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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 928: debated on Wednesday 23 March 1977

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

Scotland

Council House Sales

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any plans to encourage local authorities to sell more houses to sitting tenants.

The sale of council houses is an aspect of housing policy which must await the outcome of the current review.

Does the Minister appreciate that in survey after survey a substantial proportion of council tenants want the chance to own their homes and are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with a system that allows the State to interfere more and more in their daily lives, including owning the very roofs over their heads?

The present policy is working adequately, in the sense that we take into account waiting lists and unmet demands for rented accommodation in the council sector. Therefore, we have no reason to change the situation, but as I have said we are reviewing it. In the recent survey in Glasgow, 80 per cent. of the council tenants said that they did not want to buy the house in which they were living at present.

Will the Government consider further mortgage schemes to allow first-time buyers to buy private and council houses? What steps have been taken to introduce mortgage schemes, such as the half-and-half mortgage and rental purchase schemes?

Will my hon. Friend make sure that in any survey carried out more attention will be paid to the fact that we do not want council houses sold or bought only by sitting tenants in the so-called good areas? We want them spread throughout the city including, if necessary, the so-called bad areas, where the price will be more attractive to the tenants.

That presupposes that we are going to embark on a policy of selling council houses. I have not said that, and we do not intend to do it. But I take into account that it would be completely disastrous if council houses were to be sold only in the so-called good areas.

Will the Minister at least give us an assurance that if a considerable number of councils are elected with Conservative majorities, on a clear and specific mandate to offer council tenants the right to buy their own homes, he will not frustrate that policy?

That raises wide issues about the extent to which the Government have the right to dictate or lay down policy to local authorities. We have encouraged local authorities and given them the maximum amount of freedom, but there is a matter of serious principle involved here because of public investment, and I can give the hon. Gentleman no such assurance.

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many council houses were sold to sitting tenants by district councils in the most recent annual period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement.

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many council houses have been sold by local authorities in each of the past five years to the latest available date.

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what sales of council houses he has authorised; and how many he has refused to authorise in each of the past three years.

The information requested involves a number of figures, which I am publishing in the Official Report.

Will the Minister explain why, although the Question was tabled a fortnight ago, he is not prepared or, apparently, able to give the answer at Question Time today? Are not the figures absurdly low, given that more than half the people of Scotland live in council homes and that many council tenants will never have the right to become owner-occupiers unless the Government are prepared to encourage a scheme whereby they can buy their own homes at favourable prices?

I am merely carrying out the normal function of the House when there are a number of figures to be given.

If the hon. Gentleman reads the Question he will find that more than one figure is involved, because the Question refers to the past five years. Therefore, I am carrying out the normal convention.

As for the wider issue, I have already answered that point. It will be looked at in the context of the housing finance review and the Green Paper that we shall ultimately produce.

If the Minister were carrying out the normal conventions of the House he could surely answer the Question, because it refers to only one year. Would not that answer give an indication of the numbers involved? Are not the figures deplorably low, and a mere drop in the bucket compared with the total of council houses? Is it not true that the existence of owner-occupiers—where they could be created—would bring about a new social mix that would be extremely valuable in council estates and would save much money from maintenance on the rates? According to—

The right hon. Member will have his opportunity later, but I have the Floor now. According to the Glasgow Herald, 78 per cent. of Scottish people want council houses to be sold, so will the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, show a little more enthusiasm for this movement, which is in accordance with what the people want?

I am well aware that the hon. Gentleman regards all council tenants as second-class citizens. He is on record as having said that. I repeat that we are not against owner-occupation to the extent that it will help solve housing problems and achieve a better social mix. We shall look at the matter in a wider context.

If the Minister is not against the sale of council houses, will he say why he is not able to give me the number of applications that he has refused? If he is in favour of selling council houses, why has he refused any applications? If 80 per cent. of people want to buy their own houses, why does the hon. Gentleman not let them do so?

I am not refusing to give the figures. There is no secret. They will be published in the Official Report. The figures are consistent with the policy that we are now trying to operate—a policy of giving consent provided there are no lengthy waiting lists of people wanting accommodation.

As today's Press carries a report that Edinburgh District Council is putting a proposed sale to the Minister as a test case, will my hon. Friend confirm that he will regard the proposal on its own merits rather than as setting a precedent?

