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Scotland

Volume 982: debated on Wednesday 2 April 1980

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Unemployment

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take further action to reduce unemployment in Scotland.

Our first priority is to reduce inflation and establish a sound economy in which industry will be encouraged to expand and to create secure jobs. The measures announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 26 March will make a further contribution to this objetcive.

In the light of the deterioration since the Government's first Budget, with the dramatic drop in the rise in the number of people in employment, the increase in the long-term unemployed and the decrease in the number of vacancies, is there anything in the Budget to which the Minister can specifically allude that will benefit Scotland?

I understand that the hon. Gentleman taught economics before coming to the House. He will therefore know that the difficulties experienced in Scotland at the moment in employment are a direct result of the policies of the previous Labour Government 18 months or 2 years ago.

On the particular points that the hon. Gentleman makes, there are many items in the Budget that will be helpful towards creating new jobs in Scotland. Tax changes and incentives to invest and the way that these have been accepted by industry mean that the Budget is a good omen for the future.

Will the Minister accept that his reply to the hon. Gentleman was one of the best pieces of party political codswallop for a long time? In view of the fact that unemployment is increasing in Scotland startlingly and that Scotland will not receive any share of oil resources lying off the coast in terms of budgetary revenue, will the Minister say how the Government intend to reduce unemployment in Scotland? Will he give a simple answer—how?

Scotland, like the rest of the United Kingdom, is enjoying the benefits of North Sea oil. About 60,000 to 70,000 jobs in Scotland are a direct result of North Sea oil. Jobs are still being lost in Scotland as a result of the previous Government's indiscriminate support for industry without regard to viability. The hon. Gentleman should know that in his area of Dundee and elsewhere new jobs are being created as industry expands with the incentives provided in the Budget.

Since the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. O'Neill) asked my hon. Friend to point to one thing in the Budget that would help cut unemployment in Scotland, will my hon. Friend remind him that there were no fewer than 15 proposals to help small businesses in Scotland? These could make a massive contribution to cutting unemployment in Scotland. If he wanted another, what about the enterprise zone in Clydeside?

My hon. Friend is correct. The Budget is the most remarkable and the best in many years for small businesses and investment.

Order. I shall call one further hon. Member from either side before the Front Bench, but we shall have to move quicker afterwards.

Did the Minister check, before answering that question, the speech made yesterday by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, one of the most gloom-laden speeches this House has ever experienced? Is the hon. Gentleman saying to the people of Scotland, as a result of the Budget, that there will be almost ¼ million unemployed in Scotland as a consequence of his Government's policy? Is that what he is telling the people of Scotland?

We are telling the people of Scotland that our first priority is to reduce the rate of inflation without which there can be no prospect for jobs in Scotland or anywhere else.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that few things could be more damaging to the prospects for employment in Scotland than the serious threat of a Scottish Assembly with economic interventionist powers as proposed at the last Scottish Labour Party conference? Is it not just as well that wild-eyed, bearded fanatics who dominated that conference have no influence with either the Shadow Cabinet or the Parliamentary Labour Party?

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. The Gentleman to whom he referred is equally lacking in influence in this place.

Why is the right hon. Gentleman so complacent about unemployment? Why does he not answer the question about the projected rise in unemployment for next year? Is it not now inevitable, given the current rate of inflation and the Government's disastrous economic policies, that by this time next year we shall have no fewer than 250,000 unemployed in Scotland? That will take us back to the conditions which obtained in the 1930s.

We have never shirked the fact that unemployment in Scotland is at present on a rising trend. None of us knows what figures might be reached before economic circumstances improve. But the right hon. Gentleman will know that when his party took office unemployment stood at half the level it had reached when his party left office. We are starting with the high level we inherited and we intend to reduce that level over the next few years.

Order. I hesitate to say it, but Scots questions are getting as long as Welsh questions.

Civil Servants (Location)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many civil servants employed by the Scottish Office are based in Edinburgh.

The number of civil servants employed by the Scottish Office, including the prison service, who are based in Edinburgh was 5,784 at 1 March 1980.

Does the Secretary of State accept that that figure combined with the figure for other Departments highlights the importance of the Civil Service as an employer in Edinburgh? Does the right hon. Gentleman further accept that the Government's cutbacks mean that there will be precious few jobs in the Civil Service for Edinburgh school leavers this year? Does he accept that that fact, combined with the fact that unemployment in Edinburgh is above the national average, is ample justification for a reconsideration of the Government's decision to downgrade Edinburgh's development area status?

The hon. Gentleman is right in pointing to the importance of the Civil Service as an employer in Edinburgh. I might add that the Scottish Office and those employed there do an extremely good job and deserve credit for that.

It is, happily, the case that of the 9,500 unemployed school leavers in Scotland only 360 are in Edinburgh. However, there is no denying the fact that if Civil Service staff has to be reduced there will be fewer opportunities for new jobs. We hope to see those young people getting new jobs in other industries, particularly in the new small businesses which will be created as a result of the Budget.

