Skip to main content

Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 889: debated on Wednesday 26 March 1975

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

Scotland

River Tweed

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will introduce legislation to provide that the English bank of the River Tweed, those reaches of the river which are wholly in England and the adjacent area of the Northumberland coast shall no longer be governed by Scottish law in respect of fishing and related matters.

I have no plans to do so.

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that the present situation is something of an anomaly and is felt to be so by those fishermen who pay their rates in England but are governed by Scottish law. The gill net ban has led some people to feel that their interests have not been sufficiently carefully considered. Will the hon. Gentleman accept that if these powers pass to the Scottish Assembly this kind of government without representation will be unacceptable on the English side of the border?

I do not want to encourage English nationalism—[Interruption] We have enough bother with Scottish nationalism. There is a genuine difficulty here, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman recognises. All the previous legislation has recognised that it is impossible to consider the problems and prosperity of the Tweed and salmon fishing in isolation—in other words, it is recognised that it is impossible to differentiate between England and Scotland. For these practical reasons, and in the interests of all concerned, it has always been desirable to deal with this in United Kingdom legislation, but with the main emphasis on the fact that it is a Scottish river and the fish are mainly Scottish fish.

Economic Bulletin

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when the next issue of the Scottish Economic Bulletinwill be published; and if it will contain an estimate of employment prospects in Scotland over the coming 12 months.

The spring edition has just been published and the next is due in July. It is not our practice to give estimates of employment prospects, but each issue contains an article reviewing general progress in the Scottish economy.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the large number of factory closures in Paisley and get his astrologers on to the job of trying to find out how we can get these people other employment?

I should prefer to rely on a much more reasonable policy than that of astrology. I hope that when we come to the publication and then the enactment of the measure dealing with the Scottish Development Agency we shall get all the help that we usually do get from my hon. Friend.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether he believes that the employment prospects in Scotland will improve or decline if the United Kingdom leaves the EEC?

One cannot isolate the economy of Scotland from that of the United Kingdom. One of the things about which I am pleased is that although there is evidence of rising unemployment the Scottish economy seems to be much more resilient because of the special efforts that have been made and the opportunities that we now have in Scotland. We cannot isolate Britain from the rest of the world, and we cannot isolate the Scottish economy from the United Kingdom economy.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's statement about the Scottish Development Agency. May I ask what additional resources will he placed at the disposal of the Assembly, bearing in mind the statement made in Newcastle by the Leader of the House to the effect that few additional resources would be going either to the Scottish Assembly or to the Scottish Development Agency?

It seems that certain individuals are quite speechless unless they read theDaily ExpressI suggest that it would be far better to wait a little while. A few days after we return from the Easter Recess the Scottish Development Agency Bill will be published. It will contain a Financial Memorandum and a list of powers, and the hon. Gentleman will then be able to make up his mind without getting guidance from the enlightened organ to which I have referred.

School Leavers (Employment)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to assist the Scottish economy to absorb the large number of children leaving school and seeking employment in the current year.

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with industrial organisations about employment problems facing school leavers in 1975.

Between February and March the number of unemployed school leavers in Scotland fell by over one-third. In mid-March there were more vacancies for young persons notified to the Department of Employment than there were unemployed school leavers. These figures are an encouraging sign.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the people of Scotland will be pleased to note the encouraging trend of those figures? Nevertheless, is he aware that in Fife in particular in March of this year there were 141 school leavers still unemployed, compared with 52 in March 1974? Will he give encouragement to the people in my constituency, and in other parts of Scotland, by indicating that the Scottish Development Agency will have the powers necessary to ensure employment for school leavers?

I take my hon. Friend's point. The employment situation is not as good this year as it was last year, and this has affected unemployment amongst school leavers as well as elsewhere.

Apart from particular things that one can do to help young people, the answer is a healthy Scottish economy within a healthy United Kingdom economy, and that is what the various steps that we are taking, including the establishment of the SDA, are designed to bring about. in this as in other fields the SDA will have a favourable effect upon the Scottish economy.

I thank my hon. Friend for the good news that he has brought us. It seems that things are a little better. However, is he aware that of the 80,000 school leavers this year 64,000 will find it very hard to get jobs? Is he considering doubling the regional employment premium for those firms which are prepared to take on extra apprentices? If we can develop the skills now for the great future that is ahead of us we shall have done a good job.

