Skip to main content

Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 930: debated on Wednesday 27 April 1977

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


Local Authorities (Mortgage Schemes)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what funds will be made available during 1977–78 and 1978–79 to local authorities for mortgage schemes; and if he will make a statement.

Scottish local authorities have been allocated £13·8 million for lending to individuals for house purchase and improvement in 1977–78. The amount for 1978–79 has not been fixed but is likely to be about the same in real terms.

Is the Minister aware that there is a site in Airdrie that is fully serviced with roads and has been classified by the Chairman of the National Coal Board and an eminent structural engineer as "buildable", but that the building societies have refused to lend money to potential home owners for the erection of houses on this site? Can my hon. Friend do anything about that?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will send me details. If I understood him rightly he said that this was a site that was available. If there are no houses on it, naturally some questions arise before we can talk about the way in which money should be available for home loans. If my hon. Friend will write to me, I shall investigate the matter.

Is the Minister aware that the lending or granting of money to individuals to obtain their own housing is one of the most satisfactory ways of getting housing and that it is often much more rewarding than the local authorities building homes? Can the hon. Gentleman say how the figures that he has given compare with the amounts made available in 1976–77? Will he look at the figure for 1978–79 with a view to increasing it to take account of the inevitable inflation?

I do not know whether the Liberal Party is now saying that we should not build council houses. Additional sources are available through the special scheme with the building societies, and we attach great priority to having a regular supply of funds available for anyone who wants to purchase.

As this is the only Question about housing, has the Minister in mind making any statement on the alarming disclosure this morning of Glasgow housing letting irregularities and whether his office is considering any form of independent inquiry into what has been happening?

I am well aware of the great ability of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) to be in the gutter when there is anything that he can rake up.

I shall certainly answer the question. I must make it clear that the housing management department of the district authority lets about 12,000 houses a year and has a staff of between 600 and 700. To pillory one official, a man who might be sick and ill, for 60 cases of proven irregularities is in keeping with the normal level of the hon. Member for Cathcart.

There is no question of pillorying. Does the Minister realise that it is precisely to protect the reputation of the vast majority who have carried out their duties efficiently and well and because of public anxiety about the matter that there is a need for some form of public inquiry?

I have the utmost faith and personal knowledge of the integrity and ability of both Bailie Lally and Mr. Malcolm Smith, the housing manager. If Glasgow makes any approach to us to seek help, advice or information, it will be given willingly.

Can the Minister assist the House about the magnitude of the problem of transferability and allocation of mortgage schemes in Glasgow? I understand that that was the purport of the Question.

Glasgow provides loans for about 1,000 borrowers in the city and has magnificent accomplishments, particularly at the bottom end of the market, where building societies, albeit that we have good relationships with them, are rather more reluctant to lend money.

School Milk


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the total cost of supplying free milk to schools over the last year and what was the cost to State schools only.

The cost to education authorities of supplying free milk in the year ending 31st March 1976 was approximately £1·9 million. Some 98 per cent. of the pupils supplied were in education authority schools.

Is the Minister aware of the strong sense of grievance felt by parents who are denied free milk for their children simply because they are paying for their children's education at the same time as contributing to the general cost of education? Does the Minister think that such discrimination is fair, particularly when so little money is involved—this arises out of his answer to my Question—and when most of that money is provided out of general taxation, not through the rates, to which these people have contributed? Is this not a gross and monstrous injustice, and when will the Government do something about it?

The Conservative Party fought an election in 1974 as the freedom fighters and on giving freedom to local authorities. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. This is a matter entirely for the regional council and it is for that council to determine its own priorities. I can tell the hon. Gentleman, however, that the council will continue to supply milk to special schools not under its management.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the cut-back in the milk supply to schools originated from the Opposition when they were in office and that people who are in a good financial position and who desire to separate themselves from the rest of the community are denying their own children free milk?

Before I call the next Question, although probably I misheard something that occurred on the earlier Question, I ask right hon. and hon. Members to remember where they are.

Royal High School, Edinburgh


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is making arrangements for alternative uses for the Royal High School, Edinburgh, whilst the debate on devolution continues.

Despite that disappointing reply, will the Secretary of State be open-minded enough to consider a suggestion from a Scot living in Sussex to call a conference at the Royal High School, to be held in public, on the whole question of decentralisation of government in the United Kingdom? Would not that give the Scots an opportunity to air their views on two-tier local government and three-tier national government and thus on the prospect of their future administration looking like a five-decker sandwich?