Will my right hon. Friend tell us whether those figures represent a decrease on the figure for the corresponding period last year?

These figures represent a decrease on the figure for the same period last year. It has been difficult to achieve that, but it is necessary because the country cannot afford to carry the number of civil servants that we would like.

Budget Strategy

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement about the effects of the Budget on Scotland.

The Budget strategy, notably the specific measures to stimulate investment such as those relating to small firms, will be particularly useful in solving the problems of Scotland's economy.

How many thousands of jobs will be lost in Scotland as a result of the £400 million cut in public expenditure in Scotland? In view of the fact that these cuts will mean a decrease in essential services such as housing and education, a decrease in the number of jobs in both the public and private sector and a massive increase in rents and rates, does not the Secretary of State realise that the Budget spells absolute disaster for Scotland?

The greatest disaster for Scotland would be for inflation to get completely out of control as it was well on the way to being under the previous Government. There is no doubt that when public spending has to be reduced there is, in the short term, a reduction in employment. The hon. Gentleman should have thought of that when he was supporting the previous Government and allowing public expenditure to get right out of control.

What proposals has my right hon. Friend, and what action is he taking, to ensure that Scotland will benefit from the proposals for enterprise zones announced in the Budget?

As my hon. Friend may have noticed, two of the suggested sites are in Scotland. I am speedily consulting the local authorities concerned so that we may come to a decision as to which site will be the preferred one for Scotland. I am certain that it will be of great benefit.

How can the Secretary of State talk about encouraging investment in Scotland when high interest rates are having a savage effect on private investment and when the public expenditure White Paper, in relation to housing, envisages that at the end of the period covered by the White Paper housing investment in Scotland will be less than 50 per cent. of the target projected by the Labour Government? That will have serious consequences not only for those looking for homes in Scotland but also for the construction industry.

The right hon. Gentleman must take his own responsibility for that. The high interest rates, as he well knows, are not the desired policy of the Government. They are the result of inflation and public expenditure being allowed to get out of control. If the right hon. Gentleman had thought of these matters two years ago when he was making disastrous public expenditure decisions we would not be in this state now.

General Teaching Council

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet the chairman of the General Teaching Council.

My right hon. Friend and I have at present no plans for a meeting with the chairman of the General Teaching Council.

I wonder if the Secretary of State, or the Under-Secretary, would consider having a meeting with the chairman of the General Teaching Council to explain to him that the future of the colleges of education is not just a matter of the numbers of teachers in training but also of the other courses the colleges now offer and the valuable service that they give to the communities in which they are situated? May I have a categorical assurance from the Secretary of State that because Craigie college is fulfilling these criteria there is no intention to close it?

My right hon. Friend and I do not require to meet the chairman of the GTC to learn of the services that are provided by the colleges in Scotland. Craigie college, in line with other colleges, has been serving Scotland well over the years. However, we must bear in mind that the drastic reduction in the number of pupils will have some effect on the future of the colleges.

Does my hon. Friend agree that his right hon. Friend's record in saving educational colleges in Scotland is second to none and that he does not require a lesson from the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) on this matter?

If the record of the Secretary of State has been so good in the past, may we have an assurance that he will do everything possible to maintain that record and that none of the 10 colleges of education will be closed? Can we also have an assurance that the Under-Secretary will keep his word that if there are proposals for changes in the colleges of education he will publish a discussion document in advance of those changes?

There were half a dozen points in that question. In response I can only say that the Government Front Bench will be united on the future of the colleges unlike the Labour Party.

When the right hon. Gentleman does meet the chairman of the General Teaching Council will he remind him that the GTC has no right under statute to recommend closure of any college of education in Scotland? Will the right hon. Gentleman also remember that, in addition to the number of children entering schools, he should consider geographical and community needs before deciding to close any college in Scotland?

We will certainly consider the geographical location of the colleges as the hon. Gentleman would expect us to do. The GTC has every right to give advice when one considers that advice has been accepted on this matter by both parties, when in government, during the past few years.

National Farmers Union

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, when he will next meet the president of the National Farmers Union of Scotland.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when next he will meet the President of the National Farmers Union of Scotland.

I have met the president of the National Farmers Union of Scotland on a number of occasions since taking office and I shall be arranging another meeting with him shortly.

When my right hon. Friend next meets the president of the NFU will he discuss with him the disturbing fall in the size of the national dairy herd particularly in the north of Scotland Milk Marketing Board area? Will the Secretary of State confirm that the Government, who still retain control over the retail price of liquid milk, will accept their obligations to producers as well as to consumers? Will he take whatever political decisions are necessary to protect the incomes of our dairy farmers?

As my hon. Friend knows, we have increased the retail price of milk by 22 per cent. since last summer but we must be careful that such increases do not reduce the uptake of the product. As my hon. Friend also knows, we have received a report on the position of producers and consumers and we are examining it carefully.

Is it the intention of the Secretary of State to react to the NFU proposals for the Highlands? If so, will he say when he might do so?

