Mr. Rifkind : I would be more worried by the reaction from certain quarters if it were based on a clear understanding of what is in the White Paper. So many allegations have been made in documents, such as that issued by the BMA, that have no foundation in truth.
Column 170There seems to be a deliberate attempt to scare elderly people in particular by implying that in future they would not be entitled to treatment under the National Health Service. It is important indeed that those who represent the general practitioners put their arguments forward clearly and concisely. If they wish to criticise the Government, they are free to do so, but they should not criticise the Government for what is not in the White Paper. That is the weakness in their ultimate position.
Mrs. Margaret Ewing : The Secretary of State will be aware of the enhanced number of women general practitioners in Scotland and of the vital role they often play in preventive medicine. Would it be possible for the Scottish Office to discuss the implications of the White Paper with these women doctors, since so many of them are on part-time contracts and their careers may be damaged if the proposals went through unamended?
Mr. Rifkind : I take the hon. Lady's point ; that is one of the considerations we had in mind when proposing, for example, in rural areas that payments from the rural practice fund would be based on average and not on personal list sizes, and we are prepared to consider a similar approach towards practices in urban areas as well.
Mr. Darling : Is it not the height of arrogance for the Secretary of State to accuse doctors of scaring old ladies? Is he not aware of the fact that many general practitioners in Scotland and throughout the whole country are extremely concerned at the prospect of being forced to increase their list size and of having to become accountants and to regard elderly patients, in particular, not as patients to be treated on the basis of need but simply as overheads or non-profit-making units? Does he not understand that general practitioners are concerned about the Health Service? They use it and live with it, unlike Conservative Members.
Mr. Rifkind : If he has read it, he certainly has not understood it, because he began by proposing that general practitioners would be forced to take on more patients in order to maintain their income. No general practitioner will be forced to take on more patients to maintain his or her income and although taking on additional patients might lead to an increase in income, that is a very different proposition.
Mr. Bill Walker : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that a substantial number of doctors in my constituency are concerned about the misleading propaganda that has come out of London? Is he also aware that they have pointed out to me that under the provisions of their new contracts and because of the way in which they will be given the opportunity of choice about how to run their practices, they might be able to allocate funds from their own resources to save hospitals such as Blairgowrie cottage hospital and Forfar infirmary because the additional cash could be directed in that way?
Column 171within the National Health Service will continue to be available within the NHS to improve the quality of provision in both general practices and hospitals. That is why the proposals deserve to be welcomed.
Mr. Galbraith : Although the Secretary of State may have read the White Paper, he certainly does not understand it because if he did he would realise that the new GP contracts contain an incentive to increase list size. Will he accept that neither general practitioners nor patients can understand how a GP seeing more patients can somehow improve the quality of care? Will the Secretary of State reconsider his position on list sizes and on incentives to increase list sizes because then and only then can agreements be reached on GPs' contracts for the benefit of all patients?
Mr. Rifkind : There are various ways in which general practitioners can increase their income, sometimes significantly, by providing better and extra facilities to their patients. The point at issue is whether they need to increase their list size to maintain their income. That is the allegation that has been made by the BMA and repeated by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling), and that allegation is totally unfounded.
Mr. Rifkind : My hon. Friend the Minister of State is chairing the single market committee of the Scottish Economic Council which is examining the effects of a single European market on Scotland. In addition, a number of studies have been commissioned.
Mr. Robertson : Is the Secretary of State aware of the two reports that were published last month, one by Peat Marwick McLintock and the other by the CBI Scotland, and of yesterday's words from Professor Neil Hood of the Scottish Development Agency which confirmed that Scottish industry is singularly ill-equipped and feels that it has inadequate backup to meet the major challenges of 1992? Is it not time that the Secretary of State cast off the south-east England bias of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and conducted some more detailed studies about the impact of 1992 on Scotland's manufacturing base?
Mr. Rifkind : Many Scottish companies are ready to meet the challenge ; others are not. Our objective must be to ensure that the challenge is fully realised-- [Interruption.] Labour Members seem to be more interested in the relevance of a slogan than in the content and substance of the point being made. The committee that has been set up under the Scottish Economic Council includes representatives from industry, the trade unions and others concerned with this matter in Scotland, and they will examine the important point that the hon. Gentleman has properly raised.