The Scots have expressed their views on these matters on various occasions, as have the Government. Since the Assembly is going ahead, I do not need to consider alternative uses for the High School.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the hold-up in the work on the school arising from the failure of the Bill is due entirely to English Members reneging on their election promises?

Would my right hon. Friend consider it worth while, until the school is properly used for the Scottish Assembly, making space available, since it was a picture gallery before, for pictures of all those Scots who voted against devolution, together with copies of their election addresses highlighting their supposed support for it?

The Secretary of State will remember that he reacted angrily when we last dealt with Scottish Questions to the suggestion that work should be suspended until a decision had been reached on devolution. What has happened since to make him change his mind?

It is an abuse of words to say that work has been suspended when we shall be spending £2 million to bring the Assembly building into readiness.

What is the position of those evicted from the High School, such as the canoe club?

Since all the buildings on Carlton Hill have always been follies, tombs or ruins, does not the Secretary of State feel that he is conforming to tradition by abandoning progress on the High School?

Let me make it clear again that we have not abandoned progress on the building. The work has not been suspended. Considerable work is going on at the moment. If hon. Members care to visit the site, they will see it.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement about the progress which is being made on the preparation of the former High School in Edinburgh for the proposed Scottish Assembly; and when the building will be ready for use.

Satisfactory progress is being made. It is expected that work to bring the former High School to the stage indicated in my statement of 7th April will be completed early in 1978.

What will be the total cost of preparing the High School as an Assembly? Does the right hon. Gentleman think that it is prudent for the Government to continue without specific authority from the House in the preparation of this building for an Assembly which many of us believe will never sit?

I have already dealt with that matter on an earlier Question. The present total expenditure committed on the work that we intend to complete, in terms of my earlier answer, is about £2 million.

As the Government originally resisted calls to reduce the size of the proposed Assembly on the grounds that it would interfere with the timetable for elections to the Assembly that the Government were hoping to apply, and now that the timetable has been put back indefinitely, will the Secretary of State give new and serious consideration to reducing the size of the Scottish Assembly to that which will not create an unnecessary burden for the Scottish people?

There have been arguments other than that of the time factor on the view that we take about the numbers in the Assembly. When we are able to make further progress with our proposals, no doubt that matter can be raised again, if hon. Members so wish.

Does not the Secretary of State think that it ill becomes English Members to enter into this discussion and suggest that this building is too good for a Scottish Assembly, which was the pledge of all parties? Should they not see the position against the background that it costs £5 million a year to run the Palace of Westminster?

I do not resent anyone's asking me questions about the High School. It is proper that hon. Members should do so. I am pleased to be able to make the position clear this afternoon.



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


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

Will the Secretary of State forgive my incursion into Scottish geography? Will he explain that his decision not to go to Roxburgh must be an integral part of the Lib-Lab compact and, presumably, that he has promised not to go? But should he not seize this opportunity to enhance his political career on both sides of the border by doing what the Leader of the House failed to do yesterday, which is to explain what parts of the Socialist programme have been given up in order to keep the pact going?

That is rather a separate question. If I ever visit Roxburgh, I may take up one or two of these matters with the sitting Member.

As the Liberals are keeping the present Government in office, and as the Labour Party has not a hope of winning Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, would not the Secretary of State be wise either to suggest to his colleagues in Scotland that they withdraw the Labour candidate from Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles at the next General Election or, now that the vote of confidence has finished, come clean with the British people and explain that the Lib-Lab alliance was a cheap trick to deprive the British electorate of the chance of choosing a new Government?

We have no intention of withdrawing Labour candidates from any constituency in Scotland.

Does the Secretary of State accept that a visit to Roxburgh, Selkirk or Peebles would be a great deal more profitable for him than a visit to Harrow, East or to Christchurch or Lymington and that if he came there he would be warmly welcomed, especially if he were able to outline to us what specific measures the Government will take to compensate for the loss of the regional employment premium?

On my visits to Roxburgh in the past I have always found them enjoyable occasions, even when I have not met the right hon. Gentleman.

Is not Roxburgh in a constituency where the chairman of the local Scottish National Party is that millionaire absentee landlord, the hon. Colin Tennant, who, when he is not flirting with the SNP, seems to spend much of his time flirting around his Caribbean island with Princess Margaret?

