efficient?

I do not think there is any inherent right for sons or daughters in this matter. They may not necessarily wish to inherit a farm. In order that they should be treated fairly, and bearing in mind that the argument is that one should ensure the efficiency of farming, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the representations received by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, including those from the meeting with the SNFU, have been passed on to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is some anxiety about the figure of 1,000 acres, owing to the low value of hill land in Scotland? Am I right in thinking that the Government will put this matter right in Committee?

The whole matter is under review. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the concessions which have already been announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The fact that land prices have fallen minimises the value of the concessions, and it is this aspect which is still being looked into.

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that this is not good enough? Will he understand that what his Government are proposing will destroy the present structure of agriculture in Scotland in relation to both owner-occupied farms and forestry? This will have a devastating effect on the farm side of the industry and on forestry workers. Will he put pressure on the Chancellor to give greater concessions than are offered at present?

I know that some hon. Members opposite are only half Scots. While the hon. Member may be fighting for his place on the Opposition Front Bench, he should recognise the genuine value of the concessions already announced. We recognise, of course, that there must be a continuing prosperous and profitable agriculture industry.

In view of the Minister's amazing answer to the supplementary question put by the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie), will he confirm that the Government support, in the case of tenant farmers, the rights of succession to these farms?

I do not know what was amazing about my reply. I thought it was a very good one. The hon. Member is confusing two different things. There is security of tenure for tenant farmers in Scotland—a security which was created by the present Government—and it is better than that existing in England and Wales. I do not understand the hon. Gentleman's point.

Businesses

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the effect on the Scottish economy of the current difficulties facing Scottish businesses.

Scottish businesses are inevitably affected by the current economic problems of the United Kingdom. However, the development of North Sea oil and the Government's special measures to assist Scottish industry will continue to provide new job opportunities.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of the extreme difficulties faced by Scottish businesses, including grave difficulties of liquidity and finance? Does he not realise that this has been made abundantly clear in the increase in unemployment to over 100,000? As he said that he would resign if the unemployment rate reached that level, and he now says that circumstances are different, will he say in what way circumstances are different?

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the figure I quoted was quoted in 1971. When he was a member of the Government and the unemployment figure had risen to 141,000, he was perfectly satisfied with it. I can assure hon. Members that the situation from 1964 to 1970 was very different from the situation when we took over from hon. Members opposite. We are now facing a world recession. If the hon. Gentleman will look at page 9 of the Glasgow Herald today he will see the excuses given by two Scottish firms. Reference is made to certain difficulties about returns, but he will find that they are related more to the time when his Government were in office.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that in Scotland we need an immediate reflation of the economy, and that the Scottish Development Agency should have much more financial muscle than is proposed in the consultative document. Will the right hon. Gentleman say at what level of unemployment he will resign?

We initiated the idea of the Scottish Development Agency. We have set out our proposals for consultation and we hope to get a Bill through the House and the Act into operation before the end of the year. We trust that we shall have the hon. Gentleman's help. This will have an effect upon our attitude in tackling the unemployment problem.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman will not simply try to shrug this off. In addition to the difficult economic circumstances facing this country, the Government have aggravated the whole business by their attack on the small family business, by the self-employed insurance stamp and the transfer tax. In so many other ways the Government have contributed directly to the problems in Scotland. Will not the right hon. Gentleman come clean with the House and tell us at what stage he will be prepared to resign?

I have no intention of resigning. Indeed, if the hon. Gentleman was serious in what he said I am surprised that he has been serving under the leadership of someone who was responsible for the disastrous consequences in Scotland which created over 100,000 unemployed as the new norm.

Education (Pupil Costs)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the expenditure per year per pupil in primary and secondary schools, respectively, in Lanarkshire, and in Scotland as a whole.

The estimated Scottish figures for 1972–73 are £150 and £333. Area figures are not generally available, as most education authorities, including Lanarkshire, do not distinguish between primary and secondary expenditure in their accounts.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that in future these figures are made available on a regional and sub-regional basis? If they were now available, would they show that resources for education in Lanarkshire are way below the national average and should be increased?

