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Mr. Lang : As I have made clear on a number of occasions, we are constantly considering all aspects of the community charge legislation. Nevertheless, I urge my right hon. Friend to bring to the attention of his district and regional councils the fact that the solution lies largely in their own hands.
Mr. Wilson : Will the Minister consider the possibility that his bland refusal to offer any movement on a non-ideological point of common sense relating to the standard community charge accounts for the standing of his party in Scotland? Nobody believes the Minister when he says that the standard community charge is the
Column 300responsibility of local authorities. Everyone knows that the Scottish Office calculations for the poll tax were based on the assumption that a multiplier of two would be used. Will the Minister accept the commonsense solution and allow local authorities to vary the standard community charge according to the type of properties and the level of use?
Mr. Lang : The hon. Gentleman's suggestion would take us back close to a property tax. The assumption made in the distribution of revenue support grant was in line with normal practice and carried no implications for, or recommendation on, the decisions by local authorities. Indeed, had the multiplier assumption been one instead of two, six of the nine regional authorities in Scotland would have had less revenue support grant, rather than more.
Mr. Lang : Seasonally adjusted unemployment in Scotland in January 1987 was 340,600 ; and the corresponding figure for May 1989 was over 100,000 lower at 239,800. Unemployment in Scotland now stands at its lowest level for eight years.
Mr. Jack : I thank my hon. Friend for that excellent and encouraging reply. Does he agree that the Government's economic policies have helped to achieve that result? No doubt, that will cause distress to the Oppositon. Will my hon. Friend confirm that inward investment has contributed to that excellent result and that such investment would be strongly questioned by overseas companies should the Labour party ever have the chance to govern this country again?
Mr. Michael J. Martin : The Minister will know that high unemployment, especially among our young people, forces many young people to go to the London area. Is he aware of the posters at King's Cross advertising vacancies for waitresses and hostesses in busy West End clubs and saying that payment will be made daily? Surely, as long as the Government fail to consider unemployment in Scotland, our young people will be in moral danger.
Mr. Lang : It is certainly the case that different unemployment rates in different parts of the country attract people to move in different directions. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has pointed out that Crusader Insurance recently decided to relocate from the south-east to the Inverclyde enterprise zone. That shows that market forces are working effectively within an integrated United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman may like to know that unemployment in his constituency has fallen since January 1987 by 2,470.
Column 301has happened over the past 25 months, that is a reasonable expectation. In the hon. Gentleman's constituency, unemployment has fallen by 1,685 over that period.
Mr. Hind : My hon. Friend is to be congratulated on the attraction to Scotland of major inward investment projects, such as JVC, Digital, Compaq and Crusader Insurance. Is he aware that inward investment organisations in the north and south of England are complaining that everywhere they go in the world they are faced with Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Development Association--[ Hon. Members :-- "What is that?"]--sorry, the Scottish Development Agency? The success of the Scottish Office and the SDA has been widely commented on south of the border. Will my hon. Friend do us all a favour and not try quite so hard in the future?
Mr. Lang : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his tribute to the inward investment successes of the Government and our agencies. It is true that the electronics industry in Scotland is of great value to the Scottish economy. It accounted for our single biggest export category when, in 1987, 26 per cent. of our exports, valued at £1.5 billion, were in that category. The one thing that would jeopardise our inward investment efforts would be the uncertainty created by tax-raising devolution.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : As I indicated in the House on 20 June, we shall look again at the case for action in the light of the outcome of the review of the operation of section 43 in England and Wales by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.
Mr. Hogg : Does that not represent an astonishing about face, given the Minister's reply in the House on 7 June, when he said that there was no evidence in support of such a move? Does that mean that he does not know his own mind, or that he is coming under increasing pressure from Conservative Members, who owe no allegiance to Scottish higher education?
Mr. Forsyth : On 7 June, I said that there had been little evidence of disruption of free speech in Scotland. I also said that we would be prepared to legislate if necessary. That remains the position.
Mr. Dewar : I suppose that this is a hopeless request, but will the Minister now give a guarantee that he will stand firm against the rather brutal performance of his right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) and some of his intellectual bovver boys behind him? Will he look at the evidence and advice of his own Department, and show some respect for Scottish universities by defying the Right-wing prejudices with which he is too often personally associated? Does he recall that when he was asked specifically by the right hon. Member for Chingford whether he was arguing that there was no problem in Scottish universities or whether he was saying that section 43 would, in any case, offer no safeguards, he replied that he was quite clear that he was saying both? Why is he now flirting with a review in this weasel way?
Mr. Forsyth : I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman regards the preservation of freedom of speech in our universities as a Right-wing prejudice. I appreciate that the Left in this country has been associated with the denial of freedom of speech, but this is the first time I have heard a Front-Bench spokesman suggest that concern about freedom of speech is a Right-wing prejudice. Unlike many of his hon. Friends the hon. Gentleman was actually present for that debate. He made his position clear and he will have seen that the House was well attended. Hon. Members made a number of interruptions in the debate and, as a Minister, it is my role to take account of the views of the House.