I know about this matter. If Edinburgh District Council is trying to be clever in putting up a test case in the hope that it will open the door, I say categorically that I shall not wear it. Obviously, if there are special circumstances regarding an individual house I shall look at the matter sympathetically.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the hon. Gentleman's refusal to answer a simple Question I beg leave to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

The following is the information:

Sales Authorised

1972
1973
197428
197551
1976195

Sales Refused

1972
1973
197430
1975105
197683

Sales Completed

1972645
1973744
1974171
197530*
197680*

* estimated

List D Schools

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what further representations he has had concerning the future of List D schools; and if he will make a statement.

A consultative paper on the future of the List D schools was issued on 9th December. Comments are still awaited from a number of bodies, and it will be some time yet before the consultations can be completed.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is growing apprehension that a changeover from the education administration that is at present in operation may well result in the expertise of the educational provision built up over a period of years being lost, to the detriment of these disturbed young persons? Will my hon. Friend take further steps to avoid that sort of possibility ever happening?

This is one of the most important questions that we have in the consultative paper. My right hon. Friend is disposed to favour the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Social Work that responsibility for the List D schools should be with social work committees and that responsibility for education within those schools should remain with education committees. He will be considering the representations of interested bolies in this respect.

Is the Minister in any position to indicate any progress on making List D provision in the Highland Region, where there is none at present:?

Some months ago I met a representative group from the Highland Region who put the case to me. I pointed out that under the present financial constraints it was not possible to meet their objectives, although we discussed the question of phasing. I am prepared to have fuller discussions with them if they wish to come back.

Will my hon. Friend take cognisance of the fact that elimination of voluntary effort within the National Health Service resulted in a lessening of the efficiency of the service, and will he seek to ensure that voluntary effort in List D schools is able to continue?

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. In the consultative document my right hon. Friend has mentioned this matter and has said that the voluntary aspect for List D schools is welcome, especially in respect of the Churches.

Does the Minister accept the overcrowding in List D schools throughout Scotland, particularly in the central belt? Does he recognise the problem that this poses for parents and for the local populace, and will he do something urgently to increase the number of places in List D schools?

I am sorry to correct the right hon. Lady, but the reverse is the case. There is no crowding in List D schools. [Interruption.] All the comments that I have received are to the effect that there is under-occupancy. Up to 28th February last, in fact, the average rate of occupancy was 87 per cent.

Perth

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next intends to visit Perth.

I was in Perth recently and have no present plans for a further visit.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Perth has been a graveyard following several declarations of intent by both Labour and Conservative spokesmen about the future of self-government in Scotland? Does he agree that the only way in which self-government for Scotland can be obtained is via the SNP and no other group of whatever kind?

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. I think that meaningful devolution for Scotland can come only from a Labour Government.

Does my right hon. Friend not remember that on the last occasion he visited Perth to attend a Scottish Labour Party conference he gave sustenance and considerable help to the people of Scotland, to the tune of £35 million in assistance to the coal industry? Is he aware that the SNP has at no time displayed any interest in the coal industry or in the working class in Scotland?

I was glad to make that statement in Perth because it was the means of saving several thousand jobs for Scottish coal miners.

When the Secretary of State visits Perth, will he call in at the headquarters of the outstanding Scottish insurance company, the General Accident Company, and also at the offices of the chamber of comercc and ask representatives of industry and commerce in Perth whether jobs—[Interruption.]

Will he ask representatives of industry and commerce whether they feel that jobs will be more or less secure for their employees if Scotland breaks away from England?

I do not think that I need answer that question. We all know the answer. Clearly a Government in Scotland composed of the SNP would be disastrous for the Scottish economy.

Scottish Development Agency

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many new jobs have been created by the Scottish Development Agency since its inception.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 10th November. The proposals subsequently announced by the agency in the factory and industrial investment fields will of course contribute further to the creation of new jobs.

Is that not a complacent reply from the Minister, in view of yesterday's unemployment figures? Is he satisfied with the progress made by the Scottish Development Agency? If not, what plans has he to improve performance?

Everybody is concerned about the unemployment figures. However, I must point out that in just over a year the SDA has announced three substantial advance factory programmes. There has been a great shot in the arm to engineering as a result of the agency's investment in Cummins Engineering, to the tune of £8 ½ million. The agency has joined with local authorities and others in important environmental schemes. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be the first to acknowledge the fact that the agency has helped small firms engaged in oil activities in his constituency.