The level of unemployed school leavers at the minute is just over 2,000. That is far too high a level, but it is not comparable with the figure that my hon. Friend mentioned. His specific question is more a matter for the Department of Employment and the Training Services Agency, but I shall pursue his suggestion that employers might be given special incentives to take on young people in this difficult situation. I shall write to my hon. Friend about that matter.

Unemployment

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from trade unions about the current rate of unemployment and what replies he has sent.

I have received no representations from individual unions but when, with the Prime Minister, my colleagues and I met the STUC recently we had a discussion in depth over the whole field of Scotland's economic development.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. Is he aware that over the past few weeks I have been asked about the position within the development area of Govan? Certain industries are closing down in Govan. Cape Contracts is moving to another area. Has it made any attempt to get in touch with the Government? The people who work in the King George V dock are in the same position. Have they made any overtures to the Government to the effect that a difficult situation may arise when Hunterston begins operations—

My hon. Friend has put two detailed questions about firms in his constituency. In the first instance they would make their representations not to me but to the Department of Industry. However, on 1st July I take over new powers and I may then have much more detailed information to give my hon. Friend in respect of these matters. I shall gladly look into the point that he has raised about these individual firms.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Scottish unemployment situation is almost as bad as the situation in Denmark? Is he aware that Denmark is often cited as the worst European example? Does he realise that if Scotland did not have 40,000 oil-related jobs it would be in a situation similar to that which exists in the United States of America, which is now going through its worst slump since the depression? As the Government have made such a mess of establishing oil-related jobs, will they now consider the possibility of establishing jobs which are not connected with the oil industry and which will provide long-term employment opportunities?

I do not know whether the hon. Lady knows what she is talking about. The fact is that we have 40,000 oil-related jobs. The full implications of the go-slow policy preached by the hon. Lady's party are such that they would not have established 40,000 oil-related jobs.

Fishing Industry

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the future of the Scottish fishing industry.

In Scotland, as in the United Kingdom as a whole, the fishing industry is currently facing some economic difficulty, and it was for this reason that the Government announced their intention of giving temporary financial aid. The aim of this aid is to give the industry time to adjust to changed circumstances.

There is also natural concern about more long-term problems, including fishery limits and conservation of stocks. The Government will play their part, in co-operation with the industry, in seeking a speedy resolution of these problems through international negotiation.

1 thank the Minister for that reply. Is he in a position at this stage to say anything about yesterday's meeting about the banning of foreign fish? I appreciate that there will be a statement later today. Further, will he now change his mind and agree to meet representatives of the STF when he is in Aberdeen on 3rd April to discuss the continuation of financial support after the end of June, the need for a settlement of the EEC fisheries policy before the referendum, and the need for a 200-mile limit to be imposed unilaterally if the Geneva Conference breaks up without agreement?

The hon. Gentleman is obviously well-informed in that he knows about my activities. I say straight away that I would be delighted to meet the STF in Aberdeen next week, together with any of the other representative organisations in the fishing industry. There is lack of communication even within those organisations about what is going on. The hon. Gentleman obviously will not expect me to anticipate my right hon. Friend's statement, but I can assure him that we are well aware of the short-term problems, the long-term problems linked with the Law of the Sea Conference, and the need to give urgent attention to the EEC common fisheries, policy.

Welcome though the recently announced subsidies are, does the Minister accept that there is a great deal of resentment that vessels fishing for shellfish should be excluded? As a great deal of their catch goes to earn foreign currency, surely there is a case for seeing that vessels fishing for shellfish are included.

There is another Question on the Order Paper dealing with that point. Although the hon. Gentleman has skilfully avoided the 40 foot argument, he will recognise that this is a temporary financial aid to the industry and that it is based on operating costs. With great respect to the shellfish industry, its operating costs have not increased so much as costs in other sections of the industry.

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that in his consideration of the problems facing the fishing industry he will seek to preserve the principal of priority for coastal States, as was negotiated originally when we entered Europe? As for the very much changed situation in respect of the 200-mile limit now under negotiation at the Law of the Sea Conference, will the Minister say when the Government will be in a position to give their answer to the herring section of the industry regarding interim measures to serve the herring industry until the Law of the Sea Conference is concluded?

If the hon. Gentleman concluded satisfactory agreements I must tell him that they are not appreciated by many sections of the fishing industry. I do not think that he should overdo the compliments to himself when he leaves me with the problems. We are well aware of the urgency of this matter, but the first thing to do is to see how the Law of the Sea Conference proceeds. If there is an acceptance of the 200-mile limit it will still be open to us, within that kind of framework, to pursue the right policies within the EEC.