14. Mrs. Fyfe : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects school leavers in (a) Glasgow, Maryhill and (b) areas of similarly high unemployment to be able reasonably to anticipate finding a permanent, full-time job.
Mr. Lang : With the considerable fall in unemployment over the past two years, the buoyancy of Scottish industry and the projected decline in the number of young people, the employment prospects for school leavers are better than they have been for some time.
Mrs. Fyfe : Does the Minister realise that he will stand accused of amazing complacency by the people of Scotland when they consider his replies to questions on unemployment this afternoon? Has he noticed that of the 20 constituencies in Great Britain with the highest level of unemployment, no less than eight are in Glasgow? Will he tell us what the Government's present economic policies are doing for the people of Glasgow, including the school leavers who cannot get a job?
Mr. Lang : Glasgow undoubtedly continues to have very considerable unemployment problems, to which the Government are addressing great attention. Nevertheless, since January 1987, unemployment in Glasgow has fallen by 21,500, or by about 30 per cent. I would feel more guilty of complacency if it were not for the fact that Glasgow and Strathclyde have rejected the technology academy offered to them, which would considerably have advanced the prospects of young people in the area.
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : If Scotland ever had the misfortune either to have an assembly or to be separated from the United Kingdom, does my hon. Friend take the view that we would have more employed and more inward investment, or less? Indeed, would we have more mistresses, or whatever was suggested earlier?
Mr. Lang : I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend makes a useful point. Over the past six years, the Scottish Development Agency has invested no less than £166 million in Glasgow and that is helping to generate new enterprise in the area.
"Although our products are designed in Scotland most are made in the Far East, half coming from Japan. We wanted to let people know that our products are made in Japan".
What comment is that on the economic miracle?
Mr. Lang : The hon. Gentleman will have to develop his points on another occasion. He has given us a tantalising glimpse of the point that he was trying to make. I am prepared to compliment Hinari, which is a good and effective company, as are many other companies in Scotland. The number of companies registered in Scotland has increased by over half in the 1980s. There has been an increase of 20,000 and an extra 66,000 people have entered self-employment in recent years. Those are signs of the growth of enterprise and of the spread of new companies in Scotland over that time.
Mr. Rifkind : I have frequent contacts with the Confederation of British Industry in Scotland. Its most recent assessment, conveyed to me in a letter from the chairman of the Scottish Council, is of confidence in the continuing buoyancy of the Scottish economy.
Sir Hector Monro : I warmly welcome the fall of 100,000 in the number of people unemployed in the past two years and the fall from 13.6 to 9.6 per cent. What discussions has my right hon. and learned Friend had about Enterprise Scotland and about how the CBI and himself consider that there may be a further fall in the numbers of people unemployed?
Mr. Rifkind : Yes, there is a great degree of interest in the proposal that was published in the Government's recent White Paper which proposed private sector-led local agencies. At the moment we are considering our response to the many constructive comments that have been made. I hope to report to the House in the near future because I have no doubt that the proposals will be relevant in dealing with the need to reduce unemployment further over the months and years to come.
Mr. McAllion : Will the Secretary of State explain why the Scottish Office has allowed the employment services division independently to launch a two-year pilot scheme called the "job interview guarantee scheme" in the Whitfield area of Dundee and in the Castlemilk area of Glasgow without consulting or even informing local Members of Parliament, local councils, local people and the local partnership groups which exist in those areas under the New Urban Life for Scotland policy? When will the Government stop doing things to the long-term unemployed and start doing things for and with the long-term unemployed?
Mr. Ingram : Given the importance of the new towns to the economic health of the Scottish economy, when the Secretary of State met the CBI, did he explain the reason for the inordinate and unacceptable delay in the publication of the White Paper on the future of the new towns?
Column 304towns, he must be of the view that we should bring our proposals forward only when we are in a position to do so. These are important matters. The winding up of the various new town corporations is a long-term reform of great significance to all those who live in the new towns. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman wishes us to rush such matters before we have reached appropriate conclusions.
Mr. Brandon-Bravo : My right hon. and learned Friend and his Scottish Office colleagues have been rightly proud this afternoon when stating how much help they have managed to give to Scotland. In an earlier supplementary question, the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) said that expenditure on health in Scotland was 25 per cent. more per head of population than it is in England. If that is so in relation to industry and employment also, would my right hon. and learned Friend be surprised if I and many of my colleagues who represent English constituencies felt that we were being discriminated against?
Mr. Rifkind : I do not think that it is true in the spheres of industry and employment. However, it is certainly the case that throughout the United Kingdom the Government spend more on those areas which have higher levels of unemployment. That is what regional policy is about, whether it is regional policy implemented in England, Scotland or Wales.
Mr. McLeish : Does the Secretary of State accept that nearly 240, 000 Scots were unemployed in May 1989 and that that figure is still 70 per cent. higher than the figure of 140,000 for May 1979? Clearly, there has not been a stunning 10-year success story in reducing unemployment. Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that the regime of high interest rates and cuts in regional aid is having a crippling effect on small and medium- sized businesses in Scotland? Treasury figures suggest that Scottish companies are facing a bill of £250 million in increased borrowing costs. Finally, why does the Secretary of State have to go to Wales to attack Thatcherism? Why does he not stand up in the Cabinet and urge lower interest rates, lower inflation and a sensible regional aid package?
