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43. Mr. Ron Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations he has received from the Scottish Trades Union Congress regarding the community charge ; and if he will make a statement.
60. Mr. Foulkes : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his latest estimate of the annual cost of collection of the poll tax in Scotland ; and what is the current equivalent cost of collection of rates.
Mr. Lang : The estimated cost of administering the community charge and non-domestic rating in 1989-90 is £44 million. The cost of administering the rating system in the current year is estimated at £26 million.
Mr. Lang : Arrangements for the introduction of the community charge in April next year are proceeding well. All the necessary regulations are now in place or will shortly be in place. Registration officers and levying authorities are making good progress in discharging their responsibilities.
17. Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will ensure that each Scottish Special Housing Association tenant in Lothians and throughout Scotland will have the final say over the transfer of their house to any private landlord ; and if he will make a statement.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The Housing (Scotland) Act 1988 will give individual tenants of the Scottish Special Housing Associations the right of choosing to transfer to a new private landlord. As far as voluntary disposals by public sector landlords are concerned, my right hon. and learned Friend will withhold his consent to any proposed voluntary disposal if a majority of tenants is opposed.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : My right hon. and learned Friend is currently considering a wide range of possible developments with a view to providing a better service for National Health Service patients in Scotland.
23. Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many calls have been made to freefone 0800 838587 following the publication by the Scottish Health Education Group's leaflet, "Keep Warm this Winter".
Mr. Lang : The preliminary results of the survey of Scottish manufactured exports for 1987, conducted by the Scottish Council (development & industry), indicate that exports of Scottish manufactured goods increased by 13 per cent. in value. Scottish manufactured exports per employee were 16 per cent. higher than the comparable United Kingdom figure and exceeded the levels attained by West Germany and Japan.
25. Mr. McAllion : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has had any recent discussions with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on the current progress of implementing the Local Government Act 1988.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : My right hon. and learned Friend has had no such discussions recently. General guidance to local authorities on the provisions of the Act and its implementation was contained in departmental circulars issued on 6 April, 20 May and 23 August 1988.
Mr. Lang : Seasonally adjusted unemployment in Scotland currently stands at 10.8 per cent. of the work force compared with 12.6 per cent. in August 1984. Since January 1987 seasonally adjusted unemployment in Scotland has fallen by nearly 74,000 and is now at its lowest level for seven years.
The Scottish Homes Board held its first formal meeting on 5 December when a number of decisions were taken on matters relating to the staffing and organisation of Scottish Homes. A number of appointments to senior posts within Scottish Homes have now been made and other posts have been advertised. An order has been made under section 3(1) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1989 confirming that the responsibilities and obligations of the Scottish Special Housing Association and the Housing Corporation in respect of its Scottish functions will be transferred to Scottish Homes with effect from 1 April 1989. I have determined that all staff of the SSHA and the Housing Corporation in respect of the Scottish functions should receive offers of employment in accordance with the terms of schedule 1 to the 1988 Act by 31 December 1988. The relevant offers of employment were in fact issued by Scottish Homes on 16 December.
29. Mr. David Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the level of business awareness there is in Scotland of the opportunities presented by 1992 and the completion of the single market in Europe.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : There have been no meetings since my officials met representatives from the board on 25 January. In July, following an acknowledgement by the board that radical changes in the college's provision were necessary, my right hon. and learned Friend made clear the basis on which he was prepared to consider continued funding of the college after the end of the present academic year. In particular he would require, by the end of this year, evidence of firm and specific undertakings by education authorities and higher education institutions to make extensive use of Newbattle in support of their wider access activities. No response has yet been received from the governors.
33. Mr. Robert Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has discussed with British Rail the electrification of the east coast line between Aberdeen and Edinburgh ; and if he will make a statement.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland met the chairman of British Rail, Sir Robert Reid on 15 November 1988 and discussed a wide range of issues. Responsibility for investment is a matter for the British Railways Board, not the Government. However, I understand that the board's view is that the level of traffic would not justify electrifying the line north of Edinburgh.
34. Mr. Kennedy : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects to meet representatives of the Highland regional council to discuss the prospects for the building of a road between Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin, Isle of Skye ; and if he will make a statement.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : My right hon. and learned Friend has no present plans to meet Highland regional council for this purpose but officials of the Scottish Development Department have met officials of the Highland regional council to discuss the feasibility study prepared by the regional council.
Mr. Lang : Since the publication of the Electricity Bill on 1 December my right hon. and learned Friend has received four written representations. In addition, I have met representatives of the Scottish Electricity trade unions committee when a range of matters relating to the Electricity Bill was discussed.
36. Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on his policy towards the issues raised in the recent publication, "No Turning Back," on Scottish separation, a copy of which has been sent to him.
Mr. Rifkind : The concept of Scottish independence in Europe as proposed in this pamphlet written by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) is no more than a useful slogan adopted by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues as a device to avoid their party appearing to have a separatist identity. I also note the hon. Gentleman's advocacy in that pamphlet of a power of direct taxation for the European Parliament.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Responsibility for eradicating dampness in local authority houses rests with the local authorities themselves. It is up to them to decide how much of the resources available to them should be used for this purpose. To assist this the Secretary of State has made increasing capital allocations available for work on authorities' own stock. In recent years these have included special allocations for tackling condensation and dampness, rising to £27 million in the current year, though authorities have been free to spend more on this if they wish. For 1989-90 we are increasing overall allocations by £45 million (as well as subsuming the special allocations into the general allocations). This means that authorities will continue to be well placed to carry out work to which they attach priority.