We are evaluating the points made by the NFU on this matter. It will be one of the subjects raised the next time I meet the president of the Scottish National Farmers Union.

When next the Secretary of State meets the president of the NFU will he discuss the structural problems of agriculture in Scotland where the larger farms are continuing to expand? Is he aware that they are squeezing out the smaller farms and thereby doing away with the bottom rung of the farming ladder? Is he aware that that means that young people and farm workers find it difficult to make a start on their own account?

The problem of openings for young people in farming is a cause of anxiety in the NFU. I have discussed that problem with the NFU and shall be doing so again. This is a difficult period for everyone involved in farming, but in the past year we have managed to make no less than three devaluations in the green pound, two increases in the milk price and a substantial addition to hill subsidies. That is not at all bad at a time of great economic difficulty.

If the Secretary of State is interested in increasing the consumption of liquid milk in Scotland should he not announce an initiative which will enable all regional education authorities in Scotland to take advantage of the Common Market scheme under which four-fifths of the cost of providing free school milk can be funded out of European funds?

That suggestion is made from time to time. I am not aware that there is any inhibition which prevents local education authorities from taking part in the scheme if they want to.

When my right hon. Friend meets the chairman of the National Farmers Union will he discuss the serious situation which is arising in the agriculture industry, particularly in the smaller farms, where labour is being laid off because of the sharp fall in the price of their products?

I am well aware of the position. The annual discussions on the price-fixing arrangements as part of the common agriculture policy are in train. The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Minister of State, Scottish Office are aware of the problems and are bearing them in mind in the discussions.

North Of Scotland Hydro Electric Board

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when next he intends to meet the chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board.

My right hon. Friend and I have no immediate plans for a further meeting with the chairman of the board.

Has my hon. Friend had a meeting with the board in order to discuss the proposed surcharge on consumers using electricity on those islands where electricity is generated by diesel? Will he consider asking for a consultation with the chairman of the board in order to tell him that the board's decision is unfair to the small islands which are being hit in that way? Will he ask the chairman to revert to his previous policy of uniform charging for all consumers in the Highlands and Islands?

We have not had a meeting with the chairman of the board on that subject. However, representations have been made from the electricity con- sultative council for the North of Scotland District among others. My right hon. Friend is considering the representations before deciding whether action should be taken.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the surcharge on diesel generation was rightly regarded as iniquitous and was abolished in 1965? Is he aware that the policy contradicts the social remit written into the board's constitution? May we have an assurance that the Scottish Office will fight the board's suggestion?

My right hon. Friend is considering the representations. We are aware of the strength of feeling and we shall try to reach an early conclusion on the issue.

Will the Minister be more categorical? Will he respond to his hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) and say directly that he believes that the hydroboard has made a wrong decision and that the Government will take action to reverse it.

It would not be helpful to any statutory action that my right hon. Friend might decide to take if I were to reply in the terms suggested.

Educational Institute Of Scotland

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he plans to meet the Educational Institute of Scotland.

I had a useful meeting with representatives of the institute on 26 February. There are at present no plans for a further meeting.

When my hon. Friend meets the Educational Institute of Scotland again will he discuss the mediumterm requirements for teachers in Scotland? I accept that school rolls are falling, but does my hon. Friend accept that the birth rate in Scotland is rising? Will he assure the House that he will make provision for that?

Yes, we shall certainly make provision for the rise in the birth rate in our calculations about pupil numbers. Teacher staffing is constantly referred to by the EIS which realises that the present level of staffing, whether or not it accepts it, is in excess of the Red Book standards.

When the Minister next meets the institute will he discuss the possibility of increasing the block grant for education to the Strathclyde regional council? Will he bear in mind that many of the schools in that area are being axed because of Government policy? Is he aware of two such schools in my area which are urgently required?

Schools are closing because of the decline in pupil numbers. It is not true to suggest that schools are being closed because of the Government's financial decisions.

I congratulate the Minister on the bold initiative that he took this week on Munn and Dunning. Can he tell the EIS when he anticipates that the proposals that he has made will be fully implemented?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We announced a three-year development programme this week. It is expected that the first assessments will be made in 1984 and the syllabuses will be prepared on the basis of Munn and Dunning. Thereafter, the full programme should be available to all schools in Scotland.

In view of the EIS's opposition to the Government's proposals to spend public money on private fee-paying schools, what response has the Minister had to his discusssion document on the assisted places scheme? Is it not fair to tell parents now that even if that half-baked scheme gets off the ground, there is no chance at all of it continuing after the next general election because the incoming Labour Government will abolish it right away?

The half-baked scheme to which the hon. Gentleman refers has been operated in various forms in Scotland for many years under both parties. I expect it to continue for many years to come, in spite of the hon. Gentleman's remarks.

Will the Minister undertake not to apply the staffing standards in schools too rigidly at a time of falling school levels? Is he aware that in a secondary school in my constituency the slight expected drop in intake in August could lead to a reduction in staff of three? Is he aware that that makes the organisation of a school extremely difficult? Will he be generous in his approach to the financing of local authorities?