Mr. Ian Bruce : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the removal of the Scottish economy from the United Kingdom, which is what some anti-Unionists would have us bring about, would damage the whole of the
Column 172British economy and does he further agree that if the Scottish economy tried to work on its own with such a heavy dependence on the oil industry, that would be damaging to Scotland? Does he also agree that all studies have demonstrated that trying to run those economies separately would damage the industries of both countries and would be the death of the 1992 spirit?
Mr. Rifkind : It is certainly the case that irrespective of political institutions the people of Scotland and the people of England are geographically destined to share the same small island. A consequence of that is bound to be a highly integrated economy and it has been shown over the years to be in the interests of the people of Scotland and of England that they share that economic destiny.
Mr. McLeish : Has not the Secretary of State been far too complacent about 1992? Is he aware of the labour force survey figures released for 1988 which show that of the 1.6 million jobs created between June 1983 and June 1988, 700,000--40 per cent.--were created in the south-east, but only 30,000--2 per cent.--were created in Scotland? Does he agree that we need an effective regional policy, investment in infrastructure and a low interest rate policy? If those policies are not adopted, Scotland will not benefit from 1992.
Mr. Rifkind : I remind the hon. Gentleman that the latest report from the Fraser of Allander Institute suggests that the Scottish economy is growing faster than that of the rest of the United Kingdom. If that is the view of the institute, it should be a matter of satisfaction to both sides of the House.
Sir Russell Johnston : Does the Secretary of State agree with the view of Jacques Delors, the president of the European Commission, that the open market of 1992 must be balanced by an effective regional policy or does he agree with the recent remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said at Chatham house that a regional policy can be positively damaging to the economy?
Mr. Allan Stewart : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that a recent poll, which shows that a higher proportion of companies in Scotland and the north of England than in the rest of Britain are intending to expand in Europe is significant? Does my right hon. and learned Friend also agree that the Scottish financial services sector has tremendous opportunities for growth within the single European market?
Mr. Rifkind : Yes. It is extremely encouraging that a Scottish company such as Christian Salvesen is taking over a Belgian company and James Howden and Weir Pumps is acquiring continental subsidiaries. That clearly demonstrates that a number of the most effective Scottish companies appreciate the opportunities offered by the single European market.
Column 173completed a Manpower Services Commission training course in Scotland during the past 10 years ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Lang : Information is not available about total completions over the past 10 years, but I can say that 522,328 young people between the ages of 16 and 18 entered training programmes during that time.
Mr. Brown : Does the Minister agree that many trainees never finish their courses because of accidents? Has he ever heard of James McCormack, a young constituent, who died in 1985 as a result of injuries sustained in a company called MacGregors Quayside Mills, which is based in Leith? Does he appreciate that that family, as well as their son, suffered greatly? Has he ever understood that compensation was denied to that family? Does he appreciate that a court in Sheffield ruled only recently that the Manpower Services Commission is legally responsible for the accidents to and the death of MSC trainees? Will that English ruling prevail in Scotland? Will compensation--not that money is important--be paid to the McCormack family to make amends for what went wrong in the past? More important, will he ensure that such individuals--they are called trainees--are properly protected in the future? It is about time that the Minister spoke.
Mr. Lang : I am happy to agree with the hon. Gentleman on his last point. Obviously accidents at work are to be deplored and should be guarded against. I know that the greatest care is taken by the MSC, now the Training Agency, to try to ensure that accidents to young people on training courses are kept to an absolute minimum and, if possible, avoided at all costs.
With regard to completion of courses, the hon. Gentleman might like to know that in recent years more than 70 per cent. of those completing YTS have either gone into employnent or on to further training and education.
Mr. Bowis : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important that all young people in Scotland have the opportunity to benefit from training schemes, especially disabled young people? Can my hon. Friend give the figures on the number of disabled young people who have completed such training courses? Can he also reassure me that steps are taken to ensure that access to training places is suitable for disabled people?
Mr. Lang : I regret that I cannot give my hon. Friend figures without notice, but he is right to emphasise the importance of training for disabled people. I am particularly encouraged by the high proportion of Scottish companies that are successful in the fit for work awards. Only last week I presented one to IBM in Greenock, a winner for the third year in succession.
12. Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what research he has commissioned into the impact of a uniform business rate in England and Wales on Scottish business ; and what are its findings.
