House Of Commons
Wednesday 9 December 1987
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Urban Development Corporations
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take powers to establish urban development corporations in areas of dereliction in major conurbations in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.
The powers to establish urban development corporations contained in the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 apply equally in Scotland.
The fact that one represents a constituency a few miles south does not mean that one has not had the opportunity—
Get on with it.
—to appreciate the excellent work done in some of the Scottish urban areas, particularly in Glasgow—
Ask a question.
Order. I hope that we shall be able to conduct this Question Time in good humour and in good order.
I have not started to ask my question. I said that the fact that one represented a constituency a few miles south did not mean that one could not appreciate the wonders of Scottish urban redevelopment. Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most important things in urban regeneration is to encourage vacant public land to be privatised and to get some of the dead land moving in private enterprise?
I was most interested in what my hon. Friend had to say, given his well-known expertise in this subject. I entirely agree with him. We believe that the private sector has a very important role to play in the initiatives that we are proposing in urban areas in Scotland.
Has the Minister considered the fact that Strathclyde regional council and Glasgow district council are doing their desperate best to help decaying urban areas such as my constituency? If the private sector is dying to invest in Maryhill, where is that money? Why do we not see some of it?
I hope that in due course, as we bring forward our proposals, the private sector will become increasingly interested in them. We certainly look forward to working with Strathclyde regional council and Glasgow district council in pursuing this worthwhile initiative.
Shop Premises (Amusements)
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will introduce legislation to regulate the growth of fruit machines, slot machines and video machines in shop premises and the number of amusement arcades in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.
Local authorities have power to control the number of fruit machines and slot machines in shops and the number of amusement arcades in their areas. Reports on these facilities, commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, are expected shortly. We will then consider whether the law requires to be amended.
I welcome part of the Ministers reply, but it does not go far enough. He greatly underestimates the problem and the strength of feeling in communities in which amusement arcades are located. Furthermore, it seems that every appeal to the Secretary of State by an applicant is upheld, despite local objections and opposition. Why will he not give local authorities every necessary power to control and monitor the situation and take the necessary action when and where it is needed?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, and I should mention that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced in May that he had set up a research project to examine the use that young people make of machines in amusement arcades. In addition, he asked the Gaming Board for Great Britain to prepare a report on amusement arcades and a further announcement can be expected when the work has been completed— it is hoped to be before Christmas. I would mention one brief point concerning children. The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 gives local authorities wide discretion to attach conditions to licences, and there is no reason why they should not impose an age restriction.
Has all this emphasis on fruit and gaming machines anything to do with the so-called enterprise culture that that bumptious balloon in 11 Downing street is trying to foist on the people of Scotland?
Order. That sort of comment does not help at Question Time.
The hon. Gentleman has raised a valid and serious point. It will be considered seriously, as he wishes.
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is considerable anxiety about this issue, whether it relates to Glasgow, Shettleston or to the far west of the United Kingdom in my constituency of St. Ives? While I greatly welcome my hon. Friend's reference to the Home Secretary's comment, will he and all other Ministers take account of the widespread feeling on this issue?
Most certainly. One important point is that a fruit machine involves a game of chance, whereas a video games machine can involve a test of skill. Many matters require close examination, and that is being given.
Maternity Services (Grampian Region)
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received about the future of maternity services in the rural areas of Grampian region.
May I assure the Minister that he will receive some representations in the near future? In the light of Grampian health board's proposals to close no fewer than six maternity units in the rural areas of Grampian, thus leaving no provision outside the city of Aberdeen and the town of Elgin, does the Minister accept that the position is unacceptable? These proposals have been out for consultation several times previously and public opinion has been clearly stated, but the health board is effectively ignoring it. Would it not be better if the Minister got on with the business of having elected health boards as a matter of urgency, rather than school boards which people do not want?
The health board has not even issued its consultative paper, so it is premature for the hon. Gentleman to say that people have not had a chance to make representations. There is no proposal for a closure at Elgin. The pressure on maternity facilities is at Aberdeen maternity hospital, where the board proposes to build a new 56-bed unit. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome that, instead of pleading the case for facilities which have had occupancy rates of between 16 and 33 per cent.
Does my hon. Friend recognise that there is genuine anxiety on this issue, that we are dealing with people, not just numbers, and that those in rural areas deserve as much consideration as those in urban areas? Will he recognise that it is not just a question of the number of babies delivered in these areas, but of the useful post-natal and other gynaecological services required? If submissions are made to him, will he please think about the matter constructively, sensitively and sympathetically?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend and I assure him that the health board will consider all representations before any decisions are taken. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State will consider carefully any submission that my right hon. Friend makes. It cannot make sense to maintain units that are so underutilised that the quality of health care for my right hon. Friend's constituents and others who are expecting babies in the Aberdeen areas is prejudiced.
As the maternity services in Grampian region and throughout Scotland depend largely on nurses, does the Minister think it fair that he will pay only £300 in poll tax from his £40,000 a year income, while nurses must pay £300 from their small salary?
I do not think that we can take any lectures from the hon. Gentleman or his party on nurses' pay. The Labour Government cut nurses' pay by 20 per cent. and this Government have increased it by 30 per cent. in real terms. We have also increased take-home pay by cutting taxes, which he and the Labour party have opposed at every opportunity.
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what consultations he has had and proposes to have with Nirex regarding nuclear waste disposal.
I have met Nirex representatives from time to time to be briefed on their work. I have at present no plans for a further meeting.
Does the Secretary of State expect that if Nirex goes ahead with any preliminary investigations it will follow exactly the procedures adopted in England, without any short cuts? Will he ensure that the Scottish public will be informed if any on-site investigations take place? Does he accept that the Scottish public have an absolute right to be informed of any such activities?
Nirex's present investigations are concerned with determining what type of site is geologically suitable, whether underground, under the sea, or tunnelled out from the land. It will be a considerable time before it thinks in terms of any individual location in any part of the United Kingdom.
When my right hon. and learned Friend meets and consults Nirex, will he draw its attention to the fact that there is great anxiety in parts of Scotland as a result of the mis-statements and misinformation that have come from the Scottish National party? I draw his attention to the fact that Schiehallion in my constituency was named as an area where nuclear waste would be dumped. There is no substance to the story, which came from the SNP.
My hon. Friend should take some comfort from the fact that no constituency in Scotland has not been told by the SNP that it has been chosen as the location for nuclear waste.
Will the Secretary of State advise the House in simple terms what steps he will take to stop Scotland becoming the nuclear dumping ground for the rest of the United Kingdom?
The hon. Gentleman should realise that all parts of the United Kingdom use nuclear power and are responsible for the production of nuclear waste. The location for the deposit of nuclear waste should be chosen on geological grounds that are consistent with the requirements of public safety.
Rail Services (Strathclyde)
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from Strathclyde regional council on the effect on Strathclyde's economy of the proposed reduction in rail services.
My right hon. and learned Friend has received no such representations.
Then it is just as well that I asked the question. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that there was a debate on the matter in the early hours of this morning as the snowflakes were falling outside. Has the Secretary of State received information from his surrogate, who was present to hear a debate opened admirably by my colleague, friend and ally — on this issue — the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro)? There is increasing anxiety and alarm about the proposed cuts on the Kilmarnock-Carlisle-Dumfries railway line and the effects that they will have on the social and economic life of the area. Scottish Members are increasingly worried that decisions on cuts in British Rail services in Scotland are being taken in London and are then foisted upon Scottish managers, although they are willing to accept the role of lackey.
The Government have agreed with British Rail performance objectives designed to achieve a significant increase in efficiency and requiring an overall improvement in services. It is for British Rail to determine how to achieve those objectives, but I understand that some extra InterCity services will be laid on.
We are all grateful to my hon. Friend for coming to the House early this morning and listening to the debate. Did he appreciate from the debate the strength of feeling in south-west Scotland about the economic problems that will result if the railway service is downgraded to the extent proposed by British Rail? Does he accept that the Government must bring home to British Rail the fact that their overall policy of bringing jobs to south-west Scotland will be adversely affected? He cannot leave it to British Rail to make such a decision.
I have met the manager of ScotRail and made it clear to him that many hon. Members believe that we need a high standard of service. I understand that British Rail will provide services connecting Dumfries with a sleeper service at Carlisle.
Does the Minister accept that his response is entirely inadequate? On Monday my hon. Friends and I met the Minister for Public Transport and put our case very strongly. In my constituency, which, with that of the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Lang), has the highest unemployment in the country, a railway station has just been opened at Auchinleck. Now British Rail is cutting services from that station. Strathclyde region wants to reopen New Cumnock station, but there will be no services for it if British Rail continues in this way. Should not the Scottish Office take some action to force British Rail to reconsider the matter?
I should say that the introduction of sprinter trains to the line next year will improve services by offering more trains and shorter journey times. I stress to the hon. Gentleman that there are no current plans to stop running passenger services on the line.