The right hon. Gentleman is correct. The diseconomies of scale apply when pupil numbers are declining. My right hon. Friend made allowance for that in the recent rate support grant figures.

Is the Minister aware that his lack of knowledge of the brief for which he is responsible is causing serious concern among educationists in Scotland? Is he aware that the meeting with the EIS to which he referred was regarded by the EIS as unsatisfactory? When does the Minister propose to meet the EIS to explain how he proposes to reduce the number of teachers in Scotland by the 7,600 referred to by the Secretary of State?

The hon. Gentleman always spoils his case by gross exaggeration. He should know, as I do, that if the EIS is dissatisfied with any meeting that it has with me it will tell me and not ask the hon. Gentleman to do it.

Lord Provost Of Edinburgh

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he proposes to meet the Lord Provost of Edinburgh.

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

In view of Edinburgh district council's abysmal house building record, will the Minister give a special award to the Lord Provost for his consistent approach to Tory Party policy? What advice has the Minister to give to the many thousands of people on the housing waiting lists who have no opportunity of a house in the near future?

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's allegation. Edinburgh has a fine record under successive Conservative housing chairmen in providing for the housing needs of the community, as I know as a constituency Member from that city. The Secretary of State has in- creased the resources available to Edinburgh on the non-housing revenue account to allow young couples to have greater access to loans to purchase or improve their homes.

When my hon. Friend meets the Lord Provost will he discuss the possibility of protecting the hard hit ratepayers of the city of Edinburgh by restoring it to an all-purpose authority?

It is significant that Edinburgh's proposed rate increase is only 18 per cent. compared with the over 42 per cent. proposed by the Lothian region. The Stodart committee is examining the future of local government and it is able to make any recommendations that are consistent with the viability of existing local authorities.

With his knowledge of planning law will the Minister tell the chairman of any district or regional councils how the Government's half-baked proposals for enterprise zones will affect existing industry, particularly small businesses in the Dunfermline district?

It is unlikely that there will be an enterprise zone in Edinburgh. Nevertheless, it has been widely accepted that the sort of areas likely to be chosen for enterprise zones will have little prospect of encouraging industry without the kind of incentives the enterprise zone concept will provide.

Human Tissue Transplants

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, pursuant to his statement, Official Report, 5 March 1980, column 464, he will make a statement outlining what specific action he has taken to encourage the possibility of a wide debate on recent court decisions involving the admissibility of evidence in relation to computers and opting-out schemes for kidney transplants.

I shall be glad to welcome any debate on these matters whether in this House or elsewhere; but I am not convinced that recent surveys show much support for the hon. Gentleman's proposal that individuals wishing to "opt out" of having organs removed from their bodies after death should have their wishes recorded on a central computer.

Is that a parliamentary way of saying that the hon. Gentleman has done nothing?

No, it is not. It is the normal way of pointing out to an hon. Member that hardly a day goes by without this whole subject of transplants and organ removals being in the national newspapers. The Leader of the House is well aware of the number of subjects for which debates are requested and takes them all into consideration.

Is there not genuine concern about the fact that many organs that could be used are lost because of that critical margin of time for decision, which concerns the deceased and the relatives?

In view of what he said, is it not proper for the Under-Secretary of State to want to do all that he can to try to promote further discussion?

I am trying to promote further discussion, and the hon. Gentleman knows that we are fortunate in Scotland in that we have a higher realisation of the kidney donor scheme than in other parts of the United Kingdom as a result of the work done by my Department.

Tourism

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied with the co-ordination of the promotion of tourism in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

In my view, there is need to improve the co-ordination of tourism promotion and tourist information services in Scotland. This must be achieved primarily by co-operation between the Scottish Tourist Board, the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the local authorities. These agencies and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities are considering now what measures they should take to work more closely together in this field, and I expect to hear shortly the views of the Tourist Board and the Convention about action which might be taken by the Government to assist them in this objective.

Will my right hon. Friend discuss with regional councils the important role that they should be playing in these matters which they do not always do? Will he further ensure that there is more co-ordination at local level between all the interested parties, not least the trade itself?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I expect that the views of COSLA will show that it considers that regional councils need to do more. I hope that more co-operation at local level can be achieved. I am sure that the chairman of the Tourist Board is well aware of that.

Will the Secretary of State not be too diverted, because of this tinkering with the institutions that is being suggested to him, and recognise the value of tourism in generating jobs? Will he ensure that those institutions are given the resources to maximise the benefits of tourism for Scotland?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we do not want a prolonged period of uncertainty during which all the institutions are under the microscope, but it is timely to look at the co-ordination between the various bodies, and that is what is happening under the new chairman.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that there is a considerable architectural heritage in the West of Scotland that is now being increasingly appreciated by tourists? Will he ensure that this is fully taken on board in any discussions he has?

I agree with my hon. Friend's view and I will make sure that the chairman of the Tourist Board bears that in mind.