If the right hon Gentleman comes to the Borders, presumably he will have to come by road. If he does, will he look carefully at the condition of the A7 between Hawick and the M6 at Carlisle and realise that it is quite inadequate for the traffic that it carries? Will he see that more improvements are carried out than are on the programme at present?

I have travelled that road on occasions in the past, but I shall look into what the hon. Gentleman said.



asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from public authorities in Scotland suggesting that an Assembly should have revenue-raising powers and representation on EEC institutions.

Since the publication of the White Paper in November 1975 five Scottish local authorities and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities have expressed views in support of revenue-raising powers for the Scottish Assembly. No public authority has argued that Scotland should have separate representation on EEC institutions.

Is the Secretary of State aware that last month the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) made a speech advocating that the Assembly should have powers which incorporated the major amount of taxation and that Scotland should be directly represented in Europe? Is he aware, further, that the Prime Minister told the House last week that the Government's credibility on the issue of devolution had been enhanced as a result of the arrangement with the Liberal Party? May we therefore conclude that the Assembly now proposed will have more power than that envisaged in the Scotland and Wales Bill?

As for representation on the EEC institutions, the position has been made clear on many occasions. Only if Scotland went completely separate and independent would any question of formal representation at the Community institutions arise. There is no doubt about that. What informal arrangements might be made in the post-Assembly situation to take account of the views of the Assembly Executive on matters which were of concern to it would be arranged in that situation. Again, there has been no change from that point of view. On the specific question of the Liberals' views on this matter, I do not recollect that the recent document submitted to us dealt directly with the question of representation at Brussels.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us are pleased that he has made it so clear that the argument for separate Scottish representation in the EEC is a dishonest and back-door method of arguing the case for separatism? Will my right hon. Friend keep in mind that it is not only local authorities or even the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) who have argued the case for revenue-raising powers? An Assembly without such powers would not be a totally responsible Assembly.

This argument is still open. The Government have never said in principle that they are against independent revenue raising. They have simply said that the practicalities of working out an acceptable system are very difficult and that we have not so far found a satisfactory solution. But these are matters which are relevant to the current situation in which the Government are discussing the future of the Scotland and Wales Bill with the Liberal Party and with other parties in the House.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Government published yesterday a Brown Book on oil resources showing that over the next seven years about £5½ billion will go into the London Treasury as a result of oil revenues gleaned from the Scottish sector of the North Sea? Does he accept that these revenues would be useful for the financing of the Scottish Assembly? What proportion of those revenues will go to Scotland?

I have made clear on numerous occasions that revenue from North Sea oil is a United Kingdom resource. As is only right, Scotland already gains disproportionately from North Sea oil development, for example, in terms of jobs, most of which would be put at risk if we were ever foolish enough to accept the SNP policy.

Does the Secretary of State accept that revenue-raising powers are, in part, a question for the Assembly when it is set up? Although the House might well consider that such powers are impracticable, should not the Assembly be left to judge whether it chooses to exercise such powers?

Such a proposition would be difficult to get through the House. It would not be right to give revenue powers in the Bill and to allow the Assembly to determine whether it wants to use those powers. These are matters that must be settled in the House in the context of the Bill.

Is the Secretary of State saying that a Scottish Assembly will impose an additional level of taxation on the Scottish people over and above United Kingdom taxes?

I did not say that. I do not see how anybody could take what I said as meaning that.

Leaving aside any relationship between the Scottish Assembly and the EEC, would it not be in the interests of Scotland if such non-political bodies as the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) kept some relation ship in Brussels, in Standing Committees, for instance, and with people over there?

All types of bodies maintain relationships in Brussels. When I was in Luxembourg yesterday taking part in discussions on fishing, a fishery representative from Scotland was present. How ever, that is different from formal Government representation on EEC institutions. That is a matter which rests with the United Kingdom Government.

Area Health Boards (Expenditure)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has given any guidance to area health boards on the priority they would adopt in their expenditure policies in the light of the latest White Paper on Public Expenditure.

General priorities remain as stated in "The Health Service in Scotland: The Way Ahead", published last April, but my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary met health board chairmen on 14th April for discussion of expenditure guidelines and the use of resources.

I am surprised that the Secretary of State has not issued any guidelines on the administrative costs of the National Health Service. Is the Secretary of State aware that a reduction of 10 per cent. in the administration of the Service would not only save money but greatly improve the efficiency of the Service and give a great boost to the morale of doctors, nurses and others working in the medical professions?