It is our intention that when the new regional authorities come into being they will make their returns in such a way that expenditure in primary and secondary schools can be shown as my hon. Friend requests.

What will be the effect on expenditure per pupil and on the quality of education in Scotland of the savage cuts in the school building programme which were announced last week in such a cowardly way by the Secretary of State in a Written Answer? Why did he fail so miserably to get a fair deal for Scotland on school building?

The position is that expenditure on education in Lanarkshire and elsewhere in Scotland will continue to increase. As for the rest of the question, we can discuss that later.

Kidney Transplants

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many of the 873 patients in Great Britain, registered on 17th January with the national organ matching and distribution service as waiting for a kidney transplant, are domiciled in Scotland; and what plans he has to help such patients.

Of the patients referred to. 38 were domiciled in Scotland. Although there have been, on average, 36 kidney transplants per year in Scotland over the last five years, I am very conscious of the need to increase the supply of kidneys. I have recently issued a revised version of the kidney donor card and this is being widely distributed. In addition I propose shortly to issue guidance which should help to improve the operation of the Human Tissue Act 1961.

In view of the British Transplantation Society's report, details of which have been sent to my hon. Friend, and one of the authors of which was Professor Brian Jennett of Glasgow, is my hon. Friend aware that we very much welcome the forthcoming circular?

Schools (Edinburgh)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will pay an official visit to schools in Edinburgh.

If the right hon. Gentleman is determined to continue with the educational folly concerning these schools will he at least ensure that financially the pupils who are already there do not suffer unnecessarily from the change in his policies?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I thought that Question No. 9 was mine.

Great Western Road, Glasgow (Underpass)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will be in a position to announce his intentions with regard to the proposed underpass system on the Great Western Road, Glasgow.

No proposals on this have yet been submitted to my right hon. Friend by Glasgow Corporation.

Order. If there has been some mistake in the printing of the Order Paper, I am sorry, but we are now on Question No. 9.

When proposals are submitted to the Minister by Glasgow Corporation, as I understand may soon be the case, will he bear in mind that because of the economic situation it was decided to abandon the Channel Tunnel? Will he also abandon the tunnels which it is intended to construct in my constituency, since they will be costly and ugly, and since no one in the constituency or that part of Glasgow wants them? Will the Minister please be a democrat, listen to public opinion, and try to save money?

As I have explained, we do not yet have the proposals before us and therefore I cannot comment upon them. In any case, with the new local authorities coming into operation in May the scheme is likely to be subject to a decision by the Strathclyde Region as well as by Glasgow Corporation. Once that decision has been taken we shall be able to consider the question of priority.

In the event of the scheme going ahead will my hon. Friend bear in mind that there are a large number of fee-paying schools in that area, and that if what we have seen this afternoon in the confusion over Questions has arisen out of education at fee-paying schools he will need to give very clear instructions about the underpass?

A7 (Drumlanrig Bridge)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now make a statement outlining his plans for the proposed development of Drumlanrig Bridge on the A7.

As the hon. Gentleman will know from his correspondence with my noble Friend, Drumlanrig Bridge, which is subject to weight restriction, is to be replaced by a stronger structure. Work will start as soon as the necessary statutory procedures are complete.

Will the Minister confirm that the compulsory purchase order subsequently devised was technically defective and that the whole procedure may have to start again? If that is the case will the Scottish Office take the opportunity of exploring other routes for the A7 through Hawick, since there is universal feeling in the town that the last place for traffic is the High Street?

The second point raises a rather longer-term consideration. I think there is a large measure of agreement that the development of the existing bridge is urgently required. The technical objection to the procedure is now the subject of legal action, and I am afraid I cannot comment on that.

Economic Prospects

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with industrial interests about Scottish economic prospects over the next 12 months.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave him on 11th December.—[Vol. 883, c. 489–90.]

My hon. Friend the Minister of State will shortly be having meetings with representatives of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the Scottish Council of the CBI and the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) to discuss my proposals for the Scottish Development Agency and related economic matters.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the most depressing prospects for the coming 12 months is that 80,000 young people will leave school and go straight on to the labour market, where about 4 per cent. of the working population is currently unemployed? In view of the social as well as employment implications of that, will he consider reintroducing a scheme which was tried successfully once before—of taking a large number of young people, through boards and industrial concerns, into pre-apprenticeship training for at least a year to keep them off the dole queue?