British Broadcasting Corporation Education Service

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when next he intends to meet the Broadcasting Council for Scotland to discuss the British Broadcasting Corporation Education Service.

I have no plans at present to discuss this matter with the Council.

When the Minister meets the Broadcasting Council, will he discuss the serious effect on Scottish education that the proposal to eliminate the broadcasting service will have, particularly in rural areas? We welcome his statement today that he has asked the BBC to reconsider, but that is not good enough. The service is used by the education authorities in Scotland. Therefore will the Minister now announce a grant to the BBC from the Scottish Education Department so that the services can be continued?

My right hon. Friend has already tabled a reply to a parliamentary question regarding the granting of funds to the BBC. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is aware that this is very much a matter for the BBC and I regret that its assessment of its priorities should have this result.

When he next meets the council, will my hon. Friend give some attention to the growing concern in Scotland about the way in which the BBC spends the finances it has? Radio Scotland leaves much to be desired and some of these funds would be better channelled towards the education service.

I can only repeat that I hope these views are being expressed strongly to the BBC.

Cannot the Minister for Education give an explanation to the House as to why he has not sought a meeting with the BBC on educational programmes? Is it that he has no interest in the subject of education? Would it not be disastrous for Scottish school children if they receive their learning partly through programmes which are brought from England and have no respect for Scotland's traditional interests, language and literature?

Both my right hon. Friend and I have had separate meetings with the BBC on these matters.

Are we to take it from the Minister's first reply that in his view the BBC's priorities are wrong and that he would like the Scottish Schools Broadcasting Service to be saved at the expense of something else? If so, would he say what that something else is? Does he not agree that it is useless to say that the BBC will reconsider unless one is prepared to give the Corporation the wherewithal to do it?

I am saying that this is essentially a matter for the BBC and my right hon. Friend has no basis on which he can intervene. As regards the BBC's priorities I am making it as clear as I can that I should have thought that there are other areas where savings might have been made before educational broadcasting and the orchestra became involved.

When my hon. Friend meets the Council will he draw to its attention not only the miserably low figures for Radio Scotland but also the fact that the staff levels of BBC Scotland have been increased by 35 per cent. in the past seven years? Would not both these areas be better suited to cuts than the education service or the Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Judging by the correspondence columns of the Scotsman over the past year many suggestions were made as to where the BBC in Scotland might make savings before this item was talked about. Now that these matters are under consideration as proposed cuts, it is obvious that the majority opinion in Scotland would like educational broadcasting and the Scottish Symphony Orchestra to be saved.

Is not the Minister aware that these cuts in school broadcasting will be an absolute disgrace? The Secretary of State is the custodian of Scottish education and he cannot simply wring his hands and say how unfortunate all this is. We want some practical help from the Government. They have the power to give some financial assistance and the sums involved as regards school broadcasting are small. We want some initiative from the Government and so far we have had nothing from them.

It is essentially a matter for the BBC, but the crisis would not have arisen if the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had raised the BBC licence fee earlier, when he was in office.

Children In Care (Injuries)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many children who were under the care and supervision of social work departments suffered non-accidental injuries in 1979.

I am disappointed with that answer. Does not my hon. Friend acknowledge that there is growing public concern at the number of cases of children who have suffered abuse whilst under the care and supervision of social work departments? Further, will he discuss with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the requests that have been made for an inquiry into the circumstances leading up to the deaths of Tracy O'Day, Angela Burns and Mandy McGibbon?

There are a number of questions involved here. However, my right hon. Friend is at present considering the three cases referred to by my hon. Friend and will come to a decision in due course. As regards the general question of the worries that my right hon. Friend and I have about such cases, I remind my hon. Friend that the Leader of the House has also indicated that the Government are considering the training of social workers in this area and will be reporting when we hope to take some action.

Will not the hon. Gentleman slap down more vigorously the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) for seeking cheap publicity over circumstances that cause enormous distress to the innocent parties involved, such as friends, relatives, and indeed, social workers? Will he make it quite clear that he supports the idea that no social department can solve all the individual problems of society?

I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) is doing what he is doing in the best interests of social work in Scotland. I shall certainly consider what the hon. Gentleman said and take the necessary action.

Does the Minister recognise that, despite all the concern that has been expressed, the meagre additional provision for this area of activity in the public expenditure White Paper, and with inflation at its present rate, means that there will inevitably be a cutback in the level of services which are provided at present? Therefore, the concern which is now being expressed is likely to increase in the future.

I cannot accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. He knows perfectly well that in the figures for next year we have allowed for a growth in social work.

Later

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on question No. 14, and in particular on the supplementary question asked by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker). You will recall that during his supplementary question, he referred to the Tracy O'Day case. Unfortunately she was murdered. Her family live in my constituency. The hon. Gentleman gave me no notification that he intended to raise one of my constituency cases. Is it still a custom of the House that when an hon. Member intends to refer to another hon. Member's constituency—particularly on such a sensitive subject—he adopts the normal courtesy of advising the other hon. Member concerned?