Will the Under-Secretary examine carefully the rates of return and capital that InterCity especially is expected to produce in the Government's current programme? Will he undertake to reconsider the matter with Ministers at the Department of Transport? The east coast route is of special concern to me. Services will inevitably be prejudiced by the penal rates of return which British Rail and ScotRail are expected to achieve on their InterCity services.
I shall draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Transport to the matters mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.
Does my hon. Friend agree that a major influence on economic development in the Strathclyde region is the incompetent and high-cost policy of Strathclyde regional council, under which 25 per cent. of pupils leave school with no qualifications, and council house repairs are 35 per cent. more expensive than anywhere else?
We are in favour of both high standards of efficiency and high standards of service.
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on consultations that have taken place between his Department and local authorities with regard to the appropriate training programme for canvassers engaged on the preparation of the register for the poll tax.
The training of canvassers is a matter for community charges registration officers.
Will the Minister accept that what we are embarking on in Scotland is the compilation of a national register, which will detail every individual from birth to death? In addition, will he give some information and guidance to local authorities about the dangers of disclosing information, obtained for poll tax purposes, for other purposes, put a prohibition or restrictions on those gathering that information, and introduce appropriate penalties for disclosure for purposes other than the community charge?
The hon. Gentleman is incorrect. We are not contemplating the compilation of a national register or one that would last from birth to death. The regulation on the registration process is out to consultation and local authorities have an opportunity to give us their views on that. We shall take full account of the consultation process before making the regulation.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, in these matters, helpful advice might come from apparently unlikely quarters? May I refer him to column 198 of Standing Committee A on the Local Government Bill, when the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, recommended that the administrative arrangements for the community charge in Scotland should be privatisecl? Will my hon. Friend therefore, at all times, pay appropriate attention to recommendations from Opposition Members?
My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion. It is important that the register be compiled as efficiently as possible.
Will the Minister explain why a leaflet and publicity campaign costing £130,000 and more has been launched in Scotland on the community charge, saying that people on and below the poverty line will pay 20 per cent., when in a written answer to me he revealed that in some parts of Scotland those on basic incomes will have to pay 41 per cent. of the community charge, including the community water charge?
The hon. Gentleman is giving a misleading picture. The leaflet was published as an information document. Its need is justified not least by the fact that so much misinformation is being put about by the Labour party.
Does the Minister agree that if the canvass for the register is to be done in sufficient time to allow the tax to be brought in on 1 April 1989, as is proposed, it must start on 1 April 1988, or soon thereafter? If that is so, how many regulations will have to be laid before the House for that process to start? How many canvassers will have to be advertised for and appointed, and what training will have to be carried out? Does the hon. Gentleman have any hope that the process of making regulations, and advertising for, appointing and training staff, can be completed by 1 April 1988?
We intend that the process should start on 1 April 1988. Three or four regulations will need to be tabled by that date, and we expect that that will happen. The other points raised by the hon. Gentleman are matters for the registration officer.
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when officials of his Department will next meet Nirex to discuss plans for nuclear waste disposal in Scotland.
Scottish Office officials have no specific plans to meet Nirex, but they will attend the Nirex seminar for local authorities to be held in Edinburgh on 14 December.
Is the Under-Secretary aware, even if the Secretary of State is not, that the Nirex document "The Way Forward" makes it clear that Scotland is a No. 1 target for nuclear waste disposal? Furthermore, will the hon. Gentleman give us a guarantee that any such proposal for waste disposal will face the rigour of a full public inquiry, and that such an inquiry will not be limited in scope in the way that the Dounreay inquiry was rigged?
I certainly can give that assurance. A planning application will be required before any site investigations on land. Subsequent procedures have yet to be determined. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has made it clear that if there were a proposal to build a repository in Scotland a public inquiry should be held. The purpose behind the document is to look at geologically suitable areas in Britain.
Does my hon. Friend recognise that many of us welcome the publication of that document and the opportunity that it gives for informed debate? Has he noticed that the Scottish National party shies away from any form of informed debate? Will he point out to the SNP that much of the low-level and medium-level waste comes from medical sources? Why does it not support the use of nuclear materials for those good purposes?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for setting the matter in perspective. We are concerned about the safe storage of intermediate and low-level nuclear waste. We believe that the Nirex document is a useful step forward in that process.
Does the Minister agree with the decision taken by Nirex in advance of the consultation process to opt for a single national disposal facility? Is it credible to have one such facility, given the present level of radioactive waste, and the future level because of the Government's commitment to a massively accelerated nuclear programme? Scottish Labour Members will not tolerate Scotland being used as a dumping ground for the nuclear waste of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
I should like to set the facts straight. Sellafield is to be investigated by British Nuclear Fuels plc as part of the Nirex programme. It has been made clear that no decision has been taken on sites for investigation other than Sellafield. That is the present position.
I echo the plea of the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) for informed public debate. Will the Minister instruct his officials, when they attend the 14 December seminar, to echo to Nirex the plea for informed debate? That would involve making maps available to hon. Members representing constituencies such as mine. We believe that drilling has taken place on the isles of Raasay and Rona. Like the Isle of Skye, neither island appears on the map of Britain that Nirex published in the report.
I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's point to Nirex.
Does my hon. Friend agree that those of us who were in the House in the early hours of the morning and who listened to a debate on this subject, prompted by the Welsh nationalists, now realise the sheer hypocrisy of the nationalist parties in Wales and Scotland? Today the Scottish nationalists say that Scotland is the prime target for a nuclear dump, whereas last night the Welsh nationalists said that Anglesey was the prime target for a nuclear dump. We completely reject this scaremongering by the nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales.
I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. I am sure that there is potential opposition to any proposed investigation of a site. Nirex seeks public comment on its approach to site selection and will publish a report on comments received.
I wish to reinforce the plea for an assurance that there will be no question of slipping through vital decisions about sites without full consultation and discussion in the localities concerned. Does the Minister accept that there is a strong case against dumping intermediate waste in the way suggested in the Nirex report? Does he agree that the identification of possible sites can lead only to uncertainty and understandable fears? Is not a more sensible management strategy on-site storage in stable conditions, which can allow constant monitoring?
Our experts and international experts strongly believe that on safety grounds it is much wiser to store intermediate and low-level waste in this way. I can give the hon. Gentleman an assurance about there being the fullest possible public information and consultation on this subject.
European Regional Development Fund
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the total value of grants Scotland has received from the European regional development fund in each of the past three years.
Scotland has received grant commitment from the European regional development fund of £103 million in 1984, £69 million in 1985, and £84 million in 1986.
Does my hon. Friend think that those grants have been sufficiently well publicised? If not, what steps is he taking to ensure that their size, scale and nature are properly publicised in Scotland and that the benefits that accrue to Scotland are made known to the people?
As my hon. Friend will know, it is always difficult to obtain publicity for good news. However, his question enables me to publicise the fact that, among national programmes of Community interest, in 1985 Glasgow received £68 million, and we hope that this year West Lothian will be successful with a bid of £27 million. We are also hoping to succeed with a bid for Strathclyde, as an integrated operation, that will be worth £300 million over the next five years.
Is the Minister not well aware that areas of Scotland such as Galloway and the Borders do not qualify for assistance under the European regional development fund because they are not defined as assisted areas by the national Government? As the European Community is reconsidering the guidelines for that fund, with a view to opening it to rural development, irrespective of assisted area status, will the Minister assure us that the Scottish Office will support such a change?
As the right hon. Gentleman will know, the arrival of Spain and Portugal in the Community has made pressure on funds that much greater. Therefore, we cannot be sure that we will receive as large a proportion in future as we have in the past. However, the Scottish Office will do its best to ensure that Scottish interests are well advanced within the Community.
Is my hon. Friend aware that we welcome the tremendous help for the infrastructure of Scotland from that fund? Will he consider the issue of forest roads used in the extraction of timber, especially for those areas that do not have assisted area status? Will he discuss with other Departments and within the European Community the possibility of including that sort of development?
I shall certainly consider that point. As my hon. Friend knows, any regional authority that approaches the Government for capital allocation in that context can rely on having the matter sympathetically considered.
Is the Minister aware that during the last year for which figures are available, 1986, we had a net loss in the Common Market of £1·7 billion—the equivalent of about 20 days of the regional fund? Would it not be better if that £1 billion were spent on development in Britain, rather it being poured into the food mountains of Europe?
That is a perfectly worthwhile negotiating stance. However, it would be wrong to analyse each individual fund and try to ensure that this country made a profit from each and all of them. That is not what the Common Market is about.
Secondary School Pupils
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimates he has made of the number of pupils in secondary schools in Scotland for each of the next five years.
The estimated numbers in each of the years 1988 to 1992 are 328,000; 313,000; 306,000; 305,000; and 308,000 respectively.
I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for giving those figures, which I am sure he agrees point to the need for rationalisation of secondary schools in Scotland. No one suggests that rationalisation is ever easy, but is he aware of the concern of a number of my constituents who exercised their right under the parents' charter to send their children to Paisley grammar school, which is now targeted for closure, apparently precisely because it is popular with parents?Has my right hon. and learned Friend received a report from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary following his visit to that school? Does he agree that the wider implications of the threat to Paisley grammer school point to the need for opting out provisions to be included in the forthcoming Scottish Education Bill so that Scottish parents can have the same rights as English parents?