Mr. Rifkind : The introduction of the uniform business rate in England and Wales in 1990 will be phased in gradually over a number of years. It is our intention to move towards a common rate on the same time scale in Scotland. I do not therefore think that research is required.
Mr. Worthington : I congratulate the Secretary of State on his 100 per cent. record ; for about the 20th time he has failed to answer the question. What research has been conducted into the impact on Scotland of a uniform business rate in England and Wales? No research has been conducted. It is a gross dereliction of duty. Scottish business will be damaged by the impact of a uniform business rate in England and Wales. Will the Secretary of State confirm that no research has been done?
Mr. Rifkind : I actually said that in my original reply, if the hon. Gentleman had taken the courtesy to listen to it. I pointed out that the reason is that we intend to introduce a common rate poundage in Scotland over the same time scale. Therefore, by the time the uniform business rate is in operation there will be a common rate poundage throughout the United Kingdom. I can keep repeating the point if it helps the hon. Gentleman. I can give him information, but I cannot give him wisdom.
Mr. McAllion : By controlling the rate of increase in the non- domestic rate, the Secretary of State for Scotland ensures that the poll tax payer has to pay more than would otherwise have been the case. What will happen to the poor people who cannot afford inflated poll taxes? So far the Secretary of State has given them no advice. The only alternative that the Government have offered to them is to escape liability by removing their names from the electoral register. Is that what the Secretary of State wants?
Mr. Rifkind : The hon. Gentleman knows that that does not lead to their escaping liability for community charge. I trust that he is making that clear to his constituents, because that is the legal position. The hon. Gentleman also knows perfectly well that those on low incomes can receive up to 80 per cent. rebate on the community charge for which they are liable.
Mr. Maclennan : On the substance of the question, does the Secretary of State believe that phasing of the introduction of the uniform business rate will be to the advantage or disadvantage of Scottish business? What calculations has he made?
Mr. Rifkind : It would be to the disadvantage of Scottish business if nothing of a similar kind were happening in Scotland over the same period. I have emphasised that the introduction of a common rate poundage throughout the United Kingdom will take place over the same time scale north and south of the border.
Mr. Buchanan-Smith : Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that Scottish business expects to have an advantage compared with the rest of the United Kingdom? Will he also bear in mind the position within Scotland and
Column 175ensure that businesses in low-rated authorities, such as Kincardine and Deeside, do not suffer averaging up at the same time as others benefit from averaging down?
Mr. Rifkind : My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct. It is precisely for that reason that we are moving towards a common rate poundage throughout the United Kingdom and not seeking to introduce a UBR that involves the pooling of rates income and its redistribution. It is precisely to protect local authorities such as my right hon. Friend has referred to.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Caledonian MacBrayne's corporate plan over the next five years includes proposals to replace two major vessels and six minor vessels. All these proposals for new ships will need to be subject to a detailed economic appraisal and review in the light of Caledonian MacBrayne's requirements before any order can be approved.
Dr. Godman : Given that in the light of the Transport (Scotland) Bill the Secretary of State might soon be given the sobriquet of Mr. CalMac, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman advance one of the contracts and give it to Fergusons of Port Glasgow in order to ease the parlous circumstances of that yard?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton rose--
Dr. Godman : One moment ; I have waited a long time for this question. May I point out to the Minister that bids for that yard were submitted to British Shipbuilders over a month ago? Since then we have heard nothing. The uncertainty is creating anxiety. It is a disgraceful state of affairs. When will the Secretary of State for Scotland show some concern for the people of the lower Clyde? [Interruption.] Be quiet, silly old fool.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : To order an earlier than planned replacement of a CalMac ferry would be more costly, and orders cannot be directed to particular yards. I assure the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) that any yard capable of building a CalMac ferry will be given the opportunity to tender when CalMac seeks to place orders. The hon. Gentleman's second question is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. British Shipbuilders has received several bids for the yard which are still being evaluated. My hon. Friend the Minister of State is keeping in close touch with the matter.