I remind the House that we survive by observing our courtesies, one to another. If an hon. Member wishes to refer to another hon. Member's constituency, it is courteous to let him know. I did not expect the hon. Gentleman to know that. I remind the House that I am caused difficulty from time to time because hon. Members have asked questions which appear on the Order Paper about other hon. Members' constituencies. Obviously, I am unaware that they concern other hon. Members' constituencies. I hope that courtesies will be observed.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, I have no intention of abusing the conventions of the House. Indeed, I always hope to emulate your splendid example, Mr. Speaker. I only wish that many other hon. Members would do so.

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, not for the kind words about me, but because some hon. Members are unaware of some of our unwritten courtesies and conventions. They mean as much as our Standing Orders.

Scottish Cbi And Scottish Tuc

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when next he intends to meet the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

My right hon. Friend and I have met representatives of the STUC several times since taking office and have made it clear that we are prepared to meet them at any time they wish.

When the Secretary of State next meets the STUC, will he explain why the Government, committed as they are to massive reductions in public expenditure, can under the Tenant's Rights Etc. (Scotland) Bill allocate an additional £1 million for rent allowances? Is he not aware that that money, plus the estimated £1·5 million in extra social security payments, will go straight into the pockets of private landlords at a time when the Government are cutting essential services in Scotland?

The hon. Gentleman could have made his question a little more specific. If he has a particular example in mind of something in the Bill which he thinks will not work properly, he should address a more specific question to me.

Will my hon. Friend ask the STUC to explain how on earth the proposed day of inaction on 14 May will do anything to help promote productivity or prosperity of the sort which Scotland needs?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. It is a senseless action in which to participate, particularly at a time when hon. Members of both sides of the House are concerned about the future prospects of the Scottish economy. It is also very damaging to schoolchildren, whose history examinations are being brought forward by three weeks just to meet this ridiculous protest by the unions in Scotland.

When the Minister next meets the STUC, will he discuss the unemployment situation and at the same time give an assurance that there will be no selling of public assets in the new towns in Scotland?

One invariably discusses unemployment when one meets the STUC. The selling of public assets in the new towns is obviously in the best interests of the growth and development of those new towns, and we are actively encouraging the new towns to go on doing that.

In the light of recent experience, does my hon. Friend agree that the working membership of unions seem to have a better appreciation of the economic facts of life than their leaderships? In that context, will he commend to the leaders of the STUC the provisions for secret ballots which are contained in the Employment Bill?

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. It is obvious that, had there been a secret ballot in the steel industry a couple of months ago, that strike would have been resolved within a matter of weeks rather than months.

Is the Minister seriously pretending that a secret ballot in the steel industry two or three months ago would have voted in favour of a 2 per cent. increase? Surely even he appreciates that that would not have happened. As to the day of action, how on earth can the Minister pretend that a Government who steal two weeks pension increase from old-age pensioners, cut educational provision and cause the loss of 200 to 300 jobs each day, can expect trade unionists to stand back and do nothing about it?

Yet again, the hon. Gentleman exaggerates his point. It is difficult to know what particular point he was addressing to me. Therefore, there is nothing that I can say to him.

Crofter Housing

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now raise the level of grant and loan for crofter housing.

I have nothing to add to my reply to the right hon. Member on 8 November.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is a disappointing reply in view of the increase in costs since the sum was previously raised? Is he also aware that his noble Friend the Minister of State has turned down two applications from constituents of mine on the grounds that they are unmarried? Will he inform his noble Friend that it is no part of his business to act as a marriage guidance counsellor for the Western Isles, and will he ensure that those applications are approved forthwith?

I am always anxious to be as helpful as I can to crofters. I would have thought that the present scheme is very helpful, as the interest rate on any loans is 31½ per cent. That will open the eyes of house buyers in other places. A crofter who is building a new house can get a grant of £4,000 and a loan of up to £5,500 at the lower rate of interest. I should have thought that that was pretty generous help.

Strathclyde Region (Job Loss)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what proposals he has to deal with the continuing job loss in the Strathclyde region.

Our policies aim to create the soundly based economy in which industry can expand in Strathclyde as elsewhere. The changes we have made in regional policy are designed to concentrate support upon areas of most need, including West Central Scotland whose problems are recognised by our decision to extend the special development area. We have announced our intention of creating an enterprise zone on Clydeside and we will continue to encourage by all possible means the development of viable enterprises providing secure employment within the region.

I understand from the Minister that there is a degree of urgency with regard to his talks on the enterprise zone. When will he be able to make an announcement about the location? Can he also say when we shall have further details about the relaxation of normal planning regulations and other changes, and also whether any discussion document or Green Paper will be issued? Does he further accept that, whatever may be the potential in the enterprise zone, the job creation prospects are very small—a drop in the bucket—compared with the loss that will result from the Government's fiercely inflationary policies?