Given the high degree of overcapacity in schools in the Strathclyde region, we all understand that it is appropriate for Strathclyde regional council to reduce the number of schools commensurate with the total school population. We hope that in pursuing that policy it will take into account the views of the parents and the academic achievements of individual schools. I have no doubt that if it does apply such criteria there will be a powerful case for the continuation of Paisley grammer school, which clearly meets that criteria in an impressive fashion.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is the height of hypocrisy that, when he is pursuing policies that force cuts in education in Scotland, his henchman turns up here to ask a question under the pretence of fighting for the preservation of school places?
The hon. Gentleman should realise that the rationalisation of schools has little to do with the size of resources and everything to do with the size of pupil populations. In case he is not aware of the fact, Strathclyde regional council estimated that, out of a total capacity of 590,000 pupil places, over 200,000 places were surplus to requirements in 1985. That will be true, irrespective of the level of resources. It would be absurd to suggest that there is not a need in Strathclyde, as in other regions throughout Scotland, to reduce overcapacity. The point at issue is not the need to close some schools but, in making that choice, whether the schools with a proven academic record of great achievement should be put on such a list.
The Minister will know that parents in my constituency are going through a worrying period. Some have children at primary and secondary schools that could be under the axe. Does he not consider that if his colleague the Minister is to go on television and single out one school, he should be evenhanded and look at every school in Strathclyde? Paisley grammar school is important to some hon. Members and to the parents in the region, but other schools are just as important.
I have no doubt that all schools are important to the parents whose children attend them. That is why I have stated that I believe that the relevant criteria are parents' wishes and the proven achievements of the school in question. It seems sensible to take into account whether a particular school has a remarkable record of achievement with regard to the academic qualifications of those who attend it in determining whether it would be sensible to close such an establishment at such a time.
As the money that is spent on surplus places could be better spent on children in schools, will my right hon. and learned Friend say how much is presently being wasted on empty places?
I cannot give a precise figure, but it goes without saying that if only about two thirds of the accommodation presently available for schoolchildren in Strathclyde is utilised, enormous savings are clearly available to the regional council to be used on the education of children in a way that is more useful to them than the heating of half-empty buildings or the maintenance of unused buildings.
Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that he will prevail upon the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), to desist from meddling in matters that are not his direct responsibility? Does he agree that the Under-Secretary's visit to Our Lady and St. Francis' high school in Glasgow was mischievous and that his visit to Paisley grammar school was calculated to make life difficult for the education authority which is seeking to fulfil its statutory requirements? Such irresponsible actions serve only to use and abuse parents who are genuinely concerned for their children's future education.
My hon. Friend was perfectly entitled to respond to parents' invitations to visit the school and to see it for himself. Given that the Scottish Office provides the resources that are used, which cover a substantial proportion of the costs of maintaining such schools, it is absolutely appropriate that my hon. Friend should have visited them. I cannot help but notice the hon. Gentleman's embarrassment at the fact that the high quality of certain schools is brought to the forefront of public attention.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Order. I cannot take a point of order now. The hon. Lady may wish to raise the matter on the Adjournment.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of that unsatisfactory reply I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment.
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what extra resources will be made available for the implementation of the schools management proposals.
My right hon. and learned Friend takes account of changes in local authorities statutory responsibilities in determining the provision for local authority current expenditure each year. I do not expect, however, that these proposals will give rise to significant additional costs.
The Minister is bound to be aware that COSLA estimates that it will cost at least £15 million a year to set up and administer the school boards that are envisaged under his proposals. Does he not agree that that would be an enormous and wasteful drain on scarce resources that could better be used in classrooms rather than on financing his ideological white elephant?
I was interested to see the COSLA estimates, which started at £12 million and after a few days increased to £15 million. Those estimates were based upon an assumption that costs that will be incurred by local authorities in bringing new systems for financial control into effect will be part of this process. Even if we take the COSLA approach of "think of a number and double it", relative to the total education budget that is broadly equivalent to an extra two or at most three pupils at an average secondary school.
I have asked the Under-Secretary of State three questions on schools boards, none of which he has answered satisfactorily. In particular, he will never say how much support exists for the ceiling proposals. Will he admit to the House that he will not answer me because there is no support for the ceiling proposals whatsoever, and in view of that will he remove them from the legislation?
I say to the hon. Gentleman in the House that we have embarked upon the biggest consultation exercise ever undertaken by a Government Department. We have had a marvellous response, which we are now analysing. Most people have been sufficiently thoughtful in their response as to preclude us from being able to carry out the kind of crude for and against analysis for which the hon. Gentleman asks.
That is the height of deceit.
Order. I heard "deceit". I do not know who said it, but it is not a parliamentary word. Withdraw, please.
In view of your stricture, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw, but the information concerned—
I thank the hon. Member.
Will my hon. Friend, when he is considering resources for school boards, bear in mind that some of us support the ceiling proposals, myself included? Will he also bear in mind that many of the comments made about parents being unsuitable and untrained to take part in school boards could just as easily be made about unsuitable or untrained councillors or Members of Parliament? That is the kind of nonsense that we have been getting from the Opposition Benches.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support. I assure him that while there are differences of view about the extent to which the ceiling powers should be available to school boards, it is important to remember that the proposals in the consultation paper made it clear that school boards could get ceiling powers only if they are requested and are able to persuade the local authority to give the powers to them.
The hon. Gentleman says "No". There was provision for the Secretary of State to have a general power to raise from floor to ceiling, and we have made it clear throughout the consultations that we envisage using that in the circumstances where many schools had opted for ceilings.
Housing Associations (Rents)
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will estimate the increase in rents for housing association dwellings arising from immediate enactment of the proposals in the Scottish housing White Paper.
Our White Paper proposals would make tenancy arrangements more flexible for new lettings and enable housing associations to set appropriate levels of rent, depending on the funding arrangements agreed. Our proposals envisage that subsidy arrangements for new developments would be geared to rent levels which average working households in a particular area could pay.
That reply is at some distance from frankness. In my constituency the rents on a rehabilitated, typical 16-unit tenement, at the 30 per cent. housing action grant level, would go up by 225 per cent., and at the 70 per cent. housing action grant level would go up by over 100 per cent. Is the Minister aware that that is typical of the rent increase that will occur in the west of Scotland? Does the Minister agree with that statement?
No, Sir. What I would say is that there are some housing associations where private sector funding is, not likely; for example, certain kinds of housing for disabled associations and special interest groups. It is tremendously important that traditional clients should continue to be catered for. I envisage that 100 per cent. public funding could come from a combination of housing association grants and loans, but we envisage the private sector coming in in other circumstances.
What can my hon. Friend tell the House about the historic level of rents in Scotland, compared to that in England, bearing in mind that the average income in Scotland is now the second highest in the United Kingdom, second only to London?
Average rent levels in Scotland are lower than those in England; there is no question about that.
Since housing association rents are already 30 per cent. higher than council rents in Scotland, what possible justification can there be for a formula which is likely to double the rents of housing association tenants in Scotland? Since housing benefit will not protect all the tenants who are the hardest hit by the new mechanism, is it not yet another example of ministerial weasel words for such a mechanism to be described as affordable rents?
It most certainly is Government policy that rents should be affordable and within the reach of tenants. I reject the figures that the hon. Gentleman gave. I cannot speculate about the rent levels for individual lettings, but under the new arrangements rents will relate to the cost of providing and maintaining property, taking account of the assistance available. Housing associations will continue to meet the needs of their traditional clients.
Further Education (Funding)
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet representatives of regional authorities to discuss the funding of further education.
My right hon. and learned Friend meets representatives of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities regularly to discuss local authority expenditure. The most recent meeting was on 4 December, when the rate support grant settlement for 1988–89 was discussed.
Will the Minister advise the House whether he intends to meet representatives from Grampian regional council in view of the urgent need to assure that area of Scotland that there is a long-term future for the college of commerce, which was recently closed because of structural problems? Does he accept that the 8,000 students, most of whom are represented by hon. Members from the Grampian region, want to be assured that there is a long-term future for them? Will he advise us whether he is considering a special grant to ensure that the college of commerce is rebuilt speedily?
The question of the Aberdeen college of commerce is a matter for the Grampian region. Students are able to continue to attend their classes in different locations, and for those students who are taking advanced courses I have ensured that grants continue to be paid from the Scottish Education Department. It is for local authorities to determine their own priorities within the capital programme. [Interruption] If the hon. Gentleman will be patient, my right hon. and learned Friend will take account of the special problems that have occurred in the Grampian region when deciding upon allocations. It is not possible at this stage to anticipate them.
Unemployment And Health
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will commission a study on the effects of long-term unemployment on health in Scotland.
My right hon. and learned Friend has no plans to do so. To date, research has not identified any clear relationship between long-term unemployment and health.