Is the Minister aware that we are grateful for the work undertaken by the SDA, but that additional resources would make it a much more effective instrument for the redevelopment of the Scottish economy? Does he recall Mr. Lewis Robertson's statement that at a snap of his fingers an extra £100 million in resources could be obtained? Have those fingers yet snapped?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would also wish to acknowledge his indebtedness to the SDA in respect of developments at Stonefield. That is one of the measures adopted by the Government, in addition to the announcement made by my right hon. Friend about coal burn, which will create additional help for miners.

Is the Minister aware that 80 per cent. more people are now unemployed than in the period three years ago when the Labour Government came to office? Is that not a condemnation of Government policy? When will those policies be reversed, so that we may see an upturn in confidence in commerce and industry?

There has been a recent announcement by Scottish companies that a figure of £2,500 million has been invested in Scotland. That figure embraces investments by BP, Cummins and other companies. The hon. Gentleman will wish to acknowledge his indebtedness to the agency for the advance factory programme in his constituency, in Newton Stewart, Stranraer and Kirkcudbright, and in respect of other developments.

Argyll

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to tour the islands of Argyll in the coming summer.

Does the Minister appreciate that this decision will be regarded by the people in the islands and in Argyll as a tremendous let-down, because the increase in charges amounting to 25 per cent. this summer is aimed directly at the tourist industry? Does he agree that the only way in which we can solve this problem is by having a Scottish Government, and is it not disgraceful that conversations are taking place with Scottish Liberals to bring about some kind of deal tonight?

I am grateful to learn that the hon. Gentleman is anxious that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should make a tour during this summer. If my right hon. Friend has an opportunity to do so on any visit he makes, I am sure that he will wish to discuss various problems with those concerned.

Scottish Tuc

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with Scottish trade unionists concerning Government policies on devolution, unemployment and the Scottish economy.

I frequently meet Scottish trade unionists to discuss various matters affecting Scotland. For example, my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council and I met the STUC on 11th March, when devolution was the main topic.

Did the Scottish TUC ever ask the Government to make devolution an issue of confidence among Labour Members of Parliament?

No, it did not. However, I hope that the hon. Gentleman has read the interesting statement issued by the STUC yesterday on devolution.

When the right hon. Gentleman meets the STUC, will he discuss with it the fact that the Labour Government's economic and industrial policies have created 80 per cent. more unemployment and will reduce the level of Scottish production by nine points? In that case, what is meant by the phrase "Back to work with Labour"?

I shall be meeting the STUC again next month, when I shall address its annual conference. I am sure that if STUC members want to put any point to me they will do so on that occasion.

Will my right hon. Friend underline the fact that the STUC, in its statement yesterday, stressed the fact that because of unemployment problems all minority parties should support the Government this evening?

Yes, I can confirm that. I hope that the message will have been read and understood, and perhaps will even be acted upon.

In view of the interesting statement made by the STUC, is the Secretary of State aware of what that body said in December last in respect of further Government proposals leading to public expenditure cuts?

I have met the STUC on that matter. There is considerable understanding among STUC representatives of the problems facing the Government.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next plans to meet the STUC.

Does my right hon. Friend agree with the statement issued yesterday by the STUC warning the SNP that if it has the political stupidity and naivety to walk into the Lobby with the Tories tonight it will readily be classified by the people of Scotland as aiding and abetting the Tories in their efforts to return the most reactionary Right-wing Government since the 1920s, with no prospects of Socialism for Scotland and even fewer prospects of devolution?

I agree with my hon. Friend and congratulate him on putting that question in his characteristically moderate way.

When the Secretary of State next meets the STUC will he explain why, when the guillotine on the Scotland and Wales Bill failed, the Government did not immediately make that the subject of a vote of confidence in the House and so ensure that those Labour Members who betrayed Scotland so honour their manifesto commitment?

As I made clear in answer to an earlier Question, that matter is already being discussed with the STUC, which fully shares the Government's view. We also take the view that, as was pointed out in the statement yesterday, if a Tory Government were to be returned at any time it would shut the door on any possibility of meaningful devolution for a long time to come. I hope that the SNP, with its peculiar friends in the Lobby this evening, will weigh those words very carefully.

Does my right hon. Friend accept, as the House accepts, that the SNP wants not devolution but complete separation from the United Kingdom? Does he also accept that his recent announcement about the fuel industry and his giving of sustenance to the Scottish coal-mining industry is welcomed by the STUC, the miners, and everybody who has the Scottish working class at heart? Is he aware that if the Government are defeated tonight, the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), plus the SNP, must go to the Scottish people and accept blame for the loss of that money?