I hope that no one will be tempted to talk down a good, new idea just because it is new. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, with his constituency interests, will do everything he possibly can to encourage an enterprise zone and to make it successful. The purpose of consulting the local authorities is to get their views. However, we have given the main outline of the scheme and we hope to complete discussions within a few weeks.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that certain job losses in Strathclyde are both inevitable and desirable? In particular, does he not agree that as a result of the success of the Government's economic policy and of electoral redistribution there will be considerable job losses in Strathclyde among Labour Members of Parliament in due course, and that that will be a jolly good thing?

I am always sad to see anyone losing his job, particularly a Labour Member of Parliament, but I am sadder for some than for others.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the only job loss which is desirable is his own? Will he stop talking the economic rubbish that we have heard from him, such as growth coming to Scotland through small businesses? He knows that that is a nonsense. He knows that the Budget Papers have predicted a 1 per cent. growth over the next three years. As that is mainly in oil, does it not mean a lack of growth in every aspect of Scottish industry and a consequent job loss? Will he cut out the nonsense?

Of course, the hon. Gentleman's last point is the very problem which we, and the previous Government, have wrestled with for years. I am sorry and surprised that the hon. Gentleman has cast aspersions on the role of small businesses, especially as they provide more than one-third of the jobs in Scotland. We are in no position to turn our noses up at that, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will do all that he can to encourage small businesses.

Will my right hon. Friend arrange a seminar within the Strathclyde region at the earliest possible date of leaders of industry, the trade unions and Scottish Labour Members of Parliament in order that they can understand the great prospects which could flow from grasping the opportunities presented by enterprise zones?

I am grateful to my lion. Friend. I have many responsibilities, but I am glad to say that one of them is not running seminars for Scottish Labour Members of Parliament.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the statement made on Budget day about enterprise zones is largely incomprehensible? So far as one can understand it, the advantages seem to be marginal. However, I understand that the Scottish Office has been unable to give any more details. Will the Secretary of State consider making a further and more detailed statement about what is involved in the enterprise zone and what the typical advantages, perhaps in money terms, would be for a company which establishes itself in that zone? There is real concern that at present there is apparently so little detail about the concept.

I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman feels that there is a lack of detail. I shall do all I possibly can to give him the maximum information. I thought that my right hon. and learned Friend had given quite a lot of detail in his announcement. For example, incoming firms will be exempted from development land tax; they will receive relief from rates and the local authorities will be compensated for that also there will be a reduction in bureaucracy and form filling for these firms. If the right hon. Gentleman wants more information I shall do my utmost to give him as much as possible.

Will my right hon Friend take steps to encourage employment in the Grampian region so that we can take some—

Order. We have enough to do in dealing with Strathclyde now. In view of the length of questions this afternoon, I think I owe an apology to the Welsh for what I said earlier.

In view of the fact that the Secretary of State is in favour of good ideas, will he not agree that the truck produced by Stonefield Vehicles is a good idea? Will he give an assurance that he will not put any ultimatum to the Scottish Development Agency about private investment in Stonefield Vehicles in Cumnock? Will he also give an assurance that if this company requires additional finance from the SDA, and it has enough money to provide the cash—the Secretary of State has said that the SDA has more money than it knows what to do with—he will not veto the money from that source?

I am very glad that the vehicle produced by Stonefields' has had good reports from those who have tried it. I have been doing my utmost through my Department and the SDA to help to provide a viable future for the company which depends essentially on the entry of private enterprise into it. I thought that at one time the hon. Member sounded a bit doubtful about the wisdom of that, but I hope that he is now wholly converted.

Human Tissue Transplants

38.

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland if, pursuant to his answer in the Official Report, column 473, 5 March, he will remind procurators fiscal by circular that they must ensure in advance that human organs for transplant can be released if human lives are to be saved, and if permission is granted.

Circulars giving information and advice on the subject of human organs for transplant purposes were issued to procurators fiscal by the Crown Office in 1970, 1975 and 1977. In addition, the subject has been discussed informally at seminars and meetings of procurators fiscal. I am satisfied that procurators fiscal are already perfectly aware of the need to have available human organs for transplant purposes while ensuring that all due safeguards are complied with.

Even though the Solicitor-General is satisfied, does he agree that perhaps doctors have certain inhibitions because no doctor wants to become entangled with the procurator fiscal? Why not have a circular?

With great respect, I know of no case in which a doctor has been inhibited. Nor do I know any reason why any doctor should have any apprehension about the co-operation and the help of the procurator fiscal. If the hon. Member knows of any case, I hope that he will let me know about it and I will write to him.

Law Society Of Scotland

39.

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland when he plans to meet the Law Society of Scotland.

I have no plans at present to meet the Law Society of Scotland.

When my hon. and learned Friend meets the Law Society of Scotland will he discuss with it whether it thinks that under the present procedure there is enough time for counsel and solicitors to prepare cases on indictment which appear before the Glasgow High Court?

The Crown Office gives as much notice as possible. Regrettably this is not always very long. I intend to prosecute Mr. Speaker next week in the Glasgow High Court and I shall see the position for myself—[Interruption.]

Order. I think that we will all treat the Solicitor-General for Scotland with greater respect now.