I am amazed at the Minister's response, considering that a report published by the DHSS in 1981 on unemployment and families cited no fewer than 47 references which underline the relationship between longterm unemployment and poverty. Perhaps ex-Tory Members of Parliament in Scotland would be a suitable case study.
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not read the British Medical Journal. If he did, he would know that in January and April there were a couple of articles about the research commissioned by the Medical Research Council on that matter. None of that research provided evidence to support his theory. Experts agree that people can help themselves and their families to stay healthy by making simple changes to their life styles. [HON. MEMBERS: "Like getting a job."] A healthy life style does not depend on a high income. I am disappointed that Opposition Members seem to think that the matter of health in Scotland is so amusing.
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent figures he has available for average weekly earnings in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.
The average gross weekly earnings of full-time employees on adult rates in Scotland in April 1987 were estimated at £187·90. Only those in the south-east and the north-west of England had higher gross earnings.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that those highly satisfactory figures reflect the success of the Scottish economy in moving away from the excessive reliance on the declining industries of past years towards the industries and services of the future?
My hon. Friend is quite correct. It never ceases to amaze me how Opposition Members cannot decide whether to be upset or disbelieving when such information is provided for them.
Will the Secretary of State accept that the low wages that contribute to the average are reprehensible, whether they are paid in Ipswich or Inverness? Will he also accept that there is an individual Scottish life style—including the need to accept climatic conditions—which means that, for example, it costs 20 per cent. more to heat the average house in Glasgow than it does in Ipswich? When will the Secretary of State bat for Scotland?
Of course, with regard to low wages, everyone looks forward to the day when wages and salaries can continue to increase to improve the real standard of living of the population as a whole. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be the first to appreciate that it would be counter-productive to the interests of the unemployed to insist on wage levels that meant that they could not be employed in the first place.
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if the Lord Advocate will now authorise Strathclyde police and the procurator fiscal of Glasgow to return to BBC Scotland all tapes, recordings, documents and other material seized from BBC Scotland on Sunday 15 February in relation to the Zircon programme; and if he will make a statement.
No material relating to the programme concerning project Zircon was removed by Strathclyde police from the premises of BBC Scotland, Glasgow, on Sunday 15 February.
What, then, were the supposed reasonable grounds for suspicion that allowed the Special Branch to go into Queen Margaret drive and eject from their beds, at 3 am, senior executives of the BBC? What is the explanation for that now?
The hon. Gentleman must be quite clear that I have to answer on behalf of the Lord Advocate and ensure that the law is properly carried out, enforced and that the correct procedures are involved. I believe that the hon. Gentleman's question goes beyond my sphere of responsibility—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—and I believe that it goes to the root of intelligence matters that are the responsibility of others.
Mr. Brian Barr, the programme maker of distinction who made the Zircon programme, is one of my constituents. For nearly one year he has had a cloud of suspicion hanging over him that he might have been party to undermining the security of our country. He has been harassed by unwilling and embarrassed policemen acting on Government instructions. Legal edicts flew across the Atlantic to harass his colleague, Duncan Campbell, as far away as San Francisco—
What is the question?
The question is, will the Minister have the grace to apologise to Brian Barr, Duncan Campbell and their colleagues for the besmirching of their reputations that this investigation has caused? Now that the Prime Minister—[Interruption.] Now, Mr. Speaker, that the Prime Minister—
Order. I am not answering this question. It is for the Front Bench to answer.
Now that Mrs. Thatcher — [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
Order. The Prime Minister.
Will the Minister accept that we need a bit of glasnost in this country in relation to official secrecy and do something about that soon?
I should make it clear that on 27 November the Lord Advocate announced that, having considered a number of reports from the procurator fiscal in Glasgow, he had instructed —following consultation with the Attorney-General and having regard in particular to public interest— that no criminal proceedings would be instituted in Scotland—[Interruption]
I believe that that is the information that the hon. Gentleman asks me to confirm this afternoon. I do not consider that any action taken by the Law Officers or the police in this connection has had the effect suggested by the hon. Gentleman.
Does my hon. Friend agree that if security is compromised most people in this country would say that no one is above the law, not even the BBC?
It is obviously the duty of the Lord Advocate to see that the law is properly enforced as it now stands.
Have the Government learnt any lessons from this rather squalid episode? As the Minister either cannot or will not respond to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), will he tell the House which Minister is responsible for this aspect of policy and who will answer the fair question put by my hon. Friend?
This matter has been fully debated and the Lord Advocate is satisfied that the proper procedure for obtaining the search warrant was followed, and that the involvement of the procurator fiscal and the sheriff was in accordance with the established law of Scotland.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the totally unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has received representations from Edinburgh district council about his policy towards controlling pollution of the foreshore; and if he will make a statement.
My right hon. and learned Friend has received no such representations from the council.
Although I recognise that the capitalist system stinks, why does the pong linger along Granton foreshore, an area which the Minister knows well? Is it the fault of the Lothian chemical works, or does the responsibility lie elsewhere? I remind the Minister that it is a serious matter and not to be sniffed at. We want an answer quickly.
The prime responsibility lies with the Forth river purification board and the district council. The industrial pollution inspectorate is undertaking monitoring as part of its enforcement role. Measurements have been made around the Lothian chemical company and the results were satisfactory, but, obviously, a close watch is being kept on these matters.
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on current regional aid to industry in Scotland.
The net provision for regional assistance by the Scottish Office in 1987–88 is £120 million.
A recent opinion poll in Scotland suggested that 70 per cent. of Scots do not believe that the Government care, especially about jobs in industry. Does the Minister acknowledge that there has been a dramatic cut in regional development grant over the last few years from a peak of £339 million in 1982–83? Is he also aware of the chronic problems facing some sectors of the Scottish economy and some areas because of the need to restructure their industrial base over the next two or three years? Will he take seriously the problems of industry in Scotland, have discussions with Lord Young of Graffham, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and come up with an effective regional policy that will start to reduce in number the 330,000 Scots who still languish on the dole queues eight years after the Government were elected?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman welcomes the dramatic success of the Government's economic policy in reducing unemployment in Scotland by some 55,000 this year. So far as regional assistance is concerned, this party needs no lessons from the Labour party, which slashed the regional assistance budget for Scotland in one year by 46 per cent. when it abolished the regional employment premium.
Will the Minister confirm that it is part of regional policy to attract the head offices of major corporations to Scotland and to maintain in Scotland the head offices of major corporations that are already there? In view of the Government fiasco over Guinness and Distillers, may we have an assurance that the same thing will not happen over Britoil? Is he aware that just a year ago the chief executive of Britoil told Glasgow Members that the company would not welcome a takeover, that it wanted the protection of the so-called golden share for at least five years, and that it was committed to staying in Glasgow? If the BP takeover succeeds, all that will be prejudiced. May we have an assurance that the Government, who can stop this takeover, will stop it?
I was not aware that BP had made a takeover bid for Britoil. It is desirable for company headquarters to remain in Scotland. Sadly, the nationalisation of many fine old Scottish companies took the headquarters of those companies forth of Scotland to the south of England. However, we are now developing the enterprise culture, as a result of which the number of companies in Scotland is expanding rapidly, and those companies will have large headquarters in Scotland in the future.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, despite the fact that the standards of living of the Scots are far higher than those of people living in the east midlands, taxpayers in the east midlands, including my constituents, have to pay a huge subsidy to the Scots in the form of regional aid, which is not available to my constituents? Is it not time that Opposition Members stopped whingeing and wrote letters of thanks to my constituents, who are subsidising them?
It is certainly the case that the share of regional assistance going to Scotland has risen from 21 per cent. in 1979 to 31 per cent. of the total, but that reflects the special Scottish circumstances that have made it necessary. We are concerned to achieve value for money for United Kingdom taxpayers—and there, I am sure, I am at one with my hon. Friend.
When will the Minister carry out an investigation into abuses of regional aid in view of the correspondence that I recently sent him on two firms in the Cunninghame district?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, that is a matter that is being closely considered at the moment. I hope to be able to write to him about it shortly.
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many officials in his Department are currently engaged in assessing the merits of the response to his consultative document on school boards; and if he will make a statement.
It is for Ministers to make judgments about the merits of the arguments put to them.
Once again the Under-Secretary of State avoids the question. Will he say what criteria he uses to assess these responses and when he is likely to tell us the result? Will he once again confirm that in the responses there is no support whatever for the ceiling proposals and that these will be left out of the later legislation?
I can do better than that. I can direct the hon. Gentleman and anyone else who is interested to the House of Commons Library or to St. Andrew's House, where I have arranged for copies of all the submissions, other than those marked "confidential", to be available. There is no secret, and I think that the hon. Gentleman will find, after he has spent some days examining these responses, how impossible it is for us to make the kind of crude analysis that he requests.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
No. I will take points of order after the statement.