Scottish Trades Union Congress

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next plans to meet the Scottish TUC to discuss economic and employment prospects.

I had a full discussion of these matters with the STUC at the end of February, in company with the Prime Minister and my colleagues principally concerned. We propose to repeat this occasion annually, and, of course, I shall continue to meet the STUC myself as and when the occasion requires.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the meeting was warmly welcomed in Scotland? Will he confirm that when dealing with the middle- and longterm position the Scottish TUC put great emphasis on the Scottish Development Agency being controlled by the Scottish Assembly in Edinburgh? Notwithstanding the narrow defeat of the excellent composite Resolution No. 1 at Aberdeen last Friday will my right hon. Friend agree to give the most serious consideration to the point of view of the Scottish trade union movement, especially as it received such weighty support from, for example, my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan)?

I assure my hon. Friend that I shall take full account of the views of the STUC. I shall give due weight to the decisions of the political wing of the Scottish trade union movement.

Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House what he believes would be the effects on employment in Scotland if Scotland and Britain as a whole were to leave the European Community?

I should be happy to do that if the hon. Gentleman managed to table a Question and if I managed to answer it.

Does my right hon. Friend remember that after his last meeting with the STUC at the Scottish summit the Prime Minister gave an assurance that Hunterston would be started by 1982? Later, in an effort not to be outdone, Monty Finniston, the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation, stated, in an interview with the industrial editor of theGlasgow Herald, that he would start the preparatory work now. When will my right hon. Friend get into step with the Prime Minister, Monty Finniston and everyone else in Scotland and start building up our infrastructure, and when will he open the new motorway connecting North Ayrshire with the M8 and the M74?

If the Scottish TUC does not take the Government's advice to support Britain's staying in the Common Market. will the Secretary of State ask it who is to pay the huge grants that Scotland is currently receiving from theCommunity—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."]—and who will provide employment for those made redundant—[HON. MEMBERS: "Still reading."]—in the main Scottish industries for which the biggest market is in Europe?

The Question relates to my plans for meeting the STUC. If the hon. Member had the time to write that supplementary question down why did he not write it out and put it on the Order Paper?

Economic Prospects

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the prospects for the Scottish economy.

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are his estimates of employment and investment prospects in Scotland during the next 12 months.

The Scottish economy is subject to the same difficulties which face the United Kingdom as a whole as well as other industrial and oil importing nations. It is, however, encouraging that employment in Scotland is proving more robust than in the rest of Britain, Scottish unemployment bearing a lower relationship to the Great Britain total than at any time since recording began in 1954. The establishment of the Scottish Development Agency and the development of North Sea oil will, with our general regional policies, help to sustain and create new employment and to encourage investment in Scotland.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the unprecedented wave of strike action in the Glasgow area is damaging the image of an area which desperately needs to attract jobs and is causing hardship to users of the airport and to residents in multi-storey flats, among others? Does he agree that in consultation with the Secretary of State for Employment he should appoint an independent inquiry to find out what is going wrong with labour relations in Glasgow and what can be done to put the situation right?

Like the hon. Member, I deplore the disruption, and I hope that he, like me, will use all his influence not to stir up trouble as some people in Scotland are doing but to strengthen the hand of the official trade union movement. He should direct his question about the inquiry to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment.

Why is the Secretary of State so coy about giving us the benefit of his advice about Britain's continued membership of the EEC? Will he be less shy in commending the dustmen and the Army in Glasgow for the efforts they are making to make Scotland a cleaner and better place to work in? Will he follow through the idea of bringing troops into Glasgow by bringing the Royal Air Force into Abbotsinch, so that people can fly to and from London and elsewhere?

I have already paid tribute to the dustmen and the Army for the work they are performing, but I saw little indication of a similar approach by the Conservatives when they were in that situation before.

As for the hon. Gentleman's impatience in getting a speech from me about the EEC, I can tell him that I delivered such speeches from the Opposition Dispatch Box and I have made speeches on the subject over a long period. I have had no influence on him, however, and I deplore the fact that he is still so dense in these matters.

On the question of the Scottish economy, does my right hon. Friend agree that the point of substance by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) in a supplementary question earlier today, about a major road link between Hunterston and Central Scotland is important? We are delighted that my right hon. Friend will come to open the road, but the people of Ayrshire want to know when that will be.