I do not think that at this time of the day I should speculate on the consciences of individual Members tomorrow morning.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the STUC has in general agreed with and supported the Government on their economic policies over the past three years? As that has resulted in an extra 80,000 members of the STUC being put out of work, does he not think that it is time that he and the General Secretary of the STUC got together and decided to change the policy before more people are thrown out of work?

The General Secretary of the STUC is far more knowledgeable about the real needs of the Scottish economy than the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will ever be, and that is why he supports the Government.

Prison Population

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the latest figure for the prison population in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

On 8th March 1977 the population of Scottish penal establishments was 4,940. Subject to the limitations on public expenditure, my right hon. Friend is considering whether any measures can be taken to avoid unnecessary detention, particularly in the areas of remand in custody and imprisonment in default of payment of fine.

Does my hon. Friend accept that Members of all parties who visited Edinburgh Prison earlier this month very much appreciated the arrangements made for the visit? Is he aware that we were all impressed by how much more difficult the task of staff is made in caring for those who are necessarily in prison by the large number of those whose imprisonment may not be necessary? Surely my hon. Friend now accepts that community service orders have been adequately proved in England and Wales and do not require a separate pilot scheme in Scotland.

I place on record my thanks to my hon. Friend and members of the all-party group on penal reform for the interest that they are taking in the subject. If there is one good way to educate the public it is through all-party interest in what is a difficult and complex subject. I accept the latter point of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. I agree that it is unfortunate that there are people in prison who in other circumstances need not be there. As my hon. Friend knows, we are arranging for community service orders to be introduced in four of the regions of Scotland. We look forward with keen anticipation to that experiment.

Is the Minister aware that he has not answered his hon. Friend's question? The hon. Gentleman asked why it was necessary to carry out an experiment in respect of community service orders in Scotland rather than take the experience of the community service experiment successfully carried out south of the border. Will the Minister agree to drop the new experiment in Scotland and go ahead with implementing community service orders?

Community service orders in England are still at an experimental stage. We are examining what is happening in England. We shall apply any good results to Scotland. I believe that even the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is not always desirable to superimpose in Scotland something that happens elsewhere in the United Kingdom, whether it be England, Wales or any other part.

Does the Minister have any views on the future of Peterhead Prison? Does he have any plans to visit the prison—[Interruption.] This is a serious matter. Does he have any plans to visit the prison to discuss the situation with prison officers?

During last summer I took the opportunity to visit Peterhead Prison. I agree that the hon. Gentleman is making a serious point. There are difficult circumstances surrounding Peterhead Prison, especially in respect of the recruitment of prison officers, on account of its isolated situation. There are other related problems. As a result of the situation in penal establishments, Peterhead will remain a top security prison.

Scottish Assembly

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what sums have been spent to date on adapting the Royal High School for the purposes of a Scottish Assembly; and what further sums the Government propose to spend, and when.

Expenditure in the current financial year is expected to be about £900,000, of which £650,000 represents the purchase price of the Royal High School buildings. As regards the constructional works now going on there, I have nothing to add to the reply to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) on 1st March.

For how many more months are the Government to continue to pour money—I calculate at the rate of about £60,000 a month—into the Royal High School to house an Assembly that does not exist? Is there an intention to continue until the whole of the £4 million originally mentioned by the Lord President has been spent? Are the Government not in the position of someone pouring water into an empty vessel in the hope that one day it will turn into wine?

I am not an authority on empty vessels. I shall take the hon. Gentleman's word on anything about them. I am surprised by the hon. Gentleman's approach, because he knows that there are discussions and that the Government have a commitment to devolution. The hon. Gentleman knows that discussions are taking place between the Government and all the parties in the House. Against that background, it is incompatible for the hon. Gentleman to suggest that we should abandon the Royal High School project. The Government will go ahead with their commitment.

I fully believe that we shall have devolution and a devolved Assembly in Scotland, but will my hon. Friend be careful not to become too involved with the Royal High School? Does he agree that the Scottish Assembly should have the final word on the location of the Assembly buildings? We do not want another juggernaut grouping in Edinburgh, creating the need to start a dispersal policy.