My hon. Friend's suggestion is worth examining. The whole question not only of young people but of shortcomings on manpower training generally must be looked at urgently.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the level of redundancies in Scotland is now beginning to rise rather alarmingly? Since he is having various meetings, will he arrange for a meeting with the Scottish executive of the NUM to press on it that unless its members abide absolutely by the terms of the social contract many of their workmates will be put out of work?

The NUM will be represented in the Scottish TUC on all these matters and it will put its own point of view very forcibly.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the figure of £200 million, which he mentioned in his Press release about the Scottish Development Agency, is not the limit of money available to that agency over the next five years?

I think that was made clear in the Press conferences I held on the subject. That was the first sum mentioned. If we go through that amount quickly, I am sure, judging from the feelings evinced in the House today, that Parliament will speedily give us more.

Among the Secretary of State's discussions, was he consulted by the Treasury about the proposal to increase employment potential in Scotland through varying the tax uplift for Scottish oil development?

If the hon. Member wishes to ask detailed questions like that he had better table a Question.

Primary School, Carnock

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has had from the parents' association in the village of Carnock regarding the proposed closure of the primary school; and if he will make a statement.

Two letters from the Carnock New School Action Committee, in addition to correspondence with my hon. Friend, but since I have not received any proposal from Fife Education Authority to close the school it would be premature for me to make a statement.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are real fears in Carnock that this will eventually mean the end of full primary education in the village? Since Carnock has had primary education for 100 years, does it not seem strange that when the population is increasing the education authority should seek to avoid building a school there? Is my hon. Friend aware that any intention to transfer second and third tier classes will be firmly resisted and regarded as a subversion of full primary education?

We have received no proposal from the Fife Education Authority. Until we receive such proposals, I cannot comment. Any proposal to close the school or to transfer pupils will require the approval of my right hon. Friend. We shall certainly take into account the views of parents if and when we have to make a decision.

Trades Union Congress (Prime Minister's Talks)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether it is his intention to be present at the Prime Minister's talks with the Scottish Trades Union Congress on 27th-28th February.

If my right hon. Friend meets the Prime Minister, will he remind him that especially after the statement made by the Secretary of State for Industry last week many people in Scotland are worried about the future of the Scottish steel industry? Will he seek an assurance from the Prime Minister that the additional £400 million for development in England and Wales will not be taken from money already allocated to developments in Scotland, especially those at Hunterston and Glenganock?

In his statement my right hon. Friend gave a clear undertaking that the conclusions reached for England and Wales did not prejudge or prejudice the review now taking place in respect of Scotland. I received the impression that that statement was reasonably well received in Scotland. However, my hon. Friend is an exception to that.

Will the Secretary of State, either at the February meeting or on a later occasion, discuss with the Scottish TUC his views on the merits of Britain's remaining within the Common Market on the terms negotiated by the Government?

I do not doubt that when we deal with these matters that problem will be raised.

Unemployment (Western Isles)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has for reducing the rate of unemployment in the Western Isles.

The full range of regional incentives to industry is available, together with advice and assistance from the Highlands and Islands Development Board. Stornaway was identified as a "preferred development zone" in the coastal planning guidelines which I issued last year, and I have approved a major oil-related development there which should provide substantial new employment.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that, despite these advances, in view of the last recorded figure of 18 per cent. unemployment, the matter is much more serious and urgent than these steps envisage? Will he at least give consideration to going ahead with the suspended road schemes, which are long overdue and will provide much-needed work?

Priority of road schemes is a matter for local authorities. I shall examine any proposals that the local authorities put forward. I do not think that we should underestimate the work being done by the Highlands and Islands Development Board or by the Stornaway Trust to promote the settlement of industry in the Stornaway area.

Tourism

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans there are to develop tourism in south west Scotland.