Public Expenditure (Scotland)
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement about the allocation of my public expenditure provision in the next three years.I plan to raise net expenditure on the services for which I am responsible to £8,505 million in 1988–89. This is some 6·9 per cent. more than planned expenditure for the current year, and nearly 5 per cent. more than was planned for 1988–89 in the last public expenditure White Paper. In each of the following two years expenditure provision is to grow by over £100 million. Within the total figures, the provision made for the services within the Scottish block has been enhanced in the normal way by the consequences of applying the territorial formula to changes agreed in the survey for comparable English programmes. An annotated table giving the allocations for each service is available in the Vote Office, and I am arranging for it to be published in the Official Report. Provision for industry next year will be increased by £25 million, or over 10 per cent. compared with the plans published in January. Within this, £10 million will be allocated to the Scottish Development Agency and £5 million to the Highlands and Islands Development Board, which should allow increases in gross expenditure in real terms, and £7 million to direct grants to industry. I have also decided to increase the funds available for tourism in Scotland by £1 million. My planned provision for housing continues to concentrate resources on capital investment in improving public sector housing rather than indiscriminate subsidies. It will also continue to deal with the backlog of payments of private sector improvement grants. The total planned resources for the Scottish Special Housing Association and the Housing Corporation in Scotland will be increased, allowing the SSHA to plan on the basis of some £55 million in total expenditure, and similarly £132 million for the HCIS, for projects including housing co-operatives. Further provision will be available later for suitable new urban regeneration housing projects. Extra provision is included for the establishment of Scottish Homes and its build-up in the later years. Subject to final decisions on the level of subsidies, the planned increase in resources for housing investment in 1988–89 will be about £30 million. This will be the third successive year in which investment has increased. Expenditure on agriculture and fisheries will increase by £11 million, £16·5 million and £13·7 million over the three years of the survey period. In particular, provision is made to encourage developments under the agricultural development programme. Planned spending on education will rise to £2,186 million next year, or 9 per cent. more than this year, reflecting the priority that I attach to this service. This will provide principally for current and capital expenditure by local authorities. I look to them to make the most effective possible use of this money in delivering the education service, especially the introduction of standard grade, for which central support will continue to be available. I intend to increase spending on the health programme by about £130 million next year to £2,393 million, and by over £100 million in each of the following two years. Within this increased provision, there will be over £1,660 million for hospitals and community health services next year, £85 million more than this year's level of funding. Health boards will also be able to retain the resources released through their economy and efficiency programmes, which should amount to over £20 million next year. This should enable them to meet pay and price inflation, develop in new directions for breast cancer screening and treating AIDS sufferers, and to improve their services in line with national policies and priorities. Provision for family practitioner services is to be increased by almost £35 million to £475 million next year and to £540 million by 1990–91. This takes account of expected growth in public demand for these services, and of the proposals set out in the Government's White Paper "Promoting Better Health". I am conscious of real pressures on social work resources from demography and new demands, so I have increased provision by just over 12 per cent. My plans provide £680 million in 1988–89 — an increase of 9·5 per cent. over this year's provision—to meet the needs of law and order services. This should be sufficient for an increase over present police establishments and for the cost of the new working practices under the fresh start agreement, which have just been introduced in the prison service. Capital expenditure over the three years will be £154 million, which is intended to provide for a continuing programme of refurbishment of the prison estate, for new or improved court houses and the needs of police and fire services. Planned provision for transport will he £12 million above that planned for 1987–88, which followed several years of high relative levels of provision. Provision for 1988–89 will, however, necessarily be £8 million below the level forecast in the last White Paper because of the need to transfer resources within the block to local authority current expenditure. Nevertheless, the resources available will enable investment in trunk roads to be maintained broadly at current levels, with important bypasses being given priority. A start will he made on the upgrading of the A74 in the later years, but my provision will still leave room for other worthwhile projects. I have been able to increase provision for the other environmental services programme, which maintains essential public services and functions, mainly by local authorities. It includes an increase of £6 million for the urban programme, which is a prime means of directing Government funding into the regeneration of our inner cities. The development of industrial infrastructure in the new towns, which contributed to over 4,000 new jobs in 1986–87, will also be able to increase significantly. Provision for expenditure on the arts within the Scotland programme will rise by just under 6 per cent. This should enable local authorities to respond constructively to the Miles report on museums in Scotland, and will support Scottish national institutions in making further improvements in their infrastructure. It will also allow planning of the second phase of the new Causewayside building for the National Library of Scotland to proceed. The increase that we are entitled to under the formula for local authority current expenditure in 1988–89, is less than the extra cost of the generous rate support grant settlement that I announced to the House in July. This is because of the higher level of local authority spending in Scotland compared to England and Wales. I have therefore made up the balance from the rest of my block, so the amount available for local authority capital expenditure and central Government expenditure in 1988–89 is lower than it would otherwise have been. I have no plans for a similar transfer in the later years, in the hope that local authorities will control their current expenditure and thus avoid diverting resources from their capital programmes and other important services within the block.
|Other environmental services||610||684||633||693||773||650||710||790||740||820|
|Law, order and protective services||621||624||642||680||683||660||690||690||710||720|
|Arts and libraries||82||82||84||87||87||90||90||90||100||100|
|Health and social work||2,605||2,658||2,714||2,829||2,837||2,830||2,950||2,950||3,070||3,080|
|Other public services||118||118||122||125||125||120||130||130||130||130|
|LA current expenditure not allocated to services||124||124||127||40||40||130||40||40||40||40|
|Nationalised Industries external financing||87||87||-20||134||134||-170||-70||-70||-190||-190|
|Note: Figures for 1989–90 and 1990–91 are rounded to the nearest £10 million.|
1 White Paper (Cm56-II) figures adjusted for pre-Survey changes.
2 Figures reflect Survey changes and changes since the Autumn Statement. Some figures may be subject to detailed technical amendment.
3 Gross provision consists of total net provision plus capital receipts.
4 The figure differs from the net outturn figure of £8,220 million shown in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement for 1987–88; the main differences are continued spending by local authorities above the level provided for; NHS pay settlements; and higher than expected Electricity Board costs.
The expenditure plans will permit development of the Government's agriculture and fishing policies, with particular regard to the environment and the rural economy.
Overall provision has been increased by £25m — 10·4% — in 1988–89 compared with last year's White Paper. Provision remains broadly constant over the forward years. The increased provision will allow increased spending by the SDA and HIDB both of which will have increased spending power, in real terms, in 1988–89 compared with 1987–88 and on direct grants to industry.
Total provision for 1988–89 has been increased by about 10% compared to the level in last year's plans and is planned to increase by about a further 20% over the forward years. The major part of tourism expenditure is undertaken by the Scottish Tourist Board which will be enabled to increase both its marketing effort and the grants it makes for tourist facilities.
Provision planned for (excluding grants to transport nationalised industries) will be £12m more than planned for 1987–88 albeit £8m less than planned provision for 1988–89 set out in last year's White Paper. This level of provision will enable investment in the trunk roads programme to be maintained at broadly current levels, with important bypasses given priority. Substantial increases have been made in provision for current expenditure by local authorities, although this constrained the amount available for capital
The allocation that I have announced today reflects the priority that I attach to the needs of the different services in Scotland in exercising my discretion within the Scottish block. The increases that I have announced demonstrate the Government's continued commitment to meeting Scotland's needs. We have been able to do this because of our successful management of the economy, which has allowed public expenditure to be increased substantially at the same time as its share of national income has been reduced.
Following is the information—
expenditure by local authorities. The Government remain committed to subsidising shipping services and civil aviation facilities in the Highlands and Islands. Provision for the later years has been increased over the levels provided for in Cm 56. A start will be made on the promised upgrading of the A74 in the later years, but the programme will still permit other worthwhile projects to proceed.
The increased provision for Housing is concentrated on capital investment which is planned to increase by £30m and deal with the backlog of private sector improvement grants; and provide the SSHA and Housing Corporation in Scotland with the resources for their mainstream and urban information work.
OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES
The Other Environmental Services programme maintains essential public services (mainly by local authorities) concerned with health and safety, and environmental crimes. Increased provision has been made in the total programme including in particular £6 million for the Urban Programme to direct funding into the re-generation of inner cities; and £15 million extra capital provision to assist local authorities in implementation of the Community Charge in 1988–89 (in addition to extra current expenditure for this programme which the Secretary of State announced in July). The development of new industrial expenditure and jobs in the New Towns will also increase significantly. (Over 4,000 new jobs were created in the Scottish New Towns in 1986–87).
Provision has been increased by £180·1 million or 9 per cent. Within this figure local authority provision has been increased by £164·1 million, including £90 million which is unallocated to particular services pending the review of staffing standards. Central support for education reforms has been maintained (Standard Grade) or established (£0·8 million for curricular development, assessment and management planning). Increased provision for higher education (£8·5 million) will significantly ease the running cost pressures on the centrally funded sector.