Some of the additional administrative expenses in the National Health Service are caused by the attempt to reduce the administrative burdens on members of the medical profession. It is not true that the Government have done nothing about administrative costs, because in January 1976 we put a freeze on administrative staffing.

In view of the increased burden of taxation which is to fall upon the motorist and which inevitably will hit worst the rural areas where there is often not enough public transport, will the Secretary of State give priority to the retention of good, established cottage hospitals in the smaller towns of Scotland?

Will the Secretary of State take a converse view to that suggested by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) and allow an area health board to implement its own first priority by giving it the finance to get the new hospital in Dunfermline started?

In the next day or two I hope that we shall be able to announce the results of the review of the capital programme of the health boards, which has been going on for some time and which has now been completed.

Is the Secretary of State satisfied that at the meeting to which he referred adequate consideration was given to the problem of providing more facilities for training the adult mentally handicapped? Is he satisfied that the present administrative arrangements are adequate, or does he think that hospital boards should be more closely involved?

Some of these matters are for the local authorities through the social work departments rather than the health boards. One of the priorities in the document "The Way Ahead", to which I have already referred, is the needs of the mentally ill and the physically and mentally handicapped.

Economic Situation


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will issue a White Paper on the Scottish economy.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the prospects for the Scottish economy for the remainder of 1977.

I expect the broad pattern of recovery indicated by the United Kingdom forecasts that accompanied the Budget Statement to be reflected in Scotland. The return of confidence in sterling and the reduction in interest rates in the early part of 1977 are encouraging evidence of progress in the Government's economic strategy. I have no plans to issue a White Paper.

Will the Secretary of State at least carry out a survey to try to establish the effect of Budget measures, such as the increases in petrol and transport costs, on the Scottish economy? Is he aware of the dangerous effects of these increases on Scottish development particularly in rural areas?

The effect of the Budget as a whole on employment in Scotland, as elsewhere, will be to improve the position. I dare say that the House has been heartened by the fact that the unemployment figures have now dropped by 13,000 since the January 1977 peak.

I welcome the fact that the unemployment figures have dropped. But is the Secretary of State aware that in Scotland there are still 170,000 unemployed, as was disclosed yesterday? Does he recall that in eight weeks a substantial number of youngsters will he leaving schools in Scotland? Will he tell us what he thinks about their prospects of obtaining employment?

I certainly hope, as I am sure the House hopes, that we shall have a better record of employing school leavers this year than last year. The House also knows that it is not the practice for Ministers to make detailed forecasts of unemployment figures.

Taking the seasonally adjusted figures, to which we should pay most attention, this morning's figures show for the first time for a very long time that there has been a reduction. I shall not bank too much on that. However, I hope that this is the start of a process that will reduce figures that I have always said are far too high.

I welcome the assistance given to areas in dire straits which my right hon. Friend recently announced. However, is he aware that there is grave disquiet in the city of Aberdeen about the reduction to intermediate area status? Will he assure us that every effort will be made by the Scottish Office, or any Departments dealing with industry and employment, to ensure that new jobs are encouraged in Aberdeen? If the employment situation in Aberdeen continues to deteriorate over the next 12 months, will my right hon. Friend undertake to look again at the withdrawal of development area status from April next year?

Aberdeen's unemployment figures are below the United Kingdom average. We have to take that factor into account in terms of priorities and getting Government assistance to industry working most effectively. There are many forms of assistance still available to the Aberdeen area, because it is an intermediate area. It has not lost development or assisted area status completely. For example, selective assistance will still be available under the Industry Act 1972. We shall look sympathetically at any prospects for additional jobs in Aberdeen in terms of selective assistance where appropriate. There is no question of abandoning Aberdeen. This is an attempt to produce a better distribution of Government assistance in Scotland. I think that, generally speaking, although there is understandable disappointment in Aber- deen, that has been accepted throughout Scotland.

Is the Secretary of State aware that, although the unemployment figures for Aberdeen are low, there is great concern in some of the communities around Aberdeen which fall into the administrative area and which are affected by the change in development area status? Will he look at the problems of the smaller communities where there is still a need to attract industry? Does he also recognise the need to diversify industry in Aberdeen in order that it does not become too narrowly based on oil if we are to plan properly for future jobs in the Aberdeen area?