I would have welcomed far greater attention to this matter by the people of Ayrshire. The project was held up over a decision as to the line that the road should take. My hon. Friends were trying to put one point of view and other people were putting another, and until that matter was settled among those people, with the help of the Scottish Office, we could not make reasonable progress.

I welcome the conversion of the Secretary of State to the realisation of the importance of the development of Scottish oil resources for the benefit of Scotland. Will the right hon. Gentleman now admit that the real importance to Scotland lies in the investment of Scottish oil revenues within the Scottish economy? Will the right hon. Gentleman do something to persuade the Leader of the House to take action to prevent these vast resources from leaving Scotland for England, as is presently planned?

I shall be glad to look into any of the hon. Gentleman's suggestions, but I hope that they will be better than the ones he has made hitherto.

Prison Sentences

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the nature of his reply to the representations he received on behalf of 1,000 persons from Coatbridge and Airdrie which called for legislation providing for longer sentences on those convicted in courts; and if he will make a statement.

Penalties are a matter for the courts and there is no reason to suppose that their maximum powers are inadequate. A reply to the Editor of theAirdrie and Coatbridge Advertiserwas sent on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 14th March and by me today. These discussed measures which, if taken by the services and, indeed, the citizens in the local community, could help to reduce the problem.

Is my hon. Friend aware that more than 1,000 persons wrote to the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiserasking that tougher measures should be taken against those who flood high schools, repeatedly burn beautiful new primary schools, destroy industrial premises and even poison the guard dogs, and attack and brutally beat up innocent persons who are thus reduced almost to vegetables? Will my hon. Friend con- sider widening the court sentences to include useful community work under the prison service supervision where no labour force exists now, not forgetting the possibility of restoring corporal punishment for these persistent sophisticated thugs?

It is important to get this question in its proper perspective. TheAirdrie and Coatbridge Advertiserissued about 10,000 forms, of which 1,000 were returned. The forms contained a question which the people answered. I am sure that my hon. Friend would not wish to mislead the House into believing that 1,000 people actually wrote to the newspaper, because that is not the position.

I assure my hon. Friend that longer and more severe sentences are now being imposed. In 1963, 8 per cent. of those convicted for vandalism were given custodial sentences, whereas in 1973 the figure was 13 per cent.

Consideration is being given to the possibility of introducing some form of community service for those convicted of vandalism. But I think that my hon. Friend has a duty to be consistent. I know that he does not favour corporal punishment in schools, for instance—

It is important that we should get the question of corporal punishment clear in our minds.

Does the Under-Secretary agree that vandalism is a serious and worsening problem? What does he mean by his new initiative, and does he envisage a situation in which those who perpetrate acts of vandalism would, where practicable, be made to make good the damage they have done?

Any person convicted of an act of vandalism can be sued in a civil action for the costs of putting right the vandalism committed. The new initiative to which I referred relates to community service. We are looking at this matter, and when we are in a position to say something to the House that will be done.

In his travels throughout Scotland, has the Minister noticed the andalism being perpetrated by the SNP election propaganda which is still being displayed? I refer particularly to the horrible desecration of an important building in my constituency. Will my hon. Friend take steps to ensure that custodial sentences are imposed upon those concerned?

I have noticed that most of our road signs are still seriously disfigured with SNP election propaganda. This is a serious point which I trust the SNP will take seriously. Political parties have a responsibility to clear up that type of vandalism. I appeal to the SNP to take steps to have our road signs restored to their original form, to clear up the type of vandalism to which my hon. Friend rightly referred.

Does the Minister appreciate that, having with great difficulty got the District Courts (Scotland) Bill through the House in its present form, he has thus excluded the thousand burghers of Coatbridge and Airdrie, who might have imposed the sentences in the courts?

I appreciate that what we have done with the Bill, without the hon. Gentleman's help, is to introduce a system of courts that will be very acceptable and will perform a very good service within the law of Scotland.

Community Councils

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made in the establishment of community councils.

Most of the new district and islands councils have in hand the necessary preparatory work for setting up community councils in their areas.

Will my hon. Friend try to ensure that the new community councils are as democratic and representative as possible, by seeing that they contain the maximum number of directly-elected representatives and also by ensuring that they are adequately financed by central Government, so that they are not entirely dependent on local authorities for their resources, some of which authorities may be reluctant to support bodies which oppose some of their views?