LAW, ORDER AND PROTECTIVE SERVICES
Plans for the prison service give full cover for the cost in staff and supplies of the expected inmate population; provide for the costs of keeping Low Moss Prison open until 1989 and for the cost of introducing new working arrangements for prison officers in accordance with the Fresh Start agreement. For the police, provision will meet fully the expected cost of the service with a modest annual increase in manpower and will maintain central support for the Scottish Crime Squad and its Drugs Wing and to the Scottish Criminal Records Office. There will be continuing support for crime prevention measures. The plans also allow for higher levels of demand for legal aid services and for increased running costs in the Courts. £154 million of capital spending is planned over the next three years, on new or improved court and prison buildings including the replacement of Peterhead Prison, and on the needs of the police and fire services.
ARTS AND LIBRARIES
Provision for local authority expenditure on Arts and Libraries has been increased by £6·1 million (or over 10 per cent.) compared with 1987–88. Central government provision reflects completion of phase 1 of the National Library of Scotland and planning for phase 2.
Expenditure on the National Health Service in Scotland will be increased by about £130 million next year, which is about 5·8 per cent. above this year's level of spending, and by over £100 million in each of the two following years. The provision for hospitals and community health services will be increased by £85 million, or 5·5 per cent., to over £1,660 million. Health Boards will also be able to retain the resources released through their efficiency programmes, which should amount to over £20 million next year. Plans for the Family Practitioner Services allow for expected increase in public demand and for the proposals for improving the services set out in the Government's White Paper "Promoting Better Health". Capital spending on the health service will total about £370 million over the next three years.
Total provision for Social Work is planned to rise by some £47 million primarily for local authority current and capital expenditure. The figures reflect the transfer of responsibility from the Secretary of State to local authorities for certain court disposals of children.
OTHER PUBLIC SERVICES
The expenditure covered by this programme is to provide for the administrative costs of the Scottish Office, including the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, and of three smaller Scottish departments: the General Register Office (Scotland), the Scottish Record Office and the Department of the Registers of Scotland.
I note that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's press department has been hard at work in anticipation of today's events. One result was an item in the latest issue of the Sunday Times, which talked of a significant boost to Scotland's share of Government spending and produced a most tempting list of goodies.Does the Secretary of State accept that the final product that has been unveiled today does not live up to the advertisement, and that this kind of creative journalism does nothing for his credibility or for the standing of politics in Scotland? The right hon. and learned Gentleman states that he intends to raise expenditure to £8,505 million. The House will be somewhat underwhelmed, as the Autumn Statement announced a figure of £8,510 million. The difference is no doubt accounted for by the fact that in the Autumn Statement we tend to even up the figures. The truth is that the figure is the same as was announced in the Autumn Statement. If we take that figure, allow for inflation and compare it with the expected outturn for 1987–88, one finds that there is a cut in real terms of between £80 million and £85 million, and not the increase that was so enthusiastically trailed by the Secretary of State. It is a complicated set of figures, presented in a slightly different way this year. I should like to ask the Secretary of State about some of the specific totals. Is it not true that, on housing, taking the net figure for 1987–88 against the net provision for 1988–89 produces a cut in cash terms of £56 million and in real terms of £87 million? If we take the gross figure for 1987–88 and compare it with that for 1988–89, including the expected capital receipts from the sale of public sector housing, the cut still remains at £25 million in real terms. Is that not an abdication of responsibility, given the scale of the housing crisis in Scotland? The Secretary of State talks about the concentration of resources. Is that not a cruel euphemism for another significant cut in the already savaged housing budget? Will the Secretary of State admit that, although he spent more than £300 million on industry last year, £206 million on regional aid, and just under £100 million on the Scottish Development Agency, he is planning to spend in net terms only £266 million next year and £260 million in the two years to follow? To put into perspective the rather extravagant claims that he has been making, is it not true that he spent in current terms just over £330 million as recently as 1985–86? Why does the Secretary of State boast so shamelessly of success in negotiating on Scotland's behalf in the Cabinet when he will spend less next year than he did in the current year? Will he give us a specific guarantee that Scotland will not be affected by any alterations in regional aid policy dreamed up by his noble Friend Lord Young? I shall now deal with the health and social work budget. In net terms for 1987–88, the budget was £2,605 million. It is now rising in net terms for 1988–89 to £2,829 million. I concede that that is an increase in real terms of £107 million. Does the Secretary of State really think that that is adequate? Is there not an element of sleight of hand, as in the real terms increase of £107 million we have to accommodate the £130 million increase in cash terms in the health budget to which he referred and the 12 per cent. increase in the social work budget that he is also parading in his statement? Whatever happens to the figures, does he not admit that they simply do not deal with the major problems facing the Health Service in Scotland and certainly will not face up to the problems referred to by the president of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh? Professor Michael Oliver said that Ministers "won't or can't hear" and that it will take a "few deaths, a few scandals" to move them. Will that view not be confirmed by today's announcement? The figures seem to be totally inadequate and no amount of juggling with the totals can disguise the fact that this is a disappointing performance by the Secretary of State. I repeat that, if one takes the outturn figures given by the Government in the Autumn Statement for this year and the expected expenditure figures for the Scottish Office, the total budget for next year is cut in real terms by over £80 million and that cannot be good news by any standards. The Secretary of State has made minor adjustments to individual spending totals within a budget that has declined overall in real terms. Much though he may try to make of it, I wish that he would pay more attention to the problems facing Scotland — the problems that will continue to trouble the people of Scotland—and less to the sort of political sleight of hand and packaging that has been a mark of the Secretary of State's performance in recent weeks.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me saying that, if the worst that he can say about my statement today is that it was disappointing, that shows its worth in terms of the real benefits that it will bring the people of Scotland.The hon. Gentleman confirmed that the amount referred to today was the same as in the Autumn Statement. Therefore, perhaps he should attach more importance to these matters than to speculative items in newspapers, which he seemed to assume to be holy writ. The hon. Gentleman said that there was a reduction in the net amount available for housing. He will be aware that what matters to people in Scotland is how much is to be invested in the housing stock of local authorities, the Scottish Special Housing Association and the Housing Corporation. Whatever the hon. Gentleman says, he cannot avoid the fact that, as I said in my statement, £30 million more will be available for investment in the public sector housing stock in Scotland, which will be highly beneficial. [Interruption.] It is the gross figure that shows how much will be spent on the improvement of the housing stock and on building new sheltered or special needs housing, and that represents a substantial increase which will be available to the various recipients. The hon. Gentleman will be content to know that the Scottish Development Agency will receive resources higher than it has received at any time in its history, enabling it to carry out more excellent work on urban regeneration. On regional policy changes, I must ask the hon. Gentleman to keep his patience for a while. I can assure him that any policy developments in regional aid will have been come to in the full consideration of how we can best boost employment and economic development in the various regions of the United Kingdom. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for conceding that my announcement today represents an increase in real terms in health expenditure. [Interruption.]That is exactly what the hon. Gentleman said. I listened to him, even if his hon. Friends did not. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for conceding that. I must also point out to the hon. Gentleman, and, indeed, to others in Scotland who point to the continuing needs of the Health Service in Scotland, that their views will carry more weight if represented in a more balanced fashion. For example, if they pointed to the fact that since 1979 new capital investment in the NHS in Scotland has resulted in the completion of 51 major new hospital developments, providing over 5,770 beds and some 481 day places, and to the fact that 32 major developments are now under construction or in planning, that would represent a balanced view of the situation affecting the Health Service in Scotland at present.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, with the excellent announcement last week on Ravenscraig, today's financial statement is more good news for Scotland? Is he aware that the continued high expenditure on trunk roads is most welcome, and will that include the Dumfries bypass? Finally, does he further agree that the 9 per cent. increase in education is excellent news towards increasing the quality of education and the facilities required to that end?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Yes, I can confirm that the proposed construction of the Dumfries bypass will be going ahead. I am also grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks about the important extra help that we are giving to the development of education, particularly standard grade, in Scotland.
Does the Secretary of State accept that there is no real news in this statement? Of course, it adds flesh to the bones of the Autumn Statement, but it takes us no further. Does he accept that he led the House to expect that there would be advances beyond the Autumn Statement? Is there not a real need for a rural development agency within the SDA, or however erected, particularly having regard to the troubles of Scottish agriculture, since that will enable some stability and long-term planning in that sector?On prison and hospital services, does the Secretary of State really think that the figures that he has announced this afternoon will adequately measure up to the real and acute problems that these important sectors face? Does he accept that there is the whiff of an underlying theme in the statement that the Government are moving directly away from the local authorities and the provision of services through the local authorities in Scotland? Surely, if that is the Government's policy, the right hon. and learned Gentleman should have the courage to say so openly and not in this underhand fashion.
I am surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman say that no further information has been provided that did not appear in the Autumn Statement. The global amount available to the Scottish Office was announced in the Autumn Statement and as in previous years this announcement deals with the distribution of that sum to the various functional responsibilities of the Department. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman now has the exact details that he requires. He knows how much will be available for health, housing, education and the various other aspects of Scottish expenditure. Had the hon. Gentleman been listening to the statement, he would be aware of that fact.Rural development is a matter to which I attach very considerable importance. The Scottish Development Agency has a responsibility for the whole of Scotland, and I believe that the extra resources available to the agency will help it to carry out activities in rural areas. In addition, the extra resources being provided for the Scottish tourist board will be of particular importance in rural areas because tourism is clearly one major source of potential further employment and growth. I have indicated the resources that will be made available for prisons and hospitals. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) conceded, the figures represent increases in real terms in both categories. I should have thought that the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) would have acknowledged that.