It would be foolish to abandon traditional industries in the Aberdeen area. The Government have no intention of doing that. We looked at the area as a whole. The hon. Gentleman will know that these schedulings are based on employment exchange areas. That is why this particular pattern has been adopted for Aberdeen. But it means that Peterhead, for example, which is also a thriving area, still remains a full development area although a number of other places near Aberdeen have been included in the reduction to intermediate area status.

European Price Review


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had this month with the National Farmers Union of Scotland concerning the European Price Review; and if he will make a statement.

I discussed this matter with the President and General Secretary of the National Farmers Union of Scotland on Thursday 21st April. I also met representatives of the National Farmers Union on 25th and 31st March.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the anger of farmers over the problems facing the pig industry? Does he understand that, unless action is taken immediately, the housewife will be short of supplies in the not too distant future? Why has the recently concluded price review in no way helped the pig industry, about which there is so much concern? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not hide behind the statement to be made later today in order to escape from his responsibility to pig producers in Scotland.

I do not know why the hon. Gentleman should have made that last statement. I discussed this matter with office-bearers of the Scottish NFU at the meeting last Thursday. They understand the difficulties under which we are operating. We introduced a special subsidy for pigmeat. The Commission claims that it is illegal and is threatening to take us to court. Negotiations are going on regarding the method of calculating the MCAs, a method which we believe at present to be unjust. We hope to make progress on that matter. I think that the industry, although naturally apprehensive about the present situation, understands that the Government are making every effort to improve it.

As the Secretary of State said, there is anxiety in the industry about the fall in production. Can he add to what has been said about the review regarding the likely effect on agriculture in the North of Scotland? Does he think that production will rise?

I do not think that I should anticipate the statement that is to be made later this afternoon. Scottish farming as a whole did not have a bad year last year. There were difficulties, but the difficulties in Scotland were a good deal less severe, due to the weather and other reasons, than the difficulties south of the border.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the price review will bring no consolation to Scottish pig producers and processors, who are wondering whether the Government really wish a viable industry to continue? Does he accept that there is a need to change the basis of calculating the MCAs? If so, what does he wish to put in its place?

I have already said that the present method of calculating the MCAs is unfair, and we have been attempting to change it. We have made certain changes, but not enough to satisfy our position. We are still negotiating on that matter.

I think that the Scottish NFU accepts that it would have been foolish not to reach a conclusion on the overall price review on Monday because of the diffi- culties we had over pigmeat. The NFU wanted us more than anything else to reach a conclusion. At least from that point of view it has welcomed what we have done. It is an extremely good solution—in fact, the best settlement we have ever had—from the point of view of consumers in Scotland, as elsewhere.

It may be that farmers in Scotland understand the difficulties, but they certainly do not accept them. What they do not understand and seek to end is the constant uncertainty from year to year, which allows no stability on which to plan for the future. When contemplating capital investment—for example, in dairy herds and beef cattle—farmers need long-term security to plan properly.

Will the Secretary of State tell me of any advantages that we have had from joining the EEC?

Will the Secretary of State assure the House that he will in no sense forget the dire plight into which the Scottish pigmeat industry will be put unless it has some definite help in the near future? Will he take special steps to explain to consumers that, if the Scottish pigmeat industry should fall into that dire catastrophic situation, they will suffer from higher prices and shortages?

I recognise the difficulties in the pigmeat section of the industry, but that is not the whole of farming in Scotland. Certain sections had a particularly good year last year. That was acknowledged freely and openly when I addressed the annual general meeting of the Scottish NFU the other day.



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

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so.

Does the Minister appreciate that many people in Scotland regard the digging of the biggest and emptiest hole in Europe at Portavadie in Cowal at great public expense as characteristic of all the efforts of the Labour Government these days? Will he tell us what the Government intend to do to try to bring some kind of employment to the Cowal Peninsula in view of the lack of activity at Portavadie and the inevitable winding down of operations at Ardyne Point?

If my memory serves me right, the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends were those most concerned that we should do what has been done. We are concerned about the unemployment situation in the area.

Teacher Training


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will now make a statement about the conclusions reached as a result of submissions made on the document "The Future of Teacher Training from 1977 Onwards".

I am considering all the views on my consultative paper that have been put to me by interested bodies and by hon. Members. As I indicated in the debate on 5th April, I shall give my conclusions as soon as possible.