In recent years as par of a general programme of improvement of its existing stock, the Scottish Special Housing Association has maintained successive annual programmes of central heating installation and the provision of improved thermal insulation. In the current year the association will spend £3.6 million on work of this type involving 3,550 houses. In its programme of comprehensive modernisation of non- traditional houses, now nearing completion, similar improvements have been undertaken in almost 14,000 houses to date.
41. Mr. Conway : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the volume of electricity likely to be sold by the Scottish electricity industry to England following privatisation.
44. Mrs. Fyfe : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will issue model byelaws for the use of local authorities who wish to set up dog pollution schemes to protect children, similar to those operating in England and Wales.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : My right hon. and learned Friend plans to consult on this and other issues arising from a review of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 early next year. In doing so he will seek views on alternatives, including byelaws, to the way in which the present provisions of the Act address the problem.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Management-employee teams wanting to bid for their companies will be given financial help towards the costs of advice and consultancy needed to mount bids, on the terms recently announced by my right hon. and learned Friend.
Mr. Rifkind : The Government believe that the present constitutional arrangements provide for Scotland's interests to be fully respected and recognised. The Government therefore have no plans to introduce a devolved assembly or parliament for Scotland.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : I have received various representations from nurses, members of the public and hon. Members. Correspondents have been advised that in accepting the pay review body's recommendations the Government have awarded nurses their biggest ever pay increase while introducing a grading structure which will improve both career prospects and ward management. Those nurses who are unhappy with their new grades have been recommended to lodge appeals with their health boards as soon as possible.
50. Mr. Gill : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what studies have been carried out by his Department into whether the siting of a Channel tunnel passenger terminal to the north of central London would assist in bringing greater prosperity to Scotland.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has had meetings with the chairman of the British Rail Board on how to ensure that Scotland benefits fully from the Channel tunnel. The Scottish Development Agency has commissioned a report from consultants to consider the likely impact of the Channel tunnel on Scotland and ways in which the potential benefits can be maximised. British Rail intends to run through trains from Scotland and the north of England to the continent via the tunnel. I am in no doubt that the efficient and speedy operation of these services will be of major importance for the prosperity of Scotland.
52. Mr. Norman Hogg : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and other interested parties concerning the proposed legislation for opting out of Scottish local authority schools ; and if he will make a statement.
53. Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has had on the proposed downgrading of main post offices in Scotland to self-employed, franchised counter services ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Lang : My right hon. and learned Friend has received one representation, from Lairg community council, against the downgrading of Lairg post office to sub-post office status. The day-to-day management of the Post Office business is the responsibility of the Post Office Board. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is, however, responsible for general policy. I understand the proposals to regrade a number of Crown post offices to sub-post offices were made on the grounds of commercial and service considerations.
54. Mr. Sillars : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what funding and other assistance his Department will provide to community groups formed in Glasgow, Govan constituency for the purpose of mobilising the community to combat drug abuse.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : The Government have taken a wide range of positive measures to encourage and assist local action to combat the problem of drug misuse. The primary responsibility for planning and developing services to prevent drug misuse and provide help for drug misusers and their families rests with health boards and local authorities, but applications for central funding under schemes such as the urban programme will certainly be considered.
Mr. Lang : My right hon. and learned Friend meets the chairman of the South of Scotland Electricity Board from time to time to discuss a wide range of matters affecting the electricity supply industry.
58. Mr. Graham : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has for coping with the employment implications of the proposed job losses in Renfrew, West and Inverclyde constituency arising from the announced rundown of 1,150 jobs from Bishopton Royal Ordnance factory and the proposed transfer of CalMac head office from Greenock to Oban.
Mr. Lang : The hon. Member will be aware from my answer to his earlier question on 9 November that my right hon. and learned Friend and I have been in touch with, respectively, the chairmen of British Aerospace and of Royal Ordnance. The chairman of Royal Ordnance has informed me that there will be no redundancies before October 1989. This should allow time for the company and
Column 345other interested organisations, like the Scottish Development Agency, to develop their plans to relieve the effects of these redundancies as far as possible. The Scottish Development Agency has already begun discussions. My right hon. and learned Friend will be meeting the chairman of British Aerospace in January to discuss the company's interests in Scotland generally, including Royal Ordnance Bishopton.
There is a case for moving the headquarters of Caledonian MacBrayne nearer to its centre of operations. This will require careful consideration and no final decision has been made. My right hon. and learned Friend will expect the new board of Caledonian MacBrayne to appraise fully and report upon the arguments for this move.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : The proposed Education Bill will deal with a range of matters of varying importance and general concern. There is evidence of significant interest among parents in the concept of self- governing schools outwith local authority control.
62. Mr. Ross : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland which regional bus groups he has met to discuss the privatisation proposals for the Scottish Transport Group contained in the Transport (Scotland) Bill.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : My right hon. and learned Friend has not met representatives of any bus companies for this purpose. I recently visited the Falkirk depot of Midland Scottish Omnibuses Ltd to hear the views of the management and employees of the typical company on the privatisation of the Scottish Bus Group.
63. Mr. Dunnachie : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give his calculations of rent increases for council house tenants in Glasgow in the next year ; and if he will make a statement.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : It is for Glasgow district council to determine the rent increases which will apply to its housing stock. The draft Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1989 provides that the council will receive grant of £27.9 million to help with its council housing costs in 1989-90. In addition, the Housing Revenue Accounts General Fund Contribution Limits (Scotland) Order 1988 will enable the council to estimate for a contribution of up to £2.2 million to be carried from its general fund to its housing revenue account in 1989-90. Together, these subsidies to council housing amount to £30.1 million, or 47 per cent. of the total council housing subsidies expected to be made for 1989-90 in Scotland as a whole. The proposed level of subsidies for Glasgow district council was intended to restrict the rent increases for 1989-90 to an average of £2.00 per dwelling per week. I estimate that, on the basis of reasonable assumptions