Do not the opposition parties' questions show a total inability to recognise what is good news for Scotland? Conservative Members recognise the achievements of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State on behalf of Scotland, which will also be recognised in Scotland. Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure me that the improvement of the A94 Perth-to-Aberdeen road to dual carriageway standard will go ahead as planned?
Yes, I can confirm to my right hon. Friend that most of the trunk road developments currently envisaged will be going ahead because the overall resources for the trunk programme are being maintained. The particular projects and allocations will be announced in due course, but I would not expect any significant changes in the trunk road programme. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his earlier comments.
Why does not the Secretary of State answer the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) about totals? The figures that my hon. Friend cited were absolutely accurate and were taken from the Government's own document. The outturn for the current year is expected to be £8,220 million. The figure announced for next year is £8,505 million—an increase of only 3·5 per cent. in cash terms, which is less than the rate of inflation. The figures announced in today's statement represent a cut in expenditure in real terms in the next year.
The right hon. Gentleman is incorrect. The figures that I announced represent an increase of 6·9 per cent. over planned expenditure for the current year and an increase of nearly 5 per cent. over what was planned for 1988–89 in the last public expenditure White Paper. I realise that Opposition Members are desperate to find grounds to criticise the statement, but they will find it very difficult.
I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend, especially on his last reply, which confirmed that, while public expenditure is increasing in real terms it is falling as a proportion of gross domestic product — in Scotland as in the rest of the United Kingdom — as a result of the success of the Government's economic policy.Can my right hon. and learned Friend say anything about new towns industrial infrastructure? I am not sure whether I missed that part of his statement. On trunk roads, I take it that I am correct in assuming that it goes without saying that major route improvements will go ahead in the trunk road programme, but can my right hon. and learned Friend say anything about the structural maintenance of trunk roads?
The development of the industrial infrastructure in the new towns can be increased significantly and the road maintenance programme can be maintained at a high level. There will be a reduction in the local authority capital programme on roads, but that will not affect the maintenance programme, particularly with regard to road safety matters.
Will the Secretary of State help the House by telling us whether he has resolved the dilemma in the Cabinet? If the enterprise culture is indeed coming to Scotland, should he not announce dramatic decreases in public expenditure? On the other hand, if, as we suspect, the enterprise culture is there, but needs dramatic subventions from the Treasury, these subventions, particularly those on urban aid, are inadequate. A £6 million increase in urban aid is wholly inadequate, not just to deal with the burdens of a central city, but to deal with areas such as the mining communities, which have been decimated for many years. We need a re-assessment of the amount and the criteria for urban aid, so that those areas come within its orbit.
The figures that I have announced do not represent some dramatic increase in expenditure purely for Scotland; this year we have had an announcement of increases in Government expenditure in the United Kingdom as a whole. The figures that I have announced today are figures to which Scotland is entitled on the basis of the formula which has been used for several years to determine appropriate levels of provision.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the enterprise culture is found significantly in Scotland in areas of tourism? Does he agree that the Government recognise that, which is a reason why they have increased the funding to assist the pump-priming of tourism which will create many new jobs in rural areas? Can he confirm that the Scottish Office has spent about £670 million on trunk roads on major routes throughout Scotland since 1979? Will he confirm that the expenditure on education announced today will make it possible for the schemes that his hon. Friend the Minister is introducing to come to pass?
Yes, I can confirm those points. An additional £1 million is being made available for tourism, primarily for the Scottish tourist board, and I can confirm the substantial road infrastructure improvements, to which he referred.
May I remind the Secretary of State that, during the general election campaign, he called a press conference and declared that part of his party's manifesto was to upgrade the A74 to M74 status? Today we hear that that has again been postponed for later years. I have 32 miles of this inadequate A74 running through my constituency. How many men, women and children will be slaughtered on this unsafe road before the Secretary of State carries out his manifesto commitment?
Obviously, the hon. Gentleman knows little about road construction. He should appreciate that one cannot simply start the construction of a new motorway within weeks of announcing one's intention to do so. The planning and design work is already in preparation and we intend to upgrade the A74 to motorway status in order to connect the motorway network of Scotland with that of England and Wales. The announcements that I have made today will enable us to continue to make good progress towards achieving that objective.
Does the Secretary of State accept that he is better at news management than at winning budget increases for Scotland? It has already been pointed out that the totals announced today are exactly the same as those in the Autumn Statement. We are only hearing about a rejigging of the programmes within that.If we examine the details of provision for 1990–91, the picture becomes even worse. In 1990–91, £8,770 million will be provided, but at 1986–87 prices that is £7,550 million and compares with £7,577 million in 1979–80. Can the Secretary of State explain how, with a succession of apparent triumphs in Cabinet, Scottish public expenditure will be less in real terms in 1990–91 than it was in 1979–80?
I am somewhat amused and disconcerted by the great surprise among Opposition Members that the grand total of the announcements that I have made today is exactly the same as the grand total contained in the Autumn Statement a couple of months ago. As the purpose of today's statement is to announce how that money is to be distributed, it should have come as no great surprise. In each of the years during which the Government have been in office, expenditure in Scotland has remained at the same proportion of comparable expenditure in England. The fluctuation from year to year has been very small.
My right hon. and learned Friend is to be congratulated on continuing, in his usual excellent way, the privileged position of the Scots in the United Kingdom. Will he confirm that public expenditure per capita in Scotland is still 20 per cent. or more above that in England? Will he confirm that public expenditure as a percentage of gross national product is 48 per cent. in Scotland as opposed to 41 per cent. nationally? Does he believe that, in future, the Conservative party will obtain a response and gratitude from Scottish people as it has in the past?
My hon. Friend is correct to highlight public expenditure. He will be aware that, not just as between Scotland and England but within Scotland and within England, we must vary expenditure according to need. Just as public expenditure varies in different parts of England, so it does in parts of Scotland. It is not always entirely helpful to use all-Scottish and all-English figures other than as a method of statistical presentation.
The Secretary of State will appreciate that the distribution of funds is important. May I test his good news? Will he assure the House that the health authorities that have been required to cut expenditure this year will have those cuts restored in the next financial year? Although Lothian health board has £18 million-worth of capital expenditure this year, will the Secretary of State assure the House that the board will receive additional funds to rebuild the Royal infirmary so that it need not rely on Victorian endowments simply to patch and mend?
As the hon. Member for Garscadden conceded, I have announced today real increases in the provision for the Health Service in Scotland. The provision of individual health boards will be determined in due course and I cannot comment now on the amount that will be available to Lothian health board.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Not during questions on a statement.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend continue to reject the whining, whingeing and synthetic indignation from the Opposition to which we have become accustomed? Does he accept that many hon. Members who represent English constituencies —mine is in the far south-west—have gained the distinct impression that Scotland is almost being force-fed with public expenditure? In support of that, may I point out that we do not even have a development agency, whereas the budget of the Scottish Development Agency has just been increased by 10 per cent? Despite what Opposition Members say, expenditure on tourism is expected to increase by more than 20 per cent. in Scotland. May we have similar treatment for England?
Similar industrial and environmental work to that of the SDA is carried out in the areas of England, albeit in different ways. Although there is no development agency for England, the work of industrial assistance and environmental improvement is carried out by organisations such as English Estates. The main advantage of having an SDA is not the amount of resources that it attracts, but the opportunity that it provides to co-ordinate the responsibilities of several Departments, which in Scotland are all the responsibility of the Scottish Office.
Now that the Secretary of State is providing money to upgrade the A74—which I welcome, since it is the main road from Scotland to England—is it not time that he considered other roads, including the main A737 through the Garnock valley connecting Irvine new town and Hunterston with the main motorway system in the Glasgow area? The construction by the Finnish company, Caledonian Paper, of a new pulp paper mill will cause a tremendous increase in traffic. The Clyde port authority has published new plans for further development at Hunterston. Is it not time for the Secretary of State to stop blaming Strathclyde regional council, and instead give it the money to upgrade this road, which will be necessary in the development of all of north Ayrshire?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for welcoming our proposals for the A74. Strathclyde regional council must determine its priorities for non-trunk roads.
May I be the first to represent the interests of the taxpayer in discussion of this boondoggle? Will my right hon. and learned Friend tell the House why this slush fund has been welcomed with so little gratitude by the recipients on the Benches opposite? Can he tell the House why, when we have a Conservative Government, those who are most Socialist receive the most public money? Will he also tell my constituents how much subsidy, on average, they pay per capita to each constituent represented by hon. Members opposite?
My hon. Friend will appreciate that the response of the Opposition is almost exactly the same as the response to the statements of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and others who represent Departments involved in such matters. The expenditure is not paid for solely by my hon. Friend's constituents: it is paid for by taxpayers throughout the United Kingdom, including my constituents.