The Scottish Tourist Board, the Countryside Commission for Scotland and the Scottish Sports Council are undertaking regional studies designed to assist the new local authorities in planning for the development of tourism and recreation in their areas. A conference is to be arranged in the South-West to discuss these matters with the local authorities concerned.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the great success of the Burns heritage trail in south-west Scotland and the recent excellent publicity arising from the Burns Federation visit to Moscow? Will he, put pressure, on behalf of Scotland, on the Post Office to issue a Burns stamp, as opposed to an envelope, in the near future?

I think that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I shall exert what pressure I can in relation to anything affecting Burns, but I think that it will be difficult to arrange for the issue of a Burns stamp. The least we can do is to consider franking all the envelopes leaving places connected with the trail. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman drew attention to this matter. It has been a great success. It is an imaginative idea.

Will the Secretary of State do something about the dreadful ferry services to the Islands, which are affecting the tourist industry, since the island people are very worried about the situation which builds up towards the summer?

I am aware of that problem. I believe that the hon. Member is scheduled to meet the Minister of State in the House of Commons in the near

Pleasant as it is for the Opposition to contemplate the development of the tourist industry, does my right hon. Friend realise that southwest Scotland wants industry, and that we should not concentrate too much on what the Opposition would like?

There are other areas in whose prosperity the tourist industry plays a considerable part. We must not neglect that. We should appreciate that one of the achievements of the last Labour Government was to create the Scottish Tourist Board. We did that because we felt it was necessary.

Is the Secretary of State aware that everyone involved in the development of the tourist industry throughout Scotland is worried about the proposals for two-tier petrol pricing now being discussed with the Department of Energy? Is he in touch with the Department of Energy about these matters?

Bannockburn (School)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the up-to-date position of the plans for a new high school at Bannockburn.

I understand that Stirlingshire Education Authority expects to submit soon to my Department a formal application for approval of the plans for this project.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the full benefits of comprehensive education will not be available to all the children in Bannockburn until the new high school is open. Will he give an assurance that the cuts in the school building programme will not affect that project? Will he do all in his power to press his own Department and Stirling County Council to expedite the finalisation of the plans? This delay is hampering the educational opportunities of the children in the Bannockburn area.

Yes, I am aware of the benefits of comprehensive education in my hon. Friend's constituency. The authority hopes to be in a position to start the first phase before 30th June 1975, that is, during the current building year. However, an amendment to the county council's development plan is required, and that will be taken care of shortly. Certainly the project will go ahead soon.

In reviewing the Bannockburn situation, will the Minister consider the question of the numbers of children in hutted accommodation throughout central Scotland? The numbers are unacceptably high. What will the Minister do to reduce them?

I am aware that there are many pupils in hutted accommodation. How fast we can remedy that situation depends largely on what resources we have available from year to year. Certainly it is a problem which is constantly brought to my attention. One wants to see that situation disposed of.

Is the Minister aware that the Government, by cutting expenditure on school building in Edinburgh by almost three-quarters of the sum asked for, at a time when 432 parents have asked for application forms to transfer their children from grant-aided to comprehensive schools, may create a serious problem of overcrowding in comprehensive schools in Edinburgh, and that if nothing is done about it the teaching may be carried on in thoroughly inadequate circumstances in the future?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to exaggerate the position. So far there have been 211 firm applications to Edinburgh Corporation, some of which are from parents who want their children to sit their examinations in a State school and thus avoid the possibility of paying fees for the last term at the school they now attend.

Unpaid Fines

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the total amount of fines imposed by courts in Scotland which are still outstanding at the most recent convenient date, the value of those regarded as arrears, and the total amount regarded as irrecoverable.

The amount of fines imposed in sheriff courts in Scotland since 1st April 1970 but not yet received at 31st March 1974 was £403,232. Information is not available about the amount of this sum due but unpaid, but the amount of fines imposed during the year ended 31st March 1971 written off in September 1974 as irrecoverable was £18,333, or less than 1·2 per cent. of the total imposed. Corresponding information about burgh and justice of the peace courts is not available.

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is a pity that the information is not available, because it would reveal the substantial state of indebtedness to society in those courts? Will my hon. Friend take it from me that even means inquiry courts have been disregarded by fines dodgers? Can some action be taken to ensure that they pay for the offences they have committed against the community?