One of the reasons for the modernisation and rebuilding scheme that we have undertaken at the Royal High School is based precisely on the point that my hon. Friend is making, namely, to leave the Assembly free to decide its permanent home. We have decided deliberately to go in for this rather modest scheme rather than the lavish scheme that some people thought we would go in for earlier.

Will the Minister accept the congratulations of the SNP Bench on the Government's initiative in finding this building and carrying out works to improve it to make it suitable for an Assembly? Will he ensure that the works are finished and that the building is kept well heated and in good order, as it will be necessary for a Parliament and not an Assembly after the next election, which we hope will be announced tomorrow?

If I were to begin to speculate about the results of the next election, which I do not intend to do, I should say that the hon. Lady will not remain a Member of Parliament—of any Parliament—after the next election. However, I accept the hon. Lady's congratulations, which would be all the more pleasant if translated into votes in the Government Lobby tonight.

Does the Minister appreciate that at a time of severe financial cuts in education, health and other essential services it seems somewhat extravagant to continue to spend money on the Assembly before any agreement has been reached or any legislation has been passed in this place? Does he realise that what Scotland needs is not more government but a change of Government?

I detect from that supplementary question that the hon. Gentleman has been infected by the same disease that affects his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). Having been an ardent devolutionist not so many months ago, the hon. Gentleman has changed his mind and seems to have become a bitter anti-devolutionist.

As for cuts in public expenditure, if the hon. Gentleman is to be any time in a Shadow position—I expect him to be a very long time in such a position—he must get his facts right. There is no cut in direct expenditure on the Health Service. The service will continue to grow, but at a reduced rate. We shall be spending more money on the service next year than we spent last year or in any other year. The hon. Gentleman should get his facts right.

Fishery Protection

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many fishing protection vessels and aircraft are currently available for Scottish waters; and what types they are.

For fishery protection duties in waters off Scotland, my Department operates six vessels, three of them inshore, and the Royal Navy deploys, on average, three ships, which may be of the Ton Class, the Island Class, or frigates. Aerial surveillance is provided by RAF Nimrods, which fly two or three patrols each week off Scotland. Additional support can be provided by the Royal Navy and by the Royal Air Force, as the occasion demands and as availability permits.

Will the hon. Gentleman consider stepping up surveillance, especially by aircraft? Is he aware that there appears to be widespread poaching off Shetland and that large quantities of white fish are being slaughtered as pout? Has he any comment to make on the criticism that I have seen that the new generation of fishery protection vessels may not be satisfactory?

If the right hon. Gentleman has any evidence of widespread poaching, I should like to have it. However, that is not my information. There is continuing examination of the effectiveness of the existing fishery protection fleet. The possibility of having to introduce new ideas within the framework of the CFP, the 200-mile limit, and all the other duties of enforcement that fall on the Fisheries Protection Service has been well advertised by the Government.

Does my hon. Friend agree with the generally held belief that more fishery protection vessels of a new design will be required? As I understand that a new design has been commissioned in the shipyard of Hall Russell and Company, in Aberdeen, I urge whoever is responsible to make a decision for the building of these craft as soon as possible.

I agree that my hon. Friend looks after the interests of Hall Russell and Company. I shall not go so far as to commit myself to any particular design. There will be more fishermen watching each other in the new set-up than ever before. That will be the most effective way of preserving law and order in respect of limits and quotas.

Does the Minister agree that the only way in which he can enlist the help of Scottish fishermen is by creating a 50-mile conservation zone in which only British boats are allowed?

I think that the hon. Gentleman should rephrase that question. As far as I know, the SNP is talking of a 50-mile exclusive limit for Scottish boats. That typical gross oversimplification is regularly made by the SNP. The situation is far too complex for that. Exclusive coastal belts are only one part of our strategy on fishing.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that better use could be made of surface vessels if there were an aerial flight every day of the week rather than two or three times?

Again, there is no evidence that existing arrangements are other than satisfactory. Indeed, the Select Committee and all other interested parties who have visited the area have been most impressed by the effectiveness of the present surveillance arrangements. If there should be any need for further flights, the matter can be reconsidered.

Despite what the Minister said to the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt), may we take it that it is still the Government's intention, in spite of all the difficulties, to negotiate and aim for a substantial exclusive zone for British fishermen?

Yes, it is. I welcome the hon. Gentleman's interest in fishing matters, because I think that, like me, he will soon be convinced of their complexity. It is unwise to sloganise about 50-mile exclusive limits.

Alloa

11.