The preparation of schemes is a matter for the district and islands councils. Since we published our consultative document last December, there has been considerable activity by councils in this respect, particularly within the Strathclyde region. The regional council has promised to provide financial support, which, at the product of a penny rate, will amount to about Elf million. So I think that finance will be forthcoming.

Will the Minister confirm that there is no need for communities to wait until the district councils propose comprehensive schemes for community councils throughout the area before they get together to form provisional community councils?

A great deal of activity can go on now, but the first statutory step is for the advertisements to be placed. That has already been done in most areas. It is now up to interested bodies—local organisations, community organisations, and the rest—to put their ideas to the local authorities, so that this important initiative gets off the ground as quickly as possible.

What action does the Scottish Office intend to take against the ludicrous Treasury decision that any funds finding their way into community councils will not be regarded as of charitable status?

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is talking about. The financial provisions for community councils were laid down in the Local Government Act.

Divorce Law Reform

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many representations he has received to introduce legislation to implement divorce law reform in Scotland.

In the past year my right hon. Friend has received 18 letters from private individuals and interested groups supporting the introduction of legislation to implement divorce law reform in Scotland. I am aware also of similar representations that have been made to my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council and others.

I am sure that there is no need to remind the Secretary of State that the people of Scotland are fed up with being treated as second-class citizens. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that they have noted that Government time was allocated to discuss the matter on a specifically English basis, but that the Government have refused to allocate time to discuss it as a Scottish matter. Has the hon. Gentleman read the Law Commission report. which states that Scottish law is falling behind because there is no time to debate such matters? Does he agree that that is a strong argument for setting up a Scottish Legislative Assembly immediately?

I always understood that the hon. Lady and her hon. Friends were more interested in separation than divorce. I hope that she is as forthcoming with the people of Scotland outside the House as she appears to be with those inside the House, because one of the reasons why the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh. Central (Mr. Cook) is in such difficulty is that it was opposed in its early stage by the Leader of her own party—her hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart).

If the hon. Lady is suggesting that the law of Scotland is falling behind the law in England and Wales and should be brought into line with English law, she should say so.

Has my hon. Friend noted the statement to the Press issued by the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) that we should allow any English law reform to run for 10 years in England before we imitate it in Scotland? Does he agree that that is not acceptable to the Scottish people, and that the sponsors of my Bill, from all parties, have greatly appreciated the Government's sympathy and understanding of the difficulties we are in? Will my hon. Friend inform the House of the number of representations made to his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, which I think have been passed to the Scottish Office for answer?

I cannot give the House the number. I noted what the hon. Member for Western Isles said in the statement, and also that when the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire. East (Mrs. Bain) was speaking the hon. Gentleman was violently disagreeing with what she said. Certain discussions are taking place about the Bill, and they will continue.

Why on earth should time be given for a hare coursing Bill, which many of us support, yet there is no Government time to be given for this Bill, which is on a matter causing acute anxiety to a number of families in Scotland? The opponents of the Bill on a Friday are a Scottish Tory Member who sought to use the English law to obtain his own divorce and the Leader of the SNP, one of whose colleagues is now shouting for harmonisation between the law in England and the law in Scotland.

I am not responsible for the management of Government business, and I am not in a position to say why time is given for one Bill and not for another.

I accept what the Minister has just said, but will not the Scottish Office change its traditional mind on this question and urge the Government to give time to debate the matter? Does the hon. Gentleman accept that in many families in Scotland great bitterness is felt about the lack of harmonisation between English and Scottish law in this matter, and that Members from all parties want the earliest possible debate, at least to see what the feelings of the Scottish Members are on the matter?

It must be within the hon. Gentleman's memory that during his time as PPS to the previous Secretary of State for Scotland approaches were made on the subject, and no sympathy or support were forthcoming from the Government of the day. Whilst I recognise the strength of feeling, 1 rest on the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central that these are matters for discussion and that we should wait and see how the discussions develop.

Will the Minister dissociate himself from the unfair personal remarks made by the hon. Member for Fife. Central (Mr. Hamilton), and agree that a Bill of this importance should be fully debated, and not approved on the nod at 4 o'clock on a Friday afternoon?

I am not responsible for what any hon. Member, on either side of the House, says at Question Time or in debate. The matter has been debated in the House many times. Most hon. Members, whether they are for or against divorce reform, have made up their minds where they stand. We should leave the matter there, and see how it progresses.

Mentally Handicapped Persons(Education)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many centres for the education of the mentally handicapped are in the process of construction.