My hon. Friend will be aware that alternative measures are open to the courts, one of which is the arrestment of wages to recover fines that have been imposed and not paid. The courts have those facilities available. The amount of the fines outstanding at a particular date does not always give an accurate picture. Time is often allowed for the payment of a fine, and an answer that is given on a particular date does not always correspond with the amount of the debt outstanding.

Does the Minister agree that when this sort of information is given it tends to bring the law into disrepute? In view of the figures, will he consult the court authorities to see whether additional measures can be taken to improve the situation?

The Scottish Council on Crime has been considering the question of additional measures. It has recently published a report which has been circulated to interested bodies. The council has carried out a fairly detailed study of the question of unpaid fines, and no doubt comments will be received later on this subject.

Rates

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the estimated average annual increase in rates expected for 1975–76 on the basis of the latest information available to him.

Will my hon. Friend estimate the effect on rates of the recent increase in teachers' salaries? All hon. Members wished the teachers to have a salary increase and must, therefore, accept the consequent rate increases, and not complain about them. As rates are a regressive form of taxation, will my hon. Friend issue a circular, advisory or otherwise, to local authorities to ensure that rent rebate systems are sufficiently generous to protect people on low incomes?

I am not quite sure what my hon. Friend has in mind about rent rebates. He knows of the current legislation which is going through the House. In so far as teachers' salaries fall on that portion of local authority expenditure which is met through the rate support grant—which has gone up to 75 per cent. for next year; an unprecedented increase—the cost will be borne by the taxpayer. The remainder will be borne by the ratepayer, and it will have an effect on the rates. We have to recognise that when salary increases are given to local authority employees rates are affected.

Does the Minister agree that if the total cost of teachers' salaries were transferred to the Exchequer a much fairer distribution of the burden would fall on the taxpayers generally?

The trouble about any transfer from local expenditure to central expenditure is that the money still has to be found from somewhere.

Inshore Fishermen

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now introduce an operating subsidy for inshore fishermen.

No detailed case for such a subsidy has been submitted, but the Government are aware of the industry's financial position and hope to make a statement soon.

That is a reasonably fair answer, but will the Minister bear in mind that the situation is particularly serious in the Clyde area, where escalating costs have not been accompanied by nearly such a big rise in the price of nephthrops landed on that part of the coast?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I met representatives of the inshore section of the industry in December. We are still awaiting information on costs and earnings and checking the figures which were produced then. I am aware that the additional cost of fuel for the fishing industry generally is a burden that has to be shared by everyone in the community, and we hope to be able to make an announcement about that in the near future.

I am grateful to the Minister for his reference, presumably, to the Scottish Trawlers' Federation, whose problems are at least as severe as those mentioned by the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart). Will the hon. Gentleman accept that the new quota system, rising building costs, rising wages—particularly in competition with oil wages—and rising fuel costs are causing the Scottish Trawlers' Federation problems of unparalleled severity?

I met the inshore men in December, and last week I met the Scottish Trawlers' Federation. Again, I was impressed by the facts and figures that were produced. We are checking the details, and we have assured the federation that what was put to us will have sympathetic consideration.

Will the Minister for once recognise the full potential of the Scottish industry and see to it that his colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office go ahead and get the 200-mile limit?

I am in some difficulty in knowing where the Scottish National Party stands on this matter. One day it wants a 50-mile limit, and the next day a 200-mile limit. Unfortunately, fish do not recognise national boundaries. On a more serious note, we are well prepared for the Law of the Sea Conference and are taking into account all the official representations that have been made.

Travelling People

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has received the report of the committee chaired by Lord Birsay on Scotland's travelling people.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. It would be helpful if the Scottish Grand Committee could have an opportunity of considering the report when it is published. Is my hon. Friend aware that this is the fourth report on this subject that has been made to the Secretary of State during this century? Is he aware that after the previous report one Scottish local authority set up one designated site, which compares unfavourably with the 117 designated in England? Will my hon. Friend take steps to ensure that the recommendations contained in the report are translated into action by the Government?