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

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not disgraceful that the Leader of the Liberal Party should not be here to ask Question No. 10?

Order. The only point of order that the hon. Gentleman can raise is in connection with raising the matter on the Adjournment.

In the town of Alloa there are two secondary schools—Alloa Academy and St. Mungo's Academy—which are split schools, the latter having no fewer than 12 separate teaching units. Is the Minister of State aware of the difficulties facing teachers in dilapidated classrooms and the anger of parents that promised extensions will not now take place? Will he investigate the situation and make his investigations known to the parent-teacher associations of both schools?

My right hon. Friend is aware of the position at Alloa Academy and will have noted the hon. Gentleman's comments about St. Mungo's Academy. No doubt he will get in touch with the hon. Gentleman direct.

When the Minister has finished looking at Alloa Academy, will he go on to Pitlochry and see the secondary school there, where the children have been taught in huts since the school was burned down in 1974? If the local authority is not required to insure the building, will the Government make funds available to put one up in its place?

I am gratified that the hon. and learned Gentleman should anticipate my right hon. Friend's visit. I have no doubt that if he cares to raise these matters with him direct my right hon. Friend will be able to satisfy him, as he often can.

Teachers (Superannuation)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if the Scottish teachers' superannuation scheme will require to be amended to take account of the situation of teachers and lecturers in colleges of education who may be made redundant before the age of retirement; and if he will make a statement on his intentions in the matter of redundancy and compensation payments.

No, Sir. Payments under the Redundancy Payments Act 1965 are payable by employers. Compensation payments will be made under the Crombie Code and will be reduced on account of any redundancy payments.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his reply will occasion some disappointment among the people who, in reply to advertisements only two years ago, came to our aid when we required teachers and lecturers in colleges of education? They are in a considerably exposed position, in view of the redundancy payments to be paid by the employers—the governors of various colleges. Will he have another look at this matter and take it as a matter of honour to treat them in as benevolent a way as possible?

I think that my hon. Friend must have misunderstood the position. The compensation payments under the Crombie Code are more generous than the normal redundancy payments.

Is it not ridiculous that we should be discussing redundancy payments for lecturers in colleges of education in Scotland? Does the Secretary of State accept that the people of Scotland would have more faith in the Scottish Office if it looked at ways of employing lecturers in Scottish colleges of education to make sure that Scottish education returned to the vanguard of education in Europe, where it was before the Labour Government took over?

There may be certain opportunities for extending the work of individual lecturers. I have already made it clear that there is no prospect of employing in colleges of education anything approaching the numbers that we have at present.

In relation to redundancy, what numerical estimate is the Secretary of State now working on?

How can the Secretary of State justify such a callous attitude to education and the teaching profession in Scotland when, in another act of appeasement to the Scottish NUM, he grants it an additional subsidy of £7 million a year and yet sets out to save £750,000 by closing four colleges of education?

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is against the subsidy arrangements that I have announced. If so, I hope that he will say so explicitly. It is not my wish that any particular employees in any part of Scottish industry or the Scottish educational system should be made redundant, but the fact is that there will be a contraction in the Scottish education system. That is unavoidable. I hope to make arrangements for dealing with that situation as humanly as possble. The payments under the Crombie Code are extremely generous by normal standards and I have taken steps to see that those generous payments will apply.

Marine Exercise Area (St Andrews-Tay)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations have been made to him regarding the proposed marine exercise area between St. Andrews and the Tay upon which he has sought observations.

No observations have been sought by my Department on the use of this area. I have, however, received two letters indicating opposition to any proposal to use it for such a purpose.

Is the Minister aware that part of the area that is likely to be demarcated as an exercise area cuts across the approach route to Dundee Harbour? Will the hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that before a final decision is taken on the extent of the area he will ensure that the right of access to the harbour is not infringed?

Yes, certainly. The Department of Trade has sought the view of the Dundee port authorities. The basic purpose behind the examination is to help the fishing industry and to see whether there are any alternative areas that would cause less inconvenience to the industry.

Was there not a lack of consultation with the interests concerned before these proposals were put forward, and has not that caused much unnecessary alarm?

There has been no lack of consultation. No specific proposal has been put to the Scottish Office, as a fishing department, so far. The exercise has just started. I can assure the hon. Member that there will be wide consultations. If he has any particular local interest I shall ensure that it is heard.

Land Register

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now set up a land register for Scotland.