Sir Charles Morrison : In the interests of the comfort of the passengers travelling on CalMac ships, will my hon. Friend ensure that the ships are built to take into account the fact that the weather can be rough on the west coast of Scotland? None of CalMac's present steamers seem to take account of the fact that it is often rough.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : My hon. Friend speaks from personal experience of countless voyages to Isla. At Christmas I went on a CalMac ferry which was enormously impressive and the highest standard of service was being given.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Since electoral statistics in 1989 show increases in the number of electors in some local authorities and decreases in others, it is not clear what effect, if any, the advent of the community charge has had on electoral registration.
Mr. Ross : The Minister must know that registration officers are using the valuation roll and the electoral register to impose the poll tax. Given that 25,000 young Scots are no longer on the voters' roll, will he now admit that that was one reason why the Government imposed the poll tax in Scotland.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : There is no conclusive evidence. I shall give the hon. Gentleman three reasons for change. First, a general election is certainly not imminent. Secondly, there have been changes in practice by electoral registration officers. Thirdly, there have been changes in dual registration which has taken place, quite legitimately, for example, by students and second home owners. In a considerable number of authorities, the number of electors has increased. That has happened in 19 districts and in two regions and two island authorities.
Mr. McKelvey : Does not the Minister realise that in a well-heeled district where residents will gain from the poll tax they will, of course, register. In areas such as mine, Kilmarnock, many people are caught in the poverty trap. I can well afford to pay the poll tax and will make a profit from it. I shall refuse to pay the poll tax, sound in the knowledge that it will be extracted at source. However,. those people who, unlike me, are unemployed and cannot pay the poll tax will, for the first time, find that the tax can be extracted from their benefits, not by negotiation or agreement, but by mandate.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : If there is any grain of truth in the allegations that the drop in the roll is in any way attributable to the community charge, and that people are seeking to avoid their responsibilities, even if they receive a rebate, hon. Members who encourage non-payment of the community charge have a heavy responsibility to bear. I have a Labour party leaflet which says : "There is a country where the right to vote was won after years of long and bitter struggle. The present government wants to change that right. They are making all adults pay to be registered."
Not only is that completely untrue but it provides a disincentive for people to register on the electoral roll which is their inalienable human right.
Dr. Moonie : Surprise, surprise. I have received 600 repesentations on the proposals, and all of them have been negative. I suppose that that is hardly surprising either. One proposal that most Opposition Members would support is the one involving computerisation in hospitals. How many health boards in Scotland have the full complement of computer staff?
Mr. Rifkind : I would need notice of that question, but I shall make sure that the hon. Gentleman is provided with the necessary information. I was surprised to hear him say that all the 600 representations that he has received were negative, because the hon. Gentleman might assist us in putting the other side of the coin. In fact, he has already done so. A rather splendid document was issued by the Labour party on 12 April and signed by the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith). On page 3, there is a heading : "What's good in the White Paper :" It goes on to tell us :
"Quality of care efficiency in the delivery of care more information available to consultants and general practitioners further devolution of management to hospital and unit level a flexible accounting system to reflect clinical led doctors/patient choice audit."
I can only express the hope, but not the expectation, that the BMA will prove as objective as the hon. Gentleman in realising the many virtues in the White Paper.
16. Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has regarding the reductions in combined rent and rate bills for tenants in the private sector following the implementation of the poll tax.
Column 178community charge. In addition, several hon. Members, together with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and some individual authorities, have made general representations on this matter.
Mr. Griffiths : Do the Minister and the Secretary of State realise that thousands of landlords in Scotland are both pocketing the existing rate charges and ensuring that their residents pay the poll tax? Up to £30 million is being made in windfall gains from the collection of such phantom rates. Why does the Minister not bring in legislation similar to section 16 of the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act 1956 to make it illegal for landlords to charge for rates that they are not collecting?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I am glad to say that there is a remedy for all the tenants concerned. If the tenancy is regulated, the rent should be registered with the rent officer ; if it is an assured tenancy, the tenant will have a written statement of the terms of the tenancy to identify any element for rates. [Interruption.] That is in the Scottish Act, and it was the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Doran) who particularly asked for the concession to be made.
The leaflet "Tenants and the Community Charge" was drafted specifically to ensure that tenants were aware of their rights in this connection. The leaflet has been circulated to local authorities, housing associations, Scottish Homes and others, but the key message to tenants is that the remedies are there and available to them if they believe that their landlords are wrongly seeking to charge them for rates.
Mr. Roger Gale
Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith
Mr. Andrew Faulds
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