Mr. Rifkind : The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that his views are not shared by Scottish industry. That is not surprising because manufacturing output in Scotland grew by more than 7 per cent. in 1988--the fastest rate of growth since 1973. The hon. Gentleman might also like to reflect on articles by the Fraser of Allander Institute which point to the fact that the Labour party's proposals for constitutional change would cause considerable damage to the Scottish economy.
16. Mr. Bill Walker : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what interest has been demonstrated by general practitioners in Tayside about the proposals in the White Paper covering general practitioner involvement in self-governing hospitals and for budgetary control of general practitioners' practices.
Column 305budgets. I welcome this wish to explore the opportunities offered by the White Paper and I have asked officials to pursue this with those concerned.
Mr. Walker : I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that since the interest was shown in Forfar, further interest has been shown in Blairgowrie and elsewhere in my constituency? Is he also aware that a number of local GPs are interested in setting up their own contracts and they have been in touch with me-- [Interruption.] This is important and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister can hear me--about the Government imposing the renegotiated contract of service for GPs because they believe that that is in the best interests of patients? That point has been made by several GPs in my area.
Mr. Forsyth : I am delighted that my hon. Friend is so active in securing the best interests of his constituents in terms of primary care services. I am also delighted by the response that he referred to from GPs in his constituency. With regard to the GPs' contract, it is a matter of great regret that the conference did not support the position of the national negotiators on behalf of the GPs and the contract, which would have produced a fair deal for GPs and would have ensured that those GPs who provided preventive services were properly rewarded.
Mr. Forsyth : On the connection between devolution and the interests of the Health Service, the hon. and learned Gentleman and his party would do well to explain how the additional 25 per cent. which is spent on health care would be funded on the basis of his proposals which would ultimately lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. The hon. and learned Gentleman should appreciate that self-governing hospitals will remain part of the National Health Service while a Scottish assembly would prevent Scotland from remaining part of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Galbraith : When does the Minister expect to be able to name the first hospital in Scotland to opt out of its health board? Does he agree that that hospital will be acting against the wishes of its staff? Will the Minister take this opportunity to condemn the intimidation of hospital staff in Scotland by the managers who are hoping to get one hospital to opt out? Does he agree that the intimidation and the delay in announcing the name of the hospital reflects the fact that the proposals for hospitals to opt out have absolutely no support anywhere in Scotland?
Mr. Forsyth : It is wholly irresponsible for an Opposition Front- Bench spokesman to talk about the intimidation of staff by management in the Health Service particularly when we have not asked health boards in Scotland to give an indication of hospitals that are interested in self- governing status. Lest I disappoint the hon. Gentleman, I can assure him that very shortly we will be issuing our proposals on self-governing hospitals and inviting general managers to put forward cases. The process of ensuring effective delivery of health care in Scotland is not helped by the kind of language from the hon. Gentleman that we have grown used to.
Mr. Galloway : In any of those contacts was the Secretary of State spared Mr. Douglas Mason's bizarre and unbelievable idea that Hong Kong should be towed, lock, stock and barrel and relocated off the west coast of Scotland, on one of the western isles? As I listened to the radio interview, I thought that the man must be barking mad, until I realised that it was the same Douglas Mason who was the architect of the poll tax. Will the Secretary of State see whether there is a rocky outcrop somewhere on the edge of our territorial waters where Mr. Douglas Mason, the Adam Smith Institute and the trash Thatcherite ideas, which have no support in Scotland, might be relocated?
Mr. Michael Forsyth : I have received a number of representations from hon. Members and from members of the nursing profession. The new grading structure was agreed with the professional bodies and trade unions representing nurses, and it means that nurses are now rewarded for what they actually do. Nurses' pay has reached its highest ever level in real terms and nurses in clinical practice have better career prospects than ever before.
Mr. Bruce : Does the Minister recognise that, nevertheless, there is great resentment and a great loss of morale among nursing staff, particularly among those who are designated night duty, and that the grading appeals system does not deal with that? Does he accept that the management and unions agreed the new grading structure without consulting nurses and that they should now be consulted with a view to changing the grading to ensure that morale is restored?
Mr. Forsyth : If doctors' and nurses' representatives, speaking on behalf of their professions, are to be criticised according to the agreements that they reach, it will make the Government's position extremely difficult. Night staff are treated on exactly the same basis as day staff. All clinical nursing posts are graded according to job content. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. All clinical nursing posts are graded according to job content and the level of responsibility carried. Night staff must meet the same criteria as day staff to qualify for the higher grades available, and there is nothing unfair in that.
Column 307In addition, night staff also qualify for special duty payments, which add 30 per cent. to the hourly rate for hours worked between 8 pm and 6 am, and 60 per cent. for hours worked on Sundays or on public holidays. All of that is on a basis agreed by the staff representatives and the employers.
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