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Volume 887: debated on Wednesday 5 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next intends to pay an official visit to Glasgow.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next intends to pay an official visit to Glasgow.

I am frequently in Glasgow but have no immediate plans for an official visit.

That is most regrettable. Does not the Secretary of State recognise that he ought to pay a personal visit to Glasgow to see for himself the refuse which is lying about? Is he not aware that at this moment there are 50,000 tons of garbage lying about the place in Glasgow? What has he to say about the health hazard that that creates, and the possibility of rats, flies and other vermin? Does he not realise that the citizens of Glasgow are very worried about it all and are looking to him as the responsible Minister to do something about it?

I am not unaware of the situation in Glasgow. I have had informal contact on my visit to Glasgow with the people concerned, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has had close and continual contacts. I shall continue to have those contacts, and I urge the hon. Gentleman not to exaggerate and not to get into something of a hysteria about these things. It is a serious matter.

Representatives of the corporation met representatives of the strikers today and urged them to return to work. We ought all to echo the hope that they will. The men undertook to consider this at a meeting of the strike committee on Friday, with a view to consultation with their members over the weekend. Clearly, the situation is delicate, and I counsel hon. Members not to say anything which would make the reaching of such a settlement more difficult. The other matters which the hon. Gentleman raised are under consideration.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, in spite of the great inconvenience caused to the citizens of Glasgow, he is in constant contact with the health authorities and there is, in effect, no health hazard whatever at the moment? Will he agree also that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) might apply his not inconsiderable ability to other subjects by which he could help the people of Scotland better than he can help them on this?

I think that we must be careful here. No cause is helped by exaggeration or panic statements. The Greater Glasgow Health Board has confirmed that the strike has not yet had any effect on public health, but what we have to bear in mind is the effect of the cumulative backlog of work and the time that clearance will take. These are the matters concerning me at the moment, and for that reason my hon. Friend the Minister of State is to go to Glasgow tomorrow to make a further assessment of the position and to discuss it with the corporation.

Does not the Secretary of State realise that it is quite wrong for him to talk about exaggeration by my hon. Friend when he himself has not even been to see the situation? It there not a need to prepare contingency plans to have the rubbish cleared, and is it not an affront to the people of Glasgow and a gross dereliction of duty on his part and that of other Scottish Ministers that, when we have more Scottish Office Ministers than we have ever had in Scottish history, it takes three weeks of parliamentary campaigning to get one of his junior Ministers to go to Scotland tomorrow?

The hon. Gentleman should appreciate that the Question asked when I would make an official visit to Glasgow. I was in Glasgow last weekend, I saw the situation, and I talked to people.

The hon. Gentleman should realise that no one stays in that place all the time. I assure him that the position has been and is constantly under review.