As it is now clear that the college closures and mergers have been rejected by the lecturers' union, the ancillary workers' unions, the students' union, the college principals, the teachers' unions, the STUC, the Scottish Council of the Labour Party, the Churches, the Scottish Grand Committee and the House of Commons, can anyone seriously maintain that "they're a' oot o' step except oor Bruce"?

I might seriously maintain that. As I have said before, all the points put to me will be taken into account before I announce my conclusion, which I hope to give quite soon.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we welcome the possibility of the points we have made being taken into account? In view of the very many questions that were put to the Government, both in the Chamber and in the Scottish Grand Committee, none of which has been answered, will the Secretary of State consider the publication of a paper in which the ques tions are answered, or at least writing to the hon. Members who have put the questions?

My recollection is that quite a number of letters have been written to hon. Members and others. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It will probably be quite a lengthy statement.

In forming his conclusion should not my right hon. Friend take into account one incontrovertible fact, namely, that if he goes ahead with his proposal he faces the virtual certainty of a double-figure defeat in the House of Commons?

I take all sorts of things into consideration before reaching a final decision.

When the right hon. Gentleman issues his final statement, can we expect with it a financial costing of the Government's proposals at this stage? Would the right hon. Gentleman, or his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for education, care to visit any school in my constituency and show me where pupil-teacher ratios such as they have outlined are operating each hour of the school day?

As I have said on numerous occasions, we have the best pupil-teacher ratios that we have ever had. Incidentally, they are much more favourable than those in England and Wales.

Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman is deferring his decision on this matter until after next week's elections in Scotland?

No. I might even make a decision and publish it before the elections if I am able to do that, but I am making no promises about that either.



Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be a happy and symbolic gesture in this Jubilee Year if the Stone of Scone were restored to Scotland, where it rightly belongs?

I am not sure who is responsible for that in this Government, but it is certainly not me.

My hon. Friend will know that there is some divide as to whether the proper stone was ever returned—

"For if ever he comes on a stone wi' a ring
He can sit himsel' doon and appoint himsel' King,
For there's none would be able to challenge his claim
That he'd crooned himsel' King on the Destiny Stone."

I appreciate the point that my hon. Friend makes. If my right hon. Friend, or any of my ministerial colleagues, has an opportunity of venturing into this part of Perthshire, I suspect that the people in the area will be much more concerned about other issues.

Dundee (Industrial Infrastructure)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has recently received from Dundee regarding the need to develop the city's industrial infrastructure.

I am in regular contact with the regional and district councils, and other local bodies, about issues of concern to Dundee, including its industrial infrastructure. The Government's decision to make Dundee a special development area demonstrates our understanding of its problems.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that organisations, including the Dundee District Council, have made joint representations to his Department about the need to spend money on building up the harbour and airstrip to prepare the way for further employment as and when the economy turns round, and that the oil revenue should be employed to that end? In view of the reports made to the hon. Gentleman from those in the Labour Party, will he now give the positive and affirmative answer that their request will be sympathetically received?

I thought for a moment that the hon. Gentleman was about to say that he approved of the Government's recent action in increasing Dundee's status to development area status. I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that the airstrip and the harbour are presently the subjects of discussion among the local authorities, the Scottish Office and the Department of Trade. As soon as I have announcements to make. I shall certainly make them.

May I assure my hon. Friend that all sections of those in Dundee welcome the Government's recent action in elevating Dundee to special development area status? That will do far more to help employment in the city than any debatable projects, such as the airstrip, which, as far as I and a great many local people can see, are unlikely to provide any jobs.

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments. I know that he has been active in seeking to persuade my right hon. Friend and myself of the importance of employment in Dundee.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that many of the matters of infrastructure that have been raised come within the jurisdiction of the district council and that the Scottish National Party in Dundee has apparently failed to present any candidates for the forthcoming election? Is this not an appalling example of political cowardice?

There is no doubt that it is in the minds of most of us that there has been some shyness on the part of the Scottish National Party in presenting candidates in Dundee and in other parts of the North-East. That is something that we have all noticed. Perhaps it is because the nationalists cannot agree on policy between Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen that they find themselves in this difficulty, apart from finding sufficient people to present them selves as candidates—or perhaps there are other difficulties of that sort.

Fishing Industry


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the latest situation in the fishing industry.

The economic situation of the fishing industry continues to improve. The overall value of Scottish landings to 15th March was 52 per cent. above the same period in 1976, despite an overall reduction in fishing effort.