Ten for children and five for adults.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that enough has been done to begin implementing the Education (Mentally Handicapped Children) (Scotland) Act 1974, which is widely acclaimed by many people in Scotland who have a special interest in educating the mentally handicapped? Those people are worried about the lack of visible progress in the building of accommodation. Will my hon. Friend say whether anything is being done and what new developments he has in mind, particularly in relation to profoundly mentally handicapped children?

As my hon. Friend will be aware, the Education (Mentally Handicapped Children) (Scotland) Act 1974 comes into operation on 16th May this year. There are 10 centres for children and five for adults at present under construction. There are a number of problems, but many of the premises already used will be taken over by the education authorities which will be responsible for the education of mentally handicapped children after the appointed day. One problem, for example, concerns the 1,500 children in mental deficiency hospital wards, many of whom receive no education or training at present. Most education authorities are making short-term arrangements for taking over hospital wards for teaching purposes, as is being done, for example, at Lynebank Hospital, in my hon. Friend's constituency.

Public Service Employees

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether be has any plans to introduce a weighting allowance for public service employees in Scotland similar to the London weighting allowance.

Is the Minister aware that that answer will be received with deep disappointment and some anger in Scotland, particularly by people who work in the public services and whose cost of living is similar to that in the south-east of England, although they do not get the benefit of the weighting allowance which is paid to people working in the public services in London? Will not the Minister stand up for Scotland for a change and impress on his Cabinet colleagues the importance of securing social justice for the working people of Scotland as well as for the working people of London?

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said. The London weighting allowance is specifically directed to the high cost of housing and travelto-work in the London area. These matters have only recently been studied again by the Pay Board in a report which was initiated by the previous Government. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will be happy to have the information that the overall average earnings for all manual workers in all industries, on the latest figures available, are, in England £48.75 per week and in Scotland £48.37 per week, so that the figures are now absolutely, on all fours. I hope that that information will be set against the lying propaganda of the Scottish National Party in this matter. Generally speaking, it would be much to the detriment of Scotland, both in the public service and generally, to move from national agreements to a series of local agreements. It is a great illusion to imagine that Scotland would benefit from that system. In my opinion, it would suffer very much.

I recognise the general need for better wages, but will my hon. Friend remind the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) that according to Department of Employment statistics many Scottish workers earn more than do their London counterparts, because of the hard work of Scottish trade unionists working within the Labour movement? Will my hon. Friend also remind the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East that although he may never have attended a trade union meeting in his life, he can at least try to equalise Scottish wages by asking his fellow SNP member, Sir Hugh Fraser, to pay the lassies who work in his Scottish shops as high wages as those in his London shops.

I am sorry to hear that, Mr. Deputy Speaker because I thought that my hon. Friend made a very good point, which I hope will be noted. It is true that there are many industries in which Scottish wages are considerably ahead of wages in England. That applies, for example, to sections of the engineering industry in the west of Scotland. It is an illusion to believe that all these matters can be looked at in any general way. The situation is patchy. There are reasons for the present disparities which are sometimes to the detriment and sometimes to the benefit of Scotland. The idea that basing wages or salaries generally on local indices of cost of living would produce benefits for Scotland is a great illusion. I rest on that, whether one talks about Scotland generally or parts of Scotland like the west of Scotland or, for example, Aberdeen.

"Roads To The Isles" (Study)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what decision he has made in response to the submissions of the Highlands and Islands Development Board in its study "Roads to the Isles".

I have considered the HIDB paper within the general context of the review of shipping services which I am conducting. I hope to announce the results of my review soon.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that this is another attempt by an independent body to bring pressure to bear on the Scottish Office and the Government to ensure that the Western Isles and other islands of Scotland get a fair deal in transport? As the railways are heavily subsidised—very properly—throughout the rest of the United Kingdom, is it not time for urgent action to be taken on freight charges?

The subsidies to the Western Isles are disproportionate to the subsidies anywhere else. I do not complain about that. It is essential and desirable. I just wish that the hon. Gentleman who represents these areas would not continually pretend that they receive no subsidies at all. The subsidies are high, and the proposal by the Highlands and Islands Development Board would probably have the effect of trebling them from the already high figure. The Government's conclusions on the services will be announced soon.

Is the Minister aware that compared with general transport subsidies, the subsidy for shipping in the Orkney and Shetland Islands is small and that we look forward with keenness to the result of the general review? In making that review, will he bear in mind the effect upon the islands of the increase in postal charges?