I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for calling the accused to order. The timing will be improved if the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill is enacted, as it provides that a trial diet in an indictment should be not less than 29 clear days after service of the indictment, and that should be ample time for preparation.

When the Minister next meets the Law Society will he discuss the allegations of Mr. David Anderson about the cover-up by the Tory establishment in Edinburgh regarding his own position as a former Member of Parliament and indeed, as Solicitor-General for Scotland?

No, I shall not discuss that matter. Any question of an inquiry is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. His predecessor the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Milian) put certain documents in the Library. I suggest that the hon. Member consults them.

When the Solicitor-General meets the Law Society, will he discuss its announcement that a junior counsel appearing alone at the High Court in Glasgow will now get a daily fee of £140, or a fee of £90 for a waiting day during which he just drinks coffee? Will my hon. and learned Friend do what he can to introduce a system of fixed diets for High Court trials in Scotland?

I am extremely sympathetic to my hon. Friend's views. I greatly regret the waste of public money which goes on either waiting days or on late pleas by all parts of the profession. The question is which will save more money—fixed diets or fluid diets? I am anxious to do everything I can to ensure the saving of public money on these matters.

Will the Solicitor-General make definite arrangements to meet the Law Society and ask it to consider Lord Grieve's comments yesterday in the Court of Session, where he made a fairly strong critical attack on firms of lawyers who have represented both clients in a divorce case? He pointed out that although lawyers from the same company handled both clients, separate accounts were rendered. In Lord Grieve's opinion, had a joint account been rendered, it would have been much smaller. As the Law Society is responsible for fees will the Solicitor General take that report from today's edition of The Scotsman and ask the Law Society to consider the matter?

I am obliged to the hon. Member for raising that very important matter. I shall look into the particular circumstances, and raise the matter with the Law Society. I will then write to the hon. Member.

When the hon. and learned Member next meets the Law Society will he remind it that most people in Scotland now think of that society as a mutual admiration and protection society for lawyers? When will he abolish it?

I do not think that that is either a very well-informed or helpful remark. It is important that, wherever any profession falls short of its principles and standards, there should be a society to ensure that high standards are kept.

Lord Justice General

40.

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland when next he intends to meet the Lord Justice General.

I have no plans at present to meet the Lord Justice General.

Will the hon. and learned Member consider discussing with the Lord Justice General the effect of the report which is associated with that gentleman's name, and is concerned with minimum life sentences in cases of murder? Is the Solicitor-General aware that in another place this provision, which was a specific Tory Party manifesto pledge, was rudely thrown out of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill? Is it the Government's intention to seek to reinstate that provision in the Commons, and will he note that if any such retrograde step is made it will be firmly opposed?

Yes, I will be very happy to discuss this matter with the Lord Justice General. But I take the view that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) needs a rest over Easter, and if he comes back refreshed after the recess he will discover what we intend to do.

Dean Of The Faculty Of Advocates

41.

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland when next he will meet the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates.

I have no plans at present to meet the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates.

If my hon. and learned Friend were to make plans for such a meeting, will he confirm the Government's determination to keep the Queen's justice available to all subjects and at all times, irrespective of any sabre-rattling, militant Civil Service elements who are threatening disruptive actions in the courts?

Yes. I am glad to see from the Financial Times and other reports today that the unions concerned will not, apparently, persist in either the threat or the action. I believe that those who serve the cause of justice have a duty to that which is paramount and far above any other duty. I have said so in this House before and I say it again.

Sheriff Principal For Perth

42.

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland when next he plans to meet the Sheriff Principal for Perth.

I have no plans at present to meet the Sheriff Principal of the Sheriffdom of Tayside, Central and Fife, in which Perth lies.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that reply. When he next meets the sheriff principal, will he consider discussing the need for a suitable uniform or apparel to be worn by sheriffs in Scotland, thus enhancing their status and, more important, the administration of the law in Scotland?

Yes. I have already discussed that question with the sheriff principal and with the sheriff of Perth. It is important that Scots sheriffs who—for an historical reason that has now disappeared—have not worn a uniform should have robes appropriate to the dignity of their office. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is essentially the "couturier" of the sheriff. When he finds sufficient funds he will, no doubt, make such dignity available.

We are one minute late in beginning questions to the Solicitor-General. I shall allow for that minute.

Scottish Law Commission

43.

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland when he next expects to meet the Scottish Law Commission.

Neither I nor my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Advocate at present have any plans to meet the Scottish Law Commission, but meetings are held when and as necessary.

As we have been waiting almost a decade for the Commission's report on the law of diligence, including warrant sales, will the Solicitor- General tell the Law Commission to stop dragging its feet? Will he also tell his Government to stop instructing one of their stooges from the Whips' Office to come here Friday after Friday in order to block my Private Member's Bill to abolish warrant sales?

If it has taken as worthy, as wise and as diligent a Commission as this one 10 years to look into the law of diligence in Scotland, it is unlikely that a failed mad monk can do it on a Friday afternoon.