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is waiting impatiently for me to say "No, Sir".

That is a disappointing reply. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that estates are changing hands in the Western Isles and other parts of the Highlands without the tenants having any knowledge of who their landlords are? Does the Minister realise that landlords are holding up housing development and impending developments generally? Is it not about time that people knew who owns the land upon which they live, in order that a start may be made on abolishing the whole rotten medieval system?

I sympathise with the problem and the point that the right hon. Gentleman has made, but a report is published each year that lists in alphabetical order all the land transactions for each county area. It is relatively easy for anyone interested to find out about the land transactions and to discover who is the landlord of any piece of land.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that 100 years ago it was possible to publish a land register of ownership? That information has been kept up to date since that time and is available to the Scottish Office, so cannot this Government do as well as Governments did 100 years ago and publish a list of those who own land in Scotland?

I do not know whether my hon. Friend is suggesting that we should compile a register of land title. If so, this is one of the aspects of land tenure reform that the Government are presently considering and I cannot make any commitment today.

Can the Minister confirm that since the sixteenth century there has been registration of land titles in Scotland in the Register of Sasines? Is it not about time that the members of the Scottish National Party got some more Scottish history into their heads?

I was explaining how we go about discovering who owns a particular piece of land.

Dunfermline (Hospital)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the progress made with the plans to build a new general hospital in Dunfermline and district.

Since approval in principle to phase I of the West Fife District General Hospital was given in March 1976, the Fife Health Board has completed the relevant schedules of accommodation and a brief for the scheme. A development control plan for the site and the pre-design cost limit are now in course of preparation as the next stage in planning.

Does the Minister realise that there is continuing doubt in my area about whether the hospital will ever be started? Will he say whether the list of capital projects has been completed and whether the hospital is to be given priority?

The Government will publish in the next week or two the major building programme for hospitals in Scotland. I advise my hon. Friend to wait until it is published.

Kessock (Bridge)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the tenders received for the construction of the new bridge at Kessock.

Tenders from the six firms which were invited to tender for the design and construction of the bridge were received on 21st March. They are being given detailed technical examination, and my right hon. Friend will make a statement when this is complete.

Does the Minister appreciate that this is a matter of utmost urgency and that the oil discovery by the Mesa Petroleum Company in the Moray Firth basin adds to the urgency? Will he assure us that since the decision was originally taken in 1971 there will be no further delays?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the tenders that have just been received will be examined as quickly as possible.

Colleges Of Education

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many responses he has had to his Consultative Document on Teacher Training.

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement regarding the future of the 10 colleges of education in Scotland.

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement on the future of the Scottish colleges of education in the light of further representations he has received during the consultative period.

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the progress of the consultations with the teacher training colleges; and when the Government are likely to produce a feasibility study in this connection.

Of the 63 organisations invited to comment on the consultative paper, 50 have so far replied. My hon. Friend and I have had meetings with a number of interested bodies, and meetings are also being held between my Department and the colleges of education mainly affected by the proposals. I am considering all the views expressed and hope to be able to make a further statement reasonably soon.

It was extremely difficult to hear the right hon. Gentleman's reply. Will he indicate how many of the responses have supported the Government's proposals, because we suspect that none of the colleges accepts the proposals? When can we expect a final decision on the Government's plans on which colleges are to stay open?

There are some aspects of our proposals that are generally accepted, including, for example, the immediate question of the number of students to be admitted into colleges this year. It is no secret that many other aspects of the proposals have been criticised. One of the reasons why I want to produce final answers fairly quickly is to reduce the period of uncertainty.

Are we to have a revised consultation document laid before the House, with costings? When shall we be able to debate the consultation document, so that the House may vote and show its disapproval of the Government's proposals?

There will not be a consultation document, but I hope to give my conclusions on the matter in the next month or two.

Since the Secretary of State has suffered a humiliating rejection of his proposals by the House, in Committee, and by his own party conference in Perth last month, will he now remove the real concern that is felt by indicating that he will withdraw the proposals?

Does the Secretary of State accept that if he continues to refuse to do costings or to carry out a flexibility study on the measures affecting colleges in Scotland, no one in Scotland will believe that his consultations are anything other than a fraud?

I have not refused to do costings. I have said that I shall present the figures.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I thank the House for such a large turn-out for Scottish Question Time, but I assure hon. Members that it is quite belated and that it will have no effect on the way in which the Scottish people will vote.