That is a different question. We all send letters, as well as the people who live in Orkney and Shetland. It is true that the subsidy for the shipping services of Orkney and Shetland is comparatively modest compared with that for the Western Isles, but large sums of money are being spent in the development of other services to Orkney and Shetland, including, for example, the air services, and a large sum is being spent on the development of the airport at Sumburgh.

Education

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will publish a White Paper on Scotland's educational system.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will publish a White Paper on policy towards education in Scotland.

Will the Minister be flexible over the timetable for phasing out the grants to grant-aided schools in the discussions which are due to take place with those schools?

Yes, we shall certainly be flexible in the discussions. One reason for the discussions on the phasing out period is to examine the various propositions which might be put to us. We have an open mind about the length of time over which phasing out takes place, but we certainly do not have an open mind about the principle.

Will the Minister explain why, in a Written Answer to me, the Secretary of State refused to give the assurance which was given by the Secretary of State for Education and Science that arrangements would be made to safeguard the interests of children presently at grant-aided schools?

The circumstances of grant-aided schools in England and Scotland are totally different, and require different solutions. In our discussions with the grant-aided schools I have no doubt that one issue which will arise is the question of pupils who are already in those schools. We shall certainly listen to what is said. These are matters for discussion.

Shellfish

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what amounts and value of fish, excluding shellfish, are at present landed in Scottish ports by vessels under 40 feet in length.

Vessels under 40 ft. contribute between 1 per cent. and 2 per cent. of the quantity and value of such fish landed at Scottish ports. Provisional estimates for 1974 indicate a value of the order of £700,000 and a quantity of about 100.000 cwt.

With the large amount of fish involved and the need to support the fishing industry, is it not unfair to leave vessels under 40 ft. out of the present arrangements?

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern. However, he should not talk about a "large" amount.

I have already indicated the provisional figure for 1974. In 1972 the figure was £1 million, and in 1973 it went down in value to £800,000; the quantity fell from 200.000 cwt. to 100,000 cwt. Therefore, although 1 recognise that it makes an important contribution to Scottish fishing, it is still only in a proportion of 1 per cent. to 2 per cent.

If all members of the fishing industry are prepared to take a slightly lower subsidy to enable those who fish from boats of under 40 ft. and those who fish for shellfish to participate in the subsidy scheme, will the Department take a fresh look at its decisions?

I have already indicated that this is a purely temporary contribution. The hon. Gentleman knows the problems, because we have discussed them together. If there is any desire on the part of either section of the industry to make a voluntary and co-operative effort, there is nothing to stop anybody taking action if he is willing to help somebody else. If there is some intention to do so, we would not stop such action, and possibly would encourage it. I wish members of the SNP would appreciate that there is a difference in operating costs between vessels below 40 ft. in length and those above that length, up to 130 ft.

Human Tissue Act 1961(Circular)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he hopes to complete his consultations with health boards and representatives of the medical profession on the proposed circular of guidance on the Human Tissue Act 1961.

Consultations should be completed and the circular issued within the next few weeks.

European Economic Community(Aid)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish in theOfficial Reportthe various forms of financial assistance given to projects in Scotland by the EEC in the last 18 months.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the comprehensive information given in reply to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) on 11th March.—[Vol. 888, c. 130–2 and 131–4,]

Is my hon. Friend aware that his reply is not comprehensive? Does he deny or confirm that more than £30 million has been given in grants or loans for onshore and offshore development of North Sea oil? Is he also aware that several hundred thousand pounds have been given to help build fishing vessels in the north-east of Scotland and elsewhere and that a figure of £2,000 was given by the EEC to the Seafield Colliery disaster fund in Fife? Will he publish in much greater detail than given in the original answer the enormous benefits which have accrued to Scotland through our membership of the EEC?

I invite my hon. Friend to look at the answer again, because all the points that he mentioned are included in it.

North Sea Oil Installations (Offences)

35.

asked the Lord Advocate whether he will list his statutory powers in relation to prosecutions involving offences committed on North Sea oil installations.

The statutory powers of the Lord Advocate in relation to prosecutions involving offences committed on North Sea oil installations depend on where the installation is situated. If an offence takes place on an oil installation situated out with territorial waters in a designated area, the Lord Advocate has the same powers which he has in relation to offences committed in Scotland. If the oil installation is situated within territorial waters, the relevant powers are given to the Lord Advocate by the 1964 Act, as extended by Section 8 of the Mineral Workings (Off-shore Installations) Act 1971. If the oil installation is in transit, both the 1964 and the 1971 Acts apply.