Discussions continue within the European Community on a number of issues relating to the common fisheries policy. The EEC Commission is expected to be bringing forward proposals on the internal régime shortly and we shall be continuing to press for satisfactory resolution of the critical issues outstanding.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the proposals he mentioned are likely to give only a 12-mile exclusive limit plus quotas and historic rights within those 12 miles? Will he confirm that the Government would find such proposals totally unacceptable? Will he tell the House when he intends to make the ungutted haddock order?

The order will probably be available to the House today. It is to be signed by my right hon. Friend as well as myself, and my signature is already on it.

We have repeatedly made it clear in discussions with other Ministers in the Community that any acceptable internal régime of a common fisheries policy must contain a considerable preference for coastal States.

Will the right hon. Gentleman inform us why he is answering this Question and not leaving it to the Minister whose responsibility it normally is? Is he prepared to lift the order that bans drift netting for salmon around the Scottish coast? Does he not agree that a totally unjust situation prevails when Scottish fishermen are the only fishermen in the EEC who are banned from such a practice?

I answered the Question myself because I have just returned this morning from Luxembourg, having yesterday engaged in fishery discussions. I thought that it might help the House, but I could have been wrong about that. I shall look into the other matter.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that those who are interested in the future of the Scottish fishing industry are very much behind the stand that he is reported to have taken in Luxembourg yesterday? In the absence of getting arrangements satisfactory to the Scottish fishing industry, will he confirm yesterday's report that the United Kingdom Government will consider taking unilateral action if necessary?

We were dealing yesterday with herring fishing, particularly the North Sea herring ban, which lasts until the end of the month and which was extended yesterday for only one more month. I believe that this is basically unsatisfactory.

We have made some progress in that there will be a meeting on 16th May to deal with herring fishing as a whole as well as herring fishing off the West Coast of Scotland. We are anxious that this subject should be discussed and the industry wants it taken into account, because it fears a diversion of fishing from the North Sea to the West Coast.

We made a little progress yesterday, but I made clear that I considered that other nations in the Community were not treating the matter urgently enough. In the absence of satisfactory progress at our next meeting, we must reserve the right to look at this matter nationally.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he will have the fullest support of this side of the House in taking a strong stand on this matter? Is he aware that the operation of the quota system is becoming daily less satisfactory as a means of control? Will he therefore stand firm on a basic minimum requirement of a 50-mile exclusive zone for Scottish fishermen?

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman said about support. I cannot add to what I have already said about zones. The Commission will be bringing forward revised proposals for an internal régime sometime next month, and we shall be putting our own proposals at that time. If the Commission's proposals are not substantially different from those of last December, the Government have no intention of accepting them.

Law Courts, Glasgow


asked the Lord Advocate if he will pay an official visit to the law courts in Glasgow.

I have no immediate plans to visit the law courts in Glasgow.

Is it not about time that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did visit the Glasgow courts? Is he aware of the increasing concern in Glasgow about whether the courts are able to cope with a frightening increase in their work load, particularly in crimes of violence? Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman be willing to call a meeting of fiscals, police, solicitors and court staff to consider whether the courts are able to cope with their increasing work load, or whether additional provision needs to be made?

I am regularly in touch with procurators-fiscal in Glasgow. Their staffs are working under great pressure. There is difficulty in obtaining court time for a number of cases. Diets have been allocated for indictment cases up to 30th May 1977, and there are many cases awaiting allocation. This means that the delays cannot be reduced as much as would otherwise have been possible. Within the limits of public expenditure cuts, I am endeavouring to do the best that I can and I shall take note of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, because a meeting of the sort that he suggests might prove useful.

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman does visit the courts in Glasgow, perhaps as a prosecutor for a change, is he aware that he will notice that a large number of crimes in cases of indictment arise from the fact that people carry offensive weapons? Since the Government appear to have nothing much else to do, could we have a Critimal Justice Act for Scotland to implement the recommendations of the Thompson Committee and the Scottish Council on Crime on this matter, which are rapidly gathering dust?

The recommendations of the Thompson Committee are under urgent consideration. This is only one of a number of suggestions which may have a material bearing on the reduction of the crime rate in Scotland. The carrying of offensive weapons is dealt with under a United Kingdom statute and deliberations beyond Scotland would be necessary before any change were made.

Honorary Sheriffs


asked the Lord Advocate whether he interviews honorary sheriffs-substitute before their appointment.