The hon. Member knows that he should not use a point of order even to make a joke.

Scottish Law Commission (Legislative Proposals)

38.

asked the Lord Advocate concerning which further proposals of the Scottish Law Commission the Government intend to introduce legislation during the present Session.

Appendix III to the Eleventh Annual Report of the Scottish Law Commission, published on 1st February 1977, shows that only four of the 32 reports mentioned still await implementation. Bills to implement two of these four—dealing with presumption of death and avoidance of liability—are at present before Parliament. Furthermore, a Bill implementing the Eighth Report on Statute Law Revision of both Law Commissions, which is not included in Appendix III, is at present under consideration in another place. The Government do not intend to introduce legislation this Session to implement the two remaining reports relating to interpretation of statutes and liability for antenatal injury.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that much useful legal reform is still required in Scotland? In the present climate, could he not collaborate with other parties to see whether agreed measures might be brought forward?

I accept that there are still useful measures of law reform in the pipeline, particularly in respect of the studies that the Scottish Law Commission is making on aliment and financial provision, corporeal moveables and products liability.

It is also working on the law affecting minors and pupils, the law of evidence, bankruptcies and liquidations, diligence, private international law and the law of incest. Work on these subjects is continuing, but we are not yet in a position in which legislation could usefully be introduced.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that there will be considerable disappointment in the North-East of Scotland that there are no proposals in the list to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to deal with tenants at will? [Interruption.]

Order. Right hon. and hon. Members who come in to listen to Scottish Questions want to hear what is being said.

I am grateful for that warm reception for my question. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it would be more to the point to bring in legislation to deal with tenants at will than to introduce amendments to the law on incest and the other matters to which he referred?

I do not agree with the last point made by the hon. Gentleman. It is highly desirable that there should be a reform of the law of incest, but I have very much at heart the interests to which the hon. Gentleman referred. I have had correspondence and conversations with him on this subject. I hope that he will be a little patient, because the Government are endeavouring to meet this point, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is not without its complexities.

Violent Crime (Strathclyde)

39.

asked the Lord Advocate what additional staff he has had to recruit to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in order to deal with the increase in crimes of violence in the Strathclyde Region.

The complement of the Crown Office has increased by four since 1976. It is not possible to quantify the extent to which this is due to the increase of crimes of violence in the Strathclyde Region. The complement of the Procurator Fiscal Service in the Strathclyde Region has increased by 45 since 1976. The main reason for this increase is the fact that procurators fiscal were given the additional task of prosecuting in the district courts.

As there were more violent deaths in the Strathclyde Region in the first few months of this year than there were in the whole Province of Northern Ireland, will the Lord Advocate urgently introduce the recommendations of the Thompson Committee and give the police in Scotland powers in respect of six-hour detention, search for offensive weapons, and any other activity that may assist in preventing crimes of violence?

The last part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question is being considered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and myself, as are all the recommendations of the Thompson Committee. In approaching these matters we have to weigh carefully the balance between individual rights and the liberty of the subject, on the one hand, and the very great need to prevent crime, on the other. In regard to the hon. and learned Gentleman's earlier observation, the information that he has repeated to the House came from a former convener of the police committee in Glasgow, who is now chairman of the criminal committee of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). In examining deaths due to violence in the Strathclyde Region and comparing them with Northern Ireland, it is important to take into account the relative populations. The population of Northern Ireland is only about 60 per cent. of that of the Strathclyde Region, and I should stress that, although there are some indications that there will be an increase in the number of violent deaths in the Strathclyde Region, the trend in criminal violence generally appears to be downward.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that there will be an increase in public expenditure caused by the increase in the prison population that will inevitably come about after the next General Election when the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) has to return to his former profession as Scotland's worst criminal lawyer?

As the Public Prosecutor, I ought, perhaps, to declare my interest. More seriously, the prison population is a matter of very great concern. As the Public Prosecutor and, therefore, the agent through whom a large number of people end up in prison, I am bound to recognise that we need to look at methods other than prison for the treatment of offenders.

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman seen the report of the Strathclyde police, published this morning, which shows that despite a disturbing increase in crimes of violence the number of police in post in the Strathclyde Region in 1976 fell and that the force was 614 below strength at the end of the year? What are the Minister and his colleagues going to do about this deplorable state of affairs?

I have not seen the report, but I shall, of course, read it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, within whose jurisdiction this matter lies, will no doubt take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said.