I am grateful for that reply. Is the Lord Advocate satisfied that this rather complex system is the best way to deal with prosecutions that may arise from the ever-increasing activities in the North Sea? If not, has he considered suggesting how the supervision of law and order in the North Sea might be more simply controlled?

I am satisfied that this is an effective method of policing installations at present. I take the view that improvements are possible, and these matters are under active consideration by the Government.

The Lord Advocate says that he is satisfied with the situation. Is he satisfied that the responsibility for law and order on all oil installations will still be carried out by the Chief Constable of Aberdeen? What advice will he give to his hon. Friend, who is reviewing the situation presumably because he believes it to be unsatisfactory?

If the hon. Gentleman had paid closer attention to my answer, he would have heard me express qualified satisfaction. Some of those qualifications cover his point.

Scottish Law Commission

36.

asked the Lord Advocate whether he will make a statement on the progress of the Scottish Law Commission.

The commission's progress in the various fields with which it is currently concerned is narrated in its Ninth Annual Report, published last month. Since completion of that report a further two consultative memoranda have been published, dealing respectively with liability of a paramour, and powers of judicial factors. Also, two reports prepared jointly with the Law Commission have been presented, namely, "Statute Law Revision Sixth Report" and "Supply Powers".

Will the Lord Advocate do everything in his power to ensure that the recommendations of the Scottish Law Commission are implemented? Will he try to ensure that parliamentary time is made available for this purpose?

The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that government is a matter of priorities. I assure him that it would be impossible to implement every one of the Scottish Law Commission's recommendations as soon as a report was published. However, it is one of the Government's objectives to achieve a continuous pace of law reform in Scotland. We shall endeavour to abide by that objective.

Will the Lord Advocate use his legendary charm on his sensitive colleague the Leader of the House to provide parliamentary time to legislate the important reforms which the distinguished work of the Scottish Law Commission has proposed—or will he bring them to his office, declare them redundant and stop wasting public money?

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has already answered that point sufficiently.

Sheriffs Association(Council)

37.

asked the Lord Advocate when he next intends to meet the Council of the Sheriffs Association.

Does the Lord Advocate realise that there is some dissatisfaction in rural areas about the distance which members of the public may have to travel to attend sheriffs' courts? Will he bear in mind the fact that it is a matter not simply of mileage, but of other equally relevant factors, such as bus routes, which must be considered when determining the future location of sheriff's courts?

These matters are fully taken into account by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Will the Lord Advocate, with his intimate knowledge of the Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles constituency, take particular note of the representations made against the proposed closure of the sheriffs' court at Hawick, which will mean inconvenience to the public and also increased costs for police, social work departments and solicitors?

I have taken note of these matters, as has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take careful note of what is happening in Edinburgh? Has he noticed the decision of the Edinburgh magistrates not to appoint a stipendiary magistrate because they fear that a substantial volume of work will be diverted from the sheriff court? Has he any estimate of the amount of work which would be diverted if such a magistrate were appointed? Does he not agree that the proper functioning of the burgh court—the second largest in Scotland —will be greatly improved by the appointment of a professional maeistrate?

If my hon. Friend desires to have an answer on that matter, he should table a detailed question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is a question which I guarantee my right hon. Friend will be able to answer.

If the Lord Advocate intends to meet the Council of the Sheriffs Association, will he ask whether it is prepared to undertake additional work in dealing with divorces, if that work is transferred to the jurisdiction of the sheriff courts?

Many matters of that kind are discussed at such meetings. Again, priorities must be considered. I would not have thought the point raised by the hon. Gentleman was one of the most important matters to be discussed by the sheriffs at present.

Criminal Procedure(Scotland)

38.

asked the Lord Advocate if he will invite the Scottish Law Commission to consider the question of criminal procedure.

No, Sir. This is being considered by a departmental committee under the chairmanship of Lord Thomson. The Scottish Law Commission has submitted comments, and a former commissioner, Lord Stewart, is a member of that committee. The commission's views will no doubt be reflected in the departmental committee's conclusions in due course.

When the Lord Advocate sees the Scottish Law Commission, will he make publicly plain in Scotland the opinion of the Attorney-General in England that dislike, disapproval, or ignorance of the law are no good reason for breaking it?

I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Attorney-General has no jurisdiction in Scotland.