No, Sir. The appointment of honorary sheriffs rests entirely with sheriffs-principal.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the appointment of honorary sheriffs should not be confined to one narrow section of the community? Would it not be a good idea to ascertain their political affiliation, if any, before they are appointed? I get the impression that so many of them are reactionary Right-wing Tories that they are in danger of bringing the law into disrepute.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to impugn the motives of the judiciary?

No. It is not in order to impugn the motives of the judiciary. The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) will have heard what I have said.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was merely impugning the method of appointment of honorary sheriffs.

I should have thought that it was in the interests of justice that the Bench, whether honorary or otherwise, should be non-political and balanced in all respects and that it should truly reflect the community. The appointment of honorary sheriffs is not my responsibility. It has been devolved by Parliament to sheriffs-principal because it is believed that they are the best people to recruit suitable persons from the locality to assist the court, on a voluntary basis, with the business in hand. I have no reason to believe that sheriffs-principal exercise their discretion in other than a satisfactory way, having regard to the need for a balanced representation.

I noticed that my honorary Friend—I apologise: that was an indiscretion. I noticed that my honourable Friend asked in his original Question about honorary sheriffs-substitute. He will be aware that uder the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971 their correct title is now honorary sheriffs.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that arising out of a certain case on which my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) has been extremely helpful and which is well known to the Scottish Office, which has also been helpful, some of us have grace doubts about whether trials of police officers in matters that affect their careers should take place other than before experienced and senior sheriffs? I do not ask for an answer today, but will my right hon. and learned Friend look at the grave issues involved in this case?

The case to which my hon. Friend refers is sub judice and I can make no comment on it. My hon. Friend is referring to a case that was tried by a temporary sheriff and that raises considerations that are altogether different from those raised in the original Question about honorary sheriffs.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman prepared to consider the appointment of full-time sheriffs-substitute? Is he satisfied with the proportion of appointments from the solicitor branch of the profession? Has there been a substantial increase in such appointments in the past few years?

There has been a substantial increase in such appointments in the past three years. The hon. Lady will accept that it is desirable to have a proper balance and in order to achieve this the correct course, which I have always sought to pursue, is to take various representatives of the legal profession into one's confidence, through consultations, to find out what they think is the appropriate proportion.

In the interests of justice manifestly being seen to be done, will my right hon. and learned Friend advise sheriffs-principal that they should consult a wider range of people before making recommendations about appointments? Is he aware that, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) said, there is a feeling in a number of areas of Scotland that honorary sheriffs are biased towards a certain class of person in the community?

It would not be appropriate for me to advise sheriffs-principal on appointments that are left to their discretion by Parliament, but no doubt they will note the comments made in the House.

Lest the question raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman's honorary Friend-substitute, the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), should cast any aspersion on the Bench, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that the tradition of political impartiality of the Bench in Scotland in all its aspects is as strong now as it was when the late Lord Braxfield sentenced to death his best friend, with whom he played chess, with the words:

"Well that's checkmate noo, Willy."?

I do not know whether it was checkmate, but I certainly agree in general with the hon. and learned Gentleman's sentiments.

Crown Office


asked the Lord Advocate what transfer of personnel at the Crown Office to Dundee has been made recently; and for what purpose.

There has been no transfer of Crown Office personnel to Dundee recently. The Deputy Crown Agent, who is investigating allegations of corruption in Dundee, is spending a considerable part of his time in that city, where he is directing the police in this connection, receiving their reports, assessing the information and deciding what further investigation is required.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that the transfer of the Deputy Crown Agent to Dundee, even temporarily, indicates his intention to make progress in the matters that he has been discussing? However, does he not agree that two years, which I think is the time that the inquiry has been running, is a very long time, and that one accused has now been on petition for the extraordinary period of 15 months?

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that the inquiries in this case have been extremely exhaustive and have covered a very considerable period. I can give some indication of the depth of the inquiries by stating that more than 200 witnesses, in the United Kingdom and abroad have been interviewed, and that the transactions concerned are transactions with connections and interconnections in fields far beyond the obvious limits of local government. For these reasons they are inquiries which, on any view, could not be carried out quickly.

If any staff are transferred to Dundee, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman warn them that they will not have the opportunity to vote for the Scottish National Party in the district elections, as that party is not sufficiently interested in the affairs of Dundee to put forward a candidate?

It would not be appropriate for me, as Lord Advocate, to give them any such warning or direction.