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Public Expenditure

Volume 892: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will detail the services affected by the 1976–77 public expenditure cuts.

I refer the hon. Member to my reply on 28th April to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor).—[Vol. 891, c. 47.]

Is the Secretary of State aware that some of us on this side accept the need for cuts in public expenditure but that we find it difficult to reconcile that with the claims being made by Labour Members about the £300 million which will be spent by the Scottish Development Agency? Does he accept that on his side the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, or is this further evidence of the bogus statement by the Chancellor during the last election that inflation would be held at 8 per cent.?

The hon. Member should appreciate exactly what the Chancellor said and what he did in the Budget. He certainly sought to restrain the rise in public expenditure. This is not an absolute cut: it is restraining the projected rise. Secondly, I remember his saying that we had to make available the necessary money to produce industrial development because our future depended on it. Therefore, he made available further moneys in respect of training and retraining of men. No one took objection to that. The same applies to the growth of new industry and to expansion within Scotland. We have to provide more money for that end, and that we are doing, without apology.

Is the Secretary of State aware that we in the Scottish National Party do not accept the public expenditure cuts in Scotland? Is he happy with those cuts? Does he not agree that Scotland can sustain economic expansion and that we do not need inflation?

The hon. Member should appreciate exactly what the Budget makes available to Scotland. We make available moneys according to need. That is why Scotland has had more than its share in the past. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will adopt a much more balanced outlook towards the United Kingdom and a little less selfish one.

Where will the £10 million cut in housing fall? is the right hon. Gentleman seriously saying that he accepted a larger cut for Scotland simply because we had more council housing?

The hon. Member is getting as muddled as ever. We know how the Tories cut housing expenditure: they simply stopped building houses.

The question was how we would achieve it. Public expenditure is not only national but also local. Local expenditure on certain housing matters has been causing the hon. Gentleman concern. So savings can be made there.

I have already told the hon. Gentleman, in respect of rents. May I remind him what his Government did? In January 1974 they stopped altogether any further expenditure on new schemes for improving local authority houses. That is one way of saving money. There are many other ways. We are examining them, but I am not deceiving people about how I expect local authorities to deal with the question of rents.