The Minister mentioned urban renewal. A project in my constituency — the conversion of Spiers wharf warehouses into houses—has the support of Strathclyde region, Glasgow district and the SDA. Those houses are on the bank of the Forth and Clyde canal. It appears that the British Waterways Board is receiving no support from the Department of the Environment in cleaning that canal. Since the project depends on the renewal of the 12 miles of canal from my constituency to Kirkintilloch, will the Secretary of State meet his opposite number in the Department of the Environment to see what can be done to improve matters?
The most appropriate action that the hon. Gentleman could take would be to raise those matters directly with the relevant Minister at the Department of the Environment. If it has responsibility for such matters, that would be the sensible way of pursuing his constituency interest.
I was surprised to hear my right hon. and learned Friend say that the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) was unhelpful. In my experience, my hon. Friend is one of the most helpful Members of the House, and I thought that he made a good point on behalf of the taxpayers of England.Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that, in 1986–87, public spending per head in England was £1,968 and public spending per head in Scotland was nearly one third greater, at £2,519? Will his statement today improve that disparity? Will public spending per head in Scotland be brought down towards the level in England? Does not this annual rattling of the begging bowl in Scotland tend to give the Scots a sense of inferiority?
My hon. Friend will be the first to appreciate that expenditure should take into account need. That factor has long been recognised as justifying different expenditure in different areas of the United Kingdom. Many parts of England receive higher expenditure than do parts of the south-east. Conservative Governments have always attached great importance to such matters, because it is crucial to ensure that our provision takes into account the requirements of an area. I believe it to be entirely justified.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to drift from net to gross, and from gross to net, according to which matters he is dealing with. Will he turn his attention to what he said were the preferable figures — the gross figures? When one looks at them, one sees an immediate collapse in direct spending on industry in Scotland. Is that not disgraceful, given the level of unemployment that we have?
What I announced today was an extra £25 million for industry in Scotland. If the hon. Gentleman does not see that as an improvement, it is difficult to know what would impress him.
In view of the insults thrown at the people of Scotland by the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris), will the Secretary of State advise the Scottish tourist board to spend some of the additional money that it has—the £1 million—on telling the people of Scotland not to go to St. Ives for their holidays? The hon. Gentleman's constituency could not survive without the thousands of Scots like myself who spend their holidays there. Does the Secretary of State agree that the hon. Gentleman's constituents who run hotels and boarding houses will not be happy tomorrow when they read what the hon. Gentleman has said about the holidaymakers who go to St. Ives?
I look forward to many thousands of Scots continuing to visit St. Ives, and I also look forward to many residents of St. Ives continuing to visit Falkirk.
Does the Secretary of State accept that the answers that he gave to his four hon. Friends — the foolish foursome —about public spending in Scotland were too difficult for them to understand because there were too many big words? Perhaps he should give a clearer explanation in a writ ten answer. The reason why there is more public expenditure in Scotland is that there is more unmet need and higher unemployment than in the south. One has only to look at the constituencies with the highest unemployment and the lowest pay to see that. Conservative Members should look at the figures. The Secretary of State has an educational job to carry out. Conservative Members should think about that and not spend their time tiresomely insulting Scotland.
The hon. Lady might appreciate that there might be less irritation, perhaps misunderstanding, about the requirements of her constituents, if occasionally she was willing to recognise that, far from her constituents being deprived as a consequence of the Government's decisions, they have benefited from a recognition of the differential levels of need.The hon. Lady should realise that the constant refusal to acknowledge that her constituents receive differential levels of expenditure, and that that has continued under the Government, means that perhaps she has herself and her colleagues to blame, when there is evidence of such frustration among hon. Members from other constituencies. I must say to the hon. Lady that it is not lust hon. Members from constituencies south of the border, but hon. Members with constituencies elsewhere in Scotland, who sometimes feel concerned at what they see as the differential levels of expenditure in constituencies such as that represented by the hon. Lady. If there is a refusal to recognise support when it is being provided, that may be part of the explanation for the concern.
The Secretary of State has shown today that he is incapable of distinguishing between levels of planned expenditure and outturn expenditure in terms of public expenditure in Scotland. However, I hope that he is capable of recognising that, in Tayside, the efforts to provide proper community care services have been hamstrung by the inability of Tayside health board or Tayside regional council to find sufficient resources from within their present budgets, which are under the continual pressure of cuts. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman satisfied that the level of spending on health and social services that he announced today will be sufficient to enable both those bodies to provide the funding that they are seeking? If he receives future representations from those two bodies for extra funding, will he grant those extra funds?
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that in most years — virtually every year — outturn expenditure tends to be higher than planned expenditure. Therefore, if one is trying to make any attempt at a valid comparison between Governments proposals this year and proposals in previous years, it makes sense to compare planned provision with a planned provision announcement at a comparable time in a previous year.
Will the Secretary of State reflect—[Hon. Members: "Reading."]
Order. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to hold a note in his hand if he wishes, as long as he does not read it.
The behaviour of certain Conservative Members is eloquent testimony as to why the Tories have done so badly in Scotland.Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman talk about the real economy in Scotland, not the one that he would like us to believe exists? His statement on the industry increases is slightly misleading because our calculations suggest that there is a £2·6 million reduction in the budget. Indeed, if one takes the juggling of figures between the SDA and the HIDB in direct grant, it may well be that some parts of the industry budget are suffering to accommodate an increase in other parts. The Secretary of State should also reflect on this. We hear about whingeing. What about the 320,000 Scots who are whingeing on the dole queue? What about the 100,000 Scots who are whingeing on Government special programmes? Will not the right hon. and learned Gentleman take seriously the fact that investment in industry, jobs and the economy in Scotland does not measure up to the problems that we face? Finally, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman reflect on one other development, which the Secretary of State for Employment may or may not have told him about? We shall have an extra 40,000 places next year on the Government's new adult programme. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman provide resources in the statement so that those concerned can embark on projects that are worth while and provide effective training—or is that to be a workfare scheme on the cheap?
With regard to unemployment, the hon. Gentleman should recognise that there is unemployment in Scotland, as there is elsewhere in the United Kingdom, but he might have referred to the fact that unemployment in Scotland has fallen by some 55,000 since January this year. If that decline in unemployment continues at that rate, we can look forward to unemployment ceasing to be the serious problem that it continues to be at present.
Does the Secretary of State agree that when one looks at Health Service expenditure and applies the National Health Service prices and wages deflator, which is the correct deflator, one sees that the increase is under 1 per cent? One needs 1 per cent. to stand still, but we have an increase of under 1 per cent. As we are already budgeting for an increase in primary care, that means that there will be effective cuts in the hospital service. Where will those cuts be in the hospital service?
I do not concede for one moment that there is to be a cut in health expenditure in Scotland. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the views expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden.
Does the Secretary of State agree, looking at the housing figures, that the capital allocation for next year remains below the level, in real terms, of the capital allocation for 1979–80? Does he further agree that the way in which the increase on last year's figures has been achieved in the capital allocation comes about by including the total cost of covenanting schemes within one year's allocation instead of, as is more appropriate, spreading it over the life of those covenanting schemes?
I remind the hon. Gentleman, if he is going back to 1978–79—[Interruption.] I can see why the hon. Gentleman does not want to go back to 1978. As he will recall, it was the previous Labour Government who were responsible for a massive cut in capital expenditure on housing in Scotland. That is a fact that we shall not let the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends forget. Capital expenditure on housing in Scotland has gone up over the past few years. Today I have announced further provision, which will mean extra investment in capital expenditure on housing in Scotland of some £30 million. That can be only for the benefit of those who depend on that north of the border.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I refer to question No. 16, on the Zircon affair. I contend that it was an orderly question, otherwise the Table Office would not have allowed it. There was no attempt by Ministers to transfer it. Indeed, on the rota, the Secretary of State answers on behalf of the Lord Advocate. It will be within your recollection, Mr. Speaker, that I asked a careful and orderly supplementary question which, incidentally, I discussed with Professor Anthony Bradley, professor of constitutional law, and Professor Robert Black, professor of Scots law, at the university of Edinburgh. I think that the supplementary question was equally in order. Therefore, how can the Minister answering say that it was not within his sphere of responsibility? In whose sphere of responsibility would it be?
I am not responsible for answers in this place, provided they are in order. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has made a pertinent point and his best course is to take up the matter with the Minister concerned.
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I recognise your difficulties, but I want to support my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). There is no Law Officer in the House—I make no complaint about that; it is the chance of electoral fortune. It was specifically arranged that the Secretary of State would answer for the Lord Advocate. When a direct and proper question is put, it is an abuse to say that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, who speaks for his lord and master, is not responsible for answering for the Lord Advocate's actions. He must be responsible. The matter must be satisfactorily resolved.
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. At no time was there any suggestion that the question originally tabled by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) was not an appropriate or proper question. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State correctly pointed out that the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question drew attention to matters that were not the responsibility of myself as Secretary of State for Scotland or of the Lord Advocate, and he therefore properly declined to comment on it.