What is discussed in the Scottish Grand Committee is not a matter for me, but I have no doubt that my hon. Friend's supplementary question will have been noted by those concerned. I was not aware that this was the fourth report this century, but I am glad to have that information from my hon. Friend. Once the report is published there will have to be a considerable amount of discussion with local authorities on the question of sites. Local authorities have statutory power to provide sites, but I regret that progress so far has been disappointing.

Secondary Schoolchildren

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many secondary schoolchildren were receiving only part-time education at the most recent date for which figures are available; and what were the comparable figures in each of the three previous years, respectively.

Returns from education authorities show that 35,521 secondary pupils were receiving part-time education on 3rd February. The comparable figure for February 1974 was 11,784. Figures are not available for February 1972 or 1973.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that even if we discount the effect of disruption in the schools the figures he has given of part-time education are alarming? Although there has been an increase in the number of teachers in Scotland, the number of children receiving part-time education in certain areas, particularly Glasgow and Lanarkshire, has risen dramatically. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the result is that we have no real equality of opportunity in education? As existing methods have failed, has the Minister any proposals to put forward to ensure equality of opportunity throughout the system?

We cannot discount as easily as did the hon. Gentleman the disruptive effects of working to rule, which in 15 schools affects 11,627 pupils. Nearly one-third of the total figure is the result of working to rule, and cannot be discounted. I am glad to note that the hon. Gentleman has suddenly discovered that there is not equal opportunity in Scottish schools. There never has been equal opportunity in the history of education. That is what we are working towards in the comprehensive system. We certainly want to increase the numbers of teachers in these schools, and I believe that the significant salary increases, as a result of the Houghton Report, and the much improved career structure, will make Scottish schools a more attractive place to work in. If the hon. Gentleman would spend less time egging teachers on instead of putting forward the advantages of working in Scottish schools and the improvements that have been made we might get a few more teachers in the schools.

If the Minister is so proud of the Scottish schools as a result of action taken by the Labour Government, why is there so much part-time education? Is that all he can point to in favour of the comprehensive system?

The hon. Gentleman should know that the reason for part-time education is the rise in the school leaving age and the fact that we have not had the expected number of teachers expected coming into education. The Conservative Government had four years in office during which to take some action. We are trying to clear up the mess which they left us.

Law Commission

44.

asked the Lord Advocate when he next intends to meet the Scottish Law Commission.

The date of my next formal meeting with the Scottish Law Commission has not yet been fixed. The exchange of views and information, however, does not depend solely upon such meetings, and less formal exchanges take place as circumstances may require.

When the Lord Advocate next meets the Law Commission, will he ascertain its views on the Divorce Law Reform (Scotland) Bill presented by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook)? Does he appreciate that there is a growing demand throughout Scotland for the Government to give time for full and proper debate of the Bill? Will any time be found for such a debate?

That is a matter which I shall discuss with the Scottish Law Commission when next we meet. The hon. Gentleman is probably well aware that in the last few years the commission has referred to this matter in its annual report.

Wives (Assaults By Husbands)

45.

asked the Lord Advocate whether he is satisfied with the procedures for prosecution in cases of wives assaulted by husbands.

Will the Lord Advocate clear up a widespread misapprehension and confirm that the police have power to interfere in cases of assault by husbands on wives without regard to the severity of the injuries caused, and that in certain circumstances they have the power of arrest, as in any other breach of the peace? Has there been an increase in the number of cases coming before the courts, and will the recently-announced Select Committee on violence in marriage include a Scottish remit?

That is a complex question. In reply to the middle part of the question, I regret to say that I cannot give my hon. Friend the figures. Perhaps he will table a Question on that point. On the last point mentioned by my hon. Friend, the Select Committee contains two Scottish Members of Parliament. Its terms are general, and apply to Scotland as well as to other parts of the United Kingdom.

In regard to the point put to me about the power of the police in these matters, it must be said that the police, naturally, are reluctant to interfere in a matrimonial affair unless it is clear that one of the spouses wishes a charge to be brought.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that assaults by husbands on wives need not necessarily be confined to a physical assault? Is he satisfied that the procedure applying to cases of mental assault is correct?

Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend did not hear my supplementary question. I asked whether he was satisfied that since an assault need not necessarily be confined to a physical assault the procedure relating to assault through mental processes is the correct one?

I must confess that now I do not know whether to agree or disagree with my hon. Friend. I think that before I conclude I should take the opportunity of congratulating the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) on assuming the place of honour which she now occupies on the Opposition Front Bench. I hope that she will occupy that position for a long time to come.

Northern Lighthouses

46.

asked the Lord Advocate how many official visits he has made to the northern lighthouses; and if he will make a statement.

Since assuming office on 8th March 1974 as a Commissioner of Northern Lighthouses, I have visited three such lighthouses—Dunnet Head on 26th July 1974, and Cape Wrath and Stoer Head (Sutherland) both on 27th July 1974.

Is the Lord Advocate aware that the whole House wishes to pay tribute to the lighthouse keepers in northern waters? I am glad that on his visit he did not put the lights out. Is he further aware of the grave concern that the fishery protection vessel "Jura" has been taken over by the Ministry of Defence. Will he assure the House that the "Pharos" will not suffer the same fate, of becoming a river gunboat?

I note what the hon. Gentleman said, but none of these—not even the "Pharos"—are matters, which lie within my ministerial responsibility. I am sure that his remarks will have been noted by the responsible Ministers.

Representation Of The People Acts

47.

asked the Lord Advocate how many prosecutions have taken place in Scotland in the past year for offences connected with the Representation of the People Acts.

Does not my right hon. and learned Friend regard it as surprising that the number of irregularities is so low, particularly in respect of the recent elections, involving illegal fly-posting, not to mention other illegalities and irregularities? Is he aware that although my election agent, Mr. Henry Dawson, has submitted well-substantiated and detailed complaints to the procurator fiscal in Stirling concerning certain irregularities about the election expenses of the SNP, the procurator fiscal has not so far taken any action? Is my right hon. and learned Friend in a position to investigate the reason for this lack of action? Many Scottish people are beginning to suspect that it is not for legal reasons but for politicial reasons that this situation is allowed to continue.

On the matter relating to my hon. Friend's constituency, I think that it would be inappropriate to reply at this time, but I shall write to him on the subject. As for the number of prosecutions, my hon. Friend should appreciate that of seven cases reported to the Crown Office one is sub judice, the charge having been served. In regard to the other six, no proceedings were ordered by Crown counsel, he having carefully considered the available evidence.

Does not the Lord Advocate agree that the most serious offence connected with the Representation of the People Act in Scotland in the past year has been the return of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock Mr. Ross to the Scottish Office, which in the last few weeks has resulted in increased unemployment in Scotland, to a figure of over 100,000, and the most severe cuts in school building in Scottish history?

The hon. Gentleman does not really deserve an answer to that question, but the answer is "No, I do not agree."

Law Society

48.

asked the Lord Advocate when he next plans to meet the Law Society of Scotland.

As I have already said in answer to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) on 31st July and 20th November 1974, I have an arrangement whereby I meet the President of the Law Society every month and, in addition, I meet him on other occasions when he asks for a special meeting.

When the Lord Advocate meets the President of the Law Society, will he welcome the society's stated view that it would favour reform of divorce law in Scotland? Will he tell the President of the Law Society why, eight years after the Scottish Law Commission recommended reform, we have still not carried out this essential measure.

At present there is certainly a degree of pressure in Scotland about law reform. However, successive Governments have taken the view that because of the controversial social, moral and religious issues involved, divorce law is best left to private Members' legislation. Indeed, my hon. Friend has a Private Member's Bill on the subject, which I believe is to be debated on Friday. No doubt he will then press the points which he has made on this occasion.

How can the Lord Advocate justify that attitude? The divorce law is about the status of the citizen, and if there is one matter which should be the subject of Government legislation rather than private Members' legislation, it is surely that. Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that the basis of the present law in England was contained in the minority report of the Royal Commission by Lord Walker in 1948?

That is a legitimate point of view. It is one which has to be set against the controversial religious, social and moral issues. A balance has to be struck. Like their predecessors, this Government consider that the proper balance to strike is to leave a matter of this kind to